Below are a few of the guest editorials I began writing in 1997 for the Atlanta Constitution. In the days before social media, you could actually get paid for writing humorous bits and things about yourself.
The Last Living Boomer Widow Tells All
The Atlanta Constitution, 1997
November 15, 2095
After a global search, reporters finally located the last living baby-boomer widow. Ida Mae Parks, 65 years old, was married for 26 years to Ralph. Her blue eyes sparkle when she talks about her late husband.
Reporter: Mrs. Parks, did you know Ralph was the last of the baby boomers, those 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964?
Ida Mae: Oh, yes. But Ralph said it might be best if we didn't tell anyone.
Reporter: He wasn't proud of being the last boomer?
Ida Mae: He was terrified. Ralph always said, once the Generation X-ers, Y-ers and Z-ers take over, watch out. He knew there'd be hell to pay for handing out all those horrible labels. He didn't want anyone to know he was the last of the "Croaked Generation."
Reporter: In the history books, boomers are compared to a hungry swarm of locusts, consuming everything in their path. What was it like being married to one?
Ida Mae: Oh, sure, we had our ups and downs, like any married couple. I never blamed Ralph for needing to live in a big house with a big kitchen and four big bathrooms and a three-car garage for our utility vehicles. But Ralph always said, if God didn't want him to have big things, he wouldn't have given him such a good credit rating. It was stressful. But so many happy memories.
Reporter: Such as?
Ida Mae: Shopping, collecting, reading Pottery Barn catalogues by the fire, the view of the ocean from our 94th-floor condo. ...
Reporter: Watching TV?
Ida Mae: I'm afraid so. Ralph had a problem with TV. He tried the patch, but nothing worked. Of course, he was hooked early. But Ralph always said, without the TV, you wouldn't have the personal computer. See, when boomers were children, they always wanted to sit too close to the TV. So they invented the PC. After that, they got to sit as close as they wanted. Then, a few years later, the PC merged with TV.
Reporter: They called it the "Web?"
Ida Mae: Isn't that a cute name? Ralph said boomers were so great at labeling everything because they lived through the Golden Age of Advertising. Back then, you know, people even wore ads and labels on their clothes. Of course, that was before the Surgeon General's report on the deadly social consequences of hyper-advertising.
Reporter: You met Ralph when he was 84 and you were 18. That's quite an age difference.
Ida Mae: Ralph never looked older than 34 until the day he died at 110. He never met a cosmetic surgical procedure he didn't want to have. He replaced his joints every two years. Major organs every five. He thought he'd live forever, or until they dropped his cosmetic life coverage.
Reporter: Was Ralph a religious man?
Ida Mae: Not in the traditional spiritual sense. He believed in things like Coca-Cola stock and hair-replacement technology.
Reporter: Did he protect the environment?
Ida Mae: Oh yes, we were both big environmentalists. During our 40- mile commutes to work, we always talked about how much we loved the environment. Ralph even created a nature preserve in our back yard for the care of old butterflies. He wanted to make their last days as comfortable as possible.
Reporter: How did Ralph pass away?
Ida Mae: Jaywalking. The MARTA heli-transport pilot said he never saw him. Ralph's final words were: "Don't touch that dial." We're still trying to figure out what that means.
Summer -- The Lost World
The Atlanta Constitution, Monday, June 16, 1997
Looking for the "Lost World"? You don't need to revisit the Jurassic Age. Try going back 20 or 30 years when the lost world was summer vacation. Take a step back into time...
When an eternity lay between the last day of school and it's distant cousin, the first day of school. So many days it would be pointless to count them. A few events sprinkled in there. A family trip. A visiting relative. Nothing too painful.
Summer was our raft trip down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim. Hot, lazy days interlaced with adventure. While crossing the hot pavement with bare feet, we suddenly became prisoners forced to walk over hot coals by politically incorrect Apaches. Rather than give them the satisfaction of screaming like our little brother or sister, we bear the pain, tightlipped, then collapse in the cool green grass, knowing we've earned the respect of the Indian war chief.
