the problem with polyannas

It's Day 13 million of my diet, give or take. I took a friend and her husband out to lunch last week, and they chose Applebee's. I scoured the menu for something, anything I could eat.

"I'll take the ribs," the husband ordered. My stomach audibly gurgled.

"Shut up, you pussy," my brain snapped at my stomach, and then I ordered the basil tomato soup.

"I can really see the weight loss," chirped my friend.

"See, the problem is that you would say encouraging things even if I'd put on 20 pounds," I replied.

"I would not!"

I turned to her husband. "Do you see any weight loss?"

"Uh...uh..."

what i'm stankful for

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This year is a no-brainer. I am unbelievably grateful to be living in a hotel in a crap part of town, with no prospect of getting out of here anytime soon. I am grateful to share laundry, to have one pair of pants available, to have to remove my car stereo at night, to have to buy a locking gas cap and chain down the hood of my car, to hear the domestic-abuse victim who's hiding next door weeping through the wall.

My life just two months ago was so, so much worse.

Thanks to the money-pit house and, to a lesser degree, my frustrations with Pittsburgh's culture of low expectations, I got the pleasure of dealing with anxiety for the first time of my life. I slept horribly. I felt self-conscious handing objects to people; my hands, and the object, crazily trembled. I fretted constantly, my mind running hyperactive circles as it desperately tried to find an exit. I couldn't drink caffeine because it only exacerbated things—less sleep, more worry, more trembling. The only thing that brought me any relief was alcohol, and as the child of alcoholics, I do not seek that station in life.

The day I crossed the Ohio border, it all ceased. Click. And now I'm making up for lost time. Here's the floor of the passenger side of my car. Oh, sweet caffeine, my love, my life, welcome home.

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no longer a boy, not yet an old fart

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I've been stuck at a simple maneuver in a video game for a week. I must shoot something that starts a timer, turn 90 degrees, shoot something else, and run across a bridge before the timer runs out. I lack the dexterity to make that second shot. One would think that in 10,781 attempts, I might have gotten lucky once. One would be wrong.

Goddammit, I'll just pay a 12 year old to do it for me.

and my gender continues to serve up the cringe

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If, after I viewed director Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, you had asked me what Gal Gadot's butt looked like, I would have replied, "I don't know. I assume it's nice? The movie was great."

Justice League director Zach Snyder has compensated for this oversight. I now have her butt memorized. Long, fetishizing shots, upskirt shots, shots in tight leather. His camera positively leers. Finally, Warner Brothers hired a director who really gets this character's dramatic essence.

sooperpatriot!

I ventured into the outside world last night, always a mistake.

The Steelers game was still in the first quarter when Cooter sat a few barstools down from me. "I thought Marcus Mariota played for the Titans," he said when Mariota was on the screen in his Titans uniform with "Mariota" emblazoned on it.

"He does. That's him."

"Oh."

It was then that I gave up on having any sort of conversation with my neighbor. About him, sure, but not with him.

"How big is the 10 inch pizza?" he asked his server. Those were his actual words. I excitedly texted Allie.

And then, for the second time in a month, a man sitting next to me watching a football game told me how he doesn't watch football anymore because the players disrespect the troops. I'm incredibly tired of this moronic hypocrisy, and I tried to shut him down immediately.

"The troops argument is nonsense. They never mentioned the troops."

"They disrespect the flag, then!"

"That either. They knelt during the anthem. The rest of this is manufactured bullshit. To hear you people tell it, Colin Kaepernick shit on the American flag, wadded it up, and threw it at a veteran in a wheelchair. The man took a knee in a dignified protest."

He then accused me of not standing for the anthem or, curiously, the pledge of allegiance. I ridiculed his oxymoronic notions of compulsory patriotism, and I asked how many calories he'd expended complaining about cops shooting innocent, unarmed black men.

"Well. My husband is a veteran, and he won't watch the NFL anymore," sniffed Freebird the bartender.

"He hates the troops," said Cooter, gesturing to me.

"Well, I thank your husband for his service, and I wonder what about it entitles him to dictate citizens' freedom of expression. I kinda thought the troops defended that stuff."

