I just got back from a trip I used to make more regularly - to New York City, home of one of my alma maters and the place I lived for a chunk of the 1990s.
This time I also went to Connecticut (I went to Connecticut last time I visited New York as well, back in November, but I didn’t write about it for some reason) to see some friends that I’ve made through gaming: the “Fantastic” family, Josh Look, Bernie Frick, Jeff Luce, Michael Fralish, Peter “Tootsie” Putnam, Al and Shellie Rose, and Zev “Z-man” Schlesinger.
A lot happened. Many games got played, many beers and bottles of liquor and cups of coffee got drunk, many good times were had. Josh Look killed six or seven banshees with his car. Strangely, though, as I sat down and decided what to write about regarding last week’s excursion, I came up with the following three things. These aren’t game session accounts, or tales of drunken bawdiness, or even shout outs to people I met and will only see when I head up north again. But these are the things I’ve been thinking about now that I’m home.
New York’s Lack of Color
Isn’t New York supposed to be one of the most fashionable cities in the world? If so, then what’s with the decades old INSISTENCE on wearing black from head to toe? Did I wear that much black when I lived there?
It’s been many, many years since I lived in New York City, and recently quite a length of time passed between visits. At the same time, I’ve added color to my wardrobe - specifically different shades of blue, gray, and green, which are colors that look good on me (as does black). When I got out of my cab near Times Square last Wednesday, wearing my subdued but definitely blue sweater, my blue jeans, and my light blue shirt, I must have stood out. Around me was a sea of black, punctuated only occasionally by people who dared wear something else. Sure, their cuts and fabrics and weaves were fashionable and modern. But everything was black. And unlike every other time I visited New York, and unlike the years I lived there, I noticed. In other towns across our great nation, they say again and again that X and Y are the “new black.” Apparently, no one told New York.
Now, I like New York as a city much more than I like Atlanta, but now I have to say that at least Atlanta has people dressed in all the colors of the rainbow. And I rather like the variety.
The Cigarette Generation
We were sitting on the couch in Matt Loter’s mom’s house on Thursday when Matt made an off-handed comment. I’ll paraphrase: “Man, the generation before us - everybody smoked. Now, even though people smoke, it’s NOTHING like they did before.” For some reason, that struck me.
He’s right, you know. When I think about how many people I know who smoked when I was a kid, it’s overwhelming. No one thought anything of it, even when it came out about how bad smoking was for you. People just shrugged and said, “Quitting smoking is more difficult than the crap I’m going to go through because I smoke, so fuck it.”
Really! That’s what they said! More or less.
I see my generation as the one that did the most quitting. I never smoked, but I had a lot of peers who did. MOST of them don’t any more, and the ones who still do really are saying “Fuck it.” But I’d be willing to lay hard money on the probability that if they have kids, they will ACTIVELY discourage their kids from taking up the habit. Way I see it, it’s only a matter of time before cigarette smoking becomes a novelty pastime. The rules are finally in place to control it, and even people who smoke admit that the drawbacks are steadily outweighing the benefits. (And what are the benefits, anyway? The euphoria? The perception of coolness?)
When you get a bunch of us together over alcohol and games, smack talk will occur. I am a proud talker of much smack, and that includes pointing out the foibles in someone’s gaming skill (ask my friend Jay Elgin about his math). This past week, much smack talk occurred, and we laughed good-naturedly at it. BUT, as Josh and I were tooling around post-gaming on both Friday and Saturday, we were laughing even more - without resorting to insulting anyone. What we were laughing at was just a silly bunch of non sequiturs and absurdist observations, but they had us giggling like little boys looking at their first girlie magazine.
Now, by insult, I mean latching onto something genuine about a person - something about the way he looks, or acts - and milking it for its humor. Insult humor can be funny, but I think it takes a special way of doing it to make it funny. Otherwise, it’s just… insulting.
There are people who are funny - they have comedic timing, a way of saying things, a certain something in their voice - which makes you smile when they tell you a story, or makes you laugh at yourself when they do even a shitty imitation of you. When those people make a joke, you laugh.
But let’s face it, there are also people who simply aren’t funny. When they tell you a “funny” story, you usually get bored after the second sentence. When they make a comment, you CAN help breaking into a smile. And when they employ insult humor, they really only succeed in insulting their subject.
