Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Things take longer than expected

So, remember this, almost exactly a year ago? When I said I was going to spend the year leading up to my 40th birthday going back through the previous four decades of pop culture and sampling things I had never sampled before? My 40th birthday came and went, four months ago this coming Sunday. Whence the Life in a Year?

It proved tricky, is whence. To sum up: it stumbled right out of the gate, picked up a little without quite gelling, continued in fits and starts interrupted and crowded out by other things, and all in all proved a much more difficult quest to complete in the time allotted than I anticipated.

To elaborate a bit: at the time it should have properly kicked off, late January of 2014, I will remind everyone that our youngest, the beloved bino, was all of about ten months old. He is now 22 months old and we are counting down to his big birthday. But at ten months old he was still unweaned, and thus not sleeping through the night, but plenty active during the day, which made free time and free mental space such rare commodities they took on nigh-mythical proportions. What I wanted, in my idealized pop culture consuming plan, was to kick off my lifetime retrospective of stuff I’d been meaning to get around to with one of the biggest, most glaring omissions in my personal catalog: The Godfather Part II.

I know, I know. It’s just one of those things. Specifically, it’s one of those movies that I never watched as a kid and never even tried to catch up with until my wife and I were dating. We actually watched Part I together, and put in and started playing the disc for Part II, but that was during the phase of our courtship where she was often on call as an ambulatory horse vet and our viewing was interrupted by a late night emergency farm visit and we never managed to get back to it after that; the incomplete go at it made us gunshy, I suppose, and we were determined to not even try until we knew that we could make it all the way through in one sitting.

Of course, it’s a three and a half hour epic, so absolute confidence in having that much time to devote to it was in short supply. Like, never. A couple years later we were married and both working a lot, and a couple years after that we were parents, and we have basically been responsible for the care, feeding and rearing of at least one small baby or toddler at any given time ever since. Around New Year’s I was somehow flush with the contact high of people making resolutions to undertake vast projects and achieve personal goals, and I thought, well how hard could it be to set aside an evening to watch Part II with my wife? We’ll do it on a weekend.

Or not. It became apparent that our household schedule was incompatible with evening viewings of massive movies, however canonically important. And really, I would hate for this to sound like I’m lamenting my crushed cinephile dreams all because my wife wouldn’t agree to an in-home date night. It’s hardly her fault that she has spent most of the last six-plus (maybe seven, going back to the first pregnancy) years literally so exhausted that getting through any single day is a small victory. I’ve tried to do what I can to support and help her, but the demands of motherhood take their toll. And I know that movies are an absolutely inessential hobby of mine, one I get really wrapped up in and het up about sometimes, but Not All That Important. Still, it is important to me to see The Godfather: part II someday, and it is equally important that I watch it with my wife, so I will just continue to leave it be until such time as it becomes feasible, however long that takes.

I moved along through my list, though, and started watching some other movies from 1975 and 1976, and reading some books from 1977 and 1978 and 1979. And I started outlining some blog posts about those books and movies, too, not quite straight reviews but something more reflective of how they fit into their particular moment in history, and where I was in my life at that moment, and how I had missed them the first time around, and why it mattered to me that I go back and check them out however belatedly. Of course, this approach had a couple of glaring weaknesses at the outset, in that the first half-dozen or so were going to be very similar. For how the works fit into their time, I wouldn’t really be able to give a first-hand account, because at age 1 or 2 or 3 I was barely cognizant. Which also proved a pretty boilerplate reason for the early entries’ absence from my experience at the time. Why didn’t I see this classic movie when it came out? Because I wasn’t even old enough for Sesame Street at the time, basically.

So I pretty quickly abandoned the retrospective-themed review posts, but I kept working my way down the list I had compiled of movies and books and comics and such. Another disappointment I ran into was that despite soliciting input from a bunch of friends about hidden gems I might have missed, I got very little response back. I was hoping the project could be at least somewhat collaborative, but outside influence proved minimal, which made the whole thing seem a little sad and solipsistic. That’s not necessarily a fatal flaw for a blog, of course (or rather, for the reader it might be, but not for the blogger), but it was a bummer all the same.

I soldiered on, but I didn’t move directly from one year’s representative work to the next’s to the next. I kept up, in my usual intermittent way, with the 1001 Movies Blog Club (which, fyi, has been on a bit of hiatus of its own since early December, but hopefully will be back soon) and I indulged in Summer Movies on a Train, as always, not to mention my first ever Halloween Countdown, which did not serendipitously overlap with the retrospective in any helpful way. Plus by mid-year I had published a story that got me thinking about writing more and publishing more, and sometimes that writing (or at least revising with paper and red pen) spilled over onto my train commute, taking a bite out of reading and movie watching time. Napping on the train accounted for more. And I had allotted myself about a week for each of the 40 works I was going to consume, but sometimes a good sized book takes longer than 10 commutes to plow through. Sometimes the mail cycle for Netflix rentals takes longer, too. The schedule just slipped and slipped, well past my birthday, and at some point I realized I was barely going to finish the doorstop novel from 1999, which I started in early November, by Christmas.

So in the end, I covered about 25 or 26 years of pop culture last year, from 1975 to 2000. (You’ve noticed by now, no doubt, that I’m being coy about what all those books and movies were, and that’s because I suppose I’ll run through them all with some quick reaction thoughts at some point, but that’s fodder for another post some other day.) I now have 15 years to go, and I do in fact plan on going through those works as well, though I’ve been on a bit of a break since the holidays. So perhaps this will ultimately be remembered as Life in Two Years? The years on either side of turning 40, leading up and following after.

Maybe? Clearly I haven’t been as diligent about blogging regularly this year as I have been in year’s past, so I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. At this point let’s just call it a strong possibility, and we shall see what comes of it.

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