God damn it to hell. I somehow just got both of my parents stone silent and into a minor snit over brunch by complaining about how counterproductive it is for leftists to harp on the trifling malapropisms of right-wing politicians. In this case, it was over Jeb Bush’s mispronunciation of “nuclear.” I’ll grant that I wasn’t very gracious in my pushback, but it isn’t a subject that I would have raised. It’s too stupid and diversionary to be worthy of discussion, but in Soviet Bougiekistan, discussion has YOU!

At root, I don’t think this pissing match was just about whether it’s acceptable for Republican politicians to be inarticulate and whether their stumbling style of speech has fuck-all to do with their worldview or their fitness for high office, as my dad suggested by saying that Jeb’s mispronunciation “speaks to a certain inattentiveness” and that “if he’s going to have his finger on the button, he should at least be able to pronounce it.” It’s really a pissant attempt to defend the prissy sanctity of the ivory tower and all that it represents from incursions by whatever elements aren’t completely on board with the project. I describe over 90% of the country here, 99% if one really needs one’s mind blown by having the Occupy meme flipped on its head and shaken vigorously for loose change. One practical application of this pissant stand for intellectual purity is that I’m a failure to launch who still hasn’t gone to grad school and hasn’t figured out how to successfully navigave what has to be the most treacherous job market in living memory, and even so I’m willing to deviate from the Democratic Party line to defend the dignity of sub-95th-percentile intellects from the projectile condescension and creeping treachery of the bourgeois supremacist cutthroats who have hijacked the American left. I wasn’t raised to think this way. I also wasn’t raised to stay in residential motels, to sleep in my car, or to do stoop labor with white trash and Mexicans, and I’ve done all of these things.

To exactly what end would I go to grad school? One of my best friends is still working as a code monkey five and a half years out of GWU Law, and he’s still something like $160,000 in debt for the honor. That’s a top-twenty nationally ranked law school, by the way. I was pretty keen on nursing for a while, but the things health insurance companies do to patients and to the decent clinicians treating them are horrific, and if I go to nursing school now, I’ll give up a fairly pleasant, if intermittent, line of work tending grapevines to be yelled at by belligerents whose asses I’ve been sent to wipe. Whether or not the cost-benefit analysis of this tradeoff is a purely financial calculus depends on how much blood, pus, shit, piss, festering body odor, sickness, bodily decay, and patient-on-staff assault one would enjoy.

This may sound like navelgazing, but it’s actually very relevant. Grad schools are rackets, their admissions standards are punishing and pretty unforgiving of fuckups, and those who make the cut are rewarded by establishing the company of outpatient mental health cases and condescending, treacherous, socially climbing sacks of shit. This is a time when many professors’ brats will inevitably be downwardly mobile, so Boomers, the least y’all can do is to show us some fucking graciousness about it. Or give us jobs. And, yes, I mean give, as in, hey, kid, we need some stuff done tomorrow, and you look like you’re capable enough, so come by at eight o’clock. I.e., no bullshit about where honorable applicant sees himself with honorable interviewing company in five years. I’ve gotten steady work at good companies without being badgered about that kind of shit, so I know for a fact that it’s extraneous. “Why were you out of work for so long?” is bullshit, too. It’s a fishing expedition. Do you need the damn work done, or don’t you? The owner of the vineyard where I worked over the summer didn’t ask me jack shit about my work history, except for confirming that I’d done some different kinds of vineyard work, and if you’re hiring grunts on an at-will basis, you have no need to ask, either.

It’s important to understand what this mentality is. It isn’t even meritocracy per se. That vineyard was a meritocracy. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why haven’t you gone to graduate school?” is a simulacrum. It’s designed to mimic the form of meritocracy while entrenching the privilege of treacherous insiders to most disingenously engage in cheap posturing and shit on those beneath them on the totem pole. It rewards bad behavior, really, deeply bad behavior like calling people stupid in order to socioeconomically marginalize them.

The proles understand this. They may not be able to articulate it very well, but they get it. It registers with them in their guts. I fell through a trap door into socioeconomic marginalization with my, I dunno, 98th percentile intellect intact, and I still got shit on and pissed off by the high hats. This sort of thing can’t be pleasant for people who are less articulate, less networked, less financially backstopped than I am. It can’t inspire graciousness.

“Nucular” isn’t even a Spoonerism. It isn’t even a gaffe. The Queen’s English it ain’t, but it isn’t exactly a tongue-tied mess, either. Many people in Pennsylvania, for example, tend to drop L’s in odd places. Marylanders have a habit of mumbling like whoa. (Ironically, the rednecks on the Eastern Shore don’t. Instead, it’s the mumbly ones around Ballimer who look down on them for being country trash.) “Nuclear” is very widely mispronounced, but this doesn’t mean that the people mispronouncing it don’t understand nuclear power or nuclear bombs well enough to grok their danger. How uniformly stupid do the educated coastal elites think Republicans in flyover country are?

This won’t go well for the Democrats. It has already gone badly for them. In the midst of endlessly carping about the tongue-tied stupidity of George W. Bush, they ran two incredibly mealymouthed, sententious wonders against him: first Al Gore, then John Kerry. These people can’t possibly be sincere about their love for fine elocution when they field those two for national office and never step back to say, yeah, that wasn’t so fucking smart. Now the kingmakers are trying to install Hillary, a caustic moralizer instead of a sententious moralizer for a change. Even Obama was never as polished a speaker as Mike Huckabee, especially in extemporaneous comments.

This mad scramble to defend the English language from Republicans who mildly botch it is disingenuous, and the rank and file know it. It isn’t about intellectual vigor or thoughtful public debate or a life of the mind or any other high-minded happy horseshit like that. It’s about crudely and viciously jockeying for superiority. It’s about catching one’s opponents in inconsequential slip-ups and rubbing their noses in the dirt. It’s the kind of thing that will inevitably piss off and alienate poor and uneducated voters. If the Democrats are nasty enough to treat a governor whose father and brother were presidents so shabbily, how unconscionably will they treat high-school dropouts living in Kansas trailer parks?

The failure of emotional intelligence needed to sustain this haughty attitude is beyond me. These fuckers seemingly cannot fathom what it’s like to be less intelligent than one’s peers, less articulate, less influential, and to be shit on for it. They cannot understand how accusing populists, even insincere populists, of being of limited intelligence could ever backfire on haut bourgeois Democrats. By any reckoning of emotional intelligence or streetsmarts, they’re the dumb ones. They’re the piss-poor communicators. George W. Bush at his most syntactically garbled could talk circles around them. They were just too self-absorbed and self-important to notice.

