what i'm stankful for

Before I venture off to Thanksgiving dinner, I want to note just how great yesterday was. My best day in years.

First of all, Amy was on vacation. Words cannot express how sick I am of talking to that woman every morning. Staying in the work realm, we officially landed a big contract for 2015, thereby ending our year of "I wonder if we'll have jobs next week."

Socially, the day started with Steph and Andy at the dog park, followed a few hours later by her capitulation on the vegetarian Thanksgiving issue. Then I went to the downscale cigar bar, where almost everyone I know in Pittsburgh had spontaneously gathered to load up on booze and nicotine before they had to deal with their families. The entire day was a whirlwind of people buying me bourbon and cigars, and finally the owner brought out a huge tub of free buffalo wings. While stuffing my face, I was introduced to "Les the Jew" and "Mick the Mick," and some inebriate asked Les, straight-faced, "Do you guys celebrate Thanksgiving?" Everyone laughed, including Les. We regaled one another with stories for hours, until finally the owner said he had to go home to his family. Sadly, I schlepped off the the bar across the street, where the black guy seated next to me ordered a Jack and cranberry, then, noting my retching noises, insisted that I accept a free one. It was as disgusting as you're imagining, but free is free. And then I so hit it off with the lovely Italian girl seated on my other side, she insisted on running home to get me the best goddamned cannolis ever made.

So what am I stankful for this year? Not being in Seattle.

thankgiving

Surprising no one, I accepted the Thanksgiving offer that involved the least amount of effort on my part. So tomorrow I'll be venturing to Steph and Andy's for a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Or so I was resigned.

"FYI, I'm making a turkey," texted Steph just now. "You looked like you were going to cry."

That's rubbish, of course. I was weeping outwardly.

knightmare postscript

The morning after telling Liz's molester to "have at her," I went to a different cigar bar. I entered to a round of applause. So at least we know my Pittsburgh legacy.

knightmare

Last night I ventured to the neighborhood upscale cigar bar, where I found my two smoking buddies, Risa and Liz. The following skism between my perceptions and reality occurred.

What I thought happened   Reality
The women were sitting side by side in leather easy chairs, both facing the football game. A gentleman had pulled up a chair to face them. Judging my how closely he was huddled with Liz, they were clearly friends. The women introduced me. He told one mind-numbingly lame dirty joke after another. I zoned out.

"I don't think Liz's husband John here is going to much like that," Risa said, trying to draw me back into the conversation.

I would not be drawn back in. "I hardly know her," I shrugged at the guy. "Have at her."
  They didn't know the guy.

He had fixated on Liz's chest from the moment he walked in, and she had been playing whack-a-mole with his hands ever since. Not once, not twice, but three times, he slid his hand up her miniskirt and felt her up. That's what he was doing when Liz's knight in shining armor told the creep to "have at her."
     

"THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!" they screamed in unison as soon as he left. Even the appalled wait staff scolded me. It was my finest hour.

By the by, reasonable though the question is, it's probably best to wait a while before asking a woman why she didn't stop her molester herself.

I might be kind of stupid.



"What the Fucking Fuck?" awards 

  raven-symone

The Cosby Show's cousin Oliver decided to get ahead of any rumors. Unfortunately, she writes like an actress:

"I was NOT taking advantage of by Mr. Cosby when I was on the Cosby Show!"

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donner party, table for two

Miss Ava has apparently cultivated a taste for Polish food. This time, I was ready with my camera. The things I do for you people.

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my calvin and hobbes moment

I traveled to Minnesota last weekend to see the Ohio State/Minnesota game with Dirt. It was 5 degrees. I'm told I'll feel my feet again sometime in May.

I've known Dirt's German Shepherd, DJ, since he was a hairy little fetus. Back in Metamuville, we had a ritual. He would bark furiously, and I would yell "It's me, goddammit!" and he would charge me, snarling and snapping, and leap into my arms. It was cute. Five years ago.

