Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I'm Only 20% Responsible for this Post

Summer Dave hasn't produced much on G:TB for the past few months: travelling, podcasting, keeping up with my own sentence-long rants and reviews, and coaching/managing two soccer teams has eaten up my time. But I'm going to get one Summer Dave style post in under the wire, just before it's time to start "educating" the youth again.

Summertime gives me time to think, and more and more, when I allow myself to think philosophical thoughts (which is not that often) I come to the conclusion that:

"there but for the Grace of God go I."

I generally use a steady stream of podcasts, music and books to avoid this kind of summertime thinking (thanks Podkicker and Google Play, for staving off anxiety and depression!) although I will have no choice but to delve into the abyss of profundity soon enough-- twice a day, in fact-- because I teach two sections of Philosophy class this coming semester. But once class is over, it's over . . . because if you think to hard about this stuff, it makes you crazy.

I'm not religious, so the only way I can rationalize the state of my life is by providence, fortune, and luck, and I often wonder-- in the vein of David Byrne-- how I ended up in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife, with two well-maintained cars (that have working cupholders) and two healthy kids and a fantastic dog . . . and when I think deeply about this, I come to the conclusion that I'm responsible for none of it. I'm entitled to none of it.

None of it was my doing and to think otherwise would be quixotic and foolish.

The current crisis in Aleppo locomoted my brain along this train of thought, and a few other examples immediately came to mind. I am going to exorcise them here, and then never think about them again. 

1) When my wife and I lived in Damascus, we associated Aleppo with good times and good food. The medieval citadel, the Ottoman architecture, the Beit Sissi. We stayed at the Baron (where Agatha Christie began her mystery novel Murder on the Orient Express) and explored the Byzantine era olive-oil cities on the outskirts of town, we climbed to where the stylites fasted, and then stuffed ourselves on kebabs.

The Beit Sissi has burned and the people of Aleppo are under siege from various forces. Two million people are without running water, and the future of the city is exemplified by this picture of this wounded five year old boy:

When I read and see this stuff, I can't help but think if it wasn't for my passport and the luck of where I was born, I could be one of those dehydrated Syrians trying to eke out an existence in the ruins of what is likely the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. So much for civilization.

2) During our stint overseas, one of our favorite places to visit was Thailand. We went there several times and travelled all over the country. Christmas of 2003, we found ourselves camping in a little tent on one of the Similan Islands. The Similan Archipelago National Park is known for incredible snorkeling and scuba-diving. By day, we'd get on a boat and ride to a spot between the islands, the boat would stop, and the Thai guide would yell,"You are snorkerring!" We'd jump off the boat and observe sea turtles, sea snakes, groupers, and all sorts of reef activity. At night we slept in our little tent by the beach.

Exactly a year later, December 26th, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a giant tsunami, which devastated the island. There were bodies in the trees. Southwest Thailand reported 5,400 deaths and 3,100 people missing. Our other favorite tourist spot, Khao Lak, was completely destroyed.

We were back home in New Jersey, starting a family. Good timing. Pure luck.

3) When I was nineteen, I met up with a couple buddies in North Haledon, New Jersey for some Memorial Day Partying. My friend went to William and Patterson (and earned a zero point zero) but he lived off campus, in a fairly sketchy neighborhood.

We got hammered on schnapps and then made a foray out of doors. We were too young to get into a bar, drunk, and had no particular plan. We stole a baby-pool. We ran through some backyards. I climbed into a boat parked in someone's driveway and tried to start the outboard engine. 

Then there were lights. And police.

We did the only rational thing: we booked (it was 1989, so you could still book).

The police chased us. We hid in the bushes. They flushed us out, guns pointed at us. They cuffed us and took us to jail. My friend Rob wasn't wearing shoes. 

Apparently, there had been a spate of robberies in the neighborhood, and the police were doing a stake-out. They were really really pissed at us. They told us to never, ever run from the police in North Haledon. They told us we could have been killed. Now I realize what they meant. If we were black, they would have shot us

Once again, pure luck. The color of our skin saved us. They still cuffed us, tossed us over a chain-link fence (while we were cuffed . . . ouch) and made us spend the night in jail. We attempted to use our PBA cards, but the officer on duty said, "Too late for that." We still had to deal with some serious charges (especially eluding the police) but my dad-- Director of Corrections at the time-- was able to get them dropped to something lesser . . . professional courtesy. It was chalked up to silly college hijinks, underaged inebriation, and general teenage stupidity. 

But if we were black, it might not have ended that way. Again, pure luck.

Those are a few personal examples, but if you start to think this way, you won't be able to stop noticing others that fit the theme . . .

Try listening to the new Radiolab episode:  The Girl Who Doesn't Exist. It's about a girl who doesn't exist. Her parents were weird Texas religious nutballs who had nine children off the grid.Their children don't have birth certificates or Social Security numbers or baptism documents or school records or anything to prove their citizenship in the United States. She finally escaped (with the aid of her grandparents) but she couldn't get a job or go to school or get a driver's license or even get a judge to acknowledge her existence in America. As she says in her video, "I didn't pick this situation for myself."

I was born in the suburbs and my biggest concern was rabid squirrels.

The Netflix original that Mark recommended, Last Chance U, also explores this theme. How do you overcome growing up in rural Mississippi, both parents killed in a wild murder/suicide when you were five? 

