Saturday, December 1, 2012

Confessions of a Non-Trad

In the weeks leading up to my return to Academia, I was not a very enthusiastic guy.  In fact, the very concepts of “enthusiasm”, “excitement” and “pride” were completely lost on me.

See, as soon as I clicked that Finish button on UW-Waukesha’s enrollment website, the self-deprecating suburbanite in me jumped out and began to jab at me with the business end of a baseball bat labeled “shame”.  It didn't matter that the economy was in the tanker, or that the job market was bleak, or even that the rate of adults going back to school was at its highest ever.  The only thought going through my head was the warped ideology that I was twenty-eight, and I should be on my way by now, not starting over.  For a while, the word “failure” was a recurring character in the ongoing sitcom of my psyche.

Then it came.  September 4th.  Tuesday.  D-Day.  Turning onto University Drive and going up a hill littered with potholes, I watched the flocks of what looked to be twelve year-olds making their way up the sidewalk.  Every single one of them seemed to be fighting the weight of their over-stuffed backpack, without the advantage of post-pubescent muscle mass.  I swear to you, if it weren't for the smokers, this place would've looked like a junior high school.  Facial hair was more of a myth than a certainty to this bunch.  I expected a game of tag to break out at any moment.  I kept searching for the game of four square or hopscotch.   With my windows open, I knew, at any moment, I would hear “Cooties!!”  Have I made my point yet?  These fuckers looked young.

Another thing that caught me off guard was the diversity of these young cats.  It wasn't just skin or hair color, it was everything – all styles were represented.  It was like the training facility for people that walk down the Venice Beach Boardwalk was right here in Southeastern Wisconsin.  To be fair though, my previous college experience was not quite as diverse.  Once upon a time, I was locking down a degree in Criminal Justice.  Anyone who’s done the same wouldn't be surprised when I say the most diversity I witnessed was the day two guys walked in looking slightly different, and I learned there was more than one kind of hunting camouflage.  Back on University Drive, one of the examples of this melting pot I was about to join had both a positive and negative effect on me.  As I was looking for a parking spot, I noticed a hippie on a moped and it made me wonder what kind of awful experience I was going to have.  Though seconds later, that same hippie ran his little scooter into a curb and flew headfirst into a bush.  At that moment, every bit of dread I had turned into vague optimism and I thought to myself, "Maybe it won’t be so bad here after all."

A hippie falling is funny to anyone.

Cut to a few weeks later.  By now, the syllabus has been memorized, and textbooks are showing wear, but everyone still groans whenever someone mentions the hoakey “ice-breaker exercises” that I personally thought were limited to kindergarten classes, Lamaze circles and AA meetings.  Fortunately, the idea of being a guy in his late twenties that’s also in college is no longer a burden on my mind.  In fact, I've come to enjoy the experience.  Like an extremely watered-down version of a Primatologist living in the jungle, studying spider monkeys, I constantly observe the teenagers around me, learning odd things that I never knew before.  Though, there was a moment when I noticed a common theme that seemed to run through their entire generation.

Allow me to elaborate.  I was in one of my classes and during a small group discussion I couldn't help but hear some of the other conversations taking place in the room.  One exchange in particular caught my attention.  It was two guys talking, and one of them said a word that I, nor the kid he was talking to, could recognize.  Luckily my comrade in confusion was looking for answers.

“What the hell does that mean?” he asked.
“Oh that’s my new word for something that’s weird and cool at the same time.”
“Sweet, when did you make it up?”
“Over the summer.”

"Wait... what?"

The number of confused people in the room dropped to one, and that person was still me.  His friend, on the other hand, accepted the explanation and they continued like it never happened.  Don’t you think that’s weird in some kind of way?  Creating yet another word for something that’s beyond common and simply introducing it to someone else as if Merriam & Webster added it to the database the night before… I had never seen that before.  But I have seen other things like it since I sat down in my first class weeks before.  Right then, I figured out the Unified Theory of their generation.

They seemed to be much more concerned with being a pioneer than a professional.

 “It all makes sense now!” I thought to myself.  With all of them being so experienced at accessing instantaneous information, they’re constantly bombarded with new info that gets re-accessed over & over, and pretty soon it becomes stagnant.  Not to mention all of the well-known works of art, writing, music, etc. that are at the top of every search result.  Their constant exposure to these kids makes them lose their intellectual and creative merit after a while, they lose their luster and become commonplace.  Stare at the Mona Lisa long enough and it’ll look like a doodle.

It’s because of that, these younger generations are no longer looking for the best, they’re looking for the new... and in a way to them, the newest is the best.  That’s why a fresh internet meme pops up every hour and no matter how dumb it is (The Socially Awkward Penguin), it floods the meme market within a matter of days.  With this paradigm of lightning quick creation and subsequent saturation, no one has the time to actually get good at whatever they’re doing.  Everyone thinks they need to forget about striking while the iron is hot and just use it as is - no matter how raw & unformed it may be.  They know no one will care enough to watch that iron take form on the anvil because more is already being pulled out of the forge.

So now, we have an entire generation of young and bright people who would rather be original than official.  They would rather be raw than refined.  Being good at something isn't important anymore, it seems.  Why have an efficient Swiss clock when you can have the chaos of a sundial being rolled down a flight of stairs?

Google didn't have the picture I wanted, so here's a surprised mouse.

Immense observations and grand realizations are not a constant thing though.  It’s their smaller counterparts that litter my weeks with fascinations that pull me even further into the campus community.  In one of my afternoon classes, my professor and I get along more than we do with the other students, because we have much more in common.  A few times, I've proven my Anthropology professor wrong, solely because of my life experience.  Other students come to me for advice, rather than their advisors or parents.  I’m also getting hit on… a LOT.  Unresolved daddy issues, I guess.  This is my hell – I’m the cool guy on campus, and there’s nothing I can do with it.

That is, until I was forced to figure out something that needed to change.  In my English class, I was given the task of finding something wrong with the college community and formulating a solution.  For a few days I brainstormed, but the lightning refused to strike.  Then I got an email from a friend who runs an advice website I contribute to, informing me that the site was getting some really good press and pretty soon the administrators would reevaluate the school policies toward it, possibly legitimizing the whole thing.  This was great news because he was forced to distance himself from it in order to keep his job, but the reason he started it was very close to his heart.  That email was something that made me think every student body could use some kind of entity to give advice on life issues.  Wait a second. . .


