Songs for the Struggling Artist


And Then the Internet Went Out

While I was polishing up my blog about the power outage, I googled Tropical Storm Isaias to double check I was spelling it correctly. The request timed out but I figured it was just this thing the wifi does in our apartment where it gets moody about the distance between my computer and the router. After bringing it closer and then plugging in the ethernet cable and switching everything off and on again a million times, I had to accept that there was no internet. I found it ironic that I was trying to post a blog about the power of power, in which the power of the internet played a role, and could not because, while I did have electricity, I had no internet access.

The next day, the company said it would be fixed by 5pm, and then within 24hrs and then by 5pm the following day. Concurrent to all this, my phone had begun to switch itself off at every opportunity and would only rarely turn back on for a moment or two. My access to the world, beyond my physical presence, was largely cut off.

I didn’t know what to do. Every task I thought about tackling seemed to require the internet. I spent the first couple decades of my life living in a world without internet. It was fine! There were a lot of great things about those times! Why was it so impossible now?

Late Monday night, in order to maintain my weekly podcast posting, I realized I could potentially access the internet via these LinkNYC things – the structures we call “propaganda sticks.” I was 100% sure they were a privacy nightmare, in addition to being corporate tools – but I had a deadline – so I took my laptop and a little stool I’d bought for a cowboy clown show I made a few years ago and went to sit next to the LinkNYC column.

Just as soon as I’d gotten the blog posted, I saw this stream of liquid emerge from the other side of the column. Some guy was pissing right next to the thing, like it was a tree in the woods and his piss was flowing downstream right in front of me. The splash got very close to me and I scooted quickly away, swearing loudly. I found a new spot closer to the closed-up Greek travel agency office behind me. Later, as I got the two podcasts uploaded, the guy from the Mexican restaurant next door brought me some chips and salsa because he liked my “set up.”

There’s a way that having to go out into the street to reach the wider world really put me in touch with the immediate world in ways both pleasant and unpleasant. When the real physical world was all I had, it all got very physical very fast.

In wrestling with my world without internet, in addition to pushing me out into the street, I found myself really noticing how blended my creativity and the sharing of it had become. I could practice a song. I could even record a song and podcasts but without the internet, all of that could go no further than the room they were made in.

We finally got a little green light suggesting our internet was back but in various computer tests, the signal could go no further than the internet company itself. It’s as if we could communicate a tiny bit but we could only reach one person and even then, it was just to wave. There could be no meaningful discourse.

There’s something about this limited signal that I found poignant. It felt a bit like my entire artistic career. I make something and put it out but only a few people have the tech to receive it.

We have these internet connected light bulbs, for example, which I was astonished to discover could still work, even with the area outages preventing us from interneting. It turns out it’s because they’re local. They communicate just within our apartment. But we cannot reach beyond our local network. Our internet problem is a communication problem.

It cannot take us beyond our apartment. And a lot of my struggles as an artist are similarly about an inability to get beyond my apartment. The work makes it around the apartment, no problem – and even to a few points beyond – but the signal always seems to run into an obstacle somewhere. Out there in the physical world, I do alright. I might get pissed on occasionally but I also get free food and warm greetings.

In the internet world, which, more and more, given the lockdowns, seems just as real, there are many places I can’t reach.

And like, power, when someone is without the internet, their lack is invisible. To the one who has been cut off, it feels as though they are cut off from the bulk of the world – but the world will never notice their absence.

The local is the only bit that remains. It can involve piss and salsa – but it is real and where the action actually is.

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They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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