I Used To Be A Summer Crank
1:41 PM EDT on May 9, 2023
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 avocado stickers, shoelaces, babies at games, living in Cambodia, and more.
Weather is getting nicer 'round here, so my ice cream cravings are coming way more often. Since you got kids, I was wondering if there was a flavor that's more or less universally hated by children. Not some weird artisan shit; I'm talking about the average flavors you find in a grocery store. It's gotta be rum raisin, right? I've hated that flavor with a burning passion for as long as I can remember.
I’d have to actually buy some rum raisin ice cream to discern if my kids hate it or not, because they’ve never tried it. My daughter WORKS in an ice cream shop and has never tried it. I don’t think I’ve ever tried it myself, that’s how much of an old-man flavor rum raisin is. I’d probably like it; I’m not anti-raisin the way some people are. Anti-raisin people hate raisins as much as I hate mayonnaise, and I respect that. I don’t quite understand it, but that’s how mayo bullies feel about me.
Anyway, my answer to Leo is Neapolitan. Butter pecan is a close second (lots of kids hate nuts in anything). But Neapolitan ice cream is, by its very nature, designed to be unsatifying. Never enough of the flavor you want; too much of the flavors you don’t. Cue the Simpsons video:
Neapolitan ice cream is the ultimate mom purchase. “I thought the Neapolitan would have flavors ALL of you would enjoy!” No, mom. You are wrong. First of all, no one likes chocolate ice cream (not even my kids!), which makes Homer’s gripe up top strangely out of character. Secondly, if I want more than one flavor of ice cream, I’ll just take a scoops separate containers. In other words, BUY MORE FUCKING ICE CREAM. Freezer space isn’t that precious, dammit. It’ll all get eaten, I promise you.
Now, I’m gonna use Leo’s email as yet another cheap excuse to talk about what I really wanna talk about. The weather is indeed getting nicer (unless you live somewhere awful), which means that summer is coming. If you have kids, you know that this last month of the school year is when they REALLY start to drag ass. They’re sick as hell of being in school, and this year marks, for probably the first time, that I’m as sick of them being in school as they are of being in it. Normally, I’ve loved my kids being in school. Been a hard-ass about it for the entirety of my fatherhood. Suck it up; it’s just one more month; when I was a kid school was 45 months a year, etc. I wanted them to go to school because just you can’t just skip out on shit whenever you want (this is still true), but also because I wanted them out of the house. School time was me time. I still had to work during those hours, but my work is fun and school meant that I got to do that work in peace and quiet. I didn’t want these kids sitting around and harassing me all day with their bullshit, especially come August when I had to crank out 32 NFL team previews. This is why I hated summer, and said as much both here and over at Deadspin when we all worked there. I wanted school to be year-round, like it is in the weird states.
No longer. All of my kids are 11 or older, which means summer is no longer a burden. They can put on their own sunscreen. They can carry their own shit to the beach. They can figure out what to do with themselves if they’re bored. They’re fun to be around, only they won’t be around much longer. Next year is the last year we’ll have all three kids in the house, so I have to take whatever time left I can get. So I am no longer a summer crank. I can’t fucking WAIT for these kids to get out of school and hang at the house with my wife and me. I love summer again and it feels great. It’ll be hot as balls and everyone will laugh at me for failing to rub my sunblock all the way in, but fuck it. I’m gonna drink lots of near beer and ride my bike and go to the beach and eat whole trays of lemon bars. Bring it the fuck on.
My wife and I share avocados all the time, so I try to find the perfect cut to split the avocado into equal halves. But somehow, the stupid little sticker is ALWAYS IN THE FUCKING WAY! Are these stickers intentionally being put in some avocado equilibrium spot, or am I losing my mind and just perceiving them to be?
The latter. I’m not siding with Big Avocado here. I prefer you to them, but I don’t think they intentionally place their stickers along the Prime Avocado Meridian to make cutting their product more difficult. That would cost them extra money and be stupid. Those stickers are slapped on the fruit at random, and you only think they’re always in the way of your knife because you only NOTICE the sticker when it is. It’s 100 percent perception. If it’s not in your way, you forget the cutting process entirely. You might not even remember that you had an avocado.
I’m the same way. If I cut an avocado and hit a sticker blockade; or I try to extract the pit and it suddenly pops out and goes flying across the kitchen floor; or if I forget to pull out the stem nub before incising; or if it gets ripe too fast (they all get ripe too fast, even if you do the brown bag trick); I’m like THIS FUCKING AVOCADO. FROM NOW ON I’M JUST GONNA BUY MY GUAC READY-MADE! Then I see a bag of Haases on sale at Giant and I’m like OH AVOCADO, I CAN LEVER LEAVE YOU. It’s a complicated relationship; I may write a novel about it. It’ll win a National Book Award.
