Monday, August 31, 2020

Deep Thoughts

I have a long-time, excellent friend who is dipping his toe into the online dating scene for the first time. 

"There's a question about who you'd invite to your birthday party, and a lot of women put 'Jesus.'"

"How would that work?" 

"I don't know what you're asking."

"Does Jesus need to bring a present?" I asked. "Or is just being Jesus enough, and he only has to show up?"

He laughed. 

"Also, does Jesus make an Irish exit?" I asked. 

We discussed Jesus and the Irish exit for quite some time. 

I don't want Jesus at my birthday party. If there's one piece of cake left, and we're both reaching for it, Jesus is going to look at me and say 'Were you on the cross?'

I mean, come on, Jesus. Damn.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Friday Links!

This is excellent: A Tale Of Two Ecosystems: On Bandcamp. And this is genuinely incredible: Microsoft Flight Simulator players are flying into Hurricane Laura (real-time satellite data FTW).

From Wally, and it's totally cool: Explore the Museum in Klingon. This is awesome: Meet the 'SlothBot,' the robot taking its sweet time to monitor our climate. Ah, McSweeney's: Arkham Board of Health Feedback on Miskatonic University's Draft Plan For a Safe Campus Repopening. These are excellent: Ray Bradbury's 14 Most Notable Genre Adaptations, On This, His 100th Birthday. This is long and wonderful: The Pandemic Shows Us the Genius of Supermarkets: A short history of the stores that—even now—keep us supplied with an abundance of choices.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's an interesting tidbit: Disney Artwork Once Adorned UCLA, Oregon Ticket Stubs. This is fascinating: How a 200-Year-Old Gift From Benjamin Franklin Made Boston and Philadelphia a Fortune.

From C. Lee, and that's a monster, not cherry blossoms (also, I approve): The terrifying monster logo for the Osaka world’s fair is born, immediately gets fan art. An incredible story: The Bombing and the Breakthrough. This is where ours belong, too (like The Museum of Shame): The Museum Where Racist and Oppressive Statues Go to Die. But who will they make the games about? The gang’s gone gray: Majority of yakuza in Japan now over age 50. I had no idea: How Former Samurai and Farmers Cultivated the First Japanese Apples. Fantastic: The Ultimate Campfire Just Needs One Piece of Wood.

Well, This is Ironic

I woke up this morning at 3:47 a.m.

I don't normally do that. Ever. But COVID and Category 4 hurricanes and NBA players on strike and the rotting corpse of the Republican party and WTF2020 woke me up. 

Incredibly, though, I also had an inspiration. What are the odds? 

The first two chapters of the book are, by far, the weakest. Many of the other chapters have been rewritten several times and edited another ten or fifteen times. 

The first two chapters haven't had that kind of work applied to them yet. 

My editor said that I should wait to rewrite these chapters until all the others had been revised, because that's when I would know everything else that happens in the book, which would make the first two chapters easier to rewrite. 

Good advice. 

Except I woke up at 3:47 a.m. and there was one sentence in my head. 

I wrote down the sentence (I always have pen and paper by the bed) and and tried to sleep. 

Nope. Wasn't happening. 

I wound up packing it in at 4:30, had some breakfast, and started working. 

By 7:45, the first chapter was rewritten. And it works. That one sentence was the key to the entire chapter.

Then I went on a 45 minute walk. Then I had a scone. Then I went to the golf course and practiced. 

I came back and it was 10:45. 

Damn, I've got 11 hours before I can credibly go to bed.

I'm glad I don't have insomnia. Being productive 20 hours a day is not in my wheelhouse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Inspiration Trap

I think I've learned something about inspiration. 

There's this popular conception of writing/music/art that it's driven by inspiration. Ideas from the heavens. Bolts from the blue. 

I thought that, too. So, for years, I was bemoaning the fact that I didn't have any inspiration to write. I expected to have inspiration every time. 

The more I worked on the book, though, the more I realized that depending on inspiration meant that I was depending on something that was out of my control. 

Maybe the initial idea for a book comes from inspiration. But artists aren't driven by inspiration. 