“MY college doesn't have that!! …but that’s a solution.  What’s the problem?” I eventually worked backward and thought about my first weeks there.  The few older students I met were very apathetic about the whole college experience.  Like myself, they already knew what the drill was, and they were only there to get the grades, get out and get on with their lives.  I realized that we were an untapped resource of information for teenagers that needed no-bullshit advice.  Later that week, I sat down with a woman whose job was to specifically deal with the older students, or “non-traditional/non-trad” students as she defined them.  I interviewed her about it, and she was very excited about the idea.  But she was also eerily calm throughout the whole interview, it kind of creeped me out.  Toward the end of the Q&A, she mentioned there was actually a club specifically for non-trad students, and it was currently lacking leadership.  The alpha male in me became interested, and began to entertain the idea of trying the leadership role out.

So here I am, playing a much different role than I was just three months ago.  3.8 GPA, active classroom participant, program facilitator and possible extracurricular club leader.  Being called a Non-Trad is about as accurate as my feeling about everything can get.  Next thing you know, I’ll be considering an offer to edit classmates' term papers in my spare time.

Well, now that you mention it…

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Digital Derangement

Once in a while, I stumble into one of the countless dark corners of the internet where the truly weird reside.

I’m not talking about the conspiracy theory sites preaching about the Illuminati being a mysterious world power, nor am I talking about the Tumblr pages filled with creepy photos posted by teenagers portraying themselves as mysterious and artistic.  Those places are filled with the same old ignorance and lack of grammar that I find pitiful and boring.  What I’m referring to are the dusty old digital storage closets at the end of the virtual hall – tucked behind Google’s deserted boiler room.

These nooks are the stomping grounds for the real lunatics that can’t help but spread their demented wings.  They aren’t ill-informed by their peers, or going through a childish phase, they’re legitimately screwed up.  Something is fundamentally wrong with them and it would take therapy, medication, maybe even institutionalism to get them to stop reciting Macbeth to their least favorite sock.  But thanks to the internet, some searching and a bit of luck… we sometimes get a glimpse of this complete madness.

Dammit, Google image search...

I became aware of these places when I was scrolling through the articles of  For those unaware of this website, I highly recommend you take a look.  You’ll see intriguing titles like: 6 Creepiest Places on Earth, The 7 Most Bizarrely Unlucky People Who Ever Lived, 6 Secret Monopolies You Didn’t Know Run the World, The 5 Most Epic One Man Rampages in the History of War, one of my personal favorites: 6 Massive Secret Operations Hidden All Around You and the article that led me to the edge of the rabbit hole: The 7 Most Unintentionally Creepy Places on the Internet.

Out of the seven “Unintentionally Creepy Places on the Internet”, two of them were creepy enough to make me pause and check to see if there was someone lurking behind me.  First was the story of “jamie_marsters” a member of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer forum called “the Bloody Board”.  Jamie was so obsessed with the show, she wrote close to 40,000 posts over the course of six years.  The story took a hard left into the Realm of Weird when one detail came to light: she was virtually the only member on the forum, which meant she was actually carrying on hundreds of conversations with herself.

I know Buffy is cute, but COME. ON.

The other MVP of the article was jamie_marsters’ hard copy version, Humanbeing151.  “Insomniac”, as he called himself on his YouTube account, was quite the rap fan.  Claiming to have written over 150,000 songs for the rap mogul Diddy, his nickname might not have been a nickname at all, but a warning for the impending eerie obsession.  The high point of the video showing his home filled with thousands upon thousands of notebooks is at the 6 minute mark, when he opens one and in it is the phrase, “Brother P. Diddy please accept” written over and over… and over... and over…

Take a cross of Kevin Spacey in Se7en and Jack Nicholson in The Shining, throw in a need to stand next to Diddy in a shiny suit, and you have Insomniac.  Then again, he might actually want to wear Diddy as the suit…

It puts the lotion in the BASKET!!

Unfortunately, due to the immature fan base of Cracked, these two were harassed so much, they were forced to delete their respective accounts mere days after the article was published.  All that remains are a few traces of their mythology kept alive by random people who were able to download screenshots and videos before they disappeared.  Naturally, this bummed me out because I had only just been exposed to these kinds of things and it was an entire year before I was lucky enough to come across another.

Late one night, I was doing research for a story I was writing on psychological disorders.  Specifically, I was looking for information on brain deformity in relation to psychotic behavior.  After a series of clicks I found myself on a scientist’s blog, and it was exactly what I was looking for, so I started scrolling.  One of his posts was quite short compared to the rest and stood out in a way that caught my attention before I had a chance to finish reading the post before it.  In it, he said he received a mysterious package in the mail, a book called Being or Nothingness by “Joe K.”.

His description of the book’s contents was quite odd and further research revealed even odder circumstances surrounding it.  I found that Being or Nothingness had become somewhat of an ominous Wonka Golden Ticket in certain social & professional circles.  The people who received it were revered by their peers but still, no one had any clue what the book was about, or why it was sent in the first place.  My trail of impromptu research eventually ended with a nonfiction book called The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.  When I finally got around to reading it, I found out that the mysterious “Joe K.” was just a random person with mental health problems and the connection between the recipients was just their involvement in the field of Psychology.  As for the book itself, it was simply filled with nothing more than the incoherent thoughts of someone in dire need of counseling.  Needless to say, I was disappointed.

The discovery of it though, I still enjoyed.  Stumbling upon something genuinely unorthodox and connecting the dots of the story behind it felt like I was in a crime movie during one of those “detective researching library periodicals” montages.  Since then I’ve made one other discovery, and it wasn’t nearly as elaborate or mysterious… but still very weird.

Recently I pulled an all-nighter via a marathon of every Laurel & Hardy movie I could find.  After going through my DVDs, I started searching YouTube & Amazon for any others I could view for free.  On Amazon, I noticed something a little off: an online version of a Laurel & Hardy movie that could be rented for $250 or bought for a whopping $600.  Looking into it revealed that this movie, Ontic Antics Starring Laurel and Hardy: Bye Molly, was actually a reworking of L&H’s Berth Marks, done by a guy named Ken Jacobs.  I checked YouTube and there it was, in its entirety… for free.  Out of the 124 minutes, the first 90 are single frames of the movie being flashed forward and reverse repeatedly.  Even people without epilepsy could get seizures from this film. 

