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Funbag

How Long Do You Have To Spend Somewhere To Say You Lived There?

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Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And buy Drew’s book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we’re talking about colds, CNN, yelling at roofers, and more.

Your letters:

Scott:

How much time do you have to spend somewhere before you can say that you’ve “lived” there? Do you go by total time? Longest consecutive stretch in said place? What are the rules? For example, I’m 53 and have spent over a year of my life in Scotland (numerous vacations), but never longer than three weeks at one time. I’ve also spent two years of my life in Maine (my family has had a cabin there since the 1920s), including more than a dozen three-month stretches (all summer). Have I “lived” in either place?

I say no. To give you an example, my parents have lived in Connecticut since 1991. I never lived there full-time. I went to boarding school in New Hampshire as a sophomore right after the family relocated from Minnesota, then I went to college, and then I moved to New York, where I lived for six years. Even though I spent every summer at my folks’ house throughout prep school and college, I never felt like that was MY home. Does that make sense? I don’t even think of myself as having lived in New Hampshire. I only went to school there. Ditto Waterville, Maine. I was in both of those states but not of them. I was on islands. And I never had my own place to call home at either school. I lived in dorms for seven straight years, which makes it hard to feel like you live somewhere when you’re living in one room and you don’t even have your own toilet to speak of.

So I never say that I lived in those places. I’m certainly not from them. To have lived in a place, I have my own set of criteria:

  1. I lived there year-round.
  2. I kept all my shit there.
  3. I had my own place, with a permanent mailing address.

From ages 15 to 22, I had no such place in my life. My shit was all over the place. I was a man without a country. THE PALE RIDER.

Andrew:

If you were transported back in time 300 years what would be the most valuable object you own? A car is probably useful just because of the metal but, as a car, it’s useless without gas.

That it is. Same goes with my phone, my TV, my Nespresso maker, my hearing aid and cochlear implant processor (oh shit), and such and such. I could go to the 1722 World’s Fair in Antwerp, put all of that crap on display, call it “the way of the future,” and then have 500 Belgians throw waffles at me and then ask me what the fuck “seed money” is. So yeah, all of those modern accessories are of no use in pre-industrial times. Let me look around my immediate vicinity, right now, to glean what would truly be of use to me in that situation.

My wife’s jewelry. Sorry, honey. Daddy needs to go to Ye Olde Pawn Shoppe.

A big knife. I don’t actually own a gun, otherwise I would have instantly put that here. Instead, I’d have to bring along our Ikea chef’s knife to both protect myself AND to dice parsnips in a pinch. Very handy.

My mattress. Tough to carry, but you’ve seen old beds, right? I’ve been to many museums/historical societies with houses and rooms were preserved just as they were. None of the beds have EVER looked comfortable. It’s either a bed of straw, or a mattress thinner than a college brochure. Fucking awful. No wonder there was even MORE war back in those days. Everyone was so cranky from sleeping poorly. Not me, though. I’d stuff my Beautyrest into the trunk of my DeLorean and sleep my way through oppressive British taxation.

A lighter. They didn’t have lighters in 1722, right? To make fire, you had to kill a whale first. That’s what books taught me. If I brought a basic wand lighter with me—the long one, not a cigarette lighter—I’d be a GOD. People would accuse me of sorcery, and I’d do very little to disabuse them of that idea.

My recliner and my fleece blankets. As you can see, comfort is my utmost priority. This would especially be true if I were sent back 300 years, where life essentially resembled today’s world if there were a nuclear holocaust. All I would want is sleep. Can’t do that without my trusted chair and some kick-ass fleece blankets. When I was younger, all we had were old brown blankets with the consistency of sandpaper. In fact, my parents STILL don’t have decent couch blankets at their house. It’s a problem. I wanna buy them new blankets for Christmas as a hint, but my mom catches on quick to that sort of thing. There’s an old Camp Deerhorn blanket of mine tucked away upstairs there and that’s about the best I can do at the moment. I already know I’m gonna get a text message from Mom about this entry. Sorry, Mom.

