I’ve made it pretty clear this year that I will neither be sending nor receiving gifts for Christmas or associated holiday seasons, though I’m still deliberating about sending out a New Year’s Letter. On the one hand, it’s a tradition that I started with Emily in 2003; on the other, it’s one that I was well more enthusiastic about and she basically pressured me into giving up. So there’s some opportunity to reclaim it. At the same time, what do I really have to send in a friendly greeting to everyone about the advent of 2011? “Thank God it won’t be 2010 anymore!”? An inspiring message, to be sure, but do people really need an 8.5×11 in their mailbox with such declaration? Not at all sure. Besides, it’s not a mystery to anyone who’d be on the list that this year was a setback. I could just send out an e-card or even post a holiday letter right here, where everyone’d inevitably see it anyway. But then isn’t most of the point that someone cares enough to go to the trouble of printing something out on actual paper, of signing their name, of finding the address of their friends? So, yeah. Nothing is simple these days.
So despite my moratorium on gifts, largely borne of exhaustion at the idea of giving and horror at the accumulation incumbent in receiving, I went and bought myself a big ol’ new toy this week, which arrived today on a Budget Rent-a-Truck masquerading as a FedEx delivery vehicle. It’s what I’m using to write this very post, a Dell Inspiron laptop that is my first ever computer of the portable variety. I don’t really need it, which begs the question of why I went out and spent ~1% of my net worth on it. There were a lot of micro-factors, including a desire to become familiar with post-XP Windows operating systems (while not having to rely on them, thank you trusty desktop!), a desire to utilize streaming Netflix movies while not trying to use my office chair like a couch, and a desire to be able to write in places that are not my apartment. None of them singularly compelling, but in combination enough to make an interesting case, especially when my misperception that any decent laptop cost at least $850 had been so roundly dispelled. This one was less than $500, including taxes and shipping.
I’m not intending to make it my primary computer, which really gets me on my case about spending money like this for a backup computer at a time when I intend to be saving for some indeterminate future. At the same time, I haven’t bought a new computer in about 7 years, and that one cost about the same as this one. $750 a decade is probably a reasonable computer budget, especially for someone who uses theirs as much as I use mine. Plus it’s a little lift, sadly, to get a new toy. I say sadly because I truly wish I were immune to the American-instilled pleasures of having a new material item to play with. But I am honest enough to admit that it gives me a little thrill, that it’s fun to explore and learn, that I enjoy the tactile pleasures of the shiny o-bespeckled base and cover. Am I nervous as all get-out that I will tire of using the keyboard which, although not bad for a laptop, is still annoying? Sure. Or that if I spill something in this keyboard, the whole computer is wrecked, something I’ve long criticized about laptops? Of course. But hey. Life is unpredictable. Might as well take some chances when the impulse strikes. And, y’know, it doesn’t do grievous harm or something.
Meanwhile, New Mexico continues to be a really mixed bag. I’m loving the food, splurging additionally to stuff myself with rellenos, enchiladas, and burritos. I continue to read a lot, now about a third of the way through John Irving’s behemoth Until I Find You. I can’t tell if he’s writing it absurdly simply to prove a point of some kind or if he really was always a very simple writer and I didn’t notice amidst his really engaging plots like Owen Meany or Widow. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Pynchon and DeLillo and Russian lit lately, but this work is coming off like a third grade composition. Maybe he’s just lost it as a writer. Nevertheless, it’s entertaining in the lurid way that most Irving pieces are. And I’m sure it will be ultimately convoluted and heartbreaking, so there’s that to look forward to.
Now that I have my laptop, I might move forward with the ambiguously talked-around quiz project that was laughably short of launching before I left NJ, despite my ambitious claims to the contrary. Of course, we’re also in the full throes of luminaria season, which gets going in earnest tomorrow as I take the 600 folded bags and start filling them with sand to be stored in the garage. My ambition was to place them a day early (the 23rd) – something I’ve often talked about but never actually followed through with for one reason or other. But they’re now predicting rain that entire day, meaning it’ll have to be another dawn-to-dusk marathon layout on the 24th, as per usual. And that’s assuming the rain doesn’t start to impinge on the actual display day. Now that I’ve got a camera built into the laptop, I even toyed with the idea of making a “How to Make Luminarias” video, but I probably won’t have the energy. At least the rate at which projects occur to me is steady, even if my inertia is larger than normal.
This has wound up being a rather prosaic post. Blame the latent materialism, blame John Irving’s low-vocab influence. I had more poetic efforts in mind last night amidst the lunar eclipse and the solstice. But after lying down on the rooftop for the better part of half an hour it was too cold to persist. By the time I went back out in search of a reddened orb, it was blockaded entirely by clouds, the world hemmed in from the astronomical convergence. It almost brought me to tears, and not mostly because I was sad to miss out on a direct visual of one of the most photographed events of 2010. The moon does funny things to people. It tilts the tides unseen within us all.
I’m about halfway through my month in Albuquerque. Up till now, almost all of the time has been with family. Much more of the time to come will be with friends. These twin pillars continue to radiate the import of this place for me, whatever toys I bring or hold, whatever meaning I ascribe to its tasty food and haunted corridors. In the end, as always, it’s about the people. The luminarias, laptops, and lunches don’t hurt. But it’s about folks. That’s all we are in the end.