A conspiratorial gloss on this preening linguistic superiority is that the intelligentsia really seeks only the trappings of intellectual refinement, not the substance, because the trappings are what they need to convince their employers to give them a pay raise. I.e., the brahmins are running a racket premised on an intellectual fraud. I tend to agree with this gloss, simply because it’s hard to find an alternative explanation that makes any sense as a rational strategy. Having snits about some rising tide of anti-intellectualism is easier and more effective than learning a real trade or working towards the sorts of real reform that would allow people to make a decent living without either developing 80th-plus-percentile specialized skill sets or constantly getting into gutter rumbles with the opposition over idiotic wedge issues, like some politician’s habit of making a common mispronunciation.

This is the polity that I inherit. Goddamn fuckin’ A.

Damn. Sesame Street turns out to be relevant to my life after all. I never imagined such a thing.

As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Rogers was the only person who ever had a calling to children’s television. Not coincidentally, he was one of the few children’s television personalities not to be insufferably condescending and annoying to adults, a virtue that made him tolerable for precocious children in his audience, too. In retiring, and shortly thereafter dying of cancer at a sadly young age, he made room in children’s broadcasting for an unconscionable parade of fuckheads, notably including Lamb Chop, Dora, and, forgive me for uttering the name, Barney.

One thing I’ll say for Sesame Street is that it was all right. It was overrated, but for the most part it was tolerable enough. Shrill elements on the right have complained that it unduly romanticizes city life and propagandizes youngsters against the virtues of the suburbs. Well fuck me. If the cities are in fact nothing but crackhead murders and postindustrial decay, the kiddos will become aware of this by the time they’re old enough to get their own apartments. This is why it’s hard to find a honky in Camden who isn’t a junkie. As one of the locals put it, prior to the heroin epidemic there “wasn’t no white people up in this motherfucker.”  And it’s a pretty embarrassing kind of cracker that the Walter Rand Transportation Center has been catching of late. With a crowd like that, I can forgive dude for being prejudiced, but he probably already knows that Camden attracts Whitey’s most fucked up constituents and wouldn’t take me, in my Dockers and aloha shirts, for being one of them.

Shriller elements, harder to the right, have accused Sesame Street of unduly romanticizing race relations and the intrinsic nature of black people, i.e., by suggesting that they can be trusted as neighbors. Oh dear. This is where the critique goes from Joel Kotkin having a bad day and accusing the urbanist crowd of desecrating the memory of his grandmother’s hard-knocks life in the Brooklyn tenements to intractable bigots donning bedsheets and cruising the Home Depot for rope. Again, by the time the kids are old enough to get their own apartments, they’ll be able to suss out whether the black people in their prospective neighborhoods are pretty much upstanding or harbor enough violent antisocial elements to scare a cracker into staying out of Dodge. This assumes that the kids have developed some street smarts and social skills along the way, which is a bit of a stretch in times as aggressively cocooned as ours, but is still a worthwhile baseline standard. If you raised children who are too hapless to do this, I can’t help you. I write this as someone who got polar-beared in Black Kensington during an overly sanguine Sunday night bike ride through the Badlands; I’m not naive about the intractable criminality of the black underclass. But yes, I’m sure that children will reflexively disregard anything they see on the streets with their own lying eyes that contradicts what they were taught in a television series about an eight-foot-tall version of the La Choy bird mascot carrying on full English-language conversations with a wooly mammoth.

It’s worth dwelling on the truth that many on the right wing in the United States have highly developed, florid persecution complexes. They live in a country with stratospheric black incarceration rates, often for minor drug offenses; multiple state and federal policies subsidizing rural and suburban areas at the expense of core cities; related federal policies subsidizing the most wacked-out, intransigent corners of the cracker range (think the Bundy “Ranch”) at the expense of calmer, more civic-minded, per capita and per acre more productive agricultural areas whose residents and politicians aren’t quite so shrill; unaddressed local structural racism enshrined in municipal charters, most notoriously in St. Louis County, where the Michael Brown shooting was really just the last straw in a campaign of municipal tax farming; and a number of extremely influential Christian lobbies with their own nationally syndicated publishing and broadcasting arms. In this context, Sesame Street looks less like a serious propaganda campaign than an artistic ghetto, albeit a comfortable one, to which the leftist troublemakers have been remanded so that they’ll stay out of Congress. Right-wingers scream bloody murder about how these left-leaning shows get federal funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and so on, without explaining how this funding comes close to counterbalancing, let alone negating, the effects of the mortgage interest deduction, pro forma appropriation renewals for the military-industrial-prison complex, the Defense of Marriage Act, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, generous subsidies to ungrateful latter-day Whiskey Rebellion tax cheats, the CBN/TBN/K-Love/Eagle Forum/Concerned Women for America/Focus on the Family nexus, or the refusal of higher-level governments to rein in postage-stamp rotten boroughs. They don’t explain any of this because they can’t. To do so, they’d have to admit that they have real power and agency in all levels of government and across much of civil society, and they don’t want to concede that they aren’t just a bunch of victims.

These same factions shit a brick over liberal Hollywood elites propagandizing the mass man (or, if you wish, the mass woman) through bullshit blue-pill dramas like Sex and the City and Girls. One gloss I’ve seen for youngsters’ enthusiasm for city life is that they want to ape Carrie Bradshaw and company. Perhaps in Soviet America, hologram lives in YOU! I’ve never cared for the shallow message of Sex and the City, which I find corrosive, but again, there’s a lot more countervailing propaganda than the tradcons and the truly shitheaded right-wing concern trolls will admit. It’s no less effective for coming out of Colorado Springs rather than Hollywood, and its power is buttressed by the authoritarian tendencies of its audience, e.g., parents who will never let the car radio dial deviate from K-Love, no matter how deeply the music is pulled into a black hole of suck. Both sides of this culture war are playing dirty.

By prevailing industry standards, then, Sesame Street is pretty damned honest. To understand this, think for a moment about Oscar the Grouch. Imagine living in a nice brownstone neighborhood, maybe on the Upper West Side (the Upper East Side seems awfully high-hat for the ethos of Children’s Television Workshop), and suddenly some filthy motherfucker pops up out of a garbage can in front of your house, belligerently accosting passersby before dropping back under the lid. As a television contrivance, it’s pretty entertaining, but this is precisely because it’s freaky as shit. It would probably get tiresome in real life.

The creators of Sesame Street worked in New York City during some pretty rough stretches, including municipal insolvency and the crack epidemic. It isn’t hard to see what inspired Oscar as a character. New York is crawling with disheveled bums. It has always had an intractable homelessness problem. Does Oscar romanticize the homeless? Not by much. He’s a pretty accurate sketch of a Manhattan ventilation grate wino: not likely to assault a passerby, but very likely to scream obscenities at him. Oscar is exactly the Muppet one would expect to pop out of a doorway and shout, “Oh, for God’s sake, give me a fucking quarter, you dirty bastard! Give me some fucking bus fare! I have meeting uptown tonight! Jesus Christ, you cheap Jew!” Oscar can’t be so forward on TV, pursuant to the FCC’s glorious buzzkilling obscenity regulations, but it would be in character.

