My new column at SYW!
My friends and family know me as the one person in America who gives a flying fuck about pro-cycling. They also know me as a hardcore supporter of Lance Armstrong. What this means is that whenever there is a cycling scandal, they come to me to dish, and whenever Lance is in the news, they come to me for my thoughts with concern in their voices.
Yesterday I discovered that HusBANG! did, in fact, know that Lance Armstrong was scheduled to be on Oprah this week and was rumored to be planning to confess to doping, but hadn’t brought it up because… well… I assume because he was hoping I somehow didn’t hear about it, and maybe wouldn’t ever. I am certain that whatever happens on Thursday (or rather today, when they are filming) I will have friends asking me for my thoughts, and here’s the truth:
I don’t really want to talk about it.
If the rumors are true and Lance Armstrong admits to doping, lying, large scale coverups, and conspiracy– I’ll feel like an idiot. I’ll feel I’ve been lied to. I’ll feel really silly for defending him time and time again. But mostly, I will feel the loss of a personal hero. Someone I look up to and admire.
One might argue that I am a little too old to look to sports stars as heroes. One might be right. But I don’t admire Armstrong for winning a lot of bike races. I became aware of Armstrong along with the rest of America, but I became a hardcore fan sometime after– when my life was bleak, when the odds seemed insurmountable, when I felt like I may as well just stop trying all together– and then there was Lance Armstrong. Record breaking athlete that was never supposed to live long enough to win a single Tour De France, let alone seven. A man who took that success and poured it into a foundation meant to help others dealing with cancer find support, community, and the optimism he sometimes credits for saving his life. A man, who was seemingly persecuted for nothing more than being better at his sport than a lot of other people.
I related to him on levels that are hard to explain to anyone who wasn’t me during this time. I felt inspired by him. So maybe I am too old to have heroes, but it worked for me at the time.
If that is taken from me, I am sure people will come to either give condolences or to rub my face in it. I am sure people will want to know how it felt, because I’m the only person they know that cares so much.
But I won’t want to talk about it.
It may seem overdramatic, it may not even compute with people who don’t have “heroes” in the public eye–but I will need time to grieve quietly and privately. I will need time to feel like a fucking idiot all by myself.
And if Lance is going on Oprah for some publicity stunt, if the rumors aren’t true…
I probably still won’t want to talk about it. Because let’s be honest, that’s kind of a dick move. As pro-cycling becomes more about figuring out who doped, and who gets the title after it is stripped from someone else, it is harder for me to enjoy it, or even bother to follow it. I’ve seen a lot of cyclists I followed fall into disgrace as part of the drug culture in the sport, and I just feel like I can see much more interesting depictions of druggies by reading Irvine Welsh.
This book store is the reason I’ve decided to do book store reviews on this blog from time to time (I have some brewing from my recent trip to NOLA, too). Phoenix Book Store on Main Street in the highway town of Los Banos, CA is everything an independent book store should be.
First, it is in a great location. Main Street in Los Banos is a hidden treasure. Although I have family in the area, I had not been down Main Street in something like twenty years. Most of the businesses are locally owned and run, and the street is maintained beautifully. You might mistake your walk down Main Street for a trip back to Small Town USA in the 1950s. There is a Rexall Drugs that still has a soda bar, and an amazing diner directly across from Phoenix Books that will blow your taste buds out of your head (and probably bust a button on your trousers).
The proprietor of Phoenix Books keeps the books organized by subject and author, the new and used books are mixed together somewhat haphazardly. This is amazing for a few reasons. First, if you find a new book you’d like to try, you can dig in the area around it and possibly find it used for a lower price. Secondly, it captures the wonderful things about a used book store (the musty, dusty book smell, the feeling of wonder being surrounded by towering shelves of books, the joy in finding something really unique) while still offering the new and popular releases of the here and now.
The staff is helpful and friendly, which is always a plus. No one is working at this book store solely to pay the bills. They love the books as much as you do.
There is a small, but well stocked “collectors’ section” which features rare and unusual books for just about any price range. I picked up an occult book from that section for about nine dollars, and drooled over a rare Steinbeck behind the counter. There was also a large selection of pop-collector’s books like Stephen King First Editions.
In the end, we spent something like $60 and walked out with armfuls of books. Perhaps my favorite find was an old paperback of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories with a cover price of $1.25. The used book prices are incredibly low and the new book prices are competitive. I can’t wait to go back.
If you’re rolling through Los Banos on your way to or from the Bay Area, this is a must stop for book lovers.
Tip: explore this place in the late morning and then stuff your face at the Sixth Street Diner across the street. Don’t go to breakfast first, you won’t be able to bend, twist, and crouch with a belly that full.
I went shopping for slipcovers for my sofas today. I know, I lead a very wild life–shopping for slipcovers on a Tuesday afternoon. Bear with me.
