A woman is trying to raise $2,750 from her friends in order to help pay medical bills required to treat her dog Max, who has nasal cancer.
The narrator of this video is the biggest horse's ass you're going to meet today. For instance, he thinks Instagram is changing the way we think about our lives. And also, he's just a horse's ass.
But he is right about one thing: We do spend a hell of a lot of time these days reflecting on time, and how fast it's moving.
The problem is, that's what people do when they're on vacation. It wastes their time and it doesn't make the vacation last any longer.
It seems to me—even to me, a fellow who has a fast-receeding young daughter he adores and who knows very well that these are the good old days—that we think altogether too frequently about the passing of time, and achieve precious little in the meantime, to make the time count.
We fetishize "back in the day," but our cultural memory is so short that "the day" we're talking about was 20 years ago. Go back just a teeny-weeny bit firther, and meet some old-school ancestors who had their fucking hands full. Henry Ford didn't have time for Instagramming, and neither did any of his workers, who weren't even allowed to go to the bathroom. Nor did the workers' wives, who cleaned and cooked from dawn until dusk. Or even their children, who worked too. You know why those people went to church? To rest, and to think, for the first time all week.
Every last bit of the freedom we've achieved through our civilizing regulations and technological achievements, we've eagerly handed over to TV, Facebook, Instragram and YouTube. When my old man was in the prime of his career, he taught himself how to take exquisite photographs, developed them in his dark room and fly airplanes! We don't have hobbies anymore, because we're not interested in anything anymore. We're pinterested, at best.
We while away the hours tweeting truculently about politicians who seem to have their own best interest in mind, between their constant speechifying, fund-raising and unceasing self-promotion. Well at least they put in an honest day's work! What do you have to show for your last year at work? For your last five?
Where am I going with this? How about here: Show me someone who is spending even the smallest unit of humanity's collective time on earth trying to put a sepia filter onto a photograph that was taken yesterday to add nostalgic gravitas to his Saturday brunch, and I'll show you someone whose bank account ought to be seized by the government and who ought to be trucked off to pick fruit under a hot sun.
That's a lot of us, I'm talking about—ranging all the way from myself to the self-licking douche bag who made that Instagram video.
Really, everyone would be better off if we all found some useful work to do.
As the Murmudgeon, I know what everybody thinks of me. They think of me as an amusing sidewalk performance beside the road to the future.
My resistance to trends is cute, and maybe there's just a bit of cautionary truth to it ... but there's no chance I could actually be dead fucking right about something, is there? Oh no! Everything is getting better every day in every way, right? Change is the only constant, right? It's lead, follow, or get out of the way, right?
Well, some years ago—I can't actually find the item in the vast Writing Boots archives—I posted a photograph of these shoes ...
... under the shortest headline I've ever written: "No." (There was no supporting body copy either, as I recall.)
Well guess what, folks: I was in the runner's store getting some new kicks for a race I'm running this weekend, and while the manager was in the back getting my size, I noticed that none of these revolting burn-victim shoes were on the shelves.
My face formed into a smile like the Grinch gets. You know, this one:
And when the manager came out with my shoes, I asked him: "Have you stopped selling those asinine shoes with the toes?"
"Yes," he said, quietly. "They're gone."
I didn't bother to contain my delight. "So they were just stupid, right? They were bad for your feet? There was no actual purpose for them? They were just a fad that appealed to dipshits?"
The guy kind of mumbled. "Yes, they were basically, well, they were not effective."
And I realized he was probably being sheepish because he had sold a shit-ton of those shoes to American suckers, and he couldn't very well laugh out loud at the sham that he himself had promoted.
But I can.
And, by God, I am.
Stop laughing at me for one day, and laugh with me!
I've been forced to think about race lately. (Because who would think about it voluntarily?)
I was in Houston last month, and in Houston the airports are so far away from town you need a plane to get to them. Or one long-ass cab ride, anyway. The driver was a black guy about my age, and he wanted to talk about race. I ascertained this, because within 40 seconds of me sitting in the cab, he was telling me how much he'd learned about people in a year of driving one.
Like, he learned to his surprise that well-dressed white guys like me didn't all have it made. That a lot of us hated our jobs, but did them to pay the mortgage. That we don't feel our real skills are being used by our employers and our work lives are meaningless or worse.
Before I could tell him how flattered I was to be included in this group of miserable white guys, he was asking me:
Do I feel in my heart the oppression of my people—white males—by the people who blame us for all the ills in the world? (I do not.) And do the black people I know seem to have empathy for my plight as a picked-on white man? (I doubt it.)
After staggering blindly around the ring in my street clothes, I righted myself and we talked about what we teach our kids about race. We acknowledged that every American adult we know is schizophrenic and generally nuts on the subject of race. And we talked about whether we think race relations are improving in the U.S. and whether our race problem will someday fade away.
He was more optimistic than me. I tend to think hundreds of years of slavery maybe screws up race relations in a society for good—the way a good dose of incest or domestic violence can cascade down generations of a family. I tend to think we're always gonna have some trust issues, shall we say.
But he made a case that things are getting better, that kids of different races are growing up with each other much more than they used to, that we've come a long way since the early 1960s (when my mother wrote this ad ...
... and when every single person in a big-city civic dedication was white).
(Imagine being a black person in that power arrangement!)
Meanwhile, this cabbie played in a rock band with white guys in the 1980s, he married a white woman in the deep south, and his own white step kids don't even seem to notice he is black!
If things have changed this much in 50 years—what might be achieved in the next 50?
It almost makes a poor put-upon white guy, embarrassed by the pace of change in my own adult lifetime—from Rodney King to Ferguson, Missouri—want to stick around and find out.
Anyway, it was a good conversation, the straight-up likes of which I haven't had in too damned long.
Dedicated to the Chicago KICS girls' U-13 girls traveling soccer team, Fall 2014. —DM
First it was one of our players who I noticed,
going about her business as if she was being paid for it.
Calmly, efficiently, straight-faced.
Gradually I noticed that all the girls on the team—
—and all the girls on the teams they travel to play—
all of them go about their business that way.
They do not: complain to the referees, visibly react to their coaches' scoldings,
scowl at their opponents even when an elbow is thrown,
or countenance their parents' unhelpful yells ("Get in there!" "Win the ball!").
They don't dance after they score, or howl when the ball bounces off the post.
They don't smile frequently and they almost never laugh.
They don't play! That's what I'm getting at!
They work—hard enough, but no harder.
And with such composure and calm that it's a suprise,
when one comes close to the sideline and you hear her breathing hard,
or you see her cheeks turning red.
They win or they lose.
The adults hide their disappointment after losses,
but reveal their vicarious ambition with their exultation after victories.
The girls must notice, but they don't show it. They don't show anything.
You want there to be a press conference after the game.
You want a chance to ask them one by one,
"Are you conscious, during the game, of having fun?"
Except, you'd be embarrassed to ask a question like that of professionals.
(And you know they'd only answer the question politely,
the way their media training taught them to.)
What actually happens after the game is that, per their coaches' orders,
our girls form up at midfield and run single-file to the sideline
to high-five the parents.
And we line up eagerly like young fans,
astonished at the chance to touch our heroes.
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."