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Bob Marley died on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36.
May 11, 2019
The last thing I remember doing in college is going to Pizza Hut. We were all hungover, of course, but early-20s hungover, which means we’d be fine once we got some food in us, especially considering it was noon and we’d just woken up anyway. I was with my friends Mike and Joan, and my then-fiancee Jessica. None of us really grasped the significance of that particular meal, the pivot point it would end up being. As life would turn out, I would see those three people, the people closest to me and the absolute centers of my entire universe, more times in the four weeks preceding that meal — every day, obviously — than I would over the next 22 years. But we weren’t thinking about any of that. We were just shoveling food into our faces, sloppily and mindlessly, like hungover college students are supposed to.
Of the many regrets I have in my life, not taking any time before I entered the working world after graduation is one of the larger ones. (A fact that is evidence of a blessed life.) I graduated on a Friday, went out with my friends on a Saturday, was back in Mattoon to pack on Sunday and was in a car driving with my father to Los Angeles to start my first job on Monday. My wife spent six months in Spain after she graduated; graduates today often take a “gap year.” (Which is maybe a scooch too much time, I think.) But within 10 days of my graduation, I was already in the 9-to-5 working, you’re just-another-schmuck world that I’ve been in ever since. The beauty of college to me is that it’s the last time you can exist mostly outside of the cruel gravity of the real world, when you can concentrate on figuring yourself out and have time to, you know, actually learn things. I let go of that little privilege far too early. I was in Grownup Land before I even knew what Grownup Land was.
I’d gotten engaged over Christmas of my senior year, and while the story of my collegiate engagement is perhaps an interesting one we may get into someday (and while certainly the story of its ending is in fact quite well documented already), it’s not the point of what we’re talking about today. What matters is that the engagement happened in large part because of college’s ticking clock. When it’s Christmas of your senior year of college, you only have a few more months until your life essentially starts over, clearing out everything you’ve done and cared about before and replacing it with something unknown and terrifying. If you don’t want to lose something, you have to tie it to you, permanently, so it doesn’t get erased with everything else. We got engaged because we really liked each other and didn’t want to have what we were doing taken away from us simply because we were graduating, but the understanding of the ramifications of the decision didn’t delve much deeper than that. Everything felt fleeting and rushed and absurdly important, but neither of us had any sort of emotional or intellectual basis to be making such serious life plans. We only knew that the road we were driving on eventually ended in a canyon, so we figured we’d floor it and maybe if we were going fast enough we’d just fly over it.
We ended up crashing into the ravine. But that doesn’t mean hitting the gas wasn’t still the only logical call.
I live in a college town now, and when you live in a college town, you run into a lot of people who came to town for college and never left. Their life today is in fact a continuation of college, in perpetuity. Maybe they were lucky enough to meet the person they were supposed to be with in college and locked down with them right then and there. Maybe they hung around town long enough after graduation that a plan just eventually found them. Maybe college was the peak of their lives, and simply getting to still be around it 20 years later is enough to keep those memories fresh and near. I find myself both a little sad for them but probably more envious.Imagine if I had just ... never left. It scrambles the mind. The classroom environment was not one in which I naturally thrived, so hanging around collecting degrees while staving off adulthood would have never been a conceivable option. But staying in your college town and a college mindset, as long as you can, has its undeniable appeal. But what of the rest of the world? There is so much to see! Then again: It’s just more work and pain and struggle out there too. I can’t argue they missed all that much.
In August here in Athens, I will see all the freshmen coming in, with their moving trucks and their nervous parents and new roommates and Scarface posters, and they’ll be so, so cute. But the start of something is always less interesting than the end of it. It’s this time of year, graduation weekend in Athens, that I can’t stop staring at everyone. Their families are all here, embarrassing them a little bit, understanding the ramifications of what’s happening in the way the graduate can’t or won’t, just happy that all that money they spent wasn’t wasted, or at least probably not, happy that their child graduated after all, hopeful that they won’t be moving back home again. There is a certain daze the graduate has, the sense that the ground is shifting under their feet in ways they don’t entirely comprehend but have no choice but to ride out. (It is also amusing to see college students in ties and church clothes. They always look stuffed into them, like they itch somehow.) They know the train is barreling down on them through the tunnel. But they don’t know how to get out of its way. And where would they go anyway?
