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.

Small-town values

The only people in our extended family to have owned and operated a restaurant are also, respectively: 1) the only one who is constitutionally unable to properly wash dishes by hand (i.e., actually get them clean); and, 2) the only one to allow rats to beshit an active food processing facility and rent-paying tenants to shit wherever and however they wanted because he failed to provide them indoor plumbing.

Why do I recacapitulate this, for lack of a better term, shit? It’s my story, too, because the shitbirds invited me into it and fucked it all up too catastrophically to disinvite me now, and there’s a perversely cathartic release in remembering that a bunch of grotesquely filthy bastards has serially endangered the public health by improperly disposing of human waste on a property whose operation I continue to fund, in reminding myself that in spite of this bullshit I still haven’t taken legal action in my capacity as an investor of record, and also I don’t shit in trash cans. Other things about my life may be in frightening disarray, but that’s a start.

More disturbingly, there are broader lessons to be learned from this clusterfuck. If small business claims that it’s being strangled by red tape, Ghomeshi-style, it might be a good idea to make sure that the small businesses in question are run by people with minimal standards of personal and corporate responsibility instead of taking everything a bunch of self-important blowhards say about their entire sector of the economy at face value. Maybe the health department really is trying to make sure that we don’t get food poisoning. On the face of it, why the hell should I trust small business as an institution when the Family Shrew and, God help us, Joe Dirtbag are how I first became personally familiar with small business? If they’re speaking for it and claiming their involvement in it as a point of pride, why should I not demand that the full force of the regulatory state be brought down on any small business that appears to be the least bit negligent or unethical? Or, to be more charitable to JD and FS, why should I not believe that they ran a more or less clean and safe restaurant only because their failure to keep it scrupulously clean would have resulted in its forced closure by county officials in a matter of months? The latter scenario, which seems to be the most accurate, concedes that they’re responsible enough to abide by common decency and minimal diligence when the regulatory state forces them into compliance; that is, that they’re filthy and derelict when left to their own devices but not unwaveringly intransigent deadbeats every time the civil authorities order their compliance with duly enacted laws governing their business conduct.

The key word there is “every time.” It was only as I was writing the last paragraph that I remembered Joe Dirtbag’s avowed membership in the tax-optional business community. That bastard’s life is a blooming onion of rediscovered immorality. His restaurant failed to account for and remit meals tax as required by municipal law, so when it got into trouble, Joe Dirtbag spit out a jumble of post-hoc justifications, all of them evasive and dishonest beyond a reasonable doubt, for lowballing the city treasury. As unethical business practices go, this was exceptionally flagrant (mofo went on the record in the local papers, accusing the city of misappropriating the tax money, as if that was a justification for tax-dodging), but even so, it’s hard to believe stories of small business as a wellspring of personal and civic virtue when one’s own exposure to small business features such a turducken of sleaze. It makes ethical behavior in any sphere of life look incidental to entrepreneurship, at best.

What inspired this repeat visit to Pot-o-Shit Friend and friends was a conversation with a restaurateur in Nevada City who asserted that none of the local homeless were destitute families with children because all of them were derelict drug users. Hearing this from a small businessman, even from one who was exceptionally gracious in his dealings with customers, uncorked the old brew of grievances that I nurse against Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew, in particular the ones having to do with their abuses of trust and goodwill in their capacity as entrepreneurs. Somewhat to my surprise, this semi-short retelling by way of context was so dispiriting that it killed my writing juju for most of the next three weeks, especially for subjects involving small business. (Whole Foods is big business.) There were other things going on in my life, most of them irrelevant to small business and its hostility to the poor or wherever the hell I was trying to take my screed about the prejudiced comments of this restaurateur in Nevada City.

That said, it’s probably for the best that I’ve slept on it for most of a month; hopefully I’m a bit more clearheaded as a result. The mythology of private enterprise, and of small business in particular, holds that those undertaking it are burdened by responsibilities and risks whose enormities non-entrepreneurs cannot fully grasp, and that as a consequence non-entrepreneurs should respect, nay, admire, entrepreneurs for taking on such burdens. We should, to borrow an exceptionally unctuous turn of phrase from what may be an exceptionally unctuous age, thank them for their service.

This seems at first glance like a basic courtesy, but just as many in the thank-you-for-your-service crowd live in a deep ignorance of the military that allows them to idolize it in ways that its own personnel would find stunningly foolish, reflexive respect for small business as an institution and for those undertaking it relies on the gullibility and ignorance of people who either have not had bad experiences with small businesses or have construed any such bad experiences in ways that do not blame small businessmen or their businesses. The demand that the rest of us respect small business owners assumes that the latter are consistently conscientious and morally straight. (Hey there, Chester!) It doesn’t take very many encounters with the owner-operators of ghetto corner stores to become convinced that this is an unfairly positive prejudice.

My own dealings with Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew, who didn’t generally seem like such bottomfeeders in their restaurant management, are powerful examples of immorality in small business. They often seemed to don entrepreneurship as one of their ostentatious identities, and when they did so they often carped about unreasonable meddling from out-of-touch government functionaries. If they had just been obnoxious in their assertion of a reasonable grievance their stance might have been justifiable, but then JD pulled the taxdodging stunt and turned the farm into a feudal manor, effectively beyond the reach of the law because no one wanted to involve The Man (until I got too fed up with it all to keep humoring this bullshit artistry).

