How’s the blogging thing going?

Thanks for asking. I was just thinking about that.

Jon's blog-0035
Will my physical beauty prevent me from being taken seriously?


I started blogging because I had nothing else to do. I know other guys who retired. One became a carpenter for charity and learned Italian, another ran marathons and audited classes at UC Berkeley. I know a guy who collects art and invests in young women tennis players. And I know there are boaters out there, and woodworkers, bird rescuers, docents.

I don’t do anything like that. I used to be on various non-profit boards, which was fun except for the fund-raising, which was seriously not fun and at which I was never any good. Beyond that: My hobbies are reading, travel and television. My skills in many areas are laughable; I’m the guy from whom people snatch wrenches or corkscrews or paring knives. “Easier if I do it myself,” they say.

“Easier for me, too,” I think but do not say.

And because it was important for me to “do something,” to “stay active,” to “not sink into an inky pool of reality television, spy novels and breakfast cereal” — no one actually said that last thing, although you could tell that’s what they were thinking.

OK, I’m a blogger. Now what?


The first thing I had to do was learn blogging tools. I asked around (thank you, Nancy Friedman, Susan McCarthy, ((plus Susan McCarthy)), and Kristen Yawitz) and decided to learn WordPress, because someone said it was easy.

It was amusing to teach myself the tools. My pal Scott Underwood suggested Michelle Mizera to do stuff (including Mailchimp, a maddening program) that had too steep a learning curve. I got to play with links and photographs, trying to tell jokes and send coded messages and just play with any reader who wanted to take the time. (I have amused myself in this piece by using double quotation marks for quotations inside of quotations, and that’s not remotely OK. Except, hey, Andrea Behr ain’t nowhere round here. I can make up my own punctuation. Seriously, how cool is that?)

Pretty early on, it became obvious that Tracy should participate. I’d be collaborating with her for the first time since the late 70s. It’s sort of complicated to work with one’s spouse (because, duh), but we have talked a lot about our professions. So it could be great, although it also could go horribly wrong.

The blogging idea made me feel all tingly and useful. I could maybe think of new ways to do the blogging thing, although probably every blogging act in the conceptual universe has been tried already. On the other hand: I made my living writing in English, something that has been tried many many times before. And yet I persist in thinking I can do something new with it. If you can’t invent stuff, then it’s pretty much over.

Also, blogging is passe. The buzz passes from platform to platform, and now Instagram and Snapchat are being replaced by other sites whose names I don’t know. I just cannot care about that anymore. I will never catch up. I have a Fats Domino brain in a Beyonce world.

So then I put the blog up. The response has been lovely. Thank you, people.

Busier now than ever


There are several bits of received wisdom about retirement. One of them, referenced above, is, “You have to have a plan to do something,” which is true. But the other is, “I’m busier now than I ever was when I was working.” How can that be? I have no idea. I had hoped for long lazy afternoons on the window seat, staring at hummingbirds feasting on flowers and reading all of the far-too-many magazines we receive. Maybe we’d go to Fiji. I like Fiji.

Not a chance. Retirement is filled with stuff I really should have done five years ago. It’s filled with interesting new financial dilemmas. And it’s filled with stuff I really did want to do, like cultivating friends (generally with organic fertilizer and a wee sprinkling of Roundup), sudden trips (hello, Death Valley), and fooling around with my wife, although not in an inappropriate way (we’ve been married 35 years; nothing is inappropriate by now).

And people in retirement say, “I wonder why I didn’t do this 10 years ago,” and now I’ll say it. I loved my job, but I’m loving my non-job better. No deadlines!

But also, no deadlines. I have worked to a deadline continuously since 1966. I needed deadlines; I organized my life around deadlines. I messed around until the very last minute and then wrote like mad; now there was no last minute. I never made any promises the blog would appear every Tuesday and Friday, or every Tuesday, or every year. What would I do? Would I fuck off completely?

And what about Jon Carroll, the brand not the man? I did not know how much of my identity was tied up in being a semi-famous newspaper columnist. I did like the perks, from free theater tickets to people seeing me in public places and saying nice things. I did like being admired, because who doesn’t?

