Millennials are driving less. The reasons why may surprise you–if you’re a pathologically sheltered dipshit who takes retarded thinkpieces at face value.

As I write this, I’ve just woken up from two successive nights sleeping in my car at rest areas, but I spent last night on the outskirts of Wilsonville, not five minutes from a classy-ass Starbucks, so fuck yeah. I have a car, so I drive, too much, actually, but I pay some fucking attention to how a wide variety of other people live, in the interest of not being a damn idiot, so I recognize my own good fortune to be able to pile a bunch of shit haphazardly into a not too heavily used Focus and not into a stolen shopping cart.

We’ve enjoyed some crude language already, so let’s enjoy some more, this time as part of a vicarious cold Chicago morning. Some Chicagoans live in the ghetto (in the ghetto); others get out of the ghetto on a regular basis to operate the CTA’s free fare program. I heard about this from a guy who chatted me up at the cell phone charging stations in front of the Metra ticket windows at Union Station, but it’s way the hell more credible than probably forty percent of what I read in any newspaper of record, so I believe it. The way the free fare program works is that a bum with a free unlimited CTA fare card will go up to Addison on Cubs game nights and call out, “Any of you white motherfuckers want to get on the train for free?” Because their black ally has accurately assessed the moral character of his White clientele (not much), the answer is oh fuck yes, more drinking money. The bum then swipes preppy shitheads through the turnstiles by the dozens in exchange for whatever tips they offer him; they’re loaded, often in both senses, so the tips can run into the hundreds of dollars an hour, but the bum usually quits within a few minutes, after he’s cleared about forty.

This is one of the least racist things to happen in Chicago. The White Community involved in this scam makes its contribution to the Society for the Prevention of Kwesi Millington for Sheriff. The bum isn’t meanspirited or bigoted for calling them white motherfuckers; he’s just making sure that he’s getting through to his target customer base, which is assuredly white, and most assuredly White, and isn’t exactly not motherfuckers. They all know that the farejumpers aren’t proper old church ladies. I don’t enjoy ripping off transit agencies, even badly run ones, so I wouldn’t Fly the W for being invited into a seedy racket like that, but I’m not a preppy Northside cocksucker. I’ve never been to Lakeshore Drive. The El doesn’t go there, and I’m always le tired when I visit because I’ve been humping luggage around after some redeye train ride or flight. What, me Royko? Also, I’ve seen some dystopian shit in Whole Foods and don’t expect it to get better if I wander even further north.

Seven generations from now, the CTA may have recovered from the Emanuel administration. RAHM SHANTI, RAHM HARE HARE. Fare-whoring bums aren’t crapifying the CTA by having loose morals with their cards. The assholes they’re swiping onto the El are doing more than their fair share as private citizens to screw over the system, but they’re still relative bit players. (Yes, I inevitably started to write that as “fare share.” Faaaaaahhk.)

The real trouble comes from the elected officials and cronies that the preppy fuckheads cherish in their municipal government. Rahm is surely steak-knife-into-the-table livid about the fare-whoring bums up at Addison, because they’re running an unauthorized paleoliberal racket under the auspices of at least two administrations of social democracy, not an authorized neoliberal racket under the auspices of a mayoral administration that gets schoolchildren killed on their way to school by closing their neighborhood schools and forcing them to cross rival gang territory. The bums can’t take part in some bullshit scam to give Metra riders free Uber rides for signing up for some app; getting driver’s licenses would get in the way of being severely mentally ill and drunk, and besides, parts of the El run all night. The guy who told me about the swiping scam said that the welfare authorities and the CTA probably figure they’re nutty as fuck, “Yeah, I’m gonna get on the bus five times in a row and then get on the train another three times.” I don’t doubt that they’re card-carrying members of the mental health community, because I know that they carry cards.

What I don’t know, and what the guy who told me about this racket didn’t say, is whether the police turn a blind eye to it on the Northside specifically in furtherance of white privilege and, for that matter, White privilege. Dude was mixed-race black and not squeamish about discussing racial problems, but that didn’t come up and I didn’t think to ask about it. I recall him making some comments indicating that the scam is allowed in racially integrated skid row neighborhoods, too, but some of what he said faded into my sleep-deprived haze, pursuant to Wow Much Travels.

So far we have white motherfuckers who are also embarrassingly White driving less because their brothers by very other mothers are there to swipe them on to the train. Some of them probably take the El in sober daylight hours, too. A friend of the Insurance Schmuck’s has been driving less because she totaled a car that her parents had bought for her in a drunk driving accident; since then, she has been commuting to work in Center City on the old R6, getting around Conshohocken on Uber, and still getting sloshed at the Great American.

Many of my other contacts in greater Philadelphia’s White Community, however, continue to drive all over hell. It takes a lot to get Americans out of their cars. SEPTA, by this reckoning, is not a lot. I still use it when I visit, and I can confirm that it kind of sucks. On dysfunctional lines and at bad times of day, it sucks major ass, and I’ve never tried to argue that it isn’t a great place to get work as a total numbskull. By contrast, the LA Metro Rail system has been exceeding ridership expectations. I’ve used LA Metro quite a bit, too, and it beats the shit out of almost anything that SEPTA runs, so I think that’s why. A cherished Angeleno car culture makes more sense to pop culture consumers in flyover country who never visit LA and to TV executives who live off Mulholland Drive than it does to anyone normal who tries to commute on the 101. Reason Online doesn’t change that by concern-trolling Metro and LA voters with dispatches from empty trains on the Expo Line on the first day of service. It didn’t take long for normies to notice that the line really worked and to start mobbing it.

