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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

Category Archives: Adventures!

Relationships are basically a series of woulds.

In order to objectively measure what is normally understood to be subjective concept (“friendship”), we simply add up the number and value of the behaviors that we would engage in for another at a particular moment in time.  Of course, doing so would be a hideous waste of energy (and kind of creepy), but it could theoretically be done.

Ideal relationships (friendship or otherwise) exist when the two lists overlap perfectly, where both parties are equally beholden.  I say “equally beholden” as opposed to “entirely beholden” because relationships can be ideal without being huge emotional investments.  What matters is that two people agree on and bind themselves to equal terms of the relationship, and whether those obligations are particularly difficult to follow through on is entirely beside the point.

Venn Diaphragm (wikipedia.org)

But usually, since life is not often described as fair (as opposed to both “love” and “war”), it seems proper to assume that any understanding of Person1 vis-à-vis Person2 at TimeX contains two lists with columns of uneven lengths and weights.  We are a different sort of friend than our friends are to us.  And since what we do for another — by simple virtue of being a different human being — differs from what that individual would do for us, we begin to understand why Mr. Venn was so keen on inventing his precious Diagram.

Of course, all of this this does not mean that our goal should be to find the greatest number of people who are willing to perform the greatest number of actions for us at any given time.  I am certain that you would rather have a friend that you like meeting for coffee exactly once per week who only likes to meet you for coffee once per week than a friend that you like meeting for coffee once per week who wants to have dinner with you every night.

And vice-versa.

Yet for better or for worse, we are not in a constant state of awareness of the specific nature of our relationships.  I don’t always know specifically what you would be willing to do for me just as you are not always sure what I would do for you.

For non-crazy people, none of this is a problem.

We don’t literally have lists.  We don’t know which list is large or which is small, and we don’t even know which list is bigger (and no amount of time spent in the locker room would aid us in answering this question).  But, because we are human and because we have a reasonably solid sense of the world around us, we are usually vaguely (and sometimes even keenly) aware who is worthy of our attention, and which of our acquaintances would be willing to pick us up from the airport at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Now, this is the point where I feel compelled to admit that the calculation of friendship would actually be much more complicated than the simple construction of a numbered “list.”  Certain behaviors we no doubt value more highly than others.  Allowing a person to borrow your pen certain should be weighed differently than allowing that same person to borrow your car.  Obviously, in any fair calculation, those two circumstances should be weighed differently.  Likewise, telling your friend that it’s okay to date your ex-girlfriend is a completely different situation than telling your friend that it’s okay to date your ex-girlfriend and actually meaning it.

Another glaring weakness of this analysis is that we are never completely aware of the actions we would be willing to take in a particular set of circumstances.  We are quick to criticize bad actors, bystander apathy, and unfaithfulness, but are often ourselves the worthy target of criticism.  Whether we are capable of, for example, standing up for – or commiserating with – a friend is quite easy to believe, but sometimes a little tricky to carry out in practice.

Only if you are lucky are you provided with an opportunity to prove to a friend that you are there for them, that you are a martyr for them — that your list of “woulds” is long and proud!  And as I learned many years ago, one of those “lucky” opportunities to display your martyrdom (a martyrtunity!) could come at any time, even if you find yourself confined within the pock-marked brick walls of French Road Elementary School.

And so in 1992 I learned just how long a list of woulds could go.

You probably know that fourth graders are trained to be Jacks (or Jacquelines) of all trades.  Though the harsh reality is that the vast majority of us were wasting our time – from a purely professional standpoint – in art, music, and gym class, we were nonetheless asked to become at-least-barely-proficient in self-portrait drawing, the glockenspiel, and dodgeball.  (Interestingly, “I hope nobody notices what I’m doing here” is the proper way to make it through all three of these skill sessions.)

First let me start off by pointing out that although this story takes place in an art classroom, my hopes of embarking on an artistic career ended about the same time my literal taste for uncooked macaroni subsided.  Once I was no longer interested in eating the stuff, gluing it to construction paper began to seem like a bit of a chore.

