Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spitten Image

Most of my life I have been told, "You look just like such and such." It hasn't happened to me as often lately, perhaps because I have stayed pretty much within a small range of acquaintances, friends and family, perhaps because I am older. Last night my niece told me, "I was in Kroger last night when I saw someone who looked just like you. I kept looking at him, so he of course kept looking back. I was close to him in the checkout line and I kept saying to myself, 'Say something, Uncle Arlo.' But he never did and I finally had to accept that it wasn't you." Another story, going back to 1968: I was in Long Beach, CA, having coffee in a restaurant. The waitress was deep in a story about her break-up, when the fellow she was talking to asked, "What does he (her ex) look like?" She turned to me and said, "Him." Well, that same month I ended up in Manhattan. I met a fellow who put me to work. The first day of our acquaintance, he told me I reminded him a great deal of George Gobel (Is my spelling correct? I'm referring to the late comedian often called Lonesome George). I replied that people always confuse me with others this way. It all depends on the particular subjective fantasy they have going on at the time we meet. He was dubious, as he told me a few days later, until a further incident occurred. We were moving a young woman's belongings from her old apartment to a new one. The first time I spoke to her she said, "You look and talk just like my ex boyfriend." Every time I spoke or did anything she said things like, "Wow. You're freaking me out." 

This type of thing began when I was in my teens. Walking along the street, two guys in the back of a police car. The car went slowly by and the guys were looking at me, halfway grinning. "That's him," one said. A few months later, walking again, some girls began calling me Frankie Avalon. One man I worked for called me "Mason," because he said I looked like James Mason.

I also got mistaken for other than the mongrel mix I am. I have been identified as Spanish, Italian, Jewish and other. The Spanish I could see, since I have Choctaw, Tejas and Cherokee Indian. Some of the others are a stretch. To me it's both fun and a challenge, particularly when I experience prejudice for being something I am not. Walking too close to a couple and hearing the man tell his wife, "Let Big Luigi get by." Or hearing somebody tell somebody else, looking at me, "He looks too much like a greaser." 

I suppose I am too old and just don't get around enough, anymore. But I only look like myself to others, these days. Or, do I?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Sawing Off of Manhattan Island

From the book ALL AROUND THE TOWN by Herbert Asbury, copyrighted 1934, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

One of the most axtraordinary hoaxes ever perpetrated in New York originated in the fertile imagination of a little dried up old man named Lozier, who had amassed a competence as a carpenter and contractor and had then retired to enjoy life. For almost two months during the summer of 1824 Lozier's fantastic activities, which he carried off with the enthusiastic assistance of John DeVoe, a retired butcher better known as Uncle John, kept a considerable portion of middle and lower class New York in a veritable frenzy of excitement.

In those early days a favorite loafing place was the old Centre Market at Grand, Baxter and Centre Streets. A dozen long benches lined the Grand Street side of the Market, and every afternoon from spring to winter they were filled with amateur statesmen, principly retired small businessmen, most of whom combined scant knowledge with excessive gullibility. Chief among them were Lozier and DeVoe. There Lozier revealed one day that he and New York's Mayor Allen had had a long conversation about Manhattan Island and had reached the conclusion that it was much too heavy on the Battery end, because of the many large buildings. The situation was rapidlybecoming dangerous. Already the island had begun to sag, as was plain from the fact that it was all downhill from City Hall, and there were numerous and alarming indications that it might break off and sink into the sea, with apalling losses of life and property. Lozier and the Mayor had decided therefore that the island must be sawed off at Kingsbridge, at the northern end and turned around, so that the Kingsbridge end would be where the Battery end had been for ages. The Battery end, of course, if it did not fall off in transit, would take the place of the Kingsbridge end. Once the turn had been made, the weaker end of the island would be anchored to the mainland, thus averting the danger of collapse.

It turned out that Lozier and the Mayor were not in complete agreement as to the best method of accomplishing the mighty task. The Mayor thought that before Manhattan could be turned around it would be necessary to detach Long Island from its moorings and tow it out of the way, returning it later to its proper place. Lozier finally convinced him however that there was ample space in the harbor and the bay.It was at lengthe decided therefore simply to saw Manhattan Island off, float it down past Governors and Ellis Islands, turn it around, and then float it back to its new position. Mayor Allen turned over the whole project to Lozier, instructing him to employ the necessary labor and to superintend the work.

