Sunday, July 10, 2011

Adios…and Two-Thousand Visitors Per Day

I blame it on Sitemeter. Actually I blame it on Toad for making Sitemeter known to me. And I’m always looking for someone else’s doorstep to drop off my blame-bag of garbage. I’ve checked in at Sitemeter rarely over the last year but the pathos of it was long imprinted on my noggin before I stopped watching the daily numbers like some kind of freakin’ playoff. Now I’m kidding about blaming Sitemeter but I think it’s important to include the psychology of blog visits in my story here.

Toad made me aware of the data collection/aggregation prowess of Sitemeter and since it was free, I figured I’d give it a go. But why? Folks, there are bloggers out there who are either generating revenue or hope to generate revenue or aspire to a book deal and for those mugwumps, stats gathered by the likes of Sitemeter are crucial. Alas, I ain’t part of that group. “Stop the false modesty or downright lie about not desiring blog revenue or a book deal.” I’m not kidding about my lack of ambition regarding revenue from blogging or that “proverbial book”…the one that bloggers either outright admit they’re seeking or secretly hope for. I’ll take on these topics more completely in a while. But at 556am here in Casa Minimus, I’ve gotta pee and get another cup of coffee.

I digress…surprise I know…so let me continue on with the Pathos of Sitemeter. Even though I never intended to try and commercialize my blog...witnessing the rising tide of readership was fun. What started as three to four-hundred unique/individual visitors (NOT page views…that’s a different and less potent drug statistic. John/Jane Doe may visit your blog and read three different stories…thus one unique visit might manifest two to three page views. The purest drug for me was how many individuals visited that day) trended over the ensuing few months towards a thousand. W.G.A.S. right? I did. It was fun and it got to be sport. Kinda like a new personal best in a 10k run. But therein begins the pathos…you have to write stuff regularly in order to have people come by and sit on your blog porch for a spell. And as long as you find the story cobbling fun…as long as you have time for it…then it’s all good. The first time I had one-thousand people sit on my porch, albeit for an average of three-point-seven minutes, in one day, I wanted to tell someone. W.G.A.S. right? For some ego reason, I did.

But then I realized how perilously on the cusp I was to porching two-thousand visitors in a single day. Now for those who don’t have a blog…let me be clear…When I say one-thousand or two-thousand visitors in a day, that doesn’t mean every day thereafter. The number of daily blog visitors, at least on my porch, varies significantly and there are many, many more days when the number of visitors is eight-hundred as opposed to over a thousand.  But when I got so darned seduced by the statistics is also when I self-identified the pathos. And from that point on, I disciplined myself to only go to Sitemeter once per month and gander the trends. Being one who generally lacks self-discipline, I’ve been true to the once per month commitment from the moment I established it. But it made little difference. The psychology of “feeding the beast” was now etched in stone.

I might be fabricating this but I think that Larry David and/or Jerry Seinfeld said that Seinfeld was a show “about nothing”. Folks, I’m far from being a Luddite but until a couple of years ago, I’d never visited a blog. And then somehow I stumbled upon a discussion, with pictures, about grosgrain watch bands or something like that. “Shit…this is cool…let me say something” And I did. Of course that blog linked to other ones and before I knew it, I was visiting and commenting on a bunch of Trad clothing sites and my comments got longer. Longer to the point where I concluded “that last comment over at so-and-so’s site could have been its own blog story.” And so I started a blog…I suppose it was intended to be about Trad clothing and style…as if the blogosphere needed another freakin’ blog about such shite. But then it became about LFG and other things that I was motivated to mention. And I think the lack of a singular focus became part of the appeal. At least I enjoyed it…enjoyed the fact that it was about whatever I wanted it to be. Or nothing.

So where am I going with this rambling story? It’s time for me to give this up. W.G.A.S. right? I do. I do because writing my stories has been one of the most fun and rewarding things I’ve ever done. And the friends I’ve made from this effort are true ones…the three-in-the-morning phone call type of friends…me calling you of course. But I’m at a point where the reward/effort ratio is out of whack. And to that end, as opposed to backing off a little bit, I need to just walk away indefinitely. But before I sign off, let me share with you a few of my whatevers from this experience.

