For the past three years, I have pictured you out there, The Reader, and written these weekly letters to you (this being the last one, I promise), even though I know they can’t possibly get through, since you aren’t you at all, but many, many people going about the business of life in this locality and picking me up, as it were, in a grocery cart, or plopping me, as you have done, on a dirty bar, or even using these words, as has been suggested on more than one occasion, to wrap a fish.
Anyone who has read this essay regularly knows my penchant for natural comparison, and there’s no richer source of fuel than the fish. There are other fish in the sea. He’s like a fish out of water, neither fish nor fowl. It’s a big fish/small pond kind of deal, like shooting fish in a barrel. Uggh, just another bottom feeder. Perhaps, in the spirit of Wahoowa, you’d prefer to drink like a fish, or, in Coach Bennett’s case, to be a fisher of men.
And here I am, The Editor, a carp at the base of a dam spillway, sifting through all the press releases, news stories, e-mailed pitches, and gossip, trying to pluck enough protein from the flow to keep from being swept downstream. And I’d rather be a trout than a carp (didn’t Paul Simon say that?), because at least there’s the hope of some unattainable and impossibly little beautiful pool upstream where I could raise small fry and turn gray with age.
Here’s the hook: Nobody wants to hang out in the mainstream anymore, whether because all the social engineering has made the water course so straight and narrow, so fast and furious, that it’s become nearly uninhabitable. Or because there’s so much food available in the side eddies that there’s little reward for fighting the current. Or possibly even because we’re all so focused on Siddhartha’s river that we don’t care very much about the muddy stretch of water winding through town.
I’d like to leave off this stream of consciousness with a quote from Mark Twain, a newspaperman: “The editor of a newspaper cannot be independent, but must work with one hand tied behind him by party and patrons, and be content to utter only half or two-thirds of his mind.” But I gave you a fair piece of mine.