Half the battle is just getting out of the house and on the road. Whenever we travel, we all understand that if we need to leave at 8 a.m., we will pretend that we really have to leave at 7 a.m. so that we can actually lave by 8:45 a.m.
We set the alarm clock an hour earlier than any sane person would deem necessary, more than enough time to pack the car, eat a nutritious breakfast, run through the checklist of things that need to be turned on and things that need to be turned off, water the plants, leave a note for the house sitter so excruciatingly detailed that it resembles a manuscript, and say ‘goodbyes’ to our pets in a fashion that is so cute and so urgent that they seem confused, and probably alarmed, at what is unfolding here in front of them.
My grandfather loved guns. He had a magnificent collection, including a dazzling array of pistols, shotguns, and rifles, some very old and exotic. These he kept locked in a gun cabinet that was strictly off limits not just to children, but to anyone. Most days, he wore a pistol strapped to his side just like Wyatt Earp, though his was more likely to be used to shoot a copperhead or water moccasin than some rounder in a saloon.
A southern gothic love triangle set in the age of Trump? Or maybe J.D. Vance’s bestseller Hillbilly Elegy as a postpunk concept album? How about a singer/songwriter coming off a ten-year hiatus, provoked from a peaceful period of dadhood into sounding his barbaric yawp over the roofs of rural Appalachia and the rest of “the solid south”?
“I’m absolutely starving,” my wife says, digging through her purse for something as I walk into the kitchen, clearing my throat to get her attention. “Wow, don’t YOU look nice!”
I do feel pretty spiffy. I am wearing my new brown pants and a striped blue shirt. My belt and my shoes match. My hair is combed and sprayed, though it is really not so much “hair” as the suggestion of hair, a few brave and resilient strands that remind me on darker days of crabgrass growing in the crack of a sidewalk. She finds this preferable to the way I used to wear my hair, which is not at all — in those lonely days before she came into my life, I shaved my head, fancying that I looked more like Yul Brynner or Mister Clean than Uncle Fester.
Imagine, just for a moment, that it is 2010 again. The economy, which was on the verge of a catastrophic collapse just over a year ago, has pulled out of its nosedive and is now showing some tentative signs of recovery. President Obama, the first year of his administration now in the books, is beginning to find his stride and looking forward to a new year.
From the time I was about 10 years old, I have been a rabid sports fan. In the beginning, I chose my allegiances whimsically. I liked the Cowboys because they had stars on their helmets and were called “America’s Team” and I lived in America, and because I liked Coach Tom Landry’s fedora. I chose to pull for the Lakers because they had an actual giant on their team, a man named Wilt Chamberlain who wore a cool bright yellow headband. And I picked the Dodgers because my dad liked them and I wanted to be like him or least have something in common with him.
Except for the year our daughter, Kayden, got the flu and we had to make the best of spending Christmas at home with one of our youngsters battling a fever of 102, our kids are accustomed to hitting the road pretty early on Christmas Day. Ordinarily, they have no more than a couple of hours to marvel over their presents from Santa before they have to strap in and nestle in the backseat of the car for a long winter’s nap of three hours or so, about the time in takes to get to my hometown of Sparta.
Many years from now, Americans are going to look back on the election of the 45th President Donald J. Trump with a mixture of fascination and horror. I think 2016 will be remembered as the year that the Democrats found a way to lose an election that nobody thought they could lose, and the Republicans nominated a man that nobody thought could win, a man who had only one point of intersection with the party — the celebration of centralized wealth.
The day of my stepfather’s celebration of life service was a brisk, sunny Saturday morning, as good a day as any to celebrate life. We got up before daylight, made coffee, put on our nice clothes, packed the car, and hit the road for the three-hour drive up to Sparta, where we would meet the rest of the family before all the people started showing up to hug us or shake our hands as we stood in a long line to greet them.
The list of allegations is dizzying and depressing. Every day, it seems, there are new reports of predatory behavior by someone famous, maybe someone you have admired. For me, it was Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., both accused of horrendous acts of sexual harassment and/or assault. Both of these men — once beloved and held in the highest regard among lovers of film and television — have confessed and are now suddenly pariahs, having been fired from their various projects and awaiting whatever legal repercussions may obtain.