Friday, November 14, 2014
The Road Less Traveled
When I was seventeen I met a peculiar guy at a party. He was filthy, his punk t-shirt was torn in the wrong places, and he was as drunk as I'd ever seen a fifteen year old get. He was crying because he'd lost his shoes, and everybody was making fun of him mercilessly. Having always held a soft spot for drunks, outcasts, and punks, I felt bad for him, as well as a little kinship.
"What's wrong man? Sit up. It can't be that bad. Stop crying, this ain't your party. You're an ugly scene all to yourself right now and I'm sure that ain't necessary."
He mumbled/howled/bawled out some unintelligible nonsense, of which all I could understand was "my FUCKING shoes!"
"Relax man, we'll find them. What's your name?"
Three or four people yelled "That's fuckin' SEED!" in a derogatory fashion. I ignored them and continued to address the disastrous young man.
"Come inside, wash your face, and have a seat. I'll find out who hid them from you."
Five minutes later he was snoring on the couch, little snot bubbles inflating and popping from one nostril. The last time I'd seen anyone make such a mess of himself was when I'd covered my father's drunken naked form with all the cold cuts in the refrigerator, maybe two weeks before. As it turned out, the shoeless guy's name wasn't Seed. He got that nickname by repeatedly failing to take the seeds out of his pot before rolling joints, causing them to explode and scare whoever was hitting it. His name was Ian Denbroeder.
Back then, I lived with my folks, and the garage was my personal party zone. It was covered in posters, ashes, and spilled food. It wasn't long before this kid started showing up to read comic books and drink cheap beer. He liked to play chess (badly, I always won) and he often brought marijuana. I liked him most of the time. When I didn't, it was when he threw up on the floor, tried to strangle his girlfriend, or shit his pants. He never could modulate his alcohol intake, nor did he ever learn that skill.
I'm making him sound really shitty, which isn't totally fair. Let me tell you about some of the good things. He lit up with joy when a song he liked came on, lit up like nobody I've seen since. A crazy fire would illuminate his eyes and he'd pump his fist and swing his head until he couldn't stand it anymore. Then he'd get up and sing and dance, bumping into furniture or garbage cans or bicycles, knocking them over, never losing a beat. His singing sounded awful, but it was charming somehow.
He was also funny, in his bizarre way. One day he knocked on my door in the middle of the night, drunk as usual, barefoot and a little bloody. He'd walked five miles to my parents' house after being ejected from a party. He'd lost his shoes (a common theme for him) and wanted me to donate a pair of mine. I offered him a place to crash, but he had plans. "Just the shoes, please and thank you." I rummaged and eventually handed over a beat up pair of sneakers I'd recently retired. He grabbed me by the hair, (it was very long back then) and planted a kiss square on my lips. "You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar." He slipped on my old shoes and walked off.
Ian had a scar across his forehead. One day shortly before I met him, he stole his older brother's new truck and intentionally crashed it into a concrete barrier in order to hurt his family. His intention, he said, was to die and fuck over his brother at the same time. To say that he didn't get along with his family would be an understatement. Occasionally he'd claim traumatic brain injury from the crash, but everybody knew that was bullshit. He was just depressed and had an alcohol problem. A lot of us did, frankly.
All I ever wanted in life was to live alone. Eight months after I finally achieved that goal, I lost my main job. I had three choices: make a car payment, pay the rent, or say fuck it and blow my secondary income on drugs until there was nothing left of me. You know what I chose, and when I fell, it was Ian who caught me. He set out a mattress in his living room and told me his XBOX live password. We ordered a lot of pizza. You hear people talk about loyalty and friendship, but with Ian, it was fiercer than that. He looked at me like an older brother and a lost puppy at the same time. He was there when I needed him.
One of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me in my entire life was Ian, back on Christmas Eve, 2007. My father was homeless and sinking fast, and I knew it. He called because the shelter was full, it was bitterly cold out, and he didn't want to drive to the Des Plaines Oasis parking lot where he usually parked his white van for the night. I asked, and Ian said it was fine if he stayed the night. He welcomed my dad and then retreated to his bedroom so my father and I could could hang out, just the two of us. Dad was ashy, weezy, and grey. I knew then his death was coming, and so did he. I spent the night getting drunk with Dad one last time. I said everything that was in my heart. When Dad fell off the couch and started snoring face down, I got Ian and he helped me pick him up, put him back on the couch, and cover him in a blanket.
