Friday, April 30, 2010


Vernon is, by far, the strongest guy at the gym. He’s about 6’ tall, no less than 350 pounds, very black, and very quiet. It’s not that he’s shy. He just doesn’t do a lot of talking. He doesn’t waste time. He’s all business, and he lifts substantially heavier than everybody else at the gym. I’ve seen him leg press 1200 pounds for eight reps, shoulder press 315 for six, and bench press 315 for 15. He’s a very friendly guy with a warm personality. Recently he’s taken to having me spot him on his lifts. I appreciate that sort of confidence. He must trust me to know what I’m doing. It always makes me nervous, though, because I generally doubt my ability to pull that kind of weight off him if the need arises.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Get a Mop!

We were walking through Squirrel Hill. My wife wanted to have a look around a particular used clothing store, and I wanted a look around a used record store just a few stores down on the same street. About a block away from our destination, we noticed a large fire truck parked in front. We got closer. There was no fire, only disappointment. I did notice, though, that there was a great deal of water flowing out through the door of the storefront onto the street. No people rushing about. Whatever it was, it must not have been too urgent or dangerous. Nothing was sectioned off. No cops. We walked right between the fire truck and the store front. It’s a store that sells sexy womens’ undergarments. The image of racks of lacy womens’ panties standing above substantial flooding was quite funny. It reminded me of an old boss for whom I used to work, “T.” When he’d see a woman act excited in ordinary situations, he’d blurt out, “Get a mop!” When I saw the flooded store, I laughed out loud, because I imagined how happy that sight would have made him, and I could hear his catchphrase all over again in my head.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New People

We met some new people last night. First-timers. They were very nice. They looked good and had decent taste in beer. They were also quite visibly nervous. First-timers always are. She was tenser than he was. My wife and I have done this many times. We’re quite accustomed to it, and we did our best to help ease their tension. She’s 22, and he’s 27. If I understand correctly, they have been together off-and-on for a few years, though this time around, they’ve only been together for about a month. That’s sort of a red flag, but I don’t care. By the end of our dinner and beers, they had reversed roles. She seemed more at ease than he did, and we parted with the honest intent of pursuing it further. I doubt that we’ll ever hear from them again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Taking It Easy

We resolved to take it easy last night. We failed. Actually, I failed. My wife didn’t. She stayed pretty straight. It’s hard when all your friends are bartenders. We came to that realization while out last night. Steve, Stephanie, Katie, Greg, the guy that looks like me at the Moose, and all the girls at Bites & Brews. It’s funny, but it’s not. There’s a new guy working at Bites & Brews. We know most of the girls who tend the bar there, but don’t know any of their names. When were closing out our tab last night, the new guy came over and said, “All the girls behind the bar think you’re the nicest customers ever.” We laughed and explained that we used to drink there often. We’re still there a good bit, but not as often now. After that, we hit the Lava Lounge with the intent of having just one beer each. Katie and Stephanie were both working there. Greg wasn’t working, but he was seated at the bar drinking. He likes to work both sides of the bar. He’s a champ. The booze started flowing freely. It’s hard to stop around friends. It’s easy to talk about applying the brakes, but sometimes you just have no desire to follow through.

Monday, April 26, 2010

One Thousand Free Books

My wife saw the ad on and called the people who posted it, John and Kate. They sounded like old hippies, gave us directions, and said to come on out any time that afternoon. They had about a thousand old books they’d read over the years, and they had to get rid of them. They needed the space. We got out there pretty easily. The directions were generally clear and easy to follow. The books were outside on their front porch, about eight boxes of them. They were in decent shape, not destroyed or really damaged, just very weathered. Together, my wife and I compiled about a box of them to take. They had a bunch of Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, William Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Jack Kerouac, and such. I loaded up on that stuff. I don’t know what my wife took. She only reads books that are about gay vampires. I think she’s just into it for all the blood and buttfucking. That’s really what she likes to read about. I didn’t see any of that stuff in there, but she must have found some. It’s amazing how often that stuff pops up. They encouraged us to take more. While we were digging, Kate said it broke her heart to give all these away, but they just didn’t have the space for them anymore. I said, “Uh huh,” as I kept digging. I felt crass, digging through their things like a looter. Picking and choosing. John said something about being a photographer, taking pictures of the homeless and posting them online. He talked about a conversation he had had with a homeless guy at one point. It motivated him to take up a collection of socks and bologna sandwiches. It reminded me of a phase I had gone through about six years earlier in which I was photographing the homeless. I’d just give them cash, though. A couple bucks and I take a snapshot. Socks, bologna sandwiches, or cash. Same difference. I didn’t mention it. I hadn’t gone there to talk about charity. I hadn’t gone there to moralize.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

We’re Friends

We’re friends, you and I. If you see me in a bar, I’ll buy you a beer. Just ask. We may not know each other, but we are kin nonetheless. We are united in our agony. That is what ties us together. All people suffer. We suffer the same way, for the same reasons. We share that. It makes us unique. We’re uncommon, unrecognized, and unspoken. We are a group without identity. We don’t need one. That is the nature of what we are, alone. Our trials must be endured alone.

