I owe this column to the Franks—Cimo and winston.
You see, it all began 15 months ago, when Frank Cimo, in his “Frank’s Saloon” column, accused an 80-year-old peacenik of intolerance. This inspired me to fire off the following letter to the editor: “Frank finds a tolerance teacher’s intolerance of intolerance intolerable. This makes him intolerant of intolerance of intolerance, which no tolerant Tribune should tolerate.” (You should definitely read that three times real fast right now.)
It didn’t run that week, so I called Elaine Larsen, the Tribune’s editor, to make sure she knew it was an actual letter and not a prank. She said she loved the letter and was running it the following week. This made me just cocky enough to spontaneously blurt out, “How about I write a whole column sometime?” (If Frank can do it...) She quickly agreed. Apparently, she’d been taking some heat for Frank’s to-the-right-of-Dick-Cheney political views, and was more than happy to balance it out with a little comic relief.
I still had to figure out what to write about, and that is where the other Frank came in (or more accurately “frank”—he always insisted spelling his name lowercase). frank d. winston, the “Emperor of Pacifica,” had been busily promoting Pacifica’s 50th anniversary, and he gave me the idea of spoofing our first 50 years. That first column was so much fun I kept going and eventually learned to type with both index fingers.
It was a struggle at first. Every time I successfully finished a column it felt like a miracle. The early ones were pure silliness, until I noticed I was on the opinion page and figured I should probably mix some opinions in there while I was at it. So I cultivated a few, such as “litter is bad” and “voting is good.” I quickly learned it’s easy to be silly, and easy to make a point, but really hard to do both at the same time.
After experimenting with different narrative styles, I eventually settled on “first person, omniscient” or “from the point of view of a punctual know-it-all.” I also developed a fondness for top 10 lists, although usually ran out after five or so. The footnote* was added later as a desperate gimmick.
It was frank d. winston who pointed out that Pacifica’s 50th anniversary isn’t just a day; it’s a whole year, and our 50th year, November 22, 2007 to November 22, 2008, turned out to be an eventful one. We had an oil spill, the biodiesel and light brown apple moth controversies, a historic election (Obama), a botched election (Miss Pacifica), the closest election that is mathematically possible (measure N), and nearly elected the first openly male Laurie. Our beloved “Emperor” passed away on September 11, adding a sad milestone to our semicentennial year.
I decided to turn the columns I’ve written so far into a book, a retrospective on Pacifica’s 50th year. Yes, I know the marketing potential is pretty dismal. My target audience is mostly limited to people who live here and will buy a book of stuff they already read in the paper; but hey, I need something to give my friends for Christmas. (To you in the future who are reading this in book form, thanks - unless you checked it out from the library, in which case you are cheap and unprincipled - although generally speaking I am pro-library.)
I wasn’t the only person making humorous observations about Pacifica this year. Tom Jackson the cartoonist has been making his own wry commentary, in comic form, directly across the page from my column. (When you close the page, they are close enough to get intimately acquainted.) So I phoned him to ask if I could use some of his cartoons. He didn’t get back to me for the longest time, which I totally understand now, considering that he’d just had a heart attack.
Tom’s doing much better now, and probably because he’s presently on more medications than Lindsey Lohan, has agreed to let me add his uniquely skewed perspective to the book.
One more thing - after 15 months of writing a column every two weeks, I plan to cut back to one a month. This means those of you who look in the paper for me every week and are disappointed (or relieved) half the time, you will now be so twice as often; but hey, I need to find a better-paying newspaper position, such as paperboy.
Many thanks to Elaine, Tom Sullivan, John Maybury, and everyone at the Trib for the opportunity to goof off in public. It’s the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on, although truth be told, I frequently didn’t bother wearing any.
I hope some other voices will step up and fill the void. Maybe even you. Come on, if I can do it...
*Such as this one.