Now 110 pounds, DJ didn't feel particularly compelled to amend our ritual. Barking murderously, he knocked the wind out of me before I even hit the ground, which then knocked next week's wind out of me, for good measure. I laid there, incapacitated, as every orifice in my head was tongue-raped by this toilet-guzzler.

There simply isn't enough Purell.

tundra

"While I'm back East, what say I shoot into Minneapolis for the Minnesota/Ohio State game?" I stupidly said back in August.

"Are you high?" Dirt sagely replied. "It will be 10 degrees."

"You pussy. C'mon, it'll be fun," I stupidly replied.

"Pass," Kiki smartly replied.

As I pack for tomorrow's outdoor game, I just checked the weather.

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Please tell every woman who ever rejected me that my last words were of her.

you don't know me

New buddy Andy was driving me around Pittsburgh, showing me different neighborhoods in which he thinks I might like to one day like to live. We were on the north side when he showed me a lovely brownstone near a cluster of adorable shops and taverns. "If you go a few blocks thataway, the neighborhood gets a little sketchy," he cautioned. I perked up a bit. He continued his thought. "But then...you're a little sketchy."

the cure for insecurity

I went out with Michelle last night. In the space of 75 minutes, I went from "she is entirely out of my league" to wishing she would contract hyena syphilis. Those would be the 75 minutes that she was late.

No apology was forthcoming from Miss Thang. Next.

adventures in babysitting, part deux

My regular bartender was telling the story of a creepy customer who tried to purchase a kiss from her. I'm not sure what mental defect compels some men to try to purchase the affections of non-hookers, but he was acutely symptomatic. At first he offered her $1000. When she demurred, he chased. He doggedly offered more and more money. Supposedly he went up to $10,000. 10 grand for a kiss.

"And you said no?" I said. "At a certain point, isn't he pricing you into doing it?"

The assembled women glared at me.

"I'm not being sexist." I explained. "For 10 grand, I'd rim the guy's dog."

Everyone recoiled. Everyone except Michelle, who guffawed and slapped my back.

Michelle is a fellow barfly. We've since had several of the long, drunken conversations typical of our species. At our bar, she's often the center of attention, so I share her with the world. Charismatic, pretty, highly educated, stylish and successful, she is entirely out of my league. I treat her accordingly. I'm often the only guy in the room not hitting on her.

It helps that she's 16 years younger than me. When we began hanging out, I'd thought she was 10 years older than she was, and she'd thought me 10 years younger. On the heels of the Sarah triumph, this has rattled my confidence in my ability to estimate age.

This morning at the dog park, I fell into a conversation with a woman I estimated to be in her late-20s. At one point, she mentioned how she brings her puppy to her football games, then runs the track with him later.

"Oh, neat. Wait..." I swallowed my face. Good god, I'm talking to a high school cheerleader!

But no. She simply plays in a football league. And I officially have a complex.

2 games, 12 touchdown passes, 0 picks

Half of my readership is non-American, so I've refrained from writing about football. But for the sake of posterity, allow me to note that in the Steelers' 80-something years of history, their quarterback has thrown for 5 touchdowns only six times. Four of those were Roethlisberger. And three of those, I've seen in person.

Whatever else happens this season, I've seen something truly historic.

getting maryed

I could hermetically seal myself alone in a sterile biodome in Antarctica for forty years, breathing nothing but bottled oxygen and being fed only Purell, intravenously through a HEPA filter, and some kid's mom would come for a visit, and then I would get sick, and when accused, her answer would still be an indignant "Well I'm not sick, so you must have gotten it somewhere else."

context is everything

On Tuesday, I read this article—okay, I admit, just the first two paragraphs—written by illustrious whackadoodle José Canseco.

Control the People, Not the Guns

By José Canseco

I truly believe, aggressively, that we have the right to bear arms. We should be able to carry guns to protect ourselves. Period.

The funny thing is I don’t own any guns, but I would love to have a few—an Uzi and a street sweeper and a machine gun, maybe. I’d love to be able to carry a 9mm on me in a holster and just walk around. That’d be great. But you can’t in California, the state in which I live. And that’s bogus.

Imagine my surprise when within 24 hours, I see the headline "Jose Canseco tweets pic of hand after blowing off finger while cleaning gun."

You'll have to imagine my surprise, because there was none.

post-racial

Ahead of their recent visit, d'Andre's wife Pam

We interrupt this sentence so that I might express my supreme annoyance at having to type two apostrophes in a name.
—called me. We chatted about Ohio State's football team, or as we like to call them, "our other common problem." When the call wrapped up, she implored both d'Andre and me to behave around their nine year old girl, Danielle.

"Can you two please curtail the racist crap around my daughter?"

"Sure," d'Andre said.

"Not a problem," I agreed. "We can pretend to be someone else."

CUT TO:
EXTERIOR - JOHN'S PITTSBURGH APARTMENT
THE NEXT DAY

I greeted Pam warmly at the door, and then d'Andre less warmly. I turned to Danielle, whom I have not seen since she was a baby.

I nodded and shook her tiny hand. "d'Sheni'qua," I said.

"Jeeeeezus," the kid said, glaring at her mother mid-handshake.

"That's your Uncle Egger," d'Andre said, visibly delighted that I broke character first. "Absolutely no relation."

solidarity

During my drive to Pittsburgh, I stopped by Minneapolis to visit Dirt and Kiki for a couple days. I hadn't seen their daughter, Ava, since they left Metamuville two years ago. Then seven, this autistic child only spoke the words "iPad," "no," "Nemo," and "blueberries." I often described her as Helen-Keller-kind-of-feral.

When Ava was born, Dirt and Kiki started calling me "Uncle John." As time passed, I became the boogey man. "You don't want to make Uncle John angry," Dirt would say when I wasn't even there. Eventually, I lost that title. Dirt renamed me after the sergeant in Stripes.

When I arrived last month, Ava walked past me on the front porch. "Uncle Hulka," she said blankly. She walked to my car and pointed. "Those are Washington license plates."

Who are you? I thought, amazed at the transformation. Nice to finally meet you.

Then a memory popped into her brain. "iPad?"

There's my girl.

She's far from normal, but she's also far from feral. Civilization and its attendant special education system have been very good for her. Ava still refuses to engage much of the time, but she can opt to engage now, and that's been life-transforming. We actually bicker now. Oh sure, it's not like how Katrina's kid and I can bicker for 127 hours without drawing a breath. Ava doesn't have that sort of focus. This goes for 5 minutes, tops. It's infinitely preferable.

The school has taught her to express her anger instead of biting people, or at least how to go through those motions. And express her anger she does. Any time she doesn't get her way, she screams "AVA IS FEELING ANGRY!!!" louder and louder. The only way to stop the escalations is to capitulate. We were in the back seat of the car when Uncle Hulka thought he would try another tactic.

"Ava is feeling....angry," she said.

"John doesn't care," I replied.

"AVA IS FEELING ANGRY!"

"JOHN STILL DOESN'T CARE!"

And so it went for about a dozen louder and louder iterations, until she grabbed my hand and chomped. I let her.

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"What is that?" I cooed sweetly, tears rolling down my cheek. "Did a butterfly just land on my hand? Because it kind of tickles."

I sent the photo to Katrina's kid, who asked what I'd done to deserve being bit. I replied that I'd told Ava to shut up.

"Yep. That'll do it."

The group with which I've worked for the last four years was just ruthlessly acquired and laid off. They paid me in advance, so I still owe the company some money. A guy with a sleazy reputation just cold-called me about working for him. I cut him off.

"I'm not interested in working with your company any longer."

He was taken aback but not derailed. "But we have a credit balance."

"Yes, you do. I'll write you a check."

Apparently fresh from Management 101, he went straight to flattery. "I really wish you would reconsider. Hal (the executive in charge) really values what your company does and very much wants to continue the relationship."

