I'd like to think that phrasing was consciously humorous, I really would, but in my heart of hearts I know it's just incompetent.
I don't care if new mothers unleash their breasts in public. Or old mothers. Or any women, really. I don't have a puppy in this fight. As someone who would let children starve before he would be seen even partially shirtless in public, I don't get it, but live and let live.
That said, we really need to ban public breastfeeding.
When I see an infant, I look at its face. Why? Because babies are super-cute. And sometimes, I realize several seconds into staring that the child is horking down on its pre-brunch snack. And then I'll lock eyes with the mother, who's glaring at me, doubtlessly thinking either:
- "Fuck off, perv" or
- "Say something. I dare you. I double-dog dare you, motherfucker, say something about this beautiful, natural, and healthy experience! I will bury you in studies straight from Leche Magazine!"
For years, I've heard that my dentist employs a beautiful hygienist, but I never saw her. Until last week. "Hi!" she chirped.
"Guh?" I replied.
While I admired her shiny, cascading brown hair and enormous Disney-character eyes (although that was probably her binocular eyeglasses playing tricks on me), she chatted up a storm. She asked me all sorts of questions about myself, where I'm from, where I live, what I do for a living, what I like to do for fun. There was no mistaking it: this chick was into me. She couldn't know me well enough, fast enough. As I grunted answers to her essay questions, I contemplated how to make my move.
Then she mentioned her kids, which stalled my momentum, especially when she referred to a "we" that was making parenting decisions. Perhaps I misread her interest?
She wanted to show me something in my mouth, so she handed me a hand mirror. "Ugh, you're gonna make me look at myself?" I groused. "What did I ever do to you?"
I peered into the mirror. Whatever it was she wanted me to see went unseen that day. Instead, my focus riveted on the most hideously lit rat's nest of nose hair ever encrusted by a half pint of dried snot.
Confirmed: I misread her interest.
During a work meeting, I took a teasing-bit-not-really shot at Trixie, the preposterously hot and even more preposterously employed 24 year old.
"Oh, I see how it is! she giggled. "John's a backstabber!"
My boss snorted. "No, John's a front-stabber."
I was a brand new writer, not yet even out of college, when my mentor lowered the boom. He looked at my timecard with confusion. It said something like:
Monday 7.75 hours"John...? Charley said in his fabulous southern drawl. "Are you billing for the hours you actually worked?"
Tuesday 8.1 hours
Wednesday 8.25 hours
Charley stood up and shook his head sadly, chuckling at my naiveté. He put his hand on my shoulder. "Son, son, son. Nope. It's not how many hours you worked. It's how many hours it felt like."
That is the moment I became a professional writer.
This system made instant sense to me. And I have shared this story many times in the intervening decades, always with someone I employed. I distinctly remember squinting at Karen's first timecard. "Son, son, son..." I said.
My first gig at Microsoft was as an hourly contractor. For months, I averaged 85 hours a week. It was a brutal death march. We literally watched a corpse being carried out of our building, someone who had dropped dead at his desk. "Lucky bastard," someone snarled at the passing corpse. We all agreed.
My timecards were naturally enormous, so any embellishment was both unnecessary and implausible. Nevertheless, Charley's teachings tugged at me. Out of loyalty, on my last timecard I added 10 hours, for a total of 100 hours that week. My boss looked at it and sighed. "I'm so grateful to you for not dying," she said. "Or, you know, quitting." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Go ahead and add 10 hours."
"You mean in addition to the 10 hours I already added?" I said to absolutely no one. Thus was my legendary 110 hour timecard born.
I thought about her this week. Charley too. My current boss explained impending political shifts and closed with this directive: "John, bill the shit out of me this month."
"Will do. And if you don't mind my saying so, sir, you found the perfect man for the job."
I have been single for a very long time. This is entirely by choice. Specifically, it's by their choice.
I'm a good boyfriend. I dote. I remember important dates. I at least attempt to feign shared interests. My brain is crammed with minutia about my girlfriend's tastes, peeves, stories, interests and favorite brands.
And then time marches on, and the woman marches off, and her tastes, peeves, stories, interests, and brands compost in my brain. The pile of relationship debris in my head is staggering and confusing.
"Were you the one who had a friend who made up a whole religion around you being a deity?" I asked Allie some 20 years after we dated.
"The fuck are you talking about?" she said, recoiling in disgust that I began yet another sentence with "Were you the one?"
Geri-bachelorhood: avoid it if you can.
I was discussing my boss of six years, who just came through for me again in a big way. A friend called the relationship remarkable, which it surely is.
