I just heard Marc Maron say in an interview that he actually enjoys going to the post office and now I don't know if I can trust anyone ever again. Everything we've been told is a lie. Not just about making our postage needs more convenient but everything.
I sent this piece out to paid subscribers earlier in the week. In it our chief Canada-explainer Karen Geier dug into what is going on with the idiotic protests against 15-minute cities up there.
15-minute cities here would, much like Paris is doing, take advantage of streets closed to car traffic. The wide boulevards could then be used for mixed use trails, ample bike parking, and places for pedestrians to sit. The goal is better environmental outcomes and better mental and physical health outcomes for citizens.
Imagine having a chill walk home and getting a bunch of errands done after work instead of being in a car for 3 hours commuting and trying to get the same chores done in a suburban hellscape. Sounds pretty nice and civilized, right?
Not to our no-brain reactionaries, who’ve willfully misinterpreted the remit of 15-minute cities and turned it into a QAnon level conspiracy theory.
Also in that one I wrote about and shared writing by others about the twentieth anniversary of the release of The Magnolia Electric Co. the beloved masterpiece by the late Jason Molina's band Songs: Ohia.
The real truth about it is no one gets it right.
The real truth about it is we're all supposed to try.
Most of the stuff about Molina made me want to cry but that isn't exactly a high bar these days. Last night YouTube guided me toward some videos from 2014 when Nirvana was being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and here came St. Vincent covering Lithium with the band and there was Dave smiling big and pounding the drums and Krist kind of pulling off a porkpie hat and Pat doing Pat type of things and then Michelle came over and sat next to me to watch because she is also from the nineties – make it big she always tells me about videos – and I sat there and cried over a guy from the TV that's been dead now longer than he was ever alive and felt embarrassed about it like what a cliche to be sitting here doing this. Glancing at the camera like are you seeing this guy but the guy is me. I'm sorry I don't know why this is getting my ass I told her and she said it was OK.
Krist is honestly kind of rocking that hat though I said and she said she agreed.
Music is back though baby. Music is good. I've been enamored with this band Thus Love from Vermont all week and in particular their 2022 album Memorial.
Can we please stop talking about transphobic substacks for one single day and start paying more attention to trans post-punk excellence?
Their music hits all the obvious reference points from the eighties – what if Johnny Marr played with Echo & the Bunnymen? – but it does so in a way that hasn't sounded so invigorating to me in many years.
Even more striking than that though is this song Better Than Who? by Warm Human out of Chicago that has just laid me to waste since I listened to it last night for the first time (as well as the subsequent twenty listens since then.)
I woke up with climax of the song in my head this morning and tossed and turned and tried to knock it out with all of the tricks at my disposal I usually use to get back to sleep after a nightmare but it didn't work. Here have it for you brain now:
God how it hurts to know you couldn't handle me at my worst.
Another thing that made me want to cry this morning was AJ writing in the latest Small Bow about his father's funeral.
I wasn’t nervous about having something to say in front of the 60 or so guests–I’d rehearsed some version of a eulogy for him for over 20 years, usually in the shower. When we were getting along, and our love for each other was effortless, the thought of my father dying filled me with unnavigable sorrow. I would listen to myself echoing wonderful, heart-opening words of comfort and wisdom to imaginary mourners, all of them bawling right along with me. I always knocked these pretend eulogies about my father out of the park.
It made me think naturally about when my own father died and in particular the genre of writing about your father dying which besides Kurt Cobain being dead is basically one of the main things middle age guys have to get fucked up about.
I wrote a few years ago:
Even after all of these interviews and the hours I’ve spent thinking about my father’s texts, it’s not entirely clear what they mean to me, or if they even mean anything at all. Contending with the digital endpoint of a relationship with a person who was a constant and loving part of your life for a long time is a lot different from when it is a reminder of someone who was absent. I can no longer call my father on the phone, but that was true for most of my life anyway. Perhaps I should have done so more often. Perhaps he should have. Every text I have now is a glaring reminder that neither of us bothered to. I feel guilty about that. In part that’s because he had the foresight to die before my loving stepfather, hogging all of my good “my dad died” writing before the man who actually raised me could get the chance. I wonder if he was capable of thinking about any of this stuff in the last week or two he spent in a medically induced coma at the hospital as his children and exes reemerged to say goodbye one final time. It was like a dress rehearsal. We were talking to him, but he couldn’t talk back. I guess I’m doing the same thing now.
