Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Last week all The Aspen Times’ columnists were informed that we have to help bear our share of the economic downturn brunt. Alas, The Times has been forced to eliminate many valuable employees of late, and for the columnists this brunt-bearing comes in the form of a 50 percent pay cut effective as of … well, for me, as of this very column you’re reading right now.
I know what you’re thinking ” pay CUT?
You get PAID!?
Yes, I’ll admit, getting money to drone on week after week about things like growing up in Mississippi is quite a coup. But yeah, I do get paid. Though there was a time when I would have happily done this gig for free.
My mind drifts back …
Fifteen years ago I strolled into the offices of the Other Paper clutching a fistful of writing samples.
“Uh,” I said, nervously, to brand new editor Curtis Robinson, “I wanna write a column.”
I sat quietly while he thumbed through my collection of recently published guest columns.
“OK,” he said, after recognizing, if not quality, at least a low risk of any future libel suits. “You’re in. What do you want?”
“I DON’T WANT ANY MONEY!” I blurted, before he’d even finished asking the question.
I’m guessing Curtis sensed he was dealing with a shrewd negotiator, so he thought it best to give in to my initial offer lest I wear him down with a series of increasingly draining counter-offers ” like a promise to also wash his car every Sunday.
“OK then,” he replied. And just like that ” my column “Irrelativity” was born.
And it was true. I didn’t want money. I just wanted a little bit of opinion page real estate that I could call my very own, to do with as I wanted, with my very own little picture of my head (with actual hair!) next to it. I wanted it more than I’d ever wanted anything, ever.
And I got it!
Just over a year later I got an offer to write my column for The Aspen Times, which I accepted, and even started getting paid!
But that was a long, long time ago. Now the thrill of writing strictly for artistic satisfaction has gone the way of the doo doo.
And no, I didn’t mean to write Dodo. But I’m a team player, and I’m willing to weather this storm. For the team. But if I have to suffer a pay cut, then I intend to spread it around evenly. Which means that you, the Irrelativity reader, are gonna have to do some brunt-bearing of your own.
Here’s how things are gonna be until my normal pay is resumed:
PUNCH LINES: Set-ups are easy. Punch lines, not so much. On this new pay scale, writing “funny” things may not always be economically viable, which means you’ll have to do some filling in of the blanks. I can already foresee weeks when Irrelativity will consist of only the words, “So, this really entertaining thing happened …” followed by a big ol’ blank space. Think of it as Mad Libs, if that makes you feel any better.
SPELLCHECK: If I’m gonna be working for peanuts, I don’t have time to get bogged down in things like spelling. You’re gonna need to type this column into your computer and run it through your own spellcheck program. And just so you know, “gonna” is not going to be recognized as a word. Neither is “spellcheck,” which is weird, when you think about it. Not that I’m getting paid enough to think about it …
MATH: I’ve already started telling people that I’m doing twice as much work for half the pay. Mathematically this doesn’t pan out. I need you to NOT do the math on this one, because “twice the work for half the pay” is just so beautifully dramatic.
ELLIPSES: My preferred bit of go-to punctuation will be cut down from three dots to two .. it’ll take some getting used to.
ABBREVIATIONS: From a cost/benefit standpoint, typing out the entire word “Mississippi” is like throwing money down the toilet. MS will have to do. And there are plenty of other words I plan to truncate. Words like “words” and “plenty” and “plan” and “and.”
“Truncate” will never be used again at any length ” I have no business using such a word anyway. Beginning next week Irrelativity will read like an absentmindedly composed text message from a stoned teenager wearing mittens.
And once again, I know what you’re thinking: “How will that be any different from all of your other columns?”
Wel..mbe uv gt a point.
[Next time: (Something funny here ..)]