Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, April 23, 2015

things still in the saddle, still riding mankind

A few months ago Sandra Tsing Loh published an essay about the plusses and minuses of living alone — well, that’s what the essay is ostensibly about. But note the following words and phrases that I have extracted from the essay:

  • Basil-cucumber martinis
  • floaty Indian shirts
  • sundresses
  • sandals
  • Uber
  • Robyn’s cottage
  • fresh flowers, art, and pillows
  • separate studio
  • Airbnb
  • natural-wood built-ins
  • frosted-glass cabinets
  • pockets and shelves and drawers that glide
  • model wooden ships
  • guitars
  • amps
  • old Guitar Player magazines
  • Rubbermaid bins full of power cords
  • books, newspapers, and magazines
  • Sundance or IFC Channel
  • rare archival videos
  • ten-hour Ken Burns documentaries
  • medicinal marijuana
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • garage
  • sculpting studio with a kiln
  • dusty boxes of bowling shoes
  • Cassette tapes
  • Wine corks
  • Trader Joe’s single-serve Indian meals
  • microwaveable burritos
  • Kettle Chips
  • veggie bruschetta
  • cocktail
  • his personal Cessna
  • his $425 studio with a hot plate and bathroom down the hall
  • my elegant if somewhat spare (with perfect color accents) bedroom
  • my bed (in some floaty off-white or eggshell-hued peignoir)
  • a cup of perfect coffee (prepared for brewing the night before)
  • a sprawling loft in Chelsea
  • Bullshot, a Bloody Mary that substitutes those noisome 7 grams of carbs in tomato juice with zero-carb beef bouillon
  • second bowl of cereal in the day or peanut butter or yogurt
  • his 250-square-foot converted garage
  • an espresso
  • books, DVDs, appliances
  • large monitors (TV and computer, flickering)
  • an unmade futon topped with wrinkled laundry and a sleeping bag
  • a narrow landing strip of kitchen
  • a “tabletop convection oven” (big enough to bake pizza but not chicken)
  • a ten-gallon water heater
  • Syndrums
  • a poinsettia plant at Christmas and a lily at Easter
  • the bed (with the expensive mattress and hypoallergenic pillows we finally got right)
  • a quietly humming Roomba
  • rubbery vegetables
  • our computers, televisions, and even my personal girlfriend Pandora (Joni Mitchell radio! Celtic Christmas radio!)
  • Netflix
  • my tiny Apple remote (the one little bigger than a stick of chewing gum)
  • quinoa and kale
  • juice fasts

The whole piece seems to be driven by an apparently unconscious but pathologically compulsive inventorying of commodities. It turns out that the real question of the essay is not “Does Living Alone Drive You Mad?” but rather “Which Purchasable Goods Provide Adequate Substitutes for Human Beings?”

P.S. My title comes from Emerson


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