Composthaste’s Weblog

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The other day I sat in Starbucks working.  I would like to linger on this statement for a moment.   Desiring to work in a more peripherally stimulating environment is the only acceptable reason to sit for any length of time in a coffee shop with the exception of the following activities:  reading a book, meeting a friend for quiet conversation or listening to live mediocre local music on a rainy Tuesday night.  The coffee shop experience is based on warm color, endless supplies of caffeine and a background of activity that makes you feel less isolated.   I would like to place some emphasis on the word background. This means that I don’t want to hear you discussing your morning meeting agenda with a colleague, I don’t want to listen to a gaggle of teenage girls and their almost unintelligible English (honestly, the can barely stand listening to themselves as evidenced by the amount of distracted texting that goes on in the middle of a conversation).  I don’t want to hear about your problems with your children and I especially do not want to be approached by anyone.  This is not a meet and greet.  It is the façade of being less isolated that I seek, not actual social engagement.
Slight digression.  I was sitting at Starbucks, trying to get work done when a very distinguished and obviously retired gentleman comes up to ask me about my internet connection.  He dangled his new MacBook Pro in front of me like a carrot so of course I offered to assist.  I am not a computer genius but I am happy to try to help a fellow Mac user.  For me, it’s the modern day equivalent of drawing a fish in the dirt with the toe of your sandal.  I instantly see an ally.  Turns out, his problem was easy to solve and he was right away on the internet.  At this point, he asks me the standard Mac user questions.
“How long have you had a Mac?”
“Since my first computer”
“This is my first one.  I love it.”
“Aren’t they wonderful?’ (At this point, I didn’t think he’d appreciate my “Once you go Mac you never go back” commentary).
“Yeah, I initially got it because I take a lot of photos of the grandkids.  I wanted to make some videos.  I have around 9,000 pictures now.”
Silently.  “Oh no”
“It’s amazing to me how easy it is to work this stuff.  I’ve only been to the genius bar a few times.  I keep trying to get a one-to-one but we don’t have a Mac store where we live [what kind of a place is that exactly].  It took me only a week or so of messing with it, and I’ve already made some DVD’s.”
Trying to be supportive without displaying any interest in seeing his grandchildren “I love the iLife programs.  Do you use iDVD or iMovie?”  Mistake! Mistake!  Don’t ask questions. Abort!  Abort!
“If you have a minute, I’ll show you.  This is a video I made of a friends house we went to visit.”
Silently – “shit”.  Aloud – “Yes, I’d love to see them”.

The video began and, to be honest, with the exception of the 30 amateurish photos he took set to banal music….Norah Jones…..really?  It was very sweet and captured the weekend he and his wife spent with their friends very nicely.  Sadly though, I saw neither TV nor computer in their mountain home.  This begs the question, how will they watch this gift when they receive it?

I get very tired when social commentators discuss the lack of written records we leave.  It’s true, nobody writes letters anymore.  Only the grooviest and most introspective folks write by hand their thoughts and goings on in a journal.  I see no problem with this for a few reasons that I will title completely offensively as a cheap ploy to grab your attention.

1.    You are average
Let’s face a few hard facts of life.  We are all average.  There are a few shining stars that compensate for the multitudes (I put myself here) that can’t even achieve the median.  These stars are the only ones we should spend time on.  Who’s diary to we really care about? John Adams? Or, his second cousin Bob the soy farmer who never left his hometown?  John’s diary includes beautiful imagery of what life was like at the time as well as describing the interpersonal relationships of the fathers of our country.  Bob’s diary, I feel would have read something like this. “March 13: got up, ate breakfast, fed the cattle, worked the field, came home, ate dinner, went to bed”….fascinating.   Should we really mourn the loss of such potentially stimulating page-turners?
“But how will people know what life was like in the early 21st century without diaries and correspondence?’  This brings me to my next point.

2.    We waste our lives AKA I’m thrilled nobody knows how I spend my time
Thank God no one knows how I spend my time.  Diaries were interesting when evenings were spent retiring to the great room for conversation with neighbors, a glass of brandy and clever discourse regarding the days’ events.  All the while, the women were completely tapestries of embroidery projects and men were smoking cigars.
Do we really want people to know what we do?  “Today, after work, I forced myself to go to the gym. Here I worked out enough to justify eating a large dinner and drinking half a bottle of wine but not enough that I will hurt for the rest of the week.  After coming home and tending to the needs of the hound, I cooked dinner, which we subsequently ate in front of the television.  After dinner, we watched a Netflix episode while taking turns looking at our Facebook pages.  After a continuation of our eternal debate, whether to open another bottle of wine, we decide to go to bed.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love my life.  But if I journaled every day, I might want to hang myself.

3.    Nobody wants to read your shit
One saving grace of diaries and letters is they are meant for a very specific audience or none at all.  Sure, we’d all like to think that posthumously our thoughts would be published as “a brilliant commentary of the author’s era”!    I would like to refer you to #1.  I’ve tried on numerous occasions to express myself creatively.  I’ve played music and made numerous half-hearted attempts to write.  I was in orchestras and played in a punk band and I would like to describe my artistic impact as being akin to an ATT phone plan.  I was able to reach out and touch Friends and Family.  If my thoughts were profound, well communicated and performed, they might reach a larger audience but the reality is that nobody outside my plan really cares.  I don’t say this disparagingly.  I just continue to hope to strike some chord, create one thing that’s above average enough to outlast me.

In the meantime, I say to all those who wish that people committed more to paper, be careful what you wish for.  You might be forced to watch a ten minute video of a country house.  Those things that are truly excellent will rise to the top and be preserved for the rest of us to aspire to and deeply appreciate.

The irony that I’m writing all of this in an average Joe blog, for my friends and family plan to read, is not lost on me.


Written by composthaste

March 13, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Hi…..
    Really liked the flow..especially the numbering.
    1) Reaching family and friends is a major achievement in itself…
    2) Substitute airplanes for Starbucks….alot happens…stuff to do….not ….but, yes, predictable…fun and interesting….but, but,…
    maybe not so much….
    Love you alot…..
    How about more focus on the hound???…..mine is next to me with total loyalty….which is good….and, a wet butt because he’s been in the pool….that’s not so good,…. he’s on the sofa
    Talk with you soon….Dad


    March 13, 2009 at 11:32 pm

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