The Missoula of my imagination, before tonight:
The Missoula of my imagination, after tonight:
Lynn has long wanted me to perform the eulogy at her funeral. It comes up in our every conversation.
"So do you have any ideas for my eulogy?" she asked, stabbing at her chow mein.
"Mmmph," I replied.
"All I ask, John, is this: no profanity."
I swallowed my food. "None?"
"Not in the church I grew up in, no!"
I thought about this. "What about hell?"
"Now how is that word going to come up in my eulogy?"
I thought some more. "Well then what about Jesus Christ?"
"It depends on the context."
I chuckled. "Ya know, this is a good eulogy right here. Recalling this conversation."
She eyed me warily as she mentally went down her list of other potential eulogists. "JUST SAY SOMETHING NICE FOR SIXTY GODDAMNED SECONDS AND SIT DOWN!"
One would think that arranging a long-term housesitter would afford some peace of mind. But I find the opposite true.
Step One: make the liquor closet impenetrably secure.
When you find yourself moving hinges to the inside of a closet door, you ask yourself, "Do I maybe have some trust issues with my friends?"
Step Two: liberalize your definition of "liquor"
I'm compromising the integrity of that door, what with all the knives, pans, photos etc. that I don't want ruined that I'm cramming into that closet.
11% of the search hits on this site come from Bing. Of those, 94% originated within 20 miles of Microsoft's corporate campus.
They know something you don't, you know. You just don't understand.
Remember that time your neighbor left a pile of dungeness crab corpses to rot in their back yard, and a week later when they were good and ripe, your EX-dogs found them and rolled in them gleefully, all of which you deconstructed after the ecstatic dogs fouled your entire house with the stench of diapers found on a New Jersey beach?
No? It's just me?
Over lunch, I was telling Elizabeth the Anna story, and about how, last week, Anna bizarrely sent me a photo of herself filling out her divorce paperwork.
"Huh? Why?" Elizabeth asked, much like I did.
"My theory is that she thinks this is why I won't go out with her. Because she's still married."
Elizabeth could barely restrain her amusement at the thought of my possessing this particular ethic. Her mouth disappeared as she sucked in her lips to suppress a guffaw.
"That's not a costume, John. Those are what people call normal clothes." —Katrina
"You dress like you took the clothes off a hobo's corpse." —d'Andre
I accidentally grabbed a long-sleeved, synthetic black shirt when I shot out the door on my way to Spokane. This was significant in that 1) I was taking Lynn to a dinner and a show and 2) it was 104 degrees there.
And so, for the first time since maybe the 90s, I walked into Nordstrom to buy a dress shirt. And then I drew a blank and came to a stop.
I could not remember the name "men's department."
I also took Elizabeth out to lunch while there. I arrived first. When she arrived, I watched her look right past me. Granted, it's been five or six years, but still. So I called her name, and we hugged, and she pointed to my khakis and dress shirt and said "I totally didn't recognize you in that."
"Elderly sex slaves want solace"
I spent this week in Spokane, visiting friends and cranking my hotel room's air conditioner so that I could comfortably take baths in the 100 degree heat. Oh, and I paid $40 to to overnight five pink cookies to grad school pal Mariko. I never said I'm not an eco-terrorist.
I love Spokane. It'll always be home to me. Another grad school friend described it best thusly: "Spokane is a backward 1950s retro town that doesn't know it's retro." It wasn't meant as a compliment so much as an indictment of when the place was last cleaned.
It's more modern now, and even I, who shake my fist angrily at pretty much all change, have to admit that it's for the best. One demographic, however, holds firm.
Rocky III may be a spectacular piece of crap, but man, is it ever a great movie ever to work out to. Especially if you fast-forward past the "character" "development" scenes straight to one of the three (!) training montages.
During the obligatory Adrian Puts Rocky's Head Right scene on the beach, I began to wonder what, exactly, is the most embarrassing thing in this movie. Is it the homoerotic overtones of the Apollo/Rocky training scenes, complete with slo-mo groin closeups and bro-hug amidst crashing surf? A worthy candidate, but no. Is it the horrific racial stereotyping, from Apollo's slum roots to perhaps the single greatest living embodiment of every horrific racial stereotype, Mr. T? Yeah, that part makes me cringe, but it doesn't make me cringe the most.
