full venkman

I'd like to express my gratitude to all who saw me walking around this morning with a huge glob of white zit cream on my head and didn't say anything. That was one fun mirror moment.


left eyeball, twitching

In my dotage, I became a snorer. When snoring came, it was otherworldly. I hear. I do not know this first-hand. Indeed, I'm not a whiner, so I slept peaceably through it, without complaint. But the Approval Whore, Sarah, Bubbas 1 and 2, Dirt Glazowski, and others pointedly complained.


By the first time Sarah and I overnighted together, I knew exactly what to expect. I could recite our impending morning conversation from memory. "Here, put these in," I said, handing her earplugs. Love in her eyes, she laughed and said that wouldn't be necessary. The next morning, her eyes shone with another feeling altogether. Her right eyeball was twitching from all the murderousness.

"John, I've never heard anything like that," she said, shaking her head gravely. "I thought you were dying. You, like, would stop breathing and then gasp for air like you were being waterboarded. You need to see a doctor."

"Bitch, bitch, bitch," I replied.

Eventually it started to shatter my health. I never slept for longer than two hours, and usually much less. I was exhausted all of the time. At the grocery store, I would sit at the blood pressure machine just to catch my breath. I was sickly yet bloated. Edema set in, swelling all my extremities except for the one you'd want. My skin developed sores, permanently scarring my shins. I would nod off at my desk. I had a cough for two years. My cognitive functions declined precipitously.

"If you don't get a sleep study done," my doctor told me, "Don't come back here."


On a whim completely unrelated to the mounting criticism, I got a sleep study done. I was on the ferry home when the sleep doctor called me. "Come back," he said. "I don't want you going another night without a CPAP machine." Back at the office, he showed me a chart on which his thousands of patients were plotted. "You are not on this chart," he said. "Because you do not fit on it. Your case is the worst I've ever seen out of over 11,000."

Finally! After a lifetime of mediocrity, I'm #1.

He gave me my CPAP machine and a plea. "People hate them at first, but please stick with it. You literally can't live without it."

I strapped on the Alien face-hugger at 9:30 that night. I woke up at 4:15 the next day. That would be 4:15 PM. I had slept through an entire work day, including client meetings. Did co-workers Amy and Katrina panic? Did they care? Did they even notice? No, they did not. But I digress.

The CPAP had miraculous and immediate affects. The nagging cough disappeared straight away and never returned. My mind was much sharper. My energy was vastly up; I would no longer drive past the grocery store if a premium parking space were unavailable. My extremities halved in size. Indeed, I experienced 60 pounds of water-loss in a month. And of course, I was no longer passing out. I used to wake up at my desk, my hands still on the keyboard, and on the screen would be thousands of lower-case Qs.

No more.

It's three years later, and I'm healthy as can be. Even my hearing is perfect.

This is lamentable, for Fredo has become a snorer extraordinaire. He stalks me around the house, plopping his carcass next to me and letting it tear. His guttural lung-ripping is the background noise of my life. He's slowly driving me insane. I'm annoyed by this obvious karmic payback. There are a lot of people out there now entitled to call me a whiner.

But most of all, I’m annoyed by how much the little goldbrick sleeps.

they should have fucking bells on their collars

Last night, I was reminded of why I moved to Pittsburgh in the first place. I had a glorious three-hour long conversation with two strangers very much unlike myself. Dan is a 40ish Jewish dude with fistfuls of degrees, and he teaches kids with autism. Robert is a 65ish black dude, a grandfather, and a pastor. And then there's me, a pointless blob.

We talked about parenting, about autism, about the role of religion in politics, about the first times we encountered racism and antisemitism, about the causes of the Trump phenomenon, about how Hillary wants to kill lots of babies (Robert brought that one up), and about what an obvious pussy Donald "I'm very very tough!!!" Trump is (me). And then we talked about our occupations.

"You're a pastor?!" I winced. "Shit. How many f-bombs have I dropped tonight?"

Pastor Robert waved his hand graciously. "Don't worry about it."

"A lot," Dan said, eyes wide.

pearls from a carpet-cleaner

Thanks to the magical deuce that has come to define my October, the rug-cleaning guy returned yesterday. For those keeping score at home, Fredo's indiscretion has now cost me $1370.

