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Funbag

I Love My Freakshow Body Hairs

2:16 PM EST on January 17, 2023

Albert Foster/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

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 trains, football, pretzels, Larry Johnson, and more.

Your letters!

Joel:

A couple months back I noticed I have one extremely long hair growing out of my right forearm. Given its location, measuring it has been difficult, but I think it's about three inches long. Longer than my iPhone is wide. The rest of my arm hairs are like a centimeter or two long, so it's significantly longer than its peers. Needless to say, I think this is extremely badass. My wife, on the other hand, thinks it is gross and weird. Who is right? And what should I do with the hair? I offered to let her pluck it when the clock hit midnight on New Year's Eve, but she also thought that was gross and weird. Help! 

PICTURED: A hair

Oh, I love a good mutant hair. You got a nice spot for that one too, since it’s on your arm and you can play with it constantly: pulling it straight, staring at it, strangling small rodents with it, sending photos of it to famous bloggers, etc. Much better than spotting a mutant hair growing out of your eyebrow (that’s me) or your ear (me again) or your nose (me, sigh, again). No one’s gonna think you’re 50,000 years old just because of an arm hair. Tell your wife to stop hair-shaming you.

Because I love fussing over my own body’s imperfections. I love touching my scars, staring up close in the mirror at whiteheads, feeling the bump on my head where they fastened my cochlear implant to my skull, picking at scabs, and probing around a small ring of hair on my torso that, for years, I’ve believed to be a stillborn third nipple. I also like admiring how handsome I am, but the real gold is in all of the ugly shit. Can’t wait to be 70 and spend hours at a time exploring my skin tags.

Garrett:

I take Amtrak three to four days a week for work and school. I fucking love it! It's extremely convenient for my commute between Boston and Providence, plus it beats the hell out of being pissed off in a car for hours a day. How many other people do you think are like me and take Amtrak for their regular commute? Am I a gigantic outlier? Also, what are your thoughts on train travel more broadly? 

Taking the train is, without question, the nicest way to commute, but it’s still a commute. You’re still not home. You’re still surrounded by random strangers either talking too loud on the phone or giving the death stare to others who are. And Amtrak trains love to wobble. Turns every trip to the pisser into a carnival game.

More to the point, Amtrak is EXPENSIVE. Way too expensive. When I lived in New York, there were people who commuted there from Philadelphia every day by Amtrak and I was like how much money could you possibly be making to afford that? A single Amtrak ticket from D.C. to Penn Station costs more than a fucking plane ticket to the same destination. You have to have the time manipulation skills of Santa Claus to swing that long of a commute. But the Northeast Corridor, among other areas of this country, gives residents a case of Commuter Brain that manifests itself in jaw-dropping ways. Garrett here is lucky in that the Providence-Boston leg looks to be around a mere $350 a month, but that’s still thousands of dollars a year, and still cost-prohibitive to most people when it doesn’t have to be that way.

So it annoys both my wallet and my political instincts that train tickets cost that much here when our rail infrastructure is so, so shitty compared to pretty much every other developed country. We should have rail infrastructure like Asia or Europe. We should be actually building that hypothetical, nationwide high-speed rail system: the one with the cool map that I eye-bang just like everyone else does. We should have a train that goes from L.A. to San Francisco in two hours. We should have maglevs. We should have our own shinkansen bullet trains that blast you from D.C. to Boston with zero stops. And all of it should be dirt cheap. All of it COULD be dirt cheap. Instead, we have fake hyperloops and calcified senators voting down more rail funding because it’s in their little Who’s Gonna Pay For It? basket, along with roughly 7,000 other great things. We only pay for kick-ass future shit if we can use to kill other people.

I love trains. It’s in my blood. My dad worked for the B&O Railroad and still collects antique timetables. My older son was once so into trains that he’d ask me to take him railfanning on weekends. We’d drive to New Carrollton just to watch trains go by on the platform, that’s how much he loved those things. He’s well out of his train phase now, but we’ll still catch him eyeing passing trains when he thinks we aren’t looking. Us Magary men are right to love trains, because they’re majestic and fun, and they represent a form of travel that’s PROVEN to work when a nation actually gives a fuck about it instead of burning money on some bad-faith Elon Musk wet dream. Gimme more trains and make them affordable, or go burn in hell.

Peter:

You ever been running with tears streaming down your face listening to “tryouts” from the Rudy soundtrack? Me neither.

I’ve never worked out to that soundtrack. I’ve listened it while drunk/high/grieving and gotten choked up, but I’ve never listened to classical music while exercising, save for this monster track from Beethoven. When Beethoven felt like it, he could make you wanna run barefoot through a minefield.

