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, September 30, 2010

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

I complain a lot. I mean, Jesus-- look at yesterday's post.

You like it when I complain. I know you do. It's the main reason you stick around here, isn't it? That, and I use words like "burgeoning" and "dildo-face" in the same post-- so you can feel sophisticated and immature all at once around here, and nobody's going to judge you. Least of all me.

Dildo-face.

If you start to think about it, there's a lot of shit in this world to complain about. The padding on the seat of my wife's car, for example-- it's too thin. This brotha just needs more cush for his tush, n'yah mean?

While we're on the subject of complaints, I drove past a guy today who was walking along one of the main drags out here, and I feel the need to create a formal complaint against him. See, he was wearing dressy trousers, wingtips, a blue Oxford button-down shirt, a navy blazer, a red and blue patterned bowtie... and a baseball cap.

Call my reaction to this sight disproportionate, but I was outraged, such that my eyeballs popped, I did a double-take, and I actually hit the steering wheel with my fist out of sheer frustration and disbelief. I mean, get a fucking fedora, man. You look like a baseball umpire from the 1930s. I just didn't understand what would have inspired this man to top of his otherwise smart ensemble with the symbol of don't-give-a-shit-Americana: the baseball cap-- the ubiquitous skull-toppery of the given-up class. This man is about two steps up from sweatpants. And we all know that, once you go out in sweatpants, you are two things: 1.) truly a Philadelphian and, 2.) never having sex that doesn't involve a five dollar bill and/or feces ever again.

I could fill a book with complaints about America's obsession with professional sports, but, instead, I think I'll just devote a paragraph to it in this blog-- because people don't actually read books anymore, they read blogs, which is a good thing for me, since I haven't had a book published since I was a junior in college. And nobody read that either, even back when people were reading books, or at least pretending they were.

I don't mind that people go to sporting events-- that's their thing. What I do mind is the incessant yammering on about sports as if the outcome of a sporting event somehow has some importance to the rest of the world. I'm never more outraged than I am when I see a headline about how So-and-So linebacker has a sprained ankle, or Thus-and-Such pitcher has a jammed index finger. This is news. I'll never forget, back in 1995 or 1996 I think it was, one Saturday night three Philadelphia police officers were shot in separate incidents, and what was the headline on the front page of the "Inquirer"? Some d-nut on the Eagles hurt his ankle.

For realsies.

Oftentimes I'm tempted to complain about the music at the gym. If I had a portable music device, I would bring it, and elliptical myself to death to the music of "The Yeomen of the Guard" or perhaps some celtic folk ballads, but I don't. Actually, my wife has an iPod, but we mostly use it for long car trips, so, when we're not on a long car trip, I tend to operate as if the iPod doesn't exist.

At the gym, they play a Philly station that plays what I guess is popular music. There's that song that uses the music from "There's a place in France, where the naked ladies dance"-- I don't know what it's called, but it's on all the time. And the one with the chorus, "I'm going solo, going solo, going solo." I don't know what any of these songs are, but they're always on. Always. And there's one about having sex or something. They're probably all about having sex. Well, except the "going solo" one-- that's obviously about masturbation.

Of course, the more I thought about these stations that play the same song six or seven, make it inordinately popular, and then drop it like a cold dog turd, the more I realized that I would be a bit of a hypocrite were I to complain about the music at the gym if I did not identify myself as an equal perpatrator of this very practice.

See, it's all Pandora's fault. It really appeals to my perseverative nature in that, once I find a station I like, and have selected twenty or thirty songs that I like affiliated with that artist or station, every time I am at the computer for an extended period of time (usually blogging) I subject myself, and my wife, who is often up here sewing sock monkeys or tea wallets or clothes, to the same twenty or thirty songs.

And lots of them are old maritime songs. "Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her," (Stan Rogers) "Mussels in the Corner" (Gordon Bok), "Lullaby for the Times" (Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger), oh, and there are lots of others. Playing over and over. And I could complain about that, too, but I'm far too busy reaching out to you.

And enjoying my mussels in the corner.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Sass-Stained Apron

My wife reads a blog called "The Sassy Curmudgeon."

I do not read "The Sassy Curmudgeon" because I am opposed to reading bloggers who are funnier/more talented than I am-- with a couple noteworthy exceptions. You know me-- I love my delusions of grandeur. And I love you-- so don't abandon me for the Sassy Curmudgeon. My paranoia almost prevented me from hyperlinking to her site.

Apparently, she does a "Curmudgeon of the Week" feature in which her readers the universe over submit entries to prove their curmudgeonly status and be featured on her blog.

"You should totally do it," my wife said, "you're a curmudgeon."

I pondered that for a few moments.

"No..." I began thoughtfully, "I think I'm more of an asshole."

While I may be guilty of splitting (asshole) hairs, I knew there was no way I was going to submit anything to a site I had never even been to. See, the first thing that stops me is the fear of rejection. The second is the fear of acceptance.

"But getting something of yours on her site would be awesome for your stats," Mrs. Apron encouraged. "Oh, wait-- you don't give a shit about that."

And she's right, of course. Ever since I took six weeks off or whatever it was, my stats have toileted themselves, and I'm actually okay with that. Though there are some regulars that I miss who have apparently moved on to greener, sassier pastures, I'm very content to just sit here and do my thing quietly and meekly, and, sometimes, sans trousers.

However, while I have no intention of whoring myself out in the vain hopes of gaining three or four more followers who will read loyally for three days and then end up screwing off, I have no compunction about describing my sassiness here on my own blog-- my version of Public Access Cable television.

My wife's suggestion for this post was to describe things that the vast majority of the Western world enjoys, but that I, in my curmudgeonliness, somehow eschew and/or disdain.

"I can do that," I said.

1.) THE BEATLES

I've received immense, steaming heaps of shit for this before, so say whatever you want about it: I don't care. You can cite statistics, point out their unmistakable influence on singer-songwriters I actually do like, you can even point out the fact that I adopted their signature bowl-cut hairstyle for the first twelve years of my life to illuminate my blatant hypocrisy-- say what you will, you are not going to change my mind. You can even make the accurate statement that I am unable, at present, to accurately elucidate my precise reasons for my dislike of The Beatles, and you'd be 100% right, but it wouldn't make any difference.

I don't know if it's the nasal quality of their voices, the dissonance of some of their melodies, the incoherent, non-linear nature of their lyrics, or the fact that "The Monkees" were funnier, but I just can't stand them. Perhaps it's just another instance of me subconsciously disliking what everyone else likes. Maybe. I don't know. But I think they're fucking annoying as hell.

And we don't all live in a yellow submarine, in case you hadn't noticed.

2.) ALCOHOL

People who drink really seem to like it-- at least, I guess they do. Maybe I shouldn't come down so hard on alcohol, seeing as I've never had any of it, besides Shabbat wine, which is like drinking pureed, sugar-coated raisins. Oh, and I've sipped champagne at peoples' weddings, too, but just to be polite. At my own wedding, we had sparkling cider, and so did everybody else. Except for my aunt, who almost drank herself to death in the bathroom out of a concealed hip-flask.

My dislike of alcohol hasn't won me many friends, or... any friends, to be honest, but it's a part of my personality that definitely lends itself to curmudgeon status, and it's not something that I can conceal. It's expensive, superfluous, and, depending upon your personality, too much of it either makes you a depressive basket-case or a braying idiot. And I'm both of those things often enough (sometimes at exactly the same time) without it.

3.) OPRAH (AND HER MINIONS)

I know, she's going off the air at the end of this season, so why kick a black girl when she's down, right? Well, because this is a list of things that I don't like that a majority of the population does, so how could I not include Oprah and Friends?

The sychophantic, cloying, intrusive, and manipulative culture she has created and encouraged is unfortunate, sad, and depressing. I think I may need some alcohol to cope with it all. And, as if it were not enough that she commands us to read certain books, she has created Frankenoprahs: insidious spawn that have emanated from her junk to further her dominion.

Dr. Phil
Dr. Oz
Rachael Ray

(I'm sure I'm forgetting several dozen others...)

Oh, and that Nate Jerkoff guy that middle-aged white women cream their beige Chico's over.

Go away.

4.) SPORTS

You know how I feel about sports. Why are we still even talking about this? Isn't there some inconsequential game with people beating the shit out of each other that you need to go watch?

5.) TWITTER

If you think I can accurately summarize how I feel about things in 100-and-a-half characters, then you're a crazier motherfucker than anybody gives you the credit for.

6.) CASUAL CLOTHING

Yes, everybody at the lunatic asylum in which I work is constantly asking me if I'm a doctor, and that would cease if I showed up to work dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, but I just kind of can't do that. I don't know who I'd be if I did, but I wouldn't be me, and, while there are lots of times where I don't like myself, I think I'd rather be me than most other people.

7.) THE DAILY SHOW

When I saw Stephen Colbert testifying "in character" before Congress, I thought to myself, "Well, shit, there goes the line between real and fake." I've long opined that many Americans my age labor under the gross misapprehension that watching "The Daily Show" is akin to, or better than, watching, say, network news, and that's kind of unsettling. And I put the blame on the perpetually smugly self-satisfied shoulders of John Stewart. Back in the dark ages when I was in college and the show was hosted by Craig Kilbourn, the show was under no delusions that it was anything other than what it was: a comedy show.

"Well, it's Thursday," Kilbourn would say into the camera lens, "and I just want to eat pudding, eat pudding, eat pudding." And then, while stripper music would play in the background, Craig would produce a container of pudding from underneath his desk and he would do just that. Yes, it was vapid and immature, but it was unmistakable that this is exactly what it was supposed to be. Stewart has taken the show in an entirely different direction, bull-headedly determined to place himself and his show in the position of barbed, slanted establishment mockery and arrogantly superior correctness.

Guess what, asshole? You're a comedian. Barely. Live with it.

8.) SELF-HELP BOOKS

If any of these books have actually helped someone, I will sell my house for a dollar and move to rural Iowa and become a professional scarecrow. I would like to write a self-help book called, "Go Fuck Yourself: The Only Self-Help Book You Will Ever Need."

9.) TOP TEN LISTS

I think nine's more than enough.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Case You Didn't Know By Now: I'm Retarded

I got called "retarded" at work yesterday. Fortunately, it was by a patient, and not a coworker.

