Grace Coolidge, Raccoon Whisperer (or: On Not Being One Kind of Blog)

posted in: Art, Work 16
Grace, with raccoon, 1927.
Grace with raccoon, Easter Day, 1927.


That photograph is of First Lady Grace Coolidge with Rebecca, her pet raccoon. My younger sister’s name is Rebecca. Though there are zero Rebeccas in Fons or Graham family history, I am confident my little sister was not named after a White House raccoon. There was no Internet when she was born, for one thing. Did my parents even know about the Coolidge raccoon? Without the Internet, how did they know anything? How did they even know the name Rebecca? The mind reels.*

I don’t know if it shows, but I spend an inordinate amount of my day

1) panicking about the certain-if-not-imminent collapse of America (it’ll be because of the banks)
2) thinking about PaperGirl and its continuity, quality, etc.
3) in search of lost time

That second thing is the most surmountable here, so let’s mount. The goal for me with the ol’ PG is to never let it be about one thing. Life is not about one thing, after all. There’s a lure of making a blog about one thing. A “Mommy” blog can be marketed as such, same as “Foodie” blogs. You can’t blame a person for wanting to have a niche and stick to it. A blog that is about one thing has an easy elevator speech. Let’s listen in on a conversation between a food blogger (“FOOD BLOGGER”) and an advertising executive (“AD EXEC”) in an elevator at a busy blogging convention:

FOOD BLOGGER: (Noticing AD EXEC’s badge.) Oh, hi. You’re an ad exec.
AD EXEC: Yes, I am.
FOOD BLOGGER: (Extends hand.) I’m a blogger. I have over 15,000 page views a month and a bounce rate of 7%. Most people stay on my page for eight minutes at a time.
AD EXEC: Those are great numbers. What’s your blog about?
AD EXEC: Here’s my card.

Let’s listen in on another conversation. We’re at that same blogging convention and two ladies meet each other in a line for coffee:

LADY 1: Boy, am I ready for a latte!
LADY 2: Tell me about it. (Glances at LADY 1’s badge; it says “Blogger.”) What’s your blog called?
LADY 1: (With dreamy look) TheKidsAreAlright-dot-Mom-dot-Blogspot-dot-Com.
LADY 2: I’m a mommy blogger, too! (The women embrace.)

And what’s my blog about? Everything. Nothing at all. I’ve auditioned several replies to the question, but none seem to be winners. (This does not inspire confidence in the concept of the thing.) Attempts to answer “What’s your blog about?” have included:

“It’s a blog about… My… Life?”
Eyes glaze.

“It’s… Well, it’s about all kinds of things.”
Folks suddenly need to check for text messages.

“You know, it’s just sort of a clearinghouse for thoughts. But it’s not just me rambling on about this or that, no way. I try to keep things tight. I have a point of view and I try to…keep things…tight.”
No, no, no. I’ve totally lost them.

Putting a picture up there of Grace with her raccoon, that was me being my own trainer, trying lead my brain away from the trap of consistency. If I write about my diet too much, I’m a “health and wellness” blogger or — far more undesirable to me — a blogger who writes mainly about her chronic health problems. (I recognize the value of such blogs and have no criticism for people who write them, I just don’t want to write a blog like that.) If I write about living in NYC too much, I might alienate all the non-NYC (or non-NYC-loving) readers out there and be labeled an “urban” blogger, which sounds trendy and gross.

I must stay on my toes. While updating readers on the progress of my radical, intestine-rescue diet is appropriate from time to time in the name of consistency, I mustn’t offer daily reports of how it feels to eat hamburger patties for breakfast. (It’s weird but I’m getting used to it.) Though I had doctor’s appointments yesterday and today that I do want to share about at some point, I must vary my dispatches so that PaperGirl is not a long slog through the life and times of a gimpy gal with flagging chutzpah in the face of significant health issues. I have to do the slog; why should you?

So the raccoon. Does that make sense? And if someone wants to take a stab at the question, “What is PaperGirl about?” by all means do so. I need a good answer.

*An Internet search tells me Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and the Bible were both around before the Internet, so maybe my folks got the name from one of those places. I should ask my mom.