I think it comes partially from the delivery, sure. But I think a big part of it comes from WHY the person is attempting humor in the first place. I’d be pulling your leg, or outright lying, if I told you there was not a narcissistic motive behind anybody who tries to make a joke. We ALL like it when people laugh at us (as long as we’re trying to make them laugh at us). But if you think belittling someone, and failing to respect that person at the same time, will lead to comedic success, well… you’re really no better than those kids who poked fun of the fat kid in fourth grade.
But if you actually like and respect the person you’re making fun of, it somehow comes across differently. You don’t come off as one-upping them. You don’t come off as a bully. The object of your ridicule may actually feel affection coming from you, and not derision. THAT’S when you know you’re doing it right.
Oh, and people laugh, too.
Even so, there are people - I could name THREE right now off the top of my head - who are WAY sensitive. As good-natured as your ribbing might be, they’re gonna take offense. Also, you have to be careful. If there’s a subject someone is sensitive about - her weight, his hairline, his height, the fact that she’s 40 and single - then it’s best to learn early what that subject is, and to avoid it. Find something else.
And if you come across an overly sensitive person, avoid THEM.
I don’t mean avoid making fun of them. I mean avoid them altogether.
Fuck those people.
So, yeah. That’s what I came away with. Insults, cigarettes, and the color black.
Next time I go up, I think maybe I’ll come back and write about chimneys, salt and pepper shakers, and whether or not farting in elevators makes a good occupation.
Think of these types of posts as my aggregation of all the things I ”Tweet” on Twitter during the previous months. I post these things because I know that not all of you are on Twitter, and that even if you’re on Twitter, there’s sometimes so much noise there that the things I say are easily buried in the tumult. So here you get to see all my random obsevations (at least those which aren’t links I’m sharing or sales pitches for my stories).
I’ve said this in an earlier post: I’m kind of proud of my Tweets because: A) I don’t use software to post for me when I’m not at the computer, B) I try not to be all spammy, and C) I don’t ever schedule what I’m going to say. The way I do it is much more organic and personal. These are really thoughts that cross my mind, which compel me to go to the computer and Tweet.
Some of them are stupid. Some are lame. Some are funny and brilliant and inspired. I don’t know which is which - I leave that to you.
You’d think that someone would have made those birds take some anger management courses by now.
Kenyon’s Law: If the cord, hose, net, or decoration you’re carrying can catch on some random immovable object, it will.
I Was A Teenaged Teenager. SCARY.
And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free… to vote against my own self interests.
Foursquare ain’t nothin’. Tell me when I can become the Burgermeister of something.
If I were on Foursquare, I’d try to find Simpleton and check in there a lot.
Ate a lot of asparagus today. Drank a Rock Star earlier. I just pissed out the Toxic Avenger.
Without patience, an artist just becomes another person with talent.
I like to paint things red. In fact, if I saw a red door, I’d probably just give it a fresh coat.
I wish Eileen would just come on.
Our problem is that the consequences of our actions are no longer immediate or apparent. There are, however, always consequences.
Halloween 2011: there’s not just teenagers without costumes, there’s teenagers without costumes talking on the phone as they hold a bag out to you.
I love when people say they’re gonna “take this country back”. From whom will you be taking it? Me?
Just heard the phrase “fact-based journalism” on NPR. When I was in journalism school, that would have been a redundant statement.
Stories are easier to edit than children. I guess that’s why I have more of them.
A good portion of writing is taking your frustration at EVERYTHING and channeling it into a positive activity.
I wish I had the inventor of autotune RIGHT HERE.
It seems to me you can’t beat liars with the truth anymore. Nor can you turn the tides of brutality with pacifism. This makes me sad.
Helping my daughter with her homework will get me sainted eventually.
My daughter will be in 5th grade next year. In 5th grade, I learned what sex was, but I still believed in Santa Claus.
A summer haiku: Ah, yellowjackets / No playing outside just yet / Sometimes nature stings
It’s cool when one of your friends makes a literary reference - to one of your stories.
Sad that to some Americans, patriotism means hating on other Americans who happen to be different than them.
Ostensibly, I don’t dislike politicians, salesmen, or cops. What I dislike are predators of any ilk.
My daughter has never really watched a movie on network TV. She was just complaining about the commercials. “There’s so many of them!”
I woke up to the loudest, most obnoxious blanket of white noise I’d ever heard. Imagine if you were standing in front of a thousand TV sets, all blasting nothing but static. That was what it was like. It didn’t help that I was groggy from being asleep, and a little hung over….
“What the fuck?” I asked my pillow. Then I rolled out of my comfy bed and threw on some sweatpants. I stumbled into the hallway, the noise raging in my ears from all around me.