During orientation, we were warned that the patients would call us all kinds of names and slurs. As I believe I've mentioned before, "motherfucker" is the most frequently utilized moniker in Zombieville, a perennial favorite of both staff and patients. I've only been on the unit for two weeks, and I've already been called lots of names, and I'm frequently asked if I'm Jewish ("And why is that important to you?" is usually my reply) but it took being called "retarded" to really stop me in my tracks for a moment. It's easy to know how to respond, or to choose not to respond, when someone calls you a motherfucker, or a fuckhead, or a cunt-bitch, but I have to admit that, yesterday, I was temporarily stymied as to the appropriate response to being called "retarded."

Because I was called "retarded" by a young man with mental retardation.

The patient -- we'll call him "J" so I don't get fired before I'm ready to quit -- was sitting with me at a table that is bolted to the floor to prevent it from becoming a non-aerodynamic though dangerous projectile. I was on a 1:1 watch with J, because he was caught having sexual intercourse with another patient last week. Patients are not permitted to have sex on the unit, rather making it like the Lutheran college I attended, where those who were bold enough to purchase condoms at the school store were looked at by the clerk as if they were buying a magazine featuring pictures of dildo-bearing black chicks ass-raping squirrels.

So, "J" is being monitored for having sex on the unit. "J" has mild mental retardation, along with a host of other mental maladies. He perseverates endlessly, asking what time it is approximately every two minutes, asking when he is going to see his social worker every minute-and-a-half, and every five minutes, asking you what your name is. Today, I sat on a 1:1 with "J" for two hours straight. "J" barely moves his mouth when he speaks, and, because he does not articulate, it is extremely challenging to understand what he is saying. The psych techs who have been there for years are obviously better at decoding "J" than I, but I'm getting there. However, when Q-102 is blasting in the activities room and a 6'7" leviathan is doing a spontaneous rap about needing "a white girl with extensions in her hair" it makes hearing "J" that much more difficult. So, I asked him to repeat one of his monotonous requests two or three times, and he blew me off in frustration saying, "You retarded."

Which I did understand, thank you very much.

Just as I was about to remonstrate "J" for calling me retarded, I caught myself. If I say to "J" that it is wrong to insult somebody with a term like that, aren't I insulting him? Doesn't that vilify "J" and his condition?

"You know, J, it isn't nice to call people 'retarded'."

Hmmm.... Didn't sound right to me.

When I discussed it last night with Mrs. Apron during one of on-the-elliptical debriefing sessions, she said that addressing "J" for the inaccuracy of the statement would have been the way to go. But that still didn't sit right with me. Does that mean it's okay to call a gay person "gay" or a person with mental retardation "retarded"? Or to say, "Jew!" to me? I mean, it's accurate, sure, but is it right? And, furthermore, would "J" have understood the distinction?

I made my choice as to how to proceed, but I wasn't sure it was the right choice. Are we ever? I let it go. I let it go for ten minutes until "J" and I were sitting together in a relatively comfortable silence and I waited until the moment was as right as it was going to be for this kind of thing, and I leaned over to him and I said,

"J, do you remember, a little bit ago when you called me--"

"Sowee," he said.

"Thank you, J," I said, "I really appreciate that."

"I sowee," he said, looking through me.

"I would never call you a name," I promised, visualizing my coworker who had called J a queer in front of me just a few days ago, as I watched and said nothing. The new guy. The coward.

"I know," he said. "Wha you name?"

Monday, September 27, 2010

I'm Responsible for This

When you think of people on non-profit boards, you probably picture white women in their fifties wearing meaningless pendants, artistic eyeglasses, severely styled short gray hair, and perpetually thin lips. Maybe the odd homosexual in a pink Ralph Lauren shirt with a white collar and cuffs.

At thirty, although I own no pendants (meaningless or otherwise) and wear only moderately artistic eyeglasses, I sit on two non-profit boards. Unlike most people who sit on boards, I am not in it for the prestige or the ego-massages, I'm actually in it for the work.

Or so it would seem.

I am the president of one of the boards on which I sit, and I have singlehandedly created, stuffed and mailed a fundraising appeal, edited a public relations video, as well as write, edit, create, and disseminate the quarterly newsletter. For the other board, I am in the process of working on creating an advisory committee.

Being on boards isn't easy, and it isn't fun either. Clashing with people, or standing idly by whilst people clash with other people isn't really my thing. Then again, stuffing six hundred envelopes isn't really my thing, either, but, when you're on a board, you find yourself doing things that may not be your thing with great frequency. Like, going to meetings.

Going to meetings is definitely not my thing, and yet, I find myself doing it at least once a month. These meetings last for three hours, and, during any three-hour-long meeting, unless it is being run by a particularly funny clown or a masturbation-happy mermaid, even an emotionally stable board member will seriously ponder suicide at least every twenty minutes.

I would suggest waiting until around forty years of age to consider being on the board of directors for any organization, no matter how passionately you may feel about it. Unless you're the kind of person who is on a board so that your name appears on the organization's website, and you're somehow always busy whenever a meeting rolls around. The idea of being affiliated with a board in name only is something that never occured to me, and I'm just not the type of person who would do that.

At least, I wasn't, before I realized how much work was actually involved in being on a board, if you're young and stupid enough to actually do the work.

And that ain't no crazy mermaid talk.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'll Tell You How I Came to Be a Judge

When my wife and I first started dating, my wife's sister was a mere teenager. It's hard to believe that she has since graduated college, has her own apartment, her own boyfriend, her own car (that she picked out herself, as opposed to some absurd shithunk thrust upon her by her parents) and holds a big-girl job in which she strives for the ideals of social justice.

Back when she was a mere teenager, she observed that, while she liked me very much and approved of my pursuit of her big sister, I was very judgmental.

Sharp, eh?

(Hahaha-- when you say "Sharp, eh" out loud, it sounds like Shar Pei-- those dogs with all the wrinkles that hot chicks are inexplicably programmed to think are cute. I'm sorry for that interruption. I think my brain is shrinking. It'll be like a raisin before I'm forty.)

Now, of course she's right. She's so right, in fact, that I've never once tried to oppose or argue this particular statement. Because, really, what would be the point? On this blog alone, there are approximately 550 examples of my animosity towards and unkind peering down my skislope nose at my fellow man. Guilty as charged. Just hand me the rope-- I'll tie it around my neck myself.

There's been a lot of talk about being judgmental in this house of late. My wife has recently been learning a lot about herself, and is discovering that she, too, is very judgmental. There is a misperception, I think, about judgmental people, and that misperception is that the judgments are always aimed outwards, at others. While it is certainly true that judgmental people judge others, the idea that their judgments are never turned inwards is simply not true.

We're particularly hard on ourselves, my wife and I. When she forgets to take a check to pay for a doctor's appointment, when I go east instead of west in my own backyard, when we forget to walk the dogs and an accident, um, ensues, well, let's just say the reactions from either of us are not always proportionate.

Holding yourself up to near-impossible standards is never a good idea. My wife and I have taken to jokingly remind each other that we are only human, but there's a lot of truth, even when we say it with a smile. Of course, when we learn to forgive ourselves for being human, maybe then we can learn to forgive everybody else. When so-and-so doesn't return a phone call promptly enough for our liking, when thus-and-such uses "your" when he meant to use "you're", when the asshole in the black Passat wagon parks facing the wrong way on our street.

Does this mean that I'll never fold my arms in front of my chest and thin my lips like Mother Superior when I see things that irk me, like:

* A Toyota Camry with a rear spoiler (I mean, come on-- who are you kidding?)

* A d-bag in madras shorts, sunglasses, loafers with no socks, slicked back hair, an unbuttoned shirt with the collar upturned saying, "Know what I mean, Bra?"

* An elderly waitress with too much blush, plastic pineapple earrings, and missing teeth

* People who don't leash their dogs

* People who have incredibly loud/athletic sex in the hotel room next to mine

* Construction zones where seven construction workers are standing around drinking coffee and one is actually digging a hole

* An attractive woman bending down to tie her shoe, catching me staring at her, and then giving me the stink-eye, like it's my fault that she's hot and I'm not Stevie Wonder

* People who insist on omitting the first "r" in the word "frustrated."

No-- it doesn't mean that. I'll still cringe. Because, let's face it: life is full of cringeworthy people and circumstances, and not reacting to at least some of them is impossible. But I don't want to stroke out from FUSStration any sooner than absolutely necessary. So I'll just sit back with my chill pills and wash them down with lashings of soothing acceptance juice.

And hope I don't choke, because you know that I'll be silently judging the dunderheaded dickweed on how he does the Heimlich Maneuver.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Well, Hold the Phone and Skin My Bone, It's.... DEAR APRON!

You know those commercials for yogurt where the white chick in her mid-twenties wearing the cardigan over the camisole is sitting on the thick, white-pile carpet spooning Elmer's smegma-looking skeez into her mouth while her eyes roll back slightly in her head and her moist lips close around the spoon like it's the pulsating head of 1990s Antonio Banderas cock while the jingle, "Acti-vee-aaa-haah!" plays in the background?

Well, you won't find any of that annoying shit here, 'cuz THIS is...

DEAR APRON:

What is an acceptable time frame to receive a response to a question you send via phone texting? -- WAITING IN MONTGOMERY, ILL.

DEAR WAITING:

Chances are, by the time it took you to write this letter, send it out, coupled with the time it took me to read it, watch some choice programming at pornhub.com and come up with this lame-ass answer to your pathetic self, you've gotten your text reply by now. So go fuck yourself, kiddo and, next time, try to dig deep for a real problem.

DEAR APRON:

I am a 20-year-old male who finds it awkward talking to women my age. I do OK approaching older women for conversation, but become tongue-tied with someone under 25. I would like to meet someone special and develop a relationship with her, but at this rate it's not going to happen anytime soon.

I am told by friends and family that I'm handsome, charming and have a good sense of humor. There will be holiday parties coming up soon, and my friends will be inviting some new people. How can I learn to strike up a conversation? I'm having a real problem here. -- H.P. IN MIAMI BEACH

DEAR H.P.:

Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but, you say you're "having a real problem here" but it seems that the only "real problem" you have is in addressing women under 25 years old. You seem to be very facile at attracting the varicosed-veined, washerwoman-armed, geriatric set. It doesn't seem to me that you have a real problem at all! There is much to be gleaned from having sexual relations with older women. Like... um.... their.... uh...

