I Don’t Care If I Never Get Back

Getting excited for my summer. Oh boy oh boy it’s only three weeks away!

I’ve been asked to do some stupid shit I don’t want to do over the summer but even so I will still have a million miles of freedom before me. FREEDOMMMM I can not wait to read this stack of books and get back into all the stuff I want to write. This book stack is epic, it now includes Veblen, Nussbaum, Harvey x2, a William Godwin anarchy reader, a book about experimental art, and some Kafka. “I’m Lovin’ It”—McDonalds

I’m excited to read this Veblen. One thing I have been surprised to learn is that Veblen was FUNNY. I never think these people are going to be funny but then they often are. When people are funny they can not suppress it fully no matter how dour their field; tis a human truth. Also I do think there is something inherent in the act of cultural criticism that brings out this kind of absurdist embrace of the madness of the world; everything starts seeming hilarious in kind of a nihilistic way, which of course you also have to fight against because nihilism can so quickly become cowardice and sloth.

People Who You Maybe Didn’t Know Were Funny:
Veblen
Plato
Marx
Weber
Wagner (unintentionally)

I think when the serious Germans are funny it is funniest. Weber’s epic screed about how Ben Franklin wasn’t even a proper Puritan but just a “bland deist”! and when he says all of Franklin’s writings on common sense would have been taken as expressions of “the most filthy greed” in every past era of human history. HA HA HA. Although, I read those parts aloud to my grad students and they didn’t laugh, so maybe my idea of what counts as “funny” has become twisted by all this crazy shit I read. Lord

Anyway but also summer also does feel like a real vacation and I will never pretend otherwise, my solemn pledge to you. Summer is I think when the real gifts of living in rural New England rear their heads. Life is slow and easy. There are no lines for brunch even when you go at 11:00 on a beautiful Sunday. Similarly, if on a blazing July Saturday you think “hey, lets go to the river and take a little swim,” whereas in a river-adjacent metropolis this would be madness because (a) the river is radioactive and/or (b) at said river there will surely be 500 sunburned bros flinging footballs with one hand and eating ten hot dogs at once with the other hand while screaming “bro” at each other, here it is not a wild idea at all, in fact one simply heads over to the river and finds there either no one or like two nice ladies dipping toddlers into the cool water and chatting. One walks alone through the whispering fields of tall summer weeds and emerges on the cool banks of the river where one can paddle at one’s leisure, nary a hot dog bro in sight. No offense to hot dog bros, they’re just trying to get through this life like everybody else.

Anyway it’s nice. Everything is chill, all the little ice cream stands staffed by high schoolers open up, the farmers markets start popping off, a local farmer emails you saying she’ll sell you 40 pounds of gross tomatoes so you can can them, and even though it’s 90 degrees and so humid you can’t breathe you’re able to freaking RELAX a little bit. Make a fire and sit outside at night slappin’ mosquitos, as our forefathers did and their forefathers before them.

We are going to go to a lot of minor league baseball this summer also. We went to a game last weekend and it was really fun, probably the most consistently engaged/interested I’ve been in a sports game in my life. Gary has decided to get really into baseball all of a sudden, specifically regional AA baseball, and he ordered a $30 book of scouting reports on all the players that he reads constantly and now this subject comprises 90% of his conversational topics and I’m learning a lot but also sometimes I have to say “I can’t talk about baseball anymore,” and he is always respectful of my limits in this regard. He gets up every morning and watches game highlights; I’m in my office right now listening to the crack of the bat/roar of the crowd as he wanders around the house watching it on his phone.

One thing he does to helpfully facilitate my interest in the game is sincerely engage with all my non-game-related questions just about the culture and trivia history of baseball; he also collects fun trivia or crazy things that happen during games so he can tell me about them. I will never forget when I asked him off-handedly if a bird had ever swooped down and been hit by a baseball and he showed me the video of Randy Johnson annihilating that poor seagull. Suddenly I realized: anything is possible in baseball! Now I want to know EVERYTHING. Last night I asked if anyone had ever been killed during a major league baseball game and he googled it and we got really sad because there’s only been one, and it was in the 1920s, and he got hit in the head by a pitch and died, and because of that they changed the rules about scuffing up the ball and getting it dirty, which until then had been the norm for pitchers because it made the ball hard to see and hit. Apparently this guy just stood there while a 90 mph fastball crunched into his skull, because he couldn’t see it. So he died, and the pitcher who killed him played nine more seasons, and also was involved in a scandal wherein he was accused of throwing the World Series.

