Listen To My Grandpa’s Stories Or You’ll Die

My grandfather tells a very aggressive story.  He means well; it’s clear that he wants to get some kind of moral across, but the exaggerated lengths he goes to tend to discredit his stories, and that’s why I love them.

Grandpa is a rather conservative gentleman named Colin.  Colin worked for a living, and carries his days as a miner on his sleeve wherever he goes.  He’s as Irish as you please, a bit red-faced after a drop of the ol’ whiskey….and come to think of it, I’m not sure if he’s ever not red-faced.  When convenient, he’s a very staunch Catholic.  Most importantly, in his eyes, he is a very hard worker.  He’s got a big nose and two giant ears.  When he tells stories he leans towards you and always looks at you slightly sideways so he can get you with his piercing blue eye.  Doesn’t matter which eye it is, he’ll squint the further eye from you as he talks.  My sister and I used to sit on either side and take turns asking him questions in order to see his shifty-squints.  His voice is a deep bass growl, always a few decibels above what is comfortable to listen to as he shouts his stories.  The rather cheery Irish and Minnesotan mixed accent the rest of my family has sounds harsh and accusatory when it comes from his throat.  It’s more a growl than a voice.  He once told me, at the age of five, that he had been raised by bears, and that’s where he got his voice.  I believed him.

Grandpa’s stories were always made up on the spot.  He was visiting my hometown in Iowa and was reading the newspaper.  I was 13 at the time, and I saw him eyeing me suspiciously across the room with his blue eye.  He looked at me, back at the paper, and back to me.

“What is it, Grandpa?” I asked.

He beckoned me forward and pointed aggressively at the newspaper.  It read ‘Teen Pregnancy Rate Up In Des Moines County’.  He pushed the paper to me so I could read the story.  At this point I had to fight off a fit of laughter.  Clearly he thought this was my fault, and while I appreciated his confidence in me, I knew it was misplaced confidence.  My charisma could barely handle conversation with a girl without me blushing; it was nowhere near where it needed to be to get a couple hundred girls pregnant.

“I knew a young guy that got a young girl pregnant.  Do ya’ know what happened to them?”

I did, of course.  It was the same thing that happened to all the characters in his stories.  Still, I shook my head ‘no’, because he wanted to tell me.

“They died!  She died because she made bad choices and lacked responsibility!  He died because he didn’t listen to his grandpa, and her dad shot him dead for lacking decency and morals.”  Grandpa fixed me with his icy stare, evaluating whether or not I had gotten the message to stop impregnating girls dozens at a time.

“Did they arrest the dad?”

“No!  They let him go free because the boy needed to be taught a lesson!”

I doubt the boy learned much from being shot to death, but that’s the way it was with grandpa’s stories.  Severe consequences arose from minor infractions against his blue-collar, Irish Catholic, hardworking decency.  I never heard about my family’s history from him.  The closest I’ve gotten was the story of how all my ancestors died because they didn’t have enough food due to their laziness, despite the warnings of their grandfather.  A secondary story about my great great great grandfather also surfaced.  Zachariah Benzedecker Bishop was his name, and he was a prison guard in Vermont.  One day an inmate tried to start a riot to protest the abhorrent conditions of the prison (rightfully so), and my great great great grandfather shot him dead.

“Ya’ know why he did that?”  Grandpa asked in his usual growl.

“To stop a riot?”

“He shot him because he wasn’t behaved and didn’t listen to authority, or your great great great grandfather!”

I tell you all this so I can share my grandfather’s second most entertaining story.  His first and best story was about Justin O’Reely and how he only had one testicle.  It was an uncharacteristic story for grandpa and unfortunately I wasn’t there to hear it, but he had everyone in tears that Christmas Eve dinner.  His second best story was told in his car, where I was the only witness.

Grandpa wasn’t a good driver.  He still isn’t.  I’ve told him many times that he needs to be a safer driver by either paying more attention or to stop driving altogether.  He didn’t listen to me that day like he usually didn’t.  After cutting off another driver (twice), the driver whipped around and gave grandpa the finger before speeding off down the road.

This infuriated grandpa!  Some 20-something no-good kid had dared to disrespect him, a good and honest blue-collar Irish Catholic hard worker, and he did it in front of his grandson.  I saw his knuckles go white as he tried to catch up to that car again to show him who was boss.  Grandpa had accelerated to five miles below the speed limit instead of his customary fifteen below, but that 20-something was gone.

“Did ya’ see that?”
“Yes, Grandpa.”
“That’s a bad idea.  Ya’ know why?
“No, Grandpa.”

And for once, I saw him struggle for the story.  I didn’t know if it was the multi-tasking, the frustration of being flicked off, or that he couldn’t fix me with his blue stare while he was telling the story.  His bad driving was getting worse.  I knew it was going to be a good one.  The anger was stewing in him, fermenting, because he couldn’t get even with that punk kid.

“When I was a young boy in Minnesota, my grandma died.  We held mass for her because she was a goodhearted decent Catholic lady, God bless her soul.  We loaded her up in the hearse and the funeral procession followed.”

I was enraptured by the story.  Grandpa never went into such detail, and I had fully expected great great grandma to have died to some rather common vice.  This was different.  He was drawing from himself this story that he needed to tell.

“We were in a procession a mile long, your great great grandma was so loved by everyone.  The whole town showed up.  Well, there was this one jerk, some moron 20-year old guy that got behind us and started flashing his lights at us and honking his horn.  He had no respect.  He stomps on his gas and gave everyone in line the finger!  Me, my ma, the line of everyone, the hearse driver, and even your great great grandma, God bless her soul.”

