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Taking Days Off

A confession:

Once, I don’t know how old I was, I wasn’t really in the mood to go to school, so I turned on the light next to my bed, closed my eyes, and let the warmth from the lamp warm my forehead. Taking my temperature by hand, my mom decided I was burning up and needed to stay home. Sorry mom.

On the exterior, staying home from school is great. School sucks. But, when I was younger, staying home from school wasn’t like it is today. There was nothing on television. We were “too sick” to go to school meant we were “too sick” for Nintendo, too, so it meant hours on the couch, ugh, reading or watching The Price is Right or Days of Our Lives. Those were the only things on television. There were no computers. No cell phones.

Meaning, I wasn’t able to “catch up on homework” and be surfing the internet; I wasn’t able to text my friends and follow the days events on social media.

This isn’t a problem anymore. Realistically, I couldn’t care less about the social media aspect now, but I’m sure I would have back when I was a teenager. Days off aren’t spend bored anymore. Days off are spent doing the same exact thing kids would have done in school, but replacing history class with Breaking Bad, algebra with SportsCenter.

This makes me jealous. I feel like I missed out.

I was sick yesterday to the point where my wife had to leave work to come home, pick up our daughter, and watch our kids while I slept. When I was just awake enough to swipe my iPhone, I checked scores and fantasy football and Twitter, read a couple articles. My wife left for dinner, too, to the grandparents house to eat dinner. I laid on the couch and fell asleep watching a movie. Being sick is terrible; But being sick in 2016? Not so bad.

What if I took that job in CA?

Much has been made about my time in California, and there’s a longer narrative somewhere, or maybe not. I can’t really tell. But, of all the crossing themes of our life, one that perplexes me often is the turns we make or don’t make and how they lead us to where we are.

Note that this isn’t a sad post because I don’t regret how this particular event panned out.

I applied for a number of sports writing gigs out in San Diego when I was there. I heard back from a couple. “Not now.” I was hired and cut when they made budget layoffs. I did some freelance work. I had applied at a bigger daily in a city called Escondido. A good paper, comparable in size to the paper at which I did my internship in college. I felt like a good fit.

I don’t recall the exact words, but it was something like, “We don’t have the space for you now, but pester us around football season because we’ll need another guy here.”

Okay, good. But when that came around, I was back in New England. The reason I left was a lack of money and this was, I don’t know, end of July? I never thought to call the guy and ask if they were, by any chance, a month ahead of schedule for hiring.

So I was home about a month later, working at the same convenience store I did in college, earning some extra cash and a phone call comes in: the Escondido paper, looking for me, asking me to come in for a formal interview. It was a bummer. I felt I’d have been a good fit there.

Where would I be now if I’d waited a month? Or what if I’d called ahead of my departure and asked. We’ll never know.

This is the best article I read all week:

The Crossroads of Hoosier Hysteria by Mark Titus. A must-read for basketball fans.

Drink Bells Third Coast Old Ale. Please. It’s got a complex hop-bite upfront, but fades into a really interesting malty sweetness. As it warms, it opens up a bit, too. Just another great beer by Bells.

Friday, Drink/Read, Gilmore girls, Gronk

I have mentioned before that one of the great perks of having a pregnant wife is the ability to avoid all social responsibilities and watch Netflix all day/night without any sort of concern. Of course, this only pertains to the first-timers. Second timers will be chasing another kid around. There will be no Netflix binges then.

That said, one of the shows my wife really enjoyed watching was the Gilmore girls (spelled with the second g lower-case, as is the show), which we will refer to going forward as GG. She plowed through the entire series. I won’t embarrass her by using specifics. Our first kid was born in the summer, so there were no games to watch, no new sitcoms or dramas we like, so I watch GG alongside my wife. If I missed an episode — or four — it was fine, but I made sure I was around for the final few episodes.

GG was rebooted for Netflix recently and lets just say that this cause quite the stir in my household. We can’t just watch on our own time for these things; They have to be consumed almost immediately so that my wife can chat with her friends about it and read articles.

