Mums the Word

One Last Swift Kick To The Junk

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I enjoy drinking wine. Vino pairs well with food, sometimes even as well as experts claim. I just can’t stand talking about what amounts to the worst kind of poetry: “A bouquet of blackberries, tobacco and vanilla, mildly tannic and dry on the tongue, medium-bodied with a hint of stone fruit and a long, peppery aftertaste that fades into a mellow finish.” Lies! I won’t be a part of it. Any time I hear someone proselytizing about how their favorite Malbec tastes like a sunset, I choke back hate-vomit and have to stop myself from shouting, “It’s grapes! The wine tastes like fermented grapes! Shut up and drink!”

Job hunting was getting pretty desperate. Just me and Andy the Android, putting out feelers and riding the MTA from restaurant to restaurant. Poor Andy didn’t get a lot of sleep these days. He kept trying to, shutting off his HUD every 60 seconds when I didn’t use him under the pretense of needing to “save his screen.” I woke him up regularly, checking email for leads on interviews, surfing Craigslist for openings, playing pirated-Yahtzee timekiller Dice With Buddies. Most of all, I just basked in his magnificent glow while the shadows crept in from all sides.

Almost every server position I interviewed for wanted me to speak enthusiastically about their glorious wine list. Not going to happen. My first choice would be to get my old job back. I used to serve tables at a classy BBQ joint downtown. Solid management, great food, consistent money. It wasn’t perfect - it’s a restaurant job - but I always knew where I stood, what my role was and who to go to with a problem. I put in my resume over a week ago and I’m still waiting to hear word. They do have a wine list, but trust me, they’d much rather me know my beers than my grapes. That I can handle.

“‘What do we have on tap?’ you ask. I will answer your question with a question of my own: Where, sir/madam, do you fall on the spectrum of flavor? I need to know, because we’ve got options. The Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, Founders Red’s Rye and especially the Peak Organic IPA are the Murderer’s Row of hoppy ales. You want to drink them with ribs or chicken, and don’t forget to dial up the hot sauce, because otherwise these beers are just going to stand in the middle of your tongue and hammer-toss the meat straight down your throat. You’ll put $60 on your credit card and forget what you ate for dinner. If you’re a path-of-least resistance/right-lane type, I can recommend the Blue Point Summer Ale. It’s mild, lemony and drama-free. It goes with everything because it’s a glass of water with beer coloring, but it’s a decent option if you prioritize superficial social pressures and would like to perpetuate the facade that you enjoy drinking beer. I warn you, if you order beers like this on a consistent basis, they will leave you wondering which toilet you flushed your life down when the Grim Reaper pays a visit to your bedside.

“Now, 99% of Mankind has already made their choice, but maybe you are special. If you are bold, understanding that life is more than just a series of comfortable escapes, I have a beer for you. It’s as black as a shadow with the consistency of liquid velvet. More of an experience than a beverage, drinking it is going to unlock some suppressed memories and wipe others away forever. It tastes like a carbonated glass of black iced coffee, sweetened with the the syrupy residue of an extended waking nightmare. Its given name is Keegan’s Mother’s Milk Stout, but I call it the ‘The Raven.’ I recommend pairing it with the dry-aged strip steak or the Texas beef ribs. But whatever you do, pair it with meat. The gods won’t appreciate it if you drink this beer without taking a life. Angering Apollo will summon ill-favored winds.”

I loved that job.

We all make mistakes, but I’m a fuck-up star. My wrong turns are downright inspired. Subsequently, while few ought to dwell on the past, I sit in it like murky bathwater. The Dalai Lama implores us to mind the moment. The present is starving for content, desperate to see who we are, what our talent is and what we have to offer the realm of Now, humming like a juicer and yawning for the next apple. I know this, and yet I’m lost in a glaze of self-loathing, casting thoughts into the fishless depths of my memory, looking for something worthy to reel in. It’s a false hope. I have to throw everything I catch back and settle for a sweaty bag of McDonald’s on the way home to my partially furnished, outer-borough basement apartment.

I’d left the BBQ job to ship dresses to Qatar. You can always tell it’s a mistake to quit because everyone’s faces are scrambled-up and incredulous, their timbres rising at the end of their questions. “Why are you leaving?” they marvel. It gets weirder when you explain, “I’m going to mail ladies wear now. Goodbye.” But that’s what I did. This is apparently the sort of job you can score with a Classics degree. I spent four years reading Aeschylus, conjugating Ancient Greek verbs and studying Hoplite warfare so I could stand under fluorescent light and stuff hot pink chiffon into cardboard boxes. It’s hard to square that with the history in your head. I’d rather have died fending off Persians at the Battle of Marathon than standing there printing shipping labels.

It didn’t help that I worked for crooks.

