Gary Johnson Can’t Name His Favorite Color

Third party presidential candidate Gary Johnson came under harsh criticism earlier this month when he was unable to answer a straightforward question about the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Now dubbed “The Aleppo Moment” it seems Governor Johnson’s ignorance is not exclusive to the arena of foreign policy. At the conclusion of last night’s MSNBC Town Hall, host Chris Matthews asked Johnson to name his favorite color, and, once again, Johnson was unable to field the question.

“What’s your favorite color?” Chris Matthews asked, looking down to his list of very important questions.

“What’s my favorite?” said Johnson, whose eyes widened with terror.

“Any color, in any of the possible shades, name one color that you love and enjoy. Any color,” repeated Matthews.

“Blue ain’t bad!” chimed in Johnson’s running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld.

“No no you go ahead,” Matthews said, directing the question back to Johnson, who sits at the top of the Libertarian ticket. “You gotta do this, any color, any shade. There’s dark colors, there’s light colors, there’s tropical colors, there’s fall colors, there’s Christmas colors, there’s Easter colors. Name a color you like.”

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment in that one color, you know when you step in dog poo,” Johnson said sheepishly.

“But I’m giving you the whole spectrum, any color in the rainbow you like. Pick any color,” Matthews chastised.

“The color when you step in it,” Johnson said, unable to recall what color dog shit is.

“Brown?” Weld said, assisting his running mate.

“Brown, yes,” Johnson said.

With the awkwardness so thick you could cut it with a knife, Matthews turned to Weld. “What’s your favorite color? Get him off the hook,” he said.

“Green,” Weld answered.

Either impressed with Weld’s quick wit, or relieved that the whole color business was finally over, the live audience clapped their hands.

In a recent NBC/Marist poll, 78% of Americans said they could not see themselves voting for someone whose favorite color was brown, while 19% said liking brown should be punishable by death.

With Johnson’s inability to answer simple questions becoming a pattern, the question now becomes whether the pot-smoking Libertarian is qualified for the position he seeks. Should someone who can’t name their favorite color really be trusted with the nuclear codes? Can someone who doesn’t instinctively love red, white and blue really be Commander in Chief? Could Johnson’s lack of familiarity with colors become a matter of national security?

I guess we’ll have to wait for November to find out.

White Men Can Jump (Sort of)

During my senior season at The University of Findlay, we played an away game at Central State University, an historically black school located in Wilberforce, Ohio. The highlight of my individual playing career came during the second half of the game when I made the CSU crowd emit a collective “Ohhh” after I attempted to tip a ball in at the rim.

You see, I was that rarest of birds – a White Man Who Could Jump. Well, sort of. I wasn’t high enough to dunk it or anything, but at just 5 foot 11 I managed to get my hand parallel to the rim, and my effort earned the approval of a hostile crowd.

When they saw me rocket to the hoop among a cluster of athletically-superior men, their natural reaction was to be impressed – and also a bit shocked. Seeing the shortest (and whitest) dude on the court jump the highest is a peculiar sight indeed, one that evoked a guttural response that couldn’t be helped. The last white guy to make an all-black crowd emit a noise like that was Michael Jackson.

Four years before I was wowing crowds with missed layups, I played in the 2005 North-South All-Star game, held each April to recognize Ohio’s best high school ballers. My roommate for the weekend was Xavier commit and future NBA star Derrick Brown. At practice the day before the game, Derrick asked me if I could dunk. He was a bit hesitant because Derrick knew you had to be careful asking a white guy that particular question; you might accidentally trigger a violent and painful memory from his past. For all Derrick knew, I was more likely to morph into a Transformer than I was to dunk a basketball.

I thought about Wesley Snipes chastising Woody Harrelson for being too pale to dunk a basketball, and then bent down and pumped furiously at the tongues of my sneakers. I had been dreaming of dunking since I was three years old, but dream-ability doesn’t always translate to the real-world (like how I always seem to last longer than two and a half minutes when I have dream-sex). 

“Hey, let’s find out together,” I told Derrick. He looked around the gym, as if for a medic. This white boy is about to attempt a dunk, ya’ll. Should we go ahead and call 911 now?

I don’t know if it was the adrenaline coursing through my veins because future pros were asking about my ability, or if I was momentarily possessed by the ghost of Spud Webb, but I slammed the ball down on my very first attempt.

“Take that Wesley Snipes!” I shouted as I landed safely on the court. I looked around the gym and saw wrinkled five dollar bills exchanging hands. And once again the general mood was one of astonishment. For some of my teammates, it was the first time they’d ever seen a white man perform such an act. It was a bit like seeing a solar eclipse: Amazing and rare, but it also kind of hurts your eyes.

(I saw in their faces that some of my teammates were also wondering if I was a surprisingly proficient dancer. The answer, if you’re wondering, is a resounding yes. You’ve heard of Magic Mike, but what you know about Abracadabra Aaron?)

Having proven myself, Derrick started throwing me alley-oops. It was a surreal reversal of basketball roles. A 6 foot 8 inch black man throwing oops to a 5 foot 11 white boy was Bizarro-World basketball, and I was the weird mayor. But Derrick didn’t mind. In a seeming state of shock, he just kept feeding me lob after lob, and with each successful slam I had to assure him that he was not the subject of an elaborate prank and that Ashton Kutcher would not materialize suddenly from behind the bleachers.

When I finally exhausted myself, Derrick gave me some congratulatory dap and tried hard to wipe the look of shock off his face. But no one was more surprised than me. I had never dunked before, so where exactly had this sudden ability come from? Were these hoops regulation size or was this gym revolutionizing the 8 foot rim? Was some kind of history being made that maybe needed to be documented? And should I be declaring for the NBA draft instead of preparing to take my talents to Hancock County, Ohio?

When we got back to our room and Derrick said, “Man, you’ve got some serious hops,” I turned around to see if he was talking to himself in the mirror. D-Brown was about to star at Xavier for four years, and then log three seasons with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, and he’s complimenting me on my leaping ability. It’d be like Yasmine Bleeth telling someone they’re really good at running down the beach in a tight red swimsuit.

I should’ve told Derrick to put a good word in for me with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan. MJ was obviously impressed with Derrick Brown and Derrick Brown was clearly impressed by me, so in a way, if you think about it (really really really hard), it’s like Air Jordan himself was impressed by my basketball prowess. That’s just logic.

Eat your heart out, Michael Jordan. I’ve already signed on to play Division II ball.

The night before the All-Star game, Derrick was reading “The Purpose Driven Life,” which I found a bit strange because to me the only purpose to life was getting handjobs from your girlfriend and getting buckets on scrubs.

We watched the movie Road Trip, which was playing that night on TBS. Derrick had never seen it, but he laughed a lot, and kept looking over at me with a look on his face like, “Crazy ass white people.” We discussed what our girlfriends might do if we accidentally mailed them a sex tape we’d made with another girl, and agreed that it would not be pretty. When Tom Green gets attacked by a boa constrictor, Derrick crossed his chest and went back to his book.

Four years later, Derrick and I would be on opposing sides of an exhibition game that Xavier won by just three points. I was out of the game with a broken right ankle, but had I been healthy I likely would’ve had at least two dunks to give us the victory. Lucky them.

Derrick Brown was one of the nicest humans I ever met. And he was equally as humble, and tall. I felt bad they didn’t make hotel beds bigger for freakazoids like Derrick. His size 24 feet hung off the edge, and I’m pretty sure they tucked his sheets in because Derrick thrashed around all night like he was having nightmares about white guys dunking on him. Lack of sleep is probably why Derrick only partially dominated the next day’s game. My neck was sore after two straight days of looking up to him.

The next afternoon, during warmups before the game, I dunked the ball once again. But this time my implausible feat was caught on tape by my mom, who recorded everything I ever did on a basketball floor, including the time in 5th grade when I ripped my jersey off and chest-bumped a ref shortly after watching a Bulls game where Dennis Rodman did the same. When the NBA came knocking on my mom’s door looking for footage of me playing as a kid, she’d be ready – that is, if the NBA had an adapter and VCR to play the old cassette tapes we used.

Unfortunately, the video evidence of me dunking before the North-South game has since been lost. Morgan Lewis, a teammate of mine at Findlay and current Canadian league pro, borrowed the tape and never returned it. (Feel free to shame him on the Interwebs.)

See, Morgan was also in the North-South game and had about six spectacular dunks for the opposing squad, so he wanted to make a copy of the tape. Morgan was one of those dunkers; you know, the kind that felt the need to dunk in actual games. I was more of a practice and warmups kind of guy. I reserved my dunks for the folks who showed up early to games.

Now that I think about it, maybe Morgan destroyed the tape. The way he could fly was a little less impressive if we lived in a world where 5 foot 11 inch white boys could dunk as well. The tape diminished Morgan’s freakish athleticism, and thus needed to be destroyed so that people would be all the more impressed by his own abilities. I think they call that motive, ladies and gentleman.

I like to think of the tape of me dunking as the Holy Grail for short white guys who play the sport of basketball. It proves that we can in fact dunk (and also that Wesley Snipes movie-titles are apparently not to be trusted). Come to think of it, Woody dunks at the end of the movie, so shouldn’t it be called something like As It Turns Out White Men Can Jump?

Since I’ll likely never see that tape again, maybe I should fly to Turkey, where Derrick Brown is still playing professionally, and get him on record as having seen a white boy dunk a basketball. Though I’m not sure if Derrick would even recognize me. Not until I jogged his memory with my uncanny Caucasian athleticism that is.

You may be asking yourself, Why not just emulate the tape now? Grab an iPhone and a ball, and go re-create the magic. Well, I’ll tell you why. Because I couldn’t dunk a basketball today if Monique Alexander’s continued career in the porn industry depended on it. And I’d rather shoot myself in the face than not see that person do sex anymore.

