Not If You Were The

We’ve been watching The Last Man on Earth lately. I can’t remember why we started; it wasn’t a show I thought about often, although I certainly enjoyed what I’d seen of it the first time through. (Turns out, I dropped off somewhere in the middle of the second season; the show ran four years, all told.) I remembered it being a light, silly, occasionally cruel show in the vein of Red Dwarf, of all things — another post-apocalypse sitcom from days of yore — but, on rewatch, I realized that it’s actually the best, worst show to watch in this COVID world we’re in.

The key is what killed everyone off. It’s a topic more or less ignored at first, for obvious reasons. (Why does it matter? Everyone’s still dead.) Before too long, it’s revealed that it was a virus… that showed up around 2019 or 2020 or so. Which, I’ll be honest, was somewhat unsettling to watch from today’s perspective. Even more unsettling were the comments about how it originally just seemed like a bad cold, with people coughing a lot and being unravel to breathe, before dying.

And then there’s an episode in the middle of the third season — a season that is surprisingly dark, breathtakingly so in many respects, with the regular cast seeming to fall apart through trauma, mental illness and just plain bad luck — where everything flashes back to show how a previously unseen character played by Kristen Wiig dealt with the outbreak and its aftermath, and it’s genuinely disturbing when viewed today: her upset at seeing streets filled with everyone wearing masks, her paranoia about the origins of the virus, her loneliness when she’s forced to self-isolate and essentially go into lockdown.

It hit hard, watching that episode; it captures (and, of course, heightens) what it’s felt like since February 2020, and feels like a show made about the last year or so — but it was made back in 2017. I don’t know what I really expected when we started watching the series again, but this has been something more intense, and maybe more rewarding.

Hit Me With Your Best Two Shots

I’ve hit my two weeks post-vaccination mark, which is at once a significant milestone and enough of a meaningless moment as to make me wonder why I feel quite so accomplished to have made it this far.

After all, getting to this point really doesn’t mean anything beyond the fact that I… haven’t died in the last two weeks…? Which, sure, is not a thing that I’m not grateful for, considering the alternative, but at the same time, it was far from something that required any active movement on my part. I literally just kept going about my business, and ended up here nonetheless.

The hard part, the bit that required effort on my part — and even then, not that much effort, considering — came a fortnight ago, when I actually got my second shot. (Calling it an effort on my part feels more than a little self-serving, given that I just sat there and grimaced as the lab tech did everything, but still.) At the time, though, I felt as if any self-congratulating was premature; there was the possibility of side-effects and any other complications ahead, so I allowed myself a couple of minutes of gratitude and moved on to more important matters. What this really means, though, is that I haven’t really allowed myself to feel good about this whole vaccination experience.

Maybe that’s for the good. I mean, I’m not sure what it really means, on a practical level — I still wear a mask in public around other people, and to be honest, I don’t feel like that’s going to change anytime soon…? (Sorry, CDC guidelines; the combination of my anxiety and not wanting to make others nervous wins out, instead.)

I understand that I am, at least in theory, unlikely to contract COVID again, and that this means I’m more likely to be able to see people in person again, but beyond that vague promise, I’m left wondering quite why two weeks out feels like quite the thing that it somehow does. Congratulations to me, I guess.

Afterglow Of Your

There’s something to be said for the aftereffects of good news.

I got the go-ahead for a work thing last week that I… wasn’t really expecting? That might not be entirely accurate, but it was one of those things that you pitch half-convinced that it’ll never happen, and then the response was so fast and so enthusiastic that the first reaction is to think, wow, I don’t think I could have imagined that going any better.

What made this such a positive experience wasn’t just that I got a paid gig out of it — nor that it’s a paid gig at a new outlet, although that’s lovely in and of itself — but that the entire experience left me feeling as if I should try and repeat it elsewhere, and pitch to more outlets that I’ve never written for, just in case history repeats in some magical, unlikely way.

It took a day or so for that to sink in, admittedly, and it did so in a slow manner; there wasn’t an instant of clarity that I really could pitch anywhere just to see what happened. (If nothing else, if that had happened, I’m sure I would have immediately thought, well, obviously, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.) Instead, it was this deliberate, glacial reveal of, “well, if that worked even though you thought it wasn’t going to… then… what if…?”