My classmates and I were milling about in art class, learning how to draw faces, or trees, or shadows, or…something with pencils.  And while my usual instinct here is to blame my lack of specificity on a poor memory, the truth is that I am probably as aware now as I was back then about the art topic de jure.

All I know is that pencils were the focal point.  My focal point, anyway.

We were never specifically instructed on the art of keeping pencils sharpened (mostly because it was not — and has never been — an art), but I considered pencil-sharpening my main function in the room that smelled as though a truckload of Crayolas had just detonated.  And I was good, real good.  The trick was knowing exactly how hard to push a standard pencil into the (manual!) sharpener so as to not to damage the critical point.  There is an upper limit on how sharp a pencil can become, and though there were times when I would channel Icarus and sharpen a bit too long or a bit too hard – flying too close to the sun – I was always ready to give it another go.

An artist, if he is to perfect his art, must above all be resilient.

One afternoon, following a particularly fortuitous pencil-sharpening experience, I began my march back to the paint-and-permanent-marker-stained seat I left only minutes earlier.  My friends were waiting for me.  I glided between desks, clutching my prize, a razor-sharp Number 2, stunning graphite point safely tucked inside my tiny fist.  The flesh-toned eraser stuck proudly outward, guiding me towards my destination like a paralyzed compass pointing due north.

And then I crashed, eraser first, directly into a table, cramming the graphite tip unapologetically into my palm.

It hurt, a lot.

Meanwhile, my friend Erik, who witnessed this whole ordeal from start to finish, had — so far as I could tell — a few options.  He could:

  1. Offer words of support
  2. Offer first aid
  3. Offer to escort me to the nurse’s office
  4. Offer a knowing joke at my expense

What Erik chose to do, however, in a moment of idyllic solidarity, was quickly find a loose pencil and jam it into his own hand.  Today, though our relationship is best defined by the words, “Facebook friends,” we have matching scars — tiny gray dots in our palms — to remember the time I decided to give up my pencil-sharpening hobby for good.

Since then, though I am certain that I have at least satisfactory number of friends that who would do any number of things for my benefit, I only know for sure of one friend who has ever included on his List of Things That He Would Do, the entry: “Intentionally stab self with pencil.”

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In the summer of 1997, for reasons that were not immediately clear to me at the time, I found myself at a John Denver concert.  I was not completely aware of nor enthused by the musical stylings of Mr. Denver — he was certainly no James Taylor! — but cannot deny that by the end of the night, I was sporting a commemorative John Denver Live In Concert! t-shirt.  To this day, I’m still not completely sure whether I was wearing the shirt with irony or pride (prirony?), but in either case, there is photographic proof.  Unfortunately, the show turned out to be one of John Denver’s final performances — he died in a freakish experimental plane crash only a few months later.

During his life, Denver leveraged his fame to raise awareness for important issues like environmental conservation and world hunger, but most of us remember him for one particularly catchy tune, Take Me Home, Country Roads

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, Mountain Mama
Take me home, country roads

These are beautiful lyrics, of course, but they are written from the perspective of a person who is not me.

A person who is not me at all.

I went to West Virginia this past weekend, and just as I did some time ago after a trip to New York City (see: part 1, part 2), I would like to present some lessons that I learned while out on those country roads that lead to a place that, I think you’d all agree, I do not necessarily belong.

Lesson #1: Bear Conditioning

Technically, since I slept in a cabin deep in the woods with limited cell phone reception, I am able to convince folks that I was “camping” this weekend.  Technically.  What I tend to fail to mention, however, is that this “cabin” has three floors, three bathrooms, a hot tub, and a bigger, softer bed than I have in my apartment.  And while the six pillows on my bed were less than perfect and the cabin toaster’s ability to, well, toast left a lot to be desired, I wasn’t exactly roughing it.

