Choosy beggars

Mother-in-Law scolded one of the younger pickers today and threatened to fire him for not meeting the fifty-pound daily minimum, not five yards away from me, then, maybe ten minutes later, smiled at me and told me, “You’re doing great!” The I-can’t-keep-a-straight-face thing about that was that I wasn’t on course to break thirty pounds for the day when she said it, so her idea of cause for terminating members of the twerpkin wasn’t really about low productivity. She had just about admitted as much during the latest installment in her lecture series: “If you stop talking and pick you’ll reach your fifty pounds.” That ain’t necessarily so, either: no matter how diligent we are, we get hot and tired and sluggish, and our output drops. We don’t have that Bigfoot hardiness, so Think Out Loud didn’t have a lengthy segment about us fresh on the heels of an interview with a reverse-Bruce tranny. It isn’t the worst thing to think quietly and say nothing, but that isn’t how Oregonians roll.

Mother-in-Law’s thought out loud isn’t isn’t the most thoughtful. Threatening other employees with termination in front of me is hostile to me, too. I’m a big boy, but it’s still hostile. I’m astute enough to recognize that there’s still something really wrong with her managerial style even if she’s making sure to treat me better in her direct interactions with me. The terse argument that she started with Daughter-in-Law over what had and hadn’t been picked wasn’t any good, either. MiL briefly started a similar pissing match with me but dropped it when I pointed at some good fruit that obviously had to be picked. I don’t envy anyone who marries into that.

At the end of the day, one of the pickers told DiL that he needed to take Saturday off. She approved it but told him, “We like to get at least a week’s notice. That’s okay, but [some more not very memorable managerial bullshit].” I think “in the future” was part of it. A popular conception of the future is one in which picking berries for that family for three to five dollars an hour is safely in the past. I really don’t want to be passive-aggressive or defiant or anything like that, but what the hell kind of operation do they think they’re running? I didn’t catch the other picker’s reason for wanting Saturday off, so it may have been total bullshit, but their half-assed piece rates alone are a good enough reason to quit.

The idea of inspiring adult responsibility by paying adult wages is a sound one. I don’t want to encourage anyone to try to fuck them over for shits and giggles by abruptly coming and going, but they’re getting a lot less of it than they’re inviting by paying abysmal wages and also letting MiL mouth off at us. They try to keep her on a short leash, but it doesn’t really work.

A friend told me that she supervised eighty people and didn’t recall ever yelling at them, but that’s what it’s like to be ethically and behaviorally grounded. MiL has floating ethical and behavioral standards, rather like currencies, and pretending that the Bolivar is consistently worth a dime on the dollar is absurd. We’ll fire you on a partial day’s notice for being slow but ask that you please not take a day off on less than a full week’s notice out of consideration for us is super fucking incoherent, not the stuff of institutional credibility and good repute.

I still greatly enjoy the work and haven’t had any grave problems with the owners since MiL’s forcible berry tasting, and I get that supervising childish, flaky twerps sucks, but at the same time I have no objectively compelling reason to bend over backwards to accommodate them. Summary resignations and attendance problems go with the territory that they’ve staked out, and I’d say they have to deal with less of that shit than they should expect. It’s glaringly reasonable for any of us to ask what we’re getting out of a job like this. No matter how much I love the work, it is not a career. Are we there to make serious money? I don’t fucking think so, Watson. They don’t have that to hold over us in a way that isn’t totally laughable. “Oh, we assumed you needed to do this to make a living but could somehow make ends meet by taking all your poverty wages as a lump sum at the end of the season.” Yeah, sure. Are we there because we’re enterprising? Give me a break, Stossel. Working for a small business isn’t nearly as daunting as running one. I’m aware of this because I don’t get my ideas about entrepreneurship from Amway-distributed self-help books on entrepreneurship.

The itty-bitty personal crisis of my own that just ran into the bullshit over DiL’s bullshit about advance notice for time off is my dad strongly encouraging me to go to Washington State this Saturday for a very extended family reunion organized by some distant relatives he met at another reunion of the same family in North Carolina earlier this summer. As Mickey Cohn would say, I solve these cases for a living, and that guy over there picks fruit for a living. You go to family reunions for a living. (What is a “living,” and how does one arrange to work for one?)

The In-Laws will probably think I’m a flighty wanker if I tell them that I decided on less than a week’s notice to go to the San Juan Islands on a workday to meet some people whose family relationship to me I can only vaguely describe. I don’t want to set up a situation in which any of them are insinuating that I’m a dilettante who doesn’t need the job and can just kind of wander off whenever. Again, they are not paying any of us enough for us to make ends meet, and in my case this job is a short-term money loser, but I really want to leave this hornet’s nest alone. Financially, I’m doing this overwhelmingly for the Social Security contributions. These aren’t much, but they’re better than nothing. As a financial proposition, I can just kind of wander off whenever. I don’t want to lord it over them with this flexibility, but I have it if I need it.

As it is, I’m on the fence about the family reunion, since I’ve never met any of the other attendees, I’m a bit uncomfortable in novel social situations, and it’s being held on a summer weekend in an area that gets absolutely fucking swamped on summer weekends. Lodging is already scarce, even in Snohomish County, and it’s pretty much booked in the islands. On the flip side, I like the idea of getting some more payroll income when I have a ready opportunity to get some. At the same time, I don’t care for the idea of skipping out on an event out of town that my dad says I’d probably very much enjoy just because my bosses are getting up on their high horses about notice for time off from a job at which I sometimes earn less than twelve dollars a day. As a matter of principle, that just fucking sucks. I already make sacrifices in my quality of life to hold down this job, and I do so quietly and stoically because housed normies really don’t get homelessness, so I don’t like the dynamics of being asked to make additional sacrifices to accommodate my bosses in their quest for perfectly cheap and compliant labor.

I also don’t like conflict, so I don’t know where the fuck that leaves me if I try to take a stand. Mother-in-Law may do something over-the-top in front of me again, separate from whether I have anyone’s permission or blessing to go yuk it up with my conveniently discovered family. I don’t want conflict over that, either, but it may want me. What’s at stake here is not a functional, healthy, appropriate workplace; it’s the reemergence of an utterly dysfunctional, unhealthy, inappropriate, intolerable one.

Even so, I recoil at the idea of using this as leverage. DiL and DiLH have enough trouble dealing with MiL in the best of circumstances, without my reminding them of what a dipshit she can be. By windward Pacific Northwest standards, this is the humility of St. Francis in Lent. The way to really get the goods out of one’s fellows up here is to go to the sidewalk seating area at a trendy restaurant in a heavily Jewish part of Northwest Portland, rudely panhandle the customers for some help getting something to eat, order the most expensive sandwich off the menu, and further embitch the bleeding hearts who performed this Judeo-Christian mitzvah by hovering over them in self-righteous ill humor for ten minutes while waiting for the waitress to present the gift of sammich.

I’m almost apologetic when I’m offered deposit bottles at rest areas around here, so I know I’m not doing charity right. Homegirl up in hella Northwest knows that it begins at home, and that being a roundly ugly bull dyke in a crappy track suit needn’t get in its way. If our nation could have An Army of One, there’s no reason to deny our parochial their Parish of One.

There’s no way the Ditzney Princess has given two minutes’ thought to any of this shit. Awareness is its own punishment. Some of us are embarrassed to work for Gobias Industries. Others of us aren’t embarrassed because it never occurs to us that we’re doing anything of the sort. *Checking the temperature and confirming that it is not too hot to put on a fine black leather jacket* Who’s “us,” Kemo Sabe? *Gillespie dismissed, with directions back to Stoner Avenue* I guess I work for us, then.

It’s not like we were hired to drive the Coast Starlight to Klamath Falls and if we don’t show up there may not be a train tonight. There’s actually money and benefits and shit for doing that. Railroad engineers and that entitled, sourpuss bull dyke up on Glisan name it and claim it. I do, too, if by “it” we mean however many deposit bottles I can fit into the falling-apart cardboard box on in the back seat of my car and a twenty-five-cent tip for doing hard labor that feeds this nation. Chaka Can Chaka Can. Dem shine George coin. Chaka Can. I feel for all the wrong things and people sometimes. Some of us are a few Ephesians shy of a 3:20. Joel Osteen isn’t, but he also doesn’t produce anything but the oil off his own face. One of the nice things about Catholicism is that the Liturgy of the Eucharist includes a mandatory shout-out to vineyard fruitboys and girls, in contrast to what evangelicals have to say about laborers in the vineyard, which is usually retarded, but even the worst bible-thumping fundy can’t hold a candle to the Clintons for an insufferable Vineyard story.

Martha Washington, pray for us.

Interstate Avenue

When I saw the No Washington Bottles sign on the wall at the Delta Park BottleDrop today, my first reaction was lol good luck with that. My second, much darker, thought was that OBRC might actually try to enforce the regulation against interstate smuggling. There’s absolutely no way in hell to enforce anything of the sort equitably. The closest thing to equitable enforcement would be a regime that uniformly checks the origin of every customer’s bottles. That would cause excessive burdens for the poorest, most desperate customers and choke the entire system on bureaucracy, bringing it to a sputtering halt. Compelling bottlers to label their bottles specifically for sale in Oregon as a condition of selling here is presumably beyond the pale politically. Bottlers have the operational and financial capacity to cope with a state-by-state labeling regime more readily than individuals can cope with an intrusive inspection regime, but they also have lobbyists, and the rest of us don’t so much.

The sign noted that some try-hard safety club administrative regulation allows bottle redemption centers to turn away bottles that they believe to have been purchased out of state and to refuse to accept bottles from customers with Washington license plates. To illustrate this, the sign’s background was a copy of the blue-on-white lithograph of Mount Rainier from the Washington license plate under the struck-through red circle from a no-smoking sign. Frankly, out-of-state tags aren’t probative of a damned thing. They’re going on the basis of prejudicial suspicion and nothing else. They don’t know where the hell anyone’s bottles were purchased because the inefficiency of certifying provenance and chain of custody, of treating like antiquities junk that someone just fished out of a fucking trash can, would crash the system. The cost of efficiency is some petty crooks bringing in bottles from out of state. Big fucking deal. Just this year the deposit in Oregon was raised from five cents to ten because the percentage of deposits redeemed had stayed below eighty percent for several years straight, so it’s a matter of public record that the bottle fund had a strong positive cash flow until at least last year.

So we’ve got this really fucking neighborly sign outlawing Washington two miles from downtown Vancouver (why, hello, neighbor!) and telling Washingtonians to fuck off and take their bottles to an appropriate recycling center that doesn’t offer deposits, in roughly the tone one would expect of a sign cautioning sexual perverts to go to McNeil Island for their civil commitment. Cascadia federalism will totally work, guys. It won’t be anything like US federalism, or even Canadian federalism. It totally won’t involve a state that sent an advisory team from its corrections department to teach its counterparts in Delaware how to revive the lost art of judicial hanging or had a death squad mace one of its own condemned men in extremis when he resisted his own Saddamnation. Nothing located anywhere between Clarksport and Blaine possibly makes Erin Sharma look human, and no one in North Portland has a beef with anyone on the other side of the Columbia for stealing the Oregon treasury’s shiznit.

The prospect of the regulations against the importation of deposit bottles actually being enforced raises the specter of authoritarian overreach by exactly the people who belong nowhere near positions of authority. If OBRC tries to bar the door against Clark County freeloaders, it will end up hiring police academy rejects whose love of power for the sake of power has them on course for jobs as casino rent-a-cops unless something else drifts within reach. The license to interrogate and interdict certain classes of people for improvable petty fraud is exactly the commission to convince a bunch of officious asshats who naturally suffer from hypervigilance verging on PTSD and suspicion verging on clinical paranoia that they’re Inspector Lewis. We’ve got a regime here that threatens to breed monsters for no other reason than to root out a few sad sacks who smuggle thirty-dollar loads of cans in from Hazel Dell. I honestly thought Oregon had more heart than to do something that vicious, but I guess not.