This isn’t the kind of language one hears from Mr. Snuffleupagus.

Oscar the Grouch comes to mind today because, I shit ye not, Farmer Uncle has been allowing a homeless dry drunk with apparent major mental illness to live in the farm bathroom. For real. I came in this morning to take a shower, having slept in my car at the Talent rest area last night, and Bad News Bubba was sleeping on an old van bench next to the bathtub. I didn’t even see him at first, so I was startled when he stirred while I was trying to calm down his dog. Under his blanket he looked like just another pile of barnyard junk.

The dog. Fuckin’ A. At least he isn’t using her as a prop, which is a great credit to him relative to all the trustfunder twatwaffles who use mangy pit bull mixes, or occasionally Labs, to guilt the productive into supporting their panhandling habits. A pit bull-Rottweiler mix, she’s actually a really sweet dog when she isn’t in guard mode, and she didn’t get rough with me today. But she isn’t the problem per se. The problem is that her owners have left her under Bad News Bubba’s long-term boarding care, and Farmer Uncle is allowing it. He’s had to remind Bad News Bubba to keep her out of the winery rooms, but he’s letting her stay. This arrangement may last for a year and a half; her owners are, respectively, on military deployment for that duration and nursing an infant. Bad News Bubba is their casual, off-the-books employee. And now he’s boarding their dog at a property where he’s been mostly getting in the way for almost two years. The Kids are gone, and the Vegetable Man isn’t around much, so Bad News Bubba is his greatest legacy. He’s the same one who broke a five-gallon carboy of pinot noir during a bottling run after spending half an hour telling a drunken tale about how he and a “derelict bum” (it takes one to know one) had been yelling at each other at the gas station about who was responsible for that bum’s fucking dog fucking eating Bad News Bubba’s fucking rotisserie chicken.

Bad News Bubba has lately invited another buddy, whom we’ll call Mr. Crapper, to build a new outhouse at the farm. Mr. Crapper is barely any more coherent than Bad News Bubba; neither of them can follow his own train of thought like a normal person. What the farm needs is a fucking flush toilet, but what it needs is not necessarily, or probably, what it will get. This also applies to financial solvency. Over the summer one of the neighborhood al fresco alkies wandered in late at night and stole two bottles of merlot. Bad News Bubba told me that he had talked to one of the neighborhood enforcers about the burglary, and that the enforcer said he had immediately ordered the burglar to leave town upon discovering the stolen wine. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the farm hasn’t developed, or won’t soon develop, a local reputation among the down-and-out alcoholics as a soft target full of Wow Much Wines. And it doesn’t mean that I’m not invested in this shit to the tune of $15k.

I’ll say, Mr. Rogers, it is indeed a beautiful fucking day in the neighborhood.

Scatologically oriented individuals not familiar with the Pennsylvania Dutch Country (I have in mind people like Lady Kentfield) may be amazed, or at the very least pleasantly titillated, to hear that Shartlesville is a real place. It’s located on Interstate 78 between Allentown and Harrisburg. I’ve been through it a number of times.

It’s a place that, to be honest, has nothing whatsoever to do with this essay. It does, however, have a name that’s hella funny, if you’re thirteen, and disgustingly topical.

They can’t be avoided. They’re legion. You see them late in the evening at gas stations in East St. Louis, struggling to retrieve appropriate donuts from the bakery case. You see them piloting their scooters along Orangethorpe Avenue in Buena Park, opportunely stuffing another few onion rings into the pie hole just as they pass you in front of St. Pius V. There’s enough sidewalk, but not by a wide margin, because that part of the margin is theirs. Perhaps you wonder, a bit abashedly, how you can look down on them when you’re en route to Paul’s Place for an Ortega burger meal, one of the most gluttonous meals in Orange County, but it’s an impertinent question. Those who walk upright can’t help but look down on those who are scooterbound by fifty. Literally. It doesn’t help things that you’re walking close to two miles round-trip to get lunch and dude’s flying Old Glory off the back of his rig. His FICA deductions can’t be enough to pay the Scooter Store for his chair, his bus fare sure as hell won’t cover the cost of the delays OCTA suffers when he boards and alights through the center door (because OCTA’s procurement officers are the kind of dumbos who think that center-door wheelchair ramps make sense), and he’s probably on SSI, but at least he’s patriotic about being a net financial and social drain on his society. God bless America.

His kind travel by local bus. But of course. The British gutter press prefers to focus on those who buy custom pickups to accommodate their own girth, but those are outliers. As a spatial matter, there may not always be enough space to shoehorn another of the prematurely bescootered living a life of learned helplessness onto the bus, but as a legal matter, there is, because if there weren’t it would be a disability rights lawsuit waiting to happen.

These aren’t Queen’s big fat fatties. If they’re of the female perspective, BBW is a stretch, kind of like what has happened to their skin. If they’re shapely, it’s only because those beholding them have an unimaginable catholicity of taste when it comes to shapes. When I say that I like big girls, I–how can I say this?–I don’t mean that. Left to my own devices, I’d let the details go unspoken, since I’m attracted to women of various sizes and consider it rather gauche to stipulate technical specifications for my dates, but there’s a lot of size elision in the BBW community, and this is the same community that popularized “Myspace angles” and is notorious for refusing to countenance basic nuances about body size and attitude. They leave me no choice but to specify that my strong desire to spoon the living daylights out of certain self-confident, full-bodied women because they’re totally snugglable (okay, I’d bang them, too, especially if they took the initiative) does not imply a tacit desire to thus caress thoroughly insecure bathroom self-portraitists whose asses would envelop the spare tire that I carry around above a 36″ waist.

No. There’s fat, and then there’s holy shitballs I must be tripping on acid because there’s a guy at this Chinese restaurant who’s made up of all kinds of shapes that don’t exist in nature. Go figure that I ran into this guy while mildly sleep-deprived (not literally into him; I’m not sure I’d have made it back out), having just arrived in Los Angeles from Sacramento on a trip that started at 5:15 am. I was in an even worse state in East St. Louis, having driven all day from Colby, KS, on five and a half hours’ sleep; later that night, I drove the first four miles out of Brazil, IN, on Interstate 70 with just my running lights, but even so, my Civic and I made it to Indy intact. One does not simply keep a straight face around the well-rounded donut enthusiast in these circumstances.

This guy at the restaurant in Chinatown wasn’t just fat. He was cubist. He looked like something out of “Guernica,” probably a missing apartment block on the edge of town. I wasn’t trying to look at him; the waitress had seated me there, and I hadn’t had the presence of mind to check that there was no megafauna in my field of view and sit facing the other direction. Surprisingly, this guy had three fairly slender friends with him. Collectively, I’d guess that these guys weighed fifty pounds more than he did. He was Latino, as were one or two of his friends; I recall one or two of his friends being Asian, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them.

