Once in high school I remember reading something from an Israeli writer who talked about how shootings and bombings and death were so commonplace in the area (at that time — shit was going down) that the people had become accustomed to them, that they could become immune to the idea that they might get shot today.
I remember this only because I thought it was so crazy. How could the possibility of being killed ever become mundane? What kind of place must you live in that repeated, mass killings would be normal?
(after explaining I want to submit a finished short story, but trying to decide where -- and Steve staring at me like he's never heard of this before) It is something people do, you know, like make money writing stories. It is a career.
I worked the late-ish shift at KQED this afternoon, which meant on a Friday evening it was just me and a handful of anchors, editors, pledge drive volunteers and people preparing for the weekly TV show. With the pledge drive on, there was more food than mouths. That meant while I finished a few projects, I did my part to eat a high-end grilled cheese. Then I walked to the bus to head to a friend’s, stopping at Sports Basement on the way. It was a nice day, early evening and still warm, but the breeze was blowing and the lines outside bars were starting to form. I walked down the street in my best impression of cute work clothes and the parties seemed to very nearly include me. A girl asked if I had a lighter and I didn’t even mind that she wanted to kill herself by cigarette because it was all part of the city and the parking lot filled with food trucks and the sense that you had done something and now you were going somewhere. I stopped to get a cinnamon-sugar crepe on the street and as I ate the warm buttered sweet, sugar sticking to my fingers, I thought: when people move to the city, any city, hoping to make it, this is really all they hope for. This is it.
Today the obgyn (who also was on the receiving end of a good part of my stock speech on how forcing me to attend a relatively patronizing annual medical exam, designed almost solely to keep the future mothers of America breeding well, simply so I can obtain a renewal of a medication that really ought to be over-the-counter is absurd and poor policy) earned my disdain when she explained that the reason she had to ask me multiple times if I smoke — really, I don’t, really — was because it was going in a government file.
Me: Yeah, but the government doesn’t actually have a medical file on me somewhere?
Her: They come and audit us and we have to have four things checked… one of which is whether or not I smoke, apparently.
Me: But, it’s just an audit of you; there’s not like an actual file on me in some federal medical warehouse?
Her: Yes, in the future, they’ll sort out the healthy people and the smokers and the sick.
Um. If that is true then I have the story I really should be writing.
All the hand-wringing just started to seem awfully pretentious and self-involved. Not that it wasn’t fascinating for me. But, it presupposes that journalism is worth the hand-wringing, that it’s somehow a greater calling than simply a job, that this was a discussion that the internets needed to be having because it mattered for the future sake of free society, and other grandiose issues.
Because, the fact, is it’s not like journalism is the only place people ask you to work for free. It’s not like it’s the only profession where you perhaps have to work for free or very little in order to move your way up through the ranks. It’s not like there isn’t a cost-benefit calculation to be done in every job.
Here is a story, I was told once about a friend’s friend’s relative:
There is a stretch of road near my house, behind the car dealerships and warehouses, where day-laborers line up for work. They come from all over and stand on the side of the road hoping to be picked up for a gardening job or a construction gig or just anything that’ll pay the bills that day. Some days, there’s hundreds of men (it’s nearly always only men) gathered in small groups along the road. Most of them, though not all, are undocumented immigrants, because why else would you stand on the side of the road hoping for money unless you had few other options.
So, the story goes that some friend of a friend’s uncle or dad or whoever picked up a half-dozen of these guys to come over and do some gardening. They worked all day. It was extensive landscaping. And, at the end of the day, the guy bought them all some pizza and dropped them back off. That was their pay. And, what were they going to do? Go to the police?
That’s not a good comparison to the journalists not getting paid debate, you say? It’s not the same. You’re right. It’s not the same.
Here’s a more apt comparison, perhaps:
My understanding, and people with tattoo artist experience can correct me if this is slightly off-base, is that tattoo artists often have to work their way up through the ranks as low-paid or unpaid apprentices, then journeyman-style tattoo-ists, until eventually becoming full tattoo artists. Old school. I’ve even heard of people paying for the privilege of being an apprentice. Where’s the outrage?
My point here is that sure, the people with the money are always going to try to get as much work as possible out of those without the money. There’s nothing inherently wrong with asking someone to work for free — as long as you have the luxury of saying no.
And, journalists, you do.
