Author Archives: rossgardinersblog

Customer Service

* For a brief explanation about this project, please click here.

Good to see you again sir.

Again? Have we…have we met before?

No sir, I just remember you from your photograph.

Oh. The uh-right, you’ve seen my picture because of the, okay. I get it.

Yes. And how can I help you?

I’m here to collect those photographs actually. Jennifer Cross.

 

And you are?

Her boyfriend.

John. Correct?

No.

Oh… Steven?

Darren.

 

Darren! Almost got it. How was your vacation Darren?

Uhh…fine…

Hawaii?

Yes. How did you-

I love Hawaii.

Okay, this is a little strange. You shouldn’t, uh, you shouldn’t really be looking at our photographs.

 

But how can I determine if they’ve been suitably processed?

No, I get that, but you shouldn’t be looking at them.

How can I avoid looking at them sir?

You just can. I don’t know. Just don’t look at them. Don’t interpret the photographs.

Sir, I see a photograph and instinctually contextualize it. Like words. I cannot not read a word.

No. No. This isn’t cool. I’m not okay with you investigating my life.

 

A photograph is a memory. A citation. A bookmark placed on a point of significance during one’s life.

A photograph is a personal memory man. It belongs to me. Not you.

Well, that’s where our opinions differ sir. You handed this memory to me. And I made it so.

What? What are you talking about?

My machine and I brought your memory into the physical world Darren. And in doing so it became my memory too. Such are the consequences. These are our photographs. Our memories.

I want to speak to your manager. This is just completely inappropriate.

 

How is Jennifer?

Don’t ask about her. Don’t even mention her. You don’t know her.

I’m afraid I do. She likes olive oil on her bread and she’s learning the Ukulele. Correct? Of course I am.

Give me my photographs you fucking creep!

They’re my photographs too. Haven’t you been listening?

I’m calling the police, man. This is fucked.

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The Whiskey Wagon and the Wild Women

 

The young cadet that skipped town.

The young cadet that skipped town.

* For a brief explanation of this project please click here.

That hazy blurred photograph was all I had to go on. I’d come all the way up, deep into the Valley, onto that vague carpet of suburbia some hack town planner blindly kicked off into the distance, just to get this photograph. I hate it up here. Awful little fauxdobe terracotta topped building blocks as far as the eye can bear to see all lined up waiting for the Big One to come and spare them the shame of their own crass form. Inside these cubes lies a community that all suddenly decided to tune in, get fat, find God, and sit in front of the tube allowing their bodies to congeal and wilt, and their brains to pickle and stew. They want to prune their little lawns and protect them with obnoxious sprinklers that spray onto the sidewalk preventing you from passing. Like they’ve hired some huge drunken dick to piss through a sieve. Going into the San Fernando Valley was like wading up to your knees in the Mid West.

The photograph in question was an amateur portrait of some soldier. Some handsome young military buck who probably knocked up some young thing and left Pasadena under the mask of the evening, leaving his poor old lady behind to fend for herself. Part of me doesn’t blame him. I couldn’t allow myself to recede like a dying house cat into this tragic gorge, and the tone of voice on the message his old lady left me was pretty God damn irritating. Nasal. I can’t stand a nasal woman, particularly when she’s getting on my wick about something. But the other part of me says that you don’t sneak out like some piece of shit coward. You go out like a man, and take whatever scorn she throws at you on your chin.

She’d left a message around 2am last night. I was snuggly incubated by a near quart of some cheap blushed rye that had left a thick film on my tongue and rasp in my throat. I was out. I might’ve appeared dead from ten feet had it not been for the pungent scent of a good, hard second-hand drunk that filled the air. I woke up at 10:15. My mouth tasted like brined old leather and my head felt like it’d been tumble dried with an ashtray full of loose change. After months of little tastes here and there, the odd stumble and slur, there was now a solid case to convict me of falling haplessly from the wagon.

I saw the answer machine blinking its red light at me through a gap in my fingers. I rolled over and slapped the buttons hoping I didn’t hit delete again. Her nasal voice started up like a tiny little leaf blower. I’ll spare you the peas and carrots and get to the meat and potatoes. Her husband was gone and she needed someone to find him. She looked in the phonebook and that ad I told those pig fuckers to remove caught her eye. She called me crying, scared, and explained what she needed me to do.

