10 years of Wide World of Stuff: The day, at age 35, I found out I was born with only one kidney

Continuing with our weeklong celebration of 10 years of Wide World of Stuff, I present by far the strangest thing I’ve ever found out about myself.

During a visit to the emergency room in June, 2010, when I was suffering from stomach pains and thought for sure I had kidney stones, I was given a stomach scan.

And then, drugged out of my mind to ease the pain, a hospital tech told me I only had one kidney.

What????

Oh it was a scene, man. This was published on June 4, 2010, a couple of days later. Some of this, in hindsight, makes me cringe a little (early in 2010 I was still convinced I’d married the right woman. Turns out, I was wrong. Took me TWO marriages to get it absolutely right.)

Enjoy…

I’m back.

Maybe you missed me. Maybe you didn’t realize I was gone. I have all kinds of thoughts I want to share about the perfect game baseball controversy, and the National Spelling Bee (tonight on ABC!) and other stuff. But first things first.

I usually post every day, but I’ve been a little occupied the last few days over at Halifax Hospital here in Daytona Beach. I was a patient from late Tuesday night until Thursday night.

In the words of Inigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride,” “let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” At about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning I had suffered four hours of severe abdominal pain before deciding, “I think I might want to get this checked out.”

So off I went, turns out I had an infection in my small intestine called an ileus, spent a whole lot of time running from hospital bed to the bathroom, and two days later, I’m feeling much better.

But that’s not the exciting part. The exciting part came at about 4 a.m. Wednesday morning. Julie and I are in the emergency room, waiting for the results of my CT scan, and I’m drugged out of my mind thanks to a wonderful IV pain medication drip called Dilaudid (oh my God is that stuff fantastic!).

Suddenly the ER doctor comes in. He asks if I’ve ever had a scan of my abdomen before. I say no. He says “Hmph.”

Then he tells me that, guess what? I only have one kidney.

“‘WHAT?” Julie and I both exclaim together. I do a quick mental inventory. You’re supposed to have two kidneys, I’m pretty sure. I’ve never had a kidney operation. Where the hell was my other kidney? Did I lose it on that fifth-grade field trip back in ’87? (I lost a lot of things on field trips in my day). And do I have an extra liver or something since I don’t have two kidneys?

Nope, he said. It’s just a genetic defect, happens in some people (it’s called solitary kidney, which, when you think about it, would be a great name for a rock band), and it poses no different health risks than if I had two kidneys.

This blew me away. I’m living my first 34 years thinking I had two kidneys, and then one day I find out I have only one.

Of course I had a million questions, which my new friend Dr. Schwartz answered. No, I don’t have to change my diet much, just eat some more apples and raw vegetables (Yippee.) Yes, my one kidney is healthy, though obviously if I ever have any issues with it it’s a little more dangerous than if I had two kidneys.

He said I just need to watch my contact sport participation (I guess my pro rugby career is over, dammit) and that’s pretty much it.

It was pretty mind-blowing to me, and quite amusing to my family. My sister suggested Julie get our marriage annulled under false pretense grounds (she thought she was marrying a two-kidney guy). My sister-in-law is delighted that I’ve given the family years of new jokes to make at holidays (“kidney bean salad, Michael?”).

And I wondered if I’m now qualified for handicapped parking (not so much).

So I’ve only got one kidney. Life goes on.

Couple more quick thoughts from my first hospital stay (knock on wood) in about 10 years:

— Hospital food has definitely gotten better. I couldn’t eat much of it, but what I did have was a whole lot more edible than I expected.

— Not that I had any doubt, but I re-discovered this week that I absolutely, positively, 100 percent married the right woman. My wife was unbelievable during my little crisis, showing a truly amazing level of concern and care. She’s the greatest thing ever.

— The things we say when we’re heavily, heavily drugged: I have absolutely no idea where this came from, but apparently at one point under the Dilaudid I turned to my wife and said, “I can’t wait to tell the Mets about my kidney.”

And I’m a Yankees fan.

–Finally, I figured out how we can get prisoners at Guantanamo or elsewhere to talk: Give them that disgusting, vile drink they give you before a GI exam, I think it’s called GastroGrafin.

Oh my God that was the worst-tasting thing I’ve ever had in my life; and the great thing was my delightful new friend Sheila (the lab tech) told me when I was halfway done with the cup she had given me “You’re almost ready for the second cup.”

Seriously, give this stuff to terrorists and I guarantee they’ll tell you everything you need to know.

The war on terror can be ended now, I’m telling you.

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10 years of Wide World of Stuff: Today, a remembrance of John Hughes, whose movies shaped my childhood

As I continue a look back at the history of my blog on the 10th anniversary of its founding, I wanted today to re-post something (originally published on August  7, 2009) I wrote about the late, great movie director John Hughes, who for Generation X’ers like me was so incredibly instrumental in shaping the pop culture of our childhood.

He died far, far too young, but left us with so many wonderful memories, and films…

Every generation has voices who spoke to them. Older voices who were the soundtracks and the video reels of our childhood.

Sure. we romanticize them sometimes. But they’re as much a part of our growing up as Little League and Girl Scouts, camping trips and hallway lockers.

