Monday, October 5, 2009

so sick

This is disturbing.

Every night I come home to my apartment and open the kitchen trash can.

Let me explain:

I moved into my Newark apartment a month ago. My roommates are perfectly pleasant and conscientious of common spaces (mostly because one seems to never leave his room and the other seems to never leave Manhattan), but if they have a vice, it would be their selective blindness toward a garbage can that has met capacity. Since neither cooks, they don't produce much garbage and probably aren't used to taking the trash out more regularly than the changing of the seasons.

One day, the garbage was full and my roommate, Dmitry, instead of taking the trash out, left the bag from his take-out dinner on the floor next to the trash can.

I am as curious as a kitten born into a world of yarn balls and crippled mice.

Naturally, as I assume everyone would do, I untied the plastic "Thank you for shopping" bag and peeled it back to reveal a paper bag within whose mouth I uncurled as quietly as possible (Dmitry's room is not far from the kitchen and the sound of my foraging). Inside was a styrofoam container which I placed on the counter. I pushed the tabs in and the lid popped open like the hood of a car.

My knees buckled. I suppressed a gasp.

Uneaten french fries! Dozens of them! And uneaten chicken skin! Sheets of the stuff: flabby, cold, salty, and tempting me with its calories.

I love chicken skin.

Armin the Kitten now learns that the yarn balls of his world are laced with catnip and the crippled mice have tiny bluefin tuna swimming in their bloodstream.

I stole away with my treasure so i could enjoy it privately in my room.

Ever since that day, I open the trash can hoping for the same luck. If i find what I'm looking for, I pull the styrofoam carton out, but put the paper bag back into the plastic bag and puff it out a bit before tying the whole thing shut so that it looks untouched and full. I'm well aware of the risk of my behavior. Not disease-wise. The risk that Dmitry will walk in on me with my hands in the garbage and my feet too giddy to keep still. it's as if a part of me wants to get caught with a mouthful of salty, cold fries in my mouth.

Also disturbing is the fact that I'm not even doing this out of hunger. Usually I'm coming back from my mom or sister's place having just had dinner and carrying leftovers for the week. And, if I really wanted half a chicken and french fries, I could walk four blocks down the road and buy my very own sytrofoam carton of it, hot, for $4.50 and tax. I have a sickness.

Last weekend, I took Dmitry out for dinner to celebrate his earning a PhD in math. He loves discussing all varieties of controversial topics and somehow the discussion strayed to gun ownership.

"A person has the right to stop a crime occuring against him on his property, even if that means using a gun," he said.

"Even if it's a non violent crime?" I ask.

"Yes. If a man is in your house carrying your TV away, how can he hurt you? His hands are tied holding your TV. But you have the right to shoot him to stop him."

"What if someone is on your property rummaging through your trash to steal your identity?"

"I believe as the law is written, the garbage is still your property until it is picked up by the sanitation department. So yes, that's a crime on your property and you should have the right to shoot him."

I paused. How much does he know? Are a couple handfuls of fries and chicken skin (and sometimes meat stuck to cartillage) worth getting shot?

I still peeked into the garbage last night, so I think we know my answer.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

post racial?

I recently took a trip to my local CVS to find an anniversary card to send to my girlfriend. I sifted through the displays, but unfortunately, most cards are now of the talking variety and while I love those weird green and purple creatures with the high voices that star in most of the Hallmark cards, they're not always the most appropriate for every occasion.

I live in a neighborhood heavily populated by Portuguese and Spanish speaking people, so there was a large selection of cards in Spanish. I don't think it was prejudiced of me to ignore that section. I wanted to pick a card I could read. However, my prejudice did become harder to defend when I got to the Mahogany section of the Hallmark brand. I found a card that showed a happy young black couple dancing. Jenny and I have gone dancing and enjoyed it. The couple seemed to be in our age range. There was nothing on the card that made it seem exclusive to a religion, culture, or way of life. It was just a happy, young black couple dancing with a background of jazzy colors. It seemed appropriate enough.

And, yet, I just couldn't picture sending it to her. There's no guarantee that if I saw a white version of this card, I'd be more inclined to get it. However, I'm sure that because they were black I was immediately less inclined.

I remember as a kid my mom and I went shopping to buy a birthday gift for my baby cousin. I watched a lot of TV back then and knew all the toys from the commercials. I was pointing out different dolls to my mom (this one can eat and afterward you can clean the poop out of its diaper; this one can suck its thumb and sing the chorus of "Hey Hey, We're the Monkees") and I pointed out a new doll that was all the rage. I don't remember what made it special. Maybe it got good gas mileage and doubled as an espresso machine. Anyway, my mom was appalled I'd even suggest it because the only one left at KMart was the black version.

At the time I could distinguish between race, but I just didn't see why it was a big deal, especially since we're not even white. It's not like Mattel makes a little Filipino doll that sells Chicklets on the street corner and rolls lumpia for holidays*.

*As a complete aside, does anyone else find it odd that the only picture I could find of children rolling lumpia turns out to be a picture of black kids?

Anyway, I guess as you grow older, you notice differences more. I ended up getting one of those cards that shows two little kids pretending to be adults. You know, the kind that has the four year old boy dressed in a suit and the girl gives him a kiss before he takes the train. Isn't a card that implies toddlers engaged in adult behavior and forced to grow up too fast much more disturbing than a card showing adult black people dancing?

I guess I know the answer based on my choice.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

worth sharing today

Here's a poem worth sharing today from one of my favorite writers, X.J. Kennedy.

"September Twelfth, 2001"

Maybe it's even more important to reflect today that it was yesterday.

Monday, September 7, 2009

everybody plays the fool, concluded

On April Fools Day of 2008 I wrote a post called Everybody Plays a Fool detailing a couple humiliating moments in my life and promised that a third "Armin Plays the Fool" story was soon to come. I assumed everyone would start salivating for this last embarrassing story, like the third secret of Fatima.

But no one seemed very interested, though I was under the impression that "Armin makes an ass out of himself" stories were the bread and butter of this blog.

So here it is, whether anyone cares anymore:

3. I shat my pants.

Is that the proper conjugation of the verb? I shitted my pants? I had shit my pants?

Regardless, the take home point: I lost control of my bowels while still wearing Dockers. Not when I was six. Not when I was ten. Well, actually, I probably did shat/shit/had shit my pants at those ages, but the the story I'm recounting took place when I was twenty four.

I was working as a teacher's assistant at a high school and, as a side gig, I went to the house of a special needs kid in the morning before school started to help him with his hygiene routine. I was supposed to make sure he showered, combed his hair, shaved, and found clean clothes to wear. For some reason, they picked me for this job even though I could use my own minimum wage earning teacher's assistant to help me with all of these things, too.

At the time, I was not a regular coffee drinker, but some mornings were so rough, I needed to stop at Dunkin Donuts before I got to his place at 6:15 AM. This morning, I left his place after drinking a large coffee (probably recuperating from a week day night out, which most likely also aided in my gastric turmoil). Halfway to school and stuck in greater metro boston traffic, I realized I was in serious trouble. My intestines were reenacting the French Revolution.

Worse yet, I got a call from my boss saying a potential new student was visiting. I had just been promoted to lead teacher of my own classroom for the coming school year and a parent was bringing in her son to see if I would be the right teacher for him. You know, the kind of teacher that is caring, attentive, in control of his bowels...

After thirty minutes of agony, a wave of hope flooded me when I got past the traffic, turned into the school parking lot, and began the penguin waddle to the restroom, trying to walk with haste, but keep my butt cheeks clenched simultaneously.

The high school where I worked was like a college campus, comprised of a bunch of separate buildings instead of one large building. The building containing my classroom had a restroom, but I didn't want to risk the students seeing me, so I headed to the cafeteria instead.

I was in the faculty bathroom (private, thankfully), had just enough time to lock the door, pull down my pants, but was a second too late. Disaster. Do you remember that swimmer in the Beijing Olympics who lost to Michael Phelps by a millionth of a second? I know exactly how he feels. I was that close to surviving this ordeal with my pride intact.

The excitement over, I sat in the bathroom pondering my choices. I called my boss and lied saying I had a flat tire. I don't condone lying to a supervisor, but even Jesus and Abe Lincoln would have had a hard time fessing up at that moment. Since the students walked between the classroom and cafeteria, I was terrified that a student already saw me on campus. The next day, one girl said she did see me, but it was easy to convince her otherwise because she's retarded. I don't mean that as an insult at all. She's mentally retarded and it's easy to convince her she didn't see me even though she really did see me walk the horrible walk of shame from the bathroom to my car.

