At Random: ‘At Random’ is moving to Sundays

BY DANNY HEITMAN

I’m moving this weekend, and I hope you’ll come along.

After 22 years of appearing in the Friday People section, this column, “At Random,” will be published in the Sunday People section instead.

Longtime Advocate columnist Ed Cullen is retiring today, and his popular Sunday column, “Attic Salt,” is retiring with him. I’m headed to Ed’s Sunday slot to mind the store for him. My first “At Random” Sunday column will appear on March 17.

When I began writing “At Random” in 1991, and editors asked which weekday I’d like the column to appear, I didn’t hesitate in requesting a Friday spot. My motives were entirely selfish. People are usually in a good mood on Fridays, and I wanted to connect with that happy spirit when I greeted readers.

Good cheer rises on Fridays, of course, because most of us are looking forward to a couple of days away from work. I love writer Rebecca Lee’s description of a Friday afternoon “when the air is fertile, about to split and reveal its warm fruit — that gold nucleus of time, the weekend.”

Optimism goes up on Fridays, too. The weekend is yet to start, and it’s still possible — although not realistic — to expect that our weekend will fulfill every hope we’ve pinned on it.

“Have a good weekend,” our Friday term of well-wishing, is a happily ill-defined concept. Like the pursuit of happiness, another part of our national creed, what constitutes a good weekend can mean different things to different people.

I rank a weekend as a good one if my favorite sports teams win and there’s something interesting to read on the night stand, along with a pot of something savory on the stove. Your definition of a good weekend will be distinctly your own.

But for many of us, an ideal weekend also includes the Sunday paper, and I’m happy, as this column moves, to be a part of that tradition.

We can thank Joseph Pulitzer, the 19th century media magnate, for inventing the idea of the Sunday newspaper as we know it. More than a century ago, when the six-day work week was still in full swing, Pulitzer decided that readers needed a special edition to mark their one day away from the daily grind. His Sunday World offered spot news, but entertainment and longer features, too.

Author Nicholson Baker describes the typical desires of a Sunday World reader: “You wanted romance, awe, a close scrape, a prophecy ... new fashions from Paris, a song to sing, a scissors project for the children, theories about Martians or advanced weaponry, maybe a new job ... you also wanted to escape for a few minutes to the North Pole or South Dakota or the St. Louis World’s Fair ...”

Sunday newspapers remain a weekly cabinet of wonders, containing comics and travelogue, analysis and humor, book reviews, news and even the occasional oddball.

Apparently, in this jumbo mix of pictures and prose, there will even be a place for me.

Danny Heitman can be reached at dheitman@theadvocate.com or
(225) 388-0295.