An Award-Winning Disclaimer

A charming little Magpie whispered this disclaimer into my ear, and I'm happy to regurgitate it into your sweet little mouth:

"Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for those of you who start to laugh and piss your pants a little. Although this blogger understands the role he has played (in that, if you had not been laughing you may not have pissed yourself), he assumes no liability for damages caused and will not pay your dry cleaning bill.

These views represent the thoughts and opinions of a blogger clearly superior to yourself in every way. If you're in any way offended by any of the content on this blog, it is clearly not the blog for you. Kindly exit the page by clicking on the small 'x' you see at the top right of the screen, and go fuck yourself."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

That Cornfuckin' Ol' Conficker

Hold onto your monitors, all's y'alls:

The Cornficker Virus approacheth tomorrow!

According to published reports in the news and tech world, it's going to cornfick your hard-drive forty ways from Sunday and it's not even going to take her out to dinner first, or send her a virtualflorist bouquet either.

I don't know much about computer viruses, but I know enough to know I don't want to become acquainted with Mr. Cornficker. My idiocy and naivette earned us a computer virus at work in October, and I was on the phone with "Raj" and "Ranoop" for over two hours trying to rid the computer of the bad curry it had ingested. It's a pretty amazing thing to watch your computer being virtually controlled by someone several continents away-- the cursor moving all around and windows opening and closing while you just sit there like an impotent d-bag.

Mrs. Apron was curious about why news about the virus is breaking prior to its arrival on the scene. I suspect that's happening because the virus's creator wants it that way. This bastard, or bitch-- but probably bastard, though I hate to be sexist-- is the one who's disseminating the information to generate buzz, and fear, for his work. And I'm sure creating a virus of this size is indeed a tremendous amount of work. In the respect that these worms create a fair amount of anxiety and nail-nibbling all across the world, the creators of these things really are kind of like terrorists: they create fear, instability and chaos-- the same as any bomb or mass shooting. The main difference is that, probably, no one dies from a computer virus.

The other difference, of course, is that the perpetrator gets to sit back behind the anonymity of his computer screen in his silk shirt and his mustache and giggle at all of us, sight unseen.

Well... um... fuck you!

I don't like you, Cornficker... man!

You hurt people's.... operating systems. Yeah. And you make us cry.

You, sir, are a four-star asshole. I'll bet your mother is very, very disappointed in you.

The thing is, these dinkle-dicked little twats are the same losers who wore sweatsuits in high school and squeezed their blackheads every morning before eating their Cinnamon Toast Crunch. They insisted on velcro sneakers well after they'd learned how to tie laces and they wore white tube socks with everything. Now, they're back.

While I'm not particularly fond of computer viruses or the terrorists who create them, I must say that, after witnessing my wife projectile vomit around a dozen times this past weekend, I'd much prefer getting a computer virus to getting a regular virus. Of course, ask me if I still feel that way tomorrow after Cornficker ficks my shit all up.

I'd also, come to think of it, rather be the victim of a computer virus than a shooting spree perpetrated by some societal malcontent. What the hell is going on with all these people recently taking out significant numbers of the overall population in a blaze of bullets? Whatever happened to sucking on your own tailpipe or hanging yourself in the basement? Has that gone totally out-of-style? Is just plain suicide passe? Do you really have to take eleven people with you?

Seriously, people. Let's all just get a grip, hold on tight, and calmly await our own private cornfickers.

I Love Jew, Really I Do...

Note: The following would probably be better suited if it were directed at a therapist. Due, however, to the shitty insurance that I carry and the free nature of the blogosphere, it is instead presented herein as a blog entry.
I'm sure you don't mind.

I've noticed lately that I have a really difficult time being in situations where I am surrounded by Jews.

This is a somewhat strange problem, being that I am Jewish.

I didn't seem to mind it very much when I was younger, but I definitely do mind it now, and I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm pretty sure that something's wrong with me, and that nothing much is wrong with them.

This past weekend, my wife and mother-in-law journeyed down to a hyper-Jewish area in Baltimore. I can't remember the name of the town-- it doesn't matter. Now, I grew up in what I thought was a Jewish neighborhood-- you know, lots of synagogues all over, people walking to schul, a Bloomingdales within twenty miles. This place, though, made my hometown look like Butte, Montana. Case in point, I was a little hungry having forgotten to eat breakfast that Sunday morning. "No problem," my mother-in-law said, "There's a Subway over there on the right."

"And it's Glatt-Kosher."

Hmmm... kind of takes the fun out of everything, I thought, but what the hell? I entered this restaurant and was immediately overwhelmed by JEWISHNESS. Every female over the age of naught had a skirt going almost down to the ankle, lest we lascivious men be tempted by the sight of an uncovered heel. Hair was worn in an identically unflattering fashion-- and it was difficult to tell whose black hair was a wig and whose was real. Many tables were filled with young couples and an average of five small children each. The elderly Jewish men puttered around, exercising their jowls, hiking their stained pants up to their sagging nipples and ordering crazy sandwiches.

There was a sink with a metal cup and a towel by the counter, which I stared at, at first mistaking it for an emergency eyewash station. Some Jew I am, right?

Speaking of which, I received another reminder of my ignorance and idiocy when I tried to order my sandwich with the herb and cheese bread, found at any other Subway in the universe.

"Sir, have you never been to this particular Subway?" the African-American woman behind the counter inquired. Oh, Jesus, I thought, how could I be so fucking stupid? I was about to get a lecture on kashrut from a black girl.

"This particular Subway," she mechanically recited, "is a kosher establishment. What that means is: we do not serve any dairy product with any meat product. Kosher eating is a--"

"Right, yeah, okay, thanks," I interrupted. Can I have.... uh.... um....."

My tired eyes scanned the various meat objects proffered by this "particular Subway kosher establishment." I'd love to meet the rabbi who certified this restaurant-- he's probably more corrupt than the crookedest cop who ever raided an evidence locker. All of the meat that I could see was gray. Lots of gray, nondescript, floppy things. Gristle and fat hung off each sliver like dozens and dozens of small leeches, like a gelatainous curtain, like a... a.... oh, God....

I stared at the menu offerings like I had just arrived from Jupiter.

"I'll have a chicken and beef fry sandwich, please," I said, sealing my doom.

"Do you want parve cheese on that?" Parve cheese, I thought. That must be made out of potato flakes and wood shavings.

"No thank you."

I ate three bites of this sandwich before throwing it out, and, fortunately and miraculously, not up. It was like biting into a living jellyfish, covered with pickles and Southwest Chipotle sauce.

I was just happy to get the fuck out of that restaurant. As if the indignity of being lectured about my own religion from someone who learned about it from a PowerPoint presentation by Subway Foods, Inc. wasn't bad enough, I felt surrounded by people with whom I'm supposed to identify, but don't. All the men with beards and yarlmukes, all the women with large hineys and schmatas. All the children, all, all, all the children, some with strange defects. The old people with food on their chins. All the ccchuufffing, and choffffing. I'd say it reminded me of my grandfather, but it didn't. He never cccchhffed and choffffed. He was just there, saying inappropriate things and selling men's trousers.

I needed to leave.

Later in the day, my mother-in-law decided that she wanted to stop in a store called for "a couple things for Passover." I assumed we would be in whatever store this was for approximately eight to ten minutes, for matzah and.... I don't know.... matzah? This turned into an hour-long shopping extravaganza in a Jewish supermarket, the likes of which I have never, ever seen.

Can you guess that I won't be signing up for a "Jewpermarket Frequent Buyer Keychain Card?"

There were Jewish people everywhere, and that makes sense. Buying herring pieces in fluid and kosher hot dog buns and things that I have no idea what they even are, because the product name, nutrition information and ingredients are all in Hebrew-- a language which, I guess, you're supposed to know if you want to shop here.

The middle-aged couple in front of us in the checkout line had two shopping carts, filled to the kosher gills. Grand total for them?


Now, sure, they were doing some Passover shopping. I can't imagine that this is their total every week, but JESUS CHRIST! The last time I spent that much money on something I was.... well, I have no idea what it was. Probably auto insurance.

I just don't understand what's wrong with me-- why I bristle so in situations where I'm surrounded by "my own people." Maybe it's because I'm jealous of them, that they're so facile and so ensconsed by the religion that it's just as easy as breathing for them, and because it's something that I was always expecting would embrace me, when, really, religion is something that you have to, at least initially, embrace on your own.

Maybe I'm just a hostile, intolerant asshole who doesn't like what he doesn't understand.

Maybe I need to start seeing a therapist.