Knowing my penchant for non-game-related trivia, he tricked me the other night and I’m still mad about it. He came home all excited to tell me that a BALD EAGLE had swooped in and LANDED ON A PLAYER DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM. I absolutely freaked out but when he showed me the video it turned out it was a tame eagle that was there for a publicity stunt, and it just briefly got loose and hopped up onto the guy. I was and remain furious; that was NOT was I was led to believe had occurred.

Other questions I asked during the game:
– has a dog ever gotten loose and run out onto the field and then all the players are chasing the dog and the dog is loving it and running wildly and the crowd is cheering? (“I don’t know. Probably”)
– Has a player ever proposed to his girlfriend on the big screen like audience members do? (“Yes”)
– Has a player ever hit an umpire with the bat in a rage? (“Surely not. It would mean an assault charge. Plus it would be disrespectful to the bat”)
– Does the ball ever hit the catcher in the nuts? (“All the time, but they all wear cups”)
– Is catcher a really scary position? (“Oh my GOD yes”)
– When did they start putting up this huge net behind home plate (“I don’t know”); probably it had to wait until the invention of plastic (“that seems right”); same with batting helmets (“right”)
– Has someone ever accidentally let go of the bat while swinging and it flies into the crowd and hits someone? (“I’m sure”)
– Has someone ever accidentally let go of the bat while swinging and the bat flies all the way across the outfield and into the stands and it counts as a home run? (“What? No of course not”)

One thing I was asking about at the game was how is it possible for a player to steal home base? Both Gary and the stranger sitting next to us assured me that it was not only possible but fairly common. I couldn’t picture how it could be done; third base is so far from home plate, and the pitcher is standing there holding the ball looking RIGHT AT where you’d be running. So last night he put together a best-of reel of guys stealing home plate and it’s really amazing, like wizard magic. The runner comes out of NOWHERE; you just hear the crowd suddenly scream and then he’s just there, already at home plate. The pitcher literally watches it happening, throws the ball home, and somehow the guy either makes it there BEFORE THE BALL (!!!??) or because the whole “oh shit somebody’s stealing home” thing throws the pitcher/catcher off their intensely calibrated telepathic focus the ball goes wildly off somewhere and the catcher has to fumble for it and the guy slides in with a fraction of a centimeter to spare. It is truly very exciting, and the look of sorrow on the pitcher’s face is a sight to behold. Verily, for ‘twas I not looking RIGHT AT HIM as he stole home in front of my very face?! And then the runner walks off the field like “NBD” and everyone slaps him on the butt.

At the game we were sitting right behind home plate, and at one point the catcher did actually get hit in the nuts by the ball. It was extremely thrilling. The ball smacked him, the crowd went OOOH! The guy sank slowly and silently to his knees, bowed his head, and clenched his fist on his upper thigh, mastering his pain using only his mind. The crowd sighed. The umpire stood over him quietly. It was like a Renaissance painting. Then he unclenched his fist, and very slowly and precisely traced the whole palm of his hand in a big arc in the dirt, then stood up and everyone clapped. High drama! That was my favorite moment by far.

Anyway so I guess I am into baseball now

I google image searched “catcher getting hit in the nuts” and it’s a real cavalcade of misery, I recommend it. Those guys sure work hard for their money

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Life n Times

My husband has been forcing me to stay up until 11:00 because he believes it will help with my middle-of-the-night insomnia. For the past week, when I start fading around 9:30 or 10:00 he starts his boot camp. “HONEY IT’S ONLY 9:30 IT’S NOT BEDTIME. HONEY TALK TO ME TELL ME A STORY.” I sit on the couch wrapped in a blanket nodding off again and again while he talks and prods me. Last night we passed the time by having a fight about the social responsibilities incumbent on documentary filmmakers. The moment the clock strikes eleven I am instantly in bed and asleep.

