Since publishing my first issue of The Syncopated Times six years ago this month, the time has just flown. It doesn’t feel like a minute longer than a century. Seriously, I haven’t actually been marking Xs on a calendar in the manner of one condemned to a term of penal servitude. There would be no point. I’ve received no definite release date—and there has been no order of clemency. Our recently departed governor was too much concerned with his own possible imprisonment and our current executive is too preoccupied with straightening the mess left by the previous administration, which obscured its foibles under a facade of charisma.
Nonetheless, the self-inflicted travails of an editor condemned to hard labor by his own non-negotiable sense of obligation is of no concern to those dedicated to matters of state—though they might find it fun to watch. Sisyphus himself knew they were onto something when they built bleachers at the base of his mountain. He regretted not getting a cut of the action, even if he wouldn’t have found time to spend the proceeds. It’s the same impulse that motivated audiences in the 1930s to watch dance marathons. The only true victor is the operator of the concession stand.
With The Syncopated Times, everybody has a ringside seat—though you must supply your own snacks and beverages. Here even the concessionaire is baffled. Every month an issue pops into your mailbox (or not, if the letter carrier has uncorrected astigmatism) and you open its pages wondering, “Will this be the month when he finally cracks? When the King is run over by his rock? When the favored cakewalker gets a massive charley horse?”
As I prepare to launch my seventy-third issue into the world all I can say is, “So far, so good.” Since at least half—or perhaps most—of the excitement of NASCAR is the potentiality of witnessing a fiery wreck, some of you might be wanting your money back. My hinges still hold (though they have been rigorously tested). I’m not baying at the moon (that you know of). That I might have reason to do so is a thing I will here freely divulge.
Six years! And the last two of them have been doozies. Like the coyote of popular legend, I have walked across the canyon long after I have run out of ledge. Unlike the coyote, I have dodged all products labeled Acme or Steinway. Pandemic rules for the suspension of the Law of Gravity are still in effect. No piano has fallen on me, nor me on it (if only to play). Are the cartoonists on strike or is this simply a case of suspended animation? Whatever the case, I’m secure inside my cell.
However the laws of physics (and commerce) have been monkeyed with, I am still answerable to readers who demand forty pages of reading matter every month. This is a goal I meet, despite the occasional paucity of copy or advertising. I do have my moments of letting off steam when the absurd impossibility of what I face becomes almost too much to bear. Fate usually complies by dropping enough manna in my basket after I have unleashed a long complaint to no one in particular. As I learned long ago, someone will come to plow you out if you stand in your snowbound driveway and swear loudly enough. Squeaky wheels within wheels!
This issue, it must be admitted, is a “squeaker.” I sat in this very chair last night and struggled to make a dollar out of fifty-eight cents. If there is a God, He could not but hear my innermost thoughts. If not, then the Essential Matter of the Universe itself could no longer tolerate the racket coming from my larynx. It were a greater miracle to have moved atoms and molecules with the power of my invective.
I needed at least one more ad and I needed copy. Well, I had copy of a sort. Actually, I had a few promising stories that might have worked but for flaws that needed several days (and consultation with the authors) to iron out. (Since I had been avoiding the authors for several months since receiving their articles, it would have been awkward to beset them with eleventh-hour queries.)
Here is as good a time as any to apprise potential contributors (if they are still awake) of the submission guidelines in the following paragraphs. (If you’re nodding, grab a coffee and read on. This is important.)
Certain contributors like to submit their stories just as they would like to see them laid out on the page. This will not do. They seem to be formatting their work for a magazine like Harper’s or perhaps Reader’s Digest, rather than an eleven-by-seventeen-inch tabloid. They want photographs in a specific place as indicated in the text. I can’t tell if they’re trying to be helpful or usurping my prerogative as editor and layout man. They might as well empty my wastebasket while they’re at it. No, please just send me the words and pictures separately and I’ll determine where everything fits.
Another bugbear is the appearance of absurd factual errors (from those who should know better) once I start editing a piece. I am not afflicted with a profusion of letters after my name, but I am cognizant of basic jazz history. When you let a howler slip, I’m bound to invoke the words I’d been saving for just such an occasion.
But—no matter. The Universe heard my “prayer”—and delivered unto me a large ad and an excellent story today. You will likely enjoy this anniversary issue. Praise be!