Back when I was in college, I knew what my life would be like. I would work in political consulting – I was, and remain, a complete political junkie – in Washington DC.
Things went off track almost immediately. My grades kind of sucked at Virginia, so right after graduation, I decided to move to Prague. I didn’t do this because I was adventurous or super cool, I did this because I wanted to appear adventurous and super cool. I wanted to distract attention from the fact that I couldn’t get a job.
I’m not blind, you know, so I know very well that there are folks out there who are posting blogs three or four times per week. And don’t think that doesn’t make me feel terribly inadequate, when the most I can manage is maybe a blog posting every, oh, three decades or so.
What does that say about me? Or more importantly, what do I think that says about me?
We all write differently. Me, I’ve never been able to just hammer out a blog and post it. I know people can do that. My problem – and believe me when I tell you that I am loathe to admit this – is that I am worried about putting up something bad. Or dumb. Or embarrassingly bad and dumb.
To preempt this embarrassment, this is my defense mechanism, which I use so often on Liz that she could lip-sync along with me:
“Oh, that blog I posted? Yeah, I just wrote it in, like six minutes. I didn’t even think about it. I don’t even really remember writing it because I wrote it right after I fell off the roof when I was up there cleaning the gutter. Most of it I wrote on the way down, actually, and I polished it up as I was trying to regain feeling in my lower body. So it’s probably not a great entry, but remember that I didn’t spend much time on it.”
The truth is that I spent about a week on it, sweating blood and banging my forehead with a boot.
There are more than a few differences between my current hometown of New Canaan, Connecticut, and the city of New Orleans, but I don’t know that those differences are ever more pronounced than they are on Halloween night.
I was on a flight at the crack of dawn, leaving Toronto after several days spent at the International Festival of Authors. (Canada has made me feel like an honorary citizen this past year; if my arms were long enough, I’d hug the entire country.) Bleary-eyed, I scrolled through Facebook on my iPhone, checking out the photos my friends were already posting of their young children in costumes.
There were little bears and monkeys, there was a little boy dressed as a banana. From my own home Liz had sent me a short video of two and a half year old Finn, who was living out his life-long fantasy of becoming a real live pirate (with an infectious, swashbuckling glee that I imagine very few actual pirates ever possessed), and our beautiful little Lucy, dressed as a pumpkin.
New Canaan, like thousands of small towns across America, looked like a giant Anne Geddes photo shoot.
This particularly Halloween, however, Liz and I came down to New Orleans for the National Orientation Directors Association conference, where I’ll be speaking, and Halloween down here – to use a tired but apt phrase – is like visiting a parallel universe. The date is the same, the concept of dressing up is the same, but… wow.
Friendly’s has six menus, and one of those menus is dedicated to appetizers and entrees whose principle ingredient is melted cheese. Why they need the other five is beyond me, but my best guess is that we need other food items to help us understand how the absence of melted cheese can sadden and dismay a restaurant goer.
I, and I imagine many of you, struggle daily with trying to eat not-terribly-unhealthily. I tell myself that I’m not doing a bad job. I’m right in the median weight for my height, people don’t get panicky when I step onto elevators with them, their heads jerking around looking for the maximum weight capacity.
No, I think it’s fair to say that I’m a reasonably trim fellow, and when I successfully hide the fact that walking up a long flight of stairs has me breathing heavily, I can often fool people into believing I’m even in fair shape.
But then from time to time I am reminded just how far behind I am lagging.
Unless you had a wedding planned for the weekend, you can be forgiven for getting sort of excited about Hurricane Irene. What is it about these impending natural disasters that makes us so giddy right before they arrive?
We pretend – we do – that we’re all really worried about it. And again, if you’re some kind of traveling circus and you’re imagining the big top getting ripped out of the ground, netting up a few lions and your bearded lady and dropping them on the roof of some elementary school down the road, then yes, maybe you were actually dreading it.
But the rest of us? I don’t know. I think it comes down to one thing – everybody wants to be a part of history. We all want to be survivors. We want, in truth, to be the guy who has a story to tell at the dinner party. Natural disasters offer us that. It offers us, if only for a short while, a shortcut to being the most interesting guy in the room.