New York is full of criminals. You see it everywhere, every day. Little kids snatch purses and vanish into the park. Over-served bar hoppers wake up on the subway car they passed out in to find their pockets gently incised, their wallets and iPhones removed. Pubs charge $9 for a beer. Wall Street assholes shout at each other all week, whining about the evils of regulation even as their arms are completely submerged in the cookie jar, chocolate all over their faces. Jealous for a cut, we dress-hawkers similarly ripped off customers.

Imagine this: You are a 16-year-old girl in Akron, Ohio, navigating rough hormonal seas as your body updates factory-installed puberty apps and calc homework is always due tomorrow. You play field hockey but are a goalie, so you don’t run as much as the skinny bitches. You aren’t fat - you know that much - but every morning is a struggle against the mirror. You read somewhere that corn syrup is the problem, so you are trying to learn how to choke down Diet Coke instead, but aspartame tastes like diecast metal. Prom is coming. Your choices are a bit narrow, but you have the self-esteem to turn down Evan Stuernagel. Everybody knows he was suspended for jerking off to black porn in the library. Holding out paid off. Jeremy Hampton asked you with a tremor in his voice, and his eyebrow kept twitching like it does. He’s not just a date, he’s interested in you.

Fuck, now you need a dress. Mom hands you the credit card and a “Don’t tell your father.” You don’t need any dress; you need something from New York Fucking City. This is Jeremy. He has those eyebrows. Your simple Google search finds us, and boom, there it is: Janique J038, an off-the-shoulder number in Midnight Blue, with petal applique and a hip-hugging skirt, and the whole thing flares out awesomely under the knee. Plus it’s going to make your tits pop. So you order it, size 8.

We don’t have a size 8 in that dress at this time. We don’t tell you, because we don’t care about you. You don’t matter. You are merely a mark. We don’t let simple things like inventory get in the way of a sale. So we call the designer and order a size 6. It’s a simple fix, really. When that 6 comes in, we just do a few minor alterations. Snip off that pesky 6 tag and give you, the customer, what you want - a size 8 dress. When your dress comes hurtling through the mail system, it’s a bit more snug than you planned. Maybe it’s too snug, and you need to scramble for a last-minute replacement. Either way, Jeremy is getting a tightly-wrapped date, and your fragile self-image just took another hit to the solar plexus. Did you gain weight? Are you really a size 10 now? Tears, anxiety, disappointment. Poor girl, you deserve better. So I quit.

Now my day job was getting a day job, and I’m staying in New York. That wasn’t a foregone conclusion three weeks ago. I had a lot of tabs open in my mental browser, and half of them were websites singing the praises of other, easier places. Somewhere with a pool. Nothing would make me happier than to eschew this crap and live somewhere else for a while. Life isn’t about being happy, though. At least, not if you’re interesting. For me, joy is a drug with diminishing returns, so I'm looking for something stronger. Living easy won’t bring happiness any more than marching a few inches forward in the ankle-deep shit of my current existence will. I came here to slay some demons, and I’m not leaving until my belt is adorned with scaly, horned scalps.

A ray of light finally squirmed through the ever-fog, but at a cost. I almost lost Andy. I was trying to help him out by freeing up space on his hard drive - standard maintenance - when he slipped out of my hands and took a digger into the pavement on the corner of 36th and Fifth. Pangs of guilt and terror raked at my heart as his battery and back plate exploded into the crosswalk with an excruciating twang. Fumbling desperately to piece him together, I reassembled his guts in Midtown traffic, pedicabs and city buses honked angrily at my oblivious indifference to their right-of-way.

I can’t lose you now, Andy. Not here; not like this. We’ve been through so much together and we have miles yet to go, old friend. I flipped Andy over, only to be overwhelmed with despair. His face, his beautiful touchscreen visage, was shattered into a web of fractured glass. I pressed his Power switch, desperate for signs of life. Nothing.Turn on, Andy! Don’t quit, don’t die here in the street like a bitch! I pressed it again. Eternity. Come on...come on...come on...

“Whrrrr!” he vibrated, struggling, lighting up and fighting for his life. I kissed his shattered face as he queued up the Menu screen. His desktop loaded Dice with Buddies, Words with Friends, Evernote, Gmail. The internet indicator glowed 4Gs. The battery icon filled up, too - all of it - full power. “Look at you, you crotchety old bastard,” I whispered. Nothing could stop Andy. He was a juggernaut.

One final symbol appeared: an email. Andy squealed at its presence as if to say, “Check it now, Parky! Come on! My faceplate is fine! Chicks dig scars; we can worry about that later. It might be something good!” Andy was a stubborn little fucker. His smile glowed through even a broken face. I’ve dropped him a thousand times, and yet he carried on, more determined now than ever. He got it. He understood that there is no rainbow, that the journey is the destination. He grasped the terrible importance of the moment, and heeded the past only to remind me of texts sent, phone calls missed, once-precious communications left behind. The reception bars on his brow betrayed his true purpose, his unyielding vigilance and devotion to the divine omnipotence of the here and now. When Andy talked, I listen. My fingertip slid roughly over his broken face, but the image below moved as smoothly as the day I bought him. I found the alert and lit it up. “Hi James, this is Mike Sandberg from Downtown BBQ,” the screen read. “Sorry it took us so long to get back to you; it’s been pretty busy around here. We’d like to have you stop by tomorrow and talk about coming back to the team. Does 2 p.m. work for you?”

