Twenty years ago today, I opened up a text editor and wrote a little bit about what I saw around me as I commuted to work. I styled some HTML by hand, stuck it in a subdirectory of my website, and began a habit I would stick with until the present day.
Unknowingly I was one of the early attendees to the party, and if I hadn’t been quite so cheap—I was getting my hosting for free through a friend and didn’t buy proper webhosting until 2005, after all the cool kids had staked out space in the ecosphere—I might have had a higher profile in the strange world of weblogs. Because I didn’t use weblog software, I was late to the blogroll and the trackback and software wars, which sidelined me from people discovering what I was writing about for years. And as much as I wanted for people to read what I was writing and comment, I was never one of the try-hards who begged for traffic. I’m not much of a joiner, so I only attended a few blogger meetups, and those were usually hosted by people I already knew, but it was nice to meet other folks who were doing it for as long as it lasted. There was always a tension between the promise of internet fame and the terror of internet infamy. I’m probably not tough enough to weather either of those storms, so I continue to fly under the radar. As it was, I never kept a weblog for the same reasons other people did anyway; while some folks were happy to document their every emotion and feeling, my weblog was more a record of my own headspace at any given moment.
Besides keeping a log of what I was doing for my own purposes, I also wrote this as a way to update my friends and parents. Mostly my parents; I was a little embarrassed to share this with friends directly: “I have a blog” sounds pretty dorky. It sounds dorkier now that it’s a decade past being a fad. Upon reflection, I think I wrote most of it with my Dad in mind—here’s what’s been happening—whom I found hard to talk to through normal channels. We’d talk on the phone, yes, but as I’ve gotten older I realize how much of his approval I was always seeking, and possibly how this was my weird way of reaching out. He didn’t comment on here as far as I can remember; comments only go back to the switch to WordPress. Most of our electronic communication was stereotypical Dad ALL CAPS EMAILS or forwards of annoying chain mails. Mom did tell me he read the site, but I tend to think she is the regular subscriber and he was a casual visitor.
As I look back over the body of work here it makes me think about all of the things I never asked him before he passed. There’s a black and white picture of him laying on the roof of his first car in front of Grandpa’s farm—how did he buy it? How long did he have it? There’s another of younger Bill holding a rope around the neck of a cow in shirtsleeves and a tie—where was that? What was he doing there? How about the picture above of him standing next to Mom, who is holding Renie as an infant. What was going through his mind? I would like to know who he was as a man of 30, raising a young family, and what his hopes and dreams were—but I realize know nothing about him. I have boxes of his slides, decades of memories, with no context or reference to who is pictured or what they are doing beyond what little I’ve been told. As I tried to do with my grandfather, I lost the chance to do with him, to get him to talk about those experiences and his memories and hear about his life and learn from him. Mom, get yourself ready.
Someday I hope that Finley will be able to read this and know a little more about who her parents were, what we were doing, and what we were thinking before she blew up our world in the best way possible. In that way, this weblog is more a gift to her than anything else, an annotated photo album of where she came from and the people that made her.
In that way, it’s documented the last twenty years faithfully, through one house to the second, through a wedding and honeymoon to various foreign vacations, home projects, employment shifts, a pregnancy and birth, BABY, another employment shift, more vacations, friends coming and going, cancer, death, and now the pandemic. It will continue as long as I am able to put fingers to keyboard. Maybe Finley will even take up the mantle someday, if there is still a text-based internet where people can write about their dishwasher breaking or post endless blurry pictures of their dog.