Packing Up 2014 ► Unpacking The Writer
A billboard erected in my honour will look nothing like this.

Howdy to new readers. Old readers know Unpacking The Writer as the monthly post where I pull back the curtain Wizard of Oz-like to reveal the interior life of a writer. AUNTY EM!!! AUNTY EM!!!

First an apology to my most rabid readers. I’ve not published as many original stories this month as usual. While Headlines Du Jour is fun to put together, and a very popular series, I don’t consider any of that original writing and don’t take all that much pride in it, other than a job well done when it’s done. It’s aggregation. I’m fine with calling it that, but wish I had published more new stuff this past month. Maybe I can make that my very first New Year’s Resolution to break.

Meanwhile, I’ve been going though the Not Now Silly Newsroom archives and sharing important, funny, or just plain weird stories on social media. I know it doesn’t fully make up for a lack of NEW, but as I like to tell people, “It’s not a repeat if you never saw it before.”

Part of what’s been keeping me busy is the Friday Fox Follies, which I’ve been crafting the last few months for PoliticusUSA. Because I always saw it as an outgrowth of Headlines Du Jour, from the start the idea was to use actual headlines found on the innertubes to craft a story arc that covers Fox “News” shenanigans and tomfoolery from Friday to Friday. Trying to shoehorn in the actual headlines creates some grammatical irregularities and awkward constructs, but overall I think it’s working. Your mileage may vary.

In the beginning it took me almost 2 days to compile and write, but I’ve managed to get it down to a solid 6 hours of writing for approximately 1200 words. Here’s my methodology: During the week I compile intriguing Fox “News” headlines as they present themselves. Midweek I look to see what themes might be developing and I start thinking about the shape the column might take if these trends continue. By the time I wake up Friday morning at 5AM to start writing it, I have the basic outline and an opening paragraph in my head. After taking a quick look to see which Fox “News” personality said something stupid while I was sleeping, I hit the ground running. Provided there are no power outages (never a guarantee around here), I send it off to the editors some time between 1 and 3PM.

But still, those 6 hours are 6 hours I can’t devote to writing about Coconut Grove, the E.W.F Stirrup House, and what I still hope will be a new ongoing series, Pastoral Letter.

Speaking of my Friday Fox Follies, this happened:

The Charles Avenue Historic Marker with
the E.W.F. Stirrup House in the background.

Also keeping me busy this month has been some pretty extensive research concerning Coconut Grove and Charles Avenue. I’m pulling at several different subject threads simultaneously. This has required spending many hours in the City Clerk’s office doing some deep research on Charles Avenue, the E.W.F. Stirrup House, and Miami Commission meetings, with still many more hours to come.

I have been researching two of these topics for an entire year. While I had hoped to hold them until I had all my ducks in a row, a recent flashpoint has made it important to finish one in a timely manner. To that end I now have outstanding emails with both a Media Relations Associate at a bank’s HQ and a City of Miami Commissioner. Each email requested ON THE RECORD written answers to a series of questions. We’ll see whether I even get the courtesy of replies. If I’m not satisfied I may have to resort to another FOIA request.

Meanwhile, the residents of West Grove continue to get the short end of the stick, while Aries Development and Gino Falsetto seem to get away with everything short of murder. My interest in Coconut Grove started with falling in love with a house, researching its history, falling in love with the legacy of the man who built it, and then falling in love with the people and the neighbourhood, that is sadly being gentrified out of existence around the edges.

I can remember — vividly — how years ago, after my first visit to Coconut Grove, I came back and told a group of friends that I thought I had found an interesting story at the corner of Charles Avenue and Main Hightway, I just wasn’t sure what it was yet. How could I have possibly known back then it would lead to even bigger stories on Trolleygate, Soilgate, Demolition by Neglect of the E.W.F. Stirrup House, rapacious developers, much potentially illegal shenanigans, a [allegedly] corrupt Miami Commissioner, and mapping The Colour Line that still surrounds the historically Black neighbourhood of the West Grove? No wonder there are times I feel so busy.

