Eric Candleass.

I first encountered Eric Candleass when I was in eighth grade. I was talking to a friend during a passing period before class, in the classroom where his next class was about to take place. Suddenly, somebody kicked me in the ass. I turned around and saw a tall, skinny kid leering down at me. I laughed nervously, hoping the assault was in jest. I had never seen the kid before, and thus had no reason to believe that he'd have a problem with me.

"Ha ha ha!" he said, mocking my laughter with a sneer. He shoved me, saying, "You fucking faggot!"

"Whoa, Eric, what's the problem, man?" asked another student.

"I fucking hate that little fucking faggot," he said, as I made my way to the door. "Yeah, get the fuck out of here!" he said.

I didn't know why he hated me, but he was bigger than I was and I learned to avoid him. I didn't have any more encounters with him that year, except for an occasional shout of "Hey, faggot!" as I walked down the hall.

Our school was both a junior and a senior high school. For the most part, the two groups of students were segregated for the majority of the day. In 9th grade, we began to share hallways with the older kids. Some of the older kids, mostly racist burnouts who I referred to as the Nazi stoners, made a sport out of shoving each other into smaller students or knocking the books out of their hands. One day, I was the pin in one of their human bowling games, and ended up being slammed into Eric. He started shoving my violently as the Nazi stoners laughed.

"I was pushed!" I pleaded.

"I don't care!" he shouted in my face, shoving me again, much to the delight of my tormentors. I scurried away as quickly as I could.

That same year, I started getting into zines, small photocopied magazines produced mostly by individuals and traded through the mail. Many of the zines I was receiving had poetry in them, so my friends and I somehow ended up starting a short lived routine of 'Poetry Minute' in the locker room after gym class. We would stand on a bench, read a couple poems, and then move on to our next class. I never noticed Eric at Poetry Minute, but one day after Poetry Minute he noticed me, dialing in the combination to my locker with a stack of zines in my other hand.

"What you got there?" he asked.

"Nothing," I said, knowing he wasn't being friendly.

"Doesn't look like nothing," he said, and tried to grab my zines. I resisted, and he grabbed me by the throat. My friend Aaron pulled him away from, saying, "Leave him alone."

"Fucking faggot!" Eric said as he walked away.

Every Friday in gym class we swam. One Friday, I was one of the last people to finish getting dressed, but my friend Sean was slower still and standing at his locker. The only other person in the part of the locker room we were in was Eric, who was in the other gym class that occurred at the same time as ours.

"Come on, Sean," I said as I walked towards the exit to the pool area. "What's taking you so long? Are you shaving your legs or something?"

I don't know what possessed me to say that, but it was a subtle jab at Eric. Rumor had it that he shaved his legs, because they were always really smooth. More likely it was because, despite being really tall, he hadn't fully hit puberty.

I walked to the exit to the pool area, where everybody was congregated and waiting for the teacher to unlock the door. I started talking to one of my friends, and then was shoved hard from behind. I slammed into my friend, and we both went crashing into the soda machine and then down to the floor.

"What the fuck did you say?" Eric yelled in my face as I got up from the floor. He towered over me, and I stood there, half-naked and scared, completely unsure of what to do. Fortunately, a big kid named Jeremy grabbed Eric from behind and carried him, squirming, out of that part of the locker room. "I'm going to kill that fucking faggot!" he yelled on the way out.

My friend Rick decided to fight Eric when we were in 10th grade. I don't remember exactly what his motivation was, but I think Eric had stolen something from him. When I heard about his intentions, I was jubilant, and followed the crowd down the hall as Rick attempted to start a fight. The kids who walked with us hated Eric, too, which surprised me because I thought I was the only one that had had problems with the guy. Rick would periodically shove Eric as we walked, and Eric would turn around and look at him, and then continue walking. Rick wasn't a particularly big guy, but he was a wrestler, and not nearly as skinny as I was. Apparently Eric wasn't that tough when it came to people closer to his own size.

At some point a bald kid named Jamie said, "Man, I would never shave my legs!" Eric turned around and pushed Jamie. Jamie was unfazed, saying, "Get the fuck off me!" Eric continued on his way, and we followed him, with Rick still periodically shoving him.

A short guy name Jason gently nudged Eric with his shoulder, quietly saying, "Come on, Eric." This time, Eric stopped. He grabbed Jason and put him in a headlock, and then Rick started punching Eric in the face. Before I even had time to know what was going on, Eric was on the ground, and a couple of kids were kicking him. For some reason I was carrying a plastic banana on a plastic string that I had found in the gym, and I began swinging it at him. Eric got up, and the fight went crashing into a classroom, where a bewildered teacher gasped and stood in shock for a moment before breaking up the scuffle. I noticed an older student, one of the tough-guy Nazi stoners, holding Rick by his shirt collar and telling him if he ever jumped in on a fight again, he would beat his ass.

When I walked to lunch later that day, Eric and a bunch of his big, tough-guy friends were standing outside of the cafeteria. They puffed out their chests and snickered at my friends and I as we walked by, but they didn't do anything.

Almost everybody involved in the fight was suspended for a week, including at least one kid who they claimed had encouraged the fight, even though all I remember him doing was following the crowd and waiting for something to happen. The only person who was there but wasn't kicked out was myself, and I had been physically involved, though just barely. I wondered later why I had chosen to hit him with a plastic banana, which weighed less than a pound and which he almost definitely did not feel at all. Perhaps, despite my intense hatred of the kid, I was still reluctant to actually hurt somebody. Maybe the fact that he was outnumbered and on the ground made me momentarily pity him. I don't know.

I was able to avoid Eric for the rest of the year, and then again for the next. His distaste for me no doubt never subsided, and my contempt for him never went away. I once overheard him in 11th grade bragging about how he had "fuckin' stomped a fuckin' bird" to death before school, and showing his buddies the gore leftover on his shoes.

On the first day of our senior year, I was walking around the cafeteria with a friend of mine. He stopped briefly to talk to somebody who was sitting at the same table as Eric.

"Look at this fucking faggot!" Eric said when he noticed me. I was a huge Misfits fan at the time, and wore my hair in their trademark devilock style, with my bangs combed to a point in front of my face. Eric, ever the opportunist, began making fun of my hair, saying, "You think that's fucking cool or something? It looks like you have a wad of fucking chud hanging off of your fucking face!" I stood there with my friend and didn't say anything. Eric threw some food at me, and then we walked away. For the rest of the week, I daydreamed of breaking his face with a food tray. In retrospect, I probably should have assaulted somebody who fucked with me at some point during school. Even if I had ended up getting my ass kicked, in the long run I probably would have had to endure less of that sort of bullshit.

Apparently Eric had beaten up some kid during the summer before school started, and now he felt like a huge badass. Not that huge of a badass, though, because his new target was still a scrawny kid named me. He started messing with me regularly, calling me a faggot and a spick, tripping me in the hallway, and claiming he was going to come to "Spick Town" to beat my ass. The thing is, I'm half-Filipino and half-white, not Hispanic, and I never lived in the area he referred to as "Spick Town," which didn't even really have any Hispanic people living in it, anyway. Furthermore, he was friends with a couple Mexican kids, and his skin was darker than mine. I had always assumed he was mixed himself, despite his white supremacy and pasty siblings.

Taking a cue from The Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy, my friend Pat and I had begun a campaign of shouting, " I'm gay!" at random people, both to befuddle them and to enrage the homophobes, of which there were many.

"Hey, I'm gay!" Pat shouted at Eric one day as he walked by.

"Hey, I'll kick you!" Eric told him.

"I'll kick you in the nuts!" said Pat.

Eric turned around. He got in Pat's face. More accurately, he put his chest in Pat's face, as Pat was a small, short kid, and Eric still towered over everybody. I stepped closer, indicating that I had Pat's back if things escalated to physical violence.

"I'll kick your fucking ass!" he said, "You and your fucking little spick friend here!"

"Paul's not even Mexican," Pat said, "He's Filipino, and he doesn't live in Sumava, either."

"Oh, he's a fucking spick, alright, and I'll come to fucking spick town and I'll fucking kill all you little fuckers!" His face was contorted in rage, and little beads of white spit were forming at the corners of his mouth. He looked so ridiculous, I couldn't help laughing a little. A few people were watching to see what would happen, among them my brother, a seventh grader only recently introduced to our friendly school.

"You wear that Insane Clown Posse shirt everyday," Pat said, "and they rap about killing racist people."

"Do you see me wearing it now, you little fucking faggot? I'll fucking kill all of you little faggots!"

My friend Jeff turned to me and asked, "Did he just call you a faggot?"

"I believe he did," I told him. What happened next surprised the hell out of me, because I didn't realize that we were close enough friends for him to stick up for me the way he did. He got in Eric's face.

"Who the fuck do you think you are, fucking with people like this?" he asked, inches from Eric. Jeff wasn't a particularly big guy, but he was bigger than either Pat or myself. Eric was still taller, though.

"I'll fucking take all of you!" Eric growled through clenched teeth, his body literally shaking with rage and anticipation.