After I get Derrick’s testimony, I’ll have him put me in touch with Michael Jordan to see if MJ would be willing to offer me a position as Franchise Miracle Worker. If I could dunk a ball at my height (and with my Irish pigmentation) then surely I could help the Hornets win a few basketball games.

But that tape was real, and it proved something astonishing. If it ever is recovered, we’ll probably want to add it to the archive of monumental athletic achievements. Jesse Owens and his medals. Michael Phelps and his. And a 5 foot 11 inch white guy from the suburbs dunking a basketball…on a real sized hoop!

Woody Harrelson’s dunk at the conclusion of White Men Can’t Jump simply won’t do. Because if Woody Harrelson can dunk, then Grizzly Adams really did have a beard. The alley-oop he received from Sidney Deane in their matchup with Duck and the King was clearly staged for the purposes of a film (one that, somehow, did not receive that year’s Oscar for Best Picture).

Because at 5 foot 11, Woody Harrelson is like most white guys: He needs props and some serious editing to dunk a basketball. As a matter of fact, even the black guy in that movie couldn’t really dunk. Wesley Snipes is 5 foot 9. I’d bet Kortney Kane’s continued career in the porn industry he can’t even touch rim.

No, the true Holy Grail is me dunking in warmups the day I scored more points than a future employee of Michael Jordan. My sheets were untucked that night, and I slept wonderfully. I dreamed that I lasted for eight whole minutes with Yasmine Bleeth, and woke up refreshed and ready to put on a show in warmups. Because white men can dunk…sort of.

Laflinesque

I may or may not know what the term Kafkaesque means…

Kafkaesque is usually employed, though perhaps erroneously, to describe something that’s overly complex to a point of absurdity.

But this definition, potentially insufficient (or even entirely wrong), might originate from, and be only a commentary of, the legal proceedings faced by Josef K. in Franz Kafka’s 1925 novel The Trial. In which case the above definition would be unsatisfactory — that is, unless all of Kafka’s writing features a similarly complicated premise.

The word might mean something more, or different, though I’m not sure exactly what addition is appropriate and what alternative might be more accurate.

But my lack of certainty on what the term Kafkaesque really means should not lead (me or anyone else) to the conclusion that the word can in fact be exclusively defined as OVERLY COMPLEX TO A POINT OF ABSURDITY.

I suspect Kafkaesque is a word very much like the word Orwellian (and not just because they’re both known, in technical terminology, as eponymous adjectives). The word Orwellian (again, I cannot be certain, but suspect) has a primary use (to describe an imperious government that practices intrusive surveillance of its citizenry) in addition to some lesser known and probably more complicated secondary-meaning, one that (maybe) has more to do with the author and his process than with any single effort in the writer’s overall oeuvre.

My suspicion then, that these words cannot possibly have only this singular meaning, stems from my knowledge that the men the words originate from wrote much more than a single book. Coming Up for Air is not Orwellian in the sense that 1984 is…is it? If Coming Up for Air is “Orwellian” it’s only by way of some other, less popular definition of the term — one that has nothing to do with surveillance states. I’m more hesitant when it comes to defining Kafkaesque because, at the time of this writing, I’ve only ever read The Trial and a few of Kafka’s short parables.

The outputs of both Orwell and Kafka, having died at 47 and 40 respectively, are, to the great misfortune of the reader (and the literary world as a whole), not what they might’ve been had these men not perished at such regrettably young ages.

This reminds me of the (at least semi-solemn) problem of identifying a writer by his work rather than by who he actually is (or was) outside the worlds of his fictional conception, and doing so by assigning the ideas and views expressed within the art to the artist himself, or, conversely, attempting to interpret an author’s fiction as the result of events or emotions he experienced in his actual life.

Is it not unfair, if not downright intellectually lazy, to hold the opinion, as Edwin Williamson apparently does (according to David Foster Wallace), that Jorge Louis Borges’ short-story “The Wait” (about mobsters trying to kill each other) is significant because it results from Borges striking out with a woman named Estela Canto?

By the way, David Foster Wallace did not believe this was much of a problem when it came to Kafka himself, whose works he describes as “expressionist, projective, and personal.” DFW thought interpretation of Kafka’s work could in fact be improved by knowing the personal and psychological circumstances concerning Kafka the man.

It will be (at least) difficult (if not downright impossible) for the reader of these words to believe that, as I was writing them, Bridget Jones’s Diary was playing, muted, on my television, and, in the background of one scene (several in fact, once even with the bald and easily recognizable head of Salman Rushdie in the more immediate foreground), there is displayed a large billboard advertising a book called Kafka’s Motorbike.

Now, with the (fairly incredible) coincidence aside (at least for now), does this say anything at all about Kafka, or about the term Kafkaesque? Put otherwise, do the people who made Bridget Jones’s Diary portray a ghastly misunderstanding or a coyly brilliant one of so-called Kafkan Irony?

Kafka, it might be safe to say, never owned or even possessed a bike with a motor on it. Does any of this matter? If so, in what way, and to whom? How, dare I wonder, would Franz Kafka feel about his name appearing in a movie like Bridget Jones’s Diary? Would Kafka have been a Renee Zelweger fan?

Speaking of, was it Kafkaesque in the movie Jerry Maguire when SMI waited to fire Tom Cruise’s Jerry before reaching out to his clients, thereby setting up the scene where Cruise and Jay Mohr race to stake claim on the athletes Maguire represents? Also, does it perturb anyone else that Zelweger’s character Dorothy Boyd was just 26 years old in that movie? And is there a sexier woman on the planet than Kelly freaking Preston? And is the fact that a person has never been dumped proof of their sexiness? Were you hoping that I’d link to a different Kelly Preston scene from Jerry Maguire?

Kafka’s Motorbike (a book that, as far as I’m aware, is fictional within the universe of BJD) is described, by Renee Zelweger’s Bridget Jones (who seems never to have heard of it when she stands up to present it to others) as “the greatest book of our time.” Whoa. How does one define a term like “our time,” even a fictional someone, and especially a fictional someone with seemingly very little knowledge of literature (at least the literature she publicly presents to medium-sized crowds which happen to include Salman Rushdie, who plays himself in the movie, and serves, as far as I could tell, as a guy who is familiar with the location of the bathroom)?

(I know basically nothing about the movie other than that Colin Firth seems to be the good guy, and Hugh Grant seems to be the bad one. Is that description of the movie the exact opposite of Kafkaesque?)

Is the idea of “our time” Kafkaesque? Or is only the act of thinking about it Kafkaesque? Is wondering who exactly Bridget Jones includes in “our” and whether she’s familiar with Einstein and Hawking’s views on time a Kafkaesque line of thought? Has Dr. Bradford Skow made the concept of time even more Kafkaesque by presenting his theories on the topic – namely that the past, present and future all co-exist in our universe like a block that can be sliced into different segments?

Are there degrees of Kafkaesque? Is there a more Kafkaesque topic than time? The answer to that question could be in the affirmative for (at least) two reasons: One, in that there’s a more absurdly complex topic than the concept of time (life itself, by example); and two, in that there’s a different definition of the word Kafkaesque and, under the guise of this definition of the word, there is a concept more “Kafkaesque” than that of time.

(That that scene flashed in front of me while I was reading and writing about Kafka is one of the weightier coincidences I’ve experienced in a while. How, if at all, does the idea of coincidence factor into the meaning of the word Kafkaesque? Are there coincidences in the Kafka-Universe? How does a Kafka character experience coincidence? What are coincidences?)

Is the term “Kafkaesque” even meant to be understood, or does it, like a Kafkan fable itself, elude accurate classification? Or, to be more precise, is it a thing for which understanding it means misunderstanding it?

“The correct understanding of a matter and misunderstanding the matter are not mutually exclusive,” we’re told by the priest in The Trial.

They aren’t?! OK, now that’s Kafkaesque…right?

It might occur to you, as it did to me at some time or another, that a person couldn’t hope for a better legacy – be they genius writer who died far too young or otherwise – than to be thought of as immune to quick and easy interpretation. Because lacking such immunity would strongly suggest that a person was, rather, boring and uninteresting (these being words that only a madman would assign to Franz Kafka).

However, I feel I must say it probably matters how one comes to that legacy – as in, how contrived and manufactured it is. Although maybe not – because it’s more than possible that a person who is not, but desperately attempts to be enigmatic is just as, maybe even more, interesting than a person (a brilliant recluse, for example) who needn’t expel any calculated effort to be thought of as complicated and complex. Maybe not indeed.

At what point does a person pretending to be cool simply become cool? Never? As soon as he or she reaches a million Twitter followers? If you know how to pretend to be cool, aren’t you just cool? And if not, why not?*

Did Franz Kafka really want his friend Max Brod to burn all of his work once he perished? Or did he want people to believe he wanted his friend Max to burn all of his work once he perished? If the latter, does the familiarity (indeed fame) of this story, if contrived as afore-suggested, evidence Kafka’s genius just as much as any of his written work? If not, what, if true, would it evidence? Why didn’t Kafka just burn the work himself, as Henry James did with much of his own writing?

Is it hard for an artist to only be an artist in one way? If one is a genius (and it has certainly been suggested that Kafka qualifies), does he or she (but in this instance he) have a hard time caging that genius? Do they cage that genius? If so, for what reasons? And are those reasons health and safety related? And if not, when and in what ways does the genius spillover?

