never do the math

I'd resisted doing this calculation for a long, long time.

In 2004, I had a windfall. I needed to invest it. I kicked around a few ideas, and one of those ideas was then-struggling Apple. The iPod wasn't a thing yet, let alone iTunes, the iPhone, iPad, and so on. No one knew what was about to happen. I wouldn't have even considered Apple if their P/E ratio hadn't been so ridiculously low. I kept staring at that P/E number. Yeah, they're obviously past their prime, but they are still seriously undervalued, I thought over and over. After mulling it over for a week, I did the prudent thing. I put the money into my house, where a return was guaranteed. These are phony numbers now (knowing what would happen to interest rates), but given what I knew at the time, I was spending $80k to save a guaranteed $229k in interest over 30 years. To this gutless puss, that seemed like a good deal. I took it.

And then.

This weekend, I calculated what would have happened on the path not taken, the bold path, the iPath. That $80k would have multipled exactly eighty times. That's $6.4 million, ladies and gentlemen. Six-point-four million little monuments to cowardice.

Of course, only $6.32 million of that would have been profit. Perspective is important, right?

southern pride

Every time we get our knickers in a twist over the confederate battle flag, its defenders invoke what I consider the laziest of all possible arguments: you just don't understand.

I find that lazy dismissal more offensive than the flag itself. These turds can't even do us the courtesy of burning three calories on argumentation.

roof_flag_gun-410x220.jpgIt's not about slavery, they say. It's about heritage. It's about regional pride. That so many of their region's residents—including both young Mr. Roof and the descendents of slaves—think it's very much about slavery and racism is proof, I suppose, that these people, too, fail to understand. That's a whole lot of failure to understand.

This is what I understand: the south lost the war. If they don't want to put the flag in the museum where it belongs out of simple sensitivity to the descendents of those enslaved in their beloved region, fine. Then I'll claim the eradication of their battle flag as a spoil of war.

Seriously, what exactly are they proud of: the slavery or the losing? They need to shut their y'all-holes.

This isn't a flag with crawfish or tobacco or Nick Saban on it. It's the battle flag of the army that fought for the worst imaginable cause.

Yeah yeah, I know, the Civil War wasn't about slavery. Rather than address that pop mythology, I'll directly quote the very people who waved this flag. South Carolina's declaration of secession didn't once mention pride or crawfish or regional anything. It mentioned slavery. Eighteen times. Here are five:

"an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery"

"the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws"

"The right of property in slaves "

"[the northern states] have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery"

"all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery."

Clearly, all of these slavery references were a red herring meant to mask the real cause of the Civil War. And I gotta say, it's really well masked.

It's a great read. Seldom in history do people so proudly cannonize their being on the wrong side. Even the Nazis had enough sense to keep the Final Solution a secret.

Also, South Carolina confused affect and effect. (That one was just for me.)

competitive sanctimony, part iii

Obama, speaking about racism on Marc Maron's podcast Sunday:

"We're not cured of it ... and it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say 'nigger' in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination."
Reasonable enough. And the MSN headline this morning?

Capture.JPG

let us count the problems that need fixin'

So a 21 year old kid who was

  1. indicted for a felony and with a history of
  2. drug abuse,
  3. mental illness, and
  4. published hate speech gets a
  5. .45 handgun
  6. as a birthday gift from
  7. his father,
and the entirety of our focus is on the stupid Confederate flag flying near the South Carolina capitol building. Taking that thing down will surely solve things. And replacing it with a rainbow flag would be a feel-good twofer!

Yep. That's my country. See "competitively sanctimonious," below.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alexander Hamilton, who has been featured on the $10 bill since 1929, is making way for a woman.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that a redesign of the $10 will feature the first woman on the nation's paper money in more than a century. The plan is to decide which woman sometime this summer.

Uh-oh. I don't much like where this is heading. I know my country, and we do enjoy getting all competitively sanctimonious about invented causes. We're five years away from Super Bowl boycotts until Wanda Sykes is on the $20 bill.

