It’s a real phenomenon, and you won’t believe which living generation is responsible for it. Hint: You aren’t wearing any bloomers! (Hey hey hey!) What rhymes with “bloomers?”
Fittingly enough, I first learned about bloomers from my maternal grandmother, the one with the New York City teacher’s pension, the GE stock, and the government cheese. Hers couldn’t have been made of decent material; we’re just lucky that she wore so much as a fifty-threadcount house dress when we went out for the afternoon. She’s the one who, once or twice a year, told me a joke about a servant asking the lady of the house, “Yes ma’am, no ma’am, ma’am if you please, is it up the duck’s ass that I stuff the green peas?” Firehat’s assessment: “I think I like the one about the fat Welshwomen better.” (“Are you three Wales from Scotland?”) A niece of my grandmother’s shared that gem with her round robin e-mail list, dismaying many of us.
One thing that must be said in my maternal grandmother’s defense is that she was financially solvent in her vulgarity and squalor. So was her boyfriend, the nasty, paranoid old geezer of a Dann Florek lookalike. They didn’t mooch. In fact, they were much more financially generous than they acted. Gramps Cragen gave extensively to his bastard son, who sounded financially responsible enough, and to his legitimate daughter, who was intractably profligate. The daughter had no trouble spending the entirety of a ten- or twelve-thousand-dollar gift within a quarter or two, whether she was working or not, and whether or not she had recent proceeds from insurance fraud by means of arson. She once called my mom from Florida in desperation, explaining that her bank balance was down to $5.90 and would be staying there for a number of days, until her next paycheck or disability check or whatever cleared. My mom had never been sympathetic to this woman or considered her kin in the slightest, even though they had effectively been grown stepsisters since their thirties. She was even less sympathetic after being told that the reason little sister was a Denny’s pancake breakfast special shy of flat broke was that she had spent all her money traveling to Florida to shack up with a woman she’d met online, as one does. This was pre-Y2K, so homegirl was an early adopter.
This was one hot fucking mess. Where had all the dollars gone? Gone to derpitude, every one. When will they ever learn? (Never. Duh.) And $5.90 in the bank: what is it good for? Good God, y’all, not even as much as war, which at least gets some shitheads rich. But, as nightmarish as this chick was, and as likely as she was trying to turn $20 tricks that can’t be unseen at the nearest truck stop (see Police Women of Cicinnati for comparable examples, and just you try to unsee them), she basically lived in truth about her broke-ass financial irresponsibility. She didn’t pretend to be the least bit solvent or provident. One saw what one got with her. So, even though she was a Boomer who burned through every cash reserve ever signed over to her name, and even though she did her part (with her Gramps Cragen and my grandmother) to eat two whole quiches in a sitting at my parents’ place while they were at work, leaving nothing but dirty dishes, she really isn’t what I have in mind when I refer to the locust generation.
No. The key distinction to make vis-à-vis the locust generation is between low-functioning mooches and high-functioning ones. Just as with psychopaths, by God, do everything in your power to stick to the low-functioning mooches. They’re regular leeches; high-functioning freestuffers are like leeches that instantaneously metamorphose into any human form they like, gaslight the hell out of everyone within earshot, and then, when they’ve accomplished their public relations goals for the time being, go back to merely sucking. The low-functioning kind tell straightforward enough stories about how, shit, looks like I’m out of money again, so they get recognition, if not also flak, for schnorring and being unsustainable fuck-ups. The high-functioning kind tell much crookeder stories of their own Jeffersonian self-sufficiency as proud crackers beholden to no one. They may have 2:1 ratios of unencumbered assets to interest-free debt schnorred off those close to them, but none of these crass temporalities matter because dude, that shit would, like, harsh a mofo’s mellow. They aren’t even content to be quiet about their own financial circumstances, but are compelled to actively dissemble and lie, often to the point of material fraud on those supporting them. They’re smooth enough, but also willing enough to bring sword after sword of Damocles crashing down on anyone challenging them, to indefinitely avoid accountability for financial dependency orders of magnitude greater than the handouts that low-functioning mooches annoy their friends and relatives by requesting them.
If you’ve spent much time around here, you’ve probably guessed that I have Joe Dirtbag in mind. Working for him was like a desexualized LARP of Fifty Shades of Grey. Bit by bit, he revealed his own sadism to me, and in less self-controlled moments to my parents. This summer my dad and I caught him, dead to rights, harassing me on the job and then gaslighting both of us. He still managed to deflect substantial blame back onto me for various things having nothing at all to do with his decision to harass me out of idle malice and then lie about having done so. Within the past month, Joe Dirtbag reached out to me through my dad to invite me back to the farm for the fall harvest, prompting my dad to bug me about the need to give him adequate notice about my plans for the fall, so that he’d have time to arrange for other help.
