Categories
election anxiety countdown

97 Days: A Circuitous Path

During the 100 days leading up to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, I was an artist in residence at D.C.’s Halcyon Art Lab (then S&R Foundation) north of Georgetown. I had been paid to work on the last two elections, so it was strange to be on the outside, not traveling to a swing state to knock on doors, not crafting updates responding to every sliver of breaking news. 

The art studio was located in a century-old former elementary school. I learned that D.C. had sent only white children there before the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education outlawing segregated schools. While working in the building and learning this history, it occurred to me that my parents were in elementary school when Brown was decided — not ancient history at all. If they had grown up in D.C. instead of Minneapolis, they might have attended such a segregated school. But northern cities had segregated schools too. Courts forced Minneapolis schools to desegregate in 1972, citing a long pattern of neighborhood boundary manipulation that included the South Minneapolis neighborhoods three generations of my family called home.

The project I developed that fall involved a lot of digging in to these kinds of histories and a lot of abstract, contemplative exploration on foot and in archives. It was in some ways a response to how I spent the previous two presidential election years. Working ten- and twelve-hour days at a political organization, I found little time for detours, nuance and creativity. I had come to believe that imaginative local work is a better way to bring about change, even though that sort of thing doesn’t scale.  

Categories
election anxiety countdown

98 Days: Flip A Coin

In the 100 days leading up to the election of 2000, I was living in South Minneapolis, working as a barista downtown and attending classes part-time at the University of Minnesota. 

The conversation at the coffeeshop and on campus was a cynical one. The salacious Bill Clinton impeachment spectacle turned some off from politics altogether. Others felt left out by his centrist compromises. If a Democrat could enact harsh restrictions on safety net programs, build prisons and celebrate corporate media consolidation, what was the point of participating in the two-party system at all? The idea that both parties were guilty of selling out to big corporations was everywhere. At least on the left. Large protests shutting down the World Trade Organization in Seattle the previous fall had united environmentalists, labor unions and others in opposition to the undemocratic and exploitative side of globalization. But these ideas may have come too late, or seemed too extreme to shape the 2000 presidential race. 

Categories
election anxiety countdown

99 Days: A Turning Point

I was living in Philadelphia during the run-up to the 2004 election and working my final few weeks at a nonprofit art gallery. I had been at the same gallery on the morning of 9/11, had watched George W. Bush turn that unifying tragedy into a power grab with the hastily passed Patriot Act and the opening of wars in Afghanistan (somehow still going 19 years later) and Iraq. The Philadelphia I’d begun exploring on foot, bike and transit in early 2001 — like cities everywhere — became an increasingly hostile place as money flowed in for barriers, surveillance and police. Months earlier, I had taken a bus to New York to join the huge march against the Iraq war, but the election was fast approaching. What could one person do in the finite days remaining?  

My friend Claire invited me to a MoveOn meeting on voter turnout at St. Peter’s Church on Pine Street. High voter turnout in our heavily Democratic Philadelphia neighborhoods was key to winning Pennsylvania, the organizers explained. I did a bit of volunteering for that effort in the weeks that followed, but calling strangers and knocking on doors made me nervous. Instead, with that seed of an idea about voter turnout in mind, I spent much of that fall making voter-themed street art and postcards, and encouraging other friends to do the same. I don’t know if anyone voted because of our strange stickers and stencils and postcards, but the effort felt a lot more constructive than sitting at home and fretting about all the dire news. 

Vote bird
A postcard my friend Katie created for the 2004 election.

A few days before the election, a band of cyclists from Portland arrived to crash with Claire. Or perhaps they knew her activist/artist roommate Elena, who I’d met through an arts program at Temple University. Their multi-level apartment — a tangle of stairs and bedrooms and awkward rooms split with partitions atop a giant old Spruce Street row house — had been home to a half dozen friends in quick succession around that time. Its rooms were a collective resource passed on from friend to friend when someone moved away or moved in with a lover. 

Categories
election anxiety countdown

100 Days: The Start of Something

We are 100 days out from the U.S. presidential election. This will be the seventh I have been eligible to vote in. Of the previous six, three went the way I voted and three did not.* It’s the losses I have been thinking about as this election nears. Not because I believe Trump will be reëlected, though it is possible. But because the losses hurt more when you wonder after the fact if you might have done more to help. Better to do what you can now.

