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I don’t recognize this America

June 21, 2020

Independence Day has long been one of my favorite holidays.

I just love the fireworks, the food, the togetherness. The celebration of a country I’ve long loved.

This year, however, I hate it.

Independence Day feels cruel. Like a sick joke. We are now led by an aspiring dictator; by a man who has conned millions of Americans into thinking he cares about their lives.

We are now led by a man with five military deferments. By a man who discriminated against minorities who applied to live in his Queens apartment complexes. We are now led by a man who still insists the proven-innocent Central Park 5 are guilty and should be put to death. We are now led by a man who lied under oath during the USFL trial. We are now led by a man who created a phony “university” to bilk poor people of their money. We are now led by a man who continues to lie about helping at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of 9.11. We are now led by a man who devoted 4 1/2 years to “proving” America’s first African-American president was, in fact, a Kenya-born Muslim. We are now led by a man who paid a sex worker hush money to keep quiet about the sex they had 10 days after the birth of his son. We are now led by a man who uses his supporters as props, and shows no interest in their welfare in the midst of a crippling pandemic.

We were once America. Flawed, yes. But at least aspiring to good.

The ideals have been hijacked. Half the participants have been brainwashed and enlisted into a cult.

Independence Day has long been one of my favorite holidays.

Now I can’t wait until July 5.

Brad Parscale will work for food

In case you missed this, Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally was an absolute disaster.

It started with the hype. So much hype. Millions of people want to attend! Donald Trump is the biggest draw in the world! Excitement! Action! Thrills!

Then the day-of. This will be amazing! We need more room! Everyone wants to be here! Extra space! Extra time! Making America Great Again!

And, finally, the event.

The.

Very.

Sad.

And.

Pathetic.

Event.

Many moons ago, as a young writer at The Tennessean in Nashville, I covered a Jackyl-ZZ Top concert at the local dilapidated convention center. It was smoky and sad and half filled, and as I exited I felt like a stubbed-out cigarette. That’s probably how Donald Trump felt today, looking out into an ocean of vacant seats, standing before a half-filled arena of people he would never dare associate with on a one-on-one basis. The music was loud, the fake enthusiasm was buzzing around—but it was a can of flat ginger ale. Little more.

Which, of course means that Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, is toast.

I’m guessing ol’ Brad already senses his fate. It actually oozes from his desperate post-event Tweets, especially this dandy …

Anyhow, here’s how the next few days (maybe weeks) go …

• Rumors swirl of Trump’s plans to shake up the campaign.

• Trump insists it’s fake news.

• Brad Parscale insists it’s fake news.

• Trump decides to shake up the campaign, fire Brad Parscale and replace him with former NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch.

• Brad Parscale announces that he’s stepping aside to spend more time with family.

• Trump gains two or three points in the polls after Joe Biden accidentally calls a horse a cow during a speech. Trump then praises Loesch for changing everything and refers to Parscale as a “loser.”

• Brad Parscale appears on CNN to admit Trump is unhinged.

• Dana Loesch issues a release titled BRAD PARSCALE WAS ALWAYS A LIBERAL LOSER.

• Brad Parscale signed an insta-book deal with Amazon, includes passages about Donald Trump masturbating to photos of Gene Simmons from behind the Oval Office desk.

• Joe Biden wins in a landslide.

 

When I was a moron

June 19, 2020

 

My dog Norma died two days ago, and I am still trying to move past it. With little success.

It actually reminds me of the summer of 1989, when I worked as an assistant counselor at a summer camp near my home in Mahopac, N.Y. I was positioned alongside another assistant counselor—Jen, I believe, was her name. And while Jen was nice, she was sort of unreliable. Here. There. Up. Down. Friendly, but just inconsistent.

Anyhow, one day Jen didn’t report to work. When I asked why, someone said, “Her dog died.”

I was dumbfounded.

Jen missed work … because a dog died? A stinkin’ dog? Seriously?

I don’t think I gave her grief, but I definitely thought negatively.

And now, some three decades later, I owe Jen an apology.

I get it.

The best dog

June 17, 2020

 

My dog Norma died today.

I wasn’t sure I’d start crying while typing those five words, but the tears are streaming for probably the 10th different time this afternoon. I am, with no exaggeration, devastated.

D-e-v-a-s-t-a-t-e-d.

Norma was the best dog. Not merely the best dog in our house (she was the only dog in our house) or the best dog on our street or the best dog in our town. She was, simply, the best dog—an adorable, affectionate, opinionated cockapoo who gave less than two shits about any other canine (the late Mookie being the exception) but was a magnet toward the hand, arm or foot of the nearest human.

Before we purchased Norma some 11 years ago, I’d never had a dog. As a boy growing up on the mean streets of Mahopac, N.Y., the only pets allowed in the Pearlman household were guinea pigs and the occasional fish. And while it was certainly sad when a Spunky or Sparky passed, well, there’s only so much bonding one can have between human and guinea pig. So they came, they lasted a couple o’ years, they passed, they were buried, their stinky cages were put to the curb. End of story.

Norma, though—I mean, anyone who has had and loved a dog knows that it’s just … so … friggin’ … different. In a way, we weren’t even supposed to have a Norma. Back in early 2009, when our kids were 5 and 2, the wife took our daughter Casey to the local pet shop, just to look around and gauge interest in an animal. We certainly weren’t ready for a dog. Certainly were not going to make the purchase at a pet shop. But there was this one semi-mangy little spud of an animal. Beige. Her curly hair was grown in crooked. She was a bit older than the others. The wife—again, just to feel things out—sat in a little pen with nervous Casey and this unfamiliar animal.

Just.

Feeling.

Things.

Out.

What transpired is family lore: Norma walked up to Catherine and plopped her tiny head on the wife’s crisscrossed legs. And Catherine turned to Casey and said, “Uh-oh. Better call Dad.”

That’s how we landed Norma.

Initially, we were going to call the dog Kelsey, after the name that inexplicably kept popping up as my sister-in-law Leah’s caller ID. But then we thought it’d be funny to anoint her after Norma Shapiro, my wife’s then-88-year-old grandmother. We called Norma (the woman) to check in, and she loved the idea.

Norma, it was. [amazingly, Norma the grandma is now 100 and in great shape]

At first, I hated Norma (the dog, not the grandma). Fucking hated her. I dropped a bagel, and she (the dog, not the grandma) grabbed it. When I tried pulling it away, she (the dog, not the grandma) growled at me. She was a pain-in-the-ass puppy. Barking all night. Bark! Bark! Bark! Despised her kennel. Picky eater. Occasional shits and pees in the house.

Then, something changed. Maybe a year after we first brought Norma home, the wife and kids went away for a few days. I decided I’d let Norma sleep on the bed with me, just to see how it went. And … wow. Pure love. That was the end of the kennel.

There was always something oddly reassuring about knowing Norma was there. Hearing her take a breath. Seeing her stir with an unfamiliar noise. She smelled like salted peanuts. But not in a bad way. She took unrivaled pleasure in belly rubs, and had a wide-eyed, frenzied reaction to people scratching in between the grooves of her paws. When you patted Norma atop her head, she would open her mouth and offer a look that cooed, “I could not be happier. I … just … couldn’t … be … happier.”

Norma had a slew of nicknames. Casey initially liked to call her Madam Noomsie III. That was shortened to Nooms. The wife called her Norms. One day, about five months ago, Norma rose from her favorite backyard sun-basking spot with four or five wood chips stuck to her fur. I said, “Here comes Captain Wood Chip!”—and a new nickname was born.

My daughter and I assigned Norma a pro-life, anti-Democrat hard-core Republican identity. Oftentimes the dog would enter the room and Casey would say something like, “Norma is tired of the gay rights movement. She just wants marriage to be between a man and a woman” or “Norma believes Donald Trump is the one person to lead America.” Then we’d look at Norma, who just wanted a carrot or a head pat. We’d laugh.

As a stay-at-home writer, I viewed Norma as my sidekick. That’s not an exaggeration—I’d sit in my chair, jotting down words, and she’d be on the bed behind me, waiting for interaction. I’d say, “I dunno Norma—does this sound right?” or “Norma, do you think Troy Aikman was better than Steve Young?” She never answered, but—in a way—she did. With a look. With a bark. With a sideways glare. There was beauty in having her here, by my side, as company. As companionship. As reassurance. As a friend.

•••

Norma didn’t seem right yesterday. She was sluggish. Lingering under a desk. Didn’t eat a carrot.

The daughter and I brought her to the vet, and they did tests. Then more tests.

Her body, it turns out, was filled with cancer. There would be no recovery.

I’ve lost grandparents who I loved dearly. But this, truly, is a new level of pain for me. The vet called earlier this morning, while my daughter and I were driving. She was on speaker for a few moments, but I had to take her off. Tears started running down my face. Casey’s face, too. They said we could try and maybe extend her life a month or two, but that the compassionate route would be to let her die peacefully, with dignity.

We sat the kids down and explained the situation. We all cried. A lot. Then the wife went to the animal hospital and held Norma for a final time. She FaceTimed me, and allowed me to say farewell. Norma wasn’t Norma any longer—unresponsive, staring off into nothingness.

I later called my nephew Jordan, and that’s when it all really hit me. I hung up abruptly, sat by myself in front of the house and exhaled these loud, excruciating discharges of anguish. I feel as if someone has taken a machete to my innards. All carved up. Nothing there.

I know, ultimately, I’ll feel better. The days will move forward. There will probably be other pets. Circle of life and all.

But Norma was my first dog.

And, in that regard, my first love.

We are really, really dumb

June 13, 2020

 

So I have the misfortune in living in a school district where a good number of parents seem to see science and medicine as these blockades against societal betterment.

I note this because today I was alerted to an Instagram group—PARENTS SUPPORTED ACTION PLAN. And it is, well, infuriating. One parent after another complaining how the coronavirus is a hoax, or overblown, or stupid, or annoying, or this invisible fairy disease created by the government to help the invisible candy elves get their drugs (Admittedly, I made that last one up).

Anyhow, it’s exasperating. First, because these people proudly post images of themselves WITH THEIR KIDS not wearing masks or social distancing. Second, because there are pretty much no references to science. In fact, I can scratch out pretty much. Because there are no references to science. It’s all emotion. Or Fox News talking points. Third, because there’s a missed irony that drives me to drink: Namely, the same people screaming for education are relying on ignorance to emphasize education. Fuck, think about it—”We need to open our schools!” Why? “Because learning is important!” Why is it important? “Because our children need to be informed and educated!” So are you informed and educated about the longterm impacts of COVD-19? “Yes!” You’ve read up on it? “Of course!” Where? “Well, Dr. Phil. And Dr. Oz. And Hannity.” Any medical journals? “No. That’s fake news!” Oh.

Truth be told, the entire movement can be chalked up to one word: Fatigue. People are fatigued of being home. They’re fatigued of their children learning online. They’re fatigued of not being able to take that $50-pop-Mommy Yoga class at the boutique studio. They’re fatigued of having to carry out from Starbucks. They’re fatigued of masks, fatigued of distancing. Also—considering everyone in these photos seems to be either a Karen or wed to a Karen—I’m guessing there’s fatigue over the BLM movement; over the marches; over an America they increasingly fail to recognize.

But, come day’s end, these people are spreading poison. Because if there’s one thing we now know, it’s that untreated and unrecognized COVID-19 just … sits. And waits. And waits. And waits. If you don’t suffocate coronavirus, it lingers and looms and pounces. It’s more snake than jackrabbit—waiting, lingering, pouncing when it’s good and ready.

So, to all those angry parents out there—I get it. Sincerely, I do. You want your normal back.

But patience is the virtue here.

Be patient.

And smart.

Water! Corona! Dogs!

March 6, 2020

Just back from the local Ralph’s. Snapped this photo of the water section.

And here’s my question: What am I missing?

I’m being sincere in not getting this. Is the coronavirus supposed to infiltrate our pipes and turn our running water into evil coronavirus-poisoned running water? Are there tiny microbes dancing within the H20 droplets running from my sink into a cup?

Is the CoronaWater Monster coming?

Or …

Have we all lost our collective minds?

[Pause for deep breath]

The answer, obviously, is we’ve all lost our collective minds. Because there is something within us—deep within us—that wants/needs/aspires to be terrified. I’m not sure what that is. If, perhaps, there’s a scientific explanation. But whether it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Y2K bug or Putin spying on us or Dr. Evil gnawing on our gums, we are created to live in the shadows, nervous about that thing looming around the corner.

The coronavirus, to me, is a strange one. Maybe the strangest to date. We’re all scared. Myself included. But of what? Dying? I mean, we’re all gonna die eventually, and the death rate is (truly) very low. Getting sick? We’ve all been sick. Spreading something to others? Being known as “The Guy” with “The Virus”? Turning up on the 6 o’clock news—a local writer named John Pearlman has been diagnosed with …

What it is, I believe, is this: We’re scared because we’re scared because we know we’re supposed to be scared of this scary thing that’s clearly scary because everyone says how scared they are.

We’re scared of the lack of control.

Of the unknown.

 

What happened tonight

March 4, 2020

A fascinating night in American politics. Here are my thoughts:

• Joe Biden’s rise: This happened, and I’m shocked. Not because it’s Biden. Not because of the number of states. Nope. I’m shocked because it felt as if one day—one single day—changed an election.

And that day was yesterday.

When Mayor Pete endorsed Joe Biden. Then Amy endorsed Biden. Then Beto endorsed Biden. Bam. Bam. Bam. I said to a friend, “That might be the best single day a modern political figure has ever had.” And I mean it. Best day ever. Within a 24-hour span, Joe Biden was given life. He felt like a contender again. Like the choice for those who desperately want to see Donald Trump lose, but don’t believe Bernie Sanders is the best one for the task.

• Bernie’s mediocre showing: He’s not dead. Not by a longshot. Sanders has a ton of energy, a ton of support. But Super Tuesday revealed a major flaw, one political insiders discuss quite often. Namely, young people suck at voting. They’re great at Tweeting, at Snapchatting, at Tik Toking. They’re great at memes and Gifs and being loud and acting empowered. But it has always been a chore to get the demographic out to vote. It was true when I was 18, it was true when you were 18.

And the funny thing is, a guy like Joe Biden will probably draw more voters between 60 and 85 to the polls than Bernie would voters aged 18 to 29. The geriatrics won’t generate the buzz. Won’t be as loud. Won’t wave flags and hold signs. But they’ll see a four-hour line and stand on it.

• Campaigns don’t matter: I don’t totally mean this. But sorta, Biden spent almost no time in Virginia—and won handily. He spent, literally, zero time in California and gave a solid showing. It’s a different age, and one can reach millions of people with the tapping of some keys.

Elizabeth Warren is done—and it sucks: I hurt for Warren, because she’s sincere and decent and would have been a wonderful president. But she ran a merely OK campaign—the big mistake being a refusal to truly separate herself from Bernie Sanders; to show why she’d be the better choice. There is also, sadly, a huge obstacle women still face. They’re always deemed unlikeable, hard to look at, hard to listen to. It’s infuriating.

• Michael Bloomberg lost his mojo in one day: His first debate. The showing was so awful, it took all $300 million spent on the run and flushed it down the toilet. He went from, “Hey, maybe this guy can save us” to Fred Thompson. Poof.

• Biden scares me: Every time he talks. The gaffes are maddening. You just never know what he’ll forget, or remember. But … at this point I believe he’s a more viable candidate than Bernie Sanders. People like him. Relate to him. He’s sincere and decent. He can win states (Florida, for one) Bernie wouldn’t.

• Trump should be nervous: Mainly because he sucks. But also because he’s getting a heavyweight. Even though it’s Larry Holmes in 1988.

It’s a heavyweight nonetheless.

He mocks you all

February 20, 2020

This photo was taken from a Trump rally being held tonight in Phoenix.

It sickens me.

See the woman in front of Trump. The president thinks she’s gross.

She the woman one over. Also gross.

And one over.

And one over.

The woman with the sign? Trump might have hit on her 15 … 20 years ago. The woman behind her—in the red? Never. Not in a million years.

Donald Trump has spent his life calling women cows, pigs, mules, dogs. He hits on woman half his age, and regularly describes their legs, their arms, their breasts.

He is swine, and always has been.

These women cheer.

He thinks they’re nasty.

On Shaun King and Bernie

February 18, 2020

So one of my favorite media/social justice figures of the past decade has been Shaun King. And while I know many people who think Shaun to be a piece of shit/a conman/a [fill in the blank]—well, they’re wrong. One hundred percent wrong. The guy busts his ass, has an enormous heart, wears his compassion on his sleeve. He’s been battered, slammed, mocked, ridiculed—and he keeps coming back. Because he’s strong and smart and focused.

Truly, he’s a role model.

Over the weekend, however, I noticed Shaun (a Bernie Sanders advocate) leading a Twitter movement where he enlisted people to promise they would never, ever, ever vote Michael Bloomberg …

And I feel like screaming.

Look, Mike Bloomberg is filled with holes. Tons upon tons upon tons of holes. There is no doubt about that, and this piece lays them out very well. So I get it. Truly, I get it. In my ideal world, Chris Murphy is running against Trump in 2020, with Stacey Abrams as his vice.

But the world isn’t ideal. It just fucking isn’t. And while I hate being this guy—well, I’m going to be this guy. Bernie Sanders cannot win a general election against Donald Trump. Actually, wait. Stop. Scratch that. He can win a general election against Trump, because 2016 taught us anything is possible. But is an 80-year-old Vermont “socialist” (as he will be branded every … single … day) the guy to lead us into battle? Will he pick off moderate Republicans who are fed up with Trump’s bullshit and offended by his assholeness? Will he inspire moderate Democrats who sit on the left, but not too far left? No. No fucking way.

And that’s fine. Truly, that’s fine. If you like Bernie Sanders (and I like Bernie Sanders a lot), support him. Fight for him. Donate money to him. Insist he’s your guy in the primary, and stand by him until the end.

And then, if Bloomberg is the nominee, don’t stay home like a fucking asshole.

Bust ass for him.

Why? Here’s why: Because another four years of Donald Trump means one, if not two or three, Supreme Court appointees—which likely means the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Because another four years of Donald Trump means an even greater destruction of environmental laws and the devastation of our children’s collective futures. Because another four years of Donald Trump means an even greatest partnership between the DOJ and the White House. Because another four years of Donald Trump means more xenophobia, more kids in cages, more travel bans, more bullying, more thugging, more unjust imprisonments, more ICE raids.

Life sucks. It does. It’s a blowjob to the skull.

But to urge people to stay home if Bernie Sanders isn’t the nominee; to tell your one million followers that it’s your guy or nobody—well, it’s just fucking self-absorbed bullshit.

Not cagey.

Not sophisticated.

Self absorbed bullshit.

And worst of all—you have one million Twitter followers. You have an enormous voice. If Mike Bloomberg is the nominee, use that shit. Meet with him. Demand stuff. In writing. Make it clear that if X and X and X and X don’t happen, he will face the onslaughts of onslaughts. That’s power. Real power.

Telling people not to vote?

That’s wrongheadedness personified.

Death of a roommate

January 23, 2020

Back in the fall of 1990, upon arriving as a freshman at the University of Delaware, I was assigned a triple inside Russell Hall A.

This was not ideal. The rooms were made for two, and three was painfully crowded. But, as a newbie, I didn’t have a leg to stand on. So I showed up and introduced myself to a pair of strangers—Anthony Marciano from Tuckahoe, N.Y. and Chris Moger from Long Island.

We basically had a bunk with vertical beds, then a single cot. For some reason (I don’t recall the negotiations or logistics), Chris took the bottom bunk, Anthony took the top bunk and I got the single. And—all things considered—it worked out fairly well. Anthony was this cocky, endearing kid who always had a lacrosse stick in his hands. He was charismatic and smooth and funny. He actually took care of me when I got wasted for the first time—a story I’ve retold quite often through the years.

And Chris—well, Chris was quiet. Sorta brooding, in a James Dean way. In fact, when I’ve thought of Chris through the years, I always have James Dean in my head. This image, to be precise. He just had a bit of quiet confidence to him. Coolness, without barking. Never mean. Never particularly giddy. Came. Went. As life often goes.

By the middle of the year, our triple was a double. Chris moved out, and at the end of 1991 I believe both he and Anthony transferred to other schools.

And that was pretty much that.

•••

I received this e-mail yesterday. Out of the blue.

Anthony and I haven’t stayed in touch much. Chris and I stayed in touch not at all. I believe there was a quick Facebook exchange a decade or so ago, but nothing more. If you think about it, that’s the way so much of life works. For every lifelong friend who sticks, there are a solid 500 Chris Mogers who come, stay for a bit, then leave. The girl you hooked up with in the frat basement. The guys you used to run pickup with. Your favorite barista—who one day doesn’t report to work. The supermarket checkout clerk you chatted up about her future. The barber. The waitress.

Your freshman roommate.

I didn’t really know how to respond to Anthony’s message. So I Googled “Chris Moger,” and found this.

And what struck me, nearly as much as the awful illness, was the sad reality that I really would have liked Chris Moger. He wasn’t James Dean. Or even imitation James Dean. I mean, perhaps he was during a time period when we’re all young and insecure and trying to offer the world a glimpse of something desirable. But the Chris I was introduced to via the Fundraising page was a middle-aged family man. A husband. A dad of three. A guy who lived for his kids, worked hard, wore plaid pajamas come Christmas and probably looked forward to family vacations and relaxed evenings in front of the TV with a beer. He was a kid who became a man, and that man was someone I would have very much enjoyed.

Anthony wrote me this morning …

I am legitimately gutted.

The kid one bed over is gone.

I wish I’d known him.

About The Author

Jeff Pearlman is a New York Times best-selling author of nine books. His latest release, Three Ring Circus is available for preorder now.

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About The Author

Jeff Pearlman is a New York Times best-selling author of nine books. His latest release, Three Ring Circus is available for preorder now.

Read bio →

I don’t recognize this America

June 21, 2020

Independence Day has long been one of my favorite holidays.

I just love the fireworks, the food, the togetherness. The celebration of a country I’ve long loved.

This year, however, I hate it.

Independence Day feels cruel. Like a sick joke. We are now led by an aspiring dictator; by a man who has conned millions of Americans into thinking he cares about their lives.

We are now led by a man with five military deferments. By a man who discriminated against minorities who applied to live in his Queens apartment complexes. We are now led by a man who still insists the proven-innocent Central Park 5 are guilty and should be put to death. We are now led by a man who lied under oath during the USFL trial. We are now led by a man who created a phony “university” to bilk poor people of their money. We are now led by a man who continues to lie about helping at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of 9.11. We are now led by a man who devoted 4 1/2 years to “proving” America’s first African-American president was, in fact, a Kenya-born Muslim. We are now led by a man who paid a sex worker hush money to keep quiet about the sex they had 10 days after the birth of his son. We are now led by a man who uses his supporters as props, and shows no interest in their welfare in the midst of a crippling pandemic.

We were once America. Flawed, yes. But at least aspiring to good.

The ideals have been hijacked. Half the participants have been brainwashed and enlisted into a cult.

Independence Day has long been one of my favorite holidays.

Now I can’t wait until July 5.

Brad Parscale will work for food

In case you missed this, Donald Trump’s Tulsa rally was an absolute disaster.

It started with the hype. So much hype. Millions of people want to attend! Donald Trump is the biggest draw in the world! Excitement! Action! Thrills!

Then the day-of. This will be amazing! We need more room! Everyone wants to be here! Extra space! Extra time! Making America Great Again!

And, finally, the event.

The.

Very.

Sad.

And.

Pathetic.

Event.

Many moons ago, as a young writer at The Tennessean in Nashville, I covered a Jackyl-ZZ Top concert at the local dilapidated convention center. It was smoky and sad and half filled, and as I exited I felt like a stubbed-out cigarette. That’s probably how Donald Trump felt today, looking out into an ocean of vacant seats, standing before a half-filled arena of people he would never dare associate with on a one-on-one basis. The music was loud, the fake enthusiasm was buzzing around—but it was a can of flat ginger ale. Little more.

Which, of course means that Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, is toast.

I’m guessing ol’ Brad already senses his fate. It actually oozes from his desperate post-event Tweets, especially this dandy …

Anyhow, here’s how the next few days (maybe weeks) go …

• Rumors swirl of Trump’s plans to shake up the campaign.

• Trump insists it’s fake news.

• Brad Parscale insists it’s fake news.

• Trump decides to shake up the campaign, fire Brad Parscale and replace him with former NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch.

• Brad Parscale announces that he’s stepping aside to spend more time with family.

• Trump gains two or three points in the polls after Joe Biden accidentally calls a horse a cow during a speech. Trump then praises Loesch for changing everything and refers to Parscale as a “loser.”

• Brad Parscale appears on CNN to admit Trump is unhinged.

• Dana Loesch issues a release titled BRAD PARSCALE WAS ALWAYS A LIBERAL LOSER.

• Brad Parscale signed an insta-book deal with Amazon, includes passages about Donald Trump masturbating to photos of Gene Simmons from behind the Oval Office desk.

• Joe Biden wins in a landslide.

 

When I was a moron

June 19, 2020

 

My dog Norma died two days ago, and I am still trying to move past it. With little success.

It actually reminds me of the summer of 1989, when I worked as an assistant counselor at a summer camp near my home in Mahopac, N.Y. I was positioned alongside another assistant counselor—Jen, I believe, was her name. And while Jen was nice, she was sort of unreliable. Here. There. Up. Down. Friendly, but just inconsistent.

Anyhow, one day Jen didn’t report to work. When I asked why, someone said, “Her dog died.”

I was dumbfounded.

Jen missed work … because a dog died? A stinkin’ dog? Seriously?

I don’t think I gave her grief, but I definitely thought negatively.

And now, some three decades later, I owe Jen an apology.

I get it.

The best dog

June 17, 2020

 

My dog Norma died today.

I wasn’t sure I’d start crying while typing those five words, but the tears are streaming for probably the 10th different time this afternoon. I am, with no exaggeration, devastated.

D-e-v-a-s-t-a-t-e-d.

Norma was the best dog. Not merely the best dog in our house (she was the only dog in our house) or the best dog on our street or the best dog in our town. She was, simply, the best dog—an adorable, affectionate, opinionated cockapoo who gave less than two shits about any other canine (the late Mookie being the exception) but was a magnet toward the hand, arm or foot of the nearest human.

Before we purchased Norma some 11 years ago, I’d never had a dog. As a boy growing up on the mean streets of Mahopac, N.Y., the only pets allowed in the Pearlman household were guinea pigs and the occasional fish. And while it was certainly sad when a Spunky or Sparky passed, well, there’s only so much bonding one can have between human and guinea pig. So they came, they lasted a couple o’ years, they passed, they were buried, their stinky cages were put to the curb. End of story.

Norma, though—I mean, anyone who has had and loved a dog knows that it’s just … so … friggin’ … different. In a way, we weren’t even supposed to have a Norma. Back in early 2009, when our kids were 5 and 2, the wife took our daughter Casey to the local pet shop, just to look around and gauge interest in an animal. We certainly weren’t ready for a dog. Certainly were not going to make the purchase at a pet shop. But there was this one semi-mangy little spud of an animal. Beige. Her curly hair was grown in crooked. She was a bit older than the others. The wife—again, just to feel things out—sat in a little pen with nervous Casey and this unfamiliar animal.

Just.

Feeling.

Things.

Out.

What transpired is family lore: Norma walked up to Catherine and plopped her tiny head on the wife’s crisscrossed legs. And Catherine turned to Casey and said, “Uh-oh. Better call Dad.”

That’s how we landed Norma.

Initially, we were going to call the dog Kelsey, after the name that inexplicably kept popping up as my sister-in-law Leah’s caller ID. But then we thought it’d be funny to anoint her after Norma Shapiro, my wife’s then-88-year-old grandmother. We called Norma (the woman) to check in, and she loved the idea.

Norma, it was. [amazingly, Norma the grandma is now 100 and in great shape]

At first, I hated Norma (the dog, not the grandma). Fucking hated her. I dropped a bagel, and she (the dog, not the grandma) grabbed it. When I tried pulling it away, she (the dog, not the grandma) growled at me. She was a pain-in-the-ass puppy. Barking all night. Bark! Bark! Bark! Despised her kennel. Picky eater. Occasional shits and pees in the house.

Then, something changed. Maybe a year after we first brought Norma home, the wife and kids went away for a few days. I decided I’d let Norma sleep on the bed with me, just to see how it went. And … wow. Pure love. That was the end of the kennel.

There was always something oddly reassuring about knowing Norma was there. Hearing her take a breath. Seeing her stir with an unfamiliar noise. She smelled like salted peanuts. But not in a bad way. She took unrivaled pleasure in belly rubs, and had a wide-eyed, frenzied reaction to people scratching in between the grooves of her paws. When you patted Norma atop her head, she would open her mouth and offer a look that cooed, “I could not be happier. I … just … couldn’t … be … happier.”

Norma had a slew of nicknames. Casey initially liked to call her Madam Noomsie III. That was shortened to Nooms. The wife called her Norms. One day, about five months ago, Norma rose from her favorite backyard sun-basking spot with four or five wood chips stuck to her fur. I said, “Here comes Captain Wood Chip!”—and a new nickname was born.

My daughter and I assigned Norma a pro-life, anti-Democrat hard-core Republican identity. Oftentimes the dog would enter the room and Casey would say something like, “Norma is tired of the gay rights movement. She just wants marriage to be between a man and a woman” or “Norma believes Donald Trump is the one person to lead America.” Then we’d look at Norma, who just wanted a carrot or a head pat. We’d laugh.

As a stay-at-home writer, I viewed Norma as my sidekick. That’s not an exaggeration—I’d sit in my chair, jotting down words, and she’d be on the bed behind me, waiting for interaction. I’d say, “I dunno Norma—does this sound right?” or “Norma, do you think Troy Aikman was better than Steve Young?” She never answered, but—in a way—she did. With a look. With a bark. With a sideways glare. There was beauty in having her here, by my side, as company. As companionship. As reassurance. As a friend.

•••

Norma didn’t seem right yesterday. She was sluggish. Lingering under a desk. Didn’t eat a carrot.

