Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Some Things Change. Most Don't.

So this morning I'm doing what I do, checking the news headlines and drinking coffee.  The first part of this ritual is probably ver bad for my health.  The Guardian, which I like a lot, is sporting an ad for something called "The Barefoot Writer."  With extreme trepidation, I click on the link.

I sit through an audio pitch from a woman sitting on a beach.  She used to have 120k worth of debt and an office job that was so bad she didn't have time to stop and have children. Now, since finding The Barefoot Writer she gets fancy pedicures and goes on vacation all the time.

Listening to this, I am instantly thrust back through the years to "The Amway Horror."

Amway was one of the original and biggest pyramid schemes of all time.  I discovered it while working a job in the early 80's.  I had two bosses, a good one and a creepy one.  The good one was always touting particular soap products, but not in an overly heavy way.  Just whenever some soap-requiring problem happened, whether it was motor oil or chocolate on somebodies clothing, he'd grab some stuff, pronounce its name several times and after touting its wonderful properties, slop it on the stain.  Even when it didn't work, which seemed like most of the time, he'd praise its stainpower removing prowess.  Being an underling, I always held back from saying things like "but the stain's still there!"  Instead agreeing enthusiastically and changing the subject.

I was only 19 or 20 and really looking for a promotion.  I'd been working there a couple of years and even though I was doing my best to show what a go-getter I was, working overtime, pitching in on projects I wasn't responsible for just to show the old team spirit, bla bla bla, I got passed over again and again. Always, oddly enough, by whatever female my other, creepy boss, happened to be sleeping with.  This was a long time ago and nobody every talked about that sort of thing back then.

But I digress, as I am wont to do these days.  Younger, cockier writers point their fingers and make fun of people like me.  They never digress.  But do you know why?  They don't have anyplace to digress to.  When you're older, every boulevard leads to endless streets crisscrossed by multiple avenues and alleys with twists and turns, filth and cast-offs, empty wine bottles and the occasional dead body.  Do any of you whippersnappers know how much monumental effort it takes under such circumstances, not to digress?  The shut up.

Okay, back to it.  One day I'm sitting in a kennel.  I've just finished feeding a bunch of elephant seal pups, which is a really hard job because elephant seals are as dumb as mud and if you don't stick a fish in their mouths at the right time they'll bite you.  I get up to leave and as I'm closing the gate behind me, my creepy boss comes along and says, "Catherine, there's something I want to talk to you about."  My heart fills with joy and so much anticipation I can hardly stand it.  Finally, I'm going to get that promotion.  I'll be in the union, full health benefits, making 11 dollars an hour (good money back then).  I might even be able to buy a new car, one that has a reverse gear (my 1968 Saab did not).  Life will be beautiful and all my problems will be solved!  "I know your pay isn't much and it's probably hard sometimes..." Oh boy, oh boy here it comes.  When do I start?  Do I get new shirts, wellington boots?  My picture on the union card?

 "My girlfriend and I have gotten involved with something that is really amazing and we are raking in the cash.  This product is so good it practically sells itself.  Have you ever heard of Amway?

I felt like 9 bowling pins all knocked over at the same time.

Not that The Barefoot Writer works exactly like Amway.  Amway was the classic pyramid scheme where the people at the top make money from getting others to sell the shit.  The Barefoot Writer sucks the last bit of marrow out of desperate writers' bones by selling them interminable classes so that when they finally and ultimately fail, which statistically 99% of them do, it must be their fault for not utilizing the information sold to them via podcasts and seminars, correctly.

Well, it's time to get going.  This is only a blog so I don't have to come up with any unifying or profound conclusion.  I just have to get out of my jammies, probably call my mother, then go to the pool and swim off the ennui just caused by reminding myself of that story.  I was real skinny back then, and my faded brown work pants covered with herring scales.  The sun by the seaside is gentle, the air cool.  Funny the things you remember.



