Randomness brings a return to form

I had a small taste of fame the other day at lunch. My coworkers and I were at Culver’s when Chris Larson, Woodstock Independent webmaster, sent me a text message.

Larson, the company’s resident genius, is taking part in the Kemper Scholarship Program, where students at liberal arts colleges are placed in summer internships. Larson will be in the marketing department of the Shedd Aquarium.

“This was photocopied for my whole scholarship group and, when I saw it, I about lost it!” his text read.

Attached to the message was a picture of a newspaper clipping with a familiar face on it. As I enlarged the image, I recognized the ugly mug — it was me. Somehow, the Kemper Foundation had gotten ahold of one of my columns I wrote in college for the Lake Forester. In it, I detailed the hardships of the first two days of my internship in downtown Chicago as I braved the frigid Midwest January in shoes that made my feet bleed.

I asked Larson why they deemed my words wise enough to include in his packet of scholarly materials.

“To scare us?” he said. “It was included as an FYI about how tired we’ll be.”

As I chuckled at the inanity of Larson being terrified by me griping how I should’ve worn long underwear on the way to my internship, the truly random nature of the situation sunk in.

Some person in 2008 thought that column was decent enough to hold on to and pass out to dozens — maybe hundreds — of Kemper Scholars. And one of those students happened to be one of the guys I worked with.

It was flattering, and it made me miss writing columns.

Writing news stories requires every story to follow a certain pattern. The most important information goes first, followed in descending order by the next level of important information. Sprinkle in a few quotes and a dash of sugar, and you’ve got yourself a news story.

Column writing is like taking your writing skills to a playground. Nothing is off limits, and you can start wherever you want. As long as the piece has a point or at least arrives at some sort of ending point, it’s a valid column.

In expressing that point, column writers just might strike up some type of community discussion. Or, at the very least, they know their writing is read. When I was on my way back from the train station one afternoon in Lake Forest, a man stopped me and said, “Hey, aren’t you the guy from the paper who writes those columns?”

I said I was, and he told me how much he enjoyed them. No one has ever complimented me on a city council story.

So, after a three-year hiatus, I’ll start writing columns again. In the coming weeks, I hope to entertain and scintillate with stories and observations of life in Woodstock and abroad.

But for now, I’m going after the Kemper Foundation. I believe I’m due three years’ worth of royalties.

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