Who knows where the time goes?

*looks at date of last post*

Hey, so, about that: I’m not dead. Shortly after that post, my old laptop’s hard drive imploded. I had been most of the way through my next Fuller House recap at the time, and when I lost that document, I lost momentum.1

Over a year later, we have a second season of Fuller House, which I haven’t watched because I don’t want to hate myself more until I get through the first season of hating myself. Also, I’ve moved twice (the second time from Chicago to Philadelphia), have done a few dumb things, and am turning 30 on Sunday. Let’s be real, though. We all know what you’re really here for.

I’m reckoning with the passage of time pretty strongly these days. It’s hard not to look back at my old LiveJournals2, or at the huge gaps in this very blog, and feel like I haven’t missed something. Part of it is the sinking suspicion that I’ve been wasting too much of my writing energy on other platforms.

Yes, it’s time to embrace my approaching status as An Old and complain about Facebook. I accept my deep hypocrisy in doing this, as I spend truly disgusting amounts of time there most days. In fact, it’s been responsible for a huge number of the friendships I’ve built over the past several years.3 It’s also one of my main lifelines back to the friends I left behind when I moved. That said… oh my stars dear readers it is so exhausting

Say what you want about LiveJournal, but although you could (and often did) write as many vague two-sentence posts as you wanted, there was never the sense that everyone was trying to get in their patented Hot Take™ as quickly as possible. You also weren’t constantly having to argue with your friend’s Confederate-flag-waving uncle if babies born out of wedlock deserve to die of quadruple cancer.

To be clear, I’m not viewing the bygone days of the internet through rose-tinted glasses. I’ve been diving deep since before the turn of the millennium, and as a once-teenage girl, I remember all too well, with the sensation of several roaches crawling up my spine, how it used to be. Still, there are things I miss. What used to feel like an escape now feels like a panopticon. Everyone you have ever known and everyone they’ve ever known is there, all at once, and they all have an opinion, and most of them have no goddamn idea what they’re talking about. Chop and hash and regurgitate every original thought anyone has nowadays; tear it from its context; screenshot and repost; put your watermark on something you had no hand in. Eight hundred jokes about covfefe in twelve hours. I’m as complicit as anyone.

Look, I’m by no means anti-social media. I use Facebook, I use Twitter, I occasionally poke at Tumblr. All of them are vital communication tools, and Twitter in particular is great for disseminating breaking news and helping people coordinate. A platform’s a platform, and new and amazing things are being created everywhere by people who have more access to an audience than ever before. I just wish for more creativity and less consolidation. I don’t want Mark Zuckerberg holding a stake in every cool thing I write.

I read a discussion the other day in which someone was warned away from starting a blog on a subject they were passionate about, because “nobody reads blogs anymore.” Other avenues were suggested: a podcast, an Instagram page, Facebook videos, and so on. None of these are bad ideas. I love a good podcast. I don’t want blogs to be dead, though, because I think they represent a more nuanced and deeply felt form of communication than we often see nowadays.4

Long story short: Things are changing. It makes me a bit sad. That said, this is my little corner of the Web and I think I’m going to clear out the dust and stay a while, whether any guests choose to visit or not.

———-

1After losing two laptops in spectacular fashion in one year, I have taken to working in Google Docs almost exclusively. I suppose I could have been drafting that post right here in WordPress, but that would have required foresight.

2No, I’m not linking them.

3Remind me to write about chochachohood. It makes sense in context.

4That is, when they’re not an endless array of virtually identical exercises in branding and thinly-veiled product placement. But that’s for another entry.

What ISP even operates at the North Pole?

Dear Santa,

I know this letter is a bit late, in both the “you’re making your rounds tomorrow night” sense and the “I haven’t believed in you as anything but a social construct in almost two decades” sense. Still, there are some things you simply can’t ask anyone else for, either because you’re enough of a freeloader as is or because they don’t exist yet. Thus, please find my Christmas list below. (Don’t worry, I’ve already been given the gift of chronically lowered expectations.)

  • A simple, portable teleportation device without any of the philosophical quandaries that might be posed by disassembling my constituent parts and sticking them back together elsewhere. I will say I want this so I can travel the world on the cheap and see all of my far-flung friends and family, and these things are entirely true. Let’s be real, though, Santa; I mostly want this because my sense of how much time any given thing will take is skewed, and I would like for people not to hate me for my unorthodox approach to punctuality.
  • A mattress. I had to throw out my old one in June because it was collapsing in several places and all but saturated with cat piss, and in the absence of either the funds for a new mattress or feasible transport for a used one, I’ve been sleeping on a couch for the last six months. My lower back feels like small children have been using it as a trampoline.
  • A subcutaneous Klonopin pump that can track my cortisol levels and preempt panic attacks before I find myself curled up in a public bathroom stall trying to count tiles to distract myself.
  • A gigantic down comforter large enough to wrap myself in several times over. I don’t want to be able to see daylight. (why is this not a thing)
  • The restored ability to write three consecutive sentences without having to stop and insert a placeholder because my brain is working in elliptical orbits and I can’t make it power through what I want to say in any straightforward manner.
  • Fuck it, we’ll go for big pipe dreams. (I’m sorry, Santa. I’m not very good at watching my language. I try to hold my tongue around small children and the chronically infirm.) A modestly sized house in livable condition in or near the city that is fully paid off, because I don’t think I’ve lived anywhere in my adult life where I’ve felt justified in unpacking every single box. The decor can be positively hideous. I will welcome it with open arms.
  • An end to our society’s glorification of willful ignorance.
  • A bottomless bag of Sour Patch Kids.