The daughter and I brought her to the vet, and they did tests. Then more tests.

Her body, it turns out, was filled with cancer. There would be no recovery.

I’ve lost grandparents who I loved dearly. But this, truly, is a new level of pain for me. The vet called earlier this morning, while my daughter and I were driving. She was on speaker for a few moments, but I had to take her off. Tears started running down my face. Casey’s face, too. They said we could try and maybe extend her life a month or two, but that the compassionate route would be to let her die peacefully, with dignity.

We sat the kids down and explained the situation. We all cried. A lot. Then the wife went to the animal hospital and held Norma for a final time. She FaceTimed me, and allowed me to say farewell. Norma wasn’t Norma any longer—unresponsive, staring off into nothingness.

I later called my nephew Jordan, and that’s when it all really hit me. I hung up abruptly, sat by myself in front of the house and exhaled these loud, excruciating discharges of anguish. I feel as if someone has taken a machete to my innards. All carved up. Nothing there.

I know, ultimately, I’ll feel better. The days will move forward. There will probably be other pets. Circle of life and all.

But Norma was my first dog.

And, in that regard, my first love.

We are really, really dumb

June 13, 2020

 

So I have the misfortune in living in a school district where a good number of parents seem to see science and medicine as these blockades against societal betterment.

I note this because today I was alerted to an Instagram group—PARENTS SUPPORTED ACTION PLAN. And it is, well, infuriating. One parent after another complaining how the coronavirus is a hoax, or overblown, or stupid, or annoying, or this invisible fairy disease created by the government to help the invisible candy elves get their drugs (Admittedly, I made that last one up).

Anyhow, it’s exasperating. First, because these people proudly post images of themselves WITH THEIR KIDS not wearing masks or social distancing. Second, because there are pretty much no references to science. In fact, I can scratch out pretty much. Because there are no references to science. It’s all emotion. Or Fox News talking points. Third, because there’s a missed irony that drives me to drink: Namely, the same people screaming for education are relying on ignorance to emphasize education. Fuck, think about it—”We need to open our schools!” Why? “Because learning is important!” Why is it important? “Because our children need to be informed and educated!” So are you informed and educated about the longterm impacts of COVD-19? “Yes!” You’ve read up on it? “Of course!” Where? “Well, Dr. Phil. And Dr. Oz. And Hannity.” Any medical journals? “No. That’s fake news!” Oh.

Truth be told, the entire movement can be chalked up to one word: Fatigue. People are fatigued of being home. They’re fatigued of their children learning online. They’re fatigued of not being able to take that $50-pop-Mommy Yoga class at the boutique studio. They’re fatigued of having to carry out from Starbucks. They’re fatigued of masks, fatigued of distancing. Also—considering everyone in these photos seems to be either a Karen or wed to a Karen—I’m guessing there’s fatigue over the BLM movement; over the marches; over an America they increasingly fail to recognize.

But, come day’s end, these people are spreading poison. Because if there’s one thing we now know, it’s that untreated and unrecognized COVID-19 just … sits. And waits. And waits. And waits. If you don’t suffocate coronavirus, it lingers and looms and pounces. It’s more snake than jackrabbit—waiting, lingering, pouncing when it’s good and ready.

So, to all those angry parents out there—I get it. Sincerely, I do. You want your normal back.

But patience is the virtue here.

Be patient.

And smart.

Water! Corona! Dogs!

March 6, 2020

Just back from the local Ralph’s. Snapped this photo of the water section.

And here’s my question: What am I missing?

I’m being sincere in not getting this. Is the coronavirus supposed to infiltrate our pipes and turn our running water into evil coronavirus-poisoned running water? Are there tiny microbes dancing within the H20 droplets running from my sink into a cup?

Is the CoronaWater Monster coming?

Or …

Have we all lost our collective minds?

[Pause for deep breath]

The answer, obviously, is we’ve all lost our collective minds. Because there is something within us—deep within us—that wants/needs/aspires to be terrified. I’m not sure what that is. If, perhaps, there’s a scientific explanation. But whether it’s the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Y2K bug or Putin spying on us or Dr. Evil gnawing on our gums, we are created to live in the shadows, nervous about that thing looming around the corner.

The coronavirus, to me, is a strange one. Maybe the strangest to date. We’re all scared. Myself included. But of what? Dying? I mean, we’re all gonna die eventually, and the death rate is (truly) very low. Getting sick? We’ve all been sick. Spreading something to others? Being known as “The Guy” with “The Virus”? Turning up on the 6 o’clock news—a local writer named John Pearlman has been diagnosed with …

What it is, I believe, is this: We’re scared because we’re scared because we know we’re supposed to be scared of this scary thing that’s clearly scary because everyone says how scared they are.

We’re scared of the lack of control.

Of the unknown.

 

What happened tonight

March 4, 2020

A fascinating night in American politics. Here are my thoughts:

• Joe Biden’s rise: This happened, and I’m shocked. Not because it’s Biden. Not because of the number of states. Nope. I’m shocked because it felt as if one day—one single day—changed an election.

And that day was yesterday.

When Mayor Pete endorsed Joe Biden. Then Amy endorsed Biden. Then Beto endorsed Biden. Bam. Bam. Bam. I said to a friend, “That might be the best single day a modern political figure has ever had.” And I mean it. Best day ever. Within a 24-hour span, Joe Biden was given life. He felt like a contender again. Like the choice for those who desperately want to see Donald Trump lose, but don’t believe Bernie Sanders is the best one for the task.

• Bernie’s mediocre showing: He’s not dead. Not by a longshot. Sanders has a ton of energy, a ton of support. But Super Tuesday revealed a major flaw, one political insiders discuss quite often. Namely, young people suck at voting. They’re great at Tweeting, at Snapchatting, at Tik Toking. They’re great at memes and Gifs and being loud and acting empowered. But it has always been a chore to get the demographic out to vote. It was true when I was 18, it was true when you were 18.

And the funny thing is, a guy like Joe Biden will probably draw more voters between 60 and 85 to the polls than Bernie would voters aged 18 to 29. The geriatrics won’t generate the buzz. Won’t be as loud. Won’t wave flags and hold signs. But they’ll see a four-hour line and stand on it.

• Campaigns don’t matter: I don’t totally mean this. But sorta, Biden spent almost no time in Virginia—and won handily. He spent, literally, zero time in California and gave a solid showing. It’s a different age, and one can reach millions of people with the tapping of some keys.

Elizabeth Warren is done—and it sucks: I hurt for Warren, because she’s sincere and decent and would have been a wonderful president. But she ran a merely OK campaign—the big mistake being a refusal to truly separate herself from Bernie Sanders; to show why she’d be the better choice. There is also, sadly, a huge obstacle women still face. They’re always deemed unlikeable, hard to look at, hard to listen to. It’s infuriating.

• Michael Bloomberg lost his mojo in one day: His first debate. The showing was so awful, it took all $300 million spent on the run and flushed it down the toilet. He went from, “Hey, maybe this guy can save us” to Fred Thompson. Poof.

• Biden scares me: Every time he talks. The gaffes are maddening. You just never know what he’ll forget, or remember. But … at this point I believe he’s a more viable candidate than Bernie Sanders. People like him. Relate to him. He’s sincere and decent. He can win states (Florida, for one) Bernie wouldn’t.

• Trump should be nervous: Mainly because he sucks. But also because he’s getting a heavyweight. Even though it’s Larry Holmes in 1988.

It’s a heavyweight nonetheless.

He mocks you all

February 20, 2020

This photo was taken from a Trump rally being held tonight in Phoenix.

It sickens me.

See the woman in front of Trump. The president thinks she’s gross.

She the woman one over. Also gross.

And one over.

And one over.

The woman with the sign? Trump might have hit on her 15 … 20 years ago. The woman behind her—in the red? Never. Not in a million years.

Donald Trump has spent his life calling women cows, pigs, mules, dogs. He hits on woman half his age, and regularly describes their legs, their arms, their breasts.

He is swine, and always has been.

These women cheer.

He thinks they’re nasty.

On Shaun King and Bernie

February 18, 2020

So one of my favorite media/social justice figures of the past decade has been Shaun King. And while I know many people who think Shaun to be a piece of shit/a conman/a [fill in the blank]—well, they’re wrong. One hundred percent wrong. The guy busts his ass, has an enormous heart, wears his compassion on his sleeve. He’s been battered, slammed, mocked, ridiculed—and he keeps coming back. Because he’s strong and smart and focused.

Truly, he’s a role model.

Over the weekend, however, I noticed Shaun (a Bernie Sanders advocate) leading a Twitter movement where he enlisted people to promise they would never, ever, ever vote Michael Bloomberg …

And I feel like screaming.

Look, Mike Bloomberg is filled with holes. Tons upon tons upon tons of holes. There is no doubt about that, and this piece lays them out very well. So I get it. Truly, I get it. In my ideal world, Chris Murphy is running against Trump in 2020, with Stacey Abrams as his vice.

But the world isn’t ideal. It just fucking isn’t. And while I hate being this guy—well, I’m going to be this guy. Bernie Sanders cannot win a general election against Donald Trump. Actually, wait. Stop. Scratch that. He can win a general election against Trump, because 2016 taught us anything is possible. But is an 80-year-old Vermont “socialist” (as he will be branded every … single … day) the guy to lead us into battle? Will he pick off moderate Republicans who are fed up with Trump’s bullshit and offended by his assholeness? Will he inspire moderate Democrats who sit on the left, but not too far left? No. No fucking way.

And that’s fine. Truly, that’s fine. If you like Bernie Sanders (and I like Bernie Sanders a lot), support him. Fight for him. Donate money to him. Insist he’s your guy in the primary, and stand by him until the end.

And then, if Bloomberg is the nominee, don’t stay home like a fucking asshole.

Bust ass for him.

Why? Here’s why: Because another four years of Donald Trump means one, if not two or three, Supreme Court appointees—which likely means the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Because another four years of Donald Trump means an even greater destruction of environmental laws and the devastation of our children’s collective futures. Because another four years of Donald Trump means an even greatest partnership between the DOJ and the White House. Because another four years of Donald Trump means more xenophobia, more kids in cages, more travel bans, more bullying, more thugging, more unjust imprisonments, more ICE raids.

Life sucks. It does. It’s a blowjob to the skull.

But to urge people to stay home if Bernie Sanders isn’t the nominee; to tell your one million followers that it’s your guy or nobody—well, it’s just fucking self-absorbed bullshit.

Not cagey.

Not sophisticated.

Self absorbed bullshit.

And worst of all—you have one million Twitter followers. You have an enormous voice. If Mike Bloomberg is the nominee, use that shit. Meet with him. Demand stuff. In writing. Make it clear that if X and X and X and X don’t happen, he will face the onslaughts of onslaughts. That’s power. Real power.

Telling people not to vote?

That’s wrongheadedness personified.

Death of a roommate

January 23, 2020

Back in the fall of 1990, upon arriving as a freshman at the University of Delaware, I was assigned a triple inside Russell Hall A.

This was not ideal. The rooms were made for two, and three was painfully crowded. But, as a newbie, I didn’t have a leg to stand on. So I showed up and introduced myself to a pair of strangers—Anthony Marciano from Tuckahoe, N.Y. and Chris Moger from Long Island.

We basically had a bunk with vertical beds, then a single cot. For some reason (I don’t recall the negotiations or logistics), Chris took the bottom bunk, Anthony took the top bunk and I got the single. And—all things considered—it worked out fairly well. Anthony was this cocky, endearing kid who always had a lacrosse stick in his hands. He was charismatic and smooth and funny. He actually took care of me when I got wasted for the first time—a story I’ve retold quite often through the years.

And Chris—well, Chris was quiet. Sorta brooding, in a James Dean way. In fact, when I’ve thought of Chris through the years, I always have James Dean in my head. This image, to be precise. He just had a bit of quiet confidence to him. Coolness, without barking. Never mean. Never particularly giddy. Came. Went. As life often goes.

By the middle of the year, our triple was a double. Chris moved out, and at the end of 1991 I believe both he and Anthony transferred to other schools.

And that was pretty much that.

•••

I received this e-mail yesterday. Out of the blue.

Anthony and I haven’t stayed in touch much. Chris and I stayed in touch not at all. I believe there was a quick Facebook exchange a decade or so ago, but nothing more. If you think about it, that’s the way so much of life works. For every lifelong friend who sticks, there are a solid 500 Chris Mogers who come, stay for a bit, then leave. The girl you hooked up with in the frat basement. The guys you used to run pickup with. Your favorite barista—who one day doesn’t report to work. The supermarket checkout clerk you chatted up about her future. The barber. The waitress.

Your freshman roommate.

I didn’t really know how to respond to Anthony’s message. So I Googled “Chris Moger,” and found this.

And what struck me, nearly as much as the awful illness, was the sad reality that I really would have liked Chris Moger. He wasn’t James Dean. Or even imitation James Dean. I mean, perhaps he was during a time period when we’re all young and insecure and trying to offer the world a glimpse of something desirable. But the Chris I was introduced to via the Fundraising page was a middle-aged family man. A husband. A dad of three. A guy who lived for his kids, worked hard, wore plaid pajamas come Christmas and probably looked forward to family vacations and relaxed evenings in front of the TV with a beer. He was a kid who became a man, and that man was someone I would have very much enjoyed.

Anthony wrote me this morning …

I am legitimately gutted.

The kid one bed over is gone.

I wish I’d known him.

MLB’s coward problem

January 18, 2020

So, like every other American sports fan, I’ve been observing the whole Houston Astros scandal with shock, bewilderment, amazement.

But my greatest reaction: Incredulousness.

It probably truly kicked in last night, when I saw Mike Piazza on ESPN discussing how this whole sign stealing thing made him “sad.” Then, this money quote: “In my era, it never would have happened.’’

Wait.

What?

In your era it never would have happened? In your era it never would have happened? In your era it did happen. In major ways. And not only did it happen—you were involved in it. I don’t care how many tests Piazza didn’t fail (in the era of joke testing), his PED usage was A. widely regarded B. widely accepted; and C. widely ignored. I wrote about this in my Roger Clemens bio, “The Rocket That Fell to Earth” …

So, please, spare me every retired Major Leaguer who uttered nary a peep as [fill in the blank with a very high number] of your teammates roided up/PEDed up before your eyes and inside your clubhouses. Spare us the “In my day …” monologue, when your day put cheating on the map. Or, put differently: Phil Hughes, I’m still waiting for your anger over Melky Cabrera.

And while we’re at it—all these current players now jumping on the “Fuck the Astros” train: Can we acknowledge that, were you on the Astros in 2017, you’d have said shit? Hell, look at the Houston roster from that season. You have every genre of player: Vets like Carlos Beltran and Justin Verlander and Brian McCann. Young scrappers like Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. Journeymen like Josh Reddick and Luke Gregerson. And no one—not a man—said a thing until Mike Fiers waaaay after the fact.

Why? Because (and this comes from someone who has covered sports for 2 1/2 decades) the greatest myth about athletics involves leadership. Truth be told, what sport teaches people is the value of following along. Listen to your coach—and don’t question him. Take orders from the veteran—and don’t question him. Keep your head down. Don’t say anything controversial to the media. You’re always playing for that next contract. Be a team guy. Be an organization guy. Don’t think—just do.

This whole idea of “creating leaders” is myth. That’s why, when athletes retire, they give speeches that usually encompass some regurgitation of the same four of five cliched lessons that can be found on an old Wayne Dyer pamphlet.

That’s also why, when a scandal of this magnitude breaks, everyone only piles on after it’s safe and clear. Notice how, suddenly, there’s this avalanche of outrage from guys like Jerry Blevins and Mike Clevinger; Chris Archer and Danny Valencia. They can bark, because others have barked.

Here’s a suggestion to all these players. Hell, to all of humanity: Ask yourselves what you would have done were you a 2017 Astro.

Ask yourself whether integrity would have inspired you to speak up.

Ask yourself.

The old blind man in Starbucks

January 16, 2020

I entered a busy Starbucks this morning, and there were no available solo tables. So I plopped down at the big communal spot in the middle of the store, alongside an older man with gray hair and a blue sweatshirt.

Now, if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my years of coffee shop writing—it’s, well, if you aspire to get work done, don’t talk to elderly folks sitting next to you. I know that sounds dickish. I know. But it’s pretty much true.

And yet, I also think the ignore the elderly is a sin worthy of 1,000 leeches. Especially when someone is alone, nursing a drink.

So I introduced myself to Robert.

He’s 87. Parents were born in Mexico, mother came to California to give birth to him. He worked in construction, used to go to movies every Friday with his wife. Then, when they started getting too violent, he would escort her into the cinema and wait in the lobby.

Robert worked in construction. When his wife died 12 years ago, he stopped going to the cinema to wait in the lobby. He loves that “Big Bang” show, which he watches on CD. No, DVD.

I had a book out, and he said, “Don’t worry—I won’t read your stuff.”

Why? I asked.

“I can’t see any longer. Lost my vision.”

I’m sorry, I said.

“That’s OK,” he replied.

Then he got up and left.

To drive home.

The root canal

January 15, 2020

Woke up this morning knowing I was about to have a root canal.

I hate dentist visits, because I hate everything about the experience. The sounds. The smells. The drill, digging into my teeth. That shot of absolute pain when nerve is touched. God, I loathe all of it.

So walking into a root canal was no joy for me. Truth be told, I was sorta terrified.

Then it began.

Then it ended.

There was no pain. Not much fuss. I sat there, listening to music, squirming under the idea of inevitable pain but ultimately greeted with the happy reality that the numbing agent worked and all was good.

So—go root canal!

Luke Kuechly

In case you missed this, Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly today after eight NFL seasons. His announcement via Twitter was emotional, moving, fascinating—and made me tremendously happy.

I don’t know Luke. I’ve never met Luke. But I’ve met enough retired NFL players who went at the game as Luke did (hard, always charging always going 100 percent) to know this was a smart move when it comes to the longterm quality of his life.

Or, put differently: Football destroys people. Their minds, their bodies. One can argue it doesn’t destroy their wallets—but that’s only until said player needs medical help 10 years after his last game, and the NFL denies coverage. Then the wallet takes a pounding as well.

Too many players lack what Kuechly seems to have: Awareness that the game is short, and life without it should be fruitful and long. There are so many beautiful things this world offers that are made inaccessible to people who suffer brain damage or battered knees. There are places to fly to, restaurants to enjoy, puzzles to solve. There are mountains to climb and oceans to swim and children to pick up.

The NFL has never shown much concern for its players, so it’s satisfying to see a player show concern for himself.

God speed, Luke Kuechly.

God speed.

Being nicer

January 13, 2020

So if you happen to be a reader of this blog, you might know that last week I experienced something of a social media spiritual awakening.

I decided I no longer wanted to be the Twitter idiot, and that I no longer wanted to be on social media all the time. So I took a bunch of days off, and plan on being significantly more aware of the message I’m sending on; on being … nicer.

Today, I was granted a test.

Upon signing on to Twitter for the first time in a while, I was greeted by this DM:

I Googled the guy’s name, and all his information was readily available. Address, place of employment, place of education. And the Ghost of Jeff Past may well have exploited that. I have certainly written my fair share of blast back entries, featuring the identity of someone who told me to fuck off or kiss his ass or whatnot. And, inevitably, those dialogues end with the culprit begging me to remove his information. It’s always alongside some apology, and I always—always—take the stuff down.

But I don’t wanna be that person any longer. I don’t want you to lose your job—even if you’re a mean asshole. I don’t want to cause someone damage because he/she misfired or vented on Twitter.

So, maybe this is growth for me.

I hope so.

I need to fix me

January 8, 2020

I need to fix me.

That sounds sappy. Love Guru sorta thing. But, truly, I need to fix me.

I bring this up after a long talk with the wife this evening, about social media and the need to engage and engage and engage. Today, in particular, was sorta ugly, in that I felt compelled to engage on something dumb Tweeted by a former Major Leaguer named Aubrey Huff.

Why enter a fray? Honestly, I don’t know. A desire to be heard? Perhaps. Boredom during long writing days? Certainly possible. An inane craving for attention? Gotta be a part of it.

Whatever the case, I’m sick of me and social media. Truly, truly, truly, truly sick of me and social media. It’s an addiction, of sorts. Not crack or cigarettes, but something equally distracting and hard to shake. Back in the olden days, when I needed a break from writing, I’d take a walk, read a book, pet the dog, go to the couch and watch TV. Now, I stay in one place and Tweet, or update Facebook. It’s preposterous, and stupid, and would probably be far more embarrassing were it not such a widespread problem.

My wife often says to me, “You’re a nice guy—why do you want to come off that way?” And it’s a question without an easy-to-offer answer. Why? Wish I knew. Truly, wish I knew. But something inside of me feels broken, and I need to fix it. Maybe that’s therapy. Maybe it’s a stricter adherence to discipline. Maybe it’s simply thinking whether I want to be attached to something this juvenile and pathetic—merely in the name of re-Tweets and viral high fives …

Well, I just deleted that Tweet.

And starting right now, at this moment, I’m deleting my approach to social media. Or at least drastically changing it.

First, I’ll be gone until next week. I’m not Tweeting, not reading Twitter. Nothing.

Second, I’m done with arguments here. You wanna slam me? Slam me. It’s your right. But you won’t get an angry reply.

Lastly, I want to be better. A better person. A better role model to my kids. I’m a writer. Not a Tweeter. I write books and articles, and I love it. But this shit is just soul-sucking inanity. Who am I helping? What am I benefitting? Besides PR during book release time, what’s the gain?

I always urge Casey and Emmett to get out, see the world, run, smell, eat, dance.

It’s time I follow my own advice.

It’s time I fix me.

PS: And, yes, I have made pledges like this before. But I’m in genuine pain.

Killing to feel tough

In case you missed this, Iran just launched a bunch of missiles at some U.S. bases in Iraq. Not too many details are known, but it was a certain retaliation for the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

This is not good.

It’s also what happens when you elect a president who is consumed—in every possible way—with proving how tough he is. From the very beginning of his business career. Donald Trump’s obsession have taken two forms:

• Money

• Image

I get the first. Don’t appreciate it, but get it. The second one, however, is transparently sad. Donald Trump created The Donald—smart businessman who vanquishes opponents and fires anyone who can’t get the job done. He struts into conference rooms, slams down phones, swats people away with folded newspapers. He’s fuck you and step back and get out of my face.

But it’s not real. It never has been real. Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” was written by someone else. The classes at his huckster “university”—taught by others. His campaign slogan (“Make America Great Again”) was thought up by an adviser. His primary running point (Mexico and the wall) is the handy work of Steve Bannon.

It’s.

All.

An.

Image.

So, surely, after killing Soleimani, Trump lathered in the swag. He was The Man. Not like that pussy Obama, or that pussy W. Nope. The Donald finished the job. Destroyed a terrorist. Saved America.

Only, well, governing involves nuance, texture, thought, evaluation.

Without it, you’re just a fraud thug in a fancy suit.

without it, you get people killed.

The Truth of Star Trek V

January 7, 2020

So tonight, in our quest to watch all the Star Trek films, the son and I wrapped Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

The movie was William Shatner’s directorial debut, and—save for about 30 percent of the experience—it’s a steaming pile of dog poop. Which isn’t to say that’s entirely Shatner’s fault. I mean … um … eh … yeah. It’s entirely Shatner’s fault. The plot sucks. The writing is even worse. The special effects are a dropoff from earlier renditions. What’s most striking (at least to me) is the jarring lack of self-awareness brought forth by Shatner.

At the time of the flick’s 1989 release, Captain Kirk (Shatner) and Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) were 58 and Bones McCoy (DeForest Kelley) was 69. Yet there they are—running, punching, jumping, sprinting to the ship, escaping explosions, seeking God and demanding answers. Fuck, I’m 47 and still recovering from a pulled groin that happened three weeks ago. It’s laughable.

But here’s my favorite thing about Star Trek V: Everyone involved knew it blew, but no one could admit such. Just check out some of the promotional appearances from the time. Like this gem. And this one. They’re all happy, smiling, loved working for Bill, awesome working with Bill, terrific movie …

It was all Hollywood nonsense. It the later years, members of the cast admitted Star Trek V sucked. Hell, in the Michael Seth Starr biography, “Shatner,” cast members spare no criticism. “It failed because of the story concept,” said Walter Koenig, who played Chekov. “I don’t think it was well thought out.”

“All we needed was a good script,” added James Doohan (aka Scotty). “Unfortunately, we didn’t have one in V.”

Shatner said he ran out of money, resulting in an ending that looked stupid and unrealistic.

The reviews were not great.

You can’t let Chekov back on the bridge

January 6, 2020

So the son and I have been watching the Star Trek films in order (I wisely skipped the original, which is cardboard to classical music), and the other day we took in the second flick, “Wrath of Khan.” Which is amazing in all sorts of ways.

It’s amazing because William Shatner and Ricardo Montalbán are all in and the overacting and dramatic excesses are something to behold (I’m not being snide. It’s fucking brilliant). It’s amazing because DeForest Kelley is beyond outstanding as Bones. It’s amazing because I fell in love all over again with Nichelle Nichols, whose Uhura is sultry cool. It’s amazing because—with some glaring exceptions—the special effects hold up, and it’s amazing because (stop griping) it’s simply better movie making than anything George Lucas brought us.

And yet …

I have one gripe, and it’s a biggie. So early in the film, Khan and his confusing band of Mad Max-inspired merry misfits capture two Star Fleet employees—the requisite 1980s disposable black guy (who will die, because they always die) and Chekov, the Star Trek regular and a character who the audience knows can’t perish because, well, there are future movies to be made.

Anyhow, in a legitimately hard-to-watch scene, Khan takes the two men and inserts these … eh … mutant slug/snails into their brains. He explains that, before long, the men will obey his commands before ultimately losing their minds.

And … he’s right. The men obey his commands before starting to lose their minds. Hell, the requisite 1980s disposable black guy actually kills himself. But Chekov … Chekov survives. His brain has been eaten by the slug, he’s way off his rocker, the world is 1,000 shades of purple—but he does, in fact, survive. Which is wonderful. The world needs Chekov.

But then—like, within 20 minutes—he’s back on the bridge, helping with the mission. And I keep waiting for Captain Kirk to say, “Yo, yo—people! This bruh just had a slug eating out his cranium. Let’s maybe keep him in sick bay.” I keep waiting for Spock, the definition of walking logic, to say, “Jim, perhaps it would be unwise for Chekov to be here before subjecting himself to a CAT scan.” I keep waiting for McCoy—the fucking Enterprise medic—to say, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a slugologist. But that thing probably took away, oh, 70 IQ points. Maybe Chekov can just sit in the corner and make clay ashtrays.”

But, no.

Chekov is back.

Living the life.

My favorite game of pickup

I haven’t kept count, but if I had to guesstimate how many games of hoops I’ve played in my life, it’d surely number into the thousands.

Growing up, I played with friends on my driveway hoop.

In college, I played with my roommates outside Christiana Towers.

I played at the YMCA in Nashville. I played at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. I play most Saturday mornings at the courts by my house. I’ve played and played and played. With friends. With foes. In leagues. On a team called—really—the Runnin’ Jeffies.

My life has featured many passions, but basketball probably tops the list.

Earlier today, on the courts at Laguna Beach, I played my all-time favorite game. It was with my 13-year-old son.

Emmett and I play a ton of one-on-one hoops at the nearby court, and we’ve definitely had family games, but today was the first time Emmett and I played together, on the same squad, in legitimate pickup. We arrived at the courts planning on just shooting, but when someone said, “Let’s play” to a group of people—well, we jumped in. There were two young teens, so Emmett and another kid were split.

It was 4 on 4. Sun shining. Slight breeze. Ocean about 40 feet away. I yelled some instructions to Emmett, but mostly let him be him—feisty defense, pump fakes galore, lots of physical hand play. When he hit his first shot, he looked at me—suppressed smile. While he hit his second, less of a suppressed smile. More like, “Yeah, I’m doing this.” He set me up for an assist, was energetic and effective. On multiple occasions it hit me—truly hit me—that I was with my kid at Laguna Beach running a game.

It was bliss.

Ask your preacher

January 3, 2020

Just watched this utter insanity, and I want someone to ask the clergy involved these questions. Actually, I’m begging.

Ask these questions …

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—used his charitable foundation to buy all sorts of possessions for himself?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—has repeatedly lied about searching for survivors at Ground Zero after 9.11, and also lied about donating $10,000 to the 9.11 Fund?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—bragged about grabbing women by their pussies? That he’s mocked countless women as fat, as ugly, as stupid, as piggish?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—never went to church as a parishioner before he was running for president?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—spent 4 1/2 years saying the 44th president of the United States (an actual man of faith) was a Kenyan-born Muslim?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—is a lifelong conman? That he created a fake “university” to bilk the poor and middle class of their money?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—fucked a porn star 10 days after the birth of the son he ignores? Then paid her hush money to stay quiet?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—called for five African-American teens to die, even after they were found innocent?

• Are you concerned that the man you’re praying for—the man you stand behind and place your hands upon—refused to rent apartments in his Queens development to people of color?

Are you concerned?

Are you?

On Bombshell, and the Tweet that didn’t come across so hot

January 2, 2020

So the wife and I just saw “Bombshell,” the new film about the whole Fox News-Roger Ailes-Megyn Kelly shit storm.

I didn’t have high expectations entering the theater, but it was pretty exceptional work. Charlize Theron, in particular, owned the screen, and if she’s nominated for an Academy Award you’ll hear no complaining from this website.

Anyhow, the flick sent me back in time to 2016—before the lawsuits were out, before women were standing up, before it all. When I, eh Tweeted this while working out on a treadmill at my nearby gym …

The backlash—well, it wasn’t wonderful. There was this. And this. And this. And this. I received hundreds upon hundreds of furious Tweets and Facebook messages. Things turned quite ugly, and it was the first (of many) times I simply walked away from social media for a few days. I needed the break.

But now, nearly four years later … I’ve gotta say … um … well … it still was a shit Tweet, because it put the onus on the women while ignoring the pressures they were clearly under. But—based upon everything we’ve learned—Fox News did, in fact, urge its women to wear shorter-than-short outfits. Fox News did emphasize skin and sex appeal.