I’d been through this once before, being powerful and semi-famous and then not. I realized that a lot of “friends” would drop away; I was always surprised by which ones did, but I was prepared for the eventuality. And it happened. It’s OK. I already have the calluses. And I’m grateful to everyone who seemed to like the rather messy person I am beneath the public identity.

But could I write without me? I didn’t know. I have no other writing partner.


It’s still all up in the air.  I have no idea in which direction I’ll take this. It may very well be a direction I don’t know exists. Maybe Jon Carroll Prose will be a movie, only we’ll change the name to “Hero!” or “The Dark Adventure.” Or perhaps Jon Carroll Prose will be a series of youth-oriented mini-musicals performed in areas of urban blight. Or it could go to Mars. That would be fun, except the dying in soundless space part.

Tracy and I are the beginning of our collaboration. Been fine so far — we even got to play journalists, both going off on a story, prepared to evoke and explain, so cute. And I get to figure out how to repurpose her great series of photos of West Oakland (part of a five-year-so-far project she’s doing) to my own fiendish needs.

As to being me, I dunno. Might be a good thing to reinvent myself. I used to do that almost every year, but it’s been a while. I miss being on the press lists, although a few are hanging in there. Perhaps they’ll get a mention in the prestigious Jon Carroll Prose blog, read by discerning readers of the play I want to see.

I have no idea what might happen next. I still could rule the world.


And it’s all amazing fun. That’s my message today. Are you perhaps stuck in a job you hate and not getting any younger and wondering why your neck keeps tightening up all the time and your digestion, well, let’s not go there? Or even, I dunno, a relationship? Been known to happen.

If you can make the numbers work (and you could just make Mom pay rent because God knows she has enough money —because she gives all those “gifts” to that guy Joey because he’s her “protege” or some crap), get outa Dodge. Pack up the burros and hit the dusty trail. Vamoose. Scram. Beat it. Vanish. Vanish.

Send us a message from Capetown or Cape Girardeau. There’s stuff out there to do.

Looks like they might could use a good cowhand

Photography by Tracy Johnston

Useful help and marketing by Michelle “OK, ball’s in your court” Mizera

Note from Tracy: The bottom picture is a gold mine, not a horse ranch, which any idiot with a functioning brain stem could see.

73 thoughts on “How’s the blogging thing going?

  1. I enjoyed your column and continue to enjoy your blogs!
    We are about the same age (I’m 701/2).
    I grew up in NYC and have always enjoyed your “West Coast” stories of your youth.
    Keep up the blogs, I look forward to them, almost as much as my afternoon naps!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe their are blogging rules I violate (and don’t care about). I think you are supposed to just dash something off and send it out there but I draft something, let it sit for a week, edit it, and then publish. (Months later I return and view the errors with anguish, which I think is also wrong.)

      There’s something to be said for that kind of spontaneity and I want to try it at some point. But not quite yet.

      I do love what you’re doing — though I wish you would do more of it. And I would also love to see more of Tracy’s work. Perhaps a series on cattle ranches disguised as gold mines.


  2. I have a good idea how about running for president. I think the country needs you. Love the blogs Pat

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am always around. I live inside you now, with my picky punctuation rules. You cannot escape me; you can only obey, or rebel.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I’ll put you in touch with my daughter, The Linguist. She can make a reasoned argument why almost any rule of punctuation is an archaic construct that only exists as a ritual, subject to new interpretation at any time.

        Of course, I still go look up which is which when I need a colonish thing, semi or otherwise.


  4. love this…..retirement takes time and patience….and one really needs to feel entitled to it….all fun from there…you are doing it!