This job is just a job. A cool job - though not always - and better than others. Certainly, a job that requires you to be true to more people than just a boss. But, don’t let them convince you that it’s a privilege for which you should pay.
Look, you can make a living as a freelance writer. You can. I feel like that simply needs to be said. I made about $57,000 in 2012. (Stop being squeamish about revealing salaries. It’s just a number. You don’t really believe it’s reflective of your value as a person, do you?) And, since I quit my full-time job at Patch in March, that income has solely been made from my writing, reporting, and designing skills — though less my designing skills.
But, no, I didn’t write many high-profile pieces. I didn’t build a name for myself at prestigious publications. I couldn’t afford to, because in the calculation of if it’s worth it for me I have to pick the places that can pay (and also the ones I enjoy). This is perhaps short-sighted of me and I should undoubtedly make more of an effort to gain a foothold establishing myself, but once I finish writing all the things for money I never quite have the energy or time to write the things for prestige and fame.
Take a look at Who Pays Writers or at this discussion, it’s very clear that the higher-profile, more prestigious places pay shit. The Atlantic paying $100 for an online article is not abnormal. Because they can. Because, the worth they offer comes in something other than money.
But, of course, that limits who can enter the arena. In the same way that requiring internships and clips accumulated from hours of work, while presumably someone else foots your bills, cuts down on who is going to make it. I had to quit an internship in college because the cost of taking the train into the city three times a week was making me nauseous with worry about my bank account. Every trip, I’d try to calculate if I could make it up in more hours at my actual job or if I’d simply not eat. Did quitting end up costing me more than the train rides in the long run, because it would have opened doors otherwise unavailable? Possibly. Probably. But, what could I do. The question of it was worth it was the only one I could answer at the time.
There is no amount that freelancers should be paid, nothing they are owed other than what we owe each other simply as people — which is presumably more than a pizza for a day of labor. But, there is a very straight-forward calculation each of us makes in all our jobs all the time. Is it worth it to me? And, for any of us, that either has to come in money, enjoyment — or, most probably, both.
I am ready for a big writing project. I made more money than ever last year, and I did it freelancing, so I feel ready to tackle that ambition that’s always hanging out there. I want to write a book and a movie and short stories and TV shows and essays and long magazine features. I’m ready for a big project — I’ve even started a few.
But, what exactly that project is going to be is unclear to me right now.
A friend asked me to work with him on a script about John Brown, which is fascinating, not because I’m particularly helpful, but because he’s a script reader and knows stuff about structure and formatting — stuff I never consciously think about — and it’s a cool topic.
I have a pretty fleshed out idea for a non-fiction book that I really ought to put a proposal together for. It’s about sports and money and stuff and I know it would be good and I know I could do it well and I think I could get a publisher too.
I also finally wrote the first chapter of the novel I’ve been thinking about, but I’m already not sure I like it. Not because it’s bad, more because I don’t know if I want to write a book where any character is a runner.
Because, here’s the thing: Do you write about characters that sound and look like you? Do you write ‘what you know?’ Or, do you write something totally different?
And, don’t tell me to “do what I’d do if no one was watching” or “if money isn’t an issue” or “what I love.” That shit is idiotic because it’s 1. inane - as if you actually think I’m going to say, “oh my god, I hadn’t thought about doing what I love, you just opened my eyes and set me free,” 2. fucking amateur hour - like using the word “passion” to describe how you feel about travel, when in fact no one feels strongly about the act of sitting in cars and trains and planes - which cheapens the entire discussion and 3. beside the point - if I wanted to write in a diary, I would just blog.
I am not interested in this new age pop psychology middle American bullshit. I am no more interesting in writing something no one wants to read than I am in walking an Ironman just to finish. It’s not that it couldn’t happen somewhere in the middle, but I’d like to start out with a slightly more optimistic goal. I’d like to know where what I want to do, what I’m good at, and what people will pay me for intersect.
But, I don’t know and no one will tell me. No one will say oh, yeah, you suck at that.
Here are my observations: I’m good at writing very quickly. If I think too much, I overthink and get bogged down in the whole thing. I love science fiction, but it’s challenging to do something different and new and well-thought-out. Writing about sports is hard, because it’s too easy to fall into cliches, even if you really know what you’re talking about and really want to write about sports. Writing about being 20-something is hard, because too many people think they know what that’s like, even if you are 20-something and they’re wrong.