The few who were inclined to scoff were soon silenced, if not actually convinced, by his earnestness and by the acclaim that had greeted the announcement of the project. And, as Lozier pointed out, the construction of the Erie Canal, which was nearing completion, had once been called impossible even by competent engineers, and much derision had greeted the prediction that steam ships would one day cross the ocean. If man could run a river through the very heart of a mountain, and if he could use a simple steam engine to propel a gigantic boat, why couldn't he saw off an island? Nobody knew the answer and Lozier's story was swallowed, hook, line, and sinker.

A few fays after he had started the ball rolling Lozier appeared at Centre Market with a huge ledger, in which he proposed to record the names of all applicants...Big ledgers soon bore the names of three hundred men...

Lozier further arroused cxonfidence in his scheme by notifying various butchers to begin assembling the enormous herds of cattle, droves of hogs, and flocks of chickens which would be necessary to feed his army of workmen....

With his food supply assured, Lozier engaged a score of small contractors and carpenters to furnish lumber and to superintend, under his direction, the building of the great barracks which were to house the workmen during the sawing operations. A seperate building was ordered for the convenience of the twenty or thirty women who had been employed to cook and wash...He told the building contractors to wait, assuring them that by using a new method of building that he had devised they could easily erect the necessary buildings within a few hours.

The excitement was now at a fever heat, and Lozier added fuel to the flame by producing elaborate plans for the various appliances which were to be used in the project. First, there were the great saws with which Manhattan Island was to be cut loose from the mainland. Each was to be one hundred feet long, with teeth three feet high. Fifty men would be required to manipulate one of these giant tools, and Lozier estimated that he would need at least a score. Then there were twenty-four huge oars, each two hundred and fifty feet long; and twenty-four great cast iron oar locks, twelve on the Hudson River shore and twelve on the East River. A hundred men would bend their backs at each oar. Great chains and anchors would keep the island from being swept out to sea in the event that a storm arose.

Lozier kept delaying the commencement of actual work by professing dissatisfaction with the estimates on the oars and oar locks and by insisting that he had not hired nearly enough men to do the job properly. At last, however, the "numbers became so thick and pressing," as DeVoe later wrote, that Lozier was compelled to fix a date. He instructed all who were to have a hand in the great work to rport at the Bowery and Spring Street, where they would be met by a fife and drum corps which he had engaged to lead the march to Kingbridge. Laborers were there by the score, many accompanied by their wives and children; the contractors and carpenters drove up in style, escorting wagons laden with lumber and tools; the butchers were on hand with cattle and hogs, and carts of crated chickens. Practically everyone who had ever heard of the project was there, in fact, excepting Lozier and DeVoe. 

When several hours had elapsed and they had still failed to appear, a volunteer delegation went to Centre Market in search of them. They found a message that the two had left town on account of their health.

The crowd at Bowery and Spring Street milled about uncertainly for another hour or two. At last, for the first time in weeks, if not in years, some of the more intelligent of Lozier's victims began to think, and the more they thought, the less likely it appeared that Manhattan Island would ever be sawed off. Gradually this conviction spread, and after a while the crowd began shamefacedly to disperse. A few of the more hotheaded went looking for Lozier, vowing that if they couldn't saw off Manhattan they could at least saw Lozier off, but they never found him.

 Lozier and DeVoe had fled to Brooklyn as soon as Lozier had issued his final instructions, and had sought refuge in the home of a friend. There was much talk of having them arrested, but no one seemed willing to make a complaint to the authorities, and so admit that he had been duped. Lozier and DeVoe went scott-free. However, it was several months before they again appeared at Centre Market, and when they did Lozier found himself an oracle without a temple. The Centre Market statesmen had had enough.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Steady Progress

I may be slow, but my progress is steady, these days. It takes me longer to revise a first draft than to compose in the original, in part because I second guess every thought, every word, several times. Does that make for superior writing? Nope. Not necessarily. But I want to turn in something with energy, that a reader will pursue, with relish, to the last page. Right now I am in the middle of the eleventh of forty six chapters.