We moved from Elk Grove Village to Chicago shortly thereafter, right across from the Vienna factory. We geeked out over Battlestar Galactica, The Clash, and small batch bourbon. We had fun and made terrible food together. There came a day when my sister Anita was stuck and had to move immediately. Without hesitation, Ian not only offered that she move in with us, but he also volunteered the master bedroom, which was his. He took the tiny third bedroom instead, which was barely more than a glorified closet. For a while, we were three peas in a pod, happily binge watching sci-fi and fantasy DVDs and eating platters of imported meats and cheeses and beers.
Unfortunately, Ian was always depressed and self-loathing, and sometimes drunk and angry. My sister is a happy, bright woman, and Ian eventually grew to resent her. He'd get shithammered super fast and talk about how evil and awful he was, turning Anita and I into his armchair psychologists. He eventually got even worse with whiskey and began to project his self-hatred externally. One morning at five AM he burst into the bathroom while Anita was showering for work, screaming that she's a bitch who looked down on him, and that one day he'd show her. Fortunately he never tried to touch her or I'd have killed him myself. It was vile. It enraged me. I know where it came from, given his constant verbal self-lashing, but I didn't care. Even after everything he did for me, that act was unforgivable. Intimidating and threatening and frightening my family was a hard line crossed. Anita and I moved out together immediately and left Ian behind. I told you at the beginning that he could be ugly.
I did eventually get an apartment all to myself again and fixed the financial problems I caused myself in 2007. Ian sent me a message on facebook, throwing out "remember that time?" stories. I never forgot what happened, but he seemed lonely and sad, so I said yes when he asked to hang out. He came over a few times, and we'd listen to the same Clash records we'd played in my garage. He'd tell me about his print shop work and his giant novelty weapons, and we'd drink beer. It was kind of like the old days.
One day last winter he asked for a ride from Cumberland Station and a place to crash, as well as a ride to work in the morning. I said sure. He asked to stop at McDonalds, and when I pulled into the lot, a skinny, bug-eyed crackhead couple came running up (and into) the backseat of my car, while Ian popped the lock and tried to explain what was happening. I was silent, hyper alert, and furious. He bought his heroin and even had the nerve to say "shush!" when I addressed him by his name. He had a code name with his junkie crowd, it seemed. I bitched, but I let him crash and do his shit. However, after being tricked into going to score heroin, I decided to cut him out of my life forever.
And so I did. He called a few times after that, but I ignored him. Last June, he robbed a 7-11 for $40 and went to prison for two months. When he got out, he lasted less than twelve hours before going to score. Two weeks ago he chose (I believe it was intentional) to take a fatal dose instead of facing 5-7 years of court-mandated sobriety, discipline, and hard work.
I am very sad that he died. He was a wild person, both good and bad, like the rest of us. It hurts to know that despite all the wonderful things about him, he constantly chose to hurt himself, the entire time I knew him. He is gone, but so is his constant torment. He is at peace. And I will miss the good Ian Denbroeder.
The Zod Abides
There's a fella I wanna tell you about, a fella goes by the name o' Zod. Now, that's a name no self-respecting fella applies to himself, least not where I come from. But the Zod he is, was, and shall be. By his own choice no less. Sure, he's a peculiar cat, this Zod, and maybe that's why I found him so darned interestin'.
We happened upon the same bowling alley one night and found ourselves talking over a beer or three at the bar, a few seats apart. I was my usual self, cool as cucumber, soaking up the tacky ambiance and Elvis tunes.
Zod, on the other hand... Well, he was animated. Yessir, that's the word. This fella was gesticulating with his hands like an I-talian actor, muttering at the teevees, and occasionally hollering nonsense phrases like "kryptonite touchdown motherfuckers!" before slamming his fist on the bar top.