If we’re being honest, I hate that this is how we watch television (“we” in the societal sense). There was something fun about watching an episode of a series like 24 or LOST and convening with friends the next day about the episode, exchanging theories or subplot ideas, anxious for next week. Now we consume on individual timelines which leads to no interaction with anyone aside from the viewing partner. Kind of stinks.

The GG reboot was fine. It stuck to the original formula while being updated for modernity. There were cameos and return characters that were nice to see. Typically, these reboots are terrible (see: Fuller House), but this one was okay. I’d be shocked if they didn’t do it again and I’ll look forward to watching six hours of Netflix in two days again. Funny, I should add, that it definitely took me MUCH longer to get through six hours of House of Cards.

***

What do we do about Gronk?

One side: Cut him loose. Trade him for two first round picks. His injuries have cost the Patriots seedings or the season every year but one. You don’t have the money for him and Bennett. You can’t guarantee he’ll come back the same Gronk we love.

Other side: That one year he was healthy at the end of the season, the Patriots won the Super Bowl. He’s never not come back and been the same Gronk we love.

Another side: Retire. Consider life after football. Hasn’t he said he doesn’t spend his salary money? He’s a first ballot hall of fame tight end. One of the best ever. A Super Bowl champion.

Yet another side: He’ll be the greatest what-if ever. He’s already in the conversation for best of all-time. Two, three more seasons like he’s had every season and he’s the best, hands down. He doesn’t have the stats of Gates or longevity of Gonzalez, but no tight end has changed the course of an entire NFL season the way he has every year.

To wit:

2011 plays Super Bowl on broken ankle, loss to Giants

2012 broke arm against Houston, Pats lost next game to Ravens

2013 torns ACL, Pats lose home field, then AFC title game to Broncos

2014 no injuries, Super Bowl champs

2015 knee injury sat Gronk last month of the season, lose home field and at Broncos in AFC title game

2016 back injury.

I just threw up.

***

Read: This piece by Kathryn Schulz won the Pulitzer last year. It’s terrifying and interesting and worth 20 minutes of your time. Considering all the environmental work we’ve accomplished over the course of the last couple decades and the possible consequences of a new administration, this is worth considering.

Drink: Backwoods Bastard by Founders. See it on the shelves. Think, “Whoa, that’s an expensive four pack.” Remember, “Matt says it’s awesome.” Look at the label. Consider. Question, “Am I going to spend $15 on a four pack of an IPA anyway?” Buy the Backwoods Bastard. Do it. Backwoods Bastard. It will change your life. Backwoods Bastard.

Get writing, everyone.

Where are the young novelists?

Maybe we don’t need young novelists. Young novelists don’t know anything. Someone in their 20’s might write really well, but there’s an utter lack of experience through which to tell a story. I’m a firm believer that you don’t become a writer writer until you’re 30. You can’t know anything in life until you’ve gone through some serious shit. Let’s face it: Most writers are college educated, which is one of the great paradoxes of our time. Spend a blue whales amount of money to be alone, writing, for a krill’s salary. Then you spend almost as much money on therapy as you did college.

Most writers are educated, meaning they spent the first twenty or so years in some way living off their parents money. They came home from college break to their childhood bedrooms, borrowed $50 if they needed it, came home drunk and slept the day away. But then something happens: Life.

Student loans appear. Rent is due. You lose some friends. You gain new ones. You meet someone. You fall in love. You get your heart broken. You get a job. You have money. You spend it foolishly. All of these things you’ll look back on and realize how insignificant they were.

But that’s not true. As a writer, all of these things that accumulate, the good and the bad, the scary and the safe, they add up. They give us a world-view. They provide us with empathy and strength and courage to write. Sure, you get over these self-proclaimed tragedies.

The girl you loved that broke your heart? Someone new will come along, but the former girlfriend never goes away. She informed you how to grieve, how to recover, how to cope. She taught you how to want and regret and to be lonely. She taught you how to overcome.

