The last time my pen touched these accursed pages was just after the Pulitzer Prize committee had set its good name ablaze by awarding Eli Sanders—and by extension The Stranger—its highest honor. This was the proverbial last straw for me. Then-editor Christopher Frizzelle used the opportunity to unceremoniously "kill me off" via a cerebrovascular accident.
That Mr. Frizzelle believed a senior citizen having a stroke was suitable chuckle fodder speaks volumes about the brand of "humor" in which this loathsome publication has specialized for an interminable quarter-century. Was I surprised? I was not. This, after all, is the paper that once published a photo spread featuring an adorable child as a prisoner at Abu Ghraib. Eat your heart out, Milton Berle.
Still, if enduring the ageist mockery of a group of confessed homosexuals and race traitors was the price I had to pay to be relieved of a decade of joyless labor riding herd on this paper's clown car of an editorial staff, then it was a bargain at twice the price.
But now it seems I have been miraculously "resurrected" to give notes on the 25th anniversary issue. I haven't read Dante since prep school, so I can't be sure which circle of hell this torture represents, but it feels like it's one of the big ones.
This issue consists primarily of past articles The Stranger calls memorable. I guess that's one of those words, like "literally," that changed definitions when no one was looking. If you actually bother to read any of this slurry, you may feel disoriented—eyes rolling, head shaking, face wincing; it's a syndrome that has plagued Stranger readers since the very beginning. "Why?" you will undoubtedly be asking yourself.
Why would anyone with one remaining cell of gray matter harbor nostalgia for so many stories about self-esteem, transit idiocy, 9/11, and other preventable travesties? Is it the cannabis residue that makes them proud of the petty irony that two-thirds of the garbage they're republishing in this issue (blah blah blah race, blah blah blah police violence, blah blah blah gentrification) could have been written about Seattle in 2016?
The answer is hubris. An inflated sense of their own relevance. The same zeppelinesque ego that has fueled The Stranger since its hashish-addled conception. Only the names on the masthead have changed. (Though frankly, not as many as one would hope—what's the matter, lifers, you afraid to get your soft little hands dirty with a real job?)
Reading through this issue—from the oral history of the paper's first year (kudos, incidentally, for resisting a double entendre for the first time in your history) to the new essays from former staffers—one gets a dim glimpse of what the paper once was, and wasn't. No piece better symbolizes the tradition of journalistic massacre than "Germ Warfare" by the infamous Dan Savage.
Those old enough to remember my original critiques of this publication will no doubt recall my long-standing feud with Mr. Savage, whose poison pen has since reached beyond Seattle to infect the country at large. Talk about going viral. Even 16 years later, the author's attempt to infect Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer with his illness remains a shocking display of political malice, constituting nothing short of bioterrorism and, in this ombudsman's opinion, voter fraud. Though I suppose it was admirable for Mr. Savage to extend the act of knob-licking beyond his degenerate lifestyle, his Iowa dispatch neatly encapsulates why The Stranger's continued existence should be viewed as a cautionary tale rather than cause for rejoicing.
As I once again depart, for what one hopes will be the last time, I feel a measure of gratitude for the toothless, namby-pamby Stranger that exists today, with its staff of dorm room loudmouths and exceptionally fragile socialist doilies. Those of us who survived the intellectual terrorism of the paper's first 25 years still have the scars to show for it. This issue proves The Stranger has always prided itself on favoring cheap shots at people and institutions over the kind of unsexy, long-term work that actually brings about sustainable change. Now, the charlatans who work there want to take a bow. Well, bravo, charlatans. You've all made your parents very angry.
I hope the applause will still be ringing in your ears come January, when Donald J. Trump is sworn in as the 45th (and final) president of the United States of America, so people like you will finally taste the swift blade of merciless justice.
See you in hell,
A. Birch Steen