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How it is with me

If you have a long memory, don't worry. The last time I used that headline was when I was fitted with a pacemaker. Nothing that dramatic is happening this time, unless you count giving up weekly blogging after almost 15 years. (See 15 Years Later  below)

No, all I am going to do here is spoon feed you a few glittering generalities and hope you like them. Regulars will have noticed that the column is no longer weekly. I'd like to say a few words about that.

Mostly, I just don't feel like being that confessional anymore. I've enjoyed writing about my life because I think it is interesting, so I think you'll think that too. It was always a little odd, of course, to run into people in the real world, and find that the process off catching up was short circuited when they said, "I know, I saw it in your column." Odd, funny, but reassuring as it meant people were actually reading it (about 80 a week). But the passion to record, comment on and find the larger meaning of, the events of my life, is, I find, no longer there.

There are a whole bunch of reasons for this. For one thing, I am just less passionate about a lot of things. Take politics for example; Newt Gingrich was driving me nuts with the Clinton Impeachment when I started the column. Boehner was merely irritating me with the shutdown, which was much worse for the country (although no less wrong and stupid), and which affected one of my close relatives personally.  This time,  I didn't feel I had anything to say that hadn't already been said.

In September, I marked my  61st birthday. I took it as an occasion to re-examine my priorities. I love to write, but I love doing some other things more, and I have found other writing projects that scratch that itch. It is time to be conscious about my choice of how I spend my time.

As a friend of mine noted, I had a good run. Herb Caen lasted longer and wrote daily, but his column was rarely personal. I outlasted the godmothers of the modern personal column, Anna Quindlen at the Times (13 years) and Adair Lara of the Chronicle (12 years). I enjoyed almost every minute of this version of PSACOT. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

By the way, speaking of my pacemaker, after six years mine needs a new battery. I might write about the replacement procedure, I  might not.

I still expect to blog from time to time when the spirit moves me. I'll share things like my opinion of Gravity  (great film, perfect length) and Captain Phillips (good film, about an hour too long). I'll share really good video links like the Miley Cyrus original video and the stunning SNL parody featuring "John Boehner" and "Michelle Bachmann."  I will share moments of great joy. But I am not going to chronicle my ups and downs, nor reprint outsider submissions unless they move me enormously. Nor am I going to write very week just to write every week.

Fifteen Years Later

A reprint of my annual anniversary item, with small adjustments).

As of Oct. 16, it's been 15  years since I started this incarnation of P.S. A Column on Things. 

When I started this column, I was still working for CMP, and had a weekly podcast, back before pods (which definitely cut into our audience). My heart beat by itself and I weighed 270 pounds (this morning: 229). In short, things were different. I believe I was one of the longest continuous bloggers on the Internet.

In 1998, during the Clinton impeachment, I  had to start a column. PSACOT gave me a forum in which to express, to an audience (no matter how small) my feelings about that political circus. [As a U.S. history teacher, I am forced to note that Andrew Johnson's impeachment was a rabid partisan witch hunt, as was Clinton's. Only Nixon's was bipartisan--and only Nixon resigned.]

The column/blog has since evolved into a combination of diary for my family and me and bulletin board for my clever friends--in short, a personal column. Like, but not as good as, former San Francisco Chronicle columnist Adair Lara or ongoing columnist Jon Carroll. Or, to take a national example, former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, considered the mother of the personal column concept (even though Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe of the San Francisco Chronicle actually beat her to it--but of course, if it hasn't happened in New York, it hasn't happened).

PSACOT is also a revival of sorts. Among my readers, Daniel Dern and Peter Peckarsky would remember the original P.S. A Column On Things, which ran in ERGO, MIT's objectivist newspaper from September 1970 to March 1971, and The Tech, MIT's semi-official student newspaper, from March 1971 to May 1971. Those were among my happiest days as a journalist. If I had truly understood the fulfillment a personal column gave me, perhaps I would have fought harder to keep it when Bob Fourer killed it (along with my restaurant reviews), or I would have revived it when I became editor-in-chief two years later, or tried to practice the craft as an adult (and become, perhaps, the father of the personal column).

The weekly column lasted a lot longer this time (15 years versus 1), but all good things come to an end. Thanks for meeting me here all that time.