Patching Things Up

As I noted in a recent post, I’m trying to quit smoking. As a religious guy, I think I’ve been seeing signs encouraging me to quit with the aid of the nicotine patch and gum. You know how you always see cigarette butts on sidewalks? In the last week I’ve seen about four patches stuck to the sidewalk. “I know the sidewalk’s been a heavy smoker for a long time,” I thought, “but if it can quit, then I can quit.”

Something I’m getting good at

The Baltimore Sun and the City Paper have not responded to my submission of the following as an op-ed humor piece, so I’ll post it here.  It concerns the city’s free buses.

You Get What You Pay For

Brian Williard

I love the Circulator busses.  I usually loathe the actual experience of riding them, but who could argue with their avowed principle of “Fast.  Friendly.  Free.”?  (I’ve tried in vain to reach their Grammar Department to suggest changing the signage to “Our Service Is Fast, Friendly, and Free.”)  The degrees of the buses’ punctuality and drivers’ friendliness may vary, but the freeness is constant. 

The lack of a mere $1.60 fare makes its social leveling effects so interesting.  Where else can one find professionals so intimately comingling with drunks and addicts?  Or young children hearing the coarse talk of hoppers on their way to work (people over)?  And then there’s the many people like me, dutifully forfeiting our seats to others and disseminating helpful hints to the ever-so-earnest tourists.  I’ll admit that I feel a slight deflation when I see them asking the driver the same question I had just answered.  Do I look like the kind of person who gets my kicks by giving people false directions? 

On the Circle-You-Later, the more does certainly not make the merrier.  It’s not so much that the conditions make you pissy, but others’ pissiness is contagious.  I generally enjoy making jokes to strangers to observe their reactions; the more offbeat the quip, the better.  When the bus gets extremely packed, to lighten the mood, I may affect a vague foreign accent and say, “If this were my homeland, the next oncoming rider would have to sit on the roof.” 

If my whimsical conspiratorial mindset is correct, this is when the drivers rack up the most points in their game of Passenger Bowling.  The object is simple:  cause passengers to fall by starting and stopping abruptly.  (The elderly, infirm, and intoxicated only count for half a point; someone with two or more such qualities amounts to ¼.)  Legend has it that a Bill H. once got six standing passengers to collapse in domino fashion.

I truly relish when capacity and my conscience allow me to take a seat.  Whether I’ve had a Sisyphean day sitting at the computer or a drunken one sitting at [location redacted], sometimes I’m just in the mood to do more sitting.  Hopefully, I’ll be fortunate and will happen upon a dry one.  If I belatedly discover that I have not, I can only hope that the dampness is from an overturned beverage.  Wishful thinking has gotten me far in life.

I will try to not read nor write, preferring instead to be mindful of the scenery.  I will feel smug self-satisfaction by noting how many people are too engrossed in their electronic toys or their chemical oblivion to just be, to take the world in.  With my Luddite leanings, I deem cell phones a scourge upon society.  They act in concert with many other cultural factors to erode civility.  Speaking or pretending to speak for nonessential purposes to others in a publicly enclosed space is a flagrant sin in this regard.

I’ve thought of taking obnoxious countermeasures in acts of self-righteous absurdism.  I could pretend that they’re talking to me:  “What do you mean, ‘Where am I?’  I’m sitting right across from you!”  Or, I could intrude into their conversation in a faux knowing way:  “Dude, you’re forgetting the best part!  Tell ‘em how Gina had just downed four shots of Jack when that went down!”  What I actually do enjoy doing—see my aforementioned penchant for oddball humor—is saying “I’m not here” when another’s phone rings.

What truly baffles me about public transportation in general is the people who use it to kill time.  In clement weather, surely one can find something better to do.  I understand that sometimes one just needs to sleep and may think they’re in the safest place to do so, but I’m talking about alert and awake people.  And the drivers know such regulars.  They note that so-and-so got on at such-and-such a spot and will have to disembark after one lap.  After all, “There’s [always] another one right behind me.”

But hey, there’s also a pedestrian world awaiting your circulation throughout it.  For better or worse.

 ___________________________________________________________________________

Brian Williard is a failing humor writer and online businessman.  His less tame humor can be found at funnyphilosopher.wordpress.com. 

