twenty nine scene

I don’t want to get into a whole thing about best and worst and year-end lists, but OK some notes to self, off the top of my head about various things from this year:

Seeing Ariana Grande live for the 2nd time, at the beginning of the tour. She cried, her voice breaking, during “say goodnight & go”. Thousands of people shouting “N! A! S! A!” The immensely moving power of hearing “Into You” (an exquisite, perfect song) live, one of the most randomly spiritual moments of the year.

Went to see Built to Spill and ended up falling in surprise love with one of the opening bands, Prism Bitch – one of the most engaging live shows I’ve ever seen. Am hoping & praying they return to Boston before too long

Started & abandoned a lot of books. At a certain point I realized it probably wasn’t about the books! Maybe I am just becoming a person who gives himself permission to not finish books. Or: I still don’t know what I like.

Making the Trader Joe’s zine with Sarah. Laying it out was a little more work than I expected – as I wrote at the time, it’s wild how the tools for this have gotten worse over time, rather than better, but maybe something to do with the death of print ??‍♀️. Anyways weird to feel so much pride & enthusiasm around something so fawning about capitalism, but whatever! Gotta find your joy wherever you can on the trash heap at the end of civilization.

Peach still the best app.

Got intro’d & then very into the poetry of Brenda Shaughnessy. I have read a lot (a lot (a lot)) of dystopia/post-apocalytpics books, both fiction and non-fiction (reading about climate change & mass extinction has become one of my main fun hobbies in the past few years!) but The Octopus Museum was the first time I read a book on those topics that felt genuinely harrowing.

Jami Attenberg’s All This Could Be Yours was a tough read. Amazing, unique, powerful, but it took me a long time to get through. It’s about a bad man who’s in the hospital at the end of his life, and it landed in my life at a time when my father (let’s say: a complicated man) was in the hospital at the end of his life. Anyways. There’s a lot of things about that I don’t want to put on the internet but: it was a difficult book to get through, for all the best reasons.

Most engaging non-fiction book I read this year, that even months later I’m still thinking about: Gut by Giulia Enders. It’s about how your intestines work. If that sounds gross to you you will not love this book.

Tracking favorite songs became increasingly difficult b/c of how Spotify doesn’t pay attention to modes of listening. I usually have ambient music on in the background while I write so Spotify thinks that’s my favorite music. It’s not! Technically I think if I dig through the data a bit I actively listened to Jaden Smith more than anyone else this year. I’m fine with that.

What else.

Finished a book, S1 of Cutie Cutie Ghost Show, took a few weeks off, and then started S2. A lot of the writing hasn’t been on the page, it’s about things happening off screen, in the background, building the Bible of the world. So it felt like a slog for a while, but it was necessary, putting ideas on shelves, within easy reach. Now the world makes sense in a way that allows me to pull the chapters together much more quickly than I could in the last book. Still, I struggle with feeling like it’s not going fast enough, because it’s not, it never will, my writing does not go fast, or enough. But at the same time, I love the experience of immersing myself in each chapter, love the way (ugh, it’s so horrifyingly cheesy to even think this, but it’s true) the way the characters surprise me with the things they say or do. I’ll start posting new chapters in January and I’m looking forward to it.

book cover for S2 of Cutie Cutie Ghost Show
Cutie Cutie Ghost Show! S2!

Next year: new books by Amy Spalding, Miranda Popkey, Emily Gould, Zan Romanoff. Four books I’m confident I’ll enjoy, by people I like. Thinking of them like a modern pack of teenage literary ninja turtles.

TV: Killing Eve S2, Fleabag S2, The Witcher S1 which I have watched twice, The Terror S1, Fortitude S1 & S2. Elementary S7, a perfect show to the very end. Rewatched all of Justified & New Girl, as I do every year, as I will continue to do every year.

Saw Knives Out twice, could sit through it again with no trouble. First time, could not get over Toni Collette’s performance, 2nd time, could not get over Marta Cabrera’s.

AO3: Knives Out Marta/Benoit fic but that’s all I’ll say about that.

Sitting in the theater, watching Parasite, a mix of wonder and delight and worry, the main experience that comes to mind when I think back on “what movies did I see this year?”

Brain stuff: my bell of mindfulness app that rings randomly throughout the day, forcing me to stop doing whatever I’m doing and notice what I see, what I hear, what I feel. Thinking a lot about Radical Acceptance, how to practice it, how to apply it. How to not be so angry about everything all the time, which misses the point completely.

