Learning to ride, falling down, getting back on
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Lorenzo W. Milam is the author of Sex & Broadcasting (Mho & Mho Works) and a contributing editor of RALPH: The Review of the Arts, Literature, Philosophy, and the Humanities (www.ralphmag.org). He lives in San Diego, California.
We chatted about this and that, and then I launched into my speech: “I want to build a noncommercial radio station here in Washington. It’ll have music from all over the world and commentary from every point of view. It’ll have interviews and recordings of important speeches and documentaries and news programs that will look at all sides of the issues. Most of all, it will respect the audience.”
The Sun doesn’t usually report on current events, but September’s terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. marked a turning point for all of us. We put out a call to our writers, inviting them to reflect on the tragedy and its aftermath. The response was overwhelming. As word got around, we received submissions not only from regular contributors but from writers who are new to The Sun’s pages.
That O’Brien was out on the streets and not hidden away in some nursing home was a testament to his Irish dander. Remember, this is a man who — since the age of six — had the use of one muscle in his right foot, one muscle in his neck, and one in his jaw. That’s it. He made full use of all three. He used the foot muscle to steer his monster machine; he used the other two to bang with a stick on the keys of a computer, to write, cajole, editorialize, storm, cry, laugh, and rage. You tell me he wasn’t a nut case?
Just as I am about to leave for the North, my birthday appears. I’m willing to forget it, but my pals won’t hear of it. When I get to La Huerta late in the afternoon on my last day in Puerto Perdido, they bring out a cake that they’ve bought with their own money.
This month marks The Sun’s twenty-fifth anniversary. As the deadline for the January issue approached — and passed — we were still debating how to commemorate the occasion in print. We didn’t want to waste space on self-congratulation, but we also didn’t think we should let the moment pass unnoticed. At the eleventh hour, we came up with an idea: we would invite longtime contributors and current and former staff members to send us their thoughts, recollections, and anecdotes about The Sun. Maybe we would get enough to fill a few pages.
What we got was enough to fill the entire magazine.
Though we haven’t devoted the whole issue to the anniversary, we have allowed the section to grow beyond our original plans. After seeing the pieces, we felt that our readers would enjoy them as much as we did — for the information about the magazine’s history, for the glimpses into the writers’ lives, and (not least) for the quality of the writing.
The last time I went to my psychiatrist’s office, he asked me how I felt. I said that with the pills he was giving me, I felt as happy as a clam.
She loathed weakness for the simple reason that it prevented one from seizing life’s opportunities. In her case, opportunity consisted of being born with a hundred thousand megawatts of pure drive and determination, and a father who pegged her early along as one of the Divine: a daddy who let her drive a car when she was twelve; a daddy who gave her a twenty-two-room mansion on Riverside Avenue for a wedding present; a daddy who adored her beyond all reason.
Linda Hoag of the Los Angeles Free Clinic writes that “denial can be a healthy survival and coping technique. Often, those chided for denial have fought best and lived longest. . . . Denial and hope are two sides of the same coin and no one but the patient can know which side of that coin is face up at any given moment.”
I’ve never met you, but from having read your crisp condemnation of me, I know you well. You are one of the legions who tell us what we should feel, instead of listening to what we do feel. We have met you thousands of times before, and you drive us up the wall.
“The mother is already distant from Sarah. Sarah is trying to distance herself from her father, and suicide is the only method she’s discovered so far to do that. But the father told her that if she killed herself, he would kill himself, so she’s even denied a successful death. This family is a violin, with only one string, and it’s a funeral march.”
“Gringo watching,” I call it. I’ve been living in Mexico on and off for twenty years, and slowly I’m developing this prejudice, this terrible prejudice, against Americans. “They’re so pale and wan — in such a hurry,” I think, trying to forget I’m one of them.
Fifty-six million tusheronies burning a hole in my pocket. “What am I going to do with it all?” I ask myself. “If it’s for real,” I say to myself. “They wouldn’t make a mistake of that dimension,” I tell myself.