Bear Stories

"Over the course of a couple days, I found that everybody from my parents’ generation on up had at least one bear story, and often more."

A Long December

Fun fact! My frosh year of college, which I am calling frosh year because I went to Wesleyan and that is what we called it, I went to a concert in New Haven. Possibly Hartford. More likely New Haven. We went to go see the Counting Crows. Cake was the opening act. In terms of Cake, this was before they had that hit on MTV, and in terms of the Counting Crows, let me just say that “Anna Begins” made me feel things deep in my heart. If you are younger than me, you probably call this sensation “getting the feels” or “feeling some sort of way.” At the time, I just called it the quickening. That particular song gave me the quickening. And so, in 1997, I was really excited to go see the Counting Crows. #SorryNotSorry but whatever.

And so. Cake was in the news recently. That was a bummer. And then I ran into my friend Trace who went to that very same Counting Crows concert with me. That was nice! And then I was thinking about the Counting Crows a whole lot for the first time in possibly over 15 years because, I mean, it’s been a long December. Right?

Its been a long December and theres reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.” – Counting Crows

Adam Duritz’s dad worked in the same medical practice as my other friend’s father and they went to the same high school. So we waited outside the stage door and my friend yelled out the name of the school and Adam Duritz ignored us. Then Sara Gilbert showed up (She was attending Yale at the time? I guess?) and she was on (or hosted?) SNL with the Counting Crows and so they had a nice reunion and eventually we gave up because, admittedly, we weren’t even about to recognize the other Counting Crows if they came outside, so, really, why bother.

But, holy smokes it’s been a long December. The longest December of all. Wake me up when December ends. If this year is truly to be considered never better, then I am worried about the future. I mean, I’m always worried about the future because we’re totally going to run out of oil and then water and then there will be terrible wars and someone will use a nuclear weapon and render the entire planet into a dystopian nightmare worse than anything in those YA books we like so much.

The end of the year approaches. For many, it is a time to take stock of the past twelve months and look forward to the future, constructing an emotional architecture to support the weight of the notion that whatever comes next will surely be better than the trash heap that came before it. This is a faulty notion. Next year, we will inevitably only remember how much less worse this year was, because nothing ever gets better, especially, but not exclusively, on the Internet.

So, Never Better. That is the theme for The Awl’s goodbye to 2014. The essays will start today and help finish out the year; not all of them are so grim (Never Better: it’s a versatile phrase!) but we are glad to publish them anyway, if only as future cautionary tales. The package will be collected here.#

When You're Tripping on Vyvanse and a Man in a Frog Suit Appears

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, PandoDaily East Coast Editor David Holmes tells us more about what it’s like to shoot a music video in Brooklyn in 2014.

Making magic

A photo posted by David Holmes (@holmesdm) on Dec 12, 2014 at 8:06pm PST

David! So what happened here?

So I was helping my girlfriend, the photographer Alison Brady, with a music video she’s directing for this nice Grizzly Bear-ish rock band called Redfoot. I want to make sure I don’t overstate my role or take undue credit, so when I say “helping,” I mean carrying light-stands, sweeping floors, making coffee, and staying out of the way. Available but invisible—which would a fitting title if I ever write a memoir. Or a relationship self-help book.

Monsters in the Museum

lead

Domenico Remps, Cabinet of Curiosities, 1690s

On February 13, 1718, Peter the Great, Tsar of all the Russias, issued an edict on monsters: All monsters, animal or human, were to be requisitioned for the new museum in his new city, St. Petersburg. Peter desired anything in the realm that was marvelous—extraordinary stones, human and animal skeletons, the bones of fish and birds, old inscriptions, ancient coins, hidden artifacts, old and remarkable weapons—but he wanted monsters most of all.

