We took a long weekend and headed to Jefferson City for a few days with our good friend John. Away from the office and the nattering requirements, we shared good food, conversation, music. There were a couple of side-trips and opportunity to make a couple of new images.
I like these.
I’ve been sitting here thinking about the regret I’m starting to see from many quarters. Like a bad one-night-stand that came with a surprise wedding ring, that face just won’t go away, and all the skull sweat in the world won’t change the reality. Yes, you did that.
Believe it or not, I have some personal insight into this, one I’d forgotten about. Mind you, this is minor league, childish stuff, but startlingly relevant.
Long ago, as a teenager, I was a member of the DeMolay. Junior Masons, basically. Named after the last grand master of the Knights Templar, Jacques De Molay, who King Phillip the Fair (there’s a name for you) tortured and then put to death when he sacked all the Templar temples looking for gold and endeavoring to erase his debt to the Templars. Legend has it when the raids began, the king’s men found empty temples, no gold, and managed to arrest only a handful of Templars before they could escape, among them Jacques.
Fast forward and we have the establishment of a youth branch of the Masons in 1919. Anyway, it was cool in a very adolescent way. Secret rituals, passwords, officer positions, and we got to wear these excellent black satin capes and carry ornamental swords from time to time. It was one of the rare times I willingly joined something like this and it was fun for a couple of years.
Now, we did do a lot of community service, charity work, and other things. There was serious purpose to the organization and we did some meaningful things. Obviously it was a stepping stone into fullblown masonry, so there was grooming and preparation and the assumption of responsibilities. We pretty much ran our own lodge, although there were of course some adults around to make sure we didn’t get out of hand.
The officer positions were sort of on automatic rotation. Once you took a position, you ascended as a matter of course.
Except for the top three positions. Master Councilor, Senior Councilor, and Junior Councilor. These seats were voted on by the members of the lodge. Even then, it was almost pro forma. The only one of the three that ever actually was in question was Junior Councilor. Moving up from there was just a given. It was the Junior Councilor seat that was regularly empty when a Master Councilor’s term was up and he stepped down.
My third year, though, an unusual event happened—all three posts became vacant at the same time. So we had to vote to fill each one from the membership of the lodge.
I threw my hat in. A couple of others did, too, friends of mine who then proceeded to plan what we would do when we were all in the councilors’ chairs.
Only thing is, I lost every single vote.
Not just lost, but was brutally trounced, receiving two votes for each chair. I had to sit there and listen to the tallies until it was over. The other two who thought I’d be up there with them started looking at me in shock, as if to say “What the hell!”
I sat through the rest of that meeting, performed my duties, and left. I did not go back. I’d been humiliated before, but never so publicly and so thoroughly.
Best I could determine from things later said, everyone thought I would be a hard ass and make them work. I had ideas, I’d never been shy about criticizing what I thought of as stupidity, and I was not particularly popular. Naively, I didn’t think that last mattered. I thought ability was what counted. I was wrong.
I went back about six months later and sitting around with several of them in the lounge I listened to them moan about how badly things were being run and how this went wrong and that was going south in a big way and so-and-so was an ass, etc etc etc. I sat and listened with a rapidly vanishing sympathy. “We should have voted you in,” one of them said. Heads nodded all around.
I was quiet for a few moments, then stood. “Yeah, you should have,” I said. “Hindsight’s twenty-twenty. But frankly I’m glad you didn’t.”
Shocked expressions all around.
“Because I would’ve been stuck trying to manage you bunch of morons.”
I left and never went back.
I have joined exactly two organizations since.
Buyer’s remorse can be a real bitter thing. It looks so shiny, so cool! It makes those agreeable noises and feels powerful.
Then you get it on the road and find out what a lemon it is.
I have zero sympathy for those who voted for this guy and now are stunned, horrified, shocked, and disappointed at what they got. Just a reminder, I suppose, that so many people never do mature past someteen, no matter how old they are. The thing that grinds is, they saddled the rest of us with this mess, too.
Between drafts of the current project, I thought I’d relax a few minutes and do a new image. Played with this a bit…making an otherwise ordinary scene just a wee touch creepier.
I did not watch the inauguration. This is nothing new, though, I rarely do. I saw Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, I watched Obama’s, parts of it, after the fact. I would rather read the inaugural addresses than listen, but really the main reason I skip them is that for me they don’t mean much. This is the party after the fight, so to speak. Parades, lots of glad-handing, important people with lots of money doing a Hollywood red carpet thing. It’s show.
