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Friday, February 14, 2020

Do you still write?


I had lunch early this week with a couple of old friends. I hadn't seen them in quite awhile. And I'm afraid I monopolized the conversation about what was going on in my life. At one point one of them asked, "Do you still write?"

My response was that I have been writing a blog for 16 years. The response was kind of a blank stare and some comments about not being able to keep up with blogs.

I suppose a better question would be, "Do you still write anything anyone reads?" And I could have honestly responded, "Of course not."

Truth is, no one "keeps up with blogs" these days. It is a challenging medium. It does require a commitment from readers to check in every now and then because a blog isn't typically spoon fed to everyone. It also takes a commitment from the blogger to produce interesting content on a regular basis that appeals to your readers.

I've failed miserably on that front. The problem with not pandering to a regular audience is that you pander to yourself. And let's face it, people really don't want to read about me. They want something they can relate to.

I was better at it when I had regular readers and I knew their personalities...or at least their online personalities. I found myself crafting stuff I knew they would respond to. And they did.

Until they didn't.

I admit that most of what I write now is therapeutic. I try to keep the more personal, self pity stuff offline. But I come here now mainly to keep from getting rusty. I don't want to end up being the tin man frozen mid ax stroke next to an abandoned cabin somewhere over the rainbow.

Besides, there's no place like Dizgraceland.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Dreams of travelling


I tend to dream or be aware of my dreams an hour or so before Alexa starts blasting out chimes to wake me up. This morning I was dreaming about being stressed out trying to catch a flight that would simply have me fly to a destination and turn around and fly back.

I have quite a few dreams about having to pack quickly to make a travel connection. I few them as stress dreams. I rarely dream about laying on a beach sipping a tropical drink. And as with many of my dreams, I am in the house I grew up in. Or I am in this house that I've never been to but appears in my dreams a lot. It is a a series of connected rooms or houses. It kind of reminds me of New Orleans.

In another life, I would happily live in New Orleans and be an artist. I would not be a corporate suck up and ever have to hear about SMART goals or cascading goals. I would not receive "feedback" in performance reviews. I would not care about strategic priorities. I would not be judged by how well I conformed to corporate values.

But I digress.

The thing is that I am at the end of my career. I have maybe five years left in the work force (if they don't try and "ok boomer" me out earlier). I'd like to be having nice, peaceful dreams of unhurried environments, not rushing around trying to find my wallet or passport and catching a flight at the last minute. Those are stress dreams and I think I've worked long enough to get a break from stress dreams.

I know it is pointless at this juncture of my life to question my career choice, but I am having serious doubts about my job. I must have been subconsciously giving off some burn out vibe because I got blasted for body language and not paying attention at meetings. I don't think the "feedback" was particularly fair or accurate, but who does believe such things?

But it did shake my foundation of who I am and what I'm doing. I've always considered myself a "creative." And only about five percent of what I do in my job could be described as creative. I'll admit I don't like managing people. And from some of my "feedback," people aren't to keen on my managing.

Thing is, I've been working since I was 16 if you don't count mowing lawns and paper routes. I've spent the last 38 years pretty much doing different versions of the same thing in pretty much the same place. Every time I think I deserve some credit for time served I run into the reality that no one is irreplaceable.

If only I could dream myself away from it all.


Saturday, February 01, 2020

Just gathering data


My first real job years ago (other than mowing lawns and delivering a weekly newspaper) was working at the public library, first shelving books and later working in circulation. I started working there when I was 16 years old. I think I worked there maybe five years. It wasn’t a great job. It didn’t pay much, but I reasoned that it was better than working in fast food or at a restaurant. In retrospect, I would have probably made more money working at a restaurant.

Shelving books was mindnumbingly boring. And I had to endure lectures from reference librarians (the elite of in the library hierarchy) about how books needed to breath so don’t just shove them in an already full shelf. I would nod and smile. Then I’d keep shoving the books in place once the librarian was out of sight.

When I graduated from high school and entered college, I started working as a circulation clerk. It was less boring, but it made me interact with the public. And although you’d imagine that people in a library would be a bit higher on the IQ food chain then elsewhere you would be wrong. I often dealt with people floating in the shallow end of the gene pool. And there were transients who came to the library to sleep and get out of the elements. And there were the perverts who roamed the stacks trying to look up women’s dresses.

You didn’t have to have any special qualifications to work in circulation. It didn’t require a library science degree. You just had to know how to type. Much of the time I either checked books out or checked books in. The best time was working in the circulation office and you could at least carry on a conversation with other circulation clerks.

