Meanwhile, according to google's stats, most people reading this blog who don't know me personally have landed here after searching the phrase "things to say to new parents." Which continues to be bizarre, because for one thing, I didn't know that was a difficult issue. Some further advice for that subset of my readership: Just say whatever you said to them before they had the kid, and also, "congratulations."
I want to make some kind of joke about this here, but on the other hand there's something about the earnestness of the question that's stopping me. So there's the honest answer -- won't steer you wrong. Please check back for answers to your other etiquette queries.
In other news, while I'm on here solving everybody's problems I wanted to pass along links to a couple of things I found professionally inspiring. One is this Deadspin story, about George Kimball, who was a boxing writer. It's surprisingly nuanced -- I like Deadspin, but they aren't always known for that -- and while it conveys what was good and laudatory about the guy, it also has an undercurrent of sadness that I think a lot of frustrated newspaper people (I think that's all of them) can relate to:
He drank, he smoked, he ate sticks of butter with mashed potatoes in a river of ketchup, slept in a coffin over McSorley's tavern, and fretted that he'd never written a meaningful book. It wasn't just the booze and drugs that got in the way; it was life on the road: the next fight, the next deadline, the next bar, the next party. "He was always impatient to get to the next thing," said Jenny Dorn, the wife of the poet Ed Dorn, an old friend of George's, "which is why a newspaper was the ideal place for him. Maybe he felt safer in that realm to avoid something else."
George didn't think he'd live past 40 and nobody who knew him ever got the feeling that his work had his full attention. "He was never ambitious," remembered his friend Bill Lee, the pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. "He was just there for the moment."
But he lived beyond his wild years, and when his time grew short, it turned out that George had more than a trace of ambition left. He burned to leave something that would last.There's a sort-of-happy ending, in that when he was staring death in the face, he got his act together and got a few books out. But let's just say I found this to be an inspirational story of the cautionary-tale variety. It's so easy -- and perversely comforting -- to get caught up in small stuff, and you'd hope that it takes something short of a fatal disease to shake you out of that.
Somewhat related -- though I think at least a little bit cheerier, in terms of realized ambitions -- is this video clip of Louis CK remembering George Carlin and talking about what he learned from him, professionally and personally.
I don't want to give the whole thing away, because he tells it better than I can, but it's about pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, and the unique kind of payoff that can have.
Not that I need any of this kind of motivation personally, of course -- I've got a blog and a Twitter account, for Pete's sake! My life is in order! But you know, for the rest of you guys, I just thought it would be helpful.