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Vic Morrow died at the age of 53 on July 23, 1982.
July 23, 2016
After a month that has taken me to New York twice, San Diego, Los
Angeles and Cleveland, I am wrapping up a brutal July of travel with one
last trip to New York this week. (It’s another work trip, though I’ll
confess it’s not a total coincidence that an NYC work trip
lines up with the Cardinals at Citi Field.) After that, save for a day
trip here or there, that’s it for travel until the World Series. I am
almost back home.
It is a little surprising how quickly Athens has become my home. I’ve been here for three years now, but considering my youngest son Wynn just turned two, much of those three years was spent sprinting from one room to another, yelling, waving one’s arms in the air, unplugging dangerous things amidst random piles of poo. That’s to say: It hasn’t exactly been our most social three years. Many friends from out of town tell me how lucky I am to live in Athens because of all the great bands that come here, and I can vouch that terrific bands do come here. I can prove it, because I read all about their shows that begin two hours after I go to sleep and end an hour before I wake up. You can tell Athens’ music scene is hopping because when terrible acts play here, they play on, like, a Monday in late June or something.
But even though I’m always missing out on one of the main things people are always telling me is one of Athens’ primary attributes, I found myself instantly comfortable here. I’d always wanted to live in a college town, because college towns combine the best parts of small towns and the best parts of cities; they’re generally quiet and isolated, but they also have an active arts community, a diverse and inventive food scene and a near-constant flow of sporting events. And Athens is one of the best college towns. I don’t think of Athens as a “small town” at all in fact. Growing up in Mattoon, it’s like a bigger Mattoon with good schools, Division I sports I can walk to, more than one Mexican restaurant and several families that are not white. (Another big difference between here and Mattoon: There are jobs for people to do here.) I loved my hometown, but for all the political talk of late about “whether your children will have it better than you,” I can say my boys are going to be exposed to far more of the planet than I ever was growing up. I’m actually a little envious of them sometimes. What can I say? The town works for me too. People are friendly, they don’t care about dumb media junk, the food’s fantastic, I get can go to the airport if I need to in 75 minutes (which is quicker than it often took me in New York) and I’ve got season tickets for both football and men’s basketball. I’ve got a nice home, a roomy quiet office upstairs to type and reliable Wi-Fi. I don’t ask for that much, and Athens gives me a lot more than I ask for.
(Plus, occasionally you really do run into R.E.M. members walking around downtown. Sometimes you even mortally offend them, a band you’ve always considered your heroes, because you decided, out of all the times in your life, to pick THEN to be pedantically argumentative. But that is another, future newsletter!)
But this brings me to New York. I lived in New York City for 13 1/2 years, from January 2000 to June 2013. Like many people who move to New York, the first three years are a blur of dipshittery, total bafflement as to who I was and what the hell I was doing. But I figured it out, and even though I was underemployed and starving, I made it work, and began to love the place. Then, like any New Yorker who lives there too long, I got addicted to it and couldn’t function anywhere else. I was one of those asshats who legitimately thought that if you didn’t live in New York, it was because you simply didn’t try hard enough, or care enough. New Yorkers will deny to you that they think this. But they think this. I planned on living there forever, because why in the hell would anyone live anywhere else?
Then I got older, and a little more comfortable with myself, a little wiser, and a little more comfortable, and then a lot more married, and then a lot more a dad, and New York made less and less since to me. This is hardly new: Anyone, like me, who moves to New York because they’re young and hungry and ambitious and stupid eventually grows from dipshit twentysomething to now-what thirtysomething to oh-crap-this-is-serious-now fortysomething, and adjusts accordingly. Some people dedicate themselves to the city, no matter what. Some people compromise a little and sneak out to Queens. (Which is wonderful, by the way; Astoria is one of my favorite NYC neighborhoods.) Some go to Jersey, some go to Westchester, some go to Long Island. I got out of town entirely, because my wife and I didn’t want to half-ass NYC with our kids. Neither of us grew up in NYC and we ended up there; we’d rather lay a foundation with our kids in a cool, comfortable college town, and if the boys have the desire to come out there the way they did, hey, we’ll be happy for them. But I didn’t need to stay there. I worked out of home, I’d established my career, and I had no immediate pressing needs to be in NYC. I didn’t want to hang just so I didn’t miss any meetings or parties or television opportunities, just because I was supposed to.
I’m a happier, calmer person now that I’ve left. I’m more productive, and more grounded, and more alert to the way people outside NYC see the world ... that is, the way that 99.999999 percent of humanity sees the world. I miss certain parts about New York, no question. I miss walking everywhere. I miss running across the Manhattan Bridge. I miss the sushi. I miss my friends, even though most of my friends have moved away themselves now. I miss that little hum under your feet, the constant reminder that there’s energy in the place you live that doesn’t exist anywhere else, a sense that this city is strange and scary and different and yet constructed specifically for you. I miss grabbing a slice on the way home from the bar. I miss meeting a different person every day, seemingly forever. I miss that everybody there is there for a reason, a purpose, and how that makes your reason and your purpose feel validated. It’s a city of 10 million people and thus, even if you don’t talk to any of them, you never feel alone.