The upshot of this is that I’ve already sent off a pitch that is almost certainly going to be either rejected or ignored — while I’m certainly feeling more confident about such things, I’m also not entirely unrealistic about them, and pessimism runs deep in my bones when it comes to this topic — while also applying to a job that a couple of people had quietly suggested I should throw my hat into the ring for.

It’s possible that none of these things will work out, but there’s a happiness in at least believing for a second that they might not be entirely outside the realm of possibility after all.

Don’t Ask Me

It’s been a busy week, with a lot of moving pieces — more moving pieces than I’ve had in a long time — and I’ve found myself exhausted and dizzy than usual as a result. Not necessarily in a bad way, I should add, but as it approaches the end of the week, I’m left feeling somewhat dazed by everything that’s been going on.

Some of that makes sense; I had a number of work irons in the fire this week, and I added another one because I am both stupid and need the money. (It is, however, something so surreal and unexpected and fun that I’m kind of delighted to make myself that little bit busier; when it happens, it’ll be clear what I’m talking about.) I knew, going into Monday, that I’d be especially busy this week, so it’s not as if that came as a surprise.

Instead, there’s the part that is a surprise, and perhaps a little nonsensical, as well: I felt overwhelmed by the choice of entertainment available to me when I wasn’t working. Thanks to a number of welcome coincidences, I found myself with a bunch of ARCs of things I wanted to read all at once, and the freedom to read whichever I wanted to — and I felt almost paralyzed by that fact. (So much so, in fact, that I spent an evening reading other things entirely, because it seemed easier in some inexplicable way. Alas, my poor brain.)

This is to say nothing of the number of things that I want to watch when slumped in front of the television in the evening, with Legendary and Top Chef both back, and shows like Hacks or the many movies I have cued up all waiting for my attention if and when I’m ready for them.

The problem for me, apparently, is choice — both in terms of entertainment and what I’m working on that particular day; when I have to get something done, I can just settle in and handle it. If I get to decide for myself what to focus on, that’s when the problems begin.

Nothing is Plural

My laptop is dying. I know this because, roughly 18 months after my O key decided to detach itself from the keyboard on a flight to Brazil — the same flight that my phone decided to start off-gassing, as it happens, although I wouldn’t realize that was exactly what was happening for another few months — the S key has decided that it’ll only work roughly fifty percent of the time that I hit it. What’s that old saying…? “One key stops working, shame on me, two keys stop working, Apple’s keyboards are a pile of shit…?” Something like that.

The thing is, I planned on getting a new laptop for myself some time ago; I remember thinking before the end of last year that I would probably do it just after the holidays, when I (foolishly) believed that work would be settling down and I’d be building up something close to savings again. I knew it was only a matter of time before the other keys decided that they should follow the O into something approaching a state of disrepair, if not outright abandonment of the keyboard, and I wanted to get ahead of the curve. I just need to wait until I feel a little bit more solvent, I thought. We know how that worked out.

The thing is, there are so many words that require the S key, and the way I type — a way that more than a few people have pointed out is ludicrous and unnatural, like watching a particularly adept caveman at the keyboard — means that I don’t always realize what letters are missing before I’ve already moved on to the next word. The end result is that everything just takes longer to finish now, because I find myself having to go back and correct things, realizing that I didn’t really type “myhelf” in that last bit because I know there’s no such word, but who knows if and when the S key actually want to do what it’s told.

If things get much worse, maybe I can just handwrite everything and take photos. How bad could that be?

I’m Not Gonna Miss My Shot

By the time you read this, I’ll have received my second shot of the COVID vaccine; I’m Team Moderna, and I love that people are so especially invested in which brand of vaccine everyone is getting, as if it’s a fandom or a sport. It’s been something that’s loomed large in my life for the last week or so, not for the obvious reasons — you know, that whole “actually being vaccinated against the virus at the heart of a terrifying global pandemic that has changed life across the globe for the last fifteen months” thing — but because I’ve been all too aware of the after effects that the second shot is meant to produce.

