Why Bother Getting up in the Morning? Awards, of Course

In the last month, four fellow writers gave The Gad About Town four different awards. That is as kind as it gets.

The one time an award was given to me at a real awards ceremony in a hotel ballroom, I dashed from my seat upon seeing my name projected on the screen behind the presenters, ran to the front of the room, paused long enough to collect the plaque (which I have long since lost), looked at it to confirm that my name was indeed the one etched on its surface, and dashed back to my newspaper’s table. The presenters were not looked at long enough for their faces to be retained in my memory. It happened so quickly that no one could make a joke about how quickly I ran up there. Was an acceptance speech expected? Yes, yes there was. Was one delivered? No.

I grabbed that thing as if I expected the membership of the New York Press Association to demand an instant recount. As if someone had clicked start on a stopwatch. It was not my plan to turn into Carl Lewis and hurdle the tables of our rival newspapers, but something snapped. It was 1997 and I could still run, but I lived a life in which I did not expect good things, so when good things came I was not “pleasantly surprised” as I like to be now, I was shocked into feeling like I was getting away with something that I clearly did not deserve.

I republished one of the winning columns here in December, 2014; it was called “The New Wave“.

At the conclusion of 2014, I wrote about this website’s metrics; I also wrote at that time about my relationship with metrics (“I Don’t Believe in Me“), so why not give you some more metrics about this website? In December I wrote this:

This is a small publication with about 300 subscribers (“followers” in WordPress lingo) and a total of under 10000 views since January 2014. Of those 9000 views, it has received 645 comments and about 2000 “likes” (individuals’ faces and logos appear next to each like, making this feel like a community of sorts) across its 190 posts. Six hundred and forty-five comments out of 9207 visits is a 0.07 rate; I do not know if this is good, bad, an uncommonly high percentage, or so very extremely average and just like everyone else’s website as to be unworthy of even bothering to calculate.2014 In Review

In 2015, this site has been visited 21,651 times (so, more than 30,000 when combined with 2014’s numbers), received 4800 “likes,” and 1200 comments. Twelve hundred comments out of 21000 visits is a 0.057 rate; I still do not know if that is a large number or a teeny-tiny one. It’s a number. There is one other number, one that feels like an award in and of itself: because none of us charge a subscription and this is a one-man operation (which is sometimes sadly obvious), 99.9% of the comments are complimentary and direct and addressed to me personally. I strive to respond to each one, even if only with a thank you; I know I fail in that a lot of the time, however, and I will strive to do even better.

The official number of followers (I prefer “subscribers”) is 566, which means that this number has been almost doubled; one day I was on a friend’s laptop and I saw the button to click to follow this site by email and after I asked, “Why aren’t you a follower?”, I noticed the number was four digits in size. There is a large difference between 566 and more than 1500, and I do not know which number corresponds to real reality. I guess “followers” are those who might see this website in their WordPress reader, if they look at that. It seems that the moment someone clicks “Follow” on a site, they get counted, but unfollowers are not subtracted. (For my ego’s sake, I hope this practice remains.) But the larger number, the email subscribers, I don’t know what that means. Do 1500 people get an email from this website every time I hit “Publish?” Should I claim the larger number, 1500 subscribers, like my newspaper used to?

In 2015, one column received more than 1000 views in a single week and a second one was viewed 1000 times in a single day. The two columns that got some attention are: “A tomar las armas compañeros” (1000 in a week) and “Pete Seeger, One Year Gone.” I woke one morning to the news that the late Pete Seeger’s Facebook page and Twitter account had both featured that particular column as if I was writing for his estate.

In December I wrote this about readers, about all of you (especially you, and you, and you, too):

I like to think of myself as a professional writer; in 2013, I built a platform out of nothing for myself, climbed on it, and started typing. Being disabled and with a tiny income means that I no longer need to do the following things in my life: voluntarily send my résumé to some publication that I either admire or have never heard of but will act like I have always loved in order to pursue a job that I almost certainly do not understand; hope to be invited to be interviewed; dress up or dress down for an interview in which “first impressions are everything” but when I am hungry for a job, I do not make a good first impression; positively envision myself working with this staff for years to come (a silent thought, “I’m going to hang out with [looks around the office] … her”) but keep my expectations in check and understand that I will probably never lay eyes on any of these people again in this life. Those job interviews, many of them, are burned in my memory. Some of them are good anecdotes; I interviewed for a copy editor job at a porn magazine on Lexington Avenue once. Maybe I will write about that someday.