LA now has excellent rail service in some areas and slow boat to China bus service in others. Philadelphia continues to have shitty transit service in many areas. San Diego continues to have a trolley system culturally fit for Tom Perez and Bill Durden and logistically fit for not a hell of a lot. It takes really good transit service to get affluent people who demand reliability out of their cars. If they vote for Rahm, that’s an oops for all of us. There will always be a hardcore minority of Kardashian-aspirant assholes who insist on taking limousines to clubs with bottle service, unless mass media trendsetters start recoding limos as trailer park trash trucks, but they’re marginal and susceptible to peer pressure holding that buses aren’t for losers anymore.

The obstacle to walkable neighborhoods, to arrangements like being able to safely stumble home blind drunk on account of Conshohocken’s geography, is speculative rentier parasitism, and that’s as American as apple pie and industrialists approaching Smedley Butler with coup proposals. It isn’t immutable; America has evolved from good to evil to good to evil in the past; but there’s a shitload of defensive, possessive, easily riled up, belligerent incumbent elites who have to be overcome if walkable urban planning is to be redemocratized.

The places where people without cars are left in the meantime can be pretty fucking ugly and difficult, even dangerous, to navigate. Remember, I live by the light rail station in Rancho. I don’t stay there, but I lives here; can I come in? Rancho is reasonably walkable for a suburban shithole, but it’s still sketchy and poorly appointed. Northeast Salem is much safer and sociologically upstanding, but its urban planning is worse. East Salem, trashier but no Rancho and certainly no transit-oriented San Diego, has been described to me as “Felony Flats;” it also has bad urban planning. There are densely populated streets in Salem with apartment complexes but no sidewalks.

The reason people in these neighborhoods get by without cars is that they cannot afford cars. It’s that simple. The Salem bus systems, Cherriots and CARTS (Scout’s honor, that’s what they’re called), don’t operate on weekends. Not a lot of people move out to Lancaster Drive to walk for their health.

Extrapolate this by a few thousand to account for all the other towns whose cores have been gentrified by hipster shitwads, and the implications for those displaced into the banlieue aren’t so groovy. The implications for declining motor fuel demand are pretty dystopian, too. Every time gas prices drop, Americans start trading in sensible cars for gas guzzlers again. We’re an awfully profligate people. If gas demand remains low in spite of this ostentatious waste, it makes sense that it’s because lower classes of Americans have been dispossessed from car ownership entirely. That’s a great way to kill fuel demand while still allowing those with enough credit or cash to continue to buy shiny jacked up crew cab pickups for the proper manful display of truck nuts.

No one at the farm where I work, staff or owner, drives anything of the sort. It’s because we aren’t useless assholes. It’s because we aren’t drugstore cowboys. We leave it to others to waste money on vain shit like that.

It goes to show that it’s easy enough for a country to be ruined and beggared by an aspirational ten or fifteen percent. All it takes is an organized, pushy minority, another minority that figures it may someday enjoy the same privileges, and a disorganized, apathetic majority that doesn’t particularly care for the bullshit but can’t figure out what it can possibly do to combat it. Why the hell should RV touring take precedence for policymakers over weekend bus service in cities of two hundred thousand? Because RVers vote; that’s why. As their bumper stickers brag, they’re spending their grandchildren’s inheritances.

Our leaders cater to those who demand things of them, and the circuit-riding senior bling crowd is demanding. Why wouldn’t it be? These are people who believe that they’ve earned the right to drive around in fucking buses. They believe that such a luxury can be earned. Some of them have the nerve to pretend that they’re of modest means while driving $200,000 rigs tens of thousands of miles a year. Bull fucking shit. Even if they bought their boomer cruisers on credit they can’t sustain, that’s no modesty.

We distribute the goodies unequally around here. It’s the Amway, I mean, the American Way. Borrowing from future generations, born already and yet to be, is some solid DeVos shit, too. We can’t all live on Wealthy Street. Some of us would have to expatriate to the Netherlands to become Dutch. Dick and Betsy don’t carry no paper ten-stamp Dutch Mafia card, dumbo. They don’t get their cream by the shot, and they aren’t the kind of white motherfuckers who are down for a welfare swipe onto the subway. America, America, God shed some dregs you don’t even want to imagine on this joint.

More Panera Democrats: different blame rules for different blame fools

The Democratic Party cannot organize anything like See You at the Pole. It hardly even has the discipline to stand back and allow a movement of the sort that is consistent with its purposes to do its thing without nitpicking interference or other neurotic distractions.

