Go shorty, it’s your Earth Day; we’re gonna party, like it’s your Earth Day

Ali G. once got Christie Todd Whitman to recite this bit of poetry in her capacity as an EPA administrator, and coming from her under his tutelage it was indeed poetic. Ali G. was one of the few public figures not only to discern but also to successfully apply the truly proper ways to approach self-important members of the White community. Although Whitman was always fairly down-to-earth for a daughter of the New Jersey Hunt Country, her gracious submission to a shitty Anglo-Jamaican rap number and a spurious but actually pertinent question about the possibility that whale shit pollutes the ocean was a rare opportunity to demonstrate that she wasn’t just another high hat from the upcountry. As I’ve said about the LCDS community, the Hunt Country is full of people who would benefit greatly from a reminder that they, too, are of the flesh, and Ash Wednesday, even for those who fancy themselves devout Catholics, just doesn’t get the job done like bullshit about whale shit. Whitman handled the whale dookie question about as well as anyone would, with a succinct comment to the effect that even though whales take huge dumps, the ocean is really yuge. The biggest. Elegant.

I can’t count the number of self-important upper-crust types from back east (including a Southerner here and there) who would have responded to a question like that with Giuliani-at-the-Al-Smith-Dinner levels of petulance and ill humor. American customs outside the strongly Millington for Sheriff parts of the South don’t encourage the address of these shitheads as m’lord or m’lady, so maybe all they have left to cling to so bitterly is their prissy, gratuitous, self-aggrandizing sense of high manners. This is why Americans didn’t start addressing the adult Jeff Sessions as “boy” nearly soon enough, and why if we are indeed a society that believes in second chances, we should start right now. That should fit neatly into our national treasury of conversion stories: “I was near thirty-five when I was convicted in my heart that it was wrong to call a neotenous, bigoted creep with planter pretensions ‘colonel’ or even ‘sir,’ as a fellow might address a peaceable sharecropper when passing him on the street.” It doesn’t because, well, Millington, what’s your twenty? The Attorney General is throwing furniture again. Rundel, grab your net; this one’s gonna be slimy.

One local elite from back east (Appalachian/fringe Midwest rust belt, really) who didn’t have his head all the way up his own ass on the maintenance of the social order was a college buddy with an almost Churchillian eloquence and an exceptionally bad case of the family eccentricity. Some friends once took him out to a strip club for his birthday, where the chorus line serenaded him with the go shorty birthday song (I have reasons for not frequenting these establishments) and a stripper pointed at her crotch and told him, “This is where babies come from, bitch!” (I have additional reasons). As my buddy related the story, “‘Excuse me?’ And she repeated, ‘This is where babies come from, BITCH!’ Yes, so I had been told; thank you for confirming my suspicions.” This dude has lately taken to haplessly trying to wine and dine amateur girls of loosely his class at fancy dinner joints on the Main Line, using comingled personal and parental allowance funds. The fair ladies in question routinely cancel on him but he doesn’t have the heart to call the restaurants and cancel his dinner reservations, so he calls the Insurance Schmuck over for a mandate instead. Heh. I think I spelled that correctly after all. He’d do better to hire sex workers, but given his experience with strippers, I can’t entirely blame him for thinking that they’re just about as insane as his family and friends.

I slept in my car last night and haven’t changed my clothes yet. I say “my car” because this week is the first in something like eighteen that I’ve had a car of my own. Super Civic’s replacement is a 2010 Focus from one of the shabbier but more reputable car lots in Merced. It had 89,600 on the odometer when I bought it, it runs nicely and handles very nicely, and I’ve gotten it up to 42 mpg on the highway. I paid a bit over $8,400 in all after the DMV and its state entourage took their pound of flesh. Why the fuck am I talking about my car all of a sudden? That’s a fair question, but it’s more relevant than it may look at first glance. My old highbrow crowd back east wouldn’t be caught dead with title to a used Focus. I’m not sure I’ll be caught live with it, either, since I bought the car on something of an impulse and had the paperwork mailed to my old address in Rancho, meaning that I may have to threaten management with legal action to successfully take delivery of my own US Mail. I lives here; can I come in and get that stuff and immediately leave again? The latest bit of middle-class shiznit that I’m lusting after is a PO Box at Fort Sutter. If one is available, six months’ rent will probably cost less than dinner with or (presumably) without the latest flaky chick in some Second Empire-ass Addams Family mansion in Radnor or some shit.

This weekend, I’m driving from Merced to Crescent City to at least start cleaning out my second storage unit. I had no desire to drive half the length and width of California during a total closure of 101 at the Mendocino-Humboldt county line due to a massive landslide; 101 in Northern Humboldt and Del Norte and 299 over from Redding are undergoing their own emergency debris removals, too. It’s a pain in the ass, but qualifying for a rental car without a credit card is even worse. I’ve finally been approved for one with my parents as cosigners, but the physical card is still either in production or in the mail to their house. Just as a matter of environmental principle I don’t like putting ultra-high mileage on cars when I could take public transportation part or all of the way instead, but in this case the perfect (someone else directly using the skies as a tailpipe sewer instead) is the enemy of the good (finally clearing out the storage unit and no longer paying $44 a month, increasing in June to $50, to rent the damn thing).

A great many of the middle and upper classes in this country don’t make the least effort. Some of these pretend to care about the environment, even deeply and passionately so. I find it impossible to decide whether the greenwashing hypocrites or the climate change deniers are ultimately worse. There’s no objective truth to any of their stances. One side is captivated by its own ritual fealty to science and the purchase of a dizzying variety of Veblen goods featuring state-of-the-art energy-saving technologies. In its zeal to save the earth (sic), this side promotes outright frauds, notably including carbon offsets in which someone is allegedly hired out of the kampong to plant endemic seedlings on the ruins of an abandoned palm oil plantation, totally sucking up all the carbon dioxide emitted by one’s flights to Costa Rica, because everyone knows that Indonesian business concerns have never engaged in corrupt practices and can reliably be remote-audited from Falls Church. The other side indignantly denies over a century of reputable hard science (the actual science, not the Nye/Tyson metascience for mass audiences, which one fucking loves in the name of science that one hardly understands), calling it an elaborate conspiracy and hoax, because admitting that, yeah, burning millennia worth of sequestered carbon and releasing it into the atmosphere with no meaningful recapture process might destabilize climates in unpredictable ways, would get in the way of the full enjoyment of crew cab pickups and dirt bikes and shit. Yeah, that was unwieldy, but you can republish it with your own editing if it’s that important to you.

It’s hard to believe that either side believes its own talking points. If they’re serious, they have to be nuts. This says some extremely bad things about our national leadership, but it should come as no surprise. Of all the poster children the climate change activist movement could have promoted, why the fuck did it ever tolerate Al Gore? Uh, yeah, we all need to have fewer children and drive less, so here’s a guy who has four kids, flies all over hell every week lecturing grandees about climate change, and lives in a mansion the size of a small warehouse. The denialist side is represented by equally ridiculous shitheads who effectively argue that there’s no way they’d get sickened or killed if a Peterbilt’s exhaust pipe were hooked up to their home HVAC systems. Okay, then, I’m sure James Inhofe won’t object to my rolling a dumpster full of yard debris, cow pies, and spent batteries into his living room and setting it on fire with a liberal dose of lighter fluid. Oh, he’d object to the liberalism? Good to know.

The sanctimony from both sides is over the top. The denialists use kooky interpretations of some of the most dubious passages in the Bible to bolster their nonsense: it doesn’t matter because Jesus is coming back soon anyway (gaudeamus igitur for the Junior Anti-Sex League) (alternately, let’s have this man we revere clean up after us like we’re toddlers who just dumped Costco bulk scrambled eggs all over the carpet), the Book of Genesis is a math textbook, there was only ever one Flood, ad nauseam. The climate change promoters (construe as you wish) smugly quote passages from a Bible that a great many of them avowedly disbelieve, their point being that their opponents are piss-poor stewards of God’s creation. They’re right in exactly the same way that Rob Ford would have been right to warn Amy Winehouse about the dangers of hard liquor and cocaine. No, that isn’t quite it; they’re right in the same way that the mayor would have been right to call the cabbie’s daughter a dirty drunken crack slut.

Of course, the worst side effects of this orgy of consumption fall on the poor. It falls onto Waffle House waitresses living in falling-down two-bedroom ranch houses in a neighborhood between the freeway and the refinery where raw sewage backs up into the streets every time it rains and everyone has cancer by the age of thirty. The political class in this country does not live in such neighborhoods, and it does not socialize with their residents. The local elites in the same counties don’t socialize with or listen to these poors, either, although they make a lot of noise about speaking on behalf of all salt-of-the-earth American Christians.

