Caught in a web of presentation
One of my heroes in journalism is Amy Goodman, host of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" heard locally on WRPI 91.5 FM. I've had the good fortune of hearing Ms. Goodman speak in person several times.
One story she loves to tell is when she got invited to appear on the daytime TV talk show hosted by Sally Jesse Raphael. Instead of thinking about the significant implications of suddenly having access to a huge audience, her only thought was: "What should I wear?"
I bring this up because the other day one of my other heroes in journalism, the Enterprise's superlative and award-winning editor, Melissa Hale-Spencer, contacted me about stopping by for a photo and asking me to come up with a name for my column. How exciting!
Just visiting The Enterprise is such a nice experience. Main Street in Altamont is so beautiful. Then when you get to The Enterprise, you see that lovely porch with the inviting Adirondack chair and you just feel like putting up your feet and settin' a spell.
That welcoming and bucolic imagery changes when you go inside and see a busy office with so many journalism awards on the walls. We really are lucky to have such a fine local paper. Being a part of it personally in some small way is quite an honor as well. That's why I really wanted to get the photo and column title right. Let's start with the photo.
My wardrobe basically consists of two things — dress shirts I wear with ties at work, and T-shirts for everything else. The only constraint I had to follow was to not wear anything black, since the photo background would be black.
You'd think this would be an easy choice, but, since this photo was going on the newly revised Enterprise website, it was kind of a big thing. If you know what I look like, you know I'm not working with much to begin with so anything that would give me an edge was called for.
First, I thought about wearing a T-shirt. I have tons to choose from, mostly motorcycle related. The problem is, if I wore a Norton T-shirt, my BMWs might get offended. If I wore a BSA T-shirts, some might think that stood for Boy Scouts of America when what it really stands for is Birmingham Small Arms. Then I thought about wearing one of my Minnesota Vikings T-shirts but, living in Giants country, I opted against that as well.
Why upset anyone, right?
Since virtually all of my T-shirts have some kind of saying or message on them, I quickly realized they would not work. It's not hard to see why Ms. Goodman was so worried about what to wear.
I finally settled on a dress shirt, but without a tie, to appear less formal and more casual. Of course, then you have to make sure the buttons are opened in such a way that you get just the right amount of chest hair showing.
I had my daughter give me a haircut the day before, and I scheduled my dental cleaning that day, in an attempt to look as sharp as I could. If you check out the photo, you can be sure that's about as good as it gets, believe me.
I'm sure glad I'm not on TV or anything like that. The stress of choosing clothes and dealing with grooming would be too much for me.
There are many reasons why some of us are happier behind the keyboard.
What’s in a name?
The next issue was coming up with a name for my column. For years, it just ran with the title "Commentary," which was a little generic but it is what it is. So now I had to think up some potentially good names for my column. Here's what I came up with:
— Observations: I liked this one but I think I saw it used somewhere else, too bad;
— Running with Scissors: Good name for a rock band, too, but a little too clichéd;
— Crank it Up!: I use this one when I write for motorcycle magazines (it ties in with my nickname "Cranky Frankie"), so I decided against it;
— The Oblique Angle: I like this but no one except my math-loving daughter knows what oblique means;
— Ordinary Things: Has a nice ring to it, but it's too low energy for me;
— The Bard of Banality: Wouldn't it be nice to be the Bard of something;
— Skipping Stones: Beautiful imagery, but I rarely get to skip stones and, when I do, I'm not even that good;
— Carrying On: I like this one a lot but it's a little too British, right Guvnor?;
— Just Looking: That's what journalists do all the time, after all;
— Memories: I like this but what would I do when my own memory starts to go?;
— Serenity Now: Yes it's a Seinfeld in-joke but it's just so good;
— Watching and Waiting: Nice but it's too tied in to needing to use the bathroom on a crowded plane or train;
— From the Park Bench: Too bad the image of a creepy guy in a trench coat comes to mind;
— The Side of the Road: Anyone who's ever had a flat tire wouldn't like this I'm sure;
— A Bag of Onions: I really like this one. It's about the time when my in-laws brought us a bag of onions from their garden, and I wound up mistakenly taking the bag to work as my lunch. My whole life is like having a bag of onions when you really need pastrami on rye. I only decided against it because I'd hate to have to keep telling the story over and over again.
So to help think up a name for this column, I decided to analyze how I come up with them anyway. What happens is I'll be running, or in the shower, or in bed half asleep, and just be thinking about something.
It could be anything, like why it's so hard to get that last drop of soda out of the can when it wants to hide behind that little lip; or why you go to bed fine and wake up with a cold; or how come, no matter how much space you have in your house, you tend to fill it up.
So that's when I realized my column name had to be Thinking about Things, because that's exactly what I do. In fact, many times it will appear as if I'm either not interested, sad, bored, or rude, but in reality, I'm just thinking. About things. So now you know.
Of course I'm extremely happy to be a part of the Enterprise team as this grand little paper reaches out to cyber-space. What a ride it's been so far, and what a ride it'll continue to be. I think.