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Tuesday
Oct022012

Are you now or have you ever been a columnist? (Yes, sir, I was ... but it was a long time ago)

A very long time ago, I wrote a weekly newspaper column.

In retrospect, it seems like I wrote thousands of columns, like it was the bulk of my life’s work. But in truth, I wrote maybe 250 columns in a period of just over five years.

And to me, it seems like only last week that I wrote them and only yesterday that I stopped writing in order to devote myself better to another writing project and another life project—being a stay-at-home dad to my then 1-year-old son.

But that son is now 16 and driving. That means it’s been more than 15 years since I stopped writing the column. And that means that some of those first columns are now more than 20 years old.

This gives me a case of serious time whiplash.

I would like to think that some of those old columns are still as relevant and funny and inspiring and uplifting as they were when I wrote them. And since it could be argued that they were none of those things then, that statement could indeed be true.

I unearthed many of these old columns over the summer as I was updating my computer. I needed to update many older computer files to ensure they would still open properly in a modern computer operating system. And had I not updated the files that contained the columns, they might have been lost—saving you the time and effort of looking at them now.

I read a few of them as I saved them from digital oblivion—and in several cases, I was pleased and surprised by them. I was even entertained. Nothing like laughing at your own jokes, right?

Some of the pieces are still slightly relevant. Some, with only a bit of effort, could be put into proper context. So, I decided to share a selection of the columns on the website. Or, if you will, inflict them upon you.

The first column I wrote appeared in 1992, about my dilemma of belonging to neither the baby boomer generation nor Generation X. At the time, I was a reporter for the Iowa weekly newspaper, The Record-Herald and Indianola Tribune. No one asked me to write a column. I just decided to do it. And no one asked me to continue writing the column once I started, but on the other hand, no one told me to stop, either.

I continued on for more than five years, writing a new column just about every week. The columns appeared regularly in The Record-Herald and later appeared regularly in two papers in my hometown area in southeast Iowa—The Washington Evening Journal and the Columbus (Junction) Gazette. They were also picked up occasionally by other Midwest newspapers. In the spring of 1997, I wrote my final column, about my son turning 1. Though I haven’t included that piece in this mix of 20 columns, I probably can and will add that to the website at some future point, especially if there is great demand.

I grew up inspired by Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul and Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko (whose syndicated work appeared in The Register). I wrote a column in high school, which while fun, was a little bit frivolous. But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Register ran the syndicated columns of Miami Herald writer Dave Barry. And I realized the frivolity of what I wrote in high school closely matched the tone of Barry’s writing—and in 1988, he had won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. So I thought there might be something to this column thing.

There wasn’t really. But it was fun and personally rewarding. I enjoyed it. And I hope you do, too. (Click here to see the selection of columns on the Columns page.)

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