Around 2 o’clock in the morning, I meandered outside to check in on this “fresh air” I’ve heard so much about.  The scenery was beautiful.  The stars were twinkling like the eyes of unrequited lovers in first poems everywhere.  Suddenly, an air conditioning unit — that I mistook for a large powerful animal capable of turning the food chain on its head — sputtered in the distance.

When you’re surrounded by stainless steel, travertine, and granite countertops, it’s easy to be distracted from the fact that there are bears.  Outside.  Like, right there.

I had forgotten, too.

Lesson #2: Townies vs. Technologies

When the waitress from Tari’s explained in a perfectly straight-forward manner how to get to the nearest grocery store from the cafe (“You take this main road about a mile south, you’ll see a McDonalds, make a right, and it’s right in that plaza.”), we all nodded along in agreement.  But when we got in our car, the first thing we did was turn on the GPS, which promptly pointed us in the opposite direction.  What did we do?  Obey our computer overlord, of course.

The result, you will not be surprised to learn, is that we ended up driving to a wide open industrial lot.   Not a grocery store — not even a single grocery — in sight.

Townies know what they’re talking about.

Lesson #3: Not-See Germination

There are a number of reasons to enter a second-hand store.  One is that you are traveling with an unapologetic kitty fiend friend and you — or rather, she — spots inside a row of teeny tiny kittens in consecutive cages purring at innocent passersby.

We went inside.

While the kitty-cats lured us in, it was the vintage (and “vintage”) West Virginia paraphernalia that kept us from leaving.  Although sadly, we were a day too late to participate in the Thursday Anything On This Rack For $1 Sale, we were exactly on time if we wanted to buy a Creepy, Smelly Leather Visor for $2.50.  And one of us, to the horrified chagrin of the others, did exactly that.

Of course, like most reasonable people who are in the process of buying sweat-stained visors from decades ago, my friend politely asked the cashier what could be done about any possible disgustingness still contained within the leather fibers (to the extent that leather is composed of “fibers”).

“I don’t think you have anything to worry about.  Whatever germs were in there probably expired by now.”

So there you have it: germs expire.

Lesson learned.

I woke up on Saturday morning (which was unsurprising but good) and learned that it was about seventy degrees outside in the heart of DC (which was great) in the middle of November (which is weird), less than a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving (which is delicious).

Not wanting to pass up one final opportunity to get sun poisoning, I donned my trusty New York Mets Lenny Dykstra #4 tee-shirt (thanks to Stephen V.) and headed to Kalorama Park.

My plan for the afternoon was simple: bask in the sunshine, finish the two-hundred page book I’ve been reading for two moths, go to town on an anjou pear, and secretly hope that puppies of all shapes and sizes (but especially those with disproportionally large heads) meander all day in my direction.

On the way to the park (which, for the record, more closely resembled a construction site), I stopped at a local used bookstore, Idle Time Books, because that’s just the kind of guy that I am.

Actually, I hadn’t necessarily planned on it, but they have one of those “$1 BOOKS” carts constantly stationed outside the store, luring me with promises of cheap entertainment.  The Cart never ceases to pique my interest, and incidentally never ceases to disappoint me each time in new and exciting ways.  After thirty seconds, I being to recognize that I am eye-browsing a collection of works arranged in preparation for a trip to the 1400’s to convince Gutenberg to destroy his precious printing press prototype.

The Cart is letting me down again.

No big deal.

There is an softcover arcing in my back pocket, pulling mightily at the machined threads that contain it, making every effort to expand the size of the space it has been unapologetically thrust.  There is a just-washed pear in my left hand, and for some reason, a commanding baritone roar in the distance.

Someone is yelling.

Someone is yelling something.

Someone is yelling something at someone.

Someone is yelling something at someone for some reason.

And then I hear it.  At least I think I hear it.

“Are you a Mets fan?”

And then I know hear it.

“HEY! ARE YOU A METS FAN?!”

Really?  Someone is yelling about a Mets fan? Is who a Mets fan?  Who cares if someone is a Mets fan?

And then I look down at my Lenny Dykstra jersey.

Wait, am I a Mets fan?

