Sunday, August 20, 2006

One lucky son of a gun

The laughter reverberated around the room, contagious, full of the vitality and the warmth that only human beings can create.

It felt good. It felt safe. It felt, in short, like home.

Such was the scene Friday as we enjoyed lunch from that fine Italian pizzeria, Elidio's. Paul Abraham, the guy from Scripps we'll always think of as a Halls guy, was there, too. It's his job to oversee Scripps' division of weekly newspapers in Knoxville. Paul's a good guy.

It has been said of Faulkner that his source of strength, and perhaps his talent, emanated from the Mississippi soil of his birth. I'm nowhere near Faulkner, of course, but I feel similarly about myself and North Knox County. There's a familiarity here, a tangible sense of belonging, that makes me never want to leave. While natural wanderlust and a passion for baseball often takes me to various ports from sea to shining sea, never once do I leave Halls with the intention of never returning.

Like Pete Hamill's character in "Forever," I am content to roam this island forever, as long as I never leave my Manhattan.

Faulkner learned a secret the best writers all share --- write what you know. I could no more dare write about Yoknapatawpha County than I could Hemingway's Michigan or Larry McMurtry's Texas.

As the afternoon shadows began to creep into the windows and invade the newsroom, the party broke up. Paul left for another appointment. Everyone else scattered for their own offices and the work that waited.

I leaned back in my chair, basking in the glow of such camaraderie, knowing these moments are what make life the grand journey it is.

I turned to my desk, marveling in the fact that somehow, through nothing short of a miracle, really, I had found my life's calling.

"Old buddy," I said to myself, "you're one lucky son of a gun."

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