They're driven by work. 

There's a process of going from the story controlling you to you controlling the story, and that process is all work. It's sitting down every day at the same time and going through the same process, even though some days are better than others. 

It's not sexy. It's not romantic. It's steady, and in that steadiness inspiration occasionally appears. The important thing, though, is that it's not required. Show up or don't show up. I'll still be here.

I really wish I had understood this thirty years ago. It would have changed my life. 

WTF 2020

Who knew when Garret sent this to me in the middle of a Winnipeg winter last year that he was actually previewing the best possible wardrobe choice for 2020?

Yup, that checks out. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Thoughts on a sad day. Another one.

I was thinking about the police today. 

This is difficult, because we have all become painfully aware in the last few years that a segment of the police in this country just straight-up murder people, and almost all of those people are black. 

Yeah, that's sickening. And I'm ashamed that I didn't understand this many, many years ago. 

The difficulty is where do we start? There are so many endemic problems with policing in America that it seems impossible to prioritize. 

So I started thinking what the police have in common with other groups that have turned monstrous. 

Collegiate athletic programs. The Catholic Church (although they're certainly not the only one). Any political machine. 

There does seem to be one overriding "feature" of these organizations: a lack of transparent, public oversight. Any organization that functions essentially in secret seems to spin out of control in the most terrible ways, and usually they're not discovered until many years later. 

If there's any positive about this, it's that actions by the police are being documented in real time and immediately shared. It's harder to cover up what's happening. 

That doesn't fix anything. But in spite of the lack of formal, public accountability structures in many cities, at least it's become harder to hide. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Casting Begins Immediately

 Boban Marjanovic is 7'4" and has first ballot Hall of Fame ears (click for a larger version, heh):

I barely have words for the sheer magnificence of those ears. Each one is a Russian novel.

These ears are the strongest argument I've seen for a remake of The Princess Bride (although it's a perfect movie already). Their sheer character and size make Andre the Giant look small in comparison.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, two articles that show how science can be useful in many differernt ways. First, it's Quantum reality is either weirdly different or it collapses. Next, and it's my favorite article of the week: Study confirms that painting eyes on cow butts helps ward off predators.

From Andrew, and it"s stunning: Ride Through a German Village on ‘The Flying Train’ in Incredibly Clear Footage from 1902.

From Wally, and it looks like a ride at a theme park: 79 Elanora Way, Karalee. This is fascinating: The Feisty Shrimp That Kills With Bullets Made of Bubbles. Lots of interesting information here: Death Valley 130-Degree Reading Possibly the Planet's Hottest Recorded Temperature in at Least 89 Years. This is entirely wonderful (and he's been writing a blog for as long as I have, and it's excellent): To the future occupants of my office at the MIT Media Lab.

From Geoff Engelstein, and it's amazing: This Reversible Golf Course Blew Our Minds.

From C. Lee, two articles on the Nomonhan Incident, now argued as an important precursor to WWII: Stuart Goldman: Japanese army served as an unwitting trigger for World War II, and Antony Beevor: Soviet victory prompted Japan to rethink its strategy for war. Next, and it's incredibly clever, it's The ‘solar canals’ making smart use of India’s space. An interesting bit of data: Vulture funds poised to swoop in on non-performing loans in China. This was mentioned (by C. Lee) as a replacement for Evan the Inappropriate Elf, but nothing can ever replace Evan: Pee-Pee Boy. Bizarre: Scientists Rename Genes So Excel Won’t Reformat Them as Dates. These are amazing: The Mesmerizing Geometry of Malaysia’s Most Complex Cakes.

Skills in the Time of COVID

I did an unbelievable job trimming my bangs today.

It was so good, I'm thinking about turning pro. Maybe I'll rent a kiosk at the mall and open up "Bangs! Bangs! Bangs!"

Celtics Coaches Have An Appliance Store Employee Dress Code



Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Poets and Parenting

I can't remember if I've written about this before. It happens. 

We've been together a long time. 

DQ Resident Poet Eduardo Gabrieloff was discussing parenting via email and he used the phrase "Guide, don't control."

