Cover Letter Writing

Mark was a content-creation machine. Just look at all the fucking stuff he’s posted on the feeds since 2006!! He puts most of us who call ourselves creatives (and writers) to shame.

I wrote about our last in-person visit with him. The week following that visit, we had this exchange via email about blogging and a post about creepy clowns that he liked.

I’m glad you are enjoying the Jeff Buckley book.

I liked your blogpost today. Have you ever thought of returning to the blog daily? I know you have a lot going on, but I really like what you wrote today. Especially the paragraph linking the governor to a creepy clown. I think sometimes you put pressure on yourself to create these fully formed blogposts of a certain length. If you were to do a daily blog again I think maybe you should abandon the notion of word count and focus on observing/saying one thing once a day. When you feel inspired to go long then definitely still go long. Maybe keep the same schedule of Tuesday and Friday to go long, but fill the other days with smaller things. Anyway, it’s just a thought.

 I hope the repairs are going well. 

Oh and here’s a neat tweak on cooking sweet potatoes that looks good

I’m not committing to any kind of schedule for blogging or anything else for that matter (at least remaining somewhat in charge, as is humanly possible in money-driven America), but I think I can blog more often, even if it’s following Mark’s prescription to riff on something observed or some other element of living.

Today, in addition to blogging, I’m intent on finishing a lengthy package for a freelance writing gig that matches much of what I’ve been doing for the past 10 years. No matter what kind of skills you have, however, there’s no guarantee you’ll get noticed.

I was thinking about that along with something that a Brown MFA colleague of Mark’s, Darren Angle, shared via Quora. Darren who I’d describe as a life coach for people who think life coaching is a crock of shit, uses this tagline describing what he does—I help people quit their jobs (and do work they love). Sign me up!!

Darren offered the most unique response to the Quora question, “What is important to include on [sic] a cover letter? Please read it now—do not pass Go until you do!

It was Darren’s reality-based advice that made me decide to change my own approach to cover letter writing. Why the hell not? What do I have to lose at this point—grief and loss, if anything is freeing and it helps you to feel like Teflon.

I’ve included my “new” cover letter that I plan to continue using. Key details like employer name and contact person have been redacted. My approach is the “getting real” method. Your own cover letter may likely contain something slightly different.

While preparing to post this, I was also reminded of Mark’s calls to agents. Oh Mark, you were a one-of-a-kind soul and I miss you each and every day (and all the moments in-between).

A real, live draft of my cover letter, with edits.

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Rainy Mondays

For a year now, I’ve been leaving the house at 8:00 in the morning and spending part of my week working at a part-time job that helped supplement my income and offered a bit more than most part-time gigs tend to proffer. That all ended last week.

Once again, I’m sitting at home on a Monday, in an empty house (no offense to our cat, Lucy), wondering what’s next on the horizon. The last time I found myself in this place of uncertainty, I could always send an email, text, or call my biggest fan and cheerleader—that would be Mark Baumer. Today is also Mary’s first day back at work since Mark died, so there’s a bit of a double-whammy effect.

I’m not sure what happened other than my son was killed, I probably went back to work too soon, and my manager lacked the capacity for empathy. I dared to point that out. That’s the Cliffs Notes version, anyway. Continue reading

Shopping Season

Thanksgiving week is an odd one. A national holiday tacked onto the tail-end of a work week makes for a disjointed flow at best, when breaking rocks for Whitey.

For those of us punching in on Friday, it’s essential to keep in mind that the day has been hijacked by commerce and consumption. Any business transacted will likely take place between Black Friday bargain hunting.

If you are one of the people cursed to be a retail worker, it’s the start of a month’s worth of madness leading up to the high holiday of shopping and crass commercialism, Christmas. I’m glad that my part-time merry-go-round this year doesn’t include a seasonal stint for a well-known online retailer headquartered in Freeport. I’m not feeling overly-Christmas-y this year, with all its uniquely American decorative flourishes. I’ll be keeping it as simple as can be.

