imagining therapy

10 years of working from home. 10 years of choosing who I work with. 10 years of living alone. 10 years of very seldom dealing with people with whom I do not want to deal, and if I did, you can bet I was getting paid for it. 10 years of being in almost complete control of my environment, every second of every day.

It's been wonderful. It's also crippled me.

I find myself increasingly incapable of dealing with, well, people. My patience and understanding are gone, replaced with a quick-trigger "Screw this. I'm going home." Tolerance is a muscle, it turns out, and on my body that muscle has atrophied and withered away.

And so I imagine going to therapy to build this muscle back up. I don't particularly like most people, but I also dislike being able to tolerate them for only ten minutes. But then I imagine the therapy sessions, and there's a lot of this:

Me: "I can't spend 10 minutes at the store anymore without intensely wanting to bitch-slap people."

Therapist: "Why is that, do you think?"

Me: "They're entitled jerks."

Therapist: "Why do you think that?"

Me: "Hmm. I suppose that if I had to guess, I'd say it's the average person's obscene sense of entitlement and appalling conduct toward other people."

Therapist: "No, seriously."

Me: "No, seriously."

Therapist: "We can't work on this if you're just going to blame everyone else."

Me: "Okay, then." (gets up)

Therapist: "Please sit down."

(I sit down)

Therapist: "Sigh. So what is it you want from me, John?"

Me: "Is there, like, a pill that makes you not notice that other people are dicks?"

Therapist: "No, seriously."

Me: "No, seriously."
Thus do we talk in circles and not get anywhere. And if we're both very lucky, he doesn't get bitch-slapped.

Here, this comes to mind.

Last week, Fair Dorkass and I went to a Seattle museum to see the Chuck Jones animation exhibit. If you're a fan, I highly recommend it. I'm a bona fide Chuck Jones geek, and there was still lots I'd never seen. It saddened me to know that his work is no longer viewed by children. It is instead, as Dorkass noted, in a museum now. To me, this is both uplifting and tragic.

Prior to that moment, we went to lunch at a place Dorkass promised had "great pizza." Why west-coasters feel remotely comfortable using this superlative is, to me, no small matter of immorality. Much as I don't presume to deem the pain of childbirth "not so bad," I don't want these people rating pizza.

Inevitably, as I waited at the counter for my pizza, this abomination greeted me. What might they one day put in those blank tiles? Gluten-free sprout puree? Soy-cotton peanut butter?

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my favorite hit. ever.

Someone found the Percy page by googling "geriatric forced anal."

days since the last mass shooting in america

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What easily attainable, feel-good red herring can we go after this time instead of addressing the actual problem?

Edit: He "has Nazi sympathies!" Praise be. You know what to do, airheads. That Nazi flag has got to go, or the gun violence might continue.

a night in seattle

A buddy has been inviting me to join him and his friends at a bar in Seattle. They meet every week, and he was certain I would like them. After many months of his lobbying, I relented.

Seattle Greetings were exchanged ("Hi, how are you?" and no further), and I bought appetizers for the table. It wasn't the absence of a single "thanks" that bothered me so much as their taking the appetizers to another table and eating them there.

I didn't think I could be any more done with Seattle, but I stand corrected.

Me, two days ago: "Gosh, I wish Darcy II felt comfortable enough to open up more."

Me, last night at 2am, looking at my phone with one blurry eye because the other one was stuck shut: "Is that kid still fucking texting me about boys?"

Somehow, quite unwittingly, I have become a teenage girl's bestest girlfriend. The insecurity and insanity that reside there are worse than anything I ever imagined. Help.

I'm teaching her how to build web sites, and she's crushing it. For those of you who understand such things: she went from not knowing what a p tag is to happily creating DIVs with CSS and stealing scripts within a couple hours. For those of you who don't understand such things: she is a very bright girl indeed.

Okay, so I lied. No one happily creates DIVs.

We share a folder in Dropbox, so unbeknownst to her, I watch what she's coding while she's coding it. And yesterday, she wrote the following Bio her for herself:

"I believe that challenging yourself is the best way to learn. I hope to one day to inspire others as John inspires me."

Mmmph, I choked. I wasn't expecting that. I teared up with pride.

10 minutes later, she changed the sentence to "I like computers, cats and traveling."

down, people!

I remain astonished by what you people get worked up about. I could incite violence against third-world gay farmer Jewish puppies and offend you less than in my Grand Marnier post.