That, in essence, is parenting. 

It reminded me that I had a story to write from my time at Meijer Gardens (I still haven't visited since March, due to Damn It 2020). 

All I did at Meijer Gardens was write. It was my office. I never even saw the gardens (which, by all accounts, are fantastic). However, because there were people coming in and out of the cafe, and lots of parents with children, I saw things. 

I would also walk for around ten minutes an hour inside the building (upstairs, downstairs, meeting rooms), so I saw more parent-child interactions there, too. 

There were, broadly, two parenting styles. The first was the parent that constantly corrected their children. They couldn't go fifteen seconds without correcting something. 

The second style was the parent that set clear boundaries on what was okay and what wasn't, and then left their children alone (in terms of guidance) unless they went outside the boundaries. 

The difference was striking. 

I think every parent understands that the second style is far, far better for a child's development, but in practice, it can be difficult to do. There's a fine line between a child doing something that needs to be corrected and something that is just annoying to the parent. 

I think it's also hard for high-achieving parents to parent in the second style, because high achievers tend to have a high degree of control over their own lives. 

The difference in child behavior, though, was remarkable. 

Children who were constantly being corrected were much more active, almost frantically so. They were all over the place. Almost every interaction the parent had with the child involved some sort of command. 

The children being parented in the boundary style were much calmer. They were much more likely to be focused on a single thing, instead of everything. The parents were also more likely to just be hanging out with their child, talking to them about all kinds of things. 

You may think that it's the children driving the parenting style, but from what I observed, I don't believe so. I think it's the parents who drive their child's behavior (absent some kind of medical issue). 

Think about it in terms of your boss. 

If your boss is constantly correcting you at work, it's annoying as hell. It will make you anxious, and it makes it hard to focus, because you feel like you have to concentrate on everything all the time. You feel like you're always defending yourself.

If your boss just sets boundaries, though, that's a great boss. You can do your work, set some of your own priorities, and manage yourself. You're more confident, and you do better work.

It seems like it would be the same way with children. If they're never given an opportunity to manage themselves, they never learn those skills. There are so many rules that they never feel like they know all of them, and that creates anxiety.

The children that have clear boundaries, though, are free to explore. They're given a space to learn how to manage themselves, and they also interact in a far more relaxed way with their parents. 

It's easier for a parent using the boundary style to lapse, of course, but just thinking about boundaries instead of micro-management is a good thing, both for parents and children.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Well, Here We are

 A good friend of mine dropped his freshman son off at an SEC school last week.

He texted me about the situation this morning:
Some online, some hybrid. Guessing it will 
be a shitshow by Halloween.

I don't see how we're even going to make it to Halloween. 

In Ann Arbor, I was stunned by how many people were wearing masks. Compliance was incredibly high, the highest I've seen anywhere. It's an intelligent city, with fewer Joe Freedoms than most. 

Still, though. 

Even if 90% of students stayed away from parties, that still leaves 4,500 kids out of 45,000 who aren't following the guidelines. And that's enough to cause a huge outbreak on campus.

Eli 19.0 lives off campus now, so even if they shut the university down for in-person instruction, he'll probably stay in Ann Arbor, since he has to pay rent anyway. But man, what a lousy experience that would be. 

Actually, that's not quite true. If he could go to the rock gym every day, I think everything else would be easier to put up with. It's just that the rock gym would probably close, too. 

2020. Please end soon.

Other examples around the country are not encouraging. The University of North Carolina is fairly equivalent to U of M, and they didn't last long: Virus outbreaks shut down University of North Carolina a week into fall semester

The really sad thing is that massive testing with prompt results could largely control this until we have a vaccine. In the U.S., though, there are plenty of places where people are waiting a week for results, which makes testing utterly useless. 

Which is why we, um, have a federal government that should be managing a coordinated response instead of being utterly inept.

An early reminder, but VOTE. 


Monday, August 17, 2020

All Has Been Survived

So we started getting ready to go to Ann Arbor at 10:30 this morning, and I got back a few minutes ago. It was a long day. 

