Toss the confetti, release the balloons, and pop the Champagne corks--only The Widow or better, please--The (prodigal) Paper Tyger has returned. For those of you unaware that I'd been absent, well, no worries...you didn't miss too terribly much.
I've kept busy working on writing projects small and large, and other little endeavors as well. So what broke the proverbial ice dragging me back here? A photograph, actually, or the lack thereof, more specifically.
About a year ago I wrote about my trip to Yorktown Heights, NY, to engage in a match with a few other ex-Jeopardy! contestants versus the now famous Watson. It was great fun as I related in the post at the time--more fun than the actual Jeopardy! experience by a long stretch. Not only was there no pressure--though it was still a highly competitive atmosphere--but the IBM campus there is almost perfectly bucolic. Nestled amidst rolling hills the Eero Saarinen designed main building was an unexpected pleasure and absolutely added to the overall experience.
Fast forward to today and I was giving a quick interview about my experience versus the lightning-fast Watson to a reporter when I was asked for the thing I dread most, a photograph. Of me, I asked? Really? Wouldn't you like a gorgeous picture postcard view of the Saarinen building with the sun setting behind it? Or better yet, surely you can come up with some clever graphic or other to fill the space, right? Nope. A photograph of me. Is it too late to back out of the interview? (Cut to ridiculously rare photograph of an actual tiger backing down from a challenge. Can't find one, right? Exactly.)
After much ado--come on, I do fancy a spot of dramatics now and then--I came up with a suitable image (one with my glasses on, even, huzzah!!) and the problem was solved. Right...so moving on then. Or, not...
The photograph in question is a perfectly nice image and yet, I'm still uncomfortable with giving it over to someone else. I am, reader, a person with control concerns. (And yes, that's a euphemism.) I, apparently, am much happier being the observer and recorder, not the observed and recorded. Admittedly I'd have much rather written something myself and had them edit it down or use a few quotes, but that wasn't an option. So there I was this morning, giving an interview to an absolutely nice and very capable reporter but the entire time I was mentally editing myself and framing things the way I'd have written them. Not perhaps the best way to conduct an interview and I'd have been annoyed if I sensed someone doing that with me. But when you're firmly rooted in your comfort zone of being the quiet observer in the background (also known as the anti-George Plimpton) it takes a good old-fashioned hockey check to unseat you.
Clearly it is a good thing to be shoved out of the comfort zone now and again. For me, getting back to writing here is as much a part of that as sending on my photograph to the nice interviewer who was only doing her job. Hitting that send button was harder than it ought to have been and it served as a healthy reminder for me to step back out into the light again. The entirety of the Jeopardy! experience was a good distance outside any comfort zone I've ever owned, so now is as good a time as any to toss my hat back into the ring. Welcome new friends and a hearty thanks for the patience of my old, faithful readers.
In the event you haven't read my scintillating (that's hyperbole in action there, folks...) account of Watson and Jeopardy!...they are here:
Elememtary, my dear Watson...
I lost on Jeopardy!