I confess that I have not yet even nearly finished the enormous copy editing job of cleaning all of my 2012 posts to publish as a book. I find myself revisiting my previous conclusion that I would allow the blog posts to stand on their own and not even go through the process of contacting each commentator and asking them for permission to publish their comments in a book. But on some of the posts, some of the comments were frankly better than anything I’ve written and it feels as though any book would be incomplete without those reactions. I was so pleased that two people whom I thought had drifted away in the past year, posted comments replying to my last post. It really was like finding out I still had a couple of friends I’d though I had lost. Life seems really complicated sometimes.
The ways that online social life is and isn’t just like offline social life is one of the things I had meant to talk about rather more than I did. I also notice that l did a bit of building up and fore-shadowing early in the year that I quite failed to follow up on. In retrospect I can only give myself about half-credit for my decision a bit less than half way through the year to implement Just Three Words. The first posts, especially were clever. Over the course of the year I was somewhat hit or miss– some of my three word posts were quite well done, but other times I clearly struggled with the formula, and at the very least was guilty of lazy writing sometimes. I was not, however, guilty of leaving out the gay stuff. While I didn’t and don’t want to emphasize my sexuality on this blog, I can’t help but notice that two different pieces that do talk about gay issues were two of the most commented upon pieces I have published. I find myself agreeing with something Laura commented on a post last March. It’s 2012 and I just can’t be bothered with the same old anti-gay shit. Yet I am trying very hard to move beyond shouting ‘we’re here, we’re queer’ to actually talking to people about things that are important to me. That is not a denial of any of the wrongs that lots of queer folks continue to suffer. It’s just a decision about how I want to live my life today.
I should end this post with a short, bold faced paragraph that gives some brief biography. If I were manic and promotional as I was last March I would precede that final bio blurb with some bit about stay tuned, if there are things you don’t understand as all will be revealed. I don’t feel hucksterish enough to pull that off, so will simply close by saying once again that I am deeply grateful to everyone who visits and reads these posts. And hope that it’s a good weekend in your world.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I have mostly lost the audience I had attracted to this blog. If you’re reading this, that statement probably sounds too strong, and yet in my heart I know that it is largely true. Looking back I realize of course that the height of this blog’s popularity, around March of last year, coincided with an extended manic period. Part of me IS impressed with all of the great people I was able to draw in at the height of my mania and the great conversations we had on some of my most commented posts. But the part of me that is in fact depressed as I type this now is not surprised that I was not able to retain most of that audience over the course of a year. If you regularly visit and comment on someone else’s blog, chances are they will regularly visit and comment on your blog. While it is most always based on a genuine relationship of goodwill, there is definitely a quid pro quo and the fact is that if you’re too depressed to even think about visiting your friends’ blogs, few of your blog friends are going to make the time in their own busy schedules to visit and comment on your blog.
I find myself genuinely mourning the loss of so many of the other blogger and social media relationships that have fallen by the wayside this year. Sometimes I know it really is as Billy Joel once sang “...you say a word out of line, and find that the friends you had are gone forever. Forever.” It really does seem to me that when I published Why I Don’t Wear A Button Anymore and in the discussions that followed on that post I lost a whole bunch of friends, trying as I did to be a neutral host who welcomed friends with vehemently disagreeing perspectives to both be a part of my blog comments. I confess I rather envisioned myself presiding over a high brow salon, where great minds came to disagree (respectfully) on big important issues. But loosing a dozen perhaps great commentators really knocked out the great discussions I’d been attracting, and as the year went by other friends also drifted away, as the places we each hung out online evolved and changed . Which is why I have almost a thousand Facebook friends….and only a handful of people read my blog.