That the GOP has See You at the Pole and the Democratic Party has nothing analogous is telling, and damning of the Dems. See You at the Pole isn’t exactly a Republican movement, but it’s tactically and strategically shrewd and consistent with the goals of every significant extant faction of the Republican Party (get thee back to the hearth, Rockefeller; nice job locking up all the black folk for drugs, tho), and so Republicans of all remaining stripes work in concert with it, just as it works in concert with them. Secular movement conservatives don’t try to engage the flagside establishmentarians in internecine warfare; the flag prayer circle dipshits, in turn, basically punch left, putting aside what they assume are relatively minor differences with secular Republican factions to focus on what they believe (mostly rightly) are major differences with liberals and leftists.

See You at the Pole is horseshit, but it’s effective horseshit. Those who aren’t familiar with religious right cultural touchstones may be having salacious thoughts of what Lambert Strether calls ladies of negotiable affection more on the pole than at it, but it isn’t anything that reputable or upstanding. *Beavis butting in, head and all* Hehheh, uh, I’m, uh, totally upstanding right now, but you might be more comfortable kneeling to, uh, polish my pole. *Huhhuh* There’s something touchingly innocent and earnest about a bunch of (mostly) young people who believe in their own ideals and in their own power to effect their ideals coming together in a prayer circle around a flagpole, but on reflection it’s a dubious and even dangerous authoritarian bonding ritual blurring the lines between religion and civics. There is no aspect of sincere Christian praxis that requires such a pushy stunt; this shit is Constantinian church-state aggression updated for a modern Protestant-leaning right-wing sensibility and reweaponized; but this is precisely why Republicans, both of the sort who sincerely believe in the religious right agenda and of the sort who secretly ridicule the religious right as a rabble of useful idiots, encourage this muddled public worship. It’s great agitprop for all of them. It organizes people who otherwise might wander down rabbit holes to the left (labor unionism, say) under the auspices of a public religious preoccupation that directs any political impulses back to the hard right.

The Democrats can’t hold a candle to this. As I said, See You at the Pole is not organized under formal Republican auspices, but it’s a very easy thing for Republicans, who already share an exaggerated and explicit version of the tacit authoritarianism informing these prayer rallies, to endorse. If their schedules are free or they really enjoy mixing it up with the values voters, they can drop by for some prayer and readings not in their secret closet. Otherwise, they can rope in a large part of their target constituency just by saying, hey, I’d have loved to be there but couldn’t make it, but you guys are doing great work, keep it up.

Liberal Democrats who try to outargue the religious right on these cheap authoritarian stances regularly get tripped up and made to look ridiculous and impotent. I campaigned for John Kerry in rural Pennsylvania, so I would know. Bernie Sanders has the rhetorical focus and discipline to stake a claim on his own policy territory and not be lured away from it by wedge issue assholes, but as I’ve carried on about at such length already, the Democratic Party as an institution was not down with the old socialist. Hillary Clinton and everyone around her are fucking hopeless against the religious right. Long Face, an unfortunately weak communicator, made a stumbling but sincere effort to present a nuanced approach to reconciling private faith with public policy, and he got steamrolled by anti-intellectual thugs who didn’t give a shit. Hillary, who has long had a reputation on almost every part of the political spectrum except the center-left for exceptional licentiousness, looks like the Devil Incarnate when she tries to appeal to religious voters, not just a possible unwitting tool of the Dark One. This diabolical look is pretty comprehensive for her, actually: the feminazi harpy never-resting bitch face (not the most gracious look) that offends and discomfits so many cultural conservatives is at least loosely of a piece with the commodities trading monkey business (Carl Sandburg and Leroy Brown, pray for us), the barely-legal-in-Arkansas Whitewater scam (Campbell, you on the line again? Afraid we need you, too), We Came We Saw He Died (for various reasons, I don’t even try to get a hold of History Resistance Liberty Glory Revolution), and the Dr. Evil in distress act that she couldn’t suppress late in her last presidential campaign on account of her being in trouble electorally, which she inevitably delivered in an apparently empty room while dressed in the fashion of a lesbian apotheosis of Mao and Nehru.

The overall optics of the Clinton/Kaine campaign were a raging clusterfuck that the Republicans were able to beat just by running a slightly wooden but impeccably wholesome veep candidate under a loose cannon who, regardless of his judgment or his intellect, clearly had a heart. Mike Pence and Donald Trump are both effective campaigners who successfully appealed to complementary parts of a Republican base that Trump dramatically expanded by appealing to disgruntled Democrats, many of them recently berned over. As inferred Trump voter Michael Moore kept pointing out, Hillary just wasn’t getting through in the rust belt; the different things that can be tried on Torch Lake include getting baked as fuck in a MAGA hat or soberly having a KFC family bucket and a half gallon of RC Cola for dinner while finalizing one’s conclusion that the Democrats really, seriously blew it this time and that one’s fellow slovenly fat guy is the real cultural liberal and trade union leftist remaining in the race at the witching hour.

Never Trump will have a shit fit over the last part, but look at the diverse coalition that the Donald brought together just by being all over the place and picking a politically and temperamentally complementary running mate. Hillary could have picked Bernie, and he would have put her over the top, but her priority, and for reasons of corruption her party’s, was spending the general election campaign reminding him and his supporters that their proper place in the coalition was as meek, submissive, whipped little bitches. That worked out great, guys. I didn’t want that woman in the White House, so I don’t mind gloating a bit now and then. Sexist? I didn’t really want Kaine around there, either. Also, I voted for Jill Stein, bitch. It depends on what the meaning of “her” is, and sharing a candidate with a marginal collection of anti-vaxxers and healing crystals freaks is better than sharing one with a horde of insatiable power yuppies. I’m not crazy about Trump getting so easily triggered by the Nork Dork, but at least he isn’t starting shit with our supremely rational and mostly peaceable alleged enemies in the Kremlin, who conspicuously are not joining Piggy Gangnam Style in announcing plans for a nuclear missile attack on Guam.