Here's a bonus: that same year, I was living with three other people in a one bathroom apartment. One morning after drinking too much, there was someone in the bathroom and without another option, I took a shit in a Hefty garbage bag in my room, then left that garbage bag on the street because I didn't know what else to do with it.

I don't deserve to be part of the civilized world and I atone for all my sins. But, as a warning, if we're driving in your car and I say I need a bathroom, I'm not just trying to make small talk. You best be finding the nearest rest stop or Arbie's.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

worst decision of my life

I just joined Facebook. I'm not sure how civilization is still functional with FB (as the cool kids call it) in existence. The response time from people's messages are staggeringly fast which leads me to believe that humans who once spent their time working, feeding, and expelling waste, have forsaken all those basic activities for Facebook time. Remarkable.

I know you all told me this already, but I'm still shocked that there's a whole little world in Facebook of which I've been completely ignorant. People I knew in person, people I thought I knew at least, have had these Facebook lives, of which I had no knowledge. Some of my closest friends have had personal goals and aspirations I was unaware of, such as achieving high scores on Bejeweled Blitz.

You think you know someone, right? Then it turns out they're the world's greatest Bejeweled Blitzer or Mafia Warrior and you question whether your entire relationship has been hollow because you were only "face to face" friends who saw each other in person, not Facebook friends who can be in contact 24hrs a day.

Another freaky thing: seeing that two girls you once dates are now friends independently of you and post on each other's Facebook Walls. I have been blind and now, by joining Facebook, the scales have been removed from my eyes and I am sure to fail my first semester of school because I need to update my wall with breaking news such as "I ate a hard boiled egg."

the next episode

I spent three days of driving with my car seat more upright than comfortable in order to fit everything I own into the back seat. Made it from Portland, OR to New Jersey and now it's time to move on. I think back to the other times I've moved to a new city, but the hard part about those moments you want most to record and preserve for posterity is that they are the moments when you have the least free time to sit and write about them.

I left Baltimore in 2004 after living there only a year. But almost everyone I knew was leaving town, too, so it wasn't too hard to say goodbye. I remember my last day I had picked up a U Haul to help my roommate Mandy move her stuff, then I went to Taco Bell with my friends Tim and Kim. I was younger then, so I was more excited than sad. I was sure I'd see everyone again. Five years later and I realize I haven't seen Kim since 2005 or 2006.

I left Boston in 2007 after three years. My last day, I walked around my apartment with my friend Robbie. He was sticking around for a few more months, but a lot of the people I knew had already left or were in the process of leaving. maybe that made it easier for me to leave. Or maybe I was just burnt out from work and failed relationships and was ready for something new. I don't remember crying. Even though I still knew a lot of people in the city and felt very established there, it felt like the right time to move on.

I left Portland, OR in 2009 after almost two years. The night before I left, my friends threw me a going away party. We made dioramas out of shoe boxes, watched Bloodsport, then went to a bar I frequented often to drink absinthe for the first time. The next day I packed up my stuff and said goodbye. There was a lot of crying this time for me. Part of it was because maybe I wasn't ready to leave this time, like my time in Portland hadn't run its full course. Or perhaps I'm just getting older and the lack of stability in my life is now catching up to me, making me feel lost and tired.

Now I'm back on my native soil, in my new apartment in Newark where my roommates seem nice but keep their doors closed all the time and do not seem like the type who want to have impromptu ukulele jam sessions. That's okay. As Nate Dogg says, "hope you're ready for the next episode."

breaking news, added a half hour after original post:

I just took my first shower in my new apartment and found out my roommate also uses Selson Blue shampoo! I'm gonna be okay after all.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

summer jams

It doesn't matter how expensive gas becomes because people will still drive cars. There's few experiences more relaxing than driving a car at night in the summer, windows rolled down, without any real destination or estimated time of arrival. It makes you remember a time when you could say, "Give me $5 of regular," and that would last the week.

Summer lends itself to long drives and big changes (everyone i know seems to move away in the summer) so it's understandable that the songs playing during the summer are more memorable. Here's a list of the songs that dominate the last ten summers for me.

1999: Break Stuff - Limp Bizkit

This isn't a year any of us should be proud of us. Sure, you can blame the music industry, but really it's our fault that Ricky Martin became so big. I'm not proud of the songs I was humming back then, especially this one.

2000: Gnome Enthusiast - Clutch

I can't really remember which earworm had infected me that summer, I had gotten the Clutch album, Jam Room, from my sister that year. Usually I hate when a metal band goes soft, but Clutch just gets better and better each year.

2001: Whenever, Wherever - Shakira

It was easy to think after first seeing this video that Shakira was not a human being at all, but a family of highly intelligent, well trained snakes taught to move in synchronization.

2002: Complicated - Avril Lavigne

She was almost 18 when this video came out, so that made it a little less creepy that I stayed up until 3am hoping it would play on MTV during this summer.

2003: Remix to Ignition - R. Kelly

Can you separate the love of an artist's work from the artist as a person? Roman Polanski fans have asked themselves the same question for years. You don't have to like R. Kelly as a person. That doesn't change the fact that this song is incredible.

2004: Tipsy - J-Kwon

Many of you would have guessed that this summer would have been dominated by Outkast's "Hey Ya!" But, that song had been in such heavy rotation throughout the winter that by the summer of 2004, it was time for another hit jam. And, I'm just a sucker for songs that involve counting. It keeps my math skills sharp.

2005: Mr. Brightside - The Killers

This was a tough year to decide. I really don't remember a song that stuck out from that summer. But I do remember this Killer's song stuck in my head a lot, especially because of its delightful tongue in cheek rhyme scheme

Now I'm falling asleep
And she's calling a cab
While he's having a smoke
And she's taking a drag
Now they're going to bed
And my stomach is sick
And it's all in my head
But she's touching his... chest?

They got you! They got you good!

But anyone can call me out and say that I was singing Kelly Clarkson's "Since You've Been Gone" much more.

2006: Stars are Blind: Paris Hilton

Make any joke you want. Doesn't matter how untalented you think Paris is. She's smart. She got someone to write her a song that sounds just like The Tide is High by Blondie with the same catchy, upstroke, reggae guitar rhythms that made ska so popular in the 90's.

2007: Beautiful Girls - Sean Kingston

The first song I learned on the ukulele.

2008: Bubbly - Colbie Callait

I don't remember many songs from this year and that's not surprising because I didn't have a car that summer. Despite the lack of competition, it's a cute, vapid song which is perfect for summer time.

2009: The Fixer - Pearl Jam

Here's a surprise. I'm not a big Pearl Jam fan, but I do love elongated vowels. Just ask the Big Bopper.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

be honest... I look more like Wolverine or Bram Stoker's Dracula?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

no experience unnecessary: caretaker for morbidly obese man

It's 2am, August 5th, and I've finished my last day with Northwest Airlines. It went okay--I fucked up a bit by switching someone's seat accidentally--but, no real harm done. How many of us, like Rocky Marciano, can retire perfect? Nineteen months with the job and I think I did well enough, all in all. There have been jobs where I've really just divebombed, and this wasn't one of them.

When I saw the last flight I would ever work leave down the runway, I pumped my fist in the air, gave everyone a goodbye hug, and put a Century 21 For Rent sign on my locker. Another chapter complete.

By month's end, I'll be back in JerZ and searching through Craigslist Jobs once again. I'm not the most confident person. I don't have faith in my ability to pick up girls at a bar or my jump shot, but for some reason, I have the utmost confidence that I can do any job in the world.

Oooh! Shoe Cobbler wanted! I'd be perfect for that!
Make Up Artist for Pornos! Just hand me the tweezers!

Don't get me wrong. I've been turned down for plenty of jobs, even jobs for which I felt well qualified. Doesn't matter. I'll be searching online for a new gig to pad my stats. So far, my resume looks something like this:

Dishwasher for a Nursing Home
Food Critic for Local Paper
Karate Instructor
Waiter at Indian Restaurant
2000 US Census Taker/Crew Chief
Lab Technician
Garden Coordinator
Freelance Journalist
Program Coordinator for Deaf/Blind Youth Interest Group
Caretaker for Morbidly Obese Man
Mad Science (TM) Instructor
Camp In Instructor at Science Museum
Job Coach/Teacher's Assistant
Special Education High School Teacher
Package Handler for FedEx (TM)
Japanese Cook
Customer Service Agent for Airlines

A few months ago, I was at work on my computer and my coworker asked me what I was doing.