A lot of toilet paper. Indoor plumbing didn’t actually exist in America until the mid-1800s. If you had to take a dump, you had to light a candle, walk outside to the outhouse, shit down a hole, and then wipe yourself with a piece of bark. I can’t do any of that. I am not a hardy fellow. I need Cottonelle. Also…

A towel. And my robe!

Ibuprofen. Did you know Advil didn’t exist in 1722? I didn’t (I did). If you had chronic pain back then, you just drank yourself to death. Lucky for me, I stocked up on generic ibuprofen at the store two days ago, so that’s all coming with me. [Prescription medication ad voice] I’m not letting sciatica get in the way of MY life.

But of course, I now must to include what would truly be the most valuable thing I’d own if I were thrown back in time…

My dog. If I can’t bring my wife and kids with me, then the dog rides shotgun. He’s good company. He hates strangers. And he’ll do pretty much anything so long as I give him some cheese. Carter is the most valuable thing we own RIGHT NOW, and would also be so in the dark ages. I don’t even need the toilet paper. Just gimme my dog and I’ll wipe my ass with the Articles of Confederation.

Matt:

Have you considered giving up your favorite football team and just rooting for and following your favorite player(s)? That’s how I have treated the NBA since Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls and it’s gone just fine for me.

I can do that in the NBA, although that method will be put to the test now that the Timberwolves are, like, fairly watchable. I tune into the NBA playoffs and my rooting interests become fluid based on which players have earned my affection (Deandre Ayton) and which have earned my scorn (James Harden). Same deal for me in soccer, because I came to that sport too late to cultivate loyalty toward any one team.

But I’ve been a football fan for too long, and I’m too invested in my own idiot team, to switch to that more transient genre of fandom. It’s like waiting an hour for a table at a restaurant and not leaving because you’ve already invested so much time, and you know a table will become free the instant you leave. I have to see this through. I have to sink even more money into this goddamn lemon. It makes me happy. (It makes me angsty and miserable.)

On a related note:

Bill:

How much mayo would you eat to guarantee the Vikings trade Kirk Cousins? I’m not proposing you eat spoonfuls alone. You can have it with something. But what volume are you willing to ingest to make this happen?

Quite a bit. If I’m not allowed to use it as a baking ingredient, I’d probably put a shitload of curry powder in that mayo and then make some curry chicken salad. It’s the only way I can eat mayo without gagging, but I’d eat a small bottle of it to rid myself of the king of sunken costs.

That no-trade clause will haunt me until I die. Easily the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.

Alex:

After years of debating, I finally made the decision to give up drinking last week. Quite honestly, I can’t deal with the hangover anxiety and depression anymore, and moderation isn’t my thing. The big problem now is that I have a bachelor party for a friend in New Orleans in a few weeks, so it’s too late to back out and realistically get my money back, so I’m going to go. I know you’ve written about this before, but the question for you is how to navigate a New Orleans bachelor party without getting mega drunk?

Alex, you came to the right place. Because I too went a bachelor party in New Orleans after I had quit drinking. I had also lost part of my sense of taste after getting ear surgery (long story; buy it). Here is where I confess that I bought myself some leafy greenery to make up for the loss of alcohol. But I also did plenty of shit while dead sober and had a great time. Namely, I ate. I ate beignets and sandwiches and bread pudding and 5,000 other things. Even with only half my taste buds working, I was still able to enjoy the broad spectrum of culinary offerings that New Orleans has to offer, so much so that I can’t wait to go back again.

But the food was only part of it. I strolled around New Orleans all morning and afternoon, when the tourist density was at a relative minimum. I didn’t even have to watch out for puddles of barf. I checked out all of the shops and galleries. I bought art from a street vendor. I wandered into St. Louis Cathedral and looked around in both reverence and curiosity. Not once during that trip did I feel like being green and sober was a detriment to the proceedings. Everyone else drank, of course. But I was happy they got to indulge. Everyone should get to do what they enjoy doing, especially in that town. I didn’t even go to a strip club, but that’s not stopping any of you from doing so, beer or no beer.

