Earlier today, while we drove up the 73 in our 2010 Prius, the son asked if I’d play some music.
The question actually contains a simpler request—”Cue up ALL MIZZOULA FLY.” That’s the name of a playlist he and I have compiled over the past, oh, 1 1/2 years. It’s a 160-song, 11-hour-long gathering place for our favorite hip-hop tunes. And it’s elicited at least 10,000 conversations through the days and weeks and months.
Emmett, I am happy to report, is a hip-hop head. It’s the only genre of music he listens to, and much of that (I have to think) is a byproduct of our exposing him to the genre from a very young age. Back when he was a tyke, I’d play Snoop and Dr. Dre and Tupac, but when curses would come I’d reach over and drop the volume from 15 to 0. This would happen over and over again—extended arm, twist of the dial, then a return to 15 when enough seconds passed.
Ultimately, though, I stopped. First, because he was too young to understand, so the curses meant nothing. And second, because, well, why is cursing so bad? I’m not saying I want Emmett walking through camp saying, “Fuck this shit. I’m getting some motherfucking pizza.” But if he knows the words, understands the words, gets the meanings and origins—what’s so terrible? Hence, beginning at age, oh, 8, Emmett has absorbed the fucks and shits and bitches and on and on. He knows they’re not to be used. He gets the power and implications. Recently he said to the wife, “It’s like kids and wine in France. They’re exposed to it, so they don’t overuse it.” That was wise.
Best of all, we’ve had sooooo many discussions about hip-hop and the artists and their origins. I’d say, right now, Emmett leans toward Nas and Tupac—two artists with riveting backstories. So, for example, yesterday evening we played “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” a couple of times, and debated the meaning. We both think it’s funny how Shakur keeps saying he’s not angry with the people he’s actually tearing to pieces. “You a damn-ass bitch—but I ain’t mad at you.” Hmm …
Post-Costco bliss with Keet (far right) and the gang.
So it’s 12:30 Sunday afternoon here in Southern California, and I just experienced a truly magical, amazing whirlwind of wide-eyed awesomeness.
Over the past bunch of days we’ve had two visiting South African high school water polo players stay at our house. Their names are Alex and Meralda, and they are these lovely girls who we introduced to (among other things) boba, roller skating, “Get Out!” and (of course) the Slurpee.
Anyhow, a few moments ago Alex, Meralda and their coaches and teammates took off for a different part of the state, but not before the wife and I hosted a breakfast shindig at our house. I would say, oh, 50 people crammed into our crib for the wife’s legendary French toast bake, sausage, eggs, fruit, etc. There was chatter and laughter and … and …
It turns out a couple of the South Africans visited Costco yesterday, where they purchased Apple Watches for about 60 percent of the price they paid back home. Well, we have a Costco just six minutes down the road, so I mentioned that we certainly could go if they wou—
I loaded my car, as did another parent. We pulled into the lot, and you could all but feel the electricity shooting off from girl to girl. They posed for photos out front. They looked up with awe-filled eyes. Before we entered I warned them that, inside Costco, a store rule demands no one ever make a sound.
“OK,” one said.
“I’m kidding,” I replied. “I’m kidding.”
Escape from Costco
We entered, and they scattered like wide receivers in the Run ‘n Shoot. Apple watches! Big bags of candy! Sweatshirts! Underwear! Bras! Giggles! Cheers! In between purchases we spoke at length about the whole phenomenon. Back home in South Africa, I was told, there is access to very little of this. Apple Watches are purely luxury items. You might buy an enormous sack of sweets, but it’ll cost an arm and a leg. Another coach went into deep detail about crime. Sleeping with a door unlocked? Never. “When you pull up to a traffic light, you slow down,” he said. “But you absolutely do not stop.” The kids, he said, were blown away by America’s possibilities and bountifulness. “It’s overwhelming,” he said
And, inside Costco, I could see that. They’re actually visiting Disneyland in a few days, and I asked whether they’d prefer a trip to Costco or the Magic Kingdom. As a group, they were indecisive.
It was all an important reminder of how spoiled so many of us are; how accustomed we are to this and that and that and this. We enter Costco, we see the vat of relish, we purchase the vat of relish. It’s not much of a debate. We just … buy it.
Seeing these girls, with their jaws dropped and their eyes the size of Oreos—it was a needed refresher course in Spoiled: 101.
An important one.
PS: Side note one: They were absolutely dazzled by Alexa. D-a-z-z-l-e-d.
In the past few days the above image of Geoffrey the Giraffe leaving the last-standing Toys R Us store has generated across-the-nation sadness from millions of people. Geoffrey comes to jeffpearlman.com to set the record straight.
OK, so first, I wanna be clear: I’m sad about Toys R Us, in that I’ve made some pretty sweet bank in the 50-plus years I’ve worked for the company. I mean, it has allowed me to travel the world, to snuggle, to hug, to pose for a photograph with Gary Coleman, to fuck bitches and do shitloads of blow.
