4 min read

Hamstrung

I'd have fired myself decades ago, but there's no one else here to do this work.
Hamstrung

Technology's not my friend. And yet, I'm knee-deep in it all the damn time. How did that happen to a dumb painter? All I'm built to do is smear colors onto flat surfaces, but I spend days battling websites, apps, recording equipment, and whatnot. The past couple weeks, between moving this newsletter and relaunching my podcast, I've lost all sense of what it is I'm doing.

Automatization eats away at things, at clothes, at furniture, at our wives, and at our fear of war…. And so, in order to return sensation to our limbs, in order to make us feel objects, to make a stone feel stony, man has been given the tool of art. --Viktor Shklovsky

The trouble is I don't know how to compartmentalize or pace myself. I dive into the deep end and flail about until I happen onto whatever piss-poor survival tactic is nearest to hand, then go and fuck up something else that was working just fine until I decided for unfathomable reasons that it needed fixing. Don't ever hire me to do anything you might want to remember in its previous state. I will wreck it and turn it into whatever ragged thing I can manage with my rudimentary "skills". I'd have fired myself decades ago, but there's no one else here to do this work.

What's prompted this current bit of hand-wringing is my laptop going kaput. I plugged it in overnight and it didn't charge. By the time I recognized there was a problem, it was down to 2%. I took it into the Apple store and the Genius assigned to me futzed with it for over an hour, then threw up his hands and said the problem was above his paygrade and that my laptop would have to be sent in for repairs. I panicked for a moment as I pictured all the tasks I needed to do, that I only know how to do on that machine, being left undone. A few weeks before, like a fool, I traded in my backup laptop for an iPad. I wanted something I could read yet-to-be-printed books on. Also, I wanted to play around with an Apple Pencil, having never attempted to "draw" digitally.

My Genius commiserated with me. He agreed than the iPad is basically a toy. Then he recommended I not waste money on an overpriced Apple keyboard and just get a cheap one from Best Buy. Which is what I did. I've been banging my head against the many many limitations of this toy almost-computer ever since. I hate that I've come to be so dependent on these damn machines. That when one goes down, I have to relearn everything that's taken me years to work out. Reminds me of when I was trying to quit smoking. The resentment and spasms are pretty similar. It really is harder and harder to pivot and change as new things come at me. I've felt like an old man my whole life, but now that I actually am one, it's no fucking picnic. I wonder if it was as trying in other eras. They didn't live as absurdly long as we do, so there may have been less upheaval to contend with. Then again, I picture the man in his horse-drawn buggy cowering as a Model A blows by and figure he didn't have it so easy either.

Now I'm sitting at Jackalope, manually deleting seven years of posts off Substack like an insane person. Why can't I just let it be another abandoned site and let it overgrow with the internet digital kudzu? Because the idea of that site sitting there unused won't let me sleep. I have to either keep working on it or burn it to the ground.

Am I oversharing? That's what this soapbox is for, isn't it? For the past few years, my recurring daydream is to quit the internet altogether. But this is a complete fantasy in the foreseeable future. Virtually all the money I make now comes through a screen, even when the work I'm being paid for is mostly done in meatspace. I'm grateful to everyone who's stumbled onto my efforts. There would be far fewer such stumblers were it not for the internet.

Once I get my precious laptop back I'll calm the fuck down. Then some other bee will fly into the bonnet and I'll freak out about that. It's what I do.

I like to think of it as my process.

[I reviewed a fun play set in soon-to-be-shuttered karaoke bar, an awful documentary about Alexey Navalny, and helped introduce the new Shel Silvestein stamp.]

[All seven years of this newsletter are in one place now and the relaunched podcast will begin a weekly schedule this Wednesday featuring a talk with writer, farmer, and cassette-label executive Adam Gnade.]