"Still," I said, "we do get on one another's nerves. But that describes pretty much every good relationship I've had with a boss." I thought some more. "Honestly, if I'm not irritating my boss, he's just not paying attention."
Fredo was bit at the dog park, and the wound is nasty and infected. He wouldn't stop slurping its seepage. "Jesus Christ, can I get you a straw?" I yelled at him at one point. (I'm considering naming my next dog Jesus Christ. It would be efficient.) The vet put him in a head cone.
This dog. Is obsessively licking. The inside of the cone.
If a dog suddenly requires veterinary attention, the odds that it's occurring on a weekend are 2 in 7, or 100%
Dogs are why I suck at math.
Clearly, the solution is for everyone to carry two guns.
When I bought the $50 tape gun from Mr. Lonely, it certainly wasn't because I want or need it. The act was the answer to a question I posed to myself: would I pay $50 to get rid of this asshole forever? Why, yes. Yes, I would. I'd have gone up to $775. Fifty bucks was a bargain.
I call this "the asshole tax," and it's the one tax I pay with relish.
I did it again yesterday, where the question was would I rather pay for the repair myself or talk to whatever Rhodes Scholar manages a Bremerton car wash?
To my horror, the day I moved into my Redmond condo was the day I discovered my next door neighbor. His sliding glass door was barricaded by books stacked floor-to-ceiling, and mounted on the glass was a sign clearly scrawled by a crazy person.
GOVERMENT! LEAF ME ALONE!!!!The sign went on, but that's what was easily visible from the street.
Good god, I thought. What have I done? I'll never be able to resell this place.
His offenses were many and included human feces in the hallway. I did no DNA test, but I'm fairly certain it was his. He probably put it there to ward off collections agents. They hate the smell of human feces. Worse, though, he was sociable. I started parking my car a block away because if he heard me pull up, he would rush outside to share his latest insights on the world's workings. It doesn't matter what they were; all you need to know is that he mentioned the government and his guns a lot. He seemed to like me, in that way a spectacularly insane person likes anyone who's humoring him because they're afraid he'll poison their dog when they're at work.
One day, he caught me as I was sneaking in the side door. "My car has no antifreeze and [some bullshit] so I have no money and do you have $5 I can borrow?" I opened my wallet and found only a 20, which delighted him. He grabbed the $20, promised to pay me back, and jetted off to his dealer.
He then diligently avoided me for the next year. I never saw him again.
This, this is what money is for.
Hurricane Flo spent the night Wednesday, and as is her custom, she destroyed the place within seconds.
"It's immaculate!" she snarled with contempt while she hugged me. Then she unloaded her car. There were seven bags of groceries alone. That was food—just for her—for her 16 hour stay. Within minutes, I could see no surface in my house, including wide swaths of the floor.
So it begins, I thought as I hid my good skillet from her.
Flo could fill a dishwasher simply by making a bologna sandwich. And if she needs a bowl, she'll walk right past the bowls next to her, climb on the counter, reach into the recesses of the top shelf, find the antique bowl that must be hand-washed with soap made from the ashes of a virgin unicorn, and use that bowl for microwaving beets.
In the morning while she still slept, I went downstairs and started excavating the carnage that was my kitchen.
The fuck did she use ramekins for?
Among the casualties were my brand new eyeglasses and my antibiotics. They remain missing now.
"What, you think I stole your eyeglasses?!" she snapped when I asked her to keep an eye out for them.
No, but it had crossed my mind that she'd swallowed what she'd hoped were quaaludes.
I'd begun writing this post when I heard her awaken upstairs. Only seconds of peace remaining, I thought. As if in answer, a siren's call wafted down the stairs.
"Hey, where's your plunger?"
Today is my airhead dog Fredo's fifth birthday. In celebration, I accidentally spanked him six times. This is a repeat of last year, where I also spanked him one too many times. "It seems like longer," I told him.
Our latest game is for me to place my rigid palm on top of his muzzle, right in front of his eyes, while he tries to bite it. Click-click-click go his teeth, munching on air while he whines in frustration. Why, he can see my hand right there!
His sister must have sucked all the vitamins out of the placenta.
Whenever I go to a doctor, I experience one of exactly two outcomes:
- The doctor thinks I'm overreacting to my symptoms and wasting his time, or
- The doctor scolds me for waiting too long to come in.
I was pretty sure my sinuses thing had morphed into pneumonia, and I was determined to nip it in the bud this time. I reported my symptoms, and the doctor was unimpressed. "I think you'll live," he sneered. He listened to my lungs. They sounded fine, he said, shooting me his best "Were you just lonely, or what?" look. I insisted on an x-ray, and he relented.
