Friends without Facebook


As it would work out, I sent a letter to my friend Norm – he, the ultimate arbiter of words – and how does he respond?

By email.

At least he has the sensibility to put Friends without Facebook in his subject line.  I don’t perceive Norm as much of a Facebook or social media guy.  All his working life he was a journalist or a behind-the-scenes journalist, so you’d think e-things would be anathema to him.

Norm’s name probably doesn’t ring a bell for you.  But his work influences what you read in print and online every day.  He was, for a long, long time, the man behind the Associated Press Stylebook.  The Stylebook is the bible of the sport for newspapers, magazines, and virtually any other entity that puts words in front of you in any form.  If or how a word entered official use by journalists, bloggers and writers – Quran vs Koran (“Quran: The preferred spelling for the Muslim holy book”), e-commerce, nano, JPEG, etc. – that was Norm’s decision.

And he was my editor when I wrote my national housing columns for the Associated Press.  He gave me not only a chance, but he let me follow stories on my own.  He rarely, if ever, interfered let alone second guessed me.  He had confidence and trusted me and that meant everything to my writing career and style.

I am glad to call Norm my friend.

—————

December 9, 2011

Norm: My New Year resolution to stay in touch with you has come a few days early but I suppose the new Post Office dictum to take first class snail-mail to new levels of slowness means this could still arrive after January 1.  Hopefully not.

Actually, there’s not a hell of a lot new down here in North Carolina besides our even farther right than usual right-wing politics. But it is in the 50s here today so at least the weather validates my move.  Nearing six years as a Southerner, so the next time I visit NYC (which is overdue) let me know if I’ve acquired any of the local intonation.

I think you’re onto something with the retirement thing.  The idea of non-work is beginning to dawn on me and I’m thinking of pulling the plug on work in the next year.  Age 63, or at least the 40-some years before it, seem about the right number of years in the salt mines.  I don’t know how you’ve kept yourself busy but I wouldn’t mind finding out how that works.

My daughter is expecting so any advice you have on the grandpa thing would be more than welcome.  Ellen is in St. Paul, MN and likes it very much, although the single digit temps they’ve had the last couple of days may temper her enthusiasm.

Not doing a hell of a lot with my free time except walking and growing older.  I keep threatening to write a book but the inspiration continues to escape me.  That’s probably just as well for the reading public.  There are enough bad books out there.

So what are you up to?  Still freelancing?  I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing.  And Jeanette?  I don’t keep up with the AP much these days.  I see their ‘contact us’ web page still has e-mail with a hyphen even though they issued some decree earlier this year that email would henceforth be one word.  That’s why they still need you in the shop to at least run the Stylebook.  My son Reid still has your signed copy.

Still living alone although I have a steady girlfriend who has quickly moved up to significant-other status.  There is still the very real threat that we could visit New York and you’d have a chance to meet her and give her the third degree: “Felicia, why are you with this guy…?”

Hopefully, you’ll find out sooner than later.  Really, let me know how and what you’re doing.  I don’t need to know the why.  I hope things are well…

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