This regime–again, if it’s actually enforced–will fall heaviest on the poorest and most desperate. Bill and Melinda Gates aren’t showing up with bags full of cans. The Delta Park BottleDrop was mobbed this afternoon, and I was one of only two or three people in the building, other than the staff, who didn’t look utterly indigent. Most of the other customers were dressed for shit. I’m sure that some of them were wearing castoffs from Goodwill.

Everything that could be wrong with them, other than a late-stage Marlon Brando wheeling himself up to the hot tables in a Chinese buffet with nasal oxygen in tow, was wrong. They were slovenly, slouchy, shabbily dressed, out of shape, overweight in ways that looked indescribably but unmistakably abnormal, underweight in that classic somebody better feed Kid Rock way, and in many cases vaguely distempered, hostile, and of diminished executive function. One lady in front of me was feeding bottles into the machine without looking, causing herself to lose at least one into a deep crevice beside the conveyor belts when it hit another bottle that the machine had been rejected. I was afraid that she’d curse me out and turn into an in-your-face bitch if I pointed this out to her, so I held my peace.

Heh, I initially wrote that as “held my piece.” I might as well have been doing that, probably. Going in there with only $1.50 worth of bottles at all-day rush hour wasn’t a compellingly good decision. Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy. Nah, who am I kidding? These people are too harried to take a Sabbath. They were lined up out the door the first time I swung by; I came by a couple of hours later and joined a line that went almost back to the front door, then walked past several people who were lined up outside the door as I left after another fifteen minutes.

We weren’t there for our health. I have a cushion that will keep me going for another month of two on its own, for which I’m greatly thankful, but the extra money helps me, too. For most of the other people there, it must have been indispensable. They weren’t traveling kid grungy. They weren’t larping some crappy slumdog shtick. They were the real deal, the genuinely, generationally poor. I didn’t need to take a second look at them to tell that an extra twenty or thirty dollars would be a true godsend.

Police states tend to fall heaviest on the poor. An administrative police state enforced by non-sworn petty functionaries for the purpose of deterring petty bottle deposit fraud is no different. That has the effect of demonizing, menacing, humiliating, and degrading the poor. BottleDrop often attracts the lumpenproletariat, but the Delta Park store attracted the hell out of them. I was surprised by the sheer numbers, but not so much by the overall mix, although I was a bit taken aback, because the neighborhood ain’t so hot. There’s no telling how many cold homeless are living in the woods or on disused patches of land around industrial properties in North Portland, but the number is sizable. The revulsion of higher classes to this crowd is natural and to some extent inevitable; frankly, some of them really are the dregs; but it should not be encouraged. We all should aspire to something better, something more human.

I felt really uncomfortable with the implications of an official sign in an unpleasant built environment menacingly accusing an exceptionally destitute customer base of wholesale criminality and threatening to take extreme actions to thwart it. Examining license plates is extreme. Demanding proof of purchase in Oregon is extreme. The sign was probably posted due to the facility’s proximity to the Washington state line, not due to the poverty of its customers, but its presence in a facility used overwhelmingly by the visibly indigent was disturbing.

These are people who go through their entire lives, sometimes generation after generation, associating exclusively with other members of the underclasses. Their only contacts with anyone from the lower middle class or above are with police, teachers, social workers, jail guards, and maybe other professionals, most of whom do not regard them as anything like equals.

The rest of us treat them like dogshit. We other the hell out of them and leave them to their separate and unequal world of check-cashing joints, ghettoside 7-Elevens, and bottle redemption centers. (As bad as the last can be in Oregon, the ones in California are a whole other quantum of misery and degradation.) We pretend that this other world doesn’t exist. God knows I mostly try to avoid it, because it sucks, and because most of the companies and individuals who set up shop there richly deserve to go out of business.

The chronic degradation of the very poor is one of the reasons why Robert Pickton got away with serial murder for so long. The women he murdered weren’t just prostitutes; most of the prostitutes among them were homeless or housing-insecure streetwalkers with hard drug habits. He also targeted a number of indigenous women living on Indian reserves, which are about as bad in Canada as in the United States. He went after women who were effectively second-class citizens. That’s who I saw in BottleDrop today, too: second-class citizens living in a second-class society. No, more like third-class, to be generous.

These people won’t assimilate into middle-class society if they continue to be treated like thievish losers who deserve monitoring worthy of a prison visiting room. They need to be shown some good faith, some benefit of the doubt. The affluent wouldn’t put up for fifteen minutes with the shit that the poor face on a daily basis.

We can’t expect the disorder that we’ve encouraged in poor neighborhoods not to seep into wealthier ones, or to flood in unexpectedly, triggered by something equally unexpected. Bad shit taking root on the margins isn’t good for anyone. We encourage the maintenance and proliferation of reservoirs of ill at our own peril, not just at the peril of those who get stuck living in such environments.

In my own experience, Washington is a weak-ass canning state, but take your ass up to Battle Ground and get some bottles. Take your ass up to Puyallup and get some bottles. Take your ass all the way up to Lynden and get you some damn bottles. Take your asco over to Pasco, bitch, and get bottles. It isn’t a Wesley Willis song (sic), but it should be. Amen, in the name of Jason Lee, I duly abet ye all.

The permanent business plot

Being decisively on the same side of a contentious political debate as Tom Cotton is disorienting for me. It’s like one of my occasional mornings on the road when I wake up with no idea within three hundred miles of where I am. This must be the famous horseshoe theory. It certainly doesn’t give me the feeling that I have not been hit in the head with a horseshoe.

What Cotton said on behalf of his new immigration bill the other day was morally sound and pitch-perfect. He is absolutely right that it’s time to start doing right by Americans who work with their hands and work on their feet. He’s absolutely right that concern for the welfare of destitute foreigners is harming the welfare of working-class Americans.

Our leaders are not making a credible or sincere effort to reconcile these conflicting interests. Cotton at least recognizes that these interests conflict and takes an aboveboard position on whose interests he’s advancing. His opponents are too chickenshit and craven by a long shot to admit that they’re on the side of immigrant scab labor. That would look bad, and looking bad costs politicians reelection. Hence the rising chorus of complaints about excessive democracy from the center-left and the center-right. Democratic representation that actually represents the demos is problematic because it fails to represent the revolting elites. Let us #NeverForget how violently the Bern and the Donald have infuriated antidemocratic highbrow elements by appealing to downmarket constituents who hope for faithful representation.

Tom Cotton is probably first or second in line to infuriate them next. I haven’t checked the internet, but I have no trouble imagining denunciations of him for being a hapless hillbilly ignoramus legislating on the basis of old wives’ tales about the labor market and a spirit of herrenvolk reaction. What I heard from him in the press conference clip that NPR played was a clearheaded, workmanlike, and eminently coherent description of a serious problem that he has correctly identified and the reasonably good start that he wants to make towards solving it. His focus isn’t exactly where mine would be, but his goals overlap enough with mine and seem morally sound enough that I’m not of a mind to quibble over the mechanisms. He’s showing a hell of a lot more responsibility than the rest of Congress.

Before I get strawmanned (which will happen anyway), I should lay out exactly where I stand on a number of the points in question. I consider David Perdue’s comments about immigrants on welfare spurious and needlessly inflammatory. I do not approve of deficit concern-trolling or the opportunistic shaming of public assistance claimants, especially ones who work. That said, I can’t object to the immigration bill just because one of its sponsors is a minor public shithead.

I have no objection to the use of English proficiency as a criterion for visa approval. This seems perfectly reasonable and prudent. The United States is an English-speaking country. This is a matter of fact. Every other language spoken here is relegated to some marginal subculture; an inability to speak English drastically limits the ability of a person to function in this country. In this context, I see no reason to give a rat’s ass what languages have historically been spoken within the borders of the United States today or how objectively bizarre English is as a language. These are immaterial, distracting points, and I’m pretty sure that most of those advancing them damn well know it. It’s a language of empire, but tough shit. We’ve inherited an empire, so it’s up to us either to steward it and maybe bring it back into control as some kind of republic or be derelict and let it go totally to seed. The Mother Country gave us some ugly civic and political inheritances as part of the mix, but we’d be in worse shape under almost any legal system that we might have inherited in place of the English Common Law. The guys who ran colonial Mexico, at the time including most of the present-day Southwestern United States, were godbothering, slavedriving, tyrannical pieces of shit. Everyone living in that part of the country is lucky that the Spanish toffs were demographically and militarily overwhelmed, leaving behind a legacy of mission architecture, a bunch of misprounounceable street names, and some taco recipes.

Consequently, English is, as they say, our Lingua Franca. (It’s not just for the Franks anymore.) The possibility of there being anything controversial about this indicates a frothing overproduction of elites. Communication in English in no way necessitates utter agreement with everything the worst of the English have ever done. It is the language of anti-imperialism in the Anglophone world, too. Ooh, galaxy brain! It’s no less useful for running Commonwealth governments. Personally, I’ve always figured that if English is good enough for Jorge Castañeda, it’s good enough for me.

The point here isn’t to be bigoted or narrowminded. Having large, enduring enclaves of foreigners who cannot readily communicate with the native population presents a number of serious problems, for both the enclaves and for the native society surrounding them. This isn’t some angels-on-a-pinhead academic exercise. The wholesale presence of Mexican peasants in meatpacking towns has enabled the ruination working conditions, including safety, in American slaughterhouses. People have gotten killed in preventable industrial accidents on account of our feckless immigration policy.

The clubbable aren’t supposed to think about these things. That kind of work is for someone else, probably someone less American and definitely someone less educated. Meatpacking jobs were relatively safe, well-paid, and highly sought-after, sometimes to the point of years-long waiting lists for new hires, in the midcentury. They’re always been grueling, but today they’re needlessly grueling, terribly paid, supervised by cruel floor managers, and exceedingly dangerous. None of this just happened. Management spared no aggression in breaking the unions and replacing dedicated American lifers with disposable Mexicans, who have been replaced in turn in some meatpacking plants by Somali refugees.

There was never anything humanitarian about any of this. All this concern for the welfare of destitute foreigners is a disgusting conceit. It’s misplaced and wrong to blame the Mexican and Somali scabs for this arrangement; they’re just trying to get by after fleeing life-threateningly dysfunctional and violent homelands. All-American management teams, or at least very heavily American ones, saw an opportunity to exploit them in their desperation, and they took it. Throwing their fellow citizens, their fellow Americans, under the bus was just one of the costs of doing business.

Their fellow Americans have not forgotten a bit of it. The yuppie swarm moved past it, if they ever saw the faintest problem with it in the first place, but not the poors left behind to desperately try to hang on to a decent existence in wrecked factory towns. They remember. Few of them forgive. How can they forgive bad acts that are still being done to them in the most calculating, predatory, premeditated spirit? They aren’t fancy, but they aren’t a bunch of drooling retards, either. Society would grind to a screeching halt without the skills that they’ve spent their careers honing; it would carry on just fine without the fucking MBA’s.

I picked fruit again today. I’m unaware of any MBA’s who did that. Tom Cotton recognizes that there’s some hard work that needs to be done. From what little I’ve heard of his comments, he actually holds most of his fire. The extent to which educated elites, many of them proudly liberal, look down on and demean working men and women is unbelievable. Cotton’s pushback against this bigotry has been quite restrained. He’s standing up very politely on behalf of some of the most shit-upon constituencies in the United States at a time when there really isn’t anything wrong with standing up rudely on their behalf. The educated elites are all but literally biting the hands that feed them. How the hell do they expect that to end in their favor?

If you think I will or must vote Democratic because I’m educated or fancy, you’ve got your head up your ass. No one is hooking me up with the good stuff. This is what Tip O’Neill meant by all politics being local. My own local is full of yuppies who talk a great game about networking but never network me into jack shit. To be crude about it, my interests don’t intersect with theirs, and I’m not sure they ever did. Donald Trump humiliating and sandbagging their crowd is a good thing. They could do to be brought down a rung or two in a society whose working men and women have been dropkicked off the ladder straight into a pile of pigshit.