The Tribeca Film Festival deemed it “Experimental”, while I more accurately deem it to be “Fucking Stupid”.  Clicking on back to Amazon, I checked for any reviews on it and found only one.  Now this film may be odd, but that review is a real gem.

Holy padded room, would you look at that paragraph of Batshit Craziness.  If halfway through you got the feeling that this was just some 17 year-old leaving a sarcastic review and overdoing it... you’re not alone.  But then I noticed he has only one other review and it too, is for Laurel & Hardy.  While reading it, I could see this guy is THOUGHROUGHLY versed on the subject, and VERY passionate about it… the kind of passion that leads to a movie star staying up at night, clutching a shotgun and hoping that shadowy figure in the corner is just the dog liking himself.

Oh, and his handle on Amazon is an obscure reference to whom?  Yep, you guess it.  Laurel & Hardy.

All things considered, I was left wondering if this person just felt like leaving a tongue-in-cheek review, or if he really is a couple sandwiches short of a picnic.  Truthfully, I’d rather not find out.  Half of the fun for me is thinking that weirdness might actually be out there, ready for me to raise an eyebrow at whenever I feel the need – even if it might just be someone with an odd sense of humor and a lot of spare time.

Though I guess the same thing could be said about a lot of those little oddities on the World Wide Web:  They may seem messed up, but it’s probably just someone fucking with you.  However if Cracked has taught us anything, it’s that every so often there’s a total nutjob with an internet connection and a lot of free time to fill.  So while they’re still out there, I’ll keep looking for them and reporting back to you.

Who knows… I might be one of ‘em.

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Full Disclosure

Friday, June 22, 2012

Talk Hard

Every week, my body seems to require one sleepless night and last night, I filled that quota.  Normally the cause is reflection on the events of the day, too much caffeine, or those asshole neighbors across the street that never seem to shut up… but this time it was entirely own doing.

I’m currently staring at a sunrise with heavy eyes because of my love for a lesser-known Christian Slater movie, “Pump Up the Volume”.  I got home, tossed my keys on the kitchen table, went to my room, settled in bed and closed my eyes expecting to sleep... but the urge to watch it for the tenth time was an unstoppable force.  My attachment to this 22 year-old piece of young-adult cinema isn't because of the old-school Beastie Boys references, its cliché "mysterious geek" storyline, the conflict with school administrators, not even the jokes about chronic masturbation.  It’s idea of a lone voice speaking for the underdog and being heard by society.

But I like chronic masturbation...

In the movie, Christian Slater plays a shy high schooler forced to move with his parents from the East Coast to a cookie-cutter suburb in Arizona.  There, he starts his own late night pirate radio show as “Happy Harry Hard-On”, gaining a significant following by the kids at his school.  The plot then grows into a conflict that is a commentary on media’s role in free speech in America.  The last two words of the script, "talk hard" I found interesting, in a cheesy kind of way.  Just like Happy Harry Hard-On, I dug it.

“Talk hard,” he said earlier in the movie, “I like that.  I like the idea that a voice can just go somewhere, uninvited.  Just kinda hang out, a dirty thought in a nice clean mind.  A dirty thought is like a virus, it can kill all the healthy thoughts and take over.”

The premise of the movie got me thinking, as you might've guessed, but it also brought me down a bit.  I took a quick look around and realized there is very little chance of something like this ever happening.  Why, because the premise is unrealistic? Hell no. Well, not in 1990 at least. It won’t happen because it isn't 1990 anymore, its 2012.

Pause for a moment and think about all of the social media sites you’re involved with.  Personally, I’m on five – Facebook, LitReactor, Red Room, Blogger, and WordPress – and considering the times we live in, that’s a pretty conservative amount.  Off the top of my head, I can think of another six major sites that are along the same lines.  These days, if the narcissist that dwells in every one of us wants to be heard… it will be.


The internet has become The Great Equalizer.  There are all of these mediums for people to speak out, and most have nothing to say!  It’s become this one loud noise of monotonous pseuso-self-expression and it takes a small miracle for someone with substance to surface among the huddled, noisy digital masses.

No, I’m not claiming to be one of those people.  Cool your jets, Ace.

It’s not just the abundance of useless crap that’s clogging the pipes, either.  It’s the ass-backwards popularity curve that has grown alongside the internet; the obsession with celebrity news over world issues.  I’ve learned to tune out such things by avoiding the “Entertainment” tab on the CNN & MSNBC websites and skipping past the E! channel when I’m looking for something to watch on TV, but I’d have to live as a hermit in the mountains to not notice how many people are wondering if Kim & Kanye are going to get hitched.

No, I’m not claiming to be one of these people, either.  Pipe down, Bub.

Do you think Happy Harry Hard-On’s 2012 version would be talking about whether or not Travolta is gay? I should say not, Harry’s angst was how teenage angst should be; driven, original & creative and back in 1990, being the only kid in down with the means of reaching out to others on a grand scale was definitely possible.  Today on the other hand, he wouldn't stand a chance against Perez Hilton's pathetic excuse for an abortion of a news blog.

Seriously, fuck that guy.  I sometimes feel actual pain knowing that he's making piles of cash for getting the scoop on a speculative boob job photo of a celebrity and pointing it out via Microsoft Paint's Spray Can feature, set to bright pink.

Pictured:  the fucking Devil.

It saddens me, knowing that people with something meaningful to say are being drowned out by empty sensationalism.  Will we ever get another lone voice like Happy Harry Hard-On?  I like to think so.  History always repeats itself and history has had a few of these guys already.  From historical figures like Socrates, all the way to free speech advocates like Lenny Bruce, and the unfathomable number of others in between.  Each one of these people had the need and drive to yell over everyone else and educate them at the same time.

The problem I see now is the drive that pushes that kind of person can, nowadays, easily be matched by technology that’s within the grasp of any asshole with an internet connection (guilty…).  Being heard is too fucking easy, you no longer have to work for it!  The ease of it means, while a few of these people saying something worth listening to are rising to the surface, they’re also accompanied by a horde of others that want to tell the world about their cat, collection of Elvis dishes, or their handful of Instagram photos they took of a chair.  Fuck it, I’ll just cut through the crap and say it…

It’s my belief that not everyone was meant to reach out to the world.

This may seem like a touchy subject for some people humping the Bill of Rights, saying "How dare you suggest that not everyone be given their right to free speech!"  To which I reply, "That’s not exactly what I’m saying, however, it IS my very right to suggest that anyway.  So please, go touch yourself to a picture of Thomas Jefferson and quit bothering people.”  I’m just saying that some people need to shut up.