As a writer and artist living in quarantine in a place certain to vote against Trump (Washington, D.C.), it is hard to know what more to do these next 100 days other than write, make art, and hope that some of it ripples out to places where the vote is more likely to be close. And so, I’ve recently reconfigured this site to help me do that. There are plenty of places for punditry and analysis of breaking news, I have no interest in that, so I find myself asking again, “what is the conversation you want to be having?”

It may take 100 days to find an answer, but the ties between current events and the books and film and stories I’ve been immersing myself in will surely be part of it.

Categories
election anxiety countdown

100 Days: An Election Anxiety Memoir

A series exploring the relationship between writing, art and voting in the run-up to the 2020 election. Start at the beginning with Day 100. Or scroll down for the most recent days.

Plus Four

11:25 AM: The End CNN HAS CALLED THE ELECTION FOR BIDEN —Nate Silver 3 PM: Victory Lap When I saw Nate Silver’s post, I was mindlessly staring at my computer with four windows open to different election live election blogs, as I had been for much of the past five 105 days. I’d been pretending…

Keep reading

Plus Three

7AM: Georgia While I slept, the vote count in Georgia began to show a lead for Biden. The votes in Pennsylvania continue to be counted, and the count continues to trend in Biden’s favor. Democrats encouraged mail-in voting, Trump denounced it, and state Republicans there blocked local election officials from counting mail-in ballots early. This…

Keep reading

Plus Two

10 AM: Escape From Election Central Is the CNN election room a real place? It has the cold feel of an artificial environment, a Star Trek holodeck. The room is gleaming white with red and blue accents. It offers no glimpse of the outside world except for an occasional video backdrop of the White House…

Keep reading

Plus One

I went to bed at about 1 a.m. last night, shortly after the cake I made cooled enough to wrap in foil. If I hadn’t started a baking project, I probably would have been a lazy mess of anxiety refreshing websites and Twitter on my couch while the TV rehashed the trickle of information again…

Keep reading

Zero

There is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some diehard’s vote. -David Foster Wallace (via Anu Garg in this morning’s A.Word.A.Day) 11 AM: Election Day We have arrived. Today is Election Day. The sun is out. My phone…

Keep reading

1 Day: The Wind

7 AM: High winds roared through D.C. overnight. The flags atop Nellie’s — the famous gay sports bar on the corner — are straining against the wind. The D.C. flag was tearing loose from its flagpole when I went to bed. It disappeared into the sky overnight. The U.S. flag and progress pride flag are…

Keep reading

2 Days: Come Together

Today is the last Sunday of this 100-day countdown to the election. On Sundays, I’ve been posting one quick thing you can do to end Trump. The premise is that other people are reading this and a better use of our writing and reading time is doing something that will have a measurable direct impact…

Keep reading

3 Days: Hold Steady

The election is in three days. All reports on early voting suggest turnout is high and climbing. High turnout usually helps Democrats. Surveys suggest Democrats are far more enthusiastic about voting. But it isn’t over until it’s over. Hold steady for three more days. Then we can dive in to what comes next: responding to…

Keep reading

4 Days: Interview

Early in the year — in pre-pandemic times — I wrote about why I hadn’t read Little Women until then, prompted by the release of Greta Gerwig’s excellent film adaptation. It was a chance to examine my early reading habits. But yesterday’s post about alt-weeklies had me rethinking the story I told there. It’s true that…

Keep reading

5 Days: Alt-Delete

Yesterday, the alt-weekly I grew up reading in Minneapolis published its last issue. City Pages, like many of the surviving alt-weekly newspapers around the country, had been shrinking and struggling. Every time I make my way back to Minneapolis to visit family, or for work, I still have been in the habit of seeking out…

Keep reading

6 Days: Swarm

I’m thinking about what comes next. I know these six days are critical ones for getting out the vote. Not just for the Presidential race, but for Senate, house, and state and local races. But in places like Seattle, New York, and here in D.C. — places where Electoral College votes are sure to go…

Keep reading

7 Days: Fast Forward to 2095

I intend to live to 120 years old or more. That brings us to the year 2095. Amy Coney Barrett will probably still be on the Supreme Court. She’s just a few years older than me. It’s a lifetime appointment. Women tend to live longer than men. And Supreme Court justices have access to some…

Keep reading

8 Days: The Nonvoters’ Message

In any given election, between 35 and 60 percent of eligible voters don’t cast a ballot. —FiveThirtyEight This morning, as I was wrangling my thoughts below on non-voters, FiveThirtyEight posted a detailed poll-based analysis of who non-voters are and why they don’t vote. It’s far better than the cobbled together memes and Wikipedia pages I…