Is it lame of me to admit that I’m subject to such manipulation, even 91 years later (I’m of course assuming here the truth of something for which there may be exactly zero evidence)? Is it lame of me to admit that I’m just as intrigued by a person who would think to do something like this – i.e. make it so people thought he didn’t want them to see his work by making them believe he wanted, instead, for it to be burned when, in fact, he a) absolutely wanted them to see the work and b) wanted them to be unaware of (a) – as I am by the person who really did want his work to be burned? Does that make me lame? Does it make me anything?

Does it interest you that (almost) every word of this essay was (originally) written in a text message, to myself? Which of course required entering my own name and number into my own phone, which I actually did years earlier, and which I don’t find strange or bizarre in the slightest. In fact, I find it strange and bizarre that people do not occasionally text themselves. 

If, and only if that is intriguing, then how many points would I lose if it weren’t true, but instead I just somehow “knew” that it would be intriguing if it were true, hence my making it up? If a point system were somehow involved, how would you justify not awarding the same amount for both scenarios?

Did Abraham Lincoln really believe that the world would “little note, nor long remember” what he said on November 19, 1863 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania? Was Ernest Hemingway aware (hoping even) that calling Huckleberry Finn the source of “all modern American literature” would itself become a famous thing, to be cited endlessly when talking about Twain’s Huck Finn? Should we care when one man steals or borrows another man’s bright light? Is humility only appealing in a person when it’s conveyed without a hint of falseness? I venture to answer “hardly.”

(If I were to have a tattoo of Huckleberry Finn on my chest, would that make me more or less cool in the eyes of a Hemingway fan?)

Explaining the inexplicable is an oxymoron, something that cannot possibly be carried out — that is, if we trust the word choice of “inexplicable”. And yet attempting to do so is wildly fun, a deep and rich well of untapped black, as Kafka (probably) realized.

Before, when I expressed my belief that something that happened to me would be hard for others to trust, why did I do that? Is it because I’m cynical? Did doing it make you more or less likely to believe that the thing did in fact happen — namely that Bridget Jones’s Diary, a movie I had never seen before and which features a brief and subtle mentioning of Franz Kafka, played on mute while I texted myself about Franz Kafka)?

I believe that I believed, at the time and probably still, that it would make you more likely to believe that it happened (which is, probably, why I said it). Does admitting that now make you less, or even more likely to believe that it happened?

Why do any of us believe anything someone else says? Is it because we want to be believed ourselves when it comes our turn to intimate some (apparently) not entirely believable occurrence?

What if we lived in a world where no one ever believed anything they didn’t themselves witness? Would the most significant aspect of such a world be fewer criminal prosecutions? What’s this essay even about? Is it being about nothing the point? If it has a point, can it possibly be about nothing?

If I believe someone has misused the word Kafkaesque, and I call them out on it, how much of an asshole does that make me? More of an asshole than the person who – either willfully (because they didn’t think anyone would notice, and wanted to sound smart/cool/cultured/well-read) or innocently (because, like me, they are unsure of what the word’s exact application is) – misused the word Kafkaesque?

I suspect that what I think the answer of that question to be is very likely not what most people think the answer of that question to be. But that’s not saying much, is it?

Are statements that can’t be proved wrong of any value in rational discourse? Should modern society ever lend credence to unfalsifiable assertions?

If enough people don’t know what Kafkaesque means, could we ever get to a point where the term’s proper use is to describe a word that many people use, but no one understands? Put otherwise, a situation in which the word Orwellian (or, as a better example** the word Proustian) will itself be classified as Kafkaesque. Do you always remember where you parked? Are you always aware of the location of any Tylenol in the house?

Given my decision to not go on a quest for what Kafkaesque might (actually, or additionally) mean, beyond or in alternative to the meaning mentioned several times above, I’m probably more likely to be the person misusing the term than I am the asshole (?) correcting the misapplication. Though maybe not: For now, unless something seems unnecessarily complex, I’ll be sure not to call it Kafkaesque. Thus, I will be safe, by playing it safe, from having my use of the word corrected by some probable-asshole who may or may not have a better understanding than I do of eponymous adjectives. 

There is also the matter of subjectivity. When I took Federal Personal Income Tax during my second year of law school, the codes we studied seemed, to me, to be Kafkaesque. But for students who enjoyed the material, or who were just plain smarter than myself, the word choice may not in fact be appropriate.

Or maybe there’s simply no way for the tax codes to be any simpler, in which case even a doggedly complex thing could not aptly be described as “overly” or “illogically” complex.

It was, by contrast, very likely unnecessary for Josef K to be given an address for his court date, but no specific time. A clearer, more rational way of doing things certainly exists.

But maybe Section, say, 1001 of the Federal Taxation Code (which concerns Determination of amount of and recognition of gain or loss) is already in its most rational form, in which case it, despite being extremely complex, could and should not be classified as Kafkaesque – unless of course Kafkaesque happens to mean “something that is extremely complex, but cannot be made simpler,” in which case the title would indeed be appropriate.

For the record,*** I received an A- in FPIT (an abbreviation I’m most fond of, especially when said like F-Pit. My favorite part of the class, in fact, was telling people that “I’m taking F-Pit this semester.”

I also happened to be stoned when I took the final exam — the first, last, and only grade in a law school course. Well, technically, I was a combination of exhausted and hungover from getting stoned the night before, approximately seven hours before sitting down for the examination. It having been the first time I smoked pot in a rather extended period of time, hence my high persisting into the next morning’s three hour test block.

I was so out of it**** that morning, in fact, that when I arrived at school, I walked, as if insane or somnambulating, into an ongoing exam. Law school exams are not proctored or monitored so it was a class only of my peers who were, as law students do, furiously making their way through a three hour exam.

The looks I received upon disrupting the fastidious focus of law students ranged from Absolute Disbelief to Curious Astonishment to Venomous Annoyance.

However, I’m fully convinced that being slightly still high helped me on the F-Pit exam, if not in an intellectual way, certainly in terms of my nerves. Being in such a state allowed me to relax and take on the complicated (Kafkaesque?)***** queries being posed by the professor.

On the day of my tax exam, the night before really, I underestimated just how high I might get, and how long it might last. I was so sure I’d do poorly that I became indifferent (hence my choosing to smoke drugs), which allowed me to do well. Perhaps marijuana is the key to making sure nothing is ever Kafkaesque.

So, after all this, what the hell could Laflinesque possibly mean? Probably, unfortunately, nothing. Which makes it no different than any other word. Other than nihilism of course.

________________________________________________________________________

*Kobe Bryant is an example of someone who isn’t cool, but knows how to pretend to be. 

*Better because it’s much less likely to be used and therefore much less likely to be understood.

***An idiomatic expression that is almost always conceitedly employed, as is most assuredly the case here, due to the fact that what subsequently flows from the person’s lips (or pen) is nothing even remotely close to being worthy of inclusion in a record.

****What exactly does “it” refer to in this saying? The mind? Reality? Comfort?

*****Apparently not, given my A- mark.

I’m Confused, Mr. Comey

On Tuesday afternoon, FBI Director James Comey announced that he would not be recommending charges against presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server to conduct state business. 

As an attorney, there’s one thing — which is a bit wonky, so turn away now if such things don’t interest you — that has really been bugging me about his statement. The statute at issue, 18 U.S.C. 793 (known colloquially as the Espionage Act), makes it a federal crime to improperly transmit or store classified information — and here’s the rub — either intentionally or in a grossly negligent manner. It doesn’t have to be both, it can be either.

The best way to think about the difference between intent and negligence is that it’s much harder to show that someone acted intentionally than it is to show they acted carelessly or unreasonably. Intent sort of assumes a purposefulness to one’s actions, a clear motivation, whereas negligence just means that someone failed to act as a reasonable person would.

In his statement, Comey said that while Hillary Clinton did not act with intent or purpose, she did act with “extreme carelessness.” Therefore, considering a) that the language of the statute erects two totally separate standards for a possible violation (again, intent or gross negligence) and b) that Comey himself said that Clinton acted with “extreme carelessness” (the very definition of gross negligence) why then would she not be subject to charges under the second standard enumerated in the statute?

Now, I’ve read a few purported answers on this question that basically state, “Well, there’s no precedent. All other Espionage Act cases were ones of intent. Guys taking information from our government with the clear motive of handing it over to someone else, a foreign agent for example.”

But while precedent is hugely important in the handling of both criminal and civil cases, it is not the end all be all. In other words, just because the facts under Hillary’s case are not like most (or even all) former Espionage Act violations does not mean that she didn’t violate the second and lesser standard of gross negligence.

I’m certainly no expert on the Espionage Act, and legal matters are almost always complex and nebulous. But it seems to me that the main takeaway from this whole ordeal is that Hillary Clinton is really really lucky not to have been charged…with a fucking crime…under the Espionage Act!

Because given what we know about the statute (i.e. its two standard nature), hearing James Comey say, “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive highly classified information,” would make one conclude that the recommendation would be for charges, rather than against.

Comey then said, “There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position…should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.” Again, this is the very language of negligence (the standard found in the statute). No reasonable person would have done this. It is a crime to act (very) unreasonably under this particular statute.

If there’s evidence that one of the standards in the statute has been violated, as he laid out plainly with this whole extreme careless business, why then would it be true that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring charges? This makes zero sense.

No reasonable prosecutor would bring a case for which there is evidence? I think the opposite is true — only an unreasonable prosecutor would not bring a case in which evidence exists. Comey’s two statements — that Clinton acted extremely careless and that no reasonable prosecutor would attempt to go after her — are completely contradictory (given the language of the statute).

Why again is Bernie Sanders not the nominee? I am gonna be pissed — as I think all reasonable Americans should be — if Donald Fucking Trump becomes the leader of our country. And it’s bullshit like this that makes that dystopian and frankly unbearable prospect all the more likely.