Etc., but Wow Much Words. #WithHer regards argumentation like that as retardation on the level of someone with Down’s Syndrome talking about how good the hot dogs are at Bear River Pump-n-Play. It’s Wiener Day at the Roth’s in West Salem tomorrow; go choke on one. The refusal to acknowledge nuance on the part of the opposition is not a good look in a sworn liberal party. That doesn’t just alienate conservatives and reactionaries. Donald Trump looking like the more liberal candidate appeals to some of us. If the nominal liberals won’t confront their own illiberalism, maybe he’ll confront it for them. It might be worth a try.

In this context, the impotent embarrassments of Democratic-aligned protest movements is worth a look. Happily married women with large families aren’t natural allies for the pussy hat marchers, whom they’re more likely to regard as barren, bitter, pathological shit-stirrers, even freaks. Appealing to nebulous concepts of virtue like science and reason backfires on those who won’t honestly state and defend their own principles: extensive moral reasoning led Rick Santorum in a very different direction, and now liberals smear him by smugly appropriating his surname for a slurry of post-climactic butt goo, all while he’s married with, IIRC, five living children.

Bernie Sanders stays away from this toxic, distracting shit, but the Democratic Party would rather adopt Dan Savage as a mainstream standardbearer. But it gets worse than that. Bernie is beyond their comfort zone, but he’s closer than most of the voters they’re theoretically trying to reach. He’s a college-educated sitting United States Senator. Famously on the gotcha right and center, he owns several lake houses. The problem, the intractable problem, is that he talks basically like an organizer at a union hall. He relates to coal miners. Like Trump, he’s comfortable reaching out to workaday people, but he does so at a much more granular, thoughtful, and probably honest level, and he has a strong track record in industrial policy benefiting his constituents in Vermont that parallels Trump’s casino bankruptcies and stiffing of small family-owned contractors in Atlantic City.

Sanders has a more honest version of what Republican politicians have and Democratic politicians desperately need: an ability to get into the trenches and interact with ordinary voters on their own turf. It’s hard to say for sure what mix of sincere interest and depraved psychosexual drives motivates Republican politicians to do effective retail politics with voters at state fairs and grange halls and churches and athletic events, but they do it. It comes naturally to them. They look comfortable. Democrats look all grossed out that some pig is about to shit on their Bruno Maglis. Or some voter. Hell, Mitt Romney has a fucking elevator in La Jolla for his cars, and even he had more in common with ordinary voters than Hillary Clinton on account of his involvement in LDS stake leadership, which involves ongoing dealings with congregants at various socioeconomic levels.

Of course this idiot crew can’t connect with farmers or factory hands. We’ve got a political class on what passes for the left that can’t think of a single thing that it has in common with normal, average people in probably eighty percent of US counties and, let’s not kid ourselves, many urban neighborhoods. The client-patron relationship that the Democratic Party presumes with African-American and Latino voters isn’t nearly as sustainable or cordial as the Dems think it is, but when they try to take the same attitude to majority-white parts of flyover country, where voters forthrightly expect not to be treated so condescendingly, the locals invite them to immediately enjoy a hearty serving of Manchego Fuck Yourself. They dig themselves even deeper into the hole by pretending that 10% black counties in Appalachia are 100% white and 100% bigoted, and then return to their contemplation of how bae Nate Silver is for being such a detail-oriented wonk.

GA-06 was their wet dream. Finally they had located a single congressional district in the New South that they thought they had a chance of winning by running a milquetoast Millennial neoliberal against a hardliner Gen X values MILF. And they lost it. Oops. They lost to the Jersey Slugger in Montana, too, but that was because they shut off the party campaign funds to their High Line native candidate as a fuck-you to the Berniecrats. Ain’t no Panera in Cut Bank, either. The proper bougie purveyors of coffee and sammich nicely complemented the obsession with winning over hardliner Republican dentists in Alpharetta instead of reaching out to ranchers who gladly vote for Jon Tester every six years.

Any party that actually valued meritocracy, in the sense of having what it takes not to torpedo one’s organization by being a moron, would tell anyone encouraging more outreach to Panera Democrats in suburban Atlanta to go on public assistance. They’d take the fuckheads down to the welfare office. Any sensible political leader would figure that a belief in Panera Democrats as a viable constituency could only come from the laziest, dumbest, softest, most squeamish motherfucker on earth. The Dunkin’ Doorman hangs out in a coffeeshop, too, but he doesn’t work as a political strategist. I’m writing this from a Starbucks, and I interrupted my writing to go trainspotting out on the sidewalk, twice, but I’m not a fucking idiot who has never talked to poor people. You might not want to hear the stuff I could tell you about the bitchin’ consists that I watched roll by, but I don’t pester the Democratic Party with any of that. The people who do pester the Democratic Party include incorrigibly timid little shitbirds who think they can run the ground war for a successful national political strategy from the lobby of a chain cafe that’s decorated with peak clip art.

