Pissing monkey syndrome

Some men take pride in engineering or constructing structures that last: solid home carpentry, Shasta Dam, the railroads, that kind of thing. Other men come after them to eat the seed corn, putting their manly pride instead in having the resourcefulness to barely avoid catastrophe when their redneck engineering projects sustain predictable structural failures under loads weighing hundreds of pounds, exposing themselves and those around them to needless risk of serious injury and death.

The latter sort of men, not the former, are the ones who bray endlessly about their own masculinity. The other night, Joe Dirtbag got me to help him wedge a shoddily built old table with a loose slat into an extremely cramped corner of the winery building, then maneuver a 225-liter wine barrel onto the table. When the barrel was full or close to it, several slats on the table caved in. Joe Dirtbag called out to me and had me bring in a smaller barrel (30 gallons or so, i.e., about half the volume of the larger one) to shove under the table as a prop. The smaller barrel had been left outside during a cold snap in an area where we had been washing other equipment with a garden hose, so the end facing up was encrusted with ice. I had to get this barrel, which would be cumbersome to move in the best of circumstances, over a muddy driveway and ten yards of lawn and then around several corners past piles of clutter, and then shove it under the structurally failing table while Joe Dirtbag lifted close to 500 pounds an fraction of an inch to give me enough space to get it wedged. This weight could have fallen on either of us at any moment. We got the smaller barrel wedged under the table, though, and Joe Dirtbag drained the wine in the larger barrel into two of the 44-gallon plastic garbage cans that he usually uses as fermenters.

After transferring the wine, Joe Dirtbag bragged that he felt “like a real manly man” for coming up for a workaround for this incipient catastrophe. This was all about his masculinity, you see. It didn’t have to do with not getting himself, me, or possibly both of us pinned under nearly the equivalent of our combined weight in a barely navigable corner of an extremely cluttered building. It was an opportunity to prove his own manliness during a crisis, or, as he called it later that evening, “an exciting adventure.”

Bitch I did not come to Oregon for the adventure. Joe Dirtbag recognized that this had been a really close call, but he didn’t have the humility in him to come away merely chastised and humbled, like a normal person (in the genuine sense, not the bullshit “I’m humbled to have your support in my campaign for the presidency” sense so common today). No, this was about men doing manly things and narrowly avoiding their untimely (but manly!) deaths. I came here to apprentice myself into a trade, not to get some latently antisocial asswipe’s mentorship on how to be a putz to one and all, and Joe Dirtbag goddamn knows it. Years ago I threatened to turn my car around and drive back to Pennsylvania when he went all low-rent Socratic method on me about some stupid shit at the winery. My exact words were, “I didn’t come to Oregon to be analyzed.” He seemed to get the message that time. It didn’t last, though. It never does.

Is this what Mike Cernovich means by danger and play? God. Joe Dirtbag certainly plays dangerously, so to speak. No commercially viable winery is run in such a shambling dump. He wanted that barrel up on a table with a loose slat, which he pointed out to me while we were moving it. I was a bit leery of the table on account of the loose slat, but I took a look at it and felt more or less comfortable that it would hold. I should have gone with my gut feeling and vetoed this numb-nuts move. Business principals have a duty not to needlessly endanger their subordinates, and subordinates have a right to force a stop to practices that needlessly endanger themselves. Full stop. This is not an appropriate venue for death-wish recklessness. I wasn’t base-jumping off Pilot Rock or kayaking off Cape Foulweather during a small craft advisory. I was working in a winery, and in one without the inherent danger of large equipment.

The problem was that I was working under the direction of a fucking idiot, and that I was stupid enough to trust him when he proposed loading a quarter ton onto a shoddy old table with a loose slat. The tabletop was built from what look like some old fence pickets undergirded around the edges by two-by-fours. As Joe Dirtbag put it later that evening, he tried to make it work because “I wanted it to work.” My mistake was figuring that it would probably hold and not insisting on using a table that absolutely, without a flicker of doubt, hold, barring an act of God.

This bullshit is clearly a failure of masculinity. Men have done the lion’s share of prudent engineering throughout history, too, but this dumb fuck felt like a real man for winging it with a piece-of-shit table and managing not to come to immediately life-threatening grief from it. The alternative models of masculinity are there for anyone interested in them, but raging dipshits like Joe Dirtbag aren’t interested. That’s the problem. As I mentioned, I consider it adequately masculine to be substantially apprenticed into a skilled trade, so I feel no need to showboat. More to the point, I consider it adequately adult. Joe Dirtbag’s judgment and after-the-fact commentary about that structurally failed table were not adequately adult.

I’ve talked a lot of trash about the Boy Scouts, but one thing the BSA does completely right is its firearms safety instruction. My troop went to summer camps that offered rifle instruction at target ranges where the instructors had zero tolerance for horseplay. This was exactly as it should be. Stupid boys need to be taught the fear of God around firearms. They need to be taught to scrupulously follow rigid safety protocols. This is the sort of instruction that saves lives. The BSA gave us excellent instruction in knife safety, too. If people are going to use dangerous weapons, they need to be taught to use them safely. The BSA did a great job here, especially given how many of the teenagers it was educating were natural dipshits.