Keep reading

9 Days: Cheer for Dallas?

On Sundays, I’ve been writing about one simple thing you can do to end Trump. At this point, I’ve covered all the things that matter. Vote. Sign up for phone banking or text banking. Make sure everyone you know votes. So, here’s one superstitious thing you can do that won’t make a difference but might…

Keep reading

10 Days: Why Wait?

Today is Vote Early Day, a day for boosting awareness of early in-person voting. I’m posting this late at night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t vote early. Many states allow in person voting that includes the two Saturdays before Election Day. Others have expanded mail-in and absentee voting to make early voting easier (I…

Keep reading

11 Days: The Wall

I welcomed a guest into my apartment on Friday for the first time since the pandemic began (other than an HVAC tech or two). We’ve both been Covid-cautious and had been tracking our potential exposures carefully. We agreed transmission risk was low. I wasn’t in the habit of having guests over last winter, so it…

Keep reading

12 Days: Viaje

In this month of skeletons and zombies and pumpkin spice (link), it felt appropriate to watch Paz Fábrega’s minute Costa Rican romance Viaje from 2015 begin at a costume party. It was this month’s pick for Las Kikas Cine Club. As Viaje begins, a lonely young man in a bear costume hits on a woman…

Keep reading

13 Days: Luck

When I realized on Tuesday that my next post in the countdown was number 13, I again started thinking about jinxes and luck. 13 is supposed to be an unlucky number. I’m a couple of posts behind because of a busy week with a client. Should I skip post 13 altogether? Older buildings have no…

Keep reading

14 Days: Palace

“I like my songs to be reminders of certain things that I don’t want to forget.” —Adrianne Lenker Yesterday, I compared memories to ghosts and described how returning to a physical place often brings out these ghost-memories. Walking the city becomes a way of remembering. A map of the city can bring out memories too.…

Keep reading

15 Days: Hauntings

On August 11, I received an email from La Colombe announcing, “pumpkin spice draft latte is back!” At the time, I was sweltering in my 90-degree apartment. My air conditioner had been broken for two months. With two fans pointed at me at all times, and a constant refill of ice cubes and cold drinks,…

Keep reading

16 Days: Get Some Sleep

Today is a Sunday. On Sundays I’ve been writing shorter posts that offer one simple thing you can do to end Trump. One reason for this is that I like to spend less time on my computer on the weekends. It is a lot easier to write up a quick recommendation about someone else’s tool…

Keep reading

17 Days: Loser

Yesterday, I engaged in some speculation. It felt good to imagine what comes next. It isn’t a certainty that Biden wins. FiveThirtyEight put it in dice-rolling, probability terms, as I did the other day. Trump’s chances are “a little worse than the chances of rolling a 1 on a six-sided die and a little better…

Keep reading

18 Days: Prognostication

Somehow I’ve gone all day without hearing any sound bites from last night’s dueling town halls. Biden and Trump appeared on separate networks because Trump rejected the perfectly reasonable precaution of a remote debate amid his treatment for Covid-19. I read a few reports about the evening. They tell me Trump was an embarrassment to…

Keep reading

19 Days: One Simple Trick

”One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” Simone de Beauvoir When I started this series, I wasn’t sure what direction it would take or if I could sustain it for 100 days. With 19 days remaining, I have far…

Keep reading

21 Days, 20 Days: What’s In A Name?

Monday was Indigenous Peoples Day. I found myself thinking about the hard-fought wins Indigenous activists have earned in the past year: a judge ordered the Dakota Access Pipeline shut down and drained for further environmental review, tribes in Oklahoma won a major sovereignty case at the Supreme Court, and the Washington football team finally dropped…

Keep reading

22 Days: Goth

I’m not usually drawn to the gross-out, macabre elements of Halloween and goth culture (though I wear plenty of black and will dance to The Cure any day of the week). I have been seeing and writing about creepy body horror films during the first half of October (Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, The Fly). Horror…

Keep reading

23 Days: Fourteen in One Hundred

On Sundays, I’ve been writing about one simple trick to end Trump. Early voting is open in many places. I voted this week. I hope that by now everyone within the sound of my keyboard has a plan, knows how they’ll vote, and is putting it in motion. The next step is to make sure…

