What is there to say about my time working for the Old Gold & Black that isn’t banal? “It’s the people,” some would say, and it is, but that sentiment has become obvious and feels like scrambling some grander intellectual energy into a maelstrom of vague referents and inarticulate chatter. To gloss my experience through a phrase about relational importance reveals only a partial dimension of a place so vital to my college experience. Many disparate things have contributed to my affinity for the newspaper, and, candidly, most of them are self-centered. I’ll try to elucidate them here, but just know, like anything, language exists after the fact and strives and fails to replicate the richness of the present.
Let’s go back to the people. Not only did the changing staff of the Old Gold & Black perpetuate the eclectic whirl of those involved in my first days at the office, but, through those changes, they all maintained a remarkable receptivity to my abstruse ideas. Not only does their infinite patience toward my own strange manias deserve a paean, but also their continued engagement with the formalized experiments I put down in their pages. It formed an implicit bond that extends out of a simple culture of tolerance and into a space of alacrity, where experiment, development and generosity merge into contagious ethos.
My position as Opinion Editor is widely known to be the least technically demanding. I’m always first to walk out the door on production night, and it’s not because InDesign, the computer program we use to format our pages, has some special affinity for me. My brisk effort suffices because the Opinion Section is mostly text. It requires few pictures and stays relatively the same, structurally, every week. Other sections fiddle with graphics, backgrounds and other cosmetics that require greater aptitude, but my section’s rudimentary design allowed my skills to live in relative stasis. What kept me coming back to my section, even in an obvious forfeiture of any technical development, was the content. The Opinion section is the most ruminative of all the sections: politics, philosophy, art, hegemony, et. al. fill its pages. I often encouraged the offbeat article, because when else will someone let you publish your thoughtful experiments, articulated with grace and candor?
Every week, in my emails to the section’s writers, I ended with a quotation. Writers like Shakespeare, Nietzsche, Didion and Baldwin all appeared, in bold, at the end of my weekly missives. As someone who considers writers creative stimulants and estimable interpreters, I include their often-aphoristic, stylish thoughts as potential inspiration. I remember once including this quote by Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas.” A writer responded with more Thompson: “This is bat country. Stay away from the ether.” Having never met this person, the response generated an immediate recognition, the bumping up of similar intellects that forms a kind of kinship. Whenever intellectual recognition occurs, we briefly expand into another’s universe, and my few instances of cathexis, be it with faceless writers or my cohorts on Wednesday nights, gifted me twice: once with creative adrenaline and once with thicker relational cable.
And though intellectual communion with others means much to me, my time as editor and writer for the Old Gold & Black deepened, most meaningfully, the relationship I have with myself. The endless Sundays spent conjuring nebulous statements — perplexing, frustrating or even devaluing my intellect — not only introduced me to a whole history of thought outside myself, but to the patterns of my own brain that I came to rely on, and, most importantly, struggled to reinvent. As a blank canvas to rehearse diction and syntax, creative sophistication and structural nuance, the Opinion section refined my interiority. That is, it helped me plumb the depths of self and articulate all the elements colliding within it. Every week, a snatch of silence inside me rose into static, and sometimes into legible words, like sentences on a teleprompter slowly tuned to clarity. Of course, this tuning never ends, but every chance to touch the knob helps. Sometimes, it was too hot to touch, others, too sensitive to extreme vision. But sometimes it yielded up a detail or two, and for that I am grateful.