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December 22, 2015


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Jon, have you seen the footage of Canadian Pacific's "Holiday Train"? Metro should have a "Holiday Train" decked out with lights like that to cruise Central. I agree with you about the decorations--don't know why they don't invest in new ones. When we lived on Roma Avenue, we went to Trinity--sang in the Junior Choir. Oh, and Merry Christmas!

JON I Just drove thru Willow and your Luminarias are in place.

It was never known for sure if Christmas was the holiest day of the year or simply the most lucrative. We couldn't decide, so businessmen and political leaders knocked heads and found ways to decorate their core retail districts to celebrate the spirit of the season, i.e., buying stuff. As a child I thought it was all wonderful (more stuff than Jesus, to be sure, but whatever). As time went on I noticed the decorations getting a little threadbare, and as time further advanced into the bewilderment of my adulthood, the new decorations became cheap and forgettable. What happened? Downtown Phoenix had gradually died.

The good news is that we don't have to pretend anymore. It ain't holy if there's nothing to buy.

There are still aspects of Christmas that send shivers through my body - say a Christmas mass in a beautiful cathedral, or a concert performance of Handel's Messiah (in my opinion, the most wonderful composer who ever lived) or the lovely foods people prepare. I wish we all had New England villages to live in, too, along with good-paying jobs, traditional neighborhoods, and a stable climate. When I look through the wrong end of a telescope I think I can almost see Baby Jesus in his manger waving at us. But it's nothing more than the wish for a time when there really was magic. Write it down lest you forget: Christmas was wonderful once and so were we when we were green.

Wow Soleri. I really like your post. Started out with harsh reality and came back strong with the truth.

Picking my kid up from skating with friends downtown tonight I was fired up to see a lot of foot traffic around town.

The drive up Central wasn't lit up as much as I'd like, but it was enough. I wasn't around when Central Ave was decked out. The new Tudor fantasy homes hood' was well decorated.

Next year we'll have a December weekend in downtown Seattle with cousins like I had when I was a kid. Looking forward to this Christmas and next!

Happy Holidays all.

Like Soleri I am a Messiah fan. Sang it many times in high school (in the glory days of Gene Hanson's Fine Arts Department at Coronado) and later in college and afterwards. The oratorio, and the story of its ... dare I say it ... miraculous creation are glorious.

Christians historically downplayed Christmas. This season was/is celebrated as Advent. The big holiday is Easter.

The best thing about Christmas is the music. Easter, by contrast, is not nearly so endowed (Bach's Passions being notable exceptions). I understand Christmas, historically, is not that important to believers. To the unwashed, however, what is important is this contagion of emotion and nostalgia. I love Christmas music and even the smarmiest sentiments can reduce me tears. For example:


Here are the lyrics in case your ear for Irish accents is as bad as mine:

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas day

For all it's shortcomings,I still like Christmas and have been touring a lot of holiday treats I haven't had time for the last 50 years here in the valley.(Desert Botancal luminarias,Tovrea Castle,Petersen House Danish Christmas).Merry Christmas to RC-I always read your posts and appreciate your perspectives on Phoenix and the world in general.

OT but still something I wanted to say, cross-posted from Facebook:

This is a newspaper story. Perhaps I am burying the lede…

In 1986, I was hired to be the business editor of the Dayton Daily News. In those different times, at age 30 I was probably the youngest business editor of a major metropolitan newspaper in the country. And what a paper it, and the just combined Journal-Herald, was: distinguished journalism, veteran staff, nationally known columnists and a newspaper bar next door (fat profit margins, too).

But the business section was seen as a problem. One of the key questions the bosses had for me was, had I ever fired anyone (yes)? What I found in these reporters was not a bunch of lazy bums but former assigning or city editors from the DDN or DJH who had somehow pissed off the head shed and been sent to business, which was Siberia. In fact, these were some of the finest journalists I ever met. My task was to get the barriers out of the way so they could do their best work. We added staff, kicked ass, took names. Business was no longer Siberia. Nobody was fired. Among many fine projects, we would lead the Daily News’ award-winning series on OSHA, the first computer-assisted look at the agency and worker safety, a finalist for the Pulitzer in Public Service. With John Dougherty in the lead, we broke the story of the Keating Five.

