Pass Me By, 2017
New year. Here again. The late December cold surges once more through the neighborhoods. Jack Frost assaults people at bus stops in Midwestern cities on cruel weekend schedules. The neglected Christmas tree and ice skating rink downtown stand below the overcast and gentle descent of flurries. Corner liquor stores are cleared of champagne. Dirty white tents selling fireworks set up in empty parking lots. Sticker-covered trash cans and thirty-five year-old concrete walls sit where they were yesterday and the day before. Ambulance sirens.
More importantly, it seems, people find things to write about on this occasion; at this uncertain turning point.
Five alarms on my phone wake me up. One after the other, an intemperate decision made four hours and sixteen minutes before crashing. I knew that one simply wouldn’t do it if I was serious about being up. This is perfectly normal.
11:45 am. 11:50 am. 12:05 pm. 12:10 pm. The same android alarm I changed to when I moved into the apartment. I find my way out of bed. To the bathroom, then the kitchen for coffee. My clothes are laid out on the couch next to my backpack, bus fair and wad of bills.
A few essentials are packed for the first trek out in my city after returning from visiting family. When living off two-hundred dollars or less a week, Christmas gifts become apparent as genuine tools for life being a little more bearable.
A pear beckons me from the produce drawer of the fridge. Part of a fancy snack box of fruit, mixed nuts, cheese and summer sausage, a gift from my partner’s dad. I add one to the backpack along with coffee from the french press in a new black thermos, both gifts from a week ago. It feels like trying on new colors for everyday routines.
My familiar Dr. Martens, the creases in the leather coated in dry crusted balm and the dust attracted to it, are then straight-laced tightly. Jackets layered. Scarf tossed over my neck. Down the stairs and out the door into the snowfall, crunching on the pear.
This day is flooded in a particularly pleasing shade of overcast. The sky a distinct pale blue, its brightness subdued by grey clouds. Ear buds connect my phone to my head, playing the same playlist on the same bus route. Indifferent community members fill the seats. The usual people, the usual business.
The same as any winter day. No watermark at the corner of every glimpse that reads “New Year 2017.” It takes me a moment to realize this when I glance at the date on my phone.
Am I dreaming? Is it all really that insignificant?
I go forward, coming home to the one I love when all is said and done. The rest of today will be totally boring and I will love it. I pour some coffee, take necessary pulls off the usual substances, and get to typing an offhand account (for a change) of a lived experience back in town before the seven-to-eight transition, just for the hell of it.
Here we are. The world is the same. It might stay this way next year — tomorrow. Annual life feels less like a spectacular reset of 12 seasonal points of planetary alignments, and more like the expected repackaging of time and events by people who aren’t you or me, gradually set in place over 72 hours of morning news and Trump’s latest tweets.
At least for now, I’ve stopped cursing the informal obligation to offer up thoughts in the form of prose before the new year, as my first thoughts of this year elaborate. I simply decided to act. To observe the moments before and after. Take from them what I might, but take nothing too seriously. Along the way, maybe construct a bumper for my medium.
The calendar starts over. Air traffic controllers and data centers begin the first of their monthly operations. The final digit in date fields of IBM and Windows NT embedded systems changes. The same minute and specific continuation of mass industrial society, constantly directing us toward large-scale ecological collapse. Everyday life.
Whatever happens involving Trump, the anniversary of Disrupt J20 and the whole host of deaths, scandals and social abuses to take course in society, we’re mostly in the same spot we were 365 days ago.
The same people we lose in 2018 — not accounting for their specifics — will be interchangeable with those we lost in 2017, looking from the macro perspective of the closing few years of the decade. The same for the street battles between fascists and anarchists, the oil pipelines and the legal repression.
Thats how most people after us will see this point in time, to interpret and utilize for future efforts. Not much to be worked up for. It doesn’t feel much like a choice. The same uncertainty embraced again.
What can you do? I cursed myself for documenting the first moments of the new year. For not make better use of energy on something that everyone else wasn’t doing. It was useless to be so hard on myself. I realize now that its just more liberating to let things pass you by. To go forward and do it offhand.
Don’t force anything. That isn’t my resolution that everyone advocates against, but probably something I’ll take away from 2017.
We go on in our own ways. I document the one perspective I have control over. Almost like letters to myself, but spaced out between the years and publicly displayed. Like we share in the general idea. I like to think we do.
Originally published at pseudogaffe.com on December 31, 2017.