Along with other daily newspapers, the Los Angeles Times has dropped a large number of staffers, including Al Martinez, who has been there for 35 years, practicing alchemy by transforming reality into poetic prose in the guise of journalism.
We who have appreciated the spirit of conscious innocence in his columns will miss his semi-weekly presence in the Times. A few weeks ago, Martinez and I were discussing via e-mail the possibility that he would be among those involuntarily leaving the paper.
"My daughter Holly," I recalled, "once said, 'Don't be offended, dad, but I don't want to be a writer when I grow up -- it looks like such an insecure profession.' But if that's your fate, Al, your karma, your destiny -- pick a philosophical concept, any philosophical concept -- then so be it. I have no regrets, and I trust you won't either."
"Not a goddamned regret in the world," he replied. "I've loved every lonely, sweating, impoverished, agonizing second of it."
Well, his final column was published on Friday, but it's been a good run. A fine marathon, in fact.