Your so dumb Ginger

Trapped inside a black pyramid in Las Vegas for four days, moving through the underground tunnels like mice between hotels, casinos, the convention center. Returning to summertime rain in Seattle and falling asleep to it, the sound of static, of burning wood. Waking with the realization that I really need to start thinking about a new job, now that this one ends on Friday. But knowing I have the month of August still to prepare.

I went back to Oil City, the coastal hike to Third Beach: the place I got inspired to write 50K words two years ago, and hoped by going back the trick would work again, but it didn’t. Passing the shallow cove where Loren and I had to bivouac once (and bivouac, a French word for “mistake”)—the two of us forced to camp beside the rock scramble we couldn’t cross because of the tide, socked in by the marine layer, bickering: then waking at 3 in the morning when the tide was low enough we could cross the rocks in the dark. Coming out by the river where I’d always stop and look back at the ocean, saying goodbye until next time.

Now home and training for a weeklong hike on the Pacific Crest Trail with Brad, more mileage than I’ve ever done, my fitness lower than I’d like it to be. Cork screwing the sides of Cougar Mountain wearing a full pack, hoping through all my soul searching that I’ll turn something up, and know which way to go. Recognizing I should be more deliberate about my job choices but not wanting to give too much power to the job either, wanting to reserve enough of myself still to entertain dreams of writing (which is easier than the writing itself, the dreams).

Sitting by my beach camp in a small spot out of the wind watching tufts of sand accumulate by the sides of my sleeping bag, thinking how time moves in strange patterns. Drinking river water the color of iced tea, from the root tannins: they say it’s safe if you filter it properly. We’ll see.

Beth came for dinner and brought a small black book she found when she was cleaning, a journal from one of the kids a few years ago, before we left for Germany. She read it aloud over the dinner table, a narrative written by Lily and illustrated by Charlotte, entitled Your So Dumb Ginger.

Lily described our family members one by one, and when she got to me, she said “He would have been an author if he hadn’t gotten trapped at Starbucks working as a project manager (whatever that is).”

And it shouldn’t have affected me like it did, but it did: this conflict of self and work, and how we identify. In this time between selves it felt like my previous one had died but the new one hadn’t come yet and I was blank on the inside, waiting for the new one to arrive. And why I still can’t separate who I am from what I do…the doing part can actually change the me part, for better or for worse.

Last night Lily invited a handful of friends over and all of the sudden, we had teenagers everywhere. They’re like the webworms we get on trees in these parts: unsightly but harmless. Dawn ran out for chips and pasta and lemonade, which they consumed or dropped on the patio floor for the ants. And I sat off to the side watching them, part listening, part not, mindful of the music I was playing and then more deliberate, watching them nod and bounce their legs…and as it got dark, I opened the garage bay doors and put on the red lamp, found an old tape from 1992, invited them to sit in the driveway, gave each one of them a different hat to wear, and sat on the tractor behind their circle as they talked. And Lily later said all my friends think you’re cool, which felt good. And I wondered how much it mattered to me on LinkedIn to put Author by my name one day, how much that was worth.




Categories: identity, Memoir, writing

Tags: , , , , , , ,

24 replies

  1. I love a happy ending but whew! there’s a lot here to unpack.
    It’s hard to see regret reflected back at you through your kids. They’re more savvy than we know. I feel my mom could have been a writer or at least worked with words. The short memoirs she’s written are pretty good. But she became a mom instead — that’s just how it was. She went back to work and learned to drive at 50, but I’ve never heard her hint at regrets. As for my dad, during their recent move, my brother uncovered some of dad’s paintings, even convinced him to put one up in their new apartment. He had talent but stopped painting probably 40 years ago. Still, my brother’s an artist and I’m a writer, so maybe they both passed something on.
    I love that you were trying to be the cool dad with the music and all … and succeeded! It’s more important to me to be cool to my kids’ friends than to my kids themselves.
    Happy hiking.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s quite a comment there my friend, thank you! Your post published just before mine today and had the word Penis in it, which made me immediately envious of the attention you’ll attract over mine. Ha…this is really nice to read and reread. Nothing bot about it (“abot “ it). Canadian joke there. Thank you and you made my day here. Bill

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What do you give up to be an author, what do you gain? That’s the math. I know people who author books without giving up their day job, but then they’re giving up something else, right?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I think you authored a book right? I don’t know the math. I think the numbers frighten me and I have to reconcile that if I want to author. Time…money…quality of life…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, I did “author” a book. Really I just took a bunch of old blog posts and compiled them into a memoir. But it took an intensive 6 months to make it all just right, and yes, my personal life suffered something fierce. Over the past three weeks the book has been circulating in my workplace. I feel like I’m walking around naked. That needs to be factored into the math as well.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Ha, that’s great Jeff! I mean, not the part about your personal life, but the walking around naked is good…like one of those dreams maybe you’ve had, where you realize you forgot to put on your pants? I get those about once a year. Good on you…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Really moving, this one. As a man of a certain age, I can feel the friction. But as you say, time moves in strange patterns and unpredicted things happen. That’s why I keep writing …

    What kind of music was impressing the kids? REM? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! You do, and you inspire me Kevin…thanks for that…was playing Colin Newman, from the band Wire. These teens were authentically alternative and I was happy to soundtrack the time for them…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s immaterial to your story, but when you tossed off the line equating teenagers to an infestation of caterpillars, it made me laugh. I guess “webworms” works for internet-addicted kids too.
    A week on the Pacific Crest Trail sounds pretty great, Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ooh, that line from Lily. Buddy of mine who’s from here but now lives in Dayton visited the other day. He’s discovered Guided By Voices. Funny how we both missed that. Happy hiking hoss!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Dreams of writing… Authorship, identity. Some big ol’ themes here Bill my man. And a wonderful spontaneous chuckle at ‘unsightly but harmless’.
    We are what we do. Hence so much misery. But it’s so hard to take the risk of doing what you are.
    Great piece Bill. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. a lot going on here – and I especially love the cover of the book the details are amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You are pretty masterful at weaving together seemingly disparate images into a cohesive and meaningful piece of prose. Hope you find what you are seeking out there on the trails. Letting your head and your heart expand into the hills and trails for a while might be just the ticket Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Seem like there’s some confusion where Bill wants to put “author” behind his name but his “identity” tells him he’s a PM. As if you can only be one or the other. In many jobs you have to wear many hats; still part of the same overall identity. Why not in life?

    Liked by 1 person

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