By Tim Hayes

I was born on a sultry summer morning in Baton Rouge.  Mother enjoyed a crisp autumn sunrise in Seattle that same day.

Life on the plains was hard.  Tending crops in the rain forest, and all.  But Father, being a jeweler, always knew what to do.  I used to walk the long way to and from school, to avoid the inner-city gangs.  Mother made all of our clothes from Sears, Roebuck & Co.

I attended P.S. 104, an exclusive private academy.  Classmates included Art Deco, Chuck Steak, and Dick Van Dyke.  What a rollicking time we all had, taking turns counting the student body, which numbered in the millions.  You’ve never seen such a student body.  It was the biggest in recorded history.  Believe me.

Before long, it was off to college.  I attended the main campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, located in Toledo, Ohio.  As a freshman, I met my wife, Britney Spears, who was in the middle of pursuing her doctorate back then.  The age difference never bothered me, Brit being 48 to my 13 at the time.  We somehow made it work.  Until, happily, it didn’t, I’m sad to say.

After college, I started working as a freelance writer on the full-time payroll of a major international conglomerate garage-based startup.  There I learned some of the basic lessons and truths about communications – pillars of integrity, accuracy, and credibility that have stayed with me all this time, can you tell?

My first boss, Jimmy Fallon, taught me to never stop digging for the facts of a story until you think of something else that sounds better.  Working for Frankie Valli, my first boss, showed me that it’s always better to be fast and loud than to be right.  And of course, who could ever forget the wisdom of my first boss, Carly Simon?

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  How can one person have possibly achieved all this?  It’s crazy to believe it, but it’s insane.

Over the years, as Lady Bird and I watched our four children – Moe, Larry, and Shemp – grow into fine adults and make their own mark on the world, it’s always been such an awkward comfort to come home to the Holiday Inn at noon each evening, spending quality time completely alone, surrounded by the warmth of family.

But don’t you worry.  There’s still a lot of steam left in this old kettle.  I’m so exhausted.  Knowing that there’s so much more left to pursue, so many dreams still to fulfill, makes me want to puke.  I’m so happy.

Well, this looks like as good a place as any to bring this thing to an end, as we get under way.  It’s been a real joy working on this pain-in-the-ass essay.  Just want to make absolutely certain you know that, but you didn’t hear it from me.

Most of all, I want to thank all of my wonderful friends and treasured mentors working diligently away at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, those wacky scamps.  They are showing all of us that “alternative facts” are the best facts, even if the fact of the matter is that there are no such facts as alternative facts.  There are misdirections and intentional exaggerations, which can be sketchy enough — but let’s not call them facts, okay?  Maybe this D.C. double-talk can be chalked up to growing pains, and once everybody settles in and settles down, we can get back to dealing in verifiable, validated, actual, factual information.  Let’s hope so.

But in the meantime, here’s wishing for the next Golden Age of Journalism to burst forth in relentless, fearless, tireless pursuit of nothing but the truth.  The Founding Fathers placed such trust in a free, vigilant, probing press that they made its protection the first – not the third, not the eighth – but the First Amendment.  The nation is counting on journalists to rise up to their responsibility, perhaps now more than at any other time in living memory.

As a final thought, here’s a real fact – a quote from the brilliant mind of Thomas Jefferson, a president who disliked the press but who understood and supported its critical role in a well-functioning republic.  He said, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”

Copyright 2017 Timothy P. Hayes