On that note…
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Alpha Bird

It's a pleasant day, so I thought I would clean out my car.  In it I found a notebook that I hadn't touched in a month.  In fact, I forgot it even existed.  I opened it and found a few pages I had filled up in quite a hurry.

Seeing as how in recent days I've been distracted by another endeavor revolving around The Written Word, I thought I'd convert those pages into 11pt. Calibri and share 'em.

It was one of the first beautiful mornings of the season.  The idea of neglecting the warm air by sitting in the same coffee shops I had inhabited all winter felt like a grand injustice, so the drive thru and a little freeway driving was the name of the game.  By the time I passed Miller Park, the urge to be a deep/mysterious/soulful/pretentious wordsmith overcame me, so I made for the lakefront. 

Down by Bradford Beach, I found a little unmarked parking lot nestled right up against the water.  It was only nine in the morning and there was already a score of cars parked with their owners relaxing in the driver’s seat, windows open.  I found a space that was relatively secluded and had a nice view of the harbor to the south.  Opening my notebook and clicking my pen into the ready position, I gazed through my windshield, foolishly expecting divine inspiration.

It’s really tough to feel deep & soulful when time and time again, you prove to yourself that you're anything but.  The first ten minutes of sitting in front of a beautiful view was spent trying to pinpoint a seagull that had a different call than the others.  It almost sounded like he was mocking his friends. 

Another car pulled up and parked nearby.  The birds must have recognized the car, because soon after he turned his engine off, they swarmed him like some kind of Hitchcock knockoff.  My suspicions were confirmed after he opened his windows and began to toss bits of bread onto the ground – it seemed to me that he was a frequent visitor.  Seeing the birds fight over their breakfast turned into a lesson of dominance in the wild.

The seagull with the sarcastic call swooped in and stood before the others and their food, raising his wings.  The Alpha Bird had made his introduction to the meal and his disciples turned around, defeated.  Many flew away to other cars, seeking new means of morning nourishment.

The clouds above us opened up, and the sun transformed the water from an endless blue-grey cloth flapping in the wind, into a great plane of crystals, shuffled around by the Moon’s gravitational pull.

The man in that car decided to fancy himself as some kind of National Geographic documentarian, as he brought out his cellphone and began to film the two or three birds that decided to set up shop on the hood of his car.  Bit by bit, he lured them closer to his window to get a better shot for his soon-to-be YouTube failure.

Then it happened.

He accidentally dropped a handful of his stale, torn-up ammunition into his car and the Alpha Bird seized the opportunity, hopping into the cabin of the car.  What followed was ten to fifteen seconds of the most amazingly funny commotion I've been lucky enough to witness in years... four, at least.

The Alpha Bird, not to be trifled with, immediately began flapping his wings in the face of the one-time documentarian.  He tried to return the favor in defense of himself – without any sort of luck.  Faced (heh heh) with the harsh reality of nature wanting to feed, he found just enough clarity in the chaos to find the door handle.  Opening the door and tumbling out was his only reaction, out onto the pavement covered in bird shit – thanks to his want to feed & film birds that people see all the time.  With his hands and knees covered in seagull excrement, he couldn’t think to do anything but watch as the (then) three or four birds tumbled around and made a mess of his makeshift film studio/stale bread depository.

Did I lend this man a helping hand?  No.  His stupidity deserved a reckoning and I still had some coffee left.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Moment I Realized Trendy Clothing Stores are Full of Shit

There was a pivotal moment when I was much younger, when I started to question what the trendy clothing stores actually thought of the people that were frequenting them.

It was the first time I had ever walked into an Abercrombie & Fitch store.  Up until this point in my life, I saw no need to awkwardly wander into a place that was filled by employees that were so beautiful, I was intimidated by them.  That day however, I was compelled to.  A couple of years earlier I had just ended my long-haired, ratty denim grunge phase and by the time I got my driver’s license and the sweet sense of freedom that came along with it, I was gravitating toward the other end of the spectrum by becoming a preppy fashion victim. So I felt the need to utilize my freedom and glimpse into adulthood by shopping in all of the cool places I was too chicken to walk into before.

So... how long is it until I turn 21?

This specific pilgrimage to one of the many meccas of Trend was to get a pair of these cargo pants I saw being worn by all of the muscular, tanned, shaggy-haired cool kids.  Walking in, I knew I found the right place, but I wasn't sure if that was a good thing – never before had I felt so intimidated and self-conscious at the same time.  The walls were plastered with black & white photos of people with rippling abs, wistfully trotting through wheat fields… and the clerks walking around the store looked just like them... one of which I remember not wearing a shirt at all.  The people around me, in person and print, I had no problem with – that wasn’t what was bothering me.  Hell, if I looked like that, I’d probably try to walk around shirtless too.  The problem was the substantial vibe, the feeling that I just didn’t belong there – that I wasn’t exactly their ‘target market’.  Less than five minutes after I entered, I exited with the pants I so richly desired.

Once I was back home with them, I took a gander at the 100 page catalog that the girl behind the counter automatically stuffed in the bag with my new hallmark of coolness.  I was too busy to object to the catalog however, her cleavage commanded my full attention.  Hey.  I was sixteen, ok?

Fellas, even NOW you wouldn't be able to look away.

Thumbing through it, I noticed the content was more than just pictures of khaki shorts and rugby shirts.  Every twenty to thirty pages, there were what I could best describe as articles, written about subjects geared for the type of person that the A&F corporate offices seemed to think would shop there.  One specific piece caught my eye.  I can’t remember the title of it exactly, but it was something along the lines of:

“Items Every Abercrombie & Fitch Guy Needs In His Dorm Room”

I was naïve at the time, so I read on – it seemed interesting.  While the majority of its content has, by now, been lost into oblivion, a few items stuck out and have stayed with me ever since that fateful day.

-A couple pairs of tightey-whities (so you can hide your “excitement” when you’re on a date).
-A copy of The Shawshank Redemption (so women think you're deep).
-A golden retriever named Jack.

Something else about that list stayed with me – the memory of what I thought immediately after I finished reading it, “Wow.  That was fucking sad.” Keep in mind, this wasn’t a fully-grown, socially-conscious adult having that thought, it was a naïve suburbanite at the tender age of sixteen. 

