The Big Pretend

We learn, growing up, that there is truth.

It is what helps bond together family               community                  societies                                              and more –

but it was carved from the idea that we had to and effortlessly could, fit into a collective single answer.

Unity: A socialized myth, ever-struggling for incarnation.

Truth is often a lumpy circle. Pushed back and forth in playful games, it hides, grows, or shrinks from you.

Truth grabs compassion and lies to you, by convincing you that all ideas matter. It’s all good.

I am getting older now, and only ask you to please release me from the big pretend.

Most ideas are shit. We simply spend too much time politely ignoring this fact.

It certainly doesn’t mean to stop encouraging ideas – it means: edit.

Truth hides as pearls within the piles of our roughest drafts.

But there is no singular truth that will bond us all –

And yet, you still have plenty of time

To search, and to fail for truth

and to finally find



10 Years of Web Writing

I’ve been lucky enough to stay busy doing corporate web writing for over ten years. I started SEO focused writing in 2002, and have been able to see it change over the years due to what Google wants.

You could argue that Google always want the same thing: quality. I think that is too broad a stroke hiding behind too blindingly white of a hat. Don’t drink the kool-aid – it’s spoiled.

My client base has been pretty diverse during the last decade so I have seen what works in different niches and talked to others every step of the way, too. We all usually agree, ranking is simply not that easy and hasn’t been for years – the best sites don’t just rise to the top. And quality is much too cerebral of a concept for an algorithm anyway…it’s a large part of why they relied so heavily on links.

It made me start considering what Google’s influence has done to the niche industry it pretty much created…the one I have been in, happily, all this time.

I started thinking about it all in terms of milestones, and randomly picked four year chunks to grab a little insight into how things have changed, at least as I have seen it go whizzing by from down here in the cave.


When I started, Google was only four, and hardly well known. Not yet a verb. I had been using it since ’99, when a librarian’s aid at college gushed about it, and I too, was a quick devotee. It was awesome.

One of my early copywriting clients at this time sold restored vintage Vespas, and I made his site rank and maintain a top 2 for “Vespa” with very little effort, fighting with Piaggio’s International site for the top spot and often winning it. That I was doing it mostly on-page against a big company was something I noticed immediately (they had a mostly Flash site – ha!), and I began testing the limits of what I could do with it. I was link-stupid, too, which didn’t help…rather, it made me believe that content was king. Because it was.

That was the way it worked then – websites were all built by hand, no real impact from open source yet, so no blogs.  Dreamweaver3 was the newest toy and still horribly inconsistent and wrote bloated code. FrontPage sites were all over the place. The ability to rank a site was pretty much synonymous with the ability to build one, which took days or even more.

I cry now, remembering how easy it was to rank…you simply had to have it in the page. If you had competition, a lot of times, you could simply have more instances of the keyphrase, and win – density actually did matter, for a minute. Or, you could use meta tags, titles and copy better than them, and win, which was easy because most sites were built by tech guys who guarded their code ferociously but didn’t care about Google, so biffed it.

It was harder in competitive verticals of course and links were already necessary there – but long tail (still an un-coined term) was amazing, and that included local then too.

No one knew much about the re-born corporate internet. The first bubble-burst was still in the air, many smaller businesses were actually reluctant to get on the web. Money was great (vendors were few and far between), and you could write almost anything and make it work.

In 2002 the web and its technologies were weak but the people in it were generally passionate, so the quality was strong. I was having a blast, personally. I was an official white-hatted Google-phile then, too: a card-carrying sign waver, dyed in the wool and frothing with praise at the mere mention of them.

I was just starting to call myself an SEO copywriter, and no one much knew what it was.


Aging faster than a dog, the web and the writing in it was exploding exponentially. By 2006, two important things were changing everything: ads, and the blogs now holding them.

Open source code made blogging platforms a free way for anyone to get online, and ads made even hollow copy suddenly valuable. A match made in Google’s heaven.

The effect this had on the trade was that the bottom fell out of the market – you could almost hear it whistling past you on the way to the basement. When still virtually anything would work on a page and pages were suddenly free to build, suddenly everyone became an SEO copywriter, too.  Lots of them would ferociously undercut norms to get the projects-or simply didn’t know any better and undercharged, because they did it all wrong. Per page and project prices fell thru the floor almost overnight, as did the ability to trust someone brandishing this professional title. Quality was harsh.

Clients started becoming suspicious, because cheap writers were also super aggressive marketers. Seeing pages going for a fraction of normal market prices made lots of business owners blanch, or question established providers (like me!). Cost structures everywhere started to change….affected by the rise of easy.

A page of content was typically boiled down to be just that: a page. Expertise was a tougher sell, because price was immediately understood, quality and depth were more esoteric concepts that were generally only realized in time. Bulk was working a charm in Google, as were more strategic domains (needing filler content), so a lot of people were getting on the web and hiring writers to get them going.

SEO copywriting gigs were most often based on pages churned and words counted, with keyphrases expected in specific densities. Mechanically measured bulk work. That keyword density had already become negated as a true impact was lost on the general public, and many people were using density as a sole measure to determine a page’s value. Ugh.

It was the time of the SEO rockstar, where people were talking about making money everywhere. And they were, even though some claims were no doubt inflated.

Work was everywhere, but suddenly so were self-proclaimed SEO copywriters. Market and quality standards were all over the map. There were still great paying gigs and challenging stuff – but it definitely got harder to find. Word of mouth gigs became cherished because everything public was becoming a zoo, and the monkeys were real turd-flingers.

The web was getting filled by a content is king strategy gone awry. Instead of seeing it as I did, that it meant quality and depth of content trumps all, people applied it with a more-is-better brute force mentality. And Google never stopped them – instead, making it super easy for next to nothing to suddenly start paying ad revenues.

This would continue for years, and the mechanical aspects of deriving web content were proliferating. In this time, it was mostly spun content and mash-n-scraped stuff of a very primitive level, because many people could see that simple noun+verb was all it took to start earning money.

It is fair to say as well, that there were ALWAYS people willing to approach things in a reasonable, clever and calculated way that knew they were never going to find that in a $5 page. But I can also say $5 pages can be stacked into $50/hr jobs, as I saw it done quite often.

The relative ease that was still in the ranking mix made SEO copywriting a pretty coveted thing, and the corporate world started to pay attention to what SEO meant a little more. In-house positions were created, and healthy salaries attached to a lot of them. While there may have been more people claiming to be in the trade and trying for gigs, if you could prove it and handle a meeting or two to explain a spread sheet, you were definitely in demand.

The content in general though, was starting to get thin really fast, because it had better margins for the owner/publishers. It wasn’t limited to any niche or sector – this slow erosion in what went into the page was handed off silently from passionate site owner to opportunistic web builder, and was seen most anywhere, spreading quickly.