If I’m going to vote Democratic, i need a reason to vote Democratic. I’ve repeatedly voted for Dale Mensing for Congress solely because he’s listed on the ballot as a cashier. He could be nuttier than an Almond Joy on any number of issues, but that wouldn’t stop him from bringing Congress some much-needed insights about how menial workers are treated from day to day in this country. Loretta Sanchez gave me reasons to vote Democratic twice last year, but if Tom Cotton carpetbagged his way into a general election against Kamala Harris, he’d have to really screw the pooch for me not to vote for him. I wouldn’t assume that he doesn’t generally suck, but I know that Harris generally sucks, and I’d be thrilled to have someone coherently advocating and legislating on behalf of workaday Americans in the Congressional delegation from my first home state in its time of extreme yuppie infestation.

These are not sources of shame or embarrassment for me. I’m no MAGA shitlord, but I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say that much of what Donald Trump has been saying gives me rare hope and welcome schadenfreude. I didn’t expect him, of all people, to be the one to publicly take on the yuppies after his real estate and television careers, but I’ll take it, and joyfully so. For that matter, Anthony Scaramucci, an obvious prick, doesn’t disturb me the way Washington’s traditional lanyard dork army does. He looks and sounds sort of normal, other than his being a prick. The number of visibly abnormal people rushing around Washington is scary.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that hasn’t somehow disturbed Tom Cotton, too, and inspired him to push back against the yuppie swarm. The situation on the ground in Washington is hard to imagine from flyover country. It’s deeply pathological, verging on the Antebellum South in its hypocrisy and moral cowardice. Hiring exclusively Latin American staffs of presumably irregular legality is obviously a cheap and shady practice. Around Washington, it’s treated like a fucking Rotary cultural exchange, and no one has the courage to say otherwise. Of course it was never sincerely meant to be any sort of people-to-people shit. Has Marion Barry been handing out free crack rock in Northwest, or are they just a bunch of fuckheads? Hint: rhymes with “Buckhead.”

Bitches set themselves up, in both senses. These are not ones to live humbly or austerely or in truth. They’d much rather live grandiosely, lavishly, and in falsehood. Like #TIMMEH, they’re #LIVINALIE! More than a few of them look like they’ll imminently revert to his level of executive function, too. That has to be a great town to find a diaper fetishist. *Strom Thurmond, still going strong all night long* Now, that is no fetish, son; it is an expediency. Do I look like a man who remains clothed around a colored woman? *Strom Watch Expired*

I never expected Tom Cotton to be the one to notice that something was off about the joint and to try to fix it, but that seems to be where we’ve landed. Nah, more like washed up. But if he has the only fresh set of eyes capable of noticing that our federal government really is operating out of a fetid swamp, that’s better than St. Jean de Breboeuf driving an oil train through Lac Megantic. *Voice crying out in the frontier, probably in French* Brother, can you spare a pair? I can’t find mine.

That was unforeseeably bad. The bad stuff in Washington is all too foreseeably bad, and it isn’t just obscure blogging in bad taste. I’m in it for the art, and I guess the page views; they’re in it for the money and the power and the majesty. It’s past time that someone stepped up and tried to correct it. It’s happening in the midst of what may still be a real political realignment, so it won’t necessarily make sense. That’s okay. John Fremont was a Republican. William Jennings Bryan was a Democrat who got into religious meddling by way of positive law late in his career. We don’t need saints. As we saw in the previous paragraph, we really don’t need saints. We need political leaders who are halfway honest. Cotton and Trump are giving me that 53% feeling again, and oh hell yes, I do like it.

Wet bulb temperature

The Pacific Northwest has been having some exceptionally awful weather for the past week. Northwestern Oregon has had record and near-record highs, and smoke is drifting in from every which way. We’ve dealt ourselves some of that which we’ve smelt, but another portion of it is coming from British Columbia, so I’d be derelict not to immediately blame it on Jamie Davis. His neighbors, too; fuckin’ eh, friends. You’re all too busy smoking that damn rock like country slumdog Rob Ford to keep the whole fucking forest from going up in a big wall of fire.

Let’s rundel in the jungle; well, that ‘s all right by, by God, that is not in the least bit all right at all, but as the traditional fishing ditty holds, take Tommy Thompson, take Scott Walker or David Clarke and some water or either Ron Johnson; take extra rations and take Sam Dotson, but plea ea ea ease, don’t forget the pole. You may have found that, dare I say, shockingly tasteless, but page view stats tell me that most of you are still here for even worse, and besides, if you’ve been paying attention, you know by now to expect nothing less of Gerry and the Heartstoppers.

Lord have Mersey upon us all. That was a mess. So is the air we literally breathe. There’s no need to bring Jian Ghomeshi down here to make us choke. In a rather expensive and cruel prank at our expense, whoever we specifically are as Americans, OPB sent reporters to Bingen and the Horse Heaven Hills to deliver soundbyte reports about how there wasn’t much to see and we might not want to breathe. Something’s already gone wrong, Kroeger. An additional something’s gotta go wrong ’cause they’ll be pestering us for money to fund that shit before long and threatening to withhold further programming, on the assumption that that would be unfortunate. Maybe if we ignore them (ooh, I’m getting a kloo, too!) they’ll eventually realize that they’re just a couple of impotent losers grandiosely addressing a rally of exclusively imaginary friends. Nah, probably not. That’s way too much humility and introspection to expect of anyone who tries to sweeten extortion threats with offers of Downton Abbey box sets.

Our federal tax dollars remain hard at work at these fine enterprises. I really should fill out and turn in the EITC paperwork that the IRS mailed me; there’s no way I’ll steward that five hundred and whatever so embarrassingly.

What this pulverized MRE pea soup has meant for the fruitboys and girls has been shorter workdays. We’ve been sent home (what is “home”?) at 11:30 every day since Tuesday. Daughter-in-Law initially told us to take Thursday off to rehydrate and “plan something fun,” but then, at Mother-in-Law’s whispering insistence (she actually whispered in front of us), she made it an optional workday. Lol they’re all optional, but sure. Oregon statute or no statute against first-degree involuntary servitude, nobody’s about to get dragged into any Kunta Kinte in chains shit around here. The second-degree involuntary servitude statute doesn’t quite get to the roots of America’s original sin, but even if MiL thinks light violations are a good idea (I have no doubt that Joe Dirtbag does), all that any tirades in furtherance of labor under duress will accomplish is less labor of any sort at a farm that is already losing good employees to KFC, Les Schwab, probably video games, whatever useless shit I keep doing in the Adirondacks, and, from what I can piece together, the Navy.

If I really needed the money and the benefits, I, too, might think it a good idea to enlist in the Navy (in the Navy!). I don’t, so here I am. KFC sounds pretty dreadful, too, although less compulsorily so. I actually think about applying to Les Schwab from time to time, since it’s reputable as fuck (I’m still getting free rotations on tires that I preemptively told the technician I didn’t believe had been bought or mounted by Les) and the store floor plans are open enough to tell that nothing obviously abusive is going on in the back of the house, but I’ll definitely be waiting until after the eclipse, which even my dad said, in so many words, will be a clusterfuck.

In the meantime, I’m getting shit done. We all have to eat, and I pick food. I actually pick more fruit than I’m supposed to pick because I sneak around to the good thick stuff when our bosses aren’t nearby to bother us about the barely marketable weak-ass shit they also want us to pick clean. It’s an ongoing learning process to grasp just how little Americans believe in the labor theory of value. For all the talk about the value of hard work, it’s curious how little some of us, nay, many of us, get paid for actually showing up and doing it. This, again, is the job where I got the 25-cent tip, the presentation of dem shine George coin. It seems that most people who are bleeding-heart or generous or whatever enough to contribute to panhandlers at rest areas cough up a paper George or three. There is, of course, a corresponding loss of dignity in sitting on ass by the shitters with a short story and equally tall tale scribbled onto a piece of cardboard.

Usually. This week, with its complete lack of MiL lectures and berry tastings and limited managerial annoyances for not picking the shitty fruit, has been usual enough, and I really don’t feel like getting into the weeds with any of the owners about how we’d all do better if we did some basic triage, got the good fruit first, and went back for the marginal leftovers if we had extra time. Not my circus, not my monkeys. I really appreciate working at a place where I can show up after I’m fully awake and leave early if I get really bushed. Sure, they had better be that flexible at the piece rates that they offer, but the alternatives in the industry include some real moral dregs, which these people definitively are not.

Yesterday was the first day I left seriously early. Sometimes I stay late, because once I’m on site and making progress I usually get really motivated, but yesterday the smoke and the water vapor from recent irrigation gave the fields that old El Centro climate, and I was struggling. I couldn’t put a finger on what was so awful about it, except that the winds were mostly calm, but MiL told me as I was leaving that DiLH had told her that the fields were really humid on account of the irrigation. Again, even though there are better ways to irrigate than their system, I’m not here to judge, because everything to do with irrigation is a gigantic pain in the ass. The game sucks, so it’s hard to blame the players. The weird thing about MiL’s comment was that the ground in the block where I’d been working had been fairly dry (I’ve gotten my socks soaked in other recently irrigated blocks), but I’d been sweating profusely. I should have recognized that it was super humid. I did recognize that it felt like a Pennsylvania summer, but I don’t think I got my brain fully turned on until after I left for the day.

My output was pretty good for only three hours’ work, but that was because I’d left some crappy fruit unpicked and gone poaching farther up the row. Far be it from me to hate myself as a player, either. You gotta do what you gotta do in this business. Statistically, what you gotta do is quit and go see what’s for sale at GameStop.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so harsh on the interior BC crackheads above. They’d be all right for this line of work. The big midcentury fruit growers around McMinnville, muh fuckin Mack, used to send buses down Burnside Avenue in the middle of the night to pick up vagrant drunks and take them out into the ranches by daybreak, in time for a full day’s harvest. Love too employ severely hungover and fatigued individuals with behavioral and substance abuse problems in jobs requiring the maneuvering and climbing of ladders.

Crack is an upper, a drug of gittin’ er done, a drug, possibly, even of optimism. I take coffee breaks in the field; it might be no less judicious for a rock friend to take a crack break. Toking lightly on the rock might be the equivalent of my taking a few sips at a time these days instead of drinking the whole damn grande in half an hour, like I did back when I was an idiot about that shit.

I’m not trying to abet crack use. I do not reify an interior BC culture of buying home baking supplies from the Boston Irish mob and/or the RCMP and baking a buddy some crack. This culture is already in place. What I’m saying is that we might as well put those who are already a part of it to good use as fruitfolk if they don’t look like they’ll inevitably destroy the plants they’ve been assigned to strip. We wouldn’t want to hire Psychotarp or Mixups in my Mind to pick fruit while high on crack. We wouldn’t want to hire them to do anything at all while sober. Psychotarp once dug a new hole for the outhouse without botching the job. I think Joe Dirtbag gave him permission to dig the new hole just to stop the requests for permission to dig a shitter pit. There were hygienic considerations in favor of a new hole, and in favor of not having everyone shit into the same hole in the ground, but JD obviously didn’t have any of these in mind.

For those whose problem is narrowly limited to doing better on crack than not on crack, to the exclusion of over-the-top, out-of-control psychosis, and certainly for those whose problem is limited to enjoying some crack, we really shouldn’t be so concerned about sniffing out those whom the rock is cooking. The workforce won’t magically become functional and healthy on account of their absence from it; we’re trying that already. The Mack Attack Squad didn’t need drugs to be a nightmare for its colleagues.

Crack, intersectional with a desire to make enough money to buy some more crack, might be what it takes to motivate some crackers (heh) to come out and do the jobs that the Mexicans don’t want. I’m pretty sure that what we’ve been asked to do gleaning crap fruit without no bonus and no minimum wage is something the Mexicans don’t want. If there’s a labor shortage that the sober won’t fill (video games) or can’t fill (area lodging prices relative to cash on hand), skid row might have some surplus labor available that either has a drinking schedule consistent with day-shift labor or cherishes its uppers. These marginally attached are already in the labor market; it’s just that they’re on System D. They’re already gutting rental properties for slumlords for pennies on the dollar. Bringing them onto the payrolls somehow would be worthwhile, but our policymakers aren’t thinking that coherently. These fuckers are already chargeable, so we might as well get some recharge from them when we can, even if they’d rather be paid in kind–or in da kine, da kine being, if you can believe it, crack.