Earth Day, then, is one of our national gifts as a post-Lenten society. If ever there was a spirit of voluntary, thoughtful asceticism in the US mainstream, it was nowhere to be found by my time. Self-denial is left to the desperately poor, for whom it is a matter of survival. It isn’t really so much self-denial, then, as other-denial. New Orleans celebrates the hell out of Mardi Gras, generally on a schedule independent of the parallel liturgical schedule of the Roman Catholic Church (hence New Orleans, not New Amsterdam or New York). Lent, one assumes, is neither big nor easy, and in truth, for those who observe it, or who try from time to time, it can be plenty long and hard. It certainly doesn’t fit marketing schedules as well as Fat Tuesday, the late winter feast, followed by Easter, the early spring feast.

We postmodern can add Earth Day, which isn’t formally a feast but is a perfectly serviceable Easter proxy for the unbelieving and the unobservant, a celebration perfectly consistent with Crystal Harris’s calendar of fun stuff. For the lucky among us, every day is Earth Day. For the unlucky, it’s Ash Wednesday and Good Friday all goddamn year long. One class does nothing but feast; another does nothing but fast. Any prudent person with even the dimmest sense of vaguely paranormal power would expect some form of damnation as a consequence for this arrangement. In the fogs of the not too distant past, we had a springtime feast to recover from a winter of privation and quiescence (verging on hibernation in many villages) and to replenish our energy for a summer of hard, hard work; in our own time, we have Picnic Day.

We are alienated from everything. Statistics show US Catholics taking more communion and less confession; one guess as to which one is a free snack. I don’t mean to write a Second Book of Isaiah about how we’re all just a bunch of vicious shitheads, or maybe I do. The story of a rich man, a camel, and the eye of a needle comes to mind. If I were one, I’d use my discretionary income to buy Steely Dan deep tracks on vinyl, not Fiddler on the Fucking Roof. I’d have to buy the record player, too, and housing close enough to proper shack size to safely house it. And myself. I’m in way the hell better socioeconomic shape than tens of millions of Americans, but I’ve still spent most of my adulthood surrounded by frightening low-class chaos that threatens to consume me.

Is it any wonder that an haute bourgeoisie that refuses to observe the common fasts also refuses to listen to the poor when they speak? I’m relieved whenever I can get a word in edgewise about the chaos I’ve seen and lived. I’m relieved whenever I can get my White People to take a break from their fun stuff and listen to real stuff that is unfun. A Hugh Hefner bimbo of the quarter is as fitting a herald of our times as anyone. That’s about as serious and mature as we seem to be. As I’ve said before, adulting is hard, but like Kajieme Powell, I’m taking a stab at it. Lord have mercy on us, because that last sentence was more mature than a number of entire American political movements. At least it wasn’t about Harry Potter, and I can’t say that about the Democratic Party.

Calling the United States a Protestant nation is a slur upon Protestantism. Calling us a Christian nation is a Piss Christ slur upon all of Christianity. The best I can say is that we’re at a really, really bad developmental stage that we refuse to recognize and can’t be bothered to transcend. The Benedict Option is about a lot more than two groups of assholes having a court fight over whether one of them will be forced to bake the wedding cake for the other. That’s just more national immaturity and petulance. I guess I have more common cause with Rod Dreher than you or he might think, at least when he isn’t bitching about Ariel Castro’s suicide as a failure of Orthodox penance. I’m living a more Lenten life this Easter afternoon just because I haven’t yet gotten around to food today than I find entire neighborhoods and congregations living during Lent, and that’s sad, because I suck at Lent. It means, I suspect, that many of us are fundamentally alienated from ourselves, just as we are alienated from our neighbors and our natural surroundings.

We live unbalanced, disordered lives. We keep the absolving forms of confession and indulgence in our carbon offsets, but we scrap whatever true repentance these old forms once inspired in us. It’s only fun stuff if we get automatic forgiveness and don’t have to change anything, after all. It isn’t as much fun to be an equal to the underclass on Yolobus as it is to lord it over an ever so slightly higher class of Help on Uber, where every day is Jeeves Fetch the Car Day. Judging from RT ridership stats and the cell phone lot at the Sacramento Airport last night, Sacramentans love them some Lyft. The airport put out a low-capacity portapotty at the cell phone lot for the jitney army. It’s always nice to see a government that spent a couple billion dollars on airport terminal expansion and a new basketball arena set up the conditions for a crowd-sourced Pot-o-Shit Friend situation on public property.

Environmentalism and social justice my fat white ass.

The irredeemable

Aaron Hernandez’s death is an excellent opportunity for tasteless dark humor: “I heard he was out with a neck injury,” etc. ad nauseam, come the nausea when it may. For the most part, I approve of it. Morbid humor can be a cathartic agent and a useful, albeit indirect and subtle, meditation on our own mortality, which can be one hell of a demon to try to confront directly.

The particular circumstances of the Hernandez case make tasteless jokes about his death especially justifiable: he was, after all, a raging thug, a convicted murderer, and, in spite of his most recent acquittals, arguably a serial murderer. There are a great many Americans who do not belong in our prisons; Aaron Hernandez was not one of them. There was nothing that the state could do to protect society from that man other than to confine him to the best of its ability until he stopped being a threat to others, and absent the possibility of an utterly infirm old age that was decades into his future, if it was in his future at all (remember, he was exceptionally physically fit for a man of any age), he showed no prospect of reform. Most parole systems in the US, definitely including life without parole regimes, are unjustifiably merciless, but it would be reckless to grant a convict like Hernandez any form of release without extreme due diligence and caution. The guy didn’t just stumble into some bad circumstances and make some mistakes. He didn’t just get mixed up with the wrong crowd. By some accounts, he was a sociopath, and by most he was violently troubled to his core. A 25-year non-parole period (the statutory maximum in Canada) might have been enough to simmer his ass down, but we’d be fools to count on it. Most murderers have a low risk of recidivism, even by the standards of violent felons in general, but Hernandez wasn’t most murderers. In his short life at liberty, he showed himself to be a hyperrecidivist. We don’t want thugs like him getting all worked up and putting a gun to some poor schmuck’s head for no reason, just in case he feels like blowing some more brains out. Forget punishment or retribution; for everyone else’s safety, that animal needed to spend a damn long time in a cage.

Now comes the news that Aaron Hernandez has cut his own sentence short. I can’t blame him. It was the only form of mercy he could seek. This is a separate matter from whether he belonged in prison (he absolutely did). No amount of prison reform would have made it possible for the state to show him real mercy without putting the public at grave risk of injury and death. Any improvement of his quality of life that the Massachusetts prison system could have brought about would still have featured his confinement to a secure facility. He would still have been forced to live out his foreseeable life in an extremely small and confined world. This isn’t cause to be smug or self-righteous; it’s a necessary evil. Nothing else can be done safely with men such as him. A person might sincerely discern a call to minister precisely to men of his character, to offer the most hardened and lost some hope of repentance and redemption, however faint, and come away unable to fulfill this calling. From that perspective, it’s actually less tragic when dipshit women who get horny around trouble start pen pal relationships with Charles Manson; it’s still bad news, but at least they get some jollies from their efforts.

Is it too much to hope and pray that Aaron Hernandez finds the mercy that he sought through his suicide? The state protected its peaceable constituents from him for the remainder of his life, so its duty to us is done. Many people, especially in a society as shamelessly bloodthirsty as the United States, would have preferred that Hernandez be executed, often in some gruesome fashion whose very proposal indicates a deep psychic sickness tending towards depravity. The State of Massachusetts had the decency and the principle to deny the mob this selfish, coarsening satisfaction, and Hernandez’s last violent act, it seems, was a private act entirely against himself. The prison staff who tried to revive him and then had to deal with his remains when their efforts failed may sustain some psychological trauma, but their jobs force them to deal with the horrors of prison life as partial outsiders every day, and at least they have been spared the very real trauma that psychologically healthy people feel for having committed a homicide after taking part in executions.

Questions of what prison staff should to do prevent inmate suicide, especially on the part of lifers and others serving long sentences, are morally and practically trickier than they look at first glance from the outside. A corrections spokesman said that Hernandez would not have been housed in the unit where he hanged himself had he shown any signs of suicidal ideation or action. This sounds believable; many prisons do in fact take great care to watch for signs of suicide and put their visibly suicidal inmates on suicide watch. None of this changes the fact that they’re watching over inmates who are serving life without parole, or even just surreally long sentences for more or less harmless crimes, under a judicial regime almost entirely devoid of mercy. Suicide offers some of these inmates their only hope of release. It’s hard to scare them of eternal hell when they’re already living in it every day.

