Well, this month of blogging has sure been a bust. It's not that I don't want to write, I don't think; it's that I've depleted the well of quotidian personal blogging several times over; after all, I've been doing this on and off and in one form or another for almost, oh, 20 years. And it's a fine format, and a fine thing to do, but at this point I think I want to write about ideas and things that interest me but aren't necessarily centered on myself. And I'm not sure what those are, exactly. And let's face it, it's a lot more fun to write for an audience, which I simply don't have anymore. So I will continue to pay to host this site and dip in when I have something to say. And maybe you'll dip in to see it; that would be nice.
I have a minor cold. I know it's a cold because I've tested negative for Covid three times and after having Covid, you can totally tell the difference once the acute phase starts. This in itself is not interesting, but what I do find notable is that my attitude toward pushing through being sick has changed since Covid.
I have been working all week, and I'm in the office today, but masked and avoiding people as much as is practical. And I had a dinner with friends this evening that I was very much looking forward to, and was hoping I'd be well in time for, but I'm not yet feeling better and it seems kind of unthinkable to unwittingly expose them to my germs. Even though we'd planned to sit outside, even though my symptoms are pretty much undetectable if you're not the actual host of the virus. Three years ago I would have taken pains to mask any symptoms I could and just sucked it up--no one ever canceled anything for a slight cold! don't be a wimp! you're letting everyone down!--but now, I don't know. I'm not mad at whoever gave me their cold, but my tolerance for being a disease vector has plummeted.
Also, the cabinet where I keep our household stash of face masks also has a box of incense in there somewhere, so my mask smells slightly of patchouli and musk. A little counterintuitive for the work environment, like I'm proofreading mail merges in an opium den.
I think about leaving Austin a lot lately; I've been here 29 years and I'm just kind of tired of the place. The summers are getting hotter, and they were already plenty hot. The politics are terrible. The allergies sap my energy, and the roaches disgust me. Growing anything besides prickly pear and yucca is an endless meditation on toil, luck, and loss. Traffic is lousy and so are some of the people, nowadays.
But then I have a weekend like this last one--and it's true I'm more forgiving of my city when the temperature dips below 90, but still--I had drinks with an old friend; toured the new(ish) arts wing of ACC Highland (whoever thought to turn that albatross of a mall into a state-of-the-art community college campus is a genius); went to a block party with all our neighbors, got the city to let us close the street to traffic and everything; rode bikes through the most charming neighborhood in town with another old friend; and closed out the weekend at an event watching 10 local percussionists drum on a pair of fog-spewing dumpsters with sledgehammers and other implements. And it was great, it was all great; these were all things I really wanted to be doing.
I'm sure there are other places where I could do these kinds of things, even several of them in one weekend, but it would be a hell of a lot harder to find. And I could probably make friends elsewhere, but how do you recreate networks and friendships that are decades in the making? You can't, not like that. So I'm definitely weighing the value of that against the value of novelty, better weather, a new start. And in Austin's favor--inertia is very much on its side.
A muggy, sullen day. I went into the office today and wandered around in the rain a bit, checking out the soon-to-be-opened Texas Mall.* It used to be a crummy, underused stub of North Congress Avenue that stretched from the Capitol to UT campus and wasn't used for much besides parking, but the state built a bunch of office buildings and sunk the parking underground--smart move; the parking garage canyon on San Jacinto Blvd. is so depressing and such a waste of space--and soon it will be a pedestrian mall. The landscaping wasn't as inspiring as I would have liked, but I hope it becomes a nice, welcoming space. I wish they could link it via land bridges over 15th Street to the north side of the Capitol grounds and over MLK Boulevard to connect the Bullock Museum with the Blanton, but that's probably a dream. Still, it'll be a nice amenity. Between that and the refurbished Waterloo Park and the newish medical school and hospital, that corner of downtown is getting pretty damn interesting.
*Didn't realize until I read the site at this link that cars will still be able to cross at the numbered streets, albeit in a controlled fashion. Today I learned about speed tables!
Eric bought a couple lottery tickets for the billion-dollar payout and as anyone with a potential billion-dollar payout in hand does, we started talking about what we'd do with it. We are aware of the life-ruining potential of such a windfall; we know to keep quiet about it and keep going about our usual business until we can figure out how to get the money as discreetly as possible and all that sensible crap.
But also I am convinced that even if we were smart about it, even if we didn't squander it on strippers and spoil our relatives into a spiral of self-destruction and drive around town lording our winnings over people until we suffered a string of tragedies; even if we didn't end up addicted to drugs, sleeping in a storage unit with our granite statuary, this would destroy us. (Both stories I linked to are haunting; the first one is well written and the second one is snarkily classist in a way I think most journalists are better about nowadays.) I just don't see how you can continue to enjoy a life you've carefully built after the disruptive injection of a billion freaking dollars.
Anyway, if we win you'll likely never know. I'll keep showing up to my job, for now, and I'll keep blogging doggedly throughout November. Maybe, though, I'll quietly buy something big to amuse myself. Like the Democratic Party of Texas. They seem like they could use some help these days.
Typepad, the host of this blog, had an extended outage over the weekend. I didn't even notice because who cares about blogs anymore? Not me! But the company's repeated mea culpas eventually filtered through into my Twitter feed and caused me to think about this site for the first time in months.
At the very same time, what's-his-face bought Twitter, and even if he doesn't wreck the platform, the spectacle of his running it probably will. Right now my entire feed is consumed by him, each stupid little business decision he makes, and how colossally dumb he is for making each of those decisions, and he'll be broke within months, selling Tesla for scrap metal--unless he uses his new and awesome power to completely wreck the United States and turn us over to Saudi Arabia. Or something. It's a lot.