I want to turn in an honest manuscript, detailing a man's odyssey, from debauchery, to the family lifestyle he craves, told with irreverence and humor, while preserving serious respect for the near army of characters involved. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

James Thurber Quotes

All human beings should try to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why. 
James Thurber 

He knows all about art, but he doesn't know what he likes. 
James Thurber

He who hesitates is sometimes saved. 
James Thurber 

Human Dignity has gleamed only now and then and here and there, in lonely splendor, throughout the ages, a hope of the better men, never an achievement of the majority. 
James Thurber

- More quotations on: [Dignity] 
I hate women because they always know where things are. 
James Thurber

- More quotations on: [Men And Women] 
I loathe the expression "What makes him tick." It is the American mind, looking for simple and singular solution, that uses the foolish expression. A person not only ticks, he also chimes and strikes the hour, falls and breaks and has to be put together again, and sometimes stops like an electric clock in a thunderstorm. 
James Thurber 

I used to wake up at 4 A.M. and start sneezing, sometimes for five hours. I tried to find out what sort of allergy I had but finally came to the conclusion that it must be an allergy to consciousness. 
James Thurber 

It had only one fault. It was kind of lousy. 
James Thurber

"Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." 

"You can fool too many of the people too much of the time." 

"The dog has seldom been successful in pulling man up to its level of sagacity, but man has frequently dragged the dog down to his"

When all things are equal, translucence in writing is more effective than transparency, just as glow is more revealing than glare. 

Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead to confusion and unhappiness.

My drawings have been described as pre-intentionalist, meaning that they were finished before the ideas for them had occurred to me. I shall not argue the point.

It is better to have loafed and lost than never to have loafed at all.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

So, I Pull Out on the Main Street ---

The wife and I decided to go farting around this afternoon. As soon as I pulled away from the neighborhood, this white car, possibly an Altima, barreled up the street from behind, as belligerently as possible. I kicked it up to my top speed for that stretch of road, which is 55. The other car inched up very nearly to my bumper, signalling preparedness to pass us up. The oncoming traffic cleared away and the car surged forward, but just enough that the driver could take a look at my face.

"Mm; old guy," he apparently noted. 

The car swerved back in behind me and clung, inches away from my Ranger's bumper. This went on about a quarter of a mile. We neared a light, and that car took the turning lane. I held to the regular one. We stopped, neck and neck. Then, I did the dumb thing.

I opened my door, without having gotten a glimpse of the occupants of the other vehicle. Turns out there were three laughing and giggling kids, about 16 to 18 years of age. The mirth turned instantly to grave concern as I poked my head out and stood up beside them.

"You god damned little bastards," I said.

Then it occurred to me that the kids could drive through the light to get away from the irate old man. They might have run into another car, possibly causing injury or death. I got back in the truck and the light turned at the same time.

We went our separate ways.

Got to get a hold on myself in these situations. Not good at all how I handled it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Being From Texas

On Being from Texas...

When you're from Texas, people that you meet ask you questions like,

"Do you have any cows?" "Do you have horses?"

"Bet you got a bunch of guns, eh?"

They all want to know if you've been to Southfork.

They watched Dallas.

Have you ever looked at a map of the world? Look at Texas with me just
for a second. That picture, with the Panhandle and the Gulf Coast, and the 
Red River and the Rio Grande is as much a part of you as anything ever will 
be. As soon as anyone anywhere in the world looks at it they know what it 

It's Texas.

Pick any kid off the street in Japan and draw him a picture of Texas in the 
dirt and he'll know what it is.

What happens if I show you a picture of any other state?

You'll get it maybe after a second, but who else would?

Even if you do, does it ever stir any feelings in you?

In every man, woman and child on this little rock the Good Lord put us on, 
there is a person who wishes just once he could be a real live Texan and get 
up on a horse or ride in a pickup.

There is some bit of Texas in everyone.

Did you ever hear anyone in a bar go,

" you're from Iowa? Cool, tell me about it?"

Do you know why? Because there's no place like Texas.

Texas is the Alamo.

Texas is 183 men standing in a church, facing thousands of Mexican 
nationals, fighting for freedom, who had the chance to walk out and save 
themselves, but stayed instead to fight and die for the cause of freedom.

We send our kids to schools named William B. Travis and James Bowie and 
David Crockett and do you know why?