The frank truth is that if the farm were subject to regular health and building inspections it would not be in such a state of filth and disrepair. That would be a government intrusion in the same way that the Red Bluff Police effected a brief government intrusion of the room next to mine because I had called 911 to report a likely battery in progress, followed by a brief government intrusion of my room to take an informal statement from me and quietly mention that the guys next door had been drinking. There are clear public safety and welfare interests at stake in these cases: not letting meatheads brawl in a hotel all night and risk killing one another in disputes over gentlemen’s loans (sic), not letting rodents infest food processing facilities, that kind of thing. Hearing a small businessman claim strangulation by red tape and then let rats shit all over the floor of his winery for months on end suggests that much of the opposition to regulation is motivated not by a desire for liberty and the pursuit of happiness but by a desire for codified privilege at the expense of other parties, both witting and unwitting. How do I forget that I’ve heard complaints about intrusive government from Pot-o-Shit Friend’s landlord? That’s easy: I don’t. And I probably shouldn’t.

Derelict traveling kids screwing around in nice Gold Country towns all summer are a convenient foil for diligent small business owners who are tied down by all their grunt work, whether they feel like it or not. They’re too convenient. Traveling kids and disheveled addicts are popularly representative of the homeless, to my own disadvantage, but they are not statistically representative. Traveling kids showing up in Nevada City with their dogs and their packs are a prominent annoyance, but I’d be surprised that they’re even a seasonal majority of the Nevada County homeless. There’s no way that laziness and drug addiction are the only ways to become homeless in Nevada County, which has a high cost of living and a high reliance on service-sector jobs, many of them poorly compensated, for its economy (sic, mostly). Let’s leave aside arguments that there’s more dignity in loafing around the Mother Lode while loaded (I totally didn’t spell any of that correctly on the first try) than in obsequiously catering to affluent tourists from the Bay Area, or not: there is something to be said for not doing a song and dance for a pittance just because the local Chamber of Commerce has declared tourism to be the economy of the future, and there’s something to be said for ruining the Beautiful Cookbook vibe for the overly precious, especially when this ruination can be accomplished by one’s mere day-to-day existence.

This is especially true in tourist towns that cater to visitors who are pathologically indolent, if only for the weekend: who the hell are any of them to complain that someone else is a bum for being indolent? Ad hoc remedies to this supposed problem quickly descend into equal protection violations (vagrancy laws, etc.), although not as quickly in jurisdictions as avowedly woke as Nevada County. Nevada City’s businesses seem to be mostly on their own here, left to ban large backpacks, sleeping rolls, and the like from their premises in their piecemeal effort to break up the hair clog. If the bleeding-heart liberals want to feed the vagrants, or the pigeons, it’s their personal decision, nothing that the Chamber can override in a fit of reactionary pique.

This bullshit, I assume, intensifies in the summer high season, causing me to note that ain’t none of them out picking blueberries. That’s a real economy; selling energy crystals to lace-curtain hippies is not. The trolley line has been gone since 1924, so Mr. Rogers hasn’t got a thing to dispatch to pick these crackers up. Back when the line was in service, the trolleys stopped at a place called–I swear, it’s on the maps; look it up–Town Talk. Yeah, Nevada County scares me a little bit. If anyone deserves an exemption from the town talk (TM) about lazy fuckheads who have drug problems and won’t get a job, it’s not the tourists but the more marginal bums who are too poor to work for a living. I have a bachelor’s degree from a liberal arts college, and I get into situations where I can’t afford to work for a living. That isn’t as easy to look up, but it’s no less true. As I’ve said before, some of us, we ain’t hardly touched dem shine ricebowl, and we know it. As I’ve also said, we’re all in the midst of a fourth-turning economic collapse that still hasn’t been brought to an end, professionally massaged U3 numbers notwithstanding.

Within a day of hearing from the restaurateur that there are no deserving poor among Nevada City’s homeless, I read a police blotter item in the local paper about a 911 call from a woman who told the dispatcher that her baby daddy was housing their children in a broken-down van in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Grass Valley. So, yeah, the homelessness problem doesn’t affect families with children. Glad we cleared that up. I couldn’t tell from the blotter what all was wrong with the father, meaning that I couldn’t rule out drugs, nor could I exclude the possibility that the baby momma hallucinated the circumstances, but I can say for sure that that kind of thing does happen to entire families. Traveling kids are the overtly homeless; families living in vans are the underbelly of the homelessness problem. Where the traveling kids have no shame, families going to the poorhouse which is the automobile have nothing but shame. The most deserving homeless include the most discreet, because the discretion is motivated by an intense desire not to draw negative attention. I know this personally because I’ve fucking lived it. The actual homelessness of circuit-riding hippies can only be determined on a case-by-case and week-by-week basis; I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of ones whose housing situations have been more stable than mine, but I try to bathe and change into clean clothes regularly, so appearances can be deceiving.

