Attempts to Remember A Year...
2021. Where was it? Where did it go?
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” —Blaise Pascal
MY ASTRONOMER FRIEND IN HAWAI’I assured me that the Earth did complete an orbit around the Sun. (But who to believe in this conspiracy-mad decade?)
Too, the altitude at the top of Mauna Kea can radically re-arrange your perceptions. But maybe that’s why he was able to assure me. His brain was already scrambled. Like attracts like.
So yes, some nights were followed by days. In some sort of sequence. And then I was shopping again for replacement vacuum cleaner bags on Amazon.
As the year drifted and morphed it felt as though time’s linearity was being marked, like an Advent calendar, by the schemes and dreams inside of Jeff Bezos’ brain.
This piece in The New Yorker said what I just said. But so much more poetically:
“It is a year that feels as though it does and does not exist, a hangover from the depths of terror in 2020 that provides a significant improvement and yet remains vacuous and unstable.”
So in that article, the author Kyle Chayka writes a lot about vibes. And how the word ‘vibe’ went viral.
Yes, that’s true about the year’s amorphic sense of non-existing existence. What the Tibetans call a ‘bardo’ vibe.
But how to astrologically interpret 2020 camouflaging itself as 2021? Or vice versa.
As I noted in the December horoscopes pre-ample, the 2021 sky narrowed back into a lockdown pattern ala 2020. A cosmic arrangement that reminded me of this fable from Franz Kafka:
“Alas,” said the mouse, “the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.”
“You only need to change your direction,” said the cat—and ate the mouse up.
Forget calling any sort of customer service thing or place or person nowadays. “Due to COVID…” had officially replaced “Your call is important to us…”
Even Taco Bell blamed its missing hot sauce reserve on ‘supply chain shortages’, although the employee who crafted the handmade announcement spelled ‘shortages’ as ‘shortedges’.
Driving back home I realized the serendipity. Short edges—for sure motherfucker!
When I tried to track down my urologist (who I [and my prostate] loved dearly) I was told he’d simply vanished two months ago. No one at the hospital knew what happened to him. “Due to staff shortages” blah blah.
When I asked to speak to his nurse: “She left too. We don’t know where. Maybe Google them?”
Presently my living room looks very March 2020. But with a larger variety of masks.
If you stop by my house please retrieve the mail from the box at the top of my driveway. It’s gotta be crammed with pitches from The Neptune Society—the worst sort of marketing for a Mars/Pisces in the 8th house like me.
These are come-ons disguised as fancy invitations to a festive, FREE, dinner over in Tacoma. The brochures feature stock photos of various hyper-happy senior citizens.
The ad copy reads: “Come for the prime rib, stay for a presentation about scattering your ashes in the Pacific.”
In 2021 I realized unequivocally that I would never enter the body of an aircraft again.
I’ve been to India, Europe, and China in my lifetime. So that’s enough carbon footprinting.
Bonus: This meant witnessing one less passenger being duct-taped to his seat while bellowing shit about Nancy Pelosi and child trafficking.
“Memory is a crazy woman that hoards colored rags and throws away food.” —Austin O'Malley
Another perk about the non-existence of 2021 was how that perception put in high detail the uselessness of continuing to surrender time and life force to Facebook.
During a vicious heatwave in July, when it was 107 degrees in my living room and I was naked and cooling my torso with Evian Facial Spray, I decided it was time to incrementally delete my virtual-ness from Facebook’s servers.
This meant visiting the platform’s ‘Memories’ division each morning and nuking every post I’d posted on a corresponding date, a date that stretched back, ugh, twelve years.
Happily, I imagined each deletion as a digital papercut that nicked Mark Zuckerberg’s perineum.
Something about associating his grotesqueness with the word ‘taint’.
The Boyz of Porn
Between bouts of writer’s block while working on my first fiction novel, Peter, I read books by Cormac McCarthy, Thomas Pynchon, Larry Kramer, Annie Dillard, and Nathaniel West. (I know, I’m pretty old school).
While doing so I collected an array of guy character names that I figured would work well as ‘stage’ names for contemporary gay male porn stars.
Names like Primo Dial (from Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk), Grady Cole (from McCarthy’s Blood Meridian), Todd Hackett (from West’s The Day of the Locust), Watson Datson (from Kramer’s Faggots), Ian Scuffling, and Ron Cherrycoke (from Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow).
Come on, Cherrycoke? Am I right?
Other books I loved this year: Lincoln in the Bardo (fitting?) by George Saunders, The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner, and Gay Bar: Why We Went Out by Jeremy Atherton.
If you’re a fan of good writing, I mean knock-you-upside-the-head, how-do they-do-that prose? writing—those last three books are for you.
The Saddest Things
It’s fitting that the most forlorn and yet oddly beautiful thing I saw this year was Nikos Samaras’ underwater photograph that was nominated for an award.
And no, it’s not another Neptune Society promo.
Oh, and the other sad thing?
The country’s second Civil War commenced on January 6, just in time for the nation’s Pluto return.
The Happiest Things
Substacks that I love and recommend wholeheartedly:
• John Calendo’s deep-diving close reads on Hollywood—its myths and magic—over on his just-launched Movieland.
• Cintra Wilson’s razor-sharp take-apart on pop culture, fashion, art, and the denizens that make it all spin round and round.
Wilson even reads her pieces to you on Cintra Wilson Feels Your Pain — which I love when I’m bald-eyed at 3 AM and need company while staring down a lone Ambien perched on my nightstand.
• There is so much shit Tarot and astrology online it’s a gobsmacky revelation to find an online locale like Cynthia Giles’ Tarot: An Exploration Project.
Next to my Tarot teachers Wendy Cohen and Glenn Wright, Giles was/is a source that I return to repeatedly. Her first book is an honest to goddess classic. If you like Rachel Pollock you’ll love Cynthia.
• Max Falkowitz’s Fire Escape Bonsai. Whenever Max’s Substack arrives, highlighting all of his tiny trees, I light up. Charming, personal, smart, and fun.
Sounds of Non-Silence
What did I listen to throughout this non-year? Well, Spotify tells me I streamed over 58 thousand minutes of music. You can hear all 54 hours of my favorites—old, new and strange—on my Moods for Moderns 2021 playlist.
Wishing and Hoping
Three words I long to have removed from the English language, or at least temporarily suspended from the common vernacular:
Here’s a bong hit to 2021—when ‘change’ was an affectation. A glitch in the amorphic field where an animated GIF of Scarlett O’Hara looped endlessly.