15 Rants, One Post

Image result for doctor cox
Dr. Cox, the king of rants.

1

I get that a lot of bad things happened in 2016, but this whole “Fuck 2016,” meme is getting old. (It’s been old since at least November, I think.) And really, does anyone believe 2017 is going to be any better? If you consider Trump getting elected to be horrible, do you really think you’re going to hate a Trump presidency any less? And with the baby boomer generation dying off, celebrity deaths are only going to become increasingly common. It’s sad, but so is life, so get used to it.

2

We’re at that time where bloggers are listing their favorite ____s of the year, and I keep seeing posts where people refuse to give an explanation for their choices. For example, I’ll see a post like, “My Five Favorite Books I’ve Read this Year!” and it’ll go:

  1. Book I’ve never heard of.
  2. Book I’ve never heard of.
  3. Book I’ve never heard of.
  4. Book I’ve never heard of.
  5. Book I’ve never heard of.

This list means nothing to me unless you can tell me what the books are about, or at the very least, explain why you liked it. Otherwise, this post is a giant waste of time, and you should be ashamed. 

3

I hate how my interest in politics has slowly turned me into a bitter, resentful person, so much so that I even find myself hating Bernie Sanders, who I used to love. Like, I hear in the news that Bernie’s going to “fight back,” against a Trump presidency, and I hear him saying stuff like, “the revolution is stronger than ever.” And I’m like, “fuck off, Bernie. You’ve accomplished nothing. Go back to naming post offices in your tiny little state of Vermont.” I admit this isn’t fair, but I’m so burnt out that I have no interest in being fair until at least 2018.

(Oh who I am I kidding? I’m not burnt out at all, and I will always love Bernie. May his days be long upon this earth.)

4

Also, why the hell does my candidate never win? In 2008 I wanted McCain to win, in 2012 I wanted Romney to win, (although by that point I was gradually starting to transition into the kale-eating* liberal I am today, so I wasn’t too upset), and in 2016 I wanted Bernie and when he lost I started rooting for Hillary, who cramped up just five yards from the finish line. That 0 for 4. Now what are the odds of that? I did the math and it’s one in sixteen, or 6.3%, which is outrageous. Is this punishment for that time I accidentally ran over a raccoon? I think it is.

* Just want to clarify that I’ve never actually eaten kale in my life.

5

I hate when people use the word “indescribable” to describe something. It’s the ultimate cop-out for writers who are too lazy to put together a decent description. Especially bloggers. Oh, your delicious sandwich had a taste that was indescribable, you say? Well I can’t even begin to describe how angry that sentence made me. Now excuse me while I unfollow your blog and never think of you again. 

(As you can tell, I’m in a bitter mood.)

6

Why does time fly when you’re having fun? That seems like the least convenient time for such a phenomenon to occur. Why can’t it speed up during car rides? Or when I’m at the dentist? Now that I think of it, why does it speed up at all? Time should just stay consistent, alright?

7

Why the hell does Dunkin Donuts keep putting cheese on my bacon egg croissants? I always ask for no cheese, and while the cashier always gets it right, (“no cheese” always shows up on the receipt), the guy making it rarely does. As someone who works in fast food, I must ask, why is Dunkin Donuts in particular so bad at this? Is my order so uncommon that is throws them off? Or do they just not like me because I seem like the type of person who’d bash them on my blog? The world may never know.

8

I’m gonna call bullshit on the idea that if McDonalds’ had to pay their employees fifteen bucks an hour, they’d just replace most of their workers with robots. If they could do that, they’d have done it a long time ago. Twenty years from now, this might be a legitimate concern, and even then, I doubt it; people would boycott the store, the robots would be malfunctioning constantly, and all it takes is one murderous robot rampage to stop the whole thing in its tracks. Trust me, this isn’t going to be an issue.

9

Speaking of McDonalds’, creepy guys everywhere should know that the girl at the drive-thru window does not want to give you her phone number. Just take your food, say thank you, and drive away like a normal person.

10

I loved The Catcher in the Rye, but I find it unnerving when people praise Holden as a rebel; as someone who calls people out on their “phoniness.” This was what I was told about Holden, and after reading the book, I found myself wondering just how the hell anyone got that impression. For one thing, Holden’s an idiot, (that stuck out to me from page one) and his criticisms of other people are almost always shallow and hypocritical. Holden is whiny, stupid and spoiled, but the beauty of the book is that you empathize with him regardless of his many, many flaws. If you read the book and think, “Wow, that Holden kid is a real hero,” then there is something seriously wrong with you.

11

I hate when children are used as props to further someone’s agenda, whatever that agenda may be. Like this photo:

Image result for we need diverse books because I'm beautiful

Now, I am very much in favor of having more diverse books for kids to read, but there is no way in hell that picture is in any way authentic. You just know for a fact that an adult handed the kid that paper and told him to smile for the camera. Hell, I doubt that’s even the kid’s handwriting.

I’m not sure why this bothers me as much it does. I guess it just feels … cheap? Unfair to the kid? Manipulative? I don’t know, but I’m still OUTRAGED.

12

Why do people try to talk all authoritatively over things they don’t know anything about? In high school I took a college-level course in Environmental Studies, and while that hardly makes me an expert on the subject, whenever someone tries to lecture me on how climate change isn’t actually that big of a deal, it becomes immediately and startlingly obvious how uninformed they are. (“But we just had a really cold winter!”)

