July 31, 2014 marks the decaversary of B@B. When I first started this blog, I'd been writing movie reviews for six years already, and by 2005 I'd given up on movies and this blog became my primary writing outlet. My novel-in-progress became moribund, and for the next three years I waited for the other shoe to drop, which it did in 2008 when I was laid off from my job.
B@B kept me sane during the second half of the Bush years and the early part of the Obama years. For a long time, the rants just flowed like water. After my layoff in August 2008 (barely a month before the shit hit the fan in the US economy), I was lucky enough to land a new job for which I was only marginally qualified barely a month later. It was like those scenes in an adventure movie where the guy slithers under the door just before it closes, thereby escaping certain death -- or worse. Not only didn't I take a pay cut, but with the accumulated vacation time I'd been hoarding since 2005 when I survived the first layoff, I actually made money on the deal. But for the first time since really 1993, I had a job where I actually had work to do -- a lot of it. In fact, I've been working 50-80 hours a week for nearly six years now. This would have made it difficult to keep up a blog even without my mother's illness in September 2012 and death in December of that year, followed barely three months later by Mr. Brilliant's cancer diagnosis and all that followed thereafter.
The truth is, I've been pretty much either working or exhausted since September of 2008. Let's not even TALK about the brain fog, the desperate need for sleep, and the grief attacks that hit without warning just when I'm convinced I'm doing OK, feel like someone hit me in the back of the head with a 2 x 4, and make me feel so wrung out afterward that I need a nap.
It's not that I'm curled up in a fetal position in the corner. On the contrary, I go out with friends, I've made a few new ones through a widows' social group I joined, and I've even ventured out solo to my local neighborhood watering hole for one of the county's best burgers. There's a hole in my life that's always going to be there, but as one of my new "widder" friends has said, "It's OK. It's a sucky kind of OK, but it's OK."
In 2005, I wrote my last movie review. It was for a Jet Li movie called Unleashed
. And I realized after writing the review that it just really wasn't fun anymore. For seven years I'd gone to the movies every weekend, sometimes (rarely) with Mr. B., sometimes with my longtime movie critic buddy Gabriel
, often alone, where I'd sit like a wannabe Roger Ebert, with my little notepad and pen, taking notes as if I were writing for the New York Times
instead of for a little web site that, well, actually, got more pageviews than this blog ever did. In those days, Film Criticism(TM) was still somewhat of an art form, or at least we fancied it was so. And for a while I was a member of the Online Film Critics Society, which got me goodies like screeners, and later on Gabriel and I, along with a few others who'd become tired of all Teh Crazy that was going on at OFCS at the time, started Cinemarati, which was notable primarily for its very lively messageboard and our annual film awards, which even got a bit of press coverage. It was heady stuff, and we had delusions of being Real Film Critics for a while.
It was Gabriel who encouraged me to start a blog. We used to do a series called "Critics Over Coffee", where we'd record our conversation after a movie and transcribe the discussion. It was a lot easier than actual writing, and we did more of these as our sojourn as film critics waned. It was clear that no one was ever going to pay us to write movie reviews (although I did a short stint at a short-lived NJ-based magazine called "That's Life", published by a slick-talking power-wash businessman and aspiring filmmaker in northern New Jersey), and our discussions started being more oriented towards other things like politics and pop culture -- but mostly politics. It was 2004, and George W. Bush was running for re-election, the horrors of his administration already clear. Blogging was The New Thing then, for all that some people had already been at it for a while -- people like Kos and Atrios and a few others, who because they were early adopters, managed to make careers out of their blogs and then promptly pulled up the ladder behind them. Oh, there were exceptions, like the late "Jon Swift" (Al Weisel), who founded Blogroll Amnesty Day, which we honor here as often as we can. But by and large, the Big Name Bloggers sucked up all the oxygen in the room, and we little folks just never really caught on.
Oh, for a while I thought I too might make a career out of blogging, especially during my layoff, when I interviewed for a writer/editor job at a still-extant lefty online publication -- a job that was later filled in-house. But of course then Facebook became more than just a haven for college kids, and Twitter started, and long-form blogging, especially of the political sort, became the province of these Big Name Bloggers who had gotten there first.