Most people who worked in circulation did so because they just needed a job. Many were like Starbuck’s barista’s are today: wannabe artists, writers and actors. One of those was a Chicago transplant with a full ZZ-Top beard named Kelly McFadden. Kelly was a playwright trapped in a circulation clerks body. He was a new father and needed to support his family. And he was super cool.

Kelly and I quickly became friends even though he was in his 30s and I was probably 19 or 20 at the time. He shared his philosophy on life and having to deal with looney people with me. He’d come off the front desk after checking out long lines of people and say, “Tim, I’m just gathering data...just gathering data.”

I loved that phrase. Because Kelly was taking in all of the madness we experienced and storing it in his brain to be used in his writing. At the time, I fancied myself as a great novelist in the making, so I adopted Kelly’s attitude that no matter how mind boggling our experience was, it was stuff we could use in our writing.

The other thing Kelly did for me was introduce me to the music of Tom Waits. And to this day, I think Waits is an inspirational genius.

When I moved away from Boise to finish college in Seattle, I lost contact with Kelly. But I think about what he taught me to this day. And although I never ended up writing a novel, I’ve gathered and continue to gather a great deal of data. Much of it has been used in my blog.

So thanks Kelly. I hope you wrote a highly successful play and are profiting from all the data you gathered.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The father, the son and the holy ghost


I was always confused by the phrase, "holy ghost" as a kid. I couldn't get the image of Casper the friendly ghost out of my head. Coincidentally, Caspar was the name of one of the wise men or kings who stalked Jesus when he was born.

But I digress.

The disturbing image above is from a filter on Snapchat. There was another one that showed you what you would look like as an elderly person. But I didn't look much different, so I passed. I found this one creepy enough. Again, I can't get over how much I look like my great, great grandfather with a full beard. The spooky little kid me is just wrong. My eyes didn't look that hard when I was a boy. That came with age.

I don't really understand Snapchat or the whole filter thing. They are fun to mess with, but I don't get how people use the app as a social media tool. Why would you send a friend the above image?

But then again, I am a boomer and the mysteries of the younger generations are shrouded in a fog that will never lift in my aged brain.

Though I wonder what barriers were put up between generations before someone came up with Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, Millennials and Gen Z-ers. I suppose it was just a battle of wills between old coots and young whippersnappers.

The thing that strikes me about the above photo is how much it looks like a portrait done in a photo studio back in the 1960s. Now that is an art that has died...fortunately.

And I do look like a holy ghost. Or at least a ghost.

The image haunts me anyway.


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Let it go


There are certain topics I have struggled with letting go of over the years: the loss of followers of my blog, being invisible, not being funny and repeating myself. I've tried rationalizing. I've tried bargaining with myself. And I've tried going into denial. But the damned things keep rising up like the undead in an episode of the Walking Dead.

And speaking of the Walking Dead, don't you think after all of these years the zombies would have rotted away? They have been decomposing for years and there shouldn't be much left of them.

But I digress.

The thing that has been bugging me most lately is the lack of comments and the lack of readers period. I know I try and just write for myself, but occasionally having feedback used to motivate me if not inspire me.

The hardest part for me is that the people who used to read my blog and comment just seemed to stop without any indication of why. The Gen Z word for it is "ghosting." It's when you completely cut someone out of your life without warning or explanation. Normally it is used when you ghost someone you were dating. But it applies here.

The thing is, it leaves you without closure. Was it something I said or didn't say? Were they bored? Busy? Dealing with there own stuff? You see how easy it is to internalize stuff when people just disappear?

I realize that much of what I blog about lacks relevance to many of the people online. My demographic is Boomers and there doesn't seem to be many of them represented online anymore. The Millennials and Gen Z-ers just can't relate to a past middle aged white man with an odd sense of humor and a tendency to repeat himself about the past.

But it is the ten or so people who used to read my blog and leave these funny comments that I don't understand.

Oh, I know some people just got burned out on blogging and reading blogs. And social media came along and made it easier to engage without too much effort. Plus attention spans have shrunk substantially. And it's not like I read any blogs myself. But that's mainly because the people I used to read stopped blogging.

I'd like to say I can just let it go, but I know it will always bug me until I post my last post and slip off into whatever there is after you ghost yourself.  But hey, since I've been invisible for years, being a ghost should be an easy transition.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

And I oop


VSCO girl is a term, generally used as an insult, for a young, usually white woman who posts trendy pictures of herself edited on the app VSCO. Stereotypes of the VSCO girl include wearing scrunchies and Birkenstock sandals, drinking out of Hydro Flask reusable water canisters, saying sksksk and I oop, and generally seeking attention online.
--dictionary.com

Although I don't think there are many redeeming qualities found in TikTok, it has introduced me to some Gen Z terms that probably would have otherwise flown way under my radar.