The same is true for the conflicts going on in the middle east. I don’t really understand what’s going on over there, and I can guarantee you that 95% of Americans don’t either. But that doesn’t stop some people from becoming sudden experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict whenever the topic arises. Unless you actually know what you’re talking about, don’t pretend that you do. Instead you might learn something.

13

What’s up with old people and drinking from the hose? (Bear with me on this one.)

As a kid, I’d often hear adults complain about how spoiled and pampered my generation is, and bragging about how, “when I was a kid, we drank water from the hose!” And I’d be like, “Cool. Would you like a medal, sir?” 

Because there is literally nothing impressive at all about drinking from a hose. As someone who did often drink water out of a hose during my childhood summers, I must say that it tasted no different than regular tap water. Albeit, a bit grassier. Did I think I was cool for doing this? No. Will I be bragging to my kids one day for it? Possibly. Either way, this whole thing is stupid, and now I’m thirsty.

14

I hate grass. It’s the most useless plant. Flowers look pretty and smell nice, trees provide shade and comfort, but what does grass do? It just sits there, like a total bum. Go away, grass, no one wants you.

15

I support Colin Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee during the national anthem, but I have one question that has yet to be answered.

Let’s say that America listens to his message, and we collectively take initiatives to stop systematic racism and police brutality and bam! Everything is fixed. My question is: how would he know? It’s going to take at least a couple months for the statistics to come back to show that his protest was successful, which I could imagine being a bit embarrassing for him when he finds out. “So for the last month or so, I’ve been kneeling for no reason? Damn. And my knee is so sore now.”

(This has got to be the dumbest perspective anyone’s ever taken on this topic. Whatever, I’m tired, and I because of my relative obscurity, I can afford to say stupid things.)

That’s all for me. I gotta say, this wasn’t nearly as good as my last 15 rants post.

 

In Which I Tell the Story of My Worst Customer Experience

[Note: an uncompleted version of this post was published yesterday. I was almost finished with it, but then I had to leave for work, so I decided I’d finish it up when I left. At no point did I think, “hmm, maybe I should change the time I scheduled it for, so that it doesn’t post while I’m at work.”

And so I accidentally published the first draft of an unfinished post and frustrated a total of … *checks stats* seven people before I took it down. This was more embarrassing than that class presentation I had to give in fourth grade where I forgot my pants at home. Anyway, here’s the story, in its actual, completed form. (Sorry about that, Peter!)

_____________

As some of you may know, I work at McDonalds, and while I have come to love the job, there are days where a single customer can come in and ruin everything. And sometimes, it’s not just a single customer, or a single day. Sometimes a family of the three worst people on the planet come inside and enrage you in ways you never thought was possible. Today I’ll be telling you a story in the hopes that you too will feel my anger.

Part 1

It’s my second week on the job, during rush hour, and a middle-aged woman and her teenage son walk up to my register, both with matching goth make-up. Now this was two years ago, so I can’t recall exactly what they said, but I remember them talking to me like I was an idiot. They didn’t even give me a chance to make an impression, they just assumed I was dumb right off the bat. The mother did all the talking — the son just stood there with a smirk on his face — and she kept calling items on the menu by the wrong names, or just by vague descriptions. (Example: “the chicken sandwich,” even though we had like, four sandwiches with chicken at the time.) When I asked follow-up questions to clarify, she rolled her eyes, like I was the one who was getting things wrong.

After they finish ordering, the next customer asks for something small, like a sweet tea, and she gets it within fifteen seconds. The mother, (let’s call her Sharon), sees this and gets pissed. “Why did she get her order before us?”

I explain to her how their order was larger than hers, and that the kitchen staff had to make the food for the drive-thru as well as the front counter, so they might have to wait a minute or two for the food to get to them. She responds by demanding to see the manager.

I get the manager over, and a minute later she’s screaming at the top of her lungs at him, saying how she’s going to call the corporation and make sure he’s fired.

Now, if my mother started screaming at someone like this, I would be embarrassed. I would attempt to calm her down, and if that didn’t work I’d at the very least give the person she was yelling at an apologetic look, one that said, “Sorry about that. I’m adopted.”

Not this kid, though. He nods along in agreement, with a sense of self-righteousness that’s usually reserved for people like Superman, or Captain America. He will hereby be referred to as: Brett.

The conflict ends with them both storming out of the store, but not before promising to call Corporate and get us all fired. Well, I think. Hopefully that’s the last we’ll see of those people.

Part 2

Maybe six months later, Sharon and Brett walk in again. I’ve seen them come in a couple times since, but I hadn’t had to deal with them directly, and I’d made it a point not to pay them any mind.

This time they come during a quiet period, so they get their food right away and have nothing to complain about. Except for Brett’s milkshake.

Brett had asked for a chocolate milkshake, but the way the machine makes it, it sort of looks vanilla. As his mother picks up the tray and walks to the table, Brett points to the cup and asks me, “Is this chocolate?”

“Yep,” I say, speaking from experience. “It looks a little light, but trust me, you can taste the chocolate.”

Brett nods and walks away. Thirty seconds later Sharon comes up to the counter, her son’s milkshake in her hand. I want to point out that there was no straw in the cup, so the kid hadn’t even attempted to drink it and test it out for himself. “Why’d you give my son a vanilla shake?” she says. “It’s supposed to be chocolate. This is vanilla.

I look across the lobby and see Brett sitting at his table, watching me with his arms crossed. I think to myself, Can I just … fight him? After all, I’m pretty sure I could beat him up, and I think I’d be doing him a favor if I did. But if I lose this job, I’ll have to look for another one and that sounds exhausting, so instead I politely explain to her the same thing I explained to Brett, to no avail.

