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.

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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!"

Touché.

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.


stupid is as stupid writes

After a few thousand reps of reading college students' writing, I developed muscles I didn't know I had. One skill, long since lost, was the ability to guess students' native tongue through the types of errors they made in English. I surely wish I still had this skill in the Internet age. It would make crafting insults on reddit much easier.

An easier-to-acquire skill was the ability to spot readers. Their syntax and vocabulary are more sophisticated, and they are far better able to articulate a thought without relying on lingual flotsam. The reverse is also true. Non-readers do not have a similar mental database of phrasing upon which they can call. They rely on flotsam. The exact same flotsam. Every one of them.

"I'm sorry, but [declarative statement]," they will write.

This is, of course, not an argument. It's an assertion buttressed with condescension. But Todds do not accept this. They think they just slammed the door on any conceivable opposition. Didn't you see the "I'm sorry?!" Game over! For good measure, they sprinkle insults and glitter like very, just, and worst throughout their assertions. Then they wrap it all up with an exclamation mark or a question tag.

I'm sorry, but the illiterates who do this are retarded! They're just very, very stupid, all right?

These students, sadly, were the crux of my job. I was supposed to teach them to think critically, to argue from evidence, to tailor their rhetoric to their audience. Honestly, I don't know that I succeeded even once. It's like trying to bail out the ocean with a colander. A few kids learned to appease me, but I could feel their eyes rolling. They thought I just didn't get it, and, well, the feeling was more than mutual.

Which brings us to Trump. He is the most spectacular example of this that I have ever seen. Using my lens, look at his tweets, especially six months or more ago, when he wasn't as vetted. His brutally unsophisticated syntax and vocabulary are decidedly those of a non-reader. He famously asserts without attempting to marshal evidence. Any reference to opposition contains an insult ("low ratings CNN," "lightweight Don Lemon," etc.) And oh, those verys, exclamation marks, and tag questions. Their sheer density depresses me.

At 70, he is the most unteachable freshman English student I have ever seen.

todd

When I first arrived in Washington state from Ohio, I was in for some culture shock. First stop: whitest Spokane. The only black people I saw were among my Freshman English students, and they were either from Africa or from the football team. But as disconcerting as I found that, the white folks from northern Idaho are the lasting memory. At the time, Hayden Lake was the home of Aryan Nations, and even though I don't think I had any of those kids in my class, their cultural influence was obvious enough.

Which brings us to Todd, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Nazi poster child. All white teenagers in baseball caps look alike to me, so the fact that I remember everything about him decades later is a testament to how much he pained me. In a paper that was supposed to be about food, he prosthetyzed about how his future wife was going to have to take care of the household. He didn't want a wife with a career, he said. The very idea was ludicrous. She would take care of him and his spawn. That was her one and only calling, and everything else was offensive to Todd. I kept waiting for a biblical invocation, but none came. He instead concluded with "I'm sorry, but a woman's place is in the home."

"Funny, you don't seem sorry," I wrote in the margin.

For the prompt where students were to write about the moment in their lives where they first felt grown up, Todd managed to discuss why blacks don't excel at hockey. "I'm telling you, blacks don't have the ankle strength. They just don't."

I considered praising him for not saying "coloreds," but I thought better of it. I knew my job was to reject the paper and ask him for the evidence to support this claim, but I fervently did not want to read it. I settled on "Today I learned that Michael Jordan has weak ankles."

"Huh," Todd said. "I never thought about that."

Really.

Todd represented something new to me. He grew up in a heremetically sealed environment with toxic illiterates, and it showed. Todd himself did not read, for he already completely understood the world through his experiences Hayden Lake. I made zero headway nudging Todd up the Perry Scheme of students' intellectual and ethical development.

When I saw his next English teacher was Berkeley-educated Mariko, I was delighted.

"What the actual fuck?" she asked me a few weeks into their quarter.

Tomorrow: what this has to do with the election

this seems easily attainable

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lie-down guy

One Pittsburgh stereotype I would desperately like to be true is the "blue collar, hard-working stand-up guy." Apparently whoever invented that image did so sarcastically.