That said, I have no issue with [Woman TBNL] being on the new $10 bill. [Woman TBNL] deserves the honor. [Woman TBNL] earned it. Hamilton can't hold [Woman TBNL]'s jock.

But seriously, this move is appropriate and overdue. It'd be even more appropriate if it were a $7.80 bill.

throwdown

Just how annoying are John's dogs being this morning, no one asked? This annoying: I just put on noise canceling headphones and Fucking Amy's old Def Leppard CD.

I had to blow two decades' worth of dust off that, I assure you.

intervention

Okay, women. 'Splain yourselves. Why on earth do you think injecting a quart of collagen into your upper lip is a good idea? You're certainly not doing it for us men, so I can only assume you're doing it for yourselves. Do you actually think this looks good, or did you lose a bet? If the latter, carry on.

Otherwise, just stop. It's freakish. When I see it, it's all I can think about, and not in a good way.

On a related note, we have turned a scary corner with teeth-whitening, careening into the ludicrous. Watching Joel McHale and Paget Brewster the other day felt like I was looking directly into 64 plasma torches.

three for three

For the third time of my life, I'm selling something on craigslist. Like married women, this activity is on my "Why am I doing this? I swore I would never do this again!" list.

My Inbox was immediately stuffed with stupidity. And there, amidst the countless misspelled occurrences of "call me" and "will you take a broken chainsaw for it," is the sentence I have now seen all three times: "can you bring it to Portland?"

Who are these people, and what did I do so right in my life that I don't encounter them in the day to day?

assholes and elbows

Like a lot of white kids of my generation, I was introduced to race relations through the miniseries Roots. So yep, the self-loathing started early. Mom did what she could to help it along. Not that I wasn't fascinated like everyone else was, but she made it clear that viewing was mandatory.

"I'm making Johnny watch Roots," she would explain to perfect strangers, apparently hoping they were on the Parent of the Year nominating committee. And during our viewings, she made sure that I identified with the slavemasters whipping Kunta Kinte. "Do you see how horrible we are?" she would say gravely.

"What did I do?!" My confusion was legitimate. I didn't own an Atari, let alone a person. And if asked which end of the whip I more strongly identified with, I would have said Kunta's.

She was well-meaning in her efforts to sow the seeds of accountability, but talk about getting blood out of a rock. In the end, all it sowed was the sense that my mom was daft.

As I grew older, I realized that she also was protesting too much. Whereas my dad was old school "I'm not racist" racist, dropping n-bombs whenever someone dark cut him off in traffic, or whenever he thought they might, Mom was the "I have black friends" sort of racist typical of her generation. Me, I simply had black friends. I wasn't exactly bragging about it. I was just as ashamed of them as I was all my white friends.

There. That's my contribution to post-raciality. If you really think about it, I'm a hero.

What I didn't do was grow up color-blind. Between Mom's posturing and my later being the white guy in my neighborhood, I had no chance of that. Race wasn't so much the subtext of my life as an unwanted conversation from which I could not extricate myself. I wanted, really, was to be able to elbow black guys in the mouth without being thought a racist.

And throw elbows I did. For several glorious years of my life, I mooched off my girlfriend and played basketball as often as my knees would allow. I was a below average player on that court, consistently the sixth or seventh player picked. I made up for my slowness and, oh, let's say inconsistent jump-shot with defense, passing, picks and an unrivaled repertoire of cheap shots. Often I would get selected just because the guy wanted me hacking someone other than himself. I remain oddly proud of that.

If you went over my back on a rebound—and this was an exceptionally easy thing to do—you would taste elbow. If you were covering my teammate, I would gleefully lay you out with a pick—sometimes a pick of dubious legality. If you tried to dunk on me, you did not land on your feet; I made damned sure there was no second attempt. And there was a bench abutting the edge of our court that was christened "the Egger bench," after me. I used it as a sixth defender. You would be bringing the ball up that side of the court, dribbling full speed, and I would herd you into it. Pow.

