Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

Too negative? You decide

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In a somewhat uncharacteristically introspective way, this column is about me. In an effort not to bore you to tears, it’s also about you, which, I suspect, is one of your favourite subjects… especially compared to me. Just to broaden the scope so we don’t wind up feeling like we’re drinking on a sun-drenched patio getting sloppily personal, it’s also about the town we’ve chosen to live in and, well, all of our futures.

But first, as politicians running for office like to say, about me. Almost 13 years ago, Bob Barnett walked calmly into the place I was working for the summer and said, “How’d you like to write a column for Pique?” I felt like someone had slipped a sack over my head and punted me toward Bizarro World. My first thought was, “Is this man out of his mind?”

The sum total of my contributions to the printed word consisted of a couple of humorous letters to the editor and a couple of features I’d written to con businesses around town into letting me sample their adventures — river rafting, guided fishing and such — without paying the monetary price. Other than that, my credentials for becoming a columnist were nil. No journalism school, no creative writing courses, no burning ambition to write the great Canadian novel. Just an opinion, an eye for observing the world around me, an imagination that sometimes runs amok and a facility with words.

Kinda casts Bob’s reputation for being level-headed and reasonable in a whole new light, doesn’t it?

My comfort with stringing words together was part organic — if I weren’t a card-carrying atheist I’d make a metaphorical reference to being touched by the hand of God to illustrate the luck of the draw nature of it — and part hard work. I’d discovered early in my schooling that writing essays, term papers and even non-multiple choice tests with a touch of humour was a surefire path to good grades, considering the sheer boredom teachers and professors faced in reading them. So I sharpened the gift with practice and exercise.

Still, a weekly column? I agreed for much the same reasons I agree occasionally to speak in public. It’s a stretch, a challenge and, in ways best described by Homer Simpson, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. And I figured it’d last about three weeks.

That was 641 weeks ago.

It wasn’t too many weeks before politics came up. It wasn’t too many weeks before we were threatened with a lawsuit. And it wasn’t too many weeks before I had to decide how I was going to approach what I wrote about.

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