The Forecast Predicts Stormy Weather

Opinion, True Stories, Uncategorized

I haven’t updated this blog in a pretty long time so I figured I would get some thoughts that were running through my head this morning/afternoon. Grad school hasn’t made much time for personal or “creative” writing.There is not any particular “plot” to this, or maybe there is; it’s up to you. Pardon the frequent semi-colon use. And apparently I have 343 people following this blog. I don’t know who any of you are, but thank you, meaningfully and truthfully.

Did I ever tell you about the person I was named after? Maybe I will another time; that’s too personal for right now.

I went for a walk this morning around Lake Ella. I wore black boots, dark green denim pants, and a blue shirt. My roommate insisted my outfit did not match; I insisted I did not care. You can all eat roaches.

The weather predicts stormy weather for this afternoon. As a result, I was probably the only one walking around Lake Ella besides the girl who asked me to sign a slip which would allow the daughter of Bob Graham to run for Florida State Senator. I would have signed despite being neither a Republican nor Democrat, but I am not registered to vote in Leon County.

One lap around the duck inhabited lake and then I met with my roommate, her boyfriend, and his roommate at a Chinese Super Buffet. They went for hangovers; I went for companionship. I decided not to eat because it’s a Chinese Super Buffet – tautologies be damned. My companion’s immediate complaints upon finishing their food were, “I shouldn’t have eaten here. I feel disgusting.” This confirmed my hesitation about eating at a buffet restaurant where children are most likely slapping their snotty hands on the creepily creamy shrimp and awkwardly present macaroni and cheese.

After breakfast I returned to Lake Ella and continued walking with a copy of Walden in my hands which I never ended up reading. Typical, right? Reading Thoreau at Lake Ella. I saw a Mexican family that was at the Chinese Super Buffet.

The father wore a cowboy hat, cowboy shirt, and had two knives attached to his belt. He and his wife had five children present – I think all boys. They stood by the water and enjoyed their Sunday.

The capricious winds in the capacious environment precluding the storm calmed and grounded me. I thought of a girl I dated recently and wondered why I still thought of her. It wasn’t logical, but emotions are not concerned with logic.

I haven’t spoken with her in weeks and I know she has forgotten about me. That’s a typical recurring fate I encounter, a curse I can’t escape from, a repeating destiny.

Her mellifluous, melodious singing still haunts my apartment, resonating, echoing in that open space, that grey area between Self and Other, where we see the physiological effects discussed in Affect Theory. Memories haunt, and I know she is somewhere else, laughing, dancing, smiling. I still don’t know if she ever heard, understood, listened, or knew me. It’s memories all the way down, memories to fill that abyss. Echoes are always heard but never able to be grasped. They are an objet a that damages the psyche. They permeate like parasites and find their cures in addiction.

The forecast predicts stormy weather; it always has. I have inherited a particular gene structure, call it a fate, call it Fate, call it something we can’t determine or know or see in a microscope. It’s an inheritance by any other name and one defined by accursedness.

How do you tell someone you are cursed? Where’s the proof? It’s a feeling, and feelings are too underrated.

I know the Myer-Briggs personality type test is bullshit but I consider it to be similar to Wikipedia. You can’t use Wikipedia in a paper, but it helps to take a quick look for a brief summary of a subject. That being said, I fit the profile of an INFJ quite well. The test profile describes me better than I can describe myself.

Apparently we are only 1% of the population, the rarest breed, and one that is not easily understood. An additional note reads, “The INFJ individual is gifted in ways that other types are not. Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’m some unique fucking snowflake. But I do know I feel the world in ways I believe most people can’t. I feel in ways I don’t often find others capable of. I feel empathy sometimes to a fault. I meet people who claim to be empathetic and I soon discover they don’t even know what the word means. They can be as be enjoys as the next scorpion. Maybe I should stop here.

Have you ever met someone who displayed a particular set of personality traits only to discover you were deceived? In the beginning they were genuine and they listened; in the end they were fraudulent and solely self-concerned. These realizations can be disappointing.

But I do want to help people. When I see a person cry, hurt, or experience injustice, I have an overwhelming need to help them, save them, and end the oppression.

Did I ever tell you who I was named after? I still don’t think right now is the right time, but I will tell you that the forecast has always predicted stormy weather. Paradoxically, the capricious rains and tempestuous winds settle me.

The singing of someone long gone still haunts the claustrophobic apartment I pay rent at. I hear the singing of a spirit who has freed herself, already unfettered, but who I keep around as a matter of object cathexsis. It’s not a home and I’m not sure if I have ever had one in several years. I’ve just paid rent at a series of locations, moving quickly like the winds that rush across my skin. Another apartment, another haunting.

There is a claustrophobic inside and commodious outside. There is neither specificity nor generality. It is all just feeling and perception. The present consists only of memories. The memories consist only of perceptions. After that it is all confusion.

These topics are not easily discussed. You don’t just walk up to someone and tell them you are cursed. These are not medieval times where we can cure melancholia, the black humor, by bleeding a person out. Nor can we ascribe supernatural causes to events which are not easily understood. But to feel the world, and to understand what it is we are surrounded by, requires a sense of feeling, a sense, ability, and faculty that is rare and often misunderstood.

