It's been a strange summer. In July I accepted a position as a pop culture writer at New York Newsday. I gave my notice on a Monday. On Wednesday, my editors ran an affectionate Buzz item bidding me farewell. The editor of The Met, Eric Celeste, once my boss in college, also wrote a nice goodbye. Such sweet sorrow.
Then New York Newsday's parent company, the Times Mirror, shut the paper down, effectively un-hiring me. That things clearly could have been worse--i.e., I could have been in New York with a two-year lease when the bad news hit--seemed less than reassuring.
Good karma has kicked in since then. The Star-Ledger, a Newark, N.J. daily owned by the Newhouse chain, is hiring new writers--a rare situation in these troubled journalistic times. Next week, I'll move to the East Coast and begin pontificating about pop culture in a Sunday column. My wife and I have found a charming (real-estate-speak for "tiny") one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan's West Village. Future months will be devoted to writing at the Star-Ledger; reviewing films for Mr. Showbiz, an online service; and--big surprise, folks--working on a novel.
My excitement over the move is equaled only by my sorrow at giving up such a great gig. When I'd talk to area journalism students, I'd always tell them that being a staff writer for the Observer is the best job in the world. And I meant it. If my prose has improved during my short career, this newspaper's determination to nurture young writers is primarily responsible.
The list of colleagues I should thank is way too lengthy to print here. However, one must be singled out: editor Peter Elkind, who, four years ago, took a chance on a movie-obsessed kid who wanted to be a critic, harnessed his energies, honed his prose, and even wrangled him a loan to finish college. Talk about a friend in deed.
I'd also like to thank the once-squeamish Dallas mom who wrote to say that she'd attended a John Woo action flick on my recommendation and instantly became a fan; the guys who wrote to question my manhood for not liking Cliffhanger; the woman who clipped my piece on Before the Rain and sent it to friends to explain why she liked the picture; the irate Oliver Stone fan who wrote, in reference to my pan of Natural Born Killers, that he wished I had been one of Mickey and Mallory's 52 victims; and anybody else who gave up a few minutes each week to read my stuff. Over the years, you continually reminded me that a critic is just a moviegoer with a byline. Your knowledge, passion, and attentiveness made me feel like I wasn't merely writing for a paycheck, but sending out a weekly public letter to my pals in the dark.