Sunday, May 29, 2016

Moral superiority

There was a moment when I was driving home this morning when I passed a couple of Passats, I think they were diesels, next to each other near Chapel of the Cross.  One was jumping the other. A WASP in a jacket was standing in front of it.

Safely ensconced in my Prius, a felt a wave of righteousness sweep over me as I thought of the emissions scandals.  And then, in the blink of an eye, I caught myself and thought "where the hell did that come from?" and backed off a little.

Whither Chapel Hill?

I don't necessarily make it to uptown Chapel Hill and Carrboro every week, so on those occasions that I make it to the 10 am Sunday morning AA meeting I like, I wend my way home by driving through town, even though I could use the bypass. I like in particular keeping track of the major construction projects, so that there impression on me will be gradual, instead of driving up there one day and being like "WTF, there's a 6-story building now."

In principle, I am all for developing upwards and increased density. It should bring more and better jobs, more urban intensity. It is kind of working. The other day I learned that both Google and Tibco have development teams located in the building which until recently housed Aveda, across from the University Square redevelopment. Those are good jobs to have downtown.

However, all this construction of new buildings is also just pushing up rents and driving out the kind of businesses that have historically given Chapel Hill-Carrboro character and made it an interesting place to be. Nice Price books is gone. Just today I saw a relatively newly vacant space on Main Street in Carrboro, where photographer Jesse Kalisher had his space (no big loss, really. His work wasn't that interesting, he was reputed to be an egotist). I fear in particular the day when the Bookshop on Franklin Street gets pushed out. That place is the birthplace of my soul.

So I'm seeing lots of retail vacancies already up on Franklin Street. In addition to the empty holes where restaurants should be down near us. This suggests that retail space is being overpriced in generally, and that more and more expensive retail space isn't going to do anybody any good.

It will need to be fancy eateries. But those are coming and going pretty quickly too.

Here are three thoughts

  1. The rarefication of Chapel Hill proceeds apace. The more metrosexual and cosmopolitan it becomes, the more it loses its soul and becomes kind of insufferable.
  2. The problem of excess retail space is secularly connected to the rise of Amazon. One local merchant, a jeweller, said to me not long ago that he was sanguine on the prospects for retail in general in America.
  3. Eventually the price of retail space may have to drop and be subsidized by office and residential tenants.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Resentment

One time not too long before he died, Mary's father George Sr. and I were sitting on the front porch of their home in Larchmont on a summer afternoon. From over the small hill just to the East we could hear the voices of kids laughing, playing, and splashing over at Manor Beach (yes, that is its actual name). So George says to me: "You know, I remember times when I would be sitting up at my desk working on a draft of some letter or something, and I would hear those sounds of people having fun, and I resented it."

This was a very rare moment of pulling back the veil for George Sr. He was a generally chipper, if occasionally sardonic guy (God are those some WASPy adjectives, but I'm sticking with em). I loved the guy.

But the fact is, this resentment theme is huge for many of us in the breadwinning role, and for our spouses too. Life is all too often a series of compromises and decisions made on incomplete information -- albeit the best available to us at any given moment -- and then we roll forward and make what we can of the decisions. But it ain't always easy.

The breadwinner often feels (s)he gives up more, sacrificing dreams, but the primary caregiver does too. And when shit gets dicey, we often blame our spouses, time and again, though we know it's not their fault.

It is the oldest story in the book, and it eats marriages and all sorts of other relationships alive, even though we know what is going on down below the surface, and we can even talk about it. Many times.

Incidentally, this memory wasn't spurred by anything specific with Mary today. It was the noise of a bunch of high school kids, presumably ECHHS seniors, out in the park by the lake behind our house. Making noise, having fun.  I suppose that, in the grogginess following general anesthesia from my colonoscopy. the firmly punctuated 50-year old in me resented their youthful carefreeness.

Even though I am, at this moment, at the point in Book 4 of Knausgaard where Karl Ove, a high school senior, works through the challenges of his parents' divorce -- the growing acuteness of his father's alcoholism and his own slide into near constant drinking, hash smoking, and truancy. Or perhaps it's better to say that he isn't working through anything, he is just drifting on a wave of trauma-induced instability, one that is all too familiar to me. And his mom, like my mom, expresses her concern for him and he is just like "FU mom," though he knows that she is the one firm point in the constellation of his life.

