April 2007 Archives

jumping the shark, explained

Speaking with a zygote recently, I mentioned the brilliance of Henry Winkler hopping over a shark on Arrested Development. I then had to explain to my audience that before she was born (and shortly after Jaws came out), Winkler donned a leather jacket and water skis and jumped a shark. The shark. This moment spectacularly signaled the beginning of Happy Days' demise. Never great, from this moment on, the show went on to become absolutely excruciating drivel. Hence the expression.

Whether it's your first time or a wincing reminiscence, enjoy.

stone cold

parental advisoryThe following anecdote is vile. You have been warned. - Editor

Dirt Glazowski called yesterday. Kiki had disappeared, and he was looking for her. "Is my wife over there?"

"Yeah, Kiki's here," I lied. "But she can't talk right now 'cause my dick is in her mouth."

This is the part of the joke where husbands are ordinarily stunned silent, if not whimpering. But Dirt proved not ordinary, indeed. He didn't miss a beat.

"Okay. At least that'll shut her up for a while."

the great escape

Saturday was brutal. Literally nauseating. Wretched news abounded. If someone had said I looked like I'd just lost my best friend, they would have gotten an earful, indeed. Resigned to the likelihood that in a short order, for a variety of reasons, I'll have no friends left on the peninsula, I did what I always do when I'm depressed: I surfed real estate ads.

My mind hasn't changed since the Super Bowl last year. There's a sequence of events that hasn't yet begun. And thank god, 'cause the first event in the chain is Ed dying. When she goes, though, I'll have none of the usual trappings keeping me here. No dog, no kids, no serious relationship, no job for which I have to be here. I can do my job from anywhere in the world.

So why not exploit that? Why not boat up the Inside Passage? Or road-trip across New Zealand? Why not rent a flat in Manhattan and live in NYC for a month? Ditto San Francisco, Portland, Bellingham, Flagstaff, San Luis Obispo, Fort Collins, Charlotte, and any other number of towns I love. Spring in New York. Fall in Pittsburgh. Winter in the south of France. Not as a tourist, mind you—as an ordinary resident. Why not? If I'd lived in Metamuville for a month before moving here, the Supreme Counsel of Overentitled Old White Fucks wouldn't have been such an unpleasant surprise.

These are the thoughts that keep me going. Someday soon, I hope to be among mammals again. Hopefully before I'm damaged irreparably.

tender venom

When trolls link to my site, it usually includes a face-saving qualification.

"I don't agree with everything he says, but..."

Cowards.

I'm used to that. Esteemed Stank troll Char took it to an elegant new level the other day, however. Since this week is kinda meta anyway, I thought I'd share.

I have been reading John for a few years now. He's so funny and opinionated. He and I used to work in the same organization, but I can't really say I know him. What I can say is that in his blog he takes a no holds barred approach to social commentary. Sometimes he really lets loose with some appalling venom and I sit there with my mouth gaping open. Then, he'll turn around and write something so poignant and tender.

I don't know if others "should" subscribe to his feed. He's not interested in saving the planet and he's not trying to win any "nice" guy awards. He is good for a laugh, he shares pics of whales, and despite his hatred for some of his ex-girlfriends, he seems to really appreciate women.

Upon reading this, I seriously considered renaming this site "Tender Venom." A fantastic name. If I'm ever a pro wrestler or porn star, I'm going with it. The "appalling" part took me aback—if I thought a notion was appalling, I wouldn't publish it—but a quick survey indicates that I'm in the minority there. So. Um. Thanks.

I will take exception with the part where I'm not interested in saving the world, though. Not every cause can be solar power and freeing Tibet. Someone has got to take out the trash. For as long as rich old white farts (ROWFs) drive 38 in a 55, I will be there, offering to cut up their licenses. For as long as Seahawk fans celebrate their own magnificence, I will be there, offering to cut the price tag off their Starter jerseys. For as long as parents babble about the thrills of table-walking, well, I won't be there. But when other parents try to impose their religious views on that kid through the schools, you'd better believe I'm there. For as long as people lie, mooch, preen, pose, posture, or claim victimhood or greater enlightenment, I will be there, for you, smiting them as best I can.