I don’t know what disgusted me more; the fact that they thought every guy that shopped at those stores was a mindless genetic lottery winner that took a break from beating off in front of a mirror to bore society with his hotness, or that type of person might actually exist and had probably followed that list to the letter.
That assumption about their customers was well illustrated by the tighty whitey part.  Who the hell came up with the idea of needing tight underwear to hide a hard-on during a date?  It’s a date, not a damn lap dance.  The higher-ups not only thought the average Abercrombie & Fitch customer was a mindless brute, but also felt he had caveman testosterone levels that made him think “MM… YOU HOT GIRL.  ME FUCK YOU NOW!!!”  Hey Bam Bam, you forgot to tip the waiter.

Now onto their idea of someone buying The Shawshank Redemption to only put it on their shelf for others to see.  It’s as if Abercrombie & Fitch customers were such one-dimensional jocks, they would need to display a movie in their bedroom that made them seem like they don’t just think about the next time MTV’s The Grind would come on.  I could imagine an advertising executive putting his hand on a college kid’s shoulder to make his twisted advice sound more heartfelt, “Come on, Trent.  You’re too simple to actually LIKE a movie that doesn’t involve one single explosion or shower scene… so just buy it and leave it near your TV, and maybe she’ll see it.  It’s not like she’s going to quiz you on it while you’re on her!  Right?? *nudge nudge*”

When it comes to A&F thinking every college guy should have a golden retriever named Jake… I’m not going to even bother with that one.  Describing my hatred for that assumption would end with me jumping in my car and going on a cross country rampage, and I need to replace the rear shock on it before I go on any kind of road trip, whether it involves news-worthy rage or not.

Where the HELL did I leave that damn rocket launcher??

Now I’m not saying that was the day I stopped shopping at trendy stores.  Not at all.  The jeans I’m wearing right now probably had a price tag of over $100.  The t-shirt I’m wearing was aged artificially.  The button-down shirt that’s draped over the back of my chair was ordered directly from Perry Ellis – I still appreciate the need to look nice.  What I’m saying is that the people that run these companies should stick to what they know: clothing.  The moment they wander into the territory of the demographics’ lifestyle, that’s when you start to get the advertising campaigns that make the general public roll its eyes.  From Buckle and H&M, to Hot Topic and everyone in between, they're all guilty of reducing their view of the public to the lowest common denominator.  

I guess the same could be said about a lot of other markets.  We’ve all seen those late night commercials that depict people getting frustrated while fighting a losing battle against simple objects like a blanket or a broom.  Then again, people that find those 3am infomercial products useful might actually have trouble halving a fucking bagel.

Now Free with Order:  Endless ridicule from your friends!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

She'll Find Out You're Not an Astronaut

"I AM! I just lost my spacesuit! Quit laughing!"

Fellas, the ambient temperature gauge in my car no longer says “ICY” every morning, the Shamrock Shake is back, and my pasty-white legs are seeing sunlight.  For me, that means spring is finally upon us.  As you all know, with spring comes the clichéd urge to chase after women that will be wearing less and less as the temperature rises and rises.

Being somewhat of a veteran in the ways of chasing women (figuratively, of course... unless I'm playing Tag – which is still cool, by the way) I feel the need to pass on some of my tried-and-true knowledge.

Now before you make any sort of assumptions, I should let you know that the following wisdom has nothing to do with any of that "Pickup Artist" type of bullshit.  I'm going on record and saying that only girls, not women, fall for that crap.  Keep in mind, I use the term “woman” subjectively.  If she’s mature in years, but still has the mental capacity of a 21 year old that thinks Buckhead Saloon is the best bar in Milwaukee, she’s a girl.  Though, that example only holds water in this argument.  When it comes to real life, I'll use whatever term I damn well feel like using.  Sorry, I get defensive sometimes.  Back off! I just do.  Moving on.

My expertise deals with mature women, and when I say “expertise”, I mean a very acute knowledge that has taken many, many mistakes to figure out, and when I say "acute", I mean it; the sheer abundance of emotional and mental elements that make up the modern woman is enough to give any man a coma-inducing stroke.  In fact, it’s safe to say that about 98% of what goes on in a woman's head is probably still beyond my grasp.  But that 2%.... I have that shit locked down, and it would be selfish to keep it to myself – doing so would be a great disservice to my fellow men out there.


Notice how I called you my fellow men and not my Bros. That's 1 of the 2% right there.  Referring to your friends as "bros" should have left your vernacular the moment you graduated college.  Your kitchenware doesn’t consist of Dixie Cups and stolen sporks anymore – it's time to embrace the maturity of your peers.  If you don't know what to use instead... so help me, I will personally bitch-slap the stupid outta you.

“What, pray tell is the counterpart to the lack of Bro-age, then?” you're probably asking.  That other 1% is simple: Honesty.

Kind of anti-climactic, isn’t it?  There it is, simple and boring.

Before you dismiss me and click that little "X" in the upper right-hand corner there, keep in mind that I’m not saying, “HEY!  Stop telling women you're a Ninja Bullfighter, that job title does not exist!”  Well, I’m saying that too, because frankly, that’s a dumbass thing to say to someone.  Seriously.  But having an honest approach goes way beyond the realm of what you say, it also includes how you act – the way you portray yourself.  Trying to impress a lady by pretending to be a more intelligent, kind, tough or wealthy version of yourself carries the foul stench of impending failure, because it’s basically lying to someone you're going to be seeing on a regular basis.  Sooner or later, that facade of yours is going to fade away, the person your girlfriend has grown to like will no longer exist, and there’s little chance of that situation ending well.  If you base a relationship on lies… you may as well keep your bags packed, because the writing was on the wall before you even had a chance to paint it a different color.

“Just be yourself” is the advice you always heard from your parents when you were growing up, especially your mom.  Why did she say that to you over and over again?  Because she fucking knew better!  She’s dealt with the liars and phonies in the past and she eventually saw through all of their bullshit and dumped them for someone better.  She’s seen what happens, and she’s trying to prevent you from making the same mistake as the guys she dumped, because she viewed them as liars, probably just looking to get lucky.

If you are just trying to get laid, keep calling your friends “Bros” and go seek advice somewhere else.  I’m not some jackass who calls himself “Mystery”, likes to wear furry hats and does cheap magic tricks outside of nightclubs.  Subscribe to that method of meeting girls, and I assure you, the final scenes of your personal life will parallel his inevitable conclusion: Solitude and sadness.  Mystery and his ragtag group of “pickup artists” were nothing more than a cheap gimmick.  If they weren’t, they would have done more than limp through two seasons on VH1 – a network where “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is on its fourth.

