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Category Archives: From the Editors
We’re not wearing ties. We carry neither briefcases nor resumes. We wear t-shirts, plaid shirts, sweaters. We sidle up to cute recruiters and begin our job pitch, ‘Sup?’ We smile and we laugh more than anyone else at the career fair, and we like to think it’s genuine (i.e. we’re not selling out), but it’s not. We laugh, but we’re afraid, and though we form a substantial group, each of us feels very alone.
This is the community that I’ve imagined around myself. We’re the unemployable: the unpragmatic, the clueless, the vain dreamers. We don’t know what we want to do, but it’s not that. We’re headstrong, and we’re proud, and, in many ways, we’re dumb.
I talked to approximately one recruiter at the most recent career fair. It was sheer coincidence that I took her to be the best-looking girl there. In the middle of our conversation, she took out a fun-size piece of Laffy Taffy and began chewing it in front of me. She read me the joke off of the wrapper.
“What’s an owl’s favorite kind of math?”
“Owlgebra,” she said.
I laughed, and she laughed, then drooled (apparently the taffy had caused saliva to build up in her mouth), but I pretended I didn’t see it. I continued to laugh, and the longer I did, the emptier I felt.
I was too disheartened to hit on her. As I walked away, I thought to myself: I have no marketable skills. Then I thought: that’s a lie. I like money. I want to be happy. I have dreams, but I probably lack the confidence and the talent to carry them into action. I enjoy taking orders, and I’m a real champ at wasting time.
Later that week, a friend and I were camped out with a bottle of Carlo Rossi in the center of an empty Lake Lag. I was blabbing on about myself as usual, and she was half-listening and looking up at the stars. I was listening to myself, and thinking that I wasn’t a true dreamer. I was just vain. Real dreaming is hard work, and it’s got a lot less to do with the dreamer than the dream.
There was a long silence between the two of us. Then my friend spoke up.
She said, “People have been telling me to follow my dreams since I was a little kid. It always seemed intuitive, but now I wonder if the problem is that dreams are like the KGB in Martin Cruz Smith’s ‘Gorky Park.’”
I looked at her and we smiled.
“They don’t always take you where you want to go, do they?”
—Bob Borek & the Editors of Leland
- The land ripens on Molokai. I saw it ripen once before my eyes, when we passed from the west to the east, along Route 460, the Maunaloa Highway. It ripened out of shrubland and thin, balding patches of kawelu; it gained a soft and greener luminosity as we drove, holding the shore east of Kaunakakai, rising to meet the surf, sick and high above heady cliffs; and it ripened like the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.
- Our first day on the island we bought two cram-full crates of papaya from a papaya farmer. We ate them plain, scooped out in the morning with a spoon, and we also ate them over salad, blending the flesh with oil and balsamic vinegar and sesame seeds, and we also drank the soft fruit down in milkshakes spiked with light rum. I would have sung for a guava, danced for a mango, killed for a passionfruit. I would be happy never to see a papaya again.
- What is the thing that you care most about in the world? Have you always cared, and will you always, and does it matter if you won’t?
- It was the end of March. Back in the real world there was a gun battle in Mogadishu, an oil spill in Nigeria, and a pet food crisis across North America. But for us there was only sunburn and two emptying crates of papaya, and everything else that is personal, and unsaid.
- Let’s write for ourselves, and think for ourselves, and love for ourselves (above all), not because it is simpler or more real, but because it is less purposeful. I know nothing of writing, or beauty, or love – except that I know them when I see them, and when I do see them they are unself-conscious and in flight.
- Our last day on the island the sun was hot and full of light. We were driving along the Maunaloa Highway, from the east until the west. Above, we saw the birds, circling. They were common birds, pigeons or doves, but they were so beautiful that we parked the car on the edge of the highway, and chased them across a coffee field, just so we were under them – just so they were directly overhead. They were red, yellow, pink, green, blue, white, purple, and orange (I can see them now in a photograph we snapped to remember that they were real). They took flight from a house with a rooster painted large and red below the eaves, and when they were done flying they returned to the same painted roof – but the in-between was magic. The sky was transformed into a seething flawless palette of color; sixty birds twisting and diving in tight concert, rising and descending, and holding together, slow-arcing, like a painter’s brushstroke, smooth and exacting. There was a wonderful moment when one yellow bird broke off from the flock, and then in an instant regained it, but for a moment she was all alone in the sky.
- We would learn later that they had been dyed, dunked in basins of food coloring and fed special vitamins and supplements. We would learn later that the birds could be leased, by the bird, and by the hour, for weddings or the occasional bar mitzvah. We would learn later that we had been seduced by a silent masquerade. But I remember thinking then, when the whole thing was clean and bright and purposeless, and the world was alive with the exquisite flutter of bird-wings, that this was something worth keeping. We were alight and sparkling with the ephemerality of the things we love, and I remember (best of all) someone turning to me, and saying, “I hope that I remember this.”