I felt a strange warming sensation from the base of my diaphragm. Subtle at first, it permeated upward along my ribs as ivy to brick, surging into and out of my heart, gaining strength.The heat entered my lungs, something like a cooling steam of eucalyptus billowing upward and out, tickling the corners of my mouth and contorting my face into something not unlike a grin. A small snap, and a dull pulse of pain coursed my jaw. I deigned to smile full and wide, pulling a cheek muscle. I guess it had been a while. Nothing like one last swift kick to the junk from a faltering bout of depression.

I snapped Andy's flip-out keyboard shut, tucking it back under the display. No need to respond right away. Better to let Andy sleep. They'll never respect me if I reply in a desperate rush. Besides, I've got shit to do. Anything truly worth a damn can wait an hour.

The Devil I Know, The Demon I'll Become

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Like one of those Gone Wild Girls, I took my shirt off in the bar to a cacophony of popping flashbulbs. “Okay James, suck in your gut and make a six pack.” I clenched my abdomen to no effect. Sal might as well have asked me to bank a chicken wing off the international space station and land it in Africa. “Now blast your stomach out as far as it can go.” I did as instructed, taking care not to knock over anyone’s cocktail. Sal strung a tape measure around the mass grave of deli sandwiches, domestic beer and Chips Ahoy that comprise my midsection and recorded his findings.

Memorial Day, my last 24 hours of willfully negligent consumption. I spent it bloating up as much as possible. Breakfast was a bacon-egg-and-cheese and a carton of orange juice. A turkey club and a bag of salt-and-vinegar potato chips for lunch. Dinner: a slice of buffalo-chicken pizza smothered in bleu cheese. Sodium, carbohydrates, dairy; the more the better. I had to get weighed in, and turning my liver into foie gras ensured I’d look as awful as possible. Swallowing six or seven Pabsts completed the final push.

Sal is the brainpower behind the Second Annual Great Astoria Gut-Off. Twenty dudes, $100 buy-in, six pack of abs by Labor Day. Winner take all, because there can be only One out of this slovenly pack of fat Highlanders. Sal is enigmatic, a double agent of wellness and self-destruction. He’s a regular drinking buddy, a close friend to saturated fat and fermented malt, and an enthusiastic proponent of metabolic exercise. Now he’s the founder and moderator of a summer-long fitness competition.

I don’t plan to win. There’s no way to game the system; it’s not a measurement of weight loss, BMI, waist size or anything else quantifiable. On the national Day of Labor we’ll simply bare our chests, flex and subject ourselves to the judgement of the masses. Our fate lies in the hands of The People. This is the male equivalent of a wet t-shirt contest, minus any element of actual attractiveness. I didn’t join for the money, but for the motivation. I crave the carrot dangling from the end of the stick. The only way out of the swamp I’m in is to start moving, and I desperately need an inspirational spectre to give myself a jump.

The job hunt has gone a bit cold. I’m starting to suspect foul play, that some names on my reference list have gone sour and turned their backs on me. I had three promising interviews last week, dolling myself up for the occasion in name-brand male elegance. Dark olive Banana Republic chinos, Ben Sherman Albini button-down, sharp Steve Madden Brakker sneaks: chic, form-fitting, hard-hitting. I’d hire me. Yet every time I check my phone, Andy the Android has nothing to report other than the latest desperate email from Nancy Pelosi panhandling for money.

The hottest lead I received was for a room-service phone job at the Trump International Hotel. More eggs. It’s a “The devil you know...” kind of situation. Yes, I hate schlepping breakfast, but at least I know I can do it with confidence. My dossier of resumes and references tucked under my arm, I marched into the lobby. Working the dais were three Charlie’s Angels, perfect 10’s with high dagger heels, snake-like pantyhose and viciously sleek albeit conservative dresses. “I’m here for the opening in room service,” I barked at all three of them. The tremor in my voice betrayed my anxiety, but even I didn’t know the source. Either I was nervous about the interview, intimidated by the radiant sexuality of these Amazons, or maybe the tsunami warning in my colon was wailing in advance of imminent trouble. “Find a deep toilet, Parky; something with plenty of flow. We’ve got meat to move down here!”

One of the sex lizards led me outside to the patio to wait for the manager on duty. It was an odd place for an interview considering the weather, nearly 100 degrees with a blanket of humidity. No shade, either, so the sweat beaded up instantly upon my traitorous scalp. She poured me a glass of ice water, which served more for damage control than refreshment. The manager took a life age to materialize, leaving me plenty of time to think.