Clearly, this is someone you should take seriously.

Apologies for going off on a tangent, but after years of spending my nights surrounded by guys trying that crap on women, then moments later watching those very same women turn around and start laughing with their friends, I feel the need to try and help by voicing my opinion.  But like all advice I give, it comes with the disclaimer: Use at your discretion – just because it works for me, doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll work for you.  I’ve found success because I don’t have the patience to lie, and frankly, I’m not that good at it.  The person I am when standing next to a woman I’m interested in is the same person I am when standing next to anyone else.  Unless you’re a douchebag, then I can be a real asshole – another thing I’m open and honest about.  There are no extra stories or mannerisms I have to memorize, and there are no unpleasant surprises for anyone else.  I sure as hell don’t have it all figured out, but at least I have that one little section of my life set straight.

So fellas... give it a try.  What do you have to lose?  Nothing – we've all dealt with rejection, and we will all continue to deal with it. It’s a part of life, so why not step away from the comfort zone of falsehoods and enter a world of veracity.  Just think of it as a way to make sure you don't have to remember to live like it's an alternate reality.  It's less work! Less work for your relationship!!  And if it does pan out, the next time you and your new girlfriend are in bed, show me some appreciation... mid-pump, say "Jeff says Hi".  Why?  Because it's fucking funny, that’s why.

See? Told ya.

A special note to the ladies who have made it this far: First of all... if your new boyfriend says "Jeff says Hi" while he's trying to throw down his best moves; you read this, you know where it came from, so just laugh at it because the three of us you know you should.  Secondly, and more importantly (for you two, anyway), if he's being honest, be honest right back.  The old Girl Games of Courtship need to be left behind, like men using the word "bro". If you're interested in dating him after he shows interest in you, just tell him.  If you're not, just tell him.  If your man does get past the first kiss but still screws something up, just tell him.  If you want to fool around with him while he's wearing a panda suit, just tell him.... then drop me a line, I know a guy that has one.

P.S., For you beautiful, amazing ladies out there who actually take the time to read my scribblings, I have one more gem of advice, and since St. Patrick’s is right around the corner, allow me to deliver it in the form of an old Irish saying:  

Is peacach é gach naomh.

This loosely translates to “Every saint is a sinner” a.k.a., nobody’s perfect.  Now that you'll be getting the true version of us, take the time to appreciate us guys for our flawed selves.  Hey, you're the ones that wanted us to wear the panda suit to have Panda Sex, and we did.

Pictured: Love
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Nocturnal Addiction

The following is a memory from a few years ago that I remember vividly -- it was probably the last time I was truly at peace.

Humidity from the summer rainstorm that just ended is restraining the engine, but I don’t mind it that much.  To compensate, I shift down into second gear as I enter the onramp.  The torque pulls my head back and I feel a smile grow on my face – insomnia isn’t so unbearable with moments like this at 4am.

Third gear.

The driver’s side window is halfway open, creating a makeshift wind tunnel that carries the smell of moisture past my face.  I reach for both of the window controls and push down, allowing the air to flood in.  The sound it creates muffles the radio and all I can hear from it is the faint wandering guitar solo in Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”.  I reach into my pocket, pull out a cigarette and light it to the sound of David Gilmour’s distorted Stratocaster.  I turn the volume up.

The freeway leans into a banking left turn while it shepherds me beneath an overpass.  As I feel gravity shift from the angle of the road, I accelerate and imagine myself on a race track.  Ahead, the orange glow of the streetlights reflect on the soaked freeway, and when I escape the confining darkness of the road passing overhead, I feel freed by them illuminating my surroundings  and leading me onward.  The city’s skyline is still hazy from the storm.  No single light source is defined, just a landscape bright colors blending into one other.  I find myself slowing down so I can take in the sight for a little longer.  It almost looks unreal.

I reach the bridge and the trees lining the road disappear, revealing a panoramic view of my home.  On my left are storage depots and industrial facilities, on my right is the lake, ahead of me is the city.  I’m closer now and the cluster of buildings no longer resembles a watercolor painting.  It’s become a forest of iron, concrete and glass that slowly gets larger, growing beyond the frame of my windshield. I’m the only one navigating this river of asphalt, so all of my attention is captured by the size and beauty of the city’s presence… and it overwhelms me.  I pull onto the eastbound ramp, toward the lake.

No sound is coming from the radio now, I've turned it off.  The want to use music as ambient noise has passed, I’m now content with the sound of my tires rolling on the wet pavement.  The stoplight at the end of the off-ramp is red, and as I slow down, the noise dies down.   Sitting at the intersection with my car at idle, it feels like the world around me is idling as well.  There’s nothing out there – no sound, no movement, no animation, no life – just the fluorescent glow from the lifeless objects that hang above me.  Red becomes green and I turn onto the boulevard.

Second gear.

The road is level and my demeanor is relaxed – using every gear seems redundant.  I crowd the edge of the right lane to get the best view of the water as possible, but when I look to it, I realize my alignment on the road is in vain.

Beyond the grass and beaches, I can’t see anything.  There are no light posts on the ground and no moon in the sky.  The only presence I witness is the lack of one.  I know that somewhere beyond my vision is the mighty Lake Michigan, but a part of me is fooled into its absence.  My wild imagination spawns the idea of it being a true abyss, a vast nothingness… and I’m breathing the cool air while roaming along the edge of it.

I spot a narrow parking lot up ahead that dips down below the level of the boulevard.  At the last second, I turn the wheel and coast down into it, I feel the need to stretch my legs.  After backing into a spot, closing the windows and locking the doors, I step onto the hill behind my small, paved oasis from the boulevard.  Once reaching the top, I light another cigarette.

Now that I've left the speed of my car and the roads it was on, the wind no longer feels violent and unforgiving – it’s calm now and it sooths me when I feel it brushing against my cheeks.  The amber of my cigarette keeps my eyes from adjusting to the darkness and I can’t see the waves I hear somewhere in front of me.  To be certain I stay dry, I remain static at my spot on the hill.