This summer, my generation lost its soundtrack in Michael Jackson. And now we’ve lost our filmmaker in the legendary John Hughes.

Generation X has suffered two body blows in the matter of months. I swear to God, if Madonna gets hit by a bus next week, I think I may lose it.

To say I loved John Hughes movies is like saying I kind of like chocolate chip cookies.

I’m certain I can quote three of his eight directed films, line for line, by heart. Just get me started on any scene from “The Breakfast Club” (“This is what you get in my house, when you spill paint in the garage!”), “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (Didn’t you notice on the plane, when you started talking, eventually I started reading the vomit bag!”) or “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (“You’re Abe Froman? The sausage king of Chicago?”), and I’m gone for 20 minutes.

It’s incredible to me that in eight films, he left such a mark. He also wrote “Mr. Mom,” “Weird Science,” and “She’s Having a Baby,” three more that will always live in the 1980s canon.

Hughes’ brilliance was shown in so many ways. For one thing, he didn’t condescend to the viewers. He actually created real characters who talked like real high schoolers, and he painted a portrait of kids who we all could identify with.

Who didn’t know a Stef from “Pretty in Pink,” or “The Geek” in “Sixteen Candles”? This was the first time I felt like a movie was really about people who could’ve existed in my life.

Then there was the writing. Hughes’ scripts were always filled with laughter and fantastic one-liners, but they also contained so much heart.

That scene in “The Breakfast Club” where they’re all sitting around the library and Emilio Estevez is talking about taping Larry Lester’s buns together is so surprisingly moving. The ending of “Pretty in Pink” is so sweet, too, with Ducky finally blowing out his torch for Andie and encouraging her to go find Blane.

Hughes had the ability to infuse a scene with warmth and make you melt inside, but not go too far into mushy territory.

Thinking about him tonight, as I’m sure millions of people my age are, I’m blown away at how often I’ve quoted a Hughes movie, or watched one of them on cable (OK, so they’re on every 10 minutes somewhere, I still can’t skip past them), or referenced it in everyday life.

Say the name “Jake Ryan” and my wife’s eyes light up and a huge smile comes to her face. Was any 80s movie character more beloved by girls than he was? Mention Steve Martin and John Candy in the same sentence, and so many people think of “Those aren’t pillows!”

Literally every time my best childhood friends Andrew, Marc, Tracie and I are together, one of us will quote a line from “The Breakfast Club.” Every. Single. Time.

The Brat Pack shot to fame thanks to Hughes (if you have to ask who the Brat Pack are, I will feel really old), and he used the same actors over and over because they perfectly embodied what he wanted.

John Hughes didn’t win Oscars like Francis Ford Coppola, and he won’t go down as a cinematic genius like Oliver Stone or Steven Spielberg.

But if the true mark of a person is what kind of legacy you’ve left, and how many lives you affected, John Hughes was a giant.

So many of us laughed and cried because of what he created.

Cameron Frye will live in our hearts forever, as will John Bender and Del Griffith and all the rest.

R.I.P. John Hughes, and thanks for directing my childhood.

 

10 years of Wide World of Stuff: A first look back: The teacher who inspired me to be a writer

The first post I ever wrote on this site was posted on July 11, 2009, and it was about my breakup with baseball. I explained how I didn’t love it anymore, and why.

Since then, I’ve written 2,236 posts, which sounds like a lot and damn, I guess it is. This little corner of the Internet has seen 678,600 views in all that time, which sounds like a lot but if you divide it by 10 years x 365 days, I’m not exactly breaking traffic records. I’ll portion out a few more of these stats during this week, when I take a break from “new material” and present five of my all-time favorite posts.

Some days on here, I write great stuff. Other days, yeah, not so much.

But always, I’ve tried to make this place a conversation, a place to have a smile, and on Fridays, a place to be uplifted and reminded that there’s so much more good than bad in the world.

I am so grateful to all of you who visit, whether today is your first time clicking here, or if you’re one of my regulars.

Each day this week I”m going to re-post a story that meant something special to me, or resonated with readers. This first one is maybe my favorite thing I’ve written in 10 years at Wide World of Stuff, because it’s about a man without whom, my career wouldn’t have happened.

This post ran on August 21, 2009, and is about William Gehrhardt, an amazing educator I was lucky to know…

 

Teachers never die. They live in your memory forever. They were there when you arrived, they were there when you left. Like fixtures.

Once in a while they taught you something. But not that often. And, you never really knew them, any more than they knew you. Still, for a while, you believed in them. And, if you were lucky, maybe there was one who believed in you.

— Opening lines from “The Wonder Years,” Episode 43, entitled “Goodbye.”

Picture it. Commack High School, Commack, N.Y. Fall of 1990.

A 15-year-old kid with big glasses and goofy smile walks in to 10th grade English class pretty unsure of himself. The boy still dreams of being a professional tennis player, the idea not quite dawning on him that the list of 5-foot-5 Jewish men who have won Wimbledon is a woefully short one.

The boy has always liked English class, and always loved words. Taught himself how to read through Matt Christopher books and by checking the sports scores in the pages of Newsday.

Writing was fun and easy, but nothing more interesting than that.

