July, July
Michael Mechmann
Michael Mechmann

Well, looks like I’m way overdue for some kind of update. As you can probably guess, this one has been a bit harder to write than the others, and the simple reason for that is that this past year has been, quite literally, the worst year of my life.

Ok, fair: literally the worst year of my life so far.

What Ghosts There Do Remain

Let’s rip the band-aid off: this has been a year of tragedies for us.

In June of 2022, my maternal grandmother passed away. This was not unexpected, as she had been ailing with various lung-related issues for a long time — having smoked prodigiously in her youth, she had developed lung cancer several years ago, so the whole family knew this was coming. Still, she had loomed large as a family matriarch for so long that it still felt a significant loss. I took time off of work to spend time with the family, who all had gathered to surround her with love in her final days, and to attend the funeral of course.

Then, in July, Ilona’s paternal grandfather passed away as well. This was a similar situation of a long illness running its course, but still. The loss always leaves a gap in one’s life, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the family decided not to hold an in-person funeral, so we were not able to grieve together with everyone. These things can make it feel even more isolated out here in California, away from all the folks we’ve known.

And then, August. A phone call I will never forget. The worst news I’ve ever gotten. My younger brother was dead at 28. Poor Luke had struggled with addiction for many years, and at long last it claimed his life. What more can I say — Luke’s death ripped a hole in my heart that will take a long, long time to heal.

To cap the summer off, not weeks after, my father-in-law’s younger brother passed away suddenly. In a strange turn of events, Ilona and I were not even invited to the funeral, which worked out in an ironic way when it ended up being a COVID super-spreader event, but despite coming on the heels of my own brother’s funeral it was hurtful that we weren’t even informed that it was happening, we just heard about the death and then learned of the funeral after the fact.

So 2022 was shrouded in grief for us and our families.

Oh, What a Lonely Thing

Now, back in January of 2022, we had just returned from a disastrous holiday trip to New York and I came down with COVID-19. For the 2022-2023 holiday season, it was my wife’s turn with the plague. Lucky her! This time, she came down with it during the trip itself, causing us to cut all of our plans short and race to find a hotel room on Christmas day to quarantine in. Thankfully, we were able to get a room, one with amenities in walking distance, and push back our flight until after the isolation period. And our families pulled through with care package deliveries and lots of support (I actually had to stop my folks from bringing us an entire microwave because there wasn’t one in our room, just down the hall). Opening holiday gifts over Zoom was different but not so bad after all. And because there was a Chinese place down the block we even had our own little Jewish Christmas.

So all in all, she was pretty much fine, and although the symptoms lasted a good long while they were nothing serious. The latest variants seem to be taking on more of the shape of a flu or cold than the highly deadly pulmonary disease that it started off as.

Also luckily, I ended up being totally fine despite sharing lots of air with her. We both had the bivalent booster so I’m chalking my lack of symptoms up to that. If you’re reading this and somehow haven’t bothered getting the latest vaccinations, I strongly encourage you to do so. Just think how romantic it is to nurse your ailing partner back to health! (it is pretty romantic ngl)

The Road That Goes to My House

In positive, but no less monumental, news, in January we closed on the purchase of an apartment in San Francisco. We had been renting in Berkeley since we moved to California in late 2019, and with all the lockdown loneliness and family grief we felt even more than ever before the need to change our scene. Ilona has long been a city girl and so, despite finding several prospects in Berkeley and Oakland, we found what seemed a hidden gem in San Francisco itself. In the heart of the Mission district, it feels like we’re right in the middle of things, and we can get to almost everything we could want to get to. Naturally, it’s not perfect, but the problems seem easily surmountable and I think we can have a very happy next few years (our pace of moving seems to be every three to four years, so it’s likely this is a “starter” home, but we’ll see).