So here we are. Driving back from her ghastly place with nothing to go on but this blurred image she left for me in an envelope under the plant pot on her porch. No sign of nothing else. I decided to stop in at the liquor store and buy another quart of that rye. I thought it best to go home at once, wonder at the blurred image of this young cadet while I throw out a towel, kick back and marinade in the petri at the base of this here bottle of sweet, sweet rye.

Ahhh, to be back.

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A Money Hole, Stupid

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* For a brief explanation of this weird project please click here.

What do you think it is?

Uhhh….a money hole.

A money hole? That’s stupid.

You’re stupid, stupid.

I’m not stupid, stupid. You’re a stupid stupid face.

……..No I’m not.

 

Let’s get a stick.

Where?

From a tree dummy.

Stop being mean to me!

Okay, I’m sorry. Go get a stick.

What’s the magic word?

 

Thank you.

If you find any money then it’s mine since I was the one who said it was a money hole.

That’s not how it works.

How does it works then?

I keep the money because I found it. You get the stick.

If you find money and don’t give it to me I’m telling.

 

I think I feel something!

Lemme see!

No!

Hey! I’m telling! Let me see!

You’re too little, stupid face.

Shut up! I wish you were dead.

 

Hey, come back. I’m sorry. Tyler I’m sorry.

No you’re not. You’re a big fat stupid meanie.

If you stop crying and don’t say anything to mom, I’ll give you half.

Half of what?

Half of all the money we find.

Promise?

 

Okay, I think I hooked something! It’s probably a tweny or fifty!!

Quickly quickly pull it out!!

Oh….

What is that?

I don’t know, it’s…it smells like…ewwwwww!

That’s it! I’m telling! Mom!!!

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A Bit of the Ol’ Feng Shoo-ee, like

The fuckin' hoose.

The fuckin’ hoose.

* Warning, written entirely in Scots.  For a brief explanation of this project please click here.

Me and big Debs pure hud it out the other day. Jesus man. Like throwin’ fuckin fire baws at wan another. I hud tae get hur telt tae calm doon else some cunt wid ring the polis, then that’d be me, parole gubbed and an away fir the wee man’s Christmas again. Anyway, the dippit wee coo was tryin’ tae tell me that the hoose needed fixin’, and than everyhin was aw in the wrang order an that. I takes this as a personal dig like, given that this cunt wis the cunt that hoisted aw the fuckin’ furniture in.

‘We need a change’ she says, ‘Ah’ve been thinkin’ that we’ve goat fuck all ay that Feng shoo-ee like,’ she says.

Well, Christ in a fuckin’ Cosworth. Feng Shoo-ee she says!? We live in fuckin’ Kirky, nae Bay-jing like.

I says, ‘You’re fuckin’ wrang love, take a wee peep in the bin, I had Feng Shoo-ee fried rice a couple a nights ago! Fuckin’ magic by the way!’

She goes, ‘Ho you! That’s fuckin’ racist, and goes well against ma new frame ah mind by the way. I’m a changed woman.’

Fuckin’ changed woman she says?! She thinks I think she doesnae take a pish in the shower. I know hur inside fuckin’ oot. And she’s packed full a shite.

‘Whit fuckin’ programs have you bin watchin’? Givin’ it aww that fuckin’ feng shoo-ee shite.’

‘Actually ah went tae see a spiritualist yesterday, and he telt that ma chi was aw gammy an aff tae fuck, an that it was probably on account ay the sofa bein’ in the rang place or sumthin.’

Ah wis fuckin’ speechless. Ah just, ah didnae know wit tae say. Here’s me just tryin’ tae watch a bit a Jeremy Kyle and she’s tellin’ me I need swap the TV wi the fridge and drag the fuckin’ bed oot ontae the landin’. No chance.

‘So who was this fuckin’ spiritualist then?’

‘You don’t know him.’

‘How don’t ah know him?’

‘Coz he’s a pal ah Leslie-Ann’s.’

‘Leslie-Ann aye? You ridin’ him?’

