All Is Not Lost

We are, after all, gaining daylight.

Stubbornly trying to keep indoor plants alive in 2018.

I had the pleasure of hanging out with someone I don’t often see a couple of days ago. The primary focus of our getting together was the book she’s writing – I relish this conversational topic, and I’ve been insanely curious about what she’s working on. As we talked, sitting on the stage of a very busy downtown Champaign record store, the conversation drifted into the area of primary source material, including ephemera. She mentioned that, at some point along the way, she and her bandmates had gotten rid of some of the memorabilia/letters/other records from the period of time about which she’s now writing.

I think ditching old paper is something a lot of people just do now; I do it myself. I’m especially fond of getting rid of administrative paper when the time comes. Recycle! Toss! Shred! Burn! I couldn’t tell how she felt about unknowingly getting rid of what could have been primary source material – whatever got jettisoned might not be germane to the story she’s telling, and I honestly don’t expect normal humans to feel the same way I do about what most people would think is garbage. But – since you asked, how I feel about it is this.

While I certainly would not classify myself as a hoarder, I definitely had a penchant for acquiring and saving letters, postcards, bits of paper, matchbooks (remember those?), receipts, writings scrawled on napkins, venue calendars, to-do lists, that sort of thing… and moving them around with me. [Many of] those scraps and bits from the 1980s and 1990s are still with me,  ignored (for now) and, by now, probably degrading in some old file cabinets in our garage. [I still lament the Dumpstering of tons of old British music magazines before we moved here. Oh, god, it still stings! What was I thinking?! It’s not like they were Michelangelo’s grocery list or anything, but… gah!]

Note to self from a small notepad labeled “REAL LIFE” [2014-ish]
I say had a penchant because, lately, I generate way fewer physical records than I do digital records – though I still do take copious notes and keep them (see above). I type a lot, but I actually write less, for example – my journaling and general faffing-around writing output, including doodling, is way less than it was even 10 years ago. So much of my own primary source material used to be physical, tactile, tangible. It seems like now I have less and less to save, and the work I generate – and the things I keep – are largely kept “safe” online or on drives somewhere.

Until they’re not. I (and others) recently experienced a catastrophic data loss for projects we were working on – hours of video, graphics files, etc that can’t be reproduced. Primary source material. Gone. Poof. Just like that. Epic fail. I’m grumpy when I lose tweets to the ether… and this was a whole ‘nother beast. I’m still crushed. The loss is real to me. I can walk away from the computer and read a book or talk to my family or watch the Australian Open or cook something, but that loss is still very real despite the fact I didn’t lose anything I could hold in my hands. In a way, it feels worse: Great God Technology couldn’t keep our work safe, but stuff we say via Twitter can follow us around forever. We live in weird times.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Have redundant redundancies for your redundancies? Be weird about saving things, then get even weirder about it? Let go of any illusions you may have about being able to hold onto anything? I have saved this draft at least 8 times. That should tell you where I’m at.

Temporary tomato cage installation on 909’s grounds.

I have two seed orders in front of me as I type, which should also tell you where I’m at, which is: Mid-January, which means it’s practically February, which means I need to whip 909’s Basement Seed Lab into shape. I imagine the day my orders arrive at my office, I’ll be like the hearts-for-eyes emoji, all squishy-feels about the eventuality of variegated collards, Easter egg radishes, Scotch bonnet peppers, black peony poppies, and the like.

And that’s why I plant, every damn year. Spring never fails.

Fresh

Happy new year! Lilly pointed out this morning that we’re finally in “good” satsuma season. I agree regarding the taste; the color has been spectacular all winter.

Icicles! Apple trees! Neighbor’s backyard! Wan sunlight!

Winter. It finally arrived just before Christmas, drawing attention from its lateness by making a big deal out of bringing snow and ice and wind and, for most of that time, bitterly cold temps to the party. Change was gonna come – it always does – and it has: We got down to one solitary degree last night and it’s been getting warmer ever since. As I write, it’s 22° at nearly 10 AM, and it feels delicious outside. This thaw will also involve wind and some icy precipitation, but no one cares. Cabin fever is DEFINITELY a thing.

Relatively tame reads.

One of my beloved places is Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago. It opened in its original location on Damen Avenue in 1991, about 6 weeks after I arrived in Chicago from Minneapolis, and it was love at first sight (well, it was for me). Ownership and location changed over the course of the decade that followed, but the vibe remains the same: Cool, often transgressive books and magazines and zines and other stuff you won’t find anywhere else, alongside stuff you CAN find anywhere else (see my selections above). I was excited to get out of the city and into C-U back in 1996; losing access to Quimby’s was probably the bitterest pill I swallowed, and frankly I could have used a place like Quimby’s after I got here. [I still could use such a place.] Anyway. Whenever I get to Quimby’s, which is now maybe once a year because I don’t get to Chicago that often, I’m most often making a surgical strike. I do not browse. How come? Because I’m usually either a) with other people who do not totally share my enthusiasm for zines and comics and books about fighting fascism/the women of punk rock back in 1985/conspiracy theories and I try to be mindful of this, b) I’m on a schedule that does not allow for much in the way of browsing, or c) both. In spite of these constraints, whenever I walk into Quimby’s, I feel relieved. I feel empowered. It still exists! I can find out about anything! It is home, they are my people, and one day in 2018… I’m taking myself to Chicago for a day so I can spend several hours in Quimby’s by myself.

Oddly hefty little book, even without my new lists.

I’m glad the holidays are over. So glad. I love starting new calendars, clearing shelves, making lists, doing the things on the lists – especially when they do not involve a lot of shopping or unearthing holiday decorations from the garage. Knowing very well my affinity for interesting paper goods, Cody gave me these very cool Field Notes notebooks and one of them is dedicated solely to house projects. SOLELY. Why? 909 needs whole-notebook-dedicated-to-it work. It’s a small house – it comes in right around 1000SF,  was built in the early 1920s, and has some beautiful attributes, some questionable past decisions, and some aging appliances. I have the lists divided into two categories: Low-hanging fruit, which is basically getting rid of a bunch of stuff, cleaning, painting, and maybe some low-level DIY work; and boutique, way-up-there-fruit, which includes plaster work, new kitchen flooring, new appliances/windows/siding – work we really can’t do ourselves. There’s plenty in between that could go into either category depending on mood, motivation, and budget. It’s not all going to get done this year, that’s for sure, but major headway will be made and there is nothing I love more than major headway being made. Time is moving along dizzyingly fast and there’s so much to do. It took me 18+ months to adjust to having 909’s main residents be me, Jim, and the Lonesomes. Speaking of Lonesomes, Mattie says hi:

Anyway. I’m moving into the next phase of Being Here. On this lovely Sunday, Being Here means tackling some of that low-hanging fruit I was talking about above, putting together final seed orders from Baker Creek, Sow True, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and committing fully to an enormous, riotous flower and vegetable garden in 2018. And, yep, reading about psychedelics in the UK in the 60s.

How ’bout you?

Grateful for the illumination the light of January brings, y’all.