Another year, another one-score loss to a ranked SEC opponent highlighted by an obvious no-call on pass interference to Vanderbilt’s detriment. Should be used to it by now, and honestly, we need to take better advantage of our opportunities.  Eight trips across midfield needs to yield more than 6 points.

But I’m fucking sick of it.  When those toothless morons chant “SEC!” they don’t mean us.  When ESPN endlessly jocks the “TOUGHEST CONFERENCE IN AMERICA” they don’t mean us.  When the national media comes calling for the SEC, they mean LSU and Alabama and Florida (OH GOD DO THEY MEAN FLORIDA). We’re not “real” SEC. Kentucky and Ole Miss – OLE MISS WHO WE BEAT FOUR OF THE LAST SIX – pencil us in as their likely win. Everyone else pencils us in for an automatic.  Hell, Texas A&M and Missouri are already assuming wins on us, which is fucking rich after spending two decades in a league that doesn’t know the meaning of defense. No wonder the league office thinks we obviously need to be de-emphasized in favor of the “real” teams.

Fuck the SEC. Fuck this shithole league. We are too good for this conference.  We play fair, we stay off probation, we graduate our players, and we have fans and alumni who can read and write.  No other school in this garbage league can say all of those.  So fuck you, Mike Slive. Fuck you, Steve Shaw.  Fuck your slack jawed hillbilly Klan troglodyte Neanderthal league right up its fucking cornhole.

I’m done defending this conference, and if I had the cash, I’d get General William Tecumseh Sherman’s ancestors on the phone tomorrow and ask for an estimate.

Decision making

I went through a long and rigorous process in 2006 of paring down who I was to affiliate myself with when football came round.  Go all in on my ancestral team, despite its foibles and embarrassments?  Load up on the wife’s team, then riding high in the polls and on the field alike? Or embrace the team I had grad-school ties to, the doormat of college football, the laughingstock of the SEC?

I did a lot of agonizing on whether I could legitimately claim Vanderbilt – it was my grad school, after all, and I left under somewhat ignominious circumstances after only three years – but ultimately, the logic I came up with was:

1) I did spend three years there, during which time I had at least as much legitimate collegiate experience as I had in four years of undergrad.  Indeed, from a day-to-day standpoint, far more than in undergrad – I had the card to swipe in vending machines, I had the Overcup right there on campus, I had SEC sports and team merchandise on sale at the mall, and – most of all – I had friends of my own.

2) I had the degree and the ring.  There was nothing that said they had to grant me the Master’s, but they did, and I walked, and it was the last time my dad saw me alive.  And ironically, I walked that day next to a former classmate from high school geometry, who I wouldn’t see or hear from again until she turned up fifteen years later on Facebook as a foreign service officer in the Ukraine. A lot of people washed out of that program and found their lives taking very different courses, I suppose.

3) I could have gone undergrad. Should have, in retrospect, but the only offer was 75% of tuition plus $2000/yr, and their admissions office had been decidedly indifferent.  They could afford to be, I suppose.  The other school rushed hell out of me and sent me mail every other day for two years and made me think they wanted me more than any other school had ever wanted anyone – right up until the moment I arrived.  Which makes it all the more ironic to remember that once I showed up on campus at Vandy, it felt like home from day one in a way no other place in my life ever did.

4) The things I learned at Vanderbilt – how to troubleshoot a Mac, why to order a Manhattan, and never sleep with anyone crazier than you are – are all things that have been critical to success in life ever since. I may not use the degree for anything but resume laundering, but the things I actually learned at Vanderbilt were absolutely critical in rebuilding my life in DC and thereafter.

Based on those criteria, I decided that I could, in fact lay legitimate claim to Vanderbilt as alma mater and sporting affiliation, and on those grounds I kicked my undergrad school down the black hole and dissociated myself with the Crimson Tide for everything not involving Auburn, Tennessee or a national championship. (And truth be told, I was only supporting them last year against LSU inasmuch as a Tide win would flush the BCS. I wanted LSU to actually win the title.)

That was six years ago this month. Since then, I’ve been rewarded with a Sweet Sixteen berth in 2007 and an SEC tournament title in basketball in 2012, not one but TWO bowl appearances in 2008 and 2011, including six wins both seasons, and a baseball team that’s no stranger to the rank of #1 in the country and has multiple assorted SEC titles and a College World Series appearance in 2011. Factor in some women’s titles in cross-country and basketball and a couple of Nobel Peace Prizes, several alumni gatherings, two live basketball games and a whole weekend series of baseball, and there you go…and then there’s the matter that I’ve become a little bit of a figure in Vanderbilt fandom.  Over 400 people follow my VU twitter and I get plenty of hits and comments when I post at AoG.  I made the decision to go in on Vanderbilt, embraced it, and it embraced me back.

