Chili & Tots: The Dinner Of Bachelors

Sweet Potatoe Chili
Sweet Potatoe Chili

Probably the worst habit I developed in the years that I spent approximating the culinary arts while living alone was the regular reliance upon the “Chili & Tots” dinner of pathetic losers who will spend the evening watching Red Dwarf by themselves.  This meal was extremely sad by any measure of what one calls “food”: heat up a bag of extremely cheap tater tots in your death-trap of an electric oven, microwave a 79¢ can of generic brand chili purchased from the corner store you walked past on the way home, grate whatever cheese happens to be lying around, and cry.

No person on Earth could ever defend this meal as being “worth it,” no matter how cheap it actually ended up being.  However, up until very recently, this was a staple of my diet.  I ate this meal probably once a week, always falling back on the, “I don’t know how to cook,” excuse for why I was slowly killing myself.  My girlfriend loved asking me what I had for dinner on the nights she went out, only because she knew the answer and seemed to love needling me about this horrible habit.

So, when she made Sweet Potatoe Chili for us one night, I knew that I had to figure out how to do this myself.  I had lived with a roommate who would regularly make an amazing chili (served in home-made bread bowls), and while I longed for something delicious and amazing like that, I was instead eating dreck that dogs would have doubts about eating.  I was determined to add chili to my repertoire, if only so I could feel better about my nights alone.

Last night was my third attempt at making chili.  I made it twice before while visiting family last week; once because my girlfriend had just given me the recipe to share with my sister, and again because we had bought all the fixin’s and there were leftovers.  While both batches were eaten with few complaints, I was convinced that I could do better at home with a fairly well stocked kitchen and plenty of cooking implements (like the one my girlfriend keeps).  Since she was at the theater last night, I knew it was time to throw together some bachelor chow.

I decided to use the Crockpot, and this is where I learned my first lesson: You can never give yourself “too much time” when cooking with a Crockpot.  This might be a no-brainer for experienced cooks, but as I was standing over it, ravenous, after only a few hours, waiting while the potatoes softened up, it occurred to me that there was a reason the recipe was for stove cooking.  While I’m glad I learned this the hard way, I realize that in the future, I will have to get started just after breakfast to be successful the next time around.  In this case, cooking longer = better.

Since this was my third time, I sort of improvised a little, and I think this helped.  Rather than use the prescribed amounts, I basically chopped up whatever I thought would be good in a chili, and threw it in a pot of chicken stock.  (I probably could have used vegetable stock, but we were out.)  Lots of tomatoes, lots of onion, lots of potatoes, and a little bit of a bunch of other things.  I used chili powder, cumin, and white pepper powder (with a few sprinkles of pasilla powder).  I don’t know much about spices, but I seem to really like white pepper powder.  I let this stew for a while, stirring and cursing myself for not starting sooner.

The second thing I learned this time around is: You absolutely need to start tasting things as you go.  My view of cooking seems to have come from dim memories I have of a food handling class I took when I was 18, and I have a vague memory of some rule that stated that you shouldn’t eat any part of the food that you’re making for other people to eat.  (I think there was a sanitary component to this.)  I’m sure, now, that I must have misunderstood this, because every cook I talk to says that they taste everything as they go, right up to the point just before they put it on a plate.  So this time I took this advice (thanks again to my girlfriend), and started tasting the chili once it looking like it was warm enough.  This worked out, as I discovered that the spice level mentioned in the recipe was for absolute pussies.

This was also the first time there was some serious splash-back during the cooking process, dirtying up the shirt I was wearing.  The third thing I learned this time: You shouldn’t cook in a t-shirt that you don’t want to get stained.  Someone who has been cooking for a long time is laughing at me right now, but this had never happened to me before.

Totty
Totty

Had I used the vegetable stock, I could have stopped right there and it would have been vegan and / or veggie friendly.  However, I cooked and added a bunch of ground turkey.  I’ve been on a non-beef kick lately, and I seem to be enjoying it quite a bit.  When I was absolutely sure I couldn’t wait any longer (it had only been a handful of hours), I put some tots in the oven, baked them, and began to dish up dinner.  I wanted to make corn bread with jalapeños and coconut milk in it, but I forgot to get a corn bread kit at the store, and I didn’t feel like trying to hunt some down by the time it occurred to me.