She demands I make them another shake, which comes out looking exactly the same as the first one. She takes it, glaring at me as she walks back to her seat.

I see them come in a couple more times throughout the next six months, never dealing with them directly. I see them talk down to another girl on the counter the same way they talked down to me. I have to clean up their table one day, after Brett spills his milkshake on the floor and makes zero effort to clean up the mess. (He doesn’t even pick up the cup.) But at least I don’t have to talk to them.

Part 3

It’s now a week before I leave for college, and in comes Sharon, Brett, and a surprisingly normal looking dude who will be referred to as Rick. Rick is the father of the family. He orders for all of them. He gets the name of each of their orders correct and makes genuinely funny jokes the whole time. Finally, I think, at least one good family member.

Their order includes two hash browns, two Egg McMuffins, two Sausage McMuffins, and a Big Mac. I tell Rick it’s going to be a few minutes on the hash browns, and he’s completely okay with it. I put the rest of the order on the tray, which he hands to his wife, who brings it to the table. Rick stays near the counter, his eyes on me the whole time.

The hash browns are ready, and I hand them to Rick. He says, “Thanks. We just need the Big Mac now.”

I’m fairly certain I’d already gotten him the Big Mac, but not certain enough to call him out on it. Rick’s still smiling. I go and ask the kitchen staff for a Big Mac. “We just made you one,” said the woman on the grill.

I look back at Rick. “Are you sure we forgot the Big Mac?”

Rick looks back at his family’s table, and back at me. “Yep, we’re still waiting on one.”

It’s at this point my opinion of the man slowly begins to change, and I gotta say, it’s a shitty feeling. I had really hoped at least one of them would behave like a normal customer. That just once this family could come in while I’m working and not piss me off. But here he is, most likely lying to my face in an effort to get free food.

I don’t want to deal with any hassle, so I get him the Big Mac. He takes it, says thank you in such a genuine, earnest way that it makes me wonder if he was actually telling the truth. And then he comes back a minute later. “Hey bud, we’re still gonna need an Egg McMuffin and a Sausage McMuffin. You only gave us one of each.”

He’s still smiling, although it’s really more of a smirk at this point, and a couple things hit me:

  1. He’s lying.
  2. He knows I know he’s lying.
  3. He’s trying to see just how much food he could get out of me before I put a stop out of it.

And just like that, Rick has risen to my least favorite member of that whole shitty family; a real come-from-behind victory too, I must add.

“Oh, come on,” I say, trying to keep my voice calm. I believe jovial is the tone I’m looking for. “There’s no way we forgot both of those.”

“Oh really?” His eyebrows raise. The smirk on his face does not go away, not for one moment. “You think I’m making this up?”

Behind him, I see Brett at his table, throwing a crumbled up wrapper at the trashcan fifteen feet away. He misses, and goes back to eating his fries. The mother says nothing.

I look back at Rick. “There’s no way I forgot to give you half the order, and if I did you or your family would’ve said something before taking the tray back to the table.”

He laughs, shaking his head to himself. “You gotta fucking kidding me,” he mutters, and then he stops smiling and gives me the coldest, dirtiest look I’ve ever received. I searched the internet, and this is the closest image I could find:

Image result for obama contempt face

“Let me see the manager,” says Rick. I say, “okay,” and walk into the office in the back. A few things you should know about the manager that night:

  1. Her name, for the sake of this story, is Denise.
  2. She originally hated me, and made that very clear. But over a two year period our relationship grew from mutual hatred, to begrudging respect, to a relationship where we’d have inside jokes and she’d be telling me about her past relationships, her horror stories from working the night shift, and/or the time she took a shower on LSD. You know, just normal things people talk about. It got to the point where she almost cried when I told her I was leaving for college.
  3. Long story short: she has my back.

Once I’m in the office I explain everything to her as fast as possible, which goes something like this:

“Okay so there’s this family in the lobby and they’re trying to scam free food out of me, and usually I’d just go along with it to avoid the trouble but holy shit, Denise, these people are terrible.”

I try to explain the situation in more depth, and when I’m done Denise sighs, and gets up out of her chair. “I hate people,” she says as she walks over to the front counter.

Rick is back to that smiling, cordial man he was before, and when Denise asks what the problem is, he responds in such a polite, composed way that I’m afraid she’ll take his side. “We’re just missing a few things from our order, ma’am, I hope it’s not a big deal. I asked this young man politely for it, I showed him our receipt, but he thinks . . . we’re making it up? I don’t know why he’d think I’m lying about something so small.”

Denise says, not breaking eye contact with him for a second. “Sir, this young man’s been working here for two years now, and not once has he ever accused a customer of lying about their order.”

And just like before the man’s facade breaks, and for once in his life, he’s not sure what to say. He stumbles on his words for a second, and by the time he finds them he has given up any attempt at civility. He pulls out his gun.

Okay, he didn’t actually pull out a gun. Instead he just started yelling at us. I want to retell exactly what he said as far as I can remember, but I know for a fact I’m going to start exaggerating if I do. So instead I’ll just summarize the general points.

  • We’re all a bunch of losers who are going to flipping burgers for the rest of our lives.
  • Half of us can’t even speak English.
  • Blah blah Donald Trump was right about Mexicans blah blah.
  • (Not even sure where that last two points came from, since while the majority of the staff is indeed Hispanic, I don’t recall him ever interacting with them that night.)
  • Denise is overweight. He made sure that was clear.
  • But mainly, how he was never going to step foot in this shit-hole again. 

