04 January 2009

Electric Karma Ocean: Message In A Bottle

“Walked out this morning,
don’t believe what I saw
Hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore
Seems I’m not alone at being alone
Hundred billion castaways, looking for a home”
-The Police, ‘Message In A Bottle’

When I took it upon myself to begin blogging Irish Gumbo, I really had no expectations about what I would accomplish. I was unsure of my motivations; I have never been much of an egoist, and my first impression of the blogosphere was that it was all about egos satisfying themselves, an electronic fourth dimension heavily populated with peacocks that could not get enough of their beautiful tail feathers. Or perhaps more like THIS. As with any medium of expression, there was a lot to confirm my first impression. Wasn’t it Theodore Sturgeon who said “Ninety percent of everything is crap”? And while I sense some truth in what Mr. Sturgeon said, I was pleasantly surprised that there was lot of good, even GREAT stuff out there.

But I really questioned myself as to WHY would I want to do this. I spent a lot of time dithering over the course of 2008. I am an expert in dithering, to the point of paralysis. I spent a lot of time lurking on blogs, checking things out, trying to discern the protocols, the social etiquette of conversing without a face to face presence. I told myself I couldn’t, I wouldn’t, I didn’t know what to say, I had no point of view. Well, I knew I had a point of view, I was just very skeptical that anyone would really want to hear about it.

It took a while to get any confidence. It was akin to being at a party where you are familiar with the guests but don’t know them well, and you are dying to join in the conversations. Not easy for me, as I am not exactly a social butterfly. Over the year I could feel the pressure in my head to do something, find some sort of creative outlet before I went bonkers. I have always had a vocal group in my head, and they were getting louder and louder. My personal and professional lives were (and still are) becoming increasingly difficult for me to handle and those pressures were only turning up the heat. Something had to be done, but something was holding me back.

Dad Gone Mad and Redneck Mommy were two of the first and most influential blogs I began following. I’d call them my “gateway blogs”, leading me on to other blogs that got me hooked. Anyone who is a regular reader knows Danny Evans and Tanis to be two of the funniest and most engaging peeps in the blogosphere. They each have a compelling personal back story, some elements of which were in common with my own life. This is, in part, what kept me coming back for more. I began checking in every chance I got, eventually working up the nerve to leave comments. I left a comment one day on a post of Dad Gone Mad’s that dealt with some personal tragedies, and that exchange resulted in Danny sending me a personal response to my e-mail. I was flabbergasted.* I was also inspired. It was at that moment that the voices in my head stopped talking over each other, and spoke directly to me: they said “DO IT”. So it was in October 2008 that I found myself at my desk in the basement, laptop open, and working my way through Google Blogger. I finally made myself toss that bottle into the ocean. On October 5th, I made my first pot of Irish Gumbo.

Fortunately I had been paying attention during my lurking escapades. I saw some names recurring frequently in the comments, and I started following the links backwards to other blogs. I’m glad I did, as the whole experience picked up a whole new depth. It was then I came across the blogs Us and Them, GoodFatherBlog.com, MoMoFali and Two Dogs Running, among others. I began leaving comments on those blogs, and I was very pleased that they responded in kind. Captain Dumbass, Goodfather, MoMo and MamaDawg were the most influential “early adopters” of the Irish Gumbo technology platform. MoMo, Mama Dawg and The Captain were the third, fourth and fifth followers that hopped on the bus (after my Da and My Big Bro); GoodFather was in there soon after. We started showing up on each others’ comments on a regular basis; I was (ahem) checking in at work (breaks, ya know); we started a dialogue. These guys and gals made me laugh and cry and just plain engaged me. I was honored the day Mama Dawg used one of my comments as her ‘Featured Quote’ in the sidebar.** Captain Dumbass and GoodFather also gave me some great feedback and encouragement, along with some early shout-outs on their blogs. It was from them I received my first two awards (and quite manly ones at that!); the net result of this exchange was an increase in my exposure to other, equally wonderful bloggers: Pacing The Panic Room, Waffles Waffles All Day Long, Transition, The Goat and Tater, Henry The Dog Diaries, Idiot’s Stew, Adlibby, Embellished Truth and Polite Fiction…whew, the list was growing and (thankfully) continues to grow***. In parallel, my confidence began to grow. I was “finding my voice” as a writer friend of mine put it.

I was flattered and pleased for sure, but I was in no way getting a big head (it’s big enough already) about the blog. I was trying not to carry any delusions about my skills or talent or personality; I was and still am happy to be able to write what is in my head. So it was with much surprise (and a little shock) that I checked in on Us and Them to find a post entitled ‘He Might Be Late, But He’s Still Santa, Dammit’. In case you haven’t already read it, or haven’t yet visited with the Captain, please click over now and check it out.