And it is just where I was when I was the same age as those noisy boys out back: partying, making noise, fronting, getting ready to burst forth into life elsewhere.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Attention seeking

It is odd how things flow.  On the one hand, during the week it is my job in a sense to seek attention. I am trying to develop a business, which means making people want the service we are providing. To that end I have to reach into the outside world and solicit the attention of others: go out and meet people, write, speak, present, call people on the phone, provide good service to current clients, increase my skillsets and knowledge base in a way that allows me to serve others better and then communicate these improvements to the right subset of the outside world so that it requests my/our services. It is a hard thing to do, and to some extent the success metric is reciprocal inbound traffic: calls, emails, texts, etc. asking for me.

So when I come home I am tired of seeking attention and really just want to be, but often it is when I am at home that my assistance is most needed:  chores, homework, technical support, advice, crises, etc. What I would rather do is just commune:  sit on the couch with a child and read (right now Natalie is on the other end of the couch with her laptop) or watch TV (Star Trek with G., Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt with N.) and so on. I don't want to be asked for things. But there's always something to do. And I get pissy and resent it.

I also really like people to read my blog, and at times I put stock by the statistics that various sources provide:  Statcounter, Google, etc.  But I just looked and saw that as of right now, most of my traffic is coming from France, and the second biggest source is Russia. Rather suspicious, actually. In fact, I just went back and anonymized my kids' names, though I've spelled them out a hundred times before.  It looks as if some crawlers are aggregating information on me, perhaps in an attempt to predict passwords and security words so as to break into financial web sites and steal stuff.  Who knows? If I were a cybercriminal, I would certainly try to.'

Attention, like much else, can be a double-edged sword.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Relative silence

It has been a mad busy weekend, which explains my relative dearth of posts.  I had a workshop at the Chapel Hill Public Library today, which ended up sucking up much of my weekend.  On top of an excellent game yesterday, I felt in better form than I had all season, and a party last night on one side of the lake, followed by another this evening on the other side of it, the Lake Forest Association spring social.  Busy busy busy.  Really no room for the studied languor and reflection which usually characterize the Grouse's weekends. I looked more like a typical suburban guy than a meta-one. Oh well.

Now it's time for bed. More soon.

Next weekend Graham and I will check out the new Captain America movie. Psyched for that.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Again about Karl Ove Knausgaard

I know I keep coming back to this, but I just can't help myself. There is something mesmerizing about this series of books. I am now in the middle of Book 4, in which our hero has taken himself to the Northern reaches of Norway to teach in a high school, barely removed from high school himself. He chronicles with absolute candor the flights and indignities of it all, including getting boners looking at students, drinking till he blacks out, his manic drive to lose his virginity, his compulsion to shoplift.

Right now he has flashed back to the time when his parents are in the middle of their divorce.  He is at his dad's new house, with his new girlfriend, their first time having dinner together after his dad moved out, and already he can see his dad's standards are slipping. His dad is getting drunker than usual, is letting Karl Ove drink himself, is praising his new girlfriend, and Karl Ove is testing his limits, drinking more than his dad had initially said he would be allowed to, smoking in front of his dad, trying to get a sense of the new lay of the land.

Yes, I remember this moment with my dad. It wasn't exactly the same, but there was much in common. My dad and I smoked pot together (though his weed was pretty shitty, it must be owned). We tried to interact as peers. It didn't really last for long.

In general, this is the effect of riding shotgun with Knausgaard as he relives his life: I remember mine. When he arrives in the village in the North of Norway and describes setting up his new home there, I was transported back somehow to arriving to graduate school at Columbia in 1991, moving into my new apartment. I remembered how the bookshelves I had brought, plain, old, dark particle board ones from mom's office, would barely fit into the elevator.  There was a moment we thought they wouldn't, but somehow we wedged them in there and cracked the cover on the elevator light.