People were climbing over each other to get better ranking in Google. Web barons and service shops were proliferating at a rapid clip, and with them is always an opportunity for a writer to get some more work going…I never saw a dip in demand by any means.

2006 echoes to me, of blogs and ads, and the more-is-better concept driving almost everything. Really good time for work – finding it was easy, big fat paychecks were still out there in freelanced corporate gigs, and they even started creating jobs for us and respecting us a bit more. Content was definitely king.

Ironic too, because it coincided with the rise of truly lame, empty-effort webpages in much larger numbers than ever before, with non-writers actively making people start to really distrust a job title being flung around like monkey shit. But there was money changing hands as the cesspool grew, because ads from Google made it all possible. More than that: the money made it pretty attractive.


By 2010, SEO copywriting was a pretty well known idea, even in more common areas. The rise of the job title in corporate circles lent enough credibility to make it a good career. The pay scale ranged based on experience, and a lot of freelance corporate gigs were sucked up by low level in-house SEO copywriters.

I think this was a good thing for most folks because they could get an in-house position where none or fewer had existed before. It made it easier to concentrate on the job itself if you didn’t have to worry about finding the next client, so writing across the web got better in spots as a result, for sure.

Problem was that it had been multiplying in so many places in so many ways, that the bad stuff far outweighed the meaningful stuff just about everywhere. Good sites were certainly out there and getting better all the time but they were typically drowned out by a glut of pushy, thin – but effective – pages spit out by someone trying to cash-in on the professional-in-his-pajamas bonanza.

Google was getting some grief for the rise of all this thin content (the same kindling that fueled their ad sales), so started ratcheting down. Long tail started getting more difficult as every algorithm update seemed to demand more than a thin page to do the job.

The cash flowing into Google was changing it at hyperspeed too – thru acquisitions and internal growth, they were now everywhere with tendrils in lots of pies. In 2002, they were still emerging in to the public consciousness, in 2006, were making an amazing amount of money, and by 2010 they were arguably unlike any company before it in terms of reach, impact, and influence.

Plus, they continually changed their SERPs, so the idea of having a webpage that effectively answered a query was no promise it was going to show above a video, a local result, paid stuff or something else Google put in there in place of the old-fashioned organic results. Complexity was getting even more complex every month.

In terms of the craft, there was of course still a lot of work to do. The onslaughts of cheap writers were still going pretty strong, yet demand for better-than-that was also in play, allowing the median price levels to stabilize.

This was really the last year of a lot of cheap efforts working, so there was about to be a pretty big shake-up…Panda was coming soon. But again, this time period was much like all the others, in that there were good jobs and cheap work out there to do, and you could find both pretty easily. Article marketing, emails, blog posts, ebooks – there was a lot of new types of copywriting coming into the norm, opening up many fun directions.

I did a phenomenal amount of work during this time. I was hooking up folks to gigs, and writers to ongoing client work – it was literally more than I could keep up with many times. It was wonderful though, as it was really kind of cresting – all of these different strategies, working in some degree. It meant lots of stuff to do every day.

I moved my office from my basement to the second floor of my house – and huge windows offering a spectacular view (comparatively) made a nice living analogy of what was happening to me, professionally. The amount of work in 2010 had me considering expansion, and more.

But the scale that everything was moving was soon to be thwarted by years of more intense Google changes – leaving the fate of the SEO copywriter a little less certain than in years gone by…that is, if you haven’t been paying attention.

Wrapping It Up

The one constant I have seen over the decade plus I have been doing this for people, is that there is, and will likely forever be a need for someone who can write well, that also understands a thing or two about optimizing the work for search engines, especially Google. It makes a potent combination in any niche, serving every vertical. It’ll never diminish in value as long as there is some sway.

There is still a glut of folks that call themselves SEO copywriters simply because they have churned out a ton of pages for someone somewhere. And by definition they are – but they are not representative of what I consider an experienced SEO copywriter. They are aspiring copywriters who worked on an SEO project, but there is a big difference between that, and knowing why words should go where they do, or what to do with analytics or how things have changed in the last 18 months. The tactics need to be understood in a larger sense for the smallest pieces to fit.

Success in Google drives a majority of what clients need from an SEO copywriter…it always has, in the decade that I did this so far.  Quality is certainly one part of a solid, effective page – but the best written page is no guarantee. Google has also allowed different strategies to work at different times as they grow and change, so client wishes tend to follow suit.

What being an SEO Copywriter has come to mean today, loosely, is someone who can write about a variety of topics with an understanding of the strategies that go beyond burping assigned keyphrases every 73 words.  At a minimum, an SEO copywriter, to me, is someone who understands the use and necessity of analytics and power of synonyms, related words, and how to use writing to make an idea more inclusive and engaging.

The work is still here, just like it was when I was starting out in 2002. It may be more competitive, but great clients and challenging work still abounds. Google has never been crappier, and as a counter-balance my clients and my work have never been better.

Despite how it may sound, I was happy to see bulk efforts get the Google hammer because it was a waste of everyone’s time. I did not do a lot of it (But some favors were called on), but I did arrange it for folks…and it simply stopped being requested when the penalties ramped up in early 2011.

But funny thing is that as the penalties got stiffer, the work got better: people were more willing to listen to ideas that were not a pinpoint map of keyphrases and opportunities. The rates never suffered, because cheap work (scaled and stacked) was replaced again by less, but more intelligent work at better rates.

I have disagreements with friends of mine who are much smarter than me about content truly being king. They argue, without links and engagement, content can’t rank any longer – but I remind them, the content caused the engagement and links, not the other way around. We are both right, so it never gets far.

A great piece of content is not enough to rank on its own merits, I concur – too many examples of really bad stuff ranking, and awesome stuff not to make it that simple. But great content engages…the problem is trying to figure out ‘great’ in the eyes of your visitor’s needs, not Google’s. Creating a power that Google can’t ignore is the best long term strategy – and it has always been the same.

But try explaining this to a starving small business owner who sees their last chance as a handful of articles or a hopeful press release to bump up a page for a specific keyphrase. They read about these tactics on Google and need help…they always need help. They don’t want a long term strategy: they need an immediate way into the game, or long term is simply off the table.

It is easy to preach to not write for the search engines. It is simply illogical, if you want the work to do well in the search engines. The algorithm has always had a preference for certain types of writing, so thinking you can always ignore them and still show up where you wish is naïve.

Google, in my decade of doing this, has usually represented more than 70% of all organic incoming traffic to any site. This means, doing well in Google means doing well with the page – maybe even doing well in business. Thinking that an SEO copywriter does not need to understand and write to appease Google is also very naïve.