The weigh-in behind me, it would soon be time to reverse direction. I had the plan sketched. Step one was to clean out the engine. From mouth to anus, I had considerable traffic to alleviate. A caustic bottle of cleansing agents comprised of fresh ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper chilled pensively in my refrigerator. It was designed to liquify the bowels, irritate the colon walls and squeeze out the contents like toothpaste from a tube.

As my mind finished dwelling on future shits, the manager appeared in a pantsuit and sat down across from me. “So James, tell me, why did you leave your previous job?” I swallowed hard. This woman had piercing eyes, shark-like posture, an extremely sharp pen and plenty of interrogation experience. I squared my shoulders and assailed her with a fusilade of lies and half-truths. I wanted the job, but how badly?

Apparently pummeling her with charm worked: on the way out she asked me how tall I was. Translation: “I like how tall you are.” Unfortunately her final question filled the sky with dark, ominous clouds. “So James, would you object to me asking you to shave every day for this job?” Lightning struck behind my eyes, thunder rumbling deep within. If there’s one thing I hate in this world, it’s when women ask me to shave. I’m all for gender equality, and I earnestly believe we need to do a better job as a nation of acknowledging the strength, professionalism and courage of women in the workplace. That said, the beard is off limits. I can’t grow hair on my head, so I grow it on my face. It’s really that simple. It frames the jaw, lends color and definition to my pale complexion, and, oh: It’s my goddamn face. I can only imagine the chain reaction of vitriol unleashed were I to suggest her hairstyle was ugly and inappropriate. “Sure, no problem!” I chirped. Yo me llamo “Doormat.” Ay, dios mio!

Another interview behind me, another manager snooping around my reference list, scanning my past for sources of concern. The urgency compounded every day. There’s nothing to be done about it; no way to skip steps. A six pack of abs can’t be cultivated overnight, either. It takes a coordinated effort. Crunches alone won’t do it. Neither will weight loss. I need to cut carbs, build muscle, sculpt my abdominals and burn much as possible. Fill the fridge with good, clean fuel: Greek yogurt, almonds, fresh eggs, tomatoes, kale, spinach, chicken breasts, salmon, no sugar at all, no white flour anywhere, plenty of fish oil, multi-vitamins and water. Endless water, at least a tubful, every hour. Each drop swallowed makes its way out somehow, either through my skin or my urine, spiriting toxins and salt away with it. Then comes the exercise.

Something has to happen here. I’m taking too many steps in that direction - self-transmogrifying with vigor - to not. By training like a demon, I’ll become one. Horns and scales, a forked tongue and a wicked physique. A salvo of resumes every day, callbacks after promising interviews, air squats, pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, incline push-ups, crunches, planking, four-hour bike rides, interval training on the track, running up stairs, jumping rope, eschewing beer for grain alcohol. This is the hardest part, a full month of gritting through pain and soreness, enduring humiliation at the hands of picky and condescending hiring managers. I’m tearing tissue fiber, ignoring discomfort, investing faith in the hope that under these stubborn layers of tummy and mental fat there is a wall of muscle beginning to form, hardening into a sheer face of solid rock.

If You Hate Gays, You Better Hate Cheeseburgers

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I’m moving in with the first man who ever kissed me.

Apartment-hunting here is a ghastly experience. The realtors are especially sharky, charging a huge cut and human-trafficking you from dump to dump until you give up and sign something, anything. Few details matter in the NYC apartment hunt. I can count a definitive two: Is it cheap? Are there bed bugs? If the answer is yes, followed by no, then it’s a miracle.

Three months ago my current roommate asked me to take a permanent hike on account of he wants his girlfriend to move in. I countered that perhaps he should be the one to leave, maybe join an Alaskan fishing company or take up migrant farming. Alas, my size advantage and intellectual superiority are trumped every time by his lease rights. If ever there was an event that would precipitate me giving up on New York City, this was it. I was fully resigned to going back to Seattle, all beat up and defeated, no throne, no belt of scalps, no trophy to brandish for the locals. Instead we all bought a giant fake fish.

It’s true, we did. The first warm day of spring happened to fall on Donnelly’s birthday, and we were throwing him a party. Sean. Donnelly is the kind of guy who buys all the crap he needs and wants for himself anyway, so if you get him a present, it has to be outside the box, carved out of wood, shaped like a swordfish, and mounted above the fireplace. The trouble with purchasing a gag gift is trying to hide your disdain for the saleswoman who holds sincere feelings of sentimentality and appreciation for the tacky monstrosity in her possession. We were a large pack of 30-something artists, half drunk from brunch, piling $10 bills on the counter and asking, “How much for the tuna?”

This woman’s wounded face betrayed her - she knew the fate of her pet. Nemo or Wanda or whatever this beast’s name was, he wasn’t going to a loving home or a kitschy seafood restaurant where he belonged. He was going to serve his time in hell as a fantastical symbol of glorious hipster irony. Imagine the conversation piece he would become.

“Nice fish.”
“Hey, thanks!”
“Goddamn, you are interesting.“
“Yes, I am.”