Indeed, I’m opting for as much normalcy as I can latch onto here at the close of 2016. So, I won’t be shopping on Black Friday, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find me out at the mall or Big Box any other day in December, either.

Bargain-hunting on Black Friday

Bargain-hunting on Black Friday

What’s the Call?

I am a baseball umpire. I enjoy telling people that and I’m proud of my development over the past four years.

Baseball is a sport that I’d say is “in my blood,” one I’m intimately familiar with—I played it, then served as a coach and later—ran a summer college league (one of the oldest in the country) for five years. I can say with authority that I know the game of baseball. I think that’s played a role in helping me advance as an umpire. This spring and summer, I’ve done 65 games and save for a couple of miserable games in the rain, enjoyed every experience of being on the field and calling games.

Several weeks ago, I learned from one of my umpiring partners that volleyball is growing rapidly in Maine and that there is a need for new officials. He had begun attending rules classes, and he encouraged me to check it out.

I asked Joe if he had played the game and his answer was, “no.” That piqued my interest because like him, I have never played volleyball, save for the backyard-variety version of the sport that many of us have dabbled in at a party or family gathering. I’ve also been interested in picking up a “second sport” to officiate. Perhaps volleyball could be added to my repertoire? A secondary question could be added;  “Do I need to add yet another task to my already loaded list?”

I'll be calling a brand new sport this fall.

I’ll be calling a brand new sport this fall.

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No Longer Resilient

Over Memorial weekend, I finally had some time to put up my feet and do some reading. Lying on a book shelf was Robert Pike’s wonderful Tall Trees, Tough Men.

Much like Colin Woodard’s The Lobster Coast, Pike’s book offers a snapshot of a place and time in Maine, a state of vast natural resources. Pike’s is filtered through the lens of 18th and early 19th century logging. Actually, Maine was but part of a northern New England focus that included the logging stories and history of New Hampshire and Vermont, also.

Pike wrote his book in the mid-1960s. W.W. Norton & Company published it in 1967 and reissued it in 1999. It’s a book that all Mainers ought to familiarize themselves with simply to have a sense of what the state used to be—mainly a region of tall trees (and rivers to float them down)—with entrepreneurial types finding ways to turn logs into gold.

Because I was curious about Pike, I rooted around the interwebs for more info on why he might have written his book. His obituary (he died in 1997) from the New York Times was a worthwhile read for me.

It’s becoming far too common in our digitally-distracted world to think that life was always about tapping a touchscreen, rather than the kind of dangerous, back-breaking labor inherent in these parts 100+ years ago. Not all jobs included an “easy button.” Pike details the rugged, resilient men necessary for extracting value from the region’s forest resources. Likewise, Woodard’s book offered a similar story about the rebels (and rusticators) that were part of our maritime heritage. The threads are similar and point to a time of hearty souls, rather than the spleeny types dominating the present.

Driving logs down-river was part of logging in Maine.

Driving logs down-river was part of logging in Maine.

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Leaning West

Maine’s western border abuts New Hampshire, known as The Granite State. When pine trees meet mountain rock, it speaks to something rugged and permanent.

Granted, some men never meet a mountaintop or a swath of timber without thinking in terms of dollar signs, but so far, western Maine and New Hampshire’s White Mountains still offer natural beauty and views that are hard to beat anywhere in the East. And while development hustlers and water extractors have made their presence known, just like everywhere else, there is less blight once you get away from the tourist corridors, with plenty of opportunities to appreciate nature.

I’ve mentioned being an umpire. This is a gig that takes you wherever your assignor sends you. Since the board I’m a member of doesn’t have much of a presence in far western Maine, sometimes you’re assigned to cover places like Fryeburg, not far from having entrée into the White Mountain National Forest.

Yesterday, I made my second trip in a week to cover an 8th grade middle school game. Logistics and school budgets being what they are, many at that level opt for paying only one umpire. That means for traveling to Fryeburg, I receive a fee and a half, along with mileage. It’s likely I got picked to make two trips this year because I have a fairly flexible schedule. If you work in Portland and don’t get out of work ‘til 3:00 or even with a sympathetic boss who will let you out at 2:30, you’ll never be able to make the trip in time to get there for the 3:30 game time. Plus, rushing like a mad man is never the mindset you want to show up with, then spend 7 innings focused on being professional and capable of doing a job you’ll be proud of.