"Say, fella, couldn't help but notice you hoppin' about like a Mexican jumping bean on Cinco De Mayo. What's your story, pard?"
Turns out, this Zod character had an awful lot to say.
"I do not belong here. Plain and simple. I used to crush galaxies within my fist. I used to immolate my adversaries with red laser beams issued forth from my divine eyeballs. I used to stomp about, unheeded, simultaneously shaming and defecating upon all those with the temerity to stand before me in challenge.
"But that was before. That was ago. Now I am humbled, a reduced god, naught but a face in the crowd. I am diminished."
Given all the givens, I couldn't let his storm o' words go by. I figured I'd just go ahead and ask.
"Mister, what in the blue fuck are you talkin' about?"
He answered. He struck me as a rather unkind fella.
"Fantasy football, you imbecile! The Thunderdome! I won! I won it first! I won it from the sixteenth draft slot! I won it when the commissioner ranked me fifteenth ahead of only one other team, that spammy illiterate jackhole Patrick Warner! I was the Emperor God!
"Since my glorious triumph, I've been Supermanned (editor's note: yes, I made a verb out of that) by the likes of Clarence and Ed! It's not right! It's fundamentally wrong! I belong atop the mountain of glory forevermore! In perpetuity!"
This weird lookin' dude in the glittery costume seemed like he might pop a blood vessel. I thought it best to lead him to a place of calm.
"I expect your last rodeo ain't yet run, Mr. Zod. Think you might get back at it?"
He looked at me like I was an ant for a moment, his eyes flashing anger like a roped steer. But then he mellowed a bit, settled his self down, and continued in a manner more appropriate to polite folk like you and I.
"Perhaps. Indeed, yes. These mewling babes are fresh to the arena. I can take them unawares while my superhuman powers recharge and my dominance slowly ascends. Newbies. Meat. Yes. This Emily Mayer, for instance. She has no idea what neighborhood she's wandered into. Jonathan Carroll? Give me a fucking break. He's public meat to be raped, chewed, and discarded by anyone with an erection and an appetite. And I have no respect for second year chump ass "silent partners" like Bryan Moore and Saeid Esmaeilian. All are chum to my shark. While the other, longstanding warriors deserve at least a modicum of respect, I must ignore that, for all must perish. So speaks Zod."
Dumbfounded, I beat my retreat. Before I could scamper all the way away, Zod yelled a question, audible to everyone in the goddamn bowling alley:
"Sam, know where I can get some cocaine here in El Paso?"
Now I Break
Another filling escaped one of my tooth prisons a few moments ago. This loss is no mere chunk of tin. This one is symbolic.
I had an emergency root canal last Monday. My dentist, teetering on the verge of retirement, no longer does the serious stuff, just cleanings and cavities. He'd put me off for two weeks, packing my molar full of medicated paste over two separate visits, whispering sweet nothings about saving the nerve.
After those putty wads fell out, twice, and I suffered my third excruciating toothache with no opiates within reach, I resolved to get my fucking tooth drilled out. I called a root canal specialist. No more dilly dallying and gentle hearted thoughts about preserving nerve tissues. Numb it, shred it, and scrape it out in pulpy chunks. That was my thinking.
I hadn't been to the dentist in three years and I deserved every last bit of agony for my negligence. But still.
So here I sit, one molar hollowed out and packed full of temporary bullshit, awaiting a permanent crown, and of course another tooth decides to disintegrate on me.
I turned 35 two weeks ago. I am falling apart.
It's not just the teeth.
I have a bunion on my left foot. It came out of nowhere. Now, my big toe curves unnaturally inward, painfully, and my metatarsophalangeal joint's bursal sac is totally swollen up and ruined. It's a lot like having a bone stick out the side of your foot. I can walk normally most of the time, but occasionally I get a lightning strike across my foot that knocks me over. I usually have a really dumbstruck facial expression as my head gets closer to the ground. I try to rise quickly, mutter "foot problem" and move on, but I get weird looks. Can't blame 'em. It's embarrassing.
Fuck this bullshit.
