I have to preface this essay by making one thing clear: I have to great love for dystopian visions, or narratives of the apocalypse.
As a much younger man, I reveled in tales of the end of the world, or of the world gone wrong. Nineteen Eighty-four was my lodestar. Brave New World possessed a strange allure, as I in my hubris knew I’d be born as an Alpha. Alas, Babylon was a seminal work in my adolescence. And, of course, who can forget A Canticle for Leibowitz, whose central theme is that the problem is with humanity, regardless of how many chances it gets to get things right.
If you are a reader of the blog I manage, The People’s View, you’ll know that most of my writing for the past two years has been there. I’ve let this personal blog lie fallow, not having enough time to attend to it.
But what I’ve come to realize over the past few months is that the personal is political. One cannot divorce one’s personal life from the maelstrom which whirls around us.
And, I’ve found, writing here focuses my purely political writing on TPV. I need to balance that agitprop with more personal writing, where I write about things which may not seem political, but do inform my political work.
OK, look, I was a weird child. My brothers were 10 and 12 years older than me, which had positives and negatives. They had already been through what I was going to go through, so I had an idea of what to expect. But they were also almost autonomous adults, so even though we were a household of two parents and three children, I was pretty much on my own.
But my oldest brother Tony acted as a surrogate father at times, and the one main thing he shared with me was a love of all things British. PBS—back when it was good and would show wonderful programming—was on constantly in my apartment. And this was a time when independent television channels were actually “independent”, and combed far and wide for programming to fill their schedules.
As regular readers know, or those who peruse my Twitter timeline know, I have another blog where I write political essays, The People’s View. I try to keep those two worlds separate as much as I can. I generally want this blog to deal with the breadth and scope of my interests outside of politics, from writing to reading, family to friends, work to play. But, sometimes, those two worlds intersect. This is one such case.
While hanging out at TPV, one of the regulars posted a comment leading me to a podcast I hadn’t heard of: The Fall of Rome. Produced by recently enshrined PhD historian Patrick Wyman—who is a fellow Angeleno HOLLA—it expands on his dissertation to encompass the slow decay and fall of the Roman Empire, from roughly 376 to 550 CE. As of this writing, I’ve listened to the first episode, and I’m hooked.
So. As the poet says: Time keeps on ticking (ticking ticking) / Into the future.
I’m not sure what triggered me this time. I had a bad night the other night: woke up at 1 a.m. chilled to the bone, teeth chattering. I couldn’t return to sleep, and eventually the unnatural chill was replaced by sweats, by a heat so intense that I had to kick off the covers. (Which made my wife happy, as more for her.)
As far as I know, the chill wasn’t related to anything I had done the night before. And what had I done before going to bed? Why have a couple of Manhattans, of course! It’s my thing.
Or at least, it was my thing. Or, rather, it will not longer be as much of a thing as it has been for a while. How long? So long that I don’t remember when a cocktail or two or three a night became part of my routine.
On the 27th of May in the Year of our Most Gracious Lord Two-thousand and sixteen, I and my long-time girlfriend did the deed of legality and finally got married. We got hitched. We attached balls and chains to each other. We stopped living in the sin of fornication.
Now, when I say “long-time girlfriend”, I’m not just whistling Dixie. Sixteen years long-time. A decade and a half plus change long-time. Practically a third of our lives long-time. That in itself is a major commitment.
The chain of events on how we finally put pen to paper should be expounded upon, as it serves for a laugh. (For those of our intimates, the story is very emblematic of who we are.)
If you haven’t read this piece in the New York Times, then drop what you’re doing (which I know is reading my essay) and go read it. Done? OK, let’s continue. (For all my problems with The Times, I keep up my subscription for pieces like this.)
Much like Gabriel Rockhill, I had a very intimate relationship with mortality as a child. I wasn’t exposed to death. No one close to me died. But death was omnipresent. Perhaps it was my Catholic upbringing. Jesus crucified, dying for our sins. When you grow up in a religion where death is the central founding act, the fact of death tends to impinge on your thinking.
It’s been my contention that grad school prepares you for NOTHING you encounter as a public librarian. Academic librarian, sure. Archivist, without a doubt. But none of the “working in a public library” classes which I took could have steeled me for what I’ve experienced. (And, I wasn’t even planning to work in a public library. I had every intention of selling out and working in private industry. Sadly, Lehman Bros. decided to blow up the economy right as I graduated, so the kibosh was put on that grand plan.)
Most of my patrons are lovely, well-balanced people. Some are raving fruitcakes. And then some seem well-balanced and lovely, and then they do something which leaves you in slack-jawed stupefaction. In the first of a series I’ve helpfully entitled Annals in “WTH Were You Thinking??”, I present “Potty training.”