Grandpa was fuming.  At this point he’d run a red light (3 seconds after the yellow winked off) and had started speeding.  I was getting scared, I asked him to slow down and pay attention, but I also wanted him to go on with the story.  Maybe he was equating these two 20-year olds despite the 50+ years between these two incidents.  We drove on in silence, until we made it into the country of Iowa.

“Ya’ know what happened to him?”
“No, Grandpa,” I said, though I was pretty sure.
“His car broke down.  Flat tire or something.  There he was on the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere Minnesota.  Ya’ know what happened to him?”
Now I wasn’t sure.  “No…?”
“Every last one of us gave him the finger! Baam!  One after the other.  Finger…finger…finger…finger…a whole town of middle fingers except your great great grandma, God bless her soul.”

A smile crept across the old man’s face.  “And when we left the cemetery after the funeral, we all did it again!”
“Did anyone stop to help him?”
“Of course not!  He was disrespectful and crude.  Ya’ don’t swear at someone like that.”

I wasn’t sure if giving the finger was the same as swearing, but I let it slide.  Grandpa’s mood had lifted.

“So what happened to him?  This was before cell phones.”
“It was before all phones.  What do ya’ think happened?”
“He had to walk back to-“
He died!”
In hindsight, I should have seen that coming.
“And ya’ know what?  He didn’t get a Catholic mass.  All’s he got was a tombstone that said ‘Good-For-Nothing’ in the shape of a middle finger.”

I’m pretty sure that at some point, grandpa had lost the truth of his story.  He knew it, I knew it, but it was still funny.  Still, Grandpa lacked closure for this recent case of being flicked off, and he settled into a kind of a mood.  Then, I saw a familiar red car in the left turn lane.

“Grandpa, that’s him!”

The situation was something like this: we were on a two-lane highway cruising in the middle of nowhere Iowa.  The red car was in a 3rd turning lane, stopped and waiting for an open spot to drive on.  Grandpa pulled his car to a stop inches from the other vehicle.  Keep in mind, this wasn’t an intersection, it was a highway, where we were expected to be going 50mph.

Grandpa rolled down his window and reached out with his hand, thumping the red car’s passenger window twice.  The 20-something was unaware of us until that point, but his reaction as he snapped his head around was priceless.  The thumping made him jump, and his shock went to terror as he turned to see an old man and his grandson leaning out the window and flipping him the bird on four different hands.  Grandpa stomped on the gas and sped away.

It’s my fondest memory of my Grandpa, as it is the one time I heard him laugh with complete triumph and comradery.  He was a good guy, albeit stubborn and gruff in his own way.  I learned a lot from him.  Unfortunately, he died later on because he didn’t drive carefully and he didn’t listen to his grandson.

A Passive Aggressive Fight Broke Out In Texas….

Today is Friday, the day I talk about the issues.  Today’s Issue is: Passive Aggressive Territorial Claims.

A very specific case comes to mind, about two years ago when I was at Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL for short).  It’s a very large outdoor concert festival where there are about 8 stages playing live music, 4 going at a time while the other 4 set up for the next act.  About 75,000 people are in attendance and the park isn’t all that big, so it fills up pretty quick.

Now I was a 5-year veteran of this festival.  I had run the gauntlet of standing in front of a stage all day.  That doesn’t sound too bad until you add up all of the difficulties this entails.  There are about 5 people in every 3 feet by 3 feet square when you get that close.  It gets claustrophobic very quick as people are pressing on all sides.  It’s impossible to sit down as it takes too much space, and even if you manage it, you are probably going to get trampled at some point.  All the while the Texas sun is beating on everyone with an 85 to 105 degree heat.  It’s like that for about 6 hours, and if you leave to use the restroom, get a drink, or get some food then you can’t get back to your spot in front of the stage.  It’s a certain kind of insanity that I only reserve the big name acts that I’m most excited to see.

That’s one severe end of the spectrum.  The other end of the spectrum is for the casual music fan who doesn’t want to survive an experiment designed to test the limits of personal heat stroke.   There is a chair section for this kind of fan, where he can set up a lawn chair and enjoy the concert, although from a much further distance than your front row mob.  The chair section is much more spaced out, can be navigated by an experienced festival goer to the point that refreshments, restroom trips, and venturing to other stages is possible.  The trick is, you need to find a spot big enough for your chair.

The first day of the festival I had survived a 6 hour vigil, pressed tightly in with the rest of my fellow MUSE fans.  I tend to be the oldest guy, as the sweatlodge of the front row is a game for the young.  The festival draws heavily from the nearby universities and high schools.  These students form tight alliances in the front mob, and with some careful planning it can be quite pleasant for them.  I’m a lone wolf wolf-pack when I venture up there.  I stood through 6 hours and two other concerts in order to be in the front row to watch MUSE.  When I saw MUSE I lost my mind and it was amazing.  I shouted, I sang, I laughed, I cried, I lost my voice, I stomped my feet, I jumped in the air, I punched enthusiasm into the sky, and threw more than one person around in a body-surfing extravaganza.  I also was dehydrated, exhausted, hungry, sun burned, sore, and a bit delirious when the night ended.

The second day I wasn’t feeling up to repeating the process.  My feet hurt, my body hadn’t fully recovered from what it had been through, and I just wanted to take things easy.  So for the second day I took a lawn chair with me to go and watch the Black Keys from the chair section.  The park was already filling up, and about 35,000 people were gathering to watch the Black Keys perform.  Being an avid festival goer, I took to pushing my way forward.  There are tricks to this.  The first is to not look at the crowd, that’s just a good way to panic and give up because it is so impossible.  Just look 10 to 20 feet ahead and navigate that.  With practice it becomes easy.  With no effort I can navigate to the back end of the standing section, which is where the chair section begins.  Today, however, I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was going to leave this stage after the Black Keys, so I wanted to hang back a bit to give me a quicker exit.  It took some doing, but I found myself a spot.  In the middle of a swarm of people there was a hefty sized blank spot, so I walked up to it to set up my chair.

