[Note: I recently resigned as executive city editor of The Herald News and am moving to another newspaper. My column is not coming with me right now. So this is now pretty much done, barring any unforeseen circumstances. It's been great, and I'll probably be posting some more stuff in the future every so often, but not necessarily this kind of thing in this format. Thanks for reading, and check back. —Dan]
Good news, Garrison Keillor fans!
This is probably my last column for The Herald News. As of today, this pleasant little thousand-word time-waster is on indefinite hiatus.
I’m leaving this newspaper for another job, so for now this feature is going to that big left-hand side of the page in the sky. I won’t say it’s gone for good, because you never know about these things. I could come crawling back to you, begging you to hear another of my stupid stories.
Gary Keillor, on the other hand — whose heavy-browed, casserole dish of a face is seen here on alternating weeks when I’m off — is going nowhere. In fact, there’s an off chance you might see him more often.
Indeed, that’s why I’m going away. Garrison seems like a nice fellow, sure, very homey with a dry wit. To you. To me, he’s a predator. Have you ever had your office door kicked off its hinges by a 6-foot-4 Swedish-extracted Midwesterner smelling of fresh buttermilk biscuits? Have you ever had your typing finger bent backward as that Lutheran brute demands in a menacing yet soothing voice more newspaper space, every Sunday? You’d give up your column, too.
I’ve written about 125 columns or so since the summer of 2003. Looking back at them, I’ve left a pretty OK body of work, I think. The French have a fancy word for “body of work,” usually used with writers: oeuvre. Not to be confused with oeuf. That means “egg.” I probably won’t ever get another chance to point that out in print, so there you go.
Some things I’ve written, I’m really proud of. I’m glad that I never started a column using any of the following phrases: “Didja ever notice.” “What’s the deal with.” “Who are the geniuses who invented.”
I never wrote a “very special episode” kind of column, either, where I got all sappy about some serious topic. I’m proud of that. Didja ever notice how humorists feel the need to get serious once in a while? What’s the deal with that? Who are the geniuses who invented ... um ... sad ... things?
I’m also proud, in a perverse way, that I got my fair share of hate mail. Yes, I really did get actual hate mail. Anybody who writes anything gets hate mail eventually. You can write about how nice puppies and sunshine are, and some Republican will send you a nasty letter saying you should go back to Russia. It’s just their way of saying, “I like you.”
As an example, a few years ago, a man wrote me an unnecessarily insulting e-mail telling me how much of an embarrassment and waste of skin I am for criticizing the governor. He addressed me as “Ron Mederios” throughout. Then he asked me to forward the message to my publisher so I could be fired. If you’re reading this, sir: Whoops! Never got around to that. Sorry.
Speaking of regrets, I’ve had a few. People gave me dozens of great ideas every week, and I hardly ever got a chance to write them. I still appreciated it, though.
And for almost every column I wrote, I started another that I never finished. Sad. Like this one sci-fi story I was going to call “The Day The Earth Stood Stale,” about an ordinary day in Fall River when loaves of massa across the city mysteriously and suddenly got all hard and flavorless. It was a whole “Twilight Zone” thing. Or another column I almost wrote about a cursed man who on full moons transforms into a past-tense verb. I was going to call it “I Was a Teenage Were.” Ah, these lost gems will never see the light of day! Then again, sometimes daylight’s pretty overrated.
I always regretted not writing a column explaining how, exactly, this newspaper works. It’s a process some Fall Riverites might find enlightening. Based on letters and e-mails to me, many people think this newspaper every morning just magically shows up on their front porch, or in the bushes, or what have you, placed there by the Newspaper Fairies. Pfft! As opposed to talented, hardworking people who work long hours, sometimes all day, under frustrating working conditions to make this thing happen as a service to you. No, I never got the chance to write that. So: yes. Let’s just say it’s Newspaper Fairies.
I’ll miss having a column. It’s a little like owning a carrier pigeon. You can load up the column with secret messages to people, and usually people get them, if they don’t get pooped on first. Like this secret message: “Hi, Gramma O’Neil!”
Other times, those messages are lost in transit. For example, I doubt Gov. Mitt Romney ever found out I called him, in various columns, a “sleazeball,” a “blueblood twit,” and a “6-foot hairdo.” If not, here’s another chance, I guess.
Ah, then there are the people! I’ll miss trying to get your mind off the damn news every so often.
And I’ll miss having the chance to meet you through this column. Fall Riverites of every stripe! Like the dude I met that time. At that thing. What a charmer! Oh, and the guy at the library who called me “sir.” That was very polite. And just last week, I was out walking my dogs and this lady was convinced I was someone she knew named Doug. She yelled at me, waving frantically, and became disappointed when I didn’t wave back. Then ticked off. I looked around for Dougs and found none. And so she kept shouting from the window of her car with increasing desperation, probably thinking Doug had suddenly become a total snob, mentally disinviting him from any future brunches, or canceling their wedding plans, or what have you. I had that “I’ve suddenly become transparent” sensation, where someone looks right in your eyes, sure you’re a different person, and you keep glancing over each shoulder as if to catch that person ducking behind your jacket and whispering for you to keep moving.
Long story short, it turns out I wasn’t Doug.
But if I run into him somewhere, I’ll let you know.