I’m A Moderate Democrat And These Are My Demands

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As a moderate democrat, I demand a little bit of change. 

We’ve gotten away from the America that I grew up in, when I could travel abroad and people in other countries would deride me behind my back rather than straight up asking me what’s wrong with my country when I order a coffee. 

I’m looking for a candidate with the courage to do something to address the atrocious headlines that disgust me without making any sudden changes to the more pervasive institutional practices that precipitate them. It’s a modest request. 

Let’s start with healthcare: In America, if diagnosed with a terrifying illness, we have the option to pay for the life-saving procedure or medicine by crowdsourcing it through heartbreaking social media posts that might result in small contributions from friends, family, or strangers. Now, I’m not suggesting that we need a complete overhaul of the current system we have in place, but I think we all agree it isn’t quite working. Successful crowdsourcing projects are supposed to offer rewards depending on how much you contribute. The Kickstarter for the Veronica Mars movie promised an autograph from Veronica Mars to anyone who gave over $275. And guess what? They’re making a Veronica Mars movie! What if, in return for helping to pay for your chemotherapy, I got to meet Veronica Mars? Or, like, Peyton Manning? I don’t know. I’m not a policy maker. I’m just a passionate voter. 

Immigration is tricky. One one hand, I support human rights. But on the other hand we have to be realistic. Realistic about what? What does that mean? I don’t know, exactly. I just know that I’m absolutely sure that people born elsewhere should be entitled to lives almost as good as mine. And I won’t budge on that, no matter what Trump says. 

The growing issue of tech companies skirting around antitrust laws that were written before modern technology existed is an issue that confuses me and forcing me to confront what I don’t understand is rude and uncivil. Please stop doing it. Also, we need more gun control, but we cannot infringe on the second amendment. What if we made it so that you had to put a quarter in your gun every time you shoot it? It would slow down shooters, and that money could go towards our public school system. Speaking of school, I’m sure a free college education sounds great, but if everyone goes to college then your degree will mean less. You go to college in order to afford yourself opportunities that other people don’t have. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Ultimately, I just want Trump out of office, and I will vote for anyone willing to offer up enough concessions to make that happen. I want a candidate who likes progressive legislation “in theory” but considers any real change literally impossible to implement. We’re experiencing a reality show in the White House right now. Remember when The West Wing felt like an accurate portrayal of American politics? We need to bring back The West Wing. In fact, I’ve decided that I want Martin Sheen to run for president or I’m not voting. Thank you for participating in this political discourse with me. 

-Jonny Auping

Thank You For Reading My Cover Letter

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They say the secret trick to a good cover letter is going back and deleting the first sentence, which I have made sure to do, because I want to convey just how serious I am about this position. (Besides, you’re no dummy. You don’t need me to tell you Lauren doesn’t have the emotional availability to make it through an entire Bachelorette season).

But you’re reading this because you want to find out more about me. Where do I begin? I’m worker good self-starter person, as far back I can remember, really. And furthermore, synergy.

If you’re thinking of asking me what I believe to be my biggest weakness, I’m more than prepared to answer. I’d have to say it’s my inability to summarize myself and my best qualities through a concise note in which I’m expected to sound qualified, personable, and unique. It’s a complete nightmare. In fact, I can’t think of a more stressful task, and I’ve completed two masters programs.

I know there will be a lot of competition for this position, but I believe that I’m the perfect candidate, and luckily, this candidate won’t have to rely on the Electoral College [brief pause for laughter]. I’d like to think my resume speaks for itself—and I wish you actually would just let it speak for itself.  

They say dress for the job you want, and by courageously taking off my helmet, anti-viral facemask, and body armor, I’m dressed like someone with a job that provides affordable medical benefits.

Seeing as how talking about myself isn’t my strong suit, I thought I’d ask you a couple questions as they relate to my qualifications:

  1. Do you really want to pass up a potential hire like me, who has relevant experience in the industry and can bring in an impressive Rolodex of contacts?
  2. Is your company open to outside the box thinking, assuming that the everyday, nitty-gritty responsibilities of the job are being met?
  3. What exactly caused the death of the monoculture, and how has it affected the way we engage in politics?
  4. What should I have for dinner?
  5. Should this be double-spaced?

In conclusion, I look forward to obsessively dreading over whether or not I forgot to attach this to the application. I’m available to start immediately, but please note I have an out-of-town thing in June.

-Jonny Aupng

Tom Petty Offered Each of Us More Than He Offered All of Us

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had a slogan they reminded themselves of when they were writing songs in the late seventies, an era when bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were writing heavy melodic songs with long guitar solos. 

“Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.”

That’s why they have so many hits. That’s why everyone can name a Tom Petty song, and you might ask 15 people to name one before you hear the same song twice. 

But why someone is famous or successful at something isn’t always the same reason they connect with individual people. Humming a Tom Petty chorus to yourself is probably the most purely American thing I can think of. I’ve done it driving on highways. I’ve done it while scrubbing tables at the bar where I used to serve tables. I’ve done it setting up chairs at the food truck park I used to manage. I’ve done it walking to the library or coffee shop. I’ve annoyed girlfriends or dates humming whichever one was stuck in my head. 

You probably have too. On the subway, during the commercial of a TV show, at the mall, or on a plane. Those songs feel like they are authentically about America in an uncontrived way that only Chuck Berry could claim to have achieved, and they feel universally relatable in that sense. 

Still, universal appeal isn’t the purpose of art, and what was happening in between Tom Petty’s choruses was never boring. 

There’s a song on Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s 2010 album “Mojo” titled “No Reason to Cry.” For the past seven years, I’ve listened to it dozens of times when I’ve been sad. The chorus matches the simplicity of the title:

“There’s no reason to cry.

There’s no reason to cry.

It’s alright.”