‘Ah um tae fuck ya cheeky basturt!’

‘Awright awright! Sorry love, just, I wis just fuckin’ askin’! Awright? So, where am I stickin’ the fuckin’ couch then?’

She looked aroon the room and I knew she hadnae a fuckin’ clue whit she was bangin’ oan about. You kin fuck off wi your fuckin’ chinky feng shoo-ee shite. This is fuckin’ Scotland. In this country the couch faces the telly, and everyhin’ else just gets fuckin’ dumped somewhere aroon it.

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The Tree

The Tree

Myself, and The Tree and the deeds to The Tree.

* For an explanation as to what this project is all about please click here.

I bought The Tree in May of 1959. A Wednesday it was. I recall there being an oppressive, sweltering heat pressing down from above, but it was soothed, consoled, by a delicate ocean breeze that smelled so faintly of a final moment in bloom. It was the perfect weather to cut the ceremonial red tape of a successful agriculture transaction.

The Tree in question was my first, and indeed my last, business venture. I’d been on the market for one like it for several months. I’d been a perfect horticultural pervert about the whole affair. I’d peer through hedges, scale fences under moonlight, consult district planning records and frequent the ghostly corridors of the grand Central library, searching earnestly for the barky creature I so desired.

I came within a half whisker of finding what I needed on several occasions. I would locate a handsome tree, thoroughly scrutinize its potential under the cloak of night, and deem it a good tree. But the problem came when I would attempt to badger the owner into parting with the frivolously bushy accessory to their land.

‘I’m not going to do anything seedy with it,’ I would say, ‘If you’d be so gracious as to allow me that pun.’

That was my line. It would never fail to arouse at least a residual snigger, or a short, nodding nose breath. However they would then stare at me with arms tightly locked and a hard-boiled look of suspicion etched all over their faces. And then they would inevitably ask:

‘Why?’

Of course I couldn’t possibly divulge. They wouldn’t sell me their tree if they knew its darkest secrets. No, no. I would explain that I simply really liked trees, but that I lived in a condo. I would then lie and say that I’d tried discharging my sapling lust with a bonsai tree, but that it was far too small to climb. I never did think of a bonsai tree pun.

The lady that eventually sold me The Tree was an old crow who was more than a tad senile. And in truth, I wondered if I might be guilty of committing a lewd act of shady commerce on her. She explained that she was very fond of The Tree indeed, but that it had cats in it. She said that I was more than welcome to buy the tree for $30 if I took the cats away. We spat the viscous bond of American agreement onto our palms and duly sealed the deal.

Two blissful weeks after this transaction the old lady died of time, and The Tree, allegedly part of the property on which it sat, was taken from me and given to the unsuspecting mailman referenced in her will. I tried to make a terrible stink, but was swiftly informed that a verbal agreement and a spit-moistened handshake between two parties is not recognized as contractually binding in the state of California, and particularly not when one or both of the parties are certified as mentally handicapped. And just like that, my days as a rag and bone and tree man were brought to an abrupt yet poignant conclusion.

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Research – Warm-up

 

Research

 

* For an explanation of this project click here

‘Huh, I feel like I’m being interviewed on television,’ he said, sinking back in the chair. He allowed his shoulders to kneed around the back of the chair for a comfortable space. ‘So what exactly are you going to ask me Julie?’

I smiled at him. He glanced at the notebook in my hands, and then shuffled his shoulders around again against the back of the chair. He crossed his legs, and then uncrossed them again. I glanced at the question written at the top of the otherwise blank page. I dragged a finger down the page, over the lines. I watched his fingers drumming nervously on the padded arms of the chair.

I leant over to the tape deck beside the fireplace and pressed the red record button. I relaxed back in my chair.

‘This is Julie Roth, interviewing Douglas….’

‘O’Hara’ said Doug.

‘Douglas O’Hara. Okay Doug, we’ll start with your earliest childhood memory. Can you tell me about that?’ I said.

