Last year it was “Outside,” part of a goal of getting outside of my own head and being a greater part of the external world around me. That happened, to a large degree. I helped get a podcast launched that now puts me across a table from a great friend and a different guest every week and the conversations we have are wonderful and perspective-changing for me.
I haven’t gotten to travel as much as I’d like, though there was a surprise trip to New York City in the summer and more road trips than we were ever comfortable taking in the past with the kids. I got outside, though a big chunk of my time is still spent inside, nose to my phone, reading or connecting or Tweeting. That’s a habit I’m having a hard time breaking, though a lot of vacation time in December got me out of my usual habits.
Here’s the thing: I’m doing fine, everything’s great, but writing-wise, I feel like I’m kind of a mess. I did a lot of writing in 2014, maybe too much and not all of it as high a quality as I would have liked. I wrote a lot of things in a rush, I wrote a lot of other things antsy and not wanting to be sitting and just feeling my attention drifting constantly. I don’t have the patience to sit and write for hours like I used to and that’s caused all kind of problems with bigger projects.
Mostly, I’ve let my work stuff affect stuff I should be working on at home and stuff I’m working on at home distract me from getting enough rest to focus and adequately tackle my weekly workload. I perform well under pressure, but that’s been requiring constant panicked pressure, and of course that gets exhausting.
This blog is a good example of the breakdown of that cohesion. It used to be essays and personal reflections and over the last few years, it’s become a dumping ground for links to all my work projects and writing elsewhere. And since the last few posts, I literally wrote so much stuff for work and did so many podcasts that I couldn’t physically even list them all here. Even a bulleted list of all that stuff seemed too overwhelming and I spend several weeks of vacation just dancing around the idea of doing that instead of actually doing it.
And I’m kind of glad. I shouldn’t have spent my free time stressing like that. And maybe I’ll get to that now that I’m getting back into work mode, but what if I don’t? Would it be the end of the world if I didn’t deliver those blog posts to the only person who really cares about them at this point, me? Why am I such a demanding boss to myself? Can I give me a raise or something?
Bottom line is that I’ve had work/life balance issues, and not because of anyone but myself. My workplace is incredibly supportive and lenient about my work hours, work-from-home days and how I meet my deadlines. So much so that I’ve become my own worst critic, calling myself out for stuff that seems fine to everyone else and feeling guilty for not pushing myself harder on personal writing (like this blog).
So for 2015, starting from this first day of the year, I want to have better cohesion of those separate parts of me. Of Work Omar1 and Freelance Omar and Dad Omar, to make those guys work together instead of compartmentalizing and putting them at odds with each other. Am I the only one who feels like he’s wrangling different selves? Should I not have watched “The One I Love” right before bed?
There used to be a very clear line in my business between home writing and work writing and pretty organically, those lines have largely gone away. But I haven’t allowed myself to embrace that instead of creating more lines.
So, “Cohesion.” 2015.
That’s my word of the year.
And maybe I’ll get to those other catch-up blog posts, maybe not. I’ll let Complete Omar decide on that soon.
I hate when people refer to themselves in the third person. That’s Douche Omar talking, sorry.
The plan with this blog, what it has come to, is me telling a little story, a mini-essay maybe and then launching into all the stuff I’ve been working on since the last blog post. This blog started back in 2000 (!) with the intent of just being the place to put all my online stuff so I wouldn’t have to go hunting around the web for it later.
It still serves that purpose, even after all the changes to the online world, from online journals to blogs to microblogs to whatever the Hell it is we’re calling what we do on sites like this these days. I still need a place to park all the things I want to be able to find later if I need to find them. And if I can entertain or Say Some Stuff along the way, all the better.
But this blog is not my main gig, not even close, and hasn’t been for a while. If I lost my job tomorrow, you can bet it would be my first rallying point of retreat. But I’ve been a bad combination of busy and lethargic, manic and exhausted, barely hanging on with some deadlines, way far behind on other important ones, and it’s easy to get paralyzed and discouraged and Why Bother/Who Cares? about it all. I don’t like that and this blog was making me feel that way because of a post I’ve been working on, quite literally, since September.
