October 2006 Archives

killing billing

When I was fresh out of college and the unquestioned Supreme Authority on Everything, I slummed as a technical writer at EDS. This experience netted me two enduring impressions.

The first was when my mentor, a senior writer named Al, looked at my timecard. He squinted at it for a long time. "John..?" he finally drawled. "Are you reporting the hours you actually worked?"

Yes I was.

"Son, son, son. Lemme 'splain how this works." He all but sat me on his knee. "At the end of the week, when you're filling out your time card—listen to me now—it ain't how many hours you actually worked. It's how many hours it felt like."

The genius of this system was immediately apparent. I took to timecard padding like a duck to, well, a really hot, drunk female duck who's on the rebound.

And on it went, through my years as a manager—"Is this how many hours it felt like? No. Gimme a pencil."—and beyond. My masterpiece was when I was still a contractor, though. Having worked a horrendous, legitimate 86 hour week, I added 10 hours. Seeing the big "96," my boss sighed, thanked me for not quitting, and told me to add 10 hours to my timecard. And thus did my 106 hour timecard come into being. I still have it.

So wherever you are, Al, thank you for nurturing my chrysalis sense of entitlement. It really blossomed later on. Today, my life is a veritable monument to your teachings.

Tomorrow: the second enduring EDS lesson

sports bigamists

An old girlfriend had a system in roulette. It primarily consisted of her sitting at the table and looking beautiful until some rich dolt tried to ply his way into her pants by placing an enormous bet on her behalf.

"Dinner's on me!" she'd say later, clutching fistfuls of cash.

Until the dolt materialized, she had another system. She bet on everything. For any given spin, she'd have a dozen stacks of chips out there. Some on odd numbers, some on numbers outright, some straddling numbers, some on rows of numbers. The idea, she explained, was to hedge her losses by betting on as many outcomes as possible. She never won big, but it also took her a long time to go bankrupt. And she had the satisfaction of winning on nearly every spin.

I think of her whenever someone tells me that they're a Seahawks fan and a Rams fan, with a side bet on the Dolphins, and they grew up a Colts fan, so they claim them too, especially when they're winning. This fan, too, is someone who bets on as many outcomes as possible. This fan wants to win on nearly every spin.

general_steelers_logo_44529.jpgBubba is like that. He's a sports polygamist. A renaissance fan. This Football Weekend, we're seeing no less than four teams he claims as his very own: the Seahawks, 49ers, Falcons, and Panthers. nfc.jpgI wanted to get window flags for our rental car. My window would fly the Steelers' colors, of course, but I had no idea what to get for his side. Does the whole NFC conference have a flag?

I don't get it, and he doesn't get my not getting it.

Those of us who marry a team during childhood—and stand by them faithfully, for better and (mostly) worse—have little regard for sports bigamists. We're content to let them exist as inconsequential background noise, but invariably, these people want to talk trash. When the Steelers lose, the gloating mail comes in.

This is exactly as meaningful as a guy who pays for hookers, then brags—to someone married for 30 years—about how much he gets laid. Um, yeah, that's kinda what hookers do. Congratulations on getting laid and all, but what about this transaction entitles you to call the hooker "my girlfriend?"

speaking of calling a fig a fig...

I'm embarrassed by Steelers owner Dan Rooney's alarming Mike Holmgren impersonation after the Steelers' recent loss to Atlanta. Critical to the loss were an unending streak of crucial penalties, about which Rooney later held forth to the media, concluding his tirade with "these officials should be ashamed of themselves."

I was feeling a lot of shame myself after that game, but it had little to do with the officiating. I was ashamed of each of three fumbles that resulted in Atlanta TDs. I was ashamed of the celebration penalty, which gave Atlanta a short field, which resulted in another TD. I was ashamed of atrocious special teams, which sucked all day and led to the kicker's very necessary tripping penalty, a call Rooney inexplicably derided. I was ashamed of a right guard wearing a welcome mat as a cape. I was ashamed of Washington's illegal motion that put the game into overtime. And now I'm ashamed of Rooney for being a whiney-ass bitch.

Thanks, Dan. I was running low on shame there for a second.

at least it wasn't a confederate flag

One of my more self-flagellating hobbies is to look at real estate ads for houses I could buy outright with the equity in my current home. The dream, of course, is to have no mortage and no need of a full-time job.

Never has this hobby been as utterly mortifyin' as this moment, right now.

flag room2.jpg

Note the 48 stars. It'll be a cold, cold day in hell before he recognizes them freak states.

the sleeper sexist

Yesterday's entry about the hurtfulness of lightly used -ist labels made me think of another instance. It was minor, but it shaped me.

When I first started teaching, I was a 26 year old T.A. One of the very first people to sit in my classroom was Bob, who was 75 if he was a day. It was awkward for me at first, presuming to teach someone three times my age, but Bob soon put me at ease by being utterly incapable. What he lacked in ability, however, he had in charm. He was a sweet, soft-spoken old guy, always forgetting that he'd told already us the story yesterday. We didn't care. We were all just running out the clock. The students and I all took to him as our sweet, daft old grandpa.

One day, the reading was about "sexist language." To his horror, Bob learned that his whole life, he'd been saying sexist things. It really upset him. By using the word "mankind" and the masculine generic third person ("When someone walks through the park, he should watch out for dogs."), as he and everyone else in the room had been taught to do, he was committing an ethical affront. Bob had no problem with using gender-neutral language, mind you. He was distraught over having been accused of perpetuating something so vile as sexism.

