This column first appeared in this space on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006. Two days later, the epic October Surprise snowstorm was unleashed from the heavens, toppling trees, damaging property and plunging the region into darkness and despair.
I’ve always thought there was a metaphor in there somewhere.
In the 6½ years since then, it has been my great honor to have this space to say what was on my mind, such as it is. Today is the last time.
My job here is changing and will no longer allow me the freedom to pull away for a day to write about something that interests me and that I hope is interesting enough to interest you.
I never could figure out what that was, by the way. Some weeks, I would conduct interviews and work for days crafting something that I thought was a different take on some topic or trend that no one else had noticed. Those would get little or no response. Then I would spend a half-hour absent-mindedly scribbling something inspired by Krispy Kreme leaving town or my oldest daughter’s final school lunch or another daughter’s inability to find her way home from downtown – columns I had to be persuaded to even turn in, because I was sure no one would care – and I would do almost nothing but answer complimentary emails and phone calls for days.
But that was fine with me. For a Town of Tonawanda kid and lifelong newspaper junkie, it was an indescribable thrill to have my name in this paper, let alone my thoughts, my face and my ever-expanding forehead.
My heroes have always been columnists. That’s why being able to call myself one makes me dizzy. I won’t even say “I’m a Buffalo News columnist” out loud because I don’t feel worthy of a title that has been held by the likes of Steve Weller, Margaret Sullivan, Karen Brady, Jeff Simon, Donn Esmonde and so many of my other journalistic role models.
But it wasn’t just them. I’m sure I was the only teenage boy in America who ever went to his library to see if Erma Bombeck’s latest book was in. I cried when I heard Mike Royko died and almost fainted when I saw Jimmy Breslin in a buffet line at a writers conference. When Anna Quindlen came to the University at Buffalo a few years ago, I hung on every word she said while fighting the urge to shriek like the Beatles were onstage.
But this goes back much farther. When I was 7, I attended the Communion breakfast at my elementary school, St. John the Baptist in the Town of Tonawanda. After the program, all my friends and most of the adults stood around one of the speakers, Ted Darling, the Voice of the Sabres.
Not me. I walked over to gawk at the other speaker, a Buffalo Evening News columnist whom I read religiously. I didn’t have the nerve to ask for his autograph or even to speak. I just kept staring at him and thinking, “Wow, that’s BOB CURRAN!”
Years later, while I was working at the Niagara Gazette, I shared that story with my colleague and mentor, Bob’s youngest son, John. The next day, as I was reading Bob’s column just like always, I was stunned to read this line: “Rate your friend a basketball expert, Bruce Andriatch class, if he can name the first commissioner of the American Basketball Association.” The memory of that column always makes me smile.
I hope that over the course of these years, something that I wrote had the same effect on you.