An easily wounded sense of masculinity gets people killed. In the midcentury, the NRA devoted much of its energy to advocating gun safety. Like, hey, these things are cool, but they’re dangerous, so by God, be careful with them, and here’s when we’re having our next gun safety class. The NRA today is a lobby for open-carry lunatics who take AR-15’s into Starbucks. It’s devoted to the ammosexual aggrandizement of people who bear arms so powerful that their issuance is restricted to the most thoroughly vetted and trained firearms officers in Great Britain. The overwhelming majority of these ammosexuals are men, so there’s definitely a psychosexual aspect that doesn’t really affect women. Many women hunt with firearms or carry guns for protection, but they’re mostly absent from the really crazy shit, and when they do show up to flex, it’s often under the leadership of their ammosexual husbands, as with the his and hers Glock 9 open-carry couple who take their Harleys out to various Starbucks locations in Jackson County on Sunday afternoons.

The same degeneracy has consumed the dot-com scene. I lived in Palo Alto as a child in the eighties and early nineties, and I distinctly remember engineers being some of the most respected people in the state. They didn’t make much noise about themselves, and they didn’t have boosters making much noise on their behalf, but non-engineers seemed to respect them for their competence and sound judgment and value their contributions to society. These days, the Bay Area has been overrun by dot-com blowhards who either have no engineering training or do their best not to show it: Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli, Pax Dickinson, Peter Shih. California’s old-school engineers were mostly men, too, but these guys are a different breed of men. The old-liners didn’t make a show of their own masculinity; the newbies do. It’s probably no coincidence that feminist pests like Adria Richards and Anita Sarkeesian have gone into the dot-com sector at the same time. Their grievances don’t look nearly as crazy against the Silicon Valley bro mob as they would have against some dorky but gentlemanly structural engineer at PG&E.

Tom Wolfe, bless him, has chronicled both of these extremes. He wrote The Right Stuff, but he also named the Me Generation and, years later, diagnosed one Ike Walsh from 60 Minutes with Pissing Monkey Syndrome in Back to Blood. Ike Walsh is about as thinly veiled as a character can be, and I was a bit surprised to see Mike Wallace accused of enjoying R. Kelly watersports. I’d never found Wallace worse than a bit abrasive, and one of the most credible critiques I’ve seen of 60 Minutes is that its interviewers ask softball questions in a fashion that manipulatively makes the questions look much more substantive and challenging than they actually are.

In any event, the premise of PMS (Wolfe has to have picked this name for its acronym) is that the monkey gleefully pisses on his owner until his owner turns the table and pisses on the monkey, preferably while shoving it into a toilet. Duly baptized, the monkey will then cuddle up with his master and purr contentedly, me love you longtime, Massa. In Wolfe’s telling, our friend Ike Walsh got washed in the rude stream by a soi-disant “sex addiction specialist” in Miami who spent the interview snorting with hail-fellow-well-met but condescending laughter about one of his critics, a researcher named Gibbs, whom he faux-affectionately called “Gibbsy” despite having met him once in his life, in a reception line to congratulate Gibbs for winning the Nobel Prize.

This sex addiction specialist is, like so many other characters in Tom Wolfe’s recent fiction, a totally useless wanker. They weren’t always. Try to imagine Chuck Yeager or John Glenn whipping it out and tinkling on his fellow; it just doesn’t work. Buzz Aldrin? Okay, maybe; he punched that lunar landing conspiracy theorist. These were men with real skills who didn’t need to mark their territory. They let their accomplishments speak for themselves. Now imagine Donald Trump going full Mannekin Pis on a rival. This makes more sense, yes? Now imagine Jeb Bush getting pissed on, not off, by a dominatrix. We’re still in the realm of the credible, unfortunately.

We’re a pathetic country. This is why, in our fiction, we get Hoyt Thrope punching out a rogue Chippie from the Governor’s security detail and feeling like his generation’s Alvin York. Thorpe doesn’t want anything to do with ROTC or OCS, and ROTC and OCS might not want anything to do with him, either, but don’t let that worry you: by his own reckoning, he’s a natural-born leader of the warrior caste. It is because we’re an unworthy country that we get an oaf like the Donald as our leading populist political candidate.

This is how Joe Dirtbag thinks when he’s feeling antisocial. He’s just marking the rest of us as his little bitches. And you have to be a little bitch at heart to do the kind of work I’ve been doing for him unpaid. You just have to be a chode inside. Who bitch this is? Nome Seine? He’ll never make a serious effort to settle accounts with us, his investors. He just doesn’t give a shit. On the PUA alt-right, this is often called the zero fucks given attitude. It might be harmless in purely social circumstances, but we have a business on a half-million-dollar property at stake here, with outstanding farm stock valued at well over a hundred thousand. Anyone who isn’t psychosexually in thrall to the principal in these circumstances will either be fed up (or worse) with the principal or become deliberately insensate in order to numb the pain.