I hadn't thought about that in many years. It is odd, this effect, and it happens on more substantial levels as well. I will keep reading.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Positive interruption

For some reason, I let myself be interrupted in the middle of booking the last bit of summer travel for our next Griswoldian adventure to help Graham and Ben with some technical trouble with a nerf gun. I was having one of those giving tree moments, feeling like my life was being drained from me by little tasks, but when I passed through the rec room to get my toolbox, I heard Natalie, out on the porch in the breeze, gamely taking an AP World History practice test, after having taken the SAT yesterday (also really just for practice).  She was singing to herself.  So lovely.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Dataism

At the grocery store today, I was buying a couple of bags of nuts, and I ran into someone I know, not all that well, admittedly. She asked me how my business was going, and I told her it was coming along, but that it demanded "constant application."

"Constant application, huh?" She said, and then she remarked how it was a rather formal way of speaking, and I have to confess that she was right. Others have remarked that I have somewhat geeky diction at times, as entirely befits with my outlandish degree of overeducation. Some have even pointed out that I say "indeed" a lot, and sometimes I find myself saying it just to buy myself time to think when speaking, much as others might say "ya know what I mean?"

But I think this tendency has likely become even more pronounced in recent months, as Graham and I have been working our way through Star Trek: The Next Generation. Specifically, I have probably been influenced by the hyper-formal diction of one Commander Data, android extraordinaire. I will confess that I find him to be the beating heart of the show, ever earnest in his desire to figure out what it means to be human, supported in this quest by the ever-steady Captain Picard.  Not every episode is great, but the ones foregrounding Data are always killer.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

In memoriam, Frank Miller

Friday evening a bunch of Slavist and other sundry geeks gathered at Columbia to celebrate the life of Frank Miller. And celebrate we did.

I went there sensing that, whatever Frank stories I had, they probably weren't extensive enough to merit trying to grab the mike, even if it was an open mike affair, which it wasn't, though exceptions were made. But there was no need. Excellent stories abounded, of Frank's jokes, devotion to his students and colleagues, and generally infectiously good spirits.

For me, the best moment came from Jason Galie, who recounted a trip to Frank's lakeside dacha upstate sometime back in the aughts. Frank drove them up there, they got their stuff out of the car and into the house, and then Frank took Jason out behind the house to a blueberry bush that was laden with berries, and they proceeded to stand there and eat berries off the bush for an hour, while Frank launched into a deeply Frankish discussion of blueberries, lingonberries, and god knows whatever berries, then the conversation moved on to rodents, fish, trees, folklore, and, almost certainly, interludes of the scabrous.

There were plenty of other poignant moments. Frank's sister told of lying in bed with him the day before he died, listening to opera, and Frank telling her that if he had it all to do over again, that he would be an opera singer because, for him, "opera sparkled."  Lynn Visson told of him laying in bed in his last week meticulously preparing for his upcoming lessons. Elizabeth McLendon spoke of the deep bond Frank had formed with her family in their shared native South Carolina, of how Frank had becoming and adoptive sibling and never forgot her mother's birthday.

There were plenty of allusions to the jokes but, for the most part, people exercised restraint in actually telling them. Or, if they couldn't do that, they left out the punchlines.

I don't know. There were lots of great stories. I'm sure I've already lost many of the most important details. The main tenor was the strength of devotion and relationships Frank fostered with a bunch of folks. Frank was one of those people for whom, so long as you were on his good side (and I remember a select few who weren't), whomever he was talking to was his best friend, and I mean that in the very best way.  He is, and will be, deeply missed.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Parabola of talents

At JFK this morning, I had my first Shake Shack experience.  As I bit into my bacon, egg, and cheese, I started to think about what I was going to write about the sandwich and experience. And then I stopped and asked myself: "has the world asked me for a review of Shake Shack? If not, why do I feel compelled to offer it?"

So I stopped, and concentrated on the sandwich, and the music, and the people gliding past, and the general sensation of leaving one place and group of people that have meant a lot to me en route to another.

All was good. But the instinct to write, such as it is, that wells up within me, is always and everywhere a manifestation of a fundamental sense that writing is what I should be doing and that, if I have not done it, I am somehow incomplete, I have not fulfilled my contract with Being. Which is at once a little silly and perhaps in its own way tragic, as this urge pulls me ever onward, elsewhere and away from simple presence.