The spot I had found was large, probably six feet by six feet, which is unheard of for how far I was forward.  I took my chair out of my bag to set it up when I felt a hand on my shoulder.  I turned to see a guy sitting in his chair, leaning forward and looking very cross.  He was in his mid 40’s, kind of a thin guy, wearing dark aviator glasses and a visor.  He leaned to me and shouted (not because he was that angry, but because you have to shout in order to be heard in that kind of crowd) “Hey, I’m saving this spot for my friend.”

I gave him a thumbs up, showing him I understood.  There are no rules about saving spots.  Personally, I’m of the opinion that if you aren’t there, then the spot shouldn’t be yours.  Still, I respect the system of saving space because other folks in my group do it and it’s a festival where everyone should get to experience it with their friends and family.  I can easily find another spot that isn’t ‘theirs’.  ACL has a rather laissez-faire attitude about claiming territory, and generally it works out.  However, I wasn’t about to give up on this other spot that his friend didn’t need, so I set up my chair.  Like I said, the area was six feet by six feet.  I plopped my chair down on what I gauged was more than enough room for the guy’s friend to come and sit between us.  It was a ludicrous amount of room.  However, I could tell that the guy was getting angry.

“Hey!”  He shouted at me.  “I said I was saving this spot for my friend!”

I nodded and smiled at him, giving him two thumbs up this time to show him that not only had I understood him the first time, but I was understanding him a second time as well.  Both times that I had understood him, I was abiding his wishes for a spot for his friend.

“Get a load of this guy!” he started shouting to no one in particular.  “I’m saving a spot and he practically sits down on top of me!”

The few chair folks around him had to look around to who he was pointing to, and I guess a few of them figured out it was me, but it was hard to tell.  I could lean at him and stretch with all of my tenacity and still not be able to reach him.

“What an [carrot-face]!”  He kept going on, lamenting his woes to whomever would listen.  I heard him call me several names, but decided to ignore him.  At this point it was getting funny.  This concert had some pre-game entertainment.  I wasn’t really excited to see the Black Keys, but now I was going to ardently sit here to make this guy’s life a living hell by simply existing.

“Hey buddy!” he yelled in my direction.  I ignored him, because he obviously wasn’t talking to me.  I wasn’t his buddy.  He’d just called me an [carrot-face]; ‘buddy’ must have been someone else.  I just kept staring ahead, watching the crowd surge in and out of itself as people situated for the imminent Black Keys performance.

“Hey!  I’m talking to you!  This is my friend’s spot!  Get out!”

I waited for four seconds to see what he would do.  Would he throw a punch?  He’d have to get up and walk over to me in order to reach me.  Would he throw something?  I was ready to catch anything he threw my way, but by the look of things it’d either be his hat or his glasses.  Either case, I’d just keep it.  He just kept shouting at me, reiterating how this tract of land was his, so I finally turned to him and curtly asked “How fat is your friend?”

This shut him up.  Up until this point I had been pleasant.  I had abided his wishes, I had smiled, and I had given him three thumbs up total.  Questioning the obesity of his friend caught him off guard.  It also made him angry.  I can only imagine because his friend is so incredibly fat that his friend didn’t like to talk about it because it was a sore subject.  The guy’s friend must have been massive to need more than a four feet by six feet area to sit in.  A similar area at the front of the stage could have held 15 people all crammed together.  For those of you that don’t do well with spatial reasoning, that’s the size of a fold-out table.  The absurdity of it all was very entertaining, and I had to fight the impulse to break my tough-guy exterior and laugh into his face.

I went back to watching the pre-show techies as they adjusted their cameras and lights, climbing up and down the scaffolds.  Sort of.  Out of the corner of my eye I was watching what this guy would do.  He was so angry and there was no reason for it.  I found it hysterically funny.  His friend had more than enough room to set up two chairs.  This random guy didn’t get to claim the entire park just because he had a ticket to ACL.  I had one of those also, and had just as much right to sit well outside of the space he had saved for his friend as anybody.  This isn’t Oklahoma and he wasn’t a Sooner; this spot wasn’t his just because he said so.  He was just pissed because he wanted to be pissed, and I wasn’t going to let him tell me what to do just because he was throwing a temper tantrum.

He stood up.  I wasn’t sure what to do at this point, so I kept an appearance as if I was ignoring him.  At the same time, I was gathering my feet underneath me in case I needed to stand quickly.  If he wanted a fight, he’d lose, and no Texas jury would ever convict me of standing my own ground.  If he wanted to verbally accost me that was fine because I could just sit here and laugh and make him all the angrier until his heart exploded.  I just didn’t know what he was up to.  I don’t think he knew either, as he just planted his hands on his hips and adorned his best ‘tsk tsk’ act.

And then he started packing up his chair.

I didn’t believe it.  He was going to give up a glorious spot for no reason at all.  There was his spot, his friend’s spot, room for another friend in front of me, and room for still another friend.  I wondered if this guy went to the movie theater and got mad if anyone sat in ‘his’ row.  Maybe he lacked depth perception.  I was a bit disappointed in him; if he left I wouldn’t have anyone to entertain me with their absurd notion of personal boundaries.

But the show wasn’t done yet.  I knew what he was going to do before he did it, because I saw him planning it on his stupid face.