This is something that civilians, especially the ones who comment the loudest about all the bad things that should be done to criminals, consistently miss. They cannot fucking imagine what it’s like to be locked up in a prison for decades on end, looking at the same walls every fucking day, with no hope of release until either old age or death. It is inherently an extremely limiting environment. It is nothing like civilian life, except maybe for quadriplegics, the locked-in, or the very chronically bedridden. That some people truly need to be there for the protection of the rest of us doesn’t make prison anything but an abnormal and naturally evil environment. Nor does it mean that incarceration should be the first response for most crimes. It’s depraved to imprison people who aren’t truly dangerous, and it should come as no surprise that some of those who enter prison close to harmless are released in a state of hardened anger; just give a moment’s thought to the company that they’ve been forced to keep and the conditions in which they’ve been forced to keep it. No shit our prisons vomit out troubled recidivists.

Psychological interventions for lifers and longhaulers are questionable. Staff are forced to either ignore inmates because they can’t hope to do any good anyway or treat them under conditions that make their effective treatment impossible. In many cases it’s impossible to provide psychiatric care without violating the Hippocratic Oath. Many prisoners are suicidal because their continued survival in prison will inevitably do them grievous harm and they objectively have no other avenue of relief; staging psychiatric interventions against their wishes is a direct harm verging on torture. The political will to give prisoners real hope of real mercy is spotty (in spite of significant reforms, we’re alone among countries with elements of self-government and the rule of law for the grotesque excess of our penal system), so of course some of them take matters into their own hands one last time. Missionary assholes showing up with cheap, tone-deaf references to slavery and imprisonment as analogies for shit like porn habits don’t help things, either. Incarceration isn’t a necessary precondition for suicide, but it sure helps. Giving a desperate, suicidal person a reason to live is dangerously tricky in normal circumstances, and the circumstances in prison, as I’ve mentioned, are anything but normal. It’s bullshit to tell a man like Aaron Hernandez that it isn’t the Promised Land that’s waiting for him on the other side if only he puts the bedsheet around his neck and takes that last step. Anyone who has spent an entire life at liberty and says otherwise is as crazy about prison life as Psychotarp is about everything under the sun. As Darshan Singh (himself a fairly sick puppy) always said in his farewells to others, but not in his own, “God bless you. I am sending you to a better place than this.”

A few years ago, when Ariel Castro committed suicide in prison, Rod Dreher spat out a homily of American Conservatism (TM) in which he pronounced that he would have preferred that Mr. Castro had devoted his life to contemplation and repentance. Castro was the Cleveland bus driver who had kidnapped young women and held them hostage for years in his house, resulting in a 999-year prison sentence upon his conviction. He killed himself about a month after his transfer to state prison, greatly disappointing Rod Dreher. The American Conservative has an exceptionally civil commentariat, but Dreher’s posturing over this case annoyed the hell out of his normally cordial peanut gallery. At least one asked, more or less verbatim, “Why did you write that?” It was a good point, and not a troll job. (The American Conservative is one of the most flame-retardant publications on the internet.) A convict he had never met had just killed himself in Ohio, making the news only because he had already made the news for being a source of distress to damsels, and now this scold was showing up from Louisiana to chide the dear departed prisoner for being a moral coward. What the hell was it to him? Coming from Dreher, this bottomfeeding was especially rich, indicating that he had managed to complete adult catechesis as an Orthodox Christian and miss the part about praying for the salvation of the dead. Oops. Wow Much options Many freewill None penitence Omg st benedict Very confuse.

Dreher writes for a living. I scavenge deposit bottles for a living. Construe “living” however the hell you like, as long as Dreher’s is three or four orders of magnitude larger than mine currently is. Maybe an American could “conserve” some of his salary and remit it to me instead, since we’re writing about the same shit. Okay, not exactly; I’m not the one who got paid to argue that some infamous creep in Ohio did me bogus by refusing to pray his days away in his cell like a pre-Lutheran Martin Luther.

Admit it: you’re already missing our regular buddies Sauce Boss, Northside Juice, Raw Ginger, and Fish Man, and they’ve hardly been gone for a full screed. I certainly am. But at least I’m not getting my coffee from Sweet Melissa of the Maritimes. It’s free, and you don’t even have to ask her for it, but it comes at a cost. Nor am I doing life without parole for murder. Real pleasant, I know, but we would all do well to count what blessings we have, especially when Darshan Singh isn’t the one conferring them upon us.

Remembrance of things misplaced

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Diversity Drive? Well, shit, neighbor, I don’t know why I even asked, because I know full well how to get there myself. I’ve walked its entire length. It’s an immediate left turn off 101 on the way down from Waldport. I refer specifically to Diversity Drive in Yachats. As with Poo Poo Point, it’s a real place, and you can look it up if you don’t believe me. You can also look up the pronunciation of Yachats, which the locals will correct if you don’t because the missionaries or whoever first got the white people up in that motherfucker transliterated the local Indian language into a bunch of goofy shit having no relationship to normal (sic, mostly) English spelling conventions. Wow Much corpse of discovery Many pioneer None pronounceable Omg jason lee Very confuse.

The key thing to understand about Yachats is that it’s governed by the Society for the Prevention of Monty Robinson for Sheriff. Hence Diversity Drive, as opposed to diversity living on the drive. Or, as they say in Post-Soviet Canada, diversity drives YOU back into arrivals hall! Funny thing, it is also departures hall for one-way traveler! If you don’t have the energy to communicate to create the change you want to see in the world, perhaps you have the energy to communicate to create the taste you want to see: in my case, none whatsoever. I know, I know, that must have come as a terrible shock. Am I saying that Raw Ginger and Fish Man needed to be on a squad made up entirely of Village People as a precondition for their involvement in excessive force and perjury, eh? Of course not. Am I saying that I feel bad about preferentially pigsploiting this particular squad because it wasn’t pulled out of the usual box of crackers? Again, of course not. Is there any organization at all to my thinking? The night’s still young, so hell if I know. Much of Oregon politics is dictated by the Society for the Prevention of Monty Robinson for Sheriff. Hence not only Diversity Drive, the Amanda Trail, and the Ya’Xaik Trail (they’ll correct your pronunciation on that one, too), but also Dead Indian Memorial Road. A state that once took pride in the dereification of the red man now feels guilt, which it assuages by indulging in endless debate that it finally cuts short by spending a pile of money on new road signs specifying that the State now memorializes the dead Indian, instead of just naming a road after him. Glad we cleared that up.

What does any of this mean about popular sentiment in Oregon towards Indians? Those being questioned would not surprise me by correcting my language about Native Americans, proving my point. It’s a miracle that Kirk Siegler hasn’t been sent to Woodburn to meet Latinos who self-identify as Mexicans. The people who get bent out of shape over this shit never seem to be the ones hanging out with Indians. I knew a guy in school who had “GO SKINS” vanity plates on his car. That’s “skins” as in Redskins, the same team whose name Scott Simon is too woke to utter on the air. Dude with the Go Skins tags was a Nez Perce from Idaho. I got the strong sense that Indian pride was the only reason the Redskins had a fan base any farther afield than Glen Burnie, since I wasn’t aware of any other Redskins fans around me and never heard anyone saying anything like, “You know, they’re playing well.” This is why my head always spins when I hear other white people declare the Redskins name offensive to Indians. And what was the race of the minister who sternly advised me that the Hispanics I had just mentioned offhand found that term offensive because they’re Latinos? Hint: rhymes with the second syllable of “uptight.” Kirk Siegler reported the opposite cultural learning of Pueblo for make benefit glorious nation of Bougiekistan, so surely he is one of the great chroniclers of our age.

#TeshTips: Those who talk like this may not be talking to members of those races whose honor they so defend. Yachats, like many cities in Oregon, is an excellent Whitey Rancheria, a great place to find people whose reflectiveness is literally only skin-deep. Oregon has an embarrassing history of aggressive racial discrimination featuring especially bloody campaigns to exterminate its Indians and a racial covenant in its original state constitution barring the settlement of blacks. The latter, which has had no force of law for well over a century, has come to inspire lengthy woke thinkpieces about how Oregon is so hostile to the Community, what a scandal it is that Oregon is what to this day because it was officially white in its olden times, and so forth, notably coming from people who aren’t generally writing from any of the heavily black neighborhoods that they could find as nearby as the South Sound. They’re uncomfortable with natural law, but they also don’t really want the assertions of positive law that would forcibly integrate Oregon using newcomers who didn’t want to live there in the first place (nor do Oregon’s current black residents, who in fact exist, seem interested in such social engineering). The sermonizing about Oregon’s lack of brothers and sisters is just that. Wow Much lectures Such tendentious Omg jason lee Very annoy, I guess.