This is no way to run a business. Faulkner would have enjoyed these asswipes as muses. The no-account incorrigible flimflammer who spent the summer of 2012 running the farm stand into the ground and burning bridges with its customer base showed up the other day to remove the old truck where Mixups in my Mind had been living before Joe Dirtbag finally evicted him for bashing windows to shard gravel when he got angry. Dude said he had called a tow truck to haul the old Toyota out into the hippie/redneck interface where he’d moved, that he was planning to use it as a parts truck for his own old Toyota. After spending half an hour talking story with Joe Dirtbag while I was waiting to get the day’s press run underway, he left just before the tow crew arrived. Two guys spent close to half an hour getting the truck into position, and just as they were about to leave, with the Toyota finally in position and ready to go, the lead tow guy told us that AAA had canceled the call. No one from dispatch was able to get in touch with Captain Flimflam, apparently. Having wasted probably two man-hours and two or three gallons of diesel on this call, they dropped the Toyota back down and left with nothing to show for all their work out in the cold.

Back in 2012, Captain Flimflam had plenty of time to play out-of-town gigs with his folk band, but he never had time to provide for his wife and her minor daughter, and he never had time to call the portajohn company to swap out the crappers before they overflowed with everyone’s shit and piss. This Bruce Springsteen-looking shady bastard is the quality of staff Joe Dirtbag attracts the way he’s running the place. Shit, mofo hadn’t even been working or living there for a couple of years, and he still managed to show up and waste several hours of other people’s time with his cool stories. At my most disgusted, I seriously considered telling him that, as an investor, I was ordering him to permanently leave the farm and would call sheriff’s deputies to remove him if I saw him on the property again. I probably could have secured the upper hand against both Captain Flimflam and Joe Dirtbag in these circumstances, given that I was living on the property and bankrolling it at a time when the two of them were engaging in provable gross breaches of fiduciary responsibility. I also seriously considered calling child protective services to request an investigation of Captain Flimflam’s daughter’s living conditions, which were egregiously inadequate, and to investigate her mother’s mental fitness (she appeared severely depressed much of the time) and Capt. F’s moral fitness to raise her. Island Boy later told me that I should be glad I didn’t because “the Man is not your friend.” This was daft bullshit; in these particular circumstances, I had much less confidence in child protective services to force a reasonable resolution than I had in the Oregon State Police, but that’s just because I evaluate the authorities as discrete agencies and discrete agents, not as interchangeable operatives of the Man.

I’m too thoughtful for these fuckheads. I’m still trying to clean up the overgrown semillon vine rows that have been abandoned for ten or fifteen years, but I’m doing so with an eye to claiming future crop as sweat equity and selling it to winemakers who don’t run physical plants straight out of Faulkner. Hell if I know whether I’ll be able to prevail without forcing Joe Dirtbag into a corner with more threats. It probably depends on his mood when I raise the subject. It’s extremely accommodating of me as an investor to assert the right to personally clean up disused vineyard blocks, manage them, and sell what marketable crop I can harvest to recoup a portion of an investment that has been in the Thomas Crapper for at least six and a half years. Joe Dirtbag’s reaction so far, however, has been kind of, meh, that’s the wildlife sanctuary, I’ve been meaning to get to it someday. He can’t help himself. He just has to spew post-hoc justifications at me for his abandonment of these blocks, even though I wasn’t trying to criticize him for abandoning them in the past and wasn’t asking him to lift a finger to bring them back into marketable condition. I probably harshed his mellow, though, since he was feeling less like a failing yeoman with a henpecking wife and a circle of bullshit artists hanging around his property, all of them getting in the way of his business, and more like a Jeffersonian caretaker of the birds.

He may have been annoyed with me, too, for not asking his permission to start cleaning up this shit that I partially own. He really likes to be in charge, and in this case I decided to take charge. If he asks me to abandon this rescue pruning project I’ll have to come down on him really hard, and probably bring in my parents for backup. That will suck, but there won’t be any alternative other than more abject moral hazard. It’s more likely to come to a head if I tell him that I won’t help him with any more winery work this season. Never mind that causing the structural failure of that table was a serious fuckup; he was a man about it, if he does say so himself.

Shit. I forgot to mention that a few hours before the partial collapse of the table, Joe Dirtbag made sarcastic comments about OSHA when the remaining psychotic farm tenant showed up and offered a number of half-lucid comments about workplace safety in agriculture. “Please don’t report me to OSHA,” was one of JD’s lines, if I recall correctly. This psychotic guy has been working for him in the field in exchange for a site to pitch his camping tarp, a super-feudal arrangement. Unfortunately, even if he tried to blow the whistle with OSHA, he’d be hopeless to make a coherent report. Being factually correct about the workplace safety isn’t even half the battle when you believe in Catholic-Methodist occult conspiracies to subvert self-government.

This is what America has become: a floridly psychotic homeless guy who takes workplace safety much, much more seriously than his landlord, who runs a vineyard, a winery, and several tenant farming arrangements, while the landlord won’t stop having pissing matches with relatives just to prove that he can get away with breaking the rules, even the law.

Monkey pee, monkey doo, monkey go all over you!

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