While the Jewish folks in Jersey atone for a year's worth of sin
the rest of us Gentiles enjoy sleeping in . . .
except for me, I just can't seem to sleep late,
I woke up this morning at 5:08.
We were practicing showing and not telling in Creative Writing this morning, and I like to practice what I preach, so here goes: we've been mired in humidity here in central New Jersey for the past few weeks; giant fungus is sprouting in weird formations (see the above photo I took at 5:45 AM this morning) and my classroom-- which does not have air-conditioning or a cross breeze and only has windows adjacent to a stagnant courtyard-- just might be the most humid place in this swamp-ass state . . . the desks are slick with a weird viscous scum, the carpet is moist, the laptops are slimy, and soon after entry, the teenagers are coated with glistening teen spirit; at 7:30 AM this morning my knees were already stuck to my pants and my boxer briefs were soaked through . . . you can imagine the rest of the day; it's also been raining every afternoon, so soccer practice has been a muddy mess and all my equipment smells of damp and mold; in the evenings, I've been trying to fix two dodgy toilets in the upstairs of my house, and while I finally conquered the commode just off our bedroom, I couldn't fix the American Standard in the hall (despite a stream of constant profanity) and ended up having to order a different part on Amazon-- my hands were inside the tank so long, as I tried to rebuild the flush valve apparatus, that they pruned-- and were also caked with the black rubber sediment from the flapper-- and then this afternoon, the finale, I tried to cure our dog's proclivity for carsickness by taking her on a couple of short car rides, but when I ran into the beer store to get a six pack, she threw up all over the soccer corner flags . . . the smell was particularly vibrant because of the barometric pressure and the already pungent smell of all the wet fabric in my van, so I unloaded everything, tried to get all the chunks out of the car, washed off the corner flags and then loaded the equipment-- aside from the vomit stained corner flags and poles-- back into the car beofre everything got even yuckier from the impending rain.
I completed my first soccer-triathlon of the fall season yesterday: I played soccer, watched soccer, and coached soccer . . . I played pick-up with the usual suspects for 90 minutes in the morning, then watched my son Ian play for his club team from in the early afternoon, and finally coached the town travel team-- Ian's old team-- in the evening . . . I could have hit for the soccer-cycle if I did color commentary for a game (or filmed a game? or refereed a game?) so that's something to shoot for, and while it was fun and entertaining, my legs were sore this morning.
Sadly, Burt Reynolds has taken his last wild ambulance ride and finally joined his buddy Dom DeLuise at the Great Cannonball Run in the Sky . . . and while the Smokey and the Bandit and Cannonball Run movie franchises make me nostalgic for my youth and simpler times, I just learned that Reynolds turned down the role of Han Solo in Star Wars . . . I can't imagine how much better that movie would have been if it contained a shirtless Reynolds ambling around the Millenium Falcon, his chest hair rivaling that of his sidekick Chewbacca . . . anyway, in honor of the man, the mustache, and the legend, I'm revisiting OBFT XVI-- the year of our mustache contest and my award winning 'stache-- and posting a photo of me at my most Burt.
Charlie Sykes tweeted this image with the caption:
Kind of amazed this pr campaign wasn’t enough to save Alex Jones on Twitter
and the podcast Reply All #126: Alex Jones Dramageddon does a fantastic job explaining what it all means . . . to get the joke in all of it's glory you need to know about: Alex and Jones and Marco Rubio nearly got into a fistfight; the irony that alt-right-trollster Laura Loomer got drowned by an auctioneering Republican congressman in a hearing about letting idiots like her have freedom of speech on social media; Colin Kaepernick is the face and voice of a new Nike ad campaign; our government briefly entertained the idea of making a "gay bomb" . . . but only in the sense that the idea came up in a brainstorming session for theoretical speculative weapons; Alex Jones believes that the government is drugging us with chem-trails and hormones in the water and that the proof of this is that there are pesticides that can turn male frogs into female frogs . . . he links all this together in a wild and entraining conspiratorial rant . . . before this podcast, I had heard of Alex Jones and knew he was some kind of alt-right figure, but had no idea of how he operated; this episode is an excellent primer into that strange and wild world of right-wing-conspiracy nuts.
