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."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

We all know that commercials have persistently and painfully suckled all the joy out of watching network television. If I never see another ad for Tucks Medicated Pads, endure Sally Field and her disintegrating bones, grind my teeth through a thousandth bitchy woman in a sweaterset preparing rich, chocolate Ovaltine for a hoard of Mormon children or hear Wilford Brimley utter the word "Dia-beat-us" ever again, I will die a happy man.

The internet, though it is a free-flowing river of social liberties, endless, creative pornography and clickable shopping, is no freer from the chains of advertising than television. I spent a little time this past week collecting some of my favorite banner ads that appear over my Yahoo Mail. Rest assured, I didn't save any of the banner ads that appear of all the sites I visit, or I'd be in trouble with some of my more conservative readers (Hi, Salt Lake City!)

We'll start with my favorite one:

I mean-- why do I need to click on this? Isn't it obvious?
She's a drug dealer. And/or a prostitute.

Personally, I'm afraid to click on banner ads. I've never done it, and I'm reasonably convinced that something terrible will happen to my computer and/or my humanity if I do click on one. I was actually afraid just to right-click on them to save them to my hard-drive. I mean, does your brain get slow and sloppy once you start clicking banner ads? Do you become a fat woman named Gladys who sits in a fart-enrobed La-Z-Boy watching The Price is Right while Fritos adhere themselves to your ass dimples? I mean, I'm sure it's not an instantaneous process, but that's how it starts at any rate.

What the hell were we talking about? Oh, right-- banner ads. We're used to thinking of ads and commercials as existing to sell us a product of some kind. Well, the internet has changed all that. Now, we need to acclimate ourselves to the idea that there are some ads that exist, ostensibly, to ask us dumbfuck questions like:

And,

Lots of people love to give their opinions on things (scientists call these people "bloggers") and I'm sure that fat Gladys' the world over are thrilled to think that their opinion about a Jacko rebirth or Madonna's ill-achieved 1989 Diane Keaton look, and that they might actually receive something of value in return for their meaningless opinions. Which they won't. No Old Navy gift card for you, Bad Gladys! You'd just spend it on solid color t-shirts that you would sew together to make a hammock for your dimple-ass.


Don't worry, though, there are still banner ads that are trying to sell us shit we don't need.

I mean, I certainly don't need Resveratrol. I'm a twenty-eight year old male. And I'm pretty sure that you don't need it either, whether you've got wrinkles or not. First of all, Dr. Oz likes this, so you automatically know it's bullshit. Second of all, if you have wrinkles, learn to love them-- they ain't going anywhere.

I have to admit, though, I started feeling kind of weird about my life when I kept seeing these kinds of ads popping up over my inbox:

And, um, this one:


I mean-- hasn't internet trolling and tracking gotten better than this? Aren't they supposed to be monitoring my shopping and viewing and clicking habits? Aren't they supposed to know I don't look like I'm ready to start up a canasta league with Betty White? Why are you trying to sell me stairchairs, bedpans and Botox? Come on, interwebz, I thought ye knew me better than ye do.
Then I see a banner ad like that and I say, "Ah. They've got me." Two things of which I am very much afraid: my mortgage, and my death. Good job, interwebz.

They've also really got my number with this beauty, too:

No, I don't have a flabby mancrush for Hugh Downs-- but I do always think I'm having a heart attack. I'm reasonably convinced I'm having one right now, actually. Will you pay off my mortgage in the event of my death?

I joke about the necessity for these heart attack symptom ads that allow Mr. Hugh Downs to continue to make his mortgage payments prior to the event of his death, but, evidently, there is a need, a real need for ads like his. Because products exist in this society that were invented, it seems, for the sole purpose of hastening our demise...

Like Bacon. Salt.

Other ads play to our insecurities and our competitive nature, by asking us, in much the same vein as "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader" if we think our intellect can best that of someone else's.

They often post Miley Cyrus', Sarah Palin's and, to make the playing field fair, Tiny Tim. On a whim, inspired by this ad, I went to a website that offers free IQ tests, because I'd never taken one. The first question read something like this:

"Three dogs, six chickens and four llamas are standing in a farmyard in Chernobyl. How many legs do they have?"

I froze. Math. I clicked the beautiful red X in the upper right-hand corner of my screen immediately. Obviously, I am not smarter than Barack Obama, but I'm probably not smarter than Miley or Tiny either.
Oh well, at least I know what to season my food with.

The Wrong Trousers, Gromit

Apparently, this is news:



Because I use Yahoo for my email service (don't try to find me, you creepy stalker peoples) I get to be constantly regaled and frustrated by what passes for Yahoo "News" in the form of six so-called "Top Stories" that are presented to me before I am able to read my email. Very recently, at least three of the six headlines are mandated to contain the words "flu" and "swine," but there's still room for a little variety and creativity, I'm pleased to report.

Yesterday, one of the headlines, in fact, the FEATURED headline was not about the latest intercontinental influenza or the now certain demise of Chrysler Corporation, but the above-pictured schmuck's trousers.
I stared at the headline for a moment or two in utter disbelief.

"John Daly's Horrifying New Golf Pants Are Visible from Orbit."

I mean-- you're kidding me, right?

That this "story" is presented as "news" is the first insult to our humanity, intellect and status as supposed life forms of superior intelligence. Superior to the intelligence of whom, may I ask? News editors? I guess so. The writer of the piece did not even include a Google Earth picture as evidence to support their contention that Daly's pants are discernable from those of the rest of us from the stratosphere.

The piece, which is only 150 words long, tipped the moron-meter by receiving 2,312 comments in less than 24 hours.

Are you sure the superior intelligence designation doesn't give you even a moment's pause?

Here's the thing, I don't have any problem with the occasional "fluff" piece. Hey, sometimes we need a break from mass hysteria, hype and phillandering politicos, but some d-bag running around golf greens swathed in gaily-colored, socially unfit or otherwise dubious attire isn't fluff, or news. People have been doing that for centuries. Don't believe me?

Check these vintage mothas out out, puttin' it old school:

This one's Japanese, but still...



Then there's this guy. Oy vey. Payne-ful.


This one must have been from a tournament scheduled on Halloween. But, aren't they all?


Seriously, though-- golf has eternally been a haven for those with questionable and eccentric wardrobe leanings, so I don't know who this John Daly thinks he's kidding by pretending to be some great innovator by wearing clothes whose colors would barely be appropriate adorning the walls of a 5 year-old girl's My Little Pony-themed bedroom. If you ask me, the way to be different and anathema to the norm on the putting green is to show up in a white shirt and dark pants, you know-- like a normal person.
Now that would be different and, quite possibly, news.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Everything Done Brook

When I was an EMT, I once noticed a request-for-repair form filled out by a pre-literate co-worker of mine. Apparently, his ambulance was in less-than-praiseworthy shape. While my vehicle repair forms were unusually descriptive pieces of prose that were often three handwritten pages long, this request was right to the point.

"Truck done brook. Breaks brook. Need break."

Don't we all?

I was reminded of this quaint little document yesterday as I started tallying up things in our new home that were "brook." Our oven and our computer monitor immediately leapt to mind. Our dog.

The oven is an unpredictable little biatch. You try to bake cupcakes in it at 350 degrees and, four minutes later, it's smoking like Morton Downey, Jr's stoma. You open the oven door and the thermometer inside reads 500. Wha-wha?! Now, instead of cupcakes, you have moon rocks. Remember to politely decline when we invite you over for dessert.

The computer monitor done brook this morning, y'alls. We like to check email after our morning lavatory rituals are completed, because we're so 21st century with our blogs and our hair and shit. I don't know who we think is emailing us at 4:10 in the morning, but every now and then, some idiot does, which just reinforces our behavior.

"Did we have a power outage last night do you think?" Mrs. Apron called to me from the "office."

"No," I said. Then I thought about it and, because I was still asleep I answered, "Yeah. Probably. It was windy last night."

Yeah? Then why did the alarm go off at the right time this morning, sleepynuts?

I stumbled into the office and the CPU lit up correctly, but the monitor's screen stayed black, and the power light was yellow, not green. I guess yellow is the color dead electronic things turn, unlike dead human things which turn... other colors.

This monitor is an old butt-style monitor of indeterminate age. It had been flickering for months, which was apparently its way of writing out its will. I had asked my wife if we could buy a flatscreen monitor and ditch this piece of shit before our move, but she was not into that idea and, after several dozen requests/nags, I relented. This morning, as the carcass of the late butt-style monitor sat inert between us, we looked at each other.

"I know you've wanted a flatscreen for a long time," she said to me, as if to accuse me of poisoning, starving or otherwise hastening the demise of the butt monitor.

"I swear, I had nothing to do with it!" I said, the precise way all guilty people say it on TV.

"But I want to check my email and my nose is stuffy and I'm hungry," opined my bereaved wife. Yes, her expression may sound plaintive and slightly immature (we're all that way sometimes, especially first thing in the morning) what it really said to me was, "I'm tired of things breaking."