So, I want to write a book about 20-somethings dealing with all that life shit and trying to make it in sports and struggling, but that just doesn’t seem like my strong suit. I don’t think it comes together — too much pathos, not enough humor. Which means I pretty much should write sci-fi short stories? Or a young adult fantasy novel?
At the time, I was also sort of, semi-quitting triathlon, so it seemed like a good opportunity to leave the whole triathlon/sports blog thing behind. Instead, I started this Tumblr and was well on my way to being part of the internet hipster elite.
But, the Tumblr never really worked right. [I couldn’t get the comments to show up always.] And, it turns out what people mostly like reading about is me and sports and triathlon and all that stuff I actually know a lot about and have experience in. Also, it turns out that’s mostly what I like writing about.
Then, last week I interviewed a bunch of uber-popularrunning bloggers for an article. They were all very, very nice people and had lots of very nice stuff to say about running and their stories and inspiring other runners with their stories. But, I felt like they largely didn’t represent my experience or story. In fact, a lot of the athletic internet doesn’t represent my experience, because a lot of it is slightly, well, too cheerful. In my experience, sports aren’t always cheerful.
Maybe I’m totally wrong about this. Maybe I’m really the only person in the whole world who starts out looking up something online and ends up completely side-tracked jealous Google stalking random people whose lives I wish I had and trying to figure out how they got there. Maybe. But, I don’t think I am. I mean Google-ing is a verb for a reason.
This is wrong. It’s an outdated (though prevalent) journalistic idea that does a disservice to the reporters, the news organizations, and the readers.
I am not the first reporter ever to have an opinion, nor am I even the most prolific in those opinions. Newsrooms, behind closed doors, are full of loud points-of-view on every current news topic and many no-longer-current news topics. Some of those views are based on information from covering stories and some are based on long-held biases. It is almost certain that said major news service currently has on staff someone with a passionately opposed view to mine. These people are, afterall, people.
The internet did not make opinions exist, it simply brought those opinions out from behind closed doors and made them more accessible and transparent.
If I hadn’t said online that I believe the Second Amendment is predicated on the obsolete need for a citizen militia, I would have probably still said it to friends. If I hadn’t said it to friends, I would have likely muttered it at the TV. And, even if I never let those thoughts out of my mouth, but locked them deep inside, they would have still existed in my mind.
And that would have been far more insidious and harmful to the freedom and accountability of the press.
It’s not that I don’t understand where this editor was coming from. I do. But, it is not a reporter’s job to be a robot, devoid of any human emotion. It is their job to go into things with an open mind, look at all sides, get the facts, and deliver a fair story. No one has ever accused me of not doing that.
(More than once I’ve actually had people assume my opinion was completely different than what it really was based on a story I wrote.)
If I was currently covering a political beat, I would probably not actively voice lots of political opinions online, simply because I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood (ah, well) or create a liability. But, I currently cover travel, sports, and finance. So, how far does the line extend into what I’m not allowed to have an opinion on? How much am I not supposed to be a person?
This is the second time I have lost a job because of something I wrote online. Neither time was what I wrote defamatory, slanderous, crazy, racist, sexist, outright mean, or otherwise terrible. In both instances, I was also well aware that the people hiring would find lots about me on the internet. I link to my blog from my website; it doesn’t take a genius to find it. I simply didn’t think, in either case, that being a human would disqualify from either job.
People will likely tell me I should be more careful or that I should learn from this. But, they’re wrong. Or, at least, they’re wrong about what lessons I actually did learn.
We, as a society, need to learn to stop lying about who we are. I see more and more people on facebook use pseudonyms because they worry someone seeing pictures from their trip to Tahoe will hurt their professional image. I know more and more people worried about how exactly this conversation will look or that email will read or if they failed to maintain an entirely blandly innocuous exterior. I hear more and more journalists opting out of any kind of involvement in their communities out of that same fear that they’ll somehow tarnish their ability to do their job — or they simply won’t get the job. Reporters too disinterested or unintelligent to care aren’t good for the press either.
You are who you are. If you have to pretend to be someone else half the time, you’re lying. And, eventually, you’ll slip up. And, you may not even need the internet to do it.
Me having an opinion about the Second Amendment — an opinion formed after lots of reading and thought and talking to people and watching video — is better for journalism and for the people who will read my stories than all those reporters pretending they don’t.
