A quick word from Jared Porter’s penis

Dear Readers:

It’s me—Jared Porter’s penis. I’m down here. Down here! Standing next to the toothpick. Yes, that’s me. The l’il guy.

So listen, I’ve been catching a ton of shit these past 24 hours, what with Jared being fired by the New York Mets because he sent photos of me to a woman reporter. And I just want to say—in my defense—I was against the plan the entire time.

I swear to God:

The. Entire. Time.

I actually remember the precise moment I knew Jared had lost his mind. We were sitting in his Chicago apartment, having just finished watching “Rookie of the Year.” That’s the one about the Cubs pitcher, not the Twins manager. Jared was two or three glasses of wine in, clearly feeling a little frisky (Gary Busey can do that to a guy), and he grabbed his phone, unzipped his pants and stared down my way.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He didn’t reply.

“Jared! What are you fucking doing!?”

Again—no reply.

Then, he took my picture. Two or three of them. Click, click, click. Without my consent. Which, legally, is OK. I am his penis. We’re attached and all. But then I watched him punch in a phone number, and attach one of the shots … of me.

“Jared! Don’t do this!” I screamed.

“Jared! Don’t hit send!” I pleaded.

“Jared, what in fucking fuck’s name are you—”

Too late. He sent it.

I could tell, as soon as the image jumped from his phone to another phone, Jared was nervous. He kept waiting for a reply. Staring and staring and staring, like a puppy looking for a Milk Bone. He finally gazed toward me and said, “She hasn’t replied yet …”

Um, duh.

“Jared,” I said, “take a close gander this way. Seriously, look at me. I’m 3 inches erect. I look like a mushroom who survived a car accident. The botched circumcision repair was OK, but I’d have preferred the doctor be licensed in something beyond otolaryngology …”

I could tell Jared wasn’t fully absorbing the information.

“Jared!” I yelled. “No woman wants to see a picture of your penis. Or Brett Favre’s penis. Or … anyone’s penis. In my day, if you liked a woman you tried small talk, and maybe—just maybe—a dinner invitation. But even then, she does not, under any circumstance, want to see your dick on her iPhone. Trust me.”

Jared looked up.

“Do you think,” he said, “this will come back to bite me?”

“Nah,” I replied. “I’m sure it’s nothing.”

19

Today marks my 19th wedding anniversary to the lovely, savvy, sophisticated, beautiful Catherine Pearlman—the best person I know and the only human alive who would tolerate my uncut toenails for nearly two decades.

When you’ve been married this long, people start asking about the keys. What are the keys to a happy marriage? How do you survive without killing one another? What’s the difference between a good marriage and a great marriage?

My reply: Luck.

I mean that: Luck.

Luck. Luck. Luck.

With some exception, people get hitched when they’re young. You’re in your 20s or early 30s, all excited and giddy. You do the whole one-knee ring thing, then you call all your relatives, then you plan a 150-person event that costs way more money than intelligent life can justify. You concern yourself with chicken or steak; with this person sitting at that table; with band or DJ; with an ice cream bar or just cake. Then—when the $100,000 four hours come to an end—you fly off to a honeymoon. You’re in the sun, drinks a flowin’, love in the air. Everyone gets excited, because you’re a young couple with a limitless future and an abundance of hope.

Marriage!

Marriage!

Marriage!

But here’s the catch: The wedding, the honeymoon, the youth—they’re all fleeting mirages. You don’t know one another so well. You have yet to encounter legit crisis situations. You’re worried about dish patterns, not a death in the family, or financial hardship, or a 400,000-dead pandemic.

Again—it all comes down to luck.

I got preposterously lucky. The person I chose to marry (and the person who chose to marry me) is a once-in-a-lifetime gem. She’s big-hearted, compassionate, generous. She’s as competent as any human who walks the planet. She repairs stuff when it breaks. She cooks like Julia Child. She donated her kidney to a complete stranger. She’s the mother of the century.

Best of all (and most important of all), we’ve grown together. We’re not the same people we were 19 years ago, but we’ve moved in the same direction. Through two kids, two dogs (RIP, Norma), a move from New York to California, different jobs and books and career paths—we’ve maintained genuine love and understanding. I still wake up mornings anxious to look at Catherine’s face. I still come home from trips (when there were trips) anxious to tell her what I found. I want to know what she’s thinking about; what she’s feeling. It excites me. All these years in.

These past 10 months have been a beast. It’s the test of all marital tests—how would you survive if you were with your spouse (and children) every … single… day, sans break?

Answer: With the same feelings I felt for Catherine 19 years ago.

When I was young and foolish and madly in love.

Today I wanted to scream

This morning the wife and I drove down to Dana Point to rent a kayak.

It’s, truly, the coolest deal ever: $30 for an hour of paddling through the marina and (if you choose) into the
wide-open Pacific. There are sea lions aplenty, all sorts of birds, a warm breeze, a sense of wonderment.

Just. The. Best.

Anyhow, we parked, walked into the rental space—and in front of us in line where four people. A dad. A mom. Two kids. None wearing masks. And it was bullshit, because everyone else inside was masked. The employees were masked. The other renters were masked. But not these mug cracks, because—hey! MAGA! Or, hey, It’s a Free Country! Or, hey, I’m a stupid-ass mofo!

Whatever the case, the rage rose through me. All I wanted to do was chew these people out. My instinct was to do it loudly and clearly: “So, just so we all understand, everyone here needs to wear a mask, but you’re exempt? Why?”

Alas, I said nothing.

I should have. I really should have. But the kids were young, and there’s something line-crossing about humiliating Mommy and Daddy in front of their tykes.

So I walked away. Enraged.

Joe Biden is the right person

Illustration by Alison Cimmet

During the Democratic race to figure out who would take on Donald Trump in the 2020 election, I was all over the map.

I started as a Joe Biden guy—because I love Joe Biden and I’ve always found him to be incredibly decent and honorable. When he started sucking in the debates, however, I shifted. First, to Kamala Harris before I saw how poorly her campaign was being run. Then Cory Booker. Then Mayor Pete. Then back to Kamala. Then Elizabeth Warren. Then Mayor Pete. Then Warren.

Then, toward the end, I was—once again—all about Joe Biden.

As I am today.

In my lifetime, there have been right moments for presidents and wrong moments for presidents. I believe, after Richard Nixon resigned, Gerald Ford was precisely what America needed. I believe, after the Iranian crisis neared an apex, Ronald Reagan was what America needed. I believe, after 12 Republican years, Bill Clinton was what America needed, and in the aftermath of George W. Bush’s eight, eh, not great years, Barack Obama was what America needed. That doesn’t mean I favored (or didn’t favor) their presidencies. It just means the timing lined up.

Right now, at the start of 2021, Joe Biden’s timing lines up.

Joe Biden is old. Joe Biden’s record has holes. Joe Biden stumbles and stutters and is throwing 85, whereas he once hit 98 on the radar. I’ve often said he’s Dwight Gooden with the Devil Rays, but now—seeing him in action during the transition—I’d say he’s more Dwight Gooden as a Yankee. Mike Schmidt ins’t swinging through his heat, but the guy can still go seven innings and hold a team to two runs.

I digress.

In the aftermath of the (ongoing) Donald Trump hellstorm, the thing this nation needs is steadiness and agreeability. We need someone calm, mature, professional, empathetic. And that doesn’t mean I want Joe Biden to give in to Republican madness. It doesn’t mean I relish Biden trying to appease Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. But I do want him to talk to Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; to at least make the effort to listen and—maybe, just maybe—come to some agreements for the betterment of America.

The last four years have been … e-x-h-a-u-s-t-i-n-g. The meanness. The pettiness. The sniping. I’m tired of it. You’re tired of it. Biden, if nothing else, isn’t petty. He’s a deal maker; a hand shaker; a political leader who counted John McCain (before he died) and Lindsey Graham (before he turned into Darth Vader) among his closest friends.

I’m not sure this nation can be fully repaired.

But at least we have a grownup back in the White House.

One willing to hear what others have to say.

Lauren Boebert won’t last

I don’t think Lauren Boebert lasts as a congresswoman.

It’s not that she’ll quit and it’s not that she didn’t fairly win an election. She certainly did.

No, she won’t last because she’s sinister.

I don’t say that lightly. There are political figures I like and political figures I dislike. There are political figures I think highly of and others I think little of. Truth be told, I can actually respect (begrudgingly) someone as vile as Mitch McConnell, because for all the bullshit and nastiness and partisan crud, he is (and I hate to admit this) wildly successful.

But Boebert … Boebert is something different.

If you put a gun to my head (which Lauren Boebert would clearly enjoy), I believe she had some prior insights into the Capitol raid. I believe (as is being reported) she gave a tour to people involved. I believe, when she Tweeted that Nancy Pelosi had left the chamber, it was done with evil intent.

Again, she’s sinister.

The thing is, that sorta shit catches up with a person. Lauren Boebert walks with swagger and talks with swagger and acts as if she’s the new sheriff in town. But, truth be told, she seems weird and unhinged in that QAnon-guy-down-the-street-with-the-Trump-on-Rambo’s-body-flag type of way.

If, as I suspect, there’s more to the Capitol raid than we know, I believe she’ll be one of the first to go down.

I will cheer.

Donald Trump even screwed up boy bands

In case you missed this story—and you almost certainly have missed this story—there’s some major political turmoil within (gasp) the Backstreet Boys.

Stay calm.

As first reported by Buzzfeed’s Matt Stopera, it appears Brian Littrell (aka: the forgettable one) is not merely all in on MAGA, but all in on QAnon.

First, as relayed by Buzzfeed, there’s this …

Then, even worse, there’s this …

Save for Nick, who seems to avoid all things political, the other Boys didn’t hide their anger/disgust toward Brian. Particularly noteworthy is Kevin Richardson, Brian’s cousin, an open Biden/Harris backer and a guy who (hint, hint) Tweeted about the sadness of losing a friend to the MAGA/QAnon madness.

And here’s the thing that gets me. That really gets me. Boy bands are a pleasurable illusion. They’re enlistees in a fantasy land, where four or five handsome dudes hang out, create some harmonies, present beautiful women with bouquets of flowers and never dare break your heart. They don’t fart or burp or even use the toilet. There is no such thing as snot, or a tushy crack, or hepatitis C. They don’t fuck, they make love. They don’t make out, their lips softly touch your lips. They always walk together in a straight line, telling innocent jokes and wrapping arms over shoulders, arms over shoulders.

This is the boy band illusion.

This is the boy band illusion.

This is the boy band illusion.

The Backstreet Boys, in particular, mastered the art. Several years ago, when Nick Carter (the cute one) was accused of raping a woman, the news was swiftly (diabolically) brushed beneath the table. Rape? Nick could never rape someone. Not with those doe eyes.

So they continued being the Boys—performing daily in their Las Vegas residency, packing the room with mid-40s women looking to relive a fantasy, singing over recorded tracks of “I Want it That Way” and “Quit Playing Games With My Heart.” My daughter and I actually attended a show, and it was preposterous, stupid, mindless fun.

AKA: The reason boy bands never die.

But now, all has changed. Members of a boy band can age. Members of a boy band can get married. Members of a boy band can even be gay. Fuck, members of a boy band can be accused of rape. But when your entire illusion rests upon the pillar of WE’RE ALL BRUHS, having a member support a government overthrow and a racist aspiring dictator simply does not work. At this point, it is impossible to believe Kevin and Nick and A.J. and the other guy (Howie! Right—Howie!) want to spend any time with Brian and his nutjob political beliefs.

It is impossible to believe in the Backstreet Boys.

PS: And here’s the crushing part: My awesome sister-in law met Brian several years ago. He gave her a bagel, and this blog post followed. Yesterday I had to tell Jessica, a new mother (of my first niece!) about the whole Brian shit-show. Here was our exchange …

A stupid man

Tommy Tuberville is a freshman senator from Alabama.

He is a stupid man.

Tuberville’s claim to fame is being a former football coach and, in Alabama, Auburn’s former football coach. He was out of work and seemingly bored, and the Republican Party recruited him to run against Doug Jones, the moderate Democrat who sorta won the seat by a fluke (aka: The existence of Roy Moore).

So Tuberville ran—and won—by doing four things:

• Pledging complete loyalty to Donald Trump.

• Never debating Jones.

• Dropping a fair number of “Jesus” references.

• Saying almost nothing.

And now, because Alabama is Alabama, Tommy Tuberville is one of 100 United States senators. He is a bit regal looking, has a warm smile—and is, genuinely, uniquely, breathtakingly fucking stupid. If, per chance, you think I’m exaggerating, take earlier today. When he said this about the upcoming inauguration …

Yup. Why not delay, until the pandemic that Donald Trump has completely ignored improves?

Brilliant.

Donald Trump wanted to talk terrorism

“I will fight to keep you safe (from brown people only)!”

I was thinking about something.

Really, I was thinking about irony. Missed irony.

Donald Trump was in Texas the other day to discuss “my” wall and terrorism. He was there to brag about all his efforts to keep the bad people out. The rapists. The criminals. The people who want nothing but death, violence and destruction for the United States of America. He wanted people to know that, under his watch, America would be safe. Because he, Donald Trump, was all about making America first.