Yes, I went through the "This is not ideal. Maxi pads absorb things." train of thought. I briefly considered stripping away its layers, using the thin portion near the wing, etc. before I came up with a better idea. I did not mention the better idea because it was not funny. I focused instead on where my train of thought comically bottomed out.

I don't drink coffee, so although a coffee filter occurred to me during that moment in the bathroom, it would have been a 40 minute drive, and if I'm doing that, I'm just buying a new bottle of Grand Marnier. The goal was instant gratification with parts on hand.

I'd had a horrible day of work, and at its end I craved a drink. I craved a specific drink, one requiring Grand Marnier, of which I was out. Then I remembered the "flop box" in my closet. This is booze from when I owned a second place, a flop in Redmond that had a full bar. And in that box was a half-bottle of 11 year-old Grand Marnier.

I popped the cork. Snap. It broke in the stem. So I shoved the cork into the booze below, but the ancient cork disintegrated into a thousand splinters into the precious, precious liquid. I grabbed my kitchen's finest mesh strainer, which got snagged 99.9% of the flotsam. But .1% cork in my drink is .1% too much, and I strained it again. No improvement. There were still hundreds of miniscule specks of cork. I needed an even finer filter.

And thus did I come to stand in front of my master bathroom's open cabinet, studiously examining the woebegotten maxi-pad in my hand.

Self-awarenesss kicked in. "Has it really come to this?"

I paused to reflect on my life to date. This was a warning sign, surely, but of what?

get ready to feel old

Fresh off my utter failure in mentoring Darcy, I'm taking on a new kid. I need a clean break emotionally from Darcy, so let's call the new protégé "Darcy II."

She's the 15 year old from the previous posts. Her parents are a complete disaster. The hand she's been dealt is incredibly shitty. Surely, I can't screw her life up more, right?

Like all teenagers, she wants things that she cannot afford. She asked if she could pull weeds for me to earn money. I asked what the money is for.

"For hair coloring," she replied, only she used a fancy French term I had to google.

Now, I hate artificial hair color. I especially hate colored hair on Asians, on whom nothing but black looks plausible, let alone natural. But Darcy II is on anti-psychotics and packing on weight, and school is coming, and ohmygodohmygodohmygod is she ever feeling down on herself. So I relented. I will let her earn her stupid hair coloring, but for my moral compromise I will exact something.

"Okay, I'll do it under one condition: you sign a contract that you will never get any tattoos. Ever."

She beamed. "Not a problem!" Then she wrinkled her nose. "Tattoos are a Mom thing."

honesty

I just told a friend a story from my non-love life. During this telling, I declared "Now, I'm not above a one-night stand."

After the call, the following internal monologue ensued:

"You've never had a one-night stand in your life, you old gasbag."

"Just because no one's willing doesn't mean I'm above it."

"Oh, right. You're good, then."

the pathology of toy story 3

I just re-watched Toy Story 3. This time, I didn't weep like a puss at the end. No, remembering what the ending of that movie is like, I wept right away.

My houseguests came the next day. "So, did your mom cry at the end of Toy Story 3?" I asked.

"Yes!" both kids sneered with teenage derision.

The boy continued. "I do not understand what about that movie makes adults cry."

I tried to explain. "It's about losing your childhood."

"My childhood sucks," snorted the girl. "Good riddance."

"I'm right here," said Mom, whom we ignored.

"Yeah, good point. My childhood sucked, too." I thought some more. How to explain to children who, by definition, have not yet felt this loss?

"Okay, the closest analogy I can come up with is death. As you get older and farther away from the child version of you, it's like he slowly dies. He just withers away. It's so gradual you don't even have a funeral, but one day he's gone and he's never coming back. Toy Story 3 taps into that. From your eyes, Andy's just going off to college. From an adult's eyes, Andy discovered a lump. We remember discovering ours, and we remember what came after that. The movie makes us feel things that we typically push out of our minds. So we cry because the movie is kinda making us grieve for a dead person."

The girl stared at me.

"Jeez, that's morbid," said the boy.

Mom hopped into the conversation. "I cried because Andy was giving away his toys."

"Seriously?" I said.

"Yeah. Dude, you're messed up!"

• • •

A bit later, I entertained the kids by putting on the trailer for the new Star Wars. "This damned thing taps into the same feelings. I guarantee you, my eyes will get all watery at the end."

