June 2007 Archives

erectile dysfunction ads

Sometimes I'm guilty of being a little too amused by spam. But I defy anyone whose dog's name is Ed not to be amused by subject lines such as "Don't let ED ruin your sex life!' and "Be a whole man again, get rid of ED forever."

alien invasion

It's time for Lynn and Sue's annual visit, which means it's also time for oddsmaking on what criticisms I'll hear.

1:1 The back seat of the Jeep is not fit for human beings.

1:2 I live too far from the airport.

1:1 It's too cold. Clammy, even.

1:4 I'm a horribly lonely man.

1:3 They would really like to go to my wedding someday.

1:2 My house is disgustingly filthy.

1:1 The latter has a lot to do with the former.

1:3 I'd be stupid not to move back to Spokane.

1:3 I'd be stupid to ever leave this place.

1:4 I'm too fat.

1:5 The food I eat is unhealthy.

1:2 What, no filet mignon tonight?

For years, I've ridiculed Veronica about her having been in two one-car accidents in her own driveway. Twice, she hit a fence paralleling the asphalt. I think this is worthy of ridicule; don't you?

I was recently in a hurry, hopped into the Jeep, and backed out of its parking space in my turn-around. Oh shit, I thought. I forgot I parked the truck back there. I slammed on the brake, but I had too much momentum. Pow.

truck.jpg

It immediately made me think of the Simpsons episode where Homer rear-ends someone, consoles himself with "Oh well, at least I got him as good as he got me," and then realizes he was in his own driveway.

Meanwhile, Veronica insists that this counts as two accidents.

fuckin' rupert

The following post is about Tourrete Syndrome and contains vile language. Even worse than usual. You have been warned.

• • •

We were fresh out of college, and our new boss wore a grave look as she sat us down. "I should tell you..." she began, searching for the right words. She didn't find them. We all shifted uncomfortably.

"Do either of you know what Tourette Syndrome is?"

We did, kinda. Neither Michelle nor I had actually experienced it in its actual, non-punchline form. Our boss proceeded to tell us that the staff of forty included Rupert, whose Tourette's was getting nicely under control but who had, in the past, offended the occasional co-worker. Thusly prepared, we could just pretend it didn't happen, like the rest of the staff did.

"Just so you know," she said. We were game.

Later that day, when the umpteenth introduction to a new co-worker was made, my cubicle-mate Betsy finally uttered the words "John, this is Rupert." He was a slight young guy, alert and well dressed. He seemed normal enough.

"Nice to meet you," I said, offering my hand.

"FUCKIN' LIAR! welcome aboard!" Rupert replied cheerfully as he shook my hand. "We're glad to have you here." He turned back to Betsy.

"FUCKIN' FATASS DYKE! so when are you handing off the files, STUPID FATASS WHORE! Betsy?"

Holy crap. What was it like before he got it nicely under control? When he left, Betsy and I commiserated. "They say it's utterly random, that the words that spill out have nothing to do with the actual listener or subject matter," she said.

Um. He just called a heavy-set lesbian a fatass dyke. That's random?

"Yeah, I know. He's got a real knack for that."

Rupert had knacks for two kinds of outbursts. The first was active, like the dyke thing. He'd be talking to you when up from his subconscious would bubble the most vile, hateful words—which were in no way, shape, or form random. When people told him they'd call him to let him know where the staff dinner was, they were "fuckin' liars." Which was probably true enough. Meanwhile, any woman who disagreed with him was, at best, the c-word. Michelle, a Jew, was called "Bagel tits" and all sorts of hideous variations on kike and hebe. And so on.

The passive outburst, on the other hand, was utterly random. When he worked at his desk, a constant stream of nonsensical vulgarity spewed out. This, for my money, is where working with Rupert became nigh on impossible. We worked for the state government, you see, and the state government wasn't about to give Rupert one of the senior workers' private offices just because of his disability. No, he was in a cubicle with the rest of us. All these years later, I can still hear his rhythms as he serenaded the room. There was about a 10-20 second delay between screamed outbursts.

"HEY!"

"HEY!"

"HEY! Fucker."