People using SEO copywriting don’t have to be launching seedy campaigns, where $3 pages are flying off the presses faster than people can dictate them. It is (or can be) about nuance, and strategy, and understanding more of the many parts that affect a ranking than simply noun+verb+earning intention, or a good idea scaled to the moon with the cheapest labor on the planet.

It is no longer easy or even possible to simply write a page, and have it rank. It certainly was, but it ain’t no more. But as always, this deceptively simple-seeming task makes a pretty sensible place for most people to start. Still. Always.

SEO copywriting will be around as long as there is a chance of one page organically ranking better than another one, based on some measure of value from above. Chances are pretty good that until I topple, my old ass will still be in the chair, hands on keys…looking for those answers.


Well this was fun. I’ll be sure to check back in in about nine years or so, and see how we’re coming along. 🙂

Giving Thanks

It is the time of year when people gather together and eat a ton, watch football or Dexter or some singing competition, Thanksgiving pilgrimsand give thanks. I’d like to join in there – been a tremendously interesting year, and I have a ton to be thankful for.

  • My family and friends – as always, I depend on them all a ton. I am a trying guy, so my friends and family have a great deal of patience for me more than not. I appreciate it. Very proud of my son and my Asian son, and my wife. I have a family of goofballs, and I appreciate them. My friends have been great to me this year, tolerating my eccentricities as usual. And my dog Zoey, who was all kinds of awesome. Thanks!
  • My writers and co-workers – this has been a very good year for us. There were some weird times in there for sure, but the work has been steady and the output has been stellar. I could not be where I am without the strength of the people I have working with me, and 2012 was a banner year for that. The core team has really clicked, and is making me prouder all the time. We’ve tackled some big projects, but treated the little ones like they were just as important – and that is how we’ve stayed busy. Thanks for everything you have done and are doing; I sincerely appreciate your drive, skills and dedication. Nice work, team.
  • My clients – The roster has been full for quite a while, with no room at the inn more than not this year. This is due to my clients being amazingly cool and exceptionally good people to work with. I have not had too many issues as the year went along, and all of the clients in the fort these days are becoming more like friends and family. I expect the next year to be a challenging one, as things get even more difficult on a per-page basis to sort out, but I am extremely grateful to have the trust of my clients, and to be able to build something strong for them. Thanks for an awesome year and looking forward to it continuing to grow.
  •  SEOBook’s Forum – this is still, years later, my favorite place to be on the web more than not. The conversations and insight in there have led me to lucrative paths so often it is beyond measure for me. As things got even weirder in the Google-sphere this year, the forum members helped me to come to better conclusions multiple times. Aaron and his team are always writing provocative stuff – and the forum membership continues to inspire and console me a ton. I made even more great connections through there this year, so my membership is like a goose laying golden eggs, some of them hatching into good friends over time. Lots be thankful for there.
  • Bloggers and otherwise yappy online activists – I have to read a lot, so I appreciate the people who are skilled in writing often and do it consistently well. I also appreciate people in the industry who share solid information and are interesting doing it because there is so much crappy info and echo chambering out there. So in honor of the day’s spirit, I’d like to thank various characters that made quality stuff to chew on this year. I am thankful for people who make it look easy, and inspire me to want to get in there more myself.
  • Mentors – I have some really wonderful people who help me figure out the best things to do in a lot of different situations. I can’t name them but don’t have to – they’ll hear from me soon enough. But thank you for helping me when I need it, even if I don’t realize it at the time.
  • My son’s newer friends –I worry about my boy, so I am glad he is not hanging around a bunch of meatheads. As he makes new friends now, away from here, I am glad to see the kind of people he is gravitating toward…it says a lot about who he is becoming.
  • The musicians I am playing with – I have been occasionally playing with some new guys, and only hope I don’t scare them away. It would be interesting to see what a band kind of thing became at this point of my life so I appreciate them letting me play with them…keeps me saucy.

I am sure there is more – but that stuff was all sitting top shelf. I have a lot to be grateful for, and I am. Not taking any of this for granted, and want to remember to say thanks at every step and half-step along the way. Life is good.

Trouting with Stinkbait

I have been having a super swamped kind of month already in early November. I am not complaining in any way – just leading in, feeding you some currency as backstory to my sprawling backstory poised to unfold below.Big Canoe rainbow trout

This swamped feeling is due in part, to taking off time to do some trouting last month. Now of course, in addition to adding a new word to your list of my little known favorites (look beyond Urban Dictionary to the Oxford for my meaning here, you goofballs), true to form on my fishing-picture-related posts, I will naturally spin out a nice analogy of why this trip was like making marketing decisions.

Hitting the Plan

It’s been a good year, so I decided to rent a cabin for a week in the North Georgia mountains to enjoy the autumn color changes, and do some fishing before it gets too cold and shuts me down until the Spring. I thought I would simply work there instead of here, but we’ll laugh at that idea later. My family was busy with normalcy and couldn’t go, so I brought down a friend from Wisconsin, Brad, who is a writer with me (score: we can work on stuff), and a devout fisherman (slam dunk: this is the point) – I figured we could work on some projects occasionally, and fish a lot. Brad and I go back as far as you can with a person, so we stood  less of a chance in making each other kill, quietly in the night, some time around mid-week. A plus, in cabin dwelling. Lack of murder always makes a visit more special.

Brad flew in on a Sunday, and I was an hour late to get him, because I printed off his Central (Milwaukee) times, not mine here in Atlanta…I am a horrible friend in these cases. Best intentions, but ridiculously childish in my mistakes. I tried to remind him once I finally scooped him up, he had nowhere to be for a week so it was no big deal…but it is a long drive home from the airport with very little room for proper tap dancing in my soccer-mom-mobile.

At my house, I loaded the car, while Brad watched the Packer game with my wife and son. He had called the marina, and we knew we had to get there before 6, if we wanted to get licenses that evening. We did, of course. We went shopping for food basics for the week, and picked up whatever stuff I didn’t have at home – however, I did not have time to swing by anywhere to grab fresh line…assuming it would be fine. But a couple quick stops along the way, and we were off to the cabin.

None of this would have anything much to do with marketing analogies – much too boring. Keep your pants on, we’ll get there soon enough. You could say, stocking-up properly and doing a little preliminary research is essential to finding success. Not buying fresh line was concerning, but Brad intentionally doesn’t shop at Wal-Mart, and there was nowhere else close we could go, quickly. I had 5 poles, so figured among them I’d be fine. We knew we’d only need licenses there, and had a ton of lures and such so we were set.