Throughout the entire confrontation, I was ready for things to get violent. I wasn't sure of the outcome, but I knew that if it came to blows Eric would be facing at least three of us. Somehow, though, the situation diffused itself and we went on to our next class. Eric continued to call me a spick and make threats, and I feared being caught by him alone, as I probably would have been doomed.

He disappeared a couple months into the school year. I think he got sent to the "alternative school," though I was never really sure of the purpose of the place. Maybe it was for assholes who couldn't behave like civilized humans, or maybe it was for kids who couldn't do their homework. Either way, I was glad never to have to see that guy again.


Bill and Ted teach vocabularity.

My uncle brought my cousins and I to see Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure when I was eight years old, introducing me to two characters who I knew were completely awesome simply by the way they spoke. Years before Wayne's World, Bill and Ted were teaching kids to speak in a manner both impressive to their peers and bewildering to adults. By the time the sequel came out, my friends had turned me on to the smooth musical stylings of heavy metal, the preference of both Bill and Ted, so I was even more enamoured by the duo. I decided to do everything within my power to become as excellent as they were. Everything in my power turned out to be emulating their parlance by speaking in a stoner drawl and adopting their vocabulary, the meaning of their words derived only by the context in which they were used. To my friends in fifth grade, I sounded like a sly badass. To the educated adults around me, I sounded like a damn fool.

One day, a classmate of mine named Keith was telling me about some tragic events that had recently befallen his cousin. Keith was a compulsive liar, and by this time I knew of the fact because I had made up the name of an imaginary rap group that I supposedly listened to all the time, and he had told me that he had a bunch of their tapes. Still, I gave him the benefit of the doubt while listening to his tale. Keith told me about how his cousin had been sitting in his living room one night when a bullet had flown throw the window and into his face. He was still alive, but obviously not doing as well as he could have been on account of having been shot in the face. I seized the opportunity to demonstrate my excellent lexicon.

"Bogus," I said, indicating my displeasure with the notion of his cousin being shot in the face.

"No," said our teacher, who was sitting at her desk and listening in on our conversation. "That's not bogus at all. It's very real."

"Oh," I said, caught off guard. I thought for a moment and then pulled some more of Bill and Ted's vocabulary out of my bag of tricks. "That is non non non non non non non non heinous," I said, adding extra nons because the situation was extra terrible.

"No," said our teacher, "It's very heinous."

"Oh," I said, and then remained silent. From that point on, I only imitated Bill and Ted when safely out of the earshot of adults, who I guessed simply weren't cool enough to know what the hell I was saying.


He's a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

I didn't always hate Christmas. When I was a little kid, I thought it was awesome. It was that special time of year where we didn't have to go to school for what seemed like forever, and then one night, while running around and playing with our cousins, we got a bunch of new toys. It was great.

I didn't know that Christmas had anything to do with Christianity until I moved to Indiana, where everybody was deeply religious. I was 10 years old by that time. My family wasn't religious, but I hadn't developed my contempt for religion by that point, so I didn't really care. Christmas was still the time of year for not going to school and for getting a bunch of new toys. It was still my favorite holiday.

It wasn't until high school that I began to hate religion. I got sick of all the assholes using Jesus as their excuse for sexism and homophobia. I got sick of the self-righteous bastards pointing their fingers and telling me that I was going to go to Hell for completely absurd reasons. I got sick of being seemingly the only person, among smart people and idiots alike, that didn't believe in silly ancient superstitions about a man being nailed to a stick and saving everybody's souls. I was so disgusted by the prevailing irrational beliefs that I stopped celebrating Christmas.

But not really.

A friend of mine invented a new holiday, Cakeamongo, that I began celebrating. Cakeamongo was the non-denominational celebration of cake that involved nothing more than eating cake and exchanging gifts. But like the early Christians who had hijacked the December 25th holiday already celebrated by the pagans, renamed it, and ascribed it new meaning, we had just taken the December 25th holiday already celebrated by the Christians, renamed it, and ascribed it new meaning. For years, I was still celebrating Christmas, but I was calling it something else.

As I grow older, I find that my distaste for organized religion has changed. It's not that I don't find it stupid and annoying, because I certainly still do, but the more I think about it, the more dangerous it seems. I honestly believe that religion is by far the greatest threat to mankind that we face. As technology develops, it becomes easier and easier to kill huge numbers of people at one time. We live in a time in which thousands of people can be wiped off the face of the earth in a single stroke, and still huge numbers of people believe in ideologies that teach that the killing of believers in the wrong god is okay. I don't believe that religion is the primary reason that people kill each other, but it sure as hell is a great motivator and justifier. It certainly helps people divide themselves into groups, rather than thinking of themselves as members of one species. If the middle east was populated by poor-as-fuck Christians, and America was populated by wealthy, spoiled Muslims, I don't think things would really be much different than they are today. Millions of Americans believe that we're living in the end times, and that incredible amounts of death and destruction are just part of what's required for Jesus to come back. If things got bad here, I'd expect to see Christians become just as murderous as the Muslim extremists we hear so much about. I don't think it's an accident that the craziest strains of Christianity are followed by the poorest, most uneducated people in the country, just like the craziest strains of any other religion worldwide.

And you know what? I don't want to celebrate a holiday that has anything to do with those crazy, irrational, and downright fucking dangerous old myths.

It's not just the religious aspect of Christmas that I hate, either. I find mindless consumerism to be ridiculous, as well. I do find it kind of funny, though, that the American public has been suckered by huge, money-making corporations into believing that the best way to celebrate the birth of the ultimate anti-materialist is to buy lots of stuff. Still, I want no part of it. It's kind of sad when people believe that the best way to show that they care about a person is to give them material possessions. Material possessions that, in many if not most cases, the person would not have purchased for themselves if given the money and opportunity.

"Sorry I haven't talked to you all year, but I still totally care about you. To prove it, here's some stuff I purchased for you, wrapped in festive holiday paper."

I understand that many people, religious and secular, think of Christmas as a time of goodwill. They think of it as a time for family. That sounds good, but what about the rest of the year? In December, you're nice to your fellow humans, you see your folks, and then you get to be an asshole the rest of the year? I'm all in favor of being a good person, and I'm all in favor of being close to your family, but I think it's horribly selfish to only do it once a fucking year.

I've been called a Grinch, and a Scrooge, and a cheapass for not wanting to participate in holiday gift-giving. It's not that. It's just that I dislike Christianity, consumerism, and the idea that there are only certain times when you should behave like a decent human being.


A slave to convenience.

I hate McDonalds. I've told myself time and time again that I really need stop eating at that place. The food really sucks, and they have a tendency to fuck up my simple orders. Still, I usually end up eating there about once a week on my lunch break. Why? Because it's so damn convenient, that's why. It's the drive-through place closest to my place of work, and it's the only one besides Wendy's that isn't at least 15 minutes away.

From ninth grade until just a few years ago, I was a really strict vegetarian. Now, as a result of getting older and having my own problems to worry about, I can't bring myself to give as much of a damn as I used to about issues like animal rights, which is something I used to be on the verge of militancy about. Still, my years of meat-eating abstinence have caused me to think most meat is really too vile to eat, and a hamburger is about as appealing to me as a nice hot chunk of dog or cat on a bun would be to most of my fellow Americans. I can generally only eat meat if I can trick my brain into believing it's not really a juicy chunk of animal. I can do that with chicken McNuggets if I drown them in enough sauce. I don't think they taste good, but they're edible and provide me with sustenance when I'm hungry and on my lunch break, and I don't even have to get out of my car.

If I wasn't so damn lazy, I'd bring my own lunch to work every day. That would be the best solution. I haven't been very motivated about making something to bring to work in the morning, though. I wake up in the afternoon without much time to spare before I have to leave. I've tried to adjust my schedule since moving, but I still can't seem to wake up in the morning like a normal human being. I guess I could make something at night, but whatever. Leaving on my lunch break provides me with a moment away from the job, at any rate, and that's always appreciated.

If I was slightly less lazy, I could always choose one of the better options available for consumers willing to leave their vehicles in the evening. That, too, would be better than eating at McDonalds. Maybe it's just laziness, maybe it's me being antisocial, or maybe it's a combination of the two factors, but eating shitty food often seems like the better option, rather than getting out of my car to eat something that actually tastes halfway decent. A couple weeks ago, the cold weather saved me from another night of McNuggets by freezing my window shut. I figured if I had to get out of my car, I sure as fuck wasn't going to eat at McDonalds. I went to Jimmy John's instead, and got a veggie sub. Those actually taste alright, though I could be biased because I feel better knowing no blood was spilt to make said sandwich.

Whenever my order gets fucked up at McDonalds, I don't know what to think. Last night, when they put ice in my drink after I asked them not to, I shrugged it off and figured, "Ah, whatever, I wouldn't care at all if I worked there." The time before that, though, when I didn't get sauce, rendering my nuggets inedible, I thought, "These idiots can't fill a simple order, I really hope they don't breed." Sometimes when I don't get napkins in my visibly greasy bag, I'm pissed. Other times, I don't care at all. It's probably more of a reflection of my own mood than anything else, though. I should be expecting them to mess something up, it probably only bothers me when I'm in a lousy mood to begin with. It gives me something to direct my anger at, even if they're not the real source of my frustrations. Perhaps I frequent McDonalds because subconsciously I'm looking for a place to vent. Or maybe I'm just over analyzing what it means to get poor service at a fucking fast food joint.

