August 2009 Archives

something to lose

Last week, a middle aged man on a scooter was stopped at an intersection. He had no signal on and was positioned to go straight. I wanted to turn right, so I eased next to him to do so. I was a good four feet away from him, but he erupted in profanity and gave me the finger. Now I wasn't turning right. I followed him as he went straight.

Realizing I was following him, he pulled over, hopped off his scooter, removed his helmet, and gestured for me to come get the ass-kicking I so richly deserved. I pulled over and got out of the car. He used every swear word he knew, which topped out at about four.

"Just out of curiosity, what exactly do you think I did wrong?"

"YOU FUCKING PASSED ME ON THE RIGHT!"

"Uh, no I didn't. I was stopped and turning right."

"YOU PASSED, DUMBASS!"

"Passing on the right rather requires, um, a pass. Hence the word."

He challenged me to a fight, right then and there. I considered it, thinking aloud. "I don't really see the upside. If I fight you, it'll end up one of two ways. Either I kick your ass, or you kick my ass. Agreed?"

"You're not gonna kick my ass, you stupid fucking faggot."

"So either I'm the guy who kicked a retard's ass, or I'm the guy who got his ass kicked by a retard. Either way, I lose." I shrugged and got in my car.

"ARE YOU A MAN, OR ARE YOU A FUCKING COWARD? YOU'RE A COWARD!" he yelled repeatedly. I considered this. I hadn't been so challenged since the seventh grade. Since then, I've stood up to much more formidable threats than him, although none so clearly in need of medication. I've had guns pointed at me several times, knives twice, and thanks to my mouth, I've been punched in the face countless times. Yet when faced with a deranged middle-aged man, I was backing down. Had I indeed softened? I wasn't feeling afraid. What was I feeling? Was this maturity?

No, it wasn't. Since we pulled over, I could see he was poised to throw his helmet at my new car, the dealer temp tags plainly visible. Protecting the first new car I've ever owned was all I'd thought about since the confrontation began.

Carwardice. This is new.

As he was strapping on the helmet, I lowered my window and offered a bit of advice. "By the way. Middle aged men who wear leopard print blouses and drive scooters really shouldn't be questioning people's manhood."

His helmet bounced off my rear window as I drove away.

the dorkass memorial ass dent

When I first considered trading in the Jeep, I got all weepy and sentimental. Fifteen years of adventures were had in that car. It was the car I purchased with my late, great dog Ed in mind. No fewer than three first kisses had taken place under its hardtop, and at least seven ex-girlfriends had driven it. I had rolled it in a ditch and it had come out without a scratch, which is more than I can say for its occupants. Yes, as I gazed upon it, the Jeep vibrated with history.

I would even miss the Dorkass Memorial Ass Dent.

This is the only body damage the Jeep has ever sustained. One night we sat upon the hood with our backs against the window, and in the decade since, there's been a dent where her ass was. My side? Fine. Her side? Notably concave.

"I dented it?" she said when I shared these thoughts recently, probably wondering how, if this were possibly true, I hadn't posted about it already.

When I visited the dealer the next day, he marveled over the shape the Jeep was in. And then he saw the hood and paused. "Except for this dent."

support system

Reaction to the Dan post has been uniformly supportive. Of her.

"You asked her what? WHY?!?" said an incredulous Allie, sounding very much like she'd like to build a time machine so she could slap her younger self out of having ever dated me.

"You're an asshole," said Stank troll Ray. "Unwiped."

"I had more critical things to say, but you felt bad enough already," said Katrina, somehow managing to make me feel worse anyway.

"You really shouldn't be allowed to interact with other human beings," said my boss, Flo, and not for the first time.

