Archives for category: Fuhrman and Friends

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.

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.

“Rip to the victims of Boston new massacre…withthatsaid, these events may not happen inphilly because before a cop is killed or a suicide bomber can say the Allah phrase he be shot by someone with mostly an illegal gun, especially once the identities are released by media. Let this be known to oversea bad guys, the city of brotherly love will never cower to the fear and attrious actions, we will stand tall and perserver…damn our country was born here….”

 

Fuckity fucky fuck. More misadventures with downwardly mobile SWPL in denial who preen over their pets instead of doing right by their relatives.

Is this codependency? Maybe, but that’s somewhat beside the point.  I’m trying to strategize here, just as I kept an eye out for ways to break into healthier, saner, more respectful cliques while Junior Bear and his more impressionable hangers-on hazed me on a semiweekly basis. On the plus side of the ledger, the benefits that I derive from my putting up with Farmer Uncle include free cross-country ski rentals (his ski boots fit me perfectly), insider access to flexible training in the wine industry, and a fallback that allows me to be productive no matter how many times I get fucked over in the formal labor market and stay a step or two above abject homelessness. The negative side of the ledger I’ve discussed at tendentious length in previous screeds and have already mentioned in this one.

So do I realize a net benefit or a net loss from this Faulknerian clusterfuck? Shit. How does one do a cost-benefit analysis of such a disaster? And it’s a rather crass exercise in any event. But as I’ve said before, we’ve crasser in these parts. Starting, of course, with my disingenuous slumlord-cum-employer, who acts as if I have other options at my command, which is certainly a great way to absolve himself of responsibility for me.

Codependency doesn’t seem to explain the relationships that Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt have with their other investors. Rather, these appear to be dominated by their investors’ fear that Farmer and Stoner will throw a fucking fit if they’re challenged too directly. It’s a sick carrot-and-stick dynamic: be deferential, and we’ll be pleasant, or maybe unctuous or pushy; be assertive, and we’ll turn into raging assholes who will make you look bad as an obvious party to a vulgar family squabble over money. The investors have a lot to lose if they treat Farmer and Stoner like the accountable adult debtors that they would be if this drama had unfolded on the open market, and probably not a whole lot to regain financially, given how many parties are standing on the sidelines, hands outstretched to a mendacious couple who make a big show of pretending that they aren’t broke, getting broker, and in hock to everyone.

Prejudice plays a huge role in this mess. Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt were never typecast as family fuck-ups. Both of the family aliens have long been typecast as fuck-ups, as have I in recent years, but Farmer and Stoner have retained their roles as responsible, productive, and competent, no matter how ridiculously incompetent, irresponsible and financially draining they’ve been. Hence the family bitchfests in which the consensus is high dudgeon over Alien Aunt or Alien Uncle accepting a $600 check or two from Grandma, and the deafening silence in response to Farmer Uncle successfully beseeching my dad for $50,000 so that he’d only be $18k behind on payments to the old friend who had double-crossed them on a gentleman’s agreement on the mortgage whose note he held and threatened to foreclose on the farm. This dude, whom I’ll call the Rosshole because that’s how Stoner Aunt petulantly referred to him for a time, was hurting himself. He was $3m in unrepayable mortgage debt of his own for his mixed success in speculative property development, and his third wife had reneged on her own gentleman’s agreement, as it were, to let him cheat on her with his girlfriend in Montana, filing for divorce, and more pertinently, for the horse property that he had built her. This left the Rosshole living on a cot in the back of his business office, behind a sliding partition, until he prevailed upon his girlfriend to finish up her forest service career in Medford, where, quite conveniently for him, she bought a house and let him shack up with her.

The Rosshole and his new squeeze are the inverse of the Former Forester and her husband; it’s really quite amazing. It’s also quite amazing that no one has openly blown a head gasket over Farmer Uncle’s risking the money of various relatives and friends in his witless attempt to trust the Rosshole to be honorable while both of them circled the drain. Even after getting mixed up with this train wreck of a man, Farmer Uncle got something like tens, if not hundreds, of times more latitude to dissipate relatives’ money without complaint than the aliens got when they hit their mother up for petty cash.

