Notes from the End of a World

Each night in 2020 I wrote a short post because I wanted to etch these strange days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changed completely.

December 31, 2020

End

The end of the year leaves me feeling as if I’m supposed to be reflective, and I find myself hunting for revelations that never arrive.

December 30, 2020

Almost

It’s almost like a new form of weather, this atmosphere of everyone waiting for this wretched year to end.

December 29, 2020

Unthinkable

I try to imagine my reaction if someone showed me some scenes from the year to come.

December 28, 2020

Version

There will be no flash of light or burning bush.

December 27, 2020

Fallout

But for three or four minutes, something otherworldly seemed possible.

December 26, 2020

Shambles

A pair of ears clutches a knife. A pig dressed as a nun encourages a man to sign a legal document. And so on.

December 25, 2020

Moment

Remember this, I thought, because it won’t always be this way.

December 24, 2020

Eve

My first concept of god came from It’s a Wonderful Life.

December 23, 2020

Banquet

My memories tend to pile up around the holidays, fogging my thoughts with the textures of Christmas seasons from the past.

December 22, 2020

Stimulus

A billionaire was on television this morning, and he’s worried about our social fabric.

December 21, 2020

Hibernal

Heavy rain beats against the windows and it’s the longest night of the year, one of my favorite moments.

December 20, 2020

Postmortem

How would knowing that consciousness lingers while the body goes cold change the way we reckon with death—or bear witness?

December 19, 2020

Programming

I absorbed so many forms of 1980s sitcom trauma.

December 18, 2020

Fracture

“But I’m working on a special microchip that will block the signals of all demons and devils,” he said.

December 17, 2020

Death

An elderly man collapsed against the base of a Bernini.

December 16, 2020

Flurries

Maybe it has to do with the silence it brings, how it tranquilizes the world for a while.

December 15, 2020

Reflection

There were days when our images were honored, even feared.

December 14, 2020

Mundane

I’m reappreciating the joy of mundane events this year, the delight in everything happening as expected.

December 13, 2020

Vaccine

They gathered in Washington DC to wave flags with the president dressed up like Rambo, slicked with sweat and carrying a belt-fed weapon.

December 12, 2020

Narrows

I feel more present in the world at midnight, most like myself.

December 11, 2020

Numbers

Three thousand Americans are dying each day from the coronavirus, and two hundred thousand more are infected.

December 10, 2020

Worship

Three years ago on a Saturday night in rural Pennsylvania, I saw a vision of the future that I cannot shake.

December 9, 2020

Stare

His gaze leaves me questioning my life choices and entire personality.

December 8, 2020

Alright

I passed a church sign that said, “Jesus paid the price, you keep the change.”

December 7, 2020

Absence

I catch myself patting down my pockets while feeling phantom vibrations, seeking synthetic communion.

December 6, 2020

Release

I’m learning to carry my dead with me, to ask them questions while pacing the kitchen or driving to the supermarket.

December 5, 2020

Metal

If aliens landed, I’d probably mistake them for a guerrilla marketing campaign.

December 4, 2020

Pietà

The image of the Pietà occupies such a distinct place in memory that I often forget it translates to “the pity”.

December 3, 2020

Eat

I stopped at the window and gaped like a hermit suddenly confronted by society.

December 2, 2020

Language

How tragic to enter a museum hoping to feel dignified and ennobled, only to walk away feeling like a fool.

December 1, 2020

Snow

The first day of the last month of this nightly exercise, and I’m thinking about the value of this exercise.

November 30, 2020

Bear

Light snow here in Ohio, and the weather report was mixed with grim coronavirus forecasts.

November 29, 2020

Leave

The holidays remind me that I don’t have the type of family that appears in commercials and television specials.

November 28, 2020

Tree

Domestic rituals of all kinds will be critical during this long winter.

November 27, 2020

Access

Sometimes I blame modern-day aesthetics for my difficulties. The optics seem wrong for devotion.

November 26, 2020

Gratitude

Tonight I am grateful because I have a safe place to sleep, food to eat, and the freedom to make my own decisions.

November 25, 2020

Ash

I miss the dopamine loop, the carrot and the stick, and the rhythm of stepping outside for five minutes after each page or paragraph.

November 24, 2020

Shop

I tuned into the voice looping over the P.A. system, struck by how it sounded simultaneously rational and insane.

November 23, 2020

Patterns

There was a time when people believed the stomach’s gurgles and rumbles belonged to the voices of the dead.

November 22, 2020

Stretch

We stopped at a rest area where a man stood on the grass, grinning at the moon.

November 21, 2020

Image

I read about a temple where an image is treated as the living incarnation of an infant god.

November 20, 2020

Walk

I often hear people say they feel as if reality is slipping away. But perhaps reality is becoming more evident.

November 19, 2020

Post

I found a rare picture of my mom young and smiling, caught beneath the overheated gloss of a 1970s photo.

November 18, 2020

Forward

I don’t want to become a prematurely old man, pining for a romanticized past.

November 17, 2020

Hijack

Meanwhile, I keep forgetting the screen is a tool, not an environment.

November 16, 2020

Museum

I wanted to visit my favorite statues and paintings before things begin closing again.

November 15, 2020

Astro

Or take the word ‘disaster’, the inversion of ‘astro’, a term which means a negative star, a kink in the heavens that leads to catastrophe.

November 14, 2020

Reality

A profane old man would often tell me, “Fuck your feelings.” Then he’d remind me of the facts. That advice probably saved my life.

November 13, 2020

Lament

We knew it was coming. They’ve been telling us for months, and now it’s here.