No, I don’t want anyone dying from overdoses in the fields. I also don’t want some hungover dipshit falling off a ladder.

Being all about that base works, too. Sarah Palin has what it takes to take a powdered pick-me-up and pick some damn fruit. Anthony Scaramucci may. Donald Trump is too lazy and hey wanna ride bikes to do the job. So was the ADHD spazz kid from two years ago. That’s what we get for hiring a sober Christian workforce. 

But don’t go around thinking that any powder will do. Powdermilk Biscuits never got anyone’s ass out of bed.

Shitty Holden Caulfield

A few years ago, I had the high dishonor and the distinct displeasure, as our Washingtonians are never so candid as to say, of working with a foursome of traveling kids that Joe Dirtbag had inadvisably allowed to crash on his farm through the autumn and into the early winter. By “work with,” I mean clean up after their ostentatiously hardworking, incorrigibly sloppy white asses and wonder about the judgment of anyone willing to allow them an operational role in a working vineyard and winery.

This was in the days before I began vomiting these pages onto the internet, so I have no earthly idea who blog this is or what it has to so with anything. No need to go around accusing me of topical focus and coherence, now; I swear I initially wrote that as “confusing me,” so, well, you see. You don’t mess with the man from Tuscon, not that I’m from Tucson or have any personal connection to marginally employed Hall and Oates Effect cryptotrustfunders who waitress a night or two a week at PF Chang’s when they aren’t flying to Denver to get boned by traveling insurance salesmen and/or First Amendment attorneys focusing on the expressive rights of pornographers who end up adverse to Ken White et al. and mercilessly ridiculed in the blawgosphere when they sue critics for publishing crappy cartoons depicting their mothers romancing polar bears.

That, too, has nothing to do with anything else. I imagine these particular parties shitting into properly plumbed toilets, but I imagine many things. Never mind me. By the way, I didn’t mean to imply above that any of Tuscon’s dickable bimbos hold themselves dickable by old hippie lawyers whose Stanford-dropout daughters shack up with borderline-psychotic squatters with DIY stepdown septic systems constructed from a series of plastic barrels and an outlet pipe into the creek, but these essays generally aren’t worth editing, so my language, like JFK’s vigorous little John-John, shall stand. Nor do I mean to accuse Tuscon’s underemployed waitresses of being common whores; common whores have a useful place in the social ecology that I wouldn’t want to laxly ascribe to anyone involved in the operation of PF Chang’s. There are things that one does when one wants to be a productive member of society, and then there are things that one does when wants to be quality by surrounding oneself with quality and Manuel Ramos for Sheriff.

But enough of those who make sure not to live in squalor. I haven’t yet discovered an American society in which that can be all of us, and it’s unsettling. Crystal Harris proposes but one possible folkway, fun stuff. The possibility that our dickable Tuscon bimbo is marginally more thoughtful than that is not encouraging, and please note that I called it a possibility, not a fact. We’ve got some sheltered fucking idiots on the loose around here, and their worldviews have policy implications for the rest of us. They pretend that non-fun stuff (the unfun?) doesn’t exist and get cross when confronted with it. I have trouble with that, in all senses.

The traveling kids from above are an early historical reason why. These fuckers spun out a car that I was told was unregistered on the Interstate on their way north from San Diego, washed up in town, and inevitably hooked up with Captain Flimflam, who inevitably lodged them on the damn farm. Them and their dog, of course; the dog was cool, but I couldn’t help wondering why these fucking derelict vagrants always have a goddamn dog with them when they have no visible means of support or place to stay and why they should get a pass for using pets as props when I’m too prudent to buy one and assume responsibility for its care.

This crew was something else. It was made up of two couples who had met on the San Diego trustafarian vagrant scene, in either OB or PB, which I always confuse. I do know that, notwithstanding the combined administrative capabilities of Mexico’s governments, every yoga video that the Insurance Schmuck’s ex-fiancee posts on Facebook from her apartment in PB is another perfect advertisement for the Reconquista de Aztlan. This foursome, in turn, was a walking campaign ad for Robert Acosta for Sheriff. I don’t mean that in an ethnic sense at all. It’s a shitty thing to say, but these fuckers were shitty, and they became our problem by leaving San Diego.

What the hell the intervening 800 miles of CHP jurisdiction was worth when a foursome of useless greaseballs could drive by in an unregistered vehicle is also questionable. For what it might be worth, there’s something happening here; what it is, ain’t exactly me popping some punk-ass Chips to thank them for their service.

Nor was I of a mind to pop the traveling kids themselves. The less useless of the two couples was from back east. She was the daughter of what sounded like quasihippie truck farmers in Maine, borderline smoking hot and by far the most competent of the four. On her own she would have been all right, but on her own she was not. Her boyfriend was the whitey-dreaded son of a Connecticut ER doc, from Greenwich, IIRC. Right there I sensed bad judgment. Like, why the fuck is this guy wandering around the West Coast like a total loser when he could be living decently with what sound like supportive, tolerable parents? Then again, I asked myself the same question often enough.

The other couple was from Portland, as in Portlandia, not as in Bob Bachelder and murdah on the bayou. I never got a clear sense of how nice or Portland part of Portland they’d left, but they didn’t seem to have come from backgrounds nearly as affluent as the whitey dread jackass from Greenwich or from family lives as stable and edifying as the Mainer hottie had enjoyed on the farm. The dude was jumpy enough that the Ragin’ Canajun said he looked like he’d just left a cult; chica had underwhelming muscle mass, a vaguely limp and sullen affect, and looked like a turkey.

The Mainer was corrigible with face-to-face counseling from someone who wasn’t totally head-up-the-ass, but when she was surrounded by her travel mates, as she usually was, she went native and helped them fuck up their work assignments. This crew littered so much frost-defoliated Cabernet Sauvignon fruit on the ground just by lifting the bird netting in a hurry that it was more trouble for me to stoop down and pick up after them than it would have been to do the work myself. Whitey Dread Boy managed to blister his hands severely enough for bandaging by splitting firewood for ten or fifteen minutes without gloves in Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew’s yard. The bastard was showing his work ethic off, but he didn’t fool me. I’d been doing concerted manual craft labor for hours at a time without sustaining any significant injuries, so of course I thought he was a fucking jackass. The Portlanders were just generally whatthefuckular. Turkey Girl didn’t bring any discernible gifts to the operation, and her boyfriend always looked like he was running late to a security gig for Charles Manson.

Joe Dirtbag kept telling me that he enjoyed this crew’s early-twenties energy but that they also reminded him why he usually hired restaurant employees who were at least in their mid-twenties, but this was a category error. These kids weren’t useless because they were kids; they were useless because they were travelers. What good did he expect to come from hiring a squad of hippie circuit wastrels who were too derelict to properly register their motor vehicles? What the fuck did he see in them that indicated any sort of skill, attention to detail, or ability to listen to basic instructions? They didn’t give off a good first impression to anyone but a fellow bullshitter. That’s why Captain Flimflam yukked it up with them and plugged them into his network; they were of his tribe. That’s a tribe that ought to be driven off to a reservation at Yucca Mountain, but the hippie swarm knows better than to seek out towns where there’s a recent history of officially mediated exiles onto the Trail of Tears.

These losers are not just passing curiosities or annoyances to those who have to live or work with them. They can be extremely disruptive. They can be active vectors of chaos and filth. I don’t care if some loser wants to waste his summer or his twenties dressed like Robin Hood and begging for alms in downtown Eugene. That I can avoid. I can’t avoid the same loser when he’s living and allegedly working on a property where I have business of my own to conduct. That’s a fucking problem.

Captain Flimflam is a fucking problem. That shitty bastard would be all right if he were just peaceably flying a sign on the street or mutually bullshitting his fellow travelers. He is not all right when he’s ruining a business that I’ve helped fund and spent over a thousand hours helping operate. He is not all right when he brings a rogue’s gallery of showy derelicts and the severely mentally ill onto a farm that we were all told was to be ordered to ongoing agricultural productivity. He is not all right when he spends his days peacocking and bullshitting everyone in our place of business instead of operating the farm stand that he is advertising and arranging to have the overflowing portajohns swapped out as he has promised.

This shit isn’t theoretically problematic; it’s a concrete, ongoing threat to public health, public safety, and the welfare of those present on properties operated in such a fashion. Joe Dirtbag and Captain Flimflam are the shitty keystones without which Lady Pisspan, Pot-o-Shit Friend, Mixups in my Mind, Psychotarp, and the worse-than-useless traveling I’ve been describing would not have fallen into place. The Ragin’ Canajun complained afterwards that the traveling kids had been fucking pigs and left messes behind for others to clean up. It turned out that this was a very modest foreshadowing of Pot-o-Shit Friend’s housewarming gift. He didn’t just figuratively leave a whole lot of shit behind. The traveling kids mainly left piles of dishes and trash in their wake.

All it took was one socially dominant man of bad morals (Joe Dirtbag) cultivating a dirty friendship with another socially dominant man of bad morals (Captain Flimflam) to set off a raging avalanche of shit. People like them either don’t care or think it’s funny to watch decent people squirm and stew in upset at their own impotence in the face of objectively disgusting, disruptive, and even dangerous conditions. As more and more decent people with options get the fuck out of Dodge, businesses under the auspices of such shitheads go into tailspins, with a tiny rump of competent, diligent people (e.g., sometimes just me and the Ragin’ Canajun, sometimes just RC without me) trying to navigate a social and infrastructural hellscape. Being one of the last people sincerely trying to make something out of such a disaster zone sucks; being the very last is powerfully demoralizing.

Not alerting the authorities to such disasters is derelict of duty. I’ve been one of the derelict parties to JD and CF’s horseshit. One of the few things I’ve done that has restored my sense of pride in the midst of this mess has been to report the property to code enforcement. Everything about this situation is so shambolically dysfunctional that my parents, who neither live in nor approve of squalor, are hesitant to be judgmental and don’t want me getting up on my own high horse just because I’ve been involved in the operation of a property where a minor child has been living under the authority of a man who is too busy dicking around on his guitar to get the shitters swapped out and a little faggot not associated with Dire Straits has been shitting in a trash can. My dad once told me, in a tone of disappointment, resignation, and mild alarm, that he didn’t know what someone in JD’s position could do when he’s repeatedly had tenants defecating so inappropriately. Providing a proper toilet out of a sense of shame and basic decency and not recruiting weird-ass tenants to live on the property when they look like they might go crap somewhere all wrong must have been too straightforward. This shit keeps happening because JD and his property are fit for A&E TV. I’ve seen segments on hoarding documentaries that are cleaner than any of this.

I keep writing these essays that amount to book reviews of The Lord of the Flies  devoted exclusively to the part where the boys all go shit on the one beach. I do so because I keep running into communities that are fundamentally unable or unwilling to manage the lowest, most basic, most fundamental needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy. Shitting somewhere other than a goddamn trash can in the living room is a need. Not being at risk of plunking one’s ass down onto a mountain of other people’s shit when using the portapotty is a need. Society not suffocating and choking to death on its own accumulated bodily wastes is a need.

As we keep seeing, not all needs are met. A key reason why we keep encountering dire unmet needs is that those who profit, financially or socially or both, from allowing these needs to go unmet are left unmolested. Where’s Diddlin’ Dennis when we need him? J. Denny Dundiddly dindu nuffin near as much as we needed from him, I’d say. There need to be consequences for profiting from squalor. Presiding over piles of filth as a way of cementing one’s own socioeconomic superiority as a landlord or a chief tenant needs to be powerfully unpleasant.

