January 2014 Archives

reader mail: theft

Noob Stank troll Justin asks:

Do you find yourself the target for more theft, too?
Theft, sure. I don't know about more theft. I've had stuff stolen when I was at pretty much every phase of life. It used to be car batteries and tools. Now it's me paying people to not work. My company's staff isn't bad, largely because if I see suspicious timecards, they just don't get any more assignments. Housecleaners, though, are especially bad. If I'm here, they work the four hours for which they're paid. If I'm not, I've seen them leave after 25 minutes, skipping entire rooms. Thanks, creepy motion detectors!

Which brings us to the recent discovery that my former lousy housekeeper is about to be released from prison. Her crime? Stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of stuff from an elderly client. My latest housekeeper told me about this.

This compelled me to go "Hmmm, maybe I should google these people." The latest housekeeper popped up immediately. You remember my latest housekeeper. The one asking for an $850 loan? She was arrested five years ago for dealing Oxycontin and, not coincidentally, prying someone's safe out of their floor. She and her boyfriend, whom she often brings into my house to "help."

"Maybe you should clean your own house," offers my friend Erica.

"And people say women aren't funny."

the no-longer-poor tax

I spent the first 28 years of my life dirt poor. I don't mean the modern definition, the "we only had one 52 inch flatscreen TV" poor. I mean we had one enormous, Jeep-sized console TV from before I was born, and if it died, there was no money to fix it. I spent my childhood praying every night that God bless and protect my TV.

P.S. And God, if you could cure Mom's cancer too, that would be swell.

When she wasn't unemployed due to her terminal disease, my single mother worked as a nurse's aide. Her healthy, butt-wiping years were the salad years of my youth; they afforded me a whole three shirts when I was in the seventh grade. You can guess how seventh graders treated the kid with three shirts. You know how kind kids can be. And when mom's cancer came roaring back after a brief remission, we got even poorer. To stave off homelessness and pay our bills, I mowed lawns. She died when I was still a teenager, and I kept mowing. And later, shelving books. I struggled through high school, then some college, then depression, then college again, then grad school, and then finally...success! I was a taxpayer!

It took me until I was 28 to crack $15,000 a year.

I'm not rich now, but compared to my situation for most of my life, I am implausibly prosperous. Sometimes the poor kid in me still has a hearty giggle over his good fortune, and those moments are precious to me. I feel the relieved, disbelieving giddiness you might feel if you smashed a speeding Corvette into a concrete bunker, shattering the car to dust, yet somehow walked away thinner, taller, and with a better head of hair. How the fuck did that just happen to me? Probably best not to ask too many questions.

Much as I seem rich to my inner poor self, so too do I seem rich to people with less than me. This has a couple of manifestations that I've come to call my "no longer poor" tax. You're not even aware of these taxes until you make enough money, and then all of a sudden you've got problems that really should be reserved for someone who makes a lot more money than you do.

The first tax is simply rude. My stuff doesn't matter to poor people anymore. They're careless with my possessions, sometimes breaking them and not bothering to tell me about it. And heaven forbid they offer to pay for its replacement. On my better days, I excuse it by thinking "Well, they have no conception of how much that dining room table cost. That's why they're letting their kid draw on it." But eventually, the sheer stupidity of that sentence catches up to me. It's never been said, but their reasoning is clear enough: John has more than me, so he should subsidize me. I never faced this expectation when I was poor. If someone broke or lost my stuff, they apologized profusely and at least offered amends. I dearly miss this...what's it called? Oh yeah.

Courtesy.

The second tax manifested last week. My housecleaner of two years is a nice enough girl, 24. She comes from a long line of uneducated rural folk who scrape by, and that's all she expects of herself, and that's fine because I'm certainly not scrubbing my own toilets. Ask any ex-girlfriend. They will gladly testify that I have never touched a toilet brush. Or even more controversially, the toilet paper spindle.

The housecleaner asked me for an $850 interest-free loan so that she and her boyfriend can get the luxury apartment they want, without waiting until they can save the money for the deposit.

She and I have no relationship beyond our professional arrangement. We do not socialize. We do not text. We are not Facebook friends. If I ran out of gas, I would hitchhike before I would call her. And yet she's asking me for almost five months' pay in advance based on...on...

I've actually been here before. Her thinking is as sophisticated as this: "Me want money. Who me know who money got? (surveys life) John! Me get money from John." And then, devoid of any sense of shame or propriety, the request is made, and the only lesson learned is mine:

I did poor all wrong.

crap, your procreating?