"Just updating my resume. You know how that is," I said. I probably threw in some generic "with this job market, you never know" kind of joke, ha ha ha, wink wink. This was before I had made it public that I was leaving Northwest Airlines.

"No, actually, I don't. I've never written a resume," she said. She's been in the job 30-40 years. That's longer than my life span.

Some people stick with a company their whole lives. They know everything about their job. Their coworkers throw them huge 25th anniversary parties. They make friends and feel secure.

Then, there's me. I don't even know the names of all of my coworkers. That's sad. I'm never around long enough to really get good at anything, to really make an impact. I get restless and I move on.

But, if anything, I get good at interviews and I gather a list of experiences that will serve me in some positive way, I hope. If nothing else, I get a funny story out of it.

Which brings me to the actual point of this blog. I'll try to write what i can rememeber about each of my previous jobs in an ongoing series called No Experience Unnecessary. Hopefully, they will not all be as long as this one.


Caretaker for Morbidly Obese Man

Soon after graduating college, I moved from JerZ to Baltimore, MD. But my job there as an AmeriCorps volunteer was only a one year contract. I had broken up with my girlfriend who lived in nearby Delaware and all my friends in Baltimore were also AmeriCorps volunteers for one year and were all dispersing. So I had no reason to stick around and began figuring out where to move next. A very long list was shortened to Boston, Alaska, and Key West.

My friends, Ross and Adam, both AmeriCorps volunteers, were planning on doing a second year of service in Boston and were trying to recruit others in our Baltimore clique to come along. I was hesitant because I moved out of New Jersey because I didn't like the cold. I'm no cartographer, but even then I knew that Boston was north of NJ and therefore even colder.

For a while, I was fascinated with the idea of moving to Alaska and working on a fishing boat. I know what you're going to say: Armin, Alaska gets cold occasionally, too. Alaska just sounds so badass, so the cold would have been a cool thing to suffer through, not like the prissy, yuppie cold of Boston where I had to wear my Uggs every day and hope they wouldn't get salted on too much.

This was before the Discovery Channel show, Deadliest Catch, came out, so I was pretty naieve about how difficult it would have been to work in the Arctic Ocean. Again, I have an unwavering confidence in my ability to do any work, that is, until I actually have to do it. It's more a matter of having an active imagination. I can picture myself enjoying any job.

I had believed all those rumors about jobs in Alaska, how they were just dying to find people to work and would pay them a shit load, and how you could work for six months and take the next six months off because you could make that much money in that short amount of time.

Well, it turns out much of that wasn't true. I went so far as to call a charter boat owner who ran trips for tourists to catch salmon. But, there weren't any jobs for me, which is probably a very good thing because otherwise, I would have been decapitated by broken cable on the first episode of Deadliest Catch.

I was really hoping to move to Key West, Florida. I had visited a friend in Ft. Lauderdale earlier that year and we drove down there for a night. I had this incredible feeling of excitement the whole time. I hooked up with a 40 year old narcotics officer named Karen in a club while dancing to Jessie's Girl, watched the sunset on Mallory Square, and ate conch and key lime pie. It was a great time. Add the fact that Hemingway did a lot of writing down there and it was a great fit for me. I pictured myself working, writing on the side, then fishing and frying up my catch for dinner. I pictured rum drinks in coconuts and never having to wear anything more formal than a beater. It was an idyllic reverie.

I had applied for a position on Craigslist seeking a live in assistant for a woman with Alzheimer's in the Keys. The job didn't pay much, but rent was free and i would have had every other week off. I didn't hear back for a long time and eventually, I was tired of waiting and agreed to move to Boston.

No more than a week after making my decision, I got a call from the daughter of the Alzheimer's woman asking me if I was still available. I haven't thought about this in a long time, but I wonder what would have happened had I moved to the Keys instead of Massachusetts. I probably would have taken up the ukulele and started dreading my hair. There's no future in that.

So when I moved to Boston, I secured a job as a caretaker for a morbidly obese man, Johnny. He was about 400lbs and had lost a leg to diabetes. He needed help with daily living tasks including hygiene. He asked me over the phone if I had any issues with sponge baths. Of course not, I thought. I can do anything. He also told me he was gay and asked me if I had a problem with that. Of course not, I thought. I've seen the movie Birdcage.

My responsibilites were driving Johnny to McDonald's for breakfast, wiping his ass when he took a shit, sponge bathing him, making sure to scrub hard in all the nooks and crannies and being careful not the pull at the catheter when I wiped down and powdered his nether regions, spreading testosterone cream all over his acne ridden back, and helping him put on his prosthetic leg so he could do his daily exercise of two laps up and down the hallway.

We took trips to KMart and he would carry a gun in his waistband of his fat man sweats as I pushed him in a wheelchair. He said he used to be a detective and was just in the habit of carrying it. You know, like how contruction workers forget to take off their hard hats in the shower. Just habit.

Also, Johnny told me a friend of his would come over and let Johnny "do things" to him, then would hit him up for money or take his social security check. Thankfully I wasn't around when this was happening, but i did meet the slimeball. He had very creepy eyes and didn't smile at me.

I lasted two weeks in the job. And to be honest, I didn't quit because I was grossed out or because he told me he wanted to marry me after I cooked him pasta one afternoon. I had just realized that in two weeks, I learned everything I was really going to learn from that job. I could picture myself bathing him every day and I wasn't disgusted by the thought of it, just bored. I lied to him and told him I needed to find a new job that provided health insurance.

I thought he would tell me interesting stories about his life as a PI that I could steal for my own fiction. But he was actually pretty boring. When I wasn't scrubbing, powdering, or medicating some region of his body, I was doing the most boring tasks like helping him rearrange his clutter or taking him to the store for lightbulbs. Another issue for me was knowing that I wasn't really helping him get better. Maybe if I thought I was going to save him and he was going to lose two hundred pounds with my support and discipline, I would have felt that I was accomplishing something. But, really I was just helping him survive until mercy allowed him to die. Driving him to McDonald's every morning made me feel like i was Kavorkian.

Also the only thing to drink in his house was Shasta which I find disgusting. You would think that my brief time with Johnny would have warned me to live a healthier lifestyle, but here I am staying up till dawn writing, drinking PBR and eating Last Call Jalpeno Poppers flavored Doritos. Maybe I should start looking for my own care taker now. One who knows how to be gentle but firm when cleaning a testicle.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Are you in control of your own life? There are some in this world, who like ancient Norseman, use a combination of their genius, muscle, and sheer will to navigate this hostile world to progress in a direction that they predestined for themselves. Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Kelly Clarkson, those two dogs and cat in the Incredible Journey... just to name a few.

Then, there's me, less a Nordic explorer and more the blob of blue-green algae the Noresman floated over as they sought their destinies. My movement through this world is dictated by currents, tides, and El Nino. If you are a gelatinous mass of algae like me, you tend to attribute and blame all things on luck and the randomness of the universe, because you aren't willing to grow a method of locomotion for yourself.

To be fair, I've had plenty of good luck. While people lament the unemployment rate, I've never had an issue finding a job, even if it meant loading boxes at 3am or burning myself making tamagoyaki. But, when your accustomed to drifting about and not taking the measures necessary to control the factors of your life, you're going to run into some bad luck every now and then. For me, it always comes in the form of a car.

I bought my first car in 2001. It was a Chevy Corsica that cost me $2000. I didn't need a car at the time. I was a junior in college and had no reason to leave campus. If you have ever seen Trenton, NJ, you'd agree. But, I wanted a car because the second Rob Zombie album was coming out and no one could drive me to the music store. A friend of mine eventually gave me a ride to the local record shop, and even though the album sucked, it was a realization of how trapped I was without a car. I enlisted my dad's help, he did some research, and found me a car in southern Maryland which he drove down to get for me.

