Posts Tagged ‘Tom Hayden’

The last days of Tom Hayden: “I am wide awake in the unforgettable present moment.”

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Tim Schick and Rob Meachum review back issues of the Michigan Daily with Tom Hayden in the 1970s. (Photo: Ken Fink)

On the West Coast, I was quick to get the news of activist, author, and legislator Tom Hayden from the Los Angeles Times. The obituary briefly mentions that he was editor of the Michigan Daily circa 1960 – before Jane Fonda, before the Port Huron Statement, about the time of the Students for a Democratic Society was founded.   
I met him briefly in 1976, at the offices of the Michigan Daily on 420 Maynard. He was there as part of his Indochina Peace Campaign effort – he had objected to a position The Daily had taken, as I recall – but I knew that Steve Wasserman, my former editor at the Los Angeles Times Book Review (and now consulting editor at large for Yale University Press and publisher of Berkeley’s Heyday Books), would know him perhaps as well as anyone. I was right. He published this week in The Nation:

A week before he died, I went to say farewell to Tom Hayden. I’d known him ever since we met in Berkeley in 1969 during the tumult of People’s Park, when he was 29 and I was 16. I knew he was gravely ill, debilitated by the stroke he’d suffered the year before, just three weeks after he’d agreed to write a book I’d been urging him to undertake for Yale University Press. For the next 18 months, we would work closely together on a modest book-length essay about the legacy of the Vietnam protest movement. I had suggested he write it as a natural outgrowth of the conference he and other antiwar veterans had organized in Washington, DC, to protest the Pentagon’s plan to sanitize an official commemoration of America’s Vietnam veterans. That plan had conveniently omitted to mention those courageous vets who protested the war, the brave young men who resisted the draft, or the many millions of patriotic citizens who had come together in an unprecedented movement of opposition.


Out next May, his last book.

Tom was appalled that our legacy of protest was in danger of being forgotten. As he wrote: “One can only guess why so many elites want to forget the Vietnam peace movement by history cleansing, why public memories have atrophied, and why there are few if any memorials to peace.” We talked about how efforts to end an unjust war had been whitewashed and stricken from mainstream memories, and what to do about it. He felt that “the steady denial of our impact, the persistent caricatures of who we really were, the constant questioning of our patriotism, the snide suggestions that we offered no alternative but surrender to the Communist threat have cast a pall of illegitimacy over our memory and had a chilling effect on many journalists, peace dissenters, and the current generation of students today. Of course, one reason for this forgetting is that the Vietnam War was lost, a historical fact that representatives of a self-proclaimed superpower can never acknowledge. Accepting defeat is simply not permissible.” We agreed that if truth is famously war’s first casualty, memory is its second. Tom’s book would be a necessary intervention in the on-going conflict between empire and democracy.

That the book got written at all is something of a miracle. I was shocked to receive an e-mail from him just days after he’d signed the contract with Yale, telling me he’d suffered a serious stroke. “I am the victim of my own reckless character,” he wrote. “I was photographing a toxic pit of fracking wastewater out in the land of the devil, Kern County. It was hot, the air full of dust, the black ooze sinking into the aquifer below and evaporating into the air above. I threw myself into the cave of the devil and the devil blew back into my heaving lungs. It was something like Ginsberg staring into the eye of Moloch. And so in the course of an exhausting day and night my breathing worsened and I eventually fell into a stroke and was rushed twice to emergency rooms, doctors and nurses, and the MRI machine where I experienced life and loved ones passing before my eyes. The man at the MRI was named Jesus. When it was over and I asked him how his day was going, he said with an upbeat shout, ‘You survived, everybody’s gonna survive in this place today.’” Tom went on to say that while he would “need therapy to help recover my brain over the next little while,” he assured me that “if you call me, and I hope you will, it will seem that I am my old self, slicing and chopping words into sentences and arguments, living again in the immanent world that I nearly left behind.” …

He closed his missive, which he’d written from his hospital bed at 5 in the morning, “I am wide awake in the unforgettable present moment, and now I must try to sleep.”

Tom always did live in the unforgettable present moment, and he refused to be hostage to an easy, self-aggrandizing nostalgia for the “good old days” of the 1960s. As much as he had a profound respect for the ways that history, as was once so famously observed, weighs upon the brain of the living like a nightmare, he spent his life trying to write it by making it in the here and now.  …

Read the whole thing here


Caffeine, camaraderie, catharsis, and 125 years of editorial freedom

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

On the threshold of the future, 1970s.

Last weekend was my first trip back to Ann Arbor since I took home a diploma several decades ago. It also marked my first trip back to the Michigan Daily offices at 420 Maynard.

Arthur Miller 1955

One of us.

