a birthday epiphany

Birthdays are funny things. I know, because I’ve had fifty-one of them. Frankly, I’m not sure I plan to have any others. Don’t panic–I still intend to get older, I’m just done counting birthdays.

Certain ‘big deal’ birthdays were less than ‘big deals’ for me. Eighteen—woohoo, I can vote and go to war!—yeah, even when I was eighteen I realized that tradeoff sucked.

Twenty-one—Yes! I finally can have some of that ‘alcohol’ I’ve heard so much about but never had the chance to try! True story: for my 21st birthday, mom and dad took me to LasVegas, because nothing says ‘You’re a man, now’ like standing in line at the breakfast buffet with your parents…it was like going to the prom with my Aunt Joan.

In theory, turning thirty is a big deal, because by thirty, you’ve become established in your career. Unfortunately, I had the distinct lack of foresight to choose standup comedy as a career, and never got the memo that the standup comedy boom would end in about 1992. Actually, turning thirty-four seemed more significant, because it meant I had outlived Jesus.

I think around birthday number forty, birthdays stopped being a big deal for me. Look, a good chunk of my adult like was spent creating crises for myself, yanking myself out of one crisis, moving across the country (‘cause that fixes shit), and…manufacturing new crises. You make enough bad choices in life, you start to feel like EVERY birthday is bonus time—“Really—I made it to forty-five? Yeah, that’s cool—but keep it down! I don’t wanna jinx anything!”

For this reason, turning fifty was a big deal, celebrated with all the requisite “I love you, man”s and “You look great”s. I was embarking on the second half of my life (yeah—half—like I’m gonna see a hundred…) with renewed vigor and a passionate lust for seizing the proverbial day.

Or, some days, I’d just be kinda tired. Sometimes, ‘seizing’ the day just sounds exhausting, and I’d rather…sneak up on the day. Herein lies the beauty of being post-fifty. I’ve given myself permission to NOT do anything. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve been non-productive before, non-productive on an Olympian scale–but it always looked like I was busy doing shit. It was always in the guise of “Things are really crazy right now, so that’s why I haven’t been able to do any of those things I should have been doing.”

Then I figured, “What if I just stopped being a crazy person? Might that possibly make my life, in fact, easier?” Turns out, now that I’m not trying so hard to ‘get my life together,’ I’m actually getting my life together. I’ve actually come to the conclusion that I may not have enough time to finish every project, avenge every injustice, and fix all my broken pieces, and I’m cool with that.

It’s like with anger. I’ve been righteously indignant about one thing or another since high school, when I refused to smile for any of my yearbook pictures because I felt smiling ‘on cue’ made it fake and I wanted to have integrity and blah blah blah. I think, looking back on it, I may have been pretty tedious as a teenager. And my mom wasn’t happy that the yearbook she paid for included at least ten pictures of me looking like I’d won The Most Miserably Unhappy Student trophy.

But though I still feel strongly about what I believe, what used to be a rolling boil is now down to a simmer on the burner of life. I still Rage against the Machine sometimes, but I’m just as likely now to try to understand the machine or, more likely still, ignore the machine entirely and focus on my little corner of the world. Besides, getting existentially peeved at the world has not, apparently, changed the world.

Anger, like youth, is wasted on the young. The girlfriend and I were watching some video by some band of angry twenty-somethings, screaming their angry lyrics about how angry…something made them. I think the song was called “Paid My Dues.” You’re in your twenties! What dues, exactly, have you had to pay! You’ve had to endure…sitting quietly in a classroom? Oh, the inherent cruelty of it all!

Look, you PBR-drinking, soul-patch-sporting, doc marten-wearing whiners–the world could not possibly have fucked you enough yet to warrant this much bile. Why don’t you guys take your girlfriend to a movie at the mall, play a little pick up basketball to blow off steam, and then write some songs about how, at your age, life is pretty fucking cool if only because you haven’t had enough time yet to piss away any opportunities or burn any bridges!!!

