Category Archives: Writerly Travails

My Life with You

I am a walking dichotomy.

I profess a belief in God, yet I sometimes take his name in vain.  I self-identify as a Christian, but I frequently break nearly every rule in Christian doctrine.  I want to be loved in a way that reeks of desperation, yet I revel in shocking you with a coarse comment, and I think doing so is amusing.  I want you to heap fawning praise upon me as you read my work, yet I go out of my way to make sure you cringe at least once in everything I write.  I am filled with self loathing, yet—or perhaps because of that fact—I have the most fragile ego of any person in all of Humankind.  Your words can shatter the frail veneer of my sense of self, yet I invite your scolding reprimand with my words.

Writer's BrainI’ve always known this about myself, but I never really reflected on it consciously until a moment ago as I considered a recent conversation with one of my publicistsDanielle Hartman.  That’s right; I have two publicists.  My inclination toward polygamy is not limited to a marital or social bent.  I need two publicists just like I need at least two of everything else in my life.  Yes; I need two.  One simply isn’t enough, and so I also hired Phillis Benson who has been educating me in the art of social media, and I need her because I hate social media, FaceBook especially.  

My need for two publicists is driven not only by my proclivity for multiple partners in every endeavor, but also by my tendency to ignore the promotion of my work in favor of the creation of it.

To the point, Danielle and I were IMing.  Wait; another pause.  I hate with every fiber of my being that the word message is now a verb, but enough of these admittedly annoying parenthetical jaunts.  Where was I?

Oh yes.  Danielle and I were talking about how awesome my book is not.

“Could you please post a review of my Book?”

“Well actually Guy, I’m afraid a review from me wouldn’t be very flattering.  The first chapter is quite rough. You’re writing is spot on, Guy. Lots of voice, lots of humor, lots of heart.  But the content and message was—well—awful.”

“How so?”

“Uhm; I hated it.”

“Why?”

“I felt objectified.  You were talking about Ginger and Mary Ann, and there was all this sexual innuendo and—I don’t know.  I didn’t warm up to any of it until I got to know you a little better.”

“That’s OK; my wife hated it too.  Can you post a review on Amazon to that effect?”

“You want me to post a review that I hate your book?”

“You don’t hate my book.  You love my book; you just didn’t love it right away.”

“Guy, I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings—but my friends and I laughed at your archaic views.”

“Really?  You actually shared it with your friends?  That’s awesome!  Thank you.”

“But, Guy, it wasn’t in a good way.”

“It doesn’t matter.  It made you feel something.  That’s all I care about.”

“You want to anger your reader?”

“I want to inspire passion.  I want to reach in, grab that thing you care so much about, pull it from your gullet and force you to say it aloud and unabashedly.  Otherwise, what’s the point of writing—or even reading for that matter?  Now please post an honest review of my book.”

OK.  You asked for it.”

What follows is the result of my earnest request:

“Quite honestly, the first few chapters made me cringe, as a feminist. His mid-century views on how women “should” use their sexual prowess to get what they want is offensive and appalling, but I do have to say, Guy ends up being very lovable and very pro-woman. When you look at the book as a whole, you realize Mr. Oliver is trying to empower women in the only way he knows how.

I respect his ideals but disagree with him in some instances on how he arrives to his big picture. He recognizes the strength in women’s minds and their character but does generalize and place too much importance on sex, but his intentions are what count for me. I look forward to seeing an interview on how this book affects Mr. Oliver’s relationships with women in the future.

As for the writing style, it is full of voice, humor and heart.”

Perfect—and a three-star rating to boot.

I’m reminded of a recent birthday wish from my friend Laura who offered the following, which I’m paraphrasing because FaceBook apparently dropped it (just one more reason to hate social media):

“Guy, you’re one of the few reasons I put up with FaceBook.  I’ve come to know you so much better here than when we worked together.  Here, you’ve made me laugh, you’ve made me cry, and you’ve made me think.  Thank you for that.  I hope you have a wonderful birthday.”

And that sentiment is really the point of this particular entry.  I love fawning praise, but more than that I love to move you.  As much as I immerse myself and revel in the five-star ratings, meager though they are, my book specifically, and my writing in general, isn’t suitable for everyone.  To some it’s boring.  To others it’s pointless.  To a few it’s infuriating.  And to that I say good, good, and good.

To me, this blog spot is just one more manifestation of my inclination toward polygamy.  I love you and want to have a relationship with you, and I can only have that if we are suited to be together.  I also want that relationship to be intimate, and as in any intimate relationship there will be times when I bore you.  There will be times when I anger you.  There will be times when I make you hate me.  But if you follow me, there will be moments when you love me—and that is why you will follow me.

Does my ego offend you?  Are you squirming as I unapologetically offer a moment of honesty about what I want from you?  Has my obvious lack of humility made you cringe?

Good.  I’m doing it right.

Guy-o

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The Great Pretender

I’m a fraud.  I have been posing as a writer for 20 years and somehow, so far, nobody has caught onto the fact that I simply fake my so called writing talent—that is until the waning months of my last job.

When applying for work I’m often asked the question “What’s your greatest strength?”  I always reply “My writing.  If you ask about me, anyone who knows me will invariably say ‘He’s a good writer; wears a lot of black.’”

