Forms of refuge and their prices

Joe Dirtbag told me the other day that “we,” i.e., he and the Family Shrew, want to have me over for Thanksgiving dinner if I’m still in town. Having received this invitation, I’m thinking that Thursday might be a good time to be conveniently out of town, with “town” to be construed however the fuck one likes it, as long as everything beyond it is beyond reasonable driving distance.

I just have this bad feeling that I don’t belong there, not for their sake, but for mine. It ain’t my first ride in that rodeo. I know by now that they aren’t the ones who get the raw deal from these dinner invitations. If they felt uncomfortable having me over, I assume they wouldn’t have me over. I’ve gotten uncomfortable a number of times as their guest the last few years, since the one-step-from-domestic-battery clusterfuck of May 2012, but I’ve gone anyway because, realtalk, it’s free food. I don’t feel bad about being craven and crass here; it’s much more prudent than being a sentimental moron around people who’ve repeatedly been treacherous towards me but are still occasionally willing to defray my cost of living in some small measure. That said, I don’t think Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew have invited me up for such craven reasons, not because they’re wonderfully highminded, but because I don’t detect a strategic economic motivation in these particular instances. If there’s an ulterior motive, it has to do with emotional influence-peddling exclusively, as far as I can tell.

Still, I’m reminded of a comment that a kindly old priest made at a Newman Club meeting shortly before Easter: “Our parishioners would love to have you for dinner.” I swear I did not make that up; I was there. I was also there when the same priest expressed his sorrow about the terrible devastation and loss of life caused by the Boxing Day “tusami” in Southeast Asia. Joe Dirtbag, the Family Shrew, and a sickeningly large number of their friends just don’t have it in them to steer clear of subjects that I very explicably find provocative, forcing me to hold my peace or mumble some milquetoast assent because I know that, if I respond candidly in a way that some easily butthurt member of present company finds offensive, the gathering will likely turn into a dumpster fire, and the rest of them will blame me for setting it. I’m always the Marinus van der Lübbe character in these scenarios when the smoke starts wafting down on some asshole’s parade.

The guest list for Thanksgiving doesn’t inspire any confidence, either. It includes Island Boy, Island Boy’s Indonesian quasi-girlfriend, and quasi-girlfriend’s strange duck of an American husband. Quasi-Girlfriend correctly read between the lines a few months ago and inferred that I was homeless after hearing my convoluted canned talk about my living situation. I’m still homeless, so that’ll be a fun topic of conversation. On the other hand, Quasi-Girlfriend seems to have a certain natural tact that the others lack. Island Boy plainly does not know when to shut up. Over the summer, his tendentious carrying-on about what a fuck-up I was and hackneyed efforts to pop-psych analyze my failure to launch gave me a delayed-onset panic attack.

Even so, this endlessly chatty haole appropriator of Hawaiian cultural motifs and Joel Osteen self-help bot is straightforward compared to American Husband. Just like Potter Stewart and obscenity, I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it, and I saw it. And I’m not particularly comfortable with the prospect of seeing it again. American Husband is much better-adjusted than one might expect for an American married to a Southeast Asian, but that isn’t saying much. I spent several hours with him, Quasi-Girlfriend, and Island Boy over the summer, during the same stay when Island Boy set me up for my panic attack, and I never quite felt comfortable around him. He was sort of a laconic, hangdog milquetoast, but he also seemed to have a latent streak of passive-aggressive abrasiveness that might come out at any moment. He was one of those people I knew I should try to understand just for my own welfare but whom I could not for the life of me figure out. He’s a real straightforward go-getter compared to some of the dweebs who end up with Asian wives, including a simpering milquetoast barter buddy of Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew’s who is married to a Thai woman at least fifteen years his junior, but still.  The problem isn’t just that he’s weird; it’s that he’s weird in ways that I feel completely unable to predict, and that his friends are telling me God knows what about me and why I’m a loser.

The cost-benefit analysis of this dinner invitation suggests that going to Thanksgiving dinner will save me as little as $6.09 (Burger King) and as much as, I dunno, twenty-something if I go somewhere classy like the Black Bear Diner and splurge on a blackberry cobbler for dessert. Honestly, I’m not nearly sentimental enough to give a shit if I end up having Thanksgiving dinner at Denny’s, although technically it would probably be Black Friday fourthmeal because I like to wait for the all-night menu (it’s cheaper, for one thing). Yeah, yeah, I’ d be forsaking community in its etymological and historical relationship to communion and that kind of shit, but what a sorry-ass excuse for community this crowd is liable to be. There is no fucking way to set ground rules for decency with these people.

