The Center Cannot Hold
(Things Fall Apart)
Hey, participles of Nature, how’s it hanging?
This week has been a colossal indicator that the twenty years or so pre-pandemic where everything pretty much worked okay at a surface level (and yes there were problems but NIMBY and it was common to hear all sorts of people say “That’s so unfortunate, and I’m so lucky it doesn’t really apply to me,” or the southern equivalent of that phrase, “Bless her heart”) was a fluke
We are in flux. Not quite chaos but daily fights with an indefatigable autocorrect that wants to replace “quite” with “White” and password programs that inexplicably need to reconfirm your just-reset work password using your personal phone number to let you into a business bank account. Because what possible bad can come of that?
But okay - This week, I attended a workshop/reading of a new musical on Friday and had to leave at intermission because it was twice as long as expected and I had a second show to see! (I wrote about that on Medium.) I scampered to Times Square, leaped onto the train as the doors were closing, then the express ran local causing me to run five blocks in high heels, and I skidded to a halt in front of the East Village theater fifteen minutes before curtain only to find this sign:
So I ended up walking home with my husband (who met me at the theater for the show).
The theater had apparently emailed the patrons (us) to let them (us) know the show was canceled. I had last checked email at 10am that morning, so I missed the memo.
But back to systems - there is no unified way to make a public announcement anymore: there are far too many brands of Social Media, and people strive not to be on any of them, email and newsletters are rarely read, texts are usually blocked if the number is unknown. So how is an important message best delivered?
I frequently visit small towns and they have these extremely annoying siren tests. And I’m wondering if any resident has the first clue what those noises mean. I don’t—! Are they for air-raids? Have they been repurposed to fire drills? What are they now? Is there something that all the local townsfolk are meant to do when the siren goes off - and would any of them do it these days?
When the pandemic began, it was months before I knew about the daily briefing that Cuomo did from his office on TV. What if we were invaded? How would we get this news? Some from Twitter, some Facebook? I bet huge things could happen in this country and (leaving aside those that willfully disbelieve or actively avoid news), we could also have thousands who just never got the news.
I guess that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week: large scale systemic communication. My Lithuanian friends have various extremely roundabout ways of keeping tabs on Putin and the Ukraine - mostly through Facebook friends that have personal friends in Ukraine. It’s literally a game of telephone. The Ukrainians call their friend in Lithuania and that friend immediately posts the news on FB and in the morning my local friends wake up and read what these individuals (not reporters, mind you, just people) have to say about what is happening on the ground in Ukraine.
Things have been going fairly well!
In addition to the Medium piece I wrote about length of creative work, I also wrote a very short humor piece (a listicle!) called Style Notes from a Fashionable Older Woman in a Chic Coffee Shop.
My undergraduate college (Notre Dame University of Maryland) is going to be recording an interview with me this Monday, I think it is for an article but could be anything. Hopefully I will get to talk a little about my book.
My trip to Lithuania is getting closer. I’m trying to set up some meetings with publishers while there. Turns out midsummer is when everyone goes on vacation! I don’t know if I told you, but they will be publishing an anthology of the writing of the Lithuanian Writers of the Diaspora—so you can expect a new story sometime in late Summer or early Fall in Egzodika 2.
Also, the Literary Salon that I co-host will be taking the summer off. This means that I have a little more time to write. If you’re curious, the last episode we recorded is a good one to watch. I was on with Mat Johnson (won the American Book Award), Anne D LeClaire (she’s written 10 books), and Laurie Gray Streeter (author of Black Widow) and of course my co-host Christina Chiu. You can watch here.
Fluke was first used in 1857 in reference to a lucky shot at billiards. No one seems to know why. But then, why should everything make sense? Maybe it has to do with a blood-dimmed tide. (If you’re itching to read the Yeats poem, it’s right here. I won’t leave you hanging.)
Happy Juneteenth, which I first learned about as a poor kid in Texas being driven through even poorer neighborhoods where the descendants of all-too-recent slaves lived. Their Juneteenth celebrations seemed full of joy - flags everywhere, banners, girls in bright dresses, homegrown music, huge picnics and family everywhere. Here’s a video made by my ivy league alma mater featuring its alumni explaining why the day should be celebrated.
And Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there - please continue to manufacture silly, harmless, language-based jokes. The world will be saved by having a sense of humor, I’m convinced of it.