Some random things:

I own almost 1,000 PEZ dispensers. I collected them obsessively, well into my 20s, until the internet ruined the fun of hunting for them. Tara thinks it’s super cool and a big turn-on. Just kidding. 

The only remotely famous person I’m related to is the late actor Don Knotts, known best for his role on the Andy Griffith Show and the Oscar-snubbed The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. He was my grandmother’s cousin, which didn’t qualify me for his will.

Sports mascots creep me the f**k out. Their facial expressions never change. Plus, you never know what kind of person is in there. Imagine what it smells like inside those things. Gross.

I’ve never dropped my cell phone in the toilet, but I know it’s only a matter of time. I think about that almost every day.

I’ve also never seen the Godfather movies or Schindler’s List, which is particularly crazy because they’re both squarely up my alley. At this point, I’ve hyped them up so much in my head, I just keep procrastinating. Cue the incredulous emails.

There’s another large Dick family in our town and the patriarch has become a good friend of mine for obvious reasons. We’re both into genealogy and traced our families back hundreds of years, but never found a single connection. Same name, same town, entirely unrelated. 

There’s another John Dick in the next town over, who became locally famous for running a prolific food bank for needy families, which means I’m not even the coolest John Dick in my zip code. John Dick and I may or may not be ancestors. Pittsburgh is swimming in Dicks.

I love, love, love to cook. I do 90% of the cooking in our house and 95% of the grocery shopping (because I want to pick out what I cook). I learned the hard way this week that our digital meat thermometer has a Celsius reading. RIP, glorious lamb roast.

I can wiggle my ears, whistle with vibrato – two ways – and do a number of spot-on accents and character voices. But I have the natural rhythm of one of those flailing air dancer things you see outside car dealerships and the dance moves to match.

Anyway, I often meet people who read this email and they tell me they feel like they know everything about me. Not even close. 

But I’m trying. 

Here’s what we’re seeing:

Consumer confidence dropped over the past two weeks and I have to admit I was a little surprised, which doesn’t happen very often. I’m still convinced it’s a blip, especially after the solid jobs report. This recent dip could be explained by something as simple as the rising COVID cases in half the states across the country. Throughout the pandemic, case increases have been a leading indicator of economic sentiment malaise. I’m not worried about it long-term. The job report yesterday should help a lot.

Expect live country music to come back first. If you’ve been paying close enough attention to my drivel over the past year, this one should be completely obvious to you. Rural-dwelling, right-leaning whites in the Midwest, South, and West have consistently been the least cautious about COVID, social distancing, etc. Guess who’s also most likely to listen to country music. Correct. Also, for the first time since the pandemic started, the percentage of Americans who say they’re comfortable attending a major event is higher than the percentage who say it will be 6+ months. 

On a related note, the guest on my podcast this week was Matt Mangano, the bass player from the amazing Zac Brown Band. We talked about the effects of the pandemic on the music industry and the prospects for its future, from the player’s perspective. It’s stuff you’ve never thought about before, I guarantee it. Incidentally, among the Zac Brown Band’s claims to fame is that they were responsible for two of my biggest hangovers in 2019. I’m sure they’re proud.

Consumers would love to be able to buy online more easily from local retailers. One of the biggest and sustaining trends of the pandemic era has been renewed consumer interest in supporting local businesses. Unfortunately, that desire conflicted with a simultaneous decline of in-store shopping, which is the lifeblood of most mom-&-pop stores. A new company called Nearby is attempting to facilitate easier online commerce for local retailers and I suspect more start-ups will enter the fray. Consumer demand – at least in the concept – is through the roof. I just hope the economics can work. 

As the new season kicks off, baseball has a steep and treacherous hill to climb. Fan interest in baseball has never been lower in the 10 years we’ve tracked it. An optimist might have hoped 2020 was a low point and that the prospects of a full season, with fans returning to the stands, could lift the MLB out of its slump. At least right now, the numbers don’t look good, especially among young fans. Yikes. 

Legalized weed doesn’t seem to be expanding the market. New York, this week, became the latest state to make recreational weed fully legit. Nationally, support for legalizing marijuana remains high as a kite. Interestingly, however, the percentage of Americans who use cannabis has been stuck, motionless on the couch. Eighteen percent of U.S. adults admit to smoking, eating, or vaping weed – exactly the same numbers we saw three years ago. What this suggests is that consumers are simply evolving their purchase habits away from the “black market,” but few new weed users are jumping into the game just because it’s legal.

A couple other fascinating insights this week: 

These were our most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Nope, none of them; The worst; Don’t wear one; No clue; Not yet (knock on wood); Texas; Unfortunately, yes.

Hoping you’re well.

JD