Recently in friends & enemies Category

murder-suicide

I was in an interminable conversation with Allie today about her life's problems, and my mind wandered, out of self-defense. It wandered to another conversation with an ex, long ago.

• • •

In a Microsoft meeting room, I broke up with my girlfriend of several months. I had timed it for 15 minutes before a meeting so that people would trickle in and break up the breakup talk. I had this wired.

Then she showed up in my office, crying. My office-mate fled, the jerk. My new ex wanted more of an explanation. She wanted to tell me all about my own inadequacies. She wanted me to know that no one had ever hurt her this much before, not even the ex who beat her up. She said a whole lot of stuff. I emailed Bubba and told him that I might not be joining him for drinks after work due to the unfolding insanity.

Three hours later, the building was empty. Except for my office, that is, where I was completing lap 500 around Retard Park. My phone rang. It was Bubba.

"You're sitting there listening to the same stupid, stupid shit, over and over and over, and you're seriously thinking about a murder-suicide thing, aren't you?"

At the time, I thought he was some sort of sage. Many breakups later, I now know better.

very, very sorry

In 2010, a client asked if I could create technical diagrams. "No, but I know someone who can," I said, and that's how Amy came on board the project.

Art has always been a malignant carbuncle on the ass of my career. Dealing with art and artists is seldom not a moronic and laborious experience. Knowing this history, Amy was not surprised when I brought her on under one condition: "It's all yours. I never want to hear about it."

And for six glorious years, I never heard about it. Art just happened by magic. Then Amy left, and I've spent the last 18 miserable months trying to replace her with an assortment of drooling misfits. I'm not only constantly dealing with art, it's always in the form of damage control or my impatiently explaining how to navigate folders in Windows. Again. My running joke with Amy is "Whatever I did, I'M SO SORRY!"

Last night at a bar, a really cute woman sat next to me and chatted me up. Spotting her drawing pad, I asked to see her etchings. She’s quite talented. Bright, too. We chatted for hours, and where normally I’d be thinking “Is it too soon to give her a key to my house?” I was thinking about something else entirely. Finally, I popped the question.

“Say, do you know Adobe Illustrator?”

“Not at all, why?”

Now, I’m used to being rejected by women, but this one really stung.


the peak of my attractiveness

In the post-Fucking Amy aftermath, while I sorted through all my sad and stabby feelings, all I really wanted was someone with whom I could do dinner and a movie. This person couldn’t be male, because…well, what’s the point of talking to a guy? I’ve never known. Elizabeth served as my movie buddy for a time but then had the audacity to move away. Then came Bonnie, who had to ruin a good thing by deciding that my depression was irresistibly attractive. So I next tried the safety of a married woman, who, you guessed it, was eventually attracted to the world's most challenging fixer-upper. I'd known about both cliches—women are attracted to men they can fix, people are attracted to the emotionally unavailable—but until this time of my life, I'd never given it much credit. I do now.

And so it was on to a lesbian movie buddy. Gennifer and I were already work friends who went out to dinner from time to time, so movies were a natural extension. That couldn’t fail, right? We went out several times, and she told me all about her partner and gayness in general. Score! What a pleasant distraction from the steaming abyss where my soul used to be.

“So,” she said one day while picking nervously at her Phad Thai, “I’m thinking about trying men…”

And that is how I learned to love going to movies and dinner alone. As a bonus, I can tell texters off without mortifying anyone I know.

yes. really.

Many years ago, I was driving an old friend, Beth, to dinner. Recounting a deep and dark secret from her past, she was in tears. Actual weeping. This is all the more significant because she never, ever cries. She laid her heart bare that day. It was unprecedented vulnerability from a taciturn person.

As I pulled into a parking spot, she was in mid-sentence. A pretty girl in a brown ponytail entered my field of vision. WHAM! I racked my Jeep against the curb.

“Fucking really?” said a throughly disgusted Beth.

flo weighs in with typical nuance

Flo: you SLIPPED OUT???
Flo: you are a dick!
Flo: jesus christ! what's the worst thing that could have happened????
Flo: you don't have to fuck pittsburgh darcy, you can become FRIENDS???
Flo: oh good grief
Flo: you're an idiot
Flo: you'll punch some dude at a super bowl game but run away like a pussy from a drunk girl.
Flo: omg. how many levels of stupid are there in that story?

aha

Risa is my realtor and cigar buddy. It was her inspector that missed 100 grand in repairs. That I'm still speaking to her is a testament to how hard I'm working on making friends.