As this was happening, thousands of white people—white conservative Americans in MAGA hats—are planning attacks. It’s been well documented and explained. There are now 20,000 troops in Washington, protecting the city from yet another crushing wave of white conservative Americans in MAGA hats. Just like the white conservative Americans in MAGA hats who destroyed the Capitol and went room to room, seeking out political figures to batter.

I know people who love Donald Trump, because he pledges to stomp out BLM, to stomp out Antifa. He will do anything and everything (deploy the military, drop the hammer) to make sure these violent actors are out of the picture.

So he went to Mexico to brag about all he’s done.

As our country—inspired by the president and his lies—is about to burn.

Rats

So I noticed the pellets a few days ago while taking out the garbage by the side of our house.

Mouse poops, but larger. Thicker. My immediate thought: “Weird, those must be big mice.”

Then, it hit me.

Rats!

Fucking rats.

I put out these enormous traps last night, and this morning two were filled with the lifeless remains of my least-favorite (save for snakes) animals. It’s actually a jarring thing—picking up a dead rat caught in a trap. His eyes are open, so he’s looking at you. Or, at least, it seems as if he’s looking at you. I actually go with the plastic bag-over-hand technique, wrap up the guy, tie it up and toss.

The problems, of course, are myriad.

• One rat leads to two, two to 100.

• Rats shit everywhere.

• Rats like crawling beneath hoods and eating the wires of cars.

• Rats are gross.

This morning, for the first time in my life, I found myself sponging rat head blood off my sidewalk.

This isn’t the way I needed to launch a Thursday.

One good thing

Life as we know it.

Right now, America sucks. I feel it, you feel it. I’m not sure if we’ll look back at this period as another 1960s, or the beginning of the end, or the beginning of an eye-opening. Like many of you, I feel the weight of Donald Trump, the weight of the Capitol attack, the weight of QAnon losers and yet another day of COVID deaths and the inability to go anywhere.

So, in the name of positivity, I offer a sliver of (admittedly personal) light.

Save for an experimental two days, my kids have schooled from home since the beginning of the outbreak. My daughter Casey, a high school senior, does most of her work from her bedroom, with myriad trips downstairs throughout the day. My son Emmett, a high school freshman, does all of his work at the kitchen table.

And.

I.

Genuinely.

Love.

It.

I’m being selfish in that regard. I know it. And, certainly, I’d prefer my kids be at school, engaging and interacting and experiencing the requisite beats and rhythms of adolescence. They’re missing out on stuff that, once gone, is never again available. That’s a tragedy, and it sucks for all of our kids.

That said, when I walk into the kitchen my son often greets me with some weird hip-hop reference, and jokingly calls me “J-Dogg.” When I knock on my daughter’s door and enter, there’s always some scented candle burning; always some random life observation that sparks joy. I always take my son’s dirtied plate and bring it to the sink. I always take my daughter’s dirty bowl and bring it to the sink. My son talks about his friends. My daughter has a stream of comments about politics and Tik-Tok. We discuss issues. We chat about news. My son felts animals. My daughter writes to her prison penpal. Meals—once pretty organized—have largely turned into an ongoing buffet. My kids make themselves breakfast. We usually eat dinner together in front of the tube—casual, chilled. Bed times are increasingly flexible. We debate over who needs to take the dog out to poop. It’s pattern, sans pattern.

I hate this pandemic. Actually, to be blunt, right now I hate this country, and everything that’s happened. I will look back at this year and remember the misery, the sadness, the anger.

But I also think—deep down—I’ll miss it.

I’ll miss being together.

Goodbye, fun

So, unlike the vast majority of my Knicks-loving peers in Mahopac, N.Y., I grew up a New Jersey Nets fan.

I’m not sure why. Buck Williams was cool. Dug Pearl Washington and Mike O’Koren. I think, mostly, it was because the Nets weren’t the Knicks. They were the underdogs. The lessers. The Knicks were Ewing and Oakley. The Nets were Dawkins and Chris Morris. They played in an impossible-to-reach half-empty arena built atop swampland. Their uniforms were goofy. Their GM at the time—the legendary Willis Reed—was a Knick legend whose personnel judgement was, to be polite, lacking.

Or, put differently: The team used the 14th pick in the 1994 NBA Draft to select George Washington center Yinka Dare, a player they had neither worked or nor interviewed; a player whose college coach made clear leaving for the pros was a terrible mistake.

Wait.

I digress.

What comes with rooting for the losers is the unbridled joy when a spark happens. Meaning—you’re the Nets. You never make the playoffs. Then, one year, you sneak in as an eight seed and steal a first-round win. That’s a magical moment, one that goes terribly unappreciated in this win-at-all-costs-and-nothing-less culture.

I bring this all up because, moments ago, the Nets surrendered every asset they possessed (picks, young players, dozens of gift cards to Junior’s) to Houston in exchange for James Harden, a talented, accomplished, interestingly groomed scorer who passes as often as he cries during “A Walk to Remember.”*

And, with that final step, the Nets are no longer my Nets. They are the bully. The favorites. The expected-to-stomp kings of the Eastern Conference. And while I actually understand the deal from the organization’s (wrongheaded) perspective, it reminds me far too much of the Knicks’ 2011 acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, when the organization sent Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, New York’s 2014 first-round draft pick, the Warriors’ 2012 second-round pick, the Warriors’ 2013 second-round pick and $3 million in cash to Denver. The end result of that trade: The arrival of a selfish, dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-dribble-shoot me-first superstar, the departure of a young, fun, spunky gaggle of players who ran the court, moved the ball and kept fans glued to the TV.

These Durant-Harden-(wherever-the-hell-he-is) Kyrie Nets are now the clear favorites to face the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

But, I fear, the fun just left the building.

. * I’m guessing he never cries during “A Walk to Remember.” But I sure do. Especially when Mandy walks down the aisle, leukemia-ravaged but strong as a motherfuckin’ oxen. Go Mandy!

We should all be so censored

Earlier today, while speaking on the House floor on national TV, with seemingly millions of people watching worldwide, Marjorie Taylor Greene—Georgia congresswoman and freakalicious QAnon potato nut—wore a mask reading CENSORED.

I was able to watch her on YouTube.

On the Washington Post website.

On the New York Times website.

On Fox News

On CSPAN.

Here’s her Twitter feed.

On.

And on.

And on.

I bought her a new mask.

Steve Womack: The big pussy

Steve Womack: Another way to call a cat a kitten.

In case you missed this, earlier today The New York Times reported that—in a last-gasp effort to have the election overturned—Donald Trump called Mike Pence and said, “You can either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

According to the 45th president’s shameful world view, being a patriot means surrendering righteousness and dignity to serve the singular needs of an aspiring authoritarian scumbag desperately clinging to power. It means allowing the bully to bully you. And being a pussy means doing the right thing.

And, if we’re being honest, Mike Pence has been Donald Trump’s (to be bigly un-PC) pussy for four years. He has served the president as a prostitute serves her pimp. Trump commands, Pence obeys. No matter the circumstance. No matter correct v. incorrect.

But this time, for probably the first time, Pence stood his ground. He is no longer Washington’s biggest pussy.

Instead, we have Steve Womack, a congressman who has represented Arkansas’s Third Congressional District since 2011. He is pictured above.

Before today, I’d never heard of Steve Womack. And reading his website bio—well, the guy seems somewhat impressive. Womack (according to the site), “retired from the Arkansas Army National Guard in 2009 at the rank of Colonel with more than thirty years of service. His deployment to Sinai, Egypt in 2002 marked the first time a National Guard unit performed the mission of the Multinational Force and Observers. Womack’s Task Force received accolades from the highest levels of military and civilian leaders.”

Again, not too shabby.

This evening, however, Womack earned his new badge: Pussy Sans Honor.

In case you missed the story, new metal detectors have been placed outside the U.S. Capitol’s house chamber—a reasonable and sane safety measure considering last week’s catastrophe. But a small handful of Republican representatives (led by the clownish Lauren Boebert) flipped out upon being asked by police to have their bags checked before walking through (Boebert carries her gun everywhere, because she’s insane). Some were snippy. Some were visibly agitated.

Then there was Womack.

“You are creating a problem you do not understand the ramifications of!” he yelled at the police manning the detectors, then shouted at the officers to “get back!” and “don’t touch me!”

And if you think about it … if you really think about it—what the flying fuck is wrong with these people? With this guy? The officers are just doing their jobs. They’re paid a salary and told to do X and Y and Y and Z. They don’t make the rules, they didn’t decide, “It’d sure be fun to dig through Womack’s pockets.” They’re just employees—still surely reeling from one of the worst weeks of their lives.

And for Womack—defender of the working class—to chew these folks out, all because he’s put off by the suggestion (post-violence) that maybe we should worry about more violence … it’s infuriating.

Just suck it up, wait on the security line and be you.

It’s not that hard.

Donald visits (The) Alamo

Donald Trump is visiting Alamo, Texas today.

Not The Alamo, as he certainly thought.

Alamo.

Here’s how this happened:

Trump: “I want to show my supporters the power of revolution.”

Rudy Giuliani: “Easy call—take a visit to the wall., sir”

Trump: “I need more than just the wall. I need something that screams, ‘Fight for Trump! Revolt! Charge ahead!'”

Giuliani: “Oh, this is too easy. Let’s make a visit to The Alamo, sir.”

Trump: “I don’t need to rent a car.”

Giuliani: “No, The Alamo—

Trump: “Fuck Georgia.”

Giuliani: “It’s in Texas, sir.”

Trump: “I knew that.”

Giuliani: “The Battle of the Alamo led to Texans beating back the Mexican Army. The symbolism alone is perfect, sir.”

Trump: “Call me sir.”

Giuliani: “I just did, sir.”

Trump: “This sounds great, Rudy. Let’s go on Tuesday.”

Giuliani: “I’m on it. All we have to do is take Air Force One to Alamo, sir.”

Trump: “The Alamo, or Alamo?”

Giuliani: “I’m pretty sure it’s both, sir. Place and town.”

Trump: “Of cour—wait. Stop. Rudy, stop! You’re tickling Mr. Happy Stick.”

We won! We won! Now let’s die!

I enjoy the state of Alabama.

I mean that, and not in the typical snide New Yorker/Californian sense of, “I enjoy the state of Alabama because the people are so stupid.”

Nope, I literally have enjoyed much about Alabama. During my 2 1/2 years in Nashville at the start of my career, I spent some wonderful times in the Yellowhammer State—including finishing the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville. It’s a state rich in history, and while much of that history isn’t exactly, eh, flattering to the inhabitants, it’s history nonetheless. And it’s riveting.

That said, what the fuckity fucking fuck is wrong with these people?

In case you missed it, tonight the University of Alabama’s football factory team defied no odds because they were destined to win some random person who doesn’t follow sports’ expectations and demolished Ohio State to capture yet another national title.

And then, the people of Tuscaloosa stormed the streets and … and …and … and …

Threw one hell of a COVID party.

My pal Russ Bengtson is 100 percent correct: We are, factually, just the absolutely hands-down stupidest country in the history of countries. And, tonight, Alabama proved itself the absolutely hands-down stupidest state in the hands-down stupidest country in the history of countries.

It is inexplicable:

Step 1: Your heavily favored team, with a coach making $9.2 million per year, beats an OK team.

Step 2: You’re national champions—yet again. Yawn.

Step 3: You know we’re in the midst of a nationwide pandemic that (ahem) has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.

Step 4: But … your heavily favored team, with a coach making $9.2 million per year, beat an OK team! It’s time to party!

Step 5: Halfway out the door you grab your mask.

Step 6: Then you say, “Fuck it.”

Step 7: You party with 300,000 other maskless fools, half wearing MAGA and STOP THE STEAL T-shirts.

Step 8: Five days from now your raccoon burger has no taste. “That’s weird.”

Step 9: You’re fucking dead.

Roll Tide!

There was no byline

In case you missed this in all the madness, one of the U.S. Capitol invaders from last week scrawled MURDER THE MEDIA on a door.

There was no byline.

That sounds like I’m trying to be cute—a quick four-word punch to grab the reader’s attention. But, truly, that’s what grabs me about black MURDER THE MEDIA on white door: No byline.

The swine innard who pulled out a pen to scrawl MURDER THE MEDIA lacked the courage to add his/her name. We don’t know where the person is from, how old he/she is, how we can reach out via e-mail or Facebook or Twitter. We know nothing, save for iffy penmanship. The writer is long gone—perhaps back on a ranch in Oklahoma, perhaps back in a board room in Trenton, perhaps laughing his/her ass off at the mayhem that was brought to the nation’ capital.

There was no byline.

We, members of the media, are required (with rare, unfortunate exception) to have bylines. Whether you’re writing for Sports Illustrated or GQ or the New York Times of Fox News’ website, you have to place your name alongside your words. It’s not merely an identifying element, but an ode to our profession’s longstanding code of accountability. Yes, I wrote the Seahawks won’t win five games next year—here’s my name and Twitter handle. Yes, I wrote Donald Trump is a tremendous leader—here’s my name and Twitter handle. Yes, I’m a columnist for the Washington Post. You know how to reach me.