Because those men saw a line in the sand and they decided to cross it and be 

John Wayne paid to do the movie himself.

That is the Spirit of Texas.

Texas is Sam Houston capturing Santa Ana at San Jacinto.

Texas is June teenth and Texas Independence Day.

Texas is huge forests of Piney Woods like the Davy Crockett National Forest.

Texas is breathtaking mountains in Big Bend.

Texas is shiny skyscrapers in Houston and Dallas.

Texas is world record bass from places like Lake Fork.

Texas is Mexican food like nowhere in the world, even Mexico.

Texas is the Fort Worth Stockyards and the Bass Hall.

Texas is larger-than-life legends like Willie Nelson and Buddy Holly,
Earl Campbell and Nolan Ryan, Denton Cooley and Michael DeBakey, Sam
Rayburn, George Bush, and George W. Bush.

Texas is great companies like Dell Computer and Compaq.

Texas is huge herds of cattle and miles of crops.

Texas is ocean beaches, deserts, lakes and rivers, mountains and prairies, 
and modern cities.

By federal law, Texas is the only state in the U.S. that can fly its flag at 
the same height as the U.S. flag. Think about that for a second. You fly the 
Stars and Stripes at 20 feet in Maryland, or
California, or Maine, and your state flag, whatever it is, goes at 17. You 
fly the Stars and Stripes in front of Pine Tree High in Longview at 20 feet, 
the Lone Star flies at the same height - 20 feet.

Do you know why? Because we place being a Texan as high as being an American 

Our capitol is the only one in the country that is taller than the capitol 
building in Washington, D.C.

We included these things in as part of the deal when we came on. That's the 
best part right there.

Texas was its own country. The Republic of Texas.

Every time I think of that I tear up.

It makes you proud to be a Texan!

If you are a REAL TEXAN, ...

1. You measure distance in minutes.

2. You've had to switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.

3. Stores don't have bags; they have sacks.

4. Stores don't have shopping carts; they have buggies.

5. You see a car running in the parking lot at the store with no one in it 
no matter what time of the year.

6. You use "fix" as a verb. Example: I am fixin' to go to the store.

7. All the festivals across the state are named after a fruit, vegetable, 
flower, or animal.

8. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both 

9. You carry jumper cables in your car ... for your OWN car.

10. You know what "cow tipping" and "snipe-hunting" are.

11. You only own four spices: salt, pepper, ketchup, and Tabasco.

12. You think everyone from a bigger city has an accent.

13. You think sexy lingerie is a tee shirt and boxer shorts.

14. The local papers covers national and international news on one page but 
requires 6 pages for football and hockey.

15. You think that the first day of deer season is a national holiday.

16. You know which leaves make good toilet paper.

17. You find 90 degrees F "a little warm,"

18. You know all four seasons: Almost Summer, Summer, Still Summer, and 

19. You know whether another Texan is from southern, middle, or northern 
Texas as soon as they open their mouth.

20. There is a Dairy Queen in every town with a population of 500 or more.

21. Going to Walmart is a favorite past-time known as "goin wal-martin" or 
off to "Wally World"

22. You describe the first cool snap (below 70 degrees) as good chili 

23. A carbonated soft drink isn't a soda, cola, or pop ... it's a Coke, 
regardless of brand or flavor.

24. You understand these jokes and forward them to your friends no matter 
where they live in case they are planning to visit.

A wise man once said, "Never ask a man where he's from;
if he's from Texas, he WILL tell you.
If not, there's no need to embarrass him!"...

I received this in an email some time back.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

More Reasons to Love Tony Bennett

In 1944, Bennett (then Anthony Benedetto) was drafted as a teenager into the Army in the closing year of World War II. He was assigned to the Seventh Army, 63rd Infantry Division of the 255th Regiment, G Company, and was deployed to France in the harsh winter of 1945. By March, he and his fellow servicemen had reached Germany, where they were sent to the front lines and where Bennett witnessed a hell of a lot of death and destruction.

“Nighttime was the worst,” Bennett wrote in his autobiography. “We couldn’t light any fires to keep warm; we couldn’t even light a cigarette, because the glow would be detected by the Germans and give away our position.”