Unfortunately, though, that is what things do. Though not really a thing, our dog is broken, too, at the moment, with a double ear infection. Of course, fixing him is no cheaper than fixing the oven, or the computer monitor, but it's decidedly more important. I tried to save a little money on this front by calling the vet's and asking them to write me a prescription for Mal-Otic, the same goopity goodness I've used on his ear infections for the last six years. They refused, citing the fact that Finley required a doctor's visit and that their records indicated that I was overdue for a wallet-cleaning. But that's the way it is when things done brook.

Sometimes, though, you just need break.

(P.S. This just in-- according to Mrs. Apron, there's another gas leak. Yay! Pipes done brook! Just add it to the motherfuckin' list!)

(P.P.S. Gas leak = false alarm. New 22" flat-screen monitor [open-box special] = awesome)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This Deadened Soul

I just spent a full hour standing in front of a photo-copier at Staples.

I feel like my soul has been effectively deadened by the experience.

It should have been more exciting. After all, I was commiting a federal crime: illegally photocopying musical libretti.

Look out, Gotti.

There are times in my workaday life where I feel like I'm making a difference in peoples' lives, but those moments are pretty fleeting. Most of the time, I feel like I am standing in front of a photo-copier at Staples, even if I'm not. It's a feeling I can get almost anywhere, a feeling that I'm stationary, that I'm a cog in a not-so-great wheel, that I'm, well, Xeroxing.

I realize that, working for a small non-profit, there are lots of unglamorous jobs to be done, and few exciting jobs to be done, and I do them all. I empty the trash and Lysol the can. I sweep. I clean up vomit.

I Xerox.

I have a funny, ambiguous non-profit title that doesn't mean anything. Program Specialist, Project Coordinator, Program Assistant, Program Coordinator, Staff Assistant, Project Manager, Assistant, Associate, etcetera, etcetera.

What these titles all mean is:

"Will photocopy until nauseated and then will clean up his own vomitus for $30K-a-year or less."

Of course, I'm pretty thrilled that I actually have any job to speak of in this economy, when so many people are unemployed, sitting around trash-can campfires and roasting their old shoes for sustinence. Believe me, I know enough to be grateful that I'm not sitting around jobless, homeless and stricken with Swine Flu. Still, bitching about one's job, especially on a blog, is pretty much human nature, and obligatory.

As I was standing in front of the copier this morning for an hour, illegally Xeroxing manuscripts, I could not help but feel that there were better ways to spend my time. I don't particularly mind working for peanuts-- because, like most people who work for non-profits, the absence of benefits and any recognizable salary or potential for upward mobility is supplanted by the warmfuzzie sensation that you're a do-gooder, like Robin Hood, only less gay looking. In my occupational existence, I've worked for two for-profits and two non-profits, and I always felt better about myself when I was working for the non-profits. I felt like I was sacrificing something, and I like that. Just nail me up on that old cross, boys-- it's quite a view from up here.

I just wish there was less Xeroxing involved-- but you can't have everything.

There are things about every job I've ever had that I didn't like, that I felt deadened my soul or wasted my time or insulted me in one way or another. When I was an EMT, one of those tasks was washing the ambulance. I could empty all the pee-filled foley catheter bags on the planet, schlep walruse-shaped invalids up and down dimly-lit, rickety staircases, clean thick goop from peoples' neck-holes, look at blood and poop and puke all day, make the stretcher nice and tidy five or six times in a shift-- but tell me to wash the truck and I would roll my eyes and do basically anything to get out of doing it. I suppose it comes from my own personal reluctance to wash my own car. Why? Doesn't it still drive the same if it's dirty? It's not like somebody rubbed feces all over the side of the thing-- why do I have to bust my ass to make it all shiny-- especially in the winter when it's just going to get filthy again in a matter of minutes? In the wintertime, we were supposed to wash the truck once a week. This notice, put out in writing on the Magic-Erase white board, was promptly riddled with ridicule and obscene protest comments from my coworkers. It was nice to know I wasn't alone.

When I was an optician, my first job out of college, the indignity that I avoided and dreaded was vacuuming the store. It wasn't hard, or taxing, or dangerous-- it just was something that, for one reason or another, I felt deadened my soul a little. It didn't help that my boss seemed to put the vacuum in my hand directly after I would return from a three-day-weekend or some other unusual time off, so that I equated being told to vacuum with punishment. I always did a shitty job vacuuming, too. I never tried to do a bad job, but I wouldn't say I ever especially tried to do a good job either.

As I stood at Staples, the warmth of the Xerox machine warming my crotch and legs, as page after page after page got spat out from the side of the great, whirring, rectangular object, I thought about all the soul-deadening things I've done for extraordinarly miniscule amounts of money. I tried to think about what soul-deadening things lay in wait for me in my jobs of the future, but my brain refused to let me watch that preview. Must be pretty bad. Could it be an unending, painful scene laden with collating, filing, sorting, organizing, paper-clipping, stapling, and being second-guessed, underminded, critiqued and patronized?

Oh my.

As Stephen Sondheim once said: heigh-ho the glamorous life.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Little Bit of Color

Note to the Pretty, Witty, Small in Mass but Large in Heart Contingent that is My Blogosphere:
Some of you are behaving as if my last blog post was nothing short of my epitaph. Come on now, you know me better.

So, the painters arrived this morning. They were early, a phenomenon with which I am unfamiliar in terms of manual-labor folk. I thought I had more time than I actually did, so I sped over to my parents' house to bring in the newspaper, turn off the outside lights, open the shades, thus creating the illusion that they are home, and not visiting my great-aunt in Florida.

Come drop in-- my mom has dubious taste in carpeting, but she has an expensive pottery collection. Better hurry, though, they come home tonight!

They were putting their ladders and tarps and shit on the porch when I pulled up, twelve minutes prior to their scheduled arrival time. Seeing them there early was the first thing that startled me. Seeing three South-of-the-Border dudes with spikey black hair, sleeveless shirts and tattoos was the second thing that surprised me.

I don't know exactly what I was expecting. Being a very wet-behind-the-ears homeowner, the only experience I have with contractors and/or painters is O'Reilly's workmen from "The Builders" episode of Fawlty Towers. If the guy who came to do our estimate had been, well, Mexican (or hispanic-- I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I don't know what the difference is) then I don't think I would have been surprised-- but he wasn't. He was white. Very, very white-- of the blonde haired, blue-eyed, master-race variety. Maybe it's just me, but I felt real weird about him doling out orders to these guys and having them, "Si, boss"ing him. Silly me: I had thought that the whole idea of the pale-faced Boss Man giving orders to a bunch of darker-toned, beefy young men kind of went out of style in, oh, I don't know... 1865.

But I guess old habits die hard.

It's just funny, you meet Aaron, with the blonde hair and the blue eyes, and you are comfortable and confident with him. Then the crew shows up and you're like, oh. That's who I'm really leaving in my house from 8:30-5:00 while my wife and I are at work.

Oh.

It's like having an initial consultation with a doctor that you really like, and then seeing the P.A. every other time you go there, or the R.N. It's like-- but... what about the doctor? Is he just the bait to lure me and my insurance card into the practice? Or was he just window dressing? I mean, sure, Aaron was there this morning with the 3 Amigos, but he split after 15 minutes-- "to get supplies." I've been back to the house twice now today, and no Aaron.

Anyway, they seem like perfectly nice guys. I don't have gobs of evidence to support that since I think their grasp of English is, well, mal. I'm pretty sure that I know more Spanish than they do English, but I don't think it would be appropriate to start a conversation with them in Spanish. That would kind of be the equivalent of some random hiker in Connecticut wishing me good shabbas. You just don't do that. They've obviously been carefully trained to not make eye contact with caucasians, as they firmly gazed at the floor when shaking my hand and mumbling their terse introductions which all sounded like,

"Sihellomynamejorje."

Apparently, they're animal-lovers, too. After consulting on the phone with Mrs. Apron, I decided this morning to gate our 70 pound dog in the I suppose medium-sized bathroom, citing the advantage of a cool tile floor for him to relax on, a full water bowl (no, I'm not referring to the toilet) and the major advantage of him being out of the way of the painters. When I came home mid-day to take Finley on a little walk and air him out a little, I was a bit shocked to see that he was no longer in the bathroom, but he had been gated in our bedroom.

"putinbiggerroom," mumbled Paco.

That was very nice of you, I wanted to say. Instead, I just smiled. I was grateful for their thoughtfulness, though it was probably more a function of them needing to piss and being tired of stepping over the dog gate. (They had left the seat up.) Though they did think about giving the dog more breathing room, they didn't manage to move his water bowl into the bedroom. I suppose he could have just drank his own urine if it got really bad. I mean, it's not like he was stuck on the Andes Mountains after a plane crash, right?

In addition to depriving him of hydration, they also, um, painted him. I realized it when we were outside on our little perambulation. His ordinarily jet black tail was now, um, half white. I'm sure it was unintentional, but a brief vision of these three guys waving paintbrushes around, streaking through my house, buck-ass naked and slammed on mescal singing Harry Belafonte songs at the top of their lungs as they... you know... painted my dog.

He's okay, though. Look, if it were his face or his doodle, I would have said something to them, but it was just his tail and it all came off. Well, most of it did.

Besides, they outnumber me.

