Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
On our third date, we were discussing ice cream flavors. Preferable, acceptable, and forbidden. We're both fans of cookies and cream ice cream because neither of us are soulless monsters.
Comrade: I could eat cookies and cream flavored anything. Ice cream, cake, fish sticks, glue.
Me: Same with one exception. Cookies and cream flavored Oreos make no sense. It's like lemon flavored lemons.
Comrade: I love you.
Hence, I've spent the last several months searching for a metaphorical cookies and creme engagement band. Nothing tacky, like a big old Oreo on the finger. I finally found one that looked just right last month.
Of course, to be sneaky, I didn't measure Comrade's finger, I just compared it to mine and thought We Both Have Small Hands. What fits me will .... Not so much. Soon we'll have matching bands but for now we'll keep this aside.
I also bought this cookies and cream candle which looks and smells Way Too Edible.
Goose passed in August, and one of my friends, who works as a vet tech, picked her up and took her to be cremated. And then Goose got lost. Our postal carrier is neither the best nor the worst I've encountered, but we often get packages that are clearly addressed to houses a couple of streets over, and there have been a few documents that have never arrived that were sent by responsible people who wouldn't lie to me about sending them.
It is what it is.
When I realized, in October, that we still didn't have Goose's remains, I went to the post office to see if maybe I had missed a card that requested my signature or something, and they claimed not to have anything.
I couldn't remember the name of the place where Goose had been cremated, and I didn't want to bother anyone because I figured it had either been delivered to the wrong address, and there was nothing that could be done about it, or I had just run into someone at the post office who wasn't the best informed employee, and they would send the remains back to the crematorium. I didn't think anyone was deliberately trying to steal cat ashes for some elaborate scam.
On Tuesday, I was at work when my cell phone rang.
Guy From Crematorium: Hello?
Me: Yes. How can I help you?
(I was at work, where I routinely get to be rude to telemarketers and scam artists.)
GFC: I'm calling from Forget Me Not Crematorium.
So, it's ironic that I forgot the name.
GFC: I'm calling because we just got the remains of Motherfucker Goose back and wanted to know if we should try and resend her to you, or whether you would like to come and pick Motherfucker up. I should let you know that we played rock, paper, scissors to see who got to call you because we all wanted a chance to swear at work.
Me: "I don't think I live too close to you, but I could make some calls and figure something out. Can I call you back in a couple of hours."
GFC: "It doesn't need to be today. Motherfucker will be waiting here for you. She's on the Shelf Of Honor until you can figure something out."
Me: "Thank you."
GFC: "No problem. You have a good day. We'll make sure Motherfucker is back with you soon."
Comrade: Ewww. Someone just messaged me, "You are a sexy elf, *come* sit on my lap."
Me: Eww, indeed.
Comrade: Should I ask him what kind of elf, I look like? Christmas elf? Lord Of The Rings elf?
I shiver. Not in a positive way.
Me: Back when I was living with Alvin, one of the drunks at The Cantab met him, and then asked me if I picked up all my boyfriends in the woods. When I asked what he meant, he said that he always had to check them for pointy ears. At first I wondered why there were Vulcans in the woods, but then I figured he meant elves. Of course, this same drunk then tried to sexually assault Alvin, and sent him a series of increasingly psychotic text messages, so I don't want to give him any sort of credit for..." and I trailed off because I had no idea how to finish that sentence.
Comrade: So I'm elfin?
Me: I don't think so. People also used to tell me that everyone I dated looked like a middle-aged lesbian. And I don't think that's the same thing as elvish. So people are just dumb, judgy, and think they're funny. Plus, you're six feet tall.
Comrade nodded, then climbed out the window and journeyed north into the forest to steal babies and kill some orcs with his longbow on his way to the North Pole to make toys just like all of the other middle aged lesbians I know.
"The poems in (this book) are ravenous, rich, and exquisitely built. (The poet)'s language makes visible how yearning tethers the mind to the world and how hurt spawns an astonishing self-awareness. Her gaze alights on beauty and violence; it 'scurries from birth to blight.' Such attentive looking brings closer the brokenness of the world. This gaze is also restorative; it alleviates and mends and delights."
"(This book) is haunted by violence and catastrophe, by the consequences of human desire turned to incommensurate ends, and anxious about the resources of language. There are no glib answers, only a certain kind of belief (the kind Emily Dickinson might recognize) embodied afresh in poems that are richly textured, and filled with energy, wit, and intelligence. (The poet)'s work is serious, but there's joy here, too, in a balance that defies gravity."
