May 2015 Archives

In the otherwise magnificent Carnegie museum in Pittsburgh, there's an exhibit about race. Sadly, predictably, what purports to be thoughtful really just mines the worst of humanity for dramatic effect. I was disappointed.

This wall features quotes from locals about race relations. Which brings us to a woman who really, truly needs to specify antecedents to her pronouns when granting interviews.


don't be a dick

One day I was sitting in my office when Annette came in to get popcorn. Normally she scooped from my machine without sending more than a cursory grunt in my direction, but on this day, something grabbed her attention. Slumped over my desk as though shot, I was listening to hysterical idiots on my speakerphone. Annette had seen me this miserable before, but never without my being trapped in a meeting room with Microsoft marketers. This was something new.

Annette lingered for a while, munching popcorn. "What am I listening to?"

"Oh. Right. This is an angry message my sister left me in which she's holding her phone up to her answering machine so she can play me an angry message that my brother left for her."

"And what does any of this have to do with you?"

"Nothing. Nothing whatsoever. It's just really important to her that I hate him, too."

"That's so..." She searched for the right word. She found it.



This is when Annette started inviting me to Easter dinner with her family. They're awesome. They root for one another, not against. Although I enjoy their company, my annual drive home is utterly depressing. For two hours, I'd pretended to belong to the family I'd always wanted. But the problem with fantasies is that they end.

• • •

When I was a kid, even back in the single-digit ages, I used survey the carnage that was my family and dream about the day I would never have to see these people again. As an adult, of course, I saw things differently. I tried to make it work. Yep. I lasted until I was 20 before activating the trap door under their feet. And except for occasional tightly controlled cameos, I've stuck to it. For more than half my life, my family has had to be hateful without my participation.

The consequences have been surprisingly few. I have nieces and nephews I don't know—the collateral damage of my decision. And if I don't have a girlfriend, holidays can be pretty pointless.

That's it. That's the list. The rest is all upside.

One sibling has figured it out: if you're simply not a colossal dick, John will stick around. You would think that this nominal bar would be easily cleared, but the rest of my family has been impaling themselves on it for decades. This sister, in turn, has assured me that my nieces and nephews, too, are not phalli. And thus did I reach out to one.

She's an adult, now, and I haven't been a part of 95% of her life. She's getting married, and instead of going to their wedding, I'm going to take her and her Steelers-fan husband to a game. She seems pleased, but she did ask the obvious question.

"Can I ask why we're the lucky few who get to be reacquainted?"

"I need a kidney, and it turns out you're a perfect match," I replied.

patriots fans' nicene creed

We believe in the Patriots, the One Team Almighty, the takers of trophies.

We believe that the Patriots are the true Team of true Teams, above reproach in all things.

Toward that end, we also believe that illegally videotaping other teams' signals was of no competitive advantage whatsoever, which is why the Patriots took the risk of doing so at the cost of fines and their #1 draft pick. Obviously.

We believe that Tom Brady, our wide receivers, and our running backs are less capable than Ravens and Colts defensive players of noticing that a ball is illegally underinflated.

We believe that the equipment manager called himself "the Deflator" because he's a fattie trying to lose weight.

We believe Tom Brady when He says that He didn't know the equipment manager with whom He threw footballs during pregame warmups for over a decade.

We believe owner Robert Kraft when He says the Patriots did not deflate footballs, for if you cannot believe an established Cheater about cheating, whom can you believe? Seriously, we defy you to name a higher authority. Go on. We'll wait.

Because the Patriots didn't deflate footballs, we believe the Patriots immediately canned the equipment manager's say it's because he's fat.

We believe that Patriots running backs who leave for other teams see their fumble rate go up 38% because those other teams overinflating their footballs.

We believe that the noble martyr Robert Kraft isn't appealing His team's punishment because it's what's best for the league and because, as He Himself decreed in a written, prepared statement, "I have a way of looking at problems that are very strong in my mind."