The sandwich, by the way, was good, though I found myself wishing that, at that price point, it should have been on a hard roll. But I know that is just me, and that the bacon, egg and  cheese on a hard roll takes me back to a special time in my life, when I had come to the Northeast and was casting off the complexities of a childhood and adolescence that were not without challenges, when I had met Hilary and was pointed forward into a new world full of promise. It is, in short, a special sandwich, one that I ask a lot of at times. But that is understandable, for something with a name like bacon, egg, and cheese. Of those to whom much is given, much is expected.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Atrophy?

On the way back from Asheville the other night I stopped off at about 9 at a Sheetz to get gas and something to eat. Not the best food, but the quickest way to get something less than utterly disgusting and get gas. I was proud of my logic.

So I filled up and got me a fish sandwich, put some Dinosaur Jr. into the car stereo and was psyched for the last leg of my journey. I got back on the highway. A few minutes down the road I saw a sign that said Statesville 13 miles, Asheville 112 miles and I cursed myself mightily. I had made the rookie error of getting back on the highway going the wrong direction. I probably added 25-30 minutes to my trip by the time I was able to turn around.

I have speculated before on the way that Google Maps has caused my tendency to learn roads and internalize directions to atrophy. I trust the device almost entirely, so I space out and don't learn my way around. Cary and Raleigh, in particular, remain terrae incognitae for me to a great extent, especially Cary, because I let Sergei and Larry do the heavy lifting, space out, and coast along going tra la la or, just as likely, perseverating about something I will have forgotten about in 4 days.

But this was the first time that it made me think that not only was I not learning specific regions, but that my attentiveness to direction in general had somehow begun to slip. Now, it was, admittedly, rather late, and I had had a long day of learning about the ravages of the opioid epidemic, and I am also getting older, but still. Getting on the interstate in the wrong direction is a new one.

Excitement about the fish sandwich and rock and roll admittedly played their parts as well.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Motivation

At the conference on Friday, I attended a session on Motivational Interviewing, which is a technique that docs working in the substance abuse world and probably other parts of behavioral health use to work with patients who are resisting change. Which is to say, practically, everybody.

So, if you have some ornery cuss sitting there saying he has no interest in quitting drinking and his wife is a bitch etc. etc., you don't fight it, you try to ride the wave of discontent, listen for core issues, repeat back what the person is saying in slightly different ways, establish yourself as an ally. The docs are all about staying calm, showing empathy, looking for openings.

It was all very professional and compassionate, but there was an emphasis as well on not being judgmental, keeping an even tone. There was some overlap with things I've heard on sales training CDs, honestly, but the accents were in very different places.

So we did some role playing, and I was paired with this very nice young doctor from Raleigh. It was a struggle for me at first, but then I got better. But at the end of the sessions when I was playing doctor I kept going back to enthusiastically praising him for the progress he had made ("It sounds like you're doing great!") instead of keeping it even keel.  And each time he cracked up and said something like "And that'll be $100."

It occurred to me how salesmanlike I must have sounded to him, with his trained clinical restraint. Which is kind of an odd place for me, to have gotten to that point so quickly. But, whatever, it is what it is.

Nice guy, good training, good learnings. I should dial it back a little sometimes. I effuse sometimes when I'm nervous, I reckon.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Members Only

At the conference the other day somebody made reference to the metaphor of finding money in the street, and my mind drifted back to....

Moscow, 1998.  I was walking down the street, I think with Mary, when a plastic bag of US bills, most likely hundreds, fell from the waistband or pocket of a pasty, somewhat heavy-set fellow who was wearing, if memory serves correctly, a Members Only jacket. Rather quickly, a younger dude processed what was going on, grabbed the bag of money, looked me in the eye and gestured to an adjacent alleyway and said, quietly, "come on, we'll split it 50-50."

It all happened in seconds, too fast to do the absolute right thing, which would have been to yell to the guy who had dropped the money. But that would have been interjecting myself into a conflict which could have escalated quickly in what was, in many ways, a rather lawless environment. In any case, I passed on the opportunity to share in the windfall, and the second guy scurried off into the alleyway as quick as he could.

