by Akim Reinhardt
I've been writing 3QD Monday columns for over six years now. Never missed a deadline. Not a one of ‘em. Every fourth Monday: Bang! 2,000 words. More like 2,500. I enjoy it. I look forward to it.
Each December, when the city of Baltimore mails every resident a Baltimore City Department of Public Works paper calendar, I open it up, flip through the months, and write 3QD in the box of every fourth Sunday, reminders to have my essay done in time for the Monday column to be posted. Right there, beneath color photos of workers standing in sinkholes and shoveling to get at busted water mains; of latex gloved volunteers picking up garbage; of jerryrigged snow plows rambling somewhat ineffectively through snowy streets; of schoolkids ogling a big truck at the city dump. That is where I make happy little notes so I don't forget: compose another essay for 3 Quarks Daily!
And lo and behold, today is that fourth Monday. Today I'm up to bat, along with a handful of other semi-esteemed writers, like Adam Ash (not his real name), Leanne Osagawara (not her real name anymore), and that guy who uses his real name while comparing cheesy Hollywood films to real world events (love it!). And all the others who've come and gone. There used to be some woman in Canada who was a nurse, maybe? Or a dentist or something? I don't know. She wrote good stuff. But she and a lot of others have burnt out or moved on. Yet here I remain. And it's my turn again.
But I'm not doing it. I'm not writing my essay this week. I'm taking early January, 2017 off. Why, you ask? How did it come to this? Well, there's a whole bunch of reasons, really.
I'm a Lazy Bastard: My whole life I've loved nothing better than doing nothing. Sometimes I come clean and admit my lethargy, but people often refuse to believe me. "You have a Ph.D. You've published three books. You helped negotiate the Peace of Westphalia. You can't possibly be lazy." I protest. I insist that I am. I remind them that professors are notoriously lazy, barely rousing themselves to sleep with their students. But the skeptics just pshaw and insist I'm energetic.
Yeah? Well not energetic enough to write this essay.
There's a Stray Cat on the Back Porch: I think he might be part Maine Coon. He's got pointy ears that sprout tufts of hair. He's not fully grown but looks to be getting quite large. And he doesn't seem to mind the cold. Hell, I think he enjoys it. Couple of weeks ago it got down to 14F at night. For you fancy people with your hip, scientific measurements, that's some big negative number in Celcius. Anyway, he just stayed out there and slept in the papa san chair on the next door neighbor's dilapidated back porch. Next morning he was like, "What's up dude? You sleep well? Yeah, me too. I mean the post office truck down the block is pretty noisy, but other than that, good times."
It's been a couple of weeks now, maybe a little more. We gotta figure out if we're keeping him. I posted a couple of Lost Cat announcements on Craig's List. The only response I got was from some woman warning me about a convicted animal mutilator up in Delaware. I've asked all my friends. No takers. But if we bring him into our home, what about our nearly 17 year old cat? He can be a real prick and will never actually become friends with Coon kit. But during their interactions on the back porch thus far, the old fella's been surprisingly amenable. Meaning, he just ignores the newcomer and hisses at proposed play dates.
The new guy has shown no inclination to leave, and in an effort to make sure he had sufficient calories to survive the cold, I gave him all our tuna fish and kippers. Then I bought some actual cat food. Not a good sign. He might be ours now. But it's not official until you name him. Haven't named him yet. Toyed with some ideas. Hieronymus Bop. The Incredible Mr. Jingle Pants. Ulysses S. Cat. None of them have stuck yet.
Anyway, the point is, I can't be bothered with my 3QD essay. I have to figure out what we're doing with this goddamned cat.
Timmy McTinkles? Hair Pie? Blammo the Wonder Cat?
I'm Turning 50 this Year: It's not until much later in the year, but I'm already using as an excuse to not do things. You don't wanna fall behind on this stuff.
I Have Nothing to Say about Princess Leia: I wish I did, but nothing's coming to me. And it's pretty obvious that you can't be culturally relevant right now unless you have something to say about Carrie Fisher and/or her mother Debbie Reynolds and/or their closely edited death scenes and/or how Elizabeth Taylor stole Debbie's husband/Carrie's dad Eddie Fisher from them. And who the hell was Eddie Fisher anyway? My mother always acted like Fisher was a real celebrity, and she casually spoke about him in a way that assumed I should know who he was, but I never knew who he was. I couldn't even remember if he was Carrie Fisher's dad or Jamie Lee Curtis's dad, who was Tony Curtis.
I know, I know, the last name's should kind of be a dead giveaway on that one, but they're both just Jewish guys from the Bronx who married a series of hot Hollywood shikshas and sired daughters who went on to be famous actors themselves. Honestly it all sort of runs together for me, especially since I can't really tell Debbie Reynolds from Janet Leigh. Leigh sounds like Leia. But she's actually Jamie Lee Curtis' mom, via Tony Curtis. So maybe confusion's at the root of it, but either way, I don't have anything to say about any of this, and as the old adage goes, If you don't have something topical to say, don't say anything at all.
