It was 15 years ago this week when the legendary Harrison Ullmann, the hardscrabble editor of NUVO at the time, asked me to come up with a concept for a column to counterbalance his cerebral and lengthy thoughts about current events.
I was a new hire at NUVO, grateful to Ullmann for giving me the opportunity, but frightened shitless at the prospect. I’d been mouthing off for years, both in the pages of NUVO and, before that, The Indianapolis Recorder, so I’d had some experience at scrawling incoherent, occasionally entertaining rants about the city.
What a long run it has been. With a few exceptions for illnesses and vacations, this column has appeared every week in this newspaper since 1993. The column has survived the corporate coup that deposed Ullmann as editor in 1999, numerous staff changes and my own firing as a staff writer and editor in 2006.
Through that time, I’ve tried my best — most of the time, at least — to provoke and amuse and enrage. And, to be a bit boastful for a moment, I’ve succeeded in at least some of those goals. Entire Internet forums have been devoted to vaguely homoerotic rants against my writing style, not to mention my boyishly handsome good looks, to this day.
Hundreds upon hundreds of pieces of hate mail have arrived in my inbox and via the postal carrier. Hundreds of pieces of supportive mail have arrived as well. To all of those people who love me and/or hate me, I give my profound gratitude.
To the readers who eight times have voted for me as the best local columnist in the annual NUVO reader’s poll, I’m very thankful for your support and for the fact that you apparently don’t read Dan Carpenter or Dave Lindquist.
This column was established when Bill Clinton was a brand-new president, albeit a pretty unpopular one. It’s continued through the boom years of the ’90s, when I hosted a weekly TV show based on the column, through the Lewinsky scandal, the stolen election of 2000 and the horrors of Sept. 11 and the subsequent Bush depression.
Most of those 750 or so columns are lost to history, save a few dozen stored on my personal computer, and the years of bound volumes of papers in the NUVO newsroom, a place I haven’t entered in nearly two years and likely never will be invited to enter again.
If I ever have any children, I’ll have to rely on the Wayback Machine at archive.org to prove that I was once a minor local celebrity of sorts in a 30-block area of Indianapolis. That’s fine with me. I could have saved all those columns, but elected against doing so. I’d prefer to not be embarrassed by my old pieces of writing.
As for the future of this column and whether it’ll continue for another 15 minutes, let alone another 15 years, well, that’s not entirely up to me.
I’d hope to keep the column going, at least through the November election of Barack Obama, but, as I said, it’s not entirely my decision.
For all of my disagreements with the management of NUVO over the years, I’ll give them credit for this: Not one single column of mine over the past 15 years has been censored by them. That’s pretty impressive, considering some of the deranged viewpoints I’ve expressed over the years.
I’ve called for violent riots in the streets after the stolen election that denied Al Gore the presidency and America prosperity and security over the past eight years. I’ve said that I’d rather have my children smoke crack than chew gum, because gum chewers are more offensive to me than drug users.
So, despite my estrangement from and occasional antagonism towards my journalistic masters, they deserve credit for not censoring a single word of mine since 1993.
But what has meant the most to me over the past decade and a half is seeing people read my columns and laugh, or take time to share their viewpoints with me. I hope I’ve provoked some kind of response, either positive or negative.
But I love my city and its people. I love my country. And I’ve loved sharing a few thoughts of mine with you every week since June 1993.
Hopefully, if I’m not shitcanned after this column, I’ll be back next week and as many weeks as they allow me, provoking, enraging, inspiring homoerotic troll posts on the Internet and keeping on keeping on, as I always have.
Either way, I’m thankful for this opportunity and for the people I’ve met along this journey. It has, quite literally, been an honor.