good luck chuck

Two weeks ago, the house failed me one (hopefully) last time, incurring a $1500 repair when under contract. I can't even feel that particular pain anymore. I've had a bouquet of dicks shoved up my ass for a year, now, and one more isn't really going to move the needle on my discomfort. Then the accident happened. Then the same day I shipped my backup credit card and other essentials to my destination, my remaining credit card was compromised. "Why would you steal someone’s credit card number just to go to Jack in the Box in California?" I wondered while I reflexively bent over.

But then something weird happened. Good luck appeared. I was wary. I didn’t recognize it at first. If this guy is good luck, I'm his dog.

I was miraculously able to transfer enough cash to pay my movers and for lodging for the next month. The movers showed up five minutes early instead of two days after never. The southern Baptist millennial realtor’s insurance company wrote me a $4000 check with a smile. My damaged turn signal was just a loose connection, putting me back on track for my long drive. These things might not seem significant to you normals, but this is the sort of luck I haven’t seen in a year. The wanted kind. Let's hope it parlays into someone else pulling in front of my car so that I can double-dip on collecting.

paranoia will care for ya

My insurance company and his were already squabbling about percentages of blame for the accident. My insurance company's Claims Sloth was explaining how these things work—“He said you were going 80, so it’ll probably be 75/25 liability between the two of you.”

“I was going under the speed limit.”

“Well, I’m afraid he said you weren’t."

“So he saw me well enough to assess my speed with certainty, yet he drove across my path anyway?”

“Heh. Yeah. Listen, John, that’s just how these things g—“

“Thank god I have a dash cam, then.”

“You do?”

“Yep. And if you time it and count the lines and convert feet per second to miles per hour, I was doing 33-36.”

“What was the speed limit again?”

It was 40. And voila, the guy’s insurance company, upon seeing their short hairs clutched by vice-grips, called me to accept 100% of the liability. They’re suddenly so nice about it, too.

• • •

Upon hearing this story, Allie audibly shuddered. “Every time your paranoia is positively reinforced, a part of my soul dies,” she sighed.

spittake

A sports talk caller was ripping a Steeler for blowing off training camp. "Dat just don't fly in a hard-workin' town like Pittsburgh," he concluded.

Maybe I should pull over and compose myself, I thought.

In my industry, there's a position called a program manager, or "PM" for short. They do not manage people, yet they're responsible for marshaling them toward the greater group goals. I've always avoided this job like it's gonorrhea. All of the responsibility without any of the authority? What you've got there is the cure for happiness.

Which brings us back to Pittsburgh. I have to PM every last person here, especially the people I hire. If I do not call a person with whom I made an appointment to remind them of their commitment, they reliably do not show up. “Oh, you still wanted to meet?” they’ll say later, with some difficulty because of their constricted windpipe. They do not understand my anger, and although it took me a while to wrap my head around it, I now understand why. No one here is expected to do their job. They’re not expected to do it well. You can reliably expect them only to blow you off and to later act as though man, you sure is patikilar.

I’d bet $20 that the caller was at work when he called, doing absolutely nothing except billing.

ye pods

My pods arrive today, and with them the beginning of the end of my discontent. It almost makes up for my going away present from Pittsburgh, caught by my dash cam in glorious 1080p. This guy actually filed a claim against my insurance. He's a southern baptist millennial realtor, the entitled-asshole hat-trick.

the great sell-off

In 2002, I bought a cheapo placeholder dinette set for my new Metamuville home. It somehow made it to 2017, but it will make it no farther. I've been ruthlessly unloading stuff. The more cubic feet it occupies, the more likely it's staying here. Everything's going into pods. I'm a pod person now.

This has meant the return of my favorite species, the Craigslidiot, into my life. "20 pound gold brick for $3," my ad could read. "Will you take 75 cents?" eight people would respond. "How about a trade for my chainsaw? It worked in 2009."

Those people are easily enough ignored, but then, inevitably, a few of them make it into my home.

"You want some boxes to use as padding?" I said. "Nah," said the guy throwing 11 pieces of free-range metal furniture into the back of his truck. At least he had shame enough not to call and complain after running them through the cheese-grater that was his ride to South Carolina.

"You seriously don't want to ship that TV on its back. Glass has a low tensile strength. Ship it vertically," I said to deaf ears a mere hour before the guy wrote to complain that the clearly defective screen had cracked.

"The chairs disassemble like this," I said, but I was waved off right before the guy ripped the leather on my door jamb, which was substantially narrower than what he was carrying. "FUCK!" he yelled at the gods who were clearly out to get him.

Stupid gods.

Today I learned that the Romans didn't have a numeral for "zero." They just used the word for "nothing."

This morning I left the house without my phone, which meant I was at the mercy of the Pittsburgh FM dial. In an hour's time, I heard one song recorded after 1985. It was recorded in 1993.