That was pretty much the end of it. They're content, I'm sure, to think me a troop-hating, flag-burning libtard that they humiliated with their dazzling riposte. They can say whatever they want, really, so long as they say it elsewhere. But as Cooter scooped up all of his degrees and left, I couldn't not say goodbye. It wouldn't be right.

"Good luck figuring out how big that 10 inch pizza is."

"Huh?"

bad ground! bad!

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Between the dog bite and the wolf, I now carry an expandable steel police baton on my daily walks. Approximately 100% of its uses thus far have been me flicking it and pretending I'm badass. This delusion is soon mitigated by my inability to collapse the baton without stabbing it repeatedly into the ground.

ghetto past

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When I first arrived back in WA, I pulled up satellite imagery and found a two mile trail where I would walk Fredo. It's lovely, with rolling yellow hills on all sides. Other dog-owners have discovered it too, but for the most part they're polite and so are their animals. For the most part.

Two weeks ago, a pair of dogs sped down a hill, 100 yards from their owner, right at Fredo. The first dog was cool. The second dog ran right up to Fredo and bit him on the face. I saw it coming, so my foot was embedded in his eye socket in a fraction of a second. You can guess what happened next.

"HEY! DON'T KICK MY DOG!"

I yelled back at Cooter, every third word being "fuck." He yelled back, and, seeing red, I reverted to the mainstay of my old neighborhood.

"I'm really sorry, but I can't hear you. I just can't make it out. Can you maybe come closer and repeat it?" He did not.

• • •

This morning, Fredo and I were the first to arrive. Dawn was just starting to break. At about the half-mile point, Fredo spotted a dog. "That sure is one big coyote," I thought as Fredo bounded toward it. The animal watched Fredo, unconcerned. That's not coyote behavior. At all. I called Fredo back. "That there," I said to my little idiot, "Is a wolf."

My experience with wolves being nil, I wasn't sure what to do. We continued walking, and he continued watching. I felt like I was being sized up. "Wow, that fat thing is both old and weak," the wolf doubtlessly thought. "Why, it's my evolutionary imperative to thin him out of the herd!"

We walked into the woods, and I looked for anything I could use as a club. I found a 2x4 with a nail sticking out of its end. That would do nicely. I straightened the nail, and we headed back toward the car.

The wolf was gone, but Cooter was there, walking toward us as I emerged from the woods, brandishing a 2x4 on my shoulder. Imagine his surprise. He reversed his path and double-timed back to his car.

maybe speech-to-text ain't quite there, yet

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A friend was texting me about how her daughter is being mercilessly bullied at school. The child is called a whore and a slut like the rest of us are called by our names, and she's traumatized. Mom explained to the kid how these terms are used to oppress women and how she shouldn't give them any power over her.

What I dictated into my phone: "Unfortunately, what you say will carry little weight. She's all about catering to 12 year-old imbeciles."

What my phone sent instead:

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cooterburger

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Until my diet, I didn't realize how much I'd depended on dining/drinking for Stank material. What would you like to hear about? Work? Turkey breast? How I changed the batteries in my hotel remote and it felt kinda wrong to pay for them myself? Yeah, me neither.

Let's call the restaurant nearest my hotel "Cooterburger." My first time there, I eviscerated a customer who was being a dick to the bartender, and by my second visit, the entire staff knew my name and drink order. This has not, as one might think, equated to free drinks. It's a world gone mad.

The last time I ingested a calorie was at Cooterburger. There was a drunk sitting on my regular stool. I find that irrationally irritating, and the first bar that takes my suggestion of a "Reserved for John" sign and velvet ropes fencing off my stool will have my business forever. As I surfed real estate, the man leered at the waitresses and generally creeped me out. One of the waitresses brought me my food and greeted me with a hug. Now the creep was staring at me. He stared at me without blinking for several minutes. Not wanting to hear anything whatsoever that he had to say, I ignored him. Finally he yelled to me, 10 stools away.

"Hey. Hey. Hey! How come you getsth a hug?" he slurred badly.

I stared back, assessing, frankly, how much the imminent punch to the face would hurt.

"I find it helps to not be you."

He didn't understand. I would have rather taken the punch.