Yet, what these well meaning souls (precious though they are to me) don’t know is the deceit in my heart.  Even as I attempt to fool everyone in my presence—including myself—into thinking that I am a talented writer with no equal, in the evening, at my bar, under the initial influence of beer and whiskey the voices whisper what I know deep in my heart and try desperately to  ignore.  I believe the phrase is vino veritas, which is to say “In the wine there is truth.”  It’s just one more reason I don’t stop at two rounds.  Soon after the vino liberates the voices of veritas they begin to taunt me, and another dose is required to quiet them.

This brings me to the second major and recent event in my life, which I mentioned in my last entry.  I’m now gainfully employed, finally closing this latest chapter of my life.  It all began in July 2011 when I announced to the company that employed me at the time that I was leaving to promote my book in an attempt to seduce a publisher.  In the meantime I planned to restart my formerly lucrative freelance business.

Now this announcement was true in the sense that I was, in fact, planning to do exactly that and, so far, the promotional part has been happening in the form of my column in the local paper and my blog, which you are now reading.  What is not true is the part where I intentionally deceived my colleagues by suggesting that I had a say in the matter of my departure.  I did not.  What follows is a more accurate telling of the tale, or said another way, the whole truth.

I remember very clearly collecting my laptop and following my friend and manager, Karoline, into one of the team rooms on a Tuesday for our weekly one-on-one.  Our new VP of Marketing, Bob, was sitting on the other side of the room, with his typical goofy grin watching the two of us find a place at the table.  As I set my laptop down Karoline said “Bob would like to sit in on our meeting.”  “OK; hi Bob.” I quipped glibly.

I was about to close the door when our HR manager also slipped in behind me, holding some forms, a note pad, and a pen.  I sat down in front of my laptop, and Karoline looked at me and said “Cindy will also be joining us.”  Unfazed I simply closed my laptop and said “Well I guess I won’t be needing this, will I?”  Bob looked at me, the grin abating, and uttered a single syllable: “No.”

It’s funny.  These conversations are never quite as direct as I would prefer.  Karoline sat silently, avoiding eye contact with me as Bob talked for about seven minutes regarding the need for a change on the team, without ever really coming to the point.  When there was a pause I smiled knowingly and said “What kind of change did you have in mind Bob?”  Bob returned the smile and said “Here’s what we can do for you: two weeks notice, two weeks severance, and you can announce your own departure.”

“Well that’s very generous Bob.” I said trying to hide the sarcasm.

“Thank you.” Bob replied disingenuously.

I continued: “Last Friday you pulled me aside and thanked me for graciously accepting the new role you had carved out for me when you hired someone to replace me as the team writer.  You said I was the only one that could operate in this new position you created for me, Assistant Campaign Manager.  That was two business days ago.  What’s changed?”

Raising his voice he emphatically shot back “I meant that you were the only one who might be able to do that job assuming that you actually could do that job.”  Karoline and I simply stared at Bob in silence while he took a breath and regained his composure.  Softening slightly, he continued “You’re not that guy.  You’ve never been that guy, and you’ll never be that guy.  You’re a writer; that’s what you should be doing.”

My brain immediately leapt to the obvious rhetorical question, “Well if I’m a writer, why did you yank me off the only writing position on the team?”  Of course I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut.  No point in poking the tiger.  The truth is Bob hated my business writing and had been complaining about it to Karoline since he arrived. C’est la guerre.

Dutifully, I broadcast my departure by e-mail, wishing everyone well and explaining my plans.  Colleagues returned my well-wishes.  Karoline offered support.  Women actually wept.  And all I could think was “If only they knew.”  Knew the failure that I was.  Knew the fraud I had perpetuated for the last two decades.  Knew the depth of my deceit when I presented myself as a writer.  My last day came and went and for 252 days I diligently worked on my blog, applied for work, networked, sought out partnerships and clients—all to no avail.

And with each passing day, the voices of doubt grew louder, the self-loathing more intense, and the whiskey more frequent.  Until I finally came to be comfortable with the fact that I would never work again.  It was, ironically, another Tuesday morning when I embraced this epiphany over morning coffee with my housemates.

I didn’t write that day, and I didn’t apply for work.  I simply sat down and began watching Netflix non-stop.  Every 30 minutes or so I would find a reason to pause what I was watching and shuffle out of my office with the emotional acquiescence of my new-found career: Professional Time Killer.

Visits to the break room for a cup of coffee and innocuous chit-chat with my colleagues were now officially replaced by trips to the coffee maker and incessant inquiries directed at my wife: “So Heidi; what’s happening?”  And then, as if by divine appointment, a miracle occurred.  I was returning from the bathroom for the 12th time, thinking about whether to spend happy hour at a sports bar or at my bar, and I decided to check my e-mail.

In my inbox among the meaningless spam, and advertisements for online dating sites and Viagra, was a message inviting me to interview for a position as a technical writer.  The company, TOPAZ Technologies, is located right here in Pflugerville, Texas, 4 miles from my home—and they’ve been in business for 30 years and are still privately held.

Think of it: No venture capitalists to push the company around instead of allowing the visionaries to do what they do best.  No Company Board to throttle management when we miss a quarter, while we, the common worker bees, tremble as the landslide of proverbial crap rolls downhill.  And best of all, no commute.

As you’ve probably surmised, I got the job.  It was April 16, 2012: the day the Earth stood still.  As I crossed the threshold of my corner office, I thought of Bob and how he discovered the dark secret I had tried so desperately to hide.  I wondered almost aloud “How long before they find out this time?”

Let the games begin.