More and more wanting to inject randomness into my daily life. The different way home. The walk down the street I never noticed before. Happily going slightly out of my way if it takes me somewhere I’ve never been.

Bike riding, to and from work every day. Even in the winter? Especially in the winter.

A thought that occurred to me yesterday when I was listening to Bassically by Tei Shi, a song that came out years ago and is one of my favorite songs of all time. I get goosebumps on my arms, every single time I listen to it. No other song has ever done that to me. Chills! Every time! And I always think: there will come a day when this song no longer does this to me, when I no longer experience this song physically when I listen to it. Maybe this time, now, is the last time it will happen. But so far it never has been.

As of this writing the best beverage is Orange Vanilla Coke and the best candy is Trader Joe’s Sour Scandinavian Swimmers.

A Story I Forget to Tell

I’m back in therapy lately, did I tell you? After however many years away. It’s good, I need it, it’s helping, etc. For the longest time my mental health regiment was: writing. It worked for a very long time! Really well! Until it didn’t seem to be helping as much as it once had, at which point I added: running. Which was. more work, but still great. It helped. But over time, as literally everything around us has continued its cannonball descent into horrifyingness, writing + running no longer cut it, and I avoided the decision for as long as I was mentally able, and even a little past that, until Yes, my body said, you are literally experiencing the world in black & white, and every morning you find the list of reasons not to get out of bed a little more compelling, enough, we’re going back to therapy.

Around that same time one of the websites I use gave me a discount code for another website, an online therapy thing. Which I was excited to try. Things were pretty dark at that point, and I was fairly desperate to find something/someone quick. But I tried 2 therapists and they were both incredible duds. There are a lot of different ways to do online therapy, I learned, and having a professional to text about what’s going on in your brain turns out to be a popular way to do it. But it’s not what I want or need – I want regular therapy, but online, with video. Just normal face to face unloading without having to physically go somewhere. I was about to give up but then gave it one more shot and the therapist I matched with (?/!) was amazing, clicked instantly. They gave me prompts for things to discuss and we jumped immediately into video chat and it’s good, it’s been good.

I haven’t approached therapy this time around with a particular agenda or over-arching set of things I want to work through, it’s mostly just: life is hard, things are bad. But in and around all the things we talk about, we have been talking about mindfulness a lot. How can I be more present, in the moment, with the people around me? That poem by Marie Howe:

…My days and nights pour through me like complaints

and become a story I forgot to tell.

Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning

to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

Prayer

It tf me.

So often I find I have no accounting for where the days or weeks go. I just get from place to place, with things happening around me, always thinking ahead to the next thing, always worried about missing or forgetting something in the future, mentally revisiting some past wrong, plugged into my earbuds or my screen and drowning out whatever is meant to be happening at that moment. Busy, to no clear end.

So: mindfulness, attempting to make a habit of being more in the moment, learning to break myself out of the shell that protects me from my life. I have this app and all it does is ring a bell a few times a day. I set it for weird intervals so I’m never sure how far ahead the next one will be.

And the thing is: it shocks me out of wherever I am, every single time. I suddenly get pulled forward into the present moment. I breathe and I name:

  • the things I see,
  • the things I hear,
  • the things I feel.

It is incredible, the sense of distance I experience, the sense of being physically pulled away and back into myself in the present moment. Where even was I a few seconds ago? I never have any idea. I was looking at something, thinking about something, not thinking about something. I’m whisked out of that and into the now, and it always feels like such an incredibly long distance to travel. But I do it, and keep doing it. However far away I get, I’m moving back to myself. I’m on my way.

Weird Summer

Frustrating, invisible. A summer basically reinventing the physics of time. Continual, perpetual, eternal lack of progress on my next book.

In June I thought: July will be for breaking the story, understanding the arcs. And then it was August and July had nothing to show for itself. I thought: Well OK time to buckle down, and August is half over.

A lot of what’s-the-point-of-anything-since-the-world-is-ending-anyway-itis. So: depression, sure. But I’m also not wrong! But that’s also not the point. The point is to keep going. The point is to just keep writing. To be accomplishing things, not to be accomplishing anything, particularly, but for the trick of accomplishment. The brain feeling like it exists for a reason. Either way I would keep writing, to the end. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

Still, a little progress, here and there, in the background, in the corners. I write Qannen because she’s my favorite character. Great at social media without feeling controlled by it. Enjoying her life online without feeling beholden to it. Everything I aspire towards.

