Pittsburgh Steamers and Cincinnati Bowties
Pittsburgh Steamers and Cincinnati Bowties
When I was a little kid my parents would drop me off to spend a month at my grandparents’ lake cabin up in northern Wisconsin. Besides getting yelled at for not properly tying up the battered old metal dingy, which my grandfather beat out of empty tin cans during the depression, or properly priming the Victorian-era boat motor almost assuredly assembled from parts left over from the homemade tractor (which was actually a converted blast furnace with bicycle and wagon parts’all of which he also smeltered and assembled) that was accidentally blown to smithereens by the homemade dynamite he made from mining saltpeter and wrapping it in the papyrus-and-rag-liniment-paper operation on which he also wrote, edited, printed (using homemade ink squeezed from the squids which he raised and inseminated by hand), published his own newspaper which covered stories of himself breaking his own one-man labor strike by hitting himself on the head with a police baton carved out of the same oak tree he with which he dug out the lake he lived on and hammered together their cabin out of old ‘Hoover for a Similar Tomorrow’ campaign signs upon which he also chiseled out nineteen family bibles and’okay, we watched a lot of Wheel of Fortune and when I shouted out the puzzle answers before he did, his neck turned red and he silently went outside to check the rain gauge, which I’d probably accidentally knocked over earlier in the day, which threw his yearly rain calculations way off, which sort of took away his will to live.
Anyways, between WOF, silent-Bible time, and gray meals which eschewed texture and flavor so as not to appear too ostentatious before the Lord (note to younger readers: humility was once a Christian virtue), the highlight of every summer was dragging my dour, pious grandparents to this horrible, medieval ‘zoo’ called Aquaworld, or Oakyland, or something like that. To an adult, the place must have stunk like a woodland Abu Garib, but to a little rat like me, I was stoked to see the hissing raccoons in tiny wire cages propped on sawed-off tree stumps, the muskies with ropes ties around their tails in tanks so small they couldn’t turn around, the baby deer covered in flies and held within petting distance of the chain-link fence by a rusting shackle around its neck, the half-dead porcupine tied down and arranged so that you could pay a nickel and yank quills out of its back for souvenirs, all these were impressive end results of 2,000 years of man’s unquestioned dominion over Earth and her creatures, no doubt, but my favorite was the bear.
This big, patchy, lumbering black bear unlucky enough to be trapped in some farmer’s dairy field, even unluckier to have not been shot on the spot, had been apparently infected with a variant of cerebral palsy and kenneled and so that there was no place to hide from the tourists, the tiny, sticky fingers of shrieking farm boys and the grown men who got their faces right up to the cage and said some variant of, ‘I ain’t afeared a yew, mr. bear! WHO’S BIG ‘N’ SCARY NOW!’ Most of the bear’s teeth had been yanked or broken out, and his claws had been ripped out, and his half-balding face was rotting away with mange and lesions left from being left defenseless against mosquito plagues, spidery ticks, and the Wisconsin black flies which chew and chew on you until their heads explode or you kill them dead. He knew he was fucked. For a quarter, you could buy bottles of red generic soda from a battered old-school vending machine with ‘Bear Beer’ spraypainted in runny brown down the front. For a quarter you would get your cloudy scratched bottle and push it up to a hole in the fence and the bear would, emitting an enormously depressing sigh, lumber over, grasp the bottle’s mouth between his sore-encrusted lips, attempt to steer it with a blister calloused pay, and half-heartedly chug it. This diet provided the majority of the bear’s sustenance and assumedly, after he died of diabetes, they made ashtrays out of his bones, glued on some glitter and sold them in the gift shop. The line of screaming kids with screaming red bottles screaming at this defeated animal to accept their poison’me, me, over here, drink mine! And the bear just sits, gets fat, feels the strength ebbing from his disintegrating muscles’
Switch coffee machine for the soda machine, and that’s me for the past year.
In my thirtyish years on this planet, I know these two things: 1) Being poor sucks. 2) Working at an office job, even a good one, is .0000000000000001% better than being poor.
