The Truth Is
I was also quite hangry at the time
Boozhoo, indinawemaaganidog! Aaniin! That is to say hello, all of my relatives! Welcome to another edition of An Irritable Métis. The first cold snap of the year has lingered here in this part of Montana for several days, with temperatures dropping below zero, the mornings bright and pink and everything covered in hard frost. The forecast for the next few days is trending up all the way into the 40s, though, with increasing chances of snow along the way. I’m as keen for a white Thanksgiving as I am a white Christmas, so here’s to hoping for that before it all melts away again.
Weather update out of the way, I would like to mention this as part of this edition’s introduction: if you subscribe to any Substack newsletters at all, you’re probably being inundated with requests to join this new Chat thing that’s going on. I assure you that is something that is NOT going to happen here anytime soon. If the feature ever expands beyond something you can only do on an Apple device via yet another stupid app it might be different, but given all of these ways we are urged to “interact” kind of fly in the face of what I would like to achieve here, I hope I never implement it. The last thing I want to do is coerce you people into spending another moment more online – on your goddamn devices, on your computers, whatever – than you already do. Take your attention outside! Identify a new bird! Be a force for good in your face-to-face interactions or, if that isn’t achievable, aim at least for righteous irritability in service to a better world! Take whatever vibes you get from this community (whatever that is) and try and encourage them offline. The constant pressure to yank our attention into these online spaces is stressful and overwhelming and exhausting and paralyzing. Let’s combat them together! Delete Twitter1! Abandon Facebook! Stare balefully into yet another Instagram reel and demand of yourself, “What am I even doing with my life?”
This is where I usually make a plea for more paid subscribers. That feels really greasy right now given the woeful state of things so I’m not going to do it. In fact I urge you to walk away from whatever means you are employing to read this. Delete the Substack app so that you can’t chat with even the interesting people on this bloating platform. Put your phone down. Delete the email alerting you to my latest irrational bloviations; you know where to find me if you want to come back to it but don’t feel obligated to. This intro is as good as this edition is going to get and you are almost finished with it anyway. Get away from your computer. Engage in a tiny act of disobedience against all these demi-influencers, false prophets and charlatans – including, especially, me – trying to steal your time and attention, then do it again, and again, and again … until you unsubscribe from all of it and never look back. You’ll feel better for it. Trust me….
I wrote that introduction hours ago because I took my own advice and stepped away from the desk in an unrepentant act of creative disobedience. I’ve been largely incapable of finishing anything meaningful anyway despite all the hours spent staring into the bluelight abyss and it is wearing on me. I do a pretty good job of hiding it but I’d be lying if I said it isn’t eating away at me like a goblin viciously gnawing its way out of the inside of a troll. I have an article I’ve been working on for months – months! – that I planned to have out in the world last May but I’m so paranoid I’ve chingered it up or that it isn’t any good that I’ve been paralyzed in the effort of finally lobbing it up over that final hump to publication. And don’t even ask me about Becoming Little Shell. The editing process and the pressure I’ve largely put on myself (as well as self-imposed deadlines I’ve missed over and over again) have been ruinous. Every paragraph is a slog leading me farther and farther away from the story resembling what I set out to do with it in the first place. I can’t wait for it to be over and I’ve had to accept that where I wanted it to be in the process come January/February is as much a pipe dream as any of the other ridiculousness rattling around in my enormous skull. The weight of it dragging at me from that same vacuous space – my empty cranial interior, that is – is just as real as if it were a sledge loaded with the bleached skulls of my enemies being pulled behind me through six feet of wet and rotting snow. Finally, it has been an exercise in being faced with my own exhorbitant hubris in ever mentioning it at all, the excitement over it so long in the past, that now whenever anyone asks about it it feels like having needles rammed under my fingernails and I want to go hide somewhere dark and spider-infested and wait to bleed out from the tips of the same useless appendages currently failing me at the keyboard.2
So I hissed at my computer and gave it both barrels3 and swiveled in my chair to face this stupid box that showed up on my porch from Target the other day and has been lurking here in mockery ever since. It contained the ridiculous folding laundry hanging rack you see in the header image. Why this intrusion of banal domesticity to the earthy domain that is this lumbering newsletter, you wonder? It’s because there are a number of items that, when I do my weekly laundry, I prefer to hang dry rather than submit to the damaging tumble of the dryer4. And I finally got tired of having shit hanging from every open door, chair back, vacant towel rack, etc. for most of the week so I ordered one. I figured that was a tiny victory in overcoming inertia. When it arrived I was actually excited to have it. Progress of a sort, finally! Then I opened the box and saw inside all the components to be assembled to make it function. Assembly required? As in, another unplanned, odious task to complete? Friends, the degree to which this irritated me5 is an indication that I really should talk to someone, but “my therapist” is a word combination as unlikely to escape my lips as “my lawyer” or “my mechanic” or “my doctor” or “my masseuse” or “my chef.” All relationships that are probably necessary but financially unattainable6.
So I threw the box in the corner, convinced I would probably never use it7. I didn’t need to use it at that moment anyway, of course, and I am eternally cursed with a “if not now, then fuck it forever” personality that never works in my favor. But today would be different. Today I would actually begin and complete a singular task if it was the last thing I did. So I started dragging the pieces of the rack out of the box….
