Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Newsletter -- My Staff

It's nice to finally get back to the newsletter (and also blogging), after a few days off. I say "days off," when in fact it's been anything but.

Having a staff has turned into a mixed blessing, mostly bad, but fascinating nonetheless. I got four prisoners, paid pennies by the state, from the work release farm. The first mixed blessing is you have to sign your life away with the forms. I had to give assent to the official terms, that "Hiring said parties may result in death and dismemberment to the party of the first part," i.e., me. The way I look at it, I have a Savior, I'm ready to go if need be. Although, God forbid! -- am I right?

Still, anything to save money. Then there's the token lady. I never want to be accused of favoring male prisoners over law-abiding women. No, seriously, I love women; my Mom was a lady. But as you can imagine, it's a potent mix. Some of these characters act like they haven't learned the basic lessons of childhood, like "Don't stare." The lady seems to be taking it as a compliment, but it's making me uncomfortable as hell.

A lot of my time is spent trying to instill in these guys -- I'll call them what they are, losers -- a few of the basics of propriety and decency. Then, assuming we can get the preliminaries out of the way, we can buckle down and put out the best newsletter anyone's ever known! At the present moment I'm proposing a modest three-pager. Drill the guys for a few blurbs, if they're able to think of anything, and also open it up for the lady, if she has a recipe or make-up tip.

I probably should introduce them, Dashing Danny Whfrf, Spud Tuber, Stan "Tipsy" White, and the Cannibal. I already introduced the lady. Right away when we came together for our first editorial meeting I noticed a weird dynamic and addressed one key issue: "Keep your filthy hands off the lady. If anything happens beyond 'God bless you," you're out, back to the farm!" The first three were silent, making Cannibal's hissing and clawing at the air that much more unsettling.

That out of the way, I described my blog, my claim to fame, as a fairly well-known blog in the online world. Famous among the literati, glitterati, those into esoteric lore, as well as the entirely conventional. Everyone from your plain jane to your chocolatey gooey mess. These are my people! The unselfconscious vanilla milquetoast as well as those so far off the wall they're in the field.

The lady asked, "If you have such a successful blog why put out a newsletter?" I had to wonder if one of the prisoners coached her on such a coherent, insightful question, but they kept a completely blank expression, poker faced. "I want something more special for my readers, something that's exclusive for subscribers only." She had no comeback for that, the coaching obviously not extending to rejoinders, and still the guys weren't revealing anything. Cannibal munched playfully on the Potato Man's arm before he rose up and backhanded Cannibal across the room. It did my heart good; playfulness is good for community-building. Tipsy sipped on one of those tiny bottles of whiskey. Danny paid close attention, giving me the creepy feeling that he might be a usurper.

I've always been something of a people-watcher, so it did my heart good to see the dynamic going on. I take after my dad, who would often sit on the bench and watch people till he fell asleep. We would come along later and help him home and to bed, only to prop him up again on the bench the next day and leave. I really found out in those days how good people are. Thieves would come by and try to strip him of valuables, but passersby were great, so often coming to his aid and restoring his things.

We're getting close to Father's Day, so that's not a half bad memory. Might make the newsletter. Spruce it up, make us kids look better than we were, while keeping the "people are great" angle. You compliment people and they'll eat out of your hand. Meaning, another great article would be to compliment my readers. I love my readers. I'm reminded of a record/CD store I used to go to: "Through these doors pass the greatest people in the world." Then every CD had about five anti-theft devices on it, that's how good they were.

Keep your enemies close, your friends closer. And if you have an editorial team made up of prisoners, with a lady in the mix, keep them as close as can be, without them able to actually chew on you. Looking at the lady, though, a little harmless love nosh wouldn't be so terrible.

Excuse me. "Cannibal, that's close enough! Remember, the lady needs her personal space!"

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