I’m sure to some people, those most familiar with my food and entertainment reviews, it looks like I have fun for a living. And…I have to admit, that’s close to being true. I love to write, I love to share my opinions, and I love to eat good food, read good books, and watch movies. (Yes, I omitted the “good” from that last bit, because I don’t discriminate against the more poorly made films. I believe in equal opportunity, for all movies, stupid and intelligent. And my viewing habits reflect that.)
But it is also work.
Time has to be managed, households have to be kept going, kids have to be parented.
Speaking of kids, one way I consider myself very blessed in the career department is that not only do I get to manage a lot of my own time and enjoy freedom to work around my kids’ needs, they get to experience a lot of what I do, with me. All five of them were at one showing or another of the musicals featured in the movie festival I hosted this past week, and most of them enjoyed themselves. (My two younger daughters didn’t expect to like “Hello, Dolly”, but ended up wanting to see it again, they loved it so much. My youngest son, however, declared “Oklahoma” to be the worst movie he’d ever seen.)
The older ones also get the chance to help me out occasionally, by acting as sounding boards. This is not always an exciting prospect for them, but as young adults still living in my house, I exact this payment–listening to final drafts of my work–in lieu of rent sometimes.
I’ll share with you now a recent scene, in which I asked for feedback from my oldest son, a 19 year old, about an article I did for Slice magazine, about local food and wine. (You can read it for yourself here, and you can also subscribe to the print version of Slice, which is a visually stunning publication.)
Me: “Sit down, I want you to listen to this.”
19 year old collapses onto my bed with all of the enthusiasm of a person sentenced to a gulag.
19 year old (after listening to the opening paragraphs): “Oh my go—this sounds like a National Geographic article!”
I brighten, even though it is obvious from his posture and whiny tone that it was not meant as a compliment. I keep reading, and he holds it together and keeps the dramatic sighs to a minimum until I get to the last part, the sidebar about Oklahoma wines.
Me: “Wine writer Matt Kramer says–”
19 year old pops into a sitting position, suddenly alert.
19 year old: “Wait a minute…did you say…wine writer?!?”
Me: “Yeah, wine writer.” (I continue.) “…great wines are unique because they invariably…”
19 year old (Scrambling forward, a look of disbelief on his face): “Are you FOR REAL? That’s a JOB?”
Me: “Yes, it’s a job. He writes about wine.” (Pause) “It’s harder than it sounds, you know. It’s not just sitting around drinking wine all day.” (It occurs to me that I don’t know that for sure, but I feel a sort of solidarity with Mr. Kramer, as someone who gets paid to eat chocolate and watch movies). “Now will you LET ME FINISH?!”
I continue for a few lines and the 19 year old mostly holds it together, until I get to a quote from the wine writer about location that I thought was brilliant and that I built my ending on.
Me: “…they invariably, in his words, taste as if they came “from somewhere”—”
The 19 year old dissolves into an incredulous grimace, his eyes rolling so much that I wonder if he’s having some sort of episode.
19 year old: “You can’t be SERIOUS! It tastes like it came “from somewhere”?!” He bursts out laughing, and then gets frighteningly composed. “I’m pursuing the wrong career.”
Me: “Now listen–” (I quickly consider my options, wondering if I should focus on the defense of entertainment writing as a legitimate career or on the importance of finishing college, even if you’re going to drink wine and talk about it for a living) “–this is someone who has studied intensively in his chosen field, has written books, and helped people learn about a subject.”
19 year old gets up and thoughtfully walks to the door, murmuring, “Hmm. Wine writer…”
I had a conversation recently, with a colleague, and when I bemoaned the fact that sometimes I feel a little, well, fluffy, for writing about movies, home decor and upscale restaurants when there are people in the world who are homeless and hungry, he shrugged and said simply, “Well, we’ve got to feed our kids.”
And it’s true.
I do what I know (writing) and I take the opportunities that I’m given (mostly food and entertainment).
That isn’t to say, though, that the possibilities don’t arise from time to time to do something with a little substance. The article I linked above, which talks about consuming local products, is one of those instances. I’m very fortunate to have opportunities to work with publications (like Slice, in this case) that not only point people in search of good food and entertainment to the right places, but also use their space to touch on real issues.
We should be concerned about big things. We should use our talents to try and help others, and to raise awareness of wrongs in the world, or questions we should be discussing. But there’s also nothing wrong with searching for beauty and things that make us feel good, as long as they’re kept in balance. Life should be meaningful, but there’s also nothing wrong with enjoying it.
So, you’ll see the occasional serious thought here, and the odd link to something I’ve written that might pass as weighty, but you’ll also see a lot of “fluff”.
Because at least in part, “Fluff” is how Mommy makes her paper.