The starting gate

T.T. Thomas is one of the writers I met by becoming involved in Web projects. We share a scornful impatience and are addicted to adrenaline. Beyond that, we’re distinctly different. I’m the disciplined writer; she’s the talented one. We make a good team. Assigning us to work together was the only brilliant thing our editor ever accomplished.

Following are excerpts from email T.T. and I exchanged while under the pressure of a ridiculous deadline. I share them here, because they refer to the third man in this week’s trifecta of sustaining influences—I like to give credit where it’s due—and because I want to attend the Kenyon Review Literary Festival instead of blogging today. (smiling)


March 25 | Robin:

Brilliant, Robin. Expect flak, but not from us. I’ll get back to you later today. I’ve written my post, but haven’t published it yet. At the end of it, I resigned, almost, or maybe, or… now, maybe not. For ALL the reasons you mentioned… This whole thing was designed wrong, imho.

…a couple aspirin and try to feel good enough to write you later this afternoon.


T.T. Thomas


March 25 | T.T.:

…take it easy. You’re probably stressed out like I am. This new idea takes the pressure off us and “distributes” it the way it should be distributed.

Please don’t resign just when it all might become worthwhile. The worst is over. My ex-colleague is excited. The police have a difficult time getting the media to publish all of the wanted stuff they generate. If [our editor] accepts this plan… stories will spark effortlessly…

…neighbor is making me margaritas this evening, thank goodness. I’m fried. I need to unplug. But after a while when I feel like hitting this keyboard again, I’ll send you one paragraph from Pete Dexter‘s book, and you will love it.



March 25 | Hi, Robin,

My lips are sealed. They should be paying you for this kind of candid feedback, and then they should add a bonus for… just damn because!

I’m feeling better… It probably was stress. Some of us take this stuff more seriously than others, or maybe we just take it differently.

Enjoy your margaritas.



March 25 | T.T.:

I’m glad you’re feeling better. It’s been raining and cold here in Columbus every day of this experiment until today, and there’s more rain to come all week. It’s a good thing, or I might be resentful of this priceless on-the-job training. As it is, I now have a digital voice recorder on its way to me by express mail, because I thought I shouldn’t continue to use my old microcassette recorder, which makes excellent recordings. That’ll be my souvenir.

That and the incredible coincidence of reading this paragraph in one of Pete Dexter’s stories this morning:

The gate is probably the most dangerous place on the racetrack for a jockey; there is no question that it is the scariest. All kinds of things can happen in a race—Cordero, for instance, went down in front of the whole field earlier in the year—but on the track the jockey has some control, he has places to move. In the gate, he is packed into a narrow space with an eleven- or twelve-hundred-pound animal, the purposeful distillation of six generations of anxiety, and he has nothing to say about what happens until the starter opens the front door.

An excerpt from Paper Trails. Although it’s the phrase “the purposeful distillation of six generations of anxiety” that gets to me, the whole paragraph is our today. Too bad it’s too many words to quote in a post. It’s no wonder the older print journalists are so angry about that kind of newspaper columnist becoming extinct.


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