CUT TO: 20 MINUTES LATER
THE DOCTOR enters the examining room, x-rays and antibiotics in hand.
How did you know?
I stammered something about familiarity with the symptoms, which is true enough, but the details are embarrassing. Starved of oxygen, my brain functions slowed. Work became harder, much harder. I had to read things four or five times to understand them, and then I quickly forgot what I understood. Taking antibiotics wasn't required just for sound health; it was a professional imperative. I needed my smart pills. Or at least some less-stupid pills.
Most tellingly, I couldn't follow the plot on TV shows. That's when I knew my old, stupid-fying friend was back.
Me no understand cartoon. Brain...not...think...good. Need doctor.
Nope and nope.
The solution, of course, is for state troopers to carry guns.
When I was a kid, the twin pillars of my torture were Barry Manilow (Mom) and Bobby Vinton (Dad). You probably don't know Bobby Vinton, so allow me to share.
I'm very sorry.
I consider wallpaper removal the single most unpleasant job I've ever attempted. Breaking up concrete with a sledgehammer? Digging ditches? Child, please. Wallpaper removal is horrible. It's sweaty, it's physically painful, it's frustrating, and when you're done, you've probably damaged your drywall. I swore to never do it again. Enter Pete, my wallpaper-removal guy and the reason I've had "I'm Mr. Lonely" in my head all week.
Around 60 and a resident of Metamuville, Pete has extended his one-day stay to four days. Near as I can tell, this is so he can hang around me more and ask me about myself, my house, my dog, etc. while I attempt to have an online meeting. Pete doesn't let little things like headphones and my active conversation with a clearly visible person stop him. He is driving me insane.
Me, to my monitor: "So Jason, I think it's critical that we—"
Pete, pointing out window: "IS THAT CAMANO ISLAND? I WENT TO CAMANO ISLAND ONCE. I THINK IT WAS CAMANO. MAYBE IT WAS HAT ISLAND. ANYWAYS, THAT REMINDS ME OF A STORY THAT'S BOTH LONG AND POINTLESS. IT WAS 1973, AND NIXON WAS..."
At this point, I would chew my own leg off to extricate myself from his presence. He keeps inventing reasons to talk to me, to return the next day. And he bought a $50 tape gun just because he thinks I'll need one. "I'll lend you this tape gun," he said. "I live just down the street. It's no problem for me to come back."
"Oh, I'll just buy it from you," I replied. He was visibly crushed. Check and mate.
This morning, I worked at my desk while around me swirled seven other people. They cleaned my house, detailed my car, removed wallpaper, and repaired a fence. "Lo, I am master of the universe," I declared to Fredo. I squinted at him hard. "I should really farm out feeding you."
And how did this go, you ask?
A maid broke a wine glass. The fence panels are now comically crooked, at both the x and z axes. "If you guys had only hung the panel so it's facing the ground, you would have had the hat trick," I snarled when firing them. My car window will not go back up because (I hope) moisture made the fuse blow. And the wallpaper guy is now about to hose a fourth of my days because he cannot make and execute a plan.
You'd think being god would be awesome, but nope. Sucks just as much as screwing up myself, but it's not free.
"Can you build me a web site?" said another woman, mere days after the last one. I'm related to this latest person, so it's not what you're thinking. Apparently I have an odor, and it smells like free labor.
And thus have I embarked on building her a blog. "I want it to chronicle the things in life that I'm grateful for," she said.
"Are you sure we're related?" I replied.
"Just to serve as a reminder to me, if nothing else."
"Seriously, is it possible there was a mixup at one of our hospitals?"
She is achingly sweet and curiously guileless. I guess I'm happy to be related to such a person, but I also wonder what's in our relationship for her. A free blog, I suppose.
And thus, 17 years after I created Stank, I now embark on creating its exact opposite.
It's been three weeks since my dog Fredo's sister died, and not coincidentally, it's been three weeks of unremitting kindness and cuddling from me. Three weeks of hell.
I initially acquired Fredo because Dex was lonely. Specifically, she was obsessively fixating on me 24/7 and driving me insane. I never had to call Dex. She was right there. So I got her a brother, and he fixated on her, and he drove her nuts, and he was always right there, and I savored the karma. My problem was fixed forever, or so I thought. But now Dex is gone, and Fredo is next to me, as he always is, ever staring, staring, staring.
It's like buying a fire extinguisher that five years later sets the house on fire.
He is, as I may have mentioned once or twice before, an appallingly stupid dog. I've been working with him these last three weeks, trying to raise his training to at least gerbil-level. At the advanced age of five, he now knows his name, or at least he looks up when I say it. He comes to "Dex," I've discovered, though I try not to use it.