This may sound like a dear-hearts-and-gentle-people admonition not to judge a book by its cover, which is not my goal but whatever. If there weren’t so much ignorant prejudice–and I mean this is the most literal, specific sense–about drug users and the homeless, we’d have less trouble integrating the marginal into mainstream communities. I got the sense that the restaurateur above didn’t really know anything about drug users, like how to accurately identify them. I may be wrong, but he seemed pretty sheltered. It’s reasonable of me to trust my own experiences with tweakers, stoners, alkies, and junkies over what a prejudicial stranger living on the Whitey Rez told me about how they’re all homeless because they’re hooked on drugs. For one thing, I usually find traveling kids pretty fucking sober, and I’d rather give walking-around money to a hard case who could really use some damn drugs right now. Will he spend it on drugs? Well, that’s kind of the point, right? Get back to me after you’ve personally watched a junkie score some dope, shoot up, and stop jittering almost immediately. Yes, they should be given housing and meals, too. It’s cheaper and more humane that way than having drug users end up in emergency rooms for exposure to the elements as well as overdoses, since we all know that hospitals totally are not full of control drugs or staffed by anyone who’s ever taken a little something-something from the crash cart for a quick pick-me-up or passed a whiner the good stuff for a half hour’s peace. As my grandmother calmly rated her pain to the LPN in pursuit of Vicodin, “It’s about a four.” (Lynn Majors is a solid eleven, and that’s a clinical fact.)

No, I’m not saying that I’ma go score me some drugs, or that you should do likewise. I’ve seen people get scary fucked up on hard drugs, and I do not recommend it. But vilifying drugs and their users in a society whose combination of instability, desperation, and purposelessness so strongly encourages escapist recourse to drugs and the community of other drug users is insane. Giving addicts necessities that they can’t readily sell for drug money, like a place to live and regular free meals can at least mitigate the bad effects of drug abuse. (Who the hell would buy a stolen refrigerator or a plate of church food from some oddball hawking shit on the street?)

We can’t judge our way out of this problem when we’ve largely judged our way into it. The worship of positive law as an omnipotent fetish is for people who have not recently spent time on the Albuquerque bus system. Holla atcha cracka, ’cause it ain’t me, lawd, it ain’t me.

Intervention

My dad cornered me for another talk overnight. TL;DR, it seemed to be for the best in the end. Against the odds, I think I got through to him about some hard truths that my parents almost never want to hear (that is, hard truths for them; I’m used to most of that shit by now).

The striking sociological takeaway from this talk was just how skillfully and thoroughly Joe Dirtbag has manipulated my parents and walked all over them, from a position not only of general socioeconomic inferiority but also of direct financial dependency, by playing a dominant and aggressive role in the family structure. Come to think of it, this is psychology, too, a subject that a normal person couldn’t stand to study without being blind drunk. Thanks, Dr. Hasan. Slavoj Zizek or I dunno who the fuck once said that America is a psychological society, not a sociological society; look it up for yourself if you give a damn, because it’s pretty fucking true.

The quick and dirty reason for this is that sociological explanations would scandalize the lower classes about the conduct of the bourgeoisie and the big money, causing fine rice bowls to shatter and make a mess. That isn’t exactly what’s going on between my parents and Joe Dirtbag, though. Much of his stance towards the impressive number of moneyed and/or leisured people in his life is shockingly craven and cynical to the extent that any sense can be made of it at all. By my dad’s reasonable enough speculation, he resents people he perceives as more privileged than himself (specifically me, but I’m a minor investor, and I have to believe it applies more or less equally to his major investors). They give him money and/or free labor, but he still manages (we suspect) to stew about what a shitty, degraded lifestyle he has come to lead, in contrast to those he occasionally squeezes for handouts, and blames this misfortune on things other than his refusal to properly monetize his farm and try to restructure the debts that he incurred in the course of unbelievably reckless business deals.

I often imagine that he resents me for owning Red Wings, and often fairly new ones, while he makes do with $40 Chinese pieces of shit from Bi-Mart. It’s not like he isn’t surrounded by affluent softies who wouldn’t explicitly give him two or three hundred dollars in boot money for the asking. The obstacle to Ephesians 3:20 boot money is that, like the Family Shrew, he is appallingly disingenuous about his financial dependency on others. On a couple of occasions when I was staying with them, JD crudely pretended to totally be able to afford groceries even though he suggested that it’d be cool if I stopped by the store and picked up my own half-and-half. He clearly thought he was being smooth. I was profoundly disgusted. I recognized that it could be humiliating to admit to being so broke, but they never minded trying to score freebies for ostensibly philanthropic but functionally for-profit purposes, and I’d been working for free through an indefinite stretch of unemployment, so I found it inexcusable that JD wouldn’t cowboy the fuck up.

The bigger problem for me, manifesting itself in full several years later, was my parents’ insistence that Joe Dirtbag was fundamentally a decent person, and hence incapable of the abusive and menacing acts that I had specifically accused him of committing. Just tonight my dad repeated his suspicion that I had never given him a full and accurate explanation of the circumstances surrounding my disagreements with JD, i.e., in effect, that I was catastrophizing innocuous behavior and shading the truth in my own favor. I can imagine that I inadvertently offended JD and FS from time to time, but they offended and distressed the hell out of me more times than I can count, and I generally kept a stiff upper lip. Besides, nothing that I possibly did to offend them justified Joe Dirtbag’s drinking behind the wheel or his repeated out-of-control emotional rampages in front of me. That shit was abnormal, full stop.