Guy-o

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Cat-atonic

I’m exhausted.  It’s funny; if you’re in the dwindling majority who remain gainfully employed, you must be wondering what is so fatiguing about my life.  I practically brag about the relaxed pace of my so-called schedule: get up, have coffee with family, shuffle the 40 paces to my office, get online, check e-mail, check FaceBook, check the news, apply for work, graduate to beer (or whiskey), work on this blog, watch Netflix, leave my office, turn on some music, sit at my bar, graduate to beer and whiskey, eat dinner, go to bed.

Not much going on there at all.  What I just described, however, is merely a sketch of my daily life.  Check out the color.

First of all, applying for work sucks.  Today, people look for work online.  It goes something like this: find a job aggregator.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an aggregator uses technology to scour the Web for any job listing out there, and then provides a search engine to find the type of job you’re seeking.  I use indeed.com.

When you find a matching opportunity, you follow the link to submit your application.  Sounds easy right?  No; no it’s not.  First you typically submit your resume.  Fair enough—but then you are also typically required to fill out an electronic application that asks for all the information on your resume.  Allow me to repeat that.  They make you enter all your resume information on a form so it can go in a database that contains your resume.  Then you typically repeat this process with every new search.  It’s maddening the number of times each week I enter my name, e-mail address, and work history for the last 20 years.

Then you know what they do with that precious information?  Nothing.  A very nice and well intentioned person called a recruiter receives an e-mail message notifying him or her that you applied for one of 25 different positions, each of which has hundreds of applicants.  Unless God is the recruiter you’re screwed.  They can’t possibly pay any significant attention to your pathetic job history, which they don’t care about anyway.  Seriously.  Nobody cares.

I know recruiters; lots of recruiters at this point.  They mean well but they’re mere mortals and they don’t know you.  You’re just the next guy in a long line of people who are clogging up their inbox.

Next there’s the obligatory networking.  This is kind of like job searching, except that the only people you’re going to meet are the unemployed.  You go to these events and you stand around trying to pretend you care about the guy you’re talking to and you know what he’s thinking?  “Damn it.  I thought for sure you were a recruiter.”  Want to know how I know that?  I’m thinking the same thing.

Last Wednesday I attended two different “networking” events.

The first event was a meet-and-greet for professionals in the healthcare industry.  I know nothing about the healthcare industry but it began at 5:00 and was right across the street from the event I actually wanted to attend, which didn’t start until 6:00.  I came early to get parking because parking is in short supply downtown, which is where all networking events in Austin unfortunately occur. I mention that it’s unfortunate because I hate downtown.  No parking.  Expensive food and drinks.  Dorks that think being downtown amps your cool factor.  Drunk guys hitting on narcissistic girls who are well on their way to drunkville as well.  Networking events where ghosts with resumes wander around looking for the ever elusive recruiters.

To the point, I entered the first “hip” joint, J Blacks, and was immediately recognized by a former colleague.  We chatted briefly and then two women arrived and began talking to him.  He introduced me and the typical inane dialog ensued.

Me: “Hi. What do you do?”

Her: “I’m in PR, working for a health insurance company.  What do you do?”

Me: “I’m a freelance writer.”

Her: “In healthcare?”

Me: “No.  I have a marketing background.  I write case studies, brochures, whitepapers.”

Her: “In the healthcare industry?”

Me: “No; I’m just, just a freelance writer.  If you need content, I can provide it.  Whatever you need written, I can write regardless of the industry.”

Her: “So are you affiliated with a healthcare networking organization?”

Me: “No.  I was told I should attend because someone here might need a writer.  I’m just a writer.  I write; that’s what I do.  You’re in PR.  Do you need a writer?”

Her: “Uhm; no.  Have a nice evening.”

With that amazing success story complete, I checked the time and, as fate would have it, nearly an hour had passed.  I set down my beer glass and headed across the street to Molotov Austin for my next downtown adventure: a journalist meet-and-greet sponsored by the Austin American Statesman.

Upon arrival I registered, paid my $20.00, collected my two measly drink tickets and stepped up to the bar.  $20.00 seems like a lot for the opportunity to meet journalists, but hey; at least the first two drinks are free, and I am trying to get my column in this very newspaper, so fine.

I ordered a beer and then began to look around, wondering if they had cordoned off the journalists and posted a sign to make their presence known.  No such luck.  So I wandered around like everyone else seeking out prolonged eye contact, a sure sign that the person wants to be approached.  I assumed this would increase my probability of identifying a journalist but this tactic proved fruitless.  A number of people approached me—but no one in the newspaper business.

I met a friend of my wife who recognized me.  We talked for some time, and then he moved on.

I exchanged information with a nice lady who had a business with her husband selling maps to all the popular things for tourists to do in Austin.  The business name was kind of ironic given this venue: Walking Papers.  And what better way to promote your business than to show up at a networking event for the unemployed and remind them of that fact by introducing your company.

Finally, I met a nice lady who owned a business down the street that sells premium spices.  Yes; this is just the kind of contact who can assist me with my dream of Opinion Writer Syndication.  A condiment dealer.  As she said goodbye to find a journalist who could promote her store, I noticed an area that was, in fact, cordoned off, and in which there appeared to be some sort of official activity.

