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.

The West Valley Special, and I do mean “special”

Mormons have a reputation for wholesome, edifying living, and also for valuing education. Some of the least fucked up sexual fetishes in the Americas feature LDS MILF’s, and BYU is legit. So I don’t have a prayer of explaining the Salt Lake City light rail system. It isn’t that a retarded woman chatted me up on a platform; that happened, too, but as retards go, she was pretty well-adjusted (e.g., able to take nonverbal cues better than many normies and end our chat gracefully). Besides, Mormons are as good as anyone at taking care of their ‘tards. What blew me away was the succession of five other, much less functional, fellow passengers who blessed me with their company over the course of three hours earlier in the afternoon. As Fred Rogers always said, “Hello, neighbor!” Try to put yourself in at least two pairs of other men’s shoes and imagine a neighborhood trolley, or, worse, a neighborhood, populated by neighborly beauties like these:

1) A fat, slovenly woman of about forty with no volume control on her voice who asked a deadheading train operator, “How do yous steer these things?” The operator, who had just finished his shift and was catching his daily ride back to the yard, was patient enough to explain how the train runs on rails. Gee, you don’t fucking say. Hint 1: Rhymes with “might fail” conductor school. Hint 2: Rhymes with “Trax.”

2) A young man who sauntered onto the train wearing a hoodie and pajama bottoms—at a quarter to four on a Monday afternoon, with his slightly better dressed girlfriend in tow. Let’s call him the Marginally Attached Gentleman.

3) Another fat, slovenly lady who made a fist, punched a sheet of green paper, partially folded the sheet back up into its very neat two-inch squares, put the paper into her duffelbag, and then blew a series of extra-farty raspberries.

4) The latter thick bitch’s boyfriend, a fat, slovenly (duh) dude with a bushy beard and a receding-hairline instamullet, who was wearing an extremely shabby old red-and-black knockoff motorcycle jacket over a secondhand Batman T-shirt.

5) A she-tweaker from the intersectional tobacco/substance abuse/mental health community, dressed in Uggs and sagging sweatpants, her hair cohering into emergent whitey dreads, who convulsively took off her Uggs, carressed the long-dead butt of a Camel, moaned desperate nonsense at anyone who made fleeting eye contact (my mistake), and forlornly berated a bouquet of plastic flowers that she’d pulled from a Wendy’s takeout bag.

Salt Lake City proper, in spite of its being the site of the LDS Church’s headquarters and the focal point of its holy land, is Utah’s most notoriously gentile city. But this doesn’t explain any of my trolley losers except the She-Tweaker. She boarded downtown, Sally don’t you even think about it. The rest of them were from South of Eden. Number One, the fat lady with family in Lakewood (it figures), made her scene on the way to West Valley Central. The other three were aboard the inbound train from Draper by the time we left Murray, with the Marginally Attached Gentleman and his (marginally) better half on board by Sandy. There are Mormons who regard Salt Lake City beyond the Temple precincts as something akin to Sodom, but these fine Utards all have connections in more Napoleonic parts of the valley. Maybe it’s by strategic political design that the light rail stops short of American Fork. FrontRunner, the more expensive heavy rail line, runs all the way from Ogden to Provo on all days but the Sabbath, and at surprisingly good service levels for a new system in a middling metropolitan area, but its fare schedule may be steep enough to keep it from serving as a loser cruiser and bringing the undesirables into the proper breeder suburbs. If you’re still in your fucking PJ’s during evening rush hour, you’re probably interested in the cheap train.

But I’m spitballing, for the most part. Beyond the Salt Lake City limits, the entire state has a strongly Mormon ambient culture. That’s the default setting. Salt Lake City is an outpost of mainstream US urban culture, but its southern suburbs are not. They’re too locally rooted and idiosyncratic for that. Hell, even the nice parts of SLC are Sweet Jesus and the Golden Tablets Mormon by the gentile standards of, say, Denver.

If a Mormon sense of maybe don’t get totally fucked up on hard drugs and dress like an incorrigibly derelict ragamuffin in public doesn’t rub off on the poors, what the hell will? Utah has the lowest Gini Coefficient of any state in the Union, Salt Lake and Utah (?) Counties have one of the healthiest metropolitan job markets in the country, and still there’s all this crazy white trash on the train. I forgot to say so explicitly: this was a vibrant diveristy of white people and nothing but white people, none of them White. There was a variety of racial minorities on the light rail, too, but they weren’t nearly as nuts. It was exclusively the crackers that were cracking me up. The cracker traditionally cracks up intransitively as well—that’s how the name came about—but in our case the dysfunction may have nothing at all to do with Scotland. These losers could be 100% Dutch for all I know; there’s certainly a lot of high Anglo-Saxon blood floating around in the local gene pool.