This book has an interesting title, and I liked the cover art, and was going to buy it, but these blurbs are tepid nothings. It sounds like the person likes the author but hasn't read the book at all or, at best, skimmed it. I'm now not buying this collection, and rethinking whether I will buy the next books by the poets who wrote the blurbs.
Blurbs should say something about at least one specific poem. They should make the book sound like a Must Read, not like it's something to read at bedtime when you're having trouble sleeping.
I've seen slight variations on these same two blurbs over and over on poetry collections by writers who deserve better. I would rather see a generic description of the book by the publishers than these echoey farts of generic praise.
If I see "yearning tethers the mind to the world and how hurt spawns an astonishing self-awareness" in a book, I'm putting it down and probably never picking it up again. And that's if it's in the middle of a book. If it's on the cover, I'm never buying it in the first place. These blurbs are the margin notes of a really supportive English teacher who doesn't know what they're talking about.
Today is my last day of scheduled comic retail for a while, and there is a pair of kids and their poppa who are making sure I will appreciate never having to endure their presence again.
Due to Christmas, our new weekly comics were delayed so I couldn't pick them up yesterday, and had to pick them up today. Unfortunately, the timing didn't work out, so I had to rush to the store without the books, making me about five minutes late.
I arrived to two kids in the hallway. "DO YOU KNOW WHEN THE COMIC BOOK STORE WILL BE OPEN?"
I was about to say, 'I'm opening it right now.' but from downstairs, a voice yelled "Your back door is open. Do you want it to be open?"
I yelled back down. "There's a yoga studio down there. Maybe they have it open for a reason? I don't know."
He yelled back, "Well, it's letting the heat out. It's costing us money."
I peered down to make sure I was correct before asking "Who is us?"
"I'm the landlord." yelled back someone who definitely is not The Landlord. *waves at Don, The Landlord, who is on my FB friends list*
"You look different, Frank. Did you do something new with your hair?"
"Yes!" The liar shouted back.
"Well, the landlord's name is Don, so I don't really know who you are, but you're welcome to talk to the yoga people about the door if it will make you feel better."
One of the kids then shouted, "ARE YOU GOING TO BE OPEN NOW OR WHAT?"
"Not for fifteen minutes." I said, opened the door, went inside, got the bank deposit ready, and then came back out.
I figured it was a four minute errand which would thrill people who thought they were waiting fifteen minutes.
"Are you free?" the non screaming kid asked.
"NOT FREE, YOU MORON, OPEN. ARE YOU OPEN?"
From downstairs, "Let's go. We'll come back in a few minutes when he's had time to open up."
"SHUT UP, POPPA. WE'RE NOT GOING TO LEAVE AND COME BACK. THAT'S STUPID. WE WAIT HERE OR I'M TELLING MOM."
I escaped to the bank, just in time to see the very nice, elderly greeter give a treat to one of those medium size guinea pigs that some people call dogs. The dog started barking and then bit her on the face.
So I'm not the only one having a not so great day.
The teller and I talk about what a weird day it is. The greeter checks her face in the mirror and is fine. And I go back to the store.
As I'm about to enter, I see an older woman who I caught shoplifting stickers a couple of months ago. I just stand still as she passes.
When I come back, Screamo, Poppa, and the other kid are trying the handle on the door, even though they all saw me leave for the bank and tell them I'd be back.
"ARE YOU OPEN YET? ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE US WAIT AGAIN?"
Poppa is just not acknowledging that the whole family and world at large is suffering from his grandmonster's shitty behavior.
I open the door. "Come on in."
The two kids go over to the Legos, where there is a constant stream of "STOP DROPPING THINGS. ARE YOU DUMB? CALM DOWN. STOP PICKING THINGS UP AND DROPPING THEM ON THE FLOOR. THIS IS WHY NO ONE WANTS TO GO ANYWHERE WITH YOU. YOU SUCK. STOP DROPPING THINGS!!!! WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE?" and similar things.
Poppa comes over to the counter. "Is Walter here?"
"Who?" I ask.
"Walter. The owner. I'm a friend of his."
The owner's name is not Walter.
"Only on weekends." I say, which is true about the owner. Not so much about anyone named Walter that I'm aware of.
"The last five or six times I've come in, nobody seemed to know who he was."