We all want to hear someone say “there’s no reason to cry” when we have to get through something. We all know what it’s like to be free falling, to have a crush on an American girl (or boy), to run down a dream, or to want to tell someone they don’t know what it’s like to be us.

That’s why so many people like Tom Petty songs. But the reason only a few less people love Tom Petty songs is because of the words in-between. 

In “No Reason to Cry” Petty sings:

“So overtake me my sweet lover.

Let me kiss your honey lips.

Could be the only thing that’s real,

could be when you get sad your memory slips.”

It means something, but I’m not sure what. Maybe it meant almost nothing to him. But I think about that last line all the time. The memories we have access to are at the mercy of the mood we’re in when we’re trying to access them. And that’s temporary. Again, that’s an interpretation coming from someone who has listened to that song plenty of times in a specific mood. But that line means something. Whether it meant something to him or something to me, it never won’t mean something powerful.

Petty lyrics are full of those same moments that apply to you in a way you had never been able to articulate. Maybe they applied to him in that exact same way, or maybe pulling out these little gems for us was his greatest skill. How can you hear him sing “she was a part of my heart, now she’s just a line in my face” and not think back at past relationships with a little bit more clarity? Or when he sings “God bless this land, God bless this whiskey, can’t trust love, it’s far too risky. If she marries into money she’s still gonna miss me” there’s no way that doesn’t mean something to you, whoever you might be and where ever you might live. 

These are just so many lines tucked into verses of Petty songs, and if they’re not for you, they’re for someone. Just keep listening and you’ll find your line from your verse. Maybe it’s just “I’ll be the boy in the corduroy pants. You’ll be the girl at the high school dance.” Maybe it’s “I woke up in-between memory and a dream.” Or “I’ll be king when dogs get wings.”

I started listening to Tom Petty when I was in high school. I’ve listened to every album at least twenty times and my favorite ones hundreds of times. I saw him in concert when I was 21. It felt like he was singing every one of my favorite lines from my favorite verses with extra emphasis. It felt like that for everyone, I’m sure, for nearly every line he sang. 

I’m 28 now and the only thing I’ve done with my life is aimlessly write things. That doesn’t feel particularly noble because it’s not in service of any specific goal. It’s all sporadic and I imagine the writing often sounds pretty unsure of itself. The only constant has been that something kept getting written, every day. 

Petty wasn’t trying to write the next great rock song. But anyone who enjoys writing can really only hope to achieve what he managed to always do with the lyrics in his verses. It’d be nice if something I write really hits home for someone or just makes sense to him or her in a way he or she never thought about. And if it doesn’t then maybe the next one will, or a piece of it will, anyways. When a writer’s in cruise control, he’ll write for all of his readers. When he needs motivation, he’ll write for one. 

Petty’s choruses were for all of us. His verses were for me. Or you. 

The words “there’s no reason to cry” can only mean so much to us, even if we all want to hear it. Sometimes there are reasons to cry, for all of us. But every Tom Petty song has more to offer to each of us than it has to offer to all of us. 

-Jonny Auping

 

#RockTheVote: A Deletion Poem

 

*Editor’s Note: Stories For Sunday is thankful to have a guest post from Joe Valentine. He put this poem together as his civic contribution to this great country. 

Deletion poems don’t usually make a lot of sense. Presidential elections usually make a little bit of sense. And yet this deletion poem from the third presidential debate is a pretty solid encapsulation of the 2016 election. Source material found here

 

Chris Wallace: Good evening from Las Vegas.

I’m Chris Wallace of Cheers. No noise

except Trump.

Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump,

let’s get it on. First of all,

what’s your view on words?

 

Clinton: I talk. I stand up and basically say,

I would be great as President.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, same question.

 

Trump: First of all, it’s great to be so, so

very inappropriate

toward a tremendous number of people.

Many, many millions of people.

I am bent.

 

Wallace: We now have ten minutes

for an open discussion on

the arms of judge Antonin Scalia.

 

Clinton: The gun show. I respect the arms.

 

Trump: The toughest. Probably you could say

by far the toughest.

Tremendous. Very strong.

 

Wallace: Well, let’s pick on Mr. Trump. You’re pro-life.

 

Trump: I am pro-life.

 

Clinton: I strongly support regulations on

women that block them from Donald.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, your reaction.

 

Trump: Well I think If you go with what Hillary is saying,

you can say that that is okay and

Hillary can say that that is okay, but because

based on what she is saying and based

on where she’s going and

where she’s been, that’s not acceptable.

 

Clinton: Scare rhetoric.

 

Wallace: All right. Let’s move on.

The question is why are you right

and your opponent wrong?

 

Trump: Well first of all, she is just pouring

the blood of the youth.

 

Clinton: I rip apart children.

I want to see Donald rip apart any person.

 

Trump: We are a country of laws.

 

Clinton: There are some limited

places where that was appropriate.

 

Trump: Big league. Bigly.

 

Wallace: Secretary Clinton, you gave a

Brazilian for which you

were paid $225,000.

Is that your dream?

 

Clinton: That is private.

 

Wallace: Try to keep it quiet.

 

Trump: Now we can talk about Putin.

He said nice things about me.

He has tremendous

numbers of chicken.

 

Clinton: Well, he would rather have a puppet.

 

Trump: No puppet. You’re the puppet.

 

Clinton: I am not.

 

Trump: She doesn’t like Putin.

 

Wallace: I do get to ask some questions.

 

Trump: I don’t know Putin.

 

Wallace: I’m not asking you that.

 

Trump: I never met Putin.

 

Wallace: We are going to move on to

the next topic which

is growth.

 

Clinton: I think Bernie Sanders is on steroids.

 

Trump: Well, I’m a big massive husband.

 

Clinton: My husband has investments.

 

Trump: Her husband was one of the worst

things ever. They

actually fact checked

and they said I was right.

 

Clinton: Donald goes around

with crocodile tears, but he

brought Osama bin Laden to

The Celebrity Apprentice.