A nice, Jewish one.

Resolution Road

Everyone's looking to better themselves, aren't they?

Well, of course, some people probably can't, but most of us can find dimension of our personality to tweak, to enhance, to augment.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my own disposition, because definitely one thing that self-centered people tend to do when they're bored or unfocused. They do other things too, of course.

It's difficult and unpleasant to ponder self-improvement with any degree of seriousness, because, if you're doing it correctly, you will encounter unpleasant truths about yourself that you'd probably rather not know like. You may think you look one way to yourself, but you look completely different to others. You may realize that you're really disliked by others, or that you're engaged in some sort of cult activity.

I've decided to compile a list of things I need to start doing in order to improve who I am. This didn't require expensive, or even cheap, analysis, nor did it require that it be New Year's Day. It just required a little thought, so here we go.


Changing pants more frequently.

People who see me on a regular basis (my employer, family, friends, wife, postman, etc) probably think that I own only two pair of pants and/or that I am a filthy human being. They're wrong about the former, right about the latter. I must own at least twenty pair of trousers and yet I insist on wearing the same pair for at least three days straight at a time, usually more.
"You've got to stagger," my father said to me one day. Once he's noticed, then it's definitely time to act.

Stop being so judgemental.

As you know, I have a real problem with this one.

when people talk to me.

Old friends of mine will tell you emphatically that I am a good listener. New friends of mine-- oh, wait-- I don't have new friends. Maybe that's because I don't listen to new people when they talk to me. If they do talk to me. I couldn't really tell you. I feel like I have lost all capacity to focus on people's inane bullshit (oops-- judging. Sorry.) and I instantly forget anything people tell me, including their name and any other critical information that would have otherwise assisted me in either becoming their friend or learning something. I've also begun a rather unsettling habit of looking through people instead of at them. I wonder if people can tell.

Is it just me, or is dusting something that you only see people do in movies and TV shows, but nobody ever does in real life? Or is that just what I tell myself to justify the fact that I don't dust?

My mouth has always gotten me into trouble. When I was in elementary school, mouthing off to a bully on the schoolbus earned me a hockey stick to the chest, a punch in the chest and another one in the stomach, all on different occasions and from different miscreants. In middle and high school, there was more trouble. People say that they want to know what you're thinking, but they don't. Take it from one who, more often than not, says what he's thinking.

God, he smells.

You'd think that someone who is as hypochondriacal and obsessed with death and his health would take better care of his body, but I don't. I eat meat a lot, whenever I can. We do not often have it at the house, but I consume more than my fair share of flesh when we go out. Meat has even insinuated its way into the house on occasion, in the form of turkey burgers and lunchmeat. Not exactly a 20 ounce Porterhouse, but it's still going to kill me.

By the way, you're all supposed to leave comments begging me to not blog less. But, I feel like it's taking away from my focus at work and quality interactions at home. Plus, it's been five months and I still only know 5 banjo chords. I blame you.

Creating a mass movement to stop Oprah.

Seriously, she sucks. Write to your congressman or something.

Monday, March 30, 2009

This I Vow

While the day of our wedding is etched in my brain in a thousand images, the actual ceremony went by pretty fast.

I remember the one, thick hair that was stuck on the rabbi's right eyeglass lens, and how I was dying to say something to him about it, or to stick my finger inside there and just pull it out myself.

I remember the bees that descended on us, attracted perhaps as much by the scent of the sunflowers that adorned our chuppah as they were by the sickly sweetness of the Manischewitz wine the rabbi held. As the bees came to rest on the rim of the cup, and on his hand, his hand trembled as he tried to shake them off, spilling wine on his suit and on his prayerbook which, incidentally, he tried to use to assassinate one of the bees, by closing it inside the holy book.

I remember the bees that got stuck inside my wife's veil, prompting many bee-in-your-bonnet jokes afterwards that we pretended were funny, because we're so good natured and we realize that even lame people who make embarrassing jokes and puns need to feel good about themselves sometimes too.

I remember our vows, because we wrote them together. We wrote them on little scraps of paper after sitting in my wife's PT Cruiser in a parking lot the night before our wedding, waiting for a tow truck that never came. The tow truck was supposed to come, they way tow trucks do. The tow truck was supposed to come take away a 1966 Volkswagen Beetle, dressed in a Pearl White paint job, with red, white and blue stripes and a "53" on the doors, trunk and engine cover. We had *ahem* borrowed it from a VW dealership that was using it out front to draw in customers. This was the vehicle that, on October 22, 2006, was supposed to take me and my wife away from our wedding ceremony, onto our honeymoon, and into the rest of our lives together.

But it didn't.

It broke down twice on the night before our wedding, and we waited for the tow truck until 11pm. Or was it 11:30pm? Or 1am? Fortunately, I can't remember anymore. The point is, the motherfuckers never came, and we ditched the Beetle with a sign on it saying, "PLEASE DO NOT TOW" because, as our luck would have had it, a tow truck probably would have come at some point to take it away-- to an impound lot. Not a desired outcome.

Our vows were cute, they were individual, they were "of us." People complained that they couldn't really hear them, but we were outdoors, and, like I said, they were "of us" and they were for us, so whether people heard or not, well, it doesn't really matter. We promised to hold each other's hands when we get scared, and we've gotten scared since-- and we've done as we promised. We promised to save the last rye chip in the bag of Chex Mix for the other, and we've done that. We promised to wait together for tow trucks in the middle of the night-- ah, topical humor...

But there wasn't all that traditional muck about sickness and in health, richer or poorer, all that. But it's implied. I thought about that this weekend as I was behind my wife, rubbing her back and holding her hair back as she projectile vomited into toilets in Pennsylvania and onto lawns in Maryland. Marrying someone is when you know you love them. When you hug someone who stinks of vomitus, well, that's when you're sure.

Through sickness and health.


Tales from the Ambulance: "Fall Down, Go Boom"

From May, 2005 - February, 2007, I worked as a full-time Emergency Medical Technician for a private, for-profit ambulance company. Unlike the guys you see responding to freeway wrecks and shooting calls, we schlepped fat old ladies for MRI appointments and took people from hospitals to hospice centers so that they could die without getting in their family members' way.

Sure, we had our emergency calls every now and then, but mostly, it was bullshit.

In my EMT stories, I have changed the name of the company for which I worked, as well as the names of all of my co-workers, hospitals, nursing homes & other facilities. I like not getting sued.

If you've ever met an EMT before, you know that they love to yammer their goddamn heads off with their "stories from the street."

I am no exception.

Fall Down, Go Boom

I was only the recipient of disciplinary action at Qualcare Ambulance Company once. Employees at Qualcare get disciplined for a colorful variety of misdeeds and missteps, from the accidental to the downright criminal. One paramedic who worked here, widely thought to be a cokehead, was fired for stealing cash from elderly patients. He would do this in the back of the ambulance, rifling through belonging bags and pocketbooks, while his partner eyed him suspiciously in the rearview mirror. This same paramedic was also widely believed to be the person who ran up a stunning $8,000 tab on our company-issued gasoline cards in one month.

Most of the time, though, employees were disciplined, suspended or fired for non-criminal, though usually negligent, offenses such as repeatedly not turning in paperwork at the end of a day, refusing a run, not showing up for your shift without calling out sick, or falling asleep in the back of the ambulance with a patient on-board. This happened to Topia. Topia was working with a recent hire, a girl named Nouisha (which looks and sounds a lot like “nausea”, doesn’t it?). Nouisha had just worked a twelve-hour shift at a nursing home and then came right to Qualcare to do another eight hours overnight with Topia. They were transporting a young male psych patient from a hospital to a psychiatric facility. The nurses swore up-and-down that the patient had been given loads of Ativan, a serious ass-kicking anti-anxiety medication, and that he was very docile. These assurances are always bullshit concocted to lull the EMT into a false sense of security, so he or she takes the patient without qualm or quarrel, so the hospital staff can relax with the patient safely away from them. If a patient’s so “docile,” one might ask, why must he be smacked-up with enough drugs to incapacitate a horse?

Anyway, Topia was driving that night on Route 202 in blinding rain and Nouisha was in the back with the patient, who was covered with a blanket. Big mistake. I, personally, always like to see psych patients’ hands at all times, so I can see if they’re masturbating, or reaching for a gun, a dirty syringe or a serrated machete that they are going to embed in my neck. Nouisha, over-tired and uninterested in her current situation, promptly fell asleep. Topia told me later she could hear Nouisha snoring and saw the back of her head drooping down in the rearview mirror. A clink of stretcher-strap buckle hitting the floor didn’t wake Nouisha up and, in seconds, the psych patient bolted upright and Nouisha, finally awake, screamed. She jumped into the driver’s compartment to get away from the psych patient, who pushed her head and knocked it against the passenger’s side window of the ambulance. Then he went after Topia. She slammed on the brakes, causing the heavy box-truck to skid in the rain and slide along the highway until it came to rest, sideways in a ditch.

