I'm back in New York City after four days in the benign sensory deprivation/regression therapy experience that is the ancestral home in New Jersey. Me, the wife, my parents, and the excitable bathmat pictured at left, hanging around a weirdly cold house -- the 64-degree setting on the thermostat was seemingly non-negotiable, with my mother going so far as to offer a sweater to a small/elderly/beloved Thanksgiving guest rather than goosing the temperature a few degrees. Eccentric parents are going to be eccentric parents, though, and I brought sweaters. And that giddy little shag carpeted animal is going to be cute, but it's also going to be fed weird things by my parents -- cheesecake? goose-liver pate? -- and then my parents are going to blame each other for feeding it weird things. And then the dog is going to poop in various places throughout the home, usually on or near one of the half-dozen or so wee-wee pads(tm) that have been scattered about the house in an attempt to both minimize carpet-related damage and define down the definition of "housebroken." This is all normal. I know it doesn't look that way, but it's normal.
It's actually not at all normal, I know. But the ways in which my annual Thanksgiving trips to the happy, underheated, secretly weird home have become normal -- the unconscious rapprochement I've realized with my family and hometown and past, and which you probably have, too -- has been much on my mind of late. In part, this is because -- belatedly, so incredibly freaking belatedly -- my novel is finished, and in the hands of my estimable agent, and because my novel is (subtextually, I guess) mostly about that topic. I write what I know, just like anyone else, and while I don't necessarily know what to make of the passage of time's effect on my family and myself, or on that cluttering, chilly homestead, I am at least aware that it is happening, and that the fact that it is happening makes me feel something.
The easiest label for that "something" would, I guess, be nostalgia or regret. This is because a sort of vague melancholy is my default mood/mode, but also because that's a pretty normal response to the passage of time and the inexorability of change and all that. We, or at least I, tend to struggle for a sense of control and equilibrium all of our days, but the accretion of all that time is something we can't control, no matter how on point we are about calling people back on time, getting up when the alarm goes off, et cetera. I battled myself to get the novel finished, while all around me my life rose in great teetering piles, and it has been a strange sensation, facing all that accumulation and wondering what to do with/about it, what to do next. And if I hadn't been alternately anxious and busy, if I hadn't spent all this time knee-deep in lame-brand scotch and inertia, the same accumulation would've happened. I'm not totally sure what I'm writing about, here, but I think I could write a lot more about it if given the opportunity.
I was given such an opportunity by my good friends at The Awl before Thanksgiving, as part of their Real American Thanksgiving Cookbook project -- a sort of compendium of essay-fied recipes by Awl staffers and commenters and adjunct semi-regular humperinos such as myself. I'm pretty happy with what I wrote, which was an essay about my parents' house and Thanksgiving -- still and probably always my favorite holiday -- wrapped around my second grade teacher's recipe for cranberry-orange relish.
Kate revealed to me, after the essay went up, that she has always found the recipe a little too tart. We made a half-recipe this year, and made it a little sweeter -- the guest list was smaller, and 20 percent of said guest list bashfully/finally went on record with her it's-just-too-cranny sentiments. I complain about my parents' house and weirdness because I worry about them getting old, I guess, and because I'm noticing myself getting older. But, as the Awl essay points out, it's a hopeful and happy thing that all this weirdness has proven so enduring, and so adaptable.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
I could link to the video of Oakland Raiders lineman Richard Seymour straight slapping Ben Roethlisberger's rape-ham of a face in today's Oakland/Pittsburgh tilt -- can and will, friends -- but I'm pretty sure the NFL will have it pulled down off YouTube sooner than later. So I'll go with a somewhat more abstract bit of imagery above, which pretty well sums up what you'll see in the video.
Am I now suddenly reversing my stance on NFL violence, or idiot macho stuff, or what is generally a slap-averse approach to life? No, not really. Although I feel like it's healthy to make exceptions when a shit-talking serial sexual assault suspect is on the receiving end. My thoughts on Roethlisberger, and what kind of processed meat he resembles most, are obviously a matter of public record. But I'd be remiss if I didn't link to this, and thank the mighty Joey Litman for bringing it to my TV-less attention up here in New Haven.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Bradford Plumer of The New Republic examines the way in which opposition to compact fluorescent light bulbs has become an article of faith (?) for conservative politicians. You know, like believing that the earth's climate is not changing and that reducing taxes raises revenues and that rhinoceroses are made of cinnamon and that Wednesdays are a myth created by the liberal media. What's important is that incandescent light bulbs are more American/free/market-positive, you see, because they existed fifty years ago. Even though they suck at being light bulbs, relatively and absolutely, in just about every way not having to do with seniority. For fuck's sake, you guys:
Most of the opposition to the light-bulb law just seems to be cultural: Conservatives don't like the government telling them what to do (unless, of course, it's bedroom-related), and the only benefits of this law are to solve a problem (global warming) that the right doesn't even think exists. That's not a promising sign for energy policy. Cap-and-trade may be dead, but there are still a lot of smaller, relatively non-intrusive measures that could help curb power use, save money, and make the economy more efficient, such as stronger building codes. This isn't some wild-eyed liberal idea; even Ronald Reagan signed a big appliance-standard bill back in 1987. But the odds of small-bore compromise seem low now that even efficient light bulbs are considered unacceptably socialist.
It's nice to know that old people feel safer with the dumbest Caucasians ever to walk the earth in charge of things. I know that bit of analysis is not terribly nuanced of me, but some things are not terribly nuanced. Some lightbulbs are better than others, and no lightbulbs are more or less socialist than others.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
When I talk to people about my NFL columns for The Awl, it's tough for me not to say something like "I write the same column every week." I don't, or not entirely -- it's just this kind of reflexive self-deprecating thing that might well be charming in a more successful person, or one with higher self-esteem. But if I could write the same column every week, it would be this one's. I think it's my favorite, and anyone who has ever suffered through my football-is-socialist spiel in the past -- it's a three-scotches-in favorite, and a Chupacabran legend at certain bars -- will perhaps be happy to see that it's finally made it into print. Perhaps? I don't know, I don't know how you feel. But I'm pretty proud of the piece so, if you're into that sort of thing, feel free to read it.