Once I discovered that Google's predictive text is a window into the black souls and feeble minds of the masses, it was like discovering Ebay all over again. Another cesspool in which to waste time.

This search leads to two predictable conclusions. People who suspect they're in love know how to spell fancy SAT words like "you're." And unfortunately, people who suspect they're pregnant...not so much.

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yes, kids, pot can damage your brain

"I thought of you when I drove past this town," I texted Bubba.

"nice...not only is it not illegal, they're openly marketing it now," he replied.

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dick sherman

Readers are asking me what I think of Richard Sherman. I think of him today what I thought of him a year ago: he's a dick. He's always been a dick, and he'll always be a dick. The only thing new about Sunday night's interview was the number of people who saw that he's a dick.

People rushing to call him a "thug" are, well, idiots. He's an unlikable, self-aggrandizing, selfish dick. That's pretty much the most that can be said about him. Why do we have to used a charged term instead of the indisputably accurate one? Let's reserve "thug" for people who really deserve it, like Obama and Oprah.

Then there's the hordes of white people rushing to defend him and thus demonstrate how racist they aren't. You know them. They say "Stanford" as as many times as possible on your Facebook wall.

There are no good guys in this story.

living in the state of new jersey

I've been living in the state of new jersey for several months.

When it became clear that the Seahawks had a championship-caliber team, suddenly I was living in a sports town. Grocery-store Russell Wilson jerseys popped up everywhere, overnight. Just Russell Wilson. Occasionally a Marshawn Lynch, but the ratio is 200:1. Certainly no other players, and god forbid the jersey be older than two months. There are no Hasselbeck or Alexander or Easley or Zorn jerseys, similar to the faded jerseys that adorn other fan bases. The Seawhawks jerseys are all modern, shiny, new. I saw a woman in a vintage Largent jersey a couple months ago and almost lost my head and proposed.

These instafans have something else in common. Whenever I'm at, say, the dog park and Russell Wilson's doppleganger comes up to talk about the team as "we," I don't ask my usual question, "What position do you play?" I go straight for the throat. "I'll give you 20 bucks if you can name 10 players." I have asked this question probably two dozen times these last three months, and each time the we-ing, bejerseyed stranger has failed to collect. Am I jerking off? Yep. But I despise these people. They are an abomination. It's like grabbing a BB gun and shooting the dog who shits all over your lawn, while he's squatting over your daisies. Are you not entitled?

Like with any form of social interaction, Seattleites learned everything they know about fandom from beer commercials. They know how to look the part, but their understanding beyond face-paint and high-fives is painfully superficial. Predictably, their stolen, sole tradition celebrates not a player or the team, but themselves. They pour enormous energies and moneies into celebrating their own greatness.

But despite the crowds in whatever the stadium is called now, Seattle is a horrible sports town. Ghastly. You know how in your town, you can tell whether the team won or lost merely by people's moods the next day? Yeah, we don't have that here. You can tell by jersey sales the next day, but that's it. You know how in your town, the local high school teams have followings? How the local Dairy Queen and gas station put "Go Lions! Maul the Rams!" on their signs? I only see that when I get on a plane. High school sports do not exist here. College sports only exist during that heartbeat per season when it looks like UW might be good.

Perhaps the best illustration of Seattle's self-vaunted 12th Man came in 1999, when the Seahawks made the playoffs for the first time in years. The Seattle Times ran a whole page called "How to pretend you've been a Seahawks fan all along," stuffed with names to drop and events to mention at parties. They should have added the names of 10 current players.

But my most personal example dates back to the Seattle-Pittsburgh Super Bowl in 2006, when I bought tickets from a Seahawk season-ticket holder and sat in the Seahawk season-ticket holder section, pictured here.

Upon my return, several Seahawk fans volunteered that the crowd for Seattle's first Super Bowl in franchise history was 90% Steeler fans because Detroit is so much closer to Pittsburgh than Seattle. Without a trace of irony or recognition, they said this to the Steelers fan who drove two hours to get to the Seattle airport to fly to Detroit. No, folks, it's not the mileage. It's the fakeness.

text messages between mentor and protege

One of the great joys of mentoring is paying forward the abuse that my own mentors dealt me. To this day, everything I say or do is a waste of my potential, and they rarely waste a chance to say so. So is it with Darcy, who always thanks me with the same two sentences.

Darcy
"You're awesome! Thank you!"
Me
"You should really enter that string by macro, at this point."

One month later, on the next occasion where I helped her out...
Darcy
"Macro: You're awesome! Thank you!"
Me
"Macro: I am very disappointed in you."

