Columns » Ranger Rich

Life without office hours

Ranger Rich


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As a contributing writer at the Colorado Springs Independent newspaper, I'm often asked how frequently I go into the office, how long I stay in the office each day, and whether I get involved in any "office politics."

Here now, the answer to all of those questions: The Indy has an office?

Turns out the paper does indeed have an office. It's on Nevada Avenue inside an old church (Our Lady of the Doobie), and it's quite a nice place. But the truth is, even though I am an employee of sorts, I don't go into the actual newspaper office as often as I should (once, in 2010) but hereby vow to report to work more often in the future (not really).

Part of the reason for my lack of attendance is that when I used to go into the building on a regular basis, my boss would ask me to actually "do something" such as "write a long cover story" or "write an investigative piece" or "get him a cup of coffee" or "go ring the doorbell at the Gazette and run away."

And so, several years ago, I settled into a lifestyle of working from my home, which I now do, not only for my bosses at the Indy but also for other fools who have hired me.

My home office isn't much to look at. It's on the downstairs level of our home and has a pair of ground-level windows that allow me to gaze for hours upon the fields and pine forest when I can't think of anything of any significance to write. An example would be now. (Oh, and last week's column in which I pondered, for 700 words, why "horse" and "house" are not considered rhyming words.)

The small office does, however, have lots of neat stuff on the walls. This includes two sets of deer antlers that I collected — here I will be honest but also sensitive to any animal lovers — when they fell off the deers' heads while I was scratching them behind the ears and feeding them fresh buttermilk from a baby bottle.

(I call that being "Mitt Romney honest.")

Also on the wall is a typewritten note from famed advice columnist Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby") that she sent to me in the 1990s when I was a writer in Los Angeles. The note starts, "This is a blatant, flat-out love letter" and closes with this: "I am locked up here at 913 Hartford Way in Beverly Hills ... in case you're in the neighborhood."

(I never made it.)

There are also photos of kids and one of my wife when she was 21 or so. And a mounted Alaskan crab that a friend stole from the wall of a bar in Massachusetts when we were 18. And usually a sleeping cat named Kenny who frequently rises from the back of his chair, yawns, walks slowly to my desk and bites my ankle really hard. (I shout "Goddammit, Kenny," and he jumps onto the chair and goes back to sleep. What the hell is that all about?)

There's also a picture of my mom and dad, taken perhaps 15 years ago. We just returned from a visit with them near Boston. Mom will be 89 this month. Dad is 88. Their health isn't so great. With my wife, I try to go back and do things for them. They did an awful lot of things for me.

And there's a photo in my home office of my brother, who is 61, a retired schoolteacher locked now in a terrible battle with a horrendous disease called progressive supranuclear palsy, rare as they come, that has left a once-great baseball player slow on his feet, aided by a walker. It's a relentless and incurable neurological affliction that has just about killed his legs and is now going after his hands and his voice.

And so some days — a lot of days, actually — when I think about my parents and my brother 2,000 miles away, I sit at my desk here and I let a tear or two roll down my face.

You can't do that in a real office.

Rich Tosches ( also writes a Sunday column for the Denver Post.


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