Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mennonites at the Bon-Ton

So the first comment I got on my early blog entries was from a Trekkie friend correcting my Star Trek reference. "He's Dead, Jim" is apparently the correct phrase. What's "It's over, Jim"? A figment of my imagination? I'm still in Maryland, sitting in my dreamy quiet Courtyard Marriot room across from the mall at Hagerstown. Mall at Hagerstown: same stuff pretty much as malls all over, with a couple exceptions. While wandering yesterday morning, I saw two separate couples wearing bonnets and bowler-type hats - Mennonites? Amish? What would they be doing in a mall? If I have any Mennonite readers yet, please inform. Also, there was a JC Penney, a Sears, and a Macy's, but there was also a Bon Ton department store. How can there be an entire department store chain that I've never heard of? I feel like I have traveled from a foreign land - what is this Bon Ton? - though I grew up in Jersey.

Thanks for all the comments on the blog, and yes, my friends, you can still think John Tesh is cheesy. Just because he made me cry doesn't mean I didn't also occasionally cringe. I'm not even 40 yet for God's sakes!

Here's a link to the website of Caitlin, the gal who won the ten grand in the positivity contest: http://operationbeautiful.com/
She was pretty great, with her youthful enthusiasm (said with a nostalgic, slightly quivery, almost 40-year-old voice). I had a decade or even two on most of the entrants. Several brought their parents with them. I suppose I should've realized that Caitlin was going to win since the final winner was chosen by internet votes and every time she talked about her project she used the term "gone viral." "It started with a stickie note on a mirror, then I took a picture, blogged about it, and it "went viral."" I'd like to go viral, just once. But I'm not willing to make a sex tape and I'm not so good with gimmicks. And I can be really lazy. So...maybe not so much with the viral.

I think about the whole "gone viral" thing a lot. The cynic in me is, well, cynical about all this stuff. I think back longingly to the early days of blogging, when bloggers blogged because they liked to blog, because it gave them an outlet and a way to connect with others about the stuff that circled around in their minds. I suppose some still do. I suppose I am. But it seems like once the first blogger got a book deal, writers began to blog specifically to get a book deal. The blogging became a means to an end and everything had a hook. Like that whole Julie and Julia thing. Seriously, if Julie Powell didn't see that becoming a major money-maker, how in the world did she manage to keep up with all that cooking and cleaning and shopping? That sounds exhausting and hard to keep up, unless you know Meryl Streep's gonna be starring in your blog at some point down the road. (Reference "laziness" in previous paragraph). Who would star in my nascent blog? Why, John Tesh of course! And Connie Selica could play me.

The point of outing my cynicism about blogs and self-promoting, and corporate America and the commodification of art (and a few other simple little themes like that)? I guess to see if others think maybe they/we/I use that kind of cynicism as a good old excuse to not write in the first place. When I start to think about friends of mine who got out of control and then somehow, thank god, got sober, and then were given, oh my goodness, a book deal? Moi? I get dark. I start to feel like people mess up their lives only to go on television and cash in on America's obsession with a good redemption story. I feel my snark a-rising when I catch even a glimpse of celebrity rehab. But the thing of it is, I still have to write. Just because I am grossed out by the self-created and extremely profitable exploitation machine, that doesn't let me off the hook to put my own voice out in the world. I mean, it actually gives me a very good excuse, but excuses are just excuses and they're the opposite of action.

Is it possible that good action is just good action, whether it comes from a religious place, a secular humanist place, a firepit of social justice place, or even a guilty place? Who cares, if you're doing good? Who cares, if you're putting your voice out there? Who cares, if you're creating rather than complaining? And so I am writing, whether to readers I know, strangers, or the ether...

Now I've got to put on my bonnet and hightail it over to conquer my fear of the Bon Ton before my flight back to L.A. See y'all on the other side (of the country that is).

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