…Or at least gotten a burger out of the deal

Baltimore Police Shoot Cow Running Loose in City

The Reverse Wilson

I was never a fan of Home Improvement.  Frankly, I think Tim Allen should’ve stuck with dealing coke instead of lowering the collective comedic bar.  Yet I am familiar enough with the show to be aware of the Wilson character.  He’s the sagacious neighbor whose face you never see.  You just see the hat over the fence, if I recall correctly.
 
My buddy Mike and I occasionally hang out in the morning at the outdoor plaza outside the federal building.  I sometimes imbibe, but he’s always got an open beer with him.  He’s one of those former Marines with that “Fuck it” anarchistic mentality.  And where better to commit minor misdemeanor offenses than on federal property?
 
The closest bathroom is in the nearby Bank of America building.  You actually need a code to get into the bathroom.  There’s a guy that we suspect lives in one of the stalls.  Seriously, he spends hours in there.  Every day.  And he’s not shy, as evinced by his chattiness.  “Hey man, do you know if the Orioles won last night?”  “I hear it’s supposed to rain all week.”  And so on.
 
Neither of us has any idea what he actually looks like; we just recognize the shoes.  On those rare occasions when we find ourselves at the spot in the afternoon, the question for whichever of us has just returned is:  “Was he in there?”  No, at some point he moves on.  He probably has an afternoon stall to inhabit.  A “regular” routine, if you will.
 
The phenomenon raises several questions:
 
1)  Did the Bank of America foreclose on his house, somehow compromising by allowing him to live in the bathroom?
2)  Does he suffer from some horrifying, Mask-like facial disfigurement?
3)  Per the Home Improvement scenario, should we start asking him for wise advice?
4)  The Fonz had “his office” in Arnold’s bathroom.  Does this guy have the same M.O. and he’s merely a workaholic?
5)  Does his diet consist of foods that entail incessant, around-the-clock diarrhea?
6)  I have three degrees of separation between myself and Phish.  If I ever get to surpass that gulf, I’ll necessarily ask if they know this guy, based on the following data:
 

Putting the “Twit” in “Twitter”

New York police Twitter campaign backfires badly

AFP   4.23.14

samples of the deluge of pictures of alleged police brutality the NYPD received on Tuesday

.New York (AFP) – “New York police Tuesday were eating extra helpings of humble pie after asking people to post images of themselves and NYPD officers on Twitter — only to face a deluge of pictures of alleged police brutality…”

The cop on the left claims they missed the good part, where “my follow-through after busting that fucker’s head open was sublime!”

One of the police on the right-hand picture tried to defend their actions.  “You can see the guy’s black, right?”

Not Even a Blow-Up Doll

I’ve been doing side work summarizing sociological criminology research for a guy who works for the US DOC.  His PhD in social psychology makes him better qualified to digest the material than me, who has a background in philosophy and religion.  But he’s got money and I’ve got time.  Timewise, the trick for me is to proportionally direct my attention to several other things at once.  I’ve been doing this work, at my own pace, since August.
 
Even though the federal prison system does not deal with minors, the work has all been focused on the nature of juvenile delinquency, with an emphasis on preventing such behavior from escalating into full-blown adult criminality.  I recently finished a book on religious terrorism that I was reading for leisure.  It might seem difficult to transition seamlessly from these two topics to my individual contributions to the world of humor, but I did so rather easily.  A good waiter for three years and a bad cook for one, I am a natural multi-tasker who does everything half-assed.
 
Maybe I’ll start another blog about multi-tasking.  And then a couple more.
 
I naturally compared the criminological work with what I was reading about ideological murder.  I could personally relate to the juvenile delinquency work because I dabbled in such behavior extensively.  As an adult, I have broken many laws many times.  I haven’t stolen anything since I was 25, and I haven’t done anything violent since elementary school.  I’m talking about minor stuff like drunken hijinks.  And I haven’t endangered anyone’s life by drunk driving since the last time I drove. 
 
Since I am also very religious, I am intrigued by the zealous fervor that leads others with similar mindsets to kill others and even themselves in the name of God.  And since my books are in the genre of “humorous memoir,” it’s all quite interconnected. 
 
One similarity I found between terrorists and certain criminals was a concern for one’s legacy.  “Better to die fighting than to live as a coward” is a mentality common to both.  Where I grew up, most premature deaths were from car accidents.  Here in (C)harm City, they’re by murder.  In both cases, the sites frequently become memorials to the dead. 
 
