Last night, I missed the second half of what’s being considered one of the greatest national championship games of all time. Of course, there’s always a recency-bias to these things. Every Kanye album is the best Kanye album of all time (it’s actually him that says this the loudest); Every President, depending on your side of the aisle, is the greatest President of All Time. See? It’s true.
But, at least according to Twitter and the 73 text messages that I awoke to, the game was a classic. I missed it. And I’m (mostly) fine with that.
To call football my favorite sport would be difficult. I have a lot of difficulty swallowing some of the violence, the treatment of former players, the domestic violence issues, and the complete ignoring of head injuries and brain trauma. In other words, yes, I watch, but I kind of hate myself for doing so.
And, in reality, I tend to only watch one team per week. I don’t schedule my Sunday or Monday nights around the games; I barely even watch those games if my team isn’t playing. I think I saw one Thursday night game this year, early in the season, when my favorite team played. Contrast this with a sport like college basketball, where I will watch it all.
That said, it was Wild Card Weekend. This past weekend and this upcoming weekend are two of my favorite sports weekends. I even set these weekends aside in the family’s iCalendar. I’ll dedicate the weekend to watch all four games, making some bets, and generally enjoying life. Last weekend, during the Wild Card games, I watched all four, winning over the TV from my family. This wasn’t viewed as a problem and I will do the same this weekend.
Now, it hit me midway through Monday that the college football national title game was on that night, last night. Now, Monday night is my wife’s favorite show The Bachelor. We have one TV. I couldn’t justify taking the TV again. Not after the TV weekend I just had; Not after the TV weekend I’ll have come Saturday.
So we watched The Bachelor. Corrine is as entertaining as any championship game anyway. I streamed the game on my devices, but around 10 p.m., after The Bachelor was over and the game was at the half, I went to bed (I still can’t figure out how any other adult with kids goes to bed later than this). I silenced my phone and slept great.
Did I miss the game? Yes, of course. It was the best title game ever. Until next year I suppose.
Last year, I got into a pretty good habit of writing every day on here. Even if I missed a day, it was because of an assignment that I had to fit in during my lunch time hour(s). It was a good schedule for me. I forced myself to be productive.
But the end of the year came. With the end of the year comes the closing up of shop. Invoices to re-send, making sure checks were for the right amount, did everyone pay me, etc.? Add to that the grind of the holidays where every free minute is making sure stocking are being stuffed and Amazon products are on their way.
Simply put, it was a gargantuan task to keep any writing going (I did manage some beer writing gigs which kept me same) during that insanely busy spell from Thanksgiving through New Years. Moreover, I gave myself the week after Christmas and before New Years Eve off. I rarely take time off. In the freelance world, a week where you’re not writing, pitching, planning, thinking can be killer. Alas, I decided for my own sanity I needed a break. I hadn’t taken that long of a stretch off since June.
It felt good.
But coming back to the daily grind was harder than I thought. Yesterday, recovering from a 24-hour stomach bug, I spent my free time not writing but on the couch. This morning, two kids in tow, I felt constricted by the lack of time and the neediness of my children. It’s hard. I began to think and it hit me:
Being a writer forces you to be like an elite NFL quarterback. You must have a really short memory. If you throw an interception, forget it and keep throwing; As a writer, if you get rejected or you get off schedule or you’re lacking ideas, forget it and keep going.
I wrote my wife an e-mail this morning about a lack of time and money and energy and this isn’t working. It was melodramatic, as I can be sometimes, and impulsive. I wasn’t wrong. Writing is hard by itself. It’s made more difficult by two kids at home. It’s made more difficult by the lack of time with the kids around and a second job at nights. But I’ve got to teach myself to take my own advice: Keep writing, keep moving forward.
Last Tuesday, I went to the courthouse to endure the brutal civic task of jury duty. Actually, that’s misleading. I think I would be a terrific juror; The pain in the ass would have been figuring out a daytime plan for the 8-month old that lives with us. Child care wouldn’t really count as a hardship, though, and I actually believed I’d be chosen. I had no reason not to be.
During our one-on-one interviews with the judge — I think this is a new process — the presiding judge asked us questions about our questionnaire that we filled out prior to our jury duty day. There was this huge importance placed on doing this prior to our arrival. We literally sat around a room that had the heaters jacked up to 85 degrees. We could’ve easily done them during the four hours of downtime.
In any case, during the personal interview with the court, the judge asked me about journalism. How I got into it, who have I written for, etc.
“What are the primary topics you write about?” he asked.
“Sports and booze,” I answered.
“Booze?!” the judge answered.
The court, tense already, laughed in unison.