I sit out behind the house in the shade and move some words around. A blog post. The end.

writing outside

A Good Hand-Washing Experience

I had a really memorable hand-washing experience in Atlantic City a few weeks ago. Definitely want to mention it. For context I am somewhat of a germaphobe who washes his hands, idk, 30-40 times per day on the low side, so if I say one of those times was particularly memorable, and have been thinking about it ever since, you know I am not effing around.

So, public bathrooms, we’re all familiar, and we all recognize that having to touch the faucet controls/handle is a huge point of failure in what is supposed to be a germ-free experience. Hence the rise of the sensor water faucet that purports to provide a “touchless” hand-washing experience. Super great in theory, the future’s amazing, etc, except we all know they often don’t work, like, at all. You put your hands under the faucet, nothing happens, you wave them around, nothing happens, then some water comes out but you moved your hands too much so then it stops. Just a total fucking shitshow. Amateur hour. You know this, idk why I’m explaining it.

So. OK. Atlantic City. Not my favorite place on the planet. Kinda depressing. Kinda place you do not expect to have noteworthy hand-washing experiences. WELL. Let me tell you.

I was there with my family, we went out to dinner. Some Asian place. I forget the name. If anyone reads this and is interested I’ll google it but probably no one’s reading this so it’s fine. After ordering I go to wash my hands (having touched the menu, obvs). The bathroom’s dark and moody and frankly sexier than a bathroom has a right to be. Bad lighting for selfies though, or else you would have seen it on the ‘gram. So I go to wash my hands. Fancy spigot/sink situation, clearly a sensor faucet. I’m thinking Here we go. Hang on this deserves its own paragraph.

I place my hands under the faucet and exquisitely warm water SHOOTS OUT directly into my waiting palms. Not too forcefully, not to weak, not too hot or cold. Like a scientifically calibrated stream of water. I’m like Holy FUCK. I pull my hands back, the water ceases IMMEDIATELY. Put my hands back under, NO waving my hands around, just putting them exactly where you want the water to be, and BOOM, graceful-ass gorgeous stream of water, immediately there, with no pause or hesitation.

The way I described it to my brother when I got back to the table was: It was as though the water was already on its way to me. He could tell that I had been changed by this experience.

It was honestly the pinnacle. The way you always hope it will be but never is. I’m freaking out, my family is like Who gives a shit but they’re being polite. Turns out this was just in the men’s room – they had touch handles in the women’s room? tf is that??? I mean first of all fuck the gender binary, but on top of that there’s drastically different experiences between bathrooms? Based on gender presentation? Sorry to be controversial but fuck that.

Anyways big picture, I hope everyone can experience hand-washing like that all the time. Smaller picture, idk why that one bathroom on the planet had such good touchless sensors compared to every other bathroom on the planet, but for real that’ll always be a top 10 memory for me. Shut up.



Only Physical

My friend Matthew Connor released his new single last week and it’s so good I’m upset. I described it on IG as:

RIYL a horny/haunted/goth Bryan Ferry

and idk if that quite does it the justice it deserves but I stand by it.

I was humming it last night brushing my teeth, and again in the shower this morning, and thinking about how good and interesting and different his music and lyrics are – he has a really singular, strong POV as an artist; he comes at moods and emotions and scenes from odd and compelling angles, which makes his music unlike almost everything else out there. Which is a difficult thing to do.

I’m not a writer who has, like, amazing sentences. (SEE?) I think I’m pretty good (or at least improving) at stringing a story together. I’m good at capturing voice. I write pretty good dialogue (never in my life as good as Josh Allen but whatever), and I think I’m pretty decent at pulling different threads from pop & tech culture and weaving them into a map for where things are headed and what they might mean.

But I’m aware that I lack a layer of artistry when it comes to sentence-building. My process is pretty work-person-like (I’m very unromantic when it comes to the job of writing), and part of it is the very public first draft-y nature of what I do, where the point is to keep moving forward and get to the end. So maybe it’s a thing that comes with successive edits as you rethink scenes from different angles, but the ability to create lines that make you sit up in bed, that you you want to quote and share with people, that become these sort of bookmarks in your life for moments when you suddenly felt things differently, is not super accessible to me. I want it to be and maybe it will be at some point, who knows. Not saying this to have people reassure me, I wouldn’t do what I do if I wasn’t stubbornly optimistic about my ability to do to it. Just thinking about where I’ve come from, where I’m going.

My main point was just that Matthew’s abilities & vision are really inspiring to me and his new song is fucking killer and I hope people listen to it.