Summer was about bonding with dogs outside the house. Your dog, with its tongue trolling out of his head and gnats hanging around its drooling spigot of a mouth, knew how to cope with a long summer day. Following your dog's gracious example, you too could relax in the cool dirt under the house. And when your mother began calling you, entreating you to come inside and cool off, you could watch her dissolve into tears as she realized you weren't coming... That you were, in fact, lost forever because you were now in another dimension invisible to human eyes. Only dogs could see you now.
Summer was about going door to door to see if your friends were doing anything more interesting than you. Usually they weren't, and you felt relieved. Sometimes they joined you, sometimes they looked at you like, "Go on without me. I'll be all right. Really..." and you knew deep in your heart you might never see them again.
Summer was about hanging out with the old folks who lived a few doors down from you. They would always stop what they were doing a moment to smile at you. They'd ask if you were enjoying your summer, then they'd talk about how hard they worked when they were your age. Then they'd go back to hoeing or weeding, and you'd feel sorry for them, seeing how they must've looked 60 years ago, while they were hoeing or weeding.
Summer was about trips to really exotic places. The beach. Where waves pounded you harder than the big kids who lived a few blocks away. Where your skin became as brown and crusty as a potato chip. The mountains. Where you met kids who had never seen the beach.
Best of all, the motel room. No matter how hot it was outside, the motel room was the coldest place on earth. At night you were like Dr. Zhivago sleeping under heavy blankets. The other truly amazing thing about the motel room was the motel TV, with different channel numbers and shows than your TV at home. Where, to your amazement, the real Superman Show was on at 4:30 p.m.
Also, there was the motel restaurant. Where you always ordered pigs in a blanket, pancake-wrapped link sausage, because you enjoyed saying "pigs in a blanket, please" to the waitress.
Oh yeah... And summer was about long brooding over nothing. About the reversals of fortune, the treachery of friends, the unexpected kindness of strangers, about wondering if school and cool nights were ever going to arrive again.
Summer was the Lost World that buffered us against growing up too fast.
Written on the day before the first day of summer vacation for Daniel (age 10) and Henry (age 5).
A Great Drive-in Bites the Dust
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Monday, October 6, 1997
We read the death notice in the newspaper several weeks ago. So last weekend we packed the car with lawn chairs, blankets, ice chest, and Sony boombox, then we backed out of the driveway, and drove to the North 85 Twin Drive-in. It's hard not to feel a lump in your throat when a truly great drive-in (one of two in the metro area) will be turned into dust this winter to make room for (another!) multiplex.
To our family the North 85 Drive-in was in a league with the Fox Theatre, the DeKalb Farmer's Market, and Arabia Mountain -- as places both peculiar and vital to Atlanta -- and worth showing off to our out-of-town guests. It was a good old slice of the Americana pie.
Not only that, it was an important part of the local, movie- viewing palette. Not all movies should be watched under the stars, moon, and lights from distant jets, but name one summer action-adventure flick that couldn't be improved by the experience? Cliffhanger, Jurassic Park, Twister, Independence Day, Austin Powers -- all enhanced by a twilight viewing from a lawnchair set up behind the car. Drive-inna-vision.
Admittedly, the drive-in experience isn't for everyone. You drive in and out of the blacktop's deep swells wondering if you'll have a tailpipe for the ride home. You park and set up base camp, then lean back in your director's chair to relax as ... the van-from-hell brakes in front of you, headlights undimmed, as the van driver calculates the angle necessary to back into the tight space beside your cooler. You send your kids off to the drive-in playground, wondering if you'll ever see them again.
Drive-in playgrounds, as a general rule, seem to be inspected, if at all, only at night, without flashlights. Exposed concrete footings, Class IV slides, broken swings, and usually something left over from the 50's -- either a part or whole -- that confounds the imagination of modern children. In the pre-matinee dusk, where every minute of darkness is sifted and measured ("is it time yet?"), children face the most basic law of evolution -- Survival of the fittest and the plain luckiest. Because once you sit on the carousel, you can never be sure who might step out of the darkness to push you into oblivion.
