Small Talk

So… so, how’s it going there? Pretty good? That’s fantastic, some great fall weather we’re having here, huh? Kinda’ wet on the wrong days, right?

Sorry ‘bout that. Trying out my small talk.

Anyway, it’s autumn and the weather is fine enough with today being the first really cool day. I started a new permanent job a few months ago after wrapping up a contract that was the equivalent of a tooth extraction without Novocain. Fortunately it’s over and the hurdles of my new job don’t come close. It’s nice to take a break from contracting and the anxiety of sporadic employment in these here troubled times. I guess I can’t make fun of permies for a while since I’m now one too…

Generally I have a lot to be thankful for. By choice I’m surrounded by some mighty fine people and I haven’t had any random bad stuff come at me lately. Which doesn’t mean it won’t or that I won’t deal with it when it arrives. Just enjoying the lull. I’m working on a couple of creative projects in a slow burn sort of way, one of which involves assembling a team and relying on other folks to deliver but we’ll see how that goes. Most days I can take my pleasure from the process as much as the end result and this should be a really interesting ride. If it amounts to anything, you’ll know all about it. For now, I need to practice clearly elucidating an idea (elevator pitch) and figuring out what other people’s motivators are. It’s gotta’ be a win-win all around if I’m going to wring the best out of everyone involved. Future everyone’s anyway.

The second project is photographic and requires research and some amount of new tool learning. Could be quite neat.

I guess I could say something about Occupy Wall Street since I work so close by but what’s left to be said? Who doesn’t feel helpless and unheard in these tough times… although I am waiting to see what happens with the other protest groups that are now courting them for side protests like the Verizon workers. That could cause them more credibility damage than not having a message and being arrested for mass ignorance. It would look a bit mercenary. But that trivial matter of image pales compared to the fact that more people have been arrested for these protests in the first week than have ever been arrested for this financial disaster in the last 4 years. Hell, I’m sure a good case could probably be made that it’s treason for creating and allowing a collapse that jeopardized the countries economy… Ok, I’m done. Feeling helpless sucks and the bad guys often get away. That’s life.

One of my Flickr contacts shot some really nice portraits of OWS folks here.

Random – here’s a photo I took on PCH-1 on my inaugural trip to California with my awesome gf back in April. Man, what a great trip that was! 🙂

Aim For Excellence And I Guarantee I’ll Come Back

I have a friend, an office friend who’s really into mojitos. Like super duper into them – the sun rises and sets on this damn drink for her. I get that. I have my own faves this just isn’t one of them. I’d drink it all the same. Now, with that in mind we formed a mojito drinking club. Officially we are the Mojito Summer Club. The goal being to go out once a week in search of the bar making a perfect mo. We got a small pile of co-workers together for our initial outing and we started with the few places near the office…

I don’t have a problem with an average drink but I do have a problem with one that flat sucks, independent of price. But I do get more pissed off when it’s pricey. In the one case we were at an actual Cuban place and the mojito was… ok… just ok. Maybe toothpasty and too seltzery. Indifferent. At a Cuban place that even had a cigar bar on its top floor. Really, isn’t this a Cuban drink? Shouldn’t it have been outstanding? I’m not going back there for any reason if they can’t make a staple like that great. The next location was called something or the other Grande and they didn’t have mint I think so we ended up drinking other stuff. Someone in our group recommended we do shots of Patron tequila coffee liqueur so I tried it. To each his own but it was coffee flavored cough syrup so if you like drinking cough syrup somebody’s got a product you can overpay for. A bit too medicinal for me though. I might’ve liked it more if I also had a bad cough AND wanted some booze. At one point I gave the bartender a recipe for a cocktail I make at home (truth be told, my gf can crank this out in high volume faster than I can write this post). Then I watched her proceed to try to make it. Now, this ain’t a rocket science kinda drink, there’s no egg white in it or other foaming ingredients, it’s just three kinds of liquor and you top it with beer. There, see, I even wrote out their measures figuring she would use a shot glass or some other convenient form of bar measure because, why give her room to mess up making a requested drink that she can get a decent tip for? Anyway, she winged the measures by eye and it came out like crap. And it was more like she was humoring me than actually trying to do something right. Or maybe she had no talent for it and she wanted to go back to opening beer bottles and using branded mixers. Surprise. In the multi-billion dollar earning Jersey City Financial District. I guess it’s just a good place to get a beer and move on.

Unfortunately these two bars cater to different crowds so don’t compete directly.

People and businesses have some similarities. Without competition both can get pretty slack in the quality department. The real tough part is figuring out how to drive yourself in the absence of pressure. As a business that may not make sense from a day to day cost perspective but the last thing you want to have happen is have another place open up nearby that offers exactly what you do but it’s better. Or the same but cheaper. I think when you’re excellent at doing something you only have to worry a bit about the value proposition but if your product is also weak…

In the case above I was asking waaaay too much – luckily, I frequent and get served by some really excellent mixologist type bartenders (Manhattan, Brooklyn, San Francisco) and it really sets an expectation that can’t be met when I drink anywhere else. At any cost point. They are individuals operating at a high level of quality and they are part of the tone that the establishment is putting forward. I don’t always find them affordable but I’m always looking to get back there as quickly as I can. That’s some excellence right there.

Newsflash: Excellence Requires Work

I do a bunch of things fairly well, some just so-so, and what I can’t do well I can usually figure out.  Or at least I’ll TRY.  Because there’s a lot of reward and enjoyment in conquering a new challenge, picking up a new skill.  On the other hand there’s some stuff that I just can’t seem to grok so I phone a friend before I start banging my head against a wall.  I call that KNOWING WHEN TO GET HELP.  Of all the skills I have this is probably the most valuable on a day-to-day basis.  Why figure out how to build a rocket to jump the Grand Canyon when you can just call up Evel Knievel and ask? 

Case in point:  As much as I’d like to think I can easily create music from scratch I really can’t, at least not now.  Sure, I can create a riff  but a fully integrated piece of music seems beyond me.  Like there’s something I’m not understanding or seeing – a blind spot.  Some might call that the talent gap.  I don’t even want to get into writing lyrics…

Don’t know if you’ve heard Lippy Kids by Elbow, which, to me, seems like it’s pretty much about  living through those golden summer times of our youth where anything and everything was possible – at least that’s how I read it… anyway, here’s an excerpt:

Lippy kids on the corner again

Lippy kids on the corner again

Settling like crows

Though I never perfected the simian stroll

The cigarette senate was everything then

Do the know those days are golden

Build a rocket boys

Build a rocket boys!

One long June

I came down from the trees

and kerbstone cool

You were a freshly painted angel

Walking on walls

Stealing booze and hour-long kisses

And nobody knew me at home

Admittedly I’m nutty for this band but point is, HOW DOES ANYONE EVEN THINK THAT KIND OF STUFF UP!?!??! 
I find this on an order of excellence that I’ve never come close at in anything I can recollect.  Now, I’m not being down on myself or anyone else – there’s a huge value, to yourself and society, in being very good in several things without being excellent in any one.  For one I actually think it’s key to being a good project manager.  And there are certainly some folks who are naturally better at some tasks than other folks.  Factoring in innate ability I think it really comes down to a level of focus – an ability to run down to a point of exhaustion and put every ounce of what you have in.  Sort of like being, um…anti-lazy?  The word for that escapes me at the moment.  Dedicated is maybe the right one.  Maybe invested?  Anyway, I tend to bail before that point because usually that final mile seems harder than the twenty four you just ran to get there and 96% percent is good enough, right? Funny that I should use a running analogy because that’s the most recent experience I have where there can be as many hurdles in your head as there are in the real world but once you’ve already done something once half the head game goes poof!

In any case I’ve been living through a pretty golden time of late – experiencing new things, being in new places both geographically and relationship wise – and I think I’m ready to “buckle down”, as my mom would put it, and really put in some… work?  But not in the way prior where I had creative itches that absolutely needed scratching, that’s compulsion, more like a picking my own creative course because waiting for unmanaged urges to drive you forward is like waiting for the wind to lift your sails when you’re at sea.  You can be waiting an awfully long time… or you can break out the oars and start rowing.  So I’m going to pick one project from the multitude in my head and run it down to completion.  Be… anti-lazy. We’ll see how that goes.  🙂

Creative Doldrum – A good thing?

Recently I was at a new acquaintance’s art gallery show and we found some time to catch up. Well, ok, first I grilled him on his creative process behind a particular painting. Really an odd way to open a discussion now that I think of it – when I’m processing an image or what have you (and I ‘m not saying the results are grand) the changes I make lead the image to look or feel… right(?) or I continue to work on it until it does. Or I give up and maybe come back to it later. It’s not any kind of logical path thing I can spell out along the way and often I can’t even remember all of what I did or undid to get there. I dunno why I thought it would any different for a painter so was completely surprised by the lack of a cogent response. I mean, he’s been painting for a really long time, surely he has some by the numbers process… well, no!

In the course of our discussion he’d asked how I was doing and I said, I’d met someone, blah, blah, blah, my photo output had slowed way down (note: It occurrs to me now that I may have “shot out” my environment and really need new vistas). Then he asked what I did when I was not doing photography, and I said, well, I write(!)… but not much at the moment.

Despite work and having a really awesome new person in my life – add to that my duties as a dad – I still do have some time to create. Something. Anything. But I haven’t been.

But that’s not what I said to Max, I’d given him a cloud of things, good things, that were going on with me and some vagaries about creativity and from that he plucked out, oh, so you’re in love. And I said…
Well, yeah.

It’s pretty interesting how he connected those dots. Maybe it’s a cliché, I dunno. Now I’m wondering if my creativity really is inversely proportional to my happiness. I’ve been cruising along for the last several months, fairly stress free, enjoying things as they come – yet watchful and cautious because life can change up on you in a heartbeat or less – and vegetating creatively. I’ve frequently had topics I could blog about pop in my head only to forget them later. The spark fizzles, I s’pose or I can’t maintain my own interest in the subject, or something else happens that holds my interest.

… oh, so you’re in love. And I said…
Well, yeah.

In terms of my current relationship, it’s definitely not something I hide, quite the opposite, but this slump predates that…
… It hit me that I may be closer than I’ve ever been to being perfectly happy with myself and living a fairly drama free life – that’s really something, ain’t it? If the trade for less thrash is having the creative itch die down… well I’m pretty sure I can learn to live with it. For a short time. Until it pisses me off. 😉