I have an answer to the first question. And, it doesn’t involve playing fewer video games. (The second question has no answer. There is nothing we can stop from ever happening. We can only do our best to make things more rare and more difficult to achieve. It is not impossible to try to kill many people with your bare hands or with a knife, but it is far, far more difficult.)
Here’s my answer: The Second Amendment, which we hear a lot about, actually doesn’t say anything about owning guns for protection or for hunting or for collecting. It doesn’t say you have the unadulterated or unregulated right to any and all firearms. The Second Amendment says, explicitly, that it is necessary for citizens of the newly-formed country to own guns because a “well-regulated militia” will ensure a free state.
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
As a country we have, of course, moved away from a system whereby we rely on armed citizens to serve as a citizen army. We currently have a formal, professional and quite costly military. We also, generally, no longer believe that it is the duty of the everyday citizen to violently ensure that the state never steps on the freedoms of its residents. We largely already outlaw armed militias attempting to take the place of those formal armies. Patriot Act and entrapment and civil rights violations aside, we — generally — do not consider it legal to build up an arsenal with the sole purpose of using it as some sort of quasi-governmental entity.
It seems to me that you can’t have the second half of that Amendment without the first part.
If the reason for something no longer exists, then that thing no longer has a reason to be. It’s time to say we got that one wrong in the Constitution.
In our modern society there is simply no reason to own guns, any guns. Not assault weapons as vaguely defined by law, not semi-automatic rifles, but any guns. (I am willing to make a very narrow exception for hunting with specific parameters on what constitutes a hunting rifle and for collectibles that would be tightly permitted.)
We do not live in a society that requires you to violently defend your land. We do not live in a society that requires you to act in some sort of quasi-legal enforcement capacity. In fact, it tends to go badly when people do. We live in a society with a formal police force trained to do the protecting. And, no, that doesn’t always work, but it works better than anything else. (As study after study shows, arming random people makes them more likely to be shot and makes them more trigger-happy.)
Have you never watched a TV show or movie or the news or, like, read a history book? The whole take-the-law-into-your-own-hands thing has a lot of casualties and doesn’t make for very nice place to live.
No, I don’t believe we have a violence epidemic. No, I don’t believe our schools are fundamentally unsafe places where every teacher needs to be armed. They are, generally, pretty safe, not perfectly safe, but pretty safe.
But, I do believe, we can not cling to a document written 236 years ago as a detailed handbook on how to live our daily lives now. It’s time to say we got that wrong.
Why posting on the social medias doesn't make a tragedy better
Every news channel all today has been running full coverage of the shooting in Newtown and every social media profile I have is filled with people commenting on the devastation.
I don’t approve of and I don’t deal well with our desperate reporting of these kinds of tragedies, hanging on each new piece of information. Partially, I don’t understand the attraction we have to be part of collective grief. But, more than anything, I think the around-the-clock coverage revels a little too much in the details and creates a climate that encourages someone else to do the same thing.
We want to be able to do something, I understand. But, comments on facebook - I would argue - don’t do anything. They don’t even relieve our sense of guilt at having done nothing. They simply inflame it.
In the last couple weeks I’ve had a whole lot of cross-country going on. My high school kids had conference and then sectionals (which the boys won and the girls got 7th) and then state for the boys.
So, there was a lot of standing at meets and yelling ‘Come on, you got to pass him, you can do this, let’s go’ over and over.
And, it’s easy, with all the yelling and the knowing the kids and the watching race after race, to forget that it’s not easy. It starts to seem like of course you can run fast; it’s simply a matter of a series of inputs and a will to run fast.
But, then, I actually ran a cross-country race and I remembered, oh right, it’s not.
It’s not that I’m slow. It’s just that I’m not all that fast either.
I did the Pacific Association Cross-Country Championships in Golden Gate Park sometime in between watching all those high school races. Pacific Association means that some Olympian won and some other Olympian got second and I was like 97th. And, I did it faster than I’ve ever done it and it still wasn’t particularly fast. It wasn’t even particularly fast for what I can do.
What I’m trying to get at here is that I didn’t quit or fall down or pass out or start crying or get a cramp or hurt myself or lose a shoe or have any of the numerous bad things happen that have happened to me in races. I just slowed down. I just thought, “You know, this is fast enough, I don’t really want to throw up today, no one is going to care anyway.”
And, I was right, no one did care.