He stammered at length about how as a good liberal Democrat, he'd always supported equality in the workplace and culture. As the clock ticked off minute after excruciating minute during his pained, defensive soliloquy, soon we were all bitterly resenting the text's casual use of the s-word.

The moment stuck with me. It wasn't enough for the text to say merely "The rule you learned as a kid has changed. Use gender-neutral language." No, they got out their label-maker and got biz-ZAY. What good is being socially conscious, after all, if you can't smear society?

my second-favorite time of the year

My favorite time of the year is, of course, Football Weekend. A close second is when Percy leaves for the winter.

To commemorate today's official beginning of glorious Walking Around Outside in my Underwear season, I give you this post from last year, an all-time reader favorite.

Don't say "homo!" say the trolls of my imagination.

Reaction to my defense of calling a spade a spade continues to trickle in. Heartwarming, it is, to again be reminded that people are just people. Black or white, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, we are all united in our one overarching goal: to be the most offended. To beat someone else over the head with the club of our own moral superiority. It's clear that my attempt at dialogue on race and language has degenerated into a competitive game of Outrage! New, from Parker Brothers!

Ah, unity.

It's a dark day indeed when on this page I quote Marky Mark in Planet of the Apes.

"Everybody shut up. That goes for all races."
The most fun part for me: in one ear, being called an oblivious white guy who doesn't understand the harmful effects of calling spades spades; in the other ear, hearing from Oblivious White Guys (OWGs) who don't think there's anything wrong with saying, well, pretty much anything. I especially enjoyed their equating my spade with the poor, misunderstood Confederate flag.

Pardon me while I scratch. I'm suddenly itchy.

We're talking about apples and anvils. I know I'm me and not you and am therefore not entitled to an opinion, but I propose that any reasonable discussion starts with an epithet taxonomy. Here's mine:

  • Type 1 The presumed epithet. These are expressions that predate slavery, that have no discernible history of being used as epithets, yet are mistaken for one. The fallacy of equivocation is at play, here. Example: "calling a spade a spade."
  • Type 2 A Type 1 that came to be used as racial epithet. Example: "tar baby." (Also, interestingly, the n-word. The most hurtful word in English started out as a mere mispronunciation of the Spanish word for "black.")
  • Type 3 At least partially racist origins, post-slavery. Example: the Confederate flag. Sorry, but when the Idaho Klan uses it as a symbol, there's not much room for the "it's only about Southern pride" argument.
  • Type 4 Unequivocatingly racist, post-slavery. No one who uses these terms denies racist intent. You know what the terms are.

Reader reactions have overgeneralized in polar ways. OWGs maintain that any attempt to deem Type 1 "racist" forgives the use of 2s and even 3s. Charming, no? Meanwhile, others don't distinguish between types at all—for me to protect Type 1 is for me to endorse them all, to say that words don't matter.

To be clear, my original point was merely that Type 1 words didn't belong with the others. I'll now add that their inclusion undermines the discussion. I thought, and still strongly feel, that it's a dangerous over-correction to go out looking for expressions to pronounce "racist." When they achieve Type 2 status, I'm all for revisiting 'em. Sensitivity is called for. Language does hurt, even kill. This dialogue is important and should continue, vigilantly and objectively. This is what I was attempting to do when I got pummeled.

Since that post, I've learned two things. First, OWGs cling to easy targets (like this overreaching exercise given to dorm residents at the University of New Hampshire) as evidence that any dialogue on language and racial sensitivity is silly and fruitless. That is not, however, what I see. I see an noble effort sabotaging itself. I'll argue that by ditzily scrambling innocent Type 1s into their examples, the exercise's authors—almost certainly well-meaning and white—completely undermined their own credibility and, ironically, engendered resentment toward minorities. Want proof? Read my mail. You will see misspellings you never imagined possible.

Meanwhile, several black readers were surprised that, when I'm told that my language is racist, I hear "you're racist." They took great pains to explain that we're talking about racist language, not people, but I'm unconvinced. Is it really that far of a stretch? When I say that someone's statement is "stupid," does that not impugn his intelligence? When I say that his comments are "evil," does that much allow for sainthood? I see precious little distinction between "someone who says racist things" and "someone racist." These folks could, of course, reasonably counter that they're only responsible for what they mean, not for what I hear. But then that argument would extend to garden tools, now, wouldn't it?

october unsurprise

I'm sure the timing of this has nothing to do with the midterm elections in two weeks—or these two fellows' reporting lines. Guess which part I made up:

(AP) Iraqi forces should be able to take full control of security in the country within the next 12 to 18 months with minimal U.S. support, Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said today. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said "success in Iraq is possible and can be achieved on a realistic timetable." Continuing to read from a prepared statement, Khalilzad added that his White House captors have treated him well.

bush uses the google on the internets

Remember when "regular guy" G.H.W. Bush went shopping at JC Penney's with some reporters, and he was flabbergasted by the bar code scanner at the cash register? That's what this clip reminded me of. Transcript:

HOST: I'm curious, have you ever googled anybody? Do you use Google?

BUSH: Occasionally. One of the things I've used on the Google is to pull up maps. It's very interesting to see — I've forgot the name of the program — but you get the satellite, and you can — like, I kinda like to look at the ranch. It remind me of where I wanna be sometimes.

Just talking about it won't make it happen. Go! Go!

Insert predictable using-Google-Earth-to-search-for-WMDs joke here.

jesus casts a stone

I saw this in someone's sig this morning:

"If it were beneficial, their father would produce children already circumcised" — Jesus, Gospel of Thomas

Jesus had a bunch of free time, apparently.

