Americans are too lazy and soft for farm work, but not for CrossFit

Walking around the Oregon Garden and recreationally looking at plants for an hour and a half after work this afternoon was more tiring and harder on my body than picking over 72 pounds of blueberries over the course of six hours in the fields today. Recreational plant nerd shit is like recreational sex: haters gonna haidt, but if you have the time and the money for it, you might as well. I made a special pilgrimage to the blueberry planting (that wasn’t absurd; absurd would be u-picking blueberries after shift, and I’m not that ridiculous), and another special pilgrimage to the olives; the blueberry cultivars were all past their fruiting season and the olives had shit for fruit sets, but blueberries are bae and olives, especially this far north, are bae as fuck.

They’ve got some cool shit up there, and the presentation is really well done. The stoop labor to plant and tend it is done mainly by volunteers, because America talks about the labor theory of value much more than it observes or cherishes anything of the sort. I’m not sure that I’m enough of a bitch to join that effort, but I can’t count it out. Trail maintenance is another great job for the volunteer bitch pool; it’s obvious to anyone who hasn’t taken a shovel to the head that the Tahoe Rim Trail is an excellent public good, but apparently there’s no regular budget to pay anyone to do the heavy labor needed to maintain and improve it. Americans won’t pick fruit for pay, but we will do heavy trail maintenance for free? Someone isn’t talking straight here.

Picking blueberries requires some attention and effort. We sometimes have pickers on the crew who spend much of the day with their thumbs up their asses, and not surprisingly they don’t get much done. I am not one of them, so I get a fair amount done. On a hot day, or worse, a hot, humid day with calm winds, the work can get pretty tiring. It’s still consistently less tiring than spending the same amount of time hiking in the same weather. Sometimes it’s much less tiring. I love hiking, so I’m not trying to suggest that hiking is a fool’s errand or a form of masochism. I don’t do shit like summit all the high peaks at Philmont eating nothing but peanut butter out of squeeze tubes for 36 hours straight, so your mileage may vary. Even the two- to five-mile day hikes over easy to moderate terrain that I usually take are physically harder than picking blueberries and about as hard as picking wine grapes on vines where the fruit is tangled up in the middle of a thicket of leaves, canes, and trellising wire.

Being on my feet for an hour and a half this afternoon as a tourist visiting my fruits (it was, indeed, fabulous!) left me much sorer than six hours of work today. It was especially hard on my legs because I spent much of the time standing around. I had the same problem manning game stands at Hersheypark, which is some of the most useless fucking bullshit I’ve done in my life. I wasn’t feeling sleepy this afternoon, so what I was feeling was direct physical stress on my legs, not fatigue. I’ve had afternoons when I’ve hardly been able to stay awake for the drive back from the farm, but today wasn’t one. Even so, my legs got sorer from walking around a tourist garden, doing nothing of any use to society, than I’ve gotten all season from picking well over half a ton of blueberries.

If you’re ablebodied and in decent shape, you could probably pick fruit easily enough, too. I’m in good shape but no sort of athletic shape, and I pick some damn fruit. And I notice that everyone who insists that my fellow Americans and I are too soft to do manual labor for a living talks like Mary Mayhew.

Feel free to throw a lobster pot at a bitch. I’m not trying to be sexist, because I know that there are some hard Downeaster broads in the business; I’m trying merely to be classist. The Kennedys and the Bushes haven’t done a thing that useful on the water, although Teddy did successfully ride the Ducks. Don’t be bashful with the lobstah infrastructshah. I don’t currently have the upper body strength to do a proper pull-up on the old CCC bar at the Peavy Arboretum, but I don’t speak on behalf of my fellow Americans on such matters, and I have more confidence than you might think in the fortitude of my people.

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.

Are these motherfuckers serious?

NPR gets worse and worse. Avowedly commercial drivetime radio in either of our national languages calls into question why the FCC remains chartered if it won’t put a regulatory stop to such atrocities, so the possibility of NPR offering something better is alluring. It’s always nice to imagine that there’s good in our world. Instead, the totebaggers offer us merely a different horror. Its superficial aesthetics are better, just as Bernie Madoff’s superficial aesthetics were better than those of an Amway consultant or car salesman who won’t get out of your face, but I shouldn’t be so snarky about the old crook: dialing in to the Butner Jewish Gentlemen’s Kaffeeklatsch would be a huge improvement (yuge!) over the shit I just heard on Morning Edition.

For some awful reason probably having to do with a neurotic bourgeois obsession with the micromanagement of daily schedules, NPR has started advertising itself as something that’s hella informative to listen to for just twenty minutes a day. My points of clarification are twofold: First, if it’s some good shit, why the hell wouldn’t it be a good idea to listen to the entire program, or to get a portable radio (please to not encourage shut-in behavior) and listen to the entire day’s worth of programming, and, second, if it alternately sucks, why listen to it in the first place? The House Voice has also been advertising a website called Curious, which purports to help its audience or readership or instascannership or whatever the fuck learn the good stuff, like Mandarin Chinese, in, I recall, thirty-minute increments.

