2012

The Panera Urinal Fiasco

Warning: Don’t wear shorts. Ever.

I’m sitting in a Panera, writing. A few moments ago, as I walked toward the bathroom, I saw a man emerge. He was wearing glasses and a golf shirt, and his pants—beige khakis—were covered with 30 or so little drops.

Pee.

This may well go down as my strangest post, but Panera’s urinals—all of Panera’s urinals—suck. I’ve probably worked in, oh, a dozen Paneras, and I’ve learned the hard way that, when wearing shorts, one must pee in the toilet. Why? Because Panera urinals splatter. All of them.

I suppose, were I a guy who wore pants, I could sorta deal with it. I mean, pee is pee, and it’s unpleasant no matter the medium. But as someone who spends 80 percent of his life in shorts, the Panera urinal situation proves a true debacle.

Here’s how it’s gone, far too many times:

1. After drinking my 28th refill, I walk into the bathroom.

2. I stand at the urinal and begin to pee.

3. The pee splatters against my legs.

4. I say, “Ew, fucking gross!”

5. Someone looks at me funny.

6. I grab a wet paper towel and wipe my legs.

7. Now they’re wet with water and pee.

Nasty. And even more nasty when I ponder the deeper implications. This isn’t merely my pee splattering against my leg. It’s a mix of Jim’s pee, John’s pee, Malik’s pee, Ed’s pee, Steve’s pee, Juaquin’s pee. Bert’s pee. Anyone who has peed within, oh, the past hour probably left a little bit of liquid remainder somewhere within the confines of the urinal.

Now it’s on my leg.

Fortunately, with great power comes great responsibility. I’ve changed my ways; changed my urinational pattern. I’m a happier man for it, too. A drier man.

But it’s still gross.

The Debate: Fire Rex Ryan vs. Keep Rex Ryan

I remember being in college and desperately wanting a chance to write somewhere … anywhere. Generally, that led to frustration.

Hence, I decided to invite college journalists here to debate me on random subjects. I’ll run these from time to time, when I’m feeling particularly funky. Today, Vince Pitrone, an excellent University of Pittsburgh at Bradford student, and I debate whether Rex Ryan should remain as the Jets coach ….

Vince Pitrone on Firing Rex Ryan

Rex Ryan has failed the Jets team and the Jets fan base the past two seasons, and should be fired.

After reaching the AFC title game two years in a row, Rex and the Jets have underachieved the past two seasons and are becoming the laughing stock of the league—and it all comes down to Rex and his coaching staff not doing a good job coaching a team with enough talent to be better than it is.

The Jets’ offense has been stagnant, at best. In my opinion, no one really knows what is going on, and as head coach, Rex is to blame. He even looks lost sometimes. This was never more obvious than during the game against the Patriots, when Mark Sanchez ran into the butt of his own lineman and fumbled the ball. It was then picked up by the Patriots, and returned it for a touchdown (on a play that Tim Tebow should have been running). By the way, the constant switching of quarterbacks and use of the wildly unsuccessful “Wildcat” throughout the course of season definitely hasn’t helped the Jets either.

There is a total lack of unity on defense that has impacted the entire locker room, which Ryan hasn’t had control over for the past two seasons. Throughout Rex’s time in New York, there have been good times and bad times. As of late the bad has out weighed the good, and this team is moving in the wrong direction.

It’s time for a change in New York, and though it is not all his fault, Rex should be the first to go.

Vince Pitrone wants Rex to go.

Jeff Pearlman on Keeping Rex Ryan

I’ve been a fan of the New York Jets significantly longer than Vince Pitrone has been alive.

Craps, I’ve lived through the drafting of Lam Jones; Richard Todd’s five interceptions against Miami; Ken O’Brien over Dan Marino; Blair Thomas over Emmitt Smith; Al Toon’s concussions; Rich Kotite’s ineptitude … on and on and on and on. To be blunt, being a Jet loyalist sucks, because the team always, always, always, always finds a way to fuck things up. Always.

Hence, I vote for keeping Rex Ryan.