Exper... ience?

And they've probably got, like, careers and can... pay.... for.... dinner? Before... you know... it.

Yeah... old chicks are. Um... well, they're your thing apparently, and I say "roll with it, son." Old biddies get moist over me, too. Well, I mean... they would get moist if, you know, they.... could.

Uh...

Anyway, H.P., I suggest that, when you find yourself talking to a woman, say, in a long-term care facil-- Ohmigod... Wait a minute.... H.P.? Is this.... this isn't... HARRY POTTER?! Holy Shit! HARRY FUCKIN' POTTER'S GOT THE HOTS FOR McGONIGLE!

OH! AAAAUGH! Do you know how OLD she is? Jesus, Harry! I mean, first Hagrid, and now... THIS? Fuckin'... NASTY!

DEAR APRON:

My mother passed away two years ago, and her first great-grandchild will be born in less than two months. I had hoped when I was still in my 30s to have a child of my own, so I had Mom crochet me a baby set -- sweater, booties, cap and blanket. Sadly, motherhood for me was not to be.

Do you think this baby set should go to the firstborn great-grandchild, or to Mom's favorite grandchild's children? The color is gender-neutral. Should I perhaps "loan" it to each of the great-grandchildren when they arrive to ensure that it will be maintained as a family heirloom? I paid for all the materials and Mom's time in creating these items. I feel it would be selfish not to share them. -- SOON-TO-BE-GREAT-AUNT

DEAR SOON-TO-BE-WHATEVER-I-WASN'T-LISTENING:

Here's what I think: get some cats. You sound to me like someone who has a lot of built up energy and a need to concern yourself with things that don't matter. If this is the case (and it is, I'm just being nice by using that "if") then you need to purchase and/or adopt at least sixteen cats, to start. You will give them names like "Bootsie" and "Fenstermaker" and you may choose to dress them up in those handmade sweaters and booties and caps and blankets, once you have truly gone off the deep end, which, with sixteen cats spraying you in the face out their buttonhole anuses and shitting in your Special-K shouldn't take that long.

Honey, embrace your inner cat-lady. Can't you hear it meowing inside your brain, scratching at your skull, begging to be let out?

No?

I can.

DEAR APRON:

I have a beautiful 2-month-old daughter, and I like to dress her in little pants and shirts rather than dresses. Often these clothes are in gender-neutral colors -- yellow, green and, yes, sometimes blue.

Whenever she's wearing something other than pink, people assume she's a boy and say things like, "Oh, what a handsome little guy," or, "Hi, big boy!"

How would you suggest I respond to these people? Should I ignore them and go on with my errands or correct them? I hope that by reading this people will think before they assume a baby's gender based on the color of his/her clothing. -- ANNOYED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR ANNOYED:

Here's how you should respond:

"Oh, I'm sorry that my choice to attire my child in clothing that makes his (oops, sorry-- her) gender deliberately ambiguous and confusing to strangers is going to give my child sexual-identity issues before he (DAMN! SORRY!) becomes twelve but also allows me to get righteously indignant and huffy and confrontational and superior because I know that I would never presume to make an assumption on gender because of the way a child is dressed and the way his (meh, I'm not sorry anymore) hair is cut or combed. Because I never make innocent mistakes while trying to compliment some worthless saddlebag's neuter kid."

Yeah. Try that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Come on In

When you're a kid, having weird obsessions is usually charming. When you're an adult, it sometimes lands you in a psych hospital.

My childhood obsessions were as follows:

* Airplane crashes
* News anchors
* Classical music
* Cars from the 1970s
* Multi-line rotary office telephones
* Hypochondria
* Three-piece suits
* CB radios
* Doorknobs

(If you ever get bored and want to write to my parents to ask them why I was not engaged in intensive psychotherapy beginning at age 7, PM me for their mailing address. I think they'd like to hear from you.)

If you're not quite sure how a young boy gets obsessed with doorknobs, well, ladies (and gents?), you've once again come to the right blog. Go, you.

When I was a child, I grew up watching "Fawlty Towers," a brilliant BBC comedy series written by John Cleese and his then-soon-to-be-ex-wife Connie Booth. The show was written and produced in the mid-1970s, and only twelve episodes exist-- almost each and every one is comedic gold. The show takes place in a hotel in Torquay in a hotel that bears the same name as the show. As a child of maybe ten, I knew each line of episode by heart, and my eldest sister used to take great joy in lying in bed while I would recite entire sections of dialogue from "The Germans" or "Basil the Rat" episodes from memory, altering my voice to seamlessly change from one character to the next, and back again.

If you think kids don't notice details, you're crazy. The set of Fawlty Towers was very meticulously designed, and, even though it's supposed to be a not-so-hot hotel, (the front sign with movable letters frequently changed from anything to "Watery Farts" to "Fawlty Twats"), it was still formal, and uptight, and decidedly English. And what's more English than an S-shaped, serpentine door handle.


One day, I announced to my father that we needed to go to the hardware store. Back then, it was called "Channel."

"Why?"

"Because my door needs a new handle," I said confidently. Funny, they say teenagers think they're invincible-- but I was always afraid of approaching my father with some bizarre request as a teenager. However, when I was ten, I thought nothing of it whatsoever.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" he asked, his brow furrowed.

"Just take me to Channel," I said, "and I'll show you."

So my father and I went to Channel, and I pointed to a gold-colored s-shaped door handle, elegant and sweeping to a small curlie-q at the end. It was $27.00.

"Mummy, I love you, but you've got to be fuckin' kidding me. $27.00 for a fucking door handle? No. Don't you want to go to college some day?"

"No," I answered. Little did I realize then that I would be able to publish a book, produce my own plays, and get laid in this magical place. I pouted as my eyes searched hungrily for an acceptable compromise.

"What about this one?" I asked, prepping the puppy eyes. "It's only $13.00."

"Jesus Christ," my father muttered, grabbing the plastic casing encapsulating my new door handle, "let's get the fuck out of here already."

Not too long ago, my wife and my eldest sister and I were sitting together upstairs in my parents' house. This house has been home to generations of my family, beginning with my grandparents, my great-aunt, my mother and her brothers when they were little children, my father, me and my sisters, and now, most of the time, my nephew. The day-to-day residents of the house are my parents and my eldest sister, though she says she's moving out again. Some day. Affectionately disordered folks with my blood have played musical rooms in that house since 1957.

"Did you ever live in this room?" my wife asked me that night when we were all talking in the room now inhabited by my eldest sister.

"Of course he did," my sister said, "look at that fucking door handle."

And there, barely still attached to a chewed-up, run-down, beat up, bare-assed, hollow-core wooden door is a gold-colored swirly, elegant, shining door handle, the clear enigmatic emblem of a house that has had its details ignored, its moldings carelessly painted over, its chimney practically collapsing onto itself, and the same floor in the dining room and kitchen since 1957.

"That handle looks really funny on that door," my wife commented, gazing at it in a haze of humor and disbelief.

"Looks good to me," I said.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

That Funny Talk

Because America's a totally sexypants melting pot and all, you've probably had this experience:

You're sitting in an office or breakroom at work and there are two or maybe three people in the room, and they are conversing with each other in another language-- French, or Hmong or something-- and you are sitting there thinking that either a.) they're probably talking about you, or b.) they're definitely talking about you.

Because, really? They are.

Now, any PowerPoint presentation on cultural sensitivity (featuring at least one "Fred Basset" cartoon, as required by law) will make you attuned to the fact that it is critically important to workplace harmony to respect the diverse cultures that make America and its various workplaces all sexypants and melty potty-like. Of course, those self-same PowerPoint Presentations will also tell you that, while you must accept and appreciate cultural diversity in your workplace, people of differing cultures must be aware not to offend or upset you by making you feel isolated by subjecting you to third party conversations conducted in Sanskrit or Jive Version 3.1.

Nobody likes to be in a room with people who are speaking a completely foreign language. It's just uncomfortable, even for those of us who do not suffer from paranoia (I have a charming touch of it myself-- by the way, stop talking about me) and it's just plain annoying. My wife has a Russian friend and, whenever we are out with her, her mother calls.

"Hi, Poocha," my wife's Russian friend says, and then it's all in Russian. I'm assuming "Poocha" is Russian, too-- I guess for "mother." Anyway, her mother invariably asks who she's with at the current moment, and she says our names, and then a bunch of other shit in Russian. In my head, this is what she's saying:

"Mr. & Mrs. Apron. (Pause.) Da. (I know that means "Yes." so I'm presuming her mother has just said something akin to, "Oh, those soulless dickheads?") Yes, going out with them is really a public service of sorts, it makes me feel good to give purpose and meaning to their lives by taking them out for Vietnamese food. I deserve a medal from the Motherland for all the horseshit I put up with from these idiots. I said, "a medal." Yes, one with a relief of Lenin on it, perhaps eating a pair of stockings. Okay, Poocha. I love you, too."

At work yesterday, people were speaking a different language in front of me all day. I call it "Vickinese."

Yes, all my coworkers were talking about Michael Vick. And the Eagles. And quarterbacking in general. And Andy Reid's decision, whatever it was I don't know-- something about Michael Vick, I suppose. In between the Vickinese was general Footballish, off-the-cuff spouting of inane statistics and quarterback comparisons going back to the early 1980s.

I was talked... around. Over. I was perhaps generally ignored is a good way to phrase it. I've only been there a week, and they already know that I do not speak this language, perhaps it's my blank stare or disinterested posture. I don't know how adroit these people are at reading body language, but I presume mine can't be that hard to interpret. Of course, I don't want them to stop, and I don't particularly care for small-talk of any kind anyway, I'm perfectly happy to be left alone to mentally undress people or play old maritime songs in my head or think about something idiotic I did seven years ago, but, every now and then it would be nice to be acknowledged.

Maybe.

Maybe not, though. If the Vickinese are happy in their world speaking their language to each other, who am I, really, to interpose? I am, after all, only the New Jack, and would hate to spoil the fun for everyone.