They look unreachable. I don’t get the feeling that they’re reacting to or rebelling against Mormonism. They aren’t emos or goths. It isn’t a stance to get a rise out of the squares. They’re too disinhibited not to be earnest. Irony is beyond their capacity. And isn’t it ironic, like ra-a-a-a-a-ain/on your wedding day, that the fat lady who didn’t understand trains (which one steers) has so many relatives in the metro area that raises and harbors the most well-adjusted, physically fit, stylish, naturally confident fat women I’ve ever encountered. She declared her people in Woodinville and Auburn, too, not that anyone on the train asked. I must have been in the valley of the damned for my local connection to the Sound to be a postureless, graceless loudmouth with no sense of style and a slow toddler’s understanding of how trains work.

And she may have been the least deranged of the whole lot. The Marginally Attached Gentleman looked like bad news; a society whose men comport themselves in his fashion is surely on the skids. The She-Tweaker was terrible news. The two lovers were just fucking uncouth. Here I had five people on two trains, pushing rush hour, no less (meaning that the loser count should have been swamped by commuting normies), all of them living in strongly Napoleonic jurisdictions, only one of them with a visible drug problem, and yet none of them socialized by the Mormon hive mind. It was the kind of shit I’d expect of Reno.

On my way out of town, I took the light rail past the St. Vincent de Paul rescue mission. Holy shit, Brigham. Salt Lake City has the premier housing-first program in Anglo North America (not LDS feel-good bullshit, either; independent housing activists give it top marks), so I was shocked to see dozens of people sleeping on the sidewalk in front of St. Vinnie’s. I’d hardly have given it a moment’s notice in Sacramento or Reno, where that kind of wretchedness is ubiquitous, but everything else I’d seen around Salt Lake had been so clean and orderly, and everything I’d heard about the city’s homeless outreach services had indicated that they’re unwaveringly on point. The only hopeful possibility is that that crowd was entirely new kids on the block who had recently assembled in the social services district and were already on waiting lists for placements. The turnover could be a great deal higher than it looks, and frankly there’s nothing unethical about charity-shopping one’s way to the one city in the country that seems to take housing placement seriously. The worrisome possibility is that this isn’t the case.

By the way, nice job dumping all that dysfunction right on the way to the Greyhound and Amtrak stations when the eastbound Zephyr rolls through at three in the morning. Nice cab we got here; shame if you got mugged for not taking it.

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.

“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.

A florid overproduction of elites: Roses are red, limousine liberals are miserable; put the liberals back in the car, and dump the car in the Kill van Kull

That’s “car” as in “Parker, fetch the car,” which Paul Fussell avers is a Social suggestion that one might make to the subordinate. When one is of a certain Class (C), one need not say explicitly that one uses limousines and waits in joyful hope for the inauguration of Kwesi Millington as Sheriff.

Well, shucks. That again. As Robert Dziekanski said, “I’m shocked, SHOCKED to see YOU here.” You may be reading that and thinking dude, it’s rude. Well, dude, I’m in Philadelphia; I’m violating the prevailing community standards by exceeding them. I’m hardly two blocks from the street where a bum blindsided me from a distance of two paces by announcing, out of the blue, “Believe it or not he IS my fucking savior! Don’t test HIM, pussy!” I wasn’t surprised to discover that the Catholic Church had left street ministry in this hood to the Protestants; it can barely manage its own internal catechesis. Mercy Street is an underrated PBS drama, not anything that the one holy catholic &c is particularly trying to reify in meatspace.

Where the hell am I going with this? My bum from above will surely say that I’ve answered my own question, but many mentally ill people will agree with me that it’s foolish to take the mentally ill too seriously. Unfortunately, you don’t have to be clinical to be crazy. If you’re high-functioning enough, you can always go into politics. The poetry (sic) in my title was inspired by a similar outburst of poetry (very sic) during last week’s Day Without Immigrants, to wit:

Roses are red

Tacos are enjoyable

Don’t blame Mexicans

Just because you’re unemployable

Don’t blame this white boy just for throwing you into the Kill van Kull. You were asking for it. The Democratic Party must feel at home on Staten Island. It’s run by people who point excitedly at every smoldering, repulsive trash heap of a mountain that passes into their view and eagerly volunteering to die on it. They probably do this because they presume themselves immortal. As I’ve discussed before, I’ve voted and even campaigned locally for Democrats, so yes, I find it disgusting that they’ve given practically their entire party apparatus over to sanctimonious, malignantly tone-deaf shitheads who make me look back wistfully on the innocent naivety of John Lindsay. That’s kind of like how, though time goes by, James Blunt will always be in a club with you in 1973, only more so, but still. Here we go again, I guess. It wasn’t actually a simpler time (that much is utter nonsense), but I get the feeling that the shitty left-wing politics of the time weren’t so stupidly shitty. For one thing, the left wasn’t trying to outmaneuver a bunch of sniveling useless eaters who had taken over the Democratic Party and refute the apparent category error that these fuckwads, who have been sinking the party for decades now, were part of the broad left.

