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Lake Boy Reverie

A photo of the lake where Defector is doing its team off-site retreat. It's a very nice lake!
Photo by David Roth

It is for the best, in retrospect, that Drew and I did not bring our podcasting equipment with us to [scenic location of Defector work retreat redacted]. Not because we would’ve somehow gotten an implausible amount of honey mustard onto or even into our microphones; in our early middle-age I feel as if we are both responsible enough not to completely screw things up. And not because we would have done a bad job with that episode, either; the prospect of recording in the same physical location, and perhaps even trading off on the microphone like Bruce Springsteen and Little Steven during a performance of “10th Avenue Freeze-Out,” has some very real promise. And while it has been nice to be able to focus on what we need to focus on here, that’s not really why I think we did well to leave the mics at home, either. It had been a while since we recorded an old-fashioned Mess Around Episode, and this episode, which we recorded last week, is that. We were due.

By the standards of most podcasts, every episode of The Distraction probably qualifies as a Mess Around Episode. But also, by the standards that apply to my own struggles with linear thought and conversational coherence, the average Non–Mess Around Episode is pretty conventional—we talk about something that is happening in the world for a little while, and then we take a break, and then we talk about NFL third-down backs of the late ’90s and early ’00s for a little while, and read some listener questions, and that’s about the size of it. In the average Mess Around Episode, however, we are set free from having to talk about anything that is actually going on anywhere and given not just the opportunity but the mandate to get as goofy and dilatory as we feel about whatever is on our minds at that moment. It’s probably meaningful that these episodes tend to be the ones we record before vacations or holiday breaks, but I think they also work as a sort of reset for us, and the show. If we do not really try very hard to be serious or rigorous on these, we do try a little bit, and as we are neither serious nor rigorous by nature it kind of takes a lot out of us.

If you have already pressed play on this week’s episode, you know what the result sounds like. If you haven’t, you can know that the first half of the episode is highlighted by Drew and I sharing fond reminiscences of our inability to conduct ourselves responsibly at open-bar work events in our youth, my umpteenth attempt to explain the dump/junk scenes of mid-coast Maine, and your hosts bonding over their shared inability to understand that sandwiches cost more these days than they used to. A listener question about best practices in fart tabulation leads to a lengthy and oddly passionate debate on whether it is possible for a fart to have more than one component. Down and down it goes from there, deeper not so much into incoherence—we are, for better or worse, very much in our element in conversations like these—as into insignificance. Even when we are trying to give some important or interesting topic its due, and convince a guest that we are normal people who can carry on normal conversations, this is fundamentally a hangout podcast. This is mostly because Drew and I enjoy hanging out like this. When we are not trying to do anything more significant than that—when all we have to do is Mess Around—it is even more like that. This is what it sounds like.

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