For the better part of ten years, newspaper writer and editor Tony Simmons has commented upon life in the unique environs of the Florida Panhandle while delving into universal themes of love, loss, discovery, and hope. Now his work — selected columns from The News Herald, Panama City’s daily newspaper — are collected into a career-spanning retrospective, running the gamut from the absurd to the sublime: "Dazed and Raving in the Undercurrents."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Dazed and Raving in the Undercurrents

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Dazed and Raving in the Undercurrents collects columns from Tony Simmons’ stints as The News Herald's education reporter, youth editor, entertainment writer, and features editor, and takes its title from the titles of his various columns. Now the assistant managing editor for news at The News Herald, Simmons found that separating the wheat from the chaff in his own work was an experience in coming to terms with himself.

“The thing for me that was the most eye-opening as I went through nine years of clips was seeing how my attitudes have changed over time,” Simmons says. “In deciding which columns to include and which to cut, I looked for recurring themes — people, places and ideas that kept cropping up, so readers would find threads to tie it all together. But then, seeing how my perspective on those themes shifted, or didn’t as the case may be — it forced me to reexamine myself as well as the work.”

A good example is the love-hate relationship Simmons has with his hometown of Century, Florida — a small town that lies on the Alabama border due north of Pensacola. Early on in Dazed and Raving..., he gives Century a nasty beating, out of the blue and possibly undeserved. Later columns took ever gentler views of the place, however, until some of the lattermost nearly glow with rapturous nostalgia by comparison. Call it perspective.

“Guess I’m getting some years on me or something,” Simmons says. “Going soft in my old age. Or maybe just growing up.”

Dazed and Raving in the Undercurrents also takes readers to Apalachicola, St. Andrews and Falling Waters state parks, the Jaycees Christmas Parade and elsewhere. It offers advice on camping, moving homes, and whether or not one should fire a starter pistol during a school function. And it includes lots of columns readers have noted as favorites, like those about waiting for the school bus, infinite digressions, a cat’s tale, and road signs on the highway of life.

But ...Undercurrents is more than that. It’s also the story of a life — the journey of a writer, a husband, a father — filled with the quiet moments, slapstick comedy, and devastating catastrophes that make up such a journey.

Come join Tony Simmons on that journey.

And go in peace.