There is an important lesson here, something about how you can decide for yourself who you want to be instead of letting the world make the decision and abiding by it, but I’m not sure I’ve fully learned it yet.  And even if I had, I’m not entirely sure I’ve got a good grasp on exactly who I want to be.

All in

So it looks like Team Romney is shoving all their chips into the middle of the table and betting the whole shooting match on running a straight Lee Atwater.  The message will be “Vote Romney or Obama will take away your Medicare and give it to the [INSERT RACIST EPITHET HERE]”.

Never mind that the much-vaunted $700 million in Medicare cuts come from gutting Medicare Advantage, a program that basically existed to pay private middlemen for no apparent reason, and not from actual benefits at all.  Nor that the much-vaunted changes to welfare are in fact waivers requested by Republican governors, and are offered on the condition that they produce equal or greater numbers of working welfare recipients.  What Team Romney is doing is called “lying.” It is a process by which one tells the opposite of the truth.

But this is the last call for the Old Ones and Romney is betting the farm on them: scare the working-class whites and the old folks into turning out in droves by appealing to racism.  It is as cynical as it is predictable.  And with Mike Huckabee ticketed for a prime-time speaking slot after two weeks of being the number-one apologist for Todd Akin, the argument that the GOP is going to press the economy and stay away from culture-war politics is, quite simply, no longer operative.

Which goes back to my impatience and frustration in 2009…


…I would like to take a second to remind the mouth-breathing trailer-park proctologists of the Old Confederacy: your team lost. Your boy and your Congressional majority lost because your team shit the bed for eight years running. As a result, we are now engaged in a long hard slog to try to clean things up. Your boys had the run of things for quite some time, and the result was utter and comprehensive failure, from Afghanistan to deficits to Katrina to I don’t know what all. And right now, all I’m seeing from the opposition is the same dog-vomit of tax cuts, bigoted scaremongering, and fantasyland pig-ignorance that the GOP’s been running on for the better part of two decades, ever since George HW Bush and Lee Atwater decided all’s fair in politics. There’s not even a coherent theme there – except that there is, and for all the talk about government power and health care takeover and everything else, this is what it boils down to: we can’t stand the fact that we got beat, and by a Negro.

You know what? The hell with it. Let’s go. We all know you’ve wanted a rematch since 1865. Do it. Rise again. Get out all your M4geries and your cheap Norinco AK-knockoffs and your precious Kimbers and SIGs and let’s just do the goddamn thing…


The GOP is calling on its loyalists to rally ’round the flag one more time.  And once again, it’s the Confederate flag.  Seventh verse, same as the first, and unchanging since 1988.  But the day is coming – and come soon, Lord Jesus – when every single unreconstructed-white-cracker vote that exists won’t be enough to make a win.  And at that point, the Southern Strategy will have to be flung on the ash heap of history.

We just have to survive until then.


It’s a huge victory for Apple, make no mistake. Vindication of their assertion, and fulfillment of Steve’s promise at the 2007 announcement: “We’ve patented the hell out of this thing and we’re going to defend it.”

The emerging narrative is this: while Samsung mostly escaped sanction on tablets and newer phones, they got seal-clubbed with regard to the earlier phones. Especially with TouchWiz, their own proprietary UI, they made the deliberate decision to imitate Apple as best they could in order to close the gap with Apple as quickly as possible. And in doing so, they gained an advantage over companies that didn’t go that route. In short, Samsung’s position as the leading Android device maker was jumpstarted by the wholesale plagiarism of Apple’s intellectual property.

As stories go, it hangs together pretty well, makes sense, and fits with Samsung’s track record in phones where imitation has always been the sincerest form of stealing a march. (“Blackjack” and “Blade” for Blackberry and RAZR, again.) And as some are already saying, if it costs Samsung a billion dollars and an injunction on their old hardware AND a few bucks on subsequent devices, that may prove to be a price worth paying for the undisputed lead in Android devices.

