For some reason, I've been thinking today of a scene that was part of some classic World War II movies: there is an officer in a natty gray uniform and peaked cap, a virtual dead-ringer for Erich von Stroheim. He looks at another officer slumped resignedly in a chair and says "Do you haff a pistol? If zo, I suggest you draw zuh proper concloozhuns!" Blackout. Sound of gunshot....
No, I'm not thinking of even considering so drastic a step. But I am feeling more of a kinship for the failed officer in the chair. Reality is not only knocking, but it's doing its best to break down the freekin' door.
My reach has always exceeded my grasp. Like one of those amusement-park machines that has a little claw you can manipulate to pick up a toy monkey or a snow globe with a penguin in it. My few attempts with those always ended with the claw grasping air. And so it is now.
When I feel as if I'm making progress in life, something always comes along to slap me in the face with a wet fish. For example, two weeks ago I got an assignment from a former client, one with whom I enjoyed working, but that has fallen on rough times. I traveled to Utah for them, cranked out a not-bad story for them, even received a check in fairly short order. My connection there was pleased. When I not-too-subtly hinted that I was ready to do more, he informed me that, while I was at the top of the freelancer's list with them, they were still committed to doing everything possible in-house to save money. It might, he warned me, be some time before anything else came along.
I have also been working for the publishing company that I regard as being something less than ethical, simply because they offer me work. On the chance that they might pay -- eventually -- I've been writing for them. Photographer D sold them a bunch of articles on the basis of me writing the texts. All well and good, except I finally received discs of the images he shot. They are, in a word, awful. Amateurish, badly lit and in lousy locations, I can only guess that the editors didn't really look at them before giving the okay.
So, since I won't get paid unless they actually print the stories, it falls on me to talk to each editor and say, in effect, "are you sure?" I'm sure as hell not going to write word one before knowing the stuff will run. A sticky situation, to put it mildly.
All this leaves me wondering: am I ever going to get any momentum going, or is this the way it will always play out?
As of now, I'm tending to believe the latter. And if I'm going to be eternally involved in a scramble for scraps and bits and pieces from here on, I'll have to do some serious soul-searching.
After all, I've already given up -- or simply lost -- a lot that was pretty damn important to me over the years. I have readjusted my sights downward time and time again. There will come a point when that's no longer even possible, much less comfortable or desirable.
And yes, there is Something Else (isn't there always?), not related to work. I won't write about it -- it'd be nice to save at least a shred of dignity -- but I will say it is a matter of unrealistic hopes and simple inattention to what is versus what I wish could be. There's no fool like an old fool, you know.
Bah. I have lived for too long on pats on the head for my work and various other forms of intangible appreciation that don't do much to make actual everyday life more bearable.
There was a time, longer ago than I care to remember, when my major concern was whether I should actually buy myself a new Ferrari. (P.S. In a rare fit of practicality, I didn't. That was an unusually wise move for me in those days....)
Now, I'm sitting slumped in a chair, and I can hear the tap-tap of von Stroheim's boots coming down the walkway....
19 hours ago