Very few of us ever met him — I never did — but all of us who worked at the National Post owe a debt of gratitude to Peter W. Kaplan as he announces his retirement from the New York Observer, which he edited for 15 years. The Observer‘s retro look, its obsession with the hobbies and failings of a certain cultural elite, and its literate but smartass tone were all a huge influence on the Post when we launched. The two papers could hardly have had less similar politics, but in other ways the debt in, say, the Post‘s first two years was obvious and frequently acknowledged. Post staffers knew which Toronto branches of Lichtman’s — remember Lichtman’s? — would carry the Observer, and when I went to New York I’d always get a copy of the Observer before I did much else. The paper has had a difficult few years, as have many (ahem), and while I understand its conversion to tabloid format I worry that a lot has been lost. But it’s still smart, fun reading, and you can’t say that about a lot of papers.