It’s really nice to meet you.

Let’s skip to the part where we reveal our skeletons. You already know I have no patience for the in between.

Before you I didn’t have any missed calls and I didn’t need to leave the porch light on. None of that will change with meeting you, I know; I’m sorry if I gave the impression I might think otherwise.

Well, maybe I did think, for a moment, when you smiled at me and looked in my eyes and held them in your hands. But I know I don’t need to check my phone to see if I have any missed calls to tell me where I won’t be this Thanksgiving.

You won’t have to tell me why. I’ll ask the skeletons what they think. I remember what I wish I could forget.

If Byron could drink from the River Lethe to forget the cursed past, I can share the same body of water for the same reasons. I look out my window: grey skies, naked trees, a storm fast approaching. I’m beating my heart until it stops beating.

Ye know it, and I cannot utter it

Maybe next time, if the weather is different, I’ll tell you about who I was named after. You will know this curse I have inherited.

I look out my window and see that the clouds are getting darker, the winds are gaining speed, and the storm will soon no longer be a neighbor but a resident. The rain is now pouring down like I should have stocked up on batteries and non-perishable foods. It’s all grey skies and naked trees. Memories and vague perceptions clouded by whiskey and Ativan. Raindrops collect on the window like perceptual misunderstandings, disfiguring visual perception.

The storm is confirming the prediction. The present is confirming the fate. The curse is predicting the future.

How to Find Validation in Capitalism

Opinion, True Stories, Uncategorized

I had been through this many times but that didn’t make it any easier there is us and there is them and I was them I anxiously stood in place knowing this moment was going to arrive my pulse rate grew quicker quicker quicker until it felt like my veins would explode beads of sweat formed and grew larger on my forehead they dripped down my bearded cheeks and somehow landed in my empty pockets I knew I would have to face this moment and be brave no matter what happened it wasn’t my first time but that doesn’t make the fear any less destructive hurry up I yelled in my head why was this taking so long it never takes this long it’s taking too long now there must be a problem I had been through this experience so many times, but this was worse because it took seconds longer than all of the previous ones how many life situations make seconds a matter of live or die terrorist attacks hostage situations but this shouldn’t be one of them stay calm I told myself I tried to make my body language appear normal even though there were people a panel of judges all around me who could tell I was moments away from a complete meltdown the wait lingered for what felt like hours people stood around me they were judging me before my verdict had been delivered eyes everywhere that knew my secret there are a lot of people in my position but that doesn’t make it any easier this was taking longer than normal and that exacerbated my anxiety I was a grown man filled with fear how can I be a 31 year old man who doesn’t fear a person breaking into his apartment who can change a tire throw a punch bench press more than his own weight and still be afraid of this very moment I put my hands in my pockets to clench my fists I squeezed my fingernails into my palms so hard I thought I would make myself bleed I didn’t care I deserved it I wanted them to bleed I was disappointed that my skin was so strong Still it had not happened I yelled even louder in my head, COME ON APPROVE ME I stared at a screen a screen that would tell me if I was approved or not would I be approved would I be validated would I be accepted what was my verdict why are you doing this to me I cried to the Universe I felt laughter I saw pain I heard judgment I smelled class division I vomited the contents of simulacrum

Then finally it happened

My debit card was approved at Publix

I quickly gathered my grocery bags walked out of the store and wrenched the collected sweated from my emptier pockets out feeling like I had gotten away for something being a member of them and reminded myself the battle is not over yet

A Somber Reminder of Beauty in the Face of Death

Published Articles, True Stories

This article, written in memorial from my friend Katie Altermatt, won first place in 2013 for an SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) award in the category of Online Opinion & Commentary in Region 3 and is now in competition for nationals

As soon as I touched her wrist I felt ice.

It’s a feeling you don’t expect. Touch the desk in your room and it’s room temperature. Touch a dead body and quickly discover just how cold it is after heat and life have evaporated. The chills down your spine don’t compare.

After the police finished an investigation of the room where my best friend’s wife, Katie, died, they left the scene. Mike was laying on an outdoor chaise lounge of the balcony at the house overlooking Lake Oconee. I walked over to him, but had no idea what to say.

We were there because our friends Brandon and Jackie were getting married. I was a groomsman in the wedding. On the morning of the ceremony, we woke up to discover that Katie had passed in her sleep.

I couldn’t ask how he was doing. That was a ridiculous question, so I asked the only question I could think of: “Is there anything I can do?”

He looked at me from behind his sunglasses. “Can you perform a resurrection,” he asked.

“Of course not,” I told him.

“Then no,” he replied, “there’s nothing you can do.”

I left him in silence.

The remaining 16 people who had been staying at the lake house had no idea what to say or what to do. We should have been preparing for a wedding. Celebrating the coming together of two people, not mourning the separation of two others.

On the long drive to the lake house, Katie had talked about how far apart everything is in rural Georgia. Then she pondered, “I wonder how long it would take for an ambulance to reach you if something happened.” She told us how she would want her funeral to be performed and how she would want to be remembered. (She will never know it, but Mike did everything she had asked).

That morning I woke up at 9:30 a.m. Mike was screaming for someone to call 911. He was standing over her, trying to shake her out of sleep. Out of death. Before I opened my eyes, my hand scrambled across the nightstand for my cell phone. I called 911 and told them we needed an ambulance.

