Documentary Now!

I visited a friend in her new townhouse in Herndon this week. We befriended one another in an 8th grade science class, bonded over a shared love for garlic and music, and have kept in touch since then, loyal and sporadic.

The townhouse is one of many in a curving sheet that reminded me of a set of impenetrably perfect veneers you might obtain from a plastic surgeon. In V, Thomas Pynchon writes in gruesome detail about the intricacies of a nose job, and I imagine veneers are the same kind of thing. You’d have to shave down the original teeth into scary, jagged posts for the veneers to fix onto. Vampiric fangs covered over by placid perfection, developers’ lust for gobbling new land. The townhouses, uniform and gleaming, shared that disquieting lack of history and imperfection.

The rhythms of our lives have changed significantly since we talked about pores and braces and first dates. I met up with my friend after she got off work, at around 6:00 PM, and by 10:00 I was on the way home while she and her two roommates prepared packed lunches to take to work the next day. We sat at her kitchen table and talked about how bizarre all the change has felt, the way we sometimes wake up feeling like uncertain children and other days wake up with no patience for anything that stands in the way of powering through the day’s work.

Luckily, the timing put me on an empty, highspeed stretch of the toll road in time to catch Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson talk about a collaboration with The National, in which the band played “Sorrow” for six hours straight, on NPR. I heard The National perform the song in Richmond a few years ago, and many many times while falling asleep on overnight buses and trains during the winter I backpacked in eastern Europe. With all of the traffic constantly choking northern Virginia, accelerating to 75 on an clear road is a rare pleasure.

Similarly, it had been a while since I read a quick, satisfying page turner. I burned through Where’d You Go, Bernadette? this week and thought it was lovely and surprising. The story is a series of emails, letters, notes, magazine articles, transcripts of TED talks, and occasional bursts of narration that create a frame for the story. It was unpredictable and wild, but somehow it managed to feel plausible the way Bringing Up Baby or Big Trouble do–you sense that life is generally too mundane to ever produce a series of such fantastic events, but while lost in the story you get excited thinking for a moment that it might be possible. I’ve also rarely read a book that embraces so many timely references to popular culture and technology–it probably won’t age well, but reading it today, it felt uncommonly present.

This week also brought a lovely gift that I’ve been anticipating all summer–Fred Armisen and Bill Hader’s IFC collaboration, Documentary Now! The Atlantic‘s review sums up the season and it sounds super promising, with the added bonus of putting all the things I learned in the Documentary Film class I took in college to good use.

I also wrote something new for XO Jane, and I’m afraid of the comment section, so if you happen to take a look, please feel free to relay any non-trolly things people may have said. Over 400 readers have shared it, which is frankly terrifying, but it felt good to push myself to think about ghosting from a contrarian perspective. I’ve got new work coming out in early September through an outlet I’m really excited about and a handful of pitches floating around still, and I’ll post them all here when the time comes.

Maybe it’s a product of largely working from home, but I’ve been getting rid of things like crazy this summer. T-shirts, uncomfortable pajamas, jewelry I’ve pushed out of the way to find the jewelry I actually wear, books I didn’t like (see ya, Anthem), sheets from the extra long twin bed in my first college dorm room–I’m itchy to see it go.

And the getting-rid-of-things spree has been reciprocated in other areas of my life. This week has featured a soundtrack of songs that have punched me in my post-breakup heart. My favorite Rilo Kiley album, this and this and especially this by Grandaddy, and also a lot of Sondre Lerche and The Strokes which never fail to cheer me up. Change is sometimes rough, but at least there’s good music out there, ya know?

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