Realize that the restaurant where this scene unfolded was not a buffet; they probably would have been barred from the premises if it had been. Lunch was a la carte, and no kidding, the boys were there for lunch. Biggie didn’t distinguish himself just by his size; whenever I glanced in his table’s direction, he had a fork in hand. He ate with great gusto. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen another person eat so heartily.

Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’. The absurd pathos of it all was too much for me in my sleep-compromised state. Like a friendzoning ex in an overwrought eighties power pop ballad by Chicago, I had to look away, baby, look away. Of course I didn’t want him to see me that way; it was just common decency. I continued to steal a glance now and then when I felt an unusual degree of self-control. I stayed long enough to see his party get up and leave. To my relief and slight surprise, even Biggie up and left the table on his own two feet; I might not normally describe his manner of movement as “walking,” but for a man of his girth it was close enough. Verily, as he waddled away from lunch, he left replenished with fuel for the journey that we call life.

Throughout this grotesque scene, I felt smug in an Old Testament sort of way: Thank you, God, that I am not a woman, or a gentile, or an ass, or of a size and shape that have never been described in the Torah since we ancients simply haven’t seen such people. It was certainly a nice feeling while it lasted. Just by sheer contrast, Biggie made me figure that I had my shit together. Another thing I figured was that I’d probably make it to the Starbucks in Little Tokyo without coming into any significant intestinal discomfort. I figured I’d have to shit before long, but probably not within a half hour. Right?

Wrong. As I stood on the platform at the Chinatown Gold Line station, I felt the need to fart. Not to urgently shit; just to fart. No one else was nearby, and the station is outdoors: so far, so good. But when I cut it loose, it had that tell-tale warm, moist feeling. Oops, I realized, I think I just went poo in my asshole a little bit; I do believe I just beshat myself slightly on a fucking light rail platform. I knew that I could easily hop off at Union Station for an emergency ass-wiping, but I also knew that doing so would turn my circumstances from slightly disgusting to powerfully disgusting. I did not feel like mixing it up with disheveled crazies in a filthy restroom right then, so I held on, walked a bit more smoothly than usual through Little Tokyo, and made it to Starbucks. There I confirmed my fear: I had kept the mess off my underwear, but only through utmost discipline; as I thought, I had sharted.

It felt for all the world like karma. I gawked and snickered at Biggie, discreetly, for his uncontrolled gastrointestinal activities as a differently-sized American. Not half an hour later, I lost bowel control, discreetly, in a rapid transit station. The punishment seemed proportional to the crime, fifteen minutes of private-enough grossness for fifteen minutes of private-enough haughtiness towards an unimaginable mouthstuffer of unimaginable proportions, give or take. And it seemed appropriate that karma should come anally. It’s true of any karma, but especially so of karma for rudeness over alimentary failures of the flesh. At the one end, Biggie couldn’t keep it out, and at the opposite end, I couldn’t keep it in. It was embarrassing (for him, too, if he had any introspection), but in my case it felt instructive.

Of course, I’ll still laugh at the morbidly obese; if I’m not a slave to the sinful nature, I’m a slave to the point-and-laugh-at-the-unnatural nature. But with any foresight, I’ll do some abdominal floor exercises beforehand. Look, it’s not like I’m trim and ripped. I’m no Channing Tatum. It’d be really cool if more women looked at me more than skin deep, especially the hot ones, but I can understand why they don’t. If they looked less superficially at Biggie, say, at an autopsy or a gross anatomy lab, they’d discover that he has mad muscles; the blubber doesn’t move itself, now. A lot of us actually are ripped; it’s just hard for the superficial to see it beneath the insulation.

I’ll laugh at them, but I’ll laugh at them cautiously. We all laugh at larger-than-life Americans at our own peril. They’re among us.

Put more accurately, we are among them. If it were really our world, would the rest of us have to vacate the good seats near the rear bus door to make way for Scooter Store customers who could probably walk well enough if they tried? Would Southwest Airlines have come to grief over that passenger spillover surcharge nonsense? I think not. These things happen for a reason. We are but small, substanceless men living in a land of giants.

There are different ways to have no taste.

Previously we’ve discussed the Temple Clinger’s complaint about vain, shiftless negroes abusing government relief. Racially tinged complaints about equally shiftless negroes on Philadelphia sports teams, notably including Michael Vick, are another Temple Clinger favorite, and a few months ago he took flak from a black chick for using the term “blackscent” and subsequently invoking the defense that it has to be a real word because he heard it on TV. To quote the words of the late denier of the identifiable black American accent Johnnie Cochran to opposing counsel Chris Darden, “Nigger please.”

Returning to the Temple Clinger’s favorite subject, teh poosy, he has also been known to white-knight young women with versions of “in words of psy sexy ladies….whoop whoop whoop whoop compliment,” and to suggest using the impending Mayan apocalypse as an opportune time to tell a hottie that she “has a phenomenal body compliment,” a term that as best I can tell is nothing more than a malapropism for “damn girl, you’re hot.” Back when Sweet Thang was trying in vain to direct IM chats with him to subjects other than girls, he provided her a list of criteria for a girlfriend (spelling and punctuation paraphrased so as to be plausible): “there are three things i want in a girl 1 she has to like foot massages 2 she cant puffer the dragon 3 she has to be able to pop drop and lock it while sober correction im looking for a white girl who can pop drop and lock it while sober.” Dude was one for three for not offering up bizarre malapropisms. To translate into English: 1) Girl, I’m rubbing your feet hummana hummana; 2) No pot; 3) Whitey gotta dance to that funky music without having a load on; 3A) Yeah, I know black chicks can do that as a matter of course, but they don’t meet my exacting standards of hotness, and consequently they don’t cause me to drool in public.

The Temple Clinger is all about finding a girlfriend stat, and far from reticent about telling strange women that his search has been in vain and that they’re welcome to be his Valentines. One might think, then, that he would esteem women as something more than just pieces of ass, and perhaps he does. The thing is, openly taking such a stance just wouldn’t be edgy and hip enough; far better to propose a new aphorism for the most emotionally vacuous sort of one-night stand, “fuck ’em and chuck ’em,” being careful, of course, to bleep out the first Anglo-Saxonism, lest the Carlinian language cause offense to the sniveling. He can be a disingenuous fuck.

None of this is to say that women can’t be tasteless. One of the Temple Clinger’s hundreds of lady contacts on Facebook recently posted a profile picture in which she is shown simulating oral sex on a beer bottle. Ironically, even though she’s covered up and her stacked friend is showing mad cleavage, the latter looks significantly less trashy. If I had to choose one of the two to seduce, I’d pick Stacker; she looks like she’d be an affectionate and appreciative hookup, while Oral Laurel looks like she’d spend the romp grinding vacantly and the aftermath texting her girlfriends about what an underendowed incompetent she just shagged. She’d probably be trashier in a burqa than Stacker would be on stage at a Pensacola amateur topless dancing contest.

