I admit an aversion—if not an antipathy—to change. Change is at times necessary, at a certain point it is inevitable, but I wince when I hear certain people babble that “Change is good.” Yes, perhaps—if you’re talking about motor oil or underwear. In either case it falls under the heading of scheduled maintenance. Not following through on such a course of action may void the warranty, or worse.
The change in my own life, by which I mean upheaval as opposed to preventative care or hygiene, has been traumatic. At the very least, it poses a new (and largely unwelcome) set of challenges. The publication of each issue of The Syncopated Times is a different emergency each month; I don’t know if I’m reaching into a box of chocolates or a bag of mousetraps. It’s become a level of catastrophe that I can manage, and to some extent get used to. What throws me is when I have to face an additional layer of upheaval—crisis frosting on my usual turbulence cake.
The Syncopated Times has been in upheaval for a couple of months now; readers of this paper won’t realize that because our content is demonstrably better than ever. Our (unspoken) motto should be “Every Month, a New Normal.” I’m navigating with it. I eat such challenges for breakfast (even though they tend to go right through me).
I’ve made changes to the layout, some of which are salubrious and permanent and others which are fortunately temporary. I’ve had to take a more businesslike approach to running this periodical, which for me is akin to learning a second language. I’m confronted with the task of teaching myself a new publishing program, which for me is like learning calculus in a second language. That’s all manageable, though you might not want to be in the same room with me while I’m managing it.
This month, though, I’m bidding farewell to one of the elements that has added a unique touch of elegance to The Syncopated Times since our first issue: Gary Price’s magnificent Jazz Birthday illustrations. When Gary submitted his drawing of Irving Berlin for this issue, he announced that it would be his final contribution to this paper. “I will turn 71 in June so it is time for me to cut back, relax, and concentrate on my children’s books and painting. Thank you for letting me be a part of The Syncopated Times. This will be my last drawing for your publication.”
I’m devastated, of course, but I understand perfectly. What made having Gary Price be a part of TST so special was that I’ve known him my whole life. Gary is my first cousin. Since I could open first my eyes and focus them I’ve been aware of his incredible artistic ability. It was really the fulfillment of a life-long dream that I was able to have his gorgeous work accompany my prose. We’d talked about collaborations for years but I was able to make those plans a reality three years ago with my first issue.
A few years ago, Gary showed me a prototype for a birthday calendar featuring classical music composers. This was long before The Syncopated Times was an ink smudge in my mind’s eye. I immediately considered his composer drawings when I found myself with three dozen pages of newsprint to fill, and I proposed the Jazz Birthday idea to him. He agreed to create the portraits (in the style of his calendar composers) and I am deeply grateful to him for doing so.
I commend Gary’s paintings and his delightful children’s books to your kind attention. His daughter Sarah is a fine artist, also; their respective works may be found through their main website www.putapriceonthearts.com.
The Jazz Birthday of the Month will continue, though Gary is a hard act to follow. Contributing the drawing for June will be Central New York artist Frank Page, whose great illustration for “The Professor is IN” will be seen HERE. Frank is a gifted illustrator who provides graphics and cartoons for the Rome Sentinel and is the creator of the daily comic strip “Bob the Squirrel.” (His art may be seen at bobthesquirrel.com.) I here would like to express thanks to Peter Franchell, my print Sherpa at the Sentinel, for putting me in touch with Frank.
Change, while not universally good, can represent opportunity as well as a potential nervous breakdown. Sometimes wonderful things disappear from our lives and we are bereft. I’m sure there were a number of readers who considered that The Syncopated Times was a poor substitute for The American Rag. My predecessor ran popular features in his paper that were never going to appear again. I was an upstart and a thoroughly unknown quantity. Some, unable to warm up to my tone and my choice of material, chose not to renew. That’s understandable, though their chagrin was nothing at all compared to mine when I had to lay out and publish my first issue.
The Syncopated Times is not a stagnant pond. Changes are in store which I hope will largely be considered improvements. There’s a significant difference between growing pains and death throes; the former is the source of quite as much anxiety and may be mistaken for the latter. Whatever our dread of change, whatever losses we suffer along the way, it is imperative that we keep moving forward—even if some dare not call it Progress.