Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Father and Son Timeline

My dad will turn seventy-eight this year. I'm to visit my parents this fall. I just realized that my dad is almost eighty. One gets up to that age, and whether a visit across the country will prove to be the last becomes a somber possibility. After all, the average man in the United States only lives to be seventy-six.

Now that I'm firmly ensconsed in middle age, I thought it would be interesting to review the age the two of us were at various times in our lives. When I was younger and my dad went through certain things, I thought him an "old man"; now I'm not too far behind him when certain things occurred. So let's see.

I married much later and took on parenting at the same time, so that rather skews the chronology.

Still, what's interesting is that when our first child graduates high school next year, I will be about the same age my father was when I graduated high school. As I noted, it seemed to me then that my dad was so old; now, it seems he was quite young. And when he lost his job of twenty-five years, he was only a decade older than I am now (and started his with longest-term employer roughly the same age as I started with my current employer)--at the time, he seemed much closer to retirement to me. Alas, that was another decade or so (not sure if he retired at sixty-two or sixty-five) away.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

My Downtown Gentrification

I'm reading a book right now that is concerned about "authenticity" with regard to cities and living areas. The author, to an extent, decries change--how a city neighborhood will be taken from the underprivilidged, gentrified (and made safe for artists), and then eventually built over with chain stores and facilities for the very rich. Part of me, though, is skeptical of the whole idea of "authenticity" in a city; cities change always. And this move between these three levels waxes and wains. I'm thinking about three city blocks that were about two blocks from an apartment I lived in for thirteen years. When I first arrived, we called it the "tri-bar" area, because there were three bars there. It was on the west side of downtown, separated from the busier part of downtown by a bank and a church. On the east side, students roamed; on the west side, mostly townies hung out.

But that in and of itself was a creation of sorts. The area I'm thinking of was once known as the Hot Corner, because at one time it had been a vibrant pocket for African American businesses. These historic businesses still hung on in the form of a black barbershop and a soul food restaurant when I moved here. The rest was either abandoned or moving into that gentrifying state--as artistic folks moved in (downtown's migrating music scene). In earlier times, apparently, this part of downtown had had a coffee shop and a furniture store--both were gone when I moved here (though another coffee shop did move in--and out--during my thirteen years).

Now, those abandoned buildings are gone. The working-class businesses have begun moving out--gone are the bike store, the appliance store, and the car repair shop; one of two thrift stores is gone. Nine bars now exist where there were once three; there is another music club, and there is a movie theater. Where once there were two restaurants (one of them soul food), there are now seven restaurants. (The number of restaurants, bars, and clubs is a bit fluid, insofar as some bars serve food and some have music, so some venues could be classified two or three different ways.) High-cost clothing boutiques have appeared. And two new multistory office buildings have been built. Chains haven't moved into the area yet, but they have moved into other sectors of downtown--the migration, I'm sure, will begin eventually. And even parking, which used to be abundant and free is limited and costly.

But what is to say that this downtown is less authentic or more than the one that existed previously? Sure, I miss the quieter west-side downtown with its three bars and its abandoned storefronts and empty parking lots, the feeling it gave me that I was one of the locals who cared about such places. Now, a larger crowd is moving in. So what? And sure, rents are probably rising and things are becoming more expensive, and eventually, some of those small businesses will close and be replaced by chains or high-cost merchandisers, and this part of downtown will lose some of "its character." But it's lost a character before--when black-owned businesses shuttered and white folk moved in. It's simply part of how neighborhoods change. A person moving to town now might well lament all the businesses that closed or changed hands within this three-block set ten years from now too--its loss of "character."

The map below shows how these three blocks looked when I moved here on the left; the neighborhood as it stands now is on the right. Blue represents new businesses (if a new bar or restaurant opened in the location of an old bar or restaurant, it is blue also).

More interesting to map might be Washington Street between Holliston and Allen, in California, where I grew up. When I was a kid, it was home to a number of thrift stores, local businesses (radio repair, bakery), used bookstores, oddball eateries (nonchain fastfood), and Armenian shops to which I never ventured (delis, groceries, repair shops). I didn't think much of it at the time, but now I think that area would have been rather neat and funky, and I'm sad I didn't venture more often into some of those odd stores. Of course, I was a kid and not terribly adventurous, nor did I have much money to spend or much reason to spend it on many of the things on offer. When I last returned, in 2010, some of those businesses were still there, but many had been replaced--with cafes and other fancier/gentrified fair (and some businesses simply didn't need to be anymore, technology having moved on). I figure I'd have really liked said neighborhood now, were I living there as an adult--and a single. (As a married man with family now, I find myself returned to my childhood proclivity to stay home rather than venture out--I'm poor again and often the family or wife doesn't want to go out when I do, even when we can afford it, or doesn't want to go to the same kinds of places--kids, I find, love chains, much as I did, whatever is familiar or advertised heavily.)

