Volume 3, Issue 66: Handshake Drugs

"They were translated poorly, I felt like a clown, I looked like someone I used to know."

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On Wednesday night, in Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., a man, during a rain delay, stripped off all his clothes and ran onto the field. We have seen streakers at sporting events before—we, alarmingly, had one at the Super Bowl—but this one had some pleasant variety to it. First off, he was completely naked (usually it’s some sort of man-thong), and he went out there when there was no game going on, which makes it inherently more harmless and thus more comfortably giggled about. But the best part was the ending.

The decision to get inside the tarp roller is wonderful. Decades of movie watching have instilled in us that the best way to escape when being chased is to ferret down a secret tunnel. In this particular case, the secret tunnel was a metal tube that went nowhere, in which the entrance and exit were identical and in fact only a few feet from each other. This maneuver, it turned out, did not extricate him from his predicament.

But what joy he has! What reckless abandon. He wouldn’t do this sort of thing all the time; it’s very out of character for him! But you get a few drinks in him, and wow, isn’t it incredible to be outside, and now we’re all just sitting here for a rain delay, and what a year it has been, and the endorphins get going and it’s been so long since I’ve been around so many people and isn’t the heart pumping really fast and I have all this movement and all this energy and all this tension just waiting to be unleashed, and then I just uncoil and let loose and we’re going streaking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! hey look there is a metal tube let’s get in it.

After the last year, there is a metric megaton of pent-up tension we have been holding inside of all of us. I believe we are starting to what happens when we release it. It does not come out in drips and drabs. It pours, it gushes, it breaks the dam.

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People are out. I was at a basketball game last night, the first sporting event I’ve attended at full capacity. It didn’t go well for my team, but the crowd was soaring all night, louder, more connected, more vibrating; it felt like everyone could levitate about six inches above their seat. It was exhilarating. The world has not caught up to the fact that everyone is out, that Americans are gliding from this Memorial Day into that Wonderful Summer we’ve been hearing so much about, the one we’ve been girding ourselves up for; if you are traveling, or meeting up with a group of friends, or just trying to get a bite to eat after 9 p.m., I suggest planning ahead accordingly. But that sense of needing to be out, whether it’s going to a club or just going to someone’s place for Game Night, is thick and palpable. You could carve it out of the air and slice it.

But the trauma of the last year still lingers, whatever your trauma was. Nearly 600,000 Americans have been lost to Covid-19 now—I had stopped checking that figure many months ago—and nearly everyone has lost someone they knew. People saw their jobs vanish; children stopped going to school; the world shook and rattled out of control. And even if you were one of the fortunate few who were able to ride this out without any dramatic tangible losses, your life was disrupted and upheaved in every possible way. We’re all coming out a little bit different.

And I think everyone’s blood is still pumping too fast. There are the big things. Passengers are punching people on planes. There are so many shootings—an increased percentage of them seem to involve former workplaces—that it’s tough to even lift your head up to acknowledge them anymore. The political situation is so entrenched with purposeful sabotage that trying to wrap your mind around it feels like hitting yourself in the face with a rock.

But it’s in the little things too. It’s that awkwardness that we haven’t quite shaken, the tone and tempo we haven’t quite gotten quite right; we’re too loud, too fast, too much. It’s tough to get the wattage right. I went out to a bar with a couple friends the other night, and for reasons I did not understand, I found myself having super-strong opinions on everything. It was disorienting, as if I’d left my body and was sitting above the bar, watching me be too dialed up but being unable to stop myself. Little League baseball, the return of handshakes, mask mandates, public schooling, what current players should make the Cardinals Hall of Fame someday (Yadi, Waino, Arenado, Goldy and Carp, maybe Carlos, with a good path for Flaherty, Carlson and maybe Edman), the directorial dipshittery of Zack Snyder, the ideal month to run a half marathon … I suddenly had all these takes. I don’t believe in any of these things that strongly, or at least not as strongly as I surely seemed to while talking about them. But it was as if sitting in this house for the last 14 months, with people who might not care about Little League and handshakes and Zack Snyder as much as I do had me desperate to just expectorate all thoughts on all of them at once. Perhaps this is what social media is for after all.