I needed only twenty minutes this morning, or thirty, or thirty, or maybe thirty-five, which I will not be doublechecking because I cherish the feeling and the appearance that I am not insane, to hear two separate but equally grotesque pieces of sponsored content for the neoliberal regime.

The first was an interview with Joaquin Castro, a Democratic Member of the House for San Antonio, in which Mr. Castro (Raul sounds better by the day) used the recent mass-casualty migrant smuggling truck incident to plug additional work visas for foreign agricultural and high tech workers. Neither Castro nor Steve Inskeep (I’m not doublechecking whether it was that cracker or David “Big Sexy” Greene at the mike, either) discussed the possibility that ag and tech have trouble recruiting Americans because the work conditions and the management suck. We’ve discussed ag at length in these pages, including the sad truth that the In-Laws are far from the worst (DiL actually called me a few minutes ago for an unruffling of feathers, invitation back to work, and IDK WTF all, because as dysfunctional as that operation is, it’s a weirdly self-righting ship). We’ve discussed tech less, but others have discussed it at painstaking, salacious length. These industries have to recruit foreigners because they either shut out or alienate the locals.

Joaquin Castro is a certifiable self-bullshitting fool because he described Texas as having major highways running north and south and east and west, making it a crossroads. This contrasts it with a number of other states, including Hawaii, maybe Alaska, and absolutely no others. A family friend had a classmate at University College London who turned in hilariously overwrought research papers, one of which described Burma as having, like all countries, lakes and rivers and mountains and plains, and noted that the northern part of Burma is called “North Burma,” and so forth around and into the compass. Castro is the same dude, but without the flowery, uncalled-for literary descriptions of William the Conqueror’s horses snorting into the cold dawn mists at Hastings.

This shit about highways running in four different directions and crossing each other was the reification of “Perspectives” with Lionel Osborne, but without the comedic charm, and not at 4:43 in the AM, either. This ain’t Coast to Coast, cracka; the aliens would have better insight into the geography of Texas. *Transmission of Data incoming* According to your human directional conventions, United States Highway Number 87 runs in the approximate directions of northwest and southeast, crossing many other highways along its path on vectors diagonal to theirs. *Data set complete* Some of our more familiar, less legal, aliens might wonder what the fuck it matters whether there’s a different highway running in a different direction as long as there’s air conditioning in the trailer, but their voices weren’t of any use to NPR under the circumstances.

Neither was any discussion of the Border Patrol’s internal checkpoints, which are as comprehensive in Texas as they are in any state. Even putting aside the serious constitutional and civil liberties problems with the checkpoints, a trailer smuggling dozens of illegal immigrants (by some accounts, up to 180) seems like exactly the sort of thing the checkpoints were established to interdict. The idea is that the Border Patrol has no fucking capacity to properly patrol and secure the border (yeah, this is problematic, too), so instead it takes advantage of a number of natural chokepoints on the interior highway system in sparsely populated parts of the Southwest to make sure that nothing fishy with respect to immigration status is allowed to pass deeper into the country, into the unsecured (secured?) parts. Yeah, great job there, guys. You come bother us on domestic passenger trains through Buffalo, but nothing seemed off about this truck? Do these jagoffs even check cargo manifests against what’s actually in the trailer? Of course not. I mean, maybe sometimes, but there’s nothing comprehensive about this regime. It’s totally arbitrary. It’s security theater. The difference is that TSA officers dress up like Boy Scouts as reimagined by a cop-fancying Village People cover band, while the Border Patrol dresses up and arms itself like the guys on the East German side of Checkpoint Charlie.

The second whatthefuckular item on NPR this morning (and there may have been more, for which I’ve tuned out) was on the Marketplace Morning Report segment. Marketplace seems to have started as a sort of intellectual diversity initiative, a neoliberal show focusing on investing and flapper lounge music to balance NPR’s otherwise bleeding-heart left-liberal programming about serious news that won’t directly get a cracker rich. As the rising tide of neoliberalism has swamped the rest of NPR in recent years, any interest in programming balance or variety became spurious as a justification for Marketplace. What little non-neoliberal programming is still on NPR is increasingly relegated to off hours, in the same manner that Coast to Coast AM and Perspectives with Lionel Osborne are safely confined to marginal parts of the AM.

Everybody’s welcome and his son is dead.

This particular Marketplace Morning Report segment wasn’t nearly so honest. It was about how Americans aren’t doing as well as economists would expect in such strong economic times. As always, the overpaid fuckers chatting about this stuff couldn’t imagine that the economic data were erroneous, too narrow, or bogus. A large percentage of the population getting by with no or very little savings is unmistakable evidence that whatever prosperity and stability there is in the country is not being shared widely at all. The numbers that they mentioned were pretty bleak, bleak enough to make me feel really damn lucky for having family backstopping and savings at all.