When I was a kid (I'm 60) I remember having to replace shoelaces on my shoes and sneakers pretty regularly because they’d wear out. Now, I can't remember the last time I've had to replace a pair of shoelaces. Have we perfected shoelaces?
My friend, we have not. And thank you for opening the door for '90s standup comedian Drew to walk in and start making shoelace gags. Like Dennis, I haven’t had my shoelaces wear out since I was in high school; maybe even longer ago than that. HOWEVAH, I still have some petty complaints. The reason shoelaces don’t fray anymore is that they’re made of synthetic fabrics, which are stronger but also very slippery. That means your shoelaces can come untied more easily, so I always have to double-knot my sneakers like I’m still in fucking kindergarten. It’s not a strong look. Is that on me for always wearing Asics and not actual grown-up shoes, the kind one might find at Cole Haan? No, because I’ve gotten slippery Cole Haan laces too, so WHO ARE THE LACE WIZARDS WHO CAME UP WITH THESE THINGS?
Secondly, modern sneakers are all fucked up with their lacing. New ones often come out of the box laced inside-out, so then I have to re-lace them all over again. If that’s for security or whatever, I don’t care. It irritates me. And then there are other shoes where the laces are almost a garnish. My son’s soccer cleats are essentially slip-on cleats. They have a snug ankle cuff and no tongue. But they still have laces on top, which I guess help tighten the shoe but demote the lace’s position to Vice President Of Security rather than Chief Security Officer of the shoe. WHAT’S THE DEAL THERE, NIKE?!
It’s a very weird thing to turn 40 and go from being someone who laughs at old people for talking about how Things Are Different These Days to BEING one of those old people. I’ve complained about sports bottles for years and only sorted out THIS year that kids today carry them around, stickers and all, as a personal statement. I notice when old stores go missing and will always point it out when I drive past whatever has replaced them. I couldn’t name five movie stars under the age of 30 if you asked me, and one of my answers would probably be “Leonardo DiCaprio?” I always knew I was gonna get older, and I always knew HOW I was gonna get older. Yet somehow, this is all surprising to me. That’s when you know you’re having a midlife crisis, baby.
God knows what the fuck else is coming down the pike. In 30 years I’m gonna be a registered Republican and it’ll somehow make absolute, perfect sense to me. Braden DeSantis will run for President on a platform of denying shoes to gay people and I’ll be like, “This kid gets it. Gays in Skechers are the reason why we have so much crime!”
Do you think if an absolute all-time hit was released today, it would still be popular? If someone dropped a song like "Yesterday" or "Just the Two of Us" out of nowhere, could it recreate, or at least approximate, its original success?
No. If the Beatles or Rolling Stones formed today and released the exact same catalogs they released in their heyday, they’d be critically lauded (except by Pitchfork) and they’d sell a grand total of 500,000 albums each. Not only has the culture’s taste in music has changed, with rock music left by the wayside in the process, but the distribution model is such now that no single artist can be as dominant as The Beatles/Stones/Elvis/Michael/Whitney/Dre/Bruce once were. Record stores no longer exist, genres have expanded, terrestrial radio and MTV no longer dictate what Americans listen to, and everyone with a phone has access to every recorded artist in history at their fingertips. The musical timeline has flattened. It doesn’t matter if you like new music, or if you like some obscure '80s song that just got a billion downloads because it was featured on the season finale of Yellowstone. The landscape is far too diffuse and the competition is too broad for another Nirvana to come along and change the world with their shit, even if they deserve to.
I spent a long time waiting for such an artist to pop up over the horizon. I used to listen to new rock bands like The Struts and think to myself This deserves to go to number one for 16 straight weeks. I used to hope for another juggernaut, and the closest I got was Kanye, who turned out to be a deranged prick. Otherwise, nothing. This is how it is now, and I’ve come to terms with that more readily than I have the evolution of shoelaces. I don’t mind an even playing field. If the New Beatles came along today and only I liked them, that would be enough. I don’t need my favorite bands to take over the world anymore. That would just make their concert ticket prices higher, and also harder to get. You’re telling me I gotta plunk down $200 just to watch Luke Spiller from the nosebleeds at Nationals Park? That’s not optimal.