Of course, God help everyone if I hit upon a coworker who has a closeted love for English, late 19th century operetta.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Barrel of a Gun

Last night, I was privileged to sit in seat A-109 in the balcony section of the Merriam Theatre at the premiere of Tigre Hill's film, "The Barrel of a Gun." The film was more than a mere documentary about a cop-killing that happened so many years ago-- it was the putting into proper, historical context of a singular act of rage, defiance, political power, animosity, vigilantism and brutality:

A bullet through the back of a 25-year-old police officer, and then another one through his brain-- fired while the officer lay, bleeding, face-up outside 1234 Locust Street at 3:52am on December 9, 1981.

Mr. Hill's film has vindicated the city of Philadelphia, which has played dubious host to protest after protest in misguided honor of a convicted murderer. For once, we, and a film director whom we as a city have raised, we have stood up and comported ourselves with dignity in the face of malice, and we have placed a value on truth.

Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel J. Faulkner was most certainly murdered in a cold-blooded, calculated ambush. But he did not die in vain, and the film I saw last night made sure of that.

Thank you, Tigre Hill. Well done.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Feel Your Balls Once a Month

One of the firm joys of gaining new employment, even if you hate it, is going to Occupational Medicine for your pre-employment,-oops-we-hired-you-already-but-nevermind-about-that physical examination.

"If you get Joe," my nurse educator warned, "he's going to say some asshole thing to you, so just be prepared. He says something obnoxious to everybody we send down to Occ. Med.-- it's so embarrassing."

"Hmpf," I eloquently replied, staring out the window, wondering silently if this was really my life.

"We sent a tech down there for a physical and he asked if she drank alcohol, and she said, 'No' and he laughed at her. 'Uh, you look like you drink to me,' he told her. He's a total asshole."

Even armed with the knowledge that I was most likely going to confront a world-class, four-star dickcheese at 2:00pm yesterday, I was nevertheless thrilled to get out of a locked mental ward on the company clock. Because I am obsessed with following the rules and never doing the wrong thing if I can avoid it, yesterday morning I asked my supervisor,

"So, I have my doctor's appointment at Occ. Med. at 2:00pm. Do I still get to take my hour lunch, or do I have to eat it during the time when I'm having the appointment done, like, driving to the appointment or back?"

She stared at me.

"Are you serious? Take your hour lunch. My God."

Yes, I'm serious. Though no one ever believes it.

I laughed to myself when I walked up to the building that says "Occ. Med." on the glass door. When I hear someone say "Occ. Med." I always think of some swarthy-assed, dark and thoroughly unshorn Middle Eastern man named "Achmed." Of course, I was the only vaguely Middle Eastern-looking man in this particular building. It was just me, the lumpy receptionist in dark blue scrubs with a Phillies emblem, and the doctor.

Well, the Physician's Assistant. Joe. A P. A. Joe, the P. A.

I'm usually not a snob about titles, but I kind of want my physical examinations done by an M.D. Does that make me an old fashioned tightass? Probably, but if a gloved and lubricated hand is going up that old fashioned tightass, I want it to be the gloved and lubricated hand of a medical doctor. And that's just the kind of patient I am, damnit.

I suppose I've been spoiled by the fact that I still have the privilege of visiting the same General Practitioner who gave me my first vaccine, a bowtie-wearing, corduroy-trousered, gizzard-necked gentleman who graduated medical school sixty-one years ago. When I look into this man's eyes, I know there is very little he has not seen out of those eyes in all these years-- from gaping wounds in the Korean War to my fever-ridden eldest sister on long-forgotten house-calls in the late 1960s. This is a man who, when my wife goes to see him in the colder months, picks up her coat and holds it for her as she slips her arms inside the sleeves.

My doctor. Mine.

After having my vitals taken and my vision checked by a nurse, I sat in the exam room for twenty-eight minutes, waiting for this P. A. to come in. He was in his late forties, and I was pleasantly surprised when the first words out of his mouth were an apology for making me wait so long. But, in the next breath, he lost points.

"Well," he said, "was it a long time? Shit, I don't even know. Um... what's your name?"

Oh, dear.

He asked where I was working. He could have looked at the paper right in front of him, with the name of my employer emblazoned all across the top of the page, but he didn't. I told him.

"Jesus," he said, "you a psychologist?"

"No, but the patients all think I'm a doctor. They call me, "Dr. G."

He laughed. Yeah, it's funny-- because nobody calls you doctor anything. They just call you "Joe." Because you're just "Joe."

He proceeded to tell me that he used to work at the facility where I now work.

"Don't turn your back on any of those sumbitches," he advised, "not even for a second. And memorize where every goddamn panic button is in that place."

"Okay," I said.

He did his physical exam, reporting that he heard no wheezing when listening to my lungs, which is a nice thing for a career asthmatic to hear. Then, he listened to my heart. He frowned.

"Did anybody ever tell you you have a heart murmur?"

"No," I said. He listened again. And then again.

"Well, I heard some skips the first time, and then I listened again, and it was perfect, and then, just for shits and giggles, I listened a third time, and didn't hear it again-- so, you know, I don't know what that means-- if no one's ever told you that you have skipped beats or a murmur or mitral valve prolapse. I don't know."

Oh, well that's good!

"I do have an R.B.B." I told him.

There was a moment's silence.

"What's that?"

There was another moment's silence.

"A Right Bundle Branch Block."

"Oh," he said, and then quickly changed the subject to me taking my pants off for a hernia examination. I undid my belt, unbuttoned my trousers, and unzipped my fly. Just when I had pulled my pants and underwear down to my knees, he said,

"Oh, shit-- I forgot to check your eyes and ears and throat. Jesus! I'm all screwed up here."

Ah. Well, this is awkward. You know, because I've got my pants halfway down and Captain Dickarson is at parade rest out in the open. But, sure, go shine a light in my eyes. No problem.

And that is what he did. He then moved down to my junk. The old turn-your-head-and-cough routine that we know so well from countless stand-up-and-cough routines. While he was eye-to-eye with my material, he said,

"In two extra seconds, I can see if you've got testicular cancer-- so why not, right?"

Wow. What a sweet talker-- how could I refuse?

So, he rolled my schnuts around and said he didn't feel anything. He stood up, pulled a BIC pen out of his shirt pocket and said, "I was looking for something about half the size of the end of this pen. Feel your balls once a month."

Um...

"See, if you were fifty-- I wouldn't have done that to you. But prime age for testicular cancer is 18-42 or something." He paused. "Wait-- I didn't even ask you hold old you are."

"You did actually-- I'm thirty. You wrote it down there on your paper."

"Oh, yeah! Well, great to meet you," he said. I smiled my traditional, pained half-smile, half-wince I give to people when meeting them has minutely yet irrevocably chipped away at my faith in humanity.

"Yes," I said, "likewise, Joe."

Monday, September 20, 2010

An Open Letter to My Dogs

Dear Molly & Finley,

Do you remember in "The Jerk" when the Chinese-stereotype-man advises Steve Martin, "Mister-- don't call that dog 'Lifesaver.' Call it 'Shithead.'"? There are times when I wish I could name one of you Shithead and the other Fuckface. If it weren't for the fact that we lived in suburbia, I might do it. They wouldn't care in the ghetto. I mean, look at what they call their kids.

(I know-- I'm such a racist-- but let's save that for another post.)

The two of you are really a handful. Finley, just you by yourself, with your near-constant ear infections and your allergies and your propensity to consume large quantities of soy milk and broccoli, you kept us plenty busy enough. We just didn't realize it. I can't believe that your mother and I were so passive and complacent that we thought, "Hey-- you know what we need? Another dog!"

Yeah. Two times the shedding. Two times the shitting. Two times the baggies. Two times the food. And twelve times the ennui.

Walking the two of you together is enough to send me over the edge. Finley, you walk like my great-grandmother-- just minus the diabetic knee-highs and the carpet-like muumuu. Getting you to move it along is hardly worth the effort at all. I understand that you have arthritis and cataracts, and I wish I could apply for SSI for you, but I can't. All I can do is shove Chinese firecrackers up your ass to hope we can complete a walk in under thirty-eight minutes.

Molly, you are goddamned spazztastic. I can't handle you, nor can I fathom you. One walk with you around the block and it's very easy to see why somebody would stuff you in a Moses basket and drop it in the river. That little dance you do on your hind legs resembles ballet on crystal-meth, and, if you weren't doing it to wriggle out of your harness, I might find it charming. You have ADHD. If a leaf falls from a tree, or the wind rustles through the grass, if a neighbor opens his dining room window, if someone shuts a car door, if a praying mantis rubs its raptorial legs together-- you are immediately distracted. And the poop does not exit your behind, and you are not "safe." You are not considered to be "safe" until you have urinated at least once, (twice is preferable), and you have fecefied in the out-of-door realm. Otherwise, you are not to be trusted.

Never. To be trusted. Ever.

I look at normal people with normal dogs and I am sick with envy. How do they do it? How are they not constantly wrapped up in a tangle of leashes as am I? How do they effortlessly swoop down to collect poo when I am constantly struggling against your pulling or your stay-putting, the bag turning upsidedown, spilling shit all over the sidewalk? How is it that other dogs may want to lunge at the feral cats that prowl the environs of our neighborhood, but you two vault towards the felines with all the determination of a Professional Bullriding contestant? You have almost desocketed my arm on numerous occasions just because you think you want to eat cats.

Trust me, you don't want to eat cats. If you ever got close enough to them, they would swipe the shit out of your charming little faces, and really, maybe that's just what you need.

Guys-- I don't know what to say. You're exhausting. Petty, jealous, self-involved. It's like owning two Teen Moms. And I can't imagine that would be terribly amusing-- at least, after a while. Of course I love you, but if you happened one day to score some serious downers, I probably wouldn't complain.

I know there are no solutions here, and I'm sure there are things about me and Mrs. Apron that you wish were different, too. But theyr'e not. And you're not. Just remember to come up on the bed when the temperatures plunge and keep us warm and all will be forgiven.

Unless you pee on our faces, Molly.

Sincerely,
Dad

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Improvisation Strongly Discouraged

I call myself a writer often enough, though my I.D. badge from work says "Psych Tech & Allied Therapist." Then again, it could be wrong. My driver's license says, "5'11" and we all know that I'm 6 feet of pent-up aggression, charming mania, social awkwardness, and limb fur.

