of the Prodigal Columnist
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
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.