Back when I drank, I had a very hard time picturing life without alcohol. That was easily the biggest obstacle that alcohol presented to me: the idea that without it, the best part of my life would be over. Nothing would be fun anymore. I would walk into any party knowing I wasn’t having as good of a time as everyone else. Everything I did for pleasure would have an asterisk next to it. Every sober person who says they’re having fun would be either lying to me or to themselves. That’s how I saw all of that. None of it was true. I have gone to parties dead sober. I have gone to fancy dinners while sober. I have DANCED while sober. In none of those cases did my abstinence ruin the evening. Sometimes my lack of hearing did, but that’s nothing a half-bottle of whisky is gonna cure.

This wasn’t an instant transformation, mind you. I had to learn to live without booze. Same way I had to learn with being deaf. But I adjusted, settled into my new existence, and now I don’t even think about that shit anymore. I don’t resent, envy, or chastise those who drink. It wouldn’t do me any good. I can’t guarantee that Alex here will have the transition that I had, but I can say that life really DOES get better for many people who stop drinking. It’s still joyous. It’s still fun. And the bread pudding in New Orleans still tastes just as good.

HALFTIME!

Jared:

I live in Texas and we are prone to some pretty aggressive hail storms. We had a particularly bad one last week and starting the next morning at 7am, I have had roofing solicitors come by my house every hour to offer roofing inspections. After the 50th time my doorbell rang, I blew up at the salesperson. Was I within my right to tell them to get lost, or did I just take out my anger on a poor unsuspecting soul?

The latter. I understand your frustration, and I’m sure that salesperson was already used to getting yelled at. You know, like Mormons are used to it. But yeah, you probably picked the wrong target for your ire. Maybe you yelled at some independent roof guy who’s down on his luck and has no choice but to seize on an opportunity when presented with one, in which case it’s still better to err on the side of politeness (unless the guy is an absolute cock). But, more likely, the guy at your door is there because his boss told him to be.

This is by design, of course. On a much larger scale than local roofers, modern industry consists of the people at the top who make all the money, the consumers they profit off of, and then a series of hapless buffer people who are all paid to absorb customer rage so that none of it reaches the big guns or affects how they do business. If you’ve ever called any customer service line at any time—and you have—you know this business model intimately. That’s why, if you have any problem with this column, or with Defector.com in general, we’ve hired a third-party call center out of Budapest to handle your grievances. His name is Domokos and, due to high call volume, you may have longer wait times to reach him. Just don’t bother me with your horseshit. I’ve got a lunch date. Hands are tied! Sorry!

I have yelled at my fair share of customer reps over the years. I have even done so while prefacing it with a “I know this isn’t your fault personally, BUT…” It took me a very long time to understand how the food chain was organized, and then even longer to accept that I could do nothing to change it. They don’t teach you this shit when you buy a product, because of course they don’t. You’re not SUPPOSED to learn it. You’re supposed to call for support, wait 76 minutes to get a real person on the other end of the line, and then UNLOAD years of misdirected anger onto that poor soul. Then you hang up with nothing resolved, they go home to have a nervous breakdown, and you get an email asking you to rate your experience with the support line. Everybody wins.

Maybe one day, there will be some kind of “dealing with capitalism” branch of the American education system. It’ll be run by Amazon.

Evan:

My wife never locks the door behind her when she leaves. Is she trying to get me murdered?

Yes.

Jeff:

One of the other dads from my kid’s youth soccer team is a major league pitcher (not a superstar, but recognizable to the knowledgeable fan). What’s the protocol for interaction/introduction without being lame? For context, no one else besides me seems to have recognized him so far.

Just interact with him the way you would any other parent on the team. That’s what he’d like best, and that’s also the most comfortable thing for you, the mildly starstruck fellow dad. Talk to him as if you don’t even know he’s a ballplayer. If he doesn’t bring it up himself during the course of small talk, you shut up about it. If he does bring it up, you amiably tell him, “I thought I might have recognized you.” There. The secret’s out, but still just between the two of you. And then, because he’s an MLB pitcher, he invites you out to his ranch to shoot at cardboard cutouts of Obama, and THAT is when shit gets awkward.

