The Big Heart of Big Mouth

     As a latchkey kid, it’s cliché (and not entirely accurate) to say that TV raised me; I did not want for human interaction. Even though Mom had to work multiple jobs to keep a dilapidated roof over our heads, she still made time for me and my siblings. And while Dad no longer lived with us, he visited frequently and took me (an elementary school student and the youngest by 7 years) to spend the night with him at my grandparents’ house. That being said, I did spend countless hours of my formative years in front of a television screen, and I don’t think that box turned me into an idiot. The programming inside that magical cube nurtured my imagination and cultivated a creativity that no matter how much I neglect, willfully or otherwise, simply refuses to die. 

     Throughout my adulthood, family and friends have knelt beside me to nurse the many emotional and psychological wounds I have brought on myself. In discovering what quality solitude means to me, I have taken out my aggression in weight rooms and literally run from my problems all the way to a marathon. But devotion to a rigorous physical regimen has not always proved easy to maintain, and well-intentioned as they are, family and friends are still unpredictable humans with their own issues to resolve. You know what’s consistent? Re-runs of your favorite show. 

     Since my begrudging adoption of streaming services about a decade ago (I must have been one of Blockbuster’s last customers in DFW), I have re-watched a handful of my favorite comedy series start to finish. At times it was for the enjoyment of sharing it with a loved one who had never seen it before, which brought back the excitement of my first viewing. On other occasions that familiar programming served as background noise for household chores or working from home. I had trouble sleeping alone until I was 12 and my mother bought me my first TV that was all mine in my room. To this day, I have difficulty falling asleep without a TV on unless I’m sharing my bed with a woman. More than any other reason, though, I have continued to seek the calm waters of a second or seventh swim through a beloved show to save myself from drowning in another depressive episode. 

     After the hell that 2020 (and the beginning of 2021) wrought, I needed some TV therapy, but I wanted something new. I had heard rave reviews of Big Mouth from many people whose opinions about such matters I hold in high regard, but so much content, so little time and all that. My brother extolled the virtues of the raunchy cartoon on many occasions, and so I asked him if he would recommend it for someone seeking something satisfyingly silly (call back to Jessie’s snake dream. By the way, one doesn’t have to be an expert in Freudian dreams analysis or a major pervert – by the way to my by the way: I’d love to see THAT Venn diagram – to interpret the snake as a very unsubtle phallic symbol, right?).

     “It’s the perfect show for that,” he said before adding the disclaimer/warning, “If you’re not worried about it opening the old wounds of your teen angst.”

     If anything, that made me want to watch it more. I usually need at least a little bitter with my sweet, but with Big Mouth, it’s honestly hard for me to tell which is the more dominant flavor. I knew I would laugh, but I never could have imagined that a cartoon prominently featuring hormone monsters encouraging 13-year-olds to masturbate would lift my spirits and remind me why it’s good to be alive. For anyone who hasn’t seen the show (or who has and still thinks that last statement was a bit much even for a fan), the easiest way for me to support that position is to talk about those lovably unlovable teenagers who make the series. 

     The mark of many great shows lies in the difficulty to identify a best or favorite character. It might vary season to season, episode to episode, or even scene to scene. Big Mouth so perfectly captures the rollercoaster of adolescence that it serves as a combination time machine/mirror, allowing us to see our younger selves in the struggles of cartoon children and somehow feel less alone as real-life adults. Not knowing with whom to begin, I’ll start with the young man who serves as an unlikely leader: Caleb. 

     While direct references to his condition remain absent, anyone with even cursory knowledge of autism spectrum disorders knows that Caleb is a proud member of the neurodiverse community. I use the word “proud” intentionally here because even though one could choose to focus on the social deficits that accompany his neurodiversity, no one on that show is more comfortable with themselves nor does anyone care less what others think than our favorite truth teller. The truth Caleb tells as well as the personal truth he lives is written with kindness and voiced with love by the uber-talented Joe Wengert. 

     It’s easy for comedy about disabilities to offend, and I have no doubt that someone out there would not appreciate how Caleb is portrayed. (I’m speaking in hypotheticals because I would imagine anyone who has a problem with his character would have bailed on the show before they got a chance to see him – somewhere between around the initial cum jokes and the animated menstruation in the opening credits, both of which occur in the opening two minutes. I mean, the first episode is entitled “Ejaculation.”) I’m not trying to play the woke card here, but I’m incredibly mindful of ist language of any kind. Here’s how much fun I am at a dinner party: a couple years ago, I realized that using “lame” as a synonym for uncool could be construed as ableism, so I found an article online to confirm that supposition and have since continued to avoid using that word in that context. 

