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Non-Standard Christmas Trees And Emergency Pants, With Kelsey McKinney

An artfully out-of-focus shot of a Christmas tree with some gifts under it.
Christina Reichl Photography

Every year, I crawl up to the doorstep of the holiday season looking like someone who has just been attacked by some kind of large jungle cat. Some of this is just the way that the end of the year works, with people rushing towards the same deadlines at the same time and then attempting to pack five weeks of relaxation into the same five short, grayish-white days. But some of it, at this point, is very clearly me. I need to do a bunch of work, and I also want to relax, and I simply cannot work it out such that any of that happens normally. This is not an excuse, really, but more of an explanation for why, in this year-end roundup and final Distraction episode of 2022, I seem categorically unable to remember anything that happened before Monday of this week. It's not me, it's these damn circumstances.

Happily, my failing puma-shredded brain was backstopped by both Drew and people's champion Kelsey McKinney. It's hard to imagine a better guest for an episode that's largely devoted to looking back at the year that was, both because Kelsey is a delightful presence in her own right and because her podcast, Normal Gossip, has over the course of this calendar year become the consensus Best Podcast In The World among the people that make podcasts and people who understand that the true purpose of this medium is to delight in utterly maniacal kickball league feuds and a quasi-cult centered around children's theater. If I can't remember anything that happened to me in the past year, or distinguish whether it happened in the last 12 months or 2019, at least I had the help of co-hosts who have spent the last 12 months improving their lives through the classic life-changing methods of riding his bicycle and moving to Philadelphia, respectively.

And as it happens, we've had a pretty interesting year. Drew did an especially good job facilitating this one, as we moved from early Christmas chat—as of now, my father-in-law is still pursuing his argument that a Christmas tree could be any kind of tree—into a retrospective mode that hopped from discussions of aging and dread to ones about a particularly good Armenian fried cheese experience, and from appreciations of Rowdy Baseball Sons and Jacob deGrom and (eventually) Kirk Cousins to Camila Cabello's avant-garde pronunciation of "Christmas."

Also Drew does multiple Christmas Voices during the first few minutes of the episode alone. There is some evidence that I am not the only one whose brain has been mildly pulverized by the pressures of the season—Drew's annual anti-celebration of the Williams-Sonoma catalog went up on the website while we were recording, after all—but I don't want to speculate about anyone's brain but my own. And anyway, the evidence is right there on the audio, I will encourage you to draw your own conclusions and stay out of it.

The back third of the episode is ... honestly pretty similar to the first two-thirds, in terms of it being a celebration of three punchy buddies talking about building humdrum tasks around their proximity to tacos and emergency pants purchases and the absolutely dazzling World Cup final and (briefly) my own ridiculous tendencies as a writer and editor. I recused myself from that part of the discussion, because I was too uncomfortable. I will add here to another, final bit that I mostly sat out on the episode, though, and conclude this broadcast year with a bit of housekeeping.

This is our last episode of The Distraction under our relationship with Stitcher, which has spanned nearly three years in total and so predates Defector by a decently wide margin. (We'll be moving to a new podcast company after the new year; the episodes will still show up in your feed as normal if you're subscribed, and will be embedded in some overwrought post here per the usual if this is Where You Get Your Podcasts.) Drew said it at the end, and very well, but I will echo it here: We're exceedingly grateful to have had that opportunity, and to Daisy Rosario for her faith in us, and to Brandon Nix for his steady and brilliant work in keeping it together, and to everyone else there who has helped us do this thing. We'll be doing it again in January, and we are in your debt, and theirs, for the opportunity to keep doing it. I know I've made a big deal out of how thoroughly mushed my brain is by this point, but I am sure about this part. The gratitude goes last.

If you would like to subscribe to The Distraction, you can do that at Stitcher, or through Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever else you might get your podcasts. If you’d like to listen to an ad-free version of the podcast, you can do so on Stitcher Premium; a free month of Stitcher Premium can be yours if you use the promotional code “DISTRACT.” Thank you as always for your support.

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