I assumed that people in Pittsburgh trade services in exchange for money. Boy, was I ever wrong. That is not how it works here. Which is fitting, since nothing apparently works here, except me. I have worked unbelievably hard to give people my money, racking up scores of unanswered texts and phone calls and, worse, quite a few no-shows.

My favorite was a plumber. On a Tuesday night, I scheduled them for the next morning. I agreed to be here from 8-11. Around noon, I reached for my phone to see if they were running late. That's when I saw my voice mail from 7:15. They'd called to confirm the appointment.

"We'll need to reschedule," the douche said in lieu of an apology. His tone was exactly appropriate if I'd stood them up instead of the other way around. I said as much. "We don't go anywhere without a confirmation call," he sneered.

"So 14 hours after I made the appointment, you called at 7 in the morning, didn't get me because my phone doesn't ring that early, and decided to cancel the appointment without telling me, thereby leaving me waiting for you in vain and wasting my entire morning, all in the name of not wasting your morning? Because your time is more important than mine? Do I understand your retarded train of thought correctly?"

He took exception to his thought being called "retarded."

Stank stands by its story.

the brian

When I was growing up, I was often in the same class as Brian. He was puny. He was dim. He was weird looking. One could have said those things about most of us at that age, truth be told, so Brian further distinguished himself by being unremittingly hostile. Brian employed flamboyant assholery in hopes of making the world cower before him. He insulted people constantly. He talked about how stupid we all were, about what pussies we all were, about our general inferiority in the face of his obvious greatness. He wasn't smart enough to craft an actually hurtful insult, so he stuck with the classics. "You're very very dumb," he would say, convinced he had just flayed someone's soul and congratulating himself for his wit and bravery. It was unremitting. It was, in fact, all I remember of him. He was a noisy lap dog barking ferociously at every passersby, to whom he was otherwise of zero consequence. Brian employed volume and venom as flak, hoping to confuse our radars. It didn't work. We knew what he was then, and he remains my benchmark for dim-witted, noisy frauds now.

When a certain presidential candidate speaks, all I hear is Brian. I can hear little else. I think, in fact, the exact same things that I did then. Tough guys don't really go around talking about how tough they are. Ditto smart guys. Or successful guys.

What a bottomless well of well-earned insecurity. I look forward to the resulting constitutional crisis when Brian loses an election.


travels with gnarley

My last night in the Puget Sound area, Fredo and I stayed at a hotel near Metamuville. Friends took me out to dinner and popped a bottle of Dom Perignon, toasting my new future.

This would be my last moment of happiness until, well, I'll let you know.

I returned to the hotel and walked Fredo to the grassy area. While he did his dirty sinful business, I reflected on my soon-to-be-murdered-in-cold-blood happiness. I felt a strange sensation on my foot. It was warm. Now it was wet, too. Yes, in the inky darkness, Fredo had peed on my foot.

"Jesus Christ, you moron," I laughed, not really realizing the gravity of what had just happened. Everything I owned was in a truck somewhere. I had two pairs of socks for my cross-country trip and exactly one pair of urine-logged shoes. In the morning, the room reeked of pee. He'd gotten me good. I needed a replacement fast, so I drove to Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest, ugliest pair of shoes I've ever seen. But of course, I'd had to wear pee-soaked shoes to the store, so it was a pee-marinated sock and foot that I shoved into the new shoe. I would smell pee the whole way to Spokane, where I immediately bought new shoes and socks and carefully kept them from cross-contamination.

Several days later, Dirt Glazowski showed me his guest room. There was a mattress on the floor for Fredo and a slightly larger one on the floor for me.

"Surely you jest," I said, smelling pee in my beard in advance. I do not sleep with dogs, let alone this dog.

"Or there's a hotel 15 miles away," Dirt replied.

Thus did Fredo and I sleep on the same floor. In the black of night, I smelled something unpleasant. His breath smelled very much like weaponized deer feces—humidified, aerated, and directed at my nostrils. I fumbled for my phone. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the dumbest dog alive.

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excitement

"Are you excited to be in Pittsburgh?" asks one well-meaning person after another.

I usually just say yes, but the answer is really "I never leave my house." It's been a nonstop procession of appointments with contractors and repair dudes, some of whom even deign to show up as promised.

