Am I Going Insane?

I usually don’t need to ask this until sometime around the August of an Election Year. This time around…hoo-boy.

Look, right off the bat, I need to make one thing perfectly clear. Donald Trump is a disgusting piece of shit who should be dragged out into a landfill and shot by teamsters. He’s a disgusting amoral greedbag who is actually running and already gasping-for-air country into the ground in order to grow his personal brand. I don’t know if he believes half the things he says, but he’s OK with spreading those beliefs to get ahead, which is no less disgusting.

That said, this Election coverage/reaction to the coverage (at this point I don’t even read news, I just sometimes click stuff my friends post on facebook, how sad is that) has really gotten out of hand. It seems like every week, the Internet has suddenly decided that Trump is now even more SUPER-elected even though it’s May.

Honestly, I don’t understand the rationale that says because Ted Cruz dropped out, democrats need to start losing their goddamned minds. It’s been clear that Trump was going to be the nom barring something ridiculous for a while now (and honestly, for my money, a Cruz/Clinton showdown is much less of a sure-thing than a Trump/Clinton showdown), so why all the sudden gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing? Equally annoying are the brave souls who are still saying with a straight face that “NOBODY SEEMS TO CARE ABOUT TRUMP BEING POISED TO TAKE OVER THE FREE WORLD.” How big of an egomaniac do you need to be to honestly believe that. Literally every single news outlet/person with a social media account can’t talk about anything else!

As for the election itself, I’m still of the same opinion I was many months ago: HRC/Trump in the general and HRC wins by a significant margin. Trump is too detestable, too inexperienced, too divisive. He has no traction with anything but hard-right white men, and even though it seems incredible, there just aren’t enough of those to win a general election.

Well, that will happen IF dems can accept that the Bernie ship has sailed and rally behind the nominee. I know everybody wants to keep waving the “Hillary is a War Criminal” flag, but this is Donald Trump. Anybody else, seriously. No, I don’t wanna hear it. Vote for the democratic nominee. I shouldn’t even have to tell you this.

For my part, I know what my options are at this point, so I may have to do a full election-news blackout in order to keep from losing my own goddamned mind.

My Trip to the ER

I haven’t had a long and prestigious career of celebrating 4/20, and this year was–well, I’m not sure how to finish that sentence. I guess it all depends on how you look at it.

I suppose I had more or less forgotten that the hallowed day was coming up, until I was texting with D about the wall-to-wall mindfuckery that is Tiptoes on one fine Tuesday evening. Somehow, this conversation led into running over the well-trod ground that is my having never seen Space Jam, and that in turn spun into a mutually reached decision that April 20th might be just the time for a double-header.

The complications? Such an endeavor clearly requires snacks, and D was ready, willing, and able. She purchased all of the necessary components or making guacamole and we were ready to have a nice, relaxing evening in, enjoying the spoils of our culinary prowess while we watched Michael Jordan dunk on cartoon aliens. And then, I had to go and ruin it all by slicing my hand open with a chef’s knife.

The sheer dumbassery of such a tale is compounded by the fact that I narrowly avoided slicing ANOTHER finger open moments before, when the blade glanced off the nail of my left index finger and took out a chunk, but did not break skin. “Whew, that was close!” I said, and switched from chopping an onion to pitting an avocado.

Idiot.

It only took two tries to extract that pit before the knife skittered right and sliced clean through my left pinkie. It’s a surreal moment when you examine the wound and see a huge gap where there shouldn’t be a gap, but no blood. Then: lots of blood.

I’m not a real queasy person, but I’ll admit that I was at something of a loss. Luckily D helped me wrap the wound up with a makeshift paper towel bandage and helped me get an Uber to the hospital. Once there she even stuck around the whole 4 hours I had to wait to get stitches, entertaining and assuring me that I didn’t need to apologize for ruining the evening. She was a real trooper, I must say.

I was prepared to feel like a huge jackass for walking into a Bushwick ER with a boo-boo on my pinkie, but it turned out to be a slow night. I got fast-tracked upstairs almost immediately, but from there it was a few hours of sitting in a chair, before being moved to another room where I sat in a more uncomfortable chair.

While waiting, I took stock of the other patients. One guy seemed to have a similar hand wound, but his may have been a crush injury from machinery (one nurse informed me that almost all the hand injuries they get at that location tend to be factory workers). At least one kid was very, very high on something, and some of their nurses kept getting him to stand up and walk around. It seemed like his grandmother had brought him. I wondered how she was going to talk to him about it the next day, if at all. Another kid was bleeding profusely from the nose, but seemed completely alert.

