On the train down to New York Thursday, in the seats across from me, a 26-year-old American soccer player who works on an organic farm and a 30-something Turkish artist talk to each other for most of the trip. The soccer player tells his age when he says he feels old. The artist laughs at him.
The soccer player then confides that his girlfriend is the daughter of his boss. Also, she reminds him of her father, who he met first, and who set them up and wanted them to be together.
I try not to stare. “I see him so clearly in her,” he says. “It’s almost eerie.”
No, I think. It actually is eerie.
Watching them talk of it, it looks like courtship. They are shy and flirtatious with each other, each mentioning their girlfriends but soon they are beside each other playing a game on the computer of the artist. Their heads leaning in.
I want to stand up and say Go ahead.
With no internet connection and a broken phone, I work on the train uninterrupted for 6 hours on editing the manuscript of my second novel, which, when I review it, looks nearly complete.
Otherwise, the broken phone is a blight on my whole trip to New York.
The train arrives in Penn Station, and as I exit and walk to the subway, I feel a little like Amherst is the outermost borough of New York.
I take the train to Chelsea for a party for John Freeman of Granta, celebrating his new book, The Tyranny of Email. The irony of being at this party after spending the train ride down in a media fast isn’t lost on me. I leave after eating some truly incredible chocolates that Nicole Aragi made and passed around, with Maud Newton, the person who first told me about Freedom, the program that turns your computer off for 8 hours so it can’t go online, also in attendance. We get a little dinner, and then I see her to a cab afterward and go to meet up with Marie Mutsuki Mockett, who has been at Der Rosenkavalier.
As I walk into Lincoln Center’s plaza, the renovated fountain shoots up in a curtain of glowing water that feels like a welcome just for me. I ask the guard if it’s okay for me to sit there. He reassures me it is. I ask if the fountain is smaller (it looks smaller to me) and he insists it isn’t, but then points out where some of the jets are tipped over. “Boy, are they pissed about that,” he said. We watch it quietly for a few moments.
You can only see it from certain angles.
I begin to read John’s book by the light of the fountain while I wait for Marie. He speaks of how email has become a to-do list that you don’t set for your own day. The truth of this horrifies me. Marie emerges from the theater and we go to Jackson Heights, where I’m staying with her.
The next morning I check my email. Almost 200 messages, just as John Freeman mentions in his book as the average.
Checking in with my students posts on the class blog, I must keep correcting them on their use of the qualifying phrase “it seems almost as if.”
This is the language of a political smear, I tell them. It has no place in literary analysis. It is a way of saying something without saying it. It’s innuendo.
In my email, a friend writes with a question about Twitter.
what is the deal with the thanking of the retweets? I have noticed you and many others doing a big thanks for retweets. Is this something that is just “done”? Do you think it important for me to do with ______ and _________?seems like an ego thing to me, but I am the newbie and want to respect the culture. thanks in advance.
Many do, some don’t…
As a rule, I think your social media use is most successful personally and professionally when you feel like it doesn’t compromise your personality. If you feel like a creep thanking people, then don’t thank them. Does that make sense? My friend M___ never does #FF recs because it creeps her out, for example. My approach comes from how in my life, I basically feel that not thanking someone is rude. I do it because I’ve never been given to think it was anyone’s responsibility to help me…. so when they share my links or work on Twitter and FB, I always thank them. I’ve tried not thanking them and I feel like a dick, so I went back to thanking people. And maybe I’m too conscientious of it or whatever, but for now I at least get to feel like myself all the time.
He likes this, writes back, says, Put it on your blog for people like me.
On the way back, the train to New Haven is bursting as it leaves Grand Central. A young man who looks to be a painting MFA student at Yale sits down next to me. It turns out this is the day everyone wanted to go to Connecticut. There are no empty seats.
From New Haven, the bus I take is full of rows of girls drowsily checking cameraphones full of pics of themselves drunk from presumably the night before, and they alternate smiling or frowning, saving or deleting. The boys apparently on the earlier or later bus.