8/10/2015

Sense of perspective

Aside from various projects here and there, Roanoke looks pretty much like it was when I left there thirteen years ago to move to Charlottesville. Of course, my American children and I only spent about six hours there today but my cursory observation is that the place has the same charm and somewhat latent energy it has when I left to come here.

We all have question points in our lives where things could have turned one way or the other. For me, taking an official job in the public radio system was one where perhaps I should have paused a bit. I can certainly imagine the world with me becoming a public citizen in Roanoke the same way I seem to have done that here in Charlottesville. 

The danger of having become a writer and a journalist is that I tend to be able to pick up everything, including my own life. I've written hundreds of thousands of words now, mostly for myself, but I have a body of work covering local politics in my community.

What does "politics" mean to you? For me, it means allocation of resources. That may be a boring term to many, but I look at it in a very holistic way. Politics is the act of deciding what is going to be done in the public sphere, in the realm controlled by our system of government. I'm fascinated to have an up-front seat as an observer. I'm glad my time is spent trying to understand how things work in terms of public policy in my very small part of the universe. 

My career as a journalist began in Roanoke twenty years ago. I'd been at a student newspaper at Virginia Tech, but I thought I might actually be able to make a go in this profession when I began work as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in the winter of 1995. I got a ridiculous amount of credit hours to spend three eight-hour days learning how to write tight copy, learning how to edit tape.

But, it was really there that I began to learn how Virginia works. The mornings would begin getting a tape feed via satellite from the Virginia News Network. It came down and recorded to a reel-to-reel. I would edit the soundbites from Richmond and write up copy that my mentors told was better than what was coming out of the commercial service. 

The content of those stories is long gone. I can't imagine there's any record of them. Somewhere, though, I do have a huge print-out of all the stories I wrote from that time. Someone who is no longer in the business gave them to me about ten years ago. 

Do you remember where you were in 1995, presuming you were alive? I hope so. Life is much better when we have records of what happened, records that are ours and not simply memories of what was popular at the time. I couldn't tell you much about that, but I can tell you I remember being in the newroom at the station when the Kobe earthquake took place, when the federal building in Omaha was blown up. 

The memories of my personal life in the spring of 1995 are hazy. I still had to work at a restaurant, still had to go to class, and I was in a long-term relationship. 

But I was hooked. I wanted to know how Roanoke worked, and my mentors were glad to teach me. I wanted to understand this place, this city that was the biggest one next to the one I grew up in. I learned about how in Virginia, cities and counties are completely separate political jurisdictions from each other. I learned that the sheriff in the city of Roanoke was in charge of prisoner transports, whereas the sheriff's deputies in the county of Roanoke were more about general law enforcement. 

I don't know if that's still the case, but now I want to check. 

And that's why I feel so lucky. I get paid to ask questions and to wonder how things work. That's more or less all I want. I sometimes think maybe I'm supposed to guide things, or maybe I'm supposed to give my opinion.

But everyone has an opinion, including myself. I can't hide that, but I don't believe I can explain mine in less than 1,000 words on any subject. And I really don't want you to fall asleep. 

I want to listen to others. I want to tell stories about who we are, why we are here in whatever when
I happen to currently be in, whenever the juice is turned on and I have to write something suddenly. 

What I've neglected to do, though, is write off deadline to try to explain some of my worldview. I think maybe it might be of interest as people. 

This blog is my public record, and I've not redacted any of it. There are times when maybe I was more candid than I should have been, but it's a document of my life. This is not my journal, but at times it has served that function. 

So, one day after I turn 42, I leave Lynchburg for a day trip to Roanoke to take my American children to the museums there. For whatever reason, Roanoke hasn't been a destination that pops up in my mind a lot, despite having a lot to offer. 

I'll leave it there for that, as I must get back to some work. But, I plan on writing here daily for a little while, just to see what happens. 

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