I stumbled across Zay N. Smith's "Quick Takes" column in the Chicago
Sun-Times by accident.
From October 2000 through October 2005, I worked in Chicago and commuted
between a mostly-unfurnished studio apartment there and my home in
Pittsburgh, spending a not insignificant amount of time riding in
assorted cabs, trains, and airplanes.
It was 5 am on a cold, snowy Saturday morning in December. I was on a
Blue Line train heading toward O'Hare. I dreaded the inevitable weather
delay that awaited me at the airport, and the endless gate reassignments
that would keep me shuttling between terminals on the fluorescently
illuminated underground moving walkway. (One interesting feature of this
conveyance was that it had its own musical accompaniment, an endless
loop of music box-like tinkling that achieved the impossible: making
Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" as irritating as "It's A Small World After
All." But I digress.)
I'd overslept that morning, and in my rush to catch the train had failed
to stuff into my backpack the usual poundage of books and magazines that
maintained my compulsive reading addiction. Desperate for material, I
spotted an old Sun-Times on the seat across the aisle. It was
folded and opened to an inside page. The first thing that caught my eye
was a column by Zay N. Smith called "Quick Takes."
I was hooked.
The weather delay, a wi-fi connection and a wall outlet commandeered at
great personal risk enabled me to fire up my laptop and read a couple
years' worth of QT columns until United finally decided it was safe to
venture to Pittsburgh.
Remember when you looked forward to the morning paper so you could read
Gary Larson's The Far Side or Bill Watterson's Calvin and
Hobbes? Same deal with "QT."
Thanks to the Internet, my return to Pittsburgh in 2005 didn't interrupt
my habit. Indeed, Smith's column attained a national and international
readership, and was probably one of the Sun-Times' most read
Which is why the paper's decision in November, 2008 to drop the column
after 13 successful years seemed so patently absurd. Throughout that
year the Sun-Times had laid off or bought out dozens of its
editorial staff as it tried to reduce its costs in a contracting
newspaper market. Many thought Smith- like Sun-Times legend Roger
Ebert- was untouchable, given his decades with the paper and QT's
Ah, but stupidity knows no limits.
The good news is that "Quick Takes" has returned, as a blog
on the website of Chicago Public Media’s WBEZ-FM. The column
will appear on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. A representative entry:
"News Headline: Man exposes himself at Association for the Blind.
is probably an interesting story behind that."
Meanwhile, the Sun-Times continues its slow-motion implosion
toward inevitable oblivion. When it finally does succumb, its death will
be attributed to the same cosmic force that claimed such entities as Ken
Lay and Andrew Breitbart:
Zay N. Smith - Quick Takes
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