What happened?

Alert readers have noted that I haven’t written a blog post in some time. Several concerned humans asked me if I’m “all right,”  which I took to mean a concern about my health. When you’re 74 and diabetic, you can anticipate a certain fretfulness when you disappear from your own blog for three months.

So the first news is that I’m fine. I’m dealing with the usual depredations of age, but aside from that, everything is hunky dory. Also, I live in the same house married to the same fabulous woman. The children are doing well. So, like, nothing to see here.

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Step one: Do research

But I’m reassessing my relationship with writing. I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember; I put out a neighborhood newsletter when I was nine. Because it was easy for me, and because I was callow, I didn’t think about my attitude toward writing, and what it meant to me personally. My callowness continued until about eight weeks ago, which is a long time for callow to survive.

We’d been to Cuba (great time! great place!) and I obviously thought I could get a column out of it. So I wrote one, and it was mostly crap. There were holes in it, and I struggled with filling them, and the deeper I got the more bullshit I produced. I decided to wait a day and come back to it with a new eye or a new brain. That day became a week and then two weeks, and I was beating myself up about not being able to finish and wondering if my diminished skills had to do with aging. Dementia! Alzheimer’s! Brain tumors! All three!

So I decided to take a break. After all, I was not required to write. I had no employer and the blog generated no income. So why not? Of course, I worried about my very kind and generous readership, so then I thought; They’re kind and they’re generous, they’ll understand. And so then I sailed along, doing what I always do except not writing anything, beyond the occasional Twitter post. I got retweets! So that was my validation.

So I began to think: Why do I write? Sure, I get to communicate my political ideas, but anybody can do that. Guys in bars do it all the time. Is it to be amusing?  I do enjoy being loved for my writing, because I was convinced that nothing else about me was lovable — or so I thought. Think? Low self-esteem is not susceptible to praise from others. Took me a while to learn that.

And the semi-continuous praise is a decision-clincher. I pick Column A; making money and hearing good things about ME, or anyway about my writing. Seems better than column B, broke and depressed. Better than I thought I’d do.

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Step two: Think outside the box

And I’d like to blame part of my block on Donald J. Fucking Trump. He presents an unpalatable choice for light fiction writers everywhere. If you avoid him, if you try to write about over-priced produce or early-career Lady Gaga or annoying phone scams, you wonder whether you’re part of the problem, providing momentary amusement during the age of rising totalitarianism. Clown shows at the edge of the pit of darkness.

On the other hand, giving in to the temptation to skewer the president (or his cronies) with your terrible swift prose-sword, channeling anger into mockery, well, join the club. Have you seen the New Yorker covers: Trump being thrown out of heaven, Trump turning into a sandwich, Trump gunning down Mexicans. OK, maybe not the last one. The magazine can’t seem to get enough of this stuff, even as its longer pieces add to the general air of gloom. Have you ever read a New Yorker piece on climate change? Did you want to kill yourself right then, or wait until after dinner?

I don’t want to be a traitor to #TheResistance. I want to write penetrating satire, or powerful invective. But (have you noticed?) that field seems to be overcrowded. I’m sure we all want to read big foot pundits’ view of Trump’s transgressions, because — wait, no we don’t. What you can say that has not been said? Besides, in reality, everyone’s waiting for Robert Mueller to take the malefactor on the longest perp walk in history, so we can all spit on him as he walks by. But Trump prose? A chump’s game. On the other hand, non-Trump prose: Diletante! Arriviste! Phony leftist! Understand, all this yelling happens inside my head. It matches in intensity the yelling outside my head. God it’s hard to find a nice quiet place to think.

On the other hand, pure retirement is great. I’ve spent 50 years of my life working against deadline. I didn’t realize how stressful it was. Even now, working without deadlines but still with expectations, didn’t feel that great either. And no, my biggest deadline is trash pick-up and keeping the house stocked with paper products. I read a lot, I watch TV a lot, and I screw around on the Internet a lot. I enjoying traveling. Plus, live music, good meals with friends, big movies in big movie theaters.  I don’t have a retired guy hobby, like woodworking or garden design or hanging around the courthouse trolling for interesting trials. I kinda tried to get a project, but I rejected one of them, and one of them rejected me. I didn’t try very hard, because it’s summer and the garden looks amazing.

