Once Upon a Magazine

It’s Friday afternoon, one of those odd days between the 25th and the 31st of December, 1985. School´s out, my allowance money is in my jeans pocket, and I take myself and my mostly empty backpack on a mission. I ride the B&W bus and about a half-hour later I arrive at the 6th Avenue strip in Cali, Colombia. My favourite international magazine kiosk does not disappoint. Nikki Sixx’s gorgeous face is on the cover of Circus Magazine! I grab it hungrily, smile at the oblivious woman working the cash register, pay her and walk to a park bench by the river to look over my prized possession in the afternoon sun and soft breeze. A week later, I would have looked at it at least ten more times, I would have told people at home to keep their hands off it at least twenty times, and I would have opened my English-Spanish dictionary at least a dozen times as I read the articles.

In the mid-1980s, magazines, as well as books from the book club my family subscribed to (Círculo de Lectores, Readers Circle), were always around. My teen head was not full of just metal, mind you. I devoured with equal devotion National Geographic, its European twin GEO, Popular Mechanics, Paris Match, L’Espresso and others that arrived regularly at my house by post or in the hands of a relative. I loved those magazines just as much as I have always loved reading books. Then, the 1990s brought about the seriousness of my graduate course load in a different Cali, USA, and little money for anything but essentials. Luckily, I discovered The Economist at the university library. I would seriously not sleep just so I would have time to read the whole thing before it was due back, finish papers, translation assignments and interpreting practices, the latter very much enriched by my increasingly large highfaluting English vocabulary.

Circus Magazine had faded, as had my teenage years, but not my love of hard rock and metal, and then Rolling Stone delivered the angst and guttural voice of grunge in really long but well-written and entertaining articles. I was dressed for the times, plaid shirt and still wearing Doc Martens. I had traded the guitar for the drum set, finally finding my musical instrument. Vogue came along with a dear friend who had impeccable taste in clothes, and both helped me learn how to dress for the office and develop an appreciation for stunning portrait and editorial photography. As I followed the dress code and looked the part at my first corporate job in the vicinity of Silicon Valley, I got addicted to Fast Company and WIRED, and even though The Economist was still my number one, those two American magazines helped me and my peers feel a part of something very new, exciting, and special. It was educational. It was opinionated. And it was great fun.

Those end-of-the-century magazines were undeniably influential in the boom-and-bust years of the dotcom era, and interesting insights of the business influencers we were privy to and actually cared about in those days came via articles on print and the odd 60-minutes TV interview. Internet chats were reserved for random strangers, not inspiring CEOs or billionaires. Those 90s business magazines were born a millennial, but were created by gen-Xrs, and inspired me to try my hand at a monthly, an internal newsletter for which I became the editor for several years. I loved piecing together the articles, working with the editorial team, proofing, and typesetting. The interpreters for whom the newsletter was intended loved it. And although I could not call it a magazine, that monthly was my version of it, a rudimentary but happy expression of my love of writing.

When I hear the music of my youth, I feel just as happy, I sing along, bang my head like those people in I Wanna Rock!. But when I think about those paper magazines, I actually feel nostalgic. I looked forward to the surprises they delivered, good or bad, or even annoying, like all that advertising in Vogue. Magazine writers had as much to do with my becoming a linguist and a writer as did Marguerite Yourcenar, Robert Graves, Isabel Allende, and Michael Crichton. This blog piece is dedicated to them, the editors and writers at The Economist, The New Yorker, The Improper Bostonian, Rolling Stone, Modern Drummer, WIRED, Fast Company, Multilingual, and all the artists and writers at Vogue, with special thanks to Circus Magazine, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Twisted Sister and their contemporaries for helping a high school kid become fluent in English. I guess I should thank my English teachers for that, too, but you see, they were never as interesting as my magazines and my hair metal bands.

At the time she wrote this article, Rocío (on a bio phase) had finished reading:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.