Tom Blake 24 years of writing columns

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – July 6, 2018

There are two parts to today’s eNewsletter. Tom Blake columnist.

Part One – Home alone with only dogs for company

People often ask where I learned to write, expecting to hear a reply like “At journalism school.” Or, they ask, “Have you always been a writer?”

I reply: “No journalism school. I’ve been writing for 24 years. I learned to write sitting on barstools, while trying to meet women after my divorce.”

That answer probably needs an explanation.

On Christmas Eve, 1993, my wife of six years, and her two boys, decided they’d had enough of me. While I was in Santa Rosa, California, visiting my 82-year-old mom, they took what furniture and belongings they wanted and moved out of my life.

I had no clue that was going down. Oh, I knew we had some issues to discuss, but most couples do. I found out the morning after Christmas when my wife telephoned me at Mom’s and told me.

On the drive home, I had a notepad in my lap. When you’ve got nine hours to drive, a million thoughts go through your mind.

As best I could, I jotted down my thoughts. The first item: What about my dogs, Amy and Kira? Were they gone? Were they still there? Had they been fed or left water in two days?

The next item: Why did she do it without us discussing it first?

By trip’s end, I had a mishmash of notes on the notepad. My writing career had begun, although I didn’t know it.

A month later, while serving sandwiches during lunchtime at Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point, California, deli, in front of customers and employees, I got served. With divorce papers! And, as I was doing every night, I went home and jotted down my thoughts in what then had become a divorced-man’s diary. That divorce turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Shortly after the divorce, at age 54, I decided to start dating again, thinking I’d be king of the hill. Oh my gosh, reality hit harder than I had ever imagined. As I sat on barstools at Brio, Hennessey’s and other Orange County singles’ hangouts, I’d add the dating misadventures into the diary. On those barstools is where I learned to write.

After five months, I put the notes from the diary into a short story. I edited the material 25 times. It was about 75 pages. I thought, maybe I could get the story published.

I sent query letters to The New York TimesPlayboy Magazine and Esquire. No response. The Orange County Register recommended I contact the Dana Point News, the Register’s community paper in the city where I lived.

After reading my short story, the two women editors—Sherrie Good and Dixie Redfearn–agreed to a meeting at their office.

At the meeting, their first question: “What do you have in mind?”

I had no idea, so I just blurted out, “Maybe I could do a dating-after-50 column from the male-point-of-view.”

They said, “That’s what we were thinking. You are whining and complaining so much about the cost of dating, and being rejected by all sorts of women, we feel the single, middle-aged women of Orange County will have a field day reading your woe-is-me adventure.”

“Home alone, with only dogs for company,” was the title of my first newspaper column. It appeared July 7, 1994–24 years ago tomorrow–in the South County Lifestyles section of four Orange County Register community newspapers.

Sherrie and Dixie were right about the vitriolic responses from women.

The first comment was, “Who is this sniveling puke?”

The second: “Get the boy a crying towel.”

And the third: “He complains that younger women won’t go out with him. It’s a wonder any woman will go out with him”

Welcome to the dating trenches, Tom.

Soon the column appeared in 10 OC Register community papers. And then for eight years, the Register itself, the nation’s 20th largest newspaper, as well as the community papers. Opportunity had arisen from adversity.

Seven years ago, I was blessed to join the team at Picket Fence Media—the publishers of the Dana Point TimesSan Clemente Times and The Capistrano Dispatch, in south Orange County, California. I am very lucky to have this incredible opportunity to write for newspapers that are still printed. How so?

On Tuesday, July 3, the Boston Globe newspaper published an article by Evan Horowitz that stated, “The newspaper industry has declined faster and fallen further than some of the most famously collapsing sectors of the American economy. Coal mining, steel manufacturing, fishing.” Since 2000, newspaper employment has fallen by more than 60 percent…

“Nearly 300 English-language daily newspapers have disappeared from the US landscape in the past 20 years….Florida, California, New Jersey, and Michigan have each lost roughly 70 percent of their newspaper jobs…In San Diego, newspaper employment is down 83 percent since 2002.” So, I’m very fortunate to still have my articles printed by functioning newspapers, published by hard-working Americans.

And even though this is off-topic, I have to say this: I was devastated with the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, last week. So senseless. Each of the five killed reminded me of someone I know. 

The number of columns and eNewsletters I’ve written in 24 years—approaching 4,000.

Why was that divorce 24 years ago the best thing that ever happened to me? It launched a writing career that has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. It brought two appearances on the Today Show and an appearance on Good Morning America.

And more importantly, it opened the door for me to meet Greta, a partner with whom I’ve shared so many incredible experiences in the 20 years we’ve been together, I don’t have time to write about them all.

Have things changed on the dating scene in 24 years? Not much. Except now, instead of focusing on dating after 50, it includes dating after 60, 70, 80, and even 90. Same old issues—hard to meet someone compatible and one of the biggest issues single seniors still deal with is loneliness.

Adversity leads to opportunity

Often, adversity leads to opportunity. For those who have suffered a major setback in life, try–as hard as it is at the time–to look for that seed of opportunity to soothe the adversity pain. It’s out there somewhere, you just need to keep an eye out for it and follow your instinct. It will help you heal.

 

Author: tpblake

Tom Blake is a newspaper columnist in south Orange County, California. He has published four books. His primary topic is finding love after 50 and beyond, sometimes far beyond, for people 80 and older as well. He also blogs about travel at TravelAfter55.com.

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