I didn’t start wondering consciously whether Joe Dirtbag might be senile until my attorney friend asked me about this during our phone consultation in April 2013. The incident provoking the consultation (cornering me indoors while I was on my way out of the shower and asking me how I was doing at the top of his lungs) had involved disinhibition serious enough to make me take the possibility seriously, and his stunning meltdown over the yard work in May 2012 was almost a year old, but at the time I was hesitant to say that senility was a factor. Day One of the two-day clusterfuck with Busboy and the cop in September of last year looked powerfully senile at the time, but Day Two, the calculating and self-controlled day, I found truly chilling. The creepy geezer was either going senile on Day One or uncannily feigning senility to gaslight me. I have him dead to rights on the gaslighting; what I can’t say for sure is what his true mental state was from hour to hour on Day One.

What I can say about his comments on Day One is that they were totally out of character from everything I can recall him having previously said about the police. I had known him to be exceptionally perceptive and thoughtful about specific agencies and officers, so hearing him suddenly yell crazy nonsense about a cop he admitted to never having met was alarming. I had higher expectations of him than of, say, Mixups in my Mind. Mixups cursing the fucking pigs at the top of his lungs would not have surprised me because I knew full well that he was crazy as hell and prone to violent ideation. Joe Dirtbag didn’t come close.

Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that Joe Dirtbag would have immediately confronted Mixups from within punching distance if Mixups had come onto the property and started hollering about the police in the same fashion as JD hollered about Busboy and the cop. I don’t think he would have put up with my yelling about that shit, either. He probably would have told me to shut up. And again, I can’t see why any reasonable person would have no problem with a geezer squealing disinhibited slurs about one of his tenants and a random cop from a position of authority, starting while the cop was on the property, well within sight, and possibly within earshot. Tolerate it, maybe, but approve of it? Hell no.

It’s been surreal to find myself unable to convince my parents that Joe Dirtbag is a vector of low-class chaos and danger. They’ve complained about the squalor of his property and conceded that he “has an edge to him,” and I’ve told them about his menacing of me, the untreated acutely psychotic guys he allowed to wander around his property for years, Captain Flimflam and the overflowing portajohns, the rats, and Pot-o-Shit Friend. Among other things, as I’ve discussed at painstaking length in these pages. They wanted desperately to believe that JD remained fundamentally middle-class. They’ll probably want to believe so again. The middle and upper classes cannot fathom the lower classes. I developed a decent working sense of the lower classes in my teens and twenties, so I knew pretty well what I was facing with my slumlords in Eureka and then with Joe Dirtbag’s meltdowns. This didn’t make it conveyable to my parents. I’m thankful that they’ve even started listening to my stories of belligerent white trash hell from time to time. I don’t make any of that shit up. What I’ve actually faced is too excruciating and frightening to embellish.

God do I hope Pot-o-Shit Friend was a joyous poo enthusiast, not just an ineffectual, humiliated poor loser like Lady Pisspan clearly was. A psychological society of malnourished-looking gay hipster freaks secretly savoring their own flavor in the privacy of their shit shacks is a credible pursuit of happiness, although not the Ragin’ Canajun’s happiness when he disposed of the trash can afterwards. A sociological society of Tobacco Road feudalism funded by gaslit pushovers is a scandal and a disgrace. Writing to code enforcement was the least I could do. It is to my quiet but ongoing guilt that I have yet to report that disaster to the police.

Saving face

The Joe Dirtbag situation got me agitated again tonight. My parents are planning to meet him and the Family Shrew for dinner in Napa in a couple of weeks, early in their next trip west. I’ll be traveling west separately and joining my parents for most of their trip, and since I got so riled up about Joe Dirtbag on their last trip out, my dad preemptively offered to coordinate with me so that I wouldn’t have to see him at dinner. I played my hand about as well as I could have in December. My threat to call 911 on JD at the first sign of weirdness was absolutely sincere at the time and, given my recent history with him, reasonable enough. I don’t really regret staying in the room both mornings while my parents met them for breakfast. Aside from the atrocious Boomer table manners that these meals inspire, Joe Dirtbag is out of control and I am completely at a loss to get him to treat me decently. I felt bad about standing the Family Shrew up, since she was above the fray of JD’s most recent gaslighting campaign against me, but I’m not the one who married that creep and didn’t go through with a second divorce. I appreciate her innocence in this matter, but I am not going to risk more weirdness from Joe Dirtbag as a condition of staying in touch with innocent third parties who spend their lives in his orbit.

Joe Dirtbag’s descent into white-trash thuggery has been enlightening in ways that I never hoped to be enlightened. Chronicling it is a fucking Augean Stables of the mind. For all the effort I’ve committed to documenting it and thinking it over, in these pages and elsewhere, I rarely feel close to a comprehensive panorama of the whole mess. Instead, it’s more like a shit litany on a tape that I have to rewind and fast-forward all the time because it’s just too damn long.