Perhaps Dirt summed it up best: "Do you ever see a scab and not pick at it? You don't have to pick, you know. It helps with healing if you don't."

headline of the century (so far)

This comes from Dorkass, who surely doesn't read the news, so it must have originated with someone else:

"Air Force pounds MILF lairs with rockets"
Adds Dorkass:
"We will link up with our sister group, the Cotabato Organization of Underground Guerrillas And Resistance, and destroy you."

they say you get the child you deserve

"I've seen a look in dogs' eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt."
- John Steinbeck

• • •

Yesterday morning, Dex did something I would not have thought anatomically possible. She was sitting in the kitchen while I was cleaning it up. Being a dog, she sat in the place she'd calculated I would most often need to walk. As I was striding in front of her, she stuck her front leg straight out, like a Nazi salute, and tripped me. I tumbled forward clumsily, then whirled to glare at her. She looked away, as if she were watching something else.

oh, to be dan for a day

"You have no idea what a coup it is that John came," Katrina told her new husband at their wedding reception many years ago.

"It's a total coup that he came," Courtney told her new husband at their reception two weeks ago. Word for word.

• • •

Many people say they're uncomfortable in social situations, but to be worse than me would have to involve small-arms fire. I'm not being self-effacing here. Even the few people who love me would concede that I'm a social retard. I very much enjoy getting to know new people in smaller, more intimate groups, but put me in a party environment with strangers and you will see discomfort that can only be described as colonoscopic.

Despite my retardation, I make myself go to parties. It'll be good for you, I lie to myself. This time, you won't cling to the only person you know like one of the face-suckers in Alien. And then as soon as I arrive, I'm planning my exit. Is it rude to leave now? How about now? Surely, now that I'm completely alone, no one would notice if I just bolt.

That was my thought process recently when I attended a friend's barbecue. Happily, I knew four people: my friend, his wife, and two former co-workers, one of whom called me "Dan" all night. Since the hosts were hosting and the other former co-worker is still angry with me for scraping a horrible project off on her a decade ago, I decided that I would, in fact, be Dan.

face-sucker-from-aliens.jpgCling!

I was scanning the periphery of the back yard for a gate when the hostess came by with a camera. Oh god. "I would rather not have my photo taken, if it's all the same to you."

"If you're at MY house, you're gonna have to be in the photos!" she chirped. And so I set down my drink and walked out the front door. I could hear everyone laugh. Oh, that John. What a kidder. Except I wasn't. I took my Get Out of Jail Free card and ran with it.

I still needed to eat, though, and on my way home I became ravenous. I neared Sarah's restaurant, and I remembered that she worked that night. Visiting someone who's already versed in me—someone with zero expectations that I would be interesting, amusing, or even kind—appealed to me. And so I stopped.

I sat in a booth in which Sarah and her co-workers revolved all night, and I was in my social element at last. I chatted with one of the servers, clearly Sarah's girlfriend, for quite a while. I learned about her dreams, her kids, her impending divorce from a guy she seems to still adore at some level. I liked her instantly, and being me, I wanted to drill deeper into her psyche. She sat opposite us while Sarah counted tips next to me.

"Sarah, can I ask her the hard questions?"

She shook her head, not looking up. "No. She's not there yet."

"Oh come on!" the woman said. "I can handle it. Ask me anything you wanna know."

Sarah shrugged, seemingly knowing exactly what was coming. "All right, knock yourself out, John."

I turned to the girlfriend. "So. You've got a 1 year old kid, yet you're getting a divorce. Wanna help me out, there?"

It was like I'd turned on a faucet, except the flow didn't gradually build. Her eyes erupted in tears, and I backpedaled furiously, apologizing profusely and dropping the topic, but it was too late. Sarah glared at me out of the corner of her eye. I wanted to die. I think she wanted to help me with that effort.

"Sarah, I need to leave now. Move."

"Oh no. You made your bed. Lie in it." I'd been taking the piss out of Sarah all evening, so I had that coming. Even I can't feel sorry for myself, here.