Wait, hold on.
Let me start again. I know you’re upset. And I get it. But, seriously, get a fucking life. Please. You know I’m not a real giraffe, right? That this is just a suit, and I’m a 5-foot-3 six-pack-a-day smoker named Deacon McGill?
Do you know what this torture has been like for me? Do you know how it feels, having kids kick you, stick you with screwdrivers, vomit on your feet and spit in your eyeballs? Do you know how many parents have whispered into my ears, “I hate you and I want you dead”? Jesus Christ, THEY’RE NOT EVEN EARS!!! MY EARS ARE IN MY ARMPITS! HOW FUCKED IS THAT?!?!?!?
My first suicide attempt came in 1971. I swallowed 723 Matchbox tires, figured that’d end the misery. Nope. A year later, I ran in front of an oncoming Tonka train. Also—no go. I’ve wanted this to end and end and end. I’ve threatened to kill children. Nope. I’ve threatened to have sex with Marge, the 73-year-old shedding clerk in our Tulsa store. No. I once even pulled my giraffe head off in the middle of the store. Thought that was a guarantee masterpiece. How was I to know there was a second giraffe head under the first giraffe head?
Hence, when I heard the magic words—”We’re closing!”—I let out a shout for joy.
I’m writing this from gate D5 inside the American Airlines terminal at Miami’s airport.
It’s been a c-r-a-z-y flying day. And we haven’t flown an inch.
Flight was scheduled for 2:25, so son and I arrived, oh, noonish to return the car, check our bag, etc. At some point I got notice the flight was pushed back to 3. OK, three o’clock. Big deal. Then it was pushed back again. And again. And again. We’ve actually had a pretty terrific time. Played cards (Emmett taught me Casino), ate Chinese food and Nathan’s fries, competed at some pretty intense games of slither.io. Really, I can’t complain about a bunch of hours solo with my best little buddy.
Our flight was finally scheduled to depart at 7:10. Emmett and I set down at a table 20 gates away from D15—the listed departure point. At about 6:15, I said to the boy, “OK, let’s head over.” So we’re walking, walking, walking. He’s got a hot cocoa, I’ve got a hot coffee. We’re casually cruising through the terminal, and I catch a quick glance at the enormous digital schedule.
He bolts. I bolt. We’re doing O.J. through the airport (look it up, millennials), cutting left, cutting right. I have a fat backpack strapped to my shoulders, he’s pulling a wheelie. I chuck my beverage in a can. Emmett is whimpering. I look and his hand—gripping a cup—is coated in hot chocolate. “Give me the cup!” I yell.
He hands it to me, I launch it toward the next can.
It’s an insanely long and tiring sprint. The surface is hard. My back is aching. I’m figuring out what happened when we inevitably miss the plane. Where do we stay? Hotel? Airport floor? The kid is only 11. I’ve gotta handle this well.
We reach the gate. Dad huffing and puffing, son huffing and puffing. There’s no one else walking through the boarding zone. I assume we’re either too late, or barely on time. We walk toward the door.
“What flight are you on?” an employee asks.
“Los Angeles!” I say.
“No,” he says. “Stop. This is San Francisco.”
I look around. A bunch of other LA passengers are wearing exasperation across their faces. One tells me he, too, ran here. But there’s no plane. Not yet. “We’ll be boarding soon,” the agent says.
Moments later, an announcement: “ATTENTION IN THE TERMINAL. IF YOU’RE ON FLIGHT 2283, YOU ARE NOW AT GATE D5! I REPEAT! GATE D5!”
Everyone runs to gate D5.
We got here 20 minutes ago.
Nothing seems to be happening.
PS: Just checked—it’s now a 7:45 departure. Was talking to a guy going on a vacation with his family. He’s missing his connection to Anchorage. He’s rightly furious. “This isn’t weather!” he said.
Back in 2010, I was one of the organizers of the Mahopac High School Class of 1990 20-year reunion.
And it was fabulous.
Truly, I loved seeing people I hadn’t laid eyes upon in two decades. I loved fading into the past. I loved old stories and funny anecdotes and the random bonds of time and geography.
I will not be attending the 30th.
This does not make me happy. First, because I’m longtime friends with one of the organizers, and this person’s heart is gold. And second, because (despite what some of my past etchings might suggest) I’m glad about where I was raised. Mahopac, N.Y. is a fabulous place to grow up. Some of my closest pals hail from my hometown. Whenever I return to New York, I make certain to drive up Emerald Lane and take a long look at my boyhood home.
That said, I can’t pretend. I happen to come from a place that—with some exceptions—loves Donald Trump. The people don’t merely respect him, or begrudgingly approve of him. They seem to worship him. Salute him. Follow him. Obey him.