I gotta say, this was a satisfying moment for me. Partly because it proved this guy really was awful, and I wasn’t just imagining it, but also because you could see him gradually lose control and dignity as he went on. Denise stood there, unfazed, watching him patiently like a parent watches a tantrumming child. And at the point where he brought up Trump I just started laughing, and he turns to me, all red in the face, that vein on his forehead throbbing, and says, “oh, you think this is funny?”

I say, “Yeah, I kinda do.”

And Rick gives this angry, sarcastic laugh, like that one Leo DiCaprio gives in Wolf of Wall Street. (Gif’s below; it’s perfect.) And he tells us to give him a pen so he can write down our names and call corporate on our asses. Denise immediately hands him a pen. “Go ahead,” being the subtext. “I fucking dare you.”

After he’s done scribbling our names down, Denise calmly says, “Sir, you’re going to have to leave.” And Rick does leave, but not before making a row and knocking over a trashcan. Denise threatens to call the police, and finally Rick is out of the building, dragging a confused Brett and Sharon along with him, and I never saw any of them again.

Nothing came out of his threat to get us fired, seeing as I still have my job on winter break, and Denise continued to work at McDonalds until she found a better job as a hotel manager. (Good for her.) I also got free ice cream that day, so it was pretty much the definition of a happy ending.

If there’s a lesson in all this, it’s that douchey entitlement can only get you so far in life. And that if someone’s trying to intimidate you, the wisest course of option is to laugh in their face.

Caution: results may vary.

More Than I Can Chew: A Look Back

Image result for gum cartoon

For those who don’t know, two years ago I started writing an interactive blog story about two identical twins, one of whom had made a business out of selling gum to his fellow high school students. When one of his gum-selling employees decides to go rogue, a series of insane, potentially life-ruining events go down. No one is the same.

At the end of each chapter, there’d be poll that would allow the reader to decide which direction they wanted the story to go in. It was a good writing exercise: to write a cohesive story while staying true to the characters, despite having little to no control over the plot.

It had been a long time since I’d so much as thought about More Than I Can Chew, and what reading it over, a few things surprised me. So I decided to write a post about my thoughts on the project, almost two years after it ended, partly for nostalgic purposes but mostly for shameless self-promotion.

Click here if you want to read it!!!

1) Kathy is still cool.

I’m going to be honest: I had no intention of writing an older sister into the story for the first three chapters. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me until I realized that Wyatt was only 15, and he’d need someone to drive him around for this story to work. So I created Kathy, who was technically a plot device, but ended up being the heart of the story. (Or at least, I thought she was the heart of the story. Remember when she took the blame for something Wyatt did, even though she didn’t have to? That was sweet.)

2) A lot of the writing needed work.

There was a bit more telling than there should’ve been, and too many adverbs. I kind of want to go back to those posts and just revise everything, but I won’t. Because the past is the past, and it should stay that way. (Could I sell it as an ebook?)

3) Adrien wasn’t particularly likable in the beginning, was he?

He kept going on about how much he hated his brother, and I was like, “Damn, Adrien. Wyatt barely thinks about you at all. Move on. Get your own hobby.”

Adrien’s unlikeability can be boiled down to two problems:

  1. He was a big ol’ Mopey Gus in the beginning.
  2. He didn’t really do anything, at first. He just went to the bathroom, then got captured. I think Past Me realized this, because Past Me started giving him as much agency as the circumstances would allow, and I think it helped a lot.

4) Things went by a lot faster than I remembered.

So they were both in school, then Adrien gets kidnapped, now Wyatt and Kathy are driving to a park to pick him up. Now Adrien’s in the ER, Wyatt’s smashing furniture, and now Kathy’s managing to drive home, to the hospital, to the furniture store, and back home in record time. The whole story would’ve been about sixty pages long in book form, which is crazy considering just how much went down.

I’m not sure if this was a problem for anyone else, or if it only felt this way because I was reading it in on my phone, but things definitely felt like they were going by way too fast. Maybe that’s just my old age speaking. *shrugs*

5) The ending wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

It was a little abrupt, but not gonna lie, I think I’d be okay with this ending if I were just an unknowing reader. However, I’m a fan of ambiguous endings and most people aren’t, so I understand why some people may have been frustrated, and asking me questions like, “What happened to Diesel?” or “Was the money really counterfeit?” and “Is anyone going to jail? I feel someone should be thrown in jail.”

To which, I finally answer those questions, for those of you who are still around.

  1. Diesel was lying about his name the whole time. When he met Wyatt outside that hockey game back in ninth grade, he told him his name was Diesel because he wanted to see if Wyatt was dumb enough to believe it. Wyatt was. For several weeks prior to the start of this story, Diesel was quietly scheming his way to get the $10,000.
    • You may remember how, at the end, the characters decided to blame everything on Diesel? Well, the police were never able to find a Diesel, because no one in that high school had that name.
      • Basically, Diesel got away with everything.
  2. The money was not counterfeit. That was just Diesel being a criminal mastermind. It worked.
  3. Chances are, Fiona and Conner are going to have to do some community service. Fiona’s probably getting expelled, what with the whole, “organizing a kidnapping on school grounds” thing. I think James might be going to jail, because in order for Adrien not to get in trouble for almost killing him, he’d have to press charges on him for assault, and maybe kidnapping. The American legal system’s tricky, y’all.