So here we fucking are. The Democratic Party, the closest thing to a mainstream leftist party in the United States, keeps casting its lot with immigrant scab labor. A combination of party myth and entrenched strategy still holds that the labor left, especially union labor, is a crucial part of the Democratic base. But why the hell shouldn’t it defect from Hillary Clinton, who smears labor as bigoted and hopelessly backwards, to Donald Trump, who at least speaks glowingly about the working class and its trades on a regular basis? The Democrats keep shooting themselves in the foot. They keep bolstering the suspicions of Jacob Bacharach and other observers that they operate not to win elections and advance policies in the interests of their constituents, but to apportion jobs from their baroque spoils system to various hangers-on who demonstrate an adequate combination of political correctness and pedigree.

The Inside Baseball approach to correcting this ugly stance is to somehow convince these shitheads that the unemployed are able to swing elections, that we and our sympathizers are a hidden Florida lurking throughout the land. This would require credibly demonstrating that the unemployed don’t consistently sit out elections in a state of dejected apathy and, in many states, reversing the mostly Republican restrictions on the franchise for ex-convicts. It would also require inspiring Democratic apparatchiks with a desire to win elections by being pragmatic (e.g., by not gratuitously insulting key constituencies) instead of losing elections with stands of haughty principle (sic, as ever).

Fundamentally, this mess goes far deeper than stupid strategies. The Democratic Party’s stupid strategies are driven by a heartfelt bigotry towards the poor, the working classes, and the unemployed. The Republican Party is even worse in this regard, but it has managed to cobble together a functioning coalition of zealots, timid authoritarians, and Go-Galts under the auspices of a deep story that isn’t an utterly incoherent mess, so it’s able to win elections in years when the economy isn’t a total disaster and/or the Democratic Party is one. The Democratic Party has tried to peel off the Go-Galts with offers of a libertine paradise on earth for yuppies and bring them into a coalition with the very working classes that they scheme to dispossess for their own socioeconomic aggrandizement, and to do this under the auspices of a deep story that cherishes a balanced, equitable sharing of human freedom for all citizens, regardless of class.

Of course it doesn’t work. Of course the “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” crowd is a millstone around the Democratic Party’s neck. Any self-preserving leftist party that found itself concern-trolled into a death spiral by interloping yuppies would lay down the law: all right, shut the fuck up, you guys are Main Line Republicans catfishing as Democrats and sinking our coalition by showing up here, it’s time for you to take that shit straight back to Strafford. Leave. Instead, they insist that yuppies are the future and working stiffs are the past. Unemployment and disability stats suggest that they aren’t entirely off-base on the latter point, but the yuppie swarm doesn’t even return a reliable Democratic-majority vote, and the national job market (hell, the international job market) has turned into an ugly game of musical chairs.

This approach is electorally disastrous and disastrous for legislation and public policy, but it’s grotesquely adaptive if the goal is to close deals at country clubs. It makes frighteningly good sense under the assumption that Democratic politicians would rather trade favors with Republican politicians than answer to their own voters. This, after all, is the crowd that was caught doing business at Tim Russert’s funeral mass. If they’ll do that in a church sanctuary, where won’t they do it? *VERY RICHARD NIXON VOICE* Christ, they’re in a goddamn cathedral, they were supposed to help the priest help the poor bastard find peace at the center and they’re handing out fucking business cards. *TRICKY DICK OUT*

The Main Line and the Clurb are much less important to the Republicans than they are to the Democrats. As Republican voters, they provide funding and small regional voters bases to complement those that the Republican Party has amassed in poorer areas. As Democratic voters, they provide the same funding, the same small regional voter bases, and an attitude that alienates the Democrats’ major bases. This is a problem unique to the Democrats because they’re the ones who make a show of respecting the vulnerable lower classes and wanting to do right by them; the GOP safeguards itself against this line of attack by never insinuating that it gives a shit about the poor per se.