At the California State High School, I was standing about 300m from the finish line, close enough that you could see it, but far enough that the runners still had a good minute to go. It was the last race of the day and, after the superstars went by, the pack of girls was getting a little more crowded. It was probably about 15th place or so — still far faster than I can run, but nothing anyone gets too excited about — and this girl just fell over.
Her legs gave out and she slumped to the ground. I watched her try to stand back up right in front of me, but her legs were visibly wobbling and they crumpled again. And, then she sort of pushed her way back up with her arms, but was weaving around like a drunk and you could see her legs give out again.
There are rules about no outside help, so the course monitors rushed over to her but couldn’t touch her unless she wanted to be pulled from the race — not that she was even in any condition to tell them if she did. So, they formed a non-touching circle around her to catch her if she passed out I suppose and to stop what was now a swarm of girls from running into her. But, she wasn’t staying in one place. She was trying to move toward the finish.
And so it went. She weaved back and forth on unsteady legs, falling over again, crawling now on hands and knees, and they bobbed back and forth around her, never touching.
Eventually, she started stumbling forward toward the finish line, then shuffling. She made it 100m or so and then her legs just gave out again. But, still she trying to get up and she kept falling over again.
I’ve seen this in videos and at the end of long races — multiple hours — but never in real life after a 5K. And, physiologically speaking, it’s hard to say what exactly you could do to yourself in 18 minutes that would cause the muscles in your legs to stop working. Yes, you can run yourself to passing out. Yes, you can run yourself to throwing up or falling over or peeing your pants or just being like, you know, this is enough pain. You can do a lot of things. But, you kind of have to have something already wrong, the flu or you donated blood or you’ve been fasting (all things I have seen kids race after), to have your body quit on you in that amount of time.
Or, maybe you just have to be able to take yourself to a place I don’t really visit anymore. Because there was a time, probably in high school, when if that happened to me I would have crawled my way to the finish line too. Because, oh my god, did it matter and people cared and there was nothing more important.
But, now, when the only thing riding on anything is my own personal sense of self-esteem, if that happened in a 5K, I’d probably just lay down and cry.
Why cyclists need police understanding, not crackdowns
Earlier this summer, a number of local police jurisdictions had big crackdowns on cyclists. It was supposed to be a targeted enforcement on lawbreakers on two wheels. Some police departments even focused just on cyclists for a couple weekends.
For a number of reasons — the targeting of a specific segment of the population and the ongoing hostilities towards a group of people on the road who are more vulnerable than others — this really seemed wrong.
I wrote an op-ed about it at the time, which was supposed to run in the paper. But, there were some disagreements.
So, I’m posting it here:
We have a lot of laws. We have laws about not driving while holding pets. We have laws about crossing the street in crosswalks. We even have laws banning smoking at bus stops, which are widely ignored.
What laws we choose to prioritize or actively enforce reflect our choices as a community. While immigrating to the U.S. without proper paperwork may be illegal, regular raids in Marin would likely cause an outcry against the ugly racism inherent in those enforcement policies.
When multiple police agencies in the county make it a public priority to target cyclists, it reflects no different an ugly bias.
It has been argued that Fairfax, San Anselmo, and Sausalito’s decisions to crackdown on cyclists doesn’t target cyclists but only lawbreakers. If that were true, then it would have been publicly announced as a crackdown on all traffic infractions. In fact, it was just the opposite. San Anselmo’s traffic enforcement division focused solely on cyclists one weekend. Evidently, leaving drivers free to do whatever they wanted.
Yes, I bike. I also drive. I even walk.
And, I understand how annoying a group of cyclists racing through town can be. But, the obsessive focus on cyclists coming to a complete stop at every sign, even if no one’s around, is a red herring issue.
We continue to insist on ‘separate but equal’ treatment, repeating that bikes must follow the exact same rules as cars, instead of acknowledging they are different vehicles with different expectations. Truly following the exact same rules on a bike would get you killed and hold up a lot of traffic. Let’s not lose sight of the intent of our laws: to make roads safer for everyone.
There are around 700 cyclist deaths every year. There are over 50,000 injuries. Yes, some of those accidents are caused by cyclists not stopping at stop signs. But, most are caused by simple misunderstandings between cyclists and drivers or by a lack of awareness or by blatant hostility that leaves someone blacked out after a hit-and-run.
Most accidents are caused by an attitude that treats a segment of the population as second-class citizens and targets them based on how they look.