Eli 19.0 is moved in, though, and his house is close enough to campus that he can still walk to class. He knows everyone in the house, likes them all, and I'm hoping he's very happy there. 

We played 5 different golf courses in 8 days in the last week or so, and there were some great moments. I went +2 on a front nine on Friday (one of my best nine hold scores ever), and he went -2 on the back (my back nine was entirely regrettable, because I was totally exhausted in 95+ heat index). 

He had a lesson on Sunday morning, and his instructor said the reason he was sometimes inconsistent was because he was moving his head. The instructor gave him a drill to fix it and his swing looks like a tour player now (not kidding--it's unreal). So I think he'll be a scratch golfer in one more summer. 

Me? I just need to heal my wrist, my calf, my foot, and several other things. I did get much better this summer, and if I can just be healthy, I think I can keep going. I'll never be a scratch player, like him, but I could get down to a 5 handicap, I think, which would be the lowest I've been in a long time. 

Right now, though, I'm exhausted. 

I'll be back to normal, writing-wise, tomorrow. Today I'm knackered, as they say on my British detective shows. 

Oh, and incredibly, I miss clouds. Who would have thought I would ever say that living in Grey Rapids? It's  been nonstop sun for almost two months, and I actually miss overcast days. 

I'll try to remember this in January.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a detectorist triumph (man, I love that show): Detectorist in Scottish Borders uncovers bronze age haul.

From Meg McReynolds, and this is tremendous: Darth Vader Statue (converted from Lenin). These guys are hilarious and their enthusiasm is infectious: FIRST TIME HEARING Phil Collins - In the Air Tonight REACTION.

From Wally, and these are all a bit strange: Star Trek: The 10 Weirdest Official Merch You Can Buy. This is quite a thoughtful analysis: The World of Robert B. Parker's Spenser and the Birth of the 1970s Private Detective. This is so unbelievably stunning: Bride describes ‘nightmare scene’ after Beirut explosion hit her photoshoot. So, so pleasant: Rube Goldberg Puzzles. This is absolutely excellent:  The Impact of Toxic Influencers on Communities.

From David Gloier, and it's incredible: Sharks found living in an active volcano stun scientists.

From C. Lee, and it's a sad story: 1000s of Korean laborers still lost after WWII, Cold War end. This is fascinating: Why Are Plants Green? To Reduce the Noise in Photosynthesis. A terrific read: The Battle to Invent the Automatic Rice Cooker. Oops:  Beer brand and leather store unwittingly named after Māori word for 'pubic hair'.  This is remarkable: Being swallowed by a frog is no problem for this aquatic beetle. Also fascinating: Your Old Radiator Is a Pandemic-Fighting Weapon. A significant problem: “I literally cannot sell units on Switch. It’s heartbreaking, and it makes me really sad for the eShop.”

Closing out the week, from John Harwood, and it's fantastic: The UX of LEGO Interface Panels.


Every summer I basically hang on and try to survive, physically, until Eli 19.0 goes back to school. 

I'm having fun. We always have fun. But trying to match the activity of an elite athlete at 19.0 with my 59.4 body is always a balancing act, and by balancing, I mean falling off a cliff. 

Since this is our  last week (he goes back on Monday), we've played golf every day this week but one. We always walk, of course, and it's surprisingly hot up here, and I'm exhausted. And we're playing 18 tomorrow and Saturday, and maybe Monday at the U-Michigan course after he unpacks. 

The balancing act involves my various injuries that accumulate over the summer, like my calf and wrist. The wrist, in particular, is just hanging on at this point. I had to stop playing FIFA 20 on the PS4 (which I'd really been enjoying) because it was killing my wrist. If I don't play FIFA, I can play golf every day and ice my wrist and make it through (with a liberal amount of Advil). 

After Monday, though, I'm taking at least 4-5 days off to let my wrist heal. 

He still can't beat me on the practice putting green, though. Worth it. 

Of course, I can't putt worth a damn on the course. If I could actually putt during a round, I'd be shooting in the 70s consistently now. Didn't see that coming.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


There are companies that have made us feel marginally better about corporate America during the pandemic. Companies that have made an effort. 