I've grown a a magical pimple on my left ass cheek. It's more like a self-renewing resource, a never ending cyst full of beige mustard-like pus that I pop biweekly onto the hall mirror, admire the splash, then pop again on the same mirror when it refills. It doesn't heal. I think I've been through four cycles so far. I might have an abstract masterpiece in progress here. Silver lining?
These are minor symptoms of a greater systemic failure.
I carried thirty pounds of beer one mile last week (boxed, but no handles, furniture style) and I almost died. My pores pissed sweat painfully like they'd never been used before. I hyperventilated. I got dizzy.
I smoke, yeah. That doesn't help. But I'm 35. I shouldn't have danced on the edge of a goddamn stroke from such a minor effort.
I fart without prior internal warning now, kind of like pubescent boys have spontaneous boners. It's equally mortifying. I'll be lecturing a subordinate on proper procedure and attention to detail and mid sentence I'll raspberry stutter a nasty wet shit cloud from my jokester anus. It's hard to be taken seriously when you're shifting back and forth due to a desperate need to maintenance wipe, all while your audience can smell your awful insides.
All my life I've heard the cliches and the attendant resigned moaning about the slow degradation of the body, the pollution of the flesh, the final descent into human pudding, and the ultimate inevitability of death, but I never cared. Now that it's happening to me, I'm pissed.
I can't wait to turn forty. Maybe by then I'll be skinless and possess the ability to puke out my ears.
Old Thunderdome Boulevard
It was a dark and stormy night, except it wasn't actually going to rain, more like the barometer was just a bit high and the air a bit thick. It was kinda dark, or dim, I suppose, but there were streetlights. Well, lamps, I guess. But outdoor. You know. Whatever. I guess that saying it was a humid, gloomy night would be a more accurate way to describe the setting. Let's continue.
I was just chillin' out, you know, relaxing in the park, occupying a wooden bench near some trees overlooking a lake, burning a big dumb rasta spliff, smiling, indulgent. I was getting right, laying low, scoping the scene. You know the drill, man. Living. Being cool.
Just down the path from me a drum circle of baked hippies tried to synchronize their rhythm, in vain. Just a bunch of fuckups with hand drums, ample supplies of hallucinogens, and a total lack of self awareness. I set my mojito thermos down beside me on the bench, stood tall, and sauntered over to interview the assembly of burnouts. I felt, perhaps irrationally, that they possessed wisdom, that it was available, and it was crucial I gain it. The moment felt pivotal, important, cosmic.
Of maybe I was just stoned.
I began talking up the dirty little pilled out hippies littering the lawn before me. I shot the shit, and they spoke. (in muddled tripped out attempts at sentences, but I excel at comprehension, regardless of the chemical mental pollution of my conversational partners)
Clarence Overstreet, General Manager of Song Of RICE and Fire, has this to say: "Go away, dude. We're fuckin' partying. You're weird and old. Get away from us." Clarence farted, everyone looked at him, and for the briefest moment, his facade of arrogance crumbled. Stephanie laughed and said "Romo over Cutler? Made sense, but ha ha fucking ha, thanks for the victory."
Unable to tolerate the spite, I moved on to the kid with the crappiest set of hand drums I'd ever seen. "What's up man, how are you?," I asked. He answered, semi-coherently: "I'm Rick. I lost Jimmy. Where's Jimmy? I need JIMMY NOW!" I calmed him down. "It's okay, Dacey, it's okay, pal. You won last week. You won! Don't panic, I'm sure Jimmy Graham will come home soon." A little disturbed, I let the little acid freak continue to twitch in the dewy grass and moved on.
Standing alone, staring at the moon, weeping openly, was a man obviously respected by the rest of the group, but still there he was: noble, proud, and alone. I gave him the slight head raise nod of respect. He acknowledged me by whispering "Randy" and then turning back to the moon. I turned away and left Ed to his moment of silence and reflection. I understood. The Cobb had left the building.
It was too heavy, man. I couldn't hang with this crowd, not like this. Such misery. Such sorrow. These kids couldn't handle their gear. I know, a Zod abides, but damn, this was mournful, even for an intergalactic general/emperor/thunderdome champ like me. I collected my mojito thermos and made for my El Camino a mile away. Time to get free.