It is easy of course to blame mission inflation on Empire Avenue for a great deal of the lost visitors and comments. Last March I offered a 500 eaves mission and got four dozen or more comments on a post. The last time I tried to use missions to get blog comments, I offered 25,000 eaves and was frustrated beyond belief that there were still people who took the eaves and didn’t leave a comment. The inflation, and the fact that many of my closest friends whom I chat with all the time intimated that they didn’t like having to leave a comment for my missions, led me to reluctantly just stop trying to use missions to drive comments. Lately it seems that even 10K to press the Like and Share buttons often draws in only a few takers. Last year Empire Avenue was the secret to how I drew all sorts of great visitors and commentators. This year, I can’t make it work worth a damn. I have been thinking that what I should do, is try to follow up with some of the folks who have drifted away. In most cases we remain Facebook or Twitter friends. Part of me fears that it would be low class or rude to try to talk publicly with people who have drifted away. But I think that more of me is curious and hopes that some of these folks…..may have more they are willing to share or say on this site.
It’s unusual for me to be aware of my mood cycling as it happens, but I had not been awake for more than half an hour this morning when I realized I had cycled from manic to depressed. It seems as though I had been very manic for a very long time. It is almost a relief to be past that, though it also sucks to feel like something that was dragged from the sort of wreckage pictured.
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It seems as though people associate depression with sad emotions but it really isn’t that way for me. It’s much more about being tired and listless and not wanting to go anywhere or do anything, in contrast to the manias when I’m just unbelievably energetic and enthusiastic and always ready to take on or start up a zillion new projects. I sleep 12 to 14 hours then wake up tired and mostly just want to go back to bed all day. I have an errand that I need to run this afternoon, but honestly I’m unsure if I will be able to force myself to get up and go do it.
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I did go run the errand yesterday. Two hours of driving in the rain. Came home and felt exhausted and slept another 12 hours last night. It’s not the sleeping so long that makes these depressions so debilitating. It’s how tired and lifeless I feel even after the long sleep. Part of me knows that the long stretches of sleep are needed to make up for all of the hours and hours and hours that I stayed up– as long as 72 hours– when I was so hyper and manic. But the lack of energy and the wanting to just crawl in a hole and hide is certainly a drag.
Life is funny. My friend Ryan tagged me in a post and I wrote something to the effect that “I’ve tried and tried and tried” but just can’t seem to finish an update to my book.” But after commenting in that thread and then wandering into a few other threads where I still have lots of Empire Avenue friends. Cautiously, I opened the file. I read over the entire book, including all of the revisions and additions I had already made. I typed a couple of new paragraphs. I read it again. And decided that Walking Down The Avenue is ready for copy-editing and beta reading. I’ve already sent the manuscript out to several people and I expect that I will release and begin promoting the new revised Walking Down The Avenue around March 1st.
I realized today that I have been rather manically babbling about my friend Susan’s novels for at least two weeks now. I will be publishing and promoting two more Susan book reviews. And then come March I will be shifting into talking about my own book. In one sense, that I got more than 300 of my social media guru friends to read and tell me how great the earlier version was, was a kind of success. But folks who are guruing on the Avenue are really not the target audience for what really is a great Beginner’s Guide. My book would be most useful to someone if received about an hour before they started on Empire Avenue. Sadly my psychic abilities don’t work online, at least not to the extent of being able to know who will decide to try out Empire Avenue before they make that decision. Sometimes I can read people face to face so well it’s almost scary. But skilled as I may have become at conducting relationships in far flung pixels, I really can’t read people online.
I am hoping to recruit some of my friends who continually invest in new users to be ambassadors for my book to the newly arrived. I’m thinking that when my friends are already buying shares, saying hello and trying to start relationships with them, they might could say a few words about this very helpful and useful guidebook that takes away so much of the confusion and mystery of one’s early days on the Avenue. I’m thinking that if I provide four or five blurbs, which could be inserted into any sorts of messages, on EAv, on FB , etc. my friends might be able to convince some newbies to invest a dollar to save themselves weeks if not months of learning curve. If you’ve been on the Avenue awhile and would be willing to help promote the book to new players, please leave a comment or shoot me a message on Facebook. Except for to experienced players who will help with proof-reading, fact checking and promotion, I’m not going to give away ANY free copies this time. My goal is to find a way to sell 300+ copies to the actual intended audience. Wish me luck?