I made my way over to this conspicuous place I had somehow overlooked.  I was certain I would find local celebrities with press badges standing around meeting us, the common rabble.  No; of course not.  It was a face-painting booth.  The artist was a stunningly attractive blonde woman, and she was plying her trade to a man who appeared to be in his late 20s.  And his choice of face paint?  A ThunderCats character—you know that cartoon show from the late 80s.

I just stood there staring, glad that I was alone.  The sight of a grown man at a journalism networking event having his face painted as a character whose target market was 10-year-olds was so embarrassing I was rendered speechless.

Another half hour passed and I ran into the woman who notified me about these two events.  “Did you find any journalists?” she inquired with some annoyance.  “Nobody.” I quipped with a flat affect.  “Let me see if I can track down the coordinator.”

She began asking around and one of the waitresses pointed him out.  He was standing a mere five feet from us with his back turned, wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans.  My friend tapped him on the back.  He turned around and, big surprise, it was the ThunderCat dude.  OK; so let me break this down for you.

I drove 25 miles from podunk Pflugerville to the live music capital of the world for the purpose of meeting contacts in an industry I’m trying to break into—and my fate lies in the hands of Mr. ThunderCat.

If you’re still reading this entry, you should be exhausted too.  Another month of this crap and I’ll either be catatonic or a full-blown alcoholic.  Wait; that’s what I said last month.  OK.  Add AA meetings to the list.

Guy-o

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The Black Sheep

I’m the black sheep of my family.  That declaratory statement betrays no discernible emotion, so allow me to be clear: I offer the comment with no shame whatsoever.  And I do so in the context of the reality that my father and two of my brothers are ministers, who live very good lives encouraging others and trying to live up to the example of Christ.  They have almost no vices, unless you consider striving to be virtuous a vice in itself.

I, on the other hand, drink too much, swear, carry a pistol and if you mess with my friends or my family I have no compunction about using that instrument to dispatch you to an Intergalactic Timeout—things my family members don’t really understand but which they have each come to accept about me.  My older brother Kim drinks but, unlike me, does so in moderation, tends to shun weapons, and during my last visit didn’t seem prone to profanity at all.  I don’t think it’s that he’s pious; he’s just more mature than I am and controls his words and actions much better than I do.  He’s also very successful—unlike yours truly.  More on that in a moment.

Other than that, I tend to have more in common with him than I do my other siblings—which is strange because he is the offspring of my father’s former wife and we didn’t see him much when I was growing up.  He grew up in a very different environment than I did in a place 1,500 miles away, yet we seem to have a great deal in common regarding the basic approach to life.  I take some comfort in that fact.

This entry, though, has less to do with my relationship to my family and more to do with the living of life as an unemployed writer with an equal number of vices and virtues.  And that’s because I’m fascinated by the fact that my lifestyle tends to be a little different than most of the members of my family.

My father, who is in his late 70s, still works every day of the week running organizations that reintegrate drug addicts and the homeless into society and pastors a church on the weekend.  My brother Kim is the CEO of a construction supply company and has a sizeable nest egg.  My brother Rob is a real estate salesman during the week and pastors a church on the weekend.  My brother Mark runs a center that prepares people to enter the ministry and hosts worship services every Sunday.  My sister Susan cares for a grandchild, who was born out of wedlock from one of my nieces.  My sister Cindy works a fulltime job and is putting herself through school to become a nurse.

I don’t do any of those things.  I sit in my office and when I’m not watching documentaries about the end of civilization on Netflix, I try to write and keep the voices of self loathing at bay.  It can be rather boring and I don’t always succeed at that last part.  The early part of this week was a real challenge in that regard.  At one point I made a careful assessment of my life by doing something different.  I decided to take the dog for a walk and contemplate my current situation.

I stepped out the door, walked 20 minutes to the local park and sat down on the bench in front of the fallen warriors’ memorial.  As I sat there looking at the bronze figures portrayed in fatigues, bearing rifles and a U.S. flag, I remember thinking how much our guys have sacrificed, and then reflected upon my own life.  I’m just a writer; I’ve done nothing even remotely remarkable.  These guys stared down the enemy and lost their lives in the process, some of them as they rescued other men in their unit.  God how I hated myself in that moment.

After some reflection, I took a deep breath, stood up, and began the brief journey back home.  Along the way I argued passionately in my mind with my former friend again (trying very hard not to hate her), returned to my house, and turned on Netflix.  At some point that afternoon I realized several hours had somehow magically dissipated and that it was time to meet the guys for beer.  Yes; that was the highlight of my day up to that point: drinking beer with my friends.  As I stepped out the door, I was greeted by my industrious wife who had been hustling business all day.  It was a real Mr. Mom kind of moment—only without the kids.

“Hi.” she said.

“Hey.  How’d it go?”  I replied.

She talked briefly about her day, how she snagged a new client and had energized several more with a stellar product overview, and engaged in a totally kick-ass tennis match in which she was the victor.  Then she inquired “How was your day?”  I responded “I walked the dog, ate leftover pizza, and watched Netflix.  It was sort of the opposite of awesome.”  Smiling she said “It’ll get better, and I think it’s good that you got some exercise.”  Then she touched the left corner of my mouth and said “Oh; you have a pimple.”

A pimple!  I’m 52 years old and I’m an unemployed writer with a pimple.  Jesus!  Is this really my life?  I kissed Heidi goodbye and headed to Hooters.

I walked in and it was surprisingly quiet.  I waited for about 10 minutes quietly entertaining thoughts of the day when Jeff arrived.  We waited for another five minutes and then Jeff became suddenly impatient.  “Where’s our waitress?” he inquired.  “I don’t know.” I said as I stood up and walked over to the bar.  I spoke to the bartender and she flagged one of the girls down.