All of the McDonalds packaging lately advertises their gift cards as some sort of completely awesome gift. If anybody ever gave me one of those, for any reason at all, I'd never talk to that stupid fucking asshole ever again. In fact, I think if I knew anybody who gave anybody one of those things, I'd never talk to that stupid fucking asshole again. Fuck McDonalds. Why aren't there places that sell good food in a drive-through fashion?


Don't believe in Science Fiction.

When I was in fifth grade, I used to go to the local library about once a week. It was an incredibly tiny building near the elementary school, and had only one room full of books. Each time I went there, I would head straight to the back of the building, where a lone shelf held the library's science fiction section. I had no real interest in reading anything else at all at that point, except for Dungeons and Dragons books that the library didn't carry.

My grandma was visiting one weekend and offered to take me to the library. Always anxious to feed my head with tales of interplanetary adventures, I happily agreed. As usual, when we got there, I perused the science fiction shelf. On this particular day, I couldn't seem to find anything particularly interesting, save a series of books that looked like it would be an undertaking to read in their entirety. The books were thick, heavy tomes, and there were a lot of them, enough to fill up an entire row of shelving. I had always noticed them, but had never felt up to the task of reading the whole thing. Since I couldn't find anything else to read, I decided I may as well give it a shot. I figured if it was good, it would be something to keep me entertained for a long time. I checked out the first book in the series.

On the ride back home, my grandma looked at the book sitting in my lap, and began to tell me about how the book wasn't true.

"It's just somebody's opinion," she said, "and you shouldn't believe it."

"I know," I said, wondering why she would think that I would take science fiction as fact. She talked for a while longer about how some people believe things that aren't true, and that I should never believe something just because I read it in a book.

I didn't realize until years later that the reason she was probably telling me not to believe what I read in that book was because she recognized the name of the author. At the time, I didn't know that L. Ron Hubbard was anything other than a science fiction writer. My grandmother, a very deeply religious woman, had probably read warnings about Hubbard's money-making cult, Scientology, and wanted to make sure I didn't end up believing in it. The irony is that many years later, she would send me a Christian inspirational novel in an effort to win me over to Jesus. Too bad I was taught not to believe everything I read.

I didn't read more than 30 pages of the book I checked out. It turned out that despite being able to write a series that filled up a whole shelf, L. Ron Hubbard just wasn't a very good science fiction writer.


An error.

Last night, while driving home from work, I came around a bend and saw a cop waiting for speeders in the dark. I was doing almost 50 when I was supposed to be doing 35, and when I passed him I felt my heart thumping while I watched him in my rear view mirror. He didn't leave his spot, but I saw another cop sitting at an intersection a few moments away from where the first cop was sitting. The light turned yellow, but I had time, so I drove through the intersection. I thought I may have seen the light turn red as I was almost through it, and I worried the second cop would follow me. I watched my rear view mirror, and sure enough, he turned in my direction and started heading towards me.

The cop was far enough behind me that when I followed a curve in the road, he briefly disappeared from my mirror. I considered making a quick turn into a residential area, but I got worried about how I would explain myself when the cop started asking the standard five thousand questions about where I was from and where I was going. I kept driving, and when he got close, I knew it was only a matter of time before he pulled me over for something.

When he did turn his disco lights on, there wasn't a shoulder for me to pull over onto, so I just stopped in the lane I was in. I used to immediately fish out my wallet, insurance, and registration, but I heard they hate that, so I opened my window and kept my hands on the wheel where he could see them.

"You're being pulled over for driving with expired plates," he said, "Let me see your license."

"Oh, I knew about that," I said, reaching over and fumbling through my glove box. They had sent me the thing in the mail, but I hadn't taken care of it yet, thinking I still had a little bit of time. I tend to do most things I'm supposed to at the last minute.

"I don't need to see your registration," he said, "I already know it's expired. It's been expired for 21 days. I just need your license."

"Oh," I said, pulling my wallet out, "I thought it expired, like, today."

"It expires on your birthday," he said, taking my license. "Find your proof of insurance while I run this."

As he walked away, I thought, On my birthday? That hasn't happened yet.

I looked through my glove box, pulling out all sorts of receipts, old insurance cards, and old registration cards. I noticed a burnt CD sitting on my passenger seat was labeled BONGZILLA - STASH, so I started dropping papers on top of it, in case he could use that as an excuse to search my car. I didn't have anything I shouldn't have had, but they've been known to intentionally make a complete mess when they toss the car. The most recent insurance card I had expired a few months ago, and I started rehearsing in my head how I was going to tell them that GEICO completely fucking sucks and doesn't send you proof of insurance unless you request it, even though I paid my insurance last night, which was true.

"Mr. Sailor," he said when he came back, "I've made an error. Your plates aren't expired."

"Oh," I said, taking my license back, "That's what I thought."

"I apologize. Have a good night."

"Thanks," I chuckled, "You too."

In other cop news, I got a call this morning from the detective assigned to my case when I got robbed a few months ago. They caught one of the guys a while back, and I guess he's been locked up ever since. He was originally charged with strong arm robbery, which is a 15-year felony, but made a deal where he pleaded no contest to larceny from a person, a 10-year felony. It turns out the little fucker was a juvenile, so he's being held at a juvenile facility until he turns 17, at which point they transfer him somewhere or something, I don't really know. I'm sort of surprised about the outcome, because generally I don't feel that cops really do that much to actually solve or stop crime, and I almost definitely would not have even reported the incident if somebody hadn't witnessed it and called the cops on my behalf. Now I just find myself wishing I had any faith in the corrections aspect of the criminal justice system. I'm worried that the kid will come out an ever bigger thug than the one he went in as, but I've been wrong about other things, so hopefully I'm wrong about this, too.


Kiser and the jar of pee.

In 11th grade, I took what was supposed to be my last year of high school math. It was a total blowoff class, a very basic math class that was essentially free credits for me. I didn't do any of my homework and never studied, but I was able to pass it just by taking the tests. Unfortunately, it turned out that my guidance counselor, who was working his last year at the school, didn't know what he was doing, and I would end up having to take another math class the next year.

My teacher was a dude named Kiser, a first year teacher with a very young face and incredibly timid demeanor. His first year of teaching would also be his last, and in retrospect I feel terrible about the role I played in helping drive him away from the profession. I'm convinced, though, that even if I hadn't contributed to the shit he had to deal with, he still would never have made it as a high school teacher. Students walked all over him all day long.

My friend Jason and I used to cause trouble for him on a daily basis. We'd do things like turn a desk sideways, and then stand in front of it pretending that we were too utterly confused by the sideways desk to do any work or listen to him. I would sometimes sneak out of class and wander the halls, something I didn't dare do in any other class. Jason used to smoke pot in his class and blow the smoke into a cabinet near his desk, which did next to nothing to mask the odor. Afterwards, he'd go talk to Kiser with his eyes glazed over and his breath reeking of ganja, and Kiser would never do anything about it. We weren't the only ones in my class who gave him shit, though, it was pretty much a team effort, with nearly the entire class contributing. Within a month of teaching, he had already been in trouble twice for things that we had collectively convinced him were OK to let us do: going to lunch five minutes before anybody else was let out of class, and walking around outside on the cross country track (half the class came back completely stoned). As a general rule, nobody listened to Kiser, and everybody did whatever the hell they wanted.

Kiser used to let us get into groups to do our homework, but nobody ever did their homework, instead opting to talk and goof off. One day, the group I was in was snacking on a jar of pickles that one of our classmates had stolen from the home economics room. When the pickles were gone, somebody remarked on the similarity between the color of pickle brine and that of urine.

"Let me see that," I said, taking the jar. I put in under my desk and unzipped my pants. Everybody in my group started laughing, and even though I hadn't been serious to begin with, I decided it might be a good idea to actually pee into the jar. My group convinced me that it was, indeed, a terrific idea. I couldn't pee in front of people, so I stuck the jar in my pocket and asked Kiser if I could go to the bathroom. Generally, students were never allowed to go to the bathroom in any class, except in the case of a dire emergency, but Kiser had a policy of letting people get one bathroom pass per grading period. In actual practice, though, some of just got up and peed whenever we damn well felt like it.

I walked to the bathroom with the jar bulging from my pants, worried that some teacher might see it and ask what was in my pocket. I was even more scared on the way back, because there was no way I was going to be able to explain why I was carrying a jar of warm pee. Fortunately, nobody saw me.

When I got back to class, everybody in my group was silent as I sat down. They looked at me, and I looked at them. When I took the jar of pee from my pocket and set it on the desk, they erupted into riotous laughter. Pee is almost always hilarious.

The bell for lunch rang a couple minutes after I had set the jar of pee on my desk. My classmates encouraged me to bring it with me, or at the very least leave it on my desk, since we were coming back to that class after lunch, anyway. I was too scared, though, so I threw it in the trash on the way out.

About a month later, I asked Kiser if I could go to the bathroom.

"No," he said, "You already used your bathroom pass for this grading period."

