Yesterday I got one of those regular, if infrequent, pieces of mail that warms this publisher’s cold, black heart. Erik Cushman here with a cool story I thought I’d share.
As I was saying, I open this letter and find that some fellow had cut off the top half of the cover of last week’s edition, taped a piece of copy paper across the Weekly logo with the word DEMOCRATIC typed on it, then drawn an arrow from the logo to the headline, “Mental Reset.” On the handwritten note that accompanied the modified cover he wrote, “You Need a Name Change.”
It's an impressive piece of reader correspondence. He went to some obvious effort to tell us to stick it. It’s got old-school cutting and pasting and a clever—not nasty—insult. And then he put a stamp on the envelope.
I was humored, and honored and (as is sometimes my nature) a little self-righteous. The more I thought about it though, the fact that this guy who’s name and address I didn’t recognize had invested that amount of time and money, two things I value highly, motivated me to see if I could track him down and get him on the phone. I wanted to see if there are other things we might have in common.
I wrote out 10 questions to see if we could have a conversation about things other than politics. I figured we could swap experiences and see if there were more things we agree on than we might have thought.
It was rough sledding at first: I don’t know him, he didn’t trust me but then I told him I wanted to know his favorite restaurant. Rio Grill, he said; I told him mine is either Hula’s or Sardine Factory, depending.
I asked him if he preferred calamari tubes and tentacles or calamari steak—rings and tentacles was the vote from both of us. Common ground.
Then we ventured into slightly less safe territory: the movies. I asked him who his favorite James Bond actor was, and although I am a pretty strong advocate for Daniel Craig, he persuaded me that there is really no challenger to Sean Connery. He told me he was just coming up when Sean Connery was at his peak and that in addition to having fabulous co-stars, he was just a total badass who broke the mold. That’s logic and data that is hard to argue with.
I asked him if he is more a Lucky or a Safeway shopper. He said he hates them both—just like me.
He’s a Marine. I told him my grandfather, uncle and brother were in the Army.
He drives a Ford Explorer. I told him we have a couple of electric cars, but my wife’s work truck is a 7-year-old F-150 she calls Bessie.
I asked him if he liked Scotch or bourbon more. He said yes.
We were actually getting pretty chummy by this point. Then I had to go and spoil it by asking him if he’d give Biden a chance. He says, “You gonna change the name of that rag of yours?”
Or at least that’s the way the conversation went in my dream. I still haven’t actually tracked down the mystery critic/secret admirer, but I am certain when I do we’ll be able to have a fun talk. And find that we have some common ground somewhere.
Erik Cushman, publisher, firstname.lastname@example.org