This will be the shortest blog I’ve ever written, but I’m writing it because I am doing handsprings right now – or I would be if I didn’t have a phobia about being upside-down.
You see, a few short minutes ago I was speaking to the editor-in-chief of The San Franciscan, an independent magazine that features excellent writing (including poetry and fiction) and photography.
Everybody who’s anybody in San Francisco subscribes. (Well, I just made that up, but I know it to be at least partially true.)
Last February, the magazine put out a call for submissions. Although I felt that it would be my absolute dream to write for this publication, I did nothing. But my friend Julie R. in Maryland, who also subscribes, e-mailed me this short note:
“I’m sure you [saw this call for submissions], but I just wanted to give it a little boost. You would fit right in this terrific magazine, and you have so much to say about San Francisco.
Don’t say no! At least consider it.”
(That’s the essence of a great friend: someone who can support you while preemptively calling you out on your nonsense.)
After I stopped laughing about “Don’t say no!” I officially wrote to the magazine staff and pointed them to my blog. Not because I had any hopes whatsoever, but just to appease Julie. That’s it.
Months came and went. I assumed there was no interest and it all receded from my memory. Except for my constant simmering feeling that I’d let Julie down.
But then came the out-of-the-blue e-mail from The San Franciscan about a week ago, leading to today’s phone call. It turns out that the magazine wants to publish, in an edited form, my blog post about Margaret Valentine LeLong, who bicycled from Chicago to San Francisco in 1897 (see https://mondaymorningrail.com/2021/05/30/a-bike-some-undies-and-a-gun/).
It will likely appear in the Winter issue (January), but there’s always a chance it could get pushed off to the Spring.
I just wanted to thank you, dear readers, for sticking with this blog. An acquaintance once complained that my posts are “too long and full of too many facts.” Ha ha. I know that’s true. But some of you continue to read it anyway.
Honestly, a few days before the magazine contacted me, I was contemplating stopping the blog.
But now I’m over the moon.
Blogging is, in my view, a hobby. Getting published in The San Franciscan, though, means I can finally say I’m a writer.
And I’m reminded of something the acclaimed author Anne Lamott once said:
“Today’s writing advice: Remember, it will not go smoothly, or possibly not even well. Butt in chair: just do it, one disappointing paragraph at a time. Victory!”
Due to popular demand, I am including, at the end of each blog post, the latest random diary entries that I’ve been posting on Facebook for “Throwback Thursday.” These are all taken absolutely verbatim from the lengthy diaries I kept between 1970 and 1987.
August 3, 1974 [age 18]:
“The family is gone and I had just settled down for an evening of listening to records when Ted and Joe arrived, prepared to see a movie. We procrastinated so much that we decided to go into the City instead, then threw out that idea and ended up driving blindly along Highway 17 hoping to run into the Nimitz drive-ins, which we did, and saw ‘The Skin Game’ and ‘Uptown Saturday Night’ till 2:30. Then Ted and I dropped Joe off and went out for breakfast – omelets and hotcakes – and had a nice talk about ruts and freedom. It is now 4:30 in the morning, and I just walked in the house, which if the parents knew would, I am sure, cause them to lapse into terrible fits.”
August 8, 1974 [age 18]:
“[My aunt and uncle] Jackie and Fred are downstairs with Mom listening to news reports on Nixon’s resignation speech. Dad is driving wildly out to the San Jose Municipal Golf Course after [my brother] Marc, at whom he is totally furious for going golf-ball-hunting out at 11:30 at night. In fact, he just arrived home without my poor brother, prepared, I am sure, to kill him. [My sister] Janine and [my 4-year-old cousin] Lisa are in bed next to me, chattering about all kinds of things. And I am listening to Dylan on my new earphones, agonizing over life.”
