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Just Another Point of View: Cleaning out the files after 41 years reveals a few 'treasures'

I’ve devoted much of my spare time over the past dozen weeks or so to tidying up my work area.

I’m kind of a packrat, so that has meant gathering up personal effects (Homer Simpson lights, lava lamp, knickknacks, toys, books (the silly ones), assorted photos of the other person who lives at our house in various stages of our lives (ranging from early grade school to very mature) and a collection of memorabilia that could only have been gathered by a certified weirdo.

A lot of this time I’ve spent going through my files, in hopes of leaving the space habitable for the next person who has to sit here. Over many days, I’ve reduced two fully stuffed file cabinet drawers to one good fistful of personal papers now occupying about 7 inches of one drawer. All of it, of course, is material that interests only me.

What I’ve gotten rid of includes the following: files and papers best described as community trivia. They involve (though are not limited to) memos, articles, cartoons, maps, reports and epistles dealing with local history, politics, business and sociology — as well as anything pertaining to running a newsroom, the newspaper business, newspaper-related law, newspaper people, newspaper lore and newspaper practices.

I don’t need to look at any of that stuff ever again.

I know I digress, but allow me to give you one small example of the kinds of junk I’ve horded over the years. Do you know what city Bridgeport Village is in? Well I do, and I have a map to prove it.

Even though the complex at the eastern edge of Washington County is often described as “a Tigard shopping center,” it’s almost entirely in Tualatin. The Tigard-Tualatin border runs down the street (Southwest Bridgeport Road) that fronts the Regal Cinemas. Everything south of that road is Tualatin; what little there is to the north is Tigard.

I’m pretty sure that knowing things like this is probably akin to having perfect pitch (which I do not have). Those poor bastards spend all their time bending notes back to where they ought to be — kinda like the way the rest of us mentally comb the hair of the disheveled person sitting in front of us on the bus.

So, you’re wondering, what file folders might Mr. Weirdo have kept, if he’s thrown all that other cool stuff away, right?

Fair question. I’ve kept (and will be taking home with me) such important papers as my files on back pain (prominently featuring references to the book “Healing Back Pain Naturally” by Dr. Art Brownstein); a collection of Christmas carols; many, many items on the topic of cocktails; an assortment of “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey”; a map of the campsites at Diamond Lake; articles galore on Bob Dylan; much information about Virgil Earp (who is buried at Riverview Cemetery on Taylors Ferry Road) and Mexican singer Juan Gabriel; more than you ever wanted to know about high school nicknames; the history of Portland rock music; my extensive collection on “Louie, Louie”-related matters; maps of all sorts; my personal turkey carols (originally published as a column in the Lake Oswego Review and trotted out in later years due to popular demand); Washington, D.C.; and letters to me from, well, a little bit of everybody.

A side note here: I also have all the rejection letters I received in the summer of 1974 from editors and publishers at The Oregonian, The Columbian, the Capital Journal, The Oregon Statesman, The Daily Astorian, Central Oregonian, Eugene Register-Guard, Hillsboro Argus, Corvallis Gazette-Times, LaGrande Observer and Roseburg News-Review. Most of them, of course, are no longer with us. When I did finally land a reporting job that September with the Tigard Times, I secretly wished that all of these decision-makers would die in the gutter, friendless and penniless, but I’ve worked hard the last 41 years not to hold a grudge because, well, it’s just wrong, isn’t it?

If I could only keep one file folder, though, it would be the one labeled “Fan Mail From Some Flounder” — after the cryptic reference made on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” This contains a huge pile of correspondence I’ve received about things that appeared (or not) in the newspaper. Many of the writers of these items were under obvious strain of some sort.

“In regard to Mikel Kelly’s application to be the next Bhagwan,” wrote Ma Prem Isabel from Antelope in February 1983, “I’m afraid he has applied for the post far too soon. Bhagwan is here to stay.” She went on for five more paragraphs lecturing me about all the things I’d need to do to be anywhere near the man for the job.

Mostly, though, I just liked the letterhead, with its doves flying over the title, Rajneesh Neo-Sannyas International Commune.

“I’ve seen two weeks go by without a front-page apology for subjecting your customers to the hate-filled rants of Mikel Kelly,” wrote Bob McMillan to the Estacada News in 2011. He took the occasion to announce he was canceling his paper. “I do not want another issue of your publication polluting my home,” he said.

After a column in the Klamath Falls Herald and News, in which I mocked the old warning, “Don’t run with sticks or you’ll put an eye out” (because it never really happens), Mrs. L.B. Gay wrote to tell me that when she was 5 years old, she and a friend were “playing with sticks” — and she was left blind in one eye.

Another Klamath Falls reader told me in December 1987, “The meaning of Christmas has obviously escaped you. Your content is irrelevant. It doesn’t inspire, uplift or inform.”

In 1993, Richard Bloomberg wrote to say, “After reading your item ‘We need more news for lunatics,’ I decided that I could get along without reading your paper.”

And, in January of this very year, Gale Gipson scolded me for picking on Dick Cheney on the topic of torture and urged me to see “Unbroken,” which I did and must add it’s not nearly as good as the book was — and, by the way, Dick Cheney has STILL never served in the military (like almost all the rest of us dumb slobs had to at one time or other).

In the interest of fairness, though, I really should admit that most of the correspondence I’ve received has been positive and supportive. Over and over again people have gone to the trouble to send a letter, a card or an email just to say they thought I was doing a good job and to keep it up.

That has been truly amazing to me, because we all know it’s a lot easier to complain than to say something nice.

Former managing editor of several community newspapers, including the Woodburn Independent, Lake Oswego Review and the Times papers, Mikel Kelly is chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.