But really, should a god who gave us wisdom teeth and gallbladders and belly buttons and men's nipples really be calling anything useless?

them wacky ohio state universities

Whenever someone wants to make fun of my alma mater, they invariably go after an article. The article. For when I was a student at OSU, the school saw fit to add a "the" to its name. They're "The Ohio State University." Rather, they're "T • h • e Ohio State University." The bullets is important.

The idea was to sound more elite. My suggestion that they heighten their prestige by changing their name to "Bumfuck Community College Extension Campus" fell on deaf ears.

We all cringed. I thought it was moronic, of course, and I wondered how many hours were wasted in committee dreaming up this answer to a question no one asked. In protest, I made my tuition checks out to "An Ohio State University." Turns out they cashed just fine.

ruffles and me

Today I got my absolute favoritist type of phone call. No, it wasn't Minette inviting me to her dinner party tonight. It was a tip that orcas were swarming Metamuville. I dutifully called my whalin' partner. It was then that I learned I rate no higher than 17th in Minette's world. "Sorry," she said. "I can't. I'm hosting a party for 16 tonight."

So I set out by myself and got the only ID photos of the day. Hello, J-Pod. Hello, J1, better known as "Ruffles," a 55 year old behemoth who surfaced right next to my boat and soaked me with his exhalation.

j1 ruffles

orca tail slap.jpg

If you ever wonder why I live with pretentious, soulless, joyless fucks whom I absolutely despise, here's the answer in a nutshell.

scenic.jpg

scenic2.jpg

My sister sent me this blast from our past the other day. This is her college car, which almost killed me on more occasions than your web browser can render. Besides, any stories I tell you won't be nearly as terrifying as what your imagination conjurs.

jj.jpg

Yes, it was ancient then, too.

truth in slogans

Commenting late last season on the expertise level of instant Seahawks fans (by which we were suddenly surrounded), Bob made a joke about "Hasselhoff" being their favorite player.

That was satire. The following, delightfully, is not.

When football fans want to celebrate their own vainglory, they often call themselves the team's "12th man." Football teams are composed of 11 players—get it? Similarly, baseball fans call themselves the "10th man."

In this as in all things football, these Hawks fans don't quite understand. It's been my enormous guilty pleasure to see the following evidence perpetuate around town in and on local media, t-shirts, signs and conversation.

oven 005.jpg

Um. People. The Texas A&M registered trademark you're trying to infringe is "12th man." What the hell is "12th fan" supposed to mean? Perhaps there were only 12 fans in 2002, but certainly no longer; after the Super Bowl trip, there are at least a baker's dozen.

free sienna!

Eminent thespian Sienna Miller created a stir recently when she complained about filming a movie in Pittsburgh. She called the city a clever name that I'm astounded no 10 year old boy in Cleveland has ever, ever thought of: "Shitsburgh." Said the lionized megastar to a Rolling Stone reporter:

Can you believe this is my life? Will you pity me when you're back in your funky New York apartment and I'm still in Pittsburgh? I need to get more glamorous films.
Poor, poor...looking up her name again...Sienna. Let's set up a PayPal charity drive through which the concerned masses can donate to the cause of her driving a rental car to New York, shall we?

Her Pittsburgh holiday didn't get any better. A few days later, the legendary headliner was denied entry into a Pittsburgh pub because she didn't have an ID. She ripped off her hat to reveal her famous locks, then declared to the bouncer: "I am Sienna Miller! I am a famous actress!" The bouncer was not impressed. She then pouted outside for 30 minutes. Said bouncer Dan Kovacs, "She was going crazy out there, stomping her feet. But no ID, no entry - I'm sorry, we can't bend the rules for anybody."

Actress? Famous?

Do famous actresses really have to introduce themselves as famous actresses? Do they get carded, for that matter? Child, the nanny is more famous than you.

300,000,000

"Wanna hold the baby?" Christy asked, effervescing.

It's not an uncommon question lately, but it certainly is a curious one. Why would I want to hold the baby? I don't want to hold her older brother. I don't want to hold your new vase. I don't want to hold the sack of flour over there on the counter. I have no unrequited holding longings whatsoever, thanks. In the event I yearn to hold something, I'll let you know.

Now, I understand why the parent might want me to hold the baby: so they can get a break. Lord knows every time I step into the Metamuville store, Dirt thrusts Ava into my hands. "Here. Hold this a sec." And then he'll walk outside, lie on a picnic table, heave an enormous sigh, and watch the seagulls fly overhead while he nurses a seven-inch cigar like it contains the last oxygen on Earth.

I cannot help but admire his shamelessness.

With Christy, though, it was different. The child was pleasantly sleeping. For some reason, it was important to Christy that I want to hold the baby; when I politely declined, she was visibly disappointed. "You men," she finally sneered. "So phobic of babies. You're not going to break her, you know."

Yes, that's it precisely. It's not that you made a bizarre request for me to do something wrist-gashingly boring. It's fear. Fear of my incompetence, fear for the safety of your child. It's like you're inside my head, it is.

monday morning practice-squad long-snapper

"Monday morning quarterback" just isn't appropriate for someone of my skill level.

It occurs to me that if Ohio State wins the championship, they'll have defeated three #2 teams. Has anyone done that before, I wonder?

worst. mail. ever.

