For many years, I've imagined what I'd write in my final Special Screenings column. I'm morbid like that, hung up on goodbyes. I look at my little cat, healthily and happily asleep on the arm of the couch as I write this, and I can't help imagining that inevitable day some time in the (hopefully distant) future when I'll have to bury him in the cold, cold ground. When I was a kid, I had a hard time leaving schools behind, even schools I hated. Just the idea—once I went through those gates that last day, I could never, ever come back, a whole chapter of my life was closed forever—was depressing and scary. But that's just life. You graduate. Cats die. And you get unceremoniously fired from columns you've been writing for 11 freaking years.
Over the past few years, I've heard about a lot of big changes going on within the alternative newsweekly business: mergers and cost-cuttings, abrupt firings and some controversial hirings. For a long time, it was something that happened over the hills and far away, legends from distant coasts of staffs pared down to an overworked few, of freelancers shut out of longtime gigs and struggling to find work elsewhere. Then people I actually knew started dropping off mastheads. I felt for them, but I figured I was fairly safe. After all, I'd been with OC Weekly since just a few weeks after it started publication in 1995, since Clinton's first term, quietly churning out copy and winning a very occasional award. I'd earned my stripes. And besides, they probably couldn't buy a new coffee machine with what they paid me in a week. Even when word came down a while ago that the Corporation didn't want OC Weekly to employ freelancers for the Calendar section anymore, I still felt reasonably secure. Matt Coker, my mensch of a film editor, made it clear that he liked my stuff and he'd keep using me until somebody expressly told him not to. And then, just a few days before Christmas, somebody expressly told him not to.
I've been writing this column for approximately 600 weeks, just about my entire adult life, and it is hard to believe it's suddenly over. But it is. This is my last-ever Special Screenings, and that weird Jennifer Connelly thing two weeks ago was apparently my last-ever film-comment piece for this paper. I never really realized, until the moment I faced the prospect of finding some other way to earn a living, how much I've enjoyed doing this all these years. For the next few weeks, I'll probably still be blurbing surf movies and The Rocky Horror Picture Show out of sheer habit.
I'll still be writing for the Weekly some. But barring further developments, you and I will probably be seeing a lot less of one another from now on. I hope you'll miss me. I'm gonna miss the hell out of you.
Hey, at least for now, I've still got my cat.
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For those of you who came to this column actually expecting a screening this week, I do have a couple:
Is the Net at Risk? Bill Moyers explores "net neutrality," the hot-button debate over control of the Internet being concentrated among a few major corporations. This is presented by Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church's Corporate Study Group. OCUUC, 1259 Victoria St., Costa Mesa; firstname.lastname@example.org. Sat., 7 p.m. Free.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But of course this is screening on New Year's Eve, and this week, guests are encouraged to dress up Haunted Mansion-style for "The Nightmare After Christmas Ball." Aboard the Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 694-4411 or (562) 235-8053; www.midnightinsanity.com. Sat., midnight. $8 tickets go on sale at 10:30 p.m.
Mail your press releases (and a videotape, if available) to Special Screenings,OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701-7417. Or send e-mail to email@example.com. All materials must be received at least two weeks before the screening.