Page Two: Lost in Space
Marking time with seasonal ghosts
Any of my personal interests, inclinations, or characteristics are likewise off-point. Gambling, for example, has never interested or attracted me. I don't have that kind of luck. I am lucky – actually almost absurdly so, in a way – but it is a narrowly focused and inconsistent luck. It is not the good luck of claiming pots or buying winning lottery tickets nor the bad luck of being in plane crashes. It is a slower luck, less pronounced and more eccentric. I would say that I'm sure I don't deserve it, but luck, by its very nature, is capricious. As a religiously devoted whiner, a fan and collector of my own personal disappointments, I never count on luck. Instead I'm often rooting against it, but when it happens, it is almost always a narrow category of luck.
In general, my personal style and forward movements are so severely unaligned that they come across as deliberate eccentricities rather than the result of a whimsical, anarchist central nervous system. Logically, or so it would seem to me at least, working for a publication that operates on a weekly, specific timetable should have pushed me into some kind of reliable routine, or at least sometimes-predictable pacing. It hasn't. The publication's schedule has not generated any synchronistic response.
Looking back on my life's history or the run of this paper invariably leads me into mazes and Möbius strips until it deteriorates into a dense fog of confusion, with movement in any direction unavailable.
Every week, a new Chronicle is finished (usually on Wednesday), sent off to the printer to be published, and then distributed. This happens week after week, each and every week, year in and year out.
Finishing one issue means work on other issues has already begun. Always, in the background, one can hear the dull beat of a drum marking the passage of time, reminding all that new deadlines are already here.
Given the past, present, and future issues of this publication, almost every day is not a single day in a solo week but instead a multidimensional marker that can indicate different things, depending on which issues provide the context:
The Future: On Thursday, then, there is the new issue, just published (focused a half-week to a week ahead). Even before one issue is done, serious work has begun on the next issue (which means focusing a week to two weeks ahead).
The Present: One's life that, when being lived, is always in the present. Each issue produced is about the present and for a current readership.
The Past: The past is unusually detailed and preserved, as marked by the hundreds of issues behind us. The many issues of the Chronicle are also our personal histories.
This combination of past, present, and future – by which any given day can represent none, one, or all of these – creates confusion and the muddying of histories.
I began thinking about all of this because we are about to crash into another Thanksgiving. Driving along Lamar the other morning, I noticed that the Christmas-tree lot near 29th Street was set up but still without trees. It has been there nearly every year I've lived in Austin. Erected before Thanksgiving, it is stocked and opened for business the Friday morning following. Almost too quickly, it is Christmas, and then Christmas past, with the lot not yet torn down but barren of any trees.
The way my life is lived, there are no constants and little reliability, but there are markers. This lot of Christmas trees is one of them. For decades now, I've gauged the passage of time by it. Looking over at it is to receive near-formal notice that the end of the year is upon us all.
The year's pace can be discerned by how I interact with the lot. I go by so quickly some years that it barely registers except as a loud voice shouting out, "one, two, three, four!" I see a stop-motion film of the empty field, the structure built but not stocked, then stocked and selling, then just the structure, until finally it is again only an empty field. When it is there and then gone, when I don't savor it while thinking of my life in this town, then I know I'm moving way too quickly, living my life too fast to enjoy it.
It is better when I go by more slowly, catching it day after day after day. Seeing it calms me, and watching families buying Christmas trees cheers me up.