"Yeah. Well. Considering that he just fired the only remotely competent people you've got, that means slightly less than fuck-all to me."

"Oh. I, um, guess that's it, then."

I guess it is.

young spuds

Oh, how lackluster the Steelers are this season. Virtually every other team in the league looks faster. Smarter. Executes better. Wants to win more.

Wants to win at all.

Yep. I'm delighted to have spent a shitton of money and energy to be here. I'd hoped, failing their being a contender, I would at least get to see the young studs develop something more than neuroses.

missing netflix

I am officially suicidal at the thought going out. So that's the answer to an age-old question: you do get sick of going out for every meal, around the five-week point. Although to be fair, I'm mostly sick of wearing pants.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to Costco to buy chicken breast. I sense a shut-in week or 12 coming.



"What the Fucking Fuck?" awards 

  rob motto

I don't speak for the movement, but I'm pretty sure they'd prefer the support of people who know the meaning of big SAT words like "equal" and "especially."

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this week in vomitous stupidity

Idiocy Cost
Saturday
Took dogs to park. Lost my wallet somewhere between the car and the gate. I have no driver's license, no insurance card, no credit card, no cash until Monday.
-$350 cash

-$75 for replacement parking pass

-$20 for replacement driver's license

Sunday
Dropped iPad on concrete, shattering it beyond repair.
-$850
Sunday
Lost prescription sunglasses during walk home from Steelers debacle.
-$360
Monday morning
Creditless, went to bank and got $1000 cash. Promptly lost money clip.
-$1000 cash

-$250 money clip

Monday morning
Go to Lenscrafters to get new sunglasses. Between Lenscrafters and home, promptly lose my regular glasses.
-$420
Monday afternoon
Stupidly change DNS settings on critical business server that I usually manage from a networked machine, then realize that I have no compatible monitor within 2200 miles. Hello, Amazon Prime.
-$140 new monitor

-$12 cable

-$5.99 for overnight shipping

Monday night
Found money clip in crevice of car. Holy fucking hell on a stick. Time to buy 1,250 lottery tickets.
+$1250
Total cost of stupidity vortex $1812.99
plus all remaining self-respect

why every app and website you use sucks lately

I was watching my dogs crap and talking with some hair-gelled guy whose name I've heard several times but cannot remember. He's about 28, a nice enough guy. He introduced me to his girlfriend, about the same age. She too shall remain nameless. She's the Senior Artistic Director Poobah Supremeus Grand Wizard at some local software company. Or some such conspicuously glittering job title. Millennial designers are all about minimalism right up until they're inventing imperious titles for themselves.

She and I talked shop for a while, and I told a story about how I collaborated with other groups at Microsoft to devise a set of user interface design guidelines. I wasn't 10 seconds into talking about translators' needs when she turned away and emitted the most horrific shriek.

You know the child at the grocery checkout whose mother denies him every bit of candy he can grab, who then explodes in exasperated, feral rage at not getting every single thing his heart desires? It was exactly that sound. It was that primal, that childish. I had blundered into a raw wound: it's a grotesque injustice that her designs should be accountable to anyone. She knows good design. As evidence, just ask her if her designs are good.

I don't know how much time she's spent in a usability lab, watching people struggle to change their credit card numbers, but I'm guessing it's several hundred hours short of my several hundred hours. Yet this fetus not only considers herself qualified to argue, she somehow considers others unqualified to argue back.

And this, dear reader, is why you cannot perform basic tasks lately. It's not you. It's the pouting chick with fewer hours spent in the lab than spent scraping hair gel from under her fingernails. Good design means "low-contrast, flat appearance that's so much like everything else cloned by the cool kids at the coffee shop, all your open windows blur together."

Me, I long for the days when good design meant "you don't have to fucking google how to use it."

douchier than thou

I went out last night and sat alone at the bar. The bartender recognized me and greeted me warmly, making me wonder just how much I drunkenly tipped him last week. We chatted about sports and listened to the live music, and he poured me an excellent Manhattan. I was in my happy place.