Then there are the complaints that while my parents, Farmer, Stoner and the Caretakers spent a lot of time cooking and cleaning at family reunions, the aliens mostly sat around, watching TV and waiting for dinner. Caretaker Aunt likes to pile on with the additional complaint that Alien Aunt spends too much of her scarce walking-around money at the taquerias that are currently proliferating in the ever-more-Californicated horse country of Middle Tennessee. At rock bottom, however, the truth is that no matter how cheaply Farmer and Stoner cook for themselves and occasionally for their relatives, that won’t mean that they don’t have several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of money from those near and dear to them tied up in a shitty cryptononprofit investment. The other deep truth is that Alien Aunt isn’t about to drop $50k on burritos. No matter how shitty or overpriced fast-casual Mexican food is (and it’s more than a bit of each), anyone who gets worked into a lather over one of the family loafers freeloading off God’s people for taco money but not over the family con artists sponging off the pushover moneyed in their orbit for bet-the-farm money is not operating rationally.

For Caretaker and Alien Aunts, the animosity of sisterhood probably explains some of it. You go, girls! For everybody else, it’s just that good old American resentment of the lazy. To quote Louisville Metro homicide detective Mickey Cohn, “I solve these cases for a living. You drink beer for a living.” Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt may hawk a bullshit class of private stock to those under their thumbs for a living, but they apparently do a pretty good job of pretending to farm, cook and move firewood around their property for a living. I’ve long been put off by the smugness with which they busily flit around kitchens and found the aliens’ unpretentious, honest laziness much less annoying, but I’m clearly in the minority on this matter, perhaps a minority of three. (Your guess is as good as mine as to the home planets of the other two.)

Hard work, or the illusion of hard work, covers a multitude of social and financial sins in this country. That’s how Junior Bear maintained such a large coterie while not shutting up about life insurance for ten minutes. Getting shit done is all well and good, but the act is crucial. That’s why Grandma didn’t come across as such a hard worker. She just stoically did what she thought ought to be done without making a big fuss about it. She didn’t complain about other people being lazy fucks, either.

Things are, alas, different in Our Valley. All the world’s an Elizabethan stage for the preening Ashlander. And do I ever know it. For Farmer Uncle, being a malevolent prick only some of the time is an important part of the act. It throws the rest of us off, since they can’t know from minute to minute whether he’ll act on good faith or bad. It convinces us that we have something to gain in not chewing him out for being beyond the pale, and in a way we do, but we also have a lot to lose, and there’s no way to know whether we’ll gain or lose on balance. There are simply too many variables, many of them completely unpredictable.

There’s another, subtler, aspect to Farmer Uncle’s assholiness. It’s a strategically hail-fellow-well-met, passive-aggressive tone of voice, one that outwardly sounds perfectly amiable. It’s the perfect tone of voice with which to manipulate a sorry bastard, because anyone who is visibly provoked by it will likely appear to be the less reasonable, shriller party, the provocateur rather than the provoked. Overfamiliarity works brilliantly for Farmer Uncle. He has no business calling me his “buddy,” given how wretchedly he has treated me, but if I were to tell him not to use such overly familiar language with me, I’d almost certainly come across as an overly sensitive ass. I don’t know whether it’s conscious or not, but the fucker really knows how to push people’s buttons.

What inspires this screed is the voice message that he left me the other day. I paraphrase, but closely:

“Yo, Alien Watcher, it’s Farmer Uncle. I won’t be coming down to the farm today, we’re puttering around the house….I’ve got an idea for you to set up a more permanent encampment over where the Vegetable Man had his site for a while. You probably know there’s running water there, so you could set up a stove and a tent. It’s just an idea, no pressure. Also, I wanted to make sure that you’re feeding the cats. Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow. Stay dry.”