  5. Like everybody else, when I was still working but hoping to retire soon, I had a spreadsheet full of interest rates, predictable depletions, ongoing costs, and all that. My beloved partner Tina gave me perhaps the best advice I’ve ever received on any subject: “You will not retire when that spreadsheet tells you to, because it never will. That spreadsheet will always tell you that, if you work a few more years, you’ll have that much more padding. You will retire when you damn well can’t take it any more, and you’ll live based on however much money you turn out to have.” And so it came to pass. I offer Tina’s advice for what it’s worth to all your readers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Amen to that. In this day of computer takeover of every job anyone could have loved, I threw in the towel rather than spend another 10 years wrestling with electronic medical records. Unfortunately, this happened in a time when we have a crisis of medical provider availability.


  6. I’m so relieved. I was afraid you’d get tired of it–not retirement, which is a wonderful thing to do for oneself–but The Blog. And I would feel doubly bereft. Keep it going. Forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Just this morning I winced holding the Datebook section of the Chron because I so wanted a Jon Carroll column. And lo! So glad you are happy doing this whatever it is because I am happy reading it.


  8. Exactly!!! And as my co-worker Rita above knows, we LOVE(D) our work with the SFUSD. AND I retired back in 2012 – got married too. We love it – the BIGGEST problem is trying to remember what DAY of the WEEK it is – that’s why we take the CHRONIC. And the volunteer work without deadlines – I am currently volunteering at the Museum of Performance + Design – logging all the live shows from the KSAN Radio Archives – part of the Bay Area Music Archives. All good…except for the TIMES on our COMMENTS…is that Greenwich MEAN Time???…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Two and a quarter years into retirement, I look back and wish you the reward I have been given – at last, I have time to let this sensation – joy in the world’s beauty – reverberate around inside, for as long as it likes, every time it likes. Ding dong bell.


  10. My day always brightens when there is a blog post from you in my email. I know, old technology, but still works for me. The photographs make it even better, something the newspaper (old technology) couldn’t offer. Thanks for not retiring in entirety.


  11. Jon, you continue to be a joy to read, in whatever form. Gems like “have a Fats Domino brain in a Beyonce world” are a gift to us all.


    1. When I read that, I wondered if the Chron would censor such a great line for some nonsensical legal reason. Perhaps they’re beyond caring about such niceties.


  12. You are great any way we can “get” your prose miss your column hoping Callie miller would take over


  13. So glad you continue. I would write to you from Capetown, but it’s just too much work and I’m enjoying my recliner too much. I *do* do a daily journal, though, which just celebrated it’s 15th anniversary. — 5844. It can be a great relaxer in our old age. Your column often sparked an idea for me and I’m glad you’ll still be around.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A great piece, as usual — Jon Carroll lives! No, you don’t need a plan. All you need to do in retirement is what pleases you. If you like writing, write when you like to If you like vegging on the couch watching TV, do that when you like to (although probably not all day every day for more than a week or so). You’ve done your shoulds. I always enjoy reading your writing, and selfishly I hope you continue writing so I can read it, but that doesn’t impose any duty on you.

    I post writing on my own website when I feel the need to write something — that almost no one reads it is only a minor annoyance, because it is written for me. In your case you won’t even have that annoyance, because of your many loyal fans.


  15. so…being quite a reader and a fan of tv These Days, I always like to hear what you’re reading and watching.
    I’m working hard along with you at not mourning the end of everything.


  16. Thank gawd. At first thought this was the beginning of the end. Whew.

    But not so sure about this whole mini-musical thing.


  17. What a relief that you found Mail Chimp maddening also! What special place in Hell do you send people to when they say something is sooooo easy but it is not? Fortunately, I found someone who is good at it, but she is getting hired away to full-time work. Maddening!


  18. As one who is slouching towards the rough beast of retirement — 2016 will be the year — I contemplate the near future with mixed emotions. Given that many of us tend to self-identify (to employ the latest cultural catch-phrase)) with our jobs, I wonder what I’ll then be. No longer what I am now, and have been for nearly four decades, but something — someone — else. Still, that’s long enough. I don’t want to die with my work-boots on. Besides, it’s time for something new, before I stumble into senescence and the broken-hip spiral towards the grave.

