Let’s jump right into this, yeah? This summer, I got to visit the SLAM Dome—as in, SLAM Magazine’s office in NYC. I’ll start from the beginning.
When I was in middle school and forgot what I learned in my math class earlier in the day, I’d ask my brother for help with the inevitable one or two word problems at the end of my homework assignment. As I waited for him to decipher the algebraic codes, I developed two habits: cracking my knuckles and browsing SLAM.
He had a big stack of old SLAM copies on his dresser, so I looked through them. With his permission, I tore out some two-page, perforated spreads called SLAMups, which on the front and back captured a slam dunk—one of my favorite parts of the game.
I guess my brother noticed I took a liking to the source for the best in basketball because he gifted me a year-long subscription to the mag for Eid soon after, and I’ve been subscribed ever since.
SLAM’s style was cool. It wasn’t boring or dry. It picked me up from my seat and dropped me into the scene, as if I was the sports journalist with the press pass watching LeBron James before he stepped onto the court to either continue or end the second-longest winning streak in the NBA.
The wittiness, sarcasm, subtle jokes, and proper coverage SLAM offered within its pages intrigued me. Not just the featured articles, but the captions under pictures, replies to letters from readers, subheadings—all of it was beautifully written. I never thought of SLAM as something more than a hobby, until after November 2010, when I wrote into Trash Talk for the first time. Then more recently during this spring semester, my professor helped me write a cover letter of sorts, clearly and eloquently stating, hey I’m interested and enthusiastic and ready.
I addressed the letter to Lang Whitaker, who I’ve mentioned in previous posts, but I got an email from the Ed himself, Ben Osborne, shortly after @SLAMonline followed me on Twitter. He invited me up to the SLAM Dome, and Alhamdulillah, I got to see the office wallpapered with SLAM covers, where the website and magazine work goes down.
Before stepping into the office, I was nervous. I was nervous when I read the email, the night before, on the train, walking to the building, and waiting outside the door. On paper, I can edit my words and rewrite and get a second or third pair of eyes to read over my paragraphs to make everything sound wonderful. In person, it’s different. It’s raw.
SubhanAllah, all the anticipation and nervousness was for naught. I didn’t need to impress anyone. Studying the night before, scripting my words and responses to possible questions, arranging an extra formal outfit—none of it was necessary. I met the people there, and they were genuine and cool. Genuinely cool, you know, like their writing. And nice. So, so nice. I actually felt comfortable around them, and that was weird for me.
Because usually, I am conscious of my appearance, my hijab, my clothes, my everything. But even when working side-by-side and step-by-step with an editor earlier this week at the SLAM Dome, I didn’t care that my hijab was crooked, that my clothes were different, that my posture was terrible, and that my feet didn’t reach the ground.
And that felt wonderful.
Walking alone in New York with thousands of other people felt wonderful too. I understand that at 21-years-old, I’m a little late in traveling on a train by myself, but I realized this week going into the City is not a big deal at all. A bunch of people do it everyday, but that doesn’t mean each person walking down 7th Ave is used to the hustle and bustle. Some of those thousands of people are wandering around for the first time, taking in the sight of the surrounding skyscrapers, just like you.
I’ll sign off with this: the awesome people at SLAM are as cool as I thought they were, if not more so. And you’re cooler than you know, too.