Bits and Pieces


September 14, 2012 by palamow


I hope to make Bits and Pieces a regularly scheduled ‘blog’ entry – ‘hope’ being the operative word here – encroaching age and related languor, coupled with a rigorous commitment to the two new books I am furiously writing/editing/head-scratching/re-writing/re-editing/polishing – and so on – you get the idea – which may combine to limit the frequency of my entries – let’s see how that plays out…

Nevertheless, with that caveat firmly in place, I present my first clumsy attempt at what will, with the mercy of divine providence, eventually evolve into a series of cogent descriptions of my thoughts on a varied palette of whimsical and serious subjects – ones that interest me – and possibly even you, the reader…

So, here is attempt # 1:


I usually attempt to write at my laptop computer for five or so hours each morning, starting at around six o’clock. I began this practice a a few years ago while writing interpretive natural history essays for our local El Yunque rainforest.

Recently, I began to wonder what precise title would best describe what I do. When asked, I frequently mumble something about a project I am working on – I am uncomfortable with most of the terms that are used to describe what I do – I cobble together magazine articles, and natural history books about rainforest ecology as well as collections of personal memories; I frequently concoct what is euphemistically referred to as “web-content” by computer “geeks” who don’t write, but who can make websites function properly. In this context, I am known by the unglamorous title of ‘content provider’.  I have written opinion pieces for local and continental newspapers, stories for magazines (a few have actually been printed) and I have amassed and pubished a book ‘Snapshots from the Road’, that interleaves my favorite recipes with stories I have jotted-down about where I was and what I was doing when I first encountered them.

Regardless, I am still somewhat unsure of how to reply when I am asked “what is it that you do for a living.”

Since I’m now closing-in rapidly on my eightieth year,  I am no longer required, nor is it my intention to ‘make a living’. However, as a late bloomer in the business of word manufacture, I find myself constantly driven to write, in part because I find it to be a very pleasant pastime, but also because I sense that I don’t have that many more years left to me in which to do so. Thus, I feel somewhat justified (if less humble) as I scurry to get my thoughts down on paper or saved on my computer’s hard-disk.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines some of the inhabitants of my chosen field as follows:

Writ-er:  n., one who writes books, stories or articles professionally.

Au-thor: n., a writer, usually;

  1. The writer of a book, article or other text.
  2. One who practices writing as a profession.

(from latin; Auctor-Creator.)

Con-trib-u-tor:  n., A writer whose work is published in a newspaper, or as part of a book.

Jour-nal-ist: n., A writer for newspapers or magazines.

Pam-phlet-eer: n., A writer of pamphlets.

Word-smith: n., A fluent and prolific writer.

Rac-on-teur: n., One who writes or tells stories or anecdotes with wit and skill.

Re-port-er: n., A writer, investigator or presenter of news stories.

Applying those definitions loosely, I suppose I could qualify as either a ‘writer’ or an ‘author’, although the term ‘author’ has always seemed to apply an unwarranted pomposity to what I do.  Both contributor and journalist seem a better fit, but then, on some occasions so does pamphleteer.

I like the rustic sound of ‘word-smith’, but I would never describe myself as a ‘fluent and prolific writer’. My father was a world-class ‘raconteur’, and I have strived with limited success to emulate his skills since childhood, so I’m comfortable with that description, although it is seldom used these days.

I am most certainly not a ‘reporter’ either by training or desire.

So I suppose I will say I’m a ‘writer’ the next time I’m asked what I do – that is until I come across a more apt (and less presumptuous) title.


Playa Azul, Luquillo


2 thoughts on “Bits and Pieces

  1. beach-chair says:

    I personally believe you fit the description RACONTEUR and it’s nice to use uncommon words so those young ones who never heard them can learn!

  2. Jose and Whitney says:

    We love it! We have charge of a young lady whose uncle is an Army Chaplain stationed overseas. The dictionary has become her best friend. We insist she watch the tail end of the O’Reilly factor just to increase her vocabulary. Last night it was the Reader’s Digest “Word Power”. Today it is Capt. Alan’s “Bits and Pieces.” Raconteur or diseur? Somebody who tells stories or anecdotes in an interesting or entertaining way. Great stuff! Think of you so often and with such fond memories.- J & W

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