As I drove home, I felt my comforting "at least I'm socially adept in small circles" delusion slipping through my fingers.

hey hey, goodbye

When the Steelers drafted Plaxico Burress, I was wary. His college coaches had said that although his gifts were many, he had a me-first attitude. Sure enough, I quickly grew to dislike him. Most of us did. He blew off meetings, once publicly damning his coach for having the audacity to hold camp on Mother's Day, just like the other 31 teams did. His mother was long dead, mind you.

He further ingratiated himself by dropping passes, refusing to go over the middle, and once, gloriously, celebrating his catch at midfield by spiking the ball. He hadn't been touched by a defensive player, so the spike was a fumble. A lost fumble.

And thus was a nickname born.

His tenure in Pittsburgh was marred by underperformance, skipped practices, arrests, whining to the media, and general dickitude. And when the Steelers gladly let him go to New York, he flipped the race card at our faces.

"I mean, I wasn't liked as a person. I was seen as a black kid, young African-American, cornrows, drives fancy cars, wears diamond earrings, things like that. They just kind of based their perception off of what I drove and what I did and things like that. All those things were never a part of any other player on that team but me. I fit New York more than what I fit Pittsburgh. Nobody's worrying about my big truck or my Rolls-Royce or what I have on. That makes me feel good. People just accept me how I am instead of looking at me and judging me."
Yeah. How'd that work out for you, Spike?

Buh bye.

dream, um, girl

Allie called while the house-cleaners were here.

I was excited. "One of them named her dog 'Poindexter!'" I exclaimed. Previously, no woman hadn't at least loathed that name.

"Ooooh, we just might have your dream woman. Is she single?"

"She's 18."

"So much the better. Now if only she were married, she'd be your perfect match."

good reads

Speaking of Nazi health care, my two favorite political columnists both chimed in today.

Here's a good read on how Americans can't seem to get their act together until a crisis hits.

And here's the great Leonard Pitts on the woman's metaphor abuse.

wither conservatism

What has happened to conservatism in this country? A public option for health care is a dramatic, expensive change and well worth intelligent debate. What we get instead frightens me.

This shrill, platitude-vomiting sociopath accomplished a minor miracle, though. She actually made me feel sorry for Barney Frank. This is why we have elected representatives, I guess: so they have to deal with her and I don't.

one evening. two of the worst sounds ever.

This post is dedicated to Frank Frank. Crunch.

• • •

I didn't start dating until I was 17. Once I found a girl willing to make out with me, I feverishly sought to make up for lost time. She came to my house for lunch. I went to her house in that sweet-spot between school and when her mother came home. My girlfriend would wait for me outside of work at night. On non-working nights, I would watch TV with her and her mom, and we would impatiently wait Mom out, sneaking glances at her ever-heavier eyelids.

celeste.jpgIt was on one such night that Mom finally went to bed, and Celeste and I devoured one another's mouths until they hurt, then made out some more. It was a delirious session, from what I recall, and it would probably be continuing today had we not heard the following scream come bounding down the stairs:

"CELESTE, IT'S THREE O'CLOCK IN THE BLOODY MORNING!"

I have no recollection of dashing to my car. I think I teleported, in a blink, like the title character in "I Dream of Jeannie." It was a snowy night in Columbus, and I drove as fast as I safely could, for I knew probable death awaited me at home, and I wanted to shave precious minutes off my infraction in order to avoid certain death. And then red white and blue lights flashed behind me. How patriotic.

I pulled over in a grocery parking lot, and the cop scolded me for my curfew violation like only suburban cops can. That, though, I could live with. "I'm going to have to call your mother and have her escort you home," he concluded. That, I couldn't.

When Mom showed up in her robe and slippers, she looked as amused as someone standing in the street and watching her house burn down. My mind raced to come up with an excuse. C'mon, brain, don't fail me now. Any excuse will do. Right now. Here we go. Any second now.

Stupid brain.

It came time for Mom to follow me home, and, my rear window completely obscured by ice, I glanced to my right and saw the cruiser and my mom's car safely to that side. I backed up. Crunch.

I had backed up into a newly arrived, second police cruiser.

a many splintered thing

There are several classes of I love yous, and subsequently I have several classes of reactions to them.

