It’s late summer in the Slachthuisbuurt and the living is easy. Too easy, maybe. I’ve been obsessing about small things lately, like my daily email reminder from Google Calendar: “You Have No Events Scheduled Today.” Every morning at 5:30 am. Ping! You haven’t bothered to fill your day with meaningless things! I’m actually waiting for Google to change the subject line to “Hey There, Lonely Loser!” in the vain hope I will add something to the calendar. But, I’m on a 425 day streak without Google-worthy events of any kind, and it seems bad form to break it at this stage. Plus, it’s nice to know that somewhere out there a server and its complex algorithms care so deeply about my personal life. It’s good to get mail.
Ik was vroeger bezig. That phrase popped up recently during a Dutch lesson. I used to be “busy” when I was working in the daily news business. Deadlines! Expense reports! Meetings! Meetings about meetings! Interviewing Michael Palin and George Takei! OK, the grind wasn’t all bad. One time, upper management even gave us free hats (along with fewer, more expensive options for health insurance)!
“But don’t you miss it?” I get that question a lot.
Since being (almost) vegan means I’m always thinking at least tangentially about meat, let me answer it this way: I don’t miss the sausage, and I especially don’t miss the endless grinding it took to make it. I don’t miss trying to cover up the coppery taste of low-quality, Trump Era meat with a dwindling array of spices. And don’t get me started on the lackluster branding, marketing, and distribution of an otherwise fairly tasty product. Was I responsible for making bad sausage from time to time? Sure. But I believe most of it was high quality. So no, I don’t miss being told, often and repeatedly, that all it ever did was suck, and that what we should be making instead is a flashy new product called…Flavored MeatSticks!™. Delicious, right? I could roast them on the giant bonfire fueled by all the rickety public radio bridges I burned in this paragraph.
Fact: I also don’t miss the Zoloft I needed to deal with all of this without ruining the lives of those around me. I’m off them now. The drugs, I mean. Not the people around me.
Since we’re already knee-deep in processed meat metaphors, I can tell you what I do miss, which is holding the intestinal casing for the incredibly smart, immensely talented group of people who kept turning the crank, day in and day out, in an effort to squeeze every last ounce of interesting and listenable news out of the day. Those folks truly deserve your pledge money.
Reading back through this, I have to wonder: is this why I so willingly went vegan?
“Breaking News, Clark: Radio Isn’t Sausage.” Yes, I am fully aware of that. At the end of the day, the product goes wafting off into the fetid news ether, not onto store shelves. If the stories are good, someone hopefully stops for a minute while they’re peeling potatoes or flipping someone off in traffic to really listen. If they’re bad, the listeners hopefully won’t remember the email address you gave out on air for complaints. Either way, it’s all ether-fodder. That’s another thing the late, great radio editor Ken Bader managed to drive through my thick skull—erase the board, start fresh tomorrow, do the work again and do it better.
And please don’t start with the “b-b-but what about the podcasts?” Your device is filled with dozens, probably hundreds, of shows that you will never listen to. It’s nothing but a more portable form of ether, albeit one that you probably blew a much bigger wad of money on. Just pivot to video and accept the impermanence of it all.
Do the grapes seem especially sour today?
Anyway, for now I’m still quite content to have no events scheduled today or tomorrow. I know I can always turn off the email reminder. In fact, I could put that on the calendar (”Turn off Google Calendar email reminder!”) and then, for one glorious day, I’d have an event scheduled! But I do have the streak to consider, not to mention the Slachthuisbuurt cats. I’m trying to learn from them because they are very good at filling their days without any digital assistance at all. Pick a useless fight? Hold a grudge for way too long? Tip over a dumpster filled with already smoldering garbage? And then maybe a nice, leisurely tongue bath in a patch of Dutch sunshine?
It’s hard to say exactly what will happen, but at least I know sausage isn’t on the menu anymore. The cats here prefer fish, and besides, my daughter insists that I’m not supposed to eat anything like that anymore.
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