The following is a graph of all-time traffic statistics to this Slog (courtesy of Blogger, our host):
The big crazy peak was the eerie, highly impersonal moment last month when my "How I Outgrew Libertarianism" article exploded in a brief mayhem of confirmation bias and snark. The smaller peak was the Newtown shooting, when I tried to work out my feelings here, not realizing I'd be publishing the first-ever online reference to the killer's mom, casting me into the midst of the sensationalism. Good times. Of course, I lived through a different sort of traffic peak from 1997 to 2005, and that wasn't much fun, either.
I've occasionally played prominent music gigs with famous people. The experiences were rarely satisfying, but they made my family and friends deeply happy (in much the same way, come to think of it, as my weight loss does). By contrast, if I report spending a deeply satisfying evening playing in an obscure black bar near the airport, eyes glaze. I can seriously impress anyone in their late 20's by telling them I played the crazed jungle bone solos on the cartoon "Rocko's Modern Life"...but that gig meant nothing to me.*
Peaks of mass attention are only pleasant for extreme narcissists. Real people get the heebie-jeebies, at best. Yet most of us think you'd have to be completely bonkers to eschew the spotlight, ala Salinger. If one isn't angling to do the thing one does in front of the largest possible crowd, one seems not to be doing anything at all. A well-meaning friend who faithfully reads the Slog asked me the other day whether I've been doing any writing lately. God bless America!
Looking at that graph, I recall happily giving life to ideas that would have otherwise forever vaguely flitted around in my head. I remember reveling in the freedom to broach difficult and obscure concepts without worrying about losing readers, and the joy of not having to persuade square editors to publish my work. Most of all: the blessed relief from the professional obligation to untangle and pre-chew every concept for effortless swallowing. And, speaking of swallowing, I've discussed food here with a frequency proportional to the topic's actual (non-predominant) priority in my life.
And, emerging from it all is a result that makes me blink in disbelief: I seem to have unwittingly assembled an accessible, highly-interconnected model of my (for better or worse) unique way of viewing things - a Web of my mind disguised as a blog. Sometimes I read myself here to understand who I am and how I think. For so many years I had no idea.
As I view the modest traffic curve, I intuit that among the few hundred steady readers some have been with me from the beginning, since long before Chowhound, and perhaps even dating back to my NY Press days. We've survived the Chowhound deluge and here we are, dry and safe, and still together.
That's what I feel when I look at the graph. Then I notice those two peaks, and I cringe.
* - Trombonist Garnett Brown has the converse problem: I've heard that his all-time favorite recorded solo is on the "Deep Throat" soundtrack, and, of course, absolutely nobody cares.
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