All in all, I’m glad I wrote it; I just wish I had finished it within a reasonable amount of time. But hey, that’s my biggest flaw as a writer. I can’t finish. Even when I have the ending planned out, I end up losing interest and moving on to another project. Which, yeah, is a bad idea.

So I’ll end this post with some advice to all those beginner writers out there: finish your damn manuscripts. I don’t care how bad your first draft is, or if you just came up with a better story and you want to write that instead. Get it doneor you will be a failure, and you will die sad and alone in a tiny house in New Hampshire while everyone you ever loved will have nothing but contempt for you. Or your writing just won’t improve. Whichever’s worse.

Something that Happened Years Ago That I Need to Get Off My Chest

Okay, so this is something that I never really talk about, because no one ever believes me when I tell them. I’m starting to doubt if everything went down exactly as I remember it, but I know that something definitely happened and I can’t quite explain what it was. Even all these years later, I still think about it at night when I’m lying in bed. I keep trying to make sense of it all; to find a rational, scientific explanation for what happened to me, and every single time I fail.

I don’t remember how old I was when this happened. It could’ve been anywhere from five to eight. It’s strange how I remember that night so well but I can never quite place it within a specific year of my life. Memory is weird like that.

Up until I was twelve or so, my family didn’t have an upstairs bathroom. If I ever needed to go in the middle of the night, I’d have to walk downstairs, through the dark, empty kitchen and into the dark, empty living room. 

There was a glass door in the living room I’d always have to walk by, that lead out to the side of the house. Usually the curtains were covering it but sometimes they weren’t, and because I always turned the lights on with every room I walked into, I could never see if anyone was outside, peering in through the glass door. All I could see was the reflection.

Those walks to the bathroom in the middle of the night were some of the most nerve-wracking moments of my childhood. I rarely heard noises, but I always had this feeling that someone was downstairs with me, like someone would be hiding behind the couch in the living room, or someone would be waiting outside the bathroom door when I came out.

When I was finished I’d have to walk all the way back, turning the lights off behind me as I went. I’d try to keep calm but once I reached the staircase I’d always break into a sprint, and I wouldn’t feel safe again until I was back in my bedroom with the door closed shut.

The walk got easier during the Christmas season, because that was when the decorations were always up. We had a Christmas Tree covered in lights in the living room with stockings set up around the fireplace. We had this weird toy with a foot-tall plastic Santa Clause, whose head moved around when you pressed the button on his leg. I think he was supposed to talk, too, but he never did.

It was the night before Christmas Eve when I woke up again, needing to pee. I turned on the lights as I went downstairs and walked into the bathroom in the living room. The curtains to the side door were closed this time, so I didn’t have to worry about anyone looking in. 

The bathroom had a fan that turned on automatically with the lights, making it so it you couldn’t hear anything going on outside. That’s the only good explanation I can think of for why I didn’t notice any noise. If it wasn’t for the fan I probably would’ve locked myself in that bathroom for rest of the night.

Instead I walked out of it, as usual, and I immediately noticed a few things were off. It seemed colder than it had been just a minute ago, and the curtains to the side door were no longer drawn. They’d been shoved to the side, away from the handle, and in the reflection of the door I saw something moving around in the kitchen. I saw the light of the refrigerator turn on and heard the sound of glass clinking, and when I looked in closer I saw a man in a large red suit.

I thought I’d be excited to see something like this. I’d been one of those kids that loved the Christmas season and whole-heartedly believed in Santa, but seeing his back as he rummaged through the fridge sent nothing but doubts down my spine. I think it’s because, for all my willingness to believe in him and for all the arguments I’d gotten in with classmates over his existence, deep down I knew that Santa Clause wasn’t supposed to be real. At the very least, you weren’t supposed to see him. 

I watched as he took some orange juice out of the fridge and chugged it straight from the carton. He gasped for air when he was finished and wiped his mouth, and when he walked over to the trash to toss it out he glanced at the side door and stopped in his tracks, and I realized right there that he had seen me through the reflection. It was the longest moment of my life. He stared at me through the door and I stared at him. He lifted his finger to his mouth and smiled.

He continued searching through the fridge and eating our food. As I watched I realized he wasn’t as old as Santa Clause was supposed to be. From his face he seemed younger than my parents, now that I think of it, and his eyebrows didn’t match his beard or his hair.

After a couple minutes he walked into the hallway, out of view. I heard a door close, and footsteps going downstairs into the basement. 

I ran back to my room. I wanted to wake my parents and tell them what happened, but I didn’t know what I’d say. I didn’t think they’d believe me. And most of all, I didn’t know what to think of the man who’d just rummaged through our kitchen. I kept going back and forth from ‘he’s Santa, he’d never harm anyone,’ to ‘he’s an intruder dressed up as Santa and he’s going to rob us and kill us in our sleep.’

I don’t remember sleeping that night. I remember sitting up in my bed and listening to the noises from downstairs. Occasional bumps and mutters, the creak of the side door sliding open and closed, and at one point I heard the sound of slow, heavy footsteps making its way up the stairs to the upper floor. The steps grew closer and closer, until I saw the shadow of the man from the light under my door.

For a moment, I heard nothing but the man’s breathing. Then he started yanking the door handle. Violently, up and down. I kept expecting the door to swing open at any moment, but it never did. He just kept shaking the handle. I sat perfectly still, terrified to move or to make a sound, and it’s at this point that I should clarify that none of this happened, and I’m just messing with all of you. I know that if I were to come across this post, the first thing I’d do is scroll down to the last paragraph to make sure this wasn’t a joke story, so I’m just going to continue from here as if these last two sentences were never written: after who knows how long, the handle stopped shaking and the shadow disappeared, and I listened through bated breath as the footsteps shrunk in volume and the man descended down the stairs. I heard the side door open and close again, and the house was silent for the rest of the night.