I pick fruit commercially, and I think they’re fucking reprehensible.

Among those left behind

The guy who sued the Insurance Schmuck’s boss was recently found dead by his own hand in a hotel room. The Insurance Schmuck said that he lived exceptionally fast and loose and likely killed himself to avoid paying secret debts that were well beyond his financial ability. By his reckoning, dude was supporting himself with a sort of check-kiting scam on his very life, and now he leaves behind huge mess.

There’s obviously a lot wrong with this entire situation, but I’m still trying to put a finger on what exactly is so pathological about it. I take my exposure to it, even secondhand, as a personal affront and very much as evidence that the Insurance Schmuck has blundered into a clusterfuck that poisons everything it touches without the sense or the courage to cut bait on these toxic lunatics. He often talks to me about how loyal he is, and he’s right about that. The specific problems that he’s encountering with his loyalty to his boss are that ISB is out of control, many of the associates and loved ones that ISB has cultivated are also out of control, quite a few other people close to one or both of them in the business are out of control, and the Insurance Schmuck doesn’t have what it takes to stand up to these wackos.

Let’s rechristen ISB’s late estranged former business partner ISBP. The P can stand for plaintiff, too. Or for prick, or putz. #TeshTips: Arabic does not have a letter corresponding to P, and we are not Muammar Qaddafi’s loyal beebul. #PowerOfPride #BowerOfBride.

I can’t believe that ISBP didn’t have some meritorious claims against ISB. It’s possible but very unlikely. The Insurance Schmuck has made some hushed comments to me to the effect that ISB at least tried to chisel ISBP or dangle some bogus promises in front of him in bad faith. ISB as a shyster in his business life rings true enough. Even if ISBP exaggerated his claims, it’s hard to see what incentive anyone would have to sue a competent, reputable senior partner in a successful business, since there would be so much to be gained by just keeping the operation running smoothly.

It’s almost as hard to imagine an attorney wanting to take on a nutty client whose case sounds like horseshit or a persecution complex unless the defendant is either a loaded celebrity with a reputation to defend or a corporation. ISBP sued ISB as an individual, from what I’ve heard, one private citizen to another, and any corporations involved were small and obscure. Besides, ISB seems vain enough to thrash around defending his honor rather than paying a disgruntled ex-partner fuck-off money, and the Insurance Schmuck told me that he did exactly that, costing both of them six-figure legal bills and, in his opinion, shortening both of their lives. When he learned of ISBP’s suicide, he felt sadly vindicated in his prediction that they’d go to early deaths.

It was darkly humorous, then, to find an obituary for ISBP in the Lancaster Newspapers mentioning that he had died “unexpectedly.” I had an inside source at the Lancaster Newspapers (I’m Woodward Bernstein, bitch) who told me and some classmates in the 1990’s that the publishers had a strict policy against printing HIV or AIDS as a cause of death in their obituaries, so I wouldn’t put it past them to be equally chickenshit about suicide. Of course, many families don’t want to air that bit of grief, either. As my aunt from Manna’s Habba, the same one whose brother is the Staten Island diaspora’s premier self-loathing Jew, “he died of kansa!”

How long, in the plural, to the point of no return? That was bad, but as Robert Dziekanski said, better an electronic cut from the American Heartland than an electric cut straight outta Depot. ISBP wasn’t Aaron Hernandez, so I don’t want to make light of his suicide, exactly (even if I’m in no danger of going bottomfeeding like Rod Dreher did over the freshly late Ariel Castro), but there is something really fucked up and eerie about seeing a newspaper obituary that treats a guy’s death as a sad mystery and hearing details from a mutual contact indicating that the paper scurried around the edges of the really seedy cultural underbelly of the same guy’s life. After all the toxic bullshit I’ve gotten from my college crowd about the socioeconomic milieu that would or should be mine, it’s disturbing to get the impression that people I nearly met at prep school (and may have met fleetingly at some point) responded to a suicide catalyzed by very similar socioeconomic pathologies to the ones I kept encountering at college by blowing sunshine up everyone’s ass.

Reporting this guy’s suicide as a suicide isn’t red meat for the rubberneckers; in its context, there really is something newsworthy about it. There is a public interest in warning people away from the kind of dangerous living that got ISBP into trouble, if that’s actually what happened, and the Insurance Schmuck seemed reasonably well-informed about his background.

This isn’t to say that I take everything the Insurance Schmuck said about ISBP and his beef with ISB at face value. He told me that ISB and his then-girlfriend, the one whose breast implants he paid for, used a lot of hard drugs, which explained why Legacy Tits looked so awful. When I saw Legacy Tits at the pool earlier this summer, I thought she looked exceptionally poised and not particularly haggard for a woman her age. In retrospect, having done the Zuckerbergeois Google-fu to get her meatspace name and the full legal names of ISB and ISBP, I realize that I may have overestimated her age, possibly by five years, but I had a raging alcoholic friend in college, when we were both freshmen, who looked like she was pushing a grizzled forty. So, all in all, Legacy Tits didn’t look too bad. Her Facebook profile makes her look like she has Borderline Personality Disorder, but having seen her at the pool, I assume that’s basically a persona. She isn’t the first person (usually women, from what I can recall) who had such a whatthefuckular discrepancy between face-to-face conversations and Facebook.