Friday, April 23, 2010


If you’re living life in any way that’s worthwhile, you’ll never run out of rejection, and you’ll never get used to the sting. You should have it in overflowing volume, by the bucketload. Don’t think it’s not useful stuff, though. Don’t mistake it for garbage. Like good aftershave, it will always sting. The sting is important. Slap it on hard with your open palm to amplify the burn. Drive it through your pores into your blood, like gasoline. Send it screaming through your veins into your heart, and choke back your reflex to scream. Eventually you won’t even wince. You’ll just seethe quietly. All the little nicks will bleed. Then, red-faced and stinging, you’ll be an artist. Every time the gallery says no, every time your work doesn’t sell, every time the woman doesn’t get back to you, every time you don’t get the job, every time you put it all out there and get nothing back, you’re becoming more perfect, leaner and harder, more “fuck you” by the minute.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Greg from Work

My wife and I were drinking at the Lava Lounge. Not a lot of conversation going on. I was absentmindedly admiring the bartender, Katie. She’s a late 20s white girl with long dreadlocks, in punk attire, and a ring through her septum. No tattoos on her arms, but she’s got tons on her legs. She always looks really good. She’s the only girl I’ve ever seen who has the ability to make “crust punk” look sexy. She knows us and what we drink, and she has really good taste in music. She generally just lets us back behind the bar to pick out what we want to listen to. We see her there a lot. She’s great. We were actually just about done there, and ready to head down to the Moose, when this big guy appeared beside me. He threw a bag on the bar and looked up at the TV. There was a baseball game playing. He ordered a drink, looked over at me, and asked me about the score. I had no idea, as I wasn’t paying attention, but as I looked up at him, we both froze in an alien sort of recognition. It was Greg from work. He used to be a contract coder where I work. We had worked together for about three months. Good guy, but we just hadn’t had enough work to justify renewing his contract. Not that I’m part of any of the decision-making process anyway. I felt bad about that, and wondered if he harbored any ill sentiments. It didn’t seem that way. I didn’t say anything about it, and instead introduced him to my wife. We smiled, laughed, shook hands, and made idle conversation about nothing. Minutes later we shook hands again, and my wife and I departed for the Moose. He kept watching the game.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Greg’s Shaved Head, The River of Whiskey, and the Red Back

Greg was tending an almost empty bar again. That’s generally what he’s up to at 7pm on a Saturday night. We’re frequently the only people there. Last night this was again the case, with the exception of a few other people who were barely drinking, scattered throughout the bar. Greg had gotten loaded the previous evening and had shaved his head. He was still hung over, and getting drunk again behind the bar. That’s always good for me and my wife. I sat down and ordered a double of Bushmill’s. My wife got some sort of elaborate martini. Greg started us up on free shots. In the course of about three hours, I drank my double of Bushmill’s, a double of Knob Creek, numerous shots of Glenlivet and Chivas, and two beers. Greg has got awesome taste in music, and together we all kept the jukebox jumping. Greg is half-Philipino and half-Irish. He calls himself a McFlip. As I was beginning to glow, and really get a good buzz going, I noticed just how red the Lava Lounge is. Very red, and it reminded me of the married couple we’d slept with a few short years ago, and the woman with the red back. I remembered that as the woman got more excited and closer to climax that her back turned brighter red. It was incredible to watch. That memory was filling my head beautifully, and the whiskey buzz was on its way up. Then a giant pack of frat boys and their bitchy women came through on a bar crawl, interrupting my brief intermission and dragging me back into the bar. They all ordered Miller Lite, like they were members of a death cult. Jim Jones would have smiled. We endured it. Greg scrambled to accommodate. There was one jackass who looked exactly like Lance Armstrong, only a bit more muscular. He was probably about my height, but with a good 20 pounds of additional lean muscle. Not a guy to fuck with. He sat down beside me to order a drink for himself and another for his girlfriend. In an effort to be friendly and cordial, I said, “Hey man, you look just like Lance Armstrong. I bet you get that a lot.” He replied, “Who’s that?” while leaning forward on the bar and kind of flexing a little in what appeared to be an effort to intimidate me. I explained who Lance Armstrong was, and he didn’t seem to care. I guess he had figured out that I wasn’t trying to start a fight, and beyond that point he wasn’t interested. Like a swarm of locusts, they eventually moved on, and left their beers all strewn about the place like bodies on a battlefield. Lance Armstrong’s meathead look-a-like went with them. I gathered up all the empties for Greg, in a modest attempt to repay him for all the free whiskey in my belly. Eventually we left for dinner, and I poured more beer down with it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Same Ponytail

