Free (almost) at Last!


After three years, I’ve finally moved back into my Maryland house; this time, with the prospect of staying put for a while.  Well, maybe not really staying put, but at least not having to pack more than a suitcase for a good long time.  Because, after fifty years, I have decided to leave public service and experience life as a private citizen; for the first time in my adult life.

I can now look forward to spending as much time during the day writing as I wish, and not have to cram in writing time in the early morning or after work until the wee hours of the evening.  These last two weeks, as I prepare for my retirement ceremony, track down my household effects which are somewhere between Zimbabwe and Maryland, and do all the other things you have to do when you leave an organization, I have had more unscheduled time than I ever remember having.  I’ve been able to surpass my thousand-word-a-day quota by a large amount.

Even more important, without the tug of government business creating unnecessary tension, my thoughts as I sit at the keyboard have been more lucid and lush than ever.  I’m working on several projects; a sequel to my sword and sorcery, ‘Child of the Flame’, a new leadership book, another Al Pennyback mystery, and a sequel to ‘Wallace in Underland,‘ that are in different stages of completion, and it feels great to be able to move from one to another without worrying about the phone ringing with yet another bureaucratic emergency that simply cannot wait until morning.

It’s great, too, being back where, despite all our shortcomings and blemishes, the Internet is fast and reliable.  Oh sure, you have to wait until the cable guy decides to come out and install the system, but once he does, you’re golden.  No more having the system go blank on me in the middle of uploading a 200-plus page manuscript.  The electricity in my neighborhood is the exception to this; for some reason, whenever the wind blows, the land line phones go out, and the power goes off for a few minutes.  Fortunately, we don’t have frequent high winds – so it’s only a minor nuisance.

I’d forgotten the joy of being able to drink water from the tap, too.  I know you do that at your own risk in some places, but I’m lucky enough to live in a place where the tap water isn’t filled with lead or sediments, and it doesn’t come out of the tap a reddish brown.  No typhoid or dysentery from my sink.

I know I’m rambling here, but that’s the way I feel today.  I’m almost home free – no more government deadlines, no more government restrictions on what I can say, when I can say it, or who I can say it to.  I feel like a prisoner who has just received a pardon; standing before the prison gates waiting for them to be flung open so that I can walk out into the sunshine of freedom; like a kid at Christmas, standing in front of the tree looking at that big box that I just know is the American Flyer I’ve always wanted.

Last month I celebrated 50 years of public service – well, I didn’t actually celebrate; more like I paused for a moment of stunned silence.  In two short weeks, I will end that chapter of my life, and start immediately on the writing of the next.  Stay tuned as the pages unfold here. 

Charles Ray is Diplomatic Correspondent for Asnycnow Radio and pens Ray’s Ramblings on an irregular and irreverent basis.  Retiring from public service after 50 years, you can expect his offerings to be more regular, and increasingly irreverent.