The job you lost provided a sense of self-worth and enabled self-reflection. Fuck em. But you’ll get another job and, instead of fucking up in the dozens of ways you fucked up — even if your job and boss sucked — you crush it.

The friends lost and friends gained teach us to let go and embrace change; We watch as some people fade away or get sick or hurt or addicted and we learn empathy and compassion.

This shit doesn’t happen to us when we’re coddled in our childhood bedroom, eating dinner cooked by mom and purchased by someone who asks you for “requests” at the market each Saturday morning. Lessons are learned through adversity and adversity starts for most of us in our 20’s.

We’re facing a Presidential administration that could shape our country for years to come in a way that adversely affects too much people and, incredibly, the health of our planet. Get writing everyone.

Excuses, excuses

Lately, I will admit, writing has been hard for me. I’ve kept up with writing every single day, which seems more like a diary day to day. Writing just to write. That isn’t a bad thing, in my opinion. Just because you didn’t have your best mile split or heaviest dead lift or best quiz score doesn’t mean you quit running or the gym or school. You’re still exercising those muscles.

In reality, too, I’ve sold a couple beer articles in the last two weeks and those have been written and are in the process of editing, so nothing is completely lost. But those articles were mindless. They don’t pay that much and I didn’t work too hard to write them.

My favorite part of writing is the research. I love sitting down at the computer for a few hours trying to figure out what comes next and, upon finding it, feeling that certain level of excitement as I click around the internet for resources and additional material. I love the next few days as I send e-mail requests for interviews. These elements of journalism and both unrecognized and necessitate time. I have none of the latter.

Sure, I get an hour or two at nap time, but it comes with the caveat that I have something to do. When nap time comes (never a set time), I try my best to get in front of the computer and do work. But what about when there’s nothing to do? There’s the search for inspiration, for ideas. There’s that. A week goes by. Nothing. Two weeks. Nothing. There’s shit to write about, for sure.

Between two hours a day, tops, at nap time then a part time job that brings me home after 9pm, when does a person write? My wife leaves at 7am. Kids are up by 6am. Could I write from 9:30-midnight? Sure. Show me a parent with enough energy after watching two kids all day then working to come home to more work after work. Then wake up and do it again.I love my kids. I love my family. It’s a strain having them during the day, trying to write, then having my wife come home essentially to a tagging out high five as I walk out the door and she handles the rest.

And we’re still broke. Still struggling to make all ends meet. There’s not much left to cut out of the budget.

I try to take solace in the fact that I’ve had a bit of success — actually, I’ll say I’ve done damn well coming into the journalism game with limited contacts — all while being a stay-at-home dad with two kids. The solace comes when I think about what can be accomplished when they’re out of the house for the day.  All of it: writing freedom, more money seem so far away.

For now, though, it’s still a struggle. I see articles that could have had my byline beneath them. I see stories that could have been my beat. It’s the end of the year, a good one professionally, a great one personally, and a terrible one for current events. All of the words have been written. I have no energy to spare right now.

Thanks for reading.

“About Competition”

By Charles Bukowski

The higher you climb, the greater the pressure

Those who manage to endure learn that the distance between the top and the bottom is obscenely great.

And those who succeed know this secret: There isn’t one.

***

Moving past the election, though I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to comment upon, I’ve been reading a lot. And all over the place. In the past week and a half, I’ve continued reading “Here I am” by Jonathan Safran Foer, which I like, especially now that some semblance of action has begun; Of course, there’s the journalism that is calling for doom and gloom over the next four years; Then, online and print journalism.

We don’t watch much TV these days, with the exception of the Patriots football on Sundays, and college basketball, and the I’m-not-sure-if-its-good This is Us. Our consumption of media is largely print-based.

I forgot, much to my disappointment, how much I enjoyed a book of poetry. It’s not that accessible an art form. In my day, I was reading a lot of poetry and trying my hands at some pretty awful verse. And so when I picked up “American Places,” a collection of poetry, it was enjoyable to be whisked away not only to a different place in the way literature does, but taken on a trip to a person I used to be. I’d read these poems before, been affected by some of them. It was like a short vacation to a place I once knew, a person I once knew.

