And months later here I sit in the living room of our farm in Columbia County, New York, truly wondering how it is that I came to be here. I mean, I know the historical precedents that led me to this yellow couch in the middle of the night, but sometimes you have to be in awe of a moment, be utterly wrapped up in the miracle that you still exist, that you yet draw air, that at least you got to see this much of the story.
I’ve been ingesting other people’s online journals lately – close to twenty tonight – and I’m struck by a few basic rules:
1. Archives are impressive in the broad sweep of someone’s dedication to the craft, but they’re quite unappealing once you actually delve into them. Most online archives, unless they are excruciatingly well-thought-out, read about as interesting as that “Weather Rewind” show on the Weather Channel that recaps last week’s weather headlines. And I mean, fucking come on, nothing ages quicker than last week’s weather.
You read an entry from 1998 – and then you read an entry from yesterday – and the emotions from yesterday seem so much more visceral. Archived diaries force a reader to not only imagine he/she were someone else, but he/she were someone else three years ago. It has appeal only to people they are dating, I’d imagine. Years ago, I remember finding diaries belonging to my erstwhile-girlfriend Susan while visiting her childhood home, and I read with macabre fascination about high school obsessions and early college yearnings. I think there is a Hell where people who read other people’s secret diaries go, but it’s a Hell of the reader’s own making.
2. Many online diarists, the ones that had followings, tend to give it up. Two or three of the ones I’d read submit plaintive “last entries,” talking about how they “can’t believe they could leave this supportive network” and how, despite the love, “they need to be PAID for writing now.”
3. The diaries with daily upkeep are more likely to be forgivable. By virtue of their confessional immediacy, diaries are going to tend to suck, but the folks who write every day seem to hit their stride (and we tend to absolve their more boring days – after all, they do this shit daily). My favorite recently is the Randomly Ever After diary kept by Gus, who does a great job of remaining interesting. In a fit of spontaneity, Tessa and I moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn after I read an entry he wrote about walking his dog in Prospect Park. Basically, I said, “What do you think of Park Slope?” and three weeks later, our entire lives were moved to Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is what I thought New York was when I was a kid. The Sesame Street-style stoops, the neighborhood where you know your pharmacist, the kids playing on the sidewalk. As far as I can tell, there is no neighborhood in Manhattan where Gordon, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch could live: not the East Village (too busy, too many diesel dykes), not the West Village (way too prissy), not anywhere between 14th and 59th Sts. (too much crap), and certainly none of the Upper Either Sides. Perhaps way at the top of the island, Washington Heights or something, but I’ve never been there. I’m increasingly convinced that Sesame Street was set in Brooklyn, more specifically at my corner of 8th Ave. and Berkeley Street.
One thing the move to Brooklyn accomplished was a severe downgrade in my stunningly paralyzing anxiety levels. Part of my inability to write on these pages – or write anything except for pithy emails in general – was a black cloud that descended on me sometime in January. I’ll go into it further some other time, but I just couldn’t take living in Manhattan anymore. I consider this sojourn to Columbia County part of the healing process, but as I sit on this yellow couch, so many matters are still unresolved. How can I have a career in the media if all I want to do is avoid the City? My unemployment runs out in April – do I plan on getting a job at the Gas ‘n Sip on Route 23? Can you be a successful writer with infrequent trips to major metropolises, or do you have to be wildly famous first? And how can I complete my plans for Total Media Domination if I’m too freaked out to take the 3 Train?
I have several irons in the fire, of course; I may be depressed, but I’m not a moron. We’re up here at the farm editing the Pink House movie, and every indication points to it being pretty good, which lofts it head and shoulders above everything else. I’ve also got a book proposal at my agent right now, and she has shipped it to five different publishing houses – it, too, is a good idea but I’m way too wise in those waters to expect anything from it.
I think, more than anything, we are in the darkest part of a very hard winter; my brother Steve is not doing well in his Silicon Valley enclave, worrying my mom to no end; Kent has been laid off; Sean meets resistance with his dreams daily. Only the women around here are faring well: Tessa, with her unflappable confidence springing from a warm sea of fatalism, and Michelle, who accidentally found her calling. For me, I “must have a mind of winter,” as that beautiful Wallace Stevens poem goes – to exult in the fact that it is okay to be nothing myself, and find solace in the “nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”