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:

IMG_2552

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

 

 

Straight Outta Kauffman: How the Kansas City Royals Made Me a Cubs Fan

Stories For Sunday is lucky to have a guest post from Joe Valentine. Read it, share it, find him and tell him it’s good so that, maybe, you’ll see his stuff here again sooner than later. 

I knew my girlfriend, Linda, was a Kansas City Royals fan before we started dating; it’s one of the first things she tells people when she meets them for the first time. The George Brett pine tar incident and the ’85 playoff run were her bedtime stories, and she still complains about the decision not to re-sign Johnny Damon in 2000 (who even knew Johnny Damon played for the Royals?). So I knew even before she asked that we’d be taking the 10-hour overnight Megabus ride from Chicago to KC, to be there, amongst her people, when the Royals played Game 7 against the San Francisco Giants in 2014, even though we didn’t have tickets.

After an especially wild wildcard comeback, the team had gone on a tear, demolishing better-on-paper teams with a Murderer’s Row-like batting order, fearless small ball base running, and a lights-out bullpen that genuinely believed it could hold any team scoreless in innings 7-9, and often did, all the way through Game 6 of the World Series. Linda, who had, in years past, proclaimed, “If the Royals win the World Series, I will burn my own house to the ground,” could not miss their coronation or the celebration to follow.

In a bar in Kansas City’s Westport district, I watched Linda and her brother shed unabashed tears after Salvador Perez took a clunky, uncommitted hack at a high fastball in the bottom of the ninth inning, resulting in a routine popup that ended the most entertaining playoff run I’d witnessed. The 2014 Royals created a compelling Cinderella story, only it ended with Cinderella getting caught in the rain, splashed with muddy gutter water from a passing car, and then mugged on her walk home because her carriage had turned back into a pumpkin before she could leave the ball.

“It was ours,” Linda said. She was in pieces, and she wasn’t alone; it felt like the entire bar was weeping into Boulevard beers.

And then, over the next few weeks, those same sad fans seemed to come together to form a citywide group hug, like Whos after the Grinch stole their Christmas, both grateful to have had a chance to win it all and universally willing to live and die by the immediately created “unfinished business” tagline, simultaneously licking their wounds and licking their collective chops for the start of the 2015 season.

The next month, locally-owned Boulevard Brewery released a limited edition beer–“Crown Town”–to commemorate the Royals’ playoff run, and it had officially ceased to matter that they hadn’t won. Linda’s dad waited in line for multiple hours multiple times to make sure each of his children had a bottle. Linda’s family is a microcosm of a community in which Royals baseball matters. Like, really matters. It’s annoying until it’s inspiring. It’s corny until it’s enviable.

I remember feeling impacted by that passion: a genuine, authentic love for a game and a team. It stood in stark contrast to my own depleted interest in my hometown team, the Chicago Cubs, who had, in two decades, provided me with precious few incentives to continue expending effort on fandom. Until very recently, existing as a Cubs fan required a skin of cynicism, a laugh-at-yourself mentality, and an obligatory sheepish smile after proclaiming, “Next year will be our year.”

Sure, there were signs of life during seasons leading up to 2015: an ownership and management change, planned renovations to the dilapidated (though admittedly still endearing) Wrigley Field, whispers of mythically talented prospects panning out, including now-superstars Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. My dad, after a lifetime in want, finally became a season ticket holder while I was living just a few blocks from Wrigley Field.

Still, requiring an excuse for your loyalty is taxing and, for me, the inevitable result of so much laughably poor baseball was that I simply stopped caring. I stopped investing energy into hope and expectation. Over a series of annual closet cleanouts, I donated all my Cubs shirts to Goodwill. In two seasons spent living within spitting distance of the stadium, I didn’t attend a single game. I stopped being a baseball fan.

Writing this, I realize that Cubs purists do exist (including my own cousin, a golf course greenskeeper who spends full days on a riding a lawnmower dreaming about the champagne he’ll pop when the Commissioner’s Trophy is finally ours), diehards who would label me a bandwagon fan. To them, I’d simply contend that sports are pain. God forbid I opt out of voluntary sadness.

It wasn’t that I didn’t remember the sheet of loose leaf I’d pinned to my bedroom wall and used to keep a running tally of Sammy Sosa’s 1998 home run count (innocently oblivious to the 40+ pounds of pure muscle that differentiated that version of Sammy from the guy in the rookie card I kept in a protective case and mounted on the same bedroom wall). It wasn’t that I threw away the Cubs hat I’d slept in for weeks during the summer of 2003, sweating and itching and afraid to take it off and jinx a streak. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss having something to talk about on the phone with my dad. It was just that sports are pain, and after I stopped blaming Steve Bartman for all my problems, after several seasons without a pulse, after an increasingly snide, hip young demographic had successfully overrun the Lakeview neighborhood where I lived, I tapped out.

