Blogging Before Blogs

A friend and I were musing about who can take credit for the first blog ever produced. (Certainly not me. I jumped on the bandwagon rather late.)

If you stick strictly to the idea that blogs, by definition, are web based, I suppose with a little bit of digging one could find the first one. But really, blogs (short for weblog) tend to be highly unique to the writer. Some are random musings, such as mine. Others are highly researched. Some include commentary, others are all about the photographs and links to other articles. So how on earth would you begin your search?

To add another layer of complexity, humans did such writing before the worldwide web existed. They wrote diaries. They kept scrap books. And surely people of note must have realized that their personal letters would be kept and reviewed by others. We have a longstanding tradition of putting our thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see.

One of my favorite examples of this tendency are the colonial almanacks that were very popular in the 1700’s. The most famous of these, of course, is Poor Richard’s Almanack, written by Benjamin Franklin.

I have no doubt that Franklin would be a blogger if he were alive today. In fact, he put out this almanack annually from 1732 to 1758, and I happen to own a copy of the collected works. I love pulling it out and reading it from time to time. In the era of the horse and buggy, it was much more efficient to publish the thing once a year. But he’d probably be blogging and tweeting on a regular basis, if given the opportunity today.

His almanack included poems, sayings, astronomical and astrological information, a calendar (of course), and information about the weather. His writing was all about being frugal and working hard. Much of his work is still popular to this very day.

If you speak English, odds are you’ve quoted Poor Richard’s Almanack at least once in your life, whether you knew it or not. Here are three of his more famous lines:

  • A friend in need is a friend indeed!

  • Fish and Visitors stink in 3 days.

  • Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

I’ll be the first to admit that some of his sayings, especially about wives and servants, are controversial in modern times. But viewed through the lens of his era, Ben Franklin is one of my blogging heroes. I’d follow him.

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On Being Recognized

It’s happened a couple times before, but it never fails to take me by surprise. There’s nothing as flattering/unsettling as being recognized by a total stranger. For a split second, I feel like a rock star.

I stepped out of the bridge tower just as two women were walking past.

“Are you the one that operates the bridge?”

“Yes I am.”

“What’s that like? Is it a good job?”

“Best job in the entire world.”

“But don’t you get bored?”

“Well, I write a daily blog called…”

“Oh! Is that you? I read that! Can I shake your hand?”

Like I’m somebody, or something. It made my day.

It’s really strange to realize that your anonymous little life isn’t nearly as anonymous as you think it is. I work in isolation. I blog in isolation. And yet people rely on me to get from point A to point B, and people read what I write. Go figure.

It’s so easy for me to forget that. I spend so much of my time being silent that I forget that I am making an impact in my own way. A quiet little noise.

And so do you, dear reader. Always remember that it was tiny drops of rain, imperceptibly, over time, that carved out the Grand Canyon. We all matter.

Isn’t it great?

http _i.huffpost.com_gen_1585786_thumbs_o-GRAND-CANYON-RIVER-facebook

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My 2000th Blog Post

Well, holy moly! When I started this daily blog back on December 1, 2012, I would have never guessed that I’d still be going strong 2000 posts later. It’s hard to believe I’ve had 2000 things to say, and that I’m rapidly approaching 200,000 views by 110,000 visitors. A conservative estimate suggests I’ve written over 830,000 words.

I couldn’t have done it without you, dear reader. What has kept this blog so vibrant and interesting for me, especially on days when writer’s block was crushing me like a bug, is your feedback and suggestions. Without that input, I’d feel as though I were typing into a void.

I’ve also made quite a few friends on this forum; people from all over the world. Drawbridge Nation feels like a small, friendly town to me, one that I get to walk through every day. I even think that reading my blog is what finally convinced my boyfriend that I was relationship-worthy, so, yay, there’s that, too!

Because of this blog, I’ve written a book, and am working on a second one. I’m very proud of that. It feels like a tiny bit of immortality for someone who chose not to have children.

I’ve even been recognized on the street a few times, which astounds me. I’m used to thinking of myself as relatively invisible, not, as one reader once described me, “a sort of famous person”.

So I just wanted to thank you for indulging in my random musings, and I hope you’ll stick around for my 4000th post! Meanwhile, I think I deserve a cookie.

THANK-YOU-Computer

Being on Their List

I don’t consider myself a journalist. Nor do I consider myself an influencer. My humble blog is small potatoes, so I’m probably safe, for now. Move along. Nothin’ to read, here. But I must admit, this article in Forbes, entitled Department Of Homeland Security Compiling Database Of Journalists And ‘Media Influencers’ has me clutching my pearls.

Rest assured that when your government starts compiling lists, it generally does not end well for the people therein. Just ask the Jews in Nazi Germany, or the Muslims in Trump America. Lists are to identify people you plan to treat differently.

This could be bad for writers in general. Especially when the current administration hates the media so intensely that it openly encourages violence toward them. Not good. No bueno.