Uh-Oh, It's Crisis Time

So, I had this great idea for a post about funny banner ads that appear over my Yahoo! Mail account:

There's the one with the picture of a comely Indian girl who is, allegedly, "Sonalii: 22" and the text below implores you to: "Make her a propose now."

Then there's the one offering me durable medical and home safety supplies.

And the one aboue the Christian mom making $5,000 a week from home. I mean-- why would I even need to click that to "find out more?" She's obviously a prostitute, right?

So, I had the idea and then I just... didn't feel like it. You know? I just... didn't. And there was no editor chomping on a cigar or angrily shoving his thumbs in his suspenders or into my eyes, compelling me to meet my deadline. Nobody threatened to fire me or dock my pay. No newspapers discontinued my circulation. You may have noticed that in recent posts I haven't been putting much, or any, energy into searching for funny pictures with which to hyperlink. I'm lazing off. Saturday was a re-run. I didn't make a post Sunday, and nobody kicked up a fuss. I kind of don't feel like doing one today either.

I don't know.... it's hot. And I'm at work. Shouldn't I be working?

Aren't I a bad person?

Here's the thing: from June until today, after 363 Pudd'nhead Nathan blog posts and 76 My Masonic Apron blog posts, I suddenly started to think about what I was doing, and why. Here's the answer to the latter at least: I don't know. I'm "anonymous" right? The quotes are because old friends of mine that I want to read this blog can read it and know who I am, but new people can read it and have no idea who I am. It's personal, but anonymous. I hope. I keep work out of this because I don't want to get fired and because I have a big, obscene mouth.

Fuckin' aye.

Why do you blog? I don't know. Maybe you're a poet, maybe you have some personal shit to work out, maybe you have frustrations and anxieties and dreams that you want to share. Not to sound like an arrogant sonofabitch, I blog because I'm a reasonably effective writer. I can make a reader feel things-- not always good things, admittedly. But I blog because I enjoy writing, and I've come to terms with the fact that the chances of getting hired to do it professionally are pretty slim, especially in the current economy.

I don't know what my blogging is becoming. I'm obsessed with my statistics-- who's reading and how often, where are they coming from, how did they get to me, how many 20something bloggers "friends" do I have, how can I get more? What can I do to blogvertise without becoming unanonymous? I know there are bloggers who've been out there doing their thing for four, five, six, seven years-- they have a hundred or two hundred followers, thousands and thousands of hits a day.... Comments after comments after comments after comments--

Comments are the golden nuggets, aren't they? And we seek them hungrily. Why?

What's happening to me? Is this healthy? No, I don't think so.

Maybe it's burn out. My average output is two significantly-sized blog posts a day-- and a three-post-day is not wholly unusual for me. Is that necessary? Is it any wonder sometimes I struggle for content? I mock bloggers who post a YouTube video and write maybe a paragraph under it-- is that blogging? I don't know. I don't think it is. But who am I to say?

I suppose every blogger confronts this particular animal at some point in their non-career. Humans are often bothered with existential bullshit questions of the "why am I doing this?" ilk. Animals only have instinct-- they're not so easily troubled or conflicted.

I started blogging because I thought it would be good for me. A situation arose where I got into serious professional trouble because of a personal essay of mine that got published in an e-literary journal under my real name. Some of the things I said in the piece were not very nice, as I'm sure you can imagine. I got in deep, deep shit. So, in an effort to reclaim the power of my pen and my voice, I took to the blogosphere under a bullshit pseudonym, because I needed to get my legs back again. And it was good for me. Now, though, I'm not so sure it's good for me anymore.

Maybe I can keep going, just not at the same prolific rate at which I was blogging before-- because that's just nuts. And I know most of the reason I put up new content as often as I do is because I want to keep peoples' interest. But why? Why does that concern me so much? I don't know. Maybe because I've always seen myself as an entertainer, someone whose role is to engage an audience. Maybe that's the trouble.

Maybe I need to give up looking at the blog tracker, too. Just-- pretend it isn't there. If people want to read, if they can be cool with variable interval reinforcement, then that's fine. If they can't, well, there are only 78 gabijillion other blogs out there to be enjoyed. And some of them actually have content by competent, capable, courageous writers.

Most of them just have fucking YouTube videos, though.

I guess this post is a message that things are going to change around here. It's also a ramble, and it's a cry for help, and it's a question, and it's an answer, too. To those of you whom I'll be inevitably losing as My Masonic Apron becomes a different place: a place where I'll be writing only when very, very moved to do so, thanks for hanging around-- for giving me a chance to bend your ear, for sharing a little piece of me with you. I mean that. Thank you. For those of you who will stick it out for a while yet, well, you're pretty great, too.

The blogosphere is a strange place. It's one I never thought I'd enter, but I'm glad it's here. And I'm glad you're here, too.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Civility

Here's a re-run from the old blog, because it's too fucking hot for new content today, and besides, you're all out sunning your hot-ass selves or jogging in the park. When you are, remember these sentiments:

It's no secret that people today are getting older, they're getting fatter and they're getting meaner. Frankly, the boom in Florida condominium and nursing home construction doesn't bother me much, and I only cared about the expanding American when I was an EMT and I had to lift them up into the back of an ambulance or up three flights of goddamn stairs. The increasing hostility, anger and meanness of society, though, does concern me as it is impossible to avoid contact with brusque bastards as an everyday member of a society that, instead of turning a cold shoulder, would sooner give you a colder elbow in the face.

Google the phrase loss of civility and you will be rewarded with approximately 787,000 hits—without quotation marks, but who’s counting. Apparently there’s some decent book by Peter Wood on the subject, along with about several hundred blog posts on the subject—but I don’t need to read any of that to know that it’s true. I experienced it tonight. And getting off your ass and experiencing anything is far better than reading about it. If you’ve ever read a romance novel and then had sex shortly thereafter you know what I mean.

My wife and I were taking a leisurely early evening stroll in Valley Green, part of Fairmount Park. There’s a very large gravel path, probably about ten feet across, which is meant for bicyclists, joggers, runners, and perambulators of both the bipedal and quadrapedal variety. On a Friday at around 6:30pm, there were hardly any other people around. The occasional bicyclist would whiz by, no doubt fantasizing about cycling for Gold in Beijing. My wife and I were there with our dog, Finley, attempting to exercise him into a state of lugubrious lethargy.

In Fairmount Park, we often let Finley off his leash, as do many other dog walkers. If you have a dog, you live with it day and night and you pretty much know if he’s a pussy or a psycho and, if your dog’s a pussy, why not let him have a little freedom? Our dog is a pussy. When Finley was a younger chap, he would not stray more than 4 or 5 feet from us, and he would constantly stop and look back to make sure we were still present and had not been abducted by beings from the heavens.

Finley is now ten. Or eleven. Or twelve. Who the hell knows really? The point is, he’s older now. After several years of not having us taken up in a spaceship while on a walk in the park, he’s gotten perhaps a bit cocky about always having us around, so he doesn’t always stop and check to see if we’re close anymore. Also, I’m convinced he’s at least partially deaf. While coming when called was never one of his specialties (no, he never had any specialties, but thanks for asking) we have to scream and shout his name and clap thunderously just to get a response from him these days. So, perhaps letting him off his leash in Fairmount Park tonight wasn’t the smartest thing we could have done, but I don’t think we did anything that would warrant me being called a “DUMB MOTHERFUCKER!”

“HEY!” the jogger screamed in a voice so booming I thought he was calling out to a friend in a neighboring state, “PUT A LEASH ON THAT FUCKING DOG, YOU FUCKING DUMB MOTHERFUCKER!”

He was around fifty years old, black shorts, white sneakers, no shirt, jiggly bitchtits. That’s how I would have described him to the 911 dispatcher if he’d decided to jump us, but he didn’t. He didn’t seem terribly interested in attacking us physically, only verbally, and, after he’d done what he did, I’d felt just as hurt as if he’d kicked the shit out of us, so I guess he might as well have.

I pegged him for an errant coward and a bully because it was really a run-by swearing. He didn’t break his striding trot as he passed us and screamed his obscenities for all the sticks and stones in the park to hear. When things like this happen, when somebody screams and curses at you in the middle of a beautiful summer night, when you see two cars collide right in front of you, when someone you thought you knew says or does something you’d previously thought them incapable of, you don’t realize it’s happening. My reaction time in these instances is sometimes slow, because my insides reel and struggle to catch up with my brain to process the incident. He was pretty far past us by the time I knew what was happening, and he was still screaming mushy profanities at us (though he was using the singular instead of the plural, in some kind of bizarre attempt at chivalrously leaving my wife out of it.) Because I never learned to keep my mouth shut in spite of several elementary school bullies’ attempts to teach me that lesson with their fists and hockey sticks, I called out lightly,

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did he attack you?” I asked, referencing my elderly dog, who dared to get within three feet of the jogger.

“FUCK YOU, YOU MOTHERFUCKING ASSHOLE….” Something something something fucking something something.