That station played "Last Dance for Mary Jane, "I Heard It from the Grapevine," "Take Another Piece of my Heart," and some Christian song—oh, let's say it was called "Hey Jesus Your [sic] So Fine Your [sic] So Fine You Blow My Mind Hey Jesus! J-E-S-U-S! Hey Jesus!" They played those songs back to back. I humbly submit that there is no audience on the planet for that song block.

gutterball

img_0381-650.jpgWhen I was 12, I guilted my mother for never coming to watch my soccer games. She sighed and decided brutal honesty was, as usual, the best way to get me to shut up.

"I can't stand watching you run," she said. "It's like watching a bowling ball skip across a cow pasture."

This is sadly accurate. It's also true of how I walk. I walk with great force, and I don't exactly stop on a dime. Melinda Gates herself can attest to this, but that's another story.

The other night, I left a restaurant at my usual pace. I stepped off the curb and strode toward my car, not seeing a second curb—a cement parking curb that the restaurant had thoughtfully painted the same color as the asphalt. I went down with incredible force. If you told me I smacked the pavement with 1000 pounds of force, I would believe you. I bounced. And for the first time in decades, I heard a group of people gasp at my own injury. I can't say I missed that sound.

"Who. The fuck. Paints a parking curb black," I groggily said to the onlookers helping me up. One of them insisted that I go inside and complain to the teenagers making minimum wage. I declined.

"It doesn't hurt now, but it's going to hurt tomorrow," she mothered.

"I assure you that it hurts now," I replied as I staggered to my car.

It's two days later, and my long-bad elbow sounds like gravel sloshing around in a can of paint. It's an odd sound, at once both moist and crunchy. It is unwelcome right before a move, but at least it repels the many people I make listen. Here's hoping it's days of entertainment, not months.

things i'll miss about pittsburgh, part ii

Pittsburgh is blessed to be home to the Carnegie family, without whom this would be an ethnic Topeka. Among their many contributions to local culture is their art and natural history museum, which is simply ridiculous for a town of this size. I call the impressionists room "the Andrew don't mess around room." Renoir next to Monet next to Van Gogh next to Degas next to Manet next to Pissaro. At some point you cease being overwhelmed by the sheer density of it all and become overwhelmed with the sheer luckiness of this town. So you go downstairs and look at the T-Rexes.

Sure, I could show you pictures of the T-Rexes or Monet's largest Water Lillies painting. But I'd rather make fun of unfortunate signs I saw there. Andrew truly spared no expense except an editor.

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summation

Thanks to longtime Stank troll Marta for sending in this cartoon. It's perfect.

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boat ride

Perhaps my dog, Fredo, was doomed when I named him. Like his namesake, he is helpless, sweet, a complete pussy, and prone to whoring himself out to my enemies. But most of all, he is dumb. Good lord, is he ever dumb.

His water bowl is downstairs. Whenever I come home after a lengthy absence, I tend to go straight down there, because that's also where the TV is. It's at that point that a parched Fredo fills his hump with water, slurping mightily for several minutes. Because he certainly couldn't go down the stairs without me.

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things i'll miss about pittsburgh, part i

Yesterday I was smoking cigars with a Jewish district attorney, an Italian Catholic realtor, a gay CFO, and a black construction worker, listening to a jazz musician tell us about the Asian tour from which he'd just returned when a middle-aged black guy drove by, blaring Johnny Cash on his car stereo.

I don't know where you live, but this scene doesn't happen where you live.

endgame

Not that I'm ready to bolt outta here, but when I signed the sale agreement on this house, I already had 67 boxes packed.

Here's some fun math. And by "fun," I mean "nauseating." Let's say I sell this house, put the cash into a savings account earning a measly 1.2%, and live in a furnished townhouse hotel month-to-month.

   Current cost of state & local taxes
+ Current utility bills
+  Interest income from new cash
$40 less than cost of the hotel

I get paid $40/month to have someone scrub my toilet for me.

no cigar

I got an offer on my house two weeks ago, and I just balked at their terms, so this post is pretty much pure anticlimax.

What can I say about their inspector that I haven't already said to anyone in my presence this last week? He couldn't work the lockbox. He left my doors unlocked. When I went to get a glass of water, I'd found that he'd turned off my kitchen faucet. I turned it back on to discover that the faucet was bent and now leaking water from its base. There was no note from the man who broke it. I made my displeasure known to the buyers' realtor, and soon I was listening to the inspector's bullshit narrative about how the faucet had been leaking when he got there. The faucet a plumber installed six months ago, the one I use 20 times a day. That faucet.

His masterpiece would not come to full fruition for several days, when I was greeted in the morning to an absolute swamp of a swimming pool. To verify that the pool heater works, the inspector cranked the thermostat up to 92...and left it there. Thanks, guy!

i can't not see it

Jesus, Facebook.