I bought a magazine. It had Nick Cave on the front, and short interviews featuring Lemmy Kilmister, Lou Reed, and Leonard Cohen. I couldn’t pass that up, too many cool people. I don’t write half as well as any one of those guys, but I like to try. There was also a free CD attached. It contained nothing that interested me, and probably constituted a reasonable portion of the $10 price of the magazine. But…fuck it. I’m stupid and impulsive. The cashier at the register was beautiful. She was probably in her early 20s. She appeared to be one of those punker girls who is going for the ironic 1950s housewife look. Horn-rimmed glasses sat atop her nose. Short bangs fell upon her forehead, with a ponytail in the back sticking up. A very conservative and concealing dress hung over her. Bright red lipstick framed a giant Cheshire cat smile. She was an abso-fucking-lutely stunning girl, with all kinds of cool tattoos peaking out from underneath her clothes. She told me the total. I gave her my credit card. The signature on back was almost completely worn off, so she asked for a photo ID. I produced my driver’s license quickly and handed it to her. She smiled again, looked at it and back at me. I smiled back and said, “Same ponytail.” At which point she laughed out loud, covering her mouth demurely, and replied, “That’s exactly what I was thinking.” Then I said, “Yeah, if I ever get a haircut, I’ll be fucked. Never be able to use that credit card again.” And smiled. She laughed again, and said, “Oh, no!” with a gentle sort of amused faux-sympathy. I wished her a good night, and she returned the well-wishing with a big smile. I’ll probably never read the magazine.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Big Baby

There is one particular bookstore at the end of the Southside that my wife and I frequent for its bathrooms. It’s a great place to relieve yourself on a Saturday afternoon or early evening. Yesterday, I was in the men’s room in a stall. Things were going well, in a normal and predictable turn of events. Then I heard the door open. Two people entered. One was silent and the other was obviously a child. The child was dancing around anxiously and whining. At this point I realized that there were only two stalls. I was in one, and the other was out of order. The kid probably had to shit and was waiting for my stall to open. I tried my best to accelerate things, moving as quickly as possible. If I’m ever the cause of some little kid shitting his pants, I’ll have to go home and hang myself with piano wire, like a war criminal. He started really whimpering, and I restrained myself from apologizing and coaching the kid. “Sorry kid. I’m hurrying. It’ll just be a second. I’ll be right out. Hang in there!” I finished everything reasonably well, flushed and got out. The door opened and I could see the kid and his silent escort. They were two little black kids. The small, whimpering one was about four or five. His silent escort appeared to be his older brother, who was about ten. They went into the stall as quickly as I had exited. While I was washing my hands, I heard them talking and struggling to get situated. They neglected to close the door. The older kid said, “There you go, big baby!” I dried my hands, smiled, left, and thought about giving my little brother a call.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I got a haircut today. I donated eight inches of hair to Locks of Love. The girl sat me in the chair, pulled my hair back into a tail and said, “Oh, look. I can take a good eight inches!” and I wanted so badly to make a terrible and hilarious comment, but I didn’t want to get stabbed in the face with the scissors. There was also a part of me that was scared that she might call my bluff, and then she’d discover that I didn’t have eight inches to give. Beyond all of that, I wanted to be able to come back and get another haircut in two years. So I didn’t say anything. She took eight inches of hair, and I’ve still got sufficient length to wear the remainder in a ponytail. It’s convenient that way. I don’t have time in my life for high maintenance hairstyles, or anything that will require a haircut more often that once every two years. I donate my hair, not because I’m nice, but because it’s a free haircut once every two years. This is the second time I’ve donated my hair. It’s always a remarkable feeling, getting all that hair removed. It’s a relief, kind of like a big bowel movement. It feels good, and for a while it allows me to believe that I don’t look like a caveman.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

An Open Letter

It’s a mistake that we forgive the ignorant beliefs of the elderly. The excuse that they are a product of a different time is a poor one at best. There’s no excuse for bigotry. It doesn’t matter how educated or uneducated they might be. It doesn’t matter what historic catastrophe they’ve endured or how many years of manual labor they’ve contributed to humanity. Ethnic hatred is a crown exclusively for living, breathing pieces of shit. It doesn’t matter where they’re from.

I’m glad you’re 85. You will be dead soon, and the world will be a better, cleaner, more beautiful place in your absence.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Sidewalk

Everything on the sidewalk is old and decrepit. The sidewalk itself, the people on it, the bus stop, the street signs, the telephone poles, and the rusty metal fence are all old and decrepit. The rusty metal fence is remarkably rusty, but only halfway. It’s rusty from the bottom up. Like there was a great pool of rust on the road, and a big truck drove by and splashed it up on the fence. The top of the fence is also beginning to corrode. It is, however, still partially painted green. It’s failing green paint, spattered with rust. Big chunks of the sidewalk have broken off and chipped away. In many places you can see the metal rebar that reinforces the concrete. It too is rusted, and looks like opened veins bleeding their contents out into the surrounding tissue. This sidewalk reminds me that one day I will die. So will everybody else on it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Nonno

There was an old guy at the gym who looked exactly like my Nonno. At least he looked like my Nonno did about 20 years ago, when he was still around, before he got sick. He was the same height and build. He had the same crew cut and slight accent, and he had the same distinct smell of coffee and Aqua Velva that you could detect from 20 feet away. I secretly hoped that he’d have some trouble with the treadmill he was using and start cursing at it loudly in Italian. He didn’t. I secretly wanted to go over to him and ask him to talk to me about working down at the steel mill. I didn’t. I also secretly wanted the weights to lift themselves, so I could sit and think in peace. They didn’t.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Drunk Grandmas

