I read many different periodicals, and my life is enriched by the great media available to me. I had not known the writing of San Francisco Chronicle’s David Perlman, a long-tome science writer. He is 94, and still churning out some great material.
I read this feature biography about Perlman in the Los Angeles Times Friday morning, and it caused me to focus on the beauty of loving one’s career. The column is by Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times; February 21, 2013, 6:10 p.m.
The lead on the column is: “The San Francisco Chronicle’s David Perlman churned out 111 stories last year and is still going strong. Not bad for someone born before the discovery of penicillin and Pluto.”
Here are a few other beautiful paragraphs, but I urge you to click on the link and read the whole column:
As the San Francisco Chronicle’s veteran science writer, Perlman has been covering the granddaddy of hands-on science museums since it was just a glimmer of an idea in the fertile mind of physicist Frank Oppenheimer, the “uncle of the atom bomb.”
Now, after 43 years in the elegant but drafty Palace of Fine Arts, the museum was getting ready to close before moving to new digs on the Embarcadero, and it was Perlman’s job to chronicle the last day in its original home.
So the first deadline was his own — 6 p.m. to make the next day’s paper with a front-page story. The second belonged to the woman tagging along behind him.
She’s “doing a story about the oldest living reporter — me,” Perlman told the amused museum staff. “She has to be done before I die.”……………
He was born in 1918, a decade before the discovery of penicillin. Pluto had yet to be discovered, let alone demoted. The ballpoint pen was invented the year he got his first real newspaper gig, a 1938 summer job covering cops in upstate New York.
Perlman can’t remember the name of the now-defunct publication, but he sure can recall his first story, a jailhouse interview with a prostitute that began something like this: Pretty Kitty Kelly sobbed in her cell at Schenectady County Jail last night.
“It was atrocious, but it was the kind of thing you did,” said Perlman, who learned his craft in the glory days of the New York tabloids. “That kind of journalism no longer exists.”
Perlman turned 94 in December, closing out a year in which he wrote 111 stories. Although only 0.2% of America’s full-time workers are 80 or older, he has no plans to slow down.
He has shrunk a bit in recent years, but the cane is more for his three children’s peace of mind than his own safety or mobility. He’s about to turn in his outdated flip phone for a newer, smarter model. A Twitter lesson is in the offing. His driver’s license is up to date.
After all, he said over a burger at a South of Market dive near Chronicle headquarters, “I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do all my life, be a reporter.”
There was no such thing as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome when Perlman began covering science and medicine; he would go on to write more than 300 stories about the disease that broke his adopted city’s heart.
Somewhere in his messy cubicle at Fifth Street and Mission he keeps a copy of his first AIDS story — among the earliest published, penned before the disease even had a name.
Perlman has outlived colleagues he has written with, scientists he has written about, Anne, his wife of 61 years, who died in 2002. He is dating again. (In fact, at a recent wedding, he caught the bouquet.)
“I’m so lucky still to be able to do something, to do what I do…. I’m still pretty OK,” he said. “Anyway, as long as they’ll have me [at the Chronicle], I’ll stick around.”
Stay with us!
This is how I want to live my life. This is how I want to live my missions.