That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

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Posts Tagged ‘my father’

Dad, they come in through the doors.

Posted by kozemp on June 16, 2017

I’ve been having trouble getting out of bed lately.

Not trouble sleeping, mind. I’ve never been good in the mornings, but for at least the last god knows how many years that’s been mostly because I was never really sleeping. Since the nice doctors gave me the kickass CPAP machine at the end of last year, oh baby have I been sleeping.

But the last few months I’ve been having the damnedest time in the morning when I wake up. Before, my trouble in the morning was that I was always moving through quicksand. I’d get out of bed at 530 and I wouldn’t really even be awake until almost an hour later. That’s what happens when you haven’t slept for more than 8 or 10 minutes at a time in years.

That isn’t what’s happening now, though.

Now my alarm goes off at 530 – the opening song from La La Land – I wake up and turn it off, and then I just lay there. I’m not asleep, really. It’s not “oh, I’ll hit snooze and stay here for ten more minutes.” I don’t set a snooze on my morning alarm anymore. I turn it off and I just lay in bed awake. Sometimes for ten minutes. Sometimes for almost an hour. It’s not that I’m still asleep. It’s not that I want to go back to sleep. It’s not that my back hurts too much to get out of bed.

I just lie there, awake, not wanting to get up. I lie there until the thought of getting showered and dressed and making breakfast in time to leave for work would mean rushing more than I want to in the morning, and that’s the thing that jolts me out of bed. Having a leisurely morning is why I started getting up that early in the first place, and on days when I have to go to work it’s basically the only thing that gets me out of bed.

On weekends, when I need to be somewhere in the morning I’ll lie there until the last possible second before I’ll be late to wherever I’m going.

On weekend days when I don’t have to be anywhere…

On days like that I will stay in bed until I have to go to the bathroom so badly I can’t take it anymore.

The third or fourth time that happened I started to realize I had a problem.

********

Almost a year ago – in actual fact very close to exactly a year ago – we got the news that my father was sick. Really sick. Stage III peripheral T-Cell lymphoma.

That is one of those moments you wish you could say “I don’t remember much from those days.” I remember exactly which empty office I sat in at work to talk to my mother. I remember sitting there at the unused desk with my head in my hands for almost a half an hour, wondering what to do. I called Regina. I talked to my boss. I booked a ticket to Florida on the first flight I could afford. Then Florida in June – seven hells, Florida in June. The hospital. Back and forth the 24 miles from my parents’ to the hospital, sitting with my dad in shifts. Watching the Bridgestone and the Euros with my dad while my mom slept at home. Talking about treatment and prognosis with my father’s doctor, who annoyingly insisted on being called “Tim.” Exaggeratingly pronouncing “TIM” like John Cleese as soon as he left the room.

One night back at the house, laying out for my mother, talking nonstop for almost an hour in the coldest monotone I have ever managed, my detailed analysis of what an absolute failure I’d been as a son and a person. The feeling, when I left several days later, that I was inhuman for going back home and leaving them on their own.

I remember that week with perfect, excruciating clarity.

After that week came six months of treatment, which was somehow worse. I don’t want to go into too much direct technical detail here – I lived it for months and don’t want to spend so much as five seconds reliving it again – but basically the way we treat cancer, the way we stop this thing from killing you, is to do everything BUT kill you. The idea of the chemotherapy regimens is to get you as close to death as you can tolerate, and I don’t mean tolerate the way you gimp around on a sore ankle for a few weeks until you can see the orthopedist. I mean tolerate as in “not actually die.”  Once they find that level, they hit you with it over and over and over again. Then, for my father at least, at the end they perform a stem cell transplant, basically a complete teardown and rebuild of your immune system, a remarkable procedure with truly horrific side effects which in my dad’s case involved weeks living in a clean room and being ACTUALLY dead for a few seconds.

For six months there was this thing there, hanging over me, that no matter how much good news we got from doctors, no matter how well my father handled the chemo (which turned out to be very well), for six straight months I spent every second convinced that my father was going to die at any moment. Not just any moment, in the next moment. Every second of every day, waiting for the axe to fall.

It was not a good way to live. It wasn’t even the only one; over those six months I came up with any number of very innovative ways to live that were not good.

People were telling me from the start, “take care of yourself.” Tons of people reached out to me with offers of help, and good wishes, and the outpouring of support blew my mind more than a little, but people kept saying that to me and I really didn’t know what to make of it. “Take care of myself.” Of course I’m going to take care of myself. How can I not take care of myself?

Turns out, not taking care of yourself is a lot easier than you’d believe. Step 1: spend all your time worrying about someone else. Step 2: don’t do anything else. I’m not sure what happens after that for anyone else, but for me it involved losing a night of my life.

I’ve talked occasionally about the very few times I’ve straight-up hallucinated – brought on by my purposeful and idiotic choices to stay awake for days at a stretch – and how the real problem with, say, seeing trees in the middle of Roosevelt Boulevard is not “oh my, there’s a tree in the middle of the road that wasn’t there before,” but instead “there’s a tree in the middle of the road and I KNOW there isn’t a tree in the middle of the road so OH MAN MY BRAIN ISN’T WORKING RIGHT.” The problem isn’t bad input. The problem is the epistemological fear reaction it produces.

The very bottom of me ignoring the advice I got to take care of myself came on a Friday night in October, when I got home from work and stepped out of my car, and the next thing I knew after that I was lying in bed, in the middle of the night, in different clothes than I had worn to work that day. I had no memory of the previous six hours, but at some point I had, at the very least, changed clothes and gone to bed.

I made some very quick checks – I hadn’t blackout-dialed any of my exes. My car was still where I parked it. My bag was where I leave it when I walk in the door. I hadn’t done anything crazy. Near as I could figure, it appeared that once I had gotten home the conscious part of my brain simply shut down entirely.

The fact that I had managed to get myself inside, and changed and – damp towel, taken a goddamn shower! – and put myself to bed without any sort of higher brain functioning, all of that worried me less than the fact that it had happened in the first place. Just like that first drive back from New York in the middle of the night when I saw trees in the middle of the Boulevard, my reaction was not “oh my god I can’t remember the last six hours.” It was “how did I get myself to a place where it was possible for me to black out for six hours?”

Even at the time the answer was fairly obvious. I had been living on a ragged emotional edge for months at that point, and was now apparently doing considerable physical harm to myself as well, but what was I supposed to do? My father was sick. As far as I was concerned my father was going to die in the next five seconds. It wasn’t something that could be ignored. You might as well ask someone to ignore air, or the sun.

The part of my brain that still works through situations like this, that always seems to find some sliver to function rationally even when things have gone completely pear-shaped, reasoned that if I started blacking out regularly, or got myself sick or messed up, I wouldn’t be able to help my parents. That was what finally motivated me to actually make an effort to do what people had been telling me from the start and take care of myself through all this. That was what got me going. Not listening to those friends, or any sort of instinct for self-preservation. Just pure guilt. Straight up, end of Last Crusade, you can’t save him when you’re dead, guilt.

So I called some of the friends whose advice I had been ignoring, expressed my alarm that, Fox Mulder-style, I had lost time, and asked for help. My friends, being far better than I deserved, gave it and then some. I didn’t make any sort of real move to be actively healthy in any way – not then, at least – but I did start taking rudimentary precautions to make sure I didn’t black out again.

And then… not to make a long story too short, but: my dad got better. He tolerated the chemotherapy and his test results were positive. I went down to Florida a bunch more times. We did Hospital Thanksgiving the day after he was admitted to the transplant unit. We managed to have Christmas at their house when he demanded to be discharged from the transplant unit the first day it was humanly possible for him to leave. (He was in there a shade over three weeks.) Then, in January, we got word that his scans came back clean. There was no detectable cancer.

It was early yet, but by all indications the treatments had worked. My dad was fine.

The thing no one tells you, and I’m not sure if they don’t tell you because it only happened to me or because it’s too awful to talk about, is that the news that my dad was fine made things infinitely, almost indescribably worse.

I had spent more or less every second of the previous six months worrying about my father, but in an “is he okay RIGHT NOW” sense, and not in an “is he going to be okay in the indeterminate future” sense. That second thing was there, yes. In some way it was always there, but it was always a teeny tiny little process lurking in the background. 1 percent, 2 tops, and you’re not going to pay attention to that itty bitty thing when CANCER.EXE is up there at the top of the list crushing your CPU for every scrap of spare resources it can find.

My parents were young when they had me. I objectively know how young but it’s hard for me to understand, to really grasp just how young. I’m going to turn 40 later this year. When my father turned 40 I was finishing my FRESHMAN YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL. The thought of having a kid that old is legitimately terrifying to me, let alone having TWO like my parents did. They both just turned 65 and aside from the occasional minor health scare – there were a few years there when I was a teenager when we thought my dad had prostate cancer, thank you useless PSA testing, but it never turned into anything so it was never real for me – my parents have been basically chugging along nicely my entire life.

Stage III lymphoma, though, that’s a big flashing neon sign the size of Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas that says, “hey, guess what, Sparky? Your father is mortal and you might want to get used to the idea.” The trouble was that while he was actually sick I was so entirely consumed by the “is he okay right now” question that the notion of my father’s mortality had never crossed my mind.

