Saturday, June 14, 2008

Big Russ & Me: A Tribute To Tim Russert

Big Russ & Me: A Tribute To Tim Russert

6:25 AM 06/14/2008 Sat

Yesterday the nation was shocked to learn that one of its most powerful media voices, the venerable Tim Russert of Meet The Press had died suddenly of an apparent heart attack while at work. He was 58 years old.

I got word of this after I got back home from work yesterday, about 9PM, via email from a colleague and good friend. She asked if I was aware of this and if I had a birthtime for Russert; my answer had to be "no" on both counts.

Like all Americans, I too spent my Sunday mornings in my PJs, waffles at the ready, a stack of newspapers and magazines on the side and tv remote in hand tuned in to MTP, eager to see who Russ was gonna put on the hotseat this week. As the many tributes came in throughout the night attested to, from politicos like Bush and McCain and Obama, to rivals like Sean Hannity, Russ had both a keen eye and sharp mind as well as an Everyman sensibility and work ethic that, in a time of high post elites and blowdried hair, was a welcome change of pace for a locale as plastic as Washington DC. Tim Russert was, without a doubt, the real deal.

Born on May 7 1950 in Buffalo New York, Russ was a Taurus through and through, from his propensity for weight gain to his downhome roots and never forgetting where he came from. His Mercury in Taurus, interestingly enough, also Retrograde as is the current Mercury position in the skies above, gave Russert a thoroughness in a kind of Columbo way of doing things, always coming back to ask just one more question, in a way that belied his formidable intelligence and razor sharp mind (Jupiter in Pisces trine Uranus in Cancer, Sun trine Mars, genius). The first of his family to attend college, Russert was discovered by New York Senatorial powerhouse Daniel Patrick Moynihan and rose through the ranks to become to Senator's topmost aide. From there, Russ worked for then NY Governor Mario Cuomo in a similar capacity. True to Sun square Pluto and the Moon in Capricorn, Russ had politics in the blood.

But it was with his move to NBC in 1984, that Russ would literally, find is voice. With his extensive knowledge of political and American history, contact-networks and instincts honed over years of working the halls of Congress, Russert quickly rose through the newsroom ranks by getting all the inside dope on the political comings and goings of Washington, getting the juiciest scoops as a result. It all really paid off for Russert when, in the year 1991, he ascended to become Meet The Press' host, where he would remain until his most untimely death. From there, it was one heck of a ride - who could forgot Russ putting avowed racist David Duke on the spot during his failed gubernatorial run, or, better yet, Russ breaking out the yup, you guessed it, little whiteboard during the 2000 Presidential Florida debacle? True to all the Earth in his chart (Sun and Mercury in Taurus, Moon in Capricorn, Mars and Saturn in Virgo) Russ kept it real, which meant, in an age of "magic boards" and high technology, that he used the KISS rule - to great effect.

But perhaps his biggest noteriety came from an unlikely place; in 2004 Russert wrote what would become a runaway bestseller, Big Russ & Me, a book about his life with his father, Tim Russert Sr., and the lessons he'd learn from "Big Russ". Russert took a chance writing and promoting such a book in an age where men in general and dads in particular are portrayed as everything from Deadbeats to Dimwits, to everyone's surprise the book became a huge hit, with Russert being crowded by people wanting pictures and wanting him to sign their books, not because of Meet the Press, but because Russert's book brought home to so many Americans, the meaning of fatherhood and the good memories so many of us have, of the unsung heroes of the American landscape, the guys who worked from can't see in the morning till can't see at night in order to make a better way for their families and their kids. Big Russ & Me was a loving tribute from the son to the father, and it is with a very bittersweet pill that I contemplate all of this, on the day of my own son's 3rd birthday, and on the eve of Father's Day nationwide. Russert had Saturn Rx in Virgo, a fitting image for his dad, a man who worked two fulltime jobs and couldn't attend those special moments and occasions with young Tim, but did what he had to in order to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Its something millions of us can relate to. I know I can.

Because this month is also the one in which my own father, Robert Lindsey, would be born, Jun 26 1935 in Savannah GA. And like Big russ, Bob never took me to a baseball game, we never went fishing or camping, none of those things. But he taught me many things that I would carry on into adulthood, one of them being a strong work ethic (since I was conscripted into working with him on the weekends rehabbing homes), sticking to a job until it's done, and standing up for oneself when the time came to do so. Like Big Russ, Bob was from the Old School, who never had much of a formal education, but seems so much smarter than the eggheads of today, and who's life experience was priceless. This year also marks the tenth anniversary of my dad's passing, and so when I heard of Russert's yesterday, it really took some wind out of my sails. The nation weeps, and so do I.

As Pluto continues its sojourn through Capricorn, as the United States experiences its first Pluto Return in this Sign, as Pluto squares the MC, and as it prepares to make one of the most profound choices in its national history in choosing between a man who is shaped by the profound lack of a father in his life, and one who is undeniably shaped by the wisdom of his, Russert's passing at such a crucial time (Russert died during his Saturn Return - so fitting in light of a heated debate I'm currently engaged in elsewhere on the Web!) will act as yet another signpost to look back at the past with an eye of carrying forward its best parts into the future. Perhaps the fictional Jedi Master Yoda said it best, in his last words to Jedi trainee Luke Skywalker:

"When gone am I, the last of the Jedi you will be; pass on what you have learned."

The job of any father, indeed, all fathers, is to pass on what they have learned to their sons.

Big Russ up there in Buffalo NY passed something great to his son, the Big Russ we all knew. Let's keep on passing it on.

Go get 'em, Russ!


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