Nemo helps with the packing

I am, of course, particularly proud that I am a millennial who has eaten avocado toast, and yet I am now also a homeowner. I’m breaking down stereotypes left and right here. The road to homeownership has not been without its troubles, though, but together Ilona and I have climbed out of debt and, by the weird fluke of my hobby being able to pay the bills, we’ve kind of “made it” now. What a strange feeling.

Speaking of my job, though…

Never Seemed So Strange

I’ve been laid off again!

The risk of working for startups is that one’s job stability is highly dependent on the whims of investment capitalists. And, of course, the company I worked for was in the business of hiring, right as the SVB crash and massive Big Tech layoffs happened. Sadly, it seems like investors and customers didn’t see this as the opportunity that we saw it for — all of these laid-off folks will be looking for jobs, and smaller companies starved for talent would love to snap them up — and things went belly-up.

So I’m back on the market, and to be fair things are pretty rough. I’ve been going weeks without hearing back from some places, and outright rejected at others, with only a few nibbles that might turn out to be anything. This has, of course, made my life much more stressful, as we now have a mortgage to worry about and private health insurance and all the other fun unemployment stuff to worry about on top of everything else.

We’ll Remember This When We Are Old and Ancient

Blaseball logo, source: blaseball.com

And after all of this, one sad story after another, it came to pass that Blaseball, the bizarre community horror baseball browser game that made COVID lockdown bearable, shut down for good. The relaunch earlier in 2023 was, sadly, plagued with issues, and it seems like The Game Band was forced to pull the plug when a complete rewrite meant that it wouldn’t re-relaunch for months yet. Blaseball had brightened my lockdown days immensely, so it’s yet another sadness for me to see it go.

At least I’ll have the Garages’ vinyl albums to get me through the days ahead (and there’s rumors of another hackathon afoot…).

Though The Specifics Might Be Vague

Nonbinary pride flag

It feels worth putting out there that this year I officially came out as nonbinary. I don’t talk that much about my gender or sexual identity (I’m bi, if you’re wondering) in public like this, but this is significant enough that I think it at least bears mentioning. I’ve felt out of place in my body and within the Western gender binary for most of my life, so this is a very belated acceptance of these feelings but already I feel like it’s brought my general anxiety levels down a notch, despite the general trepidation that comes with updating one’s pronouns to be something outside the he/she binary in the current political climate.

For now, not much will really change. As of this writing my preferred pronouns are he/him and they/them. I may continue to refer to myself as a “man” (especially as a mechanical man, which feels even more right, as it conjures the image of a facsimile or fa├žade of a man) and I currently don’t plan to change very much about my gender presentation (such as it is) but I would honestly prefer if other people not use gendered terms like “man” to refer to me. To be very specific (though I do feel that some of the hyper-categorization popular online may be somewhat counterproductive within the GSM community) I identify more as agender than anything else — for me, this is less of an active gender transition and more of an opt-out situation.

And the Water Rolls Down the Drain

So, I’ve talked about basically everything else now, what about project updates?

lol. lmao.

Yeah, so I was (naturally) already behind in my 12-in-22 project, and once the summer of funerals began I was not able to pick up the music pen again. I haven’t written a note of new music since May of 2022. I have lots of music bursting to get out, though, so I’m hoping this will change once I can sooth my anxieties a little bit more.

The same goes for other projects, of course. I really, really want to get back to them, and actually our new apartment has a home office that doubles as a craft room, which is a lot better lit and more hospitable to work in than our garage in Berkeley, so I’m looking forward to getting back to the Cold War Clock and maybe finishing an enclosure for the Mlattel Blaseball viewer. In particular, because Blaseball is dead (RIV) the Mlattel viewer is actually now theoretically able to handle every possible event, since we know every event that has and ever will happen. Not that I’ll necessarily make bespoke animations for all of them, but I could.

I also have some drafts that I’ll try to punch up for posts on here, particularly one about the ongoing Twitter debacle, so keep your eyes peeled.

For now, that’s it for the yearly update, seven months late though it is. As always, I do hope to update soon, but we’ll see what life throws at me next.