Fresh Off the Cuff*

I realize I’ve been doing this blog thing all wrong. I set out initially to just speak my mind and practice writing. Problem is, I have trouble doing both at the same time. I’ve found that speaking my mind is a lot harder when I’m writing. Speaking is all about trying to get your thoughts out in a clear and concise way. Writing, I have more time to edit the thought before sharing. I can endlessly ponder and analyze that thought, trying to find the perfect way to express it. As I’m doing that, I think of ten ways to expand on that thought. This results in the simplest things taking for-freaking-ever. I’ve spent over half an hour just on this paragraph. Whatever I’m trying to say, it gets hijacked by the perfectionist in me, and the natural flow just gets lost; by the time I’m finally satisfied with a thought or statement, I’ve lost my train of thought.

What I’ve been doing wrong is letting the perfectionist run the show. While I’m trying to express a thought, I get caught up trying to make everything perfect, and it’s incredibly frustrating. It never comes out perfect anyway, because at some point I just say “fuck it!” and go do other things. Then I either publish the half-perfect monstrosity or I stash it away as a draft. By the number of posts, you can probably tell that I take the second option 99% of the time.

You see, this post here, it was supposed to be off-the-cuff, just straight concise thoughts as I would speak them. This blog here, it’s supposed to alleviate frustration, rather than add to it. I have not accomplished these things. So what I’m going to do is get the substance of the post down first, then go back and edit it. Yes, English teachers, you win. After 18-odd years, this most basic principle of writing has finally pierced my thick skull. Your efforts were not in vain.

Ok, that’s pretty much it. Writing about the process of writing makes my brain hurt. Time to go do other things.



A Little Something Until Sanity Returns

I’ve had finals for the past two weeks, which precluded any serious non-legal writing. I am, once again, forcing myself to write something before the week’s out. This is a somewhat journal-style writing, and it has some venting about writing and the writing process in general.

I have a problem with words. My words specifically. They are too big and too numerous, and they all want to come rushing out at once. For some reason, my brain feels that all these words must be somehow included in the final communication. I like to try to stuff these words all into one complicate sentence, stuffing until the sentence can take no more. The result is overwrought, bulky, and in desperate need of editing.  I know all of this, and I know that simply correcting grammar and spelling errors will not correct the problem.

For this problem, my ultimate goal is to develop good writing habits and be able to crank out decent writing with minimal editing required. I need to be able to communicate my ideas quickly and concisely, so I can finish writing at a normal time of day (right now it’s 11pm and I’m about to fall asleep at my desk). Most importantly, I have to compromise with myself and be able to accept work which, content-wise, is not perfect. Perfectionism has stifled more of my writings that it has helped, and I’ll have to get over that to start writing in earnest.

That’s all I have for today. Thanks for stopping by!

The Only Famous Person I Ever Met

In keeping with my writing goal, I’m forcing myself to write something before the week’s out. I’ve got an exam tomorrow, so this will be a bit rushed. This is just an amusing anecdote from college, hopefully others will find it amusing as well.

I’m pretty sure I’ve only met one famous person. Like, in my entire life. The funny thing is, I have no idea who he was. In fact, he might not even be famous. I only assume he was based on the way he acted. Here’s how it went down:

It was my senior year of college, and I was working an evening shift at a fast food restaurant. This guy comes in and asks if he can use the phone. I say “of course, no problem” and point out the phone on the counter. He thanked me, and I went back to work.

Or at least, I tried to. Instead of reaching for the phone, he just stood there staring at me with a smirk on his face. This was unusual for sober customers, so I asked, “can I help you with something? Do you need the phone book?” Again, he just said he needed to make a call and kept staring at me. Unnerved, I stared back. Eventually he lost his smirk and leaned over the phone as if to make a call. He seemed really disappointed, but I had no idea why. How could I know? Again I tried to go back to work.