In an attempt to be a deeper person than I really am, I try to reflect on my life thus far – family, friends, love and career.  However, the only notion that stays at the surface is how much I enjoy the solitude of some summer nights.  No liquor or liquored-up crowds to send me into a bedlam of distractions, and no obligation to engage in conversations with people I do not know.  On summer nights like this, all I need to worry about is me and my need to get away.  They’re a tolerable substitute for someone who doesn’t have the means to disappear without a word and travel for days or weeks on end – something that I have always longed to do. 

After what seems like an hour of thought, I yawn for the first time.  My insomnia is finally showing signs of weakness and it’s time to retreat to my bed.  I turn around and the breeze touches my neck for the first time, sending a slight shiver down my spine.  Approaching the driver’s side door, I hear random & subtle clicks from underneath the hood – it seems the engine is still very warm.  I must have spent a lot less time on the hill than I originally thought.  Once inside my car, I push the clutch in, turn the key and listen to it come to life.  The windows roll down, the radio turns on, and first gear puts me in motion.

Second gear.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rapid-Fire Wisdom

"Peanuts" by Charles M. Schulz

I’m one of those people that always seem to have people asking them for advice.  Why, you ask?  I wish I could tell you.  The truth is, I don't have definitive answer why, I only have suspicions.  Maybe I have a welcoming demeanor, an authoritative air about me… or maybe I look like Dr. Phil.  Holy hell, I hope it isn’t that last one.

Progressing through the years of taking on this pseudo-psychiatrist role of mine, I’ve gone from avoiding the type of people that seemed to give off that “will you help me?” vibe, to getting used to, and then actually enjoying the process of providing advice and guidance.  The problem that always seems to loom around though, is the fact that people aren’t always willing to ask for advice… and I never want to be “that guy” and give advice when nobody asked for it in the first place.  Such an impasse does create a bit of a gap.

With that being said, I thought it might be in good form to sit down and write down some general advice.  My hope in doing this is to help someone out there that I didn’t realize needed it. I'm sure you've already glanced below, and as you can tell it’s in the style of a list.  The reason behind that is that I wrote everything as it came to me… and my mind works in random short spurts. 

While you make your way down the line, please keep in mind that I have never claimed to be infallible.  This is all information that I've picked up over the years, either by watching others, or primarily, by learning from my own mistakes… so don’t be surprised if some of this stuff doesn't make sense to you, or doesn’t work for you.  Shit, many times I don't follow my own advice... which usually results in disastrous situations.  But that's a whole other post entirely.

Regardless, you have been warned… now on with the show.

++Revised: 2/12/2012

-Don't kid yourselves, fellas.  Personality & humor may take you a long way... but without looks, you'll never cross the finish line.

-The only thing you're going to win from a McDonalds Monopoly came is a small pack of fries and a large set of love handles.

-If you're in the shower and you suddenly can’t remember if you washed your hair, rub your head with your hand.  If your hair squeaks, you've already washed it.

-Know your limits.  If you constantly shoot beyond them, you'll constantly experience disappointment.

-Guilt trips rarely work, as they tend to annoy the requested.

-Drive as if everyone around you doesn’t know what the hell they're doing… because they usually don’t.

-One may think being a realist is more depressing than being a romantic, but in our realistic world... it's quite the contrary.

-Guys:  Trim your nose hair.

-Ladies:  If you ask a guy what he’s thinking about and he says, “nothing”, 9 out of 10 times he’s being honest and there’s zero activity goin’ on up there.

-Be nice to the person in the drive thru.  They’re already having a shitty day, and they don't need you adding to it.  Not to mention, they don’t get paid very much… so losing their job over messing with your food isn't a very big worry.

-Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.

-Not everyone should have a boyfriend or girlfriend all the time, sometimes it’s much better for a person to be single.

-Never spend your time searching for a relationship and settle on someone just to have one.  Instead, you should spend time meeting people you enjoy having in your company, and if one of them turns out to be special to you, then give it a shot.

-There will always be someone else that’s smarter, funnier, tougher, prettier and better than you are. So constantly comparing yourself to others will lead to a very miserable life.

-Guys:  Using the same, tired Fight Club and Heat quotes will make you look simple.

-Girls:  Using the same, tired Marilyn Monroe quotes will make you look simple.

-Making mistakes is an important part of life that you can’t avoid, so take a damn chance once in a while.

-Let that zit fade away naturally and avoid the chance of a scar.  No matter what you do, people will notice, but most won’t mention it... they’ve been there too.

-Rage can easily be mistaken as mental clarity.

-Use moderation as a starting point.

-It’s easier to spend than to earn.  That may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised on how many people don’t realize it.

-Common Sense is relative to intelligence.

-If you're dealt a 2 - 7 off-suit... play it.  Winning the pot on that will make the victory that much sweeter. 

-When you're really drunk, listen when you think you should be talking.

-An open mind is a wonderful learning tool.

-Slower traffic TO THE RIGHT.

-When you get out of your morning shower, don't lay back down on your bed to relax for a bit. You'll negotiate with yourself every five minutes on whether or not to get up... then you'll end up being late for work.

-Want to get in better shape? Diet & exercise.  THAT’S IT.  If those miracle weight loss pills actually made a difference, they wouldn't be selling them to you at 3am.

-Coincidences DO happen, so try not to over-analyze a situation.

-Just because you’re single on Valentine’s Day, doesn't mean you have to hate the holiday.

-The trash of pain, the dog shit of sorrow and the dirt of bitterness can sometimes become the compost from which the plant of creative inspiration grows.

-If you take yourself too seriously, everyone else will think of you as a joke.

-Keep a handful of napkins in your car.  Boogers happen to everyone.

-Ladies, don’t be weirded out if a guy has a Zombie Survival Plan. Most of us do.

-If the topic of conversation with a group of people is nowhere near sex, and someone brings up their latest sexual exploit  to brag... it most likely didn't happen.

-If you say something funny, leave it at that.  Pushing the joke will kill it and you’ll be worse off than when you started.

-If you absolutely have to sneeze with a lit cigarette in your mouth, make sure there’s no one standing in front of you.

-There is at least one exception to Einstein’s definition of “insanity”: the dollar feeder in a vending machine.

-Unless he initiates the conversation, never bug a man when he’s eating his lunch.

-You most likely aren't a good singer, so unless you get requests, quit singing all the time.

-Acting edgy or mysterious never works.  People see though it very easily.

-Going through the “I’m done being nice” phase after getting your heart broken is as common as getting your heart broken. You didn't have a paradigm shift or some profound revelation, it was a reaction.