With his chair packed up, the man dropped the chair so that it’d fall over towards me.  It landed harmlessly on the ground, because there was an absurd amount of space between where I sat and where he stood.  I shook my head as he demonstrated for everyone how generous I had been with the space I’d saved him.  Undeterred, the man walked to the top of his chair, stood it up again, and proceeded to drop it a second time so it’d fall in my direction.  This time it hit my shoulder and then fell to the ground.  He walked to the front of his chair and proceeded to bend over, bumping me with his hip.  He picked it up, and dropped it again so it landed on my armrest, then gently nudged me with his arm as he recollected it.  All the while he kept sarcastically uttering “excuse me, sorry, pardon me.”

I ignored him.  He was livid.  I could tell he wanted to get under my skin, and ignoring him was driving him maniacal.

He got in my face and yelled, “Maybe now you’ll be more respectful when someone saves a spot!”

I turned my head and acted surprised, as if I didn’t expect to see him there.  My facial expression was carefully crafted to express many complex thoughts at once: smugness, superiority, dismissiveness, pity, slight confusion, nonchalance, and a complete lack of craps that I gave about him.  With a careful amount of slight annoyance I asked “Are you finished?”

There he stood, slack-jawed and stupid.  He wrenched up his chair and turned to leave in a huff, when he almost collided with several unexpected members of the audience.  While he was going through his crotch-display ritual to impress the other baboons, two teenagers had plopped down their chairs on the exact spot he had been sitting.  A third was almost smacked by the man’s chair when he whipped around to make a big show of leaving.

“Hey mister, are you leaving?”

It was too perfect.  The man huffed off, but not before he saw that not one, not two, but three people could have fit in the space that he had been saving for his comically corpulent friend.  I howled with laughter and saw him grip his fists into white-knuckles as he stormed off to the back of the crowd for absolutely no reason at all.

I Write Chaos In Yelp Reviews, And People Love It.

I’ve always been impressed with the service “Yelp”, but one day I found more than I had bargained for!  There was a man named “Bruce B” who reviewed a place called “Ted’s Fish Fry”, and his review was poetry.  Bruce’s review was art.  It had nothing to do with Ted’s Fish Fry, but immediately launches into what a makes up a good Cheese Steak in Philly.  I was astonished.  Here was a guy just bucking the system because he could.

I was completely caught off guard.  Bruce B was a genius!  I clicked on his profile and read more.  His reviews were all short stories.  Granted, there wasn’t much plot, but I got more and more of a picture of Bruce B as I read his reviews.  I saw Bruce B as a writer.  He wasn’t a great writer, but I liked him.  He had character.  In every review I could tell if the waitress was attractive, the actual place being reviewed doesn’t get a fair shake but I got a miniature story about the place, and after reading enough of the reviews I got to see that Bruce was a well-traveled guy.

I was inspired by Bruce B.

I’m not your usual writer.  I like to tell entertaining stories like the next guy, but I’m willing to go lengths that most people won’t.  I tell lies.  Sometimes I tell the truth but I make up parts of stories to speed things along.  Sometimes I take on entirely different character/personality traits when I write just to get a better ‘voice’ for the piece.  Sometimes I say things I don’t mean, which are obvious logical fallacies, but I don’t let on that I (the narrator) am aware of my error in reasoning.  I’m an unreliable narrator sometimes, a liar other times, and completely earnest other times.

What better place for this than Yelp?

Bruce B inspired me to write yelp reviews that have little to do with the actual place I’m reviewing.  Maybe these miniature stories could brighten someone’s day when they were not ready for it.  They are bizarre, but always review the place in question if you read between the lines.  Originally I had the goal of writing 4 posts a month, but that’s slowed down since I’ve started this blog, I’m trying to keep it at 2 a month now.  I have a deep need to get into the swing of writing creatively again; Yelp and this blog have scratched that itch a bit.  It’s how “Steve E, the unreliable” was born.

If you want, you can just look at some of my reviews here, but I’ll present you one of my finest works:  my review of the Hilton Garden Inn at Central Park South.  (Read the review at its original location here.)

Because “society” looks down upon sleeping on the sidewalk, I had to find an alternative, and the Hilton Garden Inn was quite the find!  The Man has been keeping me down for ages, claiming he owns everything and I have to pay this in order to just ‘be in the city’.  The Hilton wasn’t so bad.  This location has nice little cozy rooms for a reasonable cheap price (I’m talking “Manhattan cheap”, not “rest of the world” cheap.)

The best part about it is the location.  Before coming here I had been removed (somewhat forcibly) from the streets.  I tried to assert my rights as an American by yelling “It’s my body, I’ll do what I want with it!”

The police kept responding with “Sir, this is Time’s Square.  You can’t go to sleep on the crosswalk.”  Pfft.  Like I haven’t heard that one before.  Come up with something original, NYPD.  A short walk later I found myself at this Hilton.  It really is nestled into the heart of the city.  It’s right next to the David Letterman show (they won’t let you sleep there), a short walk from Time’s Square (don’t even try to sleep here), Central Park (thought I could hide in there and sleep, but no), and the subway lines (I thought for certain they’d let me sleep down there).

I got a “King’s Room”, because I was feeling like the King of New York.  The room had an excellent view of the wall of another building not too far away.  The room was cozy, very clean, and it was big enough for me to do what I needed to do (sleep).  It even had a business center so I could use the Internets to find better places to sleep out under the stars the way God intended (turns out that’s illegal here).  The staff here were fantastic.  They let me check my bag at the front desk after I had already checked out of my hotel room so that I didn’t have to haul my bag around everywhere I went before my bus showed up a few hours later.  I recommend this spot if you’re heading into NYC.