    As a longtime reader of your column (since the 80’s), I was thoroughly bummed when you quit the Chron, then elated to learn you’d turned your talents to the world of blogging — and your efforts thus far have been terrific. I’ve so often heard the phrase “writing is a process,” and truth be told, never understood what that really meant. Blogging, however, is most definitely a process that unfolds upon an apparently endless voyage of discovery. I’m so glad you’ve undertaken that journey, and are taking the rest of us along for the ride.

    You had to retire to start blogging, but I might have to retire to stop…


  19. > And what about Jon Carroll, the brand not the man?
    > I did not know how much of my identity was tied up
    > in being a semi-famous newspaper columnist.

    I think I knew the columnist before I knew the man, but I quickly realized that (a) I liked the man, and (b) the thing I liked about the column was how much like the man it was, not the other way around.

    > I have no idea in which direction I’ll take this.
    > It may very well be a direction I don’t know exists.

    Ooh, I’m all in favor of that. Another thing I liked about the column was all the
    directions in which it went, and don’t let that deter you from finding a few
    more. Stumble! Stumble big!

    And yes: maddening MailChimp, made more maddening by their thoughtful discontinuation of customer support from we non-paying smalltime thugs.



  20. I think there’s an art to retirement. I’m not good at it – yet. I love the lack of deadlines and schedules, but signed on to write a book, evidence of residual masochism, I guess. Book’s done, almost done with my position in a non-profit, and seriously looking forward to learning how to relax.

    I love reading your posts, and I’m so glad you’re still writing. The Chronicle in the morning without you feels like being on a diet I was given but didn’t want. You write like a human being, from your own person to all of us. It feels like a level playing field, dealing with life issues within ourselves and at home.

    Write whatever comes forth from within, and know you have a very appreciative audience.


  21. Jon, how lucky we are that you aren’t stuck in the Chron, which is worse than ever without you. You are loved now more than ever!

    Another retired guy.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Jon, one of the few things I know for certain is that when you retired from the Chron, the world became a bleaker and way less interesting and enjoyable place. When I discovered your blog, the sun came out again and we all had more to smile (and think) about. You and Tracy will be at the beginning of my Grat Etude this Thanksgiving. Ongoing thanks.


  23. Cultural institutions are desperate for publicity with waning newspapers, so start getting in touch with some of those nice PR people and you’ll be offered more free tickets than you can imagine. And even better, you only have to write about what you like and want to share instead of having to play critic.


  24. > a series of youth-oriented mini-musicals

    Perhaps something more in tune with the times, like “Jon Carroll: The Rap Opera”?? I’d like two backstage passes for opening night, please. But take your time, y’know.


  25. Please just keep blogging, Jon. When you left the Chron, I wished you well but wondered how I’d get along without you. I am very happy you decided to make blogging one of your retirement activities.


  26. The short trip yesterday was a bit different – went to both Temperance & Hell. High times in Michigan.


  27. Do keep up the blogging thing, please — as always, your prose is a ray of sunshine and laughter and sanity, with a health does of weirdness! Thank you for sharing, as they say, but I really mean it!


  28. Breathing a big sign of relief that I found you in the blogosphere. I am certain I could not make it through this election cycle of doom without your reflections. Always nice to know one is not alone… Thank you.


  29. Thank you. As a 73 year old film editor, still wanting to work, the prospect of it happening, grows more unlikely with each passing day. Or is that a condition caused by it not happening? As a lifetime freelancer, it has been happening all my life. So relax, finish the taxes and start your photography book.
    Tracy’s photos are excellent as always. Thanks to her, too.



  30. I read a lot, but not newspapers so I don’t know who you are – but glad you’re semi-famous. I found your blog in the typical blogosphere manner – someone not famous mentioned your page.

    True enough – blogs spiked quite some time ago … even then, wordy blogs had lower priority than shorter ones …still, a good first sentence, entertaining middle and an end with indicators that it’s the end were nice.

    Retirement has built-in decay… sure, sure, I know the cliché, the body ages and brain is as sharp as ever. Yeah sure. But aging does have some perks – the clerk at the pharmacy knows your first name, always gives a smile and finds your meds w/out you needing to say a word.

