“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.” Take out the “victorious” and boldface the “exhausted” and that’s how I feel at the end of a good column day. And for the skill or luck or divine guiudance that led to my having reached this satisfaction, I give genuine thanks on this day. Thanks to those who helped me along and gave me encouragement, and no thanks to a friend who called me a “failure” when I was 28 or thereabouts.

Actually, hearing that word probably helped, now that I think about it. I was pedalling on a stationary bicycle and I knew it, and this guy said I probably wouldn’t make it. That scared me and stiffened my resolve and led to my life taking a turn for the better a year or two later. So I take that “no thanks” back. Friends who give it to you straight from the shoulder are few and far between. Most “friends” will give you a smile and a back-pat as you swirl down into the toilet bowl, and then hand you a beer and a bag of pretzels. So thanks to all of the straight-shooters. They aren’t much for backrubs or pep talks, but they’re worth their weight in gold.