Category: The Issues

Here Are Some of My Least Favorite Phrases

“Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

No shit. Who’s saying it is? I’ve never once thought, “life is kind of a dress rehearsal.”

What’s the analogy here–we’re all just playing dress-up and pretending? No one thinks that. Everyone understands that life is actual, real life. Who are the people out there who think life is a dress rehearsal and need to be told it isn’t? I’ve never met one.

“Life’s hard. Wear a helmet.”

I’ve never understood this one. Again, the allegory is lost on me…is it because hard things can damage your head if they hit it? The hard/helmet thing…is that what’s at work here? Literally or metaphorically, wearing a helmet throughout life does not make sense. Am I dumb for not getting this? Should I have worn my helmet?

“A hot second.”

How long is this, actually? No one’s been able to tell me. How is it different from a normal second? Why is it hot? Please have the bugs work out before introducing your hip phrase into the general population. Beta test or something.

Faith vs. Religion

god-mohawk-cartoon-characterI’ve been on a spiritual journey of late. I’ll spare you all the details—they’re scattered and frankly hard for me to corral—but in the last few years I’ve been trying to reconcile my feeling of connection with a higher power with the seemingly arbitrary (and sometimes hypocritical) boundaries of organized religion. I think we all have that connection, actually; I think a spiritual longing is a deeply embedded part of the human race. It’s part of us, the want for a connection with God. Some call it Christianity, some Islam, some fishing. Even atheism is a form of faith—such a steadfast belief that the only things that exist in the universe are those we can perceive with our limited human senses takes more faith than most religions, in my opinion.

But for years now, I’ve asked myself, “why this religion?” Can it really be that a single set of rules and regulations is the one way, truth, and light, and all others (most of which are shockingly similar at their cores) are flat wrong? What a coincidence it would be that the religion I was born into is the only one that counts. I’m already white and male. I can’t be that lucky.

Things That Do Not Impress Me

761. Criticizing Fox News and/or Nickelback.

I understand the negatives. I am aware. We all are. But these two are the lowest of low hanging fruit when it comes to criticism. They are also both filthy damn rich, which means they’re doing something to please someone, somewhere in the world. Let that be, and let’s move on to hunt the next witch.

Yes, one is a sad excuse for a news network, and the other has completely degenerated into the worst of thoughtless radio butt-rock. Pointing this out does not make you a deft observer, as is the subtext of so many Fox News and Nickelback criticisms. You’re not pulling back the curtain on some great evil. We are all right there with you.

2. Which celebrities are doing what.

I’ve decided this is one of the most useless interests a human being can have. Not to keep up with individuals you admire—a musician, a particular actor, perhaps—but to devote time to watching, reading, and observing what THE CELEBS! as a whole are up to. A hobby of keeping track of what other people are doing. Might as well pick up some binoculars and go sit in a bush.

Hello Lodge, My Old Friend

Yesterday, I visited this here website for a reason I can’t remember, and was greeted by this scene:

Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 2.28.03 PM

No, that isn’t my attempt at writing a shipping drama in olde english…that’s the default setting of the website theme. I have no idea how it reverted back, and no idea how long it’s been there, because honestly, I haven’t been coming here much lately. This is a point that brings me great shame, and one I was chastised for by a good friend over chicken carbonara last weekend.

“January 28,” he said.


“That was your last post on the Otter Lodge.”

Damn. Has it really been that long?

He went on to express his disappointment in my lack of commitment to the Lodge, and then voiced his frustration that I have too many email addresses. Not sure about the last part, but he does have one point: I need to either do this regularly, or not do it at all. I’m not yet sure which one it’ll be. But it’ll be one of them.

