The Lessons of Digital Archaeology

Winter break, December ’13 and January ’14.  Here’s how I’ll remember it:

I spent the three weeks sitting in various coffeeshops, watching cars get caught on snow banks, as I sifted through hundreds of online clips. I’ve added those that were semi-organized to those that were lost-and-forgotten, creating a series of internal, clip file pages for this site. It’s taken roughly 30 hours to clean things up, in total: opted for a new theme; updated the Projects and Video/Film pages; cleaned the corners just about everywhere else, too. Mostly, though, the time was spent on long, tedious hours of cutting and pasting links to old articles, collapsing a former clips page on WordPress into this site, while rounding up every orphaned story I could locate.

It often felt like a pointless job. Vain, shoegazing, time-chewing. A job with no set payoff. Admittedly, there have times when I’ve remembered certain, whole periods of life, as well as reading stories that remind me of how much I’ve forgotten. (I interviewed former Cards pitcher Greg Mathews once? Really? Well, yeah, the web says I did.) What an odd way to learn your personal history, played out on the pages of local magazines, newspapers and websites.

Weirdly, though, I feel better about things now; like, totally better. There’s an inexplicable sense of completion and organization in puzzling through and completing tasks like this, even if I realize that there are hundreds of clips that’ll never be placed here. Because I’m old and predate the digital era. Because websites go through redesigns that scuttle your work into digital oblivion. Because I’ve written for a few latter-era magazines that are still print-only.

In a few months, I’ll forgot about the annoyance (and the occasional wrist pain). I’ll be able to sit back and realize that I’ve done some interesting work and took part in some worthwhile projects.

As I had to sort through dozens of RFT pieces (among the relative few that lived online at the time of my departure in ’99), an idea struck me. I’ve had the notion of a South City column. I’ve offered it to other media folks, with no takers. And the RFT would allow for a certain kind of storytelling. I sent out a note to an editor that I know there; to date, I’ve heard nothing back. In this exchange was a good lesson and one that I should’ve taken to heart the last two times I’ve freelanced for the RFT in my post-staffer days. There’s no future in the RFT for me. There’s an interesting, long past. But no future.

In my brain’s another idea and it’s all about the future; interestingly, though, the person that would be key in making it work is another RFT alum. Those are the kinds of connections that I should associate with those RFT years, collaborating with the friends and former co-workers with whom there could be another act. With luck, I might even be able to talk myself into all this future speak. Wish me luck, ’cause these last few weeks have been spent with all my waking attention spent looking back.

Break’s just about over now. It’s just about done.