I was really shaken up for a while after this happened, almost to the point of tears, which, I’m sure would have made this prick thrilled beyond measure. See, I’m a big talker. In my recent blog about returning my Treo, I wrote that I once shouted, “Fuck you, pal” out the window of my car when another driver had screamed, “Put the phone down, pal.” While the other driver did scream, “Put the phone down, pal” and while I did shout, “Fuck you, pal,” only his window was opened. Mine was firmly shut, and my “shout” was more of a guilty reflex of normal volume. I’m a big talker. When I was working as an optician, I freaked out a lens company sales representative who had screwed up our order for the umpteenth time. I screamed and swore and threatened and, when I furiously hung up the phone, my boss was grinning from ear to ear.

“Man,” he said, “you have great phone-balls. It’s too bad you’re such a pussy in real life.”

He had me totally pegged. I’ll gladly raise hell over the phone or via email at someone I’ll never actually meet, but I’ll wait like a mute milquetoast for my Indian takeout food for thirty-five minutes, as I did tonight, and never raise so much as an obtuse eyelash while the woman in front of me recites an unsolicited monologue to the man running the cash register on how the management of the restaurant should arrange the tables for maximum occupancy. I loathe confrontation and will go to any lengths, including being used like a doormat or toilet paper by members of the general populous, to avoid an argument or a heated exchange. Part of me does this because I don’t like upsetting people, and I don’t like getting upset. Part of me does this because I’m scared of getting jacked in the mouth or stabbed in the eye. Part of me does it because it’s easier than the alternative. Fights are nasty, unpleasant, potentially dangerous and time-consuming. Joggy McNoshirt, though, didn’t think twice about ruining me and my wife’s outing in the park simply because our arthritic dog had the unmitigated temerity to invade his personal space in a public park.

What was it that gave him the right to scream at us like that? Who was he? Who were we? You sonofabitch, I thought, if you had a heart attack at the exact moment you were frothing off at us, I, as an Emergency Medical Technician would be compelled to leave my wife and my dog’s side and run over to you to try to save your life. If he had passed us and said nothing, or if he had politely asked us to leash the dog, as a courtesy to people who don’t necessarily enjoy having their balls sniffed by random canines, then I wouldn’t have thought twice about rendering aid. As it was, I might have left him there, dying in the gravel. Now is that the kind of society we want, where man turns his back on man because one bastard’s just as bad as the next? No, but people like that individual help, bit by bit, to create a nasty, mean, cruel, profane, unkind world. We’re forgetting that we’re all still setting examples for each other; parents and teachers aren’t the only models in society. It’s all of our jobs, every single one of us, to set an example for the other. We’re forgetting that. We’re forgetting how to speak to each other. I’m not saying we have to “sir” and “ma’am” everyone we meet, and start tipping our hats to ladies as we pass them on the street, that went out-of-style with arm garters, fine. Okay. But there’s got to be a happy medium, or, some day soon, nobody’s going to be happy. No more strolls in the park at dusk. No more “please.” No more “thank you.” No more “excuse me’s” or “bless you’s” or “I’m sorry’s.”

No more.

I’m sorry my dog wanted to sniff your balls, Mr. Jogger; he doesn’t know any better.

But you do.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Facebook Thinks You May Know a Fucking City

On the old blog, I went off on Facebook a couple of times. I don't think Zuckerberg noticed, so I figured I would try it again.

I thought the People You May Know application was gone a few months ago. We all know that Facebook Thinks You May Know Your Ex-Girlfriend, and we all know how annoying that presumption is. I thought enough people would have gotten irked enough about seeing their ex's lovingly draped around some other d-bag to encite them to write to Zuckerberg and tell him to shitcan the app. I thought it would get its neck chopped during the infamous Facebook redesign (do any of you perpetually unsatisfied motherfuckers even remember what "The Old" Facebook looked like anymore?) but, no, it's still here. Even if you methodically go into the app and x out the faces of all the snots who made fun of you in elementary school and denied you oral sex in high school, more will come back in a week or so. It's like shooting the Terminator in the face, cutting the limbs off a starfish, or vivesecting Joan Rivers.

Of the 27 images shown to me on the "People You May Know" app, here are the stats:

4 - the number of people I definitely know

2 - the number of people I possibly know

0 - the number of people to whom I will send a Facebook friend request

5 - the number of things that are not people

Wait-- what? I thought this was the "People You May Know" application-- people, as in carbon-based life forms of higher functioning? Yeah, well, you're wrong.

Apparently, Facebook thinks I may know:

Del's Lemonade & Refreshments, Inc.

Old Nickelodeon

Philly Cheesesteaks

The Beach

and, easily my favorite,

Cortona, Italy

Well, here's the truth:

* I've only had Del's Frozen Lemonade once from a truck in Providence, Rhode Island while visiting my inlaws. It wasn't bad, and I'd have it again, but our relationship will not be going any further than that.

* There's a new Nickelodeon?

* I used to live in Philadelphia and I have, on occasion, been known to eat and enjoy Philly cheesesteaks. They are not, though, a "people I know," nor am I inclined to "become a fan" of them. I'm a fan of Peter Sellers, Gilbert & Sullivan, and "Southland."

* I go to the beach, but it is also not a "people I know" nor am I especially "a fan." I love looking at the ocean and dubiously attired hot chicks, but I don't love getting sunburned, getting sand in my hair, toes, fingernails, asscrack, taint, sandwiches. I also don't particularly enjoy not having a place to stay at the beach to shower off my hair, toes, fingernails, asscrack, taint, sandwiches.

* Cortona, Italy, huh? Where the fuck'd you come up with that one, FB? I'll bet it's nice, but I've never been there, and I wouldn't Facebook it, even if I had.

Where's the Facebook page for Homeodent Lemon-flavored toothpaste? I guess either Homeodent will create it or I will. Once I stop being so difficult and critical.

Seriously, though, does anybody else see this bullshit as diminishing our relationships with each other? I mean, I know the point is that I'm supposed to go to an old high school teacher's Facebook page and go, oh! He's a fan of Ikea and Weehawken, New Jersey. Humpf. Wow. I didn't know before. Somehow, my life is now enhanced by that utterly useless knowledge, and my portrait of this person is now deeper and richer than it was heretofore.

Right.

I urge you, the next time Facebook tempts you by thinking "you may know" Fiat Motor Corporation, Spiderman, or Wegman's-- stop and consider why you're clicking on the icon. Is that what you want people to think about you: that you're just an amalgam of a bunch of random, accumulated objects, products and noise?

If you want people to know the real you, if you want them to really know how beautiful and eclectic and random and snarky and fucked up you are, you're probably better off starting a blog.

A Tale of Dentifrice

Though I have no statistical data to back up my assertion, (it's never stopped me before), I'm going to go out on a probably not very precarious limb and say that many people in this country like mint.

I say that because, if you go toothpaste shopping, you will find approximately forty-seven variations on the mint theme. There's

Spearmint,

Cool Mint,

Fresh Mint,

Vanilla Mint,

Extreme Herbal Mint,

Spry Cool Mint

Clean Mint,

Classic Mint,

Original Strong Mint,

Classic Strong Mint,

Creme De Mint,

Brisk Mint,

Organic Mint,

Cinnamon Mint,

Aquatic Mint,

Tea Tree Oil Mint,

Minwax Floor & Furniture Varnish Mint,

Castrol GTX Low Viscocity Mint,

KY Feminine Lubricant Eucalyptus Mint.

You get the idea. People like them their minty freshness.

Well, as we've established countless times by now, I am not like other people. I can't stand mint. I don't want mint julips or tulips, I don't like it on lamb or ham-- I do not like it here or there....

For years as a child I struggled with the requirements of brushing teeth. Most children, I think, struggle with this. This is why God invented sparkly toothpaste and Stone Cold Steve Austin toothbrushes. Because I knew I could not fight my parents (my mother would do spot "breath tests," like a police officer at a DUI checkpoint) I resigned myself to a life of twice daily toothbrushing.

For approximately four seconds a session.

Apparently, this is enough to do the trick. My wife will roll her eyes and punch a hole in the wall when she reads this, but I haven't had a single cavity my whole life-- in spite of a mother with at least a dozen fillings and a father who can, and does, play Jacks with his teeth on the dining room table.

As an adult, I still only brush my teeth for four seconds a session, but I realized that I no longer had to suffer the indignities of using a Crest or Colgate product I despised-- I could shell out three more dollars a tube for some bullshit, hippy-dippy toothpaste with a different, more palatable flavor. Tom's of Maine makes a mango and orange toothpaste, which is usually available at Whole Foods and other overpriced, feel good about yourself establishments. I wouldn't say that my toothbrushing experience is now a sun-filled jubilatory experience-- but it's probably increased to maybe six or seven seconds a session.

I wasn't thrilled about the price hit I was forced to take, simply for hating mint. Why should I be penalized for having tastes that differ from the norm? Wasn't I punished enough for that malfeasance in middle and high school? Nevertheless, I dutifully paid my five dollars a tube for my orange mango paste. However, yesterday at Whole Foods, Tom's of Maine Orange Mango paste was nary to be found.