I’ve lost people over the years. I’ve lost a lot of people. The part of me that is a bad card player – a very small part, admittedly – sometimes likes to think that I’ve lost more than my fair share of people. The rest of me, the vast majority that is a good card player, that part remembers an old man in a robe telling me there’s no such thing as luck and a cute goth girl with an ankh necklace reminding me that I get what anybody gets. And that’s… in a weird way, that’s okay? We all lose people, and you go through it, and it’s awful and sad, and eventually you come out on the other side.

None of those people are my parents, though. None of them are my father. I tried to think about the possibility of my father actually dying and I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t there; I couldn’t conceive of a world where that had happened. I’ve spent a lot of my life living in the future, in a future that was admittedly almost always incorrect but no less vivid for that, but no matter how hard I tried, and I tried very hard, I couldn’t see that particular future.

I’ve said before, here and other places, that I am loathe to assign meaning to things I cannot accurately describe, but this is one of those things that if I were pressed to say how it’s different I wouldn’t be able to come up with anything more than “it just is.”

So for six months I had sublimated – or, possibly more accurately, outright ignored – this giant reminder of my father’s mortality. (My mother’s as well, of course, but if there’s anything in heredity my mother will live well into her two thousands.)

And then came the news that my father was well. He was not going to die.

He was not going to die RIGHT NOW.

It was at this point that six months of not confronting my father’s mortality hit me all at once, and the force of it dislodged this thing inside me like an iceberg breaking off from the polar ice cap, and my entire brain was suddenly consumed by pure, atavistic terror.

Much like the feeling of worry that consumed me when my dad was sick, I’ve been experiencing that terror almost every waking moment since I got the phone call in January that he was fine.

You know what I hate more than anything in the world right now? My phone. Jesus puppyfucking Christ, how I hate my phone.

I had my first phone-related panic attack when my mother called a few weeks after we got the good news. My phone rang – the fanfare from the Indiana Jones theme – I saw “Mom” at the top of the screen, and the entire 68-piece panic attack orchestra broke into the opening bars of the 1812 Overture.

This was it. This was the call. The scans were wrong. The doctors fucked it up. The cancer is back. The cancer never left.

My mother was calling to tell me my father was dying again.

Now, of course, my mother was actually calling to tell me that my sister would be leaving their place soon and heading back up here, and she was sending some stuff for me with her, and when she came by to drop it off would I mind giving her the old vacuum cleaner?

I am reasonably sure my mom didn’t know that for the first 30 seconds of our conversation I was a hairsbreadth away from needing to be hospitalized. I think I covered it up pretty well.

My mother and I don’t talk on the phone all that often. She took to technology with much more ease than a lot of people her age so most of our communication is digital. She texts me about Doctor Who. She emails me stories about new attractions at Disney World and questions about whether or not she should upgrade her iMac. (The apple, and indeed the Apple, doesn’t fall far from the tree.) Honest to goodness voice calls, though, they’re pretty rare.

It’s a good thing they’re rare, because this panic attack happens every time she calls now.

Every time my phone rings and I see “Mom” at the top I get that feeling, that pressure in my chest, the world spinning around my head, that inability to catch a breath once I answer. Now, months later, it’s over almost before I know it, it’s over as soon as I hear that impossibly cheery “Hell-LO!” she always starts phone calls with, but even still, imagine that: even for a second, not being able to breathe when your mother calls.

This insane, impossible little box that connects me to the rest of the world has become this thing that I hate. I hate having it on me, I hate carrying it around, I hate needing it, because every time the fanfare from Raiders plays and I see “Mom” I am convinced that this time is it, this is the one I’ve been dreading, my father is sick again and the giant mass of atavistic terror is sharpened down to a dagger that gets driven into my chest.

One time she called me a few months ago I just sat there for a little bit, staring at my phone, wondering if this was the ballgame. Am I always going to panic when my mother calls? Am I ever going to be able to actually talk to her on the phone without feeling like I’m dying?

Am I going to spend the rest of my life terrified that this is the call telling me the world is ending?

The part of my brain that always functions rationally no matter what quietly said, “no, not for the rest of your life. Just for the rest of HIS.”

I put my elbows on the table and my head in my hands the same way I did that day last June when she called and said aloud to my empty dining room, “that’s not helpful.”

********

My dad and I were never really shy about communicating – well, not about talking at least, actual COMMUNICATING may be another story – but we talk a lot more now than we ever did. When my father was sick I made it a point to talk to him every day, even if it was just a text message to see how he was feeling. (The answer was usually “crappy.”) I still try to touch base every day, although most days if nothing else we end up texting the weather where we are to each other, as though the cursed smartphones we’re texting through don’t also tell us the weather where the other is.

So we talk about weather. We live-text each other the golf. We argue about movies. I text him the puns from the opening credits of Bob’s Burgers every week. He texts me what he did in physical therapy that day and how good he feels. We argue about their itinerary for when they drive north for the summer in a few weeks.

If I think about all of it too much it still feels just as bad, but it doesn’t feel as bad for as long, and I take my small victories where I can find them.

I woke up this morning and went down to the kitchen to make my breakfast. As I was getting ready to toss the butter for my egg in the pan, in my dreary pre-coffee shuffle I slowly noticed that I smelled gas, which should not happen. I realized, even through my stupor, that I never heard the click-click-click of the igniter on the burner.

I looked down: no flames.

I looked at the control panel for the range: no clock.

I muttered, “shit,” and was instantly, completely awake.

A minute later as I was sitting at my computer googling my electrician’s number I texted my mother “no power in oven. Weird. Calling the guy.” My parents are in Disney World, which I knew was the only thing on earth that would get my mother out of bed before 8AM.

Before I could finish finding the number my mother texted me “hang on.”

I saw that and thought “NO DON’T – !”

My phone rang.

Indiana Jones theme. “Mom.”

I gripped the edge of the dining room table so hard my nails would have snapped off, if I had any.

As my mother started talking about the GFCI and testing the outlet behind the dish rack, that rational part of my brain quietly slid up next to me and said, “it’s time we fixed this.”

I pushed the tiny red button on the outlet.

JLK

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Life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.

Posted by kozemp on March 30, 2015

When I was growing up, my father, like I assume all fathers, taught me a lot of rules. Though I have internalized a lot of them over the years, there are a few that I still carry to this day word for word, and that I imagine I probably will my entire life.

Bear in mind that all of these were offered as broadly-applicable life lessons of extreme, and roughly similar, importance. They are, in the order that I remember being taught them in:

1) Once you start a book you have to give it 50 pages.

2) Be careful, for the Nine are abroad.

3) Never sit with your back to a door.

4) Never draw to an inside straight.

It is worth noting that I read Lord of the Rings at 8 and learned poker at 13, so you can do your own math and draw your own conclusions, there.

The one that I found myself thinking of today was the oldest: the 50 Pages Rule. This one has actually served me in good stead, for the most part. If the opening of a book is a little wobbly, and you aren’t sure about it, if it hasn’t really done anything for you by page 50 the odds are the rest of it isn’t going to do much for you either. While I’m certain there are exceptions – the 50 Pages Rule is why I haven’t read Anathem – the rule nicely dovetails with some of the guidance I’ve come up with for myself later in life. I’ve said time and again that I don’t have time to watch/read anything that isn’t awesome, and that is really just the spirit of the 50 Pages Rule blown out a little: don’t give a so-so book more than 50 pages because that’s time you could spend reading something better.

I am a big fan of the 50 Pages Rule. I evangelize it as much as anything. It works for me. Likely it will work for you. Try it and see how it goes.

The upshot of this is that there are times when the Rule actively protects you from doing harm to your precious brain cells (and, more importantly, me from doing harm to mine).

I once dated a woman who really liked the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. In an attempt to bring us closer together (which is the point of dating, after all) I made an effort to engage with and read the things she liked. I started out by one day picking up her copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Interlude, because internet people seem to find my conversations with my father hilarious:

A few years after the events I am about to describe, I saw the American film version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Through a strange alchemy of circumstances involving midwestern travel and me obsessing about a woman I met at a party, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was one of the incredibly rare modern movies that my father saw before I did.

After I finally saw it, I called him up (he was, at the time, once again in the Midwest) and asked him what he thought about it.

He said, “I really liked it.”

I said, “yeah, I did too, for the most part. It was really interesting seeing Daniel Craig be a whiny little bitch.”

“That is correct,” my father said. This is how we talk about movies. One of us makes a subjective observation and the other deems it objectively correct or not. “Overall, it’s dark, and violent, and a little too long.”

I said, “you just described every David Fincher movie.”

My father paused for a second, then said, “that is also correct.”

End interlude

Some of my father’s rules I take more literally, or follow more strictly, than others. I have been known to sit with my back to a door when it is more or less impossible to do otherwise. There have been times when I have grudgingly stayed in a pot while on an inside draw, though only when I was getting odds on my call.

(I can only assume my father did not include the concept of pot odds in his life advice because he assumed that 13 Year Old Me would not have understood it. This is actually an appalling lapse in judgment. 13 Year Old Me could do calculus; he probably could have grasped “fold unless this number divided by this other number is more than this third number.”)

So, sitting in her apartment one day, I picked up my girlfriend’s copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

If you asked me what the worst book I’ve ever read was, odds are that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would not make the list. It would not make the list solely because I cannot, in good conscience, claim to have read it. I have only read 50 pages of it. In point of fact I have only read EXACTLY 50 pages of it.

I started reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and on about page 3 I started the clock.