Nearly every cyclist, particularly if they wear spandex, has been sworn at, called names, forced off the road, or been in a crash because a driver didn’t see them or didn’t think they deserved to be there – as if driving to ride a stationary bike at the gym is somehow more worthwhile. Hit-and-run accidents in West Marin are not uncommon and, often, the police either can’t or won’t do anything. Many cyclists who find themselves in the hospital are then faced with another battle that, to the best of my knowledge, has never ended with a driver being charged with anything in Marin.
I hear over and over that cyclists are arrogant and entitled. But, many are just frustrated.
When our police make it a priority to target cyclists they teach the community that it’s ok to target cyclists. When it becomes official policy to go after a segment of the population, it implicitly condones hatred of that segment. In this case, that makes drivers more likely to view cyclists as an annoyance and more likely to take an attitude that puts those cyclists in harm’s way – cyclists who now, more than ever, feel they will not have the support of the very people who are sworn to protect them.
When our police agencies make it a priority to target just cyclists, instead of everyone who make the roads unsafe, it makes the road a dangerous place.
It’s not that I never read David Foster Wallace before. His piece on the Adult Video Awards in Consider the Lobster is a long-time favorite. But, for the most part, I always found him slightly over-hyped. Over-wrought. A soothing intellectualism for the everyday hipster. I mistakenly put him in the same category as Dave Eggers. Good? Yes. Genius? Eh.
It’s also not that I had never read parts of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. I took a cruise once. It’s like required reading.
But, having now read the ENTIRE essay A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, which is no small feat, since apparently there was once a day when Harper’s published 100-page articles, I can agree: David Foster Wallace is a brilliant writer. Probably the best of this generation, era, whatever. The essay is stunning - both in its technique (I have no idea how to achieve that sort of casual breadth) and in its genuine humor and understanding.
“I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.”—Obama’s victory speech
I’m having a hard time understanding the election excitement today. It’s not that I don’t vote every election. I do. It’s more that of course I do and of course I follow local issues and national politics all the time - not just once a year, so stop yelling at me on facebook.
I imagine this is how hipsters must feel when their favorite indie band is suddenly playing in a Volkswagon ad and screaming 16-year-olds are making posters.
There’s always some debate about whether journalists should have political opinions and if they should be made public. But, of course people have opinions. Those opinions - if they are open-minded - are based on their experiences, people they talk to, information they learn. So, one would think that most journalists have pretty strong and well-thought-through opinions considering that they talk to lots of people and research lots of topics. (But, some don’t, I’m sure.)
Here is how I am voting on my way home later tonight, with little to no explanation because I don’t feel like arguing on the internets:
Senator: Dianne Feinstein
Rep: Jared Huffman!
Assembly: Honestly, I don’t know, I may make a game time decision or write someone in, because I am not excited about either, but probably Michael Allen.
Healthcare District: Harris Simmonds and Ann Sparkman
Prop. 30 (raising taxes to balance the budget): Duh. Yes. Are you kidding.
Prop. 31 (budgeting changes): No, unnecessary.
Prop. 32 (payroll deductions): No.
Prop. 33 (auto insurance): No.
Prop. 34 (repeal death penalty): Yes!
Prop. 35 (human trafficking): I didn’t know exactly how I felt about this, but have been convinced it’s more bad than good. No.
Prop. 36 (three strikes revision): YES, seriously, how do we even still have Three Strikes.
Prop. 37 (GMO labeling): Very split, because I don’t think GMO = bad and I don’t think people need more misleading labels to worry about. But, I do think Monsanto = evil. So, Yes.
Prop. 38 (tax increase for schools, that may counteract end up countering Prop. 30, but may also not in its entirety): Yes.
Prop. 39 (close corporate tax loophole): Yes!
Prop. 40 (redistricting): Yes.
County of Marin Measure A (tax to preserve open space): Yes. Though eventually we’re not going to be able to tax any more.
My junior year of college, I joined the triathlon team. I started going to practices and social events, making it a priority. Nationals was scheduled to be in New Orleans in the spring and I wanted to go.
That was August of 2005; the race didn’t end up happening in New Orleans. But, by god, it happened.
As Hurricane Katrina landed and left, I remember someone sending around a photo of water in the streets and captioning it: “Looks like it’ll be a swim-swim-swim.” It was just another hurricane at that point. Of course, the city would rebuild and repair itself. That’s what cities do. I grew up in Florida; that’s what cities do after hurricanes.
But, then, the levees broke.