I think the results were okay.  Obviously, it could have cooked longer, and by the time I was ready for bed, the chili really looked like it would be great.  (I bet lunch today is gonna be rad.)  I also think it could have been a little spicier, so I would love to get any recommendations of chili spices, and which ones offer what kind of flavor combinations.  (Thoughts, anyone?)  I would also like to try a vegan version, just to see what it is like, too.  Any alterations on this kind of recipe would be greatly appreciated.

In the end, this was absolutely the most satisfying batch of chili I’ve eaten with tots alone in my apartment.

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Concerning Portable Media

Portable Media In The 19th Century
Portable Media In The 19th Century

Both of the generations previous to me had the same understanding of portable media: you grabbed the records that you wanted to listen to, you took them to the place you were going, and if that place had a record player too, then you could listen to those records.  The media itself was portable; the player was not.  Humorously enough, my great-grandparents actually had it a little easier, in that the very first gramophones did not require electricity, and could be carried from place to place, and could even be used while on the go if you wanted.  Most of them were very heavy and were not always worth the effort, but there were some companies that made very small players – with very small horns – which could fit in the palm of your hand and could deliver a three-minute song.  If you had a huge bag that contained a number of these cylinders, you could realistically listen to about 20 of them outside of the house.

On the whole, people did not do this, and so the idea of portable media as we think of it – where the player and the media are in use while on the go – is a very recent development in our culture.  For me, it began with my first walkman, and I would carry with me a handful of tapes in my backpack as I was skating, walking, or busing around town, content with the four or five albums, and the one or two mixtapes, I could carry.  Culturally speaking, walkmen were disliked in droves when they were first introduced.  A lot of people complained that they were making the listeners deaf, that the people using them were distracted, and that prolonged usage would create a world of Marty McFlys.  (I can remember a number of sitcoms that employed the, “Huh?” joke as a listener would pull one side of their headphones off so they could try and hear the insult that was just lobbed in their direction.)

Not to be outdone, the introduction of .mp3 Players, and the dominance of the iPod / iPhone as a platform for portable media, has completely normalized the idea of portable media.  Digital releases are expected by teenagers, and grandparents can be seen putting in their earbuds as they are power-walking.  I’ve always been interested in all things audio, and I couldn’t wait to get my first iPod – a lime-green mini that I got free with my first laptop.  For years it was at my side non-stop until it just stopped working just after the warrantee ran out.  After that, I upgraded to a very fancy black iPod with a color screen that could carry 80 GB of music.  (I decided not to get the iTouch, in spite of the clerk’s insistence that it was amazing, only because at the time I couldn’t fathom what I would do with something that did more than just play music.)  Not too much later, the iPhone came out, and in the wake of a break-up, I bought one as an impulse purchase.  Within a couple weeks, I sold my iPod and have stuck with the iPhone, and have had one ever since.

What initially attracted me to .mp3 players were the simple fact that I no longer had to limit myself to the handful of tapes that I could carry with me.  Even at 3 GB, the idea that I could carry that much music music with me, and not have to bring anything other than the device on which I would listen to it, absolutely blew me away.  Already attracted to CDs (and the random feature on CD Players) I loved the notion that I was programming a very small jukebox – or even a radio station specifically tailored to my tastes.

Time has continued to pass, and developments in portable media have almost completely eliminated the idea that there is even a limit to the music that you can “carry.”  Devices have capacities that are unthinkable when compared to what I imagined as a teenager.  Smart Playlists have created environments where we can algorithmically program the means through which we enjoy or music.  (“Random” seems very quaint now by comparison.)  Between YouTube, “Cloud” storage, the iTunes store, and a host of other means through which we can absorb media when the mood strikes us, we very literally have unlimited access to more content available than any of us could ever hear in our lifetimes, not to mention the new content that is continually being developed and created every day.  Who could ask for anything more?

This desire to carry our entire music collections with us everywhere has eliminated something from our listening experience that used to be the driving force behind the act of listening to music: intention.  Rather than selecting albums that we will listen to as pieces of art – or even as singles and EPs that we want to check out – we create listening environments that turn our devices into digital audio landscapes.  To quote Negativland, “Too many choices is no choice at all,” and now that we have the ability to hear everything, we are no longer listening to anything.  Rather, we amass huge collections, push play, hear the first few seconds of a track, get distracted, and start doing something else.