Why so many, you ask? Because this house is a mess. Each time I reach for a light switch or spigot or closet door for the first time, I cringe like a beaten dog. As often as not, something horrible results. I knew I'd bought a fixer-upper, but I'd underestimated the comprehensiveness of my new hobby.

Example: The previous owner took her washer and dryer with her. Okay, fine. I bought new ones. Home Depot could not connect either, due to a combination of electrical problems, plumbing problems, and gas line problems. Oh, is that all? Now imagine that of the three repair guys, only one showed. Now imagine that the new washing machine, once connected, needed to be replaced. Now imagine that it took two weeks for delivery each time. Now imagine that literally every facet of my life is a similarly cascading series of fuckups not of my own making.

Now imagine if I'm excited.

the slog and minnesota

The drive was 2600 miles in total, and I did 960 of that in a single day. Spokane to Bismarck. Three time zones. Don't applaud; just throw flowers.

It was relief when I arrived in Minnesota, and soon I was reunited with Dirt Glazowski, smoking his cigars and eating the first good tomatoes and corn that I've had in over 20 years. I'd forgotten that tomatoes were supposed to be red. I'd grown accustomed to flicking flavorless pink and white turds off my hamburger.

Autistic child Ava is now 11 and far better able to express herself. We all long for the days where all she could say was "blueberries" and "Nemo." She pitched a screaming, kicking, biting fit about my arrival, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately, then demanded that I leave immediately. Each of those demands incorporated screaming and violence and destruction. The fit must have lasted four hours. So yeah. I'm getting a hotel next time—not out of capitulation or thoughtfulness but out of an intense desire not to be stabbed in my sleep.

Next up: Pittsburgh

mo'ntana

Custer Station's sinewy change wasn't the only Montana highlight:

  • Honorable mention: a billboard for the Testicle Festival ("the featured activity is the consumption of animal testicles, usually battered and fried")
  • Honorable mention: a herd of unsupervised cows walking across the freeway overpass above me
  • Bronze: A crop duster flying so close to the freeway, I waved from my car and he waved back.
  • Silver: sinew
  • Gold: the road side rest station where my discomfort overcame my snobbery. I sat on the airline-style toilet. A courtesy flush was in order, so flush I did. The resulting violent torrents of icy water penetrated every possible location, and even a few I'd have thought impossible. A geyser shot through my legs and splatted the stall door. The sensation was a unique waxing/enema/racking hybrid.
Men, learn from my mistake. Just crap your pants.

no services

If Eastern Montana ever decides to break off and form a state of its own, here's my name suggestion: "No Services." That's what every lonely sign already reads. It will save money.

Driving a Jeep through bumfuck raised the very real prospect of running out of gas. Its range is only 250 miles, and the gas stations there are small moons apart. At one point, I shot past a gas station with a third of a tank left, and my stomach gnawed at me. I grudgingly doubled back 10 miles and topped off my tank. That's what I met Mrs. Custer.

Welcome to Custer Station, The Gas Station Google Maps Forgot, in remotest Custer, MT. There, I witnessed the following. I was inside buying water and the owner was yakking on the phone. She was one-handing everyone's transactions with a skill suggesting she one-handed them as often as not. When it came my turn, someone behind us said "The cat puked." Without missing a beat and continuing to talk on the phone, the owner one-handed a paper towel, wiped up what looked like foamy, partially digested rat entrails, disposed of it, walked back to the counter, and used the same hand to take my $20 bill and hand me a fistful of foamy change.

"Keep the change."

goodbyes and hellos

I spent much of my last month in Washington saying goodbyes. There were a few people in there, sure, but mostly it was restaurants. I think I'll miss you most of all, Paseo.

I didn't really get sentimental until, on my way east, I stayed in Spokane for two days. Odd, that. I lived there only two years, half a lifetime ago, but they were two good years. It's where my life peaked, I now know, and it's where my life's second act both began and ended. I got weepy in a way Seattle simply could not inspire. I will forever miss the only place in the Northwest that ever truly felt like home.

