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I promise I'm not ghosting you
It’s just that I moved! To Philadelphia! And it’s been amazing!
Also I’ve been buried in a heap of unpacked boxes, shelves not yet anchored to the walls, and the work of sourcing furniture that isn’t new and socializing with the neighbors, which is a very happy form of work—the people here are awesome—plus my day job as well as job-hunting and finding childcare and keeping track of daily updates on my mom and taking lots of ibuprofen for the random muscle pain of moving stuff and also picking up a heavy toddler and it’s been A LOT.
Which is not to offer an excuse. It’s not the time-consuming nature of the move—the hours and hours and hours it takes to put all your crap in boxes, then to move those boxes somewhere else—that’s kept me from writing. (I draft these emails on my phone. It doesn’t take a huge amount of time.) What’s been keeping me away has been the mental part. The dislocation.
The best thing I’ve read about dislocation lately was by the cartoonist Emily Flake, who writes about her work requiring, “most crucially, a sense of who I am and where I’m coming from.” I don’t mean to compare what I’m processing right now—the upheaval of moving with two kiddos to another state—with what Flake was going through when she wrote that piece above, which she did in the spring of 2020, in New York. But what she says keeps coming back to me. How important the sense of identity is to our work. How much we need to know who we are.
I’m no longer bitching about rent or what it’s like to work from home while raising a busy toddler in an apartment in a building that requires bumping a stroller down the stairs to get outside. I’m not bitching at all, in fact. I’m over the moon. Living in a house. Owning a house. Living in a neighborhood that’s walkable and filled with people who are interesting and cool. I knew I was privileged before, that I’m a white person, that my parents and their parents were never red-lined out of owning homes, that I come from a long line of people who were able to ensure their children inherited at least a little bit of wealth. But now I actually feel that privilege. Maybe it’s because we like our house so much, or because our neighborhood—in West Philly—feels like a hidden gem, or just because I’m comparing myself to other people so much anymore.
In DC we lived in a neighborhood full of rich people, on a street where houses sell for well over $2 million, next to a neighborhood that was even more rich, where the Obamas lived, where Jared and Ivanka lived, where Jeff Bezos owned one of his 497 houses, where it was normal to see a Maserati parked along the street. We were renters, and we weren’t the kind of renters who had rent control, who made up around a quarter of our building, who paid a fraction of what we paid to live there. We spent most of the pandemic feeling lucky (when we weren’t out of our minds with existential panic) because we worked from home and we were healthy and we had childcare most of the time, but we weren’t exactly feeling privileged. Or at least I wasn’t. Not in the way that I am now.
So that’s different. My husband and I argue over which color of expensive chairs to buy and what color to paint the inside of our house. (The consensus seems to be that gray is out, yellow is in, and this morning I lost my bid to get the chairs in “deep ocean teal.”) Being privileged means you get to fill your head with stupid things because stupid things, for you, have the opportunity to take on great importance. So it goes.
Read, read, read
This month I’ve been slowly making my way through The Different Drum, by M. Scott Peck. Peck is famous for The Road Less Traveled—he’s a Christian who wrote a lot about spiritual growth—but The Different Drum strikes me as his underrated masterpiece. Read it if you’re interested in community, or if you work someplace where the word “community” gets thrown around but never really understood, or if you read Bowling Alone and still think about how much we’ve lost.
Instead of chronicling how much community we’ve lost, as Putnam does, Peck shows us what it is, making an argument for its power—not just to bring people together but to do something downright magical (the word he uses is “glory”) for the people who create it. If I were a book editor or still an agent I’d want to find the writer who can write this book again, starting with a better title, because it’s that worthwhile—and because the subject seems to be in the air again: This morning Judith Shulevitz published a column (gift link!) in the New York Times about co-housing communities that covers both their history and what’s going on with them now. (It has a headline on it about motherhood that I think was added for the click value—it’s mostly about housing.)
Instead of being primarily religious communes, or places that ask you to give up all your property to join, Shulevitz writes about people coming up with arrangements where everyone lives in proximity to one another, and shares things—tool sheds and gardens and big communal kitchens are a thing—but each family or person owns their own home:
Residents do not give up financial privacy any more than they give up domestic privacy. They have their own bank accounts and commute to ordinary jobs. If you were lucky enough to grow up on a friendly cul-de-sac, you’re in range of the idea, except that you don’t have to worry about your child being hit by a car as she plays in the street. A core principle of co-housing is that cars should be parked on a community’s periphery.
If you’ve read Peck or ever lived in an intentional community or ever want to, let me know. We can talk about it more.
All of Matt’s articles for Insider.com are here. I’ve lost track of what he’s written since I posted last and also I’m not sure how I feel about his coverage of Hunter Biden. The short version: In the process of reporting another story, Matt came across some previously unreleased emails dealing with Hunter Biden, and he decided, with his editor, to publish them. (Mainly: Hunter was asking for a $2 million fee to unfreeze Libyan assets while his father was vice president.)
The reason I say I’m not sure how I feel is because I tend to like any U.S. president who is not actively trying destroy democracy, and we already knew that Hunter was corrupt, and so why write about it more? Matt’s argument is that behavior like Hunter Biden’s—and the establishment’s tolerance thereof—is what got Trump elected in the first place, so if Hunter Biden was even more corrupt than we once knew, it’s worth reporting.
So, OK. You can read all about Hunter Biden’s emails if you want to. Link above.
The food here.