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

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

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

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

The outcome I want most: getting my money back.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I texted Stephanie and quietly showed it to Earl.


resistible link of the day

The top story, Atlantic?


there's yer problem

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

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

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

"Oh Donna, just stop reading."

• • •

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

nvidia gpgpu sdk

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

I have to say I envy them.

one of these things doesn't go with the others

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

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

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

real hard

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

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

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

yes, he was baiting me

Yesterday's exchange with gay buddy Mike:

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

emily post

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

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

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


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

particularly low expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

morons and me

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

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

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

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

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

Kiki sneered about Colin Kaepernick’s ISIS wife.

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

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

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


[playing 'misty' on harmonica]

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

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

Naturally, it died a week later.

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

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

I'm fine.

• • •

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

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


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

In Pittsburgh, I am the blanchee.

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

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

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

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

sister's day

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

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

"Just iced tea, please."

mother's day

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

• • •

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

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

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

three little words

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

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

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

go bucks!

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

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

and now for something completely indifferent

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

Thinking, thinking.

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


parade of fools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moron 1 blinked at me.

"Mercury is a poison."

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

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

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

"STOP IT!" I said uselessly.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

stupid is as stupid writes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tomorrow: what this has to do with the election

this seems easily attainable

CpNYU6lVMAE9eIH.jpg large.jpg

lie-down guy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stank stands by its story.

the brian

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

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

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

travels with gnarley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Now imagine if I'm excited.

the slog and minnesota

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

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

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

Next up: Pittsburgh


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

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

no services

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

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

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

"Keep the change."

moron taxonomy
stupid church signs
super bowl xl officiating
percy chronicles

Monthly Archives