"Oh, fuck," I moaned-- apparently audibly-- as a young mom noticeably pulled her young daughter over to the next aisle. All of the other stupid Tom's of Maine flavors were there, and they were all on sale for $4.49 a tube. Cinnamon? Hmmm.... I was dubious. I like cinnamon in Snickerdoodles and in apple pie, but cinnamon toothpaste was a dangerous choice: back in the '80s, my mother was a habitual user of a vile cinnamon-flavored toothpaste and mouthwash called "Viadent" and I used to scream and howl when she would kiss me goodbye before the schoolbus came when she had used it.

"NO VIADENT KISSES! AUAAAUUUUGGH!" I would yell to the assured bemusement of our neighbors. They probably thought I was being tortued by some escaped Nazi dentist.

Then, I nearly reached for the fennel-flavored paste. I thought to myself: fennel? Do I want to be that guy? No, I decided. So, what did I pick?

Lemon-flavored toothpaste, for $6.69. By a company called "Homeodent."

"Homeodent?!" my wife gasped in between breathless cackles. "That's gay!"

As frustrating and disappointing as my shopping experience had been, two things, though, were solidified after I brushed my teeth last night.

I picked the right toothpaste, and the right wife.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pain-In-The-Assery

I'm a pain in the ass.

(Some of you who know me well are nodding your heads. God, I love you.)

I was realizing this pain-in-the-assery last night when I pulled out my big, blue binder labeled "POLICE FILES."

I started this binder in the year 2000, I think, when I was doing research for my book. I have copies of police radio room transmittals from December 9th, 1981-- the night Mumia Abu-Jamal blew Daniel Faulkner's brains out on the sidewalk. These copies of the radio calls for that night were, by a strange coincidence, submitted by the radio room supervisor to my step great uncle, who was a Staff Inspector in the department in those days. I also have copies of witness statements from that night, diagrams of the crime scene, and microfiche copies of New York Times articles of other police murders, again used in my book.

There are also pamphlets and prayer cards from the dozen-or-so police funerals and viewings that I have attended since I was twenty.

The aforementioned material doesn't make me a pain-in-the-ass, it just makes me weird.

What makes me a pain-in-the-ass are the letters.

They're letters that I have received in reply to pain-in-the-ass letters I wrote. I have letters from:

Office of Prime Minister John Majors

Office of the Mayor of New York City

Parole Board of England & Wales

New York State Board of Parole (at least five)

Citizens Outraged at Police Being Shot (COP-SHOT)

MTA Division of Bridges and Tunnels

Pennsylvania Bar Association

Philadelphia District Attorney's Office

Camden County Prosecutor's Office

Fairmont Park Commission

Oh, and... lots others. These are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Most of them concern blocking upcoming paroles. Some concern other things, but all relating to the same thing: pain-in-the-assery.

One day, a slain New York City patrolman's daughter got in touch with me. Her father had been killed by four shots to his back on May 21st, 1971. He was black, patrolling the streets of Harlem with his white partner, who was also killed-- felled by thirteen shots to his back. The precinct where they worked honored the two men by planting two trees outside the stationhouse and adorning each tree with a plaque. Over the years and decades, and due to some construction outside the precinct, the black patrolman's plaque had become disturbed. She had tried to get the department to fix it, but they were slow to do anything about it-- so she got in touch with me.

Being a pain-in-the-ass, I immediately shot off a stern letter to the commanding officer of the precinct house. I wrote that "it sends a very poor message to the people of Harlem that the plaque of a black officer who died next to a white officer is left to languish and the white officer's plaque is just fine. These two men saw each other as equals in life, and that is how they should be treated in death." I was a junior in college at the time. I can remember being in the theatre building rehearsing for an acting class when I called my apartment to get my voicemails (that's how we did it in those days) and there was a phone call from this Captain. I called him back, and he was very apologetic. The black patrolman's plaque would be immediately restored to its former state.

A similar situation arose in Philadelphia. In 1970, a police officer named Frank Von Colln was sitting at his desk in the Cobbs Creek Guard House when two men walked in and shot him five times. Von Colln's revolver was sitting in his desk drawer. A park on the Ben Franklin Boulevard was named for Von Colln and, again, the weather takes its toll on these things. Passing by the sign one day in 2002, I noticed it all broken up and decaying. So I wrote a letter to the Parks Commission. For good measure, I paper-clipped a photograph of Von Colln's bloody body, lying next to his desk that I had found in an old newspaper article.

"That should make these fucking people pay attention," I said as I slapped on the stamp.

A month later, there was a brand-new sign up.

As I was leafing through these flimsy envelopes of my past and, strangely, my present, I tried to remember what my first act of pain-in-the-assery was. You may call it activism, but I like pain-in-the-assery better. Activists, in my mind, wear Peace sign t-shirts and dredlocks. They march and shout into bullhorns and chain themselves to things and have sit-ins and lie-ins and die-ins. I'm no activist; I'm just a firm believer in pain-in-the-assery.

I think my first act of pain-in-the-assery occured in 1994. It was Monday, April 25th. Richard M. Nixon, the only U.S. president forced from office, had died over the weekend. As my bus pulled into the middle school parking lot, I noticed that the flag was flying high.

Instead of throwing my books into my locker and reporting to homeroom, I walked into the administration office.

"Can I help you, dear?" the blonde secretary asked, putting her hand over the mouthpiece of the phone she had been talking on.

"Yes," I said. "The flag isn't at half-staff."

"It.... isn't?" She asked quizically.

"No, and it should be. Richard Nixon died on Saturday. I know he wasn't very popular, but he was the President."

She looked at me.

"You're right," she said. "I'll call the custodian."

And, five or so minutes later, an 8th grade pain-in-the-ass stood outside and watched our head custodian lower the American flag to half, for a liar, for a cheat, for a crook.

For a president.

Sexism

Since I'm kind of on a roll regarding incendiary issues after yesterday's foray into drunk driving, I thought we could all handle another dip into the pool of social issues by exploring a double-standard centering around negative, suspicious and hostile attitudes towards men.

It's called sexism.

Few people acknowledge its existence, and most who do are fond of calling it "reverse-sexism," but there's really no need to throw it in reverse, it's just sexism.

When a young man wants to become a pre-school teacher, what do we automatically think?

Well, he's either gay, or he's a pervert. Why else would he want to hang around children all day, right? A man, after all, isn't capable of being invested in the education and betterment of young children-- that's impossible.

Um... well, first of all, since when does wanting to be a teacher qualify you as gay and/or a pervert? Second of all, why are women automatically exempt from any type of suspicion when they want to be pre-school teachers? Or any kind of teachers for that matter? I suppose women aren't capable of molesting children.

The same way that women aren't capable of physically assaulting children.

Even if a man is allowed to become a pre-school teacher, we certainly have to have him co-teach-- you know, so a woman can... watch him, right? And, heaven forbid a child needs help in the bathroom-- well, a man certainly can't go help a female child out. Maybe he can help a boy out-- maybe... but he'll be watched very closely by that saintly female co-teacher.

Why is that? What is it about us men that makes us constantly suspected of doing the wrong thing? Must we all walk through this world with the letter A on our chest? Why? Why are we pre-judged simply for entering professions where there's a dearth of the male perspective and presence?

Male librarians? Gay.

Male speech therapists? Gay.

Male nurses? Gay-- this one is slowly changing, but there's still that perception.

Male department store clerks? Very, very gay.

Here's a curious question: why can a woman sell men's underwear in a department store and nobody bats an eyelash, but, if a man tried to sell women's underwear, he'd be burned at the stake?

Suspicion of men and their motives is deeply rooted in Western culture. With our sexual repression and our fucked up ideas about gender roles, stereotypes and paranoid delusions about protectionism and purity, we've created a world where men are pre-judged before they open their mouths and the hostility and ignorance projected against them has virtually barred them from entry into many occupations where many men would be perfectly suitable.

Back when I was on the street as an emergency medical technician, I had the misfortune of having a patient of mine fall. My partner and I had taken this woman by ambulance to a doctor's appointment, another example of a collossal waste of time and resources, but that's another blog topic. The patient was mildly obese and in her early fifties and was in rehab for a closed head injury. Because the doctor kept her (and us) waiting and waiting and waiting, she kept complaining that she had to go to the bathroom. I kept asking her if she could wait and she said that she could but, finally, she could wait no longer. Rather than bring her back outside to the ambulance, load her in, and have her use the bedpan, we decided to give her a little humanity and bring her to the bathroom at the doctor's office. It was a very small, cramped area and it was very difficult to move the stretcher around. Once we got her to the bathroom and undid the stretcher straps, we were faced with a dilemma.

See, as men, neither of us wanted to go into the bathroom alone with her. Not that either of us would have done anything, but we were afraid of being suspected of doing something. You know, because we have vile, filthy penises that whisper naughty things to our psyches.

"I'm not going in there with her," my partner said.

I expressed concern about her stability. But I wasn't going in there alone with her either. I asked her if she went to the bathroom by herself in rehab.

"Yes," she answered.

"Okay, well, we'll help you in, but do not get up from the toilet by yourself. Just call to us-- we'll be standing right outside the door, okay?"

"Okay," she said.

We left the door opened a crack and we stood outside and waited. Five minutes later, we were picking her up off the floor. Blood was everywhere. She tried to get off the toilet by herself and fell off, smacking her face against the cold, tile wall, slicing open her lip and bashing her nose. What was a simple trip to the doctor's office was now a lights-and-sirens adventure to the emergency room.