Keep reading

24 Days: Degrees of Separation

This afternoon, a 74-year old Covid-19 patient who lives a mile and a half from my home has invited 2,000 guests to mingle on his lawn. There is no indication he will require masks or social distancing at this event. This man had a similar event on September 26, followed by a smaller indoor reception.…

Keep reading

25 Days: The Fly

What commanded the attention of many viewers during Mr. Pence’s defense of law enforcement officers was not his praise for the police, but the fly that landed on his hair — and stayed for two minutes. —The New York Times It has been nearly 48 hours since the Vice Presidential debate. To my surprise, I…

Keep reading

26 Days: Dustbin

She saidSoap for sore eyes(I need an intermission)If looks could kill(I’d kill your television) —Ned’s Atomic Dustbin I became so addicted to cable news in my first years working in D.C. (see yesterday) that I knew the exact rhythm of commercial breaks and when certain segments and commercial breaks would come on. There was an…

Keep reading

27 Days: Detergent

I’m watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC with the sound off as I wait for the Vice Presidential debate to begin. I dislike cable news. I dislike commercial television. But I splurge and pay for it one month of the year, the month of October because I have a strange sentimental attachment to the World Series…

Keep reading

28 Days: Sick

While writing yesterday about centenarians and attempting to connect the art world of 100 years ago to electoral politics, I began exploring the parallels between Trump’s hospitalization and the medical emergencies of past presidents. News sites resurfaced these stories in recent days: the president who secretly had part of his cancerous jaw removed on a…

Keep reading

29 Days: Century

Last night I read Calvin Tomkins’ recent profile of video artist Pipilotti Rist in The New Yorker. Rist’s art and film is magical and the profile is worth reading, but this post is not about her. A few paragraphs in, I paused to wonder how old Tomkins is. Not because anything in the writing was…

Keep reading

30 Days: V-O-T-E

On Sundays, I’ve been writing about one simple action you can take to end Trump. With 30 days left, it’s not complicated: vote. D.C. mailed ballots to all registered voters this week. I received mine in the mail on Friday. Your state may be doing the same, or may have opened early voting sites already.…

Keep reading

31 Days: Overlap

Last night, I continued my impromptu David Lynch film fest with The Elephant Man from 1980. All this Lynch has been inspired by reading J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Midnight Movies, about the emergence of the late night cult film scene in the 1970s (as I wrote about a few weeks ago ). I’d put the…

Keep reading

32 Days: Infected

Last night, I watched David Lynch’s Eraserhead for the first time. I woke up to the news that the President has the ‘rona. I feel like the latter news — and all of 2020 — makes a lot more sense as part of a Lynchian industrial wasteland dreamscape. I began a long essay about why I’d never…

Keep reading

34 Days, 33 Days: Heartbreak

Some of the most frustrating TV watching I’ve ever endured dominated my experience of the last two days. There was the torturous debate, in which the President of the United States shouted incoherently for ninety minutes over Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace, and called for white supremacists to, “stand by.” I wrote on Tuesday…

Keep reading

35 Days: Ready

I am in the middle of reorganizing my place, going through boxes and clutter that I have accumulated since I moved in. As though on cue, one of the things I found yesterday was a sign from the 2008 Democratic National Convention that reads: READY FOR JOE. It was a fun riff on the call-and-response…

Keep reading

36 Days: Dilemma

Saturday’s walk — and my writeup of it — became heavier than I expected. I was looking for fresh air, exercise and a change of scenery beyond the short neighborhood walks I’ve been taking in recent weeks. I didn’t expect policing and religion to be the memoranda, hints, cartography of the journey. But if we knew…

Keep reading

37 Days: Plan Your Vote

PlanYourVote.org is a 2020 visual arts initiative from Vote.org that harnesses the power of art to promote and encourage citizens to exercise their right to vote. —PlanYourVote.org On Sundays I offer one simple thing you can do to end Trump. This one is a bit of a repeat. But with just over a month to…

Keep reading

38 Days: A Walk

I think of walking as a kind of call and response. Not only in terms of acknowledging those that you pass… I think of that remark that Ralph Waldo Emerson made in his diary, “the ground is all memoranda, and every object covered over with hints.” So, part of walking is trying to find those…

Keep reading

39 Days: Domestic

It isn’t fashionable to call yourself a writer of domestic fiction — you’ll rarely catch male novelists describing their work as such… Domestic fiction, as novelist Sue Miller told me, seems to denote some kind of smallness, a lack of scope or ambition. And yet, those narratives of our most intimate familial relationships are the…