From Frank Frank comes news of a retired cop who asked a toughtless clod to stop texting in a movie theatre. Said clod refused to stop and became beligerant. I wasn't there, but I'm sure he informed the other patrons that unlike themselves, he paid for his ticket. That's what these douches always say.

Here's to you, Florida.

And they say Americans are incurious about others' customs.

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advice for the son i'll never have

Sequel to Advice for the daughter I'll never have

  • I have not met your mother, but I know she has damaged you. Her doting has turned you into a big, fat whiny baby when you're sick. It is important that you realize this. Your girlfriends and wives will not understand why you're such an attention-whoring pansy when you get the sniffles. Particularly if they're in labor.
     
  • I know this goes against your hard-wiring, but teasing girls until they cry is not an effective way to convey that you have a crush on them. Seriously. They're nuts, little dude.
     
  • Learn how to throw a ball. You can have a candyass arm, but if you can't throw with correct form, you're in for a rough life.
     
  • Never hit a girl. Even if she's bigger than you. Even if she hits you first. Retaliation will not end well for you. Your merely getting hit is the best possible outcome, here.

    Exception: sisters. If you let your sisters hit you with impunity, you're in for a rough life.
     
  • We know what you're doing behind that closed door. We don't care. Knock yourself out.
     
  • If you're gay, we're cool. Just be a top.
     
  • If you're a born-again Christian, we're cool. Just don't visit.
     
  • Never, ever date a male friend's ex without his permission.
     
  • Never, ever grant your male friend permission to date your ex. Are you fucking high?
     
  • Girls who are smoking hot in high school are almost always delusional, selfish people, and I don't mean just during high school. The attentions they receive at this formative time warp them forever. Aim instead for the cute nerd. There will be time for the young, smoking hot girls later, between your marriages.
     
  • Bathe. Work. Be courteous to servers. Don't call girls "sluts" just because they don't want to go out with you. If you can just do these four things, you will be among the most attractive 2% of the men in the world.
     
  • When a love interest volunteers that "whore" is the most insulting thing a man can call her, reflect on how this might have come up in the past.
     
  • All things being equal, work for a woman. Men working for men often becomes a pissing contest, and guess who loses?
     
  • When your girlfriend, mother, or female friend vents about something, you will feel—in your every corpuscle—that she's asking you to fix it. She's probably not. Resist your evolutionary imperative here.
     
  • Women have the adorable habit of thinking the life out of everything, exhuming its grave, resuscitating it, and then thinking the life out of it again. As you do not think much at all, you will usually find their overthinky thinkingness quite handy. Never admit this.

    Note that her thinkingness will also bite you in the ass. She will parse your actions for meaning and nuance that are not there. Like any paramecium accused of higher functioning, you will be baffled by this. The more you protest that your putting Diet Coke in the grocery cart means that you want Diet Coke and not she's fat, the more she'll stick her finger down her throat. Do not engage. Just change the subject to compliments. She probably won't fall for it, but it will end the conversation.
     
  • Almost any disaster in life, including messed up relationships, can be undone. But not making kids. Do not accidentally knock a girl up. Kids are forever. It's a life-wrecker for everyone, especially the kid. If she's on the pill, congrats—but you're still responsible for helping her remember to take the thing.
     
  • I adore women. Everyone I love is a woman. I was raised by a woman, and everything I know about being a man, I learned from a woman. That said, they are pure evil. They will give you secret tests, especially when they're young. You must learn to navigate these. It starts with your mother, who'll ask you "Do you think this blouse is slimming?" when you're still in the womb. Like "Which of my friends is the prettiest?" later on, there is no right answer. Say nothing and change the subject.
     
  • One of the tests will be whether you can figure out what's on her mind without her telling you directly. This is a test of your...oh, I don't know...let's say "tolerance of game-playing." The surest way to nip that in the bud is to pretend you don't notice what's going on. Her hints will become more overt, but stay the course. You notice nothing. You are a spore, so this is entirely plausible to her. Eventually she will give up the charade and speak in short, declarative sentences.
     
  • Before you start dating, do two things for me:


    1. Create an online persona where you're an modestly attractive girl. The
      ensuing tsunami of creeps will teach you a lot about a woman's world.
      Although it will make you truly despise men, it will make you a better man.

    2. When you know an athletic girl well enough to make this request of her,
      wrestle her. Try to pin her down. You will be amazed how easily you can
      overpower even strong girls. This too will change your perspective
      forever.