Katie lay in bed, her hands still clasped together, supporting her head as though she were still asleep. Her brown hair laid gracefully across her pale face. Her facial expression was peaceful and happy. It was as though she fell asleep thinking of happy moments, then never woke up.

It was fitting — a final symbol of how she lived her life. How much she loved the simple things. How rich and bonded their mutual devotion was. I have never seen it in another couple. It’s what I hope for one day.

Neither one of them ever needed anything because the other was always there to provide it. Before one sneezed, the other was already making chicken soup. Before one had the chills, the other was reaching for a blanket.

I never saw them fight or bicker. Only laugh. And sing. They sang to each other — something you don’t often see. I wonder if I will ever see that in another couple.

The responses from Katie’s friends were just as diverse as the people themselves. My friend Todd said to me, “It would have been nice if Mike had gotten to say goodbye to her.”

“That doesn’t matter,” I told him. “He showed her every day.”

No doubt she laid in bed that last night knowing that she had loved, was loved, and still is today.

Thankfully, all of Katie’s friends were open to talking. That openness isn’t as common as it ought to be. I never understood how people get squeamish or uncomfortable when discussing death. Why not talk about it, though? It reminds us of our mortality, but also how we need to reevaluate our lives — to live purposefully.

We often avoid these questions. It is easy to be slowed down by the dampness of ordinary life — to fall into its catatonic surrender. But shouldn’t we be reminded of our mortality? Our own mutability?

There have been dozens of times since that day that I’ve stopped myself from complaining. Kept my mouth shut over a petty grievance. I remind myself that I should be spending more time thanking and appreciating, and less time complaining or worrying.

It can be hard to remind yourself to live a “beautiful life.” I want my life decisions to have purpose — to be enriching and rewarding. But it’s easy to forget when stuck behind the idle car at the green light.

That’s what Katie has taught me. That’s her legacy now. That I need to learn to take deep breaths. To remind those who are close to me that I love them and care about them. I want to show them.

On the hour and a half drive to Atlanta, where the emergency responders took Katie’s body for her autopsy, Mike leaned his body against the passenger door. His head was propped against the window as he held a can of High Life in his right hand.

The road was quiet and smooth as the car hummed along. Mike started singing in Irish Gaelic. The song was “Óró, Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile.” It means, “You are welcome home.”

“That’s a song Katie and I used to sing to each other,” he told us afterward.

As the car sped toward Atlanta, we sat silently. Mike had stopped singing. We weren’t sure what to discuss — what to say to break the silence. Finally, someone cracked a joke. It loosened up the air, but not much. We reached the airport where Mike was meeting his sister, and we turned around and headed back to the wedding.

I had just enough time to put on my black and red tuxedo and drink a Guinness before the ceremony. After the wedding, the celebration moved back to the lake house. I hadn’t had a chance to be by myself the entire time. I walked out to the dock that stretched into Lake Oconee and lost it. My tears fell into the lake. I gathered up my stuff, left the house and got a motel room.

After checking in, I touched the desk in my motel room. Cool, but not ice. I was still here, still breathing, still warm. The ever increasing stack of unpaid bills accumulating in my small apartment no longer mattered. The next morning I woke up, checked out of the motel, and drove home.

Two months after Katie’s death, the coroner’s report came back. We had all wondered how she died and now we had an answer. Only it wasn’t an answer. The cause of death: undetermined natural causes. Two months of waiting and we hadn’t learned anything. Only it didn’t matter. The cause of death wasn’t as important as the legacy she left behind, and what she had taught us with her beautiful life.

Sexual Assault: Time to Come to the Defense of Women

Opinion, Published Articles, True Stories

Recently a friend of mine was physically and sexually assaulted at a party. After she pushed the guy off her, he called her a slut and a bitch. While her friends came to her defense, no male did and the attacker’s friends encouraged his behavior.

When she told me her story, she concluded it by saying, “Apparently reacting to being grabbed by strangers constitutes being a bitch nowadays.”

There are more offensive details regarding this guy’s actions, but they are being withheld to protect my friend’s anonymity. Those details, however, would enrage any person who believes women’s bodies should not be violated.

There is already much needed societal and media attention paid toward rape and attempted rape cases, but rarely do we hear of cases where rape did not occur, but the woman was sexually assaulted by being touched, grabbed or something along these lines.

Is this because it’s too commonplace? Do many guys see this occur so often that it’s not worth mentioning and not worth defending the victim? Fifty four percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, but in how many was the woman actually defended regardless of police involvement?

Many women are already strong enough to defend themselves without the help of a nearby male, but certainly not all are. In many cases when the woman does defend herself, she is called some pretty derogatory things. As my friend already noticed, not only is the victim in these cases not defended, she is further victimized just for defending herself.

Imagine you are at a party and you witness a man physically or sexually assault a woman. Do you do anything? Do you passively stand to the side and consider it acceptable behavior? Do you feel too afraid to break from your friends, look like the “bad guy,” and actually come to the person’s defense?

Is being an individual really that hard? What if your mother or sister was assaulted? Would the blood that courses through your veins boil because the men present were either too passive to do anything or believed that assaulting a woman is morally permissible?