Just tryin' to save the world, one asshole at a time.

google and me

By far, this page's greatest number of Google hits comes from people searching for "round mound of ass." I've never gone and looked for whatever site it is they actually wanted. I can imagine just fine, thanks. "Fucking Amy" is probably the second-most searched string. Just how disappointed are they? Anytime I mention a quasi-famous woman, I get hits for years on her name plus "giving a blowjob." It's utterly charming and really makes me identify even more with my own gender.

Of legitimate searches, second-place goes to In Defense of Hate, the post about the late Tim Treadwell. The post's title is ironic, but the queries that lead to it are sadly not. The latest, "tim treadwell dumbass deserved to die," is representative. I like to think of myself as a professional hater, but strings like that (or anything involving Maurice Clarrett and the n-word) show me what a rank amateur I really am. That sort of hate is beyond my feeble skills. I've said it before: sometimes I really resent the Internet for letting society's ugliest dregs seep into my consciousness.

The runaway winner is some variation on "can i still be friends with my ex?" That leads them to my ex-ship post, and sometimes it leads to email. These readers all have two things in common: 1) they're all female and 2) they all try to argue with my stipulation that you need at least a year break before transitioning from lovers to friends. I have no real conclusion to draw from these observations, but it's an ongoing curiosity to me. Why are men not represented in my sample? Why are the women all trying to convince me that they're not deluding themselves? And have any of the women who told me they they were different, that their ex was their best friend now, not in a year, blah blah blah me me me—have any of them actually pulled it off? My collection of "told you sos" is nil.

I told you so.

the legal pad

Sequel to this here post

When I'd taken my leave of Maddie and moved to Washington, she'd predicted that I would leave her immediately for a cute little redheaded undergraduate. This did not occur. Instead, I broke up with Maddie and was dating a cute little brown-headed undergraduate within weeks. Although that's technically not as bad, it would still be enough to get me castrated. I therefore downplayed it. It didn't help.

Plop, plop.

After the Oklahoma trip, I returned to Seattle and took up residence in the Issaquah Motel 6. Good times. I hadn't looked for work in months, so I was effectively starting over. "I'll do anything," I told the agents staring quizzically at the home phone number on my resume. "A-n-y-t-h-i-n-g."

An utterly pointless romantic sacrifice, quitting my job and driving cross-country had also tapped my meager cash reserves dry. I was living on what little credit was left on my college credit card, and that would run out in days. The job gears were in motion, but it would be several months before a paycheck started to come in. I sold CDs for cash. "Aren't you glad you have them for times like this?" asked a friend.

"Not Certificates of Deposit. Compact Discs."

"Oh."

I wasn't going to make it. I needed an infusion of cash, and fast. I briefly considered family but decided the cost would be too high. I'd rather starve. There was only one person on earth from whom I thought I could reasonably ask for money. I would call the person most like family to me. I would call Maddie.

The conversation that ensued will forever define pain for me. I hope. It's as if the woman kept a legal pad by the phone, just in case I called and asked a favor. On that pad was a list of my offenses, real and imaginary, over the preceding seven years. "Yeah, I'll lend you the money," she said. "But then again, on July 1, 1991, you flirted with that red-headed bank teller in the Minerva Park branch."

"Huh? Who?"

"Don't play dumb."

Who's playing? "Sigh. I'm sorry. So very, very sorry."

"And on December 6, 1990, when I said we were having sex at least twice a week, you showed me how you'd kept records all year."

That one I remembered. "I'm so sorry."

"And on September..."