I just typed four paragraphs about all the things wrong with this house that have led me to having zero confidence in anything but its capacity for draining my bank account, but then I decided no one could possibly be interested. You're welcome. Suffice it to say that Risa stands alone in thinking not only that this house isn't a dumpster fire, but that it's somehow the house of a lifetime. So strong is her desire for this not to be, well, what it is, she easily and immediately dismisses the concerns of multiple contractors who declined to do repairs because they felt success was unattainable .

Yep. I’m tapping out. I broached the subject with Risa yesterday.

Here’s the math. 18 months ago, this house sold for x. Five months ago, it sold for x again. I have put about 13% more into unsexy stuff like realty fees, maintenance and repairs, so naturally, my dearest dream is to recoup as close to (x+13%) as possible. But I’m wary. The house will be listing for the third time in three years. To any buyer, that’s a giant flapping red flag with red glitter and a red spotlight on it. Realistically, I just don’t want to take too big a loss.

“I’m thinking it will go for 180% of x,” Risa said matter-of-factly.

“The fuck are you smoking, there? It’ll be for sale for the third time in two years. No one’s paying that.”

“You’re thinking like you. Look, John, I know you’re in it so you can’t see how great everything is, but that house is going to go for that.”

“It didn’t before, or the time before that. What’s changed?”

And then she rattled off a bunch of stuff like the school district that most definitely hasn’t changed. And this is how I realized that my friend's grip on sanity, if it ever amounted to much, is long vanquished.

the eddie effect

Newly minted trophy wife Aimee was passing around her wedding photos. Among them were some bathing suit pics that very proudly featured her perfect butt. "There's no cellulite on that thing," she pointed out light-heartedly. "I worked hard for that."

"And I wanna thank you," cooed Eddie, not looking up. Aimee giggled and swooned.

That is the Eddie Effect. Women find the guy irresistible. He's decent looking, but the interest he generates exceeds his aesthetic merits. Women find him charming. Hell, I do too. We all do.

"I want what you've got," I said to him after she left. "If I said that line, I'd get a drink in my face."

"It's all in the delivery," he offered. He even said that smoothly. His every word is warm butter. Christ.

As I drove home, I practiced channeling Eddie. "And I wanna thank you. And I wanna thank you. And I wanna thank you." Ugh. Each attempt was creepier than the last. On the charm scale, I never really exceeded Drunk Molester Uncle at a Wedding.

I was chatting with a small group of men when one identified himself as a Redskins fan. I asked him what he thought of the controversy with the Redskins name. He scoffed.

"I'm part Indian," said this lily-white dude, in that unconvincing manner in which people say "I'm not racist, but" or "True story!" "And it doesn't bother me at all." He looked smug, as though he'd just won the argument in a rout. If he'd only had a mic, he would have dropped it at my feet.

skinsidiot.jpg"People need to stop being so uptight," said someone else. Everyone agreed, and I once again found myself in the wholly unfamiliar position of being the bleeding heart at the table.

I allowed that far too many people parse every utterance for offense, for the pretext for demanding an apology. I hate that crap. Those people are not only an annoying scourge; their constant wolf-crying makes people deaf to more legitimate complaints. Legitimate complaints like, say...

"We're really cool with making a race's skin color a mascot? I'm the only person who thinks that's gross?"

"IT'S AN HOMAGE! REDSKIN MEANS HONORABLE WARRIOR!" someone yelled in my ear.

"See, when you have to say one word means completely different words—words that have nothing to do with the first word's etymology—that's got a whiff of self-serving bullshit to it," I said, making friends. "Give me one other example where redskin was used to mean honorable warrior."

This being the age of Trump, they answered my question with hostile irrelevance and at least three classic logical fallacies. "Are we supposed to get rid of Indians, Chiefs, and Seminoles, too? What about the Fighting Irish? Wah, Buckeye trees might be offended too!" They laughed. This was great stuff.

"And when you mock an argument I did not make, the bullshit smell only gets stronger. None of those mascots are based on a race's skin color. My point remains that Redskin is obviously different. Obvious to me, anyway."

