The process of explaining Joe Dirtbag’s beef with Busboy and the bikie cop to my parents this morning went a lot better than it might have gone, but also much worse. They didn’t take my first two or three rounds of frantic, desperate sputtering well at all. We’ve been down that road before, and it ain’t pretty. After a few more rounds of back-and-forth shit, though, I started getting through to them much more clearly than usual about the appalling but frank truth that Joe Dirtbag really has reduced me and a number of other people around him to a state of extreme low-class dysfunction. The rectification of names about these things is never welcome, but it’s crucial. For example, I’m not temporarily living without a steady place of my own; I’m homeless and living like a fucking bum. It isn’t even something that I sought out. I’m not a shabby-chic hippie moron like the dog-pimping trustafarians and fellow travelers who ride the West Coast freeloading circuit, begging for alms from the sympathetic. (One hairball lounging across the street from me right now is letting passersby chill out with him and his shiba mutt, and damned if it isn’t cute.) I’ve had more than enough of the ironic detachment from these assholes about how being homeless is somehow cool. Honesty, some of them would be more respectable if they turned out to be total frauds running a lazy man’s hustle on the bleeding hearts. I frankly told my parents this afternoon that I became homeless to protect myself from Joe Dirtbag, and I think I got through to them this time.
What ultimately provoked this emotionally unhinged standoff at breakfast and followup airing of grievances in the underground parking garage at the Hilton in downtown Eugene, this bathetic, feelings-based remake of the story of Mark Felt, was my car accident in Del Norte County the other week. I feel a reflexive protectiveness towards the kid who hit me because, regardless of what all could have gone tragically wrong had he been a tiny bit less attentive for another second or two, because he was all of sixteen or seventeen, got himself into a jam right in front of his own father, and obviously felt bad about what he had just caused. But for the grace of God and dumb luck I could have gotten into an equally bad or worse accident at his age, and I probably would have been in even worse shape at the scene than he was.
It’s super subjective to swear that Joe Dirtbag’s knowledge about cars would be worse than useless to me in the circumstances and that I just know I’d be running an unacceptable risk of his butting into the fray and trying to turn me against that kid. I have no objective reason at all to feel protective of a distracted driver I talked to for all of one minute at the scene of an accident he had just caused while my car sat barely off the road, no longer safely operable on account of the damage he had just done to it. As a matter of course, I can hardly even stand to talk about feelings. That’s become the hallmark of assholes, and I don’t want to be one. But I’m convinced that the kid didn’t mean me any wrong, that Joe Dirtbag has deliberately done me wrong on numerous occasions, and that it would be absolutely unconscionable for JD to make fun of the kid for getting me into an accident.
Sure, most of Joe Dirtbag’s provocative behavior has been limited to words. Most of it has been, as my mom frantically dismissed it, “mouthing off.” The thing is, JD has launched these provocations from positions of authority and dominance. If some random traveling kid is sitting on ass downtown somewhere and muttering about punk-ass motherfucking pig-ass cops and shit, Sally don’t you know, that’s just some punk with a loud mouth. If the punk gets up in other people’s faces, it’s a different story, one that might interest the local punk-ass motherfucking pigs even in the most licentious corners of Portlandia. If a landlord carries on like that to his tenants, or if a business operator does so to his assistants, again, it isn’t just some random asshole innocuously running his loud mouth. Joe Dirtbag is both, and the time I most recently worked for him, he lashed out at me and Busboy under at least these two parallel auspices of authority.
