Day: February 16, 2017

Call a Spades a Spades

The origin of the card game Spades – my favorite card game – is cloaked in mystery. It was probably invented in the 1930s, likely but not definitely in Cincinnati, possibly by college students, and spread partly because it was passed from soldier to soldier during WWII.

Whoever made it up, it was thoroughly embraced by the African-American community (as noted in this hillarious essay by Panama Jackson at Very Smart Brothas, a website you should probably be reading if you aren’t already). I have occasionally wondered whether this was a coincidence, or whether it was something “discovered” by anonymous white people observing anonymous black people (“spade” being 1920s slang for black person, but also the relevant card deck suit). This is one of those mysteries I don’t have the resources to explore, much less solve, at least for the time being.

However, since I had the good fortune to attend a church and a high school that were as much black as they were white, I had many opportunities to play the game (with people of all complexions), in a particularly happy time of my life insofar as pickup card games. If I had a deck with me, I could pretty much count on being able to find three skilled partners, any time, any place, and probably somebody to sit on the sidelines and disparage every single player for being insufficiently good.

Black history month day 16, a salute to the many expert Spades players in my past. I didn’t know how lucky I was. I can teach other people the rules, but not the culture.


The Fightin’ Colossus

In terms of “them’s fighting words,” never come at Emma Lazarus. You know the saying: If you come at Emma Lazarus, you make a fool of you and you.

You probably don’t know that saying, because you are a fool.

A fool who is unmoved by the poetry of Emma Lazarus.



Over the last few days, with Flynn’s and Puzder’s resignations and Conway’s ethics investigation, it’s felt like the start of an unraveling of the Trump administration. Maybe it re-tangles immediately. Maybe it unspools all at once in a thick pile of thread. At the moment, it’s agonizing to witness. I’m having a hard time with it.

Objectively, we’re moving further away from the darkest timeline. We’ve been fighting tooth and nail to do it, to shine more light on the problems that were always there. It feels awful. Even though I’ve been screaming “look! look!” it’s demoralizing to lose even the patina, the veneer that in some way, there might be a functional executive branch that somebody might be happy with.

It’s one of those emotions there isn’t a word for. Ripple regret, I might call it. I don’t think I could have done more to prevent this; but other people could have, who are parts of my same organism, who did something abominable; who are maybe starting to know that now.

It must be a pallid cousin of survivor guilt, with all of us standing on the runway after the last plane took off. I guess you’re right, I guess we should have left the house earlier. I guess we have to find shelter now.

(There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said no. But somehow we missed it.)