But it wouldn't be that simple. There was one more lost soul, writhing in the center of the gravel path. I wasn't sure whether to take a wide curve around him or address him directly. He solved that one by screaming off at nothing. At least I hope it was nothing, he sure as shit wasn't looking at me. "I used to be somebody! I used to matter! I used to have my own stable of bitches! Now I'm... I'm... just another Fulker, and nobody cares..." I made the circle around him. Wide fuckin' berth, best to be safe, you know?
I got back to my El Camino. Some punk was jamming a screwdriver into the lock. I charged. The poor fuck saw me, dropped his tool, and ran, accidentally dropping his wallet as he fled. I peeked at his identification: Saied Esmaeilian. Whatever. Just another ghost of a bad night. He wouldn't matter, in the long run.
I focused, hoping to drive without getting pulled over. I could do this. Game time. Week seven would be awesome to me. Had to be.
Emperor Zod: Ace Reporter
Teen wunderkind and all around nice kid Zodrick Brundlebunk got out of school at precisely 3:25 pm. The earnest and intelligent lad stuffed his most important possessions into his trusty knapsack: a few pencils, a notepad, and his primary instrument of mayhem, a laptop.
Zodrick sprinted to the local internet cafe, where he bought a triple expresso, sat down, and proceeded to whip out his machine. He signed on to Twitter. His mission? Why, young Zodrick wanted nothing more than to harass each and every last beat reporter employed by any local newspaper within 50 miles of one of the 32 NFL teams. That, and obsessively refresh the player news feed on rotoworld. Vigilance is the price of success.
With a singular focus, he collected scouting intelligence to prepare for week three. Below is the information he assembled about both about his team, and that of his opponent, MidWestUnderdogg, owned by one mysterious and (heretofore) silent Mr. Bryan Moore.
In the news:
Drew Brees (MidWestUnderdogg) commented Monday: "I used to play for Zod. Great owner. We won a ring together. I play for the Dogg now, but I've never met the owner. Moore, I think his name is. Kind of a recluse, I hear."
Robbie Gould (MidwestUnderdogg) was almost arrested late Wednesday afternoon in Wrigleyville. Witnesses claim Gould urinated on a flowerbed in front of a home on the 1700 block of West Addison Avenue. Police arrived too late to secure an arrest, and later declined to comment. Rumor has it Robbie was later seen stumbling into a Taco Burrito King with a large wet spot on his crotch.
Meteorologists in Cleveland forecast a heavy front of Adrian Peterson (Emperor Zod) moving in from northwest of the city this weekend. They warned residents to stay in their homes unless absolutely necessary. One weatherman was quoted as saying "Adrian Peterson is to Cleveland as Godzilla is to Tokyo."
Except for one guy in Bryan's starting lineup. That guy, Zodrick thought, fuck him. Fuck Nate Burleson. He alone would key Bryan Moore and MidwestUnderDogg's downfall.
Young Zod smiled. He cracked his knuckles, reached for the keyboard, and began tweeting unsubstantiated rumors.
BEG FOR MERCY II: The Wrath Of Zod!
BEG FOR MERCY: Emperor Zod's Draft Review - August 2011
Zod's 2011 Almanac - December 2011
Emperor Zod's Draft Review
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... Wait, that's not right. Strike that, let me start over.
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the... Nope. Still wrong.
What is all this science fiction bullshit? Why is it polluting my thoughts, derailing my focus, and sullying my perfect clarity? I am Emperor Zod, Inaugural Thunderdome Champion, scourge of humanity, slayer of Jor-El, Federal Prohibition Agent and... Protector Of The Codex? Wait, what? Prohibition? Codex? What do those mean? Has something momentous occurred? Has some curse befallen me?
I feel different. My mind contains new information. I have a new face and a new voice, but some things haven't changed. Most importantly, I still harbor a burning hatred so searing I could bake tiny cookies on my mood ring. Yet I must set aside these thoughts of hate-baked miniature snack foods and set my genius mind upon its proper course: the drafting of a championship caliber fantasy football squad.