At the bottom of page 50, literally in the middle of a sentence – I am not making this up – I shouted “THANK FUCKING CHRIST!” to the empty apartment and hurled the book across the room, and started muttering obscenities about time I would never get back.

To say that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is bad – or that the portion of it that I read is, at least – is an understatement. It is profoundly, unbelievably bad. I used to think it was just the translation, that maybe it was better in Swedish, but then I saw the movie and underneath some great performances and direction and cinematography there was a script that was still, at a very basic level, broken. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is bad. It is in-the-bones bad.

It is, in fact, so bad that the book doesn’t even deserve a thoughtful response, which brings me to The Girl on the Train, a book which very much does deserve one.

It took me a little bit, sitting here, to figure out how exactly how I ended up reading The Girl on the Train in the first place. I’m certainly not someone who is up on the latest “buzzworthy” books or anything like that, and a cursory glance at it reveals that subject-wise it isn’t really something I’ve ever read in the past. For years how I’ve simply read what I read and liked what I liked and when something broke through that, a new author or whatever, it was more or less a beautiful and unique snowflake.

That started to change for me last fall when I read an interview with Stephen King (whom I admire a great deal) and he mentioned how he was kinda pissed that The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell, was a straight-up literary masterpiece that would get ignored by a lot of the book cognoscenti because it had science fiction elements in it.

I could not, at the time, remember a specific book recommendation from Stephen King, and decided that if it was good enough for him it was good enough for me, and when I finished Revival I went and grabbed The Bone Clocks and had a reaction that transcended positive. (There will, at some point in the future, be many glowing words in this space about David Mitchell.) My reaction was so transcendent, and branching out had proven so fruitful, that I decided I was going to actively expand my literary horizons, snowflakes be damned.

It goes without saying that the recommendations engine on Goodreads is… well, more or less the recommendations engine equivalent of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Amazon’s recommendations, however, are usually frightening in their excellence, and every time I have read or looked up a new book since The Bone Clocks, I have added a bunch of Amazon’s suggestions to my “to-read” list, which now sits at a bloated 80 or so titles.

It will take me a while to get through the list. There are worse problems to have than “too many good books to read,” surely.

Anyway…

Here’s the thing about The Girl on the Train: after finishing it this morning I went and read a bunch of reviews of it, and so many of them mentioned Gone Girl it made me a little sad, and more than a little angry.

I must note at this point that I have not actually read Gone Girl (#45 on my to-read list), but that isn’t necessarily germane to my argument in this instance. Unless the book is vastly, VASTLY different from the movie – which I have seen, and nothing in my researches indicates the differences are in fact that vast – the similarities between the stories seem little more than superficial. A missing woman. An unreliable narrator. And… I dunno, that’s kinda all I’ve got. The “unreliable narrator” thing in Gone Girl isn’t even the same SORT of unreliable narrator in The Girl on the Train.

So what are we left with, then?

Don’t talk to me about genre. I do not give a flying fuck about genre. Genre is bullshit. It’s just another way to separate Us from Them, the intellectual haves from the have nots. All I care about anymore is theme and execution. All I care about is whether or not your book, or movie, or comic, or show or whatever is ABOUT something, and whether or not you can get that something across with some degree of skill. Gone Girl is about something. The Girl on the Train is about something. They are not, however, about the SAME thing, not remotely, and that makes the comparison wholly unfair.

Let me put it another way: are The Godfather and Miller’s Crossing the same sort of movie? Should every review of Miller’s Crossing reference The Godfather? Of course not. It’s unfair.

Would every review of The Girl on the Train reference Gone Girl if the books were called The Boy on the Train and Gone Boy, and if they were written by Paul Hawkins and George Flynn?

I’m just going to leave that there and move on.

Let’s get something out of the way straight off: I liked this book. I liked it a lot. I liked it enough that when I turned off my Kindle before getting off the train this morning (BA-DUM-BUMP!) I did a quick mental calculation of how much I had left in the book, how much I really wanted to finish it, and how much work I had to do at the office today, and decided I could safely sacrifice a good bit of the morning at work finishing the book rather than waiting to read it on the train home (BA-DUM-BUMP!).

I liked it for… well, all the usual reasons I like something, to be honest. It has clear themes, and themes that are favorites of mine to boot, foremost among them being an exploration of the lies we tell each other, and the lies we tell ourselves, and how one of those is much, much worse than the other. I admit that this is somewhat by necessity a function of the whole “unreliable narrator” thing, a literary notion I despise, as it drags me back to forced readings of Catcher in the Rye.

It works here, though, because each of the narrators is unreliable in her own way, and that kind of parallelism is that much more book-catnip for me. Oh my, yes, I looooooooove me some structural parallelism.

It’s really quite ingenious, when you get down to it. Rachel is unreliable because she literally has no memories of parts of the story she’s telling. Megan is deliberately obfuscatory, leaving out important parts of her story until it’s too late, for her and for us. And Anna…

Okay, I’ll admit, I’m honestly not sure what the Anna chapters are supposed to accomplish. The first one comes out of nowhere – I was listening to my synced audiobook when it came and the third voice made me shout “WHAT THE FUCK?” in my car – and while there are bits of narrative in the later instances (which we’ll get to shortly) I don’t know what thematic purpose the chapters serve as a whole, especially early on, other than to really hammer home the point of, “hey, isn’t Anna awful?”

Because don’t mistake – Anna, the new wife of main character Rachel’s ex-husband, is truly loathsome. (Not in the way Amy Dunne is loathsome, but nothing that doesn’t birth itself out of your chest cavity is.) Another, lesser book would have tried to soften her up, to make her a perfect mother, a victim of whim or circumstance. A lesser book would have tried to cast Anna as some sort of latter-day Mrs. de Winter; The Girl on the Train sticks to its guns and keeps her Rebecca, and god how I love that about it.

Anna ends up being unreliable simply because you hate her so much. Call it the Jimmy McNulty Effect. I can complain about the chapters’ existence, but not with how well they’re executed.

All of which is a roundabout, discursive way of saying* that this is a Book With Really Well Done Characters, and that alone is usually good enough. I’ve long said that I’ll suffer a comic with bad art for great writing. I’ll also suffer a silly/boring/nonsensical plot for great characters, and this book has them.

I was especially shocked doing my post-read research to learn that Paula Hawkins is not, in fact, a former alcoholic, since the parts of the book detailing Rachel’s battle with booze are some of the finest I’ve read. Imagine something that specific and that personal that you know nothing about, and then imagine trying to write about it convincingly. It’s no mean feat. Rachel’s struggles are real. Megan’s struggles, too, are also very real, though they are of a different sort and come from a different place.

Beyond character and theme, though, that’s the other thing that impressed me so much about the book: it is, at a technical level, executed with extraordinary skill. The story is told across three separate narrators and three overlapping timelines, and not only does it make sense – I mean in a purely “this happened, and then this happened, and because of that this other thing happened” sense, though it does also work in that respect – the story is clear enough to follow, yet leaves enough unspoken to increasingly tantalize the more of it you read.

The different narrators have different voices. It’s hard enough for a writer to have ONE voice, let alone three. There are scenes that mean one thing the first time you read them, and then when you possess new information you can go back and the scene has a completely different meaning, and both work with your understanding of the story as a whole. Hawkins was a journalist – possibly, one might say, the most trained sort of writer there is – and her commitment and her discipline really shine through. (I also looooooooooove me a disciplined writer.)

And, through all of this, she only loses her mind once.

I’m trying very hard to avoid outright spoilers here, because I am very much of the mind that this is a book you should read (I mean, unless you hate things that are interesting) and part of me feels that knowing “how it ends” may impact your enjoyment of it. So I’m going to try and describe the one bit where she loses her mind in the broadest way possible, so as to alert you to its existence without giving away what it actually contains.

The “end” of the book, such as it is, the last however many pages or paragraphs or whatever – the longer you read on a Kindle the tougher it gets to make distinctions like that – are fine. Actually, they’re rather perfect. I loved that last bit. And everything that leads up to the scene that comes before that last bit is, as I have been saying for a thousand words or so, also very, very excellent.

Unfortunately, between that last bit and everything that comes before it is the climax of the book, and it… ugh, I found it profoundly disappointing. Not because it’s bad, or doesn’t work within the confines of the book as a whole. It does. In a purely story-based sense it does. That penultimate scene ends the way it absolutely has to end. I have no argument with that.

What I have a problem with is how it gets TO that ending of that penultimate scene, which is out of that other, lesser book I mentioned earlier.

Hawkins spends the entire book crafting this story that relies very intensely on character, and observation, and psychology, and memory, and all these very cool, very ethereal, very heady things, and then the climax of the book is this violent action sequence out of a shitty Adrian Lyne movie, or something, and I sat there reading it muttering, “oh, no, no, what are you doing? Noooooooooo no no no no no.” It’s so bad, and so out of place, and so incongruous with the rest of the book that the showbiz part of my brain is intensely wondering if that whole bit isn’t in there solely because of editorial pressure to jazz up the ending, that somewhere out there there isn’t Hawkins’ original text for that climactic scene, where things happen the way things in this book happen instead of the way they happen in a book that has not spent 300 some odd pages being so careful to NOT do things in that junky, market-driven way.

I’m pretty sure that given enough time and effort I could come up with a decent scene that accomplishes the same things as the climax of The Girl on the Train but doesn’t happen the way it does in the book, and if -I- can come up with it then I’m pretty sure Paula Hawkins probably could have as well. Because aside from a publisher’s thumb pushing down on it the only other logical conclusion is… I dunno, first book jitters? Maybe? I guess it’s possible. The book doesn’t really show that anywhere else, but if you’re going to have them maybe it’s best to concentrate them in ten pages or so.