I hired this guy because he's the only cleaner I found who uses the right equipment. But like a lot of solitary contractors, he's lonesome, and I hesitated to bring him back just because it's impossible to disengage with him. But I would suffer through it in the name of not smelling poo.

I told him the situation. Instead of finding the humor in it, he saw an opportunity. "Might I make a suggestion?" he said with an import appropriate if he were saying "Buy Apple stock" in 2002.

"Crate the dog?"

"No, no, no." He pointed to the stairs that lead to the room in question. "A gate."

He even made a little swinging gate gesture with his hands so that my feeble mind might grasp the concept.

"Well...yeah. But then he's just trapped with the carpets upstairs."

"It's just a suggestion!" he said, hands up. He certainly hadn't meant to so overtly insult my lowly intelligence, his body language said.

As he took his check, he couldn't resist another attempt at condescension. "So, you know your lesson here? Don't use a Roomba. Roombas and dogs don't mix."

"Right. Or just turn off the automatic cleaning. Which I did."

"Whatever, fine, more work for me." The evidence of my stupidity was overwhelming.

I will never understand this blue-collar impulse to condescend to customers in their own home, but you know who's never once done it to me?


thinking with the wrong organ again

We had just returned from a long car trip. As I danced on my toes and implored Fredo to pick a shrub and get on with it already, I got to wondering. Why is it okay for my dog to relieve himself in plain view, but not for the person who actually owns the shrub in question? It's a world gone mad.


The lesson I took from Fredo's fateful deuce was that I was stressing my dog out. I've made a point to cuddle him during the week since. Yes, cuddle him. While lying on the floor. Yes, that floor. For hours.

scraping bottoms

I now long for those sweet, innocent times when my dog Fredo eating my credit cards and $350 in cash was the worst thing he ever did to me.

Let's consider his year for a moment. His sister and entire world died in the spring. In an effort to cheer him up, I took him to the dog park, where he was viciously attacked by a pack of dogs, one of whom punctured his chest nearly to the lung cavity, resulting in terror, pain, and several weeks in a cone. Then I moved him across country. Then I spent every day getting fucked by the new house and town, making me angry and edgy and vibrating with stress. Last week, Fredo had enough. He stress-pooped in the basement bar area. I discovered this only after having tracked it around a bit.

"I want to kill you," I cooed pleasantly up the stairs, where Fredo was hiding from me. Several hours later, I was using a rental steamer and several gallons of Nature's Miracle to clean everywhere he'd pooped and I'd walked. The next evening, I could swear I still smelled it. Ditto a week later.

Would I really have to pay that guy to clean my carpet a third time in three months? Or could I just live with the smell, my house's odor now befitting the structure itself?

I got my answer when I went to clean my Roomba, one of those robotic vacuum cleaners. It was caked in dried poop and moist insects. Yes, Fredo had dropped that deuce during the one hour a week the Roomba is set to run, and yes, it "cleaned" my carpeting by smearing fresh dog poop all over every square inch of it. Here's a photo for the morbidly curious.

Having officially bottomed out, I'm looking forward to the ascent.

about 1:1

He was easily the best looking man I've ever seen in Pittsburgh. When I round a corner, spot a dude, and snap to a stop as though a rope were tied to my neck, you know it's a pretty great looking guy. 6'5", 250 pounds of muscle, blond hair, and dimples.

Based on no other information than that, I asked Risa "Is that Aimee's husband?"

Yep. What are the odds?

the eddie effect

Newly minted trophy wife Aimee was passing around her wedding photos. Among them were some bathing suit pics that very proudly featured her perfect butt. "There's no cellulite on that thing," she pointed out light-heartedly. "I worked hard for that."

"And I wanna thank you," cooed Eddie, not looking up. Aimee giggled and swooned.

That is the Eddie Effect. Women find the guy irresistible. He's decent looking, but the interest he generates exceeds his aesthetic merits. Women find him charming. Hell, I do too. We all do.

"I want what you've got," I said to him after she left. "If I said that line, I'd get a drink in my face."

"It's all in the delivery," he offered. He even said that smoothly. His every word is warm butter. Christ.

As I drove home, I practiced channeling Eddie. "And I wanna thank you. And I wanna thank you. And I wanna thank you." Ugh. Each attempt was creepier than the last. On the charm scale, I never really exceeded Drunk Molester Uncle at a Wedding.

spade! spade!