Yachats, for its part, is even whiter than Oregon as a whole. Go figure. Then again, minority neighborhoods so often feature visible poverty, and Yachats is all about coastal chic and shit. It’s reminiscent of White People in Santa Fe culturally appropriating Pueblo architecture from Indians who culturally appropriate the trailer and junkyard from the white man. May the circle be unbroken. That’s another community that’s eternally trying to prevent Monty Robinson for Sheriff, but let not your heart be troubled, its hinterlands are one of the best places in the Americas to be struck off your motorcycle by a drunk Indian whose oncoming Jeep just drifted into your lane.

I shouldn’t pick on Oregon so crudely. It isn’t the only state where farmland is paved over with streets bearing sick names like Harvest Drive. How you gonna get a harvest out of that, you dumbass? Statistically, innovation is not a primary goal or practice of American business, but it sure is a popular street name in business parks. The buses to Arden Fair stop, disgustingly, at the corner of Challenge and Response. Finally, two words that I can immediately use in a sentence: “The city of Sacramento never has a response to the challenge of its homelessness problem.” The orchard job listings that I find in California are all at Orchard Supply Hardware, just as every vineyard job listing I find in Southern California is for some shitty fast food joint on Vineyard Avenue or what-the-fuck in, like, Ontario. All applications for these jobs must be submitted through a secure website with picky browser requirements and an incomprehensible URL, whose algorithms will immediately shitcan your application.

And how could New Jerseyans not cherish liberty? They named their fucking airport after it. We name our infrastructure after virtues now. Muammar Qaddafi publicly pronounced himself liberty, inter alia; we declare one of our shittiest airports Liberty, in a time of constitutional crisis in the aftermath of a false flag attack on our commercial aviation system, no less. The idea is that we’re not supposed to notice that it’s gone.

Naming shit after Jimmy Hoffa would be funny. God knows that mobbed-up wonder hasn’t been around much lately. (I know: too soon.) Liberty Airport and the USA-Patriot Act are just goddamn sick.

Las Vegas is getting the Raiders. Can it get the mass-casualty slum fires, too?

The Oakland city government, one of the most troubled in California, spent decades being extorted by its football team, the Raiders (heh, I initially wrote “the Raders”), for special concessions at the expense of police services for the citizens of its violent ghettos, until this year, when the Raiders finally extorted a better competing suite of old boys’ gibs from the governments in Clark County, Nevada, which claimed to be too insolvent to fund the public schools under their jurisdiction.

This will allow city and county governments whose constituents live in storm drains to cater to what is probably the most execrable fan base in the NFL. Raiders Nation is a raging white trash fire. A sports league that fields both of its New York teams at the most famous entertainment venue in New Jersey had the discourtesy to charter a football franchise expressly representing the East Bay practically straight across the Bay from a much more widely beloved existing franchise at Candlestick Park, with predictably awful results. Oddly for a region where so many people wouldn’t put up with a B+, nobody gives a shit about the A’s. The Raiders, on the other hand, are overtly trashy enough in their iconography and geographically specific enough to a reputedly downmarket sector of the Bay Area to serve as a lodestone for every unwashed shithead from Fremont to Stockton to Crescent City. Having lived in Philadelphia and listened to Phillies fans all but call Ryan Howard Butterfingers for his fielding skills at times when he was hitting homers every game, I can say that what I’ve seen of Raiders fans is worse than what I’ve seen of any Philly fan base. And forget Chicago: da guys rootin’ for *DA BEARS* may have been idiots, but they were good-natured idiots. The Raiders manage to be the auspices for cholo shorties who look like they’re of a mind to shank you right here, right now and whitey meatheads who look ready to grab a length of scrap rebar from the nearest building demolition site and bludgeon you to death in the parking lot for looking at them sideways (or at their women, but of course). One of the last games played at the late Candlestick before the Santa Clara Forty-Niners moved to their whatthefuckular new digs over by Great America was a friendly (sic), if I’m not mistaken, against the Raiders, which resulted in a transbay tussle in the stands bad enough for the league to cut the game short and cancel repeat performances for the foreseeable future.

The Bay Area stands out among American urban areas for having had its football fans geographically cleaved into one that is mostly kinda sorta respectable and another that perpetually nurses grievances for being misunderstood by condescending elites just because it’s a bunch of overtly trashy caterwauling thugs. To add injury to insult, the latter team, whose presence has encouraged every sauntering dipshit with a deliberately untreated anger management problem to style himself as a viking marauder, spent decades extorting or trying to extort massive, lavish handouts from a city government that is notoriously unable (or unwilling) to provide adequate police, fire, and social services to its constituents. Requests by sports teams for free anything from the Oakland municipal or Alameda County governments are scandalous. In less than half a year, Oakland has had two mass-casualty fires in illegal residential rentals. The first was the Ghost Ship Fire, which killed 36 people who were doing an extra-seedy Rent LARP in a postindustrial deathtrap owned by the “poverty of self worth” shithead. Just this week, another three people were killed in a fire at their “transitional housing” flophouse, a property in such extreme disrepair that neighbors had been filing code complaints against it for years and a fire inspector had ordered its landlord to repair immediately within the preceding week. The identity of the owner, Keith Kim, suggests that Community-Korean relations are bad in the ghetto (in the ghetto) for reasons tending to justify the non-Reginald Denny aspects of the Rodney King riots. A minister who knew tenants at the transitional flophouse mentioned that it was a crucial stepping stone for ex-cons coming home to Oakland, implying (who could have guessed?) that the CDCR has been releasing its inmates with utterly useless reentry services. Ex-cons of which race, for the most part? Hint: rhymes with “shack.”

Now that Las Vegas has bought out Oakland’s fin-dom concession to the Raiders, Clark County’s citizens can look forward to the same callously deficient public services that the residents of Alameda County’s poorer areas have heretofore enjoyed. I don’t envy the civic-minded or vulnerable among them at all; they’ve just been screwed raw by a noisy and influential minority of their worst neighbors. Hell, Clark County government services are already spotty enough to compete with Oakland’s for civic dereliction, as the storm drain crew can attest, but a fresher hell awaits those living aboveground, too, as their governments raid (heh) the treasury for circus money at the expense of such things as bread. Johannes Mehserle was never the one running the Kwesi Millington for Sheriff committee; it was always the assholes who were the only ones to turn out to vote, along with the elected officials who never saw the need to appeal to anyone who wanted something other than sports subsidies from their governments. So now I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the Bay, watchin’ Rundel do his thang all day, but Fish Man ain’t worth shit in a city that still doesn’t have Benjamin Montgomery “Sauce Boss” Robinson in its Uber driver pool. White Lives Matter, too, friends.

What’s that? It stops being funny when bougie lives are the ones at risk? Why, yes, do go to the bad parts of Oakland to preach your word. Yes, do go forth and #CommunicateToCreate your own safe space with that message.

Snow day

The Soviet Union had these state-run neighborhood grocery stores called “Produkty.” “Products” was an accurate enough translation, although “Goods” or “Groceries” is probably a bit more precise. A number of these stores were still around in Moscow and St. Petersburg when I went to Russia on a summer immersion program in 2002. The most memorable one, a bit south of Nevsky Prospekt and a mile or two from the waterfront in central St. Petersburg, was staffed by a dead ringer for The Rock who told me two or three times, roughly verbatim, “All of our vegetables are disgusting. Just look at them.” I’d been sent out to buy zucchini for a crappy pasta dish that some girls in the exchange group wanted to make. When I tried to describe what I was looking for in Russian (like a cucumber, called “zucchini” in English), another customer told me that he knew exactly what I meant in English but needed to call a friend for the Russian translation. When this dude got his buddy on the phone and translated my question into a less tangled and childish Russian, the Rock of Russia inevitably told us that he did not in fact have zucchini in stock. Looking at me like I was becoming a greater fool every minute I spent in his store, he pointed at his produce again and reminded me that–who could even guess it?–it was all disgusting. The Rock of Russia was right on all counts.

This is a true story, by the way, as true as a story about Russia can be, I suppose (and the Western press assumes). Another story I heard about Russia, from a doddering emeritus professor of the humanities, was that Mushrooms are the Soul of Russia: absolute bullshit, no idea how he came up with that, according to one of our local language instructors. Less full of it but no less confused was the old lady housesitter who answered the phone when one of the guys in our group tried to reach his parents in Massachusetts, on around June 1: “Who’s this? You’re where? Where? Oh, Russia! How’s winter?”