It’s up to the rest of us to make it so. I’ve done things here and there to this end, but not enough, because I’m chickenshit before the dynamics of my extended family. If I’m not discreet in my contacts with the authorities, I risk having to justify to my upset parents why I was so judgmental about the condition of someone else’s property. We have other relatives who couldn’t get one-time $600 checks from my late grandmother without coming under a storm of judgment for mooching off her when she had outstanding credit card debt, but JD not spending any of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of below-market “investments” and more frank gifts that he’s mooched off those around him to provide his tenants with a decent toilet, shower, or living quarters that aren’t plastered in rat waste is just one of those things that happens sometimes.

I’d normally figure that it’s a good idea to judge not, lest I be judged, but I do not charge residential tenants rent to live in utterly uninhabitable buildings that are carpeted and insulated with aerosolizing rat filth. Hand me that stone; I’m getting that old Sandy Koufax feeling in my arm again. Put me in, Coach. No, not you, Hastert. It’s totally beyond the pale to give Joe Dirtbag a pass for the condition of his property and for his illegal collection of rent from extremely vulnerable tenants just because he’s supposedly broke.

I notice that he isn’t broke enough not to still be landed. I’ve never owned a damn square inch of real estate, so I’m not particularly moved by his plight. This bastard keeps collecting rents on both his farm, which he uses as leverage for unrestricted five-figure gifts, and his separate primary residence, which he and the Family Shrew own free and clear. They bought in at a time when they could afford to pay off their home mortgage by working for a living and then start blowing the nest egg that they’d put aside instead of ending up out on the streets for being dissolute. Point of clarification: Are the rest areas where I sleep every two or three nights streets? I get that they had some business setbacks that were not entirely within their control, but how do their difficulties late in their time in the restaurant business negate the overwhelming evidence that they have truly, mindbogglingly atrocious business practices in their management of the farm?

Remember, these are the ones who, last I heard, still had the electrician living in the shed. Another Connecticut Yankee in King Sharthur’s Court, as it happens. An attorney friend raised a good point about this electrician’s off-the-books, unlicensed work: any property insurance claim that they file for damage to their house may be denied on the basis of their having had work done by an unlicensed tradesman. Their attitude that oh well he has a license in another state is just another bit of shady, reckless bullshit that our dysfunctional family dynamics force us to accept. This is like saying that it would be acceptable for Charles Cullen to just show up at Glendale Adventist with a Pennsylvania RN license, grab some needles, and get to work.

Lazarus, what’s your twenty?

There is an entire folk tradition devoted to the justification of this kind of shit. Not to tasteless discussions of how we’re just Cullen the herd, mind you; John Ruetten was good-looking, but he was no Lynn Majors. I’m referring to the really bleak shit, the stuff that makes it a relief to listen to old people cough on hospital wings all day. I mean the permanent judgment-free zones for substandard housing. The idea that there was ever anything reasonable or acceptable about living in the Ghost Ship warehouse is unconscionable. This blog is the arts, too; does that give me the justification to run a daisy chain of extension cords across the floor to my warren of shipping pallets in a disused commercial bakery? Three dozen people were killed in a preventable industrial-cum-residential fire, and we kept hearing that they were just larping Rent, that they were just trying to make a go of it as starving artists in the big city and that this was the only way for them to do their work.

This doesn’t explain why the arts demanded that the same venue be used to host an unpermitted concert requiring its own electrical equipment but not requiring a working evacuation plan. If my parents’ tenant charged several dozen people admission to an unpermitted Train cover band concert in the backyard and bothered the neighbors with full-blast subwoofers, someone would call the police, and the police would put a stop to it. This ain’t Shoreline, doggy. Neither was the Ghost Ship. There may be a certain difference between the Palo Alto and Oakland police departments here, and there’s definitely one between my parents’ tenant, who is too classy to do something so shady, and the poverty of self worth shysters, who, oops, guess we didn’t maintain any defensible space around the drops of Jupiter at this event, but please don’t assume that this tragedy implies anything bad about the inherent nature of guerrilla artists’ lofts where the next Michael Franti is living in a warren of scavenged plywood and shoddy hand-me-down DIY wiring that no one from the city has been by to inspect.

Why does it sound like the members of Imagine Dragons lived in, like, normal houses or apartments and weren’t forced by their precious craft to live in a storm drain under the Strip, where they wouldn’t have had to imagine rats? I prefer the Bay Area to Las Vegas, too, but what, exactly, is so soulcrushing about living in, I dunno, Merced as a way of having an affordable, code-compliant place to stay?

The use of starving artists to normalize ramshackle fire traps is a bad sign. The other day I heard some dipshit in Denver being interviewed on NPR about how dismayed she was that her city government had been cracking down on underground artists’ lofts (I did not just write that) just because of the Ghost Ship fire. Yeah, let’s not get all anal about cladding just because of Grenfell, and while we’re at it, how about we stop sending NTSB go teams to the scene of every serious plane crash, geez, guys, we’re really crimping aviation’s style. This dipshit said that she’d lived in Denver her whole life. I don’t know what exactly she meant by Denver, but surely she was accurate enough for a national audience. For some reason, though, it was crucial to her process or some shit to be allowed to live in a jury-rigged firetrap, and, if I remember correctly (because I’ve poured enough mind-sweat into this piece already without looking anything up), she was glad that the city had finally started allowing artists to live in warehouses again and had gotten over the excessive caution that had consumed it just because a similar building put to similar use in a comparable city had recently killed three dozen in a peacetime Guernica.

Lenin was right: the intellectuals are not society’s brains, but its shit. This dipshit in Denver didn’t say whether she had any relatives in the area or, if so, whether any of them might have been willing to house her in a building that was up to code. This is really suspicious. It just sounds like, if the subject had been pushed, she would have admitted that her parents were in JeffCo, but JeffCo is just so stifling, just not a good place to pursue her work.

Yeah, go tell Rod Blagojevich. The use of artists to normalize uninhabitable dwellings apparently causes a less uneasy feeling than would result from defending the necessity of having, say, slaughterhouse workers live in a dormitory separated from the killing floor by a sliding door and bunk in shifts as the only way to make ends meet. That would sound feudal. It would be embarrassing and scandalous. Artists, though, are coded as affluent and educated, so it’s okay for them to live in piles of inflammable industrial detritus with faulty wiring nearby for convenient ignition. They aren’t, like, actually starving; they’re living on Top Ramen in bunkhouses because they freely chose not to go into investment banking. That is, they’re shabby chic bohemians, not victims of intolerable but fixable structural problems in the housing market.

Every goddamn thing about the hipster movement sometimes seems orchestrated to justify bad housing, labor, and general economic policy by cultivating the appearance that young people today are voluntary minimalists who don’t want to be tied down to a decent job and house. The unspoken question raised by the “tiny house” movement is why the hell people whose parents have terminal degrees, stable jobs, and title to real estate are living in half-length single-wide trailers on other people’s property. It is impossible that a generation decided en masse that having so much as a studio apartment was bullshit. That did not happen.

The tiny house crowd isn’t even really the traveling type. I feel like much less of a loser parking my Focus at, say, Donner Pass one night and Gold Run a couple nights later than I do parking it at the same rest area every other night for weeks on end. There’s some point to living austerely on the cheap if it enables budget travel. That isn’t what tiny houses do. They’re basically the one brother who lives in an old boat in the other brother’s front yard on Simon & Simon. When that happens in the midst of simultaneous foreclosure, student debt, and housing affordability crises, it isn’t because everyone is suddenly really into boats.

Uber wasn’t able to recruit drivers because everyone got sick of having stable payroll work all of a sudden. Five million people dropping off the national payroll in the United States from 2008 to 2009 wasn’t the effect of take this job and shove it; it was the effect of take this serf and shove him. Why the hell would anyone want to do piece work for TaskRabbit or Mechanical Turk if there was stable work available doing just about anything else? Much of the dot-com economy today is nothing but the techdick enclosure of Craigslist gig and rideshare boards. Just about everyone who supposedly turns the Uber app on to raise money to go to Coachella and then turns it off to actually go to Coachella already had the resources to go to Coachella without driving for Uber. Let’s not be idiots here: the independent contractors (sic) who use these apps with the nonchalant independence and flexibility that is their advertised purpose have other, more secure, and often less working-for-a-living ways to get fucking stoked.

By these I mainly mean parental handouts and sugaring proceeds. These aren’t the most reputable arrangements, but they’re a huge improvement over going to Coachella with Joel Salazar, in which case one is fucking stoked to literally wake and bake. The advertising campaigns for the hip apps these days are all premised on an extremely secure upper-middle-class to downright upper-class level of personal wealth or generously shared family wealth. This is surely a function of the socioeconomic backgrounds of those producing and approving the ad copy. Our ad men and women and their clients come from backgrounds in which it is not considered enviable and shockingly rare not to have to consistently work for a living as a minimal condition of not ending up in the rescue mission by the fourth of next month. Being able to take time off willy-nilly and not end up homeless and flat broke is normal in their world. In some of these companies, literally everyone, and I mean literally literally, either has parents contributing to her rent or some inheritance or other source of support, likely constituting prostitution, to keep her clear of some deal where she ends up eating Great Value pork and beans out of a can on skid row.

Yes, I gendered that intentionally. Ooh, I’m getting a clue, and if you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re getting a clue, too! Sort of; we’re talking about communications majors here, and as I age I become even less stuposexual. Much of what’s socioeconomically otherworldly about the ad copy in our midst can be explained by the otherworldly upbringings and ongoing socioeconomic security and prosperity of the people who come up with the ads. I wouldn’t particularly doubt that I’m in the 100th percentile of socioeconomic security, solvency, and stable family background among the homeless, and I’d be surprised if I’m not in the top quintile, but the ad campaigns for shit like how cool it is to drive for Uber are clearly dreamed up by people who cannot possibly imagine that my homelessness is anything but a lifestyle that I freely chose for aesthetic and cultural reasons instead of just getting a career-track job in sales at a Fortune 500 or, barring that, successfully asking my parents to immediately rent me an apartment in Park Slope. What else would we expect of people whose own parents got them apartments in buildings with elevators in Chelsea and gave them allowances so that they could take unpaid internships at NBC?

These are people who have never faced the adversity of having to deal with slumlords who would be fired for showing a hint of the same attitude just once in the places where they live, let alone slept in their cars. They would shit bricks if they faced situations that no longer faze me in the slightest, and I’m painfully aware of how lucky I am compared to many of the homeless people I see on a regular basis, or, for that matter, compared to housed people who live in neighborhoods that are more dangerous than the rest areas where I pull over for the night.

“Would you rent me an apartment?” is bolder than I have the nerve to go with my parents, but it isn’t as bold as “buy me this house.” Buyers who need financing have been having trouble closing deals in many markets because they’re being outbid by cash buyers who got their parents to foot the bill. These markets, from what I can tell, are not in Gary or Indio. It isn’t, gee, Ma, I’m still sleeping in my car, or gee, I’m living in rat filth in an uninsulated old milking parlor (which is why the former isn’t always so awful); it’s omg I’m sick of renting in Playa Vista, plz buy me a house. Hell, the Insurance Schmuck lives rent-free with a financial millionaire he knows from work; I don’t live rent-free unless I crash with my parents, who live in an area with awfully thin job prospects.

It shouldn’t be too hard to see why I’m sick of being criticized by people whose living situations are dramatically more stable and whose costs of living are often much lower than mine, and of listening to the same people act like their economic behavior isn’t distorting the hell out of the economy where the less connected, many of them much worse off than me, have to live. It’s hell on the rest of us, but they aren’t part of the rest. They’re in the connected class that benefits from the financialization of the economy that screws people like me over. Some of us are really just trying not to end up anywhere that will get us killed.

Living in a tiny house because that’s the only obvious way to safeguard one’s life, limb, and welfare is reasonable. So is parking a Focus somewhere safe and sleeping in it. So is sleeping on city buses, even if the VTA has its head in the sand not to deploy a fully articulated fleet overnight on the 22. It is unfathomably condescending to pretend that such a decision must be a voluntary one made on the part of people who keep giving up opportunities to live in inhabitable dwellings where they are not at risk of assault or murder at the hands of management and/or neighbors, but I have no shortage of people around me who are unfathomable from what I’ve come to know as the real world.