That is such a minor blemish, though. Ten pages that don’t quite work, compared against so much else that does. Almost everything else that does, really. It’s not perfect. It’s not the best book I’ve read the last year. (Still The Peripheral.) It’s not even the best book I’ve read in the last month. (Still Perfidia.) But it’s damn good. Good enough to give the first 50 pages a shot, at least.

JLK

* aka “what I do”

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All-Time Top 20 Favorite Movies, #7: Is it just a mist, or does it have arms and legs?

Posted by kozemp on January 29, 2013

GhostBusters_Poster_Large

I’ve talked in the past in a number of places about my father’s, let’s call it, checkered history with age-appropriate entertainment.

Does it surprise anyone that he took my sister and I to see Ghostbusters in a movie theatre? I was 6. My sister was 5.

My abiding memory of that first viewing at the old Cinema Alley in TR – my only memory of it, really – is the library ghost scaring the living shit out of me. After that, maybe something with a dog, but that’s about it. But seriously, that fucking ghost at the beginning was all I knew of Ghostbusters for a long time.

I can’t remember when I started to realize that it was a supremely great movie – I don’t recall having it on VHS as a kid, or anything like that – but it must have happened because Ghostbusters is one of three movies where I can recite every word of the screenplay from memory.* (Three that I know of, at least.) Somewhere, I’m guessing in college at some point, I watched Ghostbusters so excessively that I memorized it.

Let’s start talking about the movie itself there, the screenplay, because it might be the most amazing thing about this movie.

It’s made up.

The commentary track on the Ghostbusters DVD (the only one I know of in the amusing MST3K silhouette style) reveals something that knocked my socks off when I heard it: most of Ghostbusters is improvised. To this day I can scarcely believe it. It’s not just that the movie is funny, really. For all the talk that comedy is hard, well, comedy is at the very least slightly less hard when you have a lot of very funny people together. But a lot of that comes from work and repetition and refinement and editing and getting your material JUST RIGHT over iteration after iteration after iteration.

Ghostbusters – the highest ranked comedy on this list, at the least, and for my money one of the three or four funniest movies ever made – was done on the spot. Off the top of their heads.

It is ASTONISHING.

And it’s not astonishing because they’re funny. Murray and Ackroyd and Ramis on their own could be funny without breaking a sweat. And if you’re as funny as these guys are – hell, if you’re 1/100th as funny as these guys are – doing pure improv that came out funny would be pretty easy too.

No, it’s astonishing because it’s NOT improv. It’s not a collection of scenes with broad, wacky people and escalating situations. The Ghostbusters are real characters, solid and round and very, very tight. There isn’t a cheap joke in the whole movie. Not one instance where one of the actors moves so much as an inch out of character to get the laugh. As someone who has, in the past, had to be funny on cue I can tell you that ignoring the urge to do that is almost impossible WHEN YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW A FUCKING SCRIPT! And these guys flew by instruments for an entire movie!

Ghostbusters-Screencaps-ghostbusters-29593772-1920-1080

The sheer force of will it took to do that would make a Green Lantern look at his ring and wonder if he’s in the right line of work.

Much like I mentioned earlier that as we get near the top of this bizarre little countdown it will get harder to turn my pure enthusiasm for the movies into anything coherent, we’re also getting to the point where the movies themselves are so good it’s becoming harder to accurately explain why. The closest I can come is to point to the scene at the end, when they arrive at the apartment building. There’s a bit when they’re working the crowd and Peter calls Ray, “the heart of the Ghostbusters.” And the brilliant thing is that HE IS! Ray Stantz (and Dan Ackroyd) are absolutely the heart of this movie, and not only is that one of those things that is just so, so right even if you can’t pin down exactly how, but it’s so hard to do in a movie; to make a character be something like that and not shove it down the audience’s throat.

There are a couple things I can pin down, though.

Sitting down to watch it with a critical eye, or as critical as I could get, for really the first time ever, I was struck by a few observations that don’t deal with how amazing it is that the movie is improvised, primary among which is this:

Ghostbusters, for everything else, is an almost unbelievably weird little movie.

For starters, when the title card came up, I paused the Blu Ray player and thought, “you know, that’s actually a really dumb title.” 30 years ago the word “ghostbusters” wasn’t cultural shorthand for “brilliant, paradigm defining piece of comedic cinema.” It was just a weird word, smooshed together from two other words, and taken on a purely objective level is strange, and doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

One of the main characters hardly ever talks, and when he does it’s mostly incomprehensible technobabble. Egon Spengler is almost like what you’d get if you made a comedy and one of the main characters was a sullen Geordi LaForge.

It has bizarre little supporting characters who float in and out of the movie for frankly no reason whatsoever – like the hotel concierge, and Walter Peck, and the Mayor, and Janine – which normally is a sign of lazy writing. They’re buoyed by really funny performances, but still, shit like that shouldn’t work.

And – we are so inured to this now, after almost 30 years of watching it, as a brilliant comedic stroke – the final comedy/action setpiece involves a GIANT MARSHMALLOW MAN. I must have succeeded a bit in my attempt to watch the movie with a critical eye, because when Sta-Puft first showed up on the screen I actually let out an involuntary “what the FUCK?!” The movie works so hard during its whole running time to keep everything grounded in a reality – one with ghosts, sure, but it’s still realistic – and then in the last scene, and I must again emphasize just how off the wall this is, is a GIANT FUCKING MARSHMALLOW MAN. It’s off-the-charts strange-o.

2

All of this going against it and the movie is still brilliant! Not to mention something that this past week, on what must have literally been at least my 30th viewing of the movie, I just realized:

Gozer is an Elder God.

Not only is Ghostbusters a comedy landmark, not only is it one of the most quotable movies of all time, not only is it essentially a once in a lifetime paragon of perfect craft – I once called Bioshock “the Ghostbusters of video games” because despite attempts to do so its perfect alchemy could not be recreated – not only is it all of those things and more…

Ghostbusters is a successful HP Lovecraft movie.

That, truly, is its most daunting accomplishment of all.

JLK

 

 

* The Big Lebowski and the next movie on this list.

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All-Time Top 20 Favorite Movies, #16: Do I look like I give a damn?

Posted by kozemp on November 7, 2012

Scah-ry

Casino Royale has the odd distinction of being one of the very, very few movies in the last 20 years that I have seen in a theatre with my father.

I have spoken here and other places about my dad’s, shall we say, unique point of view on what constitutes appropriate entertainment for a small child. To his credit I was not actually allowed to watch a James Bond movie until I was 10 years old, which is a pretty strong parental movie showing for my dad, considering some of his other mishaps on that score. However, to his… I don’t know what the opposite of credit would be in this instance. Discredit? Debit? Either way, backing off from the kudos a bit, I was allowed to read Ian Fleming at the ripe old age of 8.

Goldfinger is an interesting and confusing book to an eight year old, let me tell you.

Looking back on it, though, Ian Fleming may be the first instance in my life of a now-common phenomenon, whereby I discover a new author that I like and then proceed to devour everything they have written at a truly dizzying speed. I read Goldfinger in the early spring when I was in third grade. By the time school was out, I had read every book Fleming wrote, with the notable exception of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the only remotely third grade book in the bunch.

I was 8 years old and I LOVED James Bond. James Bond was awesome! He had guns, which are still cool when you’re eight. He traveled the world, which was pretty awesome to a kid whose farthest away trip at that point was to West Point for a LaSalle basketball game. He was great with girls, a skill which 26 years later I am still waiting for basic competence in. And he was a foreigner! This was very exotic to eight year old me, since even though I’d read the Lord of the Rings the summer before – remember, my father has no concept of age-appropriate entertainment – and Frodo was okay and Gandalf and Strider were awesome and technically foreigners, they weren’t real people, obviously, and thus weren’t COOL foreigners like James Bond.

Man did I LOVE Ian Fleming. You know, like all eight year old kids.

So a few years later when I was allowed to actually watch a James Bond movie for the first time, my father took me to see The Living Daylights at the Orleans, and my lifelong love affair with James Bond was well and truly burned into the bedrock of my psyche.

Let me tell you something else: a lifelong love affair with James Bond movies is like being a particle physicist who married his high school sweetheart. However amazing things where when you were 16, eventually you realize that you are eternally shackled to someone who is really fucking stupid.

All the same, that was a ways off, and my kid self had no conception of any of that, and I was just thrilled that James Bond movies were a cool grownup thing I got to do with my dad. After The Living Daylights we went to Licence to Kill (great movie for a 12 year old), and then we waited out the Bond interregnum, and then even though at the time we hardly got along at all we went to see GoldenEye and Tomorrow Never Dies. The latter film was the one that broke my streak of going to Bond movies with my father, after he deemed that Bond movies had become “too stupid to see in theatres.” He missed out on The World Is Not Enough, a movie I still kind of like a bit, and was mercifully spared the horror of Die Another Day, after which -I- deemed James Bond movies too stupid to see in theatres.

Thankfully, then, the change came on again, and Daniel Craig took over, and though I was cautiously optimistic – Martin Campbell brings a lot of goodwill, or at least did back then – I wasn’t about to rush out on opening night.

I should have.