Is he a good head coach? Lord, no. The Jets lack offensive rhyme, defensive rhythm and any remote morsel of discipline. Save for Mike Ditka and, perhaps, Terrell Owens, I can’t think of a bigger NFL buffoon than Ryan. Really, I can’t. And yet … what difference does it make? The Jets will lose with John Gruden, they’ll lose with Bill Cowher, they’ll lose with Brian Billick and they’ll lose with the ghost of Bill Walsh. They’ll always lose, because that’s what the Jets do.

So, if the franchise is predisposed to failure, why not let Ryan stick around and entertain us with fruitless guarantees and inane proclamations and foot fetishes?

Do you have anything better to do?

Howley’s

I feel like I’m eternally on the lookout for the next great writing spot.

It sucks, actually. Were I able to write in a nice quiet room, I’d be living the easy life. No throwing away bucks on drinks, no snarling at loud gabbers at the adjacent seat, no spending 15 minutes trying to wedge a couple of cardboard drink holders beneath the weak leg on a wobbly table, no hoping Panera’s fireplace is working. I’d simply wake up, drive the kids to school, come home and plop down in my basement office.

Alas …

I can’t write at home. Just can’t. Too many distractions. The TV, the fridge, the XBox, the bed, the kids, the dog, the ticking clock, the photo albums. Hence, I’ve spent much of my life as a hobo writer, bouncing from Starbucks to Cosi to Panera to Tea Leaf to the Mirage Diner. It’s the story of my existence; an endless, Moses-like walk across the desert.

And yet, once every year I find paradise. It’s here, in Howley’s, a small diner/restaurant in West Palm Beach. Whenever we come down to visit the inlaws, I sneak out one or two nights, drive 20 minutes south and park myself at a corner table. The music is loud, the decor confusing, the food expensive (but friggin’ good), the clientele heavily tattooed and, generally, half my age. Something, though, just clicks. I’m comfortable here; happy here. The words flow, the sentences run. I wish I knew how to bottle this, but … I don’t. Best comparison—my dog Norma’s favorite toy is a mangled green bat. She has nicer items, cooler items. But the bat works.

Howley’s works.

One more thing—writing in bars/restaurants/cafes evokes an old feeling to me. Hemingway, perhaps. Or Hunter S. Thompson. The idea of these guys sitting in a bar, sipping a bourbon, just pouring out words. I’m no fool—I’m not of their class or ilk. But, every so often, I like to think about them; think that they’d approve of me being here, and not at a kitchen table.

Amy Freeze

Dating back to early childhood, I’ve always been fascinated by TV weather-people.

Why? Three reasons:

1) They were on television.

2) They always seemed to be very excited about weather.

3) They often seemed to be wrong.

Regrettably, I never knew anyone who did televised forecasts. Mr. G once came to my elementary school, but not my class. Nick Gregory lives 1/4 mile from my home, but we’ve failed to chat. Alas, my life is a sad and incomplete one.

Hence, it brought me great joy when Amy Freeze—one of America’s most famous TV meteorologists—agreed to be Quazed. Amy is the weekend meteorologist at WABC-TV in New York, but her resume offers up some long, winding, riveting stops and experiences. She was the first-ever female sideline reporter for Major League Soccer. She did the same gig for the Chicago Bears. She lost a ton of weight, married BYU’s mascot, has traveled alone on an airplane with four kids and is a six-time marathoner. Oh, and she’s agreed to speak to my journalism class at Manhattanville College. In other words, she can do no wrong. Ever.

Amy Tweets here, and one can visit her official website here and her blog here. Oh, and she blogs about running here.

Jeffpearlman.com offers sun, 85 degrees—and one helluva Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Amy, I have a smart father. College educated, open-minded, worldly. And he has an opinion about television meteorologists-namely, that, when a potentially awful storm is coming, they will overstate the potential severity so that, afterward, people won’t say, “Man, 500,000 people without power … and all you said was there’d be some bad rain.” Is there any remote truth to this? Do weather professionals sometimes need to watch their backs?

