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.
-$75 for replacement parking pass
-$20 for replacement driver's license
Dropped iPad on concrete, shattering it beyond repair.
Lost prescription sunglasses during walk home from Steelers debacle.
Creditless, went to bank and got $1000 cash. Promptly lost money clip.
-$250 money clip
Go to Lenscrafters to get new sunglasses. Between Lenscrafters and home, promptly lose my regular glasses.
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
-$5.99 for overnight shipping
Found money clip in crevice of car. Holy fucking hell on a stick. Time to buy 1,250 lottery tickets.
|Total cost of stupidity vortex||$1812.99
plus all remaining self-respect
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."
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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?
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.
"Good god. Why is he posting a photo of his toilet?" the reader might fairly ask.
My loft's toilet has come to dominate my life, although I didn't know it at first. I was initially preoccupied with the mildewy funk emanating from my bathroom. No problem. A quick scouring with bleach later, and I got its hygiene up to 19th century battlefield standards. And an hour later, I scoured it again. And showered again.
This is one of those low-flow toilets that saves water by requiring that you flush it several times on every use. I can only assume it was invented by the same eco-terrorist airheads who brought us "green" electric vehicles. How feeble is it? Yesterday I overflowed it by blowing my nose three times and throwing the wads of toilet paper in its bowl.
Although that is a perfect measure of its dysfunction, it was, quite tragically, not the first.
Easily blocked toilets are nothing new, but that teardrop-shaped channel is. New and bloody evil. Imagine taking a plunger to that. Imagine the force you apply, and imagine where the pressurized toxic water is being aimed.
The hippie grocery store across the street doesn't sell bleach, only gentle cleansers, so I had to hop in my car to buy the disinfectant necessitated by my hippie green toilet.
I'll always remember where I was when I heard the Challenger exploded, and I'll always remember that I was in a Minneapolis hotel room when the Internet exploded.
"How on Earth did some creep find nude photos of all these actresses?" I thought. "Oh. Did they seriously upload them to the Internet? Seriously?!"
That was the sum of my thinking. Whoever hacked these women was a creep, a criminal, a despicable piece of shit. And his unwitting accomplishes were imbeciles for needlessly granting 6 billion probable creepy criminals unlimited free attempts at ruining their lives.
And then I learned that I was wrong. And stupid. And a misogenist.
My twitter feed clogged with people hammering home some sort of perverse pseudo-feminist point, conflating the right to upload nude selfies with the right to walk through a park unraped. Such analogies seem, to me, counterproductive. Here's another.
Yes, a perfect analogy...if I covered my cash in honey and had Bernie Madoff manage it at Lincoln Savings & Loan. That's my ethical expectation of the Internet and all its denizens. What's yours?
In this feminist discussion, it is unhelpful to claim that the need to bank is analogous to the need for actors to upload crotch shots. Mind you, this statement is from a technology writer. One might think that she would use this as a teaching moment. ("Attention, impaired! Don't store anything sensitive on the Internet! And don't turn on cloud syncing of photos! If you have, here's how to turn it off.") Alas. That doesn't feel as good.
The guy who invaded these folks' privacy is scum, and I hope he's found and prosecuted. The people who rushed to see the pictures are also scum, frighteningly entitled scum. I am not among them. I don't want to see the pictures. It's morally wrong. And it's creepy.
But let's stop conflating using a bank with a famous person storing photos of their genitals on the Internet. One is necessary. The other is needless and obviously, vomitously stupid.
I, for one, will never see Jennifer Lawrence the same way again. I feel horrible for what she's going through, but I also feel disappointed in her. Not because she took naked selfies. Not because they became public. Because she isn't nearly as bright as I thought she was. Perhaps her idiocy will serve as a helpful cautionary tale for us all, but it won't if we move rhetorical mountains to deny the idiocy and flail at points that aren't there.
Postscript: Kate Upton, I see exactly the same way.
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?