When my father died in October of 2010, I was no longer working for the Press. Instead, I was serving as the press secretary for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.
On the day of dad’s funeral we all gathered at my aunt’s house. At one point I was holding court, sitting in a high-backed chair and telling dad stories.
The big closer is always the tale of the swan attack, when dad and I were terrorized by a massive bird while trying to paddle a canoe. You can’t go anywhere but down after that one. I was fueled by grief and about a gallon of Maker’s Mark and I could have told stories for hours.
But while he was sick, I did not tell stories, and I realized how cathartic writing Dry Martino was for me in the three years it ran in the Press. Starting off as a political column, it quickly morphed into a tell-all by yours truly.
More often than not, it was ordinary in the way of both prose and topic. But then I would have a week when I let something flow and hit pay dirt. The column became my own personal therapist.
I realized that for a guy who talks a lot, I don’t ever really say anything. For some reason I could reveal my life on the page of a newspaper.
Without that outlet, my father’s illness was even harder to bear. As anyone who has lived through it knows, the days all morph into one long hospital visit. For five months I held it back simply because we were too busy caring, worrying and hoping.
It was about three weeks before he died when I finally wrote something. I published it on my own blog, drymartino.com. It was akin to opening a steam valve, letting the pressure out and putting things back in balance.
When I left the paper, I was beginning to feel like I was getting stale. To keep it going I would have to take the honesty up a notch.
And man, you have missed a lot. I am remarried. I’m a stepfather.
There is no place to work like a newsroom. The only thing close is a traveling circus. Every day I came in to the following: A publisher who went from Reaganomic Republican to raging liberal communist. An editor in chief who, like Zelig, began to think he was a doctor or an attorney. A surly beat reporter who reserved most of his verbal communication to grumbling at his computer. A sales manager who would literally smash his head through a brick wall to make a sale. An arts columnist who worshipped Swedish sludge death metal but was breathless when it came to American Idol. An investigative reporter with more degrees than an influenza patient who didn’t believe anything you tell him, even if the proof was in your hand and on fire. A sports writer from the South who could tell you how wrestler Mick Foley liked his tea. A copy editor who could tell you who coined the phrase, “It is what it is,” and then explain how to punctuate it. An art department full of dudes who, at Christmastime, played probably 250 different versions of “O, Holy Night” to see which one was the best (Celine Dion).
And passion. Lots of burning, contagious, unfaltering passion.
I am still writing my column for drymartino.com, and I am close to completing my first novel. It is tough to do, though. Free time is at an historic low.
I covered a lot of topics in those years. Family. Booze. Fatherhood. Divorce. Dating. Chocolate. The Simpsons. I can say without hesitation that it is the most truthful work I have ever done. Plus, I love a hard deadline. It works for me, although there were times the lunch order seemed much more important in the newsroom than the deadline.
It will be nice to see the column in print again.
Happy anniversary, Press. Peace in the New Year.