April 23, 2019

Paying My Own Way

Photo: Fort MacArthur Battery Osgood-Farley, circa 2018

I don't actually consider myself so much a reporter or journalist—mostly because I rarely take assignments.

Most of the places I visit don't know ahead of time that I'll be writing about them. Sometimes I don't even know if any given place will make it to my blog.

It depends on whether I have something to say about it after I go.

I'm primarily a writer. So although many of my posts are photo essays, having pretty photos isn't enough to warrant an entire post. I've got to feel inspired.

And that means I rarely have to worry about fulfilling any promises or meeting any expectations.

I just go do what I want to do—and if it's thought-provoking or fits into the overall narrative of Avoiding Regret, I write about it.

Most often, I don't get comped. I buy my tickets like anybody else. I'm not special.

I like the anonymity of it. It feels like the only way to accurately portray an experience with integrity.

If you're a food critic like Jonathan Gold was, you don't tell the restaurant when you're coming. You hope they don't know what you look like. You try to eat the exact same meal that all the other patrons eat.

Sure, I end up spending a lot of my own money on trips and museum admissions and bus tours and house tours and train rides and such—ones that maybe I could get gratis. Instead, if I'm lucky, I can deduct a fraction of them on my taxes. And if I'm really lucky, I can write about them later and make a little freelance money off the article.

But I always do first and write later.

Sometimes I think I'll probably write about a place—and then I make a visit or take a tour and come up empty. That's why I haven't written about the Biltmore Hotel in Downtown LA. Or the Adventurers' Club of Los Angeles. Pasadena's Bungalow Heaven. Farm Sanctuary. Malibu Temple. The Robinson Helicopters factory. The Tuna Club on Catalina Island.

All these places I've been. All these photos I've filed away. But the words haven't come.

At least, not yet.

Sometimes they do later—and then I'm playing catch-up.

Sometimes it happens when a place is about to close or be demolished. Sometimes it's when somebody dies.

I can't predict it. I just obey the inspiration.

When I must write is when I write.

At least that way, I can keep it on my terms.

Related Post:
To What Do I Owe?

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