AMY FREEZE: Tell him to watch Channel 7. We don’t hype. I like to think of the weather message as a “Call to Action” or a “Calming message.” If you don’t need to worry, I’ll tell you. But we do need to pay attention most of the time around here—the weather is crazy in New York City these days. In the past year, we have had two landfall hurricanes—Irene and Sandy. We had two tornadoes touch down in the city limits in Brooklyn and Queens.

And we had a long-path tornado in Great River North on Long Island—that twister was on the ground for 4.5 miles with 85 mph winds! Not to mention the incredible flooding, the hot summer, and the early snowfalls we have had—including the October snowfall in 2011. Basically, if it rains an inch in New York City in less than six hours—there will be some type of flooding there’s just nowhere for the rain to go. If there are winds above 45 mph, there will be power outages—the above-ground power lines are vulnerable to big winds. The science is better than it’s ever been. The seven-day forecast is as good now as the five-day forecast was in 1988. The warning time on tornadoes has gone from five minutes to 13 minutes—20 years ago tornadoes happened without warning 74 percent of the time but now we get at least some type of warning out 69 percent of the time. Bottom line: This is not your father’s weather world, J.P.

I’m a scientist. Not an actor. I work to get it right.

J.P.: I watch the weather, I enjoy the weather, I’ve got nothing but respect for the weather. But I must ask: Save for looks, delivery, wardrobe, age, accent-is there any real difference between what you’ll tell me and what the weather folks at NBC, CBS, Fox, etc tell me? In other words, are there substantial reasons to pick a weather person?

AF: Yes. If they were born with a weather name, like Freeze … maybe that’s too obvious. Your meteorologists should be students of the weather, scientists. They should have a degree and be reviewed by the American Meteorological Society with a seal of approval (it requires tests and a peer review). Every meteorologist at Ch. 7 has an AMS Seal. If your meteorologist has the Certified Broadcast Meteorologist Accreditation from the AMS—that is the top seal available (check). If they have a Master’s Degree from University of Pennsylvania with a research thesis in Storm Water, that’s cool (check.). And remember while weather people are these familiar faces that make you feel good when you wake up or soothe you right before bed. There comes a point when your TV friends must be more than eye candy. When it comes to my property, my commute, my $300 cute boots, and how I dress my kids for school in winter … I want the forecast to be accurate.

J.P.: I’ve long argued that life can be depressingly repetitive. Along those lines, is life as a meteorologist depressingly, depressingly repetitive. Rain today, sun tomorrow, snow the next day, then rain, then sun, temperatures in the 40s today, in the mid 40s tomorrow. I say this with no disdain, but it strikes me as, well, sort of a boring gig. Tell me why I’m wrong.

AF: You watched the movie “The Weather Man” didn’t you?  It’s not like “Groundhog Day” either. Having a job that’s different every day is awesome. I’ve lived in several different climates forecasting the weather: the Pacific Northwest with epic ice storms, the Rocky Mountains with huge snowstorms, the Midwest with tornadoes, and the east coast with Nor’easters, extreme heat, wind storms, hurricanes and flooding.

J.P.: So you’ve got a genuinely fascinating background. Indiana born and raised, Mormon, cheerleader at BYU, your husband, Dr. Gary Arbuckle, was Cosmo the Cougar. So many things to ask, but I’m stuck on the Cosmo the Cougar thing. Really, Gary was the cougar? A. What does that even mean? And how did you meet?

A.F.: I was a cheerleader at BYU. Cosmo the Cougar is the BYU mascot—who is part of the cheer squad. Although he denies it, I know he became the mascot to meet cheerleaders. Anyway. He’s 6-foot-5, so he was the tallest mascot ever at the university. He’s an animated guy, very funny … and in college we spent a lot of time together.

The next thing I know, we were married.

J.P.: I know your background, but I don’t know … why. Namely, why become a meteorologist? What led you down this path? When did you decide, “Yes! This is what my life will be!” And is it a passion, or just a cool way to score a paycheck?

