A Little Help

It is a daily battle, part of the long war, and today I seem to be winning.  So, let us declare victory, however temporary, and rejoice in the enemy’s defeat.  That no one has yet identified the enemy, well, that is no matter.

What is the matter…with me, that is?  I rarely doubt that something is fundamentally amiss.  I mean, I’ve always been a screwup.  Don’t all signs point that way?  Isn’t it obvious?

It would be a considerable step forward for me to see the whole thing as a struggle.  No real victory, no real loss, just an endless dynamic.  Following my moods and inner turmoil is much like current reports, in mid-March, 2011, of Moammar Gadhafi’s civil war.  No one knows what’s happening, and it’s dangerous to be a reporter.

Take this week.  In fact, keep it.  Jane is tied up with Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, not to mention what I think is called Maundy Thursday…and for all I know, Abstemious Friday.  Point being, she’s short on time, not to mention attention span, which a wise person would remember has nothing to do with me.  But who is a wise person?  Show me one, and I’ll show him the door.

That’s because at this point in life, the wisdom balance is shifting, however inexplicably, in my direction.  I didn’t plan it this way, honest.  Yes, I’m quite used to seeking wisdom outside me.  And there seems to be less and less of it around.  Help, as opposed to wisdom, remains essential, but the arrows are all pointing at me.  Ask him, they say.  He’s the guy.  Yeah, yeah, send him the bill.  He could do with your help.  But he might as well stumble forward on his own.  Forward is forward.  Not forearmed, forewarned or foreskined.  Just dead ahead, progress.

Last time I looked, no one was giving me awards for publishing, nonetheless I am heading towards a book.  By late summer or early autumn.  And the reality is that there is a lot to know, a lot to learn.  What is a contract?  Is it something to fear?  Will there be a hidden clause in which I undertake to bankroll the expansion of the Panama Canal?  Or just pay for the copy editor’s root canal?  I mean, since I trust the publisher implicitly, and have good reason for this, how much spilkes is necessary?

Maybe a little.  So I happily threw a little money at California Lawyers for the Arts.  An NGO, eminently deserving.  And the lawyer?  Well, he turns out to be a veteran in the publishing field.  He is a help, asking me the right questions, getting me to think in the right direction.  How wise of me.  Maybe I know what I’m doing.  Mazel tov.

Publicity for the book.  Why doesn’t the publisher take care of this?  Because, I’ve been around the block enough times, however dreamily, to know that this is how things are.  And how does one find a good publicist?  By talking to established writers.  Of whom I know a couple.  Why?  Well, maybe I am a writer myself?  Established?  Established as what?  After 30 years in Menlo Park, surely I do not have to establish residency.  Literary stature?  Oh, forget it.  Some people enjoy reading me, and that’s enough.  As for a ‘good’ publicity person, haven’t I worked in the PR industry?  Don’t I know that the field attracts a spectrum of humanity, ranging from communicators to sociopaths?  PR, as one agency account executive told me, is not a hand job.  It must be something else.  At 64, with a certain amount of experience, even some amount of intuition, perhaps I can find that something else.  And if I don’t?  At least I can pull the plug.  And pull it quickly.

There are reasons to be wary of the PR industry.  In 1982, one day after work I watched the PR firm that employed me battle a rival firm in softball.  Someone from my team yelled at the opposing agency, ‘bill ’em, bill ’em.’ I got the idea.  Reasons to be wary, but no cause for paranoia.  Self-promotion is not exactly my strongest suit.  Self-criticism is.  Might as well get a little help.  A little help from my friends.  Friends who are ‘established’ enough to be of substantial help.  Practical help.  Which, practically speaking, I need.  Meanwhile, good things happen, not because of me, or in spite of me.  In fact, it’s not about me at all.  

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