Saturday, March 03, 2012

Build Your Own Reputation

These days, I meet lots of young people, and by young I mean anyone under 40, but especially under 30 and even under 20. If they are talking with me at all, it's about the future, their future, so they are asking for advice, and I've never been shy about offering that.

It occurs to me sometimes I should bottle my standard rap, package it, and sell it somehow. But since I am terrible at marketing, unlike the hundreds of people each month who continue to invite me to follow them on Twitter or "friend" them on Facebook, I'll continue to give it away for free, here, or in the coffee shops around here, where the young ones kindly agree to meet me in person.

You, whoever you are and whatever you do, have a personal brand. In this new world of ours, that brand is potentially your most powerful possession. It doesn't matter so much what you know how to do, comparatively speaking, but how well you understand the power of just being you.

I know this sounds crazy, but what I am describing is the flip side of the new global marketplace that has been created by the Internet.

You can be a stupid fat guy in Idaho, but guess what? If you are the stupid fat guy in Idaho who everyone in India or China wants to get to know, and you have a way to monetize that status, guess what?

You are a rich stupid fat guy in Idaho. And not all that stupid, actually.

For all of my young creative friends, this is an obnoxious story, and I apologize for that.

But bear with me here, because I am actually describing my own slow migration to a better future, one where my own brand becomes more prominent, no longer buried in the shadows but shining in the desert, properly defended against the sun.

p.s. I admit this much: I'm neither stupid, fat nor live in Idaho. I'm in fact a reasonably handsome older man, according to my friends, in reasonable shape, nothing special there, living in San Francisco. But I am no better at managing my brand than that other guy. In fact, he's better than I am. And that is precisely my point


Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Nights Around Here

My youngest son loves the Godfather movies, which are playing on AMC this weekend, and he asked for his favorite dinner -- Italian spaghetti and meatballs -- while watching them.

After cooking that, I drove across town to watch his brother practice soccer under the lights tonight. The spring season for the youth academy club team, on which he is a starter, is beginning.

As I walked onto the pitch at Crocker-Amazon, there were dozens of teams and hundreds of players out there playing soccer. But I recognized him instantly, far across the way, by his crouch.

The way he defends is classic. He bends his tall body low, legs poised to bounce left or right, eyes alert for the striker's next move.

He's one of the very best at what he does -- defending -- around here. And he is a veteran now on the Seals U-17 squad.

Tonight's practice and Sunday's night's scrimmage, on the pitch nearest my house, are warmups for a major tournament next weekend, the Diablo Cup.

His team will play three games and I hope to see all three. I'll be jet-lagged, no doubt, because I will be arriving back in SF from a quick trip to NY for a board meeting this next week.

But that's then. Now is now.

Tonight my daughter and I, just before she fell asleep, found that one of our old favorite movies, The Scorpion King, was playing on TV. We used to watch this together. Although ostensibly a violent movie, thus one of her brothers' fav's when they were younger, it is also a romantic movie, which is the what she and I like most.

Especially the part played by the lovely Kelly Hu.


Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Upside of Being a Writer

Doing something new these days -- interviewing ebook authors who self-publish their own books. It's in a more hopeful mood that I find myself today, therefore, than yesterday.

Of course, our moods come and go like the wind, or today around here, the rains. I awoke early to a light rain, and drove the carpool out to Lowell High School, getting the kids there three minutes before first bell.

Spending much of my time researching colleges, including those with soccer teams, as my 17-year-old has reached the second half of his junior year, and it's time now to work on these things.

It's a daunting task, at first. Slowly, you make progress. Many smaller colleges that might be candidates for him have very slow websites with forms that can take hours to fill out.

Given his soccer skills, there's an entirely different layer to researching colleges for him than if it were a purely academic matter. I requested a visit with a soccer coach for the first time today; we'll see if that comes through.

Booking flights for us to visit various regions is expensive, and while resources are tight, what better use of the small amount of money I have can there be than helping my kids get into colleges where they may thrive?

It's not their fault their parents are writers. We made our choices; if we end up poorer than others, that is due to that choice.

Although I occasionally fall into bitter moods about this, as I did yesterday, 24 hours, as always, brings new perspectives. That's why this journal is such an uneven affair, emotionally. It goes up and down as I do.

Today I am up, relatively speaking.

I've written a lot, published a bunch, interviewed new people, expanded my understanding. And while writing only rarely provides sustenance in material form, the pleasure it brings me must be unknown to those who never try to create anything new or original.

That would be another kind of existence, perhaps one unimaginable to me.

