|artwork by Darrell McKinney|
Maybe it's because I'm turning 47 next week and it's getting that
|What's a Dagwood?|
I've written about this before, so I don't want to hammer in on it too much. Instead, I want to talk about calling in well.
Utah Phillips, on The Past Didn't Go Anywhere, a collaborative album put out by indie icon Ani DeFranco's on Righteous Babe Records. Utah was talking about his friend, the musician Mark Ross, "America's most famous unknown folk singer." Calling in well is what Utah called Mark's decision to stop trying to live someone else's life and live his own... which meant making music, no matter what.
The notion stuck with me... sort of a dream, an unarticulated goal. As peripatetic as my employment life has been, except for a 2 1/2 year stretch as a full-time composition instructor at Arizona State University, you might be surprised to know I didn't call in decades ago. As a matter of fact, most of my working life has been an attempt to do things The Right Way.
No. Really. Honest.
I think in the end it's all about the platitudes you choose to give your life over to. Most of my working life was given over to
But it didn't last. Some of the reasons were my fault, but I still believe I was written off by both higher education (for having the temerity to suggest that economic exploitation is wrong) and journalism (for not game playing and politicking in a political town). The part of both of those situations that was my fault is this: I'm not good at the whole "
That's another one of those platitudes, most often uttered by parental types and sports fans. Play the game... which is code for "compromise for a paycheck." Now I do enjoy watching a good baseball game, but I never understood treating my working life like trying to get to third base, only to be tagged out sliding into home.
Maybe it's a temperament issue. Maybe it's about my birth order. Maybe it's about my middle class upbringing that translated into a disregard for money. Maybe it's the chip on my shoulder that, chip away at it as I might, I can't seem to get rid of. All I know is this:
I'm calling in well. Now.
It doesn't look like I wanted it to look; I was hoping to have a slightly better idea where the little bit of money I'd like to make would come from. But I'm done with platitudes that don't work for anyone except a larger system that's built to exploit and hold out the promise of retirement as the time to "really live." I'm a poet, a writer and teller of stories, and a collector of stories. I'm a wordslinger. I write Word-Things. I fully expect to take on gigs from time to time, but copywriting gigs aren't going to define my life.
So, to borrow and edit from Charles Osgood... really the best part of Sunday morning when I was younger... I'll see you in between the words.