Yesterday I spotted a beautiful woman from afar. As she walked toward me, the first thing I noticed, of course, was the long brown ponytail. Then I noticed her be-spandexed goddess-like physique. Then I noticed that she was dripping with diamonds. Never a fan of the spandex and diamonds crowd, I disliked her by the time she plopped in the chair next to me. My mortal enemy.

"Hi! I'm Aimee!" she said, shaking my hand.

Aimee was bubbly and charming, but she was clearly a trophy wife who'd never worked a day in her life. Being hot is her sole occupation. She does it well, and she is handsomely compensated for it. I later learned that she's a former Miss Pennsylvania. But as I said, she's actually very kind and affable, so eh, live and let live. Within five minutes of meeting her, I was looking at the photos from her recent wedding and pretending I was riveted.

I asked her about married life, and she was shockingly frank about her insecurities. She doubts her ability to be a good enough wife to keep her husband. The odd phrasing is hers. Maybe I'm a sucker for the honestly, but I felt sorry for her. Then she cut to the chase.

"What I'm most worried about is that someday, he'll trade me in. You know, for the proverbial younger model? Like, when I'm in my 50s or 60s?"

What do you say when you're thinking "That doesn't seem unlikely"?

I said nothing.

"But hopefully I'll have substance by then," she sighed, absolutely not making a joke.

It was insensitive of me to explode in laughter, right?


I haven't written about the anthem protests because, well, they don't much matter to me. Prior to Colin Kaepernick sitting down, all I really knew about the guy was that he sucked at his job. But hey, if he wants to use his platform to protest police shooting unarmed black men, more power to him. I'm not sure what the exit strategy is—you're going to protest until racial inequities go away?—but that's his problem to hash out, not mine. Whether or not I agree with his chosen medium, he's just exercising his rights. Peaceful protest is as American an ideal as apple pie and cops shooting unarmed black men.

I find the backlash much more concerning than the protests. People shriek about disrespect to the flag, military and war dead, projecting hyperbolic nonsense upon the protesters' clearly explained, very narrow agenda. As soon as I see one person attempt to recast the motives of another, I reflexively ally with the other.

The backlashers make me uncomfortable for several reasons.

  1. They make me defend a simpleton who kisses his own bicep.
  2. They seem to think that acts of patriotism should be compulsory, as if that's not the pathetic opposite of patriotism.
  3. They are stunningly more shrill about this wholly invented controversy than they are about cops shooting very real unarmed men.


In the movie The Freshman, our protagonist is an innocent college freshman whose life spirals out of control the moment he arrives in New York. Within days, he's embroiled with the mob, the federal government, and PETA, and a mob boss's sociopathic daughter is telling everyone they're getting married. While all this is coming to a head, our hero stops to look at a beautiful sunset. In voiceover he observes, "There's a kind of freedom in being completely screwed."

It was a well-earned line. 25 years later, I remember how hard I laughed.

I've thought about that line a lot in the last week, as I total how much repairs would cost on this house. Counting the remodeling I originally wanted to do, we're talking 75% of the value of the house. I am not keen to do this. And those kinds of numbers put some rather dramatic and unconventional options on the table.

No matter what, I've pissed at least 50 grand away. That's the bare minimum, sell-the-house-for-what-I-paid best case. This does depress me, but I've reached acceptance of that reality. I can't control that. That's money's gone. What I can control is 1) not spending more money and 2) what outcome I get for that 50 grand.

The outcome I want most: getting my money back.

I was chatting with a small group of men when one identified himself as a Redskins fan. I asked him what he thought of the controversy with the Redskins name. He scoffed.

"I'm part Indian," said this lily-white dude, in that unconvincing manner in which people say "I'm not racist, but" or "True story!" "And it doesn't bother me at all." He looked smug, as though he'd just won the argument in a rout. If he'd only had a mic, he would have dropped it at my feet.

skinsidiot.jpg"People need to stop being so uptight," said someone else. Everyone agreed, and I once again found myself in the wholly unfamiliar position of being the bleeding heart at the table.

I allowed that far too many people parse every utterance for offense, for the pretext for demanding an apology. I hate that crap. Those people are not only an annoying scourge; their constant wolf-crying makes people deaf to more legitimate complaints. Legitimate complaints like, say...

"We're really cool with making a race's skin color a mascot? I'm the only person who thinks that's gross?"