"It's no different!" said the Redskin fan, using volume instead of a logical premise. And then the already-surreal conversation took a dive into the Abyss of Dumbfoundedness.

"People really need to stop being so damned sensitive all the time," said Earl, a middle-aged black dude.

Yep. I thought of all of the things you just thought of. The hypocrisy, the lack of empathy, the parallels, various racial analogies. ("It's an homage, Earl! Really! It means regal philanthropists! You need to stop being so sensitive.") I drew a breath to say these things. And then my gaze met Earl's. He's both a friend and a dick, and he couldn't wait to pounce on my next utterance. I double-dog dare you, motherfucker, said his look. Yeah. Go there.

"Well, I guess I'm wrong. Making a vanquished minority's skin color our sports mascot is obviously an homage to their entire race's warrior prowess."

I texted Stephanie and quietly showed it to Earl.

IMG_6482.PNG


real hard

I was doing a soft-opening of my new house's over-the-top bar. Just a couple of friends were there, making fun of my excesses. Sucking on a Manhattan while seated on one of six electric recliners facing two 75" TVs, Clyde turned serious on me.

"Know what I like about you?" he asked, nodding his head approvingly. "Even with all this...you never forgot where you came from."

"But God knows I tried," I replied, topping off his glass.

yes, he was baiting me

Yesterday's exchange with gay buddy Mike:

Mike: I used the Seahawks opener to secure a good brunch time. And it worked. Hardly anyone there.
Me: That is the single gayest thing ever written.
Mike: Ooh, grrrl, those mimosas? Che magnifique!

emily post

When showering at someone else's house, I always tread carefully. Many people let damp laundry incubate in the darkness of their dryer, I've found. Specifically, I found this by smearing stink all over my face with their guest towel. I’ve ended relationships for less.

I did a preemptive sniff-test at Kiki’s and Dirt’s house. Cringing as I brought the guest towel to my face, I wished for tongs. And the stench was indeed unprecedented, eye-stinging. After weighing the relative merits of body odor, I showered anyway. I found that the hand towel by the sink was funk-free. I swabbed my body with that hanky instead.

The guest bed had made showering in the morning imperative. The whole bed reeked of dogs and spoiled food, so I suspect that I did, as well. At the head of the bed was a pillow. The pillow was once white, I suppose. Perhaps at one point in history it even had a case over it, which I assume the dogs discarded in order to unfetter having sex with the pillow. I put a wad of dirty tailgating clothes under my head and willed myself to sleep.

c8wfdtq4.bmp

And I'll save you the trouble. Floral Stank Troll John already made the "you're so particular" joke.

morons and me

Last weekend I ventured to Minnesota and from there, Green Bay. It's been a rough couple of months, and dammit, I was gonna buy myself some happiness. Wisconsin and LSU, the two tailgatingest schools I've ever visited, were playing one another at Lambeau Field, and that was just the prescription for what ailed me. I bought tickets and a parking pass and told Dirt Glazowski that if he brought the brats, I’d cover everything else. I was going to have fun, if I remembered how.

On the drive to Green Bay, Dirt was in rare form. Never exactly bright, he was now energetically stupid, railing about blacks, immigrants, Hillary Clinton, and blacks again. He sprayed venom. When Colin Kaepernick was mentioned on the radio, that really set Dirt off. Turns out Kaepernick has a Muslim wife and he’s converted to Islam and pledged his loyalty to ISIS.

“Uh, I don’t know anything about anything, but I know bullshit when I smell it,” I said, reaching for my phone. It took two seconds to verify that, well, everything Dirt had declared with such confidence was utter rubbish, fabricated at the ugly fringes of the Internet. That’s when Dirt informed me that Google was biased. “They’re not going to show you the truth!”

It was at this point that I started tabulating how much money I had spent to be there. I got a little misty. Goodbye, money. I loved you very much.

Dirt’s always been a lunk, but all this vitriol was new and decidedly unpleasant. When we returned home, he and his wife, Kiki, held forth for hours about how racist and murderous Black Lives Matter is. There was one moronic assertion after the next, and it made my brain hurt. No one cares about cops’ lives. Or whites’ lives. If a Polish cop is shot, do I get to wear a Polish Lives Matter shirt? Hell no! At this point, I had long since stopped engaging. There is absolutely no point. They are uneducated. They do not read. They zealously embrace, nay, hate-fuck any convenient falsehood that validates whatever their claim was supposed to be. They are demonstrable losers who, having wrecked their lives in utterly preventable ways, are assigning blame to literally anyone else. It is repugnant.

