Reflections Of An Asshole

I can be an asshole sometimes. (“Sometimes?” My wife calls from the other room)  I know it.  I don’t want to smell your cigarette smoke, for example, and if I catch you stopping on your morning walk to let your dog shit in my yard you sure as hell better have a plastic bag in your hand.  I’ll try to be funny about it, at first, but things irk me–and it’s getting worse.

I used to be a pretty laid back guy.  I’ve only been in a few fights in my life because I’ve been not only easy going, but bigger than most people I meet.  And size matters, in bars, except when it doesn’t.

When I was younger, I noticed (how could I not?) a trend: when out and about, late at night, little guys would get a drunk on and pick me out of the crowd.  It happened half a dozen times over several years, especially in the west.  Tiny Cowboys, for some reason they found difficult to articulate, wanted to kick my ass.

I’d be minding my own business, feel a poke in the rib, and find some miniature “dude” in a pearl-snap shirt and ridiculous hat, swaying on his western bootheels and muttering “ya ain’t swo fuckin’ big ya ain’t I’wo kicks ywo ass muth-fucka.”  I distinctly remember the first time it happened, in a place called Spirits of The West in Jackson, Wyoming.

Aside: (Hey, Slim–remember that night: Shep fell of his bar stool and all those guys patted him on the back and bought him beers, even though he was wearing his manskirt?)

Normally, these guys stay in the background, in small groups, stony-faced and silent, nursing Coors Lites, obsessively clean-cut–they don’t just shave their beards, but the top layer of skin, it seems, favoring the requisite big hats and pressed, probably starched, dark blue jeans. They don’t speak to each other.  They don’t look at each other, until one of them reaches a certain level of inebriation (a challenge, drinking that lite beer) in which they’re compelled to complicate my evening.

It was a difficult situation. I didn’t want to fight because. 1). Fights hurt, win or lose. 2.) I might lose, and be embarrassed–who wants to be bested by a pint-sized pony boy?  3.) I might win, and still lose face as the 260 (then) pound guy who beat up a munchkin in a cute hat. 4) I just wanted to drink beer and talk to pseudo-hippie chicks and gawk dreamily at that bartender (with the Buddy Holly glasses and converse all-stars–if you were in JH in the early 90s you know who I mean). By necessity, I developed a strategy that served me well for the next few years in Wyoming, in Oregon, even back in Pittsburgh–I’d look past the mighty mite slobbering on my flannel shirt and lock eyes imploringly–but with utter (feigned) confidence–with his buddies, who every time looked awfully uncertain about the whole thing.  “Is this really how you want things to do down?”

In retrospect, I don’t quite believe that I summoned the wisdom to adopt that approach, because it worked.  Each time, the friends intervened and hustled the guy away.  Six times in about 4 years, this happened.

I worry that it might not be so pretty now.  It seems the older I get, the less indulgent I’ve become, and the quicker to anger.  It’s a little disconcerting.  My friend Perry once said to me, after confiding the joy he took in being arrested for brawling in Alaska, “Chuck, there comes a time in a man’s life–it happened to me in my 40′s–when he just wants to kick some ass.”  Perry, a PhD., had walked away from a career as a psychologist to work as a professional fishing guide, and on the scale of cowboys he leaned heavily to the side of Willie Nelson, rather than John Wayne.

It was not until the past few years that I felt anger so sudden and blinding that I trembled and stumbled over my words–dealing with a corporate client who refused to pay a debt, for example, I could barely express myself on the phone.  The aforementioned cigarette smoking–in line at the movies?  C’mon man.  The woman who stops to let her dog squat in my front yard.  I won’t even talk about road rage.  It is the inconsideration that gets to me most.  I legitimately worry that I’m going to snap. This young lady knows what I’m talking about:

This applies to athletic events even more than it does to concerts.

Last year, at a big swim meet, I came the closest to full-scale meltdown.  We were surrounded by parents from Sunbury, PA (no need not to call them out, they’re the worst parents I’ve encountered on the swimming circuit) who sat down after we did–Sunbury is a huge team, with lots of resources, and lots of nose in the air attitude.  At least a dozen of them, in matching t-shirts, were compulsively filming events with iPads–you’ve seen this maneuver, I bet, (look above) in which the idiot holds their techno-toy just above forehead level, to capture the images over the heads of the people sitting in front of them, while blithely blocking the view of the folks sitting behind them.  It is one of the ultimate demonstrations of communal indifference and disregard, and a supreme demonstration of self-absorption.

I held my tongue, leaning the the right and the left when I could.  Oh, I muttered a few, over-loud snarky comments to my wife, but I ignored the impulse to reach out in front of me and push the devices down in front of their owner’s own eyes.  Then, I hear my wife, “Oh, shit.”  She lifts her purse from the floor and it’s dripping something my nose quickly tells me is coffee–but not just coffee, we later discover, but thick, sticky Starbucks cappuccino.  We both sort of stand and squat to look under the bleachers.

“Sit down, would you?” The guy behind us commands.  No please, no smile.

I feel bad, for just a moment, until I see the Starbucks cup on it’s side, between his feet, and the trail of sugary goo.  “Is that yours?” I ask.

