Out of State

A Summer Chronicle
 George W. Bush

I only work three days a week, which is as good a reason as any to rejoin my gym. But back when I went before (a little), I listened to hardstyle mixes on Soundcloud. They were what motivated me. And now? Could work, except for the stabbing reminder that a lot of the people I know through New York parties that play this kind of music have gone through a Pepe wormhole and come out the other side a secret Trump supporter. It turns out that when the conservative party is the edgier one, it attracts much of the fringe, like artists. All that posturing as hacker bros and vapid party girls has stuck for some people I thought more highly of, and that’s been difficult to think about.

Now, I’ve dragged myself to a treadmill after at least two years of avoiding one, I’ve subscribed to a hardstyle podcast, and I’ve downloaded an hour-long mix. The momentum is working, but there is a voiceover sample getting louder as the beat slows down: a speech by George W. Bush. Maybe it will be part of a joke – he’ll say something dumb and there will be an explosion sound effect? But it continues, and the music swells when he talks about God and our country, much in the same way it does when lyrics describe finding the true meaning of life on the dance floor.

I keep coming across these ominous signs that predate Trump’s election but didn’t hit me until now-ish. When the jokes became real. When borrowing from bigoted cultures led to internalized bigotry. When political correctness became a meme for the youngest millenials. When “fake news” was simply conspiracy theory click bait (Illuminati codes, 9/11 as an inside job, etc.) and friends reposted it earnestly. Should I have confronted them? I mostly don’t talk to anyone in my circle about sensitive subjects like immigration policies or affirmative action or minority representation in the media because I assume they share my own half-formed opinions. Or that they don’t have opinions. Or that their opinions differ from mine only because they’re uninformed and I’m not the most informed person either so we may as well not mention any of it. And now it feels like you have to be either on the right side or the wrong side, and a lot of people I assumed would be on one are on the other.

Is having sex really unpopular now? That’s how old I feel. I have no idea if the really sexy people on social media are having real sex or not. Cool if not – but do they think it’s cool, or are they sad about it? Cool if they are, too. I don’t want to have an opinion about this one because I feel especially uninformed. I’m just scared, now, of the people who whole-heartedly embrace new apps, I guess. Thinking about people who are really good at hooking up with apps takes me to this dark place. Like, Trump himself would have loved to be young now, constantly dogged by opportunities to self-promote and go on dates. There’s a type of tackiness that’s acceptable because it was funny and then it became fashionable because it was so left field. But while that was going on, Trump was normalizing a similar tackiness, as were other reality TV people. Anyway, I think he’d be really comfortable with the level that young people are accepting of today.

I’m determined, this week, to put myself in some uncomfortable situations in order to break a pattern of sitting around and complaining. My long weekend started with a comedy show (I’m a regular) and swung, pendulum-like, from bars, parks, and movie theaters, punctuated by moments of romance and by moments circling calamity. I’ve had to block out some of my inner dialogue to get through the rougher patches, which really pays off when you have good friends around and the chance to meet nice strangers. Otherwise, it turns into binge-watching TV shows and looking up ex’s ex-girlfriends just to see how well they’ve aged in comparison to yourself. That’s a hypothetical. I’m doing really well, actually. 


In 1980 the French newspaper Libération asked Marguerite Duras to write a chronicle for them over one year. The pieces could be as long or short as she liked, so long as she wrote every day. Duras said a year was far too long and proposed three months instead. "Why three months?” her editor asked. "Three months is one summer long,” she replied.
 "Agreed, three months, but every day!" the editor insisted. Duras didn't have anything planned for the summer and almost gave in. But then she suddenly became terrified that she couldn't plan her days as she wished. So she said: "No, once a week, about whatever I want." The editor agreed.

For the summer of 2017 Spike invited Natasha Stagg to do the same: one text a week, of any length, on whatever she likes. One summer long. This is her seventh report.

NATASHA STAGG is a writer based in New York. Her first novel Surveys was published with Semiotext(e) in 2016. A new installment of Out of State will be published online every Friday for ten weeks. Last week she wrote  about a Nine Inch Nails concert, VIP areas at music festivals, and her life.