Fortunately for Topia it was three in the morning and there weren’t many other cars on the road. Nouisha jumped out of the truck and the psych patient jumped in the back. Topia walked around the truck quietly, hoping to catch the psych patient as he exited the back of the ambulance. But he didn’t exit the ambulance; he was in the driver’s seat. Topia leapt back into the driver’s compartment and fought with the psych patient over the ambulance’s keys as he twisted her fingers, trying to gain control over the ambulance. He eventually fled into the nearby woods and was apprehended soon after by Pennsylvania State Troopers who responded to the scene. Topia got a broken finger. Nouisha got fired.

Qualcare is very protective of its biggest investment, its ambulances, and so you would think that Topia would have gotten rewarded for her selfless attempts to prevent this lunatic from escaping with a Qualcare truck. She was disciplined. You’d think that Mitch, my psychotic ex partner, would have been fired for his jubilant, effective, and deliberate destruction of Qualcare trucks, but I guess they couldn’t determine that the breakdowns were the cause of intentional acts, you know, without my information. Other employees, however, were not as immune from persecution. One EMT was disciplined for putting regular gasoline in a diesel truck, which the truck thought was poison and consequently died. Another employee got in quite a lot of trouble for shearing off the light-bar of unit 305, a brand new truck, on the overhang of a Wendy’s drive-thru. After that little snafu, no more drive-thrus, not because of the potentiality of damaging more trucks, the memo said, but because, if a crew were in line at a drive-thru and that crew received an emergency call, they would be trapped, ostensibly, in that line. I chuckled as I read that one. An emergency—us? Please.

The other big no-no at Qualcare is dropping patients. As medical professionals, it is our goal to help the sick and the injured, not make them that way. While the plan is “zero patient injuries”, things don’t always go according to plan. The following incident report contains my word-for-word account of the events of August 23rd, 2005, the day Buddy Wendt, a part-timer, and I took Gretchen Madeira to a doctor’s appointment.

“Whilst at Dr’s appt, Pt requested to utilize the lavatory. We requested a bedpan & were told none were available. My partner & I assisted Pt out of stretcher over to toilet, assisted her w/ removal of shorts & underwear. She said she was okay & we said for her to let us know when she was ready to be moved. As bathroom was quite small, we exited & stood by w/ door cracked open. Pt urinated & talked to us through door, then a crash was heard. We immediately entered lavatory & found Pt with a substantial amount of blood emanating from her nose. Pressure was applied & Pt was placed on stretcher. Pt’s lip was also injured. We asked the nurse for directions to closest hospital (Miquon County). Nurse gave directions & we proceeded to Miquon County’s ER. Nurse said she would call them to advise. As our NEXTELs were dead, I called dispatch on my cell, reported incident as we initiated transport & asked him to advise Miquon County’s ER. Upon our arrival, we were told no one had called in. Pt care was then transferred over to ER staff after a report was given by Mr. Wendt. I then called Springfield Rehab (Pt’s residence) to inform them of the situation. Pt. Injury occurred at approximately 14:40pm.”

After a week of nail-biting, hand-wringing, and Qualcare street supervisor Jake Stone calling me on the radio each day, bothering me for more information about the incident that would tilt the field in Qualcare’s favor, I picked up the pen and wrote some more.

“Continuation of Gretchen Madeira incident; Additional information. A female nurse (whose name I did not obtain) at the Dr’s office assisted us in getting the patient inside the lavatory, however, when it came time to help the Pt. with her shorts & underwear, I turned around & the female nurse had vanished. When the Pt was in the lavatory, Mr. Wendt & I were the only ones standing by the partially closed door. After the Pt fell, I had to go into a separate room to fetch the nurse, who had no idea what had happened. The Dr bent his head down & looked @ the Pt & said “Looks like you’ll be making a trip to the E.R.” This was the extent of his professional involvement in the incident. On the whole, I think it would not be unfair to characterize the staff’s (at the Dr’s office) attitude towards Mrs. Madeira as blasé. They were ill-equipped, unprepared & unable to accommodate the needs of a stretchered Pt—hallways were too narrow & lavatory was not fully accessible. The female nurse appeared more interested in repeated personal telephone calls received on her cell phone than she did in appropriately and fully caring for the patient in question.”

If there is one transport I think about more often than all others, it is this one. If there is one moment at Qualcare, frozen in place in my mind that I can flash back to at any time, and I do: it’s Gretchen, on the floor, slumped against that cold, tile wall, her shorts and underwear down around her ankles, crying. Blood everywhere. I have never felt guiltier, sicker, more irresponsible, more foolish and more alone in my entire life. I still, after almost a year, am sure that, one day, a certified letter from some vengeful, powerful, bloodthirsty law firm will find its way to my mailbox, and maybe I deserve it. Maybe I deserve to pay for what happened to Gretchen Madeira. I thought I did the right thing—she was complaining that she had to pee for at least an hour and a half, whining and holding her stomach. The doctor’s office was so far away from Springfield Rehab, and we had been waiting there for almost two hours—this woman had to go. I thought I did the right thing—what does that even mean really? Right for whom? Right procedurally? Even after my disciplinary meeting and remediation, I still don’t know what Qualcare’s procedure is for escorting a patient of the opposite gender alone in a bathroom. Ought I to have gone in there with her with the door closed and end up getting sued for sexual harassment? No, I don’t think so. Should I have let her go in her pants? No, that’s inhuman. Should I have made that cell-phone-obsessed nurse get off the goddamned phone and told her that she had to escort Gretchen to the bathroom? Probably.

Looking back on it with perspective as my partner instead of Buddy Wendt, I guess that would have been the thing to do, but I didn’t do it. Through the choices I made, or didn’t make, harm came to my patient. For my punishment, I got to see her blood pour out of her nose and mouth like a river, I got to see it spattered on the tiled bathroom wall, and that is something I suppose I will just have to compartmentalize and deal with, as surgeons deal with operating room mistakes, as police officers come to terms with shooting suspects who turn out to be unarmed. We are only human, all of us, and we are destined to fail and fuck up at times, sometimes in minor ways like breaking a light-bar, sometimes in major ways like breaking a patient. Our humanity is the sum total of whom we are as a species, and that’s not an excuse, but it’s the truth.

I hope Gretchen’s lawyers feel the same way.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Worst Dog Walk in the World

Mrs. Apron and I are really doing our best to try to be good neighbors.

We want to fit in.

We want to be liked, or at least, not scowled at.

We accept that these are lofty aspirations, and that they, frankly, may or many not be achieved with any degree of alacrity.

We are different. I'll bet you're tired of hearing people say that, but, we are.

We walk each other to the car in the morning, and hug and kiss goodbye-- not like in Casablanca, but in the cute way that probably makes people watching from their windows vomit into their flower-boxes. We blast Gilbert & Sullivan operettas through the auxiliary speakers of the computer, favor clothing from decades (her) or centuries (me) gone by, and exhibit other abberant behaviors.

We tend to use salty language in the course of everyday conversation which, I guess, is mostly my fucking fault. Yesterday, Mrs. Apron and I were taking a nice walk in the park, and we were discussing her day.

"And it's like, I'm supposed to be doing therapy with these kids, or some fucking shit," Mrs. Apron said, as a slightly bemused young mother and her three-year-old daughter passed us. Oh well, guess we won't be having them over for cocktails.

One of the things you have to be judicious about when you've moved into a new neighborhood is your dog walking procedures and habits. It's not as simple as just brown-bagging it, polite dog-walking is a science. Or an art.

Or a scart.

In any event, it's challenging and, if you don't get it right, you could be the one everybody talks about, clicking their tongues, leaving you nasty, anonymous notes written on napkins, shoved under your windshield-wiper. You could be "THE BAD NEIGHBOR" which sounds like a terrible movie and, if it isn't already, it should be one.

I was telling Mrs. Apron about a dog-walk that I was on just a couple days ago in our new neighborhood. I was chatting away with this thick, blonde, mascara-wearing woman who lives on the corner of the next street over, as her two dachsunds were yapping their little, brown heads off. We were doing the neighborly thing-- exchanging small talk, pretending we were enjoying ourselves, talking about how great the neighborhood is, complimenting each other's dogs.... when mine took a heaping, steaming shit, right on her lawn.

