Category - personal

Labor Day (#UnRetirement)

Seems like as good a day as any to start a new job. 

Yes, I have a day job now.

I was hired by Apple to work in their Green Hills… well, they don’t want to call it a “store” any more.  So I just work at “Apple Green Hills.

Please come by and say hello.  I will be happy to direct you to the people who can resolve your issue (it ain’t me, babe…)

 

Don’t Try This At Home

This is a story about how being a jerk can actually pay off.

I went to the Container Store in the Green Hills Mall yesterday because it is Nashville’s only retail source for Moleskine notebooks. While I generally avoid having/doing anything quite so trendy, I had decided Moleskines are as good a bound journal as any, so I  went to get one.

I walked into the Container Store and my first impulse was to find an employee and ask “where are the Molekines?”

Good luck with that…

There was not an employee anywhere to be found  in the vicinity of the entrance, or on the whole upper floor.  I could tell just by looking around  the first floor (which is relatively small area compared to the rest of the store which is the floor below) that the Moleskine display was not going to be on that floor, so I took the escalator down to the main floor.

The escalator opens to a large open area in the center of the main floor.  There are cashier counters in the center of area.  But, again, there was not a sole to be found – except for some other customers who seemed equally baffled at their inability to find any personnel to help them.

I felt like I’d stepped into some television show where only the employees had been swept up in the Rapture.  I figured the next scene would be customers helping themselves and just walking out of the store…

Just in case I was wrong about that, and being the incorrigibly obnoxious person that I often default to, I just shouted, quite loudly and to nobody in particular,

“DOES ANYBODY WORK HERE?!?!”

And of course, at just that instant  a young man appeared from amid the the aisles and stacks in a regulation black t-shirt – rather shocked that anybody would actually conduct themselves that way, and equally embarrassed that a customer had found it so difficult to get help that he seemingly had no recourse but to ask for it at the top of his lungs.

Quickly and efficiently, the young man asked what I needed and directed to the Moleskine display. After a few minutes of deliberation I decided which notebook I was going to buy. The task was made slightly more difficult than it needed to be because all of the products on display were hermetically sealed in plastic wrap, making it impossible to see what the pages inside actually looked like.  But I managed to figure it out.

Ah, retail… This is why I buy almost everything except groceries from Amazon.

I made my selection and rode the escalator back to the upper floor to the only cashier that was open and waited my turn in line (another one of my least favorite features of bricks-and-mortar shopping).  The couple I’d seen downstairs that was as perplexed for help as I was in front of me.  They paid for their stuff – a variety of big plastic containers – and then it was my turn.

I put the Moleskine down on the counter and reached for my wallet.  I had my credit  card out and was all set to pay my $20 for the notebook…

…when the young man who had magically appeared downstairs when I started yelling like a crazy person magically appeared again, behind the counter.  He waved off the cashier, then picked the Moleskine off the counter and handed it to me and said “we’re good…” – in other words, giving me the notebook and not charging me for it.

I certainly didn’t see that coming.

I was sufficiently surprised that I did not fully register what else he said. He might have said “I hope you have a better experience the next time you’re in the store.”

Or he might have said “Please don’t ever come back…”

In some kind of bemused shock,  I ambled out of the Container Store with a free Moleskine notebook, wondering how exactly being such a jerk had produced such a seemingly worthwhile result.

And figuring that I would tell the story and end it with the hashtag

#Don’tEncourageMe 

My Weekend with the
Hot Screaming Death Torpedoes

That’s what my friend Craig Havighurst calls those fragile, over-powered, insanely fast, open-wheeled vehicles (I hesitate to call them “cars” since a “car” is what we drive around town all day, and these are definitely not that…) in which daring young men hurtle themselves at ridiculous speeds  around oval-and-road courses all over America almost every Sunday afternoon through the spring and summer.

The “death torpedoes” line comes from “The Speed of Sound”  – a long-form essay Caig has written about the audio engineering at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which he’s offering as part of an experiment in crowd-funded independent ‘literary journalism’; follow this link to his Indiegogo campaign, or learn more about the campaign on this Facebook page. 