Esteemed Stank troll and Chicago Bears fan Shelley writes to say: enough about the stadium and parking, what did I think of the Bears game and fans? My reply:

The Bears fans were fantastic. Very knowledgeable and respectful, passionate and loud. The knew more about the Hawks than I did. They're very studious fans. And yeah, it was electric. There was an aura of "pinch me, we're better than we'd dared dream!" to that crowd. The Stillers aside, I'm pulling for da Bears this year. They're most deserving.
And how did Shelly repay my kindness? By telling me that she found my site by googling her teenage crush. She writes:
Yep. Mike Tomczak. Your "unspeakable bastard" was my 15-year-old-hormone-riddled-brain, cute football quarterback fantasy. Hey. I will admit that he was LESS than spectacular as a quarterback, but you have to admit to a 15 year old girl he was ever so cute. He was a model for god's sake.
I don't have to do nothin' but stay white and die. There will be no such admission. And doesn't the Bible teach us that the antichrist will be handsome? That would make sense, 'cause it's suddenly feeling like the end times.

the Year of Nausea continues unabated

It turns out there's something worse for my stomach lining than Ohio State being #1.

osu2.PNG

Sorry, Tempe, but the national championship game will be played in Columbus this year.

You heard it here first: the winner will play Texas.

minette, cont.

Hmm. That headline is only one letter off.

Says a feelin' satisfied Minette about my previous post: "Nice photo!"

I've previously written about how people gave me credit for Minette's once-in-a-lifetime double breach photo. I feel sorry for her no longer.

On the front page of today's paper, there it is, complete with a richly deserved photo credit. Minette knew this was coming and politely asked me how I felt about it. I impolitely replied that the guy who provided the boat, paid for the fuel, tracked the whales 180 miles, and pointed her at them was just fine with it.

Congratulations, Minette! You got the shot. I didn't. I'm both consumed with envy and proud. You'd think those mutually exclusive feelings, but you'd be wrong.

pi 020.jpg

You can read the article here.

foley grip

The term suddenly has creepy new meaning, doesn't it?

I haven't much to say that hasn't been covered ad nauseum.

  • I'll really never understand the arrogance of power. How can someone who's risen to office—a status ensuring the existence of many enemies—prey on minors, leave a paper trail, and think that he won't be caught? Of course he's going to be caught.
  • Equally astonishing is that some folks vehemently assert that this story didn't originate from the Democrats, as if there can be only one bad guy in a scandal. This is Capitol Hill. A sensational story, long-buried, exploding right before the midterm elections? They call it an "October surprise" for a good reason. Is there proof? Not yet. But there's a helluva lot of smoke worthy of examination. It's inconceivable to me that the Dems sat on the story for political reasons, but what about this story is conceivable so far?
  • If there's a bright side to this wretchedness, it's the reaction of the religious right. Did they learn that they'd been played by the GOP? That the Republicans found a group of unthinking lemmings; made a couple of insincere, validating noises; and easily stole their devotion and votes—all the while secretly tolerating things like (gasp!) gays in their ranks? No. The lesson the religious right learned was that the Republicans aren't pious enough. They'll demand even more groveling lip-service next time.

Don't you people have children's cartoons to censor or something?

the ed i'll miss most

About the only time my geriatric dog, Ed, springs out of bed nowadays is when she sees me pouring a tawny and cutting a cigar. That signals hot tub time, and apparently it means more than onetime favorites mealtime, ride time, or defecation time.

It started about a year ago, when her physical slowdown became obvious—I started thinking about the inevitable. Specifically when in the hot tub, I started thinking about how much I'm going to miss her when she's gone. It's made the hot tub a melancholy place. Oh sure, there will be other dogs. They won't be Ed, though. For that reason, I took a camera into the tub tonight. Pardon my indulgence.

Here she is keeping watch for whales. Okay, raccoons.

ed hottub 029.jpg

And here she is, whoring for cigar smoke blown in her face, which for some reason she loves. The chances of her sneezing in my eyes are approximately 1:1.

ed hottub 042.jpg

arizona bound

Percy's prepping his house for the winter. I think we went the whole year together without one post-worthy Percy story. With any luck, he'll sell the house to bikers soon and writer's block will lift.

the old last-time-i-saw-my-dad story

Family Week concludes, as threatened, with the original last-time-I-saw-my-Dad story.

• • •

Like many little kids, I couldn't wait to grow up and leave the family. Like few, I actually did.

When my brother sent a message into the fog, our dad had no idea where I was or how to find me. I hadn't seen him in four years. I fully intended to make it a lifetime.

"Dad's trying to drink himself to death," my brother told me.

"How's that new?"

"He really is trying to kill himself. He hasn't eaten in two weeks, and he's drinking nonstop. His bloodstream is pure alcohol. He's trying to commit suicide."

I didn't say what I was thinking: Maybe that's for the best. "Well, take away his booze."

My brother continued. "He's requested to see you one last time before he dies."

"Oh hell no. I have no interest in saying goodbye to a drunken martyr."

We talked some more, my brother trying to talk me into fulfilling the request, for the family's sake. He thought it might make a difference.

"If I go, I'm calling the sheriff and having Dad thrown in the drunk tank," I announced.

My brother didn't object. I was the perfect candidate to do so, after all. It's not like I was going to be cut any more out of Dad's will. And thus did I drive to tiny London, Ohio, against my better judgement. As I approached my father's house, every corpuscle in my body tugged me away. But once you've committed to such an enterprise, I reasoned, you're going straight to hell if you back out. I searched the neighborhood for the address my brother had given me, for a house I had never seen. When I came upon a house with a gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary in the front yard, I slammed on the brakes. It could be no one else's home.