I feel bad about it to this day. Who knows what happened to the guy who dropped the bag? If it was enough money and it wasn't all his, he could have been killed for being so stupid and careless. If it was all his, he got hosed. Either way, he was an idiot for not having secured his cash better. Almost certainly, he went and got shit-faced and hid from someone, either his boss or his wife.

Moscow was a place for members only.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

On the Road Again

After some months of not going anywhere, I drove to DC and back, then to Asheville and back this week.  1150-odd miles, all told. courtesy of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, numbers 40, 85, and 95 (and tributaries thereof).


It was good to get out, I had some good meals, saw some friends, met with some clients, as well as some prospects.

It was all capped a visit to the Addiction Medicine Conference sponsored by the Governor's Institute on Substance Abuse, of which I am now a board member, thanks to Matthew Sullivan of the Chapel Hill Police Department and now running the Fire Department, who had the good sense to throw my drunk ass in jail back in 1991, nudging me in the direction of recovery, eventually.

This was a good conference, as conferences go. It was pretty awesome to be in the company of doctors almost exclusively, to observe them trying to figure out how to do best by their patients. Mostly there was talk of heroin and other opioids, which are the things killing the most Americans these days. It was pretty amazing to dig into the complexity of it all.

Take Buprenorphine, for example. On the one hand, Bupe, as it is known in the field, is a promising tool in the treatment of opioid addiction, and there's a desire to expand its use in general. Unlike methadone, addicts don't have to go into the clinic every day to get a dose, you can write a month's prescription, making everyone's life easier. On the other hand, addicts have figured out that if you grind up certain types of Bupe (the generic, for instance), you can inject it and get really high. In some sense, it's not even the addicts doing the figuring out, it's the disease of addiction driving the process, using the addicts as slaves.

At about 6 yesterday, at the end of a long day, maybe 150 doctors were sitting there arguing the fine points of what type of Bupe should be given to pregnant women addicts: the straight variety, or mixed with Naloxone (long story).  They dug pretty deep into the discussion for 15 minutes. It was impressive, because they really cared.

Overall, that was the impression of the conference. A bunch of doctors who really cared about their patients trying to figure out how the heck to make their lives better. Full stop. I'll go back next year, if I can swing it.


One codicil: most of the doctors seemed to be Republicans, at least the older ones. I know that they work in a heavily regulated domain and resent the extent to which the government makes it hard for them to do their jobs and earn the livings they thought they would earn when they gave up years of their earning lives to med school and residency. But they also work closely with lower-income populations and people of color all day, and overall care deeply about these people's lives, you can see it and hear it when you talk to them. I would like to get to know more of them better to get a sense of what they think the right policy approaches are to our most vexing problems but, like all things, those are long and complicated conversations, and time is the most precious of all commodities in most contexts.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mashing comfort

Got home this evening stressed out about a couple of things I have to do tomorrow, and was a little bummed that Graham hadn't done his homework, which meant there was no hope of watching Next Generation together while mashed together in the 20-year old, fast-degenerating armchair in my study, as we are wont to do. Nonetheless, we were able to get in about 40 minutes of reading on the couch while playing footsie.  I got better. Prolonged bodily contact with a child is so calming and grounding. Whatever will I do when he ages out of it, as Natalie did so long ago? (As documented here)

It is nice to snuggle with Mary too, admittedly, but it is somehow different. And she comes to bed so damned late.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Return to Northgate

I hadn't been to Northgate Mall in I don't know how long. Mostly I have fond memories of going there with my mom's parents and hitting the K&W Cafeteria and ordering pretty much one of everything: fried chicken, baked spaghetti, garlic bread, pie, cornbread. It was ridiculous, but beautiful in its own way.

That is long gone. In its place is a food court which is occupied, oddly enough, by chains you have never heard of. There is a fake Sbarros, an estwhile Cinnabons, etc. All the regular types of food stalls are there, they just aren't name brands. Which is odd, in some sense.

In another sense, it's not. Northgate is now a distinctly lower- to lower-middle wealth mall. Most of the people I saw there were people of color, and those that weren't weren't the fanciest.

