Normally writers don't star in beer commercials. But it's not unprecedented.
* Hat tip to Writing Boots' Toronto bureau chief Neil Hrab for sending this along.
As his motto as a writer, my dad used to use the Latin phrase, I forget what it was, for "we are all the same." That's what he believed: That people were far more alike than different in the most important ways, and that the purpose of communication was to reveal that essential similarity.
But sometimes, communication shows a difference where we did not believe there was one, and that can be enlightening too. Take the other night.
I was in a noisy, hot bar with a woman I know only a little bit, but like a lot. I see her maybe once a year, always when we've each had a few, and we blast straight into intense talk—about work (she's an interior designer with a lot of absurd ideas, I'm a writer with some of my own) ... about the fortunes and character of the friends we have in common ... and about raising only-child girls. Hers is eight and mine's turning 11.
Over the pounding music the other night, I flew into a verbal essay about how raising a kid means gradually realizing that you have not, in fact, created a one-of-a-kind geniussaint who because of your inspired influence is and will forever be free of the world's grossness, uninfluenced by its stupidity and instead, always and utterly devoted to the very highest things in life.
Instead, you must increasingly acknowledge that you have created a person who, however utterly gorgeous to you, is actually a lot like the rest of us, who muddle along all day trying to do some fucking thing that's useful and hoping not to act as jerky and selfish and thoughtless as our colleagues and loved ones worry we will (because we have before).
Seriously. I said all that, in the middle of a crowded bar, in a lot more detail, and I added the that, when Scout was born, the black receptionist at the publisher I worked at declared her belief, offering no evidence except her own tears, that Scout would become the next Martin Luther King. I remember having to work hard to pretend to be skeptical. Under my careful direction, of course Scout would become the next Martin Luther King. Actually, make that guitarist/comic/motorcyclist Martin Luther King who could throw down a reverse dunk like an absolute badass.
My friend is a good listener. Also, I was shouting in her ear, so I didn't have a lot of time to make eye contact until I was finished with my theory.
Then I looked her in the eye and said expectantly, "You know what I mean?"
And she said, "No! Not at all!"
"You mean you never fantasized that L— would be a saint, and have had to adjust your expectations, realizing that they were ridiculously nutty, but totally natural and every parent has them?"
"No! I never had those expectations! And it's a good thing! Because L— quite often comes home from school knowing she's been a jerk. I never thought she'd be anything more than another imperfect person, just like her father and me."
She said it all in a way that made me unable to dismiss her denial as some kind of earthy pose. She said it with an open face and a matter-of-fact tone that, didn't judge me harsly for what we both saw as my totally egotistical and crazy point of view.
We both laughed. It was funny. I had communicated a deep, closely held idea to what I thought was a very like-minded parent of an only-child girl—to a woman of my generation and socioeconomic class and politics—with an assumption that, "We are all the same."
I wonder how you say in Latin, "No, we aren't!"
Adults used to make fun of kids for calling things "cool."
Now, adults call things "badass."
I heard it first from our hipster friends, I think. They'd see a particularly desirable car or motorcycle or cappuccino machine and say, "That thing is badass."
At first, I thought it was kind of badass, how they used "badass."
Then my wife and I started using the term, perhaps in order to feel a little less like the soccer parents we are (and more like badasses).
The fire caught fast. Suddenly we find ourselves calling everything we used to call "cool," "badass."
If Scout has a good game against a tough team, I tell her with an apologetic chuckle, "You played like a badass out there today." In the car on the way home, Cristie refers to the fellow soccer parent who we admire because she is a put-together college professor: "She is a badass." Then, satisfied with our badass ability to know badasses when we see them, we crank up the tunes and listen to Alicia Keys, who is just totally friggin' badass.
As a whole family unit, we are so badass, we can't even get over our badass selves.
But really, the only true badass in our family is Scout, who doesn't say "badass," ostensibly because it contains the word "ass," but really because she senses it is a sign of her parents posing as something they're not, and never were:
POSTSCRIPT: I sent a draft of the above post to my wife, asking her, "Is this going to ruin all the fun?" Like a badass, she replied, "It's fine. But I'm still using it."
You know who thinks and talks and frets and bitches every day about the president of the United States?