After a week or two of mental rest and emotional easing, of public withdrawal and private return, of outward quiet and inner recomposition, of forward blindness and rearward clarity, of not forgiving and forgetting but of remembering and reckoning, and of peace-making, I will hold myself to a single resolution: to be a gracious and subservient subject of the Great and Fearsome Sandra—Sandra the Hideous, Ripper of Faces—and to accept, with humility and respect, the new order into which I expect to return.#

December 22, 2014: A1 or Bust

iQ by Intel: Refocus

New York City , December 18, 2014

weather review sky 121814★★★ Individual buildings stood out golden in the first rays of dawn, arriving so late that the day had seemed overcast. Colors ripened, the sunrise no longer a secret reserved for early risers. Wind tossed the colorless dry leaves around in the forecourt. Blue construction mesh lit up along the edge of a new luxury tower in the distance. The sky was full of light that couldn’t reach into the streets yet. Then the sun found its way in, casting long midday shadows. A pennant of caution tape tied to a traffic cone fluttered in the same direction. Short as they are, though, the days remained perversely changeable; before the afternoon was done, the sun had vanished into a gray pre-dusk, which showed the lights in the windows to their advantage as it deepened on a crosstown walk: Here warm illumination on a wooden domestic stairway, there the cold yellow of office fixtures. The cold was deepening, too, and by Seventh Avenue the wind was something to be braced against. Eyes burned coming in out of it.

Boo Crime

sThe first season of Serial is over, and the reverberations from the world’s most infuriating podcast have only begun. It’s clear, however, that its outrageous success will yield at least two direct results over the next year: A few more advertising dollars plugged into potentially buzzy podcasts, and an explosion of the “true crime” genre across media. There are so many crimes, after all.

But the forthcoming flood of true crime stories—and the many other forms of crude Serial imitation we’re about to be inundated by!—from new and unlikely sources should be largely, if not exclusively, understood by the forces that produced them: a desire to capture some of Serial’s success, or at least its audience, paired with little intrinsic understanding of what actually made Serial a hit, or even genuine interest in true crime as a genre.

Bear Stories

why did the bear cross the road

One afternoon in late August, I sat at a picnic table with a few family members and listened to stories about bears. This was in Upper Michigan, and it was peak season for nature in a region where nature does not require a time of year—blueberries were ripening, toads cooled themselves in the middle of every gravel road. The stories weren’t unsolicited, but the volume of them was a surprise: Over the course of a couple days, I found that everybody from my parents’ generation on up had at least one bear story, and often more.

My uncle recalled a “big bear fight” that appeared in downtown Manistique some decades ago. “It looked like something out of Ringling Brothers Circus,” he said. A bear in a cage was wheeled in and, during the day, passersby could feed it. At night, “they challenged anybody that, if they could wrestle the bear to the ground, they’d give them two hundred bucks or something.” A man named Terry Smith stepped forward. My dad picked up the thread: “Terry Smith was like, what, six-four, big, blond Swedish guy. Toughest guy in town—really the nicest guy in town too—he couldn’t even touch that bear.” I asked if the bear had been declawed; they thought it might have been. “I don’t know if the bear knew all the wrestling rules,” my uncle said.

In 1985, Ian Frazier published a piece in the New Yorker called “Bear News,” in which he suggested that the survival of the grizzlies depended on their ability to enliven our imaginations:

If enough people could imagine a world without grizzlies, and with equanimity dismiss the bears from their thoughts forever, then the bears’ actual disappearance from the physical world would probably follow soon after. I like reading newspaper stories about bears because nowadays the newspaper is such a vital part of their range. There, and in magazines and on television, too, bears fatten on certain feelings people have for wilderness, and suffer for others. They seem to try so hard to remain living things in the midst of all the fantasies people have about them.”

In Upper Michigan, the news is more modest. Grizzlies are large and dangerous; native black bears, by contrast, wander amiably through local lore. Later that night, we ate down the road at the Big Spring Inn, where a bearskin rug hangs over the bar and where black bears once lived in cages out back. Patrons bought soda bottles from a vending machine and fed their contents to the animals—either the original soda or some kind of home-made syrup. Nobody could remember.