The Temporary End of Paul Ford

Get that bastard out of here, and put him on the bus.

Too many variables, said Ford, festering.

I encouraged him, often, to do something, but he stared at his computer screen, checking email, reading science trade paperbacks, getting into further and further grinds, skull shrinking around his brain.

That evening, as I tried to fall asleep on his futon, he presented a complicated theory of all language and textual meaning which I have no interest in reproducing. I watched the red LED of his clock. Finally, he was finished.

Listen, I said, how much money do you have?

Who knows? Six thousand in mutual funds. Nineteen in checking. A bunch of checks around the apartment, I already paid the estimated, but there's probably some of that--

What you need is some couch life. Some not-this. Where could you stay?

He was quiet. The house rattled as the train went past. Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. San Francisco. Miami. Denver. Rochester.

America's urban heartland! Golden Gate go! Carhenge go!

We'd spoken about this before. You could see his face warm to the idea. We planned, and named it Operation Muskrat.

I'm not taking a notebook, he said. I'm not writing. I'm getting on the bus with a single change of clothes and a credit card. He kept playing it out, speaking into the air above his bed, the room lit by orange streetlamps creeping through the plastic blinds.

I could go to Port Authority, just go. I forgot how nice it was to take the bus. I took the Olympia bus from Port Authority to to Newark when I went to Israel, wedged into a back seat at night, peering out the window. We drove through those empty patches of Jersey, over bridges; I read my magazine. Have you ever taken a passenger bus at night - riding all night? The roads are clear and everyone sleeps. You just hear the rattle of the wheels over the asphalt and watch the roadside embankments blur, read the signs, hear breathing. People pad back to the bathroom. It rains and the world melts into ridges and rivulets. I never get bored of it.

These are not champagne tastes you have, Ford. You can have cross-country bus happiness. Clear your head out. Take 2 weeks and a thousand bucks. Get whatever it is out of your system.

It won't work. I've tried everything. My throat-soul-monsters will not leave, he said. But still, they can be quieted, and travel calms them. Food hushes them. It's sex makes them furious. Maybe Pittsburgh to see Steve, then back up to Cleveland if Megan hasn't left. Crisscross planet Greyhound in celibate lower-class calm.

Poor bastard. How did he end up so worn out at 26? He hints that he did something horrendous, but he won't bring it into the light. I know people who've done terrible things; Ford is deluding himself into thinking he's evil. Anything which puts his skin in the light terrifies him, but he'll run around the world for a dollar. I have the opposite. I can't wait to show you the scar and tell you the story, but I never get anything done.

I went with him to Port Authority last night. Before we left, he showed me how to build pages on this site and handed me the keys to his apartment.

I'll call in, he said.

All will be fine, I said.




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 time.


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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 ford@ftrain.com 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


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

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...) (May 13)

That Shaggy Feeling. Soon, orphans. (May 12)

Antilunchism, by Paul Ford. Snack trams. (May 11)

Tickler File Forever, by Paul Ford. I'll have no one to blame but future me. (May 10)

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. (May 9)

Bantha Tracks. (May 5)

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