by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 1, 2017 7:57 PM

Salivating. Glowing. Groveling. Appalling. The normalization of the toddler who would be king was on disgusting display last night following his unbelievably incredible feat of reading off a TelePrompTer and not sounding deranged. Amazing how far we've come and how low we've sunk that this is now the standard on which he is judged. This from the enemy of the American people. They should be ashamed. They should be embarrassed. They should be, but they're not. They've all been so desperate to make this man-baby into something worthy of the office that they have been reduced to this. They should engage in some self-reflection.

I am not a media basher. I believe that journalism is a noble profession. I don't think that everyone should agree with me nor do I think that they should have condemned the speech given last night. The fact that he didn't froth at the mouth or burst into flames is improvement. But just because he didn't do those things doesn't mean he was presidential or that it was a good speech. It was a speech, read off a machine by a nasty human being who cares not one wit about anyone other than himself. He wasn't good. He just wasn't maniacal. That is not a good standard by which to measure someone and it certainly isn't appropriate for members of the media to fawn over someone's ability to be restrained for an hour. That would be like deciding that because Charles Manson didn't spout demonic phrases this afternoon he's no longer out of his fucking mind. 

I expected it, though, the fawning. It was time. It’s cyclical. For the last 40 days – dog, has it only been that long? – there was been constant scrutiny. There have been negative stories because of negative acts. There have been bad op-eds. But the media, like America in general, loves a good comeback. If someone has been down, and that person can then pick themselves back up and become something or someone special, they fawn and salivate and glow all over themselves. 

Think Robert Downey Jr, after finally getting sober. Think John Travolta before and then after Pulp Fiction. Think the hated New England Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl. Even those who can’t stand them grudgingly acknowledged their impressive and winning comeback. There are countless others who aren’t famous but who have changed their lives for the better, pulling themselves back from the brink of destruction to prosper and thrive. 

The toddler in chief is not one of those people. 

Because for every person who has picked themselves up, there are those who are still not celebrated. Mel Gibson and Roman Polanski come to mind. The toddler is a bit like those two, only much worse because of the power he has in his tiny hands.

He’s Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, with worse hair and makeup. He wants to be the salesman. He wants to tell people what they want to hear and say it in such a way as to get people to forget that he’s a miserable mother fucker who cares about one thing and one thing only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. (Hat tip: Aaron Sorkin from The American President) 

Mexicans. Syrians. Immigrants. Democrats. Women. The media. 

And the media bought it nearly en masse last night. But for those of us who remained disgusted, appalled, disappointed, fearful and distrustful of toddlers everywhere, what he did last night was sickening, not glorious, not triumphant. Not worth fawning over. He just did what he’s been doing for a year and a half, only with his indoor voice. 

Will we ever learn, ever grow up, ever hold people of power to account, ever not be influenced by power and celebrity and a spray tan? I remain hopeful, last night and today notwithstanding.

Here’s to tomorrow and the possibility that it holds to stop this malignant narcissist in his tiny tracks. That would be worth celebrating.

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Metaphorically speaking

by Lorin Michel Monday, February 27, 2017 9:09 PM

I’ve gone back to school – I’m just about finished with my second class – and I’m loving it. It’s kicking my butt, especially this second class, but I’m learning a lot. The current short story I’m writing was doing really well but each week as I added more to it per the weekly writing assignments, it seemed to get more and more convoluted. In addition to love and learn, it’s also been frustrating. 

This week’s assignment was called the “cut-up.” We were to print out our stories thus far, mark each scene, and then cut up the story, laying each scene out on the floor (or tape the scenes up to the wall) and see what emerges. The idea was to find out where the drama is, what the scenes are saying. Is the main source of the drama only a paragraph while the superfluous scene at the mailbox is two pages? I was skeptical. In fact, I was irritated by the whole idea. 

But then I started thinking. The story has been bugging me. It wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Every night for the past week and a half, I’ve been awake thinking about it, struggling with it. 

I didn’t do the cut-up at first because I didn’t know what good it would do. 

Today I did it and suddenly there was more clarity. I had already come to some conclusions, just based on my endless worrying and chewing, but this assignment actually showed where I was having trouble. 