"See, when you have to say one word means completely different words—words that have nothing to do with the first word's etymology—that's got a whiff of self-serving bullshit to it," I said, making friends. "Give me one other example where redskin was used to mean honorable warrior."

This being the age of Trump, they answered my question with hostile irrelevance and at least three classic logical fallacies. "Are we supposed to get rid of Indians, Chiefs, and Seminoles, too? What about the Fighting Irish? Wah, Buckeye trees might be offended too!" They laughed. This was great stuff.

"And when you mock an argument I did not make, the bullshit smell only gets stronger. None of those mascots are based on a race's skin color. My point remains that Redskin is obviously different. Obvious to me, anyway."

"It's no different!" said the Redskin fan, using volume instead of a logical premise. And then the already-surreal conversation took a dive into the Abyss of Dumbfoundedness.

"People really need to stop being so damned sensitive all the time," said Earl, a middle-aged black dude.

Yep. I thought of all of the things you just thought of. The hypocrisy, the lack of empathy, the parallels, various racial analogies. ("It's an homage, Earl! Really! It means regal philanthropists! You need to stop being so sensitive.") I drew a breath to say these things. And then my gaze met Earl's. He's both a friend and a dick, and he couldn't wait to pounce on my next utterance. I double-dog dare you, motherfucker, said his look. Yeah. Go there.

"Well, I guess I'm wrong. Making a vanquished minority's skin color our sports mascot is obviously an homage to their entire race's warrior prowess."

I texted Stephanie and quietly showed it to Earl.


resistible link of the day

The top story, Atlantic?


there's yer problem

I'm the administrator of a Facebook group for a dog park that I helped create. In five years, this has meant that I've given the group no thought whatsoever. Until last week, that is. I received mail that one user was reporting another's comment.

A man had worn a sidearm to the dog park, and there was a discussion about the legality of this. As is the norm in any discussion about gun laws, people were batshit crazed. Facebook was an explosion of unpleasant pathologies.

Donna, ever reasonable, said that there was no reason to bring a gun to the dog park, for which Amy called her stupid. Donna said that dogs at a dog park jump on people, and that the possibility of the gun going off concerned her. Amy declared that it's anatomically impossible for a dog to cause a gun to go off, and as evidence, she cited the dogs and many guns in her possession. Donna responded with a link to an article about dogs settings guns off. And then in her rebuttal, Amy summed up the entire gun-fetishists movement.

"Oh Donna, just stop reading."

• • •

Yes, I dearly wish I'd taken a screenshot of this glistening golden nugget before deleting the thread.

nvidia gpgpu sdk

That's the Google search I just performed. It's work-related and makes sense to me, but to the realtor and construction worker sitting next to me at my cigar place, it is irrefutable evidence of demonic possession.

I have to say I envy them.

one of these things doesn't go with the others

For much of my career, I was often the smartest person in a given meeting, or so I told myself. And if I was not, I damned well knew who was and I shut my yap.

I'm on a new team now, and as I survey the world-class, kill-you-with-the-power-of-their-brainwaves-from-500-yards intellects surrounding the conference table, I have but two thoughts:

  1. Oh shit.
  2. My god, I miss documentation people.

real hard

I was doing a soft-opening of my new house's over-the-top bar. Just a couple of friends were there, making fun of my excesses. Sucking on a Manhattan while seated on one of six electric recliners facing two 75" TVs, Clyde turned serious on me.

"Know what I like about you?" he asked, nodding his head approvingly. "Even with all this...you never forgot where you came from."

"But God knows I tried," I replied, topping off his glass.

yes, he was baiting me

Yesterday's exchange with gay buddy Mike:

Mike: I used the Seahawks opener to secure a good brunch time. And it worked. Hardly anyone there.
Me: That is the single gayest thing ever written.
Mike: Ooh, grrrl, those mimosas? Che magnifique!

emily post

When showering at someone else's house, I always tread carefully. Many people let damp laundry incubate in the darkness of their dryer, I've found. Specifically, I found this by smearing stink all over my face with their guest towel. I’ve ended relationships for less.

I did a preemptive sniff-test at Kiki’s and Dirt’s house. Cringing as I brought the guest towel to my face, I wished for tongs. And the stench was indeed unprecedented, eye-stinging. After weighing the relative merits of body odor, I showered anyway. I found that the hand towel by the sink was funk-free. I swabbed my body with that hanky instead.

