Ken Reflects on Four Sealed Boxes

I waited seventeen years to see the amazing stories in Voices from the Underground back in print. The interim period affected my husbandhood, my fatherhood, my livelihood, and my health. At times the enormity of turning one oversized 8 ½ x 11, 2-column format, 600+-page landmark record of the Vietnam era (1993 edition) into four separate books, all updated, expanded, and revised, overwhelmed me and led me to periods of despondency and hopelessness. At others, it revved me up so much I was unstoppable. But most of all, I never halted my forward movement. I fell often, but I got up every time as I pestered contributors whose stories needed updating, searched out images to bring their stories to life, and, once the demise of the economy made my publishing four volumes myself impossible, challenged publishers to commit to publishing four books on the same commercially esoteric subject. Meanwhile, I watched helplessly as contributors—who like me were young twenty years ago when I first approached them—moved on to their next spiritual adventures, and I felt the urgency of getting the stories out before I lost any others.

And so last night I came home from a long night of writing and found inside the door four boxes that Emily had picked up at MSU Press in East Lansing. Sixty-two copies of volume 1, Insider  Histories of the Vietnam Era Underground Press, Part 1, most of which were pre-ordered from supporters, the others of which I will sell so I can purchase more inventory or give away to loved ones.

I wanted to share the adventure of opening the first box with Emily, whose patience and eternal love while I was working on the books will go down in history as heroic, but she hadn’t yet arrived home from her play rehearsal. At the same time, I had to pack lunch for today, eat a late dinner, and then prepare for a 7:00 meeting this morning with my sales force. By the time Emily got home, I was feeling rushed. The mood was all wrong. Opening the box would be better today, I decided, but Emily will be spending tonight in Lansing, where she works during the day, to spare her one long back-and-forth drive from and to Ann Arbor.

So I decided instead to once again put off opening that first box. I looked at all four boxes every time I walked by them going to and from the kitchen. Once or twice, I paused, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath, thanked the forces around me that kept me going, and vibed a successful future for the new, four-volume Voices from the Underground Series.

Tomorrow night we’ll celebrate with wine or champagne, Emily’s choice. Then we’ll look through the first book together, and when we’re done I’ll inscribe it for her.