Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Racing for Happy Hour

We were racing back to the hotel for happy hour. We were on foot. We were lost. We were sweating through our clothes. We were red-faced. We were sunburned. We were tired. Nobody seemed able to provide good directions. Nobody could straighten us out. Nobody could help. Happy hour was now almost halfway over. I looked up into the sky, and determined which way was north by the position of the sun as it related to the time of day. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Don’t forget it. We re-oriented ourselves on the city map and took off. We made it. We crashed through the door, red-faced, sweaty, exhausted, irritable, and thirsty. Five minutes left for free drinks. The only free booze left was red wine, some shitty beers, and champagne. Nothing I’d really want, but I drank as much as I could as quickly as I could, because I’d earned it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ben’s Chili Bowl

Ben’s Chili Bowl is supposed to be one of the very best places to eat in DC. We took a train to “U” street, found the place very easily, and walked in. It was immediately apparent that we were the only white people in the whole place. There was a sign hanging on one of the heated chili pots that read, “Bill Cosby is the only man who eats here free.” I chuckled. The guy taking our order looked at me quizzically. I said, “I’m Bill Cosby.” He laughed. The chili was incredible. It was, without a doubt, the best chili I’d ever had on fries or a hot dog. Even better than the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe back home. Seriously. The jukebox was also awesome. Sugar Hill Gang, Parliament, Kool Moe Dee, and James Brown all played during our meal. I was really in the mood to hear some John Lee Hooker. Certain as I was that there would be some on the jukebox, I refrained from going up and putting some on. If anybody in there had disapproved, I would have been devastated.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dead Gnats

The hotel bar was poorly stocked. They didn’t have much, only the big obvious liquors and a few different beers. There was a daily champagne toast from 5pm to 6pm, with all-you-can-drink free champagne. I hate champagne, but I’m also a sucker for free things. We arrived late and each put down three glasses, fast. Then I bought an overpriced double of Maker’s Mark on the rocks. My wife got a mixed drink. We sat in the lounge. It was hot. Cooler in the lounge than it was outside, but still warm. The constant traffic into and out of the lounge made it difficult for the air conditioning to be effective. We periodically had to swat gnats. About 5/8 of the way through my glass, I noticed something at the bottom of it. I looked closer. Dead gnats. I guess they had been landing in my bourbon for a drink and had subsequently died. There were about five of them at the bottom of the glass. Initially I was half-heartedly angry. Then, lacking the energy to sustain any type of real anger, I just finished it anyway.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Captain Beefheart as a Homeless Woman

We were about to catch a bus. From about 30 feet out, we could see a cop stopped at the bus stop, prodding somebody. It was a homeless woman sleeping on the bench. She had two milk crates, which he confiscated. That was awfully nice of him. Way to serve and protect! He liberated the milk crates and woke somebody up! After she sat up, he drove off. We stood at the bus stop and waited for the bus, paying her no mind. As she slowly found her way to consciousness, she started spewing insane poetry, just like Captain Beefheart. She even kind of had his voice. This is what she said:

“My body controls this world! We’re all just looking for our pussies.”

“Hey big boy, wanna give me a try?” (This while apparently trying to solicit a boy who couldn’t have been more than 13 years old.)

“I don’t want you either, Michigan Secretary of State!”

And my two personal favorites, both aimed at my wife:

“Take it up with fucking Jennifer from 90210!”

“Fuck the tall whore with the long brown hair! Fuck that skinny bitch in the purple sunglasses! Look at her boyfriend! Isn’t he a physical specimen? He can put his dick right up her broad-backed ass.”

All of this came out over the course of about five, maybe ten minutes. Each sentence was spoken individually, with wild, angry gestures, and followed by a short pause. Then there would be another. Once the bus showed up, we got on, and a black woman got on with us. She was laughing, and said to my wife, “I wouldn’t have stood for that, honey! I would have told her to shut her damn mouth!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Chophouse

The Chophouse is a brew pub. My wife and I love beer. We stopped in and sat at the bar. They had a stout beer brewed in old whiskey barrels, which are made from oak. There were other styles of beer on hand as well, but I wondered why. The Russian Imperial Stout is clearly the greatest style of beer there is. Period. Once it had occurred to people that a Russian Imperial Stout could be made more potent by brewing it in oak barrels, giving it a bourbon-like flavor, why did they waste their time and resources brewing anything less? If Slayer were a beer, they’d be a Russian Imperial Stout brewed in oak barrels. Anything weaker is kind of pointless. The Chophouse’s Bourbon Stout was good. Not the best I’d ever had, but good. It was a little thin, just not quite as dense as it should have been. No fatal flaws, though. It was cask-conditioned, so it was room temperature. My wife got a nut brown ale. It wasn’t bad either, but it wasn’t Slayer in a glass. There was nobody else at the bar, so we started talking to the bartender. People in DC must not talk to their bartenders, because he seemed a little unnerved by it. He warmed up though. We made idle chit-chat for about 20 minutes and left.