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Why I Mostly Like Facebook



It's very trendy, especially amongst the youngsters, to desdain Facebook.  I get it.  Just like anything else it's bad if you overindulge in it.  Back in the day, we got addicted to normal things like cocaine, heroin, PCP, alcohol and sex.  Nowadays, kids get addicted to electronic devices and get so strung out they can't stop looking at them even if it means forsaking important things, like learning math or how to read.  Sometimes, they can't put social media down when their very lives depend on it.  The other day I made a perfectly legal and safe left turn and some I-phone entranced chicky stepped right off the curb against the light.  I nearly killed her.

Some people might argue that, well, "it's better than being addicted to heroin."  Is it really?  If that girl had been on herion I don't think she would have stepped off the curb in front of anyone's car, let alone mine.  I don't think she would have stepped anywhere except perhaps in the pool of her own vomit when she finally came off the nod.

The point is-- God, it's so unprofessional and tacky when a writer has to say "the point is," having been so caught up in her own clever narrative she forgot what she was talking about-- that just because overuse of social media is most certainly soul-destroying and as destructive as any other addiction, casual use fills some needs that don't otherwise get filled these days.

Gone are tight communities in which we're nurtured by regular and habitual social contacts.  In a way, this is good-- no one gossiping about the number of empty wine bottles in your garbage can every week, except in my case in which it can hardly be missed-- or about how shabby and greying the underpants hanging on your clothesline are.  But in another way it is very bad.  Humans, like all primates are extremely social creatures whether they like to admit it or not, and we need affirmation that we're not all alone.

I don't imaging this affirmation is hard to come by if you're Jane or Joe Regular.  If your sense of wonder is limited to where you last left your cigarettes, what time Fox News comes on TV, or whose going to play in the Superbowl, There are probably millions of like-mindeds you can hob nob with each and every day, feeling entirely socially and spiritually fulfilled.  But if you're not this kind of person, it's easy to feel a little marginalized in this world.

With Facebook, I occasionally have conversations with people who think in ways similar to mine.  Sometimes, rarely, but with a few individuals, I can have intelligent conversations. Yeah, yeah, the "echo chamber" thing is there.  But I'm 59 years old now and while there was a time in my twenties, maybe even into my thirties that I genuinely entertained conversations with people who think trickle down economics is a good idea, that Ayn Rand was a good writer, or that if I don't accept Jesus as my own personal saviour then I'm going to burn in Hell forever, I don't anymore.  Most of my friends are kind, loving, somewhat thoughtful people with values if not exactly like mine, similar.  I've arranged my cyber world in the same way I've arranged my regular world, only with fewer dogs.  The friends I have on Facebook are mostly like the friends I have or would in real life.  It's just that time and distance precludes us from seeing each other as often as we'd like to.

Some people have zillions of Facebook friends.  But if you let that many people into your world for the sake of accruing numbers, then ultimately you're faced with two choices.  You either never say anything of substance or consequence, in which case you're down to posting pictures of your meals and kittens,or you wind up with a bunch of bothersome weirdos you'll eventually have to "unfriend." The whole "I hate Facebook" thing, while legitimately earned-- people in cyberspace can become way more creepy than they can in real life-- comes from relying on it too much.

And then stepping in a pool of your own vomit when you finally get off the couch.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Frankenstein's Monster or How we Monetized Ourselves into the Shitcan

A few years ago I went back to college to get my MA.  One of the classes I had to take was called "Monetization and the New Media." One of the first questions one of the teachers asked was, "Who wants to start their own business?"  Three out of 17 students raised their hands.  These were liberal arts majors trying to figure out how to get paid for the arts they already knew, or budding journalists looking for a paycheck.  Everybody knew that traditional journalism was, if not totally dead, coughing up blood like mad. One day we took a field trip to the L.A. Times newsroom and it was like a mausoleum.  Bats flying out of it, cobwebs everywhere.  No, seriously, there was nobody in there, just a bunch of deserted desks, devoid of personal items, no reporters, no collegial banter between hotshots chasing down big stories.  There were a couple of computer screens lit up to monitor stuff going on in cyberspace but that was it.

