Last Call

Last Call

Satter Up!

By From the May 2014 issue

I was raised on the baseball highlight reel. As a kid, SportsCenter was my breakfast. Eat a little Cinnamon Toast Crunch, watch a few dazzling catches, laugh at Craig Kilborn and Keith Olbermann, see Ken Griffey, Jr. hit another homerun—what a swing! On really special mornings, there might be something crazy. When I was in college people just did not believe me when I said that pitcher Randy Johnson had actually murdered a dove with a fastball he was delivering to Calvin Murray during a late spring tune-up. “Just an explosion of feathers!” I’d say. “It was crazy!”“No way. Stop.” Really. There was a time you might actually call a friend after SportsCenter aired. That kind of sharing would never happen today, not when “sharing” is a bazillion dollar speculative bubble in Silicon Valley. Your phone would not let something that watchable escape your notice for more than an hour. 
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Year One

By From the April 2014 issue

Happy first birthday, dearest Ruthie! For you, the last 365 days have been the sum of all things; a near-eternity marred by neither meddlesome context nor expectations of anything save the unbidden-yet-ceaseless adoring coos of virtually every passerby, a daily living room circus performed by two wobbly, portly pugs, and helicopter parents you could be forgiven for presuming to be particularly persistent paparazzi engaged in an elaborate deep-cover operation.Life won’t always proceed with such sublime accommodation, alas, which is why I find it difficult to fault your fervent efforts to forego slumber. Indeed, the Department of Defense should hire you to run whatever division spearheads its sleep deprivation initiatives: The work you’ve already done to radically extend the waking hours of your first long-term test subject—codename: Mother—is astonishing. And the snooze-inducing kryptonite to your intentional insomnia—a car ride plus NPR—cannot be easily weaponized. 
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Letter Man

By From the March 2014 issue

In the bottom drawer of my bedside table, you will find, if you care to look, dozens of intricately folded pieces of paper, almost all of them from the early post-Cold War era. They are what the French call billets-doux, what you might call love letters, and what I call “proof that I was awesome in middle school.” Why do I keep them? Because I find it difficult to throw away anything containing the phrase “you’re sexy,” especially if it’s written by a girl and addressed to me.

After stumbling upon these old letters at my mother’s house last year, I transported them to my apartment in Washington, D.C., where I can read them whenever I feel nostalgic or vain. Which is all the time.

These letters, you see, are a history of my adolescence. It is a history of which I am exceedingly proud. What are for many people the most awkward years in life were, for me, my glory years. I was at my social peak—popular, good-looking, and obsessed with being popular and good-looking. Thanks to these letters, you don’t have to take my word for it.

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A Hopeless ‘R’

By From the January-February 2014 issue

After a conversation about politics, my grandmother and I used to say, “Isn’t it terrible how Republican we are? Aren’t we just hard-bitten, incorrigible Republicans? Isn’t it terrible?” Yes, it is. I am so Republican, I sometimes worry about myself.

I never wanted to be a partisan (and I never wanted to be a Republican, though that’s another, if related, story). I would rather be a nice above-the-fray type. “A pox on both their houses” and all that. David S. Broder, the late “dean” of the Washington press corps, seemed to float above the parties. And think of two other Davids: Gergen and Brooks.

Many of my colleagues say, “I’m not a Republican, I’m a conservative.” They usually say it with pride and satisfaction (self-satisfaction, actually). Well, I’m a Republican, as well as a conservative. I’ll vote for (almost) anyone with an “R” after his name.

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Holiday Home-Going

By From the December 2011 - January 2012 issue

From our December 2011 issue.

Fifteen Christmases ago I prepared to leave Washington, D.C., and a five-year stint in politics, to return to journalism. It was a perilous journey.

The plan was straightforward: Finish work as a Capitol Hill staffer on Friday the 20th; spend Saturday loading my little Saturn; crash that night on a friend's sofa-bed in the suburbs (where a loaded car would be less likely to be broken into); drive to a maternal aunt's house near Asheville, N.C., on Sunday; and arrive home in New Orleans on Monday the 23rd (with a jaunt Christmas Day to my paternal grandparents' in Pass Christian, Miss.), there to logistically regroup for a while before my new job in Little Rock.

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Christmas Below the Gnat Line

By From the December 2013 issue

I’ll risk cliché by saying it seems like we just did this a few months ago. Cliché perhaps, but true nonetheless. Hours and days last as long as ever, but the years whiz by.This isn’t a complaint. Christmas is joyous and I like it, even with its aggravations. There are fewer of those now as the family is smaller. Attendance at Christmas dinner at chez Thornberry, once a boisterous affair with young and old human celebrants in double figures and numerous dogs probing all perimeters for handouts, has dwindled, in the words of the song, to a precious few. 

But these few are indeed precious. And recognizing this is a good part of what Christmas is for, even though carols, presents, decorations, and parties remain in the forefront of what has been largely a secular celebration. This was the case even before our cultural transmission belts and their keepers went post-everything.

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Smoking Gun

By From the November 2013 issue

A FEW MONTHS back I was standing in a car park in the UK smoking a cigarette. Not one of those hideous underground car parks, but a nice one, in the open air. A woman in a white 2008 Fiat Panda drove two hundred yards over from her spot and pulled up next to me and wound down the window. “Your smoke is damaging my health, please put your cigarette out,” she said. I just stared at her, unable to speak. Her face was wreathed in this curious mixture of jubilation and vindictiveness and—I don’t think this is going too far—hatred. She hated me on sight. And she was utterly jubilant in being able to do so, that she had someone in her sights on whom she could exact her vituperation. Seeing me smoking satisfied some desperate craving within the woman, more desperate perhaps than the one I have which makes me smoke cigarettes. She may well have been driving around all day searching for someone to persecute. My guess is that she worked in a local government social services department, probably as a middle manager, and owned cats, but I cannot prove this. That may be just my prejudice coming through. 

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Road Ragin’

By From the October 2013 issue

I HAVE A disease. That may sound strange given that I’m a seemingly healthy 26 year old with a rigorous five-hours-a-day hot yoga routine. But in today’s victimization culture, I’m convinced not only that I can be classified as sick, but also that my sickness should entitle me to, at the bare minimum, free health care for the rest of my life, promptly accessible by a call on my Obamaphone. My condition is called intermittent explosive disorder, or in more common parlance, road rage. I’m a generally calm and measured person who develops homicidal tendencies behind the wheel of a car. If you’re a fellow RR-sufferer, you know the noisome cocktail of symptoms: the rush of blood to the head, the parched grip on the steering wheel, the urge to shout “Learn how to drive!” every time a fellow denizen of the highway commits a microscopic infraction.
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