Thirteen free years

LibertyIt was 13 years ago today that I quit working for a living: December 19, 1999.

I was a cubicle guy, never had an office, never had a secretary, never was a big shot, but the money was pretty good, and that’s what I was interested in. Money for rent, food and booze.

You’re looking at a simple man.

I was a newspaper copy editor. I began in 1969 in New Orleans as a reporter, but I discovered pretty darn quick that I was not cut out for that. I requested a desk job after six months on the bloody street, and they gave it to me.

I never had to deal with the public again, thank God.

Three newspapers over 30 years: Actually, there were seven, but I do not count the brief months in Jacksonville and San Antonio. They were merely layovers, and never were included in my resumé. Nor do I include the months at the Houston Post. I quickly switched to the Houston Chronicle where I stayed 15 years.

And I count the two newspapers in New Orleans as one. They were jointly owned and they shared the same building and newsroom. My very first paper, the flashy New Orleans States-Item, went out of business in 1980. I worked there on two occasions, and once on the now barely surviving Times-Picayune.

Of course, there was the San Juan Star. I worked there two times. I really loved working in Puerto Rico, and likely would have stayed forever except for strikes called too frequently by the communist-led* labor union.

What does a copy editor do? Mostly, puts stories that reporters write into better English, plus writing headlines, doing page layouts, that kind of stuff. I could do all of it blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back, a natural talent.

And I’ve never taken a single course in journalism.

The Houston Chronicle would let you retire at 55 if you’d worked there for 15 years. I reached both points almost simultaneously. I waved goodbye and left.

I immediately gave away or sold 99 percent of my possessions, packed two suitcases a month later and moved far south. Never a moment of regret.

It amuses me that many people, mostly men, feel adrift in retirement, lose their sense of self. They lack imagination — not a problem I share.

Thirteen: My lucky number today.

* * * *

* Literally, partly explaining my antipathy toward unions and commies. I enjoyed a little vengeance when the wife of the party’s leader took her clothes off for me on more than one occasion. He never knew, but I did. Sweet.

28 thoughts on “Thirteen free years”

  1. A nice milestone. I hope I will still be around to do the same.

    I am fully in your boat on retirement. It is turning out to be the best part of my life. I almost feel like one of those Dickensian characters — at peace with the world and myself.

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  2. Felicidades! I, too, enjoy being adrift after some 42 years of staying the course. I think that for too many the job becomes their life, very sad. I used to tell my co-workers and superiors that this job is not my life. I do it so I can have a life, and a good life it is down here in beautiful MX.

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  3. I knew a young woman who died of a brain tumor. She dreaded Sundays because they were followed by the Monday rat-race. I view retirement as Sundays seven days a week to do as I wish without worrying about Mondays.

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  4. Congrats on the milestone, amazing how fast time flies. Your past job reminded me of one of the first serious jobs I did. Remind me to tell you about my stint as a editor at a paper in Coos Bay.

    Enjoy your time, the most precious thing we have now.

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  5. Sometimes it takes over half a lifetime to become mature and to reach peak production. I am renting another casa this month and it has several mature avocado trees in the backyard loaded with fruit. Free guacamole. Many things improve with age.

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  6. Andres is correct, “many things improve with age.”

    Congratulations — I’m sure you also give a lot of credit for your happiness to your wife. A wonderful thing.

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  7. Of course your jobless state of retirement is to be envied.

    “I could do all of it blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back, a natural talent. And I’ve never taken a single course in journalism.”

    I would also say you were prudent (or is it fortunate?) to choose a profession that tapped into your core talent.

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    1. Ms. Mommy: The strange thing is that I did not really choose that profession. Like most everything in my life (before age 55, that is), I stumbled into it. At age 24, I found myself married and a father. (How did that happen?!) I had just graduated from a university with a totally useless degree in history.

      My father, who had been in the newspaper business by choice, convinced the managing editor of the New Orleans paper to take me on. I got taken on, and I stayed on and on and on. In the occupation, that is, not that specific newspaper, though I was there for a good spell.

      If I could start over, I would choose to be an archaeologist.

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  8. It is going on five years for me since I last worked for a paycheck of a regular sort. I still take on projects but nothing that has steel or union work in the title. I come and go as I please. That is the best part of retirement.

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      1. The potatoes we bought yesterday, fresh from the ground, needed time to cook.

        We are resting up a bit. Our trip into the back country for the Maya calender rollover ceremonies was hard on these two retired people.

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