Not that that would have been a bad thing.

However, when my teenage daughter started "sksksk..ing" the other day I joined her and freaked her out that I knew what a VSCO girl was. It's like I cracked her code.

Granted I have picked up other Gen Z terms while listening to my son while we play Fortnite. These include, "yeet," "salty," "triggered," "bruh," "chill," and "iconic." Oh yeah, and "ok boomer." Not that they originated all of these terms, they just co-opted them.

I've been trying to think of terms we had when I was a teenager. We said, "cool" a lot. Before something was "cool" it was "tough." "Far out" was popular, but mainly with John Denver. I don't think I ever said, "feeling groovy." In junior high, I remember a not so flattering term was to call someone a "fish." I'm not even sure what that meant. I still say, "dude" more than I should.

The thing I need to remember is that just because you know the terms the Gen Z-ers use doesn't mean you should use them. I tried "and I oop" on my daughter and she just rolled her eyes. But there is power in at least understanding what they are talking about without using the words yourself.

I'm cool with that.

Monday, January 13, 2020

And miles to snow before I sleep...


In the land of rain, snow is an anomaly.  It confuses people who are used to a liquid sky and not a frozen one. Ironically, Seattle is the gateway to Alaska, a place where snow just is.

Pretty as it may be, I don't really like snow. It stresses me out because it creates uncertainty and a feeling of being trapped. Schools close. Cars slide. And here, store shelves are emptied at the mention of snow. People in the Pacific Northwest are snow flakes.

Sure, when I was a kid, I loved snow. I loved building snow men and sledding and snowball fights. But our schools never closed because we all lived within walking distance of school. So there were no school buses to slide around on icy streets. And growing up, there weren't a lot of hills to make driving a challenge anyway.

I find it ironic that, even with all of our technology, we still can't control or predict the weather with a lot of certainty. So the weather is like death. You know it is coming, you just don't really know when.

Meanwhile, I stare out my office window at the flakes drifting down and melting as they hit the dark pavement. I am glad it is melting.I have yet to be stuck at work because of snow. My wife and children are home enjoying an extra day off. My dog is there too, probably disconcerted that she has nowhere in the snow covered back yard to pee or poop without getting her butt cold and wet.

And there are miles to snow before I sleep.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

They say it's Elvis' birthday...

If Elvis hadn't died in 1977, he would have been 85 today. And it is hard to imagine what the King of Rock and Roll would have looked like at 85. But in honor of his birthday I'm posting some photos of my Elvis holiday ornament collection as they looked after I took down the Elvis tree on New Year's Day.







Lady's and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Happy birthday Elvis!

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Measuring time


And so it is the year 2020. It doesn't feel much different than 2019...or 2018 for that matter. It's all arbitrary anyway. The calendar is an artificial construct we can blame on the Catholic church to try and give Christianity some credibility by artificially pinpointing when Jesus lived.If the calendar was real, the countdown would have begun when the earth was spit out of whatever star it came from.

Or the countdown would have begun when man's ancestors crawled out of the primeval ooze and started thinking.

But no, we are stuck with a couple of a thousand years plus two decades. And there is still bickering about this being the start of the second decade because there was no year "0." Give me a fucking break. Is that all people have to worry about?

I wonder, if the calendar had never been invented, would we age?

I imagine, though, that people would have just come up with other ways to parse out time. They would probably refer to events rather than years, like, "Yeah, Johnnie was born in the time cousin Ed got kicked in the head by a mule."

Regardless, now we are stuck with the calendar and clocks and aging. I am still startled every time I look in the mirror. My inside self isn't aging as fast as my outside self. My daughter was going through old photographs yesterday. There were the few photos taken during my childhood. I was struck by the black and white moments captured by my mother, primarily on holidays and when were camping. There were also the school pictures that highlighted the gradual transition from childhood to young adulthood.

Since it was more complex to take photos back then, the moments captured were further apart. Today, it seems like every moment is captured. So it is harder to see the impact of the calendar.

Facebook fucks with your brain by periodically dredging up memories of things you posted two, three or five years before. Since I mainly post photos of my kids, it tugs at my heart to see how quickly we lost the years when they were excited when Daddy was home. Now I am lucky to get a grunt of acknowledgement when I walk in the door.

But I suppose that is what measuring time is all about, acknowledging what is past and can never be again. Or acknowledging how much of time we repeat.

