It was just a couple of years ago that I started cooking. Like, actually cooking as opposed to just throwing big pots of pasta or chili together. In the past couple of months Anna has really gotten into cooking. She likes to help whenever possible. I’ve let her do some basic things like scramble eggs, but she has been itching to make her own things.
This morning she wanted to make “something brunchy,” and specified that it should not be something “boring like we usually eat.” So I told her, fine, find something to make and we’ll make it.
Anna went to the cookbook she and Carlo got for me (with an assist from my mom) the first Christmas after I got divorced. It’s actually a very useful cookbook, made all the better by the fact that the egg on the front looks like me:
She picked out a puffed baked pancake recipe. Luckily we had everything on hand, so we didn’t have to get out of our pajamas to make it. She began:
All I helped her do was to (a) get down and turn on the blender; and (b) move the heavy cast iron skillet in and out of the oven. She did everything else.
For the first few minutes I was dubious:
But it came out like this!
The middle was a bit gooey after the called-for cooking time, but we stuck it back in for a few more minutes and it came out really nice. I’d say next time we’ll use less butter than it called for — and I’ll be sure to have some fresh berries and maybe some whipped cream around, as the syrup was a tad boring for something so fun — but otherwise it was all aces.
Anna: 30 years younger than me, but ready to lap me in the kitchen.
I signed the contract to build the large suburban house in which I currently live in the fall of 2004. It is no coincidence that, a couple of weeks before that, I found out that my son was on the way. This while I had a nine-month-old daughter at home. To say, then, that building this house was a well-reasoned and well-considered move would not be wholly accurate. It was a function of sheer panic.
Not that it’s been a horrible move. Nine-plus years after moving in and I must say that I’ve gotten what I needed out of this house. It’s a large, clean space in a good school district. It has been a good home for the kids and me, even if it’s not exactly in a place I would’ve chosen to live had I not been motivated by that sheer panic. New Albany, Ohio is pleasant. It has been good to my kids. It is home to some people I like. But I can’t lie: if it weren’t for the vagaries of school districts, I wouldn’t be here. I’m reminded of that every time I have to give my address: “Butterworth Green Drive.” God, who chooses to live on “Butterworth Green Drive?”
We all live with our miscalculations, however. Besides, they really are great schools.
When I got divorced I decided to keep the house. I didn’t have to. I could’ve sold it or tried to find some way to stick my ex-wife with it or something. But fighting and disruption is not anything I wanted at the time. I was all hung up on “Battlestar Galactica” back then and decided that I’d treat the place like Commander Adama treated his ship and crew. The world may have been ending outside, but inside this boat we were going to sustain whatever sense of normalcy and routine we could, goddammit. I was going to keep this ship jumping and flying for the sake of the kids, if not humanity itself.
That worked for a good while. But, being honest, it was more about me maintaining my sense of normalcy and routine, not me doing it for the sake of the kids. Those two have always been a couple steps ahead of me in terms of adapting to new normals. They spent half their nights at their mother’s apartment and now spend half their nights at her house with her boyfriend and his daughter and they haven’t missed a beat. They handled me dating and then Allison moving in (and out) and it hasn’t fazed them. Whether changes have been big or small, they have always been ready for them before I thought they’d be. And usually before I was too.
A few weeks back the kids visited my parents in Colorado by themselves. I was in this large house alone for five days. During that time, I became painfully aware of just how little of it I use when they’re not around. Hell, even when they are here now, they’re far more likely to be in their rooms with their computers or books than out in that large bonus room I had to have back in 2004. And we rarely if ever eat in that big dining room I had to have back in 2004. The guest room, which seemed essential? It’s used twice a year. If that. This place is over 2,800 square feet. It’s ridiculous enough for a large, full-time family. It’s practically obscene for three people, two of whom are only here half the time.
While I was realizing that, I also realized that the biggest source of anxiety I have right now is not being able to afford to send my kids to college. I make ends meet just fine, but I don’t save enough. Certainly not enough to pay for the kinds of places Anna and Carlo’s test scores suggest they’ll be going one day. My biggest fear is that Anna will come in with the mail one afternoon and say “I got into Stanford!” And I’ll have to say “um, that’s nice honey, but have you considered enlisting in the Navy first?”
Back when I had those kids and built this house I was a lawyer and I assumed I’d be overpaid forever. I love what I do for a living now, but it’s been a long time since I was a lawyer. I realized that I need to stop making life choices as if I still were.
So I made a life choice: I decided to sell this big old house and buy a smaller, more reasonable one. A week ago I put an offer on a townhouse. As of this morning I am in contract to sell this place. Assuming things don’t go sideways, I’ll be out of here and into the new place by the end of October. It’s not radical change. The townhouse is in the same neighborhood. I’m literally moving two blocks away. Good schools still rule everything, after all. But it is more reasonably sized and more reasonably priced.
The kids are excited because I’m getting them all new bedroom furniture. I’m excited because, for the first time in over five years, I have a savings plan which is based on the actual facts and circumstances of my life and not on vague wishes, hopes and emotions. I’m a writer raising a couple of kids who are probably going to cost me a lot to send to college. Not a lawyer dictating the circumstances of his life and certainly not the captain of a Battlestar protecting humanity from destruction.