In the Monetization class the teacher wanted us all to become entrepreneurs, to learn to market our own stuff.  Smart lad that he was, he was going gangbusters.  One of his favorite approaches was getting off the freeway at accident sites then walking back up the offramp in hope of the big scoop. Mostly he got yelled at for crossing the police lines, but I guess once in a while he sold some video.

But that was years ago, like 2014, and things have changed a lot since then.  Liberal Arts students take the monetization shit to heart now and as the recent presidential election has shown us, they ain't fucking around.  Some bright monetizer finally figured out that the echo chambers of the Internet were just dying to be filled.

Until recently, like most people probably, I didn't realize what echo chambers sites like Facebook actually are.  People interact with like-minded people, reading and commenting on stuff they like and ignoring stuff they don't.  It's easy.  You just stop following someone who annoys your or if they really make you mad you can bring out the big guns and "unfriend" them.  I hardly ever unfriend anyone because I don't want to hurt feelings, but this election cycle I finally had to offload a guy. I knew him a million years ago and we became FB friends a few years back.  He kept posting things about how Hillary should be in jail, investigated by a grand jury, or tried and shot at dawn.  Finally I couldn't take it anymore.  Oh, I made perfunctory attempts, like asking why all this horrible shit should happen to Madam Secretary  But he told me I was naive, that he thought I was smarter than that, bla, bla, bla.  Unfriend.  Bam!

I'm fairly careful about the news I take in.  I realized long ago that  you have to triangulate the truth, which means going to different outlets and reading different takes on events.  I go to the Guardian, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, which okay, is highly skewed but anyway it's not a real paper, just a news aggragator and I like the baby animal videos.  I like The Washington Post. Sometimes I read The Daily Beast and even check out Buzzfeed.  There are journalists I respect and some not so much, but if somebody's making an honest effort to get at the truth I'll read what they have to say.

But what that plucky monetizing, no-paycheck-anywhere-on-the-horizon journalism graduate student figured out was that what all those crapped out, haggard, grey-haired, overweight, alcoholic journalism professors had told them on the QT was Wrong!  There was still plenty of money to be made in journalism.  All you have to do is make a bunch of shit up.

On NPR I heard about a guy just the other day.  I was stuck in a traffic jam going either into or out of L.A., I can't remember which.  This guy lives in Santa Monica, makes 30K a week and has 24 writers working for him.  What those writers produce is 100% bullshit, which is funneled onto the Facebook pages of people inclined to believe pretty much anything that reinforces the beliefs they already have.  Of course I didn't know what my ex-Facebook friend was talking about when he said Hillary should be in prison.  How was I to know she murdered an FBI agent, chopped up his body, then destroyed it with acid in a bathtub.   It wasn't in any of the newsfeeds I read.  But it was in "The Real Story" and "Atrocitities of Democrats Run Amok" and "Why the Left Wants to Cut up Your Babies." And it was there because it was manufactured for money.

It makes sense, in a uniquely American way.  We don't make much actual stuff in this country, I mean besides hamburgers and cheezy crust pizzas and giant sized lattes with 4500 calories each.  So this latest generation of entrepreneurs figured out that they could make a lot of money simply by making up the news.

It's really dangerous to teach young people things.  They're likely to go out and not just do them, but improve on the original idea.

Or how about Marco Chacon?  I read about him this morning in The Daily Beast.  At first he comes off all ironic-like, one of these to-clever-by-halfs millennial wankers who want to see how many undereducated rubes they can fool.  So he'd write fake news stories, create fake hash tags like #NeverEverHillary, the stuff would get passed around the echo chambers of social media, and all the sudden the guy's a success, probably for the first time since he first pooed in his little yellow potty chair.  Not only did people believe his fake news stories, they passed them around and his statistics started going through the roof.  He wrote stories about The Deep State, and Hillary Clinton not just fainting, but being terminally ill.  Like-minded Facebook users passed  this garbage around and believed it to to be true.