The fish party was fantastic. Strange Greek sausages grilled slowly over the coals. Someone passed around a bag of ribs-flavored potato chips. There was beer and margaritas, and salad for no reason, and a man mowing the grass behind the adjacent apartment building. The birthday boy, prescient of the mortality of my residence, turned to me and asked, “Hey man, know why that guy is cutting the lawn? He’s about to rent out the apartment behind all that grass. You should go live there.”

I grabbed Bruner, and we checked it out. It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. Very clean, definitely no bugs, brand-new bathroom and kitchen, lots of lighting, and a sure-as-shit back yard. In a city choked with concrete, we would have our own patch of grass. We could start a garden, co-parent some peonies, install an above-ground plastic kiddie pool, forge a future within the fiery womb of cohabitation.

Bruner is a good dude, fiercely loyal, sensitive and passionate. He’s no coward. Bruner steps up and does the right thing for a friend in need. Two or three months before the fish party, I was having a bad day. Cratering, I trudged to the local watering hole. They call it Sparrow Tavern, but we call it The Bird. I was chasing good beer after bad, exacerbating my mood with liquid depressant. Worse yet, I got the hiccups. Aside from being socially annoying, for me hiccups have the tendency to precede projectile vomit. I needed a cure, ASAP.

The Sparrow bartender is a bit of a witch doctor. An ace mixologist, Mr. Freeland has a tender manner with even the most brutish of customers, and multi-tasking comes as naturally to him as breathing or digestion. “Parky, I have the solution. But it will only work one time, and I can’t give it to you.” I told him the fuck he couldn’t. He shook his head and kept drying the glass in his hand. My hiccups persisted, and so did I.

“Fuck you, Free; fix what ails me, you son of a bitch!” Free’s cold eyes read, “Mentula conatur Pipleium scandere montem, another mortal found my doorbell.” He leaned across the wood top and whispered to Bruner, who laughed. “What is going *hiccup* on?” I shouted. “What are you two *hic* talking about?” Bruner shook his head. Denied. Consensus was taken, and I was left to suffer. I sat in a rage, grinding my teeth, tearing my beverage napkin, hiccuping miserably on my stool, looking for faces to punch, choking back tears and vomit. I was in physical pain; why wouldn’t anybody help me? “Cure me, you assholes!”

“All right, Parky. I’ll cure you.” Bruner downed his whiskey, pushed off from the bar, and stepped brazenly into my personal space. When I opened my mouth to protest he kissed me full on, hard as he could. The old element-of-surprise trick.I tried to pull away, but his hands were clamped around the back of my skull in the unrelenting vice grip of tough love. Resistance was both futile and unnecessary, so I squeezed my eyes shut and took my medicine like an adult. Though his tongue stayed in his own mouth, his beard scraped against mine. The kiss lasted maybe fifteen seconds, but it left a permanent mark. And my hiccups were gone, without a trace, perhaps forever.

It felt something a bit shy of disgusting. Bruner is fairly pretty for a man, but he has facial hair and big hands and he smells like a car fire. There’s not much there that I find sexually relevant, but it didn’t feel especially “wrong” or “evil.” Supposedly this sort of thing is an abomination in the eyes of God, you’d think there’d be a jet of hell fire, or a screaming demon to contend with, at the very least a bouquet of sulphur steaming up from the vents in the floor.

Leviticus 20:13 If a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Bring it, bitch. You are the craziest of 40 dead-guy co-authors of the Bible and the only one getting specific about this, channeling the will of God into a statement of eternal bigotry. Are you sure you heard him right? This is important, it affects the species. If you are right, we’ve got a lot of undoing to get done. First off, it’s gallows for Ellen, Elton, at least one of those Jonas virgins, and we have to make sure the ghost of Dumbledore is in hell. If you are wrong, well, we’ve got a problem, because an awful lot of gay folks and their friends out there would prefer they be treated like human beings with dignity and respect.

We can start by letting them get married. I understand a plurality of North Carolinians don’t think I should marry Mister Bruner. I’m with them, I don’t want to marry him either. Some day I’ll marry a pretty girl with soft skin and weak ankles, but it pisses me off that a bunch of hick voters say that I can’t. I’m so sick of this homophobic group-think shit. What’s the fucking problem exactly? Gay marriage isn’t something that happens to you, it’s something that happens for someone else. It’s entirely avoidable if you don’t want it. “The Bible says it’s bad!” say thousands who never read. Anti-gay references in the Bible are vague and rare, and none fall under the Commandments category: the only clear list of do’s and don’ts in the book.

The trouble with using an ancient text transcribed and translated several dozen times over is that you end up with an even gayer orgy of scrambled-up ideas and irrelevant, contradictory bullshit that doesn’t work for most folks. If we write every passage in Leviticus into law, there would be no bacon cheeseburgers, or cheeseburgers at all for that matter - ain’t kosher - and it would be perfectly acceptable and vigorously encouraged to trade and own human beings. The Bible has a lot of pretty passages about how the Earth came to be, and who begat whom back in the day, and there are a couple “Love thine enemy” passages that ought to be followed by all of us, but as a comprehensive Existence Rulebook, it’s a lousy piece of shit.