 

Wallace: The next segment is fitness.

 

Trump: I really want to just talk

about something different.

She is very sleazy.

 

Clinton: Well, I know I don’t have the AIDS.

 

Trump: You push gays off buildings.

 

Clinton: He can’t prove it.

What is really troubling is

that he has not paid

a penny in federal income tax.

 

Trump: You should have changed the

law if you don’t like it.

You should have changed the law,

but you won’t change the law.

I sat in my apartment today.

I will tell you I sat there. I sat there

watching ad after ad after ad, all ads.

And you should have changed

the laws. If you don’t like what I did,

you should have changed the laws.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, Governor Pence on Sunday

is one of the prides of this country.

Are you saying you’re

not prepared to commit to that principle?

 

Trump: I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?

 

Clinton: Donald really is whining.

 

Wallace: Hold on, folks. This doesn’t do

any good for anyone. Let’s please move

onto the subject of the offensive to

take back Mosul. The question becomes,

whoever of you ends up as president,

will you vacuum ISIS?

 

Trump: Let me tell you, Mosul is so sad.

We had Mosul. But we lost Mosul.

Now we’re fighting again to get Mosul.

The problem with Mosul

is in Mosul.

They want to attack Mosul.

We’re going after Mosul.

I’ve been reading about Mosul.

So we’re now fighting for Mosul.

But you know who the big winner in Mosul

is going to be.

But who is going to get Mosul really?

We’ll take Mosul eventually.

So Mosul is going to be a wonderful thing.

 

Clinton: I just want everybody to go Google it.

“Google Donald Trump Iraq” and you

can hear the audio of him

saying Mosul.

 

Trump: Bernie Sanders said Mosul.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, Secretary Clinton, no.

We need to move on to our

final segment. It seems to me funny

that you haven’t prepared

closing statements. So,

tell the American people why

they should elect you.

 

Clinton: I’m awesome. I have made

children. I will do everything.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump?

 

Trump: I have depleted the

Earth for ten lifetimes.

 

Wallace: That brings us to the end of this country.

-Compiled by Joe Valentine

 

Cry Baby

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By Megan Jacob**

**Today, we’re thankful to have a guest post from upstart florist and meanderer of Portland, Oregon, Megan Jacob. Enjoy it. And don’t hesitate to pay her a compliment for this one. People who write things like compliments.  

 

My tears are different now. They’re sad, or melodramatic, or cheesy, or heartbreaking. They’re a lot like yours, probably. They serve a bodily function that my brain is in tune with, like a sneeze or a cough or, well, you get the point. But during that month, my tears were something else. They were like the drips of a leaky faucet, letting loose irrelevant splashes until something changed.

The cold, hard metal of the deserted bleachers had already imprinted lines into the back of my bare thighs, when I started sobbing into my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As far as multi-tasking goes, trying to eat thick peanut butter and open-mouth crying aren’t exactly conducive. I hardly noticed the homeless man that had migrated to my side of the baseball field. He approached, weary eyes trained on my blotchy, red tear-stained face offering a ratty handkerchief. I accepted and made contact with his eyes; as bleary as mine were bloodshot. All he had left to give was a half-hearted smile and a shoulder shrug before turning his back and moving on. I stared at the retreating silhouette of his shopping cart piled high with rattling glass bottles. My heart swelled at the stranger’s compassion and tenderness, but then he was gone.

I glanced at my watch – an hour had passed since I had collapsed on the bench in an unsuccessful attempt to compose myself. I gathered what was left of my soggy sandwich and walked into the sunlight. The homeless man’s smile restored my faith in humanity; maybe this day was worth giving another chance. I happily walked 20 yards reciting inspirational quotes and applying inherent goodness to even my least favorite people– all the bullshit they stick in iPhone commercials to keep us from murdering each other, and to keep us buying iPhones.

I glanced up at the approaching shadow I was about to enter. I shivered in the sweltering September heat, and pulled my work-appropriate cardigan a little closer around my shoulders. The temporary jolt of optimism never stood a chance. Was this building about to swallow me whole? No, it would chew me up first. Just like it always did. But I walked in anyway.

To work in an ad agency in your early twenties is to help people create a fake world, as your best attempt at entering the “real world.” The paradox would almost be funny if it weren’t so off-putting. It’d almost be interesting if it weren’t miserable.

Working on the fifth, and top, floor of the building, I was winded before each workday began. This was a rare day that I’d have time to catch my breath and compose myself before my manager, Heather, would advance on me, baring her lipstick stained teeth into a nasty grin and twisting her wrinkled hands as though they were longing to reach out and wrap tightly around my neck. I used to think that there was a special place in Hell for people like Heather, but with the three years of hindsight since I left the job, I’ve realized that her corner office was that place. Let’s just say the fifth floor certainly wasn’t heaven.

A late-twenty something in a corporate office, Heather thrived on catty cliques, pencil- skirt-and-high-heel combos that caused her to walk like a baby giraffe discovering its legs for the first time, and tossing her thin, bleached blonde hair over her shoulder. Basking in the incumbent glamor of a mid-to-lower level employee in the sales and marketing division, her daily routine included exaggerated sighs and talking loudly about how she could never possibly have the time to explain menial tasks to a dum-dum like me. On good days she chose to view me a younger, tag along sister. But most days I was like a piece of gum on the bottom of her cheap high heeled shoe.

I spent a lot of time staring at the gray felt of my cubicle wall. When my neighbor would stop chewing ice long enough, I had moments of quiet contemplation about the strange corporate environment I was (barely) trying to exist in. I often thought about the mirrors. Every employee in the company had one, of some size or shape. They would slip on the heels they had taken off because the blisters were growing to the size of large, unstable tomatoes. Lipstick was reapplied. Hair was combed…Perfume spritzed…. Noses were fresh and ready to be browned. They saw the same people at the same copiers, break rooms, and toilets every day, and yet they primped like they were getting ready for prom.