When considered reasonably, no one could ever listen to all the music they have collected in one day.  For most people, you could not listen to it all in a month either.  The notion that we need access to everything is more marketing than anything else.  Look what you can do!  We agree that yes, we could eat fast food every day of our lives, too.  We can also drink a fifth of bourbon and pop any number of over the counter pills.  Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.  Anymore, I no longer believe that “music” has started to “suck” in recent years, but rather, the means through which we digest it has started to completely blow chunks.

I admit, I am guilty of consuming media in less-than-ideal means on a regular basis.  I love random features, I have an unwieldy collection of digitized music, I am never more than a few feet away from my Borg Implant, and I see the world divided into times that I can listen to music, and times that I cannot.  But I am trying to make improvements.  I love music.  I think listening to a song is one of the most sublime forms of entertainment a person can enjoy, and I want to make sure that I never develop a habit that reduces the value of this incredible human experience.

With this in mind, I’ve been working on reducing the amount of media I carry with me to no more than 12 hours.  Even that amount is more than I can realistically “listen to” in one day (without reducing most of it to background music), and beyond that, I’m fooling myself anyway.  During my recent trip up north, I brought with me 20 hours audio, and in a full week did not manage to listen to it all.  Not only did this open my eyes to the ludicrousness of “instant access to everything all the time,” but it also made me realize that by being more selective I could maximize the enjoyment I can get out of music.  Having to actually think about what music I bring with me creates and environment where I am selecting specific artistic expressions I want to enjoy, rather than just cramming as much as I can fit into the device of my choice.

It’s not perfect, of course.  I’d like to get that amount down to 6 hours, or less even.  And I know I will never win over listeners who grew up in a world where digital entertainment was already the norm.  I’ve tried to bridge this subject with a few people within my own age-range, and even they are confused as to why I would want to limit the amount of music I have access to.  But it is not a question of limitation.  I still have access to everything I own at any point in the future.  That isn’t going anywhere.

The question becomes: what do I want to listen to right now?  I want to be able to answer that without activating the “shuffle” feature, and without resorting to, “I don’t know.”  There’s enough green slime in our lives as it is.

Learning Something Useful

The Really Rosie Special
The Really Rosie Special

In the past, my idea of cooking involved a box of something, a package of something frozen, burning the cooking implements beyond the ability to use them again, and then mircowaving something in its place because I screwed up the thing that I was actually going to eat.  The funny part is that I actually understood a fair amount of what I was doing wrong.  But every time I would step into the kitchen, I would undergo a horrible transformation, and could only approach the world as if I was a 20 year old male living in a bizarre flop-house where budgetary constraints, combined with a cigarettes-and-40-ouncer priority, reduced my view of eating to a pizza-and-burritos diet.

I have made a few efforts to overcome this handicap in the years past.  At one point I bought an extremely heavy cookbook that contained “over 1000 recipes” with the misguided notion that I would start going through it in an effort to learn how to cook.  To this day, that book as remained un-read, and the only action it has gotten was when I used to have roommates who would occasionally thumb through it and point to all the things they could cook, usually while I was microwaving a can of chili.  There was also the summer where I was making home-made bread, which actually worked out pretty well until school started and I reverted back to buying Gyro’s at Foti’s on a near daily basis, until I moved out of the neighborhood and they changed hands.  I have also mastered a breakfast scramble that is mostly edible because of the amount of cheese and curry I put on the potatoes.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn how to cook, or that I didn’t appreciate good food.  When I would gain access to some delicious meal of some kind, I would sing its praises, and wish I could make something this good.  But when I would try, the finished product was a pretty lame version of what food could be, and the disappointment led me back to Indian Food Carts, granola bars, and more coffee than I needed.  In my dreams, I was mocked openly for being so ignorant in the kitchen as people in chef hats threw delicious biscuits at me.

Stubbornness has served me well in many areas of my life, and if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have many of the things I currently value.  So as I stubbornly continued to problem-solve my inadequacies in the kitchen, I eventually weeded out a few of the habits that were clearly hindering my success rate.  (Like: leaving the food unattended for 10 minutes at a time, and only cooking things on High.)  My girlfriend gave me a lesson a while back that led to the successful addition of “Taco Tuesday” to our calendar, and with the exception of one or two hiccups, it has become a hit.  (At least: I didn’t fuck it up too badly.)

