…with an ice cream maker and Steve Buscemi.

Steve Buscemi stood ahead of me a couple places in line. I didn’t recognize him from behind, but once he came to a bend in the line, I could not mistake the translucent blue eyes that hung over his smirk for anyone else’s. He wore skinny black jeans and a faded black cap embroidered with what I think was a Jamba Juice logo in cardinal red monochrome. He travelled with a woman with reddish brown hair who wore thick-rimmed glasses.

I made eye contact with him and moved to nod as if an acquaintance, but he didn’t recognize me. He may not have recognized that I recognized him. Or maybe he did: he is, after all, recognizable.

I thought to take a picture of him with my phone, to tell him I was a fan and in particular I remember his voice work at Eastern State Penitentiary. I did not take that leap. I read the lips of the TSA agent who asked to see his boarding pass and identification: I’m a fan of your work.

I yanked my over-stuffed suitcase onto the steel tables leading to the conveyor belt, emptied my pockets into a side pocket of my suitcase, took off my shoes. As my bag passed through the perfunctory X-ray, I faced to the side, elbows above my head, as shown in the diagram. I stood perfectly still. Another agent allowed me to pass. I lined up at the end of the conveyor belt and waited for my bag. My shoes came out. The agent at the conveyor belt called for a bag check. The agent responsible for bag checks chided him for calling for bag checks so often. She asked whose it was and I said it was mine. She told me to follow her. I put on my shoes and followed her.

She opened the main compartment of the bag, removed the clean shirts at the top of its contents, and observed two drums wrapped in plastic. She looked at me wearily, wordlessly asking what these two drums were meant to be.

“My parents gave me an ice cream maker for my birthday,” I said. She started swabbing the edge of the compartment.
“Are you going to use it?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, then clarified: “Not on this flight.”

She continued swabbing other pockets and placed each of these swabs into a scanner the size of a jukebox. I watched, having expected this interaction as a consequence of packing a disassembled kitchen appliance into my suitcase.

“Homemade ice cream is good,” she said without prompting.
“I agree.”
“I asked because I have an ice cream maker but I never use it.”
“It’s good with fresh fruit.”

I started to comment about how I thought frozen fruit would suffice for mixing into ice cream. She started to advise me about strawberries.

“What’s good is when you take strawberries, cut them in half and hull them. Sprinkle some sugar over that, leave it overnight, pour out the juice the next morning. Puree that,” she said.

I stopped paying attention to my suitcase. I assume the swab turned up clean.

“That sounds good,” I said. “I’ll have to try that.”

She replaced my clean shirts atop the drums of the ice cream maker and zipped the suitcase closed. I fished out my phone, wallet, etc. from the side pocket of the suitcase and replaced them in the pockets of my jeans. Another agent interrupted us to bring me my messenger bag. I left it at the end of the conveyor belt in my haste to follow the agent who did bag checks and advised me about strawberries. I took my suitcase and messenger bag and headed towards Gate 30 where Christina was waiting and other passengers for Alaska 6 were already lined up.

As I offered her to get us a bottle of water, Steve Buscemi and the woman with reddish brown hair sauntered past.

Return to form.

Using the phrase return to form to describe the state of one’s artistic production seems a tacit admission of irrelevance, like R.E.M. or The Simpsons in the 21st century. And I am demanding exactly that of myself this morning, with you as my witness: my own return to form.

I’ve long maintained that you have to be prolific before you can be good. A corollary, I’ve learned, is that you have to stay prolific in order to stay good. A shabby score on a (brilliantly made) kerning test set it off last night, but it’s been percolating for years. It’s been a while since I’ve expended the effort to write well about wrinkles of the world I’ve inhabited.

Writing and designing were not previously practices meant to imbue me with cultural relevance so much as they were personal relevance: they were means to accrue self-confidence. Somehow, as the former became a byproduct, it was that I pursued. And it felt good – to have references queued up, flexibility and mobility in my career, disposable income, a role as a mentor – to have all those things afforded by a body of substantial work to one’s name.

And I forgot to make work that was relevant to myself. And when it stopped being relevant to me, I stopped making work as often. And when I stopped making work, I forgot how to make good work.

And I won’t be making good work for a while – I hope it’s a little while and not a long while. But I’ll be making work, and I hope that I produce something I judge favorably before too long.

I’d like to believe it’s not so much that I’ve forgotten how to write as I’ve just forgotten to write. Please bear with me as I test this hypothesis.