(Humming “Captain Kelly’s Kitchen” by Dropkick Murphys”)

Talk about shock and awww!!! My jaw dropped. My mouth was wide open (I mean, more so than usual). I almost couldn’t believe what I reading. He was talking about me? About stuff I wrote? Surely, there must be some kind of mistake. Maybe the fatigue and illnesses in the Dumbass household had taken its toll, cabin fever provoking some delusions or hallucinations. I rubbed my eyes, reread the post, this time reading the comments. Nope, he was talking about me, and the comments confirmed it.

I was stunned. Still am. I find it astonishing that something I created could have that kind of effect on people. As an architect, I have been accustomed to gratification delayed or denied, the months or years of struggle on a project with little or no acknowledgement that you did good. Too often, the feedback was on the order of “Well, it doesn’t suck.” So the high praise that the Captain and all the others (including the Captain’s Mom; how cool is that?) had lavished on my efforts was a tremendous, welcome surprise. It was then that I had my latest epiphany about blogging and why I, and perhaps any of us, put so much effort into it.

Is there ego involved? Sure, we all have egos. It is also no secret that many of us hope to springboard these efforts into something larger if possible; in my case, life changes are compelling me to become a professional writer, and this is an ideal medium to cut my teeth. In that sense, the blogosphere is certainly a force for good.

It is more than that, though. The larger, more important realization that graced my grey matter is this: there are myriad voices in this choir, many wonderful conversations to have, and amazing human beings on the other ends of those fiber optics. Human beings who, in the main, want the same things I do: to be loved, to be heard, to know they are not alone in an often uncaring Universe. To be able to share of themselves and learn from other people.

I don’t really know how to sing, but I am immensely grateful for everyone who invited me into their choirs just the same. Thank you; keep singing!

And a special shout out to Mouthy Irish Woman: Thank you.

*The first time Danny and Tanis left comments on Irish Gumbo, I may have actually gone ‘squeeee!’.
**You’ll have to check her archives for that one :)
***I’ll have to refer you to my sidebar blog roll, “Dinner Party”.


  1. Many say that blogging has revived the art of the personal essay. True, but more important, it seems to have revived the art of conversation.

    People used to pride themselves on their conversational skills. It was a social asset. But the phone and the soundbite debased that in the 70s and 80s. A frank, full exchange of views, like we would exchange over a coffee or the back fence, became harder to come by.

    The blogosphere really revived the raconteur in all of us. It has enriched our culture, and enriched us as individuals.

  2. I think this is great. Funny how we never know what endeavors can send us down a new and exciting path.
    So... a professional writer!?! If you feel like chatting about the biz, drop me a note sometime.

  3. I think we both started our blogs at around the same time and it is really cool to check back and see when people start getting their "writing" legs. Hit a rhythm. Find a voice. It has been fun watching the growth and the creativity.

  4. This is an awesome post. So heartfelt and real. I applaud you for sharing it. We've only just met, but I like your style. You are indeed a writer. Carry on.


  5. Gumby, Gumby, Gumby...

    Firstly, you are insane. I know you try to hide it.

    Secondly, you are hysterical. It shines through on every post.

    Thirdly, you are genuine. No one can ever hide that.

    Sometimes when I read a blog it just jumps out at me. I was reading Kevin's Crude and Feckless (smart ass boy-I like him), which took me to Pearl (She's going to be rich and famous I tell ya), which took me to IB's Idiot Stew (who reminds me of Dustin Hoffman for some reason), to that fateful day on IB's page I posted on the Safety Penis = Ice Pick Dick for bad weather driving. And YOU called dibbs. Only the insanely funny could say such a thing. I stopped by to see your blog and low and behold...you are one of the special ones. I WANT to visit you. I actually think...What's Gumby going on about today? Love you-you total stranger and if you ever quit blogging, I'll send Feckless over...I mean it! :)

  6. Wow! Only three months on the air and already a seasoned pro! I never would have guessed it. It took me twice that long to sort through all the pitfalls of newbie blogging. Screw architecture. I'm thinking a big fat book could put you on a beach somewhere permanently, stout in one hand, royalty check in the other.

  7. Let's sing shall we? La la la la la la la (inhales) la la la la la.

  8. How do you imbed a blogsite into one of the words on your blog?

    I know I've done it before. Braja taught me how. Now I can't remember.

    Seriously, I should change my blog title to Mentally Retarded Dating.


  9. Gumby, I had no idea you considered me a gateway blogger to starting your own blogging path. You have just made my evening.

    I still remember reading my own gateway blogs and being inspired to try my hand at writing. These very same bloggers are now very good friends of mine.

    This virtual world we have created for ourselves is an amazing community. My community is all the more rich for having you be part of it.