I look up.

His head is poked out the window of his car.  A squad car.  There is a District of Columbia police officer staring at me, expecting eyes wide open.

“Hey!” he calls, badge reflecting the sun.  “Are you a Mets fan?”

Baffled, I nod my head and gleefully call back, “Yeah!”

As an added bonus, I make sure to give the officer an idiotic thumbs-up gesture with my non-pear hand.  And although this probably turns out to be the kindest hand gesture he receives all day, it’s also the kind of thing that only an inherently awkward person would think to do in a situation like this.

I wait for his answer, for camaraderie.

I wait for him to smile and bellow, “LET’S GO METS!”

I wait for commiseration.

I want for him to frown and say, “Maybe next year, ya know?”

I wait for anything.

I wait.

He looks at me, grinning.

“BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

And then — zoom!

Like the smile on my face, he is gone.

with his head poked out the window of his squad car

There was a mouse in my apartment.

He was about the size of a large cashew and he was smarter than me.

He liked oyster crackers more than cheese and tortilla chips more than anything.

He lived under my sink.

I called him “Frouse”.

Mice are rare breed of animal in that they are both adorable and generally reviled by humans.

But I didn’t hate Frouse at first.

I respected his cunning, laughed sometimes when he squeaked with his whiskered little mousy mouth, and once caught myself feeling relief that he had a safe place to stay during a severe thunderstorm.  However, over time I realized that I when I heard him scurrying endlessly from the garbage can to the paper towels and back, one simple question began to cross my mind with increasing frequency and volume:

Why won’t you die a slow and agonizing death?

The Walt Disney Company has done more for mice public relations than any single entity (although Warner Brothers, Universal Studios, and Pixar have also animated on the side of rodent rights), even going so far as developing a special club of what look to be human-mouse hybrids.  But what Walt and the others failed to mention in their popular productions about our mammalian frienemies is that they (a) stink and (b) poop.

A lot.

The difficulty in dealing with Frouse was three-fold:

– First, it was difficult to blame him since he was just trying to, you know, live.
– Second, and most surprising, he was not a complete ignoramus.
– Third, I was not up for the challenge at first.

Lucky for me, my landlord provided our building with what looked to be an endless supply of glue traps.  I was heartened that we were using these as opposed to the cartoon-style snap-down-on-mouse-face traps because it seemed to me that those would be, as they say, “completely disgusting.”  They should really consider building a better mousetrap.

I took five.

Because I initially assumed that mice were about as smart as a box of thumbtacks, I did not put much effort into the placement of the traps.  I scattered them around sites that looked mouse-friendly and waited for them to do the trick, like they were air fresheners or magicians on a tight schedule.  But Frouse turned out to be a quality opponent.  He would weave through traps to the trappings of success in the garbage can.  He would navigate so gracefully that I considered changing his name to Mouseco de Gama.

Or Fur-dinand Magellan.

Whiskerphor Columbus!

But like Columbus, who mistook the Americas for Asia, Frouse eventually mistook a recently-moved glue trap for a safe landing spot.  He was stuck.  He whined and pleaded, struggled with all of his mousy might.  He couldn’t remove himself.  Even I couldn’t set him free if I tried.

I didn’t try.

Frouse died.

According to The Humane Society:

“Glue traps are responsible for more suffering than virtually any other wildlife control product on the market. Most animals caught in glue traps suffer slow and agonizing deaths.”

So, I guess I got my wish.

“An entire weekend in NYC and you wrote about tomatoes and eggs?” -Cara B.

New York Skyline

Now that I’ve had a 24 hour incubation period to digest (eh hem) my weekend in the land of bitter cold and bitterer temperaments, I feel more able to convey the lessons I learned in three short days.

When it comes to the citizenry of New York City, the question is often (never?) asked, “Does New York turn people into ‘New Yorkers’ or do folks who are inherently ‘New York’ flock to the city?”  There are those who will scoff, scowl, and dismissively point out that that this is like asking, “Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?” (Who was that man?)

