November 2007 Archives

thank you for this bounty

I recently reconnected with an old friend, Eve. She reminded me of two stories from a decade ago that for some reason I've never immortalized on this page. No longer.

Eve and I were, for a time, the best of friends. Her boyfriend, Jim, was a selfish man-child, and in her life I complemented him rather well. I came to look at him and myself as the salt and pepper shakers of her life. He got laid, and I got to do everything else. It might sound like a raw deal, but for several years I had the stability of having a partner yet was allowed to date as many women as I wanted. I did not consider this a bad deal in the least.

Jim treated Eve as if, by deigning to date a single mother and letting her wash his socks, he were doing her an enormous favor. I hated him. He and I had little in common, but I gamely tried to work on the relationship. We played poker and video games, and Eve would smile at us. I never told her I thought him unworthy. I don't do that to my friends, as a rule. But my god, did I enjoy busting him up at the poker table. In one glorious sitting at the old Tulalip casino, I got four fours-of-a-kind. I've never had a day like that again, but it was exceedingly well timed. I was able to exchange a lot of my frustrations for cash. His cash.

One day, Jim told me he was going to Prague with another woman, a "friend," and he was afraid of how to tell Eve. I wished him luck. I knew I wasn't gonna mention it. A month later when she discovered his imminent trip, all hell broke loose. "I told you!" he said. "I told John!" And then he left. And for the month he was gone, his girlfriend cried on my shoulder every single night. I hated him more and more.

About the time Jim returned, Eve met another guy. With great flourish, she dumped Jim and started dating the man she would eventually marry and have kids with. Jim was not pleased. He sent psychotic emails to me, Eve and the new guy. Although it was plain to everyone that he'd cut his own throat, he did not see it that way. To everyone's astonishment, he blamed me. While he had been gone, I had turned Eve against him. That's when he put a $30,000 price on my head.

To be continued Monday

no, really, it's okay!

Spittake-inducing lead from an article in the Pittsburgh Trib:

Steelers apologize for skipping anthem
By Karen Price

The Steelers apologized Tuesday for omitting a performance of the national anthem by Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil before the nationally televised game against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field.

Yep. That's my team.

john explained

Allie's Baby Daddy was incredulous that I was going out with a stunning woman. "How does this keep happening?" he asked her. "How?"

She understood his confusion. "What you have to understand," she explained, "Is that no man on earth is as attentive as John is before you have sex with him."

the burma score

It started at the poker table. All poker players are liars—that's a given—but I wanted to see how my opponents behaved when they lied. So I would ask them questions to which I already knew answers.

"Did you have a King in the hole?" I'd ask, having already seen all four kings played. Invariably, he would look me in the eye and say yes. And for whatever good it did me, I now knew what he looks like when he lies.

Inevitably, this technique seeped into my real life. If I think someone might be lying to me, I ask them questions to which I already know the answers. I call it the Burmese Liar Trap. Only now, people aren't expected to lie. Certainly not friends and girlfriends, and certainly not about mundane stuff like with whom they've spoken or had lunch. It's revelatory. It turns out that some people just have congenital integrity defects. They lie needlessly.

You'll see their Christmas gift, still shrink-wrapped. "Did you ever watch that DVD I got you?"

"Oh my God, yes. It was absolutely sublime! And John, it means so, so much that it came from you. That you saw that and thought of me touched me deeply. Sometimes I wept while I watched it."

What on earth do you do with that?

It can be incredibly depressing. Even a couple of "harmless" lies cause you to question whether anything this person's said, if anything at all, is real. Has this person become so comfortable with lying that they can't stop? What about their professed affection for you? Is that too in question?

That's the problem with the Burmese Liar Trap. An undiscriminating pit, that.


Yesterday I was tasked with proving that two whales still breathed. The first was old favorite J1, and the second was J-pod's newborn calf. Infant mortality with orcas is very high, so we all cringe every time one isn't seen for a while.

It was a great day. Old J1 surfaced right next to me, dousing my boat's windows and making me wonder who on earth has a hard time finding this whale, what with his enormous dorsal fin and pronounced lack of shyness.


I found the baby, too, happily wedged between its mother, brother, and sister. Once it became clear that I was paparazzi stalking their sibling, the brother and sister went batshit, breaching and tail slapping and generally telling me to piss off. As soon as I stopped my engines, they resumed passive guard duty. Of course, passive guard duty isn't very photogenic, so I had to resist the temptation to gun the engines.

Baby pictures are the holy grail among my type. I'd show you Minette's shot, but somehow she didn't hear about these whales until it was too late.

