Tuesday, July 29, 2008

so what do you do again?

"You know those people who you know have jobs, but you're not exactly sure what they do?"

That's how a radio essay on NPR's Marketplace opened last week. The essay, by university professor Dan Drezner, recounts a conversation with his brother in which he tries to explain why he's not teaching classes in the summer. Drezner is doing research and writing then, but his brother, a hedge fund manager, doesn't seem to believe him.

My jobs - one part real estate professional, one part freelance writer - are also not exactly easy to explain at a cocktail party. Maybe it would be easier if my job were more boring ("I'm an accountant"), brilliant yet technical ("brain surgeon"), or if I were forbidden to discuss it ("child psychologist", something like that).

A part of the challenge of explaining my job to other people, at least with the writing part, is justifying to people that I'm not simply hanging out at the park or the bar all day. I actually do work. And every so often, something that I write gets published. Really.

The writing job sounds like fun to most people. "So you just hang out and talk to people all day?" Writing can be fun, but it can also be really difficult. Just ask my wife, Katherine; she has to put up with my moodiness when I'm stuck or frustrated with a story.

Katherine once heard Anthony Bourdain, the host of the travel show "No Reservations," speak at a conference for the organization "Iconoculture". Bourdain, who travels all over the world searching for authentic culture in places that most people wouldn't think to go to (like Cleveland, for instance), gave the keynote address.

He opened with these simple lines: "My job doesn't suck ... "

I suppose, when asked what I do for a living, that's one answer that I hope I could give.

Here's the link to the Marketplace story:


Saturday, July 26, 2008

turning to t-shirts

The NY times recently ran a story called "Turning to T-Shirts to Spiff Up Downtrodden Cities". The article chronicled the efforts of t-shirt makers in cities such as Youngstown and St. Louis to create and sell apparel that "rehabilitates [the city's] image from the inside out and makes people want to stay".

Among the companies cited is Rusty Waters Apparel, based in Youngstown. The article also quotes Abby Wilson of the Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE), a group focused on bringing together Great Lakes cities to focus on common solutions to urban problems. "It's reframing the identity of those places that have been misrepresented," Wilson is quoted as saying.

T-shirts have long held a certain power in American culture. Advertisers use them to sell their product; people wear them to express themselves. For those of us living in the city, our t-shirts are something of a brand for ourselves - the images represent our city-loving hipster culture.

Right now, I'm wearing a t-shirt that reads, "Cleveland - West Side." It has this kitsch image of a skull sprouting wings - kind of a skull and crossbones thing. It's kind of a pseudo-Harley t-shirt for the intellectual urban planning nerd. I love it. I bought the t-shirt at Room Service, a boutique in the Gordon Square Arts District within the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.

I'm sure you'll want to run right out and join the t-shirt brigade. Room Service can be found online at http://www.roomservicecleveland.com/ or visit their shop at 6505 Detroit Ave. (at the intersection of Detroit and W. 65th).