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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.