I pressed play.

"Chewie...we're home!"

Cue the waterworks. The boy clapped as though I'd done some sort of double-jointed party trick.

A friend and her two kids stayed here for the 4th. The 12 year old boy and 15 year old girl are both taller than me already, so they're well on their way to gronkhood. Either that or I'm shrinking. Their parents are nuts. Mom is a needy, dim mess. Dad, now gone, is seriously sociopathic. I identify with these children.

The girl is somehow brilliant. I noticed it when she was 9 and we would play logic puzzles. That she could deduct at that age was notable, but I was even more impressed that when I outsmarted her, it drove her positively insane and she wanted to deconstruct how I'd done it. "You're nine," I would say. "If I couldn't outsmart you, I would kill myself." That only made her angrier. I respected her anger. Kid's got a mental motor. Today, she's an all-everything honors student. She brought homework to my house for the fourth of July. Yes, homework. She's in summer school, loading up on AP courses, because, in her words, "I've only got one shot at getting into college and getting out of here."

What do you say? She's right. She's already on her own in this world, and she knows it.

Now that I've told you how smart she is...

1892_1210276335350_500_234.jpgShe came downstairs Sunday morning marveling over what she'd just seen in the guest room: my Windows 98 book. "Mine" as in I wrote it, all by myself, without any help from Dorkass, who balanced her checkbook in her office while I did her job.

"I just saw that Windows 98 book," the kid said, wide-eyed. "It's unbelievable to me that Microsoft plans that far in advance!"

Confused, I blinked at her. Then I realized that to her, Windows 8 is the latest version, so this book is written about something 90 versions from now. I laughed and said "If you think that's impressive, you should see my Windows 2000 book."

And I saw that anger again. Just like when she was 9, she steamed over not being the smartest person in the room. This is going to take this kid far in life. I did my best Emperor imitation.

"Your hate has made you powerful."

and the horse your guilt-trip rode in on

I had dinner with Elizabeth last week, and she veered into lapsed-Catholic guilt-trip mode. "John. I mean, John! You have never met my kids!"

Hearing me tell the story the next morning, Amy knew exactly what was coming, well before my denouement.

"...and then she said 'John, you have never met my kids.'"

"Oh no. No no no no no no no no no—"

"—so I'm going over there—"

"—oh god no."

"—today."

"Does she have any idea what's about to happen?"

"No. No she does not."

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For the record, that's three water cannons, four projectile-firing guns, two Fart Blasters (for shootouts!), an accordion, a drum set, one of those massive floor piano things, a karaoke machine, two marine airhorns (for shootouts!), fireworks, and an Imperial fuckton of glitter.

plausible plausibility

Last night, I fled from a woman. I waited until her back was turned and wham, I was out the door.

What was wrong with her, you ask? Absolutely not a goddamned thing. She was utterly charming. Bright. Hot. Young and sparkly. Ebullient. Funny. A singer-songwriter. She thinks Seattle people are self-absorbed turds. And she asked me to join her for dinner.

As the evening wore on, she got better and better and I got more and more skeptical. I could not think of a single reason this person would be interested in me. No positive reason, anyway. At best, she has daddy issues. At worst, she seduces the stupid and steals their kidneys. The more I thought about it, the more I could not rationalize away one notion: it is simply not plausible that this woman would be attracted to me.

So I ditched her, and I spent the rest of my evening depressed about what a poor conclusion that was not.

the rainbow connection

Even though the gay marriage outcome is what I wanted, all the attendant celebration is making me queasy. Not the gays; the straights. #LoveWins? Fuck that. This was about fairness for me, not any random misfit's notion of romance. #NoSpecialRightsforStraightPeople isn't as catchy, I suppose.

Meanwhile, my Facebook wall became a kaleidoscope of rainbows. People I've never once heard talk about gay rights rushed to colorize their face for all to see. And there was a direct correlation between the rainbow people and the people who rushed to show that they were Seahawks fans last year. It was the exact same bandwaggoneers. Now I'm just waiting for the rainbow "I'm a 12!" thumbnails. It's coming.

never do the math

I'd resisted doing this calculation for a long, long time.

