Danger Was Almost My Middle Name

This all started because I’m wearing a mask at work. When your job is to work with dozens of Chinese students and their day is spent going to school with other Chinese students and one of the first domestic cases of the Wuhan CoronaVirus was confirmed in your city, you might be concerned about managing the risk of infection. The thing is, a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have cared at all.

Adventuroot
You see, in my teens and twenties (I resent needing to phrase it this way), I took every adventure available to me. If there was a cliff, I’d find a way to climb it and jump off it. If there was a distant land, I’d find a way to travel to it whether by train, plane or automobile. In Mama Liu’s Rav4, I drove half the distance to the moon (five times the circumference of the Earth), making my way to every state in the contiguous United States, staying in shady motels, camping out in the back of my car, or better yet, spending the night in a frosty bivouac sac. I got a handful of speeding tickets and a boatload of parking tickets. I drank all the coffee and ate all the slow-smoked barbecue I could find in this great country. I almost legally changed my name to make Danger my middle name. While I didn’t go on drug-induced benders or get into low-level violent crime, I lived my life as hard as I could, or as far as commitment to my faith afforded me (plus some extra-curricular, extra-biblical activity on top).

I’m the blip in the middle.

When people would question me, discourage me or otherwise rein me in, they used the threat of danger. “Don’t do that, that’s dangerous.” “Don’t eat that, you’ll get cancer.” “Don’t go there, it’s not safe.” My response was always the same; live longer? For what? Live longer? At what cost? In the words of the great George Strait “I ain’t here for a long time, I’m here for a good time.” I wasn’t looking to extend my time at the expense of how I spent it. Greasy food tastes better, driving fast is more fun, the road less traveled makes a better story.

Existentialroot
At the bottom of all that, there was the fact that I didn’t want to live long, regardless. Like my sad existentialist heroes, I was weary. I was weary of life. The point wasn’t that I was willing to pay the price for a lifestyle that I wanted. The point was that I wanted a lifestyle that cost me more life. In other words, burning the candle at both ends wasn’t a means to an end, it was the goal. I was tired, and on a lot of days since those times, I’ve been tired.

Something always resonated with me in Ecclesiastes. From the moment I stumbled across it in my teens, it’s been my favorite part of scripture. Ecclesiastes echoes a meaninglessness that burrows deep into the marrow of your bones and saps joy from so much of life. There is a fleeting quality to this world that doesn’t make it ephemeral and beautiful, but cheap like a disposable napkin. 

The one solace was that we have a chance to make a difference in something eternal. The one solace was that somewhere, there was a way to have a legacy.

We shine most brightly when we can reflect the good graces of God. We leave a mark by dipping our toes into the eternal. But even still, there is a longing for the other side of life. The apostle Paul says as much in his letter to the church in Philippi, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” He knows that the things of this world pale in comparison to just a sliver of the goodness of God. What we experience here is but a shadow of what is to come. He stays to possibly do some good. But in his heart, he longs for the other side of the veil.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don’t eat my vegetables.

Just kidding. I like vegetables, actually. But Paul encapsulates a big portion of my approach towards life and particularly my own safety. When I took the 16PF at Talbot, my three highest factors were High Threat Immunity, Thrill Seeking Behavior and Low Energy Depression. If you’ve known me for some amount of time, you look at those three phrases and you recognize all of it immediately in how I live. I never saw the need to shield myself from the dangers of this world. What’s the worst that could happen? My untimely demise? Perfect, I could use the rest. Let’s roll the dice.

Saferoot
If this all sounds awfully morbid, rest assured. I’m not embarking on drug-fueled benders or living my best hedonistic life. I spend my days in a two bedroom condo in one of the safest suburbs in the world. I go to and fro from my safe job in a sensible mid-size SUV with lots of airbags and even a dashcam. I lock my doors now. Take a snapshot of my life these past few years and I venture to guess that it’s largely indistinguishable from the safety-seeking people I pass on the freeway.

And today, I’m wearing a goofy facemask at work.

(facemask photo)

I’ve never been known to be the most cautious one in the room.

In 2002, When SARS broke out in eastern Asia and around the world, I was a teenager. Like any teenager convinced of his own immortality, SARS was a just punch-line and a means for taking self-deprecating racist pot-shots at my own people. My only responsibility on a day to day basis was reading Fitzgerald novels and getting Kennedy Fried Chicken from the corner of Fulton and Fort Greene. The closest thing I had to a bank account was a new paperback novel and a receipt from Barnes and Noble.

Now, in 2020, I’ve got a job, a mortgage, a wife (total babe) and most recently, a tiny baby to take care of. I can’t afford to joke around. I can’t afford to be cavalier about my own life because the outcome of other lives depends on it. If I get hurt, if I get hurt, it’s not me that pays the price, it’s these other two. And it’s a heavy weight to carry.

Dadroot
You know, I thought that I would resent this weight. All of the married characters in my writing resented their families for it. I thought I would be bogged down by the responsibility of caring for a family. I’d spend my days in a cubicle, rotting away under fluorescent lights instead of under the stars somewhere on the Appalachian Trail. But now, now that I’m on the other side, I think that I imagined it wrong. 


No, I don’t love the suburbs. I don’t love the safety. I don’t love having a mortgage, and furniture and a life that I can’t pack up and leave on a moments notice. I love my family, and the other things are necessary costs to that end. I do enjoy a home, and I suspect that they do too. Instead of looking to speed through life, I’m trying to slow it down. I’m trying to stretch it out because my family doesn’t need a martyr, they need a father. They need a rock, an anchor, not a rolling stone.

I know I’m not always going to have to sacrifice things. When Shelby isn’t a tiny bitty baby, she will come along on adventures. She will sit in that center seat between me and her mom while we explore the world together. I’ll do dumb things to try to impress her. But even now, with my quiet day to day, I am at peace. I realize that what I do with these two ladies will be the greatest adventure I embark on, and how I do it will be my greatest legacy.

look at these two babes

How I’m Doing

You may have noticed that I’ve been blogging more lately. This is mostly because we’ve organically settled into a rhythm where I take the first night shift. Stephy tries to sleep at around 10pm after the baby is fed and changed. Then, I usually I wind down and write until the baby wakes at around 1AM to impatiently demandsfood. After feeding and changing, I sleep too. Stephy takes care of things in the awful hours of night until around seven or so. Then, I take over so she can get some rest before I head to work.

