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October 17, 2008

"Significant" Pushkin Day

Roy Meachum

Exactly 10 years ago today Pushkin walked into my life. Correction: the 20-pound black-and-white butterball waddled down North Market Street. I was sitting on the porch of the house that many people think I still live in; waiting for Sharon and others to pack up antiques for Lady on Skates' Richmond operation.


The baby English pointer paddled along between a young couple: she was very pregnant. Almost a hundred years ago poet T.S. Eliot described him, in The Wasteland: "One of the low upon whom assurance sits as a silk hat upon a Bradford millionaire." (I liked him no better in a chance encounter a year of so later when he bragged about the number of "girls" he "knocked up.")


By the time I heaved myself up from the rocker and made it to the gate that separates the hedges, the trio was past the front sidewalk. "What a neat puppy," I said to their backs. "How old is he?" The young man instantly turned: "Twelve weeks, you wanna buy him? I've got his papers." He added: "A hundred bucks."


By coincidence a Benjamin Franklin rested in my wallet; a friend paid a debt that very day. I looked at the couple. She was miserable at the thought of giving up the critter whom she kept on a lightweight metal leash; she obviously adored the puppy.


For him, it was strictly business. In that instant I realized he was open to bargaining. Looking back and forth between the faces – the baby dog paid attention – I decided not to bother; they needed the money. After minor bickering with my wife, whose mind was on other matters, I handed over the hundred dollar bill, the girl knelt down and looked near tears and Pushkin followed me into the yellow house.


What a 10 years we've had. My birthday party the following night was a highlight, followed nearly exactly two years later by my wife's announcement she was leaving. She found a new love in Chincoteague, took Boomer and Sweetwater, several vans of furniture and took off. The divorce papers were issued on what would have been our 21st anniversary.


Several summers later I was ousted from The Frederick News-Post, hired again to complete slightly over 20 years in those pages and departed under my own steam: George Delaplaine no longer occupied the corner office. It was a totally different venue without him. Publisher Myron Randall is a very nice guy. Still, it's not the same.


Meanwhile, I've been plugging along writing a memoir: A Redneck's Progress. That seemingly consists of rewriting and throwing words out; at last count, many more than sit in the manuscript. And there's the matter of Friday mornings with WFMD's Bob Miller. We ostensibly discuss movies and plays; but somehow we frequently wind up talking about whatever's on our minds. deserves its own category.


Not until after several years of grousing with publisher John Ashbury did I get the inside "dirt" about how the on-line journal of opinion started. It was when my News-Post column was the only "game" around. Several gentlemen of the conservative persuasion decided my views were entirely too liberal: resulted. During my hiatus from the paper, John and I spoke about my writing for what started as anti-Meachum postings. Other non-conservatives were already present – or later joined.


According to the latest figures, we are on the receiving end of "hits" approaching 40,000: the number fluctuates but presently totals in that neighborhood.


When I momentarily disappeared from the public radar screen, four years ago, a number of folks expected and said they were surprised that I didn't move back to my childhood's beloved New Orleans. The thought never crossed my mind.


Frederick has been my home for nearly 26 controversial years. Of course I miss Louisiana, which is why I cook Cajun dishes, with crawfish always in the freezer. But I've not lived there since the Army truly started the adventure that is my life. My first post-service employment was The Washington Post; my years since have been parceled out among Chicago and New York, Rome and Cairo.


All those domestic and international postmarks should help explain why I absolutely adore this community so much: it doesn't hurt that Pushkin and I live in mostly an old log house with a cooking fireplace in the kitchen. When we step off the blue stoop we're smack-dab in downtown's hubris and carryings-on. That's where we'll be tomorrow.


It's okay if you want to sidle up and whisper "Happy Birthday." Let's see, if the Pointer came into my life exactly 10 years ago today, I'll be 80 tomorrow.


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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