Why?

Because we were men.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Here's a Pretty Rant-Dee-Doo!

Surgeon General's Warning:
This rant may contain profanity, nudity, adult themes, drug use, and/or harsh comments.
Rants have been clinically proven in trial tests to produce angina pectoris in lab rats and certain types of squid.

20something Bloggers, an online blogging community of which I am a member (for another year and one month) frequently posts discussions started by members. Usually, they're pretty inconsequential, generally centering on such fascinating topics like, "Can you still have casual sex with someone you've broken up with?" and "What does no sex before marriage have to do with religion?" or my personal favorite "Hey girls in relationships-- What is your opinion on your guy looking at porn?"

Today, though, someone actually posted a topic question that was intellectually stimulating and had almost nothing to do with sex!

"Is it fair to charge a drunk driver who kills somebody with murder?"

Good for you for having a thought that originates from an area above your belly-button piercing!

(And they say guys are the only ones obsessed with sex. Please, girlfriend.)

Anyway, here we go:

Should some drunk fuck who kills somebody in a car wreck be charged with murder? You bet your sloshed, red ass he/she should! I would even go so far as to argue that it should be Murder 1.

Allow me to rantify:

To classify a homicide as Murder 1, one has to look at the definitions of Murder 1 as set up by the states. There are two different classifications of Murder 1 as I understand it. The first one is used by Pennsylvania and other states:

Murder 1: An intentional killing by means of poison, or by lying in wait, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated action.

Then there's the New York and other states classification of Murder 1:

Murder 1: Murder involving special circumstances, such as murder of a police officer, judge, fireman or witness to a crime; multiple murders; and torture or especially heinous murders.

Defining a drunk-driving homicide as Murder 1 is easy using the Pennsylvania statute: consuming a sufficient quantity of alcohol to constitute intoxication and then making the decision to operate a motor vehicle resulting in someone else's death is a willful action, a deliberate action, and a premeditated action. While the intoxicated driver might not be intentionally ramming his car into the vehicle of a sober motorist, they did make a calculated series of judgements (or misjudgements) that lead up to that other person's untimely demise. It could successfully be argued by lawyers, who are far more articulate and better dressed than I that the decisions and actions leading up to the drunk driving fatality constitute premeditation. Any reasonable person would be able to deduce that getting behind the wheel of a car while drunk could easily result in a fatality, and therefore, because it is reasonable to assume that one's actions could result in death, it could be argued that the drunk driver went out onto the road knowing he or she could be committing murder.

Making a case for Murder 1 under the New York classification is tougher, because the special circumstances are absent, unless the drunk bastard slams into a police cruiser or the Pope-Mobile.

The fact remains that, for too long in this society, drunk drivers have gotten off relatively easy, even when they kill people. Sometimes they are only charged with DUI, public intoxication, reckless driving, reckless endangerment, speeding, evading. Oftentimes the best that drunk driving victims families can hope for is vehicular manslaughter, which is a pretty limp-wristed attempt at justice if you ask me and, if you're reading this blog, you are.

Accountability has eternally been the enemy of the drunk bastard:

"Yo, I didn't know what I was doin', y'alls-- I was drunk."

"I thought she wanted it-- I mean, I was drunk."

"I thought she was eighteen. You know, I was drunk."

"I didn't see that minivan full of Tabernacle singers. I was fucking drunk."

Yeah, well, you sure were drunk; and that was your decision, wasn't it, turdlick? I am so sick of hearing slurry bullshit about impaired judgement and altered states and shut the fuck up already, you pathetic losers. When you kill someone in a drunk driving collision, it ceases to be an "accident" and it should become murder. The act of getting into an automobile drunk is no different than picking up a gun and firing into the dark and blowing somebody's head off, sight unseen: your reckless, irresponsible, dangerous, motherfucking stupid and, yes, premeditated actions caused the death of somebody else.

And, guess what, Donny Drunko? That is fucking murder.

Dear Abby Day!

It's DEAR ABBY DAY on My Masonic Apron, where we copy a Dear Abby letter from some poor bastard and give the reply a bit of an affectionate ass-slap with the old masonic apron.

Here's the original letter as it appeared in today's edition of Dear Abby on uexpress.com:

DEAR ABBY:

We have a relative, "Jerry," whom we dearly love. However, he has the disgusting habit of flossing his teeth in every room except the bathroom. After we eat, Jerry gets up and proceeds to floss his teeth in the kitchen, the living room or wherever he likes. He has even stood behind others and done it right over their shoulders. It's disgusting!

Several of us have asked him, politely, to floss in the bathroom or somewhere private, but it made him extremely defensive and angry. I'm sure there are others out there who do it. We just want Jerry and others to know that it is not appropriate and is considered rude. -- SICK TO MY STOMACH IN KENNEWICK, WASH.

Abigail Van Buren, a.k.a. Jeanne Phillips, a.k.a. Severe Looking School Marm was not particularly helpful with her reply. She merely shared the writers abhorrance of Jerry's behavior and admonished people of a similar ilk who behave in equally socially aberrant ways. I'm happy, though, to pick up her slack.

DEAR SICK TO YOUR STOMACH:

You say you "dearly love" Jerry, but I'm not so sure you do. My wife dearly loves me, and she puts up with foot odor, rampant, sour gas and a myriad of social anxieties and never once has she written in to an exploitative, unhelpful, self-serving column like "Dear Abby." You don't "dearly love" Jerry. Come on, admit it. You loathe him. You despise him. And I'd be willing to bet that his flossing behavior is not the only socially reprehensible thing about him.

When I close my eyes, I can see Jerry. Jerry's your great uncle I'm guessing-- someone you have to force yourself to go see or invite over. Jerry owns two pair of pants, but only wears one of them. He wears these pants over his gut so that the beltline is directly under his sagging nipples. Am I right? Jerry also has jowls, like a bassett hound, or an Andy Rooney. No doubt these suckers send sputum flying across the room during his flossing expeditions.

You hate Jerry and his jowls.

Jerry slicks back his hair with brylcream, doesn't he? His skin is jaundiced and leathery, isn't it? His eyes are red and watery, aren't they? Jerry has thick, meaty hands and unkempt fingernails.

Doesn't he?

You see, there is more to Jerry than just his flossing-- that's just the straw that broke the camel's back that made you write to Dear Abby, isn't it? There are lots of problems with Jerry, but now that I've accurately described him for our readers, let's take a crack at you:

You're a proper little Stepford Wife, aren't you? I'm taking a shrewd guess that you're female, approaching menopause, and that you're stick-thin. Thinned lips and crossed arms and one eyebrow raised is pretty much your operational standard, right? You drink mimosas out of crystal stemware and leave bright red lipstick crescents on the glass, don't you? You stare icily at people of whom you disapprove.

In short, my dear, you are bitch.

I say that because of the reason you chose to write to Dear Abby in the first place. I don't particularly have much love for anybody who writes to her about anything, but I can at least understand the desperation that drives people whose lives/marriages/jobs/worlds are falling apart that they need to reach out to someone-- people who have suffered a traumatic loss, a world-shattering tragedy. Victims, the bereaved, the tormented, the lost.

Your big problem, evidently, is that great uncle Jerry flicks his chicken shards across the living room. Here's the advice that Dear Abby forgot to give you:

Come back to me when you have a real fucking problem. And, in the meantime, grow a pair of balls and tell Jerry that, the next time he flosses in your living room, you're going to sneak up behind him and strangle him to death with a piece of dental floss.

There, are you happy now?

Until you grow those balls, you superior little cunt, here's what I think: I think that you spending your weekend nights cleaning little bits of meat and veg from the walls of your picture-perfect condo in the Washington burbs sounds just perfect to me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Get Your Goop On: It's Ultrasound Tuesday!

So, my sister and I both had ultrasounds today, for very different reasons.

You might have noticed that I really don't talk about my family much on here (except for my father) and the reason for that is very simple: if they ever found out that the blogosphere was privy to their intimate details, I would promptly and forevermore be missing teeth, testicles, and family dinners.

Privacy is their thing, not so much mine, and so I normally try to respect that. Today, though, I'm not. Fortunately, I don't really think I have to worry so much: my mother only uses a computer at work, my father still uses dial-up, my 31-year-old sister just got an email address six months ago, and my 41-year-old sister strictly uses her computer to research product safety reports, bizarre diets and gossip about washed up celebrities from her youth (e.g., this Saturday I got a very long text message from her about Davey Jones' most recent appearance on an episode of "Spongebob Squarepants.")

My ultrasound was a component of my stress echocardiogram so, obviously, it was an ultrasound of my heart. I was lying down on the exam table naked from the waist up, with one arm propping my head up. It might have looked seductive if I weren't in a doctor's office, if I didn't weigh 136 pounds, and if I didn't have 12 EKG leads and wires stuck all over me.

The ultrasound technician gooped up her doohickey a substance that I can only describe as blue jello cut with seminal fluid-- sorry. She then proceeded to jam and move the goop-slathered device all across my chest. Now, as I mentioned, I'm kind of svelte, and this thin-lipped bitch was shoving her device straight into my sternum and ribs-- not pleasant. So, obviously, as a natural reaction, I was tensing up.

