Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cat Island

Randy K came over on Sunday, bringin a flank steak with him, marinated Korean-style. Figgered we'd get the grill goin for the first time this year. It was over ninety on the patio, so we sat in the one shady spot and drank beer. Even the robins were pantin. "I've got more work than I can handle, big companies, mid-sized companies, and a couple of smaller clients. It's been great." Randy is a web developer, knows Flash inside out. First met him in Tokyo even though he's from San Francisco. He was sellin books for the Wise Owl.

"You gotta figger out what's really necessary because all companies are cuttin away the fat. Decide what you really need to get a written work from author to reader. Do you really need printers, warehouses, and trucks anymore? Do you need the guys who manufacture the cartons? Do you need someone who specializes in print advertising? What for? That's the key -- determine what is really needed. I'm readin Eric Weiner's
Geography of Bliss on my iPhone. Download cost me ten bucks, less than the paperback. Good book, but I don't know if I wanna have one in my library.

"Look at the iPhone apps story. You get some kid sells a farting app for ninety-nine cents. It doesn't sound like much. But hundreds of thousands of people download it. It starts to add up. It's the iTunes model -- how can you go wrong for ninety-nine cents? At that price, anyone'll try almost anything. Hey, you can't violate the old law of retail -- either sell millions of units cheap, or hundreds of units high. You can't get stuck in the middle."

"What about the model some have proposed -- you give your contents away, then hope that people like it enough to make a purchase. You know, the 'book as souvenir' argument. Taste it first, then you'll want a 'permanent' copy for your library."

"I think it works, or at least it should. I download a lot of books to my iPhone like the Weiner, but if I find something I really want to read and keep, I go buy the physical book. My apartment is full of books. I like having them around. Even when I'm not reading them, they keep me company."

"Yeah, but books-as-souvenirs is a much smaller industry than the one we've got now." I went in to get us more beer. A Sunfish glided by on the lake. When I came back out, Randy started talkin about the Caribbean and the diving off Cat Island. "That water. It's been callin me for years, ever since the time I went on a cruise with my parents. You look straight down and think it's shallow because the bottom is so clear. Then you realize it's sixty feet deep. Cat Island is something else, almost completely undeveloped -- climb Mt. Alvernia and you can see from shore to shore. We loved it."

I started to feel sentimental -- or maybe it was just the heat and the beer and the conversation. It was time for some music. Un bel dì, vedremo. One fine day, my ship is gonna come in. I thought to myself, it'll be flyin an American flag, of course, with a polyglot crew and plumes of smoke comin outta the stack. A ship of dreams from over the bounding main. Quist used to say, "We're all waitin for our ship of dreams to land."

The steak was grilled to perfection. The salad was crisp and spicy. After dinner, we sat listenin to the peepers for a while, talked out and sated. Randy K headed back to the city in his hybrid Escape, I went down to the dock and started counting the stars. Seems that some nights they're all my lucky ones up there.

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