Swinging for the Fences
Changing dreams and anniversaries
Jason Raish illustration
Fifty years ago, I was a 6-year-old kid growing up in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The house my dad bought for $50,000 two years earlier is probably worth close to $3 million now. Most of the neighborhood looks the same now as it did then – except the houses are bigger, the cars are bigger and the trees are taller.
I was a precocious but well-mannered boy and had only one dream in life: To be a Major League Baseball player, preferably for the Washington Senators. But that dream vanished when the team packed up when I was 11 and moved to Arlington, Texas, where they became the Rangers.
Then I grew up (a little). Attended high school (a little). Attended college (even less). I got a journalism degree there but still had just one big dream: To play Major League Baseball.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, I parlayed that journalism degree into a job as a night clerk at the Washington Post, my hometown paper. My job was to cull through the late night news and PR wires and send anything promising to the news editors.
One night I saw this announcement: The Pittsburgh Pirates were holding a tryout for young men in the Washington area who were interested in pursuing a professional baseball career.
Then and there I made the decision that would shape the rest of my life: I would try out for the Pirates. If I did well, I would become a professional baseball player. If I didn’t do well, I would write about the experience become a professional writer.
Obviously, you know how the tryout went.
Over the next several decades, my career arc took me from the Washington Post to the Times-Picayune daily to the Gambit Weekly to New Orleans Magazine, which is monthly. If you take my resume and turn it upside down, it’s one of the great up-from-the-bootstraps stories!
But I love being with an institution of such history and commitment. Fifty years later, my dream merges with the magazine. Writing is my baseball now and New Orleans is my field of dreams.
And this magazine, the team I play for, had its own dreams when it began, when I was that little kid in Maryland so long ago.
JFK had been assassinated three years earlier. The Beatles had played at City Park two years earlier. The New Orleans Saints had just been born. The Summer of Love was just over the horizon. New Orleans was readying to blossom into one of the great cities of the world.
And, of course, New Orleans Magazine published its first edition.
They were heady times indeed. The world would flip, change, riot, recharge, reshape itself and become a place that anyone who was alive in 1966 would scarcely recognize today.
It is funny: I didn’t choose the title for my first column in the magazine: “Still Here.” My editor did, and I thought it fitting enough with my own changing, checkered past with this city. But I’m the new kid in this magazine; a rookie all over again, in this ever-changing checkered business and city.
It is comforting to know that some things really are still here, still on point, still on a mission, still doing what they did 50 years ago – and mostly better. The Saints, for one; New Orleans Magazine for another.
And me. Still taking cuts and swinging for the fences.