Still feeling the Bern,

Aaron

On Hillary Clinton and The Interest of Perspective

As disclaimer, nothing that follows should be taken as a defense of Hillary Clinton or her actions regarding the so-called email server scandal.

However, with recent assertions that Clinton is now morally disqualified to be elected President, I thought I’d remind folks (and myself) that the American electorate — and Republicans in particular — have woefully little ground to stand on in the arena of presidential character and fitness.

The 2004 re-election of George W. Bush proves that Americans are willing to stomach far more egregious acts than anything Hillary Clinton has ever dared to do.

The American people saw fit to give the already noxious Bush administration an additional four years in office after it willfully lied about the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein in the lead up to the Iraq War, a reprehensible circus-act that resulted in the deaths of more than 4000 American soldiers and countless Iraqi civilians.

Even if you believe every negative thing being said about Hillary Clinton in regards to the email scandal — and I wouldn’t necessarily fault you for doing so — nothing she’s done comes even close to the acts of pure and unadulterated evil carried out by Dick Cheney and company in 2003.

In case your borderline war-crime history is a little foggy, recall the speech delivered to the U.N. Security Council by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell on February 5, 2003.

In the days and weeks leading up to his presentation, Secretary Powell asked the CIA to vet his speech, and they gave a resounding and explicit disapproval of what the Bush administration was prepared to tell the world in its reckless effort to go to war in Iraq.

Specifically, the Cheney-authored Powell-delivered speech sought to connect the regime of Saddam Hussein to the Bin Laden/al Qaeda terrorist network through an unknown militant by the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. When Powell asked the CIA if this wobbly contention, which was the heart and soul of the Bush administration’s justification for entering Iraq, had any basis in reality, they told him clearly and convincingly that there was zero credible evidence for such a nexus.

Analysts at the CIA, whose expertise on the matter was undeniable, edited Powell’s speech back to reality only to see their recommendations boldly and blatantly ignored by an administration unwilling to face reality, but readily willing to lie their way to war.

For those who don’t know, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the founder of a little group called ISIS. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. And the Republican party’s Bush administration effectively plucked this loser out of obscurity for their own malicious and war-mongering purposes. The CIA repeatedly told Cheney and Powell that Zarqawi was in no way linked to Saddam or bin Laden, and they went forth anyway.

Again, this is not a defense of Hillary Clinton. I’m a Bernie man through and through. But in a straight comparison of what Hillary did (or has been accused of doing) and the consequences that have flowed from her actions (which are, as FBI Director James Comey puts it, mere potentialities), there is no real comparison to what George Bush and his heedless henchmen did prior to the ’04 election.

Hillary fucked up. She probably lied. She probably committed a federal crime, and she probably got special treatment from our federal law enforcement system. But the woman is an angel compared to the last candidate Republicans put into office.

Bush and Cheney (and that smug chode of a human Donald Rumsfeld) make Hillary Clinton look like a fucking choir girl dressed in a white dress and pigtails. And anyone who follows their (more than reasonable) criticism of Hillary Clinton with some form of “we should go ahead and elect the Republican” doesn’t seem to have a full grasp on exactly what the last Republican president got away with.

Zarqawi was a nobody street-thug jihadist wanna-be until George Bush and Dick Cheney sent their stringed-up puppet Colin Powell to the U.N. to deliver a speech that recited Zarqawi’s name 21 times. (21!) This was a guy who, at the time, Osama bin Laden would not even meet with, and the thirsty-for-war Bush propaganda machine propped him up and placed him on a nice high pedestal where he could then wreak all the havoc his black heart desired.

And then, when this motherfucker used his newly gained and American-wrapped notoriety/terrorist street-cred to incite insurgency and foment sectarian violence in Iraq, the Vice President (who we elected instead of a level-minded Vietnam vet) swept his deeds under the proverbial rug by diminishing CIA analyses that fingered Zarqawi as the singular force behind unprecedented violence in Iraq.

They then entered a state of willful denial that included pressuring CIA analysts to disavow their reports on Zarqawi, the man nobody had ever heard of before Dick Cheney recited his name 21 times on the floor of the United Nations.

In short, the men we elected to head our executive branch of government fabricated from whole-cloth a justification for entering what would end up being one of the most disastrous conflicts in the history of mankind. They knowingly lied and misled the American public about issues far more dire than illegally conducting state business on a private email server.

So, before you go posting some lame-brain meme about how unbelievable and unacceptable it would be to elect someone who was exonerated by the FBI and Attorney General for potential violations of statutes concerning classified information, remind yourself that the prospect pales in comparison to an election that all but rubber-stamped lies and deceit that led to destruction and mayhem on a massive scale.

__________________________________________________________________________

*The main source I used in writing this post was the Frontline documentary “The Secret History of ISIS,” which originally aired in May of 2016. If you think you’re angry at what Hillary Clinton did to secure her emails from public scrutiny and FOIA requests, go ahead and watch this documentary. You’ll be fuming with disgust.

Winter May Have Come, But Thank the Seven It’s July

It’s been five days since the season six finale of Game of Thrones, and my mind is still reeling. With an hour and fifteen minute run time, “The Winds of Winter” felt more like a summer blockbuster than a weekly TV show. And it was certainly more explosive than anything we’ve seen so far this season. (Pun Counter: 1)

I have so many thoughts about this episode that I think I’ll break this recap into multiple parts (I know, you can’t believe how lucky you are). Between wild fire, odd outfit choices, precocious young ladies, and the forging of game-changing alliances, there is a lot to cover. Real winter might actually arrive before we get through it all.

You know a show is great when its “Previously On” trailer has you gripping into your couch like some sort of fantasy fiend. The behind-shot of a lonely Jon Snow staring down the charging Bolton cavalry — and certain death — is both beautiful and chilling. Was the Battle of the Bastards the most epic battle scene there’s ever been? Was it better than Braveheart?

I certainly don’t remember Braveheart having such an interesting villain (the worst thing King Longshanks did was throw his son’s gay lover out the window, which was more hilarious than anything), or heroic giants, or an up-and-coming female character who arrives just in time to both save the day and make good on her promise to have vengeance.

The trailer also reminds us of The Red Wedding (not that anyone in the North needed reminding), that weak men have been excised from power in Dorne (and that Dornish accents are still garbage), that Dany’s reign is at its beginning rather than its end (fucking duh), and that Lyanna Stark rests in the tombs beneath Winterfell. All of it hinting at what’s to come in the season finale. Great job, Trailer Dude!

The opening sequence of “The Winds of Winter” was simply astonishing. It’s easily one of the coolest scenes of the season, if not the entire series.

The quiet shots of the various characters as they silently prepare for what lies ahead (only some knowing what that entails).

The ominous ringing of a bell in the distance (we now know for whom that bell was tolling).

The beautiful and solemn intonations of piano and violin.

The portentous unfolding of a plot at its various points of execution.

Johnny Cash can relate to the High Sparrow. Bound by wild desire, he too fell into a ring of fire.
Johnny Cash can relate to the High Sparrow. Bound by WILD desire, he too fell into a ring of FIRE.

This is some of the greatest stuff Game of Thrones has ever given us, and every aspect of it — the acting, the musicality, the directing — was brilliantly executed. This 10 minute sequence alone should win HBO an Emmy.

Cersei looked like she was a back-up dancer in a Madonna video, or maybe like she shops at the same stores as The Gimp. Tommen was draped in ostentatious jewelry and a crown that’s never been comfortable on his head. He has been a character, like his outfit choice, that is all for show. He was the ultimate figurehead, who never once seemed to be in control of even his own life, let alone an entire kingdom.

And of course the High Sparrow throwing on his wool sack. His highly flammable wool sack. This was a supposed man of the people who didn’t possess the flare, shall we say, to make a lasting impact. (Pun Counter: 2)

I wrote a review of this season’s first episode in which I relished the day the High Sparrow would be taken out. But I couldn’t have imagined a more satisfying end to his religious zealotry than watching his skin and bones be ripped away by wild fire. It reminded me of the ray guns from Mars Attacks! And who hasn’t thought of destroying Jack Black with a laser beam?

There’s a shot at the beginning of “The Winds of Winter” that shows everyone filing into the Sept of Baelor, and it’s a lot of people. This is a brilliant and informative shot that both foreshadows the terror to come, and gives us a better idea of its true scope.

Cersei is certainly the sexiest terrorist there ever was, and, like real-world mass murderers, she has no misgivings about killing innocent people. Collateral damage doesn’t merit a moment’s hesitation.

However, Cersei’s act is bittersweet. She may have wiped out the Faith Militant, a sore of her own creation let’s not forget, but she also killed my boo-thang Margaery Tyrell. And that makes me saltier than Mr. Peanut’s nutsack.

It was nice to see Margaery prove once again that she’s smarter than everyone else. Had the High Sparrow listened to her, they might have escaped with their lives. Instead, his arrogance got him (and a lot of others) killed. Hard to figure how someone who wears a wool sack and no shoes could feel so invincible — a sharp pebble could have taken that fucker out.

I like to think that Margaery was still plotting something, and was not actually taken in by the Seven. The best evidence for this is the rose sigil she handed to her grandmother a couple episodes back. If you look close, when Olenna turns the rose over, it looks a bit like a clenched fist, which to me signified that Margaery was still fighting.

See it?
See it?

Either way, it’s a sad farewell to Natalie Dormer, who I should not get started on because this post will get super awkward in a hurry.