I’m not gonna smile and shake hands and slap backs with people who think it’s fine and dandy to lock children in cages. I’m unwilling to chuckle about the ol’ Mahopac-Carmel rivalry when so many of my peers openly, vocally, strongly back a misogynistic, racist aspiring dictator; one who speaks of doing violent things to journalists; one who inspires members of the KKK and alt-right to keep plugging, keep bringing it; one who has branded Muslims as the enemies; one who spent five years insisting America’s first African-American president was a Kenyan-born foreign agent who hated America; one who suggests we treat illegals as we would rabid animals.
I’m sorry, but I can’t pretend everything is kosher and dandy. I can’t set aside this level of difference for a night of memories.
And I won’t.
My grandparents escaped Nazi Germany to come to the United States. My Great Uncle arrived—then immediately enlisted in the Army to fight in World War II. My nephews are bi-racial. My friends and colleagues form a rainbow coalition of black, white, yellow, gay, straight, bi. Truth be told, I have friends who work illegally here; who came to find a better life for their children. They’re neither thugs nor criminals. They’re here to make money and live safely. Period. I refuse to turn my back on my history or my people; to set them aside and say, “For one night, I’ll hang with many of those who spit on all we believe in.”
The reunion will go on with out me. People will have a good time—as they should. But as the country melts away, and our democracy becomes an ideal of the past, and as a strongman woos the pliable masses with lies and phony tough talk, I’ll be back home in California, sad that this has happened but contented in my stance.
I’m a proud graduate of Mahopac High School.
But I’m not particularly proud.
PS: And if you’re one of my former classmates thinking, “Good! We didn’t fucking want you there anyway!”—well, this works out quite well, doesn’t it?
I don’t care what any of you say about Wonder Woman or The Avengers or Batman or Spiderman or even Deadpool—the greatest superhero film of all-time is Superman: The Movie.
In case you’re too young or just sorta naive, the 1978 movie starred a young actor named Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel—and it was friggin’ awesome. I remember seeing the flick as a child, and just being blown away, and haunted, and mesmerized. In the decades that followed I probably watched Superman, oh, a dozen more times, and earlier this year took my son to the nearby theater for a 40th anniversary showing.
Do the special effects hold up? Eh, not really.
Is the Superman costume a tad underwhelming? Definitely.
Does Reeve still leap off the screen? One hundred percent yes.
And, technically, that’s why we’re here. Although Reeve died 14 years ago, I left the movie wanting to know more. About his life, sure, but also about his legacy. Who was left behind. What sort of work has the family done in relation to spinal cord research. How have the Reeves moved forward in the aftermath of both Christopher and his wife Dana dying far too young.
Enter: Will Reeve.
The youngest of three siblings, Will, 26, is currently an ESPN reporter/personality, as well as an ambassador and board member for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which benefits those affected by spinal cord injuries. Today, he talks about his relative ambivalence toward superhero movies, the lessons learned from his parents and—most important—how he’d box a one-armed Larry Holmes. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Will Reeve—you are the newest Quaz …
JEFF PEARLMAN:Will, I’m gonna start with a TOTALLY random one. As I mentioned to you over DM, I just took my son to a 40th anniversary screening of Superman: The Movie. Which is a great film, and your dad was ridiculously good. That said, my son and I were both struck by the love scene starring your dad and Margot Kidder; the whole, “Can you read my mind.” It seems a little, um, I dunno. Goofy. In an otherwise awesome flick. Tell me what I’m missing/don’t understand.
WILL REEVE: Full disclosure: I’m not a huge Superman fan, or fan of superhero movies generally (the Deadpool franchise being a hilarious exception), so I don’t totally remember the last time I watched that movie, or that scene specifically. But, to start this Quaz off on the right foot, let me take a stab: as far as I can tell, the thing that makes Dad’s Superman (both the franchise and his character) canon is its irreverence and campiness. Keep in mind, this was the late ’70s, decades before Christopher Nolan came in and darkened the superhero landscape to one shade above pitch black. Dad’s Superman is fun and cheesy and earnest to a fault (not unlike the man playing the character, or his son, for that matter), and that type of scene fits perfectly within those thematic notes. Does it hold up to our evolved standards in 2018? Not really. Should it be enjoyed for what it was then and remains now? In my opinion, absolutely.
J.P.:You graduated from Middlebury College in 2014, and before too long landed a gig at ESPN. How did that happen? And … why? What I mean is, was your dream sports media? Was it something you aimed for?
W.R.: I interned at “Good Morning America” for two summers in college—2012 and 2013—and fell in love with TV. Until then, I had no clue what I might want to do with my life (which was a source of great anxiety at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight I of course realize that I was just being dramatic). Being in studio every day with the GMA team opened my eyes to the frenetic intensity, orderly chaos, and, ultimately, great fun of making entertaining live television. I had always been a serviceable writer and loved storytelling, and learned through my time at GMA that TV would be a perfect outlet to pursue those passions.
