I’ve often found introductions awkward, and this is no less so. You’re used to seeing certain people on these pages, and now here’s this stranger staring out at you.
I’m new to this gig, having somehow convinced the brass at the Tulsa World to let me write on the op-ed pages, and my first job is to answer two questions: Who is this guy, and what makes his words worthy of being here?
So, to the first question: I’m thoroughly Gen X. Part John Prine, part Johnny Rotten and a little Wu-Tang. I could tell you where I was when hair metal died: sitting in my apartment, watching Nirvana perform “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” with Kurt Cobain and the gang blowing my youthful little mind.
I’ve bounced around Illinois, Colorado and Oklahoma, landing in Tulsa to start my high school years.
As an Okie, I’ve called Tulsa, Broken Arrow, Shawnee, Tecumseh and Pauls Valley home. I landed back here a decade ago to take a very non-public role at the Tulsa World: editing stories, proofing pages and making sure we get our job done so the presses start on time. No one likes a late paper, after all.
Professionally, I’ve been all over the map.
I’ve spent roughly half my career writing and reporting, covering courts, crime, politics, sports and a bunch of other topics. I’ve reported on the horrors of terrorism, the joy of Friday night lights, courtroom dramas and the occasional violence of Oklahoma’s famously unruly weather.
I once interviewed a guy getting out of prison after serving time for plotting acts of terror in the name of Puerto Rican separatism. Talked to farmers who wondered if their family legacy would end with them. Sat down with a death-row inmate two days before he met his fate.
The hardest gig has always been interviewing those who just lost a loved one, be it to a tornado, a crime or war.
At the same time, there is value to it: Letting the bereaved speak about the person they lost allows the deceased to be seen as something besides the event that ended their life. It humanizes those we lost, but it sure doesn’t make the job any easier.
Some of you will ask, is he a liberal? A conservative? D or R?
Well, don’t bother. I don’t owe allegiance to any of that, having been registered independent for some time now.
My thought is we should find things that work, then do those things. If they don’t work, then don’t do them anymore and try something else.
I try to walk in another person’s shoes, and I had a good friend tell me to see people as God sees them. Some of the last words spoken by my eldest brother, “Love God, love people,” ring as true now as they did just before he passed.
I guess you could tell that I’m a man of faith, but I cuss a little and enjoy a good beer on occasion. I’m not on any church’s short list to join a deacon board. It’s probably for the best.
One thing living in Oklahoma has taught me is the value in speaking plainly. I’m going to do that here, but I’m also eager to embrace nuance.
This world is not black-and-white. It’s a whole bunch of shades of gray. That makes finding solutions to the problems of the day difficult, but that’s the job.
To answer that second question, my words aren’t any more important than anyone else’s.
Any writer who tells you different is either lying or fooling themselves. But I do tread where some other fine writers have been: Mike Jones, Julie Delcour, Wayne Greene and Ginnie Graham, to name a few. I’ll do my best to meet their standard.
What I hope to accomplish is adding to the discussions of the day, making folks think and, hopefully, giving you something worthwhile to read. If I accomplish just one of those tasks, I’m calling it a win.
I’m lucky that I get to do this and being paid for the honor keeps the missus happy. I’ll see you again on these pages and on the internet. Godspeed.