Foot soldier of the Fourth Estate l Chuck’s World

By Chuck Sigars | Oct 17, 2018

This is October, and at last I’m right where you need me to be. I know all about October. I can help.

We moved to the Pacific Northwest in October, 35 years ago. Those were ancient, primordial times, when the mountains were much taller, the temperatures were slightly cooler, and cars could actually drive on the freeways at the legal limit. Like, most of the time.

But it still feels familiar, this time of year. Kids are back in school. The Seahawks just played the Raiders. Dino Rossi is running for something.

And October is about to mess with you, so listen up and don’t be fooled. You’re going to wander outside this week, with temperatures in the 60s and sunny skies, and you’ll think there’s no better place to be.

Light sweaters and coats in the morning will be doffed by the early afternoon, and we’ll all be distracted at work by the call of the glorious natural beauty of this place we call home.

So, some hard truths here, at least for newcomers. October is not what it seems. October isn’t a respite, or a throwback, or a last gasp of summer. October is a lie. October is, in fact, a warning. But also a lie.

October wants us to believe that this is the way it’s supposed to be, as fall slowly creeps into our consciousness, the smell of woodstoves and caramel apples wafting across the neighborhood. It wants to seduce our common sense and dull our judgment.

October is just a pretty picture, covering up the dirty work that nature is doing out in the Pacific. October is a pickpocket who steals your soul while you’re looking for your sunglasses. October is the lookout man for what’s coming, and that’s November, and November is really bad.

I’m sorry to be blunt, but it’s just bad. We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving, but mostly just grateful that we’ve only got a week left. November is essentially the Oakland Raiders of months, let’s put it that way. If you like to travel, Arizona is not a bad way to spend November.

Aside from my cynicism, though, October is always a little nostalgic. I remember being stunned by the Northwest that first October, and then amazed. It got dark early. There were more trees than I’d ever seen in one place.

Every time I turned an unfamiliar corner it seemed I ran into water.

October symbolizes the Northwest to me, then, wonderful and ominous, and always eventful. It’s almost as though we save up special occasions for October, just to make sure we’ll remember.

And in one of those strange calendar whims that only happen every five to six years, the date of this column matches the date of my very first one, 17 years ago.

This isn’t a big anniversary, for me or for you. I had to look up the date right now, in fact. I just knew it was in October, about a month following the attacks of Sept. 11.

That particular October, in retrospect, feels more like a November. It was a dark time, dread and uncertainty now part of our daily lives. Airplanes flew overhead and we looked up, all of us, every time. War was on the horizon, and came soon.

Young men and women were joining up and heading to Afghanistan, which we assumed would be a quick and efficient mission. We were all young, I guess.

I walked into the main Beacon office a year or so ago, a farewell party for a young editor heading on to bigger things, and Paul Archipley made the observation that there were only a couple of us still around from the early days (Paul, the publisher of Beacon newspapers, recently was awarded the Washington Newspaper Publisher Association’s highest honor, the Miles Turnbull Editor Publisher award, which you should know already unless you’re my mom and always come here first).

People have moved on, as they do.

It was Paul who bought my column idea, skeptical but willing to give it a shot. I suspect Paul didn’t think I’d still be in these pages 17 years later (I have a feeling he wasn’t all that sure the Beacon would still be around). I don’t know what I was thinking. I think I felt we all just needed more jokes.

I’m a journalist, then, in the sense that I’ve written for newspapers regularly for a long time. It’s sort of an honorary degree. And it’s an honor.

It’s an honor especially today, when this field I love, the most valuable asset any nation can have, a free and open press, is under attack. Paul made the same point when accepting his award. It’s an uncertain time, and feels dangerous.

I’ve enjoyed my 17 years here.

I’ve heard from many of you, and met a few at different times. I’ve had fun sharing what dumb adventures I’ve stumbled into, and whatever insight I’ve managed to capture.

But mostly I’ve enjoyed watching young reporters come up, learn their craft, practice it, take advice and make mistakes and do better. Paul and his editors help them become better, and we are all better for it, which is why we should be proud of Paul Archipley and the Beacon newspapers.

I am, and not because he gave me a job, once.

Because he took one, once, and I’m awfully grateful, for all of us, that he did.

 

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