Our stories this week cover why socializing becomes more of an effort as we get older (and why it shouldn’t), the volunteers in Ukraine who are genuinely motivated by the cause, the life of a gambler, soul-saving runs with a dog named Hank, and the Buy Nothing movement. We hope that you enjoy spending time with all of these topics.

1. The Case for Hanging Out

Dan Kois | Slate | February 15, 2023 | 2,753 words

Raising a young daughter and feeling socially disconnected as an adult, I constantly think about where I want to live, but also how I’d like to live. I wrote recently about seeking “community,” but I’m unsure what that even means. So this piece, which explores why Americans spend less time these days hanging out with people, really speaks to me. Perhaps what I long for isn’t some kind of mythical tight-knit tribe to be part of, but something far simpler: more opportunities for casual hangouts. But is this simple? Dan Kois reaches out to Sheila Liming, author of Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time, and asks if he can fly to Vermont to spend time with her, a total stranger, for a day. The piece that emerges from the visit is delightful and relatable. I can’t help but recall my college years and my 20s: wandering over to friends’ dorm rooms to see what they were up to, piling onto couches in someone’s living room to sit and chat and laugh for hours, frequenting the dive bars and weekly club nights where I knew I’d run into familiar faces. To borrow Liming’s words, these were “effortlessly social” times — and they seem so long ago. Social media, over-scheduled lives, and the pandemic have all made hanging out harder. While I also attribute my isolation to age, Kois notes how young people, including his teenage daughters, still find it hard to put themselves out there or carve out time for casual socializing. While I may not be brave enough after reading this to knock on my upstairs neighbors’ door and sit on their couch to shoot the shit, I’m inspired by Kois’ openness and curiosity. —CLR

2. The Secret Weapons of Ukraine

Matt Gallagher | Esquire | February 23, 2023 | 6,935 words

Matt Gallagher is no stranger to warfare. His Army deployment in Iraq became the basis of the memoir Kaboom, and (after publishing two novels) he visited western Ukraine with other combat veterans to train civilians. His return to Ukraine for this Esquire feature, however, is to chronicle the “volunteer ecosystem” that has taken root: the men and women who have converged upon the country from both sides of its borders to defend it against prolonged Russian aggression. These aren’t cosplayers or U.S. extremists trying to get militia cred — “all those bitches got weeded out quick,” says one volunteer, an Air Force vet who’s training Ukrainian recruits — but they’re not all mercenaries, either. Over the course of nearly 7,000 words, Gallagher meets a wide swath of people who have moved by the nobility of the cause, from a Ukrainian woman who coordinates medical training to a one-time Clinton administration staffer who travels through Ukraine writing checks and chipping in. This is wartime reporting I never thought I’d read, a reminder that in an age of geopolitical deceit and oil greed, there still exist people willing to take up arms in service of a democratic ideal. Add in the rich vignettes threaded throughout, and you’ve got a piece you’ll not likely forget anytime soon. —PR

3. For the Love of Losing

Marina Benjamin | Granta | February 9, 2023 | 4,596 words

There’s the thrill of the doing, but before that comes the anticipation, which for some is richer, offering everything the imagination can conjure, without the limits placed by the actual experience. When Marina Benjamin talks about ditching Ph.D. studies to hit the road as a professional gambler, you want to jump in the passenger seat of the hired convertible and burn rubber, right along with her. But what happens when gambling isn’t about winning so much as a way to quantify all that you’ve lost? Benjamin writes: “I now think it more likely that I was toying with loss itself — as one might toy with fire! — trying to figure out at a time of profound change in my life, my entry into the adult world, just how much, and what kind of loss I could comfortably tolerate.” —KS

4. Running With Hank

Caleb Daniloff | Runner’s World | February 22, 2023 | 3,324 words

This essay is about addiction — and a dog called Hank. Hank couldn’t help his 25-year-old owner, Shea, overcome her struggles with heroin and fentanyl, but he could help her father, Caleb Daniloff, who looks after him when Shea cannot. In this beautiful essay, Daniloff describes how running the Fells outside Boston, with Hank, helps ease his torment over Shea and draws him into the present, even if only briefly. He is searingly honest, not shying away from what he views as his failings, making it clear why occasionally pulling himself out of the punishment of his own mind is so important. Weaving between his time on the Fells and a narrative of Shea’s addiction and eventual recovery, Daniloff shows the complexities of his life against the straightforward pleasure of watching Hank bounding after a squirrel. A reminder that simple things can be oh-so-important. —CW

5. The Battle for the Soul of Buy Nothing

Vauhini Vara | WIRED | February 23, 2023 | 7,267 words

It’s a worthy concept: hyper-local Facebook community groups connecting those in need of gently used items with their owners, a practice that offers environmental benefits in reducing waste with reuse, as well as a chance to thumb your nose at capitalism. But what happened to the Buy Nothing movement founded by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller, which by 2022 had expanded to 6 million members in 60 countries? Vauhini Vara discovers that to be able to propagate your values, sometimes you need to accept the compromises of free community access at scale or risk the wrath of the community you created. “The truth was that turning Buy Nothing into a business had come with far more expenses than revenues,” Vara writes. “If Facebook profited from Buy Nothing members’ activities, it also covered many of their costs. With the launch of the app, the resources that came for free with Facebook — software development, computing power, visibility — were suddenly Clark and Rockefeller’s responsibility.” —KS

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