And it’s not even like a great blog post, not a “Wait till you read THIS shit!” masterwork manifesto. It’s just a blog post full of links and stuff I’ve been working on and cute photos and that sort of thing. But here’s the thing… that blog post kept growing. And growing. And every week, as I wrote more stuff and recorded more episodes of Statesman Shots, this work-in-progress blog post couldn’t keep up with the stuff I wanted to put in it.
So I feel behind. And further behind. It got to where it was basically Lucy and Ethel with the chocolates conveyor belt. I used to think that bit was kinda funny. Now it haunts every waking moment.
Rather than continue to try to whip up this gigantic thing that has built up into an impossibility in my mind, I’m going to take the easier route and try to GTD this shit into submission.
The blog post, this gigantic thing I have been afraid to tackle in anything more than feeble late-night attempts, is going to be broken down into its core components. Will it be complete as I wanted? Who the fuck knows? Will it all make sense? MOST LIKELY NOT! Will I be a little saner doing it this way, spreading out the labor over a few nights? I sure hope so.
How will it be divvied up? I think tonight’s post, the first of four or five posts this week, is going to be the little mini-essay I was working on. That’s coming up here in a sec. And after that, I’ll probably do a post just about all the stuff I’ve been doing at my day job (exciting!) and about some news I want to share about some radio stuff I’ll be doing soon (also exciting!). I want to do a post about Statesman Shots because these blog posts have sort of been sort of serving as an episode guide in lieu of one on our actual blog/site.
What I said earlier about having a place to park all my stuff? One thing I have learned from being in a big media company that lives on the web is that you can’t trust that stuff will always be around. Things you worked so hard to get online have a way of just disappearing before you know it, and I’ve always taken it upon myself to catalog it all here, even if the links may one day rot and dry out.
I’d like to do a photos post because in these two months, everything from Halloween to Wurstfest to The Daily Show in Austin have happened.
And I hope that by the end of these few posts I figure out how I’m going to do this in the future (or if I’m going to) because clearly my current model is unsustainable.
But enough complaining. Here’s the thing I wrote a few weeks ago that now feels oddly distant, like some other dude wrote it and asked me to edit it. And I guess that’s really what it is; Past Omar is asking Present Omar to take the wheel and get this thing published.
So I’mma do that. And then post a bunch of other stuff in the next few days that has been building up.
That first post follows:
It’s hard to say where my head is these days because I’ve done such a good job distracting myself by being really busy.
I don’t do well with inactivity, and I know that’s a little bit of a problem, but I swear I sleep better, eat less and overall am less anxious when I’m busy with things I not only have to do, but want to be doing.
And some would call it overextending, but I rarely get in over my head with stuff when it comes to writing assignments. I may stress out a little, but I always remind myself that I’ve been here before, under the pile, typing my way out at full speed.
But despite the being busy, I’ve been a little out of sorts mostly by proxy. I have one friend whose marriage is very close to ending and I’ve been asked for advice on a subject I really am no help on except as a cautious voice of logic and safety. I have another friend who is leaving a job they are closely associated with and although there are happy faces put on the situation, I know there’s a lot more to the story and not all of it is good. And then another friend was hit with a sudden breakup. Maybe it’s the fall shifting into winter, but I was seeing a lot of sudden dissolution all around me.
I don’t like involving myself with other people’s dramas. I don’t seek it out and it certainly doesn’t give me a thrill like it might have in my 20s when other people’s personal lives were fodder for the imagination and got the writing wheels in motion. These days, I mostly just hurt for the people I care about and hate to see them going through bad stuff, especially when it’s past the point where anything can be fixed or salvaged and they must move on.
It’s different in that these are friends who specifically sought me out to talk (and trust me, it’s nobody you know so I’m not spilling any secrets here). As much as I worry that I could make things worse with bad counsel, I think I’m at least a good listener and that’s probably what’s needed most in all three situations.
These situations, though, made me aware of how little interaction I typically have with friends about these kinds of things. When a friend gets divorced or engaged, I usually hear about it on Facebook. When a co-worker is going away, I learn in a staff email. I’m not really plugged in to gossip channels anymore, but more than that, I find I have very few friends who confide these kinds of things in me anymore. I’ve wondered if people think I’m too busy to listen (a valid concern) or that I’ve just drifted too far away from friends who once considered me a confidante.
It’s not like I stopped making friends when I turned 30 or something; I have new creative partners and friends who I discuss things with. I’m not a hermit, I don’t shut myself out from the world.
But I’m not too old to remember a time when it felt like I knew so much about the private lives of my friends and co-workers. Way more than I really wanted to know, but certainly enough to feel connected to the comings and goings of people’s lives. I wasn’t always so out of the loop. Or maybe I was listening more intently back then.
I guess it would be just at 10 years ago that I started a weird little project (in my 20s, I was always starting weird little projects; I guess I still do that but the stakes are a little higher now).
I had an online journal that would become a blog soon but I was still in the habit of publishing pretty regularly on this site. I would post entries, pretty planned-out essays and updates, three times a week, which today just makes me want to go take a long old man nap. There must have been more caffeine in the water back then.
The site never had a huge following, but it did have readers and enough of them that I felt pretty confident that a mix CD project, where people would PayPal me $1 to physically mail them a CD of that year’s best music tracks (at least ones I had bought and had access to), made perfect sense.
It didn’t make perfect sense. It was kind of a pain in the ass, actually, the cutting the labels and finding the perfect plastic disc holders and the laborious burning of the CDs (so much time at the computer, sitting; how am I not dead of a heart attack already?). But it was also really gratifying to get feedback on music I’d chosen, years before we could share iTunes playlists or play DJ in a virtual room (that has already come and gone in that time). So I did it two more years. There was an ’04 mix, an ’05 mix and an ’06 mix (2004, 2005 and 2006, not 1904, 1905 and 1905 young smartasses).
I think the reason I stopped doing it after 2006 was that we had a baby in 2007, which made everything non-essential pretty much impossible, but also because people were already like, “CDs? Really?” even by that point. People were downloading their own music, legally, even, and it was just easier to tell people where to find music online than mailing them something physical. So I stopped doing that project.
About a week ago, a woman emailed me asking about the CDs and whether the list of those songs was still up somewhere. I dutifully sent her the links to find them. She also asked if I was ever planning to convert those lists of songs into Spotify playlists, something which just had never even occurred to me. I mean, I’ve put Spotify playlists here on the site that I still update. But this was a long way back to reach.
I wrote back and said that was a neat idea, and it would be great if somebody could do it (hint hint), but I was too busy to work on that myself.
And then I went on Spotify to see how much time it would take. About 10 minutes total for all three CDs, it turns out.
I listened to them again for the first time in years and except for a few bad-in-hindsight choices (James Blunt, that U2 song that isn’t really that great, too much Franz Ferdinand), I really enjoyed digging those songs out in order. I have them all on my phone, I can listen to them individually anytime, but having them by year in that time-capsule form really speaks to me. Maybe I’m just remembering the careful curation that went into those CDs and the satisfaction I got designing those labels and shipping them out in flat brown envelopes. But whatever it is, the magic still works on me.
So here they are, the three playlists. There were just a tiny few songs that aren’t on Spotify (the Pixies song, for instance, you can easily find on iTunes or elsewhere). In one or two cases, a live version has been subbed in for something that’s not on the service. And if you really want that Islands “Flesh” song, you can probably do a Google for it or drop me a line and I can point you in the right direction, probably.
Thank you to that reader for reminding me how much fun I had doing this and for bringing some joy back to me that I thought had link-rotted away on the Internet, a thing I loved that I believed was just digital dust now.
And most recently, I wrote an essay about some things I think are happening on Facebook (and maybe soon on Twitter) that really came out during last month’s protests in Ferguson, Missouri. I wasn’t looking to write a Ferguson think piece, but I think there are even larger issues happening on social media and this was one clear warning sign of where we’re headed.
Shots is moving along and we got the Mayor! Very exciting time as we’re kind of ramping up what we’re doing and have gotten comfortable enough with the production side and being on mic that we’re able to think a little more long term and have even more fun with the show.
Episode 32 with Mayor Lee Leffingwell on Austin’s many changes — I still kind of can’t believe this happened, but we had been saying a while how great it would be to have the Mayor come on and as we were ramping up, it just didn’t seem realistic, but then it suddenly did and all it really took was a call from me to the Mayor’s office, a few emails back and forth to let his very nice press person Reyne know what the show was about and what the topics would be and we were scheduled! The Mayor turned out to be really, really game for what we were doing, relaxed and poised, and just way more fun than we could have expected. I like to think we were probably a welcome break from the more serious stuff he has to deal with from day to day.
