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From today:

+ If you, like me, love SiriusXM’s The Bridge and want a pitch-perfect album of 70s soft rock covers: Jonathan Coulton’s “Some Guys”

+ If you, like me, love Sweeney Todd in almost any format and need a 2-hour deconstruction of the movie (coincidentally the one format I did not love): Blank Check Podcast (with special guest star Michael Cerveris)

+ If you, like me, love monthly newsletters: Jessica Stanley’s READ. LOOK. THINK.

+ If you, like me, need some hope and some laffs: Parks and Rec: The Comeback Kid (featuring the world’s greatest 3-second claymation video)

You’ve hit the mile marker for your reward

A year ago today I boarded a plane at LaGuardia that landed at O’Hare. I took a cab to Hertz and drove a rental to the post office to pick up my mailbox keys and then I drove to a Honda dealership to buy a car (the #1 car to steal in America, thank you very much). It rained all day. I was very tired.

It’s been a long year—as I have stated many, many times—a year of shifting ground and perspective. There were days that I questioned my choice, but the question was never “did I make the right choice?” Sometimes there is no right choice—that’s the tricky part. That’s the step you take off the ledge you walk yourself out on. But you jump anyway and what you find when you land is a whole other world of choices, and you keep walking off ledges and making new choices and at some point you stop and look around and think well, now I own two sofas I can nap on. And I do, all the time.

p.s. Hell’s bells! This sounds much more smug than I intended, so just focus on the napping part. Thanks, and be careful out there: the woods are lovely dark and deep. Please don’t steal my Honda.

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A 10-minute blog post (I never write anything in 10 minutes but today I’m starting the clock & not second-guessing my choices til later):

+ This tweet immediately reminded me of the children of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa:

I don’t think about these children often, because I am not a creeper (a thing I’m typing even as we approach the 10th anniversary of The Summer of Harriet Walter). Most of what I know about them is from his book: one is a firefighter, one is employed by my alma mater, and the other is an equestrian (a specialty sport for the richie rich, obviously, but not exactly a tabloid magnet). I do follow her on Instagram, but that’s because she owns cute puppies.

+ I watched the High Maintenance season finale on Friday and my New York-loving heart swelled to three times its normal size. At one point the guy and his college bro bud ride their bikes through Central Park and you can see the Plaza in the background and I thought oh, that’s a hill I ran up approximately 8,000 times over the years. The park was my own personal private public backyard/garden/sanity saver, and they captured the wide-open communal joy and magic of it. What a wild and generous series this is. (Also not the first time I’ve seen all of Reed Birney, btw.)

+ Falling under my primary survival tenet of “celebrate everything”—please note this important event in world history:

+ An oldie but a goodie, from Roger Ebert:

"Kindness" covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

+ My mom wants me to buy a $2500 dog: 


Hello and welcome to

My greatest blessing and my greatest curse is that I have a very stupid sense of humor (“very”). A blessing in that it’s easily triggered and a curse in that it makes me a not very serious person; i.e., I have trouble taking most things very seriously (“very”).

e.g., I was going about my usual business and having a terrible work day until I read Joe Veix’s e-scooter escape story at lunchtime, which is ridiculous and earnest in equal measure, and lo all was magically cured just because it made me laugh (h/t Kaitlyn Tiffany):

At the bottom of the hill, I stopped to have a sip of water. As I screwed the top back on my bottle, I noticed a coyote watching me. We quietly watched each other for a few minutes. It was possibly the first e-scooter he had ever seen. What did he think about “ride-sharing 2.0”?

+ I also re-read this piece by Amanda Mull on the follicular maintenance rituals of the rich & famous and those who pretend to the throne (scammers), which is remarkably insightful and, sad to say, 100% true. Hair does not lie.

+ This Jia Tolentino profile of athleisure hawker Outdoor Voices and its founder was equally smart (tho not so funny), nodding at its appeal even as she questions the relentless onslaught of a self-improvement culture. It made me wonder what would happen if I just decided nothing about me needed fixing. What global entities would be destroyed if I didn’t spend time, money, and agony trying to subtract 25 years from my skin, hair, and hips (which, by the way, naturally and almost admirably resist those efforts)? What if healthy and reasonably happy were my only goals? Who would be harmed by this?

You come out ahead if

I watched that Theranos thing on HBO last night and until the day I die I’ll be thinking, at least I never scammed a handful of billionaires out of their billions and multiple thousands out of their blood. Jesus. It was depressing on so many levels—how ready we are to believe in miracles, how eager we are for messiahs. And what a horrible way to live, playing this massive shell game, all these people just lying to each other every day, and for what? For a little bit of money.

But it also reminded me why I keep coming back here, to this small dumb blog. I love writing stories. I suppose I need to. And here I can put something out into the world that has nothing standing in front of it: no cover charge, no login, no registration, no selling before or after or in between. I’m not planning some great endgame, there’s no massive payday in the pot of some grifter’s rainbow. Don’t get me wrong; I understand why some writers put up paywalls or ads; i.e., writing is their job. For me it’s just another way to breathe. It’s all right here, and it’s free, and it’s whatever I want it to be.

p.s. Free for you, I mean. I fork over actual clams for this nonsense. But I do it with love! And money.