This is hot off the press: so fifty-four minutes ago . . . at the end of middle school soccer practice, my son Ian and some of his friends decided to bike up to the Okie Pokii Cafe and get some bubble tea-- they took off while I was packing the soccer equipment into the minivan, but when I drove the 200 yards up the hill from the park to my house and turned onto Valentine Street (our road) I saw Ian biking the wrong direction, back to the park . . . so I rolled down the window and asked him what was going on and he said he thought he left his phone down at the field and was going to find it; then I drove up the road and crossed paths with his friends, and I told them to wait a moment at Ben's house because Ian had to retrieve his phone and I went home and pulled a cold mug out of the freezer-- Friday!-- but before I could fill it with beer, Ian came storming back in the house, looking for his phone-- he had really lost it-- and this totally pissed me off because it was finally Friday and time for a celebratory beer and now I was on this (mock) epic quest with my son, using Find My Android, calling his phone, searching the house and the soccer equipment bag in the van-- all fruitless-- and then he decided his phone was at the park so we drove back down, and he had to suffer through several tirades and some profanity on the ride but instead of his usual routine-- denial and argument-- he finally realized how to soothe the savage dad, and he acknowledged that his behavior was stupid and insane and the work of a lunatic, and then we found his phone, in the grass behind the goal, and he willingly admitted that he was disorganized and wanton and profligate and he needed to take the time to pack a bag and he couldn't rush to practice and he would accept any consequence and it made me think of how I left my car door open for 90 minutes two days previous (with my wallet on the console) and I told him that I was also insane and constantly losing things and an absolute idiot and then I grew very calm and told him we just had to think of a method to prevent this from happening again (especially on a Friday when dad wanted to kick back and have a beer) and I told him he was lucky to have good friends that would wait for him when he did something stupid like this and then he rode off on his bike to go get bubble tea and all-in-all, it was a pretty decent parent/son interaction and I'm proud of both of us for working through it.
In Jeff Vandermeer's second book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, Authority, it feels as if the British version of The Office has moved from Slough to the edge of a wilderness contaminated by an alien civilization, and while in the first book (Annihilation) there was no escaping the menace of Area X, in the second novel there is no escaping the byzantine bureaucratic labyrinth of the Southern Reach-- until the two settings begin to merge . . . and then there are all those border-bunnies; I'm sure I'll be just as confused when I finish the third book, but then I'll read the internet theories and watch the movie and perhaps that will clarify things.
School has truly begun and my brain is taxed . . . I'm teaching four different classes this year (or preps, as we teachers like to call them: Creative Writing, Philosophy, College Writing and English 10) and our family is juggling four different soccer schedules (Alex is playing for the high school, Ian is playing for the middle school team-- which I coach-- and a higher level club team, and I am also coaching the town travel team) and this is probably why I left my driver side door open for the duration of soccer practice, despite the fact that it was raining and my wallet was in the glove compartment; though the rain soaked my seat and the door, it deterred any thievery and my wallet was where I left it.
This week on The Test, Stacey tests us on various significant walls and we perform admirably (aside from when Cunningham accuses me of stealing her thoughts and when I wreck my future in politics . . . also the voice of God returns to correct some stupidity).
While I still can't peel a hard-boiled egg (even with this "genius" spoon method . . . check out the photos) I did stumble on two life hacks recently, and, both times, I did it the old-fashioned way-- without the internet-- so if you were viewing the animated version of my life (which you should) then you would have seen a lightbulb appear over the top of my head, twice this week:
1) I was blowing the yew branches and berries off my sidewalk after my massive trimming project and I decided to stick the leaf-blower into the gutter-spout spout and-- up at roof level!-- a bunch of leaves and sticks and junk flew out of the gutter drain and into the air, unclogging the gutter with minimal effort;
2) I always have trouble with spillage when I'm pouring the water from the coffee decanter into the coffee-maker but I realized that if I put the filter and the ground coffee into the top of the machine before I poured the water into that weird little oblong hole, then I could be sloppier and hold the decanter directly over the coffee-maker and the grounds and filter would absorb any water that doesn't go into that small and awkwardly placed hole that is the ostensible target of the pour (and a difficult bulls-eye for such an early morning activity).
This season (and perhaps for the rest of my days) I am taking the proverbial Colin Kaepernick knee in regards to the NFL: I'm not watching any games, I'm not playing fantasy football, I'm not reading about the Giants on ESPN.com, I'm not buying any merchandise, and I'm going to try my best not to consume any advertisements associated with the NFL . . . in this polarized political environment, I'm choosing Colin Kaepernick over Donald Trump, clarity over CTE, brisk fall afternoons over television, and leisure time over the monetized soulless drudgery of "managing" a fantasy football team.
I used to think our dog Lola was cute, but not anymore: we met a nine week old black lab puppy today that was so adorable it made me want to vomit (a situation reminiscent of the classic Simpson's bit from "Lisa the Vegetarian" that some jerk absolutely ruined on YouTube).
