THE NIGHT OF: best miniseries ever

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I usually only binge-watch shows that I can use as background noise. You know what I mean. Those shows that we love but don’t require our full attention.

A friend recently recommended the HBO miniseries The Night Of to me, and I went into it with the attitude that it would be a background-binge while I went about my day. Instead, my productivity plummeted this week. But I regret nothing.

The Night Of is about a young Muslim man named Nasir (Riz Ahmed) who meets a beautiful young woman named Andrea (Sofia Black-D’Elia) one night in New York City. They go back to her place, do some drugs, and have sex. When he wakes up from what had started as the best night of his young life, he finds the Andrea stabbed to death in her bed.

The first episode is tough to watch. You know that Nasir is in for a really bad time, and every step he takes that leads to his arrest makes the viewer cringe.

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A bottom-feeding attorney named John Stone, played by the brilliant John Turturro, takes on his case. Stone has chronic eczema and a real desire to do right by Nasir and his family. James Gadolfini was originally cast in this role, but passed away before filming began. I’m certain he would have been proud of Turturro’s performance.

We watch Nasir transform from a boy to a man over the eight episodes. Yet it is no way a coming-of-age story. It is a testament to the maturing effects of trauma, and what that rapid process takes from a young person.

Nasir the son of Pakistani immigrants, and the struggle of his family to deal with the consequences of his arrest is a constant undercurrent. As well as the tensions toward Muslims in post-9/11 New York City.

But the most prominent struggles are of John Stone, who is convinced his client is innocent and goes to perilous lengths to find the truth, and of Nasir, who must learn how to survive in Rikers Penitentiary while awaiting trial.

In a series that is packed with amazing performances, my favorite scenes were those with inmate Freddy Knight (Michael Kenneth Williams). As he did as Omar in The Wire, he commands every scene he’s in. Freddy takes Nasir under his wing in Rikers, helping him navigate the system while offering him protection. The protection, of course, doesn’t come for free.

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The Night Of is a miniseries that will stick with you long after the last episode. If you’re a writer, you’ll also have that gnawing in your gut that pushes you to try harder. If there were more shows that were this well-written and perfectly-executed, I’d never get anything done.

Divorce: a gift from celebrities

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I promise I’m not one to enjoy the suffering of others. But with all of the terrible things in the news every single day, I’m so relieved for a big fat celebrity divorce.

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Remember when he doinked some random chick while Demi stayed home on their wedding anniversary? 

Today the headlines include slideshows of Brad and Angelina’s life together. We have timelines of their previous relationships. We have statements from “sources close to the family”.

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Sorry guys, your divorce is old news.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The news has been so depressing and stressful lately. I’d like to think the divorce was timed just for us, the anxiety-ridden American public. If only for today, it will be easy to avoid political news and heartbreaking headlines about terrorist attacks across the world.

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Nobody’s listening to these two today unless they want to weigh in on Brangelina.

Am I proud to get wrapped up in celebrity gossip when it feels like the world is falling apart? No, way. It’s kind of disgusting. But who cares?

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This divorce could have been enjoyable, but the Scientology gag order reduced our fun tremendously. 

This is no ordinary celebrity divorce. This is Brad and Angelina, you guys. They have tons of kids and tons of properties. They have a freaking estate in France. Nobody you know has an estate in France. And you probably don’t know very many people who have six children. This shit is gonna get ugly! Not as ugly as racism and fascism, but that’s fine.

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Thanks for saving us from world events.

Once the Brangelina divorce dust settles we can go back to giving attention to the terrorists and fathead politicians. For today, let’s speculate on whether or not Angelina Jolie is jealous of Selena Gomez.

All done with news

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It’s been important to me for a very long time to practice a life of non-judgement. I only recently realized that I haven’t been doing a good job of that. Though I tend to spare my friends and family from judgement and quickly work to correct myself if I find myself judging a loved one, I am not granting non-judgement to strangers, and I am the one who suffers from this.

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Look at this asshole.

The media is constantly bombarding us with quotes from celebrities and politicians, or reports of their public missteps. The collective outrage gathers on social media, creating a divide and turning friends and acquaintances against one another. And stress is the only thing that follows. Nothing constructive comes from social media debates. We all know this. Yet we are still baited.

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To tell the truth, I’m disgusted with what’s going on in our political system. Over the summer I suffered from insomnia more than I have my entire life. All of the name-calling, bullying, and outright lying are a scathing indictment of our society. But there’s not much I can do about it. I already know how I’m going to vote. There’s no point in torturing myself anymore.

