Over the years I have often quoted Popeye by claiming that “I yam what I yam.” Today I’m going to quote the old sailor again by saying, “I’ve had all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.” This will be the last column I’ll write for the Lahontan Valley News.
I was a freelance writer selling features to magazines for years before I started writing this column but I had always wanted to write a humor column. When the opportunity came along to become a semi-pro smart aleck I jumped at it and for over a decade I have never looked back.
When I agreed to write “Almost Clever” I wanted to write about anything but politics. There are way too many political columnists and I wanted to offer a break from that constant bickering. It was my intent to write about everyday things that, when looked at from an irreverent viewpoint, are amusing and remind us that we’re all just flawed humans trying to find our way through life. The human race provided me with endless material.
It’s been a lot of fun researching and writing about everything from planets to landfills, from disappearing bees to gray divorce and that foul toxic waste called cottage cheese. It can be a challenge to come up with new and interesting things to write about week after week for almost 600 weeks, but when I got stumped I always just looked around; we live in a funny world so the material was always there.
A few weeks ago I found a file of columns I wrote years ago and, frankly they were fresher and funnier than anything I’ve written lately. I’d like to tell you that out of respect for my craft I decided to quit before my work became complete crap. I’d like to tell you that but if you’ve been reading my column recently you know it’s already too late for that and to quote Doc Holliday, ”My hypocrisy only goes so far.”
When I sat down to write a column I never knew which ones were going to strike a chord with the readers. Often columns I really liked or thought were particularly clever got no reaction at all but others that I thought were pretty average got huge reviews and some even won awards. Go figure.
Once, at a particularly low point I wrote about therapy. To be honest I wasn’t feeling very clever that week because I had just completed several weeks of marriage counseling (which made throat cancer seem like a vacation in the Bahamas) and was doing physical therapy after a shoulder surgery, so therapy was on my mind.
I don’t remember the exact words that I wrote but it was something to the effect that the word therapy was from the Latin “Ther” which means to cause pain and “apy” meaning to get paid for it. Then I wrote something about how a physical therapist had to demonstrate the ability to make a dead man moan in pain to pass their licensing exam.
That column went viral and within days I was receiving hate mail from around the country defending therapists of every type. I even got a comment from the National Association of Physical Therapists saying they “hoped I was being funny.” That’s kind of what I was going for.
Years ago I was diagnosed with throat cancer and I tried to continue writing whenever I could throughout the treatment. Looking back I think I wrote a few times when I shouldn’t have because what seems pretty funny while taking massive doses of pain killers isn’t always as amusing when you read it later.
But during that time I received cards, letters and emails from readers all over the country wishing me well in my fight against cancer. Who knew that my little column had readers as far away as Georgia, New Hampshire and Oregon? I was and am touched by total strangers taking time out of their lives to reach out and offer me encouragement. That show of humanity was the best part of this whole experience.
As much fun as writing this column has been it’s time for this slacker to move on to whatever comes next. Thank you for taking the time to read my column and for letting me be a part of your lives for so many years. Based on your comments I can honestly say, the pleasure has been all mine!
Rick Seley is an award-winning humor columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com