And guess what? IT’S WORKING. I’ve been sleeping through the night, like a little child innocent of guilt or worry. I’ve been sleeping from 11:00 to 5:30 or 6:00 like a NORMAL PERSON. It feels so good.

Actually while I give great credit to my old man for improving my lifestyle I must also say that this sleeping normally thing has coincided with me taking cannabis oil before bed, so possibly it is a combination of the two. Maybe tonight I will try just staying up til eleven and see which is the more powerful drug.

I have never been a night person, even in high school and college when everyone wants to rage all night. I have always been the person who goes to bed early and misses everything and then can’t find anyone to go to breakfast with her the next morning at 7:45 a.m. I sincerely believe sleep needs are deeply encoded into our souls; I know I could never be a night person. If I had a nighttime job I would have to become a drug addict, and I would just accept that.

But as the years have passed, it’s gotten so extreme. Around 9 p.m. (which is VERY EARLY) I start physically and mentally crumbling. I can only describe it as “shutting down,” like a robot running out of batteries in a movie, the voice getting slower and lower until it fades into silence. My eyes can’t stay open. My head droops. My body feels completely enervated, like every tiny spark of life has been sucked out of it. It feels like my blood is barely able to make it through a cycle of my veins. I just feel absolutely sapped. It feels totally non-negotiable, my exhaustion, it feels out of my control. Is this normal? Do I have a mineral deficiency or is this just middle age? Also, is this how nighttime people feel when they have to get up early??? Awful. I pop out of bed like a damn jack in the box, no matter the hour

It’s true and unfair that our culture privileges morning people and not nighttime people. I respect that fact.

We are having a strange spring here, where it just keeps snowing. It’ll snow, immediately melt, the next day you’ll go out without a coat and sniff some daffodils, then it snows again that night. Culturally, it’s a real “once is funny, twice is silly, three times is a spanking” situation; yesterday yet again it started snowing during a meeting and someone looked out the window and went “oh what the HELL.” They aren’t big snows, just dustings—nothing like the famous April Fool’s Day blizzard of 1997 where abruptly 3 feet of snow plopped out of the sky and the power was out for days and society basically ground to a halt—but still. Maybe this means the summer won’t be so disgustingly hot? My fantasy weather predictions.

The weather guy in our local paper is so cool. He writes a weekly column about what to expect from the weather in the near future, but it’s pretty unhelpful, literally he’ll be like “will it snow? Don’t ask me!” or he’ll say “the National Weather Service says it’s going to rain tonight but I call that fishy! I bet it’ll all stay out on the Cape” Then when it does rain, in his next column he’s like “well that was a big ‘mea culpa’ for old yours truly last Tuesday, boy what a soaking we got!” Half his column is usually devoted to a stream-of-consciousness ramble through various topics, often the famous April Fool’s Day blizzard of 1997, but other times just stuff that pops into his head, like if we have an unusually warm day he’ll talk about a new grill he bought and then he’ll start reminisicing about summer barbecues of his youth. He loves warm weather and hates the winter and all precipitation, so his column also assumes a certain perspective on behalf of his reader; according to him, we all are longing for 90 degree days so we can sit by the pool with a cold lite beer. He rules.

Our local paper is a source of joy. It’s locally owned and has been continuously operated since 1792, when it was called The Impartial Intelligencer. It’s still locally-owned and edited, and comes out DAILY, such an increasing rarity these days! It doesn’t even run that much AP stuff, it’s mostly local reporting. It’s awesome. And the front page photo is always something like “look at these horses standing out in the fog, isn’t it nice” or like “here’s a local baby eating an ice cream cone.” 90% of front page photos involve local dogs. Anyway if you live in a smallish town that has a locally- or at least regionally-owned newspaper, subscribe to it! We’ve learned so much about our community and gone to so many weird events we’d never have heard of otherwise. It’s so fun to follow the town council meetings and learn about the specific issues the town is dealing with. These epic conflicts that go on for months and are so incredibly local. The controversy over the state releasing a bunch of endangered rattlesnakes onto an island where people like to go hiking; what to do with the old Northfield school once it closes; intense reporting on the maple syrupping season and how it’s being affected by climate change. What to do with turnips. Sometimes we see the columnists around town and it’s like seeing a celebrity. The copy editing is very bad but that’s what you get.