The back door was unlocked, and the house wasn't as decimated as I would have thought. My brother had reported that my dad had spent all of yesterday trying to call him, so impaired was his mind and dexterity; I had expected a war zone. There were a few magazines and newspapers scattered about, but it was otherwise neat. I did some quick reconnaissance. I found it downright creepy to break into this strange, silent house and see long-forgotten artifacts from my childhood—lamps, paintings and such. I paused to look at pictures of the family hanging on the staircase wall. And then in the kitchen, I found a rifle lying on the kitchen counter. Next to it was an illegible note. It looked like toddler scribbling. If my dog, Ed, attempted to write a note while blindfolded and clenching the pen in her butt cheeks, it would be no less legible.

I could put it off no longer; it was time for the main event. I found my way to the bedroom, where Dad waited for me. Unconscious, buck naked, one leg off the bed, one leg on, and ol' brownie winking at the world. I winced and covered him up. The man reeked of alcohol and vomit and alcoholic vomit. I tried to wake him. It couldn't be done. It took me an hour to get him to sit upright and focus his eyes on me. When he did, he thought I was my brother and mumbled something about his rich son taking yet another day off. I informed him that I was not, in fact, my brother.

"Do you know who I am, Dad?"

He squinted. "John...?"

"Yeah, Dad. It's me."

With surprising speed, he lunged at my throat, wrapping both hands around my neck and trying to crush my windpipe with his thumbs. I smacked him off. He apologized. Then he lunged at my throat again.

We played choke-me-punch-you until he got tired, and we sat on the edge of his bed until his breath returned and we could resume. It was then that I noticed his toenail polish. It was sloppily applied—apparently Ed had been clenching the brush in her butt cheeks—but it was definitely toenail polish. And fingernail polish. And rouge. And was that mascara? What had my stepmother done to him? And then my dad uttered the words that would rock my moronic family. Here they are in unfiltered drunkenese:

"Tho....tho...tho....I I I I I I g-guess b-by n-now you you you've phiggered out dat...dat...dat myour old man's a...a...a...tr-tr-tr-transvebspite."

Actually, I hadn't. Thanks for the anecdote, though. I promise to use it only for good.

I explained to him the deal: I was throwing out all the booze, and he was eating, or I was calling the sheriff. I got up to go to the kitchen. He did something approximating my movement, but not really, tumbling like an armload of empty liquor bottles to the ground. I helped him up. Leaning on me heavily, he nevertheless lunged for my throat. Ker-PLUNK-PLUNK.

I got him to the kitchen table and began to cook whatever I could find. He told me how I'd wronged him by disappearing. He accused me of being on drugs.

"I hope you fully appreciate the irony of that statement someday," I snapped.

Oblivious, he plowed on. He told me what a stupid fuck-up I was. Why, I couldn't even get through college.

"Actually, if you'd bothered to check, you'd see that I did."

"LIAR!"

"I graduated."

"Bullshit! Liar!"

I had actually anticipated this particular line of abuse, as it's where he'd left off four years earlier. I pulled my Ohio State diploma, still in its bright scarlet binder, out of my backpack. I flipped it to my dad. "There ya go, Sherlock."

He held the diploma, tried to focus on it, and promptly drooled on it. A big, globular ball o' toxic slobber plunked its surface. And then he dropped the binder, and it slammed shut. To this day, my undergraduate diploma has a huge orange smear. If anyone, God forbid, needs my dad's DNA sample, look no further.

He had me read the diploma to him—a hilarious request, in retrospect—lunged at my throat twice more, and fell down countless times. I don't think he ever ate. Finally, my sister Linda called. I gave her the report, and she said she was coming later and thereby got me off the hook. Except for anecdotal fodder, my descent into revulsion had been a complete waste of time, a wholly unnecessary compromise of my principles. Lesson learned. I was still on the phone when Dad appeared in the doorway.

"Hold on a second, Linda. Dad pulled a gun on me." I set the phone down.

"John? JOOOOOOHHHHN!" said the tinny voice on the other end.

There dad was, cackling with glee and trying to aim the loaded rifle at me. Fortunately, the man who could scarcely stand could point a rifle even less, and I was able to disarm him before anything could happen. But the deed was done. My dad had pulled a gun on me.

I took that opportunity to leave. "Why??" he said angrily. All I wanted was to get out the door and back to the comforts of the fog that hid and protected me from my family. Desperate to extricate myself, I made whatever promises to see him again that it took. He accused me of lying. For once, he was right.

• • •

I drove back to Columbus, where I picked up Maddie at her workplace and took her out to dinner. We sat in a booth, facing one another. I thought she was wincing because of my story, but she informed me that my breath reeked of alcohol. That's how drunk (and near) my father had been. The alcohol in his exhalations had so saturated my lungs that even an hour later, my own breath reeked of his.

• • •

There are many epilogues to this story, but one of my favorites is the most recently discovered. A year after the encounter, when he was relatively sober, my dad's account included some editorial commentary.

"I forgot to check whether the diploma was real," he snorted. That he was unable to hold or read it without help? Not mentioned. The drool? Didn't make the cut. The swipe at my character? There as always. Truly, I must be on drugs not to want to be around people as kind and decent as them.

the new last-time-I-saw-my-dad story

Dirt and I were driving past fields in Iowa somewhere, talking about love and life. At one point he asked, "So when's the last time you saw your dad?"

I described for him the scene. It was 1997, and my sister was visiting me, and Dad decided to tag along. Before we'd left the airport, he was questioning everything. Where I parked was stupid. My car was stupid. Seattle was stupid. Microsoft was no Boeing. I clearly remember spiraling down the parking ramp at Seatac and thinking "Jesus Christ, that's five insults, and we're not even out of the freakin' parking garage."

