A Little Service Journalism for You

Even though I swore that off, years ago.

Greetings from America, by which I mean a fairly seedy motel two blocks off the main drag in Lake George Village, a town where there’s an awful lot of red, white, and blue — and where, this morning, a guy at the motel pool randomly went off to Brian and me (the only other people present) about how crazy Democrats are, and how it’s not the 1%’s job to pay taxes; it’s their job to make jobs, so their employees can pay taxes. (Which frankly sounded crazy to me.)

We’re staying here because it’s what we can afford right now while we continue to work on our house — about $350 total for 3 nights, including taxes — and also because it’s a compromise: Brian would have preferred to go to Dippikill Wilderness Retreat, a campground with cabins that my alma mater, SUNY at Albany, owns, which would have cost less than half what we’re paying in Lake George. But a) we didn’t plan our trip soon enough to snag a cabin and b) whew, because I was not up for roughing it and us shopping for/cooking/cleaning up after every single meal. Now and then I can get on board with that kind of experience. (When I was single in my 20s and 30s, and stuck in my protracted, super-low-maintenance-girlfriend Cowboys Are My Weakness phase, I would have gone along with it even if I dreaded the thought.) But this time I needed a chance to really relax for a few days. So here we are.

I’m not going to mention the name of the motel because the owners seem very nice. (Also, we have two more nights here!) The place has definitely seen better days. It’s pretty dilapidated in places, especially the unsafe decking you have no choice but to traverse — upstairs, downstairs, to the pool, to the office, to your car. Our room is kind of ugly and depressing. The bed is hard. Good thing we brought our own pillows.

I’m still having a nice time — swimming in the lake, eating surprisingly good gluten-free pizza, playing Skee-Ball, drawing, reading (and writing to you!) in our crappy little room while it rains, enjoying the company of my sweetheart, as I always do.

But here’s what I’ve learned in the past 24 hours (*this is the Service Journalism part!): If you’re in serious need of a vacation, it might not the best idea to stay at a place that is significantly less nice than your own home. (You’re welcome.)

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Okay, let me be just a little more servicey…

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of meeting and chatting publicly (at Kingston’s wonderful Rough Draft Bar & Books) with Lauren Mechling, author of How Could She, and also the person behind one of my favorite Instagram accounts, The Clog Life.

I am hereby recommending all three things I’ve linked to in the graph just above ^^^, especially Lauren’s book, a sharply observed novel (a book blurb cliche, but I mean it sincerely) about the joys and challenges of friendship among women. It’s so smart and absorbing that I read it in two days, and I’m a slow reader. The three main characters — Geraldine, Sunny, and Rachel — are drawn very differently, but I related to aspects of each. And I very much identified with how tricky it can be to maintain friendships, especially when you and your friends work in the same field and can’t help but feel competitive with one another.

During our chat I told a story about a very tenuous friendship with another writer, which was at one point disrupted by a fight over clogs: I’d admired my friend’s new pair and inquired as to where she got them. She told me, and a few months later, I got the same ones, but in a different color. We don’t even live in the same city, but I was photographed wearing them at a lit event, prompting my friend to go off on me, and to stop talking to me for a while. There were other reasons, I’m sure. The clogs were just the last straw — or maybe just an easier matter to point to than the other more subtle tensions between us.

(^^^Not even all my clogs.)

Most of my associations with clogs are much happier than that, though. I’ve collected many pairs over my 53 years — beginning in 1977, when I was in junior high and I promised my mom I’d do my best not to turn my ankle in the tan pair of Olof Daughters with a braid across the top that she bought me at Posture Line Shoes, the orthopedically-minded store we went to in Rockville Centre. These days I tend to buy most of my clogs used, on eBay.

Up top is a drawing I just now did of my favorite pair of Sven clogs. I wore them the day before my chat with Lauren, at her other nearby event with Colu Henry at Nina Z. Clogs in Hudson, NY. In real life, my clogs are silver, but in my motel room I don’t have a silver colored pencil. (Also, obviously I still don’t know how to really draw.)

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Look at me, someone who swore off Service Journalism 10 or 12 years ago, writing a linky post recommending gluten-free pizza, books, bookstores, clogs, instagram accounts and more!

There’s nothing wrong with Service Journalism. It just wasn’t for me. I did it way too frequently, for too long, before I realized that. What I wanted to be writing was features, and even more than that, personal essays.

It would take me decades to realize I needed to re-direct myself, to stop collecting the wrong kinds of clips, to stop wasting my time doing anything and everything only vaguely adjacent to what I really wanted to be doing. More on that in another installment…