The other option is you just never talk to the guy at all. That’s my sports parent move. I know soccer parents who fucking PARTY with other soccer parents. They get together after games and drink beer and eat barbecue and all sorts of fun, normal shit. I do none of that. I’m as awkward at these games as I am at the bus stop. I make pleasantries, then I find a distant corner of the field to stand, and then I watch the game in TOTAL silence. The kids may think I’m actually a scout for Wolverhampton.

John:

CNN has become near unwatchable. I was part of the group hoping that CNN would make a return to its hard news beginnings and move away from the personality/opinion programming it is now. Then CNN goes and hires Chris Licht to take over. How is the guy known for producing Stephen Colbert’s CBS show and CBS’s morning news, and who played a key role in forcing Morning Joe down our throats, supposed to be the guy who rights the ship at CNN? Am I just an old man shouting at clouds in my desire for an actual news network?

You are, although as I’ve noted before, the “Old Man Yells At Cloud” joke is itself so old that only old people use it. Anyway, yes you were naive to think that CNN would pivot back to Actual Journalism after it needed YEARS just to fire Chris Cuomo, and then to fire the guy who fucked his colleague AND covered for Chris Cuomo on the side. Actual journalism is a costly investment that has, over the past two decades, proven far less profitable than inviting Rahm Emanuel onto your show to tell the audience why Ilhan Omar is the REAL threat to liberal voters and not their local police department. Potato-ass Jeff Zucker knew this, which is why CNN kept him around for so long.

This is true across pretty much every network. I know Fox is the final boss when it comes to corrosive entertainment disguised as news, but they’re hardly alone. All the major broadcast networks have spent this entire century closing foreign bureaus. ESPN struck gold with PTI and replicated that formula across its entire broadcasting schedule. MSNBC is a Lis Smith Twitter thread that’s been animated by a lightning storm. Shouting is cheap is and it makes money. Take it from me, a professional shouter of things. I remember back at Deadspin, if I put a dateline at the top of one of my posts, it was instant death. No one gave a hearty shit about my field trip. Then I’d write a post complaining about a shitty Floyd Mayweather bout and a million people would read it.

I’ve never had acumen for which posts of mine will do good box office and which won’t, but I have found that people are more likely to consume Discourse About What Happened more than they are the What Happened part. They want takes, because having a take is a way of inserting yourself into any story from afar. Take that realization, add $50 billion and access to every television set in America, and you have the current media formula. There’s nothing you can do about it. There’s only one good news source left in this godforsaken country and baby, you’re reading it.

So don’t expect a face turn from CNN anytime soon. I didn’t even like that fucking place when it was GOOD. Speaking of things that have no chance of ever happening…

Joe:

Can we stop getting Silicon Valley startup bro origin stories already?

We’ve only just begun. And why wouldn’t Hollywood exploit these stories? They’re juicy as shit! Do you know how much I’d rather watch something like The Dropout and not another biopic executive produced by the very person it chronicles? It’s not even a fucking contest. I don’t wanna watch a fucking glorified PR release. I want to watch arrogant people get their shit ruined, even if the execution isn’t perfect. The Social Network is still one of the best movies I’ve seen this century. I have no problem with Hollywood attempting to replicate its formula.

The only cloud I will raise my fist at is WeCrashed. I have not seen WeCrashed, but when I saw the name of that miniseries revealed at the end of the trailer, I laughed out loud. I’m still not over it. How did you score two Oscar winners to star in that show and then slap THAT name on it? Fucking dying.

Doug:

Is it safe to assume that the average person has masturbated more times than he or she has had sex (including oral, hand stuff, etc). If this is true, what’s a normal and healthy ratio of the number of times you use the self-checkout as opposed to going to the cashier? 3:1? 5:1? And how much does it vary over the course of a lifetime? My wife gave birth 10 months ago, so my ratio is starting to look like a Bari Weiss tweet. 

LOL if my ratio was 5:1 I’d be Wilt Chamberlain, kiddo.