I’ve told this story many times, but back when I was a young sports reporter for The (Nashville) Tennessean, I covered a high school football game between Goodpasture Christian and David Lipscomb. It was my second-to-last week at the newspaper, before heading off to New York and Sports Illustrated. That night, I went out to the field and watched David Kirkau, the Lipscomb quarterback, play poorly. My next-morning article included the line, “The Mustangs’ David Kirkau, meanwhile, had an up-and-down sort of day—as in, his passes either went up too high or down too low.”

The ensuing phone calls were nonstop. How could you write such a thing? Who the hell do you think you are? Hence, the following Saturday night Larry Taft, my editor, sent me out to Lipscomb to cover the school’s playoff game. It would be my last-ever Tennessean assignment. “You always show your face after a story like that,” Larry told me. “It’s the professional way to be.”

He was 100-percent correct. I will never forget that night. In the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach, I strolled down to the Lipscomb sideline to prepare for aftermath interviews. Suddenly, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of players. Kirkau, the quarterback, stepped forward. “Don’t you ever come back here again!” he said.

The next day I left for Sports Illustrated. I’ve long believed David Kirkau thought he forced me out of town.

Whatever the case, I was accountable.

He knew how to find me.

Meanwhile, the MURDER THE MEDIA douche hides. Like a coward.

Sorry, Eric Munchel

Cell number TK

Hey, Eric Munchel. A few days ago you were breaking into the Capitol, decked out in paramilitary gear and carrying plastic restraints.

Now you’re in jail.

It’s weird. I don’t hear you yelling any longer. I don’t see you screaming, pointing, seeking out Democrats to tie up and, perhaps, kill. I don’t see you behaving like the ISIS thugs you probably once bemoaned. I can’t find you on Parler, because it’s pretty much gone and besides—being in jail and all—you don’t have your phone.

The photo atop this entry is your mug shot. Your mug shot. Remember how cool you felt last week? Storming through Washington after (and this is mere guess) a hearty breakfast of raw pig meat, carpet cleaner and a refreshing cranberry juice spritzer? Remember when all those MAGA folks looked up to you as a leader? As The Man? That was friggin’ awesome, bruh! You brought it like a mofo! Hells yeah! Trump till I die!

Remember?

What are you gonna do now?

Where are you gonna go?

That job at the bar—gone. That ability to roam the nooks of the Internet, unseen—gone. Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be tarred and feathered as the dickwad who stormed the Capitol, armed with plastic restraints, then allowed his ID to be revealed nationwide. For fuck’s sakes, it’s been more than 40 years and we still don’t know who the Zodiac Killer was. But, in less than a week, Eric Munchel has been arrested.

I’m actually curious, as I write this and as you sit on a cold toilet, munching on the corners of a ham-and-mold white bread sandwich alongside your cellmate, Tattooed Larry the 500 Pound Sodomite: Do you have any regrets or doubts? Is there a part of you thinking, “Eh, maybe we took this too far …” or “Perhaps spirited debate would have served us better …”?

Or are you sleeping soundly on your steel cot, dreaming of a conjugal visit from Donald Trump and an eat-for-free lifetime pass to Mar-o-Lago?

Fight on, Eric.

Fight on.

The Jets will sign Taylor Heinicke

Welcome to the Jets, Taylor.

I have seen the future for the New York Jets, and it is this …

Part 1: The team decides Sam Darnold is no longer its quarterback of the future. He is traded to Washington for a third-round pick and a wide receiver with one hand.

Part 2: The team hires its new head coach, Josh McDaniel.

Part 3: With the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft, the New York Jets select … Cameron Hearn, punter, Sam Houston State. In the second round, they honor the memory of Alex Van Dyke by selecting Alex Van Dyke again. They are later informed Alex Van Dyke is still very much alive.

Part 4: The team signs free-agent quarterback Taylor Heinicke to a guaranteed five-year, $100 million deal with a $30 million signing bonus. Heinicke is given uniform No. 14, “to honor my hero, Neil O’Donnell.”

Part 5: Heinicke reports to training camp, and on the first day breaks his leg trying to dislodge a soda from the official Jets vending machine with his left foot.

Part 6: With Heinicke out, the Jets sign free agent quarterback Geno Smith, who is immediately installed as the team’s starter.

Part 7: The Jets start the season 0-14, and the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft is a generational quarterback who can throw the ball 200 yards on a dime and has legs made of titanium. “He is the best prospect who has ever lived!” raves O.J. Simpson on Twitter. “Even the Jets can’t screw this up!”

Part 8: The Jets win their final two games, thereby surrendering the No. 1 overall pick to the Giants.

Part 9: Sam Darnold leads the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns, and the Washington Artmonks win the Super Bowl by overcoming Chiefs halfback Le’Veon Bell’s 435 rushing yards.

Part 10: With the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the New York Jets select … Jose Romo-Martinez, punter, Delaware State. In the second round, they draft a llama. Just for fun.

Part 11: I jump off a bridge.

Ed Schmidt and a lesson that stuck

Mr. Schmidt: Great beard, great ice cream generosity

Back when I was a kid in Mahopac, N.Y., I had a youth sports coach named Ed Schmidt.

I can’t remember whether this was baseball, basketball or soccer, but at the end of the season Mr. Schmidt (a warm, gregarious man) treated the entire team to a post-final game visit to Carvel.

We all lined up to order. One kid ordered a cone. Then another kid ordered a cone. Then another cone. And another cone.

When it was my turn, I ordered a vanilla shake.

Later that evening, my parents inquired about my ice cream experience.

“What type of cone did you get?” Dad asked.

“I had a milkshake,” I replied.

Mom and Dad both frowned—and I’ve never forgotten the stern-yet-not-mean lecture. “When someone is kind enough to take you out,” Dad said, “you don’t take advantage of that. Mr. Schmidt bought you ice cream with his own money. You shouldn’t have taken advantage.”

You never know what small lessons stick.

That one has.

[And I still love a good shake]

Mitt Romney’s Cock

Mitt Romney: Integrity

So, to be honest, I wasn’t planning on writing about Mitt Romney’s cock, but then I noticed Roger Stone was yet again trending on Twitter. It was for writing this offering on Parler about the Utah senator …

I, personally, do not know what Mitt Romney’s cock smells like—but I imagine his entire body boasts the scent of dignity, decency, authenticity, mixed in with a mild splash of vanilla.

I say that as someone who, in 2012, believed he hated Mitt Romney. That’s when the Massachusetts governor was running against Barack Obama for the presidency, and I deemed him as this evil, sinister, wicked Republican who wanted to erode the republic with tax breaks for the wealthy and an anti-gay, pro-life agenda.

I was, in fact, wrong.

Mitt Romney is pro-tax cuts. He’s pro life. Truth be told, we share very few policy beliefs. But Romney also happens to be honest, sincere, forthright. Yes, he screwed up by meeting with a newly elected Donald Trump shortly after the 2016 election. And, yes, there are holes in his resume (Important note: one could say the same for Obama, Biden, Harris, JFK, FDR, on and on and on). But when far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far too many Republicans have cowered in Trump’s shadow and groveled at his feet, Romney has stood up to the conman in chief at a time when it would be far easier to nod, sigh and accept his party’s satanic morphing.

In short: Mitt Romney has been a statesman.

Roger Stone, on the other hand, is an attention-seeking whore puddle, looking to remain in focus as an ever-fading spotlight dies out. He wants to matter. No, needs to matter. So if that means serving as Donald Trump’s pimp, so be it. And if that means taking to a fringe corner of social media to question the scent of Mitt Romney’s genitalia, well, OK.

Come day’s end, Mitt Romney will be remembered as a man who stepped up when most of his ilk hid.

And Roger Stone will be remembered as a cock.

Or, more likely, not remembered at all.

The last hand I shook

This is a photograph of the last hand I shook.

It belongs to Chili Davis, longtime Major League slugger and current hitting coach for the New York Mets.

I spoke with Davis last March, outside the batting cages at the Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie. We stood in the sun as the familiar bat-on-ball sound of WHOP! WHOP! WHOP! rose from behind. He was friendly and talkative and as lovely as his reputation suggested (Davis has long been known as one of sports’ genuinely good guys). The conversation lasted for, oh, 15 minutes, and—because COVID had just started being this … thing we were all aware of—I thanked him for his time, turned to walk off, then …

Chili Davis reached out to shake.

I was a tiny bit taken aback. But, in hindsight, it’s sorta cool.

I grabbed his hand. Or he grabbed mine. For those two seconds I was shaking hands with Chili Davis. When the moment ended, I walked off, found a bathroom, washed my hands and—shortly thereafter—learned that spring training was coming to an abrupt halt, and I’d be returning home.

One day, I imagine, we’ll probably all be back shaking hands, and no one will think much of it. But, just maybe, this is the end/beginning of a cultural shift. Perhaps the hand shake will forever be a thing of the past, and from now on we’ll nod, or elbow bump, or just bow clumsily.

If that’s the case, I’m golden.

I wrapped with Chili Davis.

What I wrote

I have kept a regular diary beginning in 1996.

Earlier today, I was curious what I wrote after the 2016 presidential election.

I wasn’t wrong.

11/8/ 16

Devastated.

That’s what I am right now. Devastated. Donald Trump, the world’s biggest conman, has just been elected 45th president of the United States. He is an ignorant, ugly strongman wanna-be who just fooled a majority of Americans into voting for him. He will be a disaster of the worst kind and I am utterly shocked.

I feel like crying, because this country elected a man who ran a campaign fueled by bigotry. He is the worst person I’ve ever written about. A con scum piece of shit, and now he’s president.

How do I talk to the kids about this?

John Minchillo could have died.

This is one of the most jarring sights from Wednesday’s hellscape. I just saw it this morning, and I’m still shaken.

The man in the black is John Minchillo, an Associated Press photographer who was sent to cover the nightmare and—having experienced conflict zones in the past—knew how to dress for the occasion. Somehow, because the adrenaline was flowing and violence was on tap and the specialty of the day was Sadistic Governmental Overthrow Via A Bunch of Brainwashed MAGA Dickheads, the collective decided Minchillo—father, husband, respected journalist—was Antifa.

Why was he Antifa? Apparently because … he was Antifa. And Antifa must be stopped. So let’s get the Antifa guy! Let’s hurt him! Let’s drag him off! He’s Antifa! The enemy! Antifa! Fuck Antifa! Here’s Antifa! Right in front of us—Antifa! Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!

Somehow, Minchillo survived. There are 1,000 different twists and turns that result in his death.

And I’d like to make a few points:

A. These are the primary people criminals who went after him. No, who attacked him. An innocent journalist, doing a job protected by the First Amendment of the document you supposedly hold so dear. They are not patriots. They are terrorists, and they must be reported and punished.

B. This is on the President of the United States, who has devoted more than four years to insisting we, the media, are the enemy of the people. This is on you, Donald Trump. Which is actually funny, in that you live and die with media attention; with the very thing you attack.

C. There was one guy, in a MAGA hat, who went out of his way to protect Minchillo. And, on the one hand, he deserves no credit. He was a part of this. A participant. A member of the brainwashed mob. Yet, on the other hand, something struck me. In that moment, he wasn’t consumed by the hatred and ignorance. He saw a human being attacked, and somehow snapped out of the trance long enough to think, “No, this isn’t right.”

And maybe, if we’re lucky, that moment of empathy can be as contagious as the spewing of hate.

Maybe.

Empathy from one guy.

Eric Trump’s inglorious end

Two days ago, Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought Eric Trump on as a guest, thereby resulting in the above slice of documented heaven.

I love this snippet in the way I love fresh blueberry muffins, a cold Coca Cola, the final episode of Happy Days and a Mr. T movie marathon, and I actually think it can ultimately serve as an important historical document filed under the heading: DON’T BE A BRAGGY DOUCHE IF YOU’VE NEVER ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING AND YOUR FIRST INSTINCT IS TO GO ON TELEVISION AND THREATEN FOLKS.

Or something like that.

I’m sure, when Eric Trump stood before the camera, he was flying high. Twelve cups of coffee down, maybe a (sniff, sniff) line or two. A quick handy from the wife. That gorgeous hunk of Hannity cooing sweet pudding pops into his ear piece.

Plus, the big rally was approaching! Hundreds of thousands of MAGA folks flying into Washington! Daddy as president and fighting to overturn the evil Dems! It’s Eric’s time to shine! Eric time!

So Eric went off …

“Tomorrow’s gonna tell you a lot about the country, because I can tell you Sean, any senator or any congressman that does not—meaning on this side—that does not fight tomorrow, I’m telling you, will not … their political career is over because the MAGA movement, it’s going nowhere. My father has created the greatest political movement in American history and I’m telling you they will get primaried the next time around and they will lose if they don’t stand up and show some backbone and show some conviction.”

That was less than 48 hours ago.

At this moment, #MAGA hats can be had for .99—and that price is plummeting on the quick. Donald Trump has been kicked off Instagram and Facebook. His cabinet members are jumping from the ship like little rat babies. There are calls for the president’s impeachment and his resignation. Those thoughts of a 2024 return? Dead. Thoughts of a Trump dynasty? Laughable. The president of the United States is literally hiding inside the White House, an empty tin of lugworms with only the hardened lugworm shit remaining.

And Eric Trump, unaccomplished boy wonder, can forever remember the day when he appeared on Hannity for the final time, promising the world while unknowingly burying his future.

Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam showed up

Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam: Medals of Dishonor

In case you missed this (and, considering the world’s melting, you likely did), earlier today Donald Trump presented Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam with Presidential Medals of Freedom.

The ceremony took place behind closed doors, and Player and Sorenstam were two of three golf recipients—the late Babe Zaharias was the other.

And I would like to say, on behalf of American sports fans: You really showed up?

Annika, Gary—in case you didn’t hear the news, yesterday the president of the United States led an armed attack on the U.S. Capitol. He was directly responsible, just as he’s responsible for convincing millions of Americans that democracy no longer matters and can no longer be trusted.

Yesterday, America was on fire because of Donald Trump.

And, this afternoon, you stood before him, accepting a medal.

Is that who you are?

Is that what this is all about?

You stood before Donald Trump as he placed a medal around your necks, thereby acknowledging today as just another day in America. You could have said, ‘No.’ You could have said, “Considering what transpired yesterday, I can no longer take part in this. I love America. This country means so much to me. And, because of that, I will stay home.” Hell, you could have said, “I respect Donald Trump, but in light of what’s going on …”

Nope.

You stood there.

Medal around neck.

Dignity in the toilet.

What happened to Ashli Babbitt?

Ashli Babbitt, right.

Ashli Babbitt served in the Air Force.

Yesterday, she was famously shot while storming the U.S. Capitol.

Now she is dead.

On social media, many were celebrating Babbitt’s death. I hate that. I’m sure I would have disliked much about Babbitt, but she leaves behind family, friends, people who cared and people who are hurting. Just because you know someone like Ashli Babbitt doesn’t mean you share her beliefs and convictions. Even if you don’t care about someone’s death, you can think about those left behind who are crushed.

I digress.

I want to know Ashli Babbitt’s path. I want to know how one loves America enough to enlist in the armed services, then 1 1/2 decades later, decide the ideal option is to attempt to break into the U.S. Capitol. I want to know what she was watching on TV. I want to know who she was listening to on the radio. I want to know if she had QAnon ties; if she was devoted to the preachings of Limbaugh and Hannity.

I want to know if there was a moment—perhaps a singular moment—that flipped a switch.

Scrolling through Ashli Babbitt’s Twitter feed, I see much not to like. She was a conspiracy theorist; a Trump loyalist; a woman who seemed to genuinely believe it was the world v. MAGA—and she was full MAGA.

Now, a veteran who tried to destroy a piece of the government is dead.

I would not have liked Ashli Babbitt.

But it is, unambiguously, a tragedy.

Twitter, be righteous

It is time for Twitter to delete Donald Trump’s account.

I don’t take pleasure in writing such a thing. The president is, obviously, an important figure, and citizens want to hear what he’s thinking and planning and doing.

But this has gone on long enough.

These days, all Trump does on Twitter is lie and inflame, lie and inflame, lie and inflame. And Twitter has become his No. 1 outlet for doing so. It’s not merely his social media platform of choice. It’s his oxygen. Trump lives to Tweet. Hell, I’d argue Trump is addicted to Tweeting. He loves the affirmation and the immediacy. Which I understand.

But, again, he lies nonstop, belittles nonstop, puts out bullshit nonstop.

Today, in the wake of a national tragedy caused, in large part, but Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, it’s time for Twitter to do the right thing.

End @realdonaldtrump.

Get a life

So it seems fights are breaking out in downtown Los Angeles—#MAGA idiots v. anti-#MAGA idiots.

And on behalf of all those not present, I’d like to say the following: Get a life.

Truly, get a life. This is how you resolve differences? By curling up your hand and turning it into a hardened object, then launching it toward another’s head? THAT’S your coping method? Your go-to?

My last fight took place in high school. A kid punched me in the face. It hurt. I cried a bit. And, at that moment, I also realized, “Fighting—it’s inane.”

But there they are. In Los Angeles. In Washington. They could have done a breakdance battle. A thumb fight battle. A counting race to 30. Whatever.

Instead, fists into heads.

Grow up.

Hey, GOP—you own this

Outside the Capitol

In case you haven’t been paying attention, violence has overtaken Washington this afternoon.

Fuck, immediately after I typed that sentence my wife DMed me this …

Anyhow, after Donald Trump gave his whiney, bitchy, the-type-of-cowardly-bullshit-a-guy-with-five-draft-deferments-might-utter moan speech about the election being stolen, he urged his supporters to fight.

So they’re fighting.

They’ve stormed barricades.

They’ve beaten down police officers.

This was just Tweeted out by Matt Laslo, a editor with The News Station …

And this …

And right now, in my silent rage, I want to hear from my Donald Trump-supporting friends. I want to hear how he loves America. I want to hear about his patriotism. I want to hear how awful “Antifa” is. I want to hear how the left is violent. I want to hear how in the fucking fuck you can still support a man only out to rule and gain power and gain fame and gain wealth. A man who has never shown two shits of interest in you or him or her. A man who has devoted much of his life to bilking the poor and middle class with casinos and phony universities and cons galore.

I want to know what it’s like—what it’s truly like—to be a member of a cult.

And, lastly, I want to say this: I will remember you.

I will remember that you supported this monster.

I will fucking remember.

Inflatable baby Jesus

So the son and I have been taking a lot of night walks of late, and a few hours ago we passed the above display in a neighbor’s yard.

Yes, it’s inflatable baby Jesus Christ.

Now, to be clear, I’ve got no problem with inflatable baby Jesus Christ, inflatable Moses, inflatable Chevy Chase, inflatable Kanye West, inflatable Oliver Miller. If someone wants to create an inflatable Jeff Pearlman, I’d be enthusiastic and supportive.

That said, humans are weird.

In America, a good percentage of the population considers it treasonous to burn the flag. Which is fine. But you can sport an American flag hat, American flag scarf, American flag mask (aka snot drip rag). And in these United States, where Christianity reigns and all other religions are a distant second, Jesus is the be all, get all. He’s the king. The champ. The savior. Numero uno. The Jesus of Jesuses.

And, to prove his holiness is real, we’re going to … spend $175 on a Made-in-China Jesus who can be brought to life by blowing air through a tube affixed to his baby Jesus anus.

Amen.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Jim Jones: Follow me and drink your punch.

I was thinking today how many, many, many people don’t get the Kool-Aid references when they’re made in reference to Donald Trump and the people who mindlessly follow his every utterance and command.

It’s the sort of thing you slide past—“Kool-Aid, OK. I’m sure it’s something.”

So, in case you’re wondering … on Nov. 18, 1978, Jim Jones—leader and founder of the People’s Temple—commanded his 900-plus followers to kill themselves by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. Jones was the head of a cult; one, a surviving follower later recalled, fed on people’s fears while promising to create, “a rainbow family.” Jones was charismatic enough to have his North American peeps follow all the way to a South American jungle, where they created a community devoted to the man’s teachings. Nine years ago The Atlantic interviewed Teri Buford O’Shea, a Jonestown resident, who explained Jones’ appeal thusly: “He was very charismatic and attracted people who were feeling vulnerable or disenfranchised for whatever reason.”

She added this:

I have been passionate about American politics for years. There have been figures I’ve loved, figures I’ve loathed. But, come day’s end, I’ve always been aware that they’re just humans, not to be worshiped or idolized. I may well have admired Barack Obama, but I never sought to kneel before him. I may well have despised Dick Cheney, but I never believed he was pure evil. Again—they’re people. They poop and pee and fart and belch and eat and sleep and die. Just like me. Just like you.

The cult-like grip Donald Trump has upon people, however, is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in regards to politics. It’s craziness; personified. It’s believing one man, no matter how many facts scream, “That’s not true!” It’s kneeling before a non-God, thinking he’s God. It’s saying you love America, but spitting upon democracy in the name of a lifelong huckster who commands you to do so.

It’s drinking the Kool-Aid.

Avoid the stupid

The MAGAs are gathering in Washington, and they want red meat.

They want you to come out and scream at them.

They want to get up in your face.

They want to show you that masks are stupid.

They want to scream “Four more years!” and watch you seethe

Their devotion is toward Trump, but their oxygen is shoving it to the libs; is making Democrats cry; is lowering the fight to a dime-high level. It’s not about debate or discourse or moderation. It’s about a fight. A raw, hard-edged, glass-and-guns street fight.

Do.

Not.

Give.

It.

To.

Them.

These fools are infecting one another with COVID. These fools are suckers to one of the biggest conmen in American history. These fools aren’t reading legal cases. They’re out for blood, because they’re white and frustrated and easily swayed; they look at people like Barack Obama and Kamala Harris and don’t see the comforting reflection in the mirror. America is more diverse than ever, and these folks want to shove it all back into a bottle and toss it far into the ocean.

Again—do not give this to them.

Tomorrow, let them scream and yell and shout and moan and infect.

Let them stand alongside one another and believe they’re patriotic.

They are small and dumb and slaves to a huckster.

Don’t engage them.

Laugh at them.

From afar.

Writing alongside a dog

Poppy

If you follow this website at all, you know my dog Norma died about six months ago.

Her passing carved me up, and I still get quite sad seeing her photo, or thinking about some of the quirks that made her, well, quirky. She was, without debate, a wonderful dog.

That said, after the pain started to lessen, we brought home a new dog. Her name is Poppy, and she’s a Bernedoddle. She’s also, at 6 months old, a major pain in the ass. Poppy eats the table, eats wires, eats wood chips, eats the corners of walls. She’s high energy, always darting from there to here, here to there. She’s also teething, which means she’ll bite the hell out of your elbow.

That said, I already love the girl.

As I wrote those seven words, I’m sitting at my office desk, and behind me—on a futon—Poppy sleeps. Her eyes are closed, her paws are out, you can see her little body rising and sinking with each breath. And, truly, it’s not unlike sitting alongside a roaring fire place, or sipping from a warm cup of whipped cream-topped hot chocolate. Being with a dog is soothing and comforting and warm. She loves you unconditionally and you (usually) love her.

I miss Norma.

But I’m happy to have another pet as accompaniment

This guy

So I was sorting thru Twitter this morning when I came upon a Fox News clip posted by the terrific Aaron Rupar.

Here it is …

And I love this.

I love this.

I love this.

I love this.

It immediately made me think of David Lee Roth’s 1985 cover of “California Girls,” and the accompanying music video that included a bunch of sweaty, nose-picking misfits on a tour bus to the desert. Lee Roth, serving as the guide, seems blissfully indifferent toward the oddness of his colleagues, and goes on as if it’s all just dust on a windshield.

In this case, live from Atlanta in anticipation of today’s Grand Führer Donald Trump rally, the sad on-the-scene reporter brings us Terry, who made the drive all the way from Michigan to attend. And Terry is … well. He’s Terry. A huge man in a pink hat, glasses and a white T-shirt that reads THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN COVID-19 WOULD BE BIDEN 20.

Of course, he’s not wearing a mask, which is OK. Because … hey. Covid’s a hoax. So the sad on-the-scene reporter brings him over as Steve Doocy, one of the hosts, sighs audibly at the toxic circus that’s about to ensue. And, indeed, it’s toxic. More than 300,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, and Ol’ Terry is a close talker. So he leans into the mic, breathing with the weight of Fridge Perry following a one-yard touchdown plunge, and says—spit a spewin’—”We love you Ainsley!” (A side word to sad on-the-scene reporter: You just might wanna get a COVID test ASAP. Tell them Terry sent you)

The recipient of such affections is Ainsley Earhardt, Fox News co-host, Sean Hannity’s girlfriend (I didn’t make that up—Sean Hannity has a girlfriend!) and a woman who (I am quite certain) would run the other way at Stanley Floyd speed were Terry approaching in the flesh.

Instead, from the comfort of the New York studio, Ainsley starts with, “Terry, I lo—” And then stops. Just stops, and changes direction.

Why?

Maybe she was distracted.

Maybe she has pressing issues to address.

Or maybe, just maybe, she shot another gander at Terry and thought, “If I tell Terry ‘I love you, too,’ there’s a 64.7 percent chance he takes that literally and starts sending me flowers and deer antlers and shards from his dried booger collection. So let’s not.”

But then, at the last minute, sad on-the-scene reporter fucks it all up. He turns back to Terry and says, “She says she loves you, too!”

And that sound you hear—that little whisper from up north—is Ainsley Earnardt, Sean Hannity’s girlfriend, freaking the fuck out.

Because Terry has always dreamed of visiting the Big Apple.

The shame you’ll feel …

The year is, oh, 2050.

You’re a grandpa. Or grandma.

Your grandchild is learning about Donald Trump in school. She has some questions.

“Grandpa, you didn’t vote for Donald Trump, did you?”

Yes, you reply. You did. Twice.

“But Grandpa, didn’t he wind up spending 10 years in prison after he was done with the presidency?”

You nod, glumly.

“And wasn’t he president when that virus happened, and all those hundreds of thousands of people died? And he said over and over again that it wasn’t a big deal?”

You nod, glumly.

“There’s a boy in my class who calls me Fat Alice,” she says. “He makes pig noises when I walk by.”

You’re upset. Furious. You want to tell Alice she’s beautiful just the way she—

“Grandpa, didn’t Donald Trump call women fat and ugly?”

You’re stumped.

“Grandpa, how many years did you serve in the Army?”

You tell Alice it was seven years total—three active duty in the Middle East.