The newest awards: In June, Julie of “The Reluctant Baptist” cited TGAT for the attention I have been giving to the story of Raif Badawi. In August, Kate Spencer, A Lady in Transition, included TGAT as a blog she “treasures.” In August, Matt of Macbofisbil included me in a column about his blogging milestones (he has more Facebook followers and more subscribers and is half my age so there’s that, too) and awarded this site with a Premio Dardis Award. Also in August, Xena of Black Butterfly awarded TGAT with a Real Neat Blog Award.

In the blogging world, there are some rules of etiquette in the form of paying forward the attention. Most have rules along these lines:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for the award.
2. Add the award logo to your post. Display the award on your blog—by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget.”
3. Share seven or four or 15 facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 or four or seven bloggers you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog.

The last one first. I have been participating for the last 60 weeks in responding to our WordPress service’s Daily Prompt, which has helped spur my most prolific period of writing since graduate school. Most of the writers with whom I have been communicating regularly, several of whom ask me questions and give me applause every single day, I met via that service. My subscriber number has doubled, and so has the number of blogs that I subscribe to. Go to the Daily Prompt any day and you will see the several dozen blogs that I read and communicate with every day.

I fear I will leave someone out, is all I am confessing. Also, a weird thing has happened with me and awards: every time I have cited some web sites as worth visiting, at least one of them has taken itself offline within a month. I am sure this has happened to others, but this happened to me the first time, a year and a half ago.

Several random facts about me:

1. The number four is my lifelong “secret lucky number.” (Anyone who has gambled with me knows about this. Read: The Gad About Town: Against NYS Proposition 1.) Now, I know that in most of the world’s luck traditions, if one declares out loud that something is secret as well as lucky, one has immediately kiboshed all secrecy and all luck out of that thing’s existence, but that is the beautiful thing about my “secret lucky number 4”: It remains lucky and maybe even grows in power every time I speak of my special relationship with it. Maybe. Today is September … 4. There are four awards in this post. Eh? AmIright?

2. I left New Paltz in 1995 to work in Narrowsburg, NY, and moved back to New Paltz in 1997. I left New Paltz again in 2000 to work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and returned to New Paltz in 2006. (There are legends about New Paltz and eternal return and gazing upon the nearby Wallkill River—I am legend, I suppose.) And then I had to move again, this time to Goshen, NY.

3. Depending on my relative levels of optimism or pessimism, I may refer to my spinal muscular atrophy as an “illness” versus a “condition.” Lately, I have been feeling low. It’s an illness.

4. I pretended to write before I knew how to write. There are pieces of furniture at my family’s house with my crayon scribblings on them and in them—I did not draw, I wrote, wavy lines that I would then inform my parents was a story. I’ll guess I was about three or … four. See? It must have been a lucky number from the start.

5. I am very audiologically sensitive (I do not know if that is even a term). I can identify voiceover actors, even when famous ones are used anonymously. The downside of this is a sensitivity to certain noises … if the faucet in your kitchen sink is dripping, I will excuse myself from your living room to see if the tap can be tightened or if the faucet swung away from any water-catching container under it. Bloop bloop bloop. Sadly, this sensitivity does not translate to any musical ability. I have none, just an appreciation for music and performance.

6. I see words as I speak them.

7. My favorite animals growing up were dinosaurs. My favorite dinosaur was the triceratops. In the children’s books about dinosaurs, the triceratops always seemed to get into a tangle with the fearsome T-Rex and walk away, unscathed. The two species did not co-exist, but that story line seemed common in children’s dinosaur books in the 1970s.

* * * *
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 4 asks, “What is the one thing that drives you to wake up in the morning and do whatever it is you do? Is it writing, family, friends, or something else entirely?”

And please visit and participate in the Alterna-Prompt, “The Blog Propellant.” This site should be included in any awards ceremony.


