What Did He Use to Do?

Every morning while I’m in Tucson, I get up early and walk the circuit of the 9-hole golf course, before the golfers get going.

I miss going to the gym first thing, but the walk takes 45 minutes and makes up in length what it lacks in intensity. Plus there are bunnies and quail everywhere. Birds sing. This morning I saw an owl. I also saw a spot where it looked like an owl had gotten a dove. Feathers scattered everywhere told the tale of a midnight scuffle.

Every morning, too, I see the same two guys, prepping the golf course for the day. This fellow does the raking of the sand traps and grooms the grass with his Zamboni-ish machine that creates those long stripes. He looks African to me, both in his face and the way he doesn’t look at me when I walk by. The other guy always says hello. He’s tall with silver hair and a golf course jacket. His job involves testing the putting greens and tees. Or tamping. Perhaps he both tests and tamps.

I wonder if working at a golf course is a good living. Probably it’s a better deal to be the tester/tamper than the raker/rider. Like most jobs, though, you likely have to start out as raker/rider guy.

It’s funny because so many people in this neighborhood are retired. Sometimes, when they talk about their friends, my folks will mention what people used to do. “Oh, she was a lawyer, you know. And he held political office.” At this time, though, they have no uniform that tips you off. They carry no briefcases, have no tell-tale packets of real-estate sell sheets. At the Starbucks, the retirees and vacationers stand out easily from the people heading to jobs.

I had a friend from Madrid many years ago and she commented on how odd she found it that Americans always ask each other what they do. She’s right – it’s among the first things people ask each other when first meeting. She thought it indicated that Americans define themselves by what they do for a living, where for the Spanish it means so little that they often have no idea what a person does for money.

So many of us writers have a dual answer to that question of what do we do. We say oh, my day job is ex, but I’m also an aspiring/freelance/well-published author. Sometimes we specify the day job, other times we leave it vague. It takes a while to fess up the writer part, too.

I like to think my raker/rider guy who never looks up is deep in thoughts about his painting or his poetry. The Zen of the golf course gives him time to think. He works early hours, then composes in the afternoons.

Or perhaps he hangs with his kids. Or has two other jobs. Maybe he breeds horses.

I’ll just make up my own story for him.


I’m in Tucson this morning. This photo is from my early morning walk around the golf course.

Me being suddenly in Tucson is why I didn’t post yesterday. I left early and flew here to surprise my mom for her birthday. My fabulous stepsister, Hope, who’s forever lurking on this blog and never saying anything, picked me up at the airport. She’d invited my mom to lunch, so when we met up at the restaurant, I just happened to be along, too.

Big surprise. Very fun. All went flawlessly.

I did try to post to the blog yesterday, anyway, but all I could think about was the impending surprise. I imagined it would come out something like this:

That’s right [birthday!]: write every [Tucson!] day. Write at [no, no – I’m not flying anywhere today. Ha! Ha! Yes, I am!] the same time every day [Surprise!] if you can. Set your rituals and follow them, ahem, religiously. [Oh, boy! I can’t wait!]

And then my mom would have read it and, well, all that subtext would have given it away.

So, today we’re off to play. Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Good News and Random Bits of Exploding Matter

So, I got an Enticing Offer yesterday.

Every Tuesday for the last couple of months, I’ve been waiting for this phone call. Yeah, I’m enough of a Twitter/Internet stalker to know that this person makes calls with offers on Tuesdays. My cup overranneth (yes, that’s totally a word) with conference calls yesterday. With all the serendipity I could ask for, my cell rang between work calls with a number I didn’t recognize. The woman on the other end asked for “Jeff.”

And I knew.

People who’ve only read my name inevitably go with “Jeff” first. I always respond, “this is Jeffe.” (jeff-ee) Then they apologize and I tell them it happens all the time, which is does. Then I waited for her to make her offer.

Which she did.


So now I’m checking with a few agents, to see if anyone cares, just in case. I’ll sign contracts next week and then I’ll be less coy with the details.

It’s amazing, though, how something like this blows my ritual and routine all to hell. Yesterday afternoon was a blaze of finishing day job and hitting queries, follow-ups and pitch polishing. I’m filling out forms, checking schedules, making plans. No writing done yesterday and I’m over an hour behind getting to things today.

I’m happy, but what are all these little whizzing pieces of shrapnel?

You Knew I Was a Snake When You Picked Me Up

This isn’t a great photo, but I did take it myself. Not always easy to be steady when one encounters a rattlesnake in the wild.

Which I have, three different times. What I like about rattlesnakes is, they let you know they’re there before you step on them. Yes, I hear you, nay-sayer person out there. Inevitably when I say that, someone shakes their head and says, in an ominous tone, Not Always. Well, if I ever got near a rattlesnake that didn’t rattle before I got too near, I never knew it. The other times? Yeah, I heard that rattle and jumped back three feet before I even processed what that sound was. Gotta love those hard-wired protective instincts. Thank you, evolution!

We watched Eat Pray Love a little while back. No, I confess I haven’t read it. My mom gave me her copy some time ago – before we moved to Santa Fe, come to think of it – and it’s been sitting in my TBR pile ever since. In both houses. I never read The Last American Man, either, which my friend, RoseMarie, loved loved loved. I have a titch of a trigger about “finding real meaning” stories. Not that I don’t believe real meaning can’t be found out there. It’s just that…erf.

Okay, here’s the thing.

In the movie – and I totally cop to all arguments that Hollywood oversimplifies and probably made this far less deep than in the book – there’s this pervasive idea that everyone you meet is a teacher. This is a very Buddhist concept, that even the person you brush against on the street is connected to you and has a message for you. I always think of places like New York City with this one and I wonder if the Buddhists who first contemplated this idea ever conceived of just how many bodies people would eventually managed to jam onto one street.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Actually, maybe it is. Because, if you go around believing that every single person you encounter has a message for you…well, you’re not going to get much done besides receiving messages. Now, I do believe that we meet people for reasons and we do learn things from each other, but I think we have to apply a filter. We don’t throw out perception and intelligence, in the interest of receiving messages. The crazy person who yammers on about things that kind of sound profound and kind of sound nutty? Might be just nutty. Like the guy at the Ashram in India – he calls Julia on all sorts of stuff, like he’s a greater authority than she on her own life. She learns lessons from him, from his sorrows and it’s all lovely.

The thing is, sure everything in this world can teach us a lesson. That doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. A rattlesnake makes a fine teacher, carrying lessons about walking softly, paying attention, trusting those atavistic reflexes. That doesn’t mean you want to hang out with the rattlesnake.

Sometimes it’s enough to recognize the poisonous for what it is, then walk carefully in the other direction.