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?