I cut up my 8 pages of scenes and arranged them on the floor of my office. I took a picture like I was supposed to and along with my report, I posted it in my group. I was so excited about it, I had Kevin come in and look at the mess I’d made. He’s been so great helping me with these classes, reading my drivel and giving hugely constructive help and critiques. He came into my office and started to laugh. 

“This is it?” he said. “This is the story? What do you think?” 

He knelt down on the floor to take a closer look. I told him I thought it was actually a fascinating exercise and that it seemed to solidify the ideas and thoughts that I’ve been having over the past week in terms of how it needs to change. 

“Well, good,” he said. 

Riley was outside. It was an odd day, cloudy but not necessarily cold. Rain was on its way in, arriving tomorrow. A nice breeze was brewing. As the dog came to the door, asking to come in please, Kevin reached over and opened it. Just at that moment, the breeze arrived and it rushed in, disrupting my cut-up. Suddenly all of my carefully arranged scenes were jumbled together, and my cut-up was a dust-up. 

Kevin looked sheepish. I didn’t care. I’d already photographed it and posted it; I didn’t need the neatness of it anymore. 

“Kind of a metaphor, don’t you think?” he asked. And he was right. My story right now is jumbled, everything is a bit mixed up. And that’s a good thing. It is a mess. But as I scooped up all the pieces, it occurred to me that maybe this was more than a metaphor. It’s a sign. Mix it up, rearrange, rewrite and hopefully come up with something better.

Metaphorically speaking.

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Like candy to a

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 25, 2017 7:19 PM

Baby. Baby boomer. Whatever. I am not a big candy eater. I like an occasional piece of fudge. I have been known to eat an entire box of Red Vines at the movies. But I don’t feel the need to keep chocolate in the house and never really have. However, when it comes to turtles, I am powerless to resist.

Turtles, for the uninitiated, are candies where pecans and caramel are stuck together in goo and then dipped into milk chocolate. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. I don’t remember when this love affair started but I do remember buying them at a small candy store in Maine called Len Libby. We vacationed up there every summer and a trip to Len Libby’s was one of the highlights. I always left with a bag of turtles. My mother has been buying them for me ever since, and mostly as one of my Christmas presents. 

Turtles, come to find out, are actually a branded candy that were first made in 1918 by Johnson’s Candy Company. The legend is that a salesman came into the commissary’s dipping room and showed a candy to one of the dippers who remarked that the confection looked like a turtle. Thus a candy was born. The company trademarked the name and the trademark followed them when they became DeMet’s and then Nestle and then Brynwood Partner’s DeMet’s Candy Company and finally Yildiz Holding. 

Doesn’t sound very sweet. 

People everywhere have made these chocolate covered delights for years, including Len Libby and See’s Candies. Some were better than others, largely due to the type of chocolate and caramel used. Speaking from personal experience, I don’t think I ever met a turtle I didn’t like if not love. 

So imagine my joy when I was in the grocery store this morning. It was my usual weekly jaunt to replenish the coffers, also known as the fridge and the pantry. I was turning down the first row of frozen foods because we needed a frozen pizza. I say “needed” because ever since Kevin fell from the sky on Thanksgiving several years ago in the infamous “why didn’t Auntie Warren holded the ladder for Uncle Kebin” incident, we always keep a frozen pizza in the freezer. This is because that horrific day was spent in the emergency room and by the time we got home that evening, everything was closed and all that we had in the house to eat was a frozen pizza. It’s fallback food, no pun intended. Also nostalgia-food. 

I started down the aisle and there at the front, in a lovely display, were boxes of Russell Stover candy along with Whitman Samplers. I have no idea why. Maybe they were left over from Valentine’s Day which is big on candy, but there it was. I stopped because if memory serves, my mother is a big Russel Stover fan, and it made me think of her.

That’s when I saw that one of the boxes was Pecan Delights. Pecans and caramel covered in milk chocolate. Turtles.

I bought a box because I am powerless to resist turtles and because it was in the perfect spot to catch my attention. What can I say? It was like candy to a tail-end baby-boomer and I’ll celebrate tonight by having half of one.

