Put your work aside for 20 minutes and meet one of the best writers and richest souls in our speechwriting community. Writing Boots buddy Charles McNair, author of the new novel The Epicurians and so many other good things, goes back to his hometown in Alabama and gives us a ghost tour. This is lovely, and it’ll start your week out right.
Chicago deejay, storyteller and unassuming cultural shaman Lin Brehmer died last Sunday, at 68, generating the most full-throated, universally heartbroken celebrity sendoff I’ve ever seen from this town, and I’ve seen a few.
I knew Lin just a little—no kind of boast, because it seems to me that out of our 2.7 million residents, Lin knew about two million.
My central memory of Lin is this: Shortly after my young daughter Scout and I returned from a road trip to Montana a decade ago, she and I were in my friend Paul Engleman’s backyard for a party. Paul and Lin were pals, having coached their kids in little league baseball.
Paul mentioned to Lin that Scout and I had spent most of those miles listening to Joni Mitchell, to which Scout had sung through the sunroof, at the top of her lungs. And suddenly, Chicago’s great famous music man was thrilled that this one 10-year-old girl had discovered Joni Mitchell. Lin leaned in and asked her excitedly which songs she liked the best, and tried unsuccessfully to convince her to sing one of them at the living-room hootenanny that followed.
Well, Lin, Scout sang this one a couple of years ago—on one mournful, lonely teenage quarantined evening, using Joni Mitchell to give herself what you might call “divine solace.” It goes out to you, and everyone who loved you. Which, if you live in Chicago, feels like everyone, period. May your fine soul live on in all of ours.
Some of my friends think my devotion to writing Writing Boots daily is senselessly slavish. A couple summers ago one friend suggested I cut back to something he called “summer hours”?
How fine that sounded! But I didn’t do it. Why?
I used to have a publisher who put out a newsletter for professional speechwriters, weekly. Surely that then-sleepy business didn’t need such regular news. But my publisher knew: It’s good to become a regular part of your readers’ rhythms. Lots of Boots readers tell me they read this every morning over coffee; every midday, over lunch; every evening, with a drink. When you’re something your readers can count on, they’re something you can count on.
Also, as another daily blogger remarked to me recently, “it’s easier to do every day than twice a week.” Do it once a week, and people expect something comprehensive and perfectly proportioned and weighty. Once a day, and it can be a little more casual—more of a scrapbook.
That same daily blogger is also a newspaper columnist who once lost his column for a time. “I remember feeling that not having a column was like drowning,” he told me. “Not in an abstract way, but like someone holding my head under the water and killing me.”
I do understand that feeling, too. So Writing Boots might be a form of breathing for me. Out, and in, out, and in.
I’ve had this peculiar need to breathe in print for a long time—since I published my sophomoric ideas in a four-page newsletter starting in 1992, when I was 23. Eventually I was getting published elsewhere regularly enough that I ran out of interest in writing, editing, laying out, printing, pasting up, folding, handwriting addresses and mailing this thing every month.
But I like writing every day. It forces me to find something honest and believable to say.
But after …
I ain’t got shit today.