Neighborhood Shakespeare


Tickets go on sale tomorrow for the Folger’s fall King Lear, with England’s Globe — the Globe — doing the show, sure to be something.  I have no idea whether I’ll be able to get tickets or even if tickets will be affordable, but I just want to express my appreciation for the Folger. We’ve seen Richard III (pre-show pic above) and Two Gentlemen of Verona there this year, both without breaking the bank,  and the two still pop to mind regularly.

With Richard III, how often do you see a theater rip apart almost its entire room and rebuild it for one production? In the round with bodies tumbling through panels in the floor and actors leaning on your railing, spit flying, spoils you. With Two Gentlemen, we see a young Shakespeare still working out his lines, plots and jokes. But — he’s still Shakespeare. The right cast finds the funny, smoothes the plot and chooses the right lines to land .

How are these prizes just down the street? I’m happy to be a neighbor.

Booking travel for this year’s ONA, thinking about the last

Amid the Atlanta sprawl, that the Online News Association conference confined itself to three blocks was a miracle. The sessions, hotels and parties all sat in minimal radius. Ten years after I’d left, downtown was still mostly a cavern, spelunked blocks with the sporadic homeless and whatever disturbance you and fellow divers had brought. The homeless were still mannered and narrative. The city was still lonely, with echoing at streets’ loose ends and headlamps necessary between skyscrapers.

But the conference wasn’t lonely, and the dichotomy was exhausting but warm. Too many people around you? Escape to the street. Tilting too far toward empty? Inside with you now, into the next conversation, the next potential relation. Whatever tested your tippy social brain, the location offered a controlled burn or flood for treatment. I realized I’d never given Atlanta enough credit for its alternating current: now push, now think.

The best week at the beach is the week before the hurricane


At the time, you see, you have no idea the hurricane is coming. Yes, maybe the beach a bit more breezy than usual, and temps are more than decent.

But as good as you may feel, you don’t know how good you have it. Looking back, skies are more blue, fish more tasty, sun just right. Above is the view from the porch at the beach, just on the other side of a small dune from the Atlantic. I can’t remember if rain was falling at the time. But considering, again, this week was the week before the hurricane, I have to assume not.

A few Nags Head moments where I thought to pull out my camera…

First time back at Dune Burger in maybe 20 years. 

First time back at Fat Boyz since… last year.

Trying to take a picture with our ice cream and the sign.

Trying and failing in a windy rain with rapidly melting ice cream.

The polar vortex that’s made D.C. so green had struck OBX too.

I turned 34 and finally remembered to wear my birthday shirt.

Cousin Drake.

Ice-cream party.

Everybody laugh!

This is only about half of us.

Got lots of good porch sittin’ in.

Waking up early to see the sun rise. Little cloudy, still worth it.

Half an hour or so after sunrise, finally above the clouds.

The appropriate name of the house.

Love a rocker who reads

Amazon Music’s “Amazon Music Book Club” series talks to Brian Fallon about the new Gaslight Anthem record. The book club is a great idea.

I picked up Ezra Pound’s Collected Works and I picked up T.S. Eliot’s Selected Poems as well as Rimbaud. I was reading these three things at the same time and I can’t remember specific lines I read, but I remember what it was doing by putting it together. I was looking at it as pieces of a puzzle. I was very analytical about it. I remember reading the line “I became a fabulous opera” in Rimbaud. That’s different. And you understand that and you can picture it in your mind. But why does it resonate? Instead of thinking that I needed to take that line and put it in a song, I would think about why it resonated. It leads you through so many doors. And then you find out Arthur Rimbaud was 14 when he wrote that and you feel like a failure. T.S. Eliot was probably six and writing with a crayon.

Friday night? Bring the innings


Went to a Nats game in June that began so hot and went so long, and in the end, we lost. But had a great time. It was a Friday night in summer.

Early on…

A little later…

A little later (fourth inning, Presidents Race! Teddy loses!)…

We enter extra innings on a Nats homer! But things get slow…


They run a second Presidents Race in the 13th inning.

I start to lose my mind at this point. On the outside, I’m like this!

On the inside, I’m like this!

But Teddy wins! The Nats lose 6-4 in 13, but Teddy wins.

Frost was here


Spray-painted verse appeared the other week on a sidewalk near work. I took a pic and planned to look it up later. I remembered the photo today and the source came up quickly: the end of Robert Frost’s “Reluctance.”

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Wonderful — and what a mystery. Cool Disco Bob! How often does Frost get graffiti? Who’s the writer? A graffitist with a MFA and a broken heart?

Who’s the intended recipient? An NPR staffer? A resident of the next-door apartments? They make up most of the people walking that way down the block. Are there other verses in the neighborhood? I hate to see graffiti in a beautifully rebuilt block. But I also wonder if any others find this mystery intriguing and a little warming. Does good graffiti makes good neighbors?

