While sifting through articles to put together my "Past Stories of Note," I had the great horror of revisiting the weekly columns I wrote for Willamette Week while working as music editor there from 2003 to 2006.
My column was called Riff City (a play on Portland's nickname "Rip City," the origins of which I do not recall). I generally refused to write about anything outside the city limits, which could be a good thing. When a local band of note released an album or when a club dismissed its talent buyer or when the daily newspaper accidentally helped shut down a beloved pirate radio station, Riff City was teeming with original reportage and, I like to think, the most informed insight in the city. On slow news weeks, though, the column was a playground for my personal angst and self-loathing. I wrote some depressing crap that I can not imagine anyone enjoying.
Looking at it now I am sure that, as a reader, I would have hated Riff City for subjecting me to such drivel. I went to a country and western karaoke night by myself (sad!) and sang a Willie Nelson song altering one of the lines to incorporate a reference to "hipsters" (why?!). I wandered around downtown Portland in search of a song that would make me feel better after a fight with my long-distance girlfriend, only to discover that no song could solve my problems (imagine!). I went to a foam club with a bunch of 18-year-olds, and then just made fun of them (creepy!).
Then there was the time I went to an old folks home to watch the Grammy Awards with a bunch of elderly women. I wanted to watch the awards with a captive audience, one that did not care enough really to express any cynicism, something from which I was apparently trying to escape (and which I mentioned three times in the first paragraph). I remember making my intern call around to all of the elder care facilities in Portland to see if they were going to be watching the awards. If so, I wondered if I could come watch with them. One facility agreed, but, when I arrived, it was clear that everyone had been wheeled into the T.V. room to watch the Grammy's because I was there. It was humiliating and the resulting story an embarrassment, though my editor assured me otherwise.*
What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that I had to get a column done every week. When you are in a crunch whatever idea pops out of your head first is the one that gets the space. And what was popping out of my head--just like what is popping out of most twentysomethings' heads--was really not ready to be shared with the world.
Now I'm writing another weekly column for City Arts and, to be honest, I'm a little scared of it devolving into a new version of the same old crap. I like to think I've learned a few things in the intervening years, chief amongst them the ability to use the word "I" without bleeding all over the keyboard. I'm certainly a happier person. Also, I have learned that the elderly are not for my readers' amusement. But what have I yet to learn?
*Bless you, Kelly Clarke, but subjecting these grannies to my clumsy sensibilities was a mistake.