The guest bed had made showering in the morning imperative. The whole bed reeked of dogs and spoiled food, so I suspect that I did, as well. At the head of the bed was a pillow. The pillow was once white, I suppose. Perhaps at one point in history it even had a case over it, which I assume the dogs discarded in order to unfetter having sex with the pillow. I put a wad of dirty tailgating clothes under my head and willed myself to sleep.


And I'll save you the trouble. Floral Stank Troll John already made the "you're so particular" joke.

particularly low expectations

I'm still dialing in exactly what's wrong in Pittsburgh. Two weeks ago, on the heels of a furious spate of no-show or half-assed contractors, I declared "the bar for competence here is really low." And sadly, this is true. Whether it’s traffic control, party planning, or my swimming pool, Pittsburghers don’t think things out or ask if things are as good as they should be. They just stare straight through avoidable problems. Incompetence is their background noise.

This, I’ve decided, is a function of overall low expectations. They don’t think their newish stadium is inadequate or ugly simply because they don’t bother imagining anything better. “Stadiums don’t have to look like the side of a Newark public bus,” I tell them. “Look at other cities. Stadiums are architecturally beautiful works of art. They’re civic assets, not prominent eyesores.”

“Who cares what a stadium looks like?” they replied, confused.

Okay, fine. Let’s talk about function. The sight-lines are the worst in the league. When someone exactly my height sat in front of me, 25% of the field was obstructed by his head. “That’s not the case in the other 31 stadiums,” I said. “If you’re going to the trouble of building as stadium, why build a shitty one?”

“So why don’t you just move you head?” a fellow asked pleasantly. And in this anecdote, you see our disconnect. I wonder why they accept, even expect half-assed efforts. They wonder why I wonder. We stare at one another in confusion a lot.

I explained to Risa how I made a TV and its sound system portable so I can move them to the pool room for movie night. “Wow, you’re really particular about that stuff,” she observed, due to my merely thinking ahead.

When I was angered by unreturned calls and a no-show and fired a contractor, he too called me “particular.”

When the $200-premium, white-glove furniture delivery guys learned that I expected them to set up the furniture where I wanted it, as promised, they called me “particular.” All three instances occurred within two weeks.

After a lifetime of never being called “particular” in four other states, in Pittsburgh, this is my identity. I suppose I can live with it. It's better than living without it.

morons and me

Last weekend I ventured to Minnesota and from there, Green Bay. It's been a rough couple of months, and dammit, I was gonna buy myself some happiness. Wisconsin and LSU, the two tailgatingest schools I've ever visited, were playing one another at Lambeau Field, and that was just the prescription for what ailed me. I bought tickets and a parking pass and told Dirt Glazowski that if he brought the brats, I’d cover everything else. I was going to have fun, if I remembered how.

On the drive to Green Bay, Dirt was in rare form. Never exactly bright, he was now energetically stupid, railing about blacks, immigrants, Hillary Clinton, and blacks again. He sprayed venom. When Colin Kaepernick was mentioned on the radio, that really set Dirt off. Turns out Kaepernick has a Muslim wife and he’s converted to Islam and pledged his loyalty to ISIS.

“Uh, I don’t know anything about anything, but I know bullshit when I smell it,” I said, reaching for my phone. It took two seconds to verify that, well, everything Dirt had declared with such confidence was utter rubbish, fabricated at the ugly fringes of the Internet. That’s when Dirt informed me that Google was biased. “They’re not going to show you the truth!”

It was at this point that I started tabulating how much money I had spent to be there. I got a little misty. Goodbye, money. I loved you very much.

Dirt’s always been a lunk, but all this vitriol was new and decidedly unpleasant. When we returned home, he and his wife, Kiki, held forth for hours about how racist and murderous Black Lives Matter is. There was one moronic assertion after the next, and it made my brain hurt. No one cares about cops’ lives. Or whites’ lives. If a Polish cop is shot, do I get to wear a Polish Lives Matter shirt? Hell no! At this point, I had long since stopped engaging. There is absolutely no point. They are uneducated. They do not read. They zealously embrace, nay, hate-fuck any convenient falsehood that validates whatever their claim was supposed to be. They are demonstrable losers who, having wrecked their lives in utterly preventable ways, are assigning blame to literally anyone else. It is repugnant.

Kiki sneered about Colin Kaepernick’s ISIS wife.

“Oh, that’s made up,” I offered. “He’s not even married. He’s dating a DJ. You can look it up.”