Of course, Apple has a hundred billion in the bank. It’s less about the money – or the future earnings – than the pride of place. Apple asserts that they changed the world and that Samsung only got close by ripping them off. Vindication in a court of law is probably worth more to Hisself than any money at this point – and would certainly have been most important to Himself.

Meanwhile, it looks like the event in September will be followed by one in October. Others got to the 7-8 inch form factor first, and Amazon and Google (with Asus) finally made it viable, but if Apple really is jumping in, they’ll have to make it worthwhile.

On current form, I wouldn’t bet against them.

To the last man

So yeah. I’ve kind of been expecting this.

This is the flip side of what I’ve been alluding to for the last month or so.  About the way that we’re basically in thrall to the people who want to need the guns, so there’s not been a significant move on gun control nationally since the Brady Bill was passed (prior to the GOP landslide of 1994).  About how Todd Akin is counting on the ride-or-die loyalists of the anti-abortion movement to make up for the lack of party support, because he’s the white knight fighting for life.  About how this election is an existential moment for the Old Ones and their sympathizers.

For the last fifty years or so, the United States has been involved in what can only be described as a Cold War Between The States.  (A like which no less than Andrew Sullivan has picked up on.) Some brushfire shooting conflicts, of course – Little Rock, Birmingham, Chicago, Kent State – but a cold war fought mostly at the ballot box.  What started as the move for civil rights for African-Americans disenfranchised by Jim Crow in the Deep South grew over time to include things like “women’s lib” and abortion rights, school prayer, general civil liberties, and the largely rural and religious backlash to same. We eventually settled into a sort of rough parity over most of the issues by the early 1990s, but then Newt Gingrich completed the Southernization of the GOP, at which point a lot of things got put back onto the front burner – and labelled “culture wars.”

In the ensuing twenty-some-odd years, a lot has changed. The Southern form of politics – driven by hyperbole, personality, distortion, outright slander and falsehood, and a minimal amount of policy discussion – has been nationalized and normalized to the point where blatant editing of video footage to invert the meaning of a statement is yawned over by the national press (itself mau-maued into submission over the entire fifty-year span).  We’ve seen investigation and impeachment turned into political tools that have essentially ruined them as means of government oversight and legitimate response to high crimes and misdemeanors.  And most importantly, we’ve seen the constant refinement of the Republican party – steadily reading out of the party its moderates, its pro-choicers, its negotiators, its institutional memory.  There was a time when the Senate was considered the world’s greatest parliamentary body and the august and distinguished alternative to the cockfight of the House of Representatives.  Now the House has become the world’s largest open-air special-needs kindergarten and the Senate has become the House with more eclectic membership and with minority rule.

More importantly, though, this party has its own ecosystem. It’s no longer necessary to have your own opinion when you can have your own facts. Never mind things like think tanks or the Wall Street Journal editorial page – an entire cable news network and an overwhelming majority of AM talk radio hosts, along with countless bloggers, PACs and pundits from all corners, essentially act as the oxygen and food supply of the movement.  They have internalized the ethos of Bush the Elder and his evil genius, Lee Atwater – politics is a dirty, nasty, distasteful business, so the best thing to do is be fast and brutal and destroy the opponent so you can get on with what you’d rather be doing.  And the message has been so well internalized, through twenty-five years of refining, that the point has been reached where there isn’t anything else to be doing.  The machine exists to feed itself, to keep its rage up and its blood boiling. And the ultimate purpose of this high blood pressure has become merely to keep its blood pressure high.

And so we get to where we are now.  In Alabama and Mississippi, the vast majority of the Republican Party in the electorate will not concede the idea that the President of the United States is in fact a natural-born American citizen Constitutionally eligible for the office.  Too many of them are further convinced – in the complete absence of material evidence – that the President is involved in secret plots with the United Nations to seize all the guns, line citizens up for “death panels” (presumably to be carried out in the same FEMA camps that have been a staple of anti-government paranoia since Reagan’s day), merge with Canada and Mexico and do away with the dollar – oh, and into the bargain, the President is actually both a closet Marxist, a closet Muslim, and a closet homosexual.  And they can partake in a wide array of media – newspapers, radio, television, the Internet – which will gladly affirm and re-affirm all of this for them.

And that’s where it all comes together.  What would those people think if such a President – one who was never eligible for the job, whose 2008 election was only the result of secret fraud by ACORN and the Black Panthers, who no right-thinking person could ever possibly support, whose mendacity and evil is apparent to any onlooker, who could never in a million years be rightfully elected in a free and fair vote – what if that President is, in fact, re-elected?