I shrug. The guy's already lied about being the landlord, I'm not going to divulge any info about the store to him. He is A Lot Nicer than I imagined when he was yelling about the door. But he is also ignoring his twelve year grandmonster who I would gladly hurl into traffic. (There isnt much traffic here, so he'd be fine, hopefully just terrified into silence.)
Another customer comes in. A reasonable one with questions about back issues. But while he's talking to me, the non-Screamo comes over, steps in front of the guy, mid-sentence and says "Do you have hamsters here?"
"DON'T INTERRUPT PEOPLE TO ASK STUPID QUESTIONS. YOU KNOW THEY DON'T HAVE HAMSTERS HERE. HE IS TALKING TO SOMEONE ELSE."
"We don't have hamsters here." I say, and look back up at the reasonable adult.
"WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID? I HATE YOU. COME BACK HERE AND LOOK AT THE LEGOS."
While he's yelling, one of our regular buyer/loiterers who comes in to ramble at us about his dad, his job, his bowels, whatever's on his mind, walks in, looks at the kid, and walks out. This should make me hate the kid a little less, but he's So Rude that it doesn't help.
Eventually, the screaming kid is too much for the reasonable adult, who tells me he'll be back later.
Normally, I'd ask the kid to tone it down, or ask Poppa to talk to him, but I vaguely remember them being in the store before, trying this approach, and it making things Much Worse.
My lunch arrives, and Poppa needs to know "What's the favorite local spot?"
"I was in a hurry today, so just ordered from Subway."
"Here? Why? Pizza Across The Street is right there, and their stuff is delicious."
I have never heard anyone say anything positive about Pizza Across The Street. I've heard their food is terrible. I've heard their owners are transphobic. I've heard their customer service is atrocious. And I've heard from employees who quit because it's a total shit show. But nobody has ever said Their Pizza Is Good. "I'll keep that in consideration for next time."
"Ok, kids. Time to bring your stuff to the counter. Our meter is running out and it's time to go."
"WHY ARE YOU THE KING OF RUSHING? IT'S WHY NO ONE EVER WANTS TO GO ANYWHERE WITH YOU. RUSH RUSH RUSH. IT'S SO AWFUL."
Three more people come in, giving the kid and Poppa a Wide Berth.
"Get your coupons out boys." Poppa says.
"WHY DO WE NEED TO USE OUR COUPONS NOW? WE SHOULD USE HIS MONEY TODAY AND SAVE THE COUPONS FOR WHEN I HAVE TIME TO BUY SOMETHING COOL."
"We're using them today."
"POPPA NOBODY LIKES YOU. YOU JUST LIE AND MAKE THINGS AWFUL FOR EVERYONE. I HATE YOU."
I don't make eye contact with anyone. Like, for real, get this bag of shit in a sweatshirt out of the store. I aknowledge that there are at least dozens of things I don't know about Poppa and Screamo. There could be special needs involved, and an issue with the parents, but, like, you can't have kids acting like that in public. Or adults.
Each kid buys two legos. They pay with gift certificates, and then Poppa takes them into the hallway, where the kid spends five minutes yelling at Poppa about how awful he is, and how dumb his (friend?) (brother?) is. There is no attempt at any discipline, or even just calm talking to relax the kid. Nothing. Just let him scream his face off.
One of the newer customers asks "Do you have the Fabulous---"
"WHY WON'T YOU JUST DIE SO THE REST OF US CAN BE HAPPY?"
"I do. It's--"
"AND YOU NEED TO STOP TALKING TO ME. YOU'RE SO STUPID."
Then the screaming trails down the stairs and away. The door slams behind them. And eveyone in the store's shoulders relax, and then an old man comes in asks "Where are your discount Christmas cards? I like to stock up on the day after Christmas when the stores aren't trying to scalp everyone."
"Oh, we don't have any." I say. "We're a pop culture and comic book store."
"You've probably heard this before," he says, and I instantly know the rest of the monologue "but when I was a kid we never spent any money on comics, but we had a mountain of them. All in perfect condition and from the 60s, so we probably had the first Superman." Probably not. "But my mother sold them all for a dime of piece when we moved out."
"Yea, I do hear that quite a bit. It's always sad."
He then lists a bunch of collectibles that we would never sell but that he would like us to buy from him. And then he leaves. Without buying anything.
My first Thanksgiving with Comrade's side of the family was a blast.
It did reach the point where people had imbibed just enough wine to say "So, are we allowed to talk about politics?" And the conversation was an entirely agreeable discussion about trying to be optimistic in this era of powerful people with no sense of empathy. There was no shouting, no awkward silences, I don't even think anyone cursed. And then one of Matt's cousins turned it into discussion about how at their school, instead of doing a mock election, they do a project where each class has to come up with an amendment to the constitution and present it to the ret of the school.
