When I was a young buck coming up in the rap game, I’ll never forget my mentor, Biggie Smalls, saying to me, “Lazy Ass Samurai,” (that was my stage moniker – I got it off a Wu-Tang Clan internet name generator), “let me lay it out for you: more money, more problems.” That was easy for Biggie to say, of course. He was rolling in fat stacks, as we used to call filthy lucre back in the go-go nineties, when all things were possible and there was still dew on the world. “Uhhh, Biggie,” I said, up to my dookie rope in youthful insolence and populist contrarianism, “less money is actually a bigger problem for most people.” The only problem he had was where to spend it all. That, and avoiding getting gunned down in a drive-by. The latter of which, as we now know, was an insurmountable difficulty indeed. (RIP, B.I.G.)
But I mention this little-known facet of my past to bring us to the squirmy topic of today’s entry: paid subscriptions. As in, I need to make a living off this site. Since I launched Slack Tide in early October, I have published somewhere in the neighborhood of 62,000 words here, all of them, theoretically free. Most of them, unplagiarized. (Only kidding, journalism ethicists.) It’s been time-consuming enough that I’ve declined all outside writing offers from blue-chip establishments since starting. Yet fun and rewarding enough that I wouldn’t mind doing it out of the goodness of my heart. Though it turns out, my mortgage company and kids’ college accounting offices don’t accept heart-goodness as legal tender.
Mind you, I loathe hard sales, and I’m naturally bad at it. While in college, I briefly had a telemarketing job, pushing coupon books to people who were dim enough to answer their phones during dinner. Even though the job’s only real requirements were to be able to dial and read a script, I was no good, and had to quit before getting fired for not making quota. It was so Darwinian, that one of the only success stories was Phil, a rotgut alcoholic, who due to his sociopathic tendencies and high BAC levels, had zero compunction about bullying elderly woman into buying discount muffler coupons, even if they were too old to drive. If you succeeded in closing one of them, he’d take you out to the parking lot during his smoke break and give you a celebratory swig of the Night Train he kept in his car. Nerve-wracking as the job was, it was nice to have a mentor.
But though Phil would probably disapprove, let’s go the softer sales route. If you’re already one of the many generous paid subscribers who took the plunge when everything was still free, I sincerely thank you. Your vote of confidence has not only been a shot in the pocket book, but just as importantly, one in the arm. As a lifelong media creature, this is my first time going solo. And when it’s all on you – without the protective umbrella of a masthead and a 401K and expense account and all the other goodies that corporate mediahood entails (even if corporate mediahood is getting less good by the minute, with all its layoffs and buyouts and clicks monkeys clacking away for their soulless hedge fund owners) - well, it pays not to look down while you’re walking the tightrope. And if you’re a free subscriber, I still thank you. No writer writes to not be read. If we have something to say, we want someone to hear it. And, if we have nothing to say, well, you might have noticed that most writers don’t let that stop them either.
I feel like we’ve said some things worth saying here, though. I vowed when I started this newsletter that it wouldn’t just be dreary harangues about politics. But that it would also be about life itself, and all that encompasses. Of which political harangues are only a small part, or should be. Life is larger and more interesting than just politics. The way I choose to see the world, we are not just political creatures, and God help us if that’s what we allow ourselves to be reduced to.
And so, though we’ve touched political hot buttons like January 6 conspiracy theories and whether to mask during the pandemic, we’ve also explored God and man and bluebirds, or the significance of fishing hats, or how to get through Thanksgiving with your dysfunctional family, or how reading Thoreau can get us through autumn when we know that a long, hard winter is coming. We’ve taken stands against sourness, and in favor of graciousness. We love our country, and hate what’s happened to it, how the last half-decade or so of acrimony has turned people – even many people we like – vengeful and toxic and humorless. And by “we” I mean “me,” since I’m the only one here, and had to let my sole employee Grammarly go due to editorial differences. But we want Slack Tide to be a place where people of good faith, even if they’re atheists, can come in from the cold and find shelter from the storm. Think of it as a friendly bar, or your neighborhood church, or your favorite church with an open bar, which, if they haven’t already invented one of those, someone really ought to.
The things I just mentioned and much more are all there in the archive, which you’ll continue to have full access to as a paid subscriber. But as I’ve been promising/threatening since December, I will now start putting some essays behind a paywall, including most of the “Ask Matt’s,” a semi-regular feature in which you can ask me things, and I attempt to come up with answers that will educate, entertain, or inspire. If you’re already a paid subscriber, all will continue as normal. Likewise, free subscribers will continue getting posts for everybody. But when it comes to paid-member posts, they will get a few scintillating teaser paragraphs that suck them in and then splat them against the paywall, where their hopes will be dashed, their dreams, deferred, their expectations ground to dust. Also, only paid subscribers will have the ability to comment on paid-members-only posts.
I wrestled with having a comments section, but left it, because I like the readers I’ve so far acquired here. For the most part, they tend to be genuine, thoughtful people who don’t take me, or the world, or themselves overly seriously. In other words, my kind of crowd. So I frequently jump into the comments section to mix it up with them. I believe the newsletter nerds call that “building community,” a buzzword I can just barely utter without retching. So I won’t. I prefer calling it “jumping into the comments section to mix it up with people I enjoy talking to.”
Unlike my old telemarketing sensei, I don’t want you to break your bank, or spend your kid’s lunch money, or to hurt yourself subscribing. It’s hard times for an honest man/woman out there, right now. (For dishonest men/women, too.) I understand hard times, financial uncertainties, and apocalypse economies. I did, after all, used to be a print journalist. So ride free with a clean conscience if that’s what suits you. But if you elect to support what we do here and to keep this a going concern, you can subscribe for five bucks a month, or for $50 a year (if you’re not a math whiz, that’s nearly a 20 percent discount), or if you want to go crazy super-fan on us, and spend all the hard-earned money you made crushing the little people, there’s a $250 “founding member” tier (or you can write in your own lesser or greater amount). I’d like to tell you that gets you all sorts of additional benefits like furs and jewelry and full-body massages. But it’s mainly a goodwill gesture that wins you my undying gratitude. I did toy with starting a shower-cam vlog for founding members only. But I’d probably have to pay you to watch that.
Okay, I feel filthy now. Like a public-television pledge driver. Think I’ll put a Slack Tide tote bag over my head and leave you to my subscribe button.
See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.
Bonus track/scene: Since I name-checked the Dylan song, I might as well leave you with it. But not just any version. The Bill Murray singalong version. There’s something about this scene – the closing credits from an otherwise so-so 2014 film called St. Vincent – that speaks to me. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the webbed lawn chairs or the camo cargo shorts or the forlorn pleasure Murray takes in his cigarette and Walkman and watering his patio. Whatever it is, it works for me. And it’s best not to overthink what works.