No, that honor is reserved for Carl Weathers. This former professional football player had to pretend to lose a footrace to Sylvester Stallone. Stallone, who, while running in these scenes, could not possibly look more like a corpse that's undergoing stroke aftershocks. Weathers' performance here is perhaps the single greatest job of acting this side of Jennifer Aniston pretending to be attracted to David Schwimmer.
How much money do you save by using those flimsy, sheer shower curtains that cling to one's naked body like cold, clammy flypaper? I'd like to begin a Kickstarter for you.
"I already know what I love about being in Pittsburgh," I explain to people who didn't really ask. "Now I'm going to find out what I hate."
What's the opposite of "riveted?" Unriveted?
I already know the answer, of course. Driving in Pittsburgh makes prison rape look like The Notebook. I didn't actually make it farther than 10 minutes into the Notebook, but given the reverence 20-something women have for that movie, I'm supposing that it's a big, gooey, estrogen-besot, romantic mess.
Though not as big as Boston, Pittsburgh's even harder to navigate. Dead-ends, one-way streets, foothills and rivers cutting you off constantly, and nary a right angle to be found.
Worst of all, the town is GPS-proof. Google Maps, TomTom, Navigon, Apple Maps—all get hopelessly confused. "U-turn! U-turn! U-turn!" they scream as I'm trapped between two concrete barriers. While I was unleashing a withering blast of profanity on my last trip, the Google Maps chick was singing harmony. At any moment, I expected her to shred the little speaker with "THE FUCK IS WITH THIS FUCKING TOWN?!"
There's a redneck quotient in Pittsburgh that I expect to find less than charming. I hear them call into local radio shows, quite possibly already drunk at noon, to twang that some white guy no longer on the team will have a breakout year for the "Stillers."
Which brings us to the Pittsburgh dialect. I find it charming from afar, but the Stillers playing dawn-tawn even doe dey practiss on de souseside uh tawn? Nah, that won't get old.
When I pronounced the nearby town of "DuBois" as doo-bwah, I was corrected. It's doo-BOYZ, don't you know. And when I ordered gnocchi in a bar, everyone laughed. Silly boy, do you mean ga-NOTCH-ie?
Coming from Ahia by way of Wooshington, I will be a stranger in a strange land. I shall make a list of these things for your consumption.
In full makeup, evening gown, and heels, feeding her infant in front of fashion photographers in a diner. Just like our cave-dwelling ancestors did.
Allow me to translate her quote: "Look, everyone, I have boobs now. Discuss!"
I complain a lot about the lack of places to eat here in the boondocks, so allow me to share the other side of that coin.
This is my DMV at noon.
This is my Costco at noon Saturday.
But the restaurants do suck. At all times.
My company occasionally has to fill out a diversity form. In the name of color-blindness, we vendors, never once seen by our employer, must declare what color we are.
I get it. The law is well-meaning. But isn't there a less condescending way of getting this information?
I ventured into the outside world yesterday, always a mistake.
Madam's parents are staying in the house next door this month, which typically means only one thing to me: no whizzing off the deck. But late last night, they drunkenly waved me over. For some reason, I accepted.
This is what I remember of our conversation.
Blah blah Microsoft
"What did you think when you found out it was two women moving in next door?" Mom asked, for some reason amused by her question.
Blah blah boats
"I always feel bad for you. The girls don't take very good care of the house," Mom said.
Blah blah Percy
"Percy took really good care of the place. You must miss that," Mom baited.
Blah blah big government
"I love Madam and Eve, but they sure are weird, you know?" Mom said, shaking her head with concern while she waited for me to give the slightest response that she could later quote.
Blah blah their daughter's partner
"Well, she's Chinese. They're a humorless people, don't you think?"
You get the idea. Mom spent the entire evening shaking me by my ankles, hoping that a weapon she could use would fall out.
"How often do you see your family, John?" Mom asked at one point.
I shrugged and stared at Puget Sound. "I don't much see the point."
I never know what's going to set you people off, but it turns out you have a lot of thoughts (not to mention barely restrained rage) about left-turn arrows. You are among friends here.