Linda and I moved from Chicago to Kansas City in July, a change that coincided with a lot of really good baseball. Shortly after we moved, we bought $10 tickets (ludicrously inexpensive relative to the cost of living to which I’d been accustomed) to a packed Friday night game and, even in 95-degree heat, the energy of the Kauffman Stadium crowd was palpable. That night’s win saw the Royals extend their division lead to a comfortable 12 games.

Back in Chicago, a buzz was beginning to burgeon about the way that Brawny Man/Yukon Cornelius-hybrid Jake Arrieta was routinely making the NL’s best hitters look like beer league softball dads in the batter’s box, and about how the North Side had its own lights-out bullpen and a succession of swingers who were putting bat to ball seemingly on command.

Still, I maintained a practiced degree of ironic distance from the suddenly-fun-to-watch Cubs. Fandom requires vulnerability––as I’d witnessed firsthand after last year’s World Series––and I wasn’t ready to put myself back out there following the slow, miserable decline into irrelevance I’d experienced over the previous half-decade. Now that I lived in the Kansas City, a town so fully committed to its baseball team that it supports an entire industry of clever custom Royals-related t-shirt printers, I felt that if I were to commit myself to the Cubs and mean it, they’d better not embarrass me. If I were going to talk the talk, Kyle Schwarber had better walk the walk.

Then, on September 28th the Cubs played the Royals. As a result of my fringe fandom, I was unaware that the Giants’ loss two days prior had helped the Cubs secure a spot in the NL wildcard game and was still under the impression that a win mattered. I’d never taken so much as a controversial step onto Linda’s sacred turf before, and so after a routine groundout resulted in my yelling “Suck it, Lorenzo Cain!” and her throwing the remote at me, we finished watching the game from separate rooms. I couldn’t lose my Joker grin after Chris Denorfia’s pinch-hit homer in the 11th inning sealed the game, and it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time Cubs baseball had made me smile. It made Linda miserable, and that in and of itself made me happy, not because I find joy in my girlfriend’s sadness, but because she actually feels this stuff. The Cubs made her feel something, and I know that’s real.

The next day, my barber said to me, “The Cubs are the Royals of 2015.” Linda’s dad asked whether my dad could secure any extra tickets at Wrigley in the event of a Cubs/Royals World Series. A co-worker came by my desk to tell me, “Your Cubbies are looking good this year.” My Cubbies? In a town where baseball is talked about seriously, people were seriously talking about the Cubs, who finished the regular season with a better record than the Royals.

Jake Arrieta was terrifying and unstoppable in the wild card win over the Pirates. In a particularly satisfying Division Series, my Cubbies laid waste to a Cardinals team whose fans never resist an opportunity to stick up their noses at any mention of their division rivals to the north (If I had a dollar for every time I heard “Oh, you’re a Cubs fan? Why?” in my four years at Saint Louis University, I’d be losing a lot less sleep over student loan debt). “The Royals of 2015” was looking more and more like an accurate prediction.

Inevitably, the Royals were the Royals of 2015. I mourned the sweep and elicited extra boo’s toward a Mets team onto whom I’d projected a totally unwarranted villainous persona as I sat in right field for all 14 innings of the Royals’ victory in Game 1 of the World Series. And on Sunday night, I put on a clever custom Kansas City t-shirt (the impeccably classy “Turn Your Head and Kauffman”) and jumped around amidst a champagne shower in the streets of Westport, showing up to work two full hours late the following morning wearing sunglasses and chugging Alka-Seltzer from a travel coffee mug.

In 2015, I enjoyed the MLB playoffs for the first time in a long time, maybe ever.

It felt good to watch every game, to have an opinion on every player. It felt good to realize that I still remember the rules, the strategies. It felt good to achieve what I’d recognized in Linda’s family, and perhaps what I’d coveted all along: a comfort in saying, “Next year will be our year,” totally non-ironically. It felt good to celebrate in a city that was so ready to celebrate, to take care of unfinished business. And it felt good to watch the Kansas City Royals absolutely dismantle the New York Mets, whom I’d grown to despise, because there’s only one kind of person who vilifies an opposing team: a fan.

Joe Valentine 

The Grantland Generation and the Lie We Chose To Believe

 Grantland tricked a lot of young people into becoming writers. I’m one of them. Call us the Grantland Generation.

Grantland launched the summer before my senior year of college. In short time, what they were trying to become—what they eventually became—was clear. They were good, thoughtful writing, focused on developing specific voices into diverse content. It would be romanticizing Grantland to say that providing those things filled a gaping hole in the market. Great, nuanced writing, about both sports and pop culture, existed before and after them at publications with similar goals.

