...shall we say, questionable choices, all of which seemed perfectly sensible at the time.
PARENTHETICAL HESITANT, DISCLAIMER-TYPE THOUGHT: I don't like being too detailed about my life in this journal. For some reason, I worry that some ghost from the past might recognize me -- not that I'm well-known, because I'm not -- and embarrassment would ensue. But a few people have made noises about wanting to know more about me, so here is the first of an occasional stab at it....
I have had three "careers" in my life. None were related, none were the result of anything I learned in school. In fact, had I paid more attention in the classrooms, I might have done something else entirely. Like getting a real job and enjoying the material fruits of a more stable lifestyle.
It began with my wanting to take time off from school, and finding a job in the motion-picture business. I fell into the field of animated films and special effects. In those days, animated films were not the products of computers; they consisted of animators' drawings (transferred to transparent "cels") photographed in sequence to create "motion." It was a time-consuming process at every level.
My specific job -- though at times I did many other related jobs -- was to photograph the cels, using what were, in essence, motion-picture cameras mounted on large, structures. By moving the camera and/or the artwork in various ways, the operator added some of the "motion" to the finished film. It was a job that could be done, in basic form, by almost anyone. Or it could be a very complex, creative process.
I was good at it. I learned the tricks of the trade -- in large part because the business was then full of "old-timers" who passed their knowledge to me -- and became one of a relatively small number of people who were considered "experts."
Bad luck for me: the job paid damn well, so well that I abandoned any thoughts of going back to school and concentrated on establishing myself in "the biz."
But after doing this for a dozen years or so -- and enduring the business's seasonal slowdowns, the heavy overtime when schedules got tight and a thousand other ulcer-inducing factors -- computers began to intrude into the process. The "old ways" were beginning to fade out, and what had once been a labor-intensive creative process began to be entrusted to machines, and those who could program them.
At first, I went along with it. In the transitional stage, the old cameras were adapted to computer control. Since this didn't work all that well in the beginning, I would usually turn the computer "off" after the clients went home, and do the work the old-fashioned way. I was as fast as the machine, and more accurate.
But that stage didn't last. Computers did more and more, and I could see there was no future in what I was doing. Worse, I didn't (and still don't) even like computer-generated animation. There was something about the "old-school" product I felt was missing from the new stuff. But what I felt certainly didn't matter to anyone else. So: in with the new, out with the old.
And out with me.
I then went to work for a friend who was a real-estate appraiser. Once again, I learned quickly. In a short time, I was doing this guy's research for him and writing the narrative portions of his reports. Toward the end, I was doing the whole thing -- including setting values -- and he'd just put his name on it. We started doing some property-management work as well.
I didn't find this very fulfilling, but it was paying the bills. I might have stuck with it, but my employer was getting into some questionable situations -- this was about the time of the great "savings and loan" scandals, when some banks were failing and a lot of commercial buildings, apartments and the like were available if one knew how to get in on the "deals" -- with some fast-talking speculators.
We had a chance to develop some nice long-term situations that would have brought in plenty of money. I suggested we take the conservative approach, but he (and his new "partners") wanted to go for the quick in-and-out deals and pull lots of cash out right away. Which blew up in their faces.
It was at about this time that I met a magazine editor at a party. We got to be friends, and I suggested a story for his magazine. I have to admit I was not thinking of writing it myself (I just wanted to read what an "expert" might tell me about the subject), but he, quite naturally, assumed that I was proposing to write it.
He told me to give it a try. So I did. Three weeks later, I handed him the copy. He read it, changed not a word -- another editor called me to discuss changes, but decided to ignore the "style book" and let a few sentences that violated the rules stay as-is because she liked them -- and when it hit print, there were my words and my byline staring me in the face.
It was intoxicating.
Worse, just a few weeks after I turned it in, a nice check arrived in the mail. We hadn't discussed money (see how seriously I was taking this as a possible career?) and I was stunned at how much they paid.
I was hooked.
The rest, as they say, is history. Or, in this case, the subject for a later entry.
15 hours ago