Sure, all could go wrong, like it did in 2012. What can I say? Hatred for Superman (once again) clouded my judgement. Not this year. There is plenty of time later to dispose of Kal. Speaking of...
I WILL FIND HIM!
But not right this moment. Presently, I require statistical analysis and drunken strategery.
So how shall I approach the 2013 draft? I am the #1 pick, an odd place for me, considering I drafted last, #16, in the both of the previous two seasons. I already know Adrian Petersen will be my bell cow. Beyond that? I meditated.
I began drinking concentrated caffeine and eventually Coors banquet beers about ninety minutes before this draft began. When noon arrived, it took all of my focus and concentration to participate in the draft and take shorthand reference notes for eventual elaboration and publication. But I did.
Of everyone I've ever encountered within this league, I've talked the most shit about Patrick Warner. Before this draft began, as soon as Ed brought up vote number 3, Patrick knew that it was about whether to include TE in the flex spot, and he was the first to vote no. I agreed and jumped on the bandwagon, voting no myself. Before Ed could even outline the vote details, a majority of the league had already voted it down. Thanks, Patrick!
The draft began after voting ended exactly on time at 2:15 EST. I selected Adrian Peterson, as expected. Moments later, everything went to shit as the inevitable technical difficulties took over. Commissioner Ed asserted order and Ben Fulker got Matt Forte at #5 overall instead of LeSean McCoy, who the rankings tried to give him. Rick Dacey then took McCoy the very next pick. Rick, change your team name now. Seriously, dude. The bet is over.
It's weird to hear experts make weird value judgements, but this is a weird league, and I'm no expert! So prepare for me to spread my ignorance around like an infectious disease. I gotta say this: I think Lou signing Aaron Rodgers as his starting QB at pick #14 overall is a fuckin' steal and I applaud him for it. See you in the postseason, homes. Did y'all forget this is a QB 6pt passing TD league? With long play bonuses? You did, didn't you?
At this point, the sun passed its zenith atop the horizon, and people had trouble holding their liquor (speak for yourself asshole) and their narratives grew foggy. The draft continued. As all participants began to lose focus, Bryan Shu shocked Ed Bonfanti by selecting a goddamn Cowboy to join his team, in the form of DeMarco Murray. That was round two, pick six, number twenty-two overall.
David Bennett, Crash's Crew, an admired and successful team/owner, drew my attention by selecting Ryan Matthews. I mocked him, then he ended up choosing shits like Isiah Pead and Mikel LeShoure later on. Yuck. After protracted strident mocking, he made a few winning picks, I think. I applauded him for Eddie Lacy and Cordarelle Patterson. See you in the playoffs... next year... maybe.
I owned Jason Witten the first two years of this league, without ever keeping him. He was a bouy. That is both good and bad. We are divorced now. He started sleeping with Ed, who took him in this draft. Ed, may your your romance be a brief whirlwind. Meanwhile, I'll send bouquets to younger tight ends and hope for the best.
I was drafting too, by the way. After keeping Kaepernick in the 16th and Hillman in the 8th, with the #1 overall, I knew I was taking AP then going WR and TE on the return turn. But I didn't. I kept going on with RB. Then RB. Like a maniac. Like a drunk. Welcome to the team, Le'Veon Bell and Darren Sproles. When I finally got my 4/5 picks, I took Stevie Johnson and Torrey Smith to start my WR corps. The fact that I got the #5 TE (according to me) in Greg Olsen at 6/7 turn in a league this big astounded me. Chubby waving time. After that? I went prospecting, and you don't care to read about that. Let's move on.
Ed took Eli at pick #80 overall. I took him in the first round last year. Value based drafting motherfuckers. In action. Don't make me extrapolate the point.
Enough about the draft.
I may be a wholly different incarnation of a former Kryptonian General than I was before, but mere cosmetics do not alter my fundamental greatness. I will rise, and I will conquer. I implore you all, once more, for your own sakes:
BEG FOR MERCY.