"What?" I asked, feigning incredulousness, "When? I never went to the bathroom this grading period!"

"Yes, you did," he said, "Do you remember the pickle jar incident?"

"Are you trying to imply something?" Jason asked.

"Yeah, what are you implying?" I asked, doing my best to sound completely offended.

"Nothing," he said, "I'm just saying you guys were eating pickles that day."

The last thing I heard about Kiser was that he had grown a huge beard and become a missionary. Poor guy. High school kids are such dicks.


"That's a nice shirt!"

I sometimes wear my internet nerdism on my chest in the form of a shirt with the word GOATSE printed on it, with little hands on each side of the word stretching it across the shirt. For any readers fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the term, goatse was one of the original internet shock sites. I first experienced goatse in high school, when one of my friends sent me a link and told me it was completely awesome. Unaware of what I was in for, I clicked the link and was confronted with an image of a man bending over and stretching his anus to legendary proportions. Shocking, indeed.

I was visiting my mom and brother not too long ago, and I was wearing the shirt.

"Ooh, that's a nice shirt!" my mom said when I came downstairs after taking a shower in the morning. My brother looked at the shirt and shook his head, and I just started laughing.

"That's gross," my brother said.

"What? What is it?" my mom asked.

I kept laughing as my brother explained to her what goatse was.

"That is gross!" she said.


The rats in the walls.

I've been living in my new place for less than two weeks now, and I think I might slowly be adjusting to more of a normal human schedule. Ideally, I'd like to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. I've been waking up at two in the afternoon and going to bed at five or six in the morning for a few years now, but now that I'm living with people who are awake during the day and asleep when I get home, I figure it would probably be best if I was able to adjust to a somewhat similar schedule. I've been trying to go to bed much earlier, and when it works I can wake up at around noon, but usually it doesn't work and I just lay there for most of the night. Last night was one of those laying awake nights, but I think I may have gotten to sleep earlier were it not for some animal, possibly living within my walls, making a lot of noise.

I was laying in bed at around 2:30, when I heard a noise coming from the other side of the room. It sounded like it was coming from behind my dresser, or somewhere in that general area.


I listened to it for a few seconds, wondering if it might be one of my roommates doing something outside of my room. I wasn't entirely awake, so it took me a few moments to realize that it was definitely coming from the other side of the room, and it was probably some kind of animal. I figured there was no way it was something as small as a mouse, because it was fairly loud. I tried to figure out what it could be doing to make that noise, and the only thing I could think of was that it might be trying to chew through the wall, or through my dresser. I turned on the lamp next to my bed and the noise stopped. I walked over to the the dresser and looked behind it, and under it, but couldn't see anything in the dark. I moved around the guitar cases next to the dresser, but couldn't find anything there, either. I turned off the light and tried to sleep again.


The noise started up again a few minutes after I had turned off the light. I turned the light back on and once again the noise stopped. I walked back over to the dresser and moved my guitar cases around. I thought I heard something inside of one, but figured it was probably just the sound of the case rubbing against the wall. In truth, my fear of a bigass rat jumping out at me probably contributed to my unwillingness to open the case. I got back in bed and turned off the light.


When I turned on the light the third time, the noise didn't stop. I walked back to the dresser and started moving the guitar cases again, and this time I heard something scurry up the wall. I jumped at the noise heading towards my head, but it was obviously on the other side of the wall. The sound of tiny footsteps disappeared into the ceiling above my head, which is arched to match the top of the house.

I'm really hoping that the mystery creature was actually outside of the house, and not inside of the walls. I'm hopeful that this is the case, because there is already a hole in the wall that the last guy who lived there made so he could run speakers into the next room. If the animal wanted to get into my room, it could just use that hole instead of chewing a new one. As for the sound stopping when I turn on the lights, hopefully it's because the window is only a few feet from where the sound originated, and the light emanating from it frightened the thing into silence.

I guess time may tell what the mystery creature is, and where it is, and what it's doing. I may never hear from the thing again, or I may end up devoured by vermin.


Jacked at gunpoint.

I was in Nashville, Tennessee, about a week after being kidnapped and taken there by the girl I was dating at the time. The two of us were sitting on the top of a hill where a cellphone tower stood, looking down at the city lights as the sun was setting. We had been sitting there for about ten minutes when three large black men jogged up to where we were sitting. They were dressed casually in shorts and t-shirts, breathing heavily from their run, and were friendly as hell.

"How you guys doing?" one of them asked, shaking our hands.


"What are you guys up to tonight?" he asked.

"Just hanging out."

The three men walked away for a few moments and talked amongst themselves. I was almost positive they were going to offer us weed. When they walked back over to where we were sitting, the one who had spoken to us before crouched down beside us.

"Now here's the deal," he said, showing us a gun he was holding, "I need money."

My immediate thought was, Godfuckingdamnit, motherfucking cocksuckers! I knew the chances of us actually getting shot were incredibly low, so I wasn't scared, but I also knew I was going to have to give them what little money I had, and that was just annoying as hell. I looked at the girl, and she was obviously completely terrified, but I hoped my casual demeanor would convince her that we weren't really in much danger.

I sighed and pulled my wallet out. As I handed it to the guy with the gun, I asked if I could at least keep my ID. I knew that would be the hardest thing to replace.

"How much is in here?" he asked, not answering my question.

"About forty bucks," I said. I was jobless and bummy at the time, and carried absolutely all of my money with me, but luckily I had stashed most of it in my backpack, which was still in the car. He took the money out and threw the wallet back on the ground where I was sitting. I was relieved that I would get to keep my drivers license, but moments after throwing it down, another one of those douchebags picked it back up.

My girl had money in a couple of her pockets, and they searched her, saying, "Don't play no games, we don't want anybody to have to get killed." I had a brief, horrifying thought that they might try to get other forms of gratification out of her, but fortunately nothing of the sort transpired. They were smart enough to know they needed to get what they were after and leave as quickly as possible. They took her money, cellphone, and cigarettes, and then asked me if I had anything else.

"I have some chapstick and a yo-yo," I told them. Unlike the next time I got robbed, they let me keep my chapstick.

"None of ya'll move until we say so!" one of them said as they ran off. We waited a few minutes and left. She called her dad, who said we'd have to file a report with the police, even though both of us were convinced that it would be completely useless. On the way to his place, where we were going to meet the cops, I called one of my friends.

"Dude," I told him, "You'll never believe what happened. We got fucking jacked at gunpoint! It was such a fucking thrill!"
Coolmongous - Precious

Another installment of my brother's Coolmongous cartoon. Dig it.


"Why don't you draw me a picture?"

One day in fifth grade music class, we had to take some sort of written test. I was the first one done, and raised my hand to ask what I should do with my test.

"Why don't you turn it over and draw me a picture?" the teacher said. She was an old, kind lady who made us sing songs about the glory of the Lord. It was a public school, but in rural Indiana, they just assume that absolutely everybody is a Christian, or at least should be, and nobody ever complained about their kids having to sing religious songs.

Being a Dungeons and Dragons nerd, I turned over my test and drew an Orc. He was holding a sword, dripping with blood, and his face was slashed and bleeding, because he had just been involved in a battle with some other ferocious monster.

A few minutes later, the teacher started walking around collecting tests from the kids who had finished.

"Let's see what you drew me," she said with a big smile stretched across her face. As soon as she saw what I had drawn, though, her smile instantly disappeared, replaced by what could only be described as a look of shock or horror. She didn't say anything as she walked away, collecting tests from other students, her upbeat mood shaken.

I'm not really sure what she expected a fifth grade boy to draw. I'm pretty everything my friends and I drew at that age had some element of violence to it.


I'm not really a computer guy, but you really are an idiot.

"Let me see the bottom of your mouse," she said, picking up the mouse on my desk and flipping it over.

"Uh, OK."

"No, that's not it," she said, putting it back down. "Somebody keeps stealing mine and replacing it with a broken one. I'm so pissed off about it."

"What's wrong with it?" I asked, sympathetic because people were always stealing shit from my desk, too.

"I move it around, and it doesn't go where I want it to. Like, it sticks."

"Oh, that's easy to fix," I said, flipping the mouse over and popping out the ball inside. "You see these strips of gunk built up on these bars?"


"Well, you just scrape that crap off with a paperclip or your fingernail," I told her, and scraped the crap off with my fingernail. I put the ball back in and moved the arrow around my screen.

"Oh," she said. She paused for a second, and then said, "Well, I'm just gonna call the tech help desk to see if they'll give me a new one."


Flo: professional gangsta rapper.

There was a retarded kid at my high school who everybody called Flo. I always assumed he got the name because of his imaginary rhyming skills, but I later found out that it was actually short for Florence, which was his real name. Flo would walk around the cafeteria, taking peoples' trays up to the conveyor belt when they were done eating. Every so often, though, for absolutely no reason, he would decide not to take a person's tray up, and ask, "What am I? Your nigger?" A friend of mine hypothesized that the whole tray-taking routine was nothing more than a ruse that would give him an excuse to say that once in a while.

The true awesomeness of Flo wasn't the fact that he'd usually save you a trip across the cafeteria to drop your tray off. No, the true awesomeness of Flo was that he would "rap." If you gave Flo a few coins, he would generate several lines of gangsta-rap cliches that almost never rhymed.