One incongruous thing I’ve noticed in the rougher parts of Baltimore is the presence of teddy bears and related items at such shrines.  Maybe a toddler choked to death there, but it’s far more likely that some gangsta’ got gunned down at the spot.  Blow yourself up in the Palestinian Territories and you become a martyr, perhaps your face plastered on a billboard.  Get shot during a crack deal gone awry in the city, and some asshole leaves a fucking Teddy Ruxpin there.  Not exactly bad-ass nor glorious.  The jihadist gets his reward of 72 virgins; you’re mourned by your babies’ mamas.
 
I don’t sling much crack anymore.  I haven’t pimped in ages.  And I’m pretty sure the Bloods whom I called a bunch of faggy pussies on funnygangster.wordpress.com knew I was kidding.  But, just in case, I’ve instructed a trusted confidante that if I get shot and anyone so much as thinks of putting any toy at the scene of the killing, they are to take action.  They are to burn down the donor’s housing unit, laugh as it burns, and then immolate himself at the scene.
 
Respect, beatches!

Junk(ie) Science

Humans To Be Kept Between Life and Death in First Suspended Animation Trials

Sebastian Anthony
Extreme Tech
March 27, 2014

This is old hat in Baltimore.  Add Xanax to methadone, or perhaps combine other drugs, and remain frozen in place, bent over, without falling over.  I lump them all together as “the freeze drug.”  I don’t know how these people walk across the street, eat, or what allows them to get so plastered and remain standing.  With us drunks, we just fall over or pass out.  Watching these guys is like a suspenseful soap opera.

If engineers and architects could just apply their ability to skyscrapers, the death toll from earthquakes could nearly be eliminated.

Working at Nothing All Day

I have confidence that the inordinate amount of time I’ve spent writing two books will prove worthwhile in the long run.  Yet I would be delusional if I did not acknowledge the possibility of failure.  Considering that I’ve never made enough money to bank anyway, the possibility of this endeavor ending as a colossal waste of time is not that daunting.
 
With that distinction in mind, I can say that writing (for me) is a quite easy and sweet gig.  I can chalk up any conceivable experience as “work.”  Since I write humor, I can regard watching Family Guy as “field research.”  On the other hand, watching an unfunny movie or program is a matter of studying lame attempts at comedy.  I certainly spend way too much time playing with my blog, but I’m effectively building a portfolio.  Since one of my goals is to write for The Onion, that is productive activity.  And any good or bad adventure I experience provides potential material for future books.
 
On that last note, I have to put the brakes on my creative daydreaming.  I will surely not write a third book if I cannot get either of the finished ones published.  Should that not happen, I will then resign myself to thinking, “At least I gave it a shot.  I guess my destiny is to throw boxes around in a warehouse.”
 
However, an interesting concept occurred to me last night for a future book.  I could find the craziest, crackheadiest bullshitter–which would not be difficult–and interview them for a biography in which I take everything they say at face value.  It would be like the polar (or bipolar?) opposite of investigative journalism.  Imagine the blurb on the back cover:
 
“Before the Men in Black stole Bruce’s cure for cancer, he was a gigolo to Hollywood starlets, and he is willing to name names!  This was physically demanding, as his concurrent job at the time involved being a Designated Hitter for the Dodgers–the only one in the National League–and doing free-lance work for the CIA.  Again, he gives details!
 
“After a concussion led to the realization that he was the Messiah, and that ‘Jack who’s sitting on the bench over there made his wife Jenny that bitch! leave him and that’s why his neck always hurts on Tuesdays and why the government’…”
 
Of course, “Bruce” would have to be willing to go on book tours and make media appearances.  If anyone likes this idea, they have my “permission” to use it.  I can help find such a person if necessary for the finder’s fee of a bottom shelf bottle of booze.  And pick up a couple cases for yourself; you’re gonna’ need it. 

The Same as the Old Boss

My co-best friend recently lost his dad, several years after the death of his mother.  Like me and my sister a decade ago, he and his sisters are now “orphaned” at a relatively young age.  I will probably spend an indeterminate amount of time back in my hometown fixing up his house to make it saleable.  It is nestled at the base of the Appalachians, and one can get to this spot:
after a relatively brief hike.  I’ve had many spiritual experiences along the Trail.
 
