What I’m Watching

Not counting the just completed Open Championship and the Tour de France, overlapping highlights of the sporting calendar that seriously taxed my DVR and remote control skills.

I’m deep into Shtisel on Netflix. I may as well be living in Jerusalem. The three season series was a huge hit among American Jews, but this gentile digs it too.

Tonight I watched Season 1, Episode 11 which is my favorite so far. The series beautifully depicts the costs and benefits of strict religious community. And also, the costs and benefits of extremely close families.

The slower pacing, the incredible background music, the covert sexuality all make for an incredibly unique and rewarding experience.

Unless you’re hopelessly modern, book your flight for Jerusalem soon, you won’t be disappointed.

‘I Want To Play For You’

ESPN reports that five-star basketball recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. has committed to Milwaukee of the Horizon League, spurning offers from the likes of Duke, Georgetown and Virginia to join his father Patrick Baldwin Sr., the Panthers’ head coach since 2017.

I’ve never heard of the Milwaukee Panthers, but I’m a fan of the Baldwins now.

“Baldwin recalled the moment he told his parents he was staying home and playing for Milwaukee.

‘I walked in the room and said, ‘I have something to share with you. I want to play for you.’ He gave me a hug, started crying and left the room,” Baldwin said. “My mom and dad left the decision up to me. They gave me insight during the process but left the decision up to me.'”

At 6’10”, Baldwin is a passer, ball handler, and perimeter shooter. Basketball is of course a team game; still, I expect the Panthers to win more than they lose next season.

Why Bill And Melinda Are Calling It Quits

Melinda can’t take it anymore.

Instead of making his own lattes, Bill drives through Starbucks every damn day. Instead of walking public golf courses, he rents carts at private country clubs. Instead of parking his own car at those clubs, he uses valets. Instead of buying pre-owned cars that use regular gas, he buys new ones that require premium. Instead of investing in low cost index funds, he invests in expensive, actively managed mutual funds. Instead of making dinner at home, he frequents a diverse rotation of restaurants. Instead of having his bond funds in tax-free accounts, he has them in taxable ones. Instead of buying groceries in bulk at Costco, he makes repeated trips to Whole Foods. Instead of lifting and running with the boys, he uses a personal trainer. Instead of checking books out from the library, he buys hardbacks. Instead of mowing the lawn, he uses a “landscape service”.

It’s enough to drive any woman crazy.

Just Because You Can Afford To, Doesn’t Mean You Should

A picture of a neighbor’s property from this morning’s walk. 

“Hey Ron, what’s the backstory of the University of Washington-painted tennis court/full basketball court with state-of-the-art plexiglass break-away rims?”

I’m glad you asked.

The owner, a friend of a friend who I have never met, bought this large wooded property a couple of years ago. And then proceeded to clear cut it. And then added a bunch of out-buildings and the primo lighted sport court for his children.

Granted I’m not omniscient, but I’ve never seen or heard the children using either of the courts. Which is why the lighting is a humorous touch, as if there’s not enough daylight to get in all the basketball and tennis the children want to play.

Meditating on that court this morning made me think of Venus and Serena growing up on Compton, California’s public tennis courts. Or any elite basketball player who routinely left their hood to find competitive games that helped them hone their skills.

But forget elite sports—whether college or pro—consider the opportunity costs, besides the obvious environmental ones of the clear cutting, of not having to play in public settings with a diverse assortment of other people. Some exceedingly difficult to get along with. Even though my parents could have afforded to, I’m glad they chose not to join a country club. I benefitted immensely from growing up on public golf courses, swimming in public pools, and playing on public tennis courts.

Like in public schools, places where I learned to mix it up with other kids. Which has proved extremely valuable throughout my life.

An Abundance Of Risk

It’s time for us to pivot from an abundance of caution to an abundance of risk.*

Sure, we should keep being smart about social distancing and wearing masks indoors, and of course getting jabbed; otherwise though, it’s time we start affirming that living life in close relationship with others entails risk. 

To be in relationship with others is to embrace a much wider range of emotions, including positive ones like acceptance, tranquility, and love, and negative ones like anger, sadness, despair, and grief.  

Kaitlin Ruby Brinkerhoff met Ian McCann, a Canadian, on a mountain biking trip in her Utah hometown. They then maintained a challenging cross-border relationship through the pandemic. Here’s their story.  I dig their story because they embody the “abundance of risk” mindset we need to reclaim. 

Of course, one can pivot to an abundance of risk in many ways. Romantic love isn’t the only avenue, we can form friendships by planting gardens together, by moving outdoors together, by doing all kinds of community service with one another. 

Here’s the start of the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes:

“For everything there is a season, A time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.”

Consider, if you will, this is a time to risk.

*Admittedly, this does not apply to the frontline workers, especially our health care providers, who have been taking on lots of risk on our behalf for over a year.  

 

Threading The ‘Time Needle’

In one sub-section of my first year writing course we read about contrasting parenting philosophies and some students write about how they were raised and whether they intend to parent similarly or differently.

When listening to them reflect on their childhoods, I’m always struck by the chasm between their family lives. About half describe their families as loving, supportive, and close. Another half describe some sordid version of explicit, unhealthy dysfunction. It seems there’s no middle ground.

Often I think the same thing about people and time. Half of people, having or choosing to work super long hours, don’t have nearly enough time. To be introspective. To think about the meaning of life. To live intentionally.

And unless they have compelling hobbies, another half or so who are unable to find work or choose not to for whatever reasons, may have too much time for optimal mental health. Because one of the most common mental health challenges today is dealing with anxiety about things like the ‘rona and the vaccine. More specifically, there’s a tendency to overthink whether one might get the ‘rona or whether one might suffer serious side effects as a result of the vaccine.

I am not a mental health professional so correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that having to work, or more generally, to have some sort of responsibilities for others’ well-being is a salve for overthinking things. If I’m listening to others, caring for them, helping them somehow, I am less susceptible to the anxiety-inducing thoughts that endlessly loop in my head when I don’t have any responsibilities for other living things, whether people, animals or plants.

With shorter work weeks, I suspect European countries are threading the ‘time needle’ in ways that are healthier, mentally and otherwise, than we are in the (dis)United States. Cue related discussions about the federal minimum wage and universal health care.

Are You 50 Years Old?

Or stupendous and sixty? Or sublime and seventy? Or extraordinary and eighty?

If so, I highly recommend two essays.

  1. Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think by Arthur C. Brooks.

  2. How to Practice by Ann Patchett.

Both beautifully nudge the reader to contemplate the end-of-life. Patchett’s piece is the single best thing I’ve ever read on decluttering as an intentional act of preparing to die. If you think you might die someday, forget Marie Kondo, just sink deeply into Patchett’s story.

Patchett had me from the jump when she described the stages of life as “. . . youth, middle age, and . . . the downhill slalom.”

Ski on dear reader and read on.

Nomadland

Frances McDormand is Fern, a widower struggling to let go of her past. She’s hard working and resilient. Her van makes for a precarious home. She befriends other “nomads” also living on the road, but only to a point, because she isn’t fully in the present.

Nomadland has the feel of a compelling documentary. A thoughtful window into a vulnerable, but resourceful community of non-conformists prioritizing personal freedom and nature over material comfort. If you enjoy films firmly based in reality, you may like it as much as I did.