Dave Molter grew up in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. There he lived a rather normal childhood by the standards of the times — the Fifties and Sixties — and planned to become an English teacher. But at 15 he discovered the Beatles, and everything changed. After teaching himself to play bass guitar, he joined a series of rock bands, slipped the surly bonds of the Beaver Valley and took up residence in the suburbs of the nearest large city that begins with a “P.” There he lurked, disguised as, variously, a musician, writer, editor, retail manager and communications wage slave. Dave continues to play in several Pittsburgh area rock bands, most notably Johnny Angel & the Halos.
Dave is a two-time winner of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association Keystone Press Award for columns and Pittsburgh’s Golden Quill Awards. Dave freelances today by writing a biweekly humor column for the Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter newspaper and as a contributing writer for Dead Center Magazine, a quarterly arts publication based in State College, Pennsylvania.
He still wants to be a Beatle.
Gimme 15 Inches: Rants, Raves and Deadline-Driven Observations assembles the best of Dave’s columns and essays in one place for the first time.
From the publisher: “If you’ve ever wondered who wrote the first Christmas newsletter or why compact fluorescent lightbulbs might be a Communist plot, Gimme 15 Inches is for you. Naked samurai swordsmen? Buzz Aldrin? Rugged revolutionaries who demand two kinds of sandwich spread and sliced cheese to make the fight more palatable? A school board president who deems Herb Alpert the devil’s disciple? They’re all there. Why not join them?”
“Gimme 15 Inches” is a variation of what newspaper editors say to reporters who arrive back at the office after an assignment, at deadline, ready to write. Editors create page layouts in advance, leaving a certain number of “column inches” blank. This they charmingly call the “news hole.” Reporters fill that hole.
Hmmm. That does sound pornographic!
But it’s an apt description. Each column herein takes up about 15 inches of space in the Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter newspaper, where they began appearing in 1989 after I was hired as a beat reporter. It was my first real writing job. Beat reporters most often cover police news, local government and schools; they occasionally may write a longer “feature” story. But our news editor also encouraged us to write columns—a.k.a., opinion pieces—once a month. Some of my colleagues shied from the task, but I relished it. My editor liked my style, and soon I was writing a column every week.
I left the O-R in 1992 but returned when the atmosphere at the public relations writing job I’d taken became anal-retentive. I left permanently in 1994, and my column writing ceased until 2010. That’s when the O-R’s then-managing editor asked if I would be interested in returning as a freelancer. I jumped at the chance.
Many will find my columns goofy, implausible or snide. That’s fine. I began writing for my own amusement, and that’s still my approach. I am continually baffled when readers take offense at what I consider to be innocuous things; I am equally surprised when a column I think is a throwaway elicits praise. Quite often I write a piece making fun of both sides of an issue. When someone from each side thanks me, I know I have succeeded in my real goal—sowing confusion in the already weed-choked gardens of readers’ minds.
This book is arranged in sections of like subject matter, but columns needn’t be read in order or in sections. I have provided historical context to clarify references that were topical at the time of the column’s original publication but which may seem quizzical today.
Read on! You know you want it!
Scenes From a Marriage
Author’s note: This column elicited irate calls and letters from readers. I like to believe it was because when they got to the end, they felt cheated because they were expecting something lascivious.
“How long has it been since we… you know!” his wife asked.
“If you have to ask, it has been too long,” he replied.
“I know, I know,” she said.
They both laughed.
But it had been too long.
In fact, all he could recall was that the last time he had done it, it was with her.
Time was they had done it regularly—even before they were married, if the truth be known. Even in the afternoon. They continued apace during their first three years of marriage. They had done it almost every weekend then. They had enjoyed it so much on one occasion that they had held hands and cried in the dark after it was over.
Then he had changed jobs.
He had begun working evenings and weekends. She, working daylight, was often asleep when he arrived home from work. They began to do it less frequently.
Often during this period they would go to parties or picnics, listen to their friends talk about doing it, and recall how much they had enjoyed the experience—the flicker of lights turned low; the whisper of soft music.
Sometimes, their memories stirred by what they had heard, they would excuse themselves early from the party or picnic, drive away and do it. If the hour was late, they might wait until the next day. But do it they would. Always.
And always they could remember when the last time had been.
Then, after nearly eight years of marriage, things had changed again. Drastically.
She had become pregnant; he had begun working night turn. They seldom saw each other.
And if they did, almost by accident, manage to spend a weekend evening together, they often were too tired to do it.
Before long, reading about it was all they did.
After the baby was born—after a nine-month stretch when, if memory served, they had done it but once—they had made special arrangements to do it.
They had had to: She would be returning to work. They knew the chance would not soon come again—she, working daylight, would definitely be asleep when he arrived home from work.
So they did it—left their infant son with her sister for a few hours, drove off and did it. They both still remembered that time.
But the baby grew and doing it became even more difficult. They thought about scheduling a time for it, but both wanted it to be spontaneous. Besides, they thought, what if it’s bad? Then what do we do? So they postponed it.
Soon neither could recall the last time they had done it.
Not that they had forgotten how to do it. They often sat watching a rented movie in the family room and talked about doing it again. But they never quite got around to actually doing it.
Finally, she had called him at work.
“How long has it been since we … you know?” she asked.
“If you have to ask, it has been too long,” he replied.
“I know it was during the day… and that we liked it,” he continued, digging deep into his memory. “But geez… I don’t know when it was.”
He laughed. “Maybe we should start writing it down on the calendar.”
“Ha!” she had said sarcastically. So he had decided not to mention it for a while.
Besides, he knew, vacation was coming. They would be together every day and night for a week. No more excuses. They would do it. They would leave their son with her sister again if they had to.
And if that proved impossible, they would let the boy watch.
After all, he was now almost 2½—a babe-in-arms no more. Anyway, he’d never remember what he saw. And even if he did, he’d never understand it.
Yes. They’d do it while they were on vacation.
They’d go out to a movie.
Even if they both had headaches.
Excerpted from Gimme 15 Inches: Rants, Raves and Deadline-Driven Observations © Copyright 2017 Dave Molter