Close Call: This child just peed AND pooped moments after I swapped diapers.

This irregular schedule has given me lots of time to compile goofy lists and think about things. It’s also given me more time to work on the novel (coming up on 50k words). I’ve been stuck plot-wise for a few weeks now, but steadily grinding on the passages that I know will happen. It seems to be moving away from detective novel into thriller territory. This is fine with me.

Anyway, one thing that I haven’t really written about is my current stage of life. This makes sense because it’s in flux. Not only am I trying to figure out what is happening, I’m also trying to figure out how I feel about it.

The first thing I want to communicate is that I miss ministry. I miss pouring my time and energy into the service of people, their understanding of God and His role in their lives. I loved every minute of study, preparation, even all the cleaning up. Most of all, I miss the kids. The role I was allowed to play in their lives was one that I never took for granted and the void left from stepping down from that responsibility has been the hardest part of this process.

It’s weird to go from having an important role in so many lives to kinda not. The past few months of “secular” work has been a mixed bag. I manage teachers, prepare curriculum, and help students apply to schools. For the most part, I’m not doing the things I’m best at. The work can be challenging and interesting at times, but there are always the parts of it that reek of the mundane. I think often about Jesus making tables or Paul and his tents. I wonder how they did it when they knew that the fields were ripe with harvest.

On the flipside, I have been able to commit more of my time and energy into my little burgeoning family. You see, for the past few years, I have to admit that there’s been a tension. When I was in ministry and with family (even pre-baby), I had to make compromises. It was hard to go full speed into ministry because I had new financial obligations, a wife to be present for, and a new set of affairs to be concerned about (1 Corinthians 8:33-34). Paul describes the married man as a man whose interests are divided, and that was an apt description for me. At the same time, it was hard to be fully present for my family. I had to give up most evenings and weekends, I missed birthdays and anniversaries.

More importantly, my attention would be divided. I took a look at my inbox today, and for the month of January, I have (as of writing this on January 21st) less than five emails in my primary inbox. As a minister, I’d routinely have hundreds of emails, let alone calls and messages. These were not nuisances, but they could be taxing. While a big part of me desperately wants to get back to doing the work of ministry, I can feel how this time has given me rest and an ability to focus on my family.

It was important to me to be there for Stephy and the wee baby Shelby, and although I’m occasionally too immersed in a TV show, I like to think that I’ve been a good father so far. I didn’t want Stephy to ever feel like there was something competing for my attention and affection and I didn’t want to feel like I had to choose. 

I feel like it sounds like I’m complaining. I don’t mean for it to sound that way. I just wanted to say that it’s been hard. I miss the youth, and I worry that every day I’m spending apart from them in this season is another step towards a day where they no longer see me as someone they can go to for help. I worry all the time that the day has already passed. 

But if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to share a little bit about what I’ve gained. First, you have to understand that for me, home was an unstable thing growing up. For parts of my life, my church family was the most nurturing family I had. I could count on those people to love and accept me. It’s why I committed my life to building the church. Growing up, I always had this home away from home. But now, I have a home at home.

I don’t know exactly how to express what it feels like to come home from work every day to my family waiting for me. Every morning, I don my necktie, brew my coffee in my travel mug, pack my lunch and mosey on over to the same office in a lifestyle that would make 20 year old Sunroot cry (I still want to cry sometimes). But then, I speed through regions of Irvine and Tustin to get home to these two women that I would do anything for. I come home to my family. After I park the car, I look up and see the lights on through the windows and my heart swells with a weird sensation. For the first time in my life, I feel completely at home.

At the end of the day, yes, of course I want to get back into ministry. A few times a week, I’m looking for jobs at non-profits where I can serve again. My thoughts and feelings are still jumbled. I’m still figuring it all out and I’m trying to know the right thing to do is. But as I write this on my laptop in the dark, my wife and my daughter are sleeping peacefully next to me and I know, without guilt or shame, that I’m doing my best to give my best to them. And that thought helps me sleep peacefully too.

The Return of McGregor: Why You Don’t Need To Be Perfect To Be King

I’m a casual UFC fan at best. I mostly watch boxing now. This is probably due to the fact that I saw my UFC hero Anderson Silva shatter his leg against the shin of Chris Weidman in UFC 168. I watched a living legend turn his leg into a snap bracelet, so you’ll forgive me if my appetite for that shade of combat sports is diminished. I popped back in when McGregor and Rousey were in their heyday (I even watched the Ultimate Fighter 17), and that’s why I couldn’t ignore the allure of the Notorious One returning. I’ve even followed his Instagram in the past few weeks to watch his training sessions (while enduring his incessant whiskey ads). I was excited for his comeback and I figured that this was as good a time as any to get back into it.

Image result for conor mcgregor and son cage

My favorite posts were of Conor and his son, Conor Jr.

This Saturday night, I watched the bulk of UFC 246 on my phone via sketchy streaming sites where the video would pause and restart every half minute or so. Fights played on while I went through my nightly chores: wash the dishes, sterilize the baby bottles, refill the formula maker and bottle warmer, top off the water boiler and coffee maker. Around the time I finished up, the main promos were starting. I sat down, pulled up the bootleg feed on my laptop and got ready to watch McGregor return to the Octagon after 15 long months.

Then, as McGregor strut out to the ring, my feed died. My internet was fine, but someone told the pirate-fighting powers-that-be and my feed when kaput. A minute later, I was able to refresh and video finally came back. Except now, Conor McGregor was sitting on top of the Octagon with the flag of Ireland draped across his shoulders. The fight was over.

Image result for mcgregor cerrone on top of cage

McGregor, visibly emotional after his win over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone

I just missed the details of it. A couple of seconds later, I watched it on the replays and the details began to emerge. Conor McGregor broke Cowboy’s nose and cut him above the eye with his shoulder. You read that right, his shoulder. In an early clinch, McGregor whipped his shoulder around so fast and so hard that he broke the UFC legend’s nose and opened up his eye. Then McGregor quickly finished off the fight with a leg kick to the head and a flurry of punches on a dazed Cerrone. What a way to win a fight. What a way to make a comeback.

I could only laugh. It was Jose Aldo all over again. Two years ago, Conor McGregor caught lightning in a bottle and won a fight in speedy spectacular fashion. Then on Saturday night, he did it again.  Admittedly, “Cowboy” Cerrone isn’t on the same level of competition as Jose Aldo, but you can argue that the stakes were just as high, even without a belt on the line. McGregor has a lot to prove if he wants to stay on top of the UFC and potentially tens of millions of dollars in career earnings hinged upon this fight.

