The joys of being an amateur

Butterfly Mind

I recently listened to the TED Radio Hour‘s episode, Amateur Hour, which shared several funny and insightful stories of people in positions as novices.

One story was about a “professional amateur,” A.J. Jacobs, writer and editor-at-large of Esquire magazine, who lives his life as an experiment. He constantly puts himself in new positions, like spending a month telling nothing but the truth, or spending a month outsourcing his life, or as he shared in his TED Talk, like spending a year living Biblically. Everything was new to him in each instance, and each experiment changed his life.

Another story was from mother Julia Sweeney who says, “I think if I really understood what parenting was going to take, I would not have done it.”

And then she says:

And I’m really glad I did it.

These stories got me thinking about my own adventures in amateurity. Specifically…

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As California goes, so goes the country: Welcome to our hotter future


Long ago, I lived in a cheap flat in San Francisco and worked as the lone straight man in a gay construction company. Strangely enough, the drought now strangling California brings back memories of those days. It was the 1970s. Our company specialized in restoring the Victorian “gingerbread” to the facades of the city’s townhouses, and I got pretty good at installing cornices, gable brackets, and window hoods, working high above the street.

What I remember most, though, is the way my co-workers delighted in scandalizing me on Monday mornings with accounts of their weekend exploits.

We were all so innocent back then. We had no idea of the suffering that lay ahead or of the grievous epidemic already latent in the bodies of legions of gay men like my friends, an epidemic that would afflict so many outside the gay community but was especially terrible within it.

It’s unlikely…

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