Friday, June 30, 2006

Dad's dumb detours

After I get back from the big AirVenture at Oshkosh, I'm going to drive back East. With the kids out of the house now, and my wife planning to already be in New England for a time before I get there, I have the freedom to take what the kids used to call "Dad's dumb detours."

For the longest time, I didn't know from where I got this tendency to want to see where small roads go. Then my mother -- bless her heart -- visited Minnesota last year and we decided to drive down the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. Somewhere around Prescott we saw a side road. "Want to see where that goes?" I said. "Sure, she answered." Light bulb!

When I was much younger, my favorite part of news on TV (that's when there actually was, you know, news on TV) was Charles Kuralt's On the Road segments. Driving where you felt like going in search of interesting people off the beaten path seemed like the world's best job.

So I'm kicking around the idea of taking the "side roads" back East. Specifically, meandering along U.S. Route 20, which stretches from Newport, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts, with stops in Conneaut, Cooperstown, and Lenox.

And then I'm going to go for a walk in the woods of New England, and follow a stone wall to nowhere.

The mind blocks out trauma

So if you've got time to write a blog about nothing, Bob, why aren't you going to be writing Polinaut for the next two months? No particular reason other than I'm taking a couple of months off from work, and for the most part, that includes politics. I kind of want to remember what it's like to write again. I went back to some of the stuff I wrote from the two conventions in 2004 and they weren't half bad. I want to get back to "not half bad" again.
These "look backs" are not always an accurate assessment. For the longest time, I regarded a lead I wrote while covering election night at the 1980 New Hampshire primary in Manchester as the "best thing I've ever written."
I was an editor at the old WHDH Radio in Boston, which back then was a terrific station - #1 in the market. I finished my afternoon shift and then drove north to Manchester, where the coverage crew had set up. My job was, basically, writer. They thought I could. I thought so too.
I got lost and the polls had closed and the big announcement of who won would be made at any moment. I finally found the place, ran in, found my crew, took off my coat, lit a cigar and wrote:
The forecast was for thunderstorms in Boston, but lightning struck in New Hampshire tonight and it's put a charge in the campaign of Gary Hart.
See what I mean? What garbage! I ripped it out of the typewriter, threw it at the anchor who read it. As he did, another reporter walked out of the studio, not knowing I was in the hallway, and said, "I guess Collins has finally made it here."
At the time, I took it as a compliment. Now, it's one of those things you think about while walking the dog and find yourself muttering "oh, God, why did I do that" in sheer embarrassment, causing the neighbors to poke each other and say, "there's goes that crazy muttering Collins guy again."