"And I'll take Egger!" said the guy with bloody shins next time. Cheap shots were my great equalizer, and I was color-blind when dispensing them. I am very highly evolved that way.

Tensions ran high on that court, and I was often at the epicenter. "Motherfucker" was the favored pronoun referencing me. If I really laid out, say, d'Andre, I did what I could to assuage any tensions.

"Race war!" I would bellow over his broken body.

"Fuck. You."

Witty repartee aside, I was mindful that someone, somewhere was going to infer the wrong intent on my part. My elbow was an asshole, not a racist. But it happened occasionally, and d'Andre or Wilson would have to take an enraged black guy aside and explain that I got some latitude. I don't really know what was said in those conversations. It didn't seem like my place to participate. In my imagination, my friends said "Just let it go. He'll start hacking all of us. Especially his teammates."

The one person positively guaranteed to taste elbow was another white guy. That poor bastard. He was my chance to prove that I was an equal opportunity cheap-shot artist, and I never failed to take it. He got it worse than anyone.

"WHAT IS YOUR DEAL?" he would exclaim.

"It's not personal," I would reply.

It was worse than personal. I was putting a little something extra on it because of the color of his skin. And decades later, I'm still somehow okay with this. I mean, did you see Roots? Did you see how horrible this guy was?

I await my Nobel Prize.

I was telling Amy about my father when she made a suggestion.

What she said: "You should totally post about this!"

What I heard: "You should totally stop telling me about this!"

• • •

Talking about my Dad is a double-edged sword. To simply say that I had a crap dad is insufficient. "Yeah, I know," people will say. "My family is dysfunctional too." Well, no. We are almost certainly not peers. You will not hear about soccer practice or Christmas in my stories. My dad wasn't crap because he didn't hug me enough, or because he hurt my feelings, or because he occasionally hit me. He was an unrepentant monster. I gots plenty of examples. For the purpose of this post, let's just say that he's dead, I'm glad he's dead, and if he still felt anything at all, he'd probably be glad he's dead, too.

And there's really no way of conveying this without getting into gory details that, I've found, people just don't want to hear.

Except for the cross-dressing. You guys eat that stuff up.

• • •

With Amy, I talked about muddling my way toward manhood without the aid of anything remotely resembling a positive male role model. I knew who I definitely didn't want to be, but that didn't give me a direction any more than knowing you don't want to drive to Chicago gets you to Miami. There was a lot of trial and error on my road to manhood. For the most part, it was the women beside me who shaped me, often against their will and at their own expense. First my mom, then my girlfriends and girl friends sweated blood chiseling me into a facsimile of a man. Anything redeeming about me today, you can bet I learned from a woman.

But when I was a kid, my role models were fictional men. Rick from Casablanca was one. He was and remains my masculine ideal, from his grudging courage to his gallows wit to his mannequin-mashing kissing style.

Captain Renault: What in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters?
Rick: I was misinformed.
Swoon.

But there was one guy who was everything I wanted to be, and I thought about him day and night. That guy was a rabbit. And a cross-dresser, come to think of it. Let's not read too much into that.

More than any flesh-and-blood male, Bugs Bunny taught me about life, about coolness, about justice, and—unfortunately for everyone in my presence—about pronunciation and about conflict resolution.

What I loved about Bugs, what I still love, is that he usually finishes fights but he never, ever starts them. This ethic appealed to me tremendously. It still does. Don't start none, won't be none.

It was as an adult that I read Chuck Jones "Chuck Amuck." (If you grew up on the Warner Brothers cartoons as I did, you simply must read this.) In it, the director articulates his golden rule: "Bugs must always be provoked." This, I realized instantly, was the ethic I had internalized as a child. The rest of my family were the Elmers and Daffys and roid-raging wrestlers and psychotic opera singers. They went looking for trouble.

