Monday, November 08, 2010

So long, and thanks for all the questions

Well, readers, we've had a lot of fun these past nine years.

Your questions have sent me on a crazy voyage of discovery -- interviewing everyone from Gov. Doug Wilder to the Neon Man to the guy who used to say, "Elvis has left the building." I talked to an astronaut about burping in space. I interviewed the guy who wrote "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer." I found out what happened to Shirley Temple's brothers.

In all I wrote about 450 columns, answering 1,000 or so questions. It has been a great ride.

But, as some of you may know, I've also been on another journey. Seven years ago, I embarked on a dream job -- writing kids' books. And now, after much heartache and rejection, that career has finally taken off. Whether it will last or not remains to be seen. But for now I've decided to focus my energies there.

Wait! Don't panic! What's On Your Mind isn't going away. Just me. Another writer has agreed to step in and take over the sometimes daunting task of answering your questions.

Indeed, the questions did become something of a burden at times. The sheer number of them and the difficulty of finding answers for them is a heavy weight to bear.

What you read in the paper were the success stories. Countless other questions couldn't be cracked.

For example: "Which 'orange' came first, the word for the color or the word for the fruit?" I traced this one back, back, back and never did pin it down. Basically, I'd need to interview a caveman, and he hasn't been returning my calls.

I do feel a certain melancholy when I think of all those questions I never answered. Someday, I may chance upon the solution -- and I won't have anyone to share it with.

That's been the joy of this job: sharing it all with you. This weekly dialogue, which I never experienced as a news reporter, has been a lot of fun, and I'll miss it.

I'll miss the faithful questioners who sent in query after query. I'll miss the persistent ones who asked the same question again and again. (You know who you are.) And I'll miss running into people who had a question for me or wanted to discuss one of my answers a little more.

This column is reader-powered. Without your questions, it would have been nothing. You sparked my curiosity and took me in directions I never would have gone alone.

At some point, I hit on the idea of asking you, the readers, for help with some of the questions -- especially those involving local history.

As a relative newcomer to the area -- I started with The Roanoke Times in 1996 -- I didn't know much about your local TV dance shows, bygone restaurants and unusual Christmas displays. Luckily, you knew all about it and were eager to share. I wound up with overstuffed voicemail boxes, an ocean of e-mails and some of the best, most memorable What's On Your Mind columns ever.

So, now I'll turn this space over to the new What's On Your Mind columnist, Bridget Bradburn. You'll meet her next Monday. I've passed on some of your questions, and I hope you'll keep her supplied with many more.

And, one last time, I'd like to thank you for the time, energy, curiosity and knowledge, you put into this column. I couldn't have done it without you.

Bridget Bradburn will answer your questions starting next week. Send them to WhatsOnYourMind@roanoke.com.

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