Kiki sneered about Colin Kaepernick’s ISIS wife.

“Oh, that’s made up,” I offered. “He’s not even married. He’s dating a DJ. You can look it up.”

Kiki exploded. In keeping with furious white trash tradition, she went straight to personal attacks. And you know what? Everything she said about me was absolutely accurate. I do think my sources are any better than hers. I do think I’m smarter than her. I do think I’m better than her. The evidence abounds, really, and it has nothing to do with me.

“YOU PROBABLY WANT TO TAKE GOD OUT OF THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE TOO,” she snarled, apropos of absolutely nothing. She went straight from Kaepernick to "under God" without even using the clutch.

Touché.

risky click of the day

In a chat with Flo, I called myself a dick. "i was thinking gaping walk-in asshole, but sure, dick works, too," she replied.

Certain that she did not coin such eloquence, I googled "gaping walk-in asshole."

First of all, don't do it. Second of all, if you do, don't click the first link.

so what i'm hearing

When I was 12, I found gold under my mother's mattress. Not real gold, of course. This was even better. I'd found dirty books: Sexual Astrology and Woman's Orgasm. Mom being Mom, she couldn't even do porn right; these were all text. Nevertheless, I knew I had the Get Out of Jail Free card of my life. I would zealously conserve this resource. I would wait until I was in serious trouble, until she caught me doing something truly heinous, and then I would toss Sexual Astrology at her face and knock her off her high ground. I trembled with excitement. I saved this for years, and then she died. My golden bullet went unfired, and now it's feeble post-introduction material.

Lesson learned. Don't hoard ammunition. Ammunition wants to be fired.

• • •

At a meeting a few weeks ago, my boss of six years was frustrated with the insubordination of one of his managers. She argued that he didn't understand her job, which he invented for her, or its responsibilities, which were also his invention. He disagreed. After several months of seeing his directives ignored, he was disinclined to do a few more laps around Retard Park. He waited for her babbling explanation to wind down, and then he spoke calmly, even kindly.

"So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be a manager anymore."

Those 14 words were magical. The arguing immediately ceased, and the problem was forever solved.

"That. Was. AWESOME!" my buddy chatted me privately.

Indeed it was, and I could not wait to spring it on people.

"So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be my housecleaner anymore."

"So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be my realtor anymore."

"So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be my mechanic anymore."

Boom. Boom. Boom. Resistance doesn't merely fade away; it disappears from all space-time. It never existed. You can almost hear the record scratch.

"I cannot wait to spring this on a girlfriend," I told Allie. I practiced: "So what I'm hearing is that you don't want to be my girlfriend anymore."

She stared at me. "Yeeeeah. I don't think that's gonna go how you think it's gonna go. She'll be, like, Oh thank god. You already understand. That'll make this so much easier!"

c prompt

Continued from yesterday's post

I breezed into a Pittsburgh watering hole last week and was greeted by a favorite bartender. We caught up, and then her eyes flashed.

"Oh my god, your friend has been here every night for months. She's a total alcoholic now."

"Risa?"

"No! Michelle!"

michelle.jpgIn my absence, she lost her job and now shoehorns her implausibly huge new bolt-ons (right) into skin-tight clothing every single night, hanging herself on a hook and boozing herself into oblivion. So many levels of yikes, there. I assured the bartender that this trainwreck is decidedly not my friend.

I returned a couple nights later, and Michelle and I immediately made eye contact. Without acknowledging her, I grabbed Risa and we went into the separate cigar bar. 20 minutes later, Michelle was standing in my sight-line, flirting with a gaggle of eager men. A half hour after that, she was standing in front of me.

"Are you not even going to say hi, John?"

I glared at her. "Hi."

It was then that I discovered that in the last 18 months, Michelle and Risa have met. Michelle sat on Risa's chair arm and whispered into her ear for three eternities. Then she went back to her flirting station.

"That girl really loves you!" Risa said.

"What."

"She said you're rude but so's she and you're like two peas in a pod, two sides of the same coin, and she really misses you."

"Risa, that's the woman whose ticket you used."

"That bitch was Michelle?!?"

"The very same."