The Cabin

Not sure what you might be envisioning, as a cabin can mean a lot of different things. We were at a place called Big Canoe, which is a little set of subdivisions sitting in a nature preserve in North Georgia. It has two gorgeous mountain lakes on its property and a cluster of mid-size mountains: it is self-contained and gated by a guard house – so seemed like a cool enough place. For two guys who basically wanted to stay out of each others’ way until we got to fishing all day every day, it was perfect.

On the right, is the view from the porch – it was where we ended up spending a lot of time doing nothing but sitting there, looking at that. Brad saw a big buck bounding thru the woods one morning, and we’d sometimes see other deer (the does and fawns) milling about.

That was the cool thing here, a lot of things like deer or turkeys that you run into as you were meandering, or in our case – sitting. I saw a herd of 8 deer in one place, and we came across this flock of about 25 wild turkeys, which was really cool to see for me – I have never seen that many in a small place, in the wild. Well, as wild as those clumps of suburban houses are amidst all this organic stuff.

wild turkeysIt is hard to see them because of the iPhone picture from the car, but if you look in the pic to the left, you can see a bunch of the turkeys messing around there in the tree cover…I think I counted seven or eight of them. You have to click the picture to see it larger, but this was one of about 4 clusters of them we found all along a quiet little stretch of road.

On the right over here, you can see how close we could get to them and not spook them – they did not act like normal wild turkeys.turkey in the road But the deer were the same way in that you could get strangely close to them. Just used to it (people being everywhere, harmless), but still – odd to see that level of domestication for lack of a better word, when every other encounter in the “wild” is something much different.

I quickly tested the Internet signal at the cabin when we got there, and it was next to nothing – so I said we’d simply think about work when we were off the lake and at night. They had good signal at a couple of the restaurants, so we could work there. (haha – I am funny.)

We actually drove right to the marina when we arrived at Big Canoe instead of the cabin – as Brad learned, they are a private lake requiring a special license, and we wanted the license immediately. Brad had called them from Milwaukee and said when we were coming in, but when we got there a few minutes before 6 as we had told them, no one was there, and it was all locked up. No one on the lake, either. So we checked out the lake, which was SUPER deep and incredibly clear water, and we saw some nice bass drift by us along the bank – making me pretty excited about the week to come.

So here is the set-up for the analogy: we wanted to catch trout that they stocked in this lake, and maybe some of those nice drifting bass, too. Think of it like we were trying to use our earned expertise to enter a completely new, yet promising – although very externally controlled – marketplace. There were specific costs and barriers for entry to keep out the normal people (you had to pay to play, which we did) – and there was the promise of very big fish (reward) if we could find them with the right stuff.

Stinkbait Sheeple

So the next morning, Brad and I went to the marina and arranged a boat and licenses for the week. The boathouse guys were very nice, and made us a good deal – one that allowed us to come and go as we pleased, and be able to take out a jonboat whenever we wanted to without anyone’s help.

We asked the guys how to fish the lake, and they said the best thing to catch the trout was to use some drifting stinkbait suspended at the right depth to find them, which was currently about 30 feet down.

Stinkbait is a manufactured bait that you form on a hook (like a little neon dough ball), and it might have glitter in it, and true to its name – it stinks. For guys who like fishing, it can be a very sad way to go after the fish – kind of like simply waiting for a fish to see or smell your unnatural bait, opposed to targeting them and trying to tempt them with something mimicking actual fish behaviors. Not much skill needed to stinkbait. Definitely not something we were too happy about doing, but we wanted to catch the fish so acquiesced.

The way this lake went, they had a bunch of pontoon boats that they rented to folks for a 2-hour minimum drift. Some of them would fish – so they had that stinkbait program driving out in full force – selling lots of it from the boathouse to those pontoon sheeple. Made sense: high price for what it was, easy to stock and maintain, easy for anyone to use without skill. And no doubt, it would have to work sometimes because they kept putting in fish throughout the year, limiting how many could be taken per day.

Brad and I loaded our stuff into a jonboat and hit the lake. It was truly gorgeous there – this was a smallish lake of a few acres, but it was super deep – going down to 70-80 feet in places it seemed, water was clear as could be. We had a stinkbait rod rigged, and while that drifted along we used our own stuff out there a little as well to see what we could drive up…throwing out spinners and other lures that we used in other fishing instances. Being a bass guy (more than trout), I went after them a bit – and managed to pull up a big one who spit the lure, then later caught a couple smaller ones on the banks.

Trout caught on Big Canoe lakeBut the interesting thing was, while we were drifting along on that first day, I threw out a crankbait thinking I might be able to entice a decent bass with it, and without expecting it I brought up and landed a nice, big fat trout.

This trout hit on a lure about 10-15 feet below the surface, not at the 30-foot depth all the stinkbait sheeple and the boathouse guys told us to use. And it was on a rapidly moving crankbait – not a slow-drifting stinkbait.

We saw it as a fluke – that this big trout was not acting the way we expected the farm-raised trout to be acting. But our stinkbait floated along, as did our worms and whatever else we tried – and nothing else seemed to have any effect at all.We thought of the farm-pig-fish down there like the turkeys in the road – not acting at all like normal fish probably do.

I caught three of them that first day using my normal approaches – two bass, and a big trout – but Brad got skunked. Probably because he was manning our local efforts (being stinkbait champion) and driving the boat. Of course, he heard about his lack of fish more than I did about being an hour late to the airport…but that is how we roll in the cabin.

To bring this into the analogy: we adopted the suggested strategies of the new marketplace and did not have a lot of luck. However, by bringing what had worked in other markets into this new, untried market (even though it was an uncommon approach here), predictable results were again achieved – though seen as a fluke. There was also a bit of a blind eye being turned toward the standard efforts – stinkbait may have been selling well at the boathouse, but the trout didn’t seem to be on board with that idea much at all. Think of it like all of the marketers are selling one plan, one direction – but the audience is burned out in seeing it so often, and rarely reacts anymore – they are longing for something new, so there is a disconnect. No action.

Days Crawling By

fall on Big Canoe lakeThat is how it began, and really, how it continued for the next few days. Brad and I would go out in the morning and fish until early afternoon (cast and drift, really), then we’d stop for lunch and getting out of the sun – coming back in the late afternoon to hit it again until it got dark. We brought laptops to lunch, but really, did not do much more than check emails and do a little surface stuff.

The idea of actually doing serious work this week was quickly becoming a joke…we did talk about some projects as we drifted around during the day, but we were certainly not cranking on it like I may have one time believed we would. No complaints: we were in a good place with the schedule to take this time and enjoy it offline a little bit. I rarely take a day off, so I saw it as piling them all from a few past months into one week.fall colors at Big Canoe

But unfortunately, we were far from catching the trout hand-over-fist like we had thought we would. There was a daily limit of four you could take, but by the third day, I had only caught two and Brad had caught one (we were letting them go). We broke it up by fishing the other lake one afternoon, and Brad caught some beautifully big panfish and a couple fiesty bass – but we were getting disgruntled by the ratio of time-in-boat to fish-on-hooks. To say it was slow, is being nice…it was just about dead to us. As dead as something so beautiful can be, of course.