[Up-front note: this won’t be an epic, Ulysses-length blog post like last time. Relatively speaking, I’m keeping this one tight and short.]
This has been a weird couple of weeks leading up to a Memorial Day weekend where I don’t really have any assignments due or pending stuff. That sends me into a little bit of a panic (weird in that it’s a panic about not having anything to panic over). Then I start to feel guilty for not having something major to stress about right now, a big piece of writing to embark on or a pending project to edit over and revise.
It’s probably not healthy, this worry about things that don’t exist or aren’t happening. It’s like worrying about ghosts but not believing in God. You’d think you could just relax and hang back and enjoy a time when you’re not being haunted, but instead you’re in your haunted house thinking, “This doesn’t seem scary. Something’s up.”
This is why I’m not great with taking real vacations or hiatuses. I can be happy without work on my plate, I really can, but it’s not when I’m happiest, you know? I’ve been filling some time playing video games, doing more reading than usual, spending lots more time with the kids on the weekends since there haven’t been a lot of places I need to rush to-and-fro lately.
It’s nice and lazy and not at all my jam, but I’m trying hard to enjoy it for what it is. Last night, after Mad Men, I lay on the floor with the TV off and looked up at the ceiling intensely and then I dozed and then woke up and stared at the ceiling some more and then I rolled over and dozed with my face against a new rug we just bought and then I woke up and thought, “Well, that was a thing I just did. Dozing and gazing. That wasn’t so bad.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity and creating things and the ways in which we sometimes have control over the things we make. Other times, we’re making things for someone else, or at least to someone else’s specifications-for-hire, and that’s totally all right too. You can be really creative and make neat things even when they’re not things you technically get to own.
Luck, for me, and just sticking with things has had a lot to do with being able to get to create things where I’m pretty much left alone to do them. The column I write for work is very much self-generated. Every now and then, my editor or someone else I work with will suggest a topic, but 95 percent of the time, it’s just a list I keep in my head or in our planner of stuff I want to write about in the future. Ideas are sometimes discussed and fleshed out and tweaked, but there’s nobody telling me, “No, don’t write about that.” It took a long time to get to that point of trust.
Same with Statesman Shots. We’ve had suggestions for guests and for topics from inside and outside the newsroom, but ultimately, Tolly, I and in an increasing number of cases, our great audio/video producer Alyssa, are the ones deciding how it’s gonna go from week to week and what the conversations will be. I don’t take that freedom for granted. It’s what makes the show special.
In other projects, even within groups, I’ve been able to have a lot of control over my own material.
But it gets a little weird when I venture into areas where I don’t know the lay of the land (say, publishing). I’ve had a couple of experiences over the last few years where instead of people telling me, “Yes, and…” it’s been more like, “No, but good luck” and it’s been difficult. It makes me feel like I’ve been shielded for too long from the realities of rejection and it makes me blink and stand there and say, “Wait, what? What do you mean no? That’s not how this is supposed to go.”
And because I’ve been so lucky for so long having the things I work on accepted and carried on and published and produced (in newspapers, on stage, on the radio, etc.) it throws me for a huge loop and fills me with self-doubt. And it’s weird and I’m not used to feeling that way and instead of keeping a cap on it and understanding that it only has to do with the one thing that’s being rejected, I swallow it whole and start letting it define me, feeling that I’ve somehow been talked down to.
I start to believe that I can’t write at all, that the other things I’ve written are no good, that I’m way past my peak and that younger, more energetic writers are doing much more interesting things with much more room to grow.
And then it becomes very easy to lie on the floor and stare at the ceiling and roll over on the new rug and just lay there believing you have nothing to say and no words to share and not even a decent Tweet all weekend to prove that you exist and are worth following.
It’s not self-pity or wallowing exactly and I don’t suffer from depression (thank goodness). But I have been wrestling a lot with self doubt lately, with not throwing out the ego baby with the rejection bathwater when things don’t go my way. I’ve been pretty spoiled by having lots of avenues to push work through and to even get paid at it. But I’ve hit an age where I worry that there are only so many constructive paths left to pursue and that some of the goals I had from so long ago, even as a teenager, maybe just aren’t who I am anymore or what I want. That maybe there should be more focus and less daydreaming, less shooting for the moon and more nosing that grindstone.