At the next table sat three round, grandmotherly-looking older women. Not ancient, but substantially over 50. They were talking about their retirement plans. They were talking about their professional lives and careers. They were clearly all educated and well-paid. They were talking about their kids who were graduating from college, now looking for work. The conversation led into their kids’ relationships. They were very frank about it all. Who their kids were involved with, and for what reasons. It was funny to hear. Then that lead into stories about their own sex lives from when they were younger. Speaking loudly, they may have been slightly drunk. They were all very happy to have been the right age during that ten-year gap between the advent of the birth control pill and AIDS. Apparently, everybody got very laid back then. One of them used to routinely fuck the painter that was repainting her house. All night long and very well, from what I heard. The other was twice divorced, and one of her ex-husbands was very proud of how well he knew how to use his tongue. She was recently fired from her job, and enjoying the unemployment checks. Right on! I know what that’s about. The other woman laughed quite a bit, and only contributed occasionally, but mostly tried to quiet down the other two.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

An Ordinary Crucifixion – No. 8

The past few weeks we’ve been going to puppy classes at PetsMart, every Wednesday evening. The girls that work there are all very nice and friendly, and they love our dog. We’re always greeted on our way in. One girl seems to especially like our dog. She’s as big as a house, maybe two. Her smile is somehow even bigger. She’s a lovely, kind, gently smiling girl who gushes for cute little dogs. A more wonderful person you’ve never met. Every week, we enjoy seeing her and talking with her. At one point, she disappeared for two weeks. Afterwards, we saw her at the store again, not working. She was buying stuff and had her dog with her. It was a female and looked to be a Rottweiler and Labrador mix, pretty dog. It was very friendly and very excited. The girl was happy to see us. She explained with visible struggle that she hadn’t been around for the past two weeks because her boyfriend had passed away. The dog had been drowning in a lake, and he jumped in to save the dog. However, he ended up drowning in the process. The dog didn’t appear to understand the weight of that. The girl did, though. It was carved into her face. Now she’s got this dog to herself, and eventually it’ll die. And when it does, it’ll open that injury back up. I wanted so badly to help, but didn’t know what to say. I didn’t have any words that would make it any lighter.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Stepping In Poop

There’s never going to be any shortage of poop. I don’t think we’ll ever run out of that. It’ll be in abundance as long as we’re around. There can be no doubt that everybody, and in fact every living animal, produces it constantly, and you can’t get rid of it fast enough. Once you’ve stepped in it, you’ll never get it sufficiently cleaned off. It clings to shoes and feet like a space-age adhesive. If only it weren’t so repugnant, and had some practical application or monetary value, it might not be such a problem.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Second Tail

Sometimes our dog shits in the house. There is newspaper set out for just such occasions. We try to discourage shitting in the house, but it’s better on the newspaper than on the carpet. One evening we were both sitting on the couch, watching TV. At one point Chalupa assumed the shitting posture, and began to slowly work out a turd nowhere near the newspaper. My wife saw this happening, and immediately began to reprimand the dog, while getting up off the couch. She was going to rush her outside to finish shitting outside. That’s how they learn. Unfortunately my wife’s reflexes are not very quick. Chalupa is much quicker, and thought my wife was calling her. She started running toward her, in mid-shit. My wife screamed in mortal terror as our dog ran across the floor to her, a turd wagging from her ass like a second tail. My wife was instantly paralyzed on the couch, shrieking in fear and disgust. Right as Chalupa leaned back on her hind legs to jump up onto her, the turd fell onto the carpet. I laughed hard at the two of them as I got a tissue and got up to remove the offending item. They’re perfect for each other.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dog Dick Red and the Yelling Lawn Sprinkler

I was riding home drunk. My wife drove. She was the straight one that night. She’s the straight one every night. There are a few routes home, and we picked the wrong one. There must have been a game or something that had just let out. So we had to deal with the traffic. We were moving slowly, but steadily following a trail of red tail lights into the horizon, like a giant bright red dog dick penetrating the late spring night. Once home, Chalupa, our little Chihuahua, had to be taken outside. She always has to be taken out right before bedtime. I volunteered to do this, since my wife had done all the driving. We entered the house through the garage, and I got the dog and went out the side door through the kitchen. We stood there. She played and ate grass, and we enjoyed the cool night air. Eventually she peed. I felt great at 1am, in my yard, in the cool night air, with my dog. It was a beautiful moment. I was blissfully unconcerned with anything painful. I had to pee, but I didn’t want to go back in the house yet. I wanted more of the night air. So I thought I’d just piss into some large shrubs. They’re very large and conceal you completely on two sides when you’re behind them. The house hides you on the other side, and the only other side is the backyard which ends in a thick line of tall trees. Nobody can really see you without making a deliberate effort to do so. At 1am I figured this was a safe gamble. This would be the first purpose the goddamn shrubs had served, other than creating hassle for me when mowing the yard. The dog was completely ignoring me, playing with some leaves about six feet away. So I pulled out my dick and begin to piss into the shrubs. It felt great to let them know how I felt about them. My beautiful evening was getting even better. I felt empowered, like I was voting. Voting against the goddamned shrubs that I never wanted! At this point the dog regained interest in me, as my urine stream was loudly raining upon the shrubs and ground. I yelled at her, “No! Get away!” as I spun around madly, trying to keep my piss away from her. I began to wish that I hadn’t drunk so much, not because I was drunk, but because I had a lot of piss to release and I couldn’t stop releasing it. I wished I hadn’t drunk so much as I spun around like a six foot tall, yelling lawn sprinkler.