Then, on a fall day at the start of sophomore year, the kid walks into the classroom and meets William Gehrhardt. A teacher so full of energy and enthusiasm that he positively bounces around the room, and every time he knocks into something or someone, inspiration and hope begin to grow in the kid.

The teacher has big glasses and his tie is always a little askew, and he’s always, always, smiling.

Mr. Gehrhardt is just one of those infectious people who is impossible to dislike; he tells jokes about Hamlet and makes fun of his own shortcomings, and he somehow finds a way to make every single kid in the class feel like he’s the one today’s lesson is for.

Soon, the 15-year-old boy is excited about English class. The essays and reports are eagerly approached, and even though the kid’s handwriting is just this side of illegible, Mr. Gehrhardt is constantly praising, encouraging, cajoling.

You’re really good at this, Mr. Gehrhardt tells the boy. Keep at it. It could be something you could do as a career.

The kid is baffled. Writing? As a career? Seriously?

Still, it sinks in.

The boy thinks about it and toward the end of the year, he joins the high school newspaper. Soon, he’s writing stories for fun and thinking of new ways to impress Mr. Gehrhardt. Finally, after years of struggling with math and popularity and self-image issues, here was something he was good at.

Something he could do as well as anyone.

The school year ends in June, 1991. Mr. Gehrhardt moves on to another group of kids that fall, inspiring and joking with some other students who maybe don’t realize how incredibly fortunate they are to have this man enter their life.

The kid? Well, he kept writing, for the high school paper, then his college one, then at three newspapers and a magazine so far in a career that has brought him so many exciting experiences.

*************************************************************************The words of a teacher are so incredibly important. You never know what will light a spark, or what words will sink into a kid’s soul. I still remember an insulting comment once said to me by an elementary school teacher.

I also still remember the glowing grin and perspiration-soaked brow of Mr. Gehrhardt, and how his small kindnesses had an impact on my life that’s measurable only by a Richter scale.

I ended up writing several college application essays about him, and I’ve told countless people how instrumental he was in my finding a career as a wordsmith.

But for the past few years, something has gnawed at the pit of my stomach: I’d never really told my favorite teacher how much he’d affected my life.

I resolved to call him or write a letter, but days turned into weeks, and weeks became months, and months begat years, and I never got around to putting my thoughts onto paper.

Finally, in February I decided I needed to do this. I called my old high school and they told me Mr. Gehrhardt had retired, and they couldn’t give me his address. But a nice secretary said if I wrote him a letter and sent it to her at the school, she’d make sure she forwarded it to him.

And so I sat down and opened a vein.

I told him a lot of what I’ve said here. I was reminded of the great quotation that “a hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, or the kind of car I drove … but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

I mailed the letter. I didn’t expect a reply. I just felt that, wherever he was, Mr. Gehrhardt might like to know the impact he had on one kid who never forgot him.

Well … I’m telling you all this now because Wednesday, after a long day at work, I came home and there was an envelope sitting on the counter.

It was a letter from Mr. Gehrhardt.

His emotion spilled off the page like milk from an overturned carton.

First he apologized for taking so long to write back. Then he thanked me profusely, and mentioned that after retiring from Commack he moved to Pennsylvania, and was now teaching at a small college there.

He also said he and his wife cried over my letter, and I nearly dropped the piece of paper when he said he was going to preserve the note so that a future grandchild might “one day read it and think well of me.”

It’s one of the greatest pieces of correspondence I’ve ever received, and it made me feel so good. I’ve re-read the letter about 10 times, and each time I feel so thankful that I had a teacher move me like Mr. Gehrhardt did.

The bond between teacher and student is so precious, and 19 years after I first met him, I cherish Mr. Gehrhardt as much as ever.

If you’ve had a similar experience with a marvelous teacher, it’s never too late to let them know how you feel.

P.S. That quote at the top? That’s from my favorite episode of “The Wonder Years.”. It’s the one  when Kevin’s math teacher, Mr. Collins, prepares him for the big mid-term, only to disappear right before the test.  If you know “The Wonder Years,” you know what happens next.

The ending, with Linda Ronstadt singing “Goodbye My Friend?”

Makes me tear up every time.

Good News Friday: ESPY Awards coach honoree with no arms/no legs inspires. Megan Rapinoe wows again at the USWNT parade. And a beauty pageant contestant wows judges with… science!

Happy Friday, Earthlings and other creatures out there who might be reading this. Hope all is well with you, Thursday was my (drum roll please) 10th anniversary of Wide World of Stuff, which makes me feel old and young at the same time.

As I’ve mentioned this week, next week is gonna be a little different here; I’m going to be re-running five of my favorite/most popular posts from the last decade, ones you may have missed, or ones you enjoyed and hopefully will want to read again. So instead of my usual Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, there will be new posts up each weekday next week.

Hope all that’s clear, and thank you so much for spending even a few minutes of your precious time with me reading my silly little blog.

OK, on with Good News Friday. Lots to choose from this week, but I want to start with this incredible tale I learned about from the ESPY Awards, ESPN’s annual exercise in self-indulgence and glorification that always still manages to have some awesome moments.

