by RIP RENSE
Note: Steve was trying to get rolling again, after the
Register dumped him. In this instance, he was asked to write a
story by an editor (and friend.) Steve saw the story as a
no-brainer feature, and the editor---new in his job---had some
hifalutin' ideas that it should be a vaguely philosophical
essay. (Read: lightweight bullshit.) More flexibility on the
part of that editor might have yielded two things: a very
well-written article, and a badly needed shot-in-the-arm for
Steve. I wrote to Steve about some of my similar experiences,
and he wrote this in response:
I am learning about what you said about magazine editors.
An editor who is actually a friend, asked me to write a piece on
the end of an era where I lived for 10 years, El Morro, butt-up
to the sea and then got kicked out of. He also said he wanted a
look into the future. (The state is turning it into a transient
I sent him a pitch talking about how I would give some
background and color on what it was like to live there, and then
speculating how some of us former residents (and we are talking
about this) would rent Airstreams and move back into our
original spaces for about a week around July 4th every year as a
He sent me this:
"The El Morro thing sounds like it might be fun, the right
personal take on something like that. Frankly, this kind of
personal essay writing is tricky, finding the balance between
the personal story and the universal theme. I can send you some
samples of previous essays, if you wish, including the peeper
one. Ultimately, you need to come to some conclusion. What would
that be? What would the piece really be about, beyond recounting
life at that place at that time? ."
There IS no conclusion. I haven't been there yet. It's got to be
kinda wistful, sad, but ultimately upbeat. I would quote the
head park ranger, who I know, and other neighbors.
I am just plain confused. And by the by, I know how to write an
essay. There is nothing "tricky" about this one at all, it's
And, in a follow-up e-mail:
I interviewed with him a couple months back for an editing
job (which I was turned down for, but that was his boss's
decision - he said I was his first choice). But there was
something different about him. It's a mediocre publication
at best but he acted as if were a ground breaking tome. And
he had fire in the belly, something I had never seen with
him (before), but it was not a good fire.
Note: And here is Steve's last e-mail to me,
Jan. 3, 2009. I had recommended that he see "Gran Torino."
We did on Christmas Eve.
I thought it was a very powerful movie - poignant, low-key,
kind and the THREAT of violence everywhere, but not really
all that literally violent. Which the trailers try to make
you believe. In a way, a totally Clint movie and in its own
way, given the ending, not.
PS I agree with you about that Times columnist - Joel Stein?
What an ass he is.
Thanks mucho for the recommendation. How ya doing?