The distinctive Student Publication Building has the same smell it did all those years ago, minus the rubber cement. We edited the old-fashioned way: the rip-and-glue method on pages of low-cost newsprint. The dumb waiter had vanished, too, except in the memories of those who remember the linotype days. As the 1.40 a.m. daily deadline neared, the dumb waiter saved steps as we sent copy to the typesetters on the floor below in the basement. Periodically, we would scamper downstairs to watch the progress of the night’s paper: seasoned professionals (the legendary Lucius Doyle and Merlyn Lavey foremost among them) tapped away on the big clackety linotype machines, as lead pigs were melted into pools of silver to make the slugs that were assembled on turtles, and eventually locked into place for printing. Pigs, slugs, turtles… lots of nature words for a place that was as far from the outdoor world as could be imagined – especially the underground kingdom on the floor below us. It was one of the last of the hot-type newspapers, and it was a privilege to work on it.


One of us, too. (Photo: Brian Corr)

Three Dailyites from our set went on to get Pulitzers (so far), including the Washington Post‘s Eugene Robinson. The Daily was considered “the New York Times of student newspapers” – though I was never sure of the provenance of that tag. Certainly its independence made it unique among the nation’s university newspapers. That tradition continues: It has no supervision from the faculty or the administration. It receives no funding from the university to run a full-circulation daily (five days a week now, six days a week back in my day). Decades ago, the student-run outfit even paid for its own building – the familiar 1930s-style brick landmark that offered nickel cokes in thick green glass bottles. (For old times’ sake, I bought a can of coke for fifty cents in the machine downstairs. Not the same.) Its revenues peaked at $1.4m in 2000 to about $500,000 last year. “The University of Michigan places a high value on the Michigan Daily’s editorial freedom,” one of the university’s attorneys wrote – the letter was projected on a screen at the gala dinner.


We paid for it.

One of us, columnist Laura Berman, described the occasion this way in The Detroit News:

As newspapers shrink and, alas, sometimes die, the Michigan Daily, a 125-year-old student-run paper, is getting attention for sheer survival.

Without support or direct interference from its parent institution, the University of Michigan, the student daily has outlasted big and smaller city dailies, including the Ann Arbor News (now part of At a university lacking a journalism department, 20-year-old editors miraculously “train” their younger cohorts, winning national recognition year after year.

Today, the Daily opens its 83-year-old building’s doors to nearly 400 alumni from across the country, including Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, academics, doctors and lawyers. From Rebecca Blumenstein, the Wall Street Journal’s deputy editor-in-chief, to Tony Schwartz, the author and business consultant who wrote Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal to Sports Illustrated columnist Michael Rosenberg and Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson, it’s a varied group of pilgrims.


Sara Rimer of the New York Times celebrates her return.

Caffeine, ambition, camaraderie, and journalistic passion — but very little pay — have fueled the Daily for generations. …

At the gala dinner in the Michigan League, someone described the newsroom atmosphere as “stressful, exhausting, cathartic … addictive.” That about sums it up. We were a competitive and hard-working lot, and the newsroom atmosphere was intense.

After a whirlwind visit after so many years, it’s hard to describe all the emotions that were churned up in less than 72 hours. Let’s start with horror: the old-style morgue, with its scores of bound volumes, is being digitized. Thirty-nine of the 320 volumes are already electronically processed. I spent a short while in the morgue over the weekend, thumbing through the oversize volumes. Speaking for myself, you couldn’t bury some of my early stories deep enough. Time has not treated many of these pieces well, and I would not like to see them in my Collected. But the fact that I think that way at all probably owes something to the Daily.

According to the university’s LSA Today:

What do playwright Arthur Miller, two-time presidential candidate Thomas Dewey, and neurosurgeon/medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta have in common? They all wrote for the Michigan Daily, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this month. [Not to mention Tom Hayden. – ED.]

Covering campus, sports, local news, and culture, the Daily has been the object of both picketing and praise over its 125 years. And even as eminent newspapers have gone digital or crumbled, the Daily, which is financially independent of U-M, continues to thrive. In addition to its vigorous online presence, the Daily still publishes on paper. During the school year, it does so five days per week.


Swag bag & shirt.

“When we check Twitter or even Yik Yak, a story from the Daily is often the center of conversation,” says Jennifer Calfas, LSA senior and the Michigan Daily’s editor in chief. “Sometimes you forget how amazing it is that this work impacts so many people, but then small moments remind you.”

After all, how many university rags ever got their own segment on Jon Stewart‘s Daily Show. (Don’t believe me? Watch it here.)

My stony little heart got so sentimental I finally broke down and bought my first university t-shirt to add to the Michigan Daily mug and “M” cookie (from the fabulous local deli Zingerman’s) in my swag bag. I couldn’t bring myself to get something as naff as “Go Blue!” So I settled for “Naprzód Niebiescy,” which a Polish scholar assured me was an even stronger phrase – something along the lines of “Advance forward, blue!”