The Temple Clinger had some thoughts on Stacker; but of course. To wit:

TC: “Your friend is cute…”

OL: “Duh”

TC: “If she is single tell her I said hello as well”

OL: “Tell her yourself…[Link to Stacker’s Facebook profile]”

TC: “Thank you…”

Giggity.

To understand what’s wrong with this, try to imagine Susan Boyle asking John Mayer to put in a good word for her with Channing Tatum, and then hanging around with a drooling smirk while the satyr writes the heartthrob’s phone number and address down on a cocktail napkin.

The difference here (at least I think it’s a difference) is that Mayer’s the kind of guy who would indifferently let Boyle dry hump him, probably after mentioning that he had just spent six hours having high-volume intercourse with groupies, leaving him numb and drained of that Johnny Juice. I’m not completely sure that it’s a difference because there’s a slight chance that Oral Laurel and Stacker have low enough standards to put out for the Temple Clinger, ignoring the possibility that they are literally whores, in which case they almost certainly do. (The original Oral Laurel, a Cal Poly co-ed, seems to have gone for rough frat boys and been a rank amateur.) If either or both of them are ones to hook or mercy-fuck, the Temple Clinger could be in luck. Neither one has had an open freakout over his Aspie come-ons yet, so he’s doing better than usual.

By the way, I’m not adamantly against the Temple Clinger’s partaking of the white meat; it’s just that a taste of the dark meat would be more beneficial to the people he’d be less frequently bombarding with racist bullshit.

I’m really missing out on the hotties by trying to date in the tradition of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and love the one I’m with, when I really should be macking it with Mariska Hargitay. Mariska, you’re pwetty.

One GinaMarie Zimmerman, a woman of no particular consequence who is famed for her televised status-whoring, was recently fired from her non-broadcast job for referring to welfare as “nigger insurance.” Let me reiterate: the fact that this woman is a vulgar, tasteless racist is not something about which I give a rat’s ass; Jimmy crack corn, and no, massa, I doesn’t care. Racial equity will not be brought about by raising holy hell every time some two-bit asshat says something bigoted about black people. One does not simply end racism, unless one also ends policies that prey upon racial minorities, but good luck getting Whitey to give a shit about some poor kid from the ghetto getting locked up on a trifle for being involved with drugs that members of Whitey generally use and traffic with impunity.

As it happens, Ms. Zimmerman (any relation to George?) has support from one of Philadelphia’s premier Aspies:

Actually although she was wrong to say it publicly and therefore must face consequences, I see her point. Where or not more whites are on it blacks tend to abuse it more so than other races and that is why we still have debit particular in Philly where im from. Heck my city can’t pay its school system. Anyway I go to Philadelphia shoprite in Cheltenham see many black folk pay their junk food with food stamps not necessarily healthy food thus become obese for some and all while wearing fur coat and driving an escalade with spinner dubs on it. Welfare abuse has to stop and maybe that is what she meant by it…

Well then. Let’s double down on this shit. Combine a childhood spent not far over the city line from the mildly hoodish areas of Philadelphia’s far north side, undergraduate studies in the barely cocooned Ivory-Tower-in-the-Badlands precincts of Temple University, and a case of Asperger’s that makes Alien Uncle sound like Cardinal Dolan, and a public recounting of that bigoted tale is probably inevitable. We Philadelphians call it like we see it. (I’m only kind of a Philadelphian, and not much of one lately, but I’m Philadelphian enough for the current purposes.) It’s one of the reasons that many outsiders find us quite rude. In parts of the country where fake pleasantry, passive-aggressiveness and subterfuge are held ideal, we look awfully forward and brusque. So be it; the average inhabitant of these places is disturbed. (Here’s looking at you, Ashland.) The Temple Clinger, however, takes this forthrightness to the next level. It doesn’t help that he sops up depravity from weird corners of the internet for regurgitation at the next opportunity instead of hanging out with real people, getting an idea of who they are, and letting them temper with some measure of sober decency the rubbish he reads online. Nor does it matter that he’s an impulsive fat guy whose Facebook profile picture is a selfie showing him decked out in a red suit for some big pimpin’. This doesn’t make him introspective enough to stop complaining about irresponsible, obese negroes on the dole.

As I intone whenever it seems topical, there is a credible fix for this dude’s amazing dipshittery: prostitution. He needs to be civilized by whores. After reading nuttery like his comment above, however, I tend to think that the Temple Clinger more specifically needs him some chocolate lovin’. If he doesn’t have a case of the jungle fever, he should. Yes, I’m being flip and trollishly politically incorrect, but I mean it. He’ll return from these trysts with comments about black chicks that I truly cannot imagine (if nothing else, his syntax is beyond me), but he’ll also learn how to relate to black chicks one-to-one, not as hoodrat ciphers at the Shoprite. He may discover that some of his favorite whores are black people. Again, impishly though I present my case, a black hooker will kill (softly, I assume) two birds with one stone: the sexual frustration and the racial trope-mongering. All the Temple Clinger needs to do to make this happen is give one of these ladies a call, and then get his stones off with the bird.

Ladies: if this guy hires you, let me know whether you’ve ever been picked up by an even weirder honky.

There will be no apologies whatsoever for my recourse to racially and sectorally inflammatory language. Unlike Paula Deen, I take ownership of my use of racial tropes. Also unlike Paula Deen, I use them to sharpen what I consider relevant points and send the weasels running for cover, or at worst to Godwinize the discourse for shits and giggles; I do not use them to inquire about where on earth all the good house niggers have gone, and then frantically offer abjectly disingenuous apologies when cornered by those who don’t care for that retrograde Savannah planter thang.

It’s relevant language even if I’ll be working with a bunch of Mexicans and for some other Mexicans. The lead manager who hired me yesterday, a white enough fellow himself, told me that most of the white people he hires don’t last very long in the vineyards, some of them not even an hour. He seems to share my confidence that I’m not that White, and that I have a pretty good idea of the working conditions since I’ve done the same kinds of work for Farmer Uncle and I know my way around wine grapes. What he has described sounds concerted but not grueling for someone in decent shape. Thankfully, the hours aren’t as long as I had feared.

