Last night, I couldn’t sleep. Probably because I took an Adderall in the morning. I read on Google that the drug is an amphetamine, which sounds kind of dangerous. At least it was a fruitful day, creatively. I worked almost non-stop, at a coffee shop in Williamsburg. I made significant strides on an essay, came up with some ideas for a column.
Lying in the basement of my Bushwick apartment, I’d entered something of a YouTube vortex, switching between baseball highlight reels and Jordan Peterson self-help lectures. I read deeper into the beef between Peterson and Pankaj Mishra. If my understanding is correct, Mishra wrote a review of Peterson’s book (12 Rules for Life, $15 Penguin) in bad faith, particularly by attaching Peterson to problematic historical figures that weren’t even mentioned in the book.
Mishra was writing for the New York Review of Books, one of the most respected literary publications in the world. The lesser-read, high-brow journals are meant to be a battleground for intellectuals, a place where they can flex their knowledge of obscure political theory and arcane jargon. Most importantly, their arguments should be ironclad and contributors should be willing to engage honestly with ideas they find contemptible. That’s the root of my disappointment. If a writer of Mishra’s talent can’t write a straightforward review, in the NYRB no less, then where will high-level discourse take place?
Recently, in a similar sleepless situation, I sought food at Tina’s Place, a no-frills diner open at unconventional hours (3:30am to 3:30pm). The goal, as always, was to eat myself into a state of somnolence. I exited my apartment into the humid night. My glasses fogged up.
I passed Archie’s Pizza. There were three 20-something people – two girls, one guy – smoking what appeared to be a joint. The lack of smell suggested otherwise. Farther down the street, at a bar called Fine Time, six people sat drinking. A bartender, perhaps unsurprisingly, tended to the bar. Who was drinking at this ungodly hour on a Tuesday morning?
I’d been at Fine Time earlier in the evening, actually. I drank a Pacifico and watched Blade, the Wesley Snipes sci-fi vampire action flick, on the wall-mounted TV. I’d recently heard an interview with the actor Stephen Dorff, who’s also in Blade, and reflected on the fact that once-obscure things – facts, places, words, Steven Dorff – begin appearing everywhere after you first hear about them. Has someone thought critically about this phenomena?
At Tina’s, I went with the banana pancakes again, though this time with chocolate milk instead of coffee. The TV provided entertainment (this seems to be a recurring trend). R. Kelly was facing new charges in Minnesota. A kid fell through a manhole in China. Elizabeth Taylor’s green Roll’s Royce went up for auction. The meal cost me $10, tip included. I got some intel about the shirts that Tina has been selling. I’d really like to write a story about them. We’ll see if it happens (update: this eventually happened).
I walked home. I fell asleep.