2018

Saying Goodbye to 2018

I’m going to begin this post with an excerpt from a writing of Joan Didion. I’m telling you this only so that you’ll know that isn’t to be the entirety of this post.

“Some years passed, but I still did not lose the sense of wonder about New York. I began to cherish the loneliness of it, the sense that at any given time no one need know where I was or what I was doing. I liked walking from the East River over to the Hudson and back on brisk days. A friend would leave me the key to her apartment in the West Village when she was out-of-town, and sometimes I would just move down there, because by that time the telephone was beginning to bother me ( the canker, you see, was already on the rose) and not many people had that number. I remember one day when someone who did have that number came to pick me up for lunch there, and we both had hangovers, and I cut my finger on a beer and burst into tears, and we walked to a Spanish restaurant and drank Bloody Marys and gazpacho until we felt better. I was not then guilt ridden about spending afternoons that way, because I still had all the afternoons in the world.

And even that late in the game I still liked going to parties, all parties, bad parties, Saturday afternoon parties given by recently married couples who lived in Stuyvesant Town, West Side parties given by unpublished or failed writers who served cheap red wine and talked about going to Guadalajara, Village parties where all the guests worked for advertising agencies and voted for Reform Democrats, press parties at Sardi’s, the worst kinds of parties. You will have perceived by now that I was not one to profit by the experience of others, that it was a very long time indeed before I stopped believing in new faces and began to understand the lesson in that story, which was that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.

I could not tell you when I began to understand that. All I know is that it was very bad when I was twenty-eight. Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen. I could no longer sit in the little bars near Grand Central and listen to someone complaining of his wife’s inability to cope with the help while he missed another train to Connecticut. I no longer had any interest in hearing about the advances other people had received from their publishers, about plays which were having second-act trouble in Philadelphia, or about people I would very much like if only I would come out and meet them. I had already met them, always.”
~ Joan Didion, 1967, from the essay “Goodbye to All That” from “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.”

I think about things. Certainly I’ve gone through phases where for whatever reason I wasn’t doing much thinking, however, in general, I think about things. I’m fine with this, I rather like this about me. I think every writer must be the consummate observer, the fly on the wall. Joan Didion has certainly proved herself to be that. However, perhaps more importantly, Joan Didion has also mastered the art of self-observation. She was writing about being depressed, disillusioned, jaded, at that time, those many years ago. I’m feeling none of those things at this moment, not at all. It is none-the-less a remarkable essay with regard to the, shall we say, practices or social customs, that we gradually accept as rudimentary. It is very easy to get caught up in, swept into, the festivities of one’s surroundings. To go where “everyone” else is going, to do what everyone else is doing, and there’s nothing wrong with that if in fact that is what you actually want to do. That can, however, lead to a lack of thinking about what one is doing, and/or why. Last night I deleted my twitter page. Here’s where I’m going to tell you this post isn’t going to be only about “social media” “again,” only, for a moment, and, it pertains to other things. ( Here’s the kicker…)ย 

Have you ever gone to a party and it starts out great or fine or whatever, and then there’s that moment where you look around and think to yourself, “What the hell am I doing here?” Or you’re somewhere and the vibe changes and it’s just time to go? Well, for anyone paying attention the “vibe” on seemingly every social media platform eventually seems to change. People keep migrating from one venue to the next but they keep bringing everyone with them, so it keeps playing out the same. Here’s where I’m going to say something I’ve said many times, we’re all hypocrites about something, that would include me. But the number of plaster saints on twitter got to where logging on there made me feel ill. I guess nowadays they call it “virtue signalling.” A lot of the people engaging in it, some of them are seemingly pretty popular. I completely believe, opinion, they’d change their tune in a hot second if what is fashionable in the mainstream changed, and some of them, regardless of whatever that actually is. “Oh? We’ve decided killing puppies for sport is acceptable? Okay then.” Society, in that regard, is the same as it ever was. I don’t know them any better than they know me, which is to say many and most, not at all. Perhaps they really do have room to talk, doesn’t mean it isn’t still sanctimonious b.s. You should gather from this that I do not believe in political correctness. I also do not believe in being offensive merely for the sake of proving you can. Political correctness and censorship are very bad for writers, and freedom, and shouldn’t be confused with what amounts to having some manners. Political correctness virtue signalling is like listening to people rail on about how bad ‘people pleasing’ writing is for the art of writing while they engage in nothing but people pleasing. Or, it’s okay to be offensive if it’s offending to the values of people with whom we do not agree. Which is some of the most limited, un-objective, unprincipled, immature, thinking there is. What that is creating is some “art” that is overly agendified, biased, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it is less valid, only that it will only ever be completely of its time, but it is also creating a microcosm of society that isn’t objectively reflecting on itself because it is no longer capable of it. That’s dangerous. The ability to compare and contrast information, the ability to be unbiased, is crucial not only to critical thinking, but to new learning. Being passionate about the things one cares about is a wonderful thing, but when it completely overshadows the ability, of otherwise intelligent people, to be unbiased and objective, then we are losing something incredibly important, running the risk of becoming a society that isย without reason.


