GARY D. GADDY
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Thursday, February 1, 2007
My next job? North Carolina State House Historian

Sometimes we just don't know God's plans for our lives but we still feel like we are being prepared for something bigger. I have often wondered during my arduous two-month tenure as the regular Thursday columnist for the Chapel Hill Herald -- a job for which there is little thanks and even less pay, why? Why me, Lord?

But, then, just the other day I opened a local daily newspaper (one printed by a competitor so which shall remain nameless but is published in our state capital and has a name that rhymes with "Noise and Disturber"), and right there before me was an article about a position in state government which appears to be coming open, which my columnist position has perfectly prepared me for: State House Historian.

First, let me give you a little history, very little history, of the State House Historian. Before May 2005 the position did not exist. But after Ann Lassiter came under scrutiny as the House page coordinator (having sent teenage pages to stay with her son, a felon with a history of drug and alcohol abuse), the kind and generous Mr. James B. Black (D-Mecklenburg), then Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, in coordination with former Representative William T. Culpepper (D-Chowan), helped create the much-needed position.

It is a position about which Lassiter is quoted as saying, "If you are offered a job making $50,000 a year that happens to have had limited responsibilities, is it your fault for accepting it?" Then asking, "How many of your readers would have done the same?" I don't know about Paxton Media newspaper readers in general but for mine (both Ben and Hank), the answer is certainly, all.

But Ms. Lassiter wrote 23 pages in 20 months -- I don’t know if I can do that. However, with $80,000 in pay and a padded state retirement at stake, I could try.

As Mark Twain supposedly wrote as a postscript to a long and discursive letter to a friend, "I'm terribly sorry to have written such a long letter. I didn't have time to write a short one." It will be, without a doubt, harder to write drivel concisely than it is just to spew it out. So, it will doubtless be a burden on me to write about half as much as I do now, but with four times the time I think I will be up to the task. But, based on the writing samples left to me by the previous holder of the office, I will have to scale back my vocabulary somewhat.

This is where some of my other previous work experience will serve me well. Over the past couple of years, on occasion, I have served as a substitute teacher at the Trinity School of Durham and Chapel Hill. My longest stretch being three days with the fifth-grade "Green Class," I believe it was called. The State Historian, based on the exemplary history left for me to follow, should write approximately on a fifth-grade level. (So as not to denigrate the boys and girls of Trinity School, I will say that apparently the state historian’s spelling and grammar does not need to be as good as theirs.)

Further, as her report opens with a lyric from the Who's 35-year-old hit "Won't Get Fooled Again," my extensive knowledge of late 60's and early 70's rock lyrics I am sure will serve me and the people of the state of North Carolina well.

Since the illustrious Jim Black has been relieved of his duties as Speaker, what is not clear to me is whom I need to be cozying up to. Joe Hackney, the new Speaker, may seem like the obvious choice, but I'm not at all certain that he has the vision and creativity to see what a boon a new House Historian could be to this state, or to recognize that even though I have a college degree and even though I wasn't run out of my last state job, I am still preeminently qualified for it.

In any case I will end my report now as Ms. Lassiter began hers, "Power is a wonderful thing when used to make life better for the majority" -- or, at the very least, I might add, for the majority leaders’ cronies.

 

Gary D. Gaddy is an art historian, once having taken one art history course at the Institute of European Studies in Vienna, where his Austrian suitemate, Siegfried Horina, had memorized the lyrics of all of Leonard Cohen’s then-extant songs. It was an existentially depressing semester, and very European.

A slightly neutered version of this column first appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald, Thursday February 1, 2007.   Copyright  2007  Gary D. Gaddy


Authored by Gary G. Gaddy at 10:19 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 1:49 PM EST
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