I’ve always been a quitter. I quit the Boy Scouts, the glee club, the marching band. Gave up my paper route, turned my back on the church, stuffed the basketball team. I dropped out of college, sidestepped the army with a 4-F on the grounds of mental instability, went back to school, made a go of it, entered a Ph.D. program in nineteenth-century British literature, sat in the front row, took notes assiduously, bought a pair of horn-rims, and quit on the eve of my comprehensive exams. I got married, separated, divorced. Quit smoking, quit jogging, quit eating red meat. I quit jobs: digging graves, pumping gas, selling insurance, showing pornographic films in an art theater in Boston. When I was nineteen I made frantic love to a pinch-faced, sack-bosomed girl I’d known from high school. She got pregnant. I quit town. About the only thing I didn’t give up on was the summer camp.
— Budding Prospects, T.C. Boyle
Now I’m even quitting the Weekend Politics Thread.
How do you know I’m serious? I’m writing in the first person and using reflexive verbs — breaking all my self-imposed rules1 and doing everything but tossing a lit match amongst the lighter fluid-soaked papers stacked on my desk while walking away in slow motion as the Toreador Song from Carmen blares from my smartphone.
♪ Ink is black, as black as night,
Black as thoughts that shun the light
Truth will out and maybe then
You’ll put down that poison pen
Poison pen ♪
— “Poison Pen,” Hoodoo Gurus
I’ve disclosed more times than seems seemly that I write for a living. It’s not much of a living, but I’m not much of a writer.
I don’t enjoy the task overmuch, and I have practically never written anything just because I wanted to do so. I feel no burning passion to express myself on the page, and forging in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race always struck me as far too much of a hassle. I view each eleventh month as something more like NaNoWri-No Freakin’ Way.2
Everything you will ever see from me that exists beyond a DISQUS comment, Facebook post or (oh, you lucky few) email message has a paycheck or a societal imperative behind it.
I fell into the role of scrivener solely because I discovered that I possess a certain facility with grammar, syntax, and clarity while going through grad school for lack of anything else to occupy my time. A gig wrangling manuscripts for a professor’s vanity history of the philosophy of science journal transitioned into copy editing a peer-reviewed political science quarterly, which led to a writer/managing editor job for a monthly pharmacy practice broadsheet. And then I went freelance.
My current days see me cranking out content for personal injury law firm websites and managing periodicals for an HR professional association. You got words? I can line ’em up all pretty-like. You need words? I can throw ’em up on screen at an alarming density, no matter if you need naval history words or lawn mower replacement part description words.
Writing is my business, and business is endurable if never inspiring.[footnote]Dream Job: Powerball winner. Well into the 21st year of getting paid to write, I remain to the storied tradition of authorship what a wood chipper operator remains to landscape architecture.
But I liked preparing each WPT header. I looked forward each week to discursively discoursing on all and sundry in the world of policy and politics. I reveled in reeling out recondite rhetoric.3 I delighted in an audience who went there with me, no matter where there was.
Remember my 800 words on baby eel smuggling? How about that cri de couer on cluster munitions? Did even I expect to draw undeniable connections between stock photos and immigration policy?
Sure, the preponderance of my posts touched on various outrages and atrocities of the Trump presidential campaign-cum-Trump administration. Anything else would constitute a dereliction of duty. What else could I limn if not the 24/7 assault on every pillar and principle of the rule of law, the freedom of the press, the institutions and norms of liberal democracy, and basic human decency?
♫ Goodbye to you my trusted friend
We’ve known each other since we were nine or ten
Together we’ve climbed hills and trees
Learned of love and ABCs
Skinned our hearts and skinned our knees
We had joy, we had fun
We had seasons in the sun
But the wine and the song
Like the seasons have all gone ♫
— “Seasons in the Sun,” Terry Jacks4
I had my favorite moments. For instance, I’d put my Memorial Day 2017 post up against anything by anyone else on any platform. If I could still find it.
And who but every single person who ever saw them could forget the jokes? Here are three asides and one-liners I can recall without research and wouldn’t mind retelling:
- In reference to a header image of Pecos Bill apparently dry-humping a cyclone: “Cy-curious.”
- In reference to King Solomon: “You know, for the kids?”
- In a header essay that mentions the reemergence of bubonic plague in Idaho: “Talk about the flea-cing of America!”
♬ I don’t want to change the world
I’m not looking for a new England
I’m just looking for another girl ♬
— “New England,” Billy Bragg5
I did and do want to change the world. The fact that I have not missed a WPT post since assuming the host mantle from Mrs. Langdon Alger back in the spring of 20166 attests to my desire to do something, anything, to at least document the decline and fall of the American Empire.
Now, suffice to type,7 I figure somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 thread headers suffices for making my point. Ya’ll may never know what I’ll be on about this Saturday, but you can surely hum the general tune before your see the first note symbol.
Just as all good things come to an end, so do things like me hosting the WPT. I feel it is past time for one of you fine folks to make this spectacular spot for spewing sagacity and scandal your own. I shall propose no nominees. Nor shall I weigh in on the suitability of volunteers or draftees. Decide among yourselves who the next WPTer will be.
I only ask two things. First, when whoever drafts a weekend thread header does so, put your back into it. Apply a little elbow grease. In the language of my mother’s South Carolinian forebears, put your toe in it. Which is all to tritely and in patois say, “Don’t half-ass it, and strive to make it something only you could produce.”
Most of all, make each WPT header worth reading — maybe even rereading. I can’t say I always met that standard, but I consistently tried.
Second, to speak directly to whoever becomes my successor as WPT host, do not jock me. Do not bite my style, as the kids no longer say.
Hell, I missed the mark on sounding like the genuine Uvular most weeks. The best I probably ever achieved was coming across as the unholy love child of Rick Wilson and Charles P. “Charlie” Pierce. Mix pop and politics and dad jokes with an unhealthy overlay of sesquipedalianism if that comes naturally, but do not force it.
Additionally, I think I only truly found my voice in the past few months, when I struck upon the concept of sticking in section dividers, presenting multiple video embeds and building to a denouement that doubled as the lede. So, try a few things and see what sticks.
Do not worry. I will hang around as a commenter. I might even pinch-hit a header post when needed. You’ll still have Uvular to kick around. You just may have to go searching for opportunities to do so.
Sing me out, Mr. Vicious …8