A sand dune in Michigan with an empty frame meant to hold a trail info sign on top of the dune.

Hi Observerrrrrrs,

Here’s the belated August edition of OBSERVATIONS. As always, I hope you’re safe and well. If you don’t remember what this is or don’t care to receive these anymore, no problem at all — unsubscribe here.

I wrote an essay about reading lately that I’m figuring out where to share. More specifically, it’s about finally figuring out how to start reading books again after years of pretty much solely Twitter scrolling and occasional longform articles. I’ve found that it’s no easy task to break out of the Twitter-only habit and get back into reading… Even if you’re not a super frequent social media user, there are all these mental roadblocks to feeling like you can slow down enough to pause… just breathe for a sec and read without worrying about the next thing you want to work on. So I wrote about that, and think I’ll share it soon. (It’s not self-help! It’s standard self-focused essayism!)

In the meantime, please enjoy the following selects. Thank you for being here.

Escape from NYC

  • Embarking on a last-minute road trip to New York to get Sammy’s stuff out of his COVID-closed dorm room. [7-9]
    • How Mom’s minivan automatically turns down the air conditioning fan speed when you’re on a speaker phone call. Neat!
    • The dump truck driver on the highway eating ice cream straight out of the tub.
    • The railroad service cars with axles mounted on them, so they can drive on the tracks (I think?).
    • The littlest deer, donkey, and calf grazing at highway-side farms.
  • Driving home from New York City just hours after arriving at it. [7-10]
    • Passing through the Pennsylvania towns of Butler, Sugarloaf, and Drums on the way.
    • The duo kayaking in rain on the Delaware River.
    • The plastic-wrapped bread roll and a clove of garlic — new roots sprouting — students left behind in Sammy’s dorm kitchen cabinets.
    • Listening to all of Sandinista! with Dad (my first time), mostly in Ohio while the sun came up.
    • Arriving at home almost exactly 36 hours after leaving, lying in bed with this weird floating sensation from sleep deprivation and Red Bull afterglow.
  • Waking up at 3 PM…! [7-11]

  • E. B. White in “Freedom,” an essay about the gross, allegedly good-natured acceptance of Fascism he heard brewing on the street in New York in 1940: “I just want to tell, before I get slowed down, that I am in love with freedom … and that I am deeply suspicious of people who are beginning to adjust to fascism and dictators merely because they are succeeding in war. From such adaptable natures a smell rises. I pinch my nose.” [7-23]

At the beach

  • Basil munching bugs out of the air with the precision of a frog. [7-19]
  • Paddleboarding on Lake Michigan. [7-22]
    • How looking into any body of water — even a Great Lake — evokes Jaws-style fears, because every shadow of every wave seems like the silhouette of a just-about-to-breach creature.
    • From far away on the water, watching a kid run down a large dune, like an ant on a sand pile.
    • The clouds moving slowly behind the dunes, at their same level, giving the impression they were a great white glacier moving along.
    • I’ve always wanted a small boat, but after this great inflatable paddleboard excursion, maybe a paddleboard would be enough?
  • How being at the beach, more than any other physical activity, makes me feel grateful for my health. It’s this sunny, lake-soaked, totally active feeling that I remember when I’m sick or freezing. [7-22]
  • Two kites: one stuck in a tree, another (a red squid) tied to a beach info sign, flying all day with no one tending to it. [7-23]

  • Driving into Chicago from the Skyway tollroad at dusk and from that high vantage point, watching fireworks spring up from different parts of the city like brief, glowing flowers. [7-5]
  • Stopping at a red light on Mom’s Lemonhead candy-themed Buddy scooter behind a real motorcycle, feeling emasculated but unashamed. [7-16]
  • The firefly/lightning bugs blinking in sync. [7-24]

Casey and Basil posing on the beach.

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Thank you again,