"HEY!"

"HEY! Lick my melon."

"HEY! Fucker."

"HEY!"

"HEY! Fuckin' fatass."

"HEY! Cocksucker."

"HEY! Cunt whore twat."

"HEY!"

"HEY!"

"HEY! Fucker."

The latter was his favorite. I still dream about it occasionally. I had thousands of hey fuckers screamed in my ear, and I've even come to reflect on them fondly. At the time, not so much. Work was impossible. You would cringe in anticipation, waiting for the next outburst to be screamed. "It's the Chinese Rupert torture," I told Betsy.

One day, we gathered after work to play softball. This league had umpires, and when we saw ours, we collectively stopped and gasped. She was black. Rupert was right behind us. We paused to imagine the impending horrors. I shuddered. We couldn't expect people from the real world to buy into that "getting it nicely under control" nonsense. And more to the point, I very badly didn't want to hear what came next. We took a quick poll. It was unanimous.

"We forfeit," I told her. "We don't have enough players." Or maybe just one player too many, I thought.

"Fucker!" a voiced rang down from the nearby hillside. "Fuckin' liar!"

I lowered my voice to the umpire. "Tourette Syndrome. Pay it no mind. That's totally random. "

hey man nice shot

Yesterday I took Blondage, a fellow midwesterner and a recently transplanted co-worker, to a local vista. Stunning by any measure, Hurricane Ridge especially distinguishes itself by providing a spectacular view of the Olympic mountains without requiring that I walk farther than 100 feet. The only elevation gain is at the end of the visit, when I step into the Jeep. It's perfect.

P6205263_hurricane_ridge_800.jpg

Yesterday was the first time Blondage had experienced being hot at 4pm, then being in a snowstorm at 5pm. "Snow in June!" she squealed. I remember being similarly dazzled my first time. Snow in June was once inconceivable.

We pulled over to inspect the quickly accumulating snow. Gender stereotypes were quickly enforced. While she caught flakes on her tongue, I made a snowball. Aiming at her face, I fired it from 20 feet away. At the last second, my throw broke and impacted perfectly in the crotch of her jeans. It held there like velcro. Time stopped.

Do I apologize? Do I explain I was aiming for the face, instead? And does that make it better or worse?

Ultimately unable to admit that I'm that bad a shot, I decided to play it like the throw was on purpose. Because I'm just that cool, you know.

knocked up

Staring dully at the distant horizon, Dirt drew mightily on his cigar. He squinted at me, then squinted back at the horizon. I could tell something profound was bubbling up.

"So. What chick are you most glad you didn't knock up?"

I gagged on smoke. Ignoring the presence of his toddler, I mentally ran through my sexual history, which could easily be recorded on one side of a 3x5 index card. Including annotated histories.

Those women would all have been disasters. Can I have a massive tie for first place?

"Can I have a massive tie for first place?"

"No. You gotta choose one."

But how? By what criteria do I narrow the field? There are the chicks who drove me crazy vs. the chicks who are themselves crazy. The women who would be horrible mothers vs. the women who would be horrible parental partners. This is diabolical. There's no right answer. Pressed, I chose the one who became a religious fanatic. She's crazy and drove me crazy, and there'd be a lifelong battle over the child's soul. Seems reasonable.

Speaking of God, thank God that Dirt didn't think to ask which ex I would have preferred to knock up. Shudder. I'm springing that one on him next time.

the republican carter

A student and I were talking about her career prospects, and conversation wandered, as it's wont to do when I'm talking about work, to other topics. Any other topic.

Our mutual disdain for W., for instance. She leaned sideways and tilted her head uncomfortably. "God, I hope Obama wins," she said with enough desperation that I wondered if her parents' lives were in the balance.

"Why's that?"

"He's exactly what the country needs."

"Why's that? What about him appeals most to you?"

She babbled about fairness and peace for a while, soon betraying that she had no actual idea what his policy positions are. She talked at length about how Bush pretty much single-handedly invented Islamic terrorism. I let her. I like her, and I don't see much point in telling a 22 year old that they're as sage and worldly as a 22 year old.