Part of the issue, was our uncertainty in dealing with farm-raised fish. The reason they used stinkbait is because it resembled the feed that the fish had in the hatcheries. We also learned that they auto-fed the fish in the lake – so we envisioned these fat, lazy trout who sat around watching TV, and gobbling up the free feeder-food instead of acting like wild trout do. We still thought the big one I got the first day was a fluke – and we continued to try to hit them using the suggested methods of the boathouse, slow and drift-like.

The trees, the lake, the weather and everything was truly spectacular every single day, so it was kind of hard to complain about not finding the trout so easily…but of course as true fisherman, we found a way.  Brad had to fly back home on Friday, so by Wednesday, it was feeling kind of dire: we were doubting our own abilities, even though we had been using mostly locally suggested tactics. I caught a trout and kept him, thinking we’d get a couple more and make dinner out of them. Yet as we watched all the pontoons drift lazily by, filled with either families or groups of older friends (even saw one wedding party grabbing idyllic pix out there one day), only some of them were fishing, and they were having less luck than us.

But then we saw a guy fishing differently, and it changed everything, really.

Watching Performance, Competitive Analysis

Through our efforts, Brad and I had found that the mouths of these coves around the lake seemed to be good spots, and we were concentrating there. But on Wednesday afternoon, we saw a guy who was on his own in a jonboat, obviously a local who knew his way around the lake. He had two rods trailing out something behind him on each, as he slowly trolled around (not sitting and drifting, as was the norm here). He came by close enough to us, that I asked if he was hitting anything, and he said one (on his next pass, he had two) – and I of course Brad's big trout at Big Canoeasked if he was using stinkbait. He said no – he was using lures quite like I had on the first day, when I caught the best trout of our week. And, he said he was hitting them at about 15-20 feet down, again in line with what we had seen, but completely different than the proposed strategy. The pontoon sheeple loved their stinkbait!

We immediately saw that we had similar lures, and got them rigged. So for the rest of the night and thru our last day, Brad and I were hurling lures, and we had strikes, and more action than in all the days leading up to it. More importantly, it allowed us to fish using our experience and skills – not simply sitting there waiting on stinkbait to become attractive, like the pontoon sheeple.

By the time we ended our last night, Brad caught a real beauty who he released as we saw she was full of eggs, and just as we ended, he caught another, a perfect eating-size one which we took home, to match the one I had taken home the previous day.

I cleaned them, and we stuffed them with lemon and fresh dill, baking them. Our last dinner together was trout, which seemed very fitting.

Friday came, and I took Brad to the airport (on time!) and returned to clean-up the cabin, and enjoy a final afternoon and evening out there, alone.

So in our analogy, think of it like we used the week as a way to collect data. It is unfortunate that we did not have more fishing action, but we did manage to collect a good amount of data by approaching it methodically. We had some better success when we turned toward our experience, rather than the ideas of the pontoon sheeple – they, after all, were not really fishing, as much as enjoying the lake. The measures of success were miscommunicated, or misunderstood by us…but we collected data every day to try to figure it out.

Using the Data

evening on big canoe lakeOn Friday afternoon when I returned alone, I hit the lake and I trolled around in the manner I saw the other guy doing a couple nights earlier. I did not catch much at all and had a lot of problems with two of my three poles – the line was all old and awful, tangling too much. I had not taken the time to get fresh line (d’oh!), so had no way to do anything about it, especially while out on the water.

The lack of fresh line had really kept me from bass fishing too much too, because effective bass fishing needs you to try different lures to find the right one, and my line situation was not making that quick-switching easy, if even possible.

Even while my lures were effectively down there though, I was fumbling around so much out on my own, I was not getting any bites – making it a very frustrating night. Plus, the boat’s motor seemed to die on me (same thing happened to Brad and I a couple times), and I barely made it back to the dock – almost paddled in, and it likely would have been quicker. But I really did not mind, as the evening was simply breathtaking.

There were also a lot of nice sheeple out there that night, and everyone was very pleasant to talk to.

big canoe jonboats

I asked on my way out, and the friendly boathouse guys said I could have the boat again on Saturday – so I figured I would load up in the morning, then spend the day out there by myself and see what I could do.

That night, I brought my laptop to a restaurant and actually worked thru dinner – a couple solid hours worth, which was more concentrated time than I had done it all week, and dinner was good…so success on both counts.

The amazing thing though, and nice wrap to our analogy and this now sprawling tale, was the last day’s efforts – I ended up bringing 10 trout out of the water, and got 7 into the boat. It took me running the batteries down on 3 jonboats to do it, but really, the action was a couple hours straight, of me simply hitting the hell out of them.

Big Canoe troutI had limited the poles I could use, because my line problem was not to be solved. So I took the crankbait that had got me my biggest trout (it had not hit another one for me yet), and started throwing it around the mouths of the coves, in all the places where Brad and I had found them before. I hit a couple, but soon, I located a little hotspot (one he and I had missed), and noticed I was getting strikes a LOT in the same general area. Those strikes soon turned into trout in the boat.flipping trout

I was letting them go, but then saw a family fishing on a nearby bank (having no luck – using stinkbait and worms) who asked me for some fish, if I didn’t mind. I didn’t – and went to the productive spot, and caught 4 of them in about 10 minutes, throwing them on the bank for the family to take home to eat. I caught a total of 10 – but 3 flipped off in the air on the way to the boat.

None of these guys were the large size that both Brad and I had landed during the week -but they were active as could be, and it was incredibly exciting to me to be out there, hitting them. I spent all day, from about 10 am until maybe 7 pm, stopping only to change boats. Not to eat, mind you. The action was concentrated to a few hours in there, but every minute I spent out there was lovely. the king of trouting crankbaits

And I was not changing lures, or trying other options – I was nailing them on only one lure, the one I had brought out for a bass. The bass were hitting on something that looked like a small trout – so my normal attack was not as effective as it could have been there, because I was not thinking of it correctly.

So to bring this round to finish the analogy: we entered a closed market to compete, willing to pay-to-play, and follow established protocols. There was a common methodology(stinkbaiting) being touted by everyone except the trout – and the one local guy we saw actually catching multiples on a single effort, on purpose. We pitched the norm, and trusted the power of our experience to find better fish, and did. And when all of the ideas were brought together, and the data was compiled (the mouths of coves worked, stinkbait didn’t, crankbait did, drifting didn’t, moving or trolling did, timing had loose patterns to it) I was able to go in, and score really really big.