    That strangling terror you'll suddenly feel is called "empathy."
    Although it'll make you want to hermetically seal every woman you've
    ever cared about, it will serve you well.

advice for the daughter i'll never have

Chatting with Allie's eight-year old, I told her what the coming years were going to be like for her. Is anyone else going to tell her that boys will be cruel but eminently malleable idiots? Maybe, but it's doubtful they'd give such practical advice.

"Act like you like them for a day. Just the one day. They'll be buying you stuff for a year."

My god, I'd make a good dad, I thought. All this accumulated wisdom going unused is just tragic.

Alas. It's unlikely that I'll ever have kids, especially on purpose. For this reason, I now commit to the ages the advice I would give the daughter I'll probably never have:

  • Right now you think your parents are the smartest people on earth, but that will change. Soon we will seem like the dumbest, and we will say things like "I hate the teen years! I can't wait for this to be over!" But it's never over. Until we die, we will remain the dumbest people you know.
     
  • Your parents presently obsess about whether anything we do for you is adequate. Our parental guilt manifests in presents and trips and pets. Milk it. The minute you become a pre-teen, we will consider feeding you to be self-defeating.
     
  • Around 11, you may notice that everyone hates you. This will include your parents, your teachers, complete strangers, the long-deceased, and especially your closest girlfriends. We did not all change. You did. But you will grow out of it. And if you don't, blowing out the candles on your 18th birthday cake will be your last memory of family, so savor it.
     
  • If you find yourself beginning a sentence with "What does it mean when he," just stop. In fact, slap yourself hard. Whatever it is, it means nothing. The single biggest problem women have in relationships is their assumption that men are as complicated as women. Men are not. We are relative primitives. We are wired more like animals than like women. Do you ask yourself about the layers of meaning beneath what your dog is doing? No. That would be ridiculous. So you know how you're wondering if a guy is thinking about you? About whether there's subtext in his saying he likes a particular song? About whether he's thinking about calling, but maybe he's just too shy? No, no, and no. He's not. He's thinking about sex, or a sandwich, or whatever happened within the last 10 minutes. Stop burning calories psychoanalyzing paramecia.
     
  • You know how you can grow to be attracted to a guy? It doesn't work the other way. Guys know whether they'll ever be attracted to a woman within 10 seconds of meeting her. So if you like a guy, laugh at his stupid joke and touch his arm. If he likes you back, his hormones will take over from there. If they don't, just move on. This is infallible.
     
  • Never put yourself in a position where you're dependent on a man. Ever. No one will treat you worse than a man who knows you have no other options.
     
  • Never put yourself in a position where a man can be dependent on you. Ever. Although the option to mooch off their woman's income is fairly new to men, we took to it like a dog takes to a pile of deer shit. Once a man's motivation switch is thrown to Off, it takes a superhuman amount of torque to set it back to On.
     
  • Dating is test-driving. He's on his best behavior, so the slightest douchebaggery should set off alarms. Whatever annoys you when you're dating, you're going to get in spades when you're married.
     
  • There is a time and a place for sleeping around. That time and place is college. If you do it during high school, you'll just damage yourself. If you do it during your career, you'll just damage your career. But whatever happens in college stays in college. Go nuts. Just use condoms and, most especially, never tell me about it.
     
  • Men under the age of 28 are categorically worthless and maldeveloped. Do not try to redeem them, and never marry one. We take a while to catch up to women, and frankly, many of us never do.
     
  • Do not date fire fighters. Whatever sweet nothings he may whisper, that is an incorrigibly misogynistic, cheating, booty-call culture.
     
  • I will hate your boyfriends. Despite the comforting things people will tell you, this is not because I think these guys aren't good enough for you. I'm amazed that anyone wants to have sex with you, frankly. No, I will hate your boyfriend because he makes me superfluous. You will call him and not me when your car breaks down, or when you're thrown in jail for punching a creepy older guy in a bar, and I will never forgive him for my obsolescence.

    Way to deck the creep, by the way. That's ma girl.
     
  • If you ever have a kid, please endlessly post photos of it on your Facebook wall, but only after friending all of my parent friends.
     
  • The easiest way to ruin your life is to get pregnant accidentally. Not coincidentally, this is the easiest way to ruin your kid's life, too. Birth control is to dating what bungee-cords are to bungee-jumping.

attention, aussies and kiwis

I don't get many hits from New Zealand, but I see quite a few Aussies. Given that I'm starting to plan a 4-6 week trip to both countries, it seems a good place to ask for advice.

The idea is to cram what I can into just one trip. I very much want to visit your countries, but I very much want to avoid 18 hour flights even more. This is therefore likely to be my only trip to your part of the world, so I want to prioritize and plan.

