working on a saturday at 5am

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In my seemingly never-ending quest to replace Amy, I'm again looking for a graphic artist. This means looking at art samples, which led me to a British insurance company's infographic about the dangers of listening to music whilst driving. Here is one portion.

driving songs dangerousness infographic_sm.PNG

And like everyone else who read this, I was drawn to one inescapable outcome.


Still, I call bullshit. Everyone knows Ray Charles' Mess Around is his most dangerous driving song.

she's with the band

I'm casually looking at rural houses. I really like this one area about 20 minutes from the edge of Cooterville. Heavily wooded, giant slopes, and a river. There's a small cafe that serves exceptionally good food, and I always make a point to stop there for lunch. Today it was staffed by two insanely hot women. One was in her low 20s, the other maybe 35. While I ate my lunch, they bustled about distractingly.

"Hey mama, what was that order?" said the younger one.


"Maybe it's a nickname?" I thought, but further observation led me to the inescapable conclusion that yes, they were indeed mother and daughter. No one guilts quite like a mom.

• • •

My childhood best friend became a high school marching band director straight out of college. One does not accomplish this in a desirable place to live, however, and he relocated to a tiny one-light town 90 minutes out of Columbus. Corn fields abutted the school grounds on three sides. It was just far enough to be the perfect getaway for me, and I went to most of his games and watched some epically lousy football and band music. Inevitably, I got to know the kids, to whom I was an old man at 22. Most of them never dreamed of leaving that town, and those that did largely didn't leave anyway, not even to college. Out of the 20 or so kids whose names I remember, one left the area. She now lives in Columbus. She's the worldly one.

Pregnancy was more common in that band than broken reeds. Out of 30 or so girls, 8 got pregnant one year. I had thought that the teenage girls of my high school were the most irrational creatures I would ever meet, so I was fully caught off-guard by competitively pregnant teenage girls. The crying, the hysteria, the recriminations toward everyone but themselves....shudder.

"I think I'm done here," I told my friend. "This is getting really depressing." He understood and wished aloud that he, too, could escape this bumpkin baby factory. Kind as they generally were, those band kids frustrated me to no end. They were seemingly born without ambition or curiosity. It saddened me. I saw their entire lives unspooling before them, and it wasn't pretty.

• • •

In the cafe, I did the math. Mom was essentially one of those band kids, all grown up and slinging sandwiches side-by-side with her onetime baby bump, who, I feel safe predicting, never once considered a life elsewhere, either. Perhaps there is such a thing as too small-town. I wondered if the daughter had a 7 year old of her own. As I drove off, I wondered if maybe I'm done with this small-town, too.

the marriage wrecker

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No doubt protesting his seventh hotel room in seven days, Fredo took a whiz on the rug. I could smell it all too well, but I could not locate it. And so I bought a black light flashlight, which illuminated it brilliantly and allowed me to mitigate the odor. As a bonus, I now have the means of instantly destroying any marriage.

To use the Marriage Wrecker:

  1. Take the wife into their bathroom.
  2. Turn off the lights.
  3. Shine the blacklight on the floor, the rug, the walls, the ceiling, the floral arrangement, pretty much anywhere urine shrapnel can conceivably fly.
  4. On her laptop, helpfully google "Attorneys."


Within 12 hours of arriving in Cooterville, I was at a body shop, scheduling my Jeep's repair. They would get to me in two weeks, and they would arrange things with Avis to have a rental car ready to go.

Yeah, right! I snorted to myself, still fresh from Pittsburgh. I'll remind both of you 16 times and you still won't be ready as promised. But I resolved to give Cooterville a chance. This is a new town, a new culture. I would not let the scars of Pittsburgh affect me here. I would try trusting people to do what they said they were going to do. Deep down, did I fully expect to hear the familiar bullshit about staffing problems or my own failure to meet a secret requirement? Yes.

To. My. Very. Core.

This morning was two weeks later. I pulled into body shop 15 minutes early, parking next to my rental car and the waiting Avis agent. Within view were the parts for the Jeep, ready for installation.

I know this means nothing to you normals, but I actually dabbed a tear. It's really over.

These days I'm living in an extended stay hotel. My possessions are in pods stored in a nearby warehouse. The equity from my houses is in savings. I'm running my business from what is, I assure you, the only hotel room in Cooterville that contains a LAN. This is the plan while I look for a new home. Minimum vulnerability. Maximum flexibility. I'd been looking forward to this day for a year.

But it's a thin line between The Plan and homelessness. I was pulled over by a cop the other day and realized that no honest answer to his questions would satisfy him. No, that's not my current address. I don't really have one. I don't really have a state of residence, let alone an actual residence.

"Yes, that address is accurate," I lied.