My favorite nugget came from recently uncloseted Stank troll C.J., who informed me about the Pittsburgh Left:
You turn left in front of them before they have a chance to react to their green lightI'll admit that I only do that when the doofus coming the other way is looking at his phone. I need to step up my game.
On the West coast, drivers are seemingly incapable of turning left without the aid of a green arrow. I'm not sure what's cause and what's effect, but not coincidentally, almost every traffic light has a green arrow cycle, 24 hours a day. If there isn't a green arrow, you will never, ever see the driver in front of you ease into the intersection on yellow and squirt through. That is simply not in their repertoire here. And so you will sit behind them, trapped until the sun goes down and there are no oncoming cars.
It's crazy-making to idle at 2am, waiting for my turn as precisely zero vehicles go through the intersection. So I've increasingly started turning left on "red" when parallel traffic has a green light. It's perfectly safe. It's unnecessary in 47 other states. But from the reactions, you would think I aimed for an orphanage and floored the gas pedal.
33 days to Pittsburgh.
Now all I need is a defense to watch.
"How much did that cost?" asks seemingly every visitor. In response, I look down and shuffle my feet awkwardly as I resist the impulse to bitch-slap the rude out of them.
When I grew up in the Midwest, this was an impolite question, indicative of a complete absence of class. Either times have changed or my Seattle-based visitors are unbearably status-focused. You can guess which I believe.
No one ever asks how much a skillet or a lawnmower cost. It's always a traditionally statusy item. A car. A trip. A $500, unreturnable cookbook I ordered from Amazon in a delirious, pre-CPAP stupor at 4am. These people are worse than data-mining corporations.
"Would you like to just see my tax return?" I reply in my mind 10 hours later, when the initial numbness wears off and I think of the perfect response.
I'd say it, but I'm afraid they'd whip out reading glasses.
Flo is on her way to spend the day "working" at my house, so I'll surely have something to rant about soon.
Ah, there it is. She just texted me while driving, complaining about the slow drivers on Metamuville Rd. Anyway, while I collect bitchy anecdotes, here's something for you to chew on. I passed this sign the other day. And then I passed it again the next six days before it was changed. Sometimes, ya just wish you could hear the story.
I bought a used Jeep from an elderly couple. Though 10 years old, it looks brand new, and it only has 40,000 miles on it. They pampered it. Nope, there just aren't many downsides to buying a car from an old couple.
The stereo settings when I took ownership:
Katrina is constantly complaining about my attire.
"So...is it just the one black t-shirt and sweatpants that used to be black but have now faded into some kind of Corpse Blue? Or do you have multiple?" she asks.
Or simply, "News flash: you are not Steve Jobs."
When we went out to dinner the other night, I made a point of wearing a maroon dress shirt and beige slacks. She didn't notice, of course, so I pointed it out. She took exception to my phrasing.
"That is not a 'costume,' John. Those are what normal people call 'clothes.'"
And so we dined, and then we returned to her waiting husband and child. I would visit, but first a couple of uncomfortable things simply had to go.
Welcome back, t-shirt and sweats. Daddy wuvs you.
Everyone was seated on the patio when I returned. The nine year old girl looked up at me and grimaced.
"Why did you change? You looked so nice!"
My sister Nadine unwittingly taught me this nifty trick.
She and I were embroiled in a weeks-long argument about how, by virtue of my not liking her and not wanting her in my life, I was aggrieving her terribly. Her argumentation style is to make a list of grievances on a legal pad that she keeps by the phone. This is not hyperbole. I've seen the pad. When a conversation begins, she is prepared to dominate it, not letting her victim get a word in edgewise. Among other effects, this makes people not want her in their lives.
One day she left me a dozen or so hysterically angry voice messages, and I finally stopped listening to them. I deleted them instead. And then a miracle happened: they stopped coming.
I had blundered into a win-win scenario. Nadine got what she wanted: the last word. She got to define the narrative forever. I'm sure I came off well in that narrative. And me, I got what I most wanted: her absence. To me, that was the crown jewel. Letting her declare victory and spin whatever mythology shut her the fuck up was a small price to pay.
I routinely give people the last word now. Whenever I have a falling out with a friend, girlfriend, neighbor or co-worker, I just delete their emails without reading them and satisfied, they go away. You'd think they would want to extract a pound of flesh, but they don't. Or perhaps they think the email I didn't read extracted it.