A.F.: I was born with the name Freeze. However, I did not grow up wanting to be a weathercaster. I actually studied print journalism, I did two study abroad sessions—one in South Africa and another in Germany. I wanted to write for a newspaper (hint: New York Times, Wall Street Journal) about foreign affairs like NATO, European Union, small factions in Africa and conflicts in remote areas. But as you know because of your extensive research (noted above), I was married at 20 and I needed to get a job to support my husband’s graduate school. No newspaper would hire me in Portland, Oregon where I was living at the time. So, I took a job at TV station as a daily writer. The job expanded and I was doing more work for them as a new morning show launched. A consultant saw me while I was a stand-in for the new studio lights. She suggested I become the hip entertainment reporter (Gasp! Interviewing bands like Everclear was very far off from writing about world affairs!). But I needed the money, and the benefits. I took the job and months later the weatherman had a bypass surgery … who will fill in? “Freeze! That sounds like weather … Get up to the weather deck.” I secretly enrolled in Intro to Meteorology at Portland State University … and I loved the mystery of weather. I would eventually get a second degree in Meteorology and a Master’s Degree at University of Pennsylvania. I guess it was irony, fate, destiny, serendipity and all those fancy terms for what’s meant to be finds a way to happen. So … I love my job, and yes, the paycheck is good, too.

J.P.: I’m not sure if you saw this, but, after a Chiefs linebacker killed his girlfriend, then himself, Bob Costas used his position as a commentator on NBC’s Football Night in America to bemoan the nation’s gun laws. He was ripped to shreds-people saying, “How is this his area to talk about? Why doesn’t he stick to football? Etc … etc.” Along those lines, do meteorologists have a place … perhaps an obligation to speak out and be heard on climate change? And, as someone in the weather business, how concerned are you?

A.F.: Well, Costas is a commentator. He should be able to say whatever he wants, he’s paid to give his opinion, to comment. Funny how we like commentators until we don’t like their opinion. Ha! A lot of people have watched him comment for many topics and I think if it’s under the sports realm, expect him to offer insight. While meteorologists have opinions (even on gun laws) our job is to present science. Beyond forecast numbers, climate change is an indisputable fact and we should know about it. The causes and the degree to which it’s happening are up for discussion. Yes, I think serious meteorologists should speak to peer-reviewed science and present the facts on climate change. They should be a part of the discussion and offer evidence and look for answers based in science. The job of every great scientist is not to know all the answers but to ask the right questions.

J.P.: When I think of TV meteorologists, I consider only that five-minute span when you’re on the tube. But what is your day actually like? When do you start analyzing the weather? What are you looking for? When do you get to the studio? Please break it down for me, Amy.

A.F.: I get up at 6. I run. I get four kids ready and out the door for school. I’m off Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesday through Sunday I work at the WABC-TV usually doing special reports on weekdays and weather on the weekends. But I fill in on all shifts so the times I’m working can sometimes be tricky. If it’s an early morning shift we get in about 3:30 am and prepare the forecast and we use the services of Accuweather but we produce our own forecasts. I put on makeup and comb my hair about 30 minutes before air time. I wear a microphone, earpiece for producer talk and I use a garage door clicker to advance the weather graphics. I get about four-to-five minutes of TV time. It’s all ad-lib. No script. I also have a blog called “Freeze Front” and using social media like Facebook and Twitter.com/AmyFreeze7 is part of the job description.

J.P.: I’ve done some TV, and I have many friends who work in the industry. Clearly, it can be v-e-r-y surface and cutthroat. Right now you’re 38, pretty, etc. But do you worry about sticking when you’re …45 … 50 … 55? Will there always be someone who can be had for cheaper, with blonde hair and a perky smile and … well, yeah. And do you think, in the TV news industry, it’s easier for men to age than women?

A.F.: First of all, I’m not dying my hair blond—so mark that off the list. Are you saying I won’t always look this way? I think I look better now than I did at 28. And for sure, I know more. In the information age, correct information is becoming more and more critical. How you look may increasingly fall short to what you know. My beauty regime is to learn more and get smarter. Plus, as part of my world domination plans I do daydream about owning the network in a few years … job security.

