The first “John Kelly’s Washington” column appeared in this newspaper on March 7, 2004, which makes today its 15th anniversary.
Fifteen years . . . the Internet tells me that’s the crystal anniversary and that couples should celebrate by exchanging engraved wine glasses or replacing a simple light fixture with a crystal chandelier. I’m told it’s also the time to renew your vows, so allow me to quote from that very first “John Kelly’s Washington”:
“My hope for the column is that it will both show you the Washington (and Silver Spring, Alexandria, Manassas, . . .) that you know and take you places you don’t know. I want to make you see familiar things in unfamiliar ways and unfamiliar things in familiar ways. We may occasionally end up seeing unfamiliar things in unfamiliar ways, but such are the risks of the job.”
I think I’ve stayed pretty true to that original concept. And what’s really amazed me over the years is how whenever I’ve wondered what this column is, readers have told me. You send me stuff you think would be good for the column. I put it in (usually). It becomes a John Kelly column. There’s a certain alchemy at work.
Fifteen years is a long time in one job, just like 30 years is a long time at one employer, a milestone I’ll hit in September. (The 30th is the pearl anniversary, Mr. Bezos.) But I often feel like I just started. Certainly I’m the new guy compared with my predecessors in this space: Bob Levey (23 years) and Bill Gold (34 years, starting in 1947).
The Post has changed in a lot of ways since 2004. But this column — my column, our column — hasn’t. It would be recognizable to any journalist in this paper’s 142-year history: I talk to people. I write down what they say. I put it in the newspaper.
It isn’t very sexy, but then again, neither am I. What I am is grateful: grateful to The Post for letting me do this every day, grateful to the people who share their stories with me, grateful to you for reading them.
To make that crystal clear: Thank you.
When the history of the modern Washington Post is written, it will undoubtedly include the Pentagon Papers, Watergate and all the dark things our journalists have shone a light on. I hope it also includes a chapter on Squirrel Week.
Frankly, that chapter could be composed mainly of photographs, for just as important to me as Squirrel Week — this year marks the ninth annual (that’s the pottery anniversary) — is the Squirrel Week Squirrel Photography Contest. If you like shooting squirrels with cameras, I hope you’ll enter.
For complete rules and instructions on how to enter, visit wapo.st/squirrelcontestrules, but in a nutshell, each image should be no larger than 5MB and sent as a jpeg attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide whatever caption information you like, as well as your name, email address and phone number. Don’t submit images that have been heavily manipulated with software. Anyone may enter, but only legal U.S. residents over 18 are eligible to win a prize.
That prize is a $100 gift card and publication in my column. The deadline is April 8.
And if you know any kids between 5 and 14, tell them KidsPost is having a Squirrel Week Haiku Contest. For info on that, visit washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost.
Squirrel Week IX starts on April 14.
Thank you to all the readers who wrote in with suggestions after reading Monday’s column about being unable to retrieve photos from an external hard drive. Many of you said even if I didn’t remember the password to the drive, my iMac would.
Well, if it ever did, it doesn’t now. I wiped the hard drive so I can sell it. When I clicked the button marked “Erase” I was half expecting it to start singing “Bicycle Built for Two” in a halting voice.
Nick De Cerchio of Lewes, Del., says technology has had it out for him ever since he told off a talking elevator in Philadelphia in 1992.
“Somehow my computer and all its technological friends — GPS, smart phone, e-books — heard me once remark that the ultimate goal of technology is to eliminate all human contact, and they have been uncooperative ever since,” he wrote. “My family keeps pushing me towards a new computer and a smart phone, but I am obstinate. My flip phone has always been loyal to me and has always sided with me against the technology bullies. How can one ignore such loyalty?”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.