NO WHITE SHOES
My wife is quick to recognize the telltale signs. Whenever I mention that a man in his 40s has gotten his ear pierced, or done something aggressively stylish with his hair, she recites, “Next it’ll be a little red sports car. Then he’ll start wearing white shoes. It’s just a matter of time until he’s got some young chick, and he’s asking his wife for a divorce.” Tragically, this sequence of events has played out almost to the letter more than once in our small circle of friends and acquaintances. It isn’t pretty.
These days, I’m more conscious of these things than I used to be because technically, I, too, am in my 40s. I say technically, because I don’t really think being 40 is the same as being “in my 40s.” One is young-sounding; the other sounds really close to 50 and the slippery slope to geezerhood.
I’m not really all that worried about aging, but my own humbling collisions with irony and human frailty have taught me not to be smug or cocky about challenges I have not yet experienced. Like all men, I have the hidden potential to pretend that an earring and/or white shoes will put the brakes on aging and make me immortal; but I hope that by recognizing this hidden potential for foolishness and by praying a lot, I will emerge intact. I’m sure my wife’s Midlife Crisis Early Warning System will come in handy.
Civil War Times Illustrated is in the same boat I’m in. This issue inaugurates the magazine’s 40th year. You can bet there will be no earrings, rakish hairdos, sports cars, or white shoes for Civil War Times Illustrated! But we are going to celebrate the magazine’s maturity and its Civil War centennial roots by making it even more useful and appealing to you.
The first component in our 40th year spruce-up appears in this issue. We’ve asked the amazing Jeff Wert to write a column called “140 Years Ago.” Unlike the department of the same name which we ran in years past, this “140 Years Ago” will use well-written stories and historical photographs rather than calendar grids to chronicle the progress of our Civil War from start to finish, one installment at a time. Jeff, who spends his days teaching high school, writes great Civil War books and articles using a pen and paper–not the lazy man’s friend, the word processor (I’ve got mine!)–and his stories are always compelling. We’ll all benefit from Jeff’s bird’s-eye view of the war; it will help us put the many seemingly isolated incidents and details of our nation’s greatest conflict into a meaningful perspective.
Knowing what kind of influence our companions can have on us, I like to think that having good friends will help Civil War Times Illustrated enter mid-life gracefully. I think it’s authors like Jeff Wert, an art director like our own Jeff King, an editorial craftsman like managing editor Carl Zebrowski, and an organizational dynamo like our secretary, Sue Miller, that make Civil War Times Illustrated successful–and that enabled our magazine to win an honorable mention in Folio: magazine’s 2000 Editorial Excellence Awards.
More good things are coming later this year. But I’m not going to tell you about them yet. You’ll just have to stick with this 40-something magazine!
P.S. A man I praised in my last “Behind the Lines” has died. I’m speaking of Lloyd Ostendorf, whose expertise in Lincoln-related photographs, exhaustive collection of images, and pleasant disposition made him a pleasure to work with. Everyone spoke well of Lloyd while he was alive, and he is already missed by those who knew and dealt with him.
Jim Kushlan, Editor, Civil War Times
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