4 Apr 2008, 4pm
Back to square one, then. It’s been about four years since I’ve thought about writing on this site. No time like the present, as they say, to see what I can do about fouling the air once again.
If anyone’s been wondering where I’ve been for the past few years of sparse updates, vague rumours and patent abandonments, read on.
Four years ago I was leading a popular open source software project, born out of a hobbyist desire to tinker with scripts and make things easier to publish on my own ferociously twee web site. I started a company, born out of a practical desire to stop being rice-and-beans poor, which grew like kudzu. It had this insane business model that featured actual people buying an actual product with, you know, actual money. Things boomed along. I did a lot of Ambienned air travel between Paris and San Francisco.
Business being business, there were of course problems and conflicts, growing pains and resentments. I could handle the bad decisions, the things breaking, the angry customers, the occasional shitty, fireable customer. And much of it was great: the gracious and welcoming community, the pleasure of working with the very, very talented. What became gradually clear, however, was the nagging sensation that along the way I was turning into a person I swore I’d never be: a person quite capable of saying and doing things I now regret in a really rather stinging way. We’re not talking war crimes here, and I don’t want to get all melodramatic about it, but things. Money, when it travels at a certain trajectory and speed, can make anyone into an asshole.
And, for me as for others, at some point the frenetic pleasures of bootstrapping and entrepreneurial ground-floorism – of littering the road to success with spectacular failures – can find themselves entirely dwarved by the realisation you genuinely don’t know what you’re doing, and perhaps it’s time to get out of the way. This moment of clarity, reached some time in late 2006, led me to withdraw from day to day duty in the company I founded, theoretically to regroup and find, oh what’s the term, focus. And then I went insane.
I’ve been trying to imagine what the best way to describe last year would be. Half the time – the half I’m certain was completely out of my control – I handled every stimulus like it was about to explode, and felt very much like an old coat on a broken hanger rumbling along in an old, broken truck. Unpleasant but the sort of thing that, at the time, you just sort of blink your way through and be glad there’s somewhere to sleep at night. The other half of the time, well, that was the hard labour: stamping down into paste anything at all that remained of my youth, energy, curiosity, skill, relationships; consuming cubic kilometres of cheap red wine, crushing out one cigarette after another, filling – what, a couple thousand? – hours with the stupidest possible television, the sort of shiny gunk that makes you both fantasise about harming the people who make it and revel in its easy access to pleasure circuits, of being down in its muck. Hard, hard, labour. Seriously: I don’t remember last summer.
From today’s perspective, I’m lucky to be alive. No, even in the blackest haze I didn’t come close to that particular atrocity (though the fucker was certainly in the room a few times). It’s because I quite literally stopped remembering to look both ways before crossing a street.
I have to mention there were and are constants, touchstones. My darling beloved Gail, who has dealt with a lot in her life, has over the course of the past year singlehandedly defined what it means to deal with WAY WAY MORE than a lot and soldier on with grace and wit regardless. I owe her the sun, moon and several stars.
Incidentally, Gail has written a tiny perfect slice of memoir, coming out in a book soon, of which more later.
And then there are the dogs, the relentless dogs. Oliver’s going to be seven this summer, and though he still bounds around like a juiced thoroughbred on the walk every morning, he’s definitely easing into middle age. Hugo will spend the summer coming up with new ways to destroy everything in his path. I like the dogs, but you knew that.
Since the new year I’m quite confident the grim realities of the recent past are as over as I need them to be. For now, I’m back doing the stuff I love: coding some web projects, and designing text again after far too long. The other day, for the first time in just over ten years, I typeset some fucking POETRY, for like PEANUTS, for a fusty old LONDONBOOKPUBLISHER, and it was just the greatest possible thing.
Alright. Thanks for letting me get all that out. See you soon.