So, in addition to my typical intern duties like fetching coffee, printing script pages, managing the crowds in Times Square, attending production meetings and whatever else, I spent as much time as I could in studio with the talent and crew, trying to become good at TV through osmosis. I befriended the camera operators early on and used those relationships to my advantage when I would ask them about once a week to stay a few minutes after the end of the show to shoot me for my reel. I would bring a coat and tie on those days, throw on a microphone and jump on the anchor desk and have the camera folks point their instruments in my direction. A producer up in the control room would run prompter for me, and I would read the news of the day for a few minutes and have someone clip that off. After two summers of doing this, I had a serviceable—if not very diverse—reel, which, for people in the television industry, is far more valuable than a resume. Tape don’t lie, as they say (I don’t know if anyone actually says this).
I had never been a deliberate networker, but I’m a friendly guy who loves to meet and talk to people, so over the course of my two summers at GMA I had come to know some important people at ABC News. One of these important people was a woman named Susan Mercandetti, who worked in the talent office (part of her job was to identify people either currently in the industry or coming into it who showed any sort of promise that might be of interest to ABC). I met with her occasionally to talk about my future and how I wanted it to involve me working on air. She also happens to be the mother of a college classmate at mine, which I only learned after I had met her in a professional context.
Fast forward to October of 2013, a month into my senior year at Middlebury. I’m at a Parents Weekend football tailgate, and I run into Susan, who is up to visit her daughter/my friend, Francesca. We’re catching up over some beverages and Susan asks me how my job prospects are looking. I tell her that I’ve taken all those clips of me reading the news at the GMA desk and edited them into a minutes-long reel and am prepared to send them to any TV station in any market in the country; I was prepared to move to any town in America and work my way up from there. She asks me if I had ever considered working at ESPN. Probably emboldened by the aforementioned tailgate beverages, I basically laugh in her face. Of course I’d considered working at ESPN. It had only been my dream to be on SportsCenter since I was about five. She says she’d like to introduce me to some important people there when I was home for Christmas break.
Over Christmas break in 2013, Susan set a meeting for me with John Walsh, the Godfather of SportsCenter and one of the most legendary sports media figures in history, and Laurie Orlando, the unfailingly kind, caring and competent head of talent at ESPN at the time. We had lunch in New York City. I thought this was just the culmination of Susan doing me a favor, that this meeting was perfunctory and in no way a job interview. Turns out that ESPN was looking for young people who could write and talk, and Susan had evidently pitched me as someone who might fit that description. Somehow, I nailed that lunch. I only know I nailed it because I got an email from Laurie later that day telling me that I had nailed it and that she would be in touch to bring me up to Bristol to meet some more decision makers in the coming months. In February of 2014, I went to Bristol for the first time (I have my Visitor badge from that day framed in my bedroom today) and met with about ten people, all of whom I would later learn were outrageously influential and surely had better things to do with their time (I’m glad I didn’t know how big of a deal they were during those meetings because I definitely would have stuttered and sweated my way out of consideration for a job right there), and those talks went well, too. I didn’t hear anything for about another month, until I got a call asking me to come up to Bristol again in late March to meet with some people I hadn’t seen the first time I was there. Those meetings also went well. So well, in fact, that I said to myself as I walked to my car at the end of the day, “I think I might be getting a job here…”
I went back up to Middlebury and finished my senior year in a 21-year-old haze, not thinking that my life was about to change.
I graduated on May 25, 2014, without a job. For most people, and especially Type As like myself, that would be cause for concern. For whatever reason, I felt calm.
On June 5, that calmness was rewarded in the form of a call from the great Al Jaffe in the ESPN Talent Office, offering me a two year contract as an on-air commentator. I managed to stammer out that I was absolutely interested, that I was basically saying yes right now, but could I please call my family to tell them the news and get their blessing and then I would call back to officially accept? He agreed to this, and about ten minutes later I called him back with those blessings having been bestowed. ESPN told me to take the summer off and I would start in the fall. The rest is history that is still being written, very slowly.
To directly answer your question: working at ESPN was always something I dreamed of, and I still feel like I’m dreaming every time my ID card works on the Bristol campus, but I never really planned for it. I realize I skipped a ton of steps getting to that dream state, and I never take that for granted even for a moment. But to say I aimed for it would be disingenuous, because it all happened so fast and so many people are responsible for more of it happening than I am.
J.P.:I don’t love bringing up tragic moments from one’s life, but yours were both public and world altering. You lost both your father and your mother when you were still quite young. I’m not asking what that was like, or how you coped at the time. What I wonder is, as an adult, how did/does that shape you? Like, what does it do to a person, long-term? How has it formed who you are? How you think? Feel? Etc?
