Just in case you are tempted to write a column for your local newspaper -- as a service to the reading public -- let my experience be a cautionary tale.
At a public event in northern Orange County, one of my hitherto-unknown-to-me readers asked, "Aren't you Gary Gaddy?" To which I replied, as I am wont to, "Why do you ask?" (I'm not paranoid -- but it can pay to be cautious.) It turns out she really was a loyal reader and actual fan. (For example, she thought I was funnier, and -- get this -- deeper than Vicki Wentz. In Vicki's defense, I pointed out that her hair was definitely curlier.)
Later at this same event at the Schley Grange, this person, who I'll call Ann, because I think that was her name, told my wife, "I thought he'd be funnier in person." This is what you get for being funny in print and then going out in public non-incognito.
At the same event, a man, another Schley Granger, told me that he agreed with "most everything I wrote -- but not everything." I said that was OK. Adding, "To tell the truth, I don't agree with everything I say." He then replied that he bet most people in Chapel Hill probably don't agree with me. I said, "If most people in Chapel Hill did agree with me on just about anything, I would change my opinion." I think he thought I was joking. I think I thought I was joking too.
I was once told by a reasonably reputable source (a former editor of the Chapel Hill Herald to be more exact) that the Chapel Hill Herald used to pay their "Local Voices" columnists $50 a column -- but decided that was an insult. Now they pay nothing. I feel so much more affirmed.
The relationship between my column and the truth
As you should know, according to the state of North Carolina, I used to be a statistician. (Or at least they paid me for being one). One of the primary problems with being well versed in statistical validity is that it makes it harder for me, as compared to your average statistically innumerate soul, to find studies that confirm my prejudices. But, not to worry, as for my column, I always tell the truth. It's just that sometimes I have to make things up in order to do so.
My columns, like many movies now playing in a theater near you, are often "inspired by actual events."
When people ask me what I do, I finally started telling the truth. (I used to say, "Well, I used to be the coordinator of statistical consulting at the Howard W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill" and by the time I finished saying that they would have forgotten what they had actually asked.) Now I say, "I'm a writer." Bu that doesn't seem to be enough.
Once I was a poet but didn't know it. I wrote free verse until I realized I'd never get paid.
Then I wrote songs but didn't write music, so that left me with putative lyrics, songs only in my aspirations for them.
Then I became a lyricist, so now I rhyme all the time -- and get paid in leftover fruits and vegetables. (This is an actual factual fact. When you play at the South Estes Farmer's Market, which is a really good gig, above and beyond the rhubarb and rutabagas, sometimes people stop and listen and every now and then a small child dances, but regularly the vendors give you produce at the end of the day.)
Several people have asked me if I ever thought about writing a novel, to which my common response is: Have you ever read a novel? Do you have any idea how long a novel is?
Why I don't have an inflated ego
Looking at a Friday edition of the Chapel Hill Herald, my mother-in-law asked, "Do they always put your column on the front-page?"
"Yes," I replied.
"But it's always below the fold," my wife added.
Gary D. Gaddy is a writer in residence in his own home.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday March 25, 2011.
Copyright 2011 Gary D. Gaddy