This feeling, of moving too fast, of not getting the balance right, of us all recovering, together, from what we have gone though, is going to be shaking out all across the country this summer, and likely longer. As much as I would love for this to be a summer of people just sprinting through the sunshine and making out with the strangers, it’s going to be a lot choppier than that.

(This Meat Loaf fan specifically appreciates the song written by the late, great Jim Steinman.)

I’m hoping that, in this period, I can remember my fundamental mantra of the pandemic: People are not at their best right now. It is unreasonable to expect people to come out of this period fully formed, ready to pick up where they left off. We’re sprinting out of our homes so fast that we’re forgetting to open the screen door, and here we are in the streets, all cut up and dirty and feral. We’ll get the proportion right at some point. The rubber band will snap back to its previous form. But for now? We’re all running naked through the streets, and then crawling in a metal tube to hide. Even when this is over, it isn’t over. We’ll get there. Give ourselves some time. Let’s all try to give each other a break.

Here is a numerical breakdown of all the things I wrote this week, in order of what I believe to be their quality.

  1. The Thirty: One Great Thing About Every MLB Stadium, MLB.com. This made me want to go to each and every stadium, and immediately.

  2. Internet Nostalgia: Chuck Norris Facts, Medium. How memes turn into real-world action, and fast.

  3. Zack Snyder Movies, Ranked, Vulture. Second straight filmmaker we’ve talked about who, uh, isn’t that good.

  4. Crowds Are Back, New York. Heck, I wanted to hug Phil Mickelson myself, and I don’t even like his dumb sport.

  5. I’ve Started Writing a Weekly Column About the NBA Playoffs for GQ, GQ Magazine. Running every Monday, except for this week.

  6. The Summer of Internet Good Feeling, Medium. This was originally for the NYT, but we’re doing something else instead. I think the “something else” may work out better anyway.

  7. A Day of Zero Covid-19 Cases, Medium. We had one, right here in Athens.

  8. This Week in Genre History: X-Men: Last Stand, SYFY Wire. Uh, Brett Ratner.

  9. Five Teams Who Should Probably Panic, MLB.com. The Blue Jays will fit in Buffalo just fine.

PODCASTS

Grierson & Leitch, we discussed “Army of the Dead,” “The Killing of Two Lovers” and “New Order.”

Seeing Red, Bernie and I are starting to see trouble.

Waitin' Since Last Saturday, talking with Tony, but not Scott.

I also was on my friend John Heilemann’s podcast Hell or High Water this week. It was a fun, wide-ranging conversation.

I also talked on the official podcast of the Columbia University Sports Management Program, which was pleasant and also features bobbleheads.

LONG STORY YOU SHOULD READ THIS MORNING … OF THE WEEK

“Johnny Knoxville’s Last Rodeo,” Sam Schube, GQ. Sam was my editor on my Jeff Tweedy and Don Hertzfeldt pieces, but if he’s going to write stuff like this, he should stop editing and just write all the time. Holy cow.

ARBITRARY THINGS RANKED, WITHOUT COMMENT, FOR NO PARTICULAR REASON

Georgia Area Sports Teams, By Personal Fandom

  1. Georgia Bulldogs

  2. Atlanta United

  3. Atlanta Dream

  4. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

  5. Atlanta Hawks (except for this week)

  6. Atlanta Falcons

  7. Atlanta Braves

ONGOING LETTER-WRITING PROJECT!

I am sorry I have fallen behind on these. I have a lot of bookplates! I will return! Write me at:

Will Leitch
P.O. Box 48
Athens GA 30603

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO

“She Said,” The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. The first big show at the 40 Watt here in Athens is Jon Spencer and the HITMAKERS, so I’ve been catching up on Jon Spencer because I’d go see a donkey play the piano right now. He’s still not entirely my bag, but there’s some excellent songs, and this is one of them.

Remember to listen to The Official Will Leitch Newsletter Spotify Playlist, featuring every song ever mentioned in this section.

The book is still going well! Bookplates are still coming. If you haven’t gotten one yet, sit tight, I’m working on them. I’ll let you know when I’ve sent them all out so you can let me know if yours didn’t arrive.

School is out down here, and the children are in camp. Here’s how that’s going.

Go get it, son.

Have a great weekend, all.

Best,
Will