Fox News did urge their on-air folks to, dammit, dress like hookers.

It sure did.

I regret the Tweet. It was sloppy and lacking any level of nuance. It ignored all the shit women in television go through on a daily basis. I hate that I wrote it, and learned a valuable lesson.

So … yeah.

My No. 1 wish for 2020

January 1, 2020

I have a wish for 2020, and it’s a simple one.

Put simply, I want people in this country to stop trying to “own” folks they disagree with.

I’m being 100-percent serious. I’m tired of Republicans trying to own Democrats. Tired of Democrats trying to own Republicans. I’m tired of hearing the president of the United States making me and my family members sound like traitors to the nation because we disagree with him. I’m tired of hearing my fellow liberals slam Joe Biden because (gasp!) he said he would consider having a running mate from the opposing party.

It’s exhausting. All of it. The outrage. The insults. The hashtags. The slamming. I’ve traveled to all but three states in this nation, and one thing I’ve discovered (truly) is—in person—we get along. That doesn’t mean we agree on every issue. Or even most issues. But in a room, with cookies and coffee (and juice for the kids) we are capable of having productive, insightful conversations about abortion and guns and college and child care and all sorts of issues. We can be polite. We can listen and say, “Look, I don’t feel you on this one. But I see where you’re coming from.”

Can we change in 2020? Unlikely. The well has been poisoned, and I’m not entirely sure how we clean it.

Personally, I believe it starts with ending Donald Trump’s presidency. And that doesn’t mean the next occupant of the Oval Office needs to be a Democrat.

It simply needs to be someone who respects the entirety of this nation.

Happy new year.

Dumb

December 18, 2019

If you have yet to read the recent letter Donald Trump wrote Nancy Pelosi, trust me and do so.

It’s terrific. Truly. Because it will make you feel extraordinarily intelligent. You’ll read it and think, “Wow, it’s true. Anyone can be president.” The document—written from the same perch occupied by Washington and Lincoln, Kennedy and Reagan—is penned at a fifthfourth-grade level, with the angry snipes of a pigeon stuck in an oil slick. It has 0 percent grace and even less elegance.

If the White House was once a sight to be accompanied by a symphony, it’s now a hovel to be accompanied by the theme to “Hee-Haw.” It’s the land of grifters and squatters and people dumb enough to think they’re sophisticated and smart enough to fool the dumb into thinking they are sophisticated. It’s a log of poop in a puddle.

Donald Trump’s letter wasn’t sleek. It wasn’t thought-provoking. It was the honking of a horn in morning traffic. It was a goose screaming at a passer-by. It was idiocy. Pure idiocy.

Read it.

This is our president.

A petition without apostrophe (or smarts)

December 17, 2019

So I’m from a small New York town, Mahopac. It was a pretty excellent place to grow up back in the 1980s. Trees. Pools. A big lake. Biking to town, buying bubble gum and a soda at Rodak’s Deli, coming home to catch fireflies in a cup or play pickup hoops in my driveway.

Ideallic.

But there was always this thing. This uncomfortable thing. And it was that Mahopac—my hometown—was sorta narrow. There were very few Jews, and even fewer African-Americans. A couple of Asian families, a couple of Persian families. But mainly white, Catholic, working class. That came with certain things. Beliefs. Expectations. A strict right v. wrong ethos that—to be honest—never really coincided with my family’s right v. wrong.

I digress.

Over the past few days, there’s been a petition going around suggesting that Mahopac High School (where I graduated in 1990) change its nickname from “Indians” to something else. Here’s the link. And, really, it’s a hard case to argue against. “Indians” just isn’t a thing any longer. They’re “Native Americans.” Or, if not “Native Americans,” the specific name of a tribe. And that’s a positive development—both in terms of historical accuracy and cultural sensitivity. Truth be told, it’s a long time coming.

But, of course, in 2019 the ignorant and sheltered among us feel more empowered than ever. Hence, there’s a follow-up petition headlined DO NOT CHANGE MAHOPACS MASCOT OR TOWN LOGO. And—because God is great—whoever started the petition doesn’t know that “MAHOPACS” requires an apostrophe. (I’ll take a stab that said person isn’t super well-versed in the history of the Native American people.)

But I digress. The anti-petition petition is a thing of beauty. Let’s count the reasons …

•••

1. If you’re going to make an argument on the value of a nickname and its relationship to a place for learning, don’t, eh, straight-up rip off a Wikipedia entry and pass it as your own

•••

2. If you’re one of the three people who decided to LIKE a post, at least make sure the post being liked: A. Uses “their” correctly; B. Uses “then” correctly; C. Doesn’t involve the image of a child who died tragically—while simultaneously saying “FU crybaby liberal.”

•••

3. Argue that “tradition matters” when you’re debating the tradition of a less-than-a-century-old school vs. the traditions of a peoples who were here looooooong before you were.

•••

4. This one I’ll just allow to speak for itself …

•••

5. My favorite argument—one that spreads across the petition—is “people need to stop being so fucking sensitive!” Um, you’ve started a petition because it’ll hurt your little butts to change the mascot of your football team. Let’s reconsider this one.

•••

6. I’ll let this one speak for itself, too.

•••

7. I’ll mention this again: At last check nearly 1,500 people took time from their busy days to sign a petition over a sports team’s nickname switch. Who’s triggered here?

•••

8. So here’s one that gets me. I can say, with great confidence, that 98 percent of the people signing this petition are either full-throated #MAGA or just Trump supporters who picked him because he wasn’t liberal. Either way, this idea that the potential changing of a mascot is somehow “losing our country”—while the sitting president has undermined both the FBI and the CIA while placing pressure on another country to dig up dirt on a political opponent while repeatedly lying about his role on 9.11 while spending 4 1/2 years insisting the sitting president of the United States was a Kenyan-born Muslim … well, um. Yeah. No.

•••

9. This actually makes a strong argument, unintentionally: Change the nickname to the Wappingers. Case closed, problem solved.

•••

10. If you don’t like the school mascot, don’t live here. Simple as that. Yes, you bought an affordable house with nice neighbors and proximity to your mother’s home in nearby Brewster. But no Indians, no Mahopac for you! Motherfucker!

•••

Anyhow, I’ve decided to take action into my own hands. Please sign my petition, giving anyone who signed the pro-Indians petition a free cookie!

God’s Got You

December 16, 2019

So my daughter Casey just texted me this image, taken of her high school locker.

The note was placed there by members of the school’s Cookies for Christ Club, which is—apparently—a real thing.

I am not happy.

But I am inspired.

I’m going to encourage my daughter and her friends to form a new club—Cookies for Christ’s Younger Gay Brother, Irv. They’ll bake cookies, place notes on lockers, talk about Christ’s younger gay brother, Irv. They can spread the word all around campus—that the lord and savior, Jesus Christ, had a younger gay brother named Irv. And that he was, well, young. And gay. And also liked cookies.

Of course, I’m guessing the members of Cookies for Christ wouldn’t feel so hot about Christ’s younger gay brother, Irv, walking campus and claiming to be Christ’s younger gay brother, Irv. But if people are willing to not only believe—but post locker notes!—about a virgin birthing an eternal-life child with a beard, well, I can believe he had a younger gay brother named Irv.

And Irv loves him some cookies.

Is there a school shooting?

Last night the daughter showed me the above image, which was making the rounds on Tik Tok.

I used the squiggle to hide our school district, but it’s a shooting threat aimed at her high school.

And here’s the crazy thing: We sorta yawned.

I mean, we asked about it. I tried calling the local police department, but then found out other parents already had done so. But were we absolutely freaking out? Were we wondering whether it’d be worth Casey staying home? Did we consider big action?

No.

Why? Because we’ve all become sorta numb to this shit. The school shootings, yes. The do-nothing response to school shootings? Yes. But also the LOOK AT ME! social media postings of kids who think it’s an absolute riot to scare old folks (like me) into freaking out. This isn’t the first time a classmate/peer of my daughter has posted some sort of I’M GONNA KILL EVERYONE message. Which is weird, because why would anyone actually post an I’M GONNA KILL EVERYONE message?

But they do.

And we nod.

And we shrug.

And we continue with our lives.

Until the day when it’s not a joke.

What 100 looks like

December 9, 2019

The above photograph features Norma Shapiro, my wife’s grandmother.

She’s 100.

Yes, one hundred.

Really, Norma Shapiro is 100.

You wouldn’t know it. Not by looking at her, certainly not by watching her. Norma drives everywhere. She works out with a trainer several times per week. She’s a voracious reader with an active social life (She did a Quaz back in 2015 that was very well received).

Two days ago, we were in Florida to attend her 100th birthday bash, and it was a four-hour ode to the power of moving forward. Of not stopping. Of refusing to pity oneself. Of drive and determination and a zest for life. Or, put differently: On a night when one of us was 100 and the other was 47, the centenarian was out on the dance floor. The guy half her age sat and ate cookies.

Norma has not had it easy. Lost a son. Lost a husband. The vast majority of her friends have passed. But … I dunno. She keeps making new friends. Keeps finding new adventures. In February she’ll be flying from Florida to California for my son’s Bar Mitzvah—because that’s what Norma does. It’s that simple.

I actually had a chance to chat with Norma’s trainer. I asked him to explain the phenomenon that is my kids’ great grandmother. He didn’t pause.

“Look,” he said, “it’s pretty simple. It’s 33 percent lifestyle. It’s 33 percent genetics. And it’s 33 percent luck.”

Makes sense to me.

They persisted …

December 5, 2019

They knew Donald Trump was a former Democrat who had praised Hillary Clinton and even donated money to her.

And they persisted.

They knew Donald Trump called for the death of five black teenagers who were proven innocent of a crime they didn’t commit.

And they persisted.

They knew, when he was trying to acquire an NFL team, Trump (owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals) met secretly with NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, and made promises of throwing his own league under the bus.

And they persisted.

They knew the man who routinely bashes #FakeNews hung fake Time magazine covers in his golf clubhouses.

And they persisted.

They knew the man who routinely bashes #FakeNews created a pretend publicist—John Barron—who was actually Trump disguising his voice over the phone.

And they persisted.

They knew, when Donald Trump was caught on tape boasting of grabbing women by the pussies, he wasn’t merely engaging in clubhouse banter.

And they persisted.

They knew Donald Trump fucked a porn star 10 days after the birth of his son via his third wife.

And they persisted.

They knew Donald Trump had five phony deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam.

And they persisted.

They knew Donald Trump cheated on his taxes for years.

And they persisted.

They knew when Donald Trump said Ted Cruz’s father had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he was lying about one of their peers.

And they persisted.

They knew when Donald Trump called John McCain—a 4 1/2-year Vietnam POW—”not a hero,” he was spitting in their faces.

And they persisted.

They knew when Donald Trump said he had the biggest inaugural crowd, and that a Boy Scout leader had called the White House to praise a recent jamboree speech, he was lying.

And they persisted.

They knew—at the same time Donald Trump was leading a nationwide crackdown of undocumented immigrants—he was employing scores of undocumented immigrants at his clubs throughout America.

And they persisted.

They knew when Donald Trump ridiculed a Gold Star family he was wrong.

They knew when Donald Trump stood before troops and told them he was responsible for a (nonexistent) 10-percent pay raise, he was lying.

They knew when Donald Trump said the Russians had nothing to do with election interference, he was full of shit.

They persisted.

Why?

Truly, I don’t know. Honor matters. Integrity matters. Maybe not now, at this precise moment. But when it comes to our nation, our future, virtuous behaviors seize the day.

Persist.

The one thing I sorta kinda like about Donald Trump

December 3, 2019

I think Donald Trump is a conman, a crook, a thug, a liar, a cheater. I think he lied about helping with the Ground Zero recovery. I think he lied under oath during the USFL trial. I think he called for the Central Park Five to be put to death, even after they were innocent. I think he spent 4 1/2 years insisting Barack Obama was a Kenyan-born Muslim. I think he fucked a porn star 10 days after the birth of his son (the one he pretends doesn’t exist), then paid said porn star off with hush money.

Truly, he’s awful.

That said, Donald Trump has done one thing that I like, and I hope continues once he’s in prison gone from office.

He has walked through nonsense.

Now, this is a hard-to-explain concept, because so much of what he does is nonsense. But what I mean is, well, he just crashes through stuff in a way that screams, “Yeah, I don’t give a shit.” Example: What if Barack Obama has crashed through the Reverend Wright bullshit? What if Michael Dukakis had crashed through the Willie Horton bullshit? What if John Kerry had crashed through the Swift Boat bullshit? Hell, what if John Edwards had crashed through the kid-out-of-wedlock bullshit? What if all of them had just said, “Yup, you’ve got me. But here’s what I’ll do for you …”

What if they’d simply refused to absorb the information. Pretended as f it didn’t exist. “Yeah, I’m Gary Hart. And you’re damn right I had sex with Donna Rice. She was hot. So?” and “Yeah, I’m Geraldine Ferraro. And you’re damn right my husband was corrupt. He’s not me. So?” and “Yeah, I’m George H.W. Bush. I know I promised no new taxes. But fuck it, I was wrong. So?”

I dunno.

I sorta dig it.

The bloody fetus poster

This morning I dropped my 16-year-old daughter off at high school. While rolling down the street toward the final destination, we passed the above man, holding the above sign.

I wasn’t furious, so much as I was annoyed. My daughter said, “Are you gonna say something?”

“Yes,” I said. “I will.”

So I rolled down the window and said, “Just not the right place, man. Not the right place.”

I immediately regretted my choice of words.

What I should have said—what I wish I’d said—was, “Hey, buddy. Can I ask you a question? How many kids have you adopted? I’m just wondering, because I assume—as a pro-life guy who stands in front of my kid’s school holding a bloody fetus poster—you’re adopting a whole slew of children who were born. Right, buddy?”

Silence.

“So … buddy. Those kids. How many? And since you’re standing here—bloody fetus sign in hand—show me photos of your kids. I’m sure you’ve got ’em. iPhone technology and all. Lemme see the photo you took of your adopted son, who was born to the 12-year-old girl who was raped by her cousin. Because, I mean, you insisted she deliver the baby; that God wanted it that way. So show me, buddy. Show me.”

Silence.

“How about the baby who was born without working lungs. You said it’d be a sin to abort, because all humans are perfect in God’s eyes. So lemme see. Show me the photos, Daddy. I’m sure you’re doing as God and Jesus demand, and are taking in the poor, the needy, the downtrodden.”

Silence.

“Right, buddy? Right?”

Silence.

“Oh, wait. You’re just some dick with a sign.”

Blood

Had a needle inserted into a vein this morning.

Blood was extracted.

I love it.

Weird, right? As a kid needles absolutely terrified me. I think some of this had to do with a general fear of objects cutting through my skin. But I also happened to be raised by a (otherwise wonderful) mother who didn’t much care for needles. So I felt her fear, fed off it, developed my own.

Now, all has changed.

I love needles into my arm because it combines 1,000 different emotions. The terror flashbacks of youth. The curiosity of whether it will hurt. The rush of doing something generally unusual. The period of waiting … waiting … waiting as the blood leaves my veins. I even dig the aftermath, when a wad of gauze is taped to my epidermis.

Hard to explain.

But true.

Scot Brower says the joke is on me

The above photograph is of Scot Brower, Honolulu-based attorney at law.

Earlier today, in response to Anthony Scaramucci Tweeting out the long-ago John Bassett letter to a young, USFL-destroying Donald Trump, Brower wrote this …

And, in one sense, Scot Brower, attorney at law, is right. The joke is on Pearlman and Scaramucci. A lifelong conman neither of us can stomach is the 45th president of the United States. He holds the grandest position in the land, and—to the delight of men like Scot Brower, attorney at law—he is absolutely owning the libs. Fucking owning us. Trump brings true misery to my life. His presence exasperates me. His speech patterns infuriate me. I loathe him as I loathe foot mold.

And yet …

Scot Brower lives in Hawaii, a place being impacted by climate change like no other spot in America. The research is clear on this, but if you need some refreshers check out this, and this, and this, and this, and this. Or just Google “climate change” and Hawaii. It’s horrifying. Personally, I loooooooove everything about Hawaii. So to see what’s happening—and what’s going to happen—brings me no joy.

Scot, however, doesn’t seem to mind. Or doesn’t believe the science. Or something. Because while, yes, Trump owns the libs, he also has done everything within his power to make certain the impact of warming planet is as pronounced and devastating as possible. Pick a protection (any protection) and he’s wiped it off the map. Pick a scientific consensus (any scientific consensus) and he’s ignored it. The EPA—founded by Richard Nixon—is now staffed by former oil and coal execs. In case you’re hoping the devastation can be avoided, well, it can’t. We’re screwed. Democrats. Republicans. Independents. Anthony Scaramucci. Jeff Pearlman. Scot Brower, attorney at law. All of us.

But, again, that probably doesn’t matter to men like Scot Brower, attorney at law. I mean, he voted for a man who lied about helping with the recovery at Ground Zero, then lied about sending men to help at Ground Zero, then lied about donating $10,000 to the 9.11 Fund. He voted for a man who created a fake “university” to bilk people of their money. He lied under oath during the USFL trial. He mocked a Gold Star Family, a 4 1/2-year Vietnam POW. He received five phony war deferments, discriminated against African-Americans in his Queens housing developments, fucked a porn star 10 days after the birth of his son.

So, when Hawaii is beneath water and Donald Trump is serving his fifth term in office, I’m sure Scot Brower, attorney at law, will be smiling.

The joke is on me.

Sometimes one needs a book

December 1, 2019

So, as I noted in my last post, I’m a very lucky person. Great family, great career, great geographical location. Just a legitimately fortunate man who has done little to garner such richness.

This is not lost on me, and never has been. I’m also aware that m-a-n-y people are struggling. Are eating shit. Have rough stretches, awful runs, damning spans. It’s hard, and it’s particularly hard come the holiday season, when we’re “supposed” to be happy; when everyone is smiling and singing and eating and …

It blows.

Here’s what I wanna do: If you know someone going through a rough stretch, who might get a life out of randomly receiving a signed copy of one of my books, hit me up at anngold22@gmail.com. Please tell me a little about the situation, and give me the info.

A book will (unless I somehow fuck up) be sent.

Jeff

I have no business being this fortunate

November 28, 2019

It’s 9:45, Thanksgiving morning. As I write this a Paul Simon song plays over a Sonos speaker. I am sipping from a large mug containing a mixture of coffee and hot chocolate. My daughter—16 and healthy and wonderful—just woke up. Downstairs my son, his best friend and my nephew are engaged in a video game battle. My wife is preparing turkey with her sister.

I live in Southern California.

I write books for a living.

I have no college loans.

My dog is adorable.

My parents are fantastic.

It is truly unfair.

Thanksgiving, to me, is a strange holiday. I love it. Genuinely. But I always feel a bit funny giving thanks for all I have, when as I do so millions of Americans are living in poverty, are sick, are homeless, are mentally ill. So many people are in pain—lasting, lingering, insufferable pain—and it seems sort … I dunno, something — to be thankful for what I have.

Here’s the truth: I’m no more worthy than anyone else. My mom and dad raised me in a safe environment. I never had to wonder whether a meal would be served. My college education was paid for. I was given a used car to reach my teenage jobs. Yes, I work hard. But so does the guy at the supermarket making minimum wage. So does the firefighter forced to work the Thanksgiving shift. So did the homeless guy who lost his job due to corporate cutbacks.

I am so fortunate.

So many are not.

Well, fuck

November 21, 2019

The day had to come. I knew it had to come. I hated that it had to come, but I knew it had to come.

Well, it’s here.

I bought reading glasses.

Yes, they’re blue. And a bit girly. I paid $17 for them at Walgreens here in New York City, and while I look the fool, I’m able to see again while typing. And that’s a plus.

But it’s also a sign. I’m old. The laser surgery of a decade ago has died. I squint to see. My eyes feel crusty. It sucks, sucks, sucks—and the next thing that comes is surely a sore back, followed by bruised feet, followed by increased hair loss, followed by … I dunno. Death?

So here I sit, $17 glasses affixed to head, aware that the grim reaper sits over my shoulder.

Looming.

I can see him.

Good at Dunkin’

November 18, 2019

I’m a sucker for iced coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. Large, almond milk, two pumps of mocha.

When done right, it’s cold, it’s tasty, it’s chocolate milk-meets-(far better) Starbucks. For my birthday last year, multiple family members bought me Dunkin’ gift cards. Which meant I pretty much had $200 of large iced coffees at my disposal.

I digress.

During that time of bountiful gift card spending, I got in the habit of always paying for the person behind me. It started lightly, but before long I was dogged about it. Whether the person’s bill was $1 or $20, I was paying. The drive-thru people now know me as the weird person who always foots the bill for a man/woman he doesn’t know.

The $200 is long gone, but I still pay for whoever’s next. And even though I never actually see the reaction, it matters not. I like to think that I helped make someone’s day a wee-bit brighter.

Or, put differently: Join the wife and I in this project. It’ll make you happy.

I promise.

The final game

November 2, 2019
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Emmett (blue shorts) goes in for the pull.

Emmett Pearlman, Raiders defensive back, announced his retirement from flag football today, shortly after his team was eliminated with a first-round playoff loss to the Patriots. “I’m sad,” he said afterward. “But what’s a guy gonna do? Flag ends after eighth grade. I’m in eighth grade.”

Pearlman wraps the six-game season with approximately 14 flag pulls and two interceptions—both in a Week 3 victory over the Seahawks. As he walked off the field for the final time, he reflected on a five-year, five-team career that included a 10-game stint as a starting quarterback back during his sophomore run with Dallas. “I liked playing quarterback,” he said. “It was fun.”

This year, Pearlman admitted, had its ups and downs—mainly downs. The coach, a well-intended man who did his best, rarely inserted Emmett on offense, and in the playoff setback only had him play approximately 60 percent of the plays on defense. As a result, Pearlman found himself roaming the sidelines, looking into the stands, bored, thirsty and seemingly a tad constipated. “I had to poop,” he said.

In retirement, Pearlman plans to indulge in his passions—bass fishing, Slurpee mixing and licking telephone poles that smell of lavender.

“It was fun,” he said, a tear streaming down his right cheek. “But I’m hungry.”

There is no way this is true

October 29, 2019

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Nobody is better at ruining a sincere moment than our president, Donald Trump.

He just lacks the ability to leave good news alone. He needs to insert himself. He lies with staggering regularity, to the point where I’m pretty certain he’s unaware that the uttered words of untrue. Or, he simply does not care.

I digress.

This past weekend the United States scored a major victory with the capture and killing of ISIS terrorist Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was a huge achievement that warranted every bit of praise available to be thrust upon the participants.

Then Trump spoke.

“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering, screaming and crying all the way,” the president. Later, Trump said it again. “He died like a dog, he died like a coward, he was whimpering, screaming and crying,” Trump said. “And frankly, I think it’s something that should be brought out.”

How did Trump know Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died whimpering, screaming and crying? He didn’t. Just as he doesn’t know that “some people say” and “most people say” and “past presidents thought” and “the majority of Americans believe.” The lies are staggering and never-ending—from the inaugural crowd size to the fictitious call from the Boy Scout leader to sending hundreds of men to Ground Zero to his predecessors calling him to say they wish they’d built a wall.

I will wait, patiently, for someone else to verify “whimpering, screaming and crying all the way.” But it won’t happen.

The liar lies.

On Bill Fleischman

October 26, 2019

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So today I returned to the campus of the University of Delaware for the first time in five years. I was there to honor Bill Fleischman, my friend and former professor who died earlier this year. I was asked to say some words about a man who truly impacted my life. Here’s what I offered …

Back when I was a student here at Delaware, my writing hero was a guy named Mike Freeman.

Mike had been editor of the review a bunch of years before I arrived, and during my undergrad years he was covering the New Jersey Nets and New York Giants for the New York Times. And after working up the nerve one day, I sent Mike a packet of my clips, asking for his critiques.

A few weeks later he sent me back the bundle, accompanied by praise, criticism, etc. And, paper-clipped to the articles, a note that read: STAY HUMBLE, KEEP WRITING HARD, KEEP WORKING HARD …

And then, in triple underline with two or three exclamation marks, the words AND LISTEN TO BILL

It was probably the best advice I’ve ever received.

The early-to-mid 90s was a heady time for the University of Delaware journalism program, and for the review. We thought we were really special. We thought we were hot shit. People read the newspaper, and recognized us walking across campus. There were big scoops about scandals, about football championships. There were editors who just oozed future stardom—Ted Spiker, Rich Jones, Archie Tse, Sharon O’Neal, Doug Donovan. There were these zany professors—Dennis Jackson, talking 10,000 miles per minute about some hotshot sophomore. Harris Ross, smoking cigarettes outside his office. Prof Nickerson, who I literally saw smoking a joint at the end-of-year review party. Ben Yagoda, pumping out books and inspiring us to write with grace.

And there was Bill Flesichman.

Bill was different than the others. Than all of it. I’d argue he was the most accomplished journalist in the department—certainly when it came to the sports scene in Philly—but you’d never know it. He didn’t brag. He didn’t boast. He didn’t tell you about how great he was. He didn’t name drop. He would call you into his office and talk at length. About writing. About your parents. About how he had a jewish last name so he could eat lox.

I was probably the worst editor in chief in the history of the review, which led one professor to rightly call the office and say to me, bluntly, “You’re the worst editor in chief in the history of the review.” But Bill never, ever, ever piled on or ripped me. He always understood what college journalism was—a place where mistakes are supposed to be made; a place where you take chances, experiment, go for it. Was he congratulating me when we dug up a photo of a short statured alum, put a football helmet atop his head and ran the April fools issue headline, MIDGETS FIGHT TO TAKE OVER NEWARK? No. But he got the idea. That voices aren’t always developed without rough patches, and bumps in the road accompany youth.

Now, I’m gonna make some controversial statements about Bill, and I hope they come with understanding. Bill wasn’t the best journalism professor I ever had. I’m not even sure he was that great of a technical professor. Classes could drag on a bit. He was probably a wee bit behind the times with his layout advice. His jokes were more bob hope than chris rock. I remember people tapping their fingers against the desk, waiting to leave for the stone balloon or deer park. And Bill was not the most dazzling writer at the daily news. He was a great reporter, an amazing worker of sources, as dependable as water. But were his ledes these gary smith-esque pieces of brilliance? Probably not. And his love for NASCAR? Not feeling it. Ever.

But here’s the thing—the most important thing. Too often we make the mistake of judging people based upon the trivial. We write these obituaries and give these odes and base it strictly upon measurable accomplishments. Upon bylines, upon net worth, upon races won and tournaments mastered.

But Bill Fleischman was the only professor or teacher from my lifetime—high school, undergrad, grad—who I invited to my wedding. And he was invited to a lot of weddings of former students.

Bill Fleischman was the only professor I ever had who I regularly called for advice—and who so many people here called for advice.

I never heard anyone—literally ever—say a bad word about Bill Fleischman. Not in my time as a student here. Not in the 25 years that have followed as a journalist. Not once.

To me, his legacy is the most profound legacy a person can have, and it far exceeds anything I’d need to say about him as a great professor or a great journalist.

Bill was a truly, truly good and decent and kind man. A father who suffered a profound tragedy but would not let it strangle him, a journalist who watched print crumble but remained optimistic, a husband whose wife ultimately left him for the game of golf, a brother, a teacher, a colleague, a really lovely and dear friend.

All those years ago, Mike Freeman was right.

The best thing I could do was listen to Bill.

The keys to a great haunted house

October 21, 2019

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So this past weekend the son and I hosted our sixth-straight elementary school haunted house out here in Southern California.

it’s a bit strange, because I haven’t had a kid in elementary school is 2 1/2 years. But because it’s a strong fund raiser, and because we’re always asked back, and because making kids cry is preposterously fun (truly, it is), we keep returning.

This year we had about 20 volunteers—mostly middle schoolers, with a few high schoolers, too (I mandate you can’t be younger than sixth grade). The “house” is actually the elementary school’s stage, which is set behind curtains in a multi-purpose room. I start setting up at around 10 am, and Emmett (who gets to leave school early) comes at 1. There are tons of costumes, tons of props, always some loose narrative (this year it was the butcher).

But, if you’re gonna have one thing at a haunted house for elementary school kids, it should be this …

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Yes, Psycho Elmo.

We always have an Elmo. Elmo with a knife. Elmo with a sword. Elmo slashing a throat. This year it was Elmo in a closet with an axe, chopping off a boy’s head.

The kiddies will never embrace Elmo again.

An ode to an online domme

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So the other day someone on Twitter noticed that I wrote about upcoming Quaz Q&A sessions. He is a “follower” of future Quaz @Goddessk1tty (a really nice person, by the way) and asked whether he could write an explanation as to why he turns toward online domination. I’m game for any/all guest posts—including this one from @k1ttylove1

I know this is strange but I love online domination. It can be an escape from reality and also makes me feel free from my boring vanilla life. I live outside of Toronto and I work at a paper factory. I have a good job, but My job is boring. I don’t hate it but I don’t look forward to it. My homelife is also just pretty normal. I have a son I share custody with, and I have a girlfriend who I see once a week, or twice sometimes.

Worshiping Kitty has made my life more thrilling. She’s kind and warm, but she knows what she wants. I pay her what I can for the honor of making her life better. She is clearly very sexy, but it’s more than that. She has a level of …I don’t know what you would call it. When she commands, I come running. I just want to please her so badly, and kneel before her, and have her command me. I have no choice but to listen, because she owns me and I know it. I have tried to escape, but catch myself.

Anyhow, I hope that explains it.

I don’t think worshiping a dominant is for everywhere, but it is for me.

I worship Kitty.

Go Leafs!

Fucking fleas

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I love my dog. She’s terrific.

But this week she has fleas.

Fucking fleas.

I found out when I took her for her trim, and the place called and said, “So … Norma has fleas.”

What?

“Fleas.”
“Norma? The dog?”

“Yes.”