I only bring this up, really, to illustrate what I think is Bush's second-most lasting legacy: an entire generation of Democrats. Unthinking Democrats, at that. Not one of my students professed even independent status. The man in the White House has simplified their world view considerably: R is evil; D is good. In my class, this was without question or exception. To this generation, it is a fait accompli that their votes will go to the Democratic candidates. It's just a question of determining which is most saintly.

It reminds me of the post-Carter, unconditional adoration of all things Republican. Lazy thinkers abounded then, too. There's as much depth of thought and tolerance of argument, and there's going to be as lasting a repercussion. Given what I saw, I can't imagine anything but Democratic sweeps for a decade.

Huh. Bush is a uniter, after all.

goldbrick

When my dog Ed's hips first went out, we didn't know what to do with one another. In her estimation, my picking her up was always a portent of evil. Baths. Rectal thermometers. Dancing to the Isley Brothers' I Wanna Be With You. Suddenly I was picking her up several times a day, and she hated it.

It didn't last. Now she comfortably demands courier service down the beach stairs or to the car. "Father," her eyes summon daily, "I am ready to get out of bed now. Be a dear and get off the couch so that I might get a snootful of water, then snarf all over the glass coffee table." In no time at all, she became a complete fucking goldbrick.

Last night, I carried her down the stairs so that we could watch the sun set over Puget Sound. As I smoked a cigar, she pranced around like a pup, notably having no problem whatsoever getting up after having rolled in a dead crab. Then we both spotted an enormous harbor seal—so large I mistook him for a sea lion. The seal came closer to Ed, who bounded out to greet him. Leaning out warily, Ed touched her nose to his. She then panicked and lunged away, which caused him to disappear. No matter. It was a marvelous photo op. Alas, I typically had no camera.

• • •

I came across this in the latest Atlantic. I wish I'd written it.

Dogs belong to that select group of con artists at the very top of the profession, the ones who pick our pockets clean and leave us smiling about it. Dogs take from the rich, they take from the poor, and they keep it all. They lie on top of the air-conditioning vent in the summer; they curl up by the fireplace in the winter; they commit outrages against our property too varied and unspeakable to name. They decide when we may go to bed at night and when we must rise in the morning, where we may go on vacation and for how long, whom we may invite over to dinner, and how we should decorate our living rooms. They steal the very bread from our plates. If we had roommates who behaved like this, we'd be calling a lawyer. Or the police. (Stephen Budiansky)

guy's prayer

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the rules by which we live. And by we, I mean men. It would truly suck to earn less than $1.27 for every dollar they earn, and we thank you.

Thank you, too, for the pocket veto. If we weren't able to stall and stonewall and pretend that we're "thinking" or "don't understand," if we had to actually respond in a timely fashion to our partners' requests, travesties like careers and babies and new curtains and compromise would happen more often. You are most wise, and we praise your name.

praying.jpgThanks for making them—and more specifically not us—sluts and bitches. That's useful for deflection (see below).

Effort equity really sucks. Thanks for a system where if a guy is lazy, aimless or selfish, people blame the woman for putting up with it. All praise to you.

Thank you for low standards. If women could reasonably expect us to put in more than the bare minimum effort required to keep them from leaving us, we would have less time for ourselves.

Thank you for letting us transfer guilt when relationships fail. If women didn't hold themselves accountable for guys' every failing, if they didn't desperately grasp for things with which to flog themselves, the end of a relationship could get pretty painful for us guys.

Hell, thanks for our overall lack of accountability. It makes deflection so much easier. We're not thoughtless or rude or selfish so much as her expectations are inconsistent or just plain unreasonable. This is a fine system, a just system. Thank you for placing the burden on their lowering the bar and not our clearing it.

Thank you for putting parenthood stigmas entirely on them. No one ever lectures the dad about breastfeeding or about his foisting his kid off on strangers so that he may have a career. We do not miss it, and we humbly thank you.

Thanks for religions that promote stuff like clitorectomies, wives obeying their husbands, and more perks for men in heaven. Not everyone buys into this crap, but the cultural benefit to us is undeniable.