Recognizing us, the waitron gestured to each of us in turn and offered “Blue Moon and Johnny Walker for you and unsweetened iced tea for you?”  Jeff replied “Yes—and I’d like some onion rings.”  She rushed off just as Derek walked up to the table.  10 minutes later she arrived with our drinks and took Derek’s drink order: a Miller Light with lime wedges.  She scurried away once more just as Tom and Scott arrived.

Another 10 minutes passed and she arrived with Derek’s beer sans lime.  Taking drink orders for the new arrivals, she left as Derek tried to get her attention to no avail.  Jeff and Derek were becoming agitated.  I finished my first beer and waiting impatiently for the waitress to return, sighed and silently ordered Life to let me off the mat.

We flagged down another waitress who retrieved limes, put in another beer order for me, and went to check on the onion rings.  Our waitress then returned with the drinks for Scott and Tom.  We don’t always have five at the table, and it was a little crowded so, hoping to salvage what was becoming a serious debacle, I tracked her down and asked for a larger table.  I also secretly hoped for a different waitress who could offer better service.  Sorry; I’m funny that way.  Unfortunately we retained the same waitress and it never improved.

The manager then compounded our misery by promoting a local minor league hockey team impromptu: the Texas Stars, who were playing Charlotte.  He turned on the game and set the volume to about 150 decibels—something on the order of a space shuttle launch about 50 yards away.  My mood went from a little down to alternating between anger and despair.  Then, near the shank of the evening, a miracle occurred.

Two of the Stars cheerleaders who had been circulating around the breastaurant autographing photos of themselves and the squad arrived at our table.  One of them, Teresa, approached me and said “Would you like an autographed photo?”  “What would I do with it?” I asked trying desperately to hide my sarcasm.  She cheerfully responded “Give it as a gift!”  “To my wife?”  I asked as I smiled.  “OK.  Suit yourself.” she replied slightly dejected.  Realizing I was being an ass, I indulged in an intense bout of self-hatred.

A few minutes later the second cheerleader approached me.  Her name was Sarah.  Smiling, she got right in my face and in a chipper voice said “Come on.  You want a photo don’t you?”  There was something so innocent and childlike about the look in her wide blue eyes, I became perilously close to succumbing to her charm.  “And what do you suggest I do with it when I get home?”  Bouncing on the balls of her feet she said “Look at it silly.”  Unable to resist I offered begrudgingly “Oh alright.”

The two of them then spent the next 10 minutes talking to us in high-pitched, high-volume chatter that compose the cheer leading lexicon, and you know what?  I wasn’t annoyed.  They were just so damned optimistic about life it was impossible to hate this verbal clutter that would otherwise make my head explode.

My crankiness about the bad service, my unemployment woes, the loss of my friend, and even my pimple simply melted away.

I began to think that perhaps the pimple was a divinely appointed metaphor.  I haven’t had facial blemishes since I was about the age of those two girls standing in front of me who were so excited about what the future held.  The reality gripping me in that moment caused me to think.  “Maybe I should adopt a more youthful, optimistic outlook.  Maybe I should try to think about the potential of life and how it can be something amazing and wondrous.  Maybe I should be more positive and uplifting in both my attitude and my interaction with others.”

Screw that.  I hate that candy-ass crap.  Where’s my scotch?

Guy-o

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Life Accidental

I lead a sad and pathetic life.  I mean I have family and friends who love me, but at the moment, because of circumstances that are only marginally under my control, I’m not doing much with my life right now—other than this blog.  Totally weak.

I never labored under the impression that being a writer was glamorous, in part because I never intended to become a writer.  When I was in college my writing sucked, and if you ask some people today they will claim it still does.  I was a horrible writer in college.  I discovered this fact one day when I was working a job for which writing was a requirement, and I had thus set out to learn the craft of writing; there was nothing glamorous about it.

At one point about six months into it, I stumbled upon a report from my college English Lit class.  I was a big science fiction fan, and I really loved Isaac Asimov, so I decided to choose him as the topic of my assignment.  God it was awful.  It was incoherent, rambling, disjointed—kind of like many of my blog entries today.

I then began to scrutinize memos that circulated around the office and gradually became appalled at the way my colleagues brutalized the English language.  For those of you just out of diapers, a memo (short for memorandum) was a brief communication drafted by an executive, typed on a piece of paper by someone called a secretary, and circulated manually to a list of people provided by the executive.  I suppose it’s an alien concept in a world in which the bedrock of business communications is e-mail.

I became a writer gradually and during my journey I fooled enough people into thinking I was good enough to actually be paid for my craft.  Allow me to be clear: although I practice the art of writing, it’s not up to me to say whether the result is good or bad.  Others will be the judge of that and, one measure of its quality is whether someone who has read the words is actually willing to pay for them.

As an aside, at the time of this writing, since July when I left my steady job to restart my freelance practice and promote my book, I have acquired one client and have sold exactly five books—one of which was returned.  The amazing thing is that the price is only $.99.  That’s right; my book is so freaking awesome someone actually asked for their $.99 back.  Really?  You took the time and effort to go to Amazon, have it lifted from your Kindle, and put the $.99 back on your credit card?  In the modern vernacular: epic fail—on my part not on the part of the person unfortunate enough to stumble upon my book.

