So long, and thanks for all the fish

The pen is mightier than the sword. Sorta.

Adri Mehra

For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.”

So goes the final stand of Meursault, the famous existential anti-hero of Albert Camus’ seminal novel of the absurd, “The Stranger,” published in 1942.

It’s a tall order to avoid romanticizing or sentimentalizing my last column in this great paper, known for more than a century as The Minnesota Daily.

So, I hastily figured, why not put on the end-of-the-undergrad reading glasses and take a rose-colored glance back down the yellow brick road – through feast and famine, winters of our discontent and summers of love?

It actually all started on October 2, 2002, when as a measly, sweatpants-addled young freshman I piped in my first Speak-and-Spell a guest column entitled, “New President Should Fill Yudof’s Shoes.”

In this nascent diatribe, I extolled the virtues of former University president Mark Yudof, who left our school in summer 2002 to become chancellor of the University of Texas system.

In this first column, I made three discoveries that remain in my intellectual toolbox: one, that the design-bid-build method of building construction on campus is largely inefficient; two, the University should facilitate more entry-level job creation between departments and their respective industries; and three, use of the word “glitterati” is not only acceptable, it should be encouraged.

A few months after this ‘U’-lovin’ editorial was inked, I submitted an unsolicited tirade somewhat defending the then-court-ridden pop star Michael Jackson as a victim of the “American nightmare” – the phenomenon that celebrities must be shot down from their success – and I even called the media’s treatment of him a “high-tech lynching.”

Apparently these exhortations were enough to get me a summer job as a freelance intern reporter for the Daily in 2003.

I was a good lil’ cub reporter and politely assembled three stories during those halcyon days – one on then-new President Bob Bruininks’ initiative on children’s mental health, another covering the opening of an insect quarantine facility on the St. Paul Campus and a third reporting on a student meditation group at Coffman Union.

As soon as the summer and my assignment ended, I was quickly swept back into my previous world in the bright stage lights, and I took a year off from writing to focus on my role in the University production of “Macbeth” and playing guitar in my longtime band of brothers, Citizens Banned.

However, a year later, the pen again came calling, and I found myself with a biweekly column in September 2004, a post I have held until this week (although I moved to a weekly column in September 2006, and a much longer column in January 2007).

Since then, these three years of frequently spewing my mind for tens of thousands of readers have been tremendously edifying and a consistent joy for me, particularly during some darker periods in my personal and emotional life.

I chronicled my ill-fated trip to Italy in spring 2005, where I visited my then-girlfriend, who dumped me at the Colosseum. (And she called me the dramatic one.)

Just this February, I lost one of my closest friends from the University, Chase Korte, in a fiery car wreck. I was compelled to write two columns memorializing him and commenting on the travesty that is tolerance of drunk driving in the United States today.

As there was little information in the press in the days (and even weeks) following the tragedy, I saw as my duty to utilize my space to publicly remember a man who was so familiar and so well-loved to my friends and readers.

More than anything else, it made me realize what valuable real estate a newspaper’s editorial page can be.

Where else – outside of the failed hypothetical constructs of institutions like democratic politics and talk radio – can true intellectual nudity and ideological diversity thrive in this ADD-addled society?

Although I found myself on the radical left on many issues, I absolutely refused to be pigeonholed as a water carrier for the fake liberal “intelligentsia,” and I pissed off much of that demographic when I called the “Save General College” crowd racist and suggested that global warming was mostly just “global whining” – which it is.

I’ve always tried to evenly split my columns between local, national, state and world issues, but I also wrote two series – a trilogy on the trials of a wannabe student group, Trash Film Debauchery, wading through the bureaucracy of a corrupt and incompetent Student Activities Office and Minnesota Programs and Activities Council, and five columns covering various aspects of the national student- and faculty-driven 9-11 truth movement.

My only hope is that I have, more often than not, offered two things to my readers: critical thinking and, just as importantly, a few laughs.

Because, at the end of the week, after I’ve sifted through all of the accusations and death threats (and one or two kinder, gentler thank-you letters), I feel slightly better about my own world knowing that I’ve at least challenged my own process of self-divination through the 1,000 words I was so graciously granted each week for such a long time – if not proposing a new way to frame an angle neglected or underappreciated by the mainstream news narrative.

So, thank you, my friends, for reading all of my rants, love letters, tributes, movie reviews, speeches, propaganda and fluff pieces.

I hope you’ll miss me as much I’ll miss you.

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]