The Last Day of Our Acquaintance

“You look good, -ish.”

This is going well.

I’m at a diner, one with an affinity for Cuban-influenced fare. We haven’t even placed drink orders yet, and she’s already cast her first stone. I look good. Ish.

It had been 15 years since my college girlfriend Sam and I last traded messages, and decades since we’d last seen each other in person. I still had a working email address for her when her mother passed away, so I reached out to offer my condolences. I had also recently welcomed my first child into the world. She already had two kids, so I thought she’d be happy for me. We were adults now, doing adult things. That’s how this is supposed to work, right?

But she never wrote back, so between that and her opening salvo here, it seems like a no. Cool.

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Happiness is an Option

In 1989, Kate Bush released The Sensual World. On that album is a song called “Never Be Mine.”

Let’s look at the first verse.

I look at you and see my life that might have been

Your face just ghostly in the smoke

They’re setting fire to the corn fields as you’re taking me home

The smell of burning fields will now mean you and here

Kate does something clever with that last line. By associating a scent with a memory, the listener does the same with her song. For almost everyone who listens to “Never Be Mine,” the song becomes a fixed point that conjures a moment in time.

And given the melancholy nature of the track, it’s probably not conjuring a happy moment in time.

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What’s Up

This is an extended, revised version of the letter I wrote to go with our Christmas cards this year. I’ve received the occasional text asking, “How are things going?” This is how it’s going.

“Hello, Wisconsin!”

Of course I started the letter with a reference to “That ‘70s Show.” I’m not clever enough to think of something better. Plus, Cheap Trick performed the opening credits theme song, a cover of “In the Street” by Big Star, for all but the first season of the show. So, Cheap Trick.

It’s early January as I write this. A little over four months ago, we packed up everything we had collected over our 19 years in Ohio (!!!) and hightailed it to Madison (technically Verona, but also Madison, and Middleton schools, it’s weird). We lived in Ohio almost twice as long as I lived in Chicago, but it feels like it was the other way around.

My lovely wife is from Madison. Her mom is still here. Two of our nieces currently go to school here. My sister-in-law is a Senior Lecturer with the UW-Madison School of Business, so she’s here a lot. That is why we’re here. But it’s not the only reason why we’re here.

We were all ready for a fresh start.

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F*cking Off Is Always an Option

This is a true story. It took place in July 2022.

It’s late in the afternoon, and I’m an hour from home.

We started the day in Gurnee, Illinois. My kids go to a summer camp outside of Milwaukee, and on the way home, we often take 94 East, which takes us right by Six Flags Great America. Our kids know several kids in the Chicago area, either through camp or through us (and sometimes they go to camp with the kids they met through us), so we finally decided to stop and spend a day at Six Flags. It was a great day. Perfect weather, and the lines were not bad at all.

Anyway, that’s why we started the day in Gurnee.

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I Has Thoughts: Movies of 2019

This is the first time I have put a year-end list together since (checks notes) 2015. It seems longer than that – I was convinced I hadn’t done one of these since 2011. Some of that has to do with the fact that I’m no longer doing the writing thing on a full-time basis. Some of that is because it’s been several years since there was a batch of movies that got me truly excited. That 2015 piece that I wrote? That was not a great batch of flicks. Good, but not great.

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Don’t Tell Others How to Share Their Trauma

I’m going to share something with you. My wife doesn’t even know this story.

When I was 7 or 8 years old, an older boy in my neighborhood tried to force me to suck his dick.

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Take My Money! Six Nights on Planet Disney

From 3:00 in the afternoon on March 29 until about 10:30 in the morning on April 3, with the exception of one dinner, every single penny my wife and I spent in that stretch went to Disney. Hotels, park passes, in-park meals and drinks, gift shop stuff, a three-day Disney cruise, and the shuttle bus we took to get from hotel to boat and back to the airport (which we will discuss in detail later, using unkind language), all Disney’s now. They have organized their properties in a manner that highly discourages their customers from doing anything outside of the Disney universe, like a group of interconnected black holes. And I would gladly pay for the privilege to do it again. No, I am not suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

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This is the only logical explanation for the past 12 months

devil_flanders_3November 2015. The back table of a Wrigleyville bar.

Cubs: We want a World Series.
Devil: Okay, but it’s gonna cost you.
Cubs: We figured. How much?
Devil: David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, George Martin, Leonard Cohen, Gene Wilder, Leon Russell…
Cubs: WHAT?
Devil: I’m not even remotely finished.
Cubs: You’ve got to be kid–
Devil: George Michael, Pete Burns, Carrie Fisher, Sharon Jones, two thirds of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Prince Be, Maurice White, Garry Shandling, Merle Haggard, Muhammad Ali, Paul Kantner…
Cubs: Are you done?
Devil: No. Abe Vigoda. Vanity. Arnold Palmer. Gordie Howe. Kevin Meaney. The guy who wrote “Thriller” and “Rock with You.” The tall man from “Phantasm.” The keyboardist from the Black Crowes. The guy from “One Day at a Time.” Glen Frey…
Cubs: Can we trade that entire list and just give you all of the Eagles?
Devil: I’m getting them anyway. Except for Don Felder, he’s a good soul.
Cubs: Okay, is that the final list?
Devil: Almost. You know that flame thrower on the Marlins?
Cubs: Dude, not Jose Fernandez. He’s 23.
Devil: He’ll live to see 24.
Cubs: Ugh. Anyone else?
Devil: That depends. When was the last time you talked to Lemmy?
Cubs: You wouldn’t.
Devil: I would.
Cubs: I hate you.
Devil: I’m Satan, that’s the point. Also, Donald Trump wins the election the week after the World Series.
Cubs: So, the year that we win the World Series will be remembered by nearly everyone on the planet as the worst year of their lives.
Devil: At last, you understand.
Cubs: Where do we sign?

Note: I have been a Cubs fan since 1986.

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