I'm not sure if I'm biased because of my heritage or if Italian economists actually have got it going on, but I loved what conservative economist Luigi Zingales had to say about free markets, capitalism and corruption in America, and I just listened to the new episode of Freakonomics (Is the Government More Entrepreneurial Than You Think?) and I found Mariana Mazzucato's reimagining of the American free market venture capitalist narrative totally fascinating . . . indicative of her revision to the idea that the government is a bumbling, wasteful organization that can never the fact that we pay double for drugs in America, as we subsidize a great deal of the research for the drugs (through the NIH) and then we pay the drug companies through the nose-- despite the fact that the high prices are to fund marketing and share buybacks and dividend payments, and not research and development (as the story goes) and to explain this, drug companies say their premium pricing indicates the value of the drugs . . . which were often funded by taxpayers; Mazzucato touches a number of examples in the podcast and it's worth a listen, but I'm going to read her books and then I'll write a much longer sentence about her.
Schools in my area without A/C sent the kids home early today because of excessive heat, and if you think that this global warming thing is purely anecdotal, and it wasn't any cooler when you were a kid, if you're prone to agree with our fearless leader and think human-induced climate change is a Chinese hoax, and our best bet is to drop out of the Paris Agreement, burn more coal, and rollback auto emissions standards, then this tool might open your eyes . . . it doesn't take into account humidity or temperature averages or anything fancy, it just shows you how many days per year were over 90 degrees, on a year-by-year basis, for any town you like-- and, no surprise, the number has been growing-- and the chart the tool provides also gives a glimpse into the future, which you will be spending indoors, watching Netflix, in your air-conditioned filtered bubble.
After a long day of meetings on Tuesday, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the rest of the day went: my kids were home alone all day and they did all their chores, supervised the dog, played together without argument, and willingly did some reading; Ian had a good soccer practice-- he distributed the ball to one-and-all, hustled, and set a good example in the drills for the younger players-- and then we watched the absolutely perfect finale to Detectorists and decided it was a fantastic and fulfilling ending to a rare and brilliant series, noted that there is a metal detecting club in New Jersey (Deep Search Metal Detecting Club . . . The Deep Searchers would certainly get along with the Dirt Sharks) and we all started making our way up to bed . . . moments, while I was turning the lights off downstairs, I heard a pained screaming not in all in character of the previous events, ran up the stairs and discovered that Ian had jumped off Alex's bed and gotten his ring toe caught in the hole of the laundry basket, which resulted in his nail being ripped from the bed, a wicked cut along the rest of the toe, and a lot of crying . . . I thought I had previously enacted the rule: no one is allowed to get injured right before bed-time, but obviously I hadn't reinforced it enough (like the one about hanging your wet towel up after showering) and this infraction-- which was particularly close to bed-time on the night before the first day of school for Cat and I-- needed a lot of tending and care, including a soak in the tub, some minor surgery on the nail, and some staunching and bandaging . . . so I'm going to really reiterate the rule tonight and remind everyone that the curfew on injuries that need first-aid is 7:45 PM.
The one benefit of this unseasonably hot, humid, and wet summer is that my wife's garden produced obscene amounts of peppers and tomatillos . . . in fact, I ate so many tomatillos this summer-- every morning with my eggs and every afternoon in green salsa form-- that I googled if it was okay to eat a shitload of tomatillos . . . apparently, it's fine.
I have concluded my Labor Day labor: I worked from 8 AM to 1 PM trimming trees in our backyard; I started the morning using my circular saw-- which was dangerous and not particularly effective-- then I borrowed my friend Alec's electric chainsaw, which-- as promised-- had an extremely dull chain-- and I finally walked over to my buddy Ashley's house and got his industrial strength Sawzall, which was the best tool for the job; I had to do a lot of sawing and trimming while standing on a ladder, I had to thoroughly clean the debris because yew berries and needles are poisonous to dogs, and I had to drive three loads of yew tree branches to the dumpster in the park, so I'm (pun intended) bushed but unfortunately, I'm not done expending energy today, and so I have begun drinking beer in the hopes that it will assuage my sore muscles and imbue me with berserker strength for our annual aquatic greased-watermelon rugby match.
