I don’t have the engagement here that I used to have and that was getting me down a little bit–enough that I went so far as to execute a new start on a new platform, one in which I might be able to stir up new interest in exchange for new a new commitment to more mature and less whimsical writing–a writer’s blog, if you will, rather than how I once described Old Road Apples, as the site of a literary hobbyist. I was encouraged by my best friend and most ardent supporter to “take it seriously.” So, right. It was inspiring. I wrote up a new essay to start my new site, and then I dove deeper into the new platform and realized a lot of what it is good for is not really good for me and what I do.
As a result, I’m staying here. Some of the most whimsical content from the archive will be disappearing–for the practical purpose of clearing out storage space, but also because it embarrasses me. Other stuff might get rewritten and pushed on you again; but mostly, I’m recommitting to this blog, to awakening those of you who remain “from the days of yore” way back in 2015, 2016 etc. while maybe grabbing up one or two new readers and, with any luck, a few caustic trolls with whom we might toy.
Finally, since I won’t be starting that new site, here’s the essay I wrote for it, a reflection of my direction as well as a glimpse into my state of mind.
This isn’t my first rodeo. I think someplace in the back of my head, for a long time, I’ve harbored a compelling desire to say that; or something equally grizzled and assertive—a dramatic line. Indiana Jones, for example, snarling an understated “Nazis—I hate these guys.” Or Will Riker grabbing the yoke on the Enterprise and sneering, “We’re through running from these bastards,” while an alien ensign side-eyes him appraisingly, all but licking her lips. Or pretty much anything Rooster Cogburn says, in the eponymous film or either version of True Grit. And see, by gods I did it. Snuck it right in there at the top. Maybe that’s why I write: the giddy, intoxicating sensation of power?
I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently, and usually settle on an answer that is as much compromise as it is informative: I write because I can’t not write. I’ve been hobby writing, for lack of a better description, on the Internet for a while now, with varying degrees of consistency and relatively little real discipline, throwing words out across a diverse range of platforms and in numerous formats and “communities.” Sometimes, in the most satisfying instances, I’ve fallen into small groups of readers and bloggers, developing a sort of camaraderie—not quite friendship, but a familiarity among individuals whose situations, insights, and experiences are far different those I encounter in the analog world. Other times, I’ve shouted into the void with nary a hint that even a single word of it was noticed, much less read.
My last blog withered away due to my shifting attentions: working on an ongoing novel, one that I should have finished a decade ago, at the same time that our nation’s politics took a dark turn into the surreally macabre. I found it almost impossible to write anything positive, and I was reluctant to rehash—even critically—the bizarro-world events manifesting themselves minute by minute in the headlines. I know who I am. Commentary turns to screeds, screeds devolve into tantrums, tantrums to hissy fits, and we end up with a full-blown rant. A festival of rants. Unfortunately, although they can be deeply, emotionally satisfying, rants—like methamphetamine—offer only short-term satiety, and are equally alluring to outside observers.
While this was happening, bloggery was changing. I’d found myself able to easily, happily sidestep the word-vomit that is Twitter—a disorienting cacophony of hyper-brief, purposefully inarticulate blurts and burps of artificial brevity that reminds me of a tabernacle choir gathered together, with each member shouting a different limerick, Hallmark greeting, excerpt from the instructions for assembling a new Wayfair coat rack (in the original Mandarin) or middle-school haiku at the top of their lungs. My attention span extends beyond the twelve or thirteen words I’m allowed on Twitter—that’s not even room enough for a decent rant.
The image-first blogs, primarily Instgram but also TikTok—or Tick Talk, or whatever—and its latest flash in the pan app trend (Vine, anyone?) made for a much more discouraging hurdle. First of all, as you will shortly see should you choose to return, I am what the English so cunningly describe as “shit” when it comes to photography. I have lousy instincts and I’m too lazy to learn how to do it better. I mean, adjusting shutter speed and aperture? That is verging dangerously close to something heinous, something my STEM-savvy daughters refer to as “algebra.” All those variables. No thanks. I’m lucky when I remember how to change the length between intermittent windshield wiper swipes when I’m in traffic. Instagram killed my blog community—the tone over there is very post-apocalyptic, broken windows, overturned cars, and trash blowing down the street. I can’t compete with all the prettiness on Instagram, even though I enjoy it—especially during the pandemic, when the lure of vicarious adventure, vicarious dining, vicarious gawking at all that pretty stuff, transitioned from an amusing distraction to a full-bore necessity, a window into the world that was, as cheery as photos from the Johnstown Flood.
Nevertheless, I prefer something word-based, something that encourages articulation, and something more permanent than the recent trend of messages that evaporate as I read them—”stories”?–the ultimate tease, and certainly an apt subject for some sort of zen-discovery exploration about experiencing before immediately letting go. I’m not Zen at all. Not even close. My family legacy is self-destructive nostalgia and borderline hoarding. So here we are, back to the words.
I arrived at this site on the advice and encouragement of my wife and I must admit to a certain degree of leaping before I look on my way here. Immediate action to preclude reflection. But isn’t that often the way with fresh starts? There’s an element of suddenly jumping from a moving train when some disconnected voice urges “Now!”
Dumping a once-in-a-century pandemic on top of this whole mess has felt a lot like standing knee-deep in mud, hands cuffed behind my head, and being pummeled in the belly and face by a fat, shirtless clown in boxing gloves: more than irksome but not enough to kill me, leaving me bruised, nauseous and disoriented, with a chance of long-term complications. Indeed, I toyed with the idea of calling this blog “A Journal After The Plague Year,” with apologies to Daniel Defoe, but that sounded just a bit too pretentious—and I’m far too pessimistic to embrace the word “after” when it comes to SARS-CoV2. Instead, I went for “The New Old Road Apples,” referencing a former blog and a self-depreciating nudge and a wink reminder that this endeavor shouldn’t be taken too seriously. As for the old “Old Road Apples,” why not just stick with it? Why not, as the saying goes, “make 10 louder?” I made a concious decision to move on from what now feels to be too juvenile, too whimsical, and more focused on volume and production over quality of content—however arguable my use of the word “quality” may be in this context.
Conventional wisdom is that a blog—or any writing, for that matter—should be targeted towards a specific audience, bound by a cohesive topic or focus or, ideally, both. Some degree of continuity seems appropriate, but the thing is: I want to start now and I have yet to figure out the particulars. Who do I want to reach as an audience? Simple: everyone, anyone! What do I want to write about? Not quite everything, anything! And continuity? I guess that makes me the continuity.
So, that’s where we’ll begin, assuming a (possibly arrogant) relevance and proceeding as if there is some interest in what I’ve got to say. We’ll consider it a variety site with a bit of this and that: culture, politics, commentary, culture—like the Atlantic, but written by a semi-retired manual laborer pecking at an aged desktop perched upon a cluttered desk in a small, dark, cold little room at the top of the staircase. Or maybe it’s more like pantry soup: when you pull a bunch of frost- or dust-coated stuff off the shelves and out of the deep freeze and throw it together in a crock pot. With any luck, I’ll find some level of direction, or something that tastes good enough to choke down with a few slices of homemade bread, as time passes. What’s the worst that can happen?
Charles. New Years, 2021