Like I hinted earlier, as I’ve gotten older, I have realized that James Bond movies, at their heart, are really, really dumb. And it’s not because I’m some sort of cineaste dickhead who can’t bear to watch anything but The Most Important Cinema. (c.f. my love of Top Secret) Or that I can’t enjoy spectacle for its own sake. (c.f. my love of the first Transformers movie) No. It’s just…

It is admittedly hard to pin down, but it’s one of those things that sitting in the theatre watching Die Another Day, I had a sudden epiphany that oh my god these movies are DUMB. And that they always had been.

This is not to say that I don’t still like them, or that James Bond in general does not still hold a place of honor in my heart, or that I don’t eye that complete 007 Blu Ray set with barely disguised avarice (my birthday IS coming, mind). Like I said: it’s like the physicist and the cheerleader. You can be content now and again trading happiness for pleasure.

All the same, when Casino Royale came out I was dubious. I’d been burned before. Hell, if you go back the entire franchise I’d been burned probably a dozen times. So I waited for a Saturday matinee, and went in with a healthy dose of earned skepticism.

My skepticism did not survive to the title sequence.

Here’s the thing about James Bond movies: they don’t have a whole lot of ways to distinguish or differentiate themselves. Suave secret agent. Villain. Henchmen. Sidekicks. Evil plot. Girls. Gadgets. Guns. Stunts. The triumph of good over evil. And so on and so forth, until the end of time, amen. The problem with the old generation of Bond movies is that they get so cookie cutter and so production-line oriented that whenever there is something different it sticks out, and badly. Even when something is great, really really great, it’s regarded as an anomaly. Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Franz Sanchez in Licence to Kill. Everything in For Your Eyes Only.

I don’t know who it was, if it was Purvis and Wade, or Campbell, or even (dear god) Paul Haggis, but somewhere along the line someone said, “what if we did all the stuff in a James Bond movie, but did it completely backwards?”

So instead of the villain’s evil plot for world domination, or mass murder, or whatever, you get Le Chiffre who wants nothing more than to be rich, and enable other (bad) people to also be rich. You have, in Vesper, surely the most competent Bond girl since Melina Havelock. The out-of-nowhere casting of indie darling Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter. The gadgetry (if I’m remembering correctly) is pretty much limited to the neato-nifty device Bond uses to cure himself from being poisoned at the casino (a scene, I note, that is for some reason not in the TV version). And you also have a heaping dose of dreary, post-9/11 realpolitik: M doesn’t send Bond after Le Chiffre to assassinate him, just to bankrupt him so he can become SIS’ informant. Felix offers to help Bond not because they’re friends or anything like that, but because he can bargain the CIA into getting first crack at LeChiffre’s intel.

And then there is, as Valentin Zukovsky memorably put it, the “charming, sophisticated secret agent,” of which Daniel Craig’s James Bond is decidedly neither.

You almost hate to bring it up, since it really shouldn’t count, but the most telling thing about Daniel Craig, and the Daniel Craig era approach to James Bond, comes at the end of Quantum of Solace. After Bond has spent an entire film murdering his way across the globe in presumed revenge for the betrayal and death of his One True Love at the end of Casino Royale, M confronts him outside Vesper’s “boyfriend’s” flat and they have what is one of the most emotionally loaded exchanges in recent movie memory.

M tells Bond, “I need you back.” And 007 just looks at her, slightly unsure of her meaning, and simply says, “I never left.”

And Judi Dench gives one of the greatest “oh FUCK” looks ever.

So much of that scene is carried by subtext that I actually missed it on first viewing, but when you come around to it again the meaning of it is pretty clear: he wasn’t on a vendetta. He wasn’t out for revenge (though that was a convenient side effect). He isn’t crazy. He was just doing his job, which is to find and kill bad guys.

The look on M’s face at the end, when she realizes what she’s created, is priceless. And it’s that ethos that suffuses both Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale, and sets CR apart from the rest of the franchise.

Craig’s Bond is not suave. He is not sophisticated. He is not charming. He is so not charming that how he gets the women he gets, especially the reserved and wound-up Vesper, is frankly a mystery to me. Craig’s performance takes the best of what simmered under the surface of the earlier Bond performances – early Connery, Moore at parts in You Only Live Twice, and Dalton in Licence to Kill, and Brosnan before Die Another Day – and places all that subtextual stuff front and center with the character. Craig’s Bond is vicious and remorseless and, one suspects thanks to Vesper’s actions in this movie, completely and totally heartless. In a lot of ways Casino Royale bears a lot of the hallmarks of a superhero origin story, which is another way it sets itself apart from the rest of the franchise. The character actually changes and grows over the course of the film. When it comes to a James Bond film, that kind of thinking is revolutionary. The presentation of the character is a complete 180 from what it had been for more than 50 years (60, now) and god DAMN it’s spectacular.

James Bond as put forth by Daniel Craig is, essentially, the platonic ideal of Fleming’s original creation: this brutal, sociopathic… CREATURE, who just happens to be on the good guys’ side. And thankfully so, since that guy, as opposed to gadget-happy playboy, makes for far more interesting movies.

I’ve said for a while now that I’ll always prefer a great movie with James Bond in it over a great James Bond movie. Good thing they made Casino Royale to show us there is a difference.

JLK

(Also, note that the original teaser version of the poster at the top, the vertical US edition that just a picture of Craig using the gun as a chip marker, is my absolute favorite movie poster ever, and I think one of the best promotional movie images of all time.)

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CLASSIC: It is an honor I dream not of.

Posted by kozemp on January 13, 2012

Since, as we all know, my motto is and has always been “Safety First” – followed closely by “Dignity, Always Dignity” – we’re going to return today to our occasional series of seminars on drastic and dangerous life events.

This week’s topic is “how to survive going to two weddings in one day.”

– Firstly and most importantly – this really cannot be stressed enough – do not wait until the day you are attending two weddings to buy the shoes you are planning on wearing to two weddings. For while your brand-new shoes may be very impressive in their own right, and when combined with your brand-new suit and shirt and tie, all selected and coordinated specifically for the two-wedding day, make you resemble nothing so much as the reincarnation of Burt Lancaster himself, and we’re talking like vintage 1955 “I just got finished sleeping with Ava Gardner AND Lana Turner and, my oh my, what’s your name, sweetheart?” Burt Lancaster, wearing brand-new shoes to two weddings in one day is a CATASTROPHICALLY BAD IDEA. Doing so will cause your resemblance to Burt Lancaster to rapidly erode, as it is a known fact that Burt Lancaster was in possession of both his feet, and after a couple hours of wearing brand-new wingtips the only thought in your entire head – overriding your base, lizard-brain lusting after food, sex, lower taxes and oxygen – will be a burning desire to chop off your own feet with a rusty axe.

– Have backup. This is valuable in several respects. If, for instance, you tear the price tag off your brand-new tie a little too vigorously and rip out one of the moorings of the little tie-holder-label-thingy, while driving to the first wedding you can call your backup and say, “you got any safety pins? What do you mean you threw out all your safety pins? How the fuck can you throw away anything as fantastically useful as safety pins? Fabric glue? Will that set in time? Okay, fine, bring that.” (This is an actual, complete quote.) Or, when partway through the first of two weddings in one day, you can say to your father, “if you don’t get me a pair of golf shoes that look like wingtips I’m going to chop my feet off with a rusty axe.” If your backup gets snippy, you can remind them that pain overrides family and that once you start chopping off body parts it can be very hard to stop. You know, like Jedi.

– While buying nice new Burt Lancaster-izing clothing for two weddings in one day is endorsed, if you are buying your clothing at someplace you have never shopped before be sure that you actually look at the prices of the clothes you’re buying, so you can avoid situations such as tearing the price tag off your brand-new tie a little too vigorously and, while wondering how you’re going to fix the little tie-holder-label-thingy, glancing at the too-vigorously-removed price tag and realizing that you have paid more for a tie than you normally do for a shirt, and that you normally pay pretty handsomely for shirts to begin with. This realization is closely followed by a feeling of growing horror while you try to calculate how much you paid for the new shirt from this place, then wondering whether the guy at the gas station on the way to work on Monday morning will accept the change from your cup holders as payment.

– While the bucolic location for the first reception might make you think that everyone will be very relaxed and easygoing, always remember to be very, very careful when surrounded by large groups of Germans. This advice applies pretty much anywhere, really. And for god’s sake, whatever you do, don’t mention the war.

– Your desire to end the lives of certain guests at the reception is not something you should verbalize.

– At the first reception, if your father has been hopelessly addicted to the bride’s grandmother’s pastries for the last 40 years, telling your father that the dessert tray is a collection of pastries made by the bride’s grandmother and that they are out and ready to be eaten is a surefire way to guarantee that you do not get to eat any of said pastries.

– Silk suspenders do not have the same kind of “give” in them as the cheaper, elastic suspenders you may have worn in the past. This means that things like going to the bathroom take exponentially longer as you will spend several minutes trying, Houdini-like, to extricate yourself from them, since after you realize that you could have made a car payment for what you inadvertently paid for said silk suspenders you will find breaking your own back preferable to doing any damage to the goddamn things.

– Wearing contact lenses for the first time in almost a year is recommended if the first reception is outside on a beautiful sunny day, as it makes the wearing of sunglasses possible. Trying to drive from one reception to another in the dusk of twilight while wearing contact lenses for the first time in almost a year is not recommended, as the combination of your eyes adjusting to your slightly-different vision and the tricky, shifting light of the immediate post-sunset period will make driving in under-lit suburbs much more exciting than it really needs to be.