This group is for people who

I dialed up my 2016ish playlist in the car yesterday morning, on the way to Trader Joe’s. It kicks off with the first song I played in 2016, a song I’ve listened to a thousand times over the years (“Tuna! Are you kidding me!?”), only yesterday I hit rewind and rewind and rewind (the path to Trader Joe’s is paved with stoplights) over these lines:

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable,
and lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.

It was pathetic, yes. Seeking solace in lyrics is the province of youthful romantics and fans of Brainpickings, and also lovers of soap operas.

All my conversations with friends these days touch on anxiety, on expectations and disappointments and changes we’re struggling to understand. We really have reached a point where we’re looking around and wondering, this is it? I mean it’s not over, but honestly: this is everything? It’s all just…adulthood? And mostly it’s a weird, unbalancing feeling, but also (and I say this as I finally embark on a search for a therapist): it’s nice to share it with the same people who knew you when you were 12 and 22 and 32 and 42 and…

Find some good friends and talk to them, is what I’m saying.

+ This video is such a pure and epic distillation of its time:

An adventure you won’t soon forget

Well I’m back already. To be honest, I got bored.

I drove up to Madison last weekend to see my good friend Kris and my brother Todd, who just had surgery to remove a basal cell carcinoma from his nose, and his wife Darcy and my cousin Tim and Tim’s daughter Lily. Nobody who reads this knows any of these people but it’s important to set a scene. They’re all good people, btw, and funny and fun to be around. You’d like them a lot. Kris and I had lunch and then went shopping at REI and stopped for coffee at a little French bakery in a strip mall where the gray, bearded proprietor conversed with friends in French and a lady stood behind a small folding table next to the front counter making crepes.

On Wednesday I flew to Portland, Ore, for training. I volunteered to go because I enjoy field trips and had never been to Portland before. It was a beautiful city and I got to shop at Powell’s, which was a long-time goal finally achieved (purchases: Beloved [used], Angle of Repose [used], Don’t Save Anything [new]). We were treated well everywhere we went, although I had to switch both flights from United to Alaska Airlines for reasons I will not elaborate, and ended up getting approximately zero hours of sleep over three days. An exciting failed experiment in mental preparedness and knowledge retention. I’m 90% confident on any given day I’ll get fired from this job, and this trip did not improve those odds, but I’m hanging on til the bitter end. What else do I have to do with my time.

Things I’ve been thinking about:

+ In addition to my brother Todd, my dad is having cataract surgery next month, my uncle is recovering from open heart surgery, and my aunt is recovering from spinal surgery. With the exception of Todd these are all people over the age of 80, but still. Every time I see an especially fit individual going about their daily business, feeling good and free and proud, I think to myself, keep going. Do your best. Just know even your body will betray you in the end.

+ Vanitas.

+ On Being / Elizabeth Gilbert: “And curiosity is an impulse that just taps you on the shoulder very lightly, and invites you to turn your head a quarter of an inch and look a little closer at something that has intrigued you.”

+ On Being / Pico Iyer: “The ultimate luxury now might be just a blank space in the calendar."

+ On Being / Helen Fisher: “I happen to be an atheist, and I always have been. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the Hubble Telescope site on the internet, but when you take a look at what’s out there, it’s so staggering — reality is so staggering. The real meanings of life, for me, are in reality, I guess.”

+ My new blog inspiration: Spencer Tweedy. I’m going to follow his idea of keeping regular notes, of checking in, of simply observing and recording without worrying about hooking it to some larger idea.

+ According to the liturgy of liberal dogma or whatever I’m not supposed to read Bret Stephens, but I thought this piece on Neil Armstrong was wonderful.

+ The worst thing in the world is ventriloquists. At the low end of the worst-things-in-the-world spectrum, I mean.

+ I took the red-eye back from Portland on Friday and had a layover in Seattle. We left Seattle at about 12:45 a.m., which for me was nearly three o’clock in the morning. I was wedged into the window seat at the back of the plane, wild-eyed with exhaustion, and I pressed my forehead against the window and watched as we swung out wide over Puget Sound and then back again over the city, a blanket of lights and motion winking back up at us. I understand that flying is a miserable experience, especially now and especially after last week, and yet…I can’t lift into the sky in the dark without thinking a not insignificant part of it is still magic.

+ At the end of The West Wing episode “He Shall, From Time to Time,” Jed Bartlet explains the logic of restocking the government in the event of an emergency to the secretary of agriculture—played by the same dude who played the mayor who turned into a giant snake on Buffy and was going to eat all those kids at graduation—and his very last lines are, “You’ll do fine. People have phenomenal capacity.” And it’s so good! This show was fiction even at the time, lord knows, but do you remember what it felt like to feel that way and not have it seem like a miracle? My god.

I don’t know, man. Life is shitty and sad and hard a lot of the time, even if you’re lucky. Grab whatever makes you laugh or think and run for the hills. You’ll do fine. People have phenomenal capacity.