Posts Tagged ‘ jobbing ’

Bicycle Safety 101

2011.08.25
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THERE IS ONE INFLEXIBLE RULE which, if followed diligently, will result in years if not decades of safe bicycling: Pretend you’re invisible.

Now, many get the wrong impression on first hearing this advice — they hear “invisible” and think “invincible,” as if an inability to be seen were some sort of safety asset. As a former bike messenger and longtime bike enthusiast, it’s been my observation that many drivers either can’t or won’t see you — especially in city conditions. And that can be … problematic.

So take them up on it. If you assume that you are out there, naked, invisible, crushable, a potential ping-pong ball between iron paddles, you will not only have a much more realistic grasp of the situation but a better chance of surviving it.

If you realize that your safety begins with you, you can’t help but become more invested.

Come to think of it, that’s not a bad rule for life.

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Advice to The Younger Self

2011.08.11
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TAKE THE WORLD AND YOUR part in it seriously, but not yourself.
Never refuse anything offered, but be careful about entanglements.
You’ll need computer skills, but you’ll also enjoy them.
Write.
Stake out early your points of honor.
Dream. Then write it down.
Hold on to your comic books, graphic novels, ephemera and trading cards. (Science fiction will be some seriously big business in a few years.) Read more »

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“What do YOU like about being a spiritual leader?”

2010.12.29
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THIS QUESTION WAS POSED TO me by a friend who’s considering the path. Since I have some small experience with the subject, and some readers have some interest in it, I’m posting my reply here and will be absolutely unoffended if you skip it.

Wow. No one’s ever asked me that before, so I needed to take some serious time to think about it before replying. So first, thank you for an interesting think.

Before I reply, you need to know that I’m currently off the rabbi thing; partly because I made an unsuccessful bid earlier this year to serve my synagogue in this capacity, and since I now know I only wanted to “be a rabbi” for this community (and despite that everybody still treats me as a spiritual leader) it seems rather moot to continue my studies. But there are other reasons as well. That said, there were certainly aspects I “liked,” or more accurately, found rewarding.

The best thing to me about “being a spiritual leader” is making a difference for people in a direct, immediate way. People come to services for many reasons — duty, support, inspiration, help, grief, socializing and sometimes even to pray. To at least offer a moment of connection for those who need it is incredibly fulfilling; to have it accepted, even more so. (I always feel like I learned most about leading services by hawking for Greg; it’s important to be able to read the crowd and respond appropriately and immediately.)

But leading is not just services. Depending on the tradition you embrace, you may also be witness to (and help facilitate) some of the most powerful moments in someone’s life. What I like most about this, perhaps selfishly, is that there’s no room for yourself in these moments — you must be a pure conduit for those involved — and for a heavy egotist like me the experience is wonderfully freeing.

This next may be a specifically Jewish thing (on account of the heavy rabbinical teacher’s role), but there is also a particular joy in seeing people get excited about their really, really old heritage: that moment of “Ohhhh … THAT’S why we do this.” It’s fun to share the things which excite us. It’s also very scary to be the one passing along a tradition — you want to get it right, and you want to get it relevant — but I think a proper spiritual leader needs a certain amount of insecurity.

Seeing people smile when you enter a room is also a nice benefit. But be careful of being praised beyond your capacity to accept. Gracefully accepting gratitude is something I’m still trying to master; what I do comes naturally to me, partly perhaps because I /don’t/ see myself as being altogether worthy of doing it. I just allow it all to happen, that’s all. Like the old Grateful Dead lyric about the storyteller: “His job is to shed light, not to master.”

That’s all I can think of at the moment. I hope it helps you in some way.

Be well, good luck, and blessings.

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First-Step Messiah

2010.12.27
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CONSIDERING THE GREAT POTENTIAL CONTAINED in most human beings, and the difficulty we have getting started on projects, perhaps we might accordingly revise our notions of messianism. The Re-(or Un-)born King may not set things right so much as give us the tools and gumption we need (or point out that we’ve had them all along). After all, getting started is the hardest start to any project. Perhaps we just need a little push and can take it from there.(1)

____
(1) Disclaimer: This being Monday morning, I tend not to believe in a literal Messiah. In fact, I tend not to believe in a Messiah at all unless as metaphor or if I have a really, really bad headache. But “believe as thou wilt shall be the hole in the Law.”

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Three Reasons Why I Like My New Yorker Rejection Slip

2010.07.13
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1. THEY RECOGNIZE THE SUPERIOR QUALITY of my work by admitting that they “regret that (they) are unable to carry it in the magazine.” You can’t regret doing something that’s not regretworthy, right? Right?

