I Went To The Beach And All I Got Was This Petty Existential Rage
2:09 PM EDT on July 27, 2021
Time for your weekly edition of the Defector Funbag. Got something on your mind? Email the Funbag. And preorder Drew’s next book, The Night The Lights Went Out, while you’re at it. Today, we're talking about stale coffee, the Olympics, Audioslave for some reason, and more.
Before we get into the bag, some housecleaning: I’m going on a family vacation for the next two weeks. That means you’re gonna have back-to-back guest hosts for the Funbag while I’m out. Next week, you get Rajat Suresh and Jeremy Levick. The week after that, our old friend Alex Pareene steps in. If you’ve got questions for that murderer’s row, you know where to reach them.
Now, to the other order of business: Why Your Team Sucks starts TOMORROW. If you wanna be part of the previews, all you have do to is email me here. The rules:
1. Put "WYTS" and your team's name in the subject hed (use "WFT" for the WFT)
2. Tell me why your team—YOUR team, not a team you already root against—sucks. The more specific and personal, the better.
3. Don’t send me stolen jokes. I’ll click right past your shit.
4. Don’t forget to HAVE FUN!
I close submissions when the pile gets too high, so keep that in mind. Get it? Got it? Good. Time for your letters:
Now that beach season is upon us, I have to do my old man rant and complain about people blaring music at the beach. I like to read or relax or hear the ocean, not listen to crappy yacht rock or, even worse, flag bandana wearing bros playing obnoxious country music. Am I right for wanting to ban all music from being played on the beach or am I officially an old man?
That’s old-man shit. To illustrate, I’m gonna tell you a story. It was 2019 and I was still recovering from my brain injury, but I had yet to start going to therapy to deal with the anger management issues I had resulting from that injury. Anyway, I take my family to a public space and there’s country music blasting over the PA. Real loud. Now, I fucking hate country music. Because I have good taste. But back in 2019, I didn’t have the ability to just deal with it. Instead, I went looking for the person in charge of the PA—a real “Can I talk to the manager?” moment—and asked that they stop playing country music. When they didn’t immediately stop playing it, I went back again. The twangs continued unabated. I fucking FUMED about to my wife.
“They’ve ruined our afternoon!”
“No Drew,” she said, “you have. We just wanted to have a nice time, and you’re acting like a complete dick.” Now my brain was too clouded at that time for me to understand that she was right. I didn’t have the tools at my disposal to cope, the way I do now. I also was too stubborn to just fucking leave.
Cut to 2020. We went to a beach and—wouldn’t you know it—a bunch of chuds were playing country music in a spot nearby. The moment I heard it, a red cape flashed before my eyes. But then, I got my shit together and I was like, “Well, we can leave this spot, or I can just take a nap.” And then I took a nap.
You get older and you get a lot more particular about everything. I have a way I like things to be and when they’re not that way, I can get all bent out of shape about it. Same way my folks do if, I dunno, someone moves their coffeemaker to the wrong place on the countertop. So I try to be better about that fussiness, not so that I can feel younger but so that I can feel sane. I don’t always succeed. If we’re out of my favorite spicy ginger beer at home, that still counts as a legitimate emergency. But in general, I keep an even keel by remembering that the world doesn’t exist to obey my every stupid command.
Would you look at me: Carl wanted me to ream out the beach shitheads for the sake of catharsis and I went all Brad Goodman on him instead. I’m sorry, Carl. If someone rolls up next to your umbrella in an F-150 blasting Toby Keith out of a pair of concert speakers, you have my permission to fucking MURDER that guy. Terrible person. Shoot him dead and I’ll send flowers to your prison cell.
But the beach is already loud, what with adults yakking in the Tommy Bahama chairs and babies screaming and teens doing loud teen shit. My wife and I have a Wonderboom speaker we bring there and the music from our spot fades into the general background noise once you’re only a few feet away from us. No one’s ever narc-ed us out to the beach patrol over it, and I’ve never done likewise to anyone else because I can just take a long walk instead. You’re not gonna stop the party at the beach. You just have to find the right spot for yourself in that party.
What do you think is the most commonly cooked home meal in America on any given night? I guess it would vary depending on the season, (I'm far more likely to grill in July than January, but that's because I live in Maine, which has seasons) but if we allow for that, what do you think most people make at home most often? I said chicken and rice, but my wife said too many people struggle with making rice.