Doug looked up to the light and narrowed his eyes to slits. I’d started to notice that people looked to light bulbs for answers deep in their past. Perhaps there was something about the bright light that could expose these dormant memories from the dark corners in which they sat. Doug seemed to squish his face up, even clasp his jaw little, and I could tell that the exertion the recollection of this memory was taking was pushing Doug somewhere he hadn’t been for a while.

‘I was about three, or four maybe-‘

‘Which was it Doug? Three or four?’

‘Eh, three.’

‘You’re sure?’ I said.

‘Yes.’

‘Okay, so what happened Doug? Don’t worry, you’re doing great.’

I gave him a quick smile to reassure him. He was still rolling his shoulders around, doing things with his legs, desperate to find the seated equivalent of crossing his arms.

‘I remember being outside, sitting the empty driveway, in fall.’

‘Whose driveway?’

‘Our driveway.’

‘How did you know it was fall?’

‘There were leaves everywhere. Brown, orange, fall leaves.’

He leant forward and took a drink of water. I could see him shaking a little. He sat back in his chair and looked again to the light.

‘And who was there with you Doug?’

Doug kept looking to the light. He squinted at it again before pinching his nose and ruffling his brow.

‘I don’t recall.’

‘Doug, who was there with you?’

‘I don’t recall.’

‘Try harder.’

‘I, I…don’t….I can’t remember who was there, I can’t. But, but there was, someone.’

I looked down to my notebook and quickly scribbled my thoughts. I kept my exterior completely stoic, but inside I beamed.

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Daily Warm-Ups – A Mouthful of Banana

This is the first in a lengthy series of creative writing pieces based on photographs of dead people. I have been known to frequent estate sales and purchase neglected photographs of the recently department. They’re very good mental stimulants for my writing, and I love the idea of a memory that was saved from the abyss, and interpreted without prejudice or any sense of context beyond its own borders.

I know that it’s weird, but to me there is something endearing about giving fresh life to an expired thought.

Bill and Carson

‘Bill,’ said Carson as he peeked his head around the door, ‘is now a good time to chat?’

Bill looked up from the piece of paper on his desk and turned to Carson, who was now standing in the open doorway. He’d been staring at the same sentence for the last two minutes, and the same piece of paper for the last ten. His eyes gave a clumsy flutter, as if his eyelashes were sweeping the text away. He nodded to the old man in the doorway, and smiled.

Carson walked through the office, taking in all of the jumbled piles of paper and scattered half-thoughts that decorated the surfaces. Bill carefully slipped the piece of paper into his drawer and snapped it shut. Carson gestured to the empty seat across from Bill’s seat. Bill smiled and shook his head.

‘Uh, okay. Bill, this uhm,’ started Carson, shuffling awkwardly from side to side as he looked at the piece of paper in his hand, ‘this uh, request, you made for changes in office policy. You obviously understand that this is grossly unacceptable right? I mean, you understand that right?’

Bill smiled and leant back in his chair. Carson looked to the door. He fumbled again with the paper. He moved towards the desk.

‘Listen, is everything okay at home Bill? I mean, I don’t mean to pry, but you can tell me. I’ve known you for, God, going on eleven years. This,’ he said, holding up the piece of paper in his hand, ‘this isn’t you Bill. You’re a good man. Is Marcy okay? And what about little Lewis? Is everything okay at home?’

Bill held his stare as he leant back further into his chair. He slowly put his hands behind his head, and raised his bare feet up and rested them on his desk between a pile of documents and coffee cup filled with rum. Carson let out an awkward cough. He ruffled the paper and looked back towards the door. Harold, the aging security guard peeked his head around. Below the desk Carson held out his hand to halt Harold from coming any further.

‘Bill,’ he said as he took a deep breath and puffed out his chest, ‘you’re my friend and all, we go back, but we’re gonna have to suspend you with immediate effect. Like, immediate effect. Do you understand?’

Bill’s smile came apart and his teeth appeared, glinting between his lips. He leant forward in his chair and opened his desk drawer. Next to the piece of paper was a banana left over from his lunch. He grabbed the banana, closed the drawer and reclined back again. He peeled it and took two large bites, devouring the entire fruit, leaving only the little heel and the flaccid yellow skin. He tossed the peel onto the desk between them.

‘Go fuck yourself Carson’ said Bill, with a mouthful of banana.

