Being odd can pay off
When I was a speechwriter at IBM, my wife and I used to take our two daughters to Cape Cod for a month every August …
the reek of fried seafood so heavy you could smell it from the car as you drove by the clam shacks …
sand everywhere …
and the sweet joy of observing your little girl’s face prune up at her first mouthful of ocean brine.
During one of those vacations, I was dozing on Coast Guard Beach (perennially picked as one of the world’s Top 10) when a voice woke me: “I had to see for myself that there is such a thing as a joke writer for IBM.”
I opened my eyes to see my four-year-old Wendy standing over me with a nice-looking young guy in tow.
“She told me her father is a joke writer for IBM,” he said. “I just had to meet you.”
Now, those were the days when IBM was famous for its employee “uniform” of vested, pinstripe suits, white shirts and fourteen-pound, wing-tipped shoes.
The guy my daughter befriended on the beach that balmy day couldn’t fathom that a mega-conservative outfit like IBM paid people to write laugh lines to perk up executives’ speeches.
Oddly, I myself had never thought of my work as odd.
But as Philip Larkin once noted, “You have to distinguish between things that seemed odd when they were new but are now quite familiar, such as Ibsen and Wagner, and things that seemed crazy when they were new and seem crazy now, like Finnegans Wake and Picasso.”
Sure enough, when I think about it, just about everything I’ve done with my life fits most people’s definition of odd:
- Going to work for newspapers just when broadcast journalism was ascendant
- Getting married without a penny in the bank
- Staying married for 47 years
- Starting my own business without a penny in the bank
- Attempting novels without ever attending a writers’ workshop
So this blog is offered as inspiration and demonstration that if I was able to retire to a live-aboard sailboat and fancy residences on Vieques Island and Cape Cod, then you, too, can make being odd pay off.
All of it in the context of living, writing and working in “Paradise.”
I’ll keep my postings short, because Ana Miller, a reading specialist at the University of Texas, says the average adult reads at 250 words per minute. So, two-minutes or less for my stuff.
And here we go …
In my next blog: for a speechwriter, sodomy sometimes goes with the territory.