Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Two Decades

Twenty years ago today I was at our local hospital.  It was Y2K – remember that?  Weren’t we supposed to see the end of the world that night?  Who knows – maybe we did and we’re living in a post-apocalyptic ruin, which would explain a lot about American politics but does seem to miss the fact that so many lovely things have happened since then.

I became a parent that night, for one.

It’s been an eventful two decades since then, full of milestones and love, crises and achievements, events and quiet moments.  There were times when I wondered how I would get through them, and times when I turned around and it felt like a year had passed in the blink of an eye. 

Today Oliver turns 20.  He’s a college student now, someone who has traveled abroad on his own and is forging a life that is all his.  He is no longer a teenager, but I am still a parent.

Happy birthday, Ollie.  I’m proud of you.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Christmas in the South, Once Again

Tires are the bane of my existence.

As banes go they’re not so bad, I suppose.  But they are something that I use pretty much every day – there is nothing within walking distance of anything in the US anymore – and it creates a constant low-level fog of paranoia every time I step into a car.  It can also make long trips more exciting than they need to be.

The low-pressure tire light came on somewhere in southern Illinois.  We were heading to Tennessee to see my family for Christmas.  Now, this light comes on a lot, which is part of the reason I think about tires as I do.  Most of the time it just means the tire is a pound or two below normal pressure, and the car was handling just fine, so we kept driving and everything seemed okay.  We stopped at a gas station in Kentucky and the driver’s side rear tire did look a bit low, so we filled it up and continued on our way.

We also ran into our friends Todd and Kerri and their kids at that station, because apparently Kentucky is just another suburb of Our Little Town in Wisconsin.  It was really nice to see them.  Hi there!

We made it to the hotel in Chattanooga, checked in, and headed off to see the family.  The next morning the tire was dead and the AAA guy came out for his now-traditional Christmas Eve visit – I was hoping he’d fix it like the last guy did back in 2017 (AAA won’t cover that, though the tow truck guys will sometimes do it for you on the side if you pay them for it) but he just put the donut on.  It worked for the holiday and there was a tire repair place about a hundred yards from the hotel that was open on the 26th, so it all ended well.  We’d run over a nail.  It’s all fixed now, and the store manager and I had a lovely chat about college football and backup hockey goaltenders.  It made sense at the time.

But we did not let this detract from our holiday!  No, no we did not.  The clan does not gather in such numbers very often anymore, so of course we were going to be there and of course we had a good time when we did.  We like spending time with each other, after all.  Everyone was there except Lauren, who remains overseas for the year, but she did call in on the WhatsApp machine and we passed her around so everyone got a chance to say hello.

It was strange not having her with us, but apparently she had a quiet and lovely time with her host family.  She will have a lot of stories to tell.

The first night we all gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house as people drifted in.  Even with our tire woes we didn’t have the most challenging trip – that definitely belonged to my brother and his crew, who ended up being split into two entirely separate flights, having their luggage reassigned to other members of the party, getting to Chattanooga at two widely separated times, and eventually gathering all of their luggage into one place – but we all made it safely.

Christmas Eve is the big holiday on my side of the family – Christmas Day is really for the younger kids and general relaxation – but we fell into a nice little pattern for both.  Kim, Oliver, and I would have breakfast at the hotel and head over to my aunt and uncle’s at some point around lunchish, and then we’d hang out and talk or play games or whatever.  There was a long Phase 10 game at one point that fulfilled my usual results (either I win or I lose, but I’m never in the middle, and this time I brought up the rear), we had a round of the paper telephone game that Oliver taught us a few years back, and Kim brought out a big puzzle that a crew of us worked on over the time we were there.  Eventually there would be a nice meal – much more casual than when I was a kid, because the whole point of the holiday is to spend time with loved ones and nobody wants to be washing dishes instead – and then we’d go back to the previous activities.  There were also gifts.  We had our usual dice game (a process that has expanded as the younger generation has grown up and become part of it) and this year we decided to add a Secret Santa on top of it.  It was a lovely time.

There was food, there was conversation, and there were even a couple of energetic small children – really, what else can you ask of a holiday?

The day after Christmas I woke up early and got the tire fixed, and then the cousins all gathered at a Local Place of Business to kill each other.  Metaphorically.  Mostly. 

I’ve never played laser tag before.

The gist of it is that you get kitted out with a vest and a light-emitting pistol (TWO HANDS ON THE GUN!!) and then they let you into a big room full of nooks and crannies and you spend the next five minutes shooting at each other. 

My nephew Josh is a stone cold killer.

Oliver and I had the highest accuracy rate overall, at least on the second round which is the one I remembered to check, but Josh just kept shooting and it’s a small enough room that this turned out to be a good strategy.  I think the younger generation pretty much monopolized the top spots on the results.  The great lesson I got out of it was that in the event of societal collapse and libertarian revenge, I’m pretty much toast.  I’ll just hole up and wait for the end and try to take out as many Mad Max wannabes as I can before I go.

Afterward we walked a few yards over to where they had bowling alleys and the geezers got their revenge.  If the post-apocalyptic wars are fought with bowling balls I might have a chance.

It was an uneventful ride back, on four fully-functional tires.  We didn’t listen to any Christmas music.  I was reminded once again that Illinois is a very, very long and dull state to drive through.  If you ever get a chance to listen to the podcast “Limetown,” it’s worthwhile.  And there is nothing quite like a Waffle House to remind you that you’re in the south.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019


Well, it’s official.  Der Sturmtrumper has become the third president in US history to be impeached, and the first one who actually deserved it.

Andrew Johnson was impeached for getting in the way of Congressional Reconstruction, though the formal charge was violating a law that Congress had no right to pass in the first place and which he didn’t technically violate.  Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about a blow job – which is hardly a high crime or misdemeanor – when his real offense was not being a right-wing fanatic like the Congressional leaders who impeached him.

Nixon should have been impeached but he had the street smarts to get out while the getting was good.

The evidence presented for Trump’s criminal conduct was overwhelming, conclusive, and damning.  It barely scratched the surface of what we already know he’s done, but it’s enough. 

The Republican Party has mounted no credible defense of his actions, perhaps because underneath the screeching partisan nonsense and the distraction tactics they know very well that there is no credible defense.  All they can do is make fools of themselves, which they are doing with energetic abandon.

I used to work in law firms – bottom of the barrel temporary paralegal stuff and hardly Perry Mason material, but enough to know what it is like to work with lawyers.  And the old saw about defense lawyers is indeed true.

When the law is against you, argue the facts.  “Yes, murder is illegal but I didn’t kill him.”

When the facts are against you, argue the law.  “Yes I killed him, but it was self-defense.”

When both are against you, pound on the table, call the other guy names, and try to change the subject.  Just as the GOP has been doing since this came up.

It's not rocket science.