In addition to courting these fancy-pants who don’t know when to shut up and wouldn’t if they did, the Democrats have cultivated an overlapping but maybe marginally poorer and less secure base of strivers who regard Bill Maher as a public intellectual. Maher’s traditional self-justification is that because he’s abrasive and forward he’s the only person on the left (again, sic, mostly) who’s willing to speak harsh truths about, for example, Islam. His foils are a minority of scrupulous liberal dipshits who are afraid to upset the Ummah by saying bad things about terrorists. This is a very easy opposition for Maher to own. It’s foolish enough to defend Islam against claims that the entire religion commanded terrorist attacks instead of proposing a simple, targeted response, like “cease military and foreign aid to Saudi Arabia.”

Tellingly, Maher got woke liberals so upset in the aftermath of 9/11 by insulting Islam and the Ummah that he flew almost under the radar with his thoughts on grain elevators, specifically, that it’s funny as all hell when rednecks die in mass-casualty grain elevator disasters. In his world, it’s okay to make fun of people for dying in preventable mass-casualty incidents as long there isn’t an overt political component at play, and as long as the victims are poors. All those goofy hayseeds were doing was making sure that the rest of us had food. Who cares about them?

A party that curries favor with Maher’s ilk cannot expect to win over anyone who does honest manual labor for a living. Injurious and fatal accidents are an ever-present threat to manual laborers. Any party that truly cares about the working class will take them seriously and do what it can to keep them to a minimum. Instead, the Democratic Party keeps using Maher and other dipshits like Stephen Colbert to show that they’re hip. Colbert’s inaugural Late Show episode featured his stuffing his mouth with Oreos to the point of overflow as a stunt to show that he didn’t give a shit about production being offshored to Mexico from Chicago. The general point was to make fun of Donald Trump, but which of these television blowhards was looking out for the heavily black and brown production floor workforce at the Oreo plant: Colbert, the ostentatiously flippant one, or Trump, the one who demanded that the factory remain in Chicago?

It’s understandable that entertainers are alienated from the means of production. What’s special about Maher and Colbert is that they have achieved total alienation from the means of production. They are the platonic ideal of the knowledge economy incarnate. They transcend all knowledge of and care for their food supply (it’s a limited kind of knowledge). Meanwhile, they preach to audiences heavy on woke locavore foodies, which is insane.

The Donald is able to clean up just by showing an ADHD level of interest in how factories work and an admiration for the people who run them. When everyone else in show business is a shitty, hopelessly sheltered ingrate, that’s enough. When protesters demand that out-of-work, dispossessed Americans from old families (including black ones, in case you’re a fucking moron) respect Mexicans for their work ethic AND their tacos, and when there have also been campaigns of brown-on-black ethnic cleansing in bad parts of Los Angeles, how can anyone expect the deplorables not to conclude that they’re the targets of an ethnic population replacement project? It’s hip to politicize tacos now. They’re the breakfast of champions. Fuck Wheaties. Fuck whiteys, too. And darkies, for that matter. They’re panda-bearing us again.

It’s possible to be a foodie and not be an asshole, but being an asshole doesn’t seem to hurt. They aren’t uppity for wanting novel taco options; we’re the uppity ones for expecting preferential hiring over people who are not authorized to work in the United States. We’re just unemployable and bitter about it.

I’m already doing PT in preparation for this summer’s blueberry harvest. You’re fucking welcome.

Christopher Cross crap, at a cost

My parents spent $13,000 or some shit on their pontoon boat and another thousand or two for the dock. Every year they spend, fuck if I can say for sure, but probably another thousand or fifteen hundred on dry dock storage in a big boat shed, glorified as a marina, and eight hundred or so for a crew of rednecks to do a sloppy, half-assed job installing the dock in the spring and removing and stacking it in the fall. They dock the boat in a shallow cove, the next thing to a marsh. It was dry over the summer, so their little bit of lakefront was marshier than usual. They had barely enough depth to get the boat out from the dock without scraping the muddy bottom. Every time they go out, the propeller gets covered with lily pads, algae, and other weedy slop that my dad (and I, if I’m around) have to scrape off. Rodents have already gotten into the engine housing at least once and chewed up the wiring. Water apparently got into the engine this summer, causing it to cough even at idle and to strain and buck at speeds as low as 2,000 RPM. You know, water: something your boat might be exposed to on a lake.