Fryeburg takes about an hour and 30 minutes from my doorstep (give or take 5 minutes, depending on the route) to Indian Acres Camp for Boys, where Molly Ockett Middle School is playing their games this spring. Apparently Fryeburg is experiencing an economic windfall of sorts, or perhaps it’s MSAD 72’s turn to receive state school funding—whatever the reason, there’s a major school expansion taking place at the middle school site on Route 302 and their former ball field is a big patch dirt and construction debris. Hence the trip to Indian Acres, a place I’d never heard of ‘til a week ago. If you know the area, or you’ve been to Fryeburg from attending their magnificent fall fair, then Indian Acres is just north of the fairgrounds on Route 5.

Sweden the town, not the country.

Sweden the town, not the country.

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Color Me Eclectic

As much as some people tout that we’re becoming a free agent economy, if you’re the one living that life, it often seems like everyone else is still doing the 9 to 5 corporate (or nonprofit) thing. Maybe it’s just in Maine that most people found their dream employer right out of high school (or college) and has been with them ever since.

When I look back over my own career, it’s the equivalent of a cat’s nine lives. By that I mean that there’s the “Indiana era,” “the CMP years,” time served at “Moscow Mutual,” etc. Work relationships from each one of these periods in my life have fallen away and seem to be forgotten by everyone but me. Oh, a few people from my past are on Facebook, but I don’t consider social media the reality-equivalent that everyone else does. There are a handful of people that I remain connected to and actually spend some time with periodically. I treasure these relationships and the qualities represented by true friends.

Probably the most meaningful period during my pre-freelance career journey were four of the six years that I spent working for the Local Workforce Investment Board (LWIB). Our nonprofit organization was housed at the Lewiston CareerCenter, a place that elicited mixed feelings. I’m not a huge fan of government bureaucracy, and the Maine Department of Labor certainly operates like one. Then there were the other nonprofit partners also housed there. I won’t bother to name them. Continue reading

The Graveyard Shift

The last time I worked overnights, I was in my 20s and living in Indiana. I was employed by the Indiana Department of Corrections at the time.That periods seems like eons ago.

I’m now moonlighting as a funeral attendant. Some people still call them undertakers. Some of the duties are as you’d imagine.

The last 24 hours have been particularly hectic in the funeral business.

Hearse

Sometimes I get to drive the coach.

Paying My Respects

In 2013, a friend passed away before he and I were able to schedule one final visit. He was a man I had come to consider a mentor, as well as a friend.

He had given advanced warning that his time was winding down—he’d been diagnosed with cancer—and had urged me not to “wait too long.” Foolishly, I treated him like another appointment on my calendar and when I found out he had died and I’d even missed the celebration of his life, I felt like a total heel.

The post I wrote honoring him back in April, 2013, touched on some of these things, but really didn’t do his life and influence justice. Rarely is it possible to perfectly capture one’s life in a blog narrative. So why do it?

Writers write, and often, we process through our craft. Continue reading

Party Talk

I’m going to a party tonight. The only reason I got invited is because of Miss Mary. I don’t get asked out much at all these days. More often than not, I’m just “Mary’s husband,” or possibly “Mr. B.” I’m okay with that.

With old acquaintances disappeared, I realize it’s probably as good a time as any to add some new names to my black book of contacts. Yeah, let’s make that a goal for the fall and winter—meeting some new people.

Meeting new people inevitably means getting the “what do you do?” treatment. It’s that age-old question all Americans have been socialized to ask. Work and job type still serve as a kind of societal litmus test. Or maybe, it’s just that way with people over a certain age. Do millennials care about anything other than their smartphones and Tinder-type apps? Oh, right—Tinder is so yesterday with these whiz kids and hooking up. Continue reading