A few of my colleagues are offsite this week; one team in San Bernardino, another in Reno, a project leader in France and my wife in Vancouver; leaving me behind to watch the store and support any project work remotely, actually offering me time to work on other stuff that needs to be completed by month end, including the filing of taxes this coming weekend in order to get a discount. Travelling this week would have required me to rush some work and miss deadlines, so glad the week would be spent catching up; for instance, I purchased office supplies in Staples to organize my papers; not achieving a lot but getting some order though more needs to be done; getting a chance to visit a small museum near home and eating lunch in a Japanese restaurant after church on Sunday. I had planned to complete my taxes, but I was caught up with housework and reading magazines that needed to be returned today, rushing to watch movies and television shows like my favorite Sunday show ‘The Walking Dead’, managing to catch ‘The Rum Diary’ – Johnny Depp’s belated homage to his friend, the writer Hunter Thompson; a wonderful work, especially the scenes on drinking and indulging in chemical substances in exotic locations like Puerto Rico; scenes I would have appreciated in my younger years.
In lieu of actual travel, I listened to Mark Twain’s excellent memoir ‘Innocents Abroad’, his humorous account of travels in Europe and the Middle East in the 1860’s; at a moment when America was about to emerge as a world power; years before Theodore Roosevelt’s adventures in the Spanish colonies of Cuba and the Philippines; first as assistant secretary of the Navy, then as Rough Rider, then Vice-President and eventually as President. Read today, Twain’s account would be labeled as racist, condescending and arrogant; the typical ‘ugly American’ especially in today’s charged atmosphere of political correctness, but that was a different time; Twain being the last person to be accused of being a racist, in fact criticizing the American occupation of the Philippines; instead his account should be taken as a humorous satirical tale of a naïve traveller. I finished the 15-CD audio book, listening at home after work or in my car; listening while driving to Simpsonville 15 miles away from home, looking at a possible new house on Saturday afternoon before going to the gym to swim. I also read Nathaniel Philbrick’s ‘Why Read Moby Dick’, an excellent primer to Melville’s masterpiece, in essence a travel book of the high seas (and of the soul), from the whaling town of Nantucket to the vast oceans, sailors born of distant shores amidst the adventure of capturing an elusive white whale.
In Ron Suskind’s ‘Confidence Men’, the condescending Lawrence Summers would remark to his team of being ‘home alone’, alluding to Obama’s inexperience as compared to Bill Clinton, an unfortunate statement considering Obama’s achievements. It’s a question of competence, a challenge hurled by the GOP contenders, of the peril of learning on the job, an unfair accusation as one feels Obama is a sensible natural leader, gifted with unusual intelligence and luck – a trait that one should not underestimate. With the office supplies from Staples, I organized my papers from the creative writing workshops that I attended last year, getting an impression of progress and emerging competence (like Obama?); the 2-day Wofford workshop, the 8 day one-hour course at the Greer community center, various hour long seminars at other places, watching the 24 lecture series on crafting sentences in DVD, blog entries and extensive book reading. A fair amount of study and practice but still lacking confidence, like earning an MFA on the cheap, spending more time in public speaking events, thinking these experiences enrich the writer; it’s about personal expression after all, filling the well with stories; recalling the article in the magazine ‘Poet & Writers’, that literary agents prefer story tellers, recalling the piece on a young author who writes without thought of plot, shaping a story from the many written paragraphs, discarding those unneeded words, looking at the output without emotion. This is a useful skill to learn while planning attendance on coming writing seminars.