A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Cabana Bio

It occurred to me that now would be a good time to fill in a few blanks about myself, so that people who read might have a clearer picture of the perspective from which I arrive at my opinions, and perhaps factor that into their final judgments. It’s not meant to be a tell-all, so no lurid details are forthcoming. (That is, unless you are willing to pay a small subscription fee in exchange for weekly mailings, in which case I will gladly divulge the most degrading, dehumanizing stories I can plausibly pass off as my own.)

The basic facts are pretty simple. I’m 35, living alone, single with no kids, and a full-time office technology student at a local technical school working weekends for extra cash while trying to learn some marketable skills to help myself along the path to a possible paid writing gig sometime in the future. I haven’t lived a perfect life up to this point, having drank myself out of college the first time around, bounced from job to job following that, and eventually ending up having to make a clean slate of it all following a car accident a few years back that left me largely unable to perform most manual labor due to a crushed wrist.

I always had a minor interest in politics, even back to first grade at Mary Calcott Elementary School, in Norfolk, Virginia, where I was the only child in the class who raised his hand when asked who would vote for Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter. I’ll never forget the look of puzzlement on my teacher’s face, but didn’t make much of it at the time. And, really, I guess there’s not much to be made of it, nearly 30 years down the road. Gerald Ford wasn’t the most popular man on the planet at the time.

I’m the son of a retired Navy CPO and a military housewife, the middle child among three. The formative years of my life consisted mostly of moving and making new friends, having gone to six different schools before finally settling in western Kentucky when my father retired. I was never a stellar student -- far from it, in fact. I mostly inspired a sense of “dammitboy” from teachers, who couldn’t figure out why on earth I stubbornly refused to participate in school activities, particularly homework and studying.

For the most part, my life has essentially been an exercise in finding my place in the world. Having been an unserious drunk and rudderless slacker for a good part of my life, it finally occurred to me when my uncle died at the young age of 54 this year that perhaps I ought to make some changes while I still have the chance and an opportunity. So, I went down and enrolled in a class I’d heard advertised on a local radio station. I did so with no real plan other than to shake up the direction my life has been taking over the past, oh, 20 years, or so.

How did I come to blog? Well, it’s a long, but pretty simple story. Several years ago, I found myself living at my parents’ home, once again, after having lost a job as a dealer at a nearby casino due to the presence of a certain illegal substance was detected in a random test of employees. I tried to soldier on in the grown-up world, picking up a couple of jobs and struggling to pay the bills on what little money comes in from waiting tables and working nights as a convenience store clerk. Over the next few months, I steadily sunk into a depression that I now suspect had been there to some degree for several years prior to that.

Eventually, I buckled to the stress and ended up hospitalized for a few days. After being released, I went to stay with my parents for a while, still dealing with the symptoms of generalized anxiety and all the dark, morbid thoughts that invade a mind in the throes of a clinical depression. A couple of weeks later, I returned to my apartment, only to find that the locks had been changed and everything I had was gone. At the time, I didn’t have the will, nor the desire to pursue what became of it all. Looking back on it, I still don’t. Nothing I had would have been any comfort to me at the time, nor would it be of much use to me today.

For several months, I lived in a cone of anxiety that shielded me from longtime friends, as well as strangers. I kept detailed journals of all my thoughts – largely, complaints and indictments of a world that just didn’t seem to “get” me. I avoided social settings, the thought of which filled me with a sense of dread. I stayed away from friends because I was convinced they had no idea who I was, anymore – that I had changed so much as to be unrecognizable to those who had known me for so long.

Eventually, after some cognitive therapy sessions and working hard to apply those principles to my daily life, I began to come out of the melancholy. I started working as a maintenance man for the owner of the property where my father worked. This amounted to a lot of outdoor labor, and was exactly what I needed at the time. The previous several months had left me a physical mess, having been essentially sedentary the entire stretch. After a while, I worked out all the “winter poison” – which is an extremely apt term for what sets into a person’s body during a prolonged bout with depression – and began to show the signs of a physically active person, as well as a reasonably happy person.