Getting Better At Profanity

Today is Friday, the day I talk about the issues and completely ignore that I didn’t post anything on Monday.  Today’s issue is: Using Bad Words.  A lot of people do it, but I find that hardly anyone does it correctly.  There is a certain art-form that effective swearing requires that seems to be lost on most of the populace, and I aim to correct that.  I want to live in a world where people swear and cuss and curse to their fullest potential!  No one teaches people how to swear, and that’s a shame.  It’s a great part of the human experience that all people are left to find out themselves.  So if you have children, make sure you pull up this article for them to read (and don’t let them click on any of the links).

DISCLAIMER:  It’s not often I’ll have to do this, but today’s post is SFW (Safe For Work).  I don’t swear in my posts or use overly graphic language.  Usually the links are safe to go visit, but today that will not be the case.  These kinds of clips are used in film school all the time (its where I got most of these clips), but usually when the professor is trying to talk about censorship and profanity.  I’m not taking any responsibility for any offense you take because of the links I’ve provided.  You’re a grown up, clicking those links is your decision.  You’ve been fairly warned.

Now don’t feel bad if you don’t swear well.  I didn’t realize it about myself for the longest time.  It took meeting a good friend of mine named Zed for me to realize this fault about myself.  Zed swears amazingly well.  Out of all the people in the world, Zed swears the best.  Swearing is Zed’s super power that he used to stop Loki from taking over New York.  Being friends with Zed was like being at the Buddhist temple for foul language enlightenment.  I thought I was swearing well, but Zed showed me what it was like to be one with the swearing.

Lesson 1: We need to analyze swear words.  My mother, who is probably horrified that I’d be talking about such a foul subject, draws the line of swear words very low.  It’s been hard to pinpoint because the bar goes lower every day, but I think the bar is currently set 8 words below the word “Silly”.  The FCC, a government agency mind you, thinks there are only 7 words in the English language that shouldn’t be said on the nation’s airwaves.  The range for folks does fluctuate a lot.  I’m going to use the word “Fart” for every swear word in this post, because it’s mostly neutral, is low on everyone’s list of possible swear words, but still has the shock value of legitimate swear words.  That’s the first lesson: you can’t really tell what your audience will consider to be a swear word.

Lesson 2: Swear words are completely unnecessary.  They are.  They distract from what one is trying to say.  Swear words can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.  (He is a _____.  He is going to _____.  That guy is a ____ clown.  That guy is ______ dishonorable.  [I noticed that some of you filled in those blanks while reading this, and not all of you used the word ‘fart’.  The sentences do become funny when you fill in the word ‘fart’ in each blank, but I’m sure you see how it distracts from the original intent.])  Still, swear words are completely unnecessary.  With a decent thesaurus, you can see that swear words are lazy words.  Swear words are generally words that one with a poor vocabulary has to use in order to add emphasis to whatever it is one is saying.  When one lacks a verbose lexicon to impact communication in a fetching way, one can lazily concede to using foul language for its shock value as opposed to a better word’s gravitas.

Lesson 2, Example:
My best friend betrayed me by embarrassing me in front of all of the popular kids to become popular himself.  He is a _____.
He is a fart.                         VS                         He is a quisling.

Lesson 3: There are generally two reasons to swear:
•to communicate a feeling of anger/disappointment
•humor

A lot of people just throw bunches of swear words around ineffectively.  The reason is that swear words are generally used to communicate two ideas, and overusing them dulls their edge.  By overusing swear words to communicate an intense idea, you’re basically making everything you intend to be intense boring.  (You know that guy that describes everything as “epic”?  Yeah, don’t be that guy.)  By overusing swear words for humor, you’re basically repeating the punchline in hopes that other people will find it funny a second time around.

The greatest offenders of this are middle school boys to college boys.  While jogging at the YMCA, I often hear the high schoolers below me swearing in every single sentence they utter.  Sometimes it is the only word in the sentence.  It is to the point that their swearing is just extra white noise, just there to be there.  It becomes boring, trite, sophomoric, useless, and dumb.  I think of their language the same way I think of high school boys.

Swearing is a lot like makeup.  Less is more.  One can use makeup to add emphasis to something one wants people to see (eyelashes, lips, ect).  If one uses too much makeup, they look like a clown.  Same goes for swearing.  The trick to swearing effectively is that it needs to be a rare event.  Swearing all the time makes one look like a clown.

Swearing has a certain power to it.  If every time you use a profanity, your language loses some of its power.  A speaker that abuses vocabulary loses all of their power.  People that overuse profanities are seen as vulgar, stupid, and crass.  Seems accurate.  These folks don’t realize that they are being overly offensive for no reason (vulgar), they don’t have the vocabulary to express themselves meaningfully (stupid), and they lack the social skills necessary to talk with intelligent and refined people (crass).

So how often should you be swearing?  The answer is always the same: Less.

Reserved swearing will actually increase your swearing effectiveness.  If my mother were to suddenly drop a profanity into one of her sentences after 60 years of not swearing, I’d know that she was EXTREMELY angry at a situation.  Her profanity would catch my attention, I’d know the severity of the situation, and I’d legitmently be shocked by it.  It’d be such a landmark occurrence that I’d call my sister to let her know that it’s happened.  Meanwhile, if Snoop Dog were to swear in a sentence, we’d all know that his heart is still beating.