I could go on, Lord, but I'm too used to putting the bare minimum effort into my relationships. If I need to pray more to get into heaven, lemme know, and I'll pray harder. In the meantime, I'll just summarize:

Thank you for letting men write the rules.

Amen.

scambaiting

You know those spam-mails you get from Nigeria, promising riches if you help launder cheques or rescue frozen funds? Ever want to punish the sender? Me too.

The good folks at 419eater.com answer that email. Calling themselves "scam-baiters," they reply and compete to see who can tease the scam artists most. The more money and time they can con the con artist into investing—say, by flying somewhere and checking into an expensive hotel in anticipation of getting a big check that never materializes—the better the bragging rights on the web site. I love this.

kwame_nana.jpg

And then there's the trophy room. Take a look. Here, scam artists are made to photograph themselves in humiliating positions (like holding up a sign that says "I have excess vaginal discharge") in order to prove their sincerity. I don't feel bad for them. They're crooks who are getting the least they deserve, and at first I was amused. But look at those photos and tell me how long it takes you to be made twitchy by the racial composition of the victim pool. I realize that these are merely the scammers who presented themselves, but still. It makes my white skin crawl.

things i'm strangely proud of

Reading Truman. A lot of people read David McCullough's 1120 page masterpiece, but how many people read it for free, in dozens of bookstores, over more than a year?

Yellow Card. I admit it. I'm proud to have been yellow-carded during pregame introductions.

Large and in charge. When I was still in college, my boss at EDS had the good sense to put me in charge when she was leaving town. She made the announcement, then left. I immediately closed the office. She later recounted driving to the airport and being being passed by her own employees.

"There is no more." This has happened three times in my life. I order a Maker's Mark, and the bartender replies that there is no more. "You drank it all."

Stinky wives. I love—love—sending other mens' wives home reeking of cigars. Bonus pride: when the husband sniffs them, wrinkles his nose in disgust, and guesses who they were with.

Penetrating her and pumping her full of fluids. Fun fact: one time I gave a future girlfriend a fertility injection in order to help her and another guy conceive. (They didn't.)

Bobby Knight. When I was playing basketball at the Bloomington, Indiana YMCA, I noticed Bobby Knight looking our direction. I pulled up for a 30-foot shot and made it. We will not discuss my ungainly form or his utter lack of reaction. I made it.

Embarrassing Mike Tomczak. You know.

Very very bad bad. I was attending a business lecture with Annie, perhaps the kindest person I've ever known. The talk was put on by a blind man named Peter Wang. Mindful of Annie's sweet disposition, I managed to restrain my mirth over his name, but then he put on the most moronic talk I've ever heard. I was dying. D-y-i-n-g. When the slide "72% cases of blindness can be corrected with vision" appeared on the screen, I lost all bowel control. I roared with laughter. In my notebook, Annie scrawled "You are a very very bad bad man." I still have this.

the jewelry box

In honor of Maddie's birthday, I will now tell one of my favorite Maddie stories.

When we were living together, she whined about modern jewelry boxes. She wanted something old school, with lots of little compartments on top so she could readily access pairs of earrings and so forth. This was in the days before the web, so to find a suitable box I had to comb antique store after antique store. After several months of searching, I found exactly what she wanted. It was in bad shape, but I painstakingly repaired and restored it myself. When I gave it to her on Christmas day, she was delighted.

A few weeks later, we were arguing. I was doing what I do best: sitting in my office, working, making the occasionally calm-but-inflammatory remark. She was doing what she does best: pacing, ranting, raving. This is why we were a bad fit, ultimately. My low-key snarking really antagonized her. Anyway, from the other room suddenly came a spectacularly violent crash. In a fit of anger, Maddie had picked up the jewelry box and shattered it against the wall. It was destroyed.

She momentarily stormed out of the house. Pissed, I went into the other room and plucked exactly one-half of her favorite pairs of earrings. I tossed five or so earrings into my desk drawer and kept working. She returned, and over the next half hour I heard the increasingly panicked movement of furniture in the other room. Profanity started to flow. Hurt by her action, I now basked in her torment. After about an hour of torture, she came in and apologized. I accepted.