Since a lot of landscaping will be involved, I will return to the more familiar dangers of snake bites and Lyme Disease.  I will certainly not have to worry about being jumped by people, and if I happen to get shot it will surely be from a hunting accident.  And, crucially, I will not have to listen to talk about “loose ones,” “butes,” “ready,” “bars,” “pills,” “footballs,” etc.  I will hear the word “Yo” 87% less than I do now, the word “Nigger/Nigga’,” 72%.  There will be ravens, not “The Ravens.”  And no one will obsess over them.  Suffice it to say, it will be a welcome reprieve from (C)harm City.
 
I will almost certainly return to Baltimore when the project is complete, but I’m curious to gauge my reaction when I return to the sticks where I was raised.  I’m a country boy, thank God, and would thus like to return to a rural area when I become a millionaire from writing my stupid books.  Not my hometown, though, because I’m too popular there. Yet will I find that life boring after several years of city life?
 
Ideally, I would bring a hard-working and trustworthy Baltimore buddy with me to help.  After all, any tool more complicated than a screwdriver makes me nervous.  I thought of three candidates, but eliminated two for various reasons.  The viable one, Marcel, is employed at a real, i. e., nontemporary, job.
 
When I broke my nose recently, I was grateful that my teeth remained intact after my drunken fall.  (Although I’m somewhat curious about what the Tooth Fairy brings when one loses one’s first homeless tooth.)  Mine certainly need a cleaning, but I make irrational prejudgments about those with deficient or decrepit teeth–I’m a dental-ist.
 
I thus prematurely misjudged Marcel based on his missing teeth.  I surmise that it is the result of a crack habit he developed in college, thus derailing what could have been a promising career in the science-y field that he was studying.  Yet he’s gone clean and would make an ideal worker and companion for this project.  We had the following geopolitical discussion yesterday, sparked by a discussion about a Russian acquaintance’s chess acumen:
 
Me:  We’re in one of those fucked up, tumultuous moments in history.  It’s like, the American and French Revolutions were pretty close in terms of time.  1848 and 1968 were two years marred by turmoil.
 
Marcel:  And now you’ve got the Arab Spring and this clusterfuck in the Ukraine.  Shit’s hitting the fan everywhere.
 
M:  Ukraine had their–was it the Orange Revolution?–several years ago.  They just need a good catch phrase for this shit now.
 
M:  It’s all about marketing.  I took a business course in school and I know that’s basic.  The Ukrainian Uprising, maybe?
 
M:  Nah; too easy.  We’ve never played war with the Ruskies, even though both sides have at times itched and bitched for one.  This could lead to one, so–
 
M:  “It’s on, bitches!”
 
M:  Or “Finally?”  We had the Cold War, but now it’s time for a real one.  How about “The Heat Is On?”
 
M:  On the streets.
 
[One of the things I regret about smoking since I was 14 is that I can no longer hit high notes.  So I was unable to complete the “Whoo hoo!” component of the Glenn Frey lyric.]
 
Marcel:  You better hope it doesn’t happen, man.  It could fuck with your vodka supply.
 
M:  Oh, I assumed you were referring to my conscientious concern for world peace.
 
M:  I would never say that.  You just want to get drunk and laugh at shit.
 
M:  Well, you better hope the Chinese don’t get involved.  [Marcel is half Chinese.]  I’d hate to see you end up in an internment camp like they did to the Japs.  But I would turn you in if the reward was high enough.
 
M:  Yeah, like five bucks!
 
M:  Seriously, you know Putin would probably be on the front lines himself.
 
M:  Bad ass motherfucker, man.  I’d surrender if I saw him coming.
 
M:  Crazy fuck would have his shirt off, it’s 10 degrees out, and all he’s got is a knife.  “Guns are for weak pussies!”
 
M:  And he’d take out a brigade himself.
 
M:  The Charge of the “Oh Shit!” Renegade.
 
M:  Huh?
 
M:  That famous poem was about the Crimean War.
 
M:  Oil and gas; that’s what wars are about anymore.  Not even pussy like with that Greek chick.
 
[At the mention of gas, I fart as if on cue.  It was a particularly raunchy one.]
 
Marcel:  Damn, dude, what did you eat today?
 
M:  Not much, just a little chicken.
 
M:  Chicken Kiev?
 
M:  Good one.  Seriously, I’m pretty fucking hungry right now.
 
M:  I’ve got some shit in my bag.  Do you want some M&Ms?
 
M:  Thanks, but I’ll pass.  I’ll also pass–
 
I break wind again and our conversation wound down.  We were two semi-informed news consumers, just armchair pundits.  Our discussion had no bearing on the winds of history.  After all, Who the fuck were we?