We believe that anyone who doesn't share these beliefs is just jealous of our trophies, even the teams with more trophies than us.

fiddla, please

When my mother purchased music at this thing we used to call "record stores," she walked right past the Pop/Rock and R&B sections and went straight to the Atrocities section. As I was tethered to her, this means that my formative years were replete with abominations like Barry Manilow's "Copacabana," Morris Albert's "Feelings," the Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep us Together," and Neil Diamond's "Turn on Your Heartlight."

So to those of you who think me a douche, I say that's fair, but I also assure you that is the best possible outcome. Given the aural cesspool from which I sprang, you're lucky I didn't open fire in my teens.

Among her many gifts to me is that I still—still!—know all the words to the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack. It's horrible. It haunts me. I catch myself singing it, and then with a jolt I'm throughly disgusted with myself, as if I'd just awoken to find myself having sex with a particularly homely underaged yak.

This morning's incident involved Matchmaker, Matchmaker, in which idiotic teen girls sing about the vapid man of their retarded dreams.

For Papa,
Make him a scholar.
For mama,
Make him rich as a king.
For me, well,
I wouldn't holler
If he were as handsome as anything.
I had never considered these lyrics as an adult. They peg mothers' and teenage girls' priorities well enough, but fathers? Where are these fathers-in-law who value scholarship? I've seen them value money, or their daughters' continued dependence on them, or money, or whether or not I believe in the correct invisible man in the sky, but I've yet to meet a dad who gave a single flying crap about my scholarly accomplishments.

mad max

Critically adored, nay, fawned over, this movie was so much meh to me. I didn't care who lived or died. At all. Kill any of 'em; it's all the same to me. I was exactly as invested in this aimless cacophony as I was in the Transformers movies. Did no one else have this reaction?

Okay, okay, I secretly hoped for the stupid guitar player to die, but that was just so I didn't have to watch shots of him preening anymore.


When Randy and I start talking about football, his wife, Stephanie, looks at her watch and then zones out. Ten minutes later, she interrupts.


It's fair. We get to talk about football for a bit, and she gets to hear us stop. She hasn't the slightest interest in football nor anything else I like.

Steph is a gardener and vegetarian, and her kids go to one of those hippie schools where they learn about feelings instead of monetizable skills. She's sweet, she's gentle, and for some reason that eludes us both, we get along.

It was a considerable delight this week, then, when the first text I received about Deflategate was from her.


Non-Bostonians, enjoy.

I was mowing my lawn while smoking a cigar and listening to a Steelers podcast.

"Jesus Christ," groaned Mike, "You are the single straightest man I have ever known."

There once was a time when that was unambiguously a compliment. Ah, the good ol' days.

• • •

I was having dinner with the pink mafia one night. I was the token straight amidst a full spectrum of queens. It's always a good time. It's a far more reliably good time than hanging out with straight friends or, god help me, family. Perhaps my attitude is better. Perhaps they're just kinder. I don't know, and I don't care. I enjoy differences between people. I love reveling in differences, learning from them, and most especially, making fun of them. In uptight Seattle, we don't even acknowledge differences, let alone have the grace to find humor in them. It's an uncomfortable fit for this polka dot, which brings us back to that dinner table.

"So back when you chose to be gay..." I slurred. It's my standard ice-breaker.

"FUCK OFF!" they slurred back. Also standard.

They were surprisingly curious about women, far more curious than I am about men. I would characterize their interest as zoological. What a weird species women are, they agreed, with horrific biological plumbing. It's hard to look at the stirrups in my doctor's office and disagree. I was far more interested in how the recent societal shifts have affected their lives. Are things noticeably better, day to day? Are they happier?

It was then that the conversation took a dark turn.

There was a lot of self-loathing at that table, a discomfort in one's own skin. I was shocked at the uniformity and depth of it. These are great guys. Yet to a man, they all found gayness a burden. I'd always looked at it as just something Like height. I don't love my height, but I also don't resent it or particularly think about it. This required some mental adjustment on my part.

Trying to understand, I posed a horrible question: if you could take a pill and be straight, would you? Four out of five immediately said yes. The fifth needed to think about it.

My mind was blown. I cannot imagine that feeling. I have never been where they are. I've never been in a place overlooking the rumor of a shadow of where they are.

