Category Archives: Writing

From the beginning

This post was originally going to be about WordCamp Minneapolis, a meeting of WordPress enthusiasts that took place over the weekend at the downtown St. Thomas campus. People come from all over the world to these events, to learn about WordPress and to rub elbows with other true believers. It’s a great community and I love being a part of it.  I was going to start out with a brief history of how I got into WordPress, and I started thinking about how and when I got into blogging.

Me in 2004
Me in 2004

And that brought me back to Xanga.I ran across the concept of blogging and I’ve always kept journals and kind of fancied myself as a writer so I dug in to find a blogging platform. Not sure how I landed on Xanga, but I think when I did, my kids immediately abandoned it.

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Back by Popular Demand

Horizontal Ambition… what’s that all about? Damned if I can remember. And I’m not sure how you quantify “popular demand,” but I have had a couple of folks ask me if I was still blogging and mention that they read the thing. Plus out of nowhere the other day I got a tweet telling me that I’d been added to the Pioneer Press’s twitter group “Blogs We Follow.” How the heck that happened is a mystery to me, since the last post was over a year ago. But if they want to follow me, I guess I better put down some tracks.

So why the long absence? Writer’s block? I’m not even sure I’d call myself a writer so I don’t know if that’s what it is. Over the last few years I’ve been doing the behind the scenes work for DrMaryMD.com and that’s kind of distracted me from my own blog, but that’s a lame excuse, because it certainly wasn’t overwhelming me with work. The main thing that was keeping me from writing was the fact that the stuff that was front and center in my mind was stuff I didn’t really want to share with the world. I’ve been turning into a curmudgeonly old hermit.

That’s got to stop. So here I am back in the saddle, ready once again to fascinate you with everything Bob.

 

One of My Encounters with a Giant

I’ve been meaning to start Horizontal Ambition up again, and although there’s been plenty of things going on in my life to write about, but I guess I’ve been blocked. By who knows what. So, in hopes of having a laxative effect on my writing, I’m going to tell you a story from way back in the past. 1975 to be exact. Or fairly exact, the time blends together. I spent the early years of my adult life supporting my self with a wide variety of jobs, seasonal and part time, in order to have blocks of time to work on my art. They way that worked out is another story. I have lot’s of stories, this one’s a bartending story.

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Joan, you will be missed.

If this is blather is to seriously be considered as a personal blog, I need to acknowledge the passing of a dear friend, memorable character and a woman who I thought of as my surrogate mom. Joan Benson, the mother of Bill, one of my very closest friends, the guy who taught me everything I know about basketball. Except what I learned from Red on Roundball.

The first time I met Joan was in 1972. I had just graduated from college and Bill and I had loaded up a Driveaway Oldsmobile to be delivered to Spokane and headed west to seek our fortunes. After driving all night we pulled into the Talking Bird Saloon in St. Regis Montana for breakfast. As we were mounting the steps to the restaurant door we saw the headline in the newspaper stand, “93 miners trapped in Sunshine Mine fire.” Bill’s father was a miner, working at another mine in the area, the Galena, but he was on the fire rescue crew and Bill knew his dad would have finished his shift at the Galena and gone right down into the Sunshine to find the survivors. If there were any.

That moment on the steps of the Talking Bird and the moment his Mom came to the door to greet us are as clear to me as if they happened yesterday. Actually much clearer, but I’m old. His dad had indeed gone down into the Sunshine the evening before, and hadn’t come home yet. “Oh, Billy” were the fist words out of her mouth, our eyes met as she embraced him and they were wide and tears were streaming down her cheeks.

In those days Bill had shoulder length blonde hair that made him look a bit like a Viking warrior. He was pretty sure his parents didn’t share my noble view of his appearance. I think the next words out of Joan’s mouth were, “God, your hair!” We went directly into the kitchen and she took the clippers to Bill, giving him a new recruit buzz in about five minutes. The rest of the next couple of days are not so clear to me. I think there were only two survivors, so the death toll was ninety-one. Bill (Big Bill, my friend’s dad) had been up all night, down in the mine which was full of poisonous gas, pulling out bodies. He had to stop because he couldn’t hold his stomach and if you lost it in your gas mask, you’d be a statistic too.

Imagine a small community losing 91 people in one terrible accident. The area consists of a scattering of small towns built up on every patch of scarce level ground along the South Fork of the Cour d’Alene River. The Bensons lived in Wallace, there was Burke, Silverton, Mullen, Pineville, Osburn and the big town, Kellogg. Bill could remind me of others. Every person in every town was effected. And that’s how I started the most memorable summer of my life, four months that played a major part in making me the person I am today.