Loras Tyrell really had it rough didn’t he? Let’s recap his GoT existence. He had to live in the closet for fear of being socially ostracized by rampant homophobia; his best bro/lover Renley was murdered by a ghost that the Red Woman farted/birthed from her body; he’s set up with Cersei in an arranged engagement that was doomed to fail (Gary Johnson has a better chance of being elected president); he’s arrested for being gay and thrown in a dungeon (hatred for gays is one thing the Faith had in common with the religious right in America); and when he’s finally released he’s mutilated (in a way reminiscent of Brad Pitt carving up Nazis in Inglourious Basterds), and ultimately destroyed by wild fire. Honestly, I’m not sure who I feel worse for — Loras or that prostitute who had sex with Pycelle and will now never get her money.

King Tommen then throws himself out a window in a scene that reminded me of another in the annuls of HBO drama. Remember when Nucky Thompson’s assistant Eddie Kessler jumps out of a window in season four of Boardwalk Empire?

The scenes are quite similar. Alone in his room, Eddie puts his ties away, straightens his collar, and then drops out the window like it’s nothing. It’s also interesting to me how Tommen took off his crown just before jumping. It’s like he recognized that becoming king is what ultimately killed him.

Three additional points about Tommen’s death, which on its own elicited pretty much zero emotion from me (I might be dead inside):

1) It’s fascinating to me that Cersei sent the Mountain to keep Tommen in his room. This is a different sort of task than we’re use to for the Mountain, and suggests to me that he isn’t entirely mindless (as has been thoroughly implied). There’s a lot more tact involved in making sure he stays in his room than just “Hey, go rip that dude’s face off and bring it to me,” which is really the only thing we’ve seen from him up to this point. We know the Mountain was a clever man before he “died.” I wonder how much brain he’s got left.

2) If I got to have sex with Margaery Tyrell and was then faced with the prospect of never seeing her naked again, I’d probably kill myself too.

3) Like his fair-haired siblings, Tommen was predicted to die young — “Gold will be their crowns and gold their shrouds” — and that prophecy has pretty much come true. I think this is why Cersei wasn’t hysterical like she was during Joffrey’s death. Because she has fully bought into the witch’s prophecy, and in a sense already knew her son’s death was inevitable.

With the deed done, we can be honest now about who’s running the show in King’s Landing. Cersei has pretty much been doing so for the entire show, now she just gets to sit in the proper seat.

“Long may she reign,” Qyburn professes, but as viewers, we know this is probably not to be. Not if Dany, Varys, Tyrion, the Greyjoys, the Sandsnakes, the Tyrells, and Arya Stark have anything to say about it that is. That’s a long and formidable list of enemies, the wrath of which will be hard for even Cersei to escape.

As I noted before, it’s amazing the job they’ve done in getting us to root for the psychopathic and incestuous Cersei Lannister. She is the worst kind of hedonist — one who takes pleasure in other people’s pain. It’s the same sort of psychological whatever that had us all rooting for Walter White even as he became more and more, well, broken (Pun Counter: 3).

I think it also illustrates just how loathsome faith-based wickedness is. With divinely inspired acts of evil, there’s an extra level of bullshit and hypocrisy that society — even a pious one like America — can’t seem to tolerate. Theocracies are the worst forms of governance. The problem is finding someone acceptable to replace them with.

More after the jump (Pun Counter: 4)…

Voices in the Stacks

Once again I’m at Half Price Books, hearing faceless voices bounce over the tall stacks around me. “You’d hate to have a hole in your Duck Commander collection,” a woman I can’t see declares. I assume sarcasm, but when the man she’s addressing doesn’t laugh and responds with, “You really would!” I realize these folks are being entirely serious. The man really does have a “Duck Commander collection” and he really would hate to have a hole in it.

Sometimes I think if I come to Half Price Books enough somehow I’ll become an author myself. If I linger among the collected works of the greats, their brilliance will magically attach itself to me — as if wit and intelligence are contagious bacterium.

It doesn’t seem to be working though because I’ve been here a thousand times and they still haven’t given me the damn Pulitzer. The only thing I’ve caught at Half Price Books was the flu — probably from that little monster who kept wiping his nose with his shirt and asking his mommy if he could eat the gum he found on the floor.

The second reason I come to Half Price Books is for the people-watching. And boy is it good. 

A misanthrope at heart, I’m also something of a voyeur. I may not like human-beings, but I do enjoy watching them from a close (and I suppose creepy) distance. This is probably why I spent $200 in high school on the most expensive binoculars they had so I could spy on the MILF who lived across the street. Unfortunately for me, she always kept the blinds drawn, and despite their exorbitant cost, the binoculars I purchased didn’t come with X-ray vision.

I’m flipping through Nausea by Jean Paul Sartre when a slightly flabby young man donning an offensively blue Hawaiian shirt waddles into the row and asks an employee scanning books where he can find “the Shakespeare.” “He’s right here where I’m standing,” the employee says giddily, and they chuckle like a couple of old flirts.

Hawaii N-O, as I’ve decided to nickname him, is with a young girl who must be his sister and who mom must have charged him with watching because she doesn’t seem to notice all the books hovering around her head, but stands with arms crossed, impatiently tapping her foot to the ground while big bro’ shuffles through a tattered copy of Hamlet. She stares up at him like she’s way too late for an evening of Justin Bieber listening.

The blueness of Hawaii N-O’s shirt is making me nauseous. “I think that is the big danger in keeping a diary,” Sarte writes, “you exaggerate everything.” But the blueness of this dastardly shirt could not possibly be exaggerated, and I’m beginning to wonder why Half Price Books doesn’t have a dress code.

Another girl, older but no less round than her companions, joins the pair. “What cha got there?” Hawaii N-O asks. “Well, it’s about a girl who moves from Cleveland to Mississippi and, I don’t know, I just really like the cover,” she replies.

I’m in a book store literally witnessing a girl judge a book by its cover. I suppose I’m something of a hypocrite though; I bought a book last week called How to Make Love Like a Pornstar because there was a picture of Jenna Jameson dressed as Marilyn Monroe on the front. No one’s perfect.

“That’s what happens when you start playing strings again when you haven’t for a while,” another random voice injects into the bookstore’s ether. I’ve never played the violin, but I’m sure I can relate. I once gave up masturbation for an entire week, and when I came back to it I was entirely inept. It’s true what they say: Practice makes perfect.

As I slide Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 back into its place on the shelf, I think about how bookstores should be more like libraries than coffee shops. I don’t come to HPB just to shop, but to relax and read. However, I suppose if this were the case then I could no longer eavesdrop on the titillating conversations of my fellow bibliophiles. Someone ought to write a book about such conundrums.

“Who wrote Percy Jackson? All my friends are reading it,” says a young girl of about 11 to her hulking father. The man’s collared shirt is the most aggressively tucked in shirt I’ve ever seen. It’s like his boxers are literally trying to eat it.

“Riordan, Riordan, Riordan,” I try to assist the girl with my mind, but, alas, my psychic abilities are non-existent. No Woman No Cry plays on the loudspeakers. William’s offer is ready at the buy-counter. And I need to visit the facilities because I was concentrating so hard I think I tinkled myself.

At the start of his famous novel Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh is saying how Jean Claude Van Damme movies have weak plots and predictable structures. But I’m not sure if I agree. When JCVD does the splits in Bloodsport and punches the Chinese Giant in the nuts, I don’t think anybody saw it coming.

Two young ladies move into the fiction row with me. True friends visit the bookstore together, I think. On numerous occasions I’ve asked the manager here to rename the row “Aaron’s row,” but she just looked at me funny and then told me where the self-help books could be found.

“How much is this on Amazon?” the blonder one asks as her friend peruses silently. I move to my left, about three feet at a time, to accommodate them, but they keep on coming so I cross back in front of them with a quiet “excuse me.” This makes the girls giggle and one even apologizes. I tell them it’s OK and we all giggle some more.

I could have written the book on bookstore etiquette. Wait. Note to self: Write book on bookstore etiquette. Rule #1 — No Hawaiian shirts. Rule #2 — Don’t let your kid sneeze on me. Bring your kids to the store, by all means, child literacy is important. But if he does it again I’m gonna punt him into the Sports section.

If these girls were dudes, or unattractive, it wouldn’t be OK at all, it would just be annoying. I have a lot more patience for attractive women than I do anyone else. I can be honest about that. Pretty women may not be able to get away with murder, but they can inconvenience me any time.

“Let’s go to Panera because I can get coffee,” the blonde requests. “This is my number one. I need to get rid of these other two,” the brunette indicates, her choice of books apparently made by the process of elimination.

And then they’re gone, and I’m a little sad. Even though they were distracting, I liked being near them. Or maybe I liked being near them because they were distracting. Either way, distractions are always welcome in the form of cute girl x 2. 

A mother and daughter dressed in burkas wander aimlessly. The girl keeps glancing anxiously at a sheet of folded paper in her hand. They look confused, like they’re looking for a cannonball instead of a book. They speak in a language I can’t identify, let alone understand. When I type ‘burka’ into my phone, it auto-corrects to vodka, and I think that’s probably racist. Why should telecommunications companies prefer Russia to the Middle East?

I’m mostly watching other people, but right this minute I feel watched myself. It’s the short, middle-aged Latino man in the cubbie behind me. He’s wearing a bravely green shirt the color of Nickelodeon slime and semi-matching plaid shorts that hurt your eyes if you stare too long. He looks like an Old Navy employee dressed him and he wore his purchases out the door.

Is there a word for voyeurs who watch other voyeurs? Voyoyeurs? Rodrick’s offer is ready at the buy-counter.

I’m reading a page in Word Virus and William Burroughs is telling me it’s OK to plagiarize as long as I do it openly and freely. I can’t tell if he’s serous or not, and I’ll probably never know because this book is massive. But if I ever do plagiarize, I now know who to steal from. Thanks in advance, Bill!

I imagine typing out every word of Junky and presenting it to a publisher as my own work. When they inevitably look at me like I’m an insane person and consider calling the police I will tell them that it’s OK, I’ve been given permission. Let’s do this!

