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Politically Incorrect

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Writer's procrastination

When my oldest, Misty, told me about a "personality inventory" she had taken at work, she remarked it said she had a tendency to be a bit of a perfectionist. That would be ‘anal retentive’ in the lingo, I do believe.

I laughed. "Does it tell us anything we didn’t already know?" I asked her.

She doesn’t get it from me.

While I have grandiose visions of becoming organized, it’s a concept I don’t expect will become an actual part of my life. At least, it hasn’t in the first half of my first century of living, and it’s not looking like it’s going to show up in the second half, either.

Among the many, many impacts that trait has on my life, one is that I sometimes find myself sitting in front of my five, very large file cabinets, paging through old issues of the River Journal.

This usually happens when I’m writing a story about something, and I know I’ve written about it before so want to look up the old story to verify some facts.

My sense of time is almost as good as my organizational skills - it’s rare that I can come within even a year of the issue I want.

Not that the issues are organized by year. I’ll pull out a pile and find they’re all in order... for a few months. And then odd issues from other months and other years have made their way into the stack and before I know it, an hour or so might have gone by.

It can get frustrating, but never frustrating enough for me to sit down and once and for all put all those issues into the order they were printed. Since 1993, when the River Journal first printed, there must be somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 newspapers to skim, looking for that one elusive fact I’m hoping to nail down. And that doesn’t count all the other newspapers we’ve printed in that time - the Cabinet Mountains Echo, Lifestyles, the Monarch Mountaineer, the Sandpoint Sunday - ah, the Sandpoint Sunday! - plus numerous ‘special editions’ on sports and schools and more.

I don’t suffer from writer’s block so to speak - I suffer from writer’s procrastination and these little forays into fact checking are a major part of that.

Besides giving me a good excuse as to why I can’t sit down at the computer and finish writing the story I’m supposed to be writing, these blasts from the past are also a lot of fun. They bring back some really good memories.

For example, while double-checking a phrase I remembered Blaine Stevens saying many years ago for this issue’s story on the school district’s levy, I came across a River Journal from 1995 or so with a story I wrote on Compton White, Jr. That’s still one of my favorites of all the stories I’ve ever written - he was an incredible man to get to know.

Not far past that issue was a Sandpoint Sunday with a story I wrote about Charlotte Hoyer, another one of my all-time favorite people and another story in my favorites pile. Both Comp and Charlotte are gone now, but they live again, as fresh as the days I interviewed them, when I re-read those stories.

"Say it ain’t so, Jimmy O!" I didn’t write that story, about the day (or the night) when Noxon’s then superintendent cleared out his desk and snuck out of town to head back to wherever he came from and serve out his jail sentence arising from criminal charges for fraud - something the selection committee apparently missed in his background check. I wrote the headline though, and I think it might be the first headline I’d ever written - I loved it then and love it still now.

You might have noticed my tendency to favor puns when writing a headline - that, and/or alliteration.

Here’s an issue about Toby’s Silver Dollar Bar and I can still see the shocked look on Billie Jean’s face as she read one of the bar signs visible in the picture. "Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed at the time. "I can’t believe you have that on your front page!" I won’t repeat it here, but it had something to do with how "no one rides for free."

That very first Sandpoint Sunday comes up in the stack, and I have to stop and read, like I do every time I come across it, Jonathan Johnson’s story on "The Commission of Controversy."

"...A new season in Bonner County politics has also been unfolding. Some see it as the melting off of an old, cold bureaucracy; others see a flood of destruction and irresponsibility. More than a few have stood and watched the levels of rhetoric rise with the swollen lake..."

I still think it’s one of the best political stories we’ve ever published. Ah, those were the days.

I find Sandy’s column from when his dog, Radar, died; Belwood’s Furniture’s 27th birthday; "Is Law Enforcement Out of Control?" the story that seemed to guarantee that every single cop in a tri-state area was completely and totally teed-off at me.

There’s the columns where Marianne Love, Boots Reynolds, Ernie Hawks and Gary Payton first graced these pages; that last Bluepenciler; a picture of my grandson Tyler on the day he was born.

There’s a lifetime in those pages; at least, the lifetime of much of my time in North Idaho. It’s good to go back and visit it, to remember the faces and the places and the things that happened that brought a smile to my face so very many times.

I find myself thinking, if I could just get these papers organized, I could put some of those stories into a book. Maybe tomorrow.


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Author info

Landon Otis

Tagged as:

publishing, procrastination, Misty Grage

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