Monday, November 24, 2008


I had two goals I wanted to accomplish when I accepted the job with Northwest Airlines. Neither goal had anything to do with the betterment of customer service or improving myself intellectually, physically, or morally.

The first goal was to fly a lot of places for free. In less than a year, I think I've already accomplished that fairly well. But the second goal, which I kept private, had alluded me for the longest time until this past friday.

While working in baggage service, I was trying to find contact information on an unclaimed bag and instead found a shopping bag full of dildos! It was just like that song by War, "Spill the Wine" because there were "tall ones, short ones, brown ones, black ones, round ones, big ones, crazy ones..." It was like finding Santa's sack of presents if Santa catered to horny middle aged ladies. Maybe this passenger worked for the non profit group, Toys for Twats.

So, there you go, my second professional goal of finding a shopping bag full of dildos in a passenger's suitcase has come to fruition. Excuse me while I go find some Purell to bathe in.

Friday, November 14, 2008

home, sweet home

A new coworker of mine who tries to flirt with me even though she doesn't realize her body fat versus personality ratio* is too high for me to be attracted to her, asked me where in Portland I lived.
"Up in St. Johns."
"Oh... isn't that the ghetto?" she asked, a bit alarmed.
"I guess."

It's hard to answer this question because it's abrasive for a couple reasons. First of all, people have different qualifiers for ghettos and since I doubt most people who use the word ghetto for a neighborhood have dedicated extensive time into researching that neighborhood's poverty levels or crime statistics, I have to assume their judgment is based on hearsay or having seen graffiti and minorities in the area when they got lost there one time. I remember when I was living in Baltimore, both my parents thought I was living in the ghetto, not because they had gone door to door to discover the median income of the Waverly district was below the national average, but because they saw many more black people on the streets than in Lincoln Park, NJ.

Secondly, the fact that this coworker was shocked that I live in what she believes is a ghetto implies that I don't look "street" enough to handle living in the "ghetto." Understandably, the Northwest Airlines dress code strictly forbids me from wearing all the ice I frequently adorn, not to mention my Glock, but I assumed my "thug life" personality would shine in my every day speech, my way of checking in customers ("window or aisle, bee-atch?"), and my incessant origami folding. Do i have to drop an expletive-laced rap album with hooks featuring Pharrell on your cracker asses to prove I'm street? Believe me, if I have to, I will.

Anyway, I moved into my roommate Ross' condo in St. Johns over the summer and, I have to say, I've seen and lived in worse places. Yes, I know, I have a tendency towards martyrdom and want to always make it seem like I suffer with a stiff upper lip through trials that would kill the average man. If we both order soup at a restaurant, I will make the offhand comment that my soup is colder and less evenly seasoned than yours, but still forge on and eat it without nary a tear, so you can see how tough I am. I know, I'm a tool. So it's perfectly understandable if you think this is a trick and that I'm saying St. Johns is not so bad so that when you come to visit me, you'll be horrified by the gang rape and car fires in the streets and go back to your opulent, Rodeo Drive worlds and tell your tea time coterie that your friend Armin is nonplussed living in the ninth circle of hell.

At the same time though, St. Johns is not the prettiest neighborhood. I joke that the main employer of most residents in St Johns is Oregon Video Lottery. I've broken up a fight between toothless men in the street. In the public library, the vast majority of the patrons are not bibliophiles, but kids and old men checking Facebook for girls and I actually heard this lovely conversation paraphrased in there one day between two guys in stained beaters and large belt buckles:

"Yo, D, did I tell you I got shot?"
(jealous) "Really, where?"
"At Marie's party."
"Who did it?"
"I don't know. We just heard some shots and I got hit in the ass." (limps away)

The first time I rode the bus in my new 'hood, I was amazed by the crowd gathered at the stop. As I saw each possible bus go by, I realized I was the only one at the bus stop with the intention of actually riding a bus. For the rest, this was a club house, sort of a Peach Pit if they were the original cast of 90210, which they did not resemble at all. Two shaggy looking twenty somethings had found an abandoned milk crate of free Little Debbie Blueberry pies left on the street and were gorging themselves, the gobs of purple filling splattering on their beards and worn out cargo pants. Three other joined in the buffet; if nothing else, there's a sense of community in these parts. However, one woman with a droopy right eye was upset with one of the fellas at the feast; she turned to me, but without addressing anyone in particular, lamented, "He ain't sharing his cornbread." It's true, I concurred, hoping the damn bus would just get here already. One guy did indeed have a hunk of cornbread crumbling in his hand and did not offer her any. I guess she's not a fan of abandoned Little Debbie pies.

When I was younger, I fancied myself a bit of a nomad, a bohemian type--fringe, if you will--and these St Johns folks with their seeming lack of aspirations and simple desires, would have seemed cool to me. Maybe i'm getting snobby, or my privileged upbringing is truly showing now, but I'm getting a bit sick of it all, the loitering, the constant toping, the swearing, the smoking and gambling.

But, at the the same time, the rent is great, I have a roommate I don't detest, there's free pool and dollar happy hour PBRs at Slim's, free Wifi at Ladybug Coffee where the owner thinks my name is James and I've been too embarrassed to correct her.**

Sometimes I'll walk the four blocks from my place to the Willamette River to really enjoy my neighborhood. I sit on the docks if it's nice out, under the auspices of the great St. Johns Bridge, which reminds me of a giant green dragon crossing the river. The boats below are like remora feeding on its scraps and its head rests in the middle of downtown, its teeth made up of dive bars and coffee shops, while its tail circles the last pocket of wilderness left. That's a side of St. Johns even an uppity fat chick would love.

