We’re Getting the Band Back Together ► Unpacking The Writer

11/25/15: When Ken Russell arrives to take the oath of office, his spot is already reserved.

Hello again, Not Now Silly fans. Did you miss me? I missed you.

When we last spoke with any regularity, I was in the process of mothballing the Not Now Silly Newsroom. For those who missed it. I put this blog on hiatus after I signed a non-disclosure agreement with Miami District 2 Commissioner Ken Russell.

[Yes, that’s right. I have something in common with Stormy Daniels.]

I had approached him, pitching the idea of a book. I believe Russell’s story is one of those quintessential ‘Merkin stories: Young family man wakes up to city-made environmental disaster right outside his front door, fights inadequate backroom city hall remediation, effects adequate clean-up, gets bitten by the civic improvement bug, runs for public office a year later, and is elected to replace the [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner with whom he battled. Of course I would have fleshed it out a little, starting with his father’s patent for mass producing the famous Russell Yo-Yo, which has been licensed by everybody from Sprite to Daft Punk.

After kicking around several ideas we both had — and various formats we could shoe-horn them into — Russell agreed to collaborate with me on a book. That’s when we signed the non-disclosure agreement that said I couldn’t reveal anything I learned from Russell until an eventual book came out. He couldn’t reveal anything I told him either, but what could I tell him?

Something that began to drive me nuts: This was the first time in all my years as an investigative journalist when I had some great, inside information, but couldn’t report on it due to the NDA. Russell called it the price of access. I called it an itch I couldn’t scratch.

After we agreed to this book project, Russell announced he was running for Florida Congressional District 27. Suddenly the stakes for the eventual book became a whole lot higher. I was gratified he trusted me enough to write his official biography, but knew the project had just become a whole lot more daunting and important.

Since then I’ve done hours and hours of interviews with Russell [every Sunday at 1PM for months], embedded with him on various civic duties, and talked to many people about him. As my research continued, the contours of the book began to take shape. However, I still had a long way to go; and the time in which to do it. The primary wouldn’t be until the summer and, if Russell won that, the general election in November. That would be the obvious place(s) to end any such a book, even though it wasn’t what I envisioned when I originally had this idea.


A rare quiet moment at the 2nd Annual Hash Bash Cup

While returning from a recent Road Trip [to Ann Arbor to cover the 2nd Annual Hash Bash Cup, which will eventually be part of a much larger article here], I decided to detour slightly to Covington, KY. Covington is just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, but — more importantly — Covington is where Ken Russell’s father, Luther Jackson “Jack” Russell grew up in the ’20s and ’30s, almost a century ago. I wanted to see if I could find the Five & Dime in which Russell’s father demonstrated Yo-Yos as a teen for cigarette money.

Because I wasn’t sure I’d have time for this side trip, I didn’t tell Russell until it was confirmed in the itinerary. Here’s our text exchange:

ME: Hey there! Remember me? [Every one of my texts to him start the same way.] I have the opportunity to go Covington Kentucky tomorrow. It will add about a half a day to my trip. So, what’s new with you?
KR: I just quit the congressional run. I’m sticking around. Sorry I couldn’t tell you earlier, but I just decided yesterday.

IRONY ALERT: I didn’t know Russell had just announced he was withdrawing from the race when I asked, “So, what’s new with you?”

IRONY ALERT #2: I sent my text to him earlier that morning. By the time Russell responded I was in Elyria, Ohio, explaining to painter David Pavlak about the book I was writing about a politician. Pavlak saw the book project fall apart in real time as I was telling him how excited I was to be writing the book.

So . . . all that to explain why I’m kick-starting the Not Now Silly Newsroom. I wouldn’t be surprised if the engine runs a little rough for the next little while. It’s probably going to need points and plugs, and other enginey things that I can only imagine (because I’m not mechanical and rusty on metaphor).

I have a few ideas for some investigative stories, some of which have been percolating for a long time. I will also be relaunching UpLyfting Thoughts as UberLyfting Thoughts, adding new Throwback Thursdays and Saturday Morning Cartoons to the mix, and dropping new posts under the various other rubrics here.

Stay tuned, folks, and welcome back.


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My Freedom of Information requests from the City of Miami are beginning to add up, not to mention all the other costs of researching systemic racism and corruption in Coconut Grove  


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Headly Westerfield
Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.