It’s Always Fine

A sign of how things are going may be that, after two nights of pretty much falling asleep as soon as the light’s been switched off and then sleeping solidly until 7am or so — something that I’ve not really been able to do for a couple of months now, because of dealing with a sick dog and/or my anxiety over a sick dog — I’m still absolutely bone tired.

Wednesday was as emotionally devastating as anticipated, which in some ways feels like a blessing; if there’s one thing that I’ve learned across the last year or so, things can always get worse when you least expect it. Unfortunately, “as bad as expected” in this case means tears, grief, and the feeling of being dizzy from emotion, something that lasted through yesterday night. There were small mercies, not least of which being that Tango seemed ready to go when his time came, and I think everyone was at peace with how it eventually happened. Nonetheless, we’re still very aware of the lack of him in the house, and the hole left behind.

One of the unexpected by-products of having such an emotionally full midweek — really, the time leading up to Wednesday, too — is that, when Thursday arrived, none of us were really ready for it. How could we have to return to work (or, in the nine-year-old’s case, school)? Why didn’t we have more time to recover before plunging back into everything? In a year where the passage of time has seemed apparently random and occurring entirely out of synch with anything resembling expectations, it felt as if the last two days of the week were a cruel prank being played on us, just to see how exhausted we’d get before the weekend arrived.

And so, here I am now, tired and fantasizing about getting a break — even if it’s simply spending a day on the couch, watching Dune or whatever. (We watched the first hour or so last night; it’s fun enough.) Fingers are crossed for calm metaphorical weather in the next few days, even if the actual weather is apparently going to be lousy.

Tango

By the time this publishes, we’ll be sitting beside Tango Jones and saying goodbye, all of our hearts entirely broken.

He’s been with Chloe since he was born, 15 years ago; he’s been there through everything in her life since then, which is a lot — she’s said that, without him, she might not even be around now, and I believe her considering everything that’s happened. I’ve called him the co-founder of the family, because before everything and everyone else, it was Chloe and Tango together. Everything followed from there.

Before he got sick, he was a lump, but a lump that was full of love and playfulness; he’s always been particularly food-focused, which might be one of the reasons why he took to me so quickly — I’d give him bits of my toast or my bagel or whatever every morning, and it soon became such a tradition that I started to think of it as our breakfast, as if it were an official thing. (Is there such a thing as an “official breakfast thing”? Not really, but I like to think that you know what I mean, nonetheless.) We’d literally break bread together, his face just staring up at me, halfway between begging and just being present and charming enough that no-one could even think of not feeding him.

Across the last couple of weeks, since we found out that we’d have to say goodbye, I’ve just been stuck thinking about all the daily traditions that won’t be there anymore when he’s gone: Taking him out first thing in the morning, and watching him stand impassively as he sniffs out the day before taking action; sharing breakfast; talking to him as if he could understand and using one of his many varied names (“Tango Jones” offers multiple variations by itself, before you add in the potential offered by “Boof,” named after the distinctive sound of his barks); scratching his head when he barks at night just to let him know we’re here.

The world is going to be a lonelier place without him in it. He was sick enough that it’s a mercy to let him go — part-blind and almost entirely deaf, he has arthritis, is senile, incontinent, and has a malignant tumor on his spleen that also makes it difficult for him to breathe — but, still. He’s my friend and I’m going to miss him so much.

Only A Certain Few Remember The Nexus

I’m reading Joanne McNeil’s Lurking: How One Person Became A User at night these days. I’m enjoying it, for the most part, although it’s making me curiously nostalgic for my own days where I first stumbled onto the internet and explored what was, at the time, called “cyberspace” with something approaching sincerity.

Like many, if not most, of my peers in terms of age, the internet was something I first explored at school — I can remember my art school hooking us all up with accounts that required ridiculously complicated logins that included our names and some arcane numerical sequences that I’d written down in multiple locations just in case, and I can remember getting confused by just how to move around the nascent internet and find anything I actually wanted to read, but nonetheless being extraordinarily excited by the whole thing, just because.

