Thank you. I love you.
It feels like we’re alone, together, because we are.
I’m home right now. Our apartment in Oakland. You’re there, wherever you are. But we’re together.
I’m in the past and you’re in the future.
We’re both in our own present, of course, and looking, together, at our shared future, even if it ends up being nothing more than this final (Farewell!) string of words. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. So we keep looking and worrying and looking and worrying.
Sharing, the whole concept, is at stake. The word, share, seems less potent these days. A tiny bit dead on the inside, like the soul of the unpublished novel, a burned piece of poetry.
The problem with social media is that it’s never, ever, personal.
I like imaging you, whoever you are, the way you probably, hopefully, lingered on that photo for a bit before jumping in to this piece. If you didn’t, go do that. It’s me after one of my first days at Dan & Whit’s, where I worked as a cashier and dairy man for a lot of the last two years. C’est la vie.
Erica took this picture. I remember it perfectly. Wanting the sign - “Dan & Whit’s” - to get captured in the shot. I definitely didn’t want to be wearing my nametag, but now, in retrospect, it just cracks me up. Hours before I was pouring wine in the basement of the Norwich Inn, getting happy-drunk with Erica, explaining to her and others about wine I didn’t understand, in a town I didn’t understand, and eating up every minute of it. We both did. Literally, huge cheese plates, fresh fruit. Living in a rural place forever changed the way I think about food.
I’m not ready to tell you about that, what it feels like to work for coins over minimum wage. Physical work. Feeling strong and weak, daily. It’s too honorable and too shameful at the same time, the brewing of countless urns of coffee, every fifteen minutes, the shoveling of blizzards, the movement of groceries and milk, by the palette, in a coordinated dance, a yoga, where the practice is making sure food is on the shelves and people can pay for it, get it in bags, and leave, then tidy up (at least a little) and lock the door at night and open it back up, 6:30 am, every morning, including Christmas, because this is Dan & Whit’s for God’s sake.
I think I thought I was ready to write my way through that chapter of my life, give words to the memories, an attempt at real in a world of fake.
But I can’t, so I won’t.
I’ve resolved, rather, to follow the muse wherever she pulls. In this case, back to the problem with social media: it is never, ever, personal.
Here’s a way to think about conversations as they relate to the history of human civilization. If we define a conversation as any interaction between two people, a bundle of promises made, then we can divide all conversations into two categories: those that involve an intermediary, one or several third parties who own or influence the transmission of the message or even the message itself, and those that do not involve such intermediaries. On the one hand, we have the hand-written, hand-delivered letter, the shared journal, late night whispers in bed. On the other hand, tweets.
Let’s ignore for a moment that this message, the one you’re reading right now (again, thanks!) is compromised in several ways by some large corporate players. So although you and I aren’t, at this moment, feeding the Facebook monster, shoving bits of data into his face, which he’ll digest into a poison he can use to destroy the hearts and brains of your friends, this is still possible thanks to Amazon Web Services, your browser (Google Chrome?) your device (Apple?) and mine (Apple).
Sometimes, when I should be working, I wander around bookstores and imagine that I’m fully off tech. All of it. The hardware, the software, the internet, the whole kit and kaboodle. No email, not even my flip phone. It’s a beautiful thought. Cheers, by the way, to the Amish people for holding down the no- and low-tech fortress as it were. And there, in the bookstore, I envision myself at the helm of a massive, homegrown, non-digital, print publishing operation. Handwritten letters, hordes of them, xeroxing stuff maybe, reams of it, in piles all around my house, sharing via real world friend networks, go figure, IRL, or maybe even (also?) via paid subscription, ad-free, mailed via USPS, who I like supporting even though they fucked up a recent media mail package I sent from New Jersey to California.
Me in the past: stocking milk, scrubbing broken egg yolk off the floor of the walk-in cooler, riding the same waves, day after day, the spices, the wine, the batteries, the crullers, the maple ones. Can I help you carry that out to your car?
Me in the future: The room, the wood floor, and the papers. Me, at the center, writing, like a lunatic, just writing and writing and letting it rip, everything, stuff I know and stuff I want to know, and sharing it, for real, with the world, real news, my tales of glory at Dan & Whit’s, the sound of silence after snow, the smell of wood burning in the stove, the feel of the shovel, pushing through ice, plumbing the rough matter of existance, physically, daily, without the web having anything to do with the whole damn thing.
What a joy!
What a beautiful image, the snowy landscape, the moon, the deer, the leaves, oh-my-god the foliage, and the printing operation, and me, mad with the right kind of passion, the right amount of it.
This morning, I saw a man, alone, at a trailhead parking lot, organizing sand dollars, shells, bits of garbage, across an entire parking space, creating scenes, constellations, mumbling to himself, eyes closed, humming an ancient, solemn ritual.
This man, I thought, has found peace.
Do not, under any circumstances, turn into this man, I thought.
One last burst here, Reader. A piece of simple information, something you already know, something I keep learning, again and again:
Something happens when you talk to someone in the flesh. Face to face. For example, in the crying eyes of your lover. Inside and behind the crying eyes, the redness, the wet, everywhere. This is real. This is magic. A planetary vision of civilization, in a look, a tear. Orbit.
On a windless night in a windless room, you are swept away to a place you’ve never been. Remember, the problem with social media: it is never, ever, personal.