Js Nov07 110_390.jpg

Spyhop of protective big sister, with Cascade mountains in background


Photographically, one of my favorite sights: orcas swimmin' straight at me at dusk


hbo vs. relationships

Bored shitless, I just shelled out for HBO. With my many hours of entertainment this week came the stunning realization that this was my healthiest relationship of the century. Inevitably, then, here are the ways in which having HBO is better than being in a relationship:

  • HBO only costs me $16/month.
  • HBO's friend Cinemax likes me just fine.
  • The camera never lies.
  • If HBO promises something, it actually happens.
  • I can discontinue HBO at any time, for any reason, with no penalty.
  • With HBO, I can pick my nose and fart with total impunity.
  • I can complain about HBO's reception without HBO counterattacking me.
  • HBO does not think I curse too much when I drive.
  • HBO does not wish to change what it once admired about me.
  • When HBO flirts with other viewers behind my back, it's not so painful.
  • HBO does not idealize viewers who don't appreciate it.
  • I get my choice of several HBOs, depending on my mood.
  • The 30-second skip button.
  • The women on HBO all look like models and talk like Ph.Ds.
  • I get HBO every single morning, afternoon, and night.

I chatted with Dorkass last night, and during the Montessori school portion of the proceedings, she whined that these strangers whom she will pay to watch over her spawn actually expected her to make lunches for her own daughter.

"Seriously! What a pain, you know?" she said.

"Congratulations. You just made tomorrow's post," I replied.

"What? I haven't talked about the kid that much."

And then I put on hand puppets and explained to her what was so funny.

grieving a beautiful lie

Mr. Keats tells us that beauty and truth are one and the same. I respectfully disagree. I've never seen anything flowerier and more colorful than the bullshit people peddle themselves.

One of the mental muscles I seem to lack is the capacity for grieving over something that never existed. This condition is apparently not genetic. My family is a huge proponent, particularly with regard to canonizing our parents (or for that matter, reburying them together). Later in life, Dad became gentle, kind, generous, they tell me. He didn't swear, and he was great with the grandkids. Okay, fine. I smell bullshit, but whatever makes them happy is fine. Yet if I try to talk about Dad's transgressions—say, his attempts to strangle me—I'm immediately cut off. "Stop emphasizing the negative, John." Oh yes. When he "changed" late in life, that somehow changed the continuum of his whole life. I get it now. Sorry to have spoken the truth in my siblings' presence.

757_2294_large.jpgBut at least in their case, the lie is meant to make them feel better. A buddy of mine married an astoundingly selfish, childish woman. At his wedding, we guests placed over/under bets on the divorce. Not at the reception—in the church. He admitted to not loving her, but to him she represented his only shot at normality and stability, so he took it. And for years his friends watched him die in the relationship until, inevitably, he found comforts elsewhere. When, many affairs and many years too late, he filed for divorce, he sat in my office and blubbered over his lost love. I did not recognize the wife over whom he grieved; she truly existed only in his recent imagination. I was speechless. Life has so much actual awfulness. Why imagine up fiction about which to feel awful? Dump her and get on with the good part of your life, already.

I have not been impervious to grieving lies, myself. A while back I cracked open the Fucking Amy box and, for the first time since we broke up, I looked at her pictures and read her letters. I was surprised by what I found. This was not the woman, the beautiful lie, I'd remembered and for which I'd grieved. What a dull, unremarkable child she was. How on earth had I ever concluded that life could not go on without this pointless person? I felt embarrassed. I wondered if my friends had felt that way but had been too polite to say anything. And what did this beautiful lie gain me? A couple years of dysfunction based on my own bullshit imaginings, followed by a massive embarrassment chaser. More, please.

The ugly truth: trust it, embrace it, wallow in it. It'll set you free.

what's wrong in this picture?


Now that's blocking. Thanks go to longtime Stank troll Amit for the screen capture.

travels with sheldon

When I go hiking by myself, I'm certain to take four things: water, flashlight, compass, and—lest I die of exposure and Outdoor magazine canonize me—a means of dying with dignity. I'd very much like to avoid the headline Lone moron breaks leg, eventually dies of dryrot.

In a heavy Saturday morning rain, I repeated the five mile hike I'd done just last Tuesday. At about the 2/3 point of the loop, I was stunned to come across a man sitting, unsheltered, with his foot in a stream. This is mountain runoff water, mind you. It can't possibly be more than 34 degrees. Soaked, the man was 70ish but in incredible shape. He had the whole Jack LaLanne thing going on. It was a while before I realized he was injured.

jacknew.jpg"You okay?" I called, forgetting momentarily that I hate people.