I stared at it for a couple seconds before pulling out the plastic bag from my pocket.

"Oh, that's okay," she said, in response to my color-drained face.

After recounting this incident to Mrs. Apron, she said,

"It's funny, but when I was walking Finley, I was thinking about what would be the worst dog walk in the world-- you know, like you walk the dog and he takes a big shit, and you reach for a plastic bag and you realize that you don't have one on you, and you look up and a neighbor is watching you from the little window in her door-- what do you do?"

Hmpf, I thought. What do you do?

Do you...

1.) Look up at the neighbor, smile, & wave?

2.) Look up at the neighbor, smile, & give her the finger?

3.) Pick up the shit with your bare hands, smear it in your face like war-paint, pop your
eyes, and start screaming like an Arab?

4.) Start screaming at the dog?

5.) Clutch your chest and fake a heart attack/endocarditis?

6.) Clutch your head and fake a stroke/aneurysm?

7.) Kick snow over the shit? (If no snow is present, just rub your foot around on it, pretending that there's snow.)

8.) Run home, put the house up for sale, book a flight to Argentina, enroll in the Federal Witness Protection Program, pour gasoline all over the car and light it on fire, incinerate all personal documents and I.D. cards, change your name, get radical, facial reconstructive surgery and gender-reassignment surgery and live for the next 38 years as a Jesuit missionary?

9.) Start to cry?

10.) Pretend that your male dog is a female and that it was just urinating?

11.) Close your eyes and pray that God will make the shit disappear because if he can make fucking bushes burn he can certainly make a sloppy pile of dog shit disappear, if he really wanted to. I mean, seriously, we haven't seen a real, hardcore miracle since dinosaurs roamed the earth-- where's that dude been all my life?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Visiting Oakland

Most people who visit California from out-of-state generally don't choose Oakland as their destination.

San Francisco, sure. Los Angeles, possibly. Beverly Hills-- definitely.

Oakland? Probably not.

Today, though, Oakland is getting a tourism boom-- roughly 12,000 people are descending on Oakland, California today-- but they aren't exactly there to see the sights.

The people who are visiting Oakland today won't be staying very long, and, chances are they won't be doing a lot of shopping while they're there. They won't be taking pictures of famous Oakland sights, if there are any. They won't be dining in fine restaurants or hitting the museums either. And though they aren't there to see a sporting event, they will be spending a good deal of time inside a sports venue. These visitors will all file into the Oracle Arena to attend the joint funeral for Oakland Police Officer John Hege and Sergeants Mark Dunakin, Erv Romans, and Daniel Sakai, who were all killed last Saturday by Lovelle Mixon.

The people who are visiting Oakland today all have one thing in common: they are members of the law enforcement community, but that's pretty much where the similarities end. They're men and they're women, they're straight and gay, they're black and white and every shade in between. Didn't used to be that way, of course. If you were white, male, and Catholic, stood at least 5'10" and were 195 pounds-- you became a cop. If you weren't, you didn't. It's not that way anymore, and I have no doubt that, if you view any of the footage or the pictures from today's heart-wrenching service, you will see the diversity that is helping to make policing stronger and more trustworthy today.

The people who are visiting Oakland today are there to share in the shocking, searing pain that is felt by the Oakland Police Department. They are there to show their support. They are there to show the world that they give a damn, because all they'd want is for someone to give a damn about them. They are there to stand up to some of the negativity that has been spewed forth by some angry Oakland residents, statements made that these officers "had it coming" and that "the police are nothing but brutish thugs."

"The police."

What does that even mean anyway? Were Hege, Dunakin, Sakai and Romans "the police?" Are these twelve thousand individuals, people from all different ethnic, social, and religious backgrounds "the police?" Is any one department "the police?"

Just who is "the police" anyway?

The people visiting Oakland today are there to try and fill an enormous hole left by such a massive loss of life. Try as they might, they cannot. There is no groundswell, no outpouring of grief and solidarity large enough that can account for this calamity-- but that doesn't mean you don't try.

The people visiting Oakland today will all return to their own states and cities and towns and police departments and will resume their duties and their patrols and their lives. They will do their best to try to forget about the grief and pain that they will see today, but I expect that will be close to impossible. As they ride around in their cars and as they answer calls for help, they will be no doubt wondering if what happened in Oakland could ever happen in their town, in their city-- could this happen to them? The answer, unfortunately, is: sure. The circumstances that lead Lovelle Mixon to have a gun in his car and to turn it on those officers are no different than the circumstances of thousands and thousands of Lovelle Mixons all across America: on probation, a no-bail warrant out for his arrest, an illegal weapon, no hope, no future, no sense, nowhere to run.


The people visiting Oakland today will struggle to make some sense out of what has happened. They will be asking the question that has been on everybody's lips since these four men fell last week: Why? I would suggest that this is a waste of energy. There is no sense. There is no logic. There is no justification. As my very perceptive wife taught me long ago, there is no answer to "why?" questions.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's All a Big Set-Up

Sometimes I get set up for failure, and I don't like it.

It's very difficult to not feel set up when you're struggling to manipulate a brand-new bottle of Kraft ranch dressing that is labeled "Easy Open." As it searches for reasons behind this seemingly incongruous difficulty, your mind starts to wander to unhelpful places.

Am I retarded?



Did I consume paint chips as a child or paint buckets?

Really. I have a Bachelor's and a Master's degree. I should be able to open this fucking bottle top. Is it one of the ones where you twist the top and the label just tears off, or do you peel the label off first? I try, but I can't get my fucking fingernail under there. I look at Mrs. Apron in exasperation.

"You're funny," she says. But, is that what she means?

I blink a couple times and then get back to the task at hand. Finally, the cap is off. Then there's the paper covering the top of the bottle.

"Lift 'n Peel" it says to me, with a coquette's wink, if it could.

I pinched and pulled. The pull part came off in my hand, leaving the paper.

"Oh my fucking God! You're fucking kidding me!"

Out comes the sharp knife, digging through the paper and tracing the bottle's circumference, all the while thinking, "paint buckets. Definitely buckets."

There's no surer way to make some poor schmuck feel even poorer and schmuckier than to assure him that some impending task is going to be "easy." Invariably, it won't be. See, because we're humans and there's a lot of variation between us in regards to intellect, skill-level, physical brawn, dexterity, chromosome number and quality, upbringing, pleat vs. flat-front preference, gender identity and so on, it's very difficult and often ill-advised to predict what is going to be "easy" for one carbon-based life form or another.

Obviously, opening bottles is easy for people at Kraft. So is selling people cigarettes, but we won't go there on this blog. Tonight, at least.

Tonight's Kraftgate reminded me of a time, long, long ago when I used to sit at the dining room table, doing math problems with my long-suffering father.

"Okay, Mummy-- this one should be very easy one, okay?"

Okay? No, father. It is most definitely not okay.

I would stare at the paper while my head throbbed, staring at the black lines, the symbols and the numbers. I would wait for them to miraculously come to life, like Jesus in his little cave, and do a little dance on the paper-- magically rearranging themselves to formulate the correct answer.

I really thought it would happen, and that everything would be "okay." Things wouldn't be okay until 11th grade, the final year I was required to take math.

I didn't have the wisdom or the vocabulary (okay, I probably had the vocabulary) to tell my father how inferior I felt when he would assure me that "this next one was so easy" and that the unfinished part of that sentence that played loudly in my head was "... and if you can't answer it, I am going to disown you and have you deported to Bolivia where you will clean oysters in bowls filled with gasoline for sixteen cents a day and serve them to members of the drug cartel while wearing a bikini."

Those were hard times at the dining room table, times I hope to not replicate with my own son.

So, here's a message to the food conglorporations of the world:

Please don't tell me that your bullshit top is "Easy Open." If you must write something on it, just write something descriptive, accurate and not something subjective. Write "Top." Or "Blue." Or "Plastic."

Here's a message to the fathers of the world:

Get your kid a fucking tutor, because number 7-- it ain't so easy.

Trust me.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys...

I love watching COPS.

Even though it's silly and predictable. Lots of people probably wouldn't think a show about police work could be predictable, but it is. There are three "incidents" per 1/2 hour show. The first incident is almost invariably a high-speed vehicle pursuit. This gets the adrenaline going, and will sustain you through the relative banality of the second incident, a domestic or a drug call, and the third incident, a domestic or a drug call.

