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“‘The disappearance of the calendars means that we no longer have any use for days and dates. You know what happens if we keep things around us that should have gone away.’ He flipped through the pages at random but apparently had no interest in what was written on them. ‘We need to get rid of this right away.’”
-The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa.
In the beginning of all this I used to go haha what day is it? as like a bit but now I just say what day is it? flatly and without any sort of levity behind it. When you first gain ten pounds you might go haha I’m getting a little thick over here as a means of deflection but if you keep on gaining weight you stop joking about it and that’s just how you are now. Michelle told me just now it was Friday and it made no difference to me one way or the other like when you walk into a room and someone is watching a baseball game you don’t care about and you ask the score just to ask something. Like when you meet someone’s child and go oh how old are they? but you don’t care you just don’t know how else to speak to people.
One still even now likes to know the name of the day in any case it’s like when it’s still dark and silent out and you reach for the wall or the dresser on your way to the bathroom and so then there you are and you know what you’re bracketed by. A landmark of a kind.
That reaching out in the dark happens for me more regularly now since I go to bed so early and wake up so early and lately it’s pitch black when I do both but I refuse to turn on a light in the morning it feels like a defeat of sorts and so I go and sit on the porch and have my cigarette in the dark in the same spot I had one in the dark eight or nine hours earlier and if you don’t actively pay attention you can lose track of which end of the telescope you’re looking through.
I’ve been in the middle of one my famous attempts to “get my shit together” and “take it easy” the past couple of weeks which is a task that seems all the more pointless with nowhere to be and nothing to necessitate having oneself held together for but on the plus side I’ve managed to start finishing books again which is a lot easier to do when you can wind down into sleep over the course of a couple hours as opposed to being cold-cocked into darkness by a haymaker that comes from inside your own brain. Think of the difference between a leaf drifting slowly to the ground on the wind and an air conditioner being pushed out of a window.
Speaking of leaves here’s my running trail lately. “It’s pretty nice.”
“Getting my head on straight” has been fine for all the obvious reasons but I always find it harder to write one of these this way with a clear head-like. Not that I believe “one has to suffer for one’s work” or any bullshit like that it actually fucking sucks trying to write literally hungover but I think I need some sort of emotional hangover or else how do you feel anything?
I guess we’ll find out if this one is “any good” or “fucking sucks.”
I understand logically by the way that the days of the week still mean something to a lot of people including Michelle because she’s in the room we had to turn into a broadcasting studio for 3rd graders right now speaking in a different more professionally jubilant voice than the one I recognize as hers but for me and for a lot of people what does it mean anymore to be one day or the other? The signifier remains but the signified has been demeaned.
“Friday” then. Ok. If you say so pal. I seem to recall Friday but I just cannot place it.
There have been around a thousand new deaths a day this week and something like 70,000 new cases a day for a while now and people say it’s a second wave but it doesn’t feel like that it feels like the first one is still cresting although I don’t know if it’s accurate to refer to these clusters of death as waves anymore it’s more like it’s just the tide moving in and out now reliably.
“And we're fighting it and we're fighting it hard,” Trump said at the debate last night. “There is a spike. There was a spike in Florida, and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas, it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Arizona, it's now gone. And there were some spikes and surges in other places. They will soon be gone. We have a vaccine that's coming, it's ready. It's going to be announced within weeks, and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military, is going to distribute the vaccine,” he said. “More and more people are getting better. We have a problem that's a worldwide problem. This is a worldwide problem, but I've been congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we've been able to do with the — if you take a look at what we've done in terms of goggles and masks and gowns and everything else, and in particular, ventilators. We're now making ventilators. All over the world, thousands and thousands a month, distributing them all over the world, it will go away and as I say, we're rounding the turn, we're rounding the corner, it's going away.”
As far as Trump goes if you haven’t seen any of these videos from a comedian named James Austin Johnson yet please watch them they’re the only good and funny and accurate Trump impression ever.
Discourse blog has an interview with him up this week.
As someone who has also listened to hours and hours of Trump, your impression is one of the best I’ve heard. What are you doing vocally that makes things kind click into place?
