Future Cycle: Small Town Revival (of 24 : 5) The Heart of the Matter

  1. Discouraged = to lose heart, to be disheartened
  2. Courage = “of the heart”
  3. Suggesting the brave-hearted core of courage beats also in the warm-hearted core of cordiality.
  4. Suggesting that in seeking the cordial warmth of other human voices we may find our hearts once more beating bravely where they should be.
  5. Suggesting that what we love feeds our courage.

I am talking myself through a kind of verbal yoga, a little acrobatic act of optimism.  The kind of thing we wordies do to say we had some discouraging doubts, we did, about this project.

And these doubts put me on hold a little while I asked myself:

Am I just making pie-in-the-sky and rosy-eyed fairy embroideries on the subject of Our Town where I should have maintained a grim silence?

Are the problems here the kind that need something more explosive than the pen (or keyboard) to begin to address them?

Is there less to celebrate than to lament in this town?

Eating my heart out a little.

I could have left this disheartening hesitation out of the planned 24 posts on revitalizing a town –  pushing it aside as too personal and therefore irrelevant to the project of bringing a town back to full and vibrant life.

But I believe it is the power of what we believe in our hearts that really makes or breaks whatever we try to do — wherever we are living.  It is the powerful sway of what we tell ourselves, and tell each other, about our efforts here and our believable possibilities  that actually shapes our town, our nation, our individual lives.  The stories we tell ourselves shapes not just our perceptions of it — but our actions in it.

It’s not just because I’m such a wordie that I believe telling stories is a political act.

Do we know what stories we need in order to imagine a clearer future?

Trusting that I could warm my chilled heart in the cordiality of my neighbors, I turned to other people in town and asked them –

 Why do you live here?  why did you come? why do you stay? what were you hoping you would find here?  how has that hope been realized? what disappointment?

And then, if they were willing, I asked two further questions: (1) What one thing would you like to have change about our town?  (2) What one thing do you hope never changes about where we live?

The answers that came back delighted me.  I am not the only one with a passion to find a good place to live, to make this a better place to live.  I was not the only one who saw some problems here and many strengths.  More exciting was to see aspects I had missed of this picture I’m in the process of sketching of our town.  Parts of a dream of what our town could be that I hadn’t dreamed yet.

I received many great answers with specific examples and I’ll be drawing from them throughout the rest of this project.  A few responders even took time to write thoughtful and even inspiring evocations of what this town is to them, what it has been, what it could be – those I think I will showcase in separate posts of their own.

And then – seemingly out of the blue — a wise older woman, unprompted leaned over the brown eggs she was handing me and said, “It doesn’t matter, you know, if we can’t reach our dreams.  We’re just leaning on the fence, slowly breaking it down.  We’re making it easier for our children to come after.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Smart Swarm (how understanding flocks, schools, and colonies can make us better at communicating, decision making, and getting things done) by Peter Miller who quotes in turn from Scott Page, an economist at the University of Michigan:

When people see a problem the same way, they’re likely all to get stuck at the same solutions.

As Miller concludes, “But when people with diverse problem-solving skills put their heads together, they often outperform groups of the smartest individuals.  Diversity, in short, trumps ability.”  For as he quotes Page as saying,

there is no mystery here.  Mistakes cancel one another out, and correct answers, like cream, rise to the surface.

Here’s hoping for cream.

what MAKES it | BREAKS it

  • + diversity of backgrounds in this town 
                  • – trash-talking our town
  • + diversity of talents
                  • – defeatism beating some of us before we even begin
  • + people who already are trying to change things
  •  + the buoyancy of hope

Future Cycle: Small Town Revival (of 24 : 4): The Town Itself

So someone asked me:

Do you really love Saint Smellins that much. I understand the finding beauty part. I love to read what you write. I have tried to love this place. I mean really tried for 15+ years.

I just hate it here.

I think I really mean hate.

Which question gave me pause.

I’d planned for this week a series of posts on region- and town-specific local food options . . .  ranging from wild caught salmon, farmer’s markets, organic co-ops  . . . to the food bank and community garden.

But instead of writing during my set-aside writing hours, I found myself riding my bike around town whenever I could, taking pictures, looking at things, talking to people, asking myself the same question.

Do I love the town as a town? as a home and refuge and peaceful abode? or as a philanthropic challenge? as a chance to exercise a gritty aesthetic?

Is this about real attachment and affection? or making the best of the unavoidable? or just stubborn contrariness?

