The irredeemable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small-town values

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saving face

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bogus midcentury nostalgia and other yuppie wannabe bullshit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brahmin pornography

It’s another Pleasant Valley Sunday, another day for you and me in paradise. Oh, look twice at this sloppy outburst of literary feminist navelgazing commissioned across the street from the Port Authority. Or, better yet, don’t look even once; it’s pretty dreadful. TL;DR: A chronic international student asks why it’s okay for men to wander vagrantly around the great (read: not totally dangerous) cities of the world when women are sometimes treated like common whores for doing likewise, and why the feminine version of the French masculine word for parasitical walkabout traditionally connotes sitting on ass like a proper lady, discovering in the course of her research that certain literary women before her did, in fact, partake of the Hemingway-on-the-loose shit, and incidentally some stuff about the existence of local working classes hidden in plain sight in the Beautiful Cookbook tableau of city life.

Alternate working title: Everybody’s Gone Swerfin’, Swerfin’ USA. Working girls, construed to also include laundresses and produce hawkers, were supposedly accorded the liberty to go out on the streets with whatever they were selling, while women who were evidently useless, but not their male counterparts, were not given the same street passes. The NYT being the NYT, there’s no ready way to tease the sexy sexual politics apart from the unsexy class politics, but this is no social science, it’s just another sticky day of literary horseshit for you. Yes, that was bad, but have you read the link yet? I still haven’t read it through, mainly because it sucks. Think about better uses of $27.00 plus applicable tax for ownership of a copy of this:

Following Elkin as she explores the city, we inch into memoir territory. Although she is a native of New York, she makes her first acquaintance with aimless urban walking in France. To her, the streets of Paris “seemed saturated with presence, even if there was no one there but me. These were places where something could happen, or had happened, or both, a feeling I could never have had at home in New York, where life is inflected with the future tense.”

Jesus Christ, Caulfield. At least she isn’t spending so much on cabfare. It’s fascinating to learn that New York City, whose history I’ve studied, doesn’t have one. 27 divided by 140/200/350/600/20/whatever=do your own damn math and you, too, can figure out how close the money you didn’t spend on that stupid book could get you to being able to hire your next honey. I decided not to exclude blow-and-go from thick, and I do mean thick, bitches in Over-the-Rhine, as portrayed on Police Women of Cincinnati. Maybe I should have, and by “maybe,” I mean “absolutely.” You’re welcome. Cincinnati is a famous city, too. Jerry Springer was once its mayor. Some redneck dipshits hollered vaguely aggressive abuse at me from their truck while I was walking around Newport (maybe Covington?), every bit as much on my own as these lit chicks. When school was dismissed, I got to hear a dirty white boy telling his eight-year-oldish daughter, “Daddy thought he was gonna have to go to jail today, but I told the judge, fuck that shit!” This was his response to hearing from the crossing guard, a kindly redneck lady growing old before her time, that his daughter had done really well on her most recent test and that he’d be proud of her for that. Should I write a book about any of this? No, that’s the wrong question. I could bang out something presentable and more or less coherent in a matter of days, but if I did, would I have a snowball’s chance on Diamond Head of getting it plugged in the NYT Book Review?

The most insightful take I’ve ever heard on The Catcher in the Rye was from some high school students in the South Bronx, who were floored that Holden Caulfield was so discontented when he had the privilege of being able to fuck around the nice parts of Manhattan in a taxi all day. Like, doesn’t that fool have to work? If he’s so privileged, why is he so unhappy? Aside from the litany of ways that the privileged sabotage their own psychic wellbeing and that of their dependents (let’s turn Big Ears Teddy around; he shouldn’t have to see that, either), these kids were right. If an overrated novel was going to inspire Mark David Chapman to off John Lennon, that was at least a fitting enough one. Mr. Lennon, most recently of New York, is certainly no longer inflected with the future tense.

I’ve bought day passes and gone joyriding on RTC to see if anything interesting was happening at the Reno Airport, largely because I couldn’t figure out what the hell else I was in a position to do with my week. Where’s my New York Times book review? More to the point, what’s the buy-in price on that scene? I have a bachelor’s degree in the liberal arts from a regionally prestigious private college in the Northeast, and my network is fucking useless. What’s the source of the money that keeps these bitches wandering around Paris with no visible means of support? Don’t tell me I’m the only one who’s on an allowance. If I’m not mistaken, Reno is cheaper than Paris. I submit that these broads have access to capital. I personally know a woman who, for reasons not fully explained to me, has the means to frequently travel between the West Coast, expensive expat parts of Mexico, and Morocco, and, as far as I can tell, to do so without sleeping in doorways. She’s on the lit scene, too. I’m pretty sure JetBlue isn’t offering $84 specials to Casablanca.

According to the Emily Bailout story, the buy-in for a graduate sinecure at Alma Mater, Tried and True was Noble $50,000, payable upfront. My understanding is that Emily Bailout doesn’t even have a talent for writing overwrought Paris, Je T’aime bullshit. Whom am I failing to pay off for a damn job?

The most disgusting thing about this is the expectation that everyone agree with the proposition that the Times is a left-wing paper. It’s actually a mishmash of cultural limousine liberalism and reaction in crypsis that makes John Lindsay at his worst look like Richard Nixon at his best. There are reasons why Jacobin doesn’t have its own office tower on Eighth Avenue. Or, for that matter, its own postmodernist recreation of a Soviet secret police headquarters within walking distance of the White House. Democracy Dies in Darkness, after all, and the NYT and the WaPo, full as they are with spooks, know a thing or two about the dark side.

“Do I deserve a coffee for that?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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