I got to explain to him that one of the many perks about writing about anything is access. If I’m writing a story on the Celtics, for instance, I can get a media pass to cover the game; If I’m writing a story about a certain craft beer, often I’ll e-mail a brewery and see if there are media samples available. I, of course, want to make sure I give the most accurate representation of the beer or brewery.
“Will these microbreweries actually send you beer?” he asked.
He was impressed. And with a little charm and an explanation that I certainly believe that I could be a fair and impartial juror, but certainly evidence and cases are equally unique and you never know which could sway you toward bias. I was dismissed.
Every year around this time, the Rare Beer Club, which is part of the beer of the month club, generously donates a couple beers. Everything about these packages are worthwhile: The beers (I got a barrel-aged wee heavy and a barrel-aged barleywine this morning) are top of the line; The packaging and delivery is impeccable. Alongside the beers are call sheets that tell you about the brewery and the beer. The notes include how to serve the beer, what food to pair the beer with, and whether or not they believe the beer would benefit from aging.
Moreover, the people there are great. They’re generous and helpful; They stand by their product, as they should. I highly recommend The Rare Beer Club to anyone interested in craft beer as a drinker, but also to anyone eager to learn more about the craft of beer making. Great gifts for your friends and family at the holidays.
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.
Early in 2016, my family and I travelled out to San Diego to visit one of my oldest friends. We’d grown up in the same town, but went to rival high schools and different colleges. Throughout all that, we remained extremely close. We went to parties at houses of each other’s high school friends; We visited each other in college. After graduating, we both moved out to California. After a year, I left; He stayed and has made his life out there.
In any case, he’s become successful running a business and while we chatted over a couple glasses of scotch last winter, he mentioned something. We were talking about Netflix or HULU or whatever and I mentioned a show that everyone seemed to love, but I couldn’t get into it and quit after just one episode. I said something to the effect of, “I just found myself feeling badly for the guy.”
“I don’t watch stuff that’s too negative,” he said. “I don’t watch the news, not even local news. Fucks up my mind.”
And he pinpointed how I can feel sometimes while following the news or current events or social media. There’s a lot of negativity. There’s negativity about politics and sports and negativity about people being negative. What’s more is that some sad shit happens in this world. For people like me, prone to restless mind-wandering, hearing news of murders and rape and domestic violence, that shit keeps me up at night.
Of course, I’m a member of the media. I can’t exactly tune all this stuff out. I can’t log off of the world because much of my life and way of making money is partially filled with media consumption. I have to read these things. And I can’t avoid them a lot of the times. In the past two months, my Twitter feed is a barrel of negativity. There’s anger and sadness and hostility and fear over our President-Elect. There’s news about Syria and updates on a horrific beheading of a teenager in a neighboring town.
I wanted to counter balance this negativity with stuff that I enjoy, so I came up with a solution. I made a Twitter list of “happy stuff.” A Twitter list is just a place that compiles a certain group of Twitter handles to follow. Some people utilize this for sports or beer-news or (probably) porn.
I thought to myself, “What can I make a list of that would be solely good news all the time? So that if I went on for 15 minutes every time I’m overwhelmed with worry or anxiety or sadness (about the world, about my personal life, about my career) that I can just forget about all of that for little bit?”
My list is pretty silly, actually, but it makes me happy. I follow national parks, where I get to see pictures of some of the prettiest landscapes in the country; I follow shark tagging Twitters that update me with shark pictures; I do the same for whales. So, when I’m feeling shitty or just need an escape, I head over to Happy Twitter and just enjoy the view.
A little over a year ago, a close friend of mine suffered through a rapid descent and death of his father, a man to whom he was very close. This friend, over numerous lunch break cigarettes and happy hour drinks, could talk for hours about his dad: From anecdotes about his accolades as a father to poignant concerns over an aging parent. It is the stories we accumulate over the years that measure the progress of our lives. It is to the fondest to whom we share them.
Indeed, stories are the links that bond us to eternity.
I sat in a pew listening to the celebration of a life of a man I’d met just a few times, but someone whom I felt I knew well. I nodded in agreement when someone cherished a trait they loved so much; I laughed at stories I’d heard before, at specific sayings or platitudes I’d known him to employ.
Someone, I think my friend’s brother, mentioned how much his dad loved Christmas. That he enjoyed dressing up as Santa and giving gifts. That he was always the storyteller, but around Christmas this trait really shined. He’d hold host around a table or a living room, enjoying not only the company, but the season and the sentiment that it brings forth.
At this, I was moved profoundly for particularly strong reasons.
I still hold a fondness to my memories of Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve. Growing up, Christmas Eve was always at our home, and we entertained what seemed like the masses. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors all made it to our home on Christmas Eve. It was the day we looked forward to even more than Christmas. It was festive; It was fun. As we got older, we shared in the merriment of drinks and sitting in the same room as the adults. My dad was the ring-leader of this fun.
