Two years ago, June 16, 2009, I tiptoed for the first time into Open Salon.
A year ago, on the one-year anniversary, I blogged this:
I love liza Donnelly. There, I've said it.
In the 80's I used to snip little Roz Chast cartoons out of the New Yorker and put them on my refrigerator, along with favorites by other cartoonists. Never did I expect to be friends with a New Yorker cartoonist, but it was a friendship with liza Donnelly that originally brought me to Open Salon.
Initially, I came to view her cartoons, but when I found myself suddenly thrust into the middle of an emerging story in Iran, it seemed Open Salon was as good a place as any to write it. I had blogs and writing projects on other sites, but none with the built-in audience that Salon provided.
My first post, June 16, 2009, ("When Reporting the News Becomes the News") was a cryptically written piece reflective of what I was seeing behind the scenes of #cnnfail, the phenomenon Twitter had branded the failure of mainstream media (and CNN particularly) to cover the post-election unrest in Iran. It reflected what was for me the most compelling and interesting story to observe, how reporting news can be its own story, a theme that would continue from my perspective going forward.
That first post got exactly 3 rates and two comments. My first official comment on Open Salon was from emma peel.
A few days later I unexpectedly found myself surrounded by a big story and wrote my experiences of June 20, 2009. "Her Name Was Neda" was the first of many posts on the story of Neda Agha-Soltan and my first Editors Pick. Back then I didn't even click on the cover and didn't have a clue what an Editors Pick was. I was then, as I am now, preparing to go north to Wisconsin for the summer from Florida and caught up in a whirlwind of activity, and blogged those next several posts from hotel rooms.
As the summer progressed in the northwoods of Wisconsin, I expanded my blog to include some personal narrative, some poetry, and even photo essays from an ambitious 4,000-mile road trip to see a dying uncle out west ("Sagebrush and Funeral Potatoes"). Although I had early on written on the death of Princess Diana and how it intersected with my life, and did my first response to an Open Call at the death of Farrah Fawcett (Kerry Lauerman's call for "Farrah hair"), it was my story "Muffin" that first convinced a wider audience I could write about anything other than Iran or dead women, and got me a twirl in a tiara.
My first two favorites were cartouche and emma peel. I saw their profile pics on liza Donnelly's page, read some of their writing and was blown away. For a very long time, they were the only people I followed aside from liza Donnelly and Stephen McGuire. I didn't initially realize that we were supposed to read and rate and comment on other blogs, but eventually, as the fog cleared, I discovered what a wealth of writing was on the site and interacted with fascinating people who had created it.
I have always from the first day written exactly what I wanted to write at the time I wanted to write it, whether poetry, personal narrative, humor, news or even breaking news. Often I wrote the stories I wanted to read or those I thought might inform. I clearly remember sitting at my kitchen counter late one night and catching a tweet from Jake Tapper that Bill Clinton was off to Korea to free the American journalists, and I posted it as quickly as I could. Another time, a text from Steve Brusk at CNN let me know there a fire call had been intercepted in NYC that a helicopter had crashed with a small aircraft into the Hudson, and I immediately posted that. There was at least one breaking news story that I had to pull twice, though few people know it, and the incarnation that exists now is its third, for reasons far more important than whether or not my story was read or made the cover.
I've had fun posts of the megaview Megan Fox variety, posts where I've cast the movie of my life, posted a history of bad hairdos and even the recipe for my ideal man. When Francis Lam landed at Salon, I tiptoed into a few food posts for the fun of it and managed to get a kind word or two on my simple mole and my choucroute.
A family crisis in January landed my otherwise healthy 74-year-old mother in a hospital ICU fighting for her life, and within 24 hours I was on a plane from Florida to be with her for a difficult week that included the very daunting experience of discussing code status with family members. Fortunately, she recovered, but the next three months were highly occupied with that ordeal, and my writing reflected it.
I've written some about my husband, a former World War II pilot who had his own health crisis five years ago when he spent eight months in the hospital at Mayo Clinic, our crazy life together since, the challenges he's faced, a few unexpected speedbumps this winter, and our wonderful therapy dog, our Havanese, Sweetie. (The baby bird who sits much of the time on my shoulder occasionally also makes an appearance.)
I took a few late night flights with the Pirate Wimmen bossing the cabin boys around, tried most of the time to avoid meta but always got a good giggle from it, wrote about places I loved and favorite memories, fromNew Mexico skies to Paris, a colorful grandfather, a beloved father. More recently, I expanded into doing interviews ranging from a James Dean author to a student protestor from Iran.
I've had posts in which I was highly invested that did nothing, and throwaway posts become enormously popular and get Editors Picks. There isn't always rhyme, nor reason. Throughout it all, I've stayed true to a mantra:
I've generally resisted the notion of writing a "this is my anniversary on Open Salon" post, and as I've read those of others, thought surely as nice as those were I had no need to do it.
But as this day arrives, I find I do. I need to tell the people I've met here how much I've enjoyed reading their words and knowing their lives, from Buffy's tragic loss to Lea's happy ending, and everything in between. The most gratifying interactions to me have been behind the scenes and unspoken.
To me, Open Salon is a Grand Bazaar, a big brightly colored tent with lots of little stalls underneath, each one given to do with what we will, attract passers-by, trade or sell our wares, and even put a hat out if we wish. Occasionally the neighbors get rowdy, the utilities are fickle or unrest spills over into the crowd, but much of the time there are treasures aplenty and the digs are cushy, despite the occasional bird poop.
It's been a big, crazy year in this tent. Some people have come and gone, lives have changed, but the tent's still standing, and 450-odd posts, give or take, I'm still here, rearranging, shaking off the dust.
And I still love liza Donnelly.
"Fancy Dog," drawn for me by liza Donnelly on February 21, 2010, for a collaborative post we did together, "Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex and Silly Pet Names."
p.s. Cocktails are over here.