I’m watching people who claim to be down-to-earth- regular-folk, engage in a level of unaware snobbery that seemingly knows no bounds while they continuously blather about recognizing privilege, perhaps so you won’t notice theirs, and blah, blah, blah, it’s a bore, for one thing. One of the phrases I’ve often heard, seen, used is “One of us.” “He’s one of us.” “She’s one of us.” Used by people who claim to be all-inclusive and there’s room for everyone! Well, that phrase is inclusive, and it is also exclusive, it states that a person belongs to a group, nothing wrong with that. It also implies that others don’t, as in, “Not one of us.” And that’s fine too, I don’t believe that everyone should get to join everything or, get a trophy. So that’s fine, unless it doesn’t go along with what the person is preaching the rest of the time. People talking about kindness and decency while making disparaging remarks right out in the open about the number of followers someone has. “That’s what I get for getting into an argument with someone who only has a hundred followers.” Really. And I’m sure the person who made such a remark would never want anyone to think of them as a snob, or as someone so lacking in intellect that they’re judging the validity of the argument a person is making based on the number of social media followers the person has. Someone, quite some time ago, got on their high-horse with me about whether or not I’d read a book that I’d seen the movie version of. The implication being that I was uneducated, and I guess shouldn’t have been commenting on the movie? Frankly, I never quite understood what this particular person’s problem was, and I consider myself lucky in that. Well, I didn’t even know there was a book, I just enjoyed the movie. Again, a person who preaches for the inclusiveness and “room for everyone school” of thought, lording over me their, near as I could tell, pretty sheltered, privileged, formally educated, upbringing, complete with a car and college from good old mom and dad. ( Also fine, nothing wrong with having some help. So, I was ignorant about their having been a book before the movie, and this person was somewhat stuck up and was ignorant in a different way.) I’ve encountered that attitude and lack of self-awareness from about the word go, so I take it with a grain of salt, really, whatever. She was no different from emotionally immature school girls who don’t understand why you don’t get your clothes from the mall too. And I mean that, I’m not the internet monitor, and we are all hypocrites about something, it’s part of the deal of being human, so really, what’s one more snob who is oblivious to the fact that they’re a snob? And it’s easy enough to block or delete people. But, I got tired of it.

Not in an annoyed way, not in a personal way, but in a generally disgusted way. I got tired of “hearing” everyone’s ( in general) political bullshit all the time, the canonization of fallible, less than perfect humans as saints, the uneducated remarks about policy without any factual understanding of history or how our government works, because it’s vogue right now to say whatever it is, the blanket statements about large groups of people based on exteriors, on politics, or religion, all the things we’re supposed to enjoy the freedoms of without judgment, or persecution, for, the constant virtue signaling, the endless clamoring for followers and the passing of judgment based on that. That right there defies logic and factual thinking. I got tired of the lack of common sense. (Perhaps, I got tired of not saying anything about it whilst trying to wade through the continuous stream of it.)


There may be as many as forty-eight million fake accounts on bots on twitter. Have you ever seen someone who isn’t famous with eighty-three thousand followers of their webpage? I’ve seen plenty of webpages like that. Eighty-three thousand followers but they’re not famous, they’re struggling to get whatever it is heard, seen, read, into the mainstream. You know what that is, it’s people following webpages in order to draw attention to their own, or it’s bots. I went through my followers on here, it was up into the mid 70’s, and essentially deleted all but a very few. My apologies if you’re a real, genuine, human who was following my page who was removed, you’re welcome to re-follow, but there was one person who had at least seven different webpages for themselves and was following my webpage with every one of those pages. I would regularly clean out my twitter followers as well. I figure had I never done that, in the last seven years, I’d have certainly racked up five thousand “followers” as the highest I ever let the number get was over two thousand. If you have that many followers, well, you don’t. ( So maybe don’t be a snob about how many followers anyone else has or doesn’t have, because a good portion of the followers that anyone with a public account has, are fake.) You’re welcome to look up any of several articles on how to spot a fake twitter account or a bot. That was the other thing, twitter sent me a notification of my seven-year twitter anniversary. I looked around and I decided I thought it was all kind of disgusting, that all the good things that I liked twitter for , were things I could find in some other way, either by following the actual webpages of folks or finding the good content somewhere else, and that seven years was quite enough. It was a party I decided I didn’t want to be at anymore, so I bailed. Think about that. That’s something that a lot of people in this day and age wouldn’t consider doing. ( For a while I referred to twitter as “the bitcher” because that often seems to be all people do on there.) I’ve found social media to be perpetually toxic and not at all conducive to individual creativity. Is social media a necessity?