First, I didn’t realize that there are a minimum of three different types of slipcovers. I just assumed there was one basic design for different sized sofas. I was wrong. I found the one that looked easiest, most comfortable, and came in a color I liked. But I noticed something odd.
Sofa Throw Covers.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re thinking “Throw? Like a throw blanket or a throw pillow?” Yeah like that, only it’s a slip cover. Look:
It’s just a giant blanket you put over your sofa and exert a lot of energy into tucking and adjusting, just so it can slide around every time someone sits on it and stands back up.
I can only assume that some slipcover company decided that people thought only prissy people use slipcovers (those of us with hand-me-down furniture notwithstanding) and decided that they HAD TO FIND A WAY TO SELL THEIR SHIT TO THESE PEOPLE.
If I worked in the marketing department of this company, and they said “How do we sell slipcovers to people who think don’t like slipcovers?” I’d say, “We don’t. That’s not our demographic”, and then I’d sip a martini (that’s what people in marketing do, right?).
But someone said “How do we sell slipcovers to people who think slipcovers are only for prissy people?” And someone else jumped out of their seat and said “I’VE GOT IT! We design a slipcover that will never really stay on the sofa, and may actually be more difficult to use, and we’ll call it a sofa throw. And they’ll think of throw pillows and throw blankets which are just damn comfy.”
And that person got a bonus for that. For making a giant blanket that does the same thing as a slipcover, just not as well, and marketing it to people who don’t buy slipcovers.
I don’t know whether to admire the guy or worry about where our country is headed.
You are not special. You are not activists, or even “hacktivists”. You’re assholes.
Activism usually implies that there is some greater goal, that you believe what you are doing will help people, perhaps “make the world a better place.” The last few major acts of so-called hacktivists haven’t made an understandable point. What they have done is put regular people in bad places.
When a member of Anonymous took down GoDaddy today, he/she didn’t just fuck GoDaddy up. Small businesses and freelancers got fucked up. They are missing a full day’s worth or sales and/or work. My own website is admittedly, not that important in the scheme of things, but it’s down. Several sites that publish and/or sell work by indie authors are down. Regular people are losing money on this, and if you are a small business owner or freelancer, you know how much one day’s earnings matter.
And the reason? Well, the tweet explaining it verged on illiterate, but it came down to “testing” the safety of cybersecurity. Seriously?! Look, if my front window is single pane glass, I know it isn’t bullet proof–so don’t claim you did a drive by to test the safety of my window. Anyone with a brain realizes the internet isn’t safe.
Many people have complained that GoDaddy should have had better security, and I suppose that is a valid complaint, but let’s remember that the last high profile hack was reportedly the FBI. It sounds to me like this member of Anonymous did it because he could.
Well, I could go around punching unexpecting people in the face. I could steal candy from the locally owned convenience store. I could kick puppies. I don’t because I’m not a fucking dick. And that’s what it comes down to, “hacktivists”, you’re not changing the world, you’re not special–you’re just a dick.
Last night, very late, I published the latest Books And Booze podcast, so this morning I logged into Twitter to let my followers know. I glanced over the trending topics and noticed “Colorado Shooting” and “Columbine” trending, which I thought was odd, so I clicked.
The tweets featured gave me a basic idea of what had happened. I felt my heart sink and a general sense of “oh shit” come over me. Then I noticed a tweet mentioning the infant that was injured in the massacre–the person was upset that the infant was even there. I felt a moment’s rage–how is this even relevant? People are dead, those parents are likely thanking whatever they believe in that their infant survived. But it is easy enough to brush off a single sentiment from a single person on the internet.
By noon, I think I was ready to write off humanity entirely. Why? Because everyone seemed to be using this horrifying tragedy to push their personal agendas. Pro-gun people went on about how if more people were armed the man could have been stopped. Anti-gun people went on about how dangerous guns are. People in favor of universal healthcare used this as an example of why everyone needs mental health coverage. More about infants in movie theaters. More and more and more.
And I have to ask–when did the victims of this horrible crime stop being human beings?
I am sure the people posting about this thought they were doing something at least partially selfless. I am not judging their hearts on an individual basis, but I am disgusted by how this unfolded. Can we not allow the 12 dead to make it to the funeral parlor before we start viewing them as vehicles for our political beliefs? Can those survived have a moment to process everything that happened to them before we forget that they were actual human beings that had been through a real terror and neglect to mention them AT ALL when posting/talking about this event?
The political response, of course, is to proclaim that if your personal belief were held by all/put into law, that this would never have happened. The human response is to feel empathy for those who were involved. To think of the terror the survivors are likely still living in. To think of the family and friends of those who were brutally killed.
I am not special in any kind of way that really matters in this situation. I hold some of my socio-political beliefs very close to my heart. But I do like to think that I am more than those socio-political beliefs. I like to think that I am a human being before I am a member of an advocacy group, a political party, or a religion. I am so outraged right now it is hard to lay out what I really want to say, and at the same time I feel a little guilty for being outraged at these people when, in fact, there are people suffering because of this shooting in Colorado, and that’s the only reason I have something to be outraged over.