By most accounts, Soviet-era Produkty stores sucked ass. Worse, entire city sectors, even entire cities and neighborhoods, had no alternatives to these shitty stores and their shitty product lines. In the worst times, customers had to spend hours waiting in line just to get into these dumps and see if they were selling anything that was worth buying. These stores were classic Soviet state enterprises in all the worst customer-service senses. The only workaround was whatever local barter and black markets had arisen in the shadow of the totalitarian state. These emergent markets were said to be much more robust in Poland, the radish of the Eastern Bloc (“red on the outside, white on the inside,” snork snork) than in State-Patriotic Mother Russia. So, yeah, shopping sucked.

We have nothing like that back in the US, back in the USSA. It’s not as if we have a car-owning bourgeois population that shops at properly stocked and managed Kroger stores with tenuous connections to the bus system while Mike Brown huffs it through a desolate urban food desert to the neighborhood QuikTrip. Don’t be a silly comrade. We have markets, bitch. And we couldn’t possibly have the highest incarceration rate on the face of the earth, aside from an obscure juntastic oddity or two, or a notoriously violent prison system teeming with convicts whose interrogations and trials featured procedural irregularities.

Nah, that’s crazy. So is the driveway plowing market where my parents live. For an area supposedly populated by a flinty, hardy, independent stock of country people who don’t like meddlers telling them what to do, it’s a sorry-ass excuse for a free market. It’s actually a hillbilly cartel, and the hillbillies who plow driveways in my parents’ part of the county seem to be a bunch of derelict shitheads who should never have been licensed to drive. They do sloppy, incomplete work and extensive damage to the graveling, which would cost thousands of dollars to have professionally repaired. Much worse, they drive like bats out of hell: I’ve seen them rounding narrow blind curves at forty miles an hour in their heavy-duty work trucks. It’s a miracle that they don’t regularly cause fatal accidents. These guys are the single readily identified threat to driver and pedestrian safety on my parents’ road. They often scare the hell out of my dad.

The side-by-side contrast with the comprehensive state could hardly be starker. My parents’ road is plowed and treated by the county highway department, which rarely allows more than a few inches of snow to accumulate. County trucks usually come through several times before the hillbilly cartel shows up to do $40 (sic) of work for my parents in all of five minutes. The county trucks are a foot or two wider than the hillbilly plow trucks and three or four times the unladen weight, but they’re always driven at safe, cautious speeds. Similarly, I’ve never seen state troopers or sheriff’s deputies go hot-dogging down my parents’ road. There are sections where too slow is a hell of a lot better than too fast. Some of us don’t want to be struck dead by lunatics.

The Nor’easter that’s coming in overnight is expected to limit travel pretty severely and make roads impassible in its heaviest hours. If the highway crews can’t keep up with it, it will be due to the sheer force of the storm, not official incompetence. Having spent my teens and early twenties in Southern Pennsylvania, I appreciate governments that don’t stick their thumbs up their asses all day and let critical infrastructure get shut down every time it snows. The fuckjobs at PennDOT were always blaming the freeze-thaw cycle for the poor condition of roads that they didn’t feel like maintaining. New Jersey had the same freeze-thaw cycle, and mysteriously, its highways weren’t such shit. I’ve seen enough of NYSDOT and the county crews up here to be confident that they aren’t jackoffs.

This doesn’t excuse the private plow cartel. They’ve left my parents snowed in for hours after eight-inch snowfalls that didn’t come close to producing whiteouts. It doesn’t excuse my parents for putting up with that bullshit, either. They’ve been stuck in their house solely on account of the last two hundred feet leading up to their garage. They don’t have a snowblower because that would be expensive and shit. They don’t have an old truck with a plow on standby because that would be too rednecky. They don’t try to get their neighbor from across the street, a responsible and upstanding local redneck with whom they’ve always gotten along wonderfully, to plow or sand their drive when the regular plowboys drop the ball. He jumped in and sanded the base of the drive from the bed of his truck free of charge when I ran into him a few years ago, and he’s definitely more responsible than whoever the hell my grandmother’s boyfriend’s surviving cousin is dispatching. If the neighbor and people he saw fit to hire were running the local plow business, none of this horseshit would be happening. Instead, anyone in the neighborhood who wants to hire private plowing help is stuck doing business with these reckless assholes.

It’s scandalous. As far as I know, it’s true, i.e., it isn’t some local whopper that my parents were too credulous to disbelieve. They’ve heard corroborating details from people who seem perfectly honest and are not Cousin Gigolo’s known plowkin. I shouldn’t be that harsh on Cousin Gigolo: he’s just a low-rent sugar baby, not the holder of a semiformal monopoly franchise on gigolo services in his town.

What keeps upsetting me is that every time something around here just doesn’t fucking work, my parents act like it’s local color, and if anything about it isn’t aesthetically hideous, they gush about how it’s so “cute.” Why in hell should I give a shit about the cuteness of the Saratoga train depot? It’s all right, and I don’t want some megalomaniac going full Robert Moses on it, but for fuck’s sake, it has only two scheduled Amtrak trains a day each direction, and at least half the southbound runs have shit for connections beyond New York City. It’s okay for travelers who don’t mind getting in at midnight or half past three in the morning. I don’t see a way to make that work.

My parents are even more captivated by the dumbass Polar Express excursions that the Adirondack and North Creek Railroad runs seasonally around Christmas, which have the depot mobbed with children in pajamas around the time the northbound Ethan Allen Express arrives. Even if I enjoyed children in bulk, I’d be offended to listen to gushing about how a station that is lucky to secure public appropriations for once-daily increases in intercity passenger rail service every twenty years has no trouble lining up private funding for vanity runs to take brat packs up the Hudson in pitch dark so they can pretend that they’re on a magical mystery train to the fucking North Pole. The fact that these twits are running a real train based on a fictional train is crazy enough; that they’re doing it in a region where the public transit varies from mediocre to useless to nonexistent is truly pathetic.

A few years ago, my mom carried on about an item in the local free rag out of Lake George that mentioned a couple of old ladies who had traveled from North Creek to Saratoga on a sightseeing run and connected to Amtrak, or vice versa, the idea being that the A&NR was a common carrier now. Of course it fucking wasn’t. I’ve driven across the tracks recently, and they look like they haven’t been used in months. I’m glad that the tracks are finally back in service and that the line hasn’t been irrevocably converted into a rail trail (irrevocably not for technical reasons, but on account of nimbies), but if it were viable as an Amtrak connecting service, I’d be the first to learn of it. I hate to have to drive everywhere, so I stay abreast of transit news. There isn’t much of it in the North Country.

This stuff wouldn’t be bothering me so if I were modestly independent of my parents when I’m staying up here. Instead, we’re codependent. There is something very wrong with their objections to my getting a cheap clunker for my own use up here and to my getting rental cars. They’ve become visibly offended when I’ve complained about being marooned at their place because I’m dependent on them to borrow a car or get a ride. There’s inevitably excessive emotional drama when my mom comes along to drop me off at the train station. I do not like her acting like I’m going off to war when I’m actually going off to Atlantic City for three days. It’s needlessly upsetting. In the past, she has gotten so clingy with me on the platform that she’s inadvertently cut off other passengers in her frantic efforts to walk all the way up to the train door; these incidents upset and alarmed me enough that I’ve started explicitly telling her to stay away from the train while I’m boarding (i.e., allow me to board like a grown-ass adult). A car of my own, either rented or owned, would allow me to stop taking part in public performances of Phil Collins musicals, but my parents are broken records whenever I suggest anything of the sort. They always freak out over minor logistical details that I’d have no difficulty solving. Where would I park it? Well, shit, do I look like I’d be unable to find a storage facility? I’m already renting two walk-in storage units in two states. I’m convinced that they’ll be absolutely useless in any effort I make to register a car in New York State (say, by agreeing to be co-owners of record), just as they have never agreed to cosign on a rental car for me or cosign on a credit card for me so that I can readily qualify for a rental car on my own. I have no objection on principle to bringing a bike up here for my personal transportation, assuming that I can somehow bicycling work over the distances involved, but I’d be surprised if my mom didn’t get all worked up over my bike cluttering up their garage.

One obvious solution would be for me to get a job in the area. But here’s the bizarre thing: I’ve suggested it to my dad two or three times, and maybe to my mom as well, and even though I’m the unemployed failson here, my dad has consistently turned discussions of my getting a job nearby into utterly fruitless and ultimately demoralizing quagmires. He insists on knowing what I want to do for my own optimal happiness and self-actualization, which he infers would be more likely to happen in California. Funny thing, being holed up against my own stated wishes in their retirement house for weeks on end and stress-eating my way through Lent ain’t it, but the truth is that I’d be flat broke if I’d been left to my own wits, and I’m the only child of two aging parents who insist on isolating themselves in the middle of nowhere, hundreds to thousands of miles from anywhere that I’ve chosen on my own to live or work. My parents have repeatedly expressed concerns with or frank opposition to a number of the goals I’ve expressed, including getting work back east where I can visit them more frequently, flying in from the West Coast every few weeks if they’re holing up in the Adirondacks, maintaining California legal residency at all costs, and not being abused by Joe Dirtbag.