Encouraging or refusing to defend a woman who has been violated does not seem like the type of behavior of a highly cultivated, sophisticated and evolved society. It sounds like the behavior of cavemen, dragging their knuckles through the dirt and communicating in grunts.

What will you do the next time you see a woman get assaulted or violated? Will you do anything? Will you imagine that it’s your mother or sister?

Can we evolve as a society to treat each other respectfully? I hope so.

The Night I Drove Away From Prayer

Opinion, Published Articles, True Stories

You’re either in or you’re out: chosen or forsaken, saved or damned, the many or the few.

Some years ago I was in a Christian martial arts school. I wasn’t Christian, but it was a great school and it was confirmed every time I broke a rib or a foot or got a black eye. I liked it because it pushed me beyond my limits, further than I would have been able to go on my own.

Plus, it always felt cool to have a broken bone or a black eye. A spinning side kick that takes less than a second to execute that cracks a rib is a thrill and pain you won’t experience anywhere else (at least nowhere that you’re paying for it).

But like I said, it was a Christian martial arts school and I wasn’t Christian. I hadn’t accepted Christ. I had when I was a kid, but what does that mean? Lots of kids accept Christ into their hearts and they don’t know what it means. A person can’t know what it means when they are too young – they’re just repeating the words they’ve heard.

One Saturday evening, the leader of the martial arts school, who was also a pastor, was giving a sermon at a local church. They were doing one of those services that are geared toward youth where they draw you in with donuts, coffee, and pseudo-edgy rock music. To conclude the sermon he invited everyone to stand up and join him in a circle of prayer.

“Whether you’ve accepted Christ into your heart before or are tonight for the first time, c’mon up here and let’s pray,” he excitedly commanded through the microphone.

So everyone did. The masses left their pews and gathered around the leader in a circle. They eagerly walked up to the altar where he stood with his microphone and they put their arms around each other forming one large group. They bowed their heads in unison and listened as the leader spoke to God through a microphone.

When the Christ-acceptance prayer started I was still sitting in the pew, outside the circle of prayer. Everyone had left except for me and I awkwardly remained in my seat. I didn’t accept Christ into my heart before that night and I wasn’t going to that night either.

It wasn’t that I had any personal vendetta against Christ; it was that I did not believe the story of the Bible and therefore could not accept Christ as my personal lord and savior.

Some lighthearted, gentler folks out there might think if I should have gone up and there and joined in the rejoicing, but some of those lighthearted, gentler folks out there also don’t have a problem with lying.

That was my dilemma: should I lie and approach the group to “accept Christ,” and be a member of the chosen and saved, or should I be honest and stand alone, to be a member of the forsaken and damned, while everyone ascends to the prayer circle?

These situations are typically not easy ones. No one particularly enjoys lying and it surely makes uncomfortable situations easier to bear, but we all find ourselves situated in a moment where lying has more consequences than, “Sorry bro, it wasn’t me who drank the last beer.” How should a person react when he is confronted by a situation where he can only please the group by lying?

I didn’t want to lie so I didn’t stand up and join. I took my place among the damned, the forsaken, the wicked because it was the honest thing to do.

I have always felt on the outside of things. I have always felt like the underdog and thus, the forsaken and damned. I descended from the group. I stood up, walked outside, and got into my car. I left in the rainy, dark night while they were still praying, confirming my position among the few.

Do Atheists Have a Place in America?

Opinion, Published Articles, True Stories, Uncategorized

In the fall of 2011, I sought out a printer to print a collection of short stories I had written. The collection was entitled “Iambic Pentagram,” and contained a dozen short stories and essays, mostly satirical and humorous social insights and observations. One of the essays was called “Why I am an Atheist.”

There were two mentions of a Christian God in the essay. They were:

1. If I knew Jesus was truth, I would accept that truth. If I knew the Christian God was the God I ought to believe in, I would believe, just in the same way that if I knew any other possible God was the God I should believe in, I would worship that God.

2. I’m not mad at the world and I’m not mad at God. No matter when the world ends, hopefully God will know that with the rational mind he intended us to have led me to deny his existence.

That was my best and most genuinely honest approach at remaining open-minded and asserting to an audience that I knew would be partly Christian that I have no problem with Christianity or a belief in God. I simply do not believe in God. I understand that when some people hear the word atheist, they automatically attach a number of meanings to the word. For example, he must be a jerk and dislike religion.

I understand that. I have seen it happen and I have met the people who fit that exact description. But that is not me. And that does not describe many of the atheists and agnostics that I know. Have we not all met someone from a particular group that misrepresented the group as a whole?

Regardless of my “best and most genuinely honest approach at remaining open-minded,” the printer refused to print “Iambic Pentagram” because as the CEO of this North Carolina-based company told me over the phone, “You’re trashing my God and I need to put my foot down as a Christian.”

It would be difficult to argue the legal issue of his refusal to print my booklet. My limited understanding of legalities tells me that he had every right to do so. However, the fact that he blatantly misunderstood my statements as “trashing God” led me to believe that despite the safety measures I took, he still felt that as an atheist, I was anti-God and had a deep-rooted hatred for those with a religious affiliation. He was wrong.

