After 25 years of writing this column, I am retiring from the field.
There was a time when I thought I would continue at my labors until I collapsed from depletion, and I imagined my carcass being wheeled out of the Gazette building, on Maxon Road Extension, by a team of Fire Department paramedics as a pipe-and-drum corps hastily summoned from Albany skirled a lament, but no.
I’m walking away while still sound of body — though of course my soundness of mind has long been questioned. I couldn’t help that part of it. No matter how judiciously I worded my thoughts and my reportage some people thought I was deranged.
It has been one of the benefits of the job, actually, to receive so much clinical diagnosis without having to pay for it. And not only not having to pay but actually getting paid myself, if you can believe such a thing.
Indeed there were days I had so much fun I could scarcely believe that my employer would write me a check at the end of the week. I figured I was getting much the better of the deal.
Also, I never in my life received so much mail, and this made me feel loved as I had never felt before. I had always been a timid sort, slow to warm to my fellows, and as a result I counted myself lucky if occasionally I found a postcard in my mailbox reminding me to put out my trash a day early on account of a holiday.
As author of this column, I got mail such as I couldn’t have imagined any human would ever get, addressing me in terms that were new and thrilling to me and diagnosing me with conditions I had scarcely dreamed of.
Some of it found its way into the letters department of this newspaper and caused grief to my long-suffering wife, who failed to see the human connectedness it signified, and I regretted that end of it. But we both made do, she with her suffering, I with my regret. It was a growth experience.
For variety of mail, you can do no better than to attach your name to a column. People will write to you, taking pen to paper, who will make you concerned that they have a sharp instrument in their hands.
I know I have vexed certain parties over the years, and this too I regret. It was never my intention to do anything but entertain — and occasionally inform, if I could do it unobtrusively and without calling attention to it — but from time to time I came up short, I admit. It is a pain I will carry with me to the grave.
It’s done, and no further chance to make amends.
This I will say, on an upbeat note: I have known some people that it has been an honor and a pleasure to know, people I would not have known were it not for the lofty position I occupied here, and the only reason I don’t name them is to avoid embarrassing them by association.
I have also known some scoundrels, personages who were extremely entertaining to know and extremely satisfying to write about, and the only reason I don’t name them is because I don’t have enough space.
Oh, all those columns that served to start fires, line birdcages, soak up oil drippings. Three and a half thousand of them, heaven help us.
I will miss you, dear readers — some of you anyway — but it’s better to leave now, before the bones and thews go the way of the brain and I deteriorate altogether.
If you wish to contact me — well wishes only! — I can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please do not sell that address to your neighborhood telemarketer.