Dillow Unbound
Departing OC Register columnist’s final screed leaked to OC Weekly!*

If you’re a veteran, or if someone close to you is a veteran, I have a favor to ask of you: Please read this column all the way through. Now fold it in half. Now put it in the breast pocket of your hunting vest. Now recite “The Pledge of Allegiance.” Now take the column out, reread it, put it in the lower left pocket of your desert cammy pants. Now take the column out of your cammy pocket, memorize it and crinkle it up into a ball. Now go get your favorite weapon, uncrinkle the column and use it to clean your weapon. Now discard it out your car window—the column, not the weapon! Only pussies recycle.

As you no doubt read on the OC Weekly staff blog Navel Gazing (thank God we share the same readers), I have accepted a buyout from my soon-to-be-former employer, The Orange County Register. Actually, to render the offer to the take the buyout, I had to return from my embed assignment with a Marine regiment in Iraq, where my editors had sent me because they thought McCain was going to win and the war would last another 100 years. Despite knocked-out communications towers (dag gum Shock and Awe!), word that Reg number crunchers were offering buyouts like they were subprime mortgages finally reached my tank doing figure eights in the desert.

James McHugh

Once back and bought out, I learned Weekly staffers were honoring me by breaking out black armbands they had not worn since Bob Dornan lost his congressional seat. I tried to reassure my pals I’d still write Register columns as a freelance old coot, but Weeklings touchingly insisted on taking it hard because, they said, they knew that’s how I like to take it. Whatever that means.

Which reminds me: Bootlicker? I don’t get that title for the Navel Gazing category dedicated to me. It apparently has something to do with an “incurable cop fetish.” Then shouldn’t it be “coplicker”? Think about that. And then get back to me.

Meanwhile, we have a few loose ends to tie up: The Weekly once carried a catalog item called “The Dillowmaker” Commemorative Field Jacket and Matching Cap (“Gordon Dillow Wartime Fashions,” Feb. 21, 2003). You wrote, “The bright-orange color—viewable from miles away—tells everyone on the battlefield that this is the top-gun muckraker for Orange County, California, USA’s leading daily newspaper! Meanwhile, the chic Target store logos on the vest breast pocket and back, as well as the front and back of the cap, lets any sharpshooter who gets them in his sights know the wearer is a slave to the Barcalounger market, sly advertising—and high fashion!”

The eighth or ninth time I reread that, it hit me that could be a dig against me. Thankfully, Anthony Pignataro’s complimentary Weekly cover story about my first embed mission came along to put my heart at ease (“Burying the Dead,” July 10, 2003). He wrote how I valiantly “made a brutal and controversial war safe for patriotic Americans” by excising the jarheads’ foul language and downplaying such annoying details as the killings of civilians. You’re welcome, Tony!

What sores my saddle is those who infer that as a bootlicker/coplicker/gruntlicker, I want to take my actual tongue and glide it ever so gently over man-sweaty crevices. Whoa, pardner! As I wrote in my column last March, I am but a simple country boy. Lathering up with rodeo clowns in my teens, no one exactly explained to me what homoeroticism means. Do some really believe that . . . that I . . . that I’m . . . that I’m a . . . Well, as Uncle Shamus used to say when he’d baby-sit, “Just bite the pillow for a few more minutes, then we can finish watching Gunsmoke.”

The point is, were it not for veterans, the white victims of crimes by people of color would be saying, “Heil, Hitler” to President Bobby Seale. Speaking of which: What was R. Scott Moxley driving at in “Dillow’s Cowboy Code” (April 27, 2000)? My column about Dennis Rodman’s gazillionth run-in with Newport Beach police ended with advice that he “do cops a favor” and “turn down the boombox.” The Mox implied that because the Worm was not carrying a boombox, I was being racialist. Whoa, pardner! Did I write that the boombox was stolen? No, I did not. Think about that. And then get back to me.

Years ago, I wrote that there was a time when I called Vietnamese “gooks” without so much as a second thought. You’d have to dodge bullets in a rice paddy to understand why, but folks do evolve. Now I think three, four, even five times before calling a gook a gook.

You see, it’s not all about you or me or the darkie across the street whose gaze I’m avoiding. It’s about my readers. Always has been. As my former colleague Phil Garlington wrote in his Weekly cover story (“True Life at the Register,” Jan. 12, 2001), “The ‘core readership’ is Register code for the nub of loyal South County subscribers—elderly, white, conservative, morally square—that columnist Gordon Dillow speaks to as he goes about (as somebody said jokingly) comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted.”

So I depart Grand Avenue knowing someone really loves me. But not in a Dillowlicker way. Unless . . . unless I’m . . . unless I’m a . . . Let me think about that. And then I’ll get back to me.

*As told, in a dream, to Matt Coker.

mcoker@ocweekly.com

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