It was a dark and stormy night. A blonde dame in a trench coat walked quickly under the awnings of the mostly deserted downtown street. A lone saxophonist belted out a melancholy tune as the dame looked over her shoulder once, then entered the dark doorway of the Acme building. She climbed four flights to the office of one OE Sheepdog, private eye. She had questions, he had answers.
She opened the door and stood in the doorway and asked, “You the one they call Old English? Used to be a private dick? Now you work for non-profit?” She pulled a silver cigarette case from her coat pocket and the man known as OE pulled his feet off his desk, picked up a statuette of a Maltese falcon, flipped the bird’s back feathers twice and produced a flame. He leaned in to light her cigarette and he could smell her cologne-- Chanel #5-- and something else, too. He could smell her fear.
“Have a seat”, he said, “Miss?” She sat, crossed her legs and drew deeply on the cigarette. “They call me Dharma.”
The man called OE sat back in his chair and smiled. “So, Dharma. You look like a dame with a lota secrets. What can I do for you.”
“The less you know about me, the better, Mister. Cause I ain’t nothing but a whole heap a trouble. But I do have a few questions for you.”
The man they called OE leaned back in his seat, set his feet upon his desk again and smiled. “By all means, fire away.”
1. The name I use here is a spiritual name. If you were to choose a name that best describes your spirit-- the essence of who you are-- what would it be?
This is the toughest question on the interview and it's the first question. Do they get any easier?
I think I chose the Old English Sheepdog as avatar because I'm the human equivalent. I'm funny, clownish and wacky. There's the side of me that loves people. Sheepdogs tend to be extroverts and that's definitely me.
2. I like to give men a challenge. That’s what I do. I gently bend them with my questions and my hands…
If you could live for a time in one of your favorite novels, which would you choose and why?
Let me mention some of my favorite authors and it leads to an answer. When I was really young I discovered Robert Benchley who was one of the famed "Algonquin Roundtable." He wrote several books as well as appeared in the movies and on radio. I read Jane Austen, Mark Twain, A. Conan Doyle, Hammett, Groucho Marx, Wodehouse and recently within the last several years Rex Stout who is known for creating Nero Wolfe. Stout is an interesting writer whose main character always was reading a current book of the times.
Now to answer the question I would say the New York of the 1930s and 40s. Living in Nero Wolfe's brownstone would not have been a bad place to be. Lunching at the Algonquin and crossing paths with Dorothy Parker or Robert Sherwood or Benchley would have been pretty cool. I also would have liked to own a 1940 Packard 180 convertible sedan (with sidemounts).
3. Who is your favorite hero/heroine of fiction?
This is a difficult question. In the moment I would have to say Archie Goodwin the narrator in Stout's Nero Wolfe stories. A man of action, at ease with the ladies and talks back to his boss. What's not to like.
4. What is your favorite post of yours?
I don't think I have one. They're all terrific; actually they're all imperfect. What's your favorite post that I've written?
5. Who are your favorite writers on OS and which posts have moved you and/or challenged your thinking?
This is like the psychology test where they ask you "do you beat your mother?", and later in the test you're asked "have you stopped beating your mother?" This is a no win situation.
The usual suspects, too many to be named in this space. On posts that have moved me I'll focus on Bill Beck, a great wit and ranconteur, Geoff Wollacott, who I differ with politically but respect his arguments and positions because he uses facts, data, and logic to present them.
I think I'm drawn to read people's posts by the comments they make on my posts. I don't know if that resonates with anyone else, but when someone comments in the moment, without the benefit of multiple drafts, I'm seeing them write from the heart, without the mask of the avatar.
For example, you made a comment in my post about courtesy in January, about a day hike with a friend's child. When I read the comment, it was like, wow, I should read her blog. That's what draws me to reading blogs and the friending process.
6. Hmmph. Thanks for that, Mister. I’d kiss ya but I just washed my hair. What brought you to OS and what do you hope to achieve here? Is this, in your opinion, a “community”?
I was reading Salon for the last 18 months and following the presidential campaign. After the election, I got burned out blogging on political sites and stumbled in here in January.
Achieve? Oh no, the pressure. I think this is a creative outlet for me in ways I can't be creative at work. I used to think writing was worse than waterboarding when I was a kid.
In my professional life I had to learn business writing, this is a little more liberating than that.
I guess to find my voice, whatever the heck that is.
I get a kick out of the controversy about EPs and Cover placement. Some of my "better" work gets scant attention, while other stuff, winds up with an EP or on the cover. Go figure. It's not like I try for that every time I sit down to blog.
I think OS is a safe place to hide behind an avatar and experiment. It's a community where people with say what's on their mind in ways they wouldn't if you worked them in an office or were in a relationship with them.
7. You call yourself an “director of change”. Since change is inherently disruptive, how do you help to make people comfortable with changes in their work and routines?
If change was comfortable, it wouldn't be that difficult. If you wanted to stop smoking or drinking or lose weight, you'd do it.
In the workplace it's even harder, because in addition to individual change, you're trying to change an organization's culture.
I try to find people who are likely to be the most skeptical about change and enlist them to help. I tell them change is happening. With you or without you. You're concerned about the pitfalls, then work with me, and help keep us from driving off a cliff.
Engaging them early helps. Usually they have credibility with their peer groups and I found that when they have a vested interest in the change, they're committed to making it work. Their peers listen to them, too.
If I share any more I'll have start charging an hourly rate. My writing is free, but my livelihood is not.
8. What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Adopting two daughters who were in the foster care system.
9. What was your very best day?
When I got married last September. It was the happiest day of my life.
10. Figures. All the best ones are married. So, OE. What is your favorite word? Your least favorite word?
Favorite word: Compassion
Least favorite : Can't
11. What makes you happy?
Knowing that there are only three questions left.
Being in a healthy relationship for the first time in my life.
12. Alright mister. Just a couple more then I’ll be outta your hair. What inspires you?
A challenge that others feel is insurmountable and I think can be overcome.
13. What do you really, really want from life?
It's would be great to have a winning lottery ticket. It would make life easier, but not necessarily better.
I would like my two daughters to look back someday and tell me I made a real difference in their lives. That would mean a lot to me.
14. What is your motto, OE? Got any words to live by?
You tell it's Mattell cause it's swell. No that's already taken.
Give me a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
The blonde crushed out her cigarette, uncrossed her legs and stood. "Thanks, mister. You give a girl a lot to think about." She turned on her heel and walked out the door. The man they called OE sat down and whisteled to himself. Some dames, he thought, are nothing but trouble.
Thanks and praise to the wise, kind soul that is OE Sheepdoggy. You make OS a better place. You really class up the joint.