The calm repose of the red light

I struggle sometimes with what I ought to write about in this space: really, it only exists as a venue for my comics, and it always feels somewhere between too public and not public enough, depending on the topic. For example, too public to talk about the antitrust trial regarding the proposed merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, given that one of them is my publisher (though I will never stop laughing about the fact that Stephen King described himself, in his testimony, as a “freelance writer”).

(He’s not wrong. It’s just hilarious.)

As to what I might mean by “not public enough”—I don’t know, I guess I’m too aware of who in my life does and doesn’t read this; it never has the slick feeling of anonymity that an old Tumblr, for instance, might be blessed with.

I’ve been very anxious this week, in a generalized way. I’m anxious about a trip we’re taking soon. (Sub-threats: anxious about Covid, anxious about long and complicated travel, anxious about planning well or poorly.) I’m anxious about the idea of renovating our bathroom. (Cost, timing, inconvenience, is it crazy? Etc.) And other things, though those two are big ones. Yesterday I had a near-breakdown trying to figure out how to find the time to work and go to the store and walk the dog and cook dinner, but I DID all those things, because they are fundamentally time-management issues, not actual problems. The anxiety comes in before you get started, when the package as a whole seems too big to get your hands around.

We have gotten a lot of rain in the past week, which is one thing I am not anxious about at all. This morning I heard the raindrops hitting the little skylight in the bathroom, I saw the slate gray clouds and knew it would not be too hot on my morning walk with Paul, and that although he would be hard to coax outside, he would greatly enjoy the toweling-off he received after the walk was over. (All true.)

Speaking of anxiety, Dave and I started watching The Bear, only a few weeks after everyone else, and strangely it’s making me less homesick for Chicago and more homesick for the idea of starting a new enterprise, struggling (especially as a young person) to make something with so many moving parts that you’re essentially holding it together with your hands. Writing a book is like this, always; I assume writing a book will be like this when I’m 70, 80, 90 years old, should I be lucky enough to still be writing then. But the show—which focuses on a small restaurant; a grimy, hangdog, beautiful restaurant called The Beef with ambitions of greater things or at least liquidity—reminds me how much I miss the collaborative experience of, well, anything. Writing is not collaborative. Revision can be, publishing is, but writing isn’t. (Unless you write as a team, but I don’t.) Often, when I am in the depths of my own process, if it’s not going well, I think with great longing about the theatre, and how everyone who is a part of a theatrical production must share energy and ideas, must contribute their own work from the depths of their individual soul, but must also share it, and be fed by the souls around them. I am also watching the new TV show of Irma Vep, which captures a lot of that magic, especially its slippery nature, with regard to shooting on a film set.

Anyway, the sun is out now and surely the whole world is steaming. Kansas voted to keep abortion legal, which gave me a full-body feeling of gratitude and relief. Soon we will not be planning a trip but instead taking a trip, and that will be a collaborative effort, it will not be lonely, it will be, I hope, full of joy. Maybe it will rain again later today; it’s hard to know. The sky looks fully one way here, clear or stormy, and it can change so quickly. Who can say, who can know, besides the birds who can see electromagnetic fields while they fly, and besides, perhaps, the meteorologists who are paying attention.