Off with their heads

In the 13-and-a-half years I’ve been scribing for this newspaper, I’ve never once seen fit to crab about my editors. That long and admirable streak of submissive civility is about to come to an extremely petty halt:

It happened two weeks ago, when my little ode to hummingbirds was printed here. My editors didn’t do a thing to the poem itself and let it run untouched. Fine. Dandy. Nope, what got me instantly apoplectic was the headline for that particular column, that read “Little Creatures of Love.”

“Little Creatures of what!” I exploded, projectile-spurting a big splotch of Red Bull and tequila out of my mouth. “Oh, no!” I wailed, tapping into a rich vein of instant melodrama while feeling as if I had just been picked up by the belt loops and thrown directly underneath a speeding bus being driven by a late-for-his-tee-time Dennis Hopper, “I’m ruined! I will forever be forced to shop at 11 at night to avoid all readers!”

Oh, you didn’t know that? That us columnists don’t write our own headlines? It’s just one of those things in journalism. The columnists and correspondents send in their stuff and the editors do the headlines. Why? Because that’s the way it’s always been done, I reckon. And usually, it’s fine. Most of the time, my heads are adequate. Sometimes, they’re really good. Once in a while, they’re noxious, stinky gassers upon the eyeball. “Little Creatures of Love” belonged firmly in this latter category.

Why, you may ask? What’s so wrong about “L.C.O.L.?”

Because IT’S SO WRONG! That is to say, hummingbirds are to love what Dick Cheney is to cardio-kickboxing. Now I’m not sure about the hummers of California or Vermont, but I can tell you that the darling little “faeries” of Nevada are the bitchiest, pissiest, most territorially pugnacious little beasts this side of a badger with heartburn. Anyone who has watched hummers endlessly dive bomb, hassle, and confront one another, chasing their fellows away from “their” feeder knows what I’m talking about. Worthy subjects of a cute little “faerie” poem? Absolutely. Worthy of being spattered with a ridiculously inaccurate headline of sappily romanticized ultra-fluff? Grrrrrr!

I wouldn’t have written that headline for that column in a hundred years. Which is why I had to pull myself out from underneath that big, greasy bus, dust myself off, and, knowing full well that not one of you could give a flying fig about this stuff, grab the nearest editor and hurl him/her under the wheels of that very same, careening vehicle. I had to do it, not just for me, but for any of us columnists who have, at one time or another, felt royally pants-ed in public by a dogdoo headline dreamed up by an editor who was running late for his high-colonic irrigation session. OK. I feel much better now. (Editors—I’ll be sure to send over a bucket of chicken later.)