  1. wscottling · September 4, 2015

    My favorite dinosaur growing up was the Stegosaurus. I just love the plated back and the spiked tail. Plus, they’re native to North America, and as a kid I thought I might find Stegosaurus fossils in my back yard, which would have been way cool.

    I’m curious though, when you see the words you speak, is it like subtitles? That would be kind of awesome and distracting, though I guess if you’ve always seen them, it wouldn’t be distracting because the words have always been there… So there’s that. Do you see other people’s words too? or just your own?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · September 7, 2015

      There were no dinosaur bones to be found in the Northeast, and, boy, how the books made THAT clear! Mastodons (http://www.thecountysbest.com/sugarthemastodon/index.html) roamed upstate New York, though, and I would have loved to have found a tusk in the woods (the heavily trafficked by humans and vehicles for centuries) woods behind my house.

      I see words if I pay attention to it, so it’s not like subtitles. It’s like they’re to the left, on the periphery. Not there when I’m reading. I school, it actually helped with spelling tests. Being prone to feel guilty about everything, I felt like this meant I was cheating, so I confessed to my teacher, who promptly had no idea what the heck I was describing. But I knew that I was supposed to memorize my spelling words and the fact is, I usually memorized the incorrect spelling. I thought that “just knowing” how to spell was cheating.

      Liked by 1 person

      • wscottling · September 7, 2015

        I can see the conundrum, though I wish I’d had that cheat code when I was growing up. My difficulty came with reading British novels and spelling in an American school. I kept using the British spellings. ^_^


  2. macbofisbil · September 4, 2015

    That was a wonderful acceptance post and thanks for accepting my award. You deserve it.

    About my Facebook followers: most of them came from hitting the “Promote” button on my page and having to pay big bucks later on (which I don’t regret). They aren’t all organic but most were paid for and I sure hope most of them stay around. Already a few have unliked my page for some reason which makes me wonder if I’m a big phony on here.

    Yes, I’m half your age and you’re like a mentor to me. I think I’ve learned how to write better by reading some of your articles, as you call them. I don’t understand the difference between the number of email followers and actual followers on the blog either. I have about 6,255 email followers (last time I checked) and 309 blog followers. I don’t know where that 6,000 number comes from, they didn’t all click the follow email button. If all 6,255 of those people I’ve never heard of all saw my post in their email and went to my site, I would have way more than 10,000 page views total.

    Anyway, great job. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Xena · September 4, 2015

    Congratulations, Mark. I love reading about you, your inspirations.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LRose · September 4, 2015

    Thank you for always plugging TBP, and thank you for the little award suggest on this post. Happy to have you along as one of the gang!
    I’ve had one experience on my personal blog similar to your Pete Seeger post explosion. I wrote a review of “Foyle’s War” that was picked up by two Michael Kitchen fan sites. I didn’t get nearly the number of hits you did, but I got a couple hundred that first day, more than any post before or since. They keep trickling in, just about every day, for the past two years. And, for two weeks I was the #2 Google authority on the “Smiley Face” icon. Crazy the way these things blow up on social media!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · September 7, 2015

      Being the second response to a search about the smiley face icon is, I think, one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard of. Everyone should be so lucky to have something like that!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. loisajay · September 4, 2015

    Congratulations, Mark, on your very well-deserved awards. I love Fact #5 about you! Oh, yes–especially at night when all is quiet and that ‘bloop, bloop, bloop’ is amplified by 1,000 times!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. katespencer17 · September 5, 2015

    A great acceptance post. You have my empathy with #5. My husband is also audiologically sensitive, particularly to loud sounds and the pitch frequency used in almost every appliance in the house – the refrigerator compressor is the worst. When it runs, so does my hubby. He runs to another room. 😉 Congratulations on your awards – all well deserved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · September 7, 2015

      Thank you, and thank you again for including me in your award post this summer.


  7. camparigirl · September 6, 2015

    Technically, all your followers and subscribers do get your posts, although followers might get them on their WP reader, as opposed to their inbox like email subscribers. Views are counted only if the emails are opened on someone clicks on your post in the Reader.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · September 7, 2015

      Thanks for helping clarify that–and for being one of the readers who’s been around since I moved to WordPress..


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