Keep America Weird

There are very few things I miss about Washington DC: a craft cocktail bar called The Gibson, thunder storms in the summer, and a handful of people — those are the notable items.

I’ll spare you a list of all the people, except to say that The American Scene’s own Reihan Salam is high on it. In my Best Journalism of 2009, I linked to a wonderful post he wrote titled A New Way to Think About Life — and that is what being around Reihan affords those lucky enough to spend an occasional hour in his energetic company. His ability to combine playfulness and seriousness is singular, and every time I go awhile without reading his work or seeing him on Bloggingheads or in person, I forget that I should be reading more, that I could be more generous to those with whom I disagree, and that the normal ways things are done constrain us less than we imagine.

I’m reminded of all this by a Bloggingheads where Reihan is paired with Chris Hayes, another great guy, and one of the few young writers I wish I’d have met in Washington DC but didn’t. Here’s a short excerpt from their conversation:

(Image of Reihan above by Mariam ElNaggar.)

One of the things I love about This American Life, the wonderful radio program, and about The Marriage Ref, the mediocre Seinfeld-produced reality television meets talk show meets game show, is that they both highlight real people who speak in regional dialect, aren’t stock characters from central casting, and say unexpected things — put another way, these shows help reverse the flattening foisted upon us by mass market television shows and movies, and every time I see either I remember how much I like quirky America.

Of course, I haven’t needed a reminder lately, having just spent 6 weeks touring The South. A project I dreamt up on that trip is hopefully going to contribute to the unflattening project (more on that soon). Meanwhile, I’d like to embark on another project, one that is technically unrelated, but that taps into the same spirit: I’d like to praise things.

To write about stuff I like, and especially writers I like. Reihan is certainly one of them, and I thank him for this latest inspiration (and no, I haven’t forgotten about all the other posts I owe here).

Stay tuned.