He has a lot of shit in his throat. So it was about boosting sort of the distortion in my throat and cranking up the, um, ambient kind of gross throat noise. There’s like a hissy breathy croak in his throat. Also he has just totally blown out the top half of his head, like kind of his entire upper respiratory system with cocaine and crushed up the British Sudafed and everything all the time and, uh, screaming at 21-year-olds to take off their clothes and everything he does all day. So he’s sort of trashed his nose and his throat. So I try to close off certain nasal passages.
Everyone Gen X and up it seems fixates on the wealthy Trump of the eighties. That’s what I hear kind of all the hack Trump impressions doing, the old eighties Trump, the womanizer. [In a smoother Trump voice]: She’s a very beautiful woman. She’s got great legs and, you know, I’m hoping we get really close with it. I think it’d be really nice to get to know her. [In his normal voice]: And that’s not who Trump is now. Like, he’s the devil. And he’s old. That’s the main thing I focus on, is that this is a rasping old man who is inches from death at any moment. He’s dying. He’s inches from death and Billy Crystal has come out with the bellows from the Princess Bride and they pumped him full of steroids and give him a big shot in his ass, and he’s hanging on for dear life every moment of the day.
Speaking of the tide I just had a memory of my youth when there was a harbormaster phone number you could call to see what time high tide was going to be and so we’d call it in the summers to find out the ideal time to jump off of the highway overpass into the brown muddy Jones River below then climb back up and do it again and you could spend an entire summer like that. There was a rope swing and we’d tie a rock to it so we could send it back and forth to one another and one time I wasn’t paying attention and it caught me in the face with a solid loud thwack like someone just socked a big beefy dinger to the moon and I was almost knocked out falling into the water but I didn’t die obviously or did I lol. This would have been in the spring I guess because I remember going to the prom with a giant shiner and there are probably pictures of it somewhere in some dusty cabinet in my parents house of me standing there like a freshly minted doofus next to a girl whose name I can no longer remember. I am so bad at remembering things in general which is a bit of an impediment to “being a writer” where remembering things is like the main job qualification but I manage to do it anyway somehow I’m like the Jim Abbott of newsletters.
I sent out this installment of The Last Normal Day series to paid subscribers the other day. It’s by Kim Kelly who you may know from her writing on labor issues and metal in Teen Vogue and elsewhere.
Three more friends eventually joined us, hugging and yelling at one another over the loud music. Two of them kissed. We put our mouths close to each others’ ears to be heard and bought each other drinks. We shared fries and howled with laughter and were generally as far from the manufactured FOX News idea of an “anarchist” as one can be, and yet of course we spoke of anarchy and revolution and defense.
Two weeks later, everything would change. My world would shrink smaller than I could have imagined. All of those plans would crumble, and my yearnings to leave would spin in place, suspended in limbo. After spending so much time on the road, that mellow month of downtime I’d been envisioning would stretch into a year of darkness. The kicker is that on that last night, bathed in the glow of shared struggle and whiskey, I’d finally felt like I was home.
Subscribe to read it. I’ll get back to more of those soon once some of these other deadbeats turn theirs in.
Hold on I just read this tweet and it’s sort of quietly blowing my mind.
The Memory Police which was written about twenty five years ago but was first translated from Japanese to English last year concerns an unnamed island and an unnamed narrator and an unnamed people who passively experience the gradual subtraction of objects and ideas from their world. Boats for example fall out of memory and then there is no way to leave the island. Soon other items both mundane and previously vital disappear like flowers and types of foods and calendars and novels and on and on and with each forgetting a hole is carved into the fabric of the community and also the hearts of the citizens.
Despite the cold, the river did not seem to be frozen—or at least I thought I could hear the faint sound of flowing water, and above it the sound of footsteps, adults and children together, running toward the alley in back, and the dog next door barking. The unsettled sounds, I knew from experience, of a morning when something had disappeared.
After I’d finished the warm rolls, I followed the sound of the footsteps and opened the window on the north side of the house.