"I love you," says the family member who hasn't talked to me for more than an hour, total, in the last 20 years. They'll say it in the same way my mother did: leadingly, in order to hear a reciprocation. My response: "Really. Describe me."

There's the romantic, ostensibly the most rewarding I love you. And it certainly can be. It can make me positively dizzy. All too often, though, I end up wondering if that, too, was phony. My wondering-rate is an appalling 50%. Curiously, I still love 100% of the women I've ever said it to, even the frauds. Or at least I still love their fraudulent versions.

There's the feint. "Love ya!" says the ambiguous friend of the opposite sex, testing the waters. That "a" is crucial. It gives them deniability. If I deflect with a speech about what our friendship means to me, they can say, "No no no, you misunderstood. Jesus, John. How irresistible do you think you are?" And if I say "I love you, too" and move in for a kiss, she can deflect with a speech about what our friendship means to her.

The robo-iloveyou comes from my friends' kids. The toddler will be performing his bedtime ritual, brushing his teeth and smooching his parents good night.

"I love you," he says to Mom.
"I love you too."
Smooch.
"I love you," he says to Dad.
"I love you too."
Smooch.
"I love you," he says to me, whom he just met an hour earlier.
"Why?"

The cool, detached I love you is one I've often used, myself. You use it when your buddy throws a glass beer bottle at Superfan, or when the waitress brings you a bourbon that you did not order. It's not a particularly lasting romance, but for that immediate moment, you mean it with all your heart.

The pity I love you is the absolute worst. You have a disease, or your mom just died, or you were just ruthlessly dumped and you spend every minute of every day staring at the knife drawer. And a friend or, worse, a co-worker, not knowing what else to do about your depression, says "I love you" for the first time. It is at this moment that you realize that in addition to your original problem, you're now a whimpering, helpless loser on the brink. Get medicated.

My favorite I love you, bar none, is from a protege. This is no one with whom you're romantically entangled. This is no one contractually bound to say it. This is a promising human being whom you've taken under your wing and helped along, for no other reward than seeing them succeed in life. You've invested a lot of yourself in them, and sometimes a bond like no other forms. It's not paternal, fraternal, professional, or rivalrous, although it has elements of all those relationships. But man, when the kid sheepishly tells me they love me, it means more than all the other genres combined. It's pure. No one has an agenda. This one, it was earned. For all its potency, though, it does have its limits.

"John's a good name," I'll tell the newly pregnant protege.

"You know, really, it's not," she'll roll her eyes.

oh, snap!

My childhood dog, Freya, was the gentlest and smartest of the lot I've owned. When the weird old woman down the street complained that Freya was killing her chickens, we laughed. It was unthinkable. Not Freya. Not the dog who endured so much teasing with such grace. We laughed and laughed, right up until she proudly brought a freshly killed chicken corpse into the family room.

For whatever reason, she loathed chickens. To her dying day, Freya vigorously denied that chickens had a right to exist. And she did everything she could to deny 'em.

That was the first time I ever saw an otherwise sane dog snap, but it wouldn't be the last. Joe, a female golden retriever (so named after Joe Montana, for defeating the Bengals in the Super Bowl in 1989), was a lovely animal too. Until she heard sportscaster Chris Berman's voice, at which point she foamed and snarled. If I so much as imitated him saying "He....could...go...all...the....WAY!", I would be bitten. At the very least.

That was curious, but what made Ed snap was not. The only person she ever hated was a glorified bar skank who climbed into her dog bed, cooing drunken baby talk at her. I can't say I blame her. I slept on the couch that night, myself.

Until this week, I had not discovered what makes Dex snap. Perhaps that's because I don't often sing the "Mahnahmahnah" song from the Muppet Show. By the time I get to my scat vocal stylings, she's trying to disembowel me.