Friday, April 9, 2010

September 1, 2007

It was our five-year wedding anniversary. We finished dinner and headed down to the Lava Lounge. As anticipated, Greg was there tending the bar, drunk again. He’s remarkably functional when he’s drunk. I don’t know if he’s necessarily developed an especially high tolerance. I believe that he’s simply gotten proficient at working while inebriated. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two. I ordered a double of Knob Creek, on the rocks. Greg poured me what must have been a triple. Some ice and bourbon clear up to the lip of the glass. My wife got some bizarre sort of girlish cocktail. He neglected to charge us. Initially I thought this was because he was being nice, but then it occurred to me that it was more likely because he simply forgot to charge. I wasn’t about to remind him. I saw it as an anniversary gift. Then the free shots started. Glenlivet for Greg and I. My wife got a complicated girl shot with a weird, playfully obscene name which I can’t remember. A beautiful man I had never seen before entered the bar. Greg seemed to know him. I’m not really very gay, but I can identify a gorgeous man when I see one. Pale, blue eyes, striking features, curly light brown hair, sideburns, clean-shaven, about 6’ and lean, lots of nice, well-done tattoos. He was wearing a yellow polo shirt. He had a small pizza under one arm, and he sat down beside me to eat it. His name was Nathan. He and I talked about literature while he ate, while Greg talked with my wife. He had excellent taste: Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, Hunter Thompson, William Burroughs, and lots of writers I’d never heard of. We were all showing off our tattoos and talking. He was familiar with Occam’s Razor, and thus understood the tattoo on my shoulder. Periodically one of us would dart over to the Internet jukebox and add some songs to the playlist. I played “Albatross” by C.O.C. Everybody approved. I followed it up with “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. It got even more approval. Greg and Katie started singing along with parts of it. There were more free shots. I followed the Pogues up with “First We Take Manhattan, Then We Take Berlin” by Leonard Cohen. Greg got so excited that I thought he was about to offer me a hand job. He declared at that point that we were brothers. There were more shots, and more toasting. We all became family. My next song came on, “Captain Jack” by Billy Joel. Everybody more-or-less approved politely, except the other bartender, who pulled it. That was the last song that I played. Nathan had to go. Katie had to tend to other patrons. The conversation began to disintegrate, and it was time to move on. Somebody played “Africa” by Toto, and they all sang at our backs as we walked out the door. We walked down to the Moose, and didn’t see another soul that we knew.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Armpit Hair

Everybody, without exception, should shave their armpits. Armpit hair is disgusting on everybody, male and female. I fail to grasp how feminists find it empowering to let their armpit hair grow. Would it be empowering to not wipe one’s ass after a healthy bowel movement, or not brush one’s teeth after eating? I am not an excessively vain man, but I do shave my armpits. It's just good hygiene. It reduces odor dramatically, and there’s nothing empowering about human stench. That just sucks. The claim that such hair growth is natural, and that the act of shaving it is both unnatural and amounts to some sort of indication of self-hatred or sense of shame is utterly ridiculous. Wiping your ass after a bowel movement is unnatural, but it’s a great idea. Brushing your teeth, likewise. The practice of female armpit hair growing just seems like a misdirected conviction. There have got to be more effective, more compelling ways of moving forward an ideology.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Girl Shaving

I don’t understand why women (or men for that matter) shave off their pubic hair. Stop that. You look ridiculous without it. Personally, I like the spot right below a woman’s navel but right above the goods. Bush is great. I’m especially fond of it. Women shouldn’t shave that off. It’s nice when the lips are shaved, but I enjoy a groomed patch up front. Not too long or unkempt, but definitely there. A little bit of curl is nice. It’s like a flag that announces your presence. You should have a national anthem to accompany it as well, something powerful and inspiring, but still human and sensitive. A foreign policy, treasury, and public education system might be overkill, but a little round tummy above it is a nice bonus.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looking At Women

I was sitting over my coffee in a quaint little independent coffee shop. It was the kind of place that attracts a very liberal crowd of varying economic backgrounds. The crowd was a typical mix of people very deliberately trying to play the role of artist and/or intellectual. My wife had left the table to go to the ladies room. A good-looking woman walked past, and I took a good look. I don’t think she noticed. I was polite about it. The coffee and the view complimented each other wonderfully. The guy at the table opposite me seemed to notice though. He looked up from his coffee and book, and shot me a dirty glance through his wire-rimmed spectacles. It must be shitty to be too enlightened to ogle women. I never want to be so intellectual that I forget how to get a hard-on. Sure, people are people, but people are also objects. There’s nothing morally wrong with objectifying women, as long as you don’t forget that they’re people first and objects second. Everybody has to exist as an object in order to exist as a person. It is a simple fact of being. Existence precedes essence. There’s nothing wrong with reveling in what’s there. There’s nothing unintelligent or demeaning about admiring it. Asceticism is a value of religious zealots, not intellectuals. When my wife returned from the ladies room, I told her all about it. She laughed at me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wishing For More Steps