At the 100% risk of beating a dead horse, let me review some events that made this voice message provocative: Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt were the ones who didn’t let me return to their house subsequent to the great butthurt I caused them by fleeing Stoner’s recurrent envelope-pushing and Farmer’s sudden eruption of anger last May; the running water that Farmer mentioned does not feed a flush toilet; Farmer Uncle continues not to pay me, despite having discreetly released himself from a longstanding agreement to feed and house me when I was in town working for him; lows were expected to be around freezing for the following three nights, but I had to leave a seven-by-ten-inch hole in the wall so that the cats could come and go, and there are probably more cracks in the walls than I’ll ever find on my own; I did not move to Oregon to take care of a couple of cats that he blithely leaves out in the cold whenever his mind drifts away from the farm.

Here’s another amazing thing: Alien Uncle is the one who has always been accused of having too many cats. That’s no surprise for a high-functioning Aspie who has been known to send out Christmas cards describing his cats as his “family,” complete with a family portrait. (“Everyone has a family, no matter what their family may be….” Giggity giggity.) But he’s never asked any of us to feed them when he’s too negligent to do so, and he doesn’t preen over them. He doesn’t presume that people working for him for free should live in uninsulated outbuildings and shit in boxes, kind of like cats, but dirtier. It doesn’t matter if he has too many cats; they aren’t our problem.

It’s also worth mentioning that Alien Uncle doesn’t buy his house cat kibble that has been marked up by a factor of four to pay for the “life force bits” while making a show of letting the nephew working for him snack on a hunk of salami from the discount meat bin at Shop-n-Kart. How strong a mitigating factor is it that I like the salami much more than that pampered prince of a kitty-cat likes the “life force bits,” which he leaves in a pile at the bottom of his dish? Not too fucking strong, I submit. And am I one to brag about feeding my relatives discount meat while feeding my precious kitty overpriced kibble because my wife is a henpecking nutcase who believes in marketing? Nope, and if I do say so myself, it isn’t just because I’m a bachelor.

I’m reminded of the time that a bakery executive’s wife told me and a German exchange student who was staying with my family that we were free to use the portajohn in the yard rather than the indoor toilet that her daughter’s friends were invited to use. What a gracious party hostess. But she was married to a leading member of Central Pennsylvania society, one whose bread everyone in the region has eaten at some point, and the lot of them lived on what can only be described as an estate. My expectation that I would not be consigned to the servants’ privy was too high. I could not expect Franco-Jeffersonian liberty, equality and fraternity from any of them. They certainly did not preach such a thing; paterfamilias, for one, was too busy telling his tendentious stories about the back nine that morning.

One can, however, reasonably expect better of a couple who fancy themselves great egalitarians, or, to adopt Stoner Aunt’s grating terminology, “helpers” who help other “helpers.” One might also reasonably expect that “help” to include payroll income, so that the subordinate “helper” might eventually have some pension income to show for the 30-45 hour weeks that he puts in at harvest, but that would violate the ethos of paying for things with the holy trinity of “munchies, tunes and good vibes,” that good old Craigslist rideshare three-in-one that is, as they say at Bi-Mart, “just right for the Northwest.”

Well, shit, I shouldn’t libel Bi-Mart by association with these moochy fuckers; Bi-Mart provides its employees payroll income and indoor flush toilets. Nor should I libel its employees, as they appear substantially less likely than the average resident of “Our Valley” to routinely shit in an overflowing box and then pretend that this custom is normative.

And it would be interesting (maybe in the sense of the old Chinese curse about “interesting times”) to see whether the causes of my foregoing complaints would be considered “just right” by the various departments of health and labor with jurisdiction over this good ol’ country mess. Could be “just right” for intervention, I reckon, and for reminding the principals that they were not brought up to preside over such a squalid racket because, good grief, you were raised on the nice part of the Peninsula!