Friday, March 26, 2010

National Art Museum

We took a look around the National Art Museum in Washington, DC. It was wonderful to see my tax dollars doing something so awesome. It was great to see my tax dollars not invading and occupying another country or jacking them for oil. The museum is split into East and West wings. They look entirely separate above ground, but they’re connected by a tunnel underground. They share a bookstore, also underground. After we finished up the first wing, we hit the bookstore, and I spent some time rooting around, looking for awesome, overpriced art books. There was an incredible book featuring some of Anselm Kiefer’s work. He’s one of my very favorite artists. I flipped through the book a few times, thought about buying it, and put it back. I was sure I could order it online for less money. I started to walk off. Then a beautiful young girl, probably in her early 20s and fresh out of art school, walked over to the books and picked one up, right where I had been standing. I stayed in the store, fiddling with some inane souvenir coffee cups so that I could get a better look at her. She stood about 5’ 10,” lean. Her hair was straight and brown, and pulled up in a bun, peaking out from underneath her faux-military hat. She wore glasses and had perfect skin. I looked at her looking at a book, and wondered which one she had picked up. I wondered what the voice of a girl who looks like that’s would sound like. I thought she might be British. Christ, if she had been British, I would have clubbed her over the head with an oversized art book, slung her over my shoulder, and run for the door. I got a little closer to her and saw that it was an Edward Hopper book that she was thumbing through. I winced. It hurt. Fuck Edward Hopper. His work is corny, dreamy, idyllic, Americana bullshit. It’s art for calendars. You couldn’t make me care about Edward Hopper at gunpoint. I had really hoped that she’d been looking at the Anselm Kiefer book. I would have wept if she had a British accent and it had been the Kiefer book, but such was not the case. My attraction to her relented, and I felt a sort of pity. I felt like I should help her out, illuminate her folly, and explain why Anselm Kiefer is so far superior to Edward Hopper that it’s ridiculous that they should be featured on the same shelf. I didn’t, though. My wife found me and told me that we’d need to get moving if we were still going to make it to happy hour. We took off down the people mover.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dirt Bowl

Everything was filthy. The festival was in a giant dirt bowl. It was 95 degrees Fahrenheit and humid. There was a hot wind blowing. Everything was dirty and dusty. It had been a long day. There had been an art opening the night before for some of my new work, and I had gotten drunk. Then we had woken up at 6am to drive here. We’d been at the festival since noon. I wasn’t complaining. It’d been fun. It’d been good. During the evening, about 7pm, Interpol was playing. They were good. They sounded exactly like Joy Division, and they were nearly headlining this huge festival. Joy Division never could have played this festival. Interpol’s good though. There’s nothing wrong with resembling your influences. It’s not like Joy Division are around anymore, anyway. And you can’t blame Interpol for having fans. They make good music. There’s nothing wrong with that. As they started playing, the sun was descending. Right on queue, it started raining. The effect was beautiful and improved the experience further. The world cooled, and the dust in the air was weighed down by the moisture. I wasn't drunk. I hadn’t had a drink. There was a group of people in front of us who had clearly had more than a few. They looked like they were in their late 20s, all trashed, and seemingly dancing to music with a totally different beat than the music that I was hearing. Their group was comprised of three girls and one guy. All of the girls looked good, but one looked especially good. The guy looked like he could really fuck you up. He was about 5’ 10, and probably 240lbs. Frat boy attire. He didn’t look especially aggressive, just like he lifted substantially heavier than me. Regardless, it seemed like he was an extremely friendly drunk. I could identify with that. He was waving around a camera. Each time he got all three of the girls together to take a crooked, pseudo-suggestive picture with him, he double hi-fived everybody around him. They must have taken no less than a hundred pictures during the band’s set. We stood far enough back that we were left alone. He primarily danced with two of the three girls. The exceptionally beautiful one rarely interacted with him. She mostly kept to herself, and was clearly in better sync with the beat than her friends. She was tall and lean, blond, blue-eyed, and had a Cheshire cat smile. She was wearing very short running shorts and a spaghetti strap tank top, barefoot. Apparently she had known it would be a dusty, dirty event, and thus hadn’t dressed up. She was a gorgeous thing to watch. Her dancing and the rain both enhanced the experience.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


We rode the subway to the bus station, and took the bus out to Pimlico, home of the Preakness. I don’t even know what the Preakness is, and I’m pretty sure I don’t care. I only know that it has something to do with horseracing. It made me think of Charles Bukowski. I liked to think that it made me more like him, but I’m sure it didn’t. We weren’t going to see horseracing anyway. We were going to a music festival. The track housing the festival is surrounded by what appears to be a pretty rough neighborhood. The tickets to this show were $100 a piece, for just one day. They were $180 for both days. We got the one-day tickets for the second day. It seems safe to assume that everybody attending the festival is relatively affluent. If you’ve got $100 or $180 to blow on a festival, you're clearly not strapped for rent money. Most of the people on the bus were headed to the festival, and thus most of those people were white. In the back of the bus there was a group of three frat boys who were extraordinarily loud. They thought that they were hilarious. They weren't. They were just loud. They were obnoxious, laughing white asses on a bus riding through a ghetto, on their way to an expensive day of leisure. When the bus stopped and we got out, it became apparent that we’d need to walk about a half-mile around the perimeter of the race track to gain entrance to the festival. The frat boys left the bus immediately behind me, and become strangely silent and well-behaved as we all proceeded down the sidewalk. It was fucking glorious. I wanted to turn around and applaud. Nothing shuts up privileged, self-absorbed, obnoxious, Caucasian, suburbanite frat boys like a walk through an all-black housing project.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sleepwalking Night Terror

Occasionally I have night terrors. Normally, about once or twice a week I’ll wake up yelling. My wife is very used to it and rarely even notices now. As a child I used to have trouble with sleepwalking, but it has been years since that was a problem. Last night, however, I had an episode of both. I remembered nothing of the event until I woke up. According to her account, this is what happened: I shouted out her name, and said, “Holy shit! Look at it!” while pointing up at her dresser. This woke her up. She looked and didn’t see anything, so she asked, “What?” I responded by jumping out of the bed and crawling around it like nature show host tracking a wild animal, and again pointed up at the dresser, shouting, “Up there!” At this point she came to the conclusion that I was still asleep, and dreaming. So she instructed me to turn on the lights. I reached up to the spinning ceiling fan, pulled the chain that turns on the lights, blinded myself, and woke up in a fog, kneeling at the foot of the bed. It was utterly disorienting and fucking terrifying. I didn’t remember any of the dream. I had to walk around a bit in our room with the lights on to get my head around what had happened. My sleep was terrible for the next hour, as I kept falling back asleep into nightmares and waking up panicked. Eventually I fell asleep, and the rest of the night was uneventful.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I Made It!