"If it's any consolation," she offered in a tone that started as sheepish but crescendoed into full-blown rage at the universe, "I lost exactly one of EVERY GODDAMNED ONE OF MY FAVORITE PAIRS OF EARRINGS!"

I came clean. To her credit, she appreciated how much she deserved the torturing. Eventually.

stank retrospective: my favorite photos

In this page's eight years and change, I've run a lot of random photos just for the sake of having something visually interesting. And then there are the photos I loooove. For no reason, here are some.

This is quite possibly my favorite photo that I've ever taken. This is Dorkass' little sister, Dorkbutt, on New Year's Day, 2000. She had been my millennial date. And yep, that's a snowball impact crater on her forehead.

snowball.jpg

You just can't beat Percy's belly-button cameltoe. You can try. You will fail.

It's impossible to pick a favorite stupid church sign, but if I had to, I'll go with this one. That weasel.

I took this photo of my boat and Jeep for the benefit of the Darwin Awards, but I ended up living.

This was satisfying in that Lynn and Sue had just walked through this screen six times, claiming it was invisible.

This one speaks for itself.

Two Steelers-related photos make the cut. The first is of a fan. Following Ben Roethlesberger's motorcycle wreck, she was tailgating outside the hospital where he was still in surgery. Coolest. Fan. Ever.

And of course, there was this Flash animation of the Super Bowl pass interference that I still relentlessly hear never occurred.

If you have to ask, you'll never know.

Ditto.

Stank troll Jan of Germany thought of my fat man's crease when his son was born. The result is my favorite troll-submitted photo.

This photo of Pat Robertson taking a massive dump makes the cut because (other than a pic of the Mythbusters twinkie) it remains the number one Google draw to this page. Go figure.

pat robertson praying

Many pictures are favorites because I couldn't believe my luck in finding them on Google Images. When I posted about being the White Guy in a neighborhood, not to mention about being called "Egger," I found this utterly perfect representation.

Same thing with this photo of a single living flower amongst a bunch of wilted ones. Is there a better metaphor possible for being friends with your ex?

When I posted my review of Bride and Prejudice, I talked at length about the clumsy, vehement anti-Americanism spouted by the female lead. And when I googled her, I found this hilariously hypocritical picture.

When I ridiculed Newsweek for topping its "Women in Leadership" cover story with a feature on Danica Patrick, this made for a lovely juxtaposition.

Nothing can compared to the serendipitous pic I ran with the Yoko post, though. I had already written the post, including the line

No, I'm talking about a descent into a sort of madness, where the whispers in his ear become his unquestioned perception of reality. Suddenly, you and your friend have conflicts.
When I later googled Yoko Ono, this utterly perfect picture popped up. It gave me chills. Still does.

grumpy old men

Between them, my dog, Ed, and Katrina's cat, Muzzy, are nearly three decades old. Keeping them apart has always been a priority. Muzzy is positively terrified of dogs, and Ed, well, Ed loves cats. Loves them. As in "Hey! There's a cat! Let me barrel right up to his face at 200 mph and say a jaunty How ya doin'!"

It is not a good match.

They've met twice. The first time was some eight years ago, when Katrina was ignoring my calls and door-knocks at 8am on a Saturday morning when I wanted to get breakfast. She was pretending to be asleep. Annoyed, I took Muzzy hostage. He went home with me. Ed was in my back yard, and Muzzy had the house to himself, but there was still that moment when Muzzy looked left and saw a wide-eyed dog through glass, looking back, going batshit. Muzzy froze in mid-stride. He held that position for some ten minutes, incapable of moving until the phone rang and sent him careening into a wall.

"You just killed your cat," I told a livid Katrina.

Ed and Muzzy did not see one another again until recently. They're both geriatric now, monuments to the horrible degeneration that awaits us all. They sleep all the time, and they're mere shadows of their exuberant, affectionate younger selves. As Ed cut through Katrina's living room, she spotted Muzzy on the couch. They regarded one another from five feet away, bored. Neither could be bothered to react to the other. That would require too much energy. If they interacted at all, it was clear, it would only be to compare the buzzes one gets from their various medications.

fetardation iii

In discussing the Fetardation post last week, I realized that I haven't published the tale of my final seconds with the Approval Whore (AW). It's post-worthy. I'm tellin.'