The little monologues that these poor police officers have to suffer through delivering at the return from commercial break are as predictable as they are deadly:

"Well, I've known I wanted to be a police officer since I was (insert single-digit number) months old. My (insert any number of male family members) are cops-- I've got (insert slightly smaller number) brothers who are sherrif's deputies over in (insert name of some bullshit hicktown) County. There's over (insert very large number) years of law enforcement in my family. I was in the (insert branch of U.S. armed forces) prior to joining the police department. I love my job, there's always something exciting and different and the people of this city are basically (insert untrue, positive-sounding adjective)."

But that's COPS in a nutshell. More people these days are getting tased instead of shot, so I guess that's a good thing.

Sometimes on the show they will mix it up a little bit and devote an entire episode to a sting operation, where the police are working to get the drop on a suspect. They find the scummiest looking officer in the narcotics squad, tell him to stop shaving for a week, dress him up in a wife-beater and a pair of shat-in jeans and have him walking around selling drugs to the kindly townsfolk who are out... well, looking for drugs. Once a sale is made, an army of unadorned Crown Victorias come from out of nowhere and the druggie is efficiently whisked away, clearing the scene for another bust.

Rarely, they'll do reverse prostitution busts where they pad a female officer's bra and shove her in a duct-tape mini-skirt and red vinyl heels to go parade along some shitty street and pick up the local horny bastards who are looking to bust a cheap nut.

Just this morning, Mrs. Apron and I got into a rather heated discussion about the merits of these types of operations. Our debate was prompted not by an episode of COPS (yeah, we watch it together-- that gay or something?) but by a news report about a dentist who was arrested by police after the dentist had arranged to meet a "14-year-old girl" for sex. Of course, there was no fourteen-year-old girl, it was police officers posing online as a 14-year-old girl, presumably clinging to a sheet of common interwebisms like "ROFL" and "WTF?" to augment their assuredly stunted online tweencabulary.

While Mrs. Apron obviously has no love for pedo's, she made the argument that this style of policing was entrapment.

"Um... yeah, it is," I said. "So what?"

She claimed that at least some of the individuals arrested for crimes online may not necessarily have committed those crimes, or planned to commit those crimes, if the situation itself had not been there, i.e., if these police officers weren't posing as a vulnerable, lascivious 14-year-old girl, might this dentist just have kept going on practicing non-pedo dentistry in peace and harmony with the rest of the non-fondling world?

"So much of what I've learned about crime is that it's situational," she said. And indeed she is right about that. A crime is committed by a poor person. Let's say someone lost their job, and then they lose their house, and their car, and their means to get food. Well, sure, that person is going to steal. And, in order to steal, because stealing's dangerous, might he not try to procure a gun? And, in the course of stealing while being armed, might he not encounter a situation where the gun will be used? He might.

Mrs. Apron is right, of course-- crime is situational but I have to believe that, if these touchers and tweakers have the motivation, the lust and the drive, they will find and seek out a situation through which they may carry out those desires, whether the police are out there or not.

Just like the fact that so much of crime is situational, so much of policing is responsive-- and that has to change. The days when officers sit on their doughy asses or drive around the parks and cemeteries at night and just wait for the radio to crackle so they can hit the lights and gun the engine are over. With information technology and creative thinking, there have to be better ways to utilize law enforcement resources. Police respond generally after a crime has been committed, when there's a victim crying in a corner or lying, bloody on the ground. After the victim's dealt with, the police then go out and hunt for the offender. Wouldn't it be great to snag an offender without having the victim?

I don't believe the argument that trapping suspects by foiling them or presenting them with bogus situations is unethical, but I'm very curious to open this up to you readers to see what you think.

Here's my final two cents: if you go trolling the internet looking for jailbait, you need to know that you're playing Russian Roulette-- maybe it'll be what you think it is, and maybe it won't. That, frankly, is your problem.

An Open Letter to the Guy Who Threw His Emaciated Dog Out His Car Window

Hey, Buddy:

I don't have a lot of time to write this morning, so I'll just cut right to the chase:

You're a fucking asshole.

There are lots of fucking assholes in this world-- bosses who cheat you out of your raise, mattress salesmen, the guy in the porkpie hat driving the Cadillac in front of you at 14 miles-an-hour with his left blinker inexplicably on for miles-- and then suddenly turns right, Charles Barkley, the creepy uncle who's always looking down your girlfriend's blouse, people who yell into their cellphones because they think that's an appropriate conversational decibel level, the waitress who calls you "hon"-- you know what I'm talking about.

But you really take fucking assholedom to another level.

From what I understand from news reports, you starved your dog, a bull-boxer mix and then, while driving around in Morrisville, you wrapped the dog in a blanket and threw it out of your car window while the vehicle was in motion.


Not only are you a total fucking asshole, but you have zero intelligence and/or consience at all. If you did, you would have done any one of the following things:

1.) Taken it to a shelter
2.) Put it up for adoption
3.) Given it to a friend or neighbor
4.) Taken it to a veterinary hospital

Even if you were just a basic, run-of-the-mill asshole, still insistent on abandoning the dog in the woods, you could have at least pulled over and let the dog out of your car instead of lobbing it like a Monday night football out the window. But, no-- I guess you wanted to see what sort of hang time you could achieve.

Fortunately, the dog's okay. He was rescued by a fat but sincere woman who happened to witness you lobbing Fido from your car. When she was interviewed by the local newsmorons, she said,

"At first, I thought it was a baby-- you know, because it was all wrapped up in a blanket."

The scary thing is, you probably do have children, don't you, Mr. Dog Flinger? Is that what you're going to do to them one day when you realize you can't afford to feed them, too? I could picture someone like you doing that.

"Well, sorry, Junior. It's Hail Mary time! Call this play, Frank Gifford!"

It's sad that there are bewilderingly sadistic motherfuckers like you out and about, people with absolutely no regard for life, and no coping skills. I can understand what could drive someone to dump their car in a lake somewhere in rural New Jersey when they can't afford the payments anymore, but a car isn't alive-- despite what Disney would have us believe.

So, sir, the next time you undertake responsibility for another living creature that you find you can't afford, before taking the very regrettable step of throwing it out the window like a three-week-old apple core, try this instead:

Throw yourself out the fucking window instead.

What we need in this society more than abandoned, broken, airborne dogs is fewer people like you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Apparently, I AM the Very Model of a Modern Major-General

In the heady excitement of stripping wallpaper, scheduling allergist's appointments and generally running about like an epileptic chipmunk, I forgot to mention that I got cast as Major-General Stanley in "The Pirates of Penzance."

I now get to share the stage with a bevy of adopted daughters, dodder and mince around like an affected prat, and sing the immortal song, "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General," a piece of music which most Americans think is from "Animaniacs."

This will be my fourth principal patter role in a Gilbert & Sullivan operatta, and I'm proud to be ticking them off, one by one. Only ten left to go. It's a good thing I'm still young.

The audition was okay, as auditions go. I feel like my singing showed improvement while my comic timing was on the decline, but I guess the auditioners didn't feel that way. Or maybe they did, and there was just nobody else. I don't know, nor do I care that much either. I got the part, and it's always a nice thing to be wanted, except when it's by the police.

Rehearsals don't start until September, so it's difficult to get really excited about the show, and I have trouble getting excited about shows in general. Part of me thinks it's a waste of time and energy-- do audiences really give a shit about who's in a certain role in a given show? Does it really matter? There are many, many people who could do the part just as easily as me-- why does it have to be me? Sometimes I browbeat myself about doing community theatre. I could probably get paid work if I dusted up my resume, sent out headshots and put a little effort into it. But I don't.

G&S doesn't require serious acting chops (some would argue there's no acting involved at all, and that's true sometimes, but only if you can't act) and it satisfies my longing to pretend I'm British. Also, the Gilbert & Sullivan patter roles are relatively easy and comfortable for me-- it ain't Pinter and it ain't Arthur Miller or Eugene Ionesco. Not only do I appreciate and respect the talents and work of the two men intellectually, but I am over the moon for the music and the wit.

The thing I do have to work hard at, though, is the music. I can barely read music, so I fake a lot of things. I listen to recordings constantly to augment my meager sightreading abilities. Mrs. Apron tutors me privately, coaching me. I sing the songs constantly so that it is more muscle memory than anything else.

I'm pleased to have another opportunity to perform. I feel like I get better each time, and that's saying a lot because, the first time, I didn't know what the fuck I was doing. If you had told me, six years ago, that I would be singing solo operetta roles I would have laughed so hard I would have soiled myself, and you. But, here we are. I'm pleased to have the opportunity because I feel like I do have some talent-- certainly not enough for film or Broadway or even Philly professional theatre, but, there's something-- and, as long as there's something, then it should be shared.