“Grandpa, when Donald Trump said heroes aren’t captured, was he talking about people like you?”

Again, silence.

“Grandpa, I was reading about the 2020 election. Remember when I cried after losing my little league game, and you told me I need to be gracious and decent and honest?”

You rise, pat Alice atop the head and walk off.

Humiliated.

Did Ted Cruz cheat in 2016?

On February 3, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump Tweeted this in the aftermath of the Iowa caucus …

To be clear, he accused Ted Cruz of cheating. Accused him of fraud. Accused him of doing something dirty to the election process. And he demanded there be an election do-over. Here’s an article from the next day’s Arizona Daily Star …

In case you don’t feel like reading a four-year-old political piece, Cruz’ response to Trump’s claim was that the future president was, “losing it.”

Trump, however, kept going. As the article indicates, he laid out a list of Cruz cheating tactics. He said Cruz sent out a mailer that illegally resembled an official notice. He said Cruz circulated a false rumor that Ben Carson was dropped out of the race. “Many people,” Trump wrote, “voted for Cruz over Carson because of this Cruz fraud.”

Finally, Cruz let loose with a strongly worded quote of his own …

“Donald Trump guaranteed a victory in Iowa and then he lost,” he said. “And he doesn’t like that. And his reaction is that he breaks down, he really has problems.”

Cruz was right.

But now it’s 2020. And he needs that MAGA love.

Democracy be damned.

My motherfucking dog

So we have a dog named Poppy.

She’s 6-months old, snuggly, warm, lovable and relatively well behaved.

That said, I’m pissed.

A few weeks ago, for Chanukah, I bought the wife an electric throw blanket. The woman is always cold and an absolute sucker for blankets. So I hit up the local Bed, Bath and Beyond and snagged this gem, for a relatively OK price.

Poppy proceeded to eat the cord, rendering the heating device useless.

I’ve spent the past 20 minutes searching the World Wide Webster for a replacement, and it doesn’t exist. Brookstone is a company in name only, electric blanket cords are the perfect games of the blanket world (aka: Almost impossible to snag) and now I’m sitting here, blogging out of frustration.

So, if anyone’s in the market for an electric blanket-cord eating dog who likes belly rubs and long walks on the beach, she’s yours … in exchange for your functioning cord.

Which, of course, does not exist.

PS …

The empty diner

Tonight we ordered dinner from the Harbor House.

It’s an old-school diner about 20 minutes down the road, and the spot where I’ve written much of my last two books.

The Harbor House is one of the few places out here that feels like New York. Red booths line the rectangular space, with all sorta of Hollywood photos and posters coating the walls. The burgers arrive with warm, crispy fries, piled sloppily toward the side. The shakes are cheesecake-thick. Waiters come and go, offering refills on soda and coffee. It’s open 24 hours, which is unique for Orange County, and they’re kind/cool enough to let a writer sit in a corner booth for hours.

It’s my type of spot.

So, when I entered the front door, and spotted the emptiness (as pictured above), my heart sank. It’s still the Harbor House, but what’s a late-night writing spot without hustle and bustle? Without a table overflowing with obnoxious college kids? Without an old woman sitting in the corner, sipping her lemon and tea? What is it without the waitress calling you “Honey”? Without the busboy whipping around a moist white rag? Without Elvis or Billy Joel or Whitney Houston crooning from a nearby radio?

What is a late-night writing spot without two heavily tatted bikers debating apple v. cherry pie? Without the manager saying, “Take your time. Enjoy”? Without a visit to the bathroom, where the toilet seat features three or four dabs of pee and this curiously placed poster hangs?

The Harbor House is still the Harbor House.

But will it ever again be the same?

Clemson and Alabama

Maine long snapper Bryce Colee: More interesting than Clemson-Alabama

Were I enrolled at the University of Alabama, this would all be interesting.

Were I enrolled at Clemson, this would all be interesting.

Otherwise … who gives a fuck?

I mean that. What is even slightly interesting about two enormous football powers yet against meeting for the national championship? What, exactly, is the suspense? Whether this rich asshole coach betters that rich asshole coach? Whether the post-game interview features someone saying—straight-faced—”Nobody thought we’d be here today!” Whether only five, or 10, or 15 football players contract COVID?

I’m being sincere: How is it fun to watch the same shit over and over and over again? What does winning actually mean if you are all but guaranteed to win?

Alabama spends gazillions on football.

Clemson spends gazillions on football.

They both bore me to death.

The aliens wanted our gold. Then they sodomized us for sport.

So my son wanted to stay up until midnight for New Year’s, and since he’s 14 and super cool and we have nothing planned tomorrow, I was all in on the plan.

Then we decided to watch that 2011 classic piece of movie making, “Cowboys & Aliens.”

Yup.

First, here’s the crazy thing: Not everything about “Cowboys & Aliens” is awful. The cast is deep, the scenery is fantastic. For the first half hour or so it feels like a legit western, the kind John Wayne and Clint Eastwood once made to perfection.

Then, it falls apart.

I can buy aliens visiting earth in the mid-1800s.

I can buy Daniel Craig as a bad-ass cowboy.

I can buy cowboys and Native Americans teaming up to form a super force.

I can even buy the plot line that aliens come to earth solely because they crave gold, so they start shooting everyone and gathering the loot.

Wait.

Wait.

No.

I cannot buy that.

The reason everything happens in “Cowboys & Aliens” is … the aliens want gold. Why do they want gold? We never know. How did they first learn of this thing called gold? Again, no clue. But they crave it like a drunk craves rum, so they fly all over the place in their circa-2800 space ships, killing cowboys and gobbling gold.

Oh, almost forget: They also capture tons of humans, then study them (aka: open their flesh with knives, then incinerate) on the mothership. Why? So they can know our weaknesses. Which is ABSOLUTELY FUCKING BONKERS, because our weaknesses are … we’re cowboys. Just cowboys. No space crafts. No levitation. We possess no psychic powers. We’ve got nothing, outside of horses, whiskey bottles and guns that hardly shoot straight. For fuck’s sakes, this is more than 100 years before the birth of Christian Okoye. So even he’s not around to help.

Ultimately, it’s an OK flick for 30 seconds and a brutal one for 90.

Which led to Emmett’s final thought, roughly halfway through and with the clock reading 12:14 am.

“I’m ready for bed.”

2021

In 2020, my dog died. My kids’ Grandma Sandy died. There were fires. There was COVID. There’s the awfulness of Trump and his mind slaves. There were deaths—Kobe, Black Panther, RBG, my friend’s father via coronavirus. On and on and on and on and on …

It.

Was.

The.

Worst.

Year.

Ever.

And.

It.

Was.

Never.

Ending.

Well, now it’s ending. And while COVID is as awful as ever, and while Trump is continuing to attempt to overthrow democracy, and while my kids are isolated and the wife and I are isolated and I haven’t boarded a plane since March or sat inside a restaurant since February … there is finally some hope. A new year matters. That’s why we celebrate it and capitalize it. It’s both a new year and a new beginning. A fresh start. A chance to wipe the slate clean and say, “OK, here’s what I’m gonna do …”

So here’s what I’m gonna do in 2021.

I’m gonna be the best father I can.

I’m gonna be the best husband I can.

I’m gonna be the best friend I can.

I’m gonna spend more time at the beach and less time wasting moments at a screen. I’m gonna try my best to help those in need. I’m gonna embrace my daughter’s final few months as a high schooler, and continue to teach my son how to stutter right before driving left to the hoop.

I’m gonna remember that 2020s happen, and you need to embrace and appreciate the non-2020s.

I’m gonna look for the light.

Happy New Year.

A very, very gay new year

On this day every year, I am required to tell my favorite New Year’s Eve story of all time.

So I will.

In the winter of 1996 I was a 24-year-old writer, home in New York for the holidays. My friend Dan worked for a major corporation in the city, and he told me one of his co-workers was having the New Year’s Eve party to end New Year’s Eve parties. “It’s gonna be incredible,” Dan said. “Guy is loaded.” So we decided to go—Dan, me, our longtime friend Paul, Mike Lewis, and Kyle, Dan’s roommate. Dan actually had to secure passes from the host, whose apartment was a stone’s throw from the Times Square ball drop.

On the night of Dec. 31, we all met at Dan’s apartment, then walked to Times Square. We handed a couple of police officers our passes, and they let us through a barricade. The apartment building where the guy lived was gigantic, as well as beautiful. A lobby with plush carpets, expensive paintings, piped-in classical music, etc. We took the elevator to the penthouse, and were greeted warmly by the host. “You guys are the first ones here,” he said. “But make yourselves at home.”

We did. The bar was loaded, the food was spectacular. We ate and chatted, drank and chatted. The goals were pretty clear—have fun, get drunk, hopefully meet some women, hook up, so on and so on.

Then, gradually, guests began to arrive.

Two men.

Three men.

Four men.

Three men.

Two men.

Five men.

Six men.

Two more men.

Paul looked at me, real funny-like. “Jeff,” he said, “this is a gay New Year’s party.”

Indeed, it was.

I’ll never forget it. My friends were well-dressed, which was the norm at the party. I was wearing a University of Tennessee football jersey, which was not the norm (One cannot have a more prominent NOT GAY! neon sign than a Tennessee football jersey). Some guy kissed Paul on the cheek, and at one point Mike looked around and said, “You know what—”I’m gonna mingle!”

It wasn’t awkward, but fun. Joyful. Memorable. As the clock counted down to midnight, I stood on the guy’s balcony, bottle of bubbly in hand, surrounded by, oh, 150 gay men. When 1996 arrived, everyone started yelling and cheering, then making out. One big simultaneous make-out.

Happy Gay New Year anniversary!

It’s my favorite memory.

PS: Found this, from the 1938 New York Age …

Dr. Drew has COVID

Two doctors: A real one, and Drew.

I am not happy Dr. Drew has COVID, and I’m being sincere when I say that.

First, no one deserves to get sick. I mean, maybe Hitler did. And Mussolini. And the tear-it-all-down Donald Trump. But generally speaking, I don’t wish ill upon folks. Dr. Drew surely has people who love him and rely on him, and the coronavirus is a cruel, uncertain path to walk. Especially for someone in his 60s.

That said, Dr. Drew devoted a good amount of energy to dismissing COVID as a big nothing. He compared it to an outbreak of the flu. Which might sound silly and naive, especially considering Dr. Drew has no real expertise or (it seems) experience with infectious diseases. I mean, why would anyone take Dr. Drew’s word for it, when legitimate practitioners were screaming—loudly—”THIS SHIT IS A PROBLEM!”

Alas, people listen to Dr. Drew because he’s a celebrity. And he looks smart. And he speaks with an air of confidence. So when he said, “Don’t worry about COVID,” his followers didn’t worry about COVID. And I’m sure many set aside masks, set aside social distancing, set aside intelligent methods of protection. Because the famous doctor said so.

But here’s the thing: Dr. Drew is a disgrace. He’s the guy who makes lots of money off of embarrassing celebrities. Hell, he was the big brain behind the now-defunct TV show, “Celebrity Rehab,” which featured down-and-out addicts like Dwight Gooden and Travolta’s sidekick from Grease trying to overcome their drug and alcohol issues … in front of millions of viewers. Dr. Drew served as the chief counselor, working harder than hard to humiliate the previously humiliated; to milk every last buck out of the rotting carcasses of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO? famous people latching into that remaining morsel of celebrity. We watched a few episodes, and it was both mesmerizing and nauseating. Dr. Drew knew darn well that part of the addiction was the addiction to fame. So what’s the worst way to treat such “patients”? Enter the cameras!

Now, Dr. Drew has COVID, and I’m sure he’ll find a way to make some bucks off of it.

Good luck with that.

When Slim Sterling came to Lakeview

Slim Sterling calling it as he sees it.

Back when I was a kid walking the mean halls of Lakeview Elementary School, I absolutely loved gym.

It was my favorite class, times 100,000. I loved flag football and dodge ball and pickup hoops. I loved climbing the ropes and sprinting toward cones and long treks up and down the rolling back fields.

There was, however, one day of gym I abhored with every bit of my soul

The day Slim Sterling came to Mahopac.

It happened once per year. We’d shuffle into the gymnasium, change into our “sports clothes” and be told—in a chipper voice—”it’s square dancing day!”

Enter: Slim

He was a guy in a cowboy hat and, I believe, bolo tie. I knew nothing of the man’s origins, background, beliefs, personal life—only that the next hour would absolutely suck. I was, remember, a boy with no remote interest in the opposite sex. I didn’t want to twirl with Kim Cutter. I didn’t want to do-si-do with Anyssa Santo. I didn’t want to allemande left with Corinne Lee or roll away to a half sashay with Caroline Massey. No—all I wanted to do was get the fuck out of there with my dignity and sanity intact.

Alas, it was not to be.

We’d spin and twirl and stumble awkwardly. I’d grab a girl by the hand, sweaty palm to sweaty palm, wishing I were in the nurse’s office or—at that moment—the nearby morgue. To be clear, in case there is some doubt: I HATED square dancing.

•••

A few moments ago, I was directed to Slim Sterling’s obituary. He died 19 years ago, and along with teaching square dancing to bumbling pre-pubes was also the former head of a long-ago country group, “The Saddle Serenaders.” He held a BA and masters in education from NYU; was a dad, a grandfather, a husband. His nickname, “Slim,” was brought to life when he was a 14-year-old 6-footer who weighed but 140 pounds.