One particularly chilling part of this database is that they plan to indicate one’s “sentiment.” That’s kind of arbitrary and subjective, isn’t it? If I criticize the government in any way, do I get a black mark? If anything, I should get a gold star for exercising my right to free speech like any American has the right to do. But I’m not going to be the one compiling the list, and I suspect I won’t see eye to eye with whomever they choose to do so.

It’s not in my nature to censor myself. I’m not even sure I have the capacity. That’s one of the many reasons I’m not a journalist. I can’t just state the facts. My opinions are a big part of my writing. That means some people will agree, and others will not. But it never occurred to me that my government had to agree in order for me to keep blogging. If it truly gets to that point, I don’t suspect I will fare well.

First, they came for the bloggers…

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My Blog Through Fresh Eyes

I have a confession to make. For about a month now, I’ve been wondering if this blog is worth the effort. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed. And sometimes I feel like no one is reading it.

That’s why your comments mean so much to me. Without them, I’d feel as though I’m sitting all alone in front of this computer screen, typing to myself. It’s like spitting in the wind, only slightly less messy and humiliating.

Not everyone likes to comment on such a public forum. That’s why I’ve set up a way to contact me personally on my blog’s welcome page, and I’ve also got a Facebook group called The View from a Drawbridge, which I encourage you to join.

Every now and then I’ll get a comment that completely does me in. (In a good way.) I’ve gotten several of those related to my Why I Hate Alcohol post, for example. A lot of people struggle with that issue, and they appreciate having someone put a voice to the way they feel. That’s when I know I’m making a difference. That makes it all worthwhile.

Just the other day I got a message from 13-year-old Mariah J. in South Carolina. She says she’s been reading my blog for about a year now, and that she finds it funny and inspiring. She wishes she could do what I do.

Sniff. Cold coming on. Or… no. The sun is in my eyes. Yeah. That’s it. The sun.

We’ve exchanged an e-mail or two since then, and it makes me realize that she’s an impressive and intelligent young lady with life goals and plans. She definitely seems to have her act a lot more together than I did at that age! And she says she looks up to me. Hoo. I mean… hoo. Speechless.

Since then, I’ve started reading my blog posts and I kind of have Mariah mentally looking over my shoulder. It makes me realize that I really ought to watch my language, for starters. And it’s also making me take what I say much more seriously. My words do have an impact. I’m not just spitting in the wind. I have a responsibility. I might actually influence someone every now and then. Whoa. Hard to believe.

Mariah’s message has renewed my faith in this blog. It has made it special again, for me. For the first time in weeks it’s not feeling like work. It’s once again feeling like a pleasurable calling.

So thank you, Mariah! And thank your SAT prep teacher for introducing you to my blog, and thanks to your 5 siblings for putting up with stories from it, and to your best friend Hannah for thinking I’m a “half famous person”. I think you guys are the best. Stay on your amazing path! And good luck on the PSAT today!

Thanks

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Three Cheers for Stupidity?

Recently Katie Herzog, a writer for The Stranger, a favorite publication of mine, posted a photograph of a man climbing the wide open Ballard Drawbridge here in Seattle. Fortunately this is not something that happens every day, so yes, I agree it was noteworthy. But here’s where Ms. Herzog and I part company. She said, “Kudos mystery climber! Way to make the morning commute a little more fun.”

I’ve been opening drawbridges for almost 16 years. That photograph made me sick to my stomach. Someone tried this with me once, but I realized it rather quickly and aborted the opening, which caused a 2000 ton gravel barge quite a bit of panic, but prevented injury and potentially loss of life. My adrenaline pumped for several hours after that, and I literally went home and vomited.

I suggest that anyone who thinks that this little jaunt was “fun” should Google “Drawbridge” and “Death” some time. People have died on drawbridges. They are millions of pounds of lurching, shuddering concrete and steel that seem to bring out the worst in thrill-seekers. Not a day goes by when at least one fool climbs under the gates when I’m just about to open the span.

If “mystery climber” had fallen, he would have splattered all over the pavement. We’d be scraping him off the sidewalk with a shovel. Would that have made your commute more fun?

People wonder why the bridgetender didn’t see this guy. He was on the opposite side of the span from the operating tower. We do have cameras, but they can only see so much. The bridgetender would never have continued the opening if he had been aware this was happening. Not in a million years. Safety is our number one concern. Killing someone is not something that would be easy to live with. Personally, I don’t think I’d ever recover from that. And despite the fact that it was this climber’s choice to be a total idiot, if it happened on my watch I’d probably lose my job, and therefore my house and my car and… on and on.

As writers, we have a certain amount of influence, and therefore a great deal of responsibility to the public. Encouraging life threatening (and job threatening) behavior is a breach of that trust. I hope the Stranger’s post won’t entice anyone else to copy the mystery climber, or we might see a senseless tragedy.

Stay safe, people. Be smart.

Update: Whoa. Was wondering why my blog was getting so many visits. The Stranger responded to my tirade! Unfortunely, they still aren’t taking it seriously, and they didn’t even have the courtesy of contacting me before quoting me. http://www.thestranger.com/slog/2017/08/23/25370933/drawbridge-operator-takes-issue-with-the-strangers-coverage-of-a-drawbridge-incident

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One of my coworkers taped a Go-Pro to the rising Fremont Bridge recently. As you can see, it’s a long way down, and the bridge is only halfway open.