"I was walking down this street. I had my hoes at my side. And then I saw this nigger. So I capped him in the ass. Damn! Payback's a bitch!"

I always wondered if Flo actually thought he could rap. People were enthusiastic about his raps, and encouraged him by giving him their pocket change, but his raps always ended with the table of people listening to him laughing enthusiastically, and Flo walking away with their empty lunch trays. I didn't know whether or not I should feel sorry for him, but I gave him a fair share of nickels and dimes for his trouble. It was undeniably entertaining as hell.

"I got a fat sack of weed. I got cash money and a gun. Don't mess with me on the street. I'll pull out my gat!"

The last time I saw Flo was on the last day of eleventh grade. Instead of making us go to class and showing us movies, which was the usual last day of class routine, they let all the students go outside. I sat with Flo and a group of friends on the bleachers on the far side of the football field, away from the meddling eyes of authority figures. One of the substitute teachers, only a few years older than the graduating class, was walking around the track that circled the football field with two female students. Every time they'd walk by, we'd all make semi-loud, but vague, comments about how he was going to get laid. On the fourth or fifth time around the track, Flo decided he would join in on the fun. Unfortunately, the art of subtlety escaped poor Flo, but he did his best.

"Hey!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, "You fucking faggot! You're going to fuck them in the fucking ass!"

We all started laughing uncontrollably. The substitute teacher turned around momentarily, puffing out his chest like he was going to beat up a retarded kid, which made us laugh even harder. They walked away, and a few minutes later a different teacher came and told us we weren't allowed to sit on those bleachers since there was nobody there to supervise us.


Worthless, thieving scumbags.

Every single time I stock my desk at work with office supplies, somebody comes along and takes everything. It usually stays there for a couple days, I use a little of it, and then one day I come in and and it's absolutely all gone.

My desk is in the corner, semi-secluded. Unless it's the day shift person taking my shit and sticking it in their half of the desk, which they lock, or the day shift person at the desk next to mine doing the same thing, somebody has to make a trip to take my stuff. Wherever they're coming from, it's pretty unlikely that they're saving themselves much time at all by stealing all my stuff, because if they're walking across the department, they may as well go to where the supplies are kept.

I can't even put into words how much this pisses me off. Somebody with absolutely no consideration for other people is wasting my time to save a negligible amount of their own. I don't want to have to lock my fucking desk. I shouldn't have to.

The saddest part of this is that I know whoever this person is does this to everybody, wherever they go, all the time. Fucking scumbag!

Today, when I found all my stuff gone again, instead of restocking the desk in the traditional manner, I wrapped my stuff in plastic and hid it in the dust-bunny infested space between the desk and the wall. Now my desk will be a mystery to the thief; when they come to steal my stuff, they'll wonder how I do any work with no supplies, and then they'll have to go elsewhere.


The funny looking rock.

When I was really little, I was visiting my grandpa and playing in his backyard. I liked to lift up rocks and collect the bugs crawling around underneath them. I also kept an eye out for interesting looking rocks to take home and stick in an empty cookie tin that was my "rock collection." In truth, it was mostly gravel, but I had a couple of neat looking ones. On this particular day, amidst the spiders and beetles, I found a completely awesome looking rock. It was unlike any other rock I had ever seen, but it was hard, dry, and stiff, so it was definitely a rock. I picked it up, excited about the new acquisition for my collection.

I brought it inside and showed my mom and my grandpa, who immediately made me throw it away and thoroughly wash my hands. I was still convinced that it was a rock, but they told me it was actually a dried up old dog turd.


Morgan loves my girlfriend, hates me.

I first became aware of Morgan during my senior year in high school. For half an hour a day, I sat in my homeroom class being bombarded by the mandatory youth advertising program called Channel One, and that's where I first encountered him. Morgan was a couple years younger than I was, so my homeroom couldn't have been his officially, but since he was good buddies with the teacher, he was in there every single day. Since it was an art room, Morgan would try to impress me with his low-quality artwork, expensive possessions, and various lies. I always found him to be obnoxious, but I was too nice to do anything other than listen to his incessant stream of bullshit.

"Check out my portfolio," he said one day, holding up a large, flat, leather case for carrying his artwork around. "It was almost two hundred dollars!"

"Nice," I said, not wanting to point out that owning an expensive case doesn't make one a decent artist.

Another time, he tried to feed me a completely absurd line of bullshit about how he was paid thousands of dollars, flown to California, and given a contract to "design surfboards" for many more thousands of dollars. I nodded, said "Wow," and pretended to believe him. I didn't see any real reason to shoot the poor guy down.

I tolerated Morgan's attempts at friendship for a few months. I never initiated conversation with him, but would humor him when he talked to me. He was a sycophant, and would act like everything I said or did was completely awesome, the only exception being the time he saw a 666 written in marker on the inside of my sweatshirt, and remarked, "That stuff is retarded." Morgan's attitude towards me changed abruptly when he found out I was involved with a girl who I later found out had rejected him.

"Hey, you know who likes you?" he said one day, laughing, "Sara Wiscowicz."

"I like her, too," I said.

Morgan's smile instantly faded and was replaced by a frown. He looked away from me and back down at his art project that he was working on.

"No comment," he uttered, as if I had asked him for a statement on the matter. He didn't talk to me for the rest of the homeroom period.

The very next day, a guy in my math class told me that Morgan, who rode his bus, had been talking about me on the way to school.

"He was going on and on about how much he hates your web page, saying you're retarded and stuff," the guy told me. Back then, I had a page that was virtually identical to this one, but with more boring day-to-day bits that nobody who didn't know me would be interested in, and more talk about smashing capitalism by means of excessive condiment procurement. It was a personal blog, though nobody called them that back then.

During homeroom, Morgan launched into a poorly-thought out tirade against me.

"Hey, I looked at your web page," he said.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah," he said, "It's retarded! It doesn't make any sense!"

"Why not?" I asked.

"You say there's capitalism in America! There's no capitalism in America! You should go to Europe! They're fighting wars over there over capitalism!"

Sitting at my table were three European foreign exchange students, whose mouths literally dropped open when Morgan said this.

"Are you serious?" I asked, shocked that somebody could have made it to tenth grade and still be dumb enough to say something like that. He was very serious, though, and for the next five minutes, he kept repeating the same points over and over: your web page is retarded; your web page makes no sense; and there is no capitalism in America, but they are fighting wars about it in Europe. I made some feeble attempts at correcting him, but he was getting so worked up that the teacher told him to calm down and just get the fuck away from me.

For the rest of the year, until I graduated, my friends and I were locked in a ridiculous cycle with Morgan. First, he'd make fun of or threaten one of us with his "fists of steel," then we'd make fun of him, then he'd tell on us and we'd be called to the office, where they told us not to bother him. And then he'd immediately start the cycle over again.

I don't know what ever happened to the guy, but I still have a promotional magnet with a picture of his mom on my refrigerator. I just think it's funny.


That guy took a drink out of the trash!

There was a period where I would always get free drinks by pulling a used cup out of the trash and getting a free refill. The trick also worked for buckets of popcorn pulled out of the trash at the movie theatre, which made for great free times after sneaking in without paying in the first place. Humans are equipped with this wonderful thing called an immune system, which protects them from nasty communicable illnesses, and I never got sick doing this. I no longer advocate such behavior, though, or even partake myself, out of fear of finally catching something from the practice. If I knew what my odds were, I'd probably still be doing it, but ignorance can be terrifying. In truth, it's probably almost as safe as eating in any restaurant. You don't know where the people making your food have been any more than you know where the person who threw away their cup has been.

Once, I was waiting in line at Taco Bell when I decided to show my friend how it was done. I went to the trash, pulled out a cup, got a refill, and got back in line.

"See that? Free drink!" I said.

"That lady is telling on you," he said, and pointed behind me. A woman was sitting with her teenage daughter, pointing me out to an employee with a broom and looking completely disgusted and offended. The employee looked at me, and then started walking in my direction. I wondered what she was going to say.

"Excuse me," she said. I moved out of the way, and she walked passed me. Apparently, there was no policy against doing that. When I ordered my food, I placed the cup conspicuously in front of me on the counter, but they didn't have anything to say about it, either.

When we left, we stuck it to The Man by taking all of the Fire Sauce.


Solidarity, love, and unity.

Last night, when I was getting home from work, I noticed a group of people holding signs on sticks standing on the corner across the street from my place. It was nearly 1:00 in the morning, so I thought, Wow, it's pretty fucking late for a protest. I live directly across the street from a college, and though I haven't seen any protests at this particular college, I've seen enough of them at the bigger college one town over that it's not at all a new sight to me. I've taken part in completely useless protests before, and I like to imagine protesters are someow sticking it to The Man, whether they're rallying against something that sounds reasonable or something that sounds completely ridiculous. I didn't know what this protest was about, because I was only able to read one of their signs, and it read "NO PAY CUTS."

I went online and told Lew about it, and he said, "Maybe they're on strike." I guess I'm so used to seeing protests that the idea of a group of people with signs actually sticking it to The Man in a real way completely slipped my mind. A quick Google searched proved him correct.