We’ve got a lot of broke-ass poor folk around here, just as we’d expect if we looked at the labor market and the attitudes of hiring managers with any intellectual perceptiveness. This isn’t the Sorrowful Mystery of the Passion; it’s just sorrowful, in a way that isn’t mysterious at all for those of us who don’t work at NPR. I know, I know, I was listening to it, so it must be for me, but think of me as an NPR hipster; it’s, like, my PBR, my dive bar, my wearing a bowler hat and a plain American Apparel T-shirt at work in a kebab shop in Echo Park like a fucking asshole because I somehow don’t see a problem with looking like I’m still in my underwear when I’m wearing a rich Englishman’s hat indoors. Do I sound like I listen to that shit earnestly?

The thing about this MMR piece (which will not, for better and worse, be followed up by an MMRBQ) wasn’t just that it lacked any self-awareness about the upper and upper-middle classes being responsible for the widespread economic malaise at the household level by doing everything in their power to drive wages for the classes beneath their own into the gutter. That much would have been merely a bit dense, a modest self-own on the part of a crowd that has always believed in self-ownership.

The really bad part, the creepy part, was the proposal of nudge theory IFL Behavioral Science Pavlovian policy tweaks to encourage savings, including entering people into prize competitions for opening savings accounts. This is exactly why workaday Americans, and the lower sorts of loafaday Americans, distrust soi-disant experts. They’re always adding insult to injury, in this case by condescending to people who flat-out cannot afford to put money aside for savings, and talking in public like they’re knowingly running society-wide psychological experiments that have not passed institutional review without the consent of the test subjects.

This shit is not far at all from some of the less lethal experiments that got Nazi scientists into trouble after the war. It gives off whiffs of Tuskegee. There are supposed to be institutional and legal safeguards in place against this kind of abuse, and yet it’s being discussed openly, shamelessly, on nationally syndicated radio programming. One World Government, Agenda 21, chemtrails, and similarly florid conspiracy theories start to make sense as attempts to process these elite attitudes that merely get some of the details wrong. The international collusion of neoliberal elites is a matter of public record. It isn’t exactly crazy to assert that elites that admit to using advanced psychological and behavioral programming techniques on the citizenry at large are also unscrupulous enough to deliberately poison the air with God knows what. FEMA camps aren’t necessarily any more grotesque than the current American penal state, which in some states exceeds the Soviet Gulag on a per capita incarceration basis and at least rivals it for human rights abuses. WHO DAT!

This entire regime is predicated on the mass degradation of the public. How else would anyone think it’s normal and not insulting to offer the chance at a prize as an inducement to open a savings account? That isn’t even a free toaster. I might be young, but I ain’t stupid enough to fall for that. In any healthy society, the usual reason to open a savings account would be, gee, I have some extra money sitting around that I don’t feel like leaving in my checking account or sewing into a mattress, and I like the idea of earning interest on it. Could the lack of interest (heh) in savings accounts have anything to do with interest rates being at historic lows? I earn 0.75% annual interest on my savings account. It’s better than nothing, but isn’t a hell of a lot. Good luck getting 1% APR on consumer credit, though. As private consumers, we still have to pay the bank 15-25% APR on outstanding balances, if not worse. Mortgage terms are somewhat more generous, but qualifying for a mortgage is a bitch.

Capital One cut my interest rate from 0.9% to 0.75% after I opened my account. If everything is about incentives and micronudges, why don’t I close the damn thing? Answer me, Gladwell. Are we seriously to believe that savings rates wouldn’t be higher at 4 or 5% annual interest returns? How is this sort of incentive, which is normal and not creepy, impossible but being entered into a contest to win some crappy prize for opening a savings account on uninspiring interest terms totally doable? What is this shit? Publisher’s Clearing House? No, that big check is worth big money. This shit is more like parish hall bingo with Lynn Rader.

Ooh, you’re thinking, she sounds sexy! Yes, he is. Sexy male code enforcement officer Lynn Rader memes are an improvement over any of the Pavlovian mass experiments the neoliberals have to offer. I make fun of another serially murderous creep on an F-List blog best known for a half-assed hot take on Arab failsons shitting on international rent girls (sometimes there’s nowhere to go but up; #KeepClimbing); neoliberalism makes fun of all of us while pretending to be acting in our best interests as our structural Mengele.

In this context, Donald Trump not talking and acting like a disingenuous Josef Mengele wannabe was an adequate selling point. His deal was basically, look, I’ma go fun a bunch of the creeps who keep trying to run the Milgram experiment on you guys, and I’ll sandbag them if they try to mess with you again, and wow, this is a really cool fire truck, magnificent, really elegant machine. The five seconds that he isn’t wowed by the fire truck are enough to show that his heart is in the right place, or at least in a less wrong place than Hillary Clinton’s. We’ve seen what she does with her laser focus. We’ve seen what her fellow travelers do.