Thanks to Craig, I just spent an extraordinary, memorable four days covering an IndyCar Road Race – would you believe the “Grand Prix of Alabama”? (some how that combination of words seems almost oxymoronic: the elegant European traditions of a ‘Gran Prix” are not normally the sort of thing one associates with ‘Alabama’) – at the exquisite Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham.

Craig was on assignment to write a profile of Josef Newgarden – the Nashville (Hendersonville, actually) native who has risen through the ranks of motor racing to become one of the hot prospects on the IndyCar circuit, one of America’s two “major leagues” of auto racing (the other being NASCAR).  I got to tag along for the weekend to provide photo coverage for the story, which will appear in the Nashville Scene the Thursday before Memorial Day, aka the weekend of The Indianapolis 500.

Craig and I share some interest in what are generally called “motor sports” – that daring marriage of men and machines that has been around for as long as the horse was taken off the carriage in the late 19th century.  Admittedly, Craig is a far more avid proponent of the sport than I.  He closely follows the Formula 1 circuit, which some consider the zenith of all auto racing, though Craig actually prefers the somewhat more raw, more muscular world of the open-wheeled roadsters that have been racing around the big oval in Indianapolis almost every year since 1911.

My own interest in auto racing is relatively dormant compared to Craig’s.   I followed auto racing when I was in my early teens, following the exploits of Colin Chapman, Jim Clark and Team Lotus as they conquered Indianapolis in 1965.  Craig is very much up-to-date on the drivers, the equipment, the rules, the schedule, and the season-long championship standings;  I sorta lost interest when Jim Clark died on a track in Germany in 1968 – which, not coincidentally, was about the time my own interests were gravitating more toward girls and guitars…

Anyway, this past weekend was extraordinary.  Armed with a media pass, I had access to the entire facility, and spent much of race day in the infield, where these things were zooming around me in all directions and I could get right up to the edge of the track as they roared and screamed by.

Anybody who knows me knows that the word “awesome” is on my short list of the most over-used words in the English language, but the experience of being in the middle of all that was, how shall we say?  It was just was fuuuckinggggg aaaaaaaaaaawwwwesoooooome….

There was one the moment when I was standing behind a guard rail at the end of one of the fastest straight-aways, the cars going by me at their top speeds in the vicinity of 200mph…  And I had a moment where I realized where I was standing and just thought “this is inSAAAANE!”

I mean these “cars don’t just “crash,” they explode and throw parts and debris in all directions.  Granted,  there was little likelihood of a car going off the track on a straightaway, but it’s not impossible. For example, were one car to try to pass another and their open-wheels touch, the result can be two cars going in all but their intended directions; One could go off the track, strike a guard rail and explode, tossing wheels and other parts in multiple directions.  Yes, the actual likelihood of such an event was slim – but not quite nil.   And there I was, leaning out over the guard rail with a camera as these things screamed by…

I can’t post any of the photos from the weekend until The Scene has decided which ones they will use to accompany Craig’s profile of Josef, but I don’t think they’re going to use the “arty” shot at the top of this post.

I caught that one in a hot moment as Josef was blasting out of the pits for one of the qualifying heats on Saturday afternoon, the day before the big race.

You’ve heard of a “pit stop”?  I’m calling this one “Pit Start.”

*

Digest subscribers, I’m sorry that’s all I’ve got for you this week.  The past week has been pretty much “shoot / edit / sleep” – and tomorrow I’m off to Portland OR for the next 10 days to visit with family there.  Hopefully I’ll have some time to post from there.  Thanks, as always, for your interest and support.

Preview: Time Capsule 1969:
A 60-Something Looks Back At The 60s

So…

This is what I have been working for (I hesitate to admit) the past year or so…

It started when I went into the basement last winter to see if I still had an ‘off-the-air’ tape recording I made in 1966 of Arlo Guthrie performing “Alice’s Restaurant” – a year before the record [Spotify] was released.

When I opened the big Rubbermaid tub where I thought I’d find the old reel-to-reel recording, I also found the journals that I started keeping in the spring of 1969 – a record of my last months in high school and my first year of college (though not, really) at the end of a very tumultuous decade.

The timing was providential.  For a while, my personal guru (OK, my therapist for the past 20+ years) had been encouraging to “tell your own story…” And there was the beginnings of it, in a set of three-ring, loose-leaf binders.