He was startled and went straight to rage. "It's about time!" he snarled.

His name was Sheldon. He'd been hiking by himself the day before and broken his ankle, and he'd been one-hopping it as best he could since. He'd spent the night out there without shelter, which contributed to his foul mood. Still, though, in my situation one might expect to be well received, if not showered with kisses like the liberators of Iraq were to be. Alas. Sheldon was more like the Iraqi insurgents. He despised me on sight.

"You can't go forward," I said. "I was just there the other day, and a bridge is utterly destroyed by a tree. It's kindling. You need to go back the way you came."


It's not often I come across a combination of profanities that I have never heard. Like my father and his father before him, I am a pureblooded Vulgarian. But I had never heard of "piss-fuck," nor its even more dubious derivation "piss-fucking." Over the next few hours I had ample time to ponder the etymological origins of "piss-fucking." I was at a loss.

Sheldon argued with me. He did not want to turn around, and for whatever reason, he didn't believe me about the bridge. I showed him cellphone-photo I'd snapped of the bridge four days earlier. He glared at me. "How do I know that picture was taken here?"


I had to spell out his options. I would call for help when I got back to my car, I offered, or I would help him retrace his steps, but under no circumstances would I help him go forward. Enraged by my petulance, he opted for Plan B. And for the rest of the morning, Sheldon's massive, veiny arm was wrapped around my shoulders, and his right leg bobbed uselessly between us.

He passed the time by making wry observations in my ear about every 30 seconds. "Piss-fuckin' rain never stops," he'd snarl, or maybe he'd just moan about the pain in his urethra-boinking ankle.

Three hours of pure bliss later, we finally arrived at the trailhead. In a movie, Sheldon would have been revealed at this moment to be an eccentric billionaire who, grateful for the assistance, showers me with riches out of the trunk of his waiting limo. This is the thought that had kept me from killing him during our trek, anyway. This, however, was real life. There was no gratitude, no handshake sealing an arduous shared experience. He was as glad to be rid of me as I was him. Sheldon simply climbed into his car, broken right ankle and all, and drove off.

"You're welcome," I said to his exhaust fumes.

goodbye, lloyd

We here at Stank would like to graciously congratulate the Michigan Wolverines for cracking 90 yards of total offense today.

my captain

During my recent return to Ohio State's campus, I found an unlocked door at Denny Hall, the English building. Entire floors have been gutted and rebuilt, so most of my memories have long been sitting in a landfill. The top floors remain the same, though. Some of my graffiti still adorns the faculty men's room. And delightfully, one of my favorite profs is still there, still displaying the same poster outside her office. She served in the Vietnam War. On the first day of class, she told us that we could refer to her either as "Professor" or "Captain." Our choice.


pledge of allegiance redux

It's election season again—does it ever stop, anymore?—and with it comes the usual bushel of hysterical bullshit scandals. Barack Obama was recently lambasted by the usual suspects for not putting his hand over his heart during the pledge of allegiance in this photo.

Mouth-breathers were outraged. He's unpatriotic. A "terrorist," even. And then it turns out that the very premise of their argument was wrong: it was not the pledge of allegiance, but the national anthem. Reply the mouth-breathers: Faulty premise? No problem! Our conclusions remain unabashedly the same!

It's almost admirable, that degree of confident self-delusion. Almost.

stepmother postscript

Katrina says that the cemetery plot on Queen of Martyrs Lane would well serve my corpse. Although I plead No Contest to the martyr label, I'll counter that there's more poetry in my trannie dad being buried there.

the stepmother of all battles

I hate my stepmother as much as anyone does. As much as anyone could. In fact, I was first to hate her. For a decade, my siblings argued that she was not, in fact, Satan incarnate. I disagreed. I'm not sure what brought the rest of them around, but if I had to bet, I'd guess it was when she wanted to show the entire family a videotape of my father's drunken, cross-dressing antics, the family declined, and a week later she put on "Cinderella" for my young nieces only to discover, far too late for my nieces' emotional well being, that the video was in fact the dad footage.

Whatever the reason, my siblings all hate her now. Just how much they hate her is evidenced in their latest scheme. They're enormously pleased with their cleverness. They tell me about the scheme every time we speak. After my stepmother dies and is planted next to my dad as planned, my siblings are going to dig my dad up and rebury him next to our mother. Never mind that none of these three people would have chosen this arrangement. Never mind that my siblings will be gleefully spiting someone who'll be, well, too dead to know. Or care. Never mind that Dad beat Mom and that she loathed him. There's history to be revised, dammit, and money to be wasted on impotent spite.