Similarly, it might be “just right” to wrap up Prince Kitty’s unpalatable leftovers in scraps of Bi-Mart paper bags (no other store’s will do, now), lather the homemade suppositories in K-Y Jelly, and hand one each to Farmer and Stoner with the words, “Hey, buddy, why dont’cha try administering this-here anally as a home remedy for your constipation? The life force be with you.” Yeah, that’s cruel, but only on the most superficial, socially stunted examination is it worse than the passive-aggressive comments that Farmer and Stoner make to me, their ill-sheltered and unpaid employee, about how warm, well-sheltered and well-fed they and their cats are. As a matter of strict equity, I say it’s appropriate; can anyone successfully argue the Opposing Viewpoint? 

Of course, it can be said that Farmer Uncle and Stoner Aunt aren’t always disingenuous schadenfreude junkies who assuage their own insecurities by degrading others, and that they don’t mistreat me all the time. I may sound like I’m flippantly erecting a straw man while salivating about going full Dennis Rader on it in the next sentence, but the good interludes actually do weigh on me when I consider laying down a righteous bitchslapping on Farmer and Stoner. They remind me that things could go from unpredictable to straight-up bad all the time if I push Farmer and Stoner over the line from light intermittent butthurt to the chronic full-strength kind, and that I could provoke this throttling up merely by treating them as adults who are accountable for their own decisions and that kind of thing. But to belatedly return to the artistic photographer formerly known as Bill Thomas Killman, let us consider that Dennis Rader didn’t murder people all the time.

A shrill thing to say? Ask honey badger for his thoughts on that. And let’s consider some behaviors from which OJ Simpson could be expected to refrain at any given moment, as a matter of statistical chance: double murder, armed robbery, domestic battery, angrily calling his wife an ungrateful cocksucking slut.

I’m not kidding. I may have Godwinized the shit out of the last couple of paragraphs, but it is absolutely true that people return to their abusers all the time because they know that things can go swimmingly when they aren’t going nightmarishly. Or if not swimmingly, at least they can go well enough. Am I usurping the rightful province of domestic violence victims? Maybe. I’m on the fence about this, but I can say that one of the reasons I walked out in May was that Farmer Uncle was really losing his temper, to an extent that I had never witnessed before, and that I very seriously feared that he would totally lose it and assault me. In that case, I would have called the cops at the first opportunity and asked the responding officers to throw the book at him. In a sick irony, such an incident would have made it much easier to prove my overall case against him, because he would finally have shown his hand too openly for anyone to ignore. No one would have taken his side at that point. To be cynical, I damn near set up the perfect meathead’s honeypot sting, entirely by accident, and but for my reflexive aversion to conflict, he might well have fallen for it.

So the problems go deeper than Farmer and Stoner preening over their bratty cats. Still, it doesn’t help their case that they value those pain-in-the-ass animals more highly than they value me. They’ll swear that I’m libelously full of shit on this point, but I’ve described actions that they might take to make me reassess their character, and I’m not waiting with baited breath for them to follow up their cheap talk.

Over the past few months, the Rogue Valley has become home to one of the weirdest, most perverse causes celebres of our time: the plight of poor Gary Harrington, who was imprisoned for the crime of collecting and storing rainwater on his own property. A surprisingly wide coalition, including libertarians, permaculturists, and even Thomas Drake, who is about as genuine voice for civil liberties as exists in the United States today, has come to Harrington’s defense, convinced that he is the victim of a capricious and perhaps illegitimate state.

It turns out that there’s a bit more to the story than first meets the eye, at least forty acre-feet more. Harrington’s innocuous little catchment system consists of three ponds with a total capacity of about 40 acre-feet and dams up to 20 feet high. This “rainwater storage” infrastructure is more accurately described as a system of private reservoirs. According to this febrile article claiming that the state of Oregon has criminalized permaculture, Harrington owns somewhat over 170 acres, so he has close to a quarter of an acre-foot of reservoir storage for every acre that he owns. This does not account for any artificial elevation of the water table on his property as a result of the reservoirs, an effective certainty that would further retard the natural flow of water from his property into public waterways downstream. Harrington’s individual effect on the Rogue River, its riparian areas and fisheries is fairly small, but the potential cumulative effect of other landowners appropriating similar amounts of water for their own use without authorization is immense. This gives the state a clear and compelling policy interest in deterring property owners from doing what Harrington has done.