It’s not that I’m surprised by the idea that I’ll get a small case of COVID; I get how vaccines work, after all. No, what’s got me all anxious is the question of how small that case will be. I’ve heard enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that it’s basically a 24-hour return for your previous actual COVID experience, as mild or as strong as that was — and that’s not a particularly exciting prospect for someone who’s sure they had it pretty bad for a few days back when this all started.

The odd thing, though, is how this has weighed on me all week, the foreknowledge that I’ll probably be sick on Saturday. I’ve been consciously and subconsciously preparing for it, or at least trying to, the best I can — clearing my schedule, ensuring there are things to read and/or watch in case I’m bedbound, that kind of thing — and, all the time, thinking to myself about how strange it is to know you’re not going to be healthy for once. Short of surgery and it’s subsequent recovery, when do you get to do that, otherwise…?

I have, unintentionally, found myself unable to think past Saturday at this point, as if I’ll get sick and that’s it. I know there’s a next week that follows, and then another and another and another and so on, but right now, my internal timeline stretches as far as being in bed tomorrow and hoping I get better. See you on the other side.

Read It In

At some point, I feel as if I stopped reading real books. I don’t mean that in the sense of, “I read comics now, and comics aren’t real books,” because… well, that’s ridiculous. No, I mean it in the sense of, I feel as if almost everything I read nowadays is digital, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Certainly, the majority of my comic reading these days is digital — the perks of having digital access to comps and preview copies, I can’t deny it — as is the majority of the prose I’m reading, which is almost entirely for research for the Secret Project That I Dare Not Name. (I should be reading more prose, I feel, but there’s something about the last year or so that’s made that feel especially difficult for me. Hopefully, my concentration will return when things are less apocalyptic.)

I can’t deny that digital reading is certainly easier on a regular basis, and there’s something to be said for having a significant library at your fingertips without ever having to get out of bed. (Laziness, it’s a wonderful thing.) It feels different, though; not just in the physical sense — there’s a beautifully tactile appeal of reading physical editions for me, right down to how each individual page can feel, depending on the paper stock; call it the pain of the former graphic design student, I confess — but in the sense of, in a strange way, the act of reading is almost a different thing.

I skim more when reading digitally, I think, and I lose concentration more easily when staring at a screen for long periods. Not having the physical indicator of just how far I am in a book means that I can be less patient with reading, as well.

I should (and could) make a point of buying more books, spending more time at the library, to fix this. In a post-pandemic world, I’m sure I will. For now, though, I simply find myself missing books as I swipe to another page on my iPad.

Not It

I had one of those old man yells at clouds moments the other day, when thinking about how easy it is to find media these days. When I discover a song in a TV show or movie or out in the real world — that last one, admittedly, being less likely these days for all kinds of reasons — it’s no big thing to find out what the song was, who recorded it, and buy it. All it takes is a Google search of some lyrics (assuming, of course, you can remember some of the lyrics at least close to correct), maybe a listen on Spotify or YouTube, and then a click to whatever music purchasing platform you prefer to use.

I like to think that I would’ve loved that a good 20 or so years ago — hell, make it 25 years — when my music buying was at its peak. At that point, it felt as if I was surrounded by music and still hungry for more, with a significant amount of my free time spent in record stores, rifling through the bins in the search for the next thing to get obsessed with.

Much of that rifling came from attempts to make connections between things, or search for the origins of particular sounds or elements. (I spent far, far too long trying to find if Badfinger really was the originator of the close harmonies of bands like Queen and Jellyfish, to my shame.) Much of the delay came from the fact that I’d think I’d have tracked down something I wanted to hear, but wasn’t willing to pay the money for a complete CD, or album, or whatever, if all I really wanted was one song, leading to a lot of back-and-forth while wondering if I could afford it, or wanted to.

What made this low level of obsession worthwhile, of course, were the mistakes and misfires, the things I bought by mistake and then realized that I loved even more than I could’ve expected, or the B-sides and album tracks that quickly became favorite songs. That, more than anything, is what I find myself missing today: The happy surprise that rewards the devoted search. Is there some way to recreate that these days, I wonder?