Ten years ago, I was in North Carolina—specifically, in a small town outside Camp Lejeune—on a consulting assignment. I was bored stiff. The dialup at the hotel was awful—and yes, there was dialup; this was before wifi, before Ethernet in every room, and at least in this hotel before reliable plain old telephone service to every room. Even then I was an Internet addict, so this was like a virtual guarantee of death by boredom that night. So I got out and walked down the street from one strip mall to the other, ending up at a Wal-Mart. In the music section. Where I decided that it was the right sort of night to take a risk on an artist I had listened a little to but didn’t know that much about, and pick up OK Computer by Radiohead.

And something, even as I played the album through my computer’s crummy speakers, exploded in my head.

Ten years on, and I am writing a blog post at my parents’ retirement house in western North Carolina, over wifi while I download OKX, a tribute to OK Computer. While I haven’t heard of most of the artists on the album, those I have—Doveman and the inimitable John Vanderslice—make me think that this is going to be pretty darn good.

A lot has changed in the intervening ten years, but the basic message of impersonal alienation has more relevance than ever before.

Alive, still

All indications to the contrary, I’m still alive. It has been a lovely, if thundery, few days here in the mountains to the north and west of Asheville. Food has been commensurate with past experiences—steak at my uncle’s on Tuesday night, big southern breakfast Wednesday (eggs, sausage, sawmill gravy, biscuits, grits, tomatoes, cantaloupe, fig preserves, and black black coffee), a repeat of the fish tacos experiment last night. Tonight we’re going to make our way to the Jarrett House—if there is a connection to our family other than the name, it’s a distant one—for some fried chicken and trout.

Then, if we survive the meals, we’ll go to a rare movie on Friday, then get back on the road Saturday to go back to New Jersey, where we can collect the dogs and head for home.