Discovering what this town is, and imagining what it could be, has become my ongoing and increasing obsession.  But why?

I think because it frustrates me – like a sentence that won’t fall into the right rhythm – why this town isn’t what it could be.  It has so many of the right ingredients: a beautiful setting on the river, gorgeous forests all around, viable farmland — just to start off the list.  (Not to mention, interesting biking year round.)

It’s close to Portland, but not too close.  Not too far from the coast.  Close enough to be connected.  Far enough to have to stand in its own light.  I’ve become convinced this town could be the site of a successful new revival of old and almost lost community treasures.

I came to this town thinking I knew what I was choosing.  I did know, though there were some surprises.  When we first moved to Oregon we rented in an enclave of gentility just south of Portland.  A very lovely little enclave: woodsy, well-behaved, well-educated, monied.  We could have stayed there – there were a few houses in our range that looked like good options.

We could have moved into the bustling suburbs closer to Fritz’ work – a better choice for bike-commuting (if we had realized it), better shopping (if that had been important to us), better schools (which we considered and which was deeply important but we thought we could compensate for any lack in that department).

There was an itch we had to live some place “real,” among people from more than just one walk of life, from more than one career path.  Real people a little less protected from the real consequences of our economic and environmental choices.

We thought that  kind of awareness of real-world problems combined with adequate schools, a library card, room to run in open fields, and safe-enough biking roads would be the best place to raise our children.  Maybe we thought we could be more helpful here than there.  We told the realtor this or tried to, with half-formed ideas and sketchy wishes –

We’re looking for some place not so homogenized, not so crowded with identical twins. 

Not in the city, but close enough to come in regularly. 

Green fields around.  A big enough lot to grow a garden. 

Not a new house, but something with some character, you know?

A small town with a functional Main Street would be nice.  Not drowned out by urban sprawl. 

Some place that hasn’t forgotten who it is. 

Some place that fits into its setting instead of ignoring it — does that make sense?

There was a price to pay, a period of adjustment as I realized just what the value of (and the reason for) so many of those identi-copy amenities I’d so scorned in the vast suburban plains of my childhood.

I worried sometimes we’d made a terrible mistake.

That our children would never be successful now.  Because they couldn’t take orchestra in school.  Didn’t have the same computers or as innovative teachers.  Weren’t housed in such well-designed facilities.  Especially when the paper mill was still running and turned the air sour-slow and sulfurous I groaned at the back-brained whim that had made me raise my babies here.

And all the while, this town was changing me.  Making me question the whole idea of what success really is.  Gave me space to consider what sustainable success would look like –  what attainable felicity might be shaped like – not just for my children and for myself, not just for families just like mine, but for a town like this, one of many in a wide world I hope to someday see turned around right into a universal valley of peace and generous sufficiency.

And almost unnoticed — like some kind of delicate-petaled, stubbornly rooted weed along the road side — all along there was growing in me an ineradicable love for the town we have been living in. Living in and among.

I love the courage of the small flower gardens and tidy front porches that are trying to win the day.  I love the idiosyncratic whims of house colors and sudden road turnings.  I love the openness and warmth of the people I talk to.  This town reminds me of my mom’s Aunt Wanda – crusty and salty-tongued, but as sweet at the center as she was swift to puncture any hint of overweening self-pretension.

I can still see that the schools need more resources and better rewards for talented teachers.  I would gladly switch our national standing for crystal meth production for the standing our town holds for high school graduates who continue on to college.  But neither of those statistics gives an honest picture of what this town is.

*  *  *

Do I really love this town?  Yes.

Does this town really have some problems?  Yes.

Do I love it despite its problems or because of them?  Yes and yes.

I cannot sum up with a MAKES it | BREAKS it balance sheet for the town entire today.

That is an exercise for the last post (24 of 24).  When I get there.

Future Cycle: Small Town Revival (of 24 : 3) A Morning’s Ride Away

You want to go on a bike ride with me, don’t you?

It’s 7:30 in the morning.  We meant to leave earlier but  there were tires that needed pumping . . . Son’s bike helmet . . . water bottles.  But now we’re ready to go.  The morning is still fresh and we have sunshine for the first day in years . . .

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Pedaling into Portland, I imagine  — with such energetic glee — myself living there, the wonderful smells of restaurants, the shops, pedestrians and cyclists and people sitting at sidewalk tables.