Over and over again.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Don't let the New Year hit you on the way out


Okay, 2019 wasn't the worst year ever or the best year. But it was a year. I did manage to post more blog posts than I have since 2008 (just six shy of topping my 2008 number of posts). And despite my prolific number of blog posts and a record number of hits on my blog (thanks to the bots and whatever other software that keeps pinging my blog) I managed to have fewer actual readers than ever before.

Let's face it, I'll never be Tik-Tok famous.

I'm not a New Year's resolution kind of a person, so I won't make any pronouncements about 2020. I do hope it will be the last year Trump is in office. Though I just read on Twitter that he tied with Barack Obama for Time Magazine's most admired man. So I don't have much hope for humanity.

I won't say I'll post even more in 2020. Though a lack of new things to write about didn't stop me in 2019. I've slipped into blogging more and more as a release for myself since my fan base has dwindled significantly over the last 16 years.

I did learn some tough lessons in 2019 about how nasty the Internet can be. I've had to stave off hackers who tried hijacking several of my accounts due to password breeches on several sites. Apparently my old go to password was available on the dark web. I learned to develop complicated and difficult to remember unique passwords for my many accounts.

I also learned to beware deals on the Web through sites I'm not familiar with. It took several weeks going around with Paypal to finally get a refund from a fraudulent Web site called jerseyeasy.com.

I also took to social media to get a warranty on a faulty garbage disposal honored by the Moen company. They were reluctant to take blame for it leaking and said that that wasn't one of the things covered in the limited lifetime warranty. I finally called them out on Twitter and Facebook. They responded and had me send them a video of the leak. They finally gave in. My replacement garbage disposal arrived yesterday. I just have to fork out another $150 to have someone install it.

Of course there is the whole heart thing and my broken nose. I am having trouble wrapping my brain around it all because I feel fine and still spend an hour and a half a day working out on the treadmill and elliptical machines. But the new year and a new cardiologist should sort it all out.

Anyway, here's to 2020, may it bring us all hope and happiness.

Or at least not suck.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Have a nice trip...


...see you next fall.

I started the week of Christmas with a trip to the emergency room.  I woke up the Monday before Christmas and went to use the bathroom. I was half awake. Suddenly I felt light headed and fainted. Next thing I knew I had face planted the floor in the bathroom and blood was spurting out of my nose and a gash above my eye.

Needless to say it freaked my wife out. She helped me clean up and called my doctor's office. They weren't able to get me in until the day after Christmas but they told my wife to take me to the emergency room.

Maybe it is because I was raised a Christian Scientist and didn't go to doctor's until I was in my 20s.  But I hate going to medical facilities. And the ER is probably the worst place to go. For whatever reason, I felt guilty for having fainted and more guilty for bleeding all over the place.

I got checked in and asked all of the questions about how it happened. I didn't really know. One minute I was headed to the bathroom and the next I was slamming into the floor. I just wanted them to stitch me up and let me go home.

But they did a CT scan and then hooked me up for an EKG. The PA then told me they had figured out why I had fainted. The EKG showed that my heart beats were irregular. It was something called A-fib. One of the chambers of my heart wasn't playing along with the others.

Eventually I was stitched up (nine to be exact) and sent home with a broken nose and a face that looked like I'd been in a bar brawl. I was also told to see a cardiologist.

Okay, the last thing you want to hear when you are my age is that something is wrong with your heart. And although they tell me that my condition is pretty common it still kind of freaks me out. I have been working out daily for years. I assumed that my heart should be pretty strong by now. So to find out it isn't beating right is troubling to say the least.

Ironically it could be a month before a cardiologist can see me and let me know what the next steps are. My faith in medical science has not been restored.


Friday, December 20, 2019

Home for the holidays


I tried an experiment and posted this photo on Facebook. I thought it was hilarious. Apparently very few of my Facebook friends agree. Only three people liked it.

This is why I generally keep my blog life and my real life separate. I used to think people would be impressed when they knew me in real life and then read my blog.

Not true at all. I've learned that for most of the mainstream world I'm just weird.

Regardless, I am taking the week of Christmas off from work and I will be home alone with my family. And the kids are past the point of being overly excited by Christmas. So it should be interesting.

I am kind of past that point as well. I have always enjoyed the build up to Christmas more than the actual day. And not having a religious bone in my Atheist body keeps me from associating anything with the various rituals other than they are relics from my childhood.

I also no longer have the thrill of anticipating what Santa will bring me. There isn't much I want anymore. I'm moving into that phase where I just don't want to accumulate any more stuff.

I can't even look forward to all the Christmas foods that are floating around this time of year. I'm forcing myself to be aware of the calories and that takes most of the fun out of eating.

You know what? I now understand why my parents didn't share my enthusiasm around the holidays when I was a kid.