    Thank you.

  10. So why did you choose the pseudonym "Irish Gumbo"?

  11. I think my thoughts on blogging followed a similar path... Trying to filter through all the egos first. Now it's just a comfortable conversation, and on some levels way easier to keep talking.
    You're doing a great job, IG. :-)

  12. I know exactly how you feel, because it's the same way I felt when GoodFather wrote about the Sushi Bar.

    Nor would I have known you've only been doing this since October - you are good. Very, very good.

    "As an architect, I have been accustomed to gratification delayed or denied, the months or years of struggle on a project with little or no acknowledgment that you did good."

    Sounds a lot like parenting. A lot like life in general, as a matter of fact.

  13. you and your grey matter have so much to give...never think differently. and if you do? i'll give you a swift boot in the ass to remind you.


  14. Irish - this post has confirmed what mum and me thought when we found you - you have 'soul' and you will write for a living one day because it shines through in your writing.

    On a lighter note, I have to agree with headbanger8 - blogging has revived the art of conversation - in my view anyway. I love the blogosphere - it's revived mum's faith in humanity.

  15. Awwww.....you gave me a shout out!

    I love it.

    Even though I have a blogroll titled crack bloggers, there's very few that I check anytime I'm near a computer.

    Yours and the Captains are 2 of the very few that fit that category.

    I downloaded a bunch of Dropkick Murphys songs. Thanks for that tip.

    It took me FOREVER to get my footing and I'm still working on mine. I'm not a very serious person, so mine tends to be on the light side. Mostly random shit that flows in and out of my head on a daily basis.

    Actually, I save my serious stuff for my extremely private blog that only one other blogger has access to.

    Anywho, I just jumped into blogging. I had no clue about it (except for Dooce). It's nice that you took your time and ventured out slowly. It makes for a better beginning with your blog.

    I'm so glad you're here.

  16. Its amazing the way the universe brings you to people whether it be cyberly or in person. I love Mama Dawg and had read your comments on there and clicked over, and so much of your stories were things I had gone through, which of course doesnt happen everytime I click over to a new blog! It may be an ego thing, but it is so satisfing to put something out into the world so incredible personal, or silly and to see it take a life of its own! So glad I stumbled on your site!

  17. I loved your paragraph that began, "It is more thatn that though." It is a more caring place here than one would have expected, yes?

    You have made a great start and I have a feeling itis only the beginning for you.

  18. It's funny how similar our stories can be, isn't it? I had a similar journey into blogging, but mine was a while ago. It took me a very long time to build to the stage where I would actively seek readers and comment on people's blogs. I was a long term lurker even after I started blogging.
    Here's to many more months and years of Irish Gumbo!

  19. Hey baby, I just stumbled on you and like your blog. And you are a fellow Marylander too...hope I don't catch crabs from you.

  20. You totally squeeeeeeeed. I know it.

  21. I read your post earlier and had to come back to comment because I couldn't find anything witty or poignant to say at the moment. Although I am still batting around this comment in my head I have to say as bloggers we all must have a good bit of ego. We are putting ourselves out there everyday to be commented upon by virtually complete strangers. It is one thing to have a healthy ego and quite another to become egotistical. Kudos, sir, in taking it in stride.

  22. 'Message in a Bottle' is on my all-time favorite songs.

    I'm so glad you started blogging. Please count me as a devoted fan. ;)

  23. That was a lovely tribute to the bloggy royalty. You are very eloquent when writing fiction, when writing about triumphs and tragedies, and also when thanking your damn friends.

    Yeah. You rock.

  24. Welcome to the blogosphere. Best thing I ever did, blogging.

  25. I find blogging like crack. I wish I had more time in the day to read each blog on each blogroll. I love when I find new gems, like you, for example.

  26. I know we've only recently come across each other's blogs but I'm glad to know you. Your writing style is so unique and you're a cool dude to boot. Go you! I had a hard time starting blogging as well, everyone I had ever known with a blog was a freak but it turns out the two weren't related.

  27. Headbang8: I concur. I have always envied those who can seem to talk at ease on practically anything. I was always better at writing things out; so far, blogging has made me a much better conversationalist! Enriched: a most appropriate choice of word.

    Robin: Thank you! I had no idea that things would open up this way. Scary, but exhilarating. First time I have ever started a journey without knowing my final destination . And I do feel like chatting about it! I really could use some advice!

    PPR: We did, and I am grateful we connected. Your essays have been inspiring me . now, if I could just afford that SLR…

    Fragrant Liar: “You are indeed a writer” *blush* That is some of the highest praise I have ever received. Thank you! Carrying on!