Norma is my first dog, so she’s my first dog with fleas. And it’s as nasty as it sounds. She came home clean, but quickly picked up a bunch of crawlers. It’s nasty. They scurry left. They scurry right. They hide beneath the hair. I was actually standing with Norma in the back yard, and I hosed her town, then started Tweezing away the bugs. It sucked.

We’ve since cleaned the house, washed the clothes, cleaned the dog again.

It sucks.

Donald Trump cannot throw out the World Series first pitch

October 17, 2019
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Taft lets one loose.

Game 3 of the World Series will be played on Oct. 25—the first time the Fall Classic has touched the nation’s capital since 1933, when the Giants and Senators did battle.

It is a game that—in any other time period—would beg for the president of the United States to throw out the first pitch. As tradition suggests, he would walk from the dugout to the mound, decked out in dress pants, dress shoes, a collared shirt and a blue-and-red Nationals jacket. He would stand on the rubber, wave to the fans, smile, take a few steps in, then loft the baseball somewhere in the vicinity of the glove held aloft by Kurt Suzuki, the Nationals’ catcher.

Some people would cheer and some people would boo, because, well, people would cheer and boo. Republicans. Democrats. Independents. Politically inclined. Politically indifferent. But everyone would embrace the presence of America’s commander in chief in the middle of a ball field. It’s what we do. It’s how we behave. Barack Obama has thrown out first pitches. George W. Bush has thrown out first pitches. Bill Clinton did it, George H. W. Bush did it. Reagan and Carter. Ford and Nixon.

The tradition dates back to William Howard Taft, who on April 14, 1910 became the first president to toss out a first pitch. He did so in Washington—a Trump-like 300-pound man of little-to-no athletic note, slinging non-heat to catcher Gabby Street. The fans loved it.

Donald Trump, however, cannot throw out the first pitch, because he is the owner of skin the thickness of tracing paper, and the very hint of a boo or hiss would cause his world to collapse. He cannot throw out the first pitch because he refuses to project anything but winning and success, and the odds he matches George W. Bush’s legendarily perfect from-the-rubber Yankee Stadium dart is, oh, 0 percent. So bouncing ball into the dirt, or having it slip from his hand, 50 Cent like? No. No. No.

Donald Trump cannot throw out the first pitch because Major League Baseball is a land of immigrants, and—heaven forbid—he might run into a couple of Dominicans, or Mexicans. He might be asked a tough question. Or receive a heated stare.

Donald Trump cannot throw out the first pitch because, truly, he does not deserve it. Just as he has yet to invite former presidents back to the White House, and just as he has yet to present Barack and Michelle Obama with their official White House portraits, Trump is incapable of understanding the importance of party-crossing decency; of standing before a nation and saying, “I am the president, but we are—together—a nation.”

He will never throw out the first pitch.

We are better for it

Emmett turns 13

October 14, 2019

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It’s my son Emmett’s 13th birthday today, and what I love most is that Casey, his 16-year-old sister, baked him a strawberry shortcake.

She gave myriad reasons: She likes baking. She likes eating. She was done with homework. But I know—and she knows—the No. 1 reason she baked Emmett a cake is because she loves him, and because they’re traveling through life together, and because they share a genuinely powerful bond, and because Emmett would never let any harm come Casey’s way, and Casey would never let any harm come Emmett’s way.

As soon as the clock hit midnight, the wife and I found ourselves parents of two teenagers. Which may well sound awful, but it’s anything but. My kids are tremendous company. They’re spirited and fun and eager and open-minded and chatty and willing to talk about most subjects.

At 13, Emmett (as Casey has done, too) feels more and more like a sidekick, less and less like a little boy I need to entertain. We play basketball together three or four nights per week—full-court games of one on one that leave us both sweaty and happy. Emmett is in his second-straight year of wearing a jersey to school every single day (The one above is a Vince Ferragano CFL dud), and his pleasure brings me pleasure. He’s a snuggler with his mother; a cooking sidekick with his mother; an excellent student who knows tons about robotics and putting things together. Later this week we will be (for the sixth-straight year) hosting the fund-raising haunted house at the local elementary school, and Emmett can’t wait. Yeah, it’s fun scaring kids. But the best part is doing it together—setting up, writing a script, somehow making it all work out.

Emmett isn’t overly competitive. He doesn’t need to be the best. He is 0% bully. He doesn’t mock kids and rarely speaks ill of others. He tells us quite often that he appreciates living in a low-pressure household. He’s the best hugger I’ve ever seen. He tries every food imaginable. He dreams of going to Africa.

I’m so lucky.

Trumpi Vanilli

October 11, 2019

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The year is 1989. The month is August.

You’re about two weeks removed from perhaps the most embarrassing moment in music history. On July 21, 1989, during a live performance at the Lake Compounce theme park in Bristol, Connecticut, the pop duo Milli Vanilli is caught lip syncing. There is no denying what happened—while (not) singing their hit, “Girl You Know it’s True,” the words and music keep repeating. And repeating. And repeating. Here’s the clip.

So, again, now it’s August. And while the vast majority of people have kicked Milli Vanilli to the curb; have thrown away their records and torn up their posters—you refuse. You are steadfast in your belief that—proof me damned—the two members of Milli Vanilla are singing. You saw their lips move. You know, deep down, they’re artists.

You believe.

So you turn out for the next gig, a sucker in a largely empty arena.

A sucker there for the show.

•••

Tonight, Donald Trump spoke in Minneapolis.

The best fucking oatmeal

October 7, 2019

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So over the past 1 1/2 months I’ve had a strange life twist.

Every Monday I wake up at (egad) 4:40, climb out of bed, get dressed and drive up to Santa Monica, where I’m working as a writer for “Fair Game,” the Kristine Leahy Show.

It’s a long story how this all transpired, but in short: I wanted to try writing for a different medium, I had appeared as a guest on the program, it seemed like a fun/quirky idea, thus far I love it, etc … etc.

Anyhow, even though I don’t arrive until 9:30, leaving at 5 allows me to avoid sitting in 2 1/2 hours of traffic. So I get here early, pull to the side of a road, nap in my car for 30 minutes or so, then rise and eat the absolute greatest fucking oatmeal that’s ever existed on the face of the earth.

I’m not exaggerating.

It’s served at a tiny cafe called LoCal Coffee and Market, a charming joint with very little seating, a bathroom key attached to a mug, fantastic music, delicious drinks and—again—oatmeal created via another level of culinary consciousness. I’m not entirely sure of all the ingredients, but it includes multiple fruits, milk and this granola that oozes flavor. I actually just joked to the two baristas that, should my job end, I’ll still make the 5 am drive, gobble my oatmeal and head back home.

Which isn’t that big of a stretch.

So good.

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Batshit crazy

October 2, 2019

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Watch this.

Just watch.

Tell me the president of the United States is well.

Tell me he’s well.

And while we’re on the subject—he’s mad at Adam Schiff. Furious. Because he “made things up.” And “making things up” is treasonous. Like making up a scenario where you were at Ground Zero helping search for survivors. Like making up a scenario where the head of the Boy Scouts called you to praise your speech to a jamboree. Like making up a scenario where you have people on the ground with “proof” the 44th president is a Kenyan-born Muslim. Like making up a military pay raise to troops standing before you. Like making up inaugural attendance figures. Like making up voter fraud in states you failed to win.

Watch this.

And tell me this man is well.

Also, to be clear, this dates back. As you know by now, I wrote a book about the United States Football League—the 1983-85 NFL rival that Trump killed. During that span he lied to the other USFL owners about meetings with TV executives, about league finances, about a meeting with the NFL commissioner. He lied under oath during the USFL v. NFL trial.

He lies.

And lies.

And lies.

And he’s crazy as fuck.

I was going to buy a house from Mary Goulet …

September 30, 2019

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I was going to buy a house from Mary Goulet.

Granted, I’m not moving to San Diego. Or even planning a move to San Diego. But—for the sake of this blog post—I was going to buy a house from Mary Goulet, realtor and possessor of your dream home. It seemed like a good idea. No, a GREAT idea!

Then I found her Twitter feed

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And as much as I desperately want to buy a home from Mary Goulet, I can’t possibly do it.

Why? Because how could anyone trust her judgement? I’m being serious. The previous owner of the home tells her there are five bathrooms. She counts three. “No, there are five,” the seller says.

“OK,” she replies. “There are five.”

She’s concerned about a neighborhood. “I hear there’s been a lot of crime here,” she says to the local Chamber of Commerce head.

“No,” he replies, “it’s great here.”

“OK,” she says. “I guess it’s great here.”

Mary is the personification of #MAGA—a lemming believer in a man who has lied and lied and lied. A lemming participant in the #FAKENEWS propaganda spread who has (I’m guessing) never asked why Donald Trump hung fake Time Magazine covers inside his country clubs; why he created a fictional publicist to present his side; why he continued to hire undocumented immigrants well after damning undocumented immigrants.

She certainly never asked how Mr. #Fakenews has repeatedly lied about his role in 9.11. Has never asked why he continues to take credit for nonexistent patriotic acts in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Why?

Because that would take thought.

A house-sized amount of thought.

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Walking the sideline

September 28, 2019

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My son Emmett’s flag football season starts today.

He’s 12 and a member of the Raiders. In the past he’s played quarterback, but—if we’re being honest—he’s a little too much Henry Burris, a bit too little Lamar Jackson. Meaning, this year, he’s the center.

I digress.

Yesterday was the team’s third practice, and yesterday also marked the third time one of the dads paced the sidelines, instructing his son from 20 yards away. In the old days, this sorta thing would ultimately prompt me to mutter something loud enough for the guy to hear. But I’ve calmed a bit with age, and now I merely weep for the poor child who needs to endure this on a weekly basis.

I do wonder, however: Why?

Why would a parent behave this way?

Why would a parent think he’s adding something to his kid’s experience?

Why would a parent think a volunteer head coach wants these types of contributions?

Why would anything think flag football—flag fucking football?!—justifies this level of interest and intrusion?

I’m 47, and my kids are 16 and 12. I’m (praise Jesus) coming toward the end of their youth sports careers—land of moms and dads with radar guns; land of moms and dads barking from behind home plate; land of moms and dads browbeating their kids for giving up on a loose ball.

It’s a plague.

Fifty NBA centers better than Al Horford

September 27, 2019
Gilmore: Best Afro ever.

Gilmore: Best Afro ever.

So in case you missed this, yesterday morning Bleacher Report posted a ranking of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. It was an awful list compiled by a well-intended young man who, I truly believe, never watched a game dated pre-2000.

What got me most, though, was the HONORABLE MENTIONS section, which included such men as Jimmy Butler, Jeff Hornacek, Kyle Lowry and … Al Horford.

I mean, what the fuck? A. The list was brutal. B. Al Horford? Seriously? I noted on Twitter that Horford wouldn’t be on my list of the NBA’s 50 all-time greatest centers, and someone called me on the statement.

So, for kicks, here is my non-Al Horford-included 50 Greatest Centers in NBA History. No charge …

• 1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The greatest basketball player of all time, in my opinion. Legend in high school, legend in college, legend in the NBA.

• 2. Bill Russell: Guy is only 6-foot-10, but eras change and he owned the late-1950s through much of the 1960s. Eleven NBA titles, the greatest defensive center to ever live.

• 3. Wilt Chamberlain: The guy was a seven-time NBA scoring champion whose battles with Russell are the stuff of legend. Selfish, moody, lotta lotta lotta erections. But a gifted low-post god.

• 4. Hakeem Olajuwon: The Bleacher list had David Robinson ahead of the Dream. The Bleacher list is in my trash with some old cheese and a sock with a bunch o’ holes in it. Two-time NBA champ on a team with not all that much talent. Twelve-time All-Star. Moves unlike any other.

• 5. Shaquille O’Neal: Just a dominant, Wilt-like presence who arrived in Los Angeles and—as promised—produced three titles. Then went to Miami and won a fourth.

• 6. Tim Duncan: I think of Duncan as a power forward. You think of Duncan as a center. We’ll say center—because when David Robinson left he slid over and owned the league. Just a smooth, unassuming, breathtaking court owner.

• 7. Moses Malone: The guy was so ridiculously good, and the way people overlook his dominance kills me. Won in Houston, went to Philly and won in Philly. As physically strong as anyone who ever played the position.

• 8. David Robinson: Here’s an interesting way to look at Robinson’s greatness. One year before his arrival out of Navy, the Spurs went 21-61. With The Admiral, they added 35 victories. Yes, he was that good.

• 9. George Mikan: This is weird territory, because were Mikan and Patrick Ewing to play an imaginary in-their-prime game, Ewing probably wins 20-3. Fuck, Mikan probably loses to Luc Longley. But for his era, he was an elite post presence who changed the game.

• 10. Patrick Ewing: He never won a title, and people skewer him for that. Maybe rightly so. But without Ewing, the Knicks were a sad-sack operation. With him, they were a decade-long contender.

Ewing.

Ewing.

• 11. Dolph Schayes: See Mikan, George.

• 12. Bob McAdoo: It’s weird—people my age remember him as a reserve with the Lakers, and that’s a bit unfair. In his prime with Buffalo, McAdoo was an all-everything center who led the league in scoring three-straight seasons.

• 13. Alonzo Mourning: Bleacher Report placed both Zo and Horford on its Honorable Mention list. Which is like noting both salt and nasal drip are fine condiments.

• 14. Artis Gilmore: The one thing I hear over and over about Gilmore—he was immovable in the post. Just a clamp that couldn’t be dislodged. Another guy whose career goes painfully overlooked.

• 15. Walt Bellamy: To go all Pulp Fiction on this list, Bellamy was a bad-ass motherfucker. The 1963 Rookie of the Year averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 rebounds per game over the course of his career.

• 16. Dikembe Mutombo: I was never a huge Dikembe fan. But facts are facts, and he’s probably right behind Russell as the greatest defensive big man in NBA history.

• 17. Bill Walton: Walton’s UCLA career is legendary. His NBA career was, sadly, injury plagued. But when he was great, he was spectacularly great.

• 18. Robert Parish: Yes, the 1980s Celtics are Larry Bird and the 1980s Celtics are Kevin McHale. But to have watched that team is to appreciate the efficiency and hustle of their steadfast center.

• 19. Nate Thurmond: One of five players to average at least 15 rebounds per game over the course of a career. Think about that.

• 20. Wes Unseld: It’s unfortunate if—like me—you remember him first and foremost as a mediocre GM. Because the Bullets longtime center was a five-time All-Star whose confrontations with Kareem were always riveting.

Sampson, left, and The Dream

Sampson, left, and The Dream

• 21. Dwight Howard: Dwight Howard? Dwight Howard!? How can you be serious and list Dwight Howard among the best centers of all-time? Um, because from 2006-2014 he was doing things guys like Al Horford couldn’t imagine. Too often we envision guys as they are toward the end. Howard, in his prime, was fabulous.

• 22. Jack Sikma: It’s always befuddling how forgettable Sikma, considering he had Big Bird’s hair and played for some tremendous Sonics teams. Opposing players will tell you: Sikman was a star.

• 23. Dan Issel: Another guy who goes forgotten, but shouldn’t. In 10 years with Denver he averaged just shy of a double-double, with 22.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

• 24. Pau Gasol: It’s weird, but I don’t give Gasol the credit he deserves. Not sure why. Memphis years? Second fiddle to Kobe? Whatever the case—not fair to a six-time All-Star.

• 25. Bob Lanier: An eight-time All-Star who, over 14 NBA seasons, averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Also had the biggest feet anyone has ever seen (Size 22).

• 26. Neil Johnston: Yeah, he was only 6-foot-8. And, yeah, he probably doesn’t make a bench in 2019. But from 1951-59, Johnston was a six-time All-Star who averaged 19.4 points and 11.3 rebounds.

• 27. Dave Cowens: Legendary Celtic stud was an eight-time All-Star who averaged 17.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. Al Horford couldn’t sniff his shoes.

• 28. Willis Reed: Yeah, he limped onto the court to save the day. But his overall body of work, during a ridiculous era for big men: Worship-worthy.

• 29. Bill Laimbeer: The Darth Vader of the NBA was shockingly, shockingly good.

• 30. DeMarcus Cousins: Here’s the truth—I hate everything about Cousins as an NBA player. Truly, I do. Selfish, moody, dumb. But has he been a superior player to Horford? Until last year, yes. And the numbers don’t lie.

• 31. Vlade Divac: Ignore what I said earlier—sometimes stats do lie. Vlade’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, but he added 100 different positives to every team he played for. The Kings were Chris Webber and Mike Bibby. But, truly, they were little without Divac.

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• 32. Yao Ming

• 33. Brad Daugherty

• 34. Ralph Sampson

• 35. Karl-Anthony Towns

• 36. Johnny Kerr

• 37. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

• 38. Arnie Risen

• 39. Marc Gasol

• 40. Clyde Lovellette

• 41. Wayne Embry

• 42. Rik Smits

• 43. Joel Embiid

• 44. Chris Bosh

• 45. Ed Macauley

• 46. Larry Foust

• 47. Jeff Ruland

• 48. My Uncle Marty

• 49. Al Horford

•••

OK, I’ll give the guy 49. But only because Bill Cartwright’s Knick run wasn’t as grand as I remembered …

The chug heard around the world

September 24, 2019

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The best moment of any interview in the history of all interviews took place earlier today, when NBC’s Chuck Todd interviewed Republican Senator John Kennedy

… and took a chug from his coffee cup.

You probably need to watch the whole thing to understand, but as Kennedy—yet another Republican Trump lackey trying to somehow defend the conman president from the indefensible—blathered on and on and on about the media and innocence and Joe Biden and Ukrainian blah blah blah, Todd picked up his blue mug and took a big ol’ sip.

Honestly, it was a motherfucking sip for all of us in the working media. All of us who have heard #Fakenews. All of us who have had to endure the insults and slurs of a largely honorable workforce. All of us who had to sit and watch as far-right bloggers and conspiracy artists were invited to the Rose Garden. All of us who entered the field to uncover truth.

All of us.

Chuck Todd’s gulp said, “I’m exhausted. Of the lies and the deceit. Of the mindlessness. Of the viciousness. I’m tired of sitting here as some ignorant fuck who couldn’t pass seventh grade American history carried water for a man who couldn’t pass fourth grade American history.”

Drink on, bruh.

Drink on.

John Cardillo: Selective Patriot

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Sometimes certain people in this world catch your attention. And later, when someone asks, “What the fuck—are you obsessed?” the honest answer is a sound, “Yes. Yes, I am.”

So I’ll say it. This week, I am obsessed with a man named John Cardillo.

I wish I were obsessed in a good way. I wish I could look at him and think, “Boy, that’s a virtuous guy” or even, “Wow, what a handsome rascal.” I wish my obsession involved intellect, savvy, smarts, kindness. I wish I was looking at John Cardillo and listing all the things I could do to make sure my daughter and son wind up just … like … him.

Alas, my obsession is something different. It’s an obsession over the looming question: How the fuck does someone become … this?

In case you’ve never heard of John Cardillo, he’s a TV guy for Newsmax, a conservative outlet that can be watched in myriad forms. And while Newsmax isn’t my taste (I swore off all cable news about two years ago—one of the great decisions of my lifetime), I harbor no beef with people (left or right) making a living in media. If John Cardillo wants to spout off conservative ideals, hey, more power to him. Plus, he’s actually a pretty charismatic on-screen presence. I understand why people watch (lord knows it’s more interesting than The View).

But here’s what gets me. And gets me. And gets me. John Cardillo is not only a New Yorker—he’s a former member of the NYPD. A police officer. A cop. And even with all the controversies involving law enforcement in America: 2019, I genuinely admire and respect police officers. It’s a beast of a job, you put your life on the line, you exist to protect and defend. If nothing else, it’s about 10 million times more noble and decent than writing sports books. So, again, nothing but props for the NYPD.

But if you’re from New York, and you served in law enforcement in my city, you don’t merely know the horror of Sept. 11. You feel it. You own it. The tragedy was our tragedy. The people lost were our people. Two thousand, nine hundred and seventy seven innocents perished that day. Twenty three New York City police officers died, and a whopping 241 have lost their lives since from 9.11-caused illnesses. I’ve written at length about my 9.11 experience, and the tragedy/horror/awfulness doesn’t compare—even come close to compare—to what others went through. It’s the worst of the worst of the worst.

So, please, someone explain John Cardillo.

In considering this blog post, I did a quick Newspapers.com search, and found an interesting July 30, 2016 column from Michelle Malkin that featured a heavy dose of John Cardillo …

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While I’m no fan of Malkin, and I could certainly do without the extraneous swipes at Barack Obama, you read this and admire the basic concept. “Blue Light Friday”—the idea of honoring fallen officers. The idea of remembering police who died in the line of duty. It’s a sound concept, and I support it, and it seems that John Cardillo wants to do right. I mean, the quotes are angry and the messaging clunky. But he wants to.

So here’s what I don’t get: Donald Trump is president, and John Cardillo loves him. L-o-v-e-s him. Parrots him. Speaks like him. Tweets like him. All but kneels before him in a President McClure-before-Zod sorta way. And while (I suppose) from a policy standpoint that’s fine, it’s … it’s … SO FUCKING HYPOCRITICAL I WANT TO PULL MY (LITTLE-TO-NO) HAIR OUT.

John Cardillo hated how Barack Obama dishonored police officers. Fine. I disagree, but I hear the take. Yet here we have, in Donald Trump, a man who has repeatedly (and by “repeatedly,” I mean r-e-p-e-a-t-e-d-l-y) lied about 9.11 and his actions on that day.

This is not debatable. This is not left v. right. This is not open to interpretation. This is fact. On a day when nearly 3,000 New Yorkers died, Donald Trump has created a story (stories, really) of what he did.

In a speech not all that long ago, Donald Trump told a crowd that, in the days after the 9.11 terrorist attacks, he was at Ground Zero, helping search for survivors. Really, here’s the link. To quote Trump: “Everyone who helped clear the rubble—and I was there, and I watched, and I helped a little bit. But I wanna tell you—those people were amazing. Clearing the rubbing, trying to find additional lives. You didn’t know what was gonna come down on all of us.”

This is, factually, untrue. Save for conducting an interview near the site, Trump wasn’t at Ground Zero in the days after 9.11. He certainly wasn’t helping dig through the rubble. In another clip, right after the nightmare, Trump said he had hundreds of people helping with the relief effort—also untrue. Like, a lie. He also said this to an NBC reporter …

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Again—not true. In typical Trump speak, it was all very vague and lacking in specifics. Years later Richard Alles, a retired deputy chief with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), confirmed that Trump had no one helping out; that it was utter nonsense.

On Sept. 11, Donald Trump went on TV and bragged of now having Manhattan’s tallest building. Here’s the link—it’s unambiguous. Shortly thereafter, he went on Howard Stern’s show and pledged a $10,000 donation to the Twin Towers Find. He gave $0.00 (The lemmings will counter—”What! He donated $100,000, you libtard!” Which is sorta kinda true/not really true—immediately before the New York State primary in 2016, Trump made a $100,000 donation from his foundation to the 9.11 Museum. He has never given his own money.)

It’s all a lie.

All of it.

•••

But here’s what’s funny: I don’t care if people of John Cardillo’s ilk like Donald Trump. It’s a free country, and if you want to scream #FAKENEWS! alongside a man who created fake Time Magazine covers in his country clubs, who invented a publicist by disguising his voice … hey, go for it. If you want to stand alongside a man who lied about a military pay raise to the faces of soldiers and asked that disabled vets be removed from the stretch of street in front of Trump Tower … hey, go for it. If you think it’s awesome that the same guy whose businesses employed undocumented immigrants (until very recently) hammers the usage of undocumented immigrants … mazel. A fake university that bilked people of their money? Shit happens. Lying under oath at the USFL trial? Meh. Fucking a porn star 10 days after the birth of a child? Whoop-dee-doo-damn. Inventing a telephone call from the Boy Scouts of America? Child’s play.

If Donald Trump represents your viewpoints, if you like his mojo—own it. Be it. Stand by it.

But if you’re also going to stand up for police officers and firefighters; if you’re going to wave the flag and ooze patriotism and speak for the glory and honor of the United States of America, I’d argue that defending a man who (on the subject of our greatest tragedy, a day when your brothers died) has repeatedly, unabashedly created stories to up his Q rating isn’t merely pathetic.

It’s fucking shameful.

Twitter does sex workers wrong with locking of accounts

September 20, 2019
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Photo via @Amethyst_Hypno

LC Graves, M.Ed, is a political and human rights activist who comes to jeffpearlman.com to express her dismay over Twitter’s recent locking out of online sex workers. Her work mainly focuses on LGBTQ+ and sex workers’ rights. She is bicoastally based and a helicopter mother to two cats. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Sex workers’ Twitter accounts are currently being locked en mass. Twitter has largely been considered the last major social media platform on which sex workers’ can post explicit content. For many, Twitter has become their main advertising platform. It has also become an invaluable tool for connecting with other sex workers, which is paramount to workers’ safety. Providers are rightfully panicking that this is the first step in removing sex workers from their last medium to share explicit content. Like so many other professionals, especially freelance workers, social media presence is the primary way providers are able to showcase their skills to attract clients.

This prolific locking of accounts (like this one belonging to Amethyst, for example) is causing fears in the community that Twitter will no longer allow providers to hold accounts. Even if providers do not lose full access to their accounts, workers are nervous Twitter will begin to function more like Instagram in that accounts will be easily flagged and deleted due to censorship which disproportionately affects women, sex workers, and sex educators. Others believe this to be a way to collect data on sex workers as Twitter has asked all providers to register a phone number with them in order to get back into their accounts.

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In some ways, this comes as no surprise as providers have been anxiously awaiting devastatingly restrictive new terms of service and website crackdowns in the wake of SESTA/FOSTA, a law which holds platforms accountable for their users’ actions. The law was theoretically created to combat sex trafficking, but it has done nothing to curb sex trafficking and has instead made it harder for law enforcement to find victims and has put sex workers in danger. Since the new law specifically targets platforms that advertise adult services, websites have been adapting their policies to censor any content which is sexual in nature.

SESTA/FOSTA came on the heels of the Backpage seizure by the federal government in 2018. In the last two years, most sex workers have reported significant declines in their incomes and client acquisition. Providers have also lost platforms for client screening and other resources to keep them safe. To compound the negative consequences of the two events, victims of sex trafficking are now harder to locate. The future of advertising and safety procedures for sex workers is at risk, and Twitter’s latest actions indicate that the internet is gearing up to be an even more hostile environment for providers.

Losing Twitter would be devastating for sex workers. It would be a huge loss for their business, safety, and community. Removing sex workers from online platforms only makes sex work more dangerous. While some providers choose sex work as it is the best fit for them, others seek it out as a way to transition out of otherwise dangerous or exploitative situations like abuse, homelessness, medical debt, poverty or single parenthood. So any attack on sex workers is an attack on some of the most marginalized citizens. Civilians need to show up for sex workers’ rights in the same droves they did for the Hustler movie and demand fair and equal treatment for sex workers.

[Jeff’s Note: Future Quaz Mistress Amethyst is one of thousands being impacted. These are good people trying to earn an income. It’s very unfair]

Something missing

September 18, 2019
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Pearlman (far left), Tim Giambalvo and Joe Grace: The fleeting pride of Mahopac cross country. Circa 1989.

So while digging through an old photo album yesterday, I stumbled upon a bunch of faded, worn-down newspaper clippings from my occasionally glorious, mostly pedestrian days as a distance runner at Mahopac High School. There are probably, oh, 20 pieces in all, and they ran in one of three local papers near my home in Putnam County, N.Y.

One way or another, they tended to read something like this …

trader

And as I was combing page by page through the book, I started thinking how—thanks to the death of the local newspaper and the rise of inane social media—young athletes no longer know the pleasure of anxiously finding the latest copy of X publication to see if they spelled your name correctly.

For young Jeff Pearlman, fourth man on the Mahopac XC squad, it was electrifying, thrilling, euphoric. I would never let a clip pass without cutting and saving it; I’d never allow Mom or Dad to go to bed without reading of their child’s exploits. It not only filled me with giddiness. It actually made me want to become a writer.

Alas, it’s a forgotten relic of yesteryear.

Bummer.

Uncle Marty

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My uncle, Marty Pearlman, died yesterday. He was 81.

Shortly after learning of his passing, I thought of the above photograph, which was stashed in an old album and took me quite a bit of time to locate. The picture was snapped at some point in the early-to-mid 1980s. For the life of me I’m not sure how it wound up alongside wayward pictures of proms and elementary school classes and Yankee spring training visits.

But there it sat—and still sits. It’s an image I love for myriad reasons.

First, because it’s so unlike my uncle, who was as athletically inclined as carpet and slightly less coordinated. The next baseball Uncle Marty caught would have likely been his first. He knew little about college sports and even less about pro sports. A few minutes ago I played my nephew Jordan in a game of NHL 18 on the XBox 360, and I (lightheartedly) chose the New Jersey Devils because it was my uncle’s home state team. Then I thought, realistically, he might not have known the Devils exist.

The second reason I love the picture is because it’s very Martin Pearlman. The number pinned haphazardly to the shirt. What appears to be an out-of-print discarded hospital bandage clumsily looped around his head. The sly smile, probably following some self-deprecating joke about his two left feet or 25-minute mile.

Third, because he’s young and vibrant and in the moment.

He’s the Uncle Marty I remember as a child.

My Uncle Marty.

•••

There is a thing that happens when people die these days, and it makes me uncomfortable. We go to Facebook, note that a favorite teacher or a third aunt has passed—then behold as the expressions of sympathy pour in. And I’m not saying anything’s wrong with it. But I tend to squirm, because in most of the cases I feel like a bit of a fraud; like there are tons of people more worthy of your sympathy.

In this case, however, I’m a bit broken.

Because I come from a particularly small family, every relative counts. And for the entirety of my life, Uncle Marty—Dad’s older brother—was a cornerstone. Throughout my youth, holidays would be attended by my grandparents, my parents, my brother, my Grandma Marta and Grandpa Curt, my cousin Daniel and his parents, Uncle Marty and Aunt Mary. That was it.

