Throw My Ticket Out the Window
On TFP’s first anniversary, one thing is clear: "I'll be staying here with you."
The above headline and subhead are stolen from just one of the masterpieces on the Dylan album Nashville Skyline, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” It’s a turning point for Dylan, a love song about staying not leaving, sung with a Roy Orbison-like ecstasy accompanied by rolling piano, pedal-steel guitar, and a bass line to die for. It’s a celebration, not a lamentation, ending with these five lines:
Throw my ticket out the window Throw my suitcase out there, too Throw my troubles out the door I don’t need them anymore’ Cause tonight I’ll be staying here with you
That pretty much sums up how I feel about you, dear reader, on this first anniversary of TFP. I’m all in, and ready to keep bringing TFP to your inbox week in and week out throughout 2023 and beyond. I hope you come along for the ride, and join in with comments, discussion, and your take on the issues, ideas, stories, and interviews found in TFP. Thousands of you have done so over the past year. And whether you’re a free or paid subscriber, I thank you.
I also can’t thank enough the many friends, mentors, writers, and editors who have helped make TFP a reality—and hopefully a great read—over the past 52 weeks. First and foremost among those is my copy editor, Amanda Samuelson, without whom I’d live in terror of hitting the PUBLISH button.
But there are also many others (you know who you are) without whom TFP would never have gotten off the ground, let alone recently become a Substack Bestseller, a high honor indeed in a field of great Substack writers.
I launched The First Person one year ago today because I was tired of the conventional approach to the political divides that tear through the heart of our media and society: Left is left, and right is right, and never the twain shall meet. Real conversations with real people, I thought, would be preferable to the predictable banter of talking heads or the passions of overpaid pundits.
And—I dare say —TFP’s success in its first 365 days has proven me right.
Since Feb. 1, 2022, and TFP’s inaugural conversation with Luma Mufleh, the coach, educator, and founder of Fugees Academy, TFP has spoken with Pulitzer Prize-winning poets, journalists, historians, veterans, physicians, brewers, educators, human-rights activists, whistleblowers, refugees, refugee resettlers, immigrants, immigration experts, military experts, best-selling authors, and mothers, fathers, children, and survivors of war from around the globe.
We’ve also published TFP essays by celebrated authors, including Afghan author and human-rights activist Homeira Qaderi, best-selling author and Harvard historian Tiya Miles, and Shakespeare scholar Scott Newstok on how Bob Dylan and James Baldwin “think like Shakespeare” (recognized as a 2022 best read by Substack). And in just the past few weeks, we’ve published a moving piece by the brilliant Ukrainian-American author and translator Askold Melnyczuk on why pacificism is not tenable in the face of genocide; as well as the renowned poet, journalist, and director of the International Writing Program, Christopher Merrill, on creating and preserving “spaces for truth telling.”
My own stories about my family’s struggles with mental illness and my travels to Hiroshima and elsewhere have also proven popular among TFP readers, many of whom hunger — like I do — for personal stories about the triumphs and tragedies that touch all families, no matter their nationality, color or creed.
What’s surprised me most about the first year of TFP is how dropping my guard and losing the corporate backing and advertising that accompanies most mainstream journalism has opened me up to a more direct and intimate connection with my readers, who have taught me more about myself and my writing in one year than in decades of journalism at big media outlets.
So, if you’ve been with TFP from the start, or just started subscribing, many, many thanks. But if you want TFP to continue into 2023 and beyond, please consider upgrading your subscription from free to paid today. If you’re already a paid subscriber, please renew when the time comes and consider sending a gift subscription to someone who might appreciate it. If you have the means to do so, there’s also the option of becoming a Founding Member of TFP, which will help us stay alive and well for years to come.
In any event, TFP will continue delivering stories and conversations that matter directly to your inbox. Like the artist formerly known as Robert Allen Zimmerman sang, “Throw my ticket out the window.”
I’m in this for the long run.