It looks like 2014 came in like a wrecking ball.
I don’t know if I wrote that because I can’t get that creepy Miley Cyrus thing out of my head, or because across the street from my office they are literally wrecking the building that has caused me such joy and grief, the Metrodome.
At any rate, both symbolize the end of something, or perhaps the beginning of something. Maybe they just exist to serve as a prelude to my inevitable year-end/year-start column.
It’s the one in which reporters claim it’s time to take stock of the past year or make predictions for the future, but in reality we do those stories because we need to take, or else lose, our vacation days — and besides, there is virtually no news going on. A collective “selfie.”
Still, I always look back through my mail and columns to see why I do this job, or to determine whether I should keep doing it.
So, let’s start with this e-mail from a fan: “As usual I was one of probably less than ten that read your garbage. Idiot.”
OK, we’re off to a rough start. How about this jolly caller: “You’re lucky you have your welfare job at the Star Tribune.”
Or this: “Wow, news flash Jon Tevlin (trash) regarding Emmer flap. You don’t even deserve a job.”
And finally, “Why don’t you ever go after democrats? How about Ted Mondale and the failure to fund the stadium?”
I wanted to call the woman back to give her the dates of the columns in which I did exactly that, but she didn’t leave a working number.
So then I looked around my desk at the scores of thank-you cards, and recall the many e-mails and phone calls the past year that made my day. I look back at my columns and recall all the incredible people a newspaper job allows me to meet, people who trusted me enough to tell their story.
People such as Sami Rahamim, the young man who got involved in gun legislation after his father and five employees were murdered by a gunman at Accent Signage. Though still in high school, Rahamim was intelligent, thoughtful and incredibly mature for his 17 years. Having your father murdered does that. I have no doubt he will have a huge impact in this world.
On the flip side of the gun issue, I got to know Rep. Tony Cornish a little bit. He’s as big a gun advocate as you will find in the state and while I have differences with him on background checks, I like him. He’s frank, funny and answers your questions without politispeak. And, he’s a character. I like characters.
Then there was Larry Bauer-Scandin, who fostered more than 100 troubled kids, despite lifelong health problems. Now in a long-term care facility, he helps his senior neighbors when they need support.
I also met William Murray, a prison art instructor for Stillwater Correctional Facility for many years. He has amazing, hair-raising stories from the cell blocks, and taught me things you don’t learn in school. For example, the first thing he did working with inmates was to make the first-degree murderers his clerks so no one would steal the art materials. They call that street-smart.
I got a lesson in perseverance from Minneapolis police officer Josh Young, a former National Guard member who served in Iraq. Because of his service, his plans for college got pushed back a little, say, two decades. He finally graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average and was named his college’s top adult learner of the year.
Finally, I found inspiration and joy with the kids at Little Earth, who formed a basketball team after a 20-year absence at the housing complex. They looked like the “Bad News Bears” in their tattered uniforms and in their tiny gym, but they energized the entire community by hard work and hustle, eventually winning the city championship.
Shortly after I wrote about them, team manager Trinidad Flores died during a heart transplant. Flores had been a role model for his peers at Little Earth, volunteering to feed the elders, organizing groups and discouraging drug use. He had even started a savings account to go to college.
“Everybody he met, he touched,” his mother Cassandra told me.
Not a bad anecdote to start the year: Resolve to touch lives.
Just one more thing. To the woman who recently called to say you were canceling your subscription because of a column: I recognized your voice from a couple of months ago, when you left the same message. I’m on to you. Happy New Year anyway.