Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Year Ends

The year ends in winter, in the time of sleep and stories. What will be the stories of 2004?

I pause to look back at a pretty full year of my stories, beginning in the San Francisco Chronicle with "Buddha by the Bay" in January and the Wiyot vigil story in February. Then two highly contrasting multi-book review essays (one on a series based on dialogues between the Dalai Lama and scientists, the other on several books on war and terrorism) and 3 or 4 other reviews in the Chronicle Sunday Book Review in '04 (after 10 or so in 2003 and 7 or 8 in '02) and a couple of Sunday Insight pieces (not as many as in 03 but more than '02). The year also included an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times and was capped this late summer with a feature in the New York Times, page 1 of the Arts section. A long piece in News from Native California, and a pretty interesting interview article in the Humbolt State University alumni magazine in the fall, with a short piece in Native Peoples and for a British magazine on Buddhism awaiting publication shortly.

So together with lots of blogwords and unpublished pieces, a short play, revision of a long one, some fiction and even a poem or two, and of course the perennial book proposals, it was a year of some volume. I'm basically proud of the work, happy to have gotten compliments on some of it, particularly by those directly involved in the stories (you know, like Michael McClure on the Buddhism story, and Leonard Nimoy on the Star Trek piece in the Times.)

Yet so far all my published jabber hasn't materially changed how '05 begins. I had hoped that my run of work in five separate sections of the SF Chronicle might get me an invitation to draw a salary, but none was forthcoming---even when I asked. Word from inside was that the Chron is chronically overextended financially and saddled with some contracts they wish they could drop (sort of like the 49ers) and the morale among even those who are salaried is low. (The joke was, I'm told, that when a meeting was called to discuss the low morale, most people were too depressed to show up.) Last week I was told there is no freelance budget at all, except I guess for book reviews and maybe Insight. So no more Chronicling. I still have some hopes involving the NY Times and (separately) Star Trek.

I'm finding that blogging is a lot of fun but way too time consuming, so I may have to lower the volume there if I'm going to get projects accomplished that may wind up being legacies of a kind. The only kind I'll leave, I suppose. I will be working this month and for several months forward on launching and maintaining the This North Coast Place blog, my Cultural Trust project. But like most January firsts, the new year is entirely free of recognizable income-generators.

As for the stories we share, not many good ones, eh? The Tragedy of November, the tsunami of December. And hereabouts the loss this summer of our beloved Tess the cat, who I still think about and miss every day, usually at bedtime. Sometimes when I got into bed, she would sit on my chest to be petted into such a state of bliss that she didn't want to move when I was ready to turn over on my stomach to sleep, so if I turned very slowly and carefully, she just sort of rode the move, and wound up on the other side, on my back, where she would sleep.

Prior to the Tragedy of November, I got involved in politics again this year in a haphazard way. A couple of speeches on behalf of Kerry, one to the county Democrats, one where I found myself debating an actual presidential candidate, the Green Party's David Cobb (who lives nearby in Eureka.) Elected as a Kerry delegate to the national convention, but couldn't afford to go. Then there's the "Fresh Start" saga, which still lacks definitive information. Still, it was a weird rush to see the Democratic candidate speaking behind the words I pleaded that his campaign adopt as their slogan. I read that one of Kerry's official consultants made $5 million in the campaign. That's about $5 million and fifty dollars more than I made.

Then at the very end of August, my first Star Trek convention since 1975. I met Gene Roddenberry at the first one, and at this one, Nichelle Nichols introduced me to Neil Armstrong, and I shook hands with the first human to set foot on another world. So now I've shaken hands with JFK, Roberto Clemente and Neil Armstrong. Not bad.

I worked on several projects for Humboldt State University this year, which felt like a good match of my skills and interests with their needs and purpose. I can imagine myself on the right university campus.

Margaret had a busy but pretty good year, becoming Ombudsperson at HSU, seeing a couple of her plays performed, adding to her skills and knowledge in various ways. Her children are healthy, as are my sisters and their children and grandchild, and so are we. Whatever else '05 brings, we hope that much stays the same.

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