27%

If you didn't see it, a visiting outfielder was catching a deep fly ball when a Cubs fan, timing for when the ball arrived, dumped a beer on the outfielder. Security then ejected a bunch of fans, but at this writing it's unclear whether the guilty party was thrown out.

You can see the clip here. The fan clearly endangered the safety of the player. What throughly depresses me, though, is that when ESPN asked its readers whether they would turn in a fellow fan who did this, a whopping 27% said no.

I wouldn't have thought it possible for me to think even less of my species, but here I am.

training camp

32 pro football teams are in training camp now, and it's a good time for fans to refine their practices, as well. Especially fans who intend to watch games with me. The cardinal rules follow. We'll start with how to dress and end with post-game etiquette.

Pretty in pink. There are two schools of thought on women wearing pink versions of team uniforms. The first school of thought is that this is patronizing to women and unsupportive of the team for whom they purport to root. The second school of thought is asinine.

Women, believe me, there is nothing hotter than you in my Steelers jersey. (We shall skip all discussion of any autohomoerotic overtones in this statement.) I mean, who's hotter here, the famous beauty wearing her quarterback boyfriend's number, or the everyday beauty wearing an offensive lineman's number? Who's the real fan here? Who is more likely to be able see a holding non-call? You can guess my answer.

jessica.jpg

Thou shalt not disrupt my sight line. We all need to use the bathroom and refill our drink, especially during the playoffs. But in a three hour football game, there are only 12 actual minutes of action. This leaves you 168 other minutes to walk between me and the action. Look at the bloody game first. Are the little men lined up in a row? Are they running full speed? Yes? Hold your bladder another two seconds.

Attention, Steelers and Bills fans.
Buffalo wings as a stadium food? Seriously? What exactly do you expect to do with the bones? No. No, no, no. You will not drop them where our feet are. You simply won't. No one would be that disgu—

Jesus H.

Shut the fuck up. You may talk about non-game related matters during commercial, injury, or replay time-outs. Otherwise shut the fuck up. And if it's the Steelers in the playoffs, you will only speak when spoken to.

Seriously, shut the fuck up. When I snap at you mid-game for saying the Steelers get all the calls, this is not the time to discuss my myriad temper problems. Not unless you want to experience them at full intensity.

Excuse me again. Sorry. I promise...this is the last time. Excuse me. When I go to a football game in person, I never ever have to leave my seat mid-game. Why? Because I'm there to see a football game. Which brings us to you. I can't see the game. I see only you. Sit down. If you must get up, kindly time your exit and entrance for the aforementioned 168 minutes. I know you won't.

Seriously, sit the fuck down. Do you like the feel of gnawed chicken bones ricocheting off your head? It's easy to come by. Repeatedly stand up in front of me during exciting plays in progress, blocking my view of critical event after critical event.

Look! Up in the stands! It's a bird! It's my bird! Directed at Superfan! Hi, my name is John, and I root for the same team you do. This does not give you a mandate to be my leader. I will not join you in chants, song, or the infernal Wave. Contrary to what you will doubtless say through your slurred speech, this does not impugn the sincerity of my fandom. It confirms it. We're here to see the game, not to validate you. Now turn around and sit down so you can see at least one play before you leave.

Hosts, make your guests feel welcome. Visitors, take your shoes off before entering. Collegial ribbing is fine, but Superfan, if you set out to ruin the good time of a visiting fan, I will personally strangle you with your Terrible Towel. And on the road, you shall not antagonize enemy fans. You shall represent the Steeler Nation honorably, because I'm certainly not taking a punch for you.

Act like you've been there before. When your 12-4 team waxes a 5-11 team, don't rub it in opposing fans' faces. You were supposed to win. Do you masturbate after sex, too?

fixer-downer

In a subsequent conversation about her mother's visit (and attempts to fix me up with her sister), Kelly chortles, "Yeah, afterward I got to hear about what a thing you have for me, too."

What?

"Because you talked me up. There's only one reason a guy would praise a woman professionally, you know. You're in loooooooove with me."

