A Post About Nothing In Particular

There’s more sunlight in San Francisco. Or at least it seems that way. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I lived in an apartment in Manhattan that’s practically devoid of any natural light. I call my room in NYC the cave. It’s perfect for hibernating because time just slips away in there.

The sun isn’t the only thing I missed. Being able to buy good, cheap wine from the grocery store for less than $20 is an important consideration in life and shouldn’t be overlooked. Ravenswood, Boogle, B.V. Whatever. It’s all good. My only issue is that I’m held hostage by the rest of the are you fucking kidding me prices at Mollie Stone’s in Pacific Heights. $6 for cereal and $5 or milk is a crime. I need to go to Trader Joe’s, post haste.

In just two weeks, I’ve rid myself of some of the more pathetic grad school habits I’d acquired over the past several months. I haven’t gone to a McDonald’s in weeks. I don’t go to bed at 2 a.m. and wake up for a full day four hours later. I have neither the means (thanks, unpaid internship!), desire or opportunity to stay out at bars until 4:30 in the morning.However, my daily coffee consumption – two cups- has remained consistent. Can’t win ’em all. Since my return, I’ve also denied myself two of my favorite treats: a number one combo from In-N-Out and ice cream from Swensen’s in Russian Hill. I used to go to the later so often that one of the smug teenage kids who worked the counter knew my order as soon as I walked in the door. I had to stop ordering chocolate malts for awhile to throw him off.

But I don’t have the will power to fully ween myself from such delicious goodness. I’ll cave. This bout of will power, like many other things in life, shall soon pass.

I’ve been cooking more recently. I can say that with a straight face now. At one point it simply meant putting something in the microwave.

Cooking is nice. I can’t do it well, but recipes are helpful. I made (with considerable assistance) a very hearty cheddar, Romano and Gruyere mac and cheese last week.

Structure is good. Rules are good. I find that I need them more now since I’m often lost in my own head trying to come up with story ideas or just thinking about writing or why I want to write. They focus me.

My new focus (or perhaps guilt) is forcing me to the gym as well. I’ve been three days this week already and I did some stretching and non-weight workouts at home on the off day. I want to lose 10 pounds by August 1 or thereabouts. Weighing myself at some point might be necessary.

Along those lines, my internship as a fact checker has helped quite a bit as well. Right now, it’s fairly basic stuff, consisting mostly of calling restaurants to confirm some esoteric aspect of their menu (“Is the Za’atar in the hummus or served on the side?”). It’s not the most exciting work, but it’s exacting and precise, both being qualities of good writing. We go through at least four rounds (rough draft, 1, 2, and Final) of editing before something is approved for use. That’s editing for both style and content. While I’m not certain, I’d guess that at least four or five different sets of eyes look at each story before it goes in, but you’d be surprised at how many errors are caught at the “Final” edit. It’s a painstaking process, but you gotta CYA.

Checking facts for the magazine forces me to do something that I hate, and that’s talk on the phone. It didn’t used to be this way. I don’t think I developed an active dislike for the phone until texting gained widespread acceptance. I used to openly mock people who texted, thinking it to be a juvenile waste of time. It seemed to be the exclusive provence of high school kids and people who use the word “hella” without irony. The question, to my mind was simply: “Why can’t you just fucking cal, man?” Now, I routinely blow through 1500 texts a month. Ha ha! The joke’s on me.

Before then, I used the phone without reservation, like most normal people, I assumed. Now, though, I’ll try to contact people through any other available means (email, IM, text, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, Morse code) before I ring them up. The phone makes me nervous. It feels like a forced social interaction,
almost like going to a speed dating mixer where the interviews were all conducted through opaque glass. My friends often make fun of me because they’ll leave me voice mails and I’ll reply via text to them almost instantaneously. What can I say? I prefer the consideration and contemplation of the written word. This would no doubt sadden my high school forensics coach. I used to participate in extemporaneous speaking.

As I said before, I’ve been thinking about why I want to write. Sometimes (most times?) I can’t give myself a good explanation. I think my writing has improved since last fall by leaps and bounds. There’s no question I’m better now than I was then. The question is, what am I now? I’m not really sure. I like to write about politics but feel intimidated after reading bloggers I admire like Andrew Sullivan or Daniel Larison or Matt Yglesias or Nate Silver or Ta-Nehisi Coates. Or I pour over richly reported articles by Jim Fallows or books like Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War. Or I marvel at the fact that a 29 year old and a 24 year old can have spots on two of the nation’s most influential op-ed pages. Each one of those writers is schooled in so many different fields and each overflow with such keen policy knowledge and philosophical insights that it makes me wonder I wonder why I bother.

I wouldn’t say I’m defeated yet, though. I’d say I’m still looking for my way. I hate the phone and get nervous in interviews, but think I can be a good reporter. I don’t like being assigned stories, but am not the best at formulating original pitch ideas. I inhibit myself when it makes the least amount of sense and indulge myself when I should know better (much like this post). I know politics, but I don’t know politics.

I suppose I’ll keep thinking on it. I know it’s rather unfashionable to like him, but this John Mayer joint kinda says it all right now (at least in terms of my attitude toward my chosen field):

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~ by uvasig on June 4, 2009.

One Response to “A Post About Nothing In Particular”

  1. About a week or two ago, I started to walk around with a journal again (damn near lost it in a Dunkin’ Donuts, too). After the semester ended, writing was the last thing I wanted to do. Now that I’ve had some time to clear my head, I’m back to it. I don’t know what sort of writer/journalist I’ll be either. The other day, the janitor in the publishing powerhouse at which I’m freelancing made a facial ouch, after I told him I was in journalism school. “But isn’t that industry tanking? Why don’t you do something like go into the medical field? Or nursing?” He said it like he was advising an idiot not to cross the six-lane highway. I put on the brave face, like I already knew that somebody somewhere was gonna snap me up, I’m so fly, and said, “I’ll be fine.” Part of me believes that… the other part wants me to go to the doctor to check out my growing ulcer.

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