I’m done.

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A cat in a freaking bowtie, you guys!

I haven’t watched any CNN in about a week. And the feeling is glorious. I have decided I will only post ironic memes and cat photos on social media for a while. And I’ll be Zen as hell.

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Peace!

An open letter to boomers with tats

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Dear punk-rock heroes,

As I sat in a tattoo parlor on Monday afternoon watching my cousin get more ink, I was so comfortable and happy it could have been a friend’s living room. We listened to great music on Spotify (The Flying Burrito Brothers, Metallica, KISS, Bob Marley: musical shifts that were joyously jarring). The air conditioner was kicking, and everyone there was good company. The venue was Spiral Tattoo in Ann Arbor. I could go on about how wonderful this place is, and how my favorite tattoo artist Jared Leathers is meticulous and brilliant, wears his hair in dreads, and has a smile that makes you feel like you’ve known him your entire life. But this is about something else: those who went before us. And I’ve been thinking about them a lot since Monday.

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The artist at work and Chris smiling through the pain.

I was still residing in Arkansas when I got my nose pierced 20 years ago. People would stare at me at the grocery store like I had grown a third nostril. My presentation to the world was immediately changed. Tons of people have nose rings now. No one notices mine anymore. I’ve lived both sides of nose ring stigma. But a nose ring can be removed at any time. It’s not the same sort of commitment.

Tattoos have been around for as long as we’ve had written history. I don’t know exactly when tattoos changed from being reserved for prisoners, sailors, and bikers to becoming mainstream. I intend to learn more about that, though, as it seems fascinating.

A few people (mostly my mom) have mentioned to me that my tattoos will look terrible when I get old. I remind those people that my skin will sag regardless of the markings. And tattooed baby boomers are the reason I have absolutely no concern about how my tattoos will look in 20 years.

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I can’t grow a beard, but you get my point.

When I see you tattooed folks who are older than me, I instantly feel that you have a lot of stories to tell. I know that you probably endured scorn when you first started inking up, especially if you are female. I don’t have to know you to know that I respect you on some level. I don’t have to know you to know that your now-faded tattoos changed the way you were perceived by society. And the respect comes from knowing that you did it anyway.

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This is my badass friend Jeanne. She got her first tattoo in 1971. She’s about 60% covered now.

The tattoos that are time-worn tell me that you cared more about following your bliss than how others perceived you. Those are the tattoos that allow us to display ink today without real persecution. Sure, some people will tell us they don’t like our tattoos, even though we probably didn’t ask their opinion. And if we get covered in tattoos, we will most likely still be judged by a portion of society. Sleeves might limit our job choices, but nothing like they would have 40 years ago. And if we are discriminated against for our ink, it won’t be blatant and supported by the majority. Tattoos may be somewhat fringe, but they are no longer subversive.

Sometimes we pay a price for self-expression and authenticity. But sometimes someone else already paid that price for us. Thank you for that, my tattooed heroes.

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Rug burn

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The detective glances at me several times during our daughters’ gymnastics class. I don’t know if he only recognizes me from school pick-up, or if he remembers me from the jury. THAT jury.

The trial was almost two years ago, but I’ve only seen the detective around town the last couple of months or so. Maybe he had a schedule change that allows him more time at his child’s activities. Or maybe he changed jobs.

Seeing him is uncomfortable, though he is visually pleasing. He’s sort of broad like he works out a lot, but his face is kind. A walking juxtaposition, like he could kick your ass but would rather not.

The detective walks toward me with his daughter, who I’m guessing is five, in his arms. I think he’s identified me, that he knows I’m one of the 12. But instead he continues past me to the gymnastics instructor to tell her that his daughter fell down and has rug burn on her knee, and that he won’t make her continue today’s lesson if she doesn’t want to. The sympathy and love he feels for his daughter comes off of him in warm waves.

The trial was for a man who abused his baby son. He had thrown his toddler against the wall, but the boy’s body didn’t die. Only his capacities. He would never walk or feed himself. They boy would never go to school. He was trapped in a body that would never do anything but breathe and pump blood.

The man’s wife cried for the man’s freedom, not for her son. They had an older child, too. That boy seemed physically intact. But who knows what emotional injuries he carried.

In deliberations, I argued for third degree child abuse. But two jurors held out for second. They said we didn’t know for certain that the boy hadn’t just been accidentally dropped as the father claimed. Even though we did know. The injuries were inconsistent with the man’s claims. The two jurors were uncomfortable handing down such a sentence, even though a defense witness had once seen the father kill a bee on the baby’s forehead with a flip-flop.

We argued for hours. The room was too small and too hot. We were hungry and thirsty, and not allowed to go to the bathroom without causing a disturbance.

I argued that the mother would not defend the other boy against the father, as it was obvious she was more loyal to her husband than her children. The responsibility to the older boy fell at our feet.

The ten of us eventually conceded and agreed to second degree child abuse. The only reason was to avoid a mistrial.

When the judge handed down our verdict, the mother mouthed “thank you” at us, and I hated her right then more than I’ve ever hated anyone.

The prosecutor and the detective came into the jury room immediately afterward and told us that they weren’t allowed to disclose during the trial that the man had a history of violence. I wept big, ugly tears. I couldn’t stop, even though I was in a tiny room full of strangers. The mother sent the defender back with family photographs for us to view. The juror next to me said, “You don’t have to look at those.” And I didn’t. I refused to pretend they were a happy family. The mother was delusional enough for all of us.

Seeing the detective brings it all back. The shame I felt at relenting, even after I learned the judge gave the man a twenty-year sentence.

The detective’s daughter must have been a baby when he showed up at the man’s apartment to question him about his recently incapacitated toddler. The case must have gutted him. And then we the jurors broke his heart. He undoubtedly suffered many more sleepless nights over the trial than I did.

He’s standing next to me now, and I want to tell him I’m sorry, that I know he was right, and that I still can’t eat Reese’s Pieces because there was a giant bag of them in the jury room the entire three days we were there. So now Reese’s Pieces remind me of child abuse instead of E.T.  I want to tell him that I learned a lot about having courage in my convictions from that experience.

Instead I offer, “I saw her fall. It looked like it hurt.” It’s my apology, because I can’t tell him that I was on that jury and I failed. Because I can’t bring it back to him in case he’s found a way to make peace.  And I really hope he has.

I heart Monday

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Dear Monday,

I’m sorry you continue to get such a bad rap. There are constantly hateful jokes about you circulating the internet, and people blame their bad moods on you. Even Garfield hates you, as if that ungrateful asshole has a job. He’s a cat. Cats eat, sleep, and occasionally behead a mouse. Every day is the same.

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But I love you. I love you so hard.

On Monday morning, my husband and kids leave after being home all weekend. Around 7:35 am, the house is quiet for the first time in about 64 hours.

Sometimes I break out in song as soon as the door closes behind my adorable loved ones. I spread my arms and go all Julie Andrews right in my kitchen. Except with kitchen cabinets behind me instead of mountains. And then I cook breakfast without asking anyone else if they want anything.

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I sit in a chair and drink coffee without anyone asking me for anything. I drink the entire cup (or three) before it gets cold. It’s warm all the way to the bottom of the cup.

Then I take a shower without anyone walking into the bathroom to ask if I know where his or her socks are. Sometimes I go to the grocery store next, and no one puts cupcakes in the cart when I’m not looking. Then I might go the gym, and I don’t have to bribe my kids to get them through the door.

Do you know what “a case of the Mondays is”, other than a reference to a really good movie? A case of the Mondays is the joy of knowing that I have some time to myself.

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This week school was out on Monday and Tuesday, so you didn’t really arrive until Wednesday. And that’s fine. You have a life, too. I get that. But I’m not sure about giving you the entire summer off. I think it’s time we renegotiate your terms.

I love my family. I really do. But Monday, you complete me.

Love,

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Drawing = :(

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I am 40 years old, and have never learned how to draw. This has bothered me my entire life. So I’m finally taking drawing lessons.

I quickly learned that I don’t have a surprisingly wonderful natural inclination toward drawing. I figured I didn’t. But finding a new talent would have been rad.

This is a crap-tastic onion.

This is a crap-tastic onion.

The thing that has struck me the most is how similar drawing and writing are. In both drawing and writing, we are trying to capture life in a way that enables the audience to relate. We are trying to capture moments, minutiae, emotions.

This box holds my failure.

This box holds my failure.

A friend of mine who is an artist told me that drawing is a learned skill. I kind of assumed people can either draw or they can’t. But like writing, a certain skill level can be attained for anyone. Maybe not a fantastic skill level, though. And that’s okay.

A collection of things I can't draw.

A collection of things I can’t draw.

We used charcoal today to draw a stool with a drapey thing over it. That really sucked. What I’ve realized is that writing is my true love, and drawing is my crush that flirts back but doesn’t mean it.