Show is important in statecraft, certainly, but it’s not important to me, so…
But the aftermath this time has been fascinating. It’s a show, so why lie about what went on? Why try to tell the national press corps that what they saw with their own eyes was not the reality? Why start with petty numbers games as if the show was the only thing that mattered?
Well, Trump does do reality tv.
However, I would like to say a couple of things here about some of the images I’ve seen—and some of the vitriol attached—after the fact.
I’m not going to say one damn thing about Melania Trump unless she starts getting involved in policy. Which from all appearances, she will not. Likewise for his kids, especially Barron. I don’t believe in that “Well, your dad’s a so-n-so, so you must be, too!” kind of schoolyard bullying. I rejected that whole sins of the father argument back when I parted ways with christianity. I won’t go there.
I will say this, though, about her supporters and detractors: hypocrisy runs deep.
The so-called Christian Right lent considerable support to this man. His wife is a former model and sex symbol. She’s done nudes. She projects an image which I had thought ran counter to the standards of that so-called Christian Right. Had Michelle Obama done anything like that, these people would have declared the advent of Sodom and Gomorrah and the End Times. (Many of them do that anyway, on a regular basis.) These are people who collectively have made it clear they see the sexualization of culture as a decidedly Bad Thing. But they voted for him anyway and got in the face of anyone who criticized Melania for being what till now they claimed to oppose. This is Through The Looking Glass Time for them and I won’t pretend to claim any understanding, other than recognizing the serious two-faced hypocrisy evident.
As to those critics who have held old photographs of her up for disdain, mocking her and her husband thereby, as if the fact that she pursued a career which many of them might have made apologies about (women have so few options, etc) has anything to do with her suitability to be something else.
Lay off. This is all part of the same bifurcated mindset that places sex in one room and everything else in another and then treats public examples of it as alternately empowering or a disease.
Just because her husband treats her like a trophy doesn’t mean the rest of us get to repurpose her for our own ends.
I have no problem with pointing out the hypocrisy of the Family Values crowd over this, but I will not blame Melania for it. We just bid farewell to a presidential family that had no sex scandals of any kind and clearly set an example as a solid, loving, neuroses-free family—who suffered ongoing derision for 8 years at the hands of people who have violated their own professed standards in that that regard to elect someone who has pretty much been a poster-boy for everything they claim is wrong with America. Well, clearly the whole thing was a deep, deep neurosis on their part. I will not blame Melania for their shallowness, lack of integrity, and evident moral malleability.
Nor will I support attempts to ridicule him by holding her up as some example of unsuitability based on the opposite neurosis attaching to women who—
Well, let me put it this way: all those who were (and are) madly in love with Hillary and feel the world has ended because she is not the president—would you have supported her fervently if nude photos of her from her college years surfaced? With all the rest of her qualifications intact, had she taken a year to do something that doesn’t fit with an image of “stateswoman”, would the love have been there?
Food for thought.
But for now, unless she gets involved with policy—and if she does, I will wait to see how and what she produces—I will not credit any shaming that goes her way.
Here it is, middle of January, and I haven’t done a wrap-up of 2016. Well, what can be said of such a year?
Politically, I think I have said enough. You can revisit if you wish, especially via the links to my favorite posts back just a little way. Personally and professionally…
I finished a new novel. It is currently in the hands of my agent. As time passes and I hear nothing the usual swarm of doubts begin to devil me. It’s probably not as good as I hope, possibly not as bad as I fear, but if things run according to form it won’t much matter. I continue to write in a manner that I’ve long characterized as half a bubble off.
Which has me contemplating where to go. I’ve decided to devote 2017 mostly to short fiction. I have one more novel to finish, the final in a trilogy I feel I’ve been living with forever, which my agent feels very positive about. Since the first two books are done and have not yet found a home, I’m not in as huge hurry to complete the third one, although of late I’ve been having some stray thoughts on where to take it that are the beginnings of an itch to finish it. Regardless, I am committed to short fiction for the time being. I’ve already written two new stories and I am working to complete a novelette that’s been sitting stewing for a bit over a year now.
I declared a goal to myself. Before I die I want to have published 100 short stories. Which means I have about 40 to go. It’s as arbitrary as any goal, I suppose. I have roughly 20 stories in my files in various stages of completion, and maybe 10 more that are done but require revision. A few have been the rounds and not found homes, so maybe I should take them apart and put them together again, only better. I have one I know that I have written four versions of to completion and can’t decide which one works best (or at all).