The doctor finally came in, asked what had happened, and barely reacted when I said I was cutting avocados. She cleaned the wound out, examined it, then told me the cut was too close to the nail-line and she was going to have to call a hand specialist. Another forty-five minutes later, the very annoyed hand specialist came in, looked at the cut, then left the room to go yell at the first doctor for not doing it herself. However, his tone changed somewhat when he prepped me for stitches and looked at how deep the cut was. “What kind of knife did this?” he asked. When I told him it was a very sharp, fresh-out-of-the-packaging chef’s knife he only nodded. “Why do you ask?” I wondered. “It’s a really deep cut,” he responded, sounding almost impressed. He then added, somewhat bewildered, that he sees at last 2-3 cases of avocado-related wounds per week. This was repeated by the doctor who examined my stitches nearly two weeks later. Anyway.

Watching the doc sew up my finger while pumped full of numbing novocaine was certainly an experience. By that point it was past midnight, and I couldn’t help but reflect on how this wasn’t exactly the night I had planned. By 1:30, we were out of there, and took a cab back to Ridgewood to finish the guacamole.

A Strange Assortment of Random Thoughts, Events, and Observations

  1. I wonder if the guy who played “Troy” on Scrubs ever uses it to try and get laid. I wonder if he’s ever successful.
  2. It’s hard to tell if girls at the bar are looking at me because they want me to talk to them, or if they are just weirded out because I’m looking at them.
  3. Bill Watterson is one badass motherfucker. I kind of wish he was my friend.
  4. Older bartenders like me. I’m not sure why.
  5. Most “typical” women in New York seem to be seeking a person who is a frat guy in a hipster costume. I think I might be close to the opposite of that.
  6. Drinking in low-key Manhattan bars sometimes makes you feel like you’re inside of a movie or television show.
  7. There is a certain pure pleasure that comes from standing in one spot in New York with your cell phone and ear buds in your pocket and watching all kinds of people go by. Especially when you are standing next  to a “No Loitering” sign.
  8. Central Park and museums are two things that New Yorkers always want to go to more, and they say this every time they go to either, yet they still only manage to go every now and again. Kind of like Angelenos and the beach, although in the summer I feel like I went to the beach almost every weekend.
  9. My biggest fear is waking up one day and realizing I fucked everything up, and this is paralyzing, and leads to me fucking a lot of stuff  up.
  10. Election years really bum me the fuck out.

Meet the New Food/Same as the Old Food

The past few weeks have been a period of culinary indulgence.

First there was the pre-Valentine’s day Cold Front dinner at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse in Financial, followed by an equally as chilly dude’s night out at Lure Fish Bar in SoHo (it wasn’t until Arun arrived that I realized the interior was made to look like an ultra-luxe yacht). Last night, it was Leigh, Romaine, and Arun for an attempt to eat at Babuji that was quickly transformed into dinner at Duck’s Eatery. All reminded me that dining with friends is one of the great joys in life, and a particularly relaxing and decadent endeavor in New York. When you live in a place that sometimes feels like a hostile, sentient bear-trap full of cold weather and crazy people (I’m ready for even this relatively mild Winter to be over), paying an establishment an exorbitant amount of money to be nice and feed you delicious things can be a nice reminder–or serve as an illusion–that you’re still coming out ahead.

ANYway, Duck’s is on the same street as Motorino, one of the many upscale Neapolitan style pizza restaurants that dot the city like acne on a blogger’s face. Further discussion amongst the group eventually wound its way around to two things: 1)pizza’s newfound status as an Identity Marker and 2)what I might call “Brooklyn Boilerplate”–that is to say, the nouveau standard items to be found on any hipper-than-thou restaurant seeking to get featured in Gothamist writeups and the #foodporn hashtags of only the most discerning cool kids.

Brussel sprouts were my go-to pick, as they seem to be an appetizer almost everywhere I go, but Arun argued that they have already crested the wave of hip and receded back into played-out territory. Likewise with bone marrow and pate, though mac ‘n’ cheese seems to be continuing its high-wire balancing act. Just as gothninja and normcore eventually yielded to athleisure and something else I don’t know about, all of these staples have are slowly beginning to fade. As for what will replace them, only time can tell.