It’s been seven minutes since I first saw the mother and daughter in burkas looking for something and now they can’t find each other. The girl is saying a word that, because of her longing tone and rotating head, seems like ‘mom’ with a question mark after it. I can see the object of her search; she’s at the buy-counter next to Rodrick, and possibly William.

Someone who’s called the store is asking where the Meijer’s is (?!) and the employee on the phone is helpful enough to provide both a number and address. (The Meijer’s is apparently between a Wal-Mart and a City Barbeque.)

I think about a dystopian future where all the bookstores have become kiosks for mega-chain superstores, and the only books that exist are just maps to the nearest Costco. I think about Guy Montag, and it makes me shiver.

An older woman with grey hair, grey shoes, grey jeans, and a long-sleeved grey shirt sits in the Mystery section like she owns it, all spread out, elbows on knees, flipping with unblinking eyes through an Agatha Christie paperback.

After ten minutes, this Woman in Grey has apparently found what she’s after because she scoots back her chair with vigor and marches with spacey confidence to the check-out counter.

I wonder if she’s some kind of superhero, and there are others like her out there. Middle-aged ginger who wears red, divorcee brunette who dons only brown. Together, in their respective colors, they fight crime and bring mystery novels to the unfortunate. They wear ugly colors by day, and root out illiteracy by night.

It’s mid-September, so you can see, in outfit choice, the formation of two distinct factions: Those who have accepted the cooling weather and the curtailment of another summer, versus those who cling steadfastly to the recent memory of warmth. I straddle the fence of loyalty with a hoodie and cargo shorts.

A little girl (5 maybe) is calling for her mom. I respect that she goes with the shorter form of the word (a future writer perhaps) rather than the more juvenile ‘mommy’. This, by my count, is the second lost mother in about ten minutes, and I feel like it should be the other way around. Shouldn’t parents be looking for their kids?

Then again, it makes some sense: Mothers might be eager to lose their children, if for only a few minutes in a bookstore to flip through that copy of 50 Shades of Grey she can’t buy because a) it would cause a panic in her insecure husband who would take it as a sign that their sex lives are no longer adequate and she really doesn’t need that hassle, having to shower him with uncomfortable (and barely sincere) compliments to reassure him that he’s enough for her and k) she’d never have time to read the damn thing anyway because taking care of small children is a 20 hour a day job. Of course she’d love to be tied up and have ice rolled along the curves of her body by a conspicuously good-looking man. But there’s little time for S & M when your days are spent keeping diapers dry.

On the other side of the store is a skinny white-haired man wearing a white t-shirt with slight borders of red at the collar and sleeves. On his chest the shirt reads FLASH in big red letters. He wears light-green Adidas shoes. It is a wardrobe that looks more like a Halloween costume for a six year old than something a man in his 50s would wear, but hey, flash on my good man!

Two women who just walked into the cubbie next to me are shopping. I hear their voices over a heavy stack of American History books.

“Well, we can get him that.”

“Which one do you want to get him? That dinosaur looks familiar. I don’t know if he has that.”

“Oh you know what? We have to look for anything Einstein.”

(If ever there was a name that always deserved to be emphasized.)

I wonder if this could be Christmas shopping already, in the second week of September, and who is this dinosaur-loving, Einstein-admiring individual they’re shopping for? He should be given an award for being the world’s biggest nerd.

It’s game day in Columbus so most people don the scarlet and grey — various Buckeyes-themed t-shirts, hats and hoodies. The adults look like children, and the children look like dolls. I have on an Indiana University hat though so I probably look like the idiot to most people here. Game time (3:30) is nearing, but the store surprisingly seems to be getting more crowded, until it empties in a mass exodus around 3:15, as if the Beatles have suddenly announced a reunion tour and their first gig is at the Pet Smart next door.

I start to look at Sarah Vowell’s The Partly Cloudy Patriot when a man who looks exactly like former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton emerges in my periphery. His phone is strapped authoritatively to his hip like a black brick, and he has on a cool-looking plaid shirt and khaki pants. But I seriously doubt that he didn’t have help picking the outfit because it looks very wife-assembled. “But it’s game-day, honey. Can’t I just wear my lucky Bucks shirt?” “Not unless you can magically remove the four stains and three holes in it you can’t.”

To my left, two young girls (between 12-14) are conversing loudly in the Young Adult Fiction section. Like most pairings in Half Price Books, one does a majority of the talking while the other does a reciprocal amount of the listening.

“I missed 70 days of school last year,” this motor-mouth in grey head-band and black shorts rumbles. “Oh, this is way more up your alley,” she lunges toward something on the shelf and then slaps it into her friend’s hand. Friends don’t let other friends read bad books, I think. 

I’m finding out what Nick Hornby has been reading and Tom Petty is reminding me that I don’t have to live like a refugee. It’s a good thing too because I was just thinking about joining a band of gypsies and migrating to Mexico by foot.

An employee pushes one Brute garbage can across the floor and pulls another behind him. Both are overflowing with VHS tapes. The CD on the loudspeaker overhead begins to skip. His co-worker follows close behind with yet another rolling trash can full of VHS tapes, and I’d bet that all the existing VHS tapes in the world are right here in this Half Price Books — there couldn’t possibly be more than three garbage cans of VHS tapes left on the planet, could there? “That sounds like a skipping CD,” one says as they disappear into the exclusive backroom. When the music comes back on it’s in the form of Bon Jovi and I think I preferred the skipping.

A slightly obese middle-aged white woman waddles to the bathroom, purse in right hand, flip flops boisterously smacking the soles of her feet with every stride. She sings along with Jon, “Your very first kiss was your first kiss goodbye,” and I guess he means ‘first kiss’ with one particular person, but I’m thinking what if a person’s first kiss in life was a kiss goodbye, and how would that work logistically?

I promise to kiss you if you let me leave right after.

Deal!

Also, if it was just a first kiss with this one person and you haven’t kissed them until they’re leaving you, how much could you really care that they’re going? I suppose it’s possible to be in love with someone you’ve never kissed before, but it doesn’t seem likely, at least not to the level expressed in this now annoying song.

I’m reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters Remix, and he’s hilariously telling me how old he is when another Bon Jovi song comes on. The store’s clear music selection-scheme of playing two or three songs by each artist has both its drawbacks and its advantages. I like this JBJ song better than the last one, but it still bothers me. I just don’t feel like reading to the sound of “Livin’ on a Prayer.”

I see a young kid who looks like Harry Potter, no shit, reading Harry Potter. But curiously, he has on a red The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe t-shirt and I wonder if it was a conscious choice (“I’m heading to the book store so I better throw on my L double dub tee”) or if it was more organic than that — like this nerd has loads of book and movie-themed t-shirts and it was either that or something Battlestar Galactica. 

The boy slides a chair across the carpeted cubbie, not for sitting purposes, but to help him reach his next choice. I’m thinking how books should never be out of the reach of children and I’m thankful for all six feet of height I possess, if for nothing else than to help me reach all the books I want, exactly when I want them.

“It takes thirty African elephants to equal one blue whale,” a small boy tells his mother from somewhere behind me. “Is that tic-tac-toe with earmuffs?” she responds, apparently unimpressed by the senseless magnitude of whales.

There are always women in Half-Price Books. It’s pretty astonishing, and likely explains why women are so much smarter than men. More single guys should realize the added benefits of literacy. Books and women: What else is there in life?

Well, whiskey, there’s whiskey.

Note to self: Idea for a bar called The Book Store Bar where people can slam shots of Jameson as they flip through the collected works of Emily Bronte. In fact, they should just serve whiskey shots at Half Price Books. Although that would probably make it a less family-friendly establishment and thus cut down on the number of sexy MILFs perusing the stacks. Again, when is someone going to write a book about such problems?

Now I’m flipping through Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, and there’s an attractive brunette girl next to me in tight black pants with hair down to her butt. She reminds me of Topanga from Boy Meets World, and I’d like to acquaint myself with the world inside those black pants. Would it be awkward if I tried to pick her up while holding this particular book? Are girls ever worried their dates will turn out to be serial killers — or even worse Phil Collins fans?

When it comes to conversing with women my problem is the initial breaking of ice. Once I’m in the flow, I’m good, but what to say first is highly problematic. It’s like a stand-up comic’s problem of what to say when he first walks on stage. There’s that brief moment of discomfort as he launches awkwardly into his routine. Some are better at it than others. Same goes for talking to women: Some men are just better at it than others.

Jimmy Fallon starts his Tonight Show monologue every night with “This is what everybody’s talking about, you guys.” I think I like that. Maybe that will be my new opening line with women. I’ll just walk up to the pretty girl in the fiction section and start regaling her with current events. “Hiya, I’m Aaron, and this is what everybody’s talking about!” (Mickey Mouse voice).

I’m reading the opening chapter in BJ Novak’s One More Thing, and his story about the tortoise and the hare’s rematch is interrupted by two young blonde ladies who look to be about 14. They’re gossiping loudly like they’re alone in the girl’s bathroom.

“I am so frustrated with Ashton,” the blonder one says. “She is obsessed with yoga, and it’s, like, all she talks about.” Her friend only listens, couldn’t get a word in if she tried because her friend talks like she has a word quota to meet and some kind of deadline is looming — or maybe like she’s trying to break the world record for syllables per minute.

“And the only reason she posts all this stuff about yoga is because she wants people to ask her about it, and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with yoga but it’s, like, not the only thing in the world, you know?” I don’t know this Ashton character, but I suspect that she’s been unfairly maligned here today. I’m certain that at least one of these girls is named Becky.