2. They spelled my name right. BOTH names. I could plotz from that alone.

3. It gives me a chance to plug the original (as well as its backstory: Drifting into a reverie one afternoon, a series of images — colored panels in the style of Nicole Claveloux or George Herriman — began flipping before my eyes. I could barely write them down fast enough. That usually doesn’t happen to me; I usually compose either at the keyboard or while pacing the room. The version I sent to TNY omitted the dialog, which is inconsequential anyway; I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I sent it off. As William S Burroughs so famously quoth in Naked Lunch, “Wouldn’t you?”).

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Wanted: Art Factory

2010.07.06
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BRIGHT-EYED BUT LIMP-TAILED creator — more ideas than Warhol or Lucas with one-tenth the energy, no pretensions and no contacts — seeks talented but inspiration-dry makers to loose entertaining visions on unsuspecting populace. Preferred media disciplines: comix; publishing; publicity; cartography; lost-wax casting; rocketry and aeronautical/transorbital fabrication; costume design; beekeeping; gaming, including RPG and videotronics; orchestra; robotics; armory; theater and film/video; MOOG synthesizer; CG and model-building; architecture; laser optics.

No pay necessary — work from home in your spare time. Equal returns and credit guaranteed Scout’s honor (“A Cheery Coproduction of _YOUR NAME HERE_ and Neal’s Brain Unlimited”). No poseurs, players or funless wimps need apply. Please direct all serious inquiries (no phone calls please) to scoop at sonic dot net.

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School’s Out

2009.06.12
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TODAY IS THE WORST DAY (or one of the worst days) in any given year: it’s the last day I’ll be teaching religious school until September, which means I won’t see “my kids” until then — and I’ll be slightly stupider without someone questioning my basic Jewish assumptions every couple of weeks.

I don’t know what motivated the people who taught me, but what motivates me is the conviction that, at 12 years old, the human being is halfway between the wonder of youth and the skepticism of age: old enough to begin thinking critically and asking interesting questions, and young enough to still enjoy curiosity. When I was that age, my teachers told me not to ask interesting questions (apparently not knowing that Judiasm is all about interesting questions): thereby driving me on 23-year post-Bar Mitzvah quest for a spiritual path that did. Mind you, this world offers a variety of beautiful approaches to finding God Or A Reasonable Approximation, but I don’t want my kids to have to go to as much trouble as I did. (Of course, if they do, I expect to hear all about it — they’re all smart and love a good argument.)

And so, every year, I teach them a bit of history, a little Torah, some customs; I especially try to teach them that this rich heritage is theirs, and that it isn’t limited to a bunch of rules and some dusty bookshelves: that it’s alive, and growing, and that they’ll eventually pass it on to their own children. And that they’ll want to — not because someone said so, and not only because a moral compass (or good manners) and sense of relation are human universals (either to stand on or to kick off against).

But because we’re all here so briefly, we need all the help we can give each other. And because being a Jew, like being anybody, matters.

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Between Unravelings

2009.04.28
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After further conversation, it seems my employer has rescinded my termination — which is good news for a May 19 diagnostic. As the company’s health insurance is now guarded by a fierce COBRA, however, the financial effect is the same, and my suggestion that I be re-fired in order to qualify Ann & I for the 65% discount having met with indignation only one of us is now insured.

But the California towhees are in full urgent voice, and through across-the-creek windows the skyclutching oak is shafted with slantwise gold spilling cloudlike through the cypress behind.

Today, at least, is good.

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Poetry of News

2008.06.01
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There is a certain poetry to newswriting that’s not readily apparent to its readers — and perhaps not even to its writers.

This derives in large part, I think, from the absurdity inherent in exchanging six to eight hours a day for six to eight hundred words a story which will be forgotten by next week.

It’s the game of Reality Creation, newsriting is. My job is to tell you what happened in a place you didn’t see. Though I labor to get it right (literally, with sweat and grunting and everything), my account is necessarily incomplete and should be taken with a grain of salt. (As should everyone else’s, of course: including yours.)

This is to me, a Most Sacred Game. There is adrenaline and drudgery and laughter, an unspoken trust, the agonies of ignorance and the illusion of omniscience. The greatest challenge is in sifting through my immediate experience to share the highlights. So much gets left on the cutting room floor:

  • The moment of communicating to a bystander/potential interviewee that you know that they know It’s That Situation — and that since it’s obvious let’s see what happens.
  • Standing in front of a crime-scene house. A shotgun murder occurred in the back of the house, and all I could see of the crime scene were the eyes and faces of the four deputies in the backyard.
  • The wave of relieved wonder (and cooing) that rolls through a group of humans who’ve waited two tense hours to see the mountain lion finally sedated — and healthy.
  • The satisfaction of flashing a press pass and continuing on unimpeded.
  • The vocal nuances peculiar to those first learning what one does for a living.
  • Two other nuances: those who suddenly find themselves “on the record” and those who, gratefully, do not.
  • Yet another: those whose unwilling investment in the bank of public notice has paid unwelcome returns.
  • The unrelenting and inescapable terror of Getting It Wrong — or worse, not being aware enough to Get It Right In The First Place.