Calling yourself a writer is rather a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's one of those respectable things to call yourself, that makes people say, "Oh!" instead of "Oh." Of course, I don't get paid for writing, at least not regularly, and so that begs the question, "Are you only a thing if you get paid for the thing?" I mean, when I'm acting, I don't get paid, but I'm still probably acting.

Probably-- although, when I informed a former coworker of mine that I frequently appear in G&S operettas, he asked, quite innocently, "Oh, and do you also, like, do you act, too?" The unbearable seconds of silence that followed this question were most likely harder for him than for me.

The main thing that's troublesome about calling yourself a writer is that it sort of increases the expectation in most people that you will, you know, write. I suppose I have brought the "I will post something on here everyday" thing on myself, but I don't regret it, not for a second, and I certainly wouldn't ever be so crass as to blame you for it. Just because you may have been conditioned to expect something doesn't necessarily obligate me to deliver on it. I mean, look at "Dear Apron." For a while, it was a sporadic thing, whenever I felt like it, then it became an every Friday thing for maybe nine months or so, and now it's sporadic again. I mean-- whatever.

I did feel guilty about not blogging for six weeks or whatever it was-- but, I needed to find a job. And, now that I hate my job and realized I'm working with psychopaths-- some on the payroll, some not-- I need to find another one. Don't worry, though, as long as there's money rolling in, I won't leave you again.

There's another troublesome aspect to calling yourself a writer, or maybe in just believing yourself to be a writer. You want to write-- you want to write... for everyone. I don't know if this is true for all writers, or some, or just me and Dave Eggers, but I have this irritating little habit of wanting to write little scriptlettes for most of the people in my life. I find myself saying, "Gee, wouldn't it be really great if she said this right now?" and, "Oh, I just know my rotten outlook would do a 180 if he responded to me with this, instead of that." and what about the awesome, unanswerable and quite frankly dangerous, "Why couldn't she have just said this!?"

Well, because she didn't, a-hole. And because there's no answer to why questions. That's why.

I failed the bench-press portion of the police physical agility test I took on Saturday. I blew the doors off the 300M sprint, and even the mile-and-a-half run. I squeezed the trigger of an inoperable gun into a four-inch barrel nineteen times with my right hand in 10 seconds, and eighteen times with my left hand in 10 seconds-- you had to do it twelve times. But lifting 120 pounds up over my head-- could not be done.

Just like in 2003. Instant. Replay. Just add a few lines under my eyes, a few white hairs on my head, and more dark ones on my ears.

When I called my wife to break the bad news to her, her responses were clipped, brief, short, and depressed. She was "very disappointed," as was I. I, of course, had set her up for failure by expecting she would say certain things that, in my heart-of-heart, after knowing her for seven years now, knew she would not say, because it simply isn't her.

"I'm sure you gave it your best shot!"

"You'll get 'em next time, buddy!"

"I'll bet you were really close."

"Hey, I'm sure you did better than a lot of other people."

"You will do this one day, I believe in you."

"I'm sorry you're disappointed, but I support you."

People usually do not react the way you want them to, in most, if not all, situations. I can't tell you how many times back in high school I was in a bedroom alone with an attractive female friend and wished that she would have walked over to the door and pushed in the doorknob lock after deciding today was the day she was going to model every item in her underwear drawer for me.

How many times I wanted a mentor to say, "I'll take care of you-- you're a genius and will be an asset to my business-- here's a job. And health insurance. You and your wife can go have a baby now. Hope it's triplets."

How many times I wanted my father to say something to me that wasn't mispronounced, broken English, obscenity-laced and simple.

Well, just like preconceived reactions and verbalizations from peers, family, friends, those things just don't happen. People deviate from the script all the time, because they don't know there's a script to begin with, because it's inside the writer's head, blocked from their view by cerebrospinal fluid, a myelin sheath, and a thick, truculent fuck-of-a-skull. And a lot of brown hair.

And a few white ones, to fool you into thinking that I'm no longer a little boy with unreasonable, unrealistic, uncompromising expectations-- of people, and of self.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Well, Barney My Fife and Inscribe Me in That Book o' Life, It's.... DEAR APRON!

Oh, I KNOW!

You thought he'd fallen into some obese woman's vag-sack and would never be seen nor heard from ever again, didn't you? Well, don't be such a rape-joy! He's back, he's bad, and he's slightly short-of-breath-- he's your mama's worst nightmare and he's your daddy's half-brother from another marriage-- he's your lover, your mother, your hooker and your Presbyterian viscountess-- (hang on, motherfuckers, I'm getting there)-- 'cause he's locked, loaded, Abe Vigoda'd, and virtually imploded. At six foot tall, he's nothin' short of.....

DEAR APRON:

I have been married to "Emile" for eight years. We have been together for the last fifteen. Emile has always been demeaning and sarcastic to me. When he gets upset about something he blames me.

This has been going on for so long I don't know what to do anymore. I am so depressed and hurt that all I can think of is "going away" permanently. I don't think I'd ever harm myself, but I feel more desperate and hopeless every day. I'm down so low I don't know how to come back up. Please advise. -- NO TEARS LEFT IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR NO TEARS:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when manic-depressive women in Las Vegas marry Frenchmen. It is a known, scientifically-proven fact that French men become the devil incarnate when paired in a binding, secular or religious compact with women residing in Las Vegas who have psychosocial issues.

And, balding men in your thirties living in Boise who play piano at a ninth-grade level-- watch out for slightly underweight Indian chicks with webbed nailbeds. You will get whooping cough. You have been warned.

Oh, and No Tears-- I don't know where you're going on this nebulously referred to permanent vacay of yours, but remember: sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. Melanoma's no joke, okay, sista?

DEAR APRON:

I live in a suburban neighborhood where the homes are very close together. My back yard is too small to have a clothesline. Because I love the smell of my bed sheets after they have dried outside, I hang them out to dry by pinning them to the chain link fence that surrounds the perimeter of my back yard.

My girlfriends say they would be offended if they were my neighbors. I say it's environmentally friendly, and because I'm hanging out only linens and not underwear, nobody should be offended. Who is correct? -- IN THE BREEZE IN OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA

DEAR IN THE BREEZE:

I think it's funny when women refer to their female friends as their "girlfriends." Let me ask you something about these "girlfriends" of yours: do they shower together and intrude their various cavities with protrusional vegetables? No? Then don't call them "girlfriends," okay? It's making me horny, and it's Yom Kippur. Jesus.

Oh, and I'm offended by your fucking bedsheets. What you people do in Ontario affects me, too, and don't think that it doesn't.

DEAR APRON:

A few months ago, we got a new neighbor. When I was out walking my dog one day, my neighbor was doing the same. At first I thought this person was female, but as we got to talking I began to doubt myself.

First off, my neighbor is petite, has a boyish haircut, no breasts, dresses like a guy and speaks in a voice that could be male or female. I stood there and decided I'd ask for a name, thinking it would solve my problem. Wrong! The person's name is "Chris."

Apron, I don't know what to do. I feel bad for not knowing this person's gender. Is there any way I can find an answer without Chris knowing? I don't want to refer to this person as a "he" if she's a "she," and vice versa. -- GIRL NEXT DOOR, MISSOULA, MONT.

DEAR GIRL NEXT DOOR:

Instead of obsessing about whether Chris is male or not, try to preoccupy yourself with a more pertinent obsession, like whether Chris is a target-masturbator and/or a serial-rapist. Watch "America's Most Wanted" every Saturday night at 9pm EST and constantly search for his/her picture. Leaf through Chris's mail when s/he is not around. Invest in high-quality, Israeli-made night-vision binoculaurs and set up a perimeter around the neighborhood in case Chris is on the terrorist watch-list or engages in plural marriage with voles.

Keep me posted on this creepy-ass motherfucker, okay?

DEAR APRON:

I am being married soon and my father will be providing the alcohol for our reception. We plan to serve beer, wine and champagne for the toast. Because I will be wearing an ivory gown, I am opting to drink only champagne. I have a favorite brand, but because of our modest budget, Dad cannot provide it for everyone to drink.

I was going to buy a couple of bottles to have at our table for my wedding party, but Dad feels it would be in poor taste and thinks our guests may feel slighted in some way. My feeling is that it's our special day and people will understand. Am I wrong for wanting a nicer champagne than we can provide for our guests? -- BUBBLY BRIDE IN PISMO BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR BUBBLY BRIDE:

You are a fucking alcoholic. It is plainly obvious to anybody who reads this letter that your singular preoccupation surrounding this wedding is alcohol, you boozey hussy. You didn't mention the groom even once-- not ONCE. Have fun stumbling down the aisle while your husband-to-won't is on the phone with the "Intervention" producers. Christall hell-- why don't you just marry a fucking bottle of Chateau de Boursault and be done with it?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oh, The Humanity

I almost threw up at my new job yesterday.

It wasn't because, as a psychiatric technician and allied therapist in a psychiatric hospital, I am exposed to pee-pee and poo-poo, and patients who enjoy creating mayhem and artwork with both. No, I don't especially mind that. It also wasn't because I am exposed to patients who like to... expose.