I was about 11 when my aunt and uncle got divorced. It was jarring—our family had never had a divorce before. I actually remember the last time I saw them together. It was at a distant cousin’s Bar Mitzvah in Virginia, and I asked my mom, “Why aren’t Aunt Mary and Uncle Marty dancing?”

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Uncle Marty, far left, with my Grandma Mollie, Grandpa Nat and my dad, Stan, in 1955.

I was too young to understand the pain Uncle Marty was experiencing. But, in hindsight, I can see the rawness. He was—in 1950s term—a guy who needed a woman’s touch. My uncle was the smartest member of the family, without much debate. He was  super well-educated (University of Michigan undergrad; masters at the University of Utah, PhD at Rutgers) and—starting in 1969—worked as a professor in the psychology department of Middlesex County College while also running a  private practice. But he was also sort of a wrinkled napkin. He was raised in an age when men didn’t really cook, or pick out their own clothing, or … really, do much of anything except go to work, come home from work, read the newspaper. There is a photograph, somewhere in a long-lost family album, of my uncle holding up a magazine cover that reads DIVORCE in bold letters. He’s smiling, but not really smiling. Happiness sans the happy. I always remember that.

My uncle attended a good Hebrew school. I know that because, come Jewish holidays, my Grandma Marta (Mom’s mom) would hear him read the prayers and whisper, “You know, Marty went to a good Hebrew school.” On Passover, his long-winded, integrity-loaded rendition of “Had Gadya” was music to my ears. High and low. On key. Off key. But hilarious and sincere and self-aware.

My uncle wasn’t just good conversation. He was terrific conversation. Delightful laugh, warm expressions. He was naturally curious; asked a ton of questions; could hold forth on anything from Trump and Clinton to Spike Lee films and Florida traffic. I knew he was my intellectual superior. And surely he knew he was my intellectual superior. But it never felt that way. He never held his smarts over people. Never, ever. When we spoke via phone, he’d always express genuine pride in whatever my latest book was—shocking and loving, because he knew little of the topic. It was sorta like talking with a boastful grandfather: “Jeff, you know, I have a friend who apparently loves the Green Bay Packers, and I was telling him about your Brett Favre book …”

My uncle was surprising. You wouldn’t think so. But he was. He wasn’t religious, but spoke Yiddish. He was super well-versed in belief systems, and liked understanding different modes of thinking. After his divorce from my aunt, he started going on Outward Bound adventure trips. The ensuing stories—told at holiday tables—filled my young mind with all sorts of intrigue and bewilderment. “Wait. They leave you alone in the forest for a week with a roll of toilet paper and a stick?” Yes. “And you paid money for that?” Yes. “Why?” To challenge myself.

He saw movies. Tons of movies. Bad movies and good movies. Tremendous movies and shit movies. I think it was initially a way for him and my cousin Daniel to connect, and his breakdowns of, oh, “Nightmare on Elm Street III” were always worth the price of admission.

After the divorce my uncle ultimately began a new relationship with a lovely woman named Patsy that lasted for some 30 years. It was, on the surface, a confusing pairing. He lived in New Jersey. She lived in California. They’d fly back and forth, back and forth—for three decades. Head-scratching stuff. Yesterday I called Patsy, and we spoke about it for the first time ever. “I know it always sounded quirky, but it just worked for us,” she told me through tears. “I never knew anyone like your uncle. I never loved anyone like I loved him.”

In the hours since I learned of his passing, I’ve been Googling my uncle—who leaves behind less of a social media imprint than almost any human on the planet. His Facebook page ID photo is blank. There’s no Twitter, no website. He published a text book in 2010, but the Amazon page lacks any author information (He’d have gotten a kick over the one review—a five-star rating that reads, “It was like brand new for a much better price! It was awesome! I would recommend this to other people!”).

The one thing I did find, however, made me laugh aloud.

And, I’m quite certain, once made my uncle laugh aloud, too.

Four years ago, Middlesex’s alumni magazine ran this brief entry on a page listing donations made to the college …

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Then, in the follow-up issue, this …

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It is 2019. Uncle Marty has died, and I am heartbroken.

But with the legacy of a son, three grandchildren and a life of intrigue, rumors of his demise remain greatly exaggerated.

The little you know …

September 16, 2019

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Brian Turnbull is a longtime Pearlman family friend. As we speak, he is battling Stage 3 Hodgkin Lymphoma. He’s a great guy, and I asked him to do some writing here. So first is an introduction, then a Brian Turnbull poetic original, “The Little You Know the Better.” One can follow Brian on Twitter here.

My first job was cleaning the fat off thighs and picking the feather off wings in the back of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen located in the Bronx.

I was 16-years old. By the time I turned 18 I had moved up to lead cook. I had once dreamed of playing in the NBA, but as the bad decisions piled up that hope deflated and I was kicked off the high school basketball team (barred, really, is the proper term). You see, basketball was my safe haven, my happy place. Somewhere I could let my emotions go and think freely.

What happens to a person when his happy place or safe haven is abruptly taken away? Let me fill you in. The bad decisions tend to hold heavier consequences and sometimes (well, more times) you’re saying “fuck it” instead of thinking things through.

The dean looked over the credits I accumulated from freshman year to fall of my senior year, and I still can vividly hear him say, “I’m sorry, but the amount of credits you have now are not enough for you to be eligible for graduation this year. We don’t think this is the best place for you. Please see your counselor for an alternate solution”.

In 2013 I graduated, from high school one year later than I was supposed to. I wasn’t a stupid kid, I just made highly questionable choices. I don’t know if it was seeing my friends going away for college in the fall of 2012 (while I was preparing for my “Super Senior” year) or the support of the counselors and teachers who locked me in a room immediately after I approached them with intentions of dropping out … but something resonated in my soul that I had to do better.

The following fall I got a call to work at the Times Square Dave and Busters as a buss boy, and within three years I was promoted four times and named Employee of the Month ,multiple times. I might not have realized it, but I was setting myself up to become a leader in the hospitality industry.

•••

Now it’s 2018, and I’ve just received a email from the CEO of Hyatt. He wants to set up an interview. At first I don’t believe it. My jaw drops and all the professionalism I’ve always projected soars out the window. I celebrate as if I’ve just won an NBA title. I do a lap around the lobby like I hit a home run to win the American League pennant. This is the greatest accomplishment of my life. I am hired to work for Hyatt. My life has never been better.

Then, on Aug. 3, 2019, I am diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin Lymphoma. It is hard to digest at first. I still need to stop at times and think, “Man, I have cancer.” The first time I thought I might have a problem was when I heard the story of James Conner, the Steelers running back who in 2015 was said to have stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma. Like Conner, my lymph nodes were swollen near my heart and lungs. I told my doctor that I had cancer before she even diagnosed it. I knew. And I accepted it.

How am I getting through it all? The stories of men like James Conner, like Anthony Rizzo. Like me hero, Muhammad Ali. He’s the greatest and he’s my hero. His words—“I am the greatest I said that before I knew I was”—is something I tell myself daily.

When basketball was taken away from me I found solace in writing. my ambition to be the best didn’t die in that gymnasium back in 2009. It was applied to the life i was going to live from then on and it showed in my work ethic. All the accolades I’ve collected via work won’t compare to the day I’m told the cancer is gone. My writing is my service to others who may be going through something similar or just need a little inspiration …

•••

The little you know the better
Brian R. Turnbull

Right before chemotherapy I learned I wouldn’t be able to father children. I’ve never felt so defeated, devastated in better words. My circle getting smaller disappointment growing it’s starting become an epidemic. There are days I just want to down a bottle of Hennessy just make the pain go away, at the moment those days are over. Then there are days when I’m asked how am doing and I just want to jump out the window, but will the pain stop? The bad days are overcoming the good ones but I’m not complaining that doesn’t really help anything. Then there are days when people who really don’t give a fuck about me want to check up on me. It drives me crazy but I don’t explode when deep down I really want to. For the first time in a month I began to start feeling sorry for myself. Slight depression, constant pain will eventually show its wear and tear on a person, eventually a drug addiction recently kicked will re-surface. These days the battles with my demons are becoming more and more tolling. Am I strong enough to fight off a relapse? Only time will tell.

You said you will be there—anything I need you got me. How naive for me to believe you.
How naive, how foolish could I have been to think you were built for this? How dare I think you were serious. Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was the feeling of hopelessness, maybe I was in a dark place and you shined a light that I didn’t expect. WELL I’m in a dark place right now and where’s the light you shined? I’m all alone, I shared my feelings, I opened up even though I was reluctant to but the words I’m always here for you if you need anything can weigh heavy on a human sometimes homicidal, in my case I opened up I let you in allowed you to give me false hope that you would be here. I thought for sure my corner was tight but in reality my corner was here for a publicity stunt. These bad days I go through alone, these bad days I think of you and rage boils, in that burning pit of rage is the Person I once knew, a person I’m losing if not I’ve already lost. Motivation stems from the smoke to come out the fire the other end rebirth, new life, stronger, mentally physically and emotionally. For that I thank you.

I Dominate

September 15, 2019

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So Emmett had his first flag football practice on Friday. He’s a member of the Raiders. I told the head coach I’d be happy to help as an assistant. He didn’t seem particularly interested. I am relieved.

I tend to sit by the side for the first practice, usually with a book, just to make sure the head coach isn’t Hitler. On Friday, I wasn’t alone. There were other dads. One, in particular, stood out.

His son wore a T-shirt that looked (and read) pretty much like this …

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The dad paced the sidelines throughout the session. He cheered when his son made a good play. He pulled him aside when he made a poor play. He’s not a coach, or an assistant coach, or an assistant assistant coach, but he felt compelled to serve as a private tutor for Junior during a practice.

I don’t understand these types of parents. Ever. Your kid is a kid once. For a very short period. A. How does flag football success translate into anything? B. How does being a sideline parent translate into anything positive? C. Why do you care?

Let the kid play.

He doesn’t need to dominate.

On Tebow and lacking empathy

September 14, 2019

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Much was made of Tim Tebow’s comments from earlier today, when he said that college athletes wanting to get paid was ruinous. His words, on ESPN

“I know we live in a selfish culture where it’s all about us, but we’re just adding and piling it on to that where it changes what’s special about college football and we turn it into the NFL where who has the most money that’s where you go. That’s why people are more passionate about college sports than they are about the NFL. That’s why the stadiums are bigger in college than the NFL because it’s about your team, about your university, about where my family wanted to go, about where my grandfather had a dream of seeing Florida win an SEC championship and you’re taking that away so young kids can earn a dollar. And that’s not where I feel like college football needs to go.”

So here’s what I never get about white middle-to-upper-class conservative athletes from American team sports. Or, I should say, here’s what disappoints me: Tim Tebow was raised comfortably. A family that could afford things like cars and nice clothing and meals out. Which is fine. But he played alongside, oh, hundreds upon hundreds of teammates who were raised anything but comfortably; who were brought up via a single parent working two or three jobs; who wondered whether the next meal would be dinner or a subsidized scrapple-and-unidentified-meat breakfast at school; who studied out of 15-year-old texts (the only ones the school district could afford) and looked left and right as 70 percent of their classmates dropped out.

Tim Tebow ate with these people. He huddled with these people. He prayed with these people. He surely knew of their struggle, and knew how badly their families—unlike, say, the University of Florida—could use the money from jersey sales.

He apparently learned nothing from these people.

I am a wuss. But I challenge Briscoe Cain to a fight.

September 13, 2019
Fake Tough Guys need guns.

Fake Tough Guys need guns.

In case you missed this, during last night’s Democratic presidential debate a Texas state representative named Jonah Hill Briscoe Cain responded to Beto O’Rourke’s suggestion of an assault weapon ban by Tweeting this …

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Social media jumped all over ol’ Cain, noting that threatening the assassination of a presidential candidate (or, really, anyone) isn’t a particularly good look for a member of the state government. Some of the replies were pure gold. One that had me laughing at the gym was offered by  Jack Burton, who—after Cain’s Tweet was deleted—wrote, “Why’d you delete that tweet? Squirt a little pee out knowing your ass is getting a call from @FBI?”

I digress.

Guys like Briscoe Cain annoy the fuck out of me because—like Donald Trump, like Mike Pence, like Ted Cruz—they’re fake wanna-be tough guys. I mean, see the photo at the top of this post? Yeah, that’s Briscoe Cain in cowboy garb, standing on some ranch near some fence. Only (gasp!) he’s not a cowboy, has never been a cowboy and almost certainly doesn’t know how to ride a horse or lasso a calf. He’s a suburban kid from the leafy neighborhood of Deer Park, Texas (home of Andy Pettitte and NFL kicker Zane Gonzalez). He attended college; got a law degree from the South Texas College of Law. His name has some history in Texas—a lot of society page mentions of  a Briscoe Cain from back in the 1960s. Either his dad or grandpa …

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Briscoe Cain is actually Briscoe Cain III. His grandfather, Briscoe II, was a mayor of Calvert in Robertson County. Which is weird, because in his official biography Briscoe III doesn’t mention this. Nope, in his bio he just “grew up in a working class home in Deer Park. The son of a plant operator and occupational nurse, he was taught the value of hard work and a strong commitment to his community.”

Right.

So here’s an offer I wanna make Briscoe Cain: Let’s fight.

Leave your gun at home. Stash the bullets. And let’s go toe to toe in the middle of a cell. Bare fists. Me v. You.

Am I tough? Fuck no. My lifetime fight record is 0-1, and the single loss was a staggering gym class KO. However, I am 100 percent certain I can beat the shit out of this sniveling little runt; this aspiring John Wayne who—despite a gazillion studies insisting it’s a bad idea—feels compelled to own an AK-47 and (apparently) keep it in his home. He’s younger than me, he’s surely quicker than me, he certainly talks tougher than me. But I will bust my fist into this guy’s nose, and I will enjoy doing so.

And I won’t need a gun.

On pleasuring oneself to Tanya Tucker

September 12, 2019

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So my latest episode of the Two Writers Slinging Yang podcast was a weird one that I’d long wanted to do—me breaking down my first year as a journalist. Here’s the link.

Yet while I use the 40 allotted minutes to discuss all sorts of mayhem—crossing police tape, writing about condoms, a prostitution sting gone bad—I’d say what’s evoked the most attention is a very brief reference to spans of boredom resulting in me jerking off to Tanya Tucker, a country singer of some note.

Let me explain …

It was 1995. My girlfriend dumped me. We used to receive tons of free CDs sent by record companies. One was Tanya Tucker’s box set. I had no interest in Tanya Tucker. Or country music. But one day a co-worker told a story about his friend, who allegedly was at a party that Tucker also had attended.

Tucker (the story goes) approached my friend and said, “You want to fuck me. I know it, you know it. So let’s go somewhere.”

Mind. Blown.

Was it true? Who the hell knows? Probably not. But, again, I was 23 and painfully lonely and painfully sexually repressed, and the above Tucker photo, and the story, and … yeah.

Here’s Tanya Tucker now, in 2019.

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Some things are hard to explain.

PS: To be clear, I’m not shaming Tanya Tucker. She’s 60 and has lived a really hard life.

Tyler Ugolyn has a blank Facebook page

September 11, 2019

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Earlier this evening my pal Michael Lewis texted, asking whether I was going to write something about Tyler Ugolyn, the 23-year old Sept. 11 victim I profiled the following week for Sports Illustrated.

So I Googled a bit, and stumbled upon this—a Tyler Ugolyn Facebook page with nothing on it.

And it got me thinking …

Tyler Ugolyn would be 41 right now. He would likely have a wife, kids. His Facebook page would be filled with wedding photos, vacation photos, hospital photos from the arrivals of his children. He would have all his friends listed—from Ridgefield High, from Columbia University, from Fred Alger Associates, from the jobs that followed.

Tyler Ugolyn’s Facebook page would be a tremendous scroll. That trip to Hawaii for his pal’s bachelor weekend. That drive through the Rocky Mountains. Birthday wishes to his mom and dad. There’d be throwback memories to old cars, old ceremonies. He would write about sports and politics and investments and his new puppy—the one who keeps chewing on his shoes. He’d tell the story of meeting his wife at a party or bar and through a friend of a friend. He’d recall that first look—her blue eyes gazing up from the floor. He would rave about her new career; about the books she reads; about the way she finds bargains; about what her love does for him.

He’d write snarky captions about his inlaws visiting. He’d talk trash to old basketball rivals. He’d mock Columbia’s lousy sports program. His FAVORITES listing would be filled with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant; with trucks and rock music.

He would bemoan getting older in that serious-but-not-too-serious way. The jumper that once always found net would be a bit rusty. He’d mourn not playing enough hoops. But his back is sore. His feet are tired. Plus, his daughter has ballet three days a week. Someone has to drive her.

His Facebook page would be a celebration of the collection of people and experiences that is life. O

Instead, on Sept. 11, 2019, Tyler Ugolyn has a blank Facebook page.

Eighteen years after his death, that feels horribly appropriate.

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RIP

Lee Greenwood (doesn’t blow)

September 9, 2019
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Greenwood on the sax. Who knew?

So yesterday evening I planned a surprise outing for the wife. We were leaving the kids home and going somewhere interesting.

“Where?” the wife asked.

I refused to say.

We drove about 20 minutes north to the Orange County Fairgrounds, home to the small-yet-splendid Pacific Amphitheatre. I had offered some hints en route—the camouflage hate atop my head, the suggestion that there’d be a fair #MAGA turnout, the sly grin.

She guessed a few times.

“Darius Rucker?” the wife said.

“No,” I said, laughing. “There will be, I’m guessing, no blacks attending this.”

“AC/DC?”

“Way off.”

Finally, as we pulled into the lot the wife saw a man wearing a black T-shirt featuring a bald eagle and the words, BLESS THE USA

“Are we seeing Lee Greenwood?” she said.

“Yes,” I replied. “Yes we are.”

The wife isn’t a big Lee Greenwood fan, and she’s as liberal as I am. But she’s also an absolute sucker for Greenwood’s one song, “God Bless the U.S.A.” So when I saw he was coming to our turf, I plunked down the $20 or so per ticket.

To be honest, I expected a carnival of Trump hats, of Obama bashing, of hate-hate-hate. I expected to giggle beneath my breath as idiot #MAGA bots roamed the building waving flags and barking about taking back America.

I.

Was.

Terribly.

Wrong.

The event actually featured the Pacific Symphony performing patriots songs to honor veterans and active-duty soldiers. And it was fucking awesome. The Ampitheatre was about, oh, 80 percent filled, and I’d say half of those people were affiliated with the military. There was almost no sign of Trump loyalty (or disloyalty)—just people who had fought for what they believe, standing to salute the flag, crying as the symphony (along with a choir) played a slow, stirring hymm as two large screens projected images of myriad military cemeteries.

Greenwood emerged 3/4 of the way through the night—77-years-old, a bit shrunken, but engaged, entertaining, enlightening. He mentioned politics not once, and (via reading later that night) learned he actually has little interest in the politicizing of his music. Yes, he voted Trump and clearly leans conservative. But he also told Rolling Stone he would have proudly played Obama’s inauguration had he been asked; that he loved our nation more than any party.

When he belted out, “God Bless the U.S.A.,” all the attendees stood, sang, applauded. A few rows in front of us, a man in his 90s beamed beneath a hat marking his service in both the army and marines. One person after another stopped to thank him, and he—without fail—replied with, “Thank you for thanking me.”

It felt like the America I still love.

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Death of the black widow

September 7, 2019

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So a few minutes ago, as my dog peed for the final time this evening, I noticed a unique spider in a web outside the house. I flashed my phone on it, and the wife said, “Is that a black widow?”

We did an image search. Yup—black widow.

Shit.

Even though we’ve lived in California for five years, there’s still a lot of nature stuff that confuses me/freaks me out. The occasional snake sighting, for example. Or the regular sounds of coyotes howling as we fall asleep. In New York we’d have skunks and raccoons, but neither species was poisonous or particularly scary.

Black widow spiders? Fucking scary.

So I decided the black widow needed to die. Which brings me no joy, since I usually avoid killing bugs altogether. But these things are poisonous. And dangerous to kids. I returned inside, grabbed one of my sneakers.

“Don’t use that!” Catherine said. “What if the venom gets on the bottom and you spread it.”

I’m not sure that’s possible—but OK. I picked up a cardboard box. “You’re not trapping it, are you?” the wife said.

“What?”

“Trapping it …”

“No.”

I walked outside. Approached the black widow. Took the box and slowly … slowly … slowly …

SLAM!

The black widow is dead.

And I feel guilty.

 

Today I lost my shit on a pickup basketball court

August 31, 2019

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It’s 4:30 pm.

About six hours ago, I lost my shit on a pickup basketball court.

In my defense, it was hot. And not normal California hot, but humid, with sweat pouring out of 95 percent of my pores. Also in my defense, I’m old (47) and crusty, and within the past year I’ve really noticed a fading in my not-so-impressive-to-begin-with skills. Or, put differently, I’m now a defensive rebounder who plays mediocre defense and gets very few rebounds. So, yeah. That contributed to the orneriness.

Mainly, though I lost my shit because I was placed (by luck of the draw) on the same team as a point guard who dribbles with his head down and rarely passes. Which would be OK were he aware of said deficiencies. But he’s not. He thinks he’s Steve Nash. In fact, when I told him that he needed to dish the ball, he told me he was relying on his “peripheries.”

Yes, his peripheries.

I lost it.

Our team actually won its first game, but the guy was brutal. I’d post up low—no entry pass. Our best player would set up on the wing—no distribution. Wanna-be Nash just dribbled, dribbled, dribbled, dribbled. Into the corner. Into double teams. Against quicker, smarter opponents. He dribbled and dribbled and dribbled and, finally, I lost it.

“Pass the fucking ball!” I screamed.

“You’re not getting open!” he screamed back.

“You wouldn’t know!” I said. “Because you don’t look up. You just keep fucking dribbling. It’s fucking ridiculous!”

That’s when he explained that his “peripheries” were always on.

I didn’t even have a response.

It’s the blessing curse of my pickup games. The blessing: Exercise, some cool guys, sun and air and all.

Curse: Peripheries.

Trying the impossible

August 29, 2019
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It’s impossible—that I don’t vomit.

I gave up red meat in 2005.

I was 32 at the time, and the wife and I were spending our summer living in the wilderness, where she ran a camp for disadvantaged kids. Many of my days were spent solo, and there wasn’t much around—save Burger King.

I loved Burger King. God, did I loooooove Burger King. In particular, I loved the Whopper, for my money the greatest meat-sauce-vegetable triple threat of all time. I probably averaged, oh, a Whopper per month—not a healthy eating experience, but a blissful one.

One day, however, while the wife was heading the camp, I took a walk to the ol’ BK for a Whopper. And as I approached, I saw something: Smoke. Black smoke, oozing from the chimney. And for some reason, it reminded me of the Holocaust. Then I started thinking about a cow holocaust. Then I started thinking that red meat was unhealthy, and the only red meat I ever ate was Whoppers and those $1.50 New York City street-cart hotdogs.

So, right then and there, I stopped. And in the 14 years that have passed, I only once tried a Whopper. It was probably around 2011, and I just thought, “Eh, for old-time’s sake.” I pulled over, rode through the drive-thru, plunked down my $3, grabbed the sandwich, unwrapped it, chow-chow-chow-chow-chow.

Blech.

It was nasty. The meat fall apart inside my mouth. Like, into little balls. The bun was soggy. My stomach started taking weird punches at my kidneys. It was bad, and I was 100-percent done with Burger King.

Today, however, I returned—wife and son by my side. Much has been made of the meat-free Impossible Burger, so I thought, “Hell, why not?” We entered, paid, sat, ate.

And, at first, it was wonderful. All the glorious bliss of the Whopper returned to my tongue and my soul. The sauce is just otherworldly. The patty tasted exactly like meat. I was home, and so, so, so ready to bring Burger King back into …

Blech.

It’s been three hours, and I’m still burping that shit up.

It’s over. Again.

Andrew Luck was Done Wrong

August 26, 2019

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Beverly Oden is a Stanford University graduate and former member of the United States Olympic volleyball team. Follow her on Twitter here. Here, she offers her take on the media reporting Andrew Luck’s retirement—before Andrew Luck could.

Thirty five minutes.

That’s how close Andrew Luck was to a completely different ending.

Thirty five measly minutes.

Had he been granted those minutes, he might have continued chatting and laughing with his teammates on the sidelines as the Colts finished up their otherwise uneventful pre-season game against the Bears. Sure, they lost by 10. But Luck would have walked off the field content, able to fully experience being on the field, amongst his teammates, as part of his football team for one final time.

Perhaps when the last few seconds ran off the clock, he would have taken a moment to let it all in. He might have taken a long last look around the stadium, at his teammates, at the staff and the ownership. At everything that had been his life for the last seven seasons.

Maybe he would have shaken hands with the opponents, taken a deep breath and shed a quiet tear knowing what was to come. The guys would gather around him in the locker room, aware of the bombshell news he was about to unleash on the sports world. Maybe he’d say a few emotional words and thank everyone. They’d congratulate him on his career, embrace him, wish him well and promise to stay in touch.

He would have walked out to his car, gone home to his family and prepared for the press conference he scheduled for the next day at 3 pm. He’d be dressed in a suit, with his family in the room and his carefully prepared remarks. It would have been painful, but he’d exit on his own terms and in his own words.

Luck could have been given that last gift as he gut-wrenchingly ended his pro football career. One last taste of normalcy.

But that’s not what happened.

Because 35 minutes before the clock ran out, ESPN’s Adam Schefter decided he needed to break a story. He decided that being first was more important than being a decent human being — even though no other news outlets seemed to even be sniffing this news yet. Luck’s close friends who he’d talked to just the night before didn’t even know. The story likely would have been safe for 35 minutes. And Schefter could have still been the hero and claimed the scoop. And if someone broke it first in an attempt to establish a career, Schefter would have been just fine. He’s made his name. He’d still be employed and on television daily. He didn’t need it.

I get it. Schefter had a job to do and he did it. I worked in journalism for years. I understand the business and the pressure to be first. But this was just cruel.

At the time he broke the story, Schefter said he was at an Italian restaurant celebrating his mother-in-law’s 75th birthday. In those 35 minutes, maybe he could have been mentally and emotionally present with his family for this milestone that will never happen again. Maybe he could have put his arm around his wife while his mother-in-law blew out the candles. Maybe he could have enjoyed his personal moment while allowing Luck to have his.

But it wasn’t to be.

Thirty-five minutes before the end of the game, while Luck shot the breeze and chuckled with teammates, Schefter tweeted. As the news of Luck’s retirement  traveled through the stadium, the fans began to react. They angrily shed their Luck jerseys. They buried their heads in their hands. And yes, some of them booed as he walked off the field for the very last time.

Luck deserved better.

I’m admittedly biased. As a fellow Stanford athlete and long-time football fan, I’ve watched Luck play from the beginning of his collegiate career and all the way through the pros. I don’t know him personally, but I have enormous respect for his talent, his grit, his integrity and the way he has represented our school, his team and himself. Warriors know warriors. By all accounts Luck is just that, respected by teammates and opponents alike.

It breaks my heart that this warrior of an athlete who has given his body and seven years of his life to this sport, this team and these regrettably ungrateful fans, had to walk off the field for the final time to a chorus of boos. That will forever be his last memory of a remarkable football career. And that’s a shame.

At his impromptu press conference, dressed in a “ratty t-shirt” for which he apologized to his mother, he admitted that “it hurt.” Of course it did. Athletes as strong-minded and cerebral as Andrew Luck don’t walk off into the sunset at age 29 if there is any other option. For him to make this decision, and to have clarity about it, shows that none of us knows how unbearable it must have been for him. He talked about being in a dark place. He talked about the difficulty of his four year injury/rehab cycle. He talked about becoming briefly resentful of his back up QB. Every elite athlete, active or long-retired, listening to him speak could viscerally feel his pain. None of this was easy.

The man loved the game of football. He had so much more that he wanted to accomplish and a legacy to solidify. He gave his heart and soul to that organization and what did he get in return? Boos from a bunch of talentless, armchair quarterbacks who neither have the adequate intestinal fortitude to hold Luck’s water nor have the slightest inkling of what it takes to play at that level for all those years in that much pain. It was clearly a heartbreaking decision to walk away.

Shame on you, Colts “fans.”

Shame on you, American sports media.

But most of all, shame on you Adam Schefter. I suspect that in the past seven years, Andrew Luck has been nothing but gracious to you, giving you all the time you needed for interviews and stories as they arose.

You couldn’t even give him 35 minutes.

Shame. On. You.

On the booing of Andrew Luck

August 25, 2019

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For the eight of you who missed this, earlier tonight it was announced that Andrew Luck, the veteran Colts quarterback, is retiring from the NFL at age 29.

When they learned the news, a good number of Indianapolis fans booed him.

Yes, booed him.

Shame.

Luck arrived in the league as the first overall selection in the 2012 draft, and the ensuing years have been alternating themes of brilliance and pain. That Luck has thrown for 23,671 yards and 171 touchdowns is remarkable when one realizes he missed the entire 2017 season and appeared in only seven games in 2015. The guy just couldn’t catch a break, and the organization hardly helped, routinely placing him behind some of the NFL’s worst lines. He was a pinata, waiting to be demolished.

And yet, no complaints, no gripes, no whines. The guy has been classy, honest, upfront, giving, supportive. He seems to be the rare player who crosses the myriad locker room lines—race, age, class, politics, position. Or, put differently, teammates loved Luck.

When I first saw the boos stream down upon Andrew Luck, I thought about conversations I’ve had with different retired NFL players through the years. Most, if not all, come to the inevitable realization that they are mere pieces of meat. There is no Jets Family or Raiders Family or Chiefs Family or Colts Family. Fan loyalty only lasts as long as you’re performing. The league doesn’t care if you ultimately suffer from collision-induced brain damage and will fight to the death to avoid paying a cent of your medical expenses. The booing of Andrew Luck is shocking in its rawness, but it’s not particularly shocking. Colts fans viewed Luck as you would a possession; a shiny toy purchased at Macy’s. As the guy who tossed 39 touchdown passes last season, he was the King of Indy.