There are also all these local characters who write letters to the editor constantly—based on how many get published, I can not even imagine the number these people must actually write—sniping at each other and playing their established roles. Some of them are Upstanding Citizens writing to support the nurses’ strike or chastise the community for letting the very shitty bookstore go out of business. Some of them are Liberal Educators who write in with carefully sourced explanations of why it matters that the nuclear power plant be closed properly or how immigrants boost the economy and that’s why we should support them. There is one Gentle Weirdo who writes in regularly, and his letters are almost exclusively about obeying traffic laws. All his letters open with epic statements like “The U.S.A. began in 1776” but then somehow the entire letter is really about stop signs. But my favorite letter-writers are the Local Maniacs, who submit the classic rambling rants that somehow touch on gun control, communism, China, Kim Kardashian, the Scripture, hippies, rap music, Elon Musk, our town council vice president, and some totally obscure federal ruling from 1996 that you’ve never heard of but that is probably something Fox News is shrieking about right now. There’s one particular Local Maniac who is my favorite, his name is Noel, and over the course of the past year I have half-jokingly started worrying about him, because he was one of those triumphalist Trump guys, always writing in like DONALD TRUMP IS DRAINING THE SWAMP, but then he got really pissed about Trump’s immigration policies (!) and also specifically was shocked and devastated by Trump’s refusal to help the people of Puerto Rico after the hurricane. And so now his letters vacillate between his old chest-puffing routine and these sort of sad, tentative letters that are like “I don’t know what is happening. I don’t know what to think anymore.” Like in the letters you see this sort of shuffling creeping toward some sort of realization, like he actually does care about his fellow community members but doesn’t understand how capitalism and structural racism and all that impacts people’s lives but he kind of sometimes can sort of see it and it concerns and bothers him because he knows the Democrats suck, which to be fair is largely true, and he knows he loves Trump, but then sometimes what Trump says and does doesn’t seem to match his supposed greatness and this bothers him; lately he just seems so sad and confused, and aware that he’s confused. Which I feel is a pretty legitimate stance these days, lord knows I feel that way a lot of the time too. And also it’s so interesting to think of using the local paper’s letters to the editor section to work out your personal feelings about geopolitics. We’ve developed a theory that he lives in this house we drive past every day on our commute, which is a super depressing prefab unit right on the highway that always has a wide array of “crazy right wing” signifiers in front, and they rotate constantly, sometimes it’s an enormous hand-made wooden sign about Trump, but then for long periods the sign will be replaced by a row of full-size flags on poles, consisting of the flags of countries that are currently allies of America and one lone Don’t Tread on Me flag. I’ve decided this is Noel’s house and we talk about him every time we pass it. At one point all the flags and signs were replaced by a big sign saying “ROOM FOR RENT,” can you imagine. And now the house is FOR SALE, and there are no signs at all out front! NOEL! ARE YOU OKAY. He hasn’t mentioned moving in any of his recent letters so maybe this isn’t his house after all.

Sometimes the paper also runs “Corrections” to mistakes made in previous stories. One time the correction read: “Catholicism was predated by other world religions. Saturday’s editorial incorrectly stated otherwise.”

This suddenly reminds me of when I was TAing a class on sacred music and one of the midterm questions was “which religion was created in 1875 by Madame Blavatsky” and a student non-sarcastically wrote “Catholicism.” God bless

I have still not finished any of the books I mentioned a few entries ago, and instead have additionally read a totally different book, INDEPENDENT PEOPLE by Halldor Laxness, Iceland’s greatest author. I can not recommend it highly enough. Actually I think one of you people recommended it to me in the first place—whoever you are, thank you, I did love it so much. More book recommendations please.

