7 min read

Hello! It’s been a while

Hello! It’s been a while
The nighttime view from our campsite in early August.

Brief reflections on what survival, sort of, feels like in a pandemic.

“I can only run on adrenaline for so long. At a certain point, I need to tune out some of the noise to make decisions and get shit done.“

I wrote that on March 8, which—subtract the one…carry the 4—was roughly five hundred years ago. Just two weeks—TWO WEEKS—into the pandemic, my neurons were blitzed and all of our 2020 travel plans were squeezing their eyes closed, pretending the guillotine wasn’t about to drop.

So here we are, some five months later. And no one reading this requires a recap. Let’s not and say we didn’t, shall we?

I can’t say that I tuned out the noise since March. Well, not fully. Thanks to the insidious power of digital journalism, the pandemic’s righteous fury has been easy to track in daily increments from practically anywhere (although I’ve pretty much been at home). So too was the beginning of the current uprising after George Floyd was murdered.

But, as I predicted, I found my breaking points. Quickly. As someone who has done 90% of his work remotely and in virtual meetings for the last five years, Zoom Fatigue hit hard and fast. As the demand for my time at work (where I design and produce online learning experiences) increased exponentially, my hobbies (writing this newsletter, voraciously watching prestige television and movies, and diligently maintaining a large swath of friendships across the country), got tossed into the back of a dark closet. I didn’t forget about them (or you), but soon after I wrote that March post, I just stopped pushing myself to write. I lost my extracurricular mojo.

I spent many an absent-minded moments wondering if my writing muscle would just dissolve. I feared that I’d lose respect from you, readers, for not announcing my inability to maintain the newsletter during this ever-expanding shitstorm. I was embarrassed that I didn’t have a smattering of culture to recommend. I simultaneously missed my appetite for difficult subject matter on television and basked in the blissfully predictable formula of a British home construction show. I forgot about the NBA for a while.

Somewhere along the way, I started trusting the important stuff would come back to me and stopped doubting that I needed to tend constantly and lovingly rotate all my non-essential activities in the incubator. My people would reach out to me, too. Which is good. Because I needed to work and figure out how to do it while at 600 square-foot apartment with another working person. Because Michelle and I managed to buy a house during a pandemic, in a still-somehow-overheated Seattle (like ow—it burns) real estate market.

Calling it survival mode feels dramatic, but that’s sort of what happened.

It kind of rings true though, right? Everyone in the US has at least felt the ripple effect en-masse disconnection (if they haven’t been swallowed whole by joblessness or suddenly becoming a full time employee AND homeschool teacher), exactly the kind of thing that might trigger a mental shift to drop the silliness and look out for numero uno. What makes it all so surreal is that the Internet offers what, even five or six years ago, would’ve been an unthinkable level of daily connectivity. And it turns out that when digital connection becomes our only mode of reaching each other, it’s still limited and often surprisingly exhausting. Personally, I felt guilty that even though I had zero energy to do connection, I could’ve (SHOULD’VE) be doing it while laying my couch holding my phone in front of my face.

You get it.

It’s been an exhausting run and challenging run for pretty much everyone. The uncertainty of the moment persists; there is no end in sight.

And yet, this is what change feels like when we’re all aware of it. We do have the Internet to thank for that. Change frequently occurs in tiny imperceivable steps, until one day we wake up and wonder how we got to wherever this is. In a way, having every inch documented breathlessly the way it is today is an opportunity to take stock of where we are, individually and collectively, and decide who and what matters most to us.

When I first opened this space, I was using it is a place to write about grief and stay connected to you all.

I’d still like to stay connected and I think, for the moment, I am done with writing about grief.

So I don’t know where I’ll take this thing next. (More uncertainty—fun!) But feel free to stick around and send me notes. I love hearing from you.

On to The Culture™

Selected stuff from the news

Journalism by collective

Are you like me and fascinated with the rise of community and journalist-owned news outlets? No? (Eh, it was worth a shot.) Anyways, if you’re mourning the loss of the irreverent and pissed-off blogging at Deadspin, check out Defector. 18 of the 20 jamokes who quit G/O Media after their Private Equity Profit Lords told them to stick to sports own their own shit now.

If you’re mourning the loss of the irreverent and pissed-off blogs done by the people at Splinter, consider Discourse.blog. (Seriously, Samantha Grosso’s blossoming as an essayist is worth the price of admission.)