Jeff:

In the early 90s, I was a kid and prone to advertising propaganda. My last memory of Larry “Grandmama” Johnson was of him hitting a three-and-one some time on the Knicks run to the 1999 Finals (I’m not even sure if this is real or imagined at this point). So, was Larry Johnson a good basketball player?

First off, you didn’t imagine that and-one. That really happened, and it kicked ass. Secondly, yes: Larry Johnson was a good basketball player; often a very good one. He never won an NBA title, and he never was quite as good as fans like me assumed he’d be after his run at UNLV, but he’s was still a rock-solid pro for an entire decade. I wish he’d averaged 40 points and 20 rebounds his entire career, but then I have a lot of exorbitant wishes when it comes to athletes.

One last thing: Larry Johnson made an insane amount of money while he was in the NBA, and that can hurt your legacy in ways you don’t deserve. I’m like any other fan where I have a loose set of criteria that an athlete has to meet in order to “earn” their contract, and then I silently judge them on whether or not they fulfilled those criteria. Larry Johnson got judged a LOT for making bank and never sniffing a title. It’s like how Bobby Bonilla is now remembered for his weird Mets contract instead of for being Bobby Bonilla. It used to be about the SPORTS, man. Now people care about money, and that is so crass to me.

[looking at my last 401k earning statement and demanding Wall Street turn those machines back on]

Amy:

I don't follow college football at all, but I live near the high school where a passel of Mannings played as kids. As a result, I have some attention to Arch Manning's budding career. There was a ton of local fawning hoo-hah the other day about this being Arch's last day of high school before heading to Texas. I was confused, because it was December. That's when I learned that more and more high school recruits are ditching the second half of their senior years to enter college early. From the standpoint of the kid and his high powered sports family, this feels like a football dream come true. But as the parent of a teen myself, from a maturity and ego standpoint, this seems like a terrible idea. What's your take on football recruits ditching the end of high school and starting college early?

It’s OK with me. I don’t expect Arch Manning, or any other five-star recruit, to be in high school to LEARN shit. Class just gets in the way for those guys, and god knows what kind of Bishop Sycamore-ass high schools they go to anyway.

Also, this kinda thing isn’t just the domain of IMG Academy–type sports prodigies anymore. My daughter has a friend who’s graduating from high school a year early because she took so many college credit courses and did well on them. That’s not uncommon now, and it’s not necessarily bad. I grew up in an entirely different educational system. My kids are all much smarter at the respective ages than I was at those same ages. My daughter is studying things that I had to wait until college to tackle. My son is doing likewise with middle school curriculum that would have given me fits as a high schooler. If they have the ability and the resources to move ahead of their peers, I don’t wanna deny them that (nor deny myself a chance to brag about how advanced they are). They’re still kids; they’re gonna have their issues and parents like me are always gonna have to be mindful that they’re not always as mature as they seem. But it’s hard to hold them back. It’s not that I want them to go to Harvard and become brain surgeons or any of that hackneyed, Tiger Mom shit. I just want them to be as smart as they can be and want to be, because that’ll give them purpose and make them happier.

Plus, kids in 2023 have an entire online social life they can take advantage of if their analog social lives are lagging behind. I didn’t have that. I skipped third grade when I was a kid, and definitely had adjustment issues that lasted until … well until I graduated from college. If the popular internet had existed back then, maybe I wouldn’t have felt like such a baby. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if I had no friends at school because I could make friends with kids from literally every other school as a fallback option (my daughter fell into crew of friends online, during virtual schooling; most of them go to the next high school over). Maybe I would have been all right, like Arch Manning probably will be. No shortage of friends waiting for that little fucker.

HALFTIME!

Michael:

Pretzel pieces are unexpectedly garbage, right? The idea of honey mustard or other seasoned pretzel bits sounds irresistible, but they fail to deliver consistently compared to their fully fledged brethren. Give me a soft pretzel, pretzel rod, or simply salted OG pretzel twist any day over the piece version (shoutout here to Snyder’s butter snaps). Let simplicity reign in pretzeldom, or are you on team seasoned to hell and unnecessary?

I’m team seasoning for hard pretzels. I know why Snyder’s sells those pretzels pieces. Someone in their boardroom figured out that, if they just took all the loose scraps off the factory floor and napalmed them with 50 pounds of cheddar seasoning, they could turn a hefty profit. It’s insidious, and eating those pieces is a goddamn mess, but they also taste DELICIOUS. Mmmmm … artificiality. By comparison, a regular hard pretzel is worthless. Snack mix filler. I’m getting nothing for my calorie with those bland fuckers, and they have a LOT of calories. You have to dip them just to make them taste like something, and that’s even more goddamn calories I have to bank. But gimme pretzels that think they’re Cheetos and I’m a happy boy.

