Tonight it is December 30, 2009. It is this time of year when it is customary to write long letters to distant family and acquaintances, because it is cold outside and there’s nothing better to do. Cabin fever sets in, and people start to reflect on what they could have been doing, and what they have done. People like to mail these reflections to everyone they know, along with a card of some sort. It is in that timeless holiday spirit that I reflect on the year that has gone by. Holy shit! What a year!
This time last year, I was “between jobs” as they say. I had just quit the first job that I had ever held for longer than a year. I’d been working at an international relief agency, as a web developer, and had been working there for two years or so. The job started as a temporary contract, to help them finish a total overhaul of their large website. I enjoyed the challenge of that work, and kept at it for a while. I’m not Catholic though, and I don’t know anything about international relief and development. Although it is certainly a good cause, it wasn’t exactly a dream job. I heard a rumor that there was a job opening at one of the art museums in town. I applied. I bought a new suit. That, along with the suit my parents bought for me, were enough to outfit me for two interviews. Luckily, there were two interviews, or else that second suit would have proved redundant. Most people who know me well would say that one suit, for me, might be one suit too many. 2009 was the year that I became the owner of two suits.
I did get the job. Officially, I’m now the “manager of web and social media” at an Art Museum. I started the job on January 5, 2009. My previous job ended in early December, which left most of this month last year for cabin fever and musing about things. It’s a wonder I didn’t write a letter like this last year, but there wasn’t much to write about.
I’d been living in a warehouse full of bohemians, art students, hipsters, slackers and the like. It’s called “The Copycat Building“. I moved there five years ago, when all I had to support myself was a part time job as a farmhand, back in West Virginia. I moved into the building with five roommates. By the start of this year, I had graduated to my own studio loft. It had good heat, large windows, high ceilings, and 800 square feet of space to call my own. It didn’t have much else. I liked it there. This time last year, I spent several weeks there, mostly to myself, mostly doing nothing. It was a nice vacation really, a slacker’s paradise.
Then, I started the new job. My first responsibility at the new job was to help oversee the launch of a new website for the museum. The website displays the whole art collection: if you can see it on the walls or in the galleries of the museum, you can now see that same stuff on the internet. In addition, you can see thousands of other things in the collection that aren’t on display for various reasons. It’s a very large website. It was a challenge to step into a project of that size, and to arrive so late in its development, but we eventually managed to get the thing online. People enjoy using the website and learning from it. I’m proud to have helped to make that happen and it was an excellent introduction to the museum and the collection of objects and people that make it live.
Once the website went online in a stable way, I got to thinking about books. The museum has a lot of books, medieval illuminated manuscripts and the like. Because books are so fragile, they can’t be displayed very often, or very well. We can’t just let everybody flip through the pages of a priceless, beautiful book. The museum has been digitizing the books, though. I was excited to learn this and jumped at the chance to get involved with the work to display these books online. I hope that someday soon we can allow people to flip through the pages of these books and read them, on the internet, even though they may never be allowed to see the actual books. I hope that this “virtual” experience can be very similar to the experience of actually reading these beautiful books. That’s one of my pet projects at work right now. I mention it as an example of the many reasons why, in 2009 I found a job that I enjoy very much.
Also in 2009, I was published in a writing residency sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. The program is designed for writers who want to learn to write art criticism. Along with another writer, we were given a mentor, and set up with a group of artists. I met four artists, interviewed them throughout the year, and watched their work develop. The artists included a sculptor, a photographer, and two painters. It was a challenge for me to write art criticism. I had to learn a new vocabulary, and a new form of discourse. I didn’t go to art school, like most of the other people I encountered during the program, so I had some learning to do. I do think though that they chose me for the program in part because of that “outsider” point of view. In some ways, being new to the “scene” helped me to be objective and critical. It gave me an excuse to ask the obvious questions. It’s usually worthwhile to ask obvious questions. I guess I can say now that in 2009 I became an art critic. I hope that in 2010 I can exercise my new skill some more.
My other creative projects this year included two issues of the small literary journal that I publish called “Infinity’s Kitchen,” a spoken word album called “Strange Punctuation” and a band (of sorts) of experimental musicians and performers that I joined called “Second Land“. I’ve said so much about those projects already to most people that I won’t describe them much here. It was good to finally finish more than one creative project in a year, after several years of incomplete projects. I may yet complete some of those. I may never. Who knows?
The biggest and best thing that happened to me this year was that I bought a new home. It was a stressful experience, fraught with letdowns and restarts but in the end I bought the thing I had set out to buy. It was the very low real estate prices along with the stimulus tax credit that initially prompted the decision to buy. It was the location that sealed the deal for me. I can still walk to work. I can also walk to pretty much everything I need, too. The new place is full of all the things I need, thanks in no small part to all my friends who helped move. Thanks, you all.
I think one of the best developments for me this year has to do with people. I’ve connected with some friends to do some awesome creative collaboration. I had friends, roommates and neighbors this year who turned out to be tons of fun and good support, through it all. Overall, the year was a very social one for me. I needed that. Here’s just one example of one of the social (mis)adventures this year. A springtime tradition of weekly brunches lasted into the summer for a while. We came for the “bottomless mimosas”, stayed for the brunch, got drunk and called it “Drunch”. We all thought our new word was very funny, but you probably had to have been there. (see also: the wrestlemainia smartmob)
I spent a lot of time on Facebook in 2009, and so did practically everyone I know. This blog has suffered for content because of that, but maybe that’s for the best. A lot of what I used to put on this blog is better suited for Facebook, anyway. Here’s an interesting thing. It’s a collage of some of the status updates posted to Facebook over the year. It makes for a nice overview of the year.
Well, that’s it. It’s January 3, now that I’m wrapping up this year-end letter. Tomorrow, I’ll go to work and start the second year of my job. In the evenings I’ll drink green tea and do some overdue freelance work. I’ll probably take a break mid-week to go to the poetry open mic. Maybe on Friday I’ll see a show with my friends. That’s my plan for 2010 so far.