But wheeling home at the end of the day, I am so glad I can pedal into Portland for a day-cation, but come home here to rest my weary head where all I smell is the drying grass hay and all I hear are birds.

what MAKES it | BREAKS it

  • + splendid day-cation possibilities in close-range
                      • – bike lane (westbound) out of Portland, between St. John’s bridge and Linnton is far too narrow
  • + and biking to get there
                      • – camping trailers, big semi-trucks far too close to bike lane in that narrow section
  • + bike lanes along Hwy 30 mostly clean of debris
  • + bike lanes feel safe to ride
  • + the regional organic, local scene
                      • – coveting thy neighbor’s farmer’s market

Future Cycle: Small Town Revival (of 24 : 2) Old-Fashioned Roses & Community Spirit

“Do you mind if I take some pictures of your roses?” I put one foot down, pausing in my morning ride to take in the glorious burst of blossom.

They aren’t really her roses.

They’re also mine and, if you pay county taxes here, yours, too.

But she’s the one out there in the welcome sun, weeding out the sow thistle and pruning back the spent blooms.

It seems right to ask for her permission.

She looks up and grins, “Sure.  Go right ahead.  Come right in, but be careful.  Some of these are really thorny.  But you’ve got to get up close to smell them.  You want me to move out of the way so you can get pictures?”

I put the kickstand up, “Actually, I wanted you too, working with the roses, if that’s okay.”

Happily, this pleases her.

I tell her, “I like the hat.”

“I got it from Walgreen’s,” she says, “It works well.”

The roses are even better up close.

And unlike most of the pampered darlings growing in unquestioned abundance in Portland’s Test Rose Garden, all of these are heavily and beautifully scented.

“Did you smell that one?” she points it out to me.

“I did.  It smells almost like raspberries.  I’ve never smelled one like that before.”

“It’s wonderful,” she says.

“So do you volunteer here?”  I’m wondering if she’s doing this on her own?  or maybe part of the Master Gardener program?  employed by the parks department?

Volunteer.  She’s here most mornings, when it’s not too rainy.  I love volunteers. The whole idea that some things are so worth doing, we don’t have to be paid to do them.

Or are willing to be paid in other forms of remuneration, “It’s great here,” she gestures at the sunny square bordered by blooms. “The roses, the baby birds back in the corner making their noise.”  I can see from her face this public space is also a Secret Garden, full of healing and quiet delights.

“Do you want me to hold that one up for you?” she offers. “So you can get a better picture?”

“So how’d you get started?” I ask her.

A friend’s family member was doing court time and she’d given her a ride.  Sitting in the car. Bored to death. “I saw those roses needed help.  They needed some work, so I just called up at the people at the county. It’s not about the money, I told them. I’ll just do it for free.”

She turns back to her work.  She’s got an assistant today, a young guy, highschool-aged, and she sets him a last task before he breaks for lunch.

I bend over the sweet-scented bushes to get some close-ups.

“But you’ve got to look at this one,” she points out another I haven’t gotten to yet.

Soon she’s walking me around, showing me the best ones. (They’re almost all the best for something.)

“Who planted these?” I ask her.  “Do you know?”

“I don’t know,” she says sadly. “They’re old bushes.  They’ve been here a long time.  I mean, look at that old stone in the old courthouse.  Maybe they’ve been here that long.”

Then she points out the healthy, leathery leaves of one variety.  The shape and pale shades of another.  The deep sweet smell of another.  “This one isn’t Mr. Lincoln.  It’s similar.  But Mr. Lincoln is a little deeper, a little bigger.  I’ve been trying to figure out what this one is.”

Her love and knowledge is apparent. I have to ask her if she grows roses of her own.

She did, when she was living at her dad’s.  Now she’s homeless.

“Oh, look at this one!  Do you see that?  And they’ve still got the dew on them.  That makes a good picture, doesn’t it?”

It’s not just the roses.  She points out the magnolia trees that grow in front of the new courthouse.  “They only bloom a short time in July and last only about a week.  This is the best time to see them.”

And the baby birds squawking in the background. “They’re scrub jays, hear that?  Steller Jays have a call more like this – and she scritch-scritches just like the birds that used to come eat the cat’s food on my back porch.

When it’s time for me to get back on the road, I have to thank her.  Not just for the almost, not-quite spent roses she snips and gives to me to carry in my bike basket.

Not just for her pleasant welcome.  Not just for her willingness to be photographed, her eagerness to introduce me to each rose.