And so it went, in geological time. I got the loan, and she got to declare victory. I'm not sure what a pound of flesh goes for nowadays, but back then it was a bargain. As I recall, she turned a profit.

easy go

A few of my relationships are due to this site. Beyond the assortment of trolls, there are actual people. There's of course the first, Jen, who I've still never met yet who somehow doesn't feel like a troll. Trolls don't screw up the height of my desk chair. Back in the beforetime, I eviscerated the AW's rudeness here. She responded as she does—pleadingly and tearfully—and I seriously doubt we would have ever hooked up without that provocation. I attribute the fact that d'Andre and I now talk more than once a decade to his reading this site. Well, that and his wife. And in another long-deleted post, I antagonized Minette from lurking-troll to baking-whale-buddy status. Now there's no getting rid of her. She's parked her shopping cart full o' junk in my server space and is constantly pestering my bandwidth for spare change.

But let's face it. This site's bread and butter isn't making friendships; it's setting them aflame on someone's doorstep. I don't mean affectionate ribbings like with Dorkass or Allie or Katrina. I mean full-blown kissoffs.

Some don't take. Kathy and Mike Mulligan are still around, still inviting me to dinner. I'd like to think they never saw my kiss-off post, but it'd be in keeping with their overall world view to think it was complementary. Other posts are more effective. How do you sleep? is one of my favorites of all time, due in no small part to the fact that Yoko wrote me. My posts (See also: I, II) were hurtful, she said. She had considered me a friend. All these years, she had defended me to my many detractors, only now to be stabbed in the back. The degeneration of my friendship with Lennon had absolutely nothing to do with her, she asserted. In fact, to protect his fragile soul and our friendship, she would bear the burden of my betrayal in silence, alone. She would never tell my friend about the posts' existence, lest his feelings be crushed by my cruelties. She would selflessly sacrifice herself.

"Bet you she doesn't last a month," I said to friends. "There's no way she can resist nailing herself to a cross for his consumption. It's her raison d'etre." No one would take the bet, and in fact I never heard from Lennon again. After 12 years of near-daily contact. An odd coincidence, that.

Some friendships fall over right away, without being rocked back and forth a few times. For instance, my first ban stuck. At one point during that fateful weekend, we were alone with the eldest and brattiest child. He was swinging my binoculars like nunchucks. The AW asked him to stop. He laughed and swung them faster. "If you do not stop, neither you nor your parents will ever come here again," I promised. He paused, laughed, and continued. Neither he nor his parents has ever returned. So disrespectful was their visit, so profound my distaste, I have not seen them since, period. That post, too, was another unfond farewell to a 12 year friendship.

It's okay. I'd rather have the posts.

easy come

I don't think this page has many readers left from 1999. Jen, maybe. Maybe. Perhaps it's the nature of the site for people to eventually become offended and leave. Often times, they leave with a flourish. They tell me how I was a soldier in their fight, and they tell me how I betrayed them.

Republicans dropped like flies when I made the argument in 2004 that John Kerry was the more conservative option. Any time I take on fundamentalist Christians, I get some heat, but for some reason this modest post about Pat Robertson elicited the greatest number of subscription cancellations in site history, not to mention the biggest number of referrals from Google Images. A post in which I noted that a man traded a mental disorder for Christianity drew the largest number of threats on my person, all from one IP address in Tulsa. Meanwhile, a tweaking of Islamic fundamentalists drew no outrage, no comment at all. Each time I rag on the ditzy left, I lose a few whimpering puppy dogs. Any time I tackle inadvertant racist language, surely a paradox if ever there were one, the black readership rises up to smite me. Likewise when I suggest that accusations of racism have become a cheap means to power, much like accusations of communism in the 1950s. And in the most curious case of all, I lost a few feminist readers when I mocked Newsweek's "Women in Leadership" issue. Read the post, and you tell me who's demeaning women.

Never one to pass up a television camera, tireless media whore Fred Phelps is picketing the funerals of the Virginia Tech victims. Says his daughter:

"The evidence is they were not Christian. God does not do that to his servants."

sequel week

In perhaps the biggest indulgence in this page's eight years, this week I'm going to write sequels to popular posts. "Popular" is a bit of a misnomer, though. Let's say "milestone" posts. Anyway. These will be posts about the aftermath of the posts.

approval whore ii

marquee.jpg

A sequel to this here post

I haven't heard from her since I ran that entry. There was the silliness where she sought to talk to my students and lied to her boss about it, but that's as close as our paths have come to intersecting. I call those years "happy years."

