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


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 violet 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, took my $20 bill, and handed me a fistful of barf-garnished money.

"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."


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.


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.


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.


test of character



I spent the weekend with a couple of Microsoft friends. At one point, I was showing them some photos on their Windows laptop.

Seeing me use the mouse, my friend started to twitch. "It's a touch screen, you know."

I ignored her and continued to click the mouse button. Why lift an arm when I can merely lift a fingertip? Soon, she was visibly uncomfortable. She pointed to the screen.

"All you have to so is touch it with your finger here," she said, as I am clearly a moron. I again ignored her. Finally, she took matters into her own hands and tapped the screen with her finger. She missed, and the wrong window took focus.

"Dammit," she said under her breath.

This is a perfect metaphor for modern-day Microsoft. They don't build what customers want. They build what they want, then correct the customer for not wanting it, too.

race war!

cherries.jpgLast week, I was at a favorite restaurant in Pittsburgh. Black-owned, it's largely black-frequented. I am often the only polka dot present. I dress up, but not like the brothers. They're full-on bow-tied. The ladies often wear hats. Me and my untucked shirt are completely out of our league, but I'm not about to learn to tie a bow tie at this age. Maybe a clip on.

The bartender and I have our little ritual. He puts an additional cherry in each Manhattan I drink. As he slid me my fifth Manhattan, he winked at the fellow with whom I was chatting and said "This is the one that gets him."

Aye. That it did.

My new friend was Robert. We were there for R&B night when an outrage flared in my ears. They played Hall & Oates. A black band. In a black restaurant. On R&B night. Played Hall & Oates. I was already grousing to all assembled when they fired up Sara fucking Smile.

Probably arguing for argument's sake, Robert nonetheless passionately defended Hall & Oates' inclusion on the playlist. He deflected any criticism I mounted. He defended Sara Smile. He defended Private Eyes. And then he defended that all-time aural abomination Maneater. This put me into orbit.

"Report to the nearest counter and turn in your black card," I said, turning away from him. There was a delighted howl from the gallery, and I paid for absolutely nothing that night.

Thanks for the eminently flexible line, Dorkass! It's worked with gay cards, too, but that didn't get me free stuff.

c prompt

Continued from yesterday's post

I breezed into a Pittsburgh watering hole last week and was greeted by a favorite bartender. We caught up, and then her eyes flashed.

"Oh my god, your friend has been here every night for months. She's a total alcoholic now."


"No! Michelle!"

michelle.jpgIn my absence, she lost her job and now shoehorns her implausibly huge new bolt-ons (right) into skin-tight clothing every single night, hanging herself on a hook and boozing herself into oblivion. So many levels of yikes, there. I assured the bartender that this trainwreck is decidedly not my friend.

I returned a couple nights later, and Michelle and I immediately made eye contact. Without acknowledging her, I grabbed Risa and we went into the separate cigar bar. 20 minutes later, Michelle was standing in my sight-line, flirting with a gaggle of eager men. A half hour after that, she was standing in front of me.

"Are you not even going to say hi, John?"

I glared at her. "Hi."

It was then that I discovered that in the last 18 months, Michelle and Risa have met. Michelle sat on Risa's chair arm and whispered into her ear for three eternities. Then she went back to her flirting station.

"That girl really loves you!" Risa said.


"She said you're rude but so's she and you're like two peas in a pod, two sides of the same coin, and she really misses you."

"Risa, that's the woman whose ticket you used."

"That bitch was Michelle?!?"

"The very same."

Risa told me that Michelle was now in full-blown golddigger mode, often speculating about men's comparative worth. Ugh. At some point Risa left, and Michelle plopped next to me. Her hand grazed my knee. It's amazing how counterproductive that move is when I hate the hot woman doing it. Michelle told me how much she missed me or some such. Who can listen, really? I asked her to come closer to me, and she leaned in.

Trigger warning: if you hate complete clichés, read no farther

As she leaned in close to my face, I blew cigar smoke square into her eyes.

Hey, I warned you.

• • •

"No no no," said Dorkass when I told the story. "Here's what you should've done. She leans in close to your face, and you look at your phone and go, Oh, sorry. My Uber's here."



20 months ago, I walked into my bar in Pittsburgh and found that I shared the room with only a hot brunette. We chatted a bit, and then I left, but it turns out she was a regular too. We saw one another often, and soon we made plans to go to dinner and a football game together.