That said, over time certain themes have started to come into focus from the background fog of inchoate offense, disgust, anger, and despair. One of these is JD and FS’s extremely defensive campaign to present themselves and be duly respected as upstanding members of the broad middle class. This is one of the most absurd and infuriating things I’ve ever watched. The sheer narcissistic aggression of it has to be seen to be believed. Me KNOWS they do protest too much, the gentleman in particular. The Family Shrew, as I alluded to above, has simmered down about a lot of shit in the past few years. I’m often stunned anew to remember that they have free and clear title to a house with outbuildings and an ample woodlot. On the surface, that’s a respectable middle-class accomplishment for a couple getting by on low to middling salaries without significant inheritances, trusts, or gifts from family. The actual details aren’t so impressive: they bought into an up-and-coming town as early members of the California diaspora, weren’t foolish enough to fall for HELOC pitches, and rode a real estate bubble for forty years. They had the work ethic to run a restaurant, but not the vision to keep one financially afloat in changing times and an increasingly saturated market. JD told me that in the time that they were in the restaurant business, the local population increased by half and the number of restaurants by a factor of four. Do the math. And don’tcha know, Jethro, they were living in the past, a past that had them by the balls; ask not for whom the little jingly things Tull.

JD and FS ran a hippie throwback joint in a dingy physical plant with an unassuming front door. I increasingly doubt that they were upfront or on point about restaurant hygiene; it seems more likely that health inspectors had genuine, if not entirely articulable, concerns about the cleanliness of their establishment than that JD and FS successfully compartmentalized their lives into scrupulous professional hygiene at work and festering grime in their kitchen at home. When one of the two principal operators of a restaurant never leaves the shower smelling exactly clean (Joe Dirtbag) and the other is never able to hand-wash dishes so that they’re free of food detritus (the Family Shrew), it takes a powerful benefit of the doubt to believe assertions that the only thing tanking the restaurant’s health inspection scores was a hard-ass newjack inspector with no sense of discretion, or that there was never an aura of subtle filth that alienated its customers.

In earlier screeds I’ve discussed Joe Dirtbag’s public tax dispute with city hall, of which he never apprised me or my parents. That alone shows that there was a seedy underbelly to that restaurant. That said, even if I stipulate the worst plausible scenario–the tax evasion and grandstanding, some mediocre commercial hygiene, and occasional bad personnel management that I can only infer from JD and FS’s behavior in other settings–the restaurant was still a bastion of middle-class values in their lives. They consistently made payroll, as far as I know, and they weren’t constant or total tax cheats. There’s no way that place wasn’t in stark contrast with the clusterfucks that spilled over other aspects of their lives. They were semi-responsible business owner-operators at their restaurant, not raging derelicts like JD has been at the farm since at least 2009 (at a time when they were still running the restaurant).

It was bewildering and scary to be blamed for personally falling into low-class dysfunction and ill repute at times when I was around JD and FS on a regular basis, both socially and professionally, and I was trying frantically to maintain some semblance of middle-class stability in my own life while they careened into a life of shockingly low-class chaos: half-hourly domestic shouting matches, dissembling about their ability to afford home groceries, shambolic home and business finances, rent collection on illegal shanties, tenant pools with stratospheric rates of obvious mental illness and interpersonal handicaps, piles of shit proliferating everywhere, duplicity followed by financial emergencies in business dealings with relatives and friends. The baseline level of dysfunction was glaringly fucking abnormal, and because things were so dysfunctional, acute crises were always flaring up. I got used to some really crazy shit, like Joe Dirtbag yelling at the Family Shrew at the top of his lungs two or three times before they had brunch on the table. I hardly expected anything less nuts.

This was before JD had his big meltdown, the one that made me think he might throw me into a wall in a fit of rage, and I fled into unexpected homelessness for my own immediate protection. It was after that that I was thrown too deep into the farm community to keep ignoring its squalor and sleaze, as I had been more or less able to do when I was staying in JD and FS’s little guest cottage. Turning into a maniac out of the blue, running a lodger off one’s property with emotional abuse and an acutely violent demeanor, and then blaming the lodger for overreacting and punishing him by barring him from future rooming privileges is blatantly low-class behavior of the worst sort. It’s trashy as all hell, and it inevitably draws everyone exposed to it into a vortex of trash.

From a classic trailer park perspective, it made sense: I’d been lodging with assholes in an informal arrangement giving me absolutely no legally enforceable tenancy rights, they’d stirred up a drama storm, and I’d ended up out on the street because of it. (The Family Shrew’s contribution had been multiple attempts over the course of the preceding week to coerce us, as well as an absent cousin of mine whose wedding catering she was helping plan, into whole-grain fascism. This was not enough on its own to drive me away, but it was more than enough to convince me that she was fundamentally unreasonable and too actively immoral to deserve a personal explanation from me about a goddamn thing.) I knew enough about the chaos of various American underclasses to recognize that I’d effectively become an outlaw facing a housing crisis, exactly what I’d been doing my best to avoid by placating Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew until JD blew it by acting like he was one slight away from beating me up. I also knew that I’d left my most recent formal rental (the dump in Eureka with the paranoid ex-Army Ranger Walt Kowalski building manager) under circumstances that I couldn’t expect to explain without suing my former landlords, a truly vile bunch.