All of which prompts contemplation of the worth of doing what I do. Yeah, I tend to do that a lot. But one reality (out of many) is the fact that I am now 62. Figuring out what I want to do when I grow up has become somewhat problematic.
Along those lines, I had a small revelatory experience in 2016 that has been working on me since. I have been privileged to work (day-job) with some extraordinary and talented people. One of them is a new novelist, her first book came out last summer. It’s a terrific novel, I recommend it (Kea Wilson’s We Eat Our Own), and she and I have had many conversations about writing and publishing. One day when I was complaining about the dismal condition of my career, she brought me up short by telling me she thought I was very successful. “You have twelve books out.” It caused me to reassess my own metrics regarding “success.” I’m still reassessing, but I have decided to stop sulking about it. These things really are relative outside certain narrowly-defined parameters.
When I attended WorldCon in Kansas City last August, I did so with a different attitude and enjoyed the whole thing much more.
My main concern now has to do with finishing the work I want to do. I’ve got that one more novel I mentioned above, but I also have one great big epic I want to write—it’s all in the back of my head, waiting for me to get around to—and a few ideas for other books I’d like to do. Setting the 100-story goal is part of that. Finishing. Leaving a legacy.
No, I’m not dying. I in good health. I had a whole round of tests last year. I’m fine. Still going to the gym, still doing my 100-push-ups-a-day, still being a taunt to the young guys at the gym. (You’re how old? No!) But I’d be a fool to look at life the way I did 30 years ago. I don’t have time to waste.
Of course, I will waste time. It’s built in. Humans do that. We should learn to enjoy it.
Along those lines, though, things have gotten to be a bit better in that we can waste time on things we like more than in previous years. The situation that has bogged us down for the last four (which I won’t discuss here, but my close friends know about it) has reached the point of being naught but an occasional annoyance. We’ve been cleaning house, relaxing, getting to the point where we are allowing ourselves to do things like go to the movies if we choose or just sit together reading. The pressure has eased. Life seems a bit broader.
As long as we don’t obsess over the news.
No politics here, I said. Although just a comment, that the way things have come to pass, we seem to have witnessed a nationwide example of the efficacy of Dunning-Kruger. (I’ll just leave that here, unexplained for the time being.)
Culturally, I feel beaten about the head and stomach with all the deaths. The two that hit me hardest were Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. They, among others, provided the soundtrack of my youth. Their music still thrills me. Much imitated, but nothing to compare. I wasn’t happy when Umberto Eco died. David Bowie didn’t go down too well for me, either.
2017 doesn’t seem to be starting off too well itself, but…
All in all, though, 2016 has turned out to be a year in which I began to be comfortable with what I’ve done, who I am, and where I might be going. It helps to have a good partner, and I have that. Donna and I celebrated 36 years together last spring. Between us we have tackled the many-hued exigencies of timeless conundrums and come out the other side of various rabbit holes with our fluffy whites intact (if a bit rumpled and smudged). I appreciate her, in the full meaning of the word.
I have no idea where this year is going. I feel we have gotten onto a space mountain ride. We may come out on the other side of the galaxy.
One thing, though: there will be more stories. It only ends when the stories stop.
I’m giving my office a thorough resort (long overdue). Also, I’m attempting to catch up on sleep (likewise long, long overdue) and taking the first few months to relearn the art of short story (so overdue as to almost not be doable). In the meantime…the other night, coming home from work, the city was ensconced in a thick fog, and for once I pulled over to do some images. So while I am endeavoring to straighten out the physicality of my existence, for your edification…
Let us hope for more clarity as the year goes on.
2016 was a thorough-going challenge to a sane hominid’s equilibrium, regardless how you try to contextualize it. Picking the “best” posts from such a year reveals a litany of political views, deaths, and photographs designed to distract from the magma-flow of WTF that worsened as the year continued.
Still, some good things happened. I’ll try to do a more cogent overview later. For now, my “favorite” posts of the year.
The last couple of months descended into escapism and disbelief, for evident reasons. Stay tuned for more.
Still not ready to post about the year, so…
I hope everyone had a Christmas Day of comfort, some joy, and a bit of doing what you wanted to do. I hope this will find you all well.
I’m still ruminating on the events of this year. There will be a lengthy post sometime before 2017. I confess to being about as stunned by events as I have ever been.
The good news, personally, is that I’m working on new short fiction. If my office weren’t so damn cold I could do this all day. But to fill the gap till I pull ideas together for some kind of analysis, here’s a new photograph. Something to sort of sum up, visually, my feelings about this month.
May you all be well. Season’s best.