Well, then you have that guy in Texas.  And plenty of non-elected people like him – people who are prepared to believe that the electoral system has been captured and perverted beyond reclamation.  People who have guns, and who want to need those guns, and wouldn’t shy from finding a reason to use those guns.  People who have spent the last years – decades – being told that their way of life, their freedom, the very existence of America hangs in the balance.  People who will gladly believe that they can no longer rely on soap box, jury box or ballot box.

I don’t know what it was that made me first consider this problem and possibility in 1991 – very early days, relatively speaking – but by the end of 1995, I was convinced, and I remain so today.  This is a legitimate civil war, cold though it is, and there are enough people who want it to turn hot to make things very unpleasant for this country.

Now the question is – how hot?

I’m not remotely expecting anything like secession, long lines of blue and grey queueing up for the Third Battle of Bull Run (the traffic out to Manassas on I-66 would be prohibitive anyway).  In fact, I’m not sure exactly how it would work.  I expect things like state level nullification, lots of symbolic gestures, more than a couple of nutball acts of militia violence (though probably not on a Murrah Building-scale).  Take Alabama for instance – the GOP controls the entire state government lock stock and barrel, and the white population is overwhelmingly anti-Obama, but one-quarter of the state’s population is African-American and decidedly unfriendly to a neo-Confederate upheaval.  Wallace-style symbolism is probably as much as they could get away with in the Yellowhammer state – the rebel flag back over the statehouse, the continued harassment of suspected undocumented immigrants, lines out the door at Chick-Fil-A*, things of that nature.

*(Say what you like about S. Truett Cathy, but he somehow managed to make the act of eating his fast food into a shibboleth of GOP-Southernist loyalty. That little fucker is a genius.)

It’s not going to come to a full-on shooting war.  (As Earl K. Long so famously observed, the Feds have got the hydrogen bomb. Then again, as LBJ observed, “the only power I’ve got is nuclear and I can’t use it!”)  So when states refuse to implement healthcare exchanges, refuse to stop doing their own immigration enforcement, drive out abortion providers and mandate textbooks sourced from holy rollers with no grasp on things like science and history – then what happens?

The favored notion around here seems to be “let them go.”  Plenty of people I know are rooting for the South to rise again and break away, so they can be told “BYE.” After all, the money that California sends to the Feds above and beyond what they get back in benefits? Would completely settle the state’s financial shortfall and then some.  We have everything to gain, potentially, by sloughing off the new-look Confederacy and having done with them.


Whenever I think about this, I think about that one kid.  You know him. Or her.  That one skinny or fat kid of whatever color, might or might not be gay, might not even know, might be conflicted over what they’ve heard at church three times a week for fifteen years versus what they’ve begun to feel deep down inside themselves. The one who would almost certainly be making straight A’s if they hadn’t become so demotivated by bullying and alienation. The poor kid at a poor school in a poor town, the one who couldn’t afford to go to college out of state even if there were a guidance counselor to point them that way, who might not be able to afford college at all. The kid pining for what he or she glimpse on the screen, the kid who sees the most downtrodden and put-upon characters on Glee and envies them their lives.  The kid that you tell “It gets better”, who responds with two questions: “When?” and “How?”

That kid makes me think of an old 19th-century suffragette slogan in Latin: Non nobis solum. Not for ourselves alone. Or to appropriate a badly-abused turn of phrase: no child left behind.

Not everyone can escape. And there is very little in this world more heartless than choosing to merely leave them behind as the unfortunate collateral damage of making the problem go away.

So we beat on, boats against the current. If this is a cold war, it’s cold trench warfare. We may have to take the ground an inch a day and lose half of it back every Sunday.  It’s going to be long, it’s going to be ugly and a lot of us aren’t going to live to see it over and done and victorious. But we can’t walk away, we can’t turn our backs, we can’t throw our hands up and punt, we can’t shake our heads and decamp to San Francisco or New York or London.

Non nobis solum.  To the last man, to the last woman, to the last vote, to the last dollar, to the last phone call or email, to the last second of the last minute of the last hour of the very last day – we fight.

The deal – no deal

It’s not often I have the opportunity to link to the New York Post, but this article pretty much nails what is coming: another NHL work stoppage, the third since I started grad school – and every one of them an ownership lockout bent on raking money back from the players.  In this case, a unilateral 24% giveback on player contracts, with no justification beyond “we want that money back.”  And this after a similar unilateral cut as part of the deal to bring hockey back the last time things went south.