In the past year my wife has begun making crafts. They’re very cool, punk/DIY crafts. Her sewing machine has given her a new lease on life. She takes apart and reconstructs rock t-shirts. She makes purses, bags, patches, and all sorts of playful accessories. It’s all fun stuff. I’ve built her a website, and she’s joined a local craft group of like-minded younger women. They’re all pretty great people. She sells her work online and at craft fairs with the rest of them.

Yesterday she participated in a craft fair in Braddock. It was called “I Made It!” I had never previously been to Braddock, but I knew generally where it was and that it was a broken-down steel town. No shortage of those in western Pennsylvania. It’s kind of in the city of Pittsburgh, right on the edge of it. The craft fair was on a Saturday. My wife had to be there somewhat early, and I didn’t want to skip my Saturday morning leg workout. On Saturday mornings I do heavy squats. Then I come home from the gym, shower, and I’m ready for the day. Normally we go get lunch together once I’m ready, but since she was going to be at the craft fair already, I’d have to get my own lunch. No problem. We had determined that she’d go early and set up. Then I’d show up as soon as I could after my workout. Everything went as planned. I hit the gym, came home to an empty house, had a protein shake, showered, and left. Finding new places with Internet directions makes me nervous. So I decided that I wouldn’t eat lunch until after I had found the place. I’d drop my things at my wife’s booth, then strike off to find food. My expectations were low. I would have been content with McDonald’s. I left the house. The directions weren’t clear or especially accurate, and I got somewhat lost, but found the place without incident. No real problems. However, as I entered Braddock it was immediately apparent that Braddock was broken-the-fuck-down. I didn’t see so much as one fast food place on my way in. I parked and went in to see my wife. She was sitting happily at her booth. She looked wonderful, and was talking with the girls sitting in the adjoining booth. I plopped my stuff down and was introduced to them. They were all very cute, young, and nice. I quickly surveyed the room and asked my wife if there was any food to be had in the place. She said, “Cupcakes.” A few of the booths featured gourmet cupcakes. They looked wonderful, but not really like what your body needs after a crippling squat session. It was about 2pm and I really hadn’t eaten anything at all that day, other than a protein shake and a granola bar. One of the nice young girls from the adjoining booth said the vegan food booth had some sort of chili that looked and smelled very good. I’ve had some very good vegan food in my time. I don’t judge. I’m willing to give tofu chili a shot. The prospect of driving around Braddock looking for a McDonald’s, Burger King, Arby’s or Taco Bell didn’t really appeal to me. Homemade vegan chili didn’t sound too bad. Certainly it would be healthier than the cheap, greasy fast food that I would likely eat otherwise. I found the booth without difficulty. The line wasn’t long. It was being run by a tall, very skinny white girl with a nose ring and dreadlocks down to her waist. If Perry Farrell had been born a woman, this would have been her. These sorts of people don’t always respond well to me. I’m 6’ 2” tall, 210 lbs, kind of muscular, and have long hair. I look almost like a studio wrestler, but not quite big enough. Compound that with the fact that I normally dress in mostly black, in this case a Napalm Death t-shirt, and a crusty pair of ten-year-old Dr. Marten’s boots, and I really don’t look like a fan of vegan chili. I look like I should be eating raw meat and jacking off to snuff films. So I approached the hippie as gently, apologetically, and non-threateningly as possible, smiled and said, “I hear you’ve got some ferocious chili,” while eying up the Crockpot of what looked to be chili. She replied, “Oh yes, but it’s not warm yet. I just plugged it in. It’ll probably take a little while. Are you hungry now?” I replied, “Yes, quite.” You can always count on hippies to run a tight ship and fire on all cylinders. “Way to execute!” I could feel my blood sugar dropping by the second as my stomach growled, and I thought to myself that even if the chili was ready, I could easily kill the entire crock of it by myself and would likely still be hungry after I was done with it. Beyond that, I didn’t want to look like an asshole by buying all of it. She cheerfully offered, “Here! We’ve got some breadsticks and some marinara dipping sauce. You get one breadstick and one little Dixie cup of chunky marinara for a dollar.” God bless her ethical little heart. I responded, “Sold. I’ll take two.” In that moment I decided that I’d have to go food hunting. I didn’t want to just fill up on bread. A breadstick would be adequate to stave off the fainting that I knew was imminent. I gave my wife a breadstick and cup of sauce. I ate mine in a moment. It was very good. The bread was somewhat dry and stale, but the sauce was incredible, some of the best I’ve ever had. I ate everything but the cup, and asked my wife if she wanted me to bring her anything. She said she wasn’t hungry. I said, “All right, wish me luck.” I got back into my car and began driving around, hunting for something dead and cooked that I could eat. Braddock is not very big, and it didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that there wasn’t any fast food to be found there. I stopped in the only open store I could find, a flower shop, and hurriedly explained my plight (sans the part about the vegan hippie and her cold chili) to the frightened-looking women running the place. Based on the looks they were giving me, my composure must have been waning. The one who must have been their leader explained that there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken at the top of the hill. She gave me some brief and concise instructions. “Magnificent! Thank you so much!” I exclaimed and left their store with renewed vigor and conviction. Her directions were accurate, and at the top of the hill I saw a KFC. As I crested the top of the hill, the clouds parted, angels descended from the sky with horns and harps and the sung to me, my eyes filled with water, and I began to believe in god. Just beyond the KFC, I could see an impoverished, run-down little shopping plaza. I began to entertain the notion of trying for something a little better. I’m not a terribly big fan of KFC. It’s good, but not really the most portable food in the world. I drove past it into the shopping plaza and began looking for other eateries. A Chinese place! Jackpot! Quick, cheap, good, and big! I parked, ran in, and ordered a Kung Pao chicken lunch to go, while suppressing my desire to embrace the little Asian woman at the counter. My food was prepared with clockwork precision and speed. I was out of there and back into my car in minutes. After parking the car, walking back into the fair, sitting down at my wife’s booth, and explaining why it took me so fucking long to find food, I ate. It was incredible. It was probably almost 3:30, though I didn’t bother to check my watch to see what time it actually was when I finally got to eat. At that moment, it occurred to me that it would be fun to walk over to the vegan chili booth, exclaim in my best death metal growl, “I eat suffering!” and then sit down and eat my chicken in front of the vegan hippie and her fucking Crockpot of cold ethical chili. My manners and sense of restraint won out, though, and I just sat back and ate behind my wife’s booth. Then I got a cupcake and quietly read The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Means – Part Two