But it’s not who I am anymore, and it hasn’t been for quite a while. I enjoy weeks like the upcoming one, when I get to visit, and feel that old attachment to the city. Even with that, though, it’s a little changed every time I see it. My favorite old Irish pub is a hipster cocktail place; the grungy old bodega is a health food store; the apartment building where I woke up to discover my son was about to be born is now torn down to build a hedge fund douchebag’s luxury condo he’ll flip in two years. It doesn’t feel like my New York anymore, which is to say, it never really was. It’s just fun to be a tourist now, to still be the one who still prides himself on knowing which side of the street is uptown on the subway and which is downtown, who never lets the bellman at his hotel call him a cab, who will always remember where he was on 9/11 and who he was with and what it was like to drink every day for the next two years. I miss it. But not really. It’s different than it was when I was there. So am I.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. (This is an attempt to have an objective look at the value of my work in a way that I suspect will be difficult to sustain.)
1. The Police Love-In Outside the RNC, Bloomberg Politics. The week in Cleveland covering the Republican National Convention wasn’t quite what I had hoped it would be, for reasons more work-related than Cleveland-related. (There will be a later newsletter, I’m sure, featuring my observations on covering my first Presidential election.) But I do think this worked out exactly the way I wanted it to, because it got across something important that I didn’t see anywhere else: The oddity of this convention — which people were terrified something would happen at — being, more than anything, a city-wide celebration of police officers, even from people who are not inclined to support police officers. (Though it was mostly from people inclined to support police officers. I was the RNC, for crying out loud.) I didn’t mean the story to be “uplifting,” though some people took it that way. It was more trying to answer the question: “What happens when police officers from all across the country converge on a small area at the moment of maximum public sympathy to police officers?” The answer was in my line from the piece: Cop Woodstock.
2. The Good Old Days Are Now, The Wall Street Journal. I love reviewing books for the WSJ, if just because they’re one of the few publications that take books seriously enough to encourage reviewers to take the ideas in the book seriously, and try to engage with them in an elevated matter. (Most places that review books, I’ve found, just want to praise their author friends, as if writing a book was some sort of charitable endeavor it would be rude to criticize.) This is review of Michael Tackett’s The Baseball Whisperer, which is a well-reported, deeply felt book that I happened to feel missed the entire point of what baseball is supposed to be about. The author might not like the review — though I did take pains to praise the work involved — but I hope that he respects the thought I put into debunking many of the ideas he pushed forward in the book and that I admired the book enough to tackle it head-on. Probably not, though. These days you’re just a hater.
3. Should the Halos Trade Mike Trout?, Sports On Earth. I’m gonna get my “Of Two Minds” feature to catch on if it kills me.
4. Don’t Think Twice: Say Yes to Distress, The New Republic. This was a super-fun movie to write about, and man, what a terrific headline.
5. Cleveland Is Still Basking in the Glow of a Title, Sports On Earth. It’s a little frustrating that my second-favorite piece from Cleveland was for a publication that didn’t even send me there.
6. Monday Night RNC Speakers, Reviewed, Bloomberg Politics, Kind Of. Or that my third-favorite piece from Cleveland didn’t end up running on the site of the publication that sent me at all. (Blame Melania’s plagiarism for that one, and the fact that there weren’t Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday versions of this. As I said: Frustrating week.)
7. Twenty-Three Straight Winning Seasons Is Remarkable, Sports On Earth. You watch, the Yankees are going to win 82 games, and I’ll just write this column again next year.
8. NFC South: Team-by-Team Breakdown for 2016, Sports On Earth. Yep, it’s that time of year already.
9. Planning 2016's Ultimate College Football Road Trip, Sports On Earth. Every once in a while, it’s kind of soothing to do a piece that requires almost no writing but a massive amount of busy-work. It’s like a peek at the road not taken.
10. A Close Look at the MLB Playoff Odds for July, Sports On Earth. The monthly column, written almost entirely because I can’t stop tracking the Cardinals’ odds. Five in a row!
11. ‘Austin Powers’ Director Not Sure You Could Make a Movie Stranger Than the RNC, Bloomberg Politics. My writeup of John Heilemann’s and my fun podcast with director Jay Roach, an incredibly nice man.
12. Our MLB Best Cap Bracket Has Reached the Finals, Sports On Earth. I know, you’ve been crippled by suspense.
As I say every week: If you are the sort to subscribe to a weekly newsletter, I would have to think it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle to subscribe to one of the four (!) podcasts I do. Here they are:
The Will Leitch Experience, no show last week, which is OK because we had three the week before.
Grierson & Leitch, live from Cleveland, produced BY ME (which is probably why it sounds terrible), talking “Ghostbusters,” Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society” and “Gattaca.”
Culture Caucus, talking RNC madness with John Heilemann and our guest Jay Roach.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no new episode. Returning in two weeks. Football is coming very soon.
We close with the most complicated sign from the Infowars event I covered in Cleveland on Monday.
Right on, man.
Have a great weekend, everyone. One more week of travel to go. Beat the Mets, Cards.