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If You’ll Listen, I’ll Tell You a Story

Let’s celebrate the partnership of writer and reader
     For this year’s Fall Fix-up feature, I’m finally able to gloat over my kitchen remodeling. Not only is my kitchen done; so is my story relating blow by blow that achievement for you.
     Happy as I am that both are done, I’m haunted by a bit of guilt. I’ve carried on about the stress of redoing a kitchen as if I’m the only person to have ever borne such labor. I’ve even compared it to childbirth: “The good result, if you’re lucky, obscures your memory of the suffering of getting there.”
     Meanwhile friends and neighbors have suffered far worse: building — or rebuilding — their homes from the ground up because of fire, fallen trees or just because it was time. On top of enduring dislocation, they’ve had to find new temporary homes, sometimes evacuating is the midst of trauma.
     Yet who’s listening to their far more deserving stories? It’s my profession’s blessing — though when a story haunts you in the wee hours before morning it feels more like a curse — to not only live my life’s story but also to tell it.
     I’ve had that privilege because of Bay Weekly.
     Few writers have Emily Dickinson’s supposed contentment in simply writing her poems, audience or not. We may write lots in private, journaling as religiously as saying morning prayers. Compelled as we are to write — to document and make sense of experience or create whole new worlds — we can’t feel a well made story is complete until it finds its reader. For 1,349 weeks, I’ve found my reader — you — in Bay Weekly.
      Finding a comfortable meeting space to meet your readers means you’ll return there again and again, for once stories have a place to go, their supply is limitless. Whatever writer’s block is, Bay Weekly didn’t let it in. That’s why I’ve told you stories about everything including — this week — the kitchen sink.
      For meeting me all these weeks I thank you. So do all the writers whose contributions have made Bay Weekly wonderful for 26 years. Many of those writers are reaching out to tell me just what I’ve told you here: that we made them a place to meet readers, and that made all the difference.
      Bay Weekly “gave me a shot when no one else would answer my phone calls,” wrote Louis Llovio, our stalwart for three or four lucky years. That start took him to the Baltimore Sun Media Group, the Daily Record and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
      C.T. Taylor Schwink, our summer intern back in 2011, wrote to thank us for being “the hometown publication that gave me a shot when everyone else slammed the door on me.” Following his “passion, sports podcasting,” he’s found his dream job, a career “producing podcasts for ESPN.”
     Brianne Warner Alcala, the summer intern back in 1998 who made our first online edition, wrote, “What a glorious run Bay Weekly has had. What a staff you, Bill, Alex, Betsy and so many others have been. I am so grateful for my intern summer and those early web days together.” Brianne — who made editing her career, starting at the ­University of Maryland — has seen the closing of two of her papers, most recently the Washington Post Express, and the Diamondback’s ending its print edition. 
      We’re just a few of multitudes who found their careers in newspapers because that’s where they found you.
      Thank you for reading all the stories we’ve gotten to tell because Bay Weekly existed. It’s been a great partnership. And there’s still more to come.
     This week for Fall Fix-up, we advise you on gardens as well as homes. Dr. Francis Gouin, our Bay Gardener for a dozen years, performs a miracle, returning from the dead to our pages to remind you what you should and shouldn’t do to grow a lawn. If keeping up your lawn is wearing you out, you’ll also want to turn to Maria Price’s Gardening for Health, where she advises on the advantages of gardens over lawns.
      You’ll also read about the plight of our trees, first drowned and now, alas, dying of drought. And about how to manage outdoor fires safely. You’ll also find a directory of people to help you manage your fall home and garden.
     Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle reminds you that catching depends on good tackle, which means you might owe yours a good fall cleaning.
      And, as usual, as well as news you can use, there’s news just for fun. We imagine you’ll be tickled pink by staff writer Kathy Knotts’ story Real Men Wear Pink — Or Sometimes Next to Nothing.
My Bay Weekly Wheel of Memory
      Speaking of Dr. Francis Gouin — the very mention of his name makes me break out in smiles for all the good we got out of that most generous of men. He was a regular visitor to our Deale office across from Happy Harbor, though you never could tell how he’d arrive. Sometimes it would be on his 1949 John Deere tractor, sometimes on his Allis-Chalmers B, sometimes his Farmall B and sometimes in his 1930 Ford Model A — all vehicles he’d restored himself to driving order and beauty.
      Often he’d arrive bringing gifts: This time of year it would be persimmons, whose loss I’m grieving along with his. Earlier it would be peaches. Earlier still, peach blossoms. Like him, those trees are gone: He cut them down rather than endure their attack by stinkbugs.
     Always he’d arrive bringing stories. That was what was on offer in his first visit. Back in the spring of 2006, he came offering himself as our gardening columnist. I told him I’d just signed on with University of Maryland Coop Extension Service for a run of Ask the Plant Professor. What did I know?
       Soon, I knew — because he told me so — that I was talking to that Service’s professor emeritus, the guy who made sure home gardeners as well as farmers knew how to use science for the benefit of their crops and the planet … as well as the guy who turned composting to a science and brought the Master Gardeners program to Maryland. 
     So I said yes, please Dr. G, you can write for us, and for those words all of our lives are richer.