That brings me to ideas about being a writer. Pretty much what I have to say about that is that all progress isn’t necessarily progress. The writer as social animal? Doesn’t really jibe with any idea I ever had of writing or being a writer. Do you go to parties or crowded social events to sit in a corner alone and write? Is that the ideal setting for conducting your writing? ( Do you go there to sit and stare at your phone instead of talking to the people around you?) The internet can make a person feel virtually hounded, and it can give fools with no lives of their own at least some ability to do that. But, hey, when people won’t stay the hell out of your hair, you do also get to feeling like you must have the best hair ever in the history of hair! What I’m constantly thinking about it all is that this isn’t the way that any of it is supposed to work, yet here we are at this juncture of technology having outpaced our ability to cope with it responsibly or, perhaps, intelligently. My guess about that would be, at this point, we’re supposed to learn something from it, and adjust accordingly. Here you can have all the discussions about the world way back when before there were even mobile phones, let alone “smart phones”, tiny computers, in the hands of most everyone, the world when everyone had a house phone, and then later, an answering machine. And how did anyone manage to function without all this constant seeming access to whatever? Like, what did people even do before the world went on a twenty-four hour schedule? Don’t get me wrong, I think mobile phones are great. Great, for having for emergencies, but otherwise, we’re probably overusing them. And frankly, I’ve talked to people far less since getting a so-called “smart phone.” And that was a marketing ploy for the ages right there, “smart phone.” Point being, sometimes progress isn’t progress. As a writer, I think one can definitely have too much input from extraneous sources. Keeping in mind it’s the way we use things that sometimes defines them, not that putting wheels on a donkey will make it a car. “What?”

So now, at nineteen hundred words in, other things… somewhat pertaining to…

We had a wonderful Christmas. Truly blessed, I’m so incredibly thankful and grateful and it was humbling, the best Christmas we’ve had in a decade, everything was good. Thank you, God, we so needed it and we’re grateful. Keeping in mind that the months and weeks leading up to the holiday were some of the busiest we’ve had in years and I worked my tail off to do my part in ensuring a happy holiday. I baked like a madwoman. I refused to allow,take-on, any extraneous stress or strife. I managed to send exactly one Christmas card this year. It seemed like Christmas got here so fast, from the first of the month to the twenty-fifth absolutely flew by and now here we are and it’s the twenty-ninth. We’ve got two days remaining of 2018. So far, 2018, though not without some challenges, was a very good year for us. It’s been a long time since I was this happy. So happy that some time back, I was doing something and reminded myself of something unpleasant that’s better forgotten. But, more to the point was that in that, I realized, I had “forgotten” it. Because that’s how things are supposed to be. We’re supposed to move on. Life moves forward. This reaffirmed some of my decisions about a great many things. That sounds vague, except that part of the point is that one can often make the point without getting into specifics. The point is, if you hang onto all the those hot angry rocks, its your hand that gets burnt. That’s a catchy thing to say but when you really comprehend it, it’s super helpful and freeing.

This brings me to being at peace with one’s self. Ever hear anyone talk along those lines? About being a peace with themselves? Very late on Christmas night, I was doing something and happened to catch sight of myself in the mirror, the white of one of my eyes had turned blood-red. A broken blood vessel. Earlier in the evening I’d felt dizzy for a minute or a few. I’m going to chalk it up to a variety of factors, not the least of which is likely the amount of sugar I consumed leading up to the holidays, and I’m not a person with a sweet-tooth. I usually avoid extraneous sugar. But, man, I am a good cook, if I do say so myself, and I made some pralines and some cookies that were phenomenal. Not to mention that we then had molten lava cake and ice cream for dessert. But, I mean, sneezing too hard can cause a subconjunctival hemorrhage. All the next day I was particularly exhausted. I avoided sugar, took some remedies, etc., until I began to feel better yesterday. I’m still not feeling a hundred percent, but I’m getting there. As I said, we were go, go, go, for several months, and I am ever dealing with all the things I’m dealing with physically. I did just turn fifty, really, only fifty, as well. Age is just a number, right? In all that, there was a moment when I felt completely at peace. I don’t know that I know how else to explain that, just completely at peace. It was a great Christmas, but that feeling of peace is truly a gift.


This was me on Christmas, prior to my eye going red. Should take a couple of weeks or so to return to normal. (No, I’m not Jewish, re: my one necklace, but, Jesus was a Jew. Not to digress. Perhaps we’ll discuss ancient symbols on another occasion.)

So, now, going into 2019. Wow. 2019. I’m optimistic, hopeful, looking forward to it. Have a Happy and safe New Year!

Teri Skultety

 

Zadie Smith, “The Right to be Wrong”

Anne Rice on censorship and political correctness.