I’d like to think that Pot-o-Shit Friend is the most dismaying of them, but like me, he responded more or less rationally (maybe less) to bizarre incentives under conditions of drastically diminished options. I’d have to conclude that he’s perfectly lucid and adequately capable of advocating for himself if his reaction to his own housewarming gift was to head back east and tell his relatives, uh, that didn’t work out so well, maybe you can help me out here. He’s probably shitting in a trash can again, but I could be underestimating him.

I know that I’m not underestimating the permanently housed and affluent. Not a damn chance. They pay good money for their own idiocy. I don’t resent them for paying money for something sensible, like a house, but buying privilege is always something worth resenting. I lives here; can I come in? P. J. O’Rourke muttering, “Oh, Christ, you again” at least recognizes that there’s a problem that ought to be addressed at some point. That’s a lot more than I can say for some others, but that’s just another example of the difference between schooled and educated.

Sure, Americans won’t do menial labor, if by “Americans” you mean the Real Housewives of Conshohocken

Today is a beach day. I feel terrible about playing hooky in Newport on what should be a workday, but no more terrible than Mother-in-Law should feel about her noontime lashing out yesterday. It is not my place to know today how or what she feels in the aftermath of that dumpster fire, since it is not Newport. Newport itself is problematic (tourism), but eh.

I’ve scavenged some cans already, so today actually is a workday, as I really should keep reminding myself. Just because it doesn’t involve Mother-in-Law, Travis Kalanick, and/or enough money at once for a tall Pike doesn’t mean that it isn’t work. It isn’t a side hustle; it’s a roadside hustle. I mostly found safe places to pull over along the old highway out by Nashville (not THAT one, for better and worse) and clean up after the rainforest rednecks on the state’s dime. I also found a hearty junkie bottle, a one-liter plastic Pepsi bottle that at once relieved and horrified me when I discovered that it was full not of used cigarette butts but used syringes. This is another point at which I lube up, bend over, and softly moan, haidt-fuck me now, Ghomeshi. It may not be a comprehensive morality of disgust, but it is disgust. Take me down to the VFW hall to make my #MillennialPledge and let me TELL you about my trauma.

I feel bad about forsaking my plants so early in the season. Some of them are as fruitful as an Elton John concert for the Queen’s household staff. That said, we’ve been over, and over, why I had to ghost that hot mess of an operation. Free markets don’t work when one party isn’t free. The labor supply at that berry farm is tacitly based on the restricted liberty of its labor pool. I wasn’t even on course to quit working there just because the Ditzney Princess demonstrated all the socialization of a poorly behaved five-year-old. That much was tolerable. Our off-the-clock hypomanic Socratic Method continuing lecture series and involuntary fruit tasting was not. The former, I suspect, contributed to the latter, but Daughter-in-Law wouldn’t have been excited to that quantum of collective punishment by a single, individually manageable brat.

How this will ultimately be resolved is yet to be seen. It is very much a social crisis, and another tricky day for me. Bish be cray, dawg; bish be wack. My then-colleague’s comment two years ago about MiL being bipolar is harder and harder to dispute as MiL’s pattern of wiggity-wack recurs season after season. Her outbursts at staff are the kind of thing I fear myself doing in my worst nightmares in some moment when I could really use some Ativan. Sometimes I wonder if I haven’t actually gone there. As far as I can tell, I’ve never gone flying at others from a position of authority, although I had some episodes, mainly in high school and early in college, that in retrospect look like legit 420 Club aviation. The advisability of my parents taking all of us on vacation in Scandinavia was debatable, but their taking along a coat for me over my objections when we went out on an all-day excursion out of Bergen including a fjord cruise was not.

This shit that MiL pulls looks all too familiar. It’s exactly why I stopped taking Adderall against my psychologist’s advice and, if I recall correctly, didn’t see him again. That shit had me throwing a rubber ball repeatedly at my bedroom ceiling, thinking that eleven at night was a perfect time for an eight-mile hike through the State Game Lands over the neighborhood ridge without drinking water, and then breaking down in tears without warning in front of my parents.

Uncorking the Id in front of subordinates seems like a more distant, more alarming frontier, but mental illness operates as a series of variations on prevailing cultural themes, and a key cultural theme for the In-Laws is their own virtue as small-town small business owners. Give MiL a bit of mad zoom-zoom and she’ll weaponize that shit against us.

This is not just a mental health problem. Mixups in my Mind and Psychotarp have never gotten hostile with me. The hostility that they’ve shown towards others in states of extreme psychotic agitation is comparable to, if a bit more extreme than, the hostility Mother-in-Law has shown her employees in a state of usually mild manic-depressive illness. I’ve had truly debilitating depressive and hypomanic episodes in the past, and MiL’s demeanor in the midst of her tirades has usually looked higher-functioning than that, although not fully functioning. I made it through entire shifts at Hersheypark without anyone asking me if anything was wrong in the midst of depressive episodes that had me feeling much worse than MiL looked during her tirade yesterday.

That wasn’t the High Noon of the Long Pick, although fortunately/unfortunately, unfortunately, the High Noon of the Long Pick was. I know, Wow Much descriptive Many repetition Very annoy. The cultural context of MiL’s tirades is ultimately more troubling and inexcusable than her merely being bipolar. There should be automatic negative cultural feedbacks on that kind of shit. Like, what the hell was the other woman thinking yesterday, the market saleswoman whom MiL weaponized for her tirade against us? Could she really not tell that there was something inappropriate about it? Did she really consider that kind of formalized verbal abuse appropriate?

I’m afraid she did. She looked too calm and emotionally stable not to be culpable. An ethically engaged person who gets roped into that sort of scheme is taken aback. It occurs to me that the saleswoman may have been a bit on the simple side, but where the hell were the cultural prompts that should have raised the alarm about her being used by an emotionally volatile employer who was yelling at a bunch of mostly minor employees under her authority to make a point about what useless, wasteful incompetents we all were? That should be simple enough to register with the simple. Business owners waiving the ethics for their own benefit and talking self-serving stories on the fly about why that’s all cool might explain why it did not.

This whole situation provides its own gaslighting. The only possible master manipulator who was party to the lecture yesterday was the saleswoman, and I say this only because I didn’t get a good enough read of her to say conclusively that she wasn’t manipulating us. Walking off the job violates the Protestant Work Ethic. So does berating one’s employees so that they’re unable to work without defying one’s direct orders to take abuse until one tires of offering it, but we aren’t trained, as Americans, to flip this script. As a fruitboy, I feel most called to work during the summer, because that’s when there’s the serious fruit, but it was never being a fruit grower that catalyzed Mother-in-Law’s workplace harassment of her employees from a position of authority.

That’s the fault of our broader business culture, especially its downhome country-ass versions. I’m afraid that I’ll have to explain, or make an attorney the channel of my piss to explain, to one or more of my employers that they and I are adverse parties. We’re really close to that happening already. If it does, it will be thanks to all the self-justifying fuckheads in business, large and especially small, who go around pretending that we’re all just country friends with little misunderstandings and there’s no such thing as a labor dispute in the Heartland. We’re also close to the point at which my bosses, especially MiL, will blurt out some bullshit about how my standing up to them is moral hazard for their younger employees, since it isn’t one of the lessons that they’re trying to teach their employees about work and life. Of course it isn’t; one of MiL’s lessons is that it’s okay to call a thirteen-year-old employee’s home phone at 8:30 pm and spend half an hour straight berating him about his poor performance. That’s pretty close to an inspiration to a child’s parents, helicopter or not, to consider that the police maintain night watches as well as day watches and to place a call of their own to the nearest patrol desk.

MiL knows better than to do that to me, or so I sense, but she should know better than to ever do that to any of her employees.

One takeaway (*John Hockenberry voice* I have no idea what the fuck any of this is) is that professional boundaries are whatever the boss says they are. Another is that professional boundaries are whatever the employee says they are. If I don’t define the limits of acceptable workplace culture, people like Mother-in-Law will. The Ditzney Princess won’t set any such limits because she’s the dutiful child of pants-shittingly timid authoritarian parents, but family considerations apparently set limits of their own on MiL, who turns around and flings the shit at all of us. Hence my day trip to Nye Beach. I don’t even find a parking space before I’m overwhelmed by a sense of dread at being surrounded by a shiftless, purposeless hellscape of the deracinated and the lost, but no one’s harassing me, so there’s that. The surf is pretty fucking boring today and I wouldn’t mind some more clouds and some fog, but whatever. The bottle junkies out by Nashville had an idea for combating that anomie, even if they criminally wasted a fine pop bottle, aggrieving the heart of Chaka Can. They’re probably all like, dude, you may think that’s worth something, but you don’t do drugs. It isn’t worth the risk of HIV or Hepatitis, but at the same time, a look inside merely made me cringe, not lay eyes of a lake of butts and chaw juice and fight back a rising tide of vomit. So, as Ali G. would say, RESPEK.

I’m a seaside wastrel today. So, according to Marco Werman’s peeps, are the Americans who won’t stop skipping their jobs at the fudge shops on Martha’s Vineyard to go lay out and do other cool Vineyard Vines shit. Hint: you’re getting a clue, too, (ooh!) about why the local Yanks aren’t so much interested in doing menial labor at a fudge shop. The local culture is not ordered to such callings to service. As with our surnameless old boy Lloyd up in more Millingtonian climes, who never had any interested in settling somewhere so damn cold, the cool change Massholes need Jamaicans to staff their fudge shops. As a restaurateur (restaurateuse?) with a noticeably Mayhewish accent helpfully informed America’s listening public, they’re also the maids who go missing whenever the H-1B visas are not forthcoming, leading to much island gossip among the local non-color about the absence of the non-local color, also described without surnames, and the ramifications for the local economy, like being le sad that one must either clean one’s own bedroom or risk letting it start looking like the interior of my Focus.

Listening to this story, I was taken aback but not really surprised. The utter lack of self-awareness was to be expected. The Onion was right about the inner-city murders that left three families maidless. I am reminded of the parable of the workers in the fudgeyard. *Prime Minister’s Question from the Member for St. Thomas incoming* I think I understand your teaching, but do tell, teacher, what is “fudge?” #TeshTips: Out in Provincetown, they’ll gladly pack it for you, too. Fudge shops are a really credible keystone for a local economy for anyone who’s that gullible and retarded, but don’t forget, we’re talking about NPR listeners here. It would be a hard teaching to remind them that there’s still a decent union presence in the grocery industry, hence many American lifers at the register, and to take their white asses to Hannaford to buy the raw ingredients to make their own damn fudge.

This dumbass, dismayingly earnest White Whine wasn’t necessarily about Americans being unwilling to hold down menial jobs. It was more believably about Americans being unwilling to hold down poorly paid menial jobs waiting hand and foot on yacht wastrels who fuck around in the migratory presence of the Clintons. Working in a fudge shop on Martha’s Vineyard isn’t just another underwhelming retail job; it’s an underwhelming retail job catering to the overwhelmingly affluent, a service-industry (lol) job on the Vineyard requiring a scrupulous work ethic to make possible the ostentatious public masturbation of the sorts of people who live on the Vineyard. If I ever visit, I’ll end up wandering around muttering to myself about how appalling it is that they don’t even grow any Pinot Noir or Concord and what a damn waste of a vineyard that is.

It figures that they need noncitizens to take these jobs. Americans would ask for things like days off. Americans might accuse their bosses of talking like Mary Mayhew. Those from Wicked South and other points wicked north would notice. Americans would not particularly enjoy the social arrangement of busting ass all summer for rich fucks who devote their own summers to being absolutely useless. They’d risk being all like, bitch you sound like you’re running for Maine HHS commissioner, why the fuck are you acting like some Mexican gardener and short-order cook is your friend.

As Teddy Kennedy always said, it’s time for a cool change. Ride the Ducks! Few have ever hit the surf like Senator Splish-Splash, the premier honorary Point Loma Sea Lion, but many have aped that fine-ass Kennedy style and pretended that nothing much went down at Chappaquiddick. What’s-her-name wasn’t one of us, you see. (I’d look her up, but I’m already Very Online today, and it’s more than enough.)