We got dinner at the Penn Brewery. They make excellent beer. They tend to mostly make lighter beers. Pilsners, wheat beers, IPA’s, and amber lagers are their thing. I drink almost exclusively stouts, porters, and occasionally barley wines. I don’t match my beers to my food. I drink dark beer with everything. I can drink lighter beers, I just prefer not to if it can be avoided. So I got a pilsner. Even a well-made pilsner tastes like fizzy sweat. This one wasn’t too bad. The food at this place is the real draw. The food is awesome and the portions are huge. The air was cool and bright, so we sat outside in the courtyard. The courtyard is nestled in an alcove between two buildings. It’s filled with long, picnic-style tables. Excellent ambiance, beautiful evening. I ate way too much and had two beers. It was great. There were lots of people coming, going, and eating. I didn’t pay much attention. When we were just about done, a woman and her man walked in. They both looked to be close to 40, but not quite. They weren’t too remarkable, except for the fact that she had the most incredible ass I’d ever seen in my life. It wasn’t too muscular, or too fat. It was the perfect balance of the two. There should have been a blue ribbon on it. That’s a difficult balance to hit. If a woman’s ass is too muscular it’s not quite right. If it’s too flat or flabby, it’s not right either. This ass looked like a perfect handful. It looked firm, heavy, round, and low-slung. She obviously wasn’t wearing any underwear. Strangely, she was wearing kakis. You don’t often see hot-looking asses in kakis. This one was an exception. They were skin-tight, like they had been airbrushed onto her. Spandex khakis, maybe? Is there such a thing? The shape of her ass was simply magnificent. Better than the food, beer, or combination of the two. I stopped chewing. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only man there gawking blatantly at this woman’s ass. I’m pretty sure every other straight man there was doing the same thing. I didn’t even make an attempt at subtlety. My whole head, neck and shoulders turned to watch her walk by. I didn’t feel too bad about being that obvious. When you parade around an ass like that in tight pants, it would seem apparent that you want it looked at. They must not have liked the picnic tables in the courtyard, because moments later they walked back past, into the building to go eat inside. She walked up the steps, and I watched again. It was even better this time. I only wished there were more steps.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Dental Hygienist and My Dentist Both Hate Me

My dental hygienist hates me. Every time I go, the same woman always cleans my teeth. I’m always on time, clean, and polite. And she always treats me like a walking, flaming turd. I don’t get it. I must be a pretty easy patient. She’s generally nondescript, probably in her mid to late 30s, Caucasian. She doesn’t look great. She doesn’t look bad. She looks okay. Really elaborate hairstyle and too much makeup. There are pictures of her kids all over the room. Always has the oldies station playing on the radio. My teeth are normally pretty good. No real problems, just a little staining from all the coffee. I guess that’s somewhat tedious to scrape off, but I’m very little trouble beyond that. Then she leaves, and the dentist shows up. The dentist is really hot. She must be fresh out of school, late 20s, blond, beautiful face, really slender body. The dentist outfit that she wears isn’t very revealing at all. So I can’t tell anything specific about her shape, other than that she’s tall and thin. She doesn’t seem to like me at all either. I’m always a polite, very quiet, easy patient. What else can I do? Generally I love it when hot young women put their fingers in my mouth, but she’s totally removed any joy from it. But like any bad relationship, I just keep coming back.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Punk Semantics

