6000 Pennies for My Thoughts

4540259_55e51f2a6b.jpgRemember the old expression, “A penny for your thoughts?”

Well, if someone ever says that to you, my best advice is to hold out for more. You see, I’ve discovered somebody who’s willing to pay me 6000 pennies a month for my thoughts! Not Bob Woodward. Not George Will. Not Dave Barry. But me. Little old me.

Now I know how excited The Soggy Bottom Boys must have been when they found out that they could actually get paid for singing into a can.

I’ve been dropping a few hints lately that I might be branching out a bit from blogging this year, and I’m pleased to report that has come to pass. Last fall, I applied to become one of five community columnists that The Huntsville Times hires each year to write a monthly column in the Sunday editorial page. I was told that the decision would be made by the end of November, so when I hadn’t heard anything by mid-December, I assumed that I hadn’t been selected.

But on Christmas Eve while visiting family in Virginia, I received a very unexpected present–a call from the editorial page editor congratulating me on my selection and asking me to send a picture to use for the column. I know, it’s not exactly The New York Times or NPR, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

My first column appeared in yesterday’s paper. Longtime Fusioneers may notice that this was a retooling of an earlier blog post (most of the first paragraph from this post appears in the print edition of THT but was left off the online version for the sake of space).

Speaking of space, that original post was 1,148 words. Each column that I write must be trimmed to no more than 680 words. That sort of draconian diet makes for some merciless self-editing, but it’s a good discipline to learn and it spills over into many other areas of life. “The more words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” The Preacher in Ecclesiastes asked. I wish more preachers would listen to him–and writers too.

If you really want to love your neighbor, keep it short and sweet, bub.

I decided to write my first column about something I know well–eyeballs–and use a little self-deprecating humor (everyone loves a good “comeuppance story,” after all). Hopefully, by showing that I can poke fun at myself and laugh a little, I can till the soil and earn some cred should I eventually decide to tackle something more serious or controversial.

In fact, if you read Sunday’s column carefully, you might spy two words that together may serve as seed for a future too-hot-to-handle column which, in these parts, will no doubt earn me a bushel basketful of Bible thumpin’, self-righteous nastygrams. I’ll keep an eye on the paper during the week and let you know if I get any doozies in response to something I write.

But for the most part, I’ll probably try to keeps things lighthearted and upbeat–just like the ol’ blog. My column will be appearing the 2nd Sunday of each month, and I’ll post a link on the Monday after.

Well, so much for my anonymity, as if it ever existed in the first place. Boy, I’ll really have to watch what I say now. Of course, I don’t want to remain too unknown.

Especially when it comes time for them to mail me that big jar with the 6000 pennies.

  1. mmlace

    WOW!!! Dr. Eyeguy, I couldn’t be happier for you!!! Congratulations! And I’m proof that you don’t have to be a “long-time Fusioneer” to recognize that classic Dr. Eyeguy post. Because I don’t think I qualify as a long-time reader…but when I stumbled upon your blog in the middle of last year, what I found was so good that I was compelled to journey through your archives for more! You’re just that good, and I look forward to reading what you publish in your community column!

    As for anonymity, you’re right, it didn’t last very long. It was those tongue-in-cheek posts that drove me to search for a picture. First I had to figure out your name…that was the hard part. And then once I figured it out, I thought, “Great! Now I’ll NEVER find him!!!”

    But just a little more digging and I was successful…finally able to put a face with the words that have been such a blessing for me. Perhaps now all of Huntsville will be blessed by your words as well!

    Thanks for making my morning! Much love, bro!

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    You’re very sweet and kind. If there was ever an argument for human cloning, mmlace would be it.

    Just Huntsville? No, I’m thinking even bigger–Arab, Guntersville, Holly Pond and beyond! There’s no stopping me now.

  3. bibliophilist

    LOL. Well, my first thought ran along the lines of “all they did was ask for a picture and he gave it to them!” All of us out here in blog land having to search and be nosy if we want to know who you are, and someone comes along and offers a few pennies and you send it right away. You should have let us know we could have gotten the same deal. 😉

    Congrats on the column!

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    There’s a funny story about that picture. The only one I had to send them was a recent passport photo I had taken. I had a professional studio portrait made years ago for resumes, etc, but it was a little less than accurate now.

    The editor called me a few days later. “That’ll be okay to make the initial announcement, but you need to stop by and let us take another one to use for the column. Our production people are pretty picky,” he diplomatically put it.

    I did as requested. And lo and behold, they used the passport photo anyway!

    I hope I didn’t break their camera.

  5. bpb

    What fun!

  6. mmlace

    All you had was a passport photo??? That’s so sad! Dr. Eyeguy, are you camera-shy???

    They’re “pretty picky” huh? That’s funny!

