I’m reading an article in the McSweeney’s Panorama magazine supplement (in the famous newspaper issue). It’s about a 500 mile pilgrimmage from the French-Spanish border to some point on the Spanish coast. I have distinct memories of reading the article years ago, of my excitement at recognizing the author’s walking partner, another writer, whose is name is now recognizeable to most avid readers (Tom Bissell).
The article is in journal format. The pilgrimmage seems hard. Their feet get torn up, clumsily stiched back together. Bissell complains. The author, Gideon Lewis-Kraus, starts arguments for no reason. Most of the other pilgrims hate them. When I first read the article I must have been 23 or 24, now I’m 28 and the idea of travelling is making me vaguely panicky because I assumed I’d have done more of that by this point in my life. (I basically haven’t travelled at all.)
Reading, for me, has lately been hard. So has been remembering people’s names, recent conversations, basic tasks I told myself I would accomplish. I worry that I’ve let a lot of people down, though I’m not sure how seriously I have done that, yet. My mind is empty and I need to fill it up again. Therefore I will do something hard. I will read more. I will document this in writing. I will re-establish habits that, for some reason or another, I have lost…
Daily I wonder if an easy solution would be to resume eating fish. (For the fat, for my memory.)
Distinct memory of purchasing the McSweeney’s at a Book City. With my ex-wife. Their last copy. The cashier: “Oh, I’m so glad I sold this to people who really wanted it.” We did really want it. What does that mean—does it mean anything that we wanted it? That we somehow communicated this? And that in doing so we briefly garnered the cashier’s approval? I recognize the necessity of small talk but it sticks in my brain as if it has a functional or perhaps even mystical meaning, so I guess I’m really asking.
(When I purchased Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet from the Type Books on Queen, for a year or two afterwards I remembered vividly how the cashier had mentioned that it was her favourite book, how she kept it by her bed and read a passage or two every night, and every time I wondered if she had been flirting with me, as if that moment could be frozen and accessed, as if that time could be retrieved.) (As if I could live an alternate timeline.) (This was my dull, everyday, selfish unhappiness manifest.)
(I never know if people are flirting with me.)
In the article about the pilgrimmage the author describes Bissell as “a cuddly teddy bear who could go off at any moment.” Today I played softball and felt like “a rangy academic who could go off at any moment.” I want to win, though I also recognize the impossibility of having expectations in rec-league softball. I slipped on the first play and scraped my shin, a stupid mistake. I didn’t warm up and my coordination was off all game. In fact I think I might have actually lost the game for my team due to my poor defense at first in the opening innings. I could be sick—it’s possible that’s throwing off my balance. Earlier today I dropped a saucer. A very rare event. Usually, I catch it. Or don’t drop it at all.
It would be more accurate to say I “accidentally launched a saucer out of the kitchen cabinet.” It wasn’t pretty.
After the game, someone I just met, who seemed nice, asked me if anyone had ever called me “André the Giant.” Just everyone I’ve ever been introduced to, since the age of 8 or 9, when it became clear that I would be taller than everyone else in my age group for the rest of my life. I might have done a better job at being a human being had I not mentioned that. She received this unironically.
I feel more underwater than I have been in a long time. Probably I’m drunk on socializing after two or three years in the wilderness. Or in the clouds. Or in a nightmare or a desert. Or somewhere else, maybe. Maybe not even that bad a place. In any case I am undertaking this pilgrimmage in order to return—to somewhere in between. I don’t plan on reaching the ocean.
Lewis-Kraus and Bissell’s pilgrimmage goes from June 11 to July 19, which is 38 days. So this pilgrimmage will last 38 days.
Works consulted, May 18th, 2014:
“Man-Eating Cats,” Haruki Murakami
An article about Paul de Man in the NYRB
About 60 percent of “Be On Your Way,” Gideon Lewis-Kraus, The Panorama Magazine