And voila.  We got Donald Trump for president.

I'm kind of torn in my feelings about this brave new world.  On the one hand, these guys just created products, sold 'em, and made loads of dough.  It's capitalism at it's best, right?  They correctly understood cyberspaces that needed filling and transformed things really.  They innovated, thought "outside the box."  We live in a "post fact" world now, or so I'm told.  For many people, this is convenient.  Facts are bothersome, hard to remember and sometimes challenge long held beliefs.   But they do have a tendency to raise their ugly heads bye the bye.  May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Musings


The dogs are asleep on their living room bed, light on in the kitchen, I finally got two 65 watt bulbs into that fixture where before there were 2 one-hundreds and it was so bright it looked like the aftermath of a nuclear blast.  I've been for a walk; it's cold and crisp outside and as I sit down to write, for no reason other than it makes me feel better, I find it disturbing that I can't focus. This may be due to either having too much to say, all about unpleasant things like Trump and brutality and history along with the sad fact that we're all going to die someday and how dare the sun, when I get my comeuppance, go on shining without me.  Or it may be due to the anxiety pill I took earlier.  Truth be told, I was an anxious mess this morning and when I get that way I can't accomplish a damned thing.  I opened the washing machine threw in a couple of towels, then went to brush my teeth, but remembered the bill that's due today and the fact that I haven't spoken to one of my kids for 4 months even though he's only 5 miles away, and that my coffee's going cold.  Then I stick the coffee into the microwave only to discover a half hour later that I am out of laundry soap.  I run my tongue across my teeth realizing that while I put the toothpaste on the brush, said brush never actually made it into my mouth because the microwave beeped.

So I decided to the gym to take a posture fitness class.

The posture fitness class is run by a woman affectionatly dubbed "the posture nazi."  She believes in her thing, like all people with such things believe in theirs.  According to the posture nazi, correct posture can cure whatever ailes you and bad posture is the root of all evil.  In class we flop our arms around, stand up straight, stand on tippy toes and get harangued about our pelvises, but it's all in the service of the greater good and maybe it will cure everything that ailes everybody. Something's got to, doesn't it?

After the posture fitness class I go and do some time on the elliptical machine.  There are a couple of old ladies next to me, and by old I mean 3 or 4 years older than me.  They are trying to figure out whether they should take Social Security before it is all gone-- even though they won't get as much as they will if they wait until they're 65-- and if they're going to make it to Medicare before Trump gets rid of it and replaces it with leaches and mass deportations onto ice floes.  Their conversation was pretty centered on how they were going to save themselves from all the trouble that's coming.  Not that they weren't decent ladies.  I imagine their logic was like that of passengers on an airplane in freefall.  Always put your own mask on first, then help others.

I've been wondering about what my own little plan might be.  On the plus side, I'm white, was born in the US, and am sort of middle class, although close to the bottom of it.  Chances are that unless I burn a flag or get a subscription to the New York Times, I won't get deported.  Not that deportation must be such a bad thing, but I've always had trouble with Spanish and at this point in my life my brain is calcified sufficiently that I don't think I'll ever really learn it to the degree that I'd need to to survive.  Hell, I can never remember whether derecho or derecha mean go straight ahead or turn right.  If I was stuck in a Spanish speaking country I'd probably just go in circles all the time until I dropped dead of exhaustion.  I can just imagine myself banished to a place like Equador and trying to communicate my dilemma let alone get my prescription for Retin A refilled.  No, I don't think I'd like being expatriated at all.

But the ladies at the gym's concerns not withstanding, what's the best case scenario if one does manage to insure one's own survival in these troubled times?  How can any of us avoid this bloated hot mess that is our incoming president.