– When arriving at your friend’s parents’ house for the second reception, do not trip over the SAME GODDAMN TRICK DOORSTEP THAT YOU HAVE TRIPPED OVER EVERY ONE OF THE HUNDREDS OF TIMES YOU’VE GONE INTO THAT HOUSE FOR THE LAST TWENTY FUCKING YEARS! Seriously, don’t do that.

– No matter how much your new clothing makes you resemble Burt Lancaster, the sentence, “you look so much like my ex-girlfriend that I really thought you were her, but when you walked past and didn’t punch me in the face I realized you weren’t” is not the first thing you want to say to someone you’ve just met. The fact that it is 100% literally true does not matter. Even at a nighttime, outdoor reception, where the darkness makes you resemble Burt Lancaster that much more, saying things like this clearly marks you as “not relationship material.”

– Get your friend who lives out of town and is thus marrying a woman you haven’t met yet to introduce you to his new wife BEFORE he is drunk.

– If you once watched one of your friends drink 26 beers in one night, offer him a ride home BEFORE people start playing beer pong if you want to leave the party any time soon.

– And, finally – whether your belief tends toward Jehovah, Vishnu or the Lords of Kobol, never let anyone think that you don’t thank the powers that be every day that you have the friends you have, without whom none of these fun things are possible. (Or necessary.)

JLK

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Fear is for the long night, when the snows fall one hundred feet deep.

Posted by kozemp on January 13, 2011

Snow is here again, and this time, in what I am absolutely sure is a surprise to absolutely no one, my official position is:

Fuck snow.

You said you were going to try and be less profane.

I never said that.

Well, you thought about trying to be less profane.

I never thought that!

Would it kill you to give it a go?

Oh, fine.

So, snow is here again and… er… snow… is really… bad. Yeah. Snow is really bad.

I have mellowed out considerably in recent years. Eminent proof of that is, Love Actually style, all around us. No, I’m not exactly the happy-go-lucky type. I do not go googly-eyed at puppies and kittens and mermaids and rainbows. I will never be described as “perky” or “bubbly,” thank the Emperor of Man. But I am a significantly more positive person than before. The items on the List Of Things I Hate, which were essentially everything in the universe save rolled up aces, Farscape and Cafe Esperanto orange juice, have for the most part been shifted onto the List Things I Merely Dislike or the List Of Things I Am Somewhat Ambivalent About. There is now, even, a List Of Things I Love, which is large and growing.

The List Of Things I Hate has been reduced to a barren, uninhabited wasteland. Well, near-uninhabited, as there is one thing still on it, one thing that I will always hate, now and forever, until the entropic heat death of the universe:

Snow.

Oh, how I hate it.

Snow wasn’t ALWAYS really bad. Back when I was a kid and it snowed 2 or 3 inches maybe once or twice a year snow was great. You got a tiny bit of snow, you got a day off from school, everything was fantastic. Snow was awesome. Hooray snow.

Then came the winter of 1994.

March of 1993 had brought with it the so-called “Storm of the Century.” That was bad. That was mondo-bad. But it was one, isolated event. In the winter of my junior year of high school we got pounded again and again and again and again and again. The first was an ice storm in January. And this wasn’t “oh, hm, some parts of things are a little icy.” Oh hells no.

I’ve spoken to people who were not here for it about this ice storm, and they don’t believe me when I describe what it was like. It’s hard to blame them. I was here for it and I could hardly believe it myself. What hit us in January of 1994 wasn’t an ice storm like we think of today, where we get sleet for a few hours and the roads are slick overnight until the salt trucks get through. Through some strange meteorological alchemy we had honest to goodness freezing rain – liquid water in the sky that turns to ice when it hits the ground – for two days, and the temperature never got out of the 20s for four solid days after that.

The entire world was encased in an inch of ice.

It was on everything – roads, sidewalks, cars, fences, powerlines, EVERYTHING. The whole world preserved in freezing, clear amber. Schools were closed for an entire week, Monday to Friday. You couldn’t drive to work or to get groceries. Hell, you couldn’t walk out your own front door. Your front steps were a skating rink. You couldn’t salt your sidewalk because rock salt is useless against a solid inch of ice. To go anywhere, just to get out of your house, you had to go outside in the sub-zero temperatures and CUT the ice off your sidewalk. People were out there, banging on these massive ice sheets with the sharp end of plastic shovels, trying to break it up into huge pieces you would pick up with your hands and toss onto your lawn, which was also under a giant sheet of inch-thick ice. My dad found some kind of flat spade thing in our basement, basically a 5-inch wide metal chisel attached to a broomstick. Working in shifts during daylight hours it took my father and I two full days to clear all our sidewalk, just standing out there smacking this thing onto the ice over and over and over again.

Now, here’s the funny thing about this storm, for me: school was closed for an entire week. But, and here’s the funny part, I had actually missed the entire week of school BEFORE that. I had pneumonia. To this day I have a tiny scar in my lung from it. I don’t remember how I got pneumonia, but I missed a whole week of school for it, Monday to Friday. I missed that week, and then school was closed the entire next, so when I got back the Monday after the ice had subsided, I got a ton of “who are you?” jokes.

(Ah, the wit of high school students.)

Then, a week and a half later, it happened AGAIN.

It wasn’t as bad the second time – the ice was much thinner and as I recall we only missed two days of school – but two ice storms in as many weeks was pushing the boundaries of good taste. Again me and my dad had to chop and hack our sidewalks clear. Again we had to go down to my grandmother’s – who also lived on a corner – and chop HER sidewalk clear. It’s backbreaking work. I’ve broken up concrete with a sledgehammer, and that wasn’t as awful as trying to clear these sidewalks of ice.

Then, in February, we got hit again. Snow, this time, but enough to grind everything to a halt and make you have to dig out your parking space, all that crap. Then AGAIN this happened later in February. More snow, more digging.

Finally, in March, during what was supposed to be “Spring Break,” we got another blizzard that dropped 18 inches of snow on the city. When I had to go to crew practice and, with my teammates, shovel more than 5,000 cubic feet of snow into the Schuylkill River I finally said, “okay, I have had it up to here, fuck this snow thing.”

Hey, what happened to…?

That was a direct quote.

Oh, sorry, continue.

It was like a drug user finally ODing – yeah, heroin is nice and all, but that one time you overdo it and end up in the hospital you never want to even look at the stuff again. When I was a kid and you got a little bit of snow and a day or two off from school it was great. When you’re older and ice (which is just overachieving snow) keeps you stuck in your house for two weeks at a time, and makes you miss so much school you have to add a week on to the end of the year, snow sucks. When you then have to spend a day of your spring break, which was already kind of ruined by having crew practice to begin with, pushing more than TWENTY-FIVE TONS of snow off a dock into a river, it becomes the worst thing in the world.

A year and a half later I would find myself taking my freshman year of college at Lehigh University, where there was snow on the ground every day from November 8 to Easter Sunday. After dinner on Easter – which in 1996 was on April 7, thank you very much – I drove back to school in near blizzard conditions.

That prolonged exposure to snow, which I was already very much not a fan of, basically turned me into a bit of a crazy person on the subject.

Many years later, herniating a disc in my back while shoveling snow was basically the end of the fight, and I lost. Though I am willing to admit defeat I’m certainly not about to call snow a “worthy opponent” – I am a complex lifeform with the ability to peform calculus in my head and recite the entire screenplay of The Big Lebowski from memory, and snow is frozen water – and while the few amusing things that came out of my back injury provided a nice laugh, and thanks to said back injury I have a lifetime pass on shoveling the sidewalk, it’s tough to look at snow anymore and feel anything other than an intense, burning anger. Snow is the only thing that still gets me that way anymore, and while a total Zen-like oneness with everything in the universe might be pretty neat, I’ll settle for being a mostly happy person who really hates snow.

The problem, you see, is that even with my lifetime shoveling pass, when we are set upon by the White Death there is still one task I still have to perform on my own: cleaning off my car. And today, I think, might have been the worst car-cleaning snow day in history.

The trouble was the amount of snow we got. There was too much for me to just turn my car on, jack up the defroster, and let it idle for half an hour to melt everything on the car. Conversely, there wasn’t ENOUGH snow that I needed to dig out a path to and from my parking space, but just pushing all the snow off my car onto the snow in front of my car would create enough snow to make that necessary. You can’t push the snow into the street, and pushing it onto an already-shoveled sidewalk is just stupid.

The solution, then, was to push the snow off my car in such a way that it landed either a) in between my car and the ridge of snow in the street pushed up by passing cars, or b)  on the spot of lawn between my sidewalk and the curb. Which, as you might guess, was ALREADY holding up the snow from the sidewalk, and thus was pretty deep. I was going to have to clear the snow off my car in an extraordinarily precise way, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but pushing large swaths of snow off a car isn’t exactly spinal surgery. Pinpoint accuracy is harder than you think.

Also, by the time I went out to clean off my car, the wind had picked up to approximately 900 miles per hour. This caused snow to blow pretty much everywhere, an effect which is most similar to having someone jab a thousand tiny needles into your face every second. The wind also makes removing the snow off the car far more interesting than it really needs to be – it’s bad enough when you’re trying to push the snow off in such a way that it lands in a target area the size of a small shoe. Try that when large portions of what you push off immediately blow directly into your face the second they leave the car.