"lookatmytitslookatmytitslookatmytitsaforeifuckinkillyoumotherfucker"
I... didn't. And, fortunately, she didn't, either.
I almost threw up at my new job yesterday not because of the patients, but because of the staff. My coworkers. My.... peers.
I almost threw up, but I didn't-- because I couldn't even bear the thought of eating after what I saw and heard today at work. Plus the fact that my day started at 7am and my lunch break was at one. What was the point? My appetite was ruined, as was my outlook on mental health as a profession, and my faith in this facility and my zeal for this job.
Gone. Awesome.
Patients were openly ridiculed by staff, openly insulted, openly... threatened.
Staff Member: "How 'bout I come over there and cut you? I'll come over there and cut you so bad your own mother won't recognize you. I'll fuck your motherfuckin' shit up."
Staff Member: "I'm about ready to shove that walker up your ass."
Staff Member: "Hey, did you know that everybody with your last name is a fuckin' queer?"
Staff Member: "Can you say, 'I'm the turtliest turtle in the turtle pond' while wiggling your head around?"
Staff Member: "Do you even know what your name is? Do you know how to tie your shoes or are you still wearing those retard referee sneakers?"
Staff Member: "You're a homo."
These same staff members would then harshly reprimand patients who exhibited sexually inappropriate tendencies-- which isn't hypocritical at all. They fudge paperwork, they slack off on the ward, they're all related or they're all fucking each other-- or both-- and their inattentiveness and inappropriate actions and reactions led to an outburst of violence today that could have been avoided.
They're mostly tattooed college kids-- one has multiple lip-piercings and, really, I wouldn't mind the lip-piercings if they were on the lips of someone who was even mildly appropriate with the patients. They make fun of patients, imitating the noises that the most severely disturbed patients make, right in front of them. To them, in reply.
When a patient approaches a staff member, the default response is invariably,

"WHAT?!"
or "What the hell do you want?"
Or, they're just ignored. A patient can be standing three feet away from a staff member (this is the required distance we're supposed to keep from them) asking a perfectly sane question like, "Do I have courtyard privileges today?" and the patient can be ignored for any number of minutes. But it's the direct verbal abuse that made me want to vomit, and I probably would have had there been anything in my stomach.
Fortunately, there wasn't.
When I took this job, I didn't think it was going to be all peaches and plums, or even apple tart, but I didn't think I would be working with people who exhibit such routine and such open hostility and disdain for the patients supposedly under their care, I didn't think I would be working with the scum of the earth-- disenfranchised people in it for the paycheck and, apparently, the opportunity to fuck with people who have limited cognition, limited coping skills, and unlimited vulnerability.
Yes, the patients are inappropriate-- but they have that excuse of being, you know, crazy. Schizophrenics are supposed to act bonked-up, the psych techs kind of don't really have that excuse. We're not supposed to be the borderlines and the manics and the bipolar.
But, it's not just the patients who get "institutionalized." It's the staff, too.
Management likes to make a bit to-do about the fact that many people who work at this facility have been there for fifteen, eighteen, twenty, even twenty-eight years. And that sounds very nice, but when you see the burn-out, when you see the hostility, when you see brutality-- well, maybe such longevity isn't such a great thing.
It sounds stupid to say this, but I think that the openness of the obscenity-laced, threatening interactions with the patients, which the technicians then tried to manipulate to confuse the patients into forgetting what they had just said, that openness was the most horrifying thing. There are supervisors and nurses and videocameras everywhere-- and, clearly, nobody seems terribly concerned about that. And, clearly, I can't imagine anybody would be terribly concerned or surprised if I reported this to my supervisors.
Hopefully, the state will be both concerned and surprised when I find another job, posthaste, quit this one and report it to the Department of Health and Department of Public Welfare.
Sometimes I joke about being twelve-- when I call my closet's green doorknobs "Elphaba's nipples," I feel twelve. Oftentimes, when I get a new job, I feel twelve, too. I get wooed, positively swept off my feet by lofty mission statements and palaver from VPs and managers about proper protocol and professional conduct and ethical standards, and they pile horsehit lovingly onto my plate until I practically need a bib.
And then.... I actually start the job.
Proverbs 31:10 asks, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."
I know it's a rhetorical question. I know it's just supposed to be longing and beautiful. I know it's just a job. But I also know that I cannot permit myself to be counted amongst these people, to wear their I.D. badge, to park in their lot, to swipe at their timeclock, to sign my name on their papers. And maybe that means that I think I'm rubies and they're costume jewelry.
And maybe I don't give a damn if it does.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Suck It

I'm a little distracted right now-- and I ought to be at the gym seeing as I have a police physical agility test on Saturday morning, so, if this post is a little disjointed and weird, um, I'm sorry.

See, at this very moment, I am wracked with guilt over blogging instead of gymming. Not only that, but there's a goddamn mosquito landing on my right hand approximately every fifteen seconds, and it's trying to suck my motherfucking blood, give me West Nile Virus, and it'll never even write or call again.

It's just this shallow, thrill-seeking, sanguine-hungry daredevil who is incredibly good at fleeing and eluding, has that unfair advantage of flight (as Captain Hook so famously said, "It isn't fair! 'Tis some fiend fighting me-- Pan, who and WHAT art thou?")

Yeah, yeah, yeah-- youth, joy, and freedom. Go fuck yourself, Peterbilt.

If you can fathom a good reason why mosquitoes exist, then you're clearly smarter than most. And you probably don't get bitten by them either, and I hate you. I don't know what it is about me. Maybe they love half-bred Israelis with scoliosis, Eeyoretitudes and questionably-aligned dentition, but these sumbitches are all over me. I go out wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers and I get the bites in the most covered of places.

It's a tad irksome to think of some bastard-assed mosquito flying up your pant leg and noodling around up in there. I've never gotten a mosquito bite on my peen, though. Not that I'm complaining-- but, why is that? Is my wong not biteable? I mean, there's plenty of blood in that mother-- sometimes much moreso than others. But, seriously, like-- what the fuck, mosquitoes? I'm beginning to get a complex.

I don't know if mosquitoes think, but, if they do, they've got to be pretty single-minded of purpose. "Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood." Sort of like men. Except, with us, it's "furry triangle, furry triangle, furry triangle, furry triangle, furry triangle."

Jesus-- there he goes again. I can't kill him. I'm trying, though-- trust me, but he's very, very good. I'm using the CLAP method, hoping to annihilate him between my two palms, but it's not happening. Alternatively, when I see it land on the desk, I'm ramming down my hand but all it's doing is hurting my hand. And messing my blogging game up.

The sound they make when they're right by your ear is absolutely sickening-- it's even more revolting than the fact of them landing on you, shoving that pike-looking proboscis inside you and gorging on your blood. I think. Maybe I'm an auditory guy. Who knows?

Furry. Triangle.

I'm sorry-- what were we talking about again?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Love

This may seem gay, (this is why you read me, isn't it?) but I think that, sometimes, you've got to step back from the grit and shit and unattractive tit of the world (yes, they exist) and express a little bit of appreciation for the things, or people, in life that you love.

Two nights ago, my wife stated emphatically that "People do not go around singing, 'O, my adored one!' and 'Beloved boy!' in real life, as they do in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas (The Sorcerer, to cite the exact quotations like the insufferable pedant that I am) and, while I am inclined to agree with her on that point, I only do so to an extent.

Sure, singing the praises of your new Woolrich coat whilst entering the post office in the morning or lustily informing passersby of your extreme fondness for banana and raspberry lowfat yogurt smoothies or your Aunt Velma might seem extreme or odd; I would posit that, should the proper occasion and venue arise where you can shed some light on a love of yours, then you'd be a dickslapper to not do so at once.

Jesus-- was that last paragraph really all one sentence? And I call myself a writer.

Bah.

Woody Allen

If anyone's still reading, I'm going to take some heat on this one. I don't need to relate the rather unfortunate facts of Mr. Allen's personal life that make him a very undesirable character to those with morals; we all know the deal there. And it's gross. I won't pretend that it isn't. And I also won't pretend that I'm not a big hypocrite for liking him AHA* (*and his art) in spite of his nasty sexual proclivities. But every time my wife and I watch "Manhattan Murder Mystery" (and it's been a couple) we can't help snuggling into each other on the couch saying, "God, I hope we're like that when we're sixty" or however old he and Diane Keaton were supposed to be when that was filmed.

And I can't watch "Sleepers" or "Bananas" without cracking the hell up, and the scene in "Take the Money & Run" where they talk about how Woody Allen's character was in his high school band, briefly, and then they show a six second clip of him in full band-geek uniform, holding a cello, and attempting to play it while the band is marching, and he moves the goddamn chair two inches every two seconds... well, if that isn't poetry, then just shoot me in the face and we'll call it a day.

And, yes, I haven't seen a "new" Woody Allen film since I saw "Deconstructing Harry" in the movie theatre and thought it was a piece of shit. Before you shoot me in the face, you can say, "Die, Hypocrite." I won't mind.

Blogging Without Pictures

They'd just... get in the way, and end up coming between us, and I can't have that.

Big, Old American Cars

Most of you know that I drive a (used, eight-year-old) Volvo. It's small, and fast, and leather-swathed, and its steering is tight and nimble, and it's a wonderful automobile. Most of you also know that I'm incredibly self-conscious about it-- and I was never moreso than the one-and-a-half weeks where I wasn't working. We went out to dinner with a bunch of friends, and random people, and this girl visiting from Spain walked up to my car.

"Oh! I looove Volvos. They are so beautiful," she said, taking a rather sexual drag of her cigarette.

"Um," I said uncomfortably, "it's old."

I really like my Volvo, even though it makes me feel weird. But I don't LOVE it. I probably won't ever love it, because I love big, old American cars. I love crushed velvet seats, or velour, if crushed velvet isn't immediately available. I love doors that have elegant-looking, chrome-plated push-button handles on the outside. I love when the shifter is on the steering column, so there's that looooong, luxurious bench seat, perfect for napping, or cuddling, or.... more... um.... fornicatious...... activities.... I love V-8 engines, even though they're not P.C. or eco-friendly or economical or even sane, really. I love mobile sofas. I love faux wood on the dashboard and the door inserts. I love the smell of vinyl, and the springiness of seats that were created when people thought it was okay to wear plaid suits.

To work.

When I'm driving an old, American car, I know that it won't go three months without the muffler falling off or the electric window falling down into the depths of the door, but, when you mash your foot down on that pedal, if the sound of that burbling, gargantuan 351 cubic inch engine doesn't send your eyeballs rolling up into your head, well, I guess it's Prius time for you.

My wife

This hasn't been an easy time for us-- this whole job transition thing. Mrs. Apron and I both started new jobs on Monday, and that's challenging. She's accepted a school-based job with lavish vacations, and I have accepted a job at a psychiatric facility that is open 24 hours a day, all week, all year. My existence is rather blue-collar at the moment, and time off is rigidly structured, but it is a means to an end-- a stop on the way to, hopefully, a more permanent career. Through the course of this transition, we have had our struggles, but we support each other every day, and we rise to meet these challenges together.

Easily the most intelligent, thoughtful, and insightful person I have ever met, Mrs. Apron challenges me in ways I have never been challenged before, and that's sometimes scary, but it's always with the right motive-- the desire to exist side-by-side, to flourish, to create an environment comfortable and safe and fulfilling for a little Apron-face to exist in some fine day.