Donald Trump really does think that as president, he can deport people who burn the American flag. Now of course he doesn't give a damn about the American flag, and in a pinch I'll bet he can't even tell you how many stripes it has, maybe not even the number of stars, but in his mind, he's the boss now and can do what he wants.  And it's not even this crying baby/man who scares me the most.  It's all the people he's surrounding himself with who see him for exactly what he is: a tool.  All you have to do to make Trump do what you want is flatter him, cheer him on, tell him daily he's not the fat old tiny mouthed short fingered vulgarian the rest of us see, but as studly dynamic and handsome as he ever was.  All he wants to be is worshipped, praised, said yes to.  That's it.

I thought thing were bad when Bush took over, knew he was going to use 911 as an excuse to savage the economy and line all his friends' pockets.  We're still reaping the wages of that.  But Donald Trump is something different.  While Bush's arrogance was substantial, and weilded against the interests of the American people with great force and consistancy, still, after all this time I can't quite characterize him as a "bad man."

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a very bad man surrounding himself with worse ones who are going to play him to the hilt with total disregard for the consequences and suffering of the rest of us. And he's too dumb, or just too fucking disinterested, to see it.  He may, in the end, go down as the biggest toady in history but he won't care.  He can't.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dystopian Clusterfuck

Trump won the election.  I don't know how and I don't know why.  I've heard various explanations, like the bowels of the earth opened up and spewed their contents into the crankcase of a busted 43 Oldsmobile owned by the Devil and maintained by Pep Boys, to the raging hoards of disaffected and unemployed white male population of the mid-United States suffering simultaneous attacks of Mad Cow Disease.  I tend to favor the latter theory since those types of people eat a lot of hamburger.  People have short memories nowadays, but there was a time when the very thought of grinding bovine spinal cords and brains into hamburger meat sent people running for the shitters all over the nation.  Now?  Ah, who cares?

It wasn't supposed to turn out this way.  In fact, on the night of the election results coming in I was at a potluck with some friends.  The guy with the big eyebrows brought margeritas, somebody made tamales, somebody else a salad.  I brought pasta and we were all geared up for a jolly good time.  But by 8 o'clock things weren't looking the way they should.  It should have been a landslide for Hillary.  What kind of moron would vote for a slimy psychopathic con man with a dead red squirrel on his head?  I went home and binge watched a few episodes of "The Walking Dead" on Netflix, downed a glass of wine with an Ativan chaser, then hoped and prayed the morning would bring something other than it did.  Hell, I didn't even make it to the real morning but awoke at 3 AM and just had to check. There it was "Donald Trump to be 45th president of the United States."  It's hard to describe what I felt.  It was similar to what I felt on 9/11, when I knew what we needed in the Whitehouse was an enlightened leader, only instead we had George W. Bush.  I felt like Chaos had been unleashed only it was so much worse that that sort of disorganization implies.  It felt as if all the worst impulses of the human animal had been shot up with meth and let out of the zoo.

Civilization is a thin veneer.  It dropped away like a pervert's piss-stained pants.

In other news, and because this is blogging and nobody gives 2 shits about continuity, I quit my job today.  I was working at a luxury resort where people pay enormous amounts of money to eat healthy food, do yoga, waggle giant fire hoses around in the gym (this is a real exercise), get their tarot cards read, receive psychic readings, find out why their bowels are acting up or their penises won't follow their commands. Menopausal women are very upset because they're no longer the fuck machines their rich husbands married and are panicked at the realization that it's only a matter of time before they're traded in for newer models.  I worked in, "Medical," which is just across the walkway from "Metaphysics," "Spiritual Consulting" and, ah, I think golf.  I worked at this resort for nearly 3 months-- close to a record for me-- and never saw a sick person.  Rich people would come in to get their blood drawn to find out how they were metabolizing their vitamins, or if they were allergic to cumin, or whether spandex caused them too much stress and was giving them a rash.  Since the ascendence of "Medicine for Profit" commercial labs have sprung up all over the place mostly pandering to these kinds of people.  These labs will test for anything and charge more for it than the GNP of many small African nations.  And rich people fork over the dough too.  My job was to draw blood and send it off to these labs.  The labs would send back long reports telling everybody to eat more kale and less fatty food.  Beware the Medical/Industrial/Kale complex.

