Sunday, December 28, 2008

Who I am in pictures -- good, bad and ugly

The one thing I have hated about being a print columnist is that a picture often is demanded with one's writing. I've made it a point NOT to add a picture to this blog. What I look like should not matter. What I write and who I write about should.

But at the reunion of Tennessean ex-patriates and some current employees who were nice enough to show up and lend their support to those recently laid off, one colleague did not even recognize me.

The problem is the diet I've been on the past three years. Now the chemo diet beats the hell out of SouthBeach. The only drawback is that you can die from it. Still, I've lost about 100 pounds on chemo and have kept it off while exercising almost three hours a day.

So I've decided to provide, this one time, a photo montage of before and after.

In order of appearance:

* Me, today, in front of one of my passions, painting.

* My hero and best friend -- my mother. She got me into political writing. We talked every day, no matter where my career took me. Momma decided to break my heart and go to heaven in June.

I was going to bring her to Tennessee to live and had purchased her a condo. She was going to go out with me on tour as a columnist for the many speeches I gave to civic and political groups. I would speak, then turn the floor over to her and let her tell everyone how full of shit I was. Then I had to get that damn leuekmia. My guilt over this is unrelenting.

Mom hated Bush, and I told Alberto Gonzales as much during our one-one-one interview on Oct. 14, 2005. But I told the AG that she really liked him. He roared in laughter and sent her an autographed picture. She liked that. And I loved that about her.

* My first trip to the White House, May 2001, with education writers from across the country. That ocassion was four months before 9/11 and four years before my leukemia. The president was plagued by his allergies that day. But he made an effective case for the best thing he ever did in office: passage of the No Child Left Behind Act.

* My favorite task as a columnist, speaking to students and taking them on tour of the newspaper. These young people visited in 2005 from SantaFe School in Fayette County. Their teacher, Tim Morrison, became a good friend besides a reader. That happened a lot with me and readers, and I was a better journalist for it.

* Making presentation to students in south Ohio and Houston on immigration as an issue in the 2008 presidential race for the sensational Vanderbilt Virtual School.

* An appearance on NewsChannel 5's Inside Politics.

* Interview in Oval Office with President Bush on his birthday, July 8, 2004, for Hispanic magazine, circulation 280,000 nationally. I also interviewed John Kerry one-on-one in Los Angeles for the same issue. Not in the picture are adviser Karen Hughes and Barney the dog. Both also were sitting on one of the sofas. I was 100 pounds heavier back then and Bush was 80 points higher in the polls.

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