We’ll see if the Senate upholds its Constitutional obligations and holds a serious trial.  The odds of that are not good.  Mitch McConnell – the single most corrupt man in Washington, Trump notwithstanding – has already declared himself eager to violate his oath and prejudge the issue, as has Lindsey Graham, both of whom should be thrown out of the Senate for that alone.

But the bottom line is that this will never go away.  Trump will always be known as the corrupt and depraved criminal who was impeached by a righteous majority in the House and in all likelihood allowed to skate by a corrupt Republican Party in the Senate.  The articles of impeachment will be studied in history classes and the cowardly embrace of corruption by the GOP will be remembered for as long as the republic stands.

Which may not be much longer if Trump has his way, but we’ll see.

I know not what the future holds, but today is a good day to be an American.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

News and Updates

1. We had a house full of chemists baking cookies today, and the jokes just write themselves don’t they?  But everyone seemed to have a good time, the house smells really nice, and to the best of my knowledge there were no beakers involved.  My contribution was mostly to stay out from underfoot, though I did make pizzelles before everyone got there even though the last chemistry class I took was in 1982 and my teacher at the time made it clear that that really ought to be my last chemistry class, for the good of all concerned.  But you can’t beat a warm batch of pizzelles on a cold day.

2. I really hate it when engineers think they know better than I do what I want to do with their product.  Every so often I get one of those “save everything you think you might want to refer back to someday because we’re shutting your computer down whether you want us to or not and You Will Be Upgraded” messages that those engineers provide as a courtesy, and I have learned that resistance is futile because they really will just shut everything down whether you want to be upgraded or not.  You have no choice in the matter.  So I said okay to the notice, and about five or ten minutes later it shut everything down – they lull you into a false sense of security that way.  Three and a half hours, two phone calls to IT departments on two different campuses, and an in-person visit from the IT guy on my own campus later, the computer almost works again.  For some reason I keep coming back to the fact that everything was fine until it was optimized.

3. I have yet to discover the holiday spirit this year.  Given that I’ve got about a week and a half to get this corrected before it becomes moot, I suppose I should get on that.  I might start Christmas shopping soon, for example.  I did fix the Christmas lights I put up last week, though, so now they all work.  Progress.

4. The impeachment of der Sturmtrumper rolls along.  The evidence is clear, overwhelming, conclusive, and damning.  There is no way any patriotic American with more than five working brain cells can defend or support this corrupt, tyrannical, and immoral president, and it is clear that he should be impeached, tried, convicted, removed from office, taken directly to a criminal court, tried again, and imprisoned.  Naturally the GOP leadership defends him and his base continues to support him, and that says all you need to know about the modern GOP and his base.

5. I am trying to clean off the paper from my various offices.  The joy of letting it pile up like that is that one is constantly making interesting if somewhat delayed discoveries.

6. We’re still taking care of Lauren’s chickens while she is abroad, and those chickens still manage to amaze me with the rock-bottom level of intelligence that they display.  Today I had to cut a block of dried chicken poop off of the foot of one of them so it could walk normally again, because that’s just my life now.  As I get older I find myself saying a great many things I never thought I would say, and so many of them involve poultry.

7. I finally made it to the barbershop for one of my periodic shearings and now I don’t look like Hungover Ben Franklin anymore, which is nice. 

8. This year several of my students seem to have taken it as a project to introduce me to Modern Culture.  I tell them that I am the parent of teenagers and therefore not unfamiliar with the idea, but this cuts no mustard with them.  So now I know some new bands (most of which I liked, much to their surprise – hey, good music is good music) and I can do a credible imitation of what one student informed me was her age and ethnic group’s signature handshake style.  I am not sure what I will do with that last bit of information, being both old and not a member of that group, but it is nice to know and I’m glad that my students feel comfortable sharing that sort of thing with me.

9. If you ever get a chance to see Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old – especially if you can see it in the theater – you should do so.  It was astonishing.  Afterward there’s a half-hour bit where he comes back and explains how it all got done.  Basically he had access to about a hundred hours of WWI footage of British soldiers, which he narrowed down to about 90 minutes for this film – front line footage, recruiting footage, training footage, rear-echelon footage, all sorts of things.  He and his crew synced it all up to 24 frames per second so the motion looked natural (quite an achievement given the wildly different frame rates those old hand-cranked movie cameras had), colorized it so it looked right (the hardest part, he said, was getting the grass to look like real grass – admittedly less of a problem in the footage from the trenches), and made it unobtrusively 3D.  Then he found lip readers to tell him what the soldiers in the film were actually saying and hired actors from those regions of the UK to speak those words.  The only other words you hear during the film itself are from interviews the BBC did with WWI vets in the 1960s and 1970s.  And when you put all that together it’s just astonishing how those men seem to come alive in ways that they just don’t with the original footage.  I was deeply impressed.

10. Looks like the Christmas cards will go out in January again.  Tradition!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Season's Prepping

We’re gearing up for Christmas and it’s December so I can’t even complain that it’s too early to do that anymore.

Yesterday Kim and I went out and got a Christmas tree.  We’ve been hemming and hawing about whether to buy a new fake one, since our old one has been deteriorating for a while now, but we decided that this was something we could wait another year for.  Maybe next year we’ll get one of those Lucy Van Pelt trees – a bright shiny aluminum mid-century-modern monstrosity with enough lights on it to land an airplane.

Or not.

How about not?

Having made the decision to get something made of actual wood, then came the question of how such a tree might be obtained.  When Oliver and Lauren were little we’d go out to the local tree farm with our saw and, in the spirit of Christian love and fellowship, kill one ourselves and drag its corpse back home on the top of our car before setting it up and watching it decay underneath all the festive decorations.  Christmas can be kind of morbid if you think about it too much.

 But this year it was just us and we’re getting a bit long in the tooth for the whole cutting things down routine, so we found ourselves one of those local lots where someone else has already done that and we picked the one that looked best.

It’s a balsam fir, which means it smells nice.  The cats are fascinated, of course, since they now have another water bowl in the house.  So far they haven’t tried to climb up to the top of the tree to see what’s there (answer: more tree), and I’d be surprised if they did.  They’re pretty low key about these things.  Also, old.

We’ll let the branches drop a bit and then perhaps decorate it later this week.  Or maybe we’ll wait until Oliver gets home from Small Liberal Arts College and we’ll all decorate together.  We’ll see what people want.

I also spent much of this morning putting up the lights on the front of the house.

We don’t put up much, really – just enough to say we’re in for the season.  One strand of blue lights along the bottom of the roof, all the way across the front.  The problem is that our bushes out front keep growing and our ladder does not, so every year it gets just that much harder to reach the roof to hang these lights.  Perhaps next year I will invest in a larger ladder.  Or smaller bushes.

In the near term, however, I will likely go back outside and flip the little dial that turns the lights on when the sun goes down.  The sun has been down and the lights are not on, and I’m hoping that the easy solution is the one that works.