This next-to-useless money pit charms the sweet everloving shit out of my parents. I always figured they could rent a pontoon boat if they wanted to fuck around on one, but that would involve going to another lake, which would be problematic because reasons. Having a pontoon boat of one’s own on the lake of one’s own is excellent bougie for retirees of a certain class who regard Lake Winnipesaukee as overdeveloped and overromneyed to the point of untenable crassness and poor taste. They built a bunch of condos around it, libertarian twits won’t stop whipping out their live free or die stiffies, and a Mormon family showed up: more like Lake Wouppadefauquindoux, yes? Pardon my French, as they say; the Quebeckers aren’t reputed to speak it tout fauquin ouelle, either, and don’t forget, they produced Paul “Da Smoothie wif D Money” LePage. In my time, my parents have evolved from opposing pontoon boats on principle as noisy motorized affronts to proper armstrong-powered water recreation in crappy old canoes and rowboats to supporting pontoon boats as da good bougie kine. This change of heart (you could have one, Rikki) corresponds to their becoming older and less agile, and also to their becoming older and more affluent, so no, I don’t know where the correlations stop and the causations start.

What hasn’t changed is their obsessive Adirondack aesthetic, except to get stronger and worse. My parents weren’t culturally appropriating shit from the Dutch when they were living in Pennsylvania; it was too low-class. Now they’ve at last arrived in a place where one might summer, where my mom in fact did summer as a child, but on the cheap because her parents were semi-functional, not-too-poor poors with more education than sense, some long-term debt and, in my grandmother’s case at least, a weird sort of part-proto-hipster, part-earnest fascination with the Adirondacks’ low English drunks. A stray fruitboy could show up there, feel the abyss staring back, and frantically ask himself where the hell his plants went, but my parents didn’t raise me to be a fruitboy, so that’s my problem. God could I use a good berry patch up there just to keep the Devil away from my idle hands. The inchoate sense of this that I had as a child has been fully conscious for years as I’ve come to ever more fully realize that agriculturalists are way the hell saner than the sorts of layabouts, retirees (I repeat myself–mostly), drunks, generational welfare crackers, dissipated trust funders (I repeat myself again), summer camp weirdos, and other losers in the Game of Farming who retreat into the useless woods for a complete alienation from the means of production.

Don’t worry, though, Willie: this baby ain’t about to grow up to be a cowboy. Plants don’t shit everywhere. They don’t need anyone’s arm elbow-deep in their assholes at three am (I must not be nearly as lonely as I was hoping), their nuts cut off, or a big tube full of overnighted sperm from one of the lucky boys who got to keep his seed sack shot up their cunts in what P. J. O’Rourke called “like teenage pregnancy, only more so.” Cowgirls are supposedly all kinds of freaky good in the sack because, per Akinokure, they’re big-booty pastoralist chicks and, per country music, they’re cowgirls. Put two and two together and, ooh, you’ll get a clue, too! (Some moralizing Saudi fuckhead that Dinesh D’Souza (?) interviewed about same-sex marriage: “Men go into the desert and do shameful things with their camels, but this doesn’t mean that a man should be able to marry his camel.”) Some cowgirl’s daughter going from the corral to the pole to the bachelor fruitboy’s bed over the course of her career may raise questions you’d better not try to answer about how she got that way, but none of this is as fucked up as the Saratoga racing season. It’s one thing to stimulate the camel and cause milky explosion (Borat was right: there really are people who do that for a living) if the end result is meat, milk, pack, or draft animals; it’s quite another if the result is an inbred horse with weak bones being whipped halfway to death by a short guy who never gets enough to eat so that the posh have a theme for their gambling problems instead of a useful and edifying Maoist agricultural adventure. It might be excusable if we ate horse meat, as my mom has accused the Welsh of doing, but we don’t. I might even be able to put aside my aesthetic, ethical, economic, social, and philosophical objections to the races temporarily if ladies from the horsey-horse crowd put out for me, or if they just got kinda frisky with me, but that never happens, either. I’m still stuck buying that strange on overpriced markets.

As an Eastern European acquaintance explained when she was asked “why it is you women dress so revealingly,” “It is because we are a bunch of horse.” That’s a nice idea, in any event. So is a Saratoga economy that is not just a bunch of horse. So is a world in which I do not have a single degree of separation from the Council of the Sacred Horse. (It’s even worse than you imagine.) David Clayton-Thomas must be like, man, I dropped fucking acid and wrote a song about carousel horses, and I never came up with anything that bad. We know all too well by now what good too much royal horse time does to other criminally inadmissible friends from the great white north, but aside from Robinson and Millington both being strong Sheriff candidates, Sauce Boss would be a great cultural fit with the North Country just by virtue (sic) of his being a lying drunk with a Jeep.