When we were dating, I bought my wife a gorgeous mirror, in the shape of a star, that is painted blue with little flowers on it, and, carved into the wood is the word, "GROW." Every day, I feel, we are inviting each other to grow. And, even though any plant or child will tell you that it's hard, I love that.

My Eyebrows

"Those can't possibly be real!" an elderly audience member said to me after a production of Patience. They are. And they're a comic actor's best friends.

Watches

I collect things. Old telephones, antique typewriters, old (and not quite so old) eyeglasses, hats from bygone decades, and sometimes centuries, but I am absolutely a bit crackers about watches. It used to be only pocketwatches in which I was interested. I bought one off of ebay for my wife, but, when it arrived, I saw it was about the size of my fist, and so I ended up wearing it, even though I had it engraved for her. Added it to my collection. I've belabored her with an antique tri-color gold pendant watch, an early American wristwatch, perhaps from 1910 or so, though I've given up (I think) on trying to find the exact replacement for an antique Hamilton that she lost in France years ago when it got caught on a sweater she had taken off and was never seen again. (There's still a drawing of that watch in my wallet-- just in case I start feeling ambitious again when antique-hunting...)

Now, I also collect wristwatches, apparently. I love automatic watches-- oh, I also bought her one of those-- it's orange. Automatic, or "self-winding" watches work on kinetic energy, or the movement of your wrist to keep them going. The technology is old, but they're becoming fashionable again, because they're suddenly eco-friendly, not requiring a battery. I bought myself a Bulova self-winder from 1954 a couple of years ago, and I decided that it brought up bad memories/associations for me, so I gave it to an old friend for his birthday. He has a habit of buying watches from drug stores, and I thought, "I have to put a stop to that." Of course, it was just a convenient excuse to buy myself a 1967 Seiko 5 Automatic.

What a dildo, right?

Fall Clothing

Square-bottomed knit neckties. Soft sweatervests. Vintage sportcoats. Corduroy trousers. Earthtones. Toggle coats. Plaid scarves.

God, let that barometer fall. I love you, Autumn.

You

Thanks for hanging around. You knew I'd get to you-- didn't you?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sperm Donor + Vag Hag = Hollywood Gold

If you've turned on your television set (do they still call them "television sets" and, if so, do they still turn them on?) or gone to the cinema (I know they don't still call it that) recently, then you've most likely seen a TV show or a movie about at least one lazy, incompetent dumbshit, maybe two, hamhandedly having and/or raising a child, as a couple of rodeo clowns might do so after a month-long boozer.

Film:

Knocked Up
Juno
The Backup Plan
Expecting Mary

I'm sure I'm forgetting about some, or am ignorant of the existence of others. Please feel free to chime in, like a fucking doorbell, you ridiculous hottie, you.

Now, television's getting jealous, or getting smart, so they're coming out with "Raising Hope," featuring a hapless, white-trash dunderhead who wears opened plaid shirts and feeds his baby out of a rubber glove filled with milk.

Oh, men! How did we all make it into adulthood without mandated bike helmets?

Then, of course, there's all the "Didn't-Know-I-Was-Pregnant", "I'm-16-and-Pregnant", "My-Boo's-Pregnant", "I-Took-an-Extreme-Trembly-Shit-and-a-Motherfuckin-Baby-Fell-Out" choice television programs on MTV. Again, what's the common theme? Immature retards diddling around with same and the existence and future of a precious, precarious infant hangs in the balance.

We as a culture are, apparently, eating that shit up-- you know, like a pregnant chick. The question is, why? Why are we so fascinated by watching an ignorant bumpirate leaving a child asleep in a carseat outside a locked apartment door for twenty minutes? Is it shock value? Sure. Is it so we can nestle back into our couches and our choices and smugly report to all who care to listen, "Well, I would never do that!"

Of course not. And my mother would never forget to pick up my sister at school and my father would never run my foot over with the car.

Oh, wait.

I took a playwriting seminar in college, and it really was a seminal event (heh heh-- I used "seminar" and "seminal" in the same sentence, and, yes, I am still twelve) in my life as a writer. It was in this class where I learned about the importance of raising the stakes in comic and dramatic writing for the stage. Don't just make the main characters about to get divorced. Let them have a fourteen-year-old son who's a target masturbator with Aspergers and have Dad about to lose his job and let Mom pop Vicodin so much she calls them her "Little Vickies." Mix in pedophile Uncle Thad who has a beer gut, eczema, wears Bermuda shorts with the fly down all the time-- oh, and the house as about to be foreclosed on by the bank and NOW you've got yourself a show.

The stakes, motherfuckers, hath been raised.

So, maybe that's what this new phenomenon is about. I mean, television and film are both media formats that have been saturated with d-bags and bullshitfaces for decades upon decades. Remember "Married with Children"? That show was what it was, but, had the head writer (was there a head writer?) decided to throw a newborn baby into that mishegoss, well, he probably would have been fired. The times were.... different. Nobody was prepared to quite go there.

So why are we prepared to go there, and so frequently it seems, now? What's changed? My very smart and cutie-patootie'd wife suggested that we've now become thoroughly accustomed to the two-income family, and, with mom and dad off doing their job things, now our generation is growing up either being or feeling as if they are totally inept and not exactly up to the task of child-rearing.

I'm not sure if that's true, but I am becoming increasingly sure that Hollywood is trying to make us think that we, Generation-Y'ers (I'm 30 and so I still count. Barely.) inept and stupid and incapable of raising child, and all we are confronted with are similarly fucked up models on television and film. Now, granted, that's interesting to watch. There's nothing particularly interesting about watching two income-earners in their early thirties semi-successfully juggling work, fun, occasional intercourse, and parenting. I get that. We'd much rather watch 16-year-olds picking up their children by their feet as if they were gorilla babies.

Wouldn't we?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Surely, You Jest

There are two types of people in this world: those who hear jokes, take care to remember the jokes they're told, and take pleasure in relating them to others, and those who do not.

I do not.

Not to sound like a prig, but I have frequently been referred to as funny, but as any funny person will tell you, there are lots of different ways in which one may be funny. Sometimes, it's as easy as a well-timed eyebrow lift. Careening down a flight of stairs without getting a head injury and/or a Greenstick fracture is funny. Peter Sellers proved that in "The Pink Panther Strikes Again." If we take him and that further, getting randomly attacked in your own apartment by an Asian manservant whilst destroying every piece of furniture you own is also, well, comic.

Time has proven that referring to said manservant as your "little yellow friend," while perhaps at one time may have been funny, today, is not. Oh, Burt Kwouk. You can jump out of my kitchen pantry screaming at the top of your lungs as you karate chop me between the shoulder blades any day...

Anyway, there are lots of ways one can be funny. Of all the ways to be funny, I think joke telling might be one of the oldest forms of humor, though I'm not sure it's especially holding its own. People who tell jokes are also people who remember jokes. Lots of us get told jokes, I suspect, but those of us who have no intention of ever using the joke again let said jest gently waft through our short-term memory and then get flushed as easily as yesterday's Special-K.

The joke-teller is a special breed of humanoid. I had always thought that old people told jokes, but that's not always true. When I was a boy of nine or ten, my uncle would often call the house to speak to my mother. When I would answer the phone, he would tell me a joke, usually a racist joke involving the rather unkind Yiddish word for black person, "schvartze." I would pretend to enjoy the joke, and then I would hand the phone over to my mother. I guess my uncle was in his late thirties at that time, maybe a little older.

He's an asshole, and I'm pretty sure I knew that back then.

There are people I know who tell only certain kinds of jokes. My uncle only told racist jokes, because he is an asshole who wears Docksiders with no socks and sunglasses indoors and polo shirts with the collars turned up, and he works with a bunch of assholes who did likewise. Another older guy I know only tells sexual jokes, usually involving older men, who just happen to be impotent. Go figure, right?

I don't know what it is about people who tell jokes. Maybe they do it because they're not especially good at interpersonal communication, and this is their way of connecting with each other, with you-- with me. Maybe that's what it is, because, generally speaking, joke-telling never really results in gut-busting hysterics. It's a way of connecting, of identifying, of cliquiness, of aiming outward-- at another group, person, class. It's communication, or the supplanting of communication. I don't really know what it is, because I don't do it. I'm just on the receiving end. I'll listen to any horseshit you've got to spill on my bib-- I don't care.

I just... don't get it. Why do joke-tellers do it? Why don't they stop? Maybe because people like me laugh through our warped little false smiles. If I'm the one to blame, I'm sorry.

Last night at rehearsal, I was in the hallway going over my music when another performer, a man in his early sixties whom I like very much, came up to me and gently touched my shoulder.

"Did you ever hear the one about the little girl in the barbershop?" Not waiting for me to say yay or nay, he continued immediately. "Well, her father was getting his hair cut and the barber said, 'Oh, you sweet little girl, here's a cupcake for you.' And so the little girl was eating the cupcake and, you know, she's watching her daddy get his hair cut and she's standing, like, right under the chair, you know, and the barber's cutting away and he notices the little girl standing right under the chair and the barber says, 'You know, sweetheart, you're going to get hair on your cupcake.' And the little girl says, 'I know! And one day my breasts are gonna get real big, too!'"

Goodnight, everyone. I'll be here all week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Aw, Shewt...

So, I've been learning a lot about myself lately.

One thing that I've learned, looking at my resume (as I have been doing quite a bit lately) is that I've had many jobs, but no careers. A dear old friend of mine has been trying to convince me that many people my age are this way, and that, if this were the 1920s, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

He's probably right on both points. A great many people my age flit from job to job, wandering directionless well into their late twenties, searching for a place where they fit, whilst spinning their wheels in a lot of places where they don't. And, were this the 1920s, I most likely would have apprenticed in some trade, and stayed with it for the rest of my life, or perhaps changed paths once, if at all.

This friend, by the way, decided that he wanted to be a physician when he was 24, requiring a post bac year to get himself up-to-speed. So I guess he knows what he's talking about. As much as anyone I know, at least.

But I still can't help feeling, I don't know, insecure. Singular in my inability to prove myself on a career path. Different. I guess that what comes from your parents telling you you're special, unique, apart. Didn't your parents tell you that, too?

And so I've got my job, and I'm using it as a place-holder until the career in law enforcement starts. To prep myself, I've been lifting weights-- turning my spindly little arms into, um, less spindly little arms? I've been running, jogging, sprinting, sit-upping....

