And every now and then I think about my own death and I think about my own funeral. And I don't think of it in a morbid sense. And every now and then I ask myself, "What is it that I would want said?" And I leave the word to you this morning.
If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. And every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize —- that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards —- that’s not important. Tell them not to mention where I went to school.
I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others.
I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody.
I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question.
I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry.
And I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked.
I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison.
I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.
-Martin Luther King Jr., excerpt, "Drum Major Instinct" speech
It's one of the best free things to do in Atlanta.
When I first moved here more than three years ago, of course, I didn't know anybody but I had a pair of running shoes that weren't afraid to travel. I'd park on the grounds of The Carter Center and run a few miles on the bike path over to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. It's always good as a runner to know where there's restrooms and ice cold water, especially in Hotlanta's summers.
Across the street from the NHS site is the King Center, where King's tomb is, outside in the middle of a shallow reflecting pool. Next door down is his church, Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he did all of his sermons.
You can go inside and sit on the plain wooden pews, admire the stained glass and listen to his sermons, piped in through speakers.
It's like being in an old ball park and being instantly connected to the past.
Today I had that same feeling at work, helping cover the MLK observance there. We had a reporter on site, I was in the bureau, entering in quotes and helping file the reporter's story. An ability to multitable, er multitask, is a prerequisite.
One of the perks of the job is that you get front seat to all kinds of oratory. Unlike what's on TV, most of the stuff dished out by attorneys in courtrooms is pretty boring.
But following in the tradition of King, the preachers here can sing. And much of it seemingly off the cuff, without a lot of preparation. (That's one of the interesting things of Bill Clinton, btw. He can fly in from the other side of the world, maybe scratch out a few notes and give rousing, complex talks without depending on much at all).
Today there was the Rev. Floyd Flake, a former Congressman, who had this little side-to-side action that reminded me of Jordan in the zone. There was Charles Steele of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, announcing (again) that King's old group
is not dead and talking about his plans for the world.
Even our mayor, Shirley Franklin, went on a tear, imploring Atlantans and Georgians to step up because we are the keepers of King's legacy. There was some talk that Shirley is working the public up to higher offices. A good mayor is even more special, though. She is the leader, the captain of a ship called Atlanta. As Kirk said in Star Trek: Generations, never get promoted.
Working in the news is so interesting, it's like a backstage pass to the world. You're embedded with soldiers (a predecessor of the company that I work for was embedded with Custer at Little Big Horn), with society.
I've enjoyed talking to Josh Arieh about his table image, Matt Hilger on why he hates Tunica and Greg Raymer's thoughts on badugi and his impropmptu bashing of the rock 'n roll lifestyle of poker and Antonio Esfandiari.
Only Arieh's comments ever saw print, but I think I'll try to turn this blog in the future by interviewing these people who I have on my speed dial, and others.
This weekend I was called out to an emergency news conference at a certain federal health agency headquartered here in Atlanta. As I was escorted around the campus, a funny thing hit me -- the difference between government facilities and casinos is the guns. In Las Vegas, in some of the richest casinos in the world, I'll see plenty of security people who weren't armed. But every single person I saw at this agency who could reasonably carry a gun was packing. The gub'mint does not mess around.
The last time I was at this place, it was a roundtable with the agency's director and her boss, a cabinet-level secretary. It was his first time to meet the beat reporters and being at the small table was like a scene from Rounders. There was the accomplished doctor-turned-director. A former governor now secretary. There was a colleague who had just released a book on this agency and next to me was this another great reporter who looks like a soccer-mom but once listed a fellowship application's line for "Awards" with simply: two Pulitzers. Those things are harder to get than bracelets. Hmmm. I wonder who the "sucker" was at the table? LOL.
I guess I'm writing this because I've read lots of stuff from people who play poker and don't love what they do at times. Certainly my job is not the perfect marraige, either.
But there are times like these, today, that being paid to pay attention to what's happening in the world is priceless. It certainly isn't for money (which makes me think is why I have a hobby that is totally focused on money).
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time for reflection and when I put everything out on the table, I find things aren't so bad as I think they are. My bankroll is good. I love what I do for a living. I love this city that I live in. I'm running again.
And I'll be in Hawaii in three weeks. What else is there???