This may be the most sensible hiring process I’ve ever encountered. I called the office yesterday afternoon and asked whether the company was still hiring, then swung by at the lead manager’s invitation for a spot interview and to complete my paperwork, and left with a job offer and contact information for the lead manager and the field manager he intended to have supervise me. The lead manager called me this afternoon to tell me that the work at the vineyard where he had planned to assign me had been suspended at the estate owner’s request on account of recent heavy rain, but that he could put me on the schedule for tomorrow morning at a different vineyard where the crew is short a few hands. I’ll be reporting to a grocery store parking lot in the underbelly of the Willamette Valley wine country at 6:15 am. As underbellies go, it isn’t a bad one, but it’s still seedy and downmarket compared to the places esteemed at Alma Mater, Tried and True. Noble I ain’t.

For a victim of long-term unemployment like me, this timeline is amazing. I had a firm job offer within about half an hour of first calling the lead manager. The interview lasted less than forty minutes, most of it devoted to completing paperwork, going over company policies, and discussing technical aspects of the work. If there was any bullshit, it was undetectable, and I have a sensitive, finely tuned bullshit detector. Barely 24 hours after receiving an offer, I was on the schedule with a reporting time thirteen hours hence. This means that I’ll be on the clock less than forty hours after first contact with my new employer. There have been some glitches and eleventh-hour schedule changes in the midst of all this, but they’ve been sorted out more quickly and painlessly than many HR managers can reorient themselves for their next round of bullshit artistry. It’s refreshing to deal with someone who doesn’t get terribly hung up on mistakes but also promptly admits to and corrects them.

I’ve dealt with the opposite extreme, the kind of people who ostentatiously apologize for yawning or calling me “ma’am” because I had knocked softly but who are thoroughly nasty fuckers in every meaningful regard. In her defense, the latter lady may have been a bit mentally unstable. She sent out office-wide e-mails at all hours of the day and night, terrorized all but one of my (weirder) colleagues, and she once made unfulfillable offers to a client in a state of delirium after having pretended to work for 36 hours straight and then driven two hours to a site visit. She was also morbidly obese, with a secret stash of candy that she hid under a bunch of papers. A merely chubby colleague of hers had a hearty candy stash of his own, but he openly pulled M&M’s from a drawer and chain-popped them in front of me when he got stressed. That kind of thing passes for living in truth in the corporate workplace.

I need to be up and out six hours from now. We’ll see how it goes.

We’ll also see how it goes for Paula Deen as she tries to reassure everyone that, now, now, honey, I’m not a racist, y’all.

This post won’t be nearly as cute as the title suggests.

The subject matter is, however, oddly related (heh) to the title. Kentuckians are known not only for their tradition of incest but also for their tradition of stubborn self-reliance. Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt share the latter Cumberland cracker value in a bad way. It’s a bizarre value to hold when one has finagled a couple hundred grand in free money from relatives and friends to turn a farm into a shantytown and run it into the ground, but logical consistency is of little import when one can just make shit up all the time and never get called out for being a mendacious fuck because that would totally harsh our mellow, man. It’s said that a stopped clock is right twice a day, and it seems that Eastern Kentucky last wound the clock during the Buchanan Administration, but Farmer and Stoner don’t worry about schedules and shit. They’ll be right when they wanna be right, they’ll be wrong when they wanna be wrong, and it’ll be everyone else’s responsibility to get with the program right now or incur redneck assholiness and royal butthurt. Does anybody really know what time it is? (Time to make the payments on the secondary mortgage.) Does anybody really care? (The Rosshole cares.) By the way, to really tenderize this horse carcass, I just checked my watch, and it looks like it’s the Adults’ Hour.

Much like That Old Time Religion, not to mention That Old Time Knowledge of Blood Relations (it’s called “knowledge” because they like them some King James in them thar hills), the grand dipshittery surrounding the management of the farm has become, for pretty much everyone involved but me, just kind of the way things work around here. (You know you’re dealing with subnormal asshats if that’s the only justification they can offer for the rules they’d like to enforce.) Think of it as a cultural form of adverse possession: we squares are paying for it, or having it paid for in trust for us, but the dirty hippies have been squatting on the moral ground for so long that we’d probably have to go to court to evict them. My dad is planning to take a close look at the joint this summer and try to flesh out a plan for cleaning up the mess, but it looks like it’ll be tough going.

Here’s what I find alarming: even though they recognize serious problems with the manner in which Farmer and Stoner have been behaving, my parents have come to reflexively make excuses for them. As far as I know, they don’t do this for anyone else. They certainly don’t for me. They aren’t hardasses by any stretch of the imagination (for one thing, if they were, they wouldn’t have all that money tied up in the farm), but when they have the feeling that I’ve fucked up again they aren’t reticent about telling me that they think I’m on the wrong path. They don’t stumble all over themselves trying to make excuses for me.

Where Farmer and Stoner are concerned, they’ve plunged headlong into the quagmire of moral relativism. One of the bizarre things about this dynamic is that they’ve given Farmer and Stoner quite a bit of money, especially over the past few years, but they, not the beneficiaries of their largesse, are the ones being so brazenly manipulated. This is not, as far as I can tell, a manifestation of the psychology of prior investment; God knows they’ve given me a lot of money, too. I’m convinced that they’re operating on a much deeper, more refined emotional level. They aren’t ones to use money to manipulate other people, and even if they become alarmed that the alms they’ve given have fallen into a sinkhole, they don’t really take offense. (They’ve been good at avoiding this, up to a point, by not giving money to the Aliens.)

The prospect of fractious relationships, however, can put my parents into a state of frantic anguish. They are openly scared out of their minds at the prospect of my stirring up trouble with Farmer and Stoner and causing collateral damage to the family, even though what I’m trying to do is to respond to serious provocations on Farmer and Stoner’s part. Their attitude is that of the pacifist rending his garments at the thought of guns, guns! being used to retake Fort Sumter. I’m trying to proceed thoughtfully and cautiously here, but the circumstances are dire and a number of these disputes are manifestly not my fucking fault. I am not going to take the blame for any of it unless I’m conclusively shown that I fucked up in a way that a reasonable person responding to the same circumstances absolutely would not. The way Farmer has been acting for the past four years or so and the way Stoner has apparently been acting to some extent for her entire life are inherently provocative, and I am not about to let them martyr anyone else for making a good-faith effort to bring them to heel when they’re beyond the pale. We may be Christians, but there’s no reason for us to become Christ. Any passion needs to be on them.

That’s a nice ideal, in any event. My parents seem determined to first try martyring themselves in the hope of mollifying a couple who they agree can be provocative shits. They aren’t masochists. They’ve just been cornered by two people they love who have spent decades pretty much getting what they want through various forms of emotional aggression and lately have been turning up the heat. Like my parents, I’ve usually been conciliatory to the point of showing Farmer and Stoner inappropriate deference in the hope of keeping shit from hitting the fan. My parents appear to be hoping against hope that I’ll show yet more of this deference, since Stoner especially is disinclined to do her part to stop pissing people off when she can instead proclaim her most grievous butthurt.