I'm Going to Florida: Actually, I'm already there. Flew down on Saturday. True. Sat in a tikki bar in Sarasota this weekend and watched football games. Gonna drive to the Keys on Wednesday. Might even buy some flip flops. I fuckin' hate flip flops. But I'm trying to do this right. It's all part of my annual commitment to get warm for a week every January. You see, the thing is, I'm soft. I'm weak. I hate being cold. And this means a lot to me. It means more than writing this goddamn essay, that's for sure. And anyway, I had to figure out what to do with the cat that's not my cat yet while I was gone. If it had a name, I'd probably woulda just taken him with me. Set him up on the bar. Buy him a fish taco and a daiquiri, maybe a straw hat. But we're not at that point in our relationship yet, so he stayed behind and slept in the papa san. Or maybe he slept in the impromptu Cat House we made for him. No, not that kind of Cat House. You're filthy. I can't write for people like you. Minds in the gutter.
I'm Drunk: Fuckin' A right I am.
The fuck you lookin' at?
THANKS, Obama!: As a historian, I have no assessment of Barack Obama's presidency. My lot usually waits a generation before making professional, academic analyses of people and events. We're all about the 20/20 hindsight, ya know. But as a regular ole person in this here United States country, I think Obama was pretty middle-of-the-road mediocre. He did some things really well, like work hard to compromise, maintain the dignity of the office, rise above the ever worsening partisanship, voice good values, put the nation's interests in front of his own, and keep us out of anymore stupid fucking wars. He also did some things really badly, like failing to realize that working hard to compromise and maintaining the dignity of the office weren't enough to overcome ever worsening partisanship, or that voicing good values and putting the nation's interests first weren't enough to coax many of his political opponents into putting the nation's interests in front of their own, or that threatening military action (Assad's use of chemical weapons is "a red line" that would have "enormous consequences") and then not following up might actually make things worse when someone calls your bluff.
But most of all, I think Obama was a plain old middling president. His signature achievements are middling. ObamaCare wasn't horrible like Republicans said. For starters, guess what? There aren't any fucking death panels! Federal star chambers aren't issuing death warrants for Gradma. Go figure. And some insurance company abuses were reined in. But at the same time, pushing all of the uninsured working people into the shitty private insurance system didn't actually make things a lot better. It just expanded the broken system instead of fixing it. Don't believe me? Go talk to someone who's actually gotten health insurance through ObamaCare. It's still private insurance, the prices for individuals didn't come down as much as promised/hoped, and the only thing most people on it can afford is something that amounts to catastrophic care: big co-payments and enormous deductibles mean you're still paying out of pocket for almost anything short of a genuine calamity like cancer or a major injury. And that's on top of thousands for premiums. Don't forget, ObamaCare is basically the early 21st century Republican Party's market-oriented plan for helatcare reform, not some grand Liberal experiment, much less socialism.
Oh, and the economy. Obama inherited a very broken economy. And he kinda, sorta fixed it, but too slowly and not as much as he could have. Is it better than when he found it eight years ago? You bet yer ass it is. Even a guffawing little Republican, sitting in a coat closet on the day after Christmas and quietly masturbating while reading Ayn Rand, can't deny that. But did he fix it enough? Obviously not. Or we wouldn't have an orange hot air balloon as our next president. Could he have done more? Not after the 2010 midterm elections. Once the Republicans got the House, it signaled the bitter end of Obama ever having an effective domestic agenda, even if Obama himself seems to have been the last one to recognize that. But he could've done more during those first two years when Democrats had Congress. Instead, he focused on passing mediocre healthcare reform. Which is now going to be dismantled anyway, in part because people are angry that the economy's not as good as they want it to be, so some of them voted for a balloon.
In the end, what did we get out of all this other than Obama's admirable examples of dignity and comportment? Don't say LGBT marriage. We were getting that anyway.
The truth is, I'm not really sure. Feel free to chime in.
Maybe it's because everything feels fuzzy and even numb at the moment, but if I had to guess, when the time comes I suspect they'll rank the 44th president 22nd. However, at least until he's out of office in a few weeks, Republicans continue to pretend Obama's the anti-Christ, blaming him for everything from Benghazi to getting caught masturbating in the coat closet the day after Easter while eating Cheetos and reading Milton Friedman. And I don't want to miss this opportunity.
I'm not writing this essay. And it's Barry Hussein Obama's fault. And Hillary Clinton's. It's probably her fault too.
TrumpMania!: The nation is eating itself, like a farmer's pig breaking free of its pen, running down to the swamp, turning feral, and gnawing on its own ham hock. Nothing matters.
Akim Reinhardt's website is ThePublicProfessor.com, where you can read more things he hasn't written.