Let us reverse the scenario. Suppose I were the CEO of a printing company which publicly also has no religious affiliation. One day, a Christian wants to print a booklet and one essay states, “I don’t have a problem with atheists, but my rationality has led me to conclude there is a God.”

That is not a controversial statement by any stretch of the imagination, but I were to refuse to print this person’s booklet, would it not make me seem like I am being a bit sensitive and perhaps anti-religious? Arguably, many more people would consider this latter scenario to be more unjustifiable as compared to the scenario that I actually experienced.

To get a better understanding of this issue, a 2007 Gallup poll showed that 53% of Americans would not vote for an atheistic presidential candidate. This statistic points us in the direction that there is a distrust of atheists in America. Unfortunately, the Gallup poll does not answer why.

There is perhaps a polarization in the American religious spectrum because oftentimes, the question boils down to, “Are they Christian or non-Christian?” In a sense, and of course not always, Jewish people, Muslims, atheists, and agnostics – and pretty much anyone who is not Christian, get lumped into the same category. In a Christian dominated country, this sense of polarization should not seem brand new.

Robert Sims, 22, a philosophy/religion and history major with a youth ministry minor at Flagler College identifies himself as a strict Roman Catholic. He said, “Ignorant and thoughtless people may certainly marginalize or negatively view the atheist or agnostic and vice versa. Unfortunately this type of person or this attitude tends to prevail as the majority among our contemporaries.”

Offering greater insight as to why the Gallup poll shows numbers that look unfavorably upon atheists, Sims stated, “I think that almost any person prefers people who agree with their opinions – be them religious, political, or otherwise – over people that do not agree with them.” This makes sense in a country where one practically must be a “strong Christian” in order to win a presidential election.

Jared Smith, 23, a Flagler College graduate with a degree in philosophy/religion and political science, has no particular religious affiliation. His response to this matter was, “In certain areas of the U.S. atheism is seen as a stigma, and I think that is a hold-over from the time when religion and morality were viewed as synonymous. But in more and more areas of the country, Christianity is becoming less of a presumption, and people are generally more open to their friends or colleagues being atheists.”

In the Gallup poll, just 7% of Americans would not vote for a Jewish presidential candidate and Mormons got a harder blow with 24% of Americans refusing to vote for them. The question of course then is, what often separates atheists and agnostics from those with a religious background? Why do the numbers jump to a startlingly 53% when atheists are brought into question? A person refusing to vote for an atheist or agnostic may easily claim that those who are not a member of a traditional organized religion (i.e. Christianity, Judaism, Islam) lack a moral fabric.

Many people not only find a moral compass in a religious environment, they believe it necessary to have a religion in order to have a moral foundation – and to not be associated with a religion means to be without morals. Is the statement “No God, no morals” a true one? Of course not.

I’m not saying that refusing to print my booklet is “religious intolerance.” But you have to ask yourself why people without a religious affiliation continue to be looked down upon by people with one?

New Orleans, Decadence, Free Will, Determinism, Agency, and Vomit in the Streets – After

Opinion, True Stories, Uncategorized

Last week I told you I was going to New Orleans for a philosophy conference, the New Orleans Workshop on Agency and Responsibility (NOWAR). Being that it was my first time in New Orleans, I had a lot of preconceived notions about what to expect. Those potential misconceptions were:

•Enough frat boy and homeless person vomit on the streets to be able to “Hansel-and-Gretel” my way back to my hotel room.
•White tourists pronouncing New Orleans “N’awlins” with stupid grins on their faces and expecting me to play along.
•Vegetarian options at restaurants to include bread and water.
•That bread and water to cost as much as an actual meal because it was given a name to impress tourists like “Our Famous N’awlins Cajun Yeast Bread!”
•Random insane debauchery.

Here is the only thing I was wrong about: “White tourists pronouncing New Orleans “N’awlins” with stupid grins on their faces and expecting me to play along.” This could be because I spent each day, from morning until dusk, in the philosophy conference.

Below are my experiences based on the bullet points of what I expected to find in New Orleans and ended up finding in New Olreans.

Regarding: “Enough frat boy and homeless person vomit on the streets to be able to ‘Hansel-and-Gretel’ my way back to my hotel room,” and “Random insane debauchery.”

What actually happened:

Many people believe the apocalypse is going to happen while they are alive. If the apocalypse is ever going to happen, it will no doubt begin in New Orleans (maybe not; I have yet to visit Vegas or Harold Camping’s house on Thanksgiving). If it really does begin in New Orleans, it will begin in the French Quarter and will be appropriately titled the “Bropocalypse.”

The amount of bros in New Orleans seemed a bit high, but upon further empirical research, it was observed that per capita, the bro rate was actually quite average. It only seemed high when walking down the street avoiding the toss of beads from guys whose greatest thrill at night is encouraging girls to lift their shirts up.

While New Orleans is known to outsiders for its jazz and culture, it is known to people who walk down the French Quarter’s streets for its shitty, mainstream rap music, barely-clothed strippers in thresholds dancing to entice you to visit the unclothed strippers indoors (for more information, buy a Girls Gone Wild DVD). Free plastic beads will be thrown to you from second story balconies and, depending on your IQ, the music will be horrible enough to either pull you in or push you away.