Fun, no?

The final, crushing indignity came with the actual cleaning implement itself. I was standing on the sidewalk, staring at my car, formulating a plan of attack for how to remove the snow, when I thought, “wait, I don’t have a snow brush in my car anymore. Drat.” (That’s not an edit, I actually thought “drat.”)

I went back inside to get the brush my father had used to clear off his car several hours earlier. I quickly realized this was a fool’s errand. The brush was nowhere to be found. My father, in what we will call his “infinite wisdom” in deference to filial propriety, after cleaning off HIS car decided, while looking directly at the two snow-covered cars his family members owned, that his best course of action was to take the snow-clearing brush, toss it into his already-clear car, and drive away.

After searching in vain for the snow brush I went back outside. I stood on the sidewalk, staring at my car, snow blowing all around me, freezing, and said to myself, “what the hell am I going to use to clear off this stupid car? Where’s a wampa when I need one?”

I had a brainstorm.

A terrible brainstorm, as it turned out, since my brainstorm meant that cleaning off my car would be an ordeal far longer than it would have been normally had my father not been a careless jackass, but a brainstorm nonetheless.

This is why, if you were driving down Crispin Street this afternoon – and I can’t imagine why you would have been, but in an infinite universe anything is possible – you would have come across a man shivering in a leather coat, muttering “fucking snow” over and over again, clearing off a 2006 Cobalt with a dustbrush.

God I hate snow.

JLK

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I’m all dressed up and ready to play.

Posted by kozemp on October 1, 2009

When I got home from work yesterday I felt… not bad, not sick, but a little weird. Head felt a bit funny. Let’s say that systems were not operating at 100%. So I had an easy night planned. Sit around, watch some TV, get to bed. Nothing serious.

Early in the evening I’m fixing my dinner between catching up on DVR’d episodes of Bones when my father says, “hey, do you want to play Quizo tonight?”

Now Wednesday was normally the night of the Moron Quizo at Nick’s Roast Beef. We haven’t played there in a while and even though the Quizo is super-easy we usually have a good time. I start thinking, okay, I’ll only have a little bit of food now and eat at the bar… I’ll call Nick and Reg and Sabs, get the old team together… I can DVR Glee, and the Phillies game will be on at the bar… yeah, this sounds like a decent idea.

However, in what would later be revealed as a moment of great cosmic providence, instead of just agreeing, for some inexplicable reason I say, “where?”

My father says, “I don’t know the name of the place, it’s at 3rd and Chestnut.”

I think, what the fuck?

I say, “what the fuck?”

I don’t know anything about a Quizo at 3rd and Chestnut, and the thought of heading downtown with a headache is strike one against me going.

“The bar is owned by a Girard graduate,” my father says. “Fisher told me about it.” My father and Fisher both teach at Girard College.

“Let me get this straight,” I say. “You want me to go to a bar downtown, the name of which you don’t know, with you and FISHER, to play Quizo?”

“I’ll call Mister Fisher and see what I can learn about this Quizo.” While he dials the phone I realize that going to a bar with Fisher means we will likely be there until the middle of the night – strike two.

After he hangs up my dad says, “okay, the name of the bar is National Mechanics.”

When I hear that I flash back ten-plus years to a play I wrote in college. The play itself was remarkably wretched – I found the last remaining copy of it a couple months back and oh, god, it was so bad – but it had a running gag in it that the characters hung out in a bar called Cadillac Ranch that, instead of posters or sports memorabilia, hung used auto parts on the wall.

Give me a break, I was 20 years old and drunk.

Anyway, I remember this bit I wrote about a bar with the automotive décor and I think, surely someone hasn’t actually DONE this horrible thing.

I say to my father, “let me see what I can find out.”

I go upstairs and Google this place and learn that thankfully the bar is NOT what I had originally feared, that it’s just in some kind of historic building in Olde City called the National Mechanic’s building. I also learned as I perused the bar’s website that whoever wrote the site’s copy should be shot. “The space is alive, bursting with vibrancy and dynamism[…]” Whoever wrote that sentence, FUCKING KILL YOURSELF. Put the English language down before you hurt someone with it.

While trudging through the horrifying swamp of overwrought mediocrity that was the promo copy, I come across the information on the Quizo and read two words that hit me like a brick between the eyeballs:

Irish John.

Strike. Fucking. THREE.

I say, loudly enough to be heard downstairs, “oh HELL no!”

“What?” my father shouts.

“There is no fucking WAY I am going to an Irish John Quizo,” I shout back. This is the guy who did the Quizo at the Dark Horse before I did. His game is neither very good nor particularly pleasant.

“So you’re not going?”

“No,” I say. “I am fucking well not going.” Compared to an evening with my father and Fisher at an Irish John Quizo, sitting at home watching TV is a veritable orgasm.

So I stay home to watch TV and try to get rid of my nagging headache. The last few episodes of Bones on my DVR: watched. Special features on the DCAU Public Enemies: watched. Glee: watched. Life is good.

After Glee I turn on the Phillies game. They’re up 10-3. The Braves are losing. The Phillies are about to clinch their third straight pennant. Pretty damn sweet! I start hunting around my desk for my shoes – when the game is over I’m going to want to head down to Cottman and Frankford and see what’s going on. I start to mutter to myself: “god dammit, where are my fucking shoes… here somewhere… so much crap in this room… what the FUCK?” The last comes as I learn my shoes ended up being behind the toolbox under my desk, raising any number of questions, not the least of which is the recurring theme of “why do I still have this toolbox?”

I finally get my shoes on while Brad Lidge is warming up. A text message comes in: “Can Lidge blow a seven run lead?” I respond: “God let’s hope not.” I would legitimately feel bad for the guy. Charlie’s giving him a chance to get the out that will win the division, if he melts down there…

First pitch, ground ball to Ryan Howard, steps on the bag… clinch!

I actually jump up from my desk chair and put my arms up in the air and shout “woohoo!” like Homer. NL East Champions! Another baseball October! I grab my camera off my desk – I was going to use my phone to upload pics to Facebook, but I needed the camera for video – and as I cross the threshold from my bedroom to the hallway, perhaps 90 seconds after the Phillies have won the NL East, my phone rings. It’s my father.

I answer the phone. “Hello?”

“John,” my father says.

“Dad!” I shout.

He has called to celebrate the Phillies win, of course. He will say something like “I have pennant fever!” as he does after every single Phillies win. (Conversely, he will without fail say “I have lost pennant fever” after every single Phillies loss.) He will say something about the performance of players with one of the idiotic nicknames he and I use when talking about individual Phillies, something like “how about that play by Dangerous?” or “we call him Dobbsy!” or “clearly there will be No Questions Asked.” Possibly even “it’s a good thing Stumpy will be back for the playoffs” or “the Phillies are really going to miss Bleh in the postseason.” Maybe, just maybe, a sarcastic “Phillies suck!” like he would normally shout when they are losing. It will be another great all-American father-son baseball moment.

This is what my father says:

“On the Simpsons, who played the two bikers who abducted Marge?”

The Phillies won their third straight NL East less than two minutes ago and my father is calling me to cheat at Quizo.

I say, “are you fucking KIDDING ME? You call me NOW with shit?”

Now this is the point where a normal father would say, realizing that he is ruining an all-American father-son baseball moment, “sorry, you’re right, how about them Phils?”

MY father says, “John, we really need the answer.”

Now this is the point where a normal person would say, crushed by his father’s insensitivity to the all-American father-son baseball moment he is ruining, “how can you ask that at a time like this?”

-I- say, “John Goodman and Henry Winkler.”

JLK

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The suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth.

Posted by kozemp on August 23, 2009

My car rocks.

And I don’t mean in that awesome, Slayer concert, “South Philly rocks WOOOOOO!” way. I mean in the unfortunate, “why is my car moving in ways I don’t tell it to?” way.

I first noticed this when my father was changing his shoes at the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport yesterday. He was unloading his bags and suddenly the car was pole-axing up and down like it was on a schizophrenic hydraulic lift.

When this first started I couldn’t see what was going on (what with the trunk lid obscuring my rear windshield), so I leaned out my window to ascertain why my father was jumping up and down on my car like a trampoline.

“What the fuck are you doing?” I shouted.

“I’m changing my shoes!” he shouted back. We were coming from a funeral and he was changing from his dress shoes into more comfortable traveling shoes. He was sitting on the back bumper doing so. This caused the car to gyrate up and down quickly enough to make a lesser-constitutioned person seasick.

Made as I am of sturdier stuff all I did was sit in my car and say to myself, “that ain’t good.”

The next occurrence of the non-musical rocking came this afternoon at the supermarket. While loading my groceries into the trunk I nudged the car with my thigh. The car proceeded to lurch forward a solid 6 or 8 inches, and come back hard enough to hit me in the leg and make me stumble backwards.

Standing there, holding plastic bags full of cereal in my hands, I looked down at my car and said, “oh, this is gonna get worse before it gets better.”

I briefly worried that I was standing in a Pathmark parking lot talking to no one but, frankly, that would probably be cheaper to fix than my car.

As you have realized by now, I drove my father to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport yesterday. The best part about me driving my father to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport is that me driving him to the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport was the LEAST ridiculous part of the entire endeavor.

