Monday, August 31, 2009

How to be an asshole, the baby steps

It’s easy to be an asshole.

Here’s a quick how to guide.

And none of this required repeated viewing of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the final episode of Seinfeld, any episodes of the Ali G show, or visits to the in-laws.

Go to the supermarket. Buy a lot of stuff. A lot of heavy stuff. Big jars and bottles and things. Don’t complain when the checker, a guy who looks like he just was cut from an NFL training camp, overstuffs each bag. Try not to exhale when pushing the cart out the door, even though it’s probably the most weight you’ve moved in a few months. (There’s extenuating circumstances there, but not for this post.)

Leave the cart while retrieving your car (remember the upscale neighborhood post from earlier this summer? It applies here. No one will steal your groceries in Bethesda. It’s my litmus test, and it works.)

Now here’s the thing. For the roughly 15 years I’ve lived in this neighborhood, and shopped at this one grocery store, on the trips in which I’ve used my car, I’ve just about always left the cart at the door, retrieved my car, and then loaded up the trunk with the food and stuff purchased.

Well, out of nowhere pops up miracle parking area bag supervisor boy extraordinaire. He’s wearing a Safeway shirt, perhaps even a nametag with the moniker provided by his parents some twenty years ago.

Now I don’t recall seeing this guy anywhere before. Not when I left the store a moment earlier. Not when I walked through the door 20 minutes earlier. Not on any of my hundreds of visits to this store.

But here’s miracle parking area bag supervisor boy not only ogling my bags, but beginning to fondle them, seeking out somewhere to take them, to place them, so the bags and the contents could have a good home until they would be consumed and properly disposed of.

So this is his job, right? I mean, where else, even these days, can a down’s baby get a responsible job, one that’s challenging. It’s really going to be bag checker, or bag loader. Something with bags, unless your mom was the Governor of Alaska, I suppose.

Again, I didn’t ask for miracle boy to appear, wasn’t offered the services of miracle boy, wasn’t asked if I needed assistance with my bags (a polite offer often made at the checkout at this store, but not made by the former NFL wannabe at checkout.)

So what did I do? I accepted the non-verbal offer of services by miracle boy, I opened the trunk, helped to organize a fire line of the bags from the cart from the wonder boy to me so at least these overstuffed bags could make it into the trunk before exploding, as opposed to landing on the stained and already pungent once dark asphalt tarmac of the parking area space I was temporarily using. This worked, everything made it into the trunk, organized as if it were luggage in the belly of a jet, and with a swift move, I closed the trunk, and made way to the driver’s seat.

Now, here’s the instant asshole part. I didn’t tip the kid. Didn’t even take the time to seek out a nametag, or say anything other than thanks.

Partly this was because all I had on me were a pair of twenties, obtained at the register checkout. I’m not one for cash, and I usually have a few bucks on me, but not at this time.
What to do? Get change somewhere? Be a real big asshole and ask for change for a twenty? Tip him a twenty? Blow him off? Thank him, and wish him well?

There’s no winning this, is there. And it’s even more troubling when you have the look of the bag boy in your eyes, like the last thing you see before you die, or blog, whichever comes first.

Does it matter in any way to hear that miracle parking area bag supervisor boy was a down’s child? Was he let down further by my behavior, or just accustomed to the rudeness of early 21st century life in the important Washington suburbs. At least the car he helped load the stuff into was a modest old Toyota, not some fancy new thing, one that cries out “tip me, motherfucker, or this car loses, now.”

But, still, it’s easy to be an asshole. Just see. Your time will come. We all have it in us. Some more than others.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

trashed, ouch!

My fancy pants alma-mater (that's 100,000 dollar talk for college) was just trashed in the latest issue of GQ.

That's supposed to sting, but has GQ mattered since Level 42 broke up?

Under the header '25 douchiest colleges' the magazine proceeds to swipe and slime a broad range of schools, from large state colleges to elite academies to micro-schools.

It's actually quite funny, especially when it's nailing the other places, so it's with mock offense that I note what it said about humble Brown University, ranked #1 as the top douchiest school.* And I add that they mostly got it right, dammit!

Here's the copy from GQ:

Home of: The "Peace Sign on My Mom's 7 Series"

DoucheAffectations: A belief that grades, majors, and course requirements are just another form of cultural hegemony; using the word hegemony.