Let’s say a friend/acquaintance gets a few seats for a game through work (i.e. the friend didn’t pay for them; they just used the company’s tickets because no one else needed them that day). What is the appropriate thank you? If you buy the first round of beers, and then they buy the next, it’s a net zero. Should you buy two rounds of beers? Or because the guy didn’t pay at all, it’s just a wash and people shouldn’t expect any recompense?
I buy them the first two rounds, or I buy all the food. I know they didn’t pay for the tickets, but they still invited me, and those concession items are still (barely) less than the cost of the ticket itself, so I come out in the metaphorical black in the end. Good manners don’t have to make pure fiscal sense.
Now, the way I go about this is a standard issue WASP move. We get to the stadium, I tell my friend, “Hey man, drinks on me.” I buy those first two rounds, or two baskets of shitty chicken tenders, and then my friend will INSIST that he start paying for shit. And then I go, “Oh no no, it’s not right.” And then he goes, “No please, I didn’t even for pay for these tickets! Insperity did!” And then I go, “Oh OK, I suppose that’s fine.” I’m very good with the whole restaurant check give-and-take already. This is just a sports-infused version of it.
By the way, none of this applies if the game you’re going to is SHITTY. If you hoofed it to an A’s-Royals game with your boy, you did him a fucking favor. He should pay for everything, even your parking.
In a unisex bathroom, isn't the proper etiquette to leave the seat up because it prevents other men from peeing on the seat? If yes, should this be the default rule for home bathrooms?
Damn, we went right back to the '90s standup tropes again. Don’t try to play the reverse psychology sensitive guy with me, Mikey boy. Lift the seat up to piss, and then put the seat back down so that unsuspecting ladies don’t fall into toilet and get sucked down into the plumbing, Mark Renton–style. It’s the easiest bit of chivalry you can ever learn.
What do you think is the appropriate age to start taking kids to sporting events, and does the type of sporting event matter? We took our three-year-old son to a college football game last year and it went mostly well. He was distracted by the loud noises and could be tempted to sit down if I let him hold the giant pretzel and cheese purchased for him. Now with baseball season approaching, we want to pull him out of preschool for the day and take him to a ballgame, but realistically I think I'm essentially shooting myself in the foot if I believe that his behavior at one event means he will do well at another, particularly one like baseball.
Do you mean “appropriate,” as in whether or not it’s considerate to other fans to bring the kid? Because you’ve met other sports fans at a game. You know that a baby is usually the BEST behaved person at one, Mat Ishbia included. Even when your kid is crying and shitting their parents and grabbing your popcorn and throwing it at old people, their misbehavior isn’t gonna be an aberration. So, in the etiquette sense, there’s no “appropriate” age to start taking your kid to a game.
But I don’t think that’s what you’re asking. What you’re asking is, “At what age can I bring a kid to a game and have it actually be an enjoyable experience?” And the answer to that is about eight years old. I’ve taken kids younger than that to a Nationals game. I did not enjoy myself. All the kids wanted to do was fuck around in the stadium’s designated jungle gym, the same one you find at any McDonald’s PlayPlace. When I took them to the family bathroom, someone had taken a shit directly onto the seat. They wanted to leave after like two innings. And I couldn’t drink, because I had to drive. Rough afternoon for Drewbear. So when I’m watching a game on TV and I see little kids in the stands—often in primetime!—my first thought is that those parents are either having a miserable time, are insanely drunk, or are insanely drunk but STILL miserable. Probably that last one. And then I go awww that’s cute.
When your kids DO turn the right age though, it gets super fun. They stay for the entire game. They watch the game, instead of constantly nagging you for cotton candy. And you get to experience the whole, sepia-toned, Hey Dad wanna have a catch? bonding moment that you always hear about. I took my son to a PSG home game against Strasbourg (not Stephen) right after Christmas. Kylian Mbappe scored the game-winning pen in stoppage time. Real storybook shit. Worth every penny. Worth all of the BAD games I’ve taken my children to when they were too small to appreciate them.
Then I bought two PSG jerseys for a zillion dollars. The boy never wears them. In fact, the other day he asked if we could sell them. Fine, boy. Have it your way. But I get that resale money, not you.
Assuming the A's leave Oakland, who do I root for? Surely not the Las Vegas A's, right? But here are my options in reality… The San Francisco Giants, who I hate but really am just jealous of, and are technically my hometown team. The Seattle Mariners, because that is where my non-sports fan wife is from. Or the San Diego Padres, because San Diego is cool and great to visit, plus they spend money on the team. What is a fan to do?