I hope it was a happy Mardi Gras for you, wherever you are and however (if ever) you celebrated fat Tuesday, the last day of Carnival. Growing up in New Orleans one becomes aware at an early age of the idea of ‘a time and place’ for different parts of life. That Carnival is a six week festival of very public partying and revelry that culminates on Mardi Gras, is somehow balanced by the six weeks of Lent which immediately follow. I don’t know if really serious Christians still fast for Lent, but Lent is a season of sacrificing and giving up pleasures. In our modern world of 24 hour mega stores where pretty much everything can be bought pretty much any time, it is easy to forget how Lent fit into the leanest days of the year in more agrarian times as the bounty of the harvest runs out and people wait hungrily for the first green shoots of spring.
I’m feeling a lot of gratitude to two big G’s in my life– Remco Geelen and Michelle Gilstrap. Both of these wonderful friends put up missions to get folks to invest in me. While I have not yet made the two scoops of centurian thingy, my share price is up to 196.97. I remember when I went over 100 way back when, it will take days to get within striking distance and then it will happen quite quickly. But whatever my share price, the real value is having great friends who take it upon themselves and go out of their way to help you. I am more grateful to thse folks than I can ever express.
My own resolution for Lent is to give up the Just Three Word thingy. I did have a lot of fun with it, but it has begun to grow a bit stale for me. And even when I manage to do a good job with the three reader-selected words du jour, those posts are not usually very engaging and don’t often draw a lot of comments and discussion. What about you? Are you giving anything up for Lent? If you are, do you allow yourself to indulge in what you have given up on Sundays? (When I was growing up in New Orleans, most people it seemed to me did not keep to their Lenten deprivations on Sundays.) Please leave a comment and let us know what you’re giving up for Lent.
Today is a writing day. Just finished working on a review of my friend Susan’s new book (which will be posted tomorrow) and I have recently been getting back to working on a long-stalled pseudonym that I am kind of thinking may be the best thing I ever write. I’ve been toying with the idea in my mind for years and I did finally set up a blog and made an all to brief start. And then I cycled down or the moon changed or whatever it is compels me. And then the other day I got notice that it was time to renew the domain. And I went back and took a long critical look at the writing I had done on that project.
It seems to me that I have achieved some success on social media and with my blogs. On Facebook and on my blogs and such I use my wallet name and am happy to chat about almost anything, occasionally excepting religion and politics and never ever talking about my sex life. I have been so much happier since I changed my primary focus from my book review blog to this personal essay site. Unlike Susan, I don’t believe I will ever be great novelist. But I do believe I can aspire to becoming a great essayist. I hope those long time friends and fans who’ve been following along, however erratically, since my first blog post have come to see real improvement in my writing and presentation. This blog is almost ideal for me. Except of course that sometimes what I most want to write about is my sex life. And now that I have finally realized that what I really need to do on my “sex” site is to write with the same kind of directness and intimacy I’ve tried so hard to achieve on this site, on that site. Whether the topic is Poking Straight Guys On Facebook or….oh….no….I don’t even want to hint at one of my sex post titles here.
The point is the blog really is a great medium for me as a writer. And all of those book reviews and all of these essays really have been a kind of warming up for the writing that I most want to do. And so my pen name has been busy gadding about the countryside, living it up so that I can come home and write it down. All of this activity under a pen name I don’t ever plan to share with anyone who reads me under this name, really has taken a lot away from the time I used to spend on Facebook and Empire Avenue. I continue to hang out with the folks I think of as my social media guru friends, in their top secret hideaway I’d have to kill you if I told you about it. Oops. I will try hard to keep up with my Monday and Thursday schedule over here, especially after a very long weekend of play leaves me not wanting to get up off this couch today.
