A Muse to a Talent to Amuse

From 1995 till 1997, I wrote a humor column titled “The Gad About Town,” for a great weekly newspaper in Sullivan County, New York. (It, the newspaper, still exists, and so do I apparently.)

“The Gad About Town” held the distinction of being the only column in the newspaper that did not generate even one response letter from our readers. Another editorial columnist, a sweet, genial, elderly man, wrote the most innocuous pieces each week, yet he received the most vituperative letters from readers who took exception with everything he wrote. I admired that this only amused him.

(He left this plane of existence many years ago, and I was stunned to learn on the day that he died that he was all of 75. Years before, when I worked with him, I thought he was already beyond 80, so that meant that he was not yet 70 when I knew him. He was one of those sorts who had affected a maturity beyond his years from a young age in order to gain entrance as a young reporter to things he would have been barred from, and then he aged from that point on. He was the last person I knew who arrived at work in a three-piece suit and fedora. Again, this was 1995.)

I did create one controversy with my column, once: our music columnist used his own space one week to disagree with me and take me to task about something I had written the week before. He could have written a letter to the editor about his disagreement with me, or he could have asked to use my space in order to rebut me, so that he could have also submitted his usual column, but he chose to sacrifice his space to rebut me. I thus became skeptical about his music suggestions. (I believe he is still writing for that paper for pay, and I am here, writing for no pay two decades later, so I think we can safely say that he won in the long run.)

The “Gad About Town” column held one other distinction: It won an award, which was the only award for which I have ever even been nominated. To this day I toss out the phrase “award-winning writer” every chance I get. (“Could you hand me the salt?” “I’m an award-winning writer. Yes.”)

Thanks to the supportive WordPress community, this blog has won 16 awards in the 30+ months it has been here.

When I decided to create the blog that you hold in your virtual hands—and thank you for visiting and reading it—I also decided to name it after that old column, as no one has taken up the name at either my former employer or anywhere else.

Or so I thought. A little research revealed that someone now owns the domain name “gadabouttown dot com,” and, as per this name, its owner writes about the many things that interest him today there. (That is of course what a gad about town is and does: a gadabout shares observations, sometimes talking, sometimes writing, sometimes even listening.) This is the reason my blog is entitled, “The Gad About Town,” emphasis on “The,” and poses no competition to that writer’s work.

(The owner of the other web site posted a total of four things in May 2013 and has not posted since. I wish the name would become available to buy.)

One of the other “Gad’s” earliest entries in 2013 concerns his selection of the name “Gad About Town.” My first column in 1995, I recall, was itself about choosing the name “Gad About Town.” I guess everyone who decides to use it comes to realize that it is a name that needs explanation. Mine was that I selected it from a long list of um, zero possible names, simply because my first deadline was almost an entire minute away and some sort of title was needed above my 800 words, which were written about not having a name for the column that was about to be published. My layout editor insisted that the name be made entirely of human words (40 seconds) and not whatever came from me banging my head (35 seconds) on the keyboard. (Would anyone ever read a book titled “The Best of ‘Yutrfg5 h U6d{ffrpp,'” anyway?) (I even offered a clip-out and mail-back-in please-help-me-name-this-column contest, which received no responses at all, which thus made permanent my not-first, not-really-my-choice choice of “The Gad About Town.” I have just now decided to remember that in my second column I declared that everyone who didn’t enter was a victorious non-winner.) (I had no prizes to offer, anyway.)

Thus, my “Gad” column provided me with a great opportunity to learn to write with little feedback. Up until then, everything I wrote was for a professor’s eyes or an audience’s ears.

“To learn to write with little feedback.” That sounds like a witticism, but really it was valuable to learn to not assume an audience, or, better, to write everything as if it is a letter to a loved one. (Hello, Jen.) What I have been writing for the last four years is just some of that letter.

* * * *
This is a revision of a piece from ten months ago.

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The WordPress Daily Prompt for August 3 asks us to reflect on the word, “Muse.”

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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2 comments

  1. loisajay · August 3

    Ooooohhhh. That is my heart melting. This is so wonderful.

    Like

  2. Itching for Hitching · August 4

    We’re out here and we hear your angst.

    Like

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