Yesterday I did the most grungy, poorly organized, unprofessional art show I’ve done in the nine years that I’ve been showing my art. It was the 37th one I’d ever done. To contextualize, I’ve shown my art in abandoned buildings before, once in an abandoned building that was condemned shortly thereafter. I’ve even shown in a barn in Ohio once. When I applied for this show (which was to feature both art and music, with live bands), I knew that it wasn’t going to be at the Guggenheim, but I assumed that it would be a professional, organized event. In the week preceding the hanging of the show, my wife’s punk/DIY craft group happened to have their monthly meeting at the place where the show would be. When she returned from the meeting, she suggested that I withdraw from the show. She explained that it was a fantastic space, and that the people who owned and ran the space were wonderful, friendly, professional people, but that there was no actual wall space (“Like…where paintings would go.”). There were giant windows on all the walls, and she said that off to the side, there was a maze of cubicle walls that looked suspiciously like they were being arranged for an art show. Assuming the quality of the people owning and running the place, and given my working ideology of being willing to show anywhere, I figured I’d proceed. I’m not a snob. I’m a man of my word. If I say I’ll do something, I’ll do it. I won’t back out simply because it’s not what I had hoped it would be. Certainly, given my wife’s testimony, the owner of the space and his crew would turn out to be flexible, reasonable people, and we could work something out to get the work up professionally. The only flaw in my reasoning was the assumption that the owner of the space and the person organizing the show were the same individual. They weren’t. I arrived at the show with a healthy supply of paintings and a willingness to hang as much or as little work as necessary. I immediately met the show’s organizer, with whom I had been corresponding via email during the preceding week. My wife’s inference proved correct. The art was destined for the cubicle walls. The space would be a fantastic place to house site-specific installation art or a giant floor sculpture. There was, however, nowhere appropriate to hang paintings. When I asked about a few of the limited spots where there was usable wall space, I was told that we couldn’t use the walls. The art had to go into the cubicles. I didn’t flinch. I said, “Ok, will I be able to drive nails into the cubicles? I’ll need to hang my work with something.” He responded, “No, you can’t use nails. You can either use tape, thumb tacks, or the chains strung over the tops of the walls.” My work is physically very heavy, and I expressed concern over the cubicle walls’ ability to support my work on such a chain, as it wasn’t firmly tethered to anything. He suggested moving a table over, and propping my work up on the table, leaning against the wall. At this point my wife interjected, like a trained attack dog, that that would be tacky, and that we weren’t going to be displaying my work that way. I love her for that. She’s always willing to be forceful and frank on my behalf when I’m being too diplomatic and polite. He said, “Hey, this is a punk DIY-type event. This is all we’ve got to work with.” I could plainly see the futility of arguing any further. I said, “All right,” and proceeded to orchestrate a solution with the chains, hanging my smallest, lightest pieces as best I could, given the circumstances. They didn’t look great. They didn’t look bad. They looked like really great work, hung using poor means in the wrong environment. None of the other artists had hung their work yet, other than the “curator.” There was no further conversation between me and him, as he was far more interested in setting up for the bands. It was obvious that this show was essentially about the music, and the visual art was simply an afterthought. I really didn’t care. Any exposure is good exposure, and the one thing it seemed this guy did correctly was promote. He did lots of advertising. I had also heard that they had had quite a crowd the last time they did one of these. So that was adequate incentive to swallow some pride. What bothered me was his statement that “Hey, this is a punk/DIY-type event...” That struck me as an incredibly lazy statement. The word “punk” was never intended as a synonym for the words “shitty,” “unprofessional,” “lazy,” or “half-assed.” It irked me that this guy would degrade the word “punk” by using it as an excuse for his laziness, complacency, and lack of self-respect or respect for others. “Punk,” as I understand it, is about a rejection of mainstream values. It’s about dissenting opinion, and art and music which are egalitarian rather than elitist in nature. That does not in anyway imply that “punk” needs to be held together with duct tape and/or eschew any sort of polish or sense of professionalism in order to abide by those ideals. His remark seemed incredibly self-serving and lazy to me. I got over it. The next day I attended the event. He avoided me and I avoided him. Everybody else, without exception, was very friendly. It was generally a good time, though it was incredibly hot and humid. It took about five minutes to sweat through my clothes. The rest of the work there was at best uninteresting, at worst terrible. It was generally high school quality, unfocused, impatient, undisciplined work, acrylic paint on cardboard. It was art without convictions or feelings. As best I could tell, I was the only real artist there, with the exception of Rick. I wasn’t wild about his work, but he knew what he was doing, put in the hours, and he cared about the details. He cared about his work and it showed. He cut no corners. The curator’s work was god-awful, hipster, cartoony, safe, pointless indoor graffiti. That’s what’s big now, and that’s why he’s doing it. It’s art for people unwilling to dig beyond their current understanding and honestly explore. The most amusing facet of the event was a great big fat Italian kid. He looked like was about 5’ 10” and 280 pounds of lard. He was at least three different types of trash all at once. He was probably about 20 years old, and already had a poorly executed, faded American flag tattoo on his forearm, as well as some other bad tattoos that I couldn’t even interpret. I recognized another as a cross, though only by its shape, rather than its details. He was wearing what must have been 20 pounds of fake gold and diamond jewelry around his neck and on his fingers. He paced the floor with his hands folded in mock piety like a he was trying to evoke “fat-mafia-hitman-in-training.” He wanted so desperately to be from Brookyln, but he just wasn’t. I’m Italian, and I fucking hate that shit. I have no respect whatsoever for the goofy, macho, goombah stereotypes. He was standing near some pretty terrible-looking art. It looked like somebody’s half-assed attempt at mimicking Jean-Michael Basquiat. Though it was bad, it looked sufficiently sincere to grab my attention. It had potential. I approached him and asked if it was his. He replied, “No. I’m not the artist. I’m his agent.” With great effort, I managed not to burst into laughter and shoot beer out of my nose. I made polite chit-chat for a few moments and then retreated. Later, I saw him talking with the guy who must have been “the artist.” He was slightly less insane, but no less corny. He might have been 5’ 8” and 110 pounds when soaking wet. It seemed like his agent wasn’t so much his agent as he was his bouncer. “The artist” was wearing giant golden aviator sunglasses that faded from dark brown at the top to nearly clear at the bottom. They each evoked some terrible hybrid of Elvis Presley, Burt Reynolds, and Liberace. He was as pale as a ghost, and wearing a polo shirt with a popped collar. They sat around posing on the couches. It only took about an hour before I had seen enough.