W.R.: My parents’ legacy shapes me every day, privately and publicly. Privately, I am so fortunate to have been raised by those two people specifically because the values they instilled in me, lessons they taught me, and opportunities they gave me have served and will continue to serve as my guide for the rest of my life. Publicly, I feel a solemn obligation to carry on their mission of helping others. That manifests itself most obviously in my carrying on their work at the Reeve Foundation, but also in smaller ways as I try to live by the words they emphasized to me above all others: you have to give more than you take. Having the parents I did, in the community I grew up in, and all the advantages that gave me has allowed me to start on third base in many phases of my life. Because I was raised correctly, in my opinion, I have the tools to get home. Those tools were given to me methodically by my parents in every moment I had with them; they were preparing me for a life without them. Unfortunately, that phase came far sooner than anyone would want, but one of the tools in my kit is fortitude. My parents gave me strength by showing me what strength is. It’s not obviously heroic and isn’t accompanied by a swelling musical score; it’s in trying to do and be a little bit better each day, treating people kindly, and clinging to hope resolutely and unfailingly not because you’re desperate or naive, but because you know it will sustain you.
J.P.:Stupid question, perhaps, but what is it like having Superman as a father?
W.R.: Well, I didn’t have Superman as a father. I had my dad, Chris. Superman, he reminded me often, was just a role he played for a little while well before I was born, which happened to have a major impact on his life and the world. To me, Dad was Superman, but not because of that role; he was my hero because he was my dad. My life was as “normal” as it could have been, given the circumstances, and my parents went to great lengths to ensure that my existence was not defined by fame or privilege, so I never really cared much about what they did for a living as a result. I’m exceedingly grateful for that.
J.P.: You’re an ambassador and board member for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. What does that entail for you? And how has the foundation managed to thrive in the years since your parents passed?
W.R.: Board membership entails throwing on a suit and tie once per quarter and sitting at a needlessly long conference table in a sterile room at a midtown New York law firm and pretending to take notes on my laptop while I’m really just refreshing Twitter. Kidding, kind of. The board stuff is an honor; my brother and sister and I all serve on the board, and we each feel a happy responsibility to take it very seriously and contribute tangibly, because we are the most obvious direct connection to my parents (Matthew, Al and I share a dad. My mom was their stepmother, though there was no “step” in the relationship, just like there is no “half” in my relationship with my biologically half-siblings). My role on the board and at the Foundation writ large is as sort of the Young People Ambassador charged with fostering involvement from my generation of peers, who are key to the Foundation’s current and future success; I have the unique perspective of, yes, being a young person, but also, and more importantly, of having grown up in a family affected by paralysis. I know, intimately, what it’s like to have a parent with a spinal cord injury. It’s hard and challenging and scary and very different from not having someone in the house in a wheelchair. But it is also inspiring and instructive and gives those family members a better understanding of the human condition, and with it more empathy.
I try to use that empathy and my experiences to relate to the myriad people I speak to and visit with all over the country who are dealing with the same challenges that I lived through when I was younger. I travel the country on behalf of the Reeve Foundation. Sometimes that means speaking at conferences or to groups interested in what we do or how I’m doing, other times it means visiting hospitals or rehabilitation facilities or families of the recently injured. One of Dad’s great legacies is one often overlooked: after his injury, he spent time nearly every day reaching out to the newly injured across the world to console them and encourage them to keep fighting, to not give up, to do whatever they could to stay mentally and physically ready for the treatments and cures that he was working every single day to bring to fruition. It is a privilege to carry on that tradition, though I recognize getting a call from me is slightly less cool than getting a call from Christopher Reeve, I hope that my family’s and the Reeve Foundation’s reputation and resources bolster the spirits and fortunes of anyone I encounter. I also really enjoy visiting our NeuroRecovery Network sites across the country, where we fund rehab treatments and practices and provide equipment like treadmills and electrical stimulation, to name but a couple. I also am beyond honored to carry on Mom’s legacy in the form of our Quality of Life Grants; each year, the Reeve Foundation awards millions of dollars to individuals and organizations across the country seeking to make daily life just a bit better for people affected by paralysis, whether that’s buying new wheelchairs for a wheelchair basketball league, or paying for a ramp at the entrance to a community center, or funding adaptive art programs or camping trips, among countless other initiatives. Mom created the Quality of Life program in our back yard in 1997 armed with a positive attitude and a loan from Dad; in the two-plus decades since its inception, the grants program has awarded over $20 million nationwide. The Foundation has managed to thrive thanks to strong leadership, aggressive fundraising, and partnerships with the best scientists and doctors in the world. With everyone’s continued support and buy-in, both figurative and literal, we are going to cure paralysis. My association with the Foundation and what (and who) it represents is the most meaningful part of my public life.
J.P.:You played “Young Danny” in the 1997 TV movie, “In the Gloaming.” Your dad was the director. Glenn Close, Bridget Fonda and Whoopi Goldberg were in the cast. What do you remember from the experience?
W.R.: I remember it being Dad’s return to film after his accident. The movie shot in Pound Ridge, N.Y., about ten minutes from our house. He was so focused and happy, directing his friends doing what he loved so much. As I recall, my scene opens the movie; I played tag with Glenn’s daughter, Annie, on whom I think I had my first crush (I was 4-years old). Because I was so young, Dad thought it would be wise to gently instruct us to just start running around and surreptitiously start filming. He told us to begin, and after a few halfhearted steps I stopped and turned to him impertinently and demanded to know: “Aren’t you going to say action?” After the entire cast and crew’s laughter subsided, Dad did indeed say action and we were off and running, for real this time. I really gave it my all. Mom sang the title song, “In the Gloaming,” and would sing it to me every night before bed for the rest of our time together.