Thanks, Santa. I promise I’ve been pretty okay this year. Hope you like Three-Buck Chuck with your snickerdoodles.

Love,
K

Senses working overtime

It’s been a while, hasn’t it, blog?

I’ve been writing elsewhere, certainly. The majority of my verbal efforts go towards work now, ’cause hacks gotta get paid. I come up with ideas for posts to make here, sure, and often, but I keep meeting a resistance I’ve been hard-pressed to explain until recently. Now that it’s gotten to the point where every scroll through my RSS reader or Facebook feed exhausts me, I think I’m figuring it out.

To state it as simply as I can: I’m overwhelmed. Information overload is nothing new, including to me. Especially to me. I’ve spent sixteen years obsessively using the Internet to try to satisfy every minor curiosity that flits through my mind. I’ve courted it from day one.

Lately, though, the glut of poorly-informed opinions and rehashed content has started to feel more like “too much” than ever before. And when you’re already depressed and well past the “it’s complicated” relationship stage with self-doubt, it’s damn near impossible to feel like you’re doing anything but skewing the signal-to-noise ratio further when you try to write down your own dumb thoughts about something.

Rationally, I know this is nonsense. Anything you write can shed light on an unconsidered aspect of a topic, provide an unheard perspective, turn a lovely phrase, or at least crack a joke no one’s thought of yet. I read things online every day that make me kvell that they exist, even as I kick myself for not thinking of it first. But is Sturgeon’s Law also in play? Of course it is. Same as it ever was. And most of the time I fail to convince myself that I can crawl out of the 90%.

(I recognize that these complaints are, in and of themselves, deeply unoriginal. I fear I’m straddling some line between teenage angst and curmudgeonliness. None of you whippersnappers understand me; get off my mom’s lawn.)

Is there a solution for this? Maybe not. Keep writing and posting and ignoring the sense of an infinite feedback loop? Gather my ovaries and get over myself? Get the fuck off Facebook for a bit? Probably all of the above. Stay tuned.

Used to be one of the rotten ones

It snowed yesterday, the third-earliest snowfall on record for Chicago.

Hot Doug’s closed on Friday. I never made it down one last time like I meant to. It kept escaping my mind until the beginning of this week, at which point the lines had already grown beyond my tolerance level. I waited for over three hours early in the summer as it was.

I will be going to Club Foot one more time tomorrow night before it, too, shuts its doors. It’s one of those places where most of the stories I can tell are ones I lived only vicariously, but I have memories of my own as well. I’ll drink to the music and take pictures of the memorabilia on the walls and use the uncanny glowing hand dryer one more time.

The city drops its leaves while you aren’t paying attention.

—–

Today marks ten years to the day since I left high school, having tested for my diploma over summer vacation. I knew the anniversary was coming up, so I went back to my old LiveJournal and checked. (It’s like reading a stranger’s writing in places. I read what I wrote and find references and inside jokes I no longer understand. Other posts could have been written yesterday.)

I was seventeen. I had just started my first job as a dishwasher at a Thai restaurant. I was excited to start college courses.

My post from that day:

“I left high school today. For good.

I also applied to SCC today, and I’ll start classes in two weeks, if luck holds.

I just got off work (which I’m loving) an hour ago. Now I’m holed up at Bloodstrike. Soon, I get to ride home through the night and breathe in the fall air.

I love my life. I feel free. If this is adulthood, I’m not so scared.

I’m taking the bus out to Sacramento tomorrow to take some assessment tests for my English and math placement. Wish me luck.”

I could laugh or cry at that girl, on the verge of learning about work and distance and sex and heartbreak and blind unthinking fear, but still oblivious.

Maybe I’ll choose to love her instead.

We’re not so different, after all. I’ve come full circle, and here I am in the middle of another autumn, in a relatively new work situation, with a sense of independence I don’t fully understand and the perpetual feeling that I’ve gotten myself in over my head, even though I’ve always been able to kick my way back to the surface all these years. I’m still lugging around a heart that wants to be everywhere at once.

—–

This is fairly desultory. What it boils down to is that I’m feeling the passage of time intensely these days.

Here is a dedication.

“Happiness hit her like a train on a track”

It’s Labor Day, and everyone’s been rushing to get that last perceived fix of summer. Of course, they’re disregarding that the equinox isn’t for several weeks, much of August has felt like autumn anyway, and with the Midwest’s sense of meteorological humor we’ll end up with a heat wave in October.

I love summer as much as the next person, mostly because it isn’t winter. I’ve spent a long time trying to articulate what bothers me about the season, though, and it’s this: summer seems calculated to remind you exactly how ephemeral everything is. Some combination of your friends’ vacation pictures, advertising dollars, and the ghost of polar vortices past cries out to you with a resounding “Fuck you for not seizing the day hard enough. You are sitting in the darkness of your apartment doing crosswords, and you should feel bad about that.”