Did people really put their noses to grindstones? On purpose or were they forced? Late at night, when no one was around, did perverted workaholics put their balls on a grindstone? That must have been horrible when the inevitable trapped-sack incident occurred and they had to call someone in to take apart the grindstone and free some poor bastard’s grinded-down giblets.
Boy is this off track. No wonder I got rejected. I’m writing about testicles. Why does everything I write turn into scrotums?
So that’s what’s up lately. A little self-doubt, some ceiling-gazing (it’s comfier than navel-gazing) and trying really hard to enjoy the everyday pleasure that early summer is bringing to my wonderful little waterpark town.
Writing this helps. It starts to chip away at the doubt.
We’ve had a really great couple of weeks of Statesman Shots episodes. Here’s the two most recent:
Episode 17 with Kristin Finan, my editor! This one’s special because Kristin has been a constant behind-the-scenes advocate for “Shots,” championing its existence before we ever recorded one and continuing to encourage us along the way. Kristin also happens to be our travel editor, so it was a pretty easy decision to ask her on to talk about summer travel and work/life balance given that she juggles a family with all of her work travel. The video below was about one of the short episode topics, ’90s music. Gaze with fear at my aging CD collection!
Episode 18 with Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson of the ATX Television Festival: I interviewed Caitlin and Emily last year for a story about TV binge watching and found them to be hilarious and charming on the phone. We talk a lot about TV on the podcast, and knew it would be fun to geek out with them as the third season of their TV fest approaches. They were great on the show and just the kind of pop-culture geeks we enjoy hearing from.
In the videos below, we talk about monsters from TV and movies we love, spurred by the recent release of Godzilla, and about tips for parenthood. This was the last episode we did with Tolly before she went on baby leave (as far as I know, baby is still pending as of this writing!); she’ll be back and we’ll have guest co-hosts while she’s away. Speaking of Tolly, she also wrote a great blog post for the Shots blog about the parallel releases of Bernie Tiede (subject of the movie Bernie) and Michael Alig (subject of Party Monster).
Last week’s Digital Savant column was about ways to clean up app clutter on a mobile device or laptop. Got way too many apps on those home screens? This column should help you round them up and purge what you don’t need.
I’ve got two videos in the pipeline for this week and we’ve already recorded next week’s Statesman Shots (the first without Tolly) with past guest Addie Broyles as our guest co-host and the great Wendi Aarons as our guest. It’s a really fun one.
That’s really about it except for a few photos to share. I’ve been doing a fitness training program that I’ll tell you about next time and we have a trip planned to New York next month that should be pretty exciting. It’s finally summer here and that means lots of summer fun.
Happy belated Mother’s Day, kids’ bike day and whatever else you’re celebrating!
Quick caption sidebar: this is one of the images that came up when I did a paid image search for “Staycation.” I have NEVER had a stay-at-home vacation that looked anything like this. Why are they so happy? Because they DIDN’T go to Paris? Are they making fireplace toast? Is that a white people thing? This image just depressed me far more than having multiple staycations ever could. [/End of Sidebar]
“Where did you go on vacation?”
I felt like that was the wrong question even though it was asked of me multiple times. And not just by one person. Several people asked. And each time, I thought, “That’s not the right question. It should be ‘what did you do on vacation?’ Who cares where I went? I got some serious shit done! Right here! In my house!”
I didn’t leave my house very much is what happened.
But! It’s all right! I’m used to it! I have two kids. This is not a life you choose for jet-setting unless your children are Spy Kids. I don’t go to The Club. My life is boring sometimes, but in the best way possible.
So here is what happened: I ended up, with two months left in the year, with a lot of vacation time left to burn. I didn’t get sick this year, really, and the various times my kids had to go to the doctor always fell on days when I could work from home and knock out a quick appointment or had help from my wife, parents and in-laws.
We took a week of vacation for Disney World, but when you factored in work make-up days for stuff like South by Southwest, it was still a lot of vacation/sick days (which for us are rolled together into one big Ball of Time). So I’m in the middle of vacation time after having just taken vacation time in November and am looking forward to going back to work next week and then taking time off again.