The strictly fiscal impediments to some of these goals aren’t as daunting as they sound: for example, I suspect that I could simultaneously rent cheap apartments in marginal but decent parts of California and New York or Pennsylvania for less than a thousand dollars a month combined. The obstacles would be finding willing landlords who don’t insist on prohibitive employment, credit, and reference checks. The sociological aspects of socioeconomics can easily overwhelm the strictly economic aspects. The amount of trust and sociability needed to make couchsurfing and other cohousing arrangements work, for example, is ever so much higher than advertised. Without a doubt it’s safer for me to get a walk-up apartment of my own in any reasonably peaceable distressed housing market in Upstate New York than to trust my safety and welfare to strangers I met over the internet. Honestly, it’s safer for me to sleep in a car at a rest area than to shack up with randos I haven’t had time to vet.

I don’t think I have a prayer of convincing my parents that, given my weird personal circumstances whose development they’ve encouraged, it would not be frivolous of me to rent an apartment on each coast. It doesn’t matter that I’ve spent horrifying amounts of money on cheap lodging, some of it seedy or even dangerous, or that I’m the one who has routinely slept in cars or on trains to make ends meet and they’re the ones who spent $420,000 on a retirement house in a remote area where they had no friends. The sheer irrationality that I come up against is stunning. I’m not sure it would make a difference if I put together a spreadsheet showing exactly what cost savings I expected to achieve, line by line, by getting apartments; if they subconsciously found anything eccentric about it, or possibly even anything low-class, they’d probably sandbag it with irrational objections.

I’ve already gone through a period of years during which my parents repeatedly insisted that a relative whom I was explicitly accusing of specific abusive acts was ontologically incapable of abusing me; just in the past week or so I’ve had reason to believe that my parents are starting to provide Joe Dirtbag with cover again. My guess is that I’m really pretty stable and clearheaded for someone who has had a family clusterfuck like that lurking in the background for years on end and coming to a head every few months. Anyone who isn’t insensate would find it disruptive. My parents seemingly can’t or won’t let go of a vicarious desire for evidence that things are fine between me and Joe Dirtbag. This desire overpowers whatever interest they have in letting me protect myself from a man who I swear has serially abused and preyed upon me, so they distort and elide what they must to pretend that he isn’t really that bad whenever I am not actively promising to have law enforcement bar the door against him the next time he tries to come back into my life.

At the same time I’ve been dealing with the bizarre situation of being recurrently homeless but unable to discuss my homelessness frankly, no matter how calm and matter-of-fact I am, without getting the upper middle class completely bent out of shape. For two or three years I’ve consistently found it less distressing to be homeless than my parents, their friends, and some of my own friends visibly find it to hear that I’m homeless. It’s no wonder that homeless outreach services in this country are so terrible. Who the hell wants to be humiliated to walking death by emotionally overwrought concern trolls or religious busybodies for two hots and a cot? The most absurd outburst of this sentiment that I’ve encountered was from the family friend who asked me, almost verbatim, why I didn’t go to medical school instead of being homeless and worrying my mom. I don’t give a shit who you are or how sensible you usually are; to say a thing like that is profoundly and undeniably insane. Housing crises are not fixed by going back to school; they are fixed with adequate housing under tolerable conditions, full stop. The broad socioeconomic conditions of wasting a large chunk of my early thirties in my parents’ retirement house at incalculable cost to my short- and long-term health are less tolerable than I’d hope to have in my life, but beyond a certain threshold, which is never as distant as I’d hope, the alternative looks to be destitution on skid row. Or in rural terms, the Pot-o-Shit Friend Option. There’s no need to be that loser to live around that loser.

Keep this in mind, too: I’ve been watching people who own real estate in Palo Alto have emotional meltdowns because their children are failures as conduits of vicarious success. That statement’s so White, it’ll cause snow blindness. God help us, it’s also true. It’s probably a logical end result of a community too squeamish to buy its disappointing children sinecures and too craven to challenge the yuppie project. As I’ve said before, as failspawn we could be living in Lillooet crack dens, while in point of fact some of us hardly even drink. Palo Alto is a great place to neurotically compare the regression of one’s special snowflake towards the mean to several thousand overachieving Chinamen. It’s madness.

That sounds like something Rob Ford might have said. The big guy wasn’t woke when he put the coke into Etobicoke, but I maintain that he was a strong contender for the most effective cultural pluralist Toronto has seen in living memory. Bougie doesn’t usually do that kind of pluralism. It’s too permissive. It doesn’t give young’uns enough structure to duly impress their parents with great academic and professional success. Sino-Indian tiger parenting is surely a better model.

The adult decisions I’ve had to make are not the ones I expected. It never occurred to me what I’d be willing to do to keep a roof over my head until the projectile domestic acrimony between Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew mushroomed into an implicit but clear threat of sudden domestic violence against me. After that, I consciously admitted to myself that I’d already been putting up with horrific emotional abuse for weeks and months at a time over a period of years precisely in the hope of keeping myself off the streets. If Dickinson College tried to prepare its students for this possibility, it might find its donations being diverted, say, to long-term housing funds, and maybe its tuition money as well. It would be much better to preserve and abundantly refill this rice bowl by preaching abiding faith in gods of great providence. I suppose it’s a more pleasant story, unless one is savvy enough to tell that it’s dangerous bullshit or until one’s ass is thrown out into much more predatory and chaotic communities.

Realize that it is practically impossible for me to discuss any of this with most of my relatives or with many of my friends. I stumbled onto the wrong side of a gaping cultural divide that no one wants to bridge.

Bogus midcentury nostalgia and other yuppie wannabe bullshit

As Holden Caulfield would say, the New York Times is read by a bunch of phonies. It must be. Just look at the shit it publishes. I know this because I just looked up “Holden Caulfield phonies” on DuckDuckGo; it’s not like I’m gonna read that nonsense just because it comes recommended by the sorts of people who read the Times. Some fictional twit rode around Manhattan in a taxicab bitching about phonies or some shit, and years later a guy who had set out (and failed) to read every book in the University of Hawaii Library construed this story as a license to Imagine No John Lennon.

One of the most dangerous category errors we could devise would be to assume that the Gray Lady’s lifestyle readership is engaged with the real world in a way that Mark David Chapman, committed Lennonist, was not. Most of them aren’t crazy enough to, I dunno, hunt down and shoot Chad Kroeger because of something that reached into their psyche from the pages of Infinite Jest. At this point, something’s gotta go wrong ’cause I’m feeling that Lennon wasn’t exactly a better artist or person than that greasy Canuck hairball. Before you call me crazy, remember that I regularly appreciate even worse Canadians. I guess I’d be hipper if I appreciated more obscure Canadian acts, such as Moxy Früvous, whose members surely would never be criminally charged with the strangulation of commissioned air force officers.

Oops. Shit, Ghomeshi, wasn’t Williams available?

There’s still time to turn Big Ears Teddy around for the rest of this essay. That was really the least fucked up part of it. It only looked like a mess. The NYT’s lifestyle beats are the real messes here. Jian Ghotmesi and Colonel Underpants are both part of the real world. If they should die, think only this of them: that they were chargeable to some foreign field, but Dr. Shipman forever to England. Whatever else you might say about this last outburst, it was nonfictional. Don Draper, on the other hand, is fictional. He never existed. So which of these rude gentlemen does the Times find germane to the nonfictional lives of its nonfictional readers?

Why, the made-up guy. Duh. Palm Springs per se is relevant to Millennials because of Mad Men and Frank Sinatra. Virgin America and JetBlue fly there nonstop from JFK, so ditch your angel in Harlem and get your ass on that Eurotrash big metal. For the serious street cred among hip young things, Palm Springs is within an easy drive of Coachella. Get thee fucking stoked. These are the cultural touchstones that have young people of a certain not totally loaded class swarming the Medicare Sled Desert: a long-dead show business drunk, a fictional TV show about ad men with drinking and attitude problems, and an annual vacation from reality for affluent members of the intersectional drugs community. Somebody had better keep Mr. Rogers on standby to dispatch that trolley.

There’s no subtlety to this period wealth LARP, no sense that maybe it’s decadent and embarrassing. A vacation rental landlord actually went on the record to say, “People come to let down their hair and live the martini lifestyle. You will be living just the way Frank Sinatra did in 1947.” That’s obviously not quite right: Frankie boy, if I’m not mistaken, kept his hair midcentury high and tight, and no one is anal enough to redo the hundreds of little things that have changed in the seven decades since for period authenticity just to impress some Rat Pack hipsters with Airbnb accounts. Coachella, of course, has fuck-all to do with the midcentury, unless we’re talking about Joel Salazar’s great-grandfather failing to provide drinking water for a dozen braceros.

