No, just no. I know that language evolves, but sometimes it degenerates in confusing ways. Would you believe “rawdogging” has acquired a new meaning? I know what it used to mean, but now it’s something very different, entirely harmless, and actually rather effete.

A 26-year-old Londoner named West (who asked to use only his first name) went viral in May when he posted about his decision to forgo any entertainment and pass a seven-hour trip watching the flight map. “Anyone else bareback flights?” he asked in the caption.

The concept—referred to in a vivid and perhaps unfortunate parlance as “rawdogging,” “flying raw,” and “bareback”—resonated with many in the comments on West’s TikTok page, @WestWasHere. “Yup, from London to Miami this week…pure bareback no food or water,” one wrote. “I swear barebacking flights make it go quicker,” another added.

“I’ve got DMs on Instagram like, ‘Bro, you need to teach us how to bareback flights,’” West tells GQ.

This has got to be a joke. You need to be taught how to sit quietly doing nothing on a flight?

But West and others have also come to see rawdogging flights as a kind of challenge, like the Tough Mudder or No Nut November, the goal being to see how fully participants can deprive themselves of creature comforts, up to and including free snack and drinks and even bathroom visits. A true rawdogger takes no indulgences.

Wait…I usually take the cheapest flight I can get, with few entertainment options, and since the pandemic I don’t take my mask off for the entire flight. I’m a rawdogger now? I thought I just wanted to avoid catching a disease.

The real mission

I lied. We weren’t on a spider-hunting trip this weekend. We were visiting our granddaughter and delivering a bicycle. She took to it enthusiastically, and was pedaling all over her neighborhood with us chasing after.

“We” meaning the crotchety, rickety old grandparents, because Iliana’s mom is still recovering. Skatje has some titanium screws holding her tibia together and her patella is somehow secured in position, and there’s an awesome long vertical scar over her shin, so she can’t keep up. We contributed by bringing her daughter a rapid transport device and turning her loose. She was busy biking all over their apartment when we didn’t take her outside and point her at a sidewalk. I know, grandparents are just the worst.

Then we had to make the long drive back home — 7 hours each way! — and I got my usual reward. I got to stand around awkwardly while Grandma got all the hugs and sad farewells, because I’m the homely, repulsive, off-putting, superfluous male, the danger-even-if-not-a-stranger guy. At least I get to console myself with spiders.

Iliana was a natural, though. She’s going to bicycling across country to visit us (or at least, grandma) someday. When she’s 18, she said. She’s 5½ right now, she explained, so she can’t go that far, yet.


My sympathies to this woman’s recent struggles, but I am reminded why I despise royalty.

“On cue, the sun broke through the showers to shine on her — and the whole world said in unison…it’s lovely to see you too, Kate”

Nope, I didn’t say that at all. It was more like muttering under my breath at the annoying overdose of saccharine and non-news in the news. Fuck off, Kate, and take your annoying kids with you.

Rupert can stop simpering over this one family, too.

(It’s nothing personal, I just get so annoyed at empty propaganda and the excesses of tabloid “journalism”.)

A brilliant approach

While we’re at it, can we ban these? (Minneapolitans know what I mean)

I love this idea out of any country other than the US.

Last month this Scottish city — filled with medieval spires and shadowed by the looming castle on the hill said to have inspired the Harry Potter books — made a startlingly modern decision. Edinburgh’s city council voted to ban fossil fuel advertisements on city property, undermining the ability of not only oil companies, but also car manufacturers, airlines and cruise ships, to promote their products. The ban targeted arms manufacturers as well.

Edinburgh is not alone. Amsterdam and Sydney have cracked down on advertisements for fossil fuels and high-emissions products. France also limited the promotion of coal, gas and hydrogen made from fossil fuels. Even the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, has joined in, endorsing a ban on fossil fuel ads this month in a speech in New York this month: “Stop the Mad Men from fueling the madness.”

A fantastically potent tactic, I think. It’s not just that the general public will lose a source of misinformation and propaganda for practices that harm the world, but that media will lose an incentive to peddle petroleum products. What would the news be like if mass media were no longer motivated to downplay ideas, like climate change, because big corporations were no longer sensitive to specific kinds of advertisers?

Here in the US I’d also like to see a ban on advertising pharmaceuticals. I don’t watch broadcast television much at all anymore, but one of the reasons is the infuriatingly stupid ads for drugs. Killing car commercials and Ozempic ads would have interesting side effects on the commentary out of the news room.

First bike!

Next week, we’re driving all the way to Madison to see my daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter, and we’re bringing a present: her first bike. I got it all assembled today, although I’m going to suggest that Kyle & Skatje give it a once-over and make sure I didn’t forget something.

I remember my first bike, and really, my only bike. We were poor, so we had to take whatever we could get, and my father was quite proud to have gotten this used bike from a friend. I was 7 or 8, and he gave me this monstrous adult bike (I’d grow into it), dark red, with the words “English Racer” written on the frame (I later learned that it wasn’t really a racing bike, but a Raleigh Sports bike.) It was very light and stripped down, only 3 speeds — high, higher, and so high you’ll rupture yourself trying to turn that crank — and no fenders, which was not a great option in the Pacific Northwest, where I’d spend most of my adolescence with a muddy stripe up my back. It had these tires that were about as thick as my index finger, so no, this wasn’t for riding on the back roads.