I tend to support strikers pretty universally, even if I don't know exactly why they're striking. I figure that most people are getting fucked over by The Man, and I can really appreciate it when they're willing to take a stand. At my last job, I casually mentioned how a strike would totally shut the whole place down. The old ladies I worked with told the boss, who called a meeting to say we weren't allowed to talk about stuff like that.

It started to rain around 3:00 in the morning. The strikers left, and though I fully stood behind their cause, I was worried. As awesome as a strike is, I hoped The Man would cave in to their demands immediately, and that they wouldn't be back.

When I was woken up to the sound of car horns, I immediately knew why, but I got out of bed to check, anyway. Sure enough, the strikers were back. When I'm driving and I see people on strike, I do the solidarity honk, too, so I can understand. I went back to bed, and I ignored most of the honking, but I got up when I thought there might have been a car crash right in front of my house. A car horn had been going off insessantly for a solid 30 seconds, and there were sirens in the background. I got out of bed, walked to the front room, and peered out the window. I couldn't even tell who was blaring their horn, because the scene looked entirely normal, except for the noise: a bunch of cars were waiting at the light, and a guy with a sign was walking casually on the sidewalk.

It was at that point that solidarity started to piss me off.

Like the people with 15 yellow-ribbon and American flag magnets on their car to prove they support the troops more than you, some people seem to think supporting people on strike is contest. It's not. Blaring your horn for extended periods of time doesn't mean you're better than everybody else who thinks these folks should get what they want, it just means you're a douchebag.

I've been hearing this since I woke up. I really don't mind that people have been tooting their horns all day long. My girlfriend and I went out earlier, we honked, too. But there's just no fucking excuse for laying on the horn as if there was a small child in the road.

I'm tempted to active the Samuel L. Jackson Home Security System, but I won't. It's not their fault some people are just complete idiots. I just hope they get this shit settled soon.


Unsent letter to McDonald's.

To Whom It May Concern:

I work an evening shift in a building close to your establishment. My lunch break is roughly between 6:30 and 7:30 PM, and I am often too lazy to get out of my car in the pursuit of food. This leaves with me with the option of either your restaurant or the Wendy's restaurant down the road. I am a firm believer in voting with my dollars, and I have previously decided not to vote for Wendy's anymore after not receiving what I had ordered. Fast food is not rocket science, and a competent manager should be able to find a workforce capable of such simple tasks as exchanging money in return for French fries. I regret to inform you that I will not be voting for your restaurant anymore, either. This saddens me, as it means I'll have to either get out of my car to acquire food during my lunch time, or I shall have to prepare it in advance. On the up side, I doubt anyone would argue that this is the healthier and tastier option for me. I believe it is in your interest to know why I shall no longer vote for your establishment with my money. Perhaps you can take action to remedy the problems with your restaurant so that others will not make the same choice that I have.

This evening, I went through the drive through at your restaurant. I originally intended to order a coffee, fries, and two apple pies, but on my way through I decided to get a chicken McNugget meal plus the apple pies. I ordered what I wanted, specifically requesting hot
mustard sauce, as I have noticed the sauce (and ketchup, for that matter) is never offered verbally anymore when I place an order. When I was handed the bag with my food in it, I asked for some ketchup for my fries, which was given to me. Upon leaving and opening my bag to consume my food, I discovered that not only had I not been given my fries, I had not been given my hot mustard sauce, either. I tried eating a chicken McNugget without the sauce, but I'm afraid they were rendered completely inedible (to my palette) by this omission. Essentially, I had been charged $5.41 for a medium coffee and two apple pies. This is simply unacceptable. If I'm eating at McDonald's, I don't expect the food to taste good, but I think it's reasonable to expect that I get what I have paid for.

Furthermore, your apparent policy of not giving out napkins unless specifically requested is ridiculous. I know you're trying to save money, but do you honestly believe people don't need napkins to go with a visibly greasy bag of food?

I want you to know that I don't normally complain about poor service, but I am hungry and angry right now, and I blame you. Perhaps you could do something to remedy your service situation in order to retain other customers.




"The guy who eats from the trash."

Where I work, there is a coffee stand near the vending machines. They sell a variety of caffeinated beverages, as well as stuff like bagels, cookies, soups, and sandwiches. I might think it was kind of awesome if I didn't work a late shift. When I'm at work, they're not open. I still have access to some of the food, though, and I get an incredible discount. At the end of their day, around the time I'm arriving at work, they throw much of the food in the trash. It's clean, it's wrapped, and I have no problem eating free food out of the garbage.

I have a dilemma, though: I don't want to be "the guy who eats from the trash." I used to pull bagels and such out more frequently, but I pretty much stopped when I got caught taking a cookie. Luckily, the dudes who saw me were a couple of construction guys, there for one night, and not anybody I work with. I hadn't taken anything out of the trash in a while, but since I still don't have access to my money, thanks to the bastards who robbed me, I went looking for a free sandwich today. There weren't any sandwiches, but there were some bagels, wrapped up in clear plastic wrap. I took one, and it was the freshest bagel I've eaten in a long time, much better than the ones my girlfriend buys in a bag at the grocery store.

I should have access to my money within a couple of days, but now that I've eaten that bagel, I have an appetite for more free food. I feel like it's something I'm going to start doing more frequently, because hey, free food. There's just something extra tasty about something for nothing. I'm just worried that now it's only a matter of time until I'm "the guy who eats from the trash."


Super Mario Bros. 3, all night long.

During the summer between fourth and fifth grade, I spent some time at my grandpa's house with my cousins. My Nintendo was there, I had Super Mario Brothers 3, and my cousins and I spent as much time as we could playing it. Our time was usually severely limited by my mom's insistence that we didn't spend too much time playing. She used to "hide" it in the cupboard where the cups and mugs were kept when we weren't supposed to be playing it. My oldest cousin, Dino, used to regale us with tales of spending entire nights, from dusk til dawn, playing Nintendo.

"Yeah, me and Ryan waited until everyone was asleep, and then we played Contra until the sun came up! It was awesome!"

One day we formulated a plan for us to experience such a night of pure bliss as he had described. We would wait until 2:00 AM, when the adults were soundly asleep, and we would silently move to the living room, where we would spend the entire night playing Super Mario Brothers 3.

When nightfall came, we went to bed, but we didn't sleep. We laid in our sleeping bags, awake and waiting for the right moment.

"Is it time yet?" I asked.

"No, we still have two hours and forty minutes. We have to wait until they're definitely asleep," my cousin said. He was the one with the clock, and the one with the plan. We trusted him, because he had done this before. I tried to lay there silently, every so often asking him if it was time.

And then, after much waiting, it was finally time.

The house was silent, and we slipped out of our sleeping bags and tiptoed into the living room, gleeful that we were about to spend the rest of the night gripping a plastic brick, mashing buttons, and making 8-bit pixels move across the screen. The ultimate goal was to defeat the evil Bowser, but the experience of the mission was more important than the final objective; Nintendo had to be played all night long.

The kitchen, and it's cupboard where the prize was held, was directly connected to the living room. We snuck to the cupboard and swung it open. Our hearts sank as we gazed upon shelves of mugs and cups, the Nintendo Entertainment System conspicuously missing. Somebody must have gotten wind of our plan.

Dejected, we went back to bed and fell asleep almost immediately.


Abortion kits.

About four or five years ago, I went grocery shopping with the girl I was living with at the time. We bought a lot of food, and when we walked back out to the car with it, we realized there wasn't enough room. She was working at a dry cleaners, and had taken a couple of boxes full of wire coat hangers that they apparently no longer needed. In retrospect, it's entirely possible that she had stolen them, because that was the kind of shady person she was, and she did actually end up getting fired for stealing from the register. Either way, the only way we were going to get the groceries to fit in the car was by ditching the boxes.

"Do you have a marker?" I asked. I had a plan.

"No," she said, "Why?"

"I need to write on these boxes."

"I have some lipstick," she said, pulling a tube out of her purse.

I took the tube of lipstick and scrawled ABORTION KITS on the boxes. We dropped them in the parking lot, loaded the groceries into the car, and left.

I'm a pretty pro-choice guy, but I thought writing ABORTION KITS on two boxes of wire coat hangers was hilarious, because it could be offensive to absolutely anyone.


Cable is Mexican for the F-word.

When I moved from the coast to the middle of the country when I was 10, I had to learn to adjust my way of speaking to match the local dialect. Slang that I had previously used frequently served only to confuse and bewilder my classmates, who also referred to soda as 'pop', as if they were all thirsty for a tall, refreshing glass of their dad.

When somebody did something particularly spiteful or mean, I would say, "That's cold blooded," but I always said that particular phrase with an accent that I had picked up from my cousins, who I had learned it from. To my new friends, it sounded as if I was saying "That's cah-blay." To this day, when I try to say the phrase like I used to, I can't really understand how they got cah-blay out of cold-blooded. If anything, it sounded like cole-bluht.

Since my entire fourth grade class consisted of compulsive liars, and since they couldn't understand what I was saying, one of my classmates took it upon himself to not only define it, but to inform the teacher about it as well.