What an inglorious mess, all of these registered voters cherry-picking a passage from the Bible as the leveraging agent for their knee-jerk reaction to man-on-man matrimony. It doesn’t make one damn bit of sense. If you hate The Gays, you’d better hate The Cheeseburgers because there’s way more Biblical God-speak about keeping milk off meat than there is about keeping man-meat off man-meat.

Our aggregate decisions matter, despite what the good book says or doesn’t say. In 1883 a perfectly human black dude was trying to play professional baseball - he was a catcher named Moses - and some dingleberry asshole named Cap Anson yelled, “Get that nigger off the field!” and other such crap until we made a national mistake for the next 70 years: boring, uninspired baseball played solely by white people. Can you imagine? Now let’s all sit down, talk to each other like adults, and consider learning from our mistakes before history soon tells us how much of an asshole we were being right now.

So we got the apartment. It’s been a weird week. I got dumped - by a woman - and the weather report calls for warm temperatures with 100% chance of calamitous change. I somehow have to fill half of an apartment. There’s a furniture void; we fall far short of even Spartan-status living. Priority number one is going to be the yard. We need outdoor seats, some kind of flooring to stave off the mud, citronella candles, oil lanterns and a grill. The yard - our garden - shall be the newest iteration of Rome, the capital rotunda at the epicenter of Western thought. This is our olive tree, where we’ll cross our own Rubicon and declare yet another list of mandatory amendments to the Self-Evident Rights of All Mankind. Once we’ve done that and propped up half a dozen tiki torches, then we’ll get around to calling the electric company and throwing down a rug or two.

When I'm Dead Don't Touch My Shit

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My resume reads like the list of ingredients in a pack of cigarettes. Most of the components are toxic or poisonous, many of them are completely unrecognizable, and none seem to go together in any kind of purposeful way. “Acetone, naphtelene, cadmium, ammoniac, and it says here that you studied Classical Civilization at Boston University? Can you explain that choice?” All potential employers can decipher from my resume is that none of it is good. I must have more in common with cigarettes after all, because people keep smoking me anyway. Fortunately I can still get into bars.

I’m trying to help my friend find a job in Los Angeles. In the midst of my own search, he’s sending me his resume. It’s not a burden, but a welcome respite. I could use a break from my own grind: the grueling repetition of scanning Craigslist, composing a cover letter, pasting a resume into the email, scheduling an interview, riding a train to the interview, etc. It’s interminable. And then, after all that drudgery, they have the gall to ask, “When can you start working?”

I would rather work on someone else’s resume than tinker with my own. Hell, I’d rather write my own epitaph.

Here lies Parky

Wingspan 6’2”
“When I’m dead, don’t touch my shit.”

Some people have terrific resumes. It’s like a mouth-watering menu of how impossibly wonderful they are. It details where they went to school, what they studied, and how serendipitously relevant every second of their existence thus far is to the job they are applying for. One can look over their work history and see that they have grown from every position, that their career path curls ever upwards towards a beautiful crescendo of professional determinism. Isn’t life a peach?

I scrawl my resume with a black paintbrush. Something short of pride shadows every line of work history. Yes, I live in the “garden studio” apartment. That means “basement.” Andy the Android still answers to a Seattle phone number. My email is a free Gmail account. I went to an expensive school and earned a worthless degree. I helped John Kerry lose to the worst president in history. I sold zoo memberships, waited tables at a million restaurants and used to manage Farmers Markets. Every stop was the same. Thrilling at first, the new backdrop was stimulating; it was an adventure. Learning the system, memorizing my responsibilities, getting to know the team. That I could always do. It was the maintenance, handling the crushing boredom that comes with being a cog in someone else’s machine. That’s the impossible nightmare. Wrapping a tie around my neck every morning, cinching the knot, shackling myself to my master’s illusion.

I desperately want to write a truthful resume.

400 sq. ft. apartment
Un-hip neighborhood
New York, NY, 11102


BA in Classical Civilization completed with lowest possible GPA


Hard-boiled, travel-weary misanthrope looking to fool employer long enough to be eligible for maximum unemployment benefits.

Relevant Experience

Breakfast Bitch, Uppity Hotel for Millionaires. 2012ish

- Begrudgingly delivered breakfast on a rolling cart for some reason

- Tolerated idiotic supervisor until mortally incapable of doing so 

- Unjustly forced to shave magnificent beard to participate in false illusion

Campaign Fundraiser, Democratic National Committee. 2004
- Raised funds for inferior political minds of John Kerry and the execrable John Edwards
- Failed to terminate the dangerously incompetent presidency of Bush Jr.
- Tried to fuck Director of Street Canvassing

Window Dude, Woodland Park Zoo. 2005
- Lovelessly sold admission to families wishing to observe incarcerated slave-beasts
- Mastered level 50 on free online game Desktop Tower Defense
- Sadly ate lunch whilst staring and empathizing with self-loathing family of Tapirs


Julie Sholt, Ex-girlfriend. Ask her what I did to deserve this.

