My Life and Times

Land Noises

Land Noises

I’d stumbled upon the set of the Ronald Reagan biopic

The sky looked precisely like Oklahoma’s license plate, light blue with swirls of what I thought was a white cloud but is actually the outline of a scissor-tailed flycatcher. A lot of the ranch gates had cowboys on them—emblems of a lost frontier. (There’s a cowboy museum in Oklahoma City.) The interstate was built mostly in the 1960s and made backroads like 77 and the towns along it obsolete, and it’s in these towns where I saw the most Trump flags. One county was called Love. A welcome sign said THACKERVILLE AMERICA: WE BELIEVE IN OKLAHOMA. THACKERVILLE OKLAHOMA: WE BELIEVE IN AMERICA would have made more sense, but little did.

On a Seaside Bench

On a Seaside Bench

No wonder coastal Kent is nicknamed Brexitland

Since the start of the pandemic, the seaside bench has temporarily replaced the pub as a location for all kinds of social intercourse. Old friends sit at opposite corners of a bench conversing with each other. They bring a bottle of wine each, together with their own glass. If a third person joins them, they stand at a social distance but close enough for the three of them to feel like they’re buddies. The scene is reminiscent of Moscow alcoholics congregating around a park bench to share a bottle of vodka.

Moving Out in Mountains

Moving Out in Mountains

She was a big fan of yard sales

The New People’s cast-off belongings, when they’re not taken home by old-school New Yorkers or gathered into makeshift outdoor homes, end up in sidewalk sales. We used to call them thieves’ markets because many of the objects for sale were stolen. When you got burglarized in the East Village, the police would tell you to check the thieves’ markets where, if you were lucky, you could buy your own stuff back for a bargain. We shopped the markets regularly, furnishing our apartments with the stolen goods of our neighbors. A kind of recycling.

In the Murder Pavilion

In the Murder Pavilion

New York becomes feral again

Sex and aggression, the usual stuff, and the poor rat had to bear it all away. What does my rat hold for me? The return of the repressed. Right now, all of New York feels like that, the rejected, chaotic, sexual, aggressive city returning, pushing up from under the forces of repression. Look at that green skin on Central Park Lake—nature reclaiming her territory.

The Cruising Speed of Mourning

The Cruising Speed of Mourning

or, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to a Review of a Kierkegaard Biography

I listened to music and podcasts. I called my sister; I called my friend Anika. My wife called me every hour or so to check in. I missed my dad. He was always the guy to call on a long drive—time was the one thing he had heaps of, sitting home depressed all day, and he loved to give it away to whoever wanted it. He was perhaps the greatest talker—but also listener—I have ever known.

Living Inside

Living Inside

DON’T TAKE ADVIL!!

The virus tours my organ systems, wreaking havoc at each checkpoint. My girlfriend likewise personifies it, thinking of the virus as a sci-fi invader. She tells me she imagines it taking up temporary residence in her brain, the command center, maneuvering a joystick across her sensory receptors.

Distance Must Be Maintained

Distance Must Be Maintained

We walk to escape the trauma of the pandemic, only to relive it all over again by walking.

We’re told this is temporary, a momentary suspension of normality, and in our hearts we sentimentalists all want to believe the streets will soon be filled once more with stoop dawdlers, grandmas pushing shopping carts, vested business bros with their phones on speaker, fleets of annoying schoolkids, boys and girls out on the prowl, the stench of weed and the cries of desire. (On second thought, let’s consign the business bros to the past.) But we all know the dream of a quick recovery is delusional, that our altered reality will last a year, maybe two.

And Then the Brenner Was Closed

18:15 is a stress peak because that’s when La Repubblica publishes the compiled numbers of the day

The day anxiety really kicked in for me was Monday, March 9. I started to feel that my Korean colleague was right. It is a thing you sense, like an animal. Numbers and research are important, but they never convey the urgency that physical human bodies produce upon each other when they interact in uncertainty. When you try to stay casual while your interlocutor is just dead scared. When slips of tongue and gauche gestures trigger second thoughts or mild paranoia.