Nomadic Writer

Words, like birds, seem to float just out of reach on currents that move unseen. And the muse, as fickle an entity as history provides, is like clouds that shift and change, forming shapes at times but inherently unpredictable. Yet somehow, when muse and words come together, something good happens.

Writing is a solitary task, which means we tend to suffer in silence and celebrate in a void. My better writing usually appears unannounced, at least not in any predictable sense. When in periods of constant writing, there always seems to be an improvement. “To write” implies constancy of habit, and to improve one’s writing requires a permanence of that habit. Although habit does not guarantee quality, it tends to be the most reliable path to get there.

panera_table.jpg
Photo by Gary. All rights reserved.

I am not the best judge of when my writing is good and when it is…well, less than good. Sure, I can see the distinction in a somewhat broad sense, but when someone says, “that’s good,” my response is usually, “really?” Then there are those ego-boosting moments when I think I have written something above the usual and the compliments come as frequently as winning Lotto tickets.

One could argue that whether the writing is good or bad matters little, and for the most part that is a verity all writers, amateur and pros alike, should embrace. After all, if the drive is there to write, most likely it is for reasons other than fame or fortune, for what sensible person would ever embark on a writing career thinking “I’m gonna get rich.”

For me, “where” I write is almost as critical as “when” I write. My preference has always been to write in places other than where I live or work, places outside the ordinariness of the ultra-familiar. I have written about café writing before, and while my habits have not changed drastically since early 2004, I have refined my art of café writing. In the past, I would seek out a spot that mostly offered sitting comfort. Now I embrace a Feng Shui approach that goes beyond simple comfort, and I can sense when a spot feels right and when it does not. In the photo at right, you can see how I camped in a corner on a recent trek to Panera’s. You’ll notice my back was to the wall, so bad writing could not easily sneak up unnoticed, and by a window so I could clearly see it if it slipped in! Oh, if it were only that easy…

The other refinement is I now tend to invoke the white-cable-ear ritual when the place is noisy (and they are mostly ALL noisy). I used to think that café noises blended into a macabre white noise, with little real distraction. Add an increase in rude cell phone users over the years, chattier teenagers (or have I just aged a bit?), and the newest rage: satellite radio feeds, and I prefer to generate my own white noise. I can and do write in noisy places at times sans the white cables, but my iPod is quickly becoming as indispensable as my Moleskines.

Ultimately, I am no surer of why I prefer writing in a nomadic way than back in 2004. It just is. If I have work-related writing, I can be productive at home. For blogging and other non-work writing projects, however, I prefer to hit the road, find a café or bookstore, plug in, tune out, and write, write, write. The one remaining problem with café writing is, of course, pastries. While the old cliché says that an army travels on its stomach, there is no truth to the rumor that a writer fuels each chapter with German Chocolate Danish. At least, my waistline hopes not.

Spring

Well, finally! Evidence that spring has either come to Northwest Ohio, or is just around the corner. Shot these two today on my lunch walk. The blue variant was the most incredible shade of royal purple, but alas…purple is a devilish color to get in a photograph. So use your imagination.

Can’t say that we’ve had a tough winter here in Ohio. I was hoping to get in a lot of snow gazing, but we’ve had little of that. Lots of cold wind, though, which won’t be missed.

pcrocus.jpg

ycrocus.jpg

Celebration

sushi.jpg

So it’s not exactly an Earth-shattering way of celebrating, but to someone who hasn’t had significant solid food in two weeks, it was glorious.

I’ve only recently embraced sushi as a delicacy, final realizing that sushi does not have to mean raw fish. The photo of my dinner above is testament to how once can enjoy non-raw-fish sushi. The top delicacy is a spider roll, consisting of soft-shell crab, ubiquitous rice, and a few veggies wrapped in soy paper (an option I like over the usual seaweed). Next to that is a Yasaihama roll, assorted vegetables in rice with seaweed wrap. The lone Nigiri Sushi is smoked salmon on…that’s right, more rice. What isn’t shown is the edamame I ordered as an appetizer. By time I snapped this pix, the delightful steamed soybeans in salted pods was long gone (and thoroughly enjoyed).

I’d love to report I had a little Sake to make this a truly fine meal, but alas, the restaurant (Asian Grill in Findlay), does not yet serve beer and wine. Considering I haven’t, along with real food, had even so mucha as a glass of wine over the last three weeks, that might have led to a bit too much celebration last night.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

No one would argue that technology has changed our lives. I’m old enough to remember doing things pre-Internet and getting along just fine. But it would be hard to image modern life without the conveniences provided by the Internet. Telecommunication enjoyed a similar leap in convenience and features, and who of us can now get along without our cell phones? Add to that portable digital phones, VOIP Internet phones, and it’s no wonder certain long-held traditions are in jeopardy of being lost for future generations.

