Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day 4

On the fourth day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me

Four Badass Women
Three(+) Decades of Love's Labor
Two Things You're Needing
And a Fat Guy in a Sweet T

The patriarchy is long overdue for kick in the teeth, and Shlara lights today's Gheorghemas candles to highlight just a few women who've put on their kicking boots.

The future is female Gheorghies. Embrace it.

I know you appreciate, admire and honor all of the women in your immediate orbit. That’s great. Don’t stop. (If you want to know what that looks like, check out Teej’s social media feed to see how he supports his wife.)

In fact, consider doing more to show them that you have their back. How? Make it your Gheorghemas resolution to do more to champion them and other women that you don’t know personally. Start with these four badass women.

Emma Gonzalez

Emma captured America’s attention with her passion, determination, and raw emotion following the Parkland school shooting. She is one of the most recognizable Parkland student leaders who refused to let America offer their thoughts and prayers alone. She also partnered with students from traditionally ignored and forgotten schools to build a platform and empower students across the country to share their story and advocate for their own safety. Emma is changing the conversation in this country around guns. And, at 18, she’s only getting started.

Aly Raisman

Aly was a champion in the gym and she brought that grit to the courtroom in January to lead a group of 100+ women in testimony to convict Larry Nassar and hold USA Gymnastics accountable. Pure courage. Unbelievable strength. I’m grateful that she used her voice. ESPN agrees.

Brittany Packnett

You probably don’t know Brittany, but you should. She’s a Teach for America executive and the co-founder of Campaign Zero, a policy platform to end police violence. She’s one of my favorite hosts/guests on the Pod Save America/Crooked Media roster of shows because she makes me think and laugh. We all need to listen to what Brittany is saying.

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy is a boss. She is one of the most effective House Speakers in history. (Before you dismiss this idea, go ahead and do your research. You’ll see I’m right.) She knows how to listen, build coalitions, and get to consensus. Even in the minority, she negotiates winning deals. She gets shit done. And while the patriarchy is constantly taking shots at her, she just brushes that dirt off her shoulder and keeps it moving to benefit the country.

There are only four women here because I volunteered for Day 4. There are many, many more women you don’t know about, and you should. So, this Gheroghemas, I invite you to open your eyes to the women outside of your orbit and start your own list of badass women to admire. Ask the women in your orbit who they admire. Make this a habit. Your life will be better for it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Gheorghemas Interlude: Enter the Tiny

Live from the offices of NPR in Washington, DC, a Gheorghemas concert was recorded last week celebrating 25 years since the release of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Lots of fun little touches here, including stringed instrument accompaniment, RZA adjusting on the fly to reflect support for the #metoo movement, Young Dirty Bastard taking his father's place, and a poetic interlude.

Give yourselves 20 minutes, in keeping with the spirit of the season.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Three

On the third day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me:

Three(+) Decades of Love's Labor
Two Things You're Needing
And a Fat Guy in a Sweet T

We asked the G:TB Research Staff to review the previous years of Gheorghemas celebrations to see if we'd ever before had a guest post during this most sacred of seasons. They didn't answer, because they're like the rest of us, lazy and distracted, and probably half in the bag. So we'll just go on memory. Honorary Gheorghie Dave Fairbank grabs the conch to reminisce and celebrate a life's work.

If I interpret this site correctly, Gheorghemas is a celebration of gratitude and goofballery, two cornerstones of my adult life. My blessings are abundant and landed me among people and places that supported and challenged me, and often were much fun to be around.

A young Dave Fairbank
I was a sportswriter for 33 years, the last 30 at the newspaper in Newport News, Va. The job allowed me to Peter Pan my way through adulthood, writing about games and athletes and coaches. I still kind of marvel that such jobs exist. Don’t get me wrong. Sports moves the needle like few other pursuits. It rarely disappoints and provides thrills and drama and countless stories. I saw an inordinate amount of talent come through Hampton Roads, much of it in the formative stages because the area has no major league sports. I was fortunate to be able to call my own exit, increasingly rare in a profession where people are being thrown overboard like it’s Pirates of the Caribbean.

The fact that I became a sportswriter at all was a kind of happy accident. I can pretty much assure you that it wouldn’t have happened today, given the path I followed. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 1980 with a liberal arts degree, which is every bit as marketable as you might imagine, and no idea what I wanted to do. I had never written for a school paper, had never taken a journalism class. To this day, I have no idea what they teach in J-School. Well, that’s not exactly accurate; I have an idea what they teach, but I know zero specifics about methods and training.

