Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Sentimentality time-suck

Nostalgia has been such an overruling force in my internal dialogue lately. I think part of it is that I never feel like I’m doing anything in the moment I’m in, but much later, I idealize that piece of my past. I wrote Summer Rain in an overwhelming fit of nostalgia for my time in Bloomington while I was holed up in a studio apartment in Seattle, and now I miss my time in Seattle in some odd way. I thought about Seattle a lot while I was in Denver, mostly because Denver has mountains like Seattle (no water though) and it has a similar style of architecture, plus shares all of the same regional chains that make me think back to jet city. Like I never thought I’d be back at a Red Robin, but I ended up there all the time in Denver. And I spent a lot of my time in Denver trying to figure out what the fuck I was doing and how I’d ever make friends and meet people like I did back in Seattle. And now I miss Denver.

Another big sentimentality time-suck is facebook. I don’t have the fly-to-the-bugzapper attraction to facebook that many have, mostly because I don’t see the huge benefit to it. Yes, it does pull people out of the woodwork, but it also limits updates to a brief line or tiny picture, which I guess is why it’s so popular. But here’s the scenario that happens almost weekly: I hear from someone I haven’t been in contact with since high school. Sometimes, it’s a person who I hung out with daily back in Elkhart, someone who I was not best friends in the world with, but a person that was part of my daily routine back then. They drop off the face of the planet for 20 years, and then they show up on Facebook. We do the mutual ad, I see their pictures, we say hi, and… that’s it. Maybe at most, there’s a round of catch-up, “what have you done in the last 20 years?” email. And that’s pretty much it. Oh, and then I get endless updates on daily minutiae, like posts on what they had for lunch or how their kid crapped their pants at the K-Mart.

I don’t know what I expect to happen. I guess the kicker is that some of these people are folks I could never find back in the pre-2.0 days of the internets. It happened in expanding circles of contact: maybe 5% of the people I knew back then showed up in the dark days of university email accounts and shell accounts; maybe a couple percent more got in contact during the AOL boom. A few more were found in the early myspace days. And now these huge waves of people who never even touched computers are now all over facebook. And part of that is driven by the fact that my 20th reunion is next year, and everyone is hopping onboard to see what the hell happened in the last two decades. But those original dozen or so people back in 1997 with text-based email accounts were the ones that would swap dozen-page emails with me every day, talking in depth about life and about their connection to the world, while now the people I run into on facebook do little more than post a ten-word update on how they brought their kid to the swimming pool, or something else inane,

To be clear, I don’t wish to be back in Indiana 20 years ago. To quote John Dillinger (you know, Johnny Depp): “There is absolutely nothing I want to do in Indiana.” There’s a reason that line got more laughs than anything else in that movie, and it’s not because Indiana is that interesting of a place to hang out. But that’s the kicker to nostalgia – it adds this draw to things that are otherwise not that compelling. The boxes of crap I loaded into my storage space when I moved – old pictures, journals, papers – are all essentially worthless to anyone, but they are strong touchstones into the past for me, which is why I pay $40 a month to rent a small cube of space in an Oakland warehouse to forever stash that stuff. (Along with extra furniture, seasonal bric-a-brac, and empty boxes from electronics, stored as a hedge that they might die during their warranty and/or go to eBay someday.) I haven’t been to Indiana in two years, and I haven’t been to Bloomington in seven. I still think about it, but like I mentioned, it’s mostly because what I do day to day now is so uninspiring. And I have too much mental time in my hands due to my car commute. I think the difference now is that I don’t see myself dwelling in this long enough to deep-dive into book research. I was kicking around the vague idea of writing a fictionalized account of my time in high school, but there’s not enough energy there for me to get very excited about it. I have roughly 65,000 words of a novel there, but it’s too disjointed and it’s just not that interesting yet. It’s like the book of short stories I wrote about Bloomington – that book is 90% done, but it’s too hard to do the last 10%, because as I read through the stories, it feels like nothing compelling is in there.

Also, it’s the 4th of July today, and it’s odd that I have so many updates in this journal on 7/4. And although I never explicitly plan anything on the fourth, it seems like something always happens, be it moving across the country (1995) or getting stranded in Chicago when I tore the exhaust off my car accidentally (1991), there’s always something odd going on. This year, we are going to hang out with A, bringing some food, and trying to find a place to have some kind of picnic that hopefully is not overrun by baby strollers.