J.P.: I’m fascinated by Sandy-not just because we lost power for 10 days, but because I’m guessing it was like your Bar Mitzvah and Christmas rolled into one. What was the experience like for you? As a news person? As a New Yorker?

A.F.: Sandy may seem like the Super Bowl of the weather world. But big storms are not as fun as you might think for forecasters. As dramatic and exciting as it is to see the power of nature unfolding… when it happens at your doorstep, with devastating consequences, it is too scary. Forecasting Sandy was a chance in a lifetime because the computer models were so accurate about the characteristics and track of the storm. Seeing the storm unfold as we stayed on air at WABC for 96-straight hours was gut-wrenching. Telling the storm stories of lives lost and the shoreline changes and people struggling was emotionally draining. But as a New Yorker it was another testament of resilience. As heartbreaking as it is to see a place you love hurt, the pain is quickly replaced with healing. When this city is hit, it gets right back up.

J.P.: In 1999 you and your husband won $100,000 in a weight loss contest. Let me say that again-$100,000 for losing weight. Please explain …

A.F.: The greatest fitness guru of our time, Bill Phillips, had a fitness transformation contest. His challenge: for 12 weeks or 84 days, eat right and exercise 45 minutes, six days a week. Enter the contest with a before and after photo and an essay about how the physical transformation changed you.

Hundreds of thousands of entrants from all over the world. There are horrible before pics and amazing after pics of me that you can Google. I cut my body fat in half, lost 28 pounds and felt amazing. It was empowering to see the power I had to change my body. It’s very liberating to alter your physique—it makes you believe that you can change anything about your life … makes you feel like there are no limits in life. But how did we win a fitness contest based on transformation? We ate right and exercised consistently. Who knew?

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH AMY FREEZE:

• Number of times a year someone asks whether you changed your last name?: Not Enough. Keep asking. On twitter, like 120 tweets this year. #BornThisWay

• Best response you have for, “What’s the weather looking like today?”: Cloudy, chance of Meatballs.

• Have you seen Book of Mormon? And does it offend you?: Have not seen it … but I’ve read the book!

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? Please elaborate: I flew from Philadelphia to Portland with four kids. Longest four hours of my life. One kid puked in his seat. Another peed. Gum in my hair. Soda on my lap. I’ve mentally blocked the rest of that flight.

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Michael J. Fox, Nick Gregory, Jim McMahon, onion rings, Conway Twitty, Dead Man Walking, Starkville, Mississippi, long walks on the beach, the Clapper, Ken Phelps, fresh bread, the Storm Water Action Alert Program, Moses, William Weld: The Storm Water Action Alert Program, long walks on the beach, Moses, Michael J. Fox, Nick Gregory, Ken Phelps, fresh bread, Jim McMahon, William Weld, Dead Man Walking, Conway Twitty, onion rings, Starkville, Mississippi, the Clapper.

• My daughter wants to go away for summer camp-she’s nine, it’s seven weeks long. All her cousins go, I want her to stay home. What should I do?: Let her go. I’ll loan you a kid if you get lonely.

• If Jesus Christ floated above your bed—you’re 100% certain it’s him—and says, “Amy, really, the answer is Nuwaubianism!”—would you convert?: I’ll investigate Nuwaubianism.

• Most embarrassing on-camera moment of your career?: Fake laugh while interviewing Tim Allen—it’s a long story.

• Would you rather change your name (officially—for all endeavors) to Pot Smoking Angel of Doom III or spend the next three years barking a solo of Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes” in Celine Dion’s new Las Vegas show, “Celine Does Oates”?:   No. 2 for sure … I have always dreamed of a Vegas career in music.

• Five all-time favorite songs: It’s Raining Men by Weather Girls; Pocket full of Sunshine by Natasha Beddingfield; Rainy Days and Sundays by The Carpenters; The Heat is On by Glenn Fry; Thunder Road by Bruce Springstreen.