"Can you just relax, please?" she said sharply, "It's really difficult for me to see your heart when you're not relaxed."

Oh, I'm sorry, I wanted to say-- perhaps I would be more relaxed if you shoved a rusty corkscrew and a mango-splitter up my asshole while you're doing that. That's really the only thing missing to put me right at ease.

Crotch.

(Sidebar: I think it's pretty funny that there are still people out there who believe that only caring, empathic people become nurses. The healthcare industry attracts its fair amount of sadists, too. Don't believe me? Become an EMT.)

I don't know how many of you have ever had the opportunity to obtain a cardiac ultrasound, but watching your heart do its thing on that flatscreen GE monitor is really..... um..... disfuckingusting.

Seriously.

My first instinct was to go, "Oh, man-- that's cool" but, after about four seconds of watching it, I was immediately sickened. There's tunnels and caverns and there's shit floating around and goop and blackness and it looks like underwater vegetation or something. I don't know-- maybe you'd be into it. I wasn't.

After the ultrasound, they make you run on the treadmill at varying speeds and incline levels until you're ready to pass out. One of the inclines was so steep I could barely hold onto the fucking grab handles. The fact that they're taking your blood pressure every four minutes doesn't help either. I got heaps of praise and congratulations from the two nurses running the treadmill exercise, for my endurance and for my cardiac performance. Of course, like anyone who's ever been praised after any performance event (yes, even sex) you always wonder if they say that to everyone.

When I left the testing site, I turned my phone back on and there was a voicemail from my 31-year-old sister informing me that the object inside her was officially determined today to be a boy. She was getting gooped on and deviceified at the same time I was, at another facility-- and I'm sure the ultrasound bitch wasn't pressing as hard on her belly as mine was on my sternum.

I called her back immediately and congratulated her.

"Yeah, apparently, from the ultrasound picture we got, he's a pretty well-endowed boy."

Her boyfriend looked at the picture quizically and asked,

"Is that his foot?"

"No, you ass-- that's his dick!" she said.

And it was. There was even an arrow pointing to it that said "Boy."

Apparently, when my sister called my mom to give her the news, my mother reported that there is a family legend concerning the *ahem* proportions of males on her side of the family.

"Wow." I said. "Mommy's a real pig sometimes."

"Yeah," my sister replied. "My kid's definitely gonna be in pornos if it keeps growing at this rate."

"Either that or he'll be doing cock-pushups on exercise videos," I said.

I guess we're all pigs. Healthy pigs, but pigs just the same.

The Craigslist Killer

They caught him.

Shemales, masseusses, whores and trannys rejoice. All those who provide "erotic services" in New England area hotel rooms for money: you are now safe at last, and you have the Boston Police Department to thank.

Well, you're safe-er, I guess.

It's funny, the Craigslist Killer (isn't the media so undyingly clever?) does not fit the profile of what the American populous expects a Craiglist Killer, or any killer for that matter, to look like. We expect killers to be, um, I don't know... unwashed? Er... stark, raving, looneybonk? Uh... black?

(Uh-oh, another blogger who "tells it like it is!" EEP!)

Seriously, though, people are as surprised that someone as successful and good looking as Philip Markoff can kill as they are that someone as frumpish and awkward looking as Susan Boyle can sing. When people don't fit into stereotypes, the American public just goes ape. We don't know what to do.

"But... he was going to get married in the summer...."

"But.... he wears his Abercrombie sweater tied around his shoulders...."

"But.... he was going to be a doctor...."

Well, guess what, homies: rabbis kill their wives, priests finger boys' buttholes, cops use excessive force, and doctors are not so nice sometimes too.

Ever hear of Josef Mengele? 'Nuff said.

People like the Craigslist Killer shake us out of our state of complacency, where everything fits just right and the people we see are who we think they are, or who we want them to be. But, really, this guy is just a hapless schmuck like the rest of us, who probably had one too many student loans to pay, and bills for his impending marriage to his All American Girl looming overhead like a sword of Damocles-- and he made the decision to get some quick money by robbing some less-than-proper folks and, in doing so, became one himself. Especially when one of them made the mistake of resisting or fighting back. Oops! You're dead.

It's time, though, for people to stop being so stunned and shocked when these good ol' boys from "the top of their class" wind up in handcuffs. They're nothing special because their names were on the Dean's List a couple years ago. They're just shitheads, the same as the ones you see getting jacked up against Crown Vics outside trailer parks on FOX every Saturday night. The only difference between them is that Bobby Deans List has the means to facilitate a veneer to fool and obscure that Jamal Drop Out does not possess.

We really show ourselves to still be an inherently racist society when our mouths hang agape everytime a clean-shaven white kid gets busted. People, get over yourselves and get over your love-affair with the crew-necked, crew-cut, crew-team American boy.

He ain't home.

Monday, April 20, 2009

An Open Letter To My Heart

Hey,

So, we have an appointment tomorrow at 9:30am for a Stress-Echo-- did you know that? Probably not. Hearts don't have day-planners or PDAs.

I'm really annoyed at you. You know, you haven't done one intelligent thing since you fell in love with Mrs. Apron. Lately, you've been racing, you've been squeezing, you've been painful and discomforting and I don't think I've ever done anything to you. I never played little league, giving some ruddy neanderthal named "Spike" the opportunity to bean you with a fast-ball. When Russell Howard hit me in the chest with his hockey stick on the bus in elementary school, I made sure to pivot to the left so he wouldn't hurt your delicate aorta, because I was always worried you were somewhat of a priss and maybe couldn't handle it.

Well, heart, it's time you knew: you are a priss. And, now, you're being a drama queen, too.

I'm not even twenty-nine and you're behaving like you reside in the barrel chest of a 79-year-old named "Mort" who wears white pants that he refers to as "slacks." I may be an old soul, but I'm no Mort yet. I hope I live to become a Mort, so work with me is all I'm saying.

I'm disappointed in you, heart. I don't ask you to do much: just the same repetitive routine, over and over and over, and you pretty much do it by rote, but now you've started causing a problem and making me feel all weird. I know you'll just blame the brain, but don't play the blame brain game. Don't say that five times fast, either.

So, because I'm disappointed in you, I'm taking you in for a Stress Echocardiogram. Think of it as the cardiac equivalent of being escorted to the principal's office. I'm not happy with your behavior of late, young man. Not happy at all. You'd better smarten up.

Let's hope they don't give you detention.

Or worse.

Hail Poetry

Yesterday, Mrs. Apron and I were chatting briefly about my phantom history of poetry.

I used to write it. Now, I don't.

I thought it would be an interesting challenge, though, to dust off the old synapses and try a form of writing I haven't explored since 1998.

Caveat: I have no doubt that the poetry of that era was teeming with awkwardness on many levels. I have every reason to believe that this will be worse.

To Crack

Sugar and wheat
You're far too sweet
To drown alive in milk.

The pirate king
Of whom we sing
Would pillage you at sea.

And then where would we be?
On the evening news, I suppose.

Stay fresh in your bagging
Don't ever go sagging
Stand proud upon your shelf.

And although it is sexist
You're bitch here at breakfast
Even Puffins just cannot compare.


Thank you. Now, to get that taste out of your mouth: go here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Helper

"The most sublime act is to set another before you."

-- William Blake --

It kind of seems like all I did this weekend was help people.
Now, I don't want to sound like I think I'm fucking Mother Theresa here, (whoa, that came out... wrong), but this weekend was largely devoted to being of service to others. I don't know if this is really my style or not. There are times when I can be a real selfish bastard, I'll be the first to stand up and admit that. Many times, when I have some spare time to myself, I'll just putz around and blog or buy shit that I don't need on e-bay. I could be making donations to charity or calling an old friend or writing a letter to my step-grandmother or stripping wallpaper or meeting the neighbors or making my wife dinner or tidying up, but I often... am doing none of those things.

(Jesus. You know-- I'd get a lot more writing done if I put in fewer hyperlinks.)

Anyway, trend or not, this weekend was helper weekend. On Saturday, I left my home in the cushy Pennsylvania burbs at 8:00am to travel 115 miles to bustling, honking, motherfucking New York City to help Dave move from his 8x11 cell, excuse me, apartment in Chelsea, into a comparatively palatial one bedroom in Brooklyn. I had the forethought to take the rear seats out of the PT Cruiser for maximum shithaulin' capacity. Temperatures were high on Saturday, and we worked our asses off. It took two trips, back and forth. On the way to Brooklyn the second time, we got stuck in a wall of cars on the Brooklyn Bridge for approximately an hour and a half in 93 degree heat. We got to watch a few innings of a little league game, though, being played at a local baseball diamond, and Dave shouted encouraging sentiments out the window like,

"You guys are awful!" and "Okay! Time to switch pitchers!" and, my favorite, "You suck, 13!"

Ain't he a sweetie? Actually, he is. For helping him move, he bought me a delectable dinner at "Rub," a BBQ place that, miraculously, did not reappear all over my dashboard on the drive home. I pulled into my driveway at 12:19am, sending the only coherent text message to Dave I could muster:

"Here."