Au Canada post-soviétique, le droit maintient VOUS! Of course this thing has come to Northside Juice and the Shady Blues memes. It’s come to far worse. Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t something screwy about me for noticing whether there’s an actual productive economy in my physical surroundings or just a bunch of hustling, scamming, parasitism, and living off the fat of outside lands dressed up as an economy. Is this a form of autism? Am I rolling in the deep on the Spectrum for being able to make accurate on-the-spot estimates of what percentages of each major ingredient in my food supply, and yours for that matter, are being grown in which places, sometimes to within twenty-mile radii? Am I the Rainman for being able to take the length and convolution of supply lines into account for these same impromptu mental calculations?

I mention these things because on their own they can make me feel like I’m living in a parallel world, looking in with uncomprehending horror on the world that most of those around me inhabit. I’m seeing things that other people aren’t. As a rule of thumb, this is regarded as psychosis. Just because the things I’m noticing are actually there–grain elevators and rail lines and orchards and Safeway warehouses and shit–doesn’t mean that it feels normal to notice them when hardly anyone around me does. There’s something that feels a bit paranoid about noticing how far a place is from the nearest farm valleys of any size and how far jobbers have to drive groceries from the nearest city with a warehouse to finally get that shit on the shelves. Glenn Beck might be interested in selling me some Mormon bulk emergency staples. But where the hell would I store any of them?

In the case of the Adirondacks specifically, I always find myself qualifying comments about what a pretty area my parents retired to with assertions that they’re way the hell north and remote. What’s actually going through my mind during these conversations (which are often with new acquaintances who have no idea about any of this shit) is a deluge of powerful but inarticulable uneasy feelings. When I was little, the most dysfunctional three weeks of my year were the ones we spent every summer, save one, on the lake with my grandmother and the rotating hillbilly horror show that made up most of her social circle. Thank God for the gentlemanly old drunk who was married to her childhood best friend; we didn’t see much of him because she was too busy with her Captain Cragen-looking shithead drunk of a boyfriend and his people, but we saw the Gentleman Drunkard often enough that I was usually able to maintain some hope. Now my mom has gotten my dad to help her one-up her mother by retiring in BoBo style to the same cove on the same fucking lake. Sometimes this includes my mom not getting showered and dressed until it’s time for dinner. Oh dear.

The uselessness of the Adirondack interior only adds to this ill feeling. Other than the sugarbush and a few specialty dairying operations that can hardly grow any of their own feed, the area is useless. As I’ve said before and will surely say again, this is why it attracts so many useless people. The earnestly trashy around there have trash for aesthetics. These can be found in many places that have productive economies, too, but they have an easier time blending into the woodwork around the working classes who are also present because they have work and are busy tending to it. What the Adirondacks also attract to a distressing extent are summer people, a higher class of white trash that cleans up better and highly esteems itself. Every time I see an Adirondack chair I die a little inside. This is not just because I was *GO DIPLOMATS!* a Dickinsonian who saw that misappropriated firewood supply arranged in circles on the Quad, although that doesn’t help my case a bit. Dickinson College was pathetically trying to cultivate the same New English wastrel aesthetic. With a social climber from Albany like Bill Durden at the helm, it would. Of course that fucker was down with retarded-looking, ergonomically disastrous lawn furniture culturally appropriated from an area with rampant untreated depression and ennui enough to floor Holden Caulfield. On second thought, the depression up there isn’t entirely untreated: alcohol can be a treatment. It was for the Gentleman Drunkard. He was from minor lace curtain Irish money, though, and I was from an upper middle class family on the make that championed middle-class sobriety and insisted on it by daylight, in addition to being a preteen. Faaaaaahhhhhk. I always got a bad feeling from the Adirondack chairs and the guide boats and the summer camps, like they’re gonna find someone’s body floating face-down in the lake before long. The coroner will have to notify the newly bereaved family, and it will be the North Country’s fault.

The woods, they haunt us. We don’t have a folkway to practice, and they’re gently, eerily telling us that we don’t belong, killing us softly with their song, killing us softly. Or hardly, we might say, perhaps in a classic North Country DUI. Watch out, or ew, you might get another clue! The Amish are more right than they are wrong about idle hands. Years ago a friend called me from Cape May to tell me that a crowd of dozens of tourists had stopped in front of a hotel to watch two seagulls mate on the eaves. People can get like that when they’re off work and at loose ends for less than a week. They flee to their expensive refuges from the rat race and end up watching birds fuck on a hotel rooftop. Anyone feel like insinuating that I’m a loser for picking blueberries for forty cents a pound now? Jonathan Livingston Stupid Sonofabitch.

