Best of the Archives #7: The Grease Group




As I’ve written before in this archival series, I was a blogger before the term existed. In the early 2000s, as blogs became a hip and trendy media thing, I had quite a good following and credible traffic, back when the pickings on the web were not as diverse as they are now, and when Upstate Wasted/Ether were in their heyday. In late 2006, the local daily newspaper in Albany decided that they wanted to get into the game, and began recruiting established local bloggers to contribute to their commercial site. Since I was a known name in the market, I was approached and agreed to join their portal. No pay, of course, beyond “exposure,” but what the heck, I wasn’t paying myself to write at my own website either, so what could go wrong? A lot, as it turned out a few years later. It did not end well.

I made myself a public nuisance trying to have my words removed from the newspaper’s commercial website after that meltdown, and to get the newspaper to admit that its business practices on this front were unfair and unprofessional. But I was working in a key management position at the University and Albany at the time, and the newspaper’s publisher happened to be the Board Chair of the University’s Foundation, so at some point I decided that the potential professional problems that the situation could cause for me were great enough that I had to let it all go. There are still loads of my articles on the newspaper’s website a decade later, against my wishes, and I am convinced that they remain there just out of spite.

Soon thereafter, I started a new group portal called Indie Albany that was committed to 100% commercial free content (I paid all of the hosting expenses myself), with a dozen or so participating writers maintaining full control of their intellectual property. Within a month of so of setting it up, one of my posts earned “Freshly Pressed” status on the WordPress portal, a huge traffic generator and bragging-rights status item at the time. Indie Albany was a good and successful project, and the WordPress recognition was a good validation of that fact.

My wife and I moved to Iowa the following year, so I slowly dismantled Indie Albany and established Indie Moines as a (solo) heir to that first portal. Within a year or so, though, I just consolidated everything from all of my various platforms back under my own named website, including the stuff that I had to aggressively extract from the newspaper. Today’s archival article is one of those ex-newspaper pieces, meaning that it probably also still resides back on that commercial site, but I am not going to go check on that.

My newspaper blog’s tagline was “Incongruity, Southernism, Feats of Strength, Art,” which was my weird way of describing the arcane assortment of things I liked to write about. (I guess it still applies here, and might be slightly more sensible than my current “Slow Molasses Drip Under A Tipped-Up Crescent Moon,” though that does eloquently capture the “Southernism” aspect of who I am and what I do). I’ve always been proud of my deep South Carolina roots,  even when South Carolina doesn’t behave in accordance with my personal beliefs much of the time, and I used my newspaper blog to provide tongue-in-cheek explanations to the folks of “Upper Yankonia” about the right (i.e. South Carolina) ways to do certain important things. I mean, who in their right mind tries to foo-foo up the grits?

This piece is a humorous one, but like most of my funny things, there’s a big kernel of personal truth buried within it. My family members might judge me to be a picky eater, but I’d deny that label. I’m a particular eater. There’s a difference. I like what I like, and I like it the way I like it. Which is the right way to eat it. Because it is. At the time when I wrote this article, I was actually responsible for the food service operation at the University at Albany, providing millions of meals each year to students and staff alike, so my staff members and I had lots and lots of conversations about food quality and nutrition, and there was always lots of teasing coming from my end about the healthy choices they promoted. I’d long had the “grease group” vs “water group” paradigm pretty well laid out in my mind, but I honed it to a nice bit of absurd folk logic during those many dining hall chats.

Here’s wishing you good eats throughout our social distancing time. Just keep your food groups properly sorted.

Nicely burnt + a cheese color that does not appear in nature + no tomato = A+ grilled cheese!

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