In 2004, I had a windfall. I needed to invest it. I kicked around a few ideas, and one of those ideas was then-struggling Apple. The iPod wasn't a thing yet, let alone iTunes, the iPhone, iPad, and so on. No one knew what was about to happen. I wouldn't have even considered Apple if their P/E ratio hadn't been so ridiculously low. I kept staring at that P/E number. Yeah, they're obviously past their prime, but they are still seriously undervalued, I thought over and over. After mulling it over for a week, I did the prudent thing. I put the money into my house, where a return was guaranteed. These are phony numbers now (knowing what would happen to interest rates), but given what I knew at the time, I was spending $80k to save a guaranteed $229k in interest over 30 years. To this gutless puss, that seemed like a good deal. I took it.

And then.

This weekend, I calculated what would have happened on the path not taken, the bold path, the iPath. That $80k would have multipled exactly eighty times. That's $6.4 million, ladies and gentlemen. Six-point-four million little monuments to cowardice.

Of course, only $6.32 million of that would have been profit. Perspective is important, right?

southern pride

Every time we get our knickers in a twist over the confederate battle flag, its defenders invoke what I consider the laziest of all possible arguments: you just don't understand.

I find that lazy dismissal more offensive than the flag itself. These turds can't even do us the courtesy of burning three calories on argumentation.

roof_flag_gun-410x220.jpgIt's not about slavery, they say. It's about heritage. It's about regional pride. That so many of their region's residents—including both young Mr. Roof and the descendents of slaves—think it's very much about slavery and racism is proof, I suppose, that these people, too, fail to understand. That's a whole lot of failure to understand.

This is what I understand: the south lost the war. If they don't want to put the flag in the museum where it belongs out of simple sensitivity to the descendents of those enslaved in their beloved region, fine. Then I'll claim the eradication of their battle flag as a spoil of war.

Seriously, what exactly are they proud of: the slavery or the losing? They need to shut their y'all-holes.

This isn't a flag with crawfish or tobacco or Nick Saban on it. It's the battle flag of the army that fought for the worst imaginable cause.

Yeah yeah, I know, the Civil War wasn't about slavery. Rather than address that pop mythology, I'll directly quote the very people who waved this flag. South Carolina's declaration of secession didn't once mention pride or crawfish or regional anything. It mentioned slavery. Eighteen times. Here are five:

"an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery"

"the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws"

"The right of property in slaves "

"[the northern states] have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery"

"all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery."

Clearly, all of these slavery references were a red herring meant to mask the real cause of the Civil War. And I gotta say, it's really well masked.

It's a great read. Seldom in history do people so proudly cannonize their being on the wrong side. Even the Nazis had enough sense to keep the Final Solution a secret.

Also, South Carolina confused affect and effect. (That one was just for me.)

competitive sanctimony, part iii

Obama, speaking about racism on Marc Maron's podcast Sunday:

"We're not cured of it ... and it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination."
Reasonable enough. And the MSN headline this morning?

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let us count the problems that need fixin'

So a 21 year old kid who was

  1. indicted for a felony and with a history of
  2. drug abuse,
  3. mental illness, and
  4. published hate speech gets a
  5. .45 handgun
  6. as a birthday gift from
  7. his father,
and the entirety of our focus is on the stupid Confederate flag flying near the South Carolina capitol building. Taking that thing down will surely solve things. And replacing it with a rainbow flag would be a feel-good twofer!

Yep. That's my country. See "competitively sanctimonious," below.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alexander Hamilton, who has been featured on the $10 bill since 1929, is making way for a woman.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that a redesign of the $10 will feature the first woman on the nation's paper money in more than a century. The plan is to decide which woman sometime this summer.

Uh-oh. I don't much like where this is heading. I know my country, and we do enjoy getting all competitively sanctimonious about invented causes. We're five years away from Super Bowl boycotts until Wanda Sykes is on the $20 bill.

That said, I have no issue with [Woman TBNL] being on the new $10 bill. [Woman TBNL] deserves the honor. [Woman TBNL] earned it. Hamilton can't hold [Woman TBNL]'s jock.

But seriously, this move is appropriate and overdue. It'd be even more appropriate if it were a $7.80 bill.

throwdown

Just how annoying are John's dogs being this morning, no one asked? This annoying: I just put on noise canceling headphones and Fucking Amy's old Def Leppard CD.

I had to blow two decades' worth of dust off that, I assure you.

intervention

Okay, women. 'Splain yourselves. Why on earth do you think injecting a quart of collagen into your upper lip is a good idea? You're certainly not doing it for us men, so I can only assume you're doing it for yourselves. Do you actually think this looks good, or did you lose a bet? If the latter, carry on.