So to the point of my opening line, these days I spend a lot of time doing basically nothing.  Here’s a sample; what I did yesterday:

3:00 a.m. – Wake up.  My right hip is killing me from laying on my pistol because I sacked out next to my wife without undressing while she watched the last episode of Mad Men season four.  I undress and lay down on my back.

3:10 a.m. – Wake myself up multiple times because of my snoring.

3:15 a.m. – Rotate to my left side.  My outer left ear begins to ache from the pressure of my fat head pressing on it.  I ignore it as long as possible hoping to return to the hinterlands of slumber.

3:25 a.m. – Rotate back to my right side.  I awaken multiple times in a cold sweat because of dreams that activate my acrophobia as I stand on an 80-story building ledge with 40 mph winds whipping around me.

3:30 a.m. – Rotate to my back.  Wake myself up multiple times because of my snoring.  Dear sweet Jesus.

3:45 a.m. – I climb out of the bed in disgust and sack out on the couch so as not to disturb Heidi’s sleep.  Turn on the ceiling fan, turn down the AC, and turn on the History Channel.  I curse the History channel for broadcasting infomercials completely unrelated to History.  Change channels to MSNBC.

4:00 a.m. – Listen to U.S. Senator John Kerry talk about how cutting 3% of the budget isn’t possible because Republican members of the recently appointed budget Super Committee won’t give up the “Bush tax cuts.”  I execute a numbing facepalm as my hatred for politicians rears its ugly head, wondering whether we should either secede from the Union or return to being subjects of the Crown.  I start to develop a headache from the impact with my hand.

4:15 a.m. – I change the station to Syfy.  I become disgruntled about the way the language is devolving.  Syfy?  Really?  I become immediately intrigued by a gruesome film entitled Chain Letter in which the premise is that a serial killer goes on a murderous rampage against people who receive a chain letter and do not forward it to five other people.

5:00 a.m. – Go back to MSNBC.  My hatred for politicians grows exponentially.  Switch to the History Channel.

5:30 a.m. – I begin neurotically switching to MSNBC and then back to the History Channel and back again, with brief pauses on CNN to watch Robin Meade say nothing of any consequence in a way that forces me to watch her with the utmost interest.

6:00 a.m. – I begin to nod off as I settle on a History Channel presentation of The Real West.

6:30 a.m. – My sister-in-law, Cindy, begins preparing hot tea in the kitchen.  Weary of continually falling asleep and waking because of my snoring, I head to the bedroom to try to sleep in earnest.  Grandma is awake and asking Cindy repeatedly “Where am I?”  Discover that Heidi is awake and cleaning the bathroom.  Sack out on the bed, spooning with the dog.

7:00 a.m. – Heidi moves her cleaning campaign to the kitchen.

7:05 a.m. – I tire of repeatedly waking because of an acrophobic reaction to sleep stage one dreams of being on an 80-story building ledge with 40 mph winds whipping around me.  I turn on the shower and step into the glass cage for the first time in a week.

7:45 a.m. – Check my e-mail.

8:00 a.m. – Make coffee and small-talk with housemates.

8:30 a.m. – I retreat to my office and begin surfing Netflix.

10:00 a.m. – Grandma’s caregiver arrives and begins talking loud enough to drown out my documentary on how the advent of Peak Oil will end civilization as we know it.  I sigh rudely and close the door.

11:00 a.m. – Curiosity overcomes me and I succumb to the temptation of watching Chain Letter from beginning to end.

12:00 p.m. – Heidi offers to buy lunch.  I mention that I’m probably going to be having lunch with Jeff.

12:30 p.m. – I call Jeff.  We agree to meet at 1:30.

3:30 p.m. – Finish washing Fish-n-Chips down with my last beer.

4:00 p.m. – Return home with a six pack of beer and begin writing thank you notes to the individuals who interviewed me at the last agency that took an interest in me.

4:30 p.m. – I begin writing this blog entry.  I pause occasionally to engage in mental arguments with my former friend who was the subject of my last blog entry.

6:00 p.m. – I stop writing and embrace the waves of self loathing foisted upon me by my over-active Super-ego.  Damn you Freud.

6:05 p.m. – I pour my first round of the evening and put on Neil Diamond.

6:30 p.m. – We all sit down at the dinner table and I drink more beer as my housemates eat dinner.

7:00 p.m. – We adjourn to the den to endure two hours of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  I graduate to Scotch.

8:00 p.m. – I heat up my dinner and as I’m eating I remind my housemates that Real Housewives is, in point of fact, about ego and drama and not about relationships.  I’m immediately assaulted by daggers from their eyes.  I shut up and return my attention to my pathetic little bowl of spaghetti and Italian sausage.

8:30 – 9:00 p.m. – Grandma repeatedly bids everyone goodnight, leaves the room, and then returns to her chair to watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, as she inquires whether her mother will be picking her up in the morning.

9:30 p.m. – Grandma is finally in bed.  Exhausted from working on the dozen or so projects for that day, Heidi asks me to come to bed and bribes me with a Netflix presentation of Collapse, a documentary on the end of Civilization as we know it.

I suppose there are worse ways to live—I mean at least I’m not homeless.  And as I sit here contemplating the meaning of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I’m trying to remember that I have a lot to be thankful for.  How about this though: could I just get a damned client or a job or something?  I think my brain just turned to oatmeal.