Les Misérables

Last night I went with the wife to see Les Misérables. I expected little, then was promptly blown away. Immediately became one of the 10 best movies of my lifetime. Just the perfect merging of music, storyline, casting.

As I walked off from the theatre, I experience the familiar feeling that often comes to me after a brilliant film or play. Namely, profound sadness.

I don’t get sad about the movie itself, or about the movie being over, or that I just paid $13 for a ticket. No, what gets me—and this will sound sort of odd—is that the emotional overload I just experienced is pretend. Anne Hathaway isn’t a destitute prostitute fighting for her daughter. She’s an actress who makes millions of dollars, pays $25 for a sushi roll and dodges the National Enquirer. Hugh Jackman isn’t Papa, taking in an unwanted child and raising her under dire circumstances. He’s the guy who dressed up as a wolf superhero.

I know … I know. Duh? Really?

Believe me, I know.

It’s just that, in real life, we don’t have an accompanying soundtrack. When we struggle—poverty, death, anguish—there isn’t a looming sense of nobility and betterment. We’re just poor, and near-death, and anguished. It’s real, harsh, unyielding pain, and behind that pain isn’t the knowledge that, when someone screams CUT! we can retreat to a trailer for a cup of herbal tea and a line of coke.

I long for the magic of cinema to be the magic of real life. But it’s not, and can’t be. Movies are large and grande and, at their absolute best, soul shaking. But only for a few hours. Then, once the credits roll, we get back in our Toyota Highlander, stop off at CVS for Tylenol, pick up the kids from soccer, heat up some frozen lasagna and, if we’re lucky, catch the last 15 minutes of Veep before bed.

I’m pretty sure this is why people have affairs. It’s not love, so much as it’s an energy boost; a sweeping away from day-to-day life; a romantic interlude. Of course, it can’t last—and rarely does. Because, in real life, bills must be paid and appointments must be kept; food tastes awful and, afterward, we poop it out.

In the movies, no one poops.

Not even Fantine.

The lost art of the holiday card

I’m a person who refuses to fawn over Steve Jobs.

Genius? Yes.

Innovator? Yes.

Changed the world? Yes.

Improved interpersonal communication? Absolutely not.

Thanks in large part to Apple and Steve Jobs, we stare at screens. Like, always. If you head out for dinner tonight, look around. How many dads and moms are sneaking iPhone peeks under the table? How many kids are being placated with an iPad. We just don’t talk the way we used to; don’t communicate as we once did. It’s an odd and strange phenomenon. On the one hand, we’re able to reach out to others unlike ever before. On the other hand, we have become slaves to the most impersonal means of communication. Texting. iChatting. Tweeting. Facebook. I’m sure I’m annoying and obnoxious, but I’ve never had a year (2012) when fewer people called to say, “Hey, what’s up? Got time to talk?” It sucks.

This isn’t actually a rant, so much as a segue. For as much as I abhor the iPhone and iPad’s impact on things, what I r-e-a-l-l-y loathe is what has become of the traditional holiday card.

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, people went to CVS or the Hallmark store, bought one of those 30-packs of Christmas or Chanukah or New Year cards and (gasp!) wrote in them. Literally, you would (dear God) pick up a pen and scribble down a (what!?) personal (huh?) message. I’m better for knowing you … or … You bring true love into my life … or … We hope to see you guys real soon. Have a blissful year.

Nowadays, that shit has gone Menudo (extinct). I’d say 95 percent of holiday cards are pre-printed; usually with a photo of the kids looking oh-so cute on a beach or Disney World. Which is nice—I’m a fan of photos. But, truth be told, I’d happily trade the image for the sentiment; for the heart.

I don’t know why this has happened. I really don’t.

But, as an agnostic Jew with no horse in this whole religious thing, I’m of the opinion that it bites.

Love,

Jeff

Newtown, without

About three minutes ago I took my son to the bathroom. He’s 6, and drank a ton of water this evening. So, to avoid him peeing in his bed, I gently picked him up, carried him on one shoulder and brought him to the toilet.

