One of the most telling things I’ve heard about Joe Dirtbag’s habit of overfamiliarity is that, according to the Ragin’ Canajun, Captain Flimflam got fed up with JD’s officious paternal meddling in his business and told him to get stuffed on a number of occasions. The surprising thing about this is that Captain Flimflam is terrible about observing personal and professional boundaries, one of the most creepily nosy people I’ve ever met. Worse, he makes a show of being a devil-may-care shitlord about his gossipy weirdness, so that anyone trying to stand up to him would look like a butthurt spoilsport. Hearing that Joe Dirtbag pissed him off, too, with an unwelcome father figure act did much to confirm my suspicion that Joe Dirtbag tries to take grown-ass men under his wing as surrogate sons without making any effort to discern whether they’re interested in being thus fathered.
This story just barely makes me feel sympathy for Captain Flimflam. Being forcibly adopted by a disinhibited old geezer at the age of thirty or forty is bullshit, even if the visitation lasts for only a few minutes at a time. On the other hand, what Joe Dirtbag and Captain Flimflam together did to Straight-Shot Luke was much worse and leaves behind only the faintest trace of sympathy for either of them. It probably gets lost in the haze of complaints about Joe Dirtbag’s creepy and generally untoward behavior, but he usually makes quite good first impressions. He doesn’t target first-time or casual acquaintances with creepy intrusions. He’s savvy and sensible enough not to alienate people who aren’t already invested with him in some fashion by being a douchetastic gobshite. With Straight-Shot Luke, my understanding is that this good behavior lasted for a year or two before he brought Captain Flimflam in to squat on land Luke was already renting. This must have been a shocking development: months on end of basically uneventful interactions with a landlord who’s a bit crude and cynical around the edges but adequately professional in his business dealings, followed by the same landlord’s orchestration of a land dispute between a competent, diligent, paying tenant and a slimy bullshit artist of a squatter. The let’s-you-and-him-fight setup probably came out of nowhere. It may well have made Straight-Shot Luke wonder whether Joe Dirtbag wasn’t losing his mind.
This afternoon, I went hiking on my way back to the farm. I’d been away for a week and a half, traveling around California with my parents for most of that time. Just the thought of going back into that rat squalor to retrieve tools made me want to leave the state again. It felt like a cloud of bad health descending towards me. I’d had a welcome respite from that filth, and I did not feel like abruptly ending it at a time when motel rooms can be had for $30 in either San Diego or South Lake Tahoe. I also didn’t want to get Shanghaied into joint projects and have to tell JD no, because he and no don’t get along all that well.
The triggering realization that finally made up my mind to turn around and not return to the farm, at least not yet, was that Joe Dirtbag would probably inquire after my parents. Yes, that, of all things. The problem is that these aren’t normal pleasantries. When he asks after them, he usually demodulates his voice, as if he’s speaking to a chattering high school classroom or to a small child or a retard, and he often uses smarmy pet names for one or both of my parents. I don’t need this shit. I just fucking don’t. He saw my parents less than a week ago, when we all stopped by for dinner and breakfast, and he talks to them on the phone pretty often. He doesn’t need me to bring the news.
There’s an additional aggravating context to these inquiries. He has clearly smeared me to my parents on a number of occasions, throwing them into panics over my wellbeing. My dad has made two emergency trips to the West Coast, at great financial expense, to make sure that I’m all right and attempt general interventions over my failure to launch, both of these trips provoked by clashes between me and Joe Dirtbag. JD probably could have prevented both of these trips, and saved my parents several thousand dollars, just by saying, look, I fucked up there and he has good reason to be pissed off at me. He didn’t, because he’s not one to take a mea culpa when he can instead take a tua culpa.
I feel a bit boxed in now because Joe Dirtbag is likely to snitch on me to my parents in the next few days, whether I return to the farm or not, and because any announcement I make to my parents about a change of plans that even hits at unhappiness with Joe Dirtbag or the farm is likely to upset them. I also have a social engagement planned in San Jose for next weekend, which will have me back in the Bay Area barely a week after I headed north. If Joe Dirtbag weren’t a fucking creep, I’d tell him straightforwardly about this trip, but I can’t control his decision to be an officious piece of shit who resents me for traveling too much and more broadly resents his own fantasies about my financial security. He’s someone who pretty much needs to be kept out of the loop. I have to err on the side of broadsiding him with my disappearances, announced or unannounced, because otherwise he’ll almost certainly creep me out. This way, he’ll only maybe creep me out a little bit. I can’t be upfront with him about the cost of lodging being cheaper hundreds of miles away, because he’ll twist that into proof that I’m a footloose trustfunder with no sense of commitment to anything or anyone. For fuck’s sake, I crash in these places because I don’t have enough money to regularly lodge somewhere twice as expensive, but Joe Dirtbag isn’t interested in my actual finances when he can dwell on my imaginary financial circumstances instead. There ain’t no surfing in San Ysidro, dumbo. At some dive motels in South Lake, ain’t no heat, either.
We can’t ask him not to make certain sorts of hurtful or offensive comments to certain people, because he’ll probably use the admonishment as a way to target his verbal abuse. Telling him not to ask me about my housing situation (you know, because I’m homeless and he’s the main reason why) backfired badly, provoking one of my dad’s emergency trips west. Asking him not to be an unctuous bastard when making small talk about my parents will probably backfire, too. Normal requests don’t work with him because he isn’t fucking normal.
Beyond a certain threshold I’ll bring the police in to chill Joe Dirtbag the fuck out. We aren’t at that threshold yet this time. We were back in May 2012, and in retrospect I should have found a Sacramento cop to call him with instructions to stop calling my cell phone. It wasn’t quite stalking, but it sure felt like it, and if he’d violated a police officer’s explicit demand on my behalf to stop calling me, it would have been closer yet. Some of the things he says to my parents over the phone come pretty close to menacing or stalking by proxy. Remember, no other employer would be able or willing to have any sort of back-channel contact with my parents about my work habits, whereabouts, activities, or demeanor. This is some really skeevy shit. Some of it, I believe, has been emotionally distressing and malicious enough to give me grounds to petition for an injunction limiting the scope of Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew’s comments about me to my parents. They’re free to complain about me to other people who won’t freak the hell out and let word get back to me. Intentional infliction of emotional distress gets a bad rap in the blawgosphere, but I’m pretty sure that Joe Dirtbag has used it against us with extreme malice, the near impossibility of reaching the civil burden of proof notwithstanding. This sounds like a romance gone to hell because it’s a dead ringer for exactly that, minus the redeeming sexual parts.
If I get completely fed up with this shit, I can always turn state’s evidence on Joe Dirtbag about everything. Going to Tahoe or getting naked and jackin’ it has the appeal of keeping me away from the fight ring for a while, and, as I mentioned, saving me a shitload of money. I keep meaning to get new prescription glasses because there’s hardly any more space on the broken right hinge of my current frame for more super glue, and Tijuana claims to have hella cheap optometry. I’m damn well not telling Joe Dirtbag that I went to Mexico to get new glasses because he’ll probably take it the wrong way. I’ve been unable to get input on Mexican optometry from my Spanish-speaking gringo buddy and his Mexican wife, either, because they’re in Bali right now. Laksanakan! Laksanakan! Never mind. Wrong Bali Duo. I may go to TJ anyway, though.
What is it that Lenin said about war? That you may not be interested in it, but it is interested in you? Hopefully creepitude isn’t interested in me right now, but who the fuck knows.