Guy-o

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The Interwebs and You: A Cautionary Tale—Sort of

In this installment of what is—no doubt in your minds—the most fascinating regularly scheduled “literature” on the InterWebs, I’d like to engage the way-back clock.

Long ago, in what has become a galaxy far, far away, a very smart and grotesque looking man named Reid Hoffman invented something called LinkedIn—perhaps you’ve heard of it.  It all began soon after the turn of the 21st century in 2002 (I know it’s ancient).

The idea was that you could use this thing called the “Internet” to do more than surf for porn, and send and receive e-mail.  You could also use it to make professional connections.  For those of you offended by my reference to porn, I agree with a recent comment from Herman Cain.  “…get a sense of humor.”

I myself would never use the Internet for such a purpose (as far as you know), but all of my friends did.  And I do mean all of them—at least all my male friends.  They had much more advanced personal computers than I did and I was still trying to figure out the www.

I worked for a software company and at that time the folks at this company actually encouraged unlimited use of the Internet.  They also didn’t monitor your odyssey on the Information Super Highway, which was really more of a farm to market road at that time.  Anybody remember lightning-fast 56 KB modems?  OK, so I’m ancient as well.

I remember walking into my friend Ric’s office in 1996 and got my first glance at a Web browser.  “What’s that?” I asked.  “The World Wide Web.” He replied.

“Huh?”

“I’m chatting with someone in Russia.”

“What?”

“Yeah.  We’re talking about my recent trip to Jamaica.  He wants to go.”

“What the Hell are you talking about dude?”

“You haven’t heard of the Web, man?  Where have you been?”

“Working.”

Ric sighed, trying to mask his impatience.  He then went on to explain what was to me a bizarre concept of virtual places you could visit on your computer.  Failing to grasp the concept I acquiesced with a polite “hmmm” and left the room.

Fast forward to 2003, I was laid off and as part of my severance, the company paid for six weeks of transitional assistance at a local consulting firm.  I attended a three-day orientation in which I was introduced to linkedin.com by the orientation consultant.  I immediately flashbacked to Ric’s office and asked her essentially the same question I asked him.  She then spent the next twenty minutes explaining the concept of virtual professional networking to me while everyone else in the room fell asleep.  Apparently I’m retarded when it comes technological advancements.  I didn’t grasp it much better than the notion of Web sites and forums when Ric tried to explain those concepts to me.

Up until that moment I used my computer for word processing and transceiving e-mail.  I was desperate for work, though, and so I set up my LinkedIn account as soon as I returned home and then broadcast my account name to all my e-mail contacts.

Fast forward further still to my latest little jaunt into unemployment: I’m now learning to embrace every social networking platform currently in existence.  God; I hate this crap.  I FaceBook.  I blog.  I tweet.  I integrate TM with Twitter—and by the way I typically screw that one up.  I’m even planning a series of vlog promos for YouTube.

And that’s just the beginning.  As I write this, all of these platforms are slowly becoming extinct.  Does anyone remember MySpace?  I was driving into work a few months ago and was listening to some morning radio.  The DJs were openly mocking users of MySpace as if that in itself made them social pariahs.

Here’s the thing.  I do enjoy writing this blog, because I have the floor and can talk about my favorite topics, among them me.  That said, I’ve already admitted publically to an alternative motive.  I was told I have to do this to sell my book.  Those other social networking platforms?  Same reason.  To me it seems like an act of vanity to put yourself out there in the way most people do on FaceBook, and Twitter, and WordPress, and what’s that new thing by Google?  Oh yeah.  Google+.

Seriously, why do you think I care that your “off to take a shower”, or that you’re at a hip new coffee shop drinking a “double espresso macchiato with extra foam and eating scrumptious scones?”  If you want to spend a fortune on an unhealthy breakfast that you’re washing down with an overdose of caffeine, have at it.  This is America.  Do what you want; I don’t care.  But that’s the point: I don’t care and by extension I don’t need to know unless you’re inviting me to join you.

The entire freaking world has turned off its brain and turned on a five-year-old look at me mentality.  I hate this social networking garbage as much as I hate reality TV—and I hate it for the same damned reason.  It’s full of people whose entire brand is LOOK AT ME.  How about, instead, you throw in “I want to earn enough money to get my PhD so I can find a cure for cancer and I’m willing to sacrifice my dignity to do it.”  Or maybe “I want to gain notoriety so that I can promote a book on repairing the human condition, and I think it’s so important I’m willing to put up with this crap to get there.”

No!  That never happens.  The entire point of being on reality TV is always so that you can be a jackass in front of 40 million viewers.  FaceBook and Twitter are no different.  Everybody wants to show how important and interesting their miserable little lives are.

OK; at this point, if you’re still reading, I probably owe you an apology.  I’m sorry about the rant; I just get a little worked up about this stuff sometimes.  As an individual, you are probably not that guy or gal.  You probably just want to stay in touch with your friends.  I say that because you follow my blog and so you are probably thoughtful and sensitive to the needs of others.

Hey.  Here’s an idea: pick up the damned phone and give him or her a call.  Novel huh?  Your cellular telephone was invented so that you could keep in touch by having an actual voice conversation from anywhere on the North American continent.

Now it is my fervent hope that you are laughing hysterically at the irony of my railing about this social networking crap in a blog on WordPress that I will promote on both Twitter and FaceBook.  That irony being compounded by the fact that I’m writing about stuff that is important to me and is no-doubt trivial to you—and, by the way, the book I’m promoting here does nothing to repair the human condition; it merely points it out and openly mocks it at times.  If that doesn’t strike you as funny or hypocritical, you’re probably not my target market.  You should consider going somewhere else.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to take a shower.

