Tuesday, May 04, 2021

From Austin to Europe to Austin

Jan-March, 1986. Austin, TX. 

I was an intern at the Austin Chronicle. Writers used to come in and use the other computer in the office where I’d be typing in info for the annual music poll. Or sometimes playing the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game. But I digress.

Ed Ward was one of those writers. There were others, but I talked to Ed more than them because as the EIC or maybe the publisher had said when I’d walked in and asked if the Chronicle took college interns: “Ed Ward went to Antioch, like you. You should talk to him.” I did. He was funny. He was opinionated–kind of a prerequisite for someone who did a lot of music coverage.

Years later, I’d hear Ed on Fresh Air. He’d sign off with “This is Ed Ward, in Berlin.”

And when I went to Berlin for a month, I thought maybe I’d write to him, but I didn’t actually do it until a few years later. Ed has left this mortal coil, but along the way he went from New York to Austin to Berlin to Montpellier and back to Austin. I am sure there are many other parts of his story. Ohio, obviously. He was at Antioch 20 years or so before I was.

So here is what I have to say about Ed. He was living by his written words, and during his lifetime, this landscape transformed from being a decent way to make a living to “Information wants to be free.” Writers needed to become adept at navigating the evolving landscape of online outlets, which seems so unfair, but that’s where we are for so many careers. Mileage varies. Some people are great at this, but many have been left behind.

In the end, Ed did just fine, put out many books to acclaim and the respect of his peers. He loved a number of good adventures, sought out a family-run hotel in Little India when he visited Jersey City. He’d take trains around Europe, though he was constantly challenged by not being very good at navigating by iPhone, seeking out local meals and interesting sights. I’d berate him to just use phone Maps and TripAdvisor, but he’d stick to his system of getting advice from local connections. I’d throw up my hands, but damned if he didn’t find some cool spots this way.

What I’ll remember most about Ed is how he supported other writers. He was like a patron in this way. He’d badger people to buy other writer’s books, including mine. He believed in me, in my work, and always supported my writing, even when we were squabbling about googling versus asking someone. He was a patron of the work of his friends.

Here is Ed’s Rolling Stone obituary.

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