Monday, June 1, 2009

New Hurricane Season and the loss of Angus

Today marks the opening day of the 2009 Hurricane Season. Just four years ago I was sitting here in New Orleans preparing for a summer that was full of adventure with little thought that a Category 4 or 5 storm might ravage the city and lead to the catastrophic failure of the levee system that protects the city from various drainage canals. I had my own misguided sense of safety, foolishly thinking that nothing could lead to the city of my birth being flooded by as much as 80% with waters as high as 15 feet or more. Hurricane Katrina changed all of that, even though I was already out of town when it chose to bear down on New Orleans, a fact that still makes me reel in disbelief. Had I been here, I probably would have saved more of my "stuff," but I would probably have lost my car. I'm sure I would never have been able to rebound so well and gain a position at the Cleveland Jewish News while taking refuge in that city. My being there already garnered me a first place position in line for assistance and, given that so few people came up to Cleveland to seek assistance, I made out very well. Nevertheless, I became a productive member of the city, paying local and state taxes while working over a year and a half there. It took almost two years for me to return, but I have now been back in New Orleans longer than my entire stay in Cleveland which lasted over two winters there. So, every June 1 brings a wake-up call to me and my fellow citizens. It's time to get prepared to meet any challenges head on and remember the not-so-distant past. Any day during hurricane season without a storm is a good day.
Meanwhile, my favorite Times-Picayune columnist, Angus Lind, has retired. Ever since I began my journalism career, I have written humor columns. In high school it was "With Pen in Hand and Foot in Mouth." I wrote "Quotations from Chairman Smason" during my stint at the Tulane Hullabaloo. This blog is intended to be a variant of a humor column, although not as many articles have been as funny as I would have liked. Nevertheless, it was with sadness that I learned yesterday that Angus, who had been writing since the 1970's, was calling it quits and penned his last column yesterday, a reflective look back at his 6,000 columns written over four decades. Angus always had my dream job in journalism: writing a humor column three or four times a week. I will admit that I could have deluded myself into believing I was in his category of writer. I can tell you I am not. His was a gift that was born from hard work and dedication and I will truly miss his wonderful and wacky way of relating everything from the crazy and kooky characters of N'Awlins (Allen "Black Cat" Lacombe and Ruthy the Duck Girl) to dealing with local sports legends (Buddy D. and others). His job is gone and will not be replaced, due to the current state of the newspaper industry, which is making fewer do more with less. Nevertheless, Angus wrote from the heart and his heart was mighty big. It still is. His plans call for him to continue writing, so perhaps I will follow a new blog or other similar endeavor soon enough. This is still a daring time for the newspaper industry with so many challenges that a number of people are opting out of work and grabbing attractive retirement packages while the getting is good. It may soon be that newspapers may fire employees and offer no exit packages. So, all of my best to Angus and his family. I trust he will do well. So sad that my dream job has now become a nightmare. Anybody out there looking, let me know. Should I hold up a sign: "WILL WORK FOR 401.K"?

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