Risa told me that Michelle was now in full-blown golddigger mode, often speculating about men's comparative worth. Ugh. At some point Risa left, and Michelle plopped next to me. Her hand grazed my knee. It's amazing how counterproductive that move is when I hate the hot woman doing it. Michelle told me how much she missed me or some such. Who can listen, really? I asked her to come closer to me, and she leaned in.

Trigger warning: if you hate complete clichés, read no farther

As she leaned in close to my face, I blew cigar smoke square into her eyes.

Hey, I warned you.

• • •

"No no no," said Dorkass when I told the story. "Here's what you should've done. She leans in close to your face, and you look at your phone and go, Oh, sorry. My Uber's here."

Goddammit.

c-worthy

20 months ago, I walked into my bar in Pittsburgh and found that I shared the room with only a hot brunette. We chatted a bit, and then I left, but it turns out she was a regular too. We saw one another often, and soon we made plans to go to dinner and a football game together.

This is Michelle.

At one point, I was looking forward to dinner with her. That is so unimaginable to me now. I was there on time, sitting at the bar, slapping away the people who clamored for her seat. Time passed. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 70 fucking minutes. She walked in 72 minutes late.

"Hey," she apologized.

The older I get, the more I detest people who waste my time. I'd rather they steal my money than my time. Money, I can replace. By the time she walked in, I was detesting her a lot.

I bought her meal anyway, and we chatted, and she chatted up our neighbors. And then when I was in mid sentence, her phone buzzed.

"Oh, my Uber's here. Gotta go!" And she shot out the door.

"What just happened?" asked the server.

I talked to Dorkass on my walk home. As angers go, mine was orbital. I indulged in the saved-for-special-occasions c-word. She allowed it.

Michelle heard that I was livid, perhaps because I used the c-word in front of every bartender in town. After a few days, I was at the original bar when she plopped down next to me.

"Hi," she apologized.

We talked for a bit, and then my phone buzzed. "Oh, here's an irony for you," I said. "My Uber's here. But note that I'm taking a moment to say goodbye, lest I make the person I'm talking to feel like complete shit. This is how non-rude people behave." And then I left.

"I don't know what you said to Michelle," said the bartender later, "But when you left she was practically in tears."

Good.

Weeks passed, and I never heard from her. It started to dawn on me that I would never hear from her again. Rude people despise those who show them a mirror. Yet I had promised her a football ticket. "She won't cancel," I predicted. "She's going to make me ask if we're on." That's what rude people do. I explained the situation to my friend Risa, and she agreed to be my backup plan.

The day before the game, I texted Michelle. "Are we still on?"

"I'm sorry, my grandmother just died and I'm in New Orleans for the funeral," she replied. I then sent her a screenshot of her Instagram from her grandmother's funeral a month earlier. Yes, the only time she ever apologized was in fact a lie. That's perfect, somehow.

I would never see or speak to Michelle again. Until last week.

To be continued


charley's formula

I was a brand new writer, not yet even out of college, when my mentor lowered the boom. He looked at my timecard with confusion. It said something like:

Monday 7.75 hours
Tuesday 8.1 hours
Wednesday 8.25 hours
"John...? Charley said in his fabulous southern drawl. "Are you billing for the hours you actually worked?"

"Um. Yes?"

Charley stood up and shook his head sadly, chuckling at my naiveté. He put his hand on my shoulder. "Son, son, son. Nope. It's not how many hours you worked. It's how many hours it felt like."

That is the moment I became a professional writer.

This system made instant sense to me. And I have shared this story many times in the intervening decades, always with someone I employed. I distinctly remember squinting at Karen's first timecard. "Son, son, son..." I said.

• • •

My first gig at Microsoft was as an hourly contractor. For months, I averaged 85 hours a week. It was a brutal death march. We literally watched a corpse being carried out of our building, someone who had dropped dead at his desk. "Lucky bastard," someone snarled at the passing corpse. We all agreed.

My timecards were naturally enormous, so any embellishment was both unnecessary and implausible. Nevertheless, Charley's teachings tugged at me. Out of loyalty, on my last timecard I added 10 hours, for a total of 100 hours that week. My boss looked at it and sighed. "I'm so grateful to you for not dying," she said. "Or, you know, quitting." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Go ahead and add 10 hours."