My thoughts after the bout were the same after the Jose Aldo fight. “That was very impressive, but I don’t know what it means.” The unusual nature of the fight leaves my questions about McGregor unanswered. Is his conditioning enough to go the distance? Can he hold his own if he has to grapple at an elite level? Can he beat Khabib?

McGregor landing a clean shot against Jose Aldo in a historically short (13 second) title fight for UFC

As I started to run through the scenarios in my head, I realized that this is the appeal of McGregor. I remembered why I loved watching him fight. First, he is an incredible fighter. His striking is elite and thrilling to watch. Every now and then, you can see flashes of Jeet Kune Do and the Karate stance is a nice break from the Muay Thai/MMA style.

His skill isn’t unusual, lots of fighters are great. What sets McGregor apart is the feeling that he’s getting so big, he’ll pop. His hubris sets him up for a mighty fall and everyone in their schadenfreude wants to witness a mighty fall. McGregor takes a page out of the Floyd Mayweather Jr. playbook and builds up a persona that you either want to cheer for, or jeer against. Either way, no one is ambivalent about him. Mayweather Jr. built a career around building haters, but never losing. He made over a billion dollars in his career by walking the tight-rope of an ego-maniac that backed it up.

The difference here is that McGregor has some losses on his record but you somehow don’t care. You’re just glad he’s back in the mix. McGregor has accomplished much of what Mayweather Jr. has for marketability and he’s done it without the perfect record. But I suspect that in order to continue generating interest, he can’t rack up losses against sub-elite opponents. Two things sell an MMA Pay-Per-View: A loaded card, and a big star. This card was anything but loaded (although Maycee Barber showed an insane amount of heart against Roxanne Modafferi in the prelims by fighting on a torn ACL). The draw here was the star: Conor, the Notorious One.

Saturday was just a reminder of the power of a star. It’s rare that a non-title fight gets the Pay-Per-View treatment, and McGregor already has been the headliner for 5 out of the top 6 Pay-Per-View UFC fights of all time. Time will tell for the numbers on this past fight, but I suspect it was no slouch either. Dana White estimates over a million (which would make it top 15 all time)

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All-time top Pay-Per-View buys for the UFC

Personally, I like seeing McGregor succeed. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” is an adage that I think can be applied here for all of combat sports (yes, including boxing). I want to see him fight Khabib again. I want to see him fight Masvidal as a welterweight. I want to see a McGregor v. Diaz 10. Conor, he’s not a perfect fighter. He’s not like Floyd. But this weekend should be proof that he doesn’t need to be. He’s thrilling to watch, win, lose or draw.

My Favorite Stand Up Specials From the 2010’s

If you’re familiar with my unhealthy media consumption habits, then you know how much I love stand-up comedy. On a normal week with access to at least one of the major streaming services, I might average around 10 hours of stand-up a week. Currently, I’m without Netflix, and with baby, so that number has gone down. Although, with Spotify, late night feedings, and an impetus to research for this piece, I think I’m making up for lost time.

There’s something pure about the form that (for the most part) is just a person standing in front of an audience and making them laugh. One person committed to the entertainment of a crowd with nothing but a means of amplification. Stand-up is evolving past “airline food is bad” and the specials are becoming more immersive, more contemplative, more socially charged. If it means I get more specials like 3 Mics, Homecoming King and Make Happy, I’m all for that change.

I just wanted to take some time and take note of some of my favorite comedians and stand-up specials with a list of my favorites from the past decade. When I was pre-writing for this, I realized that I would have to leave out literally dozens of comedians that I wish I could pay homage to, but my list is already too inflated. Without further ado, here are some of my favorites.

21. Gary Gulman – In This Economy? (2011)Image result for gary gulman in this economy
Gary Gulman is kind of a throwback to what drew everyone to stand up in the 80’s. He’s insightful, witty and his subject matter is innocuous and delightful. Watching one of his specials (with the exception of The Great Depresh [2019]) is like watching a Disney movie; it might not might make you think that deeply, but it is enjoyable throughout. In This Economy is a good example of well constructed, classic stand-up.

20. Katherine Ryan – In Trouble (2017)Image result for katherine ryan in trouble
It should come as high praise that Katherine Ryan is occasionally described as the next Joan Rivers. She is unapologetically herself, or at least the version of herself that she projects on stage. She can be vain, self-deprecating and blunt, but throughout, she is charming, upbeat and fun. She carries herself with a great deal of confidence and that confidence helps her deliver catty and irreverent jokes without seeming cruel or mean-spirited.

19. Kevin Hart – Laugh At My Pain (2011)Image result for kevin hart laugh at my pain
If there were to crown a comedian of the decade for the 2010’s, it would be Kevin Hart. From smaller stand up specials to sold out arenas, no rise was as meteoric as Hart’s. While he never got the critical acclaim of Louie (until Louie’s fall from the public eye), he might be the most publicly recognized stand-up comedian of this era. I’m pretty sure everyone had a group of dudes in their friend circle that constantly snickered “you gonna learn today,” and “alright, alright, alright.” No? Just me? Laugh At My Pain is a great representation of that infectious, fun energy that Kevin Hart brings.

18. Jimmy Carr – Funny Business (2016)Related image
Jimmy Carr’s humor is polished, refined and unmistakably dark. In Funny Businnes, Carr spits out perfectly crafted and executed jokes. His one liners are delivered with precision and you feel comfortable in the hands of a practiced technician. Then, you see his wit and dry humor shine during the crowd-work sections of this special. Carr joins a number of comedians who relish in the shocking and politically incorrect and he does it with a lovely dry, English style. Plus, his laugh is disgusting.

17. Mike Birbiglia – My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (2013)Image result for birbiglia girlfriends boyfriend
Mike Birbiglia is sensitive and thoughtful in a way that makes me think about how weird it is that he shares a profession with guys like Anthony Jeselnik and Daniel Tosh. My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend is vulnerable in a way that draws you in, like listening to a good friend share about a tough time. Birbiglia is self-deprecating (as comedians are wont to be), but there is an inner strength that helps you to laugh with him and root for him at the same time. He won’t make you laugh so hard your guts hurt, but you’ll finish the special feeling somehow lighter and more optimistic.

