Celebratory Gunfire: Why You Can’t Drink in the Park

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Let’s say you want a drink.  (I know, it’s far-fetched already.  Just bear with me.)  If you are in Jolly Old England, you may pop open your favorite bottle of Beefeater gin, mix yourself a drink, and take a stroll around the neighborhood.  Just walk your Irish wolfhound through the park while sipping your stirred martini.

If you are in the United States, you must drink that martini, shaken or stirred, indoors.  Whether it be in a home or a bar or a restaurant, as long as you’re inside you may consume to your heart’s content.  (Or until you start inappropriately groping the waitstaff, and are then flagged by the bartender.)  But if you want to take that drink outside, you had better be prepared to conceal your bottle in a brown paper bag and dodge the cops, because that is illegal.

And here is why:

A British man was having troubles with his landlord.  The problems escalated until finally one day this happened:  it was tea time, and the tenant did not offer the landlord tea.  “I was rude to him,” the man told his wife.  “He won’t be back.”  Problem. Solved.

An American man was having troubles with his landlord.  The problems escalated until finally one day this happened:  the guy took a Louisville Slugger to the landlord’s car, then urinated in his gas tank.  Problem. Solved.  Solved.  Solved?

The culture of America is one of robustness.  We don’t act calmly or rationally when we’re sober and happy:

  • “What a great Thanksgiving dinner.  Let’s go outside and shoot rifles wildly into the trees.”
  • The Who is playing?  Great!  How many people can we trample to death on the way in?”
  • “Hey, The Phillies won the World Series!  … Let’s set this car on fire!”

Because of this American temperament, this robustness, time has taught us that we cannot trust ourselves to walk around wherever we want, pumping ourselves full of liquid courage.  When the cultural disposition is Cowboy Embodied – us walking around with our hips cocked, our guns slung, just waiting for someone to start a fight so we may assert our assertiveness – the last thing we can be trusted with is public drunkenness.

Of course this isn’t to say that every Brit solves his problems with passive aggression, nor that every American is willing to take a dump on your Honda.  I’ve never even held a real rifle, let alone engaged in celebratory gunfire after a delicious roasted turkey.

However, it is undeniable that as a culture Americans are highly expressive, and encouraged to be so in every facet of our lives.  Any self-help book, any guide to success, any episode of Dr. Phil – they all encourage us to be open with our wants and feelings.  To be a healthy, functional American, one has to be able to assert himself and communicate in an effective and assertive manner.

So in a culture where we are expected to be forceful in a state of sobriety, where can we go other than bat-shit-crazy when our inhibitions are released (via all those shots of Jagermeister)?  By denying ourselves the luxury of drinking in public, we are denying ourselves the obvious opportunity to unleash that beast into the urban wild.

Unlike a culture where “unleashing the beast” amounts to throwing copious amounts of breadcrumbs out the side window, so that birds may mess on the neighbor’s lawn.

A New and Better Black Death

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Let’s lay down some hot truth:  If you throw a rock at a hornet’s nest, you deserve to get stung repeatedly.  If you light your fart on fire, you deserve to spend the rest of your life with half a scrotum.  If you decide to tie a jump rope to the back of your bro’s station wagon and ride behind him on a sled you strapped to your skateboard, you deserve that chunk of stop sign that is now permanently driven into your skull.

It is undeniably clear that the population of these types of people making these types of horrendous decisions is growing.  I mean, People have been watching Jackass and all of its unfortunate franchises since before I can even remember.

Additionally, I’ve seen Mike Judge’s Idocracy, and I find its supposition on procreation to be pretty sound.  Irrefutable, even.  That’s right, Mike Judge, you and I – we’re like this.

It occurs to me that it would be impractical not to see a correlation between an overpopulated planet and a burgeoning class of people attempting to ride their surfboards off their roofs.  In a population of seven billion people, the standard bell curve suggests that at least three and half billion people on this planet are about to do something stupid with a ceiling fan.

What is the solution for all this base jumping?  For all these drunk deer hunting accidents?  For all these backyard wrestling tournies?  For all these terrible, terrible decisions that just keep happening?

Black death.

Okay, that was a little dramatic.  For the record, I am not suggesting that we go out and start slaughtering anyone with a “My Kid Can Beat Up Your Honor Student” bumper sticker.  What I am saying, though, is that since the overabundance of  people riding shopping carts across four-lane highways seems to be a direct result of an overpopulated planet, a reduction of population would take the edge off.

Does this mean we should institute biological warfare against those who poke sleeping bears in the woods?  (And then are surprised when said bear mauls them…)  I mean, not being bear-poking people, we do have the resources to do that if we so chose.

No.  I posit that Mother Earth will take care of this on her own.  The planet can be viewed as a living organism and it has a history of finding new and interesting ways to combat the diseases that plague it.  (In this case, I am referring to the human species.)  For example, we have viruses, right?  I view viruses as a cellular extension of the organism “earth.”  Viruses kick our butts.  So to combat viruses we invented Lysol.  Then what happened?  Viruses evolved.  Now we have superviruses that literally eat Lysol.