There they stood, all in a group: the former hatmaker, the unfriendly couple from next door, the dog with brown spots, and some schoolchildren with their backpacks. They were staring at the river in silence.
Just yesterday, it had been an utterly unremarkable stream where, at most, you might spot the back of a carp from time to time. But now it was far too strange and beautiful to call it simply a river.
I leaned out over the windowsill, blinking again and again. The surface of the river was covered with tiny fragments of…something…in an indescribable array of hues—reds, pinks, and whites—so thick that not a space was visible between them. Viewed from above, they appeared to be soft, as they collided and merged with one another, flowing along at a pace that seemed more leisurely than the usual current of the river.
I hurried down to the basement and went out to the washing area where I had greeted the Inui family. From there I would be right above the water. The bricks paving the area were cold and rough, with clover growing between the cracks, and right below me was the miraculous stream. I knelt down and plunged my hands in to scoop up the water. When I held them in front of me, my palms were covered in rose petals.
“Strange, isn’t it?” the former hatmaker called from the other bank.
“Strange, indeed,” I answered, and there were nods all around. The children took off running along the river, their backpacks rattling behind them.
“Get straight to school!” the former hatmaker called after them.
None of the petals were withered or brown. On the contrary, perhaps because the water was so cold, they seemed fresher and fuller than ever, and their fragrance, mixed with the morning mist from the river, was overpoweringly strong.
Petals covered the surface as far as the eye could see. My hands had cleared a patch of water for a brief moment, but petals soon came flooding in again to fill it, and then they flowed on, almost as if someone had hypnotized each one of them and was drawing them toward the sea.
I wiped my palms together, brushing the petals that had stuck to them back into the stream. Petals with frilled edges, pale ones, vivid ones, petals with the calyx still attached. They all clung for a moment to the bricks of the wash landing, but in no time at all they were caught up in the stream again and melted into the mass.
I washed my face and rubbed on a little cream. Deciding against spending the time to apply my makeup, I threw on a coat and went out. My plan was to follow the river upstream to the rose garden on the slope of the hill.
A crowd had gathered on the banks, gawking at this beautiful sight, and the Memory Police, too, were out in force, more so than usual. They stood as always, weapons on their hips, faces devoid of expression.
The children, apparently already bored, had begun throwing stones in the water and stirring it up with long poles they had found somewhere. But the current was undeterred by these small disturbances. A sandbar here or stump there proved no impediment to the overwhelming flow of petals. Were you to stretch out in the water, it looked as though the petals would cover you like a soft, comforting blanket.
“Who would have imagined this?” someone murmured.
“It’s the most beautiful disappearance ever.”
“We should take a picture.”
“Better not. What’s the use of a picture when something’s disappeared?”
“I suppose you’re right.”
There are a number of ways you can read the book for example it’s an allegory of brutal oppression and thought control in line with Orwell or Bradbury or whoever — comedians can’t say anything nowadays by the way — but you could also read it as a warning of the ravages of climate change — when the calendars disappear at one point the seasons stop turning over and the snow never melts and they are locked into an eternal winter. Or you could read it like I read everything which is as a reflection on loss and the ravages of time on our memories and how the things and people that were once so important to your sense of self and your understanding of the world are inevitably stolen from you via entropy or accident or the dissolution of love and you spend the rest of your life experiencing their disappearance from your heart as increasingly dulled and muted reflections and vague sketches and cave shadows and eventually what you’re remembering isn’t even the actual person at all it’s a memory of how you used to remember them. It becomes less like remembering the lyrics or melody of a song from your youth and rather a faint stir of how the sound waves vibrated inside of your skull.
Not sure if that last metaphor there “worked.”
Some of those losses in life chiefly the surprising unexpected and un-wished for ones hack off a piece of you but some you just let whither through carelessness or indifference.