But somewhere, somehow that stopped. My father became unhappy and we became unhappy. We moved out. Christmas Eve stopped. My parents got divorced and Christmas time became some fractured, fragmented holiday that caused more stress than happiness. We had to travel to two different homes. A holiday that came with so much joy became a holiday that I openly despised.
Part of it was selfish. My wife’s family wanted to be together on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the day after, presents with Grandma at some point. It was all what I used to have but didn’t anymore. It made me sad.
The wound of the divorce and it’s subsequent bitterness has receded a little bit, to where we share Christmas Eve with my family now, both parents invited and sharing the same space for a finite amount of time each December 24th.
But it was in hearing about my friend’s dad and his love for Christmas that made me alter my course last year.
“I want to be remembered for that,” I told my wife, then pregnant with our second child, a son, born in March. “I want to be the guy who loves Christmas. I want to our children to remember their dad as the guy who always had the most fun on Christmas.”
Now, I’m fully on board. There’s no more bitterness about the slow-moving churning unhappiness that eventually came divorce; There’s no more stress about heading to who’s house, when, and didn’t we see these people yesterday?
Death often makes us reconsider the way we’re living. Often, though, there’s little that carries forward other than the faux-resolution that takes place inside a church pew. This, however, was my resolution: To be the father every kid wants during the holiday season.
It’s not even December and the house is decorated with lights and green and red; Stocking are hung, and a countdown clock sits a 28 days. There are snowmen and Santa’s all around. At two years and eight months, my children don’t know about the magic of Christmas yet, though the older one is learning (and loving it). My rekindled energy for Christmas will hopefully be a catalyst for the rest of their lives.
My dad and my friend’s dad aren’t that dissimilar, in the end. The spirit of Christmas they held in such high regard has been passed down to ensure it’s legacy. I’m happy to keep it going for them both, as I know many more will too.
Last Sunday night, I stayed up late watching the Patriots play the Seahawks. I probably had my last beer around 10 o’clock (my guess is that the game ended around midnight); I do this, cut myself off at a certain time. Not after an amount of booze, but a time. It’s 10 o’clock, regardless of whether or not I have to be up in the morning for anything special. On weeknights, I’m in bed at 10 o’clock, mostly.
Because of the special circumstance, I allowed myself to stay up later and have a few beers into the night.
I’m 34, pushing 35. I’m a parent of two kids, neither of whom has been alive for longer than two years and three months. That means we wake up early and our entire day-cycle is spent chasing, feeding, changing, negotiating, and giving 100% of our attention outside of ourselves. Shower? Lunch? I guess I forgot. Yes, these are sweatpants and, yes, I know it’s 3:30.
It also means I don’t drink as much — quantity-wise — as I once did. Quality is up, but as far as how much I drink, it’s not much. Maybe I’ll have a solitary beer each night (or a glass of wine or a drink, whatever), but as far as quantity, it’s low comparatively speaking. This entire paragraph seems too much like justifying. If so, go screw. I’m an adult.
After the game, our typical routine came and went. Monday everyone went off to school and the baby stayed home with me to work. No drink that night; Same thing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Friday, I came home from work at 9 p.m., a time I’d typically have a beer, and, eh, I’m tired. Let’s go to bed.
At this point, my liver is loving me.
Saturday night, we went to this great Middle Eastern restaurant. We go there all the time, but, unfortunately, they’re closing. Not because the food was bad, not because of money. Just don’t want to be in the business anymore. We went for one last blowout and ate like fat kids. It’s BYOB at the restaurant, so we brought a bottle of wine, which we split and finished.
We came home and everyone else went to bed and I watched football and made a couple more drinks. Two.
I woke up in the morning at 6:10 and really felt the booze. Couple glasses of wine, couple heavy-handed drinks did me in. Tough to watch Doc McStuffins at 6 am after that. To her credit, our two-year-old noticed me dozing off and scooped up some M&M’s. That’ll teach me not to drink and leave the Halloween candy out at night.
It was nice to abstain during a football Sunday. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.
For the record, I didn’t quit drinking. I just thought it’d be beneficial to my body to heed the signs of, “Hey, you should just go to bed tonight. Don’t stay up and have a beer” and “Milk would taste great with this dinner.” Also, and this is just an aside, I was taking a selfie with my son the other day and saw my face and said, “Holy fuck you’re fat!” The holidays are coming (in fact, they’re here). There will be drinking and feasting and conviviality. I don’t need to exacerbate the damage. Some nights of abstaining are warranted before the holiday booze gauntlet begins.