Here is a piece on my gettingoutmore.org site. I hope you enjoy it!
With my travel writing lately, I have been experimenting with different types of voice. My blogger voice has been very…well, what you see here. At times funny, and usually just conversational in tone, like I’m just shooting the bull with friends. Recently I started reading the Years Best in Travel Writing anthology for 2018 just to see what kind of work is out there and what is being considered the best.
I can say this much. What is being considered noteworthy enough to get into anthologies isn’t the same kind of stuff you are seeing in blogs or in listicles on Buzzfeed about “Top Five Places to Get Drunk in Mexico”. These are well-crafted essays that often exceed the standard attention span of about 600 words that list type articles and how-to articles get in other places. Some of the stories I read were very literary, from a veteran returning to the streets where he and his buddies fought a firefight in Kabul nearly twenty years before to explorations of American iconography in the Midwest.
Lots of these stories explore race, cultural differences, and probe the depths of what is going on in the human experience, rather than ways to upgrade your room at an all-inclusive resort/spa at Turks and Caicos. So recently, I sold an article that was inspired by these more literary expositions. It was challenging to write this way, even though there were times I felt like I was back in college writing MFA quality essays.
The benefit of writing in this MFA style is that I can make the story more cinematic. It’s a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. Rather than just musing about how dirty a bathroom might have been at a National Park. However, those types of articles also have their place and purpose.
I think what struck me the most was how pretentious a lot of these travel essays sounded. Either the acrobatics of choppy sentences with evocative language or the smarmy condescension of the educated elite, looking down their noses at Americana. The fucking egos involved with a lot of these authors. One guy even insinuated that he met someone in a hotel elevator for a one night stand in a small hotel in South Dakota.
I wonder if that was a callout to everyone who teased him in high-school for not having a girlfriend. Nobody cares that you slept with some drunk woman you met in an elevator, and nobody cares if you think gas station burritos and refridgerator magnets are quaint.
There’s cutting to the core and there is self-agrandizing masturbatory writing. As any good dad will tell you, I’m not mad…just disappointed. About halfway through the book when it all read like a college composition class, I checked out. The thing about good writing is you need to check on your ego. It’s a lot like when you paint a room and about a week after you are done, the light might hit that floor just right and all you see are the dollops of paint that made it past your throw cloth.
I can see why people don’t read as much as they used to. What is considered “The BEST!” is usually pretentious or just sounds like it should be good. You can call it foie gras all day long, but at the end of the day, it’s just goose liver.
Today I am really tired. I guess I just don’t have a lot of patience for this kind of stuff.
It’s a fine line to walk.
Over the last year, I am sure most of us have experienced our own absurd experiences, the likes of which would make Kafka blush.
My run-ins with the Department of Unemployment being one of those. I was laid off during the beginning of COVID, but because they were shitcanning all of us anyway (to make room for pay increases for upper management and professors probably) I didn’t get that extra $600 per week everyone else got to sweeten the pot.
But because I got my vacation pay, unemployement disqualified me for two weeks and sent me a vague letter about how I had violated the agreement. I believe the word “Fraud” was used. My checks started again two days before the appeals hearing.
Four months later, my unemployment was completely shut off. This happened right when they “Upgraded” the website. And when I changed my address. There must have been some glitch, so I called.
I waited for literally hours to try to speak to someone. The number I called said that they would schedule a callback and that I needed to choose from the options when that would be. Then it hung up. Without assigning any kind of callback. I tried another phone number and waited for some more hours. When I got ahold of someone, they said they were just for COVID unemployment and that I should call the other number. Before they could hang up, I asked them to check my information. Which they did and informed me that everything looked fine and didn’t know why I was discontinued. Then they hung up.
The next several times I called either number after that, a recorded message came on saying that due to high call volumes my call couldn’t be completed. And then I was just trying to get my 1099 so I could do my taxes.
So, I stopped calling.
Fast forward three months.
Today, I got a letter from the IRS informing me that my stimulus payment had been sent to direct deposit. Of course they sent it to the bank I was using last year. Since then, I have switched banks and also moved. I checked the website to see how to rectify the situation and it told me that any changes could be made when I filed my taxes.
Well, I couldn’t file my taxes as soon as usual because Colorado Unemployment never sent me a 1099. Actually, they had no 1099 on record for me, so I had to wait two months to file. It was rejected, because of course (redacted). Divorce is the gift that keeps on giving. So I had to mail it.
The website also says that mailed in 1040s will be delayed due to COVID. Which means even changing my address will be delayed for probably another month at the IRS.
So, that means that the direct deposit will bounce and when the IRS decides to cut me a check, I am at the mercy of the USPS to forward my mail to me at the old address, because even though we live in the 21st Century, I can’t just change my info online the way I could Amazon.com or anywhere else. So, I can expect a three week delay on the stimmy check to be issued and probably another two weeks on top of that to have my mail forwarded, that is if they decide to forward it.
Ironically, when I used the “Get my payment” feature, I verified my identity with my new address. Which the IRS doesn’t have on file because the letter notifying me of Direct Deposit was forwarded from my old address, post marked a couple weeks ago.
Btw, my 1099 showed up from Unemployment via the USPS on March 13. So I’ll probably have to refile because of that anyway.
Funny that I can take a picture of a check and deposit it to my bank or scan a code and get a menu and PAY THE CHECK using my phone at a restaurant, but I have to rely on this mess from my own government.
We are living in the future!