So that’s what I have been doing… spending as much time as I can transcribing those journals into a word-processor-on-steroids called ‘Scrivener‘ and slicing and dicing and massaging and compiling and trying to come up with a story.

A few months ago I published (to Medium.com) a few installments that were drawn from the notes I made during and after two days and nights at a little music festival in the summer of 1969 called “Woodstock.” (Actually, it was called ‘The Aquarian Exposition’, and it didn’t really happen in Woodstock, but, hey, who’s counting?)  Read the resulting account starting here:

Whatever Happened To The Age of Aquarius?

Last week I added several new installments, what I imagine will be the first three chapters once this enterprise finds it way in to some kind ‘book*’ form:

Preface: A 60-Something Looks Back At The 60s

Chapter 1: Suspension – In which I get sent to the principal’s office – with about two dozen of my classmates 

Chapter 2: Admission – Destiny fulfilled, I get in to a college.

There are some other links on the home page for the project, TimeCapsule1969.com

In addition to the initial incarnation as a ‘book’ of some kind, I also keep imagining this project manifesting as some kind of stage show, with readings from the book and performances of some of the music that provided the soundtrack of the period.

With that in mind, as I’ve worked on this project I’ve been compiling and listening to a Spotify-based playlist of some of the music I listened to during the period I’m writing about.  A lot of these are the songs I figured out when I was learning how to play guitar (starting in 1966); a lot of them I can still play, and those are the songs I’d perform along with readings from ‘the book.’

Whether you’re a refugee from that period or curious millennial, I think you’ll find a lot to listen to in this playlist:

I have been adding new tracks to this list on a fairly regular basis. At present it’s almost 150 songs and more than 9 hours.  If you are a Spotify subscriber, subscribe to the list and you’ll be notified when I find new things to add to it.

And if you’re interested in following this work as it unfolds, use the form in the sidebar to the right of this post to subscribe to my “Weekly Digest.

I am publishing the material that I’ve got so far for the sake of soliciting some feedback, to see if any of my stories resonate with a potential readership.  It’s really easy for me to think the worst of my own work, so if anybody finds it worth the time and effort, it would kick my ass a little to know that’s the case.

Now then, where was I?

Oh yeah, just arriving at the George Washington University in September 1969… hmmm… who’s that pretty red-head…

What Ever Happened to The Age of Aquarius?

Just posted to Medium.com: one of the early chapters from…

Time Capsule: 1969 – A 60-Something Looks Back At The 60s

Yes, was REALLY there.

Yes, was REALLY there.

This is a first hand account of my experience at Woodstock, based on notes scribbled at the scene and a more detailed account written shortly after – and then embellished with 45 years of hindsight and retrospection.  The entire chapter is about 4,000 words, but for the sake of web-induced, nano-second attention spans, I have broken it down into three shorter installments.  Start with:

Whatever Happened To The Age of Aquarius, Part 1

…and if that holds your attention, follow the links to subsequent installments.

Comments and feedback much appreciated, wherever you care to leave it (in comments here, on Medium.com, Facebook, Twitter, Cuneiform tablets).

And by all means feel free to pass it along… there are surely others outside my immediate sphere of influence who can relate… regardless of their age.

Crazy/Healthy

I have published a new article to the Medium website:  death

It’s called Crazy/Healthy

“Dude, you are crazy healthy,” the anesthesiologist said after examining my chart. That’s also pretty much what the nurse said who had taken down the medical history. That’s what the doctor who was going to perform my procedure said.

First, to dispel any alarm: I was at this clinic early on a Wednesday morning in May for a routine ‘screening’ procedure — the sort of thing that a man in his mid 60s will have to endure as a consequence of having lived into his seventh decade, provided he harbors serious aspirations of living in to an eighth or even a ninth decade…

Click here to read the rest.

The One I Let Slip Away

In 1969 and 70, I was part of three crowds of more than a half-million people, including the massive demonstration to protest Nixon's invasion of Cambodia in May 1970.  So I'm in this picture, somewhere...