A pale-skinned, red-headed woman wearing a Cleveland Browns t-shirt (and who I find moderately attractive) is lingering around the aisle I’m in. A girl in a bookstore is infinitely more attractive than the same girl outside the bookstore. I mean, that’s just science.

I imagine us being in a jungle rather than a bookstore: She’s the hunter and I’m the hunted, a stupid animal that doesn’t move around much, just grazes in one spot (the fiction section as it happens) and would be an easy kill, like a gazelle slurping casually at a ravine.

It’s extremely rude of me but I wonder if this girl really likes football or just wears that shirt because she thinks guys will like it. Like that Viagra commercial with the girl lying in bed wearing a football jersey, it’s advertising for cavemen. Sex good…football good…Viagra good!

The things we wear are a bit like advertising, aren’t they? Browns Girl is advertising herself to the opposite sex. She likes what they like, and she’s loyal. Because as we all know the Browns are awful and yet she’s still willing to brandish her support in public.

I open a biography about Proust and Edmund White is telling me that people refer to “sudden gusts of memory” as “Proustian experiences,” and now I’ll know what to call it when, while watching the Browns lose their fifth straight game, I start thinking about that one time a semi-attractive redhead in a bookstore couldn’t help flirting with me. It must have been my ratty beard and the stench of not yet showering that day that did the trick. She was a Browns fan after all.

Proust was apparently a gay man, so nothing in this particular book will serve me in my quest to strike up conversation with the female fans of dauntingly bad football teams. I return it to the shelf.

People are a lot like books: Some are old, some are new; some are inane, some are brilliant; some are entertaining, and some are boring; they can make you feel lonely, or sad, or jealous, or horny, or curious, or confused, or nostalgic, or weird. They come in all shapes and sizes and colors, and from a billion different backgrounds; and there are way too many to know them all.

If I’m being honest, it saddens me more that I’ll never read all the books than it does that I’ll never meet all the people the world has to offer. But I am slightly disappointed that I’ll never meet all the folks in this book store. These are, as they say, my people.

There’s an offer ready for Tony at the buy-counter, and I’ve decided to purchase a copy of 50 Shades of Grey. Because I’m single as hell and I have plenty of time to consume mindless erotica. Now I just need to find out if Browns Girl knows how to tie a knot.

The Cortez

When I was growing up, graduating the sixth grade meant moving from the middle school building to the junior high building, and it signified a dreadful trip south on the adolescent totem pole of power and prestige.

One day you’re striking fear into the heart of 5th graders with a mere glance, the next you’re a lowly 7th grader calling everyone sir. The junior high building seemed to be the setting of a scientific experiment testing the theories of Charles Darwin. Exactly how long does it take for a superior species to eliminate a weaker one? And how does one survive while covered in braces and acne?

Fresh off their own year of peonage and still reeling from the mutating effects of puberty, the 8th graders were eager to exercise their newly engorged muscles (and confidence) on the unsuspecting prey tossed mercilessly before them, like chum to shark-infested waters.

Advancing to junior high was like being dropped into the pit of Jabba the Hut’s Rancor. If you survived, it was only because the ugly beast in the room found someone else to consume.

z rancor
The captain of the 8th grade football team.

When it comes to human physicality, no two age groups are more divergent than The Eighth Grade Male and his seventh grade counterpart. Something raw and radioactive happens to a boy the summer before he enters the 8th grade, which puts pipsqueakish 7th graders on the wrong side of evolution. 

Eighth graders seemed to be carved out of wood, as though they were the founding members of Fight Club. Seventh graders were like human wads of cookie dough. I didn’t know I had to spend the summer bare-knuckle brawling to prepare for junior high. I spent my summer months reading Lord of the Rings and drinking Yoo-Hoo by the truckload.

A few months into my 7th grade campaign, I made a bold and unwarranted move. I took a trip to Foot Locker and purchased a pair of Nike Cortez. “Gimme the white joints with the black swoosh,” I told a man wearing a referee jersey and a whistle around his neck. From somewhere behind me a yellow flag flew into the air. I clearly wasn’t cool enough to be buying these shoes.

Until this point I’d managed to avoid all confrontation. I was the Costa Rica of junior high school students. Most days I wore purple so I could blend into the lockers. All my teachers would congratulate me for displaying school spirit, not realizing I was just afraid. Buying a pair of shoes that had been associated with gang activity was a risky move for a scrawny white boy from the suburbs who once tattled on someone for giving him the finger.

Plus I was a 7th grader. Most 8th graders didn’t recognize our right to exist, let alone to stand out as unique individuals. If it were up to them we all would’ve been wearing orange jump suits and been known only by the six-digit number printed on the front. Wearing a pair of black and white Cortez down the halls of junior high school was like walking into Westboro Baptist Church in a rainbow-colored thong and a boombox on your shoulder blasting Liberace’s greatest hits. It was going to be noticed.

And just as I suspected, my new kicks garnered immediate attention from a trio of black 8th graders who were known around school for picking fights. One had a tattoo on his arm that just read “Beware” in big block letters. I think they took personal offense to my wearing the same shoes Dr. Dre wore when he rapped about police brutality and life on the violent streets of Compton. The most violent thing I saw growing up was when my neighbor Brian Baldini skinned his knee real bad in a game of street-hockey. 

z dre
Dr. Dre rocking the all white Cortez in 1992. Fuckin’ with me cuz I’m a teenager, with a little bit of gold and a pager.

In the early 70s, the Cortez was a track shoe worn by long-distance runners who appreciated its comfort and durability. As Forrest Gump proved, you could run across the entire country before the Cortez started to wear out.

I suppose if I had bought the red and blue pair nobody would have messed with me. Instead, they would’ve followed me around the halls all day asking me to fix their problems.

On just the second day I wore my new shoes, the eighth graders confronted me at my locker. (Mom hadn’t done a load of laundry in weeks so I was fresh out of purple shirts.) “Look at his shoes yo,” the one with the tattoo said. Without responding, I gathered my books, pushed my glasses back up my nose and scurried off to English class.

Three days later they spotted me in the halls again and this time threatened to “fuck me up.” I wondered if maybe the fashion police was a real thing, except instead of making arrests they just bullied you into changing your style. When I went to history class later that day I asked my teacher if any of the major wars had been started over a pair of sneakers, and if so how was it finally resolved?

I spent the next two weeks walking school grounds in a haze of paranoia like I was Andy Dufresne trying to avoid The Sisters. I instituted a buddy-system among my friends for trips to the bathroom, and started carrying a sharpened toothbrush in my back-pocket.

When the stress became too much — and I realized the vice-principal wasn’t going to defend me with his nightstick — I made the decision to stop wearing my Cortez to school. The good news was I could stop wearing purple. The bad news was I was probably a coward. 

“Don’t you like your new shoes, honey?” my mother asked. When I lied and told her they were a little uncomfortable I could hear Steve Prefontaine rolling in his grave. I went back to wearing my old shoes, because no one ever got beat up over a pair of Skechers.

No Good Deed

The first time I heard someone say “no good deed goes unpunished” I thought it was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. It was also probably evidence that Oscar Wilde was incredibly overrated, and that Picture of Dorian Gray was just an incredible instance of blind-luck.

So let me get this straight, Oscar. Every time we do something good in this world, we’ll be penalized for it? Give to charity, then step this way for a couple dozen belt lashings. Help an elderly woman cross the street, have your salary docked. Volunteer at the soup kitchen, expect a flat tire on the ride home.

The saying just made no sense to me — either logically or logistically. Why would doing a good thing be punished? And how would it even work? Was there some sort of agency or bureau whose job it was to doll out punishment to all the people doing nice things for others? And did they really have a 100% success rate? Not one Good Samaritan has evaded them? Not even a simple favor like a stick of gum or a God Bless You?

You mean to tell me that every time someone lends his friend a quarter or holds the door for a pretty girl he’s reprimanded for it? Did they pass a bill to create this Agency of Retribution? Was it at least a close vote? Did some Rand Paul type stage a twenty-four hour filibuster in the name of libertarian principles? Would it not make more sense to reward good deeds? No good deed goes unrewarded. Now that’s the kind of world I want to live in. Help a guy change a tire, collect your gift card to Bee-Dubs. Warn your friend that he has a boog hanging, be on the lookout for the delicious ice-cream sandwich coming your way.

So you can imagine my surprise when, during my sophomore year in college, I realized just how much truth and wisdom there was to the idea that if you do the right thing in life, you will absolutely be punished for it. Mr. Wilde wasn’t overrated at all. If anything, the guy is underrated.

Back in college I drove a Ford Probe. It was an exceptional vehicle. It had the sexy eye-lid pop up headlights and a bright cherry-red paint job. I turned more heads in that thing than a nudist jogging colony.

But the Probe had its flaws. Namely, it was about as heavy as most bicycles. And not exactly a winter car either. On more than one occasion I found myself sliding across the ice like a thousand pound hockey puck. And because the car was light, it meant the Probe had doors that could be opened and shut if someone so much as cut a strong fart.

On a particularly windy day in the Fall of 2006, I drove my beautiful red Probe to class and parked it in the only spot available in the crowded lot. When I opened the door it got caught in the wind and swung itself directly into the car next to me, which just so happened to be the single whitest car I’d ever seen. And because my Probe was red the scratch that was left probably could’ve been seen from space.*

What happened next would become one of my greatest regrets about my time in college (which probably proves I didn’t go to enough parties). I took out a piece of paper, scribbled a short, apologetic note, and strapped it between the wipers of this white (and slightly red) car. 

Now I should admit that this decision wasn’t exactly a quick and easy one. There was some definite deliberation on my part. But because there were several students in the near vicinity, who may or may not have seen what I’d done, I decided leaving the note was the smart thing to do.