The weekend was progressively more hostile. His visit was an angry inspection. The more he saw evidence that I had, in fact, succeeded without him and that I was not, in fact, on/dealing drugs as he'd been telling people for a decade, the angrier he became. He questioned whether my job really existed. He corrected the way I filled my gas tank. Because my rental house was more house than one person needed, he accused me of hiding a roommate and demanded to know where she was. He eviscerated a poor teenager working at Subway for daring to ask what ingredients Dad wanted on his sub. Mortified, I gave the kid five bucks as we left. "The kid is a dumbass," I was told, "And you're a dumbass for tipping him." And on and on. And finally, when I was putting the top up on my Jeep and politely declined his help, saying that it would be quicker for me to just do it, he erupted in profanity. I believe "motherfucking dumbass" was what he so eloquently called me in my own home.

The rest is a blur, but I remember a lot of adrenaline and shouting. I chased him up the stairs, shoving him in the chest and very badly wanting him to give me an excuse to throw him off the balcony. Dad declined to take a swing at me. "I guess you only hit women and little kids, huh?" I seethed, fists clenched. "You pussy."

I explained in very certain terms that he would never again be in my home. I hugged my shell-shocked sister and whispered to her that she was always welcome. When I last saw my dad, he was shuffling off to his plane. By the time the story circulated around Ohio and filtered back to me, I was quite the villain indeed.

"But you know what?" I told Dirt. "That wasn't that part that bothered me. What irked me most is that this replaced my old last-time-I-saw-my-Dad story, which was a sordid spectacular. A much better story."

"Do tell."


Tomorrow: the old last-time-I-saw-my-Dad story. Guns! Violence! Nudity!


but honestly again...

Two readers have suggested that the reason some question the accuracy of family posts is that most people would never, ever post such stories. Either out of fear of familial backlash or just plain shame, they would keep the skeletons locked tightly. This makes sense. And since I don't have to worry about familial backlash—what, are they doing to slander me more?—or identify with their insanities and inanities—see "dissociative break," below—it also makes sense that I would feel comfortable with the posts. They ain't my skeletons.

Hell, I finally found a use for these people. Print it! Print it!

the affirming nature of mortality, cont.

helen chen.JPG

Helen Chenoweth isn't really endangered. That's a liberal lie. Why there she is, right on the shelf!

the miracle baby

OHIO - Every argument my mother had with the teenage me distilled down to this essence: I blamed her for my having been born, and she blamed me.

"Why the hell did you even have kids? You hate your kids!"

"Believe me, John," Mom would snarl as hurtfully as she could, "All of my children were accidents."

"They know what causes kids, you know. Nicely done."

Variations on that conversation repeated throughout my adolescence. We had it many, many times. My mother was exactly the sort of person who needed to make it clear that your very existence ruined hers, and she never missed an opportunity to remind you.

CUT TO:
INT. BEDROOM — MORNING — 22 YEARS LATER

It's 2006, and Mom has been dead for two decades. My eldest sister reports that she ran into an old friend of the family, Father Carmine, who I remember in name only. When I was very small, priests would come over to our house and conduct some sort of service in our living room, right in front of the piano. I think one of them might have been him.

All these decades later, to my sister's complete shock, he remembered her. The man must be 80 by now, yet he remembered our mother, father, and all the kids by name. He asked about each of us individually. And when it came to the last, he asked, "And how is the miracle baby, John Paul?"

"What." my sister monotones in my imagination.

And then Father Carmine told her about how my mother so desperately wanted a fifth baby, about how they prayed together that she would conceive.

Now, I'm at a loss to explain how a 34 year old mother of four who didn't practice birth control can get pregnant and have it proclaimed miraculous. And I do not care how. Behold the wonder, the splendor, the divine intervention that is me. Behold John, the Miracle Baby!

It didn't take me long to abuse my new status. "Well," I said to my sister pityingly, putting my arm around her. "We wanted children often have a different perspective..."

but honestly...

OHIO - Anytime I write about my family, readers implore me to say I'm making it up. Even friends can't quite believe the things my family says about me. When they met my sister, both the AW and Minette asked her if it was really as bad as I said. They were hopeful, but the answer, unfortunately, was yes.

So to summarize: the only time people who know me have wondered aloud about my truthfulness is when I've talked about how my family smears me as, among other things, a liar. I hope you appreciate the irony as much as I do.

I've said it before, but Family Week merits a repeat: this site is not a work of fiction. I use only three kinds of fabrications:

  1. The fake news article, like yesterday's, which is obvious enough.
  2. The occasional shot at Dorkass. She is not, for instance, married to a man named Frank. She's a bull dyke spinster who got her kid by trading a mason jar of warm Grey Goose to a Hoboken squeegie guy.
  3. Fake names. The mean sister's name is not really Nadine, yet my brother-in-law's name really is Nelson. "AW" is obviously fake, but "Minette" is real. What's the logic? There is none.
That's it. Everything else is 100% real. Sorry, but these people really do exist.

yankees, media fail

DETROIT (Stank Press) - The New York Yankees failed to win their opening round series against an unknown opponent this weekend.

"We suck," Alex Rodriquez read from a 3x5 card. "Sometimes I have to look in the mirror and admit that we suck."

The Yankees' failure to advance has led to speculation about the fate of manager Joe Torre, who had one less hit in the series than the .071-hitting Rodriquez. It's also led to speculation about what the media will do if the New York Mets, too, fail to win the championship.

"We have a contingency plan," said an evil media magnate on condition of anonymity. "I can't say what the plan is, but let's just say that there's no way the World Series will fall to a small market. It would be unconscionable for the championship to not go to a major media center."