It was a lot of time to burn.
It didn’t occur to me to book a trip or sign up for skydiving lessons or anything like that.
On my vacation, what I really needed to do was pick up boxes that had been boxing it up on the floor of my home office for months with no one to pick them up and deal with their content.
I needed to buy a new car, something I said I was going to do a year ago and that just seemed like too big a hassle to take on at any point in the previous twelve months.
And I still had things to write on the freelance tip (more on that below) and work-related emails to at least glance at even though I was “not working.” In fact, the first few days of my vacation, I exhausted myself just writing and organizing and them sleeping half a day away because I was staying up all crazy hours as if I was not a person who had to get up at 6:30 a.m. every day because my vacation did not mean my kids were on vacation. No, it was pretty much the opposite of that.
So it’s been a weird couple of weeks where my expectations of leisurely relaxation, iPad propped on belly and a continuous row of beers extending off into the distance, would keep me company as I hung out on the porch in unseasonably warm November weather.
Even that part didn’t quite work out. It was rainy and then super-fucking cold, the kind of weather where if I had been working I would have had trouble even driving in.
“Where did you go on vacation?”
I probably should have planned to go somewhere, all right! The whole concept of a vacation that lasts more than a few days was so foreign to me that it didn’t even pop into my head that there was enough time allotted to get on a plane and go see some stuff in a place that is not here. But that’s just it. I wouldn’t want to go on a vacation trip thing without my wife (who doesn’t have time off like I do and reminds me of it at least once a day with, “Must be NICE!”) or… OK, maybe the kids, too. If they’re behaving. Holy crap, that trip back from Disney World might have put me off of flying with children forever.
After some weird performance anxiety and a few months of second-draft editing, I sent the first few chapters of the novel I finished in the summer to my literary agent. Yes, I have a literary agent; I signed with him more than a decade ago. No, I’ve never written a book before. Yes, he’s the most patient person in the world.
I put in some major video game time, which I haven’t been able to do in a while as things were so busy in November. Super Mario 3D World is really fantastic, as is Resogun on the new PS4. Not too crazy about some of the other PS4 games I’ve tried, honestly, but the system itself has impressed me, especially the game-streaming stuff, which I never thought I’d care about.
I put up Christmas lights. Then I ran out of special staples I use and had to use stickies and stickies are terrible and fall down, so I’m going to have to do a re-do.
Thanksgiving turkey. I didn’t cook it, but I sure ate some.
This was a little bit before vacation, but I had a tech gift guide slide show run on Television Without Pity. An annual tradition!
Started working with Raul Garza and the other writers on the next Mexcentrics sketch comedy show! I was dubious about the timeline we have to work with, but in one meeting, we pretty much sketched out the frame for the show and ended up with more than a dozen solid ideas. Latino work ethic ftw! This show is scheduled for February.
Wrote this blog post! What? This was on my to-do list!
Last time I mentioned we did a pilot episode of a new Austin culture podcast. The response was really good! My editors and other folks I worked with really seemed to like it and we’re planning what to do next. My hope is we can get moving in January to continue what we started, but we’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of logistics stuff that needs to be worked out. But I’m so glad people seemed to enjoy what we did and that a year of anticipation seems to have paid off. In related news, podcast co-host Tolly is pregnant! Congratulations to her and her husband who have a lot of great times (and little sleep) in store for them.
More significantly was the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead where lots of characters died and much mess was made of converging plotlines. It was a ton of work visually recapping in Particles form all the late-episode action, but somehow it all worked out. The show returns in February for eight more episodes.
As every summer ends in New Braunfels I always lament that I didn’t go swimming enough or that I didn’t go tubing or enjoy all the fun, outdoorsy stuff there is to do here. By October, I’m full-on bitter about the cooling weather and how it means no more swimming.
I somehow forget that I’m not really that outdoorsy and that even though I love swimming, I hate being out in 105-degree heat and get cranky if the air conditioner doesn’t stay well below 77 degrees in the house.
This summer is different because instead of somehow feeling like I lost the time due to summer lethargy, it’s actually been jam-packed with activity for me and for the whole family. There’s been more travel than I’ve done since before the kids were born, the conclusion of something I’d been working on for a while (or at least the next phase of work on it), a door opening for a new site that I had been wanting to write for but that I hadn’t been able to commit time to and, honestly, the best summer I’ve had with my girls yet.
