Page Two: Lest We Forget
Reveling in the communal greatness that is Austin, without getting too specific
Fred went on to be a reporter for the Associated Press and USA Today. He was there in Kuwait during the Gulf War, in California when O.J. drove his white Bronco up that highway, and in Haiti when U.S. troops finally fired on Haitian police. He's called folks to tell them that their loved ones were dead, then asked for a comment, after plane crashes; he covered numerous Olympics and a number of famous trials. Now he is teaching at Boston University.
But that was all in the future, then. Then, we were young; we were scared and delighted; we were fearless and relatively stupid. We were nothing if not driven then, pretty much full-speed-ahead into anything, though the speed and direction were uncertain. We didn't know where we were going, but we were going there without grace, style, or caution.
This story is about Thanksgiving probably not the one that first year we were living together, but some years later. My sister called and invited us over to my in-laws' house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was my sister, my brother-in-law Steve, his brother and family, his sister, Fred, and me at Steve's parents' house. We all had met each other a number of times at that point.
Fred and I arrived. We brought nothing no wine, no dessert. We sat down and ate everything in sight. Rather than socializing, we were devouring. Fred and I in full-gear, dead-eyed focus on pedal-to-the-metal eating must have been a deeply horrific vision. Finally, we were glutted.
We went into the den to watch television and promptly fell asleep, snoring heavily with the satisfaction of ravenous animals after feasting on a kill. Sometime later, we awoke.
Quickly, we headed to the door, obliviously mumbling thank yous on our way out, still in a post-feasting stupor. Fred drove. About 10 minutes later, a few miles away, Fred and I looked at each other, breaking into laughter as it dawned on us just how boorish our behavior had been.
In a way, I felt like that last week not after the "Page Two" was published but when I was writing it. There are so many people deeply involved in creating this paper, getting it to where it is, and keeping it going. I've had an interesting but rough time of things the last year and a half to two years. Lots of contemplation, change, and many new projects. It's much less a midlife crisis than it is feeling the need to be challenged and the call of doing what I haven't done. Every so often you have to wake up, get dressed, throw the old vest on, and head out the door you haven't been through yet, just to see what's there. Back out into, and then onward through, the fog.
But the Chronicle has gone on unhindered, because the people who produce this paper care about it and care about you. There is a way to live. In Texas and in Austin, there are very specific demands, having to do with honor, responsibility, community, and vision. The people who try to live that way never talk about it because they know both how damned hard it is and that neither bragging nor preaching come off well. Some of the folks who don't live that way claim that they do, never shutting up about their virtues and others' vices. Some who don't just make endless fun of it. But the one thing I can say is what a ridiculously honorable experience almost all of this whole run has been.
So I feel boorish because I can't start to name names: Just beginning to include some people means I'm also beginning to leave some out, and there are so many more who will get left out than will be included. I just don't have the will to even begin to tackle that task not only everyone in every staff box of our 25-year run, but so many others in this community as well, contributed in one way or another. In Austin, to claim something as a purely personal achievement seems more sad to me than anything else; if there has ever been an across-the-board, communal effort toward genuine moral decency, accompanied by a thrust toward and a support of creativity, we've been privileged to witness it here.
Certainly this is not the best of times; most of the hanging or approaching clouds are dark and seem to be getting darker. Looking at the nation as a whole, I despair not only over the country's Republican leadership but also at the masses that have embraced the ridiculous garbage they are selling. No longer is the integrity of the Declaration of Independence or the beauty of the Constitution our goal; rather, it has become a pedestrian list of partisan concerns, jingoistic goals, and egocentric religious beliefs. The very greatness of this country is being attacked as its weakness; the very standards that make this republic both endangered and magnificent are to be melted down for a golden idol to our basic instincts.
I know this to be true. I also know the journey we've been on here has seen more light than darkness, more humor than lecturing, more joy than sorrow, more hope than despair. That I don't name the names and honor the people is sad and boorish. But then, I think, my point is that I always have been.
The least I can do is note how splendidly the Austin City Limits Music Festival has come of age, each year offering a lineup to cause true excitement, this year's the best of all. Our hats off, and thanks to all involved.