Back in September 2010, I was asked about writing a monthly column for The Hamilton Post. I was a bit leery of the commitment, and somewhat intimidated by the idea of a deadline every month. But a regular outlet, read by friends, neighbors, and fellow Hamiltonians, and not just subscribers of thinly circulated literary journals, held great appeal. Plus, with an implicit focus on Hamilton, it would offer a chance to say something about what was going on around me every day, even if the topic didn’t hold much relevance beyond the immediate geographical area.
Still, I had some doubts—after all, did I really have that much to say? My wife quickly assured me, in a not entirely complimentary tone and accompanied by an eye-roll, “Oh, you have plenty to say— about everything.” What can I say? She was right.
This is my 100th column for The Hamilton Post, and I thought I’d do something special—or at least different—for it. I looked to other media for guidance: for example, with comics and magazines, a 100th issue is often a double-sized “collectible.” Due to space limitations, that’s not an option for this column, and any collecting of this newspaper will probably be at the nearest recycling facility.
In television, 100 episodes is a mark of achievement that all but guarantees viability—and big money—in syndication. Unfortunately, no such arrangement exists in the world of hometown newspaper column writing, but there is something from the world of television that inspired me for this 100th column: the clip show. Welcome to the Complex Simplicity 100th Episode (I mean, column) Celebration! (Fanfare, applause.)
A staple of TV shows past, the clip show was an episode that consisted mostly of re-used excerpts from old episodes, as a way to produce a “new” episode on the cheap, and with a minimum of effort. Clip shows often employed some rather transparent framing devices—usually fictional, with characters being interviewed by another character or just reminiscing about old times. Sometimes, you’d get a special event, like this one, with a host (I’m wearing a tuxedo as I’m writing this) introducing clips, and a live audience reacting to them. (Hello, audience!) Either way, the words, “That reminds me of the time…” were inevitably mouthed.
Which reminds me of the time (pause, scattered laughter) I opened my mouth about Hamilton’s motto, beginning my 16th column with: “Since 2008, Hamilton has been known—locally, anyway—as “America’s Favorite Hometown.” I ended that column by informing a certain city and motto-tracking website that Hamilton was conspicuously absent from its listings. I’m happy to say that not only is Hamilton now listed on the site, its entry also apparently inspired a song about Hamilton called “Hamilton is a Fine Township in Jersey,” which I’m confident is now “America’s Favorite Song About America’s Favorite Hometown.” (Rimshot, laughter, applause.)
Speaking of Jersey, who could forget the classic New Jersey trip-down-the-shore in Column 70’s “Putting the Wild in Wildwood”? What’s that, you say? You forgot about that one? Well, it’s a good thing we’re doing a recap, then, isn’t it? (Rimshot, laughter.) It discussed fun shore activities like parasailing and coastal evacuation, and included the obvious but accurate line, “Air vomiting definitely qualifies as wild.” (Mild laughter, man yells “Freebird!”) There have been more Wildwood adventures since that time, including taking a 4-person surrey bike off-roading (or rather, off-Boardwalk and on-roading) through heavy auto traffic. Wild! Wacky! Worrisome! (Faint applause, man yells “You suck!”)
The adventures in Wildwood were intense, but no content was more “in tents” than Column 93, “The Yin and Yang of Tents,” where I was tentative—not to say contentious—about the “whole idea of X-rated surprise parties for nonagenarians,” which I saw as a portent of existential discontent. As a special “extra” in this 100th column (I know you must be on tenterhooks), I can reveal that my intent was not quite so pretentious or ostentatious as the word “nonagenarians” might seem. Though competent, the original wording (“ninety year-olds”) didn’t have the same potential to grab attention, so—quite intentionally—I changed it. (Polite applause, man yells, “We hate wordplay!”)
There have been several excursions to the supermarket in these past 100 columns, in an ongoing quest for the unusual, the delicious, and the discount-priced. Since that time, “rice” has become a verb, and we now have the option of eating “riced” cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, and butternut squash. Dare I hope that one day, we’ll see “riced rice”? (Groans, murmurs.) Or perhaps, at a basketball game or dance competition, we’ll hear the evolution of trash talk, as in “chopped into little pieces and served”—”You got riced!” (Crickets.)
Well, I’m afraid we’re about out of time (and space). You’ve been a great audience. Except him. (Nervous laughter, security escorts man from his seat.)
Thanks for indulging me with my imaginary TV show— though some medical professionals might cite these columns, and this one in particular, as pointed examples of me actually “having an episode.” (Mild laughter, applause, man yells “You still suck!” as he’s guided from the premises.)
Here’s hoping for another 100 episodes, or columns, or both. I’ll be back in a month’s time with an all-original column…unless the network cancels me before then. Good night, everyone!