The past few months have seen a resurgence of the “indie web”; a blogging renaissance, of sorts. A variety of publishing, tech, and media folk are writing for themselves again, on their own websites, about stuff that doesn’t fit in with a “content strategy” or “brand aesthetic.” “Some six weeks ago I began to contemplate a few changes to my small nook on the web,” writes Craig Mod. “As tends to happen, minuscule changes to font sizes trickled into deeper typographic investigations, barreled into layout grid updates, resulted in a total gutting of the site, which conspired to an overall simplification and reevaluation of the purpose [my blog].” There it was kind of neat to see someone smarter than me doing something I was sorta doing, too. “For me,” adds Lockhart Steele, “the web ecosystem will always be bloggy at its core. I’m looking forward to being a part of it again myself.” Cool stuff, but while they were looking for new beginnings I’ve been seeking closure.
It was fun to momentarily revisit ideas of a blogging schedule or some sort of personal editorial mission, but that sort of plotting comes in contrast to a summer spent distancing myself from my online self. I gutted my Facebook profile, abandoned (another) Twitter account, and consolidated all my online tentacles under this digital roof. So much has changed — at least for me, blogging just can’t be the same now as it used to be. Then again, thinking back on how much of a self-obsessive headache its led to in the past, this is probably for the best.
Discussion jumps about, though it mostly stays within a vague orbit around how the work that was being done seemed like work that was worth doing. Reflection brings history into the realm of binary: now only good or bad, seen through a vantage point which offers distance and clarity that was not entirely possible when caught up in the whirlwind. But five hours away, that whirlwind is blowing out of control. “We’ve done everything we can to demonstrate a remarkable amount of restraint,” says the police chief as those charged with protecting and serving in Ferguson, MO take an unprovoked turn for the militant, aiming weapons at spectators and firing tear gas at journalists. “Remember when that thing happened in Nevada with the Rancher and cops showed up and there were people photographed in sniper positions with their guns aimed at law enforcement officers?,” asks a virtual onlooker. “How did that manage to happen there without every single person in that group getting mowed down with SWAT teams and MRAPs and all these fucking military weapons that the cops are using in Ferguson? What was the big difference between those groups? What would happen if there were snipers on rooftops in Ferguson aiming their guns at these police?” “Watching the news & singing along to Marvin Gaye’s little-known remake of his classic, ‘Seriously What In the Everloving F**k Is Going On’ ” exhales Jay Smooth on Twitter. I don’t know. Where does the pressure go? Maybe this will all look different, eventually.
There’s a taco truck on the corner of Wedgewood & 12th where, earlier in the day, I celebrated one of my best friends’ birthdays by buying him a burrito and a sweet tea. We sat on the tailgate of his truck while we ate and talked: It was his direction in life and what he’s feeling balanced by my own, what we’re going through, what we want in life, what we don’t want in life, so on and so on. Later, Salsa on the southwestern edge of downtown for Hummus with Churrasco, a sweet sauce garnishing the still-pink meat, each bite laced with an ample portion of the salty spread and placed over one of the many chewy and savory dough vehicles, washed down by a couple of Diet Cokes. Walking out onto the deck after the meal was over, the instant became one of calming, the restaurant just far enough away from the tourist sector to remain peaceful, and not yet overrun with young urban types who make pornography out of their food, posing it and angling the light for maximum exposure. Who is the picture for? What is it supposed to say? But how can you not take a picture of something that looks so good?
The food was wonderful and I want to remember how good that moment felt despite how much confusion and pressure there is right now, is what this particular picture was supposed to say: Sitting outside with an elbow up on the wooden ledge, stuck between recalling what happened in order to get there and looking forward to the possibility of what’s yet to come, mustering only a smile while just being overwhelmed by it all. The work that seemed like good work doesn’t always end up feeling that way as time goes on. The people who seemed like good people don’t always end up being who you wanted them to be. What we want in life changes, who we want to be with changes, and what we don’t want changes, too. It’s impossible to retroactively be proud of every last action that happened along the way, or reflect without doubt and guilt that you might never learn how to get life right. The current blueprint seems the way to go for now though: keep trying to learn, to experience, to taste, to love, and just let loose a joke and laugh when you have no idea what in the ever-loving fuck is going on around you.
For about a month I worked at FedEx, picking up boxes at the mouth of a semi-truck after they’d shot down a big metal shoot. I picked them up and I stacked them. Sometimes the boxes were small, sometimes they were massive. Sometimes the queue seemed endless, sometimes it was manageable. The last few days there broke me. I only did the job a few hours a day but when I came home I was beat. When I woke up I was already gassed for the day. I couldn’t give two weeks notice when I quit. I couldn’t physically continue to do the job. I just called my manager and left a message. Shortly after my shift that day would have started he called me asking what was up, why I wasn’t there. I asked if he’d not received my message and reiterated my excuse: It was just taking too much out of me. His reaction told me he’d heard that before. He said goodbye, I said goodbye. That was that.
There’s a family two floors down from me, who exist in my world primarily through the noise that funnels upward through the cement and steel staircase that also serves as a chamber of echoes. This family has been visited by child protective services. I have seen the visitations. They seem tense. Sometime in the past month or two this family got a dog. Yesterday I learned that dog’s name is Rocko.
A week, or so, ago I was taking the trash out and I saw Rocko get pushed out the door. It didn’t want to leave. Rocko is a good dog. It scratched at the door, wanting back in, but back into what? Them? Some nights I hear Rocko barking, wanting desperately to not be outside, alone. During the previous week I had heard the angry old woman who lives there yell at Rocko “POO POO PEE PEE NOW!” This continued for far longer than it should have. Five minutes, maybe. It was gross. Rocko is left to shit on the concrete landing pad at the bottom of the stairs. The shit is cleaned up on what appears to be a weekly-ish timetable, not on a basis of whether or not it smells, or whether or not it’s forcing people who are trying to take their trash out to step through shit to do so. That’s the life you want, Rocko?
There is another couple, who has been yelling at each other in the hallway more nights than not this past week. They have many children, though they aren’t very old themselves. I looked up the phone number for security one night, though I didn’t call. I didn’t want to make myself part of it, and I certainly didn’t want to make myself a target of some unseen resentment. Race can appear to play into this all too easily for me to risk involvement. Better just to stay out of it, I figured. Last week I stopped by the leasing office to pick up my mail and I decided against filing a complaint against Rocko’s owner, for failing to clean up Rocko’s mess in a timely manner. What good does that do?, I thought.
Then yesterday I saw a pair of children playing with Rocko. Rocko doesn’t have tags, and certainly doesn’t have a leash. But it was just happy playing with the kids and a ragged little toy in the yard in front of the apartment. It wasn’t running away, like a bad dog would do. And the children weren’t being mean to it, like bad children would do. They seemed happy. Rocko seemed happy. I was glad I hadn’t made the complaint against the woman who gets angry and yells at all of them. What might happen if Rocko gets taken away? If the kids do? Who is left for the woman to yell at? Is there some perverted balance in that equation? Is the pain and anger and confusion that echoes up to my apartment and through the hollow door that barely separates me from the outside world the only thing holding this place together?