And thus does my streak of not remotely understanding women's mothers continue unabated. It's a long streak.

fixer-upper

Onetime protege Kelly and her family came to visit. This trip was notable because for the first time, I was meeting Kelly's mother, whose legend I've heard for 12 years but whose pathologies I've never actually witnessed first-hand. Kelly took her kids down to the beach, leaving me alone with Mom and two really stiff drinks. I'm not sure if Mom was drinking.

"So, my grandchildren call you 'Uncle John' and refer to you as their 'other father.'"

I took a big gulp of bourbon.

Knowing she's from back East and had never before met a co-worker of Kelly's, I decided to talk Kelly up. "Do you have any idea what a big-shot your daughter is at Microsoft?"

"No, tell me."

And so I did. She's a huge shot. She went from my interview chair to being the boss within a year and a half, and then she continued her meteoric rise. She's enormously well-respected by both kool-aid guzzling twinkies and by people with actual abilities. In short, Mom, I've never been prouder of someone than I am of your daughter.

Mom was very pleased. And then she started talking about her other daughter. Actually, "pimp" is the more precise verb. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.

This relative, too, I've heard lots about but never met. She's been briefly married twice, each time to an abusive "bad boy." Kelly has long lamented her sister's taste in men, and Mom, I figured, saw me as the antithesis of her usual choices. I pretended I had no idea where she was going with this. So Mom made things more clear.

"Anyway, she's going through a divorce right now. I'm just saying you should think about it."

I tried to deflect gracefully. "I don't know. I don't think she'd be interested, since I don't really need to be fixed."

"LIKE HELL YOU DON'T!" yelled Kelly, just coming up the beach steps.

isometric exercise

I saw this picture the other day and immediately thought of Dorkass. "This is what managing you is like," I said.

She agreed. "Looks like you're asleep when you're supposed to be helping out."

panda.JPG

knowing your limitations

I've recently joined a group that's trying to establish a new park. This, tragically, has required that I attend several community meetings. I was at one such meeting the other night when we had a guest speaker, a man who'd previously gone down our path. He rattled off some good advice, including "When you talk to the county commissioners, be ready for difficult questions and evasions. Don't take it personally. It's just what they do. And don't send anyone to meet with them who will get impatient or hostile."

Everyone turned around to look at me. Finally, a use for my disposition.

it's snowing neurons

Allie and I flicked the tears off our cheeks. She had just gotten off a good one, an immortal one even, at my expense. It was viciously funny. "Oh my god," I chortled. "I know what tomorrow's post is gonna be! Help me remember what you said!"

"Okay!"

18 hours later, we remember that conversation vividly. Her quote? Not so much. The only upside is that this woman no longer makes fun of my diminished mental capacity.

Dirt and Kiki have a little tradition. Whenever their friends or relatives from back East come for a visit, everyone comes over to my house to eat $150 worth of crab. It's my fault, I realize. I like to entertain. I like crab boils. This equals trouble.

Kiki was wasted. My god, what an obnoxious drunk. Eventually we all stopped trying to make conversation, lest she interject something puerile. Someone whose sense of humor is that of a 14 year old ordinarily, Kiki plummeted to an 8 year old. An 8 year old boy. Volvos were "vulvas." A guest snacking on peanuts was repeatedly described as liking "to eat penises." When a guest asked me for a grocery sack for various odds and ends, Kiki snorted "you can just stuff them in my box!"

And so on. She would repeat each such witticism at least two more times, nudging us to get her "good one." I don't know that I've ever felt more sorry for another human being as I did for Dirt right then.

Mortified, I eventually tuned out. I stared into space and thought about how many opportunities I'd had for Kiki and Dirt to meet my own visiting friends, yet I had always opted not to. Good call, I thought as I stared forlornly into space. Fucking great call.

"JOHN'STH NOT EVEN LISTHENING TO ME RIGHT NOW!" Kiki correctly observed. "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT, JOHN?"

"Oh, nothing really. I was just missing my real friends."

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