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Robbins: A quarter century of columns

This month marks 25 years that I have been writing this column. For several years, the column appeared twice a week. For most of that long time, though, Hump Day has been where I have settled in.

By my figuring, I have penned on these pages about a million and a quarter words. Enough to float a small flotilla in printer’s ink perhaps. And that’s besides my day job and my novels. I dare not guess what the whole shebang adds up to. On my shoulders may be a small environmental catastrophe of ink. My bad.

Someone once said — was it Shakespeare, the Bard and not the bloke who recently got a pop of Pfizer vaccine in his arm in Coventry? — that only a lawyer could write 10,000 words and have the temerity to call it a brief. Measured by my outflow, there’s some truth to that I suppose.



One of the greatest compliments I received in all these years was one that I am not sure was necessarily intended as one; one of my editors, Scott Miller, offhanded to me that I was “as reliable as the tide.” That may not have meant much to him, but when your major talent is persistence, it meant a lot me.

Before I leave for vacation (remember those?) — or if I have a trial coming up — I stockpile columns so, like an hebdomadal ebb or flow — whichever is your preferance — one is never missed.



In these many years, my thoughts have ranged over a Sahara’s worth of topics, from the mundane to the arcane, from what I like to think is the profound to the sort of minutia that only the mother of a lexophile could truly love. I have sought to educate and entertain. If I’ve made you smile even once or caused you to breathe out a COVID-masked “ah-hah,” then I’ll scorekeep it as a victory.

I have written about the niceties and nastiness of law. I have written about policy and procedure. I have written about cases that shook the legal world and the fundaments upon which our nation of laws was carefully and deliberately constructed. I was heartened lately when, despite the rancor and divisiveness surrounding our present socio-political climate, following the election, in a testament to our founders, the middle firmly held.

Of all the many columns I have spilled on these pages, there are three topics about which I received most comment. Two were not unexpected.

First, there is a deluge every time I write about the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms, predictably, has folks up in arms. The second has been columns when I was critical of something Trump has done. Folks forget though — or maybe they are just new to town —that in the past quarter of a century, I have been an equal opportunity critic of Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and yes, Trump. I suppose that Biden will provide me fodder too.

The third topic, though, was a surprise. I wrote about common law marriage in this state. Therein, I (I thought rather innocently) observed that whether you were married ceremonially or via common law, if the blush has fallen from the rose, the process of divorce is all the same. What this led to was a crush of phone calls, all of which went like this:

“OK, I read your column.”

“Today’s column, I presume.”

“Yeah. Yeah. And you see, a long time ago my girlfriend and I said that we were married — common law, I guess. Because if you did, then she could get a ski pass too.”

“Did you sign something swearing that you were married?”

Long pause. “Yeah. I guess. Anyway … we’re not together anymore. And, well … you see, I’m married. To someone else, I mean. So …” long pause followed by a gulp. “Am I married twice?! Should I have gotten a divorce?!”

I took a lot of calls like that.

Over the years, people have been mostly kind. I have my tiny fan club, the smaller klatch of which are not blood relations. And folks have felt free — despite my aim to try and not take sides — to offer me their opinions. That is more than fine; the robust involvement of one’s even occasional readers is all a writer can hope for. If I’ve fired a few neurons, well thank you. Good for me.

While people have disagreed with me, sometimes vociferously, only very rarely has it been personal. That is the essence of good debate. Even though I try mightily to not bleed into opinion when I do, you are as entitled to your opinion as am I to mine. There is health and growth and vigor in minor reciprocal agitation.

Anyway …

Thank you for bringing me into your homes. Thank you for taking a few minutes with me each week. It is my hope that we will spend a little time with each other for years to come and, perhaps each learn a little from the other.

Here’s looking forward to the next 25 years, presuming both the readers and the Daily will continue to have me.


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