Woodburn: What is a 'hodgepodge column'?

·3 min read

“Who is Tennessee Williams?”

This is what I said aloud to the TV, and to my wife, the other evening when “Jeopardy!” host Ken Jennings revealed the category — “Writers & The South” — for Final Jeopardy.

My blind guess came to mind because we had visited the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s home in New Orleans’ French Quarter a few years ago. We even met the current owner of the Creole-style building on Toulouse Street and he shared a few stories about the man who wrote “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

When the game-ending clue was revealed — “In 1939 he lived on Toulouse Street in the French Quarter & chose the professional name that bonded him to the South” — I exalted knowingly.

My shot-in-the-dark bull’s-eye felt as sweet as a powdered sugar-covered beignet, but my dear friend Sus has a far better “Jeopardy!” story.

Understand, Sus is one of the wisest, most widely read people I know, able to quote lengthy passages from books and poems and plays. She is also as honest, and usually as modest, as “War and Peace” is long.

“I don’t think I ever told you,” Sus told me the other day, “that when Stephen and I were dating we had a Watch ‘Jeopardy!’ Together Date and I answered almost every question quick as a wink. This included the hardest stumpers that all of the contestants missed. I got Final Jeopardy right, too.

“The next time we watched, the same thing, and the next time as well — and when all the contestants missed Final Jeopardy, I got it! Well, by now Stephen was amazed and asked me what my IQ was and I said I had no idea and that I didn’t think it was high, but that I just liked trivia…”

Insert a dramatic pause.

“…and then I started laughing so hard I couldn’t stop.”

Insert a laugh in the retelling.

“I had to confess,” Sus confesses. “My dad, who lived in the Midwest, was taking copious notes for me on as many questions as he could. This was, of course, three hours before we watched it out here in California. He would phone me and give me the answers and I studied them, even hid my notes in the bathroom.”

The payoff pitch: “Dad just wanted to help me impress this guy that I really liked — I think it worked!”

Indeed. Answer: Sus and Stephen. Question: “Who have been happily married for 34 years?”


In my year-end column highlighting the best books I read in 2022, I forgot to mention any of the approximately 101 books I read to my 4-year-old granddaughter. Here are some recommendations from Maya herself:

“The Year We Learned to Fly” by Jacqueline Woodson; “Not a Cat: A Memoir” as told to Winter Miller; “The Snail and the Whale” by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler; “Maybe” by Kobi Yamada; “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem” by Amanda Gorman; and “Who Knew Baker Flew!?” by Venturans Marty Kinrose and Nancy Talley.


The former sportswriter in me has to give a big shout-out to The Star’s Joe Curley for his recent coverage of the CIF Division III State Championship game. Specifically, under the headline “Buena’s state title bid stopped by Oakland,” this lede sentence:

“SACRAMENTO — Ventura County’s longest boys basketball season ended with a long drive and even longer faces.”

If poetry is to say as much as possible in the fewest words, that line indeed qualifies for it encapsulated Buena’s 37 games played, the title showdown was on the road; and the final result was a heartbreaking defeat.

Woody Woodburn
Woody Woodburn

Woody Woodburn writes a weekly column for The Star and can be contacted at WoodyWriter@gmail.com. His books are available at www.WoodyWoodburn.com.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Woodburn: What is a 'hodgepodge column'?