We had just one TV in our apartment then and I don’t think we ever watched any news on it. In the days immediately after the hurricane, my roommate sat on her computer and poured over video (early YouTube) and news articles. She told me it was a disaster. But this is America, I said. We don’t let those kinds of things happen here. People will be dramatically rescued, Red Cross will set up shelters, help will come in time of course.
I was wrong. Lots of people were wrong about that.
That was also the first time I donated any real amount of money to charity as an adult. Of course help will come. We don’t just let people drown here.
Listening to the reports about Hurricane Sandy this week, I thought maybe I was reliving that again. Maybe I just wasn’t grasping what was going on, the severity of the situation. I tend, by temperament, to make every small calamity into a long-winded story, but rarely worry about the big disasters. Those, my thinking goes, don’t usually have much you can do about them anyway.
I didn’t want to be wrong again, so I poured over live updates and gathered photos. There wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway, but I wanted to know that we don’t just let people die.
It seems that, more or less, this time we haven’t. So far. Different accounts are putting the numbers around 30-40 dead in the US and another 70-80 in the Caribbean, where there’s fewer inland places to evacuate to. That’s still a lot of people and, obviously, for those people it doesn’t matter that fewer people were killed than could have been. Yes, the destruction has still been insanely widespread, with long-lasting consequences I am sure. But, compared to Katrina’s 1,800 dead, this time we did what we were supposed to do.
Help came quickly, smart choices were made by officials — for the most part, the city prepared, people were rescued.
(Now, I know there’s lots of complex socio-economic and racial arguments to be made about how and why the disasters played out differently. Because, obviously, in many ways, Sandy was the bigger storm. But, you could also argue that we learned from our previous mistakes. Which, here and now, is what I am choosing to believe.)
One of the pictures making the rounds during Sandy was of the Ground Zero construction being flooded (via AP):
Most of the comments about this photo suggested that it was heart-wrenching to see, devastating to watch what was to be a memorial to others who have died be destroyed.
I found it poignant, yes, but also a fitting memorial itself.
There is always another disaster, another immediate devastation to deal with. The steady flow of life washes away even the most searing of tragedies until there is nothing left but a scar. On this spot here, throughout history, other terrible things have happened and more will happen again. We are a hardy people. We move on. We do what we have to do. I’d like to think that if it meant 100 memorials being destroyed, so that people could live, so that emergency personnel could be deployed elsewhere, we would always make that choice. (Not that that trade-off was a choice in this instance. This was more simply an act of nature. But, still.)
I finally got awesome business cards after six months of not having them. And, since I practice the opposite of The Secret, now that I have finally have cards advertising my amazing freelance writer-ly services, that perfect full-time job will land right in my lap.
This is what they say on the back (and, yes, internet, I am showing you my phone number and email address, don’t make me regret it):
I would give you an update on the day-to-day of what it is like to be a freelance reporter, but I’m going to summarize this week’s activities:
I sent a lot of emails that more-or-less said: Where’s my money?
Oh, yeah, and I wrote like 3,000 words and did all the reporting on two other stories and pitched a whole bunch more and went to a conference all day Tuesday. But, mostly, I need to get paid so that I can buy stuff, like food for Floyd. Not getting paid regularly is the primary reason I could stand to have an awesome full-time job. Or a book contract. Either way.
One organization owes me $200 for something I submitted in April, which ran in June. Another magazine has stopped responding to polite inquiries ‘just checking in’ on the $250 I’m owed from May.
I actually like all the editors I work for and like the work, but most of them still have policies that mean I don’t get paid for a month or more after something is published — which, itself, can be significantly after I submit something if a magazine’s publication schedule runs a few months out. That’s just part of the deal. Three of the papers I write for all submit the invoices promptly after my story runs, and I see the money about a month later. One organization pays me quarterly, so every three months I get a check. Another asks me to submit invoices once a month, which is totally fine, and then I see the money another three or four weeks after that. One company, which pays amazingly well, uses an third-party HR vendor, so I submit invoices online, see the money 30 days later — MINUS a fee taken out by the HR vendor.
Each thing on its own is understandable or fine or just part of how it works, but as a whole, it adds up to a lot of work hoping you’ll be paid. And, my cash flow really dried up at the beginning of September. Not fun.
RIA Biz is pretty much what I count on for regular pay periods — invoice and paid immediately every two weeks. Almost like that’s how it should work.