Tonight I went to a free concert in a Pittsburgh park. I was invited to a tailgate, where we munched on brats while the Ohio Players sang their two hits and about 12 other songs no one present knew. I met a woman with a ponytail, sadly bleached blond, a crime against nature. I enjoyed chatting with her anyway. There was an unfamiliar ease to it. She told me all about her fears and hopes, and as often as not I was thinking "This happened to me maybe ten times in 22 years in Seattle, and it happened to me the very first time I poked my head out of my house here."

This isn't the reason for the move, but it's definitely symptomatic of it.

• • •

During that conversation, my phone buzzed. I glanced down. The text was from my friend Risa, 10 feet away.

"Ponytail," it said.

I showed it to Allie.

"She already knows all there is to know about you."

yinzers

I am in Metamuville no more. Two weeks ago, I pulled up stakes and moved to Pittsburgh.

"I want to be near my loved ones," I explained to Pittsburgh friends Steph and Andy.

"Awww!" she cooed.

Andy leaned in and spoke softly. "He means the Steelers, honey."

"UGGGH!" she didn't coo.

The 2300 mile drive seems a lot longer in a Jeep, made to seem even longer by two weeks in hotels with Fredo. I have much to say about it, but I won't have reliable Internet until Monday. On the upside, the coffee shop near my new house puts Nutella on their English muffins, so I am incentivized to post. You people deserve it.

craigslidiots

I've been giving away a few items on craigslist this week, which is nothing so much as reminder of how flabbergastingly stupid and entitled people are. "Call me," half of them respond in entirety, right before I delete their demand.

Free generator, runs great, says my ad.

"Does it run?" asked no less than 30 people.

Free dresser, but you must take it today

"Can I pick it up on Saturday instead?" asked two people who didn't get a response.

Potted japanese maple. Free to the person who annoys me the least.

It went to the woman who asked merely if I would deliver it to her 30 miles away.

or maybe both

I was once in a hip furnishings shop when I met the Most Beautiful Girl I've Ever Seen. She works there. A couple decades my junior and not a remotely plausible prospect even if she weren't, she nonetheless effortlessly oozes loveliness and grace out every pore. Helping matters is that she's extraordinarily personable. She should, by rights, be a ball-castrating show pony. Alas. For hours after we chatted, all I could think was "Wow. Wow." She lingered in my mind for days, like when I see a truly great film or concert.

Let's call this work of art "Mirabelle." We talked for maybe a half hour in 2014 and never since.

A few weeks ago, I ran into her on the street. She spotted me first and greeted me warmly. She couldn't remember my name, but she remembered details about me. I can't remember a single thing about her life, I marveled to myself. If I can't make myself care about her details, what chance does anyone else really have? She charmed my friends and spun off, long brown hair cascading down her back, like in take 84 of a shampoo commercial.

"How." asked my stunned, lovestruck buddy.

I am sure I do not know. But next time I see Mirabelle, I'm thanking her for making me look like a stud. Or maybe a pervy old fart.

There's big goings on in these parts, and I'll write more about them when they're done. Internet weirdos, and all. You can expect the next week to be pretty dull. For your fun, go read some news.

Yeah...maybe not. I've steered clear of writing about Trump and Orlando because, well, I find their unrelenting depressingness to be depressing. But since you asked, I'm solidly against both calamities.

Whenever something like the Orlando shootings unfolds, I cringe and steel myself for the first responders. I don't mean the heroes in uniform. I don't mean the media or the families of victims. I mean the asshats who rush to co-opt the tragedy in support of whatever their dumbass cause is before some other asshat can. Morbidly, I started refreshing my Facebook page, waiting to see the usual suspects' faces change in a conspicuous show of...I don't know. "Helping," I suppose. And this being an election year, the candidates quickly issued statements about how these murders validated their positions, all before the blood dried. So unfathomably cringe-inducing. Conspicuous in their (relative) silence are the gun-fetishists at the NRA. It's certainly not out of taste, so I conclude they started to type "THIS WOULDN'T HAPPEN IF MORE GAYS CARRIED GU—" and then had second thoughts.

risky click of the day

In a chat with Flo, I called myself a dick. "i was thinking gaping walk-in asshole, but sure, dick works, too," she replied.

Certain that she did not coin such eloquence, I googled "gaping walk-in asshole."

