Skyler asks if I’m going to see Brokeback at Thalia Hall and I tell him I am. Alicia and Sam are going too. We decide on Skylark for dinner beforehand. Another in a series of “back-to-normal” exercises that everyone seems to be doing, or talking about doing, so often nowadays.

Most gatherings begin with a few minutes’ throat-clearing, almost prayer-like acknowledgment of plague time. It’s become exhausting and kind of rote. Maybe there’s no other way it could be, but it’s beginning to feel like we’re all going through the motions.

I get to the bar first and Jacob is there. We haven’t seen each other since before lockdown. In fact, last time was right here. He was on a date with the woman he now lives with. Jacob was the acquiring editor on my doomed second book. We talk a bit about it, but not too much. He’s out of the book racket for the moment. It’s good to see people I know from harrowing situations land on their feet. If we don’t move on, we sink.

Sam, Alicia, and Skyler show up and we eat, drink, and laugh. It’s kind of normal. Or, what we thought normal used to be. We’re trying our best.

Bill shows up at Thalia and sits with us in the front row. I love that he shows up to support guys that he plays with in other bands. There’s not as big a crowd as there should be, but the show is great. I always say Brokeback sounds like spaghetti western music. That’s a compliment. There’s a world-weary melancholy road feeling to a lot of their music. A screen plays loops of atmospheric landscape and nature footage going behind them. Bill and I whisper occasionally about how the images sometimes link up with the sounds, other times suggest something totally different. Minutes of cornfields remind us both of Children of the Corn, though Brokeback isn’t a horror movie soundtrack.

Towards the end, Doug comes up to the mic and says this is the first live gig for a lot of them in a long time. ——but we won’t get into that… then goes back to playing.

We’re all trying to do the old stuff but it feels slightly off. Bartending the next night, Emma and I talk about it. Feels like we’re ghosts or something. Like we’re dead already but haven’t been told, so we go on living, not knowing any better.

p.s. Adam, who runs Hello America Stereo Cassette, wrote some very flattering things about my book.