I saw categories of stores I'd never seen before, including a cafe of smells, selling scented candles, oils, etc. It was presided over by a woman in hijab. There was a carousel, and a bouncy house. In the jewelry store, a woman was talking to a friend on the phone..

But most importantly, I found what I was looking for, a Radio Shack that was still open, and though they didn't have the adapter I needed for my phone headset, they had another perfectly nice and functional headset for 20 bucks.

My overriding feeling upon leaving the mall was that I really hope that Jeff Bezos does not succeed in his mission to consume the world. There were all these small shops there, selling people things they needed and things they didn't. Nobody was making much money, but they were all getting through the day in good form. And there was a bouncy house and a carousel, which Amazon conspicuously lacks.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Newfound limits

A couple of weeks ago, during a preseason soccer game, I pulled my right hamstring sprinting flat out on an overlapping run, which was a shame, because I had gotten past their striker, then the midfielder, and even the wing back, and all that was between me and the goal was their sweeper and keeper (both of them admittedly quite decent). It was a moment of considerable potential glory. And then my left calf seized up, followed immediately by the right hamstring.

So I nursed them and went kind of easy on them, went to practice a couple of times to play my way into shape, played another game. Then yesterday, I had gone forward, had an opportunity to strike the ball from not too far outside the opponent's box. I wound up and struck the ball well, and felt a vicious pain in my hammy.  I gave a good shriek, and was told subsequently that I cursed loudly.

I think I am starting to see some patterns here. My first season back I strained ligaments at the top of my quad from kicking goal kicks. My second season I sprained some fingers after leaving my feet to make a fantastic defensive play running at tippy-top speed. And now this.

I keep thinking that individual muscle groups are getting accustomed to playing flat out, while at the same time I'm getting a little education on the holistic limits of my body. I had no idea shooting the ball hard would mess up a hamstring like that. Never did before. I wonder why?

Josh says that he no longer kicks the ball hard, period. In general I have a hard time restraining myself. Take yesterday for example. I've never scored a goal from the area where I was shooting from, though, in principal, there's no good reason why I shouldn't. I can kick the ball pretty durned hard, and if I could just put it on target... well, it would be frickin awesome.

But my body has newfound limits, or at least at the level of conditioning where I am. The real question, then, is why I care. What does it matter to me that I ever score on a long shot? If I can acknowledge the danger of it, why can't I get it through my head that my body, at least as currently constituted, resists a wide range of actions carried out at 100%?  Why can't I learn to operate at 85%?

Part of it, I think, is that I still haven't fully overcome growing up scrawny and not all that athletic. Puberty was immensely helpful, yes. I became an athlete, but most of my athletic success was on account of gross motor skills (speed, jumping, fearlessness, kicking the ball long), not skill and control. Or at least that's how I conceived of myself.

So I am loathe to let that go, even though I know that I have to graduate into a more statesmanlike role. Net net, I have to let go of the idea of chasing the dream, the highlight sequence for bedtime in which I strike the perfect strike or run the perfect run. Which is all the harder when the very idea of playing sports like soccer when already greying is holding on to the glory of adolescence.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle, Book 3

So I just wrapped up Book 3 of Knausgaard's somehow stupendous work, and cannot wait to move on to Book 4, wherever it takes me. One of these days he's going to start about the crazy mass murderer fascist guy up there in Norway, for those of you who remember him. Here in America we have so many it's hard to keep them straight in our minds, sometimes.

In any case, it continues to be a remarkable piece of work, first and foremost in the extent to which, by digging deep into his own experience and holding nothing back (how he cried all the time even at the age of 13 and was mocked for it, how he was called a "jessie" [apparently an effeminate male] and fag-baited in middle school) he lets the reader -- or this one at least -- access his own memories. Of course, this is the most standard stuff of realistic narrative -- reader identifying with narrator -- and in theoretical circles one of the most hotly contested claims of literature, that it's all illusory blah blah blah.

