I've been having a good time with blogging since 2002. It gave me a much healthier social outlet than what I was getting hanging out at my local bar. It didn't replace my regular friends, it just supplemented them with virtual ones. Also, being the first of my set to start blogging, it also made me more interesting. I was suddenly getting input from an incredible variety of sources. I work the blogosphere the same way I work cocktail parties: I mingle widely and freely. I follow links freely and love to read heart felt rants by articulate people of every stripe, color, persuasion that you can imagine. It's fun.
I also get to hang out with some very interesting people. Remember when we first started blogging how important blogrolls were? I was ecstatic the first time someone added my blog to their blogroll. I immediately reciprocated. We were all giddy with the unmitigated joy that comes from people who have just learned to astrally project. It was like we were in this huge virtual cocktail party where your character was the side of you that is most charming, most intellectual, never has a bad hair day, and is always impeccably dressed even if at home you're still in your boxers. How cool is that?
I still maintain my blogroll with deliberation. I add and drop blogs. I add quickly and freely to remember that there was something I liked about the particular writer and to make it easy to go back. If after a dozen or so return visits I don't get anything from the visited blog, I drop it from my list, because if the blogroll is too long, it takes me too long to visit all of the writers whom I find interesting. Some blogs are very personal journals, and if after half a dozen or so visits without some sort of personal exchange, I remove them from my blogroll. It's too creepy. I feel like I'm stalking. Likewise, some blogs function like high school cliques. If you're not part of their imagined "A list" no one will interact with you. Okay, bye bye.
Most of the commenters to my posts are writers whose blogs are listed in my blogroll, which I call Interesting People. I think each of us has the potential to be the most interesting person at any particular cocktail party at which we might find ourselves. What makes conversation interesting, however, is the give and take of divergent opinion. Be too pedantic and no one wants to linger and listen. Pedantic diatribes tire the eyes faster than missing a night's sleep. Of course, each of us has the potential to be the most pedantic asshole at the cocktail party. I hate when it's me.
Sometimes the most intelligent thing one can say is to say nothing. I pass by some very interesting conversations about subjects about which I know nothing. I used to get nervous when that happened until I realized I was getting a negative feeling based on an old paranoia. I can remember finding myself in classes at college where I knew I was out of my league. None of us like to think there are leagues we can't play in, but by the age of 30, hopefully we begin to accept the fact gracefully. Anyone who hasn't learned that by age 60 is probably a self-absorbed, narcissistic asshole. I'm just saying, that's all.
It's very flattering when you get attention from guys in the Bigger Leagues. It's humbling when you see your readership numbers spike because some A-list blogger says something nice about you on the record, so to speak, by linking to you. It leaves me feeling self-conscious for a short while. I write best when I'm not paying attention to whom else in the room.
I've really grown in my ability to write in these past six years. Nothing improves your writing skills like actually doing it a lot. I don't know if I have any more to say today than I had six years ago, but I'm willing to bet that even if I'm saying nothing, I'm writing it better. Maybe that's enough.
Happy blogoversary to me. Six years, 150,000 hits later, I'm still going at it, but then, who's counting?
Ellen Crush, a fellow blogger, died yesterday morning following a two plus year fight against cancer. She used her blog, Emptying My Head, to share with us her joy of life as well as the details of her struggle. She leaves a body of work that will continue to resonate forever. She was a teacher by profession who gave generously of herself to students and to friends. I am fortunate to have been able to know her even slightly. She leaves behind a loving and heartbroken husband, Curtis. My heart aches for him right now, for it is the living who feel the pain of death. Peace to you, Curtis.
Thank you, Ellen, for discovering my blog and taking the time to write and encourage me. Thank you for introducing me to so many talented writers. Peace be to you now, dear sister. You will be sorely missed.
....The blog was the perfect bluff for a self-conscious writer like me who yearned for the spotlight and then squinted in its glare. When I needed to pretend that people were reading, I could. When I needed to pretend that nobody was reading, I could. (For this reason, I never checked the reader stats on my blog, unlike most of my friends, who check it as regularly as their e-mail.)
