The Myriad Joys of Dating a Jew

Garrett: "Don't you know Jesus died because of your sins?"

Me: *blink*  "...don't you mean 'for' my sins?"

Garrett:  "Uh... same thing."


Garrett FIX

This is Garrett and me.  Once when I was in a bad mood, he actually grabbed me and yelled "I FIX I FIX I FIIIIIIIIIIIX" while shaking me.

Comic and characters copyright Angela Melick at wastedtalent.ca.


This isn't a political blog. Really.

Obama: Spend more, create jobs

I was just saying to Garrett and a few others that I'm changing my party affiliation.  Democrats have become as annoying and as clueless as Republicans (well, they always were), and I'm tired of hearing it.  I can't support the bipartisan system anymore, because it's so broken and corrupt and completely not what it was meant to be.  So I'm going independent.

That being said, I came across this article in which Obama tells us we need to vomit up another $150 billion or so to help ourselves climb out of the recession.  I'll let you read the article (and the comments) and judge for yourselves on the wisdom of this plan.

I for one think that Obama needs to be slapped upside the head.  So many of the things he said this new batch of money would pay for should have been fixed with the first stimulus.  Government jobs?  Those are not what we need right now.  Highways and bridges?  I still haven't seen any of the improvements from the last stimulus bill.  Retrofilling homes to make them greener?  That's still too expensive to be practical for an average middle class family right now (Google it-- depending on the method, it runs from $3,000 to $20,000). 

In many ways, I am an economic conservative.  I believe that we need to stop focusing on spending and start worrying about getting rid of our federal deficit, which is a number that should only be used to talk about distances in space.  However, I do not think cutting taxes right now is the best thing to do.  Not that I have any knowledge of how to run a government, but right now, if we stop dumping money into the black Obama-hole (puns intended, I guess) and keep taxes at this level, perhaps we can work our way out of debt sometime before the sun explodes.

Yes I know the economy is still in the shitter.  But clearly pouring money into [where exactly?] isn't helping.  So let's not make America the definition of stupidity (again) and keep doing the same thing over and over.


I am horrified.

Doctors in upscale practices build niche in Triangle

I read the headline and my jaw dropped.  I read the article itself and my mild discomfort grew into consternation and outrage.

Why are they doing this?  Why now, when roughly 1 in 4 Americans do not have health insurance?  Why now, when the aging baby boomers (read: the target market of MDVIPs) are beginning to drag the rest of us taxpayers down anyway?  Why now, when a friend of mine cannot get the care she needs to manage her (and her children's) health when she and her husband both lost their jobs and cannot get unemployment benefits because she is on a social security stipend that is too pitiful to live on?

Yes, by all means, doctors, alienate your most needful patients.  Refuse to treat those who cannot pay $500 a visit.  Do what all the drug companies and insurance companies are doing, and make it more difficult for the average American citizen to access your corrupt but desperately needed services (what are we, Uganda?).  After all, it was their fault.  If they hadn't caused the economy to crack and fall with their crazy spending and lending, then they wouldn't be in this pickle anyway.  You go ahead.  Because as more and more of you convert to your very posh and profitable MDVIP practices, there will be fewer and fewer afforable doctors.  And there is no guarantee that those will all be skilled or honest doctors.

This reminds me of the situation in [insert impoverished Third World country here].  Not enough doctors, too many poor patients, and what skilled practitioners there are usually beat it out of whatever hellhole they're living in to seek profit elsewhere.  Maybe we should ask WHO to airlift some Indian doctors in.  It's becoming clear that we need them.


"Something's really wrong with you", or "Thanksgiving I"

I always want to begin each entry with an apology for not posting more often.  That needs to stop.

...but I am sorry.

Not that terribly much has happened since my last entry.  We got the water heater issue fixed; had an issue with the washing machine that caused another flood.  I came downstairs to change the laundry, saw the floor under a half inch of water for what had to be the ninth time, and let fly a string of curses that would make Ken the WonderPlumber proud.  Garrett followed the sound of Kate-rage and calmly surmised the cause of the flood: a blocked drain.  He grabbed a big stick, climbed on top of the washer to get close to the drain, poked it a few times, and with a lethargic gurgle, the water went its way.  I stormed off and refused to return to the basement any more that evening.

My reaction to our basement is a case study in Pavlovian conditioning.

Upstairs Dude is gone.  He was replaced by Bob.  The story is slightly more complicated, but only just.  I dropped eaves on a conversation between him and our landlord’s wife out on the front porch one day.  All I heard were things like “...be gone by the end of the month” and “final rent check” and “don’t have much to move”.  I may not be known for my Holmesian powers of deduction, but I didn’t really need them in this case.