But me? At my best, I sit alone in my rabbit hole, munching carrots, watching my stories on TV, minding my own business. If no one starts dropping red sticks of dynamite down the hole, they'll never even know I'm there. But people being jerks, they invariably they start with the dynamite.

Of course, you realize this means war.

In the otherwise magnificent Carnegie museum in Pittsburgh, there's an exhibit about race. Sadly, predictably, what purports to be thoughtful really just mines the worst of humanity for dramatic effect. I was disappointed.

This wall features quotes from locals about race relations. Which brings us to a woman who really, truly needs to specify antecedents to her pronouns when granting interviews.

bernstein.jpg

don't be a dick

One day I was sitting in my office when Annette came in to get popcorn. Normally she scooped from my machine without sending more than a cursory grunt in my direction, but on this day, something grabbed her attention. Slumped over my desk as though shot, I was listening to hysterical idiots on my speakerphone. Annette had seen me this miserable before, but never without my being trapped in a meeting room with Microsoft marketers. This was something new.

Annette lingered for a while, munching popcorn. "What am I listening to?"

"Oh. Right. This is an angry message my sister left me in which she's holding her phone up to her answering machine so she can play me an angry message that my brother left for her."

"And what does any of this have to do with you?"

"Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. It's just really important to her that I hate him, too."

"That's so..." She searched for the right word. She found it.

"...stupid."

"Yep."

This is when Annette started inviting me to Easter dinner with her family. They're awesome. They root for one another, not against. Although I enjoy their company, my annual drive home is utterly depressing. For two hours, I'd pretended to belong to the family I'd always wanted. But the problem with fantasies is that they end.

• • •

When I was a kid, even back in the single-digit ages, I used survey the carnage that was my family and dream about the day I would never have to see these people again. As an adult, of course, I saw things differently. I tried to make it work. Yep. I lasted until I was 20 before activating the trap door under their feet. And except for occasional tightly controlled cameos, I've stuck to it. For more than half my life, my family has had to be hateful without my participation.

The consequences have been surprisingly few. I have nieces and nephews I don't know—the collateral damage of my decision. And if I don't have a girlfriend, holidays can be pretty pointless.

That's it. That's the list. The rest is all upside.

One sibling has figured it out: if you're simply not a colossal dick, John will stick around. You would think that this nominal bar would be easily cleared, but the rest of my family has been impaling themselves on it for decades. This sister, in turn, has assured me that my nieces and nephews, too, are not phalli. And thus did I reach out to one.

She's an adult, now, and I haven't been a part of 95% of her life. She's getting married, and instead of going to their wedding, I'm going to take her and her Steelers-fan husband to a game. She seems pleased, but she did ask the obvious question.

"Can I ask why we're the lucky few who get to be reacquainted?"

"I need a kidney, and it turns out you're a perfect match," I replied.

patriots fans' nicene creed

We believe in the Patriots, the One Team Almighty, the takers of trophies.

We believe that the Patriots are the true Team of true Teams, above reproach in all things.

Toward that end, we also believe that illegally videotaping other teams' signals was of no competitive advantage whatsoever, which is why the Patriots took the risk of doing so at the cost of fines and their #1 draft pick. Obviously.

We believe that Tom Brady, our wide receivers, and our running backs are less capable than Ravens and Colts defensive players of noticing that a ball is illegally underinflated.

We believe that the equipment manager called himself "the Deflator" because he's a fattie trying to lose weight.

We believe Tom Brady when He says that He didn't know the equipment manager with whom He threw footballs during pregame warmups for over a decade.

We believe owner Robert Kraft when He says the Patriots did not deflate footballs, for if you cannot believe an established Cheater about cheating, whom can you believe? Seriously, we defy you to name a higher authority. Go on. We'll wait.

Because the Patriots didn't deflate footballs, we believe the Patriots immediately canned the equipment manager because...um...er...let's say it's because he's fat.

