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 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.
It was a race of laughter and forgetting.
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.
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.
You have options. Before the start of every new sporting season, dedicated fans take a step back to join casual onlookers just catching up in assessing offseason developments, visualizing the year ahead, prognosticating to pass the time. There are bland press releases to read, rehearsed transcripts to read into, social media posts to pick apart. Media sources both official and otherwise get paid to distill this pile of corporate-backed bollocks into coherent season previews with scripted narratives to follow for your benefit so you can regurgitate it to uninterested parties as the smartest, least likable person in the room when the topic of conversation finally comes around. I know what these previews will say. So do you. This is the ritual.
But there are alternatives. That’s why you’re here.
, Auto Racing
, Pop Culture
Graphic by Brian Kraker
Another year down. Another year older, but perhaps none the wiser? Maybe that decision doesn’t belong to you alone. It felt like nothing did, most of the time. From Tide Pods to the Philly Special to countless acts of cruelty and many more of plain senselessness to the continued existence of the Golden State Warriors to having 12 years left to stop the sun to inexplicable blue lights over Astoria, everything that happened felt like it was going to happen anyway, sooner or later, and we were all left to bear it as best we could. Same as it ever was, but different.
Still: we would be equally bereft of sense to assume that darkness would drive out darkness. You may have heard that only light can do that. For all the bad and rot everywhere, urban, suburban and rural, at home and abroad, there were the moments in between that made everything we experience every day that kept us together, however briefly. If we experienced them together? All the better.
As Bootsy Collins said in 1972, “Balance is my thing/The snow, wind and rain must come.” With that, we delve into the year that was, with an eye toward the twelvemonth ahead.
There’s this world that exists, I bet you know it. It looks like lush vegetation and smells like fresh air. Birds sing, flowers bloom, the sun shines and the ozone can handle it the way it has for centuries, eons, maybe forever – no one can put a number to it, exactly. We don’t bicker over it, really. It’s splitting hairs to guess when the origin of the universe was, and who can say what was back there, where we came from, why we’re here; all we know is that we’re here now, in this world that exists, and we have to make the best of it with each other because we aren’t solitary animals. We’re not spiders or foxes or praying mantises or ocelots or owls; we need each other, and we’re smart enough to know it. We may die alone, but we don’t fail that way.
We’re smart enough to know all of this because we’re taught that, because education is a pillar of society, as much as it was during the Enlightenment, and to survive effectively in this world, smarts are essential. Diplomas are valued. Schools get funded. Kids get brains. Parents get pride. Everyone gets paid. Scholarships, stable employment straight out of school, a place in the world to call our own. It’s all there for us, collectively.