J.P.:Soooo … your grandfather, F.D. Reeve, apparently accompanied Robert Frost to the Soviet Union as a translator. Um … what? Please explain.
W.R.: Grandpa Franklin set the intellectual and academic precedent on the Reeve side of the family. He was the ultimate scholar, a professor at various points at Wesleyan and Yale, and a moderately-to-very well known poet. I think he taught a lot of things, but his expertise was in English Literature, specifically poetry, and Russian, in which he was fluent. Frost took a trip to the Soviet Union in the early 1960s and needed a translator for his journey. The New England literary scene being as small and intertwined as I understand it to have been, my grandfather, the accomplished poet and Russian speaker, was the obvious choice. He ended up writing a book about the experience, titled, appropriately, “Robert Frost in Russia.” My relationship with Franklin was not particularly close, but there was still mutual love and admiration between us; I won a national award for poetry in seventh grade and invited him as my guest to the ceremony at Carnegie Hall and I would visit him periodically at his home in southern Vermont while I was at Middlebury; I always brought my latest writing samples and papers from school for his edits and improvements. There were many to be made. I owe much of my passion for reading and writing and the general pursuit of knowledge to him.
J.P.:What’s the goal? What do you want to do with your sports career? And how do you see sports media evolving in the coming years?
W.R.: The short term goal is to work more consistently, primarily so that I can improve at the craft, and secondarily to build my profile, which is how you get more and bigger opportunities in this business. Working at ESPN was and is my dream job since I was a little kid. That I would be living my dream so early on my career is something I will never not be grateful for. I’ve been fortunate to check off so many bucket list items at ESPN already: appear on SportsCenter, anchor SportsCenter, write for espn.com, contribute features to E:60, host a show on ESPN Radio, meet Bob Ley. It’s all been awesome. The medium-to-long term goal is to continue to establish myself in the media landscape and do as much live TV (or internet or mobile or wherever the hell the most viewers are going to be) as possible, hopefully landing a prominent role on an existing show or, one day, having a show to call my own. If I knew how sports media were going to evolve in the coming years I would feel far more secure in my future than I do now; as it stands at the moment, I believe in OTT services, the importance of live events, and, above all, having the most compelling content possible. If it’s good and useful, people will see it, wherever it is.
J.P.:A couple of years ago you were named one of the top 50 bachelors by Town and Country Magazine. I’m pretty riveted by this—because I didn’t know Town and Country has a top 50 bachelors. Being serious—how did you find out? And what sort of shit did your friends and siblings give you?
W.R.: I forget how I found out, but I was rather mortified. I try to keep my “son of famous people” background as quiet as possible, especially if and when it concerns my looks or personal life. I do remember being a bit frustrated, though, that they listed me as “William” rather than “Will,” which is what everyone in my life, personal and professional, calls me. It showed me they hadn’t done their homework too diligently. Having said that, it’s quite flattering to be listed as some sort of handsome bachelor, though it didn’t have any kind of noticeable impact on my dating life. I’m very fortunate that the people I choose to spend my time with, whether romantically or platonically, couldn’t care less about what some could consider my “glamorous” lineage. As a result, thankfully, my friends made merciless fun of me. To be honest, that’s par for the course, though; I am always the butt of the joke among my friends, which I am more grateful for than just about anything.
J.P.:You look like your dad, who was very handsome. Hence, you’re also very handsome. And I wonder—how aware of this are you? I’m actually being serious, because it’s mentioned a good amount in what’s written about you. So … do you see it? Do you care? Does it matter?
W.R.: Thanks? Look, I’m aware that my parents were beautiful people. Here is the part where I cheesily remind you that they were more beautiful on the inside. Having gotten that out of the way, to answer your question, I suppose it’s nice to be referred to as handsome or attractive as opposed to some alternative, but my looks are not something I’m particularly preocuppied with. Actually, that’s a bit of a lie: I work out and get my clothes tailored and have yet to meet a mirror I haven’t wanted to stare at. And I’ve chosen to be on television for a living, which comes with a level of vanity that needs to be analyzed by a professional.
But as far as my looks being a driving force in my life, they just aren’t. In fact, I always find it pretty lazy whenever someone writes “Superman’s son is the spitting image of his gorgeous father!!!” or whatever. Look a little closer: Dad had drastically pointed features and piercing blue eyes; I have a much rounder face and dark brown eyes, like Mom. I’m grateful that I look a little like both of them, and, more importantly and, again, much more cheesily, I’m grateful that I carry myself through life like both of them, as best and as often as I can. This entire subject is such a first world problem I am cringing harder with each key stroke. Thank you for further complicating my insecurities in this area.
