As I round the corner towards Fifty* I spend a lot of time inspecting things. In this year especially, it seems thats all we have time for - being brutally introspective about all the aspects of our life we wish we could go back and change.
What has been haunting me today is a decision I did not make back in 1998 or 99, when I considered graduate school. At the time, I was living in a low rent apartment on the near west side of Chicago. While there, I had grown fond of the underbelly that lives as a part of Chicagoland’s origin mythology. Grifters, hustlers, con men, pool rooms, and underground card games.
After having finished my undergrad degree with an emphasis on autobiography and historical fiction writing, I was hoping to extend this into the realm of sociology. In particular, I was interested in digging into how these classic con artists from the past had evolved with the changing landscape. From 3 card monty and long plays, how they used the new internet to become Nigerian princes and credit card skimmers.
I envisioned a life of research, interviews, data sets and outputs that push thinking about about the elements that drive some to grift, the work it takes to keep them afloat, and how they design and use new tools. From the ways that game hustles have evolved - with the closing of pool halls, bowling alleys, and card rooms, to the more complex long cons that continue to invade business, investment, and other areas. I was going to be the next Ned Poksly or David W. Maurer. But it wasn’t to be.
I moved to New York City shortly thereafter. Lost the drive, fell into accidental professions that changed and altered over time. Never really finding my niche.
But I never lost the love for data and all that it can do. The compulsion resurfaced as a near-psychosis back when I became an obsessive runner. I tracked all aspects of me, the terrain, anything - before health trackers became ubiquitous, a constant presence that could do these things for us. These journals filled with detail provided validation of work done, body measures captured, conditions faced - the drivers to do more, push harder, suffer deeper.
Now, many years later deep inside a locked down shell of a life, I log little details daily. I believe they will one day define me and the natural and unnatural world that surrounds. Instead of capturing detail about external subjects, I poke and prod myself. All to understand that I wished I had gone to graduate school. I wish that I gone in the right direction instead of the left.
I’m not dead yet. Maybe there is still hope left in me - though that one is hard to determine.
* I’m not fully there. I have some time still, but am getting closer every day.
Great article (a little old) from Paul Kerr at Spin Magazine on The Enduring Relevance of College Radio. While I continue in my middle years to listen to college radio daily, this one struck a nostalgic nerve for me as it made me think about those early discoveries that came from favorite DJs.