We believe that Patriots running backs who leave for other teams see their fumble rate go up 38% because those other teams are...um...er...illegally overinflating their footballs.

We believe that the noble martyr Robert Kraft isn't appealing His team's punishment because it's what's best for the league and because, as He Himself decreed in a written, prepared statement, "I have a way of looking at problems that are very strong in my mind."

We believe that anyone who doesn't share these beliefs is just jealous of our trophies, even the teams with more trophies than us.

fiddla, please

When my mother purchased music at this thing we used to call "record stores," she walked right past the Pop/Rock and R&B sections and went straight to the Atrocities section. As I was tethered to her, this means that my formative years were replete with abominations like Barry Manilow's "Copacabana," Morris Albert's "Feelings," the Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep us Together," and Neil Diamond's "Turn on Your Heartlight."

So to those of you who think me a douche, I say that's fair, but I also assure you that is the best possible outcome. Given the aural cesspool from which I sprang, you're lucky I didn't open fire in my teens.

Among her many gifts to me is that I still—still!—know all the words to the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack. It's horrible. It haunts me. I catch myself singing it, and then with a jolt I'm throughly disgusted with myself, as if I'd just awoken to find myself having sex with a particularly homely underaged yak.

This morning's incident involved Matchmaker, Matchmaker, in which idiotic teen girls sing about the vapid man of their retarded dreams.

For Papa,
Make him a scholar.
For mama,
Make him rich as a king.
For me, well,
I wouldn't holler
If he were as handsome as anything.
I had never considered these lyrics as an adult. They peg mothers' and teenage girls' priorities well enough, but fathers? Where are these fathers-in-law who value scholarship? I've seen them value money, or their daughters' continued dependence on them, or money, or whether or not I believe in the correct invisible man in the sky, but I've yet to meet a dad who gave a single flying crap about my scholarly accomplishments.

mad max

Critically adored, nay, fawned over, this movie was so much meh to me. I didn't care who lived or died. At all. Kill any of 'em; it's all the same to me. I was exactly as invested in this aimless cacophony as I was in the Transformers movies. Did no one else have this reaction?

Okay, okay, I secretly hoped for the stupid guitar player to die, but that was just so I didn't have to watch shots of him preening anymore.

indictment

When Randy and I start talking about football, his wife, Stephanie, looks at her watch and then zones out. Ten minutes later, she interrupts.

"Time!"

It's fair. We get to talk about football for a bit, and she gets to hear us stop. She hasn't the slightest interest in football nor anything else I like.

Steph is a gardener and vegetarian, and her kids go to one of those hippie schools where they learn about feelings instead of monetizable skills. She's sweet, she's gentle, and for some reason that eludes us both, we get along.

It was a considerable delight this week, then, when the first text I received about Deflategate was from her.

"SUCK IT, BRADY!"

Non-Bostonians, enjoy.

I was mowing my lawn while smoking a cigar and listening to a Steelers podcast.

"Jesus Christ," groaned Mike, "You are the single straightest man I have ever known."

There once was a time when that was unambiguously a compliment. Ah, the good ol' days.

• • •

I was having dinner with the pink mafia one night. I was the token straight amidst a full spectrum of queens. It's always a good time. It's a far more reliably good time than hanging out with straight friends or, god help me, family. Perhaps my attitude is better. Perhaps they're just kinder. I don't know, and I don't care. I enjoy differences between people. I love reveling in differences, learning from them, and most especially, making fun of them. In uptight Seattle, we don't even acknowledge differences, let alone have the grace to find humor in them. It's an uncomfortable fit for this polka dot, which brings us back to that dinner table.

"So back when you chose to be gay..." I slurred. It's my standard ice-breaker.

"FUCK OFF!" they slurred back. Also standard.

They were surprisingly curious about women, far more curious than I am about men. I would characterize their interest as zoological. What a weird species women are, they agreed, with horrific biological plumbing. It's hard to look at the stirrups in my doctor's office and disagree. I was far more interested in how the recent societal shifts have affected their lives. Are things noticeably better, day to day? Are they happier?