The Blogging Ego: There’s a shitload of ego in the blogosphere. And I’m scared of people who try to appear devoid of ego and peddle false modesty with alacrity. Ego, as opposed to narcissism, is a good thing. But the Blogging Ego cracks me up…and of course I’ve fallen prey to its rearing head from time to time. I can’t be the only blogger who has had someone with literary credentials say… “You have a voice…you could write for a living…most bloggers and even some published writers don’t have your voice”  and then starts thinking…  “Damn…I missed my calling”. Shit. I’m laughing at myself as I admit this.

Thank God that another voice in my head is louder than the Blogging Ego voice. The other voice that says… “You have a job…you still need to work for a living…most consultants and even published consultants don’t write stories about socks…now go to the office.” Thank you…thank you…thank you, Other Voice. If ever there was evidence of Blogging Ego, it’s this load of drivel I’m writing right now. If there wasn’t any ego attached to this, I could simply go away without explanation or perhaps post a one paragraph goodbye. But no, upon my departure, I have to write a f_ck_ng manifesto. Bam!

The Blogging Objective…Commercial or Not: I reached out to three friends whose feedback and insights I was confident, would be honest and forthright. And one of the immediate challenges was… “What’s your Objective with this blog thing?” I can honestly say that I never considered blogging as a potential revenue generator. There’s nothing wrong with creating a commercial blog. I suppose there are those who realize a nice revenue stream from placing advertisements on their blog but the numbers I crunched showed me it wasn’t worth it…for me at least. The eight hundred and forty dollars per month that I coulda pocketed wouldn’t be worth the sense of duty that I’d have felt to ramp-up the effort and grow the eight hundred and forty to at least eight hundred and forty-five. Couple that with Sitemeter Pathos and Blogging Ego and I’d a manifested a hat-trick of intractable eczema or something worse. So the business model for blogging ain’t one that intrigues me.

The Blogging Mediated Book Deal or the Blogging Derived Journalism Career: I just chuckled some coffee through my nose as I pondered this phenomenon. Listen; there are a few really great writers who deservedly end up getting book deals from their blogging efforts. And there are others who end up getting writing gigs with very respected publications as a result of their blogging efforts. But these bloggers are few, few, few and far between. I have a career that still has juice left in it and while I don’t make a million each year in my little business, I’ve never let Blogging Ego delude me, even for a moment, into thinking that I could equal my income in the hack world. I just shot nasal coffee again.

I see an unfortunate turn in the business of writing. As traditional print media continues to whisper yelps of demise; paradoxically, some bloggers are finding their voice. The perfect storm then manifests when publishers, desperate to preserve margins, reach out to very accomplished bloggers with great voices and offer opportunities to write for their publications. The offers usually come in with comparatively modest compensation. I see the magazine/newspaper business model of the future being one of modestly paid but ego stroked bloggers/former bloggers hacking the copy while the publisher limits their full-time, fixed-cost writing staff (and even fairly paid freelancers) but doubles-up on copy editors and fact checkers. I mean why not? It’s a last ditch effort to preserve a dying model by poaching some of the cream from the encroaching beast and using it as an unguent to delay the inevitable. Why buy the cow when you can get the cream for almost free?

So for me, the pipe dream of realizing a whopping thirty-five thousand dollars a year from any kind of writing efforts never gained footing in my noggin. Perhaps ten years from now the idea might be appealing but not right now.

The Blogging Story versus Blogging Snippet: I pondered a compromise prior to deciding to end my blog. I love Hollister Hovey’s blog and a few others who simply offer more often than not, a chunk of visual candy with well-wrought, but very limited text accompanying their posts. I thought that maybe I’d do three or four little similar things during the week…posts that would require fifteen to twenty minutes each…and then tell a story…a long story each weekend. But as a trusted advisor reminded me… “ADG, you are an EXPLAINER so that blogging model won’t satisfy you.” Trusted advisor is right. I’d just as soon do nothing than post more shit like the L.L. Bean Go to Hell Boat and Tote story. Shut up.

So thank you for reading my stories. Thank you for emailing me personally to let me know that something I’ve said has touched you in a meaningful way. Thanks for the great personal friendships that this venue has created. I look forward to maintaining them and growing others. I remain an email away and for those who wish to remain in touch, I’ll always be gratified to hear from you.