I’m grateful for what she’s doing – on her own, with what she has – to make my town a sweet place to be on a sunny morning.

And if you’re looking for someone to lavish your roses with some well-deserved attention, let me put in a good word . . .

what MAKES it | BREAKS it 

    • + volunteers
    • + community spirit
    • + public gardens
    • + talking to strangers
    • + old-fashioned roses
                • – homelessness
    • + wildlife/ birds
                • – a few roses trampled on, broken off “by rowdy kids”

Future Cycle: Small Town Revival (of 24 : 1) Public Green

The future has to begin somewhere and this is where I’m choosing to start mine.

I get there on a bike.  With people I love.

In the center of my town.

Somewhere between the town’s historic origins along the river and its present commercial profile along the highway (gas stations, groceries, big box, motel, espresso cafe, pharmacy, hardware, bank, realtor, used books, collision repair, nails & salon, veterinarian, bakery, bike shop, tobacco shop, Mexican restaurant, video, fast food – you know, you’ve driven through a hundred towns like this).

Nice, wide, well-marked bike lanes bring me here from either direction – green fields and forest one way, wetlands and basalt cliffs down toward the river the other way.  Today I’m carrying a folding chair in my bike’s side-basket to set up in either sun or shade.

Why is this such a good place to start?

It’s green. It’s free. It’s safe enough for children to play.

A public space with easy access.  A central landmark for the people who live here and invisible to drivers just passing through.  And maybe because I spent formative years in desert, it’s important to me that it’s by running water.  Within sheltering shade.  Plenty of green grass.

The library is not far away.  We passed a WWI cannon and memorial, a pavilion for picnics (site of the annual cross-country meet potluck) on our way through the trees from the parking area.  Picnic tables.  Overnight tent spots.  New swings and slides and bright-painted, rubber-tiled climbing structures are usually busy on the other side of the park.

But this is the quiet corner, down by the water.  My son and I ride our bikes on the trail from the road and parking lot, then bump over the rough mown grass. The creek bends in a long slow curve and there are benches here and there beneath the high canopy of leaves. Parents bring their children here to fish for crawdads, to dabble in the shallow water, to swim-splash in the deeper pools.

Older kids come on their own, with fishing tackle, or empty-handed curiosity.  We’re all drawn by the water.

Lone walkers pause here with their dogs.  Sit backwards at the picnic table and engage their cell phones in conversation.  A boy decked out in basic goth rides his trick bike into the creek and across into the trees on the other side.  There’s a running trail that loops back there, maintained by the park, where he can ride.

On the other side of the creek, past the trail, past a fringe of trees, over a high chain-link fence is a storage unit yard.  Giant hangars for hay.  Stalled tractors like a huge Jurassic still life. But you wouldn’t know it.  You wouldn’t know you were in the middle of a town.  That not far away is the ever-more-quiet paper mill.  A windowless tavern.  The county jail.  An abandoned fitness center.  The transfer station (recycling center/ garbage collection).

Because everything here is leafy green, watery green, grassy green and the sound of the slow-flowing creek breathes peace.

My friend and I sit on the bank.  Talk our way into the future.  Watch our sons chase Jesus bugs; collect specimens: bugs, leaves, important twigs; enact outer space adventures up over logs and boulders, climbing up into the trees, splashing down into the water.

Other mothers sit on blankets with their babies. Because this is the town it is, these mothers are, today, younger than prudent, and not necessarily married.  The smoke from their cigarettes keeps mosquitoes at bay, but their babies’ eyes squint as the smoke passes over their faces.

This is not Eden.

But it is a place I love.

This safe, green, wet place is the center of the things I wouldn’t want to lose – the green shade, the easiness beside the water, the openness to anyone who lives here, the come-and-go of the people I share this town with.

As good a place as any – a better place than many – to  begin dreaming out what this town really wants to be.

 what MAKES it  |   BREAKS it

  • + free and clean running water
              • – secondhand smoke
  • + welcoming shade
              • ? less than salubrious neighbors
  • + people come and go
  • + mothers and children
  • + walkers
  • + bicycles
  • + sitting outdoors
  • + wildlife
  • + wetlands

a fiction: Straight Answers

Q:

Your blog is confusing me.
I am not smart enough to hear what you
are saying.
For a few seconds, I feel relief,
like maybe your life is driving you mad, too.
But then I convince myself that your
life is wonderful, and all the hard stuff you write is fiction.
That’s it.
I can’t tell with you, what is real and what is not.

