I admit it. I had a problem. I was addicted to the news.
Now this is a strange admission, especially for me. I think if I started off by saying, "I was addicted to Reese's peanut butter cups," people who know me would nod sagely and say, "Yep. That sounds about right." Chocolate is a logical addition for me. News is not.
Mostly because I never cared about the news. School shootings, fires, murders, rape . . . all of it is so depressing and it has a hopelessness and a terribly repetitive pattern to it that makes me run as far away from it as I can.
And then came Trump.
I am unabashed in my hatred of Trump. I think he's a terrible person, a terrible president, and a terrible American. But it was because of him that I found myself addicted to the news.
Every day I would go to a news site and there'd be a headline saying "TRUMP TAKES A PISS IN THE ROSE GARDEN" and my heart would begin to pump fast and I'd think Finally. This is what's going to get rid of him.
And then nothing would happen.
So I'd obsessively refresh the news site and a new headline would pop up saying "TRUMP CALLS GEORGE WASHINGTON A PIECE OF SHIT ON PRESIDENTS' DAY." And I'd think, Yes! He's gone for sure now!
And then nothing would happen.
That's what my days became. Refreshing the news, getting mad about what Trump said or did, getting madder that there were no repercussions, lather, rinse, repeat.
Until finally, about a month ago, I said to myself, I just can't do this anymore. And it was true, I couldn't. I was completely burnt out on the news, on Trump, on everything. So I quit. Cold turkey. I stopped visiting news sites altogether.
And you know what? I am so much happier now.
It took me cutting news — and Trump — out of my life to realize how miserable it had all been making me. I'm sure there have been major news stories that have come and gone since I gave it all up, but honestly, I don't care. I can't and I won't get sucked back in. I plan to vote in November to make positive changes, but until then, I refuse to be baited by all the negativity that circles through on a minute-by-minute basis.
I know a lot of people who take breaks from things like Facebook, and I totally get it now. I strongly recommend taking a break from the news like I did, even if it's just for a week. See if you don't feel better once you're disconnected from all the drama and histrionics.
I'm betting you will.
I'm not sure how other families are, but in my family, everyone from my mother's generation was a saint. From the moment they exited the womb until the moment their casket was lowered into the earth, they could do no wrong. They were kept on very high pedestals, with nice lighting and appropriately angelic music.
The stories these people told about themselves and about one another were equally stain-free. They grew up, got married, had babies, and dutifully attended each other's birthday parties. It was truly remarkable that such a large family could remain so scandal-free for so very long.
But once these relatives shuffled off this mortal coil and were no longer able to paint their pasts with their own brushes (and no longer had siblings to continue telling the same slanted stories over and over), the truth came tumbling out. And the truth was, in a word, fascinating.
Let me give you a for-instance. My mother had a sister named Grace, and Grace lived in several different places throughout the years I knew her, but wherever she set up shop, she always displayed one photo prominently. It was a black-and-white 8x10 of a very stern-looking man with an even more stern-looking crew cut. This man was Hal.
Now I believe that Grace and Hal were married, since she had a different last name than the one with which she was born, but since I never met the guy, it's hard for me to be sure. Maybe she married someone else and kept a flame for Hal. I never asked. I'm also not sure of Hal's fate, whether he left Grace and started a new life or he died.
In either case, once Grace and my mother had both passed on, I learned a little more about Grace's youth, which, curiously, was never discussed.
It turns out that when Grace was 16, she had a habit of sneaking out of the house and making her way down to the local dance hall when, if you'll forgive the phrase, the fleet was in. It was at the dance hall that she met a sailor, whose fleet was in (if you catch my drift) and that sailor got 16-year-old Grace in the family way. As soon as that sailor found out, he disappeared—back into the Navy, where she never heard from him again. Grace was sent to a nunnery to have the baby and then shipped off to a school for wayward girls.
