At The Top Of America


Barrow is a small, cloudy, Artic community in Alaska that’s the northernmost town in America. A snow-swept wilderness, during winters, it experiences a long polar night that lasts 10 weeks long. The Sun sets in mid-November, and remains below the horizon till it rises again, at the end of January.

Why I Blog?

Red Fez, November 13, 2016.

The only time there’s been a long break in my blogging is between a day in November, 2009 and a day in March, 2010. By the standard of the speed of communication in the Digital Age, that interval in writing is the analog equivalent of 50 years.

When I resumed blogging after that gap, I felt like a weary, but happy, soldier, back from a war, but I didn’t offer any explanation as to why I’d suddenly stopped. None was needed. After all, no one was reading the blog. Acknowledging my leave of absence, as I’m now, in itself, is enough.

When I’d reappeared in my online grotto, oddly, I’d also returned to the comfort of my offline home. In the past, when I’ve been away from my blog, I’ve also not been around in my geographic location as well. The blog is that plane then, where the digital and the physical meet.

It’d come to be an outlet of my intellectual expression after my move to the Big Apple, for it was only after I took up residency in Brooklyn that I began to bang out my output there with fair regularity. The only occasions in which I didn’t were when I’ve been harried, to the point of panting, slipping, and scraping my knees to meet deadlines. For some puzzling reason, I attained that frenetic pace, only when my job would take me elsewhere, far from my desk.

In any event, I picked up, where I’d left off. When I began blogging on Blogger—now owned by Google—the notion of blogging was at its infancy. Back then, I was in graduate school, toiling away. Back then, I had coffee with milk and sugar. Now, I take it black.

As a photo album is a collection of memories, so my blog is intended to be a collection of notes. It’s a depository of my reflections on interplanetary travel; how I was smitten by a beverage bottle; an outing to the U.S.S. Intrepid museum; a book by Honoré de Balzac; an ode to SpongeBob. Yes, an eclectic mix. That could be because I’m a jack of all trades. Or, it could be that I have an assortment of interests. Which, of course, I do. Better that, than to have none at all.

Some six years ago, Anthony De Rosa, now of “The Daily Show” (with Trevor Noah), shared on his Tumblr stream that “we live in a world of digital feudalism.” “The land many live on is owned by someone else, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.” Sure, I didn’t own a piece of real estate on the web. But even as a digital fief, I could still till the land as I chose to as long as I didn’t pump out offensive or vulgar content.

The 15th century Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus asked his students to mark the occurrences of striking words, brilliant metaphors, adages, pithy wisdom, and archaic or novel diction. He also suggested that every student and teacher keep a notebook, organized by topic, so that whenever he came upon anything noteworthy, he may jot it down in the appropriate section.

Erasmus’ recommendation that every reader keep a notebook of memorable quotations was wildly followed. Such notebooks, which came to be called “commonplace books,” became fixtures of Renaissance schooling. Every student kept one. By the 17th century, they’d been adopted beyond the schoolhouse. They were regarded as vital tool for the cultivation of an educated mind. But their popularity ebbed as the pace of life quickened in the 19th century, and by the middle of the 20th century, they fell out of favor.

Well, my blog is a 21st century edition of my “commonplace book.” I hadn’t made much progress on it, when I was forced to neglect it all because I had to spend a detestable portion of my time sitting in the front row at town hall meetings, taking notes as politicians gabbled on. I was busy earning bylines as a journalist.

I’d dreamed of becoming an airline pilot, but by a quirk of fate—and the tutelage of a set of doting, but disciplinarian parents—I ended up being inside a newsroom, not the cockpit of a jumbo jet. I was a newspaper person, with very little interest in newspapers, even though I cut my professional teeth in the most prestigious daily of the nation, where I started out working. I did my job fairly well, even though I tempted the firing squad more than once.

I’ve tasted the magic and the dread of journalism. My career didn’t take me places. I took it—from the smog-drenched streets of a crowded and chaotic Asian capital to a tropical island—home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world—to the bleak prairies to the Arcadian New England hamlets.

This journey—both through places and broadsheets—was an opportunity to cover a potpourri of events in the municipal government, cop houses, courts, schools, Main Street, and everything in between. At this writing, I’ve worked as a reporter and an editor; in print and pixels; in metropolitan dailies and community rags.

As the pastures in the flagging media industry grew fallower, I turned my blog into my own private newspaper, taking on the roles of correspondent, editor, and publisher. I also made it more dynamic than before, not letting it smolder for want of fuel. In the event that anyone should stumble into it, and read something that made them wrinkle their nose or hot under the collar, they could feel free to get in touch with me.

As far as interactivity went, Blogger seemed as lukewarm as the last sips of the deli coffee. Feedback was rare. “Blogging can be a very lonely occupation,” observed Sue Rosenstock, a spokeswoman for LiveJournal—now owned by SUP, a Russian online media company—in an interview with the New York Times. “You write out into the abyss.” That was one of the reasons blog “[lost] their allure for many people.” People drifted to Facebook and Twitter, where they could connect with others.

But I made the decision to emigrate to another blogging platform: WordPress. It was like arriving in a new country, with its new customs and codes (pun, please.) Slowly, I acclimated to the new environment. On another front, I dithered. If I made this space just a gallery to showcase by work, it’d be a terrible waste of free storage space (of data.) So, I converted it into a dynamic scroll. I don’t hanker after visibility. If anyone should happen to stop by, I smile. If not, I “keep calm, and carry on.”