Yesterday was a milestone: I taught this furry paramecium how to sit on command. Kind of. I used a food reward, and eventually it penetrated his membrane that "butt on ground" = "cookie." So now he shadows me constantly, sitting seven times in the fifteen feet between my desk and the refrigerator. He doesn't walk so much as waddle, scooching his butt along my floor, hopeful, ever hopeful, that a cookie will appear.
I have the flu, a biological miracle for someone who hasn't left the house for 10 days.
I have a flu routine. As soon as I feel my hair hurt, I rush to the store and buy junk food. Because nothing helps an immune system quite like a massive influx of sugar.
Two anecdotes have emerged from this. In Pittsburgh, the cashier surveyed my DayQuil, NyQuil, nasal spray, saline spray, 12-pack of toilet paper, Captain Crunch, and five bags of cheese doodles and said "Man. I wanna party with you tonight."
And once in Metamuville, I had pneumonia. I couldn't work, so Katrina came over to whine about our clients in person. It was horrible. She talked about work while I lay on the couch, too weak to strangle her. I was trying to summon the requisite energies when my grocery delivery arrived. Captain Crunch, cheese doodles, cookies, candy, frozen pizza, White Castles, toilet paper and Maalox. Katrina surveyed the items, especially the last two.
This just in: Trump has swept the states of Disbelief, Denial, and Dementia.
I've been crushing on a bar owner for a while now. She lives in another town, so I see her only once in a great while and progress has been irritatingly slow. In January, she asked me if I could build rebuild her web site. "What's wrong with the one you've got?" I asked. So then she showed me. It was indeed primitive WordPress crap. I sipped my drink and wondered if I was being played.
"Of course, I'd pay you," she said. Man, she's good.
"You can't afford me."
"Then I'll give you free drinks for the rest of your life," she said.
"You really can't afford that."
But the deal was struck, and I spent some 50 hours building her what she asked for. Vastly more than she asked for, actually. I crushed it. It's elegant. I so eclipsed the web site that she held up as her model, I could not wait to show it to her.
"I've got something to show you when you have a moment," I texted her.
Five weeks passed.
Did she simply not see the text? Possible. Did she see it and forget about it? Also possible but trending toward unforgivable. Did she change her mind about redoing the website? Possible and definitely unforgivable. Did she hear about all the women I went out with the last time I was in town? Eep. That would be bad.
So last week, I went into her bar to find out if this was an innocent mistake, rudeness, or the eep. My money was on rudeness. I arrived before she did, and I sat at the bar and nursed a drink. Suddenly I was enveloped in a warm back-hug. Eep: ruled out.
She immediately showed me wireframes (rough sketches) of the new website she was working on with someone else. I was flabbergasted.
I asked her if she'd gotten my text. "Text?" She ran to her phone and found it. "I'm really bad with that," she said in lieu of apologizing.
I showed her what I'd built. She spent 15 seconds looking at it—0.3 seconds for every hour I spent working on it. "The other guy will be here later tonight. You can talk about combining your efforts," she said instead of expressing any opinion or gratitude whatsoever. And then she got up and went behind the bar.
I came expecting rudeness, but not all-time Olympic record rudeness. It was a rare time in my life where I really didn't know what to say. I thought about all the rude people to whom I've explained their own rudeness. My success rate is exactly 0%. My success rate in being vilified for presuming to hold up a mirror, however, is damned near perfect.
I watched my former crush slice lemons. If she were capable of seeing herself objectively, then she wouldn't be so thoughtless. I slid $20 under my glass and walked out.
Question for the readership: have you ever gotten anywhere by explaining to rude people that they're rude? Have you actually managed to sow seeds of empathy?
I stayed in a hotel at the end of January, stupidly leaving my clothes hanging in its closet. When I got home and realized my mistake, I called the hotel. "I'll check with housekeeping and call you back tomorrow," said the clerk. A week passed. No call.
Week 2, I made a request through their web site, their "preferred method" for handling this. Bupkis.
Week 3, I called again. Housekeeping assured me that they'd call me right back. You can see where this is headed.
Week 5, I was back in town and asked about my clothes in person. I explained my previous three ignored requests, and the clerk accurately determined that I was not being punted again. Miraculously, she returned with a bag containing my clothes. All was forgiven. I thanked her profusely.
She was visibly annoyed. "Yeah. Well," she snapped."You're just lucky we still had them. Normally we throw these things out after four weeks. You waited five."
Let's skip ahead in time 30 seconds.
"Sir, I do not appreciate your using that sort of inappropriate language with me," she said, avoiding eye contact.
"Really? Because if this isn't the perfect moment to use 'bumblefucks,' I can't imagine what is."