So, last week, against my better judgement, I decided to tackle making chili from scratch, using the rationale that if I really botched it, I could just add a bunch of jalapeños and no one would notice.  And, somehow, it actually came out okay.  At least, everyone ate it, no one complained, and even my girlfriend said she was not lying when she complimented it.

No one was shocked more than I.

This success completely changed my view of cooking, and I decided that I should really go all out, and try something I’ve never tried before: making chicken, soup & quinoa.  (Or, as I’m calling it now, The Really Rosie Special.)  The impulse was completely driven by the fact that we have a ton of sweet potatoes in the house, and it was the first thing that sounded fairly appetizing.  You can see the results above (and the glass of vodka that I was drinking so I could get my Julia Child on while I cooked).  To make it, I followed a very basic recipe I found on The Inter-Web-A-Tron.  I made it more or less how the recipe said I should, minus a couple of things I determined were optional.  (Like: the whole “for garnish” section.)  I think it was pretty okay, or at least, need to start thinking that, as there’s a ton leftover.

Now that I’ve had a couple of successes in the kitchen, and given that circumstances have changed in our household routines quite a bit in recent months, I am attempting to take on the job of preparing dinner.  I do not expect I will be doing this every night, nor do I expect that I will become an overnight sensation.  I’m not starting an Instagram account, and I am most definitely not becoming any more of a foodie than everyone else on the planet already is.  But I want to get to the point in my life where I have a set of useful skills in a number of areas that allow me to contribute to the world around me in a positive way, and I have to say, putting food in someone’s belly – and having it be food that’s actually pretty good to eat – is a pretty excellent place to start.

So, I’m starting a new section of this blog, dedicated to my on-going education in the culinary arts.  All of these entries will be tagged “Cooking,” and no, I will not be offended if you skip them.  However, if cooking is your bag, and you have any hints, tips, recommendations, websites dedicated to your own cooking activities, recipes that you enjoy, or just a friendly word of encouragement, I would very much appreciate it.  I am on the prowl for ideas I can try that are beginner level, but are fairly rewarding when done right.  (Or, if nothing else, will make a girlfriend – who has more cooking chops than your local butcher – to say, “Not bad,” without having to pretend she likes it.)

I will occasionally post pictures of my successes and / or failures, with a little information about what I did.  I would love to get some feedback if you happen to be into that sort of thing.  I’m also trying to do this on the cheap, so if you have advice on alternatives that save money, I am all ears.  I am not limiting my recipe book to any one kind of food; I’m curious about vegan, veggie, paleo, international, greasy, and any other diet you might enjoy.  My goal here is to learn how to navigate in a kitchen, with a tangental hope that I can give my girlfriend the night off more and more.  I’m not expecting to become an expert; rather, I just want to be able to do something that most people learned much earlier in life.

Thanks!  We’ll resume weird, abstract culture reviews and existential musings on life when we meet again.

The (Non-) Hero’s Journey

Coming, Dear!
Coming, Dear!

For me, I will always associate any journey I make that is of any length with that of Odysseus, the man who managed to turn a routine night out with his friends into a 20 year sojourn away from all the things that mattered most in his life.  The Odyssey is probably my favorite book, and while I have only read it a few times, it seems to encompass all the things that are awesome: a road trip with friends, fighting for things that matter to you (both philosophically and politically), finding the value in being more clever than everyone else around you, telling fantastic stories to anyone and everyone who will listen, and most importantly, wanting to return to a place where you can take off your sandals, kill off all the people who are trying to move in on your woman, and wash up when you feel you are at your absolute grossest.

I don’t want to create the impression that I consider my own travels in life to be on par with that of a soldier returning home from war.  By comparison, at best, I could only be considered a Telemachus in the world of someone like Odysseus, if only because my own experiences on the road are so minor and short-term.  It is true that even the story of Telemachus is meant to parallel the larger journey his father is making – and by extension, we are all meant to measure our own attempts at travel against the grandfather of all journeys.  Still, I am apprehensive when I make comparisons between my experiences and those of a fictional character, mostly because I don’t want people to think that I consider my own life of the same caliber as one of the most important literary figures ever to appear in text.  Even if part of me feels like I’ve ripped off his formula for my own growth and experiences.