Also, no training wheels, of course.

So my dad taught me how to ride by putting me on this razor thin rail on wheels, where I couldn’t simultaneously sit on the seat and reach the pedals, and pushed me off down the driveway. I had to learn to balance or die.

As you can see, I didn’t die. That was my bike all through grade school, and I think my parents didn’t junk it until I went off to college — at least, it disappeared then, and I don’t think it flew away. It was a great bike. Meanwhile, my brother would get a 10-speed with fat tires — I felt sorry for him that he was driving such an inferior vehicle. My bike was a beast to get rolling from a stationary start, but once you got moving, I could easily outrace my brother and all of my friends. As long as there was no turning involved. Or braking. Or going uphill. Downhill on the straightaway, it was glorious.

I don’t think Iliana’s bike will have the staying power of my old Red Racer, but it’s a much more practical and safer way to start bicycling. Maybe when she gets older she can get a skinny death machine and terrorize everyone going down hills.

“There’s something to be said for Minnesota nice”

I read a horrific story about road rage. A 35 year old man was so outraged about getting honked at that he followed the honker to her home, spun donuts in her parking lot, punched her in the face, and chased and ran over her boyfriend killing him. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

That’s just one ugly story. What was interesting is that the article ranked states for road rage, and number one at the top was Arizona.

A recent study from FINN put Arizona’s road rage score at 8 out of 10, the highest in the U.S. The state also came out on top for confrontational drivers.

“A huge 81% of drivers in Arizona have been yelled at, insulted or threatened when driving,” according to the report. “As well as this, a shocking 22.5% of drivers in the state have been forced off the road.”

Arizona ranked ahead of Montana, South Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama for road rage.

Where’s Pennsylvania? Once upon a time I had a daily commute on the Schuylkill Expressway, and that was mildly terrifying. I once saw a truck cut off a guy on the freeway entrance, and the guy pulled out a pistol and started peppering the truck. You do not want to be on the Schuylkill at rush hour.

But then…a nice surprise.

The best state to avoid road rage? Finn said Minnesota, where drivers encounter the least aggressive driving in the country. There’s something to be said for Minnesota nice, apparently.

As usual, the author doesn’t understand “Minnesota nice,” a phrase referring to the extremes of passive-aggressive behavior here. But sure, come to Minnesota, where we probably won’t force you off the road and murder your boyfriend. Probably.

Fathers and sons

I can sympathize with Joe Biden feeling the pain of his son’s conviction.

President Joe Biden said he accepts the guilty verdict of Hunter Biden after his son was convicted by a jury of three federal gun charges Tuesday − a historic first for the child of a sitting president.

“I will accept the outcome of this case and will continue to respect the judicial process as Hunter considers an appeal,” Biden said in a statement.

“As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a Dad,” Biden said. “Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today. So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

That would be my reaction if one of my kids was a screw-up who got caught: we’re going to have to accept that you committed a crime and are being punished for it, but we still love and support you.

Unfortunately, we’d also suffer some anguish — where did we go wrong? What could we have done to prevent them from taking this path? Did my pursuit of a career do them harm? I don’t have to worry about it since my adult kids are all perfect and delightful, but I imagine the Biden family is doing some soul-searching, and if they’re not, they’re not good people.

You know who are not good people? Republicans. Apparently, some of them are very good at cutting human feeling out of their lives. Like, say, Clarence Thomas.

One of the many corruption scandals in his life is that he accepted somewhere around $150,000 to pay private school tuition for his grand-nephew. He and his wife were legal guardians for this kid between the ages of 6 and 19. Clarence said he was raising this boy, Mark Martin, as his son.

Then Mark’s life went awry, he was doing drugs and playing with guns. He has been arrested and is awaiting a mandatory 25 year prison sentence. He’s a great big screw-up. So, the response from Clarence Thomas and his wife is to pretend they don’t know him, to cut their adoptive son out of their lives.

Now 32 years old, Martin told BI in an interview from the Jasper County Detention Center in South Carolina that Clarence and Ginni Thomas washed their hands of him years ago.

“I haven’t really heard much from them in a long time,” Martin said. “I tried to communicate with them a couple of times, but I’ve never gotten any response.”

Yikes. I cannot imagine turning my back on my kids like that, cutting off all communication. I feel pain right now that we live so far apart that we can only see each other sporadically.

But then, ol’ Clarence made his feelings known early when he preferred getting millions of dollars from his billionaire buddies to his son’s company, and sent Mark off to military school.

While his own father was incarcerated, Martin remembers much of his childhood as the Thomases’ ward as relatively privileged. Together, Martin said they traveled to more than 20 countries; he frequently spent summers wakeboarding or waterskiing and babysitting Crow’s son when the elite families vacationed together.

That all stopped when Martin entered high school, he said, when the Thomases decided they “just didn’t have time to deal with” him and sent him away to the boarding schools. From his freshman year of high school on, Martin said he rarely saw his Supreme Court-justice great-uncle or his wife, who Martin said had raised him “like another mother and father” since childhood.

Rich Republicans can’t be like the mother and father I knew, or have tried to be, I guess.

Maybe Mark Martin disappointed his grand-uncle by growing up to be such a small time crook rather than a big-time rotten crook like Clarence Thomas.