Keep reading

40 Days: Pelo Malo

Venezuelan filmmaker Mariana Rondón’s Pelo Malo (2013) follows Junior and his mother Marta in a rough Caracas housing project. His father was lost to gun violence in the recent past — the presence of Junior’s newborn brother suggests his father died six to nine months ago. They hear gunfire echoing routinely at night. The film…

Keep reading

41 Days: Hospitality

Early in the Trump administration, it irritated me to read that high-level officials felt comfortable have a nice relaxing dinner out in the city I call home: people implementing the “Muslim ban,” militarizing border communities, separating Immigrant children from their parents, discriminating against Black people and trans folks, people enabling carbon profiteers’ while valuable seconds…

Keep reading

42 Days: Surrounded?

Over the weekend, I talked to a Trump supporter. This is someone I’ve met before. I didn’t know he was a Trump supporter until now. We’ve both been regulars on a video social I’ve joined often in the past few months. It came out when he mentioned a date with a political appointee. In Washington…

Keep reading

47 Days, 45 Days, 43 Days: Occupy

Today, I’m circling back to Occupy Wall Street. Thursday was the ninth anniversary of its beginning at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. I stopped myself from posting a version of this on Thursday because I wasn’t sure how it fit in to my story, or whether the stories of others were mine to tell. These…

Keep reading

44 Days: Get Mitch

All weekend, as I anticipated in my post late Friday, my neighbors in D.C. — and others who drove great distances— made pilgrimages to lay flowers on the steps of the Supreme Court. Crowds gathered in an outpouring of love and grief for Justice Ginsburg. Trump and Mitch McConnell played their expected parts as well: villains…

Keep reading

46 Days: RBG

Yesterday and today I’ve been working on a story about Occupy Wall Street, which began nine years ago Thursday. It’s a tangled story, and I was too exhausted yesterday to think through whether Part I stood on its own. I’ll come back to Occupy. Tonight, just as I was settling in for a Little Salon…

Keep reading

48 Days: Go Fund Me

Yesterday I filed my quarterly taxes. It’s not my favorite part of working for myself, but taxes are part of living in common cause with 705,000 Washingtonians and 328 million Americans. Everybody chips in a penny or two, and we get things like bus service and food safety standards and national parks. As I wrote…

Keep reading

49 Days: Climate Migration

In all, Hauer projects that 13 million Americans will be forced to move away from submerged coastlines. Add to that the people contending with wildfires and other risks, and the number of Americans who might move — though difficult to predict precisely — could easily be tens of millions larger. Even 13 million climate migrants,…

Keep reading

50 Days: Halfway Point

A three-foot rise in sea level would submerge almost 20 percent of the entire country and displace more than 30 million people. Some scientists project a five-to-six foot rise by 2100, which would displace perhaps 50 million people. As perspective, the ongoing tragedy in Syria has caused the exodus of approximately three million people. —The…

Keep reading

51 Days: This Is What You Did

Is it holding you down?This great weigh I miss, flatteningAnd it’s breaking you upAll your frequencies shattered in… This is what you getThis is what you didThis is what they wantWhy are you still here?This is what they said — This Is What You Did, This Is The Kit One of the most memorable concerts I made…

Keep reading

53 Days, 52 Days: I Am the Internet

On Thursday, I wrote about my Facebook/Instagram bubble. I weighed the value of glimpsing friends’ lives against the cost to our privacy; the cost of turning ourselves into eye candy to keep each other hooked, for advertisers’ benefit more than each other’s joy. Yesterday I turned my thoughts to Twitter. It became a long post,…

Keep reading

54 Days: Socializing

It’s not accurate to say that I don’t use social media at all. I just haven’t been posting to social media. I login in to both Facebook and Facebook’s Instagram two or three times every day. What keeps me coming back? Both apps learn what I respond to and show me more of it each…

Keep reading

55 Days: Publishing

I’ve not been sharing these posts widely. When I began the series of 100, I wasn’t sure what it would become, if I’d keep the promise of posting each day, or if I’d be happy with the results. And I wasn’t sure who it was for. I knew I wouldn’t be writing in the easy…

Keep reading

56 Days: Temporary

The day after Labor Day was always the first day of school when I was growing up in Minnesota. Even now, with nowhere to go, in pandemic life at home, and having worked for myself these past seven Labor Days, I feel like today is the start of something. More New Year’s Day than New…

