It was a passive-aggressive MInnesota winter day; a storm threatened to make the afternoon commute miserable, but all it was doing was making traffic between Saint Paul and Minnetonka miserable.
I was working at a little startup that, five months after 9/11, was already exhibiting the stench of death that would soon stalk the high-tech market. I was being managed by two of the stupidest people I’ve ever met in the world of business – a titanic accomplishment, in my various careers.
And I was smack dab in the middle of trying to rebuild my life. Not in the sense that a refugee from Rwanda tries to get back to subsistence – no, nothing that eternal and existential. I was just a guy who’d been divorced a little over a year, busy raising a couple of kids – 10 and 9, at the time – and trying to figure out where I fit into the world.
I didn’t have much of a social circle – for a variety of reasons, the one I had hadn’t survived my ten years of marriage. I certainly hadn’t had the time or, perhaps, the wisdom to rebuild one the conventional way.
And the pall of gathering rot about the company punctuated the sense that had crept over me; a chapter of my life had ended, and I had no idea what the new chapter was. It was more a sense than an idea – but it was real, and it wasn’t a whole lot different than the restlessness I’d been wrestling with 16 years earlier.
Lunchtime came. I pulled out a sandwich – that stench of imminent corporate collapse had turned the social, lunching-three-times-a week crowd I worked with into hermits – and started grazing about the internet.
I got to Time.com, and opened up an article about “The New Generation of Conservative Intellectuals”. That grabbed me. I hadn’t been especially active in thinking about politics, much less actual politics – but I fondly remembered my time as a political talk show host at KSTP in the late ’80s. It was a time I’d felt…
…well, not like I did that day.
I read onward. It introduced a number of writers – most notably, Andrew Sullivan, a gay British writer who was making waves with his blog, a new invention that was sweeping the internet.
I thought “Blog? Good lord, what a stupid word”.
But there was a sidebar piece on “What is a blog”. Which I read. And took notes, to take home.
And that night, after the kids were in bed and the dishes done, I went out to blogger.com, and started writing. After briefly considering calling it “Reel News” – after a “‘zine” I’d fantasized about putting out, back when ‘zines – small, do-it-yourself print magazines – were the bleeding edge of DIY media – I settled on “Shot in the Dark”. It seemed to fit; that’s what it was; that’s what most everything in my life had been. It seemed to fit.
And twenty years later, it still does.
It’s hard to count up all the things that this blog has brought to my life over the past, ahem, two decades. But I’ll try.
It brought me a social life. The “Minnesota Organization of Bloggers” hasn’t really been active in a decade – but the connections that were made haven’t gone anywhere. Some of the best friends I have, I have from doing this.
It brought me a voice. While I started this blog thinking that I might reach 5-10 people a day, I thought that’d be just fine. It was mostly about the writing. While blog traffic isn’t’ what it was 15 years ago, I still reach a lot more than 10 people a day. And even if there were still five people a day clicking into the site, it’d still be an outlet for all the things that have been let out, here, over the past 20 years.
It got me back on the air. This blog led me into contact with John HInderaker and Scott Johnson from Power Line, and Chad, Brian, Atomizer and JB from Fraters LIbertas, King Banaian from SCSU Scholars and Ed Morrissey from Captain’s Quarters, which got noticed by Hugh Hewitt, who dubbed us the Northern Alliance of Blogs, which in turn led us – after another one of those bouts of restlessness of mine – into pitching the idea of doing an all-blogger talk show to AM1280, which incredibly got green-lit by some of the least risk-averse radio management I’ve ever met. And that – for almost 18 years now – has been an unalloyed blessing in my life.
It got, and kept, me independent. Along about 2013, when Facebook promised to take away the content management headaches, and Twitter forcibly limited the length of one’s thoughts, I thought about following a lot of bloggers over to social media. I didn’t think about it long, though. Part of it was suspicion of Big Tech’s motives, even then – which were utterly justified in retrospect. This blog owes nothing to Jeff Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey. Neil Young can bitch about me until he turns blue(er) in the face. I’m here, and I’m not going away until I’m good and ready.
And perhaps most importantly, it’s given me a…what’s the right word? A rhythm.
I’m not a fundamentally orderly person. I thrive on chaos; I’m one of those fish who swims toward the turbulent water. I was increcibly bad at things like “follow-through” (outside work, anyway) and “focus”. I started my adult life in a career – radio – that is chaos incarnate, where changing jobs. yearly is (or was) the norm, and went into another career where a (largely) contractor’s life ion’t a whole lot more stable. It’s been a career that would take a chaotic and spin him into a complete basket case, as indeed I kind of was on the morning of February 5, 2002.
But for the past twenty years, sitting down five mornings a week to write something, has been the beat behind my days. Through cataracts of creativity, and bouts of writer’s block so serious I could taste it, I made it my goal to write something at 6AM, 7AM and 11AM, every weekday, with very few breaks. It might be crap, it might be perfunctory, it might be something I’m enduringly proud of, or something in the great in-between – but hitting those deadlines has lent my life a discipline and focus I didn’t have before.
I finish thoughts. I follow through on actions (more than I did, anyway). I think about “what comes next”.
Obsession? Habit? Therapy? Blessing? Zen exercise?
I can cop to any or all of them.