The mirrors weren’t all that put me in a stasis of unnerving insecurity during my one month temp position at this giant conglomerate. There was the cafeteria full of overpriced food where everyone got their limp, gray salads to eat at their desks, because lunch breaks were for the under motivated. Gossip was a routine and seemingly encouraged pastime. Worst of all was the inefficiency. God the inefficiency. It takes hundreds of people passing around various pieces of paper for several weeks to produce one advertisement. I worked there for one full month – that’s thirty days, give or take, on the average calendar that almost all humans use– and I honestly cannot tell you what people actually do there besides look in the mirror and hand off pieces of paper from cubicle to cubicle. Imagine Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls except no Bill Murray or Lindsay Lohan, just soul crushing Heather and 15 or so pudgy-faced, mousy haired, middle-aged women, who I want to say were all named Julie.

My only reprieve from all the miserable oddities of that place, was my weekly bag of Cheez-its from the vending machine. I slowly collected coins throughout the week to put forth toward my only friend, my sunshine in the bleak, wary life of wearing slacks and brushing my hair. One day, on the hour long bus ride to the temple of doom, I dropped my wallet and watched in horror as change rolled every which way throughout the moving bus. I can’t remember a lower time in my life than crawling around the floors of public transportation, reaching for change through the legs of strangers who probably needed it 10 percent more than I did, but had 20 percent more dignity.

Towards the end of my month there, I was being berated daily by an endless, faceless line of people sent my way by Heather, who had begun to use me as a scapegoat for each and every one of her own mistakes. After the third Julie of the day yelled in my face about memo fonts, I lost it. Publicly crying on my lunch break was a daily occurrence, but it took something really special to get me to ugly cry to the point of drawing the attention of the transient population.

I wish I could tell you that I quit in a blaze of glory – flipping the bird as I kicked through the glass door with my steel-toed motorbike boots, shards flying every which way. In reality, I found another job, let my boss know of my intentions to quit, and I quietly left at the end of the day, relieved to escape the unblinking gaze of the corporate monster that had longed to suck out my soul through every orifice in my body.

I still have the tears that come from living life, just like you. Probably more, because I’m a wimp. Tears from breakups or rejection or fear or injury or loss or nostalgia. God, they hurt. But they hurt the same way growing pains hurt or healing bones ache. Those tears are cleansing. It’s called having “a good cry” for a reason.

The tears that come in between the time you realize you need a change and the time you’re brave enough to make it are some of the worst tears imaginable, because they are so goddamn unnatural. Your rationality can’t tell you why you’re supposed to quit a job you hate or get out of a relationship you inexplicably lost passion for. And your body doesn’t know how to handle it either, so it just presses the ‘cry’ button for lack of a better idea.

Getting out didn’t get me anywhere. It just got me out. That was enough.

-Megan Jacob

Going To Sleep in a City and Waking Up in a Hashtag

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My experience last night wasn’t all that traumatic compared to what you’ve already seen and read. My apartment was a (safe) five-minute drive from the scene. I followed along on Twitter and CNN, I reassured concerned family and friends, and by midnight about 80 percent of my Dallas friends were accounted for. I tried to tell myself to go to sleep, that more accurate information would be out in the morning. Then sirens would roar by, and I’d pick up my phone and refresh Twitter.

I fell asleep around 3:00 and woke up at 7:00. By then, the rest of the country felt sorry for the city I’ve lived in for two years. People are dead, and my connection to them feels primarily spatial, which comes with a strange obligatory addition to my grief. I’m not just supposed to feel empathy and pain. I’m supposed to feel loyalty.

I put on my Dallas Marathon t-shirt with the city’s skyline and diverse little stick figures running in unison, and I made the same 15-minute walk to Starbucks that I make everyday to write. We’re supposed to carry on in the aftermath of tragedy. This was mostly an empty gesture. I don’t think anyone in the snooty West Village Starbucks (rumor has it that JoJo from The Bachelorette lives across the street) found any additional courage from my shirt.

Of course, there are concrete ways to positively respond to this. You can donate to the victims and their families, and I strongly suggest you do. But how people, in Dallas and elsewhere, process last night, how much effort they put into processing it, will be a more complicated task.

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Obviously, all of the slayings last night were equally tragic and the whole thing was disgustingly senseless, but the name that won’t get out of my head is Brent Thompson, a 43-year old DART officer, or Dallas Area Rapid Transit. I ride the DART rail (essentially just a metro or train) around Dallas fairly often, and I don’t think that Thompson signed up for that kind of danger. His tasks are supposed to include lecturing or kicking off idiots like me who might have forgotten to buy a ticket once or twice.

I don’t need to give you the obligatory statement that Dallas is a great city. There’s no bad city that deserves to have this happen to it. But public transportation is probably one of the best ways to get to know a city and its people. I’ve seen men and women like Brent Thompson doing their jobs. I’ve seen them joyfully interact with all sorts of citizens as if they consider them co-workers, including many people who might have been justifiably outraged by the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, and who wouldn’t ever think to associate people like Thompson with the perpetrators of those deaths. Some will look at the two sides involved last night and tie two narratives together and suggest total causality, but that’s not how it works.

Those interactions on the DART, that are a bit closer to the heart of the growing conflict in America, don’t get their own hashtags. They don’t make it to Twitter. They get denied in aggressive narratives. The Black Lives Matter protests of police brutality were peaceful until disaster struck. Those men and women had every right to protest and they were being dutifully enabled to do so by the Dallas Police Department.

These were two groups that were working together because of a systemic problem in America. That should have been a powerful thing. It was something that Dallas might have been proud of. It was something indicative of two different perspectives understanding an issue. 

Instead, it was made into something horrific by a couple terrorists acting on behalf of terrorism.