Nothing was missing the next day. Even the orange juice carton was back in its place. The curtains were drawn again, and everything in the basement was exactly how it had been the day before. I told myself the whole thing was just a dream, because I didn’t know how else to deal with what I saw. The whole memory’s been tearing at me ever since, and I’m glad I have an outlet here for me to get this off my chest. If anyone has any similar experiences, or they can think of an explanation for what happened here that would put my mind at ease, please comment below.

Just Legalize Weed Already, Geez

(Note: the subject of politics comes up in this post. I usually don’t get political on this blog, because the last time I did, I ended up jinxing Bernie Sanders and resetting liberal progress back a generation. Oops. Won’t be making that mistake again. While by the internet’s standards I managed to remain relatively bipartisan here, I still think I should give you a heads up. I also talk about drug use, so if that irks you, remember you were warned.)

Image result for That 70s show pot

I’m going to let you all in on a secret, but you’re going to have to promise not to tell anyone, okay?

I have smoked marijuana before.

I know, this is tough to hear. I know you all thought of me a constant do-gooder, incapable of moral failure, so in order to ease the disappointment I wrote you all a poem:

I tried to resist, but I’m hardly headstrong
I’ve smoked with a joint, a pipe, and a bong.
I know giving in was the move of a fool
But in my defense, it made me look cool.

This isn’t helping, is it?

Okay, so I have no idea what the culture is surrounding pot for all my individual readers. I get the impression that most of my adult followers won’t care, but I could imagine some head-shaking from some of my younger readers.

I also understand, that as a Famous Blogger™ with an impressionable fanbase, it is my responsibility to encourage young people to make healthy decisions when it comes to drug use. Which, yeah, I’m not going to do that. Weed is cool, guys.

When you’re high:

    • Everything is funnier.
    • Music sounds amazing.
    • Bo Burnham is a god.
    • Falling asleep is so easy.
    • They say it kills brain cells, but they neglect to mention that it only kills the weak brain cells, so only the strong cells survive. These strong cells reproduce and create stronger cells, making you a smarter individual overall.
    • Not sure about that last point, but it sounds true. 

Now, when did I first get into bed with Mary Jane, you ask? Well it started near the end of ninth grade, where during lunch a classmate gave me a pot brownie without actually telling me it was a pot brownie. Then another day after school, a group of kids who always hung out on my street corner asked, “Yo Matty B, wanna do the ol’ smoke-a-roo?” I said “nah man, I’m cool.” And they said, “What’s the matter? You scared?” And I said, “Well I’m convinced, hand it over,” and I’ve been a pothead ever since.

[Disclaimer: none of that is true.]

Instead I just smoke occasionally with my friends, around once a week during breaks, and rarely at all during the school year. It’s usually after a poker game, which we play with real money, which is also technically illegal. In my defense, I’m Irish.

(I think I’m just going to blame my Irish roots from now on, every time I make a questionable decision.)

This has been going on for a while, and because I do it all in MODERATION, I have yet to see any negative effects. My short-term memory is no worse than it’s always been, it hasn’t led to any harder drugs like I’ve been told it would, and according to my latest doctor’s appointment, my lungs are healthier than they’ve ever been, which is just weird. There’s no reason for that.

That being said, I hope it’s legalized at a national level. Because for all the stigma surrounding the drug, it’s fairly harmless. Really, the most dangerous part of smoking weed is getting caught smoking  weed, and that doesn’t seem right to me.

750,000 people are arrested for simple marijuana possession in one year alone, which is something that could fuck up a kid’s life, unless of course that kid is white (like me!) or has rich parents (not like me).

(Kind of want to take a moment here to clarify that being white does not make you immune to the negative legal consequences of smoking pot; the odds are just leaning in your favor.)

The worst part is when you take a look at the people running the country, and their own history with drugs. Barack Obama has been relatively open about his history with pot in the past, and he’s also been in favor of getting rid of mandatory minimums and decriminalizing the drug, so he sort of gets a pass, although he hasn’t done as much as he could have.

And then there’s people like Donald Trump. I don’t have evidence of him smoking pot before, but if the debates were any indication he was definitely sniffing cocaine. And yet here he is, hiring an attorney general who wants to double down on enforcing those laws, and with a straight face says things like: “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Really, the only difference between politicians like Bill Clinton, who sort of admitted to smoking in the past but claimed “he didn’t inhale,” (sure), and the thousands of people put in jail each year, is that the politicians got lucky. They were lucky enough to not get caught. Lucky enough to have connections and money so they didn’t have to deal with the consequences that the rest of Americans have to face, thanks to policies they themselves have enacted.

DAMN YOU, FLAWED POLITICAL SYSTEM!

The bright side for potheads is that weed continues to be legalized for recreational use on an individual state level, and if it’s anything like how gay marriage was, it should be approved at a federal level after 37 states or so. #babysteps

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So what do you think? Should it be legalized? Should it stay illegal? And if you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for my next one: “Why the Hell Haven’t We Legalized Crack?”

Storytelling Tips Learned from The Leftovers

Image result for the leftover living reminders

I’ve watched a lot of TV shows in my life, and every once in a while one of them comes along and makes everything else look like trash. One such show was season 2 of The Leftovers, which managed to be better than its first season in every conceivable way.