     That kind of sensitivity does not preclude me from enjoying comedy. In fact, I would argue that it makes me more discerning of what type of humor is hateful and what kind of comical depictions serve as loving examples of representation. Not only does Caleb represent neurodiverse kids everywhere, he serves as their role model. He is a hero walking the halls of Bridgeton Middle School, not in spite of his inability to conform to polite society’s social norms, but indeed because of it. In real life, I find myself sounding like Caleb when trying to be more direct with people without being ugly because I can think of no better role model as a communicator. 

     Many of us neurotypicals (using that term loosely when describing yours truly) have very strong views of right and wrong regarding social issues. Some are better equipped than others to make an attempt at civil discourse. I will only talk about myself (while assuming/hoping that I am not alone in this) when admitting that I get so upset about topics like race relations, gay rights, and the freedom to choose, that my fight or flight response activates. My heart rate elevates, my palms sweat, my mouth dries, and when I choose to engage with an individual with a viewpoint antagonistic to my own, I need time to decompress after the confrontation. Some people get off on that; I shut down. I get stressed watching people argue on TV, so I want to avoid it in my personal life as much as possible. 

     You can tell by the lack of expression on Caleb’s face and in his voice that he harbors no such anxieties. In his disability lies his greatest strength. His challenges reading social cues and responding appropriately make him abnormal, divergent, atypical. All those fancy clinical terms mean different, and in Caleb’s case, different means better. Not only does he have a stronger sense of self than any of his friends and classmates, but I will admit that in many ways, Caleb navigates the world better than I do. I need to take a page out of the book of Caleb.

     His best friend on the show appears to be Matthew, the only openly gay student at Bridgeton. The two complete each other. Caleb possesses an affinity for documenting the lives around him, whether through hard-hitting camera work as a member of the audio visual club, insightful assignment of super powers to his classmates in his own comic book universe, or clinical retention of penis size amongst his peers. And despite what the iconic Harvey Fierstein said in his first appearance on the show as Jerome, Matthew is not just “young, gay, and mean.” Matthew, brought to life by the undeniable Andrew Rannells, has a song in his heart for the whole world to hear, and one day he might sing on it on Broadway, in front of a live studio audience as the host of his own show (he would be much more fun than that money zombie Nick Starr), or in a concert overseas. He has the talent to one day join the likes of Rita Moreno and Jennifer Hudson as an EGOT winner, and you have the feeling that Caleb will be around to capture it all. 

     In one instance, Caleb serves as a champion not only for Matthew, but for the whole LGBTQIA+ community. In a night ripe for awkwardness and shame, the 8th-graders have a sleepover in the school gym chaperoned by Coach Steve and Ms. Benitez. Matthew, perhaps the most self-conscious boy in a setting with quite a high bar for that social malady, tries to ease his peer’s tension (and more likely his own), by making a joke that falls as flat as everyone’s sleeping bags spread out across the hardwood. After making his bed near Lump, Matthew says, “Don’t worry. I’m not gonna, like, gay you in your sleep or anything.”

     An incredulous Lump, a boy who lives up to his name more than anyone in the history of names, oozes out the question, “Why would you even say that?”

     Who comes to the rescue of the most self-conscious boy? 

     The least self-conscious one.

     Caleb executes a precision walk-by truthing. Emotionless, like a stone-cold killer of bullshit, he appears on the scene immediately following Lump’s question, and without a verbal pause, a hitch in his gait, or even so much as a glance in any direction other than straightforward, he declares,

     “It is physically impossible to turn another human being into a homosexual,”

     and marches on with no regard for whose erroneous beliefs might lie in his wake. 

     In another setting, completely above reproach in his uncompromising ethics, Caleb has no qualms about calling out even Matthew when his best friend takes up the wrong side of an issue. On a trip to New York City on the anniversary of 9/11, Matthew learns that Coach Steve, the gym teacher who just lost his virginity at age 47 and lives in a shipping container on a diaper barge, was born on September 11th. Upon discovering that Coach Steve has no idea what happened on that infamous day in 2001, Matthew gives in to his malicious instincts and has fun at his teacher’s expense. 

     Caleb, ever the moral compass of Bridgeton, identifies what we’re all thinking: it’s bad to play a prank on a person with a developmental disability; it’s bad to gain cheap laughs from a national tragedy (on it’s anniversary at the literal Ground Zero, no less); and it’s very, very, very bad to combine all that badness. So, does he worry about stepping on his best friend’s toes? 

