Wow. Writing this week’s column is harder than I thought it would be. I keep starting and deleting and starting and deleting and … well, 16th time’s a charm, right?
OK, here goes:
This is my last column. After much thought and not a little argument with myself, I’ve decided that the time is right to end this 20-year experiment in goofing around and getting paid for it. It’s someone else’s turn now.
I think this song says it all:
Hello, I must be going,
I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going.
I’ll stay a week or two,
I’ll stay the summer thru,
But I am telling you,
I must be going.
— By Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, sung by Groucho Marx
Kinda gets you right here, doesn’t it?
Oh. Well, it got me right there. Either that, or the pizza I had for lunch is backing up on me.
Anyway, I’ve been looking at farewell columns from other writers and if form is to be followed, a little history is in order. Therefore …
This column really traces its roots back to The (late and lamented) Indianapolis News, where I was a pop music critic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I took the job seriously, but I never took myself that way, and as a result couldn’t resist joking around in reviews and music columns when the opportunities presented themselves.
(Best moment as a critic: Phone interview scheduled with Ringo Starr of The Beatles. The phone rings at the appointed time and I pick it up. “Hello, Mike, this is Ringo,” says the voice at the other end of the line. And I say, “Ringo who?” I thought it was hilarious. Ringo did not.)
Anyway, one thing led to another and when The News merged with The Indianapolis Star in 1995, I went off the music beat and became a humor columnist. Actually, I think they couldn’t figure out what to do with me and just gave me the job hoping something would come of it. At any rate, I grabbed it and never looked back. Well, not until today anyway.
I went freelance in 2003. Freelance, in case you didn’t know, is another word for “salary reduction.” I didn’t care. I liked working for myself, and I liked the newspapers that picked up my column. Still do. I thank them for their continued support of my work, and I thank you, all of you, for reading what I wrote.
I don’t really know what the future holds, other than it won’t hold column writing. I may have another book in me — we’ll see about that — or I may never put another word to paper other than to make up a grocery list.
“Everything has to come to an end, sometime,” wrote L. Frank Baum in “The Marvelous Land of Oz.” But Robert Frost said there are no ends and beginnings, only middles. I like that better.
So I guess I’m in the middle of something new. I’ll take my leave of you on that note, and with this Irish blessing:
May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all your heart might desire.
Thanks again. Be good to each other. I’ll be seeing you.