There was a body autonomy amendment, one that returned voting rights to felons depending on the severity of their crimes, extending voting rights to people over eighteen, regardless of their citizenship, 50% millionaire tax, mandatory solar power for public buildings, mandatory police oversight, and lots of cool ideas.
In about 25-30 years of retail, every single person who has ever uttered "I'm a friend of the owner." has been a complete fucken pain in the ass.
Sometimes, I end up getting along with them in spite of this, but there is never a point where someone says this and then is a completely reasonable human being during our first interaction.
Today's goober called up and said "I'm a friend of the owner. I need you to put something aside. He usually knocks about twenty bucks off for me. Should I call him and have him let you know, or are you authorized to make your own decisions?"
"No problem." I said.
And then I upped the price on the sticker by thirty-five dollars before he came in.
I call it Entitlement Tax.
If an owner is really your friend, you'll support their business instead of trying to bankrupt them because you shared a cab in 1997 or whatever loose affiliation makes you "friends" even though I haven't seen or heard of you in the three years I've worked here.
The complete flipside of this was a few months ago when a father and son came in, mentioning it was their first time. The kid asked a billion questions (but in a polite, enthusiastic way), and ended up with about $200 worth of Pokemon cards. As I rang them up, the kid said "And we're really going out for dinner tonight? And I get to order and everything?"
I must have made a weird face because the dad said "We're celebrating. He just got his feeding tube out for the first time."
THEY got a fucken discount.
We've been pretty lucky with travel in this trip. Easy flight to Cleveland, Lyfts with no memorable occurences in The Cle. Our first driver in Columbus was exactly the right level of personable. Last night, our luck ran out.
Driver #1 picked us up where we were staying, and as we got in the car, said "Oh, you're going to Old Mohawk? I love that place. I always tell people the last time I was there I was picking someone up and I heard this CRASH. And I thought "What did I hit this time? I'm always running into or over something. You know those cement balls they put in front of buildings to keep people from crashing into them? I've hit two! One of them broke something that dragged under my car for a week!"
I must have said "Huh." really judgily because he didn't speak again until we got out.
Driver #2 picked us up after our delicious dinner (with surprise cameo by Scott motherfucken Woods) and started taking to us before we even got in the car, and is still taking to us now. I know now about her life in the B.G. ("that's Bowling Green" she reminded us all twelve million times she used the abbreviation), she was born in Indianapolis, she's been to Boston once because her mom loves history. She majored in philosophy, and had been thinking of going back online to OSU because she's "too old for campus shenanigans". The formerly Sears Tower gave her good public transportation directions fifteen years ago but she's not sure if they would now. Her aunt is very generous and keeps giving her things she doesn't need. She currently is looking for a home for her friends' goats but she doesn't know for sure if she has any friends who needs goats although she has one friend whose goats committed suicide but she doesn't know if her friend can get her step parents permission. Her generous aunt's name is Kate. She's been to Walden Pond once and because of her(?) it's a National Park now where you can't use motorboats. She doesn't like driving in cities. (Bad choice of occupation for her. ) San Francisco has the tenth deadliest airport, and her mother doesn't want to tally about it anymore. She then explained the difference between every beach in The Bay Area. She likes bookstores but only if they buy used books so she can get credit.
This was, maybe, a seven minute ride. I now know more about her life than I do about Comrade's.
#3. Was great and uneventful.
This morning, they are paving the streets around the house we stayed at so we walked a few blocks away before requesting a Lyft. The driver showed up and I said "They're paving the roads in that direction. But you can go ar--" and then she drove directly into just paved road, hit a cone, and turned the radio on. Christmas music. She dropped us off three blocks away from our destination, saying "All GPSes broken today." as Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" kicked into the chorus.
We are now on a bus headed back to Cleveland.
Comrade: "Remember when we went to Vegas, and my mom asked if we were going to get married while we were there?"
Comrade: "She didn't ask if we were going to get married in Cleveland."
One of the big draws when we moved to this house (don't worry, this isn't going the way things usually go when I start thinking about living situations), aside from having our own laundry machines in the basement, was proximity to a locally owned diner.
I think diners are fine. Comrade thinks breakfast is The Best Ever Possible Meal, and would eat there daily.
