Every summer, from when I was 7 til I was 10, I went to the same sports camp with friends from school. We played sports: dodgeball, kickball, eat-the-orange-popsicle-as-fast-you-can-and-try-not-to-get-a-brain-freeze, tennis, basketball, reenact-the-chase-scene-from-The-Sandlot. And we talked sports: about how we’d make our favorite movie, Space Jam, even better, about who really won the Nomar/Jeter rivalry. It was all paradise for a young sports nut—except the swimming.
The pool terrified me. Even before camp, it was unsettling: the crowds, the chlorine stinging my eyes, the sinking feeling that I was, you know, sinking, the cold water always making me pee my pants as a little guy. But each day, I went to my swimming lessons, mostly hugging the wall, tentatively trying the backstroke. Eyes closed. Flailing. Gulping.
At the end of each two-week camp session, there was always this silly but heartfelt award ceremony where each kid got a very sweet and very specific-to-them award. My first summer, when I was a scared, little first-grader, my good pal, Stefan, got “The Ken Griffey, Jr. Award” thanks to his backwards hat and flair for diving head-first. And I got “The Warm and Fuzzy Award,” which was a big, purple pom-pom ball on a long string—and I think their way of saying this kid’s so scared of the pool that he seems really happy and hug-y when he’s NOT at the pool in comparison.
Getting the pom-pom necklace made me feel pretty warm and fuzzy then. And recently, these things (and creative souls) have also made me feel warm and fuzzy—things that feel less like mandatory swimming lessons and more like the freedom and joy of camp for a seven-year-old:
- Seeing Mike Birbiglia at the Wilbur with my good pal, Jeff. It was less stand-up and more storytelling that happened to be hilarious (and deeply personal, self-deprecating, and artfully woven together). I couldn’t recommend him more highly.
- Seeing the impossibly cool Patti Smith with my mom
- The epic and epically curious Ta-Nehisi Coates:
That was, like, a mentality of mine in college—don’t assign shit to me. I don’t want people telling me what to read. I spent a ton of time in the library. It was GREAT. I would go through the cards. I was homeschooling myself at that point, basically. But it was great. All the questions that I had about the world…I was free to go and PERSUE them. If they had given me a place to live and just said, ‘next four years, you just do what you gotta do’…but that’s what I tried to make it into as much as possible. (from Bill Simmons’ podcast)
- Sara Bareilles and her book, Sounds Like Me: “I am a creature of habit, and I live most comfortably inside intimate writing. I write songs about the nuance and minutiae of the heart’s condition, and when I imagine sharing those songs it feels like a conversation between my listeners and me. If I am a small theater with velvet seats, then Jack [Antonoff] is a stadium with fireworks. He has a talent for creating sweeping musical anthems effortlessly, broad and bright, and this doesn’t mean he doesn’t speak to what is intimate about the human condition; he just does it in a way that conjures up the feeling of a common purpose and oceans of people, lighters and all.”
- Larry David “unable to curb his enthusiasm about a lack of enthusiasm” for Jimmy Kimmel
- Reliving #44 through Pete Souza
- Office bloopers
- Witnessing my brother-in-law, Nick, catch the video bug (when he’s not working 36-hour shifts at the hospital). “I’m realizing that I’ve always been into this stuff…filming stuff all the time in high school, making videos through college…and now this. It’s been there in front of my face the entire time, and I’ve just never embraced it. I clearly needed a creative outlet!”
- Re-reading two of my faves: The Opposite of Loneliness and This Boy’s Life
- The coming-out party for Jaylen Brown this season, my favorite athlete in the world right now and the Celtics’ introverted, professorial 21-year-old—who’s playing like a young Scottie Pippen (with his freak athleticism, defense, length, and sneaky-good offense)
- This quote: