I’ve been paying attention here for 10 years.
Now, if you go to the CityBeat archives for this column, you’re not going to think that. The first one archived was written in December of 2003 by our mailman, Bob. That’s not really the first column. As far as the archives go, until you get to September of 2004, it’s pretty much hit or miss. Mostly miss. Through the years, some of those columns have gotten lost in cyberspace. In other words, shit happens.
Living Out Loud started in November of 2003. I know this, because I was there. I helped develop it. This column being 10 years old is hard for me to believe.
It all started with Brandon Brady. He was my editor back in 2003. He wanted the two of us to be the main writers for a web-only editorial column. I wanted to expand on that and write one simply about everyday life with the format being mostly storytelling. I came up with the title for it from a 1998 movie starring Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito. Yes. I ripped off the title, “Living Out Loud.”
The column was on the web every week, then it went into the print edition once a month, then twice a month and then starting in January of 2008, it was in the print edition and on the web every week.
The column won some writing awards, but despite that it almost died in October of 2011. By then, Brandon was gone and I was on my fourth editor, who thought the column had run its course. Maybe he was right, but then again, maybe he wasn’t. After he left, my fifth editor, Danny Cross, brought it back as a once-a-month web column. That’s what it’s been since February of 2012, and, if anything, the audience for the column has grown. Being on the web brings the column back to its roots and gets me away from having to adhere to a strict word count. I like that just fine and so do the people reading it.
Back in the old days, I had other contributors who would write here. It was strange going through those archives and seeing some of those names again. With most of the writers, I could count on them to meet their deadlines — especially Mark Flanigan and C.A. MacConnell — but others would drive me totally crazy.
There was one writer I remember, and I’m not going to mention any names here, who had a reputation for not meeting deadlines. She wanted to write for the column and swore to me she would turn it in on time. She swore it to me.
On the day it was due, she sent me an email stating, “I’m sorry. I just can’t find the words. Apparently, I have nothing to say.” Pissed off, I wrote her back saying, “You need to tell me that in no less than 850 words. Fourteen doesn’t cut it!” She never offered to write for the column again.
I’m usually not one who likes to go back and reminisce, but looking through those archives and seeing some of those old columns — and I’ve written more than 200 of them — brought back fond memories.
I wrote a few columns about restaurants closing in downtown Cincinnati — I remember getting heat from some local politicians on this. I wrote about the death of Johnny Carson. I wrote about my cat dying. I wrote about how to cook a goose.
I wrote about getting involved with a father slapping his child in the face in a grocery store in Clifton. Many readers thought I should have minded my own business.
Years ago, a lady on the bus wanted me to accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I wrote about it. I wrote an open letter to Paris Hilton once, but it was really a column. I remembered a prostitute in Price Hill who was bugging the hell out of me when I was trying to get home after visiting a laundromat. I turned it into a story, just as I did those catfish in my father’s lake that actually were his pets.
In one way or the other, these were all stories about living one’s life and paying attention to it. I think that’s why this column has stayed around for 10 years and why people still seem to like it.
The world has changed a lot since this column was introduced. In November of 2003, Saddam Hussein hadn’t been captured. Janet Jackson’s breast had not yet been exposed at the Super Bowl halftime show. Facebook and YouTube didn’t exist and neither did iPhones.
Ten years ago, my son was living with me, my daughter wasn’t married and I could walk on my own without the need of a cane. That’s all changed now. Nothing stays the same.
Ah, well, what can you do? As I said earlier, I don’t like to look back too much so I’m going to focus in on moving forward. Will there be 10 more years of this column? I have no idea — kind of doubt it — but regardless, as long as I’m alive, I’ll try to live my life out loud.
I like paying attention.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: