Catharsis by way of a column
BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
I owe an apology to long-time readers of this column.
Last week I recycled a story detailing how my father is my hero. I changed the ending a little and the beginning, but the meat of the piece was pretty much the same as when it first ran last year. And maybe the year before.
I have to do that sometimes because writing this column is exhausting. I pour my soul out, wanting desperately to be equal parts poignant, charming, clever and humorous. I seldom accomplish such lofty heights. Reading back over my work I seem arrogant, half-witted and obnoxious.
All that’s OK, because the column is — or at least was — cathartic for me. I’ve written about some important stuff: The death of friends and family; local, state and national politics; and what television shows I’m watching.
I’ve tossed in a few write-ups about missing people and unsolved murders. It’s those columns of which I’m most proud. Not for the turn of a good word or the diction or wordcraft, but for the purpose and utilitarian use. It’s my fervent hope someone reads one of those columns and comes forward to law enforcement.
It’s been a real shot in the arm the few times that’s happened over the years.
I’m a nihilist at heart. I tend to think most of what we do on this earth is pointless. But helping in whatever small way to bring justice to a family in pain over the loss of a loved one fulfils me and lifts me up.
Not for my own glory. I don’t do it — I don’t write this column or any of my other work for that. I do it to get paid. I do it for the people. And I do it because it’s all I’ve ever been good at.
My first job was a newspaper delivery boy for the Sanford Herald. People complained all the time about not getting their paper. Then I washed dishes at a restaurant and country club. I wouldn’t have eaten off those dishes... In the Navy I was a boiler mechanic. I have zero mechanical aptitude.
After the military I found the first of my two careers: night watchman. I’m pretty good at that. Read books, walk around. Hope like hell every night nothing happens.
In 2003 or thereabouts the stars aligned and I got my first real writing gig. My second career, though not my last since I plan to end my short stay on this planet as a college professor.
The late, great Henry Miller said someone has to churn out at least a million words before he or she can consider themselves a serious writer. I figure at 300 words an article and roughly five articles a week (although it’s been much, much more since the industry took a nose dive) for the past dozen years minus the retread columns puts me right at a million words. So is it time to get serious?
But what does Miller know, anyway? His stuff was banned in the U.S. until the 1960s.
Miller wrote of his work: “If it was not good, it was true; if it was not artistic, it was sincere; if it was in bad taste, it was on the side of life.”
Man, I’d love to write something so good (or bad) that it was banned. Of course, I keep quoting our president’s “locker room talk” without warning the editor and I just might get banned from this column.