Everybody Knows, Everybody Knows

Ironically, July 4 used to feel like the least independent day of all.

There became a tradition, towards the end of my marriage, where Independence Day would be spent leaving town and going to the coast; this wasn’t the summer break trip that it sounds like, and was instead born of necessity, thanks to a very nervous dog who hated fireworks and a spouse with little patience for a nervous dog freaking out. It was decided, therefore, to head to the coast for the day with the intent always to be that we’d be on the road when the fireworks were happening, so he’d miss them — or, perhaps, have other reasons to be nervous at the time, depending how heavy the traffic was.

The trips were almost always stressful, tense things. We would leave later than intended, or traffic would be bad, or some small, insignificant thing that would set the emotional tone for the day ahead; something that, in the grand scheme of things, was less than important would create a framework to explain away that day’s misanthropic attitude on her part towards the rest of the world. We’d drive for hours, barely talking but listening to her podcasts — anything that I wanted to hear would be under suspicion and have to pass muster, of course — and eventually arrive, allowing travel-sick dogs to escape the confines of the car and anxiously, gratefully feel the ground beneath their paws.

Thinking about this now, I’m surprised by the realization of how silent these trips were — or, really, how little conversation there would be, I mean. I knew at the time that this was bad, but I didn’t really realize how bad, I don’t think; just the amount of awkward silence there would be, between two married people on a trip together. We’d eat meals quietly, often because things were so tense, or else we’d simply run out of things to say after an afternoon of small talk. The signs that things weren’t in a good place all around, waiting for me to notice.

And then, there’d be the hours driving home, after the sun had set, with the dogs panting and gasping through nerves and me saying nothing as she got more and more frustrated because of the traffic, the late hour, the whatever of it all. I can remember how bad it all felt, how inescapable, a desire filling me each and every year for the day to just be over. The dull awareness of irony that what was meant to be a celebration of independence felt, every year, like just the opposite in every respect.

There’s A Page Back in History

I paused to reflect, recently, that I’m 45 years old. It wasn’t a surprise, of course — it’s been true for more than half a year by this point — but it’s something that I hadn’t really stopped to think about at any point before then; there was always something else happening, something getting in the way. Such is life.

But 45 is a curiously important age to me, purely because it’s the age Bill Drummond was when he wrote his book 45, a book that’s been a strange core text of my life since I first picked it up out of curiosity way back in the year 2000. As the title might suggest, it’s a book about being 45 years old, except it’s not, really — it’s a collection of essays written about his past and his present when he was that age, with the idea that his age when writing would inform the work and infuse it with a specific sense of what it meant for him to be that many years old.

(I picked it up, I confess, not because I was a Bill Drummond fan — I wasn’t at the time, this was the book that made that come true — but because the original release of the book was 7 inches square, like a 45RPM single and I liked the design aspect of it. I was shallow then, and I’m shallow still.)

As the world would have it, I had the chance to meet Bill Drummond months after reading the book and becoming fascinated and inspired by him; he was touring the UK as part of some art project and he came to do a talk at this art collective I was part of, at the time. I can remember how excited I was, but also how the 26-year-old me felt about meeting this 45-year-old man — he was actually 48 at the time, I think, but I might be misremembering.

He seemed older, but not old, I remember thinking, in a realization that only someone in their 20s can have. Oh, to have 20 years more experience but not be over the hill! It gave me this strange feeling of security, that I had more time to do what I wanted, whatever that would turn out to be. (I didn’t know yet; I still don’t, arguably.)

And now, here I am, older but not old, myself. It feels fitting, as if I’ve arrived. Although I’m sure I would have imagined myself with more hair at this age.

July 1, 2020

2020 Visions is closing down until July 6, because of the holiday weekend and just generally being offline and not working again until then.

Your Humbled Correspondent

A month into it, now, the lack of Wired in my life feels like a curious, contradictory thing. I certainly miss the paycheck — oh boy, do I miss the paycheck — and I miss the kind of work I was doing there when I was let go, the stuff that looked into the politics of everything and tried to take a deep breath and look at things at once in the moment and from a long view. But, other than that…?

