Monthly Archives: January 2014

Why I’m not a writer

Published by:

There was a time when it was just a foregone conclusion that I’d be a professional writer of some sort. I was always writing something – newspaper articles, wild satires, the kind of feverish nonsense you can only think of when you’re 17, 18, 19. I went to school for it, shaped it, got pretty good at it. I wrote straight news, humor and satire, and even started to work on that novel we all start to work on. I took a couple of semesters of creative writing from a commercially successful writer. I started to think of myself more in terms of story-telling than news reporting.

That old quote: “All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” So true. The best thing I ever wrote, the piece that actually took people’s breath away when it was read, was basically just a recitation from a low, low point in a relationship. The people who read it were stunned by it, and the person it was about was not, it would be fair to say, pleased. And when I saw the reaction I got by opening that vein, compared to the reaction to other things I wrote where the vein wasn’t even nicked, I realized that in order to be a good writer, I’d have to be willing to tell horrible truths about myself and, more importantly, people I loved. I’d be hurting people, most likely. It wasn’t for me. I picked another path.

But I still have this urge to create. I write quick little history articles. And I tweet dumb things. This week I tweeted a dumb thing that reminded me how much I don’t have the cruelty it would take to be a writer.

The Grammy Awards were this week. I care about them not one whit (except when it’s convenient to do so, such as when they recognize the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s recording at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall for best classical instrumental solo). But millions of people apparently do, and millions of them care who is the Best New Artist, to judge by social media. I’ve already forgotten who won this past week, but I thought I’d poke a little fun with a dumb tweet:

Grammy tweet1.pngIt was just a gentle swipe at the unimportance of the award as a harbinger of talent or a lasting career in the music business. It was a joke. My followers are few, no hashtags were harmed, etc. On to the next dumb tweet.

Except this is the age of teh interbutz, as the kids say, and so a few minutes later, I’m tweeted this:

grammy tweet2.pngThe Swingle Singers, 1964 Grammy Best New Artist winners (for an unlikely choral arrangement of Bach) tweeted me a winking emoji. The Swingle Singers, who at the time I was four years old were competing in a music industry that did not quite yet include The Beatles, and winning international recognition, tweeted me a wink.

I didn’t mean to insult them. Hopefully the wink means they weren’t insulted. I tweeted back “See! You’re still going strong!” which meant absolutely nothing. They’re not even the original members, and I was still concerned that I had somehow hurt the feelings of a group of people whose name I hadn’t thought about since the Johnson Administration.

So if that’s how I feel about a choral group, what are the chances I could really write about family, friends, people I’ve known? Their stories are fascinating, sometimes heart-wrenching, but I don’t have the heart to tell them.

You know what’s weird? I don’t think I care what either The Starland Vocal Band or A Taste of Honey thinks. But I’ll keep my semi-snarky tweets to myself for a while.

Phoenixville ho!

Published by:

Phoenix bobbleheadJPG.jpgSpent the weekend checking out towns to live in. After a dreamy weekend of touring around, enjoying restaurants, cafes, and even the movie theater, we’re writing Phoenixville’s name all over our notebook, in colored ballpoint with heavy outlines.

 For one thing, the town is essentially Bedford Falls. It has a library that looks like a library, a post office that looks like a post office. It has a busy little downtown of shops and restaurants. It has a wonderful classic movie theater that features first-run and classic movies and live performances. It has a handful of coffee shops and galleries and another performance space. We don’t even have a dog and we’re in love with that fact that, up in Reservoir Park, it has Reservoir Dogs Park. (Not many municipally sponsored Tarantino references in the world.)

 It has an annual festival to celebrate the fact that a classic (and yet, really not good) movie, “The Blob,” was filmed there, with scenes in that very theater. It has another festival where they set fire to a giant wooden phoenix. There’s a farmer’s market (that no doubt can’t touch the incredible one in Troy) and street fairs. There’s a nice little True Value hardware store.

 My better half became the friend-maker, going up to random people (dog owners are great for this) and telling them we were thinking of moving there and asking them what they thought of the town. There wasn’t anyone who didn’t actually love it there.

 The challenge in leaving Albany housing for a metro area is, of course, price. Inexpensive houses in a nice neighborhood, with nice yards full of black raspberries, near a lake and seven minutes from downtown, those are things that do not exist in greater Philadelphia. Even 45 minutes out of the city, it’s challenging to find an affordable single family home (the area is filled with something called “twins,” where you share a wall and the risk of horrifying modifications to the other side of the house with someone you don’t know). Our house is no palace, but it has new windows, new heat and central air, a window in every room, an attached garage, a three-season porch: these are things that will cost about $120,000 more where we’re looking. Ouch.

 But, we’re thrilled to have found the town we want to live in. So, Phoenixville ho!

 

 

The Year in Preview

Published by:

Once again, I had the best of intentions. I was going to look back at 2013. There was a lot to look back at. But I didn’t get to it. So instead, I’m going to look at what 2014 will bring.

Some of it will be brand new. We’re moving, and not just a little bit. After 23 years in the same house, and a nice round 25 years in the Albany area, we’re moving to Philadelphia. When you have no family connections, no school needs, no history with an area, the process of picking a new neighborhood to live in is wildly daunting. Not clear yet whether we’ll be somewhere in the city itself, which has a lot of attraction, or out in the suburbs where I wouldn’t have to drive to where I work (and car commuting is AWFUL in Philly.) Finding good places for road biking is a challenge, and that weighs heavily on me.

Despite my crazy love for the history of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, I’m also crazy excited to be going somewhere where there’s so much art, a vibrant downtown, and a lot of life. Only real regret is that we’re not going to be in Troy, which has been more and more our home city in recent years, a place where we can’t go without running into people we know. Would have liked to have had that experience.

Also coming up this year, we’re kicking our younger one out the door and on to a successful career as a mad scientist. She got the college of her choice and a massive merit scholarship, so we figure now is as good a time as any to avoid empty nest syndrome by simply blowing up the nest.

Blowing up the nest, however, is time-consuming. Despite having a small house, we have a LOT of stuff. Much of it will not make the move (we try not to talk about it in front of the objects that aren’t going to make it). There’s a lot of sentiment going around as we re-discover things like the Bugs Bunny hand puppet I used to amuse my baby while “watching” her – meaning I would prop my arm and the puppet up while I napped on the floor next to her, periodically wiggling its ears, desperately dozing for as long as she would sit still. It was never very long.

There’s a new job, of course, and that’s largely underway already. It’s a huge amount of work, but nice to be doing work that people actually care about again. My previous employment was my first experience ever with being utterly irrelevant, and I can’t say I cared for it. I’m used to being ignored after I’ve been listened to.

I need to find new bike trails and roads, canoe launches, places to get my car fixed, places to get a haircut. It’s a bit daunting. Some people think we’re crazy for taking this on when we’re past the half-century mark, but serious, what else would we do for the next 50 years? I learned to ski, run and swim, all after I turned 40. Gotta try new things.