Franklin Foer begins his essay collection of selections from the New Republic (Insurrections of the Mind: 100 Years of Politics and Culture in America) with a piece from 1914-- World War I had just begun-- by Rebecca West (who wrote the massive Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, a travelogue and history of the Balkans) and while she's ostensibly speaking about literary criticism, there's a lot more going on and I certainly agree that "the mind must lead a more athletic life than it has ever done before" to grapple with what's happening in our country and our planet . . . I feel like I have been stumbling across bad news everywhere I turn-- I don't really follow the news day-to-day, but when I catch up, it's all bad-- I hadn't heard about Trump's stubborn refusal to lower the flag to half mast for John McCain until after it happened and it just mad me embarrassed and sad, and then I listened to "The Measure of a Tragedy" about Venezuela's economic implosion-- inflation has been so rampant that working a day at minimum wage (which is the median salary for the country) can buy you 900 calories (in the US, working a day at minimum wage can buy you over 100,000 calories) and so Venezuelans have lost, on average, 24 pounds and there is a mass migration of Syrian proportions out of the country, and then I listened to the new episode of The Weeds, about how we've lowered all our immigration numbers-- despite what's happening (and I'm still angry and sad about what happened to my cleaning lady and her husband, who are being sent back to Nicaragua despite the fact that they've had work-permits since 2006 and have kids in the school system and parents and sisters who are citizens-- they are a hard-working couple and a boon to the economy, but the government is over a decade behind on dealing with citizenship applications) and then there's all the environmental stuff-- permanent ice in Greenland is gone, Trump is pushing coal despite carbon emissions and particulate matter pollution, we could have curbed global warming back when George H.W. Bush was president-- he was a proponent and wanted the world to cooperate-- but then things got political and the lobbyists won out (listen to this episode of The Daily to learn about this lost moment in time) and --like with smoking-- we plunged into a corporate fueled era of darkness and denial . . . but like with smoking, there is hope that the science will eventually prevail, just not any time soon . . . anyway, here are the first two paragraphs of "The Duty of Harsh Criticism," her words are far more powerful than mine:
And so we might go on very placidly, just as we were doing three months ago, until the undrained marshes of human thought stirred again and emitted some other monstrous beast, ugly with primal slime and belligerent with obscene greeds. Decidedly we shall not be safe if we forget the things of the mind. Indeed, if we want to save our souls, the mind must lead a more athletic life than it has ever done before, and must more passionately than ever practise and rejoice in art. For only through art can we cultivate annoyance with inessentials, powerful and exasperated reactions against ugliness, a ravenous appetite for beauty; and these are the true guardians of the soul.
Tuesday morning, I got to the East Brunswick Library at 9:40 AM and it wasn't open yet, though the website claimed they opened at 9 AM, but the sign on the door said 10 AM -- summer hours?-- and so I grabbed my book and walked across the parking lot to a bench by the little pond and sat down and started reading; two minutes later a heavyset woman with crazy hair pushing a stroller with a toddler in it sat down on the same bench as me . . . there were other benches available but this was the closest one to the library and, I quickly surmised that she too thought the library opened at 9 AM and I surmised this not because I possess a highly attuned sixth sense that enables me to read people's thoughts-- in fact, I was trying my best to ignore this woman (and her thoughts) but not only was she encroaching on my physical space, she was also encroaching on my auditory space: divulging all her innermost thoughts via a running monologue . . . or I suppose it was a one-sided dialogue with the non-verbal toddler, an apostrophic vomit of words: we thought the library was open, but it wasn't open was it? so we just have to wait here a few minutes . . . maybe awe can have a snack? okay but we're going to stay in the stroller, we'll stay put and eat a snack . . . not that, here you go, and look . . . there are the ducks, those are ducks, and those are the geese, no we're not going to go by the geese, we're going to stay in the stroller and have a snack while we wait for the library to open, we thought it was open but it's not open yet . . . and this prompted me to get up and move, but then I decided that not only would that look rude, but this was my bench and I was obviously trying to quietly read and I was in the right-- she should have taken a look at the context and found another bench-- so I wasn't going to move and i wasn't going to chat with her about how the website claimed the library opened at 9 AM but it actually didn't open until 10 AM, so I buried my head into my book, which was not easy reading (Authority by Jeff VanderMeer, book two in the Southern Reach trilogy) and tried my best to concentrate and then a dozen geese starting walking out of the pond, up the bank towards our bench, and she said, "We're out of here" and got up and pushed the stroller away and I celebrated (internally) because I wasn't afraid of a bunch of geese, in fact, these geese were my saviors . . . and so I settled back into my reading, certain that I would be able to focus now that the woman and the toddler were gone, but the geese kept coming, closer and closer, and eventually the geese got so close to me-- people must feed them-- that I couldn't concentrate on my book and so I had to get up and let the universe have it's way . . . because (ironically) the universe obviously didn't want me to kill the time waiting for the library to open reading a book, though that would have made perfect sense . . . and the universe told me this with three uniquely annoying and encroaching entities-- harbingers always come in sets of three: a rambling mom, a hungry toddler, and a rather aggressive flock of geese.