General

“What are you doing here?”

A new week. After so many recent heavy posts, how about this for today? An anecdote… over a morning coffee:

[β€œI Love NY.” Photo by me, 2018.]

My father-in-law had for some time wanted to get rid of an oldish car he no longer really drives. He and my mother-in-law (in their eighties) don’t need two cars any longer. A couple of weeks ago he decided on WeBuyAnyCar.com.

A couple of Tuesdays ago, as he and I sat down in the office and one man about my age was helping us to begin the selling process, a younger woman staffer at the other desk – the office had only two – suddenly appeared from around the divider after I had left the office door open as it had been when we entered.

It was – I’d agreed with the man – a lovely morning. Clearly, though, she did not consider it warm and pleasant. I learned she had been at lighthearted odds with her colleague over whether the door should be open or shut. “I’m just gonna close this, okay?” she smiled and said to me.

“I’m sorry,” I replied. “I left it open because it had been open.”

My words had evoked the look I get here occasionally. “Sorry, where are you from?” she asked me.

“Uh, New York.”πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

As I sat at the man’s desk, my father-in-law next to me, as she stood a couple of feet away she asked next: “Really? What are you doing here?”πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§

[In War and Peace, published 1869, Tolstoy mentions New York in 1805. Photo by me.]

Evidently she was wondering what on earth I was doing in a non-descript north London retail park. Perhaps I should have been in the Empire State Building? Or in Greenwich Village? Or at the Algonquin Hotel? (We have stayed there; it is indeed great.)

“I’m helping my father-in-law dispose of his old car.”

“You came from New York for that?”

“No, no, I live here.”

“Really? Why?”

Clearly she could not fathom why a New Yorker would be living in and around London.

“My wife is British,” I explained. “I’m here almost 20 years. And I always need new novel material.

“Do you go to New York?”

“Sure, regularly.”

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry. I’ll leave you alone now.”

“That’s fine. I don’t mind talking about it.”

And I don’t mind blogging about it either. πŸ˜‰

Speaking of blogging, the other day I noticed a blogger I read regularly has moved her (from what I gather very popular) site from WordPress.com to a self-hosted one, which allows her to include more advertising that may actually make her some money from it. I have no problem with that; she should “monetize” her site and get something for all of us thousands of visitors. But when I saw her new site it was a bit of a letdown in this sense: it was so cluttered with ads I found it a chore trying to avoid clicking on them – they were tucked in so tightly among her content – and those I saw also weren’t for exactly great products (in my opinion) either.

[Excerpt from Distances: Atlantic Lives, 1996-1997. On Kindle. Photo by me, 2019. Click to expand.]

I take this approach because my site revolves around my writing. (I’m sure also someone like that blogger gets LOTS more daily visitors than I do, which may make her approach more sensible for her.) You may have noticed that I have NO outside ads at all. I’ve opted (to pay) for an ad-free site not only because I want my books to be the focus of visitors’ attention, but because I really disliked the type of “free site” ads I had been seeing starting to pop up; they were (in my opinion) often seriously cheap and tacky. I didn’t want my site, and especially my books, to be associated with them. I felt they were insulting to readers and to potential readers.

Oh, incidentally my father-in-law sold his car. As I drove him back to his house, I was privately greatly relieved he’d done so at last because the car has been driving (no pun intended) us crazy. We had endured years of him procrastinating thinking about what to do, including selling it privately (but he was put off by the hassles involved with that, including strangers coming to their house and we could not always be there, of course), or one of my brothers-in-law always (supposedly) knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy (but nothing ever happened), or, or… dear God, give me strength. We had finally prevailed on him to go this route. He was happy. And I thought, finally, that’s over with.

To conclude: this post is NOT an ad for We Buy Any Car; or for coffee; or for War and Peace; or for the Algonquin; or for Greenwich Village; or for β€œI Love New York.” πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

Have a good Monday, wherever you are. 😊