Onward. Indeed.

ADG, II and of course; my heart…LFG

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The 2011 L.L. Bean Go-to-Hell Boat and Tote

I’ve usually engaged my GTH trouser cache full-force by this time of year. But since that darned Dermatologist waived me off of my usual sun consumption, my enthusiasm for GTH pants has been dimmed. More on this issue in another post.
But that didn’t stop LFG from going over to the L.L. Bean website and creating our first ever GTH Boat and Tote. “I can pick all the colors, right?” To which I of course replied yes.
So here we are. Our inaugural fuzzy diced GTH Tote. I’m thinking we’ll kick off each new summer with one.
Besides, who in God’s name would ever steal this from us? A voice of reason posited that it should at least have a navy blue enclosure. Kinda like putting a Blazer on a turd.
Onward. Fuzzy is as fuzzy-does. And committed to the ongoing practice of beginning sentences with And or But. Butcept when I choose not to.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thursday Night-Date Night

My Thursday evening date trumped any recent soirees as well as any of the associated caned bottom chair pyrotechnics. But in order to make my Thursday evening date a reality, I had to fly down to Ponte Vedra  on Wednesday and execute an extraction…extrication in a day…same-day…there-and-back liberation. Makes sense to do so when there’s urgency associated with the objective…and there was with mine. Next-Day Blinds doesn't seem warranted but there you go. And Same-Day replacement windows for an eighty year bungalow seem to be once again, a deliverable…a capability...whose bragging rights aren’t warranted.
 There’s urgency and then there’s urgency. My Ponte Vedra extraction was urgent because I urgently wanted that Thursday night date. But let’s not jet off for a there-and-back without the proper tools. The way I figured it, a bacon egg and cheese biscuit, hash browns and orange juice…in tandem with Leffot cordovan Venetians and Colonel John Boyd; would complete my kit. If anyone understood tempo and decision cycle speed it was Boyd.
There was a little gal in Ponte Vedra whose parents hadn’t laid eyes on her in over two and a half weeks. She celebrated her birthday without us and Father’s Day manifested only a phone call from said remote locale. So I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her.
The extrication was flawless and the flights home were tolerable. My subject and I played The Game of Life on her iPod Touch.
And she offered gifts.
Last night found us reveling back home…at Cactus Cantina. I was flush with the feeling of things being right again. Butcept she seemed three years older.

Onward. Right. But still open to busting some more can bottoms. Come on. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gerry Mulligan's New Clothes

I was on a quest for copies of 1930’s Downbeat Magazine. Hardly a magazine in configuration and paper quality... the newspaper sized jazz trade rag had been reduced to pulp. Not even Downbeat Magazine had archived copies from so far back. Cheap acidic papyrus doesn’t age well. You know what I was after. Downbeat was where the twenty something year old, freshly minted from Harvard George Frazier was turning phrases.
 A stunning and resourceful journalist made me aware that The Library of Congress might indeed have some of the Holy Grail Downbeats on microfilm. And she accompanied me on what was to be an onerous but productive mission to procure Frazier’s earliest words. Words…some of which his own son Frazier IV, had never read. That alone was fuel enough for me to make certain to procure them.
 But it was Gerry Mulligan’s baritone sax that first greeted me as we rounded the corner and approached the Performing Arts Reading Room. Damn, that thing is big.
 I’ve always been Gerry Mulligan aware but wasn’t neccesarily a Mulligan fanatic. But the big bari sax got me to thinking about the guy who piloted it.
 And the book at Bartleby’s was only ten bucks.
 Now it’s no secret that Charlie Davidson and his Andover Shop cognoscenti have outfitted many jazz greats from time to time including Miles Davis. Part of the Charlie Davidson—George Frazier connection glue was jazz so all of this just seems to kind of fit. Frazier-Downbeat-Jazz-Davidson-Andover Shop-Trad.
 So where does Mulligan fit-in? I’m not one hundred percent certain. Mulligan began working with Gene Krupa around 1946 and Frazier wrote about Krupa with some regularity. But by the time Mulligan joined Krupa, George Frazier and Downbeat were already and forever estranged. So Mulligan dodged for better or worse, any Frazier observations. Krupa fired Mulligan after a year anyway. It seems that Mulligan, within earshot of the audience one night, gave the Krupa orchestra shit for playing sloppily. That’s just the kind of story that George Frazier could have...with accelerated alacrity, had flying off the front page of Downbeat.
 But what about Mulligan’s clothes?
 “At the tailor shop in Cambridge Massachusetts” What’s the likelihood that in 1956, Mulligan got word that The Andover Shop would treat him right?
 Might that be George Frazier’s future “Saturday morning chair” behind Mulligan?
 I can’t prove it but it’s a hell of a lotta fun to think it.
 Onward. Reading books. And thinking. About stuff.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sunday in Georgetown: Part Two

