The Long Way Out
[Fun visualizations for this story: Watch this to “Snow Bird.”]
The mountain lion had been unable to find a good kill in four weeks and it needed to bring down some big game in order to live through the fall. Then, the winter.
Now was typically the time in which he could feast easily, for deer were in such abundance, or they had been until the last full moon. But now, something had shifted, or stalled in the same place it was lodged in when the leaves were still greening the forest. Now, the days were humid and warm, but dry brown leaves coated the forest floor. Birds had failed to fly south and just held onto the northern woods instead, happily scrounging for bugs in the denuded trees.
But where had the deer gone?
The mountain lion could not wait any longer—he would have to step closer into the human areas. If he could just bring down a deer, or a little animal even, it might give him enough fuel to journey back to the highlands east.
East was where he had begun. There in those highlands, he knew his kind could survive. There, in the green places he had lived in as a young cub. There the killing would come easy.
The mountain lion walked down the hill from his hermitage and out of the forest for the first time since he’d entered it as a juvenile. Only when the skeletal trees on the ridge fell from his view did he think about the she-lion. He had not seen her since the previous season, one that had been colder, less hostile.
The mountain lion paused in his journey. He lifted his head and searched the air, but he could not detect her. The scents of living things were less active here.
He continued his journey into the human place.
Closer now to the human wasteland.
The mountain lion weaved his way in and out of trees so he would remain concealed from the flattened area where monsters sped. So he padded on for hours until he reached their wasteland.
He had always thought of it as a wasteland because of the humans’ destruction of every living thing within it, including their own species. They had laid waste to their land.
Where were the spoilers now?
The mountain lion was at the side door of the first building. The scent of a fragrant decay wafted his way. An animal had died, recently. He followed the trail of the scent inside a trash can where he easily tore aside a flimsy white bag holding the object of the scent. He inhaled deeply; whatever it was, this meat was too long gone for him.
He sighed and he continued walking through the wasteland.
How long could he survive with a kill? And what was he willing to do to live?
Before long, he was back in a forest again, this time of the opposite side of the human wasteland. It had been so long since he had been here in these woods, this passageway from one home to the next. Now, with a growling belly, he wondered if some thing nearby might be living—alive enough for him to feast on it.
Now, the day grew cooler and the shadows lengthened. He entered a clearing in the woods. Without warning, as soon as he stepped out of the shadows, he heard a loud bang. Then, a sharp twisting pain in one of his ears. And the pain spread from there. He dropped on his side and greenery covered him once again. Loud bangs and objects hurtled through the air over his head. Humans.
He knew they would give up soon and leave him alone. They hunted for sport—killing was not their object. Just the sport, the saliva, and perhaps blood.
The mountain lion pressed his bleeding ear into the dirt. The pain churned the bile in his empty stomach. He remained concealed in the brush for hours until night fell and his thirst increased. He swallowed and sucked at the insides of his cheeks to quench himself.
Drinking darkness instead of water, he moved on.
The mountain lion could not continue on this path, the same one he had followed west to begin with. He would have to follow a more secluded route unmarked by his scent.
He would have to take the long way out of this mess of hunger, but he knew that he would live to see the snow fall once again.
And his wound would heal. He knew it would.
And the green would return, and if he could just make a little kill, he knew he would live.
Long before the beginning of the 2017 football season, I thought, what the world really needs is:
I thought so the first time I heard the demo. I liked the simplicity. I liked the beat. I liked the call and response. It was tone poem that told a story I could understand and embrace. I didn’t have to work very hard. All I had to do was close my eyes and imagine. A man in the stands with paint on his face and a drink in his hand.
I’ve seen him at every game I’ve ever watched. Sometimes his face is blue and orange. sometimes black and gold or green and gold. Sometimes Cardinal Red. Usually he’s huge, often half naked, and rarely alone. He’s with William Wallace fighting, or the Yafo Tribe in Papua New Guinea. An american aboriginal. A grown man in grease paint.
I’ve seen the girls in the crowd shouting out loud and jumping up a beat. I see them with their sons and daughters, their husband and lovers. Invariably they are joyful, even rapturous in the fellowship of the moment.
I’ve seen the child who played for the team, later in life a speaker at corporate events whose fight against cancer was nothing compared to their childhood dream, reminding us to believe.
