If you’re in New Orleans right now you’re drunk and have been for the last few days. If you’re anywhere else you’re figuring out how soon you can drink and what you’ll listen to while you do it. I can’t answer the first part for you but here’s some help with the second.
★★★ Gray squirrels flowed over grayish ground under a gray sky. The children were playing at their video game in real life, gathering the many fallen sticks into their inventory. From the shed, they obtained a full-sized mattock and began mining at the soft ground with it, flipping over scraps of the moss carpet. A sneaker pressed into a surviving snowbank left light caramel-colored marks as the tread yielded its mud. Elsewhere in the old snow were crushed bits of berry the color of fresh gore—no matching berries were in sight—and dull blue clusters of berries fallen from the climbing vines, the insides of the latter a mere grapey green. Out of the trees and on the open highway, there was a limit to the gray, a gap in the southwest, streaked with dull oranges and blues. Miles passed and the colors intensified. Faint but immense pink forms coiled across the sky ahead. The light from behind grew more and more lurid till it was as red as the taillights in the side mirror. People were out on the city sidewalks in their parkas, cold but not (to the eye) miserable.
Last fall, the New York Times published a review of a new book, Changing the Subject, by the essayist Sven Birkerts. The review was forgettable. The author photo that ran alongside it was not—blindfold me right now, and I’d be able to recall it for you in every hypnotizing detail. The way Birkerts approaches the lens, his arms upraised, his unzipped jacket opening around him like a magician’s cape. The hesitant set of his lips, tacking up at one corner into a half-smile. The dense carpet of hair that looks as if it would bend a comb. The autumnal aura evoked by the leafless trees. And above all, the blur of the hands, which suggest momentum and unpretentiousness on the part of the shooter and her subject—the day is too precious to waste on two takes.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the photo. An inordinate amount, really. (I even had a strange dream about it, where I was cast in Birkerts’ place, and the jacket was actually a wing suit.) Its anomalousness shook me: If the vast majority of author photos fit into one of a handful of standard poses—the Fist-on-Chin (conveying thoughtfulness), the Stare-Out-Window (inner depth), the Icy Stare (strength), the Hearty Laugh (confidence!), etc.— here was an author photo that threw centuries of literary convention in our face. Here was a man who was not even fully dressed in his author photo.
As of last week, the Gawker editorial union was planning to walk out and take the sites dark this Wednesday because management would not negotiate over a guaranteed annual cost of living salary increase—the union had asked for around six percent, management offered zero. Well, the walkout threat maybe… worked? Because we’ve heard from a few people that the walkout has been cancelled, for now, with everyone returning to the negotiating table. Good job, everybody.
Photo by Cory Doctorow
Let’s just try to sneak into this week without drawing too much attention to ourselves, okay? Once we’re safely settled in we can figure a way to quietly get out of it but for now everyone should do their best to be as unobtrusive as possible, because as stupid and loud as the weekend was things are about to get so much worse over the next few days. Anyway, relax and enjoy and for God’s sake, be quiet.
★★ One last snowbank still looked like a snowbank; the next one was just a little clump of ice chips on the wet mulch. The downpour of yesterday was an oily little puddle at the foot of the subway stairs. The daylight had not been strong enough to rouse a sleeper with the blinds up, and it wasn’t getting much stronger. The cloud cover faltered only a little around midday, then re-thickened. The thin, unlined hoodie was a mistake by the ride home, but not a serious one. A bedtime glance at the weather forecast found an unexpected exclamation point there, and not long after came the sound of something frozen hitting the windows.
In January, following a year of stalled growth and financial disappointment, Twitter shed nearly half of its core leadership. Three days later, Adam Bain, the company’s (surviving!) Chief Operating Officer, posted this complaint:
"Code for Twitter" https://t.co/pZdbJNx67J
— adam bain (@adambain) January 28, 2016
The linked tweet:
Wherein Facebook editorializes the Kanye Wiz ordeal as "a series of posts on social media." 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/RVCZ5kE4fO
— Josh Williams (@jw) January 28, 2016
That day, Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa had gotten into a fight on Twitter, roping in Amber Rose and setting off a massive and spontaneous celebrity media event. The choice of medium was a notable and conspicuous part of the story: West’s Twitter presence is uneven but legendary; one of his posts (erroneously) mocked Khalifa for losing followers; he mentioned looking at Khalifa’s timeline. It’s where responses were expected to show up, and did.
“I wondered what she did,” Alice Adams wrote of a fellow Greyhound passenger in the New Yorker in 1981, “what job took her from Oakland to Vallejo.” Adams had gotten on the wrong bus. She was on her way home to San Francisco from Sacramento, and instead of boarding the commuter coach, she got on the milk route instead; the woman sitting near her represented a parallel universe traveling the same line. Post-divorce, Adams was especially susceptible to this kind of imagining. Who was this woman? And what fine lines, drawn of coincidence and choice and culture, separated Adams from her?
The day after she accidentally took the slow bus home, Adams travelled to work next to a woman who boarded at the same station she did, disembarked at Adams’s destination, and went to work in a building right beside her office. She found this duality unsettling. On every bus we don’t board, a possible life drives away without us, and the romance is ruined if the possibility presented is as mundane as our own reality. Better instead, Adams decides, to wile away commuter hours contemplating individuals like the woman working in Vallejo, fellow travellers who were different: a handsome black man, a heavyset woman, someone in a sharp purple suit who says what other passengers are afraid to. At the end of the piece, Adams writes of her trips on the Greyhound, “I could meet anyone at all.”
The years following the financial crash were a good time to meet people on the Greyhound. Mother Jones reported that in 2008, intercity bus travel went up almost ten percent. In the years that bracketed the recession, I did a lot of disappearing on Greyhound buses. Lacking the wherewithal to determine what my life should look like, I worked a couple of jobs and saved up money and then spent it rumbling from coast to coast at semi-regular intervals, visiting friends, or helping them move. I was not riding for a purpose, particularly, but because motion gives shape to purposelessness.
Even if you are, as am I, a staunch defender of the classic rotation of seasons—the promise of spring, the seduction of summer, the crispness of fall and the grim determination of winter—you can still probably find some amusement in what appears to be our new Mystery Mix order of weather wherein one day it’s May and the next it’s November. So we woke up to winter today. What will it be tomorrow? NO ONE KNOWS. There might be a heatwave next week, and everyone will just shake their heads and say, “Yeah, that’s what happens here in February.” It is indeed a remarkable age in which we live. Anyway, there’s some backstory to this track but you do not need to know it to enjoy, so figure out how much reading you’d like to do in advance and then enjoy. [Via]
★ The morning was so dark that the mirrored tower was failing at mirroring. It had rained already. The last snowbanks on the cross street were eroded and diminished. At midday, umbrellas were out and shiny with new rain. It seemed as if it must be cold in the gloom, but it wasn’t. It got wetter and wetter; deep flood puddles formed at crosswalks. Raindrops fringed the hood of the waterproof jacket, to be shaken away with a sharp head nod. The four-year-old let go of his umbrella and let the adult holding and guiding it by the ferrule keep walking ahead. The stairs up out of the subway into the soggy dimness felt as if they were leading downward. A vendor knocked water out of a greenmarket canopy and it hit the pavement with almost the sound of breaking glass.