Turned down an offer late last year to pack up my cameras and hit the road for 13 months to cover the carnival called the 2016 Presidential election.
Been there, done that (in previous election years).
For many years, I kept a “go bag” packed by our door, ready to hit the road when needed to various parts of the country and the world.
I did it as a journalist and photojournalist for most of the past 50+ years except for a time when Uncle Sam paid me to roam the world as a “special assistant to the ranking member of the House Science & Technology” and other assignments.
Also spend a few years as a political operative, a short foray into the world of elections and candidates that culminated with five years as the vice president for political programs for the National Association of Realtors. The jobs paid well but the stress and moral pulls of time in politics kept me from the profession I love most — reporting on the news in words and images.
Yet the call last year to cover the Presidential election fell on deaf ears. I gave up traveling on planes, living in hotels and life on the road when we decided to leave Washington, DC, in 2004 and settle in the Blue Ridge Mountain community of Floyd, Virginia — an area where I spent seven years in two stints as a young man.
The past 12 years we’ve spent in Floyd now is not yet the longest stay in any one place. I spent 12 years in Alton, Illinois as a newspaperman, photographer and columnist for The Telegraph and 23 years in Washington.
In some ways, moving back to Floyd was “returning home.” Home has been many place, starting in my first five years in Gibsonton, Florida, south of Tampa. My dad, a World War II veteran and my mother, a native of Virginia, settled there after their marriage and I came along about a year-and-a-half later. My dad, an electrician at U.S. Phosphorous in Tampa, died in an accident at work in 1949.
My mother and I stayed in Gibsonton — known as “Gibtown” until 1952 before a train ride to Virginia brought us back to the home of her birth. Three years later, she married a divorced man with three kids and we moved to Prince Edward County, a central Virginia community that became notorious when the county shut down its public schools rather than integrate and opened an all-white “private” school system supported by the taxpayers.
Our family soon numbered eight as my mother and my step-father had two more children and he sold his sawmill business and the family farm and moved back to his home farm in Floyd County.
I left Floyd County in 1965, after graduating from high school at 17, and took a job reporting for The Roanoke Times, which lasted until 1969 when I moved to Illinois to earn more money with The Telegraph.
The move to Washington came in 1981 and we stayed there until 2004 until the move back to Floyd.
So, I wonder, where is “home?”
Damned if I know.