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lingua miserabilis

More so than my peers, I have a hard time understanding Indians speaking English. I find the accent impenetrable, and I always try to steer them toward email or chat. "What is your phone number?" they'll respond, and I groan. I guess this is a cultural thing. They'd rather talk than write. Me, if I'm forced to speak Spanish, I'm begging to write instead of speak.

I spent yesterday in meetings with Indians, and by day's end I was exhausted from straining to understand. I needed silence. I needed solace. Not a smart person, I went to a Mexican restaurant. I cannot explain this choice. I was served by my new least favorite kind of person, the Earnest New Immigrant Who Wants to Practice His Conversational English with the Presumably Lonely Guy at the Bar.

Mierda.

reader mail: scorched earth

PITA Stank troll Marta asks why I don't write much about Trump. I'll answer her question with a question: what's been unsaid? I, myself, have Trump fatigue. I guess I figured y'all do, too. I do have one thought to share about the man. It's my metaphor for explaining his ascent.

For those too young to remember, when coalition forces spanked the Iraqi army and drove them out of Kuwait after, like, 14 minutes of fighting, the retreating Iraqis set Kuwaiti oil wells on fire. It was horrific and utterly pointless, done purely out of spite. That's Trump to me. He's the oil-well fire set by society's losers, a sky-blackening reminder of just how much they resent the success, if not the existence, of others.

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i really can't wait to miss this

My business's ledger is a dry affair, seen only by me, my accountants, and possibly someday a government. My descriptions of expenses are clinical:

Q217 941
Q217 state income tax
Q217 school district income tax
and so on. Last week, I wrote a check for I-know-not-what local tax. My irritation bubbled up in its description:
The fuck if I know.
"No," I thought. "You can figure out what this is. What was the description last quarter?" I looked.
No idea what the fuck this is. Sooooey, pig!

murder-suicide

I was in an interminable conversation with Allie today about her life's problems, and my mind wandered, out of self-defense. It wandered to another conversation with an ex, long ago.

• • •

In a Microsoft meeting room, I broke up with my girlfriend of several months. I had timed it for 15 minutes before a meeting so that people would trickle in and break up the breakup talk. I had this wired.

Then she showed up in my office, crying. My office-mate fled, the jerk. My new ex wanted more of an explanation. She wanted to tell me all about my own inadequacies. She wanted me to know that no one had ever hurt her this much before, not even the ex who beat her up. She said a whole lot of stuff. I emailed Bubba and told him that I might not be joining him for drinks after work due to the unfolding insanity.

Three hours later, the building was empty. Except for my office, that is, where I was completing lap 500 around Retard Park. My phone rang. It was Bubba.

"You're sitting there listening to the same stupid, stupid shit, over and over and over, and you're seriously thinking about a murder-suicide thing, aren't you?"

At the time, I thought he was some sort of sage. Many breakups later, I now know better.

dunkirk

You can find many fawning reviews of Dunkirk. This is not one of them. I left at the two-thirds point.

The movie is gorgeously shot and staged. If you see it, see it on the biggest screen you can find. Thus ends the complimentary portion of this post.

What this movie needs is more miracle and less masturbation. Christopher Nolan managed to take one of the greatest stories in history and turn it into a referendum on his own narrative cleverness. I found it self-indulgent and shallow, and as his indulgences revealed themselves, I grew disappointed and irritated. This story does not need to be cool-i-fied with quick cuts and time-jumps. I suppose Nolan thought that since we know the ending, we needed mystery—specifically the mystery of WTF is going on, who are these translucently thin characters, is that music or did someone fill a washing machine with cats and push it down a flight of stairs, and why didn't they just tell the damned story?

• • •

My Erwin Rommel story is fourth-hand and possibly filtered through senility, so take this with a commensurately sized grain of salt.

When I was a kid, I heard Woody Hayes give a commencement address. In addition to being a football coach, he was a history professor. The latter was his great passion, and that's what he spoke about that day. And spoke. And spoke. Woody was quite old at this point.

Woody had met Manfred Rommel, son of the great general. In Woody's recounting, he asked Rommel why his father had not pressed his advantage at Dunkirk and annihilated the British army. Rommel quoted his father as saying that with all the horrors of war he had witnessed and inflicted, he had a chance in Dunkirk to do "one good thing" in all the war. He took it.

The truth? Self-serving bullshit? The ramblings of a coot? You be the judge.

mr. free time

I have a lot of time on my hands, thanks to a work drought, so I'm mulling over taking some courses and fleshing out the ol' resume. It took all of 20 seconds of research for me to groan "Am I really up for this?"