But the great thing about being out of the business of literature is of course that I don't have to care about any of that. I can just read and think and write whatever I freaking please, without having to worry about the theoretical legitimacy of what I'm saying, which is another way of saying I don't have to be concerned about marketing and positioning my writing. I can just fart it out.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The monumental egocentricity of me at 50

I will confess that I want the world to revolve around me today.  It is my 50th birthday, and I would very much like the traffic to part, the trees to bend down, and water to flow uphill. Even still, it was a little odd to launch a new screen in my browser and find that Google was wishing me happy birthday. Sergei and Larry are so sweet, so thoughtful.

In general, however, it is not happening. Though my work is buying me lunch, and my boss sent me home early, and a bunch of people have texted congratulations, and we are going out to dinner tonight, it is still very much a day like any other, albeit a lovely one,

My desire for world domination differs in degree if not in kind from my job in general, in which I endeavor to bend the world to my will by convincing people to entrust their financial wherewithal to me and my firm. Which is by no means easy. It is a world of continual attention begging, like the Hispanic kids in the subway crying to their mother:  "Mama, mira mira." (I don't know why this phrase and behavior stands out to me more for Hispanic kids than Anglo ones. I know my kids never begged for attention...).

At any rate, as always, let me just reiterate how much I appreciate the continued readership of all of you, even as I am able to dedicate ever-varying levels of attention to the craft of writing here. I would say that I do it for you, as in the immortal words of the dying nanny in The Omen ("It's all for you, Damien"), but of course I do it for me, because I appreciate your attention, which is, in this world of limitless communication channels, media, distractions, and demands on people's time, that most precious of commodities. Purest gold.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Life/Schedule: full vs. empty

On Sunday mornings I awake all too often with a sense of scarcity: my schedule for the day stretches about before me, leading too quickly into Monday, when it all begins again. This is particularly true on a day like today, when I have:

  1. A memorial service
  2. A soccer game
  3. A charity concert
And also laundry (must do at mom's house while we wait for our new machine to arrive), summer scheduling, business trip scheduling, emails to friends. In the evening Graham and I will finish the last of the Bourne movies.

The fact is, I will enjoy these things and all of them will be done with people I love and are for good causes, but viewed beforehand they exhaust me (not the Bourne movie, to be sure).

A large part of me just wants to sit and look out the window and read and think and, yes, write. There are all these books on my shelves that call out for attention, as do my guitar and bass. Deep in the basement, my bicycle is also neglected.

In short, my life is full, and part of me resents the external things that pull me away from the things that I "want" to do.  But I also know from experience that, when I have lots of free time, and this has happened during periods when I have been in "career transition," I panic and cannot focus on the long-term things that I theoretically should be doing. 

And hell, even now, as I am building my business, during the week it is not as if I am always overwhelmed with client work. Much of the time I am out looking for clients, really looking for attention. It is the nature of being relatively early stage in a business.

So, in some sense, this is just a short-cycle "grass is greener" thing. I need to learn to use the fallow time during the week to do some of the things I want to do on weekends.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Vive la difference

I had coffee this week with an older African American gentleman whom I had met recently, and it came too light that he was a Republican. It surprised me to meet a black Republican,, especially in North Carolina these days, so after we talked for a while about business and basic getting to know you stuff I brought the conversation around to politics.

He said that he felt that Obama had done a lot of things to mess up the country, and especially around gay marriage.  Earlier that week, he said, while doing some outreach work for his church, he had taken a fellow parishioner who was blind into the county clerk's office. While there, a marriage between two women was being officiated. It seems from his recounting that they had their hands all over themselves, because he gently launched into a little peroration about marriage being about more than sex and affection and so on.

He also said that he was on the board of some charter schools and that he was astounded at the attitudes of kids that things should and would just be handed to them. The fundamental grounding for his support for the Republicans was that he felt they were just more pro-business, as he was. I must say, being out in the business world, I get that. Compliance is hard, and in many ways it is much easier to promulgate regulation than it is to right-size it. It honestly gets scaled back by the sheer difficulty of funding and administering its enforcement.

It is difficult to engage in values-based discussions of politics with people who come from backgrounds different from your own. For one, we're always just working on earning our own livings and/or taking care of our own offspring. Or writing our own blogs. But there is very little that is more important.