I was speaking to the Comal County Democrats earlier this week.
They invited me, and I almost always speak when I’m invited.
Plus, they had chips.
If you serve chips on a plastic plate I am almost guaranteed to show up — even if you don’t want me there.
“So, this Cthulhu guy? *munch, munch* Does he do anything besides represent cosmic horror beyond imagining?”
I was there to talk to the Democrats about how the newspaper works, how the opinion page works and the types of stories that we’ve been tackling since I got back to the paper in January after a couple of years away.
I talked a little about the Laurel Plaza story and the HZ Focus series we first launched in March that have been deep dive stories about affordable housing, transportation, PTSD, marriage, funding for first responders and how the generational makeup of New Braunfels is changing as it grows younger.
What I didn’t talk about was politics — beyond the fact that when it comes to my job, I really don’t care what yours might be.
I print Republican letters and columns and Democratic letters and columns and Libertarian letters and columns and I’m going to keep right on doing that.
Most people, no matter what side of the aisle they might be on, applaud that idea — and I’m not going to worry about the type of people who don’t.
What was interesting, standing up there next to the podium, was just how different I feel at this stage in my life.
I used to loathe public speaking, but as I made the move from reporter to editor, a certain amount of it came with the territory.
There were newspaper events to emcee, and people would inevitably call and ask me to come address different civic groups.
I looked at different ways to improve at it, including Toastmasters.
The problem was that I wasn’t struck by fear or nervousness, but by a deep sense of disconnection from self.
I felt like there was a tiny version of myself piloting my body from deep within my brain.
“Ok, turn and walk three steps, being careful not to trip over the cord. Gesture. Stop gesturing. Do something with your hands that doesn’t look weird. That looks weird. Don’t do that.”
I couldn’t exist in the moment because I was too busy piloting this meat sack around.
But as the years have gone on that’s been less and less of an issue.
And while repetition might have worn down some rough edges, I also think there’s something else at play.
I generally just don’t care.
I care about what I’m saying, of course. I care about the groups I’m talking to.
But at this stage of my life I generally can’t bring myself to sweat the small stuff.
If my hands are going to look weird, they’re just going to look weird. Behold my weird hands!
I’m not going to worry about stumbling over words or repeating myself or repeating myself.
They say that someone has a face for radio, and I’ve always said I have a voice for newspaper.
I’m still far more comfortable behind a keyboard than I am behind a microphone, but in letting myself free to be...well...myself, I’ve become better at it.
So as I talked to the Comal County Democrats I was just me.
I treated it as a conversation that I would have in my living room with people I know.
There was some give, some take, some good questions, some laughs and at the end — more than an hour later — people felt they had a better understanding of how the newspaper works and why it does what it does.
Which was the point.
So, if you’d like me to come speak, know that I’ll be more than happy to do that.
Just make sure you have some chips.