I believe with all of my heart that I am luckiest man alive. I have all my basic needs met. I have family and friends who love me and take care of me. And I get to spend my days doing what I what to do and then when I am feeling done I come home and write about it and try to create something that maybe some day may be considered art out of nothing more than my crazy ideas and a vocabulary that is actually bigger than my err wick. I’m now re-reading on my tablet Jack Fritscher’s iconic Some Dance To Remember. I sometimes wish I had the camera skills of protagonist Ryan Stephen O’Hara. Most times I think I’m going to be able to persuade my best friend to do the graphics to make the site ready for prime time. Here’s hoping it’s as good a Thursday in your world as it is in mine.
My face is not especially florid this Monday morning, though my pen name did have a busy weekend of living it up that I may write it down. (A nod here to Jack Fritscher– the cop with the body of an NFL linebacker could easily play Kick if they ever do a movie of Some Dance To Remember.) I find myself today feeling grateful that I am retired and have the week off to recover from the weekend, which was at times so pleasurable and euphoric that I was almost afraid I might lose all sense of gravity and float away into the welkin in a state of pure bliss.
I fear whatever I put down here today will be a yawp that fails to reach comprehensibility let alone eloquence. Sometimes it seems as though there is just so much noise in the world. And today I find myself thinking about sounds that are so totally human but do not involve words. From a newborn babe’s first cry to a dying old woman’s last gasp it occurs to me that there are a great many non-verbal noises we can make over the course of our lives. These non-verbal sounds can at times be much more eloquent than words and may in fact convey meanings that are somehow beyond that which can be conveyed with mere syllables of grammar. Perhaps those sounds of great passion or great pain have an eloquence of their own that is also beyond words.
In the album Pyramid, The Alan Parsons Project famously sang the old maxim that ‘what goes up, must come down’, and having spent the weekend way up there I begin the week feeling as though I have come way down from those heights I scaled on Friday and Saturday. I’m reading my friend Susan Wells Bennett’s new novel Just One Note (it’s fantastic by the way) and trying to get my tablet to download the copy of Some Dance To Remember I bought on a whim when I looked it up to put in the link above. I find myself looking forward to Fritscher’s magical version of San Francisco once I finish Susan’s wonderfully imaginative tale about the many ways one woman’s life can turn out. These three words were among the oldest in my drafts folder and I’m afraid I haven’t a clue who suggested them to me. But whomever you are, I do thank you.
Gomer Pyle got married. The Seattle Times reports that Jim Nabors, the actor and singer best known for his portrayal of Gomer Pyle USMC, recently visited Seattle where he and his long time male partner took advantage of Washington’s new gay marriage law to legally wed. I don’t believe that I had ever heard before that Nabors is gay. Having come of age in an era when the only gay men most folks encountered were drag queens (rather the antithesis of the big butch Marine) the news of Nabors’ gay wedding struck a chord with me. A bit of Googling revealed that Nabors is an honorary Marine. He is pictured at ceremony in Hawaii in 2007 when the U.S. Marines promoted him to the rank of honorary corporal. I can’t help but wonder if the Marines, who praised Nabors for his lifetime of service and embodiment of Marine Corps ideals, were aware of his sexuality.
Were Nabors canine rather than human, I feel certain he would be not a tiny chihuahua but a huge St. Bernard–clumsy and goofy and very friendly and lovable. I do remember watching Gomer Pyle on television as a child, and I was aware of Nabors’ prolific career as a recording artist, although I can’t honestly claim to have ever been a big fan of his singing. (He does have a beautiful deep voice, but I was much more into rock and pop styles that became popular well after his hey day.) It appears as though Nabors (who is 82 years old) has been retired from show business for some time. It sounds as though he and his husband have lived quietly in Hawaii for many years now, no longer monitored by the paparazzi and gossip mongers who so relentlessly track celebrities.
I started working on a new short story. I was reading the newspaper and getting very agitated. Ron remarked that my distress was painful to watch and gently reminded me of the advice I’ve previously given him– to write about what’s bothering you. It’s good advice, even given back. I strongly suspect the finished product will not be worthy of a gold star, though I suspect I will probably publish it in this space. And who knows but that someone may read it. And agree. Or disagree. Or be pleased. Or pissed. Finally today my thanks to A A Tech who suggested today’s words.