Then, as is often the case in similar situations, it turned out that it was probably not a good idea that I work with my father on a regular basis. There was a falling-out over the number of hours that I’d worked, which turned into a full-blown shouting match. At that point, I took a job as a cook in a local ice cream and hamburger shop and stayed there until I found a better opportunity, which came along just a few months later.

I started working on a survey crew for a civil engineering outfit that operates throughout the southeastern US. I loved the travel and the work, and got along well with the rest of the guys. To this day, it’s still the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had. The days were long, and the weather was often miserable. But, it was good, honest, and at times, physically demanding work that didn’t pay a lot, but offered something of a future.

After some time, I managed to buy myself a decent used car, and was looking forward to getting back home for a weekend so that I could finally take it out. I got back in town one Friday, and hurriedly went about all the registration and insurance business before heading out to visit with friends. Our crew had been out of town for a couple of weeks, and we were all anxious to get back home for a few days, so we left out early that morning, around 6:00 AM. In my excitement at finally being back home, it never occurred to me that I might have been shorting myself of sleep.

At about 3:00 a.m., as I was on my way home from being out with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while, I fell asleep at the wheel. The car was a total loss, and the only thing that kept me from being a total loss was the fact that my arm happened to be positioned on the steering wheel so that it would absorb the blow from my head, leaving my wrist crushed, rather than my skull. My soul came out much like my wrist.

But, after a while, they both healed. Though my wrist will never be what it was, I’m still in the process of adapting. I won’t be wielding a brush axe to clear any paths for surveying anymore. But, I’m trying to clear a different sort of path, now. And that path has led me to this blog.

While I was recovering from the various minor disasters that befell me, I found the Internet. Thank God for the Internet. Looking back, I don’t know how I would have ever found the gumption to get back on the horse without it. It was as if, suddenly, I had found a place where I could say what I believed, make an argument in favor of that belief, and not have to worry about whether or not the person I was speaking to was summing me up as nothing more than a product of consecutive failed seasons in the life of a born loser.

I’ve always considered myself to be a writer at heart. It’s the one pursuit that I’ve always felt I have an inclination toward, and there is no better place than the Internet for people like me. It opens up an entire world that was previously walled off from people like myself, who want to write and be read, but have no clue as to the inner workings of the publishing world or its markets. Industry guides, such as Writer’s Market seemed outdated by the time they hit shelves, and the very thought of submitting something to a professional editor is intimidating to a neophyte stuck in a small town in Kentucky that no one ever heard of.

So, for years, I’ve immersed myself in the Internet. I started out posting messages to UseNet newsgroups, having extended anonymous arguments with complete strangers. It wasn’t long after that when I discovered Lucianne.com, which, at the time, was a lot like the newsgroups – lawlessness and chaos. If there were rules, they were few and mostly disregarded. But, in time, it became the best political/news site on the web and I began to rely on it more and more for information, as well as an outlet for my own views.

Then, I discovered the blogosphere. I don’t even remember how, exactly, though I’m sure it was through a link at Lucianne. It piqued my interest to the degree that I made a couple of fitful starts with modest success at building a readership, but those attempts eventually faded due to a lack of overall vision for what I wanted my blog to be. But, along came Rathergate.

Now, the product of the proverbial seven years of bad luck is before your eyes in the form of The Pajama Pack. It’s been a tough road, but things are finally starting to take shape. I don’t know if this effort will ever result in anything more than my own little armchair spin alley, but if I never see a dime for my writing, it won’t be for lack of trying. And that, to me, is what conservatism is all about.

In writing about all of this, I’m sure there are people who will still sum me up as nothing more than a pajama-clad gadabout. That’s fine. I’ve seen days when much worse could have been said about me, and with some degree of accuracy. But, I’ve come a long way to get to this meager place, and it’s every bit as gratifying in its own way as a Pulitzer -- especially when I stop to think that Maureen Dowd has one of those.

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