A very pretty girl soon sat two seats down from me, and the predictable feeding frenzy ensued. More guys introduced themselves to her in five minutes than have introduced themselves to me in five years. The douchiest of these sat in the chair between us, and he droned and droned and droned some more, insufferably, without end, about himself. I could not avoid hearing it. His banalities corroded my soul. I prayed for the sweet release of death. I was denied.

"Check please," I said.

The bartender was surprised. I gestured my head at the guy next to me and bulged my eyes in the international sign for "I'm five minutes away from splattering Summer's Eve Fresh Scent all over the bar."

I left and returned two hours later. No sign of the douche or the girl. While I waited for the bartender, I chatted with the woman next to me about whether I could pull off the pinstripes and bow-tie another guy was wearing. We were nearing a consensus of "not even remotely" when the bartender noticed me.

"You're back!"

"Yeah. That douche was killing brain cells, man. I couldn't take it anymore. Just tell me that that chick didn't leave with him!"

"Agh, werf, blurk," he replied with uncharacteristic awkwardness.

Eventually, the woman left, and the bartender raced over to me. "You know why I couldn't answer your question, right?"

I had a feeling.....now. "Because that was the same girl as before?"

"YES! Are you blind?!"

Now this is unfair. I am not blind. I noticed she was pretty both times, after all. My brain is impaired, not my eyes.

it's a shame. that's where all the botox is.

Here's a post from my apartment building's Facebook feed this morning. I can think of no better illustration of the twinkies with whom I live. In order to properly frame her tattoo and boobs, she cropped out her own head.

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adventures in babysitting

Uber, I discovered within minutes of arriving in Pittsburgh, is the urban inebriate's best friend. No fumbling with cash, no cabbie pretending not to have change, and in a unique thrill, English.

Yesterday's English-speaking driver was the beponytailed Sarah. Lamentably it was a blond ponytail, and even more lamentably it was fake blond, although if you really think about it that just makes it a brown ponytail.

I really thought about it.

We clicked. About 10 years younger than me, Sarah has a fistful of impressive degrees and drives for Uber in between gigs child counseling, personal training, and volunteering at the Y and animal shelter. You'll note the pattern. Every corner of her life is devoted to helping others. Typical of that rare species, she's eminently likable. As we talked, I found myself skeptical. No person is this good, I thought at several points. Oh come on.

We exchanged numbers and made plans to go out.

When I got home, I googled her. Everything she'd said was true! Halleluj—crap.

She's a kid. She's a woozy-making 22 years younger than me.

"I have completely lost the ability to tell people's age," I told Amy. She asked me if I was still going out with Sarah. No. No, I just can't. I vividly remember the year Sarah was born. This weirds me out.

"Not a chance," I replied. "I'm sick that day. But I'll give you a call if I ever need a dogsitter, honey. Short of that, though..."

We chortled cynically and went about our work day. Not an hour later, I got this text.

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people who need people

I need a girlfriend.

Or a boyfriend.

Or a roommate or butler or au pair.

Basically, I need someone who can introduce themselves to the people whose names I've learned and immediately forgotten.

"Hi, I'm Destinee," my girlfriend will say. If you're going to have an imaginary girlfriend, make her a 19 year-old stripper, I say.

"Hi, I'm Kyle," the guy will reply.

"Kyle! Yeah! Honey, this is Kyle!" I will convincingly chime in.

As it happens, I fly solo, which means I shuffle my feet awkwardly every time someone says "Hi, John!" and tells his girlfriend all about my life, work and dogs. Shuffling my feet is preferable to speaking my mind—"Oh, have we met before?"—but still, it's not ideal.


white fright

"Why are you going to live there? You hate those people," said Katrina three months ago when learning of my Pittsburgh housing plans. She was not wrong. I too knew I wouldn't like the people with whom I'd chosen to live. But they were in the location I wanted, they were professionally useful to me, and besides, it was only for five months. How bad could they be?