I love carrying my kids when they’re 80-percent (or 100-percent) asleep. They’re warm sacks of love, just hanging there. There’s no tension or pressure, because they know—as their dad—I’m filled with love. I’m here to protect them. To guard them. To nurture them. It’s my No. 1 job, and I take it as seriously as a person can. Most parents do, obviously.

I digress. A few hours ago I was reading the local newspaper, and I saw a photograph of a family that lost a son in the recent Sandy Hook nightmare. It was the mom, the dad and the sibling, and they just looked so … crushed. So lost. So … helpless. What do you do after this happens? How do you go on? Like, ever go on? It’s a cliche, but—to a certain degree—it’s probably easiest in the immediate aftermath, when you’re surrounded by love and support and TV cameras and prepared meals and gifts. There’s a level of distraction, and while the pain is as raw as a fire burn, it’s, to a slight degree, soothed by the cocoon of compassion.

But what now?

The cameras have pretty much left. The flowers are beginning to wilt. Eventually, school will resume. You’ll go back to work. You’ll pretend life is normal. Eat. Sleep. Bathroom. Banter. Watch the Giants game. Talk about the weather. Blah. Blah. Blah. Yet, truth be told, it’s never again normal. You’re asking yourself, “What could I have done?” You second and third and fourth and fifth guess yourself. What if we’d bought that house in Stamford instead of Sandy Hook? What if I’d taken my son out of school that day to see the Rock Center Christmas Tree? I’m thinking one can’t help but picture those final moments. The classroom. The shooter. The children. All those children. How, as a parent, can’t these things go through your mind? Over and over and over and over …

I’m not trying to be overly grim. I’m haunted by this; haunted—truthfully—by the fading memories and the inevitability that we’ll collectively forget. It’s easy (and cliche) to say in a eulogy or obituary that, “[Insert name] will stay in our hearts forever.” But is that really true? Can we, as a people, make Newtown different than the sites of other tragedies? Can we make it have a permanent impact; a permanent place in our souls?

Or, ultimately, will we forget? Like we, sadly, always seem to do.

Robin Yount

I’ve never told this story. Actually think I buried it deep within the emptiest spaces of my head. Today, however, while talking with a friend, I was reminded of one of the most awkward moments of my journalistic career.

I was reminded of Robin Yount.

Years and years ago, when I was first writing for Sports Illustrated, I was assigned to cover a senior golf event somewhere in Arizona. Now, I knew nothing about golf. Absolutely nothing. So, because the intricacies both confused and bored me, I aimed for color. Outfits, looks, sayings, glares, etc. While watching someone hit a ball, I noticed a loud, large, ugly heckler. He was, as I recall, quite the obnoxious guy—and he was wearing a blue Milwaukee Brewers cap. In my piece, I referred to him as “Robin Yount.” Not as the real, literal Robin Young, obviously, but as a  schlub in a Brewers cap. “Robin Yount”—ha! Get it.

Anyhow, I should have used Yount’s name in quotes. Or italics. Or … something. Because, a couple of days after the story ran, I was home in Mahopac, visiting my folks, when the phone rang. My mom answered.

“Jeff,” she said, “someone named Robin Yount is on the phone.”

Hahahaha.

“No, really.”

Glub.

I picked up. It was Robin Yount. The Robin Yount. “Mr. Pearlman,” he said, “why do you have me looking like an ass at a golf tournament in Arizona that I didn’t even attend?”

Uh … I tried explaining. It was “Robin Yount,” not Robin Yount. You know, you’re the most famous Brewer, and this tool was in a Brewer cap and … and … ha! Get it! Like, a joke, Robin. Funny, funny, funny …

He wasn’t laughing. But, to his credit, he was understanding-ish. “I don’t totally get it,” he said, “but clearly you weren’t trying to hurt anyone.”

The magazine ran a correction in the ensuing issue; something along the lines of, “The Robin Yount identified in the recent Golf Plus piece was not, actually, Robin Yount.”

I felt 3-inches tall.

The chain

Back in 1984, when I was 12, my mom took me to Aljan’s Jewelers on Route 6 in Mahopac to buy me a chain.