Now at my age, I’ve seen enough of the cosmic crapstorm to feel justifiably angry—I can now emipirically prove that some shit ain’t fair. But here’s the bitch about aging—by the time you have enough evidence to make a case for how evil people can be, how unfair the government is, how wrong the system is… you’re just too damned tired.

But I am not by nature a cynic. I believe there are younger folk out there willing to fight the good fight (and young enough that they don’t use the word ‘folk’—jeez!). Kids who are all hormones and hyperbole, who will take up the banner of protest. And that’s as it should be. But as I keep adding numbers to my age, I think I’ll find a comfortable chair and watch some of the fighting from the sidelines.

As you get older, you realize that your body should have come with some sort of extended warranty. At least for the factory parts. Beyond the obvious design flaws (the knee? Hello? Little extra padding would have been nice…) there’s the planned obsolescence—every part of me that moves now is either stiff, or it aches. If I can move it or bend it, it probably hurts. But in the spirit of making nice with Old Man Aging, I’ve have found some perks to being ‘of a certain age.’

I no longer feel obliged to try new foods, or new ways of cooking foods I hate because it will broaden my horizons.  I hate brussel sprouts, and I don’t care if you dip them in chocolate, deep fry them, coat them with maple syrup and serve them on a golden plate, underneath, they are brussel sprouts, and I believe they were not meant to be eaten.

I am OK with wearing pajamas during the day, and if I have to leave the house, I’m OK with just pulling my sweats over my pajamas. When you’re older, it’s all about easy-on, easy-off.

I can now convincingly pull off the ‘shaking your fist at the heavens’ gesture if I get pissed.

When I process the pros and cons of aging (CON: things don’t work like they used to; PRO: you’re alive to bitch about things not working), I realize the number itself is the problem. Hence, I will acknowledge no future birthdays. I’m done counting. I made it to fifty. I’m in bonus time. But I’m not gonna say I’m fifty-one, or fifty-seven, or sixty-eight. From now on, when asked my age, I will simply respond, “I’m at least fifty.” It’s accurate, but it avoids all those negative connotations associated with being ‘over fifty.’

You kids out there—keep on yelling. Just remember the old adage—What doesn’t kill you, weakens you so it’s easier to be killed the next time. L’chaim!

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you don’t look peevish

I’ve never catalogued all of my pet peeves, but I have quite a collection. Having pet peeves is great for killing time—sorta like having an actual pet, but with no cleanup, or having a hobby without having to buy glue and construction paper.

Most of my peeves relate to language. Now, I’m not saying you should follow the Chicago Manual of Style when you’re writing a casual email. And I understand that language evolves (see, I started that sentence with a preposition—I’m a rebel!). But let’s not give up the fight entirely and just slide lazily into some hundred-and-forty character morass of poorly chosen words and misused phrases.

A small step would be for people to stop using the word ‘literally’ when they mean ‘metaphorically.’ I swear to My Vague, Nebulous Concept Of What God Might Be If There Is A God that if I hear one more person say something like ‘My head literally exploded’ my head will figuratively explode.

I’ve been a nitpicker of words for years. I remember as a teenager being annoyed by Neil Diamond. Granted, there are many reasons to be annoyed by Neil Diamond, but specifically, how can an otherwise competent songwriter write the line ‘songs she BRANG to me.’ You know, I could be making love with a supermodel on a private beach with Neil Diamond THERE in his jumpsuited glory singing that song to us directly (hold on to that mental image), and at the word ‘brang,’ it would be game over.

With the internet, I haven’t used the print version of a dictionary or a thesaurus for years, and I’m fine with that, but I’m pretty sure Roget is turning over in his grave (see also: crypt, mausoleum, catacomb, sepulcher…)

It’s amazing to me how blasé we’ve become toward technology. Like being able to access most of the entire world’s history and collected knowledge in my apartment on something I bought for five hundred bucks at Best Buy. And yet how many of us just bitch about how long it takes for Facebook to load?