They do! I dunno WHY so many people fuck up cooking rice when the directions are right there on the box, but they do. The reason I won Chopped all those years ago was because my two opponents tried to make rice in the entrée round and fucked it up, even though rice doesn’t really take that long to make.
But I digress. Again. My answer is spaghetti with tomato sauce. It’s easy to make and everyone in the family eats it. Also, spaghetti is one of the go-to dinners from my childhood that survived the food revolution. Nobody outside of fucking Eau Claire is making tuna noodle casserole regularly anymore, but pretty much everyone will still wolf down a plate of spaghetti if they’re hungry.
My answer for No. 2 is tacos. You can look at the middle aisles of any grocery store and see the perennials: pasta, tacos, ramen (doesn’t really count as something you “cook” but whatever), bad soup, and Kraft mac and cheese. Those are the warhorses of the American dinner table. Best of all, you don’t have to make a side dish for any of them.
If a highly-regarded public figure came out tomorrow morning and went on record pronouncing a widely recognized proper noun completely and totally incorrectly without skipping a beat, how quickly do you think the public would turn on them? What if Peyton Manning did an on-camera interview and pronounced it 'CAW-VID" instead of 'COE-VID" the whole time?
Everyone would make fun of Peyton, but that’s about it. Thanks to Shane, I’m gonna be disappointed if I tune into the new ESPNMax feed of MNF and Peyton pronounces the name of that disease correctly. Like everyone else, I live to roast famous people over trivial fuckups. That’s my bread and butter.
Mispronouncing everything is a standard dad tactic, by the way. To this day, my own dad still pronounces Legos LEE-gos, like that’s normal. I’ve corrected Dad many times on this, and yet he still fucks it up, almost as a point of pride. He also used to pronounce Mazda with a short A up front despite the fact that he OWNED a Mazda. That’s coming for me. I know it. Twenty years from now, if not sooner, I’ll be pronouncing TikTok “Tik-toke” and asking kids at the beach to please turn down the hippity hop.
When did every middle-aged white guy on a podcast (or anywhere, really) start saying “100%” every time they agree with something?
I blame the emoji.
When I’m cooking and I end up with an extra half of a lemon or lime, I’ll just eat it straight up instead of saving it in the fridge. I’ll squeeze the lemon juice directly into my mouth or bite into a lime like it’s an orange. Does anyone else do this, or am I a deranged citrus weirdo?
My 9-year-old used to do that when he was very young, and my wife forbid it because she read somewhere that too much citric acid can strip the enamel off your teeth. My argument was that he was due to lose his baby teeth anyway, so he may as well trash the SHIT out of them, like throwing a rager on your last day renting an apartment. She was not swayed.
As for Steve, if he wants to bite into lime like a fucking animal as a treat, I say go with God. Whatever makes you happy, my man. I do an absolutely horrific job of maintaining citrus. I don’t cut lemons into perfect wedges. If I have half a lemon sitting around, I’ll just squeeze all of it onto my food because I can’t be bothered cutting that half into another half. Sometimes I try to TEAR off a lemon wedge instead of cutting it, which is the culinary equivalent of biting your nails. Nothing I do makes sense, so perhaps I should follow Steve’s lead and start sucking on lemons outright while blasting Kid A in the background. At the beach.
I’m an American expat living in Tokyo. Like pretty much everyone else here, I don’t really want the Olympics to happen. I genuinely feel that they’re gambling with my life, or at least my ability to finally visit my family. Despite my concerns and all the obvious risks, I actually think that they’ll be able to pull it off, like the plan is crazy enough to work. Am I being too optimistic? Or will we all be fucked?
“Optimistic” is the wrong word for it, but you’re not wrong. This Olympics really does feel like the IOC was determined to engineer one final superspreader event for old time’s sake, killing off the best athletes in the world in the celebration. And they’ve already gotten away with it. The Games weren’t re-canceled. The athletes aren’t boycotting. Simone Biles just exited stage left and the IOC gives absolutely no shits. All of the events will go off on time. It’s not that the plan was crazy enough to work, but that it was callous enough to. Whether or not people get fucked in the process has never been a concern of the IOC’s. So enjoy the games, my friend. They’re the only thing about this WORTH enjoying.