The final official mission of the 255th Regiment was the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp in Landsberg, a town just 30 miles south of Dachau. “I’ll never forget the desperate faces and empty stares of the prisoners as they wandered aimlessly around the campgrounds,” Bennett wrote. “Once we took possession of the camp, we immediately got food and water to the survivors, but they had been brutalized for so long that at first they couldn’t believe that we were there to help them and not to kill them…To our horror we discovered that all of the women and children had been killed long before our arrival and that just the day before, half the remaining survivors had been shot…The whole thing was beyond comprehension.”

Bennett’s service turned him into the ultimate peacenik. “The first time I saw a dead German, that’s when I became a pacifist,” he told Howard Stern in 2011.

“We couldn't light any fires to keep warm; we couldn't even light a cigarette, because the glow would be detected by the Germans and give away our position.”
“Anybody who thinks that war is romantic obviously hasn’t gone through one,” he wrote in his autobiography. “Actually the war comedies like M*A*S*H and Catch-22 are probably a more accurate depiction of war than the ‘guts and glory’ films, because they show how pathetic the whole enterprise is…Every war is insane, no matter where it is or what it’s about. Fighting is the lowest form of human behavior…No human being should have to go to war, especially an eighteen-year-old boy.”

After Germany surrendered, Bennett was stationed there as part of the Allied occupying force. It was during this period that he was caught fraternizing with a black soldier—at a time when the U.S. Armed Forces were racially segregated. As a result, an Army captain literally spat on Bennett’s corporal stripes and assigned him to Graves Registration, where he had to dig up the bodies of deceased military personnel.

This brush with institutionalized racism changed Bennett’s life, and informed his decision to sign up with the Civil Rights Movement. He participated in the historic 50-mile Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. To rally the crowd, Bennett sang on a makeshift stage constructed out of dozens of empty coffins.

“I didn’t want to do it, but then [fellow singer and social activist] Harry Belafonte told me what went down…how some blacks were burned, had gasoline thrown on them,” Bennett told CNN last year. “When I heard that, I said, ‘I’ll go with you.’”

In 2007, he stopped by The Colbert Report to discuss his marathon career, and marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I thought everybody should,” he said. 
For his strong support for civil rights, the Martin Luther King Center gave him their “Salute to Greatness Award,” and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame added his footprint to their array of heroes and icons.

From helping to defeat fascism in the ’40s to crooning with Lady Gaga today, he’s led a uniquely remarkable life. And if someone wanted to bestow upon Bennett the official title of “Greatest Living American,” they would certainly have a strong case for doing so.

I don't recall who wrote this. I lost the link.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Nice Dance

Right in front of the Happy Luck grocery store, I hear a simultaneous gasp from several throats. Which conjures an instant crowd with a dozen pointing fingers. Then I see it for myself. I see a woman is twisting in the wind, doing her fatal dance.

We look on with fear and fascination, anticipating the sudden splatter. But, a curious thing happens. She is coming down in the slowest motion possible. It's like she's floating and slowly sinking, but her dress is billowed and rising as with a great force of rushing wind. Like she is falling slow to us, but at a normal speed to her. Meaning she must eventually reach the sidewalk and eventually must splatter, even though it's slow motion. Her bones would slowly jar and shatter and meat rend apart by degrees, eventually becoming bloody and disgusting. Unless we do something to stop it. We must get a net. A high pile of mattresses. Something! 
I single out a guy to tell him my idea, but he's on a cell phone already, calling 911 and suggesting the same thing. 

I stand. Nothing to do but wait. The woman has only dropped one story so far. I see her ebony hair, her scarlet dress, scarcely more. I dig for a smoke. Flat package tells me I'm out. Well - There seems to be plenty of time. I press to the store to snag a fresh pack. The Happy Luck clerk refuses to let me in.

"You come back," she says, refusing to take her eyes away from the spectacle in the sky. "You come back." 

I look around. I need a smoke. My eye search ends at Mac's Bar. Just when I start to go there I see people being jostled. Two men have emerged from the same building the woman fell out of, humping to get to Mac's. A truck of a man with the largest head I ever saw leads this weasel-like guy, roughing geeks who are not fast enough or who simply won't move. I fall in their wake.

"Take it easy," this fat lady says when the big guy plows her to the side. 

Thinking I am with the first two, she attempts to hit me with her hand bag. But there isn't room in the crowd to swing it. The weasel bumps another lady. 
"Get out of the way," he says without giving her a glance.