You kids today. I realize that’s what I sound like—the old guy who says ‘You kids today.’ I just think people take for granted the amount of mind-blowing shit we can do while sitting on our couches.

Although I’m hardly a Luddite, I’ll admit that some newer technology I just don’t get. Like the whole Wii thing. A friend invited me to play Wii (the Wii? on the Wii?) and after a spirited ten minutes of beach volleyball, it occurred to me that ‘playing sports’ by pointing a wand at the tv is wrong on two levels—it requires standing and waving your arm around, thus defeating the purpose of video games, and yet all it requires is standing and waving your arm around, defeating the purpose of exercise. I worry that a generation will grow up not knowing that tennis can also be played outside.

Some tech things I’m just a little late getting to. For instance, I recently got DVR (a DVR? the DVR?) and I gotta be honest–the first few times I used it, it felt like I was employing sorcery. I can rewind a show while it’s being broadcast? Why, this is preposterous! I’ll end up altering the space-time continuum!

I worry a lot about altering the space-time continuum, which is why I don’t go back in time. The main reason I haven’t gone back in time is that I’m a klutz. See, every science fiction story I know explains very clearly that if you DO go back in time and change anything, disastrous things will happen. Well, I’m such a klutz, I would inevitably trip over something or knock something off of a shelf that would cause some sort of butterfly-effect chain reaction and then we’re all living in bunkers as drones to our Martian overlords.

Also, if I were able to go back in time, I don’t exactly have the skill set to ‘blend in’ in another era. My pottery and cobbling skills are marginal at best, and ‘being funny’ just doesn’t seem to be something with which you can barter.

It makes me wonder what place there was in primitive society for the funny guy. Even in the era of cavemen, there had to be that one guy. You know, the guy who would change a cave drawing so that instead of reading ‘”Og killed a mastodon” it reads “Og had sex with a mastodon.”

I might have enjoyed being a funny guy in the Middle Ages. If you think about it, court jester was probably an easier gig than doing standup in a bar—you really only had to make one guy laugh. And, if the king wasn’t digging my act, I could always become the village idiot.

I wonder what comedy in the future might look like. With the right technology, maybe one day you’ll be able to download a comedy routine consisting entirely of jokes that only you understand into a chip in your brain, while nanobots deliver the equivalent of two drinks to your bloodstream and then you can virtually heckle yourself.

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i’m your boogie man

Lately, it seems my mind is set on ‘shuffle.’ Which would be fine, if it were like iTunes and all the ‘tracks’ playing in my head were actually favorites. But no, my current playlist consists of:

“(I’m Too Old) To Find A Job”

“My Hip Hurts”

and, for some inexplicable reason,

“Boogie Oogie Oogie”

I realize only that last one is a real song, and that’s too bad. Incidentally, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” represents one of the three lowest points in Grammy Award history

1. (1979)—A Taste of Honey (of ‘Boogie Oogie Oogie’ fame) is awarded the Best New Artist Grammy—also nominated that year? Elvis Costello.

2. (1989)—Jethro Tull is given the award for ‘Best Heavy Metal Album,’ because nothing represents pure Satanic evil and teen rage like a forty-two year old guy standing on one foot playing the freaking flute.

3. (2009)—Violating all the laws of God and man, the Jonas Brothers are allowed to perform with Stevie Wonder.

I thought of all this because I don’t just wake up with a song in my head—no, I’m so ADD I get entire setlists stuck in my head, and this morning I woke up thinking of all the songs I could remember with the word ‘boogie’ in the title (in case you’re curious: ‘Boogie Shoes,’ ‘Boogie Nights,’ ‘Boogie Fever,’ ‘Boogie Wonderland,’ ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman,’ ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Blame It On The Boogie.’

Now I understand that these aren’t the deepest musical sentiments ever expressed, and it has been a few years since I put on my ‘my my my my MY boogie shoes,’ but I think these records actually point to something profound (WARNING! CRACKPOT THEORY AHEAD).

