I hate goodbyes. They are sad but an inevitable part of life. However, it’s always best to face them with a certain appreciation for what has been and what is yet to come.
After 53 years of journalism Charley Reese has decided to call it quits. I’d say a break from three columns a week is well earned. That’s a heavy load. Imagine walking into the office one morning in 1955 and not leaving until 2008. That’s what it means to write three columns a week… not that Mr. Reese spent all those years only writing columns. But you get the idea.
While reading a Charley Reese column, one could just about hear the clickety-clack of a typewriter or breath in the smoke of the copy room. He came from an era in journalism where a necktie was required to catch BBQ sauce, not to make the writer look snappy for the televised infotainment show.
As a fledgling hack wannabe writer, and that’s what I really am at best, Charley Reese has been one of my idols. His ability to say exactly what he means in such short, concise columns has been an inspiration. Never talking down to his readers, Mr. Reese has always spoken to us in the vernacular of the peasantry. You get the feeling he’s one of us. And that he is. You feel like you’re hearing sage advice from a trusted friend over a beer.
I haven’t always agreed with everything Charley Reese has said in his columns but that in itself is a compliment. However, most of the time I’ve been right with him. Either way, the straight common sense of his writing has been something I’ve always looked forward to in the morning. When I’ve opened the home page of LRC everyday, if the bi-line is Charley Reese it has been the first and sometimes… sorry Lew… the only thing I’ve read that day. Sometimes real life gets in the way of reading everything. And I’d never skip one. One couldn’t help feeling safe with a Reese column. We could depend on him to get his point across without a long bombastic lecture. His columns would always be short and sweet, and no less profound. Often, they were more profound simply because they were so direct and to the point and full of plain old ‘Merican English.
Like many of us, I’ve been to college. I’ve spent many long hours sitting in lecture halls listening to scholars in love with their own voices as they spewed forth gibberish. I’m never too keen on reading the same sort of arrogant hogwash… even when it’s well-researched hogwash. After all isn’t what a person says more important than how long he takes to say it or how many five-dollar words he uses?
Thanks to Charley Reese I’ve learned to view the American South as probably someplace I’d really like. This Yankee Boy has grown up with an image of the South as a haven for armed hillbillies, NASCAR and beer. Well… that may still be true. But now it sounds like a world of humanity without any pretenses. After years of Southern California, Tokyo and Hollywood a good old Southern Three-B Night (bullets, beer and BBQ) sounds like a breath of fresh air. Not to mention the revelation that in the South, not working yourself into a coffin is considered preferable than making heaps of money. Man! That’s my kind of world! Pass me a mess of shrimp and a beer! I’ll get around to fixing that rusty hinge later.
I don’t mean for this to sound like a eulogy because it’s not. Charley Reese’s writings will be missed but there’s a whole heap of them to discover and re-discover in his LRC archives. And after all… he’s not planning on "croaking." So consider his story, A Good Hobby. In it he advises people to buy a backyard telescope. I completely agree. Some good stargazing puts everything into proper perspective while we feeble little creatures infest this planet fretting and fussing over our own unimportance. Maybe Charley Reese’s own words will be best here.
"…buy yourself a telescope and look at the stars. That will at least teach you not to sweat the small stuff. And all human affairs, compared with the universe, are small stuff."
So even though we’ve never met, good night, and good luck Charley. You’ve earned it.
September 1, 2008
Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean.