Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
The new normal.

Wow, this weblog has gone to suck lately. The problem is, right now I'm not in much of a position to do much about that. I look around here and think, Dang, I need to do another Inkblots, need to incorporate some niftiness using Flickr or something, need to update my personal site and consulting site, and this and that and the other thing. Wow, I'm a slacker.

The problem is, I'm really not. Life's just been weird lately.

As you know, O faithful readers, the last two weeks were taken up with the whole ordeal dealing with my grandmother back in Ohio. To be fair, my mom was the one that handled most of it – and with an astounding amount of grace under fire, I might add – and my role was primarily moral support. Which, y'know, I'd like to think that I provided at least some of. Mostly I spent the two weeks helping out with things that needed to happen around the old family farm. See, I grew up in an old farmhouse built before the Civil War, complete with a pony named Misty that's essentially a four-legged lawnmower and a big old barn filled with my Dad's antique car collection. Lately, Mom's been dealing with Grandma's slow deterioration, and Dad's been continually trying to retire from the company where he was CFO for twenty-odd years, and I've been bopping back and forth between Ohio, Washington DC and Chicago. As a result, stuff around the house that used to be a concerted family effort had been piling up, like using Dad's backhoe to haul his dump truck up from the pasture (since its brakes had failed) so he could fix said dump truck in order to start building this lake he's been talking about, or turning our old dining room, which we almost never, y'know, actually dined in, into a sort of garden library/studio for Mom, which, y'know, I expect she'll use pretty much all the time. So while I was home I drove a backhoe, helped Dad a little with some of his other projects, and helped Mom install shelves into this eight-foot tall bookcase and move a bunch of her garden books into it, and swore that the next time I was there, if she'd gotten ready for it, I'd help move Dad's old desk up there as well as this little leather couch thing for reading. It'll be really pretty when it's done. My mom has a knack for things like that. Between Mom's interior decorating and my other Grandma being an art teacher, it's no surprise that I have some natural aesthetic skills with almost no formal training.

Apologies for the meandering entry here. This is not my finest mental hour. On top of all of this, the past couple of days have been spent polishing up this new site that just launched,, which is the newest brainchild from this woman for whom I've been doing freelance design work for the last, jeez, four years. It's a nifty site, an employment site kinda like Monster, only dedicated purely to medical professionals, and the interface I designed for it is so simple and beautiful it's almost Googlesque. (Yes, this is the one I posted about a few weeks ago where I said that I really hoped the client would go for it. She did.) There have, of course, been the requisite long list of gotchas involved in a new launch, especially since the backend was created by a third-party contractor, who did an amazing job, but necessarily added one more level of communication to the entire project. All things considered, though, the whole thing came out pretty darn well. I'm proud of it.

The point of that little tangent: That project was what I was mainly working on while I was home. There are now two coffee shops in downtown Wooster, Seattle's and The Muddy Waters Cafe (neither of which have websites, something which I wish I'd researched a little while I was in town; I probably could have whipped something up and saved myself a bundle in complimentary lattes). These two coffee joints are literally right around the corner from each other. As a result, I would wind up in Muddy Waters first to check my e-mail (Muddy Waters being a Wi-Fi hotspot), then pop over to Seattle's to spread out my mobile studio on a table in the corner, where I'd hammer for a few hours and then trundle back to Muddy Waters again to check my mail again before heading home.

Some people say "Work to live, live to work." In this case, it was more "Work to eat, eat to work" – or, more specifically, "Work to drink, drink to work." When the only 'Net connection you can find is a coffeehouse, you wind up drinking a lot of coffee or chai or whatever in one day. Whoof. I think I gained five pounds and jacked up my blood pressure five points from all the caffeine – which probably didn't help when Dad was teaching me how to drive his old Harley Sprint, this kind-of mini-Harley motorcycle that was built during this dark phase in Harley-Davidson's history when the company was owned by Italians that thought they needed a smaller, more entry-level bike. It may be smaller, but that thing was still a Harley. After doing a bunch of laps on wet grass in Misty's pasture, almost going over the handlebars once, and getting pretty much thrown another time, I think I finally started getting the hang of it. Someday I'll get a motorcycle of my own to go tooling around on. I doubt it'll be when I'm living in the city, though – that seems way more suicidal than it's worth.

It's funny. I miss Ohio. Not as much as I did when I was in DC – Chicago's Midwestern mentality is much more soothing to that than DC's cutthroat East Coast style – but there's this weird thing about going back to Wooster these days. With very few exceptions, almost everyone my age there is married with kids. My friend Mike Mariola has a wife, a 1-year old munchkin and his own restaraunt, for crying out loud. (Good on ya, Mike!) I'm happy for these people, don't get me wrong. But for me, right now, my path lies elsewhere. And hanging out in Wooster without my usual current set of peers, the unmarried late-twenties artist-professional folks, was a little odd, and a lot lonely. I may go back and settle somewhere around there someday, but probably not until I have a family of my own. Wooster's beautiful and homey and charming, but it's also stiflingly conservative and dead-set in its ways. It's grown a little since I left back in '96, but for the most part it's the same old Wooster. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that.

Hanging out at home was great, though. If I'm uncertain about how I feel about Wooster, one thing I definitely miss is the beauty of Ohio skies at night, out in the country without any light pollution. The stars in Ohio are the most beautiful things you'll ever see, a vast, endless sea of constellations and comets. I miss that, and I miss the sounds of the country. Our neighborhood here in Chicago is relatively pretty and laid-back, but it's very mixed in its demographics, and we often get the late-night guys with ghetto blaster stereos blasting their way through, or the occasional early-morning screaming matches with death threats idly (I hope) lobbed back and forth. Mostly it's families and everyday folks, but those kinds of folks weren't something you dealt with a whole lot out in Ohio farm country. I like being close to as many amazing things as we are here in Chicago, but I miss the quiet nights, curled up with a book, reading or writing or just listening to the crickets and the occasional train as it rumbles by off in the distance.

I like Chicago, but the country is my home. In the words of the Great Gonzo, "I'm going to go back there someday."

Again, apologies for the discombobulated nature of this post. These are the thoughts that are going through my mind right now, these weird reflections on what it's like to be 26-almost-27, wondering about these different lifestyles, still trying to find a place for myself and, like my late grandfather used to say, "Doing the best we can with what we've got." After Grandma had the stroke, one of the first things she said when she could talk again was that she'd seen Grandpa. He'd been there in the hospital room as she was floating in and out. Now that Grandma's been discharged and moved to a nursing home, I'd imagined she's kind of spooked. She's kind of confused, and I'm not sure she's completely certain where she is even when she's having her most lucid moments. It helps to think that Grandpa's there, watching over her and just being there when my Mom and Dad and I can't. We love Grandma, and it's frustrating to not be able to help her any more than we can, but we can't keep our lives in limbo because of this forever.

There's a phrase that's been going through my head a lot these last couple of weeks: This is the new normal. It's been my mantra for dealing with Grandma's condition after the stroke, but it applies pretty much to everything. My scattered relationships with my friends and the people I care the most about, my consulting and writing careers, the way my friends are growing up and having kids, all this weirdness and fascinating, strange mixture of conflicting emotions about what it means to be a still-but-not-as-young adult.

This is the new normal. For better or for worse. This is the new normal, and we do the best we can with what we've got.


Congratulations on the site. is pretty slick. Very nice job, and also to the company that did the backend. Nice search capability. The Bistro sounds like it could be a nice place to stop for lunch or dinner.

Geoff on a Motorcycle, sounds cool. I have never ridden on one, what's it like? I must admit that I like at least three wheels on the road. Bicycles are fun, but I prefer to stay out of traffic. I like quiet country roads, much less pressure.

I miss Ohio as well. I understand what you mean about the style of DC. Even having grown up in New York, I felt much more at peace in OH; I like the midWest and wouldn't mind ending up working at a small-liberal arts college someday.

I agree that a good mantra is "Do the best you can with what you have, where you are."

Considering what it means to say, "This is the new Normal." What is normal? Is normal the current situation, and if it is how do we judge whether it is good or not? Can we judge when we are in the moment? Or does judgement require perspective? Is judging wrong? Should we rather look around and ask ourselves what do we want to do now, and what can we do? Integral to that question is the truth as we see it. We must look to our heart to lead us in the direction we need to go. The best thing we can do (as Wendy McCloud said once), is follow our bliss, come hell or high water. The worst thing we can do is lie to ourselves and deny what it is that makes us happy. Can we Make choices based only on what we "think" is right? We make choices based on the information we have at the time, and as long as we are true to ourselves we have done what we can.

Wow, way too much rambling. It's certainly time for bed.

-Nick F

I believe Geoff is right about the, "New Normal" and I agree with Nick that normal is the state of affairs at that moment.

Sorry to quote a movie (a movie my kid forces me to watch EVERY DAY) but "If nothing ever happened to him, then nothing would ever happen to him. Not very fun for little Harpo - Nemo."

It's what happens that makes up the new normal. It's also what makes us stronger, more aware, (hopefully) more mature, and wiser. It's life.

Hang in there Geoff. I will soon have to go through a New Normal with my family. Not looking forward to it, but it will make me stronger.

You know the Bistro guy?!?!?! I didn't know that! I've only eaten there once (and work was paying) but the food was amazing and the place has a lot of charm.

Geoff, you can come live with me in that commune we always planned to start... I do want so very much to go back and be a professor at Kenyon someday, for just those reasons. You & Nick should join me :)

In related news, I went to Beaufort, SC 2 nights ago for filming. I stopped at a coffee house my friend had recommended, and sat there and worked on a script. There was a beautiful view of the bay, a park, swings, couples walking hand in hand, a light breeze. It was great. Some people sat down nearby, & we had conversation, & I got invited to come stay with them for a few weeks, which I regretfully declined. It was just... nicer than everywhere else. Like a place in the 50's, without the stepford wives.


I think the move overseas helped abolish the notion of "normal." However, I've decided that there's "life," and sometimes it's rich, and sometimes it's thin, but it always has a unique, different flavor every moment of every day.

Perhaps I've just decided to live the new normal every day. Perhaps they're the same notion, and we're just using different words.


And perhaps your post just made me homesick.


Sorry, Matt.

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