I know it’s an election year, and politicians like to make us believe the “other guy” is going to do the opposite of what we want. The other guy is going to take away our right to bear arms, or he is the one who is going to make sure every whack job in the country has a gun. He’s going to make our country unsafe in this way or that. Your religious freedom is at risk. Your freedom to be without religion is at risk. Everything is at risk! But it’s bullshit. It’s political bullshit. What happened in Colorado last night was incredibly real. People lost their lives. Others were terrorized.
So please, from the bottom of my heart, can we see these people as people, at least for a little while? Like everyone else in the country I have opinions on religion’s role in government, gun rights, and universal healthcare, but those opinions mean fuck-all to the grieving families left behind and those who likely still haven’t slept since being shot at in a crowded movie theater.
Just once this election year, can we try to be human beings first?
By now, many of you have probably read the New York Times blog “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider. It’s been blowing up Facebook and Twitter and is “the most e-mailed” NYT blog post. Most people seem to just love it (if you haven’t, you can read it HERE).
Tim Kreider is a cartoonist and essayist of some success. He has book credits, a regular feature on The Opinionator (New York Times) and several other credits many writers would kill for. He argues that being busy is a “self imposed trap”, and goes on to tell us that he has found success while writing for four or five hours a day, riding his bike, and catching up with friends. Hey, good for Tim Kreider, right? But he’s an asshole, and I’m going to tell you why.
Either he got very, very lucky and broke into the business very quickly, or he worked his fucking ass off. There is no in between in the creative world–there is blood, sweat and tears and there are overnight successes (though most “overnighters” will tell you that it only appears that way, and they put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears). Those of us in creative industries (like the artist friend he mentions who lives in Paris now, and is like, totally relaxed) know we have to work our asses off. One of the things Kreider admonishes us against is “work obligations”. Work? We should…not work so much? He also decries being “driven” and feeling like we “could do better”. Do I need to comment on why being driven and wanting better for yourself is a good thing?
Work less. I don’t even know what that means. I’m being honest. I work my ass off daily in hopes that someday a place like the New York Times will look at me with a moment’s interest. I’d love to have a book out. So…I’m fucking busy. The time I am not writing, working on a project, or networking, I am thinking about those things, or, you know, doing laundry. Us writer-types wear clothes, too. Busy means progress. Busy means I am not sitting around waiting for my dreams to come true. I’m working. I’m saying “yes” to the opportunities that knock, and yes, I am scheduling friends in, because they are kind enough, and care enough about me to want to see me succeed.
It’s not just us creative types, either. I have some friends, a married couple, who run a business in the Los Angeles area, for most that would be “busy enough”. Not them. They volunteer, they network constantly, they are involved in everything from animal rights to their local Chamber of Commerce. I have to schedule visits about a month in advance. By Kreider’s op-essay, they should be “cranky”, “dead on their feet”, “sad”. But they are happy. They are making a difference in their community, and probably brining more business to the company they work so hard to make successful. And here’s another secret–they meet people they like while doing these things. They have fun.
So, what does Kreider say to that? Did he really just wake up one morning and have the money and influence to write a few hours a day and then go do…whatever? I doubt it. If he did, then he isn’t a hypocrite, just unqualified to comment.
So, the question, I guess, is why are so many people yelling “AMEN!” to Kreider’s essay? My theory? I think we all look for reasons to dial down. Writers are infamous for getting on the net to “research” and ending up on Facebook or googling funny pictures. We say “I wrote for five hours yesterday, I’m not going to write today.” And that’s fine, it’s part of who we are (writers and non-writers alike) but we can’t forget that those people we look up to, the Lance Armstrongs, Stephen Kings, and yes, even Tim Kreiders, got to where they are because they spent a lot of time being relentlessly busy. Thankfully, most of them haven’t forgotten that. They will tell you to put the work in, make sacrifices, work your ass off. They won’t tell you to do the minimum amount of work to stay afloat (because most of us aren’t floating where we’d like to be) then go take a leisurely bike ride around the city.
In fact, most writers I know, that entertain any level of success, work harder than anyone I’ve ever met. The people who are in their thirties and working the jobs they’ve always wanted, making decent money and enjoying their life–work harder than everyone else. It’s a fact. And, there’s laundry. There’s dishes. There’s family. For most of us, there’s a day job, too.
Kreider seems to have forgotten how much work goes into gaining the life he leads. It’s kind of sad. He should be proud of working his ass off to get to a point where he can work the way he claims to. If he’s happy with where he’s at, nothing is stopping him from enjoying the privileged lifestyle so many of us would love to have.
I agree with Kreider on one point–busy-ness is self imposed. It’s what people do when they want to be great. Not good. Not moderately successful–great.
So I plan on staying busy. I hope my friends with dreams do, as well.