… and I did it and it wasn’t that bad and only one piece came out of the box missing an essential component but I worked around it without a single … well, without too many complaints! I know I seem to be making light of this, but my friends, the accomplishment I feel around this cannot be overstated. I’ve been deeply lamenting all my failures lately and even a tiny win like this is a blow against my overwhelming sense of expanding uselessness.
Then another win: I realized I didn’t know how to deconstruct it in such a way that it could be folded up when not in use, nor do the instructions provide any direction for achieving this. The image posted proves I figured that out too! And I don’t even have an engineering degree!
On a roll now, and nearing time when I needed to leave for town, I went out and got my truck started and warming up. It’s old and takes forever and that is one of the things I love about it. The tires I put on it last summer are possibly worth more than the rest of it combined. Anyway, I unloaded some off brand bird seed I was forced to procure yesterday when Costco was out of my usual option the other day and got the feeders and my storage cannister refilled. Moments later I was sitting in the cab while, mere feet away, the two freshly-supplied long plastic tubes were swarmed with sparrows and finches, with a couple flickers zooming in and out along with some Oregon juncos, a handful of collared doves and a magpie. I sat there ten minutes or so and felt some moments of joy in their company, watching them scuffle and squabble and chase each other.
Driving to town on a frigid and sunny and beautiful day, past fields all but overrun with whitetail deer, under hawk after hawk after hawk perched on posts and tree limbs, I listened to the Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha. I was fortunate to see them live earlier this year. They delivered a transcendent performance that encompassed ninety of the best minutes of the year, if not of my life. If you are not familiar with them, here they are from a couple years ago. I urge you to make time for the full thing but, at the minimum, gift yourself with the first eight minutes. Please.
I’ve been plugging away at this newsletter all day. I’ve cut stuff too moribund to share but also spent time watching videos (like the entirety of the one above) as well as this one to follow from the band Heilung. This is another band I’ve come to love. I had tickets to see them last year at Red Rocks in Colorado but I ended up going to the commemoration of the 1863 Treaty of Old Crossing instead. Heilung gets classified as metal only because of the sound of many of their vocals, which is ridiculous, but who really cares. I love them. I realize that what they have in common with DakhaBrakha is that I can’t understand a word of what they say because I don’t know the languages of their lyrics. Instead I am allowed to experience whatever the emotion is from the music and the sound of the voices. It enables the music to be personal to me, to us, in a way that being spoonfed a meaning via lyrical understanding really does not. I love that. Both bands make me weep. Seeing DakhaBrakha live was an experience of weeping and trying not to weep. Here is Heilung via a more traditional video, depicting a world not so different from the one I often live in in my head.
That is not the real world, of course, though not so different from the one we did live in not so long ago at all. I think our bodies and our spirits ache for it, for what has been lost along the way from there to here. Or at least ache for something not so utterly bent on distracting us into constant misery. Yes, I’m sure existence was harsh and we were often hungry. But existence is still often harsh and we are still often hungry but now we have to endure inane behavior from muck-brained billionaires and their idiotic bootlickers while we’re at it. Tell me which world is worse?
Not that there isn’t beauty in this world. For everything gone forever we still have starry skies – like the one I just visited from my porch here – and the certainty of a rising sun. We have hoarfrost and pink washing over snow-covered rocks. And we have this from DakhaBrakha, that I cannot watch dry-eyed.
I am going to post this and call it a night. I have my evening rituals to attend to: put the coffee together so it’s ready in the morning, take a hot shower, then lie flat for thirty minutes on a mat covered in several thousand tiny, sharp, plastic spikes. I’m not kidding about any of this. It will allegedly make me less prone to moods like today’s. We take the good and all their radiant joys along with the bad and their tiny, insignificant little victories though, don’t we?
Miigwech for your support. I hope some of you tuned out for a while. We will be so much better the more we can all practice that.
When I first tried to post this newsletter, I got this urging from Substack:
You see what I mean? No wonder I’m irritable….
What I didn’t realize is that Substack automatically stuck a Subscribe grovel in when I backed up to post the P.S. and I didn’t notice! JESUS! So email readers will think I’m an asshole, as this update was made after posting it.
I. Hate. The. Internet.
I literally believe that this is now a moral obligation given Trump has allegedly been unbanned but, like most of our other moral obligations, it seems unlikely most of us will bother.
Melodrama and hyperbole are a specialty of mine, but this really is damn near as bad as I describe.
🖕🏽🖕🏽, in case you’re wondering.
I’d also like to point out that the unruly Jack Russell terrier I share the house with, aka Bucky from Badtucky, has a regular habit of crawling under the industrial sink in the laundry room and disconnecting the dryer hose from its port of exit, a result usually only discovered after running the dryer and simultaneously wondering why all of a sudden the house feels humid and gross as a low budget Rainforest Cafe knockoff.
The truth is I was also quite hangry at the time, so….
As the mighty buffalo is my witness, I have only ever had one massage and that was almost thirty years ago and I will never get another one. Ever.
Like the home blood pressure checker thing I bought at Costco a year or two ago that I could never get to work so I threw it in the back of my bathroom cabinet never to be attempted again.