USC football coach (and noted Calvinball ace) Pete Carroll stopped short of denying that the media might award his team an imaginary share of the World Series title. "That's interesting to think about, and one could certainly argue that there's a precedent for a retroactive split championship, but it would be unseemly for me to campaign for it," he said. "Hint, hint."

high praise indeed

OHIO - I awoke this morning, groggily descended the stairs, and was immediately swamped by familial bombast. My sister is reading a book about mental illness. And now it's free diagnoses for everyone!

"BLAH BLAH intrusive BLAH BLAH lying BLAH BLAH disorder BLAH BLAH blame BLAH BLAH Nadine BLAH BLAH mood swings BLAH BLAH Linda BLAH BLAH bipolar BLAH BLAH medication BLAH BLAH schizoaffective BLAH BLAH bipolar again BLAH BLAH post traumatic stress disorder BLAH BLAH brother BLAH BLAH depression BLAH BLAH You, I believe, are normal."

Gee, thanks. That endorsement means so much to me. May I take my morning leak, now?

mars needs women

Did you see this satellite photo of the Martian surface? That's the rover Opportunity parked at the rim of an enormous crater. I've never seen the like. This is beyond cool. It's coolisimo.

co-opting tragedy

OHIO - My older sister Nadine is the family geneologist. She spent years hunting down the origins of the Grimes clan and bapitizing the unsuspecting as Grimeses. My brother-in-law Nelson, for instance. He's a Grimes. It says it right there, in my monthly Grimes newsletter.

As our beloved leader, Nadine writes us Grimeses often, always in response to a deluge of requests for information about her. It turns out we Grimes are insatiably curious about Nadine, who, as a lifelong stoner housewife and recent obtainer of her GED degree, illuminates the world for us all.

When people in Columbus were being shot by the freeway sniper, that was her personal tragedy, for she has, in the past, used Columbus freeways. She wrote us that she was terrified, but well. When a suspected cougar was roaming within a few miles of her house, she was inundated with concerned emails about her well-being, so she sent an update worldwide. When her son's high school football team lost, she pled for understanding during that difficult time. When the friend of a friend lost their house to a fire, it made her Christmas newsletter. Poor Nadine. So much tragedy, so young. She's an inspiration to us all.

The latest missive from Columbus is about the Amish shootings, which, stunningly enough, affect Nadine too:

Due to the many e-mails from Grimes relatives pertaining to the gun shooting in Lancaster, I felt a need to respond.

I have been asked by a few if we are connected... Although I have not heard the list of deceased names, we are genetically connected, therefore regardless they are our family.

The fact that one of my Aunts married the Immigrant Fisher in the early 1700's along with the name Ebersole also in many of our trees, along with Rhoads the midwife for the girls.
Yeah, unfortunately, I would say this is coming really close to home.

And answers the question many of you have had for me, are we related...
Yes, I believe we probably are even 200 plus years later. Cousin Nadine

Allie is a big fan of Nadine's prose. "I'm sending you the latest missive from Nadine," I'll say.

"Oh dear god no," she'll reply, straining to combat the morbid curiosity. She'll lose. "Okay, send it."

I sent it.

"My third cousin eight times removed once said hi to the Great-great-great grandmother of the neighbor of one of the victims," she replied. "It hits really close to home for me, too. People should send me flowers. And sympathy cards. With money in them."

the unveiling

Last night I went out for drinks with a new friend and we showed one another our scabs. I always let the other person go first. She doesn't get along with her parents, who continue their lifelong practice of not much caring about her. The effects are obvious; she's twitchy, nervous, eager for approval. She makes curious relationship choices. She's in therapy, even though she doesn't think it's ever done her a lick of good or ever will.

"How about you?" she asked. "Do you get along with your parents?"

Here we go.

A simple "not really" will precipitate another question, which will precipitate another, and soon this will be a cross-examination. I know from past experience that in 30 minutes' time, this friendship will be forever changed. She'll fall in love with me (or more precisely, with the notion of repairing me), recoil in horror, or some contorted combination of the two. Mind you, I won't volunteer any information. It's just that for every follow-up question she will ask, the answer will be "Yes." On life's grand childhood trauma quiz, I get an A. Not a 100%, more like a 95%, but an A nonetheless.

It's 30 minutes later. Her drink is empty, her eyes are the size of manhole covers, and her arms are flailing wildly.

"How does that not affect you?!?"

"My family? It does."

"I don't see it."

"Oh, they're there. They're always there in the back seat of my mind, chattering in my ear. But I don't let them drive."

"But...but...how can you, like, just decide not to let it affect you?"

"Well, it'd be naive to think that it doesn't affect me at all. I mean Jesus, just look at my life. How many people like me do you know? But yes, at a certain point, I did decide to stop whining and take ownership of my own issues as best I could."

"Yeah, but how?"

"I just got fed up with my family's twistedness and decided that from that point forward, anything wrong with me was my own fault."

"Yeah, but how?"

"I just told you how."

"No you didn't."

And so it will go, forever, neither of us ever understanding the blocking issue for the other. I have friends who get it, and I have friends who don't. The ones who get it? At some point they'd decided to take ownership of their problems, too.

I have a new theory that parents who are off-the-charts, comic-book-villain bad are actually doing their kids a favor. It's not hard to make a dissociative break from comic book villains. They bear no resemblance to me or to real life, the child can honestly say. They have nothing to do with my reality. The child is forcefully shoved toward this realization. He's forced to man-up. Meanwhile, the kids with the merely shitty parents get no life-changing shove. No epiphany. They likely remain in their moderately negative parental dynamic forever, doomed to a desperate, grasping lifetime of "Yeah, but how?"