16. John Mulaney – The Comeback Kid (2015)Related image
In the vacuum created by Louis CK’s fall from grace, John Mulaney has risen as the critical darling and the golden boy of stand up comedy. This is rightfully so. In this decade, he’s been nominated for dozens of Emmy’s and WGA Awards for SNL and Documentary Now!, including wins for SNL and one for his 2018 special, Kid Gorgeous at Radio City. He also co-created the broadway show Oh, Hello and the Netflix show Big Mouth with Nick Kroll. The Comeback Kid is a good encapsulation of what we love about John Mulaney, his self-deprecating humor, delivered with energy and charm.

15. Aziz Ansari – Intimate Moments For A Sensual Evening (2010)Image result for ansari intimate moments
Before Aziz Ansari was winning Emmys and Golden Globes for Master of None, he was living it up as Tom Haverford and making incredible stand-up comedy. Like many other comedians on this list, he was following the mold of Louis CK by taking a year to hone a full hour’s worth of material, recording it, and then burning it to start all over again. In short succession, Aziz came out with several excellent hour-long specials (Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening 2010, Dangerously Delicious 2011, Buried Alive 2013, Live at Madison Square Garden 2015). I chose this one as my favorite of them because it begins a great tradition of Aziz R&B bits. 

14. Tom Segura – Mostly Stories (2016)Image result for segura mostly stories
Tom Segura is a classic comedian in that his jokes will often revolve around certain comedy tropes; sex, poop, idiotic people. That being said, I really enjoy his stuff. Maybe it appeals to my more base instincts, but I have to admit I like when a comedian is doing what he can to shock and gross out his audience. There are so many fat, gross comedians that I love, and Tom Segura right up there with the best of them.

13. Hannibal Buress – Live From Chicago (2014)Image result for hannibal buress live chicago
The Kobe Bryant bit. I love most of Buress’ stuff, but the Kobe Bryant bit made me pick this special out from the pack. Buress has some of my favorite jokes “related to personal stories, current events, the streets and even food” (inside joke), but it’s his delivery and cadence that really make his jokes special. He has a way of starting a joke slow, and compounding it as he speeds up that is a testament to how hard he works on each bit. His meta jokes about stand up comedy provide an extra layer of enjoyment for the die-hards. 

12. Daniel Tosh – Happy Thoughts (2011)Image result for tosh happy thoughts
This list should make it clear that I love the unapologetic elitism that Daniel Tosh uses in his stand-up. He is critical of the pretenses that people use in the name of political correctness, and goes out of his way to assault them. What makes him special is that he does so in a way that self-aware and dare I say, thoughtful. In Happy Thoughts, Tosh’s persona helps to hold an unflattering mirror up to some of the things that make America, ‘Murica. 

11. Lil Rel’  – Kevin Hart Presents: Lil Rel’ – RELevent (2015)Image result for lil rel relevent
Lil Rel’s style is a pure kind of comedy that is just joyful. Watching him is like watching the funniest guy you know, but capture all of that fun into a package with hilarious delivery and put it on a professional stage. Laughs are had at nobody’s expense, so everyone is in on the joke. There is nothing overtly political or deep, but I want to put his stuff on my list because it legitimately makes me laugh out loud. RELevent is like birthday cake, festive and fun all throughout.

10. Hannah Gadsby – Nanette (2018)Image result for gadsby nanette
We’re cracking the top 10 on my list and this is where a lot of the entries start to get heavy— none of them heavier than Nanette by Hannah Gadsby. Gadsby recounts her own journey of discovery, abuse and triumph. She does this while examining art, including comedy, as an imperfect narrators, insufficient for conveying the depth and truth of a person’s experience. In a way, Nanette is a subversion of comedy, and the laughs are turned into tension, tension that she doesn’t let go of. It’s a beautiful and gripping special, worthy of watching, for laughter and severity.

9. Michael Che – Michael Che Matters (2016)Image result for michael che matters
I haven’t liked SNL for a long time, but I love Michael Che (I’m too jealous of Colin Jost to appreciate him even a little), and I really enjoy Michael Che Matters. Che is able to speak on social issues without being too preachy or myopic. In a way, he reminds me of Chris Rock in his heyday (you’ll notice I didn’t put Tambourine on this list) in the way he can. His insights are witty, sharp and memorable. The sign of a good satirist is the ability to turn a phrase in a way that makes you rethink an issue. Think of Chris Rock’s “bullet control” and “black people vs. n-’s”. Michael Che gives us terrifying white women and “All Buildings Matter”.

8. Anthony Jeselnik – Thoughts and Prayers (2015)Related image
Anthony Jeselnik has made a living on provoking a response through the most inappropriate jokes possible. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “________ is nothing to joke about,” Jeselnik has taken that topic, written it on an index card, and made it his mission to make a joke out of it. This audaciousness is not a virtue in and of itself, but his execution and delivery is just so wonderful. This special is a good blend of his toolkit, stories, short set-up/punchline jokes and personal thoughts. Whereas Fire in the Maternity Ward (2019) can be predictable and repetitive, Thoughts and Prayers is fresh and exciting from start to finish.

7. Bill Burr – Let It Go (2010)Image result for burr let it go
Bill Burr is another guy on this list where I could’ve put any of his specials and would’ve had multiple entries if it weren’t for wanting to be nice. Burr is what they call a comedian’s comedian, who, in the same vein as Aziz and Louie, is working on new material and touring constantly, refining his craft and steadily making quality material. He is profane and abrasive, but thoughtful so his rants come off like tough love, not malicious berating. I chose let it go because “what are you, a fag?” is an insightful bit that captures when Burr is at his best; reflective and hilarious.  

6. Marc Maron – Thinky Pain (2013)Related image
Marc Maron’s comedy resonates with the basest parts of myself: addiction, neuroticism, and depression. For those who enjoy the now legendary WTF? podcast, his specials feel like a polished version of our group therapy sessions. His stories don’t always end in triumph, but you feel like you’ve bonded by the end and accepted hard things together. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a comedian so raw, honest and unfiltered. 

5. Dave Chappelle – The Bird Revelation (2018)… but really, all of themImage result for chappelle bird revelation
The feeling I get when watching Dave Chappelle’s new sets is what it must have been like for Drake and Beyonce fans when they were hit by great surprise albums. Dave Chappelle came back from semi-retirement to fanfare and a comedy god status. When you watch the new specials, you can see why. There are sections where he is just riffing, making people laugh while just musing on whatever’s on his mind. Then there are times where he is presenting perfectly crafted bits, built up over the course of the set and drawn to an epic conclusion. Chappelle breaks a traditional paradigm for what comedy touring and specials should be with an absolutely virtuosic command of the craft. In one special, he jokes about how it’s too easy, and how he could just pull punchlines out of a fishbowl and destroy crowds. Then he does it when you know it’s coming. I picked Bird Revelation, because like all of my favorite stand-ups, it challenged me in my perspectives about a current issue (#metoo) and gave me the vocabulary to voice some ideas around it.

4. Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King (2017)Related image
Homecoming King is about an Asian-American immigrant who grew up in an urban environment in the 90’s. Hasan Minhaj was custom-made to hit my cultural touchstones: hip-hop, sports and withholding parents. What makes Homecoming King so special is Minhaj’s thoughtful approach to discussing what it means to be a son of immigrants in America. He is open and reflective and honest in a way that makes you feel what he feels. You experience his struggles with him and you want to cheer in your seat with his triumphs. All in all, Homecoming King does what all my favorite stand up specials do. It makes you think, feel and laugh.

3. Neal Brennan – 3 Mics (2017)Related image
Neal Brennan will always joke about riding on the coat-tails of Dave Chappelle and the success of Chappelle’s Show, but in this special, you see how he has grown as a stand-up in his own right. He has a distinctive vision and style that makes 3 Mics a powerfully moving and hilarious time. Brennan takes an unorthodox approach of switching between three types of jokes, or one could argue, three different personas. The effect of the format is that it brings extra attention to each time he changes mics. It makes you want more of one or less of another, and all of these machinations cause you to think more deeply through the content. 

2.Bo Burnham – Make Happy (2016)
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Make Happy is a special that is filled with meta-commentary on the stand-up form and ends in an existentially reflective rant in the style of Kanye West. This is a man after my own heart. Bo Burham examines what it means to be happy and what it means to be in the public eye. He does it by disorienting and delighting his audience with catchy songs, non-sequiturs and deeply thoughtful ruminations. 

1. Louis CK – Hilarious (2010), Live at the Beacon Theater (2011), Oh My God (2013), Live at the Comedy Store (2015), 2017 (2017)
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It’s hard to talk about Louis CK without mentioning his recent fall from grace. When I’m looking at different lists that people have compiled of their favorite stand-up comics and specials from the last decade, his name is very noticeably absent. I can understand why people are wary of including him or perhaps their own personal convictions make it impossible to continue honoring him. There’s also the reality that many of the jokes he made land differently in light of what we’ve learned about him. But at the end of the day (or decade), Louis CK was my favorite comedian of the 2010s.

Each of his specials taught me different ways to look at complex issues. His TV show made me a better person and, I think, a better father. The more recent specials challenged me to be a more thoughtful pastor and educator. I mean, admittedly, there are swaths of filthy content littered throughout all of these specials (not a bad thing). There are tons of inane (yet hilarious) stories and anecdotes. But when Louis CK talks about heavy issues like language, race and even abortion (what a way to open a special [2017]), he does so with such nuance and thoughtfulness. Louie has a way of reframing arguments that we take for granted and turning them into a mirror at something ugly inside of us. Those mirrors are crucial to evaluate what makes us think the way we do. I believe we’re a better populace for having watched specials, better equipped to listen and see from other perspectives, less expedient to judge and condemn without looking first at ourselves. 

On top of all that, Louis CK has done the most to make the other comedians on this list better. In this decade, he became the elder statesman in stand-up and set the tone for everyone else for what it means to be a professional. His commitment to creating new, relevant material through constantly working the clubs and touring was an example that has improved the quality AND quantity of good stand-up that we get on a regular basis. For those reasons, and the simple reason that he’s funny, he tops my list here.

My Favorite Movie Of Each Year in the Past Decade… almost

This list wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I was supposed to make a simple list of my favorite movies from 2010-2019. It was gonna be one of those peppy top 10 lists that gets me a click or two. These lists ought to be equal parts pretentious and provocative. But somehow, the list grew and grew. There are too many movies that deserve mention and praise– not because of their objective greatness, but because of what they’ve meant to me.

There are great, important movies that are left off this list. They are omitted for various reasons, not the least of which would be that I haven’t seen them (sorry 2019). Other reasons may simply be that the movie I ended up choosing just had too much of an effect on my.

For those who know me, you know that I love movies, TV, novels, comics, pretty much anything with a narrative. I love stories because life’s most huge important truths are captured in an instant. The stories of all humanity can be told in the story of one human. I enjoy movies as entertainment, yes, but also as guides, road-maps and parables. As I reflect on this very formative decade in my life, I can’t help but see how these wonderful films shape my own narrative, my own arcs, my own character.

As I compiled the list, it began to swell. It also became hard to order them in any sensible way besides chronological, so the format I’ve ended up with is a list of my favorite movies of each year, with honorable mentions. This is by no means a definitive list of what is best (research exposed to me how many noteworthy movies I’ve failed to watch). I hope the reader can enjoy these selections through my own eyes and perhaps if you’ve been itching to take the plunge with one of these beauties, you’ll take my word for it and jump.

2010 – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

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Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay by: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright
Starring: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin

It’s rare to find a piece of art that you feel speaks so specifically and directly into your life and experience. While I haven’t wielded a flaming sword against enemy exes, this movie touches on the deeply nostalgic video game culture I grew up in. It brings me back to lazy afternoons on the couch with Sun-Jet and a Nintendo Power Walkthrough on my lap collecting Skulltulas. Scott Pilgrim also perfectly captures a period of my life where I was wondering what I should do with it. Scott’s journey was my journey. To this day, I will often make to-do lists with the heading “SR Gets It Together.”  Edgar Wright is a master at visual comedy and the soundtrack is hypnotic and perfect, from 8-bit Easter Eggs to the sleepy dream ballads.

Honorable Mentions

Inception
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Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page

The Fighter
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Director: David O’Russell
Screenplay by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams

True Grit
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Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Charles Portis
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailie Steinfield

2011 – Attack the Block
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Director: Joe Cornish
Screenplay by: Joe Cornish
Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail

John Boyega a.k.a Finn a.k.a. FN-2187 wields a samurai sword and leads a gang of South London hood rats against a horde of glowing alien invaders.  There’s so much more to say, but it shouldn’t be necessary to say it. The movie gives representation to a culture that is so often under-represented in genre flicks and answers a question that we never knew we needed the answer for: “What would happen if aliens tried to invade the ghetto?”

