When it's hard to find the right words

My latest essay for Seattle Magazine digs into depression, a condition that I've been wrestling with for pretty much the entirety of my adult life.

The one problem I have talking about depression is finding the right verb.

Saying, “I have depression,” implies some level of authority or control over this tendency than I actually possess. When I’m feeling bad, I don’t have depression so much as it has me.

It’s even stranger to say, “I am depressed,” though. Because currently I feel pretty good. I’m in the finishing steps of a story on a rapper-turned-drummer I greatly admire for the NPR-affiliate here in New York City. I went to the Mets game on Monday, the U.S. Open is being played toward the end of the month and football is about to get going.

So while it can be hard for me to find the right words to talk about my mental health, I tried in the current issue of Seattle Magazine where I’m now a contributing writer.

I’ve also written about burnout, Dry January and how embarrassingly typical I’ve been in tying my self-esteem to employment. The next column is going to be on grudges. More specifically, my tendency to hold them, and in light of that subject it’s worth pointing out that I’m going to be on KJR sports-talk on Friday at 5 p.m. Pacific, talking with Dave “Softy” Mahler who I was very mad at for a number of years.

In the meantime, here’s this week’s conversation with Mitch Levy on his podcast, “Mitch Unfiltered” followed by some notes about what I’m reading and watching.

Reading: The Crook Manifesto, By Colston Whitehead

This is a sequel to “The Harlem Shuffle,” which was a story about a high-end jewelry heist and a low-level fence named Ray Carney. He’s riding a unicycle along that thin line between “crooked” and “straight,” occasionally touching a foot on either side. The sequel picks up in the late ‘60s as Harlem and really the whole country are changing rapidly. Whitehead’s writing is bracingly funny in some spots, his characters richly developed. I particularly love Pepper, a hard man who develops a soft spot for an actress. On Sunday, I had read 75 pages and had to tell myself to stop because I want to be able to savor the language and the story instead of letting the plot pull me through. It’s great.

Watching: “Justified: City Primeval” on FX

I love Leonard Elmore’s fiction. I love Raylan Givens as a character. I love Timothy Olyphant’s portrayal. I would say that “Justified” is one of my favorite TV series after its run from 2010 to 2015. I had some reservations about a reboot, though, and to understand why, I’ll need to explain a little bit about the history of the series itself.

Raylan is your quintessential good guy who is willing to do bad things, a sharp shooter with a surprisingly stiff right cross and a very specific moral code that guides his actions. This moral code, however, does not always line up with his department’s procedure. The show’s pilot started with a confrontation with a murderous thug — a mafia-type — whom Raylan gives 24 hours to leave Miami or he will be shot on sight. When it becomes clear the thug isn’t leaving, Raylan stages a duel and shoots him while sitting at a table in a restaurant. It sets something of a precedent for how he operates. An investigation found the shooting justified, which is the title of the show.

Let me be clear. I loved Raylan Givens. At one point, I had a checklist for each episode to see if Raylan Givens:

__ shot someone

__ punched someone

__ was shot at

__ was punched

But I wondered exactly how I was going to feel watching that character on television in 2023. Specifically, I think America has become more attuned to the dangers of allowing lawmen to do what they deem necessary to effectuate justice.

My fears about the “Justified” reboot were quickly addressed. In the opening episode of the six-show reboot included some vintage Raylan, as he disarmed two potential carjackers, locking them in the back seat of his car and hauling them on two errands before taking them to jail, attempting to drop his daughter off at a summer camp and then stopping for lunch where one of the criminals informs him that as soon as he gets out of handcuffs, he plans to exact physical revenge upon the marshal.

“Tyrone, here’s how we’re going to play this,” Raylan tells him. “Gonna’ unlock your hands, if you don’t behave, you’re going to spend a little time in the trunk.”

Raylan is questioned about his transportation tactics at the criminal’s arraignment in Detroit.

“Did you ever threaten my client?” the defense attorney asks him.

“Well …” responds Raylan.

“Did you ever at any time threaten to put him in the trunk of a car?”

“It was my recollection that your client was behaving in a threatening manner.”

“So you were going to put a Black man in the trunk of your car.”

“If necessary, I would have put a white man in there, too.”

Now, this is true. At one point in the first season, Givens is transporting the hopelessly dim Dewey Crowe, ordering the criminal to drive.

“If you’re gonna’ talk, I’m gonna’ put you in the trunk,” Raylan says after Dewey makes a particularly racist observation. “I’ll drive myself.”

In Season 5, Raylan repeats his guidelines for chatty criminals: “My general rule is you keep talking, I put you in the trunk.”

I don’t think Raylan Givens is a good template for law enforcement. At all. I think he’s a truly entertaining character, and for me, this writing acknowledged the troubling implications of such behavior, and then made it clear this is a fictional character, who is not actually racist, just rogue. Anyway, I’m really enjoying the reboot.

Seen: “Oppenheimer” Director: Christopher Nolan

I thought this movie was going to be about the race to develop the atomic bomb, which it kinda is. That takes up a significant portion of the movie, it’s not the plotline. This is a story about Robert Oppenheimer, an arrogant and flawed man who is more decent than many people realize. I would describe “Oppenheimer” as similarly decent with some very regrettable flaws starting with the utter absence of any depiction of the destruction the bombs visited upon Japanese civilians. My other issue was more trifling: The climactic scene in the movie is a Senate confirmation hearing for a cabinet position, the secretary of commerce, which – I think – is the position that Gary Locke ended up holding. It’s fundamentally weird to have such a low-stakes event serve as the climax of a movie about the guy who oversaw America’s production of an atomic bomb. I don’t regret seeing the movie. I thought it was interesting. I’m not so sure if I’d go so far as to call it “good.”

Join the conversation

or to participate.