The most telling ramification from this particular entry: from my gleefully ungenerous description, several people correctly deduced her identity. If ever I wondered whether I'd been unfair, there's my vindication. The very essence of the scientific method, it is. Talk about your scathing indictments. "It just...fit," explains prepubescent Stank troll Laura.

Meanwhile, the post coincided with a lifting of a gag order on Dorkass, who I had coerced into keeping my relationship status under wraps. "Do I still have to lie about it now? she asked. I said no, I suppose not.

By the end of the day, no fewer than a half-dozen people found a way to acknowledge that they now knew. When I asked how they found out, it all traced back to one source. She is a technological marvel.

Once again, the evolution of mass communications: telegraph, telephone, tell Dorkass.

mop-headed corpse

donimus.jpgI've avoided the whole Imus affair, as it seemed like there was little to say that hadn't been said simultaneously in 172 media outlets. But I have four observations that I haven't heard elsewhere:

  • Have you actually seen the Rutgers women's basketball team? They look like a church choir. Lovely, glowing young women, every one. WTF was he even mocking?
  • College athletes are easy targets because they're often frauds. Specifically, male college athletes. The Rutgers women? They're serious students. They have to be. They're not doing a required bogus year of college and then skipping town for a $70 million contract, a la Roethlesburger or Durant. They're doing four very real years. They get their degrees, and they don't have a university escorting them through easy teachers and basket-weaving classes while they do it. They don't get $1000 handshakes from boosters. They don't have a wealthy future in basketball. They're the scholar-athletes we all wish our male athletes were, working twice as hard as everyone else to keep their grades up, knock out the rent, and win a championship. Clearly, they need to be derided.
  • Quick: who won the women's tournament in 2007? Right. No one will remember Tennessee's great season. They're a secondary victim of all this.
  • On one hand, I recognize these post-outrage apology tours for what they are: 21st century dancing. A guy says something offensive? Let's make him dance. The more obsequiously and publicly, the better. On the other hand, I just can't make myself feel sorry for Gibson, Richards, Hardaway, and Imus when guys like Sharpton and Jackson start clapping a beat. In tormenting and humiliating their ilk, aren't the latter doing us all a huge favor, really?

great sucking sound

If I have an off day at Microsoft, no one even notices. It's like if Seattle got 250 days of rain instead of the usual 249. People are utterly desensitized to the rain, and they're not going to notice a little more. So is it with my occasionally adding to the collective incompetence at work. Mine is a tinny fart in a deafening flatulence chorus.

Not so with teaching. You're farting solo.

I conducted a truly lousy class today. I'd say I lost 'em, but I never really had 'em. They stared at me like I stare at my dog, Ed, when she won't stop pacing. Kinda a combination of irritation and even greater irritation. It was mortifying, in that "can't stop babbling during an interview" way. I sucked, I knew I sucked, and I couldn't stop sucking.

I missed this?

well, crap

My secret evil plan this quarter is to find a young copyeditor. Since the moment they filled out their questionnaires on the first day, I've been studying the students, sifting through the tea leaves, trying to divine whether my next apprentice is among 'em. It'd be a great gig for someone. The job is already waiting for them, they'd have me to train them, and not many gigs pay this well—let alone for General Studies majors right out of college. Hence secret evil plan. I don't want lobbying.

I was hopeful that I'd found someone very good. Then yesterday, this leading candidate misspelled her own first name.

"Um, Jillian? Your name only has two Ls in it."

i report. you decide.

In eight hours' time, I saw the following two idiocies. I can't decide which is funnier, so you pick.