My first stop was PMI.org, dispenser of project management certifications. The web site is a bewildering maze of buzzwords and undefined acronyms. Educational institutions that cannot teach so much as "this is how you give us money" give me pause. Then I clicked the link Test yourself with CAPM Sample Questions and read the two, count 'em, two questions that were apparently written by a slovenly ESL chimpanzee in a Tilt-A-Whirl. Two questions include a comma error, passive voice, subject/verb disagreement, and a superfluous quotation mark. This slop is what they deemed representative? Please! Take my money, stat! And then there's the vapidity of the content itself, an exercise in "which non-mutually exclusive term is the one we prefer?"

Which foodstuff is digested after chewing and swallowing?
A. Apples
B. Carbon-based organics
C. Both A and B
D. A but not B
I am skeptical.

instablock

Unless you count web 1.0 stuff like this page, I am not into social media. I have a Facebook account, but I post maybe four things per year, none of them of substance, and I don't friend people.

An acquaintance recently sent me a friend request. I accepted, and immediately he dominated my feed. Of the top 20 posts, 17 were him. Do these people really think people aren't hiding their posts out of self-defense? It's an instablock here.

You new mothers, too. I'll unhide you after their first day of school is over.

cost of deadening

If you're a Pittsburgher and you want to die horribly, inform me of how much lower my cost of living is here.

You cannot swing a dead cat without three different municipalities slapping a flight tax on it. Last week, I paid 50% more to just the school district than the entirety of my state and local taxes for a year in Washington. This was easy to calculate because, like every other taxing body, the school district sent me a separate bill. A week later, I got my school income tax bill. This is not to be confused with my separate income, property, and business tax bills from the county, city, township, state, and school district. Paying tax bills is my exciting new hobby.

It's not hyperbole to say that if some fake collection company sent me a bill from the made-up Acme Parish, I would pay it unthinkingly.

squeaker

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter just celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary, meaning Jimmy edged my relationship endurance record by 65 years.

And counting.

john...

I recounted my last post to Lynn, who was once my boss. She immediately recognized my present boss's pained, wheezing "John..." And she also recognized the pain of having no better personnel options than me.

"It is irritating," she said with obvious conviction. "I say that with love," she quickly added, with substantially less obvious conviction.

This morning I received a job posting for a gig at a university. I reviewed the job's required skills. "Got it. Got it. Got it. Got it. Got i—"

A letter describing your personal commitment to the Christian faith.
"Ick. I'd have to plagiarize that one."

I chuckled at the sheer deliciousness of stealing someone's statement of faith, which led me to wistfully recall a career highlight.

Two years ago, a client insisted that anyone with access to their network take their Corporate Ethics class.

"Fine," I told my boss. "I'll build your site without network access."

"John..." he sighed with the exasperation of someone who has no better personnel options. "Can you just take the class for me?"

It was an online course, which is how I came to pay a contractor to take my ethics class for me. She said I did really well on the test afterward.


drinking in the afternoon

For over two years now, my life has been in some form of self-inflicted limbo. I don't make friends; what's the point, when I hope to be gone in a few months? Likewise dating. Likewise improvements to my life of any kind. The sensation of running out the clock on my life is sadly routine, now.

It's a listless existence. I feel no investment. I can't plan for the future because I have no idea when my present will end. My chief hobby these days is impatiently watching time elapse. It's probably good that I've no interest in meeting new people, because to me I sound boring as hell.

tolerating box

No, that's not the name of an activity at a "Pray the Gay Away" camp. It's a heading in a technical manual that I'm presently editing. A little later, the author discusses the "box sharing policy."

You know you're in your career's twilight when you go to change such things, then stop because you kinda want to see it published.

white noise

This week's Amy theme continues.

We were in a conference call with our boss of five years. He's a Canadian gentleman, amiable and very slow to anger. But during this meeting, he heard news that outraged him, and he let fly an f-bomb.

"Oh jeez, I'm so soar-y, Amy," he said sheepishly. "I forgot there was a lady present."

There was some bewilderment in Amy's voice as she told him it was fine. "I can't even hear that word anymore," she added. "That's pretty much how John says 'good morning.'"

taxonamy

"I hope all your readers realize I'm a different Amy than Fucking Amy," she said.

This is a valid point. It's worth clarifying: they are totally and completely different women. The latter day Amy is Fuckless Amy. She gives zero fucks whatsoever.

speechless

So this is what happened next.

The day after I waxed sentimental about working with Amy, all hell broke loose with my business. I did what I could, but only one person on Earth could quickly fix the tool—the person who built it.

"Help!" I texted Amy on Friday. No reply. On Saturday, I texted her husband. "Is she around?"

He explained that Amy was spending the weekend at a silence retreat. No talking, no cell phones, no nothing.

You know you're engaged in a seriously flaky activity when your husband follows up his description with "I am not kidding."

I briefly entertained driving to the retreat with my smoldering production server and screaming "AAAAAAMYYYYYYYYY!" until she capitulated. It'd be more likely that she would turn to her fellow mutes and point accusingly at me. See?

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