Pizza, in my opinion, is oddly occupying some sort of faux-niche/faux-hip status. For other members of my generation and beyond (that is, people in the early 30s and below), pizza had always been a default option. “Everybody” likes pizza, in a manner that transcended the former “fake wacky food obsession” golden child that was bacon. Pizza is the food of our childhoods, the sense memory item linked to one thousand nights in with family and friends and significant others, birthday parties, and little league celebrations. Throwing one’s arms around pizza always seemed a strange affectation for the cool kids, because pizza always seemed so populist, traditional, and above all, obvious. As I mentioned in so many words on twitter, the manic pixie dream girl who obsessively fills her social media feeds with pizza minutiae seemed like a dark analogue to the frat guy who is very vocal about how much he loves pussy.

Maybe this is the “new sincerity” that Jesse Thorne was talking about. Has hipness finally transcended irony? This was what I always wanted, but now that we’re here it feels strangely empty. I’ll still go to all the hip new pizza places and I’ll still throw down $20 for an 18″ pie from some anonymous spot in Queens, but I’ll never understand the need to paint one’s self as a “pizza person”.

There’s a First Time for Everything

I had never dropped a course after attending the first few classes, until this year.

 

There had been the “Introduction to Oceanography” course I eagerly registered for my first year at UT-Austin, fondly recalling my adolescent love of marine life and naive ambitions of studying marine biology. It was a moment of shameful deja vu when I acquired the textbook a few days prior to the beginning of the term, cracked it open, and stared with a tight chest at all of the graphs and equations and complicated looking charts before remembering that I had discovered, years earlier, that I was not and never would be a scientist, no matter how into sharks I had been as a 9-year-old.

 

This term it was “Comic Alternatives”, a course I had signed up for after snagging my first choice “Medieval Death” and failing to get registered in time for my second choice, “19th Century Transatlantic Literature.” The description sounded promising enough, and gave me the impression that the course would be a look at comedy the roots of comedy as a genre and the means by which comedy explores power dynamics in interpersonal and socio-political contexts. It sounded like just the type of fuzzy-headed liberal arts ballyhoo that I could get behind.

 

No such luck, however. I had ignored a few whispered, dire warnings that the Professor was a bit of a luddite, assuming them to a bit overblown. When I showed up to the first day, I sat with gritted teeth as a former head of the department (now returning-out-of-retirement-adjunct) pontificated at great length about what the course might be, what it definitely was not, and what would (probably) be expected of us. This was a man who clearly had some very strong opinions about the “youth” of today, as he muttered something about “laying off the phones” when a query about an obscure greek literary term was not met with an adequate explanation. I weighed my options for the remainder of the evening (it was my last chance to recover 3/4ths of my tuition), but I think that comment was the final nail in the coffin. I’m a grown-ass man who is paying a lot of money to take graduate courses and my phone was nowhere to be found.

Lord, deliver me from a future in which I feel my worth as a teacher can be measured in how inadequate I make my students feel, and make me the kind of old man who doesn’t bitterly weep for the lack of longform bluebook examinations in a 21st century graduate course. I still have unknowable amounts to learn for certain, but I expect, as all students should, to be met with good faith and treated with respect (so long as I prove I deserve it).

A Rising Tide Lifts All Clickbait…maybe

Greetings. I’ve been zipping around the country lately, but that’s not what this post is about. No humblebrags, except for this sentence, and the one preceding it. Anyway.

Two teeth-gnashing stories of note have hit the interwebs since I’ve been back, and they are closely related. The first is the “outing” of a Conde Nast executive by “journalists” at noted online clickbait-pushers Gawker.com, and the second is the hacking of the infidelity dating site, AshleyMadison.com.

Let’s start at the top. First, Gawker published an article essentially accusing the CFO of Conde Nast (which is one of Gawker’s chief competitors, it should be noted) of trying to hire a gay prostitute with basically no evidence at all, other than the word of said gay prostitute. The executive, whose name I won’t repeat here, is not a public figure; nobody knows his name, he has no high profile public statements or opinions of any kind on record. Essentially, the bastion of journalistic integrity that is Gawker decided to more or less ruin this guy’s marriage and professional reputation because…

Well, that depends on what you believe. In a series of jaw-droppingly out-of-touch-with-reality tweets, the editorial staff at Gawker defended trashing the life of a person who actually works for a living more or less on the grounds that the “story” is factual (debatable) and interesting (debatable). A few even took a harder tack and claimed that they wrote the story because the executive was a cheater and deserved everything he got.