I can also remember finding communities for the first time on this weird internet place, and having what might have been my first major cases of imposter syndrome as a result: Look at all these people talking about comics that I love, they’re all so much smarter than me and have all this insider information, oh my God, I can’t interact with them, can I? (This is still applicable today, especially when I read particularly well-written comics crit.)

Even with this imposter syndrome, even with the fact that, back then, just getting online with anything resembling a regularity to log into to these communities was a task in and of itself, the very existence of those sites, those societies of people who were like me, just a little bit better at it than I was, proved to be endlessly, immeasurably important to the me I was at the time. I can’t imagine where I’d be without them, or even more, who I’d be.

I suspect I’d be far less happy or fulfilled. I suspect I’d be a lesser person. So, yeah; reading Lurking has been an unexpected experience, at once educational on an objective level, but also like reliving something impossible to describe in an emotional, subjective way. I’d recommend it, but far more than usual, your mileage may vary.

Passed On

Because I’m old, and because it was recently my birthday, and because I’ve found myself listening to a lot of music from decades ago in the last few weeks — in part because of the reissues of Supergrass’s In It For The Money and Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around the World, in part because of watching the very enjoyable Beastie Boys Story the other night — I’ve been thinking about the way culture ages.

I watched a trailer for Get Back yesterday; it’s the upcoming documentary edited out of the raw footage shot in 1969, with the Beatles recording what would eventually become Let It Be. More than anything, it reminded me of The Beatles Anthology, the 1990s TV show and album series that basically went, “The Beatles are iconic and changed everything, it’s time we put them in this lionized historical context that treats them simultaneously as human beings and pop culture gods.” As a child of Britpop, this show was everything for me; I watched it avidly and remember feeling as if I was watching ancient history. After all, this was anywhere between 35 and 25 years ago they were talking about…!

And now, here I am, 47 years old and listening to albums released 20 years ago and feeling as if they’re recent, and wondering if my parents felt the same about the Beatles back when Anthology was released. “Why are you watching this show that pretends that Abbey Road was a long time ago? I remember picking that up at the local record shop…!” (My parents, I know, watched the series, but I don’t know how they felt about it; I do think they were amused by Britpop in general, and the revival of something they’d lived through the first time around.)

As bad as it is with music, it’s maybe worse for comics, for me; I think of material released at the turn of the century as being almost contemporary, even though that was decades ago; because I remember the release of particular titles or the debut of certain characters, I feel an affinity with them that tells me that they can’t be considered old, or passé. And yet…

A Brief Horror Thought

We’ve been watching a bunch of horror movies in the last few weeks; it’s Chloe’s thing, and something she’s done ever since I’ve known her — when it gets to October, she tries to watch as many horror movies as she can, even going so far as to draw up lists of potential movies to check out (or, in many cases, rewatch; there are favorites that get annual check-ins, just like I obsessively rewatch Holiday Inn ever December).

Me, I’m not really a horror guy. It’s never been my scene, although that became far more the case in my last relationship, where I was with someone who really disliked horror and so we never watched it, and somehow it became received wisdom that I didn’t like horror as if by accident. I remember watching The Ring way back when I first moved to the U.S., and being terrified when my phone rang at the same time as the phone onscreen, so I know I was into horror once; I’m not entirely sure where and when that faded, but things got slippy in that relationship in all manner of ways. (I also remember seeing The Blair Witch Project on opening night, way back when; that was a bad idea, all things considered.)

I mention this because, watching all these horror movies in a row made me think to myself, I want to see a horror movie without any supernatural elements. Or, really, what I mean is, I want to see a movie where the protagonist isn’t justified in their paranoia.

Think about it: what if Rosemary in Rosemary’s Baby actually was as delusional as everyone kept gaslighting her by saying? What if Sydney didn’t continually face off with a new serial killer in each successive Scream movie, but was instead just utterly traumatized by what she’d gone through, and had to come to terms with that, instead?

