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.


Tim Hinshaw
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.


awyn said...

A moving tribute, strewn with special memories. I can imagine your friend chuckling over some of the shared escapades of those earlier years, saying, "Thanks for reminding me." And as for the sadness on his passing, do you sense sometimes, an invisible hand on your shoulder, and the hint of a whisper: "Hey ... I'm home." I raise my coffee cup to all those friends, named and unnamed, whose presence we still feel. A wonderful post today, William. One scene especially stays with me: A man side by side with, quietly reading to his teenage son, a glance that became a word-painting now shared with many, itself a kind of legacy. Thanks for this intro to Tim.

Joseph Hutchison said...

What a beautiful, sweet-tempered remembrance, William. You sure make me wish I'd had the privilege of meeting Tim. When I get that time machine built, I'll fly back to the mid-nineties and place an ad in your paper, just to see the Tim & William show....

Caio Fernandes said...

this is a great post . a honnor to read . thanks !

ALeks said...

Dear William,I am happy to have had the opportunity and honour to meet and get to know you as your work and I am sad for you loosing your best friend,for him to be gone too soon.I hope you,your wife and children will find ways of remembering him in all his greatness and that the stories will go on trough you.This is a beautiful way to pay your respect to your friend Tim Hinshaw,and I wish to all of you who were close to him,loved him to give your selfs time to grieve,and find that place in your hearts where the sadness does not live but only love and grace.Good night Tim!
Light,love and peace,

-K- said...

It doesn't seem appropriate to praise the writing of "Remembering Tim Hinshaw" and yet in the future, when I read something else that's especially well-done, I'll be thinking of Tim Hinshaw.

RUDHI - Chance said...

I'm getting forward to understand English and your friendship with your old compagnon... may he rest in peace!

Nazia Mallick said...

I am so moved by this post.

Such a great way to remember a friend. Someone with whom you shared your mistakes too. I feel that when we share, acknowledge and accept mistakes of/with someone,there is always a bond that rise above the ordinary.
The remembrance is all the more special and intimate,and dear.

I know Tim, it feels.

I pray that his soul rests in peace.

William Michaelian said...

Annie, your “Thanks for reminding me” line is right on. All these years later, things like this still popped up at most of our coffee meetings, and some had us in stitches. This piece is really just the tip of the iceberg. I appreciate your comment.

Thanks, Joe. I wish you’d known him too. Tim got me into quite a few situations that I wasn’t exactly comfortable in, and he enjoyed doing it. But I can honestly say that I am better off for each. And I know I got him thinking in different directions too. We really were different in a lot of ways, but neither tried to change the other, and that was an important ingredient in our friendship.

Caio, the honor goes both ways. Thanks for reading.

Aleksandra, as always, your words remind me of what a good friend you are, even though you’re far away and we haven’t met. In our family, Tim has long been part of our daily conversation, and so far that hasn’t changed a bit. There are simply too many good and funny reminders for it to be otherwise.

Kevin: On behalf of Mr. Hinshaw — which is actually what I and everyone else in the family have called him for years — I accept your conditions. It all started when I told the kids, who were much younger then, that in order to show the proper respect, they shouldn’t address Tim by his first name, and that “Mr. Hinshaw” was more proper. It caught on immediately. Even my mother called him Mr. Hinshaw. Come to think of it, he didn’t call me by my name, either. More often than not, he referred to me as “Rasputin.” Never could figure out why.

Thanks, Rudhi — I think we would understand each other in any language, in spite of the words.

Nazia, you’re right about making mistakes together. And I assure you, we weren’t afraid to make them! But of course when I see what grew out of them, they no longer seem like mistakes. They were just a faster way of learning certain things we both needed to know. And that you feel you know Tim after reading this entry about him — that’s a wonderful thing to hear.

Thanks again to each of you. I value these exchanges perhaps more than you imagine. It always amazes me that we can meet this way over a simple piece of writing. It’s one of the real thrills of my life.

isabelle said...

Oh, just lovely, William. I'd love to read more of your times and adventures with Mr Hinshaw. He sounds like a great friend , and so do you. Your words are always so warm and wise and alive.

William Michaelian said...

Ah. You’re kind. As for writing out more of our adventures, time will tell, I guess. There are plenty to draw from. But what I’d like most at this point, is to help bring some of his own writing to light.

Elisabeth said...

This is such a beautiful obituary, William. It captures the essence of your friend and also something about you as well, through the friendship and life you describe.

There are many images here that will stay with me, particularly that of the 'fat laughing Irishman and the bearded Armenian. Thank you.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Elisabeth. You’ve just reminded me: in our heyday, we each had business cards printed with the title under our names, “Idiot-in-Charge.” Once, when I arrived for a fairly serious meeting with someone in the Attorney General’s office, I gave the receptionist one of the cards, which she passed on to the person I was meeting with, who came out of her office holding up the card and laughing. The meeting went quite well. Those cards were great for breaking the ice.

vazambam said...


Thanks for this magnificent remembrance in honor of a true friend--you were indeed fortunate to have known and loved him.

Paul L. Martin said...

William, it is late in the evening, and this post of yours is the last thing I will read before retiring. It is proper reading for the hour when the past haunts us and we live in memories. Thank you for letting us see your friendship. What I would give to have been riding in that vehicle with the two of you! It is a particular sadness of middle age that the best times live only in memory now. Still the world turns, and we must move on. By writing about him, he is now a legend, and I cannot think of a better tribute to a friend.

William Michaelian said...

Vassilis, thanks. Spoken like the true friend you are.

Thank you too, Paul, for your beautiful response. We weave our legends as we go. The present is all we ever really have, and yet the past is always with us, growing, changing shape, and finally dying away like every other living thing. The past and present are also one and the same thing; the past can be experienced only in the present, and the present is the inevitable culmination of the past. But life’s magic is everywhere, always. I think that’s what really counts, especially when I start blabbing about things I don’t quite understand.

Paul L. Martin said...

You always nail the truth of the matter, in poetry, fiction, or prose, William. That is what keeps me reading.