I was smoking a stogie at the Malibu Cigar Lounge on the PCH (we all have our vices) and catching up on some good old male companionship and banter when a fellow customer recognized me from my photo in this very Malibu Times.
“Aren’t you the guy who writes the columns in the paper?” he inquired. Trust me when I tell you that nothing pumps up a deflated ego like a little recognition. Unlike some others in our beloved city, I can go out of my house without the paparazzi chasing me. When I leave my home, the only living creature that chases me is a neighbor’s dog, so a little recognition goes a long way.
Normally, when readers recognize me from my column, they often compliment me by saying things like, “I laughed so hard I wet myself,” or “I don’t know why you don’t write for the New York Times.” (I just made up these two quotes. Nobody ever said anything remotely like that). Or they suggest, almost demand, ideas for columns I should write about—not a one of which has made it into print or into blogdom.
I was slightly taken aback when this fellow smoker said, “Sometimes your columns are really good, and sometimes they are eh.” The best I could cough up in response was, “hmm.” This critical review of my work fell far short of what I had hoped to hear: “I always find your columns funny.” It was that word, “eh,” which hit me in the solar plexus.
But this, or a word just like it, I have heard many times before. What this fellow said sounded eerily like what a teacher of mine once said: “Burt, sometimes your work effort is very good, and sometimes it is just plain eh.” I think my swimming coach said something quite similar. In fact, as I look back at my life, I think it quite fair to say that some of what I have done has been quite good, and then again, some a bit on the eh side.
Now I don’t think I am alone in judging my life’s work in this manner. I bet when many of you think hard about it, the phrase “sometimes good and then again sometimes eh” might apply to you also. I think the expression is so on-target, as far as I am concerned, I think I might well have it inscribed on my tombstone:
“Here lies Burt Ross. Sometimes he was good and sometimes he was eh.”
I frequently tell my bride that for me humor trumps truth every time, but I do want to correct my own record on this one occasion—there will be no tombstone, but you can’t inscribe something onto ashes.