Amy Roberts: Better late than Nan-ever
Red Card Roberts
I’m known for a lot of things — being recklessly impatient, eating only the middle of a cinnamon roll, and neglecting to use my ‘indoor voice’ are a few of my more notable attributes.
One thing I am not known for, however, is being on time. If running late counted as exercise, I’d be 20 pounds lighter. I’m a firm believer it’s better to arrive late than ugly.
This column is no exception. I’m late to the party in wishing Nan Chalat Noaker the best.
It’s not because I overlooked her retirement. Her last day at the Park Record had been circled on my calendar since they day she told me her words were numbered. It just always seemed so far off. Far enough away that the tears and the memories and the congratulations still had plenty of time to ripen. My emotions are master procrastinators. Why be sad now when I have to be sad for the same reason three months from now?
So when fellow columnist Teri Orr sent an email to the rest of us, reminding Tom, Jay and me of the farewell dinner she’d planned for Nan, I was shocked Nan’s last day was suddenly just days away. Denial got the better of my deadline.
Our dinner party was small, just an editor and the four most opinionated people she knows, sharing a meal, if not a point of view. It’s not often I sit at a table and feel like a Park City newcomer. And rarely are there stories told that I’m too young to remember. But that evening, I got a bit of a history lesson from some of this town’s most gifted writers, and the woman who, for the last 21 years, has made sure their commas landed in the right place.
They talked about the town before I ever knew it; some of the stories took place before I was born. Together, I estimated Jay, Tom, Nan and Teri had accumulated nearly 200 years in Park City. That night, realizing the talent and history surrounding me, I felt more qualified to be the waiter than a fellow writer.
I started writing this column in 2010, when I casually mentioned to Nan over lunch I would be leaving the country for a few weeks, heading to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup. She asked if I’d write a story about my experience.
Nan was aware I had started my career as a journalist, and I continued to freelance despite having officially left the newsroom. Regardless of stress and deadlines and countless tragedies, news gets in your blood. You never truly leave it. The thrill of a scoop never goes away. So when I left news to work in public relations, I left the door open to dabble as a freelance reporter, writer, or producer. I still like to think Nan gave me my first international assignment.
When I returned to the U.S. and turned in my copy, Nan asked if I’d like to write a weekly sports column, and I agreed. A few years later Larry Warren decided to give up this section of the paper and Nan asked if I’d consider leaving the sports page for the opinion page.
So, that’s how I landed here. And truth be told, it’s a better fit for me than journalism. There’s a lot more freedom in an opinion piece. I don’t have to hide my bias or present both sides of an argument, even when one is clearly wrong. I get to write from the heart and tap into my creativity. I don’t have to chase sources or fact check myself into tedious oblivion. An opinion piece is what I think and why I think it. I don’t have to give a damn if someone doesn’t agree with me.
Over the years, Nan has been far more than my editor. She’s offered thoughtful advice, encouragement and support. She’s also given me a kick in the ass when needed. She’s had my back when I’ve written something unpopular, and has been my cheerleader when I’ve struggled to find the right words. She was the first person to read my column about my sister’s passing, and I knew there were tears on her keyboard too.
Nan has allowed me to grieve, laugh, and find my creative voice in this paper. In doing so, I’ve made some enemies, and she’s always been there to remind me that conviction is more noble than popularity. Comfort zones are for those who lack courage.
I might be a week late in my retirement tribute to Nan. But I’m the first to congratulate her on surviving her first week sleeping without the white noise of a police scanner. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if she still has it on in the background. She’s a journalist at heart, and news will always be in her blood.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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