Over the next week, a cavalcade of borrowed cars puttered back and forth from our driveway, carrying bits of Upstairs Dude’s possessions away to God-knows-where.  He and his 13ish-year-old son did the bulk of the hauling, and I was lucky enough to catch an exchange between them as I came back from a run one morning:

Upstairs Dude: “Bring those boxes downstairs!”
Son: “I can't! They're heavy!"
Upstairs Dude: "Well bring them one at a time!"
Son: "They're too heavy, Dad!"
Upstairs Dude: "Just bring me one!"
Son: "You know, something's really wrong with you."

They may have heard the thump as I lost my balance from laughing; the walls are thin.

Then, not too long after that, the pulsing red-blue of police strobes invaded my dream about an abandoned construction site.  The thought “Oh God something’s happened to Garrett” straddled sleep and waking so that I snapped full awake in less than the time it took for the adrenaline to blast through my system.  I bolted to the front window; two cruisers were parked in front of the house and I heard voices upstairs.  I immediately relaxed and settled onto the futon to watch the fun.

There wasn’t much fun for anybody.  I couldn’t see or hear much; from what I could see, the cops looked bored and Upstairs Dude looked more annoyed than furious.  They cuffed him, walked him out to one cruiser and plopped him in.  They fiddled with their radios for several minutes, sat in their cruisers for several more, then drove off, leaving me in a state of mild bewilderment.

The next day, Bob arrived.  Bob looks and sounds just as country bumpkin as Upstairs Dude, but has a few more social graces.  He introduced himself to me (as Bob) and volunteered some details about Upstairs Dude that I had been itching for, and several about himself that I could have lived without.

Bob told me Upstairs Dude had been living on parole and had simultaneously violated it and his lease.  Vinnie had magnanimously turned a blind eye to the lease violation and had just asked him to vacate ASAP.  The cops weren’t so other-cheeky with his parole violation.  So back to jail he went.  A breath before I could wonder how Bob knew so much, he told me.  He’d been a jailbuddy of Upstairs Dude and was on parole as well.  They even had the same parole officer, who knew Vinnie.

So far, the plumbing has been more of a threat to our health than him, so I’m not worried.

Still no luck on the job front.  I’m starting to get a better sense of this town now that the newness has worn off, and a contributor to the dismal job climate here is the town itself.  It’s smaller and more rural than I’m used to and a good hour away from anything resembling a city.  The only real industries here are metalworks and a nuclear plant.  Everything else is small and privately owned, which in this economic climate means that employers are cutting back and employees are holding onto what jobs they have with tooth and nail.  The few chain stores and fast food joints aren’t hiring.

In other news, I spent Thanksgiving in New Jersey.  Everybody calls it the armpit of America, but I, like a good skeptic, refused to believe anything anyone said until I could see it for myself.

"Epic Armpit Farts", or "Thanksgiving II"

Yep, they were right.

The air was bad and the tap water tasted like Richard Simmons’ unmentionables, sure, but the part that rang most true to me (being the driver of the expedition) was the crack about Jersey drivers.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they are the worst drivers in this country.  I say “in the country” because I have met worse drivers out of it.  But that really doesn’t count, because everyone there drove badly the same way, so everything was predictable.  Such is not the case here.

Jughandles are part of the problem.  If there were cars in medieval England, then jughandles would be the torture device of choice.  Instead of making a left turn, a jughandle is a waste of asphalt that forces you to turn right to go left.  They say jughandles cut down on accidents because left turns are dangerous.  Which would make slightly more sense if every left turn in the entire state of New Jersey, nay, the entire US, were made by jughandle.  That way, everybody would be used to jughandles and stoplights would only have to be wired for traffic going straight.

But this is not the case.  There is no rhyme or reason to which turns get jughandled and which don’t, so drivers are caught in the wrong lane and are constantly leapfrogging across three or more lanes of traffic (usually nearing a stoplight and therefore decelerating and becoming denser), causing mass slammage of brakes.  Since Jerseyans are used to jughandles, this makes them less skilled at making normal left turns, of which there are a good many in the state of Jersey.  They seem to forget that extra lane of traffic they have to watch out for.

