The Audacity of Hope

Photograph by Michael O'Brien

I have a very clear memory of returning from a birthday trip with my wife to Paris, where we were blissfully unaware of the awful happenings back home. This was in late April 1998, when cell phones weren’t ubiquitous and BlackBerrys didn’t exist—even e-mail was in limited use—so my first stop when we landed at DFW airport was a pay phone near the gate where our connecting flight to Austin was boarding. To my great dismay, I had dozens of voice mail messages at the office marked “urgent.” The first few made me feel as if I’d walked into the middle of a conversation—I had—but from what I could gather, someone in the Texas Monthly family named Jan had been shot in the gut during a robbery in Mexico. The first panicked question I had was, “Which Jan?” At the time, there were three people with that name in our orbit—Jan Reid and Jan Jarboe Russell, both contributing editors, and Jann Baskett, our ex—marketing director—and all three were dear friends. The second question, once I learned the gravely injured “Jan” was Reid, was, “Is he going to survive?” That wasn’t clear. We could only hope.

The story of what happened before, during, and after has since been recounted by Jan several times, in these pages and elsewhere, so there’s no mystery about what came next. Thanks to the assistance of many Good Samaritans—some connected with this magazine and some not—he was airlifted to Texas in one piece and began his long convalescence at Memorial Hermann hospital, in Houston, in the watchful care of, among others, the famous surgeon Red Duke. Jan was by no means himself and still isn’t. He has had to adjust his once vital, athletic bearing to the consequences of the tragedy. He has been and remains, occasionally, in great pain. His mobility has been forever hampered. The simplest, most blithely taken-for-granted aspects of his daily life are significantly more complicated. There are things he just cannot do, or cannot do without great preparation and effort and tumult.

But he has persevered, as he writes with characteristic understatement in “ Citizen Cane”, a memoir of sorts that marks

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