New York City

It’s unseasonably warm again, with a late April wind blowing through early February. An old woman on the subway platform belted out a Marvin Gaye song that nearly left me in tears. Her voice was swallowed by the oncoming 4 train. There are so many graceful voices singing against the heat and grind of this noisy world. Voices that might have been performing beneath spotlights for millions of people if the chips had fallen a slightly different way. I rode downtown thinking about the phrase lacrimae rerum: the tears of things, Maybe the world weeps with us.

There was a glitch in the machine last night, and twenty-four hours later, Iowa is still counting the votes from its caucus. Our demand for data is unsatisfied. Hours of punditry have gone unfilled. There are no numbers to spin, no narratives to shape, and the networks fidget while our trust in the whole enterprise erodes a little more. Conspiracies and disinformation fill the vacuum.

This is already a long and exhausting year, and it’s only going to get weirder, e.g., a talk-radio shrieker was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom tonight. When the president’s garbled State of the Union address finally reached its blessed conclusion, the Speaker of the House stood and ripped up her copy of his speech. Perhaps this act of defiance will be in history books. Maybe we’ll forget by tomorrow when the next norm collapses.

New York’s skyline stopped me in my tracks this afternoon, reminding me that I live in an increasingly alien city. Its spindly billionaire towers brought to mind a line from J. G. Ballard: “the ragged skyline of the city resembled the disturbed encephalograph of an unresolved mental crisis.” Everything is moving so fast these days despite our best attempt to pin things down, if only for the briefest moment of orientation. But you cannot control nature, which is defined by relentless change. “Landscape paintings,” says the artist Robert Irwin, “are anything but.”

Clams Casino – Natural

From Rainforest | 2012 | Bandcamp

A smudge and a beat. The Ballard quote comes from High Rise and the Irwin quote is from Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees. As for deciphering pseudo-events and surviving the internet, I’ve been enjoying The Convivial Society by L. M. Sacasas.

Each night in 2020, I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these days into my memory. Before the world changed completely.
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