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Ambitions As A Writer And Bathroom Chandeliers, With Israel Daramola And Dave McKenna

A bathroom at Mar-a-Lago positively jammed with boxes full of junk.
U.S. Department of Justice via Getty Images

I don't know how many podcast episodes I've recorded with Drew in my "career" of having done that, but I can tell you off the top of my head how many of those I've done with him in the room and without a paying audience watching us. That answer, as of this week's episode going live, is now "one." Through the magic of technology, and more precisely through the magic of "having competent producers," we have managed to do quite a lot of episodes of this podcast. I do not want to criticize this magic, and more importantly I do not want to antagonize our producers in any way beyond the usual, but Drew and I both know that something has been lost for that. Yes, he can stomp and pace and strut around his room with his handheld mic when we do these over Zoom as we usually do, and yes I do not have to be in that room when he does all that, but fundamentally what you are hearing in these episodes is two friends on a call, sometimes with a third person on the call who wonders why they keep doing B-minus Bill Simmons imitations. And also our producer, who again I do not want to antagonize for any reason, because we could no sooner do a podcast without him than Drew and I could get on a Zoom call and construct a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

But this week, with the Defector team in town for some workplace retreat activities and the (raucous, wonderful) sold-out opening night on Normal Gossip's Summer Tour at Manhattan's Town Hall, we had an opportunity to do something that we'd somehow never done before—record a normal episode, together, in the same space, with the producer we dearly need to avoid antagonizing right there on the other side of a pane of soundproof glass. We would not, could not pass that up.

And so Drew and I were joined by Israel Daramola and Dave McKenna at Multitude's studios in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where we piled into a smallish studio space, addressed our microphones, and just kind of started doing our thing much the way we ordinarily do, but also quite differently. There was a rundown and a framework and all the usual structural stuff that keeps these episodes from sliding all the way into chaos. But also there were the four of us in the room, not really quite knowing how to do our podcasting thing in the forbidding climate of actual meatspace, and not really quite knowing how it would turn out.

The answer to that question is finally yours to decide, but I'll say that the episode is somewhat different from our usual, and that I think the amount of fun we had recording it all together like this does come through in the finished product. It's a little more digressive than usual, although a sizable percentage of that comes from the presence of the heroically digressive and espresso-enhanced Mr. McKenna. In time, I imagine that we'd all get used to like breaking down the NFL offseason right there in a room where other people can see you doing it, but this time around we mostly just...talked. Israel and Dave described their respective personal paths to becoming writers, and also their respective relationships to various chemical uppers and downers; McKenna blew the top off his absolutely unholy and unsafe 7/11 coffee hack, and also painted a picture of what life was like near-but-not-on the West Texas oil fields for the high school dirtbag version of himself, which is to say he talked a lot about antique modes of beer can design. This was, happily if a little surprisingly to me, more or less what it would have been like had we been having this conversation in a bar, or a coffeeshop, or McKenna's can-strewn garage-apartment in Midland, Tex. circa 1980.

From there, normal order imposed itself a little bit, if not in the most orderly or normal ways. We talked a bit about Trumpian aesthetics as revealed through last week's blockbuster indictment, and also about Stephen A. Smith's startling but probably inevitable role in the Republican presidential primary, and personal favorite Chris Christie's illuminating but much funnier place within that campaign. We remembered some guys, including a not-quite-legendary ACC proto-doofus and a fellow NFL disappointment whose college legacy is much more secure; I would also like to point out that the guy we couldn't remember was Percy Harvin, and I feel duty-bound to admit that I said it out loud to my laptop while listening over to this episode today.

The Funbag was opened, which is ordinarily not a good idea in a confined and poorly ventilated space, but we were feeling brave by then. We discussed which professional sport has the highest percentage of individual maniacs in it, and the structural/vibe-related reasons why that might be. We addressed and summarily dismissed the underwhelming innovation that is foaming hand soap. And then we left the studio as we entered it—surprised at how strange this formerly ordinary thing felt, happy to have been in there together, and relieved that we had gone another week without making Eric Silver's life any harder than we ordinarily make it.

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