“‘Inappropriate’ Is a Vaginal Word” Part Two: From “Man” to ‘Man’

For PART ONE in case you missed it.

In the existential, nihilistic way of seeing things, it’s never really a good time to be alive. Whether it’s now or a thousand years past or future, the anything and everythingness of anything and everything invariably leads to the same dead end: life is futile and meaningless. There’s no reason for you to be here. God is fiction. Absolute morality is a sham. Forget the outside world that extends beyond your so-called mind (which is found where, by the way?); you can’t even prove your own existence.

It’s a scary state of affairs, and many a men have gone overboard of the too-daunting, incapacitating task of carrying out tomorrow. The rest of us, however, have managed to abstain from the temptation, delaying gratification to first pursue more noble causes, like purchasing a really nice sofa. Such has always been the state of man, and as such will it continue in this vain forever, independent of the where and when.

EXCEPT—at present there’s one place in the dark and indifferent universe that seems to be anomalous to the existential deadlock cuffing us all. Despite year-round rainfall set to a gray and dreary backdrop that, in healthy adults, should induce thoughts of suicide at least once a week, Seattle, WA is quickly becoming incurable of the invincibility virus that’s spreading, growing, and latching onto its every last inhabitant.

Existentialism? Nihilism? Solipsism? Who gives a shit. Not here, where the grass is incontrovertibly greener. That and it’s burning with the incense of a city on fire. Add the two up and it’s no wonder Seattle is HIGH AS FUCK off life right now.

Just look at the city’s achievements in the last two years, which have been both universally famed and significant. Washington was one of the first two states to legalize weed. It sat on the bus of hetero-marriage exclusivity and payed Rosa Parks a mighty homage. Its most acclaimed and impactful city is home to the 2014 Superbowl champs. Home to the 12th Man. Home to Macklemore! Winner of four Grammys, sweeper of an entire genre that included contenders named Jay-Z, Kanye West, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar.

Bitch, don’t kill Seattle’s vibe.

Well, I take that back. I should’ve said, “B*tch, don’t kill Seattle’s vibe.” But even that’s too politically charged for one of the frontrunners in progressive, liberal, everybody’s-equal-and-beautiful left-wingism. Which eliminates from contention “B****, don’t kill Seattle’s vibe,” or even “*****, don’t kill Seattle’s vibe,” because veiling doesn’t equate to abolishing, and what we’re going for is the total abolition of hateful language and hopefully—hateful thoughts. Which means “Lady, don’t kill…” and “Girl, don’t kill…” are also out for their blatant sexism and prejudice—plus with the latter there’s that unmistakable tone of child molestation/pedophilia potential. Hmm…

Okay, you get the point. I could do this shit forever. Keep going on and on and on till “Bitch, don’t kill Seattle’s vibe” were reduced to the euphemistic mouthful: “Entity, please encourage the preservation of this very good energy Seattle is having at the moment,” for a thousand reasons, among them that the word “don’t” has been known to inspire negativity in children.

All of this—from the existential intro to the Seattle segue to “Bitch, don’t kill…” to the meticulous rewriting of