The tragic thing was that I couldn’t explain any of this to my parents, either. It felt impossible. Within five months I was itching to report Joe Dirtbag to the police for his open container DUII stunts, but that, too, was too inflammatory for my parents to face. I was living in an extremely degraded fashion that I’d long known was possible for any number of people and a fact of life for some, but that I’d never expected to personally face. Every time I tried to explain this to my parents, they shot me down. A psychologist friend of theirs who visited them that summer while I was at their place blamed me for having weak ego strength. I screwed myself over by not having a police report on file that I could copy for everyone who wondered why I was so worked up over my circumstances, but we weren’t the kind of family that called the police for things like that. It took four and a half years in all before I became so utterly distraught over Joe Dirtbag’s behavior that I bluntly told my parents that I’d call the police the moment JD got weird with me and that it was my decision alone to make.

It’s easy enough to see how it might be a problem to live at an address that the local cops know for its frequent fliers. It’s easy to see how calling 911 every time one gets dissed invites exactly the sort of chaos into one’s life that a prudent person will try to avoid. In my case, though, the chaos was already there. When I threatened to phone the Pork Board last December, I had already been around for Captain Flimflam and the overflowing shitters, the Captain’s emotionally incapacitated wife and minor stepdaughter, Mixups in my Mind, Psychotarp, Pot-o-Shit Friend and his aftermath, the rat infestations, and JD’s gaslit feud with Busboy and the cop. By that point, keeping the police out of it as a matter of principle was nothing but a unilateral handicap on me. JD had the incentive to ward off Five-Oh because he’d been up to no good, but I didn’t. I had absolutely no doubt that I’d be better off giving a cop a statement about JD’s behavior than being around while he threatened to needlessly antagonize a cop who was on his property to complete a traffic stop on a third party. That hadn’t been JD’s first high-risk outburst around a cop, either: decades earlier he had gotten himself arrested in Montana and prosecuted for dodging the draft all because he had flipped off a sheriff’s deputy for asking to see his fishing license. That had been some stupid bullshit, especially in retrospect (it was a different JD who’d skipped out on Nam), but I hadn’t been there for it, so it wasn’t directly my business. His beef with Busboy and the cop absolutely was. I wasn’t the one who’d been yelling slanderous fantasies about a random cop there. I had never wanted a fucking thing to do with that beef.

It’s dangerous to be the last person adhering to middle-class courtesies in a situation like that. When some dirty old bastard is on yelling malicious nonsense about a cop who may be within earshot on his property, it’s a bad time to worry about the propriety of making sure that shit like that doesn’t escalate. In this case, it turned out that JD had gone pigbaiting as part of a vendetta against a tenant. There are plenty of ways that such a stunt could end badly for everyone present, so it’s a terrible time to shoot the messenger. The message here, more or less, is, “he needs to cut that shit out right now,” an eminently reasonable thing to demand of a nasty blowhard behaving recklessly around an armed officer of the law.

It gets really lonely to feel like the only person who’s willing to admit that things have gone to shit. That’s what most of this bourgeois hypocrisy is at heart. I find it dismaying to listen to the downwardly mobile and those marketing to them gush about the wonders of “tiny houses,” as if they’re an improvement over not-tiny houses. That isn’t architectural minimalism, you asshole; it’s an accommodation to poverty. Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew live in an area with inflated purchase prices on residential real estate but modest residential rents, so it’s telling that people who are perfectly employable (and often currently employed) keep washing up on their property on the verge of homelessness and submitting to the Tobacco Road feudal manor that JD is conceited enough to present as an adequate rental community. It’s appalling that many of these people seem hellbent on euphemizing their own circumstances: Busboy and his girlfriend acting like it’s normal to pay rent to live in a short bus, Pot-o-Shit Friend walking around like a happy shlemazel in spite of his own even worse circumstances. (In the interest of accuracy, the Ragin’ Canajun became his own shlemiel AND shlemazel when he disposed of Pot-o-Shit Friend’s housewarming gift, and buddy, that ain’t soup.) That farm is so fucked up that Pot-o-Shit Friend actually looks more respectable under Major Bones’ hypothesis that he was a coprophile. God knows he wasn’t a coprophobe. It would still be all kinds of wrong, but at least it would reestablish his agency as a tenant. Without a doubt opiate abuse is more respectable than pretending to enjoy a shit sandwich every day. Word on the street is that dope can be fun.

There shouldn’t be any shame in homelessness. When push comes to shove there is shame, but anyone who tries to enforce it should be shown nothing but righteous disgust. There is a tiny population of lifestyle bums and a huge population of people whose homelessness is a matter of socioeconomic prudence or necessity, as mine has been. The first step to fixing any problem is admitting that it exists. I’m willing to air my own housing problems, so no, I don’t admire people whose response to downward mobility is to turn into projectile chickenshits.

Bogus midcentury nostalgia and other yuppie wannabe bullshit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do I deserve a coffee for that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe the children are our future. Teach them STEM. Walk them around downtown Alexandria on a chain gang.