Thanks again to our exalted commissioner, Ed Bonfanti, for the third year of this most excellent league. I proudly welcome him to the exclusive ranks of Thunderdome Champions. Great job last year. I now consider The Poopy Pants Destroyers (aka The Super We Will Never Forgets) to be my equals. I shall now win another title to reassert my superiority. Gaunlet throwed.
To the rest of you? I promised you late last year that I would be back this year, and be one of the loudest shit fuck cunt ass bitch bastard trash talkers in the league, or something to that effect. (Can you hear me now, Patrick Warner? No silence hereabouts.) I also point out that I was loudest in season one. I won. Ed was loudest in season two. He won. So open your goddamned yap and start barking, my little bitches. Especially you, Clarence Overstreet. (no purpose, decided to call out a random league member for kicks)
***footnote 1: Swayze Waters is no longer a backup kicker for the Oakland Raiders. Therefore, I can no longer suggest him, jokingly, as the #1 over all pick, and get away with it. I hereby retire this unfunny joke, and this paragraph marks the final time I shall speak of him, ever.
***hey religious freaks: you lack the mandate of heaven***
Sands Of The HourglassThursday, November 29, 2012
My Match Bio
This is a work in progress, but it's about time I put my best foot forward. I'm giving online dating a shot. Here's what I've got so far. I expect to be flooded with date requests from a horde of admirers any moment now.
I like exotic cuisine, mass market paperbacks, and MSNBC. I cook frequently with great enthusiasm but little skill.
I am not goal oriented. In fact, I am a listless castaway lacking ambition. I have no direction in life, about which I am ambivalent. I am not funny, interesting, or engaging in any fashion. I am cheap furniture. To put this in a positive light, I am somewhat tolerable.
Punctuality is not my strong suit. If we meet, lie to me about the time, otherwise I will be thirty minutes late.
I do take responsibility for my decisions. That's a plus. Unfortunately, my decisions are rarely correct.
I am also honest to fault. I stress fault. Hence the self-indictment you've read so far.
My sense of style? No. That's an oxymoron. I wear t-shirts with visual puns, political candidates, or musical act logos upon them. I should have stopped dressing like a 24 year old hipster years ago, but apparently these garments serve as an identity substitute for me, and like a wailing child who will not relinquish his pacifier, I continue to purchase these abominations. I wear black jeans year round, which fortunately requires no imagination. Yes, I own more than one pair. Four, in fact. I am not scummy.
I've quit smoking three times now, for four months each time. My dedication to anything even slightly challenging is practically nil. I'm awfully young to be running out the clock on life, but I just don't have any passion for anything. I should probably take up heroin, but those dealers don't deliver, and driving to the west side involves traffic. Too much hassle.
If I was rich, I would never, ever, leave my house. Groceries and supplies would be delivered. I would stay in, criminally over spice all my food, read pedestrian contemporary "literature," build jigsaw puzzles, and drink myself stupid every Sunday of the football season. I'm not rich, but I already accomplish a lot of these, which may strike you as impressive.
I live alone, thankfully, and find both cats and dogs supremely annoying, although dogs are much, much worse. I used to own a tarantula, which constantly got tangled in my hair (It's short now, obviously) when I let it crawl on my head.
I have no tattoos. I have no objection to them, I just want to wait for prison before I make any life-altering decisions.
I drink four or five tall energy drinks per day. I tremble constantly. My hands are like hummingbird wings.
You are smart, informed, and opinionated. Nerdy is good. I like activists and feminists. I'll tag along for a good protest. If you need somebody to listen as you spew bellowing tirades and righteous indignation (about any subject important to you) I will gladly listen and respond, hopefully in a manner that is not mumbled and monosyllabic.
Drop me line. After our date, all the other guys won't seem as terrible.
"I hope you die cold and alone."
Whenever I was insulted, or even gently teased, this was my canned response. I'm not sure where I picked it up, but I enjoyed the pairing of hateful spite and casual dismissal. Nobody I knew feigned shock upon hearing this charming quip. After all, I was the guy who could fill the better part of an afternoon with dead baby jokes, several of which involved a microwave.
