02 Hair Like Clouds

February 2020

I can’t stop thinking about this broken sculpture at the Met, the fragmented head of a colossal boy from two thousand years ago. Somehow it perfectly captures the sensation of today’s psychic shred and shear.

After watching the stock market crash and reading more coronavirus news, I went to Walgreens for a flu shot but there’s a shortage. A woman was visibly upset in aisle six because they’re out of antibacterial hand-wipes. “But when will there be more?” I’m still thinking about the look in her eyes.

A student talked about her memories of September 11. She was four years old when it happened. “I remember my mom pulling us away from the TV and taking us to Burger King,” she said. At a meeting, a woman refused to shake my hand. I admired that. Somebody whispered that so-and-so should go home because they were coughing. I spent the evening looking at images from Italy where a soccer match was played to an empty stadium.

We’re heading into such strange days. The best advice I’ve ever received was from an old man down in New Orleans who growled like a profane Buddha: “Opinions kill motherfuckers. Experience saves lives.”

Two hundred years ago, the philosopher David Hume pondered our imperfect world and theorized it was “only the first rude essay of some infant deity, who afterward abandoned it, ashamed of his lame performance.” Not bad as far as magical nihilism goes. Beats the idea that we’re all living in a terrible video game.

I remember sitting in a cathedral on a snowy February morning and watching an elderly couple hold hands. They looked at each other until tears filled their eyes. The man gave a small smile and the woman nodded. It was a beautiful sight. Three years later, I still try to imagine what passed between them, these wrinkled lovers with hair like clouds. Perhaps it was the start of something, maybe the end. I find it comforting that it’s difficult to tell the difference.

Still doing my daily bloggery exercise like it’s 2008. Sixty days in a row. We’ll see how long this lasts. It’s helping me shake loose some grime and dust, and this monthly dispatch features a few highlights and lowlights from this effort. I’m also wallpapering my life with index cards, byzantine posterboard charts, and print samples for a couple of book projects that I hope to share this year.

Reading & Listening

  • Started reading Lurking, Joanne McNeil’s elegiac reckoning with the internet. She’s one of my favorite writers about digital living, and she has a terrific newsletter called All My Stars.

  • Strongly recommend Lawrence Weschler’s biography of the artist Robert Irwin, Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. It’s a sprawling, vexing, and fascinating book that digs into the idea of living one’s life defined by a question. And it tinted much of my thinking throughout the first weeks of February.

  • Filling up my playlists with the reverberated guitars of Flying Saucer Attack, Seefeel, and Slowdive. This does not seem unrelated to disaster prepping.

  • Beautiful Friend” by the Cranes is the flat-out best bighearted open road love song that I know: 1960s drums, surf guitar, and that purr on “our love was special, our love was strange.” I will always remember the night she gave me this song on a Maxell cassette just before I fell for her.