• • •

To say I live with rich white people is underselling it. I don't mean majority white or majority rich. I mean exclusively both. Some of them are kind, some of them are eye-contact-avoiding twinkies, and many of them are unrepentant elitists. It occurs to me that I've never lived with a concentration of rich people before. I've lived near some, sure, and I've worked with many others, but they were the outliers, the rich people. Here, there's no such distinction. Here, everyone's got money. And here, the people who don't make small talk about statusy pretenses are the outliers.

That, I can handle. 17 years at Microsoft well-conditioned me to tune out tales of Cannes. But I was not prepared for overt classism and racism. In Redmond, those things are unspoken. Not so here.

"You shop there?!" said an otherwise kind woman when I told here where I grocery shop. She was genuinely shocked, concerned for my safety. This was my first inkling of an elitism with which I'm still coming to terms. My grocery store of choice, not coincidentally the nearest one, is across the river. They stock my childhood brand of cheese doodles, so they have my loyalty. Most of the customers and employees are black and lower middle-class. There is nothing whatsoever to suggest a lack of safety. That sheer nothing-whatsoeverness does make one question what variable, exactly, alarms her so. I can guess. And I have.

That night, my sinuses were killing me, and I schlepped off to Monster Grocery to buy meds. The Scary Black Cashier surveyed my DayQuil, NyQuil, nasal spray, saline spray, 12-pack of toilet paper, and cheese doodles. "Man, I wanna party with you tonight."

• • •

A few days later, I was attending to the dogs' colons while chatting with—kindly sit down—two rich white people. Let's call them the "dogshit people." Again, they seemed nice enough at first. They asked me about my story, and like most they're amazed that anyone would uproot himself for an entire football season. They asked for my thoughts on the neighborhood. "It's amazing to me how you walk just one block, and the entire culture changes," I said. I haven't had one tolerable conversation with the stiffs in my building, but walk 200 feet, and you're drowning in culture. I have yuppie, Oriental, Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Italian groceries all within 8 blocks of me, and the sidewalks teem with people of all backgrounds, ages, classes and cultures. For someone from Metamuville, it's dazzling diversity.

"Yeah. But you know, it used to be even worse," replied dogshit guy. I twitched my head a bit, trying to flick his statement around in my brain. Perhaps it would make sense at a different angle. Slowly, terribly, it became clear that he'd heard the exact opposite of what I'd meant. He'd heard the people in our building are the ideal, and everyone else needs to be gentrified out.

They started talking about area restaurants, and they emoted about one pretentious douchefest after another. They people in my building are very much into "scenes." They recommend venues on the basis of prestige, whereas I'm far more interested in the food, conversation, and the ratio of waitresses with brown ponytails and daddy issues.

I am what I am.

My new cigar buddy Earl—a 55ish black dude who looks exactly like what you're imagining, so go ahead, it's not stereotyping in his case—had the previous night recommended a restaurant called Savoy. It gets rave reviews online, and they have live R&B, which appeals enormously. I'm excited to try it. As we discussed restaurants, I asked the dogshit people if they'd been to Savoy. There was an awkward pause. Yes, they each had. "It was...nice," said the woman haltingly, pained, visibly avoiding words. "It's just...not...my...normal scene."

"The words you're avoiding are it's a lot of black guys in suits and bow ties," cheerfully offered dogshit man. He then explained that unlike in other black establishments in Pittsburgh, white people are welcome at Savoy. He then rattled off several establishments where I would not be welcome, including the one at which I've drank happily some dozen times. The one where I met Earl. The one in which Earl had told me about Savoy the night before, in fact.

"The blacks don't want you in there, and you don't want to be in there," dogshit guy imparted gravely. My very life clearly depended upon my understanding local racial protocols as well as he. "What can you do?" he shrugged, feigning sad resignation. "That's Pittsburgh."

As we took our leave of one another, he insisted on giving me his phone number. "My wife and I eat out every single meal," he chirped. "Do join us!"