"Paul keeps saying cah-blay," he said, loudly enough so that I could hear him, "and it's Mexican for the F-word."

The teacher knew he was completely full of shit, and made stuff up constantly, and I didn't get in any trouble, even though I kept saying it.


No, we broke up.

Josephine was my first official girlfriend. I met her on my bus in second grade. I was eight, and she was twelve.

"Oh, there's my boyfriend!" she said one day, pointing at a car driving behind the bus. I looked and it was an old dude, but I was 8, so everybody was an old dude to me.

"What's his name?" I asked.

"Jimmy. He's sooooooo cute," she swooned.

"I'm cuter than that," I said.

She turned and looked at me for a second.

"Yeah, you are."

I was just trying to be a smartass, so when she agreed with me I was too shocked to respond.

"Do you want to be my new boyfriend?" she asked.


"Do you think I have boobs?" she asked, grabbing the bottom of her shirt and pulling it down, stretching it against her torso. My eyes bulged, even though she had basically nothing to show.

"Yeah," I said.

For about a week after that, she sat with me on the bus. We'd hold hands, and she'd occasionally kiss my shoulder or my hand. I'd serenade her by rapping the lyrics to D.J. Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince's classic hit, Parents Just Don't Understand, which I knew in it's entirety.

One day, I got on the bus and sat in the back, where we always sat. She got on a couple minutes later and sat in the front of the bus, with another guy. I kept peeking over the seat, wondering when she was going to come sit with me. Then I heard her talking to the bus driver.

"He's your boyfriend now?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said.

"I thought you were hooked up with Paul?"

"No," she said, "We broke up."

I don't think I ever spoke to her again.


Paul Jacobson tries to rip me off.

When I was 20, I did a short lived zine called undumb. It was filled mostly with the kind of stuff I write on this blog, except with more punk rock, and drawings to go with most of the stories. I only did two issues, the second of which made the MAXIMUMROCKNROLL top ten, which I thought was completely awesome even if my favorite songwriter ever didn't think so highly of the rag. Honestly, I never picked it up regularly, and I'm sure I would have been just as happy if I was mentioned on the third page of any magazine available at any decent bookstore.

I was lazy, so when I printed my zine, instead of just copying it myself, I'd drop it off at one of the closest office stores, which was still about half an hour away since I lived in the middle of nowhere. The first issue I dropped off and picked up with no problem, even though they didn't collate it like they were supposed to. The second issue I dropped off with no problem, but when I tried to pick it up, the asshole manager figured he could run a scam on me and steal some extra pocket money for himself.

I had been playing music with my friend Radical Ryan and a drummer who I had just met that day. When we got tired of playing, they came along with me to go pick up my zine.

When we went to the counter, the middle aged guy behind it ignored us for a minute before asking, "Can I help you?" I already had a feeling from his condescending tone and the looks he was giving us that he was going to be a douche. Radical Ryan was a pretty straight-laced looking dude, the drummer was wearing a shirt with the sleeves cut off that said something about punk rock, and I was wearing the usual glue in the hair, rounding out my ensemble with punk band logo patches safety-pinned to my clothes. The guy behind the counter wore a button-up shirt with a collar and a tie underneath his work-issue vest. His name tag said PAUL JACOBSON - MANAGER - COPY DEPARTMENT.

"Yeah, I need to pick up some copies," I said.

"I see. What company is it for?" he asked with a smirk, as if I could only be a jobless hooligan not working for anybody. I was, but there was no reason for him to be a dick about it. I had dropped them off under my name, but the originals had been in a folder with a software company logo on it. I told him they were for that company.

Paul Jacobson looked under the counter and found my copies. He brought out a calculator and did some math, and then told me my total. It was fifteen dollars higher than it had been the last time, and fifteen dollars higher than the total they gave me when I had dropped the new issue off.

"That's not right," I said, and told him how much it should be.

"Hmm...Let me see..." he said, punching in the numbers again, "No, no, I was right."

"That's not the price I paid last time for the exact number of copies, and that's not the price I was given when I dropped these off."

"So, you won't be taking the copies, then?"

"No, I will be taking them, but I'm taking them at the correct price."

"I can't let you take them for less than the price I gave you. That's store policy," he told me. He punched the numbers into the calculator again, shook his head, and gave me the high price.

"That's not right at all," I said.

"Well, here, you take the calculator and try it. I have other things to do."

He turned his back on us, and I typed the numbers. Sure enough, the price I came up with $15 less than the one he gave me. On a whim, I calculated what it would have cost me if I had the zine printed on bigger paper. It was the price Paul Jacobson gave me.

"This guy is trying to rip me off," I said.

"Yeah," Radical Ryan said, "He's busted."

Paul Jacobson ignored us for a few minutes and then finally came back to where we were standing.

"Did you figure it out?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said, "You've been trying to add it up as if I were using legal size, I'm using letter size paper."

"Oh," he said, barely trying to look surprised, "My mistake."

Even if Paul Jacobson wasn't a total condescending asshole to us the entire time, I'd still have an incredibly hard time buying the notion that the manager of the copy department would have made such a ridiculous mistake. He assumed that I was some dumb kid who wouldn't be able to know what he was up to, and he probably assumed I was going to pay in cash and that he would be able to pocket the money.


Hey, taco. Taaacooooooooo. Hey. Hey. Taacoooo.

Halfway through fourth grade, our class got a new kid. He was much bigger than myself, probably older, and had a mullet. His name was Mark, and on the rare occassion when he would actually show up to school, he would put his head down on his desk and sleep for most of the day. A few times he entertained the class by having crazy freak-out tantrums, throwing books and yelling, and teachers would have to sit on his back and restrain him. Every time he did that, we would all scoot backwards in our desks away from the action as we watched the chaos unfold. Once they got him restrained, another teacher would usually escort the rest of us to the library while they dealt with him.

Mark sat behind me when he came to school, and he gave me my first taste of good old fashioned Midwestern racism. He was also the first guy to demonstrate to me how racist people are idiots who can't tell one group of darkies from the next.

"Hey," he'd whisper. "Hey. Hey. Taaaaacooooo. Hey, taco. Taco! Taaaaaacccccoooooo!"

Sometimes this would go on all day long. Once, he even called me "refried beans," but it probably proved too difficult to say because he only said it once.

It was so bizarre to me, I didn't even realize he was trying to make fun of me, and I never responded. I guess if I had known, I could have told him I was half Filipino, but it probably just would have confused him. I'm sure he wouldn't have known to call me Lumpia instead of Taco.


Gerard stinks, pass it on.

During the summer between first and second grade, my parents had me enrolled in a daily summer program to get me out of the house. I had no friends there, and would eventually get kicked out when they took us to a second-rate amusement park where I spat at the llamas out of boredom.

Every morning, all the kids enrolled in the program would meet in a big gymnasium somewhere, and then would split off into different assigned groups to go do whatever it was we were doing that day. Each group had a couple of adults to make sure that we behaved and didn't wander off and die. One of our adults was a guy named Gerard.

One day, our group was on the city bus heading somewhere, and I saw the kids sitting across from me whispering to each other. One kid would whisper to whoever was sitting next to him, and then that person would whisper to whoever was sitting on their opposite side. I secretly wished that I had some friends, so that I would have somebody with whom to exchange secrets. As I was thinking about that, the kid next to me leaned over and whispered something in my ear.

"Gerard stinks, pass it on."

I laughed a little, but didn't yet understand the concept of passing it on, and didn't have anything against Gerard. The kid waited a minute and whispered it again. I failed to pass it on, so he waited another minute and whispered it once more. I suddenly understood the "pass it on" part, and I turned to the kid next to me and whispered.

"Gerard stinks, pass it on."

I must have whispered it loudly, because an old, grubby-looking guy with a beard who was riding the bus heard me.

"That's not nice," he said.


Going ape shit.

When I was really little, my family took a trip to the zoo. I'm pretty sure my cousins were there, and my sister, who is two years younger than myself, was still in a stroller.

As we walked around, we saw these guys ahead of us who kept running back and forth in front of one of the exhibits. They seemed like adults to me, but in retrospect they were probably teenagers. When we got closer, right in front of the exhibit where they were, I saw them making funny faces at the animals, which turned out to be chimpanzees. They ran away again, right as the chimps began throwing poop. We didn't know there was about to be ape shit thrown, so my sister's stroller got poop on it.


I ain't writing nothing.

Eighth grade was probably one of my most obnoxious years, likely in large part due to the fact that I had just transferred to a new school and immediately made friends with a bunch of real assholes. I used to get in trouble for stupid stuff all the time, like having a lighter in class for no reason (I didn't smoke), throwing bendy rubber action figures off of a balcony, vandalism, and just being a general disruption in class. The only time during the day when I wasn't an annoying little cretin was in English class. My teacher was a mean, angry old woman who seemed to despise kids, and everybody was terrified of her, including myself.