What would be left would be entirely different movies, I know, but not necessarily less interesting ones, nor stories less worthy of telling. After all, sometimes I wonder what lessons such movies are teaching when the core message is, “it’s okay to be scared and close yourself away, because they really are coming to get you.”

Och, C’Mon

I was surprised this weekend by a conversation in The Guardian between Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie and Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, ostensibly in support of Gillespie’s upcoming memoir, The Tenement Kid. What surprised me wasn’t that the two were talking, nor even that Gillespie had written a memoir — I’d found that out a few months ago, and have been lowkey looking forward to it ever since, especially because it stops before Primal Scream are successful, thereby avoiding the traditions and pitfalls of celebrity memoirs — but that, in reading the conversation, I found myself thinking feeling particularly, repeatedly, empathetic towards the points Gillespie was making.

More often than not, I’ll shy away from the idea that I’m particularly Scottish, or that my nationality holds any real sway over my personality. It’s not just that I’m particularly paranoid about nationalism, nor that I’ve spent almost half of my life outside of Scotland by this point in time — next year will be the 20th anniversary of me moving to the States, shockingly. Instead, it’s that I didn’t really see myself exhibit the various threads of a national personality that I did identify as “Scottish,” for better or worse. (I’m not entirely sure myself.)

Reading Gillespie, in particular, made me reconsider that — not least where he makes a joke about hating the Tories because he was raised in the west coast of Scotland, something that I read and instinctively went, yes, yes, that exactly. There are things that are deep rooted in my head and my heart that entirely come from where I was born and raised, as opposed to being specifically related to my family or friends, which was my previous explanation for things that felt very… Scottish, for want of a better way of putting it.

I’ve become more Scottish as I’ve gotten older, as well; it’s not been intentional, but it’s happened nonetheless. A mix of nostalgia, homesickness, and, I suspect, just simply age has made it happen. Perhaps I need to go back again, to see where my head is really at when it comes to my home country and heritage. It has been almost 10 years by this point, after all…

Another Year Older and Deeper in Debt

This year’s birthday proved to be a difficult one; not, I should make clear, because of the birthday itself — after 47 years, I’ve found that getting older is a fairly automated process if you manage to stay alive — but because of everything else that was happening on the day. By any regular standard, my birthday this year was filled with Things To Do that ranged from the low key (pitching stories for work, writing up one of those stories when it got accepted) to the major (a vet appointment that confirmed that one of the dogs has a sizable malignant tumor on his spleen), with more ranging to the latter end of that spectrum. It was, for any day, a lot.

It was suggested to me during the day that it’s become a tradition that I have unfortunate birthdays. This is perhaps a good thing to have forgotten, but apparently last year also saw the day hijacked by bad news — I think it was to do with paperwork relating to the divorce settlement, but I can’t really remember? — leading to the possibility that October 5th has become regularly full of bad luck and unpleasant events at some point of my life; not the most pleasant idea to play with, I think everyone would agree.

I spent part of the day thinking about how shitty a birthday it was — in no small part because others kept pointing it out, albeit in well meaning tones — and came to the realization that, if nothing else, it fit: 2021 has been, in no uncertain terms, what Queen Elizabeth II famously called an annus horriblis — a horrible, difficult year — for me, with career prospects disappearing, new opportunities arising only to vanish, and bad news plaguing loved ones on a depressingly regular basis. With that surrounding context, why should I expect a birthday that wasn’t filled with bad news, difficult conversations, and frustrations big and small?

Oddly enough, that realization helped, some. That said, if events could conspire to get better any time soon, I’d really appreciate that, please and thank you.

In Review

So, I made another logo.