Guy-o

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Art or Something Like It

As I sit here alone, among the 50-or-so strangers in a sports bar drinking whiskey and beer while brilliantly crafting this blog entry, I’m struck by the contradiction that oxymoron suggests: alone in a sports bar with 50 other people.

On any given day there are a half dozen people who would typically join me for my evening ritual of unwinding after a day of blood, sweat, and toil in this work-a-day world we inherited from Adam and Eve.  But none of them answered my call for an end-of-day libation.

My best friend Fran who often joins me has custody of his son Rio tonight.  Other intervening factors (read excuses): a trip to Baltimore to visit my old friend; dinner with my daughter; my stomach hurts; getting ready for a baby shower I’m hosting for a friend.  Even inertia reared its ugly head in the form of couple-dating—a Friday night ritual for a friend and her husband.

To be fair, I’m sympathetic to inertia—because when it comes to my rituals, (such as the Friday night trip to Baby Blues, Pluckers, and The Common Interest karaoke bar) I am the poster boy for inertia.  It’s an element of my brand and I’m loath to give it up, but seriously.  How is it possible that, given the number of people I can usually depend on to have a drink with me, I am sitting in a room full of strangers working on the next “stellar” blog entry that I hope (to no avail, of course) will launch my career as a soon to be famous writer (or at least a fabulously wealthy one)?

I know I’ve mentioned this on multiple occasions, but I’m a writer and I started this blog to promote a book I’m trying to sell.  For those of you who don’t know, publishing is a tricky business, not for the faint of heart.  I was told on no uncertain terms that to be published, a presence not only Facebook, but WordPress, Twitter, YouTube and every other social networking platform that exists now and in the future is required.

Nine months ago just before I finished my book I began researching the idea of acquiring an agent.  Most of them want something called a platform.  A platform is an agent’s way of taking a percentage of your royalty without doing any work.

Essentially you have to sell your book whether you have an agent or not.  You’ve got to have a brand that people want to buy and to promote your brand you’ve got to advertise.  This blog, as much as I enjoy writing it, is ultimately just that and nothing more—and most agents expect you to already have that kind of infrastructure in place before they will even talk to you.

The reason?  People don’t buy books anymore because the literature is good.  They used to do that, but now people buy books because a person is a celebrity.  Books today are what movies were in the 40s but with less literary value.  People flocked to Gone with the Wind because of Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh, although it was also a very interesting story, loosely based on an actual historical event that included a brilliant portrayal of Southern culture and interesting characters.  And by the way it happened to be a pretty good book before it was a movie.

The literary value was immense, but the movie really sold because Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh were part of the MGM brand.  Also, everyone—including my dad—wanted to witness Scarlett O’Hara get hers when Rhett Butler retorts “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Fast-forward to the 21st Century and we have shunned flying cars for reality TV.  I hate reality TV for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is rarely real.  I deal with this topic in the book I am trying to sell, but that’s not really important here.  What is important is that the biggest reason I hate reality TV is because to me it represents everything that is wrong with our culture.  Reality TV has supplanted literature and even cinema, something once held in disdain as a poor substitute for literature.

It is at once a reflection of our culture and a viral agent infecting it.  The fact that so many people tune into American Idol and Hoarders and that so many people compete for slots on that sort of programming suggests to me that I will never be published.  That’s because I feel like I have something uplifting and worthwhile to say.  Actually that can be said of most people—but for whatever reason they would rather sit and watch people who don’t.  I make no apology for my sentiment about participants and contestants on reality TV: they are, by-and-large, worthless louts who convert oxygen into carbon dioxide for no apparent reason.

I don’t know that you can call my book literature—but I definitely want to say something meaningful and entertaining through the written word.  I fear, however, it is never to be published.  As I sit here writing these words I can see the bar, where I was sitting about a year ago before I finished it.  I was sitting next to a stranger who I discovered was an unknown musician and vocalist.

We began to talk and I asked him what he did for a living.  He said that he ran network cable as a contractor during the day but wrote music and played random gigs at night.  I listened as he complained bitterly about working very hard over the previous ten years to be discovered.  He was in his late twenties and knew that each passing day increased the probability that his lifelong dream would be inevitably crushed.  I’m hardly in my 20s, but I was right there with him.

I looked at him and said “You know I can really relate to everything you’re saying.  I have a book I’m trying to sell.  I’ve let a lot of people read it and most really like it, but a few, including my wife, have criticized me for not coming explicitly to the point.  I mean, I just want to make some observations, entertain you, and make you think.  I don’t want to spoon feed you conclusions.  I want you to draw your own conclusion.  That’s what art is supposed to do isn’t it?”  “Yes.”  He replied thoughtfully.  “But that book will never sell—at least not until you’re dead.  Then it will probably be heralded as a masterful work of art.”  “Yeah.” Was all I could really muster.

Now here’s the funny part.  I sincerely doubt anything I write will ever really be called a masterful work of art whether I’m dead or alive.  Further, I believe the probability of any of it selling is about the same as the Sun going out tomorrow.  It requires you to think critically.  Nobody cares about that anymore.

The up-side?  I still have whiskey and plenty of time to drink it.  Cheers.

Guy-o

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