It's not civic-minded adults, who understand that there are many thousands of relevant people between them and the president. They're aware of all the powerful national, state, local and neighborhood leaders in every sector of society. They know that, in order to make the States more United and American, these more local people are the ones they should vote for and cultivate and help.
It is boys—have you noticed?—who fixate on the president. These are 30, 40, 50 or 60-year-old adolescents who never figured out that their parents aren't responsible for their destiny.
So (and I realize that I'm entering the theoretical territory here) the boys replace their dead parents with the president, and find the paren—president wanting. Weekly, daily, hourly.
Mostly, they keep their bitter complaint to themselves. They don't bother their colleagues or clients with it, lest they be found obnoxious and injured professionally. They don't want to start trouble at family gatherings, either, because, in their inevitable words, "It's not worth it." And their spouse stopped listening years ago.
But they can't keep it in. They gotta let it out. World's gotta see. See all the rage. Rage that's in me. So they stream it almost nonstop on Facebook.
It's sad, really. Classic arrested development cases. Boys in grownup suits, upset all the time because every day isn't their birthday and we almost never get to go to Chuck E. Cheese. And no one will listen.
It would be no business of mine, except that I don't include boys in my Facebook feed (or girls either), only groans.
And grownups have a lot more on their minds than the popularity of the U.S. president. So if you're going to be a Facebook friend of mine, you get one post on the president per month. No matter the president, no matter the nature of the post—one per month, 12 per year, 48 per presidential term. What with everything else going on at the federal, state, county, municipal, neighborhood, household, spiritual and bodily level, doesn't that seem like it ought to be enough posts about the president?
Well, if you're going to remain Facebook friends with me, it's going to have to be, starting next month. Okay, you have until the midterms. But after that ...
... just know that if I wind up having to cut you off as my Facebook friend, I won't think of it as defriending you, but rather as friending mature, adult citizenship in a representative democracy.
I am the worst teacher in the world. I'm a good golfer, but I can't teach golf. I'm a good writer, but I can't teach writing. I'm good at fractions, but I send my daughter to her mother, who is terrible at fractions, but who is a teacher.
Because every time I'm presented with an opportunity to teach anyone anything, I'm visited by two consecutive thoughts:
1. This person will never be able to learn what I'm teaching, because people are dumb. (Seriously, that's the thought, in those words.)
2. Anyway, I am a mass communicator. It's criminally inefficient for me to dick around trying to teach some skill to one person. (Yes. In my unwitting mind, I describe the holy act of teaching as "dicking around.")
Why do I write, you ask? Because it gives me an excuse not to teach.
(That's not why you write?)
Earlier this year I wrote about The New Mutes—Generation Y workers who should be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act because they are apparently incapable of using the telephone.
The New Mute, I wrote, is
unable to convey meaning or feeling by tone of voice or body language or facial expression. It is not known whether the New Mutes are unaware of the crucial uses of these basic human tools, or merely unable to employ them. Whatever the case, the result is the same: The New Mutes are entirely dependent on what they say and unable to control how they say it, beyond the blunt and banal use of exclamation points and emoticons! :(
Well I have an update, and the news is not good. Recently I spoke with an IT director who said he's frequently clashing with young employees who are unplugging their phones, because, in their inevitable words, "I never use it."
Yes, he implores them incredulously, but you have a phone number and people might call and you need to answer it or at least note when it rings and check your voice mail.
Probably uncomfortable with even this much spontaneous, analog communication, the kids shrug, plug in their phones just to mollify him, and then unplug them again when he is gone.
This generation will take over some day.
They'll text us.
If I were president, there would be a War on Smarm, and the uttering of many terms we suffer all the time these days would be classified as felonies.
Our jails would be overcrowded with soccer moms, carpool dads and, school teachers and many other types of otherwise harmless geeks, all serving outrageous mandatory minimum sentences for first offenses. (And any reference to "the game of life" would draw the death penalty. Game over.)
As president, I would accept the inevitable criticism, as long as it wasn't framed in smarmy terms by mincing twerps who claimed to be "speaking truth to power," issuing a "a wake-up call" to a "system that is broken" and claiming "we can do better."
All those bastards would go to jail with the rest of them.
And there'd be more legal drugs for the rest of us.
Canadian piano virtuouso Glenn Gould practices Bach, hypnotizes himself and you—all in three minutes.
This is courtesy of my sister Piper, who sends me approximately half the great stuff I see (and none of the crap).