It speaks volumes about the superficiality and ignorance of these tourists that their understanding of the midcentury in their own country is a famous singer supposedly using his fuck-you money to live as a wastrel in a Frank Lloyd Wright house. Of everything that was happening socioeconomically between the Second World War and Watergate, most of it very different from Frank Sinatra being a desert lush, this is what resonates with them. Just this evening I was looking semiseriously at house listings in every cheap dump of a town in California that came to my mind, and one of the cheapest deals I found was a 1959 open-plan ranch house on the outskirts of Twentynine Palms, selling points: walls and ceiling mostly intact. That’s midcentury modern architecture, too, bitch. Google Maps shows a drive of an hour and a half from downtown Palm Springs. Twentynine Palms sounds like a shithole, but it’s more convenient than Trona, which is as painfully shitty a place as I’ve ever visited.

What the Times omits, of course, is that the cool cats with the discretionary income don’t want to put the effort and capital into rehabilitating a desert rancher in an out-of-the-way, crappy third-order suburb of the Los Angeles Basin when they can instead larp the Rat Pack in Rancho Mirage. There’s nothing stopping one from putting on a bathrobe, taking a handle of gin into the loo, and turning on a space heater. Okay, to be scrupulous, this assumes some sort of housing, but the Palm Springs vacation crowd has no compunction about making presumptions that dwarf that of everyone being housed. The Finns have an anecdote about a couple of gentlemen who did likewise in a sauna (Finn 1: “Cheers!” Finn 1, an hour later: “Cheers!” Finn 1, after two hours: “Cheers!” Finn 2: “We came her to drink, not to talk!”) . But none of this is really about life in the desert. If it were, twits wouldn’t be swooping in from dramatically different climates, cranking up the AC, planting landscaping that multiplies municipal water consumption by a factor of five, and then bitching about allergies.

True, it’s cooler in the winter, even clement, but these idiots can hardly be expected to know. They can’t be expected to know squat. Life on the ground for normal people in southeastern California is nothing like their highbrow theme vacations. South of Mammoth Lakes and east of Saddleback, most Californians live in scandalously ugly built environments, many of them with scandalously bad public services as well. Palm Springs and a few nearby municipalities hugging the foothills are exceptions that prove the rule. The Georgia O’Keefe-ass desert chic fades into shabby sprawl around the airport, and by Indio the cityscapes have gone entirely to shit. The Salton Sea is disgusting, a century-old open-air sump of contaminated, photochemically stewing agricultural runoff that can be smelled for miles. Tellingly, during the same midcentury that Palm Springs’ tourists celebrate for Sinatra, Draper, and the gang, there were years when more tourists visited the Salton Sea than Yosemite.

Palm Springs has a booming local tourist economy that has emerged around people who are alienated from the means of production, from their own national history, and from the mainstream of their own society, if there still is such a thing. The problem isn’t that they’re sheltered; it’s that they’re more politically engaged than the average citizen and make decisions on behalf of everyone else based on their own extremely sheltered ignorance, which they ridiculously conflate with all of American culture and civics. They don’t know any better because they haven’t been told, although it’s anyone’s guess whether they’d actually listen. They celebrate idols, both historical and fictional, who were almost aberrantly privileged for their time. They seem not to realize how far out of the mainstream these idols were, and they’d probably become hostile and tell their critics to lighten up if they were given a basic history lesson. Lightening up is the last thing I’m of a mind to do; I can’t imagine that this phoniness doesn’t have grave policy ramifications that degrade my own socioeconomic prospects and quality of life. They are clueless about the rural folkways that keep much of the Coachella Valley, and by extension California, productive, folkways that involve prolonged exposure to extreme heat and, God willing, do not involve Joel Salazar.

This mentality is of a piece with comments about how deadly serious aspects of real life, often involving public policy, are like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. Check out this listicle about ten ways the Holocaust was like The Hunger Games. As Patrick Nonwhite put it, Stalin created hard times, and he was the strongest man! When Stefan Molyneux’s memes start looking like points of light, we have a serious problem. I know I’m filling in some blanks here, but I get a bad feeling that the entire country is falling into the vise grip of an electorate and a leadership answering to it that fundamentally refuse to orient themselves in observable civic reality. We have Mad Men tourism for wannabes who admire martini wanker bullshit artists. Scranton has Dunder-Mifflin tourism for boob-tubers who, very disturbingly, appreciate The Office as a brilliant satire of their own lives, not as a Faulknerian tale of unfathomable oddities whose paths they hope never to cross. Jolly old England has Downton Abbey tourism, advertised on PBS (DEFUND IMMEDIATELY), celebrating a vapid, parasitical manor lifestyle that was established through an enclosure campaign orchestrated by an alliance of crooked politicians, hanging judges, and privateers as vicious and psychopathic as ISIS.

I hate to think that I may be the only fucking adult in the room. I’d love to be proven wrong, but that isn’t happening in the clown show that American politics have become.

“Do I deserve a coffee for that?”

To be short, no. “That” was catching my attention and pointing out the ten spot that I’d dropped on the floor. Unfortunately for our Good Samaritan, “this,” as his proximate act would be known in the Jersey Italianate parlance, was interrupting my breakfast five minutes later to bother me for coffee. As Jimmy Powers, Nassim Taleb’s ultrasuccessful investor buddy from the Brooklyn Irish underworld, liked to tell his toffs, “We did this and then did that, badaboom, badabing, and then it was all groovy.” I was dealing with the resident door troll at a Dunkin’ Donuts in the Atlantic City ghetto: not all groovy. I must not run with Taleb’s crowd. Taleb listens to exceptionally talented and accomplished bigshots explain themselves to highbrow bullshitters with inscrutable nonsense; I listen to a neighborhood loser (hello, neighbor) try to guilt a 20% tip out of me for his good deed in the ghetto (in the ghetto).

I knew this dude from previous fooding sprees. On this cold Chicago morning, like most others (just be thankful I’m not meming noted Jersey trash Bon Jovi–yet), homeboy was working as a self-appointed doorman at the Dunkin’ Donuts by the bus terminal, with frequent breaks to step inside for warmth, nonconsensual kaffeeklatsch, and fuck-off money when the door tips dried up. Again, this is a far cry from Taleb’s celebrated “fuck-you money.” F my life money with on-air financial advisor Danny Bonaduce is more like it.

Don’t blame me for wandering into the part of town with the bus station. I’m an educated cracker, and educated crackers don’t hold with category errors. NJ Transit gave me a fine style of ride in from Somers Point on the Born to Run Highway, and it set me back a mere $2.75. Dysfunctional poories are segregated around America’s Dirty Dog Depots because functional people with money, and sometimes dysfunctional ones, are too stuck-up to take the bus. I’m guessing the 509 isn’t fuel-injected (it sounded like a diesel), but fuck whatever the hell Springsteen claimed to be driving, fuck your Hummer stretched limo, fuck your Escalade, and, yes, fuck your G6. I actually know what could do to be improved on the NJT bus system, and I can articulate it better than this and that, badabing, and it’s all groovy, guy. I can also articulate ways to improve services for the poors, including the middle and upper classes not boycotting and voting to defund common carriers in a spirit of rank class bigotry. Yes, moving out to Galloway Township was problematic. On the other hand, Joyzey has civic problems at all fractals, one of these problems being the Atlantic City government.

The Dunkin’ Doorman hangs out in a bad part of AC which is only two blocks from good parts of town and probably not much farther from worse parts. No, I’m still not convinced that Atlantic City is as bad as Reno or Vegas. A city is not necessarily improved by getting white people up in this motherfucker, as they say in Camden, and junkies from Haddonfield aren’t as bad as Whitey gets, either. The Dunkin’ Doorman is a member of the Community, but he is not a member of the drugs community. If a druggie is too incompetent to be a hustler, score one for drugs. We have too many fucking hustlers in this country. The organizing principle of the AC economy is that the city has no tangible economic reason to exist, so instead of helping it build a productive economy (a fairly easy project, given its favorable geography and infrastructure), the state and municipal governments have decided to invive sleazy hustlers to set up a bogus parasitical economy atop the ruins of Victorian beer halls. Yup, the Boss has a ballad about this, too. AC would be a great site for aquaculture, a first-class transit-oriented bedroom community, diversified light manufacturing, and short-sea shipping. Instead, the full extent of the local civic vision is gambling, retail outlets, and booking Kenny Loggins at the Borgata.