The class aspect here is deliberately hidden, but it’s very real. Do Tom Friedman and Megan McArdle live under this regime? Of course not. This regime is for the little people. McMegan gets paid to write about how we’re too sensitive to the victims of the Grenfell Fire and put too many regulations in place in an effort just to keep them from dying prematurely in raging apartment fires. No amount of driveling, bigoted idiocy will get the shitbirds who talk the story of neoliberalism fired and replaced by H-1B’s who just graduated from communications programs in Bangalore or Guadalajara. The experiments aren’t being run on them; they’re exempt. How fucking convenient.

This piece at Dissention is spot on: “Neoliberalism works only as long it operates in a command-control type of socio-economic-legal environment.” It’s painfully obvious that the incumbent elites are not approaching us as free citizens making free decisions in a free market. No one normal and healthy wants to be a customer in a regime that tries to get the broke to open savings accounts by entering them into penny-ante prize drawings after dispossessing them from the opportunities that used to be available, more or less for the asking, to earn a living wage doing stable work.

It’s striking, too, that the amount of red tape needed to keep this regime running, to operate its elaborate mechanisms of monitoring, reward, and punishment, would fatally choke any small business operating without access to unlimited below-market capital and would hobble large businesses operating in a free market. I’ve often wondered, for example, when Panera will finally collapse under its own dead weight. Panera has efficient kitchen lines putting together dishes developed by some exceptionally talented test chefs in clean, well-lit, well-maintained facilities, but I can swear sometimes that the entire chain is on the verge of choking on its own corporate horseshit, and I can’t help but wonder when its customers, even its most safe-for-work bourgeois corporatist customers, will either run out of the discretionary income to spend on that joint or get fed up with the fucking muzak and clip art. Watching a new hire half-attentively watch a training video in the kitchen with no one from floor management present forced me to move the projected failure date up by years, but as they say, only the Father knows the day and the hour.

Great place to go looking for Democratic voters, though.

There was a third piece on Morning Edition this morning that I didn’t think to include until just now, about sin taxes making the poor spend more of their income on cigarettes and claim federal food stamps more frequently. States’ rights, bitch. This third piece was, surprisingly, not creepy. It was the only bit of humility I was able to readily discern this morning. It admitted, without defensiveness, that smokers want their damn smokes and will make whatever third party they can find, in this case the feds, reimburse them for the jacked-up price of their cancer sticks as imposed by their state and municipal governments. It implied, more than openly enough for me to stop denigrating NPR’s morals for a full paragraph, that socialism is a viable way to pay for the costs of neoliberalism. Personally, I don’t smoke and consider cigarettes super gross, but between Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg and the Smoking Chair, I’ll take the Smoking Chair every time. The purpose of whatever ungodly amount cigarettes cost in New York City is to punish the poor and fob tax costs off onto them so that elected officials don’t have to stand up to affluent voters in a state of apoplectic tax revolt. We might well never have heard of Eric Garner if classy crackers like Don Draper were still smoking that shit.

Spend twenty minutes listening to All Things Considered this afternoon and you, too, can be Icarus.

Shitty Holden Caulfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lazarus, what’s your twenty?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Child labor death spiral

Intersectional Mother-in-Law/Ditzney Princess workplace culture has sure been grand. As they say on the internet, it’s tfw ur homeschooled autism-spectrum daughter wd rly benefit from a summer job w ur cray-cray cuz from church. Take me, Mr. Hozier.

Of course it hasn’t benefited the rest of us. That, I assume, was never the point. I don’t think the employment of the Ditzney Princess was even supposed to benefit the company. Probably half the crew can’t stand her, doing what she did before, which is what she was still doing when I threw in the towel on this never-ending fairy tale. Liturgical Steely Dan references aren’t much, but they’ll momentarily dull the pain and the sheer aggravation.

My involvement with these people as their colleague speaks to a number of things, not all of them encouraging. My main targets here are, once again, MiL and the Ditzney Princess. One or two of the other pickers get amped up by the DP’s childish bullshit, but they aren’t noteworthy trouble on their own. MiL and DP alone are enough to confirm that I am (was?) working for a surreally unprofessional operation staffed by children. We’ve got a co-owner who is grossly unfit to hold supervisory authority personally recruiting and, by some accounts, giving unacceptable latitude to, an exceptionally immature child who is functionally unemployable. It occurs to me that MiL may have lashed out at all of us as a group because doing so was easier and more harmonious in her family context than targeting the Ditzney Princess specifically for her wanton failure to comport herself appropriately in the workplace.