The NZ south island and Australian east coast are happening, of course. Beyond that, what would you tell your American cousin he shouldn't miss?

goodbye, my favorite sport

Florida State won the last championship of the BCS era, momentarily bringing back into my life the most execrable tradition in college sports: their obnoxious war whoop. I didn't miss 40,000 white people acting like drunken extras in a Lone Ranger movie.

Thanks for unseating the SEC. Now back to oblivion with you.

As I watched the game, I grew depressed. I am convinced my favorite sport has breathed its last. Next year, we get the college football playoff seemingly everybody but me wants.

"But we'll finally get a real national champion! Don't you want a real national champion?" someone will write.

I will allow that an NFL-style tournament is probably the best way to determine the best team, or at least the healthiest team hottest late in the season. But I'm not even convinced of that. The Giants beating the Patriots was one more dubious result than the 14 BCS title games ever produced. I think we're fixing an imaginary problem.

At what cost?

Well, my days of flying cross-country to see Ohio State play Texas or USC in September are over. What used to be a "Holy shit, who scheduled this? I have to be there. The whole season hinges on this game in September!" moment is now next to meaningless. It's a pre-season game, or a regular season college basketball game. Not entirely meaningless, but close enough where the notion of my attending is ludicrous and the notion of my getting on a plane is lunacy.

Meanwhile, Clemson beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. Tigers players and fans are rejoicing over their quality win and fine season. Next year, that's gone. They'll be on the outside of the post-season, looking in. Oh sure, they'll still play in some fringe bowl game, but they will clearly, vibrantly be one of the have-nots. Exactly one team will celebrate its fine season with a win. Bowl games, which used to be a reward for players and fans, will be a cheap facsimile in which they'd rather not participate. A reminder that they're not one of the elite. A win that once would have been celebrated will instead earn shame—and a participation trophy that they hide some back room, out of sight, next to the "NIT Final Four" plaque.

But at least we've finally turned college football into a less talented NFL. We desperately needed one of those.

something to lose

If it seems like my Anna issue is all I've got going right now, you're very perceptive. Work is at a dead stop. Every time she shows up at my house unannounced during business hours, with a bottle yet, I'm napping in front of the TV.

Okay, it was just the once. The point is that I'm boring right now.

I've been in this position only rarely: someone targets me when I'm not particularly looking for a relationship. In this case, it's a god-awful match to boot. Other than my possessing a job (theoretically) and a decaying store of Y chromosomes, I can't even speculate as to why me. Anna is a fitness nut. She loves people and hates carbs. She has a super-high motor. She shoves positivity down the throats of all listeners. She's into a pyramid scheme. She isn't educated. She doesn't read. She posts misspelled inspirational GIFs on her Facebook wall, then repeats this misspelling when she types it in comments. Other than her luxurious brown ponytail, our Venn diagrams do not remotely overlap.

"Are you having a great day?" reads the text I just received. At 10am.

We've had the talk. As gently as I could, I've told her I'm not interested. And that precipitated this awfulness:

"You're telling me you'd rather be alone than date me?" Anna asked, incredulous and bewildered by an alien value system.

"I wouldn't have phrased it so harshly, but...yeah, pretty much. But you gotta—"

"Oh. My. God." She started breathing heavy, clearly hurt. I get the distinct sense that to Anna, worth = relationship. I clearly had just said the most insulting thing she could imagine.

"But you gotta realize that I like being alone. I would rather be alone than with anyone but maybe two women in the world." I said this because I am an idiot.

"WHO ARE THEY?"

Seriously, when am I going to learn how to talk to people? In the nursing home?

"It doesn't matter. One's happily married with kids, and the other's like 7000 miles away. Neither will ever happen. The point is that I like my li—"

"Fine. You hold out for that pipe dream," she snapped. She didn't add enjoy dying alone, asshole, but it was implied.

manfluenza

Not to sell out my gender, but this study concluding that men suffer more than women when stricken with the flu is utter bullshit. We men are big, fat, whiny babies, purposefully and with malice aforethought.

That said, I stubbed my toe this morning. Remit feminine pity, please.

2013 father of the year

My eyebrows were arched and my mouth was involuntarily agape. "You gave your eight year old daughter a gamertag with '69' in it?"

"I didn't!" protested Frank Frank.

Yet there it was.

"Yet there it is."

"I DIDN'T PICK THAT!"

"Well, that's how I'm writing about it."

"Get out."

annus horribilis

I am having the worst year.

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