“Play Money” by The New Pornographers

(To set up this one, I need you to know that my wife’s mother’s maiden name is Callander, not Callender. Got it? Callander. [Double preface: Recently I watched the new documentary about the monumental failure of the Dana Carvey Show, and Stephen Colbert said, “Why let people figure out the joke? Tell them the joke right away.”])

Days before my wedding, I stood in the supermarket’s frozen foods aisle and looked at what I hoped I was marrying into: a dynasty of readymade self-steaming entrees, casseroles, and souffles, thawed over four microwave minutes.

The Marie Callender fortune, an empire of ice and sodium.

I should have seen the folly in this thought, as earlier in our relationship, Emily warned me that her father—who to me was still Mr. McIntosh—was not a primary architect in the personal computer boom of 1984. And I warned her that my mother’s family, the McMillans, weren’t a textbook publishing conglomerate, or the nation’s premier manufacturer of gun stocks. (My father, however, could never have a mistaken lineage: Marvullo is a made-up name, an Ellis Island misnomer gifted to us by a near-deaf immigration agent and a nascent but already uncaring bureaucracy.)

“My mother is not an heiress to the Marie Callender frozen foods imperium, as you called it,” said Emily. “She is a retired marketing director who likes playing Gears of War and reading Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.”

“I skip his articles,” I said. “It’s always like he’s saying, ‘Golly, look what I found out Can you believe it?.’ Makes me want to barf.”

So these were my future in-laws: off-brand and not quite. I sent a text to Emily while I stood there in full view of a shelf of Marie Callender’s slow-roasted beef with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and tender vegetables.

“So you have no stake in this?” I wrote. I took a picture of the display. One minute passed.

“Nope,” she wrote back. “I’m just me.”

I married her on May 20, 2017 on a cloudless afternoon, among friends and family. We married each other for love and not potential windfalls, which is how love should manifest in my opinion.

Here is “Play Money” by the New Pornographers, one of my favorite songs of the year.

The New Pornographers’ “Play Money” is part of my annual best-of dishwashing playlist. [More on that here.]

Read more of my 2017 in review.

“Daughter” by Four Tet

If I could figure out how to lay claim to and then monetize internet searches for “Good Dad Books For Christmas,” then I would. Every time someone buys a ghostwritten memoir from whatever retired New York Yankee cashed in that year, I’d catch a windfall. New history doorstop tome from Ron Chernow? If you buy it for your dad using my algorithm, then I’d get a piece of that action! A new book about clipper ships? Fishing for coho salmon? Weirdly fetishistic histories of assassinations written by predatory former Fox news hosts? My search results will help. Every year I buy my dad another of these books, and he enjoys them.

Though, last year for Christmas I bought my father a Stratomatic baseball board game, a limp facsimile of the tabletop stat amusement he spent much of his childhood mastering. The man thanked me in a way disproportionate to what I deserved; he raised me, fed me and clothed me for 18 years, then supported me financially for an additional [redacted] years. One $18.99 purchase could not have evened things out.

If you have a positive male role model in your life, I hope you procure for him an impacting and profound gift. Here is “Daughter” by Four Tet.

Rostam – “Don’t Let It Get To You”

At work I’ve been transcribing interviews recorded on audio cassette in the early 2000s. These recordings are conversations between the university archive’s scholar-in-residence and area LGBTQ+ people. As oral histories go, these are an archivist’s dream: timely, relevant, pretty sexy.

Because physical media is dead, I use an old Sony Walkman, an aux cable, and some free recording software to convert the audio to a digital format. This way, in the near future, anyone who wishes to hear what life was like for coastal Maine’s LGBTQ+ population in the early 21st century can do so easily via the university web site.

Once I have the newly digitized audio file, I play it through at half-speed so I can transcribe the interviews without having to pause after every spoken sentence, which means that everything sounds to me like conversations between two robots with low batteries, having simultaneous strokes, sinking into quicksand.

This week I’ve been transcribing an interview of a man whose devout Christianity clashed with his gay identity. The most interesting part of the interview is him describing his attempt to find an accepting, inclusive spiritual environment so that he could be both openly: a Christian and a gay man. I can’t go into much more detail because we at the archives are not sure whether he signed a release to have his interview public, but I can talk about the basic skeleton of his narrative, though I wish only to point out one thing he said:

In describing his arrival in Portland, Maine, he said, “It was an incredible time and an awful time—like an Orwellian novel.”

I paused the recording and rewound—“like an Orwellian novel.” Surely the dude didn’t mean that his life was an allegory for fascism or totalitarianism, an experience of terminal boredom shared by all high school students past and present.

I played it for my supervisor, the head archive librarian. “Do you think he means it was a ‘Catch-22,’ in this case a Hellerian novel?” I asked.

“No I think he meant Dickensian novel, like, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'”

“Nah, I disagree,” I said. The way he said it—Orwellian novel—made me believe that he knew the allusion but he didn’t know how to wield it. Once in college, in a nonfiction workshop setting, a classmate of mine pronounced posthumous as “post-hyoo-mass” and nobody corrected him, because we knew what he was saying. I told that to my supervisor.

“Well, we can’t correct a sixteen-year-old cassette recording,” she said.

Rostam’s “Don’t Let It Get To You” is part of my annual best-of dishwashing playlist. [More on that here.] Stay tuned for a full year-in-review, with each song receiving anecdotal, irrelevant consideration.