If you’ve loafed around these pages much, you won’t be surprised to hear that yuppie eugenics are a self-regenerative damnation upon America and that Jeremiah Wright’s prayers are superfluous. America is officially too woke for hard eugenics post Carrie Buck, that Austrian pest with the excessive interest in military stuff, and so forth. Soft eugenics is another matter, but not a much less appalling one. This is a fucking vicious country, and matters of hearth and kin are especially easy excuses for our violent outbursts of parochialism. The worst among us were already itching to hunt down the poor and brutalize them; “good neighborhoods” and “good schools” for our precious snowflakes are convenient justifications for terror campaigns, frequently racially coded, against the marginalized and the vulnerable that were on the agenda long before and irrespective of family formation. This way, the evil gets a pass because all the nice bitches at the HOA demand it on behalf of rugrats who are probably too resilient to need or expect communal interference against their integration with the local poor trash.

The kids are all right. No. They would be all right, or right enough, if their parents and their parents’ peers weren’t insane. There’s a billboard at the King Street Metro Station in Alexandria advertising STEM immersion classes for toddlers. This billboard raises a bunch of questions: Why does it exist? Why does the market for what it’s advertising exist? Why does anyone think it’s anything but pathological to force preschoolers into formal scientific training? They can hardly make it to the potty. Why does anyone think that little Madison gives a shit about STEM? I have a bachelor’s degree in geology and I think it’s a goddamn scam. Are the self-important shitheads who take that billboard seriously because they seek vicarious aggrandizement through their desultory, belated broods really crazy enough to expect their precious snowflakes to know what they want to do for a living before they’ve matriculated to kindergarten? In spite of all the bad things that the US workforce is, we do not live in a society of astronauts, marine biologists, and princesses. When trailer park boys (TM) tell their landladies (in the traditional feudal sense) that they’re “gonna collect a check, just like mamma did,” that’s just the preemptive triumph of realism over aspiration. If we want them to aspire to a more edifying reality, maybe we should make a justly compensated one possible for them instead of constantly berating them for not staying in school until they’re in debt for life.

There could be jobs for the native poor, but we give them to Mexicans. I simplify, but I don’t mislead. There is something else that I saw in Alexandria, even worse than the toddler STEM billboard. I saw a line of–I believe it was sixteen, although I was too floored to make a definitive count–toddlers tied by the wrists to a length of rope, staggered on alternating sides barely a pace apart, with a young Mexican lady in a daycare T-shirt tugging on the rope from their front, a second young Mexican lady pushing the line from the rear, and a third mamacita sheepdogging the line from the right. The lady in the front was pulling hard on this line of mostly unhappy and barely ambulatory tykes.

In retrospect, I don’t think it would have been wrong of me to call 911. Legal or not, that’s the kind of thing that ought to trigger a child abuse investigation. Cops ought to be called out to make sure that stunts like that don’t go one toe over the line into an actionable offense. What really floored me about it, in addition to the child abuse/neglect angle (like, who thinks a 5:1 brat:adult ratio is adequate for a toddler field trip, and where the hell are the parents?), was the Dixie angle. The Mason-Dixon Line, commemorated by Tom Lehrer in coarse, coarse song, is one formal frontier of the South, but Maryland isn’t wholeheartedly Southern. These assholes just had to deploy their children’s chain gang on the Washington & Lee side of the river. I immediately, of course, had vivid images of antebellum slavery. It didn’t matter that there was only one noticeably black child on the rope. One just doesn’t fucking do that in–dear God–Alexandria. Marse Bob himself wasn’t much of a racist, and certainly not a bigot (much like George Wallace). Dat Confederacy, tho. Or, perhaps, one does fucking do that in Virginia. It’s for Lovers. Loving (heh; look, I hardly slept last night) one’s children must be less convenient than hiring Mexicans to neglect and incidentally abuse them on public streets. This was happening on King Street in Old Alexandria, in a very ritzy neighborhood. I have to assume that the parents have significant financial resources to pay for daycare. They, of all people, should not have children being tied into a tug rope like prisoners and bodily jerked around by negligent Mexicans. If American migrant workers were doing that to Mexican children in Mexico, I’d be equally scandalized and even more furious at the gringos because, as their compatriot, I expect them to have better ethics than that in their dealings with small children.

That Kwesi Millington for Sheriff feeling surged through me, electrically (how else?), as I watched this scene. Every American who isn’t too retarded for the sixth grade should immediately and viscerally understand the implications of putting anyone in physical bondage as part of a group in the Tidewater South. George Washington stole teeth from slaves for his dentures not an hour by horseback downriver. Robert E. Lee, as I said, was a local boy done good, or bad, depending on taste. Mercy Street is filmed there, but its target audience is too busy with Downton Abbey reruns to watch it. These are, shall we say, ties that bind us to our history in the worst possible ways. Donald Trump was right about the slave chains: they’re not good, really not good. We should all agree with him on that much. And we should be absolutely sure that there is a compelling public safety interest in putting anyone into anything even resembling chain-gang bondage before readying the rope. Being too cheap to hire more Mexicans doesn’t cut it.