As the guy who walked off the field, a ghost of the promise that once was, he was useless.

Andrew Luck was expired meat.

What’s going on there?

August 24, 2019

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So most Saturday mornings I play basketball at a nearby outdoor court. I’ve been doing this for about three years, and it’s something I genuinely look forward to. The runs feature an eclectic buffet of players—a bunch of local high school kids, a couple of men in their 60s, some dudes in their 30s who, clearly, were once prep standouts, a few stoners, a guy who sweats like a faucet, another guy whose elbows are sharper than knives. We all know each other by first names and, sometimes, profession. Eric works in a sunglass factory. Kermit is a federal agent. Mark is retired. X just graduated high school.

Anyhow, it’s the best, and earlier today I was about to start my second game when the guy I was guarding approached, smiled, patted by stomach and said, “What’s going on there?”

Argh.

I have a gut. A small gut. But a gut nonetheless. It’s been there for, oh, 15 years—and it just won’t go away. The wife says it’s because of how I stand. Shit posture. But I disagree. It’s a gut. I hate it.

But … nobody wants to hear they have a gut. I grinned, said, “Hey, I’m 47.” And it’s true—I’m 47. Weight sticks at this age. It blows, but it’s true.

Still, I don’t want you to tell me about it.

Especially on the court.

Disloyalty

August 21, 2019

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Back during my childhood in Putnam County, N.Y., my family was part of a small Jewish congregation named Chavura Beth Chai. It was founded by a handful of families (the Pearlmans included) who wanted to practice spirituality in a comfortable setting with familiar faces and a relatively laid-back approach. For much of my youth our services and Hebrew school were held on the campus of Lincoln Hall, a reform school for boys. We switched rabbis every three or four years, often hiring recently graduated students to lead the congregation. There were probably, oh, 20 kids, and we grew up spending our Sunday mornings together.

I’ve never been a particularly religious person, but the Chavurah was (and still remains) home.

I hadn’t given much thought to my Jewish youth of late, but then—earlier today in Washington—Donald Trump lit into American Jews (who don’t back the GOP), noting, “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

Now, I know many were pissed by this. And many others were bewildered by the stupidity of the sentiment. For me, though, I can’t help but think the 45th president (a man who has certainly been exposed to Jews throughout his life) simply doesn’t get us. See, I was raised in the manner many reform and conservative Jews of the 1970s and 1980s were raised—yes, to love Israel, but mainly to love others. To fight for the oppressed. To empathize with the suffering. To realize that being Jewish means having a distant history of enslavement and a modern history of being prejudged, mocked, scorned, belittled. Jews played major roles in the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s because we, too, have fought for our rights and respect. We get it. We feel it.

Also, we are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Holocaust. The stories have been told to us, and we have promised never to forget what it was for Jews to be treated as animals; to be thrown into cages; to die in a struggle to exist.

Were there a recurring theme of my Chavurah experience, it was—love. Love your family. Love your neighbors. Love your enemy. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Feel the pain of another, and seek to lessen it. Hug, Kiss. Smile. Inspire.

Donald Trump assumes we—as a people—are mindless, single-issue lemmings, easily swayed by his bullshit love affair with the grotesque Benjamin Netanyahu. He thinks we’ll line up behind him because he relocated an embassy and ignored the needs of Palestinians.

What he doesn’t get—and will never get—is that we are a religion of the people. We do not exist for Israel.

We exist to love.

The president of the United States ridiculed me in front of thousands of people? Ha Ha! Love the guy!

August 17, 2019

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The man pictured above is named Frank Dawson.

He is a retired Naval officer who worked many decades as a U.S. marshal.

Last night, at the #MAGA rally in Manchester, N.H., the president of the United States fat shamed Dawson, 64, in front of thousands of people, confusing him for a protester and saying into the microphone, “That guy’s got a serious weight problem. Go home. Start exercising. Get him out of here please. Got a bigger problem than I do. Got a bigger problem than all of us. Now he goes home and his mom says, ‘What the hell have you just done?'”

It was disturbing stuff, both because who is anyone to fat shame anyone, and who is our obese president (in particular) to fat shame anyone?

Anyhow, I was horrified, you were horrified—but Frank Dawson, according to this Fox News clip, was anything but horrified.

This, from the Boston Globe

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Trump later called Dawson, not to apologize but to apparently thank him for ripping away signs from protesters.

Apparently his pride was ripped away, too.

PS: Here’s Dawson at the rally …

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Michigan’s Man of the Year

August 16, 2019

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In case you missed this one, tonight in a speech in New Hampshire Donald Trump told the attendees that he was once named Michigan’s Man of the Year.

An award that does not exist.

It’s not the first time he’s made such a claim. Back in 2016, according to various outlets, he boasted of being named Michigan’s Man of the Year, and even discussed the accompanying acceptance speech. This, from CNN’s Daniel Dale, is part of what the then-candidate said when recapping his Thank You address to the people of Michigan …

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This.

Never.

Happened.

The 45th president does so many illogical, dishonest things that it’s hard to keep track. He’s said he helped with the recovery after 9.11. Lie. He’s said a Boy Scouts leader called to praise a batshit insane speech to a jamboree. Lie. He cites growth numbers that aren’t real, takes credit for achievements he didn’t achieve. But what gets me with this one—the Michigan award—is he’s just (poof!) making something up that isn’t even slightly real. Like, does he actually think he won Michigan’s Man of the Year and delivered an acceptance speech? Is this merely an extended version of the pretend Time Magazine covers he had hanging in his golf clubs? Is there a difference between a lie and a fact to him?

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One of the things that bothers me most is the double standard we apply to this creature. We teach our children not to bully—then have them attend #MAGA rallies where the president mocks overweight people, disabled people, liberal people. We praise sharing and compassion—then elect the greediest crumb on the globe. We focus on truth—then digest his lies.

Imagine were one of the #MAGA loyalists to apply for a job and place MICHIGAN’S MAN OF THE YEAR beneath the Accomplishments section of a resume. Like, oh, this …

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He would be laughed out of the room. He’d be deemed insane. The people doing the hiring would be telling the story for years. “Remember that crazy dude who said he was Michigan’s Man of the Year. Now that was fucked up …”

Self. Loathing.

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If you missed this, earlier tonight at a Manchester, N.H. rally Donald Trump mocked a protester as he was removed, saying into a microphone, “That guy’s got a serious weight problem. Go home, start exercising!”

Um.

A few issues with this:

• A. Donald Trump is obese. Not a bit chunky. Not heavy. Obese. As in, probably 40-to-50 pounds overweight. He was a tremendously normal-looking man who has become a tremendously large man. Which, of course, happens. I’m 47, and it’s increasingly hard to keep off the pounds. However …

• B. It takes a certain level of either audacity of self-denial to mock a heavy person when you’re heavy. It takes an even greater level of audacity or self-denial to do so when …

• C. So many of your backers are overweight, too. And while I have yet to attend a #MAGA rally (but sure look forward to doing do), all one has to do is watch for five minutes to see the XXXL folks in their XXXXL red-and-white Trump T-shirts. And what’s funny is …

• D. They’ll hear what Trump said tonight and laugh. Because the guy could teach a master class titled, YOU’RE IN ON THE JOKE, BUDDY. The course description would read: “Learn how to fool people into thinking they’re in on the joke with the bully, when—truth be told—he’s spent his life ripping them off and mocking them behind closed doors.”

E. There were three kids right behind Trump, wearing Trump garb and holding Trump signs and laughing as the protester was removed. Whoever the parent is, make sure and explain to your tykes that bullying is awesome. Make sure.

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• F. I keep thinking that, at some point, his followers will get it. That he’s not a brilliant businessman. That he’s not one of them. That he doesn’t care about their needs. That he’s a dime-a-dozen grifter.

Sigh.

David Woodley v Don Strock

August 15, 2019

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Just read up on the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback battle, which pits veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. youngster Josh Rosen in an epic battle of football-tossing rejects who would start for precisely, oh, zero other NFL teams.

It got me thinking about WoodStrock.

Back in the early 1980s, after quite debatable Hall of Famer Bob Griese departed the scene, the Dolphins relied on a quarterbacking duet that was—um, what’s the word?—horrific. Woodley had been a run-first, throw-later guy at Louisiana State who split time at the position. Strock had been Griese’s longtime caddy and a man no other franchises ever considered trading for. They were mediocre at best and crap at worst.

Then, in 1982-83, the Miami Dolphins reached the Super Bowl.

I’m not sure of the point here, save that quarterbacking is only one component of a team’s success, and those Dolphins (unlike there Dolphins) happened to have a fantastic defense and a legendary head coach who knew precisely what he was doing. Truth be told, were the year 1982 both Rosen and Fitz would be starting over David Woodley.

So, go Dolphins!

Casey behind the wheel

August 14, 2019

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Parenting is all sorts of weird. The highs and the lows. The elation and the heartache. The bliss and the anger. If a soon-to-be mom or dad tells you they’re prepared for what’s to come, they’re either naive or lying. The whole experience is one giant what-do-I-do-now fest.

What I’m trying to say is that yesterday afternoon, at a DMV about 10 miles to the south, Casey Pearlman, 16-year-old daughter of a hack sportswriter/USFL fan, attained her driver’s license.

Yikes.

I am so proud.

I am so terrified.

With great power comes great responsibility. And this is a great power. Casey will now be driving down unfamiliar roads, up too-fast-for-her-adolescent-brain highways. She will be forced to make sudden stops; to pay hyper attention while people are yapping and the radio is blaring. She thinks she’s ready, and I think she’s ready. But it’s scary stuff.

I drove Casey to the DMV yesterday, and the experience ranks in the Top 20. She was super nervous, and the wait inside the building felt about 10 hours, but lasted, maybe, one. Her hands were sweaty, her toes were tappy. When they called her name, she took a deep breath, walked up to the line. It’s that merging of elation and terror. I compared it to the time I called Jody Cohen to ask her to the junior prom, then hung up, then called again, then hung up, then called again.

When it was finally Casey’s turn to take her test, I exited our Prius and felt my heart pounding. She’s a terrific kid, and I know how badly she wanted this. We’ve taken about 50 drives with her behind the wheel, and what started as A. Lot. Of. This. ultimately turned smooth and sound. She’s very attentive behind the wheel. Knows all the signals, the signs. She was ready. I knew she was ready.

So I sat, and waited, and waited, and waited, and thought a bit about Casey being born, and Casey learning to walk, and Casey on my shoulders at Disney World.

And when she returned, and flashed a smile, I wanted to cry.

They weren’t tears of fear.

Just joy.

I was such a tool bag

August 13, 2019

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Earlier tonight I was digging through an old scrapbook from my freshman year at Delaware, when I wrote for the student newspaper and also contributed articles to my hometown Patent Trader. The pages sparked all sorts of memories—kicker profiles, nervous walk-ups to coaches, confusion over lacrosse terminology. I’m a sucker for nostalgia.

That said, I uncovered one thing that I never need to read again. It’s a letter I wrote to the Taconic Road Runners Club, the organization that helped me develop from a mediocre young runner to a solid-yet-unspectacular young runner. With some reservation, this is the note as it appeared in the TRRC newsletter …

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Where to begin?

• The unjustified cockiness oozes from the page. “Develop my running abilities to their peak”? What? I was a hack. Not even a very good hack. Slightly above average. And “now as a freshman runner on the University of Delaware Division I cross country team”? WHAT? I was on the Hens because the coach was an amazing man who didn’t cut. I was Division I solely out of luck. Truth be told, I’d have been a bad DIII runner. Jesus Christ.

• “Run with the best”? Seriously—I was barely surviving practices. Barely. These guys were so beyond my non-skill level.

• “Pearl”—I signed the letter with a nickname I was given in fourth grade by a Little League teammate. And now I’m referring to myself as “Pearl”? WHAT?

Seriously, it’s so awful it’s laughable. I honestly didn’t realize what sort of mojo I was setting free; couldn’t sense the people surely laughing at my inanity.

Maybe that’s just youth.

But, man, it was bad.

Ted Spiker gave one of the best commencement addresses ever.

August 12, 2019

Ted was my professor at Delaware, and a predecessor as editor of the student newspaper, The Review.

He now teaches at the University of Florida.

This was gold …

The Giants are retiring Will Clark’s number. Wow.

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In case you missed this—and you likely missed this—next year the San Francisco Giants will be retiring the No. 22 uniform of former first baseman Will Clark.

Oh, boy.

If you know anything about my career covering the Majors, you probably know Clark is my all-time least-favorite player to deal with. Worse than John Rocker. Worse than Barry Bonds. Worse than Albert Belle. Truly, I abhor Clark, and while much of that has to do with the time he humiliated me inside the Baltimore Orioles’ clubhouse, it’s really just an overarching feeling that he’s a racist piece of dog shit. And I’m pretty sure former teammates agree.

Anyhow, the honoring of Clark makes the Giants the unofficial official kings of assholes being honored. The team has already locked down Willie Mays’ No. 24 (nobody who knows Mays likes Mays) and Barry Bonds’ No. 25 (even fewer people like Bonds than Mays), and Clark locks down the holy trinity of dicks.

Which leads to the inevitable question: What about Jeff Kent?

This morning the president played golf

August 4, 2019
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A devastated nation. A putting leader.

This morning the president played golf.

He teed off less than 24 hours after 20 died in El Paso.

He teed off less than 12 hours after nine died in Dayton.

There are things presidents traditionally do on the days following national tragedies. Oftentimes they speak from the Rose Garden. They reassure a grieving nation that, somehow, justice will be served and life will carry on. They write letters to the families of the victims. They hop on a plane and rush to the scene. They hug and they embrace and they let the bereaved know that a country stands behind them.

Those are the things presidents do. Democrat and Republican. Conservative and liberal. Presidents known for their ethics (Carter, Ford) and presidents known for their limited ethics (Nixon, Clinton). With your office comes a messaging from the people. It is a mighty device to carry, and—when used properly—it is nothing less than magical.

This morning the president played golf.

It was at his club in New Jersey, part of a weekend getaway. He shot 18 holes, waved, smiled, wore his red USA hat with a flag embroidered on the side. He had nothing to say about the two tragedies besides these few Tweets …

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… and, really, what could he say? When a man lacks empathy; when a man is all about feeding his own ego; when a man fuels the very hate that is cited in 20 of the deaths—what words would work? What sentiments would soften the blow? Plus, the 29 people who died weren’t famous rappers or big-money donors; they weren’t MAGA-screaming loyalists or members of the Kardashian family. We don’t even know if they voted for Donald Trump.

So, truly, why would he care? Why would he cancel his plans and address a horrifying situation that calls for compassion and understanding and a human touch?

This morning the president played golf.

It was the best he could do.

J.D. Scholten

August 2, 2019
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If you’re a fan of quirky, unexpected journeys, J.D. Scholten is your guy.

Once upon a time, he was an obscure Division II pitcher at Morningside College. Then he was a significantly-less-obscure pitcher for the University Nebraska’s entrant into the College World Series. Then, two years ago, he nearly upended Steve King in an Iowa congressional race. It would have been an upset for the ages. Instead, it was a defeat that—in Scholten’s mind—shows how the Democrats need to approach 2020.

I don’t disagree.

At all.

One can follow J.D. on Twitter here, Instagram here and check out his old political website here.

J.D. Scholten, you are the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So J.D., you’re a lifelong Iowan and a Democrat. You live in a red state. I am beginning to feel v-e-r-y negative about our party’s chance to unseat Donald Trump in 2020. What about you? How do you feel?

 J.D. SCHOLTEN: I’m very worried about the 2020 Presidential election. That’s why as the candidates come to Western Iowa, I am working with them and their campaigns. If a campaign can do well in a place like Iowa’s 4th district, they can win.

J.P.: In 2018 you ran against Steve King—notorious racist and xenophobe—for his congressional seat. You lost narrowly in a heavily Republican region. What did you learn that the Democrats can utilize in 2020?

J.S.: I learned something from my political heroes (Berkley Bedell and Tom Harkin) that if you get out to the people, prove that you’re trustworthy, prove that you’re going to fight for the people of your district, you will earn votes.

Some of the best advice I was given was by a family friend, an activist and  member of the Winnebago Tribe. He said, “J.D. if you want change you have to get uncomfortable. Once you’re uncomfortable, you have to get others uncomfortable.”

J.P.: I’m always fascinated by this—what was it like, the call to King to concede? Is that awkward? Weird? In the course of an election, do you build up a dislike that sorta relaxes at the end? Is it hatred? If you saw him now, would you be friendly?

J.S.: It sucked. However, it was the first election night that he had to wait for the outcome. His campaign blocked media from his event. Meanwhile, we had a keg and welcomed everyone.

When I got him on the phone, he seemed a little anxious. I don’t know if anyone has ever called him personally when they conceded.

J.P.: I’m starting to wonder whether we’re decent? We, as people? Because we keep voting for racists and bigots, we keep falling for conmen; we applaud hatred? Not all of us, obviously, but so many. So, do you still have faith in humanity?

J.S.: I disagree. I feel the people of Iowa’s fourth district are good people. He gets re-elected because there are 70,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats. King is totally different in the district. His controversies don’t always penetrate the district. The more people are aware of his ideology, the more people are turning their backs to him.

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J.P.: Fascinated by your sports career—you pitched for three seasons at Morningside College, a small school in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Then, as a senior, you’re at the University of Nebraska playing in the College World Series. How did you make that leap? Why? And how big was the talent jump?

J.S.: Morningside was Division II and a member of the North Central Conference when I went there. Out of high school, I had several Division I offers but my dad was the coach at Morningside. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to play for him. After my junior year, I had a chance to get drafted but I turned it down. I did all I could at the Division II level and I wanted an opportunity to play not only Division I but on a top team. We were ranked in the top 8 all year and being in the CWS was a dream of mine.

J.P.: You went on to pitch a bunch of seasons of independent ball—including your last year, 2007, with the Sioux City Explorers. You appeared in 27 games and went 0-2 with an 8.25 ERA. Obviously not ideal. How did you decided to give up baseball? Was there a moment? A lightbulb?

J.S.: The irony was that the start of the year was the best I had in pro-ball. My first few outings were dominant but things went south. Baseball will always be the best and worst job I have ever had. I just had a moment where I knew I wasn’t helping the team and after doing everything I could to change the direction I ultimately decided it was best to walk away. I miss it everyday.

J.P.: Greatest moment of your baseball career? Lowest?

J.S.: Being on a team that made it to the College World Series will always have a place in my heart. I also had a chance to play 10 days of exhibition games in Cuba against some of their top teams. It was one of my favorite memories on and off the field.

There’s not one specific event that’s a low. Having to ride a 10 hour bus ride when you can barely lift your arm above your head knowing you’re on the bump that night takes its toll. Minor league baseball is very isolating. Not only are you competing against the other teams, you’re competing against your teammates in trying to advance.

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J.P.: How did you recover from losing the election? All that time, all that effort, all those speeches—then, pfft. Just seems insanely tough.

J.S.: Baseball taught me a life lesson of never getting too high or too low. Going into Election Night, we all gave it everything we had and I accepted whatever the outcome would be.

The night before the election, Sage Rosenfels and I played pick-up basketball at the Iowa State rec center. Mentally, that put me in a good place for the next day. We also went 5-0, by the way.

J.P.: According to your website, in October, 2002 you took a 20 hour one-way bus ride to protest the Iraq war. What’s the story behind that? Why? How?

J.S.: I was done with my eligibility but finishing up some classes. At the same time I was training to break into pro ball. I saw that Nebraskans for Peace were gathering folks to go to DC to protest the potential war with Iraq and I felt called to go. It was an amazing experience. I was taking a photography class that semester and I was able to take some cool photos that I still have to this day.

J.P.: So I’m a New Yorker, and one thing that kills me–just kills me—about Trump is his bullshit after 9.11. For example, he’s now said repeatedly he was at Ground Zero helping the search. He’s said he saw Muslims celebrating atop buildings in Jersey City. He took $150,000 from a fund for small business recovery. Yet none of it sticks. Ever. Why? And how do we make it stick?

J.S.: We need to ask the Republicans who are elected officials about these things. It’s the same with Steve King. The people who are going to put King in his place aren’t Democrats, it’s Senator Grassley, Senator Ernst or Governor Reynolds.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH J.D. SCHOLTEN:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Jenga, sriracha, Josh Beckett, raw cookie dough, Gordan Ramsey, La Croix sparkling water, Bill Frist, “Terminator 2,” Bill Cosby: La Croix sparkling water, Jenga, Josh Beckett, Gordan Ramsey, Terminator 2, raw cookie dough, Bill Frist, Bill Cosby.

• The world needs to know—what was it like having J.J. Burress as a teammate?: Do you know J.J.? That dude was scrappy!

• We give you a month to train then ask you to pitch one inning in a Double A baseball game. What’s your line?: In my mind: 1 inning, 2 hits, 0 earned runs. In reality: ⅔ of an inning, 6 hits, 5 runs.

• Three of your secret talents?: Sudoku master – there’s only one sudoku that I have started and wasn’t able to finish (because the paper was thrown away); I have a thing where I can remember driving directions after going to a place one time; I am a good card player (e.g. Rummy, Spade, Hearts…).

• The ideal 2020 Democratic ticket would be …: Yet to be determined.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: Flashes of good memories of family and friends.

• Three reasons one should make Sioux City, Iowa his/her next vacation destination?: -Charlie Boys at Miles Inn, -Saturday in the Park, -To volunteer for a campaign

• Three grossest foods in the world?: The two that stand out to me are some of those really smelly French cheeses and some of the bizarre fish dishes from Japan.

• What’s your favorite Snoop Dogg lyric?: From Gin & Juice: “With so much drama in the L-B-C, it’s kinda hard being Snoop D-O-double G”

It’s iconic.

• My wife is addicted to reality TV. How can I stop this?: My girlfriend is too. No clue.

I blinked. And now my daughter is 16.

July 31, 2019

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It’s Aug. 1, 2003, right?

My daughter was born last night at NYU’s medical center. We named her Casey Marta, and she weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces. She came out with the cord wrapped around her neck, and I was terrified. Why wasn’t she crying? Where was the noise? Why was she so pale?

Then the sounds arrived, and I could breathe.

It’s Aug. 1, 2004, right?

My daughter had her first birthday party yesterday afternoon. All the relatives came to our house. We had cake. People talked. Casey’s not walking yet, but she sorta made her way around.

It’s Aug. 1, 2005, right?

My daughter is 2. She’s walking, but not particularly well. She loves all things pink. I love walking into her room at night and hearing her soft in-and-out breaths. It’s a soundtrack I could die to.

It’s Aug. 1, 2008, right?

My daughter is 5. All about princesses. Princess dresses here, princess dresses there. Wants to be Cinderella. Because who doesn’t want to be Cinderella?

It’s Aug. 1, 2009, right?

My daughter is 6. She knows all the words to “Rock Bottom” by KISS. Her hair is the color of sunshine. When a cool breeze comes, she sticks her nose into the air to feel it.

It’s Aug. 1, 2011, right?

My daughter is 8. She plays an instrument, but not well. She loves school, and waiting for her at pickup is the high of my days.

It’s Aug. 1, 2014, right?

My daughter is 11, right? We’re moving to California in a couple of weeks, and she did not take the news well. On the morning we need to leave out house, she collapses to the floor and weeps. It’s a deep hurt. A bruise. I wonder whether we’re doing the right thing.

It’s Aug 1, 2015, right?

My daughter is 12. She has discovered this sport called water polo. Which is weird, because A. We know almost nothing about it and B. She’s never been athletic. She’s bad at first. Terrible. But she sticks. And sticks. And sticks. She refuses to give in.

It’s July 31, 2019, right?

Right?

My daughter is 16.

Holy fuck.

My daughter is 16.

I don’t know how this happened. The little girl who used to sit atop my shoulders is no more. The little girl who looked forward to our annual Christmas New York City fun days is no more. I am “dad,” not “daddy.” I am not the center of her world. She has friends. A job. A sport.

And yet, I am more in love now than I’ve ever been. She’s this person—tall, confident, smart, feisty. She takes no shit. In the pool, she’s a shark. She takes her studies very seriously, without us ever pressuring her to do so. She has good friends, a pep to her walk, a mannerism that makes me step back and say, “Wow. We made her …”

The cliche is real—parenthood flashes before your eyes, and one day you’re 47 and aging on the quick, sitting before your laptop and trying to put into words what your daughter’s 16th birthday means to you.

Well, here’s what it means to me: Pride.

I am overcome with pride.

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Being mean

July 30, 2019

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So I’ve just returned from the Harbor House, the 24-hour Dana Point diner where I do much of my late-night writing.

Shortly before leaving, I stopped in one of the two bathrooms to pee. The light turned on, I looked to my right—and there it was. A sink, filled with someone’s recently discharged vomit.

Now, as befitting its status as a 24-hour diner, and taking into account that college kids are home for the summer, it’s not altogether shocking that someone might puke in a bathroom. I mean, hell, the place serves alcohol, and I’m sure it’s a pretty terrific post-partying spot to chase down tequila or rum with eggs and bacon. So, again, I begrudge no one for having the mouth volcanoes.

What gets me—like, truly gets me in the worst possible way—is the audacity of A. Vomiting in the sink; B. Leaving it there for someone else to clean.

In this case, the guy with the mop and pail was the Harbor House’s late-night buser—a Spanish-speaking man in his 50s who is always warm and friendly when I plop down to write. I know neither his name nor background, but I do know he’s far too old to be wet vacuuming some 17-year-old’s chunks. I was genuinely horrified by the scene, and apologized to the staff on behalf of the asswipe.

Ugh.

Inside the car dealership

Sat for about four hours inside a Toyota dealership earlier today. My Prius is fucked up, so I thought I’d wait. Tables. Wifi. Free coffee and bagels.

Never again.

Car dealerships suck, and I never again want to spend more than 15 minutes inside of one. The walls are gray. The music is dull. The customers know they’re being suckered, and the people who work there know it’s their job to sucker the customers. Everything smells like either linoleum or tire, and there’s always a great deal that isn’t a great deal.

The employees look miserable. Absolutely miserable. It’s staring at a clock, waiting for the hour when you can head out to the nearby Wendy’s before returning to stare again at the clock. Your friends aren’t your friends, because it’s shark eat shark.

A car dealership is a headache in physical form.

A car dealership is the remains of a sneezing fit.

A car dealership is a plea for death.

Fuck.

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PS: This is Jeff Novak. He appears in the above video. He’s based in Cleveland. Yet I’ve now met about 700 Jeff Novaks in my lifetime of car dealership appearances. They’re nice people trying to convince you they’re excited about the car they’re trying to sell you, even though they’re almost certainly not excited about the car they’re trying to sell you. Because, with rare exception, 99 percent of humanity’s cars are dull as shit. I drive a Prius. It’s dull as shit. Growing up we had a Datsun 510. Equally dull as shit. When I was 13, my did bought a Chrysler E Car. It talked. That was fairly thrilling. Then, after a few years, it ceased talking. Dull as shit.

“Jeff, did you see this?”

July 29, 2019

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Woke up this morning after a crappy night of sleep. Checked e-mail. Then Twitter.

“Jeff, did you see this?”

It was a video of Donald Trump from earlier today, signing a bill that permanently guarantees health care funding for victims and first responders from the September 11 attacks. Here’s the snippet that was sent to me …

So that’s the president of the United States, insisting that he was “down there with you” in the aftermath of the greatest domestic attack in modern United States history. At other moments, the president has claimed he was helping with the digging through the rubble. He has said he sent hundreds of “my men” to Ground Zero to assist with the recovery (not one has ever stepped forward, and no officials with the recovery effort can recall this). He also has claimed that, as the towers fell, he saw (with his own eyes on television!) thousands of Muslims celebrating atop buildings in Jersey City. He also also claimed that he watched people jumping from the towers—even though he was four miles away at the time. He also took $150,000 in funding allocated to help small businesses impacted by the tragedy. He said he lost hundreds of friends on 9.11—but attended nary one 9.11-related funeral. Oh, and as 9.11 was unfolding he went on TV and boasted of now having Manhattan’s tallest building.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it: This is Donald Trump’s Swift Boat. His Willie Horton. The Democrats keep flailing around for arrows that will stick into the president. Well, here’s your arrow. What sort of thing lies about 9.11? About being there? About helping with the search? About hiring men to help with the search? What sort of thing lies about friends lost? What sort of thing claims funds for repairs he didn’t need? What sort of thing brags about now having the tallest building?

•••

I have a friend. Great guy. And he asked me this morning, “Why would Trump lie about this? It makes no sense.”

And my reply is, “You’re right. It makes no sense.” How warped does one have to be to fabricate his involvement in our darkest day. But there’s a little-known-yet true story about Donald Trump that explains this well.

In 1989, three Trump executives—Mark Etess, Jonathan Benanav, and Stephen Hyde—died in a helicopter crash. For years, Trump has insisted he was supposed to be in the aircraft with his colleagues; that it was “50/50” whether he would fly that day. And yet, three different Trump biographies report that he was never scheduled to be on the chopper. This, from Harry Hurt’s Trump biography, Lost Tycoon: “After being asked by a reporter, hours after the accident, to comment, via telephone, on the fatal crash that killed Stephen Hyde and several others, Trump muted the line and then said to the several high-level Trump staffers assembled before him, “You’re going to hate me for this, but I just can’t resist. I can get some publicity out of this.”

Hurt’s book cites a half dozen close-to-Trump sources who insisted the scheduled-to-fly line was a pure lie to gain points.

It’s what he does.

He lies.

Guys like Tom Odell

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So earlier this evening, after learning we had another tragic mass shooting in America, I traveled over to Twitter to get details. I read up on this and that, that and this. The scene. The number of victims. The pure nightmare of attending a happy event, only to wind up overwhelmed by carnage.

Then, after getting what I needed, I had the misfortune of seeing the feed of someone named Tom Odell.