In ten years, will be: Living with your family in an old house that you quit your job to refurbish yourself (by overseeing a contractor) with painstaking historical accuracy in a formerly decaying section of the city that's recently been reclaimed by a small population of white guys in hand-painted T-shirts who are helping you put together a health care fund-raiser for

Douchiest course offering: English 200: On Vampires and Violent Vixens: Making the Monster Through Discourses of Gender and Sexuality.

Honorable-mention limousine-liberal institutions: Duke, Reed, Oberlin, Wesleyan, Bard, RISD.

*They wanted to rank Duke as #1, but didn't want to give it the satisfaction.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ahh, the convenience of air travel

OK, summer travel season is almost over. But that means fall travel season is right around the corner. And those meetings you put off, that event you have to attend, that relative you must see, those trips are coming up.

Even with Labor Day flying estimated to be 3% down from last year, there’s still a bunch of us heading up to the once friendly skies, looking to get somewhere, on time, luggage in tow.

But wait. We all know the indignity that is airline travel today. Even Tom Wolfe parodied it from the perspective of a plutocrat brought down to earth in this months Vanity Fair. And for those of us who don’t have G5’s, or drivers, or stubborn faith (or time) in Amtrak, that mean we need a coach seat to get cross country, or to that conference in Dallas, or that show in Minneapolis.

So if you think that baring feet, and allowing pants to sag from stripping off your belt, and having to bag and limit the volume you carry of lotions and potions and notions of travel that was once romantic, then get ready for this update when it comes to traveling overseas.

A local television affiliate in Washington, DC, has this real winner, the kind of thing that might leave us running naked through a concourse, seeking a blanket from a flight attendant (for a fee, I’m sure) just to get past the indignity.

Tip: Register Items Before You Leave The United States.

If you laptop computer was made in Japan—for instance—you might have to pay duty on it each time you brought it back into the United States, unless you could prove that you owned it before you left on your trip. Documents that fully describe the item—such as sales receipts, insurance policies, or jeweler's appraisals—are acceptable forms of proof.

To make things easier, you can register certain items with CBP before you depart— including watches, cameras, laptop computers, firearms, and CD players—as long as they have serial numbers or other unique, permanent markings. Take the items to the nearest CBP office and request a Certificate of Registration (CBP Form 4457).

It shows that you had the items with you before leaving the United States and all items listed on it will be allowed duty-free entry. CBP officers must see the item you are registering in order to certify the certificate of registration. You can also register items with CBP at the international airport from which you’re departing. Keep the certificate for future trips.

And I am sure we’ve all been keeping receipts for our cameras, our shoes, our shirts, our pants, our eyewear, our laptops, all that we have that is now imported, and for which we just presumed it was ours, no need to justify.

Thanks, DHS, for sharing this new Customs and Border Protection initiative with us.

It makes last week’s requirement that we have to provide our complete legal name and DOB when purchasing air travel seem, well, dated.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Overheard conversations......

Fingers are healed. Hopefully the funny bone is back intact. I'll let you be the judge.

How many of you can cite Mark Alan Stamaty.

For many years, going back to the mid-70’s, the cartoonist wrote a weekly strip for the Village Voice, I believe it was called ‘Guaranteed Overheard conversations.’
These were often amusing fly on the wall musings from a Manhattanite, picking up on the angst, the humor, the lust, the drudgery, the life of New York at that time.

I read it pretty regularly, and found it both enlightening and pretty damn funny.

So just this afternoon I’m making a run to the local supermarket to pick up some things. I only had a few items, so I was in the express line. I really did have fewer than 15 items, way less, which was good. Don’t you hate it when someone busy 47 items of just 3 products, and claims they’re just 3 things.

So I’m in line, and the guy doing the register in my line strikes up a conversation, with the cashier behind my back, in the next stand. At first this was offputting, but the conversation was amusing.

“Hey, man, ever been to Amsterdam?”


First guy is a medium skinned kid, around 20, heavy eyes, seems laid back. Second guy is real dark, short rasta curls, skinny as a whip.

“I’m going there in November. For Potfest. It’s gonna be great.”



By this time all my stuff had gone through, I’d signed and paid for my stuff, and I was loading it up into my backpack.

The young woman behind me seemed to look around 18, though I suppose she was 21, 22, even. Small white woman, buying one can of soup. I guess she’s planning to be a cat later when she gets older. Whatever.

But here’s the interesting thing. Little white girl who looks like she could do J. Crew ads, if she wasn’t 5’2”, listening to what these guys have been saying, jumps in to add some context and offer a warning.

“Be careful about the shops over there. They might have the stuff marked on the labels, but it’s a lot stronger than the stuff over here.”