While I cannot tell you who put the bomp there, I am here to declare with great confidence (Note: If the crossword puzzle clue is “Declare with great confidence,” the answer is probably “AVER”) that New York has a profound influence on a relatively untarnished (my parents are from Long Island) objective third party (me).

Take the follow examples of how I began to turn into a New Yorker, right before the eyes of thousands of people who would not get out of my way.

Preemptively Yelled At Cabbie For Doing Something That He Was About To Do (And Then Did!)

New York is the only place where I began to maliciously assume that people would perform horrible, unthinkable acts — and then they would follow through with the performance.  On Saturday, after leaving the Apple/Hipster store on Broadway, Alex M. and I were preparing to cross the street.  As the perpendicular light changes from green to yellow, a cabbie lays into his horn a block and a half away.

“This [WORD NOT USED IN POLITE COMPANY] is preparing to run this red light!  What the [AFOREMENTIONED WORD]!”

(CAB FLIES THROUGH THE STALE RED LIGHT AS WE STARE AT PEDESTRIAN SIGN FLASHING “WALK”)

“Seriously, what the [GEORGE CARLIN]!”

Failed To Understand The Rural Lifestyle

I shot a cow.

I was not supposed to shoot a cow, but I shot a cow. I shot a cow and then I shot another cow and then I shot a third cow.  Each time it was the wrong thing to do.

You should never shoot a cow.

New Yorkers are not known for their ability to handle firearms, or the woods, or hunting, or any combination thereof.  That was an enormous problem for me when I was introduced to the dollar-erasing experience known to connoisseurs as Buck Hunter.   Additionally, New Yorkers like to use phrases like “connoisseur” even when discussing digital deer destruction.

Anyway, how was I supposed to know that shooting a cow instead of the elk or moose or giraffe or whatever would effectively end my hunting experience?  And what were a bunch of cows doing hanging out with wild animals like that?  They should be sitting on plates literally all across the country.

Saw Something Unspeakable In Central Park And Did Not Care

Use your imagination.

Actually, don’t.

Refused To Go To Brooklyn

Today, I would like to coin a saying:  “The longer you’ve lived in Manhattan, the longer you’ve been in Manhattan.”

It seems that the more time a person spends living in Manhattan, the more likely it is that he/she hasn’t been beyond the Manhattan boundaries for quite some time.  In most cities, the longer you are a resident, the larger the footprint becomes that you consider a part of your life/existence.  Not so with New York it seems.

And the first step is refusing to go to Brooklyn.

Check!

Well, I made it almost one full week as a dedicated daily blogger before relinquishing my obligations and hopping on a bus to The City, New York City.  This should come as a shock to no one, both in the sense that I have a secret uncanny ability to shirk responsibility and a not-so-secret interest in The City That Sleeps Just As Often As Other Cities, But With Better Slogans.

I learned two very important things on my trip.

First, there is at least one dog that has a sense of and appreciation for irony.

It is fair to say that this irony is not of the delicious variety, but this is also the same Shiba Inu who will eat almost anything in Central Park, so her taste buds are not filed under “Discerning.”

Second, I learned that humans should have a sense of appreciation for shakshouka, a brunch dish so delicious and filling that I was not hungry for eight hours after my trip with Alex M. to The Hummus Place.  (Although, now that I think about it, the post-shakshouka coffee cake and chocolate walnut cookie experiment courtesy of Levain Bakery made have had something to do with it, too.)

Shakshouka is a dish that combines two things that you (may) love into a pan o’ happiness that you (will) love.  I struggled at first with the concept because those things are: (1) poached/fried eggs; (2) spicy tomato stew.  The thought occurred to me that this might be one of those unfortunate situations where I like two food items, but do not appreciate when they are combined into one goopy mess.  (See: chocolate + cherries.)  But it is wonderful.  Order some fluffy pita on the side to scoop it up with and you may find yourself a brunchtastic addition.

You will not be surprised to learn that “shakshouka” means “mixture” in Tamazight, an actual language.

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