The more our population grows and strains the organism known as earth, the harder earth will strike back.  Eventually made-for-TV movies like Contagion are going to become a reality, and we are all going to be exposed to some brand of new and improved Black Death that will greatly reduce the human population, world-over.  And, honestly, that is just what we need.

I sermonized on this subject once at work, and a coworker angrily said to me, “K. Jean King,” (yes, I insist that is what people call me at work), “what makes you think you’re so great?  You could die too.”

This affirmed for me the need for Black Death 2.0.  At no point in this argument have I suggested that everyone die but me.  I am very well aware that my body may succumb to this new and improved form of population control; I could die in the new Black Death.  But, hey, I’ll take one for the team if it means a better, less nut-shot-driven society.

Ebola doesn’t discriminate.  A virus that spreads worldwide will attack every brand of person.  We will lose some artists, we will lose some athletes.  We will lose some scientists, and we will lose some philosophers.  Yes, some promising and intelligent people will be swept away.

But what is more important is that, since majority of the people on the planet are attaching NOS tanks to tricycles – just to see what will happen – then majority of the people who are wiped out by this supervirus saving grace will, in fact, be the very same people who stick forks in electrified toasters and try to fell trees with their pickup trucks.

A worldwide virus might seem a bit harsh; but, you have to admit, imagining the world with 1.75 billion less people sticking matchbox cars up their anuses just for the funny x-ray does give you that sense of happy-place tranquility.

Newsfeed: A Reblog: Why Twilight Sucks: A Comprehensive Analysis By A Writer Who Actually Read It

I’ve maintained for years now that Twilight, while highly marketable, is literary caca-doodie. But every time I make this exposition, I find myself so overwhelmed with fury and disgust, that I can never articulate how I know this.

This is an excellently written essay on exactly why Twilight gives books a bad name.

is this thing on?

Based on everything I’d heard about Twilight, including a basic synopsis sprinkled with some finer details (like the sparkling), I could only assume that Stephanie Meyer was yet another author who managed to squeeze out a literary turd and somehow convince a publisher that it was solid gold. Still, I had never read the book(s), only skimmed them and read a paragraph here and there, so it didn’t seem fair to criticize this alleged turd without sifting through it.

I was right. It’s a piece of shit. And here’s why.

You Don’t Fuck With Folklore: Granted, there are countless variations when it comes to vampire myth, from their powers to their weaknesses…but there are some things that shouldn’t be changed, because they completely detract from the myth itself. Vampires are, across the board, creatures of the night. Now Miss Meyer tells her faithful readers, ‘Nope! They can, like, totally come…

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Have Legs, Will Travel

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In As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, he posits that roads make men crazy.  You should also know I’m playing fast and loose with that assertive tone.  I’m only about 60% sure I understand what’s going on – at best.  It was written in 1930, in turn-of-the-century Southern dialect, spoken by…well, we’ll just say none of these characters are winning any Nobel prizes.  Or spelling bees.  Or Monopoly or Battleship.  I don’t so much “read” this book as I muddle along and pretend like I understand anything that is happening.

From what I gather in my optimistic conjecture, the father of the family pictured in this novel blames all his family’s misfortune on the road that was built next to his house.  Or land.  Or farm.  The road next to his home property that is possibly also a farm.  He does so thusly:

“The Lord puts roads for travelling: why he laid them down flat on the earth.  When he aims for something to be always a-moving, He makes it longways, like a road or a horse or a wagon, but when He aims for something to stay put, He makes it up-and-down ways, like a tree or a man…keeping the folks restless and wanting to get up and go somewhere else when He aimed for them to stay put like a tree or a stand of corn.  Because if He’d aimed for man to be always a-moving and going somewheres else, wouldn’t He a put him longways on his belly, like a snake?  It stands to reason he would.” 

That is air-tight reasoning, is it not?  Of course his argument isn’t completely without merit.  Generally moving things do run parallel with the ground:  most animals legs carry their bodies parallel to the ground, anything with tires carry their frames parallel to the ground.  Roads, as he observes, are made to carry moving things, and lay flat on the ground as well.

Things that don’t move, as he observes, stick up perpendicular to the ground:  trees, plants, mountains, buildings, et cetera.  Therefore, since humans stand on two legs perpendicular to the ground, like a tree, they must be meant to stay still.  Infallible logic.

Of course what this deep-thinking Daddy-O doesn’t take into account is that humans, perpendicular or not, do have legs.  And legs are made for moving.  (Oh, yes; there is a reason this blog is called the irrefutable opinion.)

This man’s assertion is that his family was doing fine and dandy until they done built that dern road by his house, and that’s what brought about all his family’s troubles.  The road running along his homestead did two things:  one, it brought unwanted people to their home/land/possible farm, and, two, it gave his children ants-ies in their pants-ies.

This makes sense, because essentially a road has two functions:  it can either bring someone to a place or it can take a person away from a place.

Why are all these tax collectors, and gossipy neighbors, and pushy evangelists, and travelling salesmen knockin’ on my door all of a sudden?  Oh, right.  Because of that stupid road.