Joan didn’t suffer fools well and she didn’t suffer me much at first. The thing that we joked about through the years was her finally forgiving me for spilling milk on her new carpet at dinner. But I also think she recognized me as a soft and pampered “Easterner.” The summer changed the soft part, but that’s another story. Fortunately she was receptive to my charm and more importantly she really liked the two women in my life over the years. She and  Bill’s dad bonded immediately with both my girlfriend at the time and the woman who eventually became my wife, both of which possess irresistible charm and neither of which could ever be described as pampered. It didn’t hurt that my antics were always good for a laugh and a story. She didn’t hide what she was thinking so it wasn’t too long before I knew I was accepted into the family. I thought of the Bensons as surrogate parents.

So rest in peace Joan. You were a beautiful, smart, loving person, fiercely loyal to those you loved and not a person anyone would mess with.

That summer is the source of about three quarters of my stories. Firestorms, whorehouses, narrow brushes with the law, my basketball baptism and rubber duckies in the river. But more about that later.

Tense about tense.

First of all, thanks to all of you that have stopped by to take a look at HA. And special thanks to anyone who actually read that self reflecting drivel. Please feel free to leave a comment, even if they’re negative. ADD sufferers would rather have negative attention than no attention at all.

Yesterday I laid down some rules about what I’m not going to write about and I intend to follow them faithfully, unless I don’t.

Thanks for indulging me while I try to write my way out of this fucking block that has had me paralyzed for most of the month. I think that’s the key, just banging out my thoughts, getting down on paper what I’m thinking about the process. On paper?? WTF? Next I’ll be putting out an a record. Another key I’ve been thinking about is finding a voice. From December of ’03 through May of  ’08, I  had a blog going on Xanga. I think I had a voice there, but I think I lost it when I started this blog. I have been trying a little too hard to perfect my syntax and grammar and all that high falutin’ stuff. I didn’t want to screw up the tense or shift viewpoints or be cliched (which I’ll probably never avoid) so I’ve been thinking more than I’ve been writing. Part of the problem might be years trying so hard to be dry, concise and professional in my business memos at Dex. Writing for the humor impaired.  I didn’t really succeed at that either. A colloquial voice works best for me, kind of blue collar casual. Some of you that know me might chuckle over me thinking of myself as blue collar, with my pampered youth and all those years of being a corporate lackey. But as a pup I spent a lot of time wandering around the West Fargo Stockyards, were I learned my most colorful vocabulary. That’s about as blue collar as you can get. Plus I’ve worked plenty of blue collar jobs back in the day, too many to list here, but that’s a post of it’s its own. Anyway, I’m not going to fret too much about crimes against the King’s English, but just try to pound out the words in a more casual, conversational manner.

English majors, grammar nazis, please take your best editorial shots. Pick my writing apart if you want, my skin is thick. And bad attention is….

Process of Elimination

First of all I a sad story. A classmate of my wife returned home to be with his dying father. On his first night in town the son died in his sleep. The father died later in the day. I wonder how people handle things like that, but I guess we just handle it. The feeling of grief and disorientation in a situation like that is unfathomable. The clock is ticking, we just don’t know what time the alarm is set to.


And now as promised, and I know you have been waiting breathlessly for this next self indulgent spew, I’m going to publicly work through my thinking process as I try to decide just what the hell I’m writing this blog for. I think the first thing I need to establish is what I’m NOT going to write about.

I’m not going to write about family drama. Not that there isn’t plenty to write about. Although I’m only part Scando-German, I grew up in Minnesota, and we don’t even talk about that stuff to each other, let alone broadcast it. Remember the Norwegian farmer who loved his wife so much he almost told her? That’s not a joke, it’s a statement of fact. Same goes with friends, I have enough trouble with relationships, I seem to have a talent for pissing people off. I don’t need to hang those shorts out in public. I might make an exception in the name of self deprecating humor, my social ineptitude makes for some pretty amusing situations.

I’m not going to write about politics. Mostly because I’m just not qualified. I’m kind of a knee-jerk liberal, a liberal by faith and instinct. I’m really not very good at defending my principles. I’m not even sure I have principles. I’ll leave that to others, like these guys. Unless I just get so pissed off at the Republicans or the Tea Baggers or Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman that I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

And finally I’m NOT going to write about the inner workings of my bowels. In an earlier post I mentioned how dooce has made a fortune writing about her constipation. I have the opposite problem, Crohn’s disease. There is a big difference between writing about constipation and writing about having a bad case of the runs. The latter is about the lack of shit, the other is all about shit. And all though I’ve tried to deal with this shitty situation with humor, and it has provided lots of material for humor, I don’t want to run the risk of over sharing.

So what the hell should I write about?