Mostly, Slim Sterling clearly lived for sharing his profound love of square dancing. To quote the obit: “Since 1952, Slim has been square and folk dance specialist for the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation. He was featured caller at national square dance conventions throughout the country. In addition, his professional appearances, both as caller and entertainer, have taken him from Maine to Florida. Slim has made television appearances in the New York area and has guested on both educational and entertainment shows, while his radio credits encompass more than a dozen stations in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Slim is a member of the Westchester Recreation and Parks Society, Caller-Lab, the International Association of Square Dance Callers and Leaders, and Callers Council of New Jersey. He is licensed by ASCAP and BMI. “

Sitting here, 48 and long removed from my prime non-square dancing prime, I find myself mourning a man whose existence caused me to shudder.

I find myself wishing I’d given Slim Sterling and square dancing a bit more of a chance.

The Christmas Tradition that won’t quit

So if you know me, or have followed me for a long time, you know I’m an annual practitioner of the fake holiday card.

Which is to say: Every December we (I’m usually accompanied by at least one of my two kids) create a phony Christmas card, print it up and send it out to (largely unsuspecting) people.

It started about a decade ago, when I thought it’d be funny to redirect seasonal cards to unintended recipients. That went over beautifully—as this old post explains. And this post explains, too. But the wife (a better person than I’ll ever be) thought it was wrong to take someone’s card and fuck with other folks. Hence, the new-and-improved tradition of crafting an original card with random people, then writing bullshit nonsensical messages.

This year, my son Emmett and I searched the World Wide Web until we found a picture of a family in COVID masks. We went around the room and picked names—the parents needed to be sorta dull (Jonathan and Shelly), the kids a bit more precious (Kylee and Lucas).

The back is where the magic happens …

It needs to be inane, but not so inane that it screams, “Fake!”

It needs to be in-depth, but not overly in-depth.

It needs to feel like someone you’d know, but can’t place.

Also, I’m a “fan” of putting random words in quotes, because my mom has been doing that for years. It’s always good to have a term nobody would understand (“The Barneys”), even though it seems as if they’d understand. I’m a fan of sayings that old grandparents might have uttered long ago, such as, “Christmas is holy … because it celebrates the whole.”

Mostly, I love love love love love love love love love love love love that every year at least a couple of recipients (we send out 50) open the card and—if even for 10 seconds—think, “Who the fuck is this?”

Love, Shelly, Jonathan, Kylee and Lucas

Losing Norma

RIP Norma: A great dog who gave us a lot of love.

So earlier today I received a note from a reader, requesting I explain the pain of losing our dog Norma earlier this year.

Here you go …

I am a charmed person.

My parents are both alive and healthy.

My older brother is alive and healthy.

My wife and my kids are healthy.

All of my grandparents lived well into their 80s.

Again, I am a charmed person.

Because of that charmed existence, however, I think I was unprepared for the death of Norma, our 12-year-old cockapoo who died earlier this year of cancer.

Now, to be honest, I used to be one of those people who sorta scoffed at pet loss. As a boy we only had guinea pigs—nice animals, but not exactly the most cuddly or embraceable. So when I’d see someone torn up by the death of a dog or cat, I never fully got it. “Seriously?” I’d think. “It’s just a pet.”

No.

No.

No.

No.

Norma was my first dog—and I friggin’ loved her. I loved her sighs, her likes (plopping down on a blanket, strawberries, carrots) and her dislikes (other dogs). The daughter and I decided early on that Norma was an arch-conservative pro-life zealot, and we assigned her membership in the Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney Fan Clubs. Which was fun.

Norma was always by my side. And, as a work-from-home writer, that mattered. I’d be sitting here at my laptop, turn, and there’d be ol’ Norma, resting on the bed, head down, eyes closed. She dug a good belly rub, a good paw rub. She was companionship. Kinship. Company for a long walk on a sunny California day.

This past summer, we came home one day and Norma was acting peculiar. Limping. Hiding under furniture. I called a friend who walks dogs, and she said maybe she’s just off. But … it didn’t feel right. I took her to the vet, and they did some tests, and we were told Norma’s body was filled with cancer. I was actually driving with my daughter Casey when the news was delivered, and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. It wasn’t merely the hardest cry in front of one of my children—it was probably the hardest cry of my life.

Later that day, my wife visited Norma for a final time (I stayed with the kids). She FaceTimed me from the vet, put Norma on. She was no longer herself—expressionless, peppiless. Nothing there.

Minutes later, she was put to sleep.

How did it feel? Like someone carved up my insides. Like someone punched me in the stomach 100 times. I felt as if I had somehow let Norma down. I felt as if I was losing a child. She was there all the time … and now, poof. Gone. Forever. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I know millions of people lose millions of pets every year, but I couldn’t imagine anyone else feeling as I felt.

But then (and I hope this doesn’t sound callous) the days passed and the hurt faded. We started making small jokes about Norma being in dog heaven or dog hell. Norma sniffing another dead dog’s ass. Again, maybe it sounds cruel. But it was a process.

I spoke at length with a good friend, Bev Oden, who told me—from experience—”The joy of having a pet outweighs the pain of losing a pet.” I’ve thought about that. And thought about that. And thought about that.

A few weeks ago, we got a new dog. Her name is Poppy.

She’s not Norma. She’s young and peppy and likes to gnaw on fists. She’s a better eater and a worse listener.

Initially, I felt a tad traitorous. Norma’s dead, and we’ve replaced her. But, with time, that guilt walked off.

It’s like Bev said—the joy of having a pet outweighs the pain of losing a pet.

Norma will always be my first love.

But Poppy has brought back the bliss.

Dear Trump Supporter …

Treasonous.

Dear Trump Supporter:

What would you be saying were this Barack Obama and the Democrats?

What would you be saying had Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama in the 2012 election by 306 to 232 electoral college votes and more than 7 million popular votes?

What would you be saying if, in the aftermath of the election, Barack Obama claimed there was an enormous conspiracy against him—and that Mitt Romney had not, in fact, won?

What would you be saying if Barack Obama started filing lawsuit after lawsuit in an effort to have the election overturned—only to have one lawsuit after another rejected and dismissed by myriad judges (many appointed by Barack Obama)?

What would you be saying if Barack Obama started quoting longtime conspiracy theorists? If Barack Obama started spewing long-debunked nonsense about broken voting machines?

Would would you be saying if the Supreme Court found Barack Obama’s take so preposterous that it wouldn’t even hear his case?

What would you be saying if some of Barack Obama’s closest liberal allies—senators he supported—insisted the election wasn’t fixed, and that Obama was spewing bullshit?

What would you be saying—after all of that—if Barack Obama starting urging Democratic congressional representatives to fight to have the electoral college voters ignored? If Barack Obama kept working and working and working to make certain Mitt Romney would never take office?

What would you be saying if—as this was all transpiring—Barack Obama refused to allow Mitt Romney to see certain pieces of classified information that all past incoming presidents had been shown?

What would you be saying if you knew this wasn’t the first time Barack Obama had behaved in such a manner? What if you knew it was, in fact, the third time Barack Obama accused an election of being rigged against him?

Would you be OK with that? Would you be accepting? Would you think, “Hey, that’s wonderful?”

Or would you accuse him of being anti-American? Of being treasonous? Of undermining democracy in what could only be viewed as an attempted coup?

What would you be saying?

PS: And what would you be saying if, as Barack Obama was doing the above, a major American city was hit with an act of terror—and Obama said nothing about it? I’m asking for a friend.

Dwayne Haskins has a chance

Oy.

In case you missed the news, earlier this morning the Washington Redskins Football Team released Dwayne Haskins, it’s second-year quarterback and the No. 15 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Haskins has been a mess from Day 1. He never grasped the offense as a rookie, he didn’t seem to work particularly hard, he played like dog shit, he ignored team rules and, just recently, he was photographed partying without a mask. I’m not saying the Football Team had to release him, but Coach Ron Rivera was certainly justified.

But here’s a thought …

Back when I was Dwayne Haskins’ age, I was a newbie reporter at The Tennessean in Nashville—and I was fucking unbearable. I arrived believing I was God’s gift to writing, then proceeded to make one stupid mistake after another. Misspellings. Misidentifications. Butchered details. Once, I quoted my dad for a story, but used a phony name so nobody would know. Another time, I was assigned two veteran reporters to serve as my mentor … and turned the opportunity down.

I pissed off co-workers with my arrogance. I pissed off advertisers with my copy. The local alt-weekly, The Nashville Scene, labeled me the Tennessean’s “enfant terrible,” adding, “If there’s one cow-pie in the field, The Tennessean’s Jeff Pearlman will manage to step in it.”

In perhaps my greatest moment of stupidity, one night I was working late and a colleague/friend named Sheila had left her computer on. I went on Sheila’s monitor and typed FUCK OFF! (or something along those lines) as a DM, and had her send it to herself. The next morning I arrived at work to find everyone in a panic. Turns out Sheila was worried someone was stalking her—especially after she had received a threatening message. Security was called, etc.

I was nearly fired.

I should have been fired.

I wasn’t fired.

Why? My boss, a lovely woman named Catherine Mayhew, still believed in me. She said I couldn’t continue down this path; that I was sabotaging myself and my future; that I needed to reassess and reevaluate and think about the person I wanted to be.

I was then banished from the features department, and placed on the late-night police beat. It changed my life.

Dwayne Haskins still has a chance.

He just needs to start growing up.

William Zabka can act his ass off

Zabka (center) with his karate students.

So the wife, son and I have been binge watching “Cobra Kai” on Netflix, and the show is an absolute delight and one of the best things I’ve seen on TV in 2020.

For those who might be unaware, it’s basically a 3 1/2-decades-later resumption of the first “Karate Kid” film, with Ralph Macchio back as an adult Daniel LaRusso and William Zabka reprising his role as Johnny Lawrence, the enemy rival. The series is brilliantly written, brilliantly constructed and brilliantly acted. There are 1,001 subtle (and not-so-subtle) nods to the movie, and I can honestly say the wife hasn’t laughed as hard as she did watching this scene unfold for the first time …

Anyhow, of all the things “Cobra Kai” brings to the table, the biggest—in my opinion—is a singular revelation that should have been made clear long ago:

William Zabka can act his ass off.

The guy is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. His portrayal of the adult, broken-down Lawrence is nuance personified. The viewer is never sure whether he should hate Lawrence or love Lawrence; empathize with Lawrence or wish pain to Lawrence. It’s all in Zabka’s delivery—a look, a glare, a stare, a shrug. I’m being sincere: He’s that good, and if the Emmy Gods have any sense, this guy will be a shoo-in.

More to the point—at some point in Zabka’s career, Hollywood decided he could only play dickheads. So you have “Johnny Lawrence” in the “Karate Kid.” You have “Ruben” in “Shootfighter: Fight to the Death.” You have “Chas” in “Back to School.” Never did a producer or director look at Zabka’s skills and think, “Man, this guy is talented. Let’s make him a dying AIDS patient or a superhero sidekick or a good guy detective or a crossing guard.”

Nope—Zabka was typecast, and because of that it’s taken decades for the world to see what the 55-year old possesses in droves.

Talent.

Why Ryan Leaf is a favorite

Over the past few years, Ryan Leaf has become one of my absolute favorite Twitter follows.

Do I know Ryan? Save for a couple of DMs, no. But pre-Twitter, I pretty much only recognized him as the former college football star who, after being drafted No. 2 overall by the San Diego Chargers in 1998, turned into one of the great all-time busts.

Leaf, according to both narrative and behavior, was arrogant, obnoxious and super-duper douchey. He thought being an NFL quarterback made him The Man, and put in neither the work nor time to live up to his potential. When his career came crashing down, and the inevitable addictions and arrests followed, most of humanity seemed to shrug and think, “Fuck that guy. He deserved it.”

Only, well, the Ryan Leaf before us is funny, engaging, self-deprecating and honest. He’s owned his mistakes and misdeeds, and hides from nothing.

Without an ounce of exaggeration, if you asked me, “Who would be a more interesting and enlightening hangout—Manning or Leaf?” … I’m going with Leaf.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Which leads me to this Tweet, which just crossed my eyesight seconds ago …

Seriously, the guy is just the best.

Liberty and Coastal Carolina deserved better

I don’t care about college bowl games, but there’s one moment in time that still does it for me.

The date was Jan. 1, 2007, and heavily favored Oklahoma faced Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl.

It was a mismatch. Clearly a mismatch. The Sooners—led by Adrian Peterson, one of the great halfbacks in college football history—were favored by 7 1/2 points over the undefeated-yet-largely untested Broncs from the small state commuter school.

What transpired, however, was both one of the greatest upsets in modern college football history and one of the greatest games in all of college football history. Breaking out one trick play after another, Boise State shocked the Sooners with a breathtaking 43-42 victory that ended with the night’s hero—halfback Ian Johnson—scoring the winning touchdown, then kneeling to propose to his cheerleader girlfriend.

[She said yes]

It was amazing.

It was brilliant.

It was mesmerizing.

It was something the NCAA seems to have no interest in.