This should be eerily familiar to anybody who has a passing knowledge of the state of American journalism at the turn of the 20th century and beyond. Ever seen L.A. Confidential? The folks at Gawker would feel right at home sharing stories of exploitation and ruined careers with Danny Devito’s character, and would probably possess a few of the same ham-fisted justifications for their vile and despicable muckraking hackery, the only difference being that editor of Hush-Hush magazine actually retains some sort of self awareness and winking acknowledgment of how ridiculous his “journalistic ethics” argument is.

The coverage of this fallout up until now has focused on the alleged cultural shifts occurring within the Gawker network, with even the more right-headed articles swallowing the narrative that the gossip rag’s now more about money and less about speaking truth to power. Let’s not get it twisted: THE ENTIRE GAWKER NETWORK HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT MONEY, as is evidenced by their wholesale “outrage-on-demand” editorial direction that you can see in every one of its blogs and others like it (looking at you Salon). More importantly, though, the “journalists” in question and their steadfast refusal to accept responsibility for their utterly boneheaded, disgustingly cynical, and bafflingly cruel garbage-writing is only the latest in a long line of stories that underscore the public’s newfound obsession with appointing itself judge jury and executioner over any person they can get their grubby little, cubicle-atrophied paws on.

We’re no longer content to demand blood sacrifice from people who have the audacity to be famous (hint: we made them that way), now it appears to be open season on private citizens and their private lives, as massive hacks at AshleyMadison.com have apparently been justified with the same “they deserve it” refrain. From leaked nudes to stolen songs and films to possibly fabricated stories about infidelity, we’ve all apparently convinced ourselves that anybody who does anything even remotely questionable–even in private life–deserves the full uninformed and screechy fury of the Internet. This notion even spills over into the oft-derided “social justice warriors” that love to splatter the faces and words of comedians and artists they deem unacceptable all over blogs for daring to have opinions that run counter to whatever the mainstream happens to be at that exact moment. All of it is connected; from grim-faced articles with headlines like “why Amy Schumer isn’t funny” to twitter campaigns to get somebody fired because they used the word “dongle” in a funny way (note: this actually happened), we’re all frothing at the mouth to see people go down, and it doesn’t even matter what their net worth is anymore.

It’s hard to say which came first, the outrage or the industry, but sites like Gawker and its network blogs like Jezebel make their bones by claiming to be some kind of moral crusader when they’re just trying to sell clicks to people whose lives are so empty they actually get angry about what a person they will never see with their own two eyes and who has no measurable impact on public policy or opinion whatsoever said about rape one time. It’s possible that the two high-level Gawker employees who quit with all the fury and drama of a high school theater star earlier this week have come to truly believe that they are the Millenial Woodward and Bernstein, which is even more alarming than greedy idiots continuing to be greedy idiots–a cynical person may be damaging, but they aren’t unpredictable. The chosen ones always are.

But maybe this is a good thing, overall. The coverage of these two things seems to reflect an attitude shift in the way (writers, at least) feel about this kind of nonsense, and it seems like people have begun to have enough of the “HOW DARE YOU NOW PAY ME” crowd. If dumpster fires like garbage continue to implode, maybe, just maybe, the alternatives (legacy media with actually educated and trained journalists) will be able to do their jobs again.

A man can dream.

McKinney

It’s been a long time. At first I told myself it was because I was heavily invested in finishing up my first (full) semester of grad school firing on all cylinders, but I took a long sabbatical from writing anything after turning in my last paper, and have since been forced to admit that it was just laziness. Time to hop back on the horse.

The latest nugget of news to really land in my consciousness comes from my hometown area. McKinney, Texas is a suburb of Dallas that was most well-known to me in high school for having a really bad heroin problem (I’ve since looked into it more, and apparently a bunch of affluent North Texas suburbs fell victim to a mini-epidemic in the late 90s). These past few days, most American know it as the latest entry in the long and storied history of excessive police force against unarmed black people. The office of interest has since resigned after being placed on administrative leave, and facing enormous pressure from all corners after he needlessly escalated a situation involving black teenagers and a community pool in a mostly white development.