Working makes me not want to buy anything. It seems like many people reward themselves for their hard work by spending money that they don’t have. They must enjoy fertilizing their debt, their obligation to the grind. Work doesn’t make me want to own showy, expensive things. It makes me not want to work anymore. It makes me want to try to live on crackers and peanut butter. Since I have to be a part of the American economy and lose giant chunks of my life to it, I want to rape it back for as much as I can, with an unlubricated broomstick and some sand. I want to be a miser. I try not to contribute to it by spending. It gets in the way of what I want to do with my time. This is not to say that I’m not materialistic. I’m not above wanting. I buy books, music, and alcohol like it’s cool to be a hermetic, misanthropic, alcoholic geek. You won’t catch me buying expensive clothes, cars, or lavish accessories for the house, though, not at gunpoint. Time is wealth, and nobody has an excess of that.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Means – Part One

The checks keep cashing. So I keep showing up. This is my factory job. This is my assembly line. It’s work. It’s supposed to be shitty. That’s why they pay you to be there. If they didn’t have to pay you, they wouldn’t. It’s not like you show up because you like what you do for a living and they pay you because they’re nice. While I’m at work, I write code: HTML, CSS, XML, XSLT, some JavaScript, some ActionScript, and occasionally ASP. I would clean toilets, too, if they wanted to pay me my salary for that. I’d be no less satisfied at the end of the work day. I don’t care. I don’t take pride in what I do for a living. Make no mistake, I get paid to do my best, so I do my best. I’m good at what I do, and I don’t believe in fucking up. But I don’t live for, or through, my job. If I never coded another web page, animated another banner ad, or built another flash application or website, my life would lose no depth, meaning, or fullness. It’s a paycheck. You can take my code and print it out, shove it up your ass, light it on fire, or post it to the web. I don’t care what happens to it, as long as I get paid. I live for my wife, my friends, my art, the weights, literature, music, good food, and good life experiences. I regret that I don’t love or even like what I do for money, but I don’t think that many people do. People are, by and large, full of shit. People do a lot of pseudo-moral posturing to justify their own situations and allegiance to their enslavement.

I’ve been laid off twice. While I collected unemployment checks, I felt like a degenerate parasite. I felt like it was dirty money, and I was doing something wrong by accepting it. For those months I felt like other people around me knew I didn’t work and were constantly scrutinizing and judging me for spending free money. Work felt dignified. Work made me feel entitled to my money and self-esteem, like I'd earned it. Work felt righteous. A few more years of working have cured me of that sentiment. Now it just makes me feel loss. It’s time taken away from me that I’ll never get back. It’s time misspent. Every Friday, I mourn the loss of another week of my life that I can never reclaim. It’s slow, incremental murder that I hold like a grudge against my employers. Working doesn’t make you more or less entitled to anything. It’s just something that most of us have to do. Most of us have to do our own laundry. If you don’t have to do your own laundry, and somebody else does it for you, your clothes get no less clean in the process. I don’t think that anybody enjoys doing laundry, or would fault you for dodging the task if you have the means. That’s all it is. Don’t be ashamed of what you have.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stray Dog

Like a stray dog, I don’t belong anywhere except where I don’t belong. I’m always out of context, like a car out of gas. My lot is to wander. I can never be lost. I can never be found. I’m always out of place. If you feed me once, I will come back a hundred times. I’ll sleep on your back porch.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


My art is made with lots of fire. Though the work looks like it was consumed by flames as a part of its construction, its burnt look is actually produced by a long, tedious, controlled burn. I use a plumber’s torch with a little propane tank. One of my very favorite things to do is to spend a Sunday afternoon torching a painting while listening to the Pogues and drinking black coffee in my garage. In the fall or winter, it is the definition of bliss, almost as good as fucking. The air is crisp and smells wonderful. The heat of the torch warms you up nicely if you’re chilly. In July, it’s still good, but not quite as good. Scalding hot coffee and a handheld torch aren’t quite as magical in July’s oppressive, humid heat. In my more ridiculous moments, I like to think that the discomfort and sweat might actually make the work mean more. Then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Since buying a dog, I’ve begun reading the obituaries. It’s not because I’m interested in them, but because my dog needs to poop on newspapers. Often that means pooping on the obituary section. I feel badly about it. Sometimes my dog shits on pictures of somebody’s dead grandma or grandpa. I’m not sure if that makes me an asshole. I’m certainly responsible for it. Putting the obituaries down is my deliberate decision, but I don’t want my dog shitting on the carpet. She’s not yet sufficiently trained to only go outside, and there’s not always enough of a sports section to spare the obituaries.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dog Turd