At the time, many kids were wearing gold snake chains—they were, obviously, gold, and thick, and sorta short. I really wanted one, but Mom wisely insisted that was a bad idea. Instead, we spoke with Mrs. Wittel, Aljan’s owner, and looked through a handful of varieties. I ultimately picked a silver chain with a small silver Jewish star dangling off the end. The star was filled with the blue coloring from stained glass. It was quite lovely.

Mom, again, was wise. She insisted I buy a ridiculously long chain, so that—down the road—it’d still fit. I did, and for years I wore this ridiculously looooong chain that hung down to my waist. Still, that never bothered me. The chain symbolized much to me: My mom, my dad, my brother, my religion.

Fast forward 29 years, and the chain remains. The blue has long vanished, and the star now hangs only halfway down. But I never take it off; never would think of taking it off.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

The Debate: End of the World vs. No End of the World

I remember being in college and desperately wanting a chance to write somewhere … anywhere. Generally, that led to frustration.

Hence, I decided to invite college journalists here to debate me on random subjects. I’ll run these from time to time, when I’m feeling particularly funky. Today, Julian Routh, an excellent Duquesne University student, and I debate whether the world is about to end …

Julian Routh on End of the World:

Jeff, I thank you for the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with an established personality like yourself, but it’s time to put this issue to rest.

To the general public—make sure there aren’t any hard-earned dollars left in your bank accounts, and certainly don’t look forward to finally getting that coveted festive sweater on Christmas morning, because come Friday the 21st, it’s over. Existence. Humanity. Life as we know it. No more morning coffees from the cute barista. No more long checkout lines at Walmart. No more Dick Clark New Years Eve specials.

No more anything.

Because look around you. Everything is aligned in a pattern that makes this so-called ‘dooms day’ inevitable.

Come on, now. We are in a world where Psy (I repeat…Psy) is the finest example of international icon. A world where blowhards like Lou Dobbs are handed mammoth platforms to spread their bullshit. A world where Lindsay Lohan, the universe’s most destructive train wreck, has enough money under her coke-stained mattress to wipe out hunger and poverty.

And now that Manny Pacquiao has been knocked to the canvas and Sockington the Cat has accumulated nearly 1.5 million Twitter followers, the only thing that was formerly ‘impossible’ that hasn’t come true yet is those darn Mayans being right about the end of days.

As for the 21st itself? It’s the day that This is 40 will release, reminding us that Paul Rudd is happily employed and we aren’t. It’s the anniversary of Naismith’s first basketball game, providing Stephen A. Smith with the grounds to utter the N-word on national television. And it’s the day, 46 years ago, that Andy Dick escaped from his mother’s womb directly into a Xanax addiction and mediocre acting career.

These recent sentiments of inexplicability can only be explained in the following fashion: They are signs, precursors perhaps, of our impending descent into the destructive demise of the human race.

Adios.

Jeff Pearlman on No End of the World:

The world isn’t coming to an end.

I know this because, as I write, I’m sitting inside a Panera, listening to yet another awful Christmas song, sipping from a lukewarm cup of bottom-of-the-barrel light roast shit. My right arm is coated in poison ivy, my Flex-Fit cap is starting to lose its elasticity, the Jets are starting their third-string quarterback and—to be perfectly blunt—I’ve got a bad case of the coffee farts.

World ending? No way.

Look, like Julian, I bought into this whole end-of-days hype. Why, I was promised—guaranteed!—by the Church of Wayne Krenchicki that, should I follow the doctrine of the holy savior of all holiness, my existence (beginning today) would be eternal bliss. I was promised sex with 1,001 Kardashian-esque virgins on a cloud made of honey and butter. I was promised my own nuclear-powered Corvette X28Z. I was promised Tom Brady in a Jets uniform, 500 new Tupac albums, a never-ending Alf marathon, billions of dollars, the all-you-can-eat Red Lobster buffet. All I had to do, they said, was believe. Believe in Wayne, believe in hope, believe in The End.

Well, here I am. No virgins, no car, no Brady.

Fuckin’ A.