     Fuck no. 

     Caleb attempts to inform Coach Steve of the true nature of their visit to the 9/11 museum, and Matthew quickly lets his friend know about his intentions to torment a tragic human being. 

     “In light of the tragedy that occurred here, that seems insensitive at best,” Caleb says with all the pep of Ben Stein on Trazadone. 

     Matthew makes what he thinks to be a cogent point: 9/11 happened before they were born. Was he also supposed to care about Hurricane Katrina or Columbine? 

     “Yes,” Caleb responds before his buddy can place the question mark after the “e” in Columbine. 

     Matthew tells Caleb to relax; he’s just being funny.

     “No one is laughing,” retorts Caleb with all the vim and vigor of DMV employee with 5 minutes to go in their shift on the Friday of a three-day weekend. 

     These are examples of why I want to be like Caleb when I grow up, and why Big Mouth, this disgusting, insane, ridiculous show about kids jacking off with all kinds of objects and foodstuffs, renews my faith in humanity and reminds me of the beauty that awaits us each day. The misadventures of two boys, one gay, one neurodiverse, both possessing awesome superpowers born from their differences with the majority of the world, makes me happy to be alive. I could write a whole book about this show and what it means to me (if I can find a way to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly doing that kind of writing for a living, I probably won’t need antidepressants). 

     I haven’t even mentioned the many other storylines that warm my heart so much. John Mulaney, a Catholic man, so perfectly captures a nebbish-y 13-year-old Jewish boy that I feel like I went to Hebrew school with Andrew Glouberman. Jay Bilzerian (voiced with all the mania Jason Mantzoukas has to offer), the dirty, scary kid with no need for a hormone monster because he is one, somehow transforms into one of the most sympathetic characters. In his ability to elicit terror and pity, he is rivaled only by his love interest Lola Skumpy, brought to us courtesy of the versatility in crassness of show co-creator Nick Kroll. Jay and Lola find kindred spirits in one another (two broken kids from broken homes who just want to be loved) and together serve as one of many interracial couples through the show’s run. We’ve also had a front-row seat to the journey of self-discovery of the child of one such union. 

     Missy Foreman-Greenwald, an overachieving half-Black, half-Jewish dork dear to all our hearts, works hard to find her identity as a young woman, and specifically as a young woman of color. Her personal celebration of her Blackness mirrored the real-life voice actor change from Jenny Slate, a Jewish woman, to Ayo Edebiri, a Black woman, in light of 2020’s racial reckoning in America. Seldom before, if ever, has one show represented so many different groups of individuals with so much good-natured humor and love. Even those responsible for such a vehicle learned about their own blind spots. 

     In a magic trick that would make Jay, a 13-year-old pretending to be a 40-year-old magician turned Ultimate Fuck Machine turned chieftain of a post-apocalyptic sex tribe, proud, four minds melded to create something beautiful out of something awful. Jennifer Flackett, Andrew Goldberg, Mark Levin, and Nick Kroll took the topic of puberty, a time when many of us never felt more alone, and produced something that made us all feel more connected. For me, dating as an adult has not necessarily been less perilous than navigating that minefield as an adolescent. I’d imagine that’s the universal appeal of a show featuring very “mature” situations made by a bunch of immature adults (intended as a compliment) about that time when we were all stuck between childhood and adulthood. 

     Big Thanks to all involved.

Leave It Better Than You Found It

     About two years ago – at the height of all the agony that 2020 wrought across the world – I worked a second job that was deemed essential. We fulfilled and shipped orders to people during a time in which shopping from home helped fight a global outbreak. The company made the news for that reason among others not quite so noble. 

     During those chaotic months of social distance and racial unrest, the CEO made his stance in support of the Black Lives Matter movement very public. Some saw that as corporate posturing, and I might have been naïve to think otherwise. Nevertheless, I felt emboldened to express my own like-minded views through a company newsletter. While also reflecting on Pride Month, I tied in my experience as an ally to my brother. I never got to see this published before I resigned. How much has changed in two years?  

     If y’all are anything like me, maybe once or twice you’ve have had some variation of this thought run through your head when a manager approached your station:

     “What did I do wrong?”