I have no conclusions to draw from that throughly depressing conversation, but it forever colored how I look at gay issues. When I see religious nuts opposing gay marriage (or as I think of it, asserting special rights for straight people), it just saddens me. Like these guys aren't self-loathing enough, we have to shriek hysterically that they're unworthy of an institution with a 50% failure rate? Throw them a bone, already.

Bad choice of words. I'll allow it.


"You have got to learn his name!" laughed Amy.

During a work meeting, I had confused clients' names again. I do this often these days, and I do it predictably. I confuse a guy at one company for a guy at another, and I always confuse the exact same pairing. It's when you start to solve for the common denominator that things get uncomfortable.

Company A Company B Common Characteristic
Steven Brad White guys
Manik Varij Indian guys
Jane Lucy Women

I'm some kind of an -ist, clearly, but which kind(s)? Me, I'm going to argue for cannotbebotheredtotellmoronsapartist.

victim of the week: tom brady

Rewarding achievements in claiming victimization

In January, a Colts defender intercepted a pass and noted that the ball provided and used by the Patriots was underinflated. An NFL investigation showed that yes, almost all of the Pats' balls were underinflated. What's the competitive advantage there? The ball is easier to throw and catch, and fumbles become mysteriously rare—right up until the same running back goes to the Bengals and his fumbles soar, anyway. More to the point, it's against the rules. It's cheating.

All eyes turned to Tom Brady, who did himself no favors by disavowing all knowledge and saying he had no idea who the equipment manager was after having thrown footballs with the guy during warmups for 15 years. For good measure, when the NFL asked to see his related text messages, Mr. Brady declined.

As a fellow cheater who's incapable of manning up and admitting it, I understand completely.

But then Brady's agent unleashed this:

"What does it say about the league office's protocols and ethics when it allows one team to tip it off to an issue prior to a championship game, and no league officials or game officials notified the Patriots of the same issue prior to the game? This suggests it may be more probable than not that the league cooperated with the Colts in perpetrating a sting operation."
Pretty much, buddy, yeah. They got a tip your client was cheating, and then they sought the proof. Sorry about the whole absence of "Hey, just a heads up, if you were planning on cheating this weekend, we're going to be trying to catch you. Cheers!"

I'm sure when the police get a tip that a suspected serial burglar is going to hit house x on Friday night, the very first thing the cops do is call the robber and warn him of their surveillance that night.

Never forget: Tom Brady is the real victim, here.



At my favorite cigar shop, they have a giant Jenga set made out of cut 2x4s. What dominoes are to my old Columbus neighborhood, Jenga is to this Pittsburgh haunt. Rules are strictly enforced:

  • Thou shalt use only one hand.
  • Thou shalt touch only one block at a time.
  • Thou shalt touch a maximum of three blocks during one turn. This last rule is a motherfucker. If your first three blocks are stuck, well, you're yanking on one anyway.
I was playing Jenga with Courtney, a sparkly, well-read, adorable Pittsburgh native and Steelers fan with whom I'd hit it off spectacularly. We were well on the way to dateville when it happened.

I cheated.

I had absent-mindedly stopped the stack from falling by touching a second block.

Courtney saw it. "CHEATER!" she shrieked, extending her finger in accusation.

I was at a crossroads, I knew. Yes, I could cop to cheating. Courtney and I would have a nice laugh about it. Then I'd take my future wife out to dinner. We'd have a great "how we met" story for the rest of our lives. Her family and our children would lovingly address my Christmas gifts to "Sleazy McCheats." And eventually, at my funeral, my lovely pearl-haired widow would tearfully say that by going to heaven, I'd cheated even death. Everyone would chuckle warmly, shaking their heads. Oh, that John.




Earl was there, selling out his gender. "You totally cheated, man."

"SEE?!" Courtney whirled at me. Caught, I had no choice.


And thus did I have dinner solo that night. "He ate meatloaf alone and watched an old Simpsons episode" is a decent eulogy, too.

moron taxonomy
stupid church signs
super bowl xl officiating
percy chronicles

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