Then there's Chipotle.

I hadn't been to Chipotle since this mess all started, but I went yesterday. Ordered a burrito ($7). Asked for water. The water is free from the fountain.

[Aside: I stopped drinking soda at restaurants because the quality is erratic and it's expensive, except for Jimmy John's, which is always perfect.]

The woman at the counter looked up at me. "We don't have fountain drinks now, only bottled. Is that okay?"

I said "yes" and she handed me a small bottle of water. 

I paid the bill, which seemed suspiciously high. In the car, I looked at both the water and the receipt. 

The water was "Ice Mountain" brand, and it was 19 oz. 

The price was $2.45. That's not a typo. 

It took me about thirty seconds to look up Ice Mountain water and find a 24-pack (16.7 oz) for $9.98. That's .41 a bottle, at the consumer level. Chipotle undoubtedly gets a discount.  

Let's be charitable and say they get it for .30 a bottle. Charging $2.45 is over an 800% markup. 

I understand that profit margins and volume are down for companies. I'm totally sympathetic to that. I'm not sympathetic to marking up water 800% when it's something you offered for free when the fountain was in use. 

You want to do this the right way? Partner with Ice Mountain. Make it a branding and goodwill opportunity. Sell it with a slight markup. Ice Mountain gets exposure for their products. Chipotle lets people know that they're not being ripped off. 

In the long run, I think that generates more business than price gouging. At least, it would have for me, because I'm not very interested in those burritos anymore. 


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

A Simple Proposal

I keep hearing how the NCAA "can't afford" to pay Division One college football players. 

Here are the two primary arguments:
1) College football isn't really that profitable for most schools
2) College football supports other, non-revenue sports

You can very quickly see that those two lines of reasoning are in violent contradiction with each other. 

But it's impossible to come up with a plan, they say. It's too complicated!

Here's your plan. It literally took me one commercial break to figure out. 

THE ENORMOUS PLAN: Add $5 to the cost of every ticket. 

Congrats, you're done!

Based on 2019 attendance, that would generate $184 million dollars. 

If you gave 100% of the additional revenue generated in each game to the home team, then split it equally between the 85 scholarship players at the end of the season, it would mean about $5,000 for each player on scholarship at the lowest attendance schools and $35,000 for each scholarship player at the highest attendance schools. 

Walk-ons don't get paid. Consider them interns.

There are plenty of ways you can tweak this to reduce the disparity between best/worst schools, but you don't have to. And it doesn't cost the schools anything. 

The NCAA would also pass (as they've promised) proposals to let athletes profit off their names and likenesses. So the best players will naturally receive more compensation. 

It's really not that complicated, is it?

Monday, August 10, 2020

An Extravagant Wager

The beloved little muni course we play on has relatively slow greens. 


This summer, though, we're behind in rainfall, and the greens have dried out. They're much faster than normal. 

As a result, the green on #14 has become a monster. 

This green is steeply sloped from back to front. Even with regular green speeds, it's not easy to stop the ball on a downhill putt. Now, it's simply impossible. As soon as you get below the hole, the ball will roll another twenty-five feet and go right off the green. 

Yesterday, I hit a shot to the green and was pin-high, thirty-five feet away. 

"I'll give you a dollar if you keep that on the green," Eli 19.0 said. "And I'll give you twenty if you make it."

"Twenty dollars?"

"Yes." He laughed. "Safest bet I ever made."

I looked at the put. I was left of the hole, so it was a left to right break, and it was steep. I tried to visualize a line that would putt the ball in the hole. 

I'm not good at that. 

I settled on a line with over fifteen feet of break. To have any chance, I was going to have to hit the putt over fifty degrees above the straight line to the hole.


"I couldn't possibly make this putt, except you bet me," I said. "You know what happens when you bet me." I am notorious for hitting unbelievable shots, far beyond my skill level, when we have a bet. 

"Not worried," he said. "I'll be impressed if you get the dollar."

I stepped up to the putt and looked at the line for a long time. Then I took a smooth swing and the ball took off. 