     Perhaps the paranoia is a just remnant of my misspent youth, but to this day I still think I’m about to get scolded even if I didn’t do anything to warrant it. To his credit, my manager handled a teachable moment with ease. I’m guessing he picked up on my guilty conscience – I don’t have a great poker face – when he said, “You’re not in trouble or anything.”

     He went on to talk to me about product falling out of a bin that I touched last:

     “Sometimes it’s just bad luck, but just do your best. Leave it better than you found it.”

     It’s funny how many lessons we’re taught (or have reinforced) in everyday conversations if we listen with open minds. Someone once told me that time is the most valuable currency because we don’t know how much we have, and once we give it away to someone, we can’t get it back. For however much time I have, I want my legacy to be that I left the Earth better than I found it. 

     As the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement and Pride Month coincide, I can’t stop thinking about the catchphrase that became popular at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic: “We’re all in this together.”

     Have we all been in this together? Really?

     The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd among countless others before and since, the disproportionate impact of the novel coronavirus on people of color, and the lack of funding and resources for inner-city schools nationwide have said no, we are not really in this together. Even a glance at the state of our legal system, our healthcare system, and our education system blinds us with the reality of why “Black Lives Matter” needed to be created in 2013 and why it still needs to be said today. 

     George Floyd crying for his mother with his dying breath made me think of my Black friends who are mothers of young boys. One such friend told me “there are many avenues to support the movement, and they ALL matter.” That was a text message prior to a long phone conversation, so I feel the need to clarify that she capitalized ALL for emphasis. 

     That’s why I’m writing and hoping that people will read. 

     As we celebrate Pride Month, I can’t help but think of my brother, who is also my best friend. He is gay, and he is a walking miracle. I knew he received his HIV diagnosis about two and half decades ago, but when I made that remark in a recent phone conversation, he confirmed that I was exactly right. He told me this October will mark 25 years since his diagnosis. 

     My brother is a miracle because 25 years ago, his diagnosis was a death sentence. On February 24, 1995, Eric “Eazy-E” Wright went to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles because of a severe cough. Over the course of the next 30 days, “Eazy” was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, withered away to a shell of a man, and died of AIDS complications at age 30. 

     My brother turns 48 this year. 

     What’s my reason for sharing all this? I have a lot of reasons, but chief among them is the point that if we’re going to leave this Earth better than we found it – better for our children and their children and so on – then we need to live in this together.  There are many ways to contribute financially and politically, through activism, and through creative expression, and to quote my friend, “they ALL matter.”

     But we can start by listening to each other and sharing. The most important things I’ve heard recently have come directly from my close friends and family, but I’m also hearing music differently lately. It’s like I have new ears. To that point, I’ll leave y’all with the opening lyrics from a song by my favorite band, TV on the Radio. The song is called “Snakes and Martyrs.” I’d heard it before, but it means more now. Thanks for reading.

(Lyrics by Kyp Malone and vocals by Tunde Adebimpe)

“Everyone makes waves

At the same time

(Like pebbles on water)

And we call all those interrupting lines

(Sons and daughters)

A community

So, let’s join hands in song

Blessed unity …”

Don’t Settle for Silver

I’ve never been comfortable with self-promotion. 

In 2015 I somehow mustered the strength to power through that discomfort, and I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 to self-publish my first book. 

I finished that book, “My Problem is Adam: A Story of Recovery,” back in 2009. 

In the 6 years in between, I sporadically submitted query letters to literary agents. One such dalliance went as far as the agent requesting to read my entire manuscript. She worked for the agency that represented John Grisham, so it was exciting to even be considered. She ultimately declined, but she complimented my writing and encouraged me to continue my search for the right agent. 

I had some reasonable excuses for not pursuing my writing career more diligently during that period of my life. I was working full time while also earning a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling. I wrote page after page worth of research papers about abnormal psychology and various theoretical orientations, but I didn’t write any stories. 

After graduating from my Master’s program in the latter half of 2013, I took several months to focus on my writing (and rack up some debt) before searching for a “real job” in mental health or higher education. During those Bohemian months, I adapted my first book into a screenplay and wrote my first complete work of fiction – a horror movie I had dreamed up several years prior. 

Both of those completed works have collected digital dust the last 8 years while I have made zero direct attempts at finding representation in the world of film. I did enter a few screenwriting contests, and I had a Black List account for a hot minute. Once again, I received positive feedback that I still appreciate and use as motivation to this day, but I have done nothing with it. 