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Step three: Meet Santa

Photography by Tracy Johnston

Good vibes and useful suggestions by Michelle Mizera

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108 thoughts on “What happened?

  1. Seems to be a chorus that many of us are singing.(?) not joyfully.
    Thank you for all the joy of the past that you brought to my day.
    May you and Tracy and cats and children and grandchildren live your days fully.
    If I get to read more of your writing, hooray for me. If not, I’m still grateful

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If writing is work, let it go. You’re retired. If writing is your art form and it gives you pleasure, perhaps consider changing up your content (subject). Your audience likes to read your work. Paint different pictures, but, still paint. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice to see your writing again!

    From: Jon Carroll Prose To: jart1@pacbell.net Sent: Tuesday, September 4, 2018 2:11 PM Subject: [New post] What happened? #yiv0779540747 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0779540747 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0779540747 a.yiv0779540747primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0779540747 a.yiv0779540747primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0779540747 a.yiv0779540747primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0779540747 a.yiv0779540747primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0779540747 WordPress.com | joncarrollprose posted: “Alert readers have noted that I haven’t written a blog post in some time. Several concerned humans asked me if I’m “all right,”  which I took to mean a concern about my health. When you’re 74 and diabetic, you can anticipate a certain fretfulness when you” | |

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  4. Claudette echos my thoughts completely. I am almost exactly one year older than you are and living out a similar retirement with similar ruminations. It is comforting to know that at least one other person has reached conclusions that mirror my own. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Your voice and perspective are always appreciated; glad you are choosing to share your writing if/when you are moved to do so! Thank you for letting us know that all is well.

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  6. People often urge me to write a column/blog/wastepaper/whatever. I do most of my blogging to myself and in my mind in that time before I fall asleep. I forget all about it, of course, when I wake up, and, we’re all better off for it. YOU, however? We need you. Even the cat pieces. Please.
    Gratefully Yours,
    Ann

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      1. Yes, cat pieces. My daughter has three black cats and has built behind her house a catio. If you don’t have one yet, you should get one, built or bought. Big fun. She has a cat window so kitties can come and go as they like.

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  7. Kind of sad how so many of us view everything–well, a large percentage of everything–in the context of Trump these days. (Does that mean he’s won? Never mind.) Count me among those wishing you the best and grateful for the pleasure your writing has brought over the years. Even the cat stuff.

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      1. — don’t you see?…..In years past, the insertion of the occasional “cat piece”, counterbalanced the preponderance of the “hang the rich” harangues that ( well written as they were ) we accepted because they were essentially true…..( you also include the occasional column about the spider-web in the corner of the window )…all of which add up to a world view that many of us see as transcendental…..

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  8. Glad to hear you’re okay. Good to read any of your musings. “A quiet place to think” seems harder and harder to come by in a nosy, noisy world.

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  9. It is indeed hard to do anything such as original writing when our “Herotic Leader” has so damn successfully sucked all the air out of the room. I would kiddingly suggest the obverse of the old notion that many writers are drunks: if you start (or resume) drinking, you’ll be a writer! Glad to read that you are well in spite of it all.

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      1. maybe you could share a wide-screen page ( as most video pages are formatted these days ) – Jon on the left, Adair on the right – like the old days on the back page of the Datebook – there were some great contrasting/complimentary ideas tossed about – to me, that’s what its all about…..

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  10. While we’re blaming tRump my astrologer points to the stars. I own my own stuff with an attitude of gratitude for everything, especially the hard stuff. My 87 yo friend stays busy. We celebrated David Freiberg’s 80th on Labor Day because he was on the road with the Starship on his birthday. Amazing love fest! Breathing in and out, seeing parts of a day rather a whole one all at once, expanding our spiritual nature, keeping hope on the front burner, mastering the moment, thinking of others esp the kids, winning over my own ego. It works! Helping behind the scenes with a BIG Youth Peace Festival in San Jose 9/23/18. Being part of something positive keeps the heart smiling. Thanks for writing, it’s great hearing from you again! Have another beautiful day!

