Call me “Mr. 300,” if you please, because I’m damn proud of it.
Today, what you have before you is the 300th column penned under the INKED! moniker, which in itself was not only a nod to the tattoos that cover my body but to the scatological nature of what you’ve read in this space over the years.
At that time I was just hanging on to my public sanity by a thread, having long conceded private insanity. Running “best ofs” and “greatest hits” of columns past is evidence as much as anything of my downward spiral as it was of simply having nothing to say.
In reality, writers always have something to say — even if to riff on what they had for breakfast — and over the course of 300 columns each and every one of them revealed a little bit about me, whether they were heartfelt confessionals, farce meant to play to a larger point or simple inanity to fill space.
Looking back there is a definite arc to what I was doing, even though it’s only revealed itself in recent years. It’s difficult to look at old columns in which self-righteous anger is really masking a lack of understanding, where bomb-throwing and name-calling is trying to cover up my scant knowledge on certain subjects.
I’ve seen myself lie in print, to the readers and to myself. There have been entire pieces written from a place of deep denial and avoidance, and there have been columns that said nothing for dozens of lines and hundreds of words, only to have one sentence reveal some painful truth about myself.
Jeez Louise, it’s been a body of work that at times has read like a Freudian or Jungian analysis of a manic depressive mind. But that’s the dreariness of the writing process and an art form that doesn’t work without honesty and emotion. It has been self-indulgent, yes, but it’s been real, and I’m real appreciative of the opportunity to do this.
In the midst of that grayness, in those moments of trying to work out some untapped memory or unarticulated emotion, there have been periods of discovery that have changed my life. It’s been like waking up and realizing the sun is out, warm and delicious, and the birds are singing sweet music, when all you’ve known before is that blinding glare and that shrill chirp.
It’s been about finding ways to reframe the conversation, to put away the black and white words and thinking, and to open up a vein that radiates all colors of the emotional spectrum, a rainbow palate that can express gratitude, understanding and trying to find something bigger than my small world and small ideas.
It doesn’t always work; it’s not always successful. But it’s the process that I will go through to be a successful human being, not in the materialistic sense, but in a spiritual, holistic way. Thankfully I don’t have to do it all in one shot and can mix in the occasional Girl Scout cookie column for some breathing room.
Writers by stock and trade find parallels and metaphors in everything they do; maybe some of us do it too much, finding devices and meaning in the mundane. The 300 idea could have gone there, with some allusion to the Spartans, a quote from King Leonidas.
Yet there’s always next week, considering I’m looking to take much of the same journey to the next 300. It might not all happen at this newspaper or any other; it might be encapsulated introspection confined to several dozen notebooks or a C drive. But it will happen, and someone will surely be there along for the ride.