I used to blog just for the hell of it—just for fun, over on an old domain called “Top Drawer.” I threw up my rambling thoughts and rants on a regular basis, and generally enjoyed myself. That was fun. Through the years, I’ve been developing and curating a number of different projects (namely, writing books and going self-employed), and have tried to morph the blog to become more consistent with those projects, which, quite honestly, has been less fun. I’ve found myself worrying about whether or not a potential post would be “on message” (which, barf), or if anyone will even give damn about what I have to say. Needless to say, the blog didn’t get much attention. But last Saturday, my chicken carbonara conversation suggested I care less about those things, and just go back to blogging about whatever I want, which sounds like a much better time. So we’ll see.

For now, a book update:

Mercifully, I just finished the fifth (yep, fifth) draft of my latest novel, tentatively titled “The Bracket,” about a conspiracy to fix the NCAA basketball tournament. Currently, I feel good about it. Not sure what’s going to happen with it—might just sit on it for a while, might release it next basketball season, might do something else—but there’s no rush. I’ve spoken briefly with an agent about the book, so I’ll probably explore that and see if it makes sense. Currently, the manuscript is in the hands of the queen of the Lodge, and it’ll be showing up in the inboxes of some other valued beta readers before long. You know who you are.

Until next time, do your thing, and as my good friend Karl would say, stay the course.

Why Do I Do This?

I’m sitting here writing this five hours after the Vikings astonishing, embarrassing, and all-too-Vikings playoff loss to the Seahawks, and try as I might, I really cannot get the visual of a 27-yard field goal going wide left out of my head. Just make the kick, Blair. You’ve been crushing the ball all day in temperatures that are wholly unreasonable for a kicker to do his job. You drilled a 47-yarder with the laces squarely pointed toward you. You’re responsible for the team’s only points. This one’s for the win. It’s a chip shot. Just make the damn kick.

But he didn’t, and as I watched that kick sail wide, I’m thinking “unbelievable” and “of course” at the same time. Unbelievable because, shit, that’s a 99% kick right there, and this is one of the (statistically) best kickers in the NFL. Of course, because this is the Vikings we’re talking about, and that’s what they do. They don’t just lose. They lose spectacularly. They crush your soul.

My brother and I were texting each other an hour ago, long enough after the game to soak it all in, and we both mentioned how we wouldn’t mind being Browns fans at times like these. We even fantasize about it, as he put it. Because with a team like the Browns, you know what you’re getting. They’re bad, and that’s it. They lose. They give it to you straight. With the Vikings, it’s different; you know they deal (that they always blow it, so why wouldn’t they blow it again?), but they get you right to that edge where you think they might actually pull it off. They win 11 games. They take the division. They play one hell of a game against the hottest team in the NFL, and then in the fourth quarter, a few screwy plays happen and a sure game-winner sails wide left.

After games like these, I always find myself asking, “why do I do this?” Why do I get so emotionally invested in a game over which I have no control, and a team with which I have absolutely no affiliation? Why do I care so much if they win or lose? I could’ve done something else with my Sunday. I could’ve gone for a hike or gone snowboarding or just taken a really nice long walk with my dog, enjoying a beautiful winter day and breathing fresh air and feeling the sun on my face and appreciating an activity in which no one loses. I could have felt good today. I could have chosen that.



But instead I watched the game, because that was the only real option, wasn’t it? I’m a fan. Rational or not, it’s what we do. We wake up with a glint in our eyes and get all giddy at breakfast and sit in front of the TV a half hour before kickoff because we just can’t wait for the game. And then we watch it, we yell at players who can’t hear us and don’t know we exist, and we yell and jump around when they do something good, and bury our faces in our hands or slam the rest of the Coors when they do something bad. We watch. We cheer. It’s “us” against “them,” and it’s what we’re programmed to do. And we cheer for the wins, and they win just enough to make us think they’ll keep winning, and then, at the worst time, they stop.

The Vikings win just enough to make you think they have a shot. They win until the stage gets big. And then the NFC Championship against the Falcons happens. 41-donut happens, the Favre interception happens, Nate Poole happens. Today happens. And then we remember, oh yeah, this is what they do. They rip our hearts out.

So why, then? Why do we keep coming back? Why do invest our time and emotions into these games when history has told us it’s just going to end this way? That it always ends this way? I don’t know. But I think it’s hope. No matter what – no matter how many of these garbage ass gut punch endings there are – there’s always hope that sometime, someday, once, just once, they’re gonna get it right. They’re not gonna choke. 4 Super Bowls, 4 Super Bowl losses. Too many sensational playoff failures to count. But still – but still – there’s that hope. That one day we’ll be on the other end of it. One day we’ll get to watch them pull it off instead of screw it up.

A year ago, a friend of mine, who is a casual sports fan, asked me about changing teams. He’s a Raiders fan. His squad hasn’t been good in more than a decade. We live in Denver, and are in the midst of an influential five-year run by the Broncos. The team is good, the town loves them, and the people are abuzz after wins. This year, they were the best team in the AFC. Should he just become a Broncos fan, he asked? Wouldn’t it just be easier to switch teams?

“No,” I said. “God no.”

Why not?

Because you stick with your squad. In winning season and in decade-long drought, you stick with your squad. You stand proud as a fan, no matter how bad things get. Because once we start hopping on and off bandwagons based on who’s good and what’s more convenient, none of it means anything anymore. Because when you stick with that squad through all the losses, through the playoff heartbreaks and Super Bowl blunders and missed 27-yarders, then, if and when they finally get it right, you get to enjoy it, because you earned it. Because you didn’t bail.

I don’t know if the Vikings will ever figure it out. I don’t know if they’ll ever put it together and win a Super Bowl, of it will just be a lifetime of borderline comical big spot failures. But, Vikings fans, we don’t get to jump ship. This is what we were born into, what we were indoctrinated into, and they’re all we got. They may just keep disappointing us. They may just keep doing what they do. But I’d rather cheer for a loser, my loser, than hop aboard some bandwagon. I’d rather feel like shit on a day like today than start picking “second teams.” I’ll take the heartbreaking losses, because the only reason they feel that way is because they mean something. We give a shit. That means something.

They might just keep imploding on us. They might. But, someday, they might finally win the big one, too. And on that day, all of this shit will be worth it. All of the built up frustration and anger from spectacular loss after spectacular loss will make it so much better when they finally figure it out.

Some fans are spoiled. The Patriots win a Super Bowl every two or three months. The Packers have, what, 6 championships now? Their fans – at least their fans under 35 – don’t know what  3-13 feels like. We do. We know what all kinds of football failure feels like. We don’t get things easily, at least not when it comes to sports. We’re from Minnesota. We root for a team in purple. It’s not the greatest hand to be dealt. But it’s our hand. It’s our team.

It’s our team. And that’s why I’ll be back again next fall, full of hope and excitement, face painted purple and NORV shirt flying proud, like an idiot. Because maybe, just maybe, that’ll be the year. One of these years, they’ll figure it out, and when they do, I want to be there for it. One of these years, they’ll flip the script. One of these years.

It’s got to be one of these years.

Self Love Vs. Self Awareness

“Self love is a good thing. But self awareness is more important.”

One thing I love about stand-up comedy is it packages social truths within jokes, making us willing to digest concepts at which we might otherwise turn up our noses. Nobody does this better than Louis CK. I feel like I’m constantly quoting this guy here and on twitter, but I came across this bit recently that I think makes good sense of the way we talk about ourselves.

For some reason, it’s become acceptable, even encouraged, to publicly make proclamations like “I’m awesome,” or “I’m AMAZING.” Putting aside the fact we’re almost constantly gutting the words “awesome” and “amazing” of any real meaning, these statements are not ones anyone should make, ever. Because whether we’re “awesome” or not is not up to us…it’s up to everyone else. You saying it does nothing, other than assure the rest of us you’re almost certainly not awesome.

It’s not up to you. We should strive to BE awesome and amazing, and not an asshole. We shouldn’t tell other people we are. Think of anyone in the world you respect greatly – has that person ever told you they’re “amazing?” Probably not. Because the only people who say it are the ones who know they need to.