I’m a picker, I’m a grinner, I’m a lover and I’m a sinner… but mostly I’m a plumber who writes poetry and works as a barista on the weekends

264 tailor New York

This photo got a fair amount of ribbing on Twitter all last week by the interior design community, architects and some other folks who will remain unnamed. It was a good bit of fun as we poked at how this current recession was driving folks to diversify skills and service offerings from one store front. It also produced a lot of puns that, in hindsight, are probably a bit too embarrassing to recall. You can check my twitter stream for the fun and mayhem if you want. I think the photo was discovered by @concretedetail

By the way, this is a real tailor shop in New York. Their Facebook fan page is here. I suggest you like them for all sorts of reasons that might occur to you after you read this post (you are gonna stick around for that long, right?)

Most people are confused when they get to this blog for the very reasons that it is having problems getting traction. It can’t be defined in the nine-second sound byte requirement. And I’m sure I lose readers because I don’t get to the point fast enough for them to decide to stay. On the other hand, I am convinced I keep readers because they give me some patience and trust that eventually I will be worthwhile reading, like a Steinbeck novel or a Thurber story. (Seriously, guys if you picked up the pace in the first few chapters….)

“So, is it a dog blog? Oh, wait, you talk politics… now you’re talking social issues and education…” thoughts wander off, finger clicks…

“Oh, good you rant about the evils of society just like me and … wait, are you a dog? thoughts wander off, finger clicks…

“Another one of those personal branding…. no, wait, he’s talking marketing? …. design? thoughts wander off, finger clicks…

My publicist rails against me for not being able to focus and write about any one thing for too long. “I don’t know how to package and sell you,” she laments between deep sighs, during which time I’m almost sure she is slinging back the remains of a bottle of Syrah she popped at the beginning of our conversation ten minutes ago. “Media wants experts at SOMETHING.”

I’m giving her some time to think about my “packaging.” She’ll find something eventually because she is the very best at her game. And she will be super-passionate about it because she will have solved this huge puzzle of “What is DogWalkBlog” that has been hanging over me since I started writing this little collection of stuff in 2005. I’m not in a rush because I’m enjoying the journey too much. I’m not sure I’ll like the destination.

I’ve always had this condition. I want to be everything all at once all the time. In college when I absolutely had to declare a major, I picked English because to me that signified a juxtaposition* of the absence of a commitment and the presence of a full-on commitment. “You’ll never get a good job with an English degree,” my narrow-minded idiot of a freshman advisor warned. She was right, but that has not stopped me from having a fantastic experience. And making a ton of money off employed and mentally-jailed people along the way.

Wait a minute.. I thought you were a dog? How can a dog do all that stuff? *Sigh* Move along quickly… you’re gumming up progress.

And because of my condition, I worry that I am entirely unemployable. I look at job sites all the time and get befuddled by the continually narrowing of choices I am required to select. Geography, industry, sector, specific job… forget it, I’ll just stay out here paying my own insurance until that cost becomes too painful. I don’t envy friends between the AARP and Medicare age who are out looking for a job. They have too much life experience to stuff into one job description, yet they must to appease the hot-shot HR folks.

I have the same problem with my corporation. I write a blog post or an article and then look on Businessweek, OPEN, Digg or some other cataloging site and just stare at the categories I’m supposed to smash this multi-faceted gem of knowledge into. I end up not doing anything which probably hurts my SEO and Google ranking and all that crap. Chris Brogan kinda lamented the same thing a few blog post back, only not in such a whiny howl as I’m doing here. (I searched for the post; I couldn’t find it right away so I’m hoping Chris will drop the URL in the comments.)

I worry that I have not taught my son well. During a recent lunch with Saxon Henry, she turned to him and asked, “So, what is it that you do?”

Without drawing a breath, he said, “I cook.”

I was dismayed and proud all at the same moment. He had his elevator speech nailed down which showed that he was paying attention to my rantings about getting a good carnival bark. He got it that the world expected short, direct, decisive answers to direct questions.

On the other hand, I was secretly hoping he would say something like, “I breathe! I live! I create art! I ensure the survival of the human species! I am changing the world and being here with you now, having this conversation, I am changing your perspective on one little thing which you will share with another and they will share with another and eventually that spark of an idea will move a mountain.” Maybe he did it during the course of the conversation and I missed it. Maybe he does this in the company of his close friends. I hope he does.

Maybe the good-natured ribbing of the twitter this past week was an uneasiness with our own insecurities about our life choices or the fact that the skills we all worked so hard to master and hone will be marginalized and eradicated by the job market within weeks during the next recession without apology or remorse. Maybe it is an admission to our inner selves that we have “sold out” our humanity by defining ourselves as just one thing; Joe the Plumber, Bob the Builder, Frank the Blogger. Maybe some of us define ourselves more narrowly on the outside so that we can be more free to be ourselves inside without others imposing expectations on us.

Maybe the world really is mostly made up of one-dimensional people and I’m out here being strange with a few other lost folks.

I’m ok with that.

*That is my street cred. If you can’t work “juxtaposition” into something that runs at least 1,000 words, your English degree ain’t worth a tinker’s damn.


13 Replies to “I’m a picker, I’m a grinner, I’m a lover and I’m a sinner… but mostly I’m a plumber who writes poetry and works as a barista on the weekends”

  1. Oh – this post touches on so many excellent points: trying to be all things to all people (our friends the dry cleaner cum interior design shop) – those of us who are, as you say, exactly at that point where our life experience doesn’t fit into perfectly positioned job descriptions (that’d be me right now) and we hope that some organization will understand that ALL experience should be brought to the table – and those of us with children who worry about everything. A job counselor once told me to think of Ben Franklin — he had many careers in his long life. She also told me not to ‘should’ on myself (woulda, coulda, shoulda) so I’m not sure how useful she was, except that I did learn that it is okay to be less focused at times. I’d like to think it makes us more open to possibilities.

    I’m sure Saxon will love this post.

  2. Great post G. I was an English major for the very same reason you stated. At 45, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up so I do everything that I find interesting. Having someone ask me what I do is always an adventure because I don’t have an elevator pitch to describe it. My answer always ends up being a conversation with whoever asked it so I don’t think that’s a bad thing. One of these days I’m going to fill in “bon vivant’ on my 1040 when the IRS asks me for my profession.

  3. Paul, I have had fun with my “occupation” on every form imaginable from my kids soccer signup forms to my doctor’s patient forms. I have been everything from a plus-sized underwear male model to a head janitor to a hobo. That is my current occupation, hobo. The few times anyone has actually read that, they get that inquisitive sort of “I really want to ask, but I think I’d be embarrassed” look… I wait for it; it never comes. BUT, I never mess with the 1040. On there, I am a Marketing Consultant because it seems to be the most noncommittal and the most innocuous to explain my phantom income and lavish lifestyle 🙂

    Let me know how must time and what sort of room they give you on fifth degree felony charge for filing a frivolous tax return.

  4. Most organizations will not understand and it only gets worse as you get older. But that is a really, really GOOD thing!! It’s ok to market yourself as one thing in exchange for another. I frequently tell people I am an HR Professional (which I am) but that is not ALL I am. If some idiot wants to pay me an insane amount of money and live with my idiosyncrasies, I’m ok with that but at my age I’m just not to change or stuff myself into a pigeon hole for a paycheck. I just don’t spend a lot of time trying to convince them to hire me. I guess that is another reason I am incurably unemployable 🙂

    Our industrialized world WANTS people who are singularly focused. It actually NEEDS people who are like you and me. Give it time. The world belongs to the creatively tenacious.

  5. It is certainly a dog’s life. Obviously you have more insight than most humans. The storefront picture reminds me of Law and Order and I need not go into detail about how much I miss that show.

  6. I spend WAYYY too much time walking and thinking 🙂 Yeah, I was just in NYC this week as well. I am officially suffering from “Postpartum NYC.” The rainy Dayton weather is not helping things much.

  7. Thank you! The irony of your direct, succinct comment was not lost at all and made this puppy laugh with appreciation.

  8. What a great post, Rufus (and I know what species you are but promise to stop trying to blow your cover! Truce?)! It was interesting to read this because I had an entirely different “take” on Christian’s response and I think it’s because I have a dear friend–one of my closest–in the restaurant industry. Most people who have their places in the sanctity of the kitchen, which is the most sacred part of any restaurant–would say they “cook” because in that reference, it’s a privilege. Gordon Ramsay told me in an interview in Sienna, Italy, last fall that he wasn’t worried that his star would fade because if it did, he would “go back to the kitchen” and he’d be just fine with that. I guess I saw Christian’s response as him cutting to the chase as to what he enjoyed doing. I got that vibe from him; that he was happy with himself because he was doing something he enjoyed.

    Yes, there were the moments when I could tell he wanted to please you–the banter was evident and it was powerful. You obviously mean a great deal to him and vice versa. He’s a beautiful, thoughtful, soulful young man. I knew it when he looked at me and said, “the only problem with social media is that it stops conversations”: touche, Christian! This from a member of the generation who supposedly embraces it more than we old farts do. Yes they do, but they do so in a more graceful manner than we do, I suppose. Um, have I said too much? I have been accused of being fecund, you know! Okay: will shut up now and shuffle off to bed. Been working on The Road to Promise all day so I admit to fatigue. Was truly, truly great meeting you, Gerard, and seeing you with your son was a bonus. I want to go and see him “cook” some time. I have a feeling, it’s going to be somewhere very cool! Next time you’re in town, promise we’ll do that?

  9. He would very much appreciate your appreciation for what it means to be a cook in a restaurant. He speaks of that “sanctity” in the very same way with the same reverence and passion. The cruel irony, though, is most of the world does not. Things like Food Network and HGTV have exposed the rest of the world to the artistry behind what the rest of the world sees as a silly waste of time and talent, but it has also produced “experts” and a commoditization of cooking talent. But, as Christian said in a text to me over the weekend, “cream floats to the top.” I don’t worry he has his sights set right. The first step was to simply ignore everybody, but know how to fit in context.

    He was rather direct with that comment! A few years ago, I would have cringed at the way that was delivered, but now, I have a whole new appreciation for the power of being direct after watching him do it 🙂 Your reaction was priceless! Next time, ask him about the power of the “dead stare pause.” He is a MASTER at that.

    You did catch the “food culture” thesis he is working out in his brain, right? That was him bouncing the ideas off you for your reaction BTW. Life is live theatre!

    I suspect we will be eating in Brooklyn next time I’m in #140conf June 15-16

  10. I have used that metaphor so many times (cream rises to the top was the way I verbalized it) and he is right. That’s the level of confidence you should be happy he has, whether it was instilled in him by you or he came by it naturally (or both?). I did catch his “food culture” explorations and welcomed them. He’s an extremely bright young man and you should be very proud of him. I’m counting on a meal in “his” restaurant in June! Can’t wait to see him again (especially now that you’ve introduced the “dead stare pause” to the convo)!!!

  11. You make a great point. Although I do not have an English degree, I earned a Liberal Studies degree and had a multiple subjects teaching credential. After teaching math to junior high and high school students for one year, I had decided there were way too many bosses for me (parents). Here I am, an office manager, delving into social media, at a construction company, essentially performing the work I went to college to avoid. Yet, I am very happy. Put that in a box.

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