College is in many ways the last real vacation of your life, perhaps the only real one. It ends because it has to, not because anyone necessarily wants it to. I couldn’t wait to get out into Grownup Land. I devoured my pizza quickly and sprinted out the door, see you all soon, I’ll be in LA next week, I’ll totally go to a Web cafe and craft long emails to you, lengthy detailed descriptions of my new surroundings and experiences, like I am a soldier writing home from war, I Do Not Know When I Will Be Able To Write Again But Know That I Am Well. Four years now pass in a blink; four years pass without realizing it has been four years at all. But four years in college is several lifetimes stacked on top of each other. When it’s over, all those lifetimes fade away, and you have to go out and find the real one. That pivot is happening all over this town this weekend, and all over this country, and the world. I wish them the ability to remain present for all of it. Try to savor the meals you’re having, the drinks you’re downing, all those photos you’re posing for. They’ll all be gone, very soon, and so will be so many of the people you’re sharing them with. It’s vanishing right in front of you. It will all soon be replaced by something else. But that doesn’t make it any less gone.
Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality. You may disagree. It is your wont.
1. Sinclair Broadcasting’s Move Into Sports Won’t Change a Thing, New York. I know that certain aspects of sports have become more progressive in recent years, but on the whole: It’s as conservative an institution as there is in the country. Thus: Sinclair, I suspect, will find sports terrain far more welcoming than news terrain.
2. Amazing Performances You Might Have Missed, MLB.com. This was a long, emotionally exhausting week, but there is always solace in just diving headfirst into baseball stuff.
3. Updated Charlize Theron Rankings, Vulture. I know this was in last week’s newsletter, but it actually ran this week. Sorry.
4. This Day in Cardinals History, MLB.com. As a little experiment, I wrote this for us this week.
5. Debate Club: Best Classic Monster Movies, SYFY Wire. I always want to be Frankenstein every Halloween.
6. The Thirty: Quick Fixes For Every Team, MLB.com. There is no quick fix for the Marlins.
7. Bi-Weekly Updated for Best 10 Games of the Year, MLB.com. No-hitters go to the top of the list.
THE WILL LEITCH SHOW
No show this week. Go back and watch some old ones, particularly the ones when I used to have a desk, on Amazon or on SI TV.
Grierson & Leitch, “Long Shot,” “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” and a summer movie preview.
Seeing Red, Cardinals fell out of first place.
Waitin’ Since Last Saturday, no show this week.
GET THIS LUNATIC OUT OF HERE 2020 PRESIDENTIAL POWER RANKINGS
Is it time to be worried about Great Gen X Hope Beto O’Rourke? Politico had a full-on hit piece on him this weekend — which I’d say was about 63 percent fair, which isn’t bad, all told — and he’s losing traction in the polls. As the Politico piece pointed out, the one consistent thread in Beto’s career is that he’s always falling just short ... he’s always losing. Not much more Gen X than that! I’m still holding out hope that he has a moment in the first debates (which are a month away, by the way), but it might be time for him to start making some more assertive moves, before it’s too late. If it isn’t already.
1. Kamala Harris
2. Elizabeth Warren
3. Joe Biden
4. Beto O’Rourke
5. Cory Booker
6. Kirsten Gillibrand
7. Amy Klobuchar
8. Julian Castro
9. Pete Buttigieg
10. Bernie Sanders
11. Jay Inslee
12. Seth Moulton
13. Michael Bennet
14. John Hickenlooper
15. Tim Ryan
16. Wayne Messam
17. Eric Swalwell
18. John Delaney
19. William Weld
20. Marianne Williamson
21. Andrew Yang
22. Tulsi Gabbard
ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!
Another nice by-product of this project: Hearing from old friends I haven’t heard from in years. Look! We can talk RIGHT HERE.
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603
CURRENTLY LISTENING TO
“Girlfriend,” Matthew Sweet. I know that rock stars age like everybody else does ... but I have still not quite come to terms with the fact that Matthew Sweet looks like this now.
It turns out: I have a legit dude bro living in my house. I had no idea.
Have a great weekend, all ....