I just had her outside, and she had gone. I guess she was saving this one for inside, though. It’s cold outside, and very difficult to get her to shit out there. It’s hard to blame her. She went on the paper like she’s supposed to. I guess that’s alright. It’s the next best spot. That’s why the newspaper is down there. Now there’s a lonely little dog turd on the floor. It’s just one tiny little Chihuahua turd, about half as big as one of my fingers. The whole room smells like shit though. You can’t clean that up quick enough. The stink is immediate and powerful. Even after the offending item is removed, the stink lingers like a ghost.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Electric Blue

In the white-hot, late afternoon heat, I was stuck in traffic, on the ramp merging from the 10th street bypass onto the Fort Pitt Bridge. I was sweating through my t-shirt with the window down. I could have closed it and turned on the AC, but then I wouldn’t be able to smell all the exhaust that I enjoy so much. We all have priorities. Moving smoothly and without obstruction in the oncoming lane was an electric blue, late '80s Corvette with a T-top. A bald man with a very fat face was driving it. He was wearing a white polo shirt and talking on a cell phone. At the merge point, the homeless guy who’s there every day was there again, with the same sign, same change cup, and same clothes. There was nothing remarkable about that. What was remarkable was that his outfit was comprised of long jeans and a hooded sweatshirt with the hood up, a beard creeping out and down the front of his shirt. I understood the jeans. I don’t suppose the homeless often have the resources to switch to shorts for the summer. But the hooded sweatshirt seemed excessive, especially with the hood up. Certainly he could take that off in favor of a simple t-shirt. The one I wore to the office today came in a three-pack for $10.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Morning Television

It’s not often that my wife and I are both up and moving at the same time in the morning. My wife isn’t headed to work at her usual time this morning, though. So she’s watching TV in the kitchen while I’m trying to check my email and head out the door. It’s deafening. She always has the volume up like that. I can’t help but hear it. It’s some inane network morning talk-show/news-show kind of junk. There is nothing valuable or intelligent to learn from it, but they “report” on dumb contemporary cultural issues, as if those matter to anybody. My wife loves this shit. She sits at the kitchen table, eats Frosted Mini-Wheats, drinks instant coffee, watches the talking heads and laughs. Sun comes in the window. The dog runs in circles around her feet. They both wag their tails blissfully. She doesn’t take it seriously, which is a relief. She just likes to laugh at it. I can understand, though I don’t think it’s funny at all. I think my IQ drops every second that I’m around it. This morning’s urgent, breaking expose is about office relationships. The “journalist” or “anchor-person” or “personality” or whatever was talking seriously and with conviction about the insanity of people who have office relationships, as if they were raping the elderly, butchering homeless children, or selling their body parts to buy crack. She talked about professionalism, like that’s a worthwhile value. I think professionalism is how wars get started. Professionalism doesn’t mean you’re a Nazi, just a good German. At least my wife is laughing at this shit, but it’s pissing me off that I have to endure it. I think any sort of personal relationship you could possibly have should come before your work. Unless you’re saving lives at your job, what you do for a living probably is not that enriching or important. Your job should probably take a backseat to anything that can possibly enrich your life and make you a more interesting, developed, happy, balanced person.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dropping Weight

My weight fluctuates a little from the warmer months to the colder ones. Normally, in the winter I’m around 215. In the summer I’m normally down around 205. On my 6’ 2” frame, it doesn’t really make much difference. I lift year-round, but additionally run during the spring and summer. I also try to eat a bit more carefully when it’s warmer, as well. It’s to these things that I generally attribute the modest weight loss. Though normally, during the spring thaw, I get some sort of terrible flu, fever, cold, or other miscellaneous illness which results in an involuntary fast. This is generally very helpful in getting the ball rolling. A good illness is always good for those first three or four pounds of weight loss. Strangely, this year I didn’t get sick. All summer, my weight stuck around 212. Dieting and running didn’t matter. I attribute it to my lack of illness. Now it’s October, and I’ve quit running for the year. My want for the Blond has stressed me out, and taken my appetite, and I’ve lost eight pounds. At the gym this morning, I was 204. Still dropping, I hope. It’s amazing how a good fever can help trim you down, even if it comes a few months late, and even if it’s psychological rather than physical in nature.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Taking Her to Lunch

