Thanks to Rachel, Andi, Isaac, Joshua, Melissa, and Sheila Heti and everyone who came to the Tumblr/Believer party last night. I think I was the only reader who is not, in fact, a writer, and I was grateful to everyone for their forbearance. I also want to apologize for not opening with my planned joke:
Wit: Did you hear the story about the three holes in the ground? Interlocutor: No, tell me! Wit: Well, well, well…
Oh, and thanks to David for that joke. And to Vic for shooting this video. And to everyone, for everything.
GPOYW: the faces of my skydiving trip. Before we took off, I mentioned to my instructor that I anticipated being paralyzed by fear, unable to move or think; he assured me that he was willing to force us from the plane without my participation, which made me happy. Indeed, it’s this that you pay for: someone to ensure that despite your cowardice you acquire this astonishing and indescribable experience, this radical compression and then expansion of perception, this freedom in the sky, this hideous confrontation with fear, this triumph of simple science.
When we reached the jump zone, my mind began to dissolve; as we slid down the bench towards the door of the plane —a short trip I don’t remember— I closed my eyes and ceased existing; it was a matter of fear, of course, but not of the painful struggle with fear one undertakes from time to time; I didn’t struggle at all; I didn’t even mind; this was at once fear’s brief and utter victory —a temporary obliteration of my perceptual-processing and reflective psychological systems— and its sorry irrelevance. I turned into howling viscera, but I was strapped to someone with a brain.
In the moments after I felt us start to fall, I completely came apart; I wasn’t even afraid; I was unable to perceive, process, analyze, and store the information I was gathering, and for several seconds I felt as though I were coming into and out of existence again and again: sky, sun, plane, blackness; mountains, wind, move my legs, blackness; blackness, screaming, wind, blackness.
Perhaps five seconds after we’d left the plane, the instructor tapped my shoulder to direct my attention to another skydiver filming us, and I was amazed to discover an elementary fact of my consciousness: the camera as synecdoche for society will awaken my performativity in the most incomprehensible of circumstances. As soon as I realized there were other humans there with me, waving and photographing me, I began to behave as a man photographed: I waved back, I made silly hand gestures, I sought to reassure the others that I was thrilled to be 10,000 feet in the air, and because I wanted them to know it, it became true.
The camera took over the entire sky; I had to force myself not to look at it. But its presence recomposed me, reintegrated my psyche; I began to think normally, although I rode recurrent waves of terror before settling into joy and awe. I felt created by expectations, rescued from the infinitude of fear and boundless organismic dissociation by the representative of your eyes, my eyes, all eyes.
I had a really wonderful birthday thanks to my friends and to Abby, to whom I owe an incredible proportion of my happiness (and more of it with each passing year). Being Calvin produced more amusing photographs than did my last birthday, I suppose, but this yellow hair makes me feel even more absurd than I ordinarily do.
Mills and Abby on Ocean Stroll (with dogs), by my amazing friend and coworkerMichael Ernst. This exceedingly accurate work on virtual acrylic can be enlarged, although that very possibility may constitute the dick joke I am here depicted making.
My friend Lucas came out to visit us from New Orleans and it was one of the happiest weeks of my life. We went all over: Muir Woods, south to Santa Cruz county to pick berries, to Lands End, to Bernal Hill, through all the cities within this city, to Fort Funston, and so on.
A few weeks ago, Abby, her mother and I traveled to Tahoe, which I found more beautiful in summer than in winter, marauding bears notwithstanding. If you delight in photographs of the pale in clear waters, of scenic Alpine forests, of fields of wildflowers, or of dogs wrapped in hip or grandmotherly garments, you might like the complete set.
Bayou hurt her paw somewhere in the rivers of broken glass and chicken bones that San Francisco calls sidewalks, but Five seems to be feeling much better. Abby and I took them on limited adventures this weekend in the midst of Valentine’s Day celebrations.
And yes, Riaz: I want to be seen hatted or not at all from now on; this GPOYW is a first step in that campaign.