I believe that's the literal German translation

I took myself to the ER at 2:00 this morning for what I thought was appendicitis and turned out to be a 4mm kidney stone. A few thousand bucks and a breathtaking shot of dilaudid later, I was home and napping. While I slept, my son snuck a get-well card onto my nightstand.

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Dear Dad,

I know you are in a lot of pain right now and Mom said you're going to have a "peenis migrane," and I hope you get well soon so we can play together again.

The Book of Nora

It looks like a lot of people discussing the end of The Leftovers want to waste time wondering about the nuts and bolts of The Departure. As if that were the point.

Read this instead (big spoilers). Seems appropriate that after I finish a show about people finding out that they're not alone, I find some criticism that makes me feel like I'm not alone.

Because there's this:

Stories are just stories, but they're also more than that. Our religious stories don't have to be literally true to be true. There's value to them beyond even moral instruction. They're about how we interpret the world, how we force it to make sense so we can make sense in the short time we're alive.

And there's this, which hadn't occurred to me:

...season three has felt, to me, like a vital document of our current moment, just one that peeks at it from a slightly different angle, like reality is a snow globe that The Leftovers picked up and shook. So many people from all walks of life feel lost and alone right now, and The Leftovers is all about how hard we'll try to make sense of the senseless.

I came to love them all, but I love Nora most. Kevin is, like me, a hopeless dope, albeit one with better hair and ink. Nora is, in a story about people finding and loving each other through their damage, the most damaged of them all, and the most determined to face that damage honestly. She'll burn herself down, if she has to. How perfect that hers is the last story, the one without proof.

Do I believe it? Yes, but it doesn't matter. Even if she was lying, it was the truth.

Two things:

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  1. That tie and collar are not Poirot-grade. That shit is fastidiousness kryptonite. There better have been a kerfuffle.
  2. I am really tempted to try that moustache.

The New Nostalgia

You kids today, I will say.

You kids need so many things that we didn't need. Life was simpler.

Why, I would walk my dog in ugly barefoot shoes while listening to My Dad Wrote a Porno and that was all I needed, pure contentment. I'd go home and roast coffee in my Behmor,

Beware the Aisles of Merch

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Recently, Best Made Co. in New York, they of the high-end outdoor gear, did a search for the great American hardware store. Our local shrine to tool shops from a bygone era made the cut and the catalog cover. And I am here, friend, to spread the Good News about Kraftco.

Kraftco is one of those labyrinthine stores over which one must develop and demonstrate mastery. Through this process one acquires not only useful tools and fasteners but, more importantly, a sense of accomplishment.

When you are new there, you do not go looking for things. You ask where they are. Then the man behind the counter will nod sagely, say he's pretty sure they've still got 12-gauge Romex with ground in stock, and he will grab a map, a torch, and a crumbling copy of the Necronomicon ex Mortis. Do not allow him to get more than three steps ahead if you value your life or those molly bolts you're looking for.

Last year they caused a local uproar by bringing in computers to handle sales and inventory. People felt betrayed.

My favorite Kraftco story centers around my dear friend Claire, who went shopping there one day and walked up to the counter with a big tub of boric acid and a machete. They really do have everything.

Anyway, the old-timer behind the counter eyeballed her purchases and said "So. Whatchoo gonna do with all this?"

Claire, who is possibly 5'4" in heels and who I would not mess with for love or money, looked our man dead in the eye and said, and I'm quoting here, "There's going to be a reckoning."

He said not another word, just nodded and rang her up, then dutifully followed her to the parking lot to take down her license plate.

Down here we call that full service.

Chewie. We're home.

Today is the 40th birthday of Star Wars. I am not exaggerating when I say that I think this should be a national holiday.

It has become popular to throw rocks at George Lucas. Lord knows I've thrown my share, and if there ever was anything in human history that suffered from founder's syndrome, then the Star Wars saga was it. But to say that Star Wars "captivated a generation" is an insult. Star Wars became part of our consciousness. It created culture. You and I will never do what George Lucas did. We won't come close.

Thank you, George. I can't tell you what Luke and Leia and Han meant to me. They and you are partly responsible for the man I am today.

May the Force be with you.

Did You Grow Up as One of My Neighbors?

Normally I can't abide a tweetstorm, but that policy is conflicting with my "always post Fred Rogers stories" policy.

Mister Rogers always wins.

(If you want the really good stuff, Tom Junod's profile of him from years ago should leave you at least a little bit misty, if you aren't a replicant. It's also exceptional writing.)

Why We Camp

It's an hour past dark and we have a decent fire going. For which we are grateful, because the temperature's probably going to drop around forty. I am shod in a beatdown pair of Merrill slip-ons, which I have propped up on one of the rocks ringing the fire. I am so entranced by the flames that it's awhile before the nerve endings in my feet report that my soles are melting. I jerk my shoes away and some of them stays on the rock.

