About the Grump

During my >6.5 decades on this planet, I've done a great many different things. Professionally, I got an early start: as a high school junior, my first paying job was painting signs. While earning a Bachelors degree in graphic design from Trenton State College (a.k.a. The College of New Jersey), I worked at a local advertising agency, becoming the art director shortly after graduating. This was followed by a stint in the printing business, which included typography, plate-making, press operation and more (remember these?). I even repaired printing presses and other equipment. Indeed, I had a knack for fixing almost anything—even things I'd never seen before, from movie projectors to washing machines, from tape recorders to cars. My nickname at the time was Spooky.

However, wanderlust and creative urges drew me in other directions, such as multimedia production, voiceover work and sound engineering, followed by computer animation and video production/post production in Manhattan. During this time I also designed and built my own four-axis motion-controlled pin-registered 35mm camera for special effects photography, which became the engine of my own studio for several years. I could have patented the camera, but my timing was off: computers had just started killing off the traditional graphic arts industry, so I moved on to desktop publishing and then marketing, eventually becoming the marketing manager for an optical instrument manufacturer. In the 90s I also worked as a commercial web developer, in addition to doing technical illustration and technical writing. My final career move before retiring was to become a software engineer for a major pharmaceutical company, which turned out to be the most challenging and rewarding decade of my professional life.

While flipping my first home in my early 30s, I began to hone my nascent skills in carpentry, plumbing, electrical wiring, drywall, tiling, and just about anything else to do with home improvement. I exercised all of these skills—and many more—carrying out a lifelong dream of building my own home. Although I have more hobbies and interests than I can count, model railroading undoubtedly tops the list, having been practically an obsession since I was five. No doubt the peak of my modeling career was securing a patent. Writing and photography are close behind, and I've published a number of articles on a variety of topics. Plus, I've created dozens of websites comprising thousands of pages for businesses and for myself.

Cinematography is another passion, and in a different life I'd have been a filmmaker. Science fiction in any form—literature, film, television, art—competes for my attention with science fact. Music is also an enormous part of my life, and I'm playing something virtually 24/365; I even compose my own music. And only recently I discovered a heretofore unknown talent for caricatures. Who knew? I can honestly say that I've never been bored—I don't even know what boredom is like—and I never expect to be.

As a person, I'm probably not the most agreeable one you're likely to meet, given that I'm more opinionated and verbose than most folks prefer. But I'm also painfully shy, with a very strong aversion to crowds and parties. Never had any offspring, and never wanted any, mostly because I dislike children, but also because I thought it would be cruel for a child to inherit any of my personal baggage. I'm not about to claim I've had the worst childhood of all time, but it was still bloody miserable.

Unfortunately, my adult life hasn't been much better, having been screwed over by entirely too many erstwhile friends and loved ones I'd trusted, including my parents. It's all left a surfeit of emotional scars and a disposition for chronic depression—I've already spent quite a few years on the couch trying to undo the damage; that I'm twice divorced likely speaks volumes about my character as well. Consequently, I prefer living alone in the woods: trees are non-judgmental, and they won't abuse or betray you.

Fun Fact

During my youth, my parents owned a summer cabin in New Hampshire. It overlooked a public beach, which provided no end of entertainment; we had nicknames for all of the regulars. One of them was an elderly woman who came often and would sit in a folding chair under a big pine tree at one end of the beach. One day my mother announced, "She looks like an interesting person. I think I'd like to meet her." And off she went. Turns out the woman was a distant relative! Not only that, as a descendant of the Roger Williams Family, Dorothy Greene was a Daughter of the American Revolution, which meant my mother was likewise. But for me, meeting Dorothy and her husband Stephen was a life-changing event.

Out of Time

On 20 February 2020 I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. My heart has an ejection fraction of around 12% (20% is considered critically low); it's estimated I had a few years left to live. Among other things, I wouldn't get to finish the house I was building. And I'm perfectly fine with that. Getting as far as I had was much more than I'd ever dreamed possible.

I'm also not the slightest bit afraid to die; indeed, given the dire state of the Earth, and what people are doing to it—and to each other—I don't really care to live all that much longer. I was never keen on becoming a frail elderly man, anyway, so the diagnosis was strangely welcome, although it has admittedly messed up my head: living under the perpetual threat of a death sentence with no chance of commutation has made the last couple of years... challenging, to say the least. I've become hyperemotional—I'll start crying for no reason at all, even when I'm in a good mood—and I'm prone to periods of deep depression, although that likely comes as no surprise. Thing is, I'm not sad about dying; I'm sad for my close friends, as my death will be hurtful for them. At least they know it's nigh, so it won't be a complete surprise.

Age in photos, top to bottom: 17, 21, 35, 62, 63, 65.

Get To Know Me

There's actually a way for anyone to "know" me without us ever meeting, and long after I'm gone: the language of music can allow you to get a sense of who I am. Play just the third movement (Romanza) of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fifth Symphony. If you're willing and able to completely surrender yourself to music, you'll find the piece imparts volumes of emotion most difficult to articulate, painting a painfully vivid portrait of my soul—listening to it still makes me weep—despite being a mere twelve minutes long. While the performance by the Philharmonia Orchestra under the baton of Sir John Barbirolli is the most nuanced and deeply moving, I've honestly never heard a "bad" rendition of the Fifth, and I've heard a great many of them.

Also See...

Return to Grump Central

Copyright © 2017-2022 by David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved