The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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April 25, 2014

Simple daily pleasures should prompt anticipation

It’s too bad all of us don’t have some way to remind ourselves how good life is when times are going well. Often we are more apt to think of life as merely average and normal.

Just now, in the course of writing this, I was trying to remind myself of the simple pleasures I enjoy almost daily.

My shower first thing in the morning is a wonderfully pleasant and exhilarating way to start the day. I like the warmth, I like the smell of the soap and the shampoo, and I like the idea that I’m part of a civilization that has organized itself to get water to my house and have it warm and waiting for me when I get up.

And the morning newspaper and that first cup of coffee are two things I’m sure they have in heaven. I always go out, often in my pajamas, to get my newspaper out of the paper box with a great sense of anticipation. I normally stop on the walk and scan the headlines of page one, but once inside the house, I quickly turn to the editorial page to see whose column is featured at the bottom of the page.

I am a huge fan of Kathleen Parker, though she is a couple of rungs higher than I am on the intellectual ladder. But I keep my dictionary handy; sometimes I even have to consult the dictionary of foreign words and phrases.

I also enjoy Rick Kelley’s reporting on community affairs in the editorial section. Our newspaper editor has a natural talent for writing in a clear and concise style that offers simple answers for some otherwise complicated issues.

And the news staff gathers its facts with swift and accurate reporting that makes me envious. I was never so skilled when I was a young journalist. Their byline stories reveal a growing expertise and literary know-how.

As for myself, I love my work. I love writing. I even like the physical process of hitting the keys of the keyboard with my fingers, although I flunked typing twice in high school.

I also enjoy thinking of things to write, and there is always a vague sense of excitement about whether I can do it or not; this heightens my interest.

And to finish a piece of writing is a great satisfaction. Ironically, I’ve been doing this sort of thing for 50 years come this September. I started working for newspapers when I was just out of high school in 1964.

I’ve been involved with the profession in one form or another (teaching, writing, taking photographs, covering the police beat, freelancing, working in public relations) for the past five decades.

And I enjoy it now more than ever. I don’t have to hurry to finish a feature story or column. I can take my time and sleep on it for a day or two if I want.

My editors are very lenient and understanding. Not like in the early days, when a managing editor once told me, “Johnnie, why don’t you wear a clean shirt and tie tomorrow. Who do you think you are, Ringo Starr?” I told the man I didn’t have a clean shirt and tie; I had ruined them all with ink stains I got from changing the paper in the teletype machines.

And now, when I get hungry and feel desk-bound, I know several good restaurants in Beckley where I can go for lunch, and it’s a wonderfully civilized pleasure to find a friend to take along with you. Just yesterday, I had lunch with a former high school student who already has published two novels.

Then, by late afternoon, I can’t wait to sit in the TV room with my wife and watch the evening news.

I think how lucky I am to make enough money to support one of the most perfect women on earth, even though she seldom, if ever, reads one of my columns, she says.

She’s a baseball and college basketball and football enthusiast who prefers the sports pages and her idols are Cam Huffman, Gary Fauber and Mickey Furfari.

Oh, well, I guess you can’t win ’em all.

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Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail:

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