I read this yesterday by Brandy Jensen in Jezebel and it gets at some of what I’ve been feeling about letting various friendships and relationships atrophy throughout ~~these unprecedented times~~
Covid has obviously eroded or destroyed countless things in all our lives including, for me and perhaps for your friend as well, the ease with which we maintain a lot of our relationships. That vast array of people you talk to somewhat frequently but not every day, the people you have dinner with every few months, the people you would see but not stay with if you are visiting their city. All of those relationships that add immeasurable texture to a life and are predicated on the simple joy of catching up.
The problem, for me, is that it feels like there is simply nothing to catch these people up on anymore. Too many things are happening but also nothing much is happening at all, and I find I have nothing particularly interesting to say about it. Life is dull and that has in turn made me a dullard. Even the things that qualify as events don’t feel like enough to sustain any real contemplation. How have I been? Well, I moved to a new city, and now I’m in a new place doing the same things as before, mainly dishes and fretting.
Certain people in the book remember everything still however and they are hunted down by the fascist government because to remember is an affront to order. The ones who do remember want desperately for everyone else to relearn how to and it’s never entirely clear which is the bleaker experience. The forgetful are better off I suppose because they don’t even remember anymore what it is they’ve forgotten and that seems a cleaner sort of nightmare.
“My memories don’t feel as though they’ve been pulled up by the root. Even if they fade, something remains. Like tiny seeds that might germinate again if the rain falls. And even if a memory disappears completely, the heart retains something. A slight tremor or pain, some bit of joy, a tear.”
Lawyers appointed by a federal judge to identify migrant families who were separated by the Trump administration say that they have yet to track down the parents of 545 children and that about two-thirds of those parents were deported to Central America without their children, according to a filing Tuesday from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Trump administration instituted a "zero tolerance" policy in 2018 that separated migrant children and parents at the southern U.S. border. The administration later confirmed that it had actually begun separating families in 2017 along some parts of the border under a pilot program. The ACLU and other pro-bono law firms were tasked with finding the members of families separated during the pilot program.
Unlike the 2,800 families separated under zero tolerance in 2018, most of whom remained in custody when the policy was ended by executive order, many of the more than 1,000 parents separated from their children under the pilot program had already been deported before a federal judge in California ordered that they be found.
In our world a person can forget almost anything although I’m sure traveling at great risk to yourself and to your family over many hundreds of miles to make it to the United States that supposed beacon of light only to have your child stolen from you and then be sent back to wherever you came from or wherever in general who cares where you are sent is something you would not easily forget. I imagine that sort of loss would stay with the person it happened to forever.
I’m not sure how the people responsible for doing it seem so capable of forgetting what they did though. What is it like to have that ability? I suppose after you’ve committed one atrocity the next one becomes easier to do like how scared you were jumping off the bridge the first time and then it became nothing.
“But not one memory of the ferry remains here,” I said, glancing up at him. “It’s nothing more than a floating scrap of iron. That doesn’t make you sad?”
His lips worked silently as he searched for a response.
“It’s true, I know, that there are more gaps in the island than there used to be. When I was a child, the whole place seemed…how can I put this?…a lot fuller, a lot more real. But as things got thinner, more full of holes, our hearts got thinner, too, diluted somehow. I suppose that kept things in balance. And even when that balance begins to collapse, something remains. Which is why you shouldn’t worry.”
He nodded again and again as he spoke. I suddenly remembered how, when I was a child, he would answer this same way, mobilizing all the wrinkles on his face when I’d asked him some question—why your fingers turned orange when you ate clementines, or where the stomach and intestines went when you had a baby in your belly.
“I’m sure you’re right,” I told him. “It’ll all be fine.”
“It will, I guarantee it. There’s nothing too terrible about things disappearing—or forgetting about them. And those Memory Police are only after people who aren’t able to forget.”
Dusk was falling over the sea, and no matter how long I peered into the distance, I could no longer make out the petals.
Ok that’s all for now. If you want to check out some of the books I’ve been reading lately here are some links. They’re all “not bad!”
- The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
- The Black Spider by Jeremias Gotthelf
- Escape from Baghdad! by Saad Z Hossain
ALSO: NEW MUSIC FROM TIGERS JAW BABY. Scranton, PA’s best export imo.