I’ve been listening to music more, recently, than I have in the last year or so. It’s not that I’ve been against listening to music during that time, more that I haven’t had as much opportunity for all manner of reasons — not least of which has been the fact that I’ve been watching more television and more movies, and there’s only so much time to take in new things.
But I’ve missed music. There was a time, a long, long time ago, when music was my life — I was in my 20s and going to local record stores was a twice a week, three times a week phenomenon. This was, literally a different time, pre-internet, with me listening to the radio all the time to discover new sounds, but the record store served a similar purpose; I’d buy things with abandon based on reviews, half-listens or simply cool looking sleeves and hunker down with them, listening over and over because that was what I did. I studied music, over and over again.
That changed for all manner of reasons; my priorities changed, my life changed. There was less time and opportunity to do what I’d been doing before — I stopped living alone, and merely having conversations and co-existing with someone whose patience for new and unknown sounds was far lesser than mine was something that shifted my focus — and, sure, I missed it but there were other things to focus on, I found.
Plus, it simply got harder to listen to music, somehow; the move from CDs to mp3s and then to services like Spotify ironically paralyzed me a bit. There was so much choice that I’d find myself retreating to the familiar more often than not, and being less likely to find things I’d never heard before, or even listen to things I rarely did. I became my own greatest hits machine, unintentionally.
It was a rediscovery of old CDs that has reignited my interest in listening to music, and prompted me to want to be counterintuitive and buy new ones, burn new ones. To play them in the background again as I do the everything else of life and let the sounds sink in. Perhaps it’s another form of retreat to ways of old, but it feels like one that will let me push forward again; it feels new in unexpected, welcome ways. It feels exciting.
I’m thinking about newsletters again. I do this periodically.
I love email newsletters; I love the intimacy, the immediacy and the unexpectedness of them. They just appear in your inbox without warning, letters from friends you don’t actually know that always feel like surprise gifts (although I do happen to know the authors of a number of newsletters I receive, now that I come to think of it).
I work on one personally — the surprisingly successful Heat Vision newsletter for THR, which perpetually outperforms expectations in terms of opens, which is how readership for such things is measured, I’m told — and I have often thought of starting others: A comics news round-up with commentary, for example, or a summary of things posted here, with links to the full versions.
What always stops me is time. I’m too busy to do everything I want to already, how can I add more to that plate? (Other abandoned projects: A series of essays about the post-Jack Kirby New Gods comics for Wait, What? and writing new essays about the HBO Watchmen show and DC’s Doomsday Clock to put with my Wait, What? essays about the original comic and after-the-fact prequels in a digital book collection. One day, perhaps.)
And so, I read what other people are doing with newsletters and have ideas and thoughts and questions. I think about the potential of the form and its parallels to blogging, which is apparently making a comeback in 2020, I read. (I’m ahead of the curve, for once!) I wonder about newsletters as secret transmissions to curated audiences and what that means and can mean, and I ask myself how much fun it could be to send different versions of the same letter to people without anyone noticing. I’m a stinker.
There are things to be done with newsletters that I want to do. I’ll get to do them eventually, I hope.
There came a point when Valentine’s Day just provoked a weary cynicism in me.
At the time, I justified it to myself with the usual excuses, whether it was that love shouldn’t be celebrated just one day a year but all of them, or that it was a fake holiday created to sell cards and chocolates — which may be true, but at the same time, what’s wrong with that if it gives some people something to smile about…? The truth of the matter was, I suspect, more likely to be that I knew on some level that I was in a relationship that I didn’t want to be in, and one that I didn’t want to celebrate.
To be fair, it wasn’t as if I’d had the greatest history with Valentine’s Day as a whole; I’d spend them in turmoil when I was a kid, secretly hoping to get one from a secret admirer just so’s it would mean that I had a secret admirer, and then try and play it cool when that never happened. I honestly can’t remember if I ever sent any cards in high school; I had a million crushes at any particular moment, but I suspect that I didn’t send anything in the fear that my secret be figured out and I’d have to be rejected in person.
(I had a somewhat lonely childhood, in retrospect.)
I was, then, primed to distrust Valentine’s as a holiday, with that distrust and disbelief growing as my marriage atrophied around me. It became easier to half-ass even making a nod to it — dinners postponed because of work (on her part; she’d like to work into the night, often, hiding in her office or behind her laptop), plans never fulfilled. After all, what was the point…?
A few weeks ago, I got an invite to a thing for work that was genuinely exciting but would’ve meant that I would be out of town on Valentine’s Day, and I knew I had to decline, purely because the idea of not being with Chloe on that day felt so wrong. I’m writing this a week ahead of the actual day, and we don’t have any set plans yet, but it’ll be enough for me — it’ll feel right, again, using such vague, emotional terms — to just be with her on the day this year. My cynicism is thawing, and I’m ready to become a believer again.
It feels nice. Happy Valentine’s Day.
I’m reminded of that adage about most plans not surviving first contact with the enemy, except that, in this case — as in most, let’s be honest — the enemy in question happens to be reality. So it goes.
Thanks to the suggestion of podcast partner and all-round good egg Jeff Lester, I decided at the start of the year to keep track of what I’ve been reading. He’s been doing this for some time, and I was, if not jealous of his organizational skills, at least curious to see if I could do something similar given (a) how much I read, and (b) how casually (read, “chaotic”) said reading tends to be. If nothing else, I thought, it’ll be an interesting exercise.
Within a week, I’d lost track of the whole thing.
The trick, I realized fairly early, was that I needed to update pretty immediately; trying to reconstruct after a week, going on my digital footprint and a pile of things by my bed wasn’t going to cut it, as much as I still hoped otherwise. If nothing else, that ignored the random comic issues that would accompany me into the bathroom in the middle of the day, or the glance-throughs first thing in the morning or last thing at night that turn into reading binges.
(And that’s ignoring the things I end up reading for work that I always fail to remember, because they are for work; if you knew how many issues of Birds of Prey and related comics I’ve read in the last month…!)
Instead, my list for January is… simultaneously lengthy and threadbare, missing all manner of things that I’ve simply forgotten. Not the finest start to the experiment, but then, January wasn’t the finest start to the year in general. This month, I’ve been better about things (I think), and the picture it’s painting is… pretty much what I’d expected, in terms of how uneven and random my reading has turned out.
I think, in a strange way, that’s a plus. I’m a flighty reader, curious and unable to sit still for too long, and this is definitely reflected in my lists, but that hummingbird nature fits my work, and lets me turn away towards something fun when necessary. If I keep this up, it’ll be interesting to see what trends emerge over the year as a whole.