I love this time of year. Holidays, food, and college football. The Iron Bowl is upon us. I’m going to a friend’s place for the game. I will be the only University of Alabama fan amidst twenty-nine Auburn University sympathizers in “War Eagle” T-shirts.
I have time to kill. I stop at a small bookstore. The kind with narrow aisles, and off-the-wall books.
I am a book guy. I am crazy about bookstores. I even like the way they smell. I have always wanted to be a maker of books. It was my earliest ambition until I discovered cheese. Then I wanted to dedicate my life to cheese.
When I was a boy, I read the newspaper with my father. He would point to the text and teach me to pronounce the words of columnists.
“What’s a columnist?” I once asked.
“Someone who writes for a paper,” he said.
“Oh, everything and nothing.”
Everything and nothing. Some phrases you don’t forget. This is
one such phrase.
The Christmas before he died, my father gave me a gift. It was a hardback book of American newspapermen like Mark Twain, O. Henry, Ambrose Bierce, and Will Rogers. When I asked him what it was about, he said, “Stories about everything and nothing.”
They were glorified columns, and I read the book so often the pages went limp.
A few years after his passing, I wrote my first attempt at a column. I was a teenager. It was ridiculous copy, written longhand on yellow legal paper. It was about nothing, really. It was meant to be a humorous commentary about Thanksgiving spent with unstable family members.
I sent it to a small newspaper via snail mail. Every morning thereafter, I ran to the end of the driveway to be the first to search the pages. The paper actually ran it.