After a few years spent finding my way as a higher education professional, the birth of my nephew inspired me to write a children’s book in 2019. The global unrest of 2020 stoked those flames once again, leading me to author another book for my nephew. For that one I drew heavily from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me” in penning a 30,000-word letter to my sister’s son. 

So, here I am with three complete books (one self-published), two finished screenplays, dozens of other ideas, and the specter of time’s inexorable march forward. Instead of fearing that which chases me, I’m terrified of what’s leaving me behind. 

I love serving students. I really do. I believe in the transformative power that education holds for individuals, families, communities, and the world. Truly.

But in the Olympics of my career aspirations, I am living with my silver medal. 

I am a writer. I am a storyteller. That’s my gold medal. 

From the time I wrote my first story about a pre-teen FBI agent, to my early college years as an award-winning newspaper writer that ended with a stint in rehab and a change in career trajectory, to my late 30s where I find myself firmly entrenched as a higher education professional, I have always been a writer at heart. I will be for as long as my faculties remain intact. It is who I am, and it is what I must do. 

I read once that writers write because they can’t not write. As syntactically problematic as that sentence might be, the sentiment rings true. 

I’ve been hesitant to share this journey with coworkers at my various occupational stops. I haven’t even talked much about it with friends and family. As wrongheaded as I know this is, I’ve been embarrassed to have a dream. I was embarrassed because admitting that my real dream is to be a writer would mean (in my head) that I have failed up to this point. I had no problem writing a book about my mental health issues and drug addiction, but heaven forbid I let anyone in on my dirty little secret about trying to write for a living. 

That stops now. 

I posted a blog entry here on my website last night. 

It was my first entry since 2016, but it’s also the first of many more to come. 

Whatever your gold medal is, don’t let these types of self-defeating negative thoughts keep you stuck in silver. Silver’s fine. Silver can be beautiful. 

But if you know what your gold is, don’t ever, ever, ever give up on it.

A Wild Ride from “Stagecoach” to “Sonic 2”

     At the outset of a film appreciation course I recently completed, I knew that I would watch some classic movies that I had never gotten around to. I also figured I would catch a few I was unfamiliar with. Never in my wildest dreams, though, could I have imagined that I would wind up writing a paper about “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” in the context of film history. As the saying goes, love can make you do crazy things. 

     As a man whose video game playing career blossomed in the 90s, I have a fondness for the Sega Genesis product that led to a movie some three decades later. That being said, I have also been burned by many Hollywood attempts at capturing the magic of classic video games. Maybe the technology of the 90s was incapable of properly bringing video games to the big screen, but I remember even as a kid being disappointed in the feature film versions of “Mario Brothers” and “Street Fighter.” I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for my girlfriend, I would never have watched the Sonic movies, but I did just that. We streamed the first one so we could catch the second one at a theater, and I had a blast running with that little blue ball of energy. 

     When watching any kind of movie driven by special effects, it’s easy to see how far the industry has come since the days of silent films. In a way, watching films of today makes me appreciate directors such as Georges Melies even more. Full disclosure for a self-professed film buff: I was unfamiliar with Melies before completing a class assignment of watching “Hugo.” Melies was a true visionary who lived up to his calling as a magician, casting spells over audiences with the limited technology of his era. He possessed a legendary imagination coupled with the ingenuity necessary to bring his dreams to life. I would love to know how he and the other luminaries of his era would marvel at a spectacle such as Sonic the Hedgehog. 

     The invention of videos games has to be taken into account when looking at the history of cinema simply because they provided a new collection of stories to tell. Some video game franchises are more cinematic in nature with detailed backstories, intricate plots, and complicated characters. As video game graphics improve, they are approaching a real-life look that continues to make playing them feel more like watching a movie that the user is controlling. Franchises like “Max Payne” have seemed ripe for movie adaptations but have been critical and commercial failures. The most well-received and highest-grossing video game franchise would have to be the Resident Evil series, but it stands out as an exception to the rule.

     In the case of Sonic, players just made the blue hedgehog jump around and run fast while gathering as many rings as possible. As much fun as it was, we had no idea where Sonic came from or the ultimate point of his quest. The team behind the movie franchise had the opportunity to create the origin story of the supernaturally fast creature from another planet and share it with adults who played the original game as well as children who wanted to gobble up the eye candy. I happened to thoroughly enjoy both aspects of the movies. While the visual feast was the primary source of my entertainment, the story of being an “other” and finding your own way with the help of a family who chose each other filled my heart and soul with comfort. 

