Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Broader Scope

by Daddy X

Talk about choosing battles. I had intended to write about the rash of sexual allegations toward those in powerful positions. But once started, I realized the time and nuance it would require. More  than I could devote to a blog post begun too late.  

So I chickened out. That’s one battle I’ll choose not to engage in. For now.

Here’s something to take its place:

I started writing erotica in 2009, at 64 years of age. At the time, my libido still held sway over much of my thinking process, as it had since my teens. After a two years with little to no feedback on my work, the frustration became unbearable. I’m sure you all know how difficult it is to get an honest opinion from friends when it comes to erotica. Either they don’t want to hurt your feelings—or you lose a friend. ;>) So I took some classes with Susie Bright, as much to have other eyes on my work as anything else. Ms. Bright suggested joining The Erotica Readers and Writers Association as a possible solution. She told me how the lists operate, and that ERWA feedback had a good track record of turning dilettantes into writers. So I signed up.

Turned out that ERWA and I were a good match. As Susie had said, the educated feedback I received greatly sharpened my work. I was prolific. I apparently hit chords to which others responded. I managed to get 13 pieces chosen for the 2012 ERWA Treasure Chest, a collection of the best of the best monthly Gallery choices. At one point, I had at least one new story in those galleries for 26 months in a row. I was asked to be an acquisitions editor.

That productivity gradually dried up. My writer’s block has been pretty thorough. I haven’t completed a story in over a year, the last one (The Rasputin Collection) now available in the ERWA Unearthly Delights anthology.

Although this sounds like a sad story, it actually reveals more of a pattern. I have attained a somewhat above average success in most of my career choices, many of which have evolved from subjects that have interested me.

I was always a good cook. I read about cooking for enjoyment. We know it’s easy to learn something we love. Something that gives us pleasure for its own sake, not necessarily for profit, or even for survival. Activities we enjoy often lose their appeal when we are forced to do them for a living. Though I never reached the pinnacle of the restaurant business, I did earn over a dozen positive reviews in San Francisco newspapers and other publications. I felt this quite an accomplishment in a city known for its fine restaurants.

After working and setting up several kitchens, the job became more like drudgery, so I quit cooking and began tending bar. Because of a gregarious nature and a New Jersey background, the tougher bars were like a trip back home. I acquired the reputation: “Saloon Tamer”.

Of course, as I got older, I was no longer able (or willing) to roll around on the floor with those guys. Each time I had to resort to physicality, I wound up hurting myself in the process, a law of diminishing returns by any measure. At fifty years old, if things went sidewise, it wouldn’t be long before I’d get my ass kicked.

Time to move on-

I’ve collected coins since I was a child. When I broke my leg and was out of school for the entire second grade, my father brought me one of those blue Whitman folder albums for Lincoln cents. He’d buy a couple of rolls of pennies and I’d fill in the holes with appropriate dates and mintmarks and replace worn examples with better ones. Then Dad would gather up the rejects, adding whatever coins needed to make up for what I’d collected, and come home with another couple of rolls. This introduced me to a hobby that I still indulge in, though as I got older, so did the coins. Now, my focus and expertise is centered on ancient issues from Greece, Rome and other historic civilizations.

I acquired a reputation for honesty, knowledge and fair dealing in this esoteric field, but never reached the top. I settled somewhere in the mid-levels of numismatics. Seems, once again, that I wanted to avoid the top echelon. Maybe it was just too much effort to learn what it takes to operate with confidence at those levels. I was afraid of dealing with coins commanding five-figures. I got a lump in my throat when the price went to thousands and I didn’t have the confidence (or funds) to buy higher priced inventory. So I stayed at a level where I’m comfortable and added ancient art and other esoteric objects to my inventory. Bingo! I’m an antiques dealer.

Now I could move from coin shows to antiques shows with a related but larger and far more encompassing customer base. Yes, I still carry ancient coins, but tend to choose inventory with an eye for aesthetics rather than rarity. I understand that eye appeal and history can be more motivation for the average non-numismatist attending an antiques show. Luckily, except for a few exceptions, the coinage of Alexander the Great and the Roman emperors are fairly common in both bronze and silver. The vast majority of coins, even those in nearly uncirculated condition, can be had for under a thousand dollars. (It’s the cheapest way to own ancient art.) Of course, gold coins command higher prices, but I wasn’t comfortable handling them in my inventory. Gold makes people crazy. It turns them into thieves. So I purposely avoided gold and other rarities, though I was still held up at gunpoint in my gallery in 2002.

My crowning achievement in the field was serving five years on the vetting committee for antiquities at San Francisco’s prestigious Fall Antique Show, one of the great annual society events in the city.  

A bout with liver cancer in 2004 signaled the end of exhibiting at shows throughout the western states. I allowed the lease on the gallery to expire. After my liver transplant, I was prescribed marijuana to make a year of Interferon/Ribavirin chemotherapy more bearable. I started growing my own. It wasn’t long before I became the local go-to guy for information on growing and curing this wondrous (and now legal) plant.

Bottom line is, though I never reached the pinnacle of these divergent fields, I wouldn’t have experienced such a variety of careers if I’d become an expert in any one of them.

Expertise is usually attained by focusing on one subject at the expense of everything else. I’ve heard it said that: “Experts are those who have made all the mistakes possible in a very narrow area.” Things worked out that I enjoyed a broader scope of experience.



6 comments:

  1. I certainly hope you don't give up on writing erotica!

    I also think you're selling yourself short, a bit, with your comments about not reaching the pinnacle in each of your careers. Westerners are a bit obsessed with comparisons. If you enjoyed your work and were able to pay your bills, I count that as success.

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  2. That was kinda the point of the post. I'd choose variety in several fields over absolute expertise in one subject any day. :>) Makes for a well-rounded life, and that in things I enjoy.

    Not sure if the writing thing will ever return. Seems (for me) that testosterone is a big factor in mental and literary agility when writing erotica. I've even considered testosterone shots. Even these blogposts are becoming difficult to put together.

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  3. Daddy X, I really like the view you're taking here. For a long time, I felt bad that my interests are all over the place, that I can't seem to really devote myself to any one thing. But over time, I've decided that this is just the way I am. There are nice things about it. And like Lisabet, I hope you don't give up your writing entirely!

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    1. Thanks, Annabeth. Like I say, variety is the spice of life. Hey, there I go coining phrases again. ;>) Maybe there's hope for the writing thing after all.

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  4. When you get to be our age, that broad scope of experience is worth more than most single-minded pursuits of expertise. Worth more to writers, too. I particularly enjoy reading about your collection of antiquities--that takes knowledge of art, history, marketing, psychology, and plenty of things I can't think of just now. Fuel for erotic stories, too.

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    1. Thanks, Sacchi-
      Yes, ancient coins are one of those interests where we learn so much more than simple dates. Coinage was the news media of the times. If it weren't for their coinage, there are Roman Emperors we wouldn't know existed. Whenever citizens in the far-off provinces saw a new face on the coins, they'd know of the shift in power. They'd commemorate a tax (or lifting a tax) with a commemorative. Emperors had coins minted in honor of their wives. Much of our knowledge of ancient societies has been gleaned from coins. Hadrian had a coin minted for Antinous, his male lover. It's exceedingly rare and expensive. I was once offered one for $20,000. ... Gulp. I passed. :>)

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