non sequitur

Posted January 20, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

I’ve been thinking for a while that I should broaden the scope of this blog to include bits of my life that are not about my (sputtering) writing efforts.

I have been posting accounts of the races I’ve run, and they seem to be appreciated. (Here’s a link to all of them.)

I’ve also started posting some things about this little guy:

bath time

(He’d just had his bath, and his hair was out of control.)

So in the spirit of diversification, let me share with you a non sequitur I experienced recently.

I was at a table with a man maybe ten years older than I. I’ve known him casually for a dozen years. He’s a nice enuf guy, but his orbit is far different from mine, so we don’t have much in common. This man is something like a business consultant. He travels the globe, telling companies large and small how to run their businesses. His advice is apparently much liked because he lives well and has many nice things. (Cars, homes, clothes)

This man was telling me the latest hiring advice he was giving his clients. He said that when an applicant came in for an interview, the first thing you should ask the person is what time it is. Likely he/she will either look at the watch on his/her wrist or pull his/her phone out of his/her pocket. And this man went on to say that if the applicant referred to a cell phone for the time, don’t hire the person!

Why is this?

Well, it seems there is a body of thought that says people who have watches on their wrists — and so in their faces much of the time — understand the passage of time better than those who must pull time out of pants pockets or purses. You can count on the former to BE ON TIME and the latter to have a lackadaisical attitude toward promptness.

He was absolutely serious about this assertion.

It has its appeal. It gives the interviewer an easy answer to a tough decision. And it has the scent of old-time work ethic-ness. Such easy answers, such sweeping generalizations are why advertising and religion work so well. They tell you what to buy, what to think, whom to hate, and so forth. You don’t have to think for yourself, at least about complex things like human interaction and morality.

Of course it’s bogus.

Before the advent of the cell phone, not everyone was absolutely prompt. I suspect the ratio of promptness to lateness was no different fifty years ago than it is today. (I don’t wear a watch, and I am chronically early.) Furthermore, many people I know with cell phones have them in their faces far more than they have their wrists in their faces. They have more ready access to the time than their counterparts.

And what would the hiring manager conclude if the applicant pulled a pocket watch out of a waistcoat pocket to check the time?

I had a good run today

Posted January 17, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Running, Uncategorized

I had a good run today.

That is all, aside from this:

sleepy time

you’ll probably be seeing a lot of posts like this one now

Posted January 15, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic


Here is little Ken. He’s only three days old in this photo, but today he turned a full week old.

They grow up so fast!


Posted January 12, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, short stories


On the advice of several of you kind folk, I have stepped away from the Fathers and Sons stories for a while and begun my epic struggle with the unrelated story “Icarus” that I’ve mentioned here once or twice.

I’m not abandoning the Fathers and Sons stories. Over the weekend I tinkered with the two latest, shoring up this and that, finding stronger words, making ideas more clear. I think they’re in pretty good shape, and now I will let the collection simmer for a while. This seems to be an effective means of development for me. Thoughts will continue to come to me about them, thoughts that will sharpen and focus them. And I’ll probably drop in a few times just to put down whatever my latest brilliant thought is. If enuf critical mass develops, I may even start work on a totally new F&S story. (There are at least four more I must write.) If that happens, it will be a good thing; if it doesn’t, that won’t be bad either.

As for “Icarus” I feel as though I have made a good start on it. I worked on it for two hours on Saturday and wrote a whopping thirty-four words! I’m not being sarcastic. I think that was good.

I’d been making notes for this story on Google Docs (I think they call it Drive now.) I even wrote perhaps a thousand words of the story there. But it is evidently the wrong context for me. I look at the screen and the layout and all of that, and it isn’t conducive. I need Word (which I’m sure Microsoft is pleased about). I had intended to use Google Docs because I could access the story file from any online computer (read: at work) and be productive as inspiration struck. But I’ve found that I need the silence and solitude of my early morning sessions in my cozy writing room at home. That is the context I’ve created for my creativity. (I hope that doesn’t sound precious and self-indulgent; self knowledge is supposed to be a good thing.)

So I re-began “Icarus” over the weekend, in Word, not consulting the file of notes I have on Google Docs. I think (hope, wish, intend) I need a fresh start to the story. I think I started down the wrong road the first time, and I fear that if I go back even to peek at it, my thoughts will get stuck on that road. There are certainly parts I’ve already written that I’ll use in my new effort, but I’ll do so with a clean perspective.

