March 5 is the 10th anniversary of "Sordid Tales." I really can't believe it's been 10 years. In that time, I have written more than 300 columns. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, "How'd I do that?"
When I started this thing, I had no idea what I was doing. It was your classic fake-it-till-you-make-it scenario. The only thing I knew about writing columns was that you had to string words together to make phrases that led to some sort of point or something. I never imagined it would last 10 months, let alone 10 years. So I hope you'll excuse me while I take this moment to lean back in my work chair, fold my arms, take a long, deep breath and say out loud, "Holy crap! How did I do that?"
Fuck if I know.
This upcoming "Sordid Tales" anniversary has had me thinking about a lot of things lately, things related to writing. For instance, I wonder how many more columns I have in me. Do I have hundreds and hundreds, or just a handful? I wonder if, in 10 years of writing, have I made more enemies than friends? I wonder also if my writing has improved or did it get worserer? I wonder what happened to all those paragraphs I deleted over the years-thousands and thousands of sentences that I eviscerated for one reason or another. Oh, how many times I hesitated over that delete key, so reluctant to-as they say-kill my babies, to send them off to that unknown place where all the dead sentences go.
But what I wonder most of all, as the 10th anniversary of "Sordid Tales" fast approaches, is why in the hell am I still writing it?
I know why I started writing it. I started because I wanted to see my name in lights. I wanted chicks to dig me. I wanted to be able to say to women I met at various social events, when asked what I do for a living, that I was a columnist. Oh, sure, saying "I'm a bartender" got me laid plenty. But to be able to also say "columnist"-to have that option-I knew would be priceless.
Like, if you're at a summer keg party, and the hot, drunk party girl with the tray of Jell-O shots asks what you do for a living, you tell her you're a bartender.
But at the wedding reception at the Grand Colonial Hotel, making time with a bridesmaid by candlelight at the dining table, you tell her you're a columnist.
And when you meet the woman of your dreams, a millennium gal-a strong, smart, beautiful career woman who also likes to drink and screw and rap-wise about art and politics-you tell her you are a bartender and a columnist and she can't scramble out of her thigh-highs fast enough.
Yes, I know why I started writing "Sordid Tales." What I don't know is why I continue. It's not about having my name in lights anymore. Having my name in lights, even on this lower level, is a nuisance more than anything else. And I certainly don't write it to attract women. I'm married now, and nothing attracts single women more than being unavailable. It isn't the money. Writing columns has all the financial reward of a paper route, and as much stress as a giant ape perched on a skyscraper getting shot at by military attack jets.
So why, then?
I was watching Oprah a few days ago. She was interviewing a man who survived a plane crash. The man described how a fireball incinerated everybody who sat in the middle of the plane. He said that as they were dying, these lights appeared over their heads, these orb-like lights that departed their bodies and flew toward the heavens. The man believed those lights to be their auras.
"Some of the auras were brighter than others," he said, which he took as an indication of how they'd lived their lives: The people with brighter auras had lived richer fuller lives than those with the dim ones.
At the end of the interview, Oprah asked what in his life had changed, and he pretty much said what everybody else who has had a near-death experience says: that he has a new lease on life and that he meets every new day with zeal.
"I want to live my life so that when I die, I have the brightest aura of them all," he said.
OK, I normally don't go for this aura-schmaura talk. I don't really care for the word aura. It sounds a little too new-age-hippie-fem for my liking. I'd rather call it something else. Like a soulfire perhaps. The word soulfire has the kind of masculinity and intensity I am looking for in an aura. Because if auras do exist, well, I want mine to blaze. I want it to rage like a bonfire stacked with gasoline-soaked mattresses. And when I die, and my soulfire soars toward the heavens, I want that mutha to light up the land, to scorch the faces of anyone who happened to be watching, to make those sumbitches go blind.
And that, I realized while listening to this guest on Oprah, is why I continue writing this column. Be-cause writing it stokes my soul-fire profoundly. For me, each column is another gasoline-soaked mattress thrown onto the bonfire. And every other Wednesday, when I grab an issue of CityBeat, open it up and see my name in lights above a bunch of words I strung together to make some sort of a point or something, I can only hope in my allest of hearts, that I strung them together in a way that stokes your soulfire, too. Even if only a tad.
E-mail ed@SDcitybeat.com and editor@SDcitybeat.com.