Plus I imagined the owner of the car as some fanatical criminal justice major who would commandeer the security footage like he was a member of the secret service, and track down witnesses like he was Dog the Bounty Hunter. Before long I’d be the guy who didn’t leave a note. And those guys never get laid.

I left my phone number and apologized for a second time (and then a third in an unnecessary postscript that read “P.S. sorry I hit your car with my POS.”)

The tone of my note made me sound like some sort of Quaker who had just discovered automobiles, and believed damaging one was a capital crime. Like if I didn’t apologize profusely I’d spend an eternity in a blazing underground inferno with Hitler, Pol Pot, and the rest of the dickheads who failed to leave a note after they hit someone’s car. 

(There’s a special place in hell for people who ding up automobiles with shopping carts.)

What I should have done is written up a fake note and told the guy he could reach me at 867-5309. As it turns out, this is the advice I would get almost 100% of the time I relayed the story to others. “You know what you should have done…”

Indeed, a wiser, more traveled, more cynical man would have fled the scene without leaving a written admission of guilt. It’s what I would have done had I only realized just how intelligent a saying “no good deed goes unpunished” was. Had I only known how perfectly rated Oscar Wilde is.

If there were 4000 students at The University of Findlay,** then I had damaged the car of exactly the last guy whose car you’d want to damage. Within the hour he’d called to demand retribution. An hour after that I was summoned to the office of campus security where the former owner of World’s Whitest Car had filed a report with Kenny and Russ, two Paul Blart clones who could be seen intensely patrolling campus grounds in a rickety old golf cart like they’d just received word of an impending invasion involving nine irons and goofy pants.

And a week after that I was served.

My good deed was being punished.

I wondered if this guy (his name was Jason) was himself a Retribution Agent. If he wasn’t, he’d surely be recruited in due time. The efficiency with which he was punishing my good deed would be noticed by the Directors of the AOR. He’d be seen as a natural and have his career fast-tracked for his prodigy-like abilities to be an asshole.

About a month later I found myself in Hancock County small claims court. I admitted fault and told the judge I didn’t have the funds. I was a college athlete after all. There was an entire organization dedicated to making sure we were broke. Plus I never set up an In the Event of Emergency Encounters with Douche Bags Fund.

The magistrate entered judgment against me and my good-deed punishment had taken official form as a court order to give the first money I came up with to a rich prick who reacted to a scratch on his car the way most people would react to their mother being mugged.

I wondered what kind of penalties other good Samaritans were facing. Couldn’t I run a mile, or watch an Adam Sandler movie instead? Did my punishment really have to be giving this jerk my money?

When I did some facebook reconnaissance to learn up on the person who was suing me I discovered that Jason hailed from Texas, making his presence in Findlay, Ohio (and thus his ability to take me to court) all the more aggravating.

But the thing that disturbed me most were Jason’s facebook photos. He had snapped a series of shots from inside his parents’ home and captioned them like it was an episode of Cribs.

“Here’s the massive marble island in our kitchen. It’s bigger than most people’s houses! I guess that’s why they call them islands, eh?”

“This is our pool. The water is specially imported from Dubai. Sometimes we pay Michael Phelps to come swim in it. And we employ an entire team of hydrologists to make sure the temperature never drops below 82 degrees.”

“This is the basement. Check out the home movie theater. Sometimes I’ll have friends over to watch home videos of us counting our money.” 

He even had a picture of their foyer (which he surely pronounced with an -a, instead of an -er).

The guy was a total snob, and he probably resented having his car damaged by someone who didn’t just have the $300 on him when it happened.

Looking over his facebook page I realized there was a very distinct class aspect to our situation. My being unable to pay for the damage I caused signified something to him. It told an entire story about who I was and where I came from. As did the massive house he was boasting about on facebook like he was Wayne Newton, and the snooty arrogance with which he spoke to me over the phone. Like I was his fucking butler, and he’d just caught me stealing the family China.

We were from two entirely different worlds, and our universes collided when my car door swung into his. It forced us to interact when we otherwise never would have. It made me cynical about rich people — “the rich prick,” I must have said a million times throughout the ordeal — and it probably reinforced his own conceited air of superiority.

I imagined his dad telling him, “Well Jason, I know how much tuition costs at that school so he must be lying if he says he doesn’t have the money. Don’t let him make a fool of us, son.”

“No father, he’s on the basketball team. He doesn’t pay tuition,” Jason retorts.

“Ha! Well that explains it. Now pass me the escargot.”

For what it’s worth, Jason was black. And what I think it’s worth is that the racial and socioeconomic dynamic of the situation was the opposite of America’s stereotypical norms. Usually it’s the privileged white kid looking down on the lower-class black kid. But this was different.

A few weeks later I received a letter in the mail from the Judge Joe Brown show. Apparently Joe wanted us to appear on his program, and allow his audience to be entertained by my misfortune.

I imagine the expressionless extras sitting behind us bursting into an uncontrollable laughter when I inform Judge Brown that I left a note. He silences the outburst with several spirited slams of his gavel and then scolds me for being so naïve.

Didn’t I know good deeds never go unpunished? Did I not realize how intelligent and wise Oscar Wilde was? Were my parents a pair of crack addicts who failed to impart this tidbit of highly necessary wisdom? How had I been admitted to college without knowing that good deeds never go unpunished?

I had performed a good and thus punishable act. It was out of his hands. Judgment for the plaintiff.

In the post-judgment, on-camera interview I’d shake my head like “I don’t know what happened in there” and “it all happened so fast” and “the rich prick.”

Several weeks after our actual court date I still hadn’t made the payments so, via instant messenger, Jason gave me a deadline like he was a mob boss who was beginning to think I didn’t respect him. I imagined him telling me that if I didn’t come up with the cash soon he was going to break my knee caps and then sell my Xbox on eBay.

When the deadline came and I still hadn’t made good, Jason showed up at my dorm room unannounced and uninvited. “Where’s my money?” he asked with the bravado of a seasoned bookie. I calmly explained to him, for the twentieth time at least, that I didn’t have the money yet, but he would get it as soon as I did.

He lingered disappointingly in my doorway, in utter disbelief that not everyone had an extra couple hundred dollars just lying around, and my patience finally exhausted itself. I ripped off my hoodie, morphed into R. Lee Ermey and told Jason that if he didn’t beat it I would unscrew his head and shit down his neck.

My roommate jumped between us, breaking up the ensuing fight and stopping me from becoming the first human to ever defecate into a headless torso. Jason left our room and went straight to the police station where he filed a menacing complaint against me with the Findlay Police Department.

Fifteen minutes later, an officer was at my door. We invited him into our tiny dorm room and he explained that I needed to write out my version of what took place or else Jason’s would be accepted as gospel. When he saw that I began my statement with, “Well, it all began when I was four years old and my mother explained to me the difference between right and wrong,” the officer suggested that I keep it brief.

My roommate and I expressed our most sincere hope that a 7-11 wasn’t being knocked off while the officer wasted time sorting out the details of an argument. I thought about the little kid in Die Hard telling John McClane that “All the cops are into something. It’s Christmas. You could steal city hall!”

I was offended by his mere presence. The closest thing to a crime that took place in my dorm was the first degree assault my penis suffered at the hands of my left palm on a nightly basis. That and the mini-fridge stocked with Natural Light we were too young to legally drink.

When I told the officer that this started with me leaving a note (which I now fully regretted) he strained to contain his laughter and then attempted to convince me that most people do the same. I could tell he didn’t really mean it though. He was like a used-car salesman trying to convince me that the woody station wagon was a trendy automobile.

After the officer left — some of my best writing in tow — the Resident Director showed up next. I explained to him that it was my RA who had led Jason to our room, and he agreed it was a fireable offense. I watched with great pleasure as my Resident Assistant cleared out his room a few days later. I was in the midst of my Good Deed Punishment, and it felt nice to take someone down with me.

The following summer I came up with the cash and sent it to the Texas address I had for Jason. Nothing more came of the baseless menacing charges he filed against me. Every now and then, over the next three years, I’d see him walking around campus and have highly detailed reveries about gouging out his eye balls and skull-fucking him.

Now every time I open my car door I proceed with extreme caution. I look at every car as the mode of transportation for an Agent of Retribution. Plus, every time my mom asks me to help her take out the trash I wonder if it’s really worth it. And if I ever hit another car again, I won’t be leaving a note. Because, as the great Oscar Wilde once said, “He who leaves note gets sued by rich prick.”

_________________________________________________________________________

*My Probe Was Red sounds like some sort of expose on the horrors of proctology.

**Like The Ohio State University, Findlay has a serious problem with fake colleges attempting to steal their identity so they have to clear things up with an emphatic article before their name.

My Manhattan Why Life is Worth Living List

In his 1979 romantic-comedy film Manhattan, Woody Allen asks the question: Why is life worth living? As he lies on his couch, recording himself and brainstorming a short story idea about basket case Manhattanites who invent neurotic problems as a way of avoiding the more pressing issues of the world, he rattles off a list of eleven things that make life worth living. The list includes Willie Mays, Groucho Marx, Swedish movies, Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, and Louis Armstrong’s rendition of Potato Head Blues.

So, in the spirit of Allen’s existential inquiry I’ve created my own list of eleven things that make life worth living. Here they are, in no specific order:

The short stories of George Saunders.

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (specifically, the Scherzo).

Playing Old Maid with my four year old niece.

The comedic rants of Bill Burr.

Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

The first two days of March Madness.

Cunnilingus.

The White Album.

The amalgam of (good) whiskey and (good) weed.

The work of Nicole Aniston. (If you don’t know who this person is, don’t look her up at work. That would be, as they say, NSFW. You’ve been warned.)

And the Counting Crows album August and Everything After.