That part in bold in particular. I think about my "good father" dying now – albeit hopefully not for another ten or fifteen years or so – and worry if I emptied my clip too soon on the other guy.
How those who withhold themselves from us are capable of doing so much more damage than the ones who are reliably amiably present.
AJ went on in his dead father piece about the moment when his body was being bagged up at the hospital:
My mother turned away when the man made his way up to my father’s torso. He placed a cloth over my father’s face and began the final turn. We had said goodbye in the abstract sense for a couple years. Even when all that was left of him were tubes in his nose and a slow pulse, it never hit us very hard. But now that the entirety of his physical form was packaged up, the loss had severely changed the altitude in the room—we were both dizzy. My mother fell over, laid face down, and wept.
Then, after my father’s body was all folded and zipped up, the kind man from the coroner gave me my father’s toe tag. I was puzzled, but I was too dazed to ask him why. I’m looking at it right now...
When I told my sister about this, she was disgusted. “Oh, throw that away!”she said. “It’s not a coat check–we don’t get him back.” I saved it anyway. It’s in my bedside table drawer.
This isn't really related but who cares. A record number of Americans (38%) said they or a family member postponed medical treatment because of cost last year according to Gallup. It's the highest number since they started tracking back in 2001.
Don't worry too much though it's mostly poorer people who are avoiding treatment. It's not real people.
In 2022, Americans with an annual household income under $40,000 were nearly twice as likely as those with an income of $100,000 or more to say someone in their family delayed medical care for a serious condition (34% vs. 18%, respectively). Those with an income between $40,000 and less than $100,000 were similar to those in the lowest income group when it comes to postponing care, with 29% doing so.
Remember when the idea of simply not serving this monster Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a restaurant was the worst thing that has ever happened to decency and democracy? And how much we were all supposed to feel terribly for her when a comedian made a joke about her eyeliner?
Sanders’ signing of the bill comes after a major US food sanitation company that operated facilities in eight states, including Arkansas, recently paid a $1.5 million civil penalty for employing minors in hazardous conditions.
Packers Sanitation Services illegally employed at least 102 children between the ages of 13 and 17 in jobs that required them to use toxic chemicals and clean razor-sharp saws.
This is what I'm talking about when I say to these freaks that I do not fucking believe you!
I took this one from out behind the paywall last night because I was drunk and wanted attention and also I think it is pretty close to the exact type of thing I am trying to do with my fiction.
I really liked this comment about it from some guy:
You can read it for free now but I still think it would be nice if a few more of you got a paid subscription so I don't have to take a sharp heel turn into writing transphobic shit every day which seems to be the most reliable way to make a living these days.
Just kidding obviously. Not about the part where you should subscribe though.
The short story there goes in part like this:
...Ok fine I won’t do it I said but I was sort of lying and the matter being settled for now we got quiet and I looked out the window and there was a young girl walking down the street that looked like my niece and I thought she was coming up to the front door but she wasn’t she was just walking with her family down the road. All of them bundled up for the cold. Going to wherever it is people end up when you can't see them anymore.
Wait. It was Fire in the Sky I said. I just remembered. Nothing was ever scarier to me than that. Did you see that one I said and she said she hadn't.
I picked up my phone and there was the picture of Pete Buttigieg eating a shredded up Cinnabon like a buffalo wing and I felt uneasy about it like it was following me around. There should be a way to mute a photo I thought.
I looked out the window again and no one was there.
Then I saw that they were having some kind of blizzard in Los Angeles for the first time in forty years. My buddy posted some photos with the palm trees in the foreground looking California Normal and then there emerged the mountains in the background covered in snow but in a way that was slightly different than a mountain is usually covered in snow I guess is what he was trying to convey and it made me think not for the first time in my life that California isn’t real. I could probably convince people of that on the phone if I wanted to.
After that I saw a picture with the caption “Boy cleaning slaughterhouse in Nebraska. Photo provided by Department of Labor investigators. He was employed by PSSI, a cleaning company owned by Blackstone private equity firm,” and they have his face blurred out in the post because it’s considered bad form to share pictures of children online. You wouldn’t want them to be exposed to harm like that. There was another boy in the story who was thirteen years old and it said he worked twelve hours a day six days a week on an egg farm in Michigan.