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  11. Very cool, Jon!! Things change, what we’ve always done has its last day; opening space and time for something new, or for nothing at all, wonderful! I always love to read what you write but I also totally support what you choose not to. Silence is often profound. XoxK

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  12. I understand. After teaching for 49 years I have no interest in my former profession. I love being retired, traveling and I joying life. No apologies necessary.

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  13. I was a devoted reader of your column in the Chron, once appearing there accidentally. We share a cat vet, and a neighborhood. I’ve always thought “Ol’ Jon tells it right…pay attention.”

    Now I’m retired, going from 34 years of balls out in the fire service to trying to perfect my pizza dough. And…now comes your latest posting reflecting on retirement. It caused me to take a much needed breath, and I thank you

    All best

    Dave

    Sent from my phone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh, Jon. Soooo good to hear from you! I had noticed your absence. Really. Just went to the big theater to see “Mission Impossible” with the impossible stunts by the very real Tom Cruise. Amazing! I too have become sporadic with my writing and adjusting to semi-retirement, whatever that is. Ahhhhh… Please keep writing and ranting. Did you hear Kamala Harris bravely speak in the Senate hearings today? Wow! That women is prepared, passionate and powerful. Thank goodness! Keep up the good work, dear Jon. We love you – and Tracy too.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Re the New Yorker, I have been paying attention, and throughout this year every issue has mentioned Trump by name in the opening editorial essay. One time he didn’t show up until the third column, and another time not until the second page. But he’s with us always. The minister where I go to church won’t say the name, he calls him “45”. Good policy I think.

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  16. Jon, Glad to know you’re OK; I’d been concerned. Been reading your column since . . . 1973, was it? If you were writing for the Chronicle then, that’s when I started reading your column. I’d moved up from LA the previous year and was working as a substitute teacher in Sonoma County high schools (now there’s a job that can be fun or torture or both) and great things were happening, which I wanted to share with the students: we were starting to pull out of Viet Nam, and Roe vs. Wade had just passed. Those were heady moments.. But if you weren’t yet writing for the Chron, then I started reading your column whenever you DID start. And still do enjoy your writing!

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  17. Enjoy yourself, Jon. We will always laud you whenever we can. I, myself, have taken early retirement and want to do what I did only without the paycheck and the stress of (long list: misogyny, incompetent management, commute, ad naseum) I am also finding it hard to get to the things I’d like to do. I know about that Cuban article, unfinished. I’ve got my own list. But go with the flow Keep on keeping on. And other fine sayings.

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  18. Thank you for this update. I look forward to anything you write, but would hate for you to feel deadline pressure from me or anyone. You may think that you can offer no new take on DJFT and our strange and frightening new world, but you would be wrong. Over the many years during which I couldn’t start my day without your viewpoint, almost every one of your columns resonated with me and made me feel like I wasn’t nuts. Knowing that you are in sync with me will continue to comfort me, but I would love to read more from you as you find the time and inspiration.

    On Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 2:08 PM Jon Carroll Prose wrote:

    > joncarrollprose posted: “Alert readers have noted that I haven’t written a > blog post in some time. Several concerned humans asked me if I’m “all > right,” which I took to mean a concern about my health. When you’re 74 and > diabetic, you can anticipate a certain fretfulness when you” >

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  19. I had that though, in fact, just yesterday. I was wondering if I’d somehow unsubscribed. Literally, actually, yesterday. This is eerie! Nice to hear from you.

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  20. Thanks for checking in – I was wondering about you. I retired from tech writing to write what I want to. I’m liking it so far, but I do kinda wish I’d started when I was a young ‘un. There’s a lot to learn about what makes people turn pages (outside of needing to get the bloody software to work). But if I had, I probably wouldn’t have been able to retire at 60 to write!
    Maybe you could take a gap year (a U.K. term). “Just taking a gap year” you could say. No commitment one way or another to what comes after the gap. No sense of finality. No need to even mind the gap.