Especially in the fucking plantation South. What in God’s name is wrong with these people? Did they elect Jeff Sessions mayor? NoVa leans left, and to the extent that it leans right, it doesn’t lean mercy me and shut my mouth, I do declare the General Lee is late right. Looking at that toddlers’ chain gang, I’d sooner expect dandies and their ladies to don their Sunday best for a public slave whipping than Loudoun County libertarianism. If there was a consensus not to normalize the ugliest parts of the Old South for young children, it must have gotten lost in translation into the Spanish. Chicas: no es bueno. Comprende? No bueno. Madre de Diós. It’s like the gardener not understanding how you wanted the hedges trimmed, except it’s also child abuse, and we’ll be lucky if Neil Young doesn’t write another whiny song about old-fashioned Dixie bigots when he hears about this shit. #CanadianContent #CommunicateToCreate!

#NeverMind

Alienating the citizenry from the means of production is certainly a Tidewater classic. Here we can’t find Americans to watch their own countrymen’s kids, so we also can’t find enough Mexicans. Or Hondurans or whatever. Probably Mexicans, though. Do I sound like I give a shit if some campesino takes me for a Canuck because the gringos all look alike? A skeleton staff of foreign women who don’t so much speaka the English are hired to acculturate toddlers into felon work-release culture so that the toddlers’ parents can make a killing for, just a hunch, the Pentagon and its institutional sugar babies. National defense my fat white ass. We can’t find American girls to do that. What the hell is wrong with us? What the hell is wrong with our women? Judging from the staff at our massage parlors, we can’t even find American women to work as whores. Childrearing and whoring are basic as fuck. Most women will have an inclination to one or both, probably focusing on the former but not mutually exclusive. It would be like having a nation of men who are unable to do basic commercial yard work.

Oops. We have that, too, apparently, judging from the Mexican guys in the matching uniforms who got off the Metro at Pentagon City. We can’t rake a damn pile of leaves. Proficiency in English seems like a worthwhile secondary qualification in a gardener, but what do I know? I’m not in a position to lord it over my Mexicans, since I haven’t any. Proficiency in English definitely seems a worthwhile skill for a whore catering to American customers, but maybe I’m just old-fashioned for wanting to have a language in common for communication during casual trysts, for wanting the opportunity to cohere dates with prostitutes into a broader social context than a dozen badly mispronounced words, including “sucka” and “ooh, bigga cock!” These dates usually involve massage, allowing for even worse nonunderstandings having nothing to do with sex. Seriously, I’ve hired masseuses who couldn’t understand basic sentences immediately pertaining to their practice and who didn’t seem to understand a full dozen words of English.

It’s absurd, but come to think of it, what else should we expect as a society for not generally agreeing that proficiency in English should be a qualification for customer service positions? Do you expect your day laborer to speak any more English than “Home Depot?” Do you expect the staff at Panda Express to have souls?

This has been little more than a list of working stiffs that we don’t want to recruit from or integrate into a cohesive citizenry. It’s cheaper when the help doesn’t expect the privileges of citizenship. The way it treats children in daycare is certainly cheaper, in any event. The yuppies need to train little Parker to be the next Fleming right now, but they also must loot the federal treasury during entirely overlapping business hours, so I guess little Parker will have to ride that rope again, no matter how much it hurts his wrist. If that brat pack came from poverty, it would be under the watch of neighborhood aunts and grandmothers, not mercenary Mexicans in matching T-shirts. NoVa toddler STEM immersion and NoVa toddler chain gang forced marches are intersectional. They come from the same dark recess of the heart, and it ain’t a school recess, dawg.

More Filipina nurses should moonlight as hookers. We instituted English instruction in the Philippines and the government kept it up after independence (sic?), so it would be more culturally congruent than China’s bottomless surplus of women who avoided sex-selective abortion in utero. Lynn Majors may be the sexiest nurse, but he is not the ONLY sexy nurse. I got, like, an hour and a half of sleep on a train to Philadelphia just before dawn this morning, so of course that was inevitable. But who am I kidding? Most of you still come here for Dubai Porta Potty. Why do we keep getting non-English speaking massage whores from a largely industrialized country with a severe structural shortage of marriageable women? Organized crime has to play a role, but more in a stay quiet and I’ll smuggle you to the Promised Land sense and less in a Nick Kristof-engorging kawaii damsel-in-distress sense. (It’s easier to keep a kidnapping victim silent in a garment factory full of Fuzhounese women than in a whorehouse where most of the customers speak English and know how to call 911.) As badly as medicine has been corrupted, we still seem to expect more of nurses than that. They have to be able to say things like “just a little prick” (heh) and, like, know what insulin is.

What do we do to get English speakers into landscaping? I’ve already double-scheduled the Filipina nurses (again, I’m running on fumes), but our boy Lynn would look damn good mowing the lawn in a mullet. Chains or no chains, rope or no rope, only Joyce Mitchell would let Cullen out on furlough to tend the grounds.

Don’t go around saying that the foregoing was tasteless. I said Jesus Kristof’s name, but I had the restraint (okay, the computer-stupid) not to link to his work.