Follow my logic here. All of the above boogie-centric songs charted between 1974 and 1979, and though my late teen years had their share of global issues and hotspots, I don’t remember ever, for instance, worrying about a worldwide economic collapse or crypto-Islamic terrorists. You wanna know what I remember from the news in the seventies? Lines at gas stations were long.

My point is, there have always been bad scary things in the world, but now fear is an inextricable part of the cultural fabric, and I believe this may be because nobody is writing songs about the boogie anymore. Or boogieing (sp?), or other boogie related behavior.

All I’m saying is that when disco was a part of the musical landscape, we weren’t involved in two wars. Coincidence??? I’ll even go so far as to say that disco was a great cultural equalizer, because almost everyone looked stupid dancing to it.

There was a popular t-shirt when I was in college that said “Fuck art–let’s dance.” I’d like to expand that sentiment to “Fuck politics—let’s dance.” Because when I read about a Christine O’Donnell, or a Glenn Beck, sometimes I think maybe they just need a little boogie in their sad, tightly-wound, attention-starved lives.

So much of what passes for discourse and debate today is just anger dressed up in a suit. Maybe if the Tea Partiers would swap their Revolutionary War garb for a white polyester outfit and just dance a little–blow off some steam–maybe after that, both sides could get together and talk about the issues like adults.

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bemused in bemidji

I’m not sure I can define ‘hip.’ I’m pretty sure I’ve been ‘hip’ occasionally (once in 1980, for about a month in 1994, and there might be a weekend in the early ‘aughts when I pulled it all together), but I’ve usually only acquired ‘hipness’ by being around other ‘hip’ people.

I’ll admit I’m an urban snob. I like having having symphonies, and pro sports, and the other things that go with a few hundred thousand people living together. The only time I haven’t lived in a big city was the three months in Bemidji, Minnesota, and that was a bit…less than hip.

So, realizing the power of language to change perception, I tried to get the locals to start calling Bemidji…wait for it…The ‘Midj.‘ That’s right–roll it around on your tongue–say it out loud. The Midj. Which sounds hipper–“I’m spending a few months in Northern Minnesota,” or “I’m doin’ The Midj this summer.”

I guess the hardest thing to get used to there was the talking. As in, people talking to other people. On the street. Just–randomly. You see, in big cities, we’ll talk to strangers on the street, but only to efficiently communicate important information:

“Watch where you’re walking, buddy!”

“Back of the line, asshole!”

“I have twenty dollars in my back pocket–please don’t shoot me.”

But there, people just say hello to you when they walk by. And they’re not asking  for money. Very disturbing. I think I might have pissed off one our neighbors, because when they asked “How’s it going?,” I said “I don’t have any change, but I can give you a cigarette.”

Three in the morning, I’m sitting on the front stoop having a smoke, and twenty-something dude walks by. He bums a smoke, and then, I assure you with no prompting for me, he says, “Yeah, some chick just hit my girlfriend in the head with a rock.”

Now when someone says something so…out of nowhere, I like to play a game I call “Guess The Backstory.” Like maybe he’s at a party, his girlfriend gets into a heated argument about “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse” when suddenly a crazed Taylor Lautner fan gets all rock-throwy, and he decides to wander the streets of Bemidji hoping to run into an off-duty paramedic (who smokes, cuz it’s stressful to see your girlfriend hit in the head with a rock)? “Yeah, some chick hit my girlfriend in the head with a rock, and if you happen to know how treat a skull fracture that’d be cool.”

Then there was Random Talking Woman From Down The Street. I’m going to give you three things she’s said to me (although ‘to me’ isn’t really accurate—she simple says them as she passes me without actually looking at me)…now for your writing exercise, you “Guess The Backstory”:

“I’ll put my hair down as soon as it’s not so humid.”

“Thank God I finally got rid of that bassinet.”

(said while carrying a cushion on her head after leaving someone’s house) “At least I got a good chair—if you wanna fight, go ahead.”