I don’t personally know many Masshole seaboarders, but I know plenty of Philadelphia shore wankers, and they aren’t too reputable themselves. ISB and ISBF come to mind. ISB has a shore house, invitations to which he uses to induce the Insurance Schmuck’s ex- and future girlfriend to serve as an unpaid lady-in-waiting to his fiancee. I was just about to say that I at least get paid to listen to Mother-in-Law’s tirades, but then I remembered yesterday. Wow None lucid Much details Very confuse.

I keep hearing about how hard ISB and everyone in that office works, how they all have such strong work ethics, but when Philadelphians go to Sea Isle City or Avalon or wherever the hell ISB has his Shore pad, because he’s too classy for Wildwood and way too good for AC, that ain’t a work ethic; that’s a beach ethic. Brenda Jorett apparently saw no inconsistency in posting photos of herself lounging around on a folding chair down the Shore and scolding young’uns for not having a work ethic. Pick fruit, Jorett.

Seriously, there is something really bizarre, surreal even, about people who dick around on the beach during the summer even insinuating that I, a commercial fruit picker, am maybe kind of lazy. You gotta be shitting me. Cracka you clownin’? I do more tangibly productive physical work for a shabby partial living in a day out in the fields than anyone in the sales offices at New Amsterdam Death does for a living. (The Insurance Schmuck, and probably also ISB and ISBF, for that matter are probably thinking, okay, I get the death part, but what does this have to do with Amsterdam?) (On second thought, definitely ISBF.) Fuck, I did more physical work for a living picking up cans off the roadside this morning than I’ve heard of ISB and ISBF doing as adults. The Insurance Schmuck at least did some real work managing pools, which gave me an opportunity to show him how to hammer a nail into concrete so that maybe the railing wouldn’t fall over into the pool. He’d have a decent chance of getting hired as an ocean lifeguard, but I don’t see him looking for any sort of work that wouldn’t keep his hands soft.

This is the crowd that most strongly suggests that I’m some kind of trust fund wastrel. The Dunkin’ Doorman didn’t question my work ethic and professional capabilities. He didn’t reciprocate my strong online accusations that he’s a lazy, pain-in-the-ass bum and coffeeshop troll. If I know anyone who deserves a shore house, it’s him. He might not make much use of it if it didn’t include a Dunkin’ franchise whose customers he could pester (I get the feeling that the Dunkin’ Donuts shortage keeps him off the beach in good weather, too, since he runs on people who run on Dunkin’), or he might charge random people admission to hang out on his property, payable in cash money or coffee. That would be no more corrupt and much more honest than ISB’s shore-whoring. I swear, he’s like an apparatchik straight out of the Brezhnev Politburo, getting social climbers to do him favors off the clock as a way of making sure they’re allowed to come hang out at his dacha over the summer and get classily blitzed.

The idea of either ISB or ISBF considering themselves superior to me, especially so in times when I do not have enough of my parents’ money at my disposal to invest with them as a proper high net worth individual, is absurd. ISB seduced ISBF by going around acting like a modern Midas. That was generally how it looked when I first met them, and the Insurance Schmuck has given me dispositive details about them, notably including the $14,000 watch. That crazy bitch owns a watch worth damn near twice what I paid for my Focus. If my parents let me take over my mom’s old Civic for my own use back east, as my dad has been considering, ISBF’s bling-ass watch will be worth more than both of my cars combined. She’s also got $20,000 in outstanding credit card debt, down from $30k since she moved in with ISB, which ISB frets isn’t enough financial responsibility. Yeah, but you know something, buddy? She didn’t take up with you because she’s financially responsible. This dense bastard wonders why his fiancee is such an all-around high-maintenance spendthrift, but he can’t imagine that it has anything to do with his bragging about his own bitchin’ rides. Now he’s shacked up with Rolex Marie Antoinette, she’s getting riled up to the point of occasional domestic battery, the Insurance Schmuck is admitting as much to me in reluctant, hushed tones, and ISB is wondering why this crazy woman whose hand he’s preparing to take in marriage isn’t a model of financial prudence and a fit Christian helpmeet. Yeah, maybe it’s because he wasn’t advertising for anything of the sort.

By the way, this balls-to-the-wall, sleep-deprived nutcase has named his fiancee as a policy issuer and taken her along to business meetings where she has alienated clients to the point of reneging on agreements that they were on the verge of contractually signing. ISBF is New Amsterdam Death’s equivalent to the Ditzney Princess. (I initially wrote that as “Amsterdamn.” Hmm.) Since we’re talking about an affluent part of Philadelphia, not a poor part of rural Oregon, she’s a Borderline wacko who looks like she might end up featuring in a Dateline NBC murder special, not a religiously preoccupied spergchild, but it’s mainly a different kind of shitty.

Think about doing concerted farm work and having to deal with any of these people. Imagine being hardy and grown-up enough to pick fruit several hours a day and then being confronted by the moral superiority complexes of a thirteen-going-on-four dipshit who reads Christian fairy tale fantasy literature, thinking that there is such a thing; a flashy spendthrift insurance sales poobah who totally knows that he earned his shore house by his own hard work and deserves it, and who, like Donald Trump, may or may not have a positive net worth; that guy’s reality television-ready girlfriend, whose net worth is predictably negative and who doesn’t have any identifiable professional skills, to be construed however salaciously you wish; and a farm owner-operator who repeatedly pisses off her own workers by yelling at them about how useless they are but still fails to send the fantasy dipshit home to resume her studies of John 3:16-compliant treatments of Beauty and the Beast. 

Is the Dunkin’ Doorman even low-functioning compared to any of these? He seems more mentally stable than three of the four and at least as well socialized as the fourth. His fantasy is that I’ll buy him a coffee. He doesn’t play a productive role in the game of life, but neither do ISBF or, to be just a wee bit uncharitable, the Ditzney Princess, and ISB, the host with the most, makes a fair amount of his money by skimming from the junior salesmen, Amway-style. We’re left with one productive person among the four, and she gets upset and makes us stop doing work for her so that we can taste the sour fruits of our own labor, in a lame, bathetic foreshadowing of hell.

As the racist 4-F from two years ago was told by the gay-for-pay who sucked his fellow off under the bleachers at the high school, “I’m not gay, but twenty dollars is twenty dollars.” According to television, that’s what it costs in Over-the-Rhine, too, if you don’t mind that’s she’s built like a German brick shithouse. It’s much like I say about bottles: $1.20 is $1.20. I didn’t even keep track of what all I collected today, but that’s a rough idea. I’d rather be picking fruit, since I’m not just in it for the money, but we’ve already discussed where that’s led. The 4-F fucker was safer for work than Mother-in-Law. It was mostly because the rest of us could tell him to shut up. Also, he seemed worse at the time because none of us had the Ditzney Princess around for comparison.

I’ve done worse for $20. No, that isn’t quite right. I’ve made $20 in a day, or less, and then been hit with something intolerably awful that stopped me from making another $20 at once because I never run into such a glorious fucking pile of deposit bottles. We can’t say that dealing with MiL was degrading like prostitution, because the idea of prostitution is that the prostitute gets paid for putting up with whatever her job involves. #NeverForget: none of us was paid or will be paid for putting up with MiL’s tirade yesterday, or with most of her other tirades. That wasn’t like the junkie bottle on the old highway near Nashville, either, because I’ve only come across one junkie bottle and no one forced me to look at it.

The Dunkin’ Doorman and I are both trying, separately (and let us rejoice and be glad for that), to maintain some kind of faint yeoman spirit. He seems to earn more than I do, if what he does can be described as earning anything. I used to consider him a moral inferior, but then I started comparing him to other people in my professional and quasi-professional life. He doesn’t give a shit what I think about him; if he thinks less of me, it’s just because I didn’t buy him a damn coffee when he pointed out that I’d dropped a ten spot on the floor. He doesn’t regard me as another person called to take part in his personal public relations campaign by mere virtue of my being involved in his life. He doesn’t want a cut of my parents’ estate when they die; he merely wants a cut of my pocket money now, and yours if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Beautiful day, yes? Yes, a beautiful fucking day. Mr. Rogers, pray for us. Nor is he the yelling kind.

Yes, that fucker is still a huge pain in the ass, but as they say about sex in Maine, these things are all relative. He understands freedom and cherishes it above rubies. ISB and the Insurance Schmuck are obviously more hostile to my freedom of speech. Mother-in-Law is hostile to the freedom in general of her employees. For her, freedom’s just another word for oh shit I may lose pickers again. I had nothing to lose but the $24 a day I earned on my best day this season. Well, that and the intangible shit having to do with not being unemployed and adrift and unproductive. But if the Insurance Schmuck and his colleagues valued productivity, they wouldn’t be working, as they like to call what they do, in insurance. What they really value is being able to show off their own affluence. The losers who hang out all day on the downtown Eugene plaza are in it for the money, too, but they’re satisfied with rather less money.

I don’t always work, but when I do, I prefer to bang on the drum all day. Don’t talk back to me (or to anyone else who actually doesn’t mind being a lazy bum all summer long, since unemployment has a way of getting me distraught) from a damn beach unless you’re there to eat a washed-up shark’s corpse for dinner with a Bowie knife. That’s a legitimate seaside folkway. I might be young, but I ain’t stupid enough to think that you don’t need a harbor to go fishing in a way that won’t get you shut down by the health department, or to think that Meghan Trainor is anywhere near the most obnoxious thing to come out of Massachusetts in my lifetime.

An inspiration to Maoism

The Insurance Schmuck’s boss is a fucking shyster. I used to give him the benefit of the doubt in spite of attitudes, on his own part and on the part of underlings who were taking instruction from and currying favor with him, that can most charitably be described as shockingly crass and insensitive, and in spite of a parallel, growing line of evidence that he was kind of nuts and lived a life of projectile chaos that he did nothing to mitigate. This is the guy who told the Insurance Schmuck, “If you want to be quality, surround yourself with quality.” That is, if you want to be rich, sidle up and suck up to rich people. That alone offended me, because I don’t like having impressionable friends get corrupted by that kind of sleazy, sleazy shit, but the Insurance Schmuck told me of it before I started to realize just how crazy the boss is and that his fiancee is even crazier.

I’ve gone drinking with both of them and seen the Boss (Springsteen sounds less balls to the wall) at the office when I was visiting, under what I took to be normal circumstances that had not been sanitized for my benefit. The Boss, whom we can also call ISB in shorthand, just to keep clear that he is not responsible for New Jersey’s finest singing of songs, seemed just a tiny bit intense at work but basically reasonable. I’d heard stories, so his calmness surprised me. By the time he and his fiancee got out to the bar that night, he had presumably been up for about eighteen hours on four hours’ sleep, and his behavior was loopy enough to believe it. I immediately took his fiancee to be something of a crazy bitch, although, again, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I’d dealt with much worse and much less placable drunks; these two seemed like they might possibly escalate some shit if someone really got up in their faces but were peaceable enough that I wouldn’t be the asshole to give them the casus belli.

I was right, for the evening. Then the Insurance Schmuck started telling me crazy stories about ISB and ISBF (who probably should sound like a bowel disease advertised on television and/or a dodgy intelligence agency): driving to Florida and back all day and night under frightening circumstances of sleep deprivation; the fiancee getting angry to an extent that the Insurance Schmuck reluctantly admitted crossed the line into domestic violence; the other (much prettier and marginally saner) woman whom ISB kept around the house as an unpaid sort of chamber lady to keep his main bitch vaguely simmered down, but whom he then blamed for eating his food and clogging her shower drain with her hair; this other woman, also a sometime girlfriend of the Insurance Schmuck’s, performing unpaid domestic bitch labor for this couple as a way of maintaining a standing invitation to their shore house; ISBF cutting her credit card debt only from $30k to $20k over the course of years living with ISB, almost exclusively at his expense, and fishing for justification for her purchase of, inter alia, a $14,000 wristwatch.

