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September 11. 2011 11:02PM

John Clayton's In the City: From the very bottom of my heart, I thank you


 
Stop me if you've heard this one before: This is my last “In The City” column for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

I meant it the last time I wrote it, but ... Back in February 2008, I voluntarily left my full-time job here at the newspaper to embark on what was to be a three-year quasi-sabbatical. That sabbatical was to revolve around a 49-foot trawler, the cities of the eastern seaboard, deep-sea fishing, the Florida Keys, scuba diving, the Bahamas, kayaking and the Caribbean, but a funny thing happened on the way to Margaritaville.

Apparently, people missed me — a lot, for which I was pleasantly surprised — but they wrongly directed their ire at Publisher Joe McQuaid, so, six weeks after signing off, when Joe asked me if I would do my column on a free-lance basis, I agreed. In the subsequent three-and-a-half years, I have been in this space every single week, with a few “At Large” columns thrown in for good measure.

So much for my sabbatical.

To make good on my commitment, I have accumulated more Frequent Flier miles than the guys on the International Space Station, returning home to find column material, to honor speaking engagements and to conduct the occasional book signing, while also trying to live “La Vida Loca.” On those occasions when I couldn't get back to town, well ... I don't know how Christopher Columbus did his thing without a cell phone, a laptop and wireless Internet service.

But that is all at an end. The sabbatical has run its course, and, as you may have seen in Thursday's paper, I recently accepted a full-time position as vice president for communications with the New Hampshire Hospital Association. My new e-mail is jclayton@nhha.org, and my new duties begin today.

Given the complexity of those new duties (and to avoid any circumstance that might be perceived as a potential conflict of interest), the Publisher and I have agreed — reluctantly, mind you — that this column should cease.

As in life, there's a natural symmetry at work here. I first began writing the column in 1991, and since I'm a fan of round numbers, 20 years seems like a pretty good run. The column has paved the way for seven books, opened the door to a seven-year stint as host of “New Hampshire Crossroads” and given me the chance to chronicle the ebb and flow of life in my hometown.

Yes, there are still countless stories I would love to tell and many stories I would like to see through to fruition — consider the Central High Band's “Operation: Pearl Harbor” undertaking; I've still got a speaking engagement/book signing/fund-raiser for the band on Oct. 4 at the Hooksett Public Library — but it's time to move on.

It's no secret that I love the history of this city, but the inescapable fact is that this column is now history. From the very bottom of my heart, I thank you all for your warmth and kindness and your generosity in sharing your stories with me right here, “In The City.”

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