I have dropped the ball, again, and am picking it up with a perfunctory writing, the goal of which is 500 words on whatever comes. My mind is simultaneously buzzing and dull. I am in the midst of Very Serious Things—the growth of this little grub, a student undergoing a terrifying collapse, and the approaching death of someone dear to me—and they are very heavy things, but they are hollow. There is no depth to be had from them, just exhaustion.
At times like this I am tempted by bars. The sugar energizes, the alcohol batters down defenses, and you can expand: it’s easier to write after a few drinks. And the expansive effect is greater when you’re ‘out’. But I’ve descended into middle age, the stage of life where you try capture and replicate public stimulation in the privacy of your home—like the ‘home theatre’ that crushed the 90s living room. And so, rather than go ‘out’, I try to mix drinks in my kitchen, for which I have strange bitters in artificially aged bottles, sugar cubes in a little yellow box, spices to be ‘muddled’, a wooden baton cut for this purpose, measuring glasses, and, most important of all, a 20$ jar of maraschino cherries. These are perhaps the most desperate and decadent things I have ever purchased. They are delicious, but reek of enervation, because we all know that no matter how well you do it, mixed drinks are better had while ‘out’.
And there is a very nice bar in Dayton, where the old-fashioned is better than anything I could possibly mix at home, the building is gorgeous, the service lovely, and, because Dayton is always inches from economic collapse, I can afford it. The bar is like a memory of prohibition, from the music, to the waiters, to the carefully preserved décor. Nothing detracts from the place’s vision of the thirties–it’s perfect. And so of course I cannot bear it. I go there, and even like it, but I cannot be a regular in a place that so perfectly recollects something.
It’s not just that I have an allergy to nostalgia, and it’s not just that I don’t ‘get’ jazz: there is something terrifying about these memory-places that fill the mid-west. I am not put off by the fact that they are simulacra: I think I’m scared they might be real. Why not only remember part of it, or scar the memory by playing contemporary music, or allow the waiters to ditch the dress coats? Allow us to forget something. There is no place for me in 1930s America, no place for most of us, so why recreate it? I have known several queer conservatives who long for a political order that excludes them. This is often described by their leftist peers as ‘self-hatred’ or ‘internalized oppression’. That may well be, I cannot say (although who doesn’t hate themselves, and who hasn’t internalized some oppression?). But I can say that this practice spreads far wider than these obvious cases. People say that Plato would have been thrown out of his ideal Republic; perhaps, I don’t know–I haven’t read that book in over a decade–but I do know that looking around in this bar, I see several people whom a slightly more realized memory would ask to leave. Perhaps this provides them with a kind of pleasure, but I don’t care for it. And so I will avoid this well-remembered public space, and hide at home with my cherries and self-contempt.
Obviously, this is an undeveloped insight, but I promised myself 500 words, and that is what this is. Next up, more on conspiracy theory literature. And then, what you have all been waiting for: a detailed critique of mid-western email practices. I know you cannot wait.