Taking her to lunch excites me. Hey, I’m not proud. I’ll take what I can get. She asks me if I want to ask any other co-worker friends to come along. I don’t, but I don’t want to seem weird. So I ask them, all good friends whom I like a lot, hoping they won’t accept the invite. When they decline, I feel like I’ve won something. I like the fact that other people in the restaurant likely look at us and think we’re a couple. I just try to hold on to that and savor it. Lunch alone with her on a Friday afternoon, a beautiful Friday afternoon. She always puts on sunglasses, though her blue eyes look so much better unadorned. Christ, she’s beautiful. The radiance of the shining afternoon sky is improved by her standing in front of it. She’s such a funny girl, the Blond. So guarded, and yet so interested in any sort of details she can get out of me. Dirty things I’ve done. Other women I’ve been with. What they’ve been like. The arrangement I have with my wife. Each time we have one of these conversations, I think I’m wearing her defenses down. I feel like I’m getting a little closer to defeating her “no married men” rule. Probably not a bad rule to have, but rules are fun to break. That’s what life’s about. The joy of indiscretion is one of the greatest that life has to offer. We are absolute opposites. Not a lot of overlap at all. I think that’s what is so intriguing. That’s why I’m so interested. She’s exactly the type of woman who looks like she’d never want to degrade herself by talking to anyone like me. She’s an athlete, and from what I understand, has historically dated athletes. She likes clean-cut men who enjoy playing and watching sports. She likes career-oriented, ambitious, well-dressed men who appreciate fine automobiles. The men she admires are most likely the sort who mocked me, intimidated me, and called me a fag back in high school. The irony is that, at 29, I’m in better shape now than many of them. Regardless, her taste in just about everything is absolutely opposite my own. I just don’t understand what she likes about me. Though I’m not sure if she’s attracted to me, she must certainly like my company. She’s always very willing to spend time with me. The puzzlement is exciting. If I ever got her, it would feel like a victory over everything I’ve struggled against up to this point in my life. That’s not to say that I’m pursuing her out of spite, or that she’s in any way “better” than other women that have been in my life. It’s that she’s so incompatible with me. It’s that I’m excited at the prospect of attaining something I wasn’t meant to have. There’s all that…and her perfectly shaped ass. I like walking behind her and watching that tail wag. Her weight shifts from leg to leg, and her hips sway to accommodate, each cheek taking turns showing off. Tuesday we had lunch at Sunseri’s, upstairs. She went up the stairs first, and I followed close behind her behind.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Weirdness is a fantastic thing. Often people dodge it, like a pile of dogshit or pool of vomit on the sidewalk. Weirdness is regarded as an undesirable byproduct of something better. That’s a mistake. Without detracting from the value of the event that produced the weirdness, the weirdness itself is a magnificent thing that helps everybody get to the point. Weirdness is a spotlight aimed at something you would have never otherwise seen. It illuminates the point. It’s a helpful thing. Seek it out. Embrace it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alcohol Bringing People Together

We all got loaded. That part wasn’t my fault. Everybody planned on that. My wife. A friend of mine. The Blond. Me. However, I was supposed to be taking it easy, as I was the driver. It couldn’t have surprised anybody that I failed to achieve that objective, though. The first part of the evening was a beer festival at Construction Junction. We parked about a mile away from it, with the intent of giving me time to get my head back on the return walk to the car. The approach was a little quiet, but the festival was wonderful. Everybody loosened up pretty quickly. Beer is good that way. I saw a saint there, Sue. College art professor, brilliant woman, she taught me how to paint. She helped me find my voice with paint. I hugged her. We talked briefly. It was good for my heart. I kept drinking. I saw a girl from work and her boyfriend. We all talked. We moved on. I was still pretty sober and didn’t say anything stupid. After about an hour and a half, everybody was hitting the bathrooms in intervals. I was left standing alone with the Blond, talking with her. That’s exactly what I wanted. My heart was going to break through my ribs. We talked about very personal things. It felt good. Her character is so inviting. She disarms me in an instant. I’m a shitty liar to begin with, but around her I can’t help but gush. Everything pours out of me. Then another girl from work showed up. She jumped up to hug me. I hugged her back, and in a moment of unprecedented lack of restraint, kissed her on the neck. She took it well, played it off like nothing happened. Her husband was talking with other people, about 20 feet away. Eventually he came over, and she introduced us. It was awkward. I felt terrible, but said nothing about it. We all talked more, and took off. I hurried everybody out the door and away from my embarrassing indiscretion. I told them about what I had just done, and everybody laughed without restraint. We moved quickly through the dark, down the sidewalk, laughing, lighting up the night. The Blond and my wife disappeared between two houses to piss. They ran and giggled like children at play. My friend had lots of questions about the arrangement that my wife and I seem to have. It was news to him, and he just couldn’t get his head around it. He didn’t understand how my wife and I allowed each other to have sex with other people. He didn’t understand how nobody would get jealous, or why were even married at all if we wanted to be promiscuous. He fired his baffled questions with confusion and subtle, restrained frustration. My wife and I did our best to explain. I think we failed. We weren’t bothered. I drove us across town to the Lava Lounge. All of our bartender friends were there. I saw Greg immediately, and hugged him. We all got a booth, and started drinking more. Katie was at the bar, just as beautiful as ever. The Blond glowed red in the bar lights. She’s always beautiful, but special lighting amplifies that to great effect. It was a new context for me to see her in. I sat in the far corner of the booth. My wife sat beside me, to my left. My friend was directly across from me. The Blond sat beside him, and across from my wife. Greg floated around between the bar and the booth and sat where he could. He was on fire, in rare form. Mischievous. Free shots. He wanted me to get into a fight. Then my friend wanted us to start some sort of game where we punch the person to our immediate right in the face. Fortunately, nobody followed through. Though he really seemed into it, and wanted me to punch him. He was starting to lose it. I take responsibility for the whole thing. I took every chance I could to get close to the Blond whenever I could. I’d send him off with my wife. Nothing was meant to come of it, and nothing ever did come of it, but the Blond was his date, and I probably got a little too touchy with her for his taste. My fault. It was nice, but my fault. The tension must have been upsetting him. As everybody was getting ready to leave, apparently my wife tried to kiss him. I didn’t see the event, and my wife was blackout drunk, so she has no recollection of it. I’ve only heard of it secondhand. I was already outside. He took my wife aside, and asked her what was going on. She did her best to level with him. We generally like to have all of the cards on the table as our modus operandi. I know my wife was generally indifferent. She would have done it, but she wasn’t as invested in it as me. I can tell when she’s into a man, and when she’s just helping to get me laid. She can be a hell of a wingman. He calmly emphasized that he couldn’t be sexually involved with her. Fair enough. It ended there. I stood outside in the cool air with the Blond while that conversation was happening, and gave her one last hug. She went back in to get my friend and my wife, who were just resolving the aforementioned conversation. They emerged from the bar. It seemed like everybody was spinning in disparate confusion. There was anger and hurt feelings, and I was oblivious to it all. I had no idea. Nobody had any clarity left anyhow. I drove the Blond and my friend down to the “T” station, where they took a train back to his place. I drove my wife and myself home. Once we got to the bedroom, we still had enough left to go at it for one good round. Then we passed out until morning.