This was far too deferential to that bastard, of course. I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel, let alone express, any sympathy for a freeloader and chronic tax cheat in his time of difficulty securing all the unpaid help he can use. He owes me more unfulfilled reciprocal obligations to me as his long-time de facto indentured servant than I do to him as his very reasonably disgruntled unpaid field hand. How I ought to approach him has nothing to do with how I ought to approach current or prospective payroll employers because he’s a lawless, antisocial loose cannon and they aren’t. Joe Dirtbag is much worse than Mother-in-Law, who was beyond the pale in her own right over the summer. She’s sometimes unfit to supervise minors (and barely fit to supervise adults) on account of her psychological instability, and her company has a fast and loose relationship with labor laws, but she isn’t deeply immoral, and she consistently brings employees aboveboard on payroll unless they’re too young to be hired legally, like the twelve-year-old space cadet brat who got fired for incapacitating ADHD, in defiance of #TIMMEH.
When Joe Dirtbag mistreats people, it’s with a true evil that he summons forth from the abyss. It isn’t some crazy shit that he’ll regret five minutes later after he’s come back to his senses. He rarely shows any discernible sincere remorse after the fact, although he often feigns it, usually crudely. It’s hard to imagine that he truly considers me too autistic to notice that he’s manipulating me. More likely he just doesn’t give a shit and figures that I’m a pussy who won’t really stand up to him. He may underestimate my emotional intuition and judgment of character, both of which I suspect are above average, on account of my sometimes powerful introversion.
He clearly proceeds on the assumption that he’ll never really cross the Rubicon with me, that he’ll do nothing more than splash around a bit and mockingly aver that bitch I’m in your river now, but that when push comes to shove I won’t actually retaliate or do anything meaningful to hold him accountable. He probably doesn’t realize that, if my parents hadn’t confronted him over his drinking behind the wheel in the fall of 2012, I would almost certainly have reported him to the state police and offered to testify against him. I have surprisingly little to lose by turning state’s evidence against him over the crimes he has deliberately committed against me and equally erratic behavior in my presence. I’m not sure that the level of drama and family discord would necessarily be raised beyond the fever pitch that it often reaches as things stand now, and upon filing the first report I’d have the huge advantage of being able to bring the full weight of the law down on him at the first sign of intimidation or retaliation.
It’s hard to convey just how bizarre, deranged, provocative, and alarming Joe Dirtbag can be. As far as I know, he has never gotten violent, although he once came within one final, trifling provocation of committing domestic violence on me, an episode that I absolutely will describe in detail if I ever see the need to file a police report against him, because it was totally unhinged. I have total confidence that he’s extremely emotionally abusive, but no consistent sense of what motivates him. The only strong sense I have of his psychology is that he has a diagnosible combined narcissistic/antisocial personality disorder. He is the only person I know at all well whom I definitely believe to be clinically antisocial. He lights up the diagnostic criteria like the Fourth of July. What I can’t figure out is whether he’s ultimately competent or incompetent. Sometimes his behavior makes eerily perfect sense, and other times it makes no discernible sense at all, giving the appearance that he doesn’t really know what he’s trying to accomplish or how to accomplish it. This erratic behavior is distinct from his routine catfishing schemes, which themselves would be shocking in any normal social setting. This is separate from the five or six contradictory lies and excuses he’s uttered over the course of the afternoon; that shit is bizarre, too, but it can be tracked and collated into a reasonably coherent whole of on-the-fly bullshit artistry. The really confusing part is the effort to determine whether he’s just a lying, dissembling sack of shit or is truly not mentally competent.
In any event, dude is legit wack. There’s no way in hell that he’s a reasonable person of goodwill. Even if he manages to hold it together, say, 98% of the time, being a belligerent emotional sadist the other two percent is completely unacceptable. It’s dangerous, especially because he’s so popular with his friends and relatives. They’re scared to alienate him by holding him accountable for being a raging nut, so instead they take shelter in the Twilight Zone. My parents have suggested that I gave my attorney friend a one-sided account of my relationship with Joe Dirtbag and his wife, the Family Shrew, during our formal consultation in April 2013. The attorney, however, didn’t ask for any context at all to determine that Joe Dirtbag’s drinking behind the wheel was in fact a problem; he considered it per se, prima facie evidence of serious derangement. In his words, “Joe obviously isn’t playing with a full deck.”