A quick summary: The Leftovers is a show that’s about dealing with ambiguous loss. On October 14th, 2011, 2% of the world’s population — with no correlation whatsoever between them — just vanished into thin air at the same time. No one knows why it happened, who is responsible, or what even happened to the people that vanished. Where did they go? Are they ever coming back? Will this happen again? The writers have no intention of answering these questions and personally I hope they never do.

This may not seem like your type of show, but if you’ve ever dealt with the loss of a family member, a friend, anyone you cared about. If you’ve ever dealt with depression, or if you’ve ever just been sad about something at all at any point in your life, you will connect with this show on some level.

In my case, I connected a little too deeply, and I was pretty much an emotional wreck after every episode. It changed the way I thought about my own writing, and it also redefined my perspective on life itself. 

(To be fair, my perspective on life changes about once every week .)

For this post I’m just gonna be focusing on the writing portion, as I bequeath to you some of tips I took from this show:

TV-Cap: ASH VS EVIL DEAD at Comic-Con, THE LEFTOVERS Season 2 Trailer, & More

Don’t be afraid to shake things up.

The show’s first season took place in a small town in upstate New York. It was a stand-in for the rest of the world. “Anytown, USA,” it might as well have been called. We followed the characters there for eight or nine months, getting to know and understand them as they got into various hijinks and tomfoolery.

And then the first episode of season 2 comes along and the focus of the show moves thousands of miles away to the town of Jarden, Texas. The opening episode focuses on a set of characters we’ve never met before. You don’t see a single familiar face until you’re forty-five minutes in. Jarring as all hell, but it worked.

But it wasn’t just the setting that changed: the tone changed, the lighting changed, even the opening credits changed drastically in a way that I can’t remember seeing before. Here’s the opening to the first season: 

And now here’s the second one:

Changing so much about the show was a pretty ballsy move, I think we can all agree, and yet it paid off better than anyone could’ve expected, with a show currently being praised by critics and viewers alike as one of the best on TV.

Image result for the leftover international assassin

Not everything has to be explained.

In one episode we watch a character have a friendly conversation with her new neighbor, one that ends with no apparent conflict between them. The very next scene we watch as she casually walks up to the neighbor’s house, picks up a rock, and throws it straight through the neighbor’s window.

The show never outright explains why she decided to suddenly vandalize her neighbors’ house, but the audience is left to figure it out for themselves, even though there’s more than one possible conclusion for the audience to draw. The show trusts the viewers to figure shit out on their own and allows them to interpret things in different ways, and so should you.

Image result for the leftovers goat

Some things probably should be explained.

The guy who wrote The Leftovers is Damon Lindelof, who also wrote the show Lost. As a result, he has a bit of a reputation for setting up mysteries without actually resolving them in a satisfactory way. So when he decided to write another show centering around a mystery that he has admitted from the beginning would never be explained, he got an understandable amount of flak from pissed off Lost fans.

And yet, the second season of the show introduced several mysteries at once, including one really juicy one. A mystery so juicy it might as well have been a porterhouse steak. For weeks and weeks I scrolled through dozens (hundreds?) of different theories regarding it, and not only were a: none of them were right, but b: the mystery was handled in such a jaw-dropping, game-changing way that I couldn’t even sleep afterwards. And I love to sleep.

The lesson here is that you can keep things ambiguous if you want, but you need to have a good grasp on what should be answered and what doesn’t have to be. The Leftovers is a show that’s very premise is an unanswered question, but it remains satisfying because when it comes to big reveals, it never drops the ball. 

Image result for the leftovers the murphys

Tell a joke for once.

While I can fanboy about this show for ages, and could probably write a novel-length essay analyzing it scene to scene, I must admit that at one point, I was thinking about quitting the show.

Around halfway through the first season, I was getting wary. The show was so dark. All the characters seemed to be digging themselves deeper and deeper into their own misery. The show at that point was utterly humorless. Humorless and hopeless, it seemed; the two worst things a story could be. 

But luckily the writers seemed to figure this out, because they started to inject some much-needed humor into the characters. And then they gave the characters hope within all the sadness, and it was raw and beautiful and cathartic and no I am not crying right now, I just have something in my eye, so shut up.

Image result for the leftovers iconic images

Make every moment count.

You could tell a story’s well-done if you can’t think of a single thing you’d cut. This wasn’t case for the first four or five episodes, (which is why it’s the weakest part of the show), but re-watching the season 2 premiere, it’s amazing to see just how important every single moment turned out to be. Every odd detail, every facial expression. They even managed to turn a stupid knock knock joke into hardcore foreshadowing. (Yes. Hardcore.)

Image result for stop wasting your breath

Not all dystopian stories have to involve an evil government that needs to be overthrown.

I remember seeing a review for The Leftovers describing the series as a dystopia, and I remember thinking, “Hm, I guess it is kind of dystopian.” After all, it was about an alternate version of the world, where mysterious cults are rising up all over the U.S., and the government has no problem with killing them off if need be. 

When I usually think of Dystopian stories, I think of V for Vendetta, or The Hunger Games: where the world is terrible, but at least the readers know who’s to blame. But in The Leftovers, the world can’t be fixed by blowing up buildings, or shooting people with an arrow. The world’s broken because each and every person in it is broken. It’s a dark premise, but I think it’s much more compelling than most of the dystopian books and movies I’m so used to seeing.

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I’m going to be honest, guys. This was less about writing tips, and more about how much I love this show. Watch it. It’s lit.