Casey:

What is the most despised and despicable facet of your everyday cold? I truly just hate the incessant coughing on the tail end of it, even if by most measures I feel better. As a people pleaser, I feel immense judgment of sounding like I belong in a sanitarium at work (even when no longer contagious), and get anxiety over waking up my wife or kids with nighttime hacking. 

Casey nailed it. It’s not the coughing, but the judgment that comes along with it. And I’m not even talking about that with COVID in mind. Even before the pandemic, I had family members staring daggers at me because I—a victim!—couldn’t stop coughing. Fuck do you people want me to do? I already drank a gallon of tea with 58 cough drops melted into it. I had a teaspoon of honey. I drank water. I took a Mucinex. Leave me the fuck alone!

(This is where I should note that my wife has seasonal allergies and that I absolutely play the hypocrite and get audibly exasperated when she goes on an endless sneezing jag that she, too, cannot help.)

Also, the constant nasal drip gets real old after the first morning of it. Every time I finish off a box of Puffs, I feel like God is sending me a message. The prick.

Email of the week!

Anonymous:

I guess I’ll cut right to the chase: I shit in my wife’s clothes hamper. First, some background information. My wife and I keep our dirty clothes in separate clothes hampers. Not that we’re worried about cross-contaminating our clothes with each other’s cooties, but we’re both particular in our own ways about how we do laundry, so it’s just easier to keep things separate. Second, I’ve been using a Weight Watchers-like program to lose weight (I do recommend it if you’re looking to lose some weight, but there are, as I’ll get into, some unintended consequences), which assigns points to foods based on things like protein, carbs, and fiber.

Earlier in the week in question, I found these high-fiber tortillas that were only worth 1 point a piece. I figured I could dunk these in salsa for a snack and responsibly scratch the chips and salsa itch. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but one tortilla has something like 30% of your recommended daily intake of fiber. On the day in question, I had like 8 of these tortillas over the course of the day.

On the night in question, I stayed up late watching The Sopranos, which always makes me want to drink. As soon as I see Tony pour himself a Johnnie Walker in the back of the Bing, I’m doing the same. So, about midnight, after maybe 3 episodes and twice as many scotches, I stagger off to bed.

I guess because I got drunk I missed out on all of the warning signs that I’d done fucked up real good. The fact that I’d been ripping a monumental amount of ass all night long must have escaped me. But either way, I woke up some time later on the floor of our bathroom. I’d had a shower. I started trying to put the pieces together to figure out why I’d had a shower, and then I noticed a pair of befouled boxers in the bathroom trash can. Huh. Then the vague memory of my bowels detonating comes back to me, except, this memory isn’t taking place on the can, it’s happening in our walk-in closet.

So, I quietly (the wife is still asleep) go check the walk in closet and all looks normal. Except it smells like the inside of a cadaver’s rectum. I look around, and, Drew, I’ve unloaded my bowels straight into my wife’s clothes hamper. And not just a nice, neat couple of logs, it looks like someone dumped a goddamn can of Hormel hot dog chili into it. Same color, same consistency. There’s no salvaging any of its contents.

Still decently drunk, I take the entire hamper out to our apartment’s dumpsters, leave it there, and go back to bed.

As best as I can figure, I must have awakened in the middle of the night with the sudden urge to shit. And since our walk-in closet is closer than our bathroom, I must have sensed that I was never gonna make it to the can, so I did a quick detour. Noticing that clothes hampers look vaguely like literal trash cans, and that her hamper was less full than mine, I must have sat down on hers and dumped out.

The next morning, my wife woke up, unaware that anything happened. The first thing I told her was that I owed her 3 pairs of athletic shorts, 2 new bras and a clothes hamper. I told her I’d tell her why, but that she shouldn’t expect it to make any sense and that I wouldn’t be able to give her a good reason.

To her enormous credit, she thought the whole thing was hilarious.

So I guess my question is this: when does this stop being hilarious? When do the jokes my wife makes about it get old? When does the razzing, the eating shit for this stop? I’d say a year, but Drew, we’re deep into year two now with no signs of this abating.

Never. It never stops being hilarious.