  7. Stoogelover

    I was looking for the “I look like Larry Fine of the Three Stooges” photo! Otherwise, congratulations!!

  8. tarwater

    Is it Dante that’s too hot to handle or infernal demons?

  9. Mike the Eyeguy

    tarwater–Nice try, but no cigar!

  10. tarwater

    youthful ignorance

  11. Mike the Eyeguy

    Sorry, wrong again.

    I think somebody needs some bifocals.

  12. JRB

    Evolution, people!

  13. Mike the Eyeguy

    The class gunner finally chimes in!

    Evolution…and God. If I can figure out a way to scold BOTH my young earth 6-24hr-days-or-bust brethren (bless their hearts) AND my die-hard philosophical materialist friends (bless their hearts too–whether they want me to or not) using the patented, belly-laugh or money back guaranteed Eyeguy humor, then I’ll do it.

    Maybe. Because I’m already catching grief about it and I haven’t even written a word. But I don’t dare say from whom…

  14. th

    Congrats, Mike! Is the eyegal swelling with pride?

  15. Mike the Eyeguy

    th, very good to hear from you.

    I think she’s proud of me. But there’s no danger of my ego getting out of control around here, I can tell you that much!

  16. th

    well, don’t blow all that money in one place!

  17. Mike the Eyeguy

    With my crew, that should just about take care of Sunday lunch at Logan’s Roadhouse.

  18. Mike the Eyeguy

    The link to my column is now broken. Here is the column in its entirety:

    Through a miracle of modern optics, I’ve fooled my brain into thinking that it’s 1984. All is quiet on the Old Age Front. Quiet, that is, as long as I keep my head completely still and my eyes perfectly centered through my progressive addition “no-line” bifocals.

    For those under the age of forty and therefore clueless, I’m referring to the malady that I call The Heartbreak of Presbyopia (from the Greek, meaning “old eyes”). Basically, the lenses inside your eyes grow stiff with age and can no longer flex to focus for near vision. This results in a perpetual browache, forehead furrows deeper than those produced by a John Deere tractor and the tendency to read with outstretched arms, or else, to set reading material on the ground.

    You’d think that a battle-hardened optometrist like me wouldn’t be bothered by such cold, hard facts of anatomy and physiology. But the onset of presbyopia has been no less severe for me than for the average patient sitting in my exam chair. Sure I’ve been prescribing glasses for years, but there is no way some wet-behind-the-ears optometrist in his late twenties can possibly relate to the emotional and physical anguish that is presbyopia. In fact, in my youthful ignorance, I often viewed distraught patients coming in for their first bifocal as a little, well, whiny.

    Recently, I finally gave in and got behind the phoropter, that machine with the multitude of lenses that makes you look like Darth Vader on a bad mask day. Yep, that’s right; most of us eye doctor types do our own. We even ask ourselves The Big Question: “Which is better, one or two?” We, too, break out in a cold sweat and suffer palpitations when the choices get too close too call. There, feel better now?

    It is true that if you pony up the major bucks and get a no-line bifocal, your friends may not be able to guess that you’re somewhere on the far side of forty. In fact, it may seem like the perfect ruse. But remember: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Along with the flattering deception comes the fact that you must now become a walking bobble-head doll, constantly turning and nodding your head to keep your eyes centered in the “sweet spot,” or channel of clear vision that runs through middle of the lens.

    If you make the mistake of turning your eyes like God intended you to, then life suddenly becomes more precarious. The distortion that you get through the edge of your average no-line bifocal lens causes blurry peripheral vision. I discovered this immediately as I backed out of my spot in the parking lot after putting my new glasses on for the first time. As I looked over my right shoulder, the cars behind me suddenly began to dance merrily around in a mirage-like shimmer, taunting me like a gang of infernal demons from some Dantean tableau.

    It is also good to remember that normal peripheral vision evolved for a good reason and has important survival value, such as the ability to detect and avoid that large Mack truck which may be hurtling toward you as you cross the street at the corner of Governors and Whitesburg. Wearing a no-line bifocal may lead to the following scenario:

    Cop # 1: “Say, how old do you think that stiff is over there who just got steamrolled by that semi?
    Cop # 2: “Um, I’m not sure, but he can’t be over 40 because there’s no bifocal line in his glasses.”

    Actually, the distortion isn’t nearly as noticeable now, and I no longer have to throw back a fistful of ibuprofen in order to get rid of that pesky browache. Ah, sweet surrender! But from now on, I think I’ll be a little more sympathetic when my patients come in for their first bifocal. Since I’ve experienced The Heartbreak of Presbyopia firsthand, the chickens have finally come home to roost. Here sits one bespectacled Foghorn Leghorn who has learned to eat a little crow.

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