Encouragingly, I infer that Farmer Uncle recently pulled his head out of his ass with a surprising, uncharacteristic decisiveness, upon being apprised by my dad of my objections to his recent behavior. I doubt that he would have realized that it’s the Adults’ Hour and, shall we say, governed himself accordingly had I taken my usual conciliatory approach to him and Stoner instead of laying it all out on the record in my pro se e-mail to Stoner and making it painfully clear to my parents that shit be wack on the old homestead. Farmer has apparently swallowed his bitter medicine and felt its salutary effects, at least for the time being, but this didn’t just happen on its own. It required a much more concerted effort than would be necessary to convince a reasonable person to stop being an ass clown. Give-and-take doesn’t work with him or with Stoner the way it does with Baywatch, because their impulse is to turn it into take-and-take. This is why even though Baywatch and I have a weird, confusing, sporadic relationship with a tendency to turn into a mutually amplifying hot mess, I still consider it viable because I’m willing to eat my humble pie and homegirl’s got class. She can burn at a hot temperature, but she has manners the way Grandma had manners.

This is where things get deep enough to blow minds not just in Ashland, but internationally. Indeed, I aver that the torch of gracious womanhood has been passed from Grandma to a self-described agnostic hippie, a sexual pluralist and possible libertine who has been known to curse like a sailor and use the term “flavor saver” (a synonym for “soul patch”; just like the proliferation of vague, redundant surfing terms, it’s an OC equivalent to the Eskimos having 71 words for snow, or 69 if you wish). Baywatch’s sexual practices may be looser and more forward than Grandma considered ladylike, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t speak to that because, unlike Lady Lejeune, Baywatch hasn’t semi-publicly spoken of her own bodily functions or sexual practices in front of me, and I get the feeling that she is generally disinclined to be so uncouth except among her closest friends. That’s why the torch hasn’t been passed from devout Christian breeder to devout Christian breeder, passing over a generation with the word “BOOM!”; they’re too busy teaching cuckoo-bananas at Steubenville to teach class. (I never went, but I can’t say I regret it. Shit clearly got florid.)

Many would like to carry the torch, but few are worthy of it, especially those who ask for the honor. Stoner Aunt, for example, thinks highly of herself and has that overly upright prim thing going on a lot of the time, so she’d be a great match on a totally superficial level until one realized that she’s a latter-day Victorian horror-cum-gutterslumming Aquarian. Ladies Kentfield and Kensington are far too forward and vulgar for the honor, but they never put themselves in the running, since they’re cognizant of their fault, their fault, their most grievous fault, even though only the latter is a Catholic. One’s tastes needn’t be as elevated as Vaclav Havel’s in order to live in truth. The strongest contender left among Catholics of my generation is Lady Ballimer, who is definitely too reserved and introspective to ask for the honor, or to forthrightly call Lady Lejeune gross when she gets gross. Neither is anyone else in the Church, except maybe Lady Kensington, which would leave us with a standoff between the uncouthness of a child of the cuntpunting Maryland exurbs in furtherance of social control mechanisms and the uncouthness of a more outwardly belligerent but subtly more pluralistic and humbler daughter of Fishtown in furtherance of screwing her boyfriend on a neighbor’s stoop at dawn and then telling us about it because she knows we’re the kind of earnestly vulgar audience that doesn’t apologize for enjoying such a story.

There are a lot more people in this world who are all different kinds of rude than there are true ladies and gentlemen, especially if one listens to those who are blowing their own horns and drowning out their more respectable but reticent fellows. That said, rudeness is a matter of degree. Bigtime. Lady Kensington isn’t the only local with a disregard for the cleanliness of the streets of Filthadelphia. As Captain Bones once put it, “It’s like these people think a fairy’s gonna come and clean up after them when they leave crap all over the street. Actually, they’re right. There is a fairy: it’s called me and Mrs. Bones walking around the block and filling up two trash bags.” Besides, when Lady Kensington gets raunchy on a neighbor’s stoop, it’s only because she’s being impulsive and doesn’t have a room or a trash can available at the moment. It ain’t exactly right, but there’s no antisocial intent. It’s just high-functioning white trashiness in a declining industrial neighborhood. It’s no Haddonfield Special, and even if she threatens to punch me in the face if I don’t buy her shots, she’s no Lt. Josey. A friend of hers from the neighborhood once pulled up her skirt and put out for a boyfriend while leaning against a railing on the Staten Island Ferry: again, dirty, but a far cry from stop-and-frisk or disappearing Adrian Schoolcraft into a mental hospital for snitching about trouble with CompStat.

And these women are most certainly not concerned with the private, consensual sexual behavior of others. Shit, they aren’t even that concerned with public sex. If a horny young couple have sex out on the ferry deck at night and the cops on board don’t cite them for public lewdness, was the deed actually done? You know what? The cops are probably too busy hanging out downstairs, maybe getting pleasantly chatted up by some goody-two-shoes civilians, and being thankful that they drew the best assignment in the 120th Precinct and aren’t stuck responding to shots fired in the Stapleton projects. Besides, Lady Kensington and her friend show more concern for the welfare and sensibilities of others when they have sex in public than Lady Lejeune shows when she asserts herself as an arbiter of official Catholic sexual morality for the public at large. Lady Lejeune doesn’t even attempt to tone down her behavior in consideration of prevailing community standards. And don’tcha know, neither does Stoner Aunt. The assholy butthurt doesn’t have to be about sex, but it doesn’t hurt. (Heh.)

The opposite of moral relativism is not Manicheanism. This truth is easily lost in the din, but there is a very real difference between moral absolutism and Manicheanism. The former allows for a degree of nuance, common sense, and maximization of the commonweal that the latter does not. It’s easy enough to see how this distinction got erased in the public discourse. The people who have the most to say about the dangers of moral relativism are consistently some of the most unhinged Manicheans: Reform theologians, monomaniacal anti-abortionists who can’t process any of the harm caused by unwanted children or recklessly profligate breeding, busybodies who demand the imprisonment of those whose sexuality they find insufficiently holy. The critiques of moral relativism have been left to an unseemly coalition of zealous yahoos, many of them from the intellectual and ethical dregs of society. The weird thing is that they’re of above-average intelligence, eloquence and logical reasoning abilities, but they take faulty or depraved premises and run with them to the ends of the earth.

Meanwhile, what their pluralistic opponents offer in response is mostly mushheaded bollocks. Many on the left are too solicitous of the feelings of every conceivable nutcase constituency to take a real stand on anything, so of course they end up with less credibility than authoritarians who yell about total depravity, being washed in the Blood of the Lamb, “conservatism,” “family values,” manipulatively narrow definitions of the “Heartland,” spats over forty-foot crosses in National Forests, reestablishing compulsory prayer in public schools, “judicial activism,” and the Meese Report. Their opponents may be crazy, but at least they stand for something. On the other hand, the mushheads propose a quiet, if uneasy, coexistence instead of perpetual war on dissidents and minorities. As we saw last year, much of the Republican Party is now in the hands of people depraved and Manichean enough to make Claire McCaskill look like a woman of great principle and courage. McCaskill is an exemplar of Blue Dog suckage, but she was able to win reelection by asserting that discussions of illegitimate ways to rape women so that they like it are not fit for polite society, or even for Congress.