I just quit a really good office job.
The complaints are nothing to take seriously. I just can’t sit inside all day. Sit, stare, and type. All day. For those of you burdened with excess creativity, a professional writing gig kills it off quite effectively. For those of you whose favorite pastimes include drinking, fucking, and fighting, these urges will slowly dissolve as well.
Worst was getting there and back. Forbes Magazine ranked my daily commute the 7th worst commute in the nation. 2 days a week, I’m sitting in traffic for at least an hour each way, sometimes two hours on the way home. 16 miles. 2 hours. Plenty of time to do that math. The other 3 days I’m out of traffic, but it’s a soul-killing combo of getting up at the crack of Christ, riding a bike, catching a bus, and hoping I make it to the vanpool in time to be shuttled in sterility to the conditioned corporate complex. On these days, I’m up at 6:30am and home at 8pm. All the hours between, enthusiasm for life is pouring out onto my keyboard through the contemplated gashes across my swollen wrists. I’m tired all the time. Too tired to work on my own shit. Too tired to write. I hate it. I eat dinner, have a few drinks, do the dishes, read for 15 minutes, and fall asleep. Weekend rolls around. Do laundry, clean the bathroom, meet some friends, and bam it’s Sunday. Sleep in a bit, go grab a beer, buy some groceries, and bam it’s Monday and I’m sitting in traffic again, wondering why the fuck Seattle drivers can’t merge onto the highway without flipping their cars over. I know. All of you motherfuckers live in Tulsa and commute to Delaware and work twice as hard for half the money and live in your car when you’re not in your cubicle and sleep two hours a night and never see your kids and haven’t had a vacation in ten years. Fine. You win. At being an idiot. Enjoy your beige carpeting. I ain’t doing it.
Everyone ends up in a rut. Generally, these ruts are assigned; we stand still while the walls rise on either side of us and we shrug our shoulders and declare that life has trapped us. And all the other trapped people agree. Not me. I recently stole a diamond-encrusted backhoe to dig my own, magnificent rut, all the way to hell so I can slap Satan on the goat beard for planting dinosaur bones to test my faith.
And so, it is with this backhoe and sadness that I must say goodbye to my beloved Seattle. Goodbye to my girl, my friends, my corner bar, my band, my job, my Norwegian brothers, my Seahawks, my city’oh, the people here generally suck’and the rent’s expensive’most of the food is overpriced and lousy’and condos/condo people are killing what weak culture this place once had’and retards from the red part of the state keep driving into the Big Ol’ Emerald City and going on shooting rampages to deal with their own latent homosexuality/bipolar disorders’but I’ll miss the weather, I’ll miss the oysters, I’ll miss Vancouver, and I’ll miss being surrounded by water.
But tomorrow, I’m off. Just me, my beater Honda, some books, a frying pan, a laptop, and an extra pair of pants’to Pittsburgh. Why Zeus, in his infinite wisdom, decided to put such good grad schools in Pittsburgh is beyond me. But, I’ve got a paid slot, a cheap room in a house in a neighborhood called ‘Sliberty,’ and a pile of classes with titles like ‘Qualitative Matrixes for Sociolinguistic Discourses’ and ‘Intro to Cognitive Semiotic Structures.’ Five years of poverty and six-point text. Yay! New city! I’ll be in the Eastern Time Zone, which is my second-to-least-favorite time zone. I really dislike Mountain time, because it contains Utah, which I’m going out of my way to avoid on the way out. Also, I’ll be surrounded by Steelers fans. Got nothing against the team–other than the fact that they’re a bunch of boring cheaters. Any Browns bars in the area?
New city, new rut. Put an extra case of beer in the fridge, Shittsburgh. Driver’s on his way.
HOMELAND SECURITY UPDATE: When Mark Driver is no longer allowed to sneak vodka onto planes, the terrorists have won. Fuck Iraq, let’s bomb Pakistan Great Britain!