Monday, January 25, 2010
Obituary: Remembering Tim Hinshaw
The following piece was written for the February 2010 issue of the West Side Newspaper, a community monthly founded here in Salem by my friend, Tim Hinshaw, in 1987. In 1993, against all sound judgment, we joined forces and began editing and publishing the paper together. During the next two years, in what might be called a small-time media circus, we started two more papers: one focused on business (of all things), the other on light news and entertainment. While my whole life has been ridiculous and continues to be, those days stand out. They are a tale of friends who were often so far out on a limb that it sagged to the ground, at the last minute affording our escape. Then again, maybe it broke and we were too happy and dumb to know the difference. Either way, Tim is gone — I still have to say it and write it in order to remind myself that it’s true.
Remembering Tim Hinshaw
When you ride around with your best friend and business partner on a hot day in a small pickup that’s prone to overheat, certain things are bound to come out. One of them is colorful language — especially when the radiator blows a hose, your wallet’s empty and your office is miles away. Tim Hinshaw and I didn’t always make sales calls that way, but we arrived at our clients’ often enough in comical disarray that some of them, I’m sure, saw more value in the entertainment than the ad space.
They may have been right. Back then in one of his West Side columns, Tim referred to us as “a fat, laughing Irishman and a bearded Armenian.” I thought those were great credentials. But the truth is, we worked hard at putting together a paper West Salem could be proud of. We worked just as hard at showing off the tangible and intangible wares of those who advertised in the paper. Time and again, we were told, “Hey, that ad we ran really worked.” The best part, of course, was that they sounded surprised.
Tim and I first met back in 1988, only a few months after he’d started the West Side. His office was in a narrow space in West Salem’s old downtown district on Edgewater Street, a few doors down from the Reader’s Guide bookstore. He was smoking a pipe, and was clearly amused that a friend and I had started our own magazine and come to him for some publicity. He was also sympathetic. He took our picture, jotted down the most believable facts, and a few days later the story ran.
All the years I knew him, Tim was for the little guy. He had nothing against the big guy — indeed he was a big guy in stature and spirit. But his greatest delight was in helping those who were struggling to get ahead and pay their bills. And if they couldn’t pay them, well, there was always next month.
Time passed, as it always does. The magazine ran its course. For a time I tried my hand at legitimate employment, but having grown up wild and free on the family farm, I never could get the hang of it. Our paths crossed again, and after a particularly grim job that blew up in my face, fate took a triumphant turn and we wound up publishing the West Side together.
Two writers, two inveterate word-lovers, two soft-boiled characters who loved deadlines and loafing in between — you couldn’t have found a better combination, unless, of course, you expected to build a successful, thriving business. In a nutshell, there was something wrong with our accounting methods. We almost always had enough to pay the printer and the post office, but when it came time to pad our nest egg we discovered Mama Bird had already flown the coop.
Let’s be clear — I would trade nothing for those days. Besides the gift of his humor and friendship, Tim taught me a lot about life inside the newspaper business. I was a fiction writer and poet, and a few sordid things in between. I had the talent and the knack, but he had the background and experience. He lived and breathed the news, and was accomplished in all its forms — feature, exposé, hard news. He could rattle cages and make public figures squirm, but it was something he hated to do. His philosophy was far too simple and graceful for that: live and let live.
He made mistakes. I made them too. But in this life you have to make mistakes, and our friendship was rooted in them. And for each, I can count at least a hundred instances of joy, as well as an abiding sense that our time together was a rare gift indeed.
I know, and my wife and children know, the kind of friend he was. Now it’s time that everyone else knows, or is reminded, and gets at least a taste, a hint, of what the world will be missing.
There are many stories I could tell about this crazy, lazy, talented fellow, Tim Hinshaw. Indeed, so many have come rushing in again since the night I heard that my dear friend had died.
Once, when he was down on his luck, he needed a place to stay. My wife and I had a spare room at the time and invited him in. When he arrived, he entered with a big smile and said, “Honey, I’m home,” and home it was for the next several months.
One night after supper, his son, Matt, who’s the same age as our oldest son, stayed for a “sleep-over.” There was only the one queen-sized bed in the room. Matt was about 14 or 15. Bedtime rolled around. Passing by the door before they’d closed it for the night, I saw father and son propped up against their pillows beside each other. Tim had taken a book from my shelf in the room, and was reading out loud in a low booming voice to his son.
It was a beautiful, timeless scene, one I’ll never forget.
And now, as Tim used to say when he was about to finish the paper each month, “it’s time to put this issue to bed.” Good night, old friend.
Jul. 20, 1948 - Jan. 11, 2010
Tim Hinshaw, writer, editor, publisher and long-time newspaper man, passed away in his West Salem home on Jan. 11. He was 61.
He is best known to area residents as founder of the West Side Newspaper, and most recently for his regular column in the monthly publication he launched on Edgewater Street in 1987. He had also worked at the Capital Press in Salem, the Herald and News in Klamath Falls, and the Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland.
Born in Bend, Ore., he moved with his family to Monmouth in 1959 and attended area schools. He graduated from Central High School in Independence in 1966, and later served in the military from 1967-71 in Vietnam and Japan.
Widely traveled and read, he was putting together a book of his columns and writings, Annie’s War and Other Tales, when he passed away. He was preceded in death by his brother, Jon, and father, Ted. He is survived by his son, Matt, and daughter-in-law, Lacy; his mother, Clara; his sister, Vicki and brother-in-law, Mike; his brother, Jeff, and his sister-in-law, Linda; and many relatives and friends.
Recently Linked: I’m pleased to welcome Jemma Saare as a new follower of Recently Banned Literature. Thanks, Jemma, for signing on. Thanks, also, to Lynn Behrendt for posting my Finnegans Wake dream at the Annandale Dream Gazette.
“Remembering Tim Hinshaw” is my newest Notebook entry. Old notes are archived here.
In the Forum: psychedelic suds n’ duds.