August 20, 1974 [age 18]:
“I’ve pretty much decided to take a year off school and apply for a real job for next year. Dad suggested that I apply to the ESUHSD [Eastside Union High School District, where he was a principal] as a teacher’s aide, which would be six hours a day and $500 a month, and I could keep my job at Rexall. So I went down to the district office yesterday to apply. I was scared sitting alone at a big desk with an electric typewriter and a timer for my typing test. My fingers were trembling uncontrollably and I was expected to type 40-45 words a minute but I managed only 20 words a minute with myriad mistakes. It was so embarrassing! I called later and they said I got a 92% on the written part but that I should come in again today to try to do better with my typing. This time I skidded through with 37 wpm and 3 mistakes. So I had an interview with Mr. Peters [at James Lick High School], who said he WILL hire me if I commit myself for the full school year. I have a week to think about it. Meanwhile I also applied to B. Dalton’s [a bookstore chain] this morning. Working in a bookstore would of course be my dream job – unless I were Bobby Dylan’s personal chauffeur.”
August 17, 1974 [age 18]:
“Last night after work I hit the record stores with Marc and Joe to take advantage of sales (I bought ‘Tea for the Tillerman’ and ‘Blonde on Blonde’ and “Nashville Skyline’ and the Byrds), then we played poker at Morris’ house and had pizza at Lord Byron’s. I was off by myself at the pizza place trying desperately to beat the driving machine and finally succeeded after feeding it four quarters. Then today I went to San Francisco with Carolyn. We parked the car at USF and took a bus down to see ‘Godspell,’ then to dinner at Slater Hawkins, then back to see another play, ‘Grease,’ – a Broadway play. I really loved both plays AND my sirloin tips dinner and with student rush tickets plus the Diner’s Card I managed to do the whole town on $10! But God! How I love the City! If only I could live there! It was cool and windy and clear and oh that sweet breathtaking moment when we came out of the play: sharp night, lights in a million brilliant colors, crowds of people, and the beautiful San Francisco skyline.”
August 31, 1974 [age 18]:
“Well, gang, I have done it. I called Mr. Peters and informed him that I will be taking a year off from college and will accept the [high school] teacher’s aide job for the next year. I should be grossing $450 a month, with $50 going to Mom and Dad for room and board, and some towards my car until I pay it off. But oh, I want to be a writer. If I could do it, if I had an ounce of talent, I would write an immense Wolfean epic incorporating the whole of America’s life and substance into it. I also have a deep sense of nostalgia and a dark awareness of the bitter brevity of life.”
September 1, 1974 [age 18]:
“I lost an important store key at work [Rexall Drugs] today and emerged frustrated with a sore back. [My friend] Morris and I went out to get corn dogs on 1st Street and eat sundaes at Farrell’s. He has a profound belief in me as a writer. Then until midnight I talked with [my friends] Ted and Frank, who is newly returned from Canada. For an hour and a half straight I stared transfixed at Frank’s long blond hair and his beard and his deep kind eyes of some Christ-like god.”
September 2, 1974 [age 18]:
“[Our neighbors] The Schweglers had a dinner for [our neighbors] the Dunns and all I know of today is that I gorged myself on food and drink like some obscenely fat Roman emperor.”
September 3, 1974 [age 18]:
“A surprise today regarding the teacher aide job I thought I was getting. Apparently Mr. Peters [the principal] has been getting some static from a higher-up named Mr. Salazar, whose daughter also applied for the job. Mr. Salazar says that I wouldn’t be able to relate to Black and Chicano kids. It kind of hurts my feelings and makes me mad at the same time because I am just going to be helping the students with their reading and math and I think they will like me. The verdict will be reached sometime this week so I just need to wait and see what happens. The suspense is terrifying. With uncontrollable longing I watched the boys depart for college this morning, and with aching regret I listened to them chatter excitedly about green sheets and Togo’s sandwiches. If I indeed do get the opportunity to be a teacher’s aide, then my burning desire to be of some value will be satisfied. But if not, the days will be dry and tasteless, and I will be a lonesome dropout.”
September 4, 1974 [age 18]:
“No word about my job yet. Today I dragged Mom and [my sister] Janine up to the City on a ridiculous strange chase to gather material for my writing project that I have tentatively entitled ‘San Francisco and Onward,’ a project which may well fizzle out before it gets off the ground. Needless to say, I gathered no material. Instead, there were lots of maps and parking lots. All we did were 1) buy cold cuts, 2) go to City Lights bookstore, and 3) eat lunch at a Chinese restaurant that was so expensive that all we could afford was a huge pile of fried wontons. I ate a MOUNTAIN of them and got really embarrassed because the waiters were pointing and laughing.”