Down the hall I saw that the TV was indeed on, and its screen was filled with those dancing black and white dots that us old-timers remember as indicators that the TV wasn’t tuned into a channel it could receive. Static. And loud. I walked down the hall to the TV and switched it off. That’s when I could hear that the stereo was on as well - and also tuned in to no channel in particular, just static. I crossed the living room and switched it off. That’s when I could hear a roar coming from the kitchen. I went in that direction and saw that the blender and the can opener were both on the counter, empty but running full tilt. I turned them off, and then I could hear the garbage disposal in the sink churning noisily. I hit the wall switch for it.
Then I could hear every clock radio in the apartment (except mine) blasting static. One was in my roommate Joey’s room - he wasn’t there so I switched it off. Likewise my roommate Dave’s room. After that, I could hear the washer and dryer running. I went to the little room where they were and opened both of them. They were empty, but running nonetheless. I turned them off.
That’s when I could hear all the faucets in the apartment running. The sinks and showers of both bathrooms were open and blasting water on absolutely no one. I turned them off.
And then, at last, everything was silent.
I stood in the middle of the living room for a while, looking around. As far as I could tell, I was alone in the apartment - but Joey and/or Dave couldn’t be far, because SOMEONE had to have turned every appliance in the apartment on while I was asleep. And considering the level of noise all those appliances made, I couldn’t have been asleep too long after they were all turned on.
I called their names and no one answered. I looked out the front door and saw that Dave’s car was gone. That left Joey.
And of course it was Joey. Only Joey would do something like that. Joey had a serious drinking problem. He had a lot of problems.
Fuck it. Joey was batshit crazy, and standing there in the apartment we shared, wondering what would possess someone to turn on every appliance on hand and then just leave… I decided it was time for me to move out. Right then.
I didn’t have a lot of worldly possessions back then, and a lot of my stuff was still at my girlfriend’s apartment. We’d been living together for almost a year - in sin - but we’d recently had a big fight, and I’d moved out on her and in with Joey and Dave. They needed a subsidy for the rent, and I’d needed a place to crash. But after two weeks of partying and late nights, vomit-filled toilets and mirrors covered in coke, I was growing weary. And this little morning wake up call was more than a morning wake up. It was time to go. I threw all my clothes into my duffle, grabbed all my CDs and my little portable stereo, and threw them all into my car. I went back for a second load and a third, and in minutes my car was packed and I was ready to leave.
I opened the front car door, and suddenly a disembodied voice spoke to me: “You still owe me $180 for rent, even if you leave.”
I looked around and saw no one. So I started to get into the car.
“I’m probably not coming back to work, so you’ll need to bring it by here.”
This time I looked up. And there was Joey, sitting on the roof of the apartment with a beer between his knees. I couldn’t see HOW he got up there, but somehow he had. He’d turned on all the appliances in the apartment, then climbed up onto the roof and waited for me to come out. He’d watched me load up the car, and then he’d finally spoken to me.
“You’ll get your money,” I said. Then I got into my car and left.
I took Joey his money later that day, but he wasn’t there, so I gave the cash to Dave.
“Sorry, dude,” Dave said. “I heard what happened. I think I’m outta here, too.”
I’ve never seen Joey again.
(Static photo credit: seaskylab)
OK. I’ll admit it. For the most part, I make a shitty roommate. It’s taken my wife over 14 years to settle on the fact that I’m not going to do all the things a perfect roommate (or housemate) would do. I track mud into the house. I hate washing dishes. I like loud music and I like having random people over without my roommate’s permission.
And worse. Much worse. There’s stuff I do that I won’t tell you about because I’m actually embarrassed by it. But it can’t be helped.
In the past I’ve angered two roommates by getting sick. I’ve secretly moved out on two more, leaving them in a bit of a financial lurch, because I was scared they were gonna steal my shit. I’ve butted heads with at least two more because our schedules differed. Wildly. I’ve had cultural differences with at least three roommates, religious differences with a couple, and musical taste differences with every single one of them - with the possible exception of Keifer Sims.
But you know what? When I think about it, while I am indeed a shitty roommate, the truth is… most of my roommates were kinda shitty, too.
My first roommate outside of my parents and brothers was an Indian dude named Amanpal. We lived together for six weeks on the Valdosta State College campus when we were attending the Governor’s Honors Program together. I got along with all the other guys on my hall, but me and my roommate, well… we only talked twice. The first time we talked, I confessed Christianity and he confessed Sikh. At the time, I was being molded into a potential bigot and Bible-thumper, so I immediately started in on the evils of his religion, which A) I didn’t fully understand and B) I didn’t even TRY to understand. It’s no wonder we only spoke once more.