I suppose that's why I have this blog instead of a diary. It serves the same basic function, a record of thoughts and musings and feelings-- and that's what it's for. I suppose, if it were just for me, I wouldn't try as hard-- and there certainly wouldn't be funny, hyperlinked pictures-- but I recognize that this is a place for you, too. You're here for some reason, and maybe I don't know what that is, and maybe I don't need to know, but I'm glad that you're all there, sitting in the audience, clapping away as the lights go down.

It's a little army, I know. But I'm proud to be your Major-General.

More of the Same

People are funny.

They say they want one thing, and then, when they get it, they profess never to have wanted it in the first place.

This unalterably human paradox is now manifesting itself very early on in the presidency of Barack Obama. People who once were rabidly behind him, chomping at the bit for his every word, unmistakably on his jaun are now starting to turn.

Oh, yeah. It's happening.

People are now making the claim that Obama is "not acting Presidential enough."

He's been on late night talk shows. He's giggled on "60 Minutes." He's... black.

He's not like all the other presidents, people are saying.

Well, good for you for noticing!

It's funny because, I thought this man ran, and got overwhelmingly elected on the platform of "Change." I thought we said we were tired of what had come before, and now, here we are, yearning for the consistency and comfort of some old, white fart to bring back the familiarity of yesterday.

The trouble with this country is, we don't want change. We want sameness. Deep in our prejudiced, frightened, conservative hearts, we want some old, white guy in a suit to sit and pose for portraits. We want someone to appear on the $15.00 bill looking like he has an apartment complex stuck up his ass. We want conformity over progress. We want... well...

"I don't want a movie star, I want a president," I heard one Democrat recently complain.

Oh, you mean someone like him?

They say that Obama isn't acting "presidential enough," and I'm not quite sure what that means. What, exactly, does acting "presidential" look like? Does it look like this? Or perhaps it looks something like this. Or like this?

No, no-- it must look like this.

You get my point, I'm sure. You want someone who looks "presidential"? Call up Bea Arthur-- she looks just like George Washington.

I could go on and on (which is my way) but I think my father said it best when he came over for literally three minutes last night to have me sign a birthday card for his sister,

"Fuckin' America retards! 'Oh, Obama-- thank you!' Two weeks later, they already sick of him and want something different. 'Oh, can we have another fuckin' election now?' Fuckin' assholes."

Frankly, I'm not sure this country deserves a leader like him. I think, by and large, we deserve what we get, and we get what we deserve. I think this man is a remarkable, and rare exception, and I hope we don't let it pass by unnoticed or unappreciated because he isn't kissing enough babies or kissing enough ass.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Minority Report

As a somewhat unthrilled member of the non-profit world, I was required to attend a grant forum today, ostensibly to gain more information about the grant being offered. What I got was the opportunity to sit and listen to a bevy of 50ish women talk about their own foundations and themselves.

I'm not a particular fan of sweeping generalizations, but here's my physical description of the typical arts-related non-profit representative at this forum:

* White.
* Mid-fifties.
* Long hair, done up in some elaborate braiding system.
* Wearing any combination of the following items:
* eccentric, colorful eyeglass frames (commonly referred to as "funky")
* clothes from Nordstrom (if non-profit is younger than 10 years old, Nordstrom Rack)
* a pin or brooch that is approximately the size of a salad plate
* strange-looking socks, (at least one individual had birds on hers, one had autumn leaves)
* Mom-paunches.

Needless to say, being a twenty-eight year old male and having left all of my satellite-dish-sized pendants at home, I was a little out of my element. I was the minority, even more so than the one African American woman with the hijab-- at least she had a vagina, I'm reasonably sure. Making small-talk with a roomful of women who could be your mother but are significantly more irritating and self-aggrandizing was not easy for me and, as usual in situtations like these, I seated myself far away from everyone else and pretended to read my notes, thus successfully avoiding most conversations. One cameo-wearing woman made the mistake of sitting next to me and introduced herself. I immediately forgot her name and she was positioned so that I could not see her nametag. Her breath smelled like old tires and so my clipped responses were carefully designed to minimize further communiques. She quickly moved to leech onto others with whom she could network with and breathe on more successfully.

The only thing I like about the non-profit world is that it makes you seem like a do-gooder. But I do not belong with these people. I don't know with whom I belong, but it certainly wasn't with them. I long for a time when and where I will not feel like an outsider, but I don't go to synagogue or to blogger conventions or to prematurely-retired EMT functions.

If you know of a place where I might feel more at home, a place devoid of jowly women in bird socks and mom-slacks, invite me. I might actually go.

Monday, March 23, 2009

RQP = Real Quick Post

Here are some random, pressing Monday evening questions for you lovely people to ponder, or answer:

Are my breathing difficulties asthma or are they psychosomatic?

Why do young people think it's cool to bash cops?

Why are redheaded women in pornos almost invariably coupled with huge, African-American men?

Why is finding a parking meter with 8 minutes left on it so much more exciting than getting grapes on sale at the market?

Why do some Triscuits have MSG and some don't?

Why are old cars so much cooler than new cars?

Who invented reality TV and do they ever watch it?

What the hell ever happened to Rue McLanahan?

Why do most people always choose shitty movies over good plays?

How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Why don't we have a designated siesta time like other, smarter countries have?

Why is it that people think men who want to work with children are automatically perverts?

Why do lame-ass bloggers get book deals and, on a slightly related topic: where's mine?

What the hell was the name of that PBS show I used to watch as a kid, it took place on some other planet-- fuck. What the fuck was that called anyway?

Why am I obsessed with dying and not World of Warcraft or something?

Why'd you tase me, bro?

Why did my toenail fungus come back, even after I took Lamisil for three months, as directed?

Why do people think it's okay to wear underwear that shows through their pants?

Why haven't I lost my job yet and, on a related topic, when's that going to happen?

Why do all the suspects on "COPS" answer the question, "Why'd you run, man?" with "I was scared"?

Why do birds suddenly appear, every time that you're near?

Why do I not call my friends on the phone to shoot the shit anymore?

Why don't I have visible wrinkles yet and, on a related topic, when are they coming?

Why is there so much shit in this house?

When is the "right time" to have a child?

Who decided that it's okay for only certain countries to start wars?

When am I going to start to learn how to pluck the banjo instead of just strum?

Are my parents as scared of themselves dying as I am?

Will I ever own a cat?

Why is it that Volkswagen felt the need to change the Beetle's push buttons on the door handles from little rectangles in 1966 to little circles in 1967?

Why am I still afraid I'll wake up at 4:30am and throw up if I eat anything after 10pm?

Will there be four separate funerals for the Oakland officers, or one massive one?

Does this tie match anything else that I'm wearing today?

Why are lamps never bright enough?

Where do I begin?

Tongue-Tied in Oakland

I don't know what to say about the cop-killings in Oakland, but I feel compelled to say something.

It's expected of me, law enforcement advocate and supporter that I am. You knew it was coming. You knew it was time for another sad blogpost, one that would not make you giggle or titter, or comment. A sad one. As it says on the banner a'top "My Masonic Apron," this is a sometimes sad place.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, here we are. It's time to put a strip of black over the badge. It's time for the white gloves. It's time to acknowledge a sacrifice greater than ourselves.

They're saying a lot of things in Oakland this morning, and much of what they're saying has to do with the killer. They say that he was "frustrated with the parole system." They say that he was "trying to better himself." They say that he "wasn't being treated right." They say that he "wanted to get rehabilitated and to find a job."

Well. That's what they say anyway. People say a lot of things that don't make any sense when they're upset, and Lovelle Mixon's family has every right to be upset over the blood that this man spilt in Oakland on March the 21st, 2009.

I just don't understand how arming yourself with an assault rifle is a logical component of a plan to "better yourself." Maybe one of Lovelle Mixon's family members can explain that to the people of Oakland or, better yet, to the family members of the deceased officers.

You know-- this isn't what I want to say. This is coming out all wrong. I'm sorry. Let me try again.


It is a rarity when I am at a loss for words. This is one of those times. I felt sure that I could sit down at the computer this morning and just start clicking away, and that, as usual, something cogent and passionate would pour out, but I'm not getting anything. Maybe I'm just spent. Maybe all the death and despair of Philadelphia has bled me dry, and has disabled me to the point where I cannot respond to what has happened 3,000 miles away. 3 dead cops, one brain dead-- a police department in shambles and a city in fear and despair because some fucking bastard was "frustrated with the parole system?"

