As a new year heads into day 2, just two weeks after my 64th birthday, I sit in my study, starting on a second pot of coffee, reflecting as much on the future as on the past.
According to some measurements, I’m in my golden years. They used to call this retirement but at 64 I have no desire to retire. I worked late into the night on a video project, then arose early to write a story for a political web site, edit some photos for a magazine and compose this piece.
Sorry, I can’t think about or consider slowing down. It’s not in my genes. I went to work full-time at 15 and have been going balls-to-the-wall ever since. It’s in the genes. I come from a family of workaholics. I once left a job after 11 years with 51 weeks of unused vacation time. Even when riding a motorcycle — my primary source of relaxation — I’m thinking about upcoming projects. When I stop to take a break, I’m checking emails or using somebody’s WI-FI to write down an idea that came while riding.
In one corner of the study sits an array of disk drives containing thousands of hours of video collected over the past 10 years for a project called Our America — a look at the first decade of the new century. It make take another decade to edit all that footage into something usable.
I’ve been trying to edit a collection of photographs taken over the last 49 years into a photo book. Maybe this will be the year that project is finished.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate — and even more lucky — to live an exciting life, one filled with adventure, travel and a unique seat for a show called history. A journalist is — first and foremost — an observer of history. During a 10-year sabbatical from journalism, I worked inside government and politics and had a unique chance to be part of history — from working on the House of Representatives Science & Technology Committee to help transfer DarpaNet from the Department of Defense to the National Science Foundation to turn it into to the civilian Internet to witnessing — and then investigating — the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
In 1982, Amy and I took former Texas Gov. John Connally to dinner after he appeared at a fundraiser for a Congressman I worked for and listened intently as he talked about that day in Dallas in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. On Sept. 11, 2001 I arrived at the Pentagon shortly after the plane hit and spent the next 36 hours photographing the tragedy and aftermath.
It hasn’t been all fun and game. I battled alcoholism for too many years but — with the help of AA and the support of a loving wife and good friends — have been sober for 17 years, six months and 24 days (as of this writing).
But past — someone much wiser once said — is prologue and we can only hope that the future brings more challenges, more excitement and more satisfaction.
It’s 2012 and the best part of life may still be ahead.
So let’s get started.