Otherwise, just stop. It's freakish. When I see it, it's all I can think about, and not in a good way.

On a related note, we have turned a scary corner with teeth-whitening, careening into the ludicrous. Watching Joel McHale and Paget Brewster the other day felt like I was looking directly into 64 plasma torches.

three for three

For the third time of my life, I'm selling something on craigslist. Like married women, this activity is on my "Why am I doing this? I swore I would never do this again!" list.

My Inbox was immediately stuffed with stupidity. And there, amidst the countless misspelled occurrences of "call me" and "will you take a broken chainsaw for it," is the sentence I have now seen all three times: "can you bring it to Portland?"

Who are these people, and what did I do so right in my life that I don't encounter them in the day to day?

assholes and elbows

Like a lot of white kids of my generation, I was introduced to race relations through the miniseries Roots. So yep, the self-loathing started early. Mom did what she could to help it along. Not that I wasn't fascinated like everyone else was, but she made it clear that viewing was mandatory.

"I'm making Johnny watch Roots," she would explain to perfect strangers, apparently hoping they were on the Parent of the Year nominating committee. And during our viewings, she made sure that I identified with the slavemasters whipping Kunta Kinte. "Do you see how horrible we are?" she would say gravely.

"What did I do?!" My confusion was legitimate. I didn't own an Atari, let alone a person. And if asked which end of the whip I more strongly identified with, I would have said Kunta's.

She was well-meaning in her efforts to sow the seeds of accountability, but talk about getting blood out of a rock. In the end, all it sowed was the sense that my mom was daft.

As I grew older, I realized that she also was protesting too much. Whereas my dad was old school "I'm not racist" racist, dropping n-bombs whenever someone dark cut him off in traffic, or whenever he thought they might, Mom was the "I have black friends" sort of racist typical of her generation. Me, I simply had black friends. I wasn't exactly bragging about it. I was just as ashamed of them as I was all my white friends.

There. That's my contribution to post-raciality. If you really think about it, I'm a hero.

What I didn't do was grow up color-blind. Between Mom's posturing and my later being the white guy in my neighborhood, I had no chance of that. Race wasn't so much the subtext of my life as an unwanted conversation from which I could not extricate myself. I wanted, really, was to be able to elbow black guys in the mouth without being thought a racist.

And throw elbows I did. For several glorious years of my life, I mooched off my girlfriend and played basketball as often as my knees would allow. I was a below average player on that court, consistently the sixth or seventh player picked. I made up for my slowness and, oh, let's say inconsistent jump-shot with defense, passing, picks and an unrivaled repertoire of cheap shots. Often I would get selected just because the guy wanted me hacking someone other than himself. I remain oddly proud of that.

If you went over my back on a rebound—and this was an exceptionally easy thing to do—you would taste elbow. If you were covering my teammate, I would gleefully lay you out with a pick—sometimes a pick of dubious legality. If you tried to dunk on me, you did not land on your feet; I made damned sure there was no second attempt. And there was a bench abutting the edge of our court that was christened "the Egger bench," after me. I used it as a sixth defender. You would be bringing the ball up that side of the court, dribbling full speed, and I would herd you into it. Pow.

"And I'll take Egger!" said the guy with bloody shins next time. Cheap shots were my great equalizer, and I was color-blind when dispensing them. I am very highly evolved that way.

Tensions ran high on that court, and I was often at the epicenter. "Motherfucker" was the favored pronoun referencing me. If I really laid out, say, d'Andre, I did what I could to assuage any tensions.

"Race war!" I would bellow over his broken body.

"Fuck. You."

Witty repartee aside, I was mindful that someone, somewhere was going to infer the wrong intent on my part. My elbow was an asshole, not a racist. But it happened occasionally, and d'Andre or Wilson would have to take an enraged black guy aside and explain that I got some latitude. I don't really know what was said in those conversations. It didn't seem like my place to participate. In my imagination, my friends said "Just let it go. He'll start hacking all of us. Especially his teammates."

The one person positively guaranteed to taste elbow was another white guy. That poor bastard. He was my chance to prove that I was an equal opportunity cheap-shot artist, and I never failed to take it. He got it worse than anyone.

"WHAT IS YOUR DEAL?" he would exclaim.

"It's not personal," I would reply.

