Yelping Oakland’s underground past

Found this post on “Yelping Oakland’s past” via the “I raved in the San Francisco Bay Area in the ’90s” Facebook group (which is one of the only reasons I still have a Facebook account, tbh). I love this, thinking about the history of the warehouse rave scene in Oakland scattered about the internet in the form of Yelp reviews and whatnot. I immediately recall the sfraves list and other resources from back in the day… If I had any sort of motivation, I’d write more about this, but we all know I don’t!

Even before the post-Ghost Ship crackdown, sharing information online about underground party venues was generally frowned upon (don’t blow up the spot), so there’s a confounding irony in these faux pas surviving as the only bits of accessible information about these spaces. And while Yelp currently does not remove pages of “businesses” that have closed, it’s easy to imagine this policy changing. If it does, a whole slice of Oakland history would fade even further into obscurity.

Writing anonymously

Read a lovely essay by Stacey D’Erasmo at Literary Hub about the freedom of writing with no byline, no fear, no ego. I love this bit:

Again and again, I found that when students wrote without their names, much that was awkward, dull, strained, and frankly boring fell away. It was like watching people who thought they couldn’t dance dancing beautifully in the dark.

Cruising the Antarctic

Stumbled on Gluten Free Antarctica on Idle Words this morning. Best thing I’ve read all week. I was going to add it to Longreads, but it doesn’t quite fit as a story pick. (But I don’t know, maybe it does?) Can’t decide what to excerpt, but here’s a snippet. You just have to read the whole thing.

The accusation hangs in the air, unanswerable, and Mary starts to cry. These are angry tears, tears that demand gluten-free justice. The single piece of corn toast she has been allotted for breakfast lies mute on her plate, an affront to God and man.

Rodney convenes a summit in the ship’s auditorium to address the gluten crisis. Only passengers with dietary restrictions are invited. The rest of us must huddle around the open hatch one deck above, straining to hear. We are deep in the Ross Sea, five hundred miles from the nearest human being, and this is the most exciting thing that has happened on the ship in weeks.

There are tears of laughter on the bridge when I tell the Russian crew about the Great Antarctic Glutiny.

“You mean if this woman eats bread, she will die?“

“Not really. She just gets sick.“

“Yuri, come here! You have to hear this. If she eats bread, the woman will die.”

“She won’t die. Gluten causes digestive problems for some people. But it’s also become a sort of health fad.”

“What is ‘gluten’? Is that even a Russian word?”

Underwhelming

I recently returned from a work trip. And I was reminded, once again, that I’m not a conversationalist. Those who know me well, and even those who have met me once, know this. Compared to other kids, I was quiet when I was little, but as I grew up, I came out of my shell — a cheerleader in junior high, student body secretary in high school, constant partier and socializer in college. I’ve wondered, though, if all the drugs I’d done through my late-teens, 20s, and early 30s ultimately mellowed me out, or even rewired my brain. But there was always a reservedness there, an observant nature, and a belief that I didn’t think it was necessary to speak unless I had something meaningful to say. Small talk has never been my thing.

Meeting me in person is underwhelming. A handful may not agree, as over the years I have clicked with some people on this earth. But for the majority of people I meet, especially over the past decade, I leave no real impression, except maybe for the fact that I seem more interesting on my blog or Instagram or something, and in person am incredibly disappointing. Sometimes I want to apologize to people, or warn them in advance the moment I meet them — I just want to let you know, this is all there is to me, just this moment right now, as I smile or shake your hand or give you a hug. Nothing more. I’m not witty, lovely, outgoing. So please, let’s get that out of the way so you’re not disappointed later.

I might be quiet, and it’s not that I’m shy, or bored, or angry. Oftentimes, the more articulate and affable people around me — like my husband, for one — say things that I might have said, so I don’t have to say them. And sometimes, I think my thoughts are uninteresting, so why bother saying them and calling attention to myself?

Most often, however, I’m quiet because it takes me a while to absorb information. I have a hard time shaping and articulating responses during conversation, and I think it’s gotten worse with age. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve formed a response to a question or discussion days later. My thoughts flow better on paper, but telling stories in person? I can’t. I don’t retain information and remember things I’ve read — I can’t for the life of me tell you the key points about an article I read yesterday, or the essay I edited for work recently, or share details of events or stories that have happened to me in an engaging way.

I’ve mentioned some of these challenges to my husband, but I’ve never written about them, nor admitted them to anyone, really. I’m not sure why, but I suppose it’s because I’ve succeeded so far in many aspects of my life — school, friendships, work — that these deficits haven’t seemed to hold me back or impinge on my success.

My current job allows me to work remotely full time. Teams communicate primarily via text-based communication like Slack channels and asynchronous discussions on private group blogs — and now increasingly through Zoom video meetings, which mostly make me anxious, and remind me of all the meetings I used to attend at my past jobs. But our general approach to distributed work and text-heavy communication is one of the reasons I applied to the company over five years ago — it seemed like a work environment that allowed people to communicate in different ways, and as I reflect on some of my bigger career and academic decisions — like proofreading marketing materials in solitude at a college campus, or enrolling in a low-residency writing MFA program that I completed mostly at home — I have unconsciously gravitated toward roles and settings that have made it easier for me to communicate, and thrive, in my own way.

I’m glad to have had these options. But as I get older — and the grooves in pieces of wood get smoother and deeper — it’s quite easy to stay cozy in my shell.

Patricia Lockwood on writing now

Snippets from “How Do We Write Now?” by poet and essayist Patricia Lockwood, on writing in our age of online toxicity and distractions:

The first necessity is to claim the morning, which is mine. If I look at a phone first thing the phone becomes my brain for the day. If I don’t look out a window right away the day will be windowless, it will be like one of those dreams where you crawl into a series of smaller and smaller boxes, or like an escape room that contains everyone and that you’ll pay twelve hours of your life for.

The feeling you get after hours of scrolling that all your thoughts have been replaced with cotton candy — or something even nastier, like Runts or circus peanuts — as opposed to the feeling of being open to poetry, to being inside the poem, which is the feeling of being honey in the hive.

That the line in you will one day be memorized by other people, even repeated by them silently as they brush their healthy teeth.

Blogging with a small “b”

A snippet from a post by Tom Critchlow on small b blogging:

But what is lost by following big B blogging? By chasing audience we lose the ability to be ourselves. By writing for everyone we write for no one. Too often I read things otherwise smart people have written for places like Fast Company and my eyes glaze over. Personal identity is necessarily watered down. Yes those places have large audiences but they’re shallow audiences. They don’t care about you at all. Your writing washes through their feeds like water.

Instead – I think most people would be better served by subscribing to small b blogging. What you want is something with YOUR personality. . . . Writing that can live and breathe in small networks. Scale be damned.

I’ve pretty much stopped blogging on my personal site completely for various reasons: apathy; inability to let go in front of an audience; lack of motivation; disinterest in media and tech; unwillingness to stay plugged in and part of the stream… I just don’t care anymore. I work in tech, I work with writers and influencers, I write for a massive audience online for work, blah blah blah. But on a personal level, I’m in a very different headspace.

Still, Tom’s post reminded me of what I used to enjoy about blogging — there was a period of time, about five or so years ago, when I was really engaged and connected to my network, especially on Twitter, and got my work noticed and featured in the Atlantic, the New York Times, and other big outlets. While I’d always written online with an audience in mind, my favorite part about blogging was ultimately writing for myself, reading and learning and deepening my knowledge of things along the way, and documenting a wider web of ideas in my very own online space. I remember doing all of this because I truly enjoyed it — my site was an extension of me. Publishing on it made me feel more complete. And it still exists, but now mainly as a relic. I just don’t need it as I once did.

But anyway, I like what he says about “forgetting the big B blogging model” and not chasing an audience, or scale, or page views. It’s such a simple thing, but somewhere along the way, I completely forgot how to write for myself, how to face inward, how to be me.

h/t @photomatt

Placelessness

From a piece in the New York Times Magazine on digital nomads:

If the usual trappings of adulthood don’t seem attainable, and a permanent sense of precariousness seems unavoidable, why not embrace impermanence instead?

Can you imagine a pair of noise-canceling headphones for geography? That’s how I started to think of Roam. When you want to, you can block out your sense of place entirely and exist in a hazy, calm, featureless space that could be anywhere. This nomadic bubble goes beyond a hotel in that it stretches around the world and is built to encompass your entire life; it promises to become your post-geographical home. Yet I found there to also be an anxiety to this hermetic placelessness, no matter how beautifully unburdened or minimalist it appears. Living anywhere is a lot like living nowhere.

Awake

I had the most vivid dream the other night, the kind where I could feel every sensation in my limp body, where I twitched and perspired and curled my back so I could feel every bit of what was happening. Nick was with me in that world, and I felt a mix of pleasure and fear, but overall strange — it had to be strange — but then I lost him in the darkness, among the crowd, and looked frantically for him everywhere. And that was the rest of the dream, as we know how dreams tend to go: fixated on one thing, determined but unable to reach a goal, unable to find him. So I woke up, pulled off my mask, and immediately reached to the right side of the bed, his side, to touch his face. He woke up, and I said, “I couldn’t find you. I lost you, and I couldn’t find you. But you’re here.”  Continue reading “Awake”

Two playlists

A holiday playlist for people who can’t stand traditional Christmas songs. Primarily featuring Greg Gaffin (Bad Religion), with Fiona Apple, Mr Little Jeans, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Kinks, and more mixed in.

 
An electronic/dance-y playlist of favorite tracks—some old, some new. Mainly drum and bass, jungle, and late-90s trance.