I’ve worked here at The Observer for three years. And during that time, I’ve published three separate farewell columns — this being the third.
I know. It’s been a wild ride.
You might remember when I started as the city’s token bad-boy journalist extraordinaire in 2011, breaking all the rules and building what some in the public (my mom) have called a broad and ecstatic fan base. Then I moved up to writer-editor extraordinaire, which led to my first farewell, when I was promoted to associate editor extraordinaire of the Ormond Beach Observer, before switching again (second farewell) to the position of multimedia director extraordinaire for both publications.
Before I go any further, it might worth noting that adding “extraordinaire” to the end of every title I’ve held the past three years might have been my, not management’s, idea; and it’s possible it might never have actually been endorsed by the higher-ups and, so, is impossible to fact-check from my C.V. But like I told the interviewers at Embry-Riddle — where I’ve accepted a position in communications and start next week — that’s my business, thank you very much, and I’d appreciate if you’d stay out of my personal affairs.
The Observer and I have had our differences over the years (see the extraordinaire dispute above), and I have to admit that I currently hold the record for most articles of hate mail received by any reporter in the company’s history (see the bad-boy/breaking-all-the-rules portion even higher).
But in truth, this has been a pretty cool gig.
In what other job do you have the opportunity to be so hated by so many strangers who don’t “get,” or just flat out don’t like, you? Not many. I’ve had that privilege for 1,125 days.
Politicians know where I’m coming from here. Politics is all about the punishment. Residents like City Manager Jim Landon and Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks totally get it. They’ve basked in the sweet, sweet glow of public hatred many a time, and I’m sure they understand, as I do, its deep, philosophic rewards.
Just think about it: Who needs therapy to affirm their existence when they have that guy down the street writing in to explain in vivid detail why he loathed your latest story — you know: the one about hot dogs? Or how about the woman who kindly drops in to remind you to get off your high horse and stop making fun of tropical storm names? And then there’s the business owner who pulls you aside on a Saturday night to chastise you for comparing a Cat Fanciers’ show to Woodstock in last week’s edition.
You just can’t buy that kind of attention. Don’t even get me started on the Facebook users who call for my immediate firing after each Top Five list I compile about local food and drink.
Having the chance to be so fiercely disliked by so many of my neighbors here in my hometown has been an absolute honor. The dirty looks at grocery stores, the subtle headshaking across restaurants, the weekly words of discouragement in my inbox — these are memories I’ll take with me onto the next step, and to the one after that, and the one after that.
No one can ever say I haven’t touched the lives of others in my community — because I keep a shoebox overflowing with my community’s hate mail under my bed to prove it.
So thanks for laughing with me, and at me, and about all the things in life we’d drive ourselves crazy thinking about if we actually bothered to take them seriously. I’ve written thousands of words for this newspaper the past few years, but my favorites will always be the ones you guys wrote me.