This is a bittersweet moment. After 42 years of writing professionally, new ideas are as rare as a polite campaign season. I’ve been called a Pollyanna for writing a lot of positive stories. But my mantra is simple when asked, “Is the glass half-full, or half-empty?” For me, it is always half-full, and I am grateful for the glass.
When contemplating writing my last official POL, the song, “My Way” by Frank Sinatra keeps popping into my musical brain. Putting your thoughts in the store window for all the village to see has not been easy. But I did it. I did it to make people think and perhaps see another side of things. I did it to spur conversation and hopefully civil discourse. I did it to hopefully change a perspective of something that is obviously wrong, such as, “The toilet paper roll should face the wall, not the person.” Important stuff like that.
Running a business while writing an opinion column is not for the faint of heart. One might opine that the sky is a deep, beautiful blue, while others who believe it is overcast and drizzling condemn your business and walk across the street to your competitor’s. So, one must walk a fine line and say what one must, but with some polish. I just believe it is imperative to speak candidly amid chaos and to flat-earthers.
The best response to anything I’ve ever written occurred just a few short years ago. It dealt with Donald Trump and how I find him, to this day, to be a despicable human being. I challenged people of faith to convince me he is cut from the same cloth. It had nothing to do with politics, but with the fact that he was morally rudderless. I implored them to define how six bankruptcies convinced them he is an astute businessman. 281 people responded, and I was pleased because I often joke that my fans number in the tens. 278 people, by phone, text, email, or verbally in the produce aisle at Roth’s, said they loved it. A woman from Ohio (that makes me a nationally recognized figure, right? Almost iconic) said she loved it. A man near the organic broccoli told me I had written exactly what he was thinking but couldn’t articulate it well. But human nature being what it is, like asking your kid what question they missed after getting a 95 on a calculus quiz, I focused on the three dissenters. One threatened to stop advertising with the paper, and another ripped me apart for being a socialist freeloader. The third, bless his heart, pumped my gas regularly. He simply said I hadn’t lived long enough to fully understand things.
My most challenging column ever? Re-writing the lyrics to the classic, “These Are a Few of My Favorite Things” in order to help promote the businesses in Silverton. Nailed it! “Dining at Creekside and soup Gorgonzola. Learning more Spanish than just saying “Hola” …”.
I once had a lady walk into our office to converse with the electrician. I introduced myself, and she glared at me. “I know who you are. You are always stating your opinion in the paper, week after week.” It made me chuckle, but I tried hard not to be defensive. I simply retorted, “Well, it is called an opinion column.”
People Out Loud came to me as a takeoff on the social media phrase, LOL (Laughing Out Loud), and indicative of my love of people and their stories, like the guy who walks down the street in rumply old clothes and wearing a tired cowboy hat. Who would guess he skied across the Alps for the U.S. military in a high-level security position? We all have stories, and when we die, they often go untold. That is why it was a privilege to tell the stories of those who pass. To let the world know that they were special. That people loved them. That they were more than just a person in a beret, walking in the rain carrying a book, and underscoring unknown but important passages while warming up at the local coffee shop. They were someone. They had a story.
It has been a privilege to write this column. Thank you for humoring me. Thank you for not putting me in stocks in the public square, pelting me with overripe tomatoes. Thank you for taking the time to say, “I loved your column. It made me laugh. Or cry. Or think.” Thank you for telling me it sucked. It meant you read it.
As the original crooner sang, “… To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows I took the blows and did it my way.”