The value of things is not the time they last, but the intensity with which they occur.
If you watched the MotoGP season finale at Portimão in Portugal, you saw two titles decided by razor-thin margins in Moto3 and Moto2. Congratulations to Albert Arenas (who felt like an inevitability despite his tenuous grip on Moto3 all season) and Enea Bastianini (who never felt like an inevitability on his way out of Moto2 until he suddenly became one), two guys who had to fight every lap to manage not just their race positions but also their points gap over their respective pursuers. They were both enthralling races that ended with champions as worthy as any of the alternatives. Good for them.
“A man is severely injured in a mysterious accident, receives an outrageous sum in legal compensation, and has no idea what to do with it” is a pretty simple story idea, but that’s verbatim the pitch for Tom McCarthy’s Remainder. The publisher’s blurb is elegantly written around what he does wind up doing with it, so if that doesn’t sound like something you want to know, it’d behoove you to stop reading here. The real spoiler that’s not a spoiler is that if you’re reading this, you already know everything’s going to end in motorcycle racing anyway.
It’s $25, but money’s money and if the government reaches out to let me know my phone battery is so bad they affixed a “-gate” to the lawsuit, I’m not here to argue. If you own an iPhone of a certain vintage, you likely already know about Batterygate because you didn’t delete that email from the feds. I didn’t either, though I also don’t think it makes much of a difference at this point — I’m only using my phone for one thing most of the time. My dad would like to introduce you to an app you never knew you needed: Plane Finder.
The last thing I did before was visit a library. The Friday ahead of a citywide stay-at-home order, I cut out of the office early and ran over to Harold Washington to pick up Matthew McIntosh’s theMystery.doc, a book you would’ve heard me relentlessly shoehorn into conversations at parties for weeks after had there been any to attend. I did this counting on the idea that 1,600+ pages would get me through a good chunk of quarantine while the libraries were closed, but it turns out there’s a lot of negative space in that thing; I read it in six days. To balance it out, I spent April reading — and I promise this is the only time you’ll see me talk about this unprompted — Infinite Jest. It’s fine. Also, the only other people I know who’ve read or own this book are women. Just saying.
But that Tuesday, the last night out I had before was at a brewery. Beer and books, books and beer. Bikes. This is, fundamentally, all I have been for seven months. Maybe longer, depending on who you ask.
It’s no spoiler to tell you a dark sky reserve is exactly what it sounds like. As more and more of us get born and more and more of us die slower, more and more of us generate heat, emit light, pursue both. It’s bad for nature (which you knew and didn’t care about, really), but it’s also bad for us (which maybe you didn’t, fully; just think of the heartbreaking anecdote about LA residents who couldn’t even recognize their own Milky Way). That’s why the International Dark-Sky Association has worked since 1988 to preserve places on the map where light pollution can be minimized and space can be seen with the minimal effort of tucking away a phone, turning off your car, putting out the fire.
Only 48 officially designated International Dark Sky Parks exist right now. One of them is about four hours from where I live, a straight shot north past Milwaukee, past Green Bay, past acres of rolling Wisconsin farmland and out to the tip of Door Co. at Newport State Park, Wisconsin’s only wilderness-designated state park. There’s nothing up there. That’s the point.
And with a yawn and an eye rub and a ruffling struggle to move the sheets, I roused myself and stumbled to my computer, woke it, woke myself, focused my eyes and found my usual place in the dim light and waited for Maverick Viñales to show once more that
To anyone walking in on the scene, it’d look like I was about to throw up my last meal and then some, but all I’m doing here is clipping my fingernails. I can hardly believe it, I think to myself (or maybe said aloud, I don’t remember and annoyance clouds the memory). I can hardly believe it because I feel like I just fucking did this like two weeks ago. Unlike hair clippers, I can trust myself to trim my nails — but like a jailed scrivener, I’d really prefer not to.
Ever meet someone who’s really into a specific kind of furniture? I don’t mean the workaday influencer wannabe with a midcentury modern fetish or your friend who parrots pages from the latest Dwell, I’m talking lifers who while away hours trading Eames tables on eBay or people who can point out the choicest character lines of a Sauder desk drawer from across a crowded room. You know they’re out there somewhere, of course, but until you meet one, it might be difficult to grasp just how far down this (ultimately very practical) rabbit hole it’s possible to go.
I thought I knew tables and chairs pretty well. I’ve sat in plenty of different office chairs and even voted on one as part of a company initiative (my pick did not prevail). I’ve soaked up nuances simply by living with them. But I was wrong. I do not know tables and chairs. Scott does.
At the bottom is us. We tune in, log on, turn up, shout out. More often than not, we log on and turn up and shout out at each other; it’s what we do now, how we come to make our voices known. Sometimes it’s fun, some (very rare) times it’s educational, but mostly it’s just a pressure release valve we unwind to make sense of our senses, to craft the inevitable human flaw of narrative for ourselves, to try and understand why we feel the way we do. It’s hard work, living. But you, me, we all go on doing it anyway, tuning in because sports are a relief from the rest of our embattered lives and because logging on, turning up, shouting out at what we can’t control is, in its own way, a liberation we’re only inching toward. For now.
It wasn’t an unusual meeting in that place. If you couldn’t find a conference room either because they were all booked or because the stupid names gave nothing away about which direction or floor you needed to go and it’d be too much of a hassle to try finding it, you squeezed onto one of the communal couches by the kitchen nearest you and had your meeting there, out in the open, often alongside other, equally self-important meetings. It’s strange to feel as if you have too many conference rooms and too few people, yet the rooms are never free and the people are disappearing.