When you drive to someone’s house for the first time, you’re commute is dictated by a map, or, I guess if we’re in 2016, a cell phone connected to Google Maps. You don’t look around much. You just kind of follow that voice. Turn right. Stay straight for 3.5 miles. Take exit 14. You will arrive to your destination on the right in a quarter mile. We don’t look around. We don’t take in the scenery.

But the second time, you notice certain elements of the trip. There’s the gas station we turned at. There’s the lake he mentioned. Oh, I remember this green house, his house is nearby.

And the third and the fourth time you visit, you don’t need the GPS. You don’t need physical markers. You can look around. You notice the clerk smoking a cigarette by her car at the gas station; You see a red-tailed hawk on the trees by the lake; You take note of the Massaratti in the driveway of the green house.

It’s like that with books. The first time, we care about getting to the end. We, upon a third or fourth reading of anything — poetry, fiction, non-fiction — , can look around the prose and appreciate everything else. Sometimes it’s nice to be lost, and to look around a completely fictional world.

Post-Election/Hoosiers/ATCQ

For the last six or so months, I’ve been pretty vocal about my political leanings with friends and through articles I read and share on Twitter. This is not about that. For starters, yes, I did despair a bit on Wednesday, but, if I’m being totally honest, was less about who lost than who won.

That said, here’s what I need the people who are protesting in the streets to do: Get over it. I’m all about protest when it can affect change, but what is standing outside the state house in Boston, Massachusetts going to do? Prove that you dislike President Trump? Maybe get you laid by a Berklee College of Music sophomore? I mean, really.

Shouting, “Not my President” will do nothing to stop what’s going to happen come inauguration day in January. Using a similar hashtag will get your some re-tweet, but it’s not going to change the outcome. Yes, we get it. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Guess what, dummy. That means nothing. It’s the lowest of moral victories there is. It’s like losing a Game Seven in the World Series and trying to have the commissioner change the outcome because your team had more overall runs in the series.

Protesting the results of an election doesn’t show us anything other than you’re a bunch of millennial, participation trophy cry-babies. There are ways to act. But probably a better recourse would be to (a) pay attention to what’s happening, (b) participate in your local government, (c) contribute to campaigns, (d) identify a list of charities/organizations/groups that you feel would best further your political ideals, and (e) donate/volunteer/apply for jobs.

Protest, sure, but act, too.

Also, SNL cold-opens with “Hallelujah” … ugh, give me a break. Self-indulgent shit like that is exactly why Trump is our President now.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what the election means.

***

Thirty years ago, one of my favorite movies of all time —Hoosiers– came out. I remember we had a video cassette of the movie, taped off a VCR from HBO. So every time I watched the movie, the opening picture was a droid-esque movement through a city, into a town, and into a home where a family was watching HBO.

Then the subtle fade in of the music … the drive across America and into the heart of Indiana.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that movie. 50? I still watch it once a year, at 34, as I try to do with all of my favorite movies: Stand By Me, Halloween, Dazed & ConfusedSilence of the Lambs, Boyz in the Hood. It combines basketball with a theme I quite like: nostalgia. I can’t believe it came out 30 years ago (almost as close, actually, to the time it depicts than it is to right now).

***

On one last, happier note, I’ve yet to hear the new A Tribe Called Quest album, but I’ve heard it’s fantastic. Read this great article about the ghost looming over the record. 18 years is a too many years to have waited for ATCQ record. But from what I gather over the past few weeks of the press the album has generated is that these are guys who needed to heal their individual wounds, repairs personal friendships, and/or regain a sense of self before creating another classic. What I love about this is that it’s not simply old tracks or lost recordings from sessions way back. They’re new verses, new beats. So happy & can’t wait to listen to the record. I can guarantee that I won’t be let down.