We left for the South Side to eat a late dinner and see some friends. The wait was too long at Piper’s Pub, our eatery of choice. Instead, we hit the City Grill. We had never been there before, and thought it couldn’t be bad. It wasn’t. The food was very good, though the beer selection was weak. The ambiance of the place, however, was terrible. It radiated “old man bar.” The bartender was pretty cool. He looked to be about 50 and was obviously a career bartender. That’s a rare thing, and cool to find. When we first sat down the place wasn’t very full or loud, but he shouted all communications at the top of his lungs. You could tell it was done automatically, out of habit, as he obviously didn’t have any trouble hearing me when I ordered. A guy who looked like Jeanne-Claude Van Damme, but fat, older and meaner, walked in with his cronies. They sat down at the bar. I sat at a corner seat, and my wife sat immediately to my left. There were four vacant seats to her left. There were five guys in Van Damme’s crew, including Van Damme himself. Nobody seemed to want to take the seat next to my wife, though. So three of them sat and two stood. We both thought this was pretty funny. Strangely, there was a bachelorette party going on way in the back, at a giant table comprised of many smaller tables. I’m not sure what a bunch of cute young 20-something girls were doing having their bachelorette party in this old man bar, but there they were. At one point, while they were doing shots, they all giggled and waved to the Van Damme crew. Van Damme and his cronies all smiled and waved back excitedly. The girls laughed louder, and I wondered if the old guys realized they were being mocked. Not all insanity is wild. This was the sad, pathetic persuasion. In that moment I both pitied and lamented those old men, as I know that I will invariably be one of them, eventually. The bar was depressing and we moved on down the street to the Lava Lounge, where our friend Greg tends bar. He was there, and so was Katie. They’re great. The place was a little too crowded for my taste, but we had fun. By the time we left, Greg was hammered. If he hadn’t had so many friends there with him when we left, I would have been concerned for him. When we left it was raining, and neither one of us was even buzzed. On the ride home, we got stuck in traffic resulting from some late night road construction. It wasn’t altogether unpleasant, though, as we enjoyed the air conditioning, Motorhead, and absence of smoke.

Earlier this afternoon, I returned to the show space to pick up my work. It was all still intact, and I was grateful that nothing had been sacrificed in the show except any sense of pride that I had had going into it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Monster Truck at the Library

My wife and I both read a lot. I like to buy my books because I’m shallow, and I like to collect and own them. Seeing them all lined up on a shelf confirms for me, in my simple male mind, that I have an intellect – or at least the illusion of one. She, on the other hand, is content to sign them out of the library, read them, and return them when done. She also fails to see the virtues of Motorhead, so nothing she says can be taken all that seriously. Recently, she returned from the library, glowing red and bubbling with giddy laughter. As she came through the door she blurted out, “There was a monster truck at the library!” Based upon her account of the event, it sounded like your basic pickup truck with a lift-kit, giant off-road tires, and the off-road lights on top. It sounded thoroughly ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is the fact that it was left running and unattended while its driver was inside the library. She said that as she entered the library, it was immediately apparent who owned the truck. There was a big burly guy at the counter signing out books on automotive maintenance. She said he had a whole lot of piercings in his face, a Steelers shirt, and bad tattoos. I asked, “Tattoos of what?” She said he had one of those terrible tribal arm bands, with an Italy boot above it. I cringed. Italy tattoos are one of the many banes of my existence. They’re tacky. I look plenty Italian without a fucking tattoo on my arm to make it official. It reminded me of the San Rocco festival my family had attended the previous week. It’s the second weekend of August every year. I’m originally from Aliquippa, and a huge portion of Aliquippa is comprised of Italians from Patrica, Italy. When they came over in the 1930s to work in the steel mills, they brought the San Rocco festival with them. It’s generally a little goofy, but a good time nonetheless. There’s lots of great food and G-rated family fun. Regardless, at the closing ceremony of the thing, they pass out all of these little Italian flags for everybody to wave while the band plays some traditional Italian music. It’s all in good fun, but I don’t like flag waving of any kind. It really doesn’t matter what country it is, if you’re waving a flag, you’re probably an asshole. Nationalism is poisonous. It divides people and creates conflict were there isn’t any. Flag waving is how the Nazis happened. A friend of mine was telling me about his recent trip to England, where he saw a car with two flapping Union Jacks fixed to the roof, which made him think to himself, “Ah, they have hillbillies in England too.” This all made me want to go find the guy who had left his giant truck running parked in front of the library and explain to him that nobody in Italy drives monster trucks.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


The tube of toothpaste in my wife’s medicine cabinet looks like a murder victim. She squeezes it from the middle, and kind of twists it to get more out as it gets emptier. The current tube is contorted, bulging in some places and flat in others. It’s dirty with whatever sort of fine dirt accumulates on things in women’s bathrooms, and the cap is blown wide open. It’s not just open. It’s open in such a way that it never is going to be closed again. There are caked blobs of dried paste frozen in mid-gush clinging to its gaping mouth. Behind its head, stuck to the back of the medicine cabinet wall, there’s a stray blob of dried toothpaste. How’d that get there? It looks like somebody shot the tube in the face and blew its brains out the back of its head, onto the wall.

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