Not a showrunner, but a little


Product-managing a site or collection of digital products is not running a television show. The showrunner is responsible for both structure and content. And many millions of dollars. So, the similarities are not many.

But last weekend I couldn’t put down a book called Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution from The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad. GQ‘s Brett Martin has made great study of the writer-driven shows and the writer showrunners that led a new golden age of TV.

Martin chases a number of aspects in smart ways. One, he sees the gender issues. He’s writing mostly about men, but his takes square nicely with Emilly Nussbaum’s excellent writing on when the psyches in these shows and their ilk work or don’t. Two, he doesn’t group too tightly. He contrasts as much as he compares and works to explain the reasons for differences. Three, he leaps into how writers made this age different from earlier ones. He recognizes how such the mindset is well or poorly fit for the business.

Martin does this last exploration so well that, while we product managers surely aren’t network showrunners, I can see what makes me like running the show for a product and pushes me toward success. I can also see what makes me hate running the show for a product and runs me toward failure.

… A similar working-class ethic — part affectation, part genuine… combined with a fatalistic sense of any show’s provisional life span, prevailed in showrunners’ offices. Some of the most powerful men in television worked in digs that would draw a labor grievance from assistant editors at lesser Conde Nast magazines.

And being writers, they were not necessarily men to whom you would have automatically thought it prudent to hand near total control of a multi-million-dollar corporate operation. Indeed, this story is in many respects one of writers asked in act in very unwriterly ways: to become collaborators, managers, businessmen, celebrities in their own right, all in exchange for the opportunity to take advantage of a unique historical moment.

If that occasionally led to behavior that was imperious, idiosyncratic, domineering, or just plain strange, it could perhaps be understood. “The thing you’ve got to remember is there’s a lot of pressure to deal with when you’re running one of these shows,” said Henry Bromell, a longtime TV writer and sometime showrunner himself. “You’d probably be better off with a Harvard jock CEO-type guy. But that’s not what you got. You got writers. So they react to pressure the way most people do; they internalize it or they subvert it. They lash out.”

Or as another television veteran put it, “This isn’t like publishing some lunatic’s novel or letting him direct a movie. This is handing a lunatic a division of General Motors.”

Still thinking about the water


(Lori’s photo. I’m in the water out there.)

I’ve been back for the beach for two weeks, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the water. The ocean was great when we were there, calm a few days, good for watching the sky, and white-capped on others, good for jumping over or under a steady rush of waves. The water was even warm most of the time.  But I keep thinking about where the water is going to be.

While we were down there, the Post ran a long piece, “On N.C.’s Outer Banks, scary climate-change predictions prompt a change of forecast.” In short, the 100-year outlook showed rising seas swallowing up our part of the island: the house we rent each year, the burger and ice cream places Lori and I went for my birthday lunch, the old shell shop on the causeway we went exploring, and just about everywhere else my family’s gone there for the past decades. Meanwhile, the article explained, North Carolina politicians were lobbying to ignore the 100-year data and base property outlooks on a shorter, far less impactful amount of time: 30 years.

The week after we returned from the beach, my aunt and uncle had their 50th wedding anniversary. For the party, the cousins had put together a slideshow of all the years, and Nags Head figured prominently. We saw my oldest cousin, now with kids in college, as a toddler, walking on the beach. Then we saw the succession of cousins, the siblings of the oldest, and then later me and my brother. My immediate family had been going to Nags Head probably 25 years or more. The cousins must have been going on 45.

A 30-year outlook? Blink of an eye.

While we were at the beach, I drove Lori down to where we used to stay on the island, back in the day, near the southern tip before Oregon Inlet. The neighborhood was called Goosewing, where we had stayed and where the cousins had taken pictures, and Goosewing had changed. The loop that ran to the beachfront houses didn’t loop anymore. Sand had overtaken most of it, with storms driving the low dunes from underneath the front houses. These houses were all vacant. All lacked stairs up from their old driveways to their old front doors. County had condemned all of them, and several were no longer there. We had seen the first ones go a decade or more ago.


When a maintenance man came to fix a broken sliding door on our house this year, he told us more of the story. Before he fell into a mini-rant about the immigrants who’d taken over his former home of Southern California, he said the authorities had condemned Goosewing’s beachfront houses when the storms had blown the sand and exposed their septic tanks — instant legal trouble, apparently. But complications had arisen since. The city’s replenishment of the beach several years ago had given all these houses new protection. Their owners were now fighting to get back in.

While that battle rages on, while the extended family waits another year to return to Nags Head, the family’s favorite time of year, I keep thinking about the 30-year outlook and what’s supposed to happen after that.

The 100-year outlook says the water will not abide. The 100-year outlook says the water will swallow whole your homes, memories and futures.


Chasing randomness and form