Did you read Ashley Lodato’s “In Defense of the Gossip Columnist?” That column was an adaptation of the witty essay she shared at the 113th birthday party for the Methow Valley News a few weeks ago.
If only Ashley and I could publish all the rumors and gossip we are privy to, we would never have to struggle when Sunday evenings come around. In my talk that night, I said that I wish I could be Twisp’s official gossip columnist.
This column is a much abbreviated version of my own talk that evening:
Essentially, I became the Twisp columnist because no one else wanted the job. Johnny Forever preceded Katherine Calhoon, whom I followed.
In the 14 years I’ve reported from Twisp, I’ve written 700 columns. Averaging 600 words per column and 50 columns a year, they total 420,000 words. Or, 1680 pages at 250 words per page.
Instead of writing four novels about wizards at a boys’ school in England — which I most certainly could have done — I’ve delivered a Twisp column just about every week for 14 years.
“It’s New Year’s day in Twisp, Washington, my hometown,” was the opening sentence of my first Twisp column that appeared in the Jan. 3, 2001, issue of the Methow Valley News. When I wrote that first Twisp column, Mary Bean had just celebrated her 86th birthday and was teaching line dancing at the Community Center. Last month I attended, then wrote about, Mary’s 100th birthday.
Others whose names appeared during January and February of 2001 were: Richard Sanborn, Mary Mattison, Judy Anderson, Marty Groulx, Pearl Clark and Lester Bocuzzi. They’ve all died since.
Publishers and staff have changed a lot over my 14 years with the paper. Of those who are no longer at the office, I miss Jim Goodsell and Sue Misao the most. Jim was the copy editor for the paper for years, and each week I’d rewrite a few times, then check over my column again before sending it to the office in hopes that Jim would not find an error. On the occasions when he did, his gentle corrections encouraged me to strive not to make mistakes.
Once my editor Sue Misao and I got to know each other, hardly a week went by when Sue didn’t tell me, “You’re fired.” At first she’d only use those words when the column was too long, too late, or when I wanted to take a week off. Eventually, “You’re fired” became a standing joke. I never said “I quit,” because I was afraid she’d take me up on it.
Writing a column isn’t as easy as it was when I started. Despite my son’s threats to send me back to Baltimore and Julie Campbell calling out “the paparazzi are coming” when I approached, when I started, I had more “reliable sources.” Some newsmakers have had their names in the column too many times.
As I read through the five binders filled with clippings, I feel a sense of pride about the small contribution I’ve made to the paper and the community over these 14 years. The little events that make up our lives, once reported in the newspaper, become part of the record— the history — of the town.
Soon, it will be time to hand the job over to someone with fresh enthusiasm. In the meantime, until Don Nelson says “you’re fired,” you can reach me at 997-4364.
No news item is unworthy. We’re writing history, and your name should be on the record.