During the recent hoopla over the latest lottery jackpot, I asked my wife what she would do with herself if money were no longer a concern. I don’t know what she said because as soon as I asked the question, I started thinking of my own answer and stopped listening.
This happens often.
My answer was simple – if I could do anything with my life, I would be a modern-day Andy Rooney. Mostly, just to get away with using words like “hoopla.”
Andy Rooney has long been a hero of mine. His 60 Minutes segments were a weekly highlight through most of my young adult years. I can’t look at an overflowing junk drawer, crammed mailbox or cluttered office desk without wondering what Andy would have to say about it.
While Andy may have introduced me to the subject of essays on American life, I’ve found similar enjoyment in pieces from humorists like Garrison Keillor, Joel Stein and David Sedaris. I’m a huge fan of Steve Hartman’s ‘On the Road’ segments, but I have a hard time relating to his focus on other people.
No matter which style you follow, there’s something comforting about ignoring mainstream concerns in favor of mining everyday thoughts and petty annoyances as places to find meaning. I wish we had more of that today, so I created this column called The Weekly Discourse to contribute my fair share to the public conversation.
New columns will come out every Sunday at 7:56 eastern time because that is when I used to watch Andy Rooney’s pieces, and, frankly, when I think many people are randomly scrolling on their phones or computers. Unlike 60 Minutes, these columns will never be preempted by professional golf or a football game’s overtime, although I can’t make the same promise against my own absentmindedness or inadvertent napping.
You may be wondering, if this column is inspired by Andy Rooney, why don’t I make them into videos? Because I’m lazier than Andy Rooney. I’m not as talented as Andy Rooney, I never fought the Nazis and I probably won’t live until I’m 92. But at least I’ve written something, which is more than I could say yesterday.
In closing, there’s no better way to honor Andy than by showing you something that’s been sitting on my shelf for years.
My brother Mike bought me this book just over two years ago. It contains 130 of Andy Rooney’s newspaper columns and was placed for sale in the bargain bin at a local library. Andy seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t have walked away from a good bargain, so I’m glad I could give the book a deserving home.
An excerpt from the book jacket (located just above the faded Caldor department store price tag) describes his writing this way:
…Andy Rooney has been writing about the annoyances, pleasures, frustrations and paradoxes that affect us all; about what drives us crazy, what brings us joy and what makes us human. With wit, rue and just plain common sense, he makes us care about everyday things by looking at them aslant, lifting them to the level of ideas, turning the ordinary into something extraordinary.
I like the thought of creating something extraordinary and these Weekly Discourses are my best attempt at that. I’ve never been the type who thought it wasn’t cool to try at things, so this is something new, even if a little bit unorthodox (much like Andy who was, surprisingly for a man of his generation, an avowed atheist).
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Each Weekly Discourse column may not seem like much on its own, but after you’ve read 130 or so, my hope is that the time you’ve spent reading just might seem like a bargain worth preserving.
Next week: Why I’m More Embarrassed by My Nice Camera than By My Crappy TV
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