I think even Random Talking Woman (her Native name?) would tell you it’s beautiful up here. Lake Bemidji is gorgeous. And at least they went to the trouble to name the lake, rather just describe it.

Amongst Minnesota’s thousand of lakes, it turns out there are several named simply ‘Round Lake.’ Now that’s just being lazy. I don’t know if there’s a state Lake-Naming Commission, but c’mon—were all the good names taken, so the town founders just thought, “Well, it is sorta round.”

There are at least ten thousand famous people are lake-worthy—nobody’s done philosophers, so why not Lake Schopenhauer? Or how about honoring one of the greatest progressive rock bands of all time with Emerson Lake and Palmer Lake? But instead, Minnesota has a lake named ‘Woman Lake.” Nice gesture, but go the extra step–be specific. You could…pay tribute to afternoon talk show hosts with Rikki Lake Lake. These are just off the top of my head, people!

My first week wrapped in a heartland americana snuggie ended with watching Bemidji’s annual Fourth of July Parade. It started with what must have been every emergency vehicle in the county (side note: maybe not good planning to tie up all the fire trucks on a weekend when people shoot off fireworks). Then the veteran’s organizations, or more accurately, four old guys in a jeep.

I had to support the local high school band, having walked that path myself (“OK—welcome to marching band…now just so the rest of the students can easily identify you as misfits, we’re gonna make you wear a tall furry hat while you march.”). Not sure why the girls in the flag team were dressed as wood nymphs (sprites? I get nymphs ad sprites mixed up.), but they looked kinda unhappy.

Square dance float? Check. Local car dealers? Check. Local roller derby team? Check—whaaaaat? Well there’s something to boost civic pride! Nothing says country and patriotism like women in spandex crashing into each other at thirty miles an hour.

Ah, America, where we welcome with open arms anyone who can get past a security fence and present their papers, unless you have a suspicious-sounding last name. Now I really don’t mean to dwell on the diversity thing, but it was a parade to celebrate America.

So the whole town comes out for the parade and I see exactly three people of color. It really made me uncomfortable that two of them were on the same float—I was worried the parade was gonna end in some sort of auction. Thankfully, that was not the case.

You know, despite my crusty sarcasm, the parade was actually quite charming. The kids all seemed to have fun, the weather cooperated, and the forest sprites, I’m assuming, got to change out of their freakish outfits. The reality is, how can you not like a town with a roller derby team AND a statue of Paul Bunyan? Just ask Random Talking Woman.

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better than nice

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So for about three months, I lived in Bemidji. Oh wait—I just realized that with the way my mind works, you might be missing some details that would explain why I’m here.

I had a really primo writing gig until a couple months ago, at which point I was laid off. It seems weird to get ‘laid off’ from a creative job—shouldn’t I be pursuing a writing career because I was laid off from my ‘real job?’

But whatever ‘angel investor’ this company was waiting for never came, and they ‘let go’ around thirty of their forty-five employees. Sure glad they ‘let’ us ‘go.’ Nice of them to not force us to…keep working.

Anyway, because of my principled and long-held opposition to the banking industry, I didn’t have—what is it you call money that you haven’t already spent?—oh right, savings. Actually, that’s more because I usually have any ‘extra money’ tied up in weed.

I have an amazing network of friends who have bailed out my ass on many occasions, and thanks to them I’ve bought some time, but the reality is, I haven’t found work, and I’m gonna have to move.

Thankfully, The Girlfriend was willing to take me in. Oh right—I haven’t explained that either. I get a ‘friend request’ on Facebook a few weeks ago from a woman, and I accept. After which I get the following message: “You are now friends with Kara.” Cool. Not sure I know who Kara is, but…cool. A new friend.

Short version—apparently we really ‘clicked’ at a mutual friend’s party six-and-a-half years ago, and she found me on Facebook. I say ‘apparently’ because I don’t remember the party as clearly as she does, in that I don’t remember the party. But apparently, six-and-a-half years ago, I had some game—or she entered a convent six-and-a-half years ago and just got out.