Allie never wants to talk about anything but 1) her kid or 2) the Walking Dead. It was with a sense of desperation, then, that I started watching the Walking Dead.
We were recently debating the merits of its various characters. Who would we like to be teamed with, in the likely event of a zombie apocalypse? I proposed a schoolyard-style picking of teams. I knew whoever went first would choose Daryl, so I decided to do the phone equivalent of flipping a coin.
"Pick a number between one and ten," I said.
"I take Daryl," she replied. I glared at the phone. I glare at my phone a lot when I talk to her, as if it's the hardware that's annoying.
"Fine. I'll take Maggie."
"Okay," she said. "I'll take Michonne."
"That's a fine army you're assembling," I replied. "I'll take Sasha."
"Oh come on. You're just taking hot chicks."
"You really think they're hot? No, I'm taking based on fighting and interpersonal skills."
"Okay. Um, I take Carol," she said.
"Rosita," I replied.
"Oh come on!"
"You go fight the good fight. Someone's gotta repopulate the earth."
Years ago, when I spoke my last words to my dog Ed, I knew it. She was seconds away from being put to sleep, and I held her head and said what I said every time I left her alone in the house. "Be good."
I think she understood.
With Poindexter, I had no inkling they were the final words I would say to my dog. The vet had just handed me a $2500 estimate for her treatment, and as they were taking her to the x-ray room, I called after her. "Girl, you're getting a fucking job."
I think she understood.
So yeah. It's just me and Fredo for the next 8-10 years. It wasn't either of our first choices, but here we are. I always figured he would outlive the good dog, just because, well, he's Fredo and being a monumental pain in the ass is what Fredos do. But I didn't think it would be for this much longer.
In the old order, his sister was my dog, and Fredo was hers. Indeed, I got Fredo just because she was lonely. Now she's gone, and with her, the reason Fredo and I even know one another. It's sort of like I married a woman who already had a kid, and then the woman died on the honeymoon, and I'm looking at the kid and thinking, "Wait. What just happened?"
In contrast with his sister's cerebral calm, he turned out to be a sweet, goofy imbecile. Most people preferred him. Our interactions were limited to the occasional game of chase or ear-scritch. If I wanted Fredo to come, all I had to do was call his sister. Because of this, he is nearly feral in his training.
We are now forced to bond. He is freaked out. He trembles at my attempts to comfort him, which at first I attributed to the death of his sister. Now, though, I wonder how much of his freak-out is because I'm actually paying attention to him.
"Again with the cuddling and soothing voice? Is something wrong? AM I DYING? IS IT CANCER?! AIDS? IT'S AIDS, ISN'T IT?!" his eyes plead.
Regardless, it's time to get to work and turn him into a reasonable facsimile of a dog. Phase 1: teach him that words have meanings. Phase 2: Teach him what those meanings are. I think I'll start with the word "Fredo." It might be useful if he responded to it.
I got 7.5 hours of sleep last night. And just like that, my IQ has tripled. Maybe tomorrow I'll even hit triple digits.
I already found porn creepy, but this data takes it to a whole new level of creepity. Here are the most popular pornhub search criteria by state. For some reason, I'd expected things like "blonde." So naive.
There's not a lot of anything going on this week but sadness. I'm pretty sure no one wants to read about that, so I'll write at its edges.
One of my bigger challenges has been my inability to sleep for more than an hour. That's been the case since Saturday, and my brain is really starting to turn to goo. My struggle reached its climax last night, when my power and Internet went out for 22, count 'em, 22 hours. Already starved for rest, I had to sleep without my CPAP machine for the first time in years, in a house where the temp had dropped into the 40s. Somehow, miraculously, I drifted off around 2am.
At 3am, I discovered that my alarm system has a heretofore unknown feature. During prolonged blackouts, the base station, which is right next to my bed, erupts with a human voice that bellows "Base station battery power is critically low! Connect to power immediately!"
I would like to personally thank the person who thought of that feature. If you're out there, please remit a map to your house.
My dog died yesterday at 7 years old. It was extremely sudden-onset canine influenza. On Thursday, her regular vet said her lungs sounded good and advised we give her cough two weeks to clear up. On Friday, she was still spunky. We played. On Saturday, she took a turn for the worse and I hospitalized her. Sunday morning, she was gone. It was that fast.
I'm sad, of course, but not as sad as her brother. He's inconsolable, refusing cookies and comfort. He just sits in the corner, looking out the window for her. It's fairly devastating to watch.
While I'm at it, here's my favorite Poindexter picture. That's her stomach. She's using me as a hammock while I sit on the back deck.