One minute a future seminary student is pushing the carousel, running graceful circles in the deep, well-worn trough, while you enjoy the slow-motion, Scorcese-like pan of the playground. The next minute you're on the carousel of death as a young Harvey Keitel is trying to break new land speed carousel records. While your parents enjoy a quiet moment in the family car, you calculate how much longer you can hang on with white-knuckled fists, gritting your permanent teeth, listening to the shrieks and cries of your fellow riders. Finally, the decision is made for you, and you fly off into the shadows, hitting the hard dirt like a sack of used clothes thrown from the back of a Salvation Army truck. Moments later you realize that not only are you unhurt, but unnoticed. If a child gets tossed in the playground and no one sees him, does he get tossed? While musing on this, a brilliant shaft of light catches your eye in the night sky. It's time. So off you go, crossing the asphalt sea crowded with people who have anchored for the night, to find your place along your family car.
Drive-ins are not for those who care about directors of photography. Something happens to the lighting in a scene when the film is projected a few hundred feet through popcorn exhaust, moths and fireflies onto a large, white billboard. You lose some contrast. You see Julia Robert's teeth, but you can't tell what color her eyes are.
Perhaps the drive-in experience, like a foreign language, should be learned early in childhood. Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., in the early 60's, I cut my teeth on drive-in features such as The Greatest Story Ever Told at the Normandy Drive-in and Psycho at the Main St. Drive-in -- both deceased. (We were Catholics, so it was only natural that my mother would want her children to see extremes of both good and evil, at least that's my only explanation for taking a child to see Psycho in the early 60's. Truthfully, I drifted asleep until the violins woke me up for the bloody shower sequence, and have been unable to go back to sleep since.)
As soon as I turned 16, I was borrowing the family Buick LeSabre and filling it with friends for expeditions to the Playtime Drive-in. Hot, muggy Friday nights filled with triple features like Caged Heat, Boy and His Dog, and anything with Angie Dickinson. My second greatest fear at the time, after nuclear holocaust, was having a fender bender at the drive-in and my parents seeing the police report. Scene of accident -- PLAYTIME DRIVE-IN.
After high school came college and years of Ingmar Bergman and Woody Allen movies -- years without drive-ins. Then, about five years ago, lying on a blanket on the hood of the stationwagon with my five-year-old son, we saw Wayne's World at the North I-85 Twin Drive-In.
And so, years later, we returned to pay our final respects. On one side of the giant unpainted wood fence that divides the twins, Harrison Ford dangled and twisted from Air Force One, while on the other Julia Roberts performed her brave, in-your-face smile. Behind Harrison and Julia was the dense canopy of hardwood trees and overgrown thickets that made you forget I-85 and the millions of people and lights encircling you.
You've still got a few weeks left, weather permitting, for a great drive-in experience. And we still have one remaining drive-in on Moreland Avenue to console ourselves with. In a perfect, thumb-your-nose-at-developers' world, some well-financed renegade would buy the North I-85 Twin and keep it safe for future generations.
Wouldn't "The Ted" make a nice name for a drive-in?
Jacobs.com: A stock with family value
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, June 27, 1999
The Jacobs family is pleased to announce that it is planning to go public.
This stock offering is being underwritten by Ima Loon & Co. Details of the initial public offering (IPO) are offered below.
Expected Size of Offering. We plan to sell 6 million shares at $5 each, raising $30 million. We anticipate this capital will allow us to expand our current plans for summer travel - a family car trip from Atlanta to upstate New York - and instead let us establish a dominant presence in overseas markets, starting with a monthlong cruise in the Greek islands.
The long-range plan is for the family to become a superfamily - which follows the trend towards superstar, supermodel and superstore - and dominate the marketplace in the next millennium. In the past, superfamilies such as Rockefeller, Kennedy, and the Jackson Five dominated the globe by traditional means - industry, politics, and pop music. However, in the future, superfamilies will rule by obtaining a strategic presence in the on-line community and raising outrageous sums of money (IPOs) by doing virtually nothing.