My first thought after walking a quarter mile in the French Quarter was “As soon as I get back to my hotel, I’m going to burn my shoes so the STD’s in the streets don’t creep up through the soles of my shoes, through my socks and into my soul.”

The French Quarter’s streets are so disgusting that a century long flood of bleach would still not sanitize the centuries old streets. If you are the kind of person who occasionally likes to wash their hands before they eat, you may not like New Orleans. If you are the kind of person who would eat a McDonalds hamburger found wrapped up and ambient temperature in an alley, you might really like New Orleans.

Regarding: “Vegetarian options at restaurants to include bread and water” and “That bread and water to cost as much as an actual meal because it was given a name to impress tourists like ‘Our Famous N’awlins Cajun Yeast Bread!’”

What actually happened:

Ok, none of the bread I saw had a stupid name meant to entice tourists. I was wrong. Sue me.

Not every restaurant had no vegetarian option; some offered a lame chicken alfredo I could order without the chicken. Way to get crazy in New Orleans. Next time I might try the caesar salad with Italian dressing.

New Orleans is known for its seafood. That’s why if you want to open a restaurant in New Orleans, you will fail if you do not serve fresh catch and frozen shrimp. Another way to fail? Make sure your vegetarian options are a list as long as good Cher songs.

In most restaurants in New Orleans, note that checks at tables cannot be divided and distributed individually. Checks can only be given to the table as a whole or simply divided in half. This is fantastic news considering we can put a man on the moon but we can’t divide a check. On top of that, many places are cash only.

This city’s slogan should be “New Orleans: World Famous Tourist Destination…and cash only.”

One specific situation of ordering a vegetarian dish at a seafood restaurant my first night in the French Quarter (“Quarter” because it is only twenty-five percent of Hell) was the waitress forgot my food.

That’s ok. Mistakes happen and I don’t believe I am exempt from being the victim of these mistakes. In this situation, it was obvious the server was lying and said something about the kitchen being backed up. My entire table received their meal, including the two other people who ordered the same thing as me.

Again, that’s ok, mistakes happen, even lies, but here is where that mistake/lie became annoying: After politely inquiring as to my food’s whereabouts, I was told by my twenty-something white waitress on my first day in New Orleans, “Don’t worry, baby, I’m a feed you.”

I just drove nine hours. I have eaten only shitty gas station food all day. I know you don’t know that, but my stomach and brain do. Don’t call me baby and don’t tell me you’re going to do what I am paying you to do.

“I’m a feed you.” No shit. I don’t go to hospitals and ask what they do. Stop talking to me like you’re a stripper.

In conclusion, I learned a lot about agency, responsibility, free will, determinism, desire, volition, blameworthiness and psychopathy. I also learned that New Orleans was dirtier and more decadent that I had previously anticipated. I’m willing to give this fantastic city another chance, but I probably will not return unless it is for another philosophy conference or a friend’s wedding. After all, why return to New Orleans when there is still so much of the world to see?

After attending a three-day philosophy conference, what was my greatest lesson (after all, philosophy is the love of wisdom)? Spending five minutes walking up on the down escalator in the Intercontinental Hotel. Not only physically exhausting, but also mind-blowing.

I am not saying you should never visit New Orleans, but I am saying it does not matter if you ever do.
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1 – I’m sure the situation is not a matter of technology, but a matter of tourists being pains in the ass, but if I were to acknowledge that I could not make the joke.

New Orleans, Decadence, Free Will, Determinism, Agency, and Vomit in the Streets – Before

Opinion, True Stories, Uncategorized

I’m going to New Orleans tomorrow for a philosophy conference, the New Orleans Workshop on Agency and Responsibility (NOWAR).

It will be my first time there. It’s a notable experience because it is second on the list of “Places I Don’t Give a Shit about Visiting” right after Vegas. It’s second on the list because of some preconceptions I have about this downtrodden yet popular tourist destination.

I acknowledge these preconceptions could currently be misconceptions because everything I know about New Orleans I have learned from hearsay and movies. I presume New Orleans to be a place of decadence, filth, disgust, sin, violence, and bitchin’ Cajun shrimp gumbo. Aside from violence (NOLA is the nation’s murder capital) and bitchin’ Cajun shrimp gumbo, those are the only two reasons why it is second to Vegas on my list.

Reasons why I don’t care about Vegas:
•One Elvis was enough.
•Gambling is boring. Too many people think they are experts at gambling but their bank accounts disagree.
•Guys walking around in expensive clothing thinking they are hot shots living the “Vegas Life” do nothing for me. It’s like watching a child walk around in a Batman costume. You admire them for their vivid imagination of being able to convince themselves they are something more than human because of their clothing.
•“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” roughly translates from Neanderthal to Homo Sapiens as “I’m a fucking douche.”
•I don’t want to get married tonight, I don’t care about gambling, I’m not interested in prostitutes, and I’m not interested in giving away my rent money to some guy with slicked back hair who brags about his sexual conquests.
•This guy sums it up when he says, “Las Vegas: Like God Took a Shit in the Desert!”