How do you escape Aleppo? Or a bizarre cult-like family upbringing? Can you ever leave these places behind, even if you do escape? I think not (although I still enjoy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). 

I wake up each morning in a house with clean running water, air-conditioning, and internet. I live in a nice, safe neighborhood, in a walking town. My children roam the streets and parks from dawn to dusk. Yesterday, my kids joined a dozen of their friends and played "Nerf War" on a quiet street next to mine. They were running through other people's backyards and driveways, wielding menacing Nerf weapons, shooting the fuck out of each other. No one complained. No one shot them.

I don't think I've done anything particularly out of the ordinary to deserve this good fortune. I was just born in the right place, at the right time, with the right color skin, and the right genes. As Woody Allen said, "80 percent of life is showing up." 

So maybe I'm twenty percent responsible for this post, but it was the easy twenty percent . . . the twenty percent that was fun to execute. The rest was just good fortune. I'll try to remember this as the new school year starts and I have to go back to work, and-- horror beyond all horrors-- eschew my daily afternoon nap.


Clarence said...

Excellent post, Summer Dave. Well conceived, well delivered.

If you had told us in 1991 that Dave, the man we labeled "Poor Man's Galileo," would be teaching philosophy to children two-plus decades later, we would have assumed that the world screeched to a halt at the new millennium. In this post-apocalyptic world, Dave is a teacher of his ridiculous theorems. ("Heat rises and moves to the left.") I am heartily amused.

Dave said...

Summer Dave has less than 24 hours of existence left! I'm melting!

rob said...

summer dave simultaneously bummed me out about the state of the world and made me feel better about my place in it. thanks?

Clarence said...

Springsteen's gig last night was apparently an all-timer, 4 hours of killer stuff, lots of rarely played tunes. Almost as if a rebuttal to TR.

Springsteen dishes dream set in 3rd N.J. concert; breaks record yet again

Shlara said...

Great post Summer Dave!

And ICYMI, here's a CNN story (in writing, not in video) of Hinkley's life in Wburg:

zman said...

Summer Dave went deep. I'm sure Bruce put on a helluffa show, but I don't know that we can rely on for an objective review of anything Bruce.

Dave said...

obviously bruce reads g:tb comment sections. this is a shot across our bow. he should be coming on late and doing a bit over an hour, like any self-respecting rational old timer (like the cult show we saw late in their career, where was that? i really admire them for that lazy fast retrospective)

Danimal said...

That's a long time to be at a concert. Too long in my opinion. That's just me though.

So can the Tribe pull out a dubbaya against Zach Galifianakis' wolfpack? Should be a decent game for a half at least. What says Tribe nation? No line on my site.

T.J. said...

danimal, the Tribe will be looking to avenge 1999 and 2008 defeats to NC State - from the little I've read, the Wolfpack might have some quarterback issues, but have a backfield that could run all over us

rootsminer said...

UVA backfield ran all over us last year, but Tribe still had a chance to pull it out. Coach Y.E. Laycock pulled all the tricks out of his bag for that game.

The college game has really gone to hell since they did away with corded headsets. I was #1 on the head coach cord-boy depth chart during the Tribe's 1995 campaign.

zman said...

According to, Teddy Bridgewater's non-contact knee injury was so bad that if the ambulance didn't get there in time he could've lost his leg. How clumsy is this guy? Can you imagine injuring yourself so severely during a workout that your leg needs to be amputated?

Clarence said...

Inside sports says the Tribe is solid at QB and offense overall but light at LB and safety after losing some studs to graduation and the NFL (maybe). Points will be scored.

Tribe getting 22. What say ye, boys? Make it interesting?

Squeaky said...

About that ET signal yesterday ... it came from Earth. Shit, they are already here.

Ebirt og.

Danimal said...

They heard about the Whopperito.

TR said...

Tribe QB is Steve Cluley, who went to my high school! I know y'all care.

I saw Tribe at #10 in the one FCS poll I could find on the interwebs. We've had a balanced, effective offense in the last couple years. Should continue this year. D will be a problem.

T.J. said...

coworker just handed me the Springsteen tickets - they are prettay prettay good

rootsminer said...

TR, since when do jersey boyz use y'all? I'm a southern gent, and I rarely use it.

Squeaky said...

Stay safe FL peeps. I forget where you all reside but that's a shit ton of rain on the way.

Danimal said...

Jacksonville area here. The good news: Leaving today to go to Ohio with the fam for a wedding on my wife's side of the family. That is also the bad news. (driving there, flying home. don't ask. just go with it) I plan to help support Rob with a post or two, but we'll see what happens. Kids are in the wedding, wife is in the wedding. Rehearsal dinner Saturday eve with the wedding on Sunday. Sunday late afternoon/evening. Followed by a reception. At least college football and my team don't start 'til next week. Wait, what?

Mark said...

Brutal timing on the wedding for Danimal. Of all the years to start the ND season on a Sunday night. Im also out on holiday weekend weddings. I don't want to travel on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. That said, enjoy yourself, Dan!

As for my area of Florida, we'll be fine. Just a bunch of rain but significantly less than the west coast (anybody see pictures from last night's Bucs-Skins game) or North Florida. My biggest worry is getting soaked while I'm in downtown Orlando for a concert tonight.

Clarence said...

A concert, you say??? Please refresh and enjoy the product of research!!!

Mark, thanks for teeing it up for me.