I chase these bums into the bar. I watch them order.

"Beer. Tap." 

The big one settles on the stool, like a grizzly bear.

The Weasel sits straight, looking at the door.

"Me, too," he says with a slight nasal tone. 

I order a beer and smokes. 

"Drink up," the weasel says. "I'll buy your next."

I realize he is talking to me. He slaps his glass down, missing the coaster. "Me and The Ball's celebrating," he says. 

"What for?" I ask. 

The Weasel smiles. He sees me dig in my pocket for my lighter. "Here." 

He lights my smoke. 

I pull a deep drag. "Thanks." 

The weasel takes up his drink. "Think nothing' of it." 

I knew by their demeanors, their cheesy suits, these punks were chiselers. I wondered what they were celebrating. The Weasel sits so straight his spine must be unbendable iron. 
His ice-blue eyes come out at me. I see a scar that cuts a line in his forehead, then stops after splitting an eyebrow.

"I didn't push her," he says. "The Ball didn't neither." 

My eyes widen. "You were there? You knew her?"

"She's my sister; also a junkie. She took a leap. That's it, isn't it, Ball?" 

The one known as The Ball gulps his beer. He slides his glass across the dull surfaced bar. 
"Another," he says.

The Ball hunches his shoulders. "She stiffed us," he says. 

"Yeah. The Ball would a killed her but she jumped."

The Weasel looks darkly into space a moment. He recovers, drinks more beer. 

The Ball amiably quaffs his second beer, his beach ball head looming over himself and the bar. His eyes are small, brutal, pig eyes. He could have drained a pitcher as easy.

I jump to my feet.

"What's your hurry. I was about to order you another beer."

"No thanks. I've got to be there. See how they save her."

"They won't. Say good-bye to Marie for me."

I feel slapped. "Don't say her name. I didn't need to know that!" 

"It's Marie M-----," the Weasel says, lifting his glass in a final toast. "Say good-bye for both of us." 

The Ball lifts his glass also. "Don't never stiff the Ninth Avenue boys."

I rush outside, see Marie dangling, like Joan of Arc, her doomed eyes on the crowd. Right now she is almost eye level. There is nothing under her but cold solid concrete. I rush a fireman, grab the front of his yellow jacket. He fends against me, slaps me off. 

"Where's the net?" I scream. " Why didn't you save her?" 

"Hey, we tried. There's a pile of life saving equipment here if you just look. But it was, like, somehow against nature to be able to put one there, I guess because it ain't possible to go get one in the time it takes to fall off a building." 

I look in her eyes as her head slowly sinks lower than mine. These eyes have the ice, just like her brother's, only more human. Her red lipstick is a mess. Her eyes have dark rings. Her nose is slightly hooked. I look back to see the Weasel standing just behind me. He walks up to his sister, nodding his head up and down.

"You always told me to take a leap. This time, it was your turn," he says.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Driving Across Texas

"Then we were in New Mexico and passed the rounded rocks of Raton and stopped at a diner, ravingly hungry for hamburgers, some of which we wrapped in a napkin to eat over the border below. "The whole vertical state of Texas lies before us, Sal," said Dean. "Before we made it horizontal. Every bit as long. We'll be in Texas in a few minutes and won't be out till tomorrow this time and won't stop driving. Think of it."
We drove on. Across the immense plain of night lay the first Texas town, Dalhart, which I'd crossed in 1947. It lay glimmering on the dark floor of the earth, fifty miles away. The land by moonlight was all mesquite and wastes. On the horizon was the moon. She fattened, she grew huge and rusty, she mellowed and rolled, till the morning star contended and dews began to blow in our windows — and still we rolled. After Dalhart — empty crackerbox town — we bowled for Amarillo, and reached it in the morning among windy panhandle grasses that only a few years ago waved around a collection of buffalo tents. Now there were gas stations and new 1950 jukeboxes with immense ornate snouts and ten-cent slots and awful songs. All the way from Amarillo to Childress, Dean and I pounded plot after plot of books we'd read into Stan, who asked for it because he wanted to know. At Childress in the hot sun we turned directly south on a lesser road and highballed across abysmal wastes to Paducah, Guthrie, and Abilene, Texas. Now Dean had to sleep, and Stan and I sat in the front seat and drove. The old car burned and bopped and struggled on. Great clouds of gritty wind blew at us from shimmering spaces. Stan rolled right along with stories about Monte Carlo and Cagnes-sur-Mer and the blue places near Menton where dark-faced people wandered among white walls.
Texas is undeniable: we burned slowly into Abilene and all woke up to look at it..."
------- Jack Kerouac, "On the Road," .1957

Monday, March 21, 2016

Career Advice - And More

Advice from Mike Rowe:

Hey Mike!

