Discover more from bed crumbs
on the joan didion memorial service
hey hi hello. here are thoughts i fired off into my notes app last night after pulling myself out of a trash monster deadline-mode decline to go to the joan didion memorial even though i was sort of (for reasons you will see) a little skeptical of it. maybe they’re bad but whatever i do not care*
*it’s 10 pm and i’m being brave and burdening you all with them in spite of my “maybe some notes app dumps should stay in the notes app” thoughts otherwise
I did not particularly want to go to Joan Didion’s memorial. I had not known of its existence until hours before and its notice by way of Instagram felt cheap and crass, a reduction of one of our greatest voices to an influencer event. I did not have a great deal of interest in being one of the people off the street rubbernecking at the celebrity speakers, the ones who would move their hands instinctively in the direction of applause at the end of each reading only to stop short, the ones who would hold their iPhones up high to record minutes-long videos of Patti Smith performing as if they were at a rock concert and not a memorial for a dead woman. I had even less interest in being mistaken for one of the many women belonging to a certain generation and particular affliction of youth who have conflated deifying Didion with commodifying her, the ones who would show up in cut offs and crop tops feigning respect as they took photos of Jia Tolentino at the lectern, deaf to her words about their very misrepresentation of their fave and willful misinterpretation of her work. New Yorkers mourn publicly and en masse but I did not want my grief to be sullied with things I felt were beneath it, things I thought would cheapen it, things I thought would make it just like everyone else’s. I wanted to keep my grief for a woman I had never actually known pure and haughty and mine. I wanted to continue to write, stay submerged in someone else’s life so I did not have to think about my own. I did not want to cry where anyone could see.
“I am a non-person, a walking raw nerve,” I told my friend. “I need to work,” I told myself. But as much as I did not particularly want to go to Joan Didion’s memorial I did not particularly want to miss it. There are simply some things in life you put aside your discomfort for. I wore my black shift with the white stripe. I took the subway uptown. I sat for two hours on a hard wooden chair and wondered how a room so cavernous could be so airless. I thought about good posture. I did not cry.
The evening after Joan Didion’s memorial I walked the forty blocks home from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in heels that were not meant to walk forty blocks in. I did not need to go to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine that afternoon, nor did I need to walk the forty blocks home. I did not need to wear the shoes that hurt my feet. But I did so because I felt compelled to, because that’s just what you do, because I had not left my apartment since the day before and because I could not find a cab.
Cop cars lined Central Park West as it intersected with 86th Street, growing in volume as the blocks descended, as numerous and vulgar as the spotted lanternfly corpses on the sidewalks. Streams of men who all seemed to own the same type of black suit mingled with walkie talkies. No one was allowed past 81st Street. “What’s going on?” I asked a blonde woman in a black exercise outfit hanging on the steel barricade, watching the non activity with great delight and enthusiasm. The president was in town. I had not known the president was in town. I had not planned on wearing the appropriate shoes for the appropriate reroute to accommodate the president being in town. The woman told me this news as if it were the most important thing that happened today.
We tell ourselves stories in order to live, Joan said.
The stories cannot end when we die, I’m saying.