Whenever I hear Des’ree’s “You Gotta Be” on the radio, I think of Eric Gupton who, circa 1993-94, used to sing that song to me in the Mother Jones mail room. I was the assistant to the publisher of the magazine then and Eric was office manager by day, and by night, as San Francisco Chronicle theater critic Steven Winn says in the linked tribute above, he was a “flamboyant warrior” founding member of the audacious Pomo Afro Homos theater troupe.
That era has been on my mind this week because after a few months of lurking, I recently left a comment on David Weir’s blog. I stumbled on David’s blog as both he and I listed “investigative reporting” as an interest on our blogger profiles. Only 28 blogs link to this interest vs. 13,400 when you click the interest “chocolate.” I don’t remember having many conversations with David at the magazine (he was an editor), but I do recall that he treated me with kindness and respect, which was rare and distinctly endearing in those days. Reading his San Francisco blog has felt like visiting home.
Then last night the publisher of Mother Jones, who remarkably is still the publisher of the magazine, sent me a friend request on Facebook. I was surprised as I’ve only seen him once since quitting 13 years ago. I’ve thought of him with compassion in recent years, though, as I’ve dealt with various arrogant, ambitious, judgmental, impatient-for-glory assistants.
While I did have some legitimate gripes about working at Mother Jones…like that it was an insular largely Ivy league club (I once overheard the editor in chief tell an earnest intern that the most important thing to achieve success in journalism is who you go to school with), like that I was the only mother working there, like that free speech was championed everywhere except in the office…in retrospect, I must have been a bit of a terror as an assistant. I now have a great deal more sympathy for my former boss and look forward to reading his Facebook status reports.
Let the healing begin.