I’m all about the easy.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

News and Updates

1. It is now December and I will therefore acknowledge the existence of Christmas.

2. We had a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you very much.  In fact we had two.  On the actual legal holiday we went up to my brother- and sister-in-law’s house and feasted with Kim’s side of the family.  It was the usual swirl of food, family, and conversation, and it was a good reminder of why we have an entire holiday set aside to be thankful for the things we have.  We ate one of Lauren’s turkeys, expertly prepared, and generally had a grand time.  And the next day we continued the tradition of Friendsgiving that Lauren and her friends started last year (hey – we’ve done it twice on purpose: it’s a tradition).  Lauren herself is out of the country, of course, but her friends came over anyway, bearing food.  We made another turkey and we all hung out at the table for a couple of hours talking and laughing.  There were many rounds of Just Dance on the old Wii, and at one point they all ended up in Lauren’s room making music.  It is a lovely thing to enjoy the company of your child’s friends.

3. The day after that we celebrated Kim’s birthday, because it’s always good to celebrate the birthday of someone you love.  There was cake and good food, and if we’re not getting any younger at least we’re doing it well.  Happy birthday, Kim!

4. Lauren actually got her friends to get a birthday present for Kim for her.  That was really cool.

5. Program change: the part of Tabitha will now be played by Oliver.  Please make a note of it. 

6. The problem with all that lovely family time, of course, is that you have to go back to work afterward.  Now, I like my job.  I like the people I work with.  But I also like hanging around the house with nothing more pressing to do than read books, drink tea, and watch whatever hockey, soccer, or other sporting event might be floating by on the television at the moment.  So Monday was a bit of a shock, is what I’m saying here.

7. We’re in the middle of getting trained for Yet Another New Software Platform down at Home Campus, which effectively means that nothing I was using when I started my advising job in 2016 exists there anymore.  And since, as a friend once told me, technology is what doesn’t quite work (“when it works all the time, it’s an appliance”), this means that we have spent the better part of the last month working around all of the improvements in order to get things done.  We are, in fact, getting things done, but the next time some engineer wants to upgrade something that already works they can go pound sand.

8. I’m not much for watching shows these days, but sometimes Kim can get me to do that.  If you get a chance, I highly recommend Killing Eve.  Sandra Oh is wonderful and Jodie Comer deserves All The Awards and you should go see this show right now.  I’ll wait.

9. I have spent the better part of this evening with “Mambo Italiano” running through my head and I can’t tell if this is a win or not.

10. I can remember when the WKRP in Cincinnati Thanksgiving episode was only remembered by a handful of people old enough to have experienced the 1970s firsthand.  Now it’s become a touchstone meme.  And you know?  I like that.  Good things should be popular, because there is enough crap out there to drown a small planet and the good things need all the help they can get.  So let the turkeys fly, fellow babies, and have a happy … Thannnnnnnnnnnks … giving!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

In Memoriam - A Guest Post

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know Lucy as a regular around here.  It is only fitting that he gets the first ever guest post.


We walked into the classroom on that first day of school, expecting to once again spend a year learning about the Mayflower. And the Revolutionary War. And the War of 1812. And the run up to the Civil War. Again. Every other year, it was the same thing: U.S. History this year, and in the intervening years, World History.

But this time, something was different. On each desk was a Sunday edition of The Salt Lake Tribune. The teacher introduced himself, and welcomed us to U.S. History. “We’re going to start with yesterday, and work our way back to where you left off the last time you took this course,” he explained.

We spent that hour studying the front page of yesterday’s newspaper. The next day, we covered the same stories as reported in The Deseret News, and the rest of the week learning how the same facts could be interpreted differently based on your point of view.

During the following weeks and months, we studied local, national and world news. We studied protests. And song lyrics (‘There’s somethin’ happenin’ here ...) We learned about the Viet Nam Conflict, and its complex causes. We studied the Korean War, and its causes. Then, WWII. The rise of the Nazi Party. The Great War (the War to End All Wars, WWI). Somehow, we also got to cover all the other stuff like Civil Rights, the politics of the Fifties, Prohibition, & Women’s Suffrage. And, how all of that is woven together in an all inclusive Tapestry of Human Events.

By Easter, we were studying the ‘Winning’ (theft) of the West.’ (Hint - How The West Was Won is NOT how the West was won ...) Reconstruction. And finally, for the very first time, we found out in an actual classroom, officially, who actually lost The Civil War. (And why Gone With the Wind is not very good as a Historical Drama.)

James Witucki did not just teach about History, he taught us to love History. He wore his passion about History on his sleeve. He also taught us to view History with a healthy skepticism based on the Historians’ bias (never trust a single source). He taught us how to research, and how to debate.

He was just nine years older than his students when I started in his class that autumn in 1970. He changed the manner in which we viewed History, and made a significant impact on my life personally. I Honor him, his memory, and his legacy, as does (and I am dead-assed certain about this:) anyone who had the Honor of sitting through one of his classes.



From The Class Website:


James C. Witucki

Nov 4, 1944 ~ Nov 13, 2019

"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield" Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Well, my picture is in the obits, so I must be dead. I departed this world on 11/13/19. I, James Charles Witucki I, was born to Ernest A. and Mary T. (Kopczynski) Witucki on November 4, 1944 at 6:06 A.M.( I was fond of double numbers!) in South Bend, Indiana.I attended St. Casimir's Elementary School and Washington High School in South Bend. I attended the University of Utah after I moved here in 1962; I received a B.S. in 1965 and an M.S. in 1967 in History. I married my college sweetheart, Monika F. Hood at the Fort Douglas Chapel on July 27th, 1968; 51 wonderful years. She was the joy of my life and together we raised 3 delightfully bright and charming children: Theresa (Matthew) Brown, Houston, Texas; James II (Sheri) Salt Lake City, Utah; and John Paul (Kirby), Las Vegas, Nevada.


I taught History/Sociology at South High (1966-1982) and East High (1983-2001) for 35 years. I enjoyed teaching and felt that is how I left this world a better place. I also served in the Utah State Legislature from 1983-1985 as a proud Democrat. I loved learning so I attended 13 colleges and universities including Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame and Whitman College.

I loved to travel; I visited Europe at least a dozen times. I also traveled to China, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Peru (Machu-Picchu), Ecuador (the Galapagos Islands), Cuba, Croatia, Slovenia, Canada, Mexico and 45 of the 50 States.

My greatest joys were my darling wife, my family, my friends, my flowers, my walks, the gym, and leisure and pleasures.

My services will be held at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Monday, November 25th at noon. A visitation will precede the mass.

In lieu of flowers please give to one of the many worthwhile programs at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, St. Jude's Hospital, or the charity of your choice.

Take time and really focus on the ones you love, forgive those who hurt you, and raise a glass in celebration of Jim's life.


Monday, November 25, 2019

Two Dozen

One of the things that often surprises people about historians is that we’re not really that good with dates.

That’s why there are reference books, after all.