Kiki exploded. In keeping with furious white trash tradition, she went straight to personal attacks. And you know what? Everything she said about me was absolutely accurate. I do think my sources are any better than hers. I do think I’m smarter than her. I do think I’m better than her. The evidence abounds, really, and it has nothing to do with me.

“YOU PROBABLY WANT TO TAKE GOD OUT OF THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE TOO,” she snarled, apropos of absolutely nothing. She went straight from Kaepernick to "under God" without even using the clutch.


[playing 'misty' on harmonica]

IMG_6220.JPG"Your air conditioner is 27 years old," said the HVAC guy. "It's going to go soon. I'd run it until it dies, though."

"Not a chance," I replied. "It'll die when I need it most. I'm getting it replaced in the fall."

Naturally, it died a week later.

After 27 years of use, it couldn't make it another month. It died in the middle of a heat wave. The temperature in my house was 93F.

Thus have Fredo and I been living, working, watching TV, playing, sleeping, and eating in my bedroom for a week. That is where the portable unit is, so it's the only place we want to be. Nevertheless, it is like the world's 14th nicest jail cell, right down to the bare light bulb dangling from the ceiling and the blanket I'm using to block the sun.

I'm fine.

• • •

When the AC blew, I had already bought a portable unit. Like the chainsaw at my Metamuville house, it sat in its unopened box, waiting for my fears to prove justified. I was proud of myself for seeing it coming, and I told Mike.

"Greeeeat," he sighed. "The world really needed for your paranoia to be positively reinforced."


After a couple of decades in Seattle, I am not accustomed to being the tactful party in a social setting. I am the one whose remarks make others blanch.

In Pittsburgh, I am the blanchee.

My circle here falls over one another to be the first to say the outrageous thing. More often than not, they whiff at air pathetically.

"I need to stop and get some rebar," a contractor said.

"DID YOU SAY YOU'RE STOPPING AT A GAY BAR?" Sean asked loudly, beaming at his own witty turn of phrase. "HEY EVERYONE, HE SAYS HE'S STOPPING AT A GAY BAR!"

This quality of repartee is sadly commonplace in my life now. "Jesus H," I groan. It's taken as a compliment.

sister's day

Just how celebrated was the one day a year my mother made me breakfast? Once when my mom was hospitalized for the first day of school, my adult sister came over to make me breakfast...because this grand familial tradition simply could not be missed.

Perhaps not coincidentally, I never eat breakfast as an adult. If friends want to go out to breakfast and there are only breakfast foods on the menu, I am annoyed.

"Just iced tea, please."

mother's day

Back to school stuff has reappeared in stores, which led me to reminisce about a favorite childhood ritual. On the first day of school every year, my mother would set her alarm and make me breakfast. It was usually oatmeal, which, if rendered half brown sugar, isn't half bad. Unable to touch the footrest on the bar stool, my tiny little six-year old legs would soon flail excitedly from the sugar rush.

• • •

The other night I was talking to Katrina when she exited the call with “I gotta run and make Annie breakfast.” I was confused by a couple of things. It was Saturday. It was after 11am. And this kid, age 70%-of-the-way-to-wrecking-Dad’s-car, is fully capable of making her own breakfast. I grumbled about how someone taller than Mom should be able to pour her own cereal, and I hung up.

Jesus. Is Katrina going for Mother of the Year, or what? I thought. But this thought didn’t survive much scrutiny. All of my friends make their kids’ breakfasts. And lunches. And dinners. Inevitably, this train of thought led to my frame of reference.

If your mother making you breakfast is an annual delight just short of Christmas, perhaps Mom ain’t all that. But she demanded the accolades anyway.

three little words

Moving from Seattle to Pittsburgh is a mixed bag. This morning I was thinking about how my Jeep's air conditioning had recently gone from theoretical, like the cruise control I never use, to an imperative second only to oxygen—and not a distant second, either.
"Add some Freon" is a phrase that hasn't crossed my mind in decades. I can't say I missed it.

Other long-dormant, three-word phrases making a sudden comeback in my life:

  • Butt-crack sweat
  • Buy an umbrella
  • State income taxes
  • Local incomes taxes
  • High property taxes
  • Cold cranking amps
  • It's the humidity
  • High utility bills
  • Dumpster gang tag
  • Shady-ass shit
  • Chicken and waffles
  • Knowledgeable sports fan
  • Got a babysitter
  • No green arrow
  • Fly-ass motherfucker
  • Best snow blower
  • Wanna get lunch?
  • Live music tonight
  • Bagels and lox
  • Best fall colors
  • Marble rye rueben
  • Thank you, sir
  • You're most welcome

go bucks!