Four weeks of school left. Very excited to start my summer work, which includes a lot of article revisions but also things like pickling and canning. Here are some of my plans:
-can 20 quarts of tomatoes
-can 4 quarts of dilly beans and 2 quarts of asparagus
-more pickles
-few cans of peaches: labor intensive but pretty worth it come January
-make some blueberry jam with berries from our bush, why haven’t I been doing this
-freeze 20 cubes of basic and 10 of pesto
-make my own tomato paste and freeze it
-can twice as much salsa as last year (10 pints)
-freeze twice as many pot pies and a couple whole peach pies
-freeze corn on the cob (has anyone done this? Can you cook it and eat it off the cob and it tastes okay?)
-freeze green beans without blanching them because someone on the internet says you can do it this way
-another round of cider (I keep forgetting we have cider in the basement, which we’ll bottle probably in August), this time remember to bring carbuoy to the orchard instead of buying all the raw cider in fucking plastic jugs, you piece of shit idiot (me)
-dry tomatoes and apples

I also want to re-organize the pantry, which turns into a hideous junk room no matter what I do. Oddly enough this is my husband’s fault, whereas anything junky in the rest of the house is usually my fault. He persists in keeping weird old dirty plastic tubs and work gloves and dead batteries and old twists of wire and bags of birdseed in there. WE HAVE A SHED. Also want to clean off our back porch which is very junky. And defrost the chest freezer. And repot all the houseplants. And this year I swear to myself that I will wash the windows again; it’s a huge job but you’re so glad you did it. I also HAVE to wash the storm windows in the fall, this was a big regret this year. Staring through the filth of my laziness all winter. And I want to go camping, and go to Cape Cod, and exercise more, and write a bestselling novel that gets optioned by Universal for a million dollars, and become fluent in French, and figure out what to do with my hair.

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Insomnia, Cancer, and Burr Updates

What evil insomnia I have struggled with since I started my career! I’ve never been the world’s greatest sleeper—the slightest noise wakes me up and I require absolute darkness—but in recent years it’s gotten wild. I have the kind where you wake up in the middle of the night, not the kind where you can’t fall asleep in the first place. I don’t know which is harder to manage. I’ve learned some tricks for managing mine, e.g., do not just keep lying there staring into the blackness! Get up and go into the living room and turn on a light and read a book. For me a lot of the sleepnessness is tied to anxiety which rises and rises until I’m lying there quivering and sick. The dead of the night feels so raw, it feels like the normal barrier between reality and fantasy is dissolved and things that in the light of day would not seem that bad come to loom over you horribly. Also things that in daytime you’d be like “well that’s probably not the case” come in the dark of night to seem not only likely but inevitable. My anxiety seeps out of me and creeps around in all possible directions, searching for new things to incorporate into itself. I will go from thinking about tenure to thinking about every single shameful or embarrassing thing I’ve ever done, every single hurtful or neglectful act, every person I wish I could apologize to, stretching back years and years, and it gets so unbearable, and then that turns into thinking the weird pain in my side or my elbow is probably cancer. It doesn’t help that seemingly 50% of the people I know currently have cancer or have died of cancer in the past two years. What the fuck is going on out there

Speaking of it (cancer), my dad has a huge invasive surgery today to remove a malignant tumor in his jaw and also to see if they can find from whence the cancer originated—somehow they don’t know that information. So it’s literally a surgery where they go in and just wildly slice you up, hoping to find something. It sounds awful. He’ll be in the ICU for days after, with a feeding tube. So obviously there is anxiety around this as well. I should be there for it, I should be there to help, but I’m not. My brother and I went last week to visit them and it was great but I wish the surgery had been scheduled for when we were there. While we were visiting, we hung out with two different friends of my brother who both have siblings currently dying of terminal cancer.

I asked my mom if, when she was 40, she suddenly knew a ton of people with cancer, and she said no. I think this is just one aspect of our cool new reality as a species undergoing slow extinction at our own damn hands. Hopefully soon Uber’s self-driving cars will attain sentience and put us out of our misery (by killing us all).

