What Are You Doing?

I said I wasn’t going to put up a Friday blog post this week. I lied.

Granted, probably only four of you will bother reading it, since most Americans are out doing their Black Friday shopping. Stay hydrated and be nice!

Today’s title was prompted from my experience attending a recent open house put on at CEI’s brand new building on Federal Street, in Brunswick. It was also a Chamber of Commerce Business After-hours soiree, too. As someone that used to do these every month, I’m thankful that my life at the moment no longer requires my regular attendance.

I did run into a few former colleagues and partners. To a person, they asked me “what are you doing”? That’s never an easy, elevator-type question for me to answer. I don’t have just one thing I do, or I’m not doing the same old, same old that most people have been doing, forever.

My work gets me out of the office.

My work gets me out of the office.

Here’s one thing “I’m doing.” I rode over to New Hampshire in early November and completed two resort profiles for both Loon Mountain Resort and Gunstock Mountain Resort. These were done for RootsRated, an intriguing outdoor adventure portal. They were part of the site’s “An Insider’s Guide to the Best Northeast Winter Resorts.”

If you are really interested in what I’ve been up to (at least the writing), my website has all of my published work, from latest, dating backwards. Of course, I also know that people ask questions because they don’t know what else to do when they run into you, and I’m okay with that.

7 thoughts on “What Are You Doing?

  1. Well, dang, I wasn’t aware that your articles were hanging up there in one spot. I tried to get that Down East at the local Barnes and Noble, but no dice. And CEI looks like an interesting and useful outfit, too. Not bad for a Friday morning.

  2. @LP The jb.com URL was just “hanging around” and seemed to be perfect for a writing site and a place to warehouse my writing clips. It’s been helpful in pitching story ideas to editors. They immediately know whether or not I can pull off my proposal.

    CEI has done (and continues doing) a great deal of work to enhance communities and local initiatives in Maine and other New England states.

  3. I ask questions because I am interested in the person. When I was at the Bush Library in Dallas last week I went up to the security guard to ask him some questions.

    They were: (went something like this)

    1. How are you today?
    Fine, ma’am
    2. Do you ever get to sit down?
    Not on this floor but on other floors.
    3. How many hours a day do you work?
    4. Is this job boring?
    Very boring. It’s a job and I am thankful I have one.
    5. Does anyone every stop to talk to you?
    No, not til you.

    Well, we had a very nice time. Thank you.

    Have a nice day, ma’am.

    I would have talked to him more but his eyes were looking at the crowd keeping watch.

    I also was very fortunate on my plane ride home to spend time with a woman from Mexico who was studying for the citizenship test which I had never seen and she allowed me to look at it. Then we visited on and off til we got to Maine about her family and Mexico etc. which I found very interesting. I gave her my bracelet that has several renderings of the Virgin Mary.

    These were a few of my conversations with many many people as I was away for a few days in Texas. I like people. I like to hear their stories. I care about people and I like to connect.

  4. Sally, my ex had a real ability to “turn on” the charm (or turn it off, but that’s another story) much like the situations you just described. In a Bourbon palace she broke the rules by photographing the docents (never photograph someone without consent in Europe), but then somehow won them over enough so that we were invited back into the secret chambers of the palace (where the queen had a simple but effective mirror system in her bath that let her see if the king was returning, allowing her to shoo her, ahem, company before he arrived). She did it again at a Bourbon summer palace, where we ended up on the sun porch on top overlooking all the countryside.

    I doubt the Bush Library had any hidden gems like those, but extending kindness to people like that guard can often yield unexpected rewards.

  5. I don’t know if it is “turning on the charm” as much as I am just interested in people….but I am sure in my daily life I miss a lot of things and am at times unknowingly negligent in being as caring as I could be, I do my best….at least I hope so….

  6. @Sally It’s great that you take the time to engage others. Extending kindness to people like you illustrated is something that ought to be the norm, but sadly it isn’t.

    In every interaction I had at the open house in Brunswick, the person I “ran into” seemed surprised to see me. Like, “what is he doing here?” Granted, in their routines that rarely vary, me standing in the center of their field of focus must have surprised them. And since they didn’t have a script for seeing me unexpectedly, they did what they are best at (and what most Americans are trained to excel at), being superficial. This was disappointing mainly because almost everyone I interacted with, I had spent considerable time working with during my time at the LWIB, supporting partnerships, and helping them succeed in their own jobs and tasks. Would it have been possible for them to have shown some genuine interest in where my free agent adventures have taken me since we last saw one another 2, 3, or 4 years prior? Obviously not.

    Morris Berman has written about this for decades. It’s what finally drove him to leave America and move to Mexico, with its culture that he details as being less driven by “hustling,” and is more “genuine” to paraphrase Berman. Americans, in fact, are genetically predisposed to superficiality and hustling, according to Dr. Berman.

    Interestingly, I found this older article in The Atlantic, where he was interviewed shortly after his latest book (at the time), Why America Failed, had come out.

    One positive that came out of the open house and I was very aware of it walking to my car; I’m thrilled that I no longer have to attend these kinds of meaningless meet-and-greets hosted by groups like the chamber.

  7. Sally, don’t downplay what you did or keep on doing. In the time you were with them you treated them as people, as souls with real value, and not as decoration on the set you were acting on. Soul to soul, you made their day better and made a difference on their journey.

    Jim, I really get you on what you felt dealing with that crew. It’s why Gatto rails against networks and teams–they are temporary constructs and all the parts are entirely replaceable. They aren’t how humans naturally behave, and yet in America they are held up as the epitome of proper behavior. “Network partners” and teammates aren’t friends, aren’t family, not at all.

    I didn’t understand until 2013 what it was about the Italians that was so right (among their many so wrongs). When I took a car to a mechanic in a neighboring village, the first thing he wanted to do was go for a coffee up the street. What he was saying was that at that moment, I was his greatest concern, his highest priority. Me, not my car, not the money from the repair, not the US alcohol I could get for him to produce limoncello. Sadly, at that time, I didn’t get it, I was always impatient, so much to do do do do do.

    Berman is very astute on this, but he goes unheard in America, and likely always will. That’s why he left. Consider the other expats who went that way, just in our own time, such as Fred Reed and Joe Bageant. All very different men politically, but all feeling deeply how disjointed our American lives are, how pervasive the “hustle” is, and yet Americans can’t even see it. How do you see the lion that has swallowed you?

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