Eventually, I began enjoying my writing again. I stopped worrying about deadlines, audience, editors, letters to the editor, all the stuff that had smothered me before. I was writing so fast that I didn't have time to double-think my sentence structure or my opinions. What came out was sloppier but also funnier and more honest. I started getting e-mails from people I'd never met, and they were actually encouraging. (At the paper, it seemed like most e-mails from strangers begin with a variant of "Hey, dumbass.") I continued blogging for years, through cities and jobs and relationships, and though the blog entries never amounted to much, they always gave me a fleeting joy, like conquering some small feat—opening a very difficult, tightly sealed jar—even when no one is around to see it.
And yet every once in a while those agents would check in, to ask how that book was coming. And the book wasn't coming, and wasn't coming, and I became one of those people who talk about a book but never write it. At times, I started to feel that jokes and scenarios and turns of phrase were my capital, and that my capital was limited, and each blog entry was scattering more of it to the wind, pissing away precious dollars and cents in the form of punch lines I could never use again, not without feeling like a hack. You know: "How sad. She stole that line from her own blog."
Blogging had been the ideal run-up to a novel, but it had also become a major distraction. I would sit down to start on my novel only to come up with five different blog entries. I thought of them as a little something-something to whet the palate—because it was easier, more immediately satisfying, because I could write it, and post it, and people would say nice things about it, and I could go to bed feeling satisfied. But then I would wake feeling less than accomplished because a blog wasn't a whole story told from beginning to end. I had shelves lined with other people's prose while my best efforts were buried on a Web site somewhere, underneath a lot of blah-blah about American Idol and my kitty cat.
I've been blogging now for about three years. On the plus side, I've written hundreds of thousands of words about every subject under the sun. On the negative side, my book about my mother's people is languishing, as are several other worthy writing projects. I've discussed this with other writers I know. Several have retired their blogs. One or two have tried to quit blogging, but keep coming back to it like addicts.
Blogging is to writing as sugar is to food. It's useful if you're mixing it with other ingredients, but not as much so when eaten alone. You got to watch out for those empty calories.
Soulforce is a group of GLBT Chrstians who are taking it to the streets, so to speak. They are visiting the campuses of colleges and universities across the country that have anti-Gay policies. Yesterday, North Central University denied Soulforce access to its campus and students. Today Soulforce visits Wheaton College in Chicago. Crystal is going to be there.
If you use your computer for music, Pandora is for you. I started last week by typing in the name of a favorite singer (in my case, Bonnie Raitt) and Pandora has been streaming music which has something in common with Bonnie Raitt ever since. The music selected has been all over the board, but there's a feature that allows you to ask what any particular song chosen has to do with Bonnie Raitt. It's very cool. Go on, try it. Create your own radio station.
Oh, and one of the founders is working his way across the country right now, meeting musicians and adding songs to their library. AND he's blogging about it.
John Aravosis, the owner of Americablog, met up with a bunch of his readers and fellow bloggers today in San Francisco. I lasted about ten minutes. John seemed interesting enough, but I'm not a big fan of unmoderated meetings. What happens in situations like that is that the most aggressive and rude get to speak, shutting everyone else out. Today, two of the people sitting on either side of John thought the gathering was about them and proceeded to dominate the conversation. Since I wasn't there to hear them expound, I left.
What I had hoped for was the opportunity to mingle and network with other Bay Area bloggers. I would like for us to know each other better. Personally, I could stand to make friends with other bloggers with a degree or two of technical expertise. If we were a group, we could do an occasional workshop. Maybe some good will come out of it yet. I'm always an optimist.
Lovely Wenchy, way down yonder in South Africa, has tagged me to do Five Simple Pleasures, une meme de blogosphere. At first I was trying to read without my glasses and I thought it read "Five Sinful Pleasures" and I wasn't sure if I could get to five before being prosecuted. Figuring that couldn't be right, I squinted harder and came up with pleasures of the five senses, which sounded more better. Here then is a list of each of my five senses' favorite simple pleasure.
Taste: A bite of a truffle from Joseph Schmidt's and a taste of
old vine zinfandel. That is the most exquisite combination I know. I
get dizzy just contemplating it.
Sight: I love vistas involving mountains and light, such as sunrise or sunset in the Sierras. It is majesty transcended. All of my senses become stimulated.