Join the campaign to Save the E.W.F. Stirrup House on Facebook.

Digging really deep into my id without revealing too much: It was just a month ago when I embarked on what I thought would be a great series — my own Tuesday’s With Morrie — when I published Finding An Old Friend ► Unpacking My Detroit. It still might. However, I must admit to initially being totally flummoxed about where to take it. Let me explain:
I was overjoyed to locate my childhood friend Kenneth Wilson and surprised to learn he was one of the first (maybe only) evangelical pastors in the entire country to OPENLY argue for the church to be inclusive (not just tolerant) of the LGBT communities. I wrote him that open letter, which I posted, and then waited for a reply. It didn’t occur to me until a few weeks later that maybe Pastor Kenny posted his reply somewhere on the innertubes. Turns out I was right. What surprised me more was the realization that he delivered his reply as a sermon from the pulpit. A printed version is at The Gospel of John, Chapter One: They Came in Twos and a live (slightly different) recording can be found HERE.
I arrived back in Kenny’s life at an interesting time for him. In his sermon he says goodbye to his church. He’s not explicit about who fired whom, but it’s clear this is his last sermon from the pulpit of The Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor. Obviously the same notoriety that allowed me to find my childhood friend so easily caused a rend in the tapestry of his church.  He said, in part:
Ann Arbor Vineyard, carry the seed of the kingdom with you into your next chapter. If there are tears, and I hope there will be a few, use those tears to sow the seed for a new harvest.

I could imagine you becoming an even more multi-ethnic congregation than you are now. I could imagine your ministries flourishing in new, unforeseen ways.

To those who will join Emily and me in new Blue Ocean Church Plant, lets use our tears to sow the seeds we bring with us, from this awesome place, this house of the Lord…

Together, Ann Arbor Vineyard and your newest Blue Ocean church plant lets make this our song:

Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
My final practical tip [as the recorded sermon deviates slightly from the printed version], is at a moment like this, when you don’t know what you’re supposed to say, don’t say nothing. 
And then he called for 2 minutes of silence which ends his reply to me. 
I’ve now read, and listened, to Pastor Kenny’s Pastoral Letter to me several times. I kept more than 2 minutes of silence because I wanted to respect any mourning period he may have had for losing his gig, but more importantly, because I simply didn’t know what to say. So, I said nothing.

His sermon — his reply to me — was religious allegory and I’m not steeped in religious allegory. It took me quite a while to interpret it. And, I recognize, I may still have it all wrong. However, it has meaning for me now when it was just words when I first read it. That’s why I’m working on the next Pastoral Letter, which (like everything else) is taking longer than I thought. However, it’s been started and is the next post I intend to finish. Meanwhile, Ken did send me his phone number and I really have to clear some time to phone him.

Incidentally, for those who keep track of this kind of Westerfield Minutia, Zachary Harvard Weed, who inhabits the pages of Farce Au Pain, lives in the house that Kenny’s family once lived in. Adrian Roland Thompson lives in the house I grew up in.

A snapshot in time: The All Time Top Ten at the time of this writing.

At year’s end it’s always nice to take a look at some stats, facts, and figures, especially as we get closer to launching a brand new, improved Not Now Silly Newsroom under our own domain name.

I’m quite proud of my All Time Top Ten, at left. Except for #6, Chow Mein and Bolling 5, which is silly fluff, but the readers just love it. I like to think the rest are all important stories on important topics and thank my readers for having the intelligence to boost them to the Top Ten list. The Blogger platform doesn’t give me very many stats, but one that’s always intrigued me is the search engine results that people received just before they washed up at Not Now Silly. Because this is getting long enough, and because I’ve got other shit to write, I’ll end this with 3 pics: The All Time search results, the top monthly search results, and the weekly flotsam and jetsam. 

See ya next year!

All Time:


About Headly Westerfield

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