The other fact of the matter is that my parents would be livid and beside themselves with worry if they had any suspicion that I was drinking behind the wheel. The reason Joe Dirtbag gets a pass is that he’ll raise holy hell if he’s challenged but will probably be pleasant to most of those around him if he’s allowed to do whatever the hell he pleases without consequence. My dad gave him fucking fifteen thousand dollars expressly to buy the car that he was abusing to play alkie on the Interstate, and he flatly told my parents that he would continue to drink behind the wheel.
He and the Family Shrew are the only people in our extended family who would possibly have the social proof to successfully pull that sort of shit on my parents, and the Family Shrew is merely narcissistic, not antisocial. For various reasons that don’t particularly interest me, my parents would rather pretend that these raging bull stunts are merely eccentric than admit that they’re too timid to stand up to that bastard and, say, demand that he immediately sign over title to the car or else be reported to the police and the DMV as an unsafe driver and habitual criminal.
Likewise, they insist that the Family Shrew is “just like that,” in a way that they don’t accept that the most unabashed freeloaders in the extended family are “just like that.” “Just like that” includes a selective inability to comprehend clearly worded pro se legal correspondence about how I just formally consulted with an attorney about her husband’s erratic behavior and he is not to contact me for a good long while. The position that she expressed to my parents about this e-mail, which I sent her in desperation in the aftermath of Joe Dirtbag’s badly disinhibited behavior at a time when he was placing unwanted calls to my cell phone, was that her sense of butthurt was paramount and the legal matters at stake completely unimaginable and shocking. My dad argued that I had failed to foresee how the Family Shrew would react to this letter, how it might blindside her. Well, why the hell should that have stopped me? My goal was to get through to her, niceties be damned, because her husband had fucking lost it. This was not about her goddamned feelings. It was about how, bitch, I just talked to a lawyer about your husband, the lawyer says your husband may be going senile, and I do not want your husband contacting me. Except I phrased it with scrupulous professionalism. It would take a fucking retard not to get my drift; a mere illiterate would ask for help reading it.
Instead of having a lick of common sense and decency about how her husband was freaking me out to the point that I had spoken to a lawyer about his behavior, the Family Shrew complained to my parents in the aftermath about how I’d been emotionally cold or distant to her in the past. She did this for the clear purpose of retaliating against me for sending her relevant legal correspondence that she found upsetting. I was sorely tempted to petition pro se for a court order enjoining her from disparaging me to my parents, even on the assumption that it would be a long shot. That vindictive bitch had been complaining about me to the two people she had every reason to know would be most likely to overreact, get upset, and give me grief about this quite past behavior that she suddenly found so objectionable, and she had done it in response to my having e-mailed her with timely legal correspondence concerning her husband’s erratic behavior towards me. She was a normally literate adult who had never been adjudicated incompetent or insane. Why the fuck should I now presume her too stupid to understand the gravity of such clearly written legal correspondence? Why the fuck shouldn’t I expect her to at least be chastened enough not to start shit with my parents? It wasn’t any of their business, and I made it hers only to ask her to tell her husband to leave me alone. This was not an appropriate time to go along with a three- or four-person consensus that the Family Shrew had conveniently suffered acute autism-spectrum mental retardation, making it genuinely impossible for her to understand that I might, say, take legal action if the crap didn’t stop, but there were four of them, and only two of me and my lawyer friend.
The Family Shrew’s reaction to my most recent falling out with Joe Dirtbag is even richer. Joe Dirtbag told my dad that he’d be willing to move on and work with me again (no shit: because I’m free labor and free narcissistic supply for a freeloading emotional predator), but that he didn’t think the Family Shrew would be able to forgive me and move on. That woman is now concern-trolling herself. My dispute with Joe Dirtbag had absolutely nothing to do with her, and this time I did not bring her into it in the slightest. I hardly even got annoyed at her over this, just confused, but for the love of God, her eternal butthurt at me is her fucking problem, not mine. It’s equally her problem if she insists on siding with a husband whom I’ve witnessed yelling at her about trifles at the top of his voice every half hour when I tell third parties, not her, that he’s been emotionally abusing me.
But back to the financial parasitism. These two are principals in a precariously insolvent farm with something like a quarter million dollars’ worth of private stock outstanding. Joe Dirtbag, the much more belligerent and antisocial one, is the operating principal. Every share of the stock is held by relatives or friends. There are no impartial investors on the scene. Joe Dirtbag has been taking advantage of the partiality of his friends and relatives to secure long-term dividend-free investments from them, often making materially false statements to us about the farm’s finances, governance, and operations.