Amanpal was right to avoid me after that first confrontation. Or was he? What if he’d been patient and accepted my ignorance, maybe made an off-handed remark or two that might have made me reconsider my position and see him in a more diffused, less black and white light? Of course, he was 16 like me, and despite NOT being a potential bigot and Bible-thumper, he was still somewhat immature. So instead of taking the high road, he made fun of my ignorance behind my back. Or so he thought, because I caught word through the guys on my hall whom I DID get along with. I never said anything about it until now.
Our other conversation? About music. We were comparing music, and Amanpal played me a song called ‘The Kiss’ by a band I’d never heard of called The Cure. And this much I CAN say about Amanpal: he changed my musical outlook forever. He may not ever know it, but I’m grateful to him for it. Also, I’ve really liked every subsequent Sikh person I’ve met, and I’m fascinated by their religion.
My next roommate was Brian, whom I lived with my freshman year of college. Brian was an essential lesson in roommates - we got along famously for months, but our relationship turned on a dime into something that almost, but not quite, approached hatred. We spent hours playing music for each other, but the only thing we could settle on was Queen. He didn’t care for the old school prog rock I played (classic Genesis, Yes, Marillion), and I really didn’t care for Tone Loc. I’m pretty sure Brian didn’t care much for my new college girlfriend either - if ever two people didn’t see eye to eye on ANYTHING, it was those two.
The clencher came when I caught mono - the kissing disease. There was a small epidemic of it going around campus at the time, and I’m pretty sure I caught it from drinking after my buddy Phil (and not by kissing him). Anyway, several people urged me to drop out of school and come back the next quarter - but I couldn’t. If I left school for ANY reason, I’d lose half of my scholarships - and scholarships were the only reason I was able to afford college. So I suffered through two weeks of illness, and Brian had to suffer, too. He had to suffer skirting around me to avoid getting sick himself. He had to suffer not knowing IF he’d somehow contracted the kissing disease from me (and not by kissing me). And he had to suffer the presence of my girlfriend, who stuck around and took care of me, even at the risk of getting sick herself (she didn’t) and at the risk of incurring Brian’s wrath (to my knowledge this didn’t happen either). Still, I don’t think Brian ever forgave me for being such a pain in the ass, and we remained not on speaking terms for the rest of the year. I’ve never seen him again since we both moved out of that dorm. I hope he doesn’t still like Tone Loc.
The lesson of Brian is that you never know when someone you’re living with - even a good friend - will turn on you. And you never know what will cause that person to turn.
My next roommate was Fred. Fred and I lived together for a quarter until we both agreed - I’d like to think amicably - that we were just unfit to live in the same space. This was in Reed Hall at the University of Georgia, on the second floor.
Basically, Fred and I didn’t get along because Fred was a pentathlete and an ROTC guy who got up at four every morning and needed to be asleep by nine at the latest. I was a social bug with a taste for drinking cheap alcohol and listening to loud music, and I didn’t need to go to bed until midnight or later. You see the problem here.
Thing is, I never yelled at Fred when he woke me up in the morning, and I never questioned the fairness of his demands that either I turned my lights out at ten or stayed out of the room. He yelled at me A LOT, like he was my drill sergeant or something, and never sought to compromise even once regarding how HIS schedule encroached on mine. Good thing for me that I had a lot of friends and that same girlfriend, because I was able to stay out of my dorm room most nights. I only went there to get dressed, really.
I missed my stereo though.
Looking back, Fred was a dick. Sorry, Fred my man - and I’m sure you’ve matured some since we knew each other way back then - but if I had been, at that time, the person I am now, I’d have told you to stick your cross-country skis up your ass and cut me some slack. Nine o’clock lights out is bullshit.
After Fred came Michael, who was as patient as he could be with me, but who eventually moved out as well, after I got sick with the measles and almost started a fight with his friend Ken over Ken’s girlfriend. Michael had great taste in music and a bunch of cool friends who were becoming MY friends until I picked that fight. After that, Michael faded away, along with all those people. Fortunately, that made room for the best roommate I ever had - Keifer Sims - who was my absolute LAST roommate until I graduated from college and met my wife.
More about Keifer, my wife, the measles, and Bong - my Korean roommate from hell - next time….