The Washington Street area reminds me of the Normaltown area of the town in which I live now, though the Washington Street commercial district seems much larger. Normaltown would be another interesting one to map, though I don't know that I could map for certain all the businesses that were there when I moved here. There was an Army-Navy thrift store, a small local hardware store, a Pizza Hut delivery outlet, a local Mexican restaurant (the best in town), a Mexican grocery, a gas station, and sundry other little shops that have rotated in and out over the years (Asian grocery, scooter shop, computer repair shop, thrift store, church office); there were also a bar (Foxy's) and a bar and grill (Allen's). The building in which the latter two were housed was knocked down, and the businesses relocated elsewhere before closing forever. In place of that building, after years of fighting with community boards and residents, a new office building is finally going in. Meanwhile, that little sleepy part of town with largely local businesses is becoming what the west side of downtown used to be: there are now three bars in the area (two of which feature music, one of which features food), and many townies now venture there instead of downtown, and the place continues to hop into the early morning hours. A coffee shop has opened; a fancy bakery has moved in. The Mexican restaurant and grocery are still there, and some of the small rotating businesses too (computer repair). But Pizza Hut is gone, and I fear the hardware store and/or Army-Navy store's days are numbered.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Life in Weeks

So I came across an interesting Web site that breaks down people's lives in weeks. Looking at the charts on there was sort of humbling, seeing how short our lives our and how long periods of time are really just a set of weeks that we string together.

Having looked at those charts, I figured I'd do my own. First, I plotted out some major points in my life--beginning dates were circled. That kind of points out important times, but to get a real feel for how long certain things have been as relative to my whole life I opted to color the squares.

When I do, some things become really evident. I've been at my current workplace a long time--longer than just about any other string. I have been there longer than I went to grade school through high school (when I add in college, however, I have still spent more of my life in school than at my current employer).

If I look at the color blocks at time in particular states, the blue is formidable, but it still has a long ways to go before catching up to what the California bar would be--pretty much all the boxes before the yellow section. But if I put the yellow, green, and blue together--time out of California--it looks like more time than I've spent in Cali. That's an illusion, caused by how much I've broken California time up. Still, I'm getting close; give it three more years, and I'll have been out of my birth state longer than I was in it.

School life it appears still takes up more of my life than work-only life, but if one considers that I was working during the time I went to college, then the story is quite different.

Anyway, below are the charts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Time from Submission to First Publication Each Year

September is generally the beginning of submission season, given how many journals don't take submissions in the summer. Each year, after a few months of submitting materials to publications, I begin to become anxious. It feels as if I will not get any acceptances this year. I wanted to see how real that observation has been in the past, how long that anxiousness usually stays in place. Below is a chart showing when the first submission (after September 1) was accepted for each year:
The worst I've done since I started submitting in greater amounts, it appears, is December--my first year. Prior to 2008, I submitted only seven things at a time, which meant I usually submitted about twenty times per year (and had no acceptances between 2001 and 2007). In 2008, I increased that number to about forty things out at once, which meant I collected about 140 rejections (and a handful of acceptances) per year. Surprisingly, in that six-year span, acceptances came in September three times.

However, since 2013, publication has been very spotty (some new published works appeared in 2014, but they were accepted quite a bit of time before then; no new work has appeared this year). This is for several reasons. The year 2013-14 was not itself a good year for acceptances--I had an acceptance in November, but the publication went out of business before publishing the work it had accepted, so my first acceptance leading to actual publication after September 2013 wasn't until January of 2014. Further publications through 2013-14 proved slim (just one more acceptance), and publications/acceptances in 2014-15 were nonexistent.

The latter was mostly because I stopped submitting for fifteen months starting in April 2014 (which is usually when my submission period for a given year begins to wind down anyway), after my marriage, deciding to devote a year to just being with my new wife (which is one reason this blog has become irregular and infrequent in its postings). She's gone off to law school now, and I've managed to carve out a tiny bit of time to write and submit again, so I got back to the submission process this September, but with sending out just about twenty things at a time instead of forty to make the workload more manageable. This, however, will probably mean even fewer acceptances.

Alas, what I've written since 2013 has mostly been longer work or kids' stuff, so there aren't a lot of new stories and poems, which have made up the bulk of my acceptances, to share. Plenty of good pieces I've never managed to get published are still going out, at least as I see it, but perhaps there are reasons editors haven't liked these particular works. (Then again, some works have been rejected repeatedly and then found amazing homes, so it does seem something of a whim what gets accepted and what not.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Walkability Scores of Places I've Lived

I'm not sure I completely agree with these scores, but there's some truth to them. Somehow, though, my Mississippi residence felt more walkable by far than my Texas residence did. And while my new Georgia residence does lack for walkability, in many ways it feels more walkable than Texas did. I think it comes down to how at home one feels in a location as well.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Labels by Subject

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, with so much going on in my life now, I've decided to stop updating this blog on a weekly basis, especially as I only have about two readers who check the blog out regularly. Instead, I'll be sharing charts as my curiosity takes shape and demands a new chart. A large reason for the change is that I now have a girlfriend--and marriage is likely. When I look at the subject of charts over the last couple of years, reading and writing were certainly two of the most popular, but most popular of all, in terms of the types of charts I created (and those that people read most often) were those related to dating, which for me is now finally, after forty-three years of life, coming to a close, other than with one lady with whom I've been blessed to connect.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chart Types Used on This Blog

I figured it would be a good time to update this blog to see what sort of chart types I tended to prefer over the history of this blog: