Tim Kreider on The Summer That Never Was.
I never went to Iceland. I suppose I should say I didn’t go to Iceland this summer — never sounds a little melodramatic, possibly terminal. It’s not as if I’ve died and all hope of ever having gone to Iceland is obviated. But for some reason this missed opportunity is causing me more than the usual, near-toxic level of regret. I’ve had a free apartment in Reykjavik on offer for several years, and somehow I’ve never made it there. The owner of the apartment sends me photos of the aurora borealis that break my heart.
This was going to be the summer I finally went. Airfares were cheap. I’d just finished writing a book in May, and for the first time in three years the awful obligation to Work on My Book was not weighing on my soul. The summer looked as wide open and shimmering with possibility as the summers of childhood.
But events conspired against me. I just couldn’t afford the flight until some checks I was waiting on arrived, and though all other transactions in the 21st century are conducted electronically and instantaneously, the process of paying writers is apparently still carried out by scriveners and counting-houses and small boys dispatched with shillings in their hands, so by the time I got the money I’d run out of summer.
Summer is almost over, and I feel like I missed it this year. I don’t normally feel this way, but I mostly didn’t get to spend it in the place or with the people I wanted to. But my kids got a much better summer out of it, so in the end it was well worth it. No regrets. Today, I’m going to the beach with a book, to hopefully recover a little of that summer feeling before fall arrives. I hope you all had happy summers, and I will see you all in a week — you’re in good hands with Tim Carmody until then.
Tim Kreider on the how Amtrak’s Quiet Car isn’t all that quiet sometimes.
Eventually I found myself on the wrong side of the fight. I was sitting in my seat, listening to music at a moderate volume on headphones and writing on my laptop, when the man across the aisle — the kind you’d peg as an archivist or musicologist — signaled to me.
“Pardon me, sir,” he said. “Maybe you’re not aware of it, but your typing is disturbing people around you. This is the Quiet Car, where we come to be free from people’s electronic bleeps and blatts.” He really said “bleeps and blatts.”
“I am a devotee of the Quiet Car,” I protested. And yes, I said “devotee.” We really talk like this in the Quiet Car; we’re readers. “I don’t talk on my cellphone or have loud conversations — “
“I’m not talking about cellphone conversations,” he said, “I’m talking about your typing, which really is very loud and disruptive.”
Tim Kreider muses on people’s changing relationships to each other as they grow older, specifically related to the choices that we’ve made in comparison to those around us.
The Referendum is a phenomenon typical of (but not limited to) midlife, whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers’ differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt. The Referendum can subtly poison formerly close and uncomplicated relationships, creating tensions between the married and the single, the childless and parents, careerists and the stay-at-home.
This article resonated with me to an uncomfortable degree, especially this line from a James Salter novel:
For whatever we do, even whatever we do not do prevents us from doing its opposite. Acts demolish their alternatives, that is the paradox.