Rob Mendez is a football coach in San Jose, Calif.  He’s the head coach of the junior varsity football team at Prospect High School in San Jose. His team ended the season last with an 8-2 record.

Oh, and Rob was born without arms or legs. Not like that stopped him.

Mendez has become an inspirational figure to his students, and gave an exceptional speech at the ESPYs this week.

“The reality is, I am here and if there’s any message I want to give you guys tonight, is to look at me … when you dedicate yourself to something … and focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t do, you really can go places in this world.”

“I’m not done yet,” promised Mendez. “I made it this far, who says I can’t go further? Who says I can’t? Nobody.”

Really wonderful speech, and an inspiring human being.

**Next up, there was a big ole’ parade in New York City on Wednesday for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team, who as you know just won the World Cup over in France.

And Megan Rapinoe, who so many of us are in love with these days, gave a rip-roaring speech to a crowd of thousands. It’s a little rambling but it’s sweet and fun and put a big smile on my face.

Rock on, Pinoe.

**And finally today, I always like when stereotypes are completely turned on their head. Check out this winning contestant in the Miss Virginia pageant. According to this great story on OnlyGoodNews.org (hey, shouldn’t I write for them?) 24-year-old Camielle Schrier won the competition after she donned a white coat and rubber gloves for an on-stage science experiment.

Using hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide, Schrier demonstrated the process – – and colorful results – of catalytic decomposition.

That’s so awesome. I so hope she wins Miss America, and then she and Bill Nye the Science Guy get elected President and VP in 2020.

Go Camielle! Check out her experiment performance below.

A Democratic billionaire enters the Presidential race, to pad his massive ego. Aziz Ansari’s new Netflix special looks fantastic. And a high school principal isn’t sure the Holocaust is a “fact”

Hi everyone. Repeating this from Monday’s post: Just wanted to let you know about something special/different I’m going to be doing in this space next week: July 11th will be the 10-year anniversary of my blog’s existence, so to celebrate, for five days next week I’m going to be re-running some of my most popular posts I’ve ever written at Wide World of Stuff, and some that meant the most to me personally.
If there was any post in particular that you enjoyed or would love to see again, drop me a line this week at sweeterlew@yahoo.com. Thanks!

There is so much about politics that often really IS about some greater good.

I am, of course, a cockeyed optimist, but I really do believe that many politicians get into public service because they want to help people make their lives better. Maybe it’s an issue that’s got the politician fired up, or a personal story that motivates them, but whatever it is, I honestly believe many (certainly not all) politicians have some degree of selflessness in their hearts, and that’s why they do it (it’s certainly not for the money).

But then there are the others, the ones who just live to see their name in headlines, on covers of magazines and splashed across TV screens. People who just constantly need to see the glorification of their massive ego happen every day, and always, always feel important.

These are the millionaires and billionaires who decide that, you know what, I’m gonna run for President! Because I can! One of these men, you may be aware, is currently President of the United States, frighteningly enough.

In the Democratic primary field right now, we have two dozen candidates. Candidates of all shapes and sizes, color and religion, gender and background. But you know what we didn’t have, and literally NO ONE was asking for?

A billionaire old white dude in the race.

Well my friends, that void has been filled! Tuesday Tom Steyer, who has more money than God and has been a huge supporter of liberal causes in the past, announced he’s running for President. And he’s prepared to spend $100 million of his own money to do it.

Now, Steyer has as much chance of winning the primary as I do of being a Chippendale’s dancer. But hey, he’s rich, he’s desperate to be more famous, so why not?

His issues are all being talked about, by people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Jay Inslee and others. There is zero appetite in the Democratic voter base for a wealthy person who has no clue what the average citizen goes through economically, but here comes Tom Steyer, to run a million ads and be all over your TV.

Do I think he’ll hurt Warren or Sanders or any other candidates’ chances? No. But this “run” of his is so, so clearly about ego. And a man with his money, who has done much good in the past, could do a whole lot more good by supporting Democratic candidates (like Amy McGrath in Kentucky, who’s going to hopefully kick McConnell’s ass) then glorifying his own ego.

I hope you enjoy throwing your money down the drain, Mr. Steyer.

**Next up, I’m a big fan of comedian Aziz Ansari, especially since the first two seasons of his Netflix show “Master of None” were so mind-blowingly original and good. Ansari, who was sorta, kinda ensnared in the #MeToo movement when an anonymous woman wrote a web article claiming Ansari pressured her into sex, addresses that in his new standup special.

I haven’t seen a clip of that segment yet, but this trailer was on Twitter this week and it made me laugh pretty hard. “Really, what happened to that 12 percent?”

I will definitely be watching this.

**Finally today, let’s go down to Florida for yet another segment of “How in the world did this guy EVER get allowed to be a high school principal?”

Meet William Latson, the principal of Spanish River High School in Boca Raton. Seems Mr. Latson was asked by the parent of a student last year how the Holocaust was going to be taught in the school.

He wrote in an email exchange with the parent concerned over Holocaust education that he aims to stay “politically neutral” when it comes to the genocide of six million Jews. “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee,” he wrote. “Not everyone believes the Holocaust happened.”