I watched the ball curving as it rolled toward the hole. It was a great putt. I'd estimated too much break, but it was a great effort. 

As it neared the hole, it started curving more sharply. It was going a little too fast, though, and there was no way it was going to stop. 

Damn. That ball is going to roll right off the green, I thought. 

And it was, until it hit the flagstick and dropped like a stone. 

"No!" Eli said. 

I raised my arms above my head and shouted. 

"That did not just happen," he said. "That was going right off the green."

"Until it hit the flagstick dead center," I said, laughing. "I can replace my lost glove now, thanks to your generosity."

"Unbelievable," he said. 

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Friday Links!

Leading off, an incredible story (John Harwood alert) about a special gaming contest: The seven treasures of Ultimate Play the Game. This is a spectacular piece of writing: The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge.

From Wally, and this is a wonderful article: Tamaleando in Tennessee. This is absolutely fascinating: The mysterious case of man who can read letters—but not numbers—exposes roots of consciousness. Mind-blowing: World First 360 Double Backflip Tailwhip on BMX.

Terrific links from C. Lee, as always. First, and this looks like an amazing book, it's When the US Government Went After Anti-Nazi Hollywood (good grief, we haven't gotten any less stupid in 80 years, have we?). A genuinely incredible story: Get Yourself a Fake Male Assistant. Embarrassing: That Time the U.S. Tried to Sneak Stealth Fighters Across Austria. Tremendously ingenious: The sisters regrowing forests helped by their dogs. It's all in the details: He Might Have Been Able to Fake His Death, if Only He’d Spell-Checked. A fascinating thread: A map of the very first thing Japanese people think of for every prefecture in Japan.

A Farewell to Johnny (part two)

Johnny wasn't the kind of person who walked around dispensing profound wisdom. 

He didn't need to. All he needed to do was be himself, and all I needed to do was watch him, because the way Johnny did things was the whole philosophy of his life. 

When he collected shells (from all the time he spent fishing on Padre Island), he built display cabinets and had a stunning collection.

When he built a skiff, he worked on it for years. I would ask him if it was ever going to be done, but he was never in a hurry. The whole process was so methodical and complete, and he never skipped a single step. 

I don't think Johnny would have necessarily described it this way, but what he demonstrated every day was that life was a process, not an outcome. 

That sounds simple, but it's not. 

It wasn't really the shells in display cases that gave him pleasure. It was the process of collecting the shells that filled the display cases that mattered to him. 

It wasn't having a new skiff. It was the process of building the skiff. 

I desperately wanted a basketball goal around the time I was nine. It wasn't like it is now, though--you couldn't just go to a sporting goods store and buy a basketball goal and support that you could wheel around. Even if it had been possible, we couldn't have afforded it. 

My Mom bought the backboard and rim, and then Johnny just showed up one day and started working. He attached the backboard to a wooden pole, a big one. He dug a hole at the end of the driveway. Poured concrete. Put the sturdy wooden pole into the hole as the concrete set. When the concrete dried, I had a basketball goal. 

It took him all afternoon. 

Of course, after I thanked him and he went back home, the first thing I did was climb up on a ladder and measure how high it was. 10'0". Exactly. 

It would have been easier for it just to be close to ten feet, but that's not how he did things. 

Like I said, he lived two doors down, and the lots were small, so there couldn't have been more than thirty yards or so between the basket and his garage. I'm sure he could hear me every time I shot baskets, which was constantly. My poor Mom missed out on naps because I was out there for hours, shooting, and I'm sure he missed out on peace and quiet, too.

He never said a word. 

I wish I'd thanked him again before he passed away. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

A Farewell to Johnny (part one)

I've been trying to put my thoughts about Johnny in order for the last few days. 

There are memories that suddenly become sharper when someone passes, and they come back like a flood. That's what happened with Johnny, and I've been trying to sort through all the memories. 

Good memories.

When you're a child, your parents give you a sense of belonging. My Mom certainly did. Children need more than that, though--they need to meet people outside their home who give them the same sense of belonging, so that they feel comfortable in the world. 

