SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
When I started this column I was a green, snot-nosed kid, which was probably just allergies. Maybe a virus. Today I take medicine and always have Kleenex nearby, so I think I’m a better person, or at least more hygienic.
Today it’s twenty-three years later, and this is my last humor column in the New Era, Churubusco News, and Northwest News. It’s the end of what was once a—ahem—new era, and I’m poorer for it.
I’m also grateful that the papers’ new owners have allowed me this chance to say farewell to you, the readers, the people who shared my ride of child-rearing, home maintenance, misbehaving pets, and exploding lawn mowers. This has been my best job ever, and if I’d had a choice I’d probably have gone on doing it until they pried my cold fingers from the keyboard.
This is my love letter to you, the readers, and a thank you to the crews of the three newspapers that made me feel wanted all those years. Love letter is just an expression, by the way, so don’t expect chocolate … or jewelry. Definitely not jewelry.
I sent articles to the New Era for a quarter of a century, everything from accident reports to features to movie reviews. In February, 1991, they began printing my humor column, and later it also appeared in the Churubusco News and Northwest News. Back then I had more hair, less weight, and no gray.
Let me grab a calculator … taking into consideration the occasional reprints and my poor math skills, we published over 50 columns a year. That’s 1,150 columns, each up to 1,000 words long, although they were getting shorter. That’s one million, one hundred fifty thousand words.
My last novel clocked in at around 60,000 words. So I wrote 19 books worth of “Slightly Off The Mark” … 14 of them good books. Including the five actual books I’ve written, that’s more words than J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Myer combined. Not that I’d combine them.
That doesn’t include over two dozen columns that remain unpublished. Paranoid of missing a deadline, I wrote two or three new columns whenever a vacation approached. I’d write even more as winter neared, fearing I’d fall into a cold weather funk and lose my comic edge. Some would say that effort didn’t help.
While I look for writing opportunities elsewhere, I’m also putting those unused columns together into a book, which you could say is my present to the readers, along with that love letter. Except you’d have to pay for it … it’s a paid present. It’s like getting something from the government for “free”. Here’s one last book plug, then: those unused columns will be the nucleus of a book entitled, yes, “Slightly Off The Mark”. You’ll be updated on that at my blog of the helpfully same name, and at my www.markrhunter.com website.
Meanwhile, I’ll still be around. I’m still an Albionite, and love this area, and I’m not going anywhere pending a retirement somewhere south. Unless I get hired by Hawaii Today as their resident beach reporter, of course. It would be tragic, but a guy’s gotta write.
Meanwhile, it’s easy to forget that the Albion New Era has been around since—wait for it—1872. Yeah. The Churubusco News and Northwest News also predate my connection with them. Small town newspapers are the backbone of the people, people. Okay, actually backbones are the backbone of the people, but newspapers are the backbone of a community, right up there with schools, volunteers, and the gossip grapevine.
What I’m saying is that these newspapers have changed before, they’re changing now, and they’ll change again sometime in the future. My column was part of the great circle of newsprint, fertilized with ink, and the analogy pretty much falls apart there … but in its absence I hope you’ll continue to support your local newspaper (and buy my books, cause, you know—always be closing).
Who knows? Maybe, like that guy in Halloween, I’ll pop up again when you least expect it. I mean, in a less scary way. I’m still doing press stuff for various organizations, after all.
Take care, good luck, and farewell. As for me, I’ll do just fine. After all, as I said at the end of my very first column, in 1991:
“Well, why not? I just made a whole column out of columns, didn’t I?”