All of a sudden none of my children have any interest in tending to my home/land/possible farm.  What’s up with that?  Oh, right.  Because of that stupid road.  Now they want to be carpenters, and ride the train, and fly spaceships, and be in the Rolling Stones.  (I may have misread that part somewhat.)

However, as antiquated, coarse, and uneducated this fictional man is, his disdain for the road isn’t completely unfounded.  People come up the road, and we see them come up the road.  And we wonder where they come from.  And we wonder what else is out there.  And we want to experience it.  And the more we stare at the road right outside our bedroom windows, the less we are satisfied with what is in front of us –  because we are constantly reminded that there are other places to be, and other things to experience.

And, you know, we humans stand upright like a tree, and are therefore obviously supposed to stay in one place like a tree.  So yearnings of this sort can only lead to certain and incontrovertible catastrophe.

What Do You Do, Semantically Speaking?

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What is the correct answer to this question:  “What do you do?”

Because the correct answer (apparently) is not “poop.”  Nor is it:  breathe, eat, sleep, wash my dishes after dinner, vacuum my house…poorly, shampoo the dog against his will, DVR new episodes of Big Bang Theory, or drive ten miles per hour above the speed limit.  It seems when you offer one of those answers people don’t ask, “Oh, how do you like it?”  They roll their eyes at you and flip you off as they walk away.

Any of the above answers are true and fitting when asked the simple question, “What do you do?”  People get pissed off because our cultural implication is they are actually asking “What do you do…for money?”  So the conversation usually goes something more like this:

  • “What do you do?”

   “I’m a trash man.”

  • “What do you do?”

   “I’m a police officer.”

  • “What do you do?”

   “I’m a hedge fund manager.”

Semantically, this is all wrong.  The latter doesn’t answer the former at all.  It would be like saying, “What do you eat?” and the answer being “I am Italian.”  In that scenario we would infer that the answerer probably eats a lot of pasta.  But what if he has Celiac’s disease and can’t eat pasta?  The inference has failed, and we still have no idea what this person eats.

On the other hand, if we actually answered the question “what do you do?” it is likely we would confuse the askers more than clarify our occupations for them:

  • “What do you do?”

   “I throw refuse into the back of a truck I ride on.”

  • “What do you do?”

   “In between going to people’s houses to attempt to reason with loud, drunk people, I sit in my car most of the day and read people’s license plates.”

  • “What do you do?”

   “I steal people’s money and make it look like I don’t.”

This does give us a clearer image of what the answerer does on any given day, but as far as a job title goes, who could begin to guess?  For example, lots of people throw stuff into the back of a truck.  That is what trucks are for – to just toss shit in the back of them and then transport said shit from one location to another.  What this man does depends on the asker’s definition of “refuse.”  Some people actually throw manure into trucks, yet we don’t call them “trash men.”  And, after all, isn’t one man’s trash another man’s treasure?

Sometimes people ask me, “What do you do?” and I am inclined to say, “I am a writer.”  This would be both true and a lie at the same time.  Do I write?  Yes.  I’m writing right now.  That’s how these clever words got on this page.  And “writer” is on the list of acceptable answers, so I wouldn’t be scoffed at as though I’d said “shower.”

However, I am still misleading the asker because the inference is that I do this for a living.  “Writer” is only a fair answer to “what do you do?” if it would be followed by a question like, “do you make any money at it?”  To which, of course, I would laugh out loud until my eyes became blurred with tears and my sides hurt.

If someone really wants to know what your job is, without having to navigate the confusion of semantics or having to follow up with uncomfortable financial questions, wouldn’t the best question just be, “What is your job?”

Or, even more specifically, “What is the job you do that someone else pays you to do?”  Cause, you know, some people might answer the “What is your job?” question with something like, “Mowing my lawn.  And my partner does the laundry.”

Newsfeed: That’s Why I Sent You a Helicopter

Remember this one? 

        There was a man who lived on the edge of a town in a small house.  One day heavy rains began to fall, and the town began to flood.  His neighbor came by with his truck and offered to take the man to safer grounds.
         “No,” said the man.  “God will save me.”
         The water rose higher and soon another neighbor came by with his canoe, offering to take the man to safer grounds.
         “No,” said the man.  “God will save me.”
         The water rose higher and soon city officials came to the man with their speed boat, offering the man a ride and a life jacket.
         “No,” said the man.  “God will save me.”
         Soon the water was so deep that the man had to climb up to his roof.  As the water crept up the man’s boots, a helicopter came, offering to take the man to safer grounds.
         “No,” the man still said. “God will save me.”
         The helicopter left.  The water rose.  And the man drowned. When he got to heaven, the man asked God, “God, my home was flooding.  Why didn’t you save me?”
         And God said, “Well, I sent you a truck, a canoe, a speedboat and a helicopter!”

Deliberate on the nature of miracles in my most awesome humor essay, “That’s Why I Sent You a Helicopter.”  This essay is available for viewing at epiphmag.com.