That last day was so relaxing, yet exciting and all the while, totally beautiful: just a perfect way to end a nice week. I wish Brad had been there to hit them big with me, but we had a good time together anyway. I drove out of Big Canoe, and held the camera out the window for the last leg – you can end my little mini-vacation with me as soon as I get around to putting that video clip out here…got a lot of other more pressing things to catch up on first unfortunately.

Small price to pay, and I am willing. 🙂

So in trouting, or in marketing, don’t be afraid to:

  • Pay to play sometimes, it can be rewarding to prod new territories
  • Adopt the local mentality, and use common plans/ideas – drifting stinkbait is ALWAYS going to work, sooner or later…could take a loooong time to get there though
  • Trust in your experience to lead you to try proven things in new places
  • Collect data, and use the results to refine and guide more effective future efforts
  • Be aggressive and persistent enough to turn trusted techniques into new-market success stories

How to NOT run your business

leaning pine treeMy house’s lot has a lot of trees on it. Generally – that is a wonderful thing – they provide a nice natural fence, making it beautiful here in the Spring and Fall (though raking never ends).

But sometimes, there can be problems to deal with when hoarding all this nature. The leaning pine tree here was something I woke up to last Thursday morning – the tree was long dead (it seemed) and had lost the top a number of years ago, and then last week after a bunch of rain, it pulled up out of the ground. It was leaning against another tree which kept it from falling over – but it was really close to my power lines, and was dangerously towering over the road. I live on a little dead-end street with only 6 houses, but even though we don’t have a lot of traffic, it was concerning.

So like anyone would, I called some tree services to see about getting it taken down – I knew I did not have a lot of time. Surprisingly, of the 4 places I called, only 2 called me back. One of the guys was very close (the other pretty far away), so the closer guy said he’d come take a look at it for me.

Now when I looked for places online, the guy who was close to me had a pin in Google+Local – which was why I picked him (proximity). However, I saw immediately that his company name was being hijacked – the local page was not his, it was a site that was using his name and serving up ads. I asked about this on the phone, and he assured me he had a real website – which was actually nowhere in Google, unless I typed it directly.

So he came over, and I was in my office working, my dog Zoey was out on her lead in the driveway. Zoey started barking (and I saw the guy’s truck out my window) so I started walking out to meet him. However, when I got halfway down the driveway, he takes off – we never said a thing to each other face-to-face.

So I went back in and called him again, and he said he didn’t think I was there, and heard Zoey barking at him so he left (??). I assured him I was here, and very anxious to have the tree handled – so he quoted me a decently low price, saying he was a man of his word. I said OK – and offered if he wanted, to maybe barter it out for his web problems – I would be happy to

help him sort out his web issues in exchange for the work, or pay him. He liked the idea of bartering, because like most small businessmen, he was too busy running his business to do his site needs too. Great, I thought: I love to barter. He said he would be back first thing in the morning to handle it, before he went to another job. I promised to have coffee and donuts for him, and set my alarm.

But he didn’t show.

I called, and a woman answered – I heard him in the background. She said they had a flat on their truck, so they couldn’t make it to my house after all. But he said again, he would come either that night (Friday) or Saturday morning to handle it for me. Cool I said – in the meantime, I will see about the local listing. I contacted Google, and reported the bad site…which has since been removed.

And as you can see in this picture, the tree was slowly falling over – making me and my neighbors pretty nervous. This pic was taken Saturday afternoon  – because unlike his “I am a man of my word” statement, he missed 3 appointments in a row.

This pine tree was huge though – much too much for me and my dinky chainsaw to do anything about – I needed help.

Saturday night, I invited a couple musicians over, and we made a great racket together…I was playing drums mostly, and we were having a really good time doing old Pink Floyd tunes, and just bashing about. In the middle of it, my phone rings and I see it is my neighbor – so I answered, and asked if we needed to turn it down (I have pissed off neighbors since I was a kid – drums are loud!). He said no, he had no idea we were playing – but he asked if I knew the tree fell. He asked whether it hit my powerlines which it hadn’t…but he said it was stretched out in the road and pretty dangerously so.

It was about 10 pm, so I grabbed a flashlight, ended band practice early, and went out to see what was what.

The tree had smashed down in the road, and covered about 3/4s of it. Limbs and crap were everywhere – just a monstrous mess. I tried to see if me and the guys could move the thing, but it was a couple tons, and there was no way we were going to move it at all.

I drove my car down, and parked it so no one could get past, and my neighbor (Keith) came down in his truck, closing off the other way. We had our headlights on to see, and the band guys helped me clean what we could off the road. I called another neighbor (Kevin), who is a concrete guy and very handy in these situations – he asked if I lost a tree, because he heard it fall…I guess he wasn’t playing drums at the time. I asked if he had a chain, so we might chain it up, and drag it off the road.

He showed up in a couple minutes with a chain and a bigger chainsaw – and we determined the best bet, was to cut the tree and then try to drag the top part off.

Kevin got right in there and made one cut, and we chained the tree top to Keith’s truck and dragged it to the side as best we could. It was still really huge, and really heavy – so Kevin limbed it, and cut it into 3 big sections that we rolled into the woods. The tree was nowhere near as dead as it looked – the wood was solid, and being a pine, very heavy. It took all 3 of us to roll the pieces off.

But in short order, we had the treetop in 3 huge pieces, and off the road – it had ripped another tree in half when it feel, so Kevin cut that off too. But in less than an hour, the band guys went home, and Keith and Kevin went home too. I went back out with a big push broom, and cleaned off the rest of the crap from the road which took about an hour.

I owe Keith and Kevin (and my mates) big for their help – it made me realize how lucky I am to have such great neighbors.

The next morning, I went out to get some pictures of it. In the last pic, I am standing in the road where the top was laying down so you get a sense of how it blocked everything.



So You might be asking yourself – “What ever happened to the tree guy?” and I am asking myself the same thing. Sill, days later.

No follow-up, no calls…nothing.

And then it made me realize why his web stuff was so awful – it was the way he ran his business. I had already talked to Google about his listings, which I got fixed for him. More than he deserves, but I did what I had said I would.

But I won’t mention by name who the tree guy is, because he is right where he belongs – invisibly struggling with his old, ineffective FrontPage site and his hijacked Google listings. His email links and contact form are broken, and he does not show up for anything like he should. I was amazed at his lack of follow-thru, and the fact he wanted to tell me a couple times that he was a man of his word. I’m calling bullshit on that one.

I got REALLY lucky here, in that no one was hurt, the powerlines didn’t get ripped down, and we got it taken care of so quickly.