Now really, saying I drew blood is kind of an exaggeration and in the end the reason I quit.  Oh, I'm good with a needle, no problem there but the management was never quite convinced I would be able to treat the rich people with the deferance and fealty they deserved.  You have to fawn a lot over the monied classes, and if one of them is convinced that having a tiny needle stuck into an arm vein is tantamount to open heart surgery, you have to treat them as if it is.  I suppose in the end, and when all was said and done, I just didn't have that in me.  Mostly I had, "grow up you fucking babys!" stacked up like planes over La Guardia on a Friday night.  Still, I thought I hid it pretty well.  But maybe not.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Road to Hell

Sometimes, you don't have anything to say for the simple reason that there is so much to say.  The Republican nominee for president is a raving mad man, Tucson is so wet this season that the flowering bermuda grass is trying to kill me.  My new dog, who had five years before he met me and was, during this time left almost entirely to his own limited devices, still lifts his leg occasionally on the living room furniture.  A little girl riding in my car a couple of days ago said, "it smells like Miss Catherine in here."  Since I got back from L.A., I haven't had time to do a thorough job of cleaning the dog barf out of my car.  I've never had a dog who got car sick before.  Miss Catherine smells like dog barf.

Back in the old days, I sometimes smelled like Chanel #5.  Now that I think about it, I think I prefer dog barf.

But getting the dog was all in pursuit of good intentions, the road to which is paved and potholed, oilslicked and fraught with hazards.  There's a crashed bicyclist, his arms where his legs ought to be, trying to save the environment.  If you look further up the road you can see a rich person volunteering, taking foster kids with crap lives to the zoo.  They don't really like the zoo.  They can't go in the exhibits to pull the animals' tails and if they did said animals would maul them to death. They're rather be home playing Barbies and Frozen.  The only reason they agreed to go to the stupid zoo in the first place was for the ice cream promised afterwards.  Big ice cream.  Really big ice cream eight feet tall.  They're only six and eight years old, but already muffin-topping from their church-donated shorts so vehemently they don't even know what color they are. They'll both have diabetes in 2 years.

I don't want to talk about Donald Trump because everybody else is; and he feeds off of it like the Jack-the-Ripper creature from the original Star Trek.  In case you don't remember, there was an entity that invaded the Enterprise and began killing people in horrible ways.  Doing this sporadically in the guise of a dorky bald guy played by I-don't-remember but he used to be on TV all the time, the entity evoked shipwide terror which, it turns out, he fed on.  He had been traveling through the galaxies throughout all of time, always in different guises,Ghengas Khan, Jack the Ripper of course, Hitler, all those guys, wreaking havoc, fear, death, paranoia and doom.  In the end he jumped from his bald guy host to the ship's computer.  Kirk and Spock made the computer calculate the absolute value of pi and then McCoy gave everybody on the ship a tranquilizer so they'd be dopey and happy.  When Jack-the-Ripper thing enter one of their bodies, he got stoned and helpless.  Them beamed him out into deep space scattering his molecules so wide that he couldn't get back together again.

Where are Kirk, Spock, and McCoy when you need them?


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Catherine O’Sullivan  “On Coming Full Circle”

Driving back into town, It’s greener than I remember it.  My kid says we’ve gotten more rain.  Picacho Peak looks like broken beer bottle glass, the sun low on the horizon smooths out the landscape as the saguaros disappear into the shadows.

It’s been 6 years but then what’s a little time between friends?  I left Tucson for a bunch of reasons primarily divorce, which is horrible, but what’s even worse-- menopause.  In 2009 it seemed like everything was stacked against me, and what with the hot flashes, well, one day I woke up and proclaimed, “As God is my witness I will never be too hot again.”  I fled to Seattle.