I.e., bish be cray, dawg. The Insurance Schmuck told me that she got upset with him when he told her, in response to a point-blank question about what he splurged on after closing major deals, that his most recent splurge had been on two Lacoste beach towels costing a total of something like $25. She’d wanted to hear that he’d bought some really expensive shit, so she did not enjoy being made to feel like a confirmed spendthrift just for having a watch that was worth an order of magnitude more than my Civic.

If I came into jewelry like that, I’d start looking at Prius ads. Or flyover country real estate. The Boss has this ultra-high-maintenance girlfriend with frank emotional and behavioral problems, but it’s no mystery how he landed her. She’s the first to recognize quality and surround herself with it. Dude shows off his wealth and brags about it, and bitches come digging for dem shine bling. A man of his persona will inevitably attract psychotherapists’ wet dreams like moths to his lamp. ISB inevitably drives dem shine whip, although I couldn’t tell you what kind of car because it isn’t a train and my mind consequently glazes over. Just this morning, a pump jockey chatted me up about my Focus (in which I had just gotten an exceptionally good night’s sleep, even by the standards of indoor bed sleeping), and just about the only comments of his that I was able to follow were that he has 258,000 miles on his Focus and there’s another model with 350 horsepower and Wow Much Torx. That’s 350 more than the FP40 cab control/baggage car on a California Comet consist, but hook a Genesis up to the other end and you’ve got yourself one of America’s bitchinest rides. I used to think the Genesis was ugly af, but it’s grown on me over the years. By the way, those were extremely low-class comments, since I do not own and operate a train, a railroad, or a car that I could trade in for inhabitable turnkey housing stock.

The Insurance Schmuck got me badly sunburned a few weeks ago by getting me to take off my shirt and lay out on the cabana at his private pool club. I later saw pictures of him and a colleague on the same deck, fully clothed, so he duly made a compliant little bitch of me. He was right about the birdwatching, but I wouldn’t have objected to fully clothed women, either, so it wasn’t hypocritical of me to be annoyed by a case of sunburn serious enough to delay my return travel reservations west until it stopped oozing and feeling like hell.

One chick he ran into at the pool was the ex-girlfriend of a colleague who, he told me later, had sued the Boss for not delivering on promised equity in a business partnership that the Boss had recruited him to join as a junior partner. The Insurance Schmuck implicitly had no problem with the likelihood that his boss had defrauded a junior business partner; his problem with the situation was that it had come to involve lawyers and bad feelings. Basically, he was scandalized by a breach of face. He expressed no sense of holy shit I’m working for a shyster. From what he’s said, I have no reason to believe that the allegations or the suit were bogus. It sounds like a member of the bitch pool decided not to bend over and take it like a good binch. The plaintiff had upset the apple cart by being insolent to one of the authority figures that the Insurance Schmuck so diligently fluffs and airing dirty laundry.

The plaintiff’s legacy to his ex-girlfriend, according to the Insurance Schmuck, includes a nice set of tits, rent on her bitchin’ pad in Center City or Northern Liberties or wherever the fuck she lives (not Kensington of any hue), and enough walking-around money for the pool club membership. This chick looked exceptionally well put-together, more obviously employable than most of the women poolside, so I was surprised to be told that she was a sort of sugar baby on voluntary alimony. The story was that she works but doesn’t make enough to pay for la dolce vita on her own. When I work, I don’t make enough on my own not to stay in a rescue mission, so I’m not here to hate; some of the places in Philadelphia where this chick is not staying ought to be condemned, and plenty more ought to be seized by the housing authority, which wouldn’t necessarily do a worse job on maintenance. This chick isn’t why housing allocation and policy in America are a clusterfuck. Besides, she and her ex-boyfriend sound like some of the most upstanding people involved in the insurance business in any fashion, given the seedy shit I’m hearing about others, at least one of whom the ex has had to sue.

It’s telling that what the Insurance Schmuck found most scandalous was that a number of the women at the club, including a colleague’s ex-girlfriend, were strippers. He swore me to silence about his colleague dating a stripper who was trying to get out of the business. Haidt-fuck me now, Ghomeshi. Stripping isn’t my scene, but it’s reputable. If it’s a shitty job, that sucks, but so, by many reckonings, does working at Denny’s. Cousin Gigolo would sympathize with women who are looking to find a man to take care of them, and turn green with envy at the quality of the apartments, even houses, that they’re eyeing as part of the deal.

The Insurance Schmuck knows women who aren’t self-actualized at work in their thirties, and I, on the cusp of 35, slept in my car last night. Whoopdefuckingdoo. Do I look down on women for being strippers? No. Of course not. I mean, not any more than I look down on any showboating celebrity for maybe being kind of obnoxious in their work. The sexualization isn’t what I find distasteful about stripping; it’s more that stripping occupies a really weird mental space that some other forms of sex work do not, and that isn’t a head space that I’m interested in exploring. I figure I’m likelier to marry a hooker than any other sort of woman, so I’m not looking to be Captain Save-a-Ho. For that matter, I know from personal experience that there is no definitive emotional, social, or psychological profile to which sex workers uniformly conform. The Insurance Schmuck has boned all these amateur chicks, many of whom are way too crazy to function as hookers, so he would think that. (Heh. I initially wrote that as “fucktion.” Maybe I didn’t sleep so well after all.)

Here’s something I don’t see whores doing: angling for a cut of the investment estate that I’ll inherit when my parents die. The Insurance Schmuck has been doing that. He’s tactful about it, but there’s still something deeply wrong with the entire mentality that allows a person to even consider raising the subject. Basic decency and consideration should prohibit it. It should be obvious that we don’t go there, we just don’t. But nothing under ISB is obvious. Consciously cultivating rich people as presences in one’s life and sucking up to them for a cut of their money shouldn’t be the done thing, either. The thought of going through life with such a mentality should be mortifying.

An aggravating factor to the Insurance Schmuck’s longer-term prospecting of me is that I already have money that I can spare to invest with him, but he’s all like, nah, we try to work with high-net-worth individuals. Uh, excuse me? I’m not good enough to do business with you, but my parents are, so when they die I will finally rise to that level? What a shitty, shitty way to approach a friend. And I goddamn well resent the Boss for putting such ideas in the Insurance Schmuck’s head. He’s too craven and chickenshit to stand up to bad authority figures, but if he were under the direction of someone reputable, someone who abhorred profiting off the deaths of clients’ loved ones because he regarded death as too solemn and sensitive to financialize, he wouldn’t be approaching me in that fashion.

It is because he works for a man of frankly bad character that he’s already working up a game plan to profit from my parents’ eventual deaths at a time when they’re both in reasonably good health. I have every reason to be furious at his boss, not just annoyed. And I’m not too far off base to entertain conspiratorial thoughts. The Insurance Schmuck is in close touch with a mutual friend from college who comes from a wealthy family (the blowhard who wrote the shit about Bill Durden and Charles Nisbet) but is completely out of touch with another mutual friend who comes from a more modest family without discretionary investment funds, with whom I’ve stayed in touch very consistently (the attorney in DC). There are other factors at play, but it’s eerie that it’s turned out that way, and I can’t help but wonder if some of it isn’t a function of his working for Crooked Midas. The Insurance Schmuck didn’t act like that when he was working as a lifeguard and a pool company territory manager. I doubt he’d be acting like that if he weren’t in a sales position now, or even if he were in a sales position in an office with real scruples.

Learning that ISB finagled cut-rate work out of a junior partner by bullshitting him about his future stake in the business (beyond the Land of Make-Believe, we call it fraud) definitely makes me less inclined to give that fucker any quarter. I don’t care that he bought me drinks once. I don’t fucking give a shit. He strings along domestic labor from that quasi-ex-girlfriend of the Insurance Schmuck’s by implying continuing invitations to his shore house. It’s like dacha blat in the former USSR, except that dacha gardens provided something like two thirds of Soviet produce. All we have is some asshole fucking around in a beach mansion while the Dunkin’ Doorman bothers me for coffee money. No, that wasn’t too fair; the Dunkin’ Doorman has better morals and objectively better manners than ISB, thirty seconds of direct annoyance instead of years of duplicity and corruption, even of other people’s friendships. The Dunkin’ Doorman gets his money from the living; ain’t no dead man coming by for coffee, after all. Hard to enjoy that brew when you’re the grounds. Remember, man, you are dust, and to dust my thumb feels ready to return about now.

Ash Wednesday repetitive stress isn’t the only reason I’ve stayed out of the priesthood, but it’s a start. At this point, I’ll admire anyone who isn’t a fucking asshole about matters of death. Yeah, it’s rude to say that, but that’s the point, and at least it’s solemn. I’m not one to lord it over the priesthood or the hookerhood on account of my own good morals, but I don’t mind lording it over a bumptious shithead who needles one of my closest friends to inquire with me about my prospective cut of my parents’ estate but not to see about doing normal, non-offensive business with me using money I already have. I frankly am morally superior to ISB. No two ways about it; he’s a bottomfeeding gobshite who wouldn’t have anything to eat without people like me picking the damn fruit, and I am not. Hell, I feel bad about expressing my own superior manners to the Dunkin’ Doorman’s after thinking over ISB’s loose morals, and the Dunkin’ Doorman gets up in everybody’s face in the ghetto (in the ghetto).

The Insurance Schmuck has some of the rudest, most batshit insane, most offensive people working in his business. He told me that they nearly excluded the most well-mannered, calmest salesman in their study group from participating because his sales numbers were marginal. The top producer in that group, who I took to be a marginal sort of Willy Loman case, turns out to be a balls-to-the-wall wacko who claims to get by on only an hour of sleep a night. He must be exaggerating. Right? I honestly don’t know. He seemed a little bit off when I met him, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, and as with ISB and ISBF, I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Knowing what I’ve been told now, I’d sooner give his yacht to the Dunkin’ Doorman, who would enjoy it more and make better use of it than that fucker is while he’s on his way to flopping over dead from a catastrophic heart attack at the age of fifty. Supposedly this dude is a self-made man whose parents kicked him out at sixteen. Way to be an asshole about it, though.

Why do I get the feeling that that whole business is poisonous? And why do I get the feeling that the political ramifications of all this Glengarry Glen Ross shit make it even harder for me to make a go of it as someone who tries to be an honest and tangibly productive member of society? I can’t sympathize with them. It’s just impossible. Most people who get kicked out of the house at sixteen don’t have a fucking yacht. The Dunkin’ Doorman isn’t up on the bridge humming Leon Bridges tunes. More like sail the ship right into the pier, now, and stand back and laugh while the owner has a raging mad. Now now, do you not have adequate insurance to cover such events, and are you not in the business of planning for the misery of others?

By the way, balls-to-the-wall yacht dude can’t do basic arithmetic. On the same night that I rode to Palo Alto with a bunch of disabled frequent fliers who were using the VTA 22 bus as their shelter, this fucker bragged to us about how the 49ers raise “millions of dollars” at charity bocce events. What a fucking dipshit. He’s supposedly a multimillionaire with mid- to high-seven-figure income, so other multimillionaires are able to raise a portion of any of their individual net worth in an evening, an amount that would also cover part of one percent of Santa Clara County’s local government budgets.

Is it that I have to understand math because my personal budgeting depends on it? I’ve raised hundreds of cents in less than an hour by scavenging deposit bottles out of trash cans. You’d be amazed by how much Starbucks I’ve been able to buy with it.

There are less reputable places to work than Gobias Industries. It’s never the bums who accuse me of not working for a living. They aren’t the ones who weaponize the work ethic. They recognize that the labor theory of value is something between a myth in the classical sense and a crock of shit. The proper thing for me to tell my contacts in the insurance business is that yes bitch I do work for a living, but what y’all do at the office doesn’t look a whole lot like work to me.

The proper thing for me to tell ISB is for the love of all holiness to pull his head out of his damn ass. All the same, I don’t want to strut around here and brag that I’m that proper. It’s bad Catholic praxis to compare our most grievous fault to the more grievous around us. Which I just did, through my most grievous, ad nauseam. But in this case, I came in a spirit of judgment, not mercy. This ain’t Planet Fitness, cracka.