Poo-Poo Splatter, our friend from Laguna Niguel who literally went out on a limb and took a shit, benefited from this neighborly MILF discretion: her friends (possibly sic; most certainly sickened) were of a mind to fun the shit out of her for shitting before them for fun, but their mothers were uncomfortable with the prospect of justifying their own children to Poo-Poo Splatter’s mother for making fun of her precious snowflake just because she took a shit from a tree with company present. The Ditzney Princess would not really surprise me if she did likewise. Her parents are at once restrictive enough to order her not to read from their broad Index of non-Christian literature and permissive enough to send her to work acting as I’ve been chronicling. It’s easy to imagine MiL having some splaining to do to the Ditzney Princess’s mother for hurting the poor brat’s feels. If MiL alienates me, I leave; if she alienates the DP, she probably gets shit at the next family reunion for her grievous harshing of the mellow, which would reciprocally harsh her own mellow. The Ditzney Princess is the one with the high-power family back channel of adult authority to Mother-in-Law. This dynamic is pathological enough that it has already resulted in one of the extended family’s socialization problems being babysat at my workplace.

Advising me to just get another job makes sense from a perspective of abject ignorance and wishful thinking about the menial job market. It’s brutal, guys. The rub is that this dysfunctional berry farm is the best thing I’ve got going professionally. I know the lay of the land and the characters I have to navigate, and they take me back. That is, I did understand the cast of characters until the Ditzney Princess showed up. She’s worse than the ADHD spazz kid, who was too hey wanna ride bikes to glom onto anyone in particular other than his sister. She’s worse than the 4-F racist soldier-fluffer who gave us updates of his discoveries on Niggermania; his social skills were better and he was less obnoxious. Come to think of it, he was a strong candidate for membership on the Spectrum (many such cases!), but the thing about interacting with other autists is that one comes to realize that the Ditzney Princess has more going on than just autism. There are low-functioning, throw-the-cat-at-the-wall autists who are less obnoxious if they’re left alone and kept away from cats. They may still smear their shit all over the toilet seat because that’s funny, but according to relatives who take care of some (to bar the guest bedroom door against two confirmed unmarried siblings, including a likely sperg), the pay for fostering them is an order of magnitude or two better than what I’ve earned for putting up with the Ditzney Princess. Socialism FTW, fam.

The worst of these losers are tolerable enough until someone like the Ditzney Princess shows up, and then I’m clearing a fifth or a third (nothing so classy as a Fifth Third) of the minimum wage to be a peripheral player in a family drama that I’m hopeless to navigate. It’s pathetic, but these people, for all else that’s wrong with them, keep hiring me. The application process for other employers is a fruitless hellscape. We have noncompete clauses for sandwich flunkies at Jimmy John’s. What’s stopping Venezuela from invading us? Or Mexico? Nah, the Mexicans are familiar with what they’d have to administer. The application form at Wetzel’s Pretzels wanted to know my high school and college GPA.

Great Books for Men GBFM LZOLZOLOLZOZLO etc. was right about getting blacklisted at Starbucks for not doing well enough in school. This shit actually happens. What the fuck does my high school GPA have to do with slinging pretzels at the Fashion Valley Mall? I get that they want someone who is capable and diligent, but what would I have to do at the interview to convince a hiring manager that I’m not a hopeless, useless putz? Maybe I could tell them that I’ve forgotten where I went to school but please to accept this two-thousand-word essay on national decline, featuring pretzel logic.

At the other extreme, I wouldn’t be facing such discrimination if I looked like I’d skipped my English classes to climb into the United States through a storm drain. At that point, it’s basically a matter of not looking loaded like an Indonesian ferry. Being an MS-13 cholo might be a disqualifier, or it might not. As a campesino, the point is to be ablebodied, maybe not look like a current Chino yardie, and not obviously be high as giraffe balls. Show up speaking fluent English, and suddenly you might as well be applying for naturalization as a Japanese citizen. What’s in YOUR fridge, gaijin?

Americans who actually hire other Americans are to be cherished above rubies, but even the Association would have a hard time cherishing Mother-in-Law. Hell, I don’t even dislike her; I just can’t tolerate the way she treated us today. When that horseshit is just about the best thing going in an industry in a 300-mile radius, shit’s fucked up. There are a few other plausible options, but they’re sparse, and the logistics tend to be pretty awful.

The thing about being knocked down again and again is that it stops being an inspiration to get up again and starts being an inspiration to maintain a stabler position with a lower center of gravity. The berry farm is what we might call low. The work blatantly has to be done, but there’s no glory in it, no prestige, and not a hell of a lot of money. But because MiL has a thing against Mexicans, we’re all she’s got left, and we are neither Dutch nor much. Beggars can’t be choosers, and a lot of us are the beggars here. There aren’t a hell of a lot of options when the number of farms openly hiring fruit pickers within commuting distance can be counted on one hand. MiL isn’t even advertising for help, because WTF. Everyone else in fruit production either personally bemoans the wetback shortage or arranges for designated industry ululators to bitch about the tight wetback supply.

Not quite anyone could get a job at this joint, but most could. Not that most would, or that I’d cast blame on the reluctant. It would be fucking absurd for MiL to insist that she has recruiting standards. Well, isn’t that fetching. And I’m the Prince of Wales. My own standards in this business, as I’ve discussed before, are pretty damn low, but don’tcha know, Mother-in-Law has figured out how to fall shamblingly short of them.

