I really don’t know clouds at all

22 10 2018

It’s finally autumn in New York, so it’s time:

Enjoy.

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It happened down in Birdland

17 10 2018

Twitter ain’t all bad.

It ain’t all good, either, but I have discovered something tremendously useful: how not to say anything.

Now, many of you may have learned this particular lesson oh-so-long ago, but it’s one that took is taking me awhile. I mean, I once introduced myself as someone who “has lunch and opinions.”

I don’t necessarily have to opine on every little thing, but if I don’t know something, then I’ll jump right in with the what’s-its and how’s-its and whatnot; if I don’t have answers, I can at least have questions.

But on Twitter I am uncharacteristically quiet. I retweet often but comment rarely, and when I do tweet something, I try for shorter rather than longer. And if I’m uncertain of whether or not to tweet, I don’t.

Me! Not saying something! That never happens.

I don’t necessarily fill every space I’m in with words, but it is the case that if I’m in a group and I go awhile without saying anything, others will comment on it. It’s nice sometimes just to listen, but I also feel as if I’m not showing sufficient interest in others if I don’t say something—anything—at some point in the conversation.

But on Twitter? Nobody knows I’m there, so nobody cares if I’m piping up or not.

Also, while I can be witty, so can everyone else, and they’re all quicker on the Send than I am. When that happens, which is almost always, I don’t need to chime in with the same note.

So I simply enjoy hanging out in the blue bird’s unruly parlor, letting whatever comes, come, and letting everything go, too.





Workin’ in a coal mine

15 10 2018

Still doing clean-up work on the main freelance project, but I am beginning to see the light!

After which I’ll be doing some ongoing work for this gent, but it shouldn’t (?) be so intense.

I do want to get back to this, if only because I miss writing in my own voice. I’m ghosting his, and he is, as I told him, a more “enthusiastic” writer than I am. While I don’t have too much trouble getting the basics of it right, I am leery of adding too much of his beloved “WOW” moves. (No, he doesn’t actually write WOW, but he does like to dial it way up.) So I send him a pale imitation of his style, and he cranks the color.

It works for both of us most of the time.

I’ve worked for him before. He’s a good guy, straightforward in dealing with any conflicts, and he pays on time. It helps tremendously that he works in a field that I care almost nothing about, so it’s easy for me to yield when there is any difference of opinion: I’m not invested in being right. I want to do good work for him, and it’s up to him to decide what that good work entails.

After all, it’s his name on the cover.

Oh, and I’m not at all conflicted about ghosting. It’s his project, his ideas, and he’s got the last word when it comes to editing. I do offer my thoughts when I think it might be useful, but mostly I’m filling in a sketch he offers. I’m a bit more than an amanuensis, but it’s easy to think of this as work I do for him, rather than my work.

I mean, I’ve worked for organizations to which I’ve contributed my words and ideas and only rarely has my name been attached to those items. That’s kind of the job: they pay me to think and to write, and they claim the output.

And, again, I’m fine with that.

But I do miss my writing, work that I claim as my own. I fell away from it before I took on this latest project, but now, having written tens of thousands of words for someone else, I’m kinda juiced to reel off a few for myself.





It seems like everybody got the blues

27 08 2018

This is not an obit.

Yes, Aretha Franklin has died. And John McCain. And Neil Simon. But I don’t have much to say about any of them.

I mean, Aretha’s “Respect” is a song for the ages, one I can’t begin to listen to without finishing it, and what she could do to and with so many songs? Yeah.

But even as I had a cd or two of hers, I wasn’t a devotee, and don’t know that there’s much I could say.

I’ve enjoyed Simon’s work, but: ditto.

And John McCain? His reputation was on the whole better than he was, but that for bravery was entirely earned. And as terrible as so many of his policy preferences were, he seemed actually to give a shit about the common good.

A low bar, yes, but one too few are able to clear these days.

Anyway, I comment on these deaths mainly to comment on the commentary on their deaths. It wasn’t enough for Aretha to have been a musical genius: every song she sang had to be better than any other version! And John McCain? He was a hero! He was a warmonger! How dare you say anything good! How dare you say anything bad!

How dare you say anything good! How dare you say anything bad!

That’s how it is, I guess, policing every reaction to every event. It’s probably always been like this—gotta keep folks in line—but with social media it’s not just fights but fights about the fights and fights about the fights about the fights. I like a decent recursion, but this is a bit much, even for me.

I’ve got my own lines, of course, but as I’ve said before, I’m not much for boundary policing. There’s some worth to it, I guess, especially on public matters, but I don’t much see the point of cracking on people for their personal reactions. I read a really good in-depth negative obit of McCain—one which probably comes as close to any to capturing my own sense of the man—but I’m not bothered by those which lean positive. There’s no betrayal of principle in recognizing he lived a long time, did a lot of things, many (from my perspective) negative, but a few positive.