November 12, 2020

Profane

How many times have I glimpsed a better, more spiritualized way to live—and retreated?

November 11, 2020

Suffuse

Words that haunt the unconscious: Trilobites, moonfish, and gorgons.

November 10, 2020

Spirit

In the beginning, God was only “a permanently existing ghost.”

November 9, 2020

Test

Shops are removing the plywood boards from their windows after barricading for riots that never came.

November 8, 2020

Shift

Yes, I wept as Kamala Harris and Joe Biden gave their acceptance speeches in a Delaware parking lot.

November 7, 2020

Catharsis

The networks called the race for president at 11:26 this morning, and the city erupted in cheers.

November 6, 2020

Endless

Meanwhile, we wait for a signal, a 72-point headline or a glossy cable news graphic that cements and formalizes.

November 5, 2020

Goo

Patchy sleep and fever dreams of narrow margins and outstanding ballots. But it’s not much different from waking life right now.

November 4, 2020

Razor

A slow-motion drift in Pennsylvania. Refresh. A lot of places are sold out of nicotine gum.

November 3, 2020

Election

After so many months of isolation, working the polls for seventeen hours reminded me of something important: New Yorkers are beautiful and insane.

November 2, 2020

Gesture

I was mortified by just how childish I’d become, that I would allow any man to crank my lizard-brain into full swing.

November 1, 2020

Hour

The end of Daylight Savings Time is my favorite holiday because it creates more night.

October 31, 2020

Halloween

America hit nearly 100,000 new infections yesterday. Britain declared another lockdown tonight, joining Germany and France.

October 30, 2020

Devil

My first understanding of how media hysteria works, the way it creates a dark scoreboard with a record begging to be broken.

October 29, 2020

Wind

“Sometimes I think they are graceful like ballerinas,” he said as we drove. “Other times, I think they are wicked.”

October 28, 2020

Mirror

It looks like half the country is burning and the other half is freezing.

October 27, 2020

History

It’s an uneasy sensation, knowing something massively historical is one week away.

October 26, 2020

Court

I will channel my anger into becoming a morning person this week.

October 25, 2020

Safe

A friend sent me an article about a helmet you can buy that creates its own microclimate of filtered, customized air.

October 24, 2020

Up

Eighty-five thousand new cases reported yesterday, another record smashed in a year with too many records broken.

October 23, 2020

Lights

Returning to the city, I felt a familiar drain on my attention as I drove down the FDR to ditch the rental car.

October 22, 2020

Ocean

So we listened to the sea, and it gave us much better information.

October 21, 2020

Fog

We admired the smudged headlights of oncoming traffic, the fleeting sense of driving on some other, better planet.

October 20, 2020

Landscape

I’m endlessly rewriting, forever shuffling scenes and squinting at the possibilities.

October 19, 2020

Monsters

Why would my brain invent monsters to terrify itself?

October 18, 2020

Fatigue

What is the line between fatigue and acceptance?

October 17, 2020

Monument

I’m always captivated by Louise Nevelson’s monuments built from pieces of furniture painted black.

October 16, 2020

Noise

I miss being around sounds I can’t control.

October 15, 2020

Watching

Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Are you still watching?” but “Why?”

October 14, 2020

Simulation

He stood in front of an airplane flapping his hands and crowing before a sea of red hats. All those red hats like angry sores.

October 13, 2020

Slate

A place where only the occasional shredded tire or dilapidated cabin would interrupt my fantasy that I’m driving on another planet.

October 12, 2020

Pictures

While running through the rainy dark, someone stepped in front of me and took my picture for no apparent reason.

October 11, 2020

Drome

More and more, it feels like trying to critique the sky.

October 10, 2020

Spare

When you cut something down to the bone, every decision becomes much more dramatic.

October 9, 2020

Silentium

And I realized this was because of that rarest quality of all these days: silence.

October 8, 2020

Landfall

Lately I’ve been having a dream about a weatherman grinning in front of a map while talking about a hurricane of bullets.

October 7, 2020

Creature

The fly felt like a portentous symbol in a year that has reached the caliber of myth.

October 6, 2020

Kite

I once saw an old woman in a red sundress flying a big yellow kite down a busy street.

October 5, 2020

Dust

As if I’m doing something wrong just by living in such an embarrassing time.

October 4, 2020

Extreme

This year has made conspiracy theorists of so many of us to some degree.

October 3, 2020

Oldies

I find myself craving the days when a 303 sounded like it contained all the mysteries and possibilities of the world.

October 2, 2020

Positive

Today the president went to the hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus.

October 1, 2020

Ritual

A mixture of marble and steel that looks like a collision of the past and future.

September 30, 2020

Training

“You’ll be working at least seventeen hours on Election Day,” he said. “So bring a sandwich.”

September 29, 2020

Shame

Tonight’s first presidential debate was a fitting spectacle for a degraded nation.

September 28, 2020

Dots

If I’ve gleaned anything from keeping this glum journal throughout this year, it’s that I keep returning to the language of grief.

September 27, 2020

Converge

It’s my mind that kills me, the constant looking at my watch until I remember how to forget about time.

September 26, 2020

Lull

But tonight there’s light rain, our windows are open to the city’s hum, and there’s something dark and slow on the radio.

September 25, 2020

Homeward

We’re leaving the Ohioan wilderness behind, night-driving back to New York.

September 24, 2020

Birds

Standing in a superstore parking lot this evening, I watched some geese fly south, and I remembered my parents’ relationship with birds.

September 23, 2020

Shatter

Three moments in America today that reach beyond my ability with words, striking only the rudimentary language of grief.