Soft pretzels are another matter, because I’m married to a half-German woman who has turned me into a soft pretzel snob. I won’t get a soft pretzel at the ballpark, or from a sidewalk vendor in New York. I need my soft pretzel to be Bavarian, and then I butter it up like it’s a baguette. That’s when a pretzel justifies its existence for me. This has been Pretzel Chat with Drew. Join us next week when we answer the question: Does an Auntie Anne’s pretzel count as a meal? My 10-year-old seems to think so.

Alex:

I know a Boardwalk Empire question is wildly outdated, but you mentioned you're watching it and I just finished it. Is it one of the most underwatched shows of all time? It seems to have been critically well-regarded, but I don't get the sense it was ever as popular as a lot of other prestige dramas, despite having incredible writing, acting, sets, costumes, etc. Maybe it came too soon after The Sopranos and was unfairly compared to it, or maybe it's too dark, even by HBO crime drama standards. What's your take on this? 

HBO doesn’t release viewership stats as far as I know, but I doubt Boardwalk Empire was all that neglected by subscribers. It was nominated for 57 Emmys and won 20 of them. Not exactly low-profile shit. It definitely suffered from existing in the shadow of The Sopranos (much of that show’s behind-the-camera talent worked on this one as well), but you could say that about an entire decade’s worth of prestige dramas. Taken on its own, Boardwalk is still pretty fucking good. If it has a fatal flaw, it’s that its main character is also its least interesting one, but they got Steve Buscemi to play him, and I’ll never get tired of Steve Buscemi looking annoyed at all the other characters on screen.

Otherwise though, Boardwalk gave me the maximum amount of savage beatings and olde-timey flophouse nudity in every episode. A perfect dad show: one recommended to me, in person, by fellow dad Snoop Dogg. Also, I’ll watch any show/movie that accurately (kinda?) depicts early 20th century America as the drunken trainwreck that it was. Now, I have to leave this question before I get too Ringer-y about it, but let me just list my favorite characters from the show, in no particular order:

  • Rothstein (“Do you think I entered into this arrangement because I value your companionship? You are a convenience, of geography and supply. You promised a quantity and a price. You have failed to deliver. And now, owing to your inability to manage your affairs in New Jersey, a state I have little interest in or affection for, you expect me to start a war? In New York? Where things actually matter?”)
  • Richard Harrow
  • Esther Randolph
  • Capone
  • Lansky
  • Luciano
  • Dr. Narcisse
  • Purnsley
  • Means

That last character is played by Stephen Root, who’s so good in Boardwalk Empire (and as a bit player, he isn’t even listed in the opening credits) that I now have a yearly Stephen Root quota that I have to fill no matter where I source my Root from.

Todd:

You often remind us that you're "deaf" now. But your implants do help you hear, yes? What does it sound like when your wife speaks with you now? Are any sounds still pleasing? Is music still enjoyable at all? How does it compare to Sound of Metal? I really felt for Riz Ahmed in that movie and, speaking as a guy who only needs a single hearing aid, I feel for you as well.

I play the deaf card an awful lot here, it’s true. But all of my hearing tech (an aid on my left ear, cochlear implant on my right) helps considerably, to the point where you really wouldn’t notice I was deaf unless I told you … or unless you saw the implant stuck to my head. That might clue you in. Otherwise I do fine talking to people, and I can hear MOST things. My wife sounds like my wife. My kids sound like my kids. No one sounds like Stephen Hawking just because I have a cochlear implant. The tech doesn’t work that way. It clarifies sound; it doesn’t alchemize it into other sound.

Where my hearing loss shows up is in crowds and other noisy environments where I can’t hear THROUGH the noise and make out what people are saying. As you can imagine, that was a bit of a problem when I went to the Vikings-Giants game on Sunday. Quite a loud stadium. I also get hearing fatigue in those same environments and have to take “sound breaks” so that I can rest my overloaded brain before heading back into a restaurant etc. My kids have picked up on this habit and now demand to take sound breaks of their own, which is TOTAL bullshit. I’m the disabled one, children. That is a prescription break I’m taking to step outside and toke up without anyone seeing. You stay seated or else I’m docking your allowance.

Patrick:

About a year ago, my family moved into our current home. It had a lot of things we needed, including an attached garage. The only catch was that there is no door between the house and the garage, so whenever we needed to access the garage we have to go out the front door and around the front walkway to the garage (I should note that we live an hour outside of Toronto, so for five months of the year I have to bundle up in layers just to take an empty Amazon box to the recycling bin). I didn't think this would bother me but one year later, if I had known this would annoy me as much as it does, I wouldn't have agreed to buy the house. Do you have any "house hang-ups" of your own where any future house must have a particular feature?

