Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Big Wake-Up Call.

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....

Thursday, September 17, 2009

7 things, with asterisks and explanations...

...and the footnote-y bits will take up much more space than the basic list!

My good friend* Mr Ballistic** suggested, in his own low-key way, that four of his friends -- including Yours Truly -- should dilate on this subject: "Seven Things I Like to do Alone."

This made me stop to think for a moment. Are there seven things (aside from certain bodily functions) I actually like to do alone?

What I quickly realized is that many, if not most, if not all of the things I like doing while flying solo -- including sleeping, showering, eating, and all activities listed below -- are also things that can be wonderfully satisfying when shared. Probably all are better with the right company around and/or involved.

I've been doing too many things alone lately*** as it is. I'd even welcome company when I'm cleaning my damn apartment, and the visitor wouldn't even have to help. These are lonely times in the Scribbler household....

But I digress. On with the list!

1. Driving. Not talking about runs to the supermarket here. Those are just necessary, and are hardly ever fun. I'm talking about long jaunts on the open road****, with a purpose and/or destination in mind or otherwise, or my occasional forays onto a race track*****;

2. Working with my hands. One of my top pleasures is making, repairing or restoring solid objects, using my own skills and an assortment of tools. No audience is required during the process;

3. Writing. There have been a few instances when I enjoyed putting words on paper while someone else was around. I know I'd feel that way again if the right person wanted to hang around during the so-called "creative process," and promised not to laugh too loudly as they perused my raw copy. But it's a perfectly satisfying thing do do -- when it is satisfying, mind you -- on one's own;

4. Music. This is an odd one. Ham that I am -- or was when I had the chops to perform in public****** -- I enjoy just laying down sounds for my very own self to appreciate. I'm more adventurous without an audience, more inclined to stop after a mistake and learn from it, rather than try to cover up;

5. Walking. A great mind-clearing exercise. I can focus my thoughts on good things******* and block out the bad. Endorphin production helps, too;

6. Reading. A really good book demands concentration. Anyone in the room distracts me******** and it seems unfair to subject either the book or the person to that;

7. Photography. When I am in full-serious mode with a camera, no one else is there anyway so far as I notice. It's just me and what I see through the lens. Of course if what I see through the lens is a person********* that changes the dynamic in a big way.

There! Got to seven**********! A good thing, too, as the "*" key is starting to emit strange little puffs of smoke; must be due to overuse....

I won't lay this "seven things" task on anyone. If you want to do it, you're on your own. I'll hunt you down and read it, though....

* and I don't mean "good friend" in the way cheap politicians do, which is "potential voter/donor" or "someone famous I've never met to whom I want to suck up," But more like "better friend than he realizes."

** makes me kinda think of "Mr Majestyk," a book/movie combo I really dug.

*** on a strictly involuntary basis!

**** day-long or longer.

***** I have been known to enjoy speed-loving company in the latter case, and it's also jolly good fun to turn a hapless passenger's face bright green! I could tell some stories....

****** yes, I actually did that. But it has been 10-plus years, and assuming I can one day get back in the musical saddle, is a fair way in to the distant future.

******* real or imagined.

******** as if I would complain if subjected to such distraction again!

********* I have a short list of potential human subjects still to cover photographically.

********** well, ten, if you count the three things mentioned earlier in this post.