By Ross Markman
There are days when the ideas just flow like the Nile, and then there are days like today when thinking of a column topic comes about as easy as shearing a sheep with nailclippers.
I've written about cheesesteaks, the weather, Sept. 11 and getting my car stuck in the Bear Paws. So how could I possibly not be able to come up with another gem?
Hey, even Hemingway had his bad days.
When I came here in January, I told my editor I'd be able to write three columns a month.
This is my ninth. So I'm keeping my promise.
But I'm kind of disappointed. Sometimes I say to myself, "Wow, that'd make a great column."
A minute later I change my mind.
At my previous paper, my weekly column was a link to the community. In 400 words, I was able to make people laugh, cry and sometimes very angry.
The goal was and still is none of the above.
The truth is I write these columns for my own enjoyment and for my co-workers, who every day are subjected to my endless commentary (OK, whining), and I'm sure many times go home shaking their heads and muttering the words, "city boy."
I used to tackle semicontroversial issues. Things like the death of JFK Jr., the space program, and the gross national product of Brunei. (Kidding on the last one).
I've changed my tone.
I now concentrate on life-altering topics like animal excrement.
Typically, after the column runs in the paper, I'm approached by a reader or two during my weekend trip to the grocery store.
"Aren't you the guy who needed to buy long underwear?"
"What exactly is this Philly cheese sandwich?"
"Are those the shoes?"
I smile and laugh and sometimes even blush in appreciation.
To be honest, I don't care if someone hates the column. I'm still having an effect.
And they're still reading it.
So this week's column is a copout, a cheap way to fill 12 inches of newspaper real estate.
But don't think my well has run dry. Everything is column fodder. Anyone can provide ink to my pen.
Even people at work.
The column is a voice, the only time a reporter can put his or her opinion to print.
And as you can tell, just as I had trouble thinking of an idea for this week, I'm having just as hard a time finishing this one.
Should I use a quote?
Should I wax anecdotal?
Or should I go right for the jugular, the reader's sensitive side?
Think I'll just stick with the fun stuff my experiences living in Havre, the interesting people I encounter and the sticky, Scooby Doo-like situations I get myself into.
But just like the cartoons, I always find my way out. I'm always able to get down off that proverbial mountain.
And hell, if I can't, that would make one great column.