Marvin Blotchski, Manager, Alcoholic. Call before 4 p.m.

Julio Sanchez, Parole Officer. Help me get him off my back.

Truth-tellers don’t get hired. Not in restaurants, not unless they want to be a suit. No waiter is ever just a waiter. We’re all desperately dreaming of a better life as we refill water glasses and frenetically cocoon silver within linen. I know I do. I pace from kitchen to dining floor to dish pit and back, scribbling ideas on a pad of paper I keep in my back pocket at all times, trying to figure out how to write for a living, how to spit-shine my vitriol just enough to make it marketable. I’m not working with much. Sometimes I think I have ability; sometimes I think I’m just a fantastically eloquent whiner. What I’m working with is shit. Black, viscous shit, albeit nitrogen-rich. The best kind of fertilizer I’ve got, since I’m not yet a corpse.

Apex Predator > Breakfast Bitch

Monday, May 21, 2012

I stalk my prey downwind and uphill, crouched, muscles taut. A real predator is never anxious nor hurried, not even at full sprint. I lay silent in the reeds, waiting for my quarry to err. That’s when I strike. I’m a hunter. Job Hunter.

Craigslist is jungle, and I am panther. Set your own conditions, maintain the high ground, yield nothing, stay silent, tread on roots and mossy spots and keep low to the soil. Know what to click, what to avoid. Think like my prey, learn their movements. This is my true occupation. My resume says “service industry professional,” but I specialize in job acquisition. My next kill will be Number 15 since moving to New York City, bringing the lifetime count to 32. I treat jobs like carcasses, stripping them of hide and meat until it’s time to eat again. The last catch was a big one, akin to a moose or an elk. I was able to feed for over a year, a veritable eternity. I try to use the whole buffalo, but I’m no Apache. If it tastes wrong, I’ll leave it for hungrier dogs.

Beware the open call: a time window of 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. to line up, get interviewed, weighed and measured. That’s not my turf. I’m a bald, white male with a bald, white problem. No way to stand out. Open calls are the realm of gorgeous actresses with flat stomachs. I have an edge in experience, and we all know my cover letter is an elegant, layered masterpiece of near classic literature. It’s the visual that kills me. Broad shoulders and a square jaw lose to fuck-me heels and an artful neckline every time.

If interested, please email cover letter and resume to Paste resume directly into body of document. Emails with attachments will be ignored. Two magic words: Cover Letter. My quiver is full of deadly-accurate self-descriptors, active verbs and relevant examples of my intestinal fortitude and demonstrable excellence. I will be hired. This is not a discussion, there will be no floor debate, we shall bypass the court of appeals and sign this directly into law. I start on Monday, and I need to bring six pens, a pair of black dress pants, shoes that can take a shine and a cash bank of $100. Questions?

I wait. I don’t chase game; they come to me. I possess the luxury of choice. Something with benefits that pays well, is close to the cave, or at least a straight shot on the N. Apex predators don’t change trains. Also, I won’t shave my beard again. It was an act of deference the first time. Utter submission. I kneeled.

Two or three weeks have passed, a welcome break from the insane grind of being everyone’s breakfast bitch. I scan the vista for my mark, spear sharpened, lurking in shadow, verging on a pounce, prescient of this exhausted metaphor and its desperate scramble to survive the paragraph. Ultimately the job hunt is a numbers game. Strategy, tactics, animal instinct; they can help. The routine calls for diligence. Stalk the internet and fling some well-worded crap into the ether. Maybe some will stick and I’ll get a callback.

I’ll have to wait tables; it’s what I do now. I didn’t go to college for it--no one does--but it’s a paper chase and not a bad one. I have to eat so I’ll keep at it, but I soon must look farther afield. Hunt something that hunts back. I long for that old fear. True satisfaction is the product of struggle and conquest. I need bigger game.

Joss Whedon's Seventh Avenger

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We went to see The Avengers on opening day, buying Fandango tickets the morning of and arriving at the theater well ahead of time. I had been looking forward to this for a long time, and I’d be shot in the back before I settled on substandard seating for a film of this scale. I had to see these inimitable heroes on screen. I consider myself one of them.

No, really. The Avengers cast used my former hotel of employ as their official headquarters for the Manhattan film shoot, and I delivered their room service on a daily basis. I was the seventh Avenger, serving coffee, delivering the newspaper, providing a bounding start to the day so the rest of the team could save it. I’m partially full of shit, but they really did stay with us. Chris Evans was nothing like his avatar, eschewing old-school wholesome principles in favor of absurdly expensive alcohol. Likewise, Tom Hiddleston was hardly the blackhearted god of mischief he plays on screen. Friendly, polite and talkative, he was a delight. Every morning for him began with a grotesquely healthy smoothie made from pulverized romaine lettuce and green apples. The only thing disconcerting about him was his inability to answer the door wearing anything more than a towel. Fool me once, Loki, just once. Shame on you.

