Monday, June 18, 2001

The Spontaneous Cartwheeler on 9th Avenue

This week we celebrate our ninth anniversary, which makes us older than many of you. 466 consecutive weeks, which makes us crankier than many of you. 2,186 breakfast burritos consumed during production, which makes us heavier than many of you.

Prior to this gig, way back when "they" made me the sports editor of the Mac Weekly I didn't exactly take my position or the publication very seriously. I was more amused than I really ought to have been whenever I'd slip something in that I'm sure no one else would find remotely humorous yet I'd find side splittingly funny. The guy principally responsible for me getting the position was one Eric Vacceralla whom we all lovingly referred to as "Vac" being the clever cretins we were. Vac had a way of wrapping things up every week that became somewhat part of the routine. After getting the copies back from the printer Vac would page through the publication and announce, "another solid issue." Things didn't seem complete until he uttered his never changing weekly evaluation.

Thus it's become somewhat the norm the past nine years that after I finish the newsletter Sunday morning I'll read the final proofs and announce to Mr. Max, "another solid issue." It's hard to believe we've done that for nine freaking years but it's become as routine as a midsummer's meal of bologna and tomatoes.

Yes, 466 issues and not a near miss amongst the batch. We've had several highlights over the years: who could forget our loving tribute to nickels? Or how about the time when we shaped every page like a different drum and then by the end of the issue you could build your own drum kit? Or how about when we did a whole issue in pig latin? Asn'tway hatthay unnierfay hantay allay etgay outay?

To celebrate our anniversary last Sunday I decided I'd go hear David Sedaris read at the Ruminator after my sister mentioned he was coming to her store. The price of the ticket was the purchase of his latest book, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I've read or heard several of the essays in the book before but nonetheless I found myself chuckling throughout. The man is genuinely funny but in an appreciated wicked way.

Before his reading Sedaris was mingling throughout the crowd signing his book. I had left my copy in my car because quite frankly I'm not that much into getting peoples' autographs nor did I find myself especially wanting to exchange awkward words with the author. I remember reading an interview somewhere where he mentions he thinks it is odd when people have a hard time approaching him. When he came my way I made sure to first glare and then stare humbly at my shoes. The woman behind me thrust her book his way and as he was signing she said, "I just had to tell you... I was stuck at the Detroit airport last winter and I read your book and you made a six hour wait not at all horrible. Thank you."

Sedaris wasn't quite sure what to say but after a moment of silence he thanked her and moved on to the next book to sign. I myself thought it was a pretty darn good compliment. I heard several others in the audience tell him they were writers when he asked them what they did. The declarations were inevitably followed by disclaimers, "someday I'll be published..." "I'm working on something now but I don't have the time to get it done..."

I probably don't share much with the humorous, talented and prolific Mr. Sedaris but I do think I learned a lesson that he and other writers have demonstrated time and time again: there's nothing at all admirable about the act of writing. What is to be cherished is the talented few who can consistently jot down the words we can relate to and take to heart; who can reveal themselves and make us still care warts and all.

After the reading I decided to take a walk around my old stomping grounds of Grand Avenue. I wandered down to #71 Cheapo and purchased a copy of Lucinda Williams' new CD, Essence. I chatted for a minute with Liz at the checkout and was pleased that she said she read the newsletter every week and wasn't annoyed by all the Buffy musings that have appeared in these pages recently.

I got home and plopped the CD in my player and was blown away. While not as wordy or immediately as impressive as her last effort the universally acclaimed Car Wheels on a Gravel Road, the new CD is a searing step down a bluesy path. Sparse and primal Williams' voice is as sexy and sultry as it is full of pain and anguish. The words are simple and the crackle in her voice emotes the last ounce of passion in each lyric. It's an inspiring tour de force a thousand times more powerful than 466 columns and is maybe a sign there still is a lot left to get done.

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