There’s another thing that a casual reader might miss about Harrington’s plight: he has not been criminally charged. What in fact happened was that he was ordered by state water authorities to drain the reservoirs, appealed the order in a state court, lost his appeal, and defied the court order by leaving the reservoirs intact, on the utterly specious and self-serving claim that he no longer had the authority to modify the reservoirs because he had sold them to a private association. Sale price: $4 for the lot of them. As a rule of thumb, if you purposely defy a lawful order from a duly constituted court of law, you’ll go to jail in contempt of court. Courts are rarely inclined to say, “Gee, now, Mr. Harrington, you obviously feel strongly about this, but maybe we could reach a compromise to drain ten acre-feet, leaving you with thirty?” Thirty days in jail for this weaselly connivance in defiance of the law is, as American penology goes, too lenient to register as an affront to civil rights or liberties. The poor jailbird clearly contrived a private membership association for the sole purpose of defying a court of law so that he could continue to withhold water from the public waterways, a fraud for which he has so far not been prosecuted.

The alert student of American history will recognize Harrington’s ownership transfer strategy from the Gilded Age. It’s the same shell company sleight of hand that the industrial trusts used to evade accountability while they did their best to steamroll the unions, civil society, regulators, and anything else standing in their path. Gary Harrington is no scrappy, much put-upon underdog. He’s a petty robber baron. He’s the kind of person who gleefully misappropriates resources from the commons and drags his feet on returning them when lawfully ordered to do so. A lot of people would happily turn into such asshats if given the opportunity; not many people own hundreds of acres, after all, so it’s a small subset who can show their true colors in such a position of privilege. It is for such people, among others, that we enact and enforce laws. If they’re allowed to just do their own thing, they’ll externalize substantial, and possibly unbearable, costs onto other parties, often ones who are much less able to afford adequate counsel to make themselves whole through civil litigation.

The regulations reserving Harrington’s impounded water for the commons are imperfect, but not exceptionally so. The paranoid fringe has made a lot of noise about the exemptions for permanent structures and paved surfaces serving as incentives to despoil agricultural and wild lands. In point of fact, this would be one of the most cost-ineffective and ridiculous ways to secure a water supply. Few landowners would be idiotic enough to attempt such a thing, and especially ambitious ones would have their plans nixed by local zoning authorities or the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals. Western Oregon is a fairly wet area. In most years, there is enough flow in the streams and rivers for all landowners fronting them to exercise their water rights and still leave a residual flow adequate to support downstream fisheries. These surface water rights can often be supplemented with duly permitted groundwater wells or irrigation district hookups. Except in severe drought years, few stakeholders are truly left high and dry.

Rainwater catchment is a negligible adjunct to these well-established lawful water sources. Really, it’s more symbolic than anything. It has a certain country DIY cred that makes back-to-the-land types cream their pants, and then get worked up into high dudgeon when they perceive an official threat to this piddling source of water that they hold so dear. They don’t want the fucking government interfering in their hobby, or Gary Harrington’s. This is how Harrington, whose reservoirs haven’t a thing to do with permaculture, got adopted by permaculturists as their plucky little underdog ally. The point of permaculture is to build a more or less self-sustaining ecosystem of edible and otherwise useful flora and fauna. One has to work with, not against, the climatic conditions on one’s land to accomplish this, including the hydrological conditions. Or maybe I’m wrong, and permaculture is actually the establishment of cranberry bogs and catfish ponds in the oak scrub for no other reason than the wood that one sports at the sight of unnatural concentrations of water. That seems to be what some of Harrington’s permaculturist allies think. They seem frantic at the thought of being unable to dump large quantities of extraneous water into their food forests because the big bad government told them no.