It was worse than personal. I was putting a little something extra on it because of the color of his skin. And decades later, I'm still somehow okay with this. I mean, did you see Roots? Did you see how horrible this guy was?

I await my Nobel Prize.

I was telling Amy about my father when she made a suggestion.

What she said: "You should totally post about this!"

What I heard: "You should totally stop telling me about this!"

• • •

Talking about my Dad is a double-edged sword. To simply say that I had a crap dad is insufficient. "Yeah, I know," people will say. "My family is dysfunctional too." Well, no. We are almost certainly not peers. You will not hear about soccer practice or Christmas in my stories. My dad wasn't crap because he didn't hug me enough, or because he hurt my feelings, or because he occasionally hit me. He was an unrepentant monster. I gots plenty of examples. For the purpose of this post, let's just say that he's dead, I'm glad he's dead, and if he still felt anything at all, he'd probably be glad he's dead, too.

And there's really no way of conveying this without getting into gory details that, I've found, people just don't want to hear.

Except for the cross-dressing. You guys eat that stuff up.

• • •

With Amy, I talked about muddling my way toward manhood without the aid of anything remotely resembling a positive male role model. I knew who I definitely didn't want to be, but that didn't give me a direction any more than knowing you don't want to drive to Chicago gets you to Miami. There was a lot of trial and error on my road to manhood. For the most part, it was the women beside me who shaped me, often against their will and at their own expense. First my mom, then my girlfriends and girl friends sweated blood chiseling me into a facsimile of a man. Anything redeeming about me today, you can bet I learned from a woman.

But when I was a kid, my role models were fictional men. Rick from Casablanca was one. He was and remains my masculine ideal, from his grudging courage to his gallows wit to his mannequin-mashing kissing style.

Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters?
Rick: I was misinformed.
Swoon.

But there was one guy who was everything I wanted to be, and I thought about him day and night. That guy was a rabbit. And a cross-dresser, come to think of it. Let's not read too much into that.

More than any flesh-and-blood male, Bugs Bunny taught me about life, about coolness, about justice, and—unfortunately for everyone in my presence—about pronunciation and about conflict resolution.

What I loved about Bugs, what I still love, is that he usually finishes fights but he never, ever starts them. This ethic appealed to me tremendously. It still does. Don't start none, won't be none.

It was as an adult that I read Chuck Jones "Chuck Amuck." (If you grew up on the Warner Brothers cartoons as I did, you simply must read this.) In it, the director articulates his golden rule: "Bugs must always be provoked." This, I realized instantly, was the ethic I had internalized as a child. The rest of my family were the Elmers and Daffys and roid-raging wrestlers and psychotic opera singers. They went looking for trouble.

But me? At my best, I sit alone in my rabbit hole, munching carrots, watching my stories on TV, minding my own business. If no one starts dropping red sticks of dynamite down the hole, they'll never even know I'm there. But people being jerks, they invariably they start with the dynamite.

Of course, you realize this means war.

In the otherwise magnificent Carnegie museum in Pittsburgh, there's an exhibit about race. Sadly, predictably, what purports to be thoughtful really just mines the worst of humanity for dramatic effect. I was disappointed.

This wall features quotes from locals about race relations. Which brings us to a woman who really, truly needs to specify antecedents to her pronouns when granting interviews.

bernstein.jpg

don't be a dick

One day I was sitting in my office when Annette came in to get popcorn. Normally she scooped from my machine without sending more than a cursory grunt in my direction, but on this day, something grabbed her attention. Slumped over my desk as though shot, I was listening to hysterical idiots on my speakerphone. Annette had seen me this miserable before, but never without my being trapped in a meeting room with Microsoft marketers. This was something new.

Annette lingered for a while, munching popcorn. "What am I listening to?"

"Oh. Right. This is an angry message my sister left me in which she's holding her phone up to her answering machine so she can play me an angry message that my brother left for her."

"And what does any of this have to do with you?"

"Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. It's just really important to her that I hate him, too."

"That's so..." She searched for the right word. She found it.

"...stupid."

"Yep."

This is when Annette started inviting me to Easter dinner with her family. They're awesome. They root for one another, not against. Although I enjoy their company, my annual drive home is utterly depressing. For two hours, I'd pretended to belong to the family I'd always wanted. But the problem with fantasies is that they end.