All of this was an astonishing revelation to me. When I came along, Aunt Grace was in her mid-fifties and a big believer in God and church and all the trappings, and picturing her as a wild teenager was simply not possible. But she was. Oh yes, she was.
So now when I think about that photo of Hal that Grace always had staring at everyone who visited her, I wonder about him. I wonder if Hal knew of Grace's salacious past. If he did, was he bothered by it? If he didn't, was he kept intentionally in the dark like the rest of us? Oh, Hal. For the first time in my life, I wish you were still here so I could ask you these things.
I also wish I'd had the presence of mind to maybe take advantage of some aunt or uncle's drunken stupor (and believe me when I tell you there were plenty of those) to dig into the past and uncover stories like this. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of Aunt Grace, but if I'd known she was such a wild child, I would have seen her in a whole different light.
Maybe someday I'll write a story about Grace and fill in some of the details about those crazy years.
Yes. Maybe I will.
This weekend — and throughout the playoffs, really — I am throwing my support behind the Philadelphia Iggles.
Now that may seem like an odd choice, given my complete lack of any connection whatsoever to the NFC, Philly, Pennsylvania, the Amish, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin, and hoagies.
But the Igs are a scrappy team, a fun team to watch, and a team that's overcome a lot to get to this point. That's a team I can get behind.
What I can't get behind is their fight song.
In case you're unfamiliar with the classic "Fly, Eagles, Fly," here it is in all its tone-deaf glory:
Here's my question: Why would eagles fly on a road? That doesn't make any sense. The whole point of flying is that you don't need roads, as Doc Brown informed us at the end of Back to the Future. But I guess they needed some physical thing that would lead to victory, and a road was the only thing they could come up with.
So then wouldn't it be "Walk, Eagles, Walk"? Or "Run, Eagles, Run"? Well, no, that doesn't make any sense either. Eagles don't walk or run. If they're going to be walking or running on the road to victory, they might as well be the Philadelphia Bipeds.
Is there perhaps a road in the sky with which I am unfamiliar? A strange skyroad upon which you can somehow fly?
Maybe we can fix all this by changing it to "Win, Eagles, Win"? But then it would still be "Win, Eagles, win, on the road to victory ..." Okay, it's definitely the road that's screwing everything up.
Let's go with, "Fly, Eagles, fly, to the nest of victory ..." See, now, that's perfect. That's poetry right there.
All we need now is a bunch of musicians, a recording studio, and a cheap distribution platform to get people humming this new version of a classic song in time for this weekend's game.
Standing in the grocery store the day after the blizzard that was supposed to usher in a new Ice Age and wipe humanity off the planet. Turned out to just be snow.
Staring at the completely barren bread shelves. Well, not entirely barren. The healthy breads are still there. Why such a rush on white bread before a storm? Do they burn it to keep warm?
Then on to the milk section. There's plenty of milk, even the healthy milk. Odd. Even more odd is that the egg shelves have been thoroughly raided. Were people going to ride out the bad weather making French toast? No, you need milk for that. Maybe it was a mad rush to ensure fried eggs and toast on that snowy morning.
And then there's that. Ssssshhhhhhhhkkk. The sound of a grown woman, nose a half-inch away from the screen of her phone, dragging her salt-encrusted Uggs across the linoleum. What are you, five? Is recess over and you're showing your reluctance to go back to class by scraping your shoes on the ground? Did the powerful storm render you unable to pick your feet up and put them back down like an adult?
In the spirit of keeping joy in my heart for the New Year, let me offer this suggestion. I'll give you a piggyback ride around Stop & Shop and then out to your car. Not only will I be rid of ssssshhhhhhhhkkk, but it's less likely that you'll bump into some poor old woman and knock her down, just because you can't be away from Splitter Critters for two goddamned seconds.
Watching with dread fascination as she trips over a WET FLOOR sign and smashes her phone.
Okay, well, that actually worked itself out nicely. The piggyback offer was sincere, but my back and knees aren't what they used to be.