It was then that the conversation took a dark turn.

There was a lot of self-loathing at that table, a discomfort in one's own skin. I was shocked at the uniformity and depth of it. These are great guys. Yet to a man, they all found gayness a burden. I'd always looked at it as just something that...is. Like height. I don't love my height, but I also don't resent it or particularly think about it. This required some mental adjustment on my part.

Trying to understand, I posed a horrible question: if you could take a pill and be straight, would you? Four out of five immediately said yes. The fifth needed to think about it.

My mind was blown. I cannot imagine that feeling. I have never been where they are. I've never been in a place overlooking the rumor of a shadow of where they are.

I have no conclusions to draw from that throughly depressing conversation, but it forever colored how I look at gay issues. When I see religious nuts opposing gay marriage (or as I think of it, asserting special rights for straight people), it just saddens me. Like these guys aren't self-loathing enough, we have to shriek hysterically that they're unworthy of an institution with a 50% failure rate? Throw them a bone, already.

Bad choice of words. I'll allow it.

somethingist

"You have got to learn his name!" laughed Amy.

During a work meeting, I had confused clients' names again. I do this often these days, and I do it predictably. I confuse a guy at one company for a guy at another, and I always confuse the exact same pairing. It's when you start to solve for the common denominator that things get uncomfortable.

Company A Company B Common Characteristic
Steven Brad White guys
Manik Varij Indian guys
Jane Lucy Women

I'm some kind of an -ist, clearly, but which kind(s)? Me, I'm going to argue for cannotbebotheredtotellmoronsapartist.

victim of the week: tom brady

Rewarding achievements in claiming victimization

In January, a Colts defender intercepted a pass and noted that the ball provided and used by the Patriots was underinflated. An NFL investigation showed that yes, almost all of the Pats' balls were underinflated. What's the competitive advantage there? The ball is easier to throw and catch, and fumbles become mysteriously rare—right up until the same running back goes to the Bengals and his fumbles soar, anyway. More to the point, it's against the rules. It's cheating.

All eyes turned to Tom Brady, who did himself no favors by disavowing all knowledge and saying he had no idea who the equipment manager was after having thrown footballs with the guy during warmups for 15 years. For good measure, when the NFL asked to see his related text messages, Mr. Brady declined.

As a fellow cheater who's incapable of manning up and admitting it, I understand completely.

But then Brady's agent unleashed this:

"What does it say about the league office's protocols and ethics when it allows one team to tip it off to an issue prior to a championship game, and no league officials or game officials notified the Patriots of the same issue prior to the game? This suggests it may be more probable than not that the league cooperated with the Colts in perpetrating a sting operation."
Pretty much, buddy, yeah. They got a tip your client was cheating, and then they sought the proof. Sorry about the whole absence of "Hey, just a heads up, if you were planning on cheating this weekend, we're going to be trying to catch you. Cheers!"

I'm sure when the police get a tip that a suspected serial burglar is going to hit house x on Friday night, the very first thing the cops do is call the robber and warn him of their surveillance that night.

Never forget: Tom Brady is the real victim, here.

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priorities

At my favorite cigar shop, they have a giant Jenga set made out of cut 2x4s. What dominoes are to my old Columbus neighborhood, Jenga is to this Pittsburgh haunt. Rules are strictly enforced:

  • Thou shalt use only one hand.
  • Thou shalt touch only one block at a time.
  • Thou shalt touch a maximum of three blocks during one turn. This last rule is a motherfucker. If your first three blocks are stuck, well, you're yanking on one anyway.
I was playing Jenga with Courtney, a sparkly, well-read, adorable Pittsburgh native and Steelers fan with whom I'd hit it off spectacularly. We were well on the way to dateville when it happened.

I cheated.

I had absent-mindedly stopped the stack from falling by touching a second block.