So skinny little girl offers her wisdom, pays for her Campbells soup, and walks on out.

Wouldn’t have thought this clean cut kid had context on weed, let along experience in Amsterdam. Funny what you hear while waiting in the line in a suburban supermarket.

And we’re worried about a war on drugs 40 years after Woodstock? Perhaps it is time to legalize, tax, and regulate the damn stuff. Start in California where it’s the state plant, and let each state determine how to work with it, just like alcohol. Allowed by the feds, regulated at the state level. Doesn’t seem that it would hurt any more people than it has already, and if anything it might free up law enforcement in some areas, expedite judicial proceedings in others, and fatten the coffers in some counties and states across the country.

Where’s former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson these days?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hard to blog with broken fingers

Gonna have to take a short blogging break. Hard to type and blog with broken fingers. No worries, but if you red the blog below, you'll understand. Back when privileges are returned.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How Do I Look?

How can four simple words, all single syllables, strike fear into the heart of any conscious male?

How do I look?

Is there a correct answer? Of course. You look great. That’s the winner. It’s clean, simple, hopefully honest. It’s direct, and positive. Great has meaning, significance, potency even.

How do I look?

Other answers suffice, but none measure up to you look great. You could add an affectation at the end, so that it comes out you look great, darling, or you look great, honey, or you look great, scruntchums, all of which make it a bit more endearing, a bit more earnest, a bit more human and connected. You look great, dear, doesn’t do that, so avoid the irony, the sarcasm, even the hint of wry humor, particularly if it’s morning, and you’re each racing to get dressed and out the door.

Inappropriate responses include:

You look fantastic. Too showy. Too forced. Too gay, unless you’re in a same sex relationship, and then go for it.

You look fine. Might work if you’re into a 70’s Barry White phase of life. But if that’s still your soundtrack, get with the program, drop those platforms and poly bell-bottoms and upgrade to this century.

You look OK. OK? OK for what? That gets each of you nowhere. It sows doubt on your ability to provide free praise or offer a compliment at any time. It completely undermines anything else you might have been doing, saying, thinking for the past, oh, I don’t know, length of the relationship. OK is just not OK, never. OK?

I don’t know. OMG, what would you be thinking to respond in this way? Is there a tumor putting pressure on your skull, restricting blood flow to the brain, neutering certain cerebral functions? Are you asleep. Never respond to this question in your sleep. Who knows what you might be thinking, and you don’t want to suggest your lovely significant other leave the house in what you’re imagining at that moment. Are you just clueless? Have you never heard the question before? Are you just an inert, sluggish, wisp of a being, incapable of thinking, responding, and communicating with others in a way that engages and extends existing relationships? (if the answer is yes, just return to your Star Trek play set immediately, and leave interpersonal relationships to those with legitimate interest in one another)

Are you talking to me? The denial option could work, but if you’re in a store, a crowded store, and you’ve been dragged along on a shopping trip. If that’s the case, you’re in way too deep, and even feigning deafness, confusion, vertigo, or any other illness or malady, permanent of temporary, won’t cut it. If you’ve not only been dragged to the store, but are still there when she comes out of the changing room, and haven’t come up with a creative enough solution to get yourself out of this predicament (think, I’m venting), you’re a goner. You damn well better have a good answer, and it better be something that sounds like you look great. (For reference, think of the response Rob Corddry provided his wife in the Farrelly brothers’ remake of ‘The Heartbreak Kid.” When out clothes shopping with his wife, he said perfect, you look great, and added thumbs up and facial gestures to support the spouse. All of these are perfectly good options, and work well, depending of course on conditions and circumstances.)

How do I look?

Don’t say she looks good if she just doesn’t in that getup. It will come back to hurt you, in ways you cannot even begin to imagine. At a time of her choosing. And she knows it, and you don’t, so it’s doubly dangerous for you to try and lie your way out of the predicament. Or even just gloss over it.

So don’t wake up unarmed. Don’t ever leave the house for a weekend shopping spree unprepared. Protect yourself against those scare words. Those questions that can lead to pain, suffering, even banishment. Don’t become a victim of circumstance. Protect yourself. Knowledge truly is power.

Besides, there is no good answer, or right answer, or ….well, I hope you get it by now.

Tomorrow, we take on the mother of all questions. That loaded six word question, again, all single syllables, that goes beyond fear, creating sweat lines across male foreheads the world over. Tomorrow, should I live to see the day, we take on the eternal question, does this make me look fat?