Recent (kind of) writing about COVID-19

How The Pandemic Defeated America

Ed Yong’s cover story for The Atlantic is a devastating and well-written look back at America over the last five months and how much of what’s happened could’ve been avoided. Bonus: media types and grammar nerds everywhere have crowned Yong the new King Of The Semicolon for his August entrant for Sentence Of The Year.

Diary: Insane After Coronavirus?

Speaking of monarchs: London Review of Books essayist queen Patricia Lockwood has penned a feverish piece out about her delirious battle with COVID-19. It is worth giving LBR your email for this.

The ongoing reporting of Anne Helen Petersen

AHP, the person who partly inspired this newsletter, continues to report on small-town and small-city America as it reckons with racism in the open, again. Side note: what people willingly post on Facebook on their own pages, and then deny to reporters is endlessly fascinating to me.

What Happened In Bethel Ohio?

Somebody punched an elderly schoolteacher and a town stares down its loss of identity and industry.

A Church. A Viral Video. A Campaign To Discredit Black Lives Matter.

How an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church in Troy, NY hosted an AR-15 give away to, basically, get clicks and own the non-believers (libs or otherwise) at the same time.

From the NBA’s bubble

Why Some NBA Coaches Love The New Casual Look—And Some Don’t

My basketball writing hero, Zach Lowe, flexes his network of sources to get the story I didn’t know I desperately needed: who’s on Team Polo and who’s on Team Suit.

Into the world of Disc Sports

Disc golf was already a big thing for all kinds of people (mostly white dudes, tbh) who like a little competition and a walk in the woods with some drinks. And as almost all ultimate Frisbee has been postponed or cancelled until further notice, many of my disc-inclined friends have teed off.

Cash Line: An Ultiworld Disc Golf Newsletter

Publisher and Editor of Ultiworld (and good friend) Charlie Eisenhood kicked off his first issue of a newsletter that covers the business side of disc golf. Spoiler: it is already far more profitable than ultimate.


I have succeeded at reading quite a bit over the last five months. Yay books.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

This is the first real lit-nerd book I’ve read in a minute and every sentence was worth it. Follow Ifemelu, a Nigerian immigrant who has decided to leave a successful writing career in the US to return home.

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

A lyrical sci-fi novella that tracks the letters between a pair enemy operatives as they chase each other across different timelines.

How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

A radicalist manifesto disguised as a self-help book. Especially now, when bad news feels all encompassing and every issue feels polarizing, Odell’s breakout book from last year is an important reminder that the technology we interact with every day is actively fighting for our attention—and that it takes practice (and sometimes a lot of privilege) to pull ourselves away.

On Screen

In no particular order, stuff I’ve watched or am watching.

  • Devs on FX/Hulu. Alex Garland’s trippy debut on television featuring a creepy-ass turn from Nick Offerman (Watch this is if you liked Annihilation and/ofr Ex Machina)
  • Grand Designs on Netflix and Amazon. This show saved us and was all we watched between March-April. What HGTV gets wrong about every single show is having the hosts invested in the property. That’s why Kevin McCloud’s approach to home construction television has been running for TWENTY SEASONS and Fixer Upper is over. Come for the ridiculously egotistical construction projects, stay for Kevin’s delightful skepticism of everyone’s budget.
  • I May Destroy You on HBO. Personally, I think Michaela Coel’s creation is Wallerbridge-level good. Plus, it has an outstanding soundtrack. Not for the feint of heart, though. tw: rape, sexual assault
  • Betty on HBO. Hanging out with these girls as they skate is such a delight.
  • Normal People on Hulu. Don’t watch this if you don’t like…I dunno, a realistic depiction of a consensual relationship? It’s very good. Paul Mescal is a lord.

What I can’t wait to watch:

Lovecraft Country on HBO. I am trying to avoid any information beyond the trailer.

Two albums that mean a lot to me

I can’t stop listening to Saint Cloud by Waxahatchee. I give Katie Crutchfield all of the credit for getting me to pick up my guitar again and start playing. I’ve learned two of her songs already.

Three years after Good For You stole my heart, Aminé released Limbo about two weeks ago. It lacks GFY’s instant sugar-high sweetness, but the rapping is better and my guy from Portland is starting to mature. It’s growing on me.

As always, a reminder that Sunday On A Whim is a passion project. Please excuse the occasional half-baked sentence or silly typo.