At what point does this stop being mere schmuckery and turn into extortion and securities fraud? Joe Dirtbag long ago crossed the line into gross breach of fiduciary responsibility to his investors. He had a responsibility to us to make a good-faith effort to run the farm competently, and he’s fucked around for years on end. He orally amended the repayment terms of the secondary mortgage with the investor who held the note (yes, it was that tangled), only to have the noteholder get squeezed on his three million dollars’ worth of unrelated outstanding debts and threaten foreclosure in a desperate attempt to recover maybe a sixth of his total losses.
This gentlemen’s agreement alone is boneheaded enough to support a strong argument that Joe Dirtbag is unfit to operate a stock company. His involvement in an interstate bootlegging scheme is an even stronger argument. For years he swore that he had never sold a single bottle of his wine to anyone, and would never sell a single bottle until and unless he got the winery licensed and bonded, because selling wine under the table was too risky to even consider. Now it turns out that he’s been shipping his wine to San Francisco for quasi-guerrilla sale at a restaurant run by his buddy’s hipster-sounding daughter. It gets even stupider: this dumb bastard who’s acting as the intermediary in this arrangement has a medical license on the line. He isn’t even risking his license for something fun, like an addiction to cocaine, or lucrative, like international cocaine trafficking. He’s risking it to personally drive less-than-truckload shipments of low-value contraband across the state line so that his sentimental fool of a daughter can dick around with farm-to-table bullshit that might get her business shut down and its assets seized by regulators.
Will it surprise you to learn that the good doctor lives and practices in Marin County? Even so, I never imagined that he’d involve himself in something so goddamned stupid. He seemed more intelligent than that. He was one of the people on that scene whom I always expected to advise against recklessly idiotic schemes, and to back himself up with as much force as he needed if his buddies were hellbent on putting everyone in the line of fire. Instead, he’s helping run a criminal smuggling operation that is not getting anyone rich and is exposing probably dozens of people, many of them innocent and ignorant of the matter, to a violent assault or frank massacre at the hands of ATF goons in balaclavas.
Everyone who doesn’t have his head up his ass over this bootlegging shit has been intimidated by Joe Dirtbag. I include myself among the latter. If those of us not involved in the bootlegging stood up to him with any sort of mutual support, we could shut him down in a matter of days, maybe hours. All that dumbfuck radiologist would do is privately bitch about how butthurtful it is to have his mellow harshed by buzzkills just because he’s violating bullshit puritanical alcohol laws for financial gain. He’s probably harmless or close to it when held accountable by his peers. Joe Dirtbag consistently threatens to bring the whole house crashing down on anyone who stands up to him. He’s often cool when people go along with him, but when we don’t, the message is frighteningly clear: he’ll fuck our shit up, and he’ll do so with extreme prejudice. He has booby-trapped our social lives.
He’s done so, among other reasons, in order to intimidate his investors into holding our positions while he runs the farm into the ground and operates an interstate criminal conspiracy whose interdiction we should expect to involve life-threatening police violence. Here’s something unbelievably rich: Joe Dirtbag had a big tangle with the draft board when he was young, eventually securing conscientious objector status and avoiding Bob McNamara’s glorious Indochinese plans for him. This entrenched his reflexive opposition to the Man.
A normal person would go forward from this experience with the fear of God before any law enforcement organization with a reputation for excessive force and express jurisdiction over a business that he operates. Instead, Joe Dirtbag conflates all law enforcement, except for a handful of local cops he considers buddies, into an implacable mass of illegitimate, square-ass thugs who deserve the same middle finger that he offered the sheriff’s deputy in Montana, back when the draft board first got wind of him upon his booking into jail. Not being a narcissistic idiot in the midst of a raging Boomer fugue, I recognize the difference between the ATF, whose agents are likely to slaughter innocents, and the Oregon State Police, whose troopers are most likely to arrest or detain Joe Dirtbag as peaceably as they humanly can. If I felt I could count on the OSP to handle this whole mess on its own, I might well have reported Joe Dirtbag already and asked the staties to shut his criminal enterprise down. My fear is that the OSP will invite much less disciplined federal and county agencies into the investigation and, with bad luck, inadvertently get people massacred by uncontrollably violent sworn lunatics. I trust Oregon State Troopers as much as any cops in North America to keep everyone safe during a raid of this nature; my main fear is that their commanders might neutralize their operational advantages by bringing bad cops from other agencies onto their task force.