I don't think any single purchase in my life has made me more excited than that Corsica. At the time, I was wooing a girl named Melissa who lived off campus in a condo in Yardley, PA. The first night I had the car, I decided to surprise her by showing up at her place and taking her out on a date. Of course, blue green algae that I am, I didn't find out what apartment number she was, and since this story predates my having a cell phone, I had no option but to frighten a woman in the condo complex as she was entering her home and beg her to use her phone because I was "trying to impress a girl." As if a Chevy Corsica has ever impressed a girl. Still, I was thrilled with the car.

The car accompanied me the first time I ever moved, taking me and all my belongings to Baltimore, MD, then a year later, to Boston, MA. In 2004, my relationship with the Corsica had soured. I had been rear ended that winter by a woman driving an SUV much too large for her to control in Massachusetts sn0w. Being a nice guy, I took down her info, but didn't worry about getting my car fixed since the only damage sustained was the parking light. Big deal.

December 23rd of that winter, I was back in NJ driving late at night when a policewoman pulled me over for my broken light. I showed her my registration expecting a warning. Much to my surprise, my registration had been suspended. The car was still registered in Maryland and before I moved to Boston, I received a notice saying i needed to take the car in for emissions testing at around fifty bucks. Like the gingerbread man, I thought they'd never catch me. Stupid.

My car was towed around 11pm and I walked eight miles home. The policewoman was very nice and asked me if there was anyone who could pick me up. "No," i said, brusquely even though there were plenty of people I could have called. I just wanted her to feel guilty for impounding my car because I was too stupid to get a fifty dollar emissions test completed.

After much money, a court appearance, and then more money, I eventually got the car back. In the springtime of 2005, though, there was no pressure left in the brakes and I was too fed up with the car to deal with it anymore. I abandoned it at work, hoping I could walk away from it. Non profit organizations didn't even feel it was worth the tow. I ended up selling it to some shady Russians for $200. Could I have spent $10 bucks on brake fluid so I could get it to a mechanic to see how much a repair would cost? Probably. But once I'm frustrated about something, it's all over. There is no reasoning left in my brain. If I were a parent, I would abandon my child the first time he refused to eat broccoli.

My second car was a '99 Ford Escort. Unlike my first car shopping experience, a car was now a real necessity for me and no one was helping me find a car, save my roommate Mandy who drove me from dealership to dealership. After three days of very rushed car shopping, I found my new whip, which, in the end, was destined to be an even more painful experience than the Corsica.

At the dealership, a college aged girl and her father were looking at it before me. I was hovering like a scavenger bird, hoping they'd leave the baby blue carcass of this car for me to swoop upon. The girl walked around it once and immediately moved on to a cute, red Jetta. Her dad said to me, "She doesn't like it because of the graffiti."

He pointed out that the passenger side had been keyed with the words "F U Luis." Without punctuation, it wasn't clear whether the previous owner of the car was named Luis or whether the vandal was Luis, as in

"F U.



Regardless, my heart started beating faster. This was my dream car, but I had to play it cool. It was time to haggle. Even though Lady Gaga was still three years from stardom, I was channeling her poker face.

"How much for this here automobile, Mr. Car Dealer?"
Not even bothering to take the cigarette out of his mouth he said, "Three thousand five hundred."
"How about $2500?"
"That's fine. Three thousand five hundred sounds very fair for a great car like this."

So after paying for the car with a horrible financing deal and a warranty I did not need, I was back on the road. The Escort lasted from 2005 until 2008 when, in Portland, OR, it just refused to start anymore, despite multiple battery and connection changes. I donated it to a non profit who promised me it would be fixed up and donated to a family who would really benefit from it. But, during tax season when I tried to determine how much I could deduct for it, I found out that it sat in a lot all winter covered by the unusually heavy snow of 2008, affectionately called Snowpocalypse by the wusses here in Portland. The Escort would not become anything more than scrap metal. A sad way to end for a car that was loyal. It's like how your aging golden retriever inevitably becomes dinner that one day that you are too lazy to walk to 7Eleven to buy taquitos. I know you've all been there.

Some of the worst horrors I suffered with this car were alreay documented in a previous blog post. However, I think the saddest moment happened right after I moved from Boston. It was june of 2007 and I was cleaning the classroom where I had taught high school special education for two years. In the refrigerator was an open gallon of whole milk we used for cooking class. I put it in my trunk and locked my classroom for the last time.

Let me first explain to you that I am lactose intolerant. I am not good company if I've had dairy. Moreover, I don't even like the taste of a glass of milk, so I'm not entirely sure why I saved the gallon of milk except for the fact that I hate wasting food. I drove back to my apartment and found the milk had spilled in my trunk. I dried it up the best I could, which of course means, not very well at all.

The next day temperature was in the nineties. The day after that was also in the nineties. I do not have a good sense of smell, but knew there was something wrong by the third day. I opened the trunk and removed the carpeting to find the milk had seeped all the way into the spare tire well.

I was a chemistry major in college and though I've forgotten most of everything I learned for that BS, I do know that the matter cannot be created or destroyed and that spilling milk is not a chemical reaction. Therefore, there's really no excuse for my not realizing that a few paper towels probably did not soak up one gallon of milk.

There were grey curds rotting in my spare tire well and the stench infused my back seat upholstry as well. I tried a variety of home remedies:vinegar, sprinkled baking soda (which turned brown sitting in my back seat), orange and lemon wedges. Unfortunately, all that accomplished was making my car smell like vinegar, citrus fruits, and rotten milk. It was never the same.

After the Escort was towed away, I took a break from car ownership as a jilted lover will take a break from dating. It was the era of a New Armin, one who was so Portland, he didn't even need a car. Between March 2008 and May 2009 i relied on my feet, my Trek, and Trimet public transportation to get me everywhere. In the end, I realized none of my shoes are comfortable, I don't like biking nearly as much as you'd expect for someone who biked cross country, and that I'm that jerk east coaster who doesn't want to talk to strangers on the bus.

However, I probably would have gone on without a car, because blue green algae doesn't often try to change the course they are on. My mom stepped in though, and with $7000 worth of help from her, I returned to the trusted GM company for a Chevy Aveo. Some of its more impressive features include an AM/FM radio (no CD player or tape deck), manual roll down windows so you can get a little forearm workout into your daily commute, and enough horsepower to make the girls' panties melt off. How much horsepower is necessary to reach the melting point of panties, you ask? I already told you that I've forgotten most of my chemistry.

So welcome Chevy Aveo, 2009-?. You can start placing bets for how long it'll take me before I'm stranded in Wyoming again. Here's a picture of me posing with it in the most effeminate way possible. It reminds me of the cephalothorax of some crustacean. Or a big, blue choad.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Guest Blog: Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies


Firstly, I hate Fleetwood Mac. Not to the level that I hate Journey, but still I cringe any time I hear "You Make Loving Fun," "Don't Stop," or the song mentioned in the following guest blog.

I like "Landslide." But, I'd like it a lot more if it were sung by Karen Carpenter or Phil Anselmo.

Secondly, I sleep a lot. Enough that I am occasionally mistaken for a house cat. Enough that coma victims need Lunesta to hang with me. And if there's a long gap in between my posts, assume that I'm doing something more entertaining than blogging during my few precious waking hours. Trust me, if my only choices were blogging or ironing, you'd get new blogposts from me more often than you get Tweets from Chad Ochocinco.

I'm out there in the world taking Rhianna's advice. No, not her dating advice. Her advice when she told me to "Live my Life, ay ay ay ay ay ay." And during some slow point in the future, perhaps when imprisoned or crippled, I will distill these moments into tidy blog bites for you to read when you are supposed to be working.

Here's a recent six day trip I took to Tokyo, distilled into a cinquain*

"Are you
sure about that
7Eleven brand
sushi?" - "Shit, it's still safer than
hot dogs."

*Armin, why wouldn't you describe Tokyo in the obvious form of the haiku instead of a cinquain? Because 7Eleven burns too many syllables right off the bat and I'm poor at paring down my words. That's why I'm going back to school.

Last thing, never click on my links. They add nothing to the blog and are just an opportunity for me to push my radical viewpoints and promote things I like that I know none of you like. Ooh look, a gila monster! Without further ado, here's the guest blog:


As always, there is a certain wisdom to Fleetwood Mac. Seriously. Think about it. I know some of you think thunder happens at times other than when it rains, but you're wrong. And yes ladies, players only love you when they're playing. Just ask Armin.

Even more important than the link between a static electricity induced atmospheric sonic boom and liquid precipitation is this little nugget: all of us want to hear lies. Yes, sweet little lies. And for the life of me, I never wanted to be a part of this behavior, but the older I get the more a part of it I am. I am not immune.