This is hardly unexpected.  Hockey owners, by and large, are swine and scum – they think of the players as a pack of Saskatoon wheat-shuckers and impoverished Warsaw Pact refugees, all of whom should be grateful for the opportunity to make $2.13 an hour to play a game for a living.  Which is more or less par for the course for most sports owners.  But the problem for the NHL is that they don’t have nearly the popular demand of the other big North American sports.  The NFL and NFLPA would never risk losing a season – they freaked out after losing a single utterly worthless and meaningless exhibition game in 2011. MLB is still gun-shy after the apocalypse of 1994 and loss of the World Series. Even the NBA and its players did a deal eventually, because they saw the writing on the wall.  But the NHL owners – with the worst TV deal of any league, with two major losses of game time since 1995, with the last few years played under the very collective bargaining agreement they extorted from the players last time out – are somehow convinced that they can get away with it.

Except they can’t.  At. All. Because hockey is of tertiary interest at best in the United States.  Ownership has only itself to blame – for handing out expansion franchises and allowing moves to Sun Belt towns with no business having a hockey team (looking at you, Atlanta-Phoenix-Nashville), for decade-long contracts that aggregate to billions of dollars in future obligation, for spurning ESPN and banking themselves on NBC Sports as their sole national outlet.  And if they slough off a season, nobody will care – or at the very least, not enough people will care to force the issue.

The problem is, this is of a piece with the wider world these days.  Just look at things like the Ryan budget’s approach to Medicare for anyone who won’t turn 65 within the next fifteen years. “Welp, sorry, know you paid taxes and everything, you held up your end of the deal, but we can’t afford to hold up our end anymore so don’t be greedy and ask for what we actually agreed on – take what we give you and be grateful.”  Look at Caterpillar, profitable for six years, demanding salary givebacks just because they can.  Look at things like government pensions, paid into for decades and now being arbitrarily sandbagged as a quick way to balance the books.

Fuck. That.

This shit has to be nipped in the bud with a quickness. Oh the deal isn’t working for you anymore? Well guess what, you don’t get to walk away from the deal. Contracts shouldn’t become unenforceable just because the side with more money and lawyers didn’t feel like meeting their obligations.  The business isn’t making money and you want to get out from under your promises? Shut it down and make good on your obligations, and no, you don’t get a fat severance bundle to parachute yourself out.  Stupid should hurt. If Ed Earl Brown has to show some “individual responsibility” when his mortgage goes tits-up and his job gets outsourced, why exactly shouldn’t the NHL owners pay the price for their complete inability to run a sports league?

As ever: buy the ticket, take the ride.

Closing time…

The final jury instructions and closing statements are being heard in San Jose, and pretty soon the jury will get the case.  To me, it looks pretty open and shut – Samsung is braying that you can’t patent a rounded black rectangle, and that’s as may be, but a rounded black rectangle with clearly derived icons and interface elements seems to me to be a prima facie opening for a violation of trade dress copyright.

The worst thing is that this sort of case brings out of the woodwork all the Apple haters and all the intolerable Mac-Macs.  There seems to be a growing sense that Apple shouldn’t be able to get anything on this – which, if you look at an entire generation unused to paying for media, seems like the logical progression. Too much of the outcry for patent reform seems to be sliding down the slippery slope to no patents at all.

The thing is, it’s possible to do impressive work in the mobile UI space without just cloning the Apple look and feel.  Palm did it, and exceptionally well, but was famously ill-served by their management and carrier partnership.  Amazon crafted a wholly unique UI approach on the Kindle Fire, and were rewarded by becoming the leading Android tablet for a year (though they’ll get caught quick by the Nexus 7).  There are plenty of ways to innovate and compete.  Instead, Samsung started up the photocopiers.

Of course, it’s going to a jury. As somebody who lived through a raft of celebrity trials in the last twenty years, I can say that nobody went broke betting on the unpredictability of juries of non-experts.  One more reason that if I ever end up on trial, I want a pretty strict reading of what constitutes my peers.


Todd Akin (R-Fuckingnutsburg), as of this writing, has about 30 minutes left to drop out of the race for Senate in Missouri without serious complications ensuing for the GOP in replacing him.  The RNC and NRSC have pulled their funding, the Missouri GOP has thrown him under the bus, and Multiple Choice Mitt’s wheel of fortune has landed on “he should drop out immediately.”