Other than that, there have been all too many times this month where I’ve said to myself, I’m glad I’m not doing Wired anymore — or, worse and weirder, where others have said that to me, afraid of just what it could have meant to my brain on my behalf. During the start of the Black Lives Matter protests, every day I looked at the news with something approaching horror and I remember thinking daily, I’m so glad that I don’t have to try and summarize this, pull tweets and try to make it make sense and try to come up with some kind of quasi-entertaining framework in which to address this whole situation. Every single day. I remember the end of that first week, the sheer sense of relief I had on the Thursday morning not to sit down and have to write that column.

It strikes me, remembering this, that was around the same time I started humorlessly referring to the US as a hellscape; I wonder if that sense of grim resignation would have been different had I been trying to unpick the paths these stories had traveled to get to where they’d gone…?

There was a point, when the Wired column was going to be turned into a web series, where I got a note from editorial asking politely if I could ease up on the politics and add in some lighter, fun, entertainment stuff. I understood what I was being asked for, especially as it hadn’t been intended as a political column when it started — before Trump was even President, if you can think back that far. It had simply evolved into what it had become, as I’d evolved.

As much as I feel relieved that I don’t have to stare into the online abyss on a weekly basis now, I do wonder where that column would have gone if we’d been able to continue to evolve, however. If nothing else, even as everything becomes a hellscape, I do wish I could have finished out Trump’s presidency.

Put Myself On A Line

And so we return to the world of THR newsletter graphics, where much fun is had on a weekly basis despite the speedy turnarounds and almost guaranteed last-minute changes. It really is a highlight of my week, you know…

These next two weren’t corrections, but simply me not being able to choose a color scheme, so I offered two alternatives.

These next two are a last minute switch-up; as protests over police brutality were happening all over the country, we went back and forth about whether a story about merchandise for the comic Black should be called “Black Market,” or if that was too crass. Ultimately, we decided it was, so it got switched just before the newsletter went out.

Curse Sir Walter Raleigh

How quickly things change, and how these strange coronavirus times make you think that they’ve never been anything other than they currently are…! It was just a six weeks or so ago that I wrote about sleeping late and remembering my dreams for the first time in ages, and now… well, let’s just say that I’ve finally climbed on board the “COVID is fucking up my sleep cycle” bandwagon, just a month or two too late, and when the rest of the world has moved on.

Story of my life, as a late adopter. I still haven’t seen all of Twin Peaks: The Return, can you believe that?

When it comes to the disruption of sleep, I’m somewhat lucky, I guess. Not for me a particularly nightmare-ridden existence; after a brief, welcome return, my dreams have returned to living permanently in my subconscious once again judging by recent experience. No, for me, it’s all about a very unexpected shift in my sleep cycle that I’ve started calling My Ongoing Fight Against Time It’s Very Own Fucking Self. Or, to put it more clearly, I’ve developed a seeming inability to sleep past 5:30 in the morning.

I’ve been an early riser for a long time — I’m tempted to say it’s always been the case, but in reality, I might have been sleeping in back when I was a kid and I just don’t remember it. Certainly, there were times when I was in art school where I’d struggle to wake up, but those were also the days when I’d regularly stay out past 2am like the callow youth I was. For the most part, though, I’ve woken up between 6 and 7am for the better part of three decades or more now, and it’s been something I’ve gotten used to, before this current spate of displacement started.

It doesn’t matter when I go to sleep, I’ve discovered. It doesn’t matter how tired I am. I can — and, frustratingly, do — wake up before 5:30, but it’s almost impossible for me to sleep past it, now. I manage it rarely, but it feels like an effort I make after initially waking at 4 and refusing to accept it. It feels like work. There are times when I wake up all too early and think to myself, maybe it’s not that everything is so stressful right now. Maybe I just need to sleep more. And then I remember that whole pandemic thing.