I arrived a little too early for the meeting. Having a vodka and tonic at the Backstage Café in Covington, I was waiting for my editor to show up. It’s never a good thing when your editor wants to talk about your column and “the future.” I kind of knew the kind of future he wanted to discuss.
Sitting there, I started to think how this column came about. In the fall of 2003, then-Web Editor Brandon Brady wanted to start a web column call “Webitorial.” It would be an editorial column for which he and I would be the principal writers.
Frankly, I didn’t like the name and didn’t know if I wanted to write editorials all the time. I mentioned to him a movie I had seen with Holly Hunter and Danny Devito called Living Out Loud. While the movie was only so-so, I loved the title and thought a column about everyday life might be interesting to do. Brandon liked the idea, so we ripped off the title of the movie. That’s how this column was born, close to eight years ago.
In the beginning, we were only on CityBeat’s website. Brandon soon left the paper and I found myself responsible for the column. That was a little scary until I found other contributors. Slowly but surely, we started to find an audience.
Returning to the present, I took another sip of my vodka and tonic. Looking around me at the Backstage Café, I noticed that some were smoking. I found myself an ashtray and lit up. My mind returned to LOL and “the old days.”
After Kathy Y. Wilson ended her column in 2005, we found ourselves in the print edition of CityBeat once a month, then twice a month and then finally every week. Taking a draw on my cigarette, I figured we must have done over 400 columns. That’s a lot.
Jason, my editor, arrived.
He got himself a beer and we made small talk for much too long. I just wanted to get to the point of the meeting, and I was right about the subject matter. After nearly eight years, it was time to put an end to the Living Out Loud column.
As I told Jason over my second vodka and tonic, I’m not complaining about it. Eight years is a long time to write or edit a column like this, and we’ve had a good run here. I think somewhere in the back of my head, if we could make it to eight years, I’d be alright to let it go.
After Jason gave me the news, we made some more small talk, then we finished our drinks. Jason paid for them and offered to take me home. I took him up on his offer, but I wanted to stop at a liquor store first to pick up a bottle of vodka. I’ve finally got around to opening that bottle as I try to figure out how to wrap up eight years.
How can I do this in 900 or so words? Probably in rambling fashion. Be patient with me, or don’t be patient with me. It’s my last column.
It occurs to me to write about some of the columns we’ve done here, you know, some highlights, but our archives will remain on CityBeat’s website, so you can go back and see what we’ve done over the years.
I guess you can’t wrap up a column without a few thank yous.
To the various writers who contributed here, thanks for making your deadlines. To those writers who blew off deadlines but wanted another chance, it’s a little too late now.
To Jason Gargano, my third editor on this column: Most of the time you were right when you pulled a column. I swore I would never tell you that.
And I would truly be an ass if I didn’t thank co-publishers John Fox and Dan Bockrath for letting their former accountant turn into a writer. Not one to kiss anybody’s ass, I’ll take a risk here and say those guys are two of the best bosses I’ve ever had.
I should wish good luck to our replacement in this space, so I’m doing that here. Not sure what will be here next week, but I’m sure whatever it is, the person or persons writing it will be younger than I am. I think I’ve known for more than a while I’m not right for CityBeat’s demographics. I’m not bitter about it — it’s just a fact.
Being older and wrapping up this column doesn’t mean I’m wrapping up being a writer. Writers don’t retire. “Larry Gross Online” is still online. I’ll be releasing a novel next year, I’m working on a second novel and I have thoughts for a third. I still hope to show up here at CityBeat from time to time. You know, old habits are hard to break.
Now at my desk and on my second glass of vodka and tonic, my mind is flooded with memories of this column — those damn old days again — and I’m feeling a bit sad.
I want to think of a way to say something profound, something memorable to you, the readers, who have read this column for all these years and who have sent letters, emails and comments. I want to say something that shows how much that has meant to me and the other contributors.
Of course, no magical words are coming. I’m falling short. I guess a simple but sincere thank you will have to do.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org