More than one blogger has pointed out that the people who think his opinion is disqualifying for the Senate race aren’t calling for him to resign from Congress, where he has been sitting on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology for some time.  Which is, in itself terrifying.

But it doesn’t look like he’s going to fold his tent. Which makes sense – this had to happen at some point. For the better part of forty years, the Holy Roller Right has been the reliable infantry of the GOP – but their wishes have mostly been honored in the breach. Despite 20 years of Republican presidency since 1980, despite GOP control of Congress from 1994-2006, despite having the opportunity to seat seven justices on the Supreme Court (including elevating the last two Chief Justices), Roe v Wade is still law.  And if you really delve into the depths of the Christianist fever swamp, Griswold v Connecticut is still law and contraception is legal. For all the hue and cry, they haven’t gotten the one thing they wanted in all these decades of blind loyalty.

Todd Akin may finally be the chicken coming home to roost.  He may honestly believe that he was right, and the outcry is the howl of the liberal feminist Satanic enemy, and that to drop out at this point would be to fail in his moral duty – he will stand and fight and carry on, and the true believers will stand with him. Onward Christian soldiers.

Where it gets interesting is that control of the Senate may pivot on the Missouri race.  If that looks like the case in the last three weeks, several bloggers seem to think that the GOP will hold its nose and sink money (probably through a Super-PAC) into negative ads savaging his opponent, hoping that the waters can be muddied to the point that they can sweat it out, get their seat, get control of the Senate and then just hope the leadership will keep Akin in check.

But the Democrats are pinching themselves for their good fortune – just as the elevation of Paul Ryan to the VP spot is casting a bright light on his budget proposals (to which the GOP is publicly and repeatedly pledged), the sudden focus on Todd Akin is casting into sharp relief just how utterly paleozoic the party’s officially platform-stated position on abortion actually is.  Not only are an awful lot of conservatives opposed to abortion even in the case of rape or incest, they don’t believe rape or incest can cause pregnancy.

Read that sentence again.

The truly scary thing is that Akin’s not wrong.  He could stay on the ballot, recant nothing, and still get a solid turnout of the vote – many because they’ll pull the lever for their team no matter what, but many more because they genuinely agree with him, stem to stern.  And for someone of his age and career path, he’s not about to bail out on the dream of a Senate seat just because the media and the feminazis are out to get him.

Balls out from the walls out.  Ride or die.

Of which, as I keep saying, more later.


One of the toughest things to do in life is to stop trying to be the person you were and become the person you are. I am struggling with this 40 thing like you wouldn’t believe. I’m in compete denial about how old I am and I don’t really have a good point of reference for other people my age without children. I’m trying not to be glum and grim and fatalistic and make myself 60 already and sit around wondering what kind of crippling disease I’ll invariably succumb to, but the bloody painkillers aren’t helping.

This is not as grim as that setup makes it sound. But it is disconcerting nonetheless. Over the last couple of weeks ,I’ve been conducting a major wardrobe audit, occasioned largely by the wife’s discovery of those thin fuzzy hangers that let you fit more in the closet. It’s forced not only a wardrobe appraisal but a reassessment of the pile of shoes covering the floor.

(God, this feels strange to write. Nevertheless, onward.)

And what I learned, most unsettlingly, is that the leather jackets and the Dr Martens boots just aren’t who I am anymore.

Some of this makes perfect sense. My black ForLife Docs and my Solovairs are ill-fitting in opposite directions, the riot reds aren’t the sort of thing you can wear around, and the steel-toes, while comfortable as hell, are impractical as daily wear when I’m not driving or working light industrial. And I don’t want to wear out the date-night Docs.

But more unsettling is the jacket situation. The black leather car coat has been in storage more or less since moving to California, and the brown suede trucker jacket has always felt wrong somehow despite my best efforts to force it to work – not least because it’s just a bit too heavy for all but the coldest days here. But there’s the Indy jacket – the brown leather jacket that was the trademark of my wardrobe in DC, the thing my wife thinks of from our early days. It was iconic. And looking at myself in the mirror now, it looks wrong somehow. Like a guy coming back to his high school reunion in his letterman jacket.