In case you’re not paying attention, tonight undefeated No. 9 Coastal Carolina played No. 23 Liberty (with just one loss) in something called (stupidly) the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl. It was a fantastic battle, with the Jerry Falwell-less Flames pulling out the 37-34 win.

And it never should have happened.

Teams like Coastal Carolina deserve a shot at Iowa, or Texas, or Auburn. Teams like Liberty deserve a shot at Georgia. Or Oregon. Or Oklahoma State. There is nothing better than the opening minutes of a David v. Goliath game, and nothing nothing nothing better than the closing minutes of a nail-biter David v. Goliath game. By matching up the two Davids, however, the NCAA or the blah blah bowl committee or Alvaro Espinoza (or whoever is responsible) decided to take the (yawn) boring way out.

It’s just not fun, and the end result is another year of predictable matchups between this big money school and that big money school in the multi-million dollar CTE Awaits You Bowl.

Lame.

My (necessary) internship from hell

Twenty nine summers ago, I lived in hell.

Technically, Champaign, Illinois isn’t hell. It’s a college town. A cool college town, home to the University of Illinois and high stalks of corn and a place that, literally, sells burritos as big as your head.

For me, however, it was the absolute worst.

I had just wrapped up my sophomore year at the University of Delaware, and—after applying to probably, oh, 150 newspapers—was hired as a summer intern by the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, a daily with a circ of, oh, 65,000. Landing the gig was an incredible high—I’d be living by myself in a new town, writing for a real paper, gaining experience and bylines and contacts.

Uh … yeah.

Champaign was hell. To begin with:

• I had no friends. None. Zero.

• I broke my ankle playing basketball, was on crutches for several weeks, got off the crutches, return to the court—and immediately sprained my other ankle.

• I lived in an apartment at 405 Green Street. I’m pretty sure the guy above me was beating his girlfriend. I had a TV that received two shows—Star Trek and The 700 Club. My mom bought me two plants to hang—I’m pretty certain they both died. I was so bored I tried taking up cigarette smoking … and failed miserable. Puff, cough, puff, cough.

• I was 20, and one needed to be 21 to enter bars.

Worst of all was the newspaper. Well, worst of all was me at the newspaper. To be blunt, I was a little cocky fuckhead. I thought I was God’s gift to writing, and walked and wrote with an unwarranted strut. I took advice from no one, mocked older scribes, thought I had nothing to learn and no need to improve. In a word, I was insufferable.

The woman who hired me, a sports editor named Jean McDonald, made my life even worse. She shredded my copy, told me what I needed to work on, demanded professionalism and (gasp!) told me I needed much improvement. With seven weeks in, I packed up and left. I was supposed to be there for eight but, fuck, I couldn’t take it any longer. I was out. Ghost. See ya.

A few weeks later, I received a two-page letter from Jean. She told me I had talent, but that I wasted a great opportunity; that a bad attitude damns many a talented writer. I read the letter, probably cursed Jean out, read it again. And again. And again. I still have it, stashed. It’s a prized possession.

And one that probably saved me career.

Jews to Christians: “Welcome to our Christmas”

If one were to gauge things by Instagram and Twitter posts, a high percentage of people who celebrate Christmas spent today doing this …

To which I say: Welcome to my last 48 Christmases.

I mean no offense. And I’m certainly not happy that COVID wrecked so many family gatherings; so many joyful feasts; so many annual traditions of leaving cookies for Santa; of waking up and running down the steps to open presents; of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins basking in the glow of a magnificently outfitted tree. I actually hate everything about it, and mourn in particular for older relatives who—instead of embracing the love of a unique holiday—sit lonely and depressed at home, heating up Trader Joe’s pizza or ordering out for Chinese.

But, just so it’s noted, what you’re experiencing is (in many ways) what we Jews deal with every Christmas.

For most of my life Christmas was the least-favorite day of the year. I felt like the guy locked inside a shopping mall after closing time. Or the guy who misses the state fair because I had to go tile shopping with Mom. I knew all the kids up and down Emerald Lane were unwrapping presents and gorging on candy canes and chocolate Santas, while I was staring at my toes or lying in bed, gazing up at my Rickey Henderson poster. If Dec. 24 and Dec. 26 were 24-hour days, Dec. 25 was—at the bare minimum—500 hours of hell. I’d look at my clock. Look again. And again. And again.

“Let’s all take a family walk,” Dad would suggest.

Meh.

“Why don’t we play Monopoly?” Mom would suggest.

Meh.

“Why don’t we do nothing—like every Christmas,” I’d counter, sadly.

So I’d do nothing.

I don’t want this to happen again. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever again. The year 2020 blows, and the lack of a fruitful Christmas blows, too.

All I ask is that, in 2021, when you’re back at Grandma’s house, eating her homemade bread pudding and listening to some Mariah Carey jingle, think back a year earlier, and think of Jeff, your friendly neighborhood Jew.

I’ll be home.

Doing nothing.

The Patch Adams thing

“Hey, baby. Nanoo, nanoo.”

So last night the wife, son and I watched “Patch Adams,” a movie I have gone through life hating but, for some reason, sorta kinda somewhat enjoyed on Christmas Eve.

In case you haven’t seen it, the film stars Robin Williams as a medical student who doesn’t understand why doctors can’t infuse their patients with joy and laughter. It’s loosely (like, very loosely) based off of the book, “Gesundheit!: Bringing Good Health to You, the Medical System, and Society through Physician Service, Complementary Therapies, Humor, and Joy,” and by the end you’re supposed to feel chipper and inspired and terrific about the world.

Which is fine.

What I can’t get past—what I’ve never been able to get past—is the age discrepancy between Patch (played by Williams) and his love interest, a medical student named Carin (played by an understated Monica Potter). Now, there were 100,000 ways to go with that, because in real life a love interest named Carin did not exist. The character was (presto!)) created, in the way movies create characters to add drama, spice, juju.

So why, oh, why, did the creators of “Patch Adams” pair Williams (born in 1951) with Potter (born in 1971)? Why would they think, “Here’s an idea: Let’s give Patch a love interest, and make her young enough to be his daughter“?

Seriously, it irks the fuck out of me. Repeatedly. First, because it stands out like blood in pudding. But second, because it’s yet another example of the industry’s reliance on old man-young woman, whereas you never, ever, ever, ever see old woman-young man (unless it’s a specific plot point).

So … yeah.

Patch Adams. Weird.

My wife is trying to kill me

So in our house, there’s a pretty standard division of labor when it comes to dinner.

The wife does the cooking.

I do the dishes.

It makes sense: She’s a tremendous chef. I burn shit. She can cook anything. I wanted to create banana chicken. She fills the room with wonderful scents. I make the kitchen uninhabitable.

And yet … recently she’s been trying to kill me.

It starts like this—”Can you go to the supermarket and grab a few things?”

Then I go, “Sure.”

Then she goes, “It’s just a few things.”

Then I go, “OK.”

Then I get in the car and drive to the nearby Albertsons or Ralphs.

Then I see this …

Or this …

And this one all but killed me …

And here’s my belief—my honest-to-God belief: She’s testing me.

We’ve been married almost 20 years, and she’s still testing me.

We all know Hoisin sauce isn’t a real thing. We all know pickled ginger is mythical. There is no such thing as pork butt, and Hominy is … well, it’s bullshit. It’s all fucking bullshit. I roam these supermarket aisles for hours, a wayward soul seeking out fantastical minutia all so my wife and kids can laugh at me as they watch from afar on a secret camera.

Wait. I’ve gotta cut this short.

The wife needs a jar of crispy tarantulas.

Kirk Cameron falls short

As long as we’ve got each other … we can spread diseases our own way.

In case you missed this story, Kirk Cameron, the long-ago star of “Growing Pains,” showed up yesterday in the parking lot of a Thousand Oaks shopping mall, where he led a bunch of mask-less religious freaks in caroling.

Ho. Ho. Ho.

It’s a weird thing, isn’t it? On the one hand, I’m sure Cameron—a well-known far-right religious zealot—genuinely aspires to spread joy via song. It’s been a rough year, we’re all struggling. So why not lift spirits with a little “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Deck The Halls”? I’m being sincere when I write that. He probably means to do well.

And yet … Kirk Cameron is a fucking selfish douche asshole. Or, put differently: Bruh, you’re not an infectious disease expert. You’re not a doctor. You work in neither hospital nor physician’s office. You certainly haven’t studied COVID, and I’m not even sure you’re aware that ICU beds in Southern California hospitals are 100 percent filled. So who are you, star of “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas,” to make the decision to hold such an event? What are your qualifications to decide COVID is just a hoax? Or that God and Jesus will cure people? Or that the power of song can cure all ills?

The audacity actually gets me far more than the stupidity. It is literally an audacious act of assholeness to put that many people at risk, all because you’re not wise enough to grasp and empathize with the issues. It suggests that you–Kirk Cameron, star of “Left Behind III: World At War”—think you know more than the experts, all because Invisible Sky Man whispers sweet nothings into your ears at night.

I don’t hope attendees fall ill.

But, if they do, it’s on Kirk Cameron.

Cody Rigsby and self love

So earlier tonight I completed my 91st Peloton trek—a 30-minute pop ride with an instructor named Cody Rigsby.

The experience got me to thinking of my boyhood in Mahopac, N.Y., and 1980s rural perceptions of homosexuality.

Or, put different: When I grew up, you couldn’t be gay.

Which sounds weird, right? One doesn’t choose to be or not to be gay. You are or you’re not. Period.

And yet, it wasn’t really an option. In my turf (and in many turfs across America), being gay was being a fudge packer. A homo. A queer. It was an easy insult—”What are you, a fag?” and “You gonna go to prison and find some soap on a rope?” It meant you were soft. A sissy. A guy who missed a big tackle for the football team? Gay. A boy who liked ballet? Gay. On and on it went. And while I didn’t use the words as slang, I certainly never spoke up to protest; certainly never felt compelled to show those who actually were gay (and closeted) that it wasn’t OK.

Truth be told, I think people were simply afraid of the unknown. I remember the old debate about gay marriage often considered the fate of the child—”What if [gasp!] he winds up gay, too?”

I digress.

Cody Rigsby, Peloton instructor, is openly gay, and proud of it. He wears the identity (figuratively) on his sleeve and literally on his Instagram profile (“Opinionated homosexual”). He speaks freely and enthusiastically about being a gay man in 2020; about his likes and dislikes and highs and lows. He posts photos of his handsome boyfriend (Andres Alfaro) because, well, why shouldn’t he?

Oh, one more thing: Cody is a friggin’ awesome Peloton instructor. Absolute awesome. His musical knowledge is world class. His boy band knowledge is terrifying. He has introduced me to a shitload of songs that are outside my age bracket (don’t sleep on Dua Lipa), and pushes riders to their maximum effort while infusing equal parts joy.

And what led me to writing this post is that, truly, I wish we had Cody Rigsbys in the 1980s. I wish we had proud, open, energetic, enthusiastic gay men and women who could be themselves and not worry about being tarred and feathered. I think about a friend from high school, who didn’t come out until years later, and all the pretending he had to go through. I think about all the adults who needed to see the love and joy of an openly gay man like Cody; who needed to learn that the correct answer to, “What if my son is gay?” is “That’d be great.”

There are still, obviously, large numbers of homophobes fucking up this country.

But it’s hard to imagine one watching Cody Rigsby at work and maintaining such a sinister outlook.

Moments I love

Was reading up about the Bengals upsetting Pittsburgh last night, when the above image crossed my sight.

It’s the immediate aftermath of Trey Hopkins, Cincinnati’s center, hugging quarterback Ryan Finley—and it’s just beautiful.

I have many problems with the NFL. The continued refusal to take CTE seriously. The way discarded players are kicked to the curb. The limits on guaranteed money. The refusal to offer Colin Kaepernick a job. The early acquiescence to Donald Trump when he bullied and blustered and blustered and bullied. The grossness of Jerry Jones.

And yet … I do love how the game bonds people. How it forms a legitimate brotherhood that time truly fails to erase.

I have no idea if Finley and Hopkins are off-the-field buddies. If they grab coffee and gossip over “The Queen’s Gambit.”

But they shared a beautiful moment.

That’s eternail.

What’s with the latkes?

So last night the son, wife and I found ourselves watching a Lifetime holiday movie titled, “Mistletoe and Menorahs.”

It’s the story of a Christian woman who has a few days to understand Chanukah, and a Jewish man who has a few days to understand Christmas. They’re strangers introduced by a mutual friend, and over the course of a week (or so) they’re supposed to tutor one another on proper holiday techniques. As these things tend to go, man and woman have some misunderstandings, then come to appreciate one another, then they fall in love, kiss clumsily and wrap the film in a tidy 1 hour, 26 minutes.

It.

Was.

Mesmerizing.

This is no knock on Kelley Jakle and Jake Epstein, the two lead actors, but “Mistletoe and Menorahs” is one for the what-the-fuck-is-going-on-here? ages. To begin with, the flick takes place in Chicago, so therefore we’re asked to believe that two people in their late-20s/early-30s have literally never spoken to a Jew or Christian before. For example, the woman doesn’t know how to pronounce menorah. She’s apparently never eaten a jelly donut. She seems genuinely shocked to learn Chanukah is eight nights. The man, meanwhile, has never had fruit cake. He doesn’t grasp the intricacies of decorating a tree. He needs help (wait for it) wrapping presents.