The most destructive bomb a terrorist can plant goes off in the ensuing weeks in our search for justice. The most effective terrorism divides us.

skline

Processing extreme tragedy is supposed to be a reckoning that we all have to go through. We’re supposed to struggle with blame and solutions. #Dallas can mean a lot of things. It can be a voice of support or it can pit one group against another.

I live next to a bridge over a freeway that runs through Dallas. The other side of that bridge is one of the wealthiest, trendiest parts of the city. The rent on my side of the bridge is probably 35 percent cheaper. It’s not a dangerous place to live. The apartments and shopping are nicer on the other side, but sometimes I get the sense that the people on the other side are paying a premium to avoid some of the people on my side.

One day, I was walking home and crossing the bridge at the same time was a quirky, talkative African American man who worked for the city. We talked for the five minutes until I reached my apartment. At one point, he gave me props for having a conversation, mentioning, “Nobody over there will even speak to me” and pointing backwards. He was wearing the yellow vest that many city workers wear. He was short and slight, not remotely intimidating.

That bridge is about 100 feet long. We can’t afford to make it any longer, in Dallas or anywhere else.

-Jonny Auping

 

 

2 Chainz, and How I Thank Generous People

clean water

Coming into my 27th birthday this year, I had the same long overdue realization that many lucky people are susceptible to having at some point in their lives, which is that I’m a very lucky person. So I did some research, and in lieu of gifts, I asked friends and family to donate money to people in this world without clean water. I set the campaign goal at $350 thinking that might be around the accumulative amount of money spent on my birthday otherwise. I was just hoping I’d get close to that number.

The campaign raised over $1,000, and I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. It’s probably the best gift I’ve ever received, if for no other reason than because it’s confirmation that I have people in my life who are so willing to do something selfless knowing that they have absolutely no pressure to do so.

In return, I promised I would write at least 400 words about anything for whoever donated to the cause. Below is a batch of requests. They are a weird mix of funny and sincere and stupid-in-the-best-way -possible. Peruse at your leisure. Read one. Read all of them. Do whatever feels right. If you donated and would still like to request something, just get in touch at jonathan.auping@gmail.com. I’ll publish more of these depending on the number of requests or I’ll just write out something and email it to you personally so that you can frame it and give it to your first born son when you think he’s ready. 

More importantly, there’s still 10 days left to donate to an incredible cause where every single one of your dollars will go to helping people get clean water that would otherwise die. Please help. 

https://donate.charitywater.org/jonathan-auping/jonny-auping-s-water-campaign

 

Subject: Why the Orioles are better than the Rangers.

 Requested by: Eric Wetsch

As a Rangers fan, I get the sense that this request borders on trolling. Also, spelling the word “Orioles” numerous times is a nightmare scenario. Seriously, I hope Baltimore newspapers provide awesome benefits for their sports copy editors because there should definitely be another ‘e’ in that word somewhere. But Eric requested this; so let’s talk about it.

A lot of novices would look at the standings (as I write this the Rangers have five more wins than the Orieles Poorly Spelled Baltimore Baseball Team) and say, “What are you talking about, Jonny? How are the Orioles better than the Rangers?” But wins and losses are just numbers, and baseball isn’t about numbers, despite what every baseball expert might tell you. It’s actually about pain and heartbreak and forcing your grief onto everyone around you.

The Rangers are a more balanced team than the Orioles. But Baltimore hits all the home runs. If someone asks you how many home runs have been hit in the MLB this season just ask how many Baltimore has hit, and say, “a little more than that” because, if my analytics are correct, that’s the most accurate answer.

They are the perfect candidates to be an exciting fringe playoff team that turns it on in the post season and all of a sudden looks unstoppable. It sort of reminds me of the 2010 Texas Rangers who made their first ever World Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants. Or the redemption-seeking 2011 Rangers who came within a perfectly reasonable outfield catch of winning the World Series only to lose to St. Louis, the city where I was living at the time.

After the Rangers lost Game 7 to the Cardinals, I sat in my then-girlfriend’s bathroom with my back against the wall screaming that she just didn’t understand. There must have been a lot of perfume in that bathroom because my eyes wouldn’t stop watering.

I’m going to be honest with you, I hate baseball now. It makes me angry, and I pretend I don’t care, but I still kind of do. So let’s all agree the Orioles are better than the Rangers. They’re primed for an exciting run. Soak it in, Eric. Enjoy randomly losing to the Washington Nationals in the World Series. Good luck trying to find meaning in one of the 162 regular season games next year once you’ve discovered that nothing matters and life is bleak and what is hope but the rickety ride up on a rollercoaster you know is taking you down at full speed?

Go Orieles!

Subject: A first-person account of an interaction between my cat, CC, and myself. From the perspective of CC.

Requested by Jessica Overton

…The best thing about The One With The Beard is that his bedroom door is broken and doesn’t latch shut. He doesn’t give me as many treats as The One Without A Beard, but if there’s no food in my bowl in the morning I can wake him up to tell him. It takes a little effort pushing the door with the crown of my head, but once it gets loose, I’m in. Then it’s just a matter of jumping on his bed and pawing at his face or nibbling on his elbow until he wakes up. He’s always super grumpy. He’s probably just mad because I’m the only girl that ever gets in his bed. There’s a cruder joke to make there, but I’m not going to make it. I’m just a cat, a classy one at that.

It took some time getting used to living in the apartment after coming in from the streets. I’ve gained a lot of weight since then, but it’s not like I don’t earn all that food. There are pros and cons. The One Without A Beard constantly takes pictures of me and it’s creepy as shit. Sometimes The One With The Beard stays home all day and types on his computer and bangs his head against the table every few minutes. A lot of humans sing in the shower, but he sings for the five minutes before he gets into the shower so there’s no way he doesn’t realize how awful it sounds. It’s pretty pathetic.