Because I live to create, over and over and over again. And it's fun to be good at it.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day, Blues

I almost had my youngest yesterday when I told her anyone among her fellow 13-year-old friends who were born on Leap Day would only be four as of today, but I didn't have the heart to mislead her completely.

Truly, his is an odd day. One that only comes around every four years; in America, just like Presidential elections.

But I am not happy tonight. The challenges seem so daunting and the potential solutions so elusive.

What good can it possibly be to be a writer in this era? Who knows or cares? The financial issues we face are so insurmountable, most of the time, you can forgive most writers for asking, "Why bother?"

Then, there is being a parent. How in the hell are any of us, in this country, supposed to be able to afford to send our kids to college?

They, the kids, sense this problem. They are not unaware of the economics that are crushing their parents. They start asking why it is even necessary or useful to continue to get an education?

Looking at us, crushed by debt, barely able to pay our bills, and wonder what a college degree did for us.

And of course we have no answer. Because we live in a time and a place that does not value artists. We live in the age of engineers above all others.

But all I can raise are artists. And artists don't get paid.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Artist

For the past six weeks or so, on Tuesday afternoons, I've been picking up my daughter after her art classes. She's been working to build a portfolio so that a year from now when she applies to high school, she has a chance to get into the School of the Arts.

This is a very difficult school to get into, and certainly visual arts is an especially competitive major.

But she's been committed to this direction for years, and I've been supportive. The truth is I love her art!

Then, of course, I am her dad.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday, Good Day

It was another wonderfully complicated day, seeing old friends in the morning and at night, recalling other times but looking forward to our lives as older men as well. "There are things about getting older that aren't so bad," one of them said to me.

It's true, but that's something us oldsters best keep to ourselves.

What I especially love about the friends I've known for 30 years or more is how rich our shared history is, and the trust we still share, despite many ups and downs, and times drifting apart for a while, when we do reconnect.

These days I am all about reconnecting. Life is to short for anything else, and more fool to those who don't comprehend what I am talking about!

It was also school conference day. My lovely 13-year-old daughter had to talk about herself, never an easy thing at her age, before her teachers and parents today, at her school. Her task was to evaluate how she is doing class by class.

She speaks these days with more confidence than ever before, looking up at her teachers, not down at the table, enunciating clearly, not mumbling. She mixes some positives about her progress as a student with her ever-present self-deprecation.

In all, I thought, a very mature set of presentations for the young woman, who, I noticed as they stood up afterwards, is now just a shade shorter than her Mom, at 5'6".


Sunday, February 26, 2012

We're all winners

It came to me at some point tonight that I have no idea how other people get themselves through each day, each night, especially as we age and the journey slows down, becomes more painful and deliberate.

I admit it can be a struggle for me. One day recently, as I was waiting for some time to "pass," suddenly all I could hear was the loud "tick-tock" of the clock on my wall, and I just as suddenly hated that clock and considered violently ending its ability to speak.

Instead, I just sat here and listened to its awful voice, as it foretold my eventual demise.

Then a strange thing happened. Instead of hearing death from its sound, I heard life. In its rhythmic cadence, I heard my own heart-beat, an affirmation of life -- my life!

A terrible, dark sound turned into a beautiful bright sound.

All in a flash, I found myself grasping to the floating board of life, adrift in the ocean, even after my boat had sunk. It was a glorious moment, albeit as fleeting as the horrible one that had preceded it.


This was just another weekend, I suppose, though one with exaggerated impulses. Every Friday by 3, I start collecting my kids from their various schools, and parties and practices, all over San Francisco.

It's a fairly elaborate math problem, really. One is here, going there. Another is there headed here. The third is not answering my text, so who knows where (s)he is or when I'll be finding out.

This particular Friday, my driving was finished some eight hours later, at 11 pm. By then, I'd added around 30 miles to my ancient car's odometer.

What I liked about Friday night was that all three ended up back here, with me, under the same roof.

Saturday was a different story, one far too complex to recount. All I will say is that sometime after midnight, seven 15-year-old boys entered my apartment, and somewhere around four or five in the morning, they were all sound asleep, four of them on the floor.

This really isn't that big of a place, as any of my dear readers who have visited my flat can attest.

By 10 this morning, none of the seven young men spread around this place like bananas under sheets had roused, but it was time for me to leave to drive to Bernal and pick up my 17-year-old for his futsal game downtown.

He played brilliantly and but his team lost badly.

We came back to my place to find all seven 15-year-olds had vanished.


After both the boys had helped their Mom move some new furniture into her house this afternoon, they and their little sister came back here with me to watch the Oscars.

I was so pleased to see a former student of mine from Stanford win in her category. Way to go, Sharmeen!

Just another weekend, here at Hotweir Central.