After more than 40 years as a broadcaster and journalist, I've found a new career. It doesn't pay very well (OK, nothing) but it's one of the most gratifying things I've done with my life. I'm a volunteer firefighter. I ply my new trade in a tiny, very historic hamlet in the northern Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.
As I wrote for Next Avenue three years ago, after I first landed in the region, I'm struck by how desperate rural departments seem to be for members, and further struck by how much these essential services are being carried by gray heads, most younger residents either absent, hamstrung with work and childrearing or just not motivated to this kind of community service.
It's true, the fire service is not for the faint of heart (says the guy who visits a cardiologist twice a year). It's alternately mind-numbing, adrenaline-spiking, broiling, freezing, physically and mentally challenging work.