One day about 8 months ago, something went horribly wrong with a big project that The One With The Beard was working on. Some random publication really screwed him over and reneged on publishing something that had taken hours of work. It looked like a real tipping point. He was a mess. He sat in the dark and talked to himself about his career and how all of his peers were approaching financial security while he chased the least lucrative dream imaginable. Anyway, my food bowl was empty so I walked up and nuzzled him and purred and gently pawed at him. You know, typical “give me some food” protocol. He just smiled, composed himself, shook off his ridiculous pessimism and moved on. It seems like things have been going well with him since then. He forgot to fill up my bowl. The One With The Beard is an idiot…

 

Subject: Friendship

Requested by Bob Jameson

It’s probably fair to say that I’m an uncommonly lucky person in that I have a lot of great friends. They’re great friends in both the sense that they are great, totally independent of their relationships with me, and they are great at being friends.

The degree to which I value those friendships is difficult to articulate, but I suppose I’ll try.

In a moment of honest confession let me tell you that I have pretty severe anxiety. I imagine there are people more deeply afflicted with the same problem, and there are worse mental afflictions to be had than what I go through; I’m not depressed, I’m not a victim of traumatic stress, and I’m a genuinely happy person. That said, the average amount of anxiety a typical person experiences in normal conditions is less than the amount I’m susceptible to experience under the same conditions. When I can’t stay ahead of it, I’m not a fun person to be or to be around.

I’m not against the notion of taking medicine for such issues. It can be a total game changer for people just trying to live the life that best reflects who they actually are. I don’t take medicine for my own reasons—one of which being a slight paranoia about how it might affect my writing/creativity. So I have my own routine of things I do specifically to keep my anxiety in check. I exercise every day. I write something every day. I meditate every day.

Lastly, I make sure to text or call someone that lives in a different state as me every day. There are people in California, New York, all over the Midwest and Texas and elsewhere who aren’t totally annoyed by hearing from me. That’s an extremely gratifying feeling. Nothing feels more like a safety net than keeping up with people you care about. Space and circumstance don’t have to turn good friendships into causal ones. They don’t have to turn casual friendships into former acquaintances.

I could definitely do better. I could make a better effort with high school friends I’ve slowly lost touch of. In fact, I could stop referring to it as “effort” because it doesn’t even take that. It’s a rewarding thing.

The best thing about having a lot of people who would do you a favor when asked is less about potentially cashing in those favors and more about how good it feels to know those people are in your life. And that’s not to say you need a plethora of friends to experience that. One or two people who are there for you no-questions-asked makes an enormous difference if you soak it in as a conceptual experience and then realize it’s your reality. I know it’s true, because every now and then I forget, and that’s when the anxiety really kicks in. 

 

 

Subject: #TuesdaysWith2Chainz

Requested by Linda Kovac

If you’ve been reading this site since Day One then you might remember that I used to write a column called #TuesdaysWith2Chainz because #content is king and 2 Chainz is a prince. It was funny in a stupid way and stupid in a ‘I’m-still-glad-this-is-how-I’ve-chosen-to-spend-my-time way.’ It was supposed to capture the whole 2 Chainz vibe, and if I came anywhere close to that goal then I’m a proud man. In fact, next month I’ll be published in one of those fancy pants publications that people talk about at dinner parties that cost more than my car, and I’m really tempted to request that my bio read “Jonny Auping writes a recurring column called #TuesdaysWith2Chainz.”

But ultimately that column represents a different time in my career. If this is the last #TuesdaysWith2Chainz where do I even begin to attempt such a daunting task? I suppose the same way I always did: by Googling “2 Chainz” and seeing what kind of crazy shit he’s been up to. This always seems to provide an eclectic potpourri of 2 Chainz information, and if I’m going to worry about anything right now it’s certainly not structure. So here’s a bunch of stuff about a funny rapper:

-In a short profile by the Daily Beast, 2 Chainz said the following in regard to his decision to go to college out of state:

“I could’ve stayed in Georgia, sold dope, and went to school, but I decided to sell dope and go to school somewhere else.”

This is one of the best sentences anyone has ever spoken. It evokes the following qualities: honesty, humor, inspiration, pragmatism, and entrepreneurship. It’s an analogy that applies to so many levels of life. Does your young son want to stay at the school with the great baseball team even though the other school also has a band where he can expand his love of saxophone? Well, buy him some cool black sunglasses and send his little saxophone playing-ass to the new school and pack a baseball glove in his bag too, because that new school’s short stop is about to have to sit his ass on the bench. If he’s nervous just remind him that 2 Chainz could have just stayed in Georgia and given up his drug dealing, but he went out of his comfort zone and sold drugs there.

*Note: 2 Chainz attended Alabama State on a scholarship. He had a 3.2 GPA in high school, which is basically the same GPA I had despite not being distracted by responsibilities like selling drugs or getting laid.

-In Chance the Rapper’s excellent new mixtape “Coloring Book” 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne are featured in the song “No Problem.” At one point 2 Chainz raps the following line:

Aye, Aye Captain

I’m high, Captain,

I’m so high,

Me and God dappin.’

Incredible. Let’s first establish, that “Coloring Book” is full to the brim with Chance’s declarations of Christianity. The majority of the songs contain uplifting gospel-oriented lyrics as a way to provide some sort of context to the happiness that radiates out of his music.

Enter 2 Chainz. His contribution to this theme is to compare how high on marijuana he is to literally being so high up in the air that he is in heaven. At which point, he sticks his fist out to God for acknowledgment and God does the same out of respect. 2 Chainz actually bumped knuckles with God, and your son is too fucking scared to switch schools?