We’re good about the order of things – what led to what which led to what else, that sort of thing – but remembering the actual date of anything is always a bit of a trick.  That’s one of the reasons why I don’t get too caught up about dates on my exams.  Tell me which one came third; tell me what led to what.  Dates are just a way to keep score.

This is often true in my own life as well.  Often even when I can remember a date (“Joe’s birthday is the 13th … ”) I will have no clue as to what the actual date is today (“ … and that’s not until … um … last week.  Huh.”) which can be interesting, especially around Joe.

This is especially true when I have attached specific events to movable dates.  Easter.  Spring Break.  That sort of thing.  Then I have no idea when things are actually happening.  I figure I will be informed.

All of which is essentially preamble to the discovery that I made sometime this afternoon that it is my wedding anniversary today.

In my head, my wedding anniversary is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which isn’t for another five days yet.  We planned it that way because we are academics and that’s when our friends could come out for the festivities, and that is more or less how I remember it year after year. 

But it really is today.

It’s been an eventful two dozen years, really.  I got my PhD.  Kim got tenure.  We had two amazing children.  We bought a house.  We’ve had cats, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, hamsters, and more than one pig.  We’ve taken trips and had friends and family visit us.  We’ve cycled through a number of cars and computers.  It’s been a time.

And we’ve been through it all together.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

AMA? Isn't That the Doctor Group?

I’m trying to avoid grading these days and doing far too good of a job of it to be honest. 

I’m not that far behind, all things considered.  I’m actually caught up in four of my five classes right now, and only one assignment from being caught up in the other one, which is pretty good for the twelfth week of classes.  It’s just that I really cannot deal with another online discussion post no matter how well written it is (and most of the students who are still turning in work at this point in the semester have pretty much gotten things down by now).  It’s been cold and grey and unusually wintry this month and mostly I just want to climb under the nice warm covers and not come out until some indeterminate time in the future and then only to make more tea and continue reading my distinctly non-academic book.

This does however conflict with my desire to retain my job and continue paying my bills, so grading it is.  Most of the time.

The rest of the time I find other things to do, such as randomly plink around the internet looking at articles that are scientifically designed to rot my synapses.

No, not the political ones.  Those are scientifically designed to enrage any thinking patriotic American and spur calls for the wholesale removal of the squatter regime currently metastasizing all over the capital, preferably on a rail.  If anything that sort of thing sharpens the mind, which is why I don’t have much patience for the der Sturmtrumper’s defenders.  I don’t put up with Stupid much these days, and I have never responded well to sleaze in the first place.

No, the brain damaging things are all pop culture or random memes or some such.  My favorite meme this week involves someone who tried to use a food dehydrator to dry out some catnip and invented a kitty vape that left all of her cats stoned out of their minds because I have cats and I can just see this happening here, particularly if I go out and buy a food dehydrator which I am now tempted to do.

Somehow this evening I found myself on one of those click-bait aggregators looking at photographs of some of the artists attending the American Music Awards, which were apparently held sometime not that long ago.  All these attractive young people in their frighteningly ugly clothing!  My, but high fashion never changes that way, does it?  Those poor beautiful people would have been better off just showing up in their jeans and sweatpants, really.

There were maybe two dozen photographs of such people, smiling gamely for the cameras – people who are, in theory, famous enough to justify being invited to an awards show and having their pictures taken in their fashionable frumpery.  I scrolled down to find people whose music I knew.  Then I went back to see if I could find people whose music I had ever heard of.  Finally I gave up and started looking for people whose names I recognized from any context whatsoever.

There was Taylor Swift, who seems to be ubiquitous these days and should probably be running for office with that kind of name recognition.  She'd probably win.  I'd pay money to see the State of the Union Address she gives, if only to watch the faces of the Representatives in the audience.

There was also Selena Gomez, who last I saw was the witch on Waverly Place.  She seems older now.

And then there was … um … well, mostly there was just an ever-increasing amount of evidence that I am old and out of touch with the youth of today despite having created two of them.

I suppose I should not be surprised by this, since it pretty much confirms everything I already know about myself.  But still.  It is kind of a drag to have it pointed out so definitively on a nice Sunday evening.

Perhaps I will climb under my nice warm covers now.

Saturday, November 16, 2019


Every summer we look into our kitchen cabinet and ask ourselves, “What is the deal with all the mugs?”

And every winter we respond, “Oh, right.  That’s the deal.”

I like mugs.  They are probably my favorite type of cup, and one of the many reasons I know for a fact that I am no longer young and interesting is that I have a favorite kind of cup but I am okay with that since I was never exactly the life of the party even when I was young.  I like mugs.  What can I say.

Someday I may just build a little cubby thing and display them.  Not sure where, really, and given my carpentry skills this may just be an invitation to disaster.  But perhaps.  We’ll see.

For a while when I was a kid it became a thing in my family to give each other mugs at Christmas.  This was back in the 1970s.  I liked it as a thing, but it didn’t last long.  There are only so many mugs people need, really.

One of the first things I got from my undergraduate institution was a Campbell’s Soup mug.  It came in the Standard New Freshman Box (male version), along with a stick of deodorant, a couple of condoms, a few pamphlets on mental wellness and the perils of drugs and alcohol, and a Kurt Vonnegut novel.  And, as I recall, a can of actual Campbell’s soup.  I don’t know if they still do this sort of thing anymore – certainly none of my current students have ever heard of Kurt Vonnegut, let alone read any of his novels.  This is a question I do actually ask them when I teach my class on the atomic bomb, shortly before waving around a copy of Slaughterhouse Five and launching into a description of the firebombing of Dresden.  I think it would be a shame to let that tradition die out.  The New Freshman Box thing, I mean.  Not the firebombing.

I still have that mug.

I have mugs from my mother’s former place of employment – several of them in fact.  One of them is cobalt blue and says “Title Person” on it, and there are precious few of us left who get that joke anymore. 

I have mugs from several of my own places of employment, some of which technically no longer exist.

One of the things I did to treat myself when I was hired as a full-time adjunct five or six years ago was splurge on a Doctor Who mug.  I’ve got a couple of them now, as well as a Game of Thrones mug with my favorite bit from the series on it (“And what do we say to the god of death?”)  I’ve got a mug with a map of Klatch on it.

In our cabinet there are mugs from Sweden, painstakingly carried across the ocean in our carry-on bags.  Mugs that we got as wedding gifts.  A mug from the bed and breakfast Kim and I got engaged in.  Several mugs with the Philadelphia Flyers logo on them, and one with the Sons of Ben logo – perhaps the coolest sports-related logo around.  I’ve got one with a Lincoln quote (“Folks who have no vices have very few virtues”) that I picked up at the Lincoln Museum in Springfield.  There are a couple given to me by my children, purchased at those little pop-up Christmas Gift Shops that spread stuff out in a big room in the elementary school so the kids can buy things for their parents.  Another with the Bill of Rights on it where your rights disappear before your eyes every time it gets into hot water, sort of like living under a GOP administration.  A Phillies World Series mug.  At least one random mug that was left behind somewhere and claimed by us rather than tossed.  And so on.