From the bowels of lawyers comes this nugget:

"For information on choosing fictitious names, see the Fictitious Guidelines."
And from the cerebral poop-chute that is academia comes this dropping:
"The permanent ad hoc committee meets Friday."

mixing metaphors

Miss Courtney, possibly the most guileless person I've ever met, is presently having a blowout fight with her parents. Mom and Dad started an emotional brawl that they cannot win. They disapprove of her equally sweet, guileless boyfriend. Until he is white, she is not welcome at their home, not even for holidays. They have declared all-out war on their daughter. This upsets her, but she does not allow their crass manipulations to affect more than her emotions.

A grizzled veteran of familial wars, I've lent what moral support I can. "The dynamic you establish here will determine the course of your relationship with your parents for rest of your life," I caution. "You cannot afford to cave, especially when they're so out of line."

Mind you, Courtney is a Disney character without the fur. She lets bugs outside instead of squooshing them. Rushing with sword brandished to a fight is not exactly in her nature. Yet so far, so good. When the cause was just, she stepped up and fought. I'm proud of her.

Obviously, this recent college grad isn't getting the normal sorts of help from her parents as she starts out. So whenever I'm upgrading something around the house, I offer her the old model. She usually accepts. So was it with my old Kitchen Aid mixer.

As I chipped off year-old pizza dough in preparation for giving the mixer to Court, I reflected on where the mixer originated. On the day that was supposed to be my wedding day, friends took me shopping. The exercise was both practical and cynical. I bought all the things, a mixer included, that I might have expected to get as wedding gifts. To those friends I am indebted, 'cause that day surely would have sucked bilgewater without their thoughtful interference.

As I chipped, I reflected on the irony. I never would have bought that mixer were it not for one woman's capitulation to crass parental manipulations. And now it was going to her exact opposite. Given essentially the same "him or us" choice that Fucking Amy had, Courtney did not throw her beau under the bus. Instead, she took the path of greatest resistance and defended her relationship and, notably, herself.

It pleased me enormously to bequeath a symbol of one woman's lack of moral courage to someone who has it in abundance.

brioche tart

Simultaneously watching Ohio State/Minnesota and baking proved to be too much for my snot-addled brain, but I carried on. I need to give my immune system a good sugar shock, after all.

The tart was quite good, not otherworldly, but after spending parts of three days on the damned thing—not to mention doing two dedicated loads in the dishwasher—I'm posting pics. This is the "brioche tart with white secret sauce" from Julia Child's baking cookbook. The tart's garnished with peaches and plums. The pan was an inch in diameter smaller than called for, hence the poof factor.

brioche 007_sm.jpg

brioche 006_sm.jpg

nicknames I have known

Name: "Johnny"
Bestowed by: Mom
It's certainly a lame nickname. But for Mom's strenuous attempts to popularize it, it wouldn't be worth mentioning. It didn't take. I hated it. Everyone else hated it. Had her campaign occurred several decades later, she would have been told "Stop trying to make 'Johnny' happen."

Name: "Yellow Card"
Bestowed by: Soccer coach

No one kept stats, but I'd guess that 90% of the minutes I played, I played with a yellow card on me. So infamous was my goonery that one time, the ref yellow-carded me during pregame introductions. True story.

Name: "Bleak"
Bestowed by: Co-workers

For one tortuously long, humid summer, I worked on a construction crew, building condos. The name was apt.

Name: "Egger"
Bestowed by: Neighborhood guys

I'm white. I'm bald. I'm round. What else would my nickname be? Actually, until this was concocted I answered to "white guy" and, when that distinction was no longer precise, "the Moving Pick." (Usage: "I was hustling back on defense when Moving Pick over there took my pins out. Hence my liquid diet.")

Name: "Pointy"
Bestowed by: Dorkass

Archaic. When she reported to me, she popularized this reference to the pointy-haired boss in Dilbert.

One time she and I were playing a video game in which the best possible weapon to fire at the other was a skull-seeking missile that drilled into your opponent's head, sending blood and brains spewing everywhere. What was the weapon called?