You heard it here first: parents, if you're going to mess up your kids, do them a favor and really pile it on. They'd thank you for it later, if they were still speaking to you.

natural selection

CHICAGO - When you leave a game in Seattle or New York, you have 1) your car within a half-mile or 2) buses immediately outside the stadium, waiting to shuttle you directly to your car or train station. In my travels to 37 different stadiums, those were the best transit experiences.

The worst is Soldier Field in Chicago. Nothing else comes close. Forget parking; there are only a few thousand spaces. You must take some form of mass transit. Cabs, trains and buses may come no closer than two miles to the stadium, so as a reward for walking two miles to the game, after the game, you and 65,000 of your closest friends trek two miles, en masse, to the same corner, where you compete for a ride. It's as fun as it sounds, especially in a thunderstorm.

So to summarize: and fuck you as well, Chicago.

• • •

The new Soldier Field is an abomination. Who thought combining these architectural styles was a good idea?

soldier field.jpg

You know you ruined it when your National Historical Landmark status is being taken away.

• • •

I'd previously observed that Raiders fans in Oakland bore no resemblance to Raiders fans I'd previously met in other cities. Whereas the Raiders fans I'd met in Ohio and Washington were uniformly boisterous cretins spoiling for fights, the fans in Oakland were all kind to me. Sweet, even. I'm seeing a similar effect with Seahawks fans, but from the opposite angle. I have no problem with the fans who attend games in Seattle; however, the fans who make road stops are singularly boorish. In Chicago as in Detroit, traveling Hawks fans made a point of obnoxiously antagonizing other fans.

Some of that always goes on, of course, but it's not so uniformly hostile. When I went to Michigan last year, for instance, I wore my Ohio State colors proudly. But I also befriended the Wolverines fans around me, shaking their hands and wishing for a good game. I cheered. They cheered. I razzed. They razzed. Any conflict between us amounted to good-natured ribbing amongst sports relatives, and frankly, it made the game more enjoyable. When the good guys won, they grudgingly congratulated me.

I'm thinking that these Hawks fans, in their pristine new jerseys and hats, are new to the playground and have no idea what the rules are. They want acknowledgement, and they'll go to any length to get it. They scream in people's ears. When the other fans scream back, the Hawks fans instantly escalate into profanity and even shoving. It's a scene from middle school. When before the game, you inject yourself into a group of singing Bears fans—minding their own business and ignoring you, which is of course an insult to your sensibilities—and you start pointing to your jersey and screaming "CHICAGO FUCKING SUCKS," you should expect to get your ass handed to you. Which is what happened, much as in Detroit. I suppose that eventually, these morons will be weeded out and the problem will take care of itself. May it happen soon and before they procreate.

Got many emails about this headline in today's paper: Man wanted in shooting at Ohio football game arrested in Washington

white noise

CHICAGO - Dirt just returned to our hotel room. He bears a Sharper Image bag, which contains a white-noise machine and noise-reduction earplugs. The alternative was my being strangled in my sleep, so I'm an enthusiastic proponent of the plan. He ticked off its settings: rainfall, ocean, meadow, and so forth.

"The only question remaining is whether Yosemite Falls can drown out John," he mused.

hi, i'm nobody of any consequence whatsoever

CHICAGO - Dirt Glazowski and I are wrapping up our Midwest swing. On Saturday, we descended upon tiny Iowa City for the Ohio State/Iowa game. It dredged up a lot of torment for both of us. Although we've chosen to live elsewhere, we both pine for the midwest every single day. I'm not gonna turn this into another Seattle rant, so let's just say it's been melancholy.

Dirt was a captain on Iowa's football team long ago, and as such, his experience at home games is nothing I recognized. Everyone knows him. Everyone feeds and houses him. Women 20 years his junior draped themselves on him, or tried to. Me, I shook hands with so many 300+ pound, testosterone-laden NFL players that I reinjured my elbow.

When I was shoving a bratwurst into my mouth and watching the early games on a plasma literally coat-hangered to the side of an RV, a random guy strolled up to say hi. "Hi, I'm Jay Hilgenburg," he said unnecessarily, torquing my elbow ligaments into paste.

"Where's your ring?" I managed not to reply, even though my every cell wanted to.

Dirt chimed in like he would a hundred times that day. He told me a player's Iowa credentials and concluded with "And John here went to Ohio State. He tutored Alonzo Spellman."

The players were even less impressed than you are. Some commented that given Spellman's mental breakdown that ended with him running around naked in the streets, I'd done a particularly impressive job.

Dirt skewered me thusly all day long, but I didn't mind, 'cause it's not often you drink with All Pros, All Americans, and world champs. The day concluded as I knew it would, with the good guys quieting the drunken Iowa crowd in short order.

Like all fans, Iowa folks think they're the best in football. They're certainly top tier in enthusiasm, but they leave a lot to be desired when it comes to actually watching the game. When Iowa held Ohio State to only four yards on 1st and 10, they cheered. When Iowa passed for 8 yards on third and 15, they cheered. When Iowa was driving for a score, the players repeatedly had to tell the crowd to shut up. Got the idea? Throw in that drunks formed human pyramids on the bleachers and that I saw, in fact, maybe six plays the first half, and you have a pretty irritating experience. After considering, at length, how to make a shiv out of my polarizer lens, I left at halftime to go watch the game on TV.

Not seeing the first half and watching the second half on TV in Iowa instead of in my living room cost me $1500. Good times.

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