Johnny did that for me. 

We moved down Austin Street, into our own house, in 1965 or 1966. Johnny and his wife Marilyn lived two doors down. They seemed old when I met them, but now I realize how impossibly young they were, so much younger than I am now. 

People were drawn to Marilyn because she was so quick-witted and had a big smile. She said twenty words for every one that Johnny said. 

As it turned out, though, Johnny was the one I was drawn to. 

He ran a concrete business in Corpus Christi, and he loved fishing and football and boxing. I learned later that he was a craftsman, too, watching him build a wooden skiff over the course of a few years that was unbelievably beautiful. Later he would start carving animals out of wood, and they were amazing.

Something else about Johnny: he was never in a hurry. 

In all the years that I knew him, I never saw him rush. I was the opposite as a boy, because I wanted to go everywhere and do everything and answer every question simultaneously. Johnny answered every question with a slow, calm voice that was never in a hurry, just like him. 

I didn't understand this until many years later, but without a father I was missing out on some things. Johnny knew that, though, and he quietly arranged for me to have some of those experiences. He took me fishing. He took me to high school football games, and we watched pro games together in his den. He let me hang out with him in the garage, whenever I wanted. 

It was this slow accumulation of certainty that made me have that sense of belonging. 

When I started playing golf (his brother played and took me once, and I was hooked), Johnny dropped me off at the course in the summer on the way to work. I'd walk 36 holes, then practice, and I'd be waiting for him at 4:30 to go home. I think I was only around twelve then, but I'd go with him and his daughter a few days a week. 

Mom scrimped so that I could play and have a cheeseburger out of the vending machine for lunch. 

I wasn't always comfortable when I was a kid, because even though I didn't know it, I was already pretty introverted. Around Johnny, though, I never had a single moment where I didn't feel okay. 

I never saw Johnny get angry. Annoyed, a few times, but it never lasted long. That was another reason I never felt uneasy, because I knew he wasn't going to get angry about anything. 

It was a far simpler time, and for Johnny, that fit him perfectly, because to describe him was simple: he was a good man. 

Tomorrow: the story of the basketball goal.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Please Stop Saying This

It seems like every customer service person in the world is now answering "Perfect" every time you answer a question. 

There are legitimate uses of the word "perfect." A pitcher recording all 27 outs in a game with no one reaching base is a perfect game in baseball. A 300 game in bowling is a perfect game. An undefeated season is a perfect season. 

This is a high bar. 

I am not reaching a high bar when I give you my birth date, or the last four digits of my Social Security number. This is a very low bar, one that any sentient person should be able to step over. I do not need you to act like I've just planted a flag on the summit of Mount Everest. 

Okay, I confused some people yesterday

I wasn't very clear yesterday. 

On Saturday, my uncle passed away. He was a nice man, but we weren't close. 

On Sunday, my childhood neighbor Johnny passed away. I was very close to him when I was a kid, and he was incredibly generous in finding time for a kid who never stopped asking questions (me). 

I didn't understand that I was missing anything by not having a father (Mom was great), but Johnny very quietly made sure that I had some standard boy-dad activities (watching football, fishing, taking me to a golf course on his way to work). He was the only male figure in my life for a long time. 

I have a much better idea of how important that was now than I did back then. When I was a kid, I just knew that Johnny was a really nice guy. 

I still plan on writing about him, but man, it's hard. 

Monday, August 03, 2020

Eli 19.0!

The best boy a father could ever have. 

This is his goofy smile to his mom when she demanded he smile for a picture: 

We don't take pictures well on command. It's a known issue. 

2020, The Year When All Of Our Faces Get Eaten

On Saturday, my uncle passed away. 

On Sunday, I found out that the man who was my only male role model for the first twelve years of my life passed away. 

His name was Johnny. 

I'm going to write about him, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it today. He was a generous and kind man, and his passing unleashed a flood of incredibly vivid memories that I'm still sorting through. 

This year, man. It's COVID and stupid people and stupid presidents and people that helped me passing away. 

Everyone gets their face eaten except Eli 19.0. Thank goodness. 

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