People with guitars at campfires are irritating. They only know old hits. Playing old hits around a campfire is like farting during a funeral.

It's September two (three? I am losing time) years ago and we are around a fire at Lake Ouachita. I am reading aloud to my children from my Father's Day gift. Its best story begins with a woman killing her stepson, tricking her daughter into thinking she had killed him, then cutting him up into stew meat and serving him to his father. From there the story builds into something lyrical and lovely and hopeful, and ends in happy tears. I feel grateful to read this while the smoke of the fire saturates everything. I note that my children don't so much as flinch at the horror of it.

The smoke. The smoke always gets in the hair on my hands, in the knees of my jeans. This is a dad thing to say, but the smoke smells honest to me, as do gasoline and lawn clippings and puppy breath. These things smell only of what they are, as if odors could be onomatopoeia.

It is two days ago and I am soaked through with rain and sweat. I am sick of the wet and squelch. I and my son have hung hammock tents between the trees and among the chiggers. We are using the reserved campsite tent, which has cots and a concrete floor, only to store gear. I have done this to pretend that I am still young, because thumbing my nose at the coming squall is surely going to make me feel young.

Instead I lose half a night's sleep to worrying about my boy every time the storm wakes me. This does not make me feel young. Is it bad enough yet to grab him and run for the cots? What if he's afraid to say that he's afraid? But we wake not long after dawn, bone dry and cozy. I let him sit in the shelter tent while I break his gear down in the rain as penance.

I have perfected my chigger bite remedy. It involves scratching the bites until they bleed, then swabbing them with alcohol and swearing. After that, clear fluid rises out of them, and I swab and swear some more.

It is over a quarter of a century ago and I am at a Church of Christ retreat. They are too polite to let me know that they think I am hellbound. I slide out of my top bunk in the middle of the night and land headfirst onto the concrete cabin floor. I vomit several times, am rushed to the ER and diagnosed with a concussion. They pray over my head. Two days later, I pull a groin muscle during capture the flag. They pray over my dick. It will be years before I realize how funny this is.

I do not remember the first time I felt wind on my dick. But I remember vividly how it felt.

It is early winter and we have gone on a campout with older scouts. We are a thirty-minute drive from the city, but we have gone down what feels like America's longest gravel road. We have pissed off the deer hunters by filling a prized spot with hollering children. We camp in freezing weather, our pack huddling around a log fire whose heat is reflected and amplified by a shallow cave wall. I keep my feet near the fire but remember my Merrills. I will be awakened several times by sore hips and cold and will go home rejuvenated.

It is sometime in the 1980s. I am sleeping on the front bench seat of a pontoon boat in the middle of Truman Lake. I fall onto the floor as I would do in that churchy cabin years later, but the fall is only hard enough to wake me. I sit up and watch the moonlight go hilltopping on the water. I imagine I am a sailor on my first of many nights at sea. Tomorrow we will get soft-serve at the Estes Drive-In on the way back.

It is 1991 and I am eating runny eggs and burned bacon on the side of a Colorado mountain at five in the morning. I am watching goats chase each other over the rocks. My horse has tried to bite me three times. I realize I will remember this meal on my deathbed and pour more gritty coffee into my mouth.

It is last spring and my daughter and I are hammock camping in the backyard. Dogs are barking. Some asshole neighbor is playing country music from a car stereo. The breeze is steady and it's cooling off. It is her first time solo in a tent and I am worried that she will get tangled up in her sleeping bag. I am worried that she will be cold or afraid. She shows me what she is made of.

Later I ask her if she and I could go on a real one sometime, just us, maybe to Pinnacle Mountain, and she jumps. She jumps.

Not with a bang

A few weeks back, I linked Dave Pell saying that the current president wouldn't take much of a hit if we caught him masturbating on the Constitution while defecating on a Bible. Today proved him right.

In the parallel universe where Hillary Clinton was elected president, we are in week six of impeachment talks and hearings about an email server. In our own dimension, the president shared secrets with a hostile power that he hadn't shared with our own allies, and potentially compromised a valuable intelligence source in the process.

The GOP is defending this on the grounds that it's legal. This is what they do when faced with cheerleading the morally indefensible, because everyone loves a rules lawyer. River caught fire? It was legal. People died because their insurance wouldn't cover them? Global economy tanked by hedge fund managers playing grab-ass? Friend, show me where it says they couldn't do that.

It's a diversion, of course. What he did was a violation of his oath. This was, without question, the line. The line where those principled, moderate conservatives I keep hearing about were supposed to finally show up. The line where even faux-moral dirtbags like Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton and Jason Chaffetz were supposed to grudgingly tap out.

It didn't happen. And it won't. The party of family values and a strong national defense have proven to care about neither. They sold us out for a power fix and a tax cut. So this is how our credibility and our standing in the world ends.

The history books will record their names. Meantime, we're coming for their jobs.