"You mean in addition to the 10 hours I already added?" I said to absolutely no one. Thus was my legendary 110 hour timecard born.

• • •

I thought about her this week. Charley too. My current boss explained impending political shifts and closed with this directive: "John, bill the shit out of me this month."

"Will do. And if you don't mind my saying so, sir, you found the perfect man for the job."

were you the one

I have been single for a very long time. This is entirely by choice. Specifically, it's by their choice.

I'm a good boyfriend. I dote. I remember important dates. I at least attempt to feign shared interests. My brain is crammed with minutia about my girlfriend's tastes, peeves, stories, interests and favorite brands.

And then time marches on, and the woman marches off, and her tastes, peeves, stories, interests, and brands compost in my brain. The pile of relationship debris in my head is staggering and confusing.

"Were you the one who had a friend who made up a whole religion around you being a deity?" I asked Allie some 20 years after we dated.

"The fuck are you talking about?" she said, recoiling in disgust that I began yet another sentence with "Were you the one?"

Geri-bachelorhood: avoid it if you can.

delousing

Hurricane Flo spent the night Wednesday, and as is her custom, she destroyed the place within seconds.

"It's immaculate!" she snarled with contempt while she hugged me. Then she unloaded her car. There were seven bags of groceries alone. That was food—just for her—for her 16 hour stay. Within minutes, I could see no surface in my house, including wide swaths of the floor.

So it begins, I thought as I hid my good skillet from her.

Flo could fill a dishwasher simply by making a bologna sandwich. And if she needs a bowl, she'll walk right past the bowls next to her, climb on the counter, reach into the recesses of the top shelf, find the antique bowl that must be hand-washed with soap made from the ashes of a virgin unicorn, and use that bowl for microwaving beets.

In the morning while she still slept, I went downstairs and started excavating the carnage that was my kitchen.

The fuck did she use ramekins for?

Among the casualties were my brand new eyeglasses and my antibiotics. They remain missing now.

"What, you think I stole your eyeglasses?!" she snapped when I asked her to keep an eye out for them.

No, but it had crossed my mind that she'd swallowed what she'd hoped were quaaludes.

I'd begun writing this post when I heard her awaken upstairs. Only seconds of peace remaining, I thought. As if in answer, a siren's call wafted down the stairs.

"Hey, where's your plunger?"

truth and consequence

The holidays always bring my lowest readership of the year. If I'm not an alternative to working, it seems, I'm out of your thoughts completely. I understand. Given the chance, I wouldn't think about me, either.

That's one reason I haven't posted much. Here's the other: I saw Darcy last week. I'm in Day 7 of the subsequent depression, as is my custom.

I can't bear to rant again about how painful it is to see her eager subjugation to a cheating fuckup, nor about how she's so enthusiastically morphed into the sort of pointless corporate-climber twinkie I despise. It's all I've thought about for a week, and I'm sick of thinking about it. I think about it all day. I think about it when I can't sleep. I think about it when I can.

I will now combat this by thinking about it.

Darcy has taught me about a heretofore unknown flavor of depression. Romantic devastation hurts more, but not by as wide a margin as one would think. This disappointment nonsense is shockingly severe. I am disgusted with her. I am embarrassed for myself. I mourn the person I thought she was, or the person she used to be, or wherever that confusing rat's nest of grief leads. I am angry about having wasted so much time, energy and money on helping someone who, in the end, did not need help becoming an utterly inconsequential person. I fret about opportunity cost; who didn't I help because I was helping her? Maybe someone who might have affected the world in some small way. Maybe someone who would have helped me pay forward my debt to those who helped me.

I feel all these things, all at once. It stings like a motherfucker. And nothing hurts more than the sentence my brain cannot shake: her inconsequentiality is my inconsequentiality.

prescription for happiness

Longtime crush Emma contacted me the other day to catch up.

I am a weary, suspicious burnout of an old man. No one who knows me would correct that statement. (In my head, I hear Dorkass say "You're also fat.") I am decades removed from adolescent excitements. Yet when I saw Emma's name on my phone, long-dead butterflies in my stomach burst to life. What is it with this woman? I thought. No one does that to me anymore.

We chatted for a while about mutual friends and her husband and kids. One would think that I'd be disappointed that she's still happily married and that her life is a Norman Rockwell postcard, but I am uncharacteristically altruistic on all matters Emma. If she were ever that unhappy, it would break the dessicated remains of my heart. My lofty principles are no doubt aided by the certainty that I would have no shot whatsoever.