So long as I don't care about what people I don't care about have to say, it costs me absolutely nothing. It's miraculous.
My doctor graced our 4pm appointment with his presence at 4:51 pm, pushing me into rush-hour traffic and making it impossible for me to keep my next appointment. I was in a fine mood.
Foregoing the apology, he went through the usual questions. "How much are you exercising?" he asked, bored.
"I do the treadmill five days a week for 45 minutes, and weights the other two days."
"I'd like to see you increase the weights," he grumbled.
"Yeah, well, you can suck it."
Anyone know a good primary care physician?
Old Germany has defeated New Germany, and now American poseurs can shuffle back to Whole Foods to get their free-range, gluten-free Chardonnay. For the rest of us, the world's most popular, most gambler-fixed, least scoring, and most flopping sport disappears for another four years. It's not long enough.
By far the highlight of this latest event was a headline about the biter from Uruguay (who are nicknamed the "Blues"): Chewy Luis and the Blues
Like most inebriates, Drunk John is a moron. He's alternately affectionate and loutish. He thinks people are endlessly interesting, most especially himself. And the f-bomb becomes his every other word instead of every third. When post-mortems hinge on the nuances of urination prepositions ("Did I pee on the parking garage, or in it?"), you are a moronic drunk.
For this reason, I do not often drink.
When still at Microsoft, for reasons that seemed important at the time but that elude me now, I had to take a 350 page document and hand-tag it into HTML. I arrived at 9pm and would work until my 5am handoff. "If I'm spending all night inserting p tags, I'm sure as hell not doing it sober," I said to the woman whose fault it was. She gave me a bottle of rum, and I started drinking and tagging.
I got blind drunk. Yet astoundingly, I didn't make a single mistake. I couldn't do that sober if you gave me 10 tries. What the..?
It was then that I learned, with great alarm, that moronic Drunk John is a better performer at work than, well, me. I'm crushed by a guy who pees in parking garages.
And I didn't think I could hate him more.
This phenomenon last manifested when I was working for Flo. I was in Redmond resolving some crisis, and my work was done, and I wanted to see my friends. "Are you absolutely certain that I'm done?" I asked. "Because I'm going to go drinking." She told me to go. 90 minutes and maybe eight bourbons later, my phone rang.
"GETBACKHEREOHMYFUCKTHEBUILDISONFIRE!" she shrieked, or words to that effect.
I wobbled back to Microsoft, and I fixed that problem. Then I fixed several more, quickly and creatively, smiling and agreeable. I effervesced with great ideas.
"I want Drunk John to work for me forever," a bewildered Flo said afterward. "You, not so much."
This Yankees fan fell asleep during a game.
ESPN's cameras showed him, and the announcers made gentle fun of him. Naturally, he's suing the announcers, ESPN, and, tellingly, Major League Baseball for defamation. How much is one's pride worth?
It turns out it's a life-changing $10,000,000.
I don't think Andrew Rector is a fatty cow, which apparently only he heard the announcers say. From his seat. Nay, I say he is the Greatest Living American. Nod off in public, embarrass yourself, and then demand payment? That takes guts. Lots and lots of guts. Prodigious guts. He's a hero.
Unlike anywhere else, in Seattle I am identified with football. Almost exclusively. I'm "the football guy" by virtue of the fact that I'd followed the sport before January, 2014.
When I dropped in on my neighbors' party Saturday night, it took all of three seconds for a familiar question to be asked. "So do you root for the Seahawks now?" Mind you, they're not asking it ironically or accusingly. Not at all. They truly think this is how it works. Why wouldn't I have started rooting for the Seahawks this year? They did.
Not wanting to be impolite, I didn't offer $1000 to any self-described Seahawks fan who could name 10 players. But I sure wanted to. That money was practically FDIC insured. I contented myself with sighing a comparatively polite "Nope."
They sputtered confusion. "I...I don't know how you couldn't...I mean...that was so FUN!" said one woman, mysteriously upset, not even looking me in the eye. The others nodded and echoed sincere mystification as to why I did not hop aboard the wagon that had brought them so much pretend happiness.
Fanship is like every other social interaction else in Seattle: a thin veneer wrapped around stale air. The trip to Pittsburgh cannot happen soon enough.