The summer people came to the Adirondacks to get away from crazymaking, unhealthy work and living environments in New York City, and to the Jersey Shore to get away from similar environments in Philadelphia. The more time Brenda Jorett spends lounging on a beach chair, the less she spends scolding the Philadelphia area’s White Community. No, that is not a racial statement; if it were, I’d have omitted “White.” Now, that’s a helping of #TeshTips you won’t get on WHYY. Nor will they encourage you to spend less time working yourself to the point of exhaustion and also less downtime totally at loose ends all the live-long day for a week or two straight. That’s like treating a crack problem with heroin: it makes sense if you’re Charlie Sheen. Then again, we’re a pretty insane people.

My parents moved to the Adirondacks in pursuit of this bizarre, unspoken leisure ethic. Upstanding middle-class citizens aren’t supposed to be layabouts, and they certainly aren’t supposed to be proud of their own privileged indolence and irresponsibility, so everything salient about the bizarre lifestyles of affluent rural retirees is communicated in some bogus, inscrutable, and totally inappropriate manner. Taking this bullshit at face value is madness. So is attempting to decipher the actual motivations at play through the hurricane-force fog of passive-aggressiveness, disingenuousness, projection, subliminal messaging, and other habitual miscommuncation. There’s no winning this game.

There’s an incredible childishness to this shit. My mom told me once, during an angry argument provoked by my getting her car stuck at the bottom of the driveway during a modest snowfall because the driveway hadn’t been plowed, that there wouldn’t be a problem with her or my dad having a medical emergency at their house when the driveway was impassible because the ambulance crew could always carry them down the hill on a stretcher. I’d already been furious because she claimed to see nothing wrong with our being snowed in for a full day or two at a time when their road was fully passable solely because the company that plows driveways on their lake is a dipshit squad, so who cares about the last two hundred feet; when she made this comment about having an ambulance crew carry one of them down the hill on a strecher during a medical emergency, like it would somehow be normal and reasonable, I became horrified and frantic, too. I was dealing with a woman in her seventies who refused to admit any concern about the prospect of her overweight husband being carried down an icy 6-12% grade on a stretcher during a snowstorm because he’d just had a heart attack.

Again, this was my mom talking about herself and my dad. It was absolutely fucking nuts. I was an only child dealing with aging, isolated parents whose judgment was failing to the point that one of them was swearing that she’d rather have EMT’s do a Donner Party rescue at her house than live somewhere safe. The only hope and comfort I could take in this was that she was trying to save face in a domestic argument by taking a position so extreme and so reckless that I immediately got myself mentally prepared for the day when I’d have to call adult protective services. I’m lucky I didn’t end up feeling the need to do so that night. It was looking really fucking bad for an hour or so.

If I were really serious about my parents’ access to medical care, I wouldn’t let them forget that if they ever urgently need specalized care they’ll have to be medevacced to Burlington or Albany. From where we lived in Pennsylvania, the same radius would have covered an airlift to Lehigh Valley (site of a preeminent regional burn unit), and a slightly larger radius would have allowed us to be airlifted to Johns Hopkins, Jefferson, or Penn. As I said, the Adirondacks are fucking useless. You might as well catch a ride straight to Boston since they fired up the chopper.

Their solution to this is even worse: Oh, don’t worry, we’ll just move back to the Bay Area someday. Sweet Jesus. That will be a raging nightmare in its own right if they ever go through with it. For reasons that they’ve never justified, they insist that they’ll sell their Adirondack house–which my dad personally designed and they had built on a parcel my mom has owned since the mid-sixties–instead of renting it out, say, on a weekly basis to other summer people. I’m dreading this because moving away from the Adirondacks for good will destabilize my mom more than the deaths of some of her close friends. My only option may be to buy a trailer or hillbilly hut nearby and extend an open invitation to my parents to crash in it on visits to the area, but my mom would probably take offense at the low class and poor taste of such an offer, because that isn’t the kind of Adirondack lifestyle she wanted to cultivate. She wanted the one involving a $420,000 initial outlay (excluding the boat and dock) for a custom retirement house two doors down from her mother’s old cracker cabin, with no central air and no way to install window units without Magyver modifications to the doors. And where she’d better hope that the ambulance carries snowshoes and crampons. (She’s a chronically embittered atheist who resents the religious for their (our?) spiritual comfort, so she doesn’t pray.)

My most recent argument with my parents was over whether or not I should have a car of my own on the East Coast. They were adamant that there was no need for this. They got upset and maybe even offended by my insistence that borrowing one of their cars isn’t adequate. They must forget or not notice how nosy they get about why I want to leave the house (I’m not cruising for smack, so why does it matter?), and they verge on being shut-ins half the time, so it must not occur to them that I might be less interested than they are in personally leading such a lifestyle when I’m not even 35. I’m sure it doesn’t occur to them how they’d feel if they were dependent on me for a loaner car if they were staying with me and wanted to go anywhere.