“I do allow information about the Holocaust to be presented and allow students and parents to make decisions about it accordingly. I do the same with information about slavery,” he continued.

I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event. Wow. I mean, wow, wow, wow. Also, that he compares it to how he treats slavery makes me immediately say, “Wait, he’s not sure SLAVERY was a factual, historical event? All that stuff about black people being forced to work for no pay for white masters, that’s just a theory? Huh. So glad we cleared that up, that changes my WHOLE outlook on life and history.

Mr. Latson has been fired. I mean, are you freaking kidding me, that he was in charge of a school in the first place???

https://www.complex.com/life/2019/07/florida-principal-politically-neutral-holocaust-fired?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=complexmag&utm_source=twitter.com

Thoughts from a destination wedding on top of Windham Mountain: lots of fun, and a scary chair-lift. A dog wants a baby out of the deep end of the pool. And Coco-mania hits Wimbledon, as a 15-year-old wows the world

Hi y’all! Just wanted to let you know about something special/different I’m going to be doing in this space next week: July 11th will be the 10-year anniversary of my blog’s existence, so to celebrate, for five days next week I’m going to be re-running some of my most popular posts I’ve ever written at Wide World of Stuff, and some that meant the most to me personally. If there was any post in particular that you enjoyed or would love to see again, drop me a line this week at sweeterlew@yahoo.com. Thanks!

Hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day weekend, me and the family just returned Saturday night from a unique wedding weekend in more ways than one. My wife’s best friend Jodi and her terrific fiancee Seth decided a few months ago to get married on top of Windham Mountain, near the Catskill region in upstate New York, on July 4th.

This clearly made me wonder lots of things, like “will there be fireworks at a July 4th wedding? (Answer: yes, there were, and they were fabulous). What happens if someone drops the wedding ring down the mountain, going to be kind of hard to retrieve, no?

And of course for someone like me who is deathly afraid of heights: Do I have to ride one of those terrifying chair lifts up to the top of the mountain? (Answer: Yes).

But it all worked out and was such a terrific three days for us and our two boys.

Some assorted thoughts from a destination wedding that was thoroughly enjoyable:

— So first of all, the chair lift up to the top of the mountain wasn’t so bad. I didn’t love the “open air” aspect of it, or the fact that my feet were kinda dangling a hundred feet of the ground. But the truly unsettling part was actually that, at least four or five times on the way up the mountain and back down, our lift car stopped. To let more people on at the top or bottom. So for like 30 seconds, were were just kinda hanging in mid-air.

I didn’t love that.

— Destination weddings of friends are strange in that, at most, you’ve met most of these people once or twice in your life, at the bride or groom’s house or at some party they threw. And then for three days or so, you seem them everywhere: At the hotel, at breakfast in the little town, at pre- and post-wedding stuff. And then Saturday comes and you all drive or fly back home, and it’s possible I’ll never see most of these people again.

Which is too bad, because I really liked a lot of them.

— Apropos of nothing, I just wanted to run this hilarious photo, of my 20-month-old son Theo and our good friend Dan, wearing the same color shirt and giving us a visual I’ll never forget. My caption? “Now Theo, I’m very disappointed in you. I thought we agreed not to wear the same color shirt today.”

— Finally, gotta toot my own horn for a minute: I saved the hora at the wedding Thursday night. The hora was going great, but nobody had gotten two chairs into the circle for the traditional “lift up the bride and groom and carry them around.” It happens at EVERY Jewish wedding and bar mitzvah, and it has to happen.

I asked my wife “shouldn’t we go get a chair?” and she was all like “No, someone else is on it.” And then minutes passed, and no one was on it, and so I ran inside with a friend, grabbed two chairs, and forced our way through dozens of people to the center of the hora circle. Whereupon bride and groom were lifted, and cheered, and I am a hero who should be saluted by all!

OK I just wanted to get that on the record.

**Next up, this short, sweet video just says summer to me. A dog sees a man holding a baby in a pool, and the pooch clearly wants the baby to be brought somewhere a little safer.

I Tweeted the person commenting on it too because that cracked me up big-time.

Man’s best friend, AND baby’s best friend!

**And finally today, I believe I told you all about a young female tennis phenom named Coco Gauff last year in this space, with the words “remember her name” being in there somewhere.

Well, I think by now most people who follow sports even a little bit have heard of this incredible 15-year-old girl who has taken Wimbledon by storm. In her first-ever Wimbledon, Gauff won three qualifying matches just to make the most famous tournament in the world, then went out and beat legend Venus Williams in the first round.

That was just the opening act, though: Gauff then won her second-round match, and Friday she pulled off a Harry Houdini act in the third round against Polona Hercog. Down a set and 5-2 in the second, and then facing a couple of match points, this kid who isn’t even old enough for a driver’s permit yet rallied to win, 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 and stunningly advance to the fourth round.

Gauff is the future of women’s tennis, and what a bright future it is. I’ve interviewed her a few times the last couple years at the U.S. Open when she played juniors, and I can tell you she is absolutely grounded, with little ego, and a maturity and intelligence far beyond her years. She has been, as they say, raised right.

She faces former world No. 1 Simona Halep today in the fourth round (on ESPN2 at around 10 a.m. this morning, Eastern time), and even if Gauff loses, this has been her tournament.