That’s been kind of of the showstopper around here. Several times a week my wife and I will exchange a look as our daughters are calmly playing together or doing something completely new and we’ll say, “They’re getting bigger.” They’re growing up. They’re not babies or even toddlers. Our Lilly turned 6 a few weeks ago. Only a few days later she lost her first tooth (no worries; it was painless and she didn’t even notice it was gone until I pointed out the gap). As I write this, she’s completed her first week of 1st Grade. Her sister, the curly-haired wild child, is still destructive and prone to bursts of turbo energy that exhaust us all, but she has also grown sweeter and kinder and more in love with us and her sister than I could have hoped.
She’ll make a huge fuss about taking something to school (a toy, a paper with writing on it, anything) and after giving up on trying to convince her she shouldn’t, I’ll find out that she only wanted to take the item to school to show it to her favorite teacher because she can’t keep something she loves to herself and wants to share.
I haven’t been tubing yet (there’s still time!) but as Labor Day approaches and the summer winds down, I don’t feel like I missed much. In fact, I feel like I’m ready for things to calm down and conclude. It was a great summer, but not for all the reasons I usually expect.
A really busy couple of weeks at work. Here’s what was in the paper and online.
Sam Killermann, one of the working-at-coffee-shop experts I spoke to for my story. Photo by Deborah Cannon / Austin American-Statesman
Work trips are super stupid-boring, so I won’t subject you to the details of a trip I took for Vegas, but I’ll just say that because of the nature of my beat and the nature of working at a newspaper with a limited travel budget, I don’t take a lot of trips to cover stories outside of Austin.
Since last year, when it was announced that South by Southwest Interactive would be doing a conference in Las Vegas, my then-editor and I assumed I would go, but even a few months before the event in August, I still had my doubts that I would actually go. Things have been so busy this summer that I began to like the idea of just not going but when my editors approved my travel plans, I started to get excited about it again.
I’m so glad I went. Not only where there plenty of things to write about before the SXSW V2V, as the Vegas conference was called, but I had a lot more fun there than I was expecting, a combination of knowing a few people from Austin and other places that I got to hang out with, a really upscale venue with killer hotel rooms (The Cosmopolitan) and an overall laid back and accommodating vibe that wasn’t as crazy or as hectic as the SXSW I’m used to in March in Austin. No matter how wild things might get or how late I stayed out, I didn’t have to worry about a 45-minute drive home, which is always in the back of my mind at SXSW Interactive.
As I tried to make clear in my stories, there’s a lot of change happening in downtown Las Vegas and techies are beginning to take notice that there might be some big opportunities there (MyStatesman version here).
I also shot a video at V2V that was expertly edited quickly by Emma Janzen. You can find that below.
Other highlights from Vegas: playing blackjack with friends one night drinking endless Manhattans (my new favorite get-drunk-quick drink!) and woke up to the worst hangover I’ve had since my 20s and maybe ever. I literally could not look at a computer screen for several hours.
How hungover I was: tried to pour coffee and missed.
I went to Ellis Island for karaoke and had the time of my life. Vegas is the perfect karaoke city.
I finally got my ass to the pinball museum, which was pretty great but won’t replace the soft spot in my heart I have quickly developed for Austin’s Pinballz.
I had my doubts about The Cosmopolitan because the first impression it gives is pretty douchey, but my goodness the rooms are enormous and the dealers are super friendly and the restaurants there are incredible. Highly recommended, just don’t let the freaky lobby freak you out like it did me:
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to write for people you love and respect and enjoy working with, but even after the launch, I hadn’t approached them about contributing to the site because I was trying to force myself to stop freelancing and to finish the novel I started before the start of the year. With that finally done in late June and me pretty far into the second draft/editing of it (about 210 of 360 or so pages), I finally sent a query and was thrilled to be welcomed aboard.
It feels wonderful to be a part of that team and if you’re not already checking out that site and making it part of your daily reading, you’re missing some really fun, creative TV writing. I mean, this Tales of the Gold Monkey post alone… my God. Consider it indispensable for the coming fall TV season.