Ever meet someone who’s really into a specific kind of furniture? I don’t mean the workaday influencer wannabe with a midcentury modern fetish or your friend who parrots pages from the latest Dwell, I’m talking lifers who while away hours trading Eames tables on eBay or people who can point out the choicest character lines of a Sauder desk drawer from across a crowded room. You know they’re out there somewhere, of course, but until you meet one, it might be difficult to grasp just how far down this (ultimately very practical) rabbit hole it’s possible to go.
I thought I knew tables and chairs pretty well. I’ve sat in plenty of different office chairs and even voted on one as part of a company initiative (my pick did not prevail). I’ve soaked up nuances simply by living with them. But I was wrong. I do not know tables and chairs. Scott does.
At some point, what you are becoming and who you are meet. Sometimes you decide the time and place of that meeting; most often, you do not. Rarely is it easy, a Craigslist handoff that satisfies both parties over a diner coffee at some halfway point. Someone is usually coming away sour. Given that who you are now, in the present, has the benefit of hindsight, it seems reasonably safe to say that who you are looks at who you were and wonders how, exactly, you are standing here, right now, like this.
Who is Paul George, now? I can tell you – anybody who watched the NBA at the beginning of the last decade can tell you – who Paul George was in 2014, which was a would-be dominant force meant to supplement the LeBron-stopping powers of Roy Hibbert and the rest of his merry band in Indiana.
Following Tuesday night’s Game 7 loss against the Denver Nuggets, however, in a series George’s current team, the Los Angeles Clippers, many observers heavily favored to win and one in which those very Clippers were up 3-1, the question becomes much more hazy: who is Paul George, and what is he going to be in terms of championship contention in the forthcoming NBA?
On Tuesday night, we received the first-ever NBA Game 7 that occurred in the month of September. The series had been a showcase for two of the league’s premier young teams, the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz, and specifically for those teams’ respective young guards, Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell.
Two teams, of the same juggernaut division in the same juggernaut conference, sporting a guard apiece of the modern vintage, but with a distinctly timeless flair: they are Murray and Mitchell, players who would’ve been wildly successful in any era of the NBA but are coming into their own now, in an exceedingly strange 2020. This first round series, an instant and all-time classic, certainly had the flavor of, if not necessarily “kingmaking,” then a long-awaited debutant ball. Each of them revealed parts of themselves and their respective games that are almost certain to shock and amaze for years to come.
So, as with everything showing any kind of promise under the microscope of popular opinion, we ask: Where do they go now?
At the bottom is us. We tune in, log on, turn up, shout out. More often than not, we log on and turn up and shout out at each other; it’s what we do now, how we come to make our voices known. Sometimes it’s fun, some (very rare) times it’s educational, but mostly it’s just a pressure release valve we unwind to make sense of our senses, to craft the inevitable human flaw of narrative for ourselves, to try and understand why we feel the way we do. It’s hard work, living. But you, me, we all go on doing it anyway, tuning in because sports are a relief from the rest of our embattered lives and because logging on, turning up, shouting out at what we can’t control is, in its own way, a liberation we’re only inching toward. For now.
It wasn’t an unusual meeting in that place. If you couldn’t find a conference room either because they were all booked or because the stupid names gave nothing away about which direction or floor you needed to go and it’d be too much of a hassle to try finding it, you squeezed onto one of the communal couches by the kitchen nearest you and had your meeting there, out in the open, often alongside other, equally self-important meetings. It’s strange to feel as if you have too many conference rooms and too few people, yet the rooms are never free and the people are disappearing.
Amid the majestic Moravian hills of Brno in the Czech Republic, what followed (very common given name in Italy and not at all less expected than Dionigi or Dionisio) Dennis Foggia’s maiden Moto3 victory and a lethally inch-perfect ride for the second time in seven days from Enea Bastianini in Moto2 was the unraveling of every narrative your favorite pundit hoped to craft for the 2020 MotoGP season. The baby’s out with the bathwater now: If anyone could be called a favorite going into the weekend, it was Fabio Quartararo. But nobody is a favorite anymore — which is why it’s worth waking up for, of course.
The first architect of the Sagrada Família was a man of diocesan ilk and inspiration, exactly the kind of person you would hope and expect to build something prototypically beautiful and adhesive to the traditions and standards that the Catholic Church, particularly in Spain, would presumably place upon a person. He took the same approach to his projects, calculating and reasonably efficient, that you take to ordering monthly subscription boxes, or homing in on preferred brands of toothpaste. “This works, it addresses a problem, so I like it, and let’s stick with it for now, until and unless a problem arises.”
Francisco de Paula del Villar y Lozano was no slouch, having aided in the designs, re-designs and restorations of many important buildings in and around his native Catalunya. He took on the project under the advisement of the Associació de Devots de Sant Josep, and when it got to be too much, his adviser Joan Martorell recommended Antoni Gaudí, an exceptionally devout Roman Catholic even by Catholic standards. The latter then spent the final years of his life figuring out what to do with the thing before, well, getting hit by a tram and passing away in 1926.
Lately I’ve been looking around at my coworkers, my friends, relatives, even strangers I just kind of pretend to know, and I’ve noticed there’s a certain subdued lethargy afoot. Away from the blazing hate fires of the modern timeline in which anarchy reigns in spite (and occasionally because) of autocracy, the people I’ve come into contact with deeper and deeper into this pandemic all kind of have the same dazed look of someone who’s just been relieved from a sleeper hold: shrugs as sentences, resplendent beards, eyes drained of life, ambition robbed. It’s hard to muster energy for much of anything in such summer heat when there’s not much to look forward to because we can only plan so far ahead, can only legally go so many places, can only do so much without risk, within reason. Maybe all of that energy is going into protests and marches or podcast production or marathon training or learning to play piano, but I don’t think so.
“Riding the Honda was like death. Every time you flicked it into a corner, you never knew if you would make it out.” —Eddie Lawson, 1991
I’ll tell you how I learned broken toes mend themselves: I got older. This was after I’d developed shoulder scar tissue because I tripped on a curb not looking in Miami and later, briefly and bemusedly, tried to pass it off as a jet ski accident. It was also after I’d acquired a scar on my calf jumping a barbed wire fence at a friend’s apartment complex parking lot in the middle of the night. And it was long after I tripped and gashed my kneecap running backward up an escalator to fetch a birthday card at a Borders that, like the relationship it served, no longer exists.
This exercise is simple. You’re going to need your imagination, so if you haven’t yet, start loosening those synapses. Breathe steadily, you’re going to need your breath, too. You’re ready, right? You’re ready.