Lesson 4:  Rarely use a swear word as an adverb.  It’s the equivalent of using the words “very” or “really”.  Both of these words are similar to swear words in that they are lazy ways of adding emphasis.  I’m really sure some very well planned abuse of these words will really show you how very little they really add to any sentence.  ‘The man is very stupid’ is not a better sentence than ‘the man is stupid’.  The idea is to add emphasis to the insult ‘stupid’.  This is how I hear most people insert their swear words because it is easy.  An adverb can go almost anywhere in a sentence, and yet, folks tend to place their swear word right before the word they are trying to emphasize, which completely negates what they are trying to do.  Also, most swear words, when converted into adverbs, will get an ‘-ing’ ending.  This makes swear words look like verbs, and can change the entire meaning of your sentence.

Lesson 4, Example:
The man is stupid.
The man is farting stupid.

The swear word in this case was meant to emphasize how stupid the man is.  Instead, the audience is wondering how one farts stupidly.  The swear word had so much emphasis that it took over the entire sentence, graduating from an adverb to a verb.  All meaning was lost.  Even if we did away with the ‘-ing’ ending, the sentence becomes ‘The man is fart stupid’.  Now it’s just an awkward sentence.  The word ‘stupid’ is now describing the word ‘fart’.  The sentence has been ruined by adding swear words into it.

Lesson 5:  Rarely use swear words as adjectives, for the same reasons as rarely using them as adverbs. They become boring.  They change the meaning of the sentences.  They aren’t effective.  It’s easy to insert a swear word before the noun you are trying to describe, but don’t.  Any swear word used as an adjective can be replaced by the word ‘big’.

LESSON 5, Example:
The man is an idiot.
The man is a farting idiot.
The man is a big idiot.

Nothing was added with the expletive except confusion.  The man is farting in addition to being an idiot?

Lesson 6:  The F-Word has become trite.  It really has.  The moment that “WTF” became something normally said on prime time television during a news cycle, the F-Word was done.  It’s over.  The reign of the F-Word has collapsed.  Now it is only offensive for the sake of being offensive.  It’s why I’m not spelling the word out despite it being a vapid profanity.  It’s overused.  True, it is a versatile word with fitting usage as a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.  It’s just not effective anymore.  The F-Word is so 1990’s.  There are better words now, and 99% of those are not profanities.  The F-Word has become so pathetic that most readers here think that writing “F-Word” is a good enough censorship of it.  So the F-Word shouldn’t be used unless it’s being added to be offensive just for the sake of being offensive.  Don’t use it.

Lesson 7: Never ever use a slur against someone!  This one is always a no-no.  In the digital age where everything is recorded, you don’t ever want to be caught using a slur.  This is a career ending move, and rightly so.  Wielding a swear word to hurt people will say a lot more about you than it will ever say about them, and it’ll speak volumes about you that you don’t want spoken..  The N-Word is nuclear.  If you feel the compulsion to use the N-Word, you might want to do some deep soul searching and find what you hate so much about a disenfranchised minority class in the United States.  This is one of those personal flaws that one should work out on their own time in private, not air for everyone to hear.  It’s not just racial slurs you should stay away from.  Stay away from gay/lesbian slurs, religious slurs, slurs against women, slurs against men, slurs against the disabled (physically and mentally), and whatever other bad term that can be applied to a group of people.  Even if someone uses a slur against you, don’t ever use a slur back against them (we’ll get to that in lesson 8).

You don’t want to get labeled as a bigot, and that’s exactly where using slurs will land you, because those are the kinds of words that bigots say.  Even if you are a bigot, which is a terrible thing to be, you don’t want to be exposed as one.  You keep those locked up tight, because there is a difference between offending someone with a profanity and inspiring righteous furry in someone by exposing your prejudiced hatred for a group they belong to.

Lesson 8:  Don’t swear in a fight or an argument.  In order for an argument to be constructive on your end, you have got to retain control of yourself.  Arguing is a complicated thing that requires a bunch of social manuvers and “one-up-manship”.  You’ve got to continually present you and your case better than the other person presents their case.  If you start swearing all over the place, you’ve started to present yourself poorly.  One swear will get their attention and show that you care deeply and passionately about the topic being argued over.  Persistent swearing will make you look like an out of control, vulgar, stupid, crass, and out of touch.  If you present yourself poorly, your position in the argument gets reviewed poorly, even if it is the right position.  At maximum, you get 1 swear word per argument, and even that seems high.

Lesson 9:  Despite all of my insistence to not swear in all of the previous lessons, it can still be done effectively.  Swearing is a lot like a semicolon; a person can use it to create beauty and new meaning for the sake of clarity, humor, and expressing one’s self.  Used incorrectly; and the semicolon quickly shows how bad one is at using semicolons and everyone questions their intelligence.  You have to know what you are doing in order to swear effectively.  There are times when it can be done to humorous effect.  There are times it can be done to really show upset someone is.  It’s an artform, and part of the art form is the rarity.  When done correctly it is brilliant.  When done incorrectly it makes the speaker look bad.

The Ultimate Lesson:  If you want to swear effectively, don’t.  Don’t swear at all.  Keep those profanities locked up behind your tongue.  Don’t dare utter them.  Let them sit.  Let them wait.  Let them ferment.  A person who doesn’t swear is the best at it, because the one day that you need a swear word’s power, it’ll be there for you.  Everyone will fall at your feet, because you waited, and your saved up profanities will pay exponential interest.  It’s the build up of a conservative tongue that makes a constructive swear word.

That’s the secret I learned from Zed.  Zed swears once every three years, and every time he does, the full weight of what he’s done registers to his audience.  His profanities are a thing of intense beauty because they are so farting rare.

We can only hope that my mom never decides to swear, for we would all perish in the flames of the magnificence.