Name: "The Cerebral Bore"
Bestowed by: Dorkass
"It's your new nickname!" she squealed with delight.

Name: "That Kid"
Bestowed by: Assorted Metamuville old farts
I can't believe I even think about moving.

Name: "Slowing Down Jeep Guy"
Bestowed by: Hot Jogger Chick
There is precisely one attractive woman in Metamuville. A lovely redhead, she jogs down Metamuville Road daily. A piggish bare-head, I usually slow down so that I might bask in her beauty a nanosecond longer. To my surprise, when I was at the nursery yesterday, the employee who came over to assist me was, in fact, her. "You're Hot Jogger Chick!" I exclaimed.

"You're Slowing Down Jeep Guy!" she replied.

don imus remembered

As white people everywhere scamper to prove that we're each more righteously outraged than the next, I want to instead reflect on the only other thing I've ever heard the man say. It was one of the top-ten laughs of my life.

He was speaking at a roast, as was Pat Buchanan. Of the latter, Imus said:

"What most people don't know about Pat Buchanan is that one of his relatives was killed at Auschwitz.

His uncle fell out of a guard tower."

for amy

No, the other one.

ed lobster.jpgMy friend Amy got her college degree from Georgetown. I was astonished when she told me this a decade ago, as it had never occurred to me that Georgetown was a real university, with actual students and stuff.

I certainly knew of their basketball team, though, and now every time their path crosses with Ohio State's, I try to lure Amy into a bet. Newly a Maine resident, she recently agreed to salmon-against-lobster stakes. One hardcourt manhandling later, today a live Maine lobster arrived at my door. I named him "Henry." I hear he was delicious.

To paraphrase the great P.J. O'Rourke: the only thing more distressing than Americans' continually electing action figures as governors is that the action figures don't do a noticeably worse job than other governors.

Are you watching what's happening in California with fossil fuels? Governor Arnold (you look up how to spell his last name) is taking a dastardly Republican, free-market approach to changing the energy infrastructure of the state. You can keep your SUVs, says Arnie. Just make them run on hydrogen. And he's providing business incentives for both both supply and demand for hydrogen cars.

Will it work? I don't know. I'm sure parts of the program will fail, and I'm equally sure that its opponents will latch on to those as disproof of concept. The creation of hydrogen fuel costs more energy than the fuel itself contains, and that means burning fossil fuels or nuclear power during its synthesis—options that won't thrill everyone. But I love the approach. I love the assumption that people are basically selfish and won't give up their great big SUVs, for this is what I too believe. If giving up SUVs is critical path, change is not going to happen anytime soon. Instead, Arnold's practicing realpolitik that acknowledges the truth of human nature—as opposed to the bitter pill that the green movement usually serves up to the general public: the only possible solution is for everyone to be just like me.

And most of all, I love that Arnie's got a vision beyond 1) Priuses or 2) science cooked to deny the problem. Kudos to the great experiment. Anything that pisses off both Republicans and greenies just feels...right.

lemonade

For the most part, my dog Ed's old age has sucked. Specifically, it's sucked the cash right out of my wallet.

Rimshot!

The first thing to go was her hearing. It's a royal pain, especially when my once-obedient dog is trotting purposefully away from me toward traffic or rat poison or Katrina's neighbor's lawn.

ed.jpgBut of her geriatric maladies, this is my favorite. For the first time ever, I can sneak up on her. No one is more surprised by this development than Ed. The gentlest tap on the shoulder yields complete cardiac arrest. Remember the opening credits for the show "Alice," when Vera is loading straws into a container and they just explode in every direction? It's exactly like that. Ed reflexively tries to bite me, but by the time her teeth reach where she was tapped, I've made a drink and retired to the other room.

I haven't had this much fun since she figured out the fake-throw trick.

tressel hayes

Finally, a miraculous baby.

"liahr!"

Recrimination was swift. Says angry Stank troll Minette: "You've told me five of those lies!"

lies i love telling

"Sorry, I already have lunch plans."
Told to: Someone at work, usually my boss, who wants me to attend an excruciating birthday lunch with my co-workers. I'd rather clip my toenails in a Cuisinart. Lunch is my time.