*I try to be politically correct with my blog, so I realize this might have ruffled some feathers, specifically, the feathers on fat people. Notice, I said the ratio was too high, not her weight. So for example, if her body fat was very high, but but her personality was like a Tina Fey and Sandra Dee from Grease mashed up, then maybe I'd be interested. Conversely, if her personality was significantly worse, but she had the looks to back it, then flirt away.

**If you don't correct someone the first time they say your name wrong, you never will because every subsequent time they call you that misnomer, you'll have a harder time pretending you just heard them wrong.



(in reference to an entry in which I did not pay a restaurant bill because I didn't have cash)
Adam writes: Has New Jersey figured out ATMs yet?

Yes, I understand I could have found an ATM while my friend was on the phone for twenty minutes. This is often known as the "Bathroom Quandary." You're waiting for something, say a friend picking you up, and you ask, "Do I have enough time to go to the bathroom?" You say, no, better wait. And you wait, and then ten minutes later say, "Dammit, I could definitely have gone to the bathroom already! But now I definitely don't have enough time." So you wait another ten minutes and now you're really pissed and have to go badly, so you pee behind an alley or something and your friend pulls up as you are walking out the alley zipping your fly. And unlike every other time you take a piss, you can't lie and say, "yes, i washed my hands" when you're walking out of an alley.

John Cocktoastin writes: I'm fine if you want to call yourself married to anyone. I just don't see why the government needs to be involved in it.

I have to agree that if marriage is a religious term with religious meaning, then it should have nothing to do with government. Here's a video worth watching:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guest Blog: The Civil Book on Knitting

I'm sure very few of you tune into ATKU for its vigorous political exploration just as few people watch TMZ as a guide for spiritual awakening. But here's a guest blog on a topic that deserves attention and I promise the next blog will be back to your standard low brow fare: "Armin Steps in Dog Poop...Again."


Nov 5, 2008

This is a remarkable time in American politics. This is a remarkable time in California politics. In the span of twelve hours, my sense of pride for the national stage has become tinged with a sense of frustration and embarrassment within my state. At the time of this writing, news organizations have begun to acknowledge the success of Proposition 8, which now will explicitly write bigotry into the state constitution of one of the country's most progressive states.

How did this happen? Who is against a state government legally recognizing the decision of an effort between two human beings to build their lives together?

Unlike other hot button political issues, the opponents of same sex marriage fall under an easily identifiable umbrella. Of the 52% of California voters who supported a ban on same sex marriage, I would wager a lot of Armin's money that the respondents overwhelming cited a religious aspect to their decision.

After numerous discussions with people, here is my personal summary of the arguments against gay marriage:

I. Marriage is a sacred (read: religious) institution and it must be protected at all costs.

II. Semantics. The word marriage is a religious one. God (who likely doesn't exist) told his followers that marriage is defined as between a man and a woman (or between a man and a 17 year old woman, a 16 year old woman, and a 12 year old woman in the Mormon definition).

(As an aside, the Mormon Church has sent tens of millions of tax-free dollars in this election to California to ban same sex marriage.)

III. The slippery-slope. If society legitimizes the act of two men living together (or two women for that matter), where does it stop? (Answer: When a man tries to marry his plasma screen television).

IV. Marriage should be set up to produce children. Gay people can't do that. (oh yes they can!)

Do any of the above hold water? Argument I can be easily deconstructed by one simple task: those who cite this should meet my parents. Heterosexuals have been screwing up the sanctity of marriage for centuries. Why can't we let we let gay people have a shot at doing the same thing? Shouldn't religious groups have an even greater political campaign to stop heterosexuals from getting divorced? "I'm sorry Beth. I know your husband beats you to within an inch of your life at least once a week. However, God looks badly on divorce. The Lord wants you to endure the beatings because he has a special place in heaven for you if you do." (Yeah, the intensive care unit.)

Argument III is simply asinine. Isn't this on the list of reasons for why Rick Santorum was voted out of office?

Arguments IV is extremely weak. No one would suggest infertile heterosexual couples shouldn't be together.

Finally, I would like to address Argument II: Semantics. This is undoubtedly the most common argument I have encountered. Many open-minded religious people (yes, even I know that this term is not an oxymoron) tend to use this approach. However, this argument falls flat, too.

It's true, I am not an accomplished etymologist, nor am I even a garden-variety linguist. Even so, I know this: while the word marriage has its roots in religion, it now has been woven into the secular fabric of society.

This marriage-is-a-religious-word argument is also disingenuous. Why so much attention on the word marriage? Why not other religious words, such as damnation, brimstone or myrrh? Oh wait a second... I have one: bible. We can all agree that the word bible is religious in nature. We can all agree that along with the word marriage, bible has bled into our secular lexicon. A search on produces many book titles that have nothing to do with religion. I haven't heard of any religious groups acting to remove such sacred tomes as The Barbeque! Bible or the Knitter's Bible. How could that be? Don't the same people who insist the word marriage is sacred view the word bible as sacred? Shouldn't they call it something else? The Civil Book on Knitting has a much better ring to it, doesn't it?

Aside from one ambiguous dream I had long, long ago, I am a simple heterosexual man. I do not happen to have any really close gay friends that were directly affected by the success of Proposition 8. Instead, I believe in equal rights and a secular country. The fight against same sex marriage has made me realize the tremendous influence religions still have in American life. People have a right to be religious. Religions do not have a right to be political.

And with this experience firmly rooted in my political perspective, I plan on spending the coming decades donating, volunteering and supporting the fight for same sex marriage in any way I can. I see this as the singular issue with many gains for nonreligious people to make. In 2008, religion should be a vestigial part of our society. It had its place in history. It has nothing more than a minimal place in the future.

Mike Calvert
Berkeley, California