"Holy crap, you're fancy," said Lynn as we drove through Spokane in my 2010 Prius. She was gesturing to the antiquated GPS display in the dashboard. "Do you use it? Let's use it!"

When we arrived at the Picnic Pines diner-dump, I stopped to take a selfie with the restaurant in the background. This was for Mariko, with whom I'd frequented the diner-dump while in grad school.

Immediately, a burly employee burst out of the kitchen. "What are you doing?" he demanded.

"Um. Taking a picture?" I was confused. I knew from the food and hygiene that this was not an Amish restaurant.

"Of the bathroom?!"

"Huh? No, of...myself....oh." I looked in front of me. There was the bathroom. An outbuilding, naturally. "This is a backward-facing camera," I explained.

"Oh," he said, relieved for some reason. "We...we don't have fancy phones around here."

now i ain't saying she a golddigger

The Atlantic proclaimed a couple months back that the whole "men with money/beautiful women" trope is a myth. I snorted then. I snort louder now.

Back when "I work at Microsoft" meant what "I work at Google" does now, I hired a guy into Microsoft. He was a decent, bright, average-looking guy. And so I initiated The Talk. I imparted some hard-learned wisdom.

"You will soon find yourself attracting really beautiful women," I said. He laughed and scoffed. Surely, I was mistaken. "No, I'm being totally serious. The heavens will rain hotties upon you, and they will make you feel like the manliest man in the history of men. Here's a good rule of thumb: if she wouldn't have dated you in high school, keep your PIN to yourself now."

"Okay, sure," he said, right before he torqued himself himself into love with an imbecilic, perpetually bespandexed trollop 15 years his junior.

All these years later in my Pittsburgh loft, I live with the people he and I were then. They're young tech guys. It's not a coincidence that I live here; I want to network with them. They have jobs exactly where I would like to work someday. But this place is expensive. Really expensive. My furnished 1 bedroom flat costs 184% of the mortgage on my waterfront house in Metamuville. I'm not delighted by that, but that's the cost of networking.

More to the point, by definition, everyone here has money.

People with office jobs leave during the day, of course, leaving behind their partners. It is decidedly not an aesthetic cross-section of humanity. It's a modeling academy. I've never seen anything like it. Even college campuses have their share of not-ridiculously-smoking women. But not here. They're insanely hot.

I wonder what it could be, Atlantic? The water?

white privilege

We were somewhere in North Dakota when our paths crossed.

Him: middle-aged black father leaning against a mini-van, impatiently waiting for his wife and kids to finish peeing at a rest stop.

Me: well, I was me. A white slob pulling his Prius into the next space, listening to NWA and smoking a cigar, wearing the same black gym shorts and t-shirt I'd put on in Seattle. When I opened the door, my car belched smoke and probably dog funk, and a Diet Coke can fell to the ground.

He stared at me quizzically. He didn't say it, but I heard it resoundingly nonetheless: "Seriously?"

• • •

That morning, I'd left Missoula at 4am. I was scarcely out of my motel's parking lot and driving the deserted streets when another car raced on top of me. He tailgated me dangerously, blinding me his high beams, for two miles on a multi-lane road. I slowed down to 10 mph below the speed limit, hoping the psychopath would pass, but he would not. When I finally got on the freeway, he did not, and I saw that it was a cop. What King Shit with a Badge's game was, I can only guess, but his aggression was inexcusable. "Asshole," I thought as I drove down the freeway.

Soon I was thinking about what a privilege it is to know he's an asshole. Were I a minority, I'd have to sort through all manner of chaff on my radar. Sure I would allow that he might merely be an asshole, but I would never know for sure. This, I thought, is perhaps my favorite white privilege: knowing with confidence that this cop is a dickwipe.

As I entered Minnesota, I was passed by another black dude. He was driving 90 in an Escalade. Now impervious to speeding tickets, I swooped in behind him, setting my cruise control to 90.

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