This is Michelle.

At one point, I was looking forward to dinner with her. That is so unimaginable to me now. I was there on time, sitting at the bar, slapping away the people who clamored for her seat. Time passed. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 70 fucking minutes. She walked in 72 minutes late.

"Hey," she apologized.

The older I get, the more I detest people who waste my time. I'd rather they steal my money than my time. Money, I can replace. By the time she walked in, I was detesting her a lot.

I bought her meal anyway, and we chatted, and she chatted up our neighbors. And then when I was in mid sentence, her phone buzzed.

"Oh, my Uber's here. Gotta go!" And she shot out the door.

"What just happened?" asked the server.

I talked to Dorkass on my walk home. As angers go, mine was orbital. I indulged in the saved-for-special-occasions c-word. She allowed it.

Michelle heard that I was livid, perhaps because I used the c-word in front of every bartender in town. After a few days, I was at the original bar when she plopped down next to me.

"Hi," she apologized.

We talked for a bit, and then my phone buzzed. "Oh, here's an irony for you," I said. "My Uber's here. But note that I'm taking a moment to say goodbye, lest I make the person I'm talking to feel like complete shit. This is how non-rude people behave." And then I left.

"I don't know what you said to Michelle," said the bartender later, "But when you left she was practically in tears."


Weeks passed, and I never heard from her. It started to dawn on me that I would never hear from her again. Rude people despise those who show them a mirror. Yet I had promised her a football ticket. "She won't cancel," I predicted. "She's going to make me ask if we're on." That's what rude people do. I explained the situation to my friend Risa, and she agreed to be my backup plan.

The day before the game, I texted Michelle. "Are we still on?"

"I'm sorry, my grandmother just died and I'm in New Orleans for the funeral," she replied. I then sent her a screenshot of her Instagram from her grandmother's funeral a month earlier. Yes, the only time she ever apologized was in fact a lie. That's perfect, somehow.

I would never see or speak to Michelle again. Until last week.

To be continued

i'm fine with this

I just got back from a week in Pittsburgh, a week that constituted the first time that Fredo didn't have either me or his sister around. The poor little sissy-boy has had a rough year. First Dex died, then he was viciously attacked at the dog park and had to spend weeks in a cone, and now I abandon him.

"It'll be okay. I'll be back before you know it," I said more to myself than to the dog who only recently learned his own name after five years. I thought about him often while I was gone, hoping he was all right and that he was enjoying the twice-daily cuddle time I bought him. "It'll be okay," I thought.

Yesterday, I sprang Fredo from jail. "Man," said the clerk at the desk. "He was our choir leader!"

I had no idea what he was talking about, so he explained. "Fredo was leading the entire kennel in howls, for hours and hours and days and days." He looked at my grimmace. "He's a howler, right?"

"Never once."


grrr, arg

Last week I stayed on the top floor of a hotel with the slowest and least sound-proofed elevator I've ever used. As I ascended past floors, I could eavesdrop on entire conversations between people waiting, I presume, for the elevator to come back down. Alas, I didn't hear any sex stuff or teary breakups, but it wasn't for lack of straining.

One day, I heard a small child throwing a hissy temper tantrum. I could hear him from four floors away, so shrill was this child. And so I did what any reasonable adult would do to this unseen child: I made monster noises. As loudly as I could, I growled and snarled, punctuating things with the lip-smacking sounds of my eating the entrails of some imaginary child. The temper tantrum stopped, and I heard parents trying to explain that, despite all evidence to the contrary, there was definitely not a monster in the elevator. As I passed their floor, I pounded on the door and snarled in a rage.

"AAUUUUUUGGGHH!" screamed the child's rapidly receding voice.

I've since speculated on three things:

  • What pathology did I just sow in little Timmy?
  • How do the parents explain this to themselves, let alone their kid?
  • What would I have done if that door had opened? I'd like to think I would have had the grace to chirp "You're welcome!'


My housecleaner and I can barely communicate, what with her retched English and my even worse Spanish. So I suppose it's best that I can't ask her why, when I just followed her up the stairs, she strained to walk sideways, with her butt against the wall, like I'm some sort of Labrador trying to cop a sniff.

we just assumed

I snapped this pic in Pittsburgh.


reader mail: presidential contest

Longtime Stank troll Marta asks for my presidential pick. I have none, but I do have this observation: is there any doubt that of the five remaining candidates, only Clinton and Kasich could pass a remedial civics test?