What a delight she is. I hope she always stays as excited about winning as in that photo above.

 

 

 

Team USA women’s soccer beats England during 4th of July week and let’s party like it’s 1776! Ray Charles will get you in the mood for tomorrow. And coffee can make you skinny?

 

Editor’s Note: There will be no Good News Friday post this week, as me and the fam are headed upstate for the wedding of my wife’s best friend on Independence Day. Hope you all have a safe and happy rest of your week!

I don’t know about you, but I’m swept up in U.S. Women’s National Team fever. I’m thinking of dyeing my hair pink like Megan Rapinoe, I’m trying to learn the names of the rest of the team (I like Samantha Mewis because her last name sounds like “Lewis”) and I’ve been wondering how in the world Alex Morgan got to be so good at soccer.

Oh, and I’ve also enjoyed very much our idiot President taking shots at Rapinoe, this year’s breakout star, after she said she would “never fucking go” to the White House.

And I thoroughly enjoyed this wildly entertaining, totally wacko all-over-the-place piece of writing by Rapinoe’s girlfriend, WNBA star Sue Bird, in The Player’s Tribune today. An excerpt of Bird’s crazy-good “essay” entitled “So the President F*cking Hates my Girlfriend.”

(3) O.K. so now that that’s out of the way, I’ll answer The Question. The one that’s probably most on your mind. And by that I mean: What’s it like to have the literal President of the literal United States (of literal America) go Full Adolescent Boy on your girlfriend? Hmm. Well… it’s WEIRD. And I’d say I actually had a pretty standard reaction to it: which was to freak out a little. 

That’s one thing that you kind of have to know about me and Megan: our politics are similar — after we won the WNBA title in Seattle last season, no way were we going to the (f*cking) White House! — but our dispositions are not. And as we’ve been talking through a lot of this “stuff,” as it’s been happening to her, you know, I’ll be honest here….. some of it scares the sh*t out of me!!

I mean, some of it is kind of funny….. but like in a REALLY? REALLY? THIS GUY??? kind of way. Like, dude — there’s nothing better demanding your attention?? It would be ridiculous to the point of laughter, if it wasn’t so gross.

Anyway, I’m about the Women’s World Cup, and Tuesday was just perfect symmetry in the tournament, as two days before the Fourth of July the original 13 colonies (plus 37 states) played England in the semifinals.

And just like in the Revolutionary War, we beat those bastards from across the ocean, 2-1, after a controversial offsides call on video replay overturned a tying England goal.

My favorite part was Morgan’s celebration after her goal that made it 2-1, U.S.A. (see above), with the 30-year-old star simulating drinking tea, paying homage to the beverage that started that whole Revolutionary War in the first place.

Now Team USA plays in the final Sunday against either the Netherlands or Sweden, two countries we never had a war with but hey, I’m sure we’ll come up with some reason to hate them by Sunday.

Go America!

**Next up, to honor Independence Day, how about the sweet, sultry voice of the late great Mr. Ray Charles, singing “America the Beautiful,” to remind us of all the wonderful things we love about this country.

Take it away, Ray…

**And finally today, happy news for people like my wife who can’t live without their daily cup (or several cups) of coffee.

New research indicates that a cup of coffee, or three, could help you lose weight. A new study out Monday morning in the journal Scientific Reports finds coffee can stimulate “brown fat” — the fat in your body that keeps you warm by burning calories.

The study shows that a cup of coffee or caffeine can actually stimulate brown fat to make heat. “We all have that warm feeling after we drink a cup of coffee, because we’re stimulating that brown fat,” said CBS News medical correspondent Dr. David Argus. “It’s important and interesting that we actually know the mechanism now.

“The goal is to stimulate brown fat. Exercise stimulates brown fat. Good sleep stimulates brown fat. And now we know caffeine or coffee can do the same.”

So there you go, drink as much coffee as you like, and make the pounds melt away! What could be a more American ideal than that?

It’s a beautiful day in Brooklyn! My Nets sign Durant and Kyrie, while the Knicks get bubkes. Nikki Minaj on Fallon was pretty amazing.. And Wimbledon is starting!

Look, for most of the last 30 years, it’s been really hard to be a fan of the NBA team called the Nets.

For so long, they played in the swamps of New Jersey, virtually ignored by fans, media, and free agents. Their games were impossible to get to, they were mocked, they played second-fiddle to the Knicks, and being a fan of theirs for people like me was truly a lonely experience (I’ve been a Nets fan since 1990, when I committed my only example ever of sports bigamy: Fed up with the selfish attitudes and egos of the Knicks, I fell in love with the Kenny Anderson-Derrick Coleman Nets and switched my allegiance.)

For very brief periods of time, there were some glimmers of joy. Jason Kidd led them to the NBA Finals in 2002-03, and that was fun.

And when Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were acquired to herald a new era in Brooklyn, I was moderately pumped, though that whole era turned out to be a dud.

Other than that, being a Nets fan has been mostly misery.

Last year, when a spunky group of young players surprised everyone and made the playoffs, was a lot of fun.

