Al Franken: Another person I don’t know, but like

Al Franken Giant of the Senate book cover

It’s funny that we say things such as, “Ooh, I like that Joan Cusack!” or, “Ugh—I can’t stand Shingy!” when we don’t actually know these people. At all.

Joan Cusack SRSLY gif

Srsly! I like you.

Well, I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but I myself have definitely said both of the above things, verbatim. It’s the vibes these people project, I guess, even from a screen. It’s the way we see them emote, the work they choose to do, the few and possibly decontextualized things we hear them say. Still, I realize that expressing these sketchily formed opinions, while it can make for easy conversational fodder with our friends (and foes), is kind of… dumb.

Nonetheless, I found myself issuing another hastily wrought impression of a celebrity recently, when I chanced to see Senator Al Franken discuss his new book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. I suppose I’d always had a basically positive impression of the man, though I never really followed Saturday Night Live, or Minnesota politics. But hearing Franken wax eloquent about the basic decency of Democratic values, the intractable Antonin Scalia, and the tough political row to hoe we all now have before us did genuinely endear me to him, though we’ve never so much as made eye contact.

Thanks for a fun and enlightening time, Senator! I now like you almost as much as Brooke Gladstone.

Brooke Gladstone WNYC knit hats project

OMG—remember when Brooke personally crocheted a bunch of hats as thank-you gifts to WNYC donors?! *swoon*

A reluctant blogger finally gets into blogger-hood

If you know much at all about me, you know that I’ve never had a Facebook account or an Instagram account. I signed up for Twitter in 2009 so I could join Medium, but I’ve so far tweeted exactly once (to my local NPR morning show host so I could recommend he do a story about the awesome combination washing machine repair and rock collecting shop in my old neighborhood). I have been on Flickr for the past decade, and have somehow posted over 18,000 photos there in that time, but I have also accrued only 18 followers, which says something about how much I care to advertise it. The list goes on thusly.

Galah bird in Onkaparinga, Australia

One from the Flickr archives: 27-year-old me about to receive a finger bite from a gas station owner’s pet Galah bird in Onkaparinga, Australia. That’ll learn me to poke!

All of it to say that as long as blogs have been around (probably 20 years), people close and not so close to me alike have suggested that I start one. Of course I understood the idea (I’m a writer! we have the Internet! therefore, I should write on the internet!), but my reluctances ran several:

1) I’m not particularly techie, and wasn’t particularly interested in learning how to blog from the software standpoint.

2) While I have come to love writing in many genres and spend a lot of my days doing it, my most favorite writing pastimes involve composing personal work for specific audiences (journal entries that only I see, letters and emails for friends…). I didn’t want to feel like this supposedly-fun pursuit was actually work.

3) Conventional wisdom holds that the best blogs are somehow focused—on food, travel, relationships, the world’s largest collection of taxidermied frogs depicted in various everyday life situations*, etc. Since I like to write about all of those things, and many more!, how would I ever imbue my blog with a sense of focus, purpose, and cohesion?

Most of those reasons finally stopped stopping me in January of last year. At that time, I was a half-year in to my new full-time freelance writing life, for which I’d already gone through the learning pains of setting up an entire website (with a lot of help from friends like Claire here!), so the tech thing was no longer so intimidating. I found I was actually enjoying challenging myself to write in different genres, and slowly became more and more curious about how blog writing would compare to the other types I’d recently gotten practice with (including ghostwriting, post-translation polishing, and drafting static pages for websites). Plus I now had a natural focus for my blog: my life as a freelance writer! And since that in itself encompasses a lot of topics, I felt I could justify squishing them all into one blog with “freelancing” as the overarching umbrella.

Blog tags

A screenshot of my blog post tags. Too eclectic? Nah.

Since the start of 2015, I have come to enjoy these weekly diversions from writing blog posts for inspiring nonprofits and newsletters for unique conferences to reflect on the work I’ve recently done and life I’ve recently led.

As a (somehow unexpected) side benefit, I’ve also found myself crossing paths with some awesome fellow bloggers. Here are two I believe are worthy of sharing with you now: they also got roped into the Liebster Award madness recently, and both (to my amazement) took the time to post responses to the 11 funky questions I posed when I nominated them!

Have a look?

  • Nicholas Peart, aka The Slider, a British-born painter, musician, songwriter, poet, filmmaker, photographer, and traveler who wrote some stuff about his time in South Africa that I very much enjoyed.
  • Neil Scheinin, who goes by the handle Yeah, Another Blogger, a fellow self-described dabbler who writes thoughtfully about a range of fun topics, including pizza, beer, and rock music (mmm!).

In response to their responses, I will just say:

  1. Nicholas, one of my favorite popcorn toppings is a solution of garlic, olive oil, and crushed red pepper. Heat that up in a pan while the kernels are popping, then drizzle it over the bowl, sprinkle a bit of salt, and you’re golden!
  2. Neil, regarding the number of seconds by which you’ve been known to extend the three-second rule (“thousands and thousands”), I can only say: NICE WORK.

Thank you both for your camaraderie, and your good writing, in this big old Internet world. Knowing I’m in the company of such excellent dudes makes me a less reluctant blogger every day.

*Okay, Froggyland is a website, not a blog. But I’ve been dying to mention it, so I just shoehorned it in here. Apologies to the purists. (But aren’t you also speechless??)

I laughed, I cried: The Holidays 2015

Lots of laughs and a few tears—of happiness!—this holiday season.

We started off in the Pocono Mountains, on a tour of its famed, fading Honeymoon Hotels.

Initially, we’d picked this particular excursion for its renowned tackiness and kitsch—and there was plenty of that!—but we did also find ourselves drinking a bit of the kool-aid. These are “couples-only” resorts, so there are no kids around; it’s also not a desperation-dusted singles scene. We’d never participated in this exact type of scenario before, but by day two, we were feeling its effects, mostly characterized by an intoxicating influx of relaxation.

Evidently, the air was so thick with romance that we lost our senses and (ready?) got engaged! Mr. Sock Monkey is holding the place of honor until further notice.

Sock Monkey

Dramatic reenactment

Before departing, we were able to see some of Pennsylvania’s many other points of interest:

Then it was off to Charleston, where we met Arthur’s family and our friends Danielle and Ryan for a festive few days of swamp-traipsing, firework-exploding, and remembering to mash the garage door button.

Oh, to make this writing-related (and because it’s so cool), I’ll add here that the aforementioned Danielle is a fabulous writer and writing teacher; we met as fellow students in Emerson College’s creative writing program. Last year, Danielle was anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2015, edited by huge-wigs David Lehman and Sherman Alexie. Holla!! She was also just today published in the wonderful On Being blog. Love you, Dani!

I’m quite sure I’ll be writing about more of Danielle’s superhuman accomplishments in the year ahead, as well as about regional travel, cool families, notable signage, and mycelium. Looking forward to all.

Here’s looking at you, 2015! You will live long on my Flickr page and in my spiral-bound journal. And a big hello to 2016 and all the opportunities for obsessive documentation you are sure to bring.