Dear Orlando Sentinel,
Listen, we have to talk.
We’ve had some great times together over the years. I remember how a decade ago, back when I was a recent arrival to town, you were like a lifeline in an unfamiliar land. Sure, you weren’t as mature or sophisticated as others I’d been with. (I’d never name names, but their initials were W.P. and N.Y.T.) But you had an earnest, plucky charm, and since no one else was showing up on my doorstep, we made the best of it. And over time, I found myself falling a little bit in love with you.
But we both know it hasn’t always been easy. We’ve had our ups and downs. There have been times when I’ve strayed from you. We backed off to weekends-only for a while, and one time you stopped coming over altogether for a few months. Every few years you’d go through a makeover, trying to recapture illusory youth, and each time I grew more disillusioned. But I’ve found myself drawn to you again and again; I’m comforted by your consistent presence. Sunday mornings are my favorite, when we curl up with a cup of coffee and you tell me all about the world.
Now, it kills me to say it, but I think our Sundays might be spoiled for good. You’ve got a new sugar daddy, a fella named Zell who’s been pushing you to make radical changes. (I hear tell he likes profits and puppies more than public service. Sounds like the sort of guy Ben Franklin would be proud of.) There’d been hints for weeks, like when you showed up with that crass commercial slapped on your hem, right out front for everyone to see. But it was still a shock when your new look debuted June 22.
I don’t want to hurt you, but someone has to tell the truth: Your “friend” has you looking like a cheap tramp. There, I said it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like a splash of color. But a mug-shot lineup and a cartoon plastered on your forehead? Really? And, oy, all the clashing, crashing, chaotic visual clutter! I’ll let you in on a secret: Fonts are like jewels; more than two kinds together are too much. (I think some Comic Sans might have sneaked in there, heaven help us.) Plus, it’s scary how skinny you’ve become – I don’t care what anyone else says, I liked you with meat on your bones.
I can’t understand why you’d debase yourself like this, driving away those loyal to you in order to attract attention from people who never cared for you in the first place. I’m really not a superficial guy; this isn’t only about how you’ve changed on the outside. Let’s be frank, you don’t have much to say any more. I think the problem is that your circle of friends is drying up. Sure, some of them, like Powers and Thomas and Kassab, are still around, and thank god Scott Maxwell hasn’t deserted yet. But mostly you mindlessly parrot what that Associated Press character tells you. If I want to know what Mr. Press thinks, I can get him for free from Yahoo, thank you very much! You’ve even stooped so low as to pass along hearsay from people who won’t give their real names, all in the name of being “diverse” and “energetic.” And when you do give your own opinion, it’s bland mush that wouldn’t change anyone’s mind about anything.
The worst part is that you don’t care about the arts the way you used to. Local culture was once a strong suit, but no longer. It’s been sliding over the years: First you stopped telling me about auditions; then you quit going to many of the “smaller” shows in town. But this is the unkindest cut of all – now you’re treating arts as an afterthought to travel, barely sparing a score of sentences on the subject. Your interest in books is half of what it used to be, and there’s hardly a mention of dance or music anymore. The only area where your appetite appears undiminished is advertising, which doesn’t surprise me in the least.
Here’s the bottom line: We both know you’re not getting any younger and that you’re in a dead-end profession. Your livelihood is based on the cutting down of a bazillion trees, driving them around with fossil fuels and charging people money for what they’ll dump daily in the trash. (We all know recycling is a scam; Penn & Teller told me so.) Face it, you couldn’t be more inefficient and eco-unfriendly if you went around clubbing baby seals with a bald eagle. So if you’re generating all that waste, shouldn’t you have something valuable to say once you’re in a reader’s house?
Oh, my sweet Senti … I’m not sure where we go from here. You have my credit-card number, so I guess you’ll still come over whether I like it or not, at least for a few more weeks. After that, we’ll have to take it one day at a time. Just try not to break my heart any more this month, OK?
Yours truly, with deep affection and sadness,
P.S. If you take away my Pearls Before Swine, we’re done for good. It’s all I’ve got firstname.lastname@example.org