I began writing for Ulster Publishing nearly nine years ago. I was ambivalent. I had swatted off a few offers for a music writing position at Almanac Weekly over the years for a cocktail of reasons.
1) Once you start caring about a piece of writing, you’d be amazed how quickly your rate drops below the current minimum and keeps plummeting toward the figure Mohonk offered me in 1979, my first job. I didn’t need more heart points or fame points or connection points at the time; I needed more dollar points. Using one devalued art to write about an even more devalued art seemed unlikely to do much for my bass line.
2) I was actively pursuing music from the musician side (still am). It wasn’t conflict of interest that worried me so much (though maybe it should have been — cover a small scene for long enough and it is inevitable that people begin to perceive a player/critic as self-serving, a one-man-brand synergy). What worried me was more that I would get pulled off course by the writing. In others words, I was afraid I would like it, that essays would start humming in my head on my walks instead of songs. And that did in fact happen.
3) Look, the opinions flow with me. I am a playful, involuntary theorizer. I am easy to form judgments, easy to reverse them. Language to me is always experimental. I am an externalizer. I think, process, and talk in ill-considered and extemporaneous ways. I jam. But I was not interested in being bound to this erratic, non-committal flux. I foresaw the dangers long before canceling was a thing. The thought that has thunk moves on. The permanence of publishing was no concern.
I didn’t really know whether I would be sensitive to the kind of contempt that the role invites. Turns out that my feelings about criticism are almost identical to my feelings about praise. I like knowing it is out there, but I don’t prefer to be there when it happens. So I don’t read comments and all is well.
Why do I bring this up? Because it all worked out rather nicely for me, and because HV1 returns to print this week, an essential part of life in the mid-Hudson. I am rather beaming with quiet pride for the publisher Geddy Sveikauskas and the whole crew, most of whom I have never met in person (writers were made for lockdown). Can I entreat you, reader, to read, to engage, and to support? The press is all of us.