Here is how something like this happens:

One of my father’s friends… let’s call him, say, “George”… has two bizarre passions: meticulously and intricately (some would say obsessively) planned vacations, and a burning desire to see the northern lights. On at least four occasions in the last fifteen years or so these two passions have collided, resulting in long road trips with his friends (my father and their mutual friend, let’s call him, say, “Rob”) up to the northernmost frontier of civilization to take in various cultural sights and witness the miracle that is the Aurora Borealis.

Note that the term “road trip” is used in a quite literal sense here. They DRIVE to these places. The first excursion was a massive, 27-day, 10-city extravaganza of visiting baseball stadia and sleeping outside in an effort to see the northern lights and a moose. It is my understanding that they saw an actual moose on their second adventure, a trip up to a place in Quebec called Chibougamou, which is quite literally the last town in Canada before one enters the frozen wasteland. No, seriously, look on a map. The road north stops in this place. There is nothing after it. This is where they saw a moose.

It is important to note at this point that on none of these trips have they actually seen the northern lights.

So earlier this summer my father got word that there was a new trip afoot – George was driving to Newfoundland to see the Maritimes (and, presumably, the aurora), and he wanted expected Rob and my father to join him.

Now my father has long since learned that joining in on the driving parts of these trips is Russian Roulette played with a Buick, so he has since the first such vacation gone with the policy of flying out to meet George and Rob in whatever bizarre locale they end up in. Since presumably none of you have ever been in a car with Rob believe me when I tell you this is one of the smartest policies ever devised. So my father set out to fly himself to Newfoundland from Philadelphia for less than a small fortune.

This is, as you might guess, more difficult than it might seem.

Eventually he found an airfare to St. John’s that didn’t run into four figures: flying out of Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport, with a change in Newark. This, by some quirk of airline scheduling, was fantastically cheaper than just flying out of Newark direct.

A second thing that it is important to note: at this point, my father thinks that Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport (located here) and Lehigh Valley International Airport (located here) are the same place.

A third thing it is important to note: my father is a geography teacher.

So he books this flight from Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport to Newfoundland without realizing that a) Scranton and Allentown are not, in fact, the same place, and b) he has agreed to drive back with George, so he can’t leave his car at the airport. This is where I come in. Several weeks ago he asked me to drive him to the Scranton airport and I – admittedly fuzzy on how far away it was – rather stupidly agreed.

Note to self: look at map before agreeing to drive people places.

Yesterday comes and after the funeral my father and I are hustling ourselves into the car to make the drive up there quickly enough to get him on his flight. I’m not that worried – even with whatever brouhaha one has to go through to fly internationally, I have looked it up and the average check-in waiting time at Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport is three minutes. My father spends the entire trip shouting about how much he loves the British accent on my GPS, and two hours later we follow its last instruction and pull into Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport.

This conversation happens:

My dad: Where do you think I check in?

Me: There’s only two doors.

My dad: Which one do you think is departures?

Me: There’s only two fucking doors!

My dad: BUT WHICH ONE –

Me: FLIP A GODDAMN COIN!

Now normally any car trip of significant length with my father will degenerate into shouting on both sides, but in this instance I think we both were a little shellshocked by the fact that the only terminal at Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport was smaller, and had fewer doors, than our house. As we got closer we saw that the first door you came to said “departures” over it. Another door, perhaps thirty feet away, said “Arrivals.” As near as I could tell from the glass-panel front of the building these doors both opened into the same room, making me wonder why they bothered delineating.

There was a question as to whether his flight would go off or not, so once he had changed his shoes my father asked me to hang around until he was sure it would leave.

Me: Look, even at this place I don’t think I can just sit here while you check in.

My dad: Then go wait in the parking lot.

Me: Screw that, I’m not paying to park while you check in.

My dad: Then just go around the block.

Me: Dad, there isn’t a block to go around. <pointing at a spot about 200 feet from the car> That’s the exit. You can see it from here.

My dad: FIND SOMEPLACE TO WAIT!

Me: FINE!

When I reached said exit, I could go straight to get back onto the highway or make a right into the great Scrantonian unknown. Figuring that I had my British GPS to get me out of any trouble, I made the right….

Into someone’s driveway.

The exit from the Scranton-Wilkes Barre International Airport leads directly onto a residential street, and if (like me) you are completely flabbergasted by this, momentarily lose your mind, and hold your right turn too long, you end up in some poor sod’s front driveway. I can still see the terminal from here. I extricated myself from this unlucky person’s property and drove around this neighborhood until I found a large open space where I could park the car and call my father.

Me: Well? What’s going on?

My dad: I don’t know.

Me: What do you mean you don’t know?

My dad: There isn’t a gate agent.

Me: What do you mean there isn’t a gate agent?

My dad: There’s a desk in this room, but there’s no one sitting at it. There’s no one here.

Me: What do you mean there… you know what, never mind.

My dad: This place is weird. Okay, there’s someone here, I think they might be –

Me: I’m going home.

My dad: Wait, what if my flight gets cancelled –

Me: Just CALL ME! How fucking far away do you think I’m going to get?

I hung up and started poking at my GPS until the “Go Home” button came up.

Before I got back on the Northeast Extension I pulled into a truck stop (an actual truck stop in a de facto city) to get something to drink. I decided a trip this bizarre required a souvenir. Just after the announcement that shower #2 was now open, I came upon the perfect item: a 128-ounce cup. It’s a giant piece of round plastic with a handle and a spill-proof lid. It is more akin to a flower pot than anything you would actually drink out of.

I took the cup and my actual sub-128 ounce drink to the counter, the cup still wrapped in plastic.

“You know you get a free fillup at the soda fountain, right?” the cashier said to me.

I stared at him for a second, then blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“The cup,” he said. “It comes with a complimentary fillup.”

I was buying this thing as a remembrance of a bizarre Saturday afternoon; the thought had honestly not occurred to me that a human would actually fill it with that much liquid and drink all of it, let alone soda, let alone actually drink that much soda. I began to contemplate what would happen if I actually drank 128 ounces of Mountain Dew in one sitting. Every scenario I could come up with ended in my immediate, if pleasurable, death.

“No, I, ah…” I said. “I’m good, thanks.”

JLK

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Another first for the First Among the Fallen

Posted by kozemp on June 8, 2009

I was watching The Memorial yesterday, and my dad walked in just after Tiger had birdied the 7th hole to go four under on the day.

“What’s happening?” he asked. 

I said,  “it’s over.”

Tiger was setting the course on fire and the entire field was backing up to him – the classic elements of a Tiger Sunday victory (though he’s never done it in a major Tiger has come from behind to win on tour 20 times).

On his approach shot on 17, the instant Tiger hit it my father shouted “WHOA that ball is up high!” I might have said “yow.” It dropped like a rock 10 feet from the hole and sat there. I said, faux-sarcastic, “yeah, he’s pretty good.”

When Tiger pulled out his 7-iron on 18 and stuck it to eleven inches from a buck-eighty my father just sat in stunned silence and I started muttering “no hope… no hope…” over and over again. I imagine the other 90 players who have so far qualified for this year’s US Open were doing much the same thing at that point.

Tiger Woods has returned, and the end is nigh.

In the past I have written extensively on my beliefs about Tiger’s origins and yesterday was another convincing bit of evidence to support my theory that Tiger Woods is the Devil. Even the poor bastard Tiger was playing with called it “the best golf I’ve ever seen.” Tiger hit 14 of 14 fairways yesterday. He only missed 5 fairways over the entire tournament. He hasn’t driven with that kind of accuracy in, well, technically 11 years, but in reality pretty much ever. Right now, if you’re playing at Bethpage in two weeks you’ve only got one thought in your head:

I. Am. FUCKED.

Before the Memorial you may have been thinking, “hey, I’ve got as good a shot at winning this as anyone. US Open rough, well, that will give everyone a chance.” Yeah, sorry about that, chief: if Tiger Woods is hitting every fairway your chance is gone baby gone. Frankly I don’t know why you’re going to bother even showing up. Do you know what Jones Beach traffic is like on a Saturday morning?

Until Sunday’s excerpt from the Book of Revelation my primary reaction to the Memorial was stunned incredulity. The course is, to put it mildly, ridiculous. I mean the tee shots and the fairways are very nice, but the approach shots and the greens are FUCKING INSANE. Every single one, if you don’t hit it to a very, very small part of the green, forget about it: you’re in two-putt city if you’re lucky. At one point yesterday Jonathan Byrd three-putted from inside 5 feet. And if you don’t hit the green, well, you might as well pick up your ball and go home. The greens are protected by bunkers and water and steep embankments and Aliens and shin-high rough, all screaming “HIT IT HERE AND GET FUCKED.” Guys still hit it there anyway. And oh BOY did they get fucked. At one point my father said “I’ve never seen professionals make so many double bogeys.” Davis Love (who my dad calls “Sticky” for reasons I will not describe) TRIPLE bogeyed 18, a fairly nondescript par 4. It was like the first spring Sunday morning at the Byrne – hack-o-rama.

Whether this was because the greens at Muirfield are modeled after a Cardassian internment camp or because once everyone saw Tiger shoot up the leaderboard they decided to fall on their sword and take the early flight home is a debatable point. Also debatable is whether the US Open just became more interesting or less. If you are the sort who despairs at Tiger’s continuing domination of all he surveys I suppose it just became a little less interesting. If, like, me, you enjoy watching Tiger methodically annihilate anything and everything in his path it just got considerably MORE interesting.

Actually, now that I think about it… 

I see the resemblance.

I see the resemblance.

Related? Could be, could be…

JLK

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