Issue 337 | The Sun Magazine

January 2004

Readers Write

Turning Thirty

Hiking the Appalachian Trail, shoplifting, feeling grateful for being alive in this world of difficult beauty

By Our Readers
Sy Safransky's Notebook

January 2004

Time throws his arm around my shoulder, congratulates me for thirty years of hard work, and hands me a cigar: the exploding kind, I see. I thank him and slip it into my pocket. For later, I say. When my work is done.

By Sy Safransky


What was any art but a mold in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself — life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.

Willa Cather

The Sun Interview

Don’t Just Sit There

Eli Pariser’s E-Mail Revolution

We try not to spin. We take a reasonable, common-sense approach to the issues and let the facts speak for themselves. That’s one of the most important things I’ve learned in my time here. You can write an alert that’s heavy on rhetoric, but it’s much more powerful to say, “Here’s the situation. The president said this on January 28, and now he’s saying this. And if you think those statements are irreconcilable, ask Congress to investigate.”

By Jamie Passaro
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

A Plan To Change The World

We chatted about this and that, and then I launched into my speech: “I want to build a noncommercial radio station here in Washington. It’ll have music from all over the world and commentary from every point of view. It’ll have interviews and recordings of important speeches and documentaries and news programs that will look at all sides of the issues. Most of all, it will respect the audience.”

By Lorenzo W. Milam
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories


I should have listened to my intuition about that job. When I got my PhD in 1995, I was one of only two people from my program who landed professional positions; the other woman was going to teach a heavy load at a state college. I had been offered an endowed chair at a prestigious Baptist college in Georgia.

By Gillian Kendall
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

My Green Mountain

Something has always attracted me to the underdog, and it’s hard to think of an enterprise with worse odds of survival than a raggedy-ass hippie paper in a largely redneck Western county. We were up against a reactionary, well-established, deep-pocketed competitor who could afford to wait us out.

By Jaime O’Neill
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Getting Away

After a cycling accident left my husband, Ralph, a quadriplegic, I had a furtive fear that, given the opportunity, I might bolt. I might up and leave him and all his problems. Like a deer avoiding an oncoming vehicle, I’d dash away and disappear forever into the safety of a thick, impenetrable forest.

By Susan Parker
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Two Minutes

I met my boyfriend through the personals. His ad said that he was looking for a woman who was “athletic.” I assumed that was a code word for “thin.” After we’d been dating for several months, he told me I was wrong, that “athletic” had actually meant athletic.

By Leslie Pietrzyk
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

How To Make God Laugh

A full moon is rising peach-colored the night of the five-hundred-year anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the New World. Six months ago I planned for this to be the day I’d finish my novel.

By Sarah Pemberton Strong
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories


The heat that summer was a living thing that tangled around you, tripping you, slowing you to a crawl. New York City was draped in an impressionist haze. It was 1957. I was thirteen and had my first job, stapling tags onto winter clothes in the warehouse of a department store.

By Michelle Cacho-Negrete
Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Prodigal Daughter

Makendra trailed loss and mess and catastrophe the way Halley’s comet trails a cloudy veil of ice and gas. She was dark-skinned and lovely, with finely arched eyebrows and sharp cheekbones. She could have been a fashion model if not for the birthmark that covered one side of her face like a pale pink shadow.

By Alison Luterman