First of all, don't do it. Second of all, if you do, don't click the first link.

judged

I stayed in a fancy-pants hotel last weekend. How fancy? US Open golfers were trickling in. And I still managed to be the worst dressed person in the lobby.

At one point, I called room service and ordered two desserts. There was the dessert that sounded good, and then there was the back-up dessert.

"And how many people is this for?" asked the voice on the hotel phone.

"Um. Two?" I lied.

He knew.

“smells like pizza”

— Septic guy, after popping the lid on my tank

born this way

I was in the bar at a Cleveland Buffalo Wild Wings when it was time for my 1:1 meeting with Sal, my boss of six years. He squinted at his screen and saw where I was.

"Oh, good. You're already drinking. That'll help. I just quit."

I grabbed my glass and stabbed at it with my finger. "THIS IS ICED TEA, SAL! I FEEL EVERYTHING, SAL!"

• • •

6GROm.gifIn short order, all of his FTE folks bailed from the company. Every one of them was gone in three weeks. I attended a meeting five days ago with the panel of moronic executives who would take ownership of Sal's projects, of which my company is an integral part. They talked about the horrific tasks they would have us perform, all of them desecrations of our earlier work. No one asked if my company would be staying on. They just assumed. I smiled at their arrogant presumption and enjoyed their mindless buzzword-regurgitation far more than I ordinarily would. And then yesterday, when the last of Sal's folks were gone, I sent mail that I was terminating my company's relationship with their company.

Complete pandemonium ensued. Offers were sweetened. Character was assassinated. Threats were implied.

"I choose who I work for," I replied repeatedly. One would think that this is an unassailable argument, but these are corporate executives. I simply do not understand that their baseless assumptions about my plans are law.

It's been six years since I quit a job, six long years. I forgot how much I enjoy it. I was born for this.

listing badly

I listed my Metamuville house last week, and then I fled it. I crashed in Seattle and visited friends for two days while random sales reps from Confederated Realty Morons showed prospective buyers my digs. When I returned home, I found changes.

Some things were merely annoying. For instance, I purposefully left lights on. Who went around and turned them all off? And if you're going to open a cabinet, please close it.

Some things were appalling. Whoever dropped a deuce in my master bath, you really needed to flush twice.

And some things were psychotic. That same toilet was clogged on next use. When I plunged it, I found a handful of change in the bowl.

And people still ask me why I'm a recluse.

so what i'm hearing

When I was 12, I found gold under my mother's mattress. Not real gold, of course. This was even better. I'd found dirty books: Sexual Astrology and Woman's Orgasm. Mom being Mom, she couldn't even do porn right; these were all text. Nevertheless, I knew I had the Get Out of Jail Free card of my life. I would zealously conserve this resource. I would wait until I was in serious trouble, until she caught me doing something truly heinous, and then I would toss Sexual Astrology at her face and knock her off her high ground. I trembled with excitement. I saved this for years, and then she died. My golden bullet went unfired, and now it's feeble post-introduction material.

Lesson learned. Don't hoard ammunition. Ammunition wants to be fired.

• • •

At a meeting a few weeks ago, my boss of six years was frustrated with the insubordination of one of his managers. She argued that he didn't understand her job, which he invented for her, or its responsibilities, which were also his invention. He disagreed. After several months of seeing his directives ignored, he was disinclined to do a few more laps around Retard Park. He waited for her babbling explanation to wind down, and then he spoke calmly, even kindly.

"So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be a manager anymore."

Those 14 words were magical. The arguing immediately ceased, and the problem was forever solved.

"That. Was. AWESOME!" my buddy chatted me privately.

Indeed it was, and I could not wait to spring it on people.

"So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be my housecleaner anymore."

"So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be my realtor anymore."

"So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be my mechanic anymore."

Boom. Boom. Boom. Resistance doesn't merely fade away; it disappears from all space-time. It never existed. You can almost hear the record scratch.

"I cannot wait to spring this on a girlfriend," I told Allie. I practiced: "So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be my girlfriend anymore."

She stared at me. "Yeeeeah. I don't think that's gonna go how you think it's gonna go. She'll be, like, Oh thank god. You already understand. That'll make this so much easier!"

unfortunate racket placement

I'm fairly certain my high school gym coach threatened to do this to me if I didn't shut up.

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test of character

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