I’ve spent this last year trying to figure out the right career for myself and I still can’t figure out what to do. I have always been a hands on kind of guy and a go-getter. I could never be an office worker. I need change, excitement, and adventure in my life, but where the pay is steady. I grew up in construction and my first job was a restoration project. I love everything outdoors. I play music for extra money. I like trying pretty much everything, but get bored very easily. I want a career that will always keep me happy, but can allow me to have a family and get some time to travel. I figure if anyone knows jobs its you so I was wondering your thoughts on this if you ever get the time! Thank you!

- Parker Hall
Here's Rowe's genius reply: 

Hi Parker,

My first thought is that you should learn to weld and move to North Dakota. The opportunities are enormous, and as a “hands-on go-getter,” you’re qualified for the work. But after reading your post a second time, it occurs to me that your qualifications are not the reason you can’t find the career you want.

I had drinks last night with a woman I know. Let’s call her Claire. Claire just turned 42. She’s cute, smart, and successful. She’s frustrated though, because she can’t find a man. I listened all evening about how difficult her search has been. About how all the “good ones” were taken. About how her other friends had found their soul-mates, and how it wasn’t fair that she had not.

“Look at me,” she said. “I take care of myself. I’ve put myself out there. Why is this so hard?”

“How about that guy at the end of the bar,” I said. “He keeps looking at you.”

“Not my type.”

“Really? How do you know?”

“I just know.”

“Have you tried a dating site?” I asked.

“Are you kidding? I would never date someone I met online!”

“Alright. How about a change of scene? Your company has offices all over – maybe try living in another city?”

“What? Leave San Francisco? Never!”

“How about the other side of town? You know, mix it up a little. Visit different places. New museums, new bars, new theaters…?”

She looked at me like I had two heads. “Why the hell would I do that?”

Here’s the thing, Parker. Claire doesn’t really want a man. She wants the “right” man. She wants a soul-mate. Specifically, a soul-mate from her zip code. She assembled this guy in her mind years ago, and now, dammit, she’s tired of waiting!!

I didn’t tell her this, because Claire has the capacity for sudden violence. But it’s true. She complains about being alone, even though her rules have more or less guaranteed she’ll stay that way. She has built a wall between herself and her goal. A wall made of conditions and expectations. Is it possible that you’ve built a similar wall?

Consider your own words. You don’t want a career – you want the “right” career. You need “excitement” and “adventure,” but not at the expense of stability. You want lots of “change” and the “freedom to travel,” but you need the certainty of “steady pay.” You talk about being “easily bored” as though boredom is out of your control. It isn’t. Boredom is a choice. Like tardiness. Or interrupting. It’s one thing to “love the outdoors,” but you take it a step further. You vow to “never” take an office job. You talk about the needs of your family, even though that family doesn’t exist. And finally, you say the career you describe must “always” make you “happy.”

These are my thoughts. You may choose to ignore them and I wouldn’t blame you – especially after being compared to a 42 year old woman who can’t find love. But since you asked…

Stop looking for the “right” career, and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable. You can always quit later, and be no worse off than you are today. But don’t waste another year looking for a career that doesn’t exist. And most of all, stop worrying about your happiness. Happiness does not come from a job. It comes from knowing what you truly value, and behaving in a way that’s consistent with those beliefs.
Many people today resent the suggestion that they’re in charge of the way they feel. But trust me, Parker. Those people are mistaken. That was a big lesson from Dirty Jobs, and I learned it several hundred times before it stuck. What you do, who you’re with, and how you feel about the world around you, is completely up to you.

Good luck -

P.S. I’m serious about welding and North Dakota. Those guys are writing their own ticket.

P.P.S. Think I should forward this to Claire?