As Mark Twain said, whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over. Just over the hill from “Our Valley” is the Klamath Basin, where, about a decade ago, a rabble of disgruntled ranchers effectively hijacked a federal irrigation system and redirected public water to their lands in defiance of administrative and court orders reserving that water for fisheries downstream in the Klamath River. They did this with Dick Cheney’s blessing, and they remain cult heroes in Mountain West property rights circles to this day. Gary Harrington’s self-important asshattery is by no means unprecedented. Perhaps he’s butthurt that the Oregon state courts weren’t chickenshit in his case like the federal authorities were in the face of the water thieves over the hill. It’s a bad idea for the authorities to let the mass theft of public natural resources slide, even if the aggrieved downstream stakeholders include, God help us, reservation Indians. I’m inferring the racial angle, but it’s an educated inference. Relations between the white man and the red man can be pretty bad in Humboldt County and along the Nisqually River, to name just two areas with which I’m familiar, and even self-styled progressives from farming families on the east slope of the Cascades have been known to refer to “our wetbacks.”

But Indians or no Indians, what does one do for the wittle fishies? Something, hopefully. Again, that’s why we have the hated federal agencies and courts, to strike as reasonable and equitable a balance as possible at times when the stakeholders, left to their own devices, might regress to warfare. It’s called civilization; you may not care for it, but I do, and I’m not the only one. On this side of the Cascade-Siskiyou spine, it’s quite fashionable to be pissy that the upper reaches of the Klamath River remain dammed, blocking fish migration. The undam-the-Klamath crowd is correct that the Klamath fishery would probably be healthier and more robust if the dams were removed, but they never explain what would replace the baseload hydroelectric capacity provided by the Boyle Powerhouse. Contrary to popular belief in these parts, one does not simply make renewable electricity. Flood control considerations might be worth taking into account, too. So it turns out that “Undam the Klamath” is a rather daft policy position. I like healthy fisheries and rivers, too, but I try to live in the real world, in which electricity and flood control have to come from somewhere.

This is the same real world, by the way, in which the water that all the proudly self-reliant screechers in the Klamath Basin obtain at below cost to irrigate their thousands of acres of potatoes and alfalfa has to come from somewhere. These irrigation projects are public goods that have contributed massively to the general welfare by allowing huge numbers of people to be efficiently fed, so there’s no reason to be resentful that the rednecks in the Basin are being subsidized, but let’s please be intellectually honest about it. Barack Obama is right: you didn’t build that. You aren’t even paying for it in full, so a bit of gratitude and perspective might be in order. And if you go ahead and steal it and refuse to give it back when so ordered by a court of law, a bit of jail time might be salutary. Just sayin’.

I haven’t really addressed the libertarian angle of the Harrington donnybrook, but it’s pretty straightforward. It’s another iteration of the perennial libertarian tragedy, the saga of a philosophy that in principle facilitates a flourishing of individual freedom and self-determination but in practice gets hijacked by glorified thieves, who often enough reduce their victims, those with less hustle than themselves, to subsisting on cat food. This is why old-school liberals can’t get elected in Russia; too many Russians remember liberal officials doing things like stealing their province’s entire supply of winter heating coal, selling it on the international market, and pocketing the proceeds. Maybe I made Gary Harrington out to be more haut bourgeois than he actually is. He’d be a piker among the oligarchs. But that’s like saying that Mikhail Khodorkovsky is more congenial than Donald Trump. It’s no reason to speak highly of the jerk.

A month or two ago, I started following some pickup artist blogs, mainly Chateau Heartiste but also the Rational Male and Postmasculine, among others. I’m pretty far along on a longer essay about the PUA community and the real-world context in which it somewhat obliviously exists. That essay has been unusually draining to write. Although I haven’t invested an inordinate amount of time planning and writing it (probably eight hours, give or take), the subject matter has made up for the short duration of my writing sessions by being exceptionally distasteful and disturbing.