Who posted this …

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And this …

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And this stuff shouldn’t surprise me. I don’t know Tom Odell, but odds are pretty good (based upon society and social media) he’s one of the hundreds of thousands of citizens who has had his brain melted by the nonstop #MAGA blender goop that is Hannity/Limbaugh/Carlson/Ingraham. I mean, how else to explain a man (who IDs himself as “Retired • Teacher • Business Executive”) replying to a call for gun control after a tragedy by noting that, um, Democrats are to blame, because they’re always the killers? Would a teacher—an honest-to-goodness educator—post such vile? Someone who works with children? Someone who promotes education, open-mindedness, unity? No, of course not. At least not one I know.

So who is Tom Odell? Sort of a mystery. He has a blog that came and went. An address exists. Phone number, too (I’m not listing them, obviously. The goal here is certainly not to harass the man). I guess what really gets me—in a, “What the fuck is wrong with people?” way—is the implication that Democrats are the ones doing all the killing with guns, and that’s why (ah ha!) Democrats are anti-NRA and pro-gun restrictions. Which actually makes no sense, because if we were so into killing wouldn’t we want more pro-killing laws, to keep our passion fruitful? Wouldn’t we be huge NRA supporters, because their gun restriction laziness helps our cause?

More to the point, wouldn’t Tom Odell—retired teacher—do a little more fucking research before posting a couple of graphics designed by “Politifake.org”? For example, here’s a list of all the mass shootings in America this month (“mass” meaning more than one victim) …

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Now, for all I know all these incidents involved registered Democrats pulling the trigger. Or maybe they were all registered Republicans. I have nary a clue. Neither does Tom Odell—because while he sure likes “Stick it to the libs!” memes, he does not seem to be much of a fan of research. What I do know (because I took a whopping 15 minutes to look this stuff up) is Dylann Roof was no Democrat. And Robert Gregory Bowers was no Democrat. And Stephen Paddock was no Democrat. And Devin Patrick Kelley was no Democrat. And Christoper Harper-Mercer was no Democrat.

I can go on and on. But what’s the point? I could tell Tom Odell that, in the aftermath of 9.11, Donald Trump not only lied about helping with the Ground Zero cleanup, but bragged on live television about now having New York City’s tallest building—and it wouldn’t make a dent. I could tell Tom Odell that Trump’s entire financial backstory is a sham—and it wouldn’t make a dent. I could tell Tom Odell that Donald Trump Tweeted out images of Hillary Clinton with a Star of David and a pile of money—and it wouldn’t make a difference (Ilhan Omar is the anti-Semite, after all). I could tell Tom Odell that the whole #FAKENEWS phenomenon he loves to cite in Tweets was created by a man who invented a fake publicist and hung fake Time magazine covers throughout his golf courses. I could tell Tom Odell that—on golf trips alone—Donald Trump has cost taxpayers $105 million thus far (making this re-Tweet from Tom sorta misguided). Hell, I could tell Tom Odell that Trump was never (as stated) an actual gun-carrying member of the NRA.

I could say all that, and it wouldn’t make a sliver of difference.

Because men like Tom Odell—powerless, sad, aching for the world to take notice—are here to spew venom and bring it to the socialists.

Truth and sincerity be damned.

Britni de la Cretaz

July 26, 2019

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There are more established sports journalists than Britni de la Cretaz.

There are more famous sports journalists than Britni de la Cretaz.

But as I sit here, writing inside a Starbucks on a July afternoon in 2019, I’m not sure there’s a more fascinating sports journalist than Britni de la Cretaz. I first came to the realization a bunch of weeks ago, when I sent out a somewhat, um, ill-advised Tweet about the WNBA and coverage of the league. It was a lazily thought-out message, one that was (rightly) attacked by myriad scribes. But my exchange with Britni was just, well, inspired. She’s smart, empathetic, engaged, willing to see multiple sides to an issue.

Plus, I then began to read her work, which is pretty damn terrific. In particular, there was this Ringer piece on women in sports broadcasting. And this one on the NBA and women referees. And this one on Serena. Anyhow, you can see her catalogue here—a goldmine of thought-provoking work.

One can follow Britni on Twitter here, and visit her website here.

Britni de la Cretaz, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: So Britni, you went from social worker to journalism. As a journalist married to a social worker, this fascinates me. Why the career shift?

BRITNI DE LA CRETAZ: I always wrote as a hobby, and had a blog for years. It was never something I thought I could make a career out of. I’d gone to school to be a mental health counselor, which is how I ended up doing social work. But I got pushed out of my job while on maternity leave with my oldest child about five years ago; I was trying to find ways to budget for our one-income household when a friend of mine who was an editor at a small women’s website messaged me to say she’d read my blog and thought I was good and did I want to be paid to write? I said hell yeah and started writing personal essays because I could do that without having any clips or experience. I used those clips to begin pitching reported essays and, eventually, settled into journalism. I consider it the career I always wanted but had no idea how to get, so I’m actually grateful for the shitty circumstances that pushed me here.

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J.P.: You wrote a lengthy piece for Dig Boston headlined, BOSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM about Boston sports and racism. And I’ve interviewed many people through the years who say, “Yeah, it used to be bad. But Boston’s very enlightened these days.” Is there any truth to that, or is the legacy of racism also the present situation of racism?

B.C.: I don’t think the racism has gone away, so much as it’s changed shape. It’s not as acceptable to be openly racist anymore, so the way white people express their racist beliefs has shifted. I also don’t think you can separate the current climate around Boston sports from its history; especially not when there are people still living who remember a time before the team was integrated. With the Red Sox in particular, we can applaud them for renaming Yawkey Way and for starting their Take the Lead anti-racism initiative, but they still chose to have their team visit the Trump White House, which created a racial divide in the clubhouse whether anyone wants to admit it or not. The racial slur hurled at Adam Jones at Fenway was only two years ago; the racial slur from a fan in the stands about the national anthem singer was the same week. Sports radio in the Hub is still a cesspool of offensive commentary. So it hasn’t changed as much as white people like to tell ourselves it has.

J.P.: So we were recently part of a lengthy Twitter exchange, involving many women reporters, about The Athletic and WNBA coverage. The site, to its credit, is covering the league, and all the beat writers are women. Which is dandy. But my point/concern is that too often sites, magazines, newspapers view women’s sports as a place to dump women writers and check off the OK, WE TOOK CARE OF THAT box. This was not received well. So … am I wrong? Is my concern stupid?

B.C.: I don’t think you are wrong about this generally, but I do think you are wrong in this instance. It’s definitely worth asking what beats and assignments women writers are being given (or denied). That’s real. But what’s also real is that a) it’s important to have women telling women’s stories and b) many women want to write about the WNBA or women’s sports. So it’s worth asking these women how they felt about the beat — and I think it’s problematic to essentially frame a job that these women worked incredibly hard for and are excited about as a consolation prize, of sorts. There’s a time and place for the conversation, but perhaps it’s not right after the first-ever team of WNBA beat writers is assembled, all of whom are women. Let’s celebrate before we critique in that case.

J.P.: You focus on the intersection of sports and gender, so here’s a question I’ve been thinking about often of late: What will have to happen for Becky Hammon to get a job as an NBA head coach? And what, do you think, will she confront?

B.C.: In order for Becky Hammon to get a head coaching job, a team is going to have to decide to give her one. It’s really that simple. If there’s a men’s league that was going to do it, the NBA seems the likeliest to me. What will she confront? Probably the same bullshit she’s been confronting her whole career and that any woman in a male-dominated field faces. But in Becky’s case, she’s been in the league long enough that she’s a known entity and most of the players and coaches respect her. I think she’d be likelier to face blowback from fans and potentially some media than she would be from players at this point in her career (though maybe that’s naive of me to say). I do think that what often happens when a woman breaks a barrier is that there’s a slew of news coverage of her as “the first,” the stories only want to focus on the barrier-breaking, and then the media loses interest in anyone else who comes after. So the first is a huge accomplishment, of course, but just as important is “the next.”

J.P.: How did this happen for you? The writing bug? When did you first realize you were good at it? That, just maybe, you could make a career of it?

B.C.: I always really liked writing papers in school and I always loved reading books. In college, I was compelled to write in that way that was popular on the internet at the time: overly confessional blog posts. I was an anonymous girl in my early 20s writing about my relationships and partying, but something that blogging did was teach me how to write for an audience, how to tell stories, how to write something compelling that people want to read. That blog had a pretty decent following at the time, which gave me the confidence to think that maybe people actually wanted to read what I had to say. I’ve grown up a lot since then, obviously, and my sobriety (almost 8 years now) has been a big part in finding a new writing voice that wasn’t snarky and a little mean, which my early writing was. But I honestly never considered that I could make a career out of it until someone else offered to connect me to an editor she knew who might like one of my essays. I thought you had to have formal training in order to do this for a living, and I’d never taken a real writing class in my life. I’m totally self-taught. But once I started publishing stuff and learning about how to find and pitch and sell stories, I realized that I was really good at it (the pitching more so than the writing, but I guess I’m ok at the latter). It still doesn’t quite feel real that I’ve managed to make a career out of it, though.

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J.P.: I know, in many ways, this question sucks, and it doesn’t matter, and all that. But, again with your expertise, I sorta wanna ask it: Does there come a day when a woman plays in the Majors or the NBA or NHL? Not as a stunt, a la Manon Rhéaume. But where someone comes along, and she’s so preposterously strong, quick, athletic that it happens?

B.C.: I think it could happen (look at Brianna Decker winning the NHL All-Star passing competition this year, or the women who have played independent league baseball). What I think would make it more likely is if sex segregation in sports was done away with altogether and there were co-ed teams. Last year I interviewed Nancy Leong, who has done research about this, and I should probably just recommend you read that interview because she’s smarter than I am.

J.P.: You were a social worker, which means you work cheap and have empathy. And it feels like, in 2019, we’ve never been a less empathetic nation. Do you feel like something has changed us? The president? Social media? Or are we who we’ve always been?

B.C.: I think we are who we have always been, but social media and globalization has amplified those traits and allowed us to connect with people beyond our own communities in ways that highlight some of our uglier traits.

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J.P.: Greatest moment from your life? Lowest?

B.C.: The greatest moment(s) of my life were when I met my two daughters for the first time: my oldest in 2014 and my youngest in 2016. My lowest was definitely the day I checked into rehab.

J.P.: You identify on your website as a Red Sox and Marlins fan. And I say this with 100% respect—why is that OK? Because it does seem like, in this era, it has become OK. We’re sports journalists. Aren’t we supposed to not have leanings?

B.C.: Here’s how I feel about it: I’m not a beat writer, and I’d feel differently about it if I was. I also think we can critique the things we love, and sometimes we critique things because we love them (my aforementioned story about the Red Sox and Boston’s history of racism is an example of this).

J.P.: What’s your money journalism story? The craziest, weirdest experience from your career?

B.C.: It’s not a great story, but it’s definitely the weirdest/worst experience, and it was when a source asked me to send him nude photos of myself.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH BRITNI DE LA CRETAZ:

• Typing your name out is giving me all sorts of trouble. What are the most common butcherings of it?: Pretty sure my byline reads “Britni de la Cruz” and a couple places. Also Britini is a common misspelling of my first name.

• Five all-time favorite women’s basketball players?: Rebecca Lobo, Cappie Pondexter, Dawn Staley, Sue Bird, Courtney Williams

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Chuck D, potato salad, “Waterfalls” by TLC, the Whopper without pickles, Isabelle Kohn, Facebook, Justin Amash, Jennie Finch, Colorado State University, toe rings, Kaira Rouda: Jennie Finch, Isabelle Kohn, toe rings, Chuck D, Waterfalls, potato salad, Kaira Rouda, Colorado State University, Justin Amash, Whopper without pickles, Facebook.

• One question you would ask Steve Finley were he here right now?: Best NL West team to play for?

• Three things you usually keep with you: A keychain with my sobriety date on it (11/4/11), a notebook and pen (I’m a journalist, after all), my phone.

• What are the keys to making the perfect milkshake?: I scooped ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s for a summer and there’s really not much to it besides adding ice cream and milk. When I was growing up, my dad used to scoop extra sugar into it.

• Greatest athletic accomplishment of your life?: I was a competitive cheerleader and my five-person stunt group (I was the flyer) were national champions in the individual stunt competition.

• In three words, describe the pain associated with birthing a child: Get an epidural.

• The next president will be …: Anyone but Donald Trump, please.

• I don’t love wearing deodorant. Is that a problem?: Your body, your choice, friend.

How Scott Howard changes the NBA landscape

July 25, 2019

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Today I appeared (with my son) on Big Screen Sports to talk Teen Wolf. It was too fun for words. Here’s the link. To celebrate—a quick retelling of the story of Scott Howard’s jump to the NBA …

The 1985 NBA Draft was a groudbreaking infusion of up-and-coming superstars who altered the future of professional basketball. Patrick Ewing. Chris Mullin. Karl Malone. Uwe Blab. Joe Dumars. All joined the league via that entry point, thereby placing ’85 in the discussion of the finest class of newcomers in the league’s history.

And it was almost drastically different.

That summer, a UNLV flameout named Scott Howard contemplated whether to declare himself eligible under the little-known one-and-done lycanthrope exception. Howard was a year removed from a historic high school season, in which he led the Beavers—a hapless collection of untalented 25-year-olds with SAG cards—to the California state title. He did so as The Wolf—a high-leaping 5-foot-3 werewolf whose ordinary basketball skills turned downright Jordan-esque as soon as his body morphed from teenager to animal. Shortly after the Beavers captured the state crown, Howard was invited to participate in the McDonald’s High School All-American game, where he memorably scored 28 points in the West’s 62-56 victory, then gnawed off the left arm, as well as four toes, of Long Beach Poly’s Chris Sandle. His subsequent arrest generated national headlines, but didn’t prevent Jerry Tarkanian from offering him a full scholarship to UNLV. Which Howard accepted over a live chicken dinner.

His time in Vegas was not good. Supplied with large quantities of cocaine and hookers, Howard scored 19 points in the Rebels’ 97-89 season-opening loss at Nevada, followed up with a still-discussed 56-point outpouring at Colorado State—then vanished. Simply vanished.

A week and a half later, police found Howard in room 14 of the Reno Motel 6. He was passed out on a bed, smelling of oyster juice and Spam, two dead prostitutes to his side and a large cereal bowl—filled with what appeared to be his own torched hair—set aside on a table. In a half-completed suicide note that rested atop the nearby television, Howard wrote: I HATE BEING THE WOLF. I’M GONNA FUCK HOOKERS, DO BLOW, EAT A LIVE CHICKEN AND THEN BLOW MY HEA—

That was it.

Tarkanian issued a sternly worded statement, then planned to start Howard at point against Cal State Fullerton. He arrived at the game as a human, not wolf, and gave a stirring pre-game talk to the team, insisting, “We can beat these guys without the wolf!” An infuriated Tarkanian kicked him off the team, and shortly thereafter Howard announced his intentions to join the NBA. Greg Anthony was inserted into the starting lineup, beginning a career that launched him into the professional ranks.

Three weeks later a clean, sober, hairy Howard held a pro day at the Beavers’ gymnasium, where—back as the wolf—his 79-inch vertical leap dazzled the 24 scouts in attendance. He played full court with two teams of recent NAIA All-Americans, scored 79 points and ate no one. Though reporters were not allowed in the gym, Indiana Pacers Coach George Irvine told a writer it was the best workout he’d seen since Leroy Combs came out of Oklahoma State.

The 1985 NBA Draft was held on June 18 at Madison Square Garden. Blessed with the first overall pick, the Knicks had already made clear they would select Patrick Ewing, the 7-foot center out of Georgetown. “Don’t get me wrong, we liked Howard,” Dave DeBusschere, the team’s general manager, later said. “But you can’t take a 5-foot-3 wolf with a hooker issue over a dominant center.” The Pacers, picking second, were torn between Howard and Oklahoma forward Wayman Tisdale. Irvine wanted the wolf, but was reminded by a team intern that his state ranked seventh in America for poultry population. “We can’t have our first-round pick,” the kid pleaded, “going out at night, decimating the poultry industry.” Frank Perdue, a regular courtside presence at games, promised to picket the organization should they add Howard. The Pacers tabbed Tisdale.

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The Los Angeles Clippers, picking third, were dumbfounded when Howard was still available. Carl Scheer, the general manager, had given up on Norm Nixon as the club’s point guard, and dreamed of a Howard-Lancaster Gordon backcourt carrying the franchise for the next decade. There was, however, one problem: The night before the draft, Donald Sterling—team owner and man of the people—sat down with Jim Hill for an exclusive interview and went on a drunk rambling anti-wolf tirade, saying, “I know one thing. I don’t want no fucking wolf boy on my team. It’s almost as bad as a n—-, but worse. Because this n—– has lots of hair. I bet he’s one of them wolf queers. Probably likes playing with dolls and gerbils.” Within an hour, Howard announced, should the Clippers draft him, he would take a year off and howl at passing cars. The team selected Creighton’s Benoit Benjamin, the greatest player in league history.

By now, the remaining teams grew alarmed. Why had Howard fallen to four? Were there unspoken issues? Was he an attitude problem? Were there more dead hookers? Over the next two hours, one team after another took a pass, leaving Howard alone in the draft room with Mark Acres, Voise Winters and a case of Old Milwaukee. When Portland used the 24th—and last—slot in the first round to take Terry Porter of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Howard stood, howled and clawed Winters to death.

His arrest made national news. After serving seven years in federal prison, he engaged in a brief basketball comeback, playing six games alongside Dennis Rodman for the Long Beach Jam of the ABA. Ninety pounds overweight and regularly reeking of Crisco, Howard’s career was over.

He now runs a package store in his hometown.

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The human in me

July 23, 2019

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As I write this I’m sitting in a neighborhood Starbucks, trying to wrap a book that refuses to wrap with me.

I’m at a table by a window, and nearby sits a man who is here most days. He’s a big guy, brown hair, American flag shirt. And he’s developmentally delayed.

Sometimes he annoys me.

I hate this part of me. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate. It is an awful part of me. But as I type this, he’s talking to himself, and he’s making squeak noises and my patience is thin and … and … and … I am an asshole.

I am.

A total asshole.

I should be entirely empathetic. I don’t know his life, but it’s surely been 1,000 times more challenging than mine. I don’t know what he sees and how he thinks, but clearly there are deficiencies. So how the hell can I be such a dick, to be even slightly bothered when this man can’t help himself, and is just being who he is. Why aren’t I buying him a drink? Exchanging a word? Why am I sitting here, debating whether to leave and find solace at the nearby McDonald’s?

We’re all human. We all have our moments of weakness.

I wish I didn’t.

Our daughter the lifeguard …

July 21, 2019

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So the wife and son are out of town this weekend, leaving me solo with Casey, our 15-year-old daughter.

Which is fantastic.

Through the years, I’ve heard 10,000 warnings about teenagers and, particularly, teenage girls. They’re bratty, they’re selfish, they’re emotional, they’re demanding. On and on—all this awfulness of the post-13 years.

Only, to be honest, I’ve never enjoyed Casey more than I do now. When a child is growing and developing and morphing, it’s largely a one-way relationship of you giving and them taking. Yes, you receive hugs and kisses. But no one’s asking about your day, or your emotions. No one is showing much interest in you. If you cut your finger, it’s on you to fetch a Band-Aid.

At 15, my daughter is a fully developed person. Today, for example, we didn’t have much to do, so we drove 30 miles to IKEA for her first love, IKEA meatballs. We entered the store, found the restaurant, snagged our meatballs, sat down and … talked. She asked questions, I asked questions. She told stories, I told stories. At the table to our right, a young couple was sitting with a boy of maybe four or five years. He was whiny and fidgety, and I thought to myself, “God, this is sooooo much better.” Tomorrow we decided we’re having an all-day cookoff. Me vs. Her—a main course and a dessert. I can’t wait.

Also, Casey now has a job. She’s a lifeguard, which means we drive her to various area pools to sit in a chair and observe elderly swimmers. The trips have become my personal gold—just one-on-one time that, sadly, is fleeting.

See, that’s the sad part of it all. In a few weeks Casey takes her driving test. If she passes, those rides to and fro largely come to an end.

Sigh.

Sammy Burke

July 20, 2019

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I love shit like this.

So, a few months ago a friend named Mike Moodian accompanied me to the Blind Melon show at a small nearby club, the Coach House. We arrived early, and heard those dreaded four words, “First, an opening act …”

Fuck.

Only, this opening act kicked ass. It was a three-man rock group, the John McCloy Band, and their set was electrifying, refreshing, edgy. The member who particularly caught my eye was Sammy Burke, the veteran bass player. Why did he catch my eye? Well, to be honest, I’ve always been fascinated by the bass. It’s the obscure instrument of most groups, but also a necessary factor toward any good unit. We may well all overlook the bass player. But can a gang like the John McCloy Band survive without him? No.

So I invited Sammy here to talk Bass, to talk Van Halen, to talk gigs in front of six people and John Oates’ presidential ambitions. One can visit his Facebook page here, and check out his band here.

Sammy Burke, you are The Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Sammy, so about two hours ago I saw you and the John McCloy Band perform as the opening act for Blind Melon at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. And during the show Travis Warren, Melon’s lead singer, thanked “the band that opened for us—I can’t remember their name, but I have a bad memory.” And I was wondering—truly wondering—whether that bothered you guys, whether it was no big deal, whether it was funny. And if there’s an actual protocol how the headliner is supposed to address/acknowledge the opening act.

SAMMY BURKE: We have a working relationship with the venue’s local talent representative. His job is to find acts that are willing to handle pre-sale tickets in exchange for ‘exposure.’ Some places require a guaranteed number of tickets, while others just go on how well you do in selling what you’ve got. Th Coach House is the latter; they don’t require a minimum, however getting asked to come back does depend a bit on your marketing performance.

J.P.: You’re a bass player, and I’ve always wanted to ask a bass player this question: How do I, the casual music fan who attends a show, know the difference between good bass, great bass and otherworldly bass? Are there telltale signs? Do you always know?

S.B.: Great question! Great bass players are a lot like Olympic divers; the better their performance, the less splash you’ll see when they enter the water. Imagine for a minute what the song would sound like without the bass line—if it would sound empty, then the bass player is doing his job. The truly great players have such iconic hooks to very simple lines. Think of tunes like ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay’ or ‘Good Vibrations.’ With those simple lines, the songs simply wouldn’t exist.

J.P.: Along those lines, sort of a weird one. About, oh, seven years ago Van Halen replaced Michael Anthony, its bass player of about four decades, with Eddie Van Halen’s son. I thought it was a bullshit move, Anthony clearly thought it was a bullshit move. But I’m not sure fans care all that much. And I was wondering: A. What do you think about it? B. Are bass players too often undervalued?

S.B.: Yes, it was a bullshit move. Not just because of Anthony’s tone—I believe he is one of the most gritty, driving bassists around. But also his vocals were what made the ‘voice’ of VH so unique. All that high stuff on ‘Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love’ and ‘Jamie’s Cryin” are Michael, and he’s doing it while driving that low end. I saw them at a house party back in the mid 70s and I knew that I was watching something extraordinary.

J.P.: You’ve been with the band Echo Love Chamber since 1995. That’s 24 years. How is that possible? And what I mean is—don’t you get tired of one another? Aren’t bands meant to die on the relative quick?

S.B.: I’ve known Mark (Cardinal) since the late ’80s when we were both in different cover bands. The secret is this; we don’t get involved in each other’s lives outside of music. We will occasionally go out for a meal or a show, but that’s about it. Musically, we never have a set list—our running repertoire is about 500 songs, so we can pull out an old favorite every now and then just to challenge our brains. I really don’t know the magic behind ELC’s 24-year career … We’re just three guys having fun making music. However, I will tell you one way to know how a band is going to last. Watch them during load in and load out. If there’s a lot of communication going on about what or how to do things, then they’re doing it wrong. When ELC loads in or out, its 20 minutes of ultimate efficiency. We will oftentimes beat the patrons in getting out the door before the 2 a.m. closing bell.

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J.P.: I know you started playing music when you were 11. But what got you going? How did it all begin? When did you realize this was your love? That you could be especially good at it?

S.B.: I ‘borrowed’ my sister’s guitar and started hammering out some notes, and I sucked. Then I got together with a friend and we started playing together in his garage, and we sucked. Then I got together with some friends and played ‘Stairway to Heaven’ at a school performance, and it sucked. But by then music was in my blood. And that performance got me together with (now internationally known jazz pianist) Ron Kobayashi. He told me what I would have to do if I didn’t want to suck. So he gave me a cassette tape—Count Basie, Ray Brown, Oscar Peterson, Louis Bellson, Buddy Rich, Charlie Parker… he told me to absorb every note, and when I did, he would give me another tape, and then another. I would just practice hours and hours with those tapes, learn my scales and keep up with the rhythms. In April, 1980, when we performed at the big Fullerton College Jazz Festival, Ron, our drummer Loren South and I were given the Outstanding Rhythm Section Award. That was when I knew I could play and not suck.

J.P.: Since 2013 you’ve worked heavily in the tribute band market, performing with such acts as REMitation, The Faux Fighters, The Pink Floyd Sound, KISSed Alive!, The Rising, Cheapest Trick and Petty or Not. And I’m interested how it feels, doing, say a series of Tom Petty songs as opposed to your own music? And, when you’re doing a tribute, are you trying to channel those other players? Or are you just being you?

S.B.: Being in a tribute is more playing a role—like an actor—than being a musician. Your mannerisms on stage, the look and sound, and even the playing style are studied and mimicked to give the audience a sensation that they’re watching a one-act play, rather than just listening to a bunch of tunes by an artist. So yeah, I try to channel Howie Epstein, Nate Mendel, Roger Waters, Tom Petersson, and Gene Simmons when I perform. Although I must confess a little of me naturally comes out—sometimes, I just can’t help that part.

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J.P.: Greatest moment of your career? Lowest?

S.B.: Greatest? So many … Playing with the Fooz Fighters to a packed House of Blues is a blast. I remember taking a limo from Atlantic City to Long Island with the boys thinking, ‘This is the shit!’  And then there a special personal moments —playing a song or two in front of my heroes … guys like Dug Pinnick (King’s X), Chris Wyse (Ace Frehley, Hollywood Vampires), Divinity Roxx (Beyonce), and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani), and then chatting with them afterwards. But I think the moment with John McCloy when we first walked onto a stage to perform our own music—that was magic. The irony of that is we still feel the same feeling before every show, including our last show at the Coach House.

Lowest? So many. Playing some godawful place with three other musicians who didn’t do their homework. You just want to go home and swear you’ll never do that again. And then you do it again. Some things we just never learn from. After all—musicians are the very definition of insanity.

J.P.: When you’re not performing, you’re a high school math teacher. Can you bring the same passion to teaching as you do music? Is it a means to an end? And do your students know of your musical career?

S.B.: For 30 years I kept the two completely separate. I didn’t bring my music to school, and I didn’t bring my school to my performing. It was this separation that helped keep me from going insane. I am passionate about teaching math—I love the subject, and I try to let my students know how enjoyable it can really be, if they just give it a try. Now, as I see more in my rear-iew mirror than my windshield, I’ve been more open about both. It gives me a chance to reflect, and to consider what lies ahead after I retire from my teaching job. I’m on a one-year contract (as Vin Scully would say), although my principal knows that if the Foo Fighters, Gin Blossoms, or some other national act calls (or maybe John McCloy gets signed?!?), I’m gone …

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J.P.: As I was listening to you guys play tonight I was thinking, “Jesus, this is a hard sell.” And what I mean is—y’all were great. Truly fantastic. But you’re playing songs few attendees have yet heard to people there for a different band. So what’s the approach? What’s the goal? How do you win audiences over?

S.B.: That is exactly the approach. Make music that people who’ve never heard us before, be able to sing along by the end of our set. If we win over one Blind Melon (or Fuel, Berlin, Spandau Ballet, or Marcy Playground) fan at each show we play, then we’ll have like … 20 new fans a year. At that rate we’ll be overnight sensations in about 15,000 years. Seriously though, hopefully one of those new fans will have some connection to something bigger, and we can cut our timeline down. At least in half …

J.P.: A lot has been made of late of groups like Kiss and Motley Crue singing over recorded audios. It’s a thing in rock that didn’t seem as common decades ago. And I wonder—are you OK with it? I mean, as guys like Paul Stanley and Vince Neil age, is it kosher for us to expect they get a little help? Or is it dishonest bullshit?

S.B.: Another great question. I feel it’s dishonest if you lie about it. Bands like U2 make no bones about using tracks, and people still buy up their tickets at record numbers. What I do have a beef about is when artists insist that they’re not using tracks when you can clearly hear background vocals, extra guitars, cowbells, and strings. ELC uses tracks for about 5-to-6 songs, and we make fun about our ‘keyboard player,’ but we don’t try to deceive our audience. Now if Paul and Vince want to say they use tracks, say it. Nothing wrong with it—just ‘fess up and let’s get on with the music.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH SAMMY BURKE:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Shaquille O’Neal, Blue Oyster Cult, nachos with jalapenos, $5 cover charges, Tammi Terrell, the old testament, Black-Scholes Equation, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Bo Jackson, your left foot: Blue Oyster Cult (c’mon … Godzilla!!!), Nachos with Jalapenos (liquid cheese at its best), The Old Testament (The Greatest Story, right???), Tammi Terrell (The sound of Motown with one of my favorite bassists ever (see below)), Black-Scholes Equation (maybe if I’d use it I wouldn’t have lost so much money on penny stocks like ICOM), John Kennedy, Jr. (iconic vision of him as a boy saluting his dad), Bo Jackson (Bo Knows … baseball more than football), Shaq (The Great Aristotle was no Kareem), $5 Cover Charges (If that money actually went to the bands, then I rank it higher), My left foot (Even though I am left-footed, it still ranks below everything else).

• Five all-time greatest bass players: James Jamerson, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, Carol Kaye, Leland Sklar, Carol Kaye, Dug Pinnick. Together, they make up about 90 percent of my music catalog.

• Five songs you never need to hear again: Sweet home Alabama, Mustang Sally, Stairway to Heaven, Jesse’s Girl, Don’t Stop Believin’

• One question you would ask Peter Criss were he here right now: Do you prefer the 9mm Beretta over a classic 45 Magnum for target shooting, and why?