And suddenly

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, February 21, 2017 7:22 PM

Uncomfortably. Ridiculously. Incredulously. Painfully. The world spins ever faster. It’s a phenomenon that always amazes, and one that seems to gain momentum and inertia as the years stream past. It is at once uncomfortable and ridiculous. It makes me incredulous. The world spins and gets older. We get older; I’m getting old. 

Once upon a time, I was the youngest one. When I first started working, I was the baby. This after years of always being the oldest at school. I started older, because of where my birthday falls. I graduated from high school at 18 and turned 19 halfway through my freshman year when others around me were just turning 18. When I graduated, I was already 22 and a half. I was the oldest who became the youngest. Now I’m feeling like the oldest again.

I remember the first time my age became an issue, not for me but for others. I had been in conversations with a small startup cosmetic company in Carpenteria. We talked a number of times. I sent them samples of my work. I got what it was that they were looking for. We had great conversations. They requested an in-person meeting so I drove up to Carp, about an hour north of Oak Park. I walked in and I could see their entire demeanor change. I was obviously too old. What could I possibly know about makeup and trends and being beautiful.

I was probably 39. 

I recounted that story to a friend of mine recently. She’s not quite as old as I am, perhaps four or five years younger. She was aghast. I shrugged, even though we were on the phone. I wanted to say that I was surprised, but I wasn’t. I actually kind of expected it, especially since those running the startup were in their early 20s. To someone who’s 23, someone who’s pushing 40 is old. 

I thought of myself as comfortably experienced. But I made them uncomfortable. Many years have passed. And now I’m comfortably seasoned. 

But it’s a weird feeling to suddenly be here. My doctors are all becoming younger. My gynecologist is the only one who’s still older, or perhaps just my age. I did that on purpose. Soon I’ll be the age where having a doctor who’s older than me could be detrimental to my health. 

So far all of the presidents I’ve lived to see have been older than I. Obama was only a year older but still older. The current toddler in chief is much older though he acts like a two-year old. A president younger than me is coming. I wonder how it feels to have those in power younger and still wiser (again, present occupant being the exception). I wonder how it feels to start to feel obsolete.

There are days when I feel that way now but they are largely the exception rather than the rule. Lately I’ve been experiencing terrible shoulder and neck pain and I feel even older. I’ve long referred to aches and pains as age rot. Now I think it’s just age and the ridiculousness of getting older and feeling it physically but not necessarily emotionally. 

When I was a teenager I had a crush on David Cassidy. I watched The Partridge Family every week, I had albums, and I had a poster of David taped to the back of my bedroom door. I’ve come to know that he wasn’t a great singer, but he was adorable. And he had great hair.

Now David Cassidy is 66 years old. He recently announced that he has dementia. And suddenly I’m painfully aware of age, of the world spinning ever forward. All the more reason to find something good every day. To live it out loud and celebrate something.

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live out loud


by Lorin Michel Sunday, February 19, 2017 9:09 PM

Wondering. Analyzing. Anticipating. Worrying. Every day brings something new. Every day, every hour brings another OMG, another slap the head and sigh, another boil over with anger moment. I used to wake up in the morning and check the weather first, followed by email just to make sure nothing needed to be addressed before I got to my office and officially started my day. Now I open the News app, afraid to see what’s happened while I had the audacity to sleep, maybe, to relax if just a bit.

I don’t recall ever feeling such visceral fear. I know I’m not alone. I know there are a number of us who wonder and worry, who anticipate and analyze, who think and absorb everything and who question. When will someone do something about someone who’s doing such obvious damage? Will someone? Can anyone?

And then I realize that it isn’t up to someone or anyone. It’s up to me. 

I woke up this morning to rain. I slept badly, up worrying and wondering and fearing, on and off all night. Once, in the darkness, I heard the rain on the skylight. It was soothing, grounding. This morning it was much the same. The skylight pinged and pattered; I knew it was raining before I opened my eyes. When I did, I was facing the window. The day was gray, the sky heavy. Obviously. It had to be. But I found quickly that it also reflected my mood. I hadn’t even gotten out of bed and I felt gray, morose, weighed down by too much and yet not enough. 

