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Return of the Prodigal Columnist

You know that dream? The one where youíre late for something and you canít find your keys, and you turn the house upside down until you find them, and youíre just about to walk out the door when your cellphone rings, but itís in one of your coat pockets and you canít find it? It rings five, 10, 30 times, getting louder with each ring, and you still canít figure out which pocket itís in, and in the meantime your ringtone has changed from ďring ring ringĒ to that announcer from the Hindenburg disaster yelling ďOh, the humanity!Ē over and over again? And you finally locate the phone, but it stops ringing just as you flip it open, and the caller ID says szechuan dumplings? No number, just szechuan dumplings, so you shut the phone, thinking it just needs to reset, but when you open it, there it is again: szechuan dumplings? And you have this sudden tremendous craving for Chinese, but then remember you were late for something and you walk outside with your keys in one hand and the phone in the other and the front door locks behind you and you realize that youíre not wearing any pants? And as you go scrambling for an open window to climb back into the house to put on some clothes, just then, that little redhead you had a huge crush on in third grade, but who always thought you were icky, walks by your house, points at your 1959 astronauts-and-robots boxer shorts and laughs hysterically, screaming , ďLook at the little wee wee!Ē? And your neighbors, roused by the commotion, all peer out their windows to witness your humiliation, while the bus you were supposed to catch whizzes by your house, and by now you donít care, damn everything, you have to get that bus, and you run and run until youíre totally out of breath, and the bus speeds away toward the horizon while you fall to the ground, exhausted? Then everything is suddenly very still, and you sit up from your gasping and wheezing and look around and discover somehow youíre in Vilnius, Lithuania, which is nowhere near where you were trying to go?

You know that dream? Thatís what itís been like trying to resume this column.

My absence hasnít been for lack of effort. For every special occasionóthe opening of the track, the Sex Issue, the Local Music Issue, the Best Of, the Year(s) in Review, Metrolandís 30th Anniversary, Stephen Leon earning the croix de guerre for his heroism in the Kosovo WaróI started a column with some sketchy notes saved to a text file. Before I could get around to fleshing any of them out, the events came and went. Today my Metroland directory is littered with dozens of cryptic little files that once made consummate sense, but now read like Rain Man on a thesaurus bender.

How long has it been? Damned if I remember. But Metroland, bless its noble heart, has left the porch light on for this prodigal son, keeping my name on the masthead despite my shameful nonproductivity. Squeezing one of these out every now and then seems the least I can do.

Thatís not exactly all of it. In a way, youíve shamed me into this, although you meant well. ďYou used to write for Metroland, right?Ē youíd say, then add, ďSome of those columns really made me laugh.Ē I try to show gratitude and hope you canít see me wince.

Having your accomplishments referred to in the past tense is like being famous for that one great touchdown pass you made as a senior in high school. This could shape up as one of those major middle-age faux pas where my bruised ego compels me to suit up again, hut 1, hut 2, the magic lives! (for three seconds before Iím clotheslined and carted off to the emergency room).

Iím promising neither frequency nor quality. Iím old and cranky. Itís entirely possible I now suck at this. Maybe I always did and you were all just humoring me for 20 years, who knows. But I still love writing, and the privilege of appearing in real ink in a real newspaper (sometimes even for real money) beats hosting some dorky blog any day of the week.

So here goes, I guess. If just once more I can provoke you to paste another stupid column to a refrigerator door, itíll have been worth the effort.

óAl Quaglieri

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