— NICK HOY
& the editors of Leland
Download “Editorial Statement” as a PDF.
I heard a true war story sixth–hand, though I came close to hearing it third–hand. This is how it came to me: A friend who had recently returned from boot camp – let’s call him Jones – had met someone who had been deployed in Iraq – let’s call him Smith. Smith was temporarily the boss of a boy that he did not meet, but who went home early with a lost arm and a lost eye. Smith heard what had happened to the boy when he returned home and met the friend of the boy’s girlfriend’s brother. She told him the story, and talked about how now the boy did bar tricks with the glass eye. I’ll bet you five dollars I can lick my eye, he’d say. They pieced it all together and realized that this was the boy that he had temporarily been the boss of while they were together in Baghdad, and some time later he told Jones who told me.
This worries me: the distance. This shred of a war story is what I cling to; this one story that I haven’t gotten from the media, but that has come to me in the old way, way of mouth, which seems more natural. And I don’t think I’m unique in this situation. As each new storyteller emerges, one step further from the experience, fiction seeps into the tale. It seems that more weight is placed on the how – on the telling of it – than on the what – the fact that these things actually took place. But as the story is distanced from the source, the facts recede: the how has little with which to work. The result is a shoddy story, with some boy’s reality being used as the punch-line. It disturbs me that pure fiction can sometimes touch me more than such true war stories. Of course, I gaped at my friend’s story, but even as I gaped, I felt the self-conscious judgment: this is rehearsed, it’s not sincere.
What I want to know is why it can seem so easy to be sincere about what never happened, and yet so difficult to be sincere about what really did happen, what’s happening every day, somewhere in the world – about what matters? Does fiction hold the world’s stories to a standard that they will never be able to match? Are words and experience like schoolboys and schoolgirls, always running in different directions, and when they meet are they awkward and shy? Do they demand two different types of sincerity? Is it possible to have any idea what it feels like to lose an arm and an eye for your country without lying in the sand, bleeding and alone?
I hope that it is possible to have some idea, that each time we meet another person we don’t simply nod our heads in respect to that which we do not know. Words can seem at times like trinkets – playthings, but when one gets to turning a phrase for turning a phrase’s sake, it could be worthwhile to recall the tremendous power of the words that we use every day. They have the power – and the burden – of expressing what we would otherwise be left to experience alone.
— Bob Borek & the editors of Leland
Download “Editorial Statement” as a PDF
Two hundred million years ago, tectonic conflict forced portions of the Pacific sea floor crust to the surface. Tacked on to present-day Utah and Arizona like a geological afterthought, California has never quite fit in. While states to the East were embroiled in wars of independence and slavery, California was oblivious, independent—free.
It is no accident that the event that populated California (and led to its inclusion as the 31st state) was delivered of an ancient, geological ordination. Millions of years ago, the confluence of water and molten magmas in the Sierra Nevada dissolved stable minerals into large veins of quartz, iron, copper and zinc sulfides—and gold. The California Gold Rush is too often associated with the underpinnings of American greed, or the Death of Industry, or else quite apocalyptically as the Conception of Modern Ills; too often do we ignore its hopeful, egalitarian esprit. The Forty-Niners redeem by an impeccable logic. If there is poverty, find wealth. If there is no wealth to be found, then by all means: Go West, Young Man!
But today, California’s logic is confused. There is a moral logic of the innocent and of the corrupt, an economic logic of the poor and of the affluent, and a temporal logic of the established and the establishing. There is another logic altogether of the north and of the south, and of the urban and the suburban. Californians are keen adherents of techno-liberalism, but also preach euphoromoralism— and as we well know, the two cannot be wholly reconciled. Inconsistency and accidental unconformity have become definitive.
It is no secret that California’s geology takes away as it gives. In 1906, near Daly City, CA (and again in 1989, at Loma Prieta Peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains), we witnessed the massive rupture of the San Andreas Fault. Thousands died in fires that swept San Francisco, turning Golden Gate Park into a refugee encampment; the Cypress Street Viaduct collapsed, crushing dozens of cars; the 1989 World Series was postponed for ten days; even the brilliant minds of Stanford University were twice forced to pause, grab hold of the nearest table, and consider. The geological faults that cleave the state of California are far more powerful—and potentially destructive—than the fault lines which divide us humans above-ground. Amidst our modern confusions, perhaps we can latch onto this instability. It reminds us of the limits of intellectualism, of politics, of culture and wealth and creativity. Above all, it reminds us of the limits of ourselves: of the fragile, quivering geology that governs each of our own little worlds. This is a commendable logic: it is something we should know.
— Nick Hoy & the editors of Leland
Download “Editorial Statement” for Vol. 1 Issue 1 as a PDF