Oooh maybe I should not write blog entries at 4:45 a.m. after being up all night!!!!!! HOT STUFF

So my point is though that tonight–last night, I guess, although it feels like I’m still in it–was unusually bad, such that I fell soundly asleep at 10:30 and bolted awake at…midnight. No! It can’t be true, I thought tragically as I fumbled around to look at the clock. But lo, ‘twas true indeed. Midnight is still just the previous evening, it’s not even the dead of the night! I had thought there could be no worse experience than being wide awake in the dead of the night but I was wrong, because being wide awake in what you THINK is the dead of the night but turns out to just be fairly early evening is much worse. You can’t get up and make coffee at midnight! I woke up before a lot of people had even gone to damn sleep in the first place. Lord have mercy. I got up and went out into the living room and dutifully read my book but this time no second sleep ever found me. I just lay there fretting. At 4:00 I liked one of Jae’s pictures on instagram and she immediately texted me asking why I wasn’t asleep (being on West Coast time, she hadn’t gone to bed yet, which also made me feel horrifying). She suggested taking a hit of my cool new CBD oil I got for menstrual cramps but I said at this point I have to get up in 2.5 hours anyway so it’s not worth it. She said “you should have been a new englander by birth.” It’s true I can be pretty unforgiving and brutally pragmatic when it comes to certain things.

What a damn joke. I’m sure we are all in the same boat, though. I saw my colleague the other day who just had a baby and I was like “how’s he sleeping?” and he said the baby sleeps through big chunks of the night, adding “the baby sleeps much more than I do.” Rough stuff!

One weird effect of being up all night is I still feel like I am just living yesterday’s day. I taught last night until 7:30, got home at 8:15, got dinner, and went to bed, then immediately got up. It feels like I just popped home from work to take a nap before going back. Which technically is, I guess, what every night is. I’m teaching punk rock tomorrow. I mean, today. AKA yesterday

BURR UPDATE

The newest thing I’ve read in Burr that has generated questions is he writes several journal entries about how he’s experimenting with drinking “white coffee” before bed. So apparently he likes to drink tea or coffee before bed, but this keeps him up all night, which he hates. A friend of his who is interested in science says that white coffee, “due to not being burned,” doesn’t have the same properties that make you jittery (AKA caffeine I guess? I don’t think they know caffeine yet). He says he has just drunk two large cups and though the taste is unbearable, he has high hopes that the experiment will work out: he’ll report back. The next day he says the white coffee lives up to its reputation, for he slept like a log.

Questions:

– What is white coffee? In one entry he describes how he makes it—he roasts it in an iron oven like the kind one uses for normal coffee (??) but he doesn’t let it burn; instead it turns paler and paler, until it’s the shade of cinnamon. Is he talking whole beans here? So he’s roasting them gently instead of burning them. In some sort of coffee oven apparently everyone has in their house

– Why does it taste so different from regular coffee? I guess if we assume that when he says “burnt” he really means “burnt,” and if burnt coffee was what you were used to, then mildly roasted coffee might taste weird. He says his friends refuse to drink it but he’s persevering because it works so well

– But wait, what is the point of all this in the first place? Why is he so hell bent on drinking coffee right before bed?? Just drink nice normal burnt coffee in the morning!

There’s also a weird part where he describes what sounds like the government trying to take one kind of currency out of circulation and introduce a new kind. But it’s just the King of France being like “from now on, these coins are worthless” and everyone freaks out and it is very hard on the “very poor.” Burr says he’s in favor of it because the new money is prettier.

TOOTH UPDATE: Now he’s in Paris and apparently working with a famous dentist to get fitted for some sort of dentures. He says this dentist is a genius and an artist and that he thinks the contraption is going to work wonders; not a moment too soon, for his jaws have been plaguing him for two days and nights.

He is legally not allowed to leave Paris because they’ve confiscated his passport. No one will tell him when or how he can get his passport back. So he spends a good portion of each day traveling all over the city from institution to institution—the Duke’s house, the King, the military base where they regulate travel, his friend who knows somebody who knows the Duke—trying to get somebody to help him or at least give him some info. Everybody he talks to is like “ah yes, your passport is ready, go see such-and-such tomorrow” but when he shows up at such-and-such’s they are like “I have never heard of you in my life” and he has to start all over. He’s always going to various members of the monarchy, like attending their public reception hours, and trying to grab them and hector them into helping him, but they are too skilled at politely evading direct questions. It legitimately sounds maddening. At one of these public receptions he overhears somebody talking about him, not realizing he’s standing right there. They’re saying what a pitiful old man he is. He thinks this is funny.

The birds are chirping; verily, it is morn. Now to listen to The Ramones

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