Of course, no one thinks they want to lie or be lied to. Most of us even choose to lie to ourselves. No one wants full honesty all of the time- even me, though I often claim I do.

Sometimes it is necessary to tell big lies for what we think is the greater good. Other times, which is most of the time, it's the sweet little lies. I will tell you your dilapidated dining room table is nice because I just met you and your wife asked me what I thought. I will tell my overweight mother the make-up she was forced to wear for a wedding looks beautiful when it really makes her look like a clown. I have smiled in pictures I was not happy in. I have occasionally said someone “meant well” or “has a good heart” when I know in truth they were intentionally self-serving and/or malicious.

I thought lying was patronizing and disrespectful. It is... but more importantly, it's necessary. I spent the last couple of years actively trying to be as honest as I could. Now, don't get me wrong. I still told many small lies (e.g. I sent that e-mail yesterday) and even some big ones (e.g. I am happy for you).

But my renewed commitment to honesty mostly translated into being direct, blunt, and, occasionally, a dick. I got good at making people upset, even people I didn't know. This new philosophy meant more awkward conversations with my girlfriend and angrier conversations with my boss.

In short, by disrupting the natural order of things, I screwed up. What's worse, there were plenty of times when people, unaware of my little experiment, assumed I maintained the normal level of discretion with my comments. That led many to conclude that if I said such upsetting things to their faces, that I must be saying much worse things behind their backs! It wasn't true, but I got told that a bit.

So, I learned something: don't screw with the natural order of things. Bad things will happen.

Your boss will want to fire you and will imply that the meager pay you receive is already too much.

Your girlfriend will know how much you lust after the girl who wipes down the coffee station in the cafeteria.

Your brother, who occasionally drives drunk, never pays taxes, and wrongly collects unemployment, will know just how much he has let you down.

Instead, understand the balance between truth and lies in every relationship. Each person is a little bit different. Some of us need a couple of lies a day. Others need mostly lies. From my experiment, I now know that understanding just how many lies each person in my life wants to hear is very important. It has now become my new goal... along with not eating the foods that make me gassy.

But really, why are we like this? Is it to give ourselves some temporary comfort from the constant insecurities we might have? Yes, that new dress does look good on you. No, I have never, ever thought about another woman when in bed with you. Armin definitely looks better with eyebrows. Give out lies like they are fun size Milky Ways on Halloween.

What if normal human interaction meant avoiding all lies at all costs? What if we learned that each lie took off one day of our lives? Aside from having a lot of honest old people, you would have an interesting situation. If the expectation became honesty every and all the time, I think people would adjust accordingly. If we had no lies and every one learned to live in that fashion, I think our reaction to raw, honest emotions would change. We would get used to it and save a lot of time. I think that a lot of the chronic, long term problems many family relationships have would go away. Stupid, unimportant behaviors would melt away. Instead of not talking to someone for three years because he sued your destitute mother for $20,000, just tell your abusive father you don't love him anymore and he's a phony. Understand that no matter how many little lies you tell yourself or your family, that there is nothing you can do to change the truth and make it better.

My guess is that your hatred would turn into acceptance and it would no longer consume you. You could spend each father's day like any other Sunday: working the night shift and falling asleep with your contacts in while reading about Oregon geology and singing the chorus from some Fleetwood Mac song.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Guest Blog: Rants on the Train

Whoever said "it's the journey, not the destination" probably didn't travel that much. If you've ever been stuck in an airport for ten hours, trying to sleep on a bench with the arm bars dividing your back into thirds, you probably appreciate the destination more than the journey.

Here are the late night travel thoughts of my friend C-DUB, aka Big Willie Style, trapped on a speeding train and somehow still going too slow. For his sake, I hope the train caught a nice tailwind... or derailed, killing everyone, but him.


Say cheese...........generic camera clicking sound.

a minute later....


and then again....


Somebody please teach this kid to say something else before taking pictures, so I don't throw him/her off the train.


For the love of my sanity, shut up.

At this point, I opt for the annoyed over the shoulder look. Only I don't see a 10 year-old taking pictures of her mom. It's a 30-something snapping pictures of the scenery we pass.

I have eight hours to kill until we reach my destination, so I start to think........

Does this lady expect the alpine firs and raging rivers to smile back at her?

Why doesn't she turn off this option?

Better yet, why is this option available?

Is our culture so lazy that we need a computer voice to instruct us to say cheese?

Doesn't saying cheese always make for the worst pictures?

Does anyone over the age of 3 find this saying funny?

Why doesn't this train sell earplugs?


What's the deal with clear Band-Aids? Can you really call them clear when the cotton swab is still brown?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

vocab lesson

Im-prompt-ti-cue - a spontaneous potluck involving grilled food, alcohol, and friends, usually held on Sundays as a relaxing way to end the weekend before the beginning of a new work week

Origin: coined by a group of friends in Boston, MA


This Sunday was perfect imprompticue weather, making Armin miss his old friends. He hopes you are all doing well.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

worth your time

Tell me, does this happen to any of you?

You get home from work and you crack open a beer to unwind. But our multi tasking society has trained us that we can't just sit and enjoy a beer, so we need to do something while we're drinking that beer. Something mindless. No crossword puzzles or cryptograms. You decide to go to to watch the Simpsons or Family Guy.

Seems fine, but you realize the show lasts longer than your beer. Three fourths through the hilarity, you need to grab another beer. But that second beer lasts longer than the episode and now you are right where you started, drinking beer alone. So you watch another episode, run out of beer, grab a beer, run out of episode, watch another episode, run out of beer... before you know it, you need to go to the 7eleven to buy another case, but end up getting Boones Farm instead because it's so gosh darn colorful.

You know how to avoid this hangover? Go to 1000 Ideas and click on one of these hilarious short movies. The buffering and watching time together should just about equal the time necessary to enjoy a refreshing Old Style, PBR, Genessee, or Lone Star.

Trust me, it's worth your time. My favorite is the "Doorman" episode. Even if you only have five minutes left to live, wouldn't you rather spend it having a good laugh instead of lying in bed making awkward confessions to a priest, hoping it'll get you a walk on spot in heaven?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

todd sweeney

I'm not a fan of haircuts. I just think there are cheaper ways of humiliating myself without wasting $10 plus tip. I don't have hair that is genetically predisposed to looking good. It's just there. You can cut it whichever way you want; no stylists are going to be using the finished product for their portfolios. No one will mistake me for Zac Efron.

Aside from the haircut itself, I also hate the whole experience of getting a haircut. First they ask me to take off my glasses, which, for those of you who are 20/20 and can't commiserate with me, it's comparable to stabbing my eyes out. Then they tie that collar thing around my neck which always itches and I have to make small talk while I'm blind and completely unaware of what they're doing to me, except for the sensory clues of a ghastly buzzing noise and the of fuzzy clumps of black hair raining down.

Then, they spin me around and say, "What do you think?"

"I think I'm nearsighted. You took my glasses, remember?" I never say that actually. I'm meek as a church mouse with social anxiety disorder and acne.

"Looks great. Thanks," I lie, squinting. Then I put my glasses on and recoil in disgust at my reflection.

I do like the little brush they swish around my neck to sweep away the hair. But, i could probably buy a little barber's brush for less than $10 plus tip and swish away at the back of my neck to my heart's content if I wanted.

All this being said, I still do get professional haircuts occasionally, thinking maybe this time, it'll be different. I had a graduation to attend recently and wanted to sexify myself for the festivities. I went to a barbershop near my house where I had been before. I think the barber's name is Scott. He was odd the first time I'd met him, but this last encounter was downright disturbing.

Everything was going as normal. Glasses off. Itchy collar on. Small talk activated.

"What do you want today," he asks.

"Just trim the sides and the neck. I have to look presentable for a graduation."

"Do you go to University of Portland?"

"No, my girlfriend is graduating from pharmacy school."

"Oh, I have a friend that's a pharmacist."

"Where does your friend work?"

"Oh, I don't know. He moved away. I won't know where you are if you move away and change your phone number. Don't you hate when people do that? People shouldn't do that to me. I don't like when people do that to me. People shouldn't forget me." He laughs loudly. Though, I'm usually good at fake laughter, I can't even pretend to laugh this time. The guy is very creepy. Please put down the clippers.

