I think about the screens a lot, and what to do about them.
When I consider abandoning the internet for good, I instantly imagine spending a sunny afternoon outdoors reading a novel for hours. I used to do it all the time. In fact, a ritual of my (stupid) teen years was to slowly sunburn on the first hot day of the year while I read Isaac Asimov or Edgar Rice Burroughs or Michael Moorcock or Stanislaw Lem or Ray Bradbury. Now, finishing a novel is a surprise event, despite years of keeping a fat journal filled with all the books I used to finish regularly.
Blaming the internet is pointless, one might as well blame coal. Still, I do feel as though I traded the discipline of solitary concentration for a kind of two-way exposure that isn’t even valued very highly any more. I recall the deflation I felt when a perfect stranger assessed the brief work I volunteer here: “it says nothing” (I paraphrase). Well, of course. I had painted myself into a corner: by removing all artifice from my writing, I left personal white spaces never possible to be filled by strangers. I believed only people who already knew would come here. It was naïve of me.
Truthfully: I do not know what to do here, I do not know what I am doing here.
posted 27 September 2015
The passing scenes beyond the train window quickly become a narrative.
I am not used to the area between Philadelphia and Baltimore by train, but it stunned me yesterday as I sped by. Amazing graffiti throughout miles of unsurprising urban decay. Some of it felt created with such large scale intention that I wondered if it had been sponsored by a publicly funded art concern. There was a stretch of dead forest that had been painted bright pink. They only spraypainted the dead trees.
It was hard to see the remnants of these cities, too, like I lived in one of the increasingly common dystopic YA movies of our day (I had watched Divergent the night before, which was dumb). I sped between two of the nicest cities in America, with the partially shattered remains of two others in between. The gentrification of New York and DC are troubling and incredible; cultural change of this sort is something I remind myself to learn more about. What does it mean to displace entire populations to “improve” a city? I know there are no easy answers, but I also know that I hardly understand the conditions of the problems. When I was a child, most of New York was dangerous and exciting and vibrant and horrible. Now it’s transformed into an entirely new place, and one I hardly recognize beyond the street names and the pizza. I never really knew it that well.
Another future variable occurs to me: how nice to spend this shiftless new life to travel and discover things on my own. I’ve never been anywhere; or at least it seems that way to me. I want to see things before I am old and used up. If my life is to remain aimless, as it seems it might, I want to spend the money I earn at least ensuring I see enough of the world. I don’t feel as though I am running out of time (my father assures me that my great grandfather lived to 99), but I also feel like this is all so fleeting. What if I never see Japan? What if I never dive the Barrier Reef and see schoolbus sized grouper? What kind of men and women might I meet in these places? I have to start immediately.
It occurred to me this weekend that I have all the equipment now. The freedom, the legs, the money, the brain, the words, the time.
posted 1 December 2014
I think I spent too long in my life searching for “my people.”
The romance of feeling as though I had slept for a long time and woken up very recently after centuries away never gets old. As I browse around the internet in my spare time, I feel lost, as I don’t connect well with the hundreds of articles and vapor-personalities clustered everywhere. The radiant phosphorescent lichen that coats certain things online is beautiful, but I don’t feel part of that or an effective, regular contributor. Dripping, syrupy, secretly poisonous flowers are interesting and attractive, but that’s not me either. And there is so much content void, so much dark matter, too. I think of myself as a shadow moving between all of this, not noticed, as the rest of the jungle universe gradually eats itself or reproduces, like a social media version of Brian Aldiss’s Hothouse. Totally gross, totally absorbing. I don’t feel the capability to take part in any vegetable or succulent community.
I would like to make more meaningful friendships now that I am in the autumn of my thirties. I did not do a good job cultivating these things and it seems more important than ever to try not to be so alone, to try to pull myself out of comfort zones, and find healthier places to dwell, if possible. It was hard for me — all my life I have been very alone. I’d like to abandon the aimlessness I see (and even feel inside, when I let my idle thoughts take over), and distance myself from hopeless, smug fatalism, as romantic and comforting and soporific as it is. I know what I have to do, I know what I can do, I just need to decide how best to propagate.
posted 1 October 2014
Times when you simply: wake up.
The unexpected moment when you realize that only you can support yourself in the ways you need, and the independence, hard won over many months and years, is immediately obvious, as though you’ve always felt that way. Comfort with being alone is something I have struggled with for years, but it gets better with each passing week. The struggle should have been the indication. This is not something one can work at; it just happens with time. You just settle in.
I don’t know what to do with so many experiences I have had over the last three months. If I were more famous, I would consider putting them in some sort of memoir, but, really, who would be interested in this aside from me? Such a hard thing to consider in these days of everyone capturing everything in some public format for future consideration. I’m still not comfortable with these experiences being so exposed. But what if I forget? I’m not sure of the solution.
Still: I remember a night where I saw a glittering ring far up in the sky, and it drifted overhead at a lazy rate of speed. This unidentified object was one of the loveliest things, a diaphanous hoop that rippled and shimmered, golden in the deep moonlight of 2 AM. I watched it until it disappeared in the distance. I wish I could have seen it with someone else, I wish I could have shared that moment with someone else. But it was just me and it still happened and it’s mine.
posted 2 August 2014
Sometimes it’s like every step I take is with my eyes closed, just feeling around with arms outstretched.
So I ended up in DC, which is somehow not surprising. I knew I was not done with this city. I don’t think life is written or predetermined, but this felt inevitable, inescapable. So I began my kind of Robinson Crusoe existence here, though I’m sure without the religious apotheosis of the Buñuel film, which I loved dearly. I liked that eden represented there, in the strange washed out colors of degraded film from the 1950s. In many ways, this city feels like a good one to start in; so much to do, familiar things, and also the manageable distances in a town of only a few square miles. I’m not sure if I fit in here, but I’m not sure if I fit in anywhere.
I have found good places in the few weeks I have been here: a few nice bars and restaurants, and some truly world class bookstores. The mass transportation is terrific and I like my new job. I read an entire book in about three days. This is a first in years and years. I have finished only three books since 2011. I’m hoping this warming trend continues.
I have considered retiring Asphalt Eden so many times, but I couldn’t do it. I picked it so long ago, and it continues to be appropriate; it continues to be more and more appropriate as time passes.
posted 2 June 2014