Shoes and outerwear have always been critical to my sense of wardrobe. Hat too – and I didn’t do that much with hats in DC or here until the last year or so, but now that black Vanderbilt baseball fitted is my everyday hat, and I do mean every day. But now, my barnwood Topsiders feel more like me. Or my Palladium ultralites (which I just replaced) or my waterproof Palladiums in moss gray leather for winter. Maybe those boat shoes are appealing because I can skip the socks, like in the DC summer days. Or maybe they just look sufficiently mature somehow.

So the jackets then. The Uniqlo stuff is working out nicely. The peacoat is at long last the very thing I want for cold weather (and looks absolutely perfect). In the meantime, I’m looking at what’s in between, debating the work-jacket look (for almost two years now) and vacillating between a ScottEVest Standard (which would hold the iPad) and a Filson-Levi’s trucker jacket (which would lasts a lifetime and be more water-resistant).

I guess this is all part and parcel of accepting that I am not the person I was eight years ago, when I first grasped I wasn’t the person I used to be. And despite everything, I can’t really get away with looking like a grad student anymore. Fewer polos, more button-ups, casual sportcoats instead of shells and fleece and leathers.

Whoever it turns out I am, I should look the part. It’ll cost money, but that’s the price of not looking like a grad student at 40.

Flashback, part 54 of n

In my mind, the movie begins with the opening strains of Enigma’s “Return to Innocence”. Silhouette of a figure in the back yard with an empty mason jar, bending over to scoop out the earth from the spot where his sandpile used to be as a kid. Then, a couple hours later, the Pet Sop Boys with “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind Of Thing” as the two-car procession tears up 65 to 440 before turning onto 21st Street to arrive in Hillsboro Village for move-in day. A couple of days to stockpile groceries, buy the things that weren’t packed, plenty of souvenirs for everyone from the bookstore, and then the family left…and there I was, alone at Vanderbilt.

I wasn’t really worried about anything. It was political science, which I’d already proven I was good at. It was a department of people I had met in March, felt like I’d fit in well with. It was the school of a million Southern dreams, achievement and validation all in one. And they were paying me to be there. If only I hadn’t had my girlfriend…but that’s another story.

I bought “Mystery Road,” the Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ album of my undergrad freshman days, and played it on my year-old boom box with my apartment windows open in the cool bright spring afternoon of early September. I flipped between six different stations on my car stereo – KDF, Lightning 100, Thunder 94, a couple of top-40 offerings and WRVU. There was plenty of music to go around; after Birmingham, it was unbelievable to have a station for every slot. My memory is full of Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, the late-grunge era before “alternative” became a meaningless label.

I could walk to Calhoun Hall in ten minutes – the beginning of nine years of non-car commuting over the next decade. I could walk to the Munchie Mart in three, and swipe my Commodore Card for snacks and drinks until midnight. I could walk over to Rand for meals, or hang out in Sarratt for movies or just coffee at the Overcup Oak. I had all the trappings of a real honest-to-God college experience, right up to a smashing win over Wake Forest in my first ever football game for an academic institution I attended.

I had an email address – my second one, after my brief eWorld experience when I first bought my Mac – and would walk down to the main computer lab at Peabody with its array of Macs that allowed me to download software to take back to my own machine and experiment with. Or just telnet onto CTRVAX and exchange email with the tiny handful of people I knew who had it. I started puzzling out things like Gopher and FTP. I was even tempted by Mosaic, although there was precious little at which to point it.

Even the wardrobe had changed. Slightly. I had a rack of new sportcoats that were meant to be my new go-to outerwear, although I would have traded the lot for just one solid reliable Harris tweed with elbow patches and sturdy enough to roll up as a pillow and wear an hour later. I would still get through a ton of Nikes, and before 1994 was out I would buy a pullover Vandy Starter jacket and a big new leather coat that became known as The Elk. I had new Vibram soles put on my Eastern Europe boots and bought my first Wayfarers from the bookstore.

I felt different. I felt like I knew who I was and who I was going to be. It felt like the world had changed – Cold War over, Soviet Union no more, Democratic control of both halves of Congress and the White House to boot. There was an information superhighway opening up and before long, we were all going to be living in the future. And here I was in a new town – new freeways to learn, new malls to peruse, new stations on TV, new restaurants to take care of dinner. Hell, there was Target and there was Boston Market, and we sure as hell hadn’t had that in the old country.

I was 22, and the future was perfect.

And the kids who are moving into the dorms at Vandy for the first time this weekend were born that autumn.

It’s not the years, it’s the mileage. Dr. Jones nailed that one with accuracy and precision.