There is no other buzz quite like it. I heartily recommend it to everyone — and most especially, its detractors.

“As I look back over a misspent life, I find myself more and more convinced that I had more fun doing news reporting than in any other enterprise. It is really the life of kings.”
?H. L. Mencken, The Baltimore Sun, 1953

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First Week In

2008.04.16
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Three things:

- My beats: fire, cops, breaking news, and meetings as needed.
- I work with some freakishly smart, amazingly creative people; two of whom I have now dueled with a lightsaber.
- The Game hasn’t changed much — get it fast, get it right, and get it (or a different part of it) first. Many of the players have also changed, but the ones who haven’t seem as happy to seem me as I am to see them.

Last week also found me chasing a fire, investigating a vehicle crash (no injuries, thank Gd), touring a local farm, and chatting with a now-retiring fire chief friend. It’s great to “be” a small-town newspaperman.

Again.

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And so, to work.

2008.04.08
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It was four-and-a-half months since I was laid off from the sasonal office-manager position at a local nursery, and longer still since I worked in my official profession, when I picked up the phone to call Sonoma Valley’s newest newspaper. The conversation went something like this:

“Hi, I’ve been out of work for five years but I think I can help. Do you need any reporters?”

“Sure!”

Well, not exactly like that. But pretty close. Anyway, I started yesterday at the Sonoma Valley Sun, and will be covering fires, cops/courts, and breaking news. (In addition to whatever else is needful, like features and (I hope!) columns.) Also, I’ve reclaimed the byline “Neal Ross” (which I adopted for radio back in 1995 since nobody can seem to spell or pronounce “Attinson,” and kept for newspapering since that’s how all my contacts knew me. They still do).

There’s a saying that the One rewards men only for the merit of their wives. I don’t generally hold with Deuteronomic reward/punishment theology, but seeing the relief on Ann‘s face makes me agree with at least a small part of it … Blessed is the One who makes our wives happy.

As for me, I feel as though I’m walking in a dream. But I’d better wake up before the deadline. ;-)

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Process Served

2008.01.30
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One of the reasons I was ringing a stranger’s doorbell at 7 a.m. concerned a New Year’s resolution to “do something new each day.”

Another is that, as I’m currently on layoff, I could use the money.

My wife, Ann, has worked as a legal assistant for 25+ years (and is now working toward a career-changing BA). Occasionally her employer needs to serve process on someone (i.e., deliver the “We need you in court” papers), and if the regular guy isn’t around they ask someone else.

Today, I was the “someone else.”

Now, on the anti-authoritarian level I wasn’t too keen on the karmic consequences of hauling someone before The Man. But on the human level, knowing that my wife and her employer are ethical people acting on behalf of someone with a legitimate grievance against someone else which can’t otherwise be resolved, I didn’t mind that much.

What I did mind was not knowing what sort of situation I would be walking into. Back when I worked as a reporter, that was one of the things I dug most about covering breaking news — what was going on? Would there be someone to talk to? How would they respond to a nosy newsguy? Could I even find a place to park? But my instructions were clear: contact the defendant between 7 and 7:30, establish her identity, and hand her the papers.

My one concern was that if her new husband answered the door, he’d probably respond as I would to an early morning Ann-seeking interloper. (Let’s just say “unkindly.”) And I had to put the papers in her hand: “Could you please give these to Harriet (not her real name)?” wouldn’t quite suffice. Ann said I could wait until she entered her car, but tapping on a strange windshield in the pre-dawn hours seemed a bit … well, it just did, that’s all.

So there I was, parked around the corner from a nice middle-class (remember when there was a middle class?) split-level house in a nice suburban neighborhood at 6:49 pretending I wasn’t a suspicious character. When I began imagining the neighbors peeking through their shades and dialing 911, I got out and walked about. Down the street. Past her house, where a single light burned in the front kitchen window. Up an adjoining cul-de-sac.

It was 6:53.

Down the cul-de-sac. Glance at the house. Nobody visible. Further down the street. Up the next cul-de-sac.

6:57.

Down the second cul-de-sac. Back toward the house. Car still parked out front. Up the first cul-de-sac. Stop to watch two Canada geese honk by overhead. Down the second cul-de-sac. Glance at the house. No change.

7:00.

“‘ck it.”

Up the street. Up the walk. To the porch. Ignore the intruder light. Ring the doorbell.

Wait. Debate whether to ring again. Decide against it.

Footsteps.

The door opens; a thirtyish woman in a big white bathrobe, hair still damp from the shower.

“Yes?”

“Harriet?”

“Yes?”

Hand her the papers and, for some reason, say, “Thank you.”

“Ooookay,” she replies, knowing. “Thank you.”

Walk back to my car, key in ignition, crvooooming off to the suddenly lightening day.

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