Here’s the beauty part—she gets my sense of humor. Now I’ve dated people with a sense of humor, and they get my jokes, but there always was that one moment where I would say something snarky, and they would look at me like they were watching C-SPAN, and I’d be thinking, “You seriously don’t see why that’s funny? With the thing, and the deal, and that other thing? I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME!”

So this one, this mysterious Kara person, laughs at the same shit I do! She gets my references! Oh yeah, and she’s really smart, and sweet and sexy—but my point is, she gets my references!

There were a few red flags that concerned me. I don’t mean the whole moving-in-together-after-only-knowing-each-other-for-four-weeks-and-one-(apparently)-memorable-night-six-and-a-half years ago—I’m talking about other stuff.

She had two cats. She’s not exactly the Crazy Cat Lady, but she’s only about one cat shy. Talks to her cats in complete sentences? Check. Refrigerator covered with cat-themed magnets? Check. Living room a minefield of cat toys and other cat-related things for me to trip over? Check.

I’m also a little concerned about something she told me when we first started talking about serious relationship-y things. Around week two, she told me she has “issues with men.” I thought this was troublesome, mostly because, demographically, I’ve always identified myself as being a part of that particular group. But so far, I guess, she hasn’t noticed that I’m a man. Damn—that doesn’t sound good at all. What I mean is—never mind.

Besides, with me questioning my career choices, carrying around anxiety disorder, depression and OCD, meeting someone with issues about only one thing is…downright refreshing.

I really do believe in things like romance, and destiny, and kismet, and I may have stumbled into all of those things here. Which brings me back to the concept of ‘here.’

Which for a few months was Bemidji, Minnesota, from the Ojibwe word meaning ‘fours hours from the nearest real city.” Please don’t get me wrong. Though I consider myself an urban guy, I can appreciate small-town charms. The leisurely pace, the friendly neighbors, the WHO AM I KIDDING WHERE ARE THE MUSEUMS, AND THE THEATERS? I WANT TO BE ABLE TO GET THAI FOOD AT ONE IN THE MORNING WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE BARS ARE CLOSED ON SUNDAY GODDAMMIT?!

I didn’t want to judge the place too quickly, so I did a bit of research online. Hey, they’ve got a college here. Let’s see if the campus groups give me a little big-city diversity. There’s gotta at least be a GLBT group—what? Muslim student union? Nope. Hillel for my young Jewish brothers and sisters? Uh…no. There are however, two Christian athletic fellowships and, I’m told, a vibrant Young Republicans group.

Here’s an example of how aggressively bland this part of the country can seem. People in the region refer to a concept known as ‘Minnesota nice.’ It’s never really defined, but it’s culturally midway between the ‘love ya, babe’s of L.A. and the ‘fuck you’s of New York. Born of repressed Nordic stock, and forged by a (let’s be real here, people) uninhabitable climate, ‘Minnesota nice’ is really more ‘Minnesota polite,’ or ‘Minnesota don’t cause a fuss.’ Well…here in Bemidji, there is a café CALLED ‘Minnesota Nice!” Across the street from a secondhand store called ‘Twice But Nice’!

On the plus side, I immediately became one of the edgiest people in town, and I might already be the most famous bisexual Jew in the history of Bemidji.

My urban prejudice notwithstanding, it is lovely there. A beautiful lake, cute little downtown, and I discovered a terrific Italian bistro. I wouldn’t have picked as a relocation destination, but I got a little peace of mind, maybe found a little clarity, and got some writing done. Besides, there was someone there who seemed to want to provide my broken-down middle-aged ass with some nurture. And that has been better than nice.

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mark my words

Ever since I read my first book (‘Green Eggs and Ham’), I have been in love with words for their own sake. Sure, you can make some cool things out whole bunches of words, but some words are great all by themselves. ‘Effluvium.’ ‘Nexus.’ ‘Philology.’ Hell, ‘philology’ is just plain fun to say. Try it. Say ‘philology’ out loud three or four times (best to do this when you’re alone, as opposed to, say, while taking public transit).