But we persevered. I brought in a few people whose work I admired -- Tata, and the late Bob Rixon, and Melina, and the intrepid jurassicpork, who's been pretty much keeping the fires burning here for the last year almost single-handedly. I brought in these associates because I knew that content was king, and if you don't get paid, it becomes all about the eyeballs and the feedback. But of course then life intervened, and I got this job that I had to learn from the ground up, and I really have not stopped in six years.
So here I am, on July 31, 2014 -- exactly ten years after I started B@B. My life is very different now. Ten years ago I had a lot more energy at 49 than I do now at 59. Ten years ago Mr. B. was still very much alive and pretty healthy for a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker. He'd taken up Shaolin kung-fu the year before, and was feeling pretty good for a middle-aged guy, as he called himself. Ten years ago my mother was still driving me crazy, our cats Jenny and Maggie were 5 and 3 years old respectively, and I was working twenty minutes from home on bucolic back roads. Now, Mr. B. is gone, my mother is gone, Jenny and Maggie are both gone. The only things left from ten years ago are me, my house, and my friends. And all those losses took place in the space of 13 months. It amazes me sometimes that I'm still standing.
I did lose something else during the last six years. I lost me. I lost the person who liked to putter around the house. The person who did counted cross stitch. The person who met six other women back in 1998 and wrote sequels to "Titanic" that adult women would want to read -- and then spun off characters into a novel she has still never completed. The person who could dash off a blog entry every day. I used to be a creative person. But I've lost that, and I need to get that back now. Writing sustained me during bad times before, and right now it's just not there. The reality is this: I really don't want to write about politics anymore -- at least not for a while. It's become just tiresome. I thought back in 2004 that it could not get any worse than the Bush years and the Swift Boat Liars and Iraq and Dick Cheney and Halliburton and snowflake babies. Venting on this blog kept me sane. But what is there to say about Louie Gohmert and Todd Akin and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and the Tea Party and the rest of the GOP Klown Kar that makes the Bush years seem like "Pleasantville" by comparison? What is there to say about this kind of destructive, toxic craziness that won't leave me also feeling like I've been hit in the back of the head with a 2 x 4? What is there to say that isn't belaboring the obvious? We live in a nation of willfully ignorant people who are inattentive at best, and malevolent at worst. What's the point of yelling into this echo chamber that has changed no one's mind?
Right now my focus is on two things -- getting my house in shape and getting ready to retire. I've been so frenetically busy for the last six years that I have no idea if I'll even LIKE being retired. Re-tired -- getting tired all over again. Maybe that's what it'll be. But there is one thing I do know, and that is that part of this new life I have to build is to find ME again. I've lost me -- lost me mostly in work that I needed to have to pay the mortgage and later on, the health insurance without which I'd be working until they take me out of the office in a box. But mostly I'm tired -- exhausted, actually. And I can't pretend that I can really do this anymore.
So...what comes next? I really have no idea. B@B isn't going to go away. I may even write here at times. But if I couldn't get it together to journal the last year as I wanted to, I sure as hell don't think I'm in any hurry to rant about impeachment. I think sometimes it's time to start fresh -- to start "Still Brilliant at Breakfast" or "Either These Drapes Go Or I Do" or some other quote attributed to Oscar Wilde, and blog about home improvements and recipes and photoblogging, as Tata has suggested and which she does so brilliantly over at her place
. I wouldn't be the first one to go this route. Even Big Name Bloggers like Pam Spaulding
and Christy Hardin Smith, both of whom have had major health issues, hung it up recently. Pam still dips her toes into the political waters, but closed up the House Blend and now prefers to blog about Journey and pit bulls. Christy, late of Firedoglake, has battled breast cancer and now blogs about everyday life
-- something that feels different if you've faced death yourself or watched the life leave the person with whom you've spent thirty years of your own. That these bloggers are both women may be significant, or it may not. I don't know.
Kind readers, I know that there are not a lot of you left. And whatever I decide to do, I'm leaving this blog up. In fact, one thing on my bucket list is to compile a "Best of B@B" anthology and self-publish it. But right now I know only one thing: It's been one crazy, fucked-up decade. And I need a nap.