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A negotiator, a fool, and an island owner walk into a bar...
Growing up, I never really thought of New Haven as a transient place. I went to school here with the same kids for 10 years, and I knew plenty of families with local histories as old as New Haven apizza itself.
And yet, of course it’s a transient place — it’s a university town.
While undergrads all seem to appear one day in August and disappear en masse about nine months later, there are plenty of graduate students, faculty members, researchers, and other adults who are short-timers.
One day, eight people are living in a three-family house across the street from me, the next day, they’re gone.
This phenomenon seems obvious to me now, but I only truly noticed the comings-and-goings of so many people after I moved back here three years ago.
The annual changing face(s) of the city hit a crescendo this past week, with the arrival of “U-Haul season.”
July 31st marked the end of many residential leases here, prompting lots of folks to decamp for, one presumes, other academic locales. Walking along a half-mile stretch of Orange Street on Monday afternoon, I saw no fewer than 12 moving trucks (most of them actual U-Hauls) and two storage pods.
An influx of newcomers arrived the following day to fill vacancies around town. They unloaded their worldly possessions beneath a beautiful blue sky, began to learn the local customs, and embarked on the latest chapters of their lives.
Maybe some will even stay for good.
…Thriller Series I Watched This Week
Hijack (2023) — Created by George Kay & Jim Field Smith
Streaming on Apple TV+
That’s right, I watched a thriller this week. I allow myself to have fun sometimes.
Hijack stars Idris Elba as a professional negotiator named Sam Nelson, who is flying home from Dubai to London. But — uh oh! — his flight gets hijacked. (Air travel, amirite?)
The 7-episode series unfolds in real-ish time as Sam tries to think, act, and, yes, negotiate his way out of this mess.
There are all sorts of intersecting side storylines involving family members on the ground, airport personnel, and baddies — not to mention the sinister plot that makes the whole thing go. This narrative stew holds together well enough.
But what ultimately makes the series work is Elba’s thoughtful performance. I regrettably haven’t seen much of his work in recent years, but it was so great to reconnect with all the aspects of his talent that made Stringer Bell such an iconic character on The Wire.
One of Stringer Bell’s last lines was, “Seems like I can't say nothing to change y'all minds.”
Can Sam Nelson change enough minds to save the day? That, ultimately, is Hijack’s story.
…Comedy Series I Watched This Week
This Fool (2022-23) — Created by Chris Estrada, Pat Bishop, Matt Ingebretson & Jake Weisman
Streaming on Hulu
The streaming era has brought an incredible array of wonderful shows that have given writers and producers from historically underrepresented groups — particularly first-generation Americans — an opportunity to share their stories.
Co-created by and starring comedian Chris Estrada, This Fool centers on Julio Lopez, an uptight, 30-year-old Mexican-American man living in a working class neighborhood in South Central LA.
Like some of his protagonist counterparts in the shows I mentioned above, Julio is still trying to fully launch himself into adulthood. He lives at home with his mother and abuela, and he’s been on-again-off-again with his girlfriend since high school. He works at a nonprofit called Hugs Not Thugs that helps formerly incarcerated gang members transition back into the world outside prison (this has echoes of the nonprofit We Got Y’All on Insecure, another terrific coming-of-adulthood series).
Julio’s life gets a lot more exciting (and funnier) one day, when his unpredictable cousin, Luis (played by Frankie Quiñones), gets out of prison, starts sleeping on the family couch, and joins the Hugs Not Thugs program.
(The founder of Hugs Not Thugs is played by Michael Imperioli — always nice to see an old friend. And to fans of The Wire who watched the above trailer, yes, that was Wee-Bey!)
The show, which recently released its second season, gets a little silly at times. But at its heart are characters trying to grow up and become better people in spite of the internal and external obstacles in their way. And it offers a chance to experience an American community many people have never seen before.
…Confounding Story I Read This Week
“A Tiny Cabin, a Little Island and a Big Change: ‘Am I Crazy?’” — By Steven Kurutz, The New York Times, July 28, 2023
This story was not at all what I thought it was going to be. In fact, after reading it, I felt like I had more questions than answers.
The New York Times editors presented the story like this:
A New Jersey woman now lives alone part of the year on a remote island in Maine that Stephen King called ‘a novel here, just waiting to be written.’
I thought, “How cool and adventurous!”
But that presentation was… not exactly true.
Turns out, the most consecutive nights the island’s owner, Charlotte Gale, has spent there is four. Because although she has a cottage on the island, it’s basically impossible to live there. In fact, it’s difficult to simply stay there for any significant length of time (no running water, no indoor plumbing, etc.).
I also wasn’t expecting the story to include merch, Instagram influencing or a few other surprises that made me feel like Ms. Gale’s tale wasn’t as cool or adventurous as I had hoped.
But I still found it to be a worthwhile read because of the conflicting thoughts it stimulated in my mind.
For once, the comments section actually offered an insightful array of responses, from those crushing Ms. Gale to those applauding her, and from those thanking the New York Times for covering the story to those accusing the paper of essentially giving Ms. Gale a free ad.
And to each of those perspectives, I say, “I agree!”