Fun has long been my primary motivation for publishing this blog and participating in all sorts of social media. And when it really stopped being fun I had to just take a break. I am genuinely more grateful than I can ever express to each and every visitor who has left a comment for me on this site. I really, really value the comments I receive and the real joy for me is all of the conversations I’ve had in the comments on different posts. I admit that sometimes I try very hard to make my posts comment-worthy, ending them with a provocative question to the reader, that often times does get a number of different people to share their reply. And I really have been amazed at the many wonderful discussions that have taken place.
I am re-visiting the use of Empire Avenue missions to draw comments to these posts. I had saved up my daily income for four days to be able to offer a 25K comment mission. Only to have eight people take the eaves and not leave a comment. And then one of them sent me a flame on Facebook. I really don’t like feeling ripped off and getting into flames and acrimony with people I don’t even know. That just is not how I want to spend my time and energy online. I would so much rather talk about cooking mirlitons. In many parts of the world this hard, delicate squash is known as a chayote, but in Louisiana they are called mirlitons. They are a bit of a chore to fix. You start by boiling them (whole and unpeeled) for an hour or two, until they can be easily sliced in half. Let them cool and then remove the seeds at the center of each. Make sure you get out all of the seed which may have a thick outer layer that tries to get left behind. Dice the mirlitons and set aside. Meanwhile, chop two onions, one bell pepper and one bunch scallions or green onions. Also chop up about a cup of diced ham.
Saute the onions in a bit of butter and oil, then add the mirlitons and the ham. Saute on medium heat for 1–2 hours, until the mirliton is very soft. Season with salt and peppper and add a cup or so of panko breadcrumbs. Turn into a casserole dish and bake covered for 90–120 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional fifteen minutes. Allow the casserole to cool a bit before serving. The mirlitons have such a light, delicate flavor it is always a treat to make this. I apologize that I have done nothing whatsoever to incorporate apples or dinosaurs or a woman named Mercedes into this post. I am trying real hard today to keep my focus on having fun with my blog and meeting people and making friends. I resolve not to worry even a tiny little bit about who does or does not comment on this post. And to seriously consider if perhaps my friend was right when she suggested I was maybe taking the whole Empire Avenue thing Way too seriously.
I find myself this Friday luxuriating in the garden of tablet owners. Less than a day after receiving my new tablet (my Third tablet if anyone is counting) I am back at the level I had been stuck on in Angry Birds and have started re-reading Jenn Thorson’s There Goes The Galaxy. I am listening to an old Lene Lovich album and thinking to myself ‘life is good’.
I honestly have no idea what this 1971 photograph of New Orleans, showing the intersection of Canal and Royal Streets, looking towards the lake has to do with the search terms ‘garden bay palm’, and yet this image showed up in my Wikimedia search for these terms. The picture certainly brings back memories for me. Although not until many years after the date shown, I worked for years at a Waldenbooks store that was one block down, along the right hand side of the street. Rather like David McAlary’s mother in Treme, I came to take the streetcars rather for granted. Although at some suitable elementary school age I had a birthday party on the streetcar. All of the parents brought the children to the streetcar barn where we boarded and were taken for a a round trip all over town. We had cake, ice cream and presents on board and all enjoyed a birthday party travelling the streets of New Orleans.
I find myself wondering if perhaps it is the palm tree (mostly hidden behind the stop light and no left turn sign) that caused this image to come up. There are lots of palm and banana trees in New Orleans, though I more associate giant oak trees like those that line St. Charles Avenue as the iconic trees of New Orleans, which lies between a big river and a big lake. It is a ways inland from the Gulf of Mexico, a sea much too large to be called a mere bay. Here’s hoping you’ve had a great week and that it’s a happy weekend in your world. And finally today my thanks to David Forbes who suggested today’s words.