Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Daydreams of Alternate Careers

Daydreaming-1Many people, even ones who love what they do, daydream about an alternate career. I’m no exception.

What got me to thinking about an imaginary career U-turn was a Portland Business Journal story by Matthew Kish featuring Connor Fuerst. Connor’s job involves trying to destroy what his employer, Keen footwear, makes.

Granted, my children may be better candidates for this job. They managed to pulverize every kind of shoe, boot and sandal I bought them when they were growing up. They were born with the innate skill of destruction. My dog is good at chewing up shoes, too.

Connor has the benefit of sophisticated tools to replicate the derring and recklessness of youth. One of his machines drops weights on the rubber toes of Keen footwear to see how they hold up. Another pair of devices help Connor drown, then bake Keen boots.

And he gets to do this all day long. Guys get paid for junking cars, but the end product is scrap metal. Connor gets to mess with stuff that people will actually wear. I could be Connor.

Then there is Lawrence Block who has written a slew of Matthew Scudder mystery novels. Block based his novels, which star a beefy private detective, on a litany of actual stories he plucked from New York’s daily newspapers, including some guy who killed his daughter to demonstrate karate chops.

Block, who is in his 70s, told NPR’s Neda Ulaby that the city wrote his books. “The hideous crime that Scudder talked about on the next day’s writing was the one I read about on the subway downtown. The city never failed me. It always provided something.”

I could imagine whizzing around New York City, reading newspapers on the subway, at coffee shops and between innings at Yankee games to come up with grizzly, best-selling mysteries. The only trouble is Block honed his writing as a young man publishing lesbian erotica novels under the nom de plume of Jill Emerson. As a young reporter, I just covered boring planning commission meetings where no one, at least to my knowledge, was wearing sexy lingerie.

But the biggest career challenge I could imagine is trying to find the humor in climate change. It’s one thing to make fun of climate change-deniers. It’s another to see the lighter side of entire islands being inundated because of rising sea levels as the polar ice cap melts.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee is trooping through his state calling for climate change action, noting the impact it is having on oysters. That sounds like really hard, frustrating and probably fruitless work. Besides, I don’t like oysters.

Wisecracking about looming devastation won’t stave off the devastation, but it might ironically help people understand climate change is a real problem, regardless who you choose to blame for it. Who can forget  Stephen Colbert’s great line that climate change is so terrifying, it left a “carbon footprint in my pants.” I may not be that clever, but I would like to spend all day coming up with zippy one-liners.

These daydreams don’t take all day, so there is time left over for real work at my real job, which can pose some humdinger situations and conundrum circumstances. Like the client who wanted me to make bad publicity disappear, but said he couldn’t comment on the cause of the ugly headlines. Or the client who asked if we could get the law changed without going to the legislature and attracting a bunch of public attention.

selfie_1.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlargeMaybe I could sign up as a client the macaque monkey that grabbed a photographer’s Nikon, snapped a selfie and now is in a fight over the copyright to his own picture. The photographer said the monkey hijacked his camera. A judge says monkeys have no copyrights.

This is clearly the kind of injustice I’m equipped to make right. And it could lead to an entire new clientele, which might even be better than a new career.



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