ISB, on the other hand, looks like shit, and not that much unlike Rob Ford. Thinking over this whole mess, I’ve occasionally been consumed with total confidence that he’s a cokehead. He works in business circles that are traditionally awash in coke. He looks like a cokehead and he acts like a cokehead. Alcohol could explain much of it, as it did for the Mayor, but ISB, like the yachting dipshit who claims to get by on an hour of sleep a night, is burning the wick at both ends in a way strongly suggesting that he needs powerful slugs of stimulants to avoid falling into a delirium or passing out. And if ISBF hasn’t snorted base, I’m Pablo Escobar. Knowing how much of her upkeep comes from ISB, he’s probably where she gets her coke.

The Insurance Schmuck has no fucking idea if these two use cocaine, or amphetamines, for that matter. In a tossup, I’d still call coke, but I wouldn’t put it past ISB in particular to use Adderall or Ritalin off-label. The Insurance Schmuck has no clue that his boss and the projectile nut he’s engaged to marry use hard stimulants because, for one thing, they’re too politically astute and neurotic to tell someone who doesn’t seem to be down for some uppers that they use, and more generally, he’s totally oblivious and ignorant to the cultures of any drug but alcohol and the signs of use. He’d have to see someone roll up a Benjamin right in front of him and hoover up a line to get an inkling that, hey, that guy just took some coke.

The Insurance Schmuck knows practically nothing about drugs except what he’s heard from his crappy, powerfully illiberal sober living stories. I doubt it would occur to him that cocaine helps some people function in high-power office jobs and is within others’ ability to use without immediately going off the rails. He’s got this narrative in his head that substance abuse makes abusers inherently unable to function. That’s really what it is: a narrative, a shabby deep story, a suite of prejudices for an avowedly unprejudiced man from an avowedly unprejudiced family. I have no trouble seeing how ISB could integrate cocaine into a life that doesn’t also involve his sleeping on a piece of cardboard at Market East. I doubt it does him much holistic good, but I’ve had the strong sense since before I met him that he lives an awfully unbalanced and unhealthy life, a sense that he confirmed the night I met him when he met us at the bar and carried on in a fashion that may have been the sole effect of alcohol but alternately may have been facilitated by scheduled stimulants.

I don’t recall the Insurance Schmuck telling me how he knew that that ISBP and Legacy Tits were heavy drug users, but I can’t help but imagine ISB getting worked up and angrily calling them a couple of fucking cokeheads. There’s no reason for ISB’s own cocaine use to get in the way of such a tirade; no homo, he and ISBP went through the equivalent of a divorce, and ISB always seemed like one of the last people to admit his own failures and weaknesses. If the Insurance Schmuck has mentioned his own sober living theories, ISB has all the more incentive to smear ISBP and Legacy Tits as drug users. On the other hand, I got the sense that Legacy Tits had discussed her drug use with him, too.

What rankles me about this situation is not the drug use per se, but the appearance that the Insurance Schmuck and the shysters around him are using drugs as a cudgel while peacocking about their own moral superiority as sober businessmen who kick ass for a living. I use caffeine and a very occasional mug of beer, and the Insurance Schmuck seems to be having the wool pulled over his eyes by a number of close business associates who are hopped up on some hard, hard shit. If they aren’t on cocaine or amphetamines, they sure play the part. I take deep offense at insinuations that I’m less well-adjusted than these wackos, but I know that the Insurance Schmuck is interested in using me as a conduit to my parents’ eventual estate, because he’s said as much to me, but a bit less bluntly, and I know that these assholes all idolize wealth in the classic biblical sense. I pick fruit commercially for deep poverty wages. Why should I not think that these people have cultivated themselves into a crew of shambling reprobates?

And why shouldn’t I think that they’re dangerous? The Insurance Schmuck isn’t the root of the problem. If he were working for someone reputable, he wouldn’t be angling for a cut of my future inheritance with pitches that leave me with a gathering aftertaste of crassness and insensitivity. Under a scrupulous boss, he’d be blameless. Instead, he works for a shyster with substance abuse problems in a business full of such people, and so he covers for them and descends into a willful, strategic ignorance of how they’re behaving. The sales tactics that they use are shit, and there’s no compensating for that with solid products. Shitty tactics produce shitty customer reactions. That’s all there is to it. They are inevitably going to alienate and upset prospective clients by following scripts that turn them into fucking assholes. That is in the cards for as long as they keep reshuffling the same filthy deck.

So are the aggressive addicts. They provide a safe space for highbrow derelicts, and so the highbrow derelicts show up and shit the floor. One of my best friends works for a guy who got sued for fraud and breach of contract by a cokehead who committed suicide and left his ex-girlfriend out in the cold, with nothing to show for their relationship but a set of silicone knockers. The Insurance Schmuck said that ISBP left Legacy Tits out on the street. It may well not be that bad, whether she finds a sugar daddy or moves back in with family (either one is likely), but it doesn’t sound good.

