Thanks for the Memories

After 17 years of making you smile, laugh, and (hopefully) think, I bid you a fond farewell.
Illustration by Ryan Snook

IN THE SUMMER of 2007, an enterprising publicist at HarperCollins persuaded this magazine to write an article about my books. Former executive editor Amy Wimmer Schwarb drove out to Danville to interview me, and we hit it off so well she offered me a job writing a monthly column. Seventeen years is forever in the magazine world, so I’m not surprised this gig is coming to an end. This will be my last column for Indianapolis Monthly, unless sufficient numbers of you storm the headquarters bearing torches and pitchforks demanding my reinstatement. Just to be clear, I don’t want you to do that. This magazine has been wonderfully kind to me, so I’m hoping if I saunter off graciously into the sunset, they’ll hang my picture in the home office. An old picture, from when I had lots of hair.

I have written a dab more than 200 columns, most of them fun, depending on your political point of view—or vocation. In 2014, I wrote an essay about what appeared to me to be the tendency of some realtors to exaggerate, which I thought was hysterical. But it turns out my opinion was a minority one, and for the next several months I had to wear a Groucho disguise in public. One realtor wrote to tell me I was worse than Hitler, only proving my point that sometimes, a few realtors may be prone to hyperbole. I’ve made the same observation about pastors, politicians, car sales- people, and lawyers without a word of complaint. Make of that what you will. Of course, this observation doesn’t include any of the realtors I know, including my neighbor, Tammy Carroll. (Hi, Tammy!)

I tried to repay the kindness of the editors by not making their lives difficult but wasn’t always successful. Every now and then, my longtime editor, Daniel Comiskey (You’re the best, Dan!), would phone to tell me the folks in charge worried I might offend some readers if I didn’t soften my language about Donald Trump. I would then tweak what I’d written, which always felt like something of a mistake. Now seems as good a time as any to say I’m worried, along with lots of other people, about the future of journalism. It seems that more and more, the goal is to entertain rather than to inform. The fact that over the years, I too often chose to amuse instead of inform weighs on me, even though it was my job to be light and frothy. There are still bright spots in the old-school journalistic landscape, though, in folks reporting the “real news.” That is why I listen to WFYI and read Sheila Suess Kennedy’s daily blog on all things Indiana, good and bad. I enthusiastically recommend both.

There were a few things I didn’t write about as much as I wanted to—namely, my sons, who asked that I respect their privacy, so I kept quiet. Had they permitted, I would have written how deeply proud I am of them. My older son farms and fights fires, and my younger son serves in the Army and is studying to become a physician’s assistant. That my sons have chosen to feed, rescue, and heal people thrills me. After all, if they had opted to become Republican legislators in the Indiana Statehouse, I would again have had to wear my Groucho disguise in public.

I’ve been told three times in my life that my services were no longer needed: once by a church, once by a book publisher, and now by a magazine. There was never any rancor involved, and I left each time deeply appreciative of the opportunities I had and the friendships I made. This time is no different. I wish nothing but the best for this fine magazine. For 17 years, it paid me to share my opinion with people who didn’t ask to hear it. Few people get that opportunity, so I consider myself fortunate indeed. If you find you’re unable to live without hearing my opinions, you can find me on the media platform Substack and on my personal website. Now that I’ll be my own editor, there’s no telling what I’ll let me say.