I’m not gonna ride you too hard about this Patrick, but you live in Canada, man. You had to know that having to leave your house to get into the garage would suck balls in the wintertime. I miss a lot of details whenever I make a big purchase (this new laptop I bought has no keyboard wtf), but the garage thing is absolutely something I would’ve spotted on the house tour. My dad instincts would have said this is a problem and I would’ve raised a fuss. And then we would have purchased a house that has no closets in it. I have priorities, and they almost always align with matters concerning temperature, food, comfort, and using the bathroom.

To that end, I’ve lived in our house for nearly 20 years, but when we finally move out and retire to SoCal, here’s what I will require of whatever rock’n’roll house we end up buying:

  • Roomy kitchen
  • Lawn
  • Ample number of bathrooms
  • TV room big enough for my recliner and a Fuck You sectional
  • Showers that can accommodate my height and do not inexplicably run out of hot water
  • Conveniently located wall outlets (including ones for internet/cable)
  • Nice views
  • Central air
  • No highways in my backyard
  • Pleasant neighborhood, but the houses are far enough apart where I can ignore my neighbors if they suck ass
  • Regular, dependable trash pickup
  • Short walking distance from the master bedroom to the master toilet
  • A dumbwaiter (just for fun)
  • Attached garage and/or easy driveway parking

That last one is important. Our current house doesn’t have a garage, because we live in an area with relatively mild winters, making garages more of a luxury than a necessity. But there are some neighborhoods in this county where the houses don’t even have driveways. And I’m not talking about rowhouses or anything. These are standalone houses. I’ll try turning around in certain hoods and find myself stymied with every house I pass. I’d go fucking insane if my house had no driveway. Not a chance I’d miss that during the tour.

Evan:

I can’t shake the feeling that Gronk actually writes those commercials for Navy Federal Credit Union. They have major “people always laugh at my jokes because I’m big and hot” energy.

You could hire Tony Gilroy to write those spots and they’d still have that same energy because Gronk is a cheesy dipshit. I’m sure Gronk is a blast to hang out with, but he went to Arizona, man. He’s not gonna give you sharp line readings. I also doubt he can read or write.

Larry:

What would have to happen for the NFL to pause a season from a player safety standpoint?

Nothing would make the NFL do that. I’d like to say that threat to the safety of every player would make them put a season on ice, but football itself is already proven to BE that threat, and I just watched the NFL push through an entire season during the pre-vaccine stages of the pandemic. So they don’t give a shit. The only thing that would preempt an NFL season is a war conducted on American soil. That’s it, and even then the NFL would be happy to prove me wrong. Nukes would hit the West Coast and Roger Goodell would send every other team a bunch of #PrayForLA shirts before telling them to get back to work. And guess who’d still watch it? You guessed it: Ian Rapoport.

And me. I’d still watch it. It’s a nuclear holocaust. What else would I have to do with myself?

John:

Aliens land on Earth tomorrow we must send one representative to explain our planetary existence. Of course, we send Sir David Attenborough. But some dickhead alien asks to explain our human sports, why we play with these different balls and such. Who do we post up to explain?

Bob Costas. Joe Biden would 100 percent ask Bob Costas to do that job and I wouldn’t even complain. Who better to explain sports to the aliens than a professional broadcaster who possesses alien features of his own? You don’t wanna send a PODCASTER to do that job, or a diplomat, or a historian, or an analytics guru. You need someone who has a shitload of experience in explaining otherwise simple games to an audience of morons. Given that Mr. Rogers is currently dead, Costas is the most qualified person for the gig. James Cameron would serve as translator.

Email of the week!

John:

I recently moved from Nashville to the Maryland suburbs of DC (hi!), and one of the few things I'm going to miss about Nashville is gawking at the absurd football apparel, mostly college, that fellow dads wear around on Saturdays and Sundays. I'm all for rocking some team gear game days, but I simply can't comprehend the urge to drop $300 at the team shop so I can be decked out head to toe at the farmer's market. So my question for you is, which is worse: the guy who dresses like he's the Offensive Coordinator (technical fabric, maybe a short sleeve windbreaker, wraparound sunglasses, hat/visor) or the guy who dresses like he's a booster getting ready for a cocktail party with the coach (button-down shirt embroidered with the team logo, maybe a fleece vest also embroidered with the team logo, usually some kind of stupid haircut)?

Shit. I just bought a Vikings windbreaker. Makes me look like the team’s accountant, doesn’t it.

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