Pomona College Magazine
Volume 45, No. 2
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Pomona College Magazine is published three times a year by Pomona College
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Online Editor: Laura Tiffany

For editorial matters:
Editor: Mark Wood
Phone: (909) 621-8158
Fax: (909) 621-8203

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Last Things First

By Mark Wood

It’s a joke around our office that this introductory column is always the last thing written. In other words, I always manage to put it off a bit longer than anything else. My colleague, Mark Kendall, has suggested retitling it something like “Last Things First,” or “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Press.”

It’s not exactly a case of procrastination—more like waiting for inspiration. At last, desperation sets in and I sally forth, hoping to find an idea along the way.

Certainly I could write about the alma mater—how the whole controversy struck me as silly at first, but how, with time and growing empathy, I came to see it differently. I could write loads about that wonderful old term—“generation gap”—and how my generation, once so full of irreverence and disdain for tradition, distrustful of anyone over 40, now frequently finds itself shouting from the opposite shore.

I could write about hard times. About my mother, who grew up during the Great Depression, telling me more than a year ago to get my savings in order because another big one was on its way. How I smiled tolerantly at her (an expression I’ve begun to glimpse on my own daughter’s face once in a while) and told her not to get herself worked up because such things simply didn’t happen any more.

I could start with the cryptic theme of this magazine—getting there— and branch out in any of a dozen directions. Getting there as journey. Getting there as arrival. Getting there as progress. Getting there as success. How America has always been about getting there—the West, the moon, the top of the heap.

I could dredge up something out of memory, something with a touch of humor and pathos and symbolic resonance. Like the first time I crossed the Atlantic, aboard the old SS France. And then the time, some 30 years later, when I boarded her again in her new guise as the SS Norway, and spent seven days cruising through my own memories and mythmaking, trying to tell the two apart.

I could simply use this column as an old-fashioned magazine introduction. Talk about a few of the things included in the issue, enlarge upon the theme, poke a little fun at myself along the way. That’s always safe, if a bit boring.

I could write about the process of putting together a magazine. The ever-popular behind-the-scenes glimpse of how things come together. Or—the ultimate cop-out, I suppose—I could write about the process of writing a column. Something like a Charlie Kaufman screenplay. About how ideas come and go. How one eventually sticks in the net. After all, that’s how my mind works best—with the written equivalent of thinking out loud.

Someone once said that essay-writing is the mind in motion, and a finished essay is a map of thought. So maybe I should just start writing and see where the map I’m drawing leads me. Someplace interesting, I hope. Or maybe just on a scenic tour of my own rather cluttered brain.

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by Pomona College
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