Smoking in the girls’ room, sneaking a drink, napping
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When I started The Sun fifteen years ago, I was living in a garage apartment. Well, it wasn’t an apartment, exactly — just a single room the size of a monk’s cell. But it was big enough for my bed and books and desk. There was a window, outside of which birds sang each morning. Like the birds, I was living rent free.
I’d just quit a job I hated, and split up with a woman I loved. I was broke and didn’t have a place to live. Someone who barely knew me, yet was sympathetic to my odd dream of starting a magazine, offered me the room. I edited the magazine there, and kept the names of the subscribers — all eight or nine of them — in a folder on my desk.
A couple of years later, The Sun needed a real office. I can’t say I was smitten by 412 West Rosemary Street the first time I saw it. A run-down old house, it was less a reminder of some glorious bygone era than of a half-century of neglect. The previous tenants had used it for a warehouse. But it was, at least, affordable. We scrubbed; we painted; we fixed the broken panes. We planted a flower garden. We moved in.
Eventually, of course, I fell in love. Since I was here sixty, seventy, sometimes eighty hours a week, doing what I loved, that’s not surprising. How could I not love the creaky floorboards and musty smells; the cooing and scratching of the pigeons who lived in the roof, the roof that always leaked (I didn’t love that); the shabby-elegant furniture, the cut-velvet sofa with the straw falling out the bottom, the rickety desks and chairs; the drunks who walked by late at night on their way home from the bars, singing; the hiss of gas heaters in winter and, in summer, the air conditioners wheezing and clanging away; the ringing telephone, reminding me I wasn’t really alone, though many a night I could have sworn it, the pigeons asleep, the drunks home in bed, the house hushed around me.
Sometimes, the life of the magazine seems inseparable from the life of this building. Of course, I know The Sun isn’t 412 West Rosemary, but the illusion is compelling — like looking in the mirror and forgetting my body is just an address. I drive to the office and forget 412 is just an address, too: an old house in which month after month, for thirteen years, a magazine has been conceived and delivered; an old house, ramshackle and holy, less a place, really, than a pilgrimage — a strange and winding journey that now winds away from here.
Next month, we’re moving. I don’t know what’s more astonishing: that The Sun will no longer be at 412, or that we’re moving to a building I’ve admired for years, imagining it would make an ideal home for The Sun, if only we could afford it. But how implausible that seemed! There was never enough money; salaries were modest or nonexistent; The Sun’s survival always seemed to hinge on some miracle. Paying the bills is no longer as burdensome, but as our readership has increased, so has our staff. There are too many of us crowded into 412, too many desks and file cabinets and typewriters and ringing phones, too many boxes on the floor and conversations in the air. To a visitor, it seems cozy and endearing — and it is — but efficiency is sacrificed, as is the privacy necessary for thinking and reflection. Intoxicated by busyness, by the seductive hum of getting things done, we’re tempted to forget all this activity isn’t an end in itself.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better, but I want The Sun to continue to grow, to reach more readers as the magazine itself reaches within to express more compassionately, more artfully, those truths we all struggle to live. I love 412; I’ll be sad to leave it. But I love The Sun even more. I know it’s not this building, this aging body. Ah, these bodies: the hair falls out, the old roof leaks, the pipes freeze in winter, cholesterol clogs the veins. It comes time to leave and we don’t want to go, never quite sure who’s leaving, who’s being left. . . .
I borrowed fifty dollars to start The Sun; now, I’m borrowing many thousands of dollars to buy The Sun a home. Can we afford to move? We can’t afford not to. Moving is risky, but the biggest risk is in clinging to the past, in sentimentalizing the daring it took to start the magazine instead of acknowledging how The Sun has changed. Sure, I’m a little nervous; my faith isn’t unshakeable. But again and again, I’m reminded that The Sun is sustained not just by faith and hard work but by the unseen currents that bring us together, joining those who write for the magazine and those who read it, as if we were an extended family gathering for a reunion each month. Perhaps that’s why, when The Sun has needed help, I haven’t been embarrassed to ask for it.
I’m asking you to help now, by becoming A Friend Of The Sun. Such help, in the form of a quarterly or yearly tax-deductible donation, is especially important this year. The building we’re buying is only a block away — in fact, I’ll be able to see 412 from my window — but moving feels like an enormous step, emotionally and financially. There’s the mortgage. There are numerous other expenses. We continue to be as frugal as possible, but there are only so many ways to save.
When The Sun’s survival seemed improbable, I refused to compromise the magazine in order to “save” it. Now that we’ve been fortunate enough to find more readers, there’s the same temptation to turn to marketing gimmicks, or to make the magazine an easier read. But neither will I compromise The Sun today. Your donation would help provide a reliable source of income, allowing us to continue improving the magazine without worrying about paying the bills. I don’t want The Sun’s success — its widening influence, its growing pains — to distract us from what really matters: succeeding, in every issue, at touching what is truthful, what is real.
Editor, The Sun