When she first left her husband, the predictable surge of losers appeared. Having waited their turn in her queue, they were now hoping for promotion. Loser-in-Chief was Todd. He was huggy. He was drippy. He signed work emails to her "Much love, Todd." He constantly lobbied to go out so he could better comfort her in her time of need. When I was out of town, she granted him a lunch, and he took her to the premiere "this cost so much, you owe me sex" establishment within driving distance of Microsoft. And of course, he paid.

It was around then that I started asking for the AW to acknowledge what his interests were. She refused. They were just friends. Moreover, I was an irredeemable sack of shit (I'm summarizing) for thinking that it was more than that. Meanwhile, Todd send her photos of his gorgeous new girlfriend, whom no one would ever actually meet. The AW and I would fight about Todd's intentions until the very bloody end.

• • •

Years later, near the end of internment with the AW, I detected the presence of someone else. Her affections were clearly going elsewhere. Any mention of the future, any compliment, any bouquet of daisies from me made her supremely uncomfortable. So naturally, I poured it on. It was great fun, torturing this deserving woman. I entertained my friends with tales of how the slightest gestures of kindness caused her to visibly implode.

"Hey, honey," I cooed sweetly, having just discovered the receipt for two tickets for a New Year's Eve event. "What say we go to Times Square for New Year's? My treat?"

"GAAAAACK!" she replied, fleeing the room.

Eventually, of course, she could hide it no more. Two days before they would be seen grinding on the dance floor at the company party, she called to clarify that we were "just friends." As if we were even that much at that point.

I knew there was someone else, but I didn't know until the day after the party that it was, in fact, Todd. All his years of hard work had finally paid off. I couldn't help but admire his success.

The next day, I went to the AW's house to collect my things once and for all. She was in the shower. On her bathroom mirror, I used soap to draw a heart with their initials inside. And then I left, never to return.

• • •

A few months later, a mutual friend corrected me when I spoke of the AW cheating on me like she had every other guy in her history. "No she didn't," the friend corrected. "She told me that they were just friends until a month later."

Exquisite in her consistency, ain't she?

reader mail

The Fetardation post elicited much mail, all from annoyed-to-enraged women who rather missed the point. I don't care if you attract these men. Really. Knock yourselves out. I don't even want an admission that they're after you. I know they are. No, I just want a morsel of respect occasionally tossed my intelligence's way. Oh, and if you could stop vilifying me for noticing the creeps trying to ply their way into your pants, that'd be swell. Amen.

fetardation

On New Year's Eve a few years back, the AW and I were in a bar in remotest Bumfuck, British Columbia. She wanted to dance. I did not. This was nothing new. She arose and said that if I would not dance, she would damned well find someone who would. Then she strode across the room and asked some random guy to dance with her. And I spent the minutes before midnight sipping my drink as I watched them on the dance floor, she drunk, he with a tentpole erection as he danced with my girlfriend.

"Jesus Christ. You think every guy is only interested in one thing," went the fight later, shortly before I played the erection card. "You're such an asshole, sometimes. He was a really nice guy. It was just dancing."

This is a conversation I've had all my life. Apparently, I always will. I will never go broke by betting on the basest instincts of my own gender, nor will I lose by betting on women's capacity for seeing some sort of noble, meritorious homage in the attentions of men. The prettier the woman, the more noble the homage. I have never once been proven wrong. I am invariably proven right. Yet I have never won this argument. My suspicions are always deemed manifestations of my own character flaws. It's my personal relationship Vietnam—I've won every battle, yet I've lost the war.

