Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

When I was a little kid, my parents & I were vacationing on Hilton Head Island when Hurricane Hugo swept in. I was only 5 years old, but I remember a few things distinctly: I remember evacuating the island, leaving early in the most torrential downpour I've ever seen, in pure darkness. I remember an alligator in the road. I remember how damn scary the whole thing was. And I remember how badly the hurricane decimated the island - destruction that even now, 10+ years later, hasn't fully recovered.

So maybe you've heard: Irene is coming, with New England on her radar of potential wreckage. And I have no idea what to do to prepare for a hurricane. I'm from Ohio, guys. Hurricanes are, like, the ultimate villain of all natural disasters.

Nathan's ship was set to deploy next Tuesday, but because of the storm, they're heading out on Saturday instead. Apparently it's safer to be at sea in a hurricane. Yeah, I don't get it, either.

This means that I'll be ridin' the storm out solo - whatever that means. Nathan made a few suggestions, all of which would entail my getting the hell out of town. He recommended I stay in Boston with a friend until we realized Boston is further south & will likely be hit harder. He was thisclose to buying me plane tickets back to the safe haven that is the Midwest, where I could wait out the storm with my mom, but I doubted I could find anyone to watch our cat mid-hurricane. He actually made me reservations at a Raddison in Manchester, which is 50 miles inland instead of, you know, two, & I could take the cat with me, but I can't decide if it's ridiculous to spend two nights in a hotel for a storm that might not happen.

So... am I being a baby? Should I just stay home? We bought renters' insurance today (um, you shouldn't wait as long as we did), & if I decide to stay, I'll go shopping tomorrow, to buy things like bottled water, candles & foods that don't require electricity for preparation or storage. I have a few real, live, non-electronic books on hand in case the power goes out - & I'm a real good sleeper, if all else fails. I was also thinking of putting plastic over the windows, or something - how does that even work?! And of course, I'll be stocking up on booze to keep me company in the big, scary storm.

I'm so far north that it seems entirely likely that whatever hits Portsmouth will be nothing more than a really windy thunderstorm. But what if it's more? The news stories are really freaking me out, & the Jewish mother that lives not-so-deep inside me is out in full force, worrying up a, well, storm. I'd rather be ready in advance - or not in town to experience it.

What should I do? Floridian friends, teach me your ways!

Photo credit

I May Be a Jerk, But at Least I Brought Cake

On this day four years ago, I began this blog on a whim with a post about graffiti in a Starbucks bathroom. I was a new D.C. transplant looking for an outlet for stories - an outlet that wasn't Myspace. Yeah, seriously. My, how far we've come...

The purpose of my blog hasn't changed much. I still use it as an outlet to tell stories, to speak my piece, &, OK, to post photos of ridiculous people & things I observe around town. But the purpose has evolved, too. I occasionally post about more serious topics; I've let you guys get to know me. Not only do I no longer live in D.C., which was the initial impetus for writing, I now live somewhere I never, ever expected to be - with just as much to say.

And the friends. I've made all kinds of friends via blogging. Friends I've met in real life, friends I exchange texts & snail mail cards with, friends who have invited me to their weddings. Blogging has given me so much more than I could've anticipated. And of course, I don't mind the comments, either, & the fact that 700 people subscribe to this little site. It's nice to feel like your voice is being heard & enjoyed.

But of course, with great power comes great responsibility, or something, & so the more well-read my blog becomes, the more issues there are to deal with.

The point of this blog? Is still writing. The point has always been writing. This is why lately, I find myself struggling with this idea of "community" that so many bloggers are so adamant about - about supporting, about building, about protecting. Many bloggers work hard to create a sense of community. Such is the case with folks who use blogging to promote their businesses, and those who write for the purpose of creating a community of like-minded folks (fitness bloggers, fashion bloggers, craft bloggers, etc.). I don't begrudge these people their community-centric approach to blogging at all - but there's a huge difference between their motives & the motives of a blogger like me, who identifies primarily as a writer. Frankly, I wish more bloggers could recognize & respect that not all bloggers care about or want a community in the sense they do - and that they'd stop holding us to the same standards.

I'm just... not sold on the idea of blogging as a "community," not for me. I would never post something on my blog intentionally meant to hurt someone I consider a friend, Internet-made or otherwise. But is saying something potentially offensive a violation of "community" if it's not a community you ever meant to be a part of? Bloggers I don't know, don't read & have no association with have, in the past, accused me of doing things to harm them: They've accused me of trying to hurt their businesses; they've told me I should reconsider the way I world things; they've even told me I'm a negative attitudinal influence (chortle). While I do my best to display basic human compassion & kindness toward others, the fact remains that most bloggers are not my friends, per se. I don't know these people. I started blogging to write, not to form a community. My blog should be my blog, not a communal space where I have to tread so lightly around other bloggers' feelings that I can hardly press "Publish Post" without worrying who I'll somehow offend.

Comedian Ricky Gervais, of all people, said something recently that resonated with me both as a writer & as an overwhelmingly sarcastic individual: “You have the right to be offended, and I have the right to offend you," he told New Humanist magazine. "But no one has the right to never be offended." The bottom line, I suppose, is that we should all bear in mind that behind every computer is a real, live person, with real, live feelings - but that, as in real life, we don't all have to be friends just by virtue of having the same hobby.

I do my best not to hurt anyone's feelings or be mean or spiteful or steal content. God, I try not to do any of those things. But so often, bloggers seem to get wrapped up in their ideas community & how various faux pas are detrimental or hurtful to "the blogging community," & I just don't buy that. I'm here to write, period, & if you like it, I'm thrilled. But if you don't? Well, I hate to be cliche, but the solution is easy: Don't read it. It doesn't have to be a part of your community.

Everyone is so obsessed with etiquette & community & networking. Me? I just want to write.

Here's to four more years.

Photos: 1, 2
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