Nevertheless, she remains my ideal. I can't help it. Whenever someone asks for what type of woman I'm waiting, her face alone flits through my mind. "I don't know," I'll lie.

Here's a telling life choice: I'm waiting out a happy marriage between two people younger and healthier than me. This plan is a mortal lock.

frost warning

Seattle is undeniably beautiful, and if you're from Pittsburgh, it is also conspicuously gleaming and new. Like all visitors, Stephanie was dazzled by what she saw.

"What is it you hate about the people here, again?" she asked over dinner.

I reiterated what I told her a year ago, but why tell when you can show? As we left the restaurant, I held the door for Steph, and then, seeing a few women heading our way, whispered, "Watch this. Exhibit A."

And thus did the women walk through the magically open door, straining not to make eye contact with, or otherwise acknowledge, the person who had waited to hold it open for them.

"That. Was. AMAZING," said Steph, and I remembered all over again why I adore Pittsburghers. I would have had to explain my point to a Seattle person, then had to hear that my expectations are unreasonable.

it was a collective effort

Stephanie visited from Pittsburgh last week. A gentle hippie married to an even gentler one, they're raising gentle kids who go to a hippie private school. The kids, both achingly sweet, do not watch TV. They do not know from violence or swearing. All their toys have educational merits.

I made sure that their Nerf machine guns arrived a few hours after Mom departed for the airport. To heighten the kids' aim, I included five pounds of chocolate-covered espresso beans.

By the time I greeted Steph at the Seattle airport, she had talked to her husband. She hugged me, then cupped my face with her hands. "Who hurt you, John?"

clinging to the primordial tidepool

A few weeks ago, I looked in a long-forgotten drawer and found a screenplay written by a college friend. Typical excerpt from this masterwork:

ROBBER 1 AND ROBBER 2 (bouncing up and down)

"WHOO-HOO! Five hunnerd clams!"

Needless to say, I tortured my friend, and this soon became a reunion in Portland. Twenty years after college, several of us convened in a diner. It was great fun.

We reminisced about the people we hated, but soon an alarming trend became apparent. After we derisively snorted about an idiot poet who since became an idiot life-coach, one of my friends softened it. "But I'll give her this," said Mariko. "I admire her confidence. She really set out to do what she wanted to do."

"Yeah," said Jon.

Yeah, whatever. She was an idiot then, and she's an idiot now. Next.

We then bashed our old boss, a loser in any decade, a man who tortured us and compelled us to torture others. "But as much as I hate to admit it," said Jon at one point, "He was right."

Mariko nodded.

What?! What was going on here? And then it hit me. They've grown.

We then bashed a cheating shrew for a while, a reprehensible, pointless woman whom I still despise for once making me sit in 12 degrees for several hours. Invariably, one of my pussified friends cited her rough childhood as something we should really acknowledge.

I had had enough.

"Oh, for the love of fuck. Can you just let me hate her?"

"Sorry sorry sorry," said Mariko.

"You are cleared to hate," allowed Jon.

To their credit, their overdeveloped sense of understanding extends to those who refuse to evolve.

I texted Dorkass this week, and she called me back a few minutes later.

"Hey, was that post about me?" she demanded.

"What post?"

This post: Shall I give Karyn a third chance to cancel dinner plans at the last minute? No, I delete her from my phone.

I stared at the phone in my hand—the phone I had just used to text the person now asking if I'd deleted her from my phone.

"Is your name spelled Karyn with a y?"

"No."

"Have you stood me up for dinner a couple times?"

"No."

"Then how could it possibly be about you?"

"Just making sure."

beautiful girls

Have you ever dated a physically beautiful person, and over time, you couldn't even see the beauty anymore because the rest of the relationship was utter crap? I have. And in a metaphorical way, I am again.

My house in Metamuville is the beautiful girl in question. I just found myself gazing across Puget Sound at the sun rising over the Cascade mountains, an undeniably beautiful sight that I'm keenly aware few get to see every morning. Yet all I could think was "Man, screw this place."

More and more lately, I find myself recalling when I spent a year putting off a breakup. For tax purposes, I stalled for an entire year. Trapping myself so unnaturally, I grew to hate her far more than she deserved. She could say merely "I'm going to get coffee," and my reaction would be What a stupid, shallow slag.

