By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
OVERHEARD ON FM RADIO LAST WEEK, while driving down Fairfax: the tail end of an old Doors song interrupted by a gushing female DJ. "We got an amazing call today, folks, from Marines who are shipping out to the Gulf. Of course we'll play your request, guys. I got to tell you, this call . . . just took my breath away. And the girls in the office wanted to tell you to come on and visit as soon as you get back. Because all the girls here just luuuuv Marines. And here's your Bob Seger." I changed the station.
I'm not old enough to have experienced the Vietnam anti-war movement as anything but a callow 13-year-old ("Uh, like, they're oppressing peasants over on the other side of the world or something and we get a day off school"), but I am old enough to remember the days when freeform, progressive FM radio stations (KMET in Los Angeles, for instance) acted as if politics and music were as hard to separate as Siamese twins. FM radio used to be one of the things that bound us together.
In the early 1980s, I lived in San Francisco when subversive FM newscasters like the legendary Dave McQueen actually gave us the news. But by the time I got to meet McQueen, coming back through San Francisco on a book tour in 1991, he was doing a 6 a.m. Sunday talk show at a disco station. During the interview, I embarrassed him with my enthusiasm. He knew how far he had fallen.
What scares me now is that dissenting voices — even in places as celebrated as The New Yorker — seem to trail off like virgas, the desert rain showers that evaporate before reaching the ground. The great voices of journalism (John Hersey on Hiroshima, Woodward and Bernstein on Watergate) were in a dialogue with their readers. Now, nobody can pay attention long enough to respond. One voice rapidly replaces another, talking, perhaps, about penile implants or car sales. One has no chance to think. Yeats does not have to worry about the worst being full of passionate intensity; no one is full, just replete.
No one, perhaps, except baby boomers, like the screenwriter I met for a drink the other night. All right, I confess, I met him on the personals at the online magazine Salon. We knew some of the same people, and he wrote well. His profile said that he was in his mid-40s. When I got to the bar, I realized that if he was 46, I was one of the Olsen twins.
I didn't say anything about the fact that he looked more like Donald Sutherland than William Hurt (as advertised). Then he told me he had gone up to San Francisco to an anti-war demonstration the previous weekend. "It was useless, of course," he said. "But, you know, it was moving. We used to run up there from Stanford all the time and get our heads bashed in."
"Stanford?" I asked. "How old are you?"
"Well, late 40s," adding defensively, "Look at the business I'm in."
The business, indeed. The troops are sailing. The radio station carefully selects which Doors song it will play, and it's never "The Unknown Soldier." I'm getting pissed off and flipping the radio dial again. The baby-boomer screenwriter is coming home from calling the government a liar and then lying about his age on the Internet.
I suspect we're all in the business now.
SCOTT LEWICKI BEGAN HIS 4 P.M. YOGA class on Saturday the way he always does: He asked everybody how they were. "Feeling quiet?" he asked. "Yeah, me too. As some of you know, I work for NASA. So today is a particularly sad day for me."
Most of Lewicki's regular students at City Yoga know about his science background. As a joke, he's called himself a "rocket scientist yogi," even though he's really an engineer and systems designer who oversees a team of scientists working Earth Observing Vehicles, a series of unmanned spacecraft that monitor things like global warming, pollution and ozone holes. Lewicki's students also knew that on this day of the Columbia crash he would do what yoga teachers by divine order nearly always do: Draw a lesson from the day's events to the practice of yoga.
He'd done it before, with the solar eclipse, with the subtle shift of a season, even with the Angels' performance in the World Series. "I want a rally monkey at the edge of my mat, cheering me on," he said then, a remark lost on most of his students — if few yogis are scientists, fewer still are professional-sports fans. This time, he did not disappoint us: "I've worked at JPL for NASA for 15 years," he said, "and I was working there part time as a student in 1986 when the Challengerdisaster happened. So I know what goes into the shuttles at NASA, what they put into making them safe. But to most of the public, the shuttle goes up because it goes up. It doesn't register for most people how amazing it is that this can happen."