I don't use it anymore. Now, when the verbal hammer is dropped upon me, I generally reverse engineer the criticism to determine whether it has merit. Does this person know me well? Any axe to grind? Is there a valid point here that may lead me to introspection and eventual self improvement? I'd like to say that any negativity rolls off me like water off a duck's ass, but we both know that's horseshit. It sticks. I just can't bring myself to answer with bile any more. Biting sarcasm no longer floats my boat. I have one less defense mechanism in my arsenal, and now I'm reduced to manufacturing a look of pained grievance intended to elicit guilt in my attacker. This, sadly, is mostly ineffective.
You may mistake my evolved approach as a symptom of growing maturity and improving emotional health. Do not be fooled. I keep the gun in the holster not because I am wise, but because I am exhausted and demoralized.
People die cold and alone all the time, and it just isn't funny.
I've seen it.
My paternal grandmother, once a proud mother and stern educator, devolved into senility during her final few years. A clean home carefully decorated with books, paintings, and ornamental finery (that's where I got that trait) became a filthy swamp of cat hair and dirty dishes. A sharp mind became a dense fog. One son became a raging alcoholic while the other hid in her basement reading art books for forty years. Vultures took advantage of her degraded state and tricked her into handing over her home for pennies on the dollar. She was unceremoniously bundled off to a nursing home, where she received the minimum of attention from her family as she faded from life. I went to see her only once, on a Thanksgiving, and couldn't wait to leave. My sisters went more often, and were better people than I, but I believe that no patchwork of attention from any of us could've possibly filled her empty hours waiting for the end.
My maternal grandmother carries on. She visited last July, and most of our conversations consisted of her detailing the indignities of elderly life. She's tired and lonely. Everything hurts. Her trip to see her offspring was a success, not only because she got to meet her great grandson, but because she felt she needed to say goodbye to all of us. Now she can die in peace, whatever that means. She writes me the occasional letter now, but I can't read her handwriting.
My father acquired a college degree, gainful employment, a wife, four kids, and plenty of hobbies. By all appearances he was a well rounded guy with a happy, successful life. He managed to tease out the threads of self destruction, however, and elected to become a dedicated lush. During his final three years, he bounced drunkenly between homeless shelters and cheap hellholes stocked with parolees and deadbeats. Basically, he was one step above a freight train bum huddled around a trash fire. He was delivering auto parts for minimum wage when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Don't get me wrong. I realize that life is about far more than brutal endings. I'm not attempting to cheapen any of my relatives' lives. All of them had many glorious years ripe with beautiful, happy moments. I just can't ignore that for every single person alive, an ugly ending of one sort or another awaits.
Due to poor decisions and behavior on my part, my life has become a meaningless slog at a far younger age than any of theirs. I could blame the economy for my mediocre income and lack of financial stability. I could blame the educational system for my failure to advance my prospects. I could blame my parents and their twenty year long cold shoulder marathon for my aversion to romantic relationships.
There's no point to that, though. The buck has to stop somewhere. Some wise sage once said "your environment was responsible for making you this way, but you are responsible for staying this way." Ultimately, I must create my own reality. I have to change into a better person. I would like very much to fall in love, start a family, own a home, and experience all the joy life has to offer before my clock stops. That's the point. Right?
I think I'm taking baby steps in the right direction. Small goals achieved are minor miracles for me. It's time to give myself a report card. I still haven't quit smoking, despite a few aborted attempts. Failure. I haven't gone on a date in five years, and the notion fills me with trepidation. Failure. Saving money? Not yet, but paying off debt steadily. Pass, average grade. I dropped thirty pounds and have kept it off for six months now, and I know a lot more about cooking and nutrition than before. Grade: Incomplete.
Who said "You're only a failure if you never try?" That person knew. That person was talking to me. I am listening. But damn, metamorphosis is really hard.
I want life. I want to matter. I want meaning. I'm reaching for those things, though all I've grasped (so far) is empty air. As time and hope dwindle, I hope I get different results sooner rather than later.
Dying cold and alone isn't so bad, I've decided. It's dying with regret that really frightens me.