I went to Maine this weekend to visit my mother up in Biddeford, a small town along the coast. I’m going to spend over a week with family at Thanksgiving but she still wanted me to come up and have a bit of whiskey in the kitchen with her like we do sometimes and just talk. The enormous storm came up Saturday, and we sat it out, watching some television. She has satellite, and as I clicked through the channels I thought of how my friend Anston said last weekend, at the bar where we went with some dancers who were visiting Northampton, All of the men were talking about sports and all of the women were talking about weddings.
You could see it in the alternating television shows. Shows about sports, shows about weddings.
The only other thing was shows about the supernatural. Which it seemed to me covered sports and weddings.
Sometimes when I think about being a writer in these times it just feels like I’m taking these things that I spend so much time on and dropping them over the wall at a zoo that happens to be on fire. I imagine myself as some sort of anonymous functionary in a city like DC in this particular mental image, like the factory novelists in North Korea who write novels for the workers, with the wall being something like the one around the emu cage there, and I watch as the books are trampled by stampeding and frightened animals and people.
That’s sort of what it looks like when I watch the news, or read it, or listen to it in the car like I did on the way up to Maine–a radio show with media talking heads talking about media talking heads and their influence on the election, and if it was a good or bad thing. There was a lot of disingenuous breast-beating and hair-tearing, we’re so bad, thank you for listening, more later. Each time I leave the little valley in Massachusetts where I live, there’s some world out there that’s by degrees more dangerous and angrier and less understanding than it was three minutes ago because of something I can’t see happening. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll walk outside and find the whole thing burning, like the scene from Heroes, where the guy who can fly is captured by a telepath who can make his nightmares seem real. He walks through a door and finds himself on the roof of a building in a burning city, and turns a body over, and it’s himself, his face burned. I feel like my world is in the hands of a telepath who doesn’t like me or people like me. And that there are choices ahead, choices I don’t really want to make or know about, and I might not even get to make them.
I don’t even really like Heroes. I think it’s kind of like some terrible cross of Escape To Witch Mountain and Mean Girls.
Why are you watching this, my mother asked me. She peered at the screen with the burning city.
I’m trying to understand why people like it, I told her.
It seems like it goes on forever, she said.
It’s because they’re running the episodes back to back, I said. But you’re right.