The first six months we lived here we went twice a week. It's a perfectly fine diner. The food is acceptable. The service is tolerable. They don't make anything great, but you're also not likely to find a mouse head in your eggs benedict (though, if you did, it would at least be less bland than usual).
While we were in Vegas we went to three separate places that did great breakfasts, and thus any desire I had to go to the diner vanished. I'm no linecook, but I can make eggs better than them. They only serve waffles on weekends, we have a waffleiron seven days a week. Beverage selection at almost any diner sucks if you don't like coffee (and it's never good coffee, anyway) and/or orange juice. Any form of juice I can get from any grocery store is accessible to me at home.
Really, the only reason to go to the diner is because it is almost always filled with The Worst Customers, and it's sometimes fun to take notes on them.
Somewhere, a few months back, I have 3/4 of a post of some of the most batshit dialogue I've heard outside of a comic book store or a poetry slam. Like, some real treasure trash opinions. Nothing politically problematic, just absolute horrible takes on mundane subjects being discussed by four people who probably get a lot of food thrown at them in public.
Last month, there was an incredibly awkward gay date happening in the booth behind us, where one person was so obsessed with being cute and charming, that I had to close my eyes and breathe slowly to keep from hurling a napkin dispenser at him.
Many times in the last few weeks, Comrade has woken up and suggested the diner, and I've said I'd think about it. But by the time I came to a decision, he'd eaten, so we didn't go.
On Friday, we went in. I didn't recognize any of the servers besides the person I assume is the owner or day manager, and we were directed to a table. Nothing really happened. Nobody around us was loud and awful. Our mediocre food came at roughly the amount of time it should take to prepare mediocre food. We finished it, caught some pokemon, talked about our upcoming trip, and were thinking of leaving when our server led an older white couple toward the table and said "Is this table okay?"
And the old white lady let out a sigh that only someone who imagines she deserves servants, and secretly thinks antebellum times Weren't That Bad, can muster and said "I suppose it will have to do."
I put my phone down and took my jacket off. I debated ordering another Coke.
They didn't say much of import for a couple of minutes. She mostly complained about someone named Lucy who was "just exasperating." (I'm sorry, Lucy, I'm also certain it isn't you.)
And then the server came over to take their order, and Granny Entitlement said "Can you change the music? It's so loud. Can't you put on some smooth jazz?"
I didn't like the satellite station they were playing. It was folky garbage from the 1970s. But I get the appeal of it. It's fairly indistinct. The songs blend together. They're recognizable to people above middle age. And they sure as fuck aren't loud. I'm pretty sure it was all acoustic.
The thing is. If she was 70 now, (maaaaaaaybe she could have been early 80s?) then this is the music that was out in her twenties or early thirties. So, it's not like "I Don't Understand This New Music." And she didn't say "I"m sorry but Paul Simon once attacked my sister with a toaster, and Leonard Cohen sounds like someone put the record on the wrong speed, could you please put on some Motown or Broadway musicals?" She basically said "Any music with any sense of artistry sounds Loud to me, and I won't be forced to listen to it. So I'm demanding this restaurant find a station that plays music based on one of America's truly original art forms. But don't play the original stuff. That was made by (and who knows what she'd say her, but it would probably be innacurate, and it would defnitely be problematic). Nay. Play the subgenre populated almost exclusively by white people who subsist solely on porridge and raisins and who don't realize that noodling on a saxaphone while turning in circles is cute when an otter does it but a human caught doing it should be as ashamed as if they'd been caught masturbating to pictures of themselves photoshopped near famous landmarks. Spokem word poets shouldn't really shit on performers from other genres, but I feel like Smooth Jazz musicians are a safe target.
Nobody should force an entire restaurant to listen to smooth jazz at 2pm on a Friday.
The server said she didn't control the radio, but she'd see what she could do.
For a brief, Wonderful moment, the Ramones "Blitzkrieg Bop" played, and I imagined Betina Neverworkedforaliving having an aneurysm and dying right there in the diner. But, alas, after a mere verse, the music changed to smooth jazz.
"You know," I said to Comrade, "We don't work here. We could totally walk by their table on the way out and say 'People like you shouldn't be allowed out in public. I bet your grandkids can't wait to put you in a really cheap nursing home.'" (This is something I would obviously never actually do. But I do love imagining doing it.)
Comrade nodded. "It's not like they're going to tip the server anyway."
But we just put our coats on and left, though I did eyedagger the woman and shake my head at her. I hope I gave her something she spent the rest of the day complaining about to her husband.