I’m not really planning to go to work tomorrow. I’m fresh out of a clusterfuck at a company where I don’t make enough to financially justify my showing up in the first place. I went through the wringer precisely because I give a damn. When I say that I stop feeling like getting back up, one example is trying to explain any of this to hiring managers who haven’t been screwed into the sad margins by their own bosses. Like, I quit the job where I was making four dollars an hour on a really good day because one of my bosses had kept us out of the fields and subjected us to another bipolar rant about how useless we all were instead of letting us work. There are people in this country, especially in management, who don’t believe that such things happen. They damn well do happen. Mother-in-Law actually isn’t that bad by US managerial standards. She was intolerably bad today, but there’s worse.

These horrors aren’t negated by the scandalous impoliteness of discussing them with the craven, sniveling chickenshits who make hiring decisions. The rudeness of admitting that I fled back to a state full of garbage cans in search of deposit bottles as a refuge from an out-of-control boss doesn’t make it any less true that Chaka Can feels for me when the managerial class doesn’t, or that I’ve had bosses feel me almost as I’d expect of J. Denny Dundiddly.

My leg, Chesterfield! My leg!

Stray summertime thoughts on getting Americans to do farm work from an American who’s picking your damn fruit again

Posting help wanted ads in English is always a good start. Making sure that the ads are scrutable is also good; that way applicants know where the fuck to report for work and roughly what they’ll be facing. So is NOT having an application process beyond showing up with I-9 documents, completing the federal paperwork, and being basically ablebodied and compos mentis. This standard excludes Mixups in my Mind and Psychotarp, both of whom I would gladly exclude from any farm job under my supervision. I don’t support discrimination against the mentally ill per se; I support discrimination against the utterly incompetent, Sweet Jesus this fucker is a useless nutcase mentally ill, because I’ve worked around them and don’t care to do more unpaid outpatient social work for permanent charity cases who can’t be induced to shut up within the next 45 minutes upon the unsealing of their mouths.

The owners of the berry farm where I’m now starting my fourth season don’t abide by all of the pointers above, but they come a hell of a lot closer than most growers. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to keep all the Craigslist farm help wanted ads in Linn and Benton Counties straight. Mother-in-Law has, as they say, issues, or as Timmy says, TIMMEH!, which probably explains most of the farm’s high employee turnover and, I’d also guess, my having been one of only three pickers on duty the other day: not good, but still a hell of a lot better than all the asshole growers who keep showing up on the radio (Hockenberry: the fuck?) and in the papers to bitch about how they can’t find enough help because Donny Boy over there in Washington is scaring off all the Mexicans. Mother-in-Law doesn’t want the Mexicans on her property in the first place, since she had some bad experiences with them years ago, so we Yankees are as golden as we possibly could be with someone who still gets wound up from time to time and lectures the younguns. I think she figures that I’ll ghost her again and force her to phone me days later to get me back if she bugs me again, so I’m in even better shape.

By the way, #TeshTips: MiL’s problem, as far as I can tell, is specifically with profoundly non-Anglophone Mexicans from Mexico, especially when they come by the crew, not with, I dunno, Cruz Bustamante. That is, she doesn’t discriminate on the basis of national origin, or even necessarily on the basis of nationality, but on the basis of not being able to speak English or interact adequately with Americans. That’s a huge improvement (yuge!) over the industry standard of discriminating on the bases of nationality, national origin, and race against Americans. The farm isn’t a Whitey Rez, and neither, sanctimony about historic racial covenants in the state constitution and enduring Wow Much Whitey notwithstanding, is Oregon. Oregon has become a safe community for integrable members of the Community. Going back to 1850 to look for the uptight white who weren’t comfortable with the local color reveals many such cases, including Abraham Lincoln. If the pro-covenant explicit white nationalists and the anti-covenant revealed white nationalists insist on fighting over the racial composition of Oregon, Orange County, or Northern Idaho, that’s their problem for being such losers.

The ethnic and caste composition of America’s farm crews, on the other hand, is worth some spilled pixels. The hoary chestnut about Mexicans being willing to do the shit jobs that Americans won’t is one of the most racist things that can be said in polite company. Precisely because it’s so polite, it’s much more pernicious than the open lunatic racism of the doofus on the berry crew two years ago who peddled racist jokes about the Obamas (thanks for making me feel sympathy for those crooks, asshole). It’s racist against Americans, by shutting us out of labor markets, and it’s racist against Mexicans, by treating them as an entire nationality of indentured subalterns who must work themselves to death in the hope of being belatedly given a civic stake in the country that they’ve been hired to run.