I look up and he’s standing by the cash register. He didn’t call anybody. He’s staring and smirking again, smirking even harder if that’s possible. I’m thinking, “well, you really showed that phone, didn’t you? Not making a call, even when you really wanted to.” I asked again “can I help you?” He said, slowly, “no, I just need to make a phone call.” I said, “OK, it’s right there, go ahead.” At that, he lost his smirk. Some new emotion crept over his face, something between bafflement and devastation.

Somehow I’d upset him by trying to help him. Why? What did I miss? Was there something implied in his innocuous request? Something sinister? Perhaps he had us mixed up with a shadier type of establishment, one where “can I make a phone call?” was code for “a gram of heroin, if you please?” I was incapable of divining his intent. All I had to go on was that he asked to use the phone, so all I could do was assume he really did want to use the phone and was just really slow about it.

Not knowing what else to do, I asked, “Do you need directions? Are you trying to go somewhere?” He abruptly turned and made for the door. As he left, he said “I’m going somewhere where someone recognizes me!

And that is when I realized I’d met a famous person. The phone call was a ruse. That whole time, he’d been maximizing the time I spent looking at his face so I could recognize him. His smirk was a “yeah, it’s me” kind of smirk. Turns out that smirk was premature. He left, defeated, his ego bruised and his fame called into question. All by some college kid at a hoagie shop. Oh well, I’m sure he found someone to recognize him and forgot the whole thing. I, on the other hand, will always remember our encounter as the first and only time I met a famous person.

I Hear My Train A-Leavin…

That’s what I think to myself every time I see, pulling out of the CTA station, the last train that will get me to work on time. Pulling away to the bluesy chords and voice of Jimi Hendrix, his tune “I Hear my Train a Comin'” appropriated for the reverse situation. That’s what happened this morning; I had ran my ass off to get to the station, and I’d reached the point where I could first glimpse the station. The train was sitting there, and I knew if it had just arrived I could make it if I ran; however, it could also be about to leave, meaning if I ran for it I’d still be SOL but also outta breath and in pain (I’m pretty out of shape). As I was deciding, half-running anyway, it pulled away. No amount of cursing the conductor, the fickle gods of public transit, the Regional Transit Authority as a whole, or my own lazy ass would call that train back, much to my dismay. I had a good reason for being late though. A real interesting tidbit my Brother had remarked about in passing, just as I was about to leave. I had to hear the whole thing, and it goes something like this:

My Brother owns a building in Chicago, and one of his former tenants gave him some trouble. Specifically, he stopped paying rent. As he started the eviction proceedings, the tenant suspiciously tripped/fell in the building and started a personal injury lawsuit against my brother. Having worked with lawyers for a long time, I just want to say that legally this is all public record and there’s no confidential info here. The fall being suspicious is just my opinion, but it’s a fact that this guy refused to pay rent and thus screwed my brother out of a lot of money.

A month ago, this former tenant did something remarkable; he basically saved a guy’s life. A man was jogging out by the former tenant’s residence and he got attacked by two pit bulls. The former tenant heard his cry for help and ran out with a bat, trying to get the dogs off the guy and drive them away. Had he not done that, the jogger probably would have sustained even greater and probably fatal injuries; his injuries were almost fatal as it was. Here’s the Chicago Tribune article if you’re interested:

So this guy’s willing to risk his life to save a life, but snubs his lease. It reminds me of an episode of 30 Rock where Liz Lemon’s ex, who is a genuine sleazeball, saves the life of someone who fell on the subway tracks. He maintains his sleazeball qualities throughout the media attention, and yet he saved someone’s life. The movie Hero (the one with Dustin Hoffman, not Jet Li) is like this too; a not-so-wholesome guy runs in to a flaming plane wreck and saves dozens of people.

So when it really comes down to it, most everybody’s got a good side. It’s just odd to respect a person sort of piecemeal, respect the good and begrudge the bad; it’s all one person, one complex mishmash of personality. If you ask me, this is why a lot of people are content to stereotype and quickly pass judgment on others, because trying to understand each individual person is just too damn hard. Leave that to God, or whatever’s out there. All I know is I’ll keep withholding judgment about people until absolutely necessary, if at all, and focus on getting my ass out the door on time.

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