“I’d like to go to school, but then how would I pay rent?” the boy told the newspaper.
It didn’t say if either of the boys had a favorite horror movie.
Next thing was I saw a tweet from some random guy that had posted a picture of some tents on the sidewalk in San Francisco and this guy wrote for God and everyone to see “We live down the street from this encampment. They are still there and have shown no signs of leaving. Meanwhile, people pay $30k for their kids to go to school with these people looking on…” and I thought one of these things is more profane than the other.
Sometimes I feel like I was born with all of the regret I was meant to have gradually accumulated over the course of my entire life already fully loaded into my software. A WeTransfer file someone dropped into my crib when my mother wasn’t looking and my fat little baby finger downloaded it.
I don’t know how to do computer metaphors but you understand me right?
Maybe it’s getting the bill before you’ve even eaten the meal. And with that the knowledge that I could perhaps prevent some of the regret by altering my behavior but with a stone unwillingness to do so. Like the chef comes out and tells you the entree you’re about to order will be raw and undercooked and will likely sicken you but you don’t believe them and are hungrier than ever for the worm meat now.
You take a little picture of the worm meat on your phone and the lighting is off so you try one more time...
Unlike Marc Maron I do not want to go to the fucking post office or anywhere for that matter. I do not leave my house of late and I do not want to leave my house. Well that’s not entirely true I do go to the gym and to the liquor store every day. Often on the same trip. Other than that though the thing about not wanting to leave the house is solid. A couple weeks ago on our anniversary Michelle and I went out to dinner and it was so nice we talked to each other like normal people and had a lovely time but I think that was the first thing I had done since I went out to my friend John Hendrickson’s book reading a month or two ago where he and I and our pal Isaac Fitzgerald and company had drinks at Charlie’s Kitchen afterwards and I remembered albeit briefly what it was like to live in the actual world.
Not wanting to go anywhere or do anything isn’t exactly novel I don’t think? This is what I’m asking you. This is the point of this section. I would ask my therapist but I broke up with her the other week. I was worried she was going to be mad at me which felt like a sitcom contrivance. She wasn’t mad though she was nice about it which is worse.
I think the purpose of therapy is to get a person to speak openly about their issues and to examine them from as many different angles as possible in front of an attentive and sympathetic audience who offers back insight I told her.
But none of those are things I am lacking in my life I said. I have maybe too much of all of that if anything.
The thing is for the previous forty odd years of my life before any of us had heard the word coronavirus the "going out" pattern was the exact opposite for me. Staying in was the weird thing. Haha look at me staying in.
I think this happens to a lot of people as they get older so it’s not really anything worth mentioning but my job is to mention things.
I think I covered this feeling in the Lockdown book but I don’t remember. It was the subtext of it even if it wasn’t in the text. The idea is the convergence of three distinct things happening at once and throwing my entire sense of how to exist off balance. Moving out here to the suburbs at the exact moment a devastating pandemic hit at the exact moment I finally realized that I was old. It isn’t like I wasn’t old before Covid but I think for a few years I was something like Wile E. Coyote hovering in the air unaware that gravity was about to come into play.
Not that there’s anything wrong with going out when you are in your forties. It’s just that there’s a difference between popping over to the club down the street to see a band or to check out the new place everyone likes now when it’s a ten or fifteen minute uber or bus ride away and commuting an hour and a half or more combined in a car. Does that make sense? Is that right? That’s the thing I’m asking.
I guess you can do the driving thing more easily if you don’t drink but I do drink and one of the only redeemable things about me is I don’t like to drive drunk.
I kind of miss that first year and change of Covid. Not all the death obviously. That part I think it is safe to say was bad. Are people still dying from Covid anymore by the way? They don’t even say that on the news anymore. I can’t remember the last time they said how many were dying and I look at the news constantly. The thing I miss I mean is the tacit permission or encouragement rather to live like I was then and currently still am. Now I'm still here sitting in the house and I don't even have fear of dying as an excuse. Mid-life crises are supposed to be at least fake cooler than this I've always been led to believe. I didn't even get the motorcycle or sports car all I got was this inertia.