Keep reading

57 Days: Free Labor

Labor Day has a way of sneaking up on me. The sudden end point of lazy summer routines. Echoes of childhood. Butterflies in my stomach realizing school starts the next day. Am I ready? Do I have enough notebooks? What will I wear? Will any friends be in my classes? On my school bus route?…

Keep reading

58 Days: Phone

On Sundays I am posting the most constructive action I’ve run across this week to help end Trump. Reclaim Our Vote is a volunteer-driven outreach campaign contacting voters of color in states where voter suppression tactics — mandatory ID laws, cuts to early voting, mass purges of voter rolls, systemic disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering — are…

Keep reading

59 Days: What’s In It For Him?

On Thursday, The Atlantic reported that Trump called American soldiers killed in action “losers” and “suckers”; that he did not want disabled Veterans to march in military parades because “nobody wants to see that”; that he said to retired General John Kelly near the Arlington National Cemetery grave of his son Robert, who died fighting…

Keep reading

60 Days: Temple Bells

Yesterday I dropped a quote about the traditional Japanese time system. I was curious to learn more. The system splits a day in to six units of daylight and six units of night: The typical clock had six numbered hours from nine to four, which counted backwards from noon until midnight; the hour numbers one,…

Keep reading

61 Days: Workday

“On this day in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Adamson Act, which established an eight-hour workday, with additional pay for overtime work, for railroad workers.” —The Opportunity Agenda “…as late as a century and a half ago [from 1995] the Japanese day was not divided into twenty-four hours. Instead it was broken…

Keep reading

62 Days: Indoors

I’ve gone inside buildings a few times in the past two weeks. This is a novelty. I’ve been avoiding buildings other than my home since the start of quarantine in mid-March, ordering groceries delivered and meeting friends in the park if I go out. My last couple of indoor outings that month were a concert…

Keep reading

63 Days: Cherry Picking

Today began with the sound of construction, as almost every day in quarantine has. A six-story building is going up right outside my apartment. The construction crews gather outside my window during the 6 a.m. hour and start their equipment around 7 most days. Lately, there has been a giant cherry picker climbing up past…

Keep reading

64 Days: Crescendo

I finished Timothy Denevi’s Freak Kingdom today (earlier mentions here and here). The last sections concern Nixon’s reëlection and downfall. Denevi makes the case that the conflict against Nixon and all he represented exhausted Thompson and resulted in his last widely acclaimed work. Denevi is also explicit about the parallel he’s drawing between Nixonian fascism…

Keep reading

65 Days: Volunteer to Become a Poll Worker

On Sundays, I briefly suggest some small thing you can do to end Trump and preserve our fragile Democracy. This week’s suggestion to become a poll worker came to me from the newsletter of Brad Listi’s OtherPPL podcast. Have been listening to Brad’s author interviews for years now. Highly recommend. Volunteer to become a poll…

Keep reading

66 Days: Grit

Continuing through Charles Portis’ 1968 classic True Grit with A Public Space’s #APStogether quarantine reading series… Under cross-examination, Rooster Cogburn is asked about his use of excessive force under oath in a Little Rock, Arkansas courthouse. We are learning about the Federal Marshal’s toughness as our heroine Mattie Ross seeks out his services at the…

Keep reading

67 Days: Antidote

Most years, D.C. empties in August. People of means head to Maine or North Carolina or the other side of the planet. Others take their few vacation days in August to visit family wherever they are welcome. Some of that is still happening, but this year coronavirus has more of us staying put. A chance…

Keep reading

68 Days: Exodus

  Today I began reading True Grit as the next book in the #APStogether quarantine reading series hosted by A Public Space. At the opening of Charles Portis’ 1968 classic (the basis for Joel and Ethan Coen’s 2010 film), the narrator’s father has been murdered by a scoundrel and she must tend to the mundane tasks of the…

Keep reading

69 Days: Salvation

Today was a busy day. I wrote for a client in the morning and finalized a book layout in the afternoon. I was settling in to read and zone out with the comforting background noise of masked, quarantined, socially isolated baseball when I remembered that I hadn’t written today’s post. I was unsure if that…

Keep reading

70 Days: Curiosity

On Saturday afternoon, a car pulled up in my alley to make a delivery to Po Boy Jim, a restaurant next door. I knew a car had pulled up because its stereo was so loud I mistook it for one of the frequent and beautiful rolling go-go protest parties that pass by here, staples of…