I heard the coffee pot gurgling and realized that Kevin was up already. It was 7:30. I took stock of my feelings and as I did, I found myself burrowing. I don’t like waking up in a mood like that. Even when I’ve had trouble sleeping, which happens more often than I’d like, I’m usually nothing more than tired when I get up. But this morning was different. It wasn’t the rain. It’s not work. It’s a little bit of school but I can work through that. No, what it was and is and will be for quite some time is uncertainty. From a personal standpoint, it’s uncertainty about work, making money, saving money, maintaining health and being able to get health insurance. It’s the environment. It’s happiness and maintaining that. 

But it’s not just about me. The uncertainty I feel most deeply is about our once great country, a country I was always proud of. We were strong, we did the right thing for the most part. We became a beacon in the world for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning for …

Yearning for more than freedom. Yearning for hope and possibility and meaning and ability and wonder; for safety and security and opportunity. Yearning for more. I have realized that I’m yearning for more, and that in order to get it, I must do something. Personally, I have to challenge myself; I have to push and persevere. For the country, I have to get involved. I have to challenge the status quo, to do something that I taught Justin, something that he often rolled his eyes at when he was young but that he now regularly quotes as being a mantra: Question everything. Unless you know something to be true, question it. And even then, question it to make it better. 

Unless I know it to be true…

I’ve been wondering, analyzing, anticipating, worrying. I’ve been waiting. I’m waiting for me.

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Against the wind

by Lorin Michel Monday, February 13, 2017 8:14 PM

I lived in Columbia, Maryland in 1976, and one the great joys of the very brief time I spent there, was a venue called the Merriweather Post Pavilion. Frank Gehry, the renowned architect, along with his partner David O’Malley, designed it back in the mid-1960s and it opened in 1967 on the former grounds of the Oakland Manor slave plantation. Named after Marjorie Merriweather Post, the American Post Foods heiress, it was supposed to be a venue for the National Symphony Orchestra but it quickly became popular for performances, instead, by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, and The Who, among other rock icons from the late 60s and early 70s. 

By 1974, Howard County, home of Columbia, banned certain types of rock and rock musicians from appearing at the Pavilion. Bands like Alice Cooper and Edgar Winter were deemed unacceptable. But certain artists were still OK. The summer that I lived in Columbia, I went to the Pavilion a number of times, and saw such artists as Jackson Browne (his Running on Empty album was partially recorded there). I saw the Doobie Brothers pre-Michael McDonald. And I saw Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band during the tour following Live Bullet. Live Bullet was one of my favorite double album sets and I would blast it day and night. I still have my copy of it on vinyl and it still plays well. 

I have no idea who turned me onto Live Bullet. But I do remember seeing Seger and the Band and loving the concert. After that, I bought Bob Seger albums whenever they came out. Night Moves and Stranger in Town; Beautiful Loser that came out pre Live Bullet. And Against the Wind in 1979.

The album was a huge success and Seger won a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The album was also harshly criticized by Rolling Stone magazine that wrote: “I'd like to say that this is not only the worst record Bob Seger has ever made, but an absolutely cowardly one as well … (with) failureproof songs that are utterly listenable and quite meaningless.” Ouch.

I loved it. And especially the title track which featured Glenn Frey of the Eagles on background vocals.

It’s supposedly a song that looks back, a bit longingly, at days gone by, when he was young and strong, and running against the wind. And then seeing the days of now, when things aren’t as good as they were then. In fact, one line from the song – “wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” – sums it all up. When you’re young and don’t know anything about life, you can be free. Then you get older, you have experiences, and suddenly you know too much about life. And you don’t really want to. 

I thought of the song today. I have no idea why other than the fact that we took Riley for a walk this morning and the entire time we were walking it seemed to be against the wind. It was harsh and cold and strong. It made us work for every step. And I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe that was the whole point of life. You’re often moving against the wind. It’s hard to make progress; you get tired and want to quit. But you persevere. Because you do know now what you didn’t know then, namely that it can be very much worth it.

In my wind-blown opinion. 

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The old person’s video game

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 11, 2017 7:05 PM

In 1972, Atari came out with a game called Pong. It was essentially an electronic ping-pong game. They first put their console in a bar called Andy Capp’s Tavern. Within days, the game was acting weird so Atari sent technicians to find out what the problem was, fearing that it would hurt their success potential. The technicians discovered that the reason the game wasn’t acting correctly was because the console was overfilled with quarters from people trying to play the game. Success. Soon after, in 1975, they created a home version and sold it through Sears. My dad bought one and we learned quickly how to maneuver the now antiquated controls to knock a small ball back over the ‘net so the other player could do the same. It had various speeds, and someone would eventually not be able to get their “paddle” – a square block of technology – into the right position. The electronic ball, just a round white disc, would sail past. Point. 