Honorable Mentions

Rango
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Director: Gore Verbinski
Screenplay by: John Logan
Starring: Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Timothy Olyphant

Moneyball
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Director: Bennett Miller
Screenplay by: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin, Michael Lewis
Starring: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill

Drive
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Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Screenplay by: Hossein Amini, James Sallis
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston

2012 – Skyfall
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Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris

There’s a moment when James Bond adjusts his cuffs after jumping into a moving train through a hole he carved with a crane that was also on the aforementioned train. Scenes like that will always make me feel like a little kid watching someone who is quintessentially cool. Skyfall takes the typical Bond tropes and adds in complex themes about duty and the fall of empire (for a deeper dive, check out the Rewatchables). In Skyfall, you follow an older broken Bond who can’t rest because the mission isn’t over. He does many un-cool things (gets shot, dies, collapses during a physical, etc.) but he is so damn cool. M quoting Tennyson over a montage of Bond running still gives me goosebumps.

Honorable Mentions

Safety Not Guaranteed
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Director: Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay by: Derek Connolly
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson

Django Unchained
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Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay by: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio

Seven Psychopaths
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Director: Martin McDonagh
Screenplay by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken

2013- Kings of Summer
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Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Screenplay by: Chris Galleta
Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias

The Kings of Summer is easily one of my favorite movies, period. It captures something deep inside of me, a boyish yearning for adventure and independence. It reminds me of hiking through the backwoods of Kissena Park, or driving for days around the country, sleeping  outside or in the trunk of the Rav4. There’s something important that this movie teaches about what it means to be a man. Or at the very least, it emphasizes the importance of embarking on a quest to become one.

Honorable Mentions

Warm Bodies
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Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenplay by: Jonathan Levine, Isaac Marion
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

Inside Llewyn Davis
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Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
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Director: Ben Stiller
Screenplay by: Steve Conrad
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Jon Daly

2014- Whiplash

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Director: Damien Chazelle
Screenplay by: Damian Chazelle
Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

There’s something about a story of obsession and greatness that will always speak to me. Whiplash is often described as a sports movie, something akin to a boxing movie because of the relentless dedication of the hero to become great. It is also the first in a string of movies by Damian Chazzelle about needing to abandon the women in your life to pursue your dreams. This movie is laser focused and lean without an ounce of fat and the result is a gripping story about someone who refuses to be a no one, no matter the cost. The soundtrackis no slouch either.

Honorable Mentions

Interstellar
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Director: Jonathan Levine
Screenplay by: Jonathan Levine, Isaac Marion
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich

Hector and the Search for Happiness
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Director: Peter Chelsom
Screenplay by: Maria von Heland, Peter Chelsom, Tinker Lindsay, Francois Lelord
Starring: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Tracy Ann Oberman

John Wick
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Director: Chad Stahelski
Screenplay by: Derek Kolstad
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen

2015- Mr. Right

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Director: Paco Cabezas
Screenplay by: Max Landis
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell, Tim Roth

There is such a thing as a perfect romantic comedy action movie. This is it. It’s perfectly cast, acted and filmed.  Sam Rockwell is your sweet everyman with a freakish gift. Anna Kendrick is our dream girl who not only accepts Sam Rockwell’s murderous occupation, but participates too. It’s a tragedy that more people haven’t seen this great movie. It’s a joy to watch from beginning to end.

Honorable Mentions

我的少女时代 (Our Times)
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Director: Yu Shan Chen
Screenplay by: Yung-Ting Tseng
Starring: Vivian Sung, Talu Wang, Dino Lee

Mad Max: Fury Road
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Director: George Miller
Screenplay by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

The Martian
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Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay by: Drew Goddard, Andy Weir
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig

2016- The Nice Guys

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Director: Shane Black
Screenplay by: Shane Black
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice

The Nice Guys is like an unintentional sequel to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, another subversive sleuthing movie that I love. It manages to be warm and sweet in the cold, bitter world of LA in the 70s. Every scene in this movie is hilarious. It’ll make you hungry for more detective stories and more Shane Black. It ought to.

Honorable Mentions

La La Land
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Director: Damien Chazelle
Screenplay by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
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Director: Gareth Edwards
Screenplay by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk

Kubo and the Two Strings
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Director: Travis Knight
Screenplay by: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler
Starring: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey

2017- Molly’s Game

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Director: Aaron Sorkin
Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin, Molly Bloom
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner

Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino are by far my favorite screenwriters of all time. If I can just listen to a movie with my headphones in without watching and still be riveted, then I know that the screenplay is packing a punch. That said, Molly’s game incorporates some of my favorite things, poker, the criminal underworld and Sorkin dialogue. You watch the rise and fall and rise of an American entrepreneur/criminal.


Honorable Mentions

Get Out
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Director: Jordan Peele
Screenplay by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford

The Big Sick
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Director: Michael Showalter
Screenplay by: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter

Dunkirk
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Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

2018- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramset
Screenplay by: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld

It is distinctly satisfying to watch a comic book movie executed perfectly. Into the Spider-Verse simultaneously dipped into an expansive multiverse while telling the story of a single boy’s journey to becoming a hero. The visuals are endlessly entertaining and full of easter eggs and details for comic book lovers. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is about what Spider-Man was always supposed to be about, a boy, taking on the weight of responsibility for a whole city because, in short, he has to.


Honorable Mentions

Isle of Dogs
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Director: Wes Anderson
Screenplay by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, George Clooney

Black Panther
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Director: Michael Showalter
Screenplay by: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter

Den of Thieves
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Director: Christian Gudegast
Screenplay by: Christian Gudegast
Starring: Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr.

2019- ???

I don’t think I could write about 2019 in good conscience. I haven’t seen most of the movies, including the ones that I know I will love, including Parasite, 1917, Marriage Story, The Farewell, Jojo Rabbit, Ford v Ferrari, Booksmart, Ad Astra, Joker to name a few. So many of those are right up in my wheelhouse so it’d be impossible to make this list without them.