    And, as long as you’re not on crutches or use a cane or walker, a few people (mostly retired nuns) won’t mind if you’re a tad slow crossing the street. The exception – drivers in Costco parking lots – they use guys on crutches as race course pylons.

    Aging does offer perspective on just about any topic… trouble is, the new young turks aren’t overly interested in your view. Being young is like that. And wisdom counts only if someone is listening.

    One thing older people do – mostly because of the combo of free time and that perspective thing – they do civic volunteering. Go to a monthly meeting of your fav political party… lots of gray & bald spots & unfashionable clothes. For those just retired, you might feel young by being in that group.

    Me? I decided to find new levels of Dante’s Hell … I joined a neighborhood group attempting to save a local park from our county’s bureaucracy. The county’s plan: urban sprawl in a rural location. Developers apply heavy pressure on pols & bureaucrats – who also have personal, secret agendas and, of course, money rules … Citizens are naturally normally confused – it’s amazing, quite a number of people actually think democracy is based on logic, fair play and the “voice of the People”. Sadly, apathy and greed have become allies … That perspective thing? … It counts for almost nothing. Besides, this is the Time of Clicktivism.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. My wife and I have worked together for 12 years. It works out well, probably most of all because both of us have verrrrry long fuses, and each of us has a lot of faith in the other’s opinions. We also follow a couple of principles (well, most of the time) — we don’t talk casework in the bedroom, and we don’t make out in the office.


  32. I’m enjoying your blog and don’t care that they are no longer the trendy thing. I don’t even know what is trendy and what is not. When writers, retired, famous or not, communicate interesting ideas that’s what counts to me.
    I’m glad you’re enjoying retirement, and I don’t think any big plans are necessary. Isn’t it great to get up in the morning and think, “What am I doing today?” As for me, I want to continue to use my free time with family, friends, and horses and learning new things all the time.


  33. Hi Jon,

    Just to let you know I am enjoying the new unbuttoned you (or do I mean unfettered?), although Your “Reality Theater” piece for the CHRON was also a keeper. I could relate.

    Thanks for keeping on; as Liz Gilbert says, having a strongly creative personality is like owning a border collie; you have to give it lots of exercise, or it will eat the couch.

    Best Regards, Amie

    From: Jon Carroll Prose Reply-To: Jon Carroll Prose Date: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:27 PM To: Subject: [New post] How¹s the blogging thing going? joncarrollprose posted: “Thanks for asking. I was just thinking about that.


  34. Just learned of your blog via a tweet by John Scalzi. Used to read your column when I was a college student, but it’s been over a decade since I’ve lived in a place with a newspaper. Delighted to see that you’re still around and writing! I’ll have to read the archives now. Loved the Death Valley entry.


  35. I started blogging before I retired, but in my defense I was recovering from knee replacement surgery – 3 months with nothing to do but rehab. Borrrring, and you can only reread Brother Cadfael so many times. So I created Hedera’s Corner (on and started posting about whatever interested me. It’s still there; I think I have a readership of 5. But I was still working, and still singing with the Oakland Symphony Chorus – still am singing, for that matter. Musicians are My People.

    When I retired, I thought, I must do something. I had a list, and the only thing I did on it was bag groceries at the Food Bank, until my other knee went out. Then I discovered the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council and discovered that a spot as the secretary allowed me to be really useful, communicate with a lot of people, and do a little web development on the side. I’m still doing it.

    Next I discovered LifeRing Secular Recovery, which helped my husband quit drinking. I’m still supporting their web site, intermittently. And I let myself be persuaded onto the Symphony Chorus board, which let to me being on the Symphony Board after the merger. I don’t care for fundraising either, but I like the people.

    I’m at least as busy as I was before I retired. I had visions of being a challenging, widely read blogger; yeah, right. But who cares? I have a place to rant about politics when I want to. I haven’t done anything on the election because – what can one say?? Except, Are we all nuts?? I’m jealous because you have more readers than I do, but I like to read you, so who cares?

    This is what you get when you rant about retirement – comments out of the blue on other people’s retirement. Keep on writing.


Comments are closed.