From the Publisher / Arnold G. York

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Immortal words and letting go

Not too long ago, I had a call from Steve Soboroff who had a wonderful story to relate. Jim Murray, the revered Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist of the Los Angeles Times, long since gone but certainly not forgotten, had pounded out his columns on an old Remington manual typewriter. Well, the Sotheby’s auction house had the typewriter along with Murray’s old glasses up for auction and Steve, a sports and history buff, had bought them from under the nose of the L.A. Times. The Times wanted the typewriter for a case in its lobby, but Steve had a better plan. He wanted writers from all over the country to pound something out on Murray’s old Remington to help raise some bucks for the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation to provide scholarships for students of journalism.

Steve asked me if I wanted to write something on Murray’s old machine. Well, hell, who could refuse that kind of an offer? I had cut my writing teeth on an old Remington portable at age 19, when I still thought I was going to write the great American novel. That was a bit before I got sidetracked into college and law school, and getting married, earning a living, raising kids and all the kind of things that kept a great deal of great American novels from getting finished. Not only that, but also this machine had an additional pedigree. After Steve bought it, he had to get it overhauled, which is not so easy to do when most everyone who could do it has long since gone on to that typewriter repair facility in the sky. Well, if you know Steve you know he’s not a man easily denied, so somewhere he dug up a not-so-young-guy to do the job, and this was a guy who came with a pedigree. Not only did he know how to repair a Remington manual typewriter but he actually repaired Hemingway’s old Remington, which knocked out stories such as “The Old Man and The Sea.” So there I was, one Saturday morning, sitting in Marmalade Cafe with Steve and his daughter, and Murray’s old Remington, trying to knock out some immortal words. I must confess I had forgotten how hard you have to pound the keys on the old manuals. So I sat there, channeling Murray and Hemingway, waiting for those words to flow. Of course, nothing came and I ended up with something profound like, “Best wishes from Arnold York.”

Well, even the great ones have an occasional off day.

Golf anyone?

Some of you have asked me why I’m not writing as often. The truth is we’ve bought some newspapers in the Sacramento area of which our son, Tony, now known as Anthony York, is the editor, and I find myself spending half of every week in Sacramento. I had figured that I’d split my time between Malibu and Sacramento, and there would be no problem. What I failed to put into the equation is that somewhere in the interviewing years, the head was still willing but the body was no longer so eager, and my tongue was beginning to drag and those columns were getting harder to write. So I knew the only way I was going to make this work was to let go and delegate more and become less hands-on, which is what I’ve been doing. Let me tell you, it’s not easy. Tony started running the Sacramento operation and Laura Tate’s running The Malibu Times, and I started patting myself on the back on what a great executive I had become. Then I began to notice that, whereas in the beginning they were all waiting for me, as the weeks passed, things on both ends seemed to run fine without me. The lines of people waiting to see me got thinner. The problems to solve got fewer. My principal function was signing checks and staying out of the way.

It’s true I’ve become a much better executive, but I must confess, it’s really ticking me off.

Anybody got an old set of golf clubs they want to sell?