I think I shall give up. This is the new John in an old situation:

"Wow, they gave you a job as a web designer, even though you haven't a lick of relevant skills or experience? And before you even start your new job, the sales guys want you to join them at their skiing weekend at Whistler? Why, I'm sure that's above-board! Go! Enjoy! I'm sure that any sales guy who bangs you is of the very noblest and homage-giving stock. And of course, if I didn't congratulate you on your new job, that would be evidence that I don't believe in you. So congratulations! All those seconds of hard work have finally paid off."

the ditz strikes back

The ditzy left has fought back, making sure I'm very, very aware that it's very, very important that we not forget about the troops dying in Iraq. Because, you know, forgetting the troops was precisely what I was advocating.

Trust that there's as big a gap between that and what I actually said as there is between, say, "supporting the troops" and "celebrating troops' deaths because it validates your point of view."

count along with the count

There's a not-so-fine line between opposing the current administration and celebrating its failure. The former is patriotic, the latter, not. The distinction seems clear to me. Although I intensely dislike this administration, I am not rooting against it. All things considered, I would rather they succeed. They just aren't.

I've seen it twice, now. People are putting troop death-toll tote-boards on their front lawns. Their point, ostensibly, is to "remember the troops," as if the unremitting media coverage of troop death is somehow lacking. These folks have appointed themselves our very public consciences. They care more and are better informed than you and me. One can almost imagine the eagerness with which they run out to change the numbers every time a roadside bomb goes off. After all, what are you doing to support the troops?

On campus last week, there was an enormous "remember the troops" booth on the central plaza. Students adopted a dead soldier and wore his dog tags for the rest of the day. I asked the organizers if they were remembering any troops who died someplace other than Iraq. Nah. I then asked about the very likely possibility that the soldier being memorialized wouldn't have wanted to be remembered in this way, to be exploited in a protest. They were unconcerned. Their sign should have said "Remember the troops...our way."

Gross. This public self-satisfaction seems like so much masturbation.

uncle jim

When I was a kid, Uncle Jim represented hope. He was, after all, my only male relative in anyone's memory to have retained his hair. And a lush shock of black Polish hair it was. I clung to Uncle Jim, hoping that I too got a winning ticket in whatever genetic lottery he'd won.

Alas. Perhaps he was adopted.

He represented hope in another, crucial way. Uncle Jim was my only relative who was consistently kind. Even though I was a mere bud in a sprawling Polish-Catholic family tree, he always sought me out, genially chatted me up, connected with me, made sure I felt included. If you want to be beloved forever, do that with the youngest of 20-some-odd cousins. It was impossible to believe that this gentle, decent man was composed of essentially the same genetic material as my father.

Uncle Jim was married to my Aunt Jo, a shrewish, jealous woman about whom I have no fond memories whatsoever. No one liked her except him. Her funeral was a vaguely happy occasion for most of us. Not Uncle Jim, of course. He was devastated. But he would get over that, and life would be better for all.

It's been decades. He still hasn't gotten over it. Their home is a shrine to her. As often as not, conversations of any genre seem to lead back to her. A mere mention of Aunt Jo elicits bona fide blubbering. He visits her grave every day to tell her the goings on. He never considered getting remarried; there was no time in his busy grieving schedule during which he might meet women.

The grieving period of his long life has lasted three-fourths of my own. When I was a kid, I thought he was just a sentimental wuss. "Jesus Christ. Get over it already," I thought. "Live your life." And truthfully, a part of me will always feel that way. As I've plowed through adulthood myself, though, leaving a trail of alternately inconsequential and serious relationships in my wake, I've viewed Uncle Jim's grief through a slightly different lens. Simply put, no one's ever loved me that much, nor I them. I don't envy him, exactly, but I do increasingly admire his depth of feeling. I don't particularly want to hurt like that, but I really wouldn't mind loving like that. It's a comfort to know that someone can—especially someone composed of essentially the same genetic material as me.

Hopefully he wasn't adopted.

just a lonely old bill

A curious statement in a recent Newsweek article about how Bill Clinton affects his wife's candidacy:

"To some he's a shrewd politician, a clear thinker, a brilliant explicator who was president during an era of relative peace and indisputable prosperity. To others he's Slick Willie, an undisciplined man who let his private appetites, and his addiction to risk, blur his focus, distracting the country for much of his second term."
A curious dichotomy, that. Where's "All of the above?"

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