I got an e-mail from former Mesa council member Claudia Walters on Wednesday, a very kind, very supportive e-mail. Claudia, as you know, is running for mayor in Mesa. So is Rex Griswold, who offered to take me into his home when I released from prison. That's a testament both to his faith and his character. Imagine, taking an ex-con into your own home!
I do not know the other candidate, Scott Smith. But I have very warm and supportive feelings for both Claudia and Rex.
I will not offer my endorsement for either candidate, operating on the theory that getting an endorsement from a convicted felon isn't exactly a boost to anybody's campaign. Maybe I should endorse Scott Smith, but then, he's never done me any harm.
Anyway, after getting the e-mail from Claudia, I sat down and wrote a reply. I hope that Claudia is not offended, but I've decided to publish my response to her e-mail as a post here, because it is related to what I am doing on this blog, or what I had hoped to do.
So here goes:
It was a delight to hear from you because it brought memories of a happier time. I so enjoyed being the Trib's columnist and this effort via the blog, I suspect, is an attempt to re-connect with that.
You know, all of us have a need to feel as though we belong. And for me, the connection with the Tribune readers created that sense of belonging. And, because of the solitary nature of my life, I think I needed that more than most.
I won't go into the pain, darkness, desperation and disappointment that led to the wrong turn that my life took. I've found most people are too bottom-line oriented to care much about that. This is particularly true of criminals and even more true of DUI offenders. The public demands its pound of flesh, justifiably, I suppose.
You know, when Jim Ripley wrote to me in prison to inform me he had changed his mind about bringing me back, the one line I remember best from his letter was: "I'll be happy to praise your abilities as a wordsmith to any prospective employer.''
I thought to myself, "I was an excellent employee at the Tribune for nine years and all Jim could say on my behalf was that I had a way with words.''
I thought, "How little he knows me.''
And then, a more disturbing thought: "How little I know myself.''
And I realized that if Jim is correct in his assessment, then what a waste my life has been, how morally bankrupt I am, how little character and intregity I possess.
So let me just say that I am thankful that there are those, like you, who are inclined to view me a little more charitably, if not more accurately.
The blog, I am beginning to realize, is a failure. By that, I mean that has not succeeded in creating a dialogue with my former readers.
When I think of my best work as a columnist, I realize that much depended on my interaction with people; hearing their stories, being exposed to ideas that sort of floated around the newspaper. The stories that reporters talked about, but nobody wanted to write. I often found good stories where reporters saw nothing special. I loved mining for those little gems there in the East Valley.
And I think they mattered to readers, somehow and for some reason.
Editors, you should know, were not as appreciative of my work as readers. And that makes me realize that getting an opportunity to do that again at a newspaper will be a formidable challenge. If readers were doing the hiring, I'd like my chances. But readers don't do the hiring.
Beyond that, I am beginning to realize that other circumstances make it difficult - if not impossible - to return to writing my old column. Claudia, my world is a very small one; without a driver's license I am confined to living my life inside of "bicycle range.'' Basically the edges of my world are Rural Road to the east, Priest Drive to the west; Elliott Road to the north and Ray Road to the south. Most of my life these past six months have been lived within those few miles in South Tempe.
My world is simply too small. I have no connection with the lives of the people I used to write about or the people I wrote for.
I am sorry that this is the case. I miss "belonging,'' probably more than anyone could begin to realize. I loved it so.
But then I think of a scripture: Hebrews 11:15. It reads, "And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.'' When I think about that verse, I wonder if the reason that Jim changed his mind, the reason that my efforts to return to my "old column'' have failed is that it was never intended that I to go back there.
Maybe God allowed these things to happen to move me to some other place (I'm not speaking in terms of geography here). If so, it will be an exercise in faith, for I have no idea, at the present, where I am supposed to be going.
But if God is, in fact, taking me in a new direction, it would be sad indeed to someday reflect on it and realize that I went kicking and screaming all the way.
So my confidence must be in God. His grace must be sufficient for me.
Still, it is pleasant for me to remember the good things of the past, and I am particularly pleased to hear from you because I held/hold you in high esteem.
So very best wishes on the election. You have served Mesa well, and I'm confident you would serve equally well as mayor if it turns out that way.
Again, thanks for taking the time to write. Knowing a little about you, I suspect there were other more important demands on your time.
May God bless you in all you do.