Sunday's service call was at the library where my Mom works. It was the Craft Fair, and my wife was experiencing the jitters as a first-time exhibitor. The Fair didn't start until 1pm, but my mother asked me to be there to help "Daddy and the husbands" set up the tables. I told her that "Daddy & The Husbands" could be an awesome band name. She didn't care.

So, lethargic and eating dry frosted wheat cereal from a bowl in the car, I drove over to the library to set up tables. My father was there, doling out like we were his privates on parade. But, for a change, it was my mother who was actually in charge, the library being her home turf since 1987. It was a pleasure watching my 5'2" mild-mannered mother usurping the Israeli Staff-Sergeant for a change.

After I set up the tables, it was back home to help my wife get all her crafts together:

Potato-stamped baby onesies

Sock monkeys

Coin purses

Handbags

Tote-bags

I-Spy bags

Baby jumpers

All hand-done. All beautiful. All Mrs. Apron.

We set up her table. I offered suggestions about display, and most of them taken. Interacting with the kids who came to our table to play with the I-Spy bags was the most fun part of the day. Even more fun than running into my perpetually intoxicated piano teacher, an annoying person my mother used to work with who tells endlessly painful stories about me as a child, the mother of one of my high school crushes and other ghosts from my past.

Then, when the craft-fair was done, we packed up all her shit, loaded it into the car, and I helped Daddy & The Husbands break down all the tables. Total time involved in craft-fair: 7 hours.

Helping people is good. I enjoy doing it. My wife says, "you're a helper. It's what you know how to do. People call you, and you come, and you do, and you don't keep score." I don't know if that's true. Sometimes I feel like my pool of sympathy is shockingly shallow-- the plights of a significant portion of the population barely move me to grimace. I guess I have to care about you first. I wonder sometimes if this is the true reason I was always drawn to "helping professions" as a child and as an adolescent and as an adult, even if it didn't always pan out.

I guess doing it as an avocation is just as well.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Garnet

My wife and I went to go see Garnet Rogers last night at the Steel City Coffee House. See him if you ever can: you'll never look at another guitar, or guitarist the same, ever again.

And his voice will melt you where you stand.

Singer songwriters are my celebrities, and I, like most people are deep down I think, am completely intimidated by celebrities. I've been going to folk concerts and seeing my own little celebrities for over a decade now, and I just can't bring myself to talk to them. I finally got up the nerve to chat with Bill Staines a few months ago. It was to apologize to him for leaving his concert early. It was on a Thursday night and his first set got started real late because of the red-haired schmoe who opened for him.

"Hey, don't worry about it," he said to me, "You guys have to work tomorrow."

Spoken like a true folk hero.

He smiled as he autographed my CD.

"This is the first CD anybody's ever autographed for me," I said. He looked up at me. "This is a big moment."

I'm always afraid of embarrassing myself, of coming off like a stalker, of saying something incredibly stupid. Of doing the wrong thing. Supposedly, according to John Cleese's monologue in "A Fish Called Wanda," British people are stifled into emotional deadness by this fear.

Maybe I'm really English after all.

There was a song I really wanted to hear last night, and Mrs. Apron, who is big on getting me to conquer my fears (hence: 5 planes to Bali for our honeymoon) kept asking me if I was going to request the song. She especially turned up the heat after Garnet, who was about to close his first set clinched the deal by stating,

"So, I have no agenda for the second half. If you want to hear something, um, just come up to me during the break and ask."

This, at least, ameliorated my fear of shouting things out loud during a concert. Being mildly witty, I usually have one or two sure-fire funnies that pop into my head as a folk singer is telling an amusing story during a song break. A comment from me could add to the enjoyment of the evening, maybe even garner a smattering of appreciative applause. But I'm always afraid, when I open my mouth, all that will come out is this strangled, wrenching screech. Or that I will, instead of the funny comment, say something incredibly inappropriate, either sexually or racially bizarre and/or offensive. I'm sure it would never happen, as sure as I'm sure that one day it will.

So, at the break, I finally got off my ass and walked up to Garnet Rogers, a towering 6'4" man with earrings, a silvery ponytail and hawkish, piercing eyes. After buying one of his CDs, I requested the song I wanted to hear. He looked at me blankly and then cocked his head, in the semi-confused manner my dog does when I ask him how much a cup of tea costs in Brazil. Or his name.

There was an uncomfortable pause.

"You wrote it," I said.

"Oh, right, right, I know I wrote it. It's just... kind of bleak, isn't it? Kind of depressing."

"Oh," I said.

And then I went back to the table.

"You got shot down!" Mrs. Apron said to me. I looked sheepishly back at Garnet.

"I didn't mean to shoot him down-- it's just a really depressing song."

As if that weren't bad enough, during three song breaks of the second set, he made reference to "people who request depressing songs" and trying to figure out their motives for so doing.

I wanted to be like, "Yo, Garnet-- I just put fifteen bucks in your hand. You can have the CD back and keep the $15 if you'll just play that song."

But I didn't, because I'm not that guy.

The funny thing is: I never thought of that song as depressing. It's about aging Canadian veterans, lining up in formation at a Veteran's Day ceremony. It's a proud, strong, gentle, compassionate song. It's also the song that first introduced me to Garnet Rogers-- so I guess I have a sentimental attachment to it.

Usually, my behaviors get rewarded. I leave the house an hour early for a doctor's appointment that's fifteen minutes away, and I get taken in to see the doctor as soon as I arrive. I'm quiet and unassuming and I usually get left alone. Last night, my behavior was not rewarded, but that's okay. I need to stop being afraid of singer-songwriters, the same as I need to stop being afraid of navigating the New York City subway system, people judging me, and airline disasters.

It's a work in progress.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Obscure My Identity, Please: I'm a Blogger

Preamble:

I don't know why I even bother blogging on Friday. I feel like nobody reads blogs on Fridays, or, at least, people don't read mine. What the fuck are all of you people Orthos or something?

Amble:

As most of you know, I had me a little blog before this one. From June until February, I was just a little Pudd'nhead, spouting off my opinions, tossing in my silly little hyperlinks, trying to figure out the world in my own unique, profane way. Then, one day, I got "found out" by someone I didn't want "finding me out." I felt jeopardized and threatened, simply for speaking my peace. So, I did what any rational, logical blogger would do in my shoes: I killed the blog.

When I restarted afresh, I took steps to ensure my anonymity. I thought just creating a fake name for myself was enough, but it's not. See, in the heady desire to get more followers and more hits and more visits, a blogger must do a bit of networking and advertising to get his or her wares out there, just like a purveyor of fake fried eggs must, which, by the way, I just placed an order for (don't ask).

The wish for readers is in direct conflict, unfortunately, with the quest for anonymity. You might be wondering why a blogger must possess anonymity in the first place. Well, the answer is simple: because there are those out there who would do us harm. There are those who would use our words against us. There are those who will not permit us to exercise our 1st Amendment right, our beloved freedom of expression. There are those who would go after our reputations and our occupations and our marriages and sometimes even our lives.

I get very jealous when I see bloggers out there using their full and real names, their real pictures. I want to be them, but I feel I can't. I have to protect myself. And maybe they're just naive, and maybe they'll get burned one day, I don't know. I hope not, but they probably will. Some would argue that, when you're putting information out there, you should man up to it by putting your real name on everything you write, but I disagree. If we lived in a society where there were not negative repercussions for self-expression, maybe I would, but we don't. People are routinely losing their jobs and their respect simply by posting funny pictures of themselves on Facebook or because things they've written on blogs have been taken out-of-context or misinterpreted. Why should I open the door and allow that to happen to me? Why can't I put on at least a chain lock?

Look, I'm not so dumb that I don't know the internet is a potentially very dangerous place. It's rife with misinformation and outright lies, it's a haven for perverts and scumbags-- but, then again, so is Camden. I understand that human resource departments and potential employers have to be on the lookout for assgrabbers and criminals, but posting acerbic ramblings on a blog or talking about your neighbors or posting a pic on Facebook of you giving a blowjob to a 10-foot-tall Smokey the Bear cut-out (guilty!) isn't against the law. It may be regarded as in dubious taste by some of the more priggish members of our society, but even they were young and semiretarded once, too. They all shit like the rest of us, they just don't write about it.

It's an outrage that simple bloggers, who are not breaking any laws, feel that they have to shroud themselves in pseudonyms and avatars simply so that they can keep their jobs and their friends intact. You might say, "Well, that's the way it is, and, if you don't like it, then stop blogging," and that's a pretty valid point. I could very easily go back to who I was before I became a blogger and my life would go on and your life would go on, too. If you've been reading this horseshit thing every day, you might be bummed for a day or two, but you'd get over it pretty quickly and you'd move on. The fact of the matter is that I'm not doing anything wrong by blogging, so why should I, or any other noncriminal blogger stop? Who are we hurting with our compendium of thoughts and words?

It may be written that we have freedom of speech in this country, but it carries a heavy cost. When bloggers feel threatened and wary and anxiety-ridden enough to hide who they are, simply so that they can write honestly, we're paying a significant price for our little freedoms that amount to little but window-dressing, and flimsy, chintzy window-dressing at that.