House of Cards (Link-apalooza #12)

Finally, here it is: Episode 12 of the smash hit Link-apalooza series. Yes, I know, it has been a long time coming, but I figure if Serial podcast can take a whole year off, a few months can’t really hurt, right? It is certainly not lost on me that we are returning from hiatus on the same day. I hope it’s not too much for our fans to handle all at once. 

Frankly, I’ve taken a break because all the newsy things out there lately just stink, which has kind of turned me off to reading in general. I pretty much try to stay away. I mean, between the clown show of a presidential election and bimonthly mass shootings and everything else, I just get angry or depressed when I delve into the online world. For example, how about one of our local sheriffs that just went insane? His plan, basically: let’s have as many armed-to-the-teeth George Zimmermans running around as possible to “protect” us all. I feel safer already.

Anyway, enough of that, let’s get down to some really depressing stuff. Longform podcast is consistently one of my favorites. Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnian author who traveled to Chicago just before the Yugoslavian civil war and ended up more or less stranded in the US, was the guest on a recent episode. As is usually the case, I didn’t know of him, but following the directions of the podcast host, I read his New Yorker article The Aquarium.

.I highly recommend it; it is a stunning piece. I won’t give too much away, but it is about his daughter’s cancer. So, yeah…be prepared.

But, of course, if recent events have taught me anything it’s that there is no way to be prepared. Whether it’s gun violence, a car accident, disease, natural disaster, aging, war, or whatever terrible thing you can think of, something is going to happen to disrupt your world. It’s a matter of when, not if. 

What this piece by Hemon emphasized for me is that each of our lives is just a big house of cards. No matter how hard we try, how careful we are, we can only keep balancing those flimsy cards on top of and next to each other for so long before something brings them all tumbling down. Even if, at the last possible moment, we catch the charm dangling from our bracelet and stop it from crashing into our wobbly edifice, an unanticipated breeze, or better yet, a rambunctious dog can bring the whole thing cascading to the floor in a matter of seconds (Brady Bunch fans: What’s Up!!). 

There is a maddening amount of luck and happenstance involved in life. Blind luck dropped me into a time and place that, despite the terrible things that happen from time to time, is inordinately safe and comfortable. How amazingly lucky I am. Many of the world’s worst problems I get to observe from a safe distance rather than be held captive by them.

Because of the relative cushiness of my life, here are some things in the last week or so I have had the luxury of dedicating serious thought to:

1. The way my 4-year-old blatantly cheats at Slap Jack (or in his parlance, Slap the Jack). Picking up the card, turning it over slowly, staring at it for three seconds, saying “look what this is!”, showing me the jack, and only then placing it down on the pile is not how the game is supposed to work! The worst part is, because of my lightning quick reflexes, I could still slap in first, but even that’s not allowed. I just can’t win. Literally.

2. The fact that said 4-year-old hasn’t properly bathed in what seems like forever because he has a boo-boo that can’t get wet. Is an occasional wipe down with a damp paper towel good enough?

3. Will the new football coach at the college that I went to many years ago be able to return us to our winning ways?

4. Is this the year the Orlando Magic finally make the playoffs again?

5. Will Tiger ever play top-level golf again?

6. Will we ever catch up with the backlog of shows on our DVR?

7. Pros and Cons: spending the money on a new laptop versus just waiting for mine to completely crash so I don’t have to write or go online anymore.

8. How concerned should I be about how closely my anxiety level tracks with the number of unplayed podcast episodes accumulating on my phone?

9. Will this finally be the day that Publix gets my online sandwich order correct?

10. Should I re-activate my Netflix account so I can watch Master of None, or hey, how about House of Cards?

So yes, for now, I think about these things and I wait. Hoping my little house of cards makes it intact through one more hour or day or week. Hoping my luck doesn’t run out quite yet.