I banged around at odd jobs out of school. I substitute taught, at a time when subs were more babysitters than teachers. I parked cars at a couple of local racetracks. My dad took pity on me for a time at the company he helped run, a small home heating oil and gas outfit, where I was the AMC Pacer of salesmen. Mostly, I watched friends jump into the working world, taking jobs that looked like slow death. I even halfway considered law school, but was so serious about it that I went to a Parliament Funkadelic show the night before the LSAT. I so badly tanked the test the next morning that I don’t even think I bothered to look at my scores.

One constant was that I read newspapers – the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, and the hometown paper, the Capital in Annapolis, Md. I did a little traveling while in college and just afterward, and I read local papers everywhere I went. I was struck by the crappy storytelling in many small-town papers. Fueled by a combination of ignorance and arrogance, I began to think: I can do that. I reached out to local papers and asked if I could write for them. Let’s see some of your work, editors said, and what credentials do you have? Problem was, I had none.

I had just about given up when I reached out to a tiny, weekly paper in southern Maryland with a sports department that consisted of one woman, who also did a couple of other jobs at the paper. She said, sure, I can use the help. And because it was a weekly and my deadline was a couple of days early, there was time for her to fix whatever I botched. She assigned me to write about local high school athletes and teams. She mostly liked what I wrote and paid me the princely sum of 50 cents per column inch.

Also a young Dave Fairbank
Armed with a handful of clips, I drove to the Washington Post one mid-week morning, figuring to ask someone in the sports department to read my stuff and to offer suggestions. No appointment, no idea who to talk to or even who might be in the office. In other words, an absurdly stupid idea. Yet for some reason, the security guard allowed me upstairs, and somebody in the newsroom pointed me toward the sports department. The only people in the department I saw that morning were former outdoors columnist and sailing writer Angus Phillips and a very young John Feinstein. I saw Phillips first, introduced myself, told him that I needed some guidance about whether I could do the job, and asked if he could help. He couldn’t have been more gracious. He called to Feinstein to come over and read some. Feinstein protested at first and said, “Angus, I’m a terrible editor. I won’t be any help.” But Phillips insisted, saying something to the effect of, look, this kid has driven all the way here and wants to know if he might have a future in this business; the least we can do is read his stuff. They were both very encouraging. Their primary criticism was that I was too wordy and needed to be more concise. They asked how much I made. I told them. They were aghast. “Fifty cents an inch?!? Forget what we just said. Write longer.” Years later, I told Feinstein that story and that he had helped motivate me. He didn’t remember, but was amused and basically apologized for helping steer me toward such a dismal career path.

Anyway, those first stories landed me a job freelancing for the Annapolis paper, which I did for about a year. The two younger guys in the sports department at the time had both worked at a small daily in Cambridge, Md., for the longtime sports editor there. They recommended me, and he hired me. My first full-time newspaper job, in 1982, paid $10,000 a year. I couldn’t have been happier. I sent resumes and clips to larger papers within a couple hundred-mile radius, eventually getting a call from the former sports editor in Newport News.

I had some vague notion of living the rootless life of many newspaper folk – moving up and on every few years for different and better assignments, more pay. But it didn’t work out that way. People knew me and respected my work, or at least faked it well. When subjects and sources return phone calls and make time to talk to you, that’s pretty much all you can ask for as a journalist. As my parents aged, I was fortunate enough to be able to see them regularly, which wouldn’t have been the case were I halfway across the country. I met my wife, built relationships both personal and professional. The money was never great, but I never felt like I wanted for anything. Truth be told, between wage freezes, minuscule pay raises and inflation, I probably took pay cuts for the last 10 years of my full-time working life. I wouldn’t have traded a minute of it.

Since I’ve jumped off the daily journalism hamster wheel, life is a little different. There are times I miss being an Enemy of the People, but so be it. I’m grateful for the life I lived so far and for what’s to come, whatever it may be.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas, Day Two

On the second day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me:

Two Things You're Needing
And a Fat Guy in a Sweet T

We live in a frantic, whirling, world at a particularly vexing time. Our oceans are rising, our politics are infuriating, our kids are growing up too fast, OUR PETS' HEADS ARE FALLING OFF! It's been a theme of this blog this year that things are generally shitty, relatively speaking, and that we're still really blessed dudes and dudettes.

Gheorghemas reminds us that Gheorghe: The Blog itself is a key to maintaining connection, that being part of a community, no matter how silly or inconsequential to the broader world is good for one's soul.

Now, courtesy of researchers at Harvard University, the William & Mary of the North, we know that there are two other things vital to happiness and health. One might seem self-evident, while the other is a bit more nuanced.

The Grant and Glueck study has tracked two separate populations of men for more than 75 years. The Grant study has followed 456 poor men growing in the Boston area from 1939 to 2014, while the companion Glueck study focused on 268 male Harvard graduates from 1939 to 1944.