With my assets hidden from view, there's a striking resemblance between my life now and my life decades ago, when I was dirt poor. I live in essentially a one-bedroom apartment, and my neighbor is batshit crazy. I use a common laundry. My car has body damage. There is fix-a-flat in my car for the first time in decades. I have very few clothes. (I can hear you in my head, Allie. Stop shitting on my point.) I pull my stereo out of my car at night. Today I bought lock de-icer and used the term "cold-cranking amps" for the first time in a very long time. There's a striking lack of diversity in my life, only this time it's unemployable white miscreants. I bought a locking gas cap. Not coincidentally, I hear police sirens a lot.

By complete coincidence, the only extended stay hotel in Cooterville that accepts dogs is 100 feet from where I crashed in a friend's apartment in 1993. I see my old home every day. "Jeeeeeeezus," I wince. Sometimes it feels like 20 years of progress didn't even happen.

diplomatic corps

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"Hire whoever you want," I once said to Amy, but then I thought better of it. "Wait. Native English speakers only. I'm not dealing with that at my own company."

She sighed the familiar, exasperated sigh of a woman who's tired of my every utterance. "Whatever."

She then set up our interview with a guy named Giovanni Benedetti.

"ARE YOU KIDDING ME?" I shrieked.

"He's English."

"No, he's in England. He probably just got off the boat. Have you spoken to him?"


"I swear to god, Amy, if he sounds like the Mario brothers..."

But Gio was fine, a proper English gentleman whose crisp pronunciation was such that I figure he was annoyed with the sound of my voice. In which case, welcome to the planet's least exclusive party, Gio. Meet Amy, your hostess this evening.

Yesterday I made an appointment to interview another Brit, googling her only after the meeting was scheduled. Oh, no! She's very Indian. So is her entire family. Like dots-on-the-forehead Indian, my most dreaded of accents. I cannot penetrate it. It's machine-gunned gibberish to me. I say "Excuse me?" a lot, but I just respond "Yes" in the dark a lot more. And this is how I ended up working for an Indian multinational a few years ago, quite against my will.

As the appointment approached, I said a silent prayer to whatever invisible man in the sky might be listening.

To whom it may concern,
Please let her be Gio's sister. Or at least born in the UK. Just not Scotland, okay?
I met with her. She sounded like Kate Winslet.
Thanks, bro.
Do I owe you a dead sheep or something?

auld lang syne

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This morning I sent my Pittsburgh accountant my financial information for the third quarter. She replied with a bunch of questions, one of which was "Are you hiring new people?"

"What an odd question," I thought. "What possible purpose could t—"

That's when I saw the strange email on the CC line. A quick googling revealed that he's in my line of work. My accountant had added a job-seeking stranger to the email with my financial information on it.

I'd say it was a definitive Pittsburgh moment, but she would have had to take another two weeks and several reminders in order to fuck up this badly.

the only gun control we need

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Make guns look less like giant penises and more like vaginas.

Poof. No more gun problem.

• • •

After every mass-shooting—now there's a definitively American prepositional phrase, kids—reasonable people reasonably want to revisit the reasonable "well-regulated" part of the second amendment, and the NRA and their legions of elected whores reliably go batshit, decrying the political opportunists crassly exploiting a tragedy.

Yes, never forget who the real victims in Las Vegas are: the NRA.


Until recently, how much I could lift was purely a function of muscular strength. It wasn't a question of whether I should lift something, only whether I could. This is sadly no longer true. Now, how much weight I can lift has more to do with the failing point of tendons and ligaments. For really the first time, I feel youth's absence.

Last weekend, I was asked out by a girl less than half my age. So implausible was this, I didn't even recognize it. After she spelled things out for me, I found her creepy. "Old enough to be her father" understates things. In this town, odds are excellent that I'm a good deal older than him. The ew factor was very high. I try to see the compliment in her overture, but I can't. I just wonder what's wrong with her. Thanks for teaching me a new way to feel old, hon. I needed another.

• • •

The Child Bride was the weekend's Cooterville Moment I.

Moment II was at a Steelers bar, when someone seeing the score of another game asked, "How many touchdowns is in 56 points?" Egad, I thought. Show some dignity. And then every last person in the room turned and looked to me to provide the answer. Only one adult in twenty could divide 56 by 7, and worse, they all knew who it would be. I humbly submit that if I'm the consensus math expert in a room, a sterilization program is in order.

Moment III was when I was looking at real estate. I inquired about septic. "We're not primitive here, John!" the realtor scoffed, playfully slapping my arm. "We put in sewers last year."

Moment IV was a different house. A half mile away, I came upon a bunch of vehicles parked willy-nilly at the side of the country road. That's odd. They're all pickup trucks. As I passed, there was a deafening eruption of gunfire. It was an outdoor shooting range, with people firing guns maybe 30 feet from my window.

"Well, it's two weeks before hunting season," explained the realtor, as if it's my expectations that are insane.