"September 31."
Told to: Again someone at work, when they ask me when my birthday is.

"She's my ex-girlfriend."
Told to: Bona fide loser who expresses an interest in one of my friends. This is vastly more effective than saying she's got herpes. It's a complete interest-annihilator. Only once did I have to follow this up with the phrase "sloppy seconds" in order to repel the guy.

"Bad sushi."
ist2_1734967_man_sitting_on_a_toilet.jpgTold to: Someone who doesn't know me very well, 'cause I never eat sushi. But if you're going to feign illness, go for something 1) unprovable and 2) about which no follow-up questions will be asked, lest your answer again include an allusion to wood chippers.

"Friends in Spokane."
Told to: Someone inviting me over for a holiday—someone who, suspicious, asks with whom I'm spending the day. Not that there aren't friends in Spokane, but I'm probably just sleeping in.

I'm miserably busy.
Emoted to: bosses, love interests, pretty much anyone who measures their own success by how miserable I seem to be. I learned this in grad school. I didn't have to actually work hard on my thesis. Just so long as I carried around a big stack of books and looked like I was about to cry, the faculty was completely satisfied and left me alone.

"I'm between jobs."
Told to: Contractors who are bidding on something.

"I work for Avis."
Told to: Anyone who asks me where I work. I used to say "Boeing," but then I ran into someone who actually worked there. Excruciating, but still less so than admitting "Microsoft."

"I have no living relatives."
Told to: Anyone asking about my family. Same diversionary effect as "Avis," except that I don't really want to work at Avis.

"Wow. Ed really adores you! She's usually so shy with new people."
Told to: Women. It works because they want to believe there's homage in my dog's perpetual butt-wiggle. If Satan himself appeared in my living room, Ed would whirl around his feet, whoring for him to scratch her ass with his pitchfork.

atheistic help, 5¢

Near my campus office yesterday, a couple of atheists had set up a card table with the sign "Learn about atheism. All questions and comments welcome."

Taking them at their word, I asked "Why do you, of all people, care what I believe?"

They babbled about wanting people to divorce first-century superstitions and think rationally, like them.

"But that doesn't answer my question. What's the difference between a Muslim wanting me to embrace his beliefs, a Christian wanting me to embrace hers, and you very much wanting me to embrace yours? Isn't your card-table setup here just a different flavor of needy?"

Turns out all questions weren't welcome.

I'd set up a Church of Validation Theory card table, but the irony is just too rich.

spare him his life from this monstrosity

Continuing the recent discussion of class (I, II)

More often than not, the last waking thing I do each day is climb into a behemoth of a reclining chair. The AW derisively, if not cleverly, deemed it "Chairzilla." It's quite possibly my happiest place on earth. Bed to my left, TV before me, and Puget Sound to my right, it's where I like to nod off. And when I wriggle under the blankets, I let out an involuntary little giggle. It's the delighted giggle of a poor kid.

I don't know for sure, but I'm betting that most folks don't go to bed giggling over their wild-ass luck. For the perspective it now allows, I'm eternally grateful for my having been that poor kid.

The perspective doesn't just lend to guilty giggles. Sometimes it staves off fear or worse. When tech stocks crashed in 2000 and scores of Microsoft millionaires instantly became Microsoft really-good-health-insuransaires, a pall fell over my peers. Corporate depression set in, and if not depression, anger over a lost entitlement. The company must issue more stock, I heard. Our millions must be restored.

I would have joined the chorus, but I was too busy going "Whoo-hoo! I'm a really-good-health-insuransaire!"

That's an overstatement, of course. I wasn't exactly delighted, but I was far from depressed. It was like for a moment I thought I held the winning lottery ticket, but then it turns out they were holding the ping pong ball upside down and that 61 was really a 19. I never thought I deserved the lottery. I would be fine without it. I was philosophical and shrugged it off. Easy come, easy go.