I have long reflected on those business writers in their forties and fifties that I found when I first walked into the historic newsroom in Dayton. While I had a good amount of management experience for my age, that wasn’t the biggest thing going in my favor. I was no boy wonder. These veterans weren’t going to allow me to fail. They saw something in me as a leader that gave them hope. Hope that someday I might rise high enough to save them from the sons-of-bitches at corporate.

In that, I failed. But I took their good lessons on to other business sections; together, all the journalists there made them great. Power and corruption lies most heavily in business. This is why it is the most important part of news coverage. Done right, it is the sexiest, most compelling local news in the paper.

This month, my last gunslinger left journalism. These were an elite group of reporters: hungry, passionate about serving the public trust, multi-talented, aggressive, turn-on-a-dime, highly competent. They tended to be a little younger than me or my age, hired by me, and they thrived in my “kick the tires and light the fires” atmosphere (HR would never allow it today). They made being a department head especially rewarding and produced amazing journalism. Each could have gone to the best newspapers in the country.

At the risk of leaving out someone, they included Mike Casey Diane Solov and Allen Roberts (who died too young) in Dayton; Patti Gallagher Newberry, Jeff Harrington, Meghan Glynn, John Byczkowski, Mike Boyer and Lisa Biank Fasig in Cincinnati; Amber Veverka, Melissa Allison and Stella Hopkins in Charlotte.

John E Dougherty remains one of America's best investigative reporters. But it would be presumptuous to call him "my gunslinger." He came to Dayton fully formed and it was a blast working with him and seeing his sui generis talent in action.

Leah Beth Ward was a gunslinger with me in Cincinnati and Charlotte, an amazing talent, one of America's best journalists. She moved on to her next chapter this month.

So I alone am left.

It's a very strange feeling. I never expected to become a journalist, much less stick with it so long...much less to be one of the few veterans left in the foxhole. I don't know what the next year will bring; columnists no longer have revered sinecures. But it's been the adventure of a lifetime, and more importantly, we served the public good and tried to do it well. I am so honored to have worked with so many, many fine people. I was touched by greatness and kindness all along the way. Thank you.

Thank ypu Jon for being a "voice i the darkness" Keep on firing!

We need all the Deadline folks with pens to continue the war against the 5000. Good work Jon, "keep scribbling."

Thanks for the background RC, I worked in journalism in my 20's but I was in sports. There's something great about being part of a team and getting out a section on deadline. Friday nights in the fall were my favorite, everyone going out to cover the football games and then coming back to the office to take calls and get it all put together, then we'd go out for pizza and drinks together. I've never had camaraderie like that in jobs since, although I am sure that it helped that we were mostly single bucks in our 20's and 30's so we had the free time to develop those friendships.

I miss some of the most arcane things like zoning sports agate (box scores) for prep football based on distribution areas when we had too many box scores for the space allotted in the newspaper. So, you'd have to "zone" the agate and put in different box scores for different distribution regions so they would at least see their local teams' box scores plus those of any games we had staffed and written a story about.

We had eight zones and I think the most times I ever had to re-zone was six. I guess throughout my career in all my jobs I've always enjoyed any task that involves moving puzzle pieces around. And I still love to write, I remember a manager telling me, Mark, you've got to find a way to write shorter emails. I guess I have tended to get verbose at times since I'm not on an inch count any longer, haha.

Mark, somewhere I have my old pica pole!

Ditto the thanks to Jon for the site. Despite my usual crankiness, I really enjoy the articles and comments.

I think the career in journalism has served your writing well. Many prolific writers basically wrote for syndication. Dickens and Trollope come to mind. I think Mark Twain did a lot of his work for the weeklies and monthlies. There’s no such thing as writer’s block under these conditions. I think your recent History book is a tribute to this skill.

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