The next day was filled with awkward correspondence, and they both blamed everything on my wife. Nothing on me. Bizarre. No matter how I tried to request blame, it wasn’t given to me. Both in the moment and in retrospect, it seemed to me that everybody was having fun and fueling the tone of the evening. My wife still has no recollection of the event, though she doesn’t deny that it was possible that she tried to kiss him. She probably did, and that absolutely entitles the Blond to be angry with her. There’s no doubt about that. My wife is still apologizing for it. It seems odd to me, though, that my friend could be so sore. He was furious. A pretty woman tried to kiss him, and he was furious. It must have been traumatic for him. For all we know, it could have been a peck on the cheek. It could have been full on the mouth. I don’t know. My wife doesn’t know. I’m pretty sure the Blond didn’t see it, so she doesn’t likely know, either. The only information anybody has comes from the victim of said kiss, my friend, and he’s been absolutely shaken to the core by it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


She moves like a symphony, everything in accord. Every aspect of her is in consonance. She’s the product of deliberate, skillful, practiced, logical decisions. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to see her dance, but the way she walks is like a dance. Close enough for me. I’ll take what I can get, and it seems like lots of looking is about all I can have. We’re friends, and we talk frequently. She’s calm, analytical and disarming. I’m conflicted, emotional, and angst-ridden.

Monday, March 8, 2010


She’s like a boxer playing lots of defense. She’s got no interest in throwing punches. She just doesn’t want to get hit. She doesn’t want to “get burned.” Like I could burn anybody? I’m about as flammable as a wet blanket. I’m the opposite of getting burned. And besides, what kind of way is that to live your life? If you’re not hanging your heart out there in its entirety, what good are you doing anybody? A heart is an incredibly delicate thing. It’s tempting to close it up tight in self-defense. When you hold back, though, you compromise the quality of the person you present to the world. In eliminating the potential for injury, you also eliminate the potential for joyous embrace. I don’t always succeed in living up to my own ideals, but I do my best. I’d rather eat a jab, and land a devastating uppercut, than dance around the point.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

All Out There

I put it all out there. I spilled everything like a wash basin full of used laundry water. It flowed in a torrent around her ankles and covered her feet. Nothing was held back. I was as exposed, guilty, and as vulnerable as I can be. Complete, hopeless honesty is one of my traits, for better or worse. Instinctively, I recoiled, waiting for her reaction. I really had no idea what it would be. Disgust? Anger? Repulsion? Pity? I knew that I could take any hit that she could deliver. It wouldn’t kill me, but it would likely hurt. That’s the best reason to fear women: because they can hurt you in ways that you can’t imagine. They really do hold all of the cards. Regardless of what was coming, I felt relieved for having said what I needed to say. It was out of me now, though perhaps inconsiderately, as I had just burdened her with it. Now she had to say something. She played it well, like a friend. I still wasn’t getting what I wanted, but the door wasn’t closed. The potential still existed, and in all things, you haven’t lost until you quit trying.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Stepping Away

I stepped away from it deliberately, and it stung. I’ve got a big, stupid, sticky heart that gets attached stupidly and too easily. It’s a personality flaw. Nobody’s fault but mine. All it takes is for a woman to show me some kind of sincere kindness, to treat me like I’m not a leper, and I become pathetically infatuated. At least I’m aware of it, and do a reasonable job of keeping it under control. After all, I am married, and I do love my wife immensely. We swing, but it’s not exactly an open arrangement. It doesn’t allow for rampant, unrestrained infidelity. We only swing under very controlled circumstances, with each other’s approval of the other’s new partner. My wife would never approve of me hooking up with a co-worker. There’s too much constant exposure and too much danger for emotional attachment. Nothing has even happened, and I already have an emotional attachment. Besides, it’s a hell of a leap to expect a woman to make, to believe that my wife and I have this sort of arrangement, and that it would be okay. I’ve miscalculated that jump before. I just learned that the Blond is actually single. So I helped connect her with one of my friends. They’re both great people, and should make a great couple. She was probably going to pursue him regardless, and I don’t think that she was ever attracted to me. So it doesn’t matter how I feel about it. I have no right to her. She’s always been very kind to me though, and she’s absolutely beautiful. So it stings. She asked for my opinion of him first. I really appreciate that. I like knowing when somebody holds my opinion in high esteem. I gave him an honest endorsement, and I went to happy hour with them both after work. I was an awkward, nervous wingman. They were talking when I left. Off like a band-aid. I’m sure they’ll be great together.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Blond

The Blond is gorgeous. She just started working here about two months ago. She’s a tall girl, long and lean. No fat on her. Not that that’s terribly important to me, but she’s very fit. Looks like she’s about my age. Very tall, almost my height, but not quite. I love that. The length of her form is absolutely serpentine, like she’s always leaning back slightly, coiled. Reclining even while standing, she carries herself in an almost predatory pose. It’s like she’s ready to strike, but at the same time very aloof and relaxed. Whenever there is a problem, she’s always above it. She does not engage conflict. Loads of composure. At the same time, she takes no shit. Every aspect of her exudes a confident, light, buoyant tension. Her hair is absolutely straight and bobbed just slightly below her ears. She looks like a natural blond, and her lips are light pink and naturally fall into a pucker, like a sideways hourglass. Her ass must be as tight as a drum. She must come from better breeding stock than I do. She’s a perfect physical specimen. Of everybody in the office, she was the only one who showed up to the opening reception for my last painting exhibition. That meant a lot to me. I really appreciate that. Her boyfriend was there too. He seemed like a pretty cool guy.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