But then a day like Sunday happens. And it’s so freaking glorious. In the span of a few hours, two of the Top 10 players in the NBA, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, announce they’re coming to Brooklyn.

And yeah, Durant has to sit out next year after tearing his Achilles, and there are questions about Kyrie’s knees and his attitude and … not even going to waste a minute worrying or getting down about any of that.

BECAUSE THE NETS SIGNED DURANT AND IRVING!!!! This was a franchise that, three years ago, won 21 games and was totally without a clue in the front office.

And now, if Durant is healthy after next year, this is a team that could win an NBA title.

And maybe best of all, for months (months!) I’ve had to listen to Knicks fans taunt me that Durant and Irving were coming to their miserable franchise, that the Knicks were going to get Zion, that all these things were going to happen to finally turn them around.

And they did not. And the Knicks still stink, and it was proven once again that no big-time star wants to play for owner James Dolan.

The Nets, baby. The Nets. Whew. What a shockingly good sports day.

**Next up today, I’m pretty far from a fan of rapper/strange person Nikki Minaj, but you kind of have to be in awe of this little performance she did on Jimmy Fallon last week.

Playing Jimmy’s game ‘Wheel of Freestyle” where she’d have to take three random words and work them into a rap, Minaj nailed this despite getting “hexagon,” “yeti” and “edible arrangement.”

**Finally today, it’s July which means Wimbledon, which in my house means wall-to-wall tennis, me teaching my kids how to properly pronounce “Djokovic” and “Osaka,” and a whole lot of early mornings jugging children and tennis-viewing.

This year, like every year, promises a terrific fortnight (the only time I ever get to use that word is in tennis tournaments), with storylines aplenty: Can Roger Federer, back on his “home field,” win Wimbledon title No. 8? Can Novak Djokovic repeat? Can any of the young Americans like Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz or my man Reilly Opelka do some damage?

And on the women’s side, tons of intrigue as well: Will Serena be back in form and finally get that 24th Slam title? Is Naomi Osaka ready to shake off a recent slump? And could the Wimbledon draw gods have given us anything better than 15-year-old Coco Gauff) above, the future of American tennis, against 39-year-old Venus Williams in the first round today (ESPN, probably around 2 p.m).

Should be a wonderful tournament. I’m picking Djokovic and Osaka but I have very little faith I’ll be right. (12:10 p.m. Monday update: Osaka already lost. See why I tell you people NEVER to gamble on the outcome of sporting events?)

Happy Wimbledon.

A new edition of the Daddy Chronicles, starring an almost-5 year-old pre-school grad who’s so excited about day camp, and a 20-month old with a right hook like Tyson

Happy Friday, y’all! Hope all is well in your world, I’m a little buzzed this morning (metaphorically of course) after two days of terrific Democratic Presidential debates, where I saw one of my favorites, Cory Booker, shine, another favorite, Kamala Harris, do very well, and really make me feel good that we’ve got lots of good candidates to take on the orange grifter.

It’s been a few months since I’ve done a Daddy Chronicles and there’s lots of changes going on with my two spawn, so let’s get right to it.

— First the big guy, aka Nate. This week saw him finish his early-childhood career by “graduating” from pre-K! He actually had a graduation with a little podium and a little cap and gown (see above), and while I playfully mocked how silly it is that a 4-year-old is “graduating” and they’re making such a big fuss, I guess it is a big deal (By the way, we were coerced by his school to buy a class yearbook. A yearbook! For 4-year-olds???? Were there gonna be senior superlatives like “best finger-painter” or “least likely to cry on the playground??  So crazy).

Anyway, he had a wonderful year, made so many great friends, and now it’s on to the big bad world of kindergarten. Seriously though, Nate has made great progress this year in so many areas like handwriting and drawing, and I’m thrilled.

—  Before kindergarten though, he gets his first full-day camp experience, which started Thursday. Nate was so excited to ride his first school bus, almost as excited as as he was to go to camp. They pick him up at 8:20 a.m., and don’t drop him off until 4:40. So Daddy is thrilled! He was exhausted Thursday after day 1, but had a great time, with only one real hiccup: He forgot to take off his underwear before going swimming the second time, so he came home with soaking wet, chlorine-smelling underwear in his bag.

But really, who among us hasn’t been there?

— The other big development in the last few months is after years of Nate having very little appetite to eat, often being congested, and rarely getting good night’s of sleep, causing naps even at almost-5 years old, we have a diagnosis. At our doctor’s urging, we took him for a pediatric sleep study, where they hooked up so many wires to his body he looked like Ivan Drago during the training montage of “Rocky IV.”

I was so nervous he would freak out and not be able to sleep, thereby invalidating the study, but Nate was super-brave and super-calm about the whole thing.
And it turns out, he does have moderate sleep apnea, and hopefully sometime this summer he’ll have surgery to remove his enormous adnoids and tonsils. The ENT doctor says we’ll see a huge change in his breathing, appetite and sleep, which is such incredible news.

— OK now on to the little guy, Theo, who we often call LB (for Little Boy, though given how big he’s getting that’ll be a wildly inaccurate nickname soon). He’s still a wonderful little boy, full of energy, hugs, and an appetite that just won’t quit. He cannot understand why, even when he’s got two fistfuls of crackers or blueberries in his hand, you won’t give him some cookies or melon. “Just because my hands are full doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give me more, Daddy!”

