Going back to go forward
Among friends I’m known for my serial ravings on trivial, non-controversial topics: hot weather, shredded lettuce, the shocking lack of spatial awareness displayed by tourists on New York City sidewalks in the midtown area or anywhere, really.
It’s true that I love the sound of my own voice and have opinions on many idiot things and also feel friendship has costs that should be silently borne by others. In turn they generally submit, knowing eventually it will burn itself out like the flame of a well-priced Yankee candle. Usually nobody cares enough to fight back, except this one time in college when I was ranting for so long about women’s names that end in the letter “i”—Juli, Sandi—that finally my roommate Debbie (wise) put her hand on my arm and gently said, “Um, Kari?”
Here's what happened this week.
The song I listened to the most
Apple Music and others keep trying to foist new music on me with their crafty personalized algorithmic mixes that mysteriously appear under the presumptuous heading “For You” and I defiantly stand up and shout FUCK OFF at all of them. All I want is this Bob Seger song that I used to listen to on my Sony Walkman late at night late in the summer at my grandparents’ cabin on the lake, when everybody else was sleeping and the world belonged to me. It is wistful and autumnal in all the best ways. Even in my teens I suffered from a gauzy, romantic view of time passing and I have always loved the part where he sings about the cold wind blowin’ from the north and how the summer birds are leavin’. And it’s true! They really are! I can hear them outside right now and my feet are freezing!
Some things I read
I flew to New York for a meeting this week so I finally had time on the plane to read some of the millions of Instapaper articles I save daily. There were so many good ones! Don’t believe the internet when people on it say it’s only garbage. It’s people who are garbage. The internet will save us all.
🔗 Ruby Tandoh on respecting old loves:
Obviously it's good to try something strange and expand your horizons. I don’t want to always tread the same paths. But you can’t go boldly forth if you don’t know what you’re made of, and away means nothing if you don’t know home. All around is bad news and bad men and awfulness, but I’m building a little fortress that’s helping me keep afloat. I’m patching up a ‘me’ that’s been neglected for too many years, and surrounding myself with all the things that make me who I am: Mars bars, that threadbare tea dress, Green Wing. For maybe the first time in my life, I’m really savouring the experience of being the same old me. I'm a muddle of all the boring, weird, melodramatic, awful, saccharine, unglamorous, awkward things that I've loved. And you know what? It tastes great.
🔗 Jazmine Hughes buys a new bra:
Earlier this year, I couldn’t stop buying Woman things. Delicate jewelry with curves slimmer than the white of my fingernail; luminous foundation that costs more than dinner; white wide-legged jeans that emphasized the width of my hips. I wanted to feel ladylike and graceful. Grown-up, deliberate. I wanted to experience the sensation, the sound—or what the sound brought to mind growing up—of my mother’s gold bracelets as they jangled or her keys as they clinked together right before entering our home. For months, I wanted everything to smell like roses. I washed my face and balmed my lips, and dotted my neck, and sprayed my hair with the same scent, trying to smell freshly plucked.
🔗 Justin Illingworth on the journals of John Cheever:
Each entry is perfectly sized, strangely lambent, its effect concentrated and distilled. One is astounded by the lightness of his touch, his piquant or affecting details that bathe an observation in grace. “The storm moves around to the east and finally strikes the valley. The air is aromatic the instant the rain falls. Ben cuts a paper airplane for his little brother. The old dog will not leave my side.” The economy of such sentences belies their emotional weight and inexplicable familiarity. There is no better conjuror of this particular atmosphere: the happy-sad, window-dreaming melancholy of late afternoon.
[lambent: adjective: playing lightly on or over a surface: flickering]
Something about soap operas
There is not as much writing about General Hospital online as there should be, but I stumbled across a couple of blog posts last spring while cleverly googling “General Hospital.” These posts from 2014 were actually essays written by an English professor named William Bradley who used to watch the show daily when he was undergoing chemotherapy in his early 20s. This is from “On Soap Operas, or, We Read and Watch Our Stories in Order to Live”:
While it’s dangerous to live in the past, to give in to nostalgia’s deceptive pull, I think we’re well-served by making an effort to remember the world as it existed, as we perceived it at the time. Holding onto what was real keeps us rooted to who we have been, and reminds us of the world– or, perhaps more accurately, worlds– we have lived in. The history books will remember the presidents and the captains of industry. Neither Nabokov nor Twain will ever go out of print. Scholars and culture critics will make sure we remember the Citizen Kanes and The Wires.
But who is going to remember the One Life to Lives? Or the Howard the Ducks? Or The Gong Shows? These things were part of our cultural landscape for a time. People worked hard on them, and surely their efforts and the work that resulted ought to be remembered in some way. They might not have had the lasting impact the works of high art are supposed to have, but they mattered to a lot of people, who labored on them or experienced them as an audience that cried, laughed, or played along at home.
And who, for that matter, will remember me?
That post includes a lovely tribute to the actor John Ingle, who played the role of Edward Quartermaine for two decades and who died of cancer in 2012.
He died of cancer as well, this writer, William Bradley, sometime last summer. I didn’t know him, but we loved the same thing in the same way, and I was deeply, immensely, wildly grateful to him for writing about it. And I will remember him for that.
A clip from General Hospital
Monica Quartermaine’s breast cancer storyline played out over a three-year period in unsparing yet soapy detail, and as with all soap opera storylines it was cross-pollinated with other subplots along the way—not only diving into its profound effects on her husband Alan and their marriage but also her best friend Bobbie Spencer, a newly adopted daughter, and the affair Monica had with a hot young doctor who later sued her for sexual harassment (and who even later she kidnapped and threatened to lobotomize for reasons I am not quite clear on).
This clip includes a sweet, short scene where Alan and Monica talk about her leaving for treatment at a hospital in Arizona. But it kicks off with John Ingle, as family patriarch Edward Quartermaine, telling his wife Lila about a woman he had an affair with long before who, unbeknownst to him, gave birth to an illegitimate son Edward was later accused of killing and burying in her back yard. God bless soap operas and the people who love them. Vive le soap!
One thing I did
I told my boss I’d like to work from home full time and she said okay.
A blog post that’s making me happy this week
Rebecca Thomas wrote this in her newsletter, which as far as I’m concerned is the same thing as a blog:
This little newsletter is an experiment into what’s possible. Setting aside big plans and the pressure that accompanies all that is the only way I’ve ever propelled myself to something better.
I’ve published seventy-six issues of something no one asked for. I love the dogged obtuseness of that. More than mastery, I’d like that to be my trademark.
I’ve published hundreds upon hundreds of posts that no one ever asked for, that no one has to care about, that no one even has to read. I’ve shared them with you but I wrote them for me.
Your weekly Bruce
Oh it’s nothing, just a used car salesman wearing his daddy’s best jacket playing some rock ‘n roll.