Courtney saw it. "CHEATER!" she shrieked, extending her finger in accusation.

I was at a crossroads, I knew. Yes, I could cop to cheating. Courtney and I would have a nice laugh about it. Then I'd take my future wife out to dinner. We'd have a great "how we met" story for the rest of our lives. Her family and our children would lovingly address my Christmas gifts to "Sleazy McCheats." And eventually, at my funeral, my lovely pearl-haired widow would tearfully say that by going to heaven, I'd cheated even death. Everyone would chuckle warmly, shaking their heads. Oh, that John.

Or...

"I DID NOT EITHER CHEAT!"

"YES YOU DID! YOU TOUCHED THIS BLOCK RIGHT HERE WITH THAT FINGER RIGHT THERE!"

Earl was there, selling out his gender. "You totally cheated, man."

"SEE?!" Courtney whirled at me. Caught, I had no choice.

"I DID NOT EITHER FUCKING CHEAT AND FUCK YOU, EARL."

And thus did I have dinner solo that night. "He ate meatloaf alone and watched an old Simpsons episode" is a decent eulogy, too.

old math

I was playing with a retirement calculator. You type in when you expect to retire, your saving plans, how long you plan to live, and your anticipated living expenses in retirement. It doesn't take long for you to intensely resent your future self. What a goldbricking mooch. So I cut him off.

"Screw Old John," I muttered as I massaged the numbers until I got something attainable. "If he lives past 82, he's on his own."

From Cheryl Strayed's (so far) insipid memoir Wild:

"I got an abortion and learned how to make dehydrated tuna flakes and turkey jerky"

shower thought

The San Francisco 49ers desperately need to name their cheerleading squad the Gold-Diggers.

butt stuff

My being back in Metamuville is horrible for this site. No social interaction = happy John = crap content.

In Pittsburgh, I instantly had multiple circles of friends that in several ways crushed my 20+ year circle here. I was about to allow that my Seattle friends are predominantly parents and therefore less accessible, but then I remembered Stephanie in Pittsburgh saying "Let's go out for an adult evening! We'll get a babysitter."

Specifically, I remember thinking, "I have never heard that sentence in my life."

People in Pittsburgh were curious about why I would consider leaving Seattle for a city with no ocean, no mountains, worse weather, worse jobs, and—unbefuckinglievably—fewer days of sun. And I was never really able to explain it to their satisfaction. No matter what angle I used to explain the social repression here, no matter how many colorful metaphors I found for Seattle people having their heads intractably shoved up their own asses, they were confused.

"But you're such a nice guy!" I heard more than once.

"Immaterial. I am not the problem there."

Once, I was chatting with a pastor (something that would never happen in Seattle) who'd befriended me (also something that would never happen in Seattle. I'll stop saying that, but you should mentally place it after every phrase that follows). He was explaining his faith, and I was explaining my lack of same. It was all very cordial, and we genuinely liked one another—despite his not understanding where I think good and evil come from and my not understanding why he thinks they come from an invisible, mind-reading zombie-Jew in the sky. We had a spirited conversation, and soon it drifted into football, food, and Seattle.

"What's the racial situation there?" asked the pastor, a black man.

I considered the question. I thought about d'Andre's assessment that in Seattle, even the brothers are whiney white guys. I thought about the squabbles I've had with young Seattle blacks who'd corrected me on what white people think and feel. I thought about how I had an integrated circle of friends the moment I set foot in Pittsburgh, and how I'd felt the sudden shock of missing that more than I'd even known. But how to explain all this to the pastor?

"Well, I'll tell you one thing," I said. "This conversation would never happen there."

"Why's that?"

"Because white and blacks ignore one another like they do everyone else. Because this level of trust between strangers does not happen there. Hell, this level of trust between friends seldom happens there. But mostly, it's because no one cares. People aren't remotely curious about things not up their own butt. To ask that sort of question, you have to think outside the butt."