A lot of mugs, in other words.

In the summer this seems like overkill.  You can get by with maybe two mugs total in the summer, since there are only so many hot beverages one is likely to consume when it is cooler inside your body than outside of it.

But in the winter – which we seem to have entered here even though it is still more than a month before the solstice proper – it is amazing how many mugs you can go through.  Tea.  Coffee.  Cocoa.  Repeat.  Instant muffins.  Lauren would make homemade mac-n-cheese in them.  They are the perfect kitchen implement.

The cabinet empties out.  The dishwasher and the sink fill up.  We start to run low on mugs in a way that seemed impossible when we were wearing short sleeves and cranking up the air conditioning.  But winter is made for staying inside with a warm beverage and a good book, and if the book is too often work-related the tea is still warm.

We have a lot of mugs.  I suspect this will not stop me from adding to the collection.

As vices go it’s relatively harmless.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

News and Updates

1. It is entirely possible to get a genuine hangover from nothing but adrenaline.  This is not as much fun as people tell you.

2. We are now expecting our fifth measurable snowstorm in the last three weeks or so, after which the temperature is expected to drop into the single-digits Fahrenheit.  Naturally my neighbor spent this afternoon mowing his lawn.  And I just couldn’t blame him at all.  We went straight from early October to mid-December without hitting any of the weather in between, so the grass is still long and the leaves are still out there.  Wisconsin can be a strange place.

3. It can be an even stranger place if you pay attention to politics.  We don’t have Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) punching holes in the state’s future anymore (hello, Foxconn!), but we do have a state legislature that is among the most thoroughly gerrymandered in the nation.  In the last election the GOP got 46% of the votes cast but ended up with 64% of the seats in the legislature.  This is perhaps why when the current governor called a special session to deal with rampant gun violence and the need for common sense gun laws in this state – something that 80% of Wisconsin voters support, which if you do the math tells you that even most Republicans like the idea – both houses of the Wisconsin legislature refused even to consider doing anything remotely related to their constituents’ wishes.  They gaveled the sessions in and out within two minutes and went on to collect whatever bonuses their corporate owners had promised them.  No surprise.  This is the same group of callous sinners that spent most of the fall refusing to allow a legislator with disabilities any of the accommodations to which he is, by law, entitled, because fuck you that’s why.  I’m sure they found it funny.

4. Bottom line:  The Wisconsin State Legislature no longer has any legitimacy as a governing body in a democracy.  Which of course raises the question: what happens next? 

5. Meanwhile on the national stage, der Sturmtrumper’s many and varied high crimes and misdemeanors continue to come to light and in a just nation that valued laws, Constitutions, morals, and human decency he would have been ridden out of town on a rail and stripped of every single asset he has ever owned long ago.  Naturally his base continues to support him, and the rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

6. The meme I wrote back in 2017 that went viral this past summer has gone viral again, to a slightly higher degree in fact.  By my count it has been shared over 38,000 times on Facebook alone.  Those are just the ones I know about, and it doesn’t count all the times it has gone around Twitter.  I’m anonymously famous!  I’m quite happy having it spread without my name being attached to it – this way people can focus on the content and not the author, and I don’t get bugged with the inevitable small-minded nonsense of the offended.

7. Speaking of which, now that Halloween is over you should brace yourself for the annual tradition of people who call other people “snowflakes” getting triggered into frothing rages over coffee cups.

8. I should be grading.  I do not wish to be grading.  A significant chunk of my paycheck depends on me grading.  Therefore I will be grading in the very near future, wishes notwithstanding.  It’s the circle of academic life.

9. You know, if your first reaction to “OK, Boomer” is to say “Not all Boomers…” maybe you have missed the point.

10. If I have learned anything from my last few months at work it is that computers will kill us and we will probably deserve it. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Foot Notes

So the other day I was sitting in my living room not doing much of anything in particular despite having much to do, when I received a text from my brother asking me to send him a picture of my feet.

This is not something that happens every day.

In fact, I cannot recall the last time that my brother asked for a picture of my feet, or indeed the last time anyone else asked me for such a picture either.  Very few people are even aware that I have feet as far as I know, at least in any specific sense beyond a general “well he must, mustn’t he?” kind of way, and fewer still want documentary proof.

I thought about this request.

Mostly I thought that somebody must have hacked my brother’s phone and was now making odd requests of everyone on his contact list, and that at some point in the near future we would all sit down and compare notes.  This would probably involve adult beverages.

Then my brother sent me a photo of his feet, which under normal circumstances I might have considered strange but which in this particular instance I found reassuring.  Whatever weirdness was going on was Acceptable Family Weirdness, which always covers a lot of ground.

So I sent him a picture of my feet, even though I noted that he really should buy me dinner first.  “We both know I don’t need to buy you dinners,” he responded.

Well, point taken, but still.  Dinners are nice.

It turned out that my niece was working on a project of her own design, one that involved collecting photos of all of the extant feet of my dad's direct descendants.  Tabitha and Lauren had already sent theirs.  Thanks to the fact that I had digitized all of the old family photos a few years ago I was able to locate a photo or two of my dad’s feet as well, so I sent those along.

She had the complete set.

I didn’t think too much about this after having sent along all of the various photos because some things you just accept at face value (or feet value, I suppose) and then move on with your life rather than dwell on them too much.  Okay.  This is my life now.

A few days later I got a photo of the finished project: a handsome throw pillow with all of our feet printed out in color in nice neat rows.  It was a birthday present for my nephew, apparently. 

I can’t even describe how much I love this project.  It’s twisted and creative and clever and it pretty much made my day.

I love my family.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Birthday Wishes

It’s Lauren’s birthday today.

She’s across the sea now, enjoying her time abroad.  We got to talk with her this morning before we left for our respective workplaces – it was afternoon where she was – and we wished her a happy birthday.  Such is the miracle of modern technology that you can do that, just press a few buttons and suddenly see and talk with someone who is a world away.  Truly we live in an age of miracles.

She seems happy there.  She introduced us to her friend from Language Boot Camp who had come for a visit and brought mac-n-cheez as a birthday gift because he knows her well by now.  Her host family had treated her to a very nice meal earlier, and her host mom sent us a lovely picture of Lauren and her new sisters.  And she was having some other people over that evening.  So she was doing well.

It’s strange not having her around, though.

This is the first birthday of either of our kids where they weren’t here.  Tabitha’s always comes during breaks, so even as a college student we can celebrate together. 

It won’t be the last, of course.

Children grow up; that is the nature of children.  They become adults faster than you would ever think possible, and then there they are – off at college, away on a yearlong exchange program, living their lives.  That’s what you hope for as a parent.

Happy birthday, Lauren.

I’m proud of you.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Viva Italia

Ancestry.com keeps updating my personal history.

When you hit a certain age there is a little switch in your head that flips over and you suddenly think to yourself, “Huh.  Genealogy.  That sounds like fun.”  I hit this point a few years ago, and I’ve written about it before in this space.

