Bottom to the Tops

The View From Down Below

Recently Medium started identifying “top” writers in certain categories. If you click on a tag, you now see “top stories”, “latest stories”, and “top writers.” Those top writers received an e-mail telling them that they are one of the tag’s “top writers”.

I am not a top writer. I know many of you will find that hard to believe. “What?” you’ll say, “Gutbloom not a top writer?! Absurd!” I agree, but I can explain. I think top writers are determined by some kind of maths… and you may not know this, but me and maths have been at war for over 50 years. I keep saying that I don’t have to understand fractions, and the gods of maths keep trying to convince me that mathematical ignorance is painful. They might be winning. My tax bill from last year was kind of a body blow. That said, I will not bow before the integers!

I’m OK with not being a top writer. No, really… I’m not hurt or offended… this is not going to be a post filled with tortured rationalizations and denials… I’m not going to say I write for “myself”, or “art”, or to be a “soul blogger”… but I would say those things if I thought any of those excuses would work. Do you think I could play the “soul blogger” card again? No, right? That’s not going to work. Everyone is going to see right through that and be like, “he’s just whinging because he isn’t a ‘top writer’.”

You should know that I know a lot of “top writers”. Really. A lot of my friends are top writers. Well, we don’t call them “friends” on Medium. Some of my followers are top writers. If there were a cafeteria on Medium, I would be welcome at the top writers table even though I’m not a top writer. They would be like, “Gutbloom, come sit with us,” and I would say, “but I’m not a top writer,” and they would say, “Oh, being a top writer is bullshit anyway”, which they could say because they are top writers.

I think I might take the tack that being on the bottom is the place to be, but before I start that, let me just say that they don’t recognize a “top writer” for every tag, and had Medium included “nakedscuba” in the list of tags that have “top writers”, I would definitely be a top writer. Definitely THE top writer for nakescuba. You can bet on it.

Rocking the “Creative Underclass” Cred

So, like the voodoo-gothic death vultures that hang out under the bleachers of your local high school, and the semi-literate slackers stinking up your favorite coffee shop, I am well practiced at turning unsuccessful attempts at life into a fully formed identity.

For example, when I didn’t get picked for kickball, I convinced the other kid that didn’t get picked that “sitting on the rock” was way better than “providing a target for meatheads” while running towards first base. “Look at that kid playing right field,” I said, “That stooge has to stand while we get to sit.” The rock became an island of misfit toys, and we called ourselves the “rockers.” That is, until the other kids on the rock got a chance to join the kickball game. The truth is, as soon as I was picked, I totally sold out the rockers and went and stood in right field with six other kids (in kickball there are no positions, so people like me try to stand in the place where the ball is least likely to land).

Drake “started at the bottom”. If you are here, with me now, at the bottom, then we can stamp your “creative underclass” card and vouch for your authenticity. When you hit the big time we will say that you were once one of us. You won’t have to make up a story about sleeping in your car on Sunset Boulevard like so many celebrities do. You show up at the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference, or apply to the McDowell Colony, and you put “knew Gutbloom on Medium in 2017 (go ahead and lie if you just got here)” and that’s like the prose equivalent of coming straight outta Compton. I am famously bad. Check this out:

I used to go by “Mr. Mustard”

Are We Literary “Deplorables”?

No, no, no. Not at all. First of all, because we LIKE many of the top writers. They are our friends… I mean followers… I mean we are their followers. We are not like crabs in a basket. We let people climb out. You can leave the rock. There is no shame in that.

What Do We Get for Being at the Bottom?

In addition to the sweet, sweet, street cred from being on the bottom of the Medium metric, we get to experience freedom. For, as I have written many times before, “Freedom’s just another word for ‘nothing left to lose’”. (Remind me to write a post about how bad it is to use a Kris Kristofferson lyric as your guiding philosophy). Anyway, we’re free, man. Free to start a sentence with “Anyway”, free to write bad poetry, free to publish pointless remembrances, and free to subject others to unfunny listicles. In other words, free to be you and me. Watch this:

Bad Poetry

The wind will blow
And it shall show
That you are afraid
You are afraid
And the bell will clang
And the shudders bang
And you are in bed
Just like I said

— Gutbloom (age 7)

Pointless Remembrance

Gather round ye millennials and weird uncle Gutbloom will tell you about dance lessons. They were on Wednesday nights. You had to eat a hasty dinner. Dinner in those days was a meat, potato, and vegetable, so when I say you had to eat a “hasty dinner”, that means you had to choke down some strips of cube steak, a boiled potato or two, and a few forkfuls of frozen succotash. If you don’t know what succotash is, look it up.

I had to wear a blue blazer, tie, gray flannel pants, and penny loafers. That doesn’t sound like too much of a costume, but it was hard enough to put together that my hair was always getting raked with a comb while the carpool station wagon sat beneath the front steps of our house.

A station wagon is a minivan that isn’t a van at all. Imagine a sedan, now monsterize the sedan and you have a station wagon from the late 70s. They were the dinosaurs of motor cars. There were a lot of kids in the car. I think there could be four in the front seat. Remember, there was no need to wear seat-belts because you were riding around in a land boat. Do you wear seat-belts on a boat?

When we arrived at the venue, which could be a country club or, more likely, the function room of some church, we sat around the edge of the room in folding chairs in strict boy-girl, boy-girl order. The girls had to wear dresses and white gloves.

Then the instructors came out. A man and a woman demonstrated the step we were working on. Waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, lindy. That’s about all I can remember. There was always talk of tango, but I don’t remember getting to the tango or bossa nova. Those were always “next week.”

After the instruction, Mr. Instructor would say, “Gentlemen, get up and ask a lady to dance,” and then all the boys would run to one girl. She would make her pick and then everyone else would mill around the center of the dance floor, awkwardly watching their options diminish.

If you want to talk about the foundations of rape culture, dance class is as good a starting point as any. The girls were not allowed to say “no.” When you walked up and said, “may I have this dance?” they were supposed to say “yes”, but many had developed a way of shaking their head “yes” and saying, “go ask someone else”, “go away”, or “not on your life.”

Eventually, everyone paired up. The instructors would put “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” on a phonograph, and we would try to dance. Pen sets were given to the couples who danced well. I never got a pen set.

Now, there may be millennials who read this and think, “I would love to know how to dance. I wish I had had dance lessons like that.” I can understand that sentiment, but the fact is, I can’t dance. Maybe I can waltz a little. You’d do much better to go take samba or polka lessons at your local recreation center. You won’t have to wear gloves or gray flannels and, if female, you’ll have more agency to pick your partner.

Unfunny Listicle

THINGS I BLAME TRUMP FOR NOW THAT HE IS PRESIDENT

  • My dog doesn’t come when I call her. I blame Trump.
  • I can’t get an appointment with the dentist after work. I blame Trump.
  • My Medium feed sucks. I blame Trump.
  • There is no good Chinese or Indian food where I live. I blame Trump.
  • My waist is somehow between two different standard belt sizes, so I always look like a schlub. I blame Trump.
  • I am not a top writer on Medium. THANKS OBAMA!