It’s true that I have only a bad feeling that he may start physical brawls and get someone hurt. My mom was initially livid with me this morning because I refused to concede that his apparent avoidance of physical fights to date means that his utterance of fighting words to men he expects not to react violently is tolerable and adequately safe. One problem is that he calculatingly utters fighting words tailored to his targets’ vulnerabilities, uses implicit threats of a menacing reaction to convince us to hold our peace before him, and uses the resulting success in humiliating us without consequence as a validation. Another problem is that he has recently cultivated relationships with neighborhood bruisers, including Mixups in my Mind, and has other, even worse, bruisers whom Mixups knows squatting on nearby properties. Here he has a paranoid, floridly psychotic squatter, whom he evicted for throwing and breaking equipment in fits of anger and publicly yelling at the Devil, who in turn is in touch with a neighborhood enforcer who deals with accused petty criminals by threatening to beat them halfway to death if they don’t get out of Dodge by nightfall. It’s possible that Mixups had one of his mixups about this enforcer when he told me that the enforcer had cornered the guy Mixups thought he had seen stealing wine from the winery in the middle of the night and threatened to break his legs if he saw him in the neighborhood after nightfall that night. That isn’t a risk of accuracy that a sensible person takes. Neither is the possibility that Mixups was mixed up about the details of the shovel fight he said he had nearly had with another bum on the beach in Bolinas before the Indian medicine lady broke it up with a peace blessing of hand jive and gibberish. He’s the kind of gentleman one can imagine performing a shovel-ready Dennis Geyer project on his fellow.
In a healthy social circle, a low-rent provocateur like Joe Dirtbag would promptly be told to shut the fuck up. Or, to paraphrase St. Francis, the Gospel of the Burial of Hatchets would be preached to him at all times, with words if necessary. One of the infuriating things about these provocations is that JD seems to shy away from committing them against men he figures are legit badasses. For those men, implicit threats of violence are salutary. George Orwell said something to this effect, too, although it was more about state totalitarianism than some asshole housing tenants in squalor on his farm and harassing them about their contacts with the police. Did he really think that the rough men should be standing by, ready to do violence to some local-yokel shithead on behalf of his circle of pushovers? I dunno. Maybe. These things do scale as fractals, and Joe Dirtbag has sleazier self-justifications at the ready than the misappropriation of saints and novelists. I’m trying to say that he shouldn’t be given the quarter to terrorize those around him, while he’s arguing that he should, but that that isn’t really what’s happening, and I’m overreacting and should learn to take a joke and shit.
My parents get caught in the middle because they can’t stand the thought of being forced to take sides if JD goes nuclear. I get steamed as hell at JD for stirring this shit up, because nothing of the sort is being stirred up by anyone else in our family, even the Family Shrew. She has basically repented and reformed, although hell if I can say how or why. I’m not just being a judgmental asshole over ancient slights. Remember, I’m still either homeless or the next thing to homeless, and that’s been going on for years. The Family Shrew’s discovery of almost unprecedented graciousness doesn’t mean a damn thing about her husband in any event. He still has a creepy beef with me that I cannot adequately explain. Showing him Christian forgiveness in gracious expectation of Christian repentance not yet forthcoming sounds quite like what the internet has lately taken to describing as cuckoldry. Dirtbag bitch this has all too often been, but Dirtbag bitch this no longer wants to be. Besides, he’s continuing to expose other people to completely needless and unacceptable danger.
My parents, in particular my mom, admonish me that I can’t go around calling the police just because he’s upsetting me in petty family disputes. They have a point, but this is more than just run-of-the-mill assholiness. If it were, I would never have spent more than a few weeks without stable housing. This is deadly serious dysfunction with truly extreme effects. Also, my mom seems to be implying that we are not the sort of family that calls the police on troublesome relatives who “have always been like that.” Two counterpoints: First, depending on what the meaning of “that” is, Dennis Lynn Rader, too, has always been like that. Second, if Joe Dirtbag were pulling this shit somewhere back east and I had local old-school cops for buddies, he might well have been put bodily up against the wall years ago. That’s a double-edged sword, of course, but I’ve already been sucked into a vortex of white trash, so better, less trashy classes of white trash sound pretty fucking appealing sometimes.
We are the kind of family that gets fucked over by its own white trash. This situation has already blown up repeatedly. What incentive do I still have to keep holding my peace over this low-rent thug enforcing Tobacco Road on his property in a jurisdiction that is just about the farthest thing on earth from a failed state?
At least I’ve gotten out of dinner with that bastard tonight. I don’t like threatening to convene the pork board just to keep a creep away from me and out of my business with Farmers and the DMV, but it seems to work.