How, exactly, do you respond to that?

What do you say?

Someone wrote a comment on the Oakland Tribune's website that said, "They all got what they deserved. Everybody knows cops are brutish thugs."

And how, exactly, do you respond to that?

What do you say?

Here's what I have to say personally, and it's nothing that I can say in any commentary or any editorial or any newspaper: if this tragedy doesn't move you in some way-- if it doesn't make you see that the criminal element of this society has effortless access to a plethora of guns that they are unafraid to use, if this doesn't give you a pang of guilt for every "cop-with-a-donut" joke you've unthinkingly made, if this bloodbath doesn't give you a moment's pause: then I guess I just don't know what to say to you.

I guess I'm just tired. Tired of the violence and the meaningless words that follow afterwards, from them, from me, from the governors and the mayors and the presidents. From everybody. I'm just so fucking tired of it.

So, go on. Play your bagpipes. Write your hateful, spiteful comments to the newspapers, and your supportive ones, too. Send your flowers. Lower your flags. Cross your breast.

Just get on with it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

NPR Sundays

I'm taking a break from stripping wallpaper.

I've been doing it from 9:30-2:15, pretty much without a breath. We moved the big-ass radio from the living room to the kitchen so that we could both listen to NPR's Sunday offerings while listening to the radio together. Mrs. Apron was busily crafting away in preparation for a craft fair, and I was-- well, stripping.

I may sound like a tote-bag-slinging, mug-loving snob for saying this, but I love NPR Sundays. Today was a great day-- we started listening earlier than we normally do and caught most of a show called "On the Media" which had a lot of content about the pros and cons of being anonymous on the intrawebz, a subject which is both near and dear to my little apron-covered heart. The show discussed websites that have nameless and faceless bloggers and writers reviewing restaurants and physicians, and the various complications that ensue from such brave souls who write without fear of any real repercussions. One former neurosurgeon now heads a group called "Medical Justice" or some such shit and he was discussing how inappropriate it is for laymen and women to rate doctors on standards-of-care because, really, us nincompoops and doingobats aren't qualified so to do. We are, though, qualified to say whether or not doctors are "jerks." At least, according to this prick.

There was an unrelated psychologist from Britain (St. Bart's) who stated that those who write on the internet under the guise of anonymity run the risk of unleashing a torrent of rage that would normally have been restrained under the auspices of social constraints and the norms of civility. And, while I must say that I believe he has a legitimate point, if I ever see this guy I'm going to freak the fuck out on him, his family and his dead ancestors and rain down on them like the unending fires of hell.

People like to get down on bloggers and other internet writers who write under a pseudonym and, even as a pseudonymninious blogger, I understand that. It's the old, "Show yourself! Meet me by the flagpole after school! Meet me in the parking lot bar! Stop hiding behind your mommy, or your daddy, or your big brudder, or your white hood, or your religion, or your gay-ass online handle."

"Mr. Apron."

I mean, seriously. What a fag.

And, to a certain extent, I agree with people who advocate for more online transparency. On the other hand, I'd like to introduce myself to these people and say,

"Hi. If you can guarantee that I can continue blogging with my full 1st ammendment freedoms intact and still keep my job and my community standing, then I'll toss this pseudonym in the trashcan where it probably belongs."

Trouble is, nobody can give me that guarantee. Ironically, the internet, which was created as a mode for increased self-expression, comment, commentary and exchange of ideals has created a vacuum in which freedoms and rights get routinely suffocated, and decent people are hung out to dry. Sometimes it's because of a story that you wrote eight years ago that had the word "fuck" in it. Maybe it's a Facebook picture of you holding the ubiquitous red, plastic cup at a frat party, your eyes glazed over and your tongue hanging out like the family dog's, your navel-ring visible below your midrift top. Maybe it's a YouTube video of you dancing in your room to the Lord Nelson Mass in your Hello Kitty underwear.

In this era of extreme visibility, you'd better start Googling yourself and seeing what comes up, before your current or prospective employer does. Take the advice from one who has been burned: do it today.

I argue to everyone out there that anonymous internet writers have largely been driven to do so out of a very real and damnable need for self-protection. Anonymity is our only defense against the Googlers of the world who would use our words against us in a heartbeat. Goodbye controversial, humorous musings. Farewell, freedom of expression. See you later, honesty. They call us cowards, but I dare someone to stand up and call Mark Twain a coward. Obviously, though, Samuel Langhorne Clemens felt the need to create another identity so that he could express himself in a freer way. And Mark Twain wasn't his only cover: there was Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass, among many other elaborate ones. For a while, in the early days, he was known simply as "Josh." The outside world creates a need for pseudonyms-- writers just create the names.

"This American Life" was next. Two very depressing stories by people who probably should have used pseudonyms, but didn't.

Then there was "Car Talk." Everybody knows Tom & Ray Magliozzi as "Click & Clack," and I think that's how they like it. That way, all the people to whom they erroneously recommend new catalytic converters or fuel pumps can't so easily find them and raise hell. Tom & Ray probably don't need pseudonyms, but they have every right to them.

I only listened to the first ten minutes of "Prairie Home Companion" before shutting it off, turning off the wallpaper steamer and coming upstairs, sufficiently moved to blog. If you listen to the full two hours of "Prairie Home" you won't hear Garrison Keillor mention his own name once. Most radio personalities mention their names constantly, after every single break, worried, apparently, that the listeners won't know who they are if they don't constantly drop their own names. Garrison Keillor doesn't seem to worry about that. I guess he figures that he's been doing this for so long, everybody knows his name anyway and, if they don't, well-- that doesn't much matter anyway. As long as they keep clapping after the "Powdermilk Biscuit" ads and the "Guy Noir" sketches, that's really all Garrison Keillor cares about. He strikes me as someone who's old enough to not have to be very much concerned with his own personal noteriety, or his own name-- if that really is his name.

I like that Garrison Keillor doesn't mention his name all the time, or at all. He doesn't need to. And neither do the rest of us.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

El Diente Azul

That means "the blue tooth," in Spanish! Aren't I cultured?

So, here's my question for my small but loyal blogdience:

Do people who walk around with bluetooth headsets in their ears still look like d-bags?

Please feel free to regale me and others with your perspectives on the matter, because I'm actually dying to know. I'm still kind of on the fence about what I think, which is unusual for me. I can certainly remember having a pretty crystal clear opinion of those who chose to adorn themselves with a bluetooth headset: I didn't think much of them. You remember thinking it, too:

Who were these self-important assholes?

Why did they insist on walking around in public wearing these unwieldy contraptions affixed to their heads?

Why did they want to walk around looking like some awry medical experiment?

Why did they keep the thing in their ear even when they weren't expecting a phone call?

We looked at them with a mixture of scorn, contempt and thinly-veiled outrage. "You're no Secret Service agent!" we wanted to scream at them, but didn't-- just in case they were.

Of course, it was all envy, anybody could have seen that. It was envy and a covetous disposition that could only be quelled by, what else: getting a bluetooth.

I capitulated maybe a year ago, at Staples. I got one for me, and one for Mrs. Apron. She's usually very anti-whatever's-trendy, and we'd relished in making fun of people who wore bluetooth headsets, calling them "cyborgs" and "assholes." So, I hedged my impetuous purchase with a lie,

"I think they're making it illegal in Pennsylvania to talk on the phone in the car without one of these..."

Mrs. Apron grabbed the package out of my hand.

"COOL!" she squealed. Well, so much for that.

After a long time of using this device, I'm not so sure it's a whole lot safer to talk on a hand-held phone while you're driving than it is to talk on a bluetooth while you're driving. I mean, the content of the call is the same, and if your girl, Moesha is telling you all about getting her bitchass smacked up by her baby daddy, chances are you're going to be just as excited, irate, and animated.


It is amazing, though, how the combination of the passage of time coupled with the acquisition of a device yourself remarkably alters how you view others with the same device. Now, when I see someone in the supermarket and their right ear is glowing, I don't automatically want to run them over with my shopping cart. It's just like any other invention, I suppose-- at first it's eyed suspiciously, but then, eventually, you adjust to its prominence. Like the iPod. Like the airbag. Like the Beetle. Like locking people with autism away in residential facilities and/or basements. Like Cheez-Whiz.

You just get used to these new-fangled ways.

Unfortunately, the bluetooth earpiece does somewhat contribute in a predictable way to the increase of noise pollution, as people with bluetooth headsets are much more likely to gab in public places. Here was the conversation I heard a young man having with his associate on a bluetooth while I was returning my shopping cart at Target.