Someday, maybe nine years from now when Carlo is starting his freshman year in college, I’ll finally get to where I belong. Maybe that’s an old, 1920s house in a leafy in-town neighborhood like the one I fled in a panic nearly ten years ago. Maybe it’s an apartment above a shop in a large city on the coast. Maybe it’s a fortified compound in the middle of nowhere. I go back and forth on this stuff all the time.
For now, though, it’s going to be a three-bedroom townhouse on Griswold Drive. And that seems wholly appropriate. Real people live on Griswold Drive, I think. It’s not for those swells who live on Butterworth Green.
I have refrained from commenting too much on the situation in Ferguson, mostly because there are so many people actually on the scene there who are doing a far better job. The mainstream news has been awful in covering all of this — it’s being treated as your classic “urban unrest” story even if it’s anything but — but each morning I look back at my Twitter feed at the reports of journalists and citizens on the scene in Ferguson from the night before and I’m heartbroken.
Heartbroken that a kid is dead for apparently no reason. Heartbroken that no one seems all that eager to hold the kid’s killer to account. Heartbroken that, in response to wholly understandable protests about all of this, the police have chosen to escalate, perpetrate and incite violence and to arrest people who have the temerity to exercise their First Amendment rights. How can this not break your heart?
But while I can’t comment with much insight about what is happening in Ferguson, some of what has spun out of this has infuriated me. Stuff like politicians calling voter registration drives in Ferguson “disgusting.” We all must, apparently, remain silent while democracy breaks down around us, but an effort to involve people in democracy is “disgusting?” Do people not hear themselves? Is the political playbook so inviolate and the game plan which demands that “the other side” be allowed no perceived advantage so locked in that the patent absurdity of such statements eludes them?
Or how about this op-ed from a police officer/security professor in the Washington Post which seeks to tell people what it’s really like to be a cop:
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
I’m sure a lot of people who consider themselves pro-law and order will nod along with that, taking comfort in his confident matter-of-fact tone. People love that stuff, actually. It makes them feel that they’re privy to the no-nonsense world of Men Who Get Things Done. There are entire industries built around that impulse.
But the thing is: almost none of the behaviors he cites actually justifies a use of force. Indeed, you can quite legally call a cop any name you’d like or tell him anything you’d like short of a physical threat and, under the law, not expect to be shot, tased or beaten. Perhaps that’s crazy, but it is 100% true.
But not to this police officer. A police officer who purports to speak for other police officers. Who, if this man is to be believed, think it’s totally OK to use force, not just to protect themselves or others, but to shut people up or to summarily punish them for voicing their objections.
And we wonder how things like Ferguson can happen.
So I wrote an 8,000-word piece about how, contrary to popular opinion, baseball is not sick and is not dying and how the game today is much healthier than it was, even in its alleged Golden Age.
I have no idea if it’s any good. I think most sports writing that exceeds a couple thousand words is piffle. It’s just sports, after all, so this may very well suck.
I’m mostly just shocked that my attention span is still good enough after five years of full-time blogging and tweeting that I can write anything that long. Back in the legal days I’d write multiple motions and memoranda in support that long every month. These days I get the shakes if I make it to 800 words.
Oh well. I’ll link it when it sees the light of day.
SketchFactor, the brainchild of co-founders Allison McGuire and Daniel Herrington, is a Manhattan-based navigation app that crowdsources user experiences along with publicly available data to rate the relative “sketchiness” of certain areas in major cities.
Based on the story, complete with the details of the founders working at non-profits in their early 20s, being intimidated by Washington D.C. neighborhoods, getting this app off the ground with family money and, more than anything, their smiling, lily-white faces, the people behind this app have lived pretty damned privileged lives. It would not surprise me in the least if the impetus for this app was borne of their utter cluelessness about what actually difficult neighborhoods are like, how to know when one encounters them and how to act when one does.
And while I take them at their word that they in no way want this app to turn into a tool of latent racists or, even worse, actual racists, they are deluded in the extreme if they do not think that that is exactly what it will become. I predict a near perfect overlap of their “sketchy” map and a census map showing a geographic racial breakdown. And while, yes, there is a pretty heavy correlation between disadvantaged areas and crime, there is abundant data available on this already and a map of high crime areas could easily be produced. By crowd-sourcing this, these people are asking for their app to become a depository of racial profiling.
Probably doesn’t matter. These two will probably make $20 million off this thing and then become vague consultants of some sort. Since that’s inevitable, we should at least try to fuck the deck a bit here. Everyone: download this app and mark every single neighborhood in which privileged rich white kids congregate as “sketchy.”
Sure, that’s sabotage, but it also has the benefit of being true.
UPDATE: I am not 100% these are the same people, but The Independent says that the founders of SketchFactor are the same people who were behind a similar app called “Ghetto Tracker” last year. That site was straight up vile, and made no effort to hide its racist motivations. If it’s not true, I would hope that the SketchFactor people would have seen the uproar Ghetto Tracker caused and thought better of their endeavor. If it is true and these are the same people merely attempting to offer a sanitized version of Ghetto Tracker, they are not entitled to the benefit of the doubt for which they so desperately ask in the linked article.