One needn’t spend much time around monomaniacs to realize that that way lies madness. At the same time, it isn’t the moral invertebrates who stand up and tell people like Akin to go fuck themselves. It takes a degree of moral certitude, if only a small one, to recognize that that is simply not the way a decent person talks about rape. Revulsion at that sort of language is a value, and the belief that such language is uniformly beyond the pale is most certainly a value. Notice that no one opined that while it was inappropriate for Akin to speak of “legitimate rape” on behalf of the citizens of St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia, it would have been appropriate to speak thus on behalf of the citizens of Cape Girardeau in consideration of the prevailing local culture and Rush Limbaugh’s childhood. No. The message was simple: Akin’s language was unfit for all of Missouri, even the most backwards parts, and it served as a rare opportunity for Claire McCaskill, of all members of the August Body, to join Vertebrata.

To a large extent, it’s a matter of gut feeling. Trying to balance and accommodate every conflicting interest at once would be highly illogical. Gut feeling, not cold logic, is what allows Akin’s observers to stand up and say, “Dude, what the fuck?” It is Captain Kirk, not Spock, who exercises command authority here. They said so on Radio Lab a few weeks ago, and it made a lot more sense than any of that bullshit in Ashland, or my parents’ response to it.

Gut feeling does a lot to explain why I’ve made such an effort to stay in touch with Baywatch over the years. If Data were to add up the sum of our interactions, he would see no reason to make further investments in the relationship as a matter of cost-benefit analysis, but I’m not an Aspie quant. I can tell that that girl is special (a term that for once I don’t use cynically), so I don’t see any need to subtract her propensity for teh hawt mess from her graciousness and divide by the amount of time we’ve spent together in order to know that she’s worth making an effort to keep in my life. At the opposite extreme, I don’t need any quantitative metrics to know that Farmer and Stoner are hella fucked up, although personality disorder diagnostic criteria are helpful for understanding just what’s wrong with them and being able to present it coherently to, say, my parents when they’re in the mood to excuse objectively rude or even depraved behavior.

My parents have accused me of viewing Farmer and Stoner through a Manichean lens, but I do not. They aren’t reincarnations of Stalin. I’d be stunned if they turned out to be the proprietors of a Robert Pickton-style graveyard for prostitutes, in a way that I would not be stunned to hear that the Temple Clinger had gone full Sodini on a bunch of innocent coeds. I see nuances in their behavior. That said, psychopathy is not the appropriate threshold for a response to asshattery in the family. Mendacious, schadenfreude-tinged narcissism on a chronic basis should be more than enough. They’re acting that way as a defense mechanism because they’re ashamed to be insolvent and financially dependent on others? Blow me. They’re making me look bad through their insistence on fraudulently misrepresenting themselves as independent yeomen at a time when they, like me, are financially dependent on my parents. I should not be penalized for making an effort to live in truth, and I damn well should not be penalized for calling sleazy relatives out on a campaign of bullshit that has the effect of punishing me for trying to live honorably.

My parents’ stance, in effect, is that Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt should have license to act like children. Frankly, the amount of maturity that I expect them to show is quite modest. In no way do I expect them to become financially independent, and I don’t even expect them to be candid about their personal or business finances, except in serious financial discussions with their investors or prospective investors. I merely expect them to refrain from actively misrepresenting themselves, emotionally manipulating the rest of us, tarring me as a fuck-up in order to divert attention from their own shortcomings, telling other self-serving fantasy tales about me and my motivations, and engaging in tortious and criminal behavior out of sheer idiocy. My position is that immorality informed by a desire to gratuitously offend and provoke others and amorality informed by capricious narcissism are not worldviews fit for polite society.

Manichean this is not. In fact, it is much more restrained and magnanimous than can reasonably be expected of me. There is no ethical obligation for me not to tell them both to their faces that a friend of mine showed a world more maturity as a twenty-year-old undergraduate, even when I got weird and clingy with her, than either of them have shown in their mid-sixties. It would be a pertinent lecture. Baywatch’s subsequent willingness to move forward with near-total goodwill and magnanimity after a heartfelt total freakout over my clinginess is an example of class that damns both Farmer and Stoner as ill-mannered semigeriatric children.

Nor was it Manichean for me to keep hanging out not just with Farmer and Stoner but also with Junior Bear and his posh knuckleheads back east for years, and to magnanimously return to them after massive blowups that were entirely or overwhelmingly their fault. My parents are simply mistaken to think that I’m reflexively judgmental and petty towards these people. I’ve gotten angry with them, but I have certainly not been unduly vindictive.

It took a hell of a lot of bad behavior to get me so riled up against Farmer and Stoner. Again, this is not Manicheanism, but realism, a stern but proportional response to behavior running a gamut from the provocative to the objectively deranged. Yet I’ve ended up on the phone with my mom insisting that Farmer Uncle’s drinking behind the wheel with me as his passenger was not a tort. Of course it’s a fucking tort! His whole goddamn pattern of behavior surrounding this habit has been tortious. He deliberately committed a crime against me for shits and giggles and then declared his intention to persist in similar criminal activity in my absence for the purposes of aggrandizing himself as the alpha dog and vexing my parents. Saying that he can’t be sued for any of this is like saying that Child Protective Services can’t be contacted about Uncle Dwayne’s custom of screwing his teenage nieces in the tobacco barn. For crying out loud, I have the right to press criminal charges against him, and a good chance of establishing criminal intent; in a civil trial I could fucking cream him. It was his idiotic decisions, not mine or my parents, that got us into this mess. We have a similar dynamic with Stoner Aunt’s decision to smear me to my parents in retaliation for my e-mail asking her and Farmer to back the hell off because they had been disrupting my work life. Of course I can sue for an equitable relief injunction compelling her to shut up if I first warn her to stop denigrating me to my parents and then suffer additional annoyance because she won’t stop being such a hideous shrew. That would be a textbook case of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Contrary to my mom’s feverish assertions, that would be a circumstance in which it in fact would be lawful to “tell people what they can and cannot say to other people.” It doesn’t matter that she has always had a tendency to be a provocative, self-righteous horror. Decent people, and indecent people who don’t want to get their asses sued, back down when rightfully accused of anything resembling a tort.

But we’re family. Blood is thicker than water. Uncle Dwayne has always been having his way with his nieces in the tobacky pile.

Headdesk.

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