The last I heard, there were at least two psychotic guys living on the farm. For their sake alone it’s dangerous to have anyone but uniformed police raiding the property. I’m also worried about Joe Dirtbag’s safety in these circumstances and suspect that he’d respond less erratically to uniformed state or local cops than to feds. This is the kind of thing that might push him over the edge. A uniformed state trooper is much more likely to keep both him and the psychotics calm in the midst of the inevitable shock and chaos than the gunslinging numbnuts employed as federal agents.
I wish Joe Dirtbag would show the rest of us equal consideration. He could start by, say, not abusing our investment money to bankroll an interstate bootlegging conspiracy. But that’s just a wish. I’m resigned to his antisocial narcissism by now; my main goal is to contain it, so that he stops crashing into my world like a bull through a china shop. If I ever blow the whistle on him, I’ll have to simultaneously apply for a restraining order against him and have the police on alert to physically tackle him on a moment’s notice.
This is one of the ways that he intimidates me, if not others as well. He acts like he’ll fly completely off the handle if pushed too far, turning into a free radical. I assume absolutely no lower bound on his behavior if he’s forced to account in a way that he feels threatens his relationship with the farm. I have to brace myself for the possibilities of suicide and murder. Preemptively committing him to a psychiatric hospital would be prudent, although Oregon is lax to the verge of licentiousness in matters of psychiatrically erratic behavior, so I doubt it would be possible even if I provided a full account of his batshit crazy behavior. I couldn’t have imagined being in a position like this in April 2012. Unfortunately, in May 2012 his behavior started crashing over event horizons, so I truly do not know what to expect of him if he’s cornered. I don’t even know what to expect of him in normal circumstances. We’re dealing with a deranged relative who is emotionally blackmailing relatives and close friends into maintaining our investments in his criminal enterprise.
One option that I seriously consider sometimes is blowing the whistle on him from Canada. I understand that he doesn’t have a passport, and in any event, if I feared his pursuing me like a fucking maniac (it’s possible), I might be able to convince CBSA to put him on a do-not-admit bulletin. I already have a strong argument to have him declared inadmissible to Canada on grounds of moral turpitude and undetected criminal activity. CBSA would probably be quite agreeable to the project of keeping an elderly, mentally unstable, chronically broke American out of the country at a time when a close relative of his has turned state’s evidence on him, obtained a protective order, and lawfully entered Canada.
Having this sort of international contingency planning even cross my mind is ridiculously emo. It’s no joke, though. I’ve gotten mixed up with a guy who’s much, much crazier than he looks at first blush. I am genuinely afraid that he might be provoked to murder my parents. It’s a small fear, but I cannot think of anyone else on the face of the earth who poses a credible threat to either of them. What has to be mentioned here, of course, is that it’s a bright red flag to have any reason to believe that a relative might get violent. I have a significantly greater fear that Joe Dirtbag might freak out in the midst of a confrontation over his business practices and murder his wife, the Family Shrew. It’s still an off chance, but holy shit. One often learns of family dramas no crazier that this nightmare on Dateline and 48 Hours. On the other hand, as I’ve described, the way Joe Dirtbag is currently operating his winery credibly exposes himself and a number of total innocents to serious injury or death at the hands of federal agents.
I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. We’re all damned. We’re doing business with a man who needs to be handled with kid gloves in the hope that he and his associates won’t slip up and cause hellfire to rain down, or else forcibly subordinated to responsible individuals with full legal authority to bring him to heel. There’s a significant likelihood that he needs to be incarcerated, for his own safety and for ours. If he insists on his own self-destruction, we shouldn’t be guilted into letting him tear us down with him. But, God, he’s made pants-shitting milquetoasts out of a number of us. Few people in our position could be expected to show courage and leadership. We should all feel humbled, and not in the sense that shitbag politicians feel “humbled” to be elected to high office. Instead, we’ve been humiliated.
Of course this wretched bastard isn’t paying me. Of course he hasn’t contributed a dime to my Social Security account and has only offered to do so if my parents paid for it and I passed his tortious shit tests. He doesn’t even feel any visible shame for having me sleep in legally uninhabitable buildings on his property while I’m working unpaid for him. In his uglier moments, he has felt heartwarming schadenfreude at the knowledge that I had trouble keeping myself warm at night. He considers all of this appropriate and equitable because I caused him and his wife butthurt at a time when his behavior had recently made me fear for my physical safety.
I’d need a Phineas Gage lobotomy to join him in the full glory of his moral turpitude. The police may need the wisdom of Solomon to keep him from making the nightly news like that spergy gun nut did at Umpqua Community College. We’ll hit the skids hard if anyone loses his temper here.
People of Joe Dirtbag’s character have more than their share of other people’s money tied up in booby-trapped sinkholes. God bless the equity markets.