And you know what? Fuck that.

I had a great summer this year, flooded apartment and financial stress and intermittent crushing depression aside. I hit all the basics. (Barbecues? Check. Fireworks? Check? Frequent swims? Check. Firefly viewing? Check. Sunburn? Unfortunately, check.) I spent days tearing up Chicago with a motley group of lovable misfits from all over the globe who I am now privileged to call friends, showing them the city I love so much. I stayed with nigh-heroic friends for a week and wrote and ate mightily. I wandered my neighborhood playing Ingress and finding little waypoints I would never have thought to pass by. I played Dystopia Rising until my legs gave out and Changeling until my sanity did, and enjoyed every moment with those friends and those stories. I made my first trip to Gen Con. I spent my days setting the foundation for what I’d like my life to be, and my nights in thoughtful drunken conversation trying to process it all. There were road trips, and dancing, and blue hair, and you were there, and you were there, and you too.

A couple of weeks ago, I stood in Lake Michigan up to my ankles and watched the water gradate from silty tan to sea-green to aqua to that band of darker blue right where it touches the horizon. Then I went and bought peaches and ate one over my sink as the juice coated my arm.

It was enough.

I’m not very good with “enough,” but I think I’m learning.

Soon it will be fall, and that’s more my speed. In the meantime, I’m going to do less mourning the passage of time, and more watching. Just watching.

All yesterday’s parties

Last night I took advantage of the bonus weekend night to go to a “prom” at the Empty Bottle. I wore a secondhand green dress and stood in a corner fighting off emotional surges and wondering why I was trying to pretend to know how being around people works. So basically exactly like my real prom except eight years older, legally able to drink, and not in the throes of a horrific UTI. Also, the music was better. Exhibit A and Exhibit B from last night vs. Exhibit C from 2005, submitted for the jury’s consideration.

Bar tips from your friendly neighborhood lightweight:

– The walls of bar bathroom stalls are the proto-Internet. This observation has probably been made before by someone far more clever than I am, but it bears repeating.
Read them.
Even in the seediest corners of the online world, it’s hard to find that elusive combination of camaraderie, vicious insults, misguided advice, social awareness, sexual innuendo, and existential dread in one place. It’s far rarer to be trapped with it rather than surfing away to a cat video immediately. Also, it’s a different experience to know that the people who wrote it were physically here, to wonder where they are now and if you’ll run into them on the street somewhere. I feel like this would be a valid subject for an anthropological study, or at least a Tumblr page.

– Photobooth pictures are inevitably awkward. Make them more awkward. The only way to win this game is to outdo it.

– If you have even the slightest inkling that your judgment is going to be impaired by alcohol, do yourself and everyone you’ve ever fucked a favor. Have a trustworthy friend confiscate your phone and not release it until you can pass a sobriety test. Sure, maybe you’ll Tweet something mildly witty when you’re just buzzed, but after that point the best-case scenario is that you’ll exchange sexts with someone you broke up with last decade, and the worst-case scenario is that you’ll text Feelings to someone you broke up with last week. (These situations are, of course, purely hypothetical.)

Also? Eggs for breakfast. I’m just saying.

The art of the dérive

Chicago finally deigned to grace its residents with some decent weather last weekend. (Not actual spring weather, just straight to 80+ degrees. Because fuck you, is why.) Supposedly this will be happening again this weekend, though given the drop in temperature the rest of this week I call shenanigans.

With the return of climes that don’t bring on crushing seasonal depression, I’ve been able to take up one of my favorite pastimes again: aimless wandering and exploration. It’s like a real hobby except I don’t have to think that much, which is good for shaking ideas and inspiration loose and generally making myself less neurotic.

I was pleased to learn a few years ago that there’s a word for this that makes me seem like a glamorous French philosopher rather than a bored burnout on a long walk. The Letterists and Situationists called it a dérive. As defined by Guy Debord, it is “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.” The intention, as far as I can tell, is to have an experience that’s not consciously planned around certain activities and obligations, but is instead a series of reactions to the environment around you as you encounter new areas and situations.

On Sunday, I went north on the street I live on. I had no real reason for doing this except that I hadn’t been more than a block north of my apartment on this particular street. I let myself be led around certain nearby blocks by whichever blooming tree or interesting building caught my attention until I found myself at a park I had no idea existed, lying on the grass under a tree covered in white blossoms, letting the wind cover me in petals and staring up through the tunnels the branches created. (It confuses your brain into thinking the tree’s way taller than it actually is. Try it!)

After that I went to find kulfi, which probably deviates from the true purpose of a dérive but is also delicious, so who cares?

A translation of the original Debord article can be found here. It’s interesting stuff if you like the concept of seeing your surroundings in a totally new way. If nothing else, it’s a way to get on your feet and out from in front of whichever glowing rectangle you’ve been staring at. (I admit that my laptop’s been intermittently throwing tantrums for weeks now, so its hold on me has lessened somewhat. Yay for more roaming!)