The last dance

After nine years, 450 columns, dozens of art reviews and a handful of cover stories, this is it the last column. I'm leaving the Independent to go to work full-time for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.

I'll miss the Indy. I'll miss publisher John Weiss, who suggested that I write this column back in 1997, although I had absolutely no experience in journalism. I'll miss Kathryn Eastburn and Cara DeGette, from whom I learned everything I know (that is, about 10 percent of what they know!). I'll miss my pals: Susan Molumby, Kathy Conarro, Lori Green and many others, whose friendship and support have meant so much. But most of all, I'll miss you the readers with whom I've had this long, rich and wonderful dialogue.

I'll miss the folks who stop me on the street and tell me how much they liked the last column. I'll miss the smart, analytical conservatives, who send me e-mails telling me what an idiot I am, and why. I'll miss arguing with Gazette editorial page editor Sean Paige, with whom I disagree on everything except a handful of supremely important issues immigration, the drug war and which downtown bar we ought to patronize on a Friday afternoon.

Over the last few days, I've looked through the archives, trying to make sense of the past. Newspapers, it has been noted, are the first draft of history they're supposed to be accurate as well as entertaining. But nothing is as ephemeral as a newspaper column; like an April snow, it utterly vanishes in a day or so.

And yet, like every writer, I've got a few favorites, the occasional pieces that made a difference.

A few years ago, dismayed that we didn't have an organization devoted to historic preservation, I invited anybody interested in forming such a group to come by my house and talk about it. A dozen folks showed up, and, thanks to the energy and competence of my neighbor, Joyce Stivers, the Historic Preservation Alliance was born. Today, it's a real force in the community, with hundreds of members. No thanks to me, really; I just wrote a column and let others do the heavy lifting.

Two years ago, I heard that the City Auditorium was in play. Developers were sniffing around, a nonprofit was interested in taking it over, and City Council was ready to make a deal. After all, why not dump the old pile of bricks and let the private sector step in? Would anybody care?

I love that noble old building, and the multiple public functions it serves. I thought that lots of other people cared, so I wrote a column announcing a meeting, inviting anyone concerned about the fate of the Aud to show up.

Six hundred of you did so, demanding continued public ownership of the Auditorium. Two years later, plans for renovating, renewing and revitalizing the Auditorium are close to realization. And yes, Virginia, we'll still have cat shows, metaphysical fairs, Art Wars and all the wonderfully quirky events the Aud has traditionally hosted.

Before John Weiss and Kathryn Eastburn started the Independent nearly 14 years ago, the Gazette dominated the city. Over time, that has changed. Right-wing pols stopped getting a free pass; Cara DeGette won multiple national awards doing stories the Gazette wouldn't touch; and, for the first time since the Sun folded in the mid-'80s, Colorado Springs was a two-newspaper town.

And now? Journalism is flourishing. The Independent is strong and capable, the Business Journal is growing as fast as the eastern suburbs, the Pioneer is a must-read for west-siders. And let's not forget Springs Magazine, Hispania News and the Cheyenne Edition. It looks, too, as if the Indy may have a little Web-based competition: highplainsmessenger.com, Noel Black's only slightly skanky follow-up to the recently deceased Toilet Paper print edition.

Some time ago, I listened to Michelle Phillips talk about her stint with The Mamas & The Papas. The interviewer remarked that those must have been "special times."

They were, Phillips replied, and then she defined, in two words, what we mean by "special times."

They end.

Goodbye ... and thanks for nine wonderful years.


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