Hearing: I enjoy putting on earphones and really getting into music. I can become pure spirit with enough sensory deprivation and good headphones. If I think simple pleasure, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata enters my head. It's one of the first pieces of music that captivated me. It still does. If my classical station plays it, I'll stop what I'm doing and listen to it. It lifts me towards spirit.
Smell: I once lost my sense of smell. I was a chef at the time, so it made it very difficult. It effected a career change on my part. It came back, mt sense of smell, that is. My career as a chef never did. Weird huh? Although not too unusual.
It's actually common enough that it was used as a complicating detail in the movie, Tortilla Soup, a re make of Eat Drink, Man Woman, which I'm told is a remake of something else. I thought it seemed familiar. My inability to smell came in handy one Christmas many years ago I spent up in Girdwood, Alaska with my friend Jim. You see, he didn't have indoor plumbing, and his porta-toitie was gross. Maybe I couldn't smell, but I could still see, so thank god almighty, I was spared the smell! How did I know it smelled? I had lost my sense of smell, not my memory! I grew up with an outhouse. As a result of that , to this day I am the most efficient shitter on the books. I am in, done and out in about two minutes. And that is so much more than you wanted to know, now isn't it? Since coming back though, my sense of smell, I mean, I do not take it for granted. I move through life like an old hound dog, smelling everything I encounter. Flowers, food, people, it's all good. Smell, in my opinion, is one of our senses that binds our spirits to the earth.
Touch: I touch everything I can, including people. Especially people. I give massages to a few lucky people every month. My mother started training me when I was a boy. On a long trip, my job was to sit behind her and massage her neck and shoulders. I discovered feet on my own. The rest is history. My people believe that the ability to heal is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I'm not in the Made for Television category, but the people I do touch sure do feel a lot better. Touch also keeps us connected to the earth, or at least what we perceive to be the earth: our present physical incarnation.
I'm having a metaphysical crisis right now . Y'see, I believe I'm already spirit, or at least I am a good part of the time. I blame any dysfunction on blogging. It's made us French. We get to intellectualize our very existence.
Y'know, most of the time I'm happy to just be. When I focus on my belly buttom, my life seems to be going well. It's when I realize I'm in the back seat of a car that's running out of control on a dark road along a clift that I start to scream, forgetting for the moment my bellybutton.
Okay, gentle readers, you take it from here. Think about some of your simple pleasures.
Weird habit #1: I am committed to the misspelling of weird. Damn, but that i wants to come before the e.
Weird habit #2: Picking my nose. NOT! Like I'd 'fess up to it if I did. I do play with my ears in an unconscious manner.
Weird habit #3: When I concentrate on doing something, my tongue peaks out at what I'm doing. My late cat, Beauregard, used to do the same sort of thing. I either picked it up from him or vice versa.
Weird habit #4: (This one is in remission. Thank god, therapy works.) Desperately trying to answer the phone before the third ring. It's like I'm still in a race with my adolescent siblings to be the one to answer the phone. Ten years ago, I bet I could wake up from a deep, deep sleep, and answer the phone in another part of the house before the third ring, and with the advent of cordless phones, sometimes I had to find it. I'm getting much better about ignoring it now. Probably all of the unsolicited phone calls from politicians and policemen's benevolent societies helped me to get over this awful habit.
Weird habit #5: This one was suggested by my friend Joseph when I insisted I couldn't think of any weird habits. He says I pick my teeth. Excuse me? Dental hygiene is important to me, and besides, I cannot stand to have food particles stuck in my teeth. Apparently, neither can a lot of other people because almost every restaurant in the world has toothpicks available. I carry my own floss because you never know where those toothpicks have been, if you catch my drift. Joseph says I don't care if there's toothpicks or floss available. He says I use my fingers, matchbook covers, matches, and whatever else looks handy and I think will work. I'm sure he's exaggerating, but even so, I think picking your teeth is far more desirable a habit than sucking them. What do you think?
That's five. Anyone else want to talk about weird habits? Sign up so the rest of us can go read about them and feel smugly superior. If we really want to have fun, let's drop the word "habit" and talk about five idiosyncrasies that others would consider weird if they knew about them. That's a scary thought.