This is another version of the idiotic mindset that finds snow days cute beyond the age of fourteen. I guess they’re cool for those who are on welfare, and in the North Country, you might as well be, but how the hell do you plan to get to your job and keep it if no one can figure out how to keep the streets clear? I’ve sporadically looked at job postings in the North Country, in the hope of arranging some interviews if my parents can ever get their heads out of their asses about how working in New York is consistent with my being a Californian or (please not) an Oregonian, but I can’t be relying on one of them for a commuter car, and I can’t be relying on some derelict redneck assholes who always drive 20 mph too fast on my parents’ road to plow their drive in time for me to leave for work.

This shit is now happening in spite of the $10,000 of EXTRA money that they wired me to buy a new car. Seriously. But in the meantime, my dad got on my case to go ahead and spend $12,000 on a Fit that I test-drove in Lancaster (it was nice, but not $12k nice), register it in California, and drive it out west by way of my parents’ place. That makes no fucking sense. There are some Kafkaesque licensure and residency requirements for personal vehicle registrations that I researched, to no real avail so far, but I’m not driving a car across the country just because I’m having a dispute with my parents about where I should legally reside, where I should actually live, and why. I went down that rabbit hole because a car salesman who may not know his ass from a hole in the ground told me that it’s illegal to register a vehicle in a state where one isn’t licensed to drive, and I still can’t tell whether he actually knew what the hell he was telling me about the regulations. The surreal thing is that if I can somehow get around the residency bullshit, or narrowly comply with it, I’d be able to get myself an adequately serviceable East Coast clunker for $1,500 or less and a newer, more bitchin’ West Coast ride for $5,000 or less.

To recap, the pontoon boat cost $13,000, and my parents have been sandbagging my proposal to buy a bare-bones car for my own use around their house, WHERE THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO PUBLIC TRANSIT. I’ve suspected as much for some time, but the only way I can resolve this mess is to blindside them and show up with a new used car. I told them that I wouldn’t be complaining about this if they lived in town in Glens Falls or Saratoga Springs, or really anywhere within liberal walking distance of bus or rail service, and given the amount of walking I’ve done to and from transit stops in multiple states, this is no empty promise. Then again, they always pretended that they took my interests into account when they moved north, which is bullshit. So was their ongoing conceit that I somehow wasn’t homeless. I’m not sure that they’ve gotten out of that chronic make-believe even now. It’s absurd, but the main reason I bite my tongue about my homelessness has been a desire not to upset the housed and make them feel awkward.

I really should go to Kamloops and buy freebase for home baking from the RCMP. It’s a bad idea, but it isn’t a relatively bad idea. Just look at what I’m trying to deal with now. It’s so neurotically goddamned middle-class. The upper class doesn’t give a shit about its residency when it wants to buy a Senate seat or, according to recent scuttlebutt, a 19% stake in Rosneft. The lower classes don’t give a shit about their legal addresses when they put their trucks up as collateral for gentlemen’s loans and then get their rigs quasi-stolen for nonpayment/general lender’s avarice because that motherfucker had a set of Duplicate Keys (TM), after all. For the middle class, though, it’s always like, where do you live? I dunno. What do you do for a living? I dunno. Realtalk, if I go fuck some Kamloops crackwhores at a discount by fixing them salmon dinners and shit so they aren’t spending their McDonald’s money on base at the Mountie barn (I’m thinking a sugar cure with a maple syrup glaze, since it’s on the flag, eh), that’ll be more civic and sensible before the lower classes than just about anything I’ve been getting from the upper middle class since at least 2007 as its downtwardly mobile scion. (Rob Ford? That boy wasn’t eating his salmon. That wasn’t an Omega 3 layer he was wearing, partner.)

Instead, I’m dealing with my mom’s intensifying cold sensitivity, which I’m sure has a psychosomatic component. You’re probably thinking, thanks for the diagnosis, Dr. Hasan. You’re welcome. It also has a why the fuck did she move to the Adirondacks if she didn’t want to get cold component. I’m past the point of prejudging Interior BC’s crackwhores as a worse kind of crazy when they could just be a different kind. Just last fall I had a dope whore jonesing in my car and then going into a gas station restroom to inject her latest set into her index finger when she got into a jam and I gave her a ride home. (Homeskillet: “Captain Save-a-Ho has arrived!”) She agrees with me: it isn’t glamorous. But neither is this North Country bullshit. Sobriety doesn’t fix jack shit up there, nor does intoxication, although it might be worth a shot.