I wasn’t really going to do the DNA testing thing, since I’m not sure what else those companies might want to do with it.  Can you imagine an army of my clones marching through the countryside, stripping the bookstores bare and demanding tea?  It would be a particularly civil sort of chaos, really, and one we could probably use these days.  Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea after all, except that I already know that the world can barely handle one of me.  It doesn't need an army of copies.  But since my mom wanted me to take the DNA test and she paid for it, I said okay.

It turns out I’m related to her.  And my uncle.  Possibly my brother as well.  I’m glad they cleared that up.

Apparently Ancestry keeps refining their methods and at some point those little refinements hit a critical mass and they release new estimates of where my genes have come from.  These new estimates can vary significantly from previous estimates as well as from what I already know from documentary research, so I suppose you can take all of that for what it is worth.

What I always find fascinating is that no matter what refinements they use Ancestry invariably tells me that the percentage of Italian in my genetic heritage is higher than 50%.  They have told me that it has been as high as 74% and as low as 59%, but no matter what version of the results that they give me it’s always more than half.

My mother’s side is completely Italian.  I can trace every single branch of that side of the family back to Italy – sometimes to specific towns – and I know when many of them came to the US.  I even know the name of the ship that brought my great-grandmother here in 1907.  So 50% Italian makes sense to me.

My dad’s side is Not Italian.  Not in the least.  This was, I understand, something of a stumbling block for my mom’s extended family when my parents were dating – my dad once told me that eventually they decided that he looked Italian and that was enough.  Again, I can trace them back to this Not Italian region in multiple lines – a Not Italian region that consistently accounts for less than 20% of what Ancestry tells me is my own heritage, by the way.  On the original results it was 1%.  The latest version pegs it at 16%.

Maybe that’s where the extra Italian comes in. 

Are Italian genes just so powerful that they can override genes from other places? 

Apparently so.

Monday, October 21, 2019


I wrote a short version of this story as a comment on a friend’s Facebook post the other day, but it seemed like something fun to put down here.  And since it’s my blog to write whatever I pleased, that is reason enough, I suppose.

I have always loved Spanish olives – the green ones with the pimentos stuffed inside of them.  You see them called all sorts of things in this age of greater olive sensitivity (I have no idea if they can actually be found in Spain or if they're the olive equivalent of French fries) and they’re stuffed with all sorts of funky things now (jalepenos being my favorite), but the bog-standard pimento-stuffed green olive was one of my favorite things when I was a kid.

Yes, I know.

I still like them.  I’m the guy over by the relish tray at your party, scarfing down the olives while all the more expensive food gets vacuumed up by everyone else.  I’m a cheap date.

The trouble with liking these olives when I was younger was that I was pretty much the only person in the house who did  – or at least the only one who liked them that much – so it was not often that I could convince my parents to buy them.  I figured they were one of the mysteries of adult life, completely out of my league, and if they weren’t filtered through my parents then there was no way I could get them.

We lived about three or four blocks from a small neighborhood grocery store at that point in my life.  It had maybe 500 square feet of space and was wedged into a little strip mall that also had a hardware store, two pharmacies, a pizza place, and a fried chicken takeout.  You could look at every product in the store individually in less than twenty minutes.  The owner – a big man, probably about my age now, more or less – would sit up front by the cash register, while his dad would be in the back, in the meats and cheese section.  That old man could take a butcher’s cleaver and cut exactly one pound of sharp cheddar – to the pennyweight – without even aiming.

My grandmother came to live with us after her mother died when I was about 8 or so.  She would send me down to the little strip of stores to run errands every now and then.  I’d hit the grocery store for cheddar, sardines and crackers, and then go to one of the pharmacies and get a carton of Benson & Hedges Gold, which they would sell me without hesitation, this being the 1970s.  As a reward for this, I’d get a quarter, which I could save up or spend on chips or candy as I saw fit.  I bought a lot of chips and candy this way.

One day on one of my grandmother’s errands I was idly wandering up and down the shelves of the grocery store, looking at the various things on the shelves while the line at the back lessened, when I made a discovery.

It turned out that a small jar of Spanish olives – wider at the bottom, Bicentennial artwork painted on the glass, maybe four inches high – was not all that much more expensive than a bag of chips!

This was a REVELATION.

Adult food cost about what candy or chips cost?  Really?  Not exorbitant?  And I could just … buy it?  Without asking my mom to get it at the supermarket?  Nobody would stop me?

Freaking Amazing!

I came home with that Bicentennial-themed jar of olives, curled up on the sofa in the living room, turned on the television, and ate them all in one sitting.  No regrets.  It was awesome.

It’s astonishing sometimes how accessible things can be if only you think to look.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Reminder for the Supporters of the Current President

When the history of this era is written, those who continue to support the current president in the face of overwhelming evidence of his guilt and of his own proud confessions to high crimes and misdemeanors will be remembered as collaborators.

They will be discussed in the same breath as Vichy France, Vidkun Quisling, and all of the other cowards who saw unrepentant authoritarianism and contempt for human decency, for morals, for laws, for constitutions, for the survival of democracy and republic alike, and willingly joined in to make it happen.

When the history of this era is written, those who continue to support the current president will be remembered for being pathetically eager to embrace overt racism and the destruction of a century of progress in favor of bigotry, hatred, and regression.

They will be discussed in the same breath as the Nazis their leader called “fine people” – perhaps because those Nazis endorsed him as one of their own, publicly and without contradiction – and they will be asked, long after they are dead, long after they can even pretend to defend themselves, why they thought rampant child abuse was acceptable as an American government policy so long as it was directed at brown-skinned children.

When the history of this era is written, those who continue to support the current president will be remembered as the people who looked on and cheered while he abandoned our allies to die, kowtowed to dictators, and systematically weakened American national security in pursuit of his own tawdry self-interest.

They will be discussed in the same breath as the spies and saboteurs we once rooted out and imprisoned and they will be condemned along with them.  There will be astonishment at how a nation that once claimed to be the leader of the free world could so easily and cheaply throw that away to the mindless applause of supporters.

When this history of this era is written, those who continue to support this president will be remembered as the short-sighted ideological prisoners who doomed the planet to roast and condemned their own children to die hungry and without a future in a rapidly warming world that could have been prevented.

They will be discussed in the same breath as all the other charlatans and frauds who covered up a century of science in the name of quarterly profits, who thought it was funny to troll a teenager who tried so hard to warn them, and whose blind willful ignorance made them the perfect base for a charlatan and fraud of a president.

When the history of his era is written, those who continue to support the current president will be remembered.

They will be reviled.

They will be held up as examples of everything Americans were not supposed to be.  As cowards.  As moral lepers.  As complicit in the destruction of everything the Founders tried to create and everything generations of Americans after the Founders sought to achieve.  As wasteful fools squandering the future of the nation and everyone in it for meaningless rewards.