I'd like to think that phrasing was consciously humorous, I really would, but in my heart of hearts I know it's just incompetent.

the case against public breastfeeding

I don't care if new mothers unleash their breasts in public. Or old mothers. Or any women, really. I don't have a puppy in this fight. As someone who would let children starve before he would be seen even partially shirtless in public, I don't get it, but live and let live.

That said, we really need to ban public breastfeeding.

When I see an infant, I look at its face. Why? Because babies are super-cute. And sometimes, I realize several seconds into staring that the child is horking down on its pre-brunch snack. And then I'll lock eyes with the mother, who's glaring at me, doubtlessly thinking either:

  1. "Fuck off, perv" or
  2. "Say something. I dare you. I double-dog dare you, motherfucker, say something about this beautiful, natural, and healthy experience! I will bury you in studies straight from Leche Magazine!"
Either I need to stop noticing babies, or moms need to air 'em out after they leave the Toyota service department. I humbly submit the solution that requires nothing of me.

upon reflection

For years, I've heard that my dentist employs a beautiful hygienist, but I never saw her. Until last week. "Hi!" she chirped.

"Guh?" I replied.

While I admired her shiny, cascading brown hair and enormous Disney-character eyes (although that was probably her binocular eyeglasses playing tricks on me), she chatted up a storm. She asked me all sorts of questions about myself, where I'm from, where I live, what I do for a living, what I like to do for fun. There was no mistaking it: this chick was into me. She couldn't know me well enough, fast enough. As I grunted answers to her essay questions, I contemplated how to make my move.

Then she mentioned her kids, which stalled my momentum, especially when she referred to a "we" that was making parenting decisions. Perhaps I misread her interest?

She wanted to show me something in my mouth, so she handed me a hand mirror. "Ugh, you're gonna make me look at myself?" I groused. "What did I ever do to you?"

I peered into the mirror. Whatever it was she wanted me to see went unseen that day. Instead, my focus riveted on the most hideously lit rat's nest of nose hair ever encrusted by a half pint of dried snot.

Confirmed: I misread her interest.

During a work meeting, I took a teasing-bit-not-really shot at Trixie, the preposterously hot and even more preposterously employed 24 year old.

"Oh, I see how it is! she giggled. "John's a backstabber!"

My boss snorted. "No, John's a front-stabber."

charley's formula

I was a brand new writer, not yet even out of college, when my mentor lowered the boom. He looked at my timecard with confusion. It said something like:

Monday 7.75 hours
Tuesday 8.1 hours
Wednesday 8.25 hours
"John...? Charley said in his fabulous southern drawl. "Are you billing for the hours you actually worked?"

"Um. Yes?"

Charley stood up and shook his head sadly, chuckling at my naiveté. He put his hand on my shoulder. "Son, son, son. Nope. It's not how many hours you worked. It's how many hours it felt like."

That is the moment I became a professional writer.

This system made instant sense to me. And I have shared this story many times in the intervening decades, always with someone I employed. I distinctly remember squinting at Karen's first timecard. "Son, son, son..." I said.

• • •

My first gig at Microsoft was as an hourly contractor. For months, I averaged 85 hours a week. It was a brutal death march. We literally watched a corpse being carried out of our building, someone who had dropped dead at his desk. "Lucky bastard," someone snarled at the passing corpse. We all agreed.

My timecards were naturally enormous, so any embellishment was both unnecessary and implausible. Nevertheless, Charley's teachings tugged at me. Out of loyalty, on my last timecard I added 10 hours, for a total of 100 hours that week. My boss looked at it and sighed. "I'm so grateful to you for not dying," she said. "Or, you know, quitting." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Go ahead and add 10 hours."

"You mean in addition to the 10 hours I already added?" I said to absolutely no one. Thus was my legendary 110 hour timecard born.

• • •

I thought about her this week. Charley too. My current boss explained impending political shifts and closed with this directive: "John, bill the shit out of me this month."

"Will do. And if you don't mind my saying so, sir, you found the perfect man for the job."

moron taxonomy
stupid church signs
super bowl xl officiating
percy chronicles

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