An interesting town, Seattle.  Good music scene—I met some nice people there-- excellent coffee but it rains all the friggin’ time and there were days I pined continually for just a little bit of photosynthetic warmth like a calf pining for its mother.  Just break through for a minute, sun.  Pretty please with sugar on top.

So I gave Los Angeles a try.  Now before anyone jumps to overly harsh conclusions, there was method to my madness.  I was born in Hollywood.  My mother still lives in the same house she and my father bought on the G.I. Bill in 1957.  I wanted to hang with her and see if Thomas Wolf was right, whether it was true that you can never go home again.  He was.  Going back to L.A. after a 25 year absence was like having momentarily left your seat in a crowded movie theater.  When you go back in not only has someone taken your place, but they look at you as though you’re clinically insane having ever imagined it was yours in the first place.  I did a lot of things in L.A.  Worked as an extra in the movies, met David Duchovny, Antonio Banderas, and had a lovely chat with Fabio, who tried to sell me his new line of vitamins.  I worked for a Nazi vegan at a vegetarian restaurant who kept throwing hissy fits because he didn’t like the way I sliced the bell peppers.  He was tall, rail thin with anemic blue eyes and too many calcium deposits at the edges of his scraggly, gapped teeth.

Then one day something happened.  There I was looking at my Facebook page and a college professor friend was advertising a Master’s program in journalism at USC.  He told me he thought I had a swell shot of not just getting in, but getting an Annenberg Fellowship (translation: a full ride including a 20K stipend) because of all the great work I’d done with The Tucson Weekly. 

At USC I learned about “The New Journalism,” which mostly has to do with Twitter and blogging.  That part I understood well enough; it’s like starting a religion.  You do your very best to get as many people as you can to follow you, then via your blog, believe everything you say.  They also taught me about “backpack journalism.”  This involves installing an expensive program on your computer, getting a camera and some mics, although an I-phone will do, and taking them with you everywhere you go.  One of my teachers told me he got his best stuff watching for accidents on the freeway, that once they had it blocked off, walking back up the off-ramp and getting all the footage you want is easy.  The police, he said, hardly every bother you because they’re so busy writing tickets and helping the firemen load shattered bits of humanity into ambulances they don’t have the time.  Plus, they hate arguing with “the press.”  All that pesky First Amendment stuff.  Once you’ve got the material, including an interview with a bystander if you can swing it, you get into the back seat of your car, produce a piece and try to flog it to CNN or FOX News.  CNN pays better, but FOX buys a lot more of the gory stuff.

But the most interesting thing about “The New Journalism” is that since it’s nearly impossible to get a job in old style journalism now, the focus is on how to write advertising copy.  The hitch?  You have to convince yourself that what you’re really doing is being “entrepreneurial,” and not selling out.  I took a class, well, part of one anyway, called “Monitization and the New Media.”  I only went twice, quickly developing severe stomach problems and electing to do an independent study project on Hunter Thompson instead, but in that class they’d have speakers including brokers who pimped out writers to work for corporate publications.  Dell, for example, has a monthly “news” publication that explains all the innovations you can stuff between a couple of glossy, polished covers.  The professor teaching that class was pretty happy to see the back of me.  I kept asking questions like, “what if you want to write something about the corporation or its products that aren’t complimentary?”

By the time my son and I roll into Tucson it is just about dark.  We unload the U-haul and after consuming a bag of cheese crackers and a couple of beers, I find my pillow and blanket, feed my dog, and locating the mattress, fall fast asleep.  The next morning I remember I’ve got to feed my friend’s cat and as I hit the intersection of Speedway and Alvernon, I watch as a short, stout sixty-ish woman in faded black spandex shorts, a basketball jersey with no bra, a can of Mountain Dew in one hand and a cigarette in the other, crosses in front of me.  Nobody looks at her, nobody cares.  I am back in Tucson.


 I turn the air conditioning up inside my car.