They will be forsworn.  They will be cursed by their descendants and held up as examples of how easily a people can be led astray by hatred and how hard it is for those people to reclaim their humanity once it is cheaply sold for political advantage.

When the history of this era is written, these things will come to pass.

The history of this era is already being written.

Those who continue to support this president should remember that.

Because the rest of us will.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

News and Updates

1.  Today started with my office door handle falling off in my hands.  It can be very difficult not to see things as harbingers and omens in these parlous times, really it can.

2. Sweet dancing monkeys on a stick but it is hard to keep up with the raging dumpster fire that is der Sturmtrumper and his entire administration, their supporters, and their effects on the world at large.  You sit down to write something coherent about the latest news and then – BAM! – the president and his gang get even more stupid, venal, petty, corrupt, and morally bankrupt before you can even get to the first punctuation mark.

3. Eventually I’ll get enough of a running start to write something, but for now all I will say is that the continued support among the GOP base for der Sturmtrumper in the face of overwhelming (and largely self-provided) evidence of impeachable offenses is a damning indictment of American politics, education, and morals.  There is no way any thinking human can continue to support him, and I will leave the implications of that up to the reader.

4. The Higher Higher Ups to whom – if you follow the chain of command all the way up to where the air is thin and causes brain damage without proper protective gear – I and the rest of my colleagues down at Home Campus ultimately report hired a Very Expensive Consulting Firm to do some database transferal chores.  Basically we have a lot of information in one computer system, and it had to find its way into a different computer system before the first one was dropped into the deepest part of the Mariana Trench.  The VECF was likely paid a sum of money not incommensurate with its name in order to do this project.  So guess what we’re all now redoing by hand down at Home Campus!  I think the CEO of VECF should be billed personally for my time, preferably at the “Dude Needs A Long Vacation” rate.

5. Now that we are empty nesters, the place gets kind of quiet.  So last Sunday I whomped up a big batch of macaroni and meatballs and invited Lauren’s squad over for dinner.  And they came!  It was nice to have them.  Perhaps we’ll make this a regular occurrence.

6. I’m trying to find time to paint the front of the garage.  It has needed painting for, well, an embarrassingly long time now.  I just hate home maintenance is all.  We did look into getting someone else to do it, but the first estimate we got – the only estimate we got, since apparently exterior painters are booking out to 2025 around here and many of them don’t even bother responding to requests for estimates – was roughly triple the value of the garage itself and everything in it including the cars.  So I now have a can of “garage white” paint just waiting for it to stop raining long enough for the wood to dry out a bit.  Three or four days is what the paint store people said, otherwise the paint will just fall off.  I’m not sure we’ve had four days without rain since July, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time before Thanksgiving either, after which it will likely be too cold.  On the one hand I really didn’t want to paint anything.  On the other hand, it needs to be painted and I’ve gone to the trouble of buying paint so I’m kind of annoyed that I can’t just get it over with.

7. On yet another hand (I’m an academic – I have an infinite supply of hands), I rather like grey, rainy fall weather, so there is that.

8. I’ve been trying to play more piano of late.  I kind of got out of the habit when the girls were little – they really didn’t like it when I played and there wasn’t much time for it anyway – but now it’s often just me in the house since Kim doesn’t get home until late, so I’m relearning some of the things I once knew.  Perhaps I’ll learn new things soon.

9. We have been trying to figure out how to get the one cat who is too thin to eat more while getting the other cat who is too fat to eat less, and this project has met with about as much success as you would expect.  A while back Kim bought a timed feeder that looks strikingly like Eva from Wall-E (“EeeeeEEEEEEva”) and which spits out food at seemingly random intervals and then chirps proudly to let you know that it has done this.  It’s like having a plastic toddler.  The original plan was to provide more food to the skinny cat, so we tried to put Eva in high places where the fat one couldn’t reach, but it turns out that the lure of cat food is stronger than the pull of gravity and the fat one seems to be eating most of the food.  This seems counterproductive.  We’re still working on a solution.

10. In the last month I have been handed both a wheat cent and a silver quarter in change.  This made me happy.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Peeking Over the Ramparts

I warned you.

I warned you in November, after the Democrats took the House of Representatives and der Sturmtrumper could no longer hide behind a solid GOP wall that would gladly overlook his crimes, his corruption, and his dictatorial urges as long as they got their judges and their tax breaks.  I warned you that it would get ugly, that it would get worse, that the future of the republic was in jeopardy, that the hard part had just begun.

And all those things have come true.

Der Sturmtrumper has been twisting feverishly in the wind for the last week, spitting bile and random accusations in all directions, ever since the impeachment inquiry became real.  He’s raged.  He’s thrown half his administration under the bus.  He’s held the most bizarrely pathetic open-air pity party in federal history.  He has, in violation of federal law, demanded the identity of the whistle-blower whose complaints he has explicitly confirmed as accurate, and his minions have set up a $50,000 bounty on the whistleblower’s head because nothing about that screams dictatorship or nutjobs at all.  He’s called for civil war.

Imagine – a sitting US president calling for civil war because the US Congress is starting to exercise its Constitutionally mandated oversight.  Who’da thought it?  Well, besides anyone who has paid attention to this sorry and lawless excuse for an administration since before it was inaugurated, I mean.  Who?

The Founding Fathers, that’s who.  Der Sturmtrumper is the sum total of everything they feared when they set up the republic in 1787.  The demagogue and would-be tyrant.  The guy riling up the mob and tearing down the Constitution.  The thing they fought the Revolution to create, built the Constitution to thwart, and created the Electoral College to avoid when the mob got out of hand.  They knew it was coming.  They just didn't know when.

Bearing in mind that my success rate as a fortune teller is pretty much zero, this is how I'm going to guess it will go.

There will be an investigation – a lengthy and excruciatingly public investigation, one hopes, though in the last 48 hours there have been new revelations of impeachable offenses roughly every 45 minutes or so, so perhaps that won’t be necessary.

There will be a vote on impeachment.  Given that our Criminal In Chief has already confessed and seems proud of it, there is only one way for that to go.

There will probably be a trial.  Let me clarify – the Constitution mandates that there be a trial, but then the Constitution also mandates that a sitting president shall get a vote on his nominee for the Supreme Court, and Moscow Mitch – the single most corrupt man in Washington DC, up to and including der Sturmtrumper – didn’t care about that either.  It’s entirely possible he will just refuse and then it will be up to the GOP Senators to decide if they care about the country more than their party.

I know where my money is.

But let’s just say that, perhaps by mistake, Moscow Mitch lets a trial happen.  Der Sturmtrumper will either be convicted, as the evidence and confessions demand, or his party will declare the republic to be at an end and all hail our absolute GOP overlords.

It's rather late in the game either way.