Sandwich of Sin

Yesterday I went to my local sandwich shop, and you wouldn’t believe what I saw.  The guy in front of me bought a ham sandwich.  A ham sandwich!  There he was, in public, ordering a ham sandwich as if it was the most normal thing in the world.  So I tapped him on the shoulder and said “Hey buddy.  How about you eat your sandwich in private.  This is a town with good folks in it, and we don’t appreciate your kind around here when there are impressionable kids about.”

 

The guy had the gall to look at me confused.  “Excuse me?”

 

“No I won’t excuse you,” I was quick to retort.  “I don’t like your sandwich.  I want you to stop ordering that ham sandwich and apologize to everyone in here.”  I turned to face him, letting him know I wouldn’t back down from my stand on the issue.  I was sick and tired of people like him showing up and changing everything.

 

“Look, guy,” the pork-eater said to me, “I don’t know who you are or what your problem is.  Why do you care if I get a ham sandwich?  I’m not forcing you to eat one.  How about you have your sandwich and I’ll have mine.”

I looked down at his sandwich with revulsion, and back up at him, still revolted.  “Because I think sandwiches are sacred, and here you are profaning their sanctity.  You come into my town and try to change the definition of traditional sandwiches.  Well I’m not having it.  So why don’t you toss that sandwich away!”

 

The man looked back at the store clerk, trying to give me the cold shoulder.  I tapped him again “Hey buddy, I’m talking to you.”

 

“Leave me alone!” the bacon buffoon said.  “I didn’t call your sandwich evil.  I didn’t make up rules about you can eat!  I wasn’t even bothering you.  No, you decided to make my sandwich your business and get all riled up about it.  Stop it!  Let me eat my sandwich in peace!”

 

“Hey everyone!” I yelled to the sandwich shop.  “Look at this guy.  Take a good look.  Do you see what he’s doing?  He’s eating a ham sandwich!”

 

People started to murmur and gasp amongst themselves.  One mother took her kids by the hand and left the store.  They knew that this guy was a creep now, a sausage sinner if they ever saw one.  A couple of them moved to stand behind me.  The guy took a few steps back, something he wouldn’t do if he was ignorant of his sin.

 

“Folks” the hambo said, trying to appeal to the crowd, “this really isn’t any of your business.  I saw that you guys were eating your sandwiches and I wanted one too.  I don’t see why you guys get to eat the kind of sandwiches you like and I don’t, just because I like ham.”

 

A couple of people started to shout reasons why, but I quieted them down with a gesture before things got out of hand.  I wanted to humiliate this porker, right in front of everyone, and convict him of his shame.  “Listen.  We’ve all enjoyed sandwiches for a long time before your kind decided to show up.  We’re not going to sit by and let you just ruin that for everyone else’s sandwich!”

 

The man looked confused.  “How does my sandwich have any impact on your sandwich?”

 

Someone yelled from the back.  “It’s an abomination!  It ain’t a traditional sandwich!”

 

The man looked even more confused.  “People have liked ham for a long time, this isn’t a recent trend.  What makes your sandwich a traditional sandwich?”

 

The same man yelled from the back, “It’s the only kind of sandwich!”  Cheering erupted along with some clapping.

 

I quieted the shop down with another gesture.  I wasn’t about to let some anonymous voice from the back steal my thunder, because I felt the heat of god’s wrath being channeled through me.  “If you must know, a traditional sandwich is the kind that God set down.  In the book of Exodus, God set down the perfect example of what a sandwich should be.”  I smiled at him, because I’d committed this bible verse to memory in case I met a bacon-eater like this one.  “The people of Israel called the bread manna.  It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.  Moses said, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’  That’s what a traditional sandwich is: white bread and honey.  The way god intended!”

 

Cheering erupted from the crowd.  I sneered at the boar biter.  “And come to think of it, you aren’t eating your ham on white bread!  And that’s way more than an omer!”  The crowd started to boo and hiss at the man.

 

The swine swallower turned red.  I knew I had him, but he tried to weasel his way out of God’s word where he stood convicted.  “You do know,” he started, “that sandwiches predate the bible?  The agricultural revolution took place 16,000 years ago, and their primary crop was wheat.  Bread has been around for about that same length.  It’s part of what catapulted homo sapiens into modern people.  Sandwiches have-“

It was too late for him to go on with that liberal nonsense.  People were shouting and booing the hog hankerer.  “The bible starts at the beginning of the world, 6,000 years ago!”  yelled one man.  “It’s manna and foul!  Not manna and sow!” yelled another.  I just started to laugh, and the crowd quieted.

“Look at this guy,” I guffawed, “he thinks that monkeys were eating sandwiches before the world was created!”  Everyone burst out into hilarious laughter.

 

“I didn’t say anything like that.  Humans are homo sapiens!  Monkeys are a totally different species.”  His protests were lost in roars of laughter.  A couple of people pantomimed monkeys.  One threw a banana at the guy.  I didn’t appreciate him calling me a monkey, and neither did anyone else in the town.  Still, the pigsty guy tried to plead his case.  “Sandwiches still predate the Bible!  Many cultures had sandwiches before the Bible was written down.  If anything, the people of your god learned how to make sandwiches in Egypt!  And more than that, the Bible has many DIFFERENT kinds of sandwiches in it.  Sometimes god commands bread to be flat!  Other times it is served in loaves!  Why did you decide that this one example of manna is the perfect sandwich when it isn’t proper bread for which to make a sandwich!”

 

Another shout from the back rang out.  “Because that’s the way it’s been for hundreds of years!  Who are you to question that?”

“Whatever!” the man shouted.  “I don’t even believe in Bread God.  Why should I have to eat his ideal sandwich?  I’m not going to let a ghost from the Stone Age dictate my life choices with sandwiches or anything else!”