Let’s face it. Most men like scatalogical humor to some degree. That’s the only explanation behind Adam Sandler’s and Will Ferrell’s success at the box office. And yeah, I know. You don’t like scat humor - you try to keep it classy. You’d rather go see something of quality with Ethan Hawke in it, and you get your wife, girlfriend, husband, or lover roses on his or her birthday.
Well, I get my wife roses, too, jocko, and I still like a good fart joke when I hear it. Also, Ethan Hawke’s last three films grossed under $100 million worldwide while Adam Sandler’s last three grossed over $500 million. So I’m not alone. Here’s hoping your pretention gets you laid tonight, eh?
So guys like jokes about poop. And cocks. And urine. We like things that stick, run, ooze, and throb. Most of us, though, aren’t household names and can’t demand $20 million for a movie, so we don’t tend to make scatalogical jokes in mixed company. I think gross stuff’s funny, but I don’t post scat jokes on Facebook or Twitter, because I’m aware that some people will get offended, and there’s always the threat of that Unfriend or Unfollow button. I respect my friends enough not to throw shit at them, literally AND figuratively.
Although you’d think they’d respect me enough to accept me at my most disgusting. Oh well.
As for this site, well, I don’t usually post disgusting stuff here for the same reason. James Joyce might have been able to get away with a big shit scene in Ulysses, but so far I lack the literary merit and clout of James Joyce (I’m more likely to end up like Adam Sandler anyway), and if I did write a scene about taking a dump, it’d probably be precisely for obscene and prurient reasons. I’m not as noble as Joyce either.
Also, I don’t say the sort of things I’m talking about here in front of my wife. As far as scatalogical humor is concerned, she’s effectively humorless.
Which brings me to the point of this particular post. If there’s a new paradigm wherein even the most proper male among us can vent his need for semen jokes, it’s TEXT MESSAGING. That’s right! You find the right buddy, and the two of you can exchange insults, observations, and innuendo to your hearts’ content. It’s convenient, immediate, and private. Yeah, I know Big Brother might be listening, but I don’t think he sees such idiotic escapism as a threat. Hell, if he’s a guy, I bet our exchanges are an amusing diversion from his otherwise boring workday.
You want some examples, don’t you. Of course you do! So here you go - a few choice exchanges between me and a couple of my friends. I’m not gonna reveal to you which guy in each exchange is me, though. Suffice it to say that I’m the guy with the slightly better vocabulary.
Now, I respect you, dear reader, so I warn you. The following text exchanges are not for children. Or prudes. And they are 100% genuine. If you don’t believe me, I’ll show you my phone sometime.
Man 1: Well?
Man 2: Rule me out. Tell her I said happy birthday.
Man 1: OK. She said fuck off. Thanks for coming. Ur not welcome anymore, Mr. Never Puts The Seat Down. We even made u ice.
Man 1: Defendor was a pretty good movie, Butt Farkus
Man 2: Woody Harrelson starred in Defendor. YOU starred in SPHINCTOR. Coprophagist.
Man 1: Cfyffhffhrethhgggfffjjygddvbjjqwrfcssgjjvxdhhxsgbbjktxvhhfgkippo
Man 1: Did you get my text?
Man 2: Yeah. I don’t believe a word of it.
Man 1: What DOES semen taste like?
Man 2: Chicken
Man 1: Do you like chicken?
Man 2: I like choking it.
Man 1: I got a gaper!
Man 2: I’ll give you a gaper.
Man 1: I meant paper. I can’t come tomorrow, I got a paper to do. Damn auto-correct.
Man 1: Thanks, though.
Man 1: Your pussy is so fat, it looks like a stack of pork chops turned sideways. Your asscrack is more humid than the Amazon River Basin. Your asshole is a swamp.
Man 2: Your pussy tastes like hobo dick.
Man 1: That’s funny, ’cause ur hobo dick tastes like my pussy. And your balls taste like hummus.
Man 2: It’s because they’re Muslim. You, sir, are a Republican. You wish Rush Limbaugh would spread those ample buttcheeks and let you plow him like an Idaho potato field.
Man 1: Ur a Teabagger. In both senses of the word.
Man 2: I dunk my donuts in the aqua Buddha mouth of Rand Paul.
Man 1: Every time u touch ur cock, Glenn Beck tells a lie.
Man 2: But unlike you, I’ve never had my gaping maw filled with the viscous semen of Sean Hannity.
Man 2: And Glenn Beck must tell a lot of lies.
See? Foul, foul, foul, foul, foul. But up until now, conversations like these (if you can call them such) were between us guys. So how about you, dear reader? “Dude”? How are you using the new communications technologies available to us in the 21st century?