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No, but I would probably try to make out with the flight attendant on the way down…

• What’s the smallest crowd you’ve ever played before?: Six. And it was worth every moment.

• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and Nas? What’s the outcome?: I’d get my ass kicked. My reflexes are way too slow to fight. I think my record is 1-5 in fights.

• Celine Dion calls. She’ll pay you $10 million to move to Las Vegas for a year and sing background vocals on her new album, titled, “Sammy Burke is a Pimple on the Ass of an Ass.” You also have to live on the floor of her guest house, while only eating cat food, mint Oreos and beet juice. Oh, and your name will be changed to Ruppert Jones. You in?: If I can just eat the creme filling on the Oreos (I can’t eat chocolate), then I’m in. Draw up the contract.

• Who has the greatest singing voice you’ve ever heard live?: Damn. That’s a good one … I’ll have to say Chris Cornell. I’ve heard him sing three times; ’93 at Lollapalooza, ’13 at The Wiltern, and one of his last shows back in ’16 at the Forum. I was amazed to hear him sing every time. That range, and the soulfulness in his tone.

We actually met back in 1988; I was hanging out at a place called the Off Ramp in Seattle, having a beer and chatting with this guy at the bar. Some band like Mudhoney was playing in the room next door, while we were talking about the Sonics, or why there’s no NHL team in Seattle… anyway, about six months later my friend shares a CD with me and I look at the picture and I see the guy who I met at the Off Ramp. I said, “is his name Chris?” and my friend said, “yeah, that’s Chris Cornell”… Like I said, Damn.

• In exactly 17 words, make an argument for John Oates’ 2020 presidential run: So many came to see, what you think — get it for free! Vote John Oates in 2020!!!

So this was sorta gross

July 18, 2019

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Working in the Newport Beach Bruegger’s Bagels. Love it here—many tables, outlets. wide open windows, manager is awesome.

Plus, free coffee refills.

So a few minutes ago I approached the counter for a refill. Kid’s working—probably 19. Maybe 20.

“You want a refill?” he said.

“Yup,” I replied. “That cool?”

“Sure,” he said.

Then he took my used cup, opened the ice chest, dipped it in and scooped.

I’m thinking of all the used cups that had a swan dive into the ice.

Ew.

The burning cross

July 16, 2019

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When I was a kid, growing up in Mahopac, N.Y., a cross was set aflame in the front yard of my best friend’s house.

The Powells were an African-American family in a 98-percent white town, and while cross burnings weren’t regular happenings, it didn’t seem nearly as shocking as it probably should have. The local newspaper ran a piece, local authorities offered up dismayed quotations (“This isn’t the Mahopac I know”) and life moved on. Which was weird, in hindsight, because SOMEONE BURNED A CROSS IN FRONT OF SOMEONE’S HOME!!!

But here’s the thing, in hindsight: It probably didn’t strike many as a big deal because, in Mahopac, it wasn’t a big deal. Racism was a thing there. Using the n-word was a thing there. Insisting your daughter never date a black kid was a thing there. Referring to the African-American athletes on visiting high school football teams as “thugs” was a thing there. The linguistics and behaviors weren’t merely accepted, but embraced. And anyone from my hometown who’s honest would admit such. We were not an open-minded community. We did not speak out when we should have. We sucked.

In fact, I still remember being at a town picnic, and one of our neighbors complaining about more and more “city people” moving to Mahopac. We knew exactly what the code meant—”city people” was “black people.” But while we didn’t agree with his fucking point, we said nothing. Another time, a resident on a neighboring street actually started a petition to keep a black family from moving in. People signed it. We were horrified. Disgusted. But I don’t believe we uttered a word. Shameful.

I bring this up because, in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s shameful rants about four United States congresswomen needing to return to their countries, the vast majority of Republican officeholders have said nothing. Not a peep. Not a gripe. Not. A. Word. They’ve remained silent, which—like Mahopac in the 1980s—is the equivalent of agreeing and signing off on the sentiment.

I regret my long-ago patheticness.

I hope these people ultimately do, too.

Walt Michael died in a nursing home

July 12, 2019

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Read an obituary a few minutes ago for Walt Michaels, the long-ago New York Jets coach who died two days ago at age 89.

The piece, written by Frank Litsky, was perfect. Michaels’ was your prototypical old-school gridiron man’s man who would berate his players, demand his guys practice through 120-degree days, never flinch when it came to confrontation. He was shaped like a keg, walked like a bull, took shit from no one and believed in a certain life codes like the one his father once offered him—”Don’t tell me if the sea was stormy. Just tell me if you brought home the ship.”

Anyhow, as much as I loved the final look at Walt Michaels, I also found myself hung up on one line. Namely: “… died on Wednesday at a nursing home in Plains, Pa.”

The image of Walt Michaels in a nursing home breaks my heart. And maybe it shouldn’t. Maybe Walt Michaels was the happiest nursing home resident on the planet. Maybe his final years were spent playing shuffle board and taking cha-cha lessons and leading a Joe Klecko-themed discussion group. Maybe Walt Michaels fell in love with a fellow resident. Maube they were the cute old couple waddling down the hall, holding hands as they prepared for canasta.

Maybe.

More likely, however, is that Walt Michaels—like so many football players before him—was a shell. That he was broken and battered and half aware. I’ve seen it so many times. In and of itself, the senior citizen years are tough. But add on a decade of having your brain beaten in; your body ravaged; your fingers crushed and your toes trampled. I’ve witnessed many sad things in 47 years. But the image of the thrown-aside aged football player? The worst.

I read those words—”… died on Wednesday at a nursing home in Plains, Pa.”—and immediately pictured Walt Michaels mumbling to himself, a nurse saying in that pre-school teacher type of way, “Walt here used to be a football coach!” as he sat slouched in a wheelchair, thinking of nothing, a bit of lunch’s pea soup dribbling off his chin.

Walt Michaels died on Wednesday at a nursing home in Plains, Pa.

It breaks my heart.

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“Women have vaginas. And they scare me.”

July 11, 2019
Hanging with my people: Suppressed gay men!

Hanging with my people: Suppressed men!

I’d like to thank Robert Foster, the Mississippi gubernatorial candidate, for agreeing to write a guest post for jeffpearlman.com on his decision to not allow an unaccompanied female reporter to ride along with him on the campaign trail.* One can visit Rep. Foster’s website here.

Over the past few days the liberal Yankee media elitists have been disparaging my decision to not allow a woman to ride unaccompanied in my car. I find this offensive. First, because I’m doing this to honor the three people I love most: 1. God. 2. Gabriela Sabatini’s foot pimple. 3 My wife. And second, because they have it all wrong. The reporter, Larrison Campbell of Mississippi Today, is certainly welcome to drive along with me. I just ask that she leave her vagina, breasts and any alluring perfume scents, specifically placed piercings or toe rings home where they belong and can’t be used against me as a trap to do all sorts of sexual stuff.

See, I am a man. A Christian man. A Christian man with a smallish penis. And my penis only wiggles and jiggles for my wife. I mean, what if I get a boner, like the time we stopped at Kennedy Fried Chicken a few weeks ago and the girl cleaning the trays asked if I needed napkins? Or the time I read about Pee Wee Herman in that movie threater? Or the time I watched Baker Mayfield throw his first pass? Or the time Juan, our pool boy, rubbed coconut oil along the small of my back? Or …

Wait.

Let me begin again.

When I was a boy, growing up in Hernando, we had an annual town fair. And there was this prize-winning pig. We called him Ellis. And one day, our mayor had to run to buy some Hellman’s Mayonnaise for his wife. So he asked if I could watch Ellis. I was 11, maybe 12. And that pig looked at me like I was a naked Martina McBride. And that scared me. It really scared me. The moment Mayor McComb returned with that Hellman’s Mayonnaise for his wife, I sprinted from the barn and took a cold shower. I told myself I would never again sit alone with a pig while a mayor buys mayonnaise.

So this is sorta like that.

#MAGA

One can donate money to Rep. Foster’s campaign here.

..* To be perfectly clear, this post is parody

 

Rich O’Malley

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Even though I’m a journalist who grew up desperately wanting to attend professional sporting events, and even though I’ve chronicles some amazing athletic achievements through the decades, and even though I know the smell of garlic fries in San Francisco, the bellowing of “Beer here!” in New York—well, I have no interest in seeing a game in every American stadium.

I just don’t. Because, to me, it’d all blend together into one overpriced mishmosh of hits and runs and tackles and slapshots and dunks. I dig games. Like, I truly, truly dig games. But is there anything particularly special in seeing, oh, Tigers-Rays at the Tropicana Dome? Or Raiders-Jets at MetLife? Meh. I’m not feeling it.

Rich O’Malley, on the other hand, feels it. The former New York Daily News editor is the new author of “One Lucky Fan,” a chronicling of his experiences catching a home game in every NHL, MLB, NFL and NBA stadium. Which is crackalicious crazy and bonkers and … riveting. It’s the sort of bucket list dream that nobody accomplishes. But Rich, well—Rich accomplished it. And here he is.

One can follow Rich on Twitter here, visit his website here and order “One Lucky Fan” here.

Rich O’Malley—welcome home. To the Quaz …

JEFF PEARLMAN: OK, Rich, so you’re the author of a new book, “One Lucky Fan,” that chronicles your efforts to see a home game in every Major League, NFL, NBA and NHL stadium. And, to be honest, that sounds sorta hellish. So … why? Why was this a goal?

RICH O’MALLEY: It started back in college, when some friends and I took a few road trips to see baseball stadiums. And that’s where most “stadium chasers” call it a day, because baseball parks are the most unique sports venues and each one (ok, not all of them) has its own little cool twist. But over 20-plus years, I started building a pretty impressive collection in the other sports, too. I had always wanted to write a book about my experiences, so once I knew I was going to do that, I decided my hook would be to get ‘em all. Every sport. No one else had ever written that book.

But I wanted a travelogue to be a big part of the book too. I wanted the reader to come along for the ride with me.

Now that kind of trip, nearly eight straight weeks, I would not recommend to anyone, because hellish isn’t even the word. It was mind-numbing, but as I say in the book, fun as heck at the same time. However, if you are really into seeing sports venues and exploring cities, running from airport to train to hotel to arena to hotel to sleep for a few hours to train to airport to the next place is not conducive to appreciating them. Take your time, as much as you’re able.

And my ultimate goal in OLF two-fold: I want readers to contemplate their own background as a fan, and then think about their own personal “what’s next?”

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J.P.: These days book deals are pretty friggin’ hard to come by. Your book was published by Post Hill Press. So what was the process? How did you go about landing it?

R.O.: This industry is indeed brutal, as I was warned by many going into this. I am fortunate to have one of those professors who didn’t stop fulfilling his role as a mentor when I walked out of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism with a master’s degree in my hand in 1998. Chicago journo and former Medill assistant dean Jon Ziomek has been a friend and ally for more than 20 years now, always encouraging me and advising me. He spent more than 30 freaking years shopping his gripping book about the 1977 Tenerife airline disaster, the deadliest in history, and finally signed a deal with Post Hill Press while I was working on OLF. I had received a number of rejections already and fully expected to self-publish from the get-go—and would have been fine with that. But he connected me to Debby Englander over there and she loved the idea and brought it to the president of the company, who also loved it. Suddenly, I had a publisher. The lucky in my title is no accident. That all said, self-publishing is a perfectly acceptable road for anyone thinking about writing a book and can be just as successful and fulfilling. The point is to get that damn book out of your head and into the world.

J.P.: Bluntly, what’s the worst stadium in America to catch a professional sporting event? And what makes it so bad?

R.O.: I call MetLife Stadium, home to my Jets (and the Giants), “a $1.6 billion gray pile of puke.” I ban it for life in the book, which is no small thing when your own team plays there! It is soulless and in the middle of nowhere. It has zero aesthetic appeal. Zero home-field advantage. It is a … Generic. Sports. Venue. Yet the jaw-dropping Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta was built for essentially the same price tag and is a modern marvel. What a boondoggle that dump in New Jersey is! The. Worst.

J.P.: Bluntly, what’s the best stadium in America to catch a professional sporting event? And what makes it so tremendous?

R.O.: You simply cannot get the gameday experience you will have in Green Bay anywhere else in North American sports, nor I’m guessing the entire world. First of all, the stadium itself is iconic; the Packers fans and traditions unmatched. And the experience spills out the gates of the stadium and into the tiny town where Lambeau Field seems like it was dropped from the heavens right in the middle of it. As I say in OLF, every sense is engaged. You see all the cars parked on lawns amid myriad BBQs taking place and all the garages open with giant TVs blaring the other games. You smell the brats cooking. You hear the “Go Pack Go” chant. And I’d encourage anyone wanting to go to Green Bay do so when it’s gonna be frigid out. Go for the ultimate Frozen Tundra experience. You will walk away knowing you’ve seen sports nirvana. And everyone is just so damn nice! Funny story: I needed to print a ticket and the box office couldn’t do it, so I walked up the block to a random door (I’m a New Yorker, I don’t normally do things like that, but desperate times and all) and knocked and a complete stranger let me in and set me up on her computer and went back to the kitchen to finish dinner while I printed out my ticket. Just unbelievable kindness.

J.P.: So I just read a 2016 Yahoo News piece about your departure from the Daily News. You took a buyout at a relatively young age. Why?

R.O.: So many reasons. All of them ridiculously sad. And maddening. Because journalism was (and still kinda is?) a shitshow. Because the 2016 election cycle, which lasted about as long as the Ming Dynasty, took an absolute beating on my soul and psyche. Because my boss, Jim Rich, who was kicking ass, was shown the door days before Election Day. And that was a sign to me that what we were doing, which was shining as bright a light as we could on the huckster who was about to become president, was no longer being appreciated by the front office and was probably going to take a severe hit. And I wasn’t interested in covering him and his soon-to-be administration like everyone else. I wanted the screaming front pages and truth-to-power coverage we were always known for, even if Archie and Edith in Queens cancelled their subscription. (A great business model? Probably not, but who the hell has figured out one that works anyway?) So I made the most difficult decision of my life and joined about 25 or so other colleagues who took the buyout and left my dream job. But again, I’m lucky—I had that chance. So many way-more-talented journos have since been sacked at the Daily News and outlets across the country. And the ones who still survive work daily with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. And these giant E-Corp (for all my fellow Mr. Robot fans) type ownerships reap in and dole out millions in dividends. And yet every year there are still more mass layoffs of on-the-ground journos. It’s monstrous.

By the way, it’s not my opinion that the newsroom under Jim’s leadership was kicking ass—less than six months after his departure, the NYDN newsroom was celebrating a Pulitzer Prize for a series that he led on NYPD abuses of power. That series and the changing of laws that resulted from it improved people’s lives. Years later, another cause The News championed ferociously under Jim, the Child Victims Act, passed into New York state law. Politicians literally (I mean it) hid from our reporters when we were demanding action in Albany seeking justice for people sexually abused as children. Everyone remembers the Trump front pages, but both of those series were going on concurrently with the 2016 campaign, and they are the most important things we can do as journalists. I was proud to be a small part of both. And while the betterment of society should be the end goal and reward, I certainly appreciated the validity that those ultimate victories provided in confirming in my mind that, yes, indeed, we were on the right track and doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing. Assholes.

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J.P.: Part II of that—on your way out you thanked a bunch of people on Twitter, then absolutely unloaded on Donald Trump. Um, I’m as big a loather of the man as you are. But why then? Why at that moment?

R.O.: When our leaders or systems fail us or threaten the general welfare, journalists need to play sentinel and expose it. That’s the job, and the crux of why I did it.

I just had to go back and look because I don’t even remember the specifics of what I said anymore! Pretty prescient, but not particularly perspicacious (how’s that for alliteration?!). It was the coming together of a perfect “Tweet” storm, I guess — of things that had weighed heavily on me for years, and I needed them out of my head and thought maybe they’d help people having similar internal struggles.

I had been mentioned in a couple of stories with a number of other folks about our departures. So I jumped on the fact that for about six seconds my name might mean anything to anyone and what I had to say might mean something to someone too. So I put down my thoughts and decided to post them (sometimes I write stuff just to write it). But here I definitely wanted to 1. Thank people, most importantly. 2. Give people a little insight into the decision making processes of The News with our Trump coverage 3. Confirm to people that journalists do know Trump is indeed a megalomaniacal lying piece of shit, even if other outlets were tying themselves in knots to write around that fact and normalize him, and 4. Warn people that things were gonna get real ugly and vigilance was needed.

My phone blew up with friends saying, “Umm … you might wanna check The Hollywood Reporter,” and other places who were writing about it. I didn’t expect that at all. Oops! I got a good laugh from right wing media tearing their hair out that “THIS is the guy behind so much of the BIASED coverage of Trump! WITHER JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY!” As if truth is biased … we gave Hillary and Bernie front page whacks when we believed they earned it. We had plenty of blistering Obama ones over eight years, too. We shit on the Democratic mayor of NYC daily! But “integrity” only mattered when we attacked their guy. Believe you me though, they’d be happy to plaster their sites or airwaves with our front pages the days we’d go the other way.

But anyway, it wasn’t hard to see any of what’s going on today barreling down the pike. And that was the essence of my Tweetstorm rally cry, because that was an all-hands-on-deck moment to me. And it’s been inspiring to see the level of activism in this country since that election. Go us!

But in the end, there are kids in cages and tanks on the Mall and airports in the 1700s. Our nation’s government is a Fellini film. Nothing matters.

Meanwhile, I wrote a fun sports book to try and take people’s minds off of End Times – ta-da!

No, really, that was part of my motivation. People need the fun and the funny to live through this disaster. So I almost avoid politics entirely in the book. Almost.

Ok, I’m getting grumpy and I’m on the verge of going full-on Farty McOldTimer and yelling at clouds. And this is why I’m not back in journalism. Why’d you pull my politics string?! To paraphrase Jefferson in Hamilton, “Can we get back to sports now?”

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J.P.: So in order to reach your stadium goal, the book wraps with a 25,000-mile, two-month whirlwind tour from stadium to stadium. Why? How? Was it amazing? Awful? And what were you eating?

R.O.: The answer is yes, all of it. Every one of those emotions plus curse words plus tears plus fist-pumps.

I started out writing OLF with about 80 teams under my belt. So I needed to take the mother of all trips to get the final third in less than two months after two decades amassing the first two-thirds. I spent a coffee-fueled day in front of the computer hashing it out, but it was easier than I expected once I hit the right route. So starting Nov. 9, 2017, I would live out of a carry-on bag for 36 days in a row, hopscotching time zones 15 times before I got home for a one-night break. Then it was eight days in the southeast, four days back for Christmas, by which point I was deathly ill and couldn’t even celebrate, but then back out for the five final games in Texas and Oklahoma, culminating in Houston on New Year’s Eve 2017. The turning of a new year and the completion of my 123-team journey—synergy. I counted down the ball drop en Espanol watching Univision and passed out for four hours before I had to get to the airport for my flight home and return to real life. And, you know, write the book. It took weeks to process it all before I could even get one word down. I thought I’d be writing every day on the road, but the reality of a trip like that just didn’t allow me the time or mental space to do so. I mean, I gave up a free day in Seattle to pop up to Juneau, Alaska, for lunch to chalk up my 50th state. It was that kinda trip (and thank goodness for airline miles!).

What was I eating? Whatever, man! I had to remember to eat at times, my pace was so kinetic. My most common destination, because they’re often near stadiums, was Yard House. Their Poke Nachos were my go-to—a little healthy protein mixed with grains, perfect sustenance. Didn’t hurt that it meant I’d get to wash it down with some local brews wherever I was. Sometimes I’d eat at the arena, but knowing where I was going often dictated that decision: Crummy old dungeon? Find me some grub before I go. Brand-spanking-new pleasure palace? Let’s see what they’ve cooked up for me. Options are much better than they used to be across the board. For pete’s sake, I had great Indian food at a Twins game!

But on the whole, yes, it was a blur while I was out there. It all came into focus, slowly, in my rear view mirror, once I sat down to write though. It was like I actually got to relive the trip. I knew what I was getting into, and honestly I embraced the crazy because that was the tale I wanted to tell. Frenetic and unpredictable make for a better story. There’s a reason cat-chases-laser-light videos go viral, but snails crossing a garden do not. I enjoyed being that cat for other people’s amusement.

J.P.: What is it about the live sports experience that does it for you? Like, what gets you going at a stadium?

R.O.: My mantra is, “At every game you attend, you will see something you have never seen before.” It is 100 percent true. Even the dullest game will contain a magic/weird/funny/amazing moment.

On the whole, I love the energy of the crowd. I love wondering why they are all there on that particular night. This is especially true of fans of a bad team. The Suns won like nine home games the season I was there. Why on earth would anyone go see that?! The answer is usually: 1. That’s just what fans do, and 2. The promise of tomorrow. That armchair psychology is cool to me. I love watching their customs and traditions. The electricity that emanates from a fan base is what I live off at games where I don’t care about the teams or result. Therefore the flip-side answer to your question is: “Sometimes nothing gets me going!” There were places I went where I just couldn’t summon the will to care less about the game I was watching. Hey, it happens. So when that energy is lacking, I’ll have nothing to give either. But when it’s there, it’s magic and you can suddenly find yourself a huge St. Louis Blues or Winnipeg Jets fan. You can’t get that mojo on your couch unless it’s your team, and the ultimate is an elimination playoff game involving your own team. If you have any way to chalk up that experience, you have to do it at least once in your life. That stays with you forever.

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J.P.: Along those lines, I’m wondering how you feel about the Disney-fication of stadiums. Used to be dogs, beer, game. Now it’s 10,000 different types of food, slides, games, etc. As an old guy, I sorta hate it. As a parent, I get it. You?

R.O.: You’re right, this is soooo much more a part of venues across the country now, and I think it’s mainly for the better. And you nailed the why: kids. I don’t have, but I know that kids at a long game can be a recipe for disaster. Diversions can only help. Let Junior go see how fast he can throw a ball or let your daughter shoot a few hoops for a little while. That said, I hope parents also don’t just default to that and forget that teaching kids about the game by watching it is important too—if the kid wants to be into it! If they don’t, why are you there at all?
Look, I spend a lot of games just wandering, too. That’s my diversion. I wanna take in all the nooks and crannies and find the best seats and food and beer options. Once I’ve explored a place, I just like sitting and keeping score (if baseball) or watching maybe one particular player if it’s hoops or hockey. I don’t need bells and whistles, but I don’t mind some, especially well considered ones like Bernie Brewer’s slide. I do mind overbearing announcers goading fans to act. If the game is exciting, fans will make noise. They know how this works. STAND UP/PLEASE CLAP is an abomination against the very code of fan conduct.  I wish venues would let fans dictate the atmosphere more. That would a good thing. Also please ban YMCA at Yankee Stadium. And “Seven Nation Army.”

J.P.: You worked with Mike Lupica. I can’t stand the man. But I’ve only observed and heard stories. Am I wrong? Right? What was he like to work with?

R.O.: Believe it or not, I never met him. Never saw him. I worked with him tangentially like three times in my whole time at NYDN. That said, Mike graciously agreed to blurb “One Lucky Fan” for me as soon as I asked him. Which shocked the hell out of me since he didn’t really know me. However, I never received another answer to three follow-up emails I sent him, including attaching the digital review copy to the last one. So. Yeah. That was disappointing. Luckily, my other ask was of Sarah Spain at ESPN and she is the awesomest person ever and penned the awesomest blurb ever and I was able to give that a good ride on the back cover. She nailed the spirit of OLF in a few grafs. Not easy.

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QUAZ EXPRESS WITH RICH O’MALLEY:

• Rank in order (favorite to least): Desmond and the Tutus, Pete Alonso, the Alf puppet, Air Pods, lamb, aluminum baseball bats, “Kramer vs. Kramer,” Mark Kriegel: I love Kriegel! And his Daily News commercials in the 90s were the best. Alonso and Alf right behind him. If you mean lamb the animal, great. The meat? No. The rest, meh.

• Five greatest writers you’ve ever worked with: Breslin tops my list. Then every member of the rewrite desk in my entire time at The News. What unsung talent they all have.

• Three things we need to know about your wife: 1. She’s wicked smart, but she married me. 2. She’s sweet, but sassy as heck. 3. I owe her everything I am, which is markedly improved by her love.

• Five foods to cure life’s ills: My grandma’s/mom’s/sister’s lasagna. Those Poke Nachos at Yard House. My wife’s cobblers and pies. The pesto anywhere in Cinque Terre. My own cocktail creations.

• Who should the Democrats run on the ticket in 2020?: I really wish I could say Amal Clooney – not kidding. Honestly, I’m gonna need to hear a lot more and see performance under pressure from all of the announced Democratic candidates before I know who I most closely align with and I think has the best chance to win. And win they must.

• Tell me a solid joke: That’d be a gas.

• Ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash? If so, what do you recall?: No, but I commonly dream I’m watching one happen. Just arcs right out of the sky in front of me. Terrifying.

• The four athletes one should see in person are …: Greek Freak. Usain Bolt. Lukaku. Your favorite.

• How did you feel when Johnny Lozada left Menudo?: I feel like this is a trick question. [Googles] It isn’t! Ok, I’ll play along: Not nearly as bad as when New Edition kicked out Bobby Brown.

• One question you would ask Michael Sam were he here right now: May I shake your hand, sir?

Hey, Delaware—don’t do this to alum

July 10, 2019

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So I received this e-mail the other day …

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I’m a pretty happy UD grad. The school was great, the newspaper experience was life changing. So I called, because I’d also received two postcards asking that I update the information.

Guy answered the phone. Started talking. “As you know, we’re putting together an alumni directory dating back through the years. So I just want to verify some information, and of course at the end you’ll have an opportunity to order your own copy of—”

Click.

I hung up.

I fucking hung up.

I know that, deep down, alumni relations are are all money. Do people at Delaware see us as valuable beyond donations? No. But this felt slicker and grosser than usual. It was using provided-in-good-faith information to coerce me into buying something. It was a “HEY, THANKS FOR BEING AN ALUM. WE VALUE YOU” disguise, with a “HEY, GIVE US MORE DOUGH!” slickster beneath.

I’m pissed.

Predator with my son

July 9, 2019

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So the son and I watched “Predator” last night, a film I (unwisely, in hindsight) built up to far too great a level. I mean, it’s fun and exciting and filled with a boatload of preposterously joyful blood-related one-liners (“If it bleeds, we can kill it!” is better than anything that’s ever been uttered on the planet—save for, “I ain’t got time to bleed!”). But Emmett seemed a bit mystified by my love of the flick. He liked it, but didn’t fully embrace it.

One thing, in particular, really bothered him and—32 years after its initial release—me, too. So there’s one woman in the entire movie. The character is named Anna (played by Elpidia Carrillo). And throughout the first, oh, 40 percent of the movie, Anna only speaks Spanish. Which makes sense—she’s captured from a small South American village in the middle of the jungle, where the man have guns and, I believe, make drugs and kill people for sport. So, yeah, she’s captured, and because “Dutch” (Arnold’s character) speaks no Spanish, he has another soldier translate.

And that’s what he does: He translates. He asks Anna questions, she responds in Spanish. Because, well, she’s South American born and raised, and Spanish is her language.

Then, however, “Dutch” grows frustrated. Anna has witnessed the death of Apollo Creed, and he wants to know what happened. So he says something like, “I’m tired of this!” Then grabs Anna and says, “What did you see?”

And she tells him the whole story—in near-flawless English.

It was a preposterous turnaround in a preposterous movie, and when Anna and Arnold are the last two characters remaining, I’m genuinely happy.

Because they can communicate over lunch.

PS: Just learned there was a different original Predator costume. It wasn’t good …

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My favorite thing

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So my son Emmett is 12, and every night I tuck him in, usually with a chat, a story, a trivia question.

Lately, though, I’ve been doing something different: I read him my next book.

To my great shock, he requested it a few weeks ago. So, four or five nights per week, I sit at the end of his bed and read and read and read. Oftentimes he quietly listens. On occasion he offers suggestions—generally good ones, like a certain word choice or repetitive pattern. I value his input and (more importantly) value the time together.

I’m aware how quickly the kids are growing. Emmett is entering eighth grade, Casey is about to be a high school junior.

So I sit and I read and when I’m done I usually hear the kindest words imaginable.

“Dad.”

Yes?

“Can you read a little more more?”

The load

July 8, 2019

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A solid 80 percent of nonfiction book writing sucks.

I’m not exaggerating. Eighty percent. Maybe more. You work long hours. You make call after call after call. You either transcribe your interviews (which blows) or you pay a service to transcribe your interviews (which also blows). You go through days where every work that leaves your brain and winds up on a laptop screen is awful. You go through days where cliches mistakenly seem like genius. You go through days where you unload 1,000 words, feel terrific, then realize none of those 1,000 words will make the cut. You go through days (as I did last week) when you accidentally delete stuff you absolutely, positively could not afford to accidentally delete.

Writing is mental torture. You love hate love late love hate love hate hate hate everything you produce. You stay up until the wee hours, guzzling coffee that leaves you unable to sleep. Your draft is due in two weeks, but you know that’s impossible. Your editor quits midway through your assignment. Your agent retires. You’re reminded every day of the industry’s woes.

Again—a solid 80 percent of nonfiction book writing sucks.

But here’s the thing: The 20 percent kicks ass.

Truly.

Truly.

Truly.

Kicks ass.

And that’s what keeps me going.

A post-loss essay from Ben Askren

July 7, 2019

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In the aftermath of his five-second loss to Jorge Masvidal in tonight’s UFC event, Ben Askren dictated this essay to jeffpearlman.com …

Do you see the butterflies? Do you see them? They are floating inside my milk. Milk! Milk!

I like cookies, but my sister dates Cuba Gooding, Jr. Hee hee. That’s funny. Funny bunny. I think when dogs lick the table they are wondering who’s licking the table. But it’s the dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog. The dog.

My name is Sol. Would you like to buy my shoe? Yummy shoes. Yummy.

I sell shoes. They’re for mittens in the mitten factory. Canned peas taste good. I think. Maybe. Wait. Where am I? I am a broom.

Broom!

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