Now that I’m done spewing hate on my (perhaps false) preconceived notions of Vegas, I will list my current (perhaps false) preconceived notions of New Orleans. When I return, I will detail what I actually experienced. That way, I can put my foot in my mouth online requiring me to do a lot of backtracking to avoid looking like more of an asshole than I did by posting this. So, things I am potentially falsely expecting from New Orleans:

•Enough frat boy and homeless person vomit on the streets to be able to “Hansel-and-Gretel” my way back to my hotel room.
•White tourists pronouncing New Orleans “N’awlins” with stupid grins on their faces and expecting me to play along.
•Vegetarian options at restaurants to include bread and water.
•That bread and water to cost as much as an actual meal because it was given a name to impress tourists like “Our Famous N’awlins Cajun Yeast Bread!”
•Random insane debauchery.

Aside from the decadence, sin, and violence of New Orleans (again, very potential misconceptions), I am excited to attend this philosophy conference. Subjects such as agency, responsibility, free will, determinism, etc. are incredibly interesting and I am excited to expand my knowledge on them.

As I mentioned above, I will detail my experiences when I return from New Orleans. I don’t particularly care if I am right or wrong about the above presumptions, because it will be an enjoyable, educational experience regardless.

Oh, it should also take mention that I received this email earlier:

I’m sure many of you have heard about the nasty goings-on in New Orleans on Halloween night: two people were murdered, and 14 were injured in gunfights around the city, and two such fights occurred in the French Quarter.

I want to reassure you that, while gunfights indeed happen on a regular basis in New Orleans (it isn’t just skating by as the murder capital of the U.S. on reputation alone), for them to occur like this in the area of the French Quarter is actually quite rare indeed (there have been only five shootings in the Quarter and entire surrounding area up to this point in 2011). I of course urge you to exercise caution while in town.

Side note: If you are thinking about robbing my apartment while I’m gone, know that the only thing more expensive than my laptop is my hundred-dollar Target couch that is more uncomfortable than a stadium seat, is stained with beer, and is covered in dog hair.

Spellcheck Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Opinion, True Stories

I remember one particular club night at college. I was there in support of our philosophy club at the beginning of the semester, encouraging people to join the club while answering their questions. But because it is philosophy club, I spent more time yelling at people, getting them to approach our table than they spent ignoring us.

I know. It’s a philosophy club at a small private college. The line to join is roughly the same length as the line for Sarah Palin’s new movie, but with very different intelligence levels (usually). I wasn’t expecting anyone to rush to the table, sign their name, then show up early to the next meeting.

I approached all kinds of people, asking them all kinds of questions, trying to find a way to get them interested while being fun as well. I asked people if they liked music, movies, dancing, porn, various colors, asking questions, hating people, getting free money, it didn’t matter. I could trace it back to philosophy. That’s one of the good things about philosophy, it encompasses everything and I’ll find a way to make that happen.

One of the questions I asked was, “Do you like reading?” One of the responses I received was, “Hell no, I don’t like reading,” and that response included enough sass to fill an entire high school with 15 year old girls with their parent’s credit cards. That sass included enough head and eye rolls to film five Exorcism sequels. The response in my head included enough violence to film five more Exorcism sequels, as long as those sequels could include me bashing someone’s face open with a brick.

My actual response was a straight-faced, “Great,” and then I turned around and walked away, still making more Exorcism sequels in my head.

It’s not that he wasn’t interested in reading. I’m not interested in field hockey, and if someone told me they wanted to break my face open with a brick because I wasn’t interested in field hockey, I’d have them arrested (or break their face open with a brick first, depending on the circumstances).

To be short, I was mad because this guy was not only proud to be stupid, he was angry at me for suggesting he might be interested in fecundating activities.

Reading and learning are exciting. Learning new words, ideas, concepts and grammar rules make my heart race. I’m not trying to sound nerdy, which is now what people say when they want to sound cool (i.e. I know I’m going to sound nerdy, but I really like anime! – big deal, lots of people do. If you were that ashamed, you wouldn’t have mentioned it), but I do.

Poor grammar and just generally being dumb is a turnoff*. Judge me for it, but it is, and I’m not going to be ashamed of it. Why? Because I don’t want to date someone who confuses or has no interest in communicating so I can understand her.

I’ve written this about twenty times, but everyone says there are a lot of stupid people in the world, but no one ever admits to being in the stupid group. We all give ourselves credit for our intelligence and our ability to continue eating, breathing and shitting, going to sleep and repeating it the next day, but no one says, “Wow. I have horrible critical thinking skills and I make fucking up look so easy!”

How do I know this? Easy. I watch YouTube videos. The comment section for YouTube videos is a breeding ground for just really awful, stupid shit. I could have used a stronger noun there like comments or communication, but honestly, it’s just shit.

How does the Internet have enough storage space for all the dumb shit we have to say, tweet, post and talk about? Imagine how much server space YouTube could open up if they deleted all comments from all ICP and Nickleback videos? Another benefit would be that anyone like me wouldn’t burst a blood vessel struggling to read through the complete idiocy that people wrote. A recent study shows that reading YouTube comments increases your chances for a heart attack by 47%**.

Maybe that’s what killed Derrida. A brief attempt at deconstructing YouTube video comments was enough to push him over the edge. The comments are filled with enough Freudian typos to resurrect the man from the dead.