It is reasonable of me to ask why the fuck he does business with such people and what the fuck he expects me to think of it.

Interstate Avenue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wet bulb temperature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apology tour

First Daughter-in-Law, then Daughter-in-Law’s Husband (because we can’t come up with a retarded acronym if we don’t first come up with a retarded full designation), and now Mother-in-Law have all approached me to apologize for MiL’s lecture and berry tasting last week. DiLH seems to be by far the most cynical member of the owning family, so his apology had an implicit WTF Mom air about it. DiL is exceptionally matter-of-fact and professional when young children aren’t around, and so was her apology to me over the phone.

MiL’s apology was, not at all surprisingly, a rather more shambling, roundabout, half contrite, half self-exculpatory effort. Many people, I suppose, would have been offended, but Mother-in-Law, consistent with OPB and KLCC broadcasting standards, likes to think out loud (TM) (fam, some of y’all have no idea how bizarre Oregon is), and I never expect her thoughts to be the most clearheaded and functional. I’ve never detected anything deeply or abidingly malicious or manipulative about her; like her relatives, she seems to be a fundamentally decent person. To understand this, it’s important to set aside the sub-minimum-wage shit and the piece rate lowballing; these people are all quite morally grounded in spite of their ongoing exposure to some really fucking sketchy intersecting business, social, and religious cultures. A twenty-five-cent tip is intrinsically pretty WTF, which is why it is dem shine George coin, but we’re hopelessly to understand this situation by looking at it intrinsically. From an extrinsic perspective, i.e., with some context, dem shine George coin is the result of some valid, if disappointing, math. It’s the bottom line, a bottom line that I promptly regifted at Starbucks. I told a middle-aged Denny’s host about it later that night, and I don’t think it really registered with him that I was not joking and do in fact work at a place where that kind of thing happens and is normal.

Mother-in-Law is a hot mess, but this afternoon she was a mostly functional, thoughtful, non-projectile, borderline-calm hot mess, and in my book that’s enough. (It may not be a book that you’d ever want to read, but that’s your business. BTW, how’re y’all enjoying Dubai Porta Potty?) From most people, an apology like that would bewilder and annoy me, but from MiL, anything shy of a full Manchego Fuck Yourself is low-salt enough for me. The idea that anything about her tirade last week was excusable or reasonable is problematic, but Mother-in-Law recognizing that it was not something to do again and approaching me to apologize for it in a fashion that only she can pull off means that she isn’t currently yelling at anyone, and that’s the real goal there. DiL and, I infer, DiLH had a Come to Jesus talk or two with her about her lecture series and other, off-the-cuff comments that the staff might find off-putting, and she’d clearly gotten the message, so I didn’t mind that her way of expressing contrition and understanding would have been fucking nuts coming from anyone else.

The self-exculpatory part of MiL’s apology was an explanation that she had directed the tirade at the new pickers, not at me, and that she’d been frustrated with the low quality of the fruit and didn’t know how else to address her objections and teach the pickers how to improve their work. I suggested that she and the other owners give us more guidance while we’re out in the field, i.e., more orientation and training. I can’t remember how I phrased it, but she seemed really receptive and eager to avoid repeats of the forcible berry tasting, especially ones that alienated me. I didn’t mind that she was misinterpreting my objections to her lecture (I don’t like watching anyone being mistreated by management, period) or that she might relapse at some point. Life is a journey, a highway, we might say, and Mother-in-Law was willing to embark on it. In that context, I was not about to do anything that I thought might humiliate her. Wow Much martyrs Such penitent Many kyrie Where sandal Omg santiago de compostela Very confesh.

If life is in fact a highway, we might call this a journey on the Hershey Highway. As a former Hersheypark employee, I’ve inevitably been asked if I’ve been on the Hershey Highway. I can’t screen such losers out of my life entirely, and yes, some of them really are losers. Advisably or not, I’ve usually answered that straight with some story about actual roads that I’ve driven to Hershey, including the 28th Division Highway. I’m sure that was a better experience than serving in the goddamn 28th Division. So is the berry farm. MiL overdoing the command-and-control shit was a problem, but she’s simmered down again.

I don’t want to write a fucking treatise on forgiveness. Forgiveness. Even if, even if. I’d rather write Doge memes that are probably crappier than I think they are on the amount of sleep that I’ve been getting. At least I know that I’ve heard dumber than that by a long shot from colleagues, even today, so I’m not rooting around at the bottom of the barrel yet. Even with the Ditzney Princess done for the season, I picked a really good day to bring a new runner’s radio to work today. “Let It Be” never sounded so good, let alone with such poor reception. Thanks, Freddy.

In fairness, no one got quite as unrelentingly grating as “Fortunately/Unfortunately.” 35 is presumably too old to be working for nowhere close to minimum wage around a frank child who sings a one-line song about a rainbow dragon or some shit for fifteen minutes straight, but I’ve worked with worse. Hell, I’ve worked with worse than the Ditzney Princess. There are guys in the ginger-intersectional non-White community in McMinnville who make Mixups in my Mind’s story about the rotisserie chicken fight sound like Pope Francis saying compline and Psychotarp’s blogging sound like a Victor Davis Hanson essay series. There’s a threshold beyond which sexual and scatological vulgarity stops being titillating, witty, entertaining, or in any other way interesting, and these likely as not recently felonious losers from Newberg and what our one crew boss called Mack (WTF?) leave it in the dust. There’s some bad, bad shit in this industry. The In-Laws don’t come close to plumbing its depths.

