“Back in the early days of New Narrative,” writes Dodie Bellamy in her book of blog posts The Buddhist, “when we were all wanting to be in one another’s work, I complained to Kevin, why don’t you write about me, and Kevin said he didn’t write about me because writing was an exorcism, and he didn’t want to exorcise me.”
To prevent myself from looking at the Internet yesterday I went to PS1 in Long Island City. I went to the Laurel Nakadate retrospective for the third time, probably not the last, either. I watched a video I hadn’t watched before, one where she dances in the desert to exorcise sadness from Britney Spears. (It worked!) Afterward I went downstairs to the art bookstore where I scrutinized the contents of every shelf before finally casually passing the shelf my book is on, a little treat. But seeing it there yesterday, knowing in advance it would likely be there, didn’t feel as good as the first time I spotted it there unexpectedly. The diminishing returns of the Internet are like that too, but I will probably still keep visiting that shelf.
I left the museum and sat in a cafe near the Pulaski bridge. The cafe has a laptop section and a “dining room” and I sat in the dining room. The laptop section was empty. Trucks were rumbling onto the bridge a few feet away.
Reading The Buddhist momentarily gave me back my old feeling of bloggy first-person urgency — the feeling that all my sensations deserve description and dispersal. One aspect of this feeling I’d never identified before is the sense of furious competition — like if I don’t publish these thoughts immediately after having them, someone else might beat me to it. (What a weird illogical feeling! Like someone is going to beat me to a photo of my own cat! But you know what I mean.)
Leaving the café I took a circuitous route down an ugly sidestreet and said “bless you” to an old lady up ahead of me who’d sneezed. She turned to look at me with a look of shock and fear that dissipated immediately when she saw me (in a dorky raincoat, extra nonthreatening). Long Island City seemed like a movie set, maybe because of how often it is one. I passed the pet store that had been my excuse, years ago, to walk across the Pulaski bridge from Greenpoint.
Back then I’d thought my biggest problem was that I felt unloved but in retrospect the problem was more that I didn’t love anyone, not in any real way. I didn’t know how to give or receive anything good. I walked around all the time feeling like a giant black hole of need that other people’s good feelings would occasionally get sucked into by accident. On the weekends I would cross the bridge as though that meant escape. I’d buy some cans of cat food and then walk back to Greenpoint.
Lately I have noticed, walking around, that I am less prone to dashing forward, anticipating my arrival at whatever destination. Sometimes I can even walk down the street slowly enough that I start to feel my surroundings pressing in on me, slightly overwhelming in all their details. It’s okay not to do this all the time. It’s better, actually, not to do it all the time.