I Have To Go Now

Ottawa XPress – Shotgun – June 29, 2006

I have an outhouse to decorate. I’m fascinated by cottage outhouses.

My mom has managed to transform hers into a wooden superbooth of hope and “Believe in Yourself!” messaging plastered all over the walls. There among the E.T. poster and dream catchers are watercolour scrolls of the Footprints poem and the Serenity motivational verses extracted from a Dear Abby clipping. It’s cheesy as fuck, but talk about a comforting compartment for contemplation and other business.

Now that I have my own cottage for the summer that I share with my best friend and her boyfriend, my top priority is Star Wars bed sheets for the bunk beds in my room. But we also have to spruce up our shit shack too. Maybe a few Shotgun columns on the outhouse walls? But I wonder, after two years and no less than 60 columns, is Shotgun even worth the toilet paper you’d wipe your ass with?

Forget the toilet paper, get me a tissue, Mario! Readers: It’s with sadness that I declare that Shotgun is canned, so to speak, and I need a bathroom break. So, let’s call this farewell the masturbatory column for a moment. I’m going to jerk off a whole lot of thank-yous and do stuff that pleases me without any regard for your needs. Watch me now.

First. Thank you to Stuart Trew for offering me my own column back in August 2004, and thanks to the new Editor-in-Chief Matthew Harrison for treating his writers like gold. Thanks to Dianna Graham – not only XPress’s talented comedy writer, but a valued confidante and personal editor who always made sure I never gave too much away that I would regret in the morning.

Merci Doug Hamelin for being the closest thing a girl could have to The Toronto Star’s pop music junkie Ben Rayner, and to Patrick J. Killen for calling me sharp. Love to loyal friends who kept up and talked back.

Now your turn: Truthfully, Shotgun was nothing without its readers. From the regulars to the occasional visitor, everyone’s online comments helped make Shotgun one of the most popular columns to read at www.ottawaxpress.ca.

The best compliments are the ones that credit a writer for opening up a can of worms, contributing refreshing perspectives, or exposing newsworthy city secrets in a humorous and honest manner. Shotgun became a way of connecting readers all over Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto with that news. It’s been a treat talking with Ottawa about sex and relationships, popular culture, mental illness, and the need for more rock and roll beer gardens in this town.

You know, Christopher Silvester in the Introduction to The Penguin Book of Columnists writes, “Fecundity of opinion is one quality that is generally required of the columnist.” I doubt whether or not Ottawa can inspire ideas in the way sin cities like Paris and its salons of the 1920s could, and I am convinced leading a clean and sober life dulls the edge a bit. But like the light bulb in our outhouse, if you keep the light burning (somehow), you’ll always find your way through the dark. Then again, when burnout is a factor, who likes pissing on their own leg?

In his final column in The New York Times last year, after writing more than 3,000 columns, 75-year-old columnist William Safire quoted something Nobel laureate James Watson once told him: “Never retire. Your brain needs exercise or it will atrophy.”

Too true. But to paraphrase what Longtimers Johnny said to me one night at the Aloha Room over a bottle of 50: Just because a band doesn’t write songs for a while doesn’t make each of them any less a musician. So it goes for columnists.

Readers, we’ve had a good time. Thanks for calling my number off the wall.

[ed.] While we mourn the passing of Shotgun as a column and applaud Sylvie’s contribution over the years, the lovely Miss Hill has not left us for good. As one of our most beloved writers, she will continue to contribute to the paper whenever she can. And who knows, one day, when the time is right, the city may once again hear the familiar blast that signals the return of Shotgun.

– Sylvie Hill