There’s no need to be upset. There’s nothing wrong. The details are unimportant. Those unrealistic, projected ideals are not an indication of failure. That you have not yet met them is not the point. That you have tried, and continue to try, is. You pour, like light through a window. You are what you do.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No Thanks

I street-park my car at work. There’s no lot, and the office is sufficiently on the edge of the downtown area that abundant street parking is available. I generally park about a block and a half away from the office. This morning I parked in my usual spot and started walking down the sidewalk with my computer in a bag hung over my shoulder and my bag lunch in my left hand. I noticed two people crossing the street in front of me, a man and a woman, both white. They stopped in the middle of the street in order to get her cigarette lit. At that particular moment there was no traffic, so it wasn’t especially dangerous, but it was a little strange. Stopping to do anything in the middle of a main artery is. The man, who appeared to be in his early 30s, had a shaved head and a long beige coat. The woman, who appeared to be in her 50s or possibly older, had straight, flaming red hair down to her waist. She wore buckets of makeup and very tight clothes. She was completely covered, perhaps even conservatively, but everything was extremely tight. They seemed oblivious to me for about 30 or 40 feet of sidewalk. He seemed to be gently coaching her along. They turned left, exactly where I turn left to get to the office. We both walked ten more feet of sidewalk in tandem. Then they realized that I was behind them, and politely stepped aside and smiled. I walked past briskly, smiled and said, “Good morning!” in as chipper a voice as I’m capable of doing. Chipper really isn’t my thing. I passed, and ten more feet of sidewalk passed. Then I heard a meek voice say, “Hey there!” and trail off. I tried to ignore it and keep moving. Almost immediately afterwards, a stronger voice reinforced the first, and repeated, “Hey there!” I stopped and turned around to find that the woman was right up behind me, the man standing about 15 feet back on the sidewalk. She was difficult to understand, but said, “Hi! You’re down here a lot, aren’t you?” I replied, “Yes, I work right over there.” Then she asked me a question that was feebly quiet and indecipherable. I said, “I’m sorry…?” She said what sounded to me like, “Did you take the train?” I’m pretty sure that wasn’t it, but it was definitely a question. So I said, “No. I’m sorry.” I’m pretty sure that, whatever she was asking, “no” was the appropriate answer. Then she smiled and said, “All right. Have a good day.” I said, “You do the same,” smiled back and went to work.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Street Parking

There’s free parking at my office. Rather, there’s abundant street parking nearby. The best place to park is on Penn Avenue. From where I park, it’s about a block and a half to the office. I leave my car down at the far end of the block because there are some row houses at the close end, numbered 2902 through 2908. There are just four small houses there, next to a compact industrial park with high cyclone fencing and razor wire. I park a substantial distance away from the houses, down by the razor wire, not because I’m afraid of the people in the houses or because I like razor wire, but as a courtesy to the people living there. They’re nice people. They have cars too. They also need places to park. The fact that they can’t afford to live someplace with a driveway or designated space doesn’t mean that they’re not entitled to park in front of their place of residence. There are often broken beer bottles on the sidewalk, likely from the bar across the street. There are childrens’ toys strewn about, and flyers with scantily clad women on them, advertising shitty clubs featuring music by shitty club DJs. Living there must be rough. It’s got to sting to have affluent Caucasians commute in from the suburbs, park their expensive luxury cars in front of your house, and take your space so they can have nice short walks to their well-paying office jobs. I appear to be the only commuter who has thought about this and deliberately decided to park far away, futile as that effort might be. The spaces in front of their houses are almost always filled with the very new and expensive cars of other commuters. The ironic thing is that my car is not a car that you would covet or envy. It’s seven years old and has over 100,000 miles on it. It wasn’t that impressive when it was brand new. I doubt that it would engender much resentment beyond the inconvenience that it would create by occupying one of their spaces. Regardless, I’ll continue parking at the far end of the street, leaving their spaces open, as I like to imagine they appreciate the gesture. They probably still resent me, though, and rightfully so. Who could blame them?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bridge Angel

When you’re coming into town in the morning on the Ohio River Boulevard, and you take the Fort Duquesne Bridge, it’s quite congested. There’s lots of traffic spread out across four or five lanes, all going the same way. People are switching lanes and aligning themselves with whichever ramp they need to use to get to whatever part of town they’re destined for. The deck above moves in the opposite direction. I come into and out of town on the same bridge. In the morning, on the way in, light plays into the sides of the lower deck. As the lanes all split away in their various directions, the same morning light comes down in beams between the upper deck’s various ramps. It looks beautiful. This morning, as I took the far left ramp, towards the 10th Street Bypass, I saw an angel floating slowly down through the ramps of the upper deck, through the beams of light. I had never seen one before, so I didn’t know how to react. Impossibly slow and gently rotating, it was incredible. When I got closer, I could see that it was a giant sheet of newspaper, semi-crumpled, floating on its way down to the river. As I passed it, I looked in my rearview mirror and watched it descend below the rail between the divergent ramps. Bob Dylan kept on coaching me via the stereo. “It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting’ there…” I drove on to work, and thought about my angel and my life and my place in the larger picture. It occurred to me that maybe the crumpled newspaper descending the decks of the Fort Duquesne Bridge on its way to the river wasn’t actually an angel at all, but instead a piece of toilet paper falling through the bridge’s crotch. Maybe the bridge was wiping its ass, trying to clean itself of us all.

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