September 11

“Snide Remarks” did not appear in The Daily Herald on Wednesday. We figured no matter how funny it was, it wasn’t going to seem funny at all in the context of the dreadful news we’d be reporting alongside it, especially considering most readers don’t find it funny most of the time anyway.

Tuesday was a long, arduous day for everyone. Most Americans had their eyes glued on the TV set all day, and we in the news and semi-news business were obviously no exception. It was shocking, horrific stuff.

It was odd to consider how quickly things can change. On Monday, I was concerned about whether I’d be able to afford the “Godfather” DVD set and the “Simpsons” Season 1 DVD set, both of which come out in the next few weeks, or whether I’d have to buy one of them now and the other one later.

Even Tuesday morning, before I got in the car and heard the news on the radio, my mind was completely elsewhere. U2 had announced it would stop in Salt Lake City during the second leg of its U.S. tour, and I was absolutely thrilled. I also had a lunchdate planned that day with many friends and was looking forward to showing them my magic new corduroy pants (at least, I assume they’re magic, given how much they cost).

Suddenly, everything seemed trivial. The column I had prepared for Wednesday was about the missionary-discount controversy in Orem, which now seemed like the least important thing in the world (which may not be saying much, considering how unimportant it was to begin with). How in the world are we supposed to go on with our lives after something like this happens?

The lunchdate was canceled, and I stayed in the newsroom for eight hours straight, which my co-workers will tell you is not an ordinary occurrence. The TVs were on the entire time. I somehow managed to write an article about Peter Breinholt, though I later had to rewrite it and take all the gloom out (“Peter Breinholt will perform this weekend, but how can you think about Peter Breinholt at a time like this?”). That night’s movie screening was canceled, too, so I went straight home from the office, turned on the TV, and watched some more news.

Then it started to catch up with me. After 10 hours of non-stop terrorism coverage, my emotions were beginning to be overwhelming. I became utterly depressed. I forced myself to turn off the TV and do something cheerful. I watched “Mary Poppins.”

What an appropriate movie this turned out to be. First, it’s as light-hearted and jolly as the day’s news had been dreary and upsetting. Second, it’s one of my favorite childhood movies, and I hadn’t seen it in a long time. (P.S. What’s the deal with Admiral Boom firing a cannon twice a day? Who lets him do this?)

But most importantly, it’s a movie about finding joy in life. No matter how all-consuming our job at the bank may be, we have to take a break now and then to go fly a kite. If someone tells us a joke, we need to laugh at it, long and loud and clear. Sometimes we need to have crazy hallucinations about jumping into chalk drawings and fraternizing with waiter-penguins. We need to cherish our children while they’re still young, and we need to cherish our parents while they’re still tolerable.

Watching the film, I was finally overcome by the grief of the day. It was all too sad to comprehend. But at the same time, the movie was a reminder that joy and happiness still exist, and always will. There had been a lot of sadness, but there were still some very sweet things in life, too. It’s possible that all of these thoughts made me cry while watching “Mary Poppins,” but you’ll never be able to prove that.

Life really does go on. Those “trivial” things aren’t trivial, because they’re the components of our lives, and our lives are the furthest things from trivial. (Well, mine is, anyway.) Now, more than ever, we need to find the little joys around us. The spoonfuls of sugar, as it were.

It was a no-brainer to not run "Snide Remarks" on Sept. 12. I suggested it, but I'm sure my bosses were already thinking it. It was the first time in the two years I'd written "Snide Remarks" for the Herald that the column had not appeared as regularly scheduled.

I wanted my first column after the attacks to be a transitional one. If we just jumped right back into regular stuff -- "Luscious Malone helped me buy a shirt!" or whatever -- it would seem odd. But of course it would also be very odd to make jokes about the terrorist attacks. So I had to do something that a) acknowledged what had happened, b) was funny, and c) was not funny in regards to what had happened. You see my dilemma.

I got the basic idea for the column while I was watching "Mary Poppins," and wrote the first draft afterward. It was very sentimental at first, as was everything everyone wrote those first couple days after the attacks. Subsequent drafts toned down the crying part, especially. At first I had that I was crying like a baby. By the final draft, I was barely even admitting to it.

Still, the column is more personal than usual. You catch a lot of details of my everyday life, probably more than you care about: my every-Tuesday lunchdate with friends, what specific article I was writing, what column I had been working on, the DVDs I was planning to buy, the fact that a movie screening was canceled, plus all the various emotions I had. This is a departure, because I usually make a conscientious effort not to talk much about the nitty-gritty of my life. I refer to my friends by fake names, and I don't often mention being a theater and film critic in the column (nor being a columnist in the theater and film reviews). But this time, it seemed appropriate to be a little more open with the readers.

I was fully prepared for my editor to tell me he didn't get the "Mary Poppins" references. He's an old-school journalist (i.e., he swears and drinks a lot), and I couldn't imagine him ever having seen the film, let alone remembering details. Turns out it's absolutely his most favorite movie of all time. Go figure.

The same editor wisely suggested a change. Originally, I recommended that people should take drugs, if necessary, to help them achieve the waiter-penguin hallucinations. He said that while that joke might be fine normally, it came across as too blunt in this gentler-than-usual column. I agreed, and we cut the line.