The game was in black and white, if it could be called that. The screen was black but the extremely crude game pieces were white/blue. It was like an old computer, which is essentially what it was. I remember playing it, but never being addicted to it. I think eventually Atari made more games and I’m sure my father upgraded the system. He was also one of the first to buy a VCR. I wasn’t a game person but someone in the house must have been. Maybe my brother, and perhaps my dad. 

Video games progressed to Pac Man in the early 1980s. We had Pac Man game consoles in the restaurant where I worked in college. They were always populated with frat boys who would place their mugs of beer on the side as they hooted and hollered while eating up whatever stuff as they maneuvered their game guy through a maze. I don’t know that I ever played Pac Man or Ms. Pac Man which was the same except pink. 

Atari begat Nintendo which begat Play Station. When Justin was little we had Play Station. He was also completely enamored with Game Boy. He had several versions, beginning when he was fairly young. He never went anywhere without it, including camp. I picked him up one day after they returned from one of their excursions, maybe to Disneyland or Magic Mountain, pullin up in my BMW to find him in tears, sitting on the curb. It wasn’t because I was late; I wasn’t. It was because he’d lost his Game Boy. I sat down next to him, put my arm around his quivering shoulder and asked him to tell me what happened; where he had lost it. He looked up at me through his enormous glasses, his eyes rimmed with tears. He was maybe 8. Evidently when he’d gotten out of the bus, someone hit his arm, and his Game Boy crashed to the ground where it proceeded to slide down into the drain. The drain that was right beneath us. I got down on the ground and looked and sure enough, there it was, in all of its bright yellowness, resting on a bed of leaves. 

“Let’s go get a handle and see if we can fish it out,” I told him. This gave him hope. We buzzed home. I grabbed a broom handle, the small shovel and a roll of duct tape. We drove back, I attached the shovel to the broom handle with the tape and then laid down on the road to try to fish it out. Justin was squatted next to me, watching with great anticipation. 

I was very determined but ultimately would have probably been unsuccessful. Thankfully, two guys in a pickup truck pulled up and asked if they could help. I told them what was going on. They had a crowbar in their truck. They pried up the manhole cover leading to the drain. Justin scampered down, retrieved his Game Boy, and all was right with the world.

Kevin and I have never been fans of video games. Justin upgraded his Play Station. He may have had something else as well, though I don’t think he had a Wii. He still plays video games on his computer and can sit for hours doing nothing more than that. He’s 26 now, but still loves it. 

Kevin plays a game on the iPad. It’s solitaire. The old fashioned card game created for one person. He opens the app, shuffles the cards, and proceeds to play game after game by simply touching the screen. He loves it, and I can’t help but laugh. Justin slays dragons and progresses up through levels as he kills or whatever. Kevin turns over cards and occasionally tackles the daily challenge.

It’s the old person’s version of a video game. And I think it’s worth celebrating.

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Braking bad

by Lorin Michel Thursday, February 9, 2017 9:16 PM

Kevin’s Classic needs brakes. The 1992 Range Rover, that we bought in July for a mere $3000, has some issues. We knew it would. It’s 25 years old and has 188,000 miles on it. It was only three grand, and it’s British. In those days, British cars were still known to be somewhat problematic.

A roommate of mine in college had a 1967 MGB. It was a fabulous little car and a total broken down little piece of trouble. Her dad had a number of MGs, including Bs and midgets. They were continuously in the shop because they weren’t always running. The British aren’t necessarily known for building cars that are mechanically sound. They are, however, known for creating some truly ground-breaking, breathtaking and classic cars. Witness the James Bond Aston Martin, the fancy Jaguars. And the Land Rover.

We have had five Land Rovers over the years including the current Sport and now the Classic. I love my Sport, and Kevin loves his Classic. He wanted a truck to be able to carry around dirt and rocks and weeds and twigs and cement blocks and bags of cement and whatever else needs to be trucked. I didn’t want him to using the Sport. It’s our only “nice” car, having sold the Porsche. Enter the Classic. 