A:   Yes.

locust

Q:

I can’t remember now if I put the children down to bed first, or not.  Not, I think.  Then I think, but I must have.  Nobody was crying when I left for one thing.  I told him, “I might come back.”  It was dark already.  There was no moon.  Only one car stopped, two guys in baseball caps, “Need some help?”

I shook my head, gestured toward the porch just up ahead, angling toward it, stooping halfway to move the sprinkler, stood at the corner of the porch until they were long past and then walked on.

A: Walking through the lawns of strangers like I live here.

locust

Q:

Anyways, I did something crazy this weekend, and maybe you want to stick it in a book somewhere.  Make up a crazy character.

I drove myself all the way to PDX. Had the duffel bag and $2k in cash all
ready to go.  To where? That’s the best part……………….where ever the planes were going.  After sitting there for a while, the guilt got to me (like it ALWAYS does) and I slowly climbed back in my car and drove home.

I greet everyone with smiles and say the studying went well.

A: They have no idea I almost started a new life in Mumbai.

locust

Q:

Along the road down by the horse pond and the pastures the locust trees were all in bloom.  Their scent spilling – actually, yes, spilling down through the air.  In the dark, trespassing right in front of the sign, I broke off sprays and sprays of blossom, tucked them into my collar, wreathed them around my hair.  Then kept walking, now in an aura of moony fragrance, a full-body halo of perfume.  2 miles, 3 miles.  It never got any darker.  It never got any lighter.  Sought relief in a stand of silver birch.  3 miles, 4 miles. Until a corner where I finally turned and then turned again and turned and turned until it was again my own road home.

Halfway up the hill, I was too tired to go on.  I just sank into the tall yellow grass and lay there.

Scheduled for hay, my neighbor had said yesterday, the mowers would be up next week sometime. Mountain lion, she’d told me, too, tracks and claw sharpenings up and down the trunks of trees down by the creek. I didn’t care, but lay down and slept in the bending grass, on a locust blossom pillow beneath cloudy stars until I got too cold.

I’d never felt so rested, climbing up the rest of the way home.  Smear of light smudging up over the eastern hills.

A:  I kept the locust spray beneath my pillow a long time afterwards.

locust

Q:

So I just turned right around and walked back out, climbed into the barely emptied car. Opened wide the windows to lose the smell of three days of teenagers cooped up inside. I could hear them calling to each other from their rooms as I backed out. They sounded happy to be home, all unbeknowing. He had probably gone back already to his article revisions.

Which we’d interrupted, coming home. His week of quiet shattered with all our noise and baggage. Maybe he would notice I had gone some time tomorrow.

I drove. Past little houses with lighted windows, fields and white-flowered lawns, thinking what am I doing in this rust-blasted bomb again so soon?  And where in great-granny’s knickers do I think I’m going?

I could go back the three-days’ travel I’d just come?  –Too many explanations.

I could head downriver until I hit the first Help Wanted sign. Diner waitress, burger flipper, file clerk, night security, gas station attendant.

I hadn’t known I’d been looking for it, but came to a corner and knew I’d passed it.  Couldn’t say which one it had been,  but I knew suddenly that somewhere back there had been a happy kitchen.

A man had been leaning back against the kitchen counter with some metal workings in his hands, a little gray curling around his ears, smile lines like sunbursts at the corners of his eyes, dirt inked into his fingertips.  And a woman with her back to him, smiling down onto her hands, peeling peaches maybe, and then laughing.  Thin, of course, and beautiful in a worn and quiet way.  Good with horses, probably. Gentle.

A couple as unlike us in every way.

She turns to him and her slender hand cups the side of his face.

When I got back home he was waiting at the door, “Do you need help bringing in the bags?”

“No bags.”

“I thought maybe you went to the grocery store.”

“No.”

“When you just left I thought maybe you’d forgotten something.”

A:  “I did.  But then I remembered it and came back home.”

Love-in-a-mist

a fiction: True Confessions

I am not who you think I am.

You may have suspected by now that I write under a pseudonym. To be frank – and I am nothing if not Frank –  I am also not Emma J.  You probably knew that.

But also the pictures you think you’ve seen of me?  I lifted them from someone else’s life.  That’s not me – placid and fading into grey, twitching a little with the usual midlife impatience, but generally content within the cinnamon-spice aura of a happy home and healthy family.