PS, remember Dedric Ward? That guy was a guy.
I remember that guy! But let’s get to your question. In your specific situation, the M’s strike me as the obvious choice. You have a family connection to them, plus they’re one of the few remaining lovable underdogs in the sport (so long as you don’t factor in their ownership, their front office, and their abandonment of the kick-ass trident logo). I was pulling for them this past October, despite having no connection whatsoever to them or to the city of Seattle. I even got quietly pissy at people who were rooting against the M’s. How can you not love a great story?! I wondered aloud while playing shuffleboard.
So that would be my choice in Joel’s instance. But if you’re from Oakland and don’t have a potentially viable family connection to a new team, my advice would be to choose no team at all. Become a roving diehard. Float around and follow the players and teams you like best on a year-by-year basis. You’ll miss having a team to call your own, but you also won’t be forcing a rebound relationship that’s unlikely to work.
Speaking of the A’s, Oakland is going to lose all three of its professional sports teams—Warriors, Raiders, A’s—just in this decade. Very short debate: Will that city suffer from so much attrition so quickly? No. I have to go to Oakland this week to conduct my annual real estate survey for SFGate, and I can tell you already that home prices there have not suffered as a result of residents eager to follow JJ Bleday out of town.
I recently moved to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with my Cambodian American wife. I speak reasonable Spanish and I was able to learn functional Cantonese in my Hong Kong days. But the Khmer language involves making more extremely different moves with your mouth than any of those languages and, at my advanced age of 40, it is a lost cause to learn. My wife’s family members here sincerely appreciate my attempts to show respect to them by at least attempting as they started to get to know me, but I am butchering it. I know your wife's mom and extended family are German and still in Germany and you've visited them there a bunch of times, so I thought I'd ask. At what point do you stop the initial attempt at politeness and default to English? My attempts at Khmer are going to start to get old and annoying to all involved, including me, eventually. But what is that point?
I haven’t actually gone to Germany with my wife in over two decades, and only went with her one time. It was a trip to meet my wife’s grandfather before he passed away. We stayed with her cousin’s family for it. Prior to going, she taught me some rudimentary German for the trip, including ich mochte ein bier (“I would like a beer”). I then clumsily deployed my feeble German in front of her relatives and they were both appreciative and, in true German fashion, entertained by the idiot American speaking their language all wrong. After a few days, we all came to an unspoken understanding that my German was a lost cause, and then we muddled through from there, with my wife acting as interpreter the rest of the trip.
But I was just visiting Germany, and not for a very long time. That’s different from Scott’s situation, where he now LIVES in Cambodia year round. If you live in a country where English isn’t the official language, and you know you’re gonna be there a while, and you’ve a proven aptitude for languages as Scott has (the only foreign language I speak decently is Spanglish), it’s probably worth taking some classes and at least giving it a while before you give up and live as a permanent foreigner. The worst thing that happens is that you cobble together enough broken Khmer to make yourself tolerable to locals instead of an irritant. That’s what I would do if I were Scott. I would then fail and cry like a baby about it.
Going in the other direction, I have a short love story for you. My mother-in-law is indeed full-blood German. My father-in-law, who is Armenian-American, met her in Munich when they were both working together at the same company. They fell in love, got married, had kids, and then moved back stateside with my mother-in-law knowing NO English whatsoever. Her entire family was now an ocean away. Save for her husband and new children, she was all alone, with no way to speak to the locals. But she stuck it out, became a U.S. citizen, took classes at a local college, and learned read, write, and even think in English. All as a grown adult, and all for love.
There are other people who have pulled off this trick—moving to the U.S. all but demands you do so—and I am always deeply impressed by it. Love you, Oma.
Email of the week!
I was at a Blue Jays game and had to take a leak so I hit the head. It was packed. I have some prostate issues. Couple that with stage fright and it makes busy urinals a dicey proposition. So once I get the flow going, I’ve gotta milk it for all it’s worth. This guy steps up to the urinal next to me and starts pissing immediately (already jealous). It was like a goddamn fire hose. The force of his stream was so strong that it rebounded off the porcelain and splashed onto my bare leg. I’m filled with a sense of revulsion, but also awe at this guy’s power. But I can’t walk away, because I have to keep my sad flow going. I was a deer in headlights. After it was all over, I went to wash myself off and there were no paper towels. So I splashed some water on my leg and walked out feeling multiple levels of shame.
As a weak-bladdered man myself, I just want you to know that you’re not alone, kiddo. The struggle is real.