Oh, and shooting.

A month ago, I had never fired a gun. Seven years ago, when I tried to become a cop the first time, I took apart a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, and I put it back together again in a small classroom in front of a retired police officer. Oh, and I also did a fill-in-the-blank ditto sheet, identifying the parts of the gun. I never fired it. Realizing that I would be amongst individuals who are ex-Army types, and huntin' types, and people who've been popping off rounds since before they had any peach fuzz to speak of, I decided that it was time to bite the bullet.

Ha.

My wife and I are fortunate enough to live in what I feel is a sort of neighborhood that is on the cusp of upper-middle class. In any case, you have to drive for a while before you can arrive at a destination where people shoot guns on a regular basis. The closest firing range open to the public that I know of is around fifty minutes away. I've been twice, and Mrs. Apron went with me both times. The first time was after a very strenuous hike, and Mrs. Apron had slid down a rocky embankment, mostly on her butt, but some of it on her arm, which she managed to gash up.

"Did he do that to you?" the gun shop clerk asked with a wry grin on his face the first time we went. We were covered in dirt, gravel dust, and sweat. He was dressed in a denim collared shirt, denim shorts, and he wore a Glock in a holster on his hip. I guess it's like waitresses at Flingers needing to wear 36 pieces of flair. I was surprised he wasn't wearing 35 other guns. I'm sure there was at least one other one that we couldn't see.

Mrs. Apron vacillated on whether or not she wanted to shoot or watch. Finally, she capitulated. The clerk was very friendly, in spite of the Tea Party literature all over the place and a sign that said, "Gun Control = Two Hands on a Gun" and he didn't make us feel like the incompetent Jews that we were. He started us out on a .22 caliber handgun, which felt extremely dangerous.

Until we went back the next time and fired a .38. That motherfucker was big, and heavy, and loud.

Firing a gun is very strange if you've never done it before. Then again, I guess anything is strange if you've never done it before. While we were at the firing range the first time, I can remember putting the bullets into the gun and thinking about my "firsts." I couldn't remember the first time I was behind the wheel of a car, and what that felt like. I do remember the first time being behind the wheel of an ambulance, totally convinced that I would kill my partner, the patient, and myself. I remember the first time I had sex. Let's just say shooting the .22 went better. It lasted longer, too.

I felt much more confident the second time we went, and I kind of got a little smitten with the .38, even though the ammunition cost a LOT more. I'm, of course, ashamed about the fact that I enjoyed utilizing an instrument of death and destruction. In Tad Friend's book, "Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor" he writes of a choice abbreviation that his mother frequently employed: "NFOCD."

"Not For Our Class, Dear."

When I first approached my mother at the tenderish age of 22 and announced my intention to take the police officer exam and enroll at the academy, that is, essentially, what she said to me.

"That's not for you," she informed me seriously.

"Oh, it's okay for some other mother's son, but not for your son?" I asked, expecting that to be a retort that would sting her into a shocked silence. It didn't.

"That's exactly right," my mother replied, before descending into the basement to do laundry, which was, and still is her way of avoiding any unpleasantness more unpleasant than laundry.

She's doing a lot better seven years later. Now, she actually asks me questions about my preparations, she wants to know timelines and takes an interest in where I am faxing resumes and when tests are coming up. When I told her I had applied to the FBI, she didn't flinch. Maybe it's because I'm older, or because she's older, or because my middle sister is the squeaky wheel-- with a baby that my mother is basically raising and a marriage on its way to dissolution, and my eldest sister having moved back home under topsy-turvy circumstances.

"I guess I just don't know where to start worrying first," she told me this week.

"Oh, mom," I said, "you started decades ago-- and you'll never finish, so just kind of start in the middle, in the thick of it all. Maybe you'll stop worrying when you're dead."

She laughed.

"Maybe."

"I guess that's why some people call it their 'sweet release'," I said, pushing out the screen door after a brief visit with her and my nephew.

"Well," she said, ever the pragmatist, "I'm not especially looking forward to that either."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm Back, Bitches

The astute and non-visually impaired of you might have noticed that I, um, blogged yesterday.

From August 5th to September 10th it was mighty quiet 'round these here parts. That was because I didn't have a job, and I felt like a sort of assmonkey sitting around blogging when I was supposed to be lurking around on Craigslist, searching for if not meaningful than at least gainful employment.

As luck would have it, I may have found both. I don't know yet-- I start on Monday. So... we'll see.

It's going to be kind of a different scene for me. Going from working with talented children to the mentally ill is a tad of a shift, but some of the same techniques and personality traits of mine may prove just as useful with my new, er, population. And, I mean-- how different could it really be, right? Children bite. Psych patients.... um.... bite.

Yeah....

Of all the jobs I have held since college, this may end up being the one for which I am the least qualified, and I've never really been totally qualified for any of the jobs I've held. But, oddly, that doesn't worry me. I supposed I'm used to being under-qualified. The woman interviewing me for this position referred to me as "overqualified," but then, she doesn't know me very well. Prospective employers know what they see on paper and, if you wear a tie, they get a little horny. Wear a sterling-silver tie-bar, and you can practically watch their trousers get soggy.

I suppose I'm also not too concerned because I know that this job is only a stop-gap on my way to securing a career in law enforcement. Once the economy turns around and police departments really kick their recruitment/hiring initiatives into high gear, I will be ready. I have been kicking ass and taking several names at the gym, and I can now successfully lift 83% of my bodyweight. Admittedly, that's only a couple of bags of dog-food, but it's still an accomplishment to me.

Mostly, I'm proud of the fact that I have secured employment at all. In this economy, it's no small feat. It's maybe even large-ish. The fact that there were three job offers (well, two-and-a-half if I'm completely honest) on the table shocked even me. I guess that's what happens when you aim low while wearing a sterling-silver tie-bar. The trousers of many an H.R. representative got moist in southeastern P.A. over the course of the last two weeks, I'm proud to say.

One of the things, of course, that lightens my spirits these days is the fact that, now that I have a job, I feel a bit more "right" about blogging again. Sure, it wasn't something that took up huge amounts of my time during the day, but it was an admitted distraction, and something I knew the world could do without.

(You all survived, didn't you? God, you're beautiful.)

It feels very, very good to be doing this again. Married as I was to stalking such inglorious sites as Craigslist, Careerbuilder, Monster, and whatever other awful sites, it feels a little weird to not be checking those sites out anymore on a near constant, eye-drying basis. Reading banal, non-descript postings for jobs I didn't want, but applied for anyway. Easily the most colorful job offer I got (oh, wait-- that's three-and-a-half!) was an erectile-dysfunction clinic that wanted to hire me to give IV infusions to flaccid patients.

"You'll be proud to witness men get their first erections in years," I was told, "right there in the office in front of you!"

Better than behind me, I thought.

Friday, September 10, 2010

No Coffee

I had my first cup of coffee when I was... eight, I think. It was regular, high-test, as they say in BP-parlance. Israelis don't wait around for silly things like, say, adolescence. Why wait, when your precious world and your precious family could be blown up tomorrow?

Coffee has become customary at my parents' home. It follows every meal, and it doesn't matter if it's 103 degrees out and the truculent sun is blazing through the imitation shoji window screens in the dining room-- there. will. be. coffee.

I expect it. My oldest sister demands it. Since her epiglottis or whatever got all fucked up a few years ago, she eats very, um, particularly, and coffee is her one real pleasure in life. Her vice. Her sanctity. Her holy water. And she laps it up as if she were crawling on the desert floor of the Kalahari for weeks and in that ceramic cup were the last drops of moisture in the world. She licks the mug. It's actually quite disgusting. They're not dainty little mint julip licks either. They're lusty, rye bourbon licks, tongue flat against the mug's interior. It's a bit like pornography, and watching your sister behave like that, at the dinner table no less, is a bit disconcerting.

But, hey-- it's coffee. Liquid gold.

A while ago, my wife alerted me to the fact that I don't actually like coffee. She evinced this by pointing out that I put enough sugar in my coffee to send the air molecules around the mug into a diabetic coma. "You like coffee-flavored candy-water," she said.

"Ah. You're probably onto something there," I said, re-filling the banana-yellow Fiestaware sugar bowl for the third time this week.

When dining at my parents' house, I don't always want coffee after the meal, but I always take it, because it's always offered, and a meal there just doesn't feel.... right without it. You know when something just doesn't feel right, don't you? A handshake, or a kiss-- a hello or a goodbye. Walking down an unfamiliar alley after the sun's set or buying a used mattress. Well, dinner at my parents' house without coffee sort of feels like that. It's foreign, or absurd. Maybe incomplete is more of what I'm looking for. A bit... off.

It's Rosh Hashanah today. We were all together at my parents' house-- me, my wife, my two sisters, my sister's husband, their beautiful baby boy, my father-in-law and, of course, my parents. A much bigger gathering than usual. There was chicken, Israeli-style sauteed vegetables and rice, pecan and apple pie and ice cream-- but no coffee. It just... didn't happen. The baby was uncustomarily cranky, with diaper rash on his tussie as we call it, and there was a flurry of activity to alternately quiet him and entertain him. There was hide-and-seek and chasing and the calming water of the bathtub and a quick jaunt to CVS by my father to get Desitin or Chèvre or whatever you rub on a baby's ass to get it to stop crying, and I had to leave to drive my father-in-law back to his car so he could get back to his job, and, when I came back, well, the opportunity had been missed.

It's funny how everything changes. My oldest sister mused, as there was jubilant banshee-like screaming (my mother) from the living room, what family dinners were like, you know, before.

"They couldn't have been this loud," she declared, her hand to her forehead.

"No, they were-- they just weren't cute loud," I replied, sinking into my old seat like a slice of bologna on bread. "This is what we always were, just more fucked up now."

Of course, there was always coffee-- to take the edge off.

Now there are new family members, both young and not quite so young, and sometimes they sit at our dining room table and sometimes, just sometimes, I can't quite always believe I'm staring at who's staring back at me, and sometimes, just sometimes, I'm pleasantly surprised at whom I'm staring, and sometimes I'm stunned or appalled or frightened or horribly pissed. And sometimes I actually catch myself staring, and remember that, if I'm very, very good, maybe-- just maybe, there'll be coffee again.