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Am I Getting Through to You?

In the extremely polarized world in which we now live, I often suspect that I am preaching to the choir. I write this blog every day, and I’m usually discussing things that I feel very strongly about. Lately I wonder if this is turning into one long political rant. I fear I’m starting to sound shrill.

Have I changed anyone’s mind about anything? I doubt it. The very people who need to read this blog are the very ones who never will. That frustrates the hell out of me.

But there are a few things that give me comfort. I have been told that I sometimes approach topics from unique angles. This gives people a new perspective, and another way to support their own arguments.

I’m also told that I occasionally voice opinions that others are hesitant to speak out loud. I’m known for sticking my neck out when others will not. That often gets me into trouble, but just as often I am privately thanked for it.

More than anything else, I like the idea that many of these blog posts will be floating around cyberspace long after I’m gone. People in the future will read them with the benefit of hindsight. They’ll either think that I was on the right side of history, or that I was very misguided. Either way, they’ll know that I had convictions, and that I stuck to them.

I’m proud of this blog, even if you’re not reading it! So there!

tug-of-war

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The Ads You See Aren’t Me

Recently a friend asked me if I have any control over the types of ads that are placed on this blog. Aside from the shameless plug of my book that I place at the bottom of each entry, the answer is a resounding no. But I was curious as to why she asked.

“Because I’m looking at an ad for Donald Trump.”

“What??? Noooooooooooooo!”

I don’t dispute WordPress’ right to place ads in this forum. They have to keep the lights on somehow, and they’ve not received a single penny from me. That’s a pretty good deal, considering they’re hosting this blog, to the tune of nearly 1500 pages to date.

But over the years this blog has become my heart and soul. I like to think it’s me on a screen. Warts and all. And while I have many warts indeed, none of them look as bad as Donald Trump.

It absolutely KILLS me to think that someone might be seeing one of his ads on my page and assuming that I endorse this man in any way, shape or form.

Am I selling out? Unfortunately, free is all I can afford right now. That means I pretty much have to take what I’m given. So I have to content myself with this blog entry of protest and beg your forgiveness.

I don’t even see the ads that pop up for you. I’d be curious to know what types of ads you are seeing. Please let me know in the comment section!

advertisement

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When I’ve Made My Point, I Stop.

I never really thought about the length of my blog entries until I put 120 of them into my first book, A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude. Then suddenly it became an issue because I noticed that some entries would fill a page and then continue on to the next page for merely one or two lines. That’s not very aesthetically pleasing.

So, should I “pad” those particular entries to make them longer, or shorten them by a few lines? When I considered either option I had an almost visceral reaction. It felt wrong to me in the same way it feels wrong when people pierce their infants’ ears. It felt like a violation.

I’ve always had a strong sense of when I’m saying too much or not enough. When I’ve made my point, I stop. Because of this, I’ve always chafed at writing assignments that have to be a minimum of, for example, 1,000 words. What if I’ve produced writing perfection at word 978? What then? Does it have less value for lack of 22 words? I absolutely hate stuffing fluff in between what I consider to be valid points just so I can satisfy some teacher’s sense of equity.

It also annoys me when a writer underestimates the intelligence of his or her readers. You don’t have to beat people over the head with your message. Just put it out there, clearly and concisely. They’ll either get it or they won’t.

Just as a good cook can sense the temperature of a steak without having to slice it open, I’ve always been able to rely on my instincts regarding getting my message across. So yeah, some of my blog entries will be a lot shorter than others. State your case and then move on. That’s my philosophy.

steak

Gotta Be This or That

My ex-boyfriend used to quote that song whenever he thought I was being indecisive. While I did enjoy the Ella Fitzgerald version that would then run through my head, I still found it to be an annoying habit. The man always did lack subtlety. He saw the world as nothing but black and white. I just happened to see the many shades of gray  as well as a range of colors, which is probably why it takes me a bit longer to make a decision.

I was reminded of this recently when I was talking to a friend about my ever-increasing cyber-presence. She was saying that in my blog in particular I’m wide open. I don’t keep any secrets. And it’s true. This blog is basically me on a page. I’d be easy to find, easy to recognize, easy to talk to as if you’d known me all my life.

But oddly enough, I simultaneously feel like a background person. In my day to day life, I still work in my isolated little bridge tower and most people pass by without even knowing I exist. I go home to my dogs, and only they watch as I reveal my soft underbelly in cyberspace. Or so it seems to me. Often it’s easy for me to imagine that I’m simply talking to myself. I can’t see you guys, after all.

Mine is actually a quiet existence at ground zero. It’s just when you pull back and look at the big picture that you see the buzz of activity and the publicity and the worldwide webbiness that is my life these days.

So which am I? Public or private? Quiet or outspoken? Behind the scenes or in the spotlight? It’s gotta be this or that, right?

Actually, no. Somehow I manage to blend both the black and the white into a varied spectrum of light and shade that seems quite colorful indeed. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

rainbow

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