I started tweeting about my irritation with all this but then I realized I was just giving more oxygen to the thing that's annoying me because it's taking up all the oxygen. You can't win, you know? So before I could finish the sentence I was typing I said, "Oh, shut up," to...myself? everyone else on Twitter? everyone in the world? and closed my laptop.
Anyway, I like Twitter. I rely on it for news; I like chatting on there and posting inconsequential things to a small group of family and friends. And I have always been a newshound, so I enjoy drinking from its overwhelming firehose, even when I start to suspect it might be eroding my mental health a skosh.
But right now it's no fun on there; even clowning Elon Musk gets old pretty quick, it turns out, and I don't really want to add my content, inane as it is, to that asshole's site. Which is inconsistent of me because Mark Zuckerberg is also a democracy-destroying bozo, and I happily post on Instagram all the time. I'm not that principled.
I don't know, what I'm trying to say is that a number of things happened this weekend that made me think about posting on my own site that I pay for and (sort of) designed and own the content to, and not only that, I remembered that November is traditionally NaBloPoMo, the incredibly stupid abbreviation for "National Blog Posting Month," a spinoff of the equally terribly named "NaNoWriMo," which is short for National Novel Writing Month, during which masochists endeavor to write an entire novel in what is tied for the second-shortest month of the year. (Now that I've said that, I'm pretty sure I wrote this exact same sentence last year when I started this challenge, but I'm not going to go back to check until I publish this. I'll let you know!)
Anyway, this is just shy of 2500 characters to say I'm back, for this month at least. Hi! I missed you. I have a new dog. He's weird but nice. See you tomorrow!
UPDATE: Yes! I may not be consistent in my willingness to help further enrich evil billionaires by posting on their websites, but I am quite consistent in my disdain for the NaBloPoMo portmanteau. (NaBloPoMonteau?) (Oh, shut up.)
My beloved ocotillo died in the stupid freeze last winter, so this year I had to put our little strings of solar-powered Christmas lights on a Texas sotol instead. That bloom stalk came up a year ago and is now completely spent, so when it comes time to take the lights down we can probably chop it down and pull the lights off that way.
I think the sotol will be happier when the stalk is gone, too. They don't die after they bloom like century plants, but it has been looking noticeably grumpy lately. (I don't think I'm projecting here.)
Here's the ocotillo in better days. I knew that planting one in Austin was a risk, since they're from a warmer, drier climate than ours, but I had to try. Eric and I took our honeymoon in West Texas and they were blooming like crazy that spring. On the last day of our trip I opened the back door to our hotel room and gasped because the back fence was made of ocotillo stalks--they were all blooming and it looked a little like the fence was on fire, and I was like, god damn! So cool. When I got home my friend Katherine and I built a drainage mound to compensate for the heavier rainfall here in Central Texas and plunked one in, and all was well for years until a week of ice and snow and single-digit temperatures did it in.
It never did bloom for me, though; I think it has to go through some serious drought cycles or something to produce flowers. Still, it was a very striking plant. Someday I might plant another one, or I might go all in on the native-and-adapted thing for the front yard instead of hosting a plant that doesn't really want to live here.
All that is a very roundabout way of saying we put up some Christmas lights this afternoon. I also finished the mermaid mosaic this morning--the demo a couple weeks ago was fun and went well, though it was lightly attended--and I'm happy with how it turned out. I have a Christmas commission to do for a friend and then I want to start experimenting, getting a little weird. I'm not even sure what that means yet, exactly, but I think I'm technically adept enough now to start playing around.
I kind of crapped out on this daily writing project, didn't I? The truth is I have had a nice couple of weeks lately, full of friends, family, weekend trips, and the appreciation and generation of art. This is a welcome streak after what has otherwise been a frightening, dull, and trying year; I feel like I passed a test I didn't know I was taking at the time, and now my reward is to appreciate things again.
I have no doubt the pandemic and climate change and the political landscape and my own middle age and and and will bring horrors anew, but for now I will absolutely take joy where I can, even if it distracts me from the important work of fulfilling an arbitrary challenge on an obsolete platform.
I got Pfizer shot three on Sunday and felt chilly and achy and feverish all day yesterday. I don't think I've ever had a fever without some sort of respiratory or gastrointestinal unpleasantness to accompany it, so that was a novel sensation. Once work was done for the day and I was settled on the couch with a blanket that I could draw around me or toss off according to whim, it wasn't too bad.
Then I see today the hospitalization numbers in Texas are starting to edge up again and I...don't care? No, that's not accurate, I do care, quite a bit, but like most people I'm weary of this stupid show and would like to change the channel, please.
I remember feeling at the beginning of the pandemic that people who insisted on gathering despite the restrictions and the warnings were selfish assholes, and ok, they kinda were, but I've also come to realize that being around the people we love, who give us connection and energy and belonging, is not a luxury. We need each other. And so I desperately want the transmission numbers to stay low, so I can keep seeing the people I care about, and so those who are more vulnerable than most can go to work and school and meet their friends without too much anxiety. I would even like to go back to the office part time, although I have to say by now that the thought of getting dressed, driving downtown, and spending all day in an office building whether I'm needed there or not for five days a week now seems ludicrous.
I know I'm lucky. Like everyone, I've lost some things, mostly opportunities, to the pandemic, but I haven't lost anyone, and that is something to be grateful for. And in a lot of ways I'm able to participate in the things I like and care about again, and that is also something I am careful not to take for granted.
But limping along in this uncertain, not-yet-fully-formed new normal--man, it's exhausting, and I don't see an end to it any time soon. So in the meantime I will live my life as best I can, with some restrictions, and wear a KN95 if it feels prudent, and I will take every damn booster shot that's offered to me until my left arm falls off or the pandemic ends, whichever comes first.