Nothing Like an Award to Keep Your Spirits Up…

So throughout the past couple months, I’ve received a bunch of awards. This isn’t surprising, (I mean, have you met me?) but I’m flattered nonetheless. Most of these awards were season-based, so I decided to go with the one nomination that doesn’t belong to a specific time of the year: the Sunshine Blogger Award.

I was nominated by the always snazzy Katie Nichols. She’s only tried to kill me twice this year, so I’m extra thankful.

The rules:

–Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog. (Check!)

–Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you. (Yeah, not happening.)

–Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions. (Also not doing this, because Standards.)

–List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

 

1.  If you could only read one fictional book for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It would probably be a really dense book; one where you’ll discover something new each time you read it. So if you’re allowed to pick a series, I’d pick A Song of Ice and Fire, and if you’re allowed to pick just one book, it would be Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell. I haven’t read it yet, but I heard it’s good and long, so a reread would probably be rewarding.


2.  What type of computer do you use for blogging?

My chromebook. Bought it over a year ago for 180 bucks and it’s been working like a charm ever since. #quitethebargain


3.  What was the last album you listened to straight through?

Atlas: Year One, by Sleeping at Last. This is one of those albums where every song sounds good, but only handful can give you an actual eargasm. Those three songs were Earth, Saturn, and Neptune. Listen … if you dare.


4.  What is your favorite holiday sweet?

Come to think of it, I don’t really like any food that goes specifically with a certain holiday. I guess I do like the Christmas-themed designs of Coca-Cola cans.

Image result for coca cola cans christmas
Those polar bears would maul you to death if they got the chance.

5.  Are you known for making a signature dish or food?  If so, what is it?

I don’t cook much, but I do make scrambled eggs and toast. I can also make microwavable popcorn with ease. 

6.  Would you consider your handwriting to be sloppy or neat (or somewhere in between)?

Depends on the pen and my current state of mind. That being said, it’s always legible.


7.  What is the awesomest-looking book you own, and why?

Image result for stephen king's It cover
That’s not my hand, by the way. Photo credit goes to MightyGirl.com.

You may not be that impressed, but I think the cover sets the tone for the book perfectly. And it can’t be stressed enough just how good the paperback Stephen King books feel in your hands. The pages feel so clean, the font is so easy on the eyes … in fact just writing this makes me want to buy another King novel.

8.  Name your three biggest fandoms.

Bitch please. I don’t do fandoms. Fandoms are for dweebs and dorks and no-lifes, not for a cool dude like me. I do have a reversible belt, after all.

That being said: 1) Harry Potter. I don’t talk about the series much these days, but it will never not hold a special place in my heart. 2) A Song of Ice and Fire. I could talk about these books for days. 3) No idea. There’s probably a Stephen King fandom I’d get along well with. Maybe The Raven Cycle. Those were good books. Hopefully I’ll write something one day that inspires a fandom;  my dream is to get death threats in the mail after killing off a beloved character.


9.  Favorite childhood movie?

Finding Nemo. It’s funny, and an emotional rollercoaster? But how?

10.  Pizza or tacos?

Sicilian pizza any day of the week. With tacos, the shell always breaks on the first bite.

11.  Name three books that everyone on earth should read.

Keep in mind that I’m not picking these books necessarily because they’re my favorite, but because I like the message behind them.

  1. Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut. In part because I think it deserves more attention than Vonnegut’s more famous work, but also because I think it has some really neat things to say regarding morality and whatnot. Plus, in a world where millions of World War II books are published each year, Vonnegut managed to write one with a fresh perspective. (That last point is true for a lot of his books. But this is one is even fresher.)
  2. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth. There’s a movie adaptation coming out soon, so the book should be getting a nice boost in popularity, but then again, the movie rarely does the book justice. So just read it already. It’s about a lesbian growing up with a very conservative family in 1990s Montana, who gets sent to a gay conversion camp. Some thoughts:
    • It’s about the importance of understanding people and respecting them for who they are.
    • It’s also sort of glorified pot and normalized shoplifting, but I’m okay with that.
    • I feel like, in most stories like this, you’d expect the conservative relatives and the people running the camp to be demonized — to be written like one-dimensional homophobes taken straight out of an after-school special. But nope, they’re written with just as much humanity as anyone else. It would’ve been so easy for the author to write them off as Evil, but she didn’t, and for that, I salute her.
  3. It, by Stephen King. Sure, it’s violent and scary, and it ends with a bizarre, offensive sex scene that makes it clear the author was snorting coke while writing it. (Apparently he remained high during the editing and revision stage, and so was his editor.) Nevertheless, the things King has to say regarding friendship and childhood are powerful, and should still be relevant for years to come.
    • I also want everyone to be just as scared as clowns as I am.
    • Should note that while it’s been over four years since I read it, I can still remember characters like Stuttering Bill, Bevvy, and Richie “Trashmouth” Tozier, and some scenes — the rock fight, Ben’s first encounter with Henry Bowers, the part where Pennywise takes the form of a security guard with a dog’s head, (that was weird) — are still etched in my mind, and will probably never go away.
  4. Bonus Mention: V for Vendetta, and 1984. I can’t help but feel like these two books, (especially 1984, with its Groupthink and Newspeak) are becoming increasingly relevant.

And that is all! Thank you Katie, and thank you, America. I wont be nominating anyone, because I wouldn’t want to be a bother. Good night. Sweet Dreams. Don’t let the bed bugs eat open your veins and crawl around your circulatory system.