Mrs. Nancy absolutely hated me, and would consistently write that I was a disruption in class on every single report card. It was total bullshit, because I was scared of her and never made a sound in class. Her class was the only class that I would do all my homework in, because she had a policy of giving detention to everybody who missed an assignment, but I would still always end up with a D in her class. She graded my papers like a spiteful child, and gave me a D on absolutely everything I wrote, despite the fact that teachers before her and teachers after her had told me that I wrote well. She would mark points off for incredibly stupid things, like a person using a contraction in dialogue, or using "too many words." During peer-review sessions, some of my classmates work would strike me as semi-illiterate, but they didn't do nearly as badly as I did. She once even gave me an F on a final draft because she claimed I had written it in some sort of magical uneraseable blue pencil instead of a pen, even though it was completely obvious that it was written in ink.

One time we were reading a play in class, and she had us taking turns standing up and reading parts in front of the class. I had just finished reading a line when she interrupted the performance.

"How absolutely rude!" she said, scowling. She was looking directly at me. Another student later told me that I looked completely baffled, and I was, because I knew I hadn't done anything rude. She accused me of rolling my eyes, and sent me out into the hallway to copy pages from the dictionary for the rest of the class.

One of my asshole friends and I had a study hall directly before her class. We regularly caused disruptions in there and would have to be held after class, usually only for a minute or two of the five minute passing-period between class. On one occasion, we were held longer than five minutes for an extended lecture on being a decent human being, and then our teacher walked us to Mrs. Nancy's class so that we wouldn't need a hall pass or get marked as tardy, which was another thing Mrs. Nancy would have given us detention for.

When she brought us to class, everybody was taking a quiz, which had to be taken in pencil. I asked Mrs. Nancy if I could sharpen my pencil, because the one I had was brand new and thus couldn't be used.

"Absolutely not!" she hissed.

So I just sat there and didn't take my quiz.

"OK, you can sharpen your pencil," she said a few minutes later. "Actually, go out in the hall."

I went out into the hall, and she came out and told me I would have to write "I will remember to always be prepared for class" one hundred times and give them to her before school started the next day. She then let me go sharpen my pencil and take my quiz.

Having done nothing wrong to begin with, I didn't write the sentences. During study hall the next day, the secretary in the office announced over the intercom that I had to go the Mrs. Nancy's class.

"Do you have my sentences?" she asked when I got to her class.

"No," I said.

"Well, stand in front of the class and write them. Now."

"I ain't writing nothing," I said, angry and deliberately trying to inflame her grammar nerve. The class in session burst into laughter, which sent her flying into a rage.

"You think that's funny? You're all staying a minute after class!" she yelled. She looked me up and down with a disgusted look on her face. "You just stand there, then."

She walked to the back of the class where her desk was, and I sat down on the floor.

"I said stand!" she yelled.

"No, I think I'd rather sit," I said. The class laughed again.

"OK, that's two minutes after class! Paul, come with me!" she said, walking out into the hall. I followed her, and she got very close to my face.

"I don't know what you think you're doing. Are you trying to impress your friends?"

"No, I just didn't do anything wrong, so I'm not going to write those sentences."

"I have never seen such a display of insubordination!"

She brought me back into class, where I sat back down on the floor, and went to her desk and filled out a disciplinary referral. When she was finished, she gave it to me and sent me to the office.

When I got to the office, I gave them the referral, and then waited until the vice principal was ready to talk to me. When he called me into his office, I explained to him exactly what had happened and why I had behaved like that in her class. I was pretty confident I was going to get detention or Saturday school, which I was used to at the time. Instead, he told me to write the sentences, not so much as punishment for my original non-crime, but as punishment for making everyone laugh at the mean old lady.

By the end of high school, she was the head librarian instead of a teacher, but she continued to be a hateful old lady.


Fear of dogs.

When I was little and still lived in a big city, my family would spend occasional weekends four hours away, in the middle of nowhere. There were seemingly endless forests full of trails to explore, bugs to catch, and some decent kids to hang out with. The place was a paradise where I could ride around on my bike all day with my friends, and ride we did. In our travels, however, there was one place that we avoided. It was a house that contained something so horrifying that we didn't dare get too close. We would ride our bikes ten minutes out of the way to circumvent it, or, if we were in a really extreme hurry, we would race past it at top speed on our bikes, never looking back. The people who owned the house supposedly had a pet, the likes of which I had never seen, though I had heard the tales. According to legend, the golden retriever that lived there once almost ripped some guy's brother's leg off.

One time I was riding my kick scooter alone on a dirt trail through a forest. I stopped to pee on some bushes, and when I finished and turned around to get back on my scooter, I felt my stomach drop below my knees.

Standing next to the scooter was a dog.

I had never seen a golden retriever, so I didn't know if it was the monster dog, but I was generally scared enough of dogs by this point that I was shaking with fear. Knowing I had little chance of escaping on my scooter, I tried to remain calm and walk with the scooter between myself and the dog, using it as some kind of entirely useless shield. The dog followed me out of the forest, panting silently and glancing at me. By the time I got back to the street, I had figured out that the tail-wagging may not have been an act of aggression, and I decided to risk riding the scooter again. The dog didn't chase me, and as I rode away I felt incredibly relieved to have not been mauled.

Another time I was riding around with one of my friends, and we decided to explore a trail we had never taken before. It turned out to be a horrible mistake.

Shortly after embarking along the dirt path, a dog barked at us from one of the houses that the trail ran behind. We stopped for a moment, wondering if we should turn around. We decided to risk it and keep going.

A few minutes later, we were being barked at again. We kept riding, and soon more dogs were barking at us. It seemed like every house had a barking dog behind it. They were mostly fenced in behind chain-link fence, but they could obviously see us, and that was terrifying enough. What if they got loose? We stopped our bikes and feebly tried hiding behind them, but the dogs kept barking.

"Should we keep going or go back?" my friend asked, tears coming down his face.

"I don't know," I sobbed, "There are dogs both ways!"

We decided to keep moving forward, walking our bikes and trying to duck low to the ground, which slowed us down immensely and did absolutely nothing to curb the noise of the ferocious house pets. We were both scared out of our minds and crying, almost positive we were going to be eaten alive.

"I have to pee," I said.

"We have to get out of here!"

"I know," I cried, "but I really have to go!"

I tried to remain in my crouched position while I peed on a tree, my friend begging me in a panic to hurry up so we could continue our escape. Sometimes you really just have to go. I finished and we kept moving.

Eventually, we got to the street, hopped on our bikes, and rode away as fast as our legs would let us. We never took that trail again.

My fear of dogs subsided as I grew older, until I was about 20. I was at a friend's house, and another friend showed up with a pit bull. I was sitting on the floor, and the dog walked over and began sniffing me.

"Wow," my friend with the dog said, "He likes you. He doesn't like anybody."

The moment he was done saying that, the dog started growling at me, inches from my face. My friend pulled him away and took him into another room. I was a little shaken, as I had heard that if a pit bull bites you, they almost have to kill it to get it to let go. I stayed in the room where I was.

When I finally left the room, the dog saw me and ran at me. It jumped up and bit my arm. It bit softly enough that it may have been playing, but my friend ran over and pulled the dog off of me, yelling at it. I was going to hang out for a while, but I decided to leave instead.

Shortly after that, I went to a girl's house with one of my friends to pick up a drum set. Her family raised rottweilers, and they barked at us ferociously from their outdoor kennels as we walked to her door. I was shaken enough by the recent pit bull incident that I was a little freaked out by the big, loud dogs. When we went into her bedroom, she had another rottweiler standing on her bed, it's head level with mine for easy access to my jugular vein. She tried to convince me that she was a friendly dog and that I should pet her, but I just wanted to get the drums and get the fuck out of there as quickly as possible.

When I first met my girlfriend, her family had a pit bull that was so dangerous and mean that it had to be chained up all the time. It would bark and growl like a maniac at everybody who didn't live there, and would even come to her window to terrorize me when I was in her bedroom. That certainly didn't help improve my opinion of the breed.

To this day, rottweilers and pit bulls both freak me out to the point of looking like a complete wuss. If I see somebody walking one of these dogs, I walk the other way.


Go play on the freeway.

When I was about 8 years old, I took a horse riding class for city kids at the park. The class met every day for a couple weeks, and it was all kids roughly my age. There was one other boy, and the rest of the class consisted of girls. There was one red-haired girl who I instantly had a crush on, probably because she looked just like the girl from The Goonies.

Having always been a shy kid, I didn't talk to anybody for the first few days. I wanted to make friends with the other boy, because he was a dude and didn't seem to have any friends either. I wanted to talk to the red-haired girl, too, but I was too scared. A few days into the class, though, she came up to me with a group of her friends.

"Hey, kid," she said.

"Hi," I said.

"Is your name Bart?" she asked me.

"No," I said, "Paul." The fact that she called me Bart was noteworthy, because this was a couple years before The Simpsons was even on TV.


"Yeah," I said.

"Go play on the freeway," she told me.

"Yeah, go jump in a lake!" said another girl.

I remember thinking that the red-haired girl's comment was sort of clever in a mean way, but that the other girl's comment was just stupid in a mean way. I also remember thinking something along the lines of fuck this class, and fuck these bitches! I wandered off on my own for the rest of the day, and when my mom picked me up they told her that I had disappeared and that they couldn't find me. I didn't tell them why I had walked off, but they warned me not to do it again.

The dude and I became good friends for the duration of the class, because the girls were horrible bitches to him, too.