This bigotry is hardly any less unfair to Mexico as a nation, which it treats as an endlessly refilling pool of surplus peasant labor that can be siphoned off at will to fill cut-rate shit jobs in El Norte. Mexico’s rather white elites (Wow Much Reflective) are mostly cool with this dysfunctional arrangement, since they’re able to buy their families hereditary shelter from its ill effects, but for everyone else, this bigotry and the policies arising from it are powerfully negative. One of these ill effects is suspiciously infertile Yanquis claiming to admire the family-oriented culture of the Mexican people. To translate this into English, rich white motherfuckers want the beaners to keep being good breeders for their own continued socioeconomic benefit as classy crackers.

How the fuck do you suppose ordinary Americans would feel about Canada if prominent, socially acceptable Canadians kept yammering on about how great it is that rural Mainers and Mississippians from the most dirt-poor families in our most dysfunctional counties are so fecund, and how great that is for Canada? It shouldn’t be too hard to imagine a strong Fuck Canada lobby in this case. Now assume that the Canadian government were also provoking drug cartel violence verging on a state of civil war in the streets of New York and Chicago. Try to tell me now that Mexicans aren’t more gracious towards us as a people and towards our government than any of us have cause to expect. We’re fucking monsters.

Sick Willie and Colonel Underpants are, too, but they aren’t structural problems, eh.

The ruling class of the US loves living in a country whose two main neighbors include a non-English-speaking one with large pockets of effectively third-world dysfunction. It’s an awfully convenient arrangement. A prosperous, well-governed Mexico would be a rather inconvenient development. It might even become prosperous enough to singlehandedly boost its outrageously troubled southeastern neighbors into a state of stability and prosperity, choking off our nanny supply. What fun would Guatemalan nannies be if they just up and left because they got tired of working for a family of assholes? Hell, what fun would it be for Chiquita if their relatives reliably went on strike and the local police totally flooded the zone any time there was a credible threat of corporate violence against union leaders? We don’t know these things because we don’t try.

We do know that the children of Latin American immigrants tend to integrate healthily into American communities, as do their parents when given a chance. The problem is that management doesn’t want them to integrate, especially in the first generation and especially those from the poorest, most destitute points south. Why waste an existing land bridge with through rail service to the US border? The way this multiculturalism is supposed to work is for the campesinos to maintain a parallel culture of poverty, ignorance of sexual hygiene conducive to large families, and no civil rights, allowing Yanqui to maintain its culture of indolence, thievery, family planning, and full civil rights. Latin American family planning, even just in the sense of let’s not have any more kids right now, has the potential to really crimp our style fifteen or twenty years down the road.

No American is about to venture into Michoacan and put saltpeter in the water supply; we’re much more likely to see scandals involving defective condoms distributed by shadowy groups with inferred ties to US intelligence and/or reactionary elements of the Roman Catholic Church. What we’re really likely to see, though, are continued efforts to keep rural Mexican government at service levels worthy of Niger. There are powerful elements in the United States that very much do not want Mexicans voluntarily choosing to have small families because their country and their communities have become stable, prosperous, and well-administered. For reactionary Catholic elements, family planning is a great excuse for a pissing match with evangelical upstarts over “their” spiritual territory in Mexico. For US intelligence and corporate interests, Latin North and Central America are great places to pay off local elite shitbirds to destabilize their own governments. All three very much enjoy the maintenance of in-country “cultures” centered around having unmanageably large families due to a combination of pervasive forcible rape and sexual ignorance.

The point of all that is that it’s harder to orchestrate the importation of a foreign peasantry from overseas. Management has to do more advance work and spend more money. WAFLA’s asshole “boots on the ground” buses rolling up and down Highway 97 may be empty billboards, for all I know. Washington State’s big growers don’t really need a dedicated bus service to transport legal Mexican field hands when they’ve got a semilegal Mexican peasant workforce voluntarily paying its own way north. I have no idea how much Donald Trump’s hostile language and beefed-up ICE deployments are actually scaring illegal immigrants away from the fields. There’s probably something to it, but the big growers and their lobbying associations have a compelling incentive to muddy the waters and a long, sordid history of fabricating labor shortages for political purposes. They’re just about the first association I’d expect to orchestrate false flag attacks against itself.

What’s problematic about the children and grandchildren of immigrant farmhands, of course, is that they soon start thinking of themselves as Americans. Maybe they go back to the old country to visit relatives from time to time, or maybe they go as tourists, but with their American identity they demand American pay and working conditions, and that’s a huge pain in the ass for the planter gentry. Maybe I should exclude American pay: the berry farm is understaffed more because it hardly advertises for help and because Mother-in-Law keeps alienating pickers than because the piece rate is shit. The work is really meaningful and pretty enjoyable on the whole, but of course we’re well within our rights to expect zero drama and to quit when that expectation is violated.

But that’s the thing. Many of us earn effective hourly rates that are objectively awful but still more or less stick around. Daughter-in-Law is able to keep at least a few of us satisfied with our working conditions by treating us well, and Mother-in-Law mostly stays out of the way. The 2015 season featured a special kind of crazy, and that’s probably part of why so few pickers returned in 2016, but the spotty help-wanted advertising and the below-industry-standard piece rate can’t helped.