The Georgetown of Jackie Kennedy’s window shopping days is long gone for certain. Based on the Riggs Bank dome in the picture, I figure that Jackie is somewhere around the current location of J. Crew on M Street.
 I’m not against change…I do change related work for a living. But I feel every associated little seismic shift I think, more so than others. Whether the change or loss is necessary (thank you Judith Viorst) or not, it’s gonna be palpable in Maxminimus land. Shit, who am I kidding? I feel everything deeply. The photo above is the now empty building that used to house The Pottery Barn. I’m glad they went kaput…serves them right. Why such animosity ADG?
 Well you see there was a time when that building housed Larry McMurtry’s shop of rare books…Booked Up. When I first moved to DC in 1989 there was a remnant of it on the back side of that building, then run by folks other than McMurtry himself…but still…a repository of old and rare books none the less. But then came, even before Pottery Barn, that expensive ass…absurdly so…gardening kit store and that was the end of old and rare books at 31st and M.
 Georgetown is becoming as homogenized as the I-20 spur in Florence South Carolina. And the latest victim is Bartleby’s books.
 After finishing my visit at Sterling and Burke, I walked a few feet over to Bartleby’s only to see the notice above. Yep. Another one bites the dust. There will be in its place quite soon, a new restaurant. If not some kind of chain eatery then surely an adjective-laden high dollar de cuisine goat-rodeo of epic ego.
 Bartleby’s wasn’t (their final day was last Saturday—they’ll be selling online from now on) your typical used/discount bookstore. Bargains were there to be had—for sure. But Bartleby’s had higher end stuff and vetted eclectica that won’t now be found in a bricks and mortar locale, at least here in my patch.
 The sporting books were enviable and expensive.
 I passed on Elliott’s Carolina Sports by Land and Water. It was priced, I’m sure appropriately at around $1,300.00.
Travel and adventure too.
More Sporting tomes.
First editions…appropriately behind glass.
 The South Carolina section would have been the envy of even a Charleston based book dealer.
Consistent with my randomness I did buy a few tidbits though. Pee Dee Panorama is an anecdotal meandering through the area of South Carolina where I grew up.
 My people settled in the Pee Dee area well over two hundred years ago.
 It was fun to see some familiar names in the acknowledgments. James Rogers was still the Editor of The Florence Morning News twenty-five years after the publication of Pee Dee Panorama. I know because I used to deliver his Florence Morning News to his home…at about six every morning. He was very much the archetypical, genteel, small town newspaperman. He called me by my nickname from the time I can remember. He was still buying navy blue suits from me at the hometown Trad haberdashery after he became Editor Emeritus.
 So we leave the Pee Dee area and drop in on Gerry Mulligan. I’m going to do a separate post on one of the unique little discoveries in this Mulligan tome.
 I generally don’t pursue fine bindings or rare books so valuable that one is reluctant to handle them. I like my library utilitarian and my books full-contact. I already had a Tour of Dr. Syntax illustrated by Thomas Rowlandson but the gift-binding on this one intrigued me. 
The good people at Bartleby’s explained to me that one could buy a book and commission from the seller, a decorative binding, often referred to as a gift binding.
 So I gifted myself this little first edition version. Published in 1855 and signed I suppose, by the owner in 1857.
 Knickerbocker Nuggets…how could I not buy this little fella…partial leather binding…and full of anecdotes about Whist…the popular 19th century card game. The Nuggets series began in the late 1880’s and remained in print, I think, through 1900.
 The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII and his minions played Whist incessantly at The Marlborough Club. Here’s the caricature of one Whist playing William Amherst, 3rd Earl Amherst, by Carlo Pellegrini … “Ape” of Vanity Fair fame.
 I could give two hoots and a damn about Whist but the piccolo book intrigued me and at eight bucks, why not?
 So long Bartleby’s. At least we can look in on you by way of your website. But like my buddy Tim said, “You can’t smell the Internet.”