He shrugs, and tilts his shoulder to look around me, so I stand to my full height–there’s no looking around me without taking a short stroll.  “Is…that…yours?”

“What do you want me to do about it?” Oh, the derision in his eyes–all he’s thinking about is his view.

The red curtain drops over my eyes.  I can hear my pulse.

“How about you apologize, then clean up your fucking mess….”

There was a moment when I could see him consider the gauntlet, and then he backed down.  His wife found some napkins in her purse and he cleaned up around his feet.  My wife, holding my right wrist, pulled me back down to the bleachers and I didn’t turn around again.  Later on, left to reflect, I was confused.  I’ve always avoided fights, but I realized that I was aching for him to give me an excuse.  I wanted badly to hit the guy, to feel his nose break, to smell his blood and break that smirk against my knuckles.  Over a $50 suede handbag that we actually were able to clean.  Where does that come from?

I think about that asshole who shot a guy at point blank range in Florida theater for texting during the previews and one thing comes to mind: I will never carry a weapon in public, nor should anyone else, although in the end it’s just another test of our resolve and our adherence to our professed values.  Do  some aggressive people, like those lilliputian rodeo wannabes, carry that through their lives every day, just one emotional trigger away from a catastrophe?  Is this hormonal–something to do with my age.  I don’t have any answers, but the questions are interesting.



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Random Found Photo: Chubby Checker

tumblr_m5s8lrYyXv1r34pqeo1_500Got to love Chubby Checker.  Other than The Chicken Dance, The Twist is the only dance I can do–and not look like an idiot.

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D.A.H.O.F. Jesus Take The Wheel?

Sometimes it’s just great to be alive–like when real life is better than comedy.


Prionda Hill

There ought to be a dumb ass hall of fame.

In fact, let’s have one–a Dumb Ass Hall of Fame.  For starters, we’ll induct someone every Monday morning.  Feel free to put your nominations on the comments section.

And now, without further adieu I give you Prionda Hill, who might want to reconsider that “Jesus is my co-pilot” bumper sticker.

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A Good Joke Issac Told Me


So, I heard a fun joke from an 11-year old yesterday at a swim meet. It’s probably an old one, but I hadn’t heard it. I laughed out loud and told him it was so good it needed to be in the internet. Thus:

A burgler breaks into an apartment and starts filling his sack with valuables when he hears a strange voice in the dark say, “Jesus is watching you!” The burgler shines his flashlight around but doesn’t see anyone, so he goes back to his burgling and stuffs more jewels and things into his bad.

“Jesus is watching you!” The voice calls out again, and the burgler just about jumps out of his shoes. Still, when he looks around him he sees nothing, so he goes back to stealing.

“Jesus is watching you!” Once more the spooky voice interupt him, and this time he looks more carefully and finally reveals a parrot in a cage in the corner. “Jesus is watching you!” The parrot says.

The burgler laughs and says, mockingly, to the parrot, “I suppose you’re Jesus?”

“No,” the parrot replies. “My name is Moses.”

The burgler laughs harder. “What kind of people name a parrot “Moses”?

“Pawwwwwwkk,” calls the parrot. “The same kind of people who name their rottweiller Jesus.”

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Pittsburgh: They Know How Awesome We Are In Austrailia

“Pittsburgh has gone from rustbucket city to thriving metropolis.”

STEEL is forged into the very identity of Pittsburgh.

The former industrial powerhouse’s American football team is named The Steelers, and at one stage the city produced one-third of all of the steel in the United States.

Pittsburgh was staunchly blue collar, with a strong manufacturing workforce engaged in well paid jobs.

Then everything fell apart.

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The Colorado Independent: News Poems

I’m continually scouring the internet, looking for poetry to roll around in like one of those crazed grizzlies on Kodiak Island loll about in rotting whale flesh–intoxicated by the joy and sensory overload of sustenance, bounty, excess.  I found that The Colorado Independent is doing a series on poems inspired by the news–don’t think about it, just check it out. 

With more to come, there are already a couple of really great pieces, especially this one, presently the most recent entry.

And while you’re there, check out this:
David Mason, the son of Colorado natives, is a literature and creative writing professor at Colorado College and the state’s poet laureate. He grew up in Washington state, lived overseas for many years and moved to Colorado to teach in 1998, determined to write something that anchored him in his people’s landscape. Mason’s 2007 verse novel, “Ludlow” (Red Hen Press), is 600 stanzas of poetry about fictional characters’ experience of the Colorado Coal War of 1913-1914. It’s also a meticulously reported journalistic study about coal miners’ struggle against the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, and the bloodshed and heartbreak that culminated in the state-led attack on the strikers, their wives and children 100 years ago this week. The book has inspired an opera by composer Lori Laitman. Mason recently spoke with Colorado Independent editor Susan Greene.

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Old Pittsburgh’s Westinghouse Sign

A blast from my childhood….

“Long before the lights from Pittsburgh’s PNC Park began illuminating the North Shore every summer, a local corporation gave the city an art show every night on the same grounds….”

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