What Grantland did was make that work appear mainstream, cool, sharable, and discussion worthy to not just the pretentious or unrealistically informed. Mickey Mouse was putting his backing behind Grantland, and a conglomerate of that size has an ability to legitimize a venture as industry simply by association. Writing—writing about things most young people already love—represented a sect of ESPN, that we chose to believe was equal to any other sect of ESPN, because why would we stop to think otherwise? To a tremendous amount of young writers, Grantland was massively influential in their decisions to call writing a career. That may seem silly to older generations of writers and readers because four years is barely even recent history, but to those of us in our twenties it’s the most informing and impressionable period of time imaginable.

What Grantland did for writers my age was create a similar construct to the one that made so many sports fans in the nineties and early 2000s (and even now) idolize Stuart Scott, Scott Van Pelt, Dan Patrick, and other SportsCenter anchors. They had dream jobs. Grantland came along and, all of a sudden, being a writer didn’t seem like the starving artist livelihood that being a painter or a poet appeared to be. Grantland had an office that ESPN paid for, and great writers hung out there. It created an ideological shift that cool, funny, serious, and weird writing was a career field. The Grantland Generation didn’t need to get a job at Grantland. We just assumed we’d get a job at a place-like-Grantland, because once you freelance enough, a Bill Simmons-type will notice you and you’ll become a specific voice for a much larger vehicle.

I was never published in Grantland, and that fact doesn’t bother me. I’m proud of the places where I’ve seen my work. I can say truthfully, that some of the writers whose names I’ve been published alongside are probably my greatest sources of satisfaction in my career. And working with some of my editors has been like taking free throw lessons from Steph Curry.

Sure, Grantland writers inspired and influenced my writing. I wouldn’t have chased down a story on Johnny Manziel’s hometown if I hadn’t studied the writing of Bryan Curtis. I wouldn’t have started a column called “Tuesdays With 2 Chainz” if Shea Serrano hadn’t made me laugh so much. I wouldn’t have reported on the world’s largest podcast conference if I hadn’t read Molly Lambert on the world’s largest porn conference. I wouldn’t have published joke emails to Ryan Gosling’s restaurant (and Justin Timberlake’s, and Mark Wahlburg’s) if Rembert Browne didn’t make me realize that being silly won’t make people discount your intelligence. I wouldn’t have learned how to write about basketball and make it sound like I’m talking about it with my friends if I hadn’t read Chris Ryan and Jason Concepcion.

But I had inspirations elsewhere, too, and there was incredible, versatile writing outside of Grantland. Too much to begin to name, in fact. Look around and you’ll find it, and love it. But Grantland convinced me, and countless other, that there was an industry to support the size of this writing community. It didn’t take much convincing. We believed it because we wanted to.

We’re writing now. Not at Grantland, but we’re writing, and it’s hard. Not just for the reasons it should be hard, that is, because writing anything is a painstaking, vulnerable task. No, it’s hard because not quite enough people care, and less pay.

Grantland’s death—more specifically, the way Grantland died—is first and foremost sad for the great writers who lost their jobs. But for the Grantland Generation, it was a punch to the stomach, because Grantland didn’t have enough financial support, and was so unimportant to ESPN that it could exist at 10:00 AM and be a memory at noon. I think a lot of us young writers liked to pretend that maybe every Grantland writer was making six figures while totally aware it was just a fantasy we used to justify the less-than-lucrative work we were doing ourselves. Now, we realize, the majority of those writers are not just unemployed, but now competing with us for jobs and space in a room we already could barely fit in.

To an older generation of writers, the demise of Grantland is surely just another reminder of the nature of a tough business with no guarantees. To us, to those that came into writing in a world where Grantland already existed, it’s a shattered illusion. It’s a look behind the curtain to see that the Land of Oz is actually controlled by Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.

So in a way, Grantland lied to us. Or maybe we just lied to ourselves. It doesn’t really matter.  Many of us, and perhaps some Grantland staffers, chose to see Simmons as an Ari Gold-like figure, running around town protecting his talent (a reference and analogy many writers would probably shudder at, but I have a feeling Simmons would appreciate). But that’s not how this industry works, and ESPN was never all in. Advertisers care less about Time On Site and more about clicks, which is a bad thing for anyone putting effort into each thought. 

So that mindset led many of us not to a career, but to a life of hoping that the most recent invoice comes through before rent’s due. But the reveal of the illusion doesn’t actually change anything except for our own realizations. The landscape isn’t all that different, but it feels more intimidating. The odds were always stacked against us, and some of us are just now realizing the gravity of that.

This came in a month stretch when I was having increased difficulty getting paid for what I considered good writing (as if it’s ever easy). My gut reaction to this, to all of this, is to write, and to write more than I already do, which will be no easy task. Even if that doesn’t make sense. Even if I don’t get paid or pieces go to waste, unpublished.

Trying to be one of many people contributing good, thoughtful writing out into the world isn’t a job just because I want it to be. You don’t just get health insurance because you write every single day.

But I’m going to keep doing it. I think a lot of other people just like me will too.

“You are meant to play the ball as it lies, a fact that may help to touch on your own objective approach to life.”

-Grantland Rice

Written by Jonny Auping