At the end of this list, I feel like I’ve given a good representation of the films I like, and I hope you come to like them too. I’m looking forward to a roaring 20’s where new streaming platforms and distribution formats will give rise to all kinds of new storytelling. I can’t wait to see movies get more epic and cinematic to compete with streaming services and multi-episode miniseries’. Stay tuned or subscribe to this blog, if you care about the stuff I’m into as I’ll be posting up my favorite TV shows, music and stand-up specials of the last decade up on my blog in the coming weeks.

on the shore

Today, I am too tired to keep unpacking. My hands are sore, calloused and raw from working on things around the house. In the past few days since we’ve moved in, I’ve unpacked about half our things (my half), converted our shower doors, upgraded some bathroom hardware, fixed/broke a toiled and assembled some new furniture to name a few of the things. Right now, I’m sitting at the top of the loft, on my writing desk, typing. I can hear my wife sleeping quietly in the living room, curled up with a blanket on top of a body pillow.

Earlier, I rummaged through my books, because I’m looking for something specific. I am looking for Kafka on the Shore. You have to understand that for readers, we have important relationships with our books, relationships that evolve and change as time goes by and we either re-read and build nuance, or we allow our memories to sweeten, yet dilute with distance. Every reader has a few seminal books that anchor them. These are the words that have formed who we are and who we’ve committed to never being. We need these books to inform us and teach us the lessons we knew when we were young, lessons we vowed to live out as we got older. I wish I were not in such need of a reminder today, but I find myself straying from those truths that I once saw so clearly. I don’t mean doctrines, I mean those blurry truths that we hold loosely in our hands like sand or ocean foam.

In the past week, I’ve delighted in the work of my hands. I’ve demolished, built, and rebuilt various items with these hands and the physical work in conjunction with tangible results are a welcome break from a job where I can nary see the fruit of my labor on this side of heaven. I’ve worked on the framework of the home that will surround and raise my coming child, and I’ve found great satisfaction in one of the few ways I can prepare for fatherhood while my wife contributes more to the baby in her nap than I could in all my waking hours. Yet, I’m back at my desk and reminded of the responsibility to leave behind a legacy of words and beautiful ideas; the very things that shaped me more than the walls of my small bedroom in Flushing ever could.

So, I’m diving back into Murakami’s world of falling fish and heavy stones. Maybe I will find something there that reminds me of who I’m supposed to be. Maybe I will find something there worth bringing back home.

me too, but not what you think

The past couple of weeks has been intense. It began with revelations about Harvey Weinstein and snowballed into a veritable explosion of information in all different realms, not just Hollywood, and there’s no end in sight. I am still trying to figure out what I make of all of it. Where’s my voice in this? What do I want to communicate? Every podcast and thought-piece I’ve listened to or read describe our social landscape irreversibly changed. It should go without saying that it’s for the best. Transparency is necessary and the systems of oppressive boys’ clubs and abuses of power should be exposed and torn down.

I love Miramax movies, but Harvey Weinstein was a predator and overtly used his power to prey on young actresses. Kevin Spacey is an amazing actor, but he always had a reputation for being a cruel man. These men are easy to vilify, to demonize. Then, last week a Times article chronicled an encounter with Louis C.K. and two other female comedians and he joined the list of these evil men.

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Louie. Not Louie. Louie was and maybe still is one of my heroes. In the midst of a culture intolerance and division, Louie’s voice championed nuance and understanding. His commitment to his craft inspired many shows I love (yes, even Horace and Pete). His methods in creating Louie on FX changed what was possible for a singular comedic voice to drive a show as he directed, acted, and even edited his own content without network intervention. There’s no Atlanta, no Master of None, no Better Things, without him.He became the Carlin/Pryor role model for a generation of comedians (Aziz Ansari, Kevin Hart, Trevor Noah, etc.) showing them what it takes to stay relevant: work the clubs, build an hour, film a special, burn it all, repeat.

Then, this week, I listened to Marc Maron and Bill Burr address what has happened with their friend. Burr’s was very Burr-like. He described when he gets assaulted by aging, wine-breathed cougars. He defends his manager Dave Becky, who has been caught up in this by association.

But Maron, Maron really opened up. He shared times where he used his power influence inappropriately. He told a story of when he was hurt by a person he trusted and the powerful, lingering effect it had on him. And when he talked emotionally about CK, I almost cried.

“And look, I hope this doesn’t come off as any sort of apology for anything. You know, I’m disappointed in my friend. He did some gross s***, some damaging s***, and people are like ‘how are you gonna be friends with that guy. He’s my friend! And you know, he f***ed up. And he’s in big f***ing trouble. So, what am I gonna do? I’m gonna be his friend. What do you want me to do? I mean, it’s probably the best time to be his friend, when he needs to make changes in his life. I can learn from it. He can learn from it, I hope.” – WTF Podcast 11/13/2017

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Louis C.K. and Marc Maron, 1989

It doesn’t feel right to lump Louie in with the others. The others were evil, but Louie was good. I see a portrait of a man who is haunted by his sexuality and he’s afraid and ashamed and apologetic for what it has done to the people around him. Then I realized why it was so hard. Not just because he’s a hero, but I think when I saw Louie, ashamed at the demon inside him that has taken control and wrought havoc in the world around him, I saw it. I saw myself. This week, I finally found my voice in all of this controversy.

I knew when the dialogue began that I wasn’t one of the victims. I wanted to be an ally, but there was a part of my conscience that held me back. When I saw the hashtag #metoo, I wanted to say #metoo, but specifically me too, I’m guilty. I’m guilty of treating women inappropriately. I’ve touched them inappropriately. I’ve pushed girlfriends further physically than they wanted to go. I’ve entertained thoughts about women that haunt me and would turn the stomachs of anyone who could step inside my mind. When I look down at this situation, I’m not standing amongst the victims, I’m not standing with the allies. I stand with the perpetrators, not in their defense, but sharing in their guilt.

I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to say. I think I want to come out and say me too, but not in the way that you were hoping. Me too, I’m guilty. Mostly, I think, I just wanted to say that I’m sorry.

29.

10.25

I never expect to, but around my birthday season I always end up reflecting on my life. I burrow deep down into some existential spiral that’s a mix of “what am I doing with my life?!” and “what have I done with my life?!” This year, it snuck up on me.

About four years ago, around this time, I was in a bad way. I was heartbroken, flat-broke, living in half of a one bedroom basement with no job or prospects. Mom was really sick and dad was almost out of the picture. Every day had a weight of anxiety and uncertainty. I was definitely a sadroot.

