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10 year anniversary

Thanks for the memories, I guess

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Thanks for the memories, I guessSteve Hammer

Anniversaries have never meant much to me, unless there's money involved. But this column marks a fairly significant milestone in my life. It was exactly 10 years ago this month that this column began running in NUVO. The subject was how it sucks to live without health insurance, and I wrote it while under the spell of a massive flu bug, which made the piece even more feverish than it would have normally been.

For the last decade, through more than 500 columns, I've tried, with intermittent success, to throw a mirror on my life and how I see events impacting everyday Hoosiers like myself.

I've cussed out presidents, mayors and governors. I've tried to expose wrongdoing and misdeeds by the people who hold public office. Mainly, I've tried to give an alternative viewpoint than what you read in the daily paper or see on the nightly news.

I've also tried to elicit a few laughs here and there, on the theory that doing so will allow my sometimes extreme viewpoints to go down a little bit easier.

It hasn't been easy, summoning up 900 words on something every week. But I'd say it's quite a bit easier than mopping dormitory floors, working at a liquor store or conducting political surveys, all of which I've also done in my life.

Enduring the angry letters, e-mails and phone calls that this column sometimes draws is also difficult at times. It's especially difficult when the letter-writer points out a mistake in facts, or a flaw in logic.

But, again, it's easier than dealing with a drunk person who's threatening to kick your ass because you won't sell him a pint of Fleischmann's Gin.

So many things have changed since July 1993 that it would be folly to try and point them all out. When I wrote that first column, Indianapolis had two daily newspapers, gigantic holes downtown waiting for the Circle Centre Mall to fill them and a mayor named Steve Goldsmith.

Boy, I miss that guy. He was a columnist's dream. Just about every week, he'd say something so outlandish that all you had to do to evoke laughs was to reprint the quote.

To me, he was Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons, a money-hungry aristocrat out of touch with everything except his all-consuming desire to obtain more money and power. He even walked stooped over like Mr. Burns.

This column has allowed me to see and meet all kinds of people, from Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton to the guy who found a gigantic Frosted Flake one morning at breakfast.

I've also endured a lot personally as well, from the deaths of people close to me to serious medical problems and still other traumas best left undiscussed.

I've made a few friends and a whole shitload of enemies, too. To my friends I express eternal gratitude. To the enemies, I hope to anger and confound you even more in the years to come.

Ten years ago, we were in relative prosperity and at peace with the world. Now we're in the midst of a permanent state of war against an enemy that we rename and redefine every day. (Yes, Republican loyalists, I know that Oceania is at war with Eurasia and that Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.)

But some things never change, and life during wartime has provided a surprisingly large number of targets to ridicule.

I'm particularly excited about the prospect of Mitch Daniels becoming our next governor. I'm excited as a columnist, that is. He'll be the second coming of Goldsmith and will provide an infinite amount of ways to provoke sarcasm.

I mean, here's a guy who presided over the biggest budget deficits in United States history and comes home to run for office as a fiscal conservative. Hey, Mitch, the state of Indiana is already bankrupt. Your work is done here. We don't need you.

And, although I can't decide between Howard Dean and Wesley Clark for president in 2004, I'm happy at the prospect of another four years of George W. Bush. He, too, has proven to be a godsend for comedians and columnists, much as Ronald Regan was a generation ago.

Of course, four more years of this administration would leave everyone too broke to enjoy a good laugh. It's also possible that ridicule of the chief executive could become illegal by 2008. Until then, I'll continue to have a chuckle at his expense.

I also need to thank a few people in this space. First would be the late Harrison J. Ullmann, who hired me, believed in me and carved out this space for me. Then there's Kevin McKinney, the editor and publisher of NUVO, whose belief in locally-owned and operated media makes him unique in this city. And there's also the many fine people I've had the pleasure to work with at NUVO, including Jim Poyser, David Hoppe and Fran Quigley.

And, of course, I'm grateful to all of the readers who, for some inexplicable reason, continue to endure my work.

So. With 10 years behind me, I continue to be in love with this city and its people. Although it has its fair share of problems, it's still a wonderful place to live and work. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

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