My atavistic trip back into the real world for a week.

Lost my iPhone—it apparently slipped between the seats in an Uber and is forever lost in the bowels of a Toyota—and took nearly a week to get a new one. It was our sole connection to the internet, as I’d put away the desktop when I realized that my epileptic hypergraphia was out of control and my brain a sizzling, sputtering epileptic mess—basically, I was losing it—and figured that an iPhone would help contain the problem. It has, for the most part, with only occasional lurches into hypergraphia and other charming intra-ictal personality traits. Anyway, I was frantic for a few hours after losing the phone, it’s like our entire lives were on it, then it dawned on me that I didn’t actually need the internet right away for anything. I began to thoroughly enjoy not having a digital existence. Suddenly all these projects around here got completed. More reading got done. Instead of Twitter and Facebook and whatever it is that men do on the internet I was watching old movies. Didn’t write one fucking sentence, the spigot had been turned off. It was quite terrific. 

Then late yesterday afternoon a lovely little thing in a postal uniform knocked on the door. She looked just like the messengers who are always delivering telegrams at just the wrong times in old movies, except you don’t tip them. Your phone, sir. I thanked her, signed, sighed and opened the box. Spent the next hour trying to maneuver through the tortuous maze Apple forces those among us who do not have any other Apple devices handy to wend our way through to turn the fucking thing on (now that was a sentence, I must be out of shape.) Then spent the next couple hours downloading all the apps that control our lives—I had made a list ahead of time that had them in order and checked them off one by one, like a good secretary. Then I looked at Facebook but couldn’t get into it. Looked at Twitter but it was all massacres and death. Email was just email. Even my blogs failed to spark. Nothing on the little screen sparked, none of my usual digital haunts. It all seemed so, uh, lifeless. Two dimensional. Too digital. So I put it down.

But here I am again.


Sent from my fucking iPhone.


Somebody mentioned they were watching High Fidelity and I remembered how the vinyl geeks in the flick were forever reorganizing their records by weird categories of the moment. Yeah, so we all did that. Maybe not as geekily as in High Fidelity, and maybe we were never in bands as anti-climactically lame as the one that ended the movie (I fucking hated that band), but we reorganized our record collections. Alas, I’ve gotten rid of most of my record collection to feed my epilepsy medication habit (I probably have 400 LP’s left….) and reorganizing it just doesn’t hang anymore. It’s just sad. I only have four categories left. One is jazz. One is classic jazz. One is pre-Baroque music. And the final one is everything else. You know you don’t have many records left when one of your categories is everything else. And I just sold another batch yesterday. There’s no joy in reorganizing LPs when you barely have any. What normally would last all weekend now takes an hour watching Bob Ross on PBS. Funny little clouds indeed.

So I spent the weekend reorganizing my books. Getting rid of 90% of my jazz library suddenly opened up all this space so I was finally able to get the books out of the closet and shelf them. I did so lovingly. All these wonderful books, mostly hardcover, all non-fiction, any one of which could make me an excruciatingly dull person to sit next to at a cocktail party. Not to mention an annoying know-it-all on Facebook. It was a happy time, sorting and shelving books, Caetano Veloso on the stereo, three cds worth. (I’ve been on a Brazilian kick lately.) Finally, I tucked in the last book in the last spot. I was done. Project complete. I sat at my desk in the office (aka the living room… maintains a homey work culture) surrounded by hundreds of carefully shelved books. I felt intellectual to the max.

Then as I lay in bed in the dark going off to sleep, the German inside of me began to grumble. Kein Ordnung, sie sagte, so viele Bücher und so ein Durcheinander. And the German was right, it was anarchy. Just a mess. This is what happens when I let the Irish me sort books. I glory in their words, I lay them out in random order, sprinkled like spring blossoms on an Irish hillside. But what I needed was them broken down by subject. So first thing this morning, as the Irish me slept in late, as usual, the German me came into the living room and worked my German engineering magic. Now right next to the desk is my linguistics section, while behind me are the history and science sections. There’s a whole shelf full of brain books. The surviving music books are tucked away where vinyl used to be. Beneath the desk is an enormous stack of to be reads, maybe a hundred of them. Stretched across the desk is a whole column of reference works, making me feel very secure. Next to me is a charming little collection of foreign language dictionaries, because you never know when you might need to say við hliðina á mér er heillandi lítill safn af erlendum tungumálum orðabækur in Icelandic. There’s a pile of coffee table books to my left, another bunch to the right. There’s even a secret stash of Penguin classics for when I want to read Xenophon xenophobically.

And I still have longstanding plans to get more shelves. And more books. Collecting music has lost much of its magic. Too many formats. Too easily accessible. I do it but it’s not as exciting as it used to be. Books, though…probably three quarters of the books in my library are not available digitally. Books are the last bastion of old analog bastards. Books and the boxes full of handwritten scrawl in my closet, daring me to digitize them. And the photographs. Thousands of them, unscanned. I had so much hair then, and looks, and charisma, and modesty. There must be a quarter century of photographs. Pictures of parties and gigs and bands and all these young people raising hell. There are even cat pictures. Good lord that will be a project. I’ll have a throwback Thursday that will last the rest of my life.

“Books, young man, books. Thousands of them. If time wasn’t so important, I’d show you something. My library. Thousands of books.” Elisha Cook Jr., as an old school lawyer, to Captain Kirk on Star Trek.


Apparently they no longer have Musso and Frank matches anymore. We’ve been lighting candles with Musso and Frank matches for thirty years. Now what? Lighters? Are wooden matches too analog? Has digital civilization passed me by entirely? I can feel Hollywood Forever drawing me near, coldly, whispering join us. There’s a spot between the Fairbanks’s and Toto just for you, big guy. Hipsters will park their asses atop your bones all summer long and iPhone through entire movies, puffing matchlessly on electronic cigarettes. Sitting on Brick Wahl, they’ll tweet, I never heard of him either.

We used to have dozens of these, a bowl full. But those were different times. The poets, they studied rules of verse, and the ladies, they went after the drummers.

We used to have dozens of these, a bowl full, but those were different times. The poets, they studied rules of verse, and the ladies, they went after the drummer.

(Picture from You can find anything on the internet.)