‘T. Weed’ has written his last letter to the editor. A Hoboken resident since the early 1960s, he passed away in early March at the age of 85, shortly after publishing his most recent book.
Under the pen name ‘T. Weed,’ the author, Dale Walker, issued an unending stream of letters to the Reporter’s letters column, commenting, it seemed, on everything under the sun. Usually, the subject was some political or social or cultural controversy, but sometimes what was on his mind was more personal, particularly the changes he witnessed in Hoboken, a city he loved at first sight.
He announced his new book in February in typical fashion, in a letter to the editor of the Hudson Reporter.
“Yes, it’s winter, snow lies everywhere, but a new Weed has appeared and it will soon join the other Weeds on the table at our wonderful bookstore, Symposia. It is called ‘Roped & Hog Tied’.
“From 1985 to 2015, I have published three collections, each representing a decade of letters from myself and others published in the Hoboken Reporter (and elsewhere): ‘Enough Rope’ 1985 to 1995, ‘More Rope’ 1995 to 2005, and ‘Dang ‘Em, Hang ‘Em’ 2005 to 2015.”
He suggested that his latest collection may have been driven by a sense of impending mortality.
“Why only five years of letters? Because I have grown old and 2025 might come without my help. So, simple vanity dictates that I publish these missives while I still have a chance to see them in print. Simple vanity? Yes, the very human desire to leave behind a good reputation, “the last infirmity of a noble mind”, such as vanity has been called by John Milton and, probably, the Greeks.
“Noble my mind is not; infirm, probable.”
Other books by Walker included “Natural Enemies” (fiction); “Sketches of a Texas Boyhood” (memoir); “Light, Spright, Bright, Tight” (poetry); “Fool’s Paradise” (nonfiction) and his latest, a collection of three essays about Arabia called “Arabian Triptych.”
From Texas to Hoboken
His daughter Caitlin Walker announced her father’s passing and provided an account of a rich and varied life.
He was born Aug. 19, 1935 in Leon Springs, Texas, just outside San Antonio, the last of eight children. He joined the army in 1955 to get the G.I. Bill at the tail end of the Korean War. He was stationed in Germany. He went to San Francisco and met his future wife, Ruth, at San Francisco State University. They traveled through Europe, living in Spain for about a year.
“All his life my father was writing constantly, that being the driving force throughout his life,” Caitlin said. “My parents came to Hoboken in 1962 after unhappily living in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and immediately loved it. They felt it had the small town feel of towns in Europe.”
At that time Hoboken was changing, from the rough and tumble city “on the waterfront” of longshoremen and ethnic groups who lived in uneasy co-existence, to a period as a bohemian enclave, offering cheap rent to young/beatnik artists like the Walkers, before the city began its long period of gentrification.
In a late 2020 letter titled “Remembering Old Hoboken,” Walker described the kinds of conditions many young creative types tolerated in exchange for inexpensive lodgings.
“We lived in five rooms on the top floor overlooking the docks and Manhattan. We didn’t have to go down five flights to use an outhouse; or, worse, relieve ourselves in a bedpan if too lazy. No, we did have a toilet, in a kind of closet. No sink, no bathtub, just a toilet with a tank above our heads where the water was released by pulling a chain. To bathe, we somehow scrunched into a double sink in the kitchen; and also in the kitchen, heating it and another room or two, was a “gas on gas” stove.”
In the early 70’s, Caitlin said, Walker had an opportunity to teach English in Saudi Arabia to Saudis for the American companies Tumpane and Northrop. He had four different contracts lasting about seven years. He and Ruth came back to Hoboken after buying, sight unseen, their first house in Hoboken with two small children (Aron Walker, now 50 and Caitlin, born in Saudi Arabia, now 48).
He went back to Saudi Arabia in 1981, with the help of a friend living and teaching there, who helped get him a visa. He went there to get the narrative for a book he had in mind, a travel book with a quest of finding a “hospitable pre-Islamic widow to sleep with.”
The book, “Fool’s Paradise” (Random House 1988) took eight years to write and was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize.
In the early 1980s, Walker began a long history of writing letters to the editor of The Hoboken Reporter under his pen name, ‘T. Weed.’
In addition to being a prolific writer, Walker seemed to be a man possessed of boundless energy and affection for people.
“He enjoyed gathering around his kitchen table with people, drinking and discussing every subject under the sun, nothing was taboo,” Caitlin remembered. “He loved tennis and golf. He was a good-natured person, always smiling and cheerful. I’ve never seen him in a bad mood. He was generous with others and a wonderful father to my brother and I and loving grandfather to William (13) and Dylan (10).”
Always exuberant, hard to label
To read a selection of his recent letters, type ‘T. Weed’ into the search field on The Hudson Reporter home page and you’ll find 15 pages of Dale Walker writing as ‘T. Weed.’ These, plus the letters he published in his collections, add up to a portrait of a man who was impossible to label, and unafraid to offer opinions, no matter whose feathers they ruffled.
On the last election: I’ll say again, that I didn’t vote for Trump, but I didn’t like to see him treated so unfairly. Twitter has just closed the account of President Trump. Half of the voters in the last election chose Trump, and now he can no longer speak to them via Twitter. And to add insult to injury, the House Democrats voted, again, to impeach Trump. Impeach a President who has only a few days remaining in office? Yes, to keep him from running again. This is no way to heal a divided country, as the Democrats claim they want to do, it does the opposite.
On masking during the pandemic: Anyone who does a little Googling on the subject will find doctors and experts who say masks help contain the virus, but others claim that they do more harm than good, that they leak, that they trap and harbor bacteria when they become moist from one’s breath, and that healthy people, with no symptoms of Covid, need not wear them except when entering a public place where social distancing is not possible.
Weed on Weed: There’s no need to agonize about “legalizing” anything. Just stop jailing people for growing and smoking it. Better yet, where there’s good old American free market competition, the prices will drop.
Dale Walker was an American who believed in freedom, especially the widest possible freedom of speech and expression of opinion. In an age of Twitter, text messages and email, he still expressed his opinions and observations the old-fashioned way: addressing his concerns to the editor of his hometown newspaper, for all his neighbors to read.