All morning I've felt it's too much. The cold beyond the blankets, the dark morning outside the window. The alarm clock's ring. Too much to open my eyes. Out of bed it was too much to boil water for coffee though the gas range does the work. No rubbing sticks or stirring the embers. No wood to carry in from the shed I don't own. Fill the kettle, turn the knob. It's so much. So much. Then the writing. My eyes darting toward the clock ticking down. Three pages, too much this morning. The snow in the driveway demanded shoveling. The shower demanded my presence. The hair on my face screamed for the razor. And then, walking to work, snow shifting with each step, I thought, this is too much. Lifting each boot, again and again, too much and too much. At work I sighed at the thought of plugging in the laptop. There were no tissues for my running nose and email was stacked higher than I could endure. My shoulders fell. I took a deep breath. Held it until it really was too much, then let it out and clicked on an email. The daily poem. David Kirby. "Poking Stuff With Sticks." Not too long, not too much. I read through to the end: "So much stuff out there, just waiting." I looked out the window at snow drifting down and felt my breathing in and out. So much stuff, I thought, but maybe I'm just enough.
I had plans for today to get up, write Morning Pages, then see what I could accomplish. I especially wanted to clean the mess on and around my desk. Typing this now, at nearly four in the afternoon, a book, phone, planner, portfolio, and pack of post-it notes still litter my desk. I don't want to even describe the stacks on the windowsill and shelf or the footstool atop which I've piled papers that surely I'll get to later. (Probably not. And stop calling me Shirley.)
After sleeping past eight, I came down for coffee and Morning Pages but made the mistake of checking email. A notice from Google said some accounts of an organization I used to help manage are sending spam. Those addresses are abandoned by all but a few people. Even the program director and I stopped using them.
Okay, I thought, before I start Morning Pages, I'll just log in and fix things quickly. But I couldn't remember or find my password. I tried one thing, another, and some others. Ten minutes turned to thirty and then an hour. I requested help from Google, closed the computer, and went back to making coffee. Google, a leader in technology and efficiency, won't get back to me for at least a week.
I made coffee but the filter ripped and filled the cup with grounds. I started writing, but only the top half of the cup was drinkable after which I was easily sidetracked from the half page of writing I'd done by a possible way to get into the account. A minute turned into forty-five, but I recalled (lucked into) the correct password then lost another three-quarters of an hour monkeying with settings, reading and deleting old mail, alerting the few users that I'm shutting things down when the domain runs out.
Back to writing. I filled page one and was midway through page two when I remembered that the domain renews and charges my card automatically. I logged into the account again, drilled through menus, and fifteen minutes turned to forty.
Done with that, I made another cup of coffee thinking, I need to order a new chamber for my Aeropress. But I resisted that urge. Focus, I told myself, setting the kettle on the burner, placing a new filter, filling the chamber (which I really do need to replace), rinsing the mug, pressing the coffee. The whole time thinking, there's something I'm forgetting.
The clocked ticked just past noon. I sipped coffee and wrote into the first lines of page three. I finished the coffee and (maybe it was written in the bottom of the cup) remembered my one o'clock therapy appointment. The clock read 12:20. I still had two-thirds of a page to go.
I went up and dressed, told my daughter I was off to therapy, gathered the unfinished pages, and drove to the office. There I finished the last page and breathed a literal sigh of relief. I looked at my watch: 12:57 PM.
Where, I wondered, had the morning gone?
I turned to the Sunday evening football game as the National Anthem was being played while a giant flag waved on the football field. I turned the channel.
I'm proud to be a citizen of the country founded on the principles of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. But I can't abide by the supposed patriotism of the red hat brigade. Nor can I give even tacit support to the current Executive Branch or those who support them.
It's the eve of Veterans Day and I'm divided about that. I respect people who have served but don't support the last two decades of war. I find military personnel equal to teachers, fire fighters, doctors, clergy, and all those caring for those in need. On the eve of Veteran's Day, I'm as unwilling as ever to celebrate or condemn at the jerk of a knee.
Speaking of knees, I'm embarrassed to admit watching the NFL given the hateful history of the management of that organization. I still find the game beautiful and exciting. I just can't quit. That's my fault entirely. I celebrate the players who took a knee and condemn those who so strongly opposed free expression of speech. Still, I watch and am part of the problem.
Tomorrow I'll take a moment to consider veterans, but I can't salute the flag or stand for the National Anthem as if my country can do no wrong. I change the channel, sit out the anthem, refuse to support the current administration, and question authority. I see no reason to apologize for any of that.
But I really am sorry I'm watching the NFL. There's really no good excuse.
I stopped at a used record shop for an old Genesis bootleg I had seen there last week. If it was still there, I'd count that as fate saying I just had to buy it. There it was and so I bought it. Of course I did.
I buy mostly used records. I buy some new albums, but used stuff is more interesting. Most shops are poorly organized, so I hunt for the good stuff. That's fine so long as I'm on my own. Anyone with me wonders, as the first half hour passes, when they'll be released and when I might look up and rejoin the world. Flipping through, I'm somewhere and some-when else.
Anyone who thrifts for clothes, old car parts, or what have you knows this feeling of drifting away, of solitude that is all too rare these days. I even switch my phone off while in the temples of vinyl. There were no mobile phones back in record days.
Records are things of the past. They're making a comeback of sorts but won't ever be mainstream again and so they harken back to another time. I won't say it was a better time we should go back to. That nonsense leads to racist red baseball hats. However, like cherry picked classic rock, I go back for some of that era's greatest hits.
I'm alone in the house with the bootleg record on the turntable. The recording is terrible (the audience member's microphone seems to have been incapable of recording bass), but the experience is as close as I can get to being back in tenth grade. Then there was no YouTube filled with every bootleg known to fandom. Instead, I dug through bins at Desert Shore and hoped for the best when I brought one home where, by myself or with my best friend, I'd put the record on (often with a fresh TDK or Maxell tape recording it) and listen carefully. I remember hearing this bootleg back then, imagining myself at the concert that had happened ten years before, back when I was only seven. It was a bit of magic. Now, rather than imagining the concert I never saw, I recall the red and black rug, the Technics turntable, the view out my bedroom windows, the scratched and pitted recording that is my memory and which is much less clear than the audio on this bootleg.
Flipping through records I recall my younger self trying work through the store methodically but drifting from jazz to rock, working through A, B, and C but then jumping to G and finding the bootleg I didn't know I had been looking for but which felt just right and so full of possibility. There I am, paying the bill, catching the bus from the SU Hill back home. Up in my room, I open the turntable, slip the record from its sleeve, and set the needle in the groove for a listen. It comes back to me across four decades, like an old song whose words are all still there, whose every melody is etched into me.
That terrible bootleg record sounds awfully good to me.