It’s been two years now since the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency that disrupted life as we knew it. It wasn’t long before one thing after another was being canceled or suspended.
Including this column. The pandemic-related loss of advertising revenues led to my new columns being reduced from every other Sunday to once a month, alternating with previously published columns.
Omicron notwithstanding, maybe things are looking up. Some medical experts are predicting that after a tough couple of months, we may have something approaching herd immunity by spring. And starting today, I’m back to writing a new column every other Sunday. No more reruns.
Actually, I kind of enjoyed doing what came to be called the “Woodward Classics.” It wasn’t a lot of fun retyping them, but they were fun to revisit.
A few of my favorites:
* State of the art confusion, inspired by shopping for a new stereo and understanding almost nothing of what the sales people said. Their incomprehensible jargon about bandwidths, energy transients, harmonic distortion and other gibberish left me feeling, as my mother used to say, “like two cents waiting for change.” Nobody wants to go shopping and be made to feel stupid. It’s been a lot of years since that column was first published, and I still haven’t bought any new components. My old, hopelessly outdated stereo is just fine, thank you.
* National Nude Weekend. This actually happened. It was billed as a “celebration of nude recreation, sun and freedom by nudists from coast to coast.”
An American Sunbathing Association representative I interviewed said there were 50,000 card carrying nudists in the U.S. He wasn’t amused when I asked him where they carried their cards.
The column was a satire. Promoting nudity was the farthest thing from my mind, but at least one person took it seriously. She furiously demanded to know just who I thought I was to encourage readers of a general circulation newspaper to walk around naked all weekend.
* A Textbook Woodward Vacation. Readers used to ask whether my wife’s and my vacations when our kids were small were as bad as they sounded in print. They were.
One of the more memorable began with arriving at Yellowstone Park during a rare summer snowstorm:
“The weather was so miserable that we left Yellowstone and drove to a fishing hot spot in Montana, where the fish weren’t biting but the mosquitoes were ravenous. My wife fell in the river. … One of our daughters woke up the next morning with chicken pox. Two days later, I had them. We opted to come home early, having had as much vacation as we could stand.”
Some of the reruns were mini-profiles of memorable Idahoans – raptor expert Morley Nelson, construction magnate Harry Morrison, the Small family of Small, Idaho (once listed in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not as the smallest town in America), “Prairie Captain” Bob Ertter, whose double life took him every other week from selling groceries in a tiny store on the Camas Prairie to running an oil tanker on the San Francisco Bay.
Now I wish I’d reprised more of those. Idaho has been home to enough colorful characters to fill a book. And then some.
It was tempting to rerun some old columns that, for one reason or another, didn’t make the cut.
* A column about an alarming number of U.S. senators who looked like Elmer Fudd. I ended up not using it because some younger readers may have no idea who Elmer Fudd was (a cartoon character doomed to being forever outwitted by Bugs Bunny).
* The Lowman Burping Contest. This also actually happened. It was a way for locals to pass the time because, as one of them pointed out, “the winters are pretty long up here in the mountains.”
The contest’s winner, for the second consecutive year, was a woman named Rose.
“You probably think all this is silly or disgusting, and maybe it is,” the column concluded. “But everyone had a good time, nobody got hurt and, as previously noted, the winters can be awfully long in Lowman. As I buttoned my coat and walked out into the snow, a mocking shout broke the stillness of the forest.
“‘Come on Rose! The contest is over.’”
* A column about one of the state’s political parties giving an award to a congressman newly released from prison for failing to report nearly a third of a million dollars in financial transactions while serving in Congress. Readers could be forgiven for thinking there was no honor in politics.
And how could I forget Elvis? Elvis was a spider monkey at Zoo Boise. When I went there to interview a zookeeper, he saw me as a rival for her affections.
Elvis’s eyes were “a psychotically vibrant shade of blue and seethed with hatred. Every fiber of his being was focused on annihilating me. There wasn’t the slightest doubt that if he’d gotten out – and the wires of his cage door suddenly looked way too flimsy – he’d have finished me off in less time than it takes a pit bull to finish a Slim Jim.”
Fun as it would have been to run some of those columns again, the return to all new columns is welcome. And maybe, just maybe, the hoped-for end to the pandemic is just months away. Fingers crossed on that.
The most difficult thing about writing a regular column, as anyone who does it will tell you, is the ongoing need for new subjects. I’m always looking for them, and ideas from readers would be appreciated.
Something you’d like to see in the paper?
An interesting story?
A colorful character?
Someone with a unique job, hobby or collection?
I’d love to hear about it. You can reach me at the email address below.