Tuesday, September 21, 2004
By Paul Ford
A second flood in two weeks brought five and a half feet of water and inches of thick river mud into my mother's basement.
So I came down to Maryland on Sunday. I've squeegeed and pressure-washed for two days. The mud was remarkable, filled with
oils, swirling, stinking. It covered the first five steps up out of the basement. Photos of myself at 15, of my brother, my
grandparents, emerged on the floor, torn and purple from their soaking. I threw them away.
I threw away my high school yearbook, hundreds of books that had belonged to me at some point, or to my mother. Also, I need
a tetanus shot, under the advisement of the state of Maryland.
Tetanus and mud, and sore shoulders, uninsured, fat, behind on many deadlines, money dwindling, now up at night on dialup
to finish the work I couldn't do because I was sweeping shit, and happy. Old men from down the street and the smell of gasoline,
pulling out the washer and dryers, piling things into pickups. Some days you pass out of the daily shadows and into sharp
relief, and an invisible camera catches you. Today it would have caught mud flying, mud on my face, sweat pouring, hour after
hour of motion. Not a real photo; a photo filed away into the ether, a photo you sense but don't see, an image immune to time
and further floods. Sometimes I imagine these pictures when I'm out walking: the Plymouths cruising down broadway, men in
tricorner hats and long rifles running through Brooklyn, men running away from a fire. Pictures taken with clouds for film
and the curve of the sky as a lens.
Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some
There is a Facebook group.
You will regret following me on Twitter here.
About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit
things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.
If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am
glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.
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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford
Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose.
As a hobby I write.
Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out.
Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley.
Welcome to the Company.
“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”.
Forgot to tell you about this.
“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”.
An essay for TheMorningNews.org.
People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately.
Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford.
Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford.
Nanolaw with Daughter.
Why privacy mattered.
0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford.
It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so
that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So:
Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand
below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every
Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came
unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...)
That Shaggy Feeling.
Antilunchism, by Paul Ford.
Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford.
I'll have no one to blame but future me.
Time's Inverted Index, by Paul Ford.
(1) When robots write history we can get in trouble with our past selves. (2) Search-generated, "false" chrestomathies and
the historical fallacy.
The Moral Superiority of the Streetcar.
(1) Long-form journalism fixes everything. (2) The moral superiority of the streetcar. (3) I like big bus and I cannot lie.