It has quirks. 

It’s in pretty good shape, even though to open the passenger door you have to pull the handle while simultaneously pushing on the door just below the window. 

A couple of weeks ago, it needed a new muffler. Kevin found a place that could replace it for $300. 

The brush guards need to be re-painted. 

The seats are fairly trashed and so they are hidden beneath cheap seat covers I got at Pep Boys. It’s a temporary fix. Eventually, Kevin is going to reupholster them. 

The dashboard was in some state of disrepair, but Kevin took it apart, fixed it and put it back together. It now works great. The two cigar lighters – yes, that’s what they’re called – aren’t in place yet; ditto the center cubby that is a bit askew. Kevin is in the process of rebuilding that. 

But it’s a great truck. The paint is decent; it has great bite on the tires. 

However the brakes aren’t so good. The rotors or something need to be replaced. There are pads and feet and calipers and bearings and other stuff that need to be changed/fixed/whatever. I don’t quite understand. So Kevin tried to explain to me why he needed to replace certain aspects in order to get the truck to stop properly without issue. This is how I heard it: 

Blah blah blah blah, the peddle, blah blah, fluid, blah blah blah blah blah blah, rotors blah calipers blah stop. Blah! 

My understanding of how a car – or truck – brakes is much more simple. Push the peddle. Car stops.

I like my explanation better. Blah blah blah.

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Let the chips fall where they may

by Lorin Michel Monday, February 6, 2017 8:02 PM

I am a chip fiend. I can't think of a single type of chip that doesn't seduce me with its promise of salted excellence. Excellence being a relative term. Chips and I have a relationship that goes back nearly as long as I can remember. When I was little, we used to eat Wise potato chips. They came in a blue bag with an owl as a mascot. My mother often included Fritos in my lunch. I had Frito Bandito erasers on my pencils in school.

As some point, Lays became my chip of choice and it remains so though I have been known to not discriminate. I like Ruffles and Kettle; I even like the no-name grocery store brands. I like homemade chips, too.

I'm a purist at heart, just regular old potato chips for me, in keeping with my general love of all things potato. Still, I have been known to dabble in jalapeño and barbecue flavors; sour cream and onion and salt and vinegar, not so much. I like dip but don't require it in order to polish off a bag.

Yes, you read that correctly. A bag.  An entire bag.

When I was young, I could literally sit down, pop a tape in the VCR, open a bag of chips and a bottle of white wine – see? This shows you exactly how young I was because I was still drinking white wine. I’d eat the entire bag. I should also say that even though I would eat like this, I remained slim and trim. In fact, I sometimes even lost weight. I no longer have that kind of luck which is why I also don't tend to eat chips at all anymore. 

Also cholesterol. And salt intake.

We rarely have chips in the house and if we do, they tend to be of the gluten-free tortilla chip variety. They're good but not nearly as good as the stuff in the bright yellow bag.

Sunday, at a Super Bowl party, I indulged in some chips. There were many kinds of dips and many types of chips including tortilla chips which are very tasty especially with chili con queso and guacamole. I didn't have too much; I've learned to be good.

“Let the chips fall where they may” is an idiom that basically means, do whatever without worrying too much about the consequences, as in: I’m going to take the job even though I probably shouldn’t and let the chips fall where they may. Or we’re going to jump off the cliff and let the chips fall where they may. 

If I eat chips these days, I have a reverse weight problem. Now, they mostly tend to fall around my mid-section, much to my consternation. Probably why I don’t eat them anymore. But during the first minutes before the Super Bowl, I did partake a bit. Then had nothing else for the rest of the game.

Except for that one Tostido dipper and some of that homemade guac. It was my way of celebrating a stunning win for the team that I still love, even though I hate myself for it.

