Goodbye and Thank you
Since becoming a regular contributor to this paper in 2015, I have had the privilege of writing scores of columns under the heading of “Heart Talk.” This one will be the hardest to write. And the last.
As a writer for a local paper, one should try to stick to local or at least personal issues. Having plowed this ground for several years, I do not want to exhaust the soil by repeating themes. Time to move on to different fields, different settings.
If you have been kind enough to read my work for the past several years, you will have noticed some topics pop up again and again. My columns have often been love-letters to this city: Its beauty, its uniqueness, and its welcoming nature, especially to the gay community, have all been subjects of my writing.
Specifically, I have tried to bring to your attention often overlooked treasures in our wonderful town. There is the warm, wonderful, and soul-enriching Laguna Beach Books. There is also what used to be known as Sleepy Hollow walk-in clinic on Ocean Ave. (now it is affiliated with Hoag), staffed by knowledgeable professional healers and medical assistants who deal with you in a most friendly and caring manner. I have often written about Bushard’s Pharmacy, where regular customers are made to feel like family.
There have been columns on the pathos of personal loss: A younger sister gone too soon, a wife’s losing battle with cancer. The latter leaving an empty heart and an empty home behind. The disappointment, no, the anger, of learning the current administration has reduced funding for the National Cancer Institute.
One of my first columns dealt with the shock of a homeless young man coming up to me and asking for a dollar. He was a former student of mine at El Toro High School. This has caused me to forever wonder if I could have done something more to help him as he sat for 180 days in my classroom. Entering my eighth decade on this earth, there are so many things I wonder if I could have done better.
Over the years I have tried to sound a warning, like a fire bell in the night, about the dangers of technology and social media. As Dr. Sherry Turkle said, “We have turned away from each other and toward our phones… Our passion for technology tempts us away from face to face conversation.” We do this at great cost to ourselves and our society.
Those of you on the conservative side of the political spectrum might be thinking, “Don’t forget all those lefty columns you wrote.” You’re right. I am a liberal and, in some columns, this came through clearly. Remember my goodbye to Putin-loving Dana Rohrabacher when the voters ousted him in favor of Harley Rouda? My piece on what I consider this city’s wrong approach to marijuana sales? And my many rants about the grave danger of man-made global warming? I stand by all of these.
This retiring columnist also needs to thank some people. First, and most importantly, is Professor Christine Fugate of Chapman University. She has been the wind beneath my columnist wings. A special thanks to former editor of the Laguna Beach Independent, Andrea Adelson, who gave me a spot in the regular rotation of Indy columnists. I would also like to thank current editor, Allison Jarrell, who has been so supportive of my work. The Indy has been fortunate to have been guided by these two ladies’ professional hands.
And finally, I want to thank my readers and those who have left comments. Even the negative posts forced me to examine my own positions.
What’s next? With the help of friends who are not Luddites like me, I plan to start an on- line presence at the publishing platform Medium.com entitled “Curmudgeon on the Coast.” The national scene is a target rich environment and I plan to come out shooting.
But it is with heavy heart that I bid farewell to “Heart Talk,” but I leave open the possibility of writing guest columns from time to time.
Let me close by leaving you with some of the words of Freddie Mercury’s “We Are the Champions.”
I’ve taken my bows
(some people on the street have stopped me and said they like my columns, I always bowed in thanks)
And my curtain calls
(I had a book signing and, fortunately, people clapped)
You brought me fame(very limited) and fortune(not so much) and everything that goes with it, I thank you all.
You may run into James Utt in town. He often wears a brown cap that says, “Veterans Against Trump.”
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I will miss reading your column. I have enjoyed it very much. So grateful for your voice. Best wishes on your new adventure!
Ahhh Jim, so sad to see you leaving “The Indy.” But I know you will do well as you expand your horizons to the national and worldwide stage. I look forward to checking-into your new curmudgeony column. As for the national and international fools whom you so often target… Give em hell, James!
All the best,
Douglas & Rhea-Frances Motley
Sorry to hear you are leaving us. “Heart Talk “was a great column. It was thoughtful, balanced, and well, from the heart. I expect great things from you in your new endeavors. I’ll be sure to follow. The very best.
Nooo!!!! Say it ain’t so, Jim! I’m a big fan of your work and will miss your curmudgeonly comments greatly. Sounds like there will be other opportunities to keep up with your musings for which I am grateful. Be well, my friend.
Say it ain’t so James! Your voice has been and will continue to be a beacon of light in these volatile times. Your Heart Talk column is cherished by your readers such as myself who often searched for reasoning in these unreasonable times.
Thank you for being there, voicing your heart and soul and offering glimpses into your own life.
On to another journey, Medium is AWESOME!
I will be looking for you around town in that beloved hat!
Jim, thank you so much for speaking to our hearts and opening our minds with your thought-proking columns, beautifully seasoned with your spicy opinions. Reading them made us better people and I’m sorry to see them end.
On the other hand, does that mean I can have your column now? Of course, in my hands, Heart Talk would just translate into some fun and flirty romance chatter… just what we will all need to lighten our mood in the absence of your common sense.
Your words will be missed around here.
Although I live in Corona del Mar, that city up the coast from Laguna Beach and often the focus of Jame’s good natured barbs, I never missed his column. I have shared his heartfelt insights into the loss of a beloved pet so often. Thanks for the memories!
hi james, want to tell you how much i’ve appreciated reading your column. while i think your bow-out from the indy is too soon, it’s always wise to leave early and with grace. hope you are thriving, curmudgeonly or otherwise. i will look for your words on medium.com. wishing you the best, sara
Mr. Utt (because I don’t know what else to call you) – this is from a former student. I have to say you undeniably changed thousands of students’ lives, including my own, for the better. You classes were engaging, motivating, and most of all, interesting. I remember debating with my classmates whether you were liberal or conservative – that’s how good at playing devil’s advocate you were/are. I want you to know that it in was your Contemporary Issues class my freshmen year that I realized that I wanted to become a lawyer. Some years and a few degrees later, here I am – living my dream career. Your lessons and insights still help me navigate the muddied waters that is the law and politics. We sometimes forget to thank the teachers who made a difference – so here I am, saying thank you Mr. Utt.
Cheers and best wishes to all your endeavors.