I can credit my dad—Lloyd C. Nintzel—for inspiring me to write for a newspaper.
My parents split up when I was pretty young; I must have been 6 or 7 years old. I was the youngest of seven kids, and my folks had been married for more than two decades when they realized it wasn't going to work out between them.
Even though he wasn't around every day, Dad was always part of my life. When I was still a kid in New Jersey, he'd take me and my brothers out to watch the hapless Mets play at Shea Stadium. We went into the city for shows at Radio City Music Hall. We took trips out to Long Island, where his family had a summer place on Peconic Bay.
After I moved to Arizona, he'd come out to take me and some of my brothers to San Diego for a week during the summer, and we'd see the Padres play. If we were lucky, the Mets were making a West Coast swing.
Once I was in high school, I'd fly back to New York City to spend a few weeks at his apartment in a high-rise on Manhattan's York Avenue, up near 90th Street. He'd take me to see Mel Tormé at Carnegie Hall; I'd take him to see Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes on an East River pier.
Even as a kid, I was amazed by Dad's stamina. The U.S. Army had been reluctant to take him as a soldier in World War II—although, through persistence, he was finally able to sign up, and ended up having some peculiar adventures in Greenland—but he was a dynamo in the 1980s. He'd take long runs on the city streets almost every day. He liked to talk about the importance of maintaining the "original splendor."
When we weren't having adventures together, Dad was sure to write. Every couple of weeks, I'd get letters updating me about what he was up to, and bemoaning the fortunes of the Mets.
For as long as I can remember, his letters also included newspaper clippings—stories he thought I'd find interesting. The clips included mentions of Tucson in The New York Times, or Russ Baker columns, or stories about politics that he thought I'd enjoy.
My first time in a newsroom came on a visit to the New York Daily News. Dad's second wife, Jane, worked there as a travel writer and arranged a tour. I thought the place, with all of its hustle and bustle, seemed like an exciting place to work. Someone on the entertainment desk was able to finagle us tickets to a taping of the Letterman show. Pretty cool, I thought.
I don't imagine that Dad thought those clippings would inspire me to pursue a career in the newspaper business, but when I look back on it, it sure encouraged me to pick up the newspaper every day.
As I grew older and started writing for the Tucson Weekly, the clippings continued to arrive in the mail. He'd throw in Roger Angell columns about baseball from The New Yorker, or James Kilpatrick's "The Writer's Art" columns, to help me hone my craft. (You'll have to make up your own mind as to whether they did any good.)
Dad and Jane gave up life in New York City after he retired from his job in the financial sector, and they relocated to Seattle. He's still got a soft spot for the Mets, but we now go to see the Mariners when I visit.
Dad celebrated his 87th birthday last December. He's still getting to the gym and working out on the treadmill.
This Father's Day, a few of my brothers and I will be making a trip up there to see him. His old Dartmouth fraternity has rented a skybox at Safeco Field, and we're gonna take him to see the Mariners play the Philadelphia Phillies.
This time, I'll be bringing him a few clippings from my work over the last few months. I don't know how much he's going to enjoy reading about the wreck that is Arizona's government, but I reckon he'll enjoy the story about how the Tucson Padres are trying to make a go of baseball in Tucson.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. Thanks for all the support and inspiration over the years.