I still feel that way. If the gravy train is ever discontinued, if I become unemployed, even poor again, I know I'll be fine. I've been fine before. I don't seek it, but I don't fear it. And unlike many of my silver-spoon-suckled peers, I'm certainly not inclined to make myself miserable to avoid it.

I'm sure it wasn't by design, Mom, but that's two I owe you.

a post for three people

At their Miracle Baby convention last weekend, Dorkass asked Katrina if last week's crack-whore post was for real. Katrina broke out some hand puppets and explained that sadly, yes, the events transpired as written. Dorkass wondered why Katrina—who never, ever lets me write about her—allowed me to publish that story, of all stories.

"I wanted Annette to yell at him," came the reply.

first day of class

I'm nothing if not lazy, so I had the students do that irritating exercise in which they introduce themselves and lie unconvincingly about why they're in my class. (The only honest answer: "I need this credit to graduate.") One student suggested that we describe the worst job we ever had, and I thought that had potential, so I added that particular pony to the show.

The pony turned out to be quite the dog indeed.

"I was in the infantry, killing people and learning how to switch off caring," said an older student. I tried to fill the stunned silence by asking him questions, but it got worse. He was kicked out of the army. He was bitter. He said they trained him to kill, broke down his soul, never rebuilt it, and scraped him off on society. Unable to stop emoting in my class, he then described his post-traumatic stress in detail. He used the word "killing" a half-dozen times.

A numb girl went next. "Uh, I worked at Starbucks..."

Trying to salvage the afternoon, I asked her what the most annoying type of customer is. She wrinkled her face in disgust.

"Foreigners."

rethinking mom

I've been wanting to write a play about my mom (I, II, III) for years, now, but I'm having no luck getting my head around her character. You'd think that'd be easy enough, but you try writing about a selfish, bitter, insanely jealous hero. Not many characters in literature or film fit that description, and for good reason.

The "hero" notion is something that I've only become aware of in recent years. When divorces spread through her circle in the 70s, Mom dumped my dad (I, II). He deserved to go, but in casting off the breadwinner she consigned herself, and her remaining child, to a life of poverty. Mom had a college degree [sic] in Home Economics. She'd never held a job. She would only hold two in her life: working the deli at the neighboring Kroger and wiping butts as a nursing assistant.

I told other kids she was a nurse. I was ashamed of her.

I was a latchkey kid. Money was scarce. We didn't go on vacations or trips to amusement parks like my friends. A couple Christmases went by without presents. In perhaps my personal lowest point socially, I had four shirts in the sixth grade. I carefully rotated which shirt would be worn twice, hoping that no one would notice. They did. You know how kind kids can be.

In modern parlance, I was an "at-risk" kid. I had no conception of it at the time, and all credit goes to Mom. She worked hard. (She bitched about work constantly, costing her "superhero" status, but frankly so do I.) But despite the fiscal realities, I never worried about going hungry or not having a roof over my head, and I accepted as a foregone conclusion that I would go off to college and live happily ever after.

Now, I was not uninformed. Living alone for long stretches when she was hospitalized with cancer, I had better access to the checkbook than most kids. I knew the realities, yet I worried not once about my home's stability or my lack of future. For creating such a comfort level, my mother is a bona fide hero, for surely she worried about it constantly. That this at-risk kid didn't become a realized-risk kid is entirely due to the wholly unwarranted confidence she engendered.

But how to marry that accomplishment with the woman who viciously maligned her children at every turn? Who wailed enviously, and unremittingly, about what others had? When I figure it out, I'll let you know.

rematch!

You heard it here first, on December 3:

"Ohio State and Florida are 1 and 2 in football and 3 and 4 in basketball, so a rematch in March is even possible."
I suspect that my boys are in for another butt-kicking at the hands of the Gators tonight, but ya never know. I've been waiting for them to lose all tournament, and they outlasted 63 other teams. At one point, I had them at 1-2 in the tourney. Quite the feat.

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