Yep. These are my relatives.

"You have to post about this," says Allie. "No one would believe how petty your stupid family really is." The executor of my estate then grows contemplative. "Hmmm. Does this mean the spot next to your stepmother will be open?"

clawing my eyeball out

Here I am—my social fears of six months ago precisely realized now—riding the ferry to Seattle, where a friend will help me remove the grit that's been irritating my eye for 24 hours.

Yep, quite the life I've carved out for myself.

time capsule

I ended up with a great deal of time on my hands last Sunday, and I decided to visit my mother's grave for the first time since we buried her. I don't think much of cemeteries, myself. They're landfills. That's not my mother any more than a crumpled up beer can is. Visiting once every two decades is just fine.

I snaked through the Catholic cemetery, peering at the street names, trying to remember on which street I planted Mom. The names are all Catholic, of course. There's St. Luke the Wise street. Theresa the Merciful street. And then I hit upon it, and with a rush I remembered my teenage-self chuckling when he pointed to a map and asked if there were any plots available on that street.


comfortable click

It's official. I was worried for my safety in my old neighborhood. There's a temptation to say that I'm coddled, now, that I've somehow become accustomed to the dubious comforts of class divisions. And really, maybe that's inside me somewhere. But bullet-proof glass inside White Castle and my old pizza place? Really? With a bank-style drawer for passing money and food back and forth? "No guns" signs at every grocery and restaurant?

gun-tease-image.pngSunday morning, I could not sleep, so I ventured to the hotel vending machines. During that short walk at 4am, I witnessed three different confrontations, complete with physical threats, racial epithets, and copious use of the word "ho." (Okay, so the last part was kinda amusing, in a you're-a-walking-SNL-skit sort of way.) Mind you, this is in a secure hotel. I was very grateful to click the door lock behind me once more. It's a saddening metaphor, that click.


The modern age is a queer thing. Here I sit in my Seattle home, my Terrible Towel hanging next to me, drying from the rains in Pittsburgh last night/this morning.

Rain notwithstanding, the evening was pure bliss. Another person might have wished for a more competitive game. A better person, specifically.

In other news, if all goes as planned, d'Andre returns home tomorrow to find, God willing, my underwear stashed at the foot of his bed.


I knew I was checking into a hotel in my old Columbus neighborhood when I saw a garish strip club in the parking lot where a Denny's might normally be. If that wasn't enough of a clue, there was always the "No Guns" sign at every entrance of the hotel, or the metal grating protecting the vending machine glass. I knew I didn't exactly hail from a Rockwell painting, but man, this is pretty rough.

When I was a student at Ohio State, my dad visited his alma mater, Penn State. He got lost on his old campus, and I mocked him. Touring OSU's campus this weekend, however, I could easily foresee the day when desserts would be justly mine. Almost every location worthy of sentimentality has been razed. It's utterly depressing.

I watched the Buckeyes drill Wisconsin, and I dread the prospect of this merely okay team earning a spot in the championship game. They're nowhere nearly as good as last year's squad, and they got blown out. And no, if they make it I'm not going. I've had it with championship games and Super Bowls. They're excruciating, expensive bores. Worst times I've ever had at football games.

of pots and kettles

A few years ago, during an ill-advised experiment with Rush Limbaugh joining ESPN's football coverage, Limbaugh was forced to resign after issuing this opinion:

"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well," Limbaugh said on Sunday's show. "There is a little hope invested in (Donovan) McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
I winced. I think we all did. And I also cheered. Anything that got Rush off my Sunday morning TV is a good thing. But as for my opinion, I have none. I'm not Rush Limbaugh, so I'm not an expert on what other people are thinking.

Years later now, McNabb himself issues an eerily opposite statement about himself and perceptions. He asserts that black quarterbacks face greater criticism, that they have to do more than their white counterparts. I winced. No one else seemed to. But again, I have no opinion; I'm not Donovan McNabb and am therefore uncomfortable with making accusations without offering any, you know, substantiating evidence.

It's a weird story arc that makes me squirm. But at least the Onion stepped up.


What makes IT geeks think that making us choose highly complex, non-English passwords—and making us change them all too frequently—will lead to any result other than our maintaining a list of all our different passwords? This is security? Really?

moron taxonomy
stupid church signs
super bowl xl officiating
percy chronicles

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