Der Sturmtrumper has already done incalculable damage to the standing of the US in the world.  He has already – perhaps fatally – undermined American political institutions and social norms.  He has shaped and encouraged a large body of Americans who think that Fascism is perfectly fine as long as they’re the ones doing the marching and the killing.  He has run roughshod over laws, morals, Constitutional restraints, human decency, and any claim this country ever had to have actual values.  It will take decades for the US to recover from this administration even if everyone involved in it slinks away quietly in chains.

There is nothing so dangerous as a cornered rat, however.  The odds of anything happening quietly with this administration or its supporters are effectively nil.  They're just a hairsbreadth away from a coup and you can see the idea gaining traction with them.  They're cornered, their ship is sinking, and they're ready to blow the whole thing up rather than see justice being served.

Hold onto your hats, folks.  We could end up miles from here.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Game Night

Now that Kim is working in Madison she rubs shoulders with a different strata of Wisconsin society than we usually see here in Our Little Town.  Specifically, the strata that has Green Bay Packers season tickets, which are highly prized in Wisconsin.  If you want one you should get on the list right now and perhaps your grandchildren will get them.  The wait is several decades long.

Not every season ticket holder can make every game, of course, and sometimes they’ll sell you individual game tickets.  And if those tickets are for a game against my hometown team, the Philadelphia Eagles, well, really, how often does that kind of opportunity come up?  It was a Thursday night game, which did give me pause as it meant we’d be leaving Our Little Town sometime in mid-afternoon in order to get up to Green Bay in time and we’d likely be back home in the wee hours of the morning.  But even when I get deep into my “why am I leaving my house exactly?” mode I can still recognize that yes, indeed, I should leave my house for this, and Kim really wanted to go, so we went.

The only other time I have ever been to an NFL game in person was 1972.  Tom Dempsey was kicking for the Eagles, Richard Nixon was president, Veterans Stadium was about a year old or so, and my dad and my grandfather took me to a preseason game against what were then the St. Louis Cardinals.  I don’t remember much about the game, to be honest.  I’m sure they lost – they lost pretty much every game that year and for most of my childhood – but I remember it as a good time.

Like most older stadiums, Lambeau Field sits in the middle of a city neighborhood rather than being marooned on an island of asphalt on the outskirts of town.  It’s actually a bit surprising how quickly it comes up when you get into Green Bay – you get off the highway and head up Oneida Street and – BOOM! – there it is.  All of the businesses along that street close on game days, apparently – even the gas stations stop pumping gas, though they do stay open to sell you snacks – and they sell parking.  We found a spot without any difficulties, paid the fee, and started walking.

And here I discovered that it really was going to be a good night.

I wore my Eagles jersey and hat, of course.  As someone who has lived in Wisconsin for nearly a quarter of a century now I’ll cheer for the Packers against any team except the Eagles.  When the Eagles are involved there is only one team to cheer for. 

Fly, Eagles, Fly!

And while I did get grief for this from Packers fans, it was a good-spirited sort of grief – the kind of grief that comes from people who understand that this is a game, that we’re all here to have fun, and everyone should just relax and enjoy it.  I saw a lot of Packers and Eagles fans hanging out together and doing each other favors (taking pictures, and such), and a lot of people in Aaron Rodgers jerseys came up to me and asked if this was my first time at Lambeau and how I was doing.  We talked as fans of our teams and as fans in general, and it was really nice.  Several people – both Eagles fans and Packers fans – noted my jersey and Kim’s Packers sweatshirt and had fun asking how we worked things out, and we had fun answering back.  The entire time I was in Green Bay – from the moment I got out of the car through the entire game and back to the car – I never had any trouble.

You have to love that.

It’s hard not to be impressed by Lambeau Field, as a sports fan.  It’s one of the iconic stadiums in this country, and those get more and more uncommon as time goes by.  We walked up and found a line.

They funnel you through a long line of metal detectors and then through another chokepoint at the gate where you show them your tickets, so we had plenty of time to mingle with other fans.  There were a lot of Eagles fans – it seemed to me that maybe 20-30% of the crowd had Eagles jerseys or other gear on, while most of the rest had Packers stuff.  There was the occasional Bears fan, but nobody discussed that.  While we waited to go through the metal detectors and ticket takers there were more than a few rounds of dueling cheers (“Go Pack Go!” followed by “E-A-G-L-E-S Eagles!” in a sort of beer-fueled round – a lot of the people in line with us had been tailgating since lunchtime, after all) and then we were in.

We found our seats pretty quickly.  We were on the 15-yard line, on the visitor’s side, on the end of the stadium that has Green Bay painted in the end zone rather than Packers.  It’s all bench seating in Lambeau – aluminum benches with numbers painted on them to let you know where you’re supposed to sit.  They might as well have been made of spun glass and razor blades for all that most people actually sat down during the game. 

The first thing you notice when you see the teams out there warming up is that the field is actually fairly small.  This makes sense when you think about it.  It’s 120 yards long and 53 yards wide and that’s it.  It looks much bigger on television.

The second thing you notice is that sweet dancing monkeys on a stick but those guys are huge.  Carson Wentz is nine feet tall, and the guys on the line of scrimmage each weigh half a ton.  Aaron Rodgers is only eight and a half feet tall but he has the mustache to make up for it.  The only exception is Darren Sproles, the Eagles running back, who can stand up comfortably between Wentz’ knees. 

We watched them warm up for a bit, and I went out to the concessions to find dinner.  It was surprisingly tasty, all things considered – don’t ask for nutrition and try not to think about the prices, but if I wanted either of those things I’d have stayed home.

And then the game began.

We were in a section that had a lot of Eagles fans in it – in the rows surrounding us it seemed pretty even, actually – and there was a great deal of cheering to be done whenever anything happened because no matter what happened somebody thought it was worth cheering about.  Most of the action happened at the other end of the field, regardless of who was defending that end, but enough came our way to make it interesting.  It took the Eagles most of the first quarter to remember how to play the game, and then after that it got pretty evenly matched.

The Eagles took a one-point lead into halftime.

The second half went much like the first.  I’m not sure why the coaches made some of the decisions they made (Seriously, Pederson – a 2-point conversion in the 3rd quarter?  And LeFleur, 1st and goal from the 1-yard line and not a single running play?) but I will admit that it kept things lively. 

If you’re planning to go to Lambeau for a night game, though, be warned: when the Packers score, they turn off most of the bright lights and shoot off fireworks.  There is about a 3-second gap between those two things, which means that there is a short time where you’re starting to look for the exits because what just happened?  And then the fireworks go off and you think, “Oh, okay.”

Thursday night NFL games are not always good games, but this one actually was – if you were a neutral fan just looking for an entertaining game, you’d have been happy with it.  And as an Eagles fan, I was very happy.  The Packers had the ball with less than a minute to play, about 7 yards from the Eagles’ end zone.  I asked Kim, “Are we going to stay for overtime?” and she said “Hell yes we’re staying for overtime!” and then the Eagles intercepted the ball in the end zone and the game was over.

It was a long ride home and a long day the next day, but it was worth it.

Fly, Eagles, Fly!