Well, I'm in that place again. And I often think of two pieces of advice I got about that woman a decade ago.

  • Dorkass: "And you think this is healthy for you?"
  • Allie: "Can you tell me one reason you're with her, other than 'she's pretty?'"

the week in entitlement, part iii

Puck Glazowski and I haven't seen one another in years. Defying stereotypes of hulking former hockey players, he's an incredibly sweet guy. Courteous, sensitive, and he remember things that strangers said years ago even when they're not hot women.

I don't know how he does it.

He called me the other day. He just got a job at my alma mater. "If you need anything, anything at all, just give me a ring. I'll set you up. Tickets anywhere, any game, any sport." Wow! The ticket offer is amazing in itself, but I am not accustomed to people thinking about me if I am not actively writing their name on a check. I was touched and bowled over by this offer, out of the blue, from a guy I've smoked cigars with twice in 10 years. What a kind man. What an amazing bro. I felt a warmth toward my fellow man that I do not often feel.

Two hours later, I was cold-called by a stranger. Puck's friend. He's in Seattle now, works in the tech industry, is having trouble finding work, and do I have anything?

Lack of faith in humanity: restored.

paying the dirt tax

Is it unkind of me to look forward to my friend's wife dying? Before you judge me, hear me out.

Dirt and Kiki visited last week, with an asterisk. Any plans* with Kiki require that infernal asterisk.

She is the most astonishingly self-centered person I have ever met. She starts conversations with strangers while you're in the middle of answering a question she asked. She will also call someone while you're talking. When you're on the receiving end of her calls, you will often say "Hello?" and then have to listen to her prattle to someone else for several minutes before she even acknowledges that you answered the call. I hang up when she does that. She pointedly tells me that I'm being rude.

If we go someplace together, she will propose car-pooling, then make me wait in the car as she runs errands. When I visited them in November, she did not think to leave for the airport, an hour away, until after I landed and called. (Irritated, I took a cab. Her delight was unconcealed.) While there, I said I had no interest in the Mall of America, but she insisted that I really, really, really needed to see it. Once we were there, she and her daughter vaporized into the temporary Barbie World, leaving me to drink alone in a bar, getting progressively angrier.

No matter how firm they seem, any plans with Kiki are provisional. She makes firm plans with everyone so that in any given moment, she can opt for what sounds best to her. They were here for a week. She told me they were staying here. They stayed one night, which is fine, but of course she reserved the right to spend any other night here, too. I cleared the week, then spent it alone, watching groceries spoil.

A typical Kiki moment follows.
IMG_4565.PNG
This is how I found out she was canceling the noon lunch I was just finishing preparing.

picking your poison

"I don't know how you can put that poison into your body."

"You feed your kid too much sugar."

"You know what caused your baldness, right? Gluten. All the gluten you eat. When I cut out gluten, I sprouted hair everywhere, doubled my IQ, added 650 yards to my golf drive, and made my farts smell like jasmine."

• • •

The Diet Police. We all know them. Not coincidentally, we all hate them.

As I listened to one of these pompous twits lecture someone, I had an epiphany. Would I rather be:

  1. Someone who enjoys life and who, if I die at 70, is grieved as a fun-loving soul who died much too young, or
  2. Someone who so obnoxiously masturbates on people about the superiority of my dietary choices that if I die at 70, they will not be able to conceal their delight about the irony?
I'll take the ribeye medium-rare, please. It will pair nicely with this Cohiba.

SHE!!!!!!!!!

At my neighbors' the other night, sadly, inevitably, Caitlyn Jenner came up in conversation. I assure you that I did not bring it up. Reality-show stars from serially attention-whoring families do not particularly interest me.

They interest Madam, though. She lay in wait, ready for her time to shine.

Dad was the first victim. "So he—"

"SHE!!!!!!!" screamed Madam with non-ironic sanctimony. The Pronoun Police would do this a half-dozen more times, getting angrier each time that her outrage was having no apparent effect on people's pronouns. Perhaps that's because it seemed very much like she was masturbating on people she supposedly cares about.

Climax was achieved, at least for me, when Eve used "he" when referring to Bruce Jenner winning the gold medal in 1976.

"SHE!!!!!!!" screamed Madam.

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