At a conference I attended recently, a speaker quoted Ricky Van Veen, the cofounder of the online website CollegeHumor as saying, "Documenting the experience is becoming more important than the experience itself."
Van Veen's bland observation reminded me of a ballsier one that my late mother made in a memoir she wrote 35 years ago:
"Told my dad, many Christmases ago, as he swung from the chandeliers with a new Polaroid and rest of family huddled on couch and said cheese for two hours, you either record having fun or you have fun."
My pal Pat McGuire is a newly elected State Senator in Illinois, and he invited me and Scout and her pal Samantha Green and Sam's dad Jason to the state capitol of Springfield to see how business is done.
As it is with kids of all ages, the train ride was the best part.
But the girls got to spend three hours on the Senate Floor, actually voting on bills (as directed by Pat, of course). I wasn't permitted to film in there, but halfway through, the novelty became a routine, and the kids started to look comically like the wizened "Senates" that they were pretending to be.
As I told Pat afterwards, you never know what your kids are going to remember and discard, and you only hope they remember useful experiences.
In Springfield, Jason and I were happy to know for sure, for once, that we were making a memory that our kids would always draw on.
A memory, and a formative theory about elected officials:
That they're all just like Pat.
And if they're not, they should be.
I was at a content marketing conference earlier this month and I heard real grownups tell other real grownups some really strange things.
"The line between helpful and creepy is thin, gray and curvy."
"It's a dog licking a computer screen! It's genius!"
"What's hard is getting people to be passionate about catheters and medical equipment."
In a post on McMurryTMG's blog Engage, I try to coax content marketers back to in the direction of sanity before they drop off the cliff of reality.
A friend is worried she blew it with a potential new client because the first job, which came to her in a wild last-minute panic, got messy and now the client is short with her on the phone.
I told her about the time I was dropping a buddy off at the airport in my International Harvester Scout "service truck." On the doors, it had signs that said "Murray's Freelance Writing," with my phone number. (See it in action, below.)
At a busy intersection near Midway, a woman pulled up next to me and asked if I had a card. I was sorry, I didn't. But I said phone number was on the door.
"It is not my job to memorize your phone number!" she yelled, and roared off.
"There," I told my buddy somberly, "went one great client."
I've never been to a high school or college reunion before. In the same way that even the worst people behave well when they're in a public park on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I imagine the best people pose and preen and lie at school reunions on a Saturday night.
So I was glad that the "college reunion" I went to last week consisted entirely of me and three guys who I "dormed" with my freshmen and sophomore years at Kent State University. We've kept in touch through the years, so we know perfectly well and how poorly each of us is doing. We got drunk at the Venice Cafe and told the old stories again.
But on the blustery afternoon before, I took a walk around campus alone. I hadn't seen it since I graduated 23 years ago. It was pretty much the way I remembered it, so I didn't have a hard time finding my way around.
I stood next to the dormitory where (so I was later told), when my parents dropped me off for the first time, my dad turned to my mom and said with a tear in his eye, "There goes a perfectly good boy."
I noted the spot in the dorm's courtyard where I set the straw-stuffed footstool on fire, resulting in an arson charge and nearly expulsion.
I walked along the sidewalk where I had excitedly opened my first college English journal, only to see the shocking letter F. Over the semester, I had written many more thousands of heartfelt words than any of my classmates. But the teacher found many of the words obscene. The words, and the booger I had scotch-taped onto one of the pages because I thought it was "creative."
I walked past the bank in the Student Center, where they used to have a cartoon on the wall that said, "How can I be out of money? I still have checks left." A joke I didn't understand until my junior year.
I walked through Bowman Hall, past the office where Dr. Null told me I was probably the best writer at Kent State, which I thought was a big deal.
I walked across the open field where I sobbed in the pouring rain at night because, five days after I had first fallen in love, the girl broke up with me. (We're married now, because I finish what I start.)
I crossed the campus road where I had jaywalked on the Monday after Thanksgiving break in 1989. I almost got hit by a car that day, because my mother had suddenly died on Thanksgiving, and I assumed everybody in the world must know, and be looking out for me.
I walked along Summit Street, where I often rushed home from English class feeling that the meaning of life was on the tip of my tongue, and maybe this was the day that I would get it into a notebook.
The wind was blowing hard, so I couldn't be completely sure why tears kept coming out of my eyes.
A college reunion this weekend. So I've been thinking about a lot of things I haven't thought much about in awhile. Like James Taylor, the author of all the love songs I sang to my wife, when I was trying to make her my girlfriend.
Not much of an interview was James.
But he was a love-song writer with proven results.
"So, four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent an amazing new nation, right?, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are at some level created, sort of, equal."
(Click on the links to be bolstered in your own violent dislike for these au courant verbal tics, all of them cheap rhetorical tricks.)