It was freezing when I graduated from college in Michigan in December nineteen-ninety-something. Having worn a parka and goggles while delivering pizzas to drunken frat boys in the middle of the night for the previous four-ish winters, I was ready to get warm.
The day after commencement, I drove home to Philadelphia to see my clan, fill my ’84 Toyota Celica with CDs, and then hit the road for warmer climes. The night before I left, Mom threw me a graduation party. The whole family came.
The photo here is of my dad and me at that party. I remember his eyes tearing when he congratulated me. He said he was proud, and I felt it — felt happy, loved, worthwhile — a stark contrast to a few years earlier, when I had been a temporary degenerate, failing out of school after spending pizza-delivery money on weed instead of books.
It was the eve of new beginnings. I was leaving for California first thing in the morning.
Unable to sleep, I woke my mom and stepfather to say goodbye, and then drove to my dad’s house to leave a note versus ringing the doorbell before dawn. I don’t remember precisely what I wrote, but there was a rhyme in there, and a reference to Manifest Destiny.
I was on top of the world.
Five days later, I arrived in San Diego, found a roommate in The Reader and moved into an apartment behind the Vons in Pacific Beach. Within a couple weeks, I landed a part-time job with The La Jolla Light, writing about high school sports for $50 an article.
I had been talking to Dad on the phone every day and couldn’t wait to share the news. His reaction made my heart sink. “You can’t live on $150 a week, David,” he said.
His pride had vanished so quickly, or at least it seemed to as he spoke. We didn’t talk much in the days following.
A couple weeks later, I got a call from my father’s best friend. Dad had died. His heart stopped while he was jogging down the street. No heart attack, just some sort of electrical failure. He never smoked or drank, but he collapsed after shoveling the sidewalk and going for a run.
I flew back to Philly a broken man. I know Dad loved me. I know there were times he was proud of me, but I caused some trouble as a kid, so there were un-proud moments, too. And we ended on one.
Fast forward 23 years …
Three weeks ago, The San Diego-Union Tribune acquired PacificSD — the magazine you’re reading now, which I started 10 years ago. Basically, media bigwigs bought the magazine, and now I’ll work for them, er, us, for the next 10 years. That’s the plan, anyway, as long as my new bosses don’t throw me out first. (Hopefully they won’t read this.)
My father’s best friend tells me Dad would be proud of me, and I suspect he’s right, but I can’t really feel it. What I feel instead is pride in my own son. Lex is 4, and I’m so proud of him it hurts. I’m proud of how he plays, how he laughs, everything he says. I can’t imagine life without him.
Dad’s death at age 52 doesn’t mean I have only six years left, but I think about it sometimes, especially on Father’s Day.
To increase my chances of survival, I avoid jogging and shoveling snow. In case I do meet an untimely demise, I want to shower Lex with as much love, pride and sound paternal advice as humanly possible while I’m still here.
My father used to say, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” Get out there, carpe diem, seize the friggin’ day. Don’t whine about your situation, change it. (I’m talking to myself here.) I’ve since promised myself, and my father, to heed that advice.
I just took the biggest leap of my life, leaving a comfort zone for new horizons, a strange land where major national newspaper companies are morphing into digital content providers, and where PacificSD now has a loving staff of 400 to become proud of its new baby.
Join me, won’t you, dear Reader? You’ve been part of the PacificSD family for a decade, and I’m proud as hell to have you along for this new ride.
By the way, Dad would be proud we got Scott Eastwood (son of Clint, his favorite actor) for the cover this month. A chip off the old block.
David Perloff, Editor-in-Chief