 

The crowd quieted.  This was something worse, an atheist and a ham eater, talking out in public as if he deserved the same rights as all of the normal people.  I could feel bile rising in my throat, but I kept my temper.  “Because, you piglet poacher, god didn’t just show us what the best, traditional, and only kind of sandwich is, but he also told us what kind of sandwiches not to eat!”

I recalled to memory a couple of verses before reciting them before everyone.  “Leviticus 11, seven and eight.  ‘And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you.  You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.’  There’s also Isaiah 65.  ‘All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good…who eat the flesh of pigs…such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day!’”

 

“You’ll burn in hell if you don’t turn from your carnivorous ways!”
“God hates Pork!”
“Stop corrupting our children!”

 

“I still don’t believe in Bread God.”  The salami stranger looked exasperated.  “Why would I care that he hates pigs if I didn’t care that he likes honey?”  The oinker orderer looked confused, exaggeratedly so, like he learned in that liberal college he probably went to.  “I…still don’t believe in Bread God, even if he doesn’t like pigs.  But you do.  Didn’t Jesus die for the sins of everyone, even people that eat pigs?  There’s even a story in Acts about Peter is offered pigs to eat from god who said they were clean-“

Booing cut the man off as people yelled at him.
“Don’t you dare use the Bible if you don’t believe in it!”
“What do you know about clean animals, piggy!”
“Pigs weren’t specifically mentioned in that story, you secular swine! Only four footed unclean animals!”
“Your parents must be so disappointed in you!”
“Take Ham Reparative Therapy.  Damn the spam!”

“Listen!  Listen!” The swine-seeking stranger called out.  “The shop offers ham sandwiches, so obviously they are just fine.”

“Oh don’t you dare!” I justly accosted, jabbing my finger into his chest.  “It’s people like you, pushing your ham-eating agenda on the rest of us that have forced this good shop owner to have to carry your abomination!  I’ll have you know that we are taking this case to the highest court in the land!  There is no reason why this Bread God loving business should ever have to serve ham-eaters like you!  This shop has the right to love god and shouldn’t be forced to sink down to your level!  It goes against everything this shop believes in!”

 

The man looked confused.  “This business has a religion?  It has religious rights that trump mine and common politeness?”

 

“Don’t get clever with me!”

“I’m not!  You just said that this sandwich shop has a religion.  If anything, you’re the one that’s being silly.”

 

The people in the shop started to boo the man again.  He comes into our town, into our shop, and demands that we just treat him like everyone else, like he has a right to force us to serve him and his hellish ways.

 

“If your Bread God hates pigs so much, why did he create them?  Why did he make me in such a way that I like ham?”

 

This godless pigheaded liberal was getting on my nerves.  “No one is born liking ham!  It’s unnatural!  You turned away from Bread God and turned to sin!  You just want to do things your own way!  You want to carry out your vile cravings and snub everything that is good and right!”

 

“What do you mean it’s unnatural?  You see pig-eating in nature all the time.  Wolves, hyenas, tigers, crocodiles, larger birds, and even dingos eat pigs.  Throw a pig in the ocean and I bet a shark would eat it.  Humans have eaten pigs since ancient history.  It’s perfectly natural!  And scientists have shown that people don’t choose whether or not they like ham, it’s just the way they are.”

 

“God doesn’t make mistakes!”
“Who are you to question god?”
“Bread God didn’t make pigs, the devil did, in order to test us!”
“It’s not sinful to like ham, it’s just sinful to eat it! Abstain from ham!”

 

The man grabbed his sandwich and started to walk out of the shop.  People cheered that the abomination was finally leaving, but, just as he reached the door, he turned around.  “You guys don’t care at all about Bread God.  You just hate people like me because you are bigoted, narrow-minded, and prejudiced!  You hide behind your Bread God just so you can shrug your shoulders and say ‘it’s not me that hates you, it’s Bread God.  Take it up with him!’  And then you turn to thin air, waiting for me to talk to your imaginary friend, as if you actually expect me to carry on with your fantasy.  I won’t play this childish game with you!  I don’t follow your Bread God, and neither do you!

 

The crowd was seething in anger.

 

I stepped forward.  I wasn’t going to let him have the last word.  “What do you mean we don’t follow Bread God?  I love Bread God with all my heart and soul!”

 

“No you don’t, you miss the message completely,” the man let loose with his pigsty lie.  “I see that you are wearing mixed fabrics, which god forbids in that book of Leviticus that you quoted at me.   He calls it an abomination.  You over there, the married couple, do you force your wife to sleep in a different bed when she’s on that time of the month?  Have any of you sacrificed an animal to appease god of your sin?  Do any of you treat your wife as unclean for 33 days after she gives birth?  I’m looking at the advertising board here in the shop, and it looks like this very shop has created idols and images.  And here we all are on a Sunday, breaking the Sabbath rule.  If any of you have a vegetable garden with more than one kind of plant in it, you’re an abomination!  If you get your hair cut in the wrong way, you are an abomination!  Tattoos are an abomination!   Eating at Red Lobster is an abomination!

 

“But here you all stand, accusing me of a rule I don’t follow for a religion I don’t have, when you all are breaking MULTPILE rules from the SAME book of the Bible that you do follow.  You are all hateful hypocrites, hiding behind your Bread God so that you don’t have to come to terms with your own corrupted hearts.  You want to hold me under the law of your religion while at the same time saying that it doesn’t apply to you in the slightest.  Even if I believed in Bread God you wouldn’t accept me.  You’d say that liking ham is too big of a sin for Bread God to handle, and that’s where he draws the line.”

 

The man left the shop, got in his car, and pealed out of the parking lot.  We never saw him again.

We showed him!