I recently discovered a fascinating website called LanguageLog. Of course by ‘fascinating,’ I mean ‘interesting to people who find arcane observations about the minutiae of language interesting,’ but really, isn’t that all of us?  No? Anyway, from this site I learned that there’s an actual term for a misspoken phrase that still makes sense, like ‘old-timer’s disease’ instead of ‘Alzheimer’s.’ It’s called an ‘eggcorn.’

My favorite new word (new to me, and actually fairly new as a word) is ‘snowclone.’ While it sounds like something created by a villain in a Bond flick (“With my army of snowclones, world domination will be mine!”), the term was coined by a linguist to describe what you might call ‘fill-in-the-blank’ clichés, like ‘X is the new Y,’ or that was ‘the mother of all _____s,’ or ‘the ______ from Hell.’ (I try to make my column entertaining AND educational. You’re welcome.)

I wonder about clichés. What about the first guy who said ‘one hand washes the other’? Was he pissed when everybody started saying it? Or did his friends just look at him funny, like “Well, duh! That’s how hand-washing works!” And some clichés don’t make much sense. Before it became a cliché, did people need to be constantly reminded to look before they leapt?

Sometimes clichés aren’t all they’re cracked up to be (see what I did there? I used a cliché to describe clichés!) Like when you want to point out that two things are dissimilar—they’re like ‘apples and oranges.’ Not very effective, since apples and oranges are both fruit. Shouldn’t it be ‘that’s like apples and…trucks’? And there’s always a flipside to clichés—you could say that ‘what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,’ but you could also argue that ‘what doesn’t kill us weakens us so that it’s easier to kill us in the future.’ Granted, that’s not as effective as an affirmation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about words lately, which I’ve found is much less labor-intensive than actually writing words. Let alone the whole ‘stringing words together into sentences’ deal. And then the sentences have to somehow connect to each other? Oy.

There are, to be sure, pros and cons about being a freelance writer. On the plus side, I work when I’m inspired to work, not because it’s…Monday. In the minus column, I only get paid when I’ve actually done something, as opposed to getting paid because it’s…Friday.

I read once that to be a successful freelancer, one should treat every day as if one had a regular job. Get up at a certain time, put in your eight hours, etc. Because the myth of freelancing is that you ‘make your own hours,’ when in reality, you have to work with the exact same hours everyone else does. It’s not like you get special ‘freelance hours’ that are eighty minutes long, or freelance days with extra hours in them.

The magic phrase is ‘be your own boss.’ Great idea in theory, but the problem I face is that I’m a shitty boss. Combine that with the fact that I’m kind of a crappy worker, and productivity can really suffer.

For instance, as my boss, I tend to let myself start work around eleven-ish, and I don’t even notice that for most of my first hour on the job, I’m using my work computer to surf the web. Now in my defense, those Scrabble tiles won’t move themselves. But still, you’d think a good boss would at least wander by my desk occasionally to keep me focused. Also, even though I appreciate a laid-back workplace, I’m not sure it’s a great idea to have a boss that lets me smoke pot at work.

I think I’m gonna find a business supply store, buy myself a time clock and attach it to my desk, just to get that tangible feeling of “Now it’s time to start working.” I’ll trick myself into being productive. Maybe I’ll pick up some partitions and turn my desk into a cubicle (I was actually curious where one would buy a cubicle, and I found out there is a company in Dallas called Cubiclemart, which may win the award for most soulless business name in history).

One big difference between a freelance career and a real job is that, in a real job, once you have the gig, you just keep showing up, whereas I have to keep getting rehired every time I finish something. The truth is, I’m not too worried. I’m starting a new assignment tomorrow, so I’ll probably take the rest of today off. Besides, I heard somewhere that not working is the new work.

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