If you had one possession to score on LeBron James for a million dollars, would you take that one possession in pool basketball or regular basketball? Normal rules apply. No fouls, no goaltending. I feel like it would be impossible to get even one inch of separation in pool basketball to get a desperation shot off, so it’s a guaranteed block, but it’d be less likely the ball would get stolen since there’s no dribbling. If I got a shot off I’d probably have a better chance of sinking it.
I take the pool. If I have to actively dribble a basketball in front of LeBron, he wouldn’t even have to TRY to steal it from me. I’d dribble it right off my foot. I wouldn’t come within a mile of getting a shot off. But I can swim and hold onto a ball at the time with some measure of proficiency. Plus I’m 6-foot-3, so I’m not at a comical height disadvantage.
Oh god, this sounds like me talking myself into saying that I could EASILY make a pool basketball shot against LeBron. Well, you know what? I could. Fuck it. In fact, I’d win a full regulation game against him. That’s right. I’d take that old bag of bones and wipe that goddamn pool floor with him. I was on the swim team at Lafayette Club, okay? I have REAL training. LeBron is just an old wino. Couldn’t even win a title this year! HE AIN’T GOT SHIT ON ME.
By the way, our neighborhood pool club has a basket. Once in a while, for kicks, I grab a stray ball floating around and hoist one up from way downtown. If you think shooting an airball is embarrassing at the gym, try doing it in a pool and having it nail an 8-year-old square in the face. Oh, I try to laugh off my pathetic display. But inside? I grieve.
One day God appears to you–but in the form of a crow. He decrees that for the rest of your life, the only music you can listen to is from one of these. Which do you choose?
The Black Crowes
The Crow movie soundtrack
All movie dialogue ever spoken by Russell Crowe
My gut answer was The Black Crowes because I like them the best of all the artists you just listed. But then I thought real, real hard about spending the rest of my life hearing Chris Robinson go ALL RIGHT BABY like he’s the reincarnation of Robert Johnson, and I shuddered. Every so often, I like going back to yesterday and putting on “Wiser Time” or “Twice As Hard” for kicks. But the doses can’t get any larger than that. You can’t have that much fake bluesman horseshit in your life (it’s why I always hated “Hard to Handle” and still do).
So I have to pick something that won’t grate on me anywhere near as much if it’s on a constant rotation. That rules out Adam Duritz. That also rules out The Crow soundtrack, which only has one song I like on it. That leaves me with Russell Crowe, who I remain terribly fond of, and Sheryl Crow. Sometimes I still get “All I Wanna Do” stuck in my head, and it’s deeply irritating. But overall, Sheryl Crow writes songs that are pleasant at best and easily forgettable at worst. If my life became nothing but one artist, I’d want that artist to be as close to elevator music as possible for the sake of my sanity. So Sheryl Crow wins. I’m sure she’s honored.
Is saltwater taffy proof positive that people will eat anything if its brightly colored?
Sub out “people” there for “children” and the answer is yes. I don’t think I’ve eaten taffy in like 30 years. Back in the day, I saw “saltwater” on the package and I was like WOW THAT SOUNDS PRETTY RISQUE. Then I’d unwrap one of those bad boys and realize I got the weird banana flavored one. Every comedian makes shopworn jokes about boxed chocolate flavors. Taffy flavors are their own little minefield. Taffy is shit.
Who is a worse person: Marjorie Taylor-Greene or Lauren Boebert? Use whatever criteria you deem necessary.
It doesn’t matter. They’re both hideous people and I wish nothing but awful shit upon them and their families. HOWEVER, people like me are better off ignoring those two than chasing after their every pathetic utterance. Both these women are products of the shitposter economy. The only way they can stay relevant is by spewing the dumbest things they can think of. It’s all bait. The only thing that really matters is how they vote. Strip them of the bombast and you’ve got two generically shitty Republican congresswomen and nothing more. Ignore MTG and Boebert and watch them shrivel into nothing. Otherwise you’re helping the media build a new Trump out of spare parts.
When I was in college, I worked at a pharmacy where the owner was an old white-haired guy with two teenaged kids. We made fun of him constantly for leaving his open mug(s) of coffee on random shelves in the back of the store, forgetting about them for hours, then finding them later and drinking his old room temperature coffee with no remorse, even if it was sometimes a day or two later. Now that I'm older and have young kids, I find myself doing the same thing: Making a cup, putting it down while my kids drag me off somewhere to do god knows what for hours, then coming back to the kitchen and gladly slurping down room temperature coffee at two in the afternoon. Is this psycho behavior or just standard-issue dad shit?