     From a socio-historical perspective, I couldn’t help but think of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” when I watched “Sonic.” As strange as that comparison might sound, both films feature an interracial couple. I was not alive when the iconic Black actor Sidney Poitier took the screen as the love interest of a White actress, Katharine Houghton, but I am aware of the stir it caused in 1967. Flash forward to 2020 when the first Sonic came out, and the couple at the center of the story is James Marsden, a White actor, and Tika Sumpter, a Black actress. 

     As one of half of an interracial couple myself, I was pleased to see a movie that featured an interracial couple but did not mention it. Not only did the movies not focus on whatever struggles the couple might encounter (especially in small-town Montana), there weren’t even any well-meaning jokes about their relationship in either movie. Taking the approach of colorblindness is problematic because we need to acknowledge and celebrate our differences. That being said, casting an interracial couple at the center of a mainstream kids movie and not making it a point of drama or comedy is a sign of progress to me. 

     I think back to watching “Stagecoach” for another class assignment and marveling at how captivated I was by a chase scene through the desert from a 1939 Cowboys and Indians Western. A couple of weeks after that I rewatched “The Terminator” and was similarly spellbound by a 1984 sci-fi action thriller whose chase scenes took place in the streets of Los Angeles. After that, I once again found myself arrested by a chase scene between CGI versions of a hedgehog, fox, and echidna in a 2022 kids movie. All of this is to say that no matter the era or genre and no matter how more or less advanced the technology, all movies have the potential to take us on unforgettable rides.

A cat video killed my chance at Internet fame

Last week on Conan O’Brien’s late night show he ran one of his semi-regular bits known as fan corrections, and it reminded me of a blog post I wrote a couple years ago. I started a blog under a pseudonym because I was concerned at the time about maintaining some shred of online professionalism as an aspiring educator and counselor. Somewhere along the way I said fuck it. No one’s reading this shit anyway, and if enough people start reading it that I become known for being some crazy blogger, then I’ve got what you call “one of them good problems.” So this week I’ll reach into vast vault of two posts from my previous blog. Enjoy!

Will you still love me?

The book was better.

That’s the cliche, right? But why is it true so often, even when the author adapts his or her own book into a screenplay? In most cases the answer is pretty straightforward: it takes hours upon hours to read a novel and that’s usually split up over several days or even weeks. During that time, we the readers can allow the narrative to marinate. By comparison, even a movie done well – or well done, if we’re going to continue the analogy – can taste like the details were slathered on and the story was tossed in the oven. I can only think of two examples to the contrary.

The most thoughtful “no” I’ve ever received

Some of the simplest statements we hear stick with us for years. I heard this from my case manager when I was in rehab back in the beginning of 2005, and I’ve since imparted this pearl of wisdom to countless others: No is a complete sentence. He shared that with us and I’ve continued the tradition to convey the importance of boundaries. When we don’t want to do something unhealthy (e.g. drink, use drugs, hang out in toxic situations with toxic people), we don’t need to offer an explanation. If we’re going to say anything at all, it can be that powerful one-word sentence: No.

Losing a TV series is like losing a friend

It’s strange for me to think there was a time when I didn’t religiously follow any TV series. Sure, I watched my after-school sitcoms and TGIF was a big deal back in the day, but I completely missed out on the beginning of what has come to be known as “The Golden Age of Television.” Beginning with the premier of “Oz” in 1997 and ending with the finale of “The Wire” in 2008, HBO had an 11-year run of four of the greatest dramas of all time overlapping on the same network (the other two being “Six Feet Under” and, of course, “The Sopranos”). My missing out probably had a lot to do with the fact that I only religiously followed how much dope I had left in my bag, how many pills I had left in my bottle, and how much beer money I had in my wallet. Keeping up with a TV show was too much of a commitment at that point in my life.

A lesson in ownership from my students

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.” One of those quotes is from Shakespeare, and two of them are from Dr. Seuss. I’ll let you guess who said what and which one has nothing to do with the rest of what I’m about to write. So, when it comes to letting go of your betta fish … never mind. Seriously, though, I did have to say goodbye to a very special group of young people recently.

I can only imagine that it’s a mother being a mother

For mothers of boys, it must seem like much of existence is devoted to making sure their male offspring don’t hurt themselves. Men need women in their lives for many reasons, but steering us away from our intrinsic, self-destructive stupidity masquerading as curiosity ranks near the top. “I wonder what’ll happen if I stick my whole forearm in that anthill.” Mom wasn’t there to stop me, but she was there to coax me out of hysteria and apply ointment to the bites.