Yesterday, I returned from a week-long visit with family, during which I feel as if I came about as close as George Clooney did in O Brother, Where Art Thou?  There were obstacles to overcome, clashes with incredible foes (personal and public), a few good deeds done here and there, a few unrelated side journeys, meetings with friends and strangers, and in the end a return to my home and my girlfriend, where I was able to rest easily in my own bed again to make sense of everything that happened.

Any trip that involves family also involves a mixture of crazy feelings and emotions that are difficult to sort out.  As we age and grow in different ways, and follow different paths that put us further away from where we used to be, it is both easier and harder to deal with the realities that surround us.  Grandparents are closer to being gone, parents are closer to being teenagers again, teenagers are closer to being adults, and everyone is solidifying their personal philosophies in ways that are nearly impossible to say are even in the same ballpark anymore.  There is both sadness and joy mixed in with a maudlin consideration of mortality, and a simultaneous celebration of the potential that the future offers.

I was gone for a week, but the timing was prophetically unique.  My return to trip to PDX seemed to mark the physical close of Summer, and as I woke up to a cold and misty view outside my window, I felt with it a real and definite need for change, a desire to purge myself of bad habits and reaffirm what is and isn’t important.  I feel a renewed sense of purpose, a sense that I need to focus more on goals and productivity, and to eliminate hobbies that are no longer relevant.  I want to throw out all my crap in storage, grab my girlfriend by the hand and run headlong into the surf, to see what things we’ll find in the water, together, to reiterate the joy and confusion I feel in knowing this is what life is all about.

There is also a sort of sadness in all of this, because now more than ever I feel as if I have aged significantly.  Perhaps it is the fact that I have a partner to return to at all, something that was never the case for most of my life.  Or perhaps it was seeing my grandmother, who no longer seems to have any memory of anyone, look at me with complete confusion, and then ask for my address with a coy and romantic tone in her voice.  Or the conversation I had with my cousin’s teenage children, who all managed to rattle off a list of 50 bands I had never heard of in spite of the efforts I make to stay on top of new music.  Suddenly, there seems to be a certain kind of mortality creeping into my life, where no amount of detox or fresh fruit can reverse what is happening or what I’ve done to my body.

There are more grays this morning than there were a week ago.  One sweater doesn’t feel like its enough.

All of this is completely psychological, undoubtedly.  I know that my arm is not really in pain, nor do I need to see a doctor.  And yet when I looked at my brother’s surgery incision, with the staples holding his flesh in place, I can’t help but feel as if we are no longer young, that there are things that are gone and lost during our journeys in life that cannot be found no matter how much introspection I force upon myself.

And yet, I still felt good when I crossed the threshold and embraced my girlfriend in our kitchen with my spoils slung over my back.  As I threw out the garbage & recycling suitors that where trying to take over our home, it was almost as if the cycle had been completed, and I really had returned.  I may be older, in very real and measured ways, and I may have learned a few things here and there about life and how (and how not) to live it.  I know I haven’t yet given up the urge to travel; I am not home forever.  I may feel battle-scarred, but I know that I’m still young enough to appreciate the future ahead of me, while old enough to appreciate what I have now that I didn’t have then.

More than anything, I’m happy to know that at the end of the day, my own Penelope was here, waiting for me, knowing that I would return, and that through all her own trials in my absence, we are still hopelessly dedicated to each other in a way that puts a smile on my face and makes me want to return almost more than it make me want to leave.

This one’s for you, babe.

Now: I better catch up on my chores, fast, if I’m gonna have time to listen to all these records I found.

And: Hello Autumn.  Haven’t seen you in a while, have we?

Concerning Mortality

Uhm...
Uhm…

On Labor Day, we were driving to meet some friends for a backyard BBQ, when we witnessed a pretty insane accident.  While I’ve been in one minor accident in High School (we skidded into a ditch, no one was hurt, and we still made it to class on time), and I’ve known people who were in pretty severe accidents, I’ve never witnessed one happening except in a movie.  It instantly made me realize – simultaneously – how desensitized I am to seeing them, and how completely blindsided I was by the event, emotionally.