And yes, I told that whole story just to share my perfected metaphor.


upsell this

I cut it close, but I arrived at the theatre five minutes before my movie's start time. My local theatre long ago got rid of their kiosk, making interaction with humans an unwelcome cost of admission. Now they've upped their obnoxious game.

"Purchase tickets at the concession stand," read the sign in the booth.

I was greeted, of course, by a long line. One eye on my watch, I squirmed as I watched each customer get the hard sell. The long, hard sell. The staff managed to fritter away 10 of my minutes. By the time the elderly woman in front of me was paying for her comically large bucket of popcorn, I was steaming. Waste my money, waste my heart, but do not waste my time.

She took her sweet time getting out of line, so I tried to expedite things. "Medium unbuttered popcorn," I said to the employee who'd gotten everyone else's popcorn. She nodded and did nothing. Another eternity passed. Finally, the old woman left, and I put my M&Ms on the counter.

"Would you like to upgrade to a large for only 75 cents more?" chirped the employee.

It was all I could do not to lunge at her. I closed my eyes.

"Yes. In fact, make it a small. You talked me out of it."

"Uh, okay. You can combine that with—"

"No."

"—a large soft drink for—"

"No."

"only $1.25 more."

"Still no."

"And if you add your candy—"

I grabbed my candy and put it back on the shelf. "You're really good at the upsell," I observed. "Let's move this along."

"Do you have a Regal card?"

"No, and I don't want one."

"Do you want one?"

"No, I still don't. I want to see the beginning of my goddamned movie."

We stared at each other, and I realized I wasn't going to enjoy the movie. I began my 30 minute drive back home.

You know that guy at the car dealership who you have to talk to, even if you're paying cash, about financing and undercoating and warranty extensions? You know that desperate, trapped-animal feeling?

I was preparing to take the dogs to the park, and that half-assed idiot savant Fredo was waking the neighbors with his customary shrill yipping. Vibrating, he poised behind my tailgate, ready to leap into the car.

"I wonder if this moron is moron enough to fall for a hand-fake?" I thought. So I pantomimed opening the tailgate.

Pow. Faceplant into the back of the car.

highlight of my day

For work, I'm building a web site with someone else's content. I just let the following sentence slide. Why? Because it delights me.

"Jesus knows deeply our competitors."
And it's because of that sort of gem that my postings here have been subpar lately. I knocked out 312 hours in March. Among other revelations, I discovered that I'm not 28 anymore.

10 more years

Dex and Fredo are going to be my last dogs for a while. Yep. They broke me.

Oh, they're fine companions. My problem is that they're perpetual companions. I literally cannot shift my weight in my office chair without instigating a panicked, swirling, competitive scramble for affection. Mind you, I don't pet them when I'm working. This is all in their imaginations. If I get up to get a drink, or to relieve said drink 30 minutes later, I am stalked. Sometimes I'm pre-stalked, as a dog will walk right in front of me, stopping every two feet to look back and recalibrate my direction. If someone visits, they get excited like any dog does, but with a pathological flair: they bound back and forth from the visitor to me, poking me with their noses to say Hey! (poke) Yes, we're happy to see this other person (poke), but we just wanted you to know you're still foremost on our minds every fucking second of the day! (poke poke poke)

They drive me bloody insane. I'm starting to book dog-free vacations where the "dog-free" part eclipses the "vacation" part. Am I happy to be traveling next month? Mildly. But I'm counting the days to when I dump the dogs at the kennel.

Fredo was so shadowing me on a bathroom run that when I stopped and locked my knees together, I trapped him between my calves. He's an inbecile, so where other dogs would consider this play, he was just confused by what mysterious force had arrested his momentum. "Superfreak" was playing on the stereo, and I pivoted on my feet to make Fredo dance. He was miserable, so naturally I whipped out my camera and recorded the event at his face's level. I was going to share it in this post, but that ain't happening. It looked exactly like I was vigorously violating my dog.

So instead, I share this almost-published typo.

Capture.PNG

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