This is for, as it says, NeoText Review, the new culture site Chloe’s running that launched this week. The logo came together at the last moment, with the realization that one was even needed happening after the site had been built and was days away from going live. In theory, it’s a placeholder for a potential second logo from the same designers of the original NeoText logo:

My logo obviously reworks that logo, which has always looked curiously 1980s to me (perhaps intentionally?), especially with the type choices, which feel as if they’ve come from a Tri-Star action vehicle starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. I went even older for my version, which takes inspiration from 1970s design — the blocky R, which repeats as a graphic shape! — even though my type cheats, using the very 1990s looking DIN Condensed font instead of something more period appropriate.

The result is something that I hope looks cool-retro, as opposed to just dated. If nothing else, it’s a logo that I enjoy more the more I look at it, which feels like a base minimum to hope for. Even if it does end up as merely a temporary solution to the design problem, it still has to be an attractive one, after all.

And Many More

A true sign of how fast the last year has moved came the other day when I realized that the birthday post I made here for my 46th birthday was, in fact, almost a year old. What does that say about how I interact with the world, I wonder, that I find my birthdays marked by blog posts and finding new ways to talk about getting older? Nothing good, I suspect.

This birthday, the one happening tomorrow, is my 47th. For some reason, I’m getting hung up on that number over the last week, as if it’s the number that puts me closer to 50 than “in my mid-40s,” in some magical fashion that is inescapable and somehow, inexplicably, meaningful: Once you hit 47, there’s no turning back

The obvious flaw in this argument is, of course, the inherent scariness of being 50. In my head, I know that it’s really a relatively arbitrary number — what is that different about 50 than 40, or 30? Each of those felt like milestones at the time, as if they were ends of one era and the beginning of another. The reality, of course, turned out to be far more complicated, with personal eras starting and stopping at inopportune times and hitting numbers that haven’t been attached with any larger societally agreed-upon meaning. (I was going to prove my point by saying that I got divorced at 44, and then had a moment of, “Is 44 some magic number because of the repetition?”)

Nonetheless, 50 looms in the near future for me, the latest in a line of ages that make me feel as if I should have everything figured out and lined up by that point. I know, too, that that idea is a flawed one; that there’s no such thing as having everything figured out, because life is messy and throws all kinds of distractions and problems in your way just when the road ahead looks smooth. Still, the idea floats ahead of me, a promise so far unmet but maybe possible by some method I haven’t quite worked out yet. Maybe that’s still to come; I have three years, after all.

Spooktacular

Now that we’ve finally made it to October, I think it’s safe to finally tell the world: September was cursed.

I mean, that’s the only explanation for quite how strange (and, at times, difficult) the month ended up being, right? I know, I know; October should, by all rights — if not all rites, get it? — be the cursed month, considering it’s Spooky Central and the place where Hallowe’en resides and all, but the evidence doesn’t lie: I’ve never had any October that felt as trying and difficult as this past month has been. September 2021 was, by no stretch of the imagination, a cursed month.

If it wasn’t one dog’s dental surgery — 17 teeth removed at once! They even gave them to me in a tiny little test tube afterwards — then it was new of a tumor in another dog, or the possibility of yet another dog moving in, only for that to go wrong in such a fashion as to be concerning and no little amount of anxiety inducing. (The dog is a lovely dog, but he’s not a dog who could deal with the house as it currently exists, put it that way.)

That’s to say nothing about the wait to find out if the lease on the house would be renewed, or if we’d all be homeless in a couple of months. It was renewed, thankfully; going house hunting in these times would be a trial too far, I suspect. There was also the weekend of wondering if the nine year old had COVID, as well, although it thankfully was just a cold.

Oh, but then there’s the work elements, too; the publication of a piece I finished weeks earlier, prompting all kinds of discourse online that made me feel awkward and uncomfortable, as well as writing new pitches, one of which was for an entire job, many if not most of which came to nothing at all, because things are slowing up in a dramatic sense when it comes to my earning money. At one point, I was getting rejections left, right, and center and wanting to just respond, look at how popular this piece is, I could be doing that for you right now.

October may not be any easier on the work front, but at least everything else is unlikely to repeat in the next 31 days. After all, what are the odds of having two cursed months in a row…?