Description of the company: Two co-founders, two junior employees (ages 12 and 7), one dog, two cats, four goldfish and pigeons. The Jacobs family networks with a traditional community of relatives, friends and neighbors, as well as a growing on-line network of electronic partners and premium Internet advertisers.
Like most new, exciting and forward-looking Internet companies, the Jacobs family lost money last year. Revenue was outpaced by operating expenses, which included frequent stops at the pizza restaurant and video store. Replacement costs for children's athletic shoes exceeded projections. Flea-control ointment for pets caused additional operating losses. Negative cash flows resulted from technological upgrades to the family station wagon's shocks and struts.
As with most thriving Internet companies, the family doesn't plan on making a profit in the future. Notice: When used in this prospectus, the words "plan," "profit," "dog," and similar expressions involve risks and uncertainties, and don't imply anything.
Investors interested in more information about the family should check out its state-of-the-art website. Beneath the banner ad, "Click Here a Million Times and Win a Chance at a Million Dollars!", cyber-guests will find a list of a thousand other cool family sites to visit, each link accompanied by blinking, strobe-like graphics.
Guests who still remember why they visited in the first place should scroll down to find the most frequently asked questions we ask about ourselves (FAQ). At the bottom of this list, you'll find our long-range plan: Become a superfamily so that we can eventually merge with a supreme, super-duper family.
Of course, that involves risk and uncertainty, and we're not implying anything.
Up, Up and Away
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, March 19, 2000
Is Prozac fueling the booming economy? Could some of the 20 million Americans taking antidepressants - people with a false mood of optimism - be the driving forces behind the wildly exuberant Wall Street boom?
That theory, by University of Michigan professor Randolph M. Nesse [and reported last week in the online Slate Magazine], is either a new way to explain the exuberant bull market or a fresh load of another kind of bull byproduct.
Either way, it's a provocative idea. If 20 million Americans are using antidepressants and designer behavior drugs, it could explain a lot of things.
For instance, it might explain those 23 million people who tuned in to see "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" Even if 3 million people watching the show weren't on antidepressants, they probably are now.
It might explain the whole amazing "Who Wants to Watch Regis?" phenomenon. Regis, a human Beanie Baby, may go down in history as the world's first human antidepressant. Perhaps he should donate his body to science now, while he's still alive and at his peak, so that future generations may benefit. Write ABC if you support this idea ("Who Wants to Dissect Regis?").
Do the pill-popping numbers, once crunched, explain that, in a country of 200-something million, the two big party candidates left in the "Who Wants to Be President" show are George W. Bush and Al Gore? Do 20-something million people feel irrationally good about the 2000 presidential election? While the rest of us, the non-enhanced, look ahead and see a four-year-long bad hair day?
Might it explain rising oil prices? Are foreign oil producers monitoring the number of Americans on antidepressants? Based on forecasting models, did they decide that when 20 millions Americans became numb to caution, they would jack up fuel prices? Did they also figure out that more serotonin activity in the brain translated into bigger, gas-guzzling SUVs?
The whole, crazy gun thing? Perhaps the number of gun deaths is caused by people feeling good about themselves and firing into the air. Because some of these people are staying up themselves with the help of a prescribed dose that keeps them from coming down, perhaps they assume bullets do the same. The NRA doesn't have an official policy on whether bullets go up, then down, but strongly opposes lawmakers' efforts to discourage children from finding out on their own.
Irrational driving behavior. Maybe driving 100mph on I-85 with all the comforts of home - a dog on your lap, a phone in your ear, a burrito in your mouth - isn't so crazy when you lose that feeling that a negative outcome is just waiting around the next entrance ramp.
Today 20 million Americans popping psychotropic drugs, tomorrow 200 million. Hardworking venture capitalist angels should be aware of this tremendous money-making opportunity as more people spend more money with less dread. Especially if more adults give more money to children to spend any way they choose. Oops, million of Americans are already doing this. Never mind.
Does all this mean the next division in this country - the one after those who had had their teeth bleached and those who have not - be those who have enhanced moods and those who have not? If so, what a bummer. Our household doesn't even have cable yet, so that means we've missed every single episode of "The Sopranos," and that's depressing enough for one lifetime.