The major finding, according to Robert Waldinger, who directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development, is that relationships matter. “It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship. It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”

George Vaillant, director of the study from 1972 to 2004 explains the definition of quality, and provides us with the two gifts Big Gheorghe offers us, saying, "“One [key] is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

That first element, as noted above, seems obvious. Love is all you need, as the Beatles told us. But it stops me cold to think too hard about the second. Like most of you, I'm no stranger to stress - especially at the moment. My general stress response is to withdraw, brood, and become prickly. Pushing love away, you might say. Shouldn't have taken Harvard to tell me that's a bad idea.

So my Gheorghemas resolution (new thing!) is to take a deeper breath, and focus on drawing love and friendship close instead of pushing it away. We'll give Dr. Waldinger the last word on this subject:

"The good life is built with good relationships."

Love you guys. Happy Gheorghemas. And I look very much forward to seeing several of you later today.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Interim Gheorghemas Filler

As much as I enjoy looking at Teedge on a Rascal scooter, we need some new filler purely on an interim basis. Keep an eye out for a W&M alumnus in the video below (blink and you'll miss him).

Elmo got his and he did Phife justice. Merry Gheorghemas!

Monday, December 03, 2018

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day 1

It's a yearly tradition for me to both delay the start of Gheorghemas due to procrastination AND make it all about me, so here we are folks. Dig in for the most wonderful time of the year.

On the first day of Gheorghemas
Big Gheorghe gave to me
A fat guy in a sweet T

Happy Gheorghemas to you and yours...let's get this party started.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Sic Semper Tyrannis

We've been friends for a long time, Gheorghies. I've known some of you for 30 years. (30. Damn. Years. Jesus.) We've been through a lot. We've laughed, cried, puked, embarrassed ourselves and each other, fought, hugged, and laughed some more. I trust all of you implicitly.

This bucolic little town has a dark secret
Which is why I feel it's safe to tell you this story. I'm letting you into my world. My messy, disorganized, haphazard, lazy, immature world. Don't judge me, for I bear my flaws as a lesson to those of you less imperfect. I do this as a vehicle to teach you of the oppressive nature of government, the logical extension of Thomas Hobbes' philosophical rants, lest the Man come for you.

As a preface, allow me to quote to you from the Code of the Town of Leesburg, Virginia, section 34-72:

"It shall be unlawful for a customer to forego repair of water leaks in the supply line or within the premises when identified by town personnel, including but not limited to fire sprinkler systems. The penalty for foregoing repairs shall be denial of discontinuation of water service."

I was not aware of this section of the Town Code, as it will become painfully obvious.

We have 3 1/2 bathrooms in our home. For longer than I care to admit, two of them had toilets that ran constantly. I didn't repair said toilets because I'm a) lazy, b) forgetful, c) really lazy. The Town of Leesburg, on two occasions, contacted me to let me know that my water usage patterns indicated that I might have a leak of some sort, and that I should contact a plumber. I ignored the Town of Leesburg, not because I'm some sort of Ammon Bundy, Fuck the Government type, but because I'm really fucking lazy.

I paid my water bill on time, every time, even as it was expensive in comparison to my neighbors. (Not so expensive as to overcome my unique personal inertia, though. It didn't hurt that much just to pay the bill.) I discharged my obligation to society, paying for that which I received in terms of utilities.

Possibly the Water Gestapo. Water Nazis at least.
Two nights ago, my wife texted to let me know that the Water Gestapo from the Town of Leesburg had shut off our water, citing the aforementioned Town Code section 34-72. Luckily, she was able to reach them before the end of the business day and tell them that we would repair the leaks. The reinstated water service within the hour. No harm done. Except for the fact that my children won't look me in the eye out of shame.

We had a plumber in today who repaired both toilets and fixed a malfunctioning handle in a third toilet, all for $140. Had I known that's all it would've cost, I'd have had those repairs done a long time ago. As it turns out, I'm not only lazy, I'm cheap. At least when it comes to the mundanity of modern homeownership. I fucking hate spending money on home repairs, my friends. And while you'll say I should be able to make those kinds of repairs myself, and you'll be right, the fact remains that I can't. The obvious irony, I know, is that I spent way more on wasted water than I did on repairs. Don't @ me.

So I stand before you today as a lazy, situationally cheap, and extremely unhandy person, and I ask your understanding.

And for the life of me, where the fuck is a Republican small-government type the one time I really want one. Let me pay my fucking bills and run my faucets wide open if I want, you over-officious jerks.

I'm not proud, friends.