• • •

When I was a kid, even back in the single-digit ages, I used survey the carnage that was my family and dream about the day I would never have to see these people again. As an adult, of course, I saw things differently. I tried to make it work. Yep. I lasted until I was 20 before activating the trap door under their feet. And except for occasional tightly controlled cameos, I've stuck to it. For more than half my life, my family has had to be hateful without my participation.

The consequences have been surprisingly few. I have nieces and nephews I don't know—the collateral damage of my decision. And if I don't have a girlfriend, holidays can be pretty pointless.

That's it. That's the list. The rest is all upside.

One sibling has figured it out: if you're simply not a colossal dick, John will stick around. You would think that this nominal bar would be easily cleared, but the rest of my family has been impaling themselves on it for decades. This sister, in turn, has assured me that my nieces and nephews, too, are not phalli. And thus did I reach out to one.

She's an adult, now, and I haven't been a part of 95% of her life. She's getting married, and instead of going to their wedding, I'm going to take her and her Steelers-fan husband to a game. She seems pleased, but she did ask the obvious question.

"Can I ask why we're the lucky few who get to be reacquainted?"

"I need a kidney, and it turns out you're a perfect match," I replied.

patriots fans' nicene creed

We believe in the Patriots, the One Team Almighty, the takers of trophies.

We believe that the Patriots are the true Team of true Teams, above reproach in all things.

Toward that end, we also believe that illegally videotaping other teams' signals was of no competitive advantage whatsoever, which is why the Patriots took the risk of doing so at the cost of fines and their #1 draft pick. Obviously.

We believe that Tom Brady, our wide receivers, and our running backs are less capable than Ravens and Colts defensive players of noticing that a ball is illegally underinflated.

We believe that the equipment manager called himself "the Deflator" because he's a fattie trying to lose weight.

We believe Tom Brady when He says that He didn't know the equipment manager with whom He threw footballs during pregame warmups for over a decade.

We believe owner Robert Kraft when He says the Patriots did not deflate footballs, for if you cannot believe an established Cheater about cheating, whom can you believe? Seriously, we defy you to name a higher authority. Go on. We'll wait.

Because the Patriots didn't deflate footballs, we believe the Patriots immediately canned the equipment manager because...um...er...let's say it's because he's fat.

We believe that Patriots running backs who leave for other teams see their fumble rate go up 38% because those other teams are...um...er...illegally overinflating their footballs.

We believe that the noble martyr Robert Kraft isn't appealing His team's punishment because it's what's best for the league and because, as He Himself decreed in a written, prepared statement, "I have a way of looking at problems that are very strong in my mind."

We believe that anyone who doesn't share these beliefs is just jealous of our trophies, even the teams with more trophies than us.

fiddla, please

When my mother purchased music at this thing we used to call "record stores," she walked right past the Pop/Rock and R&B sections and went straight to the Atrocities section. As I was tethered to her, this means that my formative years were replete with abominations like Barry Manilow's "Copacabana," Morris Albert's "Feelings," the Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep us Together," and Neil Diamond's "Turn on Your Heartlight."

So to those of you who think me a douche, I say that's fair, but I also assure you that is the best possible outcome. Given the aural cesspool from which I sprang, you're lucky I didn't open fire in my teens.

Among her many gifts to me is that I still—still!—know all the words to the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack. It's horrible. It haunts me. I catch myself singing it, and then with a jolt I'm throughly disgusted with myself, as if I'd just awoken to find myself having sex with a particularly homely underaged yak.

This morning's incident involved Matchmaker, Matchmaker, in which idiotic teen girls sing about the vapid man of their retarded dreams.

For Papa,
Make him a scholar.
For mama,
Make him rich as a king.
For me, well,
I wouldn't holler
If he were as handsome as anything.
I had never considered these lyrics as an adult. They peg mothers' and teenage girls' priorities well enough, but fathers? Where are these fathers-in-law who value scholarship? I've seen them value money, or their daughters' continued dependence on them, or money, or whether or not I believe in the correct invisible man in the sky, but I've yet to meet a dad who gave a single flying crap about my scholarly accomplishments.

mad max

Critically adored, nay, fawned over, this movie was so much meh to me. I didn't care who lived or died. At all. Kill any of 'em; it's all the same to me. I was exactly as invested in this aimless cacophony as I was in the Transformers movies. Did no one else have this reaction?

Okay, okay, I secretly hoped for the stupid guitar player to die, but that was just so I didn't have to watch shots of him preening anymore.

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