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Journey to the West Country

I’m taking this opportunity to post some links to something I have been waiting to share with everyone on here for a while.

http://www.journeytothewestcountry.com/

One of my best friends Paul Lombard is cycling from Seoul, South Korea to Gloucestershire, UK. That’s 15,000 kilometers (9300 miles).

I am so unbelievably proud of him. I take pride in telling my friends here in America about it because it makes me seem better by proxy.

Aside from being a hulking workhorse, Paul is also a very talented writer and an extremely funny man, and his musings on the difficulties of spending so much time alone in an unknown land are simultaneously hilarious, heartfelt and often fairly bleak. I for one take a sick little pleasure in the frequent moments of reflection in which he stops for a second and almost buckles under the enormity of the task he’s given himself. But that’s only because I know well that he’s going to complete this task and come out of it changed for the better.

Paul is doing all of this to raise money and awareness for MAG (Mines Advisory Group) which aims to help to clear active landmines and eradicate the effects of them in Sudan. An extremely nobel cause, and one which Paul has a close affinity to.

Here are a few more photographs from his inspiring instagram feeds. You can follow him here at: http://instagram.com/journeytothewestcountry# – Please do so. His photographs of his food are actually interesting.

Paul and Nick, a mutual friend that joined him for an intense month in the Gobi Desert.

Paul and Nick, a mutual friend that joined him for an intense month in the Gobi Desert.

Godspeed mate. Stay safe.

x

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Sixes – Korea Peoples Asia Pussy

Based on true story that happened to two friends of mine last weekend.

Hello?

Hello my friend!

Hello? Can uh, can I help you?

Yes.

What uh, what can I do for you?

You know the Asians?

 

I think you’ve got the wrong house, man.

It’s in this this buildings no? The Asians? Here.

There might be people from Asia in here, but I don’t know everyone here.

No the Asians? Korea peoples?

Perhaps.

Hats?

 

Try the intercom thing. You see, that thing there?

No no friend, this thing is no good. I need the pussy.

What?

The pussy. Asian pussy.

Uhhh…

Korea peoples Asia pussy.

 

Okay, I think maybe you’d better –

Hookers. I want it.

I really don’t think there are any of those here.

I need it. The hookers. Big hookers.

Have you – What’s that on your wrist?

Hands?

 

Which hospital did you come from?

I don’t know. Friend, where the pussy?

No, no the hospital. Which hospital?

It’s a big one. My friend, the Korea hookers I wanna see.

Uhh. This is too much man.

No, no, no too much. I have the money. See see?

 

It’s early dude, go away, I’m just not in the mood for this right now.

This the door?

The door to what dude? No hookers here. No me gusta, fuckin’, hookers, por fa-fuckin’-vor!

What?

Just get the fuck outta here man.

Yes! Fuck. I wanna the fuck all the big Asia pussy.

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Sir Alex Ferguson, and the Dog

Today has been a very peculiar day for me. I rose a little earlier than I normally would, egged on by my weekly cross-country-and-then-the-Atlantic phone call to my mother, and felt a little dusty. I called her and listened to the Skype tone as I thought about coffee, and work, and writing, and all of the things that sat before me that day. She answered, and within seconds knew that everything was not well. You get to know the inflections in your own mother’s voice when they are often the only markers of mood. Being as far away as I have been for as long as I have been, your senses become mostly dormant when pointed towards home. I can only hear my mother. Her tone of voice tells me so much.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, taking a moment to pause and quickly scan over her feelings, “we, eh, we had to take Mollie to the vet today and have her, eh…and have her put down.”

I heard how difficult the last few words were for her. I almost cried at the sound of her almost crying, and at the thought that she had been crying but thought it necessary not to for my sake. I wasn’t really affected by the dog. It didn’t matter much to me anymore. She was old, and it was best for everyone. But I was sad for my mother. She let go of something a little sooner than she hoped to.

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We got that dog when I was eleven years old, one year after my father died. I think mum felt that she needed to have something around. She told me later that she thought about a cat, but we’d had one of those when dad was around. And a cat isn’t the same as a dog. There’s something inherently sad about a cat. So one day we went to Stirling and picked out Mollie, a tiny Cocker Spaniel puppy out of a chaotic, yelping litter of seven.