In 1969 and 70, I was part of three crowds of more than a half-million people, including the massive demonstration to protest Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia in May 1970. So I’m in this picture, somewhere…

Not sure where to begin this.. so I’ll start with this llink:

The One I Let Slip Away

….and offer this by way of explanation:

A couple of months ago, I was suddenly inspired to revisit “the archives” – two large Rubbermaid tubs filled with paraphernalia that I started accumulating in the late 1960s… during my senior year in high school, and my first year attempting to go to college.

I don’t remember now exactly what motivated me to dig into those archives, but getting in there has been something of a turning point.

I look at the stuff in that now and realize I sent myself a time capsule from 1969.  And in that time capsule are the beginnings of a (partly fictional?) memoir about coming to age at the end of the 1960s.  That’s what I’ve been working on for the past couple of months – a book that I started writing 45 years ago.  What I’ve posted above is an excerpt…

Two weeks ago I dove into a stack of letters from a girlfriend I met during that period, and the experience was unexpectedly visceral.  I tried to capture the essence of that experience in a couple of pages of free-form verse, which I published to Medium.com this morning in the piece I linked above.

In that post I think I found the emotional heart of what I’ve been working on.

Beyond that, probably the less said, the better.

Greetings, New Subscribers….

…and welcome to your first edition of The Weekly Digest.

The Troubadour Logo - it's a long story...

The Troubadour Logo – it’s a long story…

(Oops.  I got so wrapped up writing this this morning that I forgot to tag the relevant posts for this week’s digest – I thought I’d done that already. It should have included the first two posts below (Jeff T and Melrose Abbey)  Doh!)

I’m sure there’s a better name for this recurring missive, but despite my vaunted creative genius that’s the best I’ve been able to come up with so far.

I am pleased to see that there have been a notable number of new subscribers to this list in the past week – which is even more notable because I don’t know who any of you are.

Most of the subscribers to this list are friends and family – people with whom I have had some form of personal contact since I started the list several years ago. But lately, I’m seeing new subs from people I don’t know, whose e-mail addresses I don’t recognize,

I recall reading somewhere that your ‘fan base’ isn’t really growing until it begins to spread beyond the people that you know personally – so it is gratifying to see that my reach has begun to grow organically beyond a certain inner circle.

I am involved in several realms of creative endeavors.  My most recent business card (I make up new ones all the time) identifies me as:

Paul Schatzkin
writer·photographer·musician·artist

…and each of those categories represents some measure of both accomplishment and aspiration.

Read More

Tales from Digital Rehab (3): This Is Where Our Lives Go

Thursday, September 25, 10:21 AM

blog-digital-distractionsJeez,  is it already almost 10:30?  I was so sure I’d be at the keyboard by 10.  A few minutes before 10, I was almost done clearing my inbox of the detritus that I’d let accumulate by mostly ignoring it the day before.  And then one thing and another… and now it’s 10:21.  Another half hour I’ll never get back…

See, that’s the quandary.

Time slips by in tiny increments… one small distraction after another, and before you know it a quarter, a half, a whole hour has slipped by and there’s nothing to show for it except time spent with the RTG – The Random Trivia Generator.

The Random Trivia Generator is not just Facebook. It’s the whole Universe of digital distractions.  Here we see the downside in the interconnectedness of all things. Maybe it starts with an indispensable tool like e-mail, which by now is mostly littered with  e-newsletters of varying degrees of actual interest, each with their own links to something brighter and shinier beyond.  Once you’re in the browser, there are more links, most of them of the “link bait” variety that promise even deeper satisfaction if you just give into your curiosity and… click here.

I’d snuck into Facebook for a minute.  Just to clear an item I’d left in my inbox from yesterday, a link I needed to post to The 1861 Project’s Facebook page, which these days serves as the Project’s website. Since the actual website attracts so little traffic – and conversely the Facebook page gathers whatever interest there actually is in the project – we just redirected the domain to the Facebook page and we “engage” our “audience” there.

Tales of distraction: I’m suddenly tempted to drop the developing stream of consciousness that was forming here in order to follow up a phone call I made a few minutes ago with an text msg.  But when I open the phone I discover that an e-mail I thought I’d sent from my phone hadn’t actually been sent.  It was stuck in a digital limbo called “Outbox.” So I had to (?) drill down into my mailboxes to find the unsent message and attempt to “Send” again.

And now I’m tempted to check the device again to see if the message has sent. And that’s when I realize:

This is where our lives go. Read More