Bill Turque of the Washington Post and Lani Jordan, formerly of UPI, thumb through old volumes in the morgue.


Pulitzer-prizewinning Ann Marie Lipinski of the Chicago Tribune and award-winning author Jim Tobin watching the last hot-type Daily come off the presses in the late 1970s. “That college newsroom was everything,” she said. (Photo: Steve Kagan)


Humble Moi with photojournalist Pauline Lubens of the San Jose Mercury News, poet Marnie Heyn, and David Pap.

Remembering Borders in Ann Arbor

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Bye-bye Borders (Photo courtesy of the Ann Arbor Chronicle)

Borders is gone, and with it an era.

So say all the eulogies, but that era has been long gone for me.  The flagship Borders had a special role in my life. I grew up in a north-of-Detroit suburban burg called Bloomfield Hills.  The nearest bookstore, or what passed for a bookstore, was a “media” store that sold newspapers, magazines, and a few top-selling paperbacks.  It was about a mile away on foot for this book-hungry teenager.

So arriving at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor was like a starving man suddenly surrounded with éclairs.  How could I miss the first-ever Borders on Maynard Street?  It was just down the street from The Michigan Daily – at that time called “the New York Times of student newspapers” (by the New York Times, no less) – where I spent all my waking hours, and many hours I was supposed to be in class, working alongside journalists who would became renowned nationally and internationally.  (Tom Hayden was a former editor – and returned occasionally for a visit.)

As I spent all my time at 420 Maynard, I spent all my money at 311 Maynard, the location of Borders, enacting Erasmus‘s famous dictum, “”When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

According to the  CNN:

He was right.

“Borders used to be chockablock with books,” said Jonathan Marwil, a University of Michigan history professor and author of a history of Ann Arbor. “It has increasingly looked less like a bookstore than a bowling alley, with its wide-open spaces. Now they’re selling children’s dolls on the front counter. It’s really pretty grim.”

It was a place where employees were devoted to their jobs. They prided themselves on their knowledge of their assigned sections — and everybody else’s. It was a gathering place and community center, just up the street from the university’s main campus.

“We worked when we didn’t have to work because we didn’t know we were working. We would go into the store when it was closed to do more work,” said Sharon Gambin, who arrived for the 1982 holiday season and went on to hold several positions during a three-decade career. “That’s how much we loved what we did.”

According to the Macomb County Legal News, “The 40-year-old Ann Arbor-based bookseller hasn’t turned a profit since 2006, having lost $605 million in the last four fiscal years.”

Borders was founded in 1971 by brothers Tom and Louis Borders, who were University of Michigan students.

Ann Arbor scene ... I don't miss the winters.

Originally called Borders Book Shop, it was located in a 800-square-foot building on South State Street in downtown Ann Arbor (currently, Borders in downtown Ann Arbor is located at Liberty and Maynard in what was once Jacobson’s Department Store — another defunct Michigan-based business — and is considered the flagship store).

Not so.  It began on Maynard and Liberty, and moved later.  I remember Jacobson’s, too – the Bloomingdale’s of Michigan.

I still have the (unread) multi-volume Marlborough: His Life and Times, by Winston Churchill, that I bought on one of my gluttony, when I would leave with a pile of books.  I remember a fellow Daily-ite from Nebraska telling me he had to order books directly from the publisher.  Time was short, buy books now.

As bookstores disappear into cyberspace, many of us are once again miles away from the occasional signpost of civilization.

Isn’t this the part of the movie where I walked in?

Postscript on 9/15:  Others are sharing their memories of their “first time” – first big experience with a bookstore.

From Jeff Sypeck: “I was in college in 1991 when a Borders opened in Central Jersey. It was such a big deal that we brought jealous out-of-towners to see it; they took home t-shirts as souvenirs. If I were 20 now, and someone told me that, I’m not sure I’d believe it.”

From John Murphy of the University of Virginia: “‘Purists’ sometime knock the big-box chains like Borders and Barnes and Noble. But, growing up in a a very small town, I appreciate the value they have — or, in the case of Borders, the value they had. We had a good public library, but …we were not large enough as a town to support any kind of locally-owned bookstore at all. So Waldenbooks and B. Dalton half an hour away were a very good thing and Borders and Barnes and Noble an hour away were an even better thing. I truly don’t think that the world would have been a better place if the big-city bookstore cultures where ‘purists’ tend to be had never been ‘subjected’ to Borders at all and if people growing up in small towns like mine had never had access to any bookstore culture at all.

And Ken Latta also remembers the original Ann Arbor Borders.  He had an open purchase order at Borders “so I could walk over at lunch time and pick up books for work. Year later wandering around the country consulting one measure of civilization was having a Borders and a Starbucks, hopefully co-located.”