He continues cutting and laughing loudly. I close my eyes. Finally, he spins me around.

"What do you think?"

"Thanks, I look very presentable," I say, unable to see anything. The haircut is the least of my worries. I can't feel any blood dripping, so I'm relieved.

"Yes, you look like a nice guy. Don't you get tired of being a nice guy? I hate being a nice guy. People always say, 'Oh, he's such a nice guy.' I don't want to be a nice guy. HAHAHAHAHAHA." I leave a big tip and bike away quickly so I don't have to witness him take all the hair trimmings from the day and craft them into effigies of people who have wronged him through the years.

With all that said, I'm sure the next time I need a haircut, I'll still go back to him. He only charges $8.99, after all. So yes, I'll probably go back. And the haircut isn't so bad, this time. In my humble opinion, I look devastatingly cute.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Dear Facebook,

Thanks for killing Myspace.



Dear Myspace,

Thanks for killing Friendster.



Dear Reader,

No I do not have a Facebook account. This is not an act of protest. I have nothing against society, technology, or computers. This might surprise you, but at this very minute I'm using the technology of a computer to write a blog post that will better society. Sort of. Not the betterment of society part, at least.

But anyway, for any of you who have sent me a Facebook request, I am not snubbing you. I just don't feel like signing up for Facebook. Back when I frequented Myspace, I'd only check it regularly when I was still hung up on some old girlfriend, checking her profile constantly to see if there were any hidden messages to me.

"Oooh, she's listening to 'Every Rose Has its Thorn.' Maybe she's trying to tell me that I'm the rose... or its thorn."

And if there was no girl to be heartbroken over, then I rarely checked it.

I know what you're going to say, "Armin, Facebook is SOOOOOOO much better. I mean, like you wouldn't believe how much better. Like an All-You-Can-Eat-Tater-Tots-While-Watching-a-Marathon-of-Van-Damme-Movies better! If Facebook and Myspace were siblings, Facebook would be a virgin prom queen going to Harvard while Myspace would be a limbless thalidomide baby flippering around in its own excrement!"

I get it. Facebook is better. I just don't think I'll be that into it.

But back to my original point, if I even had one. Myspace is dying, and though I don't rue the loss, I did have a little known blog on my page called "Welcome to Earth, Spaceboy." So, as a dying civilization tries to preserve its language in stone, I feel the same need to save some of those blog posts and transfer them over to ATKU. And, yes, it's an easy way to toss out a blog post when I really have nothing new to say. Consider it the same as that bail out episode of your favorite sitcom, the episode that just shows spliced together clips of previous episodes because the writers were thin on ideas that week.

Looking these old posts over, they are very dated. The following post from "Welcome to Earth, Spaceboy," has a reference to "My Humps." How quaint! Life was so much simpler in the halcyon days of 2005.

your bff,

(originally posted 12/20/2005)

Current mood: sleepy

Sure i've got the basic five: sight, hearing, touch, taste, telekinesis... but I was deprived the most basic of all animal senses, smell. Now it's not like I'm completely devoid of olfactory prowess, it's just that I have to really try hard to smell. The rest of you out there are just sitting around and smelling stuff constantly, having a grand old time, while I actually have to concentrate on it. For instance, i can't smell and do algebra at the same time; it just requires too many neurons to run both programs in this feeble windows 95 virus ridden brain of mine.

I guess it's not really the same as being blind or deaf and I completely understand why no one gives me change on the train when I wear my sandwich board that says "Feed the Smell-less," but there are certainly downfalls to my disability.

When I was a kid and someone would say, "Who farted?" I'd always have to pretend I smelled whatever they smelled. Now in my neighborhood, the rule was "whoever smelt it, dealt it," but I recall at least three occasions when that adage was overruled by the "whoever didn't smell it, dealt it" ammendment of 1985. So seven out of ten times, I was safe by admitting I didn't smell anything, but if some crafty son of a bitch kid would shout out, "Whoever didn't smell it, dealt it!" i was surely going to eat lunch alone. Would you play russian roulette with that bullet? I think not.

The safest thing was to be the second person to say he smelled something. Of course I'd be conservative about my reaction, always a notch less disgusted than the original smeller, and always much more vague about what I was smelling ("yeah,, ewww, what is that? it smells like something, i can't tell what that is"), and hopefully one more kid would agree that he smelled something and I would be safely nestled between two accurate affirmations and could skip home gleefully, my disability (and identity as the flatulator) undetected.

But being the second to affirm the smell had its pitfalls too. Say you were in a large group, one kid says he smells something, you agree that you smell something, but are very vague about it, and the rest of the fifteen kids don't smell a damn thing. Well you are now caught in a lie my friend, and that's called perjury.

In those cases, I'd have to fatten my lie with details to make it more believable. So if
little Billy said, "Eww you guys smell that? I think I'm going to throw up!" I'd follow with something like, "Yeah, that is gross. It smells like three to five over ripe bananas floating on a raft of fragrant white pine in the middle of a miasmic Alabaman bayou during a crisp harvest moon night after the rains." Needles to say, this route was never my first option.

The point is, I would dread whenever kids said they smelled things. And this didn't stop until college when I met friends that loved me unconditionally and I felt safe enough one tearful night to come out of the closet and say "I am without smell."

This lack of smell thing affects me in my adulthood too. As we all know, attraction is based on pheremones, so the girl of your dreams has to find the way to your heart through your nasal passage. Of course, mine has a detour sign up. So instead of finding true love based on a girl's pheremones, I have to judge my attraction based on her tits and ass. So ladies, just remember, if you're at a club and some guy is staring at your humps, think first... he might be smell-less. Don't be so quick to judge; he can't smell you enough to know if he thinks you are his soulmate. This is the only way for those of us in a dark scentless world. And would it kill you to drop a damn quarter in his cup?


Recently, while stranded at the Fort Lauderdale Airport, I was watching TV at the gate along with an older couple, maybe in their fifties, who were the only other people in the airport. A commercial came on for the iPhone (maybe you've heard of this product... it has the popularity--and fleetingness, i'm predicting--of the hula hoop). The narrator of the ad kept repeating, "Yeah, there's an app for that, too."

The fifty year old woman asked the man, "What's an app?" He shrugged.

I interrupted, "It's short for application," startling them both because they didn't realize I was behind them and because I look fairly disturbing when I travel--picture a minority who hasn't showered for days sleeping on benches with his yellow stuffed dog. She thanked me, the way people thank hobos when they clean your windows, then they abruptly left.

I don't know why I did that, interjecting into a strangers' conversation to give my two cents. First of all, I don't even really know if "app" stands for "application." I don't have an iPhone. There's plenty of words that start with the letters A-P-P. For all I know, "app" could be short for appendictomy. That's unlikely. But it could stand for "apple."

"Want to make juice? Yeah, there's an apple for that." Makes sense.

Secondly, I generally hate people who give unwarranted advice or information, your Nicky Know-It-Alls, if you will. Like when you're lifting at the gym and some dude you've never met wearing a tank top with hairy shoulders says, "Gotta do those reps slower, man. Bring it all the way to your chest."

Or that Nicky Know it All that says, "Armin, you can't pour water on a grease fire! That only makes it worse!" Thanks, for your gratuitous trivia, Professor Einstein, but save it for Jeopardy. If you didn't notice, I have a fire to deal with.



Tricia writes: Just thought I'd share my "favorite" thing about keeping old phone numbers in my phone. It is when I give my phone to my 1 year old niece and she randomly calls only the people I haven't spoken to in 3-4 years. Of course I'm hoping these people don't have my number in their phone anymore, but if they are like me and know it's me calling because they don't delete phone numbers out of their phone they are probably like "why the heck is Tricia calling and hanging up, she should at least say hello.

I have an easy solution for that. I lose or destroy a phone about once a year. And of course, I don't have anyone's phone number written on paper. So i email people for their contact info, but if I can't remember who you are or how I know you, then I don't email you.

My friends Robbie and Julie have another solution: during parties, they engage in drunken, supportive, group phone number preening, usually involving the phone numbers of exes. It's very cathartic, as is vomiting the morning after the party.