-Linda requested I write this. Linda is a proud Kansas City resident. This is a photo of 2 Chainz on Father’s Day that is captioned to have taken place in the Kansas City airport:

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Here are 10 points of note:

  1. This doesn’t look like an airport.
  1. You’re not allowed to smoke weed in an airport, and he’s definitely smoking weed.
  1. He is wearing a Johnny Cash t-shirt.
  1. His Johnny Cash t-shirt is tucked in to his pants.
  2. 2 Chainz has three children named Heaven, Harmony, and Halo. That’s real. And awesome.
  1. Would Johnny Cash ever wear a 2 Chainz t-shirt if her were still alive?
  1. Is the following a Johnny Cash lyric or a 2 Chainz lyric:

“I ain’t never done nothin’ to nobody

I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time,

And until I get somethin’ from somebody, sometime,

I don’t intend to do nothin’ for nobody, no time.”

  1. The answer to question 7 is Johnny Cash. It is from the 2000 song “Nobody.”
  1. Did 2 Chainz ghostwrite the lyrics to “Nobody” for Johnny Cash?
  1. The answer to questions 6 and 9 is “probably.”

-Jonny Auping

Star Wars, Spotlight, and Escapism as a Constant

I have yet to decide whether I’ll be eating Milk Duds or Sour Patch Kids while I watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters. The Venn Diagram of people who file W-9 forms and know which color (red) Sour Patch Kid has the best aftertaste is admittedly small, but that won’t really matter when I’m sitting in that theater. As soon as an attendant hands back my Star Wars ticket stub, I’m granted the luxury of leaving things like taxes, adulthood, and responsibility in the hallway.

Immediately, individual and collective problems are galaxies away from me.

Spotlight, Tom McCarthy’s telling of how the Boston Globe uncovered atrocities in the Catholic Church, was probably the best film of 2015. I didn’t bring candy to my seat when I saw it in theaters. It didn’t occur to me, like how it wouldn’t occur to me to wear a basketball jersey to a job interview.

So I wonder: If we see The Force Awakens to escape reality does that mean we see Spotlight to come to terms with it?

Star Wars might be the most famous example of fantasy escapism in modern history. Its seventh installment comes at a time when there’s plenty to want to get away from. A radical terrorist group has the whole world living in fear. Mass shootings have become commonplace. A reality star who campaigns with hateful and offensive diatribes has a seemingly realistic chance of becoming the most powerful man in the world.

The Force Awakens sends us to two different worlds: the world of Star Wars where Jedi Knights fly spaceships and the world of nostalgia where we look back on a specific time and romanticize it for not being now. We’ll already know some characters and we’ll be introduced to new ones, and the story will go on for our sake. The Dark Side will once again materialize itself. The Force will apparently wake up.

We’re supposed to be offered escapes during the Christmas season. We’re allowed the comfort of knowing that Leia never forced Han to sell his old ride or his favorite vest. New creatures, droids, and villains will provide us with a sense of wonder. It’s up to J.J. Abrams to effectively nail the conflict and drama of the story, but even falling short of expectations would effectively spark thousands (millions?) of backseat filmmakers who deep down understand that, when it comes to a franchise like this, critiquing the product is ultimately part of the larger product being sold. All of these things are distractions, and don’t we deserve them?

Spotlight takes us back in time 12 years, but it only pulls us closer to the world’s problems. The movie follows the four-person “Spotlight” team of the Boston Globe in the entirety of their investigation of the Catholic Church. The film takes on the life and feel of the story as it develops; when the Spotlight team is trying to determine if Cathloic priests are abusing children it feels like a small movie that maybe you heard some good things about. When their focus shifts on trying to figure out how many Catholic priests are molesting children and how far the cover up reaches it suddenly feels like a colossal film, the type we might see a teaser trailer for 18 months before its release.

The stakes are high in Spotlight and every scene is pleading for its characters to expose real evil, perpetrated on innocent children. The story’s arc doesn’t have much to do with defeating evil. A victory comes from acknowledging it.

So, the question again: If we see The Force Awakens to escape, would we merely see Spotlight to become educated by attractive actors?

That notion might be giving us too much credit. It’s all the more relaxing to sit down in front of the new Star Wars movie with some popcorn, take a deep breath, and think about how we earned this two-hour break from reality after the year we’ve had. The truth is, though, that we spend almost every spare moment we have partaking in escapism. It’s why we go to bars, play or watch sports, read literature, glue ourselves to a Netflix screen, or go on vacation. Any time not spent trying to fix our problems (personal or societal) is spent trying to forget about them. 

On a recent Channel 33 podcast, Bill Simmons implied that the impact of the Boston Globe’s real life story on the Catholic Church’s child abuse scandal was partially diminished in Boston, where Simmons was living at the time of the story, because it was published during the foundational moments of Tom Brady’s unlikely rise to superstardom as the New England Patriots’ quarterback. In theory, people talked about Brady instead of talking about child molestation. This might sound ridiculous, but it also sounds like escapism. It’s human nature, and it can be dangerous.

Oddly, this is also why we see Spotlight: for it’s entertainment value. Whether through superb acting or clever writing (usually both) every single scene contains high intensity, so much so that you might actually feel physically tired after the film.

Spotlight evokes an appreciation for the power of journalism and the determination of truth in the face of scandal. All of this is important, sure, but that importance doesn’t fluctuate when communicated in a bland or uninspiring way. We choose to watch a version of it told through Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams because, suddenly, it’s riveting. How it affects the way we look at the world once we step out is ancillary.

Star Wars, good or bad, will feel worth the hoopla of seeing it in theaters because it will take us so far away from where we are, if just for a few hours.

From beginning to end, Spotlight is a great movie, and ironically, in being such, is an escape. It keeps us close, though, and it invites us to bring our ideas and experiences into the theater with us. More importantly, it asks us to start acknowledging the things outside that theater.  

-Jonny Auping

 

 

Thanksgiving’s Most Overrated Foods

Thanksgiving. America’s favorite holiday that celebrates America’s favorite pastime–rapid consumption of calories. 

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving will always be burdened by two inconvenient truths:

  1. Everything you were taught about the first Thanksgiving is shit.
  2. Confining your entire extended family to one living room is shit.