Onward. Smelling.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prussian Update: My 560 SL Arrived!

Well sorta At least the little die cast doppelganger remains mine. I did feel that it was time for an update/story about my quest and a lot of what I’ve discovered didn’t surprise me. The rules for not getting burned when buying classic cars are essentially the same for a 1989 Mercedes as they are for a 1969 Camaro.
And of course the best advice I got was from Toad. Advice that I’d already taken to heart but it’s never a bad thing to hear it again. “Spend the few hundred bucks necessary to have a qualified, respected Mercedes expert check out these cars.”  Couple that advice with an incredibly thorough and thoughtful website tutorial and I’ve avoided heartache thus far. Heartache avoidance also means to-date, no Mercedes SL.
Only car nuts will want to spend much time at this Mercedes SL tutorial site but let me tell you, it’s sobering and instructive to go through every slide and learn about direct and collateral evidence to support the condition of any SL that might be on deck for purchase. Here are a few examples…
 "Very important body tag w/vehicle ID number affixed. This is the left fender (front) tag. New panels never had tags. No body number on 88/89 560SLs means a replacement fender and a tip to look for further evidence of collision repair. The tags should be on both fenders.” 
“Data tag on core support adjacent to hood latch provided paint code, in this case 568 (Signal Red) as well as vehicle type 107048(560SL) as well as 1 (export) and 2 (automatic transmission). Missing data tag a definite no-no. Philips head screws were always body color. This plate has not been disturbed.”
 “Check where the valve cover meets the aluminum cylinder head for oil residue, a very common situation on any V-8 Mercedes-Benz. Leaking valve covers run oil onto adjacent hot exhaust manifolds causing burning oil stink to be inhaled into driver’s compartment via the cowl vent!”
 “No AC flow through center dash vents signals potential extremely expensive vacuum motor repair/replacement. Contributing parts are buried in heater box.”
 And there are a couple of nuances involved in my SL selection criteria. I choose not to afford ownership of two cars. I live a pseudo-urban life and I don’t do any kind of absurd two-hour commute to work like many around here do. I can walk to my office…when I even decide to go there. My driving is mostly in-town jaunts with perhaps a hundred mile round trip weekend sortie here and there. I don’t pile excessive miles on a personal car when driving to client meetings. That’s what Avis and reimbursable expenses are for. So my SL will be a “modified daily driver” of sorts.
 The idea of having an SL and a frugal little Honda or something like that to perform LFG transport duties doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to buy an SL creampuff and rarely drive it while puttering down the GW Parkway in a Toyota that sports a bumper sticker announcing that “My other car is a 560SL”. I just don’t need two cars.
Besides, one of the things I’ve learned is that these cars need to be driven. You can find 1989 560’s all day long with “only thirty thousand miles on it…driven four months each year and only to the club.” And chances are, at thirty thousand miles, it’s had no service other than a few oil changes. Which means every seal; gasket or other perishable component has degraded. Add $7,500.00 to your budget because that’s what you are going to spend year-one on what I call “the perishables.” My first year surprise update/repair/replace budget is $5,000.00. I add that to the total deal regardless of how well vetted my 560SL candidate might be.
So as of July, I’ve not found the right car that makes it through my budget/condition matrix unscathed. And that’s ok because I don’t want to make a mistake amidst procuring my dream car. I realize that once I own an SL, there are gonna be costs—lots of them, involved in keeping it in shape. Old house-old car…there’s always something to be done to-for-about them.
My trusty little Saab remains in fairly good service and I’ll continue to enjoy it till it either dies thus forcing my car-buying hand or I find the right car. If I don’t find my 560SL dream before the weather gets cold, it might become a 2012 objective.

Onward. In a Saab.