Wow Much alienation None means of production Omg karl marks Very dismay. This is one of the fruits of a society that declares it lucid and wise to have absolutely of how or where anything is produced because “we” can offshore it all to Asia and sell each other “services” for a living.

In a society so derelict and feckless, the Dunkin’ Doorman is inevitable. He’s marginally employable, last in first out but not obviously unfit for work. He’s ablebodied enough to stand by the door and open it several times a minute with no apparent distress. He appears sober and perfectly sane. He’s alert; if he weren’t, he wouldn’t be able to get the door on time. There’s no way he isn’t fit to do menial payroll work. It’s more that employers don’t want some middle-aged guy from the ghetto who doesn’t bring his own obnoxiously servile work ethic. He’s an annoying hustler, but he is not fundamentally a bullshitter, and he doesn’t look like one to countenance assertions of managerial authority for the sake of managerial authority. His is the heart where the sad remnants of the yeoman spirit abide, wounded, not even dead.

Tonight, on Jungleland: whiny bastards and the public assistance that might dislodge them from your store’s doorway. The casinos have security staff dedicated to the immediate removal of the Dunkin’ Doorman’s kind and other Ocean’s Eleven counterintelligence shit. They also have a customer base that’s profilgate and moneyed enough to deserve calls for alms in close quarters more than the downtown hashbrown crowd.

For all I know, the Dunkin’ Doorman may be on public assistance already. If he has a dubious disability pension, that’s the government’s way of removing him from the formal economy on a permanent basis, allowing him to reinsert himsel quite disruptively into the informal economy. They give you the Easy D, they put you on System D, cracka ya feel me? No, not you, Hastert.

There might be less disability fraud if the United States didn’t use Honduras as a remote breeding colony for deracinated serfs. The funny thing is, “we” never asked the Midwest’s unionized meatpackers for their consent to invite cowed, utterly disposable Mexican scab labor into their communities as their replacements and dispossess them from productive, honest, well-compensated heavy craft labor into citywide tweaker death spirals intersectional with California’s cholo prison gangs, the guy who had his girlfriend help him balance on the rim of their bathtub for his twice-weekly bowel movements, and Tom Arnold. The unions objected strenuously to this program from the start, but noted SAG member Ronald Reagan had no interest in solidarity with a bunch of hayseed losers when he could instead help management teams from more Studio 60-compliant jurisdictions ensure that in Late Soviet America, ritz was a putin on YOU!

For all our talk about how admirable and crucial it is to have a work ethic, one might expect this country to insist on justly compensating those who have the work ethic to hold down the same meatpacking job for twenty or thirty years straight. Just compensation in this case is generous compensation of workers who are so generous with their own time, effort, and wellbeing. But I’m knowingly overthinking the whole thing. All this talk about the work ethic is bullshit. Everyone who still sincerely believes in it and tries to put it into practice is a loser. It’s the damnedest thing for a nation that believes in the work ethic to trash pay scales and workplace conditions across the breadth of its productive economy and divert the savings to imperial warmaking and a bewildering variety of frauds. (I repeat myself, but not entirely.)

We’d have a hard time getting to where we are today without our shoddy, sloppy, badly degraded habits of speech. Bad habits of speech create bad habits of thought create more bad habits of speech, and next thing you know, we’re all driveling, disoriented idiots. If I come across as an intellectual giant for being the only person in my midst with the wherewithal to lead a discourse producing a thoughtful, honest, coherent definition of work, that’s much more a reflection on the incapacitation of my fellows than on my own prowess. Yeah, I’m smart, but straight up, dawg, that’s basic shit. It shouldn’t be too difficult to explain why there’s more socioeconomic value in manning the killing floor than in busting the meatpackers’ union, but in meatspace, so to speak, I figure that I’ll probably end up trying to porksplain this shit to twits who always assumed that meat comes from, like, Whole Foods or Giant or whatever. It’s hardly worth the bother.

I used to be strongly but silently of the belief that the fall from grace in Eden was the acquisition not of forbidden knowledge, but of language. Of which I use quite a bit myself, come to think of it. Oops. Here comes that original sin feeling again. With the ability to speak comes the ability to lie and to mislead and to shade the truth and to COMMUNICATE TO CREATE! Oh. That again. The real trouble. though, comes from people who never settled for a constable’s commission and a spot on the F-List motivational speaking circuit. It comes from hustlers who successfully elide hustling with honest work not only in their own minds but in the minds of the general public. Depot at least has mythical graduation standards that include looking good on a horse. Keep in mind, if it ever was in yours in the first place, that a myth in the classical sense is generally assumed to contain a kernel or more of truth in the midst of its ample poetic license. It is not a synonym for a jumble of hoaxes and hallucinated nonsense.

By Zeus, there’s another thing that we have absolutely no fucking ability to define. Real pleasant subject, I know. Mix that into your tallboy gin and tonic and get trashed on it. Bellyaching about a rising tide of illiteracy is fashionable in some circles, but difficulty reading is a frivolous concern in a society that fundamentally thinks at a fourth-grade level. Any word can mean the same thing as any other word our teacher didn’t explicitly say it doesn’t mean, and I’m synonymous with Kevin Vickers.

Do not underestimate the capacity of this mindset to ruin entire societies. As they said in Rome, it’s close enough for government aqueduct work. #PureMichigan

The Dunkin’ Doorman works. Opening and closing that door is prima facie a form of work. It’s accurate enough to say that he works for a living. It’s probably a piss-poor partial living, but so is commercial blueberry picking for most of us in that field (heh). It’s off-the-books bullshit that annoys customers who’d rather get the door for themselves than be pestered for tips, but as much of a pain in the ass as he can be, he doesn’t rival our sleazier corporations. He’s an improvement over Jamberry, which is also useless. At least he gets paid directly for his trouble, insofar as anyone isn’t too fed up with his stunts to slip him a love offering. Ethically, he’s an improvement over Amway, which manages to ruin the sale of surprisingly useful household goods by pyramid-pimping dipshits who ought to apply for stocking jobs at Meijer instead. The Dunkin’ Doorman ain’t Dutch, so he ain’t much. By contrast, we now have a Dutch touch in the Department of Education the likes of which would horrify a critical mass of voters in the Netherlands.

This must be what we get for being stupid enough to believe that a hustler is the same thing as a productive, responsible member of society. The DeVos clan is to Holland (the original one, not the one where Amtrak rolls in at daybreak) and its culture what the Jersey Shore is to Italy, except that I’m not totally averse to trusting Snooki. We can’t tell the difference between the best levee engineering on earth and some self-righteous godbothering shitheads with a pyramid scheme. The bottom is yanked out from under the job market and we start hearing about the need for “side hustles.” Cella, our Millennial friend from the margins of the Dallas metroplex pizza business, apparently ain’t got no main hustle to go with the main bitch that she avowedly ain’t got. She might be young, and she ain’t much but stupid, Trainor, but she isn’t the only marginal American for whom it’s a fuck-ass job market. There are worse things than calling bullshit on a managerial class that is exactly that. She may be a ridiculous little brat, but she trolled Robert Waple into publicly firing her on her Twitter feed, and anyone who successfully deploys a counterintelligence honeypot against a sleazy manager is bae for a day.

Many of us ain’t got no hustle at all. This scandalizes and offends a grab-bag of bootstrapper scolds, but it’s worth reiterating that the incentives are not in place to inspire engagement in the workforce by welcoming and then compensating us. They just aren’t. I turned my own work history partway around a few years ago when I got into commercial farm work, and I’m now in much better shape professionally than many NEETs, but I’m still dismayed at my own prospects, let alone the markedly worse prospects that less fortunate Americans face. The withdrawal of engagement and consent from the job market comes at a personal cost that I know all to well, but it is no way an inherently illegitimate response. Free citizens should withdraw themselves from abusive and unfair job markets whenever they’re willing and able to do so. So should slaves, because that way lies freedom.

None of this means that I regret not giving the Dunkin’ Doorman a tip. I doubt he’d hang around there if he didn’t pay. In a strict Gobias Industries sense he may have deserved a coffee, but I didn’t deserve to have him up in my face and trying to talk to me while my mouth was full, and the older low bougie black gentleman he started bothering after I killed his vibe looked like he deserved it even less. I figure he’d have said some things back to the Dunkin’ Doorman if he was interested in a chat, instead of looking straight ahead and pretending that he wasn’t there. I only caught a glimpse of their interaction, which was more than enough.

Panhandlers go for whoever looks the easiest pushover. It’s easier and more efficient when that pushover is the government. Whine all you want about moral hazard, but it’s not like an idle, adrift underclass is something that welfare has any prospect of creating. It’s already here, and it’s consistently a cheaper date than Lockheed-Martin.