I think if sad 2013 Sunroot could see me now, he would be really excited. Everything looks great. I’m dating a super cool babe who is good to me. I’m getting paid full-time to work on the kingdom of God. I’m in a great seminary through the generous support of my church. I’m living in a pretty dope pad above a bustling area. My finances are more in the black than the red and by way of some generous friends, I just recently acquired a beautiful Ford Mustang GT. I am reading, writing and boxing in my free-time and I’m in the best shape I’ve been since early on in college. Everything is awesome. Young SR would be stoked, but young SR would not have known how terrifying everything is.

I’ve done and accomplished more than I could have hoped from that basement in Brooklyn. I’ve driven all throughout the U.S. I’ve backpacked through Europe based on a dream I had. I’ve compiled and published my own writing. I’ve enjoyed the freedom and independence of a man in his twenties with limited responsibility and some disposable income. Many days, I’m tempted to complain, but by the grace of God, I’m in a good spot. There’s some stability for once in my life.

All that said, the weight of uncertainty is replaced with a weight to maintain everything that you do have. I’m afraid of messing things up with Stephy, especially as we get closer to making bigger, scarier and more permanent decisions. I’m afraid at work, there’s a great burden of responsibility that falls on my shoulders to provide a spiritually nurturing environment for these youth and every day has a sinking feeling that I’m messing it all up. I’m afraid when I drive, because I’m driving stick and 400 horsepower is a terrifying power to wield. I’m afraid when I box because apparently, I forgot how to defend and I’m getting punched hard in the face. I’m afraid of my writing, because I’m not that young—I don’t have any excuses for sucking anymore.


(Me when I drive)

In the Dark Knight, when Joker is talking to the half-exploded Harvey Dent, he calls himself a dog chasing a car, and he wouldn’t know what to do if he caught it. In many ways, I feel like I caught the car and it’s terrifying. I’m sitting in the seat that I hoped I would be sitting in at this point in my life and I’m finding out that nothing could be scarier. I have more to lose than I’ve ever had and I can’t help but be nervous because by past experience, I’ve always lost most everything I’ve wanted to keep.


11.09

I wrote the above passage a few weeks ago, a few days before my birthday. I didn’t know how to end it, so I just left it floating in the cloud of my google drive. The impetus behind it really was the car. I think the visceral tangible terror of driving the Mustang provided a very present metaphor for the weight that came with the gifts of my adulthood. That post captures how I felt then.

Today feels different. I think it’s because I’m 29 now. I’m clearly older and wiser. I’ve also grown pretty comfortable driving the car. I mean I still try to avoid driving it sometimes (partially because of gas), but we’re getting along better. We’ve come to an understanding. I mean, I still can’t play pokemon and drive or anything, but maybe thats a good thing. In this small aspect of my life too, I think there’s a lesson for me to learn, which is that I’m going to carry that weight. And that’s ok.

This season of my life is challenging me to trust God in a different way. For young Sadroot, it was trusting God to get me out of the muck. For me now, it’s trusting God to sustain and grow what is already there. And if He decides to let it fall into ruin, well that’s my comfort zone anyway. There are a lot of things I cannot control, and that get’s scary when you have even more to lose than you’ve ever had. But I enjoyed driving the GT today. I’m enjoying the life I have. I like who I’m spending it with. And I get the sneaking suspicion that the best, not the worst, is yet to come.

new york state of mind

This week, someone drove a truck into a bike lane full of bikers and runners, killing 8 and injuring a dozen others. This random act of violence in such a public space is meant to make you think that it could happen anywhere at anytime. It’s meant to put fear into people’s hearts. But I wanted to take the time to post a message up: you ****ed with the wrong city.

I grew up in New York . We build our lives on pushing through the muck. Our entire lives in this s***hole have prepared us to take a punch on the chin and move forward.

In high school, I was assaulted twice and mugged once on the subway back from school. You know what I did right after those happened? I moved to the other side of the train. I went home. And then I went back to school the next day. Once, I saw a friend walk into the deli bleeding from being stabbed. He chatted with a friend and bought something before we walking over to the hospital. I’ve walked past bodies under a sheets while transferring stations. Every one of us has a story about being a witness to or victim of some kind of crime. All of us have these stories. We collect them. But you know what we all did? We kept going. It’s what we do as New Yorkers. we shrug it off because we got s*** to do and s*** doesn’t get done by sitting around and being afraid.

Every day we walk through chaos and tragedy and we keep walking to our crappy internships and tiny apartments. I’m talking about rivers of black slush, air made of hot garbage, Brooklyn hipsters. We just keep going. A coke fiend can be snorting a line next to us on the 6 train and we won’t even change our seats. We can hear gunshots or sirens outside and we won’t even go to the window to check anymore. You can attack our public spaces and we’ll be there tomorrow, because **** you, that’s why.

I’m mourning this week, and praying hard for these families, but if you think this is gonna scare New Yorkers, you don’t know who you’re messing with. We survived 9/11. We survived Sandy. We’re surviving the Jim Dolan Knicks. Terrify us? Us? Get the **** outta here.

“When Were You A Stranger”

I have stronger feelings than I’d like to admit about this one. I’m a little too close to the issue. I know too many loved ones, friends and former students who are recipients of the DACA program and through it, have been able attend higher education and/or provide for themselves and their families. I’m around too many people whose lives would be entirely upended with the loss of a work permit and are spending today feeling confused, betrayed and afraid of what is to come.

To help understand how a DREAMer might feel today, here’s some context. In the early part of this decade and since the introduction of DACA, undocumented immigrants have come forward in good faith with the promise that their trust in our government would not be used by ICE as a weapon against them. Now, there is an announcement of the end of DACA with no information about the future prospects after expiration. There are no assurances that their trust will be met with protection and their security is pulled out from underneath them.

I don’t want to get into the politics and details of this. I don’t want to discuss all of the stats and numbers. I didn’t make this post to debate policies and pick sides. It was created because I hope to address hearts and hopefully convey biblical values in the midst of rhetoric and politics.

I’m not even trying to make an argument that accepting the stranger, whether DREAMERS, refugees or Muslims is better for our country or not. I’ve seen arguments about GDP impact, unemployment, tax issues, security, etc. What I’m suggesting is that the Bible encourages us to welcome the stranger and give to the needy.

I’ve seen numbers on both sides in support of and in contradiction to the effect of immigrants on the national economy and security. My point here is this: even if it came at a cost, should we as Christians be averse to it? I think we’re foolish to think that we can give to other’s without cost to ourselves. But isn’t a self-sacrificing generosity our calling? Wasn’t it the example set for us?

Matthew 5:38-48
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[h] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Leviticus 19:33-34
33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.