Friday, April 17, 2009

hello, it's been a while

I've been looking through my phone's contact list and there are a lot of old friends who I have not called in a long time. The hardest part of calling someone after a long time of not talking is where to begin. Here's a bit of scripted small talk to help get the ball rolling:

Old Friend: Armin, how have you been? What's new?
Armin: Not much. Did I tell you I'm gay now?
Old Friend: Shut up!
Armin: Geez, (old friend), I would have expected you of all people to be the most open minded about this.
Old Friend: Stop it. You are not gay.
Armin: Tell that to the penis in my mouth.

Why would I reveal this nugget of small talk gold with you all, considering many of you are probably the very same old friends I need to use this line on? Because, I'll still use this joke, even if you already know I'm going to use it. That's just how persistent I am with a joke that is no longer funny.



Anelyn writes: i still don't understand what you have against steve perry and bono.

It's inexplicable. I hate Journey, but love Chicago and Foreigner. I think my dislike of U2 is a little more understandable. I'm pretty sure people who love U2 still sort of hate Bono.

Anonymous writes: do you like fishsticks?

I hope this post answers your question.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

more on pandora

More on

Again, I love this website. But, just as with my future children, my love will not preclude me from exposing and criticizing all the slightest faults of Pandora. And just like I will do with my future children, I refuse to give Pandora any hugs or words of encouragement until it lives up to my unrealistic expectations, which will never happen., in case you have not visited the site (and if you haven't, shame on you) boasts that its program, the Music Genome Project, studies and categorizes every song in the universe using over 400 attributes, thus creating a genealogy for all music, a family tree binding songs and musicians based on similar characteristics. You want to hear the Beatles? Well the smarty pants at will play you a Beatles song, then suggest, "Maybe you want to try some Herman's Hermits, too." Soon, you're supposed to be listening to a bunch of songs you love, or didn't realize you loved until Pandora opened your eyes, and you make a nice little personalized radio station out of it: "Sixties British Invasion." Pandora is replacing that know-it-all record shop owner who always knows what you should be listening to in order to be as cool as him.

I made a radio station called "Death Metal as Droning Background Noise." It is comprised of songs with the characteristics of "a gravelly male vocalist," "an unintelligable vocal delivery," and "angry/offensive lyrics." My "wuss rock" station, on the other hand, is dominated by "easy listening qualities," "a smooth male lead vocalist," and "romantic lyrics." And this works out fine for the most part. Pandora never suggests I listen to Barry Manilow when I'm playing my "Death Metal as Droning Background Noise" station. And conversely, it never plays Dying Fetus after playing Kenny Loggins on my "wuss rock" station. But, sometimes, on "Wuss Rock," it'll play an early Bee Gees song such as "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?" but then follows it with a later, disco Bee Gees song like "Jive Talkin'." Not the same to me, Pandora. I do not include disco in my "wuss rock" station, regardless of whether the song was performed by a wussy band. I understand this might be confusing because right after saying no thank you to "Jive Talkin'," I'll turn around and demand Mr. or Mrs. Pandora play me "Too Much Heaven," which is a disco-era Bee Gees song. What's the difference? Fuck you. That's the difference. I want to hear "too Much Heaven," and put it in my Wuss Rock station whereas I like the song "Jive Talkin'" but do not find it appropriate for a Wuss Rock station, and would find it more appropriately suited for a radio station called "Armin wants to Get Down with his Bad self" which would also include "Funky Town," by Lipps Inc. I don't need a Music Genome Project to explain the beating of my heart and the instincts of my gut.

If Pandora boasts playing only music I like, then I want the musical qualities to be more specific for my personal needs. Song qualities should include categories like "songs Armin remembers from the summer of '99 when he was graduating high school and the whole world was opening up for him like a steamed clam for him to pluck and dunk in drawn butter." Or "songs Armin once hated, but enough time has passed that he might like it now if you played it, due to nostalgia factor." Or "wussy male vocals, but under no circumstance, sounding like Journey or U2." Or "Elton john, but absolutely no Elton John Disney songs." Four hundred attributes might seem useful, but it doesn't help me for shit when I'm suddenly hearing "Can you Feel the Love Tonight?" when all I wanted to really hear was "Rocket Man."

Don't even make me go through the bother of clicking on the Thumbs Down. Just do it right the first time, Pandora. Maybe then Daddy will hug you, but probably not because you are a terrible, ugly child that we never wanted in the first place.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I was out for lunch recently with a half dozen forty to sixty year old teachers, when one of them, a mom of a soon-to-be college graduate, was lamenting how her son turned down two jobs. TWO JOBS! In this economy? The other forty to sixty somethings shook their heads in empathy. The mom then asked the question, "What's the deal with this generation? Are they lazy or do they just feel entitled?"

There was a 21 year old fella with us, the son of another teacher at the table, who was suddenly interrogated by the "adults," picked as the representative of his age bracket to explain the failings of his generation. He was polite, saying that many kids he knows do feel entitled and believe many jobs are below them. He added, "But, I'd take any job if I could," having recently been laid off.

Then, the attention was turned to me, when they realized, despite hiding behind my overgrown facial hair, that I'm probably a twenty something as well. They asked me the same question, "Is your generation just lazy or do they feel they are better than a lot of the jobs out there?"

I could have made a number of arguments against their assumptions, such as

1) growing up, you told us kids that we could be whatever we wanted to be, to follow our dreams, and to not settle for less, but now that we are picky about what we want to do, you tell us just to slut it up for any employer and spread it for any job offer
2) if we don't have kids, we have no one to support but ourselves and so we have the right to turn down jobs
3) most of the older folks who settled on a job when they were young complain about what they wish they had done if they had it to do all over again
4) if you as the parent are supporting your twenty something financially, you are giving him the okay to turn down jobs, and I'm sure if he were on his own, he'd take whatever job kept beer in his fridge and spray cheese on his generic triscuits.

But, I didn't make any of these points because I was busy eating happy hour nachos my friend Sarah got for me.

Maybe it's a natural biological phase all people go through; sometime between "puberty" and "menopause," homo sapiens go through a stage called "wistful," in which nothing current is quite as good as it was in the past. TV shows. Athletes. Music. Especially music.

I always wondered how old people stopped being aware of what was cool at the moment. You know why? Because most of them don't watch TV for 14hrs a day, and if they do, they are not watching the CW for 14hrs a day. So now Armin, who used to go to metal shows and laugh at all the old dudes wearing faded Iron Maiden tees from 1982, is now that old guy holding out hopes that White Zombie will reunite and Dimebag Darrell will return from the dead.

I'm fighting it, though, with the help of which lets me know what the young kids are listening to these days. Of course, as you get older, if you try to stay current, you risk being the old guy that's still trying to be cool, which, aside from rapping grannies, is horrible. Sometimes, you have to let nature happen to you. Let your hair grow grey and lecture kids today on how much more significant Debbie Gibson was to our global consciousness back in the 80's than Miley Cyrus is today.

Here's the first new band I've discovered since 2003: In Flames. That is, with the exception of this spunky, little act who put out the best song of 2007, though, to be honest, I didn't listen to much radio that year and, so she didn't have much competition in my book.

By the way, if you couldn't tell, I just figured out how all the other bloggers in the internet world put links into their text, so I'm putting links everywhere until this blog becomes a virtual pop-up book. Oooh! Look! A snail!



J writes: Your heart of darkness is intimidating to behold. How long will you let it grow?

Until my girlfriend thinks its too scraggly and disgusting to look at.

Shana writes: whaaaat!? boy do we need to talk. i have news of a similar nature!!

Wait, you mean your mom also would rather liquify her food than try driving on roads posted at 55mph or more?

Maria writes: We'll have to have another AmeriCorps reunion... maybe in NYC... since you're making your way back to the East Coast.

Sounds good, let's round up the troops! but I don't think there's much to do in NYC.

Anelyn writes: we'll meet you there (pompton queen diner)! that's our favorite one, second only to park west diner.

I've only had Park West breakfasts, which are solid. But a diner really makes its mark during the midnight to 5am time slot, when they have to prove their dishes don't taste like used grease and pissed off waitress.

Tricia writes: makes me want a doughnut!

The point of that blog entry was to make you not want a doughnut because those damn plain donuts are so bland and dry and boring! Dammit! I've completely failed as a writer and now I'm getting worked up again about those plain donuts!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


WARNING!!!! Do not read this blog if you are averse to unbridled manliness.

I received the best compliment of my life recently when a six year old noticed my new facial hair. Finally, my two months of work growing out my goatee has come to fruition! There was a time to plant, but now is the time to reap. Reap benefits, that is. All the benefits that come from having facial hair.