It isn’t enough for Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew to no longer have me living in their guest cottage; they have to pretend that they’re still doing right by me and that I have adequate living conditions. They are constitutionally unable to recognize that they fucked things up for me by yanking my houseguest privileges for months on end (they finally let me spend one night in the guest cottage a year and a half after the blowup) and, recognizing this, to steer clear of the subject of where I’m staying. Their other dinner guests have ended up on the subject of how I can stay warm overnight in a tent in 22-degree weather. Island Boy once ended up giving me a pair of synthetic cold-weather socks.

It’s impossible to know whether to be grateful or offended by this sort of thing. I alternated erratically between the two reactions after the gift of socks. At my angriest moments, I was of a mind to drive to their place and throw the socks on the ground in front of Island Boy and maybe yell at him about what an asshole move that had been. When I calmed down, I felt ashamed for having had such thoughts, because he seemed to have meant well and has been so cordial with me so many times; that stoned tirade about my failure to launch has been a one-off event so far. But still, what the fuck is wrong with these people? I do unpaid farm work for landed relatives who have schnorred over a hundred thousand dollars from my parents just for interest-free capital and nearly lost all of it, and they think it’s reasonable to offer me accommodations in a cluttered, barely insulated old milking parlor where a hole in the wall is maintained as the cat door for a proliferating community of stray cats that have literal pissing contests on indoor walls?

What normal person would put up graciously with shit like this? I change names and stew about it online; many people would punch out anyone treating them like this, and reasonably enough so. It’s all incredibly low-class. It’s like dating a legit psycho chick who never puts out. I’ve heard very similar stories from friends who fell in with possessive boyfriends and who, I can assure you, are too earnestly horrified by what their lovers have done to them to be alpha widows.

I’ve gotten my winery skills and work history current again, so I might as well go to Tacoma for Thanksgiving to pork a thicky trick. It’s only the police chiefs, the neurosurgeons, the estranged ex-husbands, and the enlisted personnel in general who are out of their goddamn minds around the South Sound, and just as no Vietcong ever called Muhammad Ali nigger, no violent freak of Pierce County ever gave me a thermos to the head, shot me point-blank in a parking lot, and/or immolated me in a house fire. Sadly, perhaps, these things are less depressing because they happened to other people, while the hippie narcissism of these people who want to have me (over) for Thanksgiving dinner has happened to me.

Tacoma offers much better deals on whoring than on lodging, but the deals on lodging aren’t great around here, either, and I would know, since my relatives are too chronically butthurt to give me shelter, but not to use my free labor. The hazelnut orchards in Whatcom County are closer to Tacoma than my current dump of a workplace is, and the growers there have been known to hire Whitey for suckering jobs, so that might be worth a look, too. Being near the whores and the cracker payroll stoop labor jobs sounds a lot better than remaining among hippies as a net contributor to their circle of mooch.

Now all I need is a plausible excuse to get the fuck out of here on the one day when I’m expected to stick around. A Black Friday job interview story is probably the way to go. Few people will agree, let alone admit, that Tacoma is redeemed by its cheap whores, not degraded, or that Oregon wouldn’t suck so hard if its women were as whorish as Tacoma’s. Maybe I can even find one who will accept wine in lieu of cash payment, although I have enough of a sense of shame not to get all forward and ask first thing. Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew aren’t, of course. The former tells me that the latter is doubling down on her wine bartering campaign. I’m not just working for them for free; I’m working for Social Security retirement beneficiaries for free so that they can avoid paying cash for video rentals and shit. It’s pathetic, I know, but the commercial farm jobs for Yanqui don’t look too plentiful right now.

Again, “You pay me and I fuck you” is a lot better than “I don’t pay you and let all the neighborhood cats urinate in the drafty farm outbuilding that I provide for your rooming arrangement.” I’ve never been into watersports, but I’m afraid watersports may be into me. So I might as well digress for a few paragraphs into a tangent about Tacoma’s whores, once again, than just write about the squalid shamelessness of Oregon incorrigible hippie freeloaders. It’s less depressing that way.

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