Keep reading

71 Days: Teeth

Over the weekend I finished reading Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth. By the end, the story of the book’s creation was as exciting to me as the narrative itself. Luiselli was invited to write a piece for the catalog of an exhibition at Galería Jumex, an important contemporary art collection in Mexico City…

Keep reading

72 Days: Watch the Speeches

Sunday is the day I offer some small thing that you can do to end Trump. Past Sundays have included: Register to Vote, Learn Anti-Racism, and Adopt a State. This week I’m recommending you take the time to hear the Democrats make the case in their own words. I have struggled this week to hold…

Keep reading

73 Days: Now

“Now more than ever” is the ultimate distillation of vacant urgency. It was first used as a campaign slogan by Richard Nixon in 1972. When I attempt to write about how important this election is compared to other elections, I feel the weight of this slogan, and of every other time urgency has been called…

Keep reading

74 Days: Opposition

I feel two opposing instincts when I write many of these posts. Especially those that are closer to the news of the 2020 campaign. One instinct is idealistic and the other is practical. The idealistic instinct is the strongest on days when I’ve spent more time with friends and family (phone, Zoom, socially distanced walks,…

Keep reading

75 Days: Comfort

On or about August 20, 1619, Africans — kidnapped from their homelands and brought to British North America — were brought by force to Point Comfort, part of today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia… The Point Comfort name derived from the first English settlers finding “comfort” on this point of land in 1607. But in…

Keep reading

76 Days: Convening

The Democratic Convention is underway in… the internet. It was supposed be in Milwaukee, but Covid-19 pushed it online, as it has pushed so many things. This smaller, studio- and home-taped version is working. It is more intimate and faster-paced. Perhaps the days of expensive conventions are over. Decades ago, the convention floor ceased to…

Keep reading

77 Days: The Next Generation

A few weeks back I pressed play on part one of Jacques Rivette’s epic 1971 film Out 1. I knew little about it other than the brief introductory sentences in the art cinema app Mubi. I saw that it had ties to the French New Wave and was promoted with stylish images of Jean-Pierre Léaud…

Keep reading

78 Days: Time Loops

Much of Nick Flynn’s new memoir This is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire concerns the childhood trauma in the title. Late in the book he compares his lifelong revisiting of this trauma — and the mistakes he’s made in his life that seem to be related to his obsession with it — to the…

Keep reading

79 Days: Adopt A State

Today is a Sunday, the day I post a quick step you can take to help defeat Trump in the fall. I live in D.C. Many of the stories I’m telling on this blog concern friends here, or in Minnesota, New York and other states that already tend to vote for Democrats in presidential elections.…

Keep reading

80 Days: Nostalgia

It feels like I only go backwards, babyEvery part of me says, “Go ahead”I got my hopes up again, oh no, not againFeels like we only go backwards, darling —Kevin Parker / Tame Impala I’ve been watching movies on most Friday nights during quarantine. Last night, picking a film seemed hard and staying awake for…

Keep reading

81 Days: Redes

The opening scene of Redes, the groundbreaking 1936 film directed by Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel, shows a man casting a net in to the ocean and pulling it in to find only a single tiny fish he throws back. The fish are late to the village’s waters this year, and so there is…

Keep reading

82 Days: Readership

Just because everyone can write, doesn’t mean that everyone will be read. How to build readership in 2020? “Every stylistic choice may deepen or narrow the readership,” the author Elizabeth McCracken said in a recent discussion of Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees. In that book, Dillard seems to take great joy in her stylistic choices. The…

Keep reading

83 Days: Expertise

There is no certification board that gives a writer permission to write about electoral politics, anxiety, or life during a pandemic. Unlike with doctors, lawyers, or hair stylists, there is no system to keep people who are bad or dangerous writers from practicing. For a long time, I didn’t write much because I didn’t think…

Keep reading

84 Days: Poetry

I thought of my posts on truth and fiction last week initially as organized in a straight line, a spectrum from false to true. But as I went along, it turned out that each has some element of its opposite.  Lies and fiction must be grounded in some believable truth, must be anchored to reality…

Keep reading

85 Days: Crusade

I’ve recently started reading Timothy Denevi’s Freak Kingdom: Hunter S. Thompson’s Manic Ten-Year Crusade Against American Fascism. Denevi is a familiar face at all the literary events in D.C. I’ve been missing since February, like Little Salon and The Inner Loop.  So reading his book — which has been in my to-read pile since its…