QUAZ EXPRESS WITH WILL REEVE:
• Rank in order (favorite to least): almond milk, Wyoming, Roseanne, “Gray Lady Down,” grilled cheese, Maddie Poppe, diaries: 1. grilled cheese 2. Wyoming 3. almond milk 4. diaries 5. Maddie Poppe, “Gray Lady Down” (never seen it! but I do like submarine movies…) Last: Roseanne
• In exactly 18 words, make an argument for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace:The studio allowed Dad to direct a few scenes, an experience which affirmed his desire to pursue directing.
• Who wins in a 12-round boxing match between you and a one-armed Larry Holmes? What’s the outcome?: Larry Holmes today, or in his prime? Probably him either way. I’ve never been in a fight. He’d just need to run around the ring to tire me out, and then land one good punch whenever he felt like it. Let’s split the difference and say I’d go down in a 6th round TKO.
• Three memories from your first date: Seventh grade. Cheaper by the Dozen starring Steve Martin. Shared a large popcorn and soda, held hands, no kiss at the end.
• What is your obscure talent?: I am a sensational whistler
• Three memories from playing “Young David” in “The Brooke Ellison Story.”: I got to have my own trailer for the day (and this role got me my SAG card, which I didn’t realize was such a huge deal). I thought I nailed it in one take, but the director insisted on no fewer than seven more. Dad was the director.
• What do we absolutely need to know about your family’s foundation?: The Reeve Foundation is the leading organization dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injuries (through funding cutting-edge scientific research and medical efforts) while ensuring the best possible quality of life for individuals and families affected by paralysis. Our dual mission statement of “Today’s Care.Tomorrow’sCure.” reflects that wonderfully. “Hope” is not a buzzword at the Reeve Foundation, it is our currency, and the spinal cord injury community has a surplus of it thanks in no small part to what we do for millions of people every day.
• Five words you overuse: profound, like, whom, wildly, and pick any curse word.
• Four reasons one should make Williamstown, Mass. his/her next vacation destination: In no particular order: the Clark Art Institute, Lickety Split ice cream, skiing at Jiminy Peak in the winter, the Williamstown Theater Festival in the summer
OK, to begin with—I’ll acknowledge this was a poor call on my part.
A few weeks ago, after we booked a trip for my son Emmett and I to come to Florida, I went online to Travelocity to find a rental car.
Now, generally, we rent from Avis or Budget or Dollar or any number of reputable places. But, well, prices were sorta high—except for one outlet, called U-Save.
Again, that should have been a red flag, right? Why was one place charging, like, $17 a day when everyone else was listed in the $30 range? Nonetheless, I went with it. I mean, hell, I’ve rented from off-site places before, and it’s worked out relatively well. Nothing fancy or snazzy. But fine.
Alas … that was then.
We flew into Miami two nights ago. It was late. My son is 11. He was tired. We had a 1 1/2-hour drive to Nana’s house staring us down. The U-Save shuttle van arrived quickly. Good sign. There was a line, but only one person ahead of me. “Wow,” I told Emmett. “This looks pretty good.”
The customer in front of me took, no lie, 45 minutes to complete his transaction. Then I walked up, armed with a reservation number. The clerk asked for my name. He checked his computer and stared blankly. “I have a confirmation number,” I said. Another blank stare. “I don’t have you in the system,” he said. “But I can give you a rate of $25 a day.”
Again, it was late. I couldn’t access my Travelocity account. The amount didn’t sound so bad. “OK,” I said. “That’s fine.”
I wasn’t happy. But … whatever.
He next asked if I wanted a Sunpass—the Florida toll pay system. “No,” I said. “I’ll just pay later.”
“Well,” he explained. “You have two options. You either sign up for $12.25 per day rate, which covers every toll. Or every time you use the Sunpass you pay $10.”
“You’re kidding?” I said.
“No,” he replied. Then he flashed a sheet in front of me. Real quick. I snapped a photo of it as I left and, in fact, that’s not what it says.
If you read closely, it seems to be a one-time $10 administrative fee. Which, of course, is complete bullshit. Because maybe you just don’t want the damn Sunpass. Maybe (as in my case, as it turns out) you have no use for it.
Alas, rushed, pressured, annoyed, I went with the $12.25 option.
OK, next up he tells me my total is $220. Then, I look at the bill and it says $320.
“Three twenty?” I say. “How is that?”
“You said you wanted insurance,” he replied.
“I absolutely did not,” I snapped. He completely made that up. Invented from thin air. I never purchase the additional insurance (for the record, neither should you).
Finally, after being there well over an hour, we get into a red Toyota. The guy who directs us to it says, simply, “That’s your rental.” I walk around it, see no damage. By now we just need to be on our way before the little guy collapses.