Then there was Joss Whedon, the real superhero of the team...with real superhero problems. Quiet and solemn, never smiling but not impolite, the director needed coffee the most. I can’t imagine the emotional weight this man carried throughout the production process. The scope and ambition of pulling off The Avengers film is rivaled only in human history by the Three Gorges Dam spanning the Yangtze River. His tasks? Flesh out six hero characters and one villain, pay homage to 72 years of comic-book history, satiate a rabid fan base, establish an interesting and believable conflict, choreograph a large-scale urban-battle sequence and balance half a dozen actors with bloated egos playing half a dozen superheroes with bloated egos. Have at it, Tex.

We got great seats. I bought some Peanut M&M’s and Julie dragooned the cashier into selling her some Twizzlers: “Listen, shithead. Don’t tell me you are out of Twizzlers; there’s a pack left in the display case, now crack it open and give me what I want!” Real heroes.

They exist, you know. Remember this past May Day? Seattle? A hundred idiots, dressed in black hoodies and balaclavas, attacked the downtown American Apparel. Armed with wooden staves, they really did a number on the storefront. These were not heroes. They were a flash mob of unruly cowards, throwing a very public temper tantrum with no discernible motive or message. I don’t know; maybe I don’t get the point of anarchy, or maybe I don’t accept that the point of anarchy is that there is no point. It’s like an episode of Cops where I’d actually root for the cops. If I had still lived there, it would have been tempting to go downtown and crack some heads.

I wasn’t alone. Enter Phoenix Jones, real-life resident superhero of Seattle. You can see him in action on YouTube, wearing a wetsuit and confronting rowdy bar-hoppers with a can of pepper spray. On May Day, when the street rats attacked the mall, Phoenix answered the call no one made. He put on his rubber outfit, grabbed his pepper spray, went downtown and began dispersing dissidents. I think he’s a complete moron, but I kind of wished I was there with him. Man, do I hate street rats. Insane body odor, ungainly backpacks, forehead tattoos, aggressively begging for leftovers, and for no decent reason, they always have a dog. Why? If it is so hard to feed yourself, why do you own a pet? I applaud you, Phoenix. Stand your ground and execute the mission. I’ve got your back, but pepper spray ain’t my style. I’m more of a fungo-bat-and-trash-can-lid kind of a guy, if that’s cool.

They attacked American Apparel? That’s the target of a collective rage? Group-think a little harder next time, dumbasses. American Apparel is arguably lame, sure, but much worse villains remain out there. How about the Koch brothers? Those billionaire Tea-Party founders, the puppeteers who galvanize the crazy half of the crazy party to sabotage health care and humiliate gay people. Go smash up their storefront. I’ll help!

Avengers was awesome. I don’t know how to review films; just trust me, it was fantastic. It was bananas. I’m embarrassed by how much I liked this film, how by the end of it my face actually hurt from smiling for so long. The audience seemed to like it, too. I counted at least a half dozen applause breaks. I keep reading that the movie is shattering box-office records worldwide. It seems like we have a superinfatuation in this country, as well as globally. It’s not slowing down, either. There’s another Batman in the pipe, and another Spiderman. Superman is due for an reboot, and on and on. We have a hero addiction.

Perhaps we crave heroes because the ones we thought we had keep failing. Tiger Woods is a slut, so is Eliot Spitzer. Mark McGwire took steroids. Chris Brown beat the shit out of Rihanna. Paterno, Bellichek and on and on. The dominoes keep falling. John Edwards, the adulterous, two-faced snake-oil salesman, running for president on his “Two Americas” meme, oblivious to the grotesque, duplicitous irony of his own goddamn message, killing his wife who was already dying on her own. Leveraging earnest campaign donations to paper over a damp stain.

It’s such a bummer, this unsubtle trend. Does anyone ever not fly too close to the sun? CNN breaking news: Your wings are made of wax. So what is left? What is the last vestige of heroism? We know what it’s supposed to be, the trope is well traveled. Don’t justify your means with ends, tell the truth, stay humble, rescue damsels, recycle, eat local, be a gentle and empathetic lover, avoid red meat, watch The View, take a vow of poverty. You don’t need a sidekick, or a cave, or a utility belt, or a cape, or Black Widow’s erupting bustline. Just shut the fuck up and “Walk the Line,” quoth my favorite raven, Johnny Cash. Keep your eyes wide open all the time and walk the line, like nobody does. Heroism is merely a vision, unsteady and untenable, a platonic ideal, no more than a dreamscape. It exists only in the theater of the mind, with an infinite running time, all ages, $0 on the widest screen that never existed, played in all four dimensions. Please silence your cell phones.