Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | April 18, 2012

The end of the beginning …

I am now, as of 6 p.m. Bulgarian time, a FORMER assistant sports editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I feel a mixture of sadness, relief and excitement.

Our trip to Bulgaria last summer was a great experiment for Melody and me. We weren’t sure what we’d find here at AUBG. We weren’t sure Blagoevgrad would satisfy us. I wasn’t sure I could (or wanted to) teach. We didn’t know how hard the distance and time away from friends and family would be.

But today I made the call to my managing editor, Rene Sanchez, and told him that I wouldn’t be coming back to the newsroom that had energized, entertained and exasperated me over the past 20 years. My leave of absence, which was set to expire in August, will end. Melody and I will go on.

It’s a weird feeling. I’ve worked in a newsroom for most of the past 28 years (save those four months in 1991 when The National Sports Daily went belly-up). I’ve loved most of it. The best part — the best part of any job, really — was the people. They care. And when you work with people who care, it makes all the other stuff worthwhile.

I fought with many of them, but only because we all gave a damn. We’d fight over deadlines. We’d fight over what photo to choose, what lead to write, what reporter to dispatch. And at the end of the day, we’d all head to a bar and revel over a job well done. Or on some days, a job DONE. Those daily challenges, all those blank pages, all those words, all those pictures, all those decisions, all those personal battles … they all create an incredible bond among peers. Yeah, those things also can breed contempt, but I think (in my own humble opinion) that the bonds of respect are much stronger than the occasional irritating or annoying co-worker. I’ll miss that stuff.

But as the headline said, this is the end of the beginning of this new chapter. Melody and I have made it through this first year in Bulgaria. We’re not looking for medals. It hasn’t been heroic. We haven’t “overcome” anything. Hell, it’s been a blast. The students have been warm, welcoming and energetic. The school has been inviting. We’ve made some really nice friends, we’ve gotten to know the region just a little bit better and I am even learning (a little) Bulgarian.

We decided, though, that we needed more time. First, so that we can return to the school and these students. Also, though, to extend our own “education.” See more. Do more. Live more.

We want to see how other people live. We want to taste what they taste, suffer what they suffer, and love what they love. We want to dance to their music.

And so tonight we’ll dance a little and drink a little. We’ll be a little sad and a little giddy. And soon we’ll come back to Minnesota to say hello — and then goodbye.



  1. Congratulations on the big step, Wally. The adventure is just beginning. I envy you guys. And if you make it out west, beers are on me.

  2. Mazel tov, Mark! I believe I recall someone at the Groveland Tap that last party saying they did not think you’d be returning anytime soon…. So, the adventure continues! Keep on blogging–always a pleasure to read!

  3. Wow! Big step is right! But it sounds like one that is well thought-out, full of mixed feelings, but mostly excitement and relief. Welcome to a working retirement! I’m so enjoying the blogs that you and Melody have been writing. Please keep ’em coming!

  4. Happy for you, sucks for us. Best of luck, boss. Don’t be too much of a stranger.

  5. Here is to you and a fantastic career in newspapers. I was lucky to share some of those newsroom years with you. Many fond memories, my friend. And here is to the new chapter as well. Cheers. ( I would like to do this again with drinks in our hands, but this will have to suffice for now. )

  6. What a beautifully written post, Mark. Your words echoed the feelings I experienced when I left the Strib after 20 years: I still miss the people, the battles, the laughs, the relief that comes with putting an edition to bed, and especially the giddiness that sets in the next day as you get to start the whole process all over again. But I’m happy in my new life, too. And I’m happy for you and Melody! Best wishes to you both as you start the next chapter in your big adventure.

  7. This makes me a little sad — but who am I kidding. Congrats, Mark, you’re one of the best.

  8. You guys are so ballsy! Congratulations on your retirement, bravery and sense of adventure.

  9. Mark,
    I am here to tell you there is life after the Star Tribune and all of daily journalism. While it was a privilige every day to get up and go to work for a free press in a free country, there are also wonderful fulfilling pursuits. I love my second career. Best wishes to you and to Melody. Congrats!

  10. Fantastic! Good for you for moving on to a new adventure.

  11. You’ll never regret being bold

    • God, I wish I had that kind of “economy of words.” You said so much in such a short space. I can’t even pay homage to it without being long-winded! Thanks, John. Appreciate the shout-out. Next time you tour through Europe, make a stop in the Balkans. Good fun!

  12. You’d been there, done that … now you’re THERE! Doing THIS!
    Life isn’t best-lived in a reverse gear. Your future is brighter than the joint you’ve left. Besides, how you gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Sofia?!

  13. what John Munson said. Wow. we miss you! but you are right not to come back. you guys are moving forward in a lot of different directions. i am so happy for you, and so happy to read about it. keep writing.

  14. Mark, Congrats to you on LIVING your life. I’m impressed and emboldened. Your writing makes me think about how I want to live my life. Thank you. And thanks for all the wisdom you’ve shared (writing and otherwise), ‘lo these many years. Cheers!

  15. Ah, the open-ended existence. As the poet Gary Snyder once said, you just take a small step to the left and watch all that machinery go hurtling by. Congratulations.

  16. Mark, Congratulations to you and Melody for extending your fabulous journey. I recently ran into Chris Welsch and heard about the great life he’s built in Paris. You both have the courage to look for new joy in life. Melody could do a great documentary on people who are remaking their lives on their own terms. Take care.

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