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I just finished reading the proof sheets for this week’s paper. That task has been on various Tuesday nights a novelty and a satisfaction and an epiphany and a chore and finally a ritual over the course of the almost 250 Independents we’ve published while I’ve been editing this paper. The copyeditor and I almost always leave the office last, usually around 7:30 p.m., me with the proofs for final corrections before morning. I drive through at Hoagieville on the way home and get a turkey hoagie combo with the cheese-fry upgrade and a Dr. Pepper. I choke that down and then I go to my desk with a badly chewed red Paper Mate and spend the next two hours or so reading more or less every word in the paper, often for the second or third time in as many days. Most weeks we’ve got work still to do Wednesday morning, right up until 10:30 a.m., when we grab a cup of coffee and start planning the next week’s issue. Some Tuesday nights, by the time I get to bed, the only question I’ve got left is whether the cheese fries or the paper is going to give me the heart attack first.

But that’s just part of it. There’s also been, with remarkable regularity, the dawning satisfaction in the process of watching the paper come together, the realization that somehow, once again, a little miracle that arrives late every Tuesday night, it’s another pretty damn good issue after all. It’s been worth the effort it takes everyone to put it together, and it’s worth the time you spend reading it. That’s been a nice comforter to curl up with after a hard day’s work.

All of which is awkward preamble to goodbye, since this is the last issue I’ll be reading pre-print. After five years I’m taking my Tuesdays back. Next week I may wake up early and go see if there’s enough water in the Bitterroot to float a canoe and a couple cans of beer. I’ll probably go to bed early Tuesday night, too. Or maybe—¿que possible?—I’ll go out.

But before I go anywhere I have to express my personal and professional gratitude to pretty much everyone in Missoula for accommodating another implant so generously, and to everyone who’s ever worked at the Independent, for making it what it is, which I adore, and most especially to the editorial staff, past and present, whom I also adore, and admire and owe big-time for making the paper and themselves and me look good, and for being good, good friends. There’s not enough space here to name names—just check any issue’s masthead.

See y’all around.

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