Set the bar low…

People ask what Ellen looks like, so here she is with hubby Tim up to their knees in Wisconsin trout waters.

No doubt some of you – maybe all of you – have rolled your eyes at some of the sub-trivial fluff I foist on the kids and other unwitting recipients.

I don’t hold myself in very high regard as a writer.  What comes out, comes out.

My dire self assessment aside, the goal has never been to set the bar high as high art.  Instead, my goal is really to stay out of my own way and just get the letters out the door on the appointed day.  To achieve “high art’ is not in my meager skill sets.   It would seem to imply that art supersedes the doing and that the writer’s sense of self-importance surpasses the expectation(s) of the recipient(s).  In neither case is that true.   High art also takes time, suitable inspiration and untold revisions, all of which further implies a pursuit of creative perfection which, if you’ve read my onslaught of letters, is in no danger of being eclipsed.

I’ve set the bar low and am pretty much content with such lowness.  Some days might be higher than others, but not by much.


The Charlotte Observer ran my first column this weekend.  As my age will attest, my beat will be narrowly focused.


Here is last Monday’s letter to Ellen and Reid.

October 18, 2010

Ellen/Reid: Ellen, what is this with your car windows being smashed?  I thought your little neighborhood was relatively immune to such nonsense.  What a way to start your Sunday morning.  Was the car in the garage or on the street (Tim’s new rig is likely in the garage, isn’t it?)?  Just make sure you keep stuff out of sight since that’s how most of these car-invading hooligans decide to break in to your car instead of others.

My weekend was far less adventuresome than yours.  Felicia and I rode to Maggie Valley, NC in search of the ‘Wheels Through Time’ museum of ancient Harleys.  It was wonderful, and I’d go again in a heartbeat, but the real star of the trip was the trek through the mountains.  The leaves and the scenery were incredible and the traffic was nil.  That’s quite a change from my last leaf-looking trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple of years ago.  This went through canopied twisty roads alongside streams, and you can tell Tim we saw lots of fly fisherpeople all along the route, and secretly, I wish I’d been among them.  The route took us northwest out of picturesque Hendersonville, NC west on state road 64 and then a right turn onto state road 276.  One of the best roads ever for riding.  The museum was just a scream.  I’d guess the guy had 100+ old Harleys and Indians and other makes strewn all over the place.  But half the fun is looking at the old memorabilia such as newspaper clippings, posters, letters, and other assorted stuff.  It was just a lot of fun.  It was a cold ride in the morning but got nicer as the day went along.  Had BBQ in Maggie Valley at some place called Butts on the Creek.  It was pretty good, not the best, but just pretty good.

Reid, Nebraska choked in the Texas game.  The Big Red came in all hyped up but came out like Little Pink (a name from Bob F____________).  On the ride I was kicking myself for not recording the game but in hindsight it was a good thing.  Your uncle must’ve been a basket case at the game.  He would’ve been beside himself, and I pity the poor person sitting next to him, in front of him and behind him.  Your grandfather probably rotated in his grave.

My lengthy interview last week has gone for naught.  I made the second cut but not the third.  In most interviews you typically rue making comments you wish you wouldn’t have made and that was true in this case.  I had nosed around with people about their impressions of _______, and was trying to relate that their views didn’t necessarily mesh with what I’d learned about the firm.  I just didn’t communicate that very well to the person who mattered most.  I inadvertently irked the hiring manager and it was instantly apparent that I was out the door – and I still have five other people to talk to.  But that’s just the way it goes, although it was a firm I would’ve liked to get to know a little better.

But things are going along as well as could be expected here at the bank.  I like the new situation, and while it’s just a temporary layover to whatever is next, it’s a daunting task.  The technical aspect of legal letter writing is overwhelming.  You really have to be on point and organized to orchestrate a letter which alternately recognizes the customer’s problem but doesn’t do anything to further irritate them.  They’re likely irritated enough already.  But it’s a challenge and that’s okay.

No real word from the place where your grandmother is staying.  I’ve been a complete absentee in that I’ve not called her as much as she deserves.  My pre-New Year’s resolution is to begin, this week, to call her 2-3 times each week.  She may not remember the calls but I’ve just been a schmuck on that score.  You guys should write her a note now and then because the staff will read them to her.   Gotta run, but keep your phones on for further text messages.


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Filed under Correspondence, Creativity, Parenting

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