Keep reading

86 Days: Learn Anti-Racism

On Sundays, I interrupt this improvised narrative with a short post on a course of action. One concrete thing I’ve done, or that I pledge to do to help defeat Trump in the fall. It’s a sacrosanct tradition that dates back to last Sunday (we’re only 14 days in). It has not escaped my notice that the…

Keep reading

87 Days: Nonfiction

This week, I’ve been working my way from fiction to fact in this exploration of how a writer should write in the 100 days leading up to the 2020 election. Having covered fictional, false and dishonest writing, today we cross safely in to the true end of the spectrum, or at least the end that…

Keep reading

88 Days: Spin

So far this week, as I continue to explore what it means to be a writer in quarantine with the 2020 election fast approaching, I’ve written about fiction, lies, and conspiracy theories. Fiction is storytelling that asks you to suspend your disbelief. Lies attempt to create belief in something untrue. And conspiracy theories are webs…

Keep reading

89 Days: Conspiracy

In college, I published a zine filled with writing on music and art, with essays from friends on their passions of the moment: cats, travel, ska, tea. Its manifesto called for supporting the artists in our midst and turning off corporate media. Soon after one issue came out, I received a long handwritten letter from…

Keep reading

90 Days: Lies

What is the difference between a fiction and a lie? A fiction writer aims to tell a story that is believable even though you know it isn’t real. A liar also aims to tell a story that is believable, but they expect you to believe it is real. Their intention is to deceive rather than…

Keep reading

91 Days: Fiction

I’ve spent much of the past few years working on fiction: a novel and short stories. Would I be better off spending these hundred days staying in that mode? Would a serialized novel of life in a dystopian 18th year of Trump’s regime be more effective than whatever this series turns out to be? In…

Keep reading

92 Days: Second Best

I am grateful for the opportunities I had to witness national politics up close, to play some tiny role in supporting Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012. It felt that much worse to see Trump elected in 2016 knowing that I’d spent that season on an esoteric art project instead of participating in things I’d…

Keep reading

93 Days: Are You Registered to Vote?

If my time working in online advocacy taught me anything, it is to always have a call to action. So, after writing the first 5,500 words of preface this first week, it is long past time that I remind you of the most important thing you need to do right now: make 100% sure you…

Keep reading

94 Days: Sleep When It’s Over

2012 is the last year remaining to look at in this opening series-within-a-series reflecting on how I spent the 100 days leading up to the six elections of my voting-age life. That fall, I was more involved than ever. And we won the election. But I felt none of the exhilaration of 2008. In fact,…

Keep reading

95 Days: Black & White

During the 100 days leading up to the election of 2008, I was in D.C. working long hours for an ally of Barack Obama, crafting graphics and websites in rapid response to every twist and turn in the election. As part of this work, our team went to the Democratic Convention in Denver, where I…

Keep reading

96 Days: Winning

I began this series writing about election losses because each was a very narrow loss that left me wondering after the fact if I might have done more, spent the last 100 days in some more intentional manner. It’s only natural now to turn to the years I voted in an election victory. Since the…

Keep reading

97 Days: A Circuitous Path

During the 100 days leading up to the election of Donald Trump in 2016, I was an artist in residence at D.C.’s Halcyon Art Lab (then S&R Foundation) north of Georgetown. I had been paid to work on the last two elections, so it was strange to be on the outside, not traveling to a…

Keep reading

98 Days: Flip A Coin

In the 100 days leading up to the election of 2000, I was living in South Minneapolis, working as a barista downtown and attending classes part-time at the University of Minnesota.  The conversation at the coffeeshop and on campus was a cynical one. The salacious Bill Clinton impeachment spectacle turned some off from politics altogether. Others…

Keep reading

99 Days: A Turning Point

I was living in Philadelphia during the run-up to the 2004 election and working my final few weeks at a nonprofit art gallery. I had been at the same gallery on the morning of 9/11, had watched George W. Bush turn that unifying tragedy into a power grab with the hastily passed Patriot Act and the…

Keep reading

100 Days: The Start of Something

We are 100 days out from the U.S. presidential election. This will be the seventh I have been eligible to vote in. Of the previous six, three went the way I voted and three did not.* It’s the losses I have been thinking about as this election nears. Not because I believe Trump will be…

Keep reading