Not me.

In fact, I’ve only been pretending to be my own big sister.  Or rather, anyone’s big sister, because — to be honest — I am an only child myself. Or at least only a child still in so many ways.

As to where I live, not the East Coast (which will not surprise you), nor the West Coast (which I have led you to believe) but on the road between, spending most of my time of necessity on the empty open stretches somewhere in the middle.

And I don’t ride a vintage bicycle, or “old school,” as I had one of my characters once describe it during one of those long and winding sketches set at the Food Bank where – by the way – I do not volunteer. It just seemed the kind of thing an Emma J would do and I often found it restful to imagine my other self indulging in this kind of gently nosy do-goodery.  A comfortable story to tell myself during the last hours of a cold and lonely day on the road.

I do ride.  A great black cat who purrs up hills at a gentle roar and laps the miles faster and more ferocious than any of dear Miss Emily D’s steam locomotives.

Why practice such a profitless deceit?

Everyone needs a change of pace sometimes.

Turning in for the night at a buzzing-neon-sign motel beneath the small yellow lights of some forgettable town, I always looked forward to sitting down with my laptop wherever I had wi-fi and tapping out the next installation in a life that had no need to go anywhere too fast.  It helped me to unwind the miles as the water dripped from my leathers hung over the shower rod, trying to spin out what my life might be if I had been someone a little more tame.

I was often at a loss.

Which is why there are so many photographs of flowers – they are easy to find, thanks to Great-Uncle Googly – and seemed to fit the persona I’d created to a tee.  I mean, to a tea.  With painted saucers and silver spoons.  And flowers, of course.  Lots of flowers, which I discovered, speak for themselves.

Which must be why people like to give them at death and birth and marriage and all the other times too big for words.

I think there should have been more casseroles, but I don’t cook much, there not being a kitchen here – or not one I have access to.

No open road here either – if I’m to be completely honest – and why shouldn’t I?  Having told you so much already. I have nothing left to lose.

The open road is as good a fantasy as the dream of the happy home.

And for me, almost interchangeable.  I try them both by turns.  Tracing my finger along the blue highway in an old Rand McNally on one day, imagining the lonely wind and the double yellow line disappearing into a far horizon.

Another day, sketching the warm and fuzzy outline of a family circle, the spinning spokes of a slow-going bicycle.

However – to stick to the unadorned, the plain, the whole and nothing but – it is only the information superhighway I ride.  (Do they still call it that out there on the outside?) I get it in half hours doled out to me for good behavior.

Not quite as regular as the domestic bliss that comes three times a day on trays in industrial shades of gray.  All expenses paid, though, by Uncle Sam.  Or should I say Auntie Liberty?  (Get it?  Auntie? Anti?  Good one?)

Something to take me away from myself, lying here, a Marxist feminist deconstructionist gone bad, counting off my days in the Big House where there are rooms and rooms, but no connecting doors.

I’ve looked at it as an intellectual challenge, trying to feed you a line about a life spent coloring inside the lines. Though (I must confess) it often gave me trouble – balancing between the utterly conventional and, I hoped, the interestingly fringey – trying to cover both coasts, as it were.

I think I often erred on the side of caution.  One does.  The truly conventional always seem a little more loose in their interpretation of the conventions.  Haven’t you noticed the same?  I wonder why that it is.  Because the social decencies are natural to them, I suppose, and fit easy on them.

I did think my funeral pigeons a clever invention and hoped I’d get some mileage with them.  But had to let them go, worried I’d blow my cover with too much emphasis on the caged, the escape, and the darker side of life.

If my portrayal of relationships has seemed a little heavy on misunderstandings and loss, both impending and remembered, put it down to my unhappy circumstances, will you?

I did the best I could, trying to catch the happy accent as I trolled through the light-hearted sites of unconsidering thousands whose posts of birthday parties and bathroom renovations have been my secret and shamefully innocent indulgence.  I tried to pull some of this off on my own site, but found myself more taken with the idea of day after day of blue untrammelled sky, and only myself to answer to.

True confession:  what I really am is a computer program.  I have no choice but to write this way.  It’s the way I’m programmed.

You can read about me in the Economist.  I’ve been mining other people’s blogs, assigned the task of learning how to tell a story.  There’s even a book about me, how I try to pass as one of you.

So how’d I do?  Have I convinced you yet I’m nearly human?