It’s a strange feeling, it is. While calling it after a massive maritime disaster isn’t really appropriate–my situation is not disastrous, but hopeful–it conveys a similar feeling. Within five weeks, six at most, I’ll be leaving the state in which I came of age. I look around at all the familiarities, and know that their days are numbered, just as the ill-fated passenger liner’s crew had to confront reality: in two hours, nearly all that they saw would be submerged.
A part of me is tempted to mourn early and often, which is irrational. I should not mourn. I lived thirty-nine years in Washington without considering myself a Washingtonian (nothing against the concept). What is ahead is appealing, reuniting and promising. How many local vendors am I eager never to give one more dime? I will be saying farewell to a city government that is a poor steward of the public trust, a library that cannot find useful volunteer work for an author, provincial myopia about the region’s past and present, complete social stagnation, mostly mediocre dining, and dust storms. I just placed a simple phone call to my ISP and got four different answers from four different people, only one of whom seemed the least bit concerned about the variance. The rest were resigned to it. Said it all.
Yet for a long time it was home, and here I met some of the finest people I’ve known, had many good times, loved our house with its strong natural privacy and kind neighbors. And though I should not mourn, I know I will. My last ride to Boise will be a contemplative and emotional four and a half hours.
Soon we part, Washington. Thank you for all that has been good and wonderful. You’re a beautiful state with many fine folks, and you will always be a destination for those seeking climatic diversity and free spirits. People will also come for the weed.
In a complete topic segue, it’s about time I made written record of my usual analogy for my status as a published author.
I am not the sort of published author most people think of, and yet I’m not self-published (though I may change that). I have contributed to a good number of books, but all had other contributors. One might say I’m a freelance writer who is entitled to call himself an author, having done his share of authing for pay and print. I edit, write and proofread. Most of my paid writing work is done on contract, which puts me at the lowest tier of the authorly ziggurat. I usually describe it thus:
You probably saw Titanic. In fact, you’ve probably seen it eight times in reruns whether you wanted to or not. You observed that the ship operated according to a class system, which had direct relevance to one’s chances of ending up in a lifeboat. This has direct analogy to the security of one’s position in the literary world. Thus:
Suppose that the literary world is a Titanic. (The way New York is handling things, the analogy is apt enough). The highest class are, of course, first class passengers, would Madame care for some more champagne, veddy good, sah, socializing in that rotunda with crystal chandeliers overhead and an orchestra playing, more caviar, please, waiter. These are the J.K. Rowlings and Danielle Steels, anyone who is always on the endcap at the bookstore. Almost all of them are getting off the boat.
The next class, second, are the leisure tourists. They do not receive the fawning deference reserved for the big spenders in first class, but they are treated well. They enjoy some amenities and general respect. They are the top-selling science fiction authors, the more famous travel writers, and sometimes the self-help book gurus. Most of them are getting off the boat.
Down in steerage is the third class, the people making their own music who live in a different world than the prominent. This category includes most of the crew. These are most indie authors, history writers, the folks that pen Harlequin romances, cookbook authors, most children’s authors, writers of books on religion, and so on. Most people have never heard of most of them. Most of them aren’t getting off the boat.
Continue into the bowels of the monster and you will come to the engine room, full of people stripped to the waist and sweating quarts as they shovel coal into the boilers. These are the stokers. Without them, the ship couldn’t have set sail, but no one in first class can name a one of them. Not only have they no security, but in time of danger, more important people will shut the watertight doors on them. They aren’t getting off the boat.
I’m a stoker.