Don’t believe that over-the-top evangelical piety is good for nothing. It keeps the Mack Attack shitheads off my current crew, and that’s above rubies. I can still come over here after hours to swear and curse and sputter. That’s the thing: I may sound like one of the great American crudities in these pages, but I’m pretty fucking diplomatic and nonconfrontational in meatspace. *Most Neo-Victorian Voice* Yats! Yats! Fuck the EU! Yats! *Cable over; burn upon reading, or if you need some fireplace kindling.*

I have standards. They aren’t very high standards, but not working with out-of-control Chads who show no common manners all the live-long day is one. The Ditzney Princess, of course, was another example of low standards. I assume that “new pickers” was at least in part a euphemism for her, but as I’ve speculated before, harshing a family brat’s mellow might have been a ready source of disharmony at reunions.

That said, it’s moot now as a day-to-day personnel consideration. MiL has gotten a grip, and the Ditzney Princess has retired to a summer schedule that, by her own description, is devoted mainly to hanging out and not at all to anything useful to society. Funyuns continue to outsell Responsibilityuns. Daughter-in-Law told us today that she’d like to have us pick on Monday but that we may take the midweek off on account of the heat, so we might as well do something fun. One of the pickers said that hanging out on the couch would be fun. Some would call this youthful innocence; I call it the blather of a damn fool, but I wasn’t in the mood to kill a hopeful young man’s vibe. If funemployment is in the cards for him, he’ll learn soon enough.

Some of these kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. We’re living the dream. I am, at least. When push comes to shove and there’s no acute bullshit going down, we’re getting paid to do the work that “everyone” “knows” Americans won’t do. We don’t have anyone like Joe Dirtbag around to get in our way, not pay us, bring shitheads and nutty fuckers onto the property to get further in the way, and act out his personality disorders. The Mack Attack is confined to Mack. Kurt Ballman gets paid much more to deal with James “Mack the Pipe” Mack than we get paid for not dealing with him, but in any interpersonal sense, the joke’s on him for being the one who has to figure out that some oppositional-defiant wigger was wandering around the East End of Cincinnati brandishing a different length of pipe. As one does. Seriously, that motherfucker could have ended up on one of my crews in the bad parts of the valley. Twenty-dollar blowjobs from majorly thick bitches are far from the worst thing going down in Over-the-Rhine and/or Sweet Home.

Heh. I said “going down.” Giggity. I’ve also recently been in the Safeway in Stayton. Definitely not giggity. There were exceptions, but some exceptions prove the rule. There really are things that are wrong with flyover country, and one gets the feeling sometimes that it isn’t just poverty. Sam Dotson and Julia Pearson are no skinnier, but, well, look at them, and then go to Safeway. There’s a community bulletin board in the hallway near the bathrooms, and some redneck kid of ten or eleven was hiring himself out for help doing anything so that he could earn money for a dirt bike. Love too have legally unemployable minors operate power equipment on my property for cash under the table. This was in Safeway, so it wasn’t full Deliverance. I don’t set foot in Grocery Outlet these days. I have reasons. It’s never the Muppets from Gross Out’s commercials that die in an apartment fire in Northeast Portland because some Chad with a temper problem had to douse his off-again, on-again girlfriend’s couch with gasoline and set it on fire.

I drove by the state prisons just east of Salem later that evening. Safeway is a good place for cheap Chinese takeout. It’s also an excellent regular pilgrimage site for anyone who doesn’t want his entire life to turn into a Nickelback musical. I don’t want to go poor-shaming here, but there really is something wrong with Stayton. I’ve spent a fair amount of time around working-class neighborhoods in Northeast Salem, and they just don’t have that gee, maybe you shouldn’t be getting your kid a dirt bike if you’re so damn broke vibe. The built environment there is horrific, but Fat Sammy, never one to be out of place at a Chinese takeout joint, would fit in at the Safeway at Lancaster and Silverton.

I seek out ambient exposure to people who aren’t totally self-defeating losers, so I notice these things. If you want to be quality, surround yourself with quality. By the way, I am not shaming Sam Dotson for being fat; I’m meming him for being fat. I’m a bit of a thicky myself. There are some thick, thick Nordic bitches and Nordic-influenced fellow-travelers around Seattle, too, but they have a certain je ne sais quoi that makes them definitively not losers. Plus-sized or not, you might as well go Bigfoot hunting if you expect to find anyone of the sort in Stayton.

There’s some bleak shit out here in the provinces. Well, fuck, what do I mean, “here?” I’m writing this in West Salem. Far be it from me not to get out of Dodge the minute I’m done with work. That’s the only reason I stop in most of these country-ass dumps: fruitboy stuff. Canning is work, too, but if I’m cleaning up after rednecks in Deliverance country, I do that after driven away from their roadside constellations of Keystone and Red Bull cans. I doesn’t lives here, Mr. O’Rourke. Someone else can come in instead.

Shitty Holden Caulfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lazarus, what’s your twenty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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