That’s not psycho shit, although I’m saying that because I do it myself. Everything I do is normal and everyone else is the fucking weirdo. So I drink stale coffee, like a very normal man. It’s all the same coffee to me. I almost always nuke stale coffee for 30–60 seconds to get it hot again, but otherwise I happily drink coffee that’s been sitting around forever. The fact that I take my coffee black probably helps in that regard. I like the aesthetic of drinking old black coffee. Makes me feel like a beleaguered detective trying to crack the case.
My wife, however, needs her shit to be fresh. I used to make the communal pot of coffee right when I woke up. But my wife gets up an hour or two after me, and she got real tired of drinking coffee that’d been sitting around for that long. Again, this makes absolutely no difference to me. So long as there aren’t mushrooms growing on the side of the carafe, I’ll drink it. But my wife can’t abide stale coffee, so now I only make the pot after she’s gotten up. And THAT is my amazing story.
Sometimes, if I can’t wait, I’ll treat myself to a Coke Zero for my morning caffeine instead. The devil’s pick-me-up.
I found my collection of CDs just before a 10-hour car ride with my wife, much to her dismay. One album that I ended up liking way more than I expected upon hearing it for the first time in years was Audioslave (their self-titled debut). It got me thinking, is it possible that Audioslave is the best band of the 00s? I know this is impossible to judge, but if I’m rating based on quality/sales/timelessness, I can’t think of a band formed in the 00s that is better.
I absolutely can, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to provide examples. I like one Audioslave song, “Cochise,” and that’s good enough for me. If there really isn’t a band from that decade that’s better (there are many), that would be less a compliment to Audioslave than hard evidence that bands don’t really matter much anymore in the greater music culture (this part is true).
However, I wanna thank Brent for reminding me about “Cochise,” because I haven’t listened to it in years. Still a good loud song, with the exact right video to go along with it. It’s always nice to be reminded of a song that, for whatever reason, you’ve forgotten about. Like Brent, I too have stumbled on my old CDs and been like OH SHIT I REMEMBER THIS POSIES ALBUM! then given it a cursory spin. Those are nice moments. Not enough to get me to abandon Spotify, but I’m allowed to get my boomer on as I see fit.
I live in Iowa and our governor is an absolute nightmare. Our state is growing more and more red by the election cycle. Will things ever get better here, or are we condemned to increasingly worse right wing nutjobs forever?
If you think nothing will ever get better, it won’t. It’s easy to latch onto the idea that everything will be this way forever and ever, but shit changes all the time. And you can help change it. Ask any gay rights activist over the age of 30. No two days are the same, which means tomorrow can always be better than today was. Tomorrow always has potential. AND IT’S ONLY A DAY AWAY.
I’m as liberal as the next guy, obnoxiously so. But there’s a strain of liberal take out there that amounts to, “Think things are good? Actually they’re worse than ever and we’re all gonna die. You should feel utterly fucking hopeless.” I don’t care for these takes, either. They don’t accomplish anything. I’m well aware that things could be better. Biden becomes more of a chump by the day. The Senate needs to burn. Our men's basketball team isn’t gonna medal. But if you fixate only on the miserable shit, it’ll consume you in the end. You have to remember that you’re alive, and that tacos are cheap and plentiful, and that the Vikings finally have a WR3 who might be productive.
Email of the week!
Five years ago, in a city where neither of us live, I met a fellow Washington Nationals fan while watching one of our then-customary crushing playoff losses. We exchanged numbers and vowed to stay in touch, but living a thousand miles away from each other, probably both figured things would fizzle pretty quickly. Yet, we've maintained a long-distance DC sports connection -- we've now texted through the Capitals' 2018 triumph, and the Nationals finally breaking through a year later -- all while I barely know this guy any better than when we met at a bar five years ago. There's no wistful talk of meeting up for a game one day, or questions about how we're doing beyond baseball. We just talk about the Nationals.
Have I achieved a nirvana of human connection? Obviously, you don't want every friendship to be this way, but it's the rare connection where both of us seem completely content. No one wants to be better friends than the other does; no one wants to be more than friends; we didn't used to be better friends who are just hanging on. Basically, do we need more people with whom we just talk about one specific thing, forever?
You see? Life is pretty cool sometimes.