— His lack of speech is something we had started to get worried about: At his 18-month checkup our fabulous pediatrician frowned when we told her he wasn’t really saying much yet. But in the last few weeks he’s really started to say more, giving us a few animal sounds like “Moo” and “Baa” and saying words like “blow” and, hilariously, “clean me!” when he’s done eating and wants to get up and run around with his brother.

So I’m not too worried about him talking, it’s clearly coming.

— But the hitting. Oh, the hitting. Theo for the past several weeks has been a bit out of control with his smacking, and it’s getting worse. He hugs, then hits, me, his mother, and Nate all the time, and we try to ignore it but a lot of times it freaking hurts. We tell him “no,” we read book after book like “Hands are Not for Hitting,” and try not to give him any reaction to it, since the doctors all say babies are doing it looking for a reaction.

But he’s starting hitting other kids now, out in public, including our sweet friend Aaron, who while getting hugs from Theo at music this week sadly got two or three smacks, on two separate occasions. And let me tell you, a 28-pound bull like Theo can really hit.
So far, thank goodness, he hasn’t really hurt anybody, but this phase cannot pass quickly enough. Nate went through a hitting phase too, I remember, but it didn’t last nearly this long.

— On a happier Theo note, he continues to love following his brother around everywhere, he climbs every possible thing that can be climbed, and seems to absolutely love dogs, waving and laughing at every four-legged canine he sees. He also must wave goodbye to the swings when he gets off them, and Daddy’s pee pee when I flush the toilet and he’s in the room with me.

Hey, a proper goodbye is what a gentleman does, you know?

The story of a squirrel on crystal meth is what we all need right now. John Oliver hilariously tries to get the bottom of a British PM candidate allegedly knocking down a Prince in a soccer match. And an MLB double-play unlike any I’ve ever seen

Sure, I can sit here today and rant about yet another disgusting response to an alleged sexual assault committed by our current President (“she’s not my type” is what this despicable human being we elected said when Jean Carroll said he raped her), or I can update you on the crazy Oregon GOP walkout story from Monday, where it was learned Tuesday night that the Democrats have backed down and won’t put the climate change bill up to a vote, or we can discuss how strange it is that Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon, all died on the same day (June 25, 2009).

But no, I want to give you something different, like usual. So I present this hilarious but true story out of Alabama, that I heard about on NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” this week.

” Alabama investigators say a man kept a caged “attack squirrel” in his apartment and fed it methamphetamine to ensure it stayed aggressive.”

Also, the squirrel’s name? Deez Nuts. I’m not making any of this up.

The News Courier reports authorities are seeking 35-year-old Mickey Paulk on multiple charges including possession of a controlled substance.

Law enforcement was warned of the animal prior to executing a search warrant of the Athens home last Monday.

It’s illegal in Alabama to have a pet squirrel. Officials from the state’s Department of Conservation recommended releasing the animal, which deputies did successfully.

A spokesman for the Limestone county sheriff’s office says there was no safe way to test the squirrel for meth.”

But wait, it gets better. Mr. Paulk called The Washington Post just to deny the accusation that he had been giving meth to his pet squirrel…

He rescued the squirrel as a baby, bottle fed it. So of course Paulk was mad about the police raid on his place.

So in response to the raid, Mr. Paulk, who is, again, a wanted fugitive, says he went to the woods to rescue the squirrel.

And again, we’re not making this up, Paulk says  Deez Nuts responded to his voice and came scampering down onto his shoulder.

Then he posted a Facebook video of him and the squirrel showing them together.

I mean… so many questions I have in this story. First, all squirrels look alike so how did Paulk know it was Deez Nuts who came to him? Second, and I can’t stress this enough, I need to know exactly HOW Paulk was giving Deez Nuts the crystal meth. Did he feed it to him in a straw, or did he give the squirrel some type of injection, or what? Because as crazy as Walter White and Jesse were on “Breaking Bad,” I don’t think we ever got to see a squirrel get high.

Third, what IS the point of having an aggressive squirrel? Is Mr. Paulk planning on entering him into some squirrel-fighting contests, to win cash and prizes? Do aggressive squirrels scare off potential burglars?

And my final question: Wouldn’t it have been easier, Mr. Paulk, to just go out in the woods and look for a squirrel that’s already pretty ornery, than to go spend the money on meth and get Deez Nuts all tweaked?

So many questions. Deez Nuts. God, what a time to be alive.

**Next up today, this clip is from two weeks ago’s episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” but we were a little behind so I only saw it the other day, and I’m so glad I did.

So I couldn’t find the entire segment Oliver did on British Prime Minister candidates, but this part focuses on a man named Rory Stewart, who maybe allegedly knocked over one of the monarchy’s Princes in a soccer game when William and Harry were small children.

I laughed so damn hard at the rabbit hole Oliver goes down here. So freaking funny.

**And finally today, it’s rare that a baseball highlight makes me go “I’ve never seen THAT before,” but may I present St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, and his unusual way of starting a double play Sunday.