Maybe the most striking thing about the research and writing process for that essay (if it can even be written off as “research”) is how much it has altered the language that I use in my thought processes. When I climb out of the fray for a break, I feel as if I need to reacculturate myself to the vocabulary of mainstream English. It’s as if I’ve been hanging out with racists, which is exactly what I’ve been doing, since it seems impossible for the paranoia, chauvinism and misogyny (I use the last two terms intentionally, as, contrary to popular belief, they have different meanings) to coalesce without magnetically attracting racial and ethnic bigotry and paranoia as well. This is what one would expect of a leftist caricature of these groups, but it comes straight from the horse’s mouth in these cases, so really it’s a self-parody. These people use language that is completely foreign to people outside their subculture. I envision a virtual community of resentful, abrasive kooks and equally resentful, socially maladjusted dweebs hanging out in the basement and emerging periodically, unable to carry on a normal conversation with their relatives, so addled are they by the weirdness of the language that they use in their virtual lives. Since I’m exceptionally good with languages (speaking fairly proficient Russian and French, both learned as second languages in my teens) and exceptionally deliberate in my speech, although not as deliberate orally as in writing, extrapolating my own difficulty to people who are inarticulate and inattentive to their speech is a cringeworthy mental exercise.

I’ve had a similar experience reintegrating myself into mainstream, bricks-and-mortar life after reading sex workers’ blogs and some non-paranoid political blogs, but in those cases my only serious concern has been that I would say something politically incorrect because I was hanging out on a fringe where the Overton Window had been closed by the peddlers of America’s official social control mechanisms. This was basically a fear of uttering Bidenisms about a demimonde that I consider wrongfully smeared by polite society. My reaction to the PUA blogs, however, has been darker. They don’t seem merely louche or seedy, but evil in ways that I can’t exactly identify or articulate. I don’t consider it much of an exaggeration to say that there’s something Satanic about their worldview. The appearance that they actively foment war between the sexes certainly doesn’t help their case. Nor does their steeping socially marginal people in a shop talk that mainstream people would find confusing at best and evil and unhinged at worst.

These freaks exceed the military in their use of impenetrable acronyms, an important caveat being that the US military resembles a mainstream American society much more closely than the pickup artist community. More importantly, even in neighborhoods and social circles insulated from the military and its culture, military service is rarely regarded as a scarlet letter. I imagine that much of the flak that veterans catch from civilians and ascribe to civilian bigotry is in fact the result of their being stupid, vulgar and sadistic; I also imagine that the shit disproportionately hits the enlisted, for reasons that you’ll understand if you’ve spent much time on military bases, ones that our family friend Captain Bones finds compelling. There’s also the matter of military personnel, especially officers, being trained to be unfailingly polite in their dealings with superiors and civilians. The kind of language that predominates on PUA blogs wouldn’t fly at inspection. At least I hope it wouldn’t; I’m sure military personnel and veterans could provide plenty of counterexamples that they’ve witnessed, so feel free to have at it in the comment thread. That said, I’m pretty sure that the US Armed Forces do a better job than most American institutions do at socializing their personnel into something presentable, and that such a thing doesn’t happen on PUA blogs.

Hanging out with strangers in a sort of committee of correspondence and being trained by them in the use of vulgar, depraved language that is incomprehensible to normal people to the extent that it isn’t repellent doesn’t seem like a good idea for socially atomized, sexually frustrated men with deficient interpersonal skills. On the other hand, the bar scene where these beta-omega spectrum recluses are supposed to be applying their “game” tends to be disgraceful, too. That’s why I close by repeating an old encouragement to reasonable women of goodwill to consider improving the nightlife pool, but this time in somewhat more colorful language:

All the slutty ladies, all the slutty ladies/

If you like it then you shouldn’t let the skanks monopolize it, if you like it then you shouldn’t let the skanks monopolize it/

Oh, oh, oh, I’m not even gonna try to transliterate any more of that idiocy/

But get your not-exactly-chaste, not-exactly-sleazy asses out there on the dance floor/

And move it like Jagger, or something/

Cuz we may not put a ring on it if you do, but give us a chance and we’ll show our gratitude/

At least those of us who aren’t deranged enough to prefer a manipulable bimbo to a smart chick who rubs up on her friends sober/

So, in conclusion, move it like Jagger, or something/

Because even if that isn’t music, neither is that shit you’re listening to on the radio.