Besides, what the hell kind of principle is it to deny humanness to an adversary? He may not always have been the best of us, but I think he tried. I think it’s fine to land on either side of that; just don’t deny the other side.

~~~

That said, I’ll be honest: I probably won’t react well if, when the current president dies, someone who ought to know better says something good about him.

So, if I do anything other than roll my eyes at those folks, well, feel free to call me out. This is one line I would defend.

 





Oh, but things ain’t just the same

4 07 2018

Yeah, I’m an inconstant bum, but still. . .





Do you hope to find new ways of doing better than your worst

10 06 2018

I could just as easily led this off with any number of “Hello. . . ” lyrics, for any of you left reading this.

It’s been awhile, yeah. Sorry about that.

Truly, I am. It’s taken me years to get more than a few followers, and while I doubt you’ve been pacing for the past month or two wondering When is Terri gonna get off her ass and write, still, I haven’t kept my (written) word to you.

It’s the same thing, really, that I’ve written about before. I’m out of sorts, drifting, and, lately, sad. I think of something to write and then I don’t and then I think Oh, I should write and then I don’t and then it’s easier not to write because I haven’t written and the longer I haven’t written the more the not-writing weighs and the long I’m silent I wonder is it better to be silent than mediocre?

I am not the only one to get sucked into this whirlpool of anxiety, I know; the sucking sucks, nonetheless.

My life isn’t terrible. I’m teaching this summer, doing some freelance work with someone I’ve worked with previously and who I like. I finally bought a new mattress (loooooooooong overdue) and new bedframe (because) and I’m working out and eating fine and, y’know, I’m mostly fine, in most of the important ways.

But I am drifting, and sad, and I need to do something about both, sooner rather than later. There is no emergency, and while I can look at Kate Spade (who was only a few years older than me) and Anthony Bourdain (whose most famous book I’ve read and whose shows I’ve watched) with a weary sympathy, where they ended up is on the other side of where I am, now.  I’m sad, not self-destructive.

And I’m not sure what to do about it. Therapy, sure, yes, I’ve done some initial checking-around, and I should follow through, but, okay, yes, I should, no buts.

But: I’ve never done therapy when it wasn’t propelled by an emergency. Therapy was a backstop to self-destruction, something I deliberately put in the way of my own conflictedly-willed erasure. I used it both the prepare for and to prevent my end.

That’s not how I would use it, now, and maybe that’s what bumfuzzling me. What is it like to try for something more, rather than something less?





If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake

2 04 2018

Why didn’t anyone tell me about The Great British Baking Show?

Okay, yes, there all kinds of social media stories and tweets and whatnot about the show, but still.

I was scrolling through Netflix last weekend, once again failing to get into Jessica Jones, and thought, huh, this Brit bake bit, why not.

Why not, indeed. I slurped down that first season Fri-Sat, then on Sunday watched the entirety of season two. This past weekend, did the same with seasons three and four. (I was going to save that last available season until next weekend, but then thought, Who am I kidding, and binged away.)

I don’t know why I liked it so much. I have watched my share of cooking shows (tho’ I’m not much for cooking) and enjoy baking (tho’ rarely do), and even a few competitive cooking shows, but nothing about all of the media around the show made me particularly want to watch it.

The set-up (for the eight of you who haven’t watch it) is simple: 12 (in one season, 13) amateur bakers start in episode one; after 3 different bakes judged by two judges (and watched over by the mildly-comic-relief hosts), one person is declared star baker and one sent home. Episode 2, same as the first, on down to the last episode, in which the final three bakers compete for the title.

That’s it. Regular folk from across the UK watching their custards curdle and caramels crystallize and peering into their ovens for their goods to rise and bake in the too-little time left.

All the while trying to meet judge Mary Berry’s standard of “sheer perfection”.

It’s charming.

The bakers are both competitive and cooperative, aware of their own positions but also helping each other and teasing each other and sharing a kind of esprit de corps in the face of the judges oft bewildering instructions.

And withering criticism: Berry and fellow judge Paul Hollywood are unsparing, clear in what they like and don’t like.

That first season, I admit, I cringed at the criticism. I found it hard to watch the bakers as they presented wilted towers and underbaked breads to the judges, watched the color flow into or out of their faces as Berry and Hollywood noted precisely what was wrong with the bake.

Of course, there was plenty of praise for “good bakes”, too, but it was the criticism that got to me.

I’m terrible with criticism, more so now than I was when younger (when I was also not great with it). I have difficulty separating a critique of a performance or an essay from an evaluation of my very existence as a human being, which has meant, unsurprisingly, that I have difficulty putting forth anything which matters to me out in front of other people.

I have of course: am doing so now, with this blog. But it took awhile to get comfortable with this—early on I went to some effort to separate my give name from my chosen blog-name—and even now I oft say, Well, it’s not like any of this matters.

(Which is, of course, a dismissal of those of you who do read this. The joy of neuroses lies in the double move of magnifying the number of those who see one’s faults and diminishing those who see the good.)

Anyway, these firefighters and gardeners and stay-at-home moms and students are afraid—literally shaking afraid—and putting themselves out there in front of gods and country and having a go.

So there it is: not just charming, but inspiring.