Chasing the Lit Mag Photo Essay, 1

Working with NYC street photographer Donato DiCamillo, San Antonio, Texas, January 2018.


February 22, 2018

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
          For promis’d joy!


It was another new year in a strange time. I’d spent 2017 friending, liking, and following the left, the right, the militant, the compliant, the ungodly, the pious, the cheerful, the gloomy, and many others for the next book. My Facebook feed was a hellbroth of voices, but all agreed something had to be done.

Some Facebook friends reassured we all have agency. They insisted we call, text, fax, and email those with power over our lives, even after those officials ignored the pleas, pulled the plugs on their devices, and sent letters warning that any further contact would be reported to the Capitol Police.

Other friends invested their free will in suspicions of dark money, the dark web, and the deep American state. Vlad the Meddler was ok, though.

Other friends said we should remember, no matter what happened, that we’re all beautiful, inside and out. My phrenologist left a comment saying it was a damned lie.

Being seen to be heartfelt would counter the corruptions of the world, some friends believed. In selfies they portrayed fierceness, bravery, and engagement, like models in Vogue.

Friends said to hunker down, bunker up, stockpile your guns, grow the beard of an Old Testament patriarch. The prophet LaVoy Finicum was dead. It was time—for lawsuits in a court they believed held no authority over them, if nothing else.

Friends said national reconciliation was just a matter of reaching out. Twentieth Century Fox sued them for plagiarizing Andy Sipowicz, played by Dennis Franz, in 36 episodes of NYPD Blue going back to 1993.

Friends wanted self-governance and a bison-based economy.

No one but the rich seemed to feel they were winning without reservation. That was just a guess. The truly rich were not among my Facebook friends, and I couldn’t know how they felt about their personal lives, let alone global overpopulation, nuclear war, the lack of a true bottom line, or Mother Nature having a case of the ass.

The Eastern Cougar deleted its account and went quietly extinct.

It felt as if things were breaking down, but the market was up. It was tempting to say it must have felt like this in 1914, 1940, or 1968, but the cataclysm hadn’t arrived. Our friends at the Heritage Foundation revealed the poor had cell phones and microwave popcorn, which even Thomas Jefferson didn’t have. And he had to poop in a jug, they said, so cheer up.

It was a strange time, two months ago.

When things get weird, some friends start praising negative capability—Keats’ term for “capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” Being open to the mystery of others and their experiences is surely a start, especially in an emotional age. Something must be done to force out the irritability of stale ideas, to see things as they exist now, to accept complexity, and to find new signs, symbols, and stories. That’s how I felt, anyway. But was that true either?


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