I love the song. Everybody clap your hands. Everybody. Everybody sing. Everybody dance. I loved the image of brothers and sisters, boys and girls, children dreaming together. The dream and the team. The love, not the money.
Are you fan enough?
I believe people can see through the veil of darkness to a world of brother and sisterhood. I believe people can overcome hardship and pain. I believe they can get past what separates them and find common cause in their common struggle and join together and say, yeah.
I believe its a good enough song that it should be shared with other simple minded people who want to feel good about themselves and about their world.
As long as people are willing to risk their health and lives for the game and the glory I believe we can celebrate their accomplishments, their athleticism, their sacrifice.
Donald Trump is spewing his vitriol everywhere. He can’t contain his vile nature. He is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The only thing that can stop him is an outpouring of decency. He has infected the sport of football and football fans need an antidote. The need an anthem.
I believe the music is inspired. It touches something common and in its simplicity and repetition lie its power. Are you fan enough? Do you believe? everybody say, yeah!
I like the songs of struggle and searching. But I also like a song that doesn't make me work too hard and lets me feel good. I think the world needs “Are you fan enough” more than ever, and I think you should continue to play around with it to get it in a form that it can be played every Sunday in every NFL market and every Friday at every high school in every town. everybody say, yeah. I believe.
Every single time every goddamned time
At 5:00pm this past Monday my boss graciously called my office line to inform me that he was stepping out to meet with a client. Someone with a Swiss name; very important, very thirsty. This meant that any pressing, unfinished business I may have for him would have to wait until he returned. Of course, I replied, I will be here, take your time.
I resume billing, file away papers, take a call from my mother. She’s worried about my brother. Will he be able to come home for Thanksgiving?
“I’m not sure,” I say.
She declares him to be an excellent sous-chef, and says that even Padma would be impressed by his knife skills. I strain to remember last Thanksgiving. I recall staring bleary-eyed into a pile of onions, desperate for a free half hour when I could shower before guests arrive. I recall my brother, drinking an old-fashioned and tuning a guitar. It must have been the other way around.
I suggest she call him and find out his plans for herself- “Oh, I don’t want to bother him,” she sighs, “he’s so busy.” “Right,” I say, “probably chopping onions as we speak.”
My boss returns after 7:00, ready to work. We review my memo, he makes corrections, we have a drink. His partner, my other boss, enters with such fervency he appears carbonated. He just got off the phone with X, the firm’s current albatross. We freshen our drinks (vodka, vodka, bourbon- fistfuls of ice) and the work begins again. It’s gotten so late, they have turned the heat off in our building and while our cheeks stay red from libations our hands are numb.
We retreat, but the discussion continues into the elevator and onto the street where we wait for our respective car services. I never actually called one, knowing that my trip back to Brooklyn will be faster, and more pleasant, via subway, but they worry about me taking the train so late so I lie and say Muhammad is coming, in a Toyota Corolla.
My phone buzzes on the way to the train, a text from B. I feel terrible, at 8:00 I said I would be leaving in thirty minutesand it’s now past 10:00. “Can I prepare you something?” his text reads. The question takes me a little off-guard; I am the cook in our house. I cook every night, most mornings, and prepare our lunches too. It is my contribution to the union, along with half the rent and most of the houseplants. I determine that this question can only be answered with a phone call, and dive in:
“What were you planning to make?” I ask, still bewildered.
“What do we have?” He asks, justifying my bewilderment.
I had just taken inventory this past Saturday and recall the contents of our refrigerator with confidence. A menu begins forming. Pasta! It’s decided. With sausage and mushrooms. I walk down 51st street trying to formulate and recite a recipe in the same breath. Olive oil, mushrooms, onions and garlic, white wine, thyme- He interrupts with a philosophical question I am unprepared to answer: “What is thyme?”
“Thyme is a flat circle” I blurt out reflexively. Damn HBO.
He gives me an appreciative chuckle, but repeats the question: “No really, what is thyme?”
I am on the platform and the train rushes by, I get nostalgic for a friend, far far away. Every Single Time Every Goddamned Time. I hate how close we are, and how far far away. Every Single Time Every Goddamned Time. I listen to his music all the way home, and I remember this city belonged to him long before I was ever able to call it mine.
Every Single Time Every Goddamned Time.