"Yeah, man, I mean-- I know he like to get 'em while they all fresh and pure and shit, before they got all kinds of mutha' fuckin' diseases an shit, but like-- fourteen? I mean, shit. That's kinda young, you know?"

Yes. I do. And I'm glad you do, too.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dinner at Home

I love going to my mother and father's house for dinner.

Not necessarily because it's all warm and cozy, (it isn't-- I don't think they've ever turned the thermostat above 59 degrees), or because the cookin' is "just the way I like it," (it isn't-- there were both mushrooms and olives in the pasta, and I hate both with a vocal passion) or because everybody gets along so well, (yeah), but because it's usually a genuinely funny experience. At least, it is when the frigid air isn't fraught with tension because of some topic that is not allowed to be spoken about (a pregnancy, an illness, a new purchase, a death, a misfortune, a faux pas, a coincidence, a situation, a blood test, a new Nabisco product.)

Tonight was pretty enjoyable by typical standards. Mrs. Apron was having a much-needed night out with two of her friends from her grad school program, and so I, not especially wanting to be home in our new house alone with the dog, invited myself over to my parents house. My sister did the same, at my suggestion.

SIS: "Well, do you think they'd want me there?"

(She's there for dinner at least six weekends a month.)

ME: "The fuck do you care? Just come over."

SIS: "Do you think Daddy will make shrimpies?"

Shrimpies. Did I mention that this woman is forty-one?

So, there we were, around the dinner table, just like old times. My other sister was not present, which was also just like old times. Daddy did indeed make "shrimpies" (with mushrooms and olives) and we all consumed our meal contentedly.

ME: "That was great, thank you."

DAD: "Sure, sure."

SIS: "My noodles were very dry." {MOM, DAD & I all turn to look at her.} Well they were.

MOM{motioning to the tub of Keller's}: "Well, there's the butter."

ME: "Maybe you should run them under the faucet."

DAD: "Hey, don' blame me. That's how you asked for them. Of course they're dry, you don' have shit on it."

My father is Israeli, which explains him well enough. My sister, on the other hand, has some kind of esophogeal disorder. I don't know what the fuck it is. Mrs. Apron could explain it to you, she's the Speech Language Pathologist. My sister belches constantly, and ferociously-- like a lion. Because of my sister's gastrointestinal issues, she has to have food prepared in a very specific way, and she doles out meal preparation instructions to our aging parents with Nazi-like efficiency. She's also hypoglycemic and requires feedings at regular and exact intervals.

If you were here and had even a faint pulse, she would also tell you in detail about her abraided cornea, which requires eye drops every half-hour, but she must have applied them ten times between 5:30 and 7:30. She is more regimented than an Annapolis cadet and more full of ridiculous ailments than a Moliere play.

I mentioned that I was having breakfast tomorrow with my other sister.

DAD: "Where?"

ME: "Milkboy's."

DAD: "Do you know about thees other place? Vat it's called? Sexboys?"

{MOM whips her head around and glares at him.}

MOM: "What?!"

DAD: "Say-- Sex-boy?"

ME: "Saxby's."


DAD: "What?!"

ME: "It's called fucking "SAXBY'S" not "Sexboys!" Jesus fucking Christ!"

DAD: "Well, yeah, but, to some foreign-- to someone who just fell off the boat, it's look like "Sex-boys."

MOM: "The only person who just fell off the boat is you."

DAD: "What kind of a name it's is anyways? Sahx-bohs?"


This is the truncated version of this particular conversation. In real-time, it probably went on for around six minutes-- at least long enough to require another application of eye-drops.

The discussion then mercifully turned to the fact that Mrs. Apron's mother is coming to visit us next weekend.

DAD: "Listen, I'm meaning to ask you: what are your thoughts? Is it-- should we be taking her out to dinner when she comes here?"


ME: "What the hell are you asking me for? Do whatever you want to do-- you're adults, aren't you?"

DAD: "Yeah, but I'm talking about what's the manners? What is the manners?"

ME: "What?"

DAD: "What is the right manners?"

ME: "How the fuck should I know? Why don't you write a letter to Miss Manners and ask her?"

DAD: "What? Don't you have any fucking manners?"


ME: "Obviously not."

My sister then excused herself, I assumed, to vomit. My father brought out the coffee and a container of small chocolate cookies.

MOM: "Those are stale, you know."

DAD: "Come on, no they not. See?"

He put one in his mouth and it sounded like he was cracking a walnut.

MOM: "That's disgusting."

DAD: "No it's not! See? I can eat it."

ME: "That's because all your teeth are fake, you could eat a shoe if you wanted."

Upon re-entering the dining room, my sister announced that, while in the bathroom for under three minutes, she hurt her other eye with the cord from her hoodie. My father and I exchanged a regrettable glance and we both started to laugh.

SIS: "Hey-- it's not funny, you assholes." This, of course, made it even funnier and prompted only more laughter.

She stormed out of the room with her Bausch & Lomb bottle which was, by the way, the size of a thimble.

The experts tell us that we regress when we go home-- it's like a time warp or something. And, at least in our case, those experts are right on the money: even Dr. Phil. In our house, nothing changes. The linoleum on the dining room floor is the same as it always was, just like our behavior patterns. My parents age with subtlety-- well, my mother does-- my father doesn't seem to age and, when he does, he won't do it subtlely. Subtlety isn't his his style.

Our final conversation of the night turned to my uncle, who has recently decided to put his house up for sale instead of paying his mortgage payment. The house is located across the street from a Catholic seminary.

MOM: "I'm just not sure he's going to get a million dollars for that house-- I mean, he needs to. Maybe in May, when all the flowers are in bloom and he can open up the pool..."


DAD: "Maybe that church or whatever will buy it-- as a place to fundle, you know-- with the window curtains down."

ME: "Yeah. They could call it 'Sexboys'."

An Open Letter to The People Screaming Outside the "Today" Show

Dear People Screaming Outside the "Today" Show:

What the fuck is wrong with you?


Mrs. Apron & I watch twenty three minutes of the "Today" show every morning, and, every morning, there you are. You're screaming your goddamn heads off about... well, I don't really know about what.

I don't think you know either.

You're standing behind barriers, guarded by police officers, while a middle-aged white guy, a middle-aged white woman and a middle aged black man chit-chat about the latest man-vs-animal incident or what the weather's like in Seattle, and you're tearing your vocal chords to shreds and popping your eyes and lunging against the blockades like you're witnessing the Jonas Brothers giving each other CPR.

Look at yourselves. You're grown people. Get a fucking grip. Stop shaming your neighbors back home in Des Moines by identifying yourself as from there when Al sticks his microphone to your frothing lips for your two seconds of immediately forgotten-about noteriety. I would cringe if I heard some loo-loo announce my hometown as their residence. I wouldn't want people thinking, "God, are they all like that?"

You're all tourists, I have to believe that-- except for the old, black guy who's there every single morning (Lenny, you're a whole different blog post, but I'll get to you eventually) so, I have to ask you,


You're in New York City. To most people, it's the cultural epicenter of the United States. There's ducks string up by their doingities in Chinatown shop-windows, there's more museums and restaurants and cupcake shops and important architecture and theatre and shopping and even the Statue of motherfuckin' Liberty, for Christ's sake. What, pray, are you doing, freezing your tiggities off, yelling your fucking heads off at the "Today" show? Go take a walk in Chelsea. Go eat some street peanuts. Go to Ground Zero. Go... fuck yourselves, you demented housewives. Lauer's married, girls-- and chances are, if he weren't, he wouldn't be picking out his next bride from the ranks of the freakishly menopausal wailing banshees from the dubious Midwest who are in NYC for a day to catch "Mary Poppins" and have a good throat-rip at the "Today" show.

Honestly, people, I've seen better, more logical behavior from scores of intoxicated people. And I'd be willing to be that, at 7:30am, most of you cannot even claim alcohol as an excuse for your bizarre behavior. That's pretty early, even for the most hardcore of drunkards. In fact, I think I would have more respect for you if you were holed up in some shitty-ass dive, sucking on a gin instead of yelling so loudly that I could not hear the national weather forecast.

I was pretty sure that this unfortunate phenomenon was strictly an example of home-grown American idiocy, so imagine how saddened I was when the "Today" show went to Ireland to film for St. Patrick's Day and, there they were: our Irish brethern and sisteren, screaming their fool freckles off.

This is called "social loafing." It just takes one Irish asshole who saw Americans behaving like assholes to encourage a whole cluster of Irish people to start behaving like similar assholes.

Why? Because we're American, and we're assholes, and that's how we roll.