With these truths in mind, the importance of the Thanksgiving meal itself multiplies. This is a holiday for eatin’, and your only goal is to ensure the eatin’ is good.

To ensure you don’t ruin Thanksgiving and possibly the entire dynamic of your family, I will happily bestow upon you my personal list of Thanksgiving’s most overrated foods:

Green Bean Casserole

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“Hey honey?”

“Yes dear?”

“You know what would really compliment these savory mashed potatoes, these rich, delicious pies?

“What’s that, honey?”

“The worst vegetable of all time, but we make it really fucking creamy for some reason and crumble up some stale Funyons on top”

I was not at the Thanksgiving dinner when green bean casserole was first added to the menu, but I am confident that’s how history’s darkest day played out.

I will never understand why green bean casserole has a roster spot on Team Thanksgiving. Green bean casserole is the worst. Green bean casserole told the teacher she forgot to collect the homework. Green bean casserole starts most of its sentences with “I’m not racist, but…”. Green bean casserole claps all the end of movies. Green bean casserole thinks Ben Carson has some good ideas.

Cranberry Sauce

cranberry-sauce

Does anyone actually eat cranberry sauce? I feel like cranberry sauce is placed on the table just for looks–a charming bowl of dark red mush, nothing more than a festive garnish.

When dinner is done, the turkey carcass is exposed, the mashed potatoes linger as starchy grains of sand, the bread basket is barren…and the cranberry sauce completely untouched. Actually, somehow there’s more cranberry sauce in the bowl than before. God felt SO bad for cranberry sauce, he made more imcuately appear in the bowl, hoping to get your attention–and you still ignored cranberry sauce. AND you ignored God.

Rolls

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Rolls are what you eat when you’re still hungry, but the only food left is the green bean casserole and the cranberry sauce God made.

Turkey

Cal-Seething-Nov-21-HandTurkey

You wait and wait for the mecca of the Thanksgiving meal to be served. The capital city of Thanksgiving Town. The Christmas of Thanksgiving dishes. Finally, your darling mother walks in the room, displaying a perfectly cooked turkey.

“I spent five hours basting this turkey, and it’s cooked to perfection”, your mother proudly claims, and you think, “cool mom I’ve done a lot of shit in my life too just set the bird down”.

 You take a few pieces of dark meat, a few pieces of light meat. You penetrate the turkey with your miniature trident, slowly lifting the meat into your mouth and introduce it to your hot, wet, single friend, “taste buds”.

And it tastes sooooo…..turkey-y.

It’s just turkey. You knew how it was going to taste, you eat turkey like once a week. And it’s alright I guess? It’s just turkey. It’s a  white meat that taste and looks an awful lot like chicken. It’s just turkey.

Sorry to ruin your holiday, but come on. It’s just turkey.

Flubber

Ugh mom stop serving Flubber at Thanksgiving nobody likes it why cant we be a normal family.

The Hypocrisy of Saying No

Thousands Of Syrian Refugees Seek Shelter In Makeshift Camps In Jordan

In 1909, a 26-year-old carpenter and his wife arrived in New York City as immigrants from a country that, 106 years later, is a topic of global debate. Shortly after their immigration from Syria to the United States, this couple had a daughter, and eventually, this daughter had a son, a son that become a comedian, and then an actor, starring in a wildly popular “show about nothing”.

In the 1950’s, a Syrian man fled the Middle East as political protests spiraled out of control. Seeking refuge from the turmoil, he traveled to the United States, eventually landing in Wisconsin. Here, he fell in love with a German-Swiss Catholic woman, and, eventually, this couple had a baby, a boy, a boy who grew into the man who made phones as smart as he was, who made computers accessible to all.

Jerry Seinfeld and Steve Jobs highlight our country’s collection of citizens whose family arrived via Syria. These individuals–all of them, not just the ones of fame and fortune–helped shape our country into what it is today.

To deny war-weary Syrian refugees access into our country is to deny the American narrative, to deny our country’s history and foundation–yet that is exactly what the governors of 20+ states and political leaders across the country have just done.

In addition to their astonishingly low levels of empathy, these are governors and statesmen that proudly declare their commitment to the ways of Christianity, though they are seemingly oblivious to the hypocrisy they foster by shutting the door on the needy and the helpless, an act that is a direct violation of the word of God.

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Indiana Christian governor Mike Pence, known Evangelical and purveyor of homophobia, a man already well-versed in religious hypocrisy, has requested state agencies cease all work currently being done to help settle Syrian refugees.

Cincinnati mayor John Cranley has made similar requests, despite being one month removed from a speech declaring his desire to make Cincinnati “the most immigrant-friendly city in the United States.” 

Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana and son of Indian immigrants, issued an executive order preventing Syrian refugees from being resettled in Louisiana.

As acts of terrorism plague Middle Eastern nations, I am reminded of the breed of terrorism currently plaguing our own nation–mass shootings, which continue to occur on a weekly basis, often by white people, always by males. These shootings occupy our headlines regularly, yet nobody stands up and declares every single white male a terrorist threat. Nobody declares the actions of the Dylan Roofs, the Adam Lanzas to be the acts of all white men–they acknowledge these individuals as anomalies, dark souls who desperately needed mental help. When it comes to Muslims, however, a group made up of over one billion people, we are so quick to claim that each practicing and non-practicing member of the religion is eyeing the extermination of our lives, our families, our nation.

Why are Muslims judged by the worst of their kind, while we judge our ourselves only by our best?

This is not a plea for tolerance towards ISIS or any fanatical group that uses a false guise of religion to purloin the gift of life. This is a plea for tolerance towards those who have suffered at the hands of this wretched hive of humans most frequently.

The Syrian refugees are not inherently evil—they are desperately attempting to elude those who are. Indifference towards their fight is its own brand of hate.

 

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference”
– Elie Wiesel