I drive, oh, five miles before I notice the gas tank is only 3/4 full; before I notice the tire pressure light is on; before I notice the frayed seat; before I notice the car has nearly 70,000 miles on it; before I notice the engine sounds funny; before I notice the keys are held together by tape; before I notice the trunk opener is gone.
In short, it’s a complete piece of shit.
Earlier tonight, I went to check the air pressure in the tires, because the light makes me nervous. The recommended bpi for the car is 32. I figure the tires are a bit low. Maybe, oh, 27, 28. Nope—they’re all between 50 and 60. Dangerously high, especially with the hot weather.
Oh, final thing. Found my original rental agreement; the one Biff somehow couldn’t locate. I was paying a whole lot less than they’re billing me.
I’m calling tomorrow. Either they concede, or this gets ugly.
Barbara with daughters Alison (left) and Sharon. Circa late-1970s
I am writing this from an apartment in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
It is large and decorated and gifted with a patio that overlooks some beautiful viewage.
It is a place I love. It is also somewhat sad.
Probably, oh, 40 years ago my wife’s grandparents purchased this place, then lived here (I presume) happily until their passings. The last owner was my wife’s Aunt Barbara, a warm, loving, embracing woman whose dedication to family went unrivaled and whose annual post-Yom Kippur break fast gathering was a thing of gangsta beauty. You can see the video here, but take my word—Aunt Barbara spared no cost or effort in making sure we Jews (and a good number of non-Jews) ate like bagel-loving kings.
Anyhow, Barbara was the kind of relative you dream of gaining via marriage. She was terrific to my kids, she was inquisitive and smart and she actually bought my books (and pushed them upon friends!). She was a gem of gem.
Tragically, two years ago Aunt Barbara passed suddenly, and our family was legitimately crushed (I wrote about it here). While time certainly makes things easier, I’m not entirely sure it ever erases loss or altogether numbs the feelings.
But here’s the thing …
As I sit here in Aunt Barbara’s pad, I see photographs she picked. I see the furniture she sat in. I see the phone she spoke on. I see the mirror she gazed into. I’m using a key she used, sitting at the kitchen table where she ate breakfast. And I love that. I absolutely love that. Because, one way or another, we all pass on. I mean, it’s inevitable, and time is out of our control.
What I hope, personally, is that someone thinks to himself/herself, “Hmm … Jeff sat here” or “Jeff used this pen.” And, if just for a moment, they recall a warm memory. A conversation. A look. A shared meal.
It sounded like an amazing opportunity at the time.
It was a July morning four years ago. My mommy and daddy said, “Get out of your cage—we’re going to Hershey Park.”
I was excited, in that my lifetime of captivity and servitude had been less than joyful. Granted, “Mom and Dad” (I suspect they’re not my real parents) would throw daily scraps of meat and gerbil skin into my 4’x7′ containment area. And occasionally they’d wipe away the pee puddles. And once every six weeks they’d wash my moo moo. They called me “Gerald” until my name was changed to “Obo.” Then “Nathaniel Elijah.” In truth, I think my first name is Steven.
Wait. Where was I?
Oh—Hershey Park. They said we were going, and I thought my long nightmare was about to end. Chocolate! Rides! Happy times! Freedom! So Dad loaded my cage into the trailer of the family truck, and off we went, deep into the night. I gnawed on my elbow for nourishment, and sucked on the bone remnants of yesterday’s gerbil. Then, suddenly, the doors opened and everything went bright light. Mom shoved the cattle prod into my cage and said, “Your name is Maurice now!”
“Yes, Mommy. I love you,” I replied.
(God, what I wouldn’t give to see her flesh roasting on Satan’s hottest pit)
“Good Maurice,” she said. “Now repeat after me …”
“Say, ‘Awesome! I’m a Hershey bahr!'”
I tried, but she wasn’t displeased.
CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD!
“Do it again!” she yelled. “With feeling!”
“Amazing!” I said, “I’m a …”
CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD!
“Incredible! I said. “I’m a …”
CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD!
“It’s awesome!” she screamed. “Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Dumb Maurice! Dumb!”
“Awesome!” I said. “I’m a …”
“WITH FEELING!!!” she screamed
CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD!
“Awesome!” I said. “I’m a Hershey bahr!”
Tears streamed down my face.
“Mommy loves you, Baby Maurice,” she cooed. “Mommy loves you.”
Moments later, I found myself against a wall, lined up with a dozen other children. They called out, “Little Murray”—and Mommy nudged me. “You’re name is Murray,” she whispered. “You’re an adorable little 6-year-old who lives in a big house and loves his mommy and daddy very much. Got it?”
“But,” I said, “I’m 11. And you keep me in a ca—”
CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD! CATTLE PROD!
“I love you, Mommy,” I said. “And Daddy, too.”
I delivered my lines like a seasoned pro. Within the hour I was standing before a pimply kid named Todd. He was holding an iPhone. Next to me was a giant chocolate bar character. The man inside smelled like ashtray and fermented fart. At one point he asked me for the name of a reliable coke dealer.