Writing on the bus


Ray Branbury said write a short story a week, reasoning that it is impossible to write 52 bad short stories in a row. When I came across his advice, it really resonated with me. So I am giving it a try, making an effort to steal some time and find a place to work on a short story any time I can.

One of those places is on the bus. It’s about a 40-minute ride each way between my home and the office downtown. I can usually get a seat. And if I am lucky I don’t have to sit next to someone talking on the cell phone or listening to their music so loud that I can hear droning and buzzing bleeding from their earbuds.

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The Tampa Tribune (1895-2016)


When I was at The Tampa Tribune in the 1980s and 1990s, the newsroom had a lot of personalities, none bigger that H. Doyle Harvill. As editor, Harvill could be an energizing, bewildering force not opposed to proudly flaunting his power with a puff of tobacco smoke in your face, or a sexist comment if you were a woman.

My favorite Harvill story, the one that makes me laugh and shake my head to this day, involved a younger male editor. The following is how I recall it going down: Upon noticing that the editor may have gained a little weight, Harvill loudly barked for all to hear, “Hey (so and so). Looks like you’ve put on a few pounds. Hell, when I was your age, I used to drop five, 10 pounds a week just f&#*-ing.”

 Another memorable story involved flying with a crazy pilot who was one of Harvill’s buddies.

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My open letter to the executive editor of The New York Times about covering President Trump


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Dear Dean Baquet:

President Trump has embraced whole hog that favorite American pastime of blaming the media. He says “the media elites” are biased and dishonest. He says he will handpick the reporters who get the privilege of closer access to the White House.

The editors and reporters at The New York Times are very smart, dedicated people. Perhaps they don’t need any advice. I am going to offer some anyway.

Don’t play by his rules. Trump likes to flood the field with lies, and part of his long game is to discredit all the bastions of truth and credibility. Teachers, scientists and journalists and writers will be in his crosshairs. Keep fairly, accurately, thoroughly – and aggressively – covering his administration. Avoid sloppy work, fact errors and gotcha zingers. Develop sources, but avoid an overreliance on unnamed sources. The Trump White House is not going to be one big happy camp. Egos are gonna clash, and things, I suspect, are gonna get nasty internally. People are going grouse. Your reporters will have to sift out all the motives and agendas, of course. Also, follow the cash piles and the public documents, and put things in perspective.

Dig, dig, dig. It’s a huge potato mound. It is your duty to uncover the tubers. You will face immense pushback from the apex of power. But you have been here before, and you stuck to your guns. Because you did, the United States is a better place.

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The time I drove across the Cascade Mountains and the ‘Red Headed Stranger’ rode shotgun

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I recently made a long, solo drive from Seattle over the Cascade Mountains, and I found a great road trip companion: Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger.”

In Eastern Washington and Oregon on my way to the Columbia River Gorge the haunting songs with sparse arrangements were the perfect soundtrack for the stark landscape out my windshield – rolling alfalfa fields and parched, barren hills dotted with spindly wind turbines.

In Nelson’s long murder ballad, a wayward preacher wanders the Old West with a broken heart and blood in his eyes.

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A Columbia River wind farm


From the roadside, they stand deceptively spindly, stark white rotor blades affixed to hubs teetering atop a troupe of toothpicks dotting a parched moonscape high above the river gorge, aloof and mesmerizing like ballet dancers as they spin cartwheel style converting a famous blow into electricity, kindred spirits with the giant Columbia dams that came before.

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