They’re able to get Americans to show up anyway, so yeah, we’re truly a nation of feckless wastrels.

One of the absurd things about the supposed shortage of American farm labor is how many all-American crews can be found bucking hay. Hay bucks are a special kind of misery, far worse than any kind of fruit I’ve commercially picked or tended. I’ve spent one afternoon in my life bucking hay, three years ago, and that’s more than enough for now. I’ve never picked strawberries, which I’ve heard are their own special hell, but picking pretty much any other kind of fruit is better than heaving fifty to sixty pounds of hay onto a trailer again and again all day long. I’m not even sure that stooping over in a strawberry field is worse. To clarify, I’m assuming that none of these jobs are chain gang shit or Mexican day slavery; I’m thinking instead of how awful each job inherently is when it is not under the supervision of anyone who belongs in federal prison for slavedriving.

We’ve got one of the worst jobs in agriculture being done by some of the most all-American crews. If any farm job should be left to Mexicans because it’s so horrible, bucking hay should be it. The prevalence of free Americans in the hay fields indicates that hay, unlike many crops, isn’t grown by cartels of landed gentry assholes, but by upstanding yeomen.

By comparison, picking blueberries or grapes is the easiest thing in the world. It’s the difference between finishing the workday a bit tired and maybe sunburned and wondering what in God’s name one just did to one’s shoulders, back, and hands. These aren’t the only easy crops to work, either. I enjoyed picking olives much more than the olive-growing class in this country enjoys having people like me around picking ONLY 160 pounds on a slow day because it’s hot as fuck and I was deliberately put on an underpruned tree with dead wood jutting every which way. I’ve never picked apples or pears commercially, but they don’t look too hard. The problem, again, is managerial: payment by the full crate (900 pounds or so, if I recall correctly) is nuts.

There are some weird local cultural problems, too. Linn County has one of the highest  birthrates in Oregon and, probably not unrelated, a lot of parents who want their kids to get a damn job. Thirteen is the minimum hiring age for farm jobs, assuming that one doesn’t have community connections enabling the under-the-table hiring of twelve- or ten-year-olds. I ain’t gonna hate on any of that; the perfect is the enemy of the good here, and there’s a whole lot of bad in the industry. There’s a hell of a lot more accountability in this child labor arrangement than there is in the American day labor, farm labor contracting, or illegals-at-the-ranch-gates industries. If Mother-in-Law gets seriously out of control with the little ones or if the property becomes squalid, the minor pickers’ parents will hold her to account. For a smallholder point of comparison, think back on Joe Dirtbag and Pot-o-Shit Friend.

Getting paid aboveboard by owners who generally treat their help quite well and run a physically clean operation is some good shit. Or, as Pot-o-Shit Friend would say, I’ll show you some! If you liked it then you shouldn’a put a lid on it. Seriously, the alternatives in this industry can be horrific. Hell, two or three dollars an hour at a lowball piece rate is better than any of the legion WWOOF shysters who never pay their help a dime. In my case, I don’t feel like jumping ship and having to establish business relationships with a new set of growers growing the same crop in the same valley just to get closer to minimum wage, and if there are berries to pick on payroll, I sure as hell don’t feel like wandering into the midst of some let’s-you-and-him-fight set-up across the driveway from a simpering little putz who’s shitting in a trash can.

The constituency for shitshacking hippie communes is too bourgeois for me. I’m in it for the money; I welcome the money and the cash. It isn’t always much, but I still welcome it. What I find incomprehensible are all the bougie parents who would rather have their children work unpaid for totally derelict shysters who maintain their properties in squalor because they make a show of being organic than get paid to work for a grower who’s less groovy but basically upstanding. FICA deductions, no yo-and-him-fight, and no endlessly festering piles of shit are upstanding enough for me. I’m not saying that fourteen years of age is too late to teach the kids a work ethic, but it’s probably because my bosses are so lax about hiring teens that I’ve been able to get work with them year after year in my thirties.

I’m lucky to have found a reliable, near-zero-bullshit employer in a field that I love. I imagine that my employers are avowedly reactionary in their formal politics, but they’re obviously liberal enough towards their employees. (Mostly; the ones they recruit through their parents get to deal with some bullshit that the owners know better than to inflict on me or on their older teen pickers.) It’s the groovy hippie boomer retirees in places like Hood River County who would rather have their own sparse descendants either work for free in a pile of shit in the incoherent interest of career advancement or stay the hell out of fields that were never fit for anything better than a Mexican peasant in the first place.

If you want a real downer, think about what the common cause of moneyed pseudoliberal dipshits with the planter class means for the future of the Democratic Party. Or for the future of American politics in general. Child labor one can outgrow in a matter of a few years. Good luck outgrowing what the overclass and the bourgeoisie aping it have made of America.