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  21. This posts reminds me of an Adair Lara column that I saved for many years, about pursuing what pleases you as opposed to what you felt you “ought to” pursue. The gist of it was “You are your own fine consequence.”

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  22. Makes my heart glad to read you again. Thanks. Well done, plus it’s nice to know, as someone who has a tendency to expect the worse, that I am wrong a lot.

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  23. I’m about to experience my second Thursday of being voluntarily unemployed. Yeah, I still write and I still have a sense of urgency about it. If that goes away I don’t know what will happen, but I’m probably okay with it. We’ll see. Reading, writing, humorous banter, and music making seem to provide a fine moveable feast.

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  24. I too missed hearing from you. Glad all is well. I always thought it impolite to not say goodbye so I assumed we’d hear from you at least once. But when,I said. You and Santa made my day.

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  25. Where on earth did you find that “box”? Twin toilets? Guess you are still being creative. Good for you, Jon. And which is you and which is Santa? Neither resembles you.

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  26. You continue to be such a treasure. Thank you for the many years of inspiration, thorniness, entertainment, provocation you have provided to me.

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  27. It’s a pleasure to read you. You always have something refreshing and insightful to say. The Trump issue is real — it makes one want to be political when one really doesn’t feel like it. Sad!

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  28. I, too, have been among the missing and presumed lost at sea. But the problem is not I; it is the iMac’s keyboard, which swallowed its cud so has been unable to make certain keys function. Therefore, I have been unable to log in and have been cruelly denied access to my usernames and passwords. Working with this 2011 iPad is slow and maddening; the virtual keyboard is one of the Great Bad Ideas of Humankind.

    Therefore, l sent for a Bluetooth keyboard but found it couldn’t contact the unconscious iMac, so I sent for another keyboard that may save the day. If not, I may just gratefully slip into quiet madness, with only brief intervals of raving.

    Anyway, glad for the opportunity to bask in your graceful, restorative prose after long deprivation.

    James

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I understand you, as always, and also agree now is a very difficult time to say anything. As a writer, being technically retired, yeah, you don’t have to do that any more! We are the same age and seem to be processing similarly. Just want to say Thanks for your comments through the years, I’ve enjoyed them so much! Retire and take care of smaller things which make you calmer, I’ve been working to be a hermit fairly successfully, but don’t know if that’s a viable choice, either. It’s as if there aren’t any more words.
    Thanks for all of your wonderful words.
    Most sincerely,
    Abby Clow

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  30. Dear Jon, Excellent post. I can relate: also a 74-year-old retired diabetic who used to write for a living. No deadlines feels great. I wrote some books and articles on my very specialized subject (heraldry) after I retired from writing about what didn’t interest me, but I’ve pretty much done that now – it is very tiring for no money. I wrote some pieces for my own website about why I haven’t written about Trump. I attach a link to one of them here for your amusement. Or you could delete it unread – your call. Either keep up the good work, or say the hell with it, as pleases you. I’d miss you (yes, I wondered where you were), but on behalf of your fan base I say: don’t keep going just for us, if you’re tired of it. Potter around if you like – you have it coming. Grandchildren. Netflix. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day. I can dig it. Best wishes, David F. Phillips San Francisco _____

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  31. Glad to hear from you again, Jon! I was rather worried, since your previous post concluded with you saying you had lost your mind (though it also said “Stay tuned”). Enjoy the garden and retirement; I’ll be thrilled if you’re moved to write again.

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  32. Your current status reminds me of me as an 83 YO. I am still searching for what I want to do when I grow up.Happily I have had several “careers”: travel agent, city planning/urban design/environmental report writer/editor, Rumpole of the Bailey cookbook editor, and event planner. But I cannot say that I ever settled on a single career. Yet, in retrospect, I have worked and paid my way. Joseph Campbell was right: “Follow your bliss”.

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  33. Somehow the present political situation reminds me of James McSheehy, except that this is a lot more precarious. For years I saved your column on his sayings, but alas I can’t find it now

    Sent from Char’s IPad

    >

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