A friend was just accepted into a graduate program at prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. This is her first foray into advanced degrees, and her return to college comes after a two decade absence. She is understandably nervous, so she asked me what grad school is like.

I started to tell her, but then I trailed off. "I have no idea what a good school is like," I admitted. "Maybe you should ask someone who wasn't poor and stupid."

and now for something completely indifferent

"I can't keep posting negative stuff," I just thought, my concerns about being a bummer in real life now seeping into this page. "Lemme think of something upbeat to post."

Thinking, thinking.

Okay, this made me laugh. It's also a perfect metaphor for my life recently.


parade of fools

It's really hard to describe how badly I've fucked up my life. I find myself lying just so people won't think I'm a complete bummer to be around.

"How's the new house, John?" well-wishers ask. "Are you loving it?"

"Mrrrmph," I will nod, smiling weakly and flicking a tear from my cheek.

I just typed a paragraph listing my woes but deleted it. Suffice it to say that among the many things my inspector missed was about $60k of structural defects. He missed a whole lot. Except for billing me in advance. He was on top of that.

As the issues have revealed themselves, I've been trapped here, dealing with one flabbergastingly lazy, incompetent contractor after another. Every thread I pull has horrific results. For instance, unable to breath after three days here, I had the HVAC inspected. "This old electronic filter hasn't worked in years," he said. "So the house has just been recirculating the same filth." I had that repaired and had the carpets cleaned. The carpet cleaning unleashed a horrific stench that a week later was still stinging my eyes. So I hired another carpet cleaner.

One day after I dropped $1000 on the second carpet cleaning, the duct cleaners arrived. They were clearly morons, but they don't need to be neuroscientists, right?

"I busted one of your light bulbs downstairs," drooled Moron 1. "I'll clean it up."

It took me a second to realize that he was talking about a 12' fluorescent bulb. "No, wait. Don't touch it. That's filled with mercury."

Moron 1 blinked at me.

"Mercury is a poison."

He blinked at me. I thought about finding him a Mr. Yuck sticker but contented myself to opening the windows. "Don't touch it. I'll clean it up," I said.

I did some research and found that the proper way to clean up particulate mercury is wet-wiping. "Do not use a vacuum or broom," the guidance intoned. This made sense.

I returned to the scene of the breakage and found that while the morons followed my advice to leave the mess for me to clean up, they had spent the last 20 minutes walking through the pile and throughout my house.

"STOP IT!" I said uselessly.

Then, while I was on my hands and knees-wet-wiping up the deadly neurotoxin, Moron 1, whom I had contracted to improve the air quality in my house, used a broom to sweep mercury toward my face, not two feet away. I had been breathing normally. I was thrilled.

I kicked them out while I cleaned. Their manager called me to argue that it was not a consequential amount of deadly neurotoxin that his employees had tracked all over my house.

"Those bulbs contain only 3-5 grams of mercury," sneered Moron 3.

"And how much is harmful to children or dogs?" I replied.

"I don't know, but it's more than that!"


The disaster ended, sadly predictably, with Moron 1 presenting me with a bill. I laughed and told him to have the owner contact me. Anything less than an apology and an offer to reduce the bill to costs was going to be refused. I would get neither.

He called very soon, when I was on my way to Lowe's for a new bulb and air filter. He asked what happened, and I explained. Then he cut to the chase. "The job is completed," Moron 4 said in his thick Appalachian drawl. "I wanner know why ya don't think you hafta pay yer bill."

It was soon clear that if they had burned my house down on their way out, we would be having the same conversation.

"Wow," I said. "Sir, I've never seen your balls, but they must be fucking huge. We're talking beach balls, here."

"I don't know why yer talkin' like dat t'me," he replied.

There would be no offer to pay for damages. No offer to fix the damages. No apology. No offer to reduce the bill. Just demands for payment in full, buttressed with curiously self-serving scientific claims about the harmlessness of mercury.

"Well, I'm not gonner be swore at," he snapped.

Then don't fucking call me again, because it's all I've got for yinz.

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