But if there’s one moment—one singular moment—that kills me … well, it’s not a moment, per se, but an element. On repeated occasions in “Mistletoe and Menorahs,” the lead characters eat latkes. Like, they eat latkes the way one habitually bites his nails. Latkes, then more latkes, then even more latkes. Seriously, someone needs to tell the folks at Lifetime that we Jews pretty much do latkes one night. Maybe two.

Anyhow, the latkes of “Mistletoe and Menorahs” don’t actually appear to be latkes. They’re fat and thick, and the son and I figure the crew ran out of potatoes and sent intern Lenny to track down some deep-fried slabs of chicken.

Who’s gonna notice?

We Jews don’t watch this shit.

God, I am angry

Earlier today I received word that a cousin of a friend died of COVID.

He was in his mid-60s, and—by the accounts I’ve heard—a decent and good man.

The story behind the story makes my blood boil. The man and his wife hosted Thanksgiving for a small number of relatives. Which—it goes without saying—wasn’t good judgement.

A handful of people attended. One was the man’s sister, who had a cold but insisted it couldn’t be COVID—because she didn’t (and apparently doesn’t) believe COVID is a thing. As my friend wrote in a Facebook DM: “His sister didn’t believe in COVID. She’s been going to large gatherings of maskless people. She believed, and may still believe, that COVID is a hoax. She believes that COVID is a conspiracy by hospitals to make more money. She believes that it’s no worse than the flu. She believes that it has a 99.5% survival rate. She believes that masks don’t protect people from getting COVID because it isn’t real.”

Thanksgiving came. Thanksgiving went. Everyone who attended the gathering wound up sick with COVID. Writes my friend: “They all spent days unable to do anything but they recovered, however, they’re all still feeling effects and will for some time. He was the only one who went to the hospital. He was there for about a week before being put on a ventilator. He never got better.”

I don’t know how the sister is feeling right now. Apparently no one in the family is speaking with her. And, maybe, she’s remorseful and contrite. Maybe she feels as if this is all her fault, and she’s devastated.

But, because it’s 2020, the most likely scenario is she’s convinced her brother had already been sick. Or she’s convinced the family is blaming her because they’re all on the side of Joe Biden and Bill Barr. Or she’s making Christmas plans as we speak—”I’ll bring the turkey and fruit cake.”

It’s so friggin’ infuriating. And bleak.

“People are dying and families will never be the same again,” my friend wrote. “I know ours won’t be.”

The dumbest magazine cover

A friend alerted me to the newest issue of the University of Delaware’s alumni magazine, which features the cover headline TAKE NOTE: HOW TO LEAD LIKE A BLUE HEN.

And I would like to offer my own alternative headline: TAKE NOTE: HOW TO RUN AN ALUMNI MAGAZINE WHEN ONE OF YOUR GRADS JUST BECAME THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

I mean, seriously. We’re Delaware, not Harvard. Or Yale. Or UCLA. Or Notre Dame. We’ve got Joe Flacco and Rich Gannon, Chris Christie and Steve Schmidt. So when someone from the University of Delaware wins the presidency, and you’re trying to convince people of your school’s gravitas … maybe, just maybe, don’t relegate the news to Page 7.

Yes, Page 7. Of the University of Delaware alumni magazine.

Page 7.

Not Page 1 or 2 or 3 or 4.

Page 7.

There are questions, of course. Did the heated political climate cause an editor to say—”Yeah, we probably need to run something, but let’s bury it inside”? Did the issue close a few days pre-election, and an editor said, “We have to reserve space for this”? Did aliens invade the alumni magazine’s offices and harvest eggs inside the brains of decision makers? Is leading like a Blue Hen more important that one might imagine?

So many questions.

Life as a Jets fan

“By the time I’m 30, maybe the Jets come through …”

Today summed up life as a New York Jets fan.

The team has been awful this year. Just awful. 0-13 entering this afternoon’s clash against the Los Angeles Rams. A supposed phenom quarterback who no longer looks particularly phenomenal. A featured halfback who was born before the Kennedy assassination. A coach whose personality (arrogant and dismissive) lines up perfectly with his leadership abilities (minimal to none). A roster pocked by poor signings, poor selections, poor overall judgment.

But … there was a silver lining. All the Jets—my Jets—had to do was lose out their last three games, and they’d lock up the No. 1 selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. And, to be clear, this would be no ordinary No. 1 selection. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is, by most accounts, the brightest quarterback prospect to leave college since Tennessee’s Peyton Manning more than two decades ago. Lawrence is strong, polished, savvy, tested. He’s the real deal; the type of generational talent scouts drool over.

All.

The.

Jets.

Had.

To.

Do.

Was.

Lose.

Out.

So they played the Rams—a legit Super Bowl contender. And … fucking fuck fuck with toasted almonds. The Jets won. Because of course they won. Why guarantee yourselves a franchise-changing quarterback when you can capture a meaningless December game for a coach destined to be fired? Why line up the stars when you can shit in a bucket?

The great Michael J. Lewis, my pal and Jets lifer, said today there’s still hope the Jaguars beat the Bears next week and the Jets reclaim the top choice. But anyone who’s rooted for this team beyond a year or two knows that’s impossible. The Jets are Murphy’s Law come to life. Everything that can go wrong goes wrong. Every screw is turned the wrong way. Ever knife blade is dull. The Jets are Mariah Carey in “Glitter.” They’re Alex Karras in “Webster.” They are helpless and hopeless, and with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 Draft I predict they will select Nick Lorden, wide receiver from the University of New Hampshire.

Why Nick Lorden?

Because I randomly found him via a Google search.

The Jets way.

The Blue Lives Matter Flag

A couple of months back, new people moved into a nearby house.

They parked their cars.

They unloaded their stuff.

They hung a Blue Lives Matter flag.

This did not sit well with me. My first reaction was, “What the fuck?” My second reaction was, “What the fuck?” My third reaction was to rant on Facebook. So I ranted on Facebook.

A day later, another neighbor (one I consider a friend and kind soul) gently criticized my post. He said it wasn’t particularly neighborly, and caused me to think about whether a Blue Lives Matter flag—and a Blue Lives Matter flag alone—is enough to presume someone’s character.

Answer: I’m not sure.

Over the past few weeks I’ve had casual chats with the flag bearers as they’ve passed my house, and they seem warm, friendly, engaged, inviting. For all I know they’re law enforcement vets simply trying to support their profession. For all I know they’re Biden voters who believe one can be pro-law enforcement and Democrats. For all I know they hate Trump, and have always hated Trump.

But … in the current climate, with the aspiring lunatic dictator doing his best Wanna-Be Stalin, my hopes seem unlikely. The Blue Lives Matter flag has come to symbolize something; something ugly and unwelcoming and decidedly threatening to African-Americans and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a flag seen too often at #MAGA rallies; a flag seen positioned at roadside Trump booths alongside red ball caps and MAKE AMERICA GREAT T-shirts. It feels like a big middle finger. A FUCK YOU to members of the anti-MAGA crowd.

And yet, here’s the thing: In 2020, when we’re all positioned in front of our computers, ranting and raving and Tweeting and Facebooking, what I should do—and likely will do—is steel my nerves and go old fashioned.

Be human, and just ask them.

Do nothing

One thing this pandemic has taught me: It’s OK to do nothing.

I know that sounds obvious, but I’m one who likes to go here, go there, see this, see that. I dig long drives and fun meals and adventures to spots that sound adventurous. What I don’t like—well, what I didn’t like—was sitting around the house.

Now, however, I’m sorta getting used to it. And I think, in 2020, that’s important. One of the biggest COVID fuck-ups came because men and women felt compelled to “go about their lives.” Which meant going places. Seeing people. Engaging. Talking. Hugging. Sharing.

And, truly, I get it.

I really do.

But—in the name of safety—I’m not coming to your barbecue. I’m not eating inside at a restaurant or, in all probability, outside at a restaurant. I’m not making exceptions for certain people. I’m not having neighbors come close to pet my dog. I’m not flying. I’m not meeting up with people.

I’m doing nothing, mostly inside, with my wife and kids.

It sucks.

But it feels necessary.

Venice, 1999

In 1999, shortly after my 27th birthday, I took off a few weeks from work and backpacked Italy.

It was my first time away from North America, and I had no real idea what I was doing. The backpack I purchased was way too heavy, and came equipped with wheels (adding unnecessary weight). I spoke no Italian, and knew little of Italy’s history or culture. I arrived in Milan armed with a guide book, some train advice and a shitload of excitement.

The trip was amazing.

I trekked from hostel to hostel. I marveled at the cathedrals of Rome, the architecture of Florence. I hopped a boat to Sicily, then followed two Australian women to Malta (maybe my favorite spot on earth). I tried Vegemite (don’t). I soaked in the culture. I felt free and young and euphoric.

I also took the above photo—maybe my all-time favorite image.

It evokes so many feelings and emotions. I was walking through the streets of Venice, dazzled by the colors, the smells, the waterways, the people. At one point I found myself staring at a religious figurine behind a pane of glass. I stopped to take the picture, probably thinking it offered a cool reflection of the buildings positioned behind me.

It’s better than I’d hoped for. The clothing lines, dangling above. The red- and mustard-colored structures. The flowers. And, in the righthand corner, young me, gangling armed, snapping the shot in my $8 Marshall’s T-shirt.

It still does something for me.

Assholes in Costco

I’m just back from Costco, where I acquired a chicken, drinks, a chunk of cheese, two dozen eggs — and some seriously raised blood pressure.

As I stood in line, I noticed two people sans masks.

The first guy was heavily tattooed, short, sorta squatty, with the confident bravado strut of a high school bully. He wore a baseball cap and cargo shorts, and pushed two filled carts toward the check-out register. It was obvious his mask—dangling loosely from his chin—was there solely because it’s requisite for entering the warehouse, and as he exited I heard him complain to someone about, “all the people afraid to breathe.”

The second guy was with his wife. He wore an American flag mask, only it was wrapped below his chin and around his neck. I’m no body language expert, but MC Slick was clearly trying to make a show of it all. Masks—I don’t need your stinking masks! His wife was also relatively mask-less, as were their three kids.

And here is what I would like to say:

Fuck you.

Fuck you.

Fuck you.

Fuck you.

Fuck you for reveling in your stupidity. Fuck you for not following the (actual) news. Fuck you for not caring about science. Fuck you for not giving a shit that a mere quarter mile up the road—at our nearby hospital—100 percent of ICU beds are filled, and emergency workers are busting their asses trying to keep it all together. Fuck you for lacking any remote empathy for the shittily paid Costco worker (standing right there before you) who has to wear that mask for nine hours—five days a week. Fuck you for every restaurant we can’t visit, every coffee shop we can’t visit, every hotel we can’t stay in. For every closed business that has suffered because idiot conspiracy theorists think COVID is created by the Fake News or Joe Biden or Sixto Lezcano.

Fuck you, because it’s idiots like you who refused—and still refuse—to take this seriously. All the while we’re staying home, fighting the good fight so humanity (all of us) can move past this awfulness.

Lastly—on a personal note—fuck you for complaining about libs not loving the United States, meanwhile your snot rag mask is an American flag.

Fuck you for 2020.

The most beautiful funeral

Yesterday I attended the most beautiful funeral.

It was of a woman I did not know; a friend’s mom.

Her name was Nettie Perez—86-year-old mother to four, grandmother to four, wife to one. According to the program, Nettie “worked many different jobs through the years from picking in orchards, packing houses, aerospace manufacturing and cleaning homes. She worked tirelessly to help provide for her family. … She had the ability to put worries or concerns at ease with her loving words. Her faith in God was a tremendous one. She gave her life to God and is now in the arms of glory.”

As I stood on the neatly cut grass of the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, I found my eyes wandering and my thoughts scattered. It is a strange thing, mourning for someone you’ve never met. The sadness is real, but the connection is not. In a way it feels as if you’re playing a part. The people to your left and to your right—they’re hurting. There’s a hole, and they feel it in the way you touch a boiling pot and feel the burn shoot through your hand.

You, on the other hand, are legitimately sad for your friend. But your life is unchanged. The funeral ends, you drive off largely un-impacted.

And yet …

That’s not actually what transpired.

In my 48 years, I’ve attended roughly 20 funerals. I’ve attended funerals with open caskets; funerals with a sparse number of attendees. I’ve attended funerals for grandparents, for friends, for colleagues. I’ve attended funerals where people struggled to summon kind words; funerals where the pain was palpable.

This time, I attended a funeral that featured a nine-piece mariachi band.

Yes—a nine-piece mariachi band.

The men—outfitted in requisite black suits—stood roughly 50 feet from the casket, and played one beautiful, enchanting song after another. The music grabbed me; held me; personalized everything I was beholding. There were probably, oh, 50 of us watching as the casket was lowered into the ground, but I felt as if I were on my own island, connected via haunting sound to the moment and connected via haunting sound to this woman I did not know.

The music evoked pain. It evoked joy. It reminded me of an opera, but also of the Tupac Shakur line: “Throw a party at my funeral/let every rapper rock it.” All the attendees were wearing masks, but the singing served as a connective issue; as a breaking down of a physical barrier.

In other words: It was beautiful.

I felt the loss.