There’s two conflicting stories that made the rounds, attended to by shrieky teeth-gnashing anger addicts on all sides (though let me stress, the people saying the police were definitively in the wrong are unquestionably right):

Story 1: Gangs of marauding (and let’s not forget, black) teens invaded a peaceful white suburban pool they were not allowed to be at, were generally engaged in disturbing/illegal behavior, fought with residents/each other, and refused to disperse when HOA reps asked them to leave, so the police were called, and they did absolutely nothing wrong.

Story 2: An innocent pool party was broken up for absolutely no reason other than there were lots of black kids there and racist white people called the police, even though they were completely allowed to be there and doing absolutely nothing wrong, and the police were all horrible racists.

While both stories seem to fall victim to fall victim to a certain type of thinking, the latter story is backed up by video evidence which shows former McKinney officer Casebolt charging into what appears to be an otherwise calm and orderly situation (other officers seem to be behaving appropriately and discussing the issues residents have with the party with several teens, who are engaged and compliant) and pointlessly escalating for reasons that seem to elude everyone, including his colleagues. He (bizarrely) does a tactical roll, appears to grab random kids and force them to the ground, and curses up a storm for no apparent reason. The video culminates with him screaming in a 14-year-old girl’s face, ordering her to leave (which she does), then grabbing her and forcing her to the ground (“ON YOUR FACE!” is the order given). When nearby friends appear to object, he pulls his gun and menaces the children with it, at which point other bewildered officers appear to half-heartedly try to calm him down (they seem more confused than anything else).

Any way you slice the situation, the above events are never necessary when grown police officers are dealing with unarmed, non-violent people and innocent bystanders, let alone goddamn children. It’s my opinion (formed after reading multiple accounts from a variety of sources) that the party either wasn’t supposed to happen in the community pool or that the organizers/guests (through ignorance or apathy) ended up breaking HOA rules and disturbing residents. Granted, it doesn’t take a lot for twitchy, affluent white people to get nervous when large groups of black people are in their neighborhood, and there’s no doubt in my mind that at least a few, if not the majority of people who called in complaints did so because of a visceral negative reaction to THEM (black kids) invading OUR (white people) neighborhood.

Basically, it seems likely that the party was, in fact, way too big and noisy and irritating, possibly contained too many kids doing illegal stuff, and that people called the cops because this pissed them off (possibly for legitimate and illegitimate reasons). Apparently the fights alluded to in certain reports were the direct result of white adults hurling racist epithets at black teens, which I can certainly believe.

But this is a reasonable expectation for adults to have of teenagers. Being loud and rowdy and doing stuff that teenagers aren’t supposed to do is what defines being a teenager in the first place. I have fond memories of countless nights spent gathered with huge groups of my high school class inside gated communities, pool areas, and closed parks drinking underage, smoking weed, and generally doing things that American teenagers love to do. I was once pulled over along with several friends as we cruised through a neighborhood adjacent to our high school and smoked weed during halftime at the Homecoming game, and the officer didn’t do more than put a somewhat theatrical scare into us and confiscate our stash.

Americans should have a reasonable expectation that its teenagers–ALL of its teenagers–will generally do stuff that will annoy the kinds of stuffy, rule-mongering, sour-lipped prigs that thrive in affluent, planned communities, and that HOAs seem built for exclusively. And while I find a bunch of grown adults calling the police over what might have been a too-loud party pretty eye-roll worthy, I suppose that sort of racially motivated hand-wringing and tongue-clucking should also be reasonably expected. What’s UNreasonable is for white Americans to treat black Americans who are guilty of nothing more than being teenagers as though they are violent criminals, and to defend and even laud police officers like Casebolt who behave in a manner unfit for people who are charged with keeping communities safe and orderly. Teenagers will do what teenagers have done since time immemorial, and cops responding to a gathering of mostly black kids should respond in the same way that they always responded to my own (mostly white) teenage gatherings: break it up and move along.

In the meantime, people who are so resistant to examining their own issues of latent (or not so latent) racism that they are behaving as though the McKinney police heroically thwarted a terrorist attack would do well to sit down and think long and hard about what kind of situation calls for an armed, adult man to throw a non-violent, unarmed, 14-year-old girl to the ground, jam a knee in her back, and pull a gun on other non-violent, unarmed teenagers.

And in the meantime, stop to think how you would feel if the police had treated your own white children this way, or even if you had been treated this way during your own youth. Difficult to imagine?

There’s a reason for that.