-Keep your religion, or lack thereof, to yourself.  Contrary to what you might think, most people don't give a rat's ass what you believe in.

-When in doubt, overdress.

-No one is right all the time, and not everyone can be right at the same time.  Remember that when you're listening to someone else’s point of view… you might actually find that you’re wrong.

-Guys:  If you think she looks spectacular in that dress, grow a backbone and say so.

-Girls:  If you do receive a compliment, accept it with grace.  If you get defensive or disagree repeatedly, guys will take it as a sign of immaturity.

-People can easily tell if you're pandering for compliments. 

-Appreciate what and who you have, many are not as lucky as you.

-Your memory is better than you think.

-In the wake of an unwanted event, drastic change usually isn't the best course of action.

-Guys:  Don't be intimidated by a woman that is smarter or more successful than you are… that’s what is called “a catch”.

-Girls: Even if you’re just friends, let the guys take care of the check every once in a while, we like playing the gentleman role.

-Guys:  Offer to take care of the check.  If she says no, say it’s no trouble.  If she still wants to split or handle it herself, let her.

-If you joke and say "Is it considered multitasking when you do a line of coke and pee in the cup at the same time?” the drug test administrator will not laugh.

-If someone has reasons for not liking the same music as you, don't dismiss them… they might actually make a good point.

-Romantic movies do not reflect life.  This means:
- -The chubby comic relief will NEVER land the dream girl.
- -Your crush won’t suddenly realize they're in love with you just because you're there all the time.
- -Girls:  Don’t expect an Oscar-worthy speech when you're getting an apology.
- -Guys:  If you screw up big, she’s not going to fully forgive you right away.

-Have a dream to hang onto, when all else goes wrong... it can be the ray of hope you need to push on.

-Many people think they're clever by saying something like, “There’s THREE sides to every story: Person A’s version, Person B’s version, and the truth”.  Often times, Person A or B might actually be honest.

-Trying to impress others is pointless.  The act will eventually wear thin, and the people that haven’t already seen through it will definitely then.  Believe it or not, others will be more impressed if you don’t care about impressing anyone.

-Be as honest as you can.  It’s never a good thing to be branded as a liar, even if you want to seem “edgy”.

-If you drop an empty beer bottle on the ground, don’t stomp on it and yell, “MOZEL TOV!!!”.  Just pick it up.

-Girls:  If a guy asks you an up-front question, give an up-front answer.

-Guys:  If you ask an up-front question, be prepared for an answer you may not like.

-Acting tough and being tough are not the same thing, and 90% of your peers can tell the difference.

-Get in the habit of questioning everything. Once you do, you'd be surprised how many people out there are totally full of shit.

-Just because someone famous said something that sounds insightful, doesn’t mean that it is.

-The ONLY guarantee in life is that it will eventually end.  Everything else is up for grabs, so go for it.
(Though, just because you're able to go for it, doesn't mean you should.)
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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pit Stop on the Road to Nowhere

The truck stop restaurant on Holy Hill Road is an oasis of food and relaxation on the outskirts of southeastern Wisconsin.  From the freeway, all one can see of it is the faint beacon of a Citgo sign, resting atop a pole, forty feet high.

In search of nothing, I take the exit and park my car, too nice to be unnoticed at a place such as this, at the edge of the parking lot.  Following a bathroom session that has been long overdue, I sit down at the otherwise barren counter and wait for service.

The waitress, who seems to be a mere twenty-two but I can see has already lost the happiness of a young life brimming with possibilities, walks up to me, silverware in hand.

"Just coffee, please." My words stop her in her tracks.  Without any words of her own, she turns around and makes for the line of coffee pots.  Returning to my little coffee-lacking section of the world, she gingerly sets the mug in front of me, and fills it to the top.  Somehow, I detect technique in her service; she has already done this too many times.

"Would you like some water?"  Her voice is meek and barely audible, making me wonder why this young girl has such an apparent lack of vitality in every way I have so-far witnessed.  I chalk it up to the simple fact that she’s stuck working at a truck stop diner at 11pm on a Saturday night.  My decline for water releases her from my presence, and she retreats to the few tables across the room, filled with loud and boisterous truckers.  I look at them and sip my extremely bitter coffee.

I count eight of them, spanning three tables... and all of the clichés are present.  There are the old & angry veterans with beards down to their chest... the middle-aged professionals... and the young cats, who are no doubt rookies on some of their first runs.  The younger guys are my age, and like me, are silent. 

 While I am silent with observation, they keep quiet because the older veterans are busy blanching out old war stories.  Every single time the veterans laugh loudly, the newbies chuckle. Even from the other side of the diner, it's painfully obvious those newbies are laughing out of some kind of respect or admiration.  If they weren't there, I would bet my toes that no one else would be laughing at their quips and jokes.  These men would be out of their element in any other venue, but since they're in the presence of people willing to listen, they fake charisma and hope nobody is willing to give them a reality check.  No one does.  They continue to ramble on about pulling 400 mile trips without wearing pants and looking down the shirts of well-proportioned women in convertibles.

Their loud, one-way conversation is making it difficult to decipher the roadhouse-type country music that’s quietly playing on the radio in the kitchen.  Realizing that even if I could hear it clearly, I would never be able to identify any aspect of the song… I stop trying.

An old couple sits down a few chairs away to my right.  When they get settled, senility is released into the air, riding on the shoulders of their conversation.  The husband gripes to his wife, who is staring at me, about his son not caring about his attempt to document a family tree.  Not getting any response from her does not slow down his dramatic yet strange sentences, he carries on as if she were a part of the dialog.  I turn my head toward the wife, whom is still staring at me.  To try and end the unpleasant moment I have been forced to be a part of, I make eye contact with her.  My smile and nod do nothing to break her vacant, unsettling stare.  An irrational fear begins to brew within my mind, I can vividly picture her attacking me without warning or provocation.

A faint whisper of shit drifts past my nostrils.  “Senile Old People with a Side of Full-Diaper” seems to be the house special tonight.  I however, am content with the industrial-grade coffee I've been forcing down my throat, so I take the last gulp of my third refill and set the empty mug down in front of me.  My want to occupy this place has come and gone.

Standing up, I pull a five dollar bill out of my wallet, slip it under the mug, and walk out the door.  The silver hue of my car in the distance provides familiarity, and I feel at peace.
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