Consider this modern-life dilemma: how do you break up with a girlfriend (or boyfriend)? In the old days, hanging up the phone in quasi-violent way produced a resounding click on the other end likely meant one thing: she/he’s breaking up with me! Today that tradition can’t be carried forward: how do you slam a cell phone down? Ever try to hang up with a digital portable phone? Yes, you disconnect, but the definitive noise indicating an intentional hang up is gone forever.

So today’s break-up-intendee has to resort to other methods. Dear John letters? Who writes letters any more? Dear John email? I suppose, but more than likely some spam filter would nuke it before the intended reads it. Technology wins again.

Given our techno-lives, I guess the ultimate “break up” ritual now consists of eliminating them from your email address book, blocking their IP address preventing them from visiting your blog, deleting their entry in your cell phone, and if you’re really nasty-bent, leaving rude comments on their blog. Effective, but hardly as instantly obvious as a good ole’ slammin’ of the telephone. Those were the good old days.

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this was just a rambling thought with no connection to my situation.

Findlay O Findlay

courthouse.jpg

I’m blogging to you from deep in the heart of…Northwest Ohio. Ohio? What happened to Texas? I’ve been up here in the land of sensible values since last summer, but I have a good excuse: an odd need to eat and pay bills. So when the chance came up to do a long-term consulting project up here in Flag City and thus end a drought of work, I said “Duh…of course.”

I’ve lived in Texas since 1971, so to suddenly relocate (even temporarily) to a more northern clime is a bit of a shock to the system. To keep this in perspective though, my formative teenage years were spent in the suburbs of Chicago, so this cowboy is no stranger to cold northern winters. But that was more years ago than I’ll admit to in this public forum, so suffice to say I’m out of winter-shape, so to speak.

I’ve written fondly of winter and missing seasons before, so this opportunity has certain upsides: seasons, smaller town, slower pace of life, and those damn practical Midwestern values. On the other hand, it’s still the culturally starved Midwest where corn and babies seem to occupy most minds. What culture one enjoys up here is either imported or traveled to…there just isn’t much here. But on the balance of things, I’ve enjoyed a simpler, more hassle-free life in my temporary Ohio digs.

One pleasant surprise has been the close proximity of several interesting getaways. You can get out of or across Ohio by car within a relatively short time. It takes part of two days to traverse Texas. Chicago and it’s cosmopolitan influences of the Art Institute and nightclubs is a brief four hours away. Cleveland and it’s Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame a couple hours. The blue hills of Kentucky are a little more than four hours due south. And for a spicier venture, Windsor, Canada and its blue collar party atmosphere beckon complete with (legal) Cuban cigars and potent beers. I don’t smoke cigars, but I’ll inhale those non-export high-alcohol-content Canadian beers any day.

I do travel back to Houston occasionally, and between the humidity (who wants to remember that?) and the congestion (who wants to deal with that?), it’s always a shock to the system. At the end of these back-travel weeks, I’m somewhat stressed and looking forward to returning where the corn sways slowly in the wind and the search for intellectually based culture continues. Of course, that’s not during the winter, where most of my time now is spent trying to keep the damn wind from sending its icy probes into every exposed skin pore. I love snow, and the temperature hasn’t been too bad, but the wind. Oh lordy the wind.

Unfortunately, winter in northwest Ohio is mostly about cold and wind, and seldom about snow. Tolerating frigid temperatures is always more pleasant when the calmness and serenity of a white, wintry blanket greets the eyes, but alas: this winter’s been unusually cruel and we’ve haven’t been blessed with much snow to mitigate the depressive gray of a snowless winter scene. But now spring is around the corner, with green images and hiking opportunities, and sun. I’ll miss what little snow we’ve had, but I won’t miss the wind.

Locals tell me we’re close enough to Lake Erie to stay under cloud cover for most of the winter in our attempt to emulate Seattle. Some of my co-workers even admit to taking occasional winter drives south a few hours where the sunshine is more frequent this time of year. I haven’t felt that dark side of winter yet, but the few days the sun does manage to break through the clouds it feels like a celestial event worth celebrating. Another difference between Ohio and Texas regarding the sun must have to do with sun angles. In Texas I couldn’t go outside without sunglasses, whereas up here it seems less of an issue. Maybe it’s the glare from all the concrete and glass that defines Houston, or maybe the air pollution down there reflects the sun rays just enough to enhance the glare. Either way, it’s a moot point up here right now for sunglasses are the last accessory I need to remember.

I’ll be up here through this year with an option to continue part-time for another year. I’m getting acclimated to this slower pace of life, and certainly relishing the seasonal changes, so who knows: maybe this cowboy might have to trade in them boots for snowshoes and heavy blankets.