Regardless, “Icarus” is going to be a tough story to write. (Hence the adjective “epic” above.) I’ll probably have to step away from it a few times as well.

Confounding all of my need to focus is this little matter:


Little Ken is now at home with his Mom and Dad (and dog, Crusher) in their tiny apartment in Brooklyn. I’ve been subsisting on the photos my daughter posts online, marathon texting sessions, and a few wonderful Facetime meetings. My wife and I will be going to New York in early February so we can meet the little guy in person. (I may also run a half marathon while I’m there depending on the weather.) I don’t think Little Ken will be talking or crawling by then, but I’m certain he is about as clever as they come, and I won’t be surprised by anything.



Posted January 9, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

the arrival of Kenneth Gunner Johnson in New York City on January 8, 2015. He weighed 7 pounds and 8 ounces. More news to come . . . I’m sure!

run away

Posted January 7, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations, Reviews and Responses, Running


I did something last night that I haven’t done in a long, long time. I gave up on a book. I just stopped reading it, in the middle of a chapter, even in the middle of a sentence.

I’d been forcing myself to keep at it for a few days, always thinking that it was going to get better or somehow tie in and make sense, but all it seemed to be doing was getting deeper into . . . catechism.

The book is Running & Being by George Sheehan. I’ve been reading a lot of books by runners lately (and for the most part, I’ve learned that they — at least the elites — are not the kind of people I want to know) and I saw this book the last time I was at Powell’s in Portland. The title suggested that it touched on two of the three things that are important (writing being the third?).

Was I surprised. This is an old book in the field, first published in 1978, and I should have guessed from the tagline that it was self-congratulatory: “The book that got the whole world running.”

From what I could see (and I got nearly half way through it) Sheehan simply spouts airy platitudes, quotes disparate philosophers out of context (to show his erudition?), takes conventional wisdom and asserts the opposite (in a way that I suppose he believes is shocking), and then delivers a lesson in Catholic teaching to sum it all up. He struck me as the kind of person who had a lot of opinions that he thought everyone would benefit from, but he never had an audience.

This book was not about running. I think you could literally (and I think I used that word correctly here) substitute “swimming” or “glass blowing” or “bank robbing” every time the word “running” came up and not affect the drift of the ideas.

I could probably scrape together a few more complaints I have about the book, but I don’t think it is worth the bother. It’s gone to my giveaway shelf, and good riddance.

But what to read now?

brilliant thought . . . forgotten

Posted January 6, 2015 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Process

I nearly always write down the brilliant thoughts that come to me (for my stories — my other brilliant thoughts I just bestow on whoever is lucky enuf to be near me at the time). I have a written journal I’ve kept for more than thirty years, and I keep a pad of lined paper on my desk at work to scribble the brilliance down when it pops into my head there. For the most part this works, though I have yet to start re-reading my paper journal to glean all of the brilliance from it (and I suspect most of it will be cringe-worthy).

Sometimes, though, the brilliant thoughts come to me when I can’t write them down. When I’m driving, or running, or showering, or trying to feign attention in a meeting, or when I’d drifting off to sleep. For the most part I remember these long enuf to get myself to a piece of paper and a pencil (a mechanical pencil). Alas, sometimes they elude me. All I can conjure is the memory that I had some brilliant thought, but the harder I try to recall what it was, the farther it drifts away.

One thing I have learned about myself is that I am a context thinker. Many of my thoughts are tied to where I am or what I am doing at the time they occur to me. The context doesn’t generally influence the thought but merely tie to it. Thus I can be sitting at the office thinking to myself that when I get home, I must be sure to do such and such. Then I get home and all I can remember is that there was something I needed to do. The next day, when I get back to the familiar surroundings of the office the thought comes back to me. (I often think to write it down this time.)

So I don’t fret too much when I lose a brilliant thought. It nearly always comes back to me. This was the case recently with the story I’m currently musing that I’m calling “Icarus.” I remember having an insight about the story that I thought would really help with its development (since that’s where I’m struggling the most with it), but I couldn’t remember what that insight was. In fact, I couldn’t even remember what story I had the insight about, which doubled the frustration. But then, last night as I was drifting off to sleep, the idea returned to me. I didn’t immediately leap out of bed and grab a piece of paper and a (mechanical) pencil, but I did repeat the thought several times so my synapses could store it properly. It has to do with framing and flashbacks in the story, and I duly noted it this morning in the file where I’m keeping my notes.

Does this kind of thing every happen to you? How do you cope?


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