Monday evening’s going-away party for former Tampa Tribune political reporter William “Windy” March reminded me of those scenes from ‘The Wire” in which the Baltimore Police Department would hold a wake at Kavanagh’s Irish Pub to honour a fallen comrade. The booze flowed. The stories grew longer and more outrageous as the night wore on.
March’s wake particularly reminded me of the BPD’s service for lead character Jimmy McNulty, because like March, the ace detective was very much alive and kicking as he was being eulogized.
Despite being unceremoniously laid-off after more than thirty years with the Trib, March was in good spirits. His laugh was loud and generous and could be heard from across the room. He greeted as many well-wishers as possible, seemingly not smoking as much as usual so as to spend more time with his many admirers. As I prepared to leave, I asked March if he was drunk and responded in the affirmative. Mission accomplished.
Among those admirers were former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco. I’ve seen Greco twice in the last week, once with my wife Michelle on my arm, once without — guess which time he was more excited to see me? I spent a lot of time talking with Nancy and Robert Watkins, the well-connected political treasurers who gifted March with his favorite kind of present — a generously sized bottle of Hendrick’s. My last conversation was with with the spirited Janet Zink, who continues to do good thinks at Tampa’s airport.
I didn’t recognize many of the faces in the crowd, but it was clear there was a bureau’s worth of editors and reporters there to see Windy off. I spotted Brendan McLaughlin, Kate Bradshaw, Daniel Ruth, and Mary Jane Park, among others. Sporting boots, Chris Ingram towered over most at the bar. Seeing him, it reminded me Ingram deserves a lot of credit for nailing the final results of the gubernatorial and Amendment 2 campaigns.
Showing support for his fellow political reporter, The Tampa Bay Times‘ Adam Smith stayed for a while. We even exchanged pleasantries, which probably proves that any rivalry we have is in my mind.
I met another dozen journos whose names I can’t recall, but almost all of whom were introduced as having “used to work” at the Times or Tribune. There was a lot of gallows humor about this editor being laid off or that photographer making it past the latest round of lay-offs.
March offered his own down-is-up commentary on the gloomy employment prospects.
“Employment is overrated,” March said to an applauding crowd of fellow journalists.
I hope March doesn’t think that way for too long. I know a new media website which would love to add his writing to its offerings.