My flight from Fourth Street

Reflections from the recently reformed

Ross Anderson

The agony of being a young writer can be summarized in a single word: âÄúdoubt.âÄù ItâÄôs an emotion we all feel, but for writers itâÄôs supercharged (and in my case elevated or subdued by a combination of alcohol and medicinal plants). After 26 years, my angst finally pushed me to the edge of the continent. In my blessed Chevy Trailblazer I headed toward to the âÄúcenter of the universeâÄù as she called it, otherwise known as Ukiah, California. 5,000 miles and a thousand stories later, IâÄôm pretty sure the adventure made me a better newspaperman. Without question this column will be written in a fresher, less hostile pitchâĦ including more vigor and honesty to be sure, while omitting a revulsion toward the student body and faculty âÄî my former guiding animus. I met an angel in San Francisco. She told me how to be a better columnist: âÄúStop hating everyone; itâÄôs bad for you.âÄù When I headed west I thought I was seeing about a girl, but now that IâÄôm home, heartsick and reeling from ruthless adventure, I learned that I went to see about something else. IâÄôm quite sure his (or her) name is God. I hope the word wonâÄôt scare off any readers, I just donâÄôt know what else to call it. But if the road taught me anything, it was what Ghandi had told me once before: âÄúIt is unwise to be too sure of oneâÄôs wisdom.âÄù IâÄôll spare you all the existential details; letâÄôs just say I caught the Holy Ghost. This much I think I know. But IâÄôll keep reminding myself that I am a fool âÄî never too smart academically âÄî but pretty good on the street. I know my place. Like young Socrates, I understand that âÄúIt is unbecoming for young men to utter maxims.âÄù This column promises to be an honest broker in the search for Truth, but admittedly will still entertain foolish ideas in that pursuit. IâÄôll ask my readers to forgive my youthful hubris; I really canâÄôt help myself. The second pledge this column will make is balls. Big, bold balls. I have no control of them either. You could blame the Army, and perhaps all the time I spent in the mountains of former Yugoslavia or the deserts of Mesopotamia. I honestly cannot define the process of being led by my balls; I just know the process took many years, and my foundation as a committed amateur boxer sure didnâÄôt help. The problem is most people donâÄôt like balls. In an objective, scientific study this column found that those who lack balls typically hate otherâÄôs balls, but thatâÄôs science, with validity akin to Christianity or voodoo âÄî I think. Final pledge: I will never let my self-doubt, my balls, or my hubris interfere with objectivity. Yes, an opinion columnistâÄôs duty is to spout certainties, but I do not seek to be âÄúrightâÄù. I leave that honor to good professors and students who take seriously their studies. I only wish to be on the right-side-of-stupid, which I think is called âÄúprogressive.âÄù Or maybe âÄúlibertarian.âÄù Or âÄúRepublicratic-fibbilly-wibbly.âÄù I never bothered to learn what those big words mean. They seem to be words of division; when those words pop-up the conversation always slows. I figure that IâÄôve got at least 6,000 worthwhile words to describe my summer. To my readership, which I am both honored and humbled to have, you can expect heightened intensity in the columns to come. No topic will be too hot or too controversial, and no group will be above criticism, including feminists, Muslims and yes, President Robert Bruininks. I wish to challenge all those I disagree with, sincerely and respectfully, in genuine pursuit of that slippery little word called âÄúTruth.âÄù And some advice for fellow young writers: if an older goddess invites you westâĦ drop everything and go. Thank you Erica Hurt Cooperrider. Ross Anderson welcomes comments at [email protected]