    Sweet Cheeks: Insane? Hmm, let me check with my invisible friend Terry who lives in my eyebrows…what’s that, Terry? NO! NO! Now shut up! (grin) Thank you for the kind words. I always hope that people will want to hear more, and I take that seriously. I couldn’t abide wasting peoples’ time, it’s valuable! Besides, Feckless could probably beat me up…

    The Mister: “Screw architecture.” – HA! A battle cry for my beleaguered soul! I have been wrestling with that for many moons now. And that book/stout/check combo sounds AWESOME! Please join me for a beer, I’m buyin’!

    Charmaine: Lovely little ditty. And for now? Leave it as Middle Aged Dating ;), better that way! (and I hope you saw my comment re: the embed!)

    Redneck Mommy: (doffs hat, bows) I live to serve ;). Seriously, thank you so much, you have paid me high compliments! It feels good to belong to something so wonderful, and I do owe you…a lot!

    Robert: It wouldn’t be stretch to say the name chose me. I thought about it a lot, the end result was that it just came to me: check this out - http://irishgumbo.blogspot.com/2008/10/irishgumbo-explained.html I hope it makes sense!

    OAM: I have been after comfortable conversation for years, I may be getting the hang of it. Thank you!

    Jan: *blush* Thank you so much! And your summation: spot on! I hadn’t thought of it that way!

    MIW: (clenches, sits up straight) Thank you, ma’am. And should it become necessary, please wear the blunt toed boots, them pointy ones hurt ;)

    Henry: *sniff* That soul comment still gives me that little twitch in my heart. Thank you.

    MD: Dahling, how could I not? You are an “early adopter”, plus your blog makes me laugh, gives me a boost. I like the stream of consciousness, because I get it. (hugs) I’m glad you here to share it with me. :)

    Sarah: It’s not ego in the arrogant “look at me sense”, it’s the ego that is a worthy human being and that deserves to be heard. Glad to have you on the bus!

    PHST: Thank you. It really is a more caring place, and that was a most pleasant surprise!

    Michelle: “long term lurker” – Ha! I’m part of that club. Thank you for your lovely toast! *clink*

    EmmaK: Well, hello there! Hey, baby your pretty self! I see you are a transplant like me (although I’m from Virginia). Don’t worry, I am certified crab-free ;)

    Pamela and Rebekah: (drops eyes, low voice) yes, yes, ma’am , I…. squeeed! (shame) Please don’t tell anyone, the guys will never let me live it down!

    Kat: I think a healthy ego wants attention, but doesn’t freak out if it doesn’t get it. Unhealthy egos demand attention and then turn on those who don’t give it. Did that make sense? Thank you!

    GF: Then I made good choice! You humble me, sir. And your encouragement meant and still means a hell of a lot. Thank you!

    Vodka Mom: I rock better when I have a band with me ;) Thank you!

    Bernthis: Happy to be here! I understand what you mean…

    Shonda: That’s the analogy I was looking for! Except that blogging involves fewer tranny crack addicts er, I mean, NO tranny crack addicts! “New gems” – thank you, my dear!

    Casey: Wow. Wow. (must deflate head - pssshhhtt ) There, that’s better1 Very kind of you to say so. And when you say ‘freak’, you mean ‘freak’ and not ‘Phreak’, right? ‘Cause I think Phreak may actually be a compliment :)

  28. I love this. I think we all have a starting blogging story like this and you put it to words so very well.

    PS My biggest complaint about the daily conversations in the blogosphere is that I am constantly a day late and a dollar short. It's all those dern kids. They are interfering with my obsessive following of other people!

  29. I, for one, and one of many obviously, happen to love your voice. Keep going, Irish!

  30. anymommy: Better late than never (and I can lend you a buck every now and then if you like...) Thanks!

    SK:*blush* Aw, shucks, now my face is gettin' all warm...Thank you!

  31. I haven't heard your voice yet..but am loving your blogs and the comments you leave me on my blogging!

    You and Charmaine...Awesome you two!!!

    ( a little brazilian portuguese for you here: abraços e beijos = hugs and kisses)

  32. BEW: *blush* Got a caipirinha to go with those hugs and kisses? :)

    Thank you!

  33. pardon my tardiness.. (though, as you know, I maybe a bit.. flakey, in the coming months..)

    muah! thank you for mentioning me.. I'm honored. You are too humble! do you not realize how awesome you are? look at how popular you've become in such a short time.. people dedicating whole posts to you and all. yes, blogging takes a leap of faith, but it has surely been worth it for you, no? I struggle to maintain a *comments from others outnumbering my own* status, and you've just taken off (in 2mo less time than myself, I might add).. and I'm planning to publish a book (I must be crazy!).. at least I have my writing group to help boost my readership.. ;) yes, i admit, i may be a tad bit jealous. ;)

    keep it up brother, you are fabulous.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...