The official news report is so boring as to make it seem completely inconsequential, so for the record, here is my account.  We were heading south on I-205 at about 4:30 PM.  We had some music on, and we were chatting about absolutely nothing of any importance.  Suddenly, at about where 205 crosses Division, an airborn truck from the northbound lane flipped over the median, landed, and began rolling on the left-side shoulder.  We were in the right lane, and by the time we fully processed what was going on, we were already past it.  We immediately pulled over to the right shoulder, along with most everyone else going southbound.

From our perspective, this looked like a fatal accident.  There was no way to know for sure without getting out of the car and investigating, and a number of other drivers were doing just that.  Part of me felt instantly awful, not just because I assumed that the people in the truck were dead, but because I was not among the people who lept out of their cars and ran to try and assist.  I immediately rationalized this by telling myself that there was nothing that I could have done; the accident had already happened, you can’t help people who are dead, and I have no training in First Aid or CPR, let alone the strength to lift heavy things.  Once we had confirmed that we were both okay, and managed to catch our breath, we slowly continued south, to go to the BBQ.

We were both stunned later to find out that, according to the report, there were no fatalities.  But now I feel even worse about what happend, in that there were people who needed help, and instead I went and drank whiskey with my friends and ate some extremely delicious sausages.  It was one of those moments where I was cursing the person that failed to exhibit simple signs of humanity, only to find that I was that person.

While I know that, realistically, if we had stuck around to try and help, we would have just been gawkers who were getting in the way of people who could genuinely do something important.  Intellectually, there is no reason to feel bad.  There were a number of people who instantly offered assistance, and before we could get to the BBQ, there were a number of ambulances and other vehicles already responding to the accident.  People who were trained and skilled professionals who would actually do something helpful were going to help.  We, unfortunately, were not.

Still, I felt awful.

A couple of months ago, a friend and co-worker of mine died in a car accident.  I say friend, but really she was more or an acquaintance.  I had played cards with her a few times, she dated a good friend of mine, and I saw her every day at work.  We weren’t super close, but we didn’t have to be.  I was absolutely floored when I found out about her death, and while the circumstances were completely different from the accident we witnessed, I can’t help but see some sort of connection.  In both cases, the accidents were completely unnecessary, and yet the both affected me.  And yet, I was not the one even secondarily involved.

I have never been particularly fond of vehicles.  I’m a 37 year old man who does not know how to drive.  I’ve always been a little frightened of how dangerous large cars are, and as someone who lives on a well-traveled corner where there are almost accidents every few minutes, I feel very strongly about my vehicular discomfort.  But this distaste is not practical in the least bit.  I need to be able to travel, and since we have yet to master magic or teleportation, very fast vehicles seem to be the solution.

Part of me wants to say that these accidents could entirely be eliminated if people were more perceptive regarding the world around them, and there is truth in that, undoubtedly.  But would I do any better were I the driver?  Perhaps not.  The world around us is what it is, and no matter what kind of horrific accidents do happen, being more perceptive just means that we will see them more clearly when they happen.  I can’t allow myself to become paralyzed by accidents, nor can I allow myself to become complecent, either.  But the image of that accident terrifies me, not only because it happened in front of me, but because every time I remember it I am reminded of my friend who is no longer with us.

When we went back home later that night, we took 205 North, only to see that the accident was entirely cleaned up.  There were three cars involved in the accident (two of them stayed on the northbound side), and all that remained in terms of signs that there had been an accident were the usual barrier damage, and small bits and pieces on the road.  At that moment, it looked like the accident could have happened says, or even a week prior.

In our lives, we are so quick to try and put things out of our heads.  We want to get to a healthy place, a happy place, and a place that is better for our well-being, and put out of our minds these kinds of things that we witness.  Already, elements that seemed vivid and terrifying have become fuzzy and incomplete.  In another month or so, I’ll probably think of this incident rarely.  This is how we cope with the thought of mortality, and how we prevent ourselves from becoming terrified recluses who never leave the house.

Still, it seems like one of those experiences where there is a less obvious lesson to be learned, about the human condition, and who we are as people, and how we should behave and how we should move forward in a positive and more productive way.  I feel like there should be some great epiphany here, that I can share some kind of wisdom with you about how I grew as a person, and what I can share with you in my growth.

But this time, I can’t.  All I have for you is a story about how I witnessed an accident, how I’m thankful that my friends and family were not in it, and how I will probably be trying to make sense of it for longer than I originally thought.

My hope is that those involved know that I really do care, and that I wish for them the best in however the future turns out.