I’m not going to sit here and say that the dog represented my father, or that my mother sought to preserve his memory through canine affection, but there was something in that dog that helped all of us. For a little while it distracted us. Suddenly there was something exciting, something newborn and fragile to focus our attention on. In a house that spent a year filled with a sense of loss and expiration it was so refreshing to have this little black and white ball of fluff and ears bouncing around, so upbeat, innocent and tangible. But after the excitement died off it was a companion to my mother. She had someone to run with, something to cuddle into, a fourth mouth to feed. The dog filled a void that lay desperately open for the year after my father’s death.

Fast-forward fifteen years, and the dog is now in a box in the back garden, buried by my mother and my step-father. Le temps détruit tout. Did she let go of something today? I don’t think so. I don’t see there being some kind of emotional burden of grief attached to the poor animal anymore. It shed that a long time ago. Mollie’s roll changed over the years, and yesterday she was just a dog.

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Ta’ra Mollie.

After coming off the phone to my mother I looked on the Guardian’s website, as I do somewhat compulsively everyday. Now, I’ve managed to trim a lot of the fat from my lifestyle over the last few years. Torturous levels of self-discipline and a panting notion of replete failure nipping at my coattails keeps me focused on my goals and working as hard as I possibly can every single day. But, I am prone to daily slip ups. And these slip-ups typically appear in the form of football (soccer) journalism. I don’t even watch the beautiful game anymore. I just like the new breed of football journalists. I take a sickly pleasure in reading suppressed authors douse an often tedious sport with effervescent language and stuff it with philosophical undertones far beyond the contemplative abilities of the “artists” that craft it on the field. I just like imagining their smiles as they write. Reading about football is my equivalent of reality TV. My harmless little vice.

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And today, if you’re someone that knows anything at all about football, you will have heard that Sir Alex Ferguson, the purple-nosed, knighted Scottish manager of Manchester United, retired from football after 56 years in the game, with 27 of those spent at the helm of United. He took Manchester United from being a rusting, once-great side scrambling in a deep rut, to being one of the richest, most successful and consistent teams in the world.

I’m not going to get into the psychology of the man, the controversies he courted, or even try to dwell too much more on belting out a verse upon verse of praise to the tremendous weight his legacy is sure to wield over the game. There are many more talented writers than I doing those very things at this very moment, and my words would ultimately contribute very little (mostly because I would be merely paraphrasing the writers I wish I didn’t read). But I find it hard to imagine life as a football fan without him.

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Since before I was even born, Sir Alex Ferguson was in complete control of my football club. The only team I have ever watched have only ever had one person standing at the touchline berating the players and referees. He’s the craggy faced ogre that flashed flaccid pieces of mangled chewing gum as warning signs between exasperate sighs to the journalists that asked him “stupid bloody questions”. He swept the old boys out and nudged the new ones in with the butt of his broom. But most importantly, he didn’t succumb to the modern trappings of football management, like player egos, result-based success, reactionary fan pressure, or trigger happy billionaire owners, often because he was smart enough to negotiate his way around them, but occasionally because such things simply did not apply to him. There were football managers, and then there was Ferguson. He was the last of the old school, and the world will never see another one like him.

But how does that relate to the dog? I’m not sure that it does. It seemed profound in the moment I declared it significant, and, despite all the sadness, I was tingled by a precisely serendipitous feeling. Perhaps it’s that relief. I have finally buried something I have been subconsciously reappropriating for years. Football once defined me. As a child I was a footballer, and I was a Manchester United supporter. But today I’m nothing more than someone that finds an incubated feeling of removal in reading about a team I once loved. Every day I make the decision to read something innocuous about Wayne Rooney’s goal drought, or Moaninho’s future over becoming versed in US politics, or the escalating situation in the Middle-East. I should no longer seek an escape route from the news, but a feeling of empowerment through knowledge.

Like the dog, maybe we’ve all served each other well, and can pleasantly move on with our lives. Thanks for everything. Maybe it’s time for me to let it go, and let the past be just that.

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