Tuesday, February 9, 2021. Cold and sunny, yesterday in New York, two days after our beautiful classic Sunday snowfall. Which two days later has left us with snow detritus including an enormous amount of trash neatly bagged and bundled and put out for the garbage trucks. This week there is a massive amount waiting amidst the plowed-snow mountains curbside. I mention that un-picturesque sight because it aptly exemplifies that mid-winter blahs that come and go until we turn the clocks ahead.
Coincidentally, while considering What I could post for today’s Diary, I coincidentally came upon a Diary I wrote eight years ago on a summer day (and never published). I had thought it was the result of my Winter Blues, but I see the problem is an old one. And solvable. I needed reminding.
Diary, June 15, 2013. Well, because it’s been this way all day, a beautiful day in New York actually — perfect summer weather, I’ve been so depressed all day that I stayed in bed later than I like to on Saturdays and took a nap a few hours later. Frankly, everywhere you look the news is bad, and the behavior of people is extreme, so the vibe is what it is. This whole “spying” thing isn’t new. It’s just worse. Like an alcoholic. We are.
People want to know everything about everybody. That’s what facebook is about. It’s so crushingly boring that I never go there (or rarely anyway). And when I do, I think what am I doing here? Don’t these people have something better to do with their lives? Like maybe even READ A BOOK? No. They don’t. And they don’t read. Imagine reading all those scuppered messages, milllions and millions of them, all day long! You know that will make anyone crazy. It’s like the people who spend their days staring at the cellphone. They live in their cell phones.
Lewis Lapham has new Lapham’s Quarterly (Summer 2013) out and the subject of this quarterly issue is “The Sea.” For some reason, when I was a kid, I was fascinated by the sea, especially the novels about the boys who ran away to the sea. I’ve learned that it is a typical fascination for many a boy. At least it used to be.
So last night I decided to read a little of it. Two pieces. One about the trash floating en masses in the oceans of the world. The one out there in the Pacific is larger than Texas. When you read this, you realize that we have problems (environmentally and health-wise) that are so much greater than anything we’re dealing with today. And the problems are sitting there staring at us and we’re busy spying on each other. Think about that.
Then the other was an account of a man who survived the Titanic — jumped in with just his lifejacket. It is RIVETING and beautifully set out in words — you’re with him. And scary and deeply mournful and also … horrifyingly disappointing. And if you want to be honestly realistic about it, not really surprising. At least not from the standpoint of this (my) age. I tend to think with myself, at this now late age. When we were young men and women, we were aspiring (at least some of us were) and we were working toward that.
Now I work to get my Diary out five days a week and as much as I am grateful for it and like it, I’m not thinking of much more than what I have to do tomorrow. This is good but it also has its other side: it’s important to keep that carrot somewhere nearby in front, especially as writers. Writers are becoming obsolete in the day-to-day because the language is diminishing and even changing. This seems sad or unfortunate but the world is moving faster and faster (which is very troubling if you’re living on a runaway train), and so it is important to slow ourselves down to think, get clear, aspire and keep looking all around you.
This is what I tell myself. I’m also making my dinner of meatloaf, baked potato with sour cream, broccoli and salad of frisee, endive, walnuts, goat cheese, radishes and onion. This is one of those good old fashioned meals like the ones me mother made for Sunday dinner (except no broccoli, and no sour cream — spinach, and buttah). I am doing this for the same reason: The world is running away from itself, so sometimes it’s a good idea, if possible, to — as Anthony Newley successfully wrote fifty years ago — “Stop the world, I wanna get off.” Ketchup, swathed in it too. Oh God, it’ll be good and aren’t I lucky I’m here.
I also went over to the piano for the first time in probably a year and a half, and played several Cole Porter tunes (“…When you hear that Lady Mendl standing up/ Now does a handspring/ Landing up on her toes; Anything Goes”).
Played is not exactly the word; I sing too. Picked out slowly and carefully on the keys. I’ve been playing these tunes all my life although I’ve never learned to memorize them, and I have to sight read each time. It’s actually easy because I was taught to play that way. I often did when I lived in L.A. in a house on North Doheny. But here in NYC, I’m more concerned about annoying the neighbors because we all live so close together. I don’t mind, being conscious of not disturbing my neighbors.
Meanwhile, back to the now. I finished this Diary early enough to go to dinner with a friend. Seeing people is always very helpful in lifting our spirits.