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live out loud

The self-loathing involved in loving the Patriots

by Lorin Michel Saturday, February 4, 2017 9:26 PM

1985. That was the year one of the worst teams in football (so sayeth The Bleacher Report’s Doug Baker), actually made it to the Super Bowl. It was my first year in California. I was living in San Diego, with my boyfriend, the one would eventually become my first husband, and we were invited to a Super Bowl party. We had made some friends, none of them close; none of them the kind that would prove to be lasting. It was the year of the Super Bowl Shuffle, William “the Refrigerator” Perry, and the 46 defense. The Chicago Bears went 15 and 1 that year. In the Super Bowl they met the New England Patriots who were aging and not very good. Steve Grogan was under center. He remains one of the few names some people still remember from the team. He threw one touchdown pass to the other somewhat memorable name, Irving Fryar. The rather lopsided score was 46 – 10.

I was a Patriots fan, having spent my high school and college years in the land of jumbled consonants and flattened vowels. The land of Kennedy, John Adams, and Jed Bartlet, the fictional president who would come much later. I remained a Pats fan through the many dark years that followed. When the oughts finally arrived, a new era seemed to arrive with them. It was as if having double zeros and the start of a new century gave my hapless team a chance at re-birth, and what emerged has been fairly successful. Starting especially with the 2001 season, when a then second-string quarterback took the team to the Super Bowl, it has been a ride we New Englanders enjoy to the point of distraction. 

I remember watching the Patriots take the field in 2002 in their silver, red and blue as a team rather than with traditional single player introductions. I was so proud. This was after the horror of September 11, 2001 and seeing a team named the Patriots take the field as one seemed symbolic. We were all patriots, Americans, one. New England went on to win 20-17. The dynasty was born. 

Tomorrow the Patriots will take the field again, their seventh with Tom Brady under center. And I have mixed feelings. 

Most people not living in or from New England hate the Patriots. They think they’re cheaters, they think they’re arrogant. They hate Brady and his super model wife. They hate coach hoodie. As Jack Hamilton, a writer for Slate magazine, wrote yesterday in his article How to Pull for the Patriots in the Age of Trump, “hating the Patriots is perhaps the last truly bipartisan pastime in America.”

Therein lie my mixed feelings. I have loved my team for a long time, through the very bad and through the exceptionally good, but this year, the fact that Tom Brady had a Make America Great Again hat in his locker bugs me. The fact that Belichick wrote a letter to the man who fancies himself king bugs me. The fact that Robert Kraft considers the toddler a friend bugs me – less than the Brady thing bugs me but it still bugs. Like most New Englanders, I am not a fan of the current occupant of the White House. Every state in New England voted for Hillary Clinton; Massachusetts, where the Patriots live and play, was the only state in the country where every single county was blue. It’s hard to support the team when they support the travesty that has overtaken our once great country. And actually, that’s not fair. Not all of the players support the toddler. Martellus Bennett, the star tight end in his first year with the Pats who has become a fan favorite, has already said that if the Pats win today he won’t be making the ceremonial trip to the White House. Brady didn’t go to the White House in 2015 when they beat the Seahawks. It bugged me but I managed to excuse it. It doesn’t look so good now. 

Hamilton wrote: “So not only is there a high probability that the typical Trump supporter hates the Patriots, there are an awful lot of Patriots supporters who hate Trump, too.” Count me as one, though I prefer the word “loathe.” It’s more guttural. 

So what’s a Pats fan to do when the men at the helm of the beloved team appear to support a man I loathe? A man so utterly contemptable and cruel? Honestly, I don’t know. I realize that this is only a game, but it’s such a symbol, so symptomatic of a bigger issue. Democracy versus authoritarianism. The Patriots, like all teams in football, have an authoritarian bent. Belichick is king. What he says is law, in the locker room and on the field. The players fall in line or they get kicked to Cleveland. It has worked for 17 years. 

But now, here I am. Today we’re going to a party. In Arizona, the Toddler in Chief isn’t as universally reviled as he is in Massachusetts and New England. But the Pats are reviled for all of the reasons stated above. Since I’ve lived here, I have proudly worn my Patriots attire in public and I’ve taken a lot of guff about it. Today I’ll pull my #12 NFL jersey over my head but I won’t have the same joy. I love my team and I hate myself for it. 

As Hamilton’s article said: “… rooting for the Patriots feels like rooting for the Joker in a Christopher Nolan Batman film—they’re psychotically single-minded, amoral, gallingly narcissistic, purveyors of opportunistic, meticulous chaos. 

To me it feels a little like this:

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