Now, the only question: What to do with this new look? Join ZZ Top? Stalk women? Wear plaid and deforest the Pacific Northwest? Be mistaken for Hugh Jackman when the summer Wolverine mania hits its peak? Really, the opportunities are limitless when you are bearded, such as myself. See below if you can stand to face ruggedness eye to eye. Careful, though. Not unlike a solar eclipse, such a natural phenomena can devastate your weak, hairless retina.

I shaved the mustache so you could all see the disparity between the desert of an upper lip versus the jungles of the bottom lip and chin. My soul patch has oft been referred to as the Heart of Darkness* by those daring enough to explore it.

*My soul patch has only been referred to as the Heart of Darkness in this blog post alone.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

mama, i'm coming home

After a six year, self-imposed exile, I'll be returning to my native, if not highly contaminated, soil of New Jersey to attend grad school at Rutgers Newark. The choice was easy... I haven't gotten into any other schools. But, sometimes you know it's time to go back. I called my mom this morning to tell her the news, but she was out buying a blender, she says because her bridgework is broken and she's too afraid to drive on highways to see a specialist to get it fixed, so she has to blend all of her food now. That's as good a reason as any to go back. Oh, and getting to watch every single Knicks loss on TV, instead of just the couple of times a season they lose to Blazers. So open up those dirty gates, Garden State, your boy is back. I'll see you all at the Pompton Queen diner at 2am for a gyro.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

strip clubs

I don't like strip clubs. I'm not a feminist. I'm not religious. I don't have any moral objection with women taking off their clothes for money. Call me strange, but it doesn't turn me on to pay a woman to pretend to like me. Also, I don't like the fact that most of these strippers look pissed off because they are working at a strip club. Maybe I don't have a problem with strip clubs so much as I have a problem with poor customer service. Same thing at Denny's. I don't want my waitress looking pissed off when she brings me a Grand Slam. I mean, why are you so pissed off? You are an integral member of the company that makes the best hash browns in the universe. What could be better than that?

If I'm that upset that the woman serving me a Grand Slam looks unhappy--even though she gets to bath in the delicious aroma of hash browns every day--you can understand why I'm even more upset when I'm surrounded by women who look unhappy even though they get to be surrounded by the delicious aroma of sweat and dirty, old man every day.

Somehow, despite my aversion to strip clubs, I have been to more than one and will probably see more than one more before I die. Here's a history of my strip club experience.

1. Feb 2000

I'm a freshman in college and it's my friend's birthday. It's also the first time I see a girl naked. I'm not a smoker, but I end up smoking an entire pack of cigarettes on my own because in a strip club, you really need to do something with your hands.

2. April 2003

It's senior year of college and my birthday. However, it's Easter, so no one is on campus except my friend Cal who is an atheist and hates his family anyway, my jewish friend Scott who doesn't believe, or is ungrateful, that Jesus rose from the dead for our sins, and Scott's roommate who is the only student from our college who comes from another state and therefore, can not go home for the holiday. Cal asks me what I want to do, and then, without waiting for my answers, tells me, "Nudie bar!" We're in South JerZ and we're poor college kids, so we search the phone book for cheap topless bars. We find one in rural Pennsylvania with no cover. Those two things, 1) Rural Pennsylvania and 2) No cover should be a clear warning that you are better off playing Pictionary in your dorm room.

3. May 2003

I've just graduated college and am in the Philippines for a two week vacation with my dad and my buddy, Cal, the aforementioned friend who loves strip clubs. Our entire trip has been planned out by my aunts and uncles and is filled with exotic foods and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Then, we come to the day marked on the calendar "Boys' Night Out." I had been secretly dreading this day all vacation. My aversion to going to strip clubs with friends is quite mild compared to the nausea I feel going to a strip club with my dad. And in the Philippines, you really don't know how old these girls are. So we are at a table watching possibly underage girls looking pissed off that they have to survive by being ogled by old men, while other girls their age are on MTV bitching that their Super Sweet Sixteen isn't quite super enough.

The waiter is giving Cal a shoulder rub, we assume because Cal is white and American, which to a Filipino, ostensibly means he has money. I spend the evening drinking soda (I don't even like drinking with my dad, let alone drinking and comparing stripper tits with him) and talking with some guy about the future of VCRs and whether they will be able to survive the evolution of DVD players.

4. March 2004

It's Mardi Gras weekend and I'm in New Orleans with my AmeriCorps friends and my girlfriend. All the girls have called it a night, but the boys are still staggering along bourbon street. One guy in our group suggests a strip club. "Look! There's no cover." Instead there's a three drink minimum, with each drink being about 7 bucks. Even drunk I don't find it particularly fun. And how stupid is that, to pay a three drink minimum in a club when we could be drinking on the streets watching college freshman (whose bodies are still supple and have not yet been devastated by hard living and c-sections) getting naked for free? We were young and stupid.

5. February 2009

I'm back in the Philippines. I've somehow survived the last five years without going to another strip club. Again, I'm with my dad and another friend, Dice. My cousin, Ronell, and his wife take us to dinner. She drives in a separate car. That's a bad sign. After dinner, his wife goes home and it's just the boys cruising Subic Bay, a one time U.S. Naval base. And you know what sailors love? Strip clubs. Ronell likes one called Chichiquita. "It's classier than the rest of the clubs on the strip," he says. Inside, there is a guy passed out at his chair. Three bouncers pick him up and drag him out the door.

We sit at a table right by the stage and I have to physically grab Dice to make him sit in between me and my father. No soda for me, this time. I want to get drunk and make this night disappear. Another San Miguel, salamat.

The strippers line up on stage like lobsters in a fish tank at a fancy seafood restaurant and you pick the one that looks tastiest. "Go ahead, pick a girl," says my cousin. "No thank you. I'm fine with my beer."

Maybe Ronell interprets my refusal to pick a girl as American shyness or just plain indecisiveness. So he picks a girl for me. Her name is Andrea, she's 20, or so she claims, and is not particularly attractive. I shake her hand. Ronell, on the other hand, has his nose buried in his stripper's cleavage. Perhaps she has a scratch and sniff sticker placed there. I don't know if my dad or Dice picked girls, but our table now has one for each of us.

If you've read my blog before, you probably know that I don't like small talk. I like it even less when it's with a stripper who is paid to engage in small talk with me. I don't pay the stripper directly. Instead, i buy her beer. A beer for me costs 50 pesos, about one dollar, US. A beer for her costs 250 pesos, about five dollars. Her beer is not of a better quality than mine. And I can't get a beer for myself and give it to her. The bartender comes to us, asks me "Do you want to get her a beer?" I ask her, "Do you want a beer?" And, surprise, surprise, she always nods, "Yes!" even though I don't think she actually wants a beer. I know this because she drinks her beer with ice to water it down and after the first three beers, she switches to pineapple juice which also costs 250 pesos even though pineapples grow there like poison ivy.

The night is long. There's a language barrier between me and Andrea and it's too loud to hear anyway. I guess most patrons of Chichiquita are not concerned about hearing their strippers' answers to question like, "So, are all of you strippers friends? Do you guys get together for coffee after work?"

I keep drinking and trying to come up with conversation topics like, "Who's the biggest bitch you have to work with here?" She asks me questions like, "Can I hold you?"


"Do you want to go to the VIP room?"


At some point, she brings it to my attention that my dad and his stripper are gone. "Your dad is in the VIP room," she says. "Another San Miguel, please," I say. My parents are divorced, so I don't feel like my dad is doing anything wrong. At the same time, you don't want to picture your dad in the VIP room. And he's in there for a long time. I don't have a watch on so I don't know exactly how long, but I'm pretty sure four or five girls danced on stage during the time he was gone. At two crappy pop songs per girl, plus one crappy pop song in between girls, that's probably a solid half hour at least.

Towards the end of the night, my stripper asks me if I would get her three red wines to cover the rest of her quota. Quota? You mean you weren't sitting with me this whole time because you were regaled by my fascinating dinosaur trivia? My heart is broken. But she should be happy she had such an easy night's work with me. She got paid and didn't have to get tested in the morning.

Mercifully, the night comes to an end. We leave. I give Andrea a firm handshake goodbye. My dad probably thinks I'm a queer and wishes Dice was his son instead. I ask no questions and in the car, try to let the buzz wash away all my memories as my dad tells them about his stripper and the VIP room.