I’m Still Here
Take responsibility of your own happiness, never put it in other people’s hands.
Two years ago today, I sat down at my laptop and published my first Substack. Since then, I’ve published 162 posts here. That’s roughly 250,000 words of mine you’ve consumed. Man, you guys are hungry!
My writing skills have improved. I’m not bragging (I hope). I firmly believe in Meritocracy and the discipline of repetitive action to build skill and I base my opinion on the fact that I’m gaining new subscribers (not all family and friend), I’ve been published in professionally edited publications, and lastly, just the other day, The Mom told me she doesn’t understand a damn thing I write, but it’s still good!
High praise indeed. To complement the compliment while bringing her backhand back, she thanked me for the Christmas Winter Pie I baked and brought over for the masses as “full of weird crap I don’t eat!” Thank God I turned out normal, right?
I’ll take that as improvement. I mean I started off naming my project Red Neck, White Skin, Blue Collar. Yeah, no trigger-warnings needed that this was going to be full of macro micro-aggressions. As usual, I defy expectations. Or rather, as is my own way, I defy meeting your expectations of myself.
I wrote four posts in 48 hours two years ago. I’ve written three posts all of December this year. This is my fourth. Life indeed has changed. For all of us. Not one of us has escaped the same as before. Some changes are apparent. Others are hidden. Can we really say we are better or worse than before? Or is all we can say is I’m still here.
These are the four posts that started it all. Receiving mail in prison is as close to a ceremony as is getting a tattoo on your anus in prison. I’ve experienced one of those and witnessed the other. Hint: the tattoo was a blue star and I don’t like football. Go’boys, I guess. One thing we don’t have to guess about is how grateful I am for your support. Later on in this anniversarial missive, I’ll show and tell the financial support you’ve provided to Compass Star. I will make a pitch for action. Action I will ask you to undertake on my behalf. Thank You.
And where is here? would be the logical follow up, right? In my last post, I described the feeling of driving around DTLA at dawn. Or rather, I described the process when the feeling comes over me. Because it’s really an indescribable sense.
Massive structures casting hopeful shadows on desolate souls at sunrise. Light and Dark playing hide and seek with down and out. Apocalyptic nightmares are living dreams. The city loves the lucky and damns the outcasts. And the whole place smells like piss and shit.
Welcome to Hell. Homeless insane still hopelessly insane. Homelessly destitute still destitutely hopeless. Criminally vagrant still vagrantly criminal.
Worker Bees in aprons and uniforms scutter about their business. Slow-walking street-crossing Learner Bees in hoodies and backpacks gather in pods to torture Driver Bees in Iron Straight Jackets hell-bent on freeway fratricide.
Red Lights and Stop Signs. Flashing yellow and blinking green. Trucker Bees on Freeways. Sk8r Bees, Scooter Bees, and Biker Bees. All on a mission. What kinda Bee are you and what is your mission?
Our hearts beat on the street. We live our lives as we live them, yet we intersect in the most impactful moments without knowing. We stumble on, concerned only with our personal awareness, reflecting social neglect. We see but never really look.
My first post took a few attempts to get it published. I don’t remember seeing this dialogue box. Lucky for you that I either never saw it or completely ignored it. The burdens we carry are invisible to others. In other words, what I didn’t know never stopped me.
In more words, things I’ve known have never stopped me either. The known thoughts are more dangerous. Hiding them just make us more surreptitious.
From there to here. Thank You all very much. This is the current state of affairs of Compass Star Wordsmith. Peaks and Plateaus. I stand today on the highest Plateau yet. I could fall off tomorrow. Or I can climb to even greater heights. Or just stay the same. When I break it down into three simple outcomes, when I don’t compare those outcomes to other creators, and finally, when I realize that I started at zero, literally zero followers and zero dollars, I appreciate my efforts.
Did I do all I wanted to do and planned to do and laid awake at night thinking about doing? Nope. Not even close. But I’ve come a hell of a long way from sitting my ass in a 6x9 prison cell in 2008.
2022 Gross Annualized Revenue is $953. In 2021, it was $1003. That’s money for writing words. Grandpa Smitty would call you all crazy. And tell me to dig a ditch.
When I finally figured out how to publish my first post, the response was amazing. I was flabbergasted, gobsmacked, and pieholed. All at once. Nearly 40% of my community has been here since Day One. I’m flabbergasted, gobsmacked, and pieholed. Still.
I pasted this one because it’s just cool to look at. It’s my graph, and somehow I know intrinsically what it all means, because of Osmosis, but it’s just super really important for my call to action that you see this and know that it is here. For you. Looks like I peaked somewhere in the Spring of ‘22. Let’s hope I have a few more peaks in me.
This colorful graph talks about money. Greedy graph-bastard. We like black and blue. We no like orange and red. Bad red. Bad orange. Good blue. Good black.
Do you feel it? It’s coming on. The pitch. The ask. How do you feel about that? Seems like so much of my life is a pitch. An ask. Gimme this and I’ll get you that. It’s so natural. I like a good pitch and will bite on the best. But you gotta go hard.
I attribute this to my dad. A son of a bitch in so many ways, I managed to pull some nuggets of wisdom from the wreckage of his life. One of those was the skill of horse-trading. That’s not a euphemism. He would literally trade horses for things.
Once, a Navajo Sheep Herder needed a corral for a few days for his flock going to auction. My dad needed a livestock trailer. The sheep herder unloaded the flock and left his trailer. Realizing a little too late that the sheep herder sandbagged him on the sheep-count, the horse-trader attempted a renegotiation. He asked for the trailer and a ram and pregnant ewe.
Not an effective strategy, seeing as how half the flock was in the pasture. Navajo Man said nope. Cutting his losses, my dad accepted a kickback - Fred the Goat. Fred was plucked up by the horns on his way down the ramp. Little did Fred, or the rest of us, realize how that random act saved Fred from becoming goat tacos at a Quinceanera.
Far from a ram, Fred was a little white Angora goat. I don’t remember ever seeing a picture of Fred. But he looked a little like this one. I typed in Fred the Goat and this image popped up.
Fred the Goat loved life. He thought he was a dog or a goose or something. He would jump on visitor’s cars and start eating the trim off of it. He jumped from fencepost to fencepost, about 8’ feet apart and 6” in diameter. He head-butted the drunk dad once and laid him out. Fred the Goat was a rock star.
If I could incorporate just a sliver of harmless anthropomorphism into this discussion and manufacture a moralistic lesson from Fred the Goat that we can apply to our New-Now-Normal, it would be this:
Be Fred the Goat
Fred the Goat was on his way to the Carniceria, along with a few hundred of his kin, and was randomly plucked from the crowd to live on a farm with adoring kids as owners. And Fred the Goat made the most of that redeemed life. He ran and chased and played and pretended to be other animals. What a hell of a life.
When I scan the Substack landscape, it’s like the earth and moon and ocean and sky and outer space. It’s everything in terms of opinion and art and graphic and fact and politix and stories and food and music and and and. And I am a part of it.
And you are a part of it. You are the most amazing part of this. I need your eyeballs. We make what we are.
Standing on a chair, the most impactful Banquet Captain I’ve observed in action had a go-to opening for her pre-shift huddles. It is worthy of use in every setting that attention is not only desired but required.
If your eyes can’t see my mouth, your ears can’t hear my words.
She owned the crowd after that. They bought all-in. We need a shift-leader like that right now. She was effective because she had support. I am effective as a writer because I have support. You are my support.
Like me. Share me. Talk about me. And yes, pay me. None of that is mandatory. But if you are a free subscriber, think about clicking the upgrade button. If I made you laugh or think or chuckle or get pissed at something I wrote, click the subscribe button.
When you do click that button, I’ll get an email that brings a smile to my face.
If you are not able to swing a paid account ( I get that), consider making a comment. The connection I get from reading a comment left by a reader is priceless, to quote a cliché.
All of my content will be free for now. I can’t really say beyond that, because I have no idea what is beyond now. Share it with a friend, or 10. Click the little heart and make my day.
I put some heart into this playlist. It may strike some as dark, but each song has a clear and positive message about The Power of Self. On the surface, this project seems like it’s all about me. And it is. Because these are my stories. About my life. It’s the only one I’ve lived, and that makes an expert on just one lifestyle: Mine.
And now that I’ve shared them with all of you, they’ve become yours too. Hopefully, you find some of yourself in my stories. The choices I made and the consequences I enjoyed or suffered fall at my feet. And when you read about those times, may you find in them a piece of yourself, and the choices you’ve made. And how those choices now rest at your feet.
Happy New Year!
Yeah..you have gotten to be a better writer…just since I’ve been reading (6mos)… keep it up!
Happy New Year, Ric! I don’t want James to puke, but I love the LA pics, so keep ‘em coming! Maybe offer Dramamine as part of a paid subscription? :)