But it made me shake my head at the way some people handle business (or not) – unbelievable. I was angry too, that because this “man of his word” made and stiffed me on 3 appointments, I didn’t call anyone else to do it. I should have been more proactive, but I thought I had it under control. And it could have REALLY been a problem if it fell about 10 feet to the right – it would’ve torn the powerlines down, not to mention if it fell on someone (shudder), or someone hit it in the dark, as we don’t have streetlights.

So hopefully, no more tree needs this year…but if they do come up, I know one place that won’t be getting the call. But I can’t say I won’t be calling out more neighborly favors. 🙂

of Art, and Irony, and Family and Fishing

In August, a miraculous thing happened for me. It took a family, a huge fish, some other huge fishes, and then even more family, and then some extra stuff and then contemplation to figure it out a little more – but it gave me a good look at irony as a nice little motif here, but it had a happy ending and I get to share more fish pictures.

And it all started with my family’s art show.

I know what you are thinking immediately: how does your family’s show depicting 3 generations of art and music compare with all those others out there? And to you, I say pish tosh, mostly because effete people get to say things like that, and I should qualify there. Been practicing forever.

{EDITOR’S NOTE: there used to be 3 links to press releases here, but over time, those press releases were not archived, so the links and the mention of them were removed. Carry on. }

And finally, here’s the clan, accurately portraying the way I think of them (I am dork central, spastically holding 2 drinks…my huge brothers are on your left -I am  right next to my dad):

So many months before those poor journalists hurled such positively-spun epithets at my brood, my dad asked me what I was going to do here.

I was a bit perplexed – I wanted to do something appropriate. Art, to me, is often an oddly-shaped prehistoric bird living in my skeleton (but fighting its way out), or maybe more accurately, an inverted funnel that accidentally explodes everywhere…so I have a hard time translating that into terms people can agree with or see the same way. A lot of my art is/was confrontational too, because I think sitting on a fence is not anything even a crow truly wants. It made my stuff primitive at best – hacked, more accurately.

But more to the point, I have not done anything physical with art of a tangible variety in years (decades, probably) so it felt kinda wrong too, to put up shit I did way back in my routinely misspent youth, but don’t do any longer. None of that stuff was very good anyway – not meant for public consumption. My family has practicing artists – I am not of that ilk; I am more of a weekend duffer, and a great appreciator of all things art.  I have found little ways to let art bleed into everyday stuff like cooking or copywriting or web design, so I need to have it concentrated less…which means I am not as driven to it every day, like I used to feel. I don’t draw anymore, and simply don’t have enough time to do any of the many things I like to do most often. But I do play a lot of music, or have most of my life anyway, for better or worse. A bit of a hack there too of course, but more time woodshedding, and more public stuff.

So we worked almost immediately on me doing some music for this thing in some way…I have a lot of toys here, and just enough brass left tucked in the sack to get up and play on them in front of people, as if I can.

Being an art show, I went for piano: I started playing that when I was in high school, and still do a bit. I am a noodler, and play by ear. But there is a caveat here, in that I hardly ever play music at all anymore. Family life was more of my drill. When I do get a gig now, I need to play for a few weeks to re-learn everything my muddled middle age likes to forget, be it on drums or guitar or (shudder) singing…but I hardly ever, EVER get called on to play piano for anything. It has been YEARS, and typically it is only a couple wedding songs or something. Pianos are just too hard to lug around.

Still, this was important to my dad and my family, and piano seemed to be the right thing, so I committed to playing for a few hours, figuring I could fake my way through it all.

…and then, I started practicing like a crazy man. (Thanks again going to my wife and son, who had to listen to it for months, and help me to not spaz out because I KNEW I was going to be terrible. They had to hold my hand quite a bit more than they usually do.)

I played for at LEAST an hour a day (going into 3 or even more in the weeks right before the show) – and started writing out a song list. I was trying to remember anything I thought people might know or that I could play (lucky if it was both), and trying some stuff I never had, but thought I could get away with. I worked on a bunch of songs I wrote myself, back when I used to do that…and then started going thru Beatles songs, and Billy Joel and Elton to find shit I could fake. I saw a movie that used Mad World by Tears for Fears, and added it. I remembered a couple mellow Velvet Underground songs I could play on guitar, so added them. I think I came up with about 68 songs in all…scrawled on one coveted masterlist.

But the point is, it mattered to me a great deal that I could do it, and do it at least marginally well – I was representing, as far as I could tell. My family is VERY musically gifted, so I wanted to be semi-good for all of us, as a way to display it publicly…you know? I wanted to display both taste and style – two things I typically could care less about at a gig. So I practiced, daily, for months. Practice, panic, sweat. Practice, panic, weep. Panic, panic, practice.

But it came together, and I was getting pretty psyched. I had not seen a lot of my family’s work, not like this – especially not all in one place.

When I got down there (rented a car, and drove solo), I went in when they were moving in the art and played on the piano a bit. Mine here at home, is a cabinet grand built in 1908 (rebuilt by me a few years ago)…it is a bit of a chore to hit it properly, but I do love it so. The low range just punches you in the chest – sounds like heaven probably tastes, to me. But the art center had a Steinway grand, that even though it was just a little out of tune in a couple spots, it played like butter, comparatively. I looked like butter, so it was a good match.

I played it for a bit and it felt really good to me though, and so did my head, really – I felt I was adequately prepped, I had my list, the axe was a good one, and I was ready to go…I even determined a few things that this piano would allow me to do that mine kind of make tough…trilly stuff, and happy tinkles. It seemed like everything was a lock – so I decided to go fishing that night.

As I have mentioned out here before, my buddy Darin is an amazing fisherman and guide, and is generous as hell with boat time for me in Florida, taking me out every time he can when I am down there. This was no different: we had arranged our night before I even left Atlanta. Fishing around Sanibel Island is truly spectacular – I can’t recommend it enough. And Darin is an expert, so going with him is even better than simply going out. We have a lot of fun out there.

I got to his house a bit early, but we went straight out on the water with enough gas in the tank to cruise for a while before the bait came up. Truly beautiful stuff…and I was sending my son iPhone videos, asking him what he was doing while I was forced to be out on the boat (he loves the water and fishing as much as his old man).

So after Darin and I checked out the sunset, we caught some bait (ballyhoo!) and went to work.

I dropped the first bait down, and literally within about a minute (not stretching that one either), tied into a big old tarpon.

I love this game fish a TON – and this guy, though not my biggest one ever, was super strong, and a great fighter – he jumped out of the water at least 6 times while I tired him out. I got him to the side of the boat (after about 3 false positives, where he got up there and then took off again), and we decided to haul him in for pictures.

The way you grab a big tarpon if not using a gaff, is with your thumbs under his bottom lip, and your fingers curled into his mouth – you grab and hold. This guy was somewhere between 50 and 80 pounds I would think (about 5 feet long), and I have only held a couple this big before…so while Darin was getting the camera out, this palooka decides to try to wiggle out of my arms, and his full weight came down on my right thumb.

I dropped him onto the deck, and saw stars for a minute – but quickly picked him back up for the pix, because we wanted to get him back into the water ASAP. Darin snapped one, and I tried to move the fish and my hand screamed at me – I knew something was wrong, so held it a different way as you see in this pic. But adrenalin was high, the night was just starting, we got our pix, so we got him back into the water.

He actually floated back up, and we had to motor over to him to help revive him.  I grabbed him in the water, flipped him over and held him in the current until he pulled away from me (again, strong as hell-a feeling hard to describe to you, but immensely powerful to experience). He was fine.

But this was not all the night had for us out there by Sanibel Island – we caught a bunch more fish, including some snook, which are my all-time favorites. But these were not ordinary snook, in the 20-25 inch range: some of these were just monsters.

After a couple decent sized fish, my thumb was obviously not OK. The tarpon had jammed it bad, and it was hurting more every passing minute – but the fish were hot, and I did not want to stop. In this picture, I am trying to hold the snook with my thumb in its mouth but pain made me switch to my never used left hand…I look like I am going to puke, but I am only trying to figure out just how badly I am hurt (this snook was not too big, but I still couldn’t hold him), and panic is rising in me a bit.

…and then, I caught the bad boy.

I knew from the first hit, this was a big fish – and his fight was epic. But about halfway thru it, my thumb quit completely, so I was trying to reel in with a club that was dangling useless digits. I was incensed: I had a huge fish on, and could not get it together to land it properly. The pain was making me spaz out…I got the fish within a few feet of the boat, and begged Darin to take to pole from me, because I could not even hold it right, and started fearing this fish would rip it from my paws. Darin did – and he would not let me let this great fish go…netting him in short order. So technically, I did not actually swing him over the side: Darin did it for me, because my thumb made it impossible to think, much less reel. But biggest snook I ever caught (damn right, I caught him – only a fool would not claim a fish like that!) – he was a beauty. Note, I am holding him lefty, and we could not really get a good pic of him, because my left arm was too weak to hold him dangling full-length, so I’m holding the tail, which put a bend in him (and yes: we let him go like the rest, and he was also fine).

But at this point, my thumb was such a problem, I actually stopped fishing. Sat on the bow, and watched Darin reel in a few.

I use this only to illustrate how dire it was: I was in the thick of big snook biting (which is like an angel’s handjob to me), and opted to watch for a while rather than living it. It’ll never happen again, I am sure – and if I didn’t have to play the next day, I would have ignored the pain completely. Taped it down. Chewed it off. But each fish I caught was making it worse, so I just had to stop and sit down to panic a bit more. Then I tried to fish, but the tides were shifting and things started to slow down anyway.  Needless to say, we ended shortly after that…it was late, we had landed big fish and actually had pix of a few, and I was now looking kind of pathetic and pale, and mumbling things incoherently about pianos, and total idiots, and woe-is-megasms.

Darin offered the whole time to take me home (half-mockingly), reminding me that fish for him, can be a near weekly thing: he was super cool to offset my spaziness. But I didn’t want to leave, even though I was thinking it was probably better to go, and not risk really doing some damage by tempting myself anymore with these horribly beautiful fish.

Driving home was amazingly hard – try that sometime without ever using your thumbs. Try most anything for that matter. 🙂

But the next morning I awoke at my friend’s place to find I could not even bend my right thumb any longer: that fucking tarpon apparently wrecked my gig completely. Months of practice, done. Family depending on me, done. Cue massive irony swell, with Satan giggling as he rides his surfboard on the crest of my crestfalleness.


I went over to my folks’ house, where my mom, Parkinson’s and all, was busy cooking everything on the planet. She catered the whole evening, which was an amazing feat for anyone to do as well as it went, much less solo – but with her physical issues it was monumental, really. She fed hundreds of people cooking everything in her kitchen with her sister and carting it over to the art center… and it lasted all night long – and people absolutely loved her food. So I had offered to come over and help – but as I drove over there, I just kept trying to figure out how to tell them what happened. They also have a beautiful baby grand, which my mom even had tweaked for me to practice on – so I was going to see if I could play anything at all.

I got there, and made a few jokes about it -but was only trying to downplay it. I sat at the piano and tried, and it did not look good at all, feeling even worse – I was about 7 hours from the gig, and just could not play without the lightning and laser show going off in my hand. The location of the issue could not have been worse –  I kept downplaying it as much as I could, but I was totally freaking out in my head.

My uncle was there, and he has a good number of years being a coach, so he came over and worked on it, which helped a ton…and he told me to start icing it no less than every 1-2 hours for about 20 minutes. I made a mitten out of a plastic ice cube sheet and a rubber band, and did what I was told. I helped my mom with a couple things, but was so wrapped up in my private panic and so useless without my right thumb, I was good for nothing that wasn’t focused on ME, and not doing too well with those things either. She didn’t need me at all anyway, but still.

We carted stuff the rest of the day, and I kept my regimen of icing it down and babying it, and my uncle massaged it a couple more times. I was so distraught about everything, I actually ran right into a truck on the way back to my parents’ house to get changed for the gig – I even dented the rental. Luckily no one hurt, so I simply got out of there as fast as I could and went on with it, but was wondering what the hell was going to go wrong next.

Turns out only one thing: I got there and left the song list in the car, and sat down to play before realizing I would not be getting up for a few hours in a row. Ironic bliss showers over me once again.

But by the time I started to play, I was doing it in part, just to see if I could. I was so worried about my thumb, I forgot to be nervous about playing at all, and sailed thru about 2 1/2 or 3 hours before I even took a break. I was winging stuff, and doing what I remembered from the list – but it just kind of fell into place, and felt perfect. Slightly painful, but emotionally fulfilling to say the least. I can’t say what it sounded like, but it seemed to be going over well.

I took a break, and my nieces both played – they each have waaaay more talent than me, and both can sing like angels. We then switched around for the rest of the night, taking turns entertaining the masses. I was outclassed, but proud to be there.

At the end of the night, my thumb was turning purple and swelling up again – but I did not care anymore, I had made it thru.The show ran for a month, and just ended…but I heard it was a very successful opening night for the art center, too.

The end result, was they sold some art, mom fed half the city, everyone represented well, hundreds of people came and saw it (thanks again, all you kind people) – and I learned even a tarpon is not going to keep me from hamming it up whenever I get access to an open stage. I suggest to hide the mics if you see me coming – not all of them are friendly art shows. 🙂