They also suck at driving in general.  This gets back to the unpredictability I mentioned earlier.  For example, they slow down while merging onto the highway.  This is ass-backwards from the way I learned it.  I thought the point of that little merging lane was so the driver could accelerate enough to make a smooth entrance and not disrupt the flow of traffic.  But I guess said driver can’t do that when traveling cars enter the rightmost lane instead of moving left to allow the merging driver to actually merge.  Jersey drivers also have this habit of speeding up when the light changes to yellow and when they realize they don’t have time to make it before the light turns red, they play the game called “My Skidmark Is Longer Than Yours”.  They also play “I’ll Race You Out Of The Toll Plaza (And Cut You Off When I Win)” and “No, I Have The Right-Of-Way, You Fuckass”.   

Garrett tells me I need to be more positive, so I’ll focus on the good things about my Thanksgiving break.  First and foremost, and the reason why my tail wags harder for Thanksgiving than for Christmas, is the food.  I was (and am) most thankful for the excuse to gather together with a large group of folks who are, after a fashion, related to me and eat a house’s worth of food in one four-hour-long sitting.

"Look at me while I am talking at you", or "Thanksgiving III"

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday.  In no particular order the reasons for this are:
1) the food.  Okay, this one was in order.
2) it’s a chance to collect one’s family in one place and spend the day (or weekend) talking and catching up.
3) #2 could be done at Christmas, but the joyous thing about Thanksgiving is that it’s free of the stress of Christmas.  You don’t have to participate in Black Friday if you don’t want to, but everyone feels compelled to participate in the Christmas tradition of gift-giving.  Christmas has become, in Garrett’s words, Capitalistmas.  No matter how much individual people may emphasize family or joy or God in Christmas, the general theme of Christmas is “give/get presents.”  What is the first question anyone asks you after “How was your holiday?”  “What’d you get?”  Right?

Before you bark about the sordid history of Thanksgiving and all the Indians that the English slaughtered to make it that far, consider this.  All folk (not just us Americans, though we’re really good at it) alter or forget their history, especially related to holidays.  With each passing year, another coat of sugar gets slathered onto the memory until the event itself is a lump of shapeless goo.  To make an overly complicated example to prove my point, look up St. Valentine on Wikipedia.  Nobody knows who he was, or how many St. Valentines there were (yes, there were more than one).  Nobody knows why or how they were martyred, and not even the Romans were sure where the first St. Valentine was buried.  Then look at the stuff between then and now.  Nobody can agree on how we got from a gaggle of Roman saints to a holiday about chocolates, red hearts and obligatory sex.  To offer another example, think about Christmas.  We all know how it started out.  No, not the part about Jesus, the part further back than that.  The pagan part.  Between then and now dozens of date changes, rewrites, additions (hello Santa Claus) and alterations have changed Christmas so profoundly that when I tell you that for many years Protestants vehemently and violently opposed the celebration of Christmas, you will think it at the least a bit bizarre and run off to Wikipedia to see if I’m telling you the truth.

I am by no means advocating for abolishment of Christmas or Valentine’s Day or even a return to their roots; I’m merely making the point that it’s implausible and downright silly to think too hard about any holiday based on a historical event or a dead person.  If you try to include the entire span of a holiday’s history in your observation of it, you will inevitably do or say things that completely contradict one another.  That’s why some people celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, some celebrate it as a day to get and give a whole bunch of stuff, some celebrate it not as a Christian holiday but as the winter solstice, or yet again as a pagan feast and party, but never as all those things at the same time.

But I digest.  I was talking about Thanksgiving in New Jersey.  I met Garrett’s very Jewish grandmother about whom I will only say this: the stereotypes are true.  I felt like speaking in a Southern drawl just to save my own ears from the increasingly twitch-inducing dialects Garrett’s family issued forth.  Don’t get me wrong; they’re wonderful people.  They just need to learn how to talk right.

Since New Brunswick was only an hour away, we decided to zip up to Rutgers on Saturday to spend a while with the Brothers of Pi Chapter of MBPsi.  We played football (which devolved into a silly string battle– only at Pi), had an official meeting, played the Jewish version of Apples to Apples (an automatic win if you can't pronounce the word you play), and were just about to take part in the most lavish and plentiful Thanksgiving bounty I have ever seen (there were about 30 people packed into a 4-person apartment), but Garrett needed to get home to get up early for work the next morning, and Oswego is a good 5 hours from north Jersey.

That was definitely the most memorable Thanksgiving I’ve had to date.  I love my family with all my heart, but there’s not much can compete with being captive audience to a 75-year-old Jew wife for eight hours, getting nearly run off the road three times on residential streets, playing Jewish Apples to Apples with two Jews until 5a.m., and running around an entire apartment complex with two cans of silly string participating in a mass regression to early childhood. 

This is why I’ve decided that holidays are worth it again.