Meeting someone, albeit how briefly, who not only refuses to stand on the intellectual stage, but is proud not to, should infuse rage in anyone. Not the type of rage that is dealt with by making someone’s face obsolete with a brick, but the type of rage that required them to, well, I still haven’t figured that out yet. Maybe just write about it.

More important than anything, please understand why it affects me. I don’t care if you’re not interested in philosophy. It’s not a subject for most people and that’s fine. Not every conversation has to be serious, deep and intellectual. I’m fine with sitting around talking about the weather and making fart jokes, but promise me you’re not proud to be stupid. And promise me you won’t get offended if I presume you’re interested in fecundating activities.

Is that so much to ask? I need it so bad (that’s what she said).

*Please don’t hesitate to point out the grammatical mistakes in this post.
**Please don’t believe that fake statistic.

Creep Alert: Advice for Women

Opinion, True Stories

Ladies, ladies, ladies.

As a guy, I’ve spent a lot of platonic and misanthropic time around other guys. I’ve seen many of these guys try to execute their best game on suspecting and unsuspecting females in all settings, atmospheres and venues and let me tell you, there are many things many men will not say or do in order to get in your pants. I know, you already know this, but that doesn’t stop them from working. Some of you don’t care, and if you don’t, then fine, but for those of you who do care, this is for you.

I go places and see guys trying to meet women using some of the most absurd, insane, ridiculous and embarrassing techniques. A lot of these guys take themselves seriously. Some guys try to use the “I’m not taking myself seriously so I’m going to wear a stupid hat to show you how wild and carefree I am” technique, but I’m going to assume that the Stupid Hat Guy went extinct sometime around the end of W.’s second term.

What baffles me the most is that many girls never seem to pick up on these guys. I understand a lot of girls do and choose to ignore it because some girls see past the bullshit, but some girls fall head over heels for guys who are laying a coat of bullshit thicker than a Tea Party Rally. I’m constantly amazed when I see a girl lose all self-respect and melt in front of a guy who’s blatantly using a technique to get laid.

That’s why I’m going to go ahead and identify the top five offenders. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a great start. Remember these guys the next time you go to a party, a friend’s house, school, work, Barnes & Noble, a political rally or check your mail. Like cockroaches, these guys are everywhere.

I understand I’m cutting out about 85% of the dating pool with this list, but ladies, save yourselves the time. If you meet one of these guys, go to a well-lit public place and call a friend to pick you up. Safety first.

The Hipster

“Have you ever read ‘Catcher in the Rye?’ It’s my favorite book. No, it’s not the only book I’ve ever read. I’ve also read ‘On the Road.’ Ok, so, I’ve only read those two books, but let’s be honest here, what other books are there really?”

“I just picked up the new Winter’s Dying Ashes Upon My Deaf Heart album and it’s pretty deck. It’s a little softer than their last album, but the song My Revenge is Greater Than Your PBR is epic.”

“I don’t shop at Good Will because I’m a hipster, it’s because I don’t have any money. After my mom pays my rent and my other bills, I have like no spending cash left over.”

“Check out my v-neck shirt and chest tattoo of this band’s lyrics. I took a picture of myself last night in the mirror and posted it to hipsterkidswithvneckshirtsandbandlyrictattoos.com. I already got like six phone numbers and two girls sending me nudes.”

“I’m not a hipster.”

The Foreigner

“I’m wearing a cologne I brought from my country…oh? You don’t pronounce the g? I’m sorry. I’m just learning your language. I’m glad you think it’s cute. I normally wouldn’t tell a girl this, but I’m relying 110% on my accent to get laid.”

The Guitar Player

“Yeah, that’s right. I play guitar. I’m in a band. You should check us out. We’re playing at the Dick House this Friday. Check out this Stevie Ray Vaughn tune I can jam out on…

…pretty good, right? Why am I sitting alone in this corner? Well, I was just thinking about how I wrote this song for my ex-girlfriend and she didn’t even care. I just want to find a nice girl who doesn’t mind me writing songs to her.”

The Bro

“C’mon, babe, you can have another shot. You’re a champ. You can do it. I got the Dave Matthews Band on. I mean, fuck, I’m skipping the game here to drink with you. I didn’t pop my collar to fly away; I popped it to get some pussy.”

“Yeah, that’s my BMW out front with the smashed bumper. Freddy borrowed it and crashed into a tree when he was trying to get laid. What do I care? My dad will fix it. I’ll just tell him someone hit me in the parking lot.”

The Sensitive Poet

“I have thoughts things no other man has. I am very deep. I am intellectual. Have you ever read Thoreau? He’s great. I’m just completing my first novel right now. I just can’t figure out who I want to publish it, you know? I want it to be someone who will put the care and effort into it that I did.”

“What is this poem about? It’s, like, about my feelings about life and death and all this stuff in between, you know? It’s like, life is this thing that you don’t always get and I wanted to convey that by comparing it to the moon’s glow at night and my despair for, like, stuff. You probably won’t understand it anyway. It’s not your fault; it’s just that it’s really deep.”
“I drink a lot because I’m a writer.”

“I understand you’re sensitive. That’s why I want to hear everything you have to say, everything you care about and feel for (until I get laid).”

“I’m probably going to get discovered any day now.”