Farewells are always tricky.
Too emotional, and you risk embarrassing yourself by seeming needy and attached. Too flippant, and you're pegged as cold and distant -- ungrateful for the time you had together.
This is a farewell of sorts. Due to "organizational changes" (read: editors finally sobering up), this will be my final "Life at the Top" column for the features section of the newspaper.
Some of you -- the unstable ones, mostly -- will be saddened by this news. I know this, because you've told me just how much meaning my weekly words bring into your otherwise meaningless lives. For you, the prospect of facing Sunday mornings without my totally inappropriate commentary is like a winter day in Utah without a temperature inversion.
For others, finally getting me kicked off this page will be a cause to celebrate -- a community-wide party that nine months hence will result in a childbirth spike the likes of which Utah hasn't seen since The Great Utah Power Outage of 1981. (I expect a lot of babies to be named "Mark," people.)
Speaking of babies, we've all heard columnists talk about their writings like they were their offspring. And indeed, each of these Sunday pieces has been just like a child to me. Unruly, whiny, petulant, immature, noisy. A bad attitude in footie pajamas, with eye crusties and bed head, covered in snot and soggy Froot Loops.
And that's just the good ones. I've written plenty of bad columns that behaved more like adult child stars.
But alas, there comes a time in the lives of all writers when they outgrow their child-bearing years, and at least for this Life at the Top column, I've reached literary menopause.
Thinking back, I've been writing versions of this thing -- off and on -- since the 1990s. So really, you'd think I'd be a WHOLE lot better at it by now. Still, writing columns in the features department has been a wild, wonderful ride, filled with all sorts of cherished memories. Memories like:
* That time I nearly got fired for a sophomoric piece of satire on dental hygienists. That column brought several high-ranking dental officials to the newspaper offices to demand not only a retraction and my immediate firing, but also a public flossing.
* The time I wrote about how construction workers digging up the old Ogden City Mall site found all sorts of unbelievable treasures -- like Jimmy Hoffa and UFOs -- and a half-dozen readers took me literally. How do you respond to someone who, in all sincerity, asks if a bunch of guys in hard hats really did find the gold plates in an empty lot in downtown Ogden?
* My Philistine phase, wherein I wrote several tongue-in-cheek "reviews" about Utah Opera performances at Weber State University. The managing editor and I got called before the board of the Ogden Symphony Ballet Association to answer for high crimes against culture and humanity.
* That one time I wrote about something completely unrelated to religion and yet, somehow, in the comments section on our website, it degenerated into a slap fight between Mormons and non-Mormons. ... Oh, wait. That pretty much describes every column in the Standard-Examiner.
Good, good times.
But starting next Sunday, the Standard-Examiner will be replacing me in this space with a machine. A writing mo-sheen. Your new humor columnist, whose only-slightly-less-revolting-looking mug will now grace this page each Sunday, will be Don Porter. Don used to write for the S-E back in the Pleistocene Epoch -- first as a feature writer and movie critic, later as the editorial page editor.
He's a great writer, friend and colleague. I predict that, soon enough, he'll make you forget all about his predecessor.
As for me, you know that old saying about how when life closes one door, it opens a window? (Well, either that, or the cops come along and just kick down the door?) Today's column also serves as a sort of Farewell to Life -- "Life," of course, being the catchall term for the features/lifestyle/arts and entertainment sections of the newspaper. I've written and edited for the Standard-Examiner's features department since the late-1980s, way back when this section was called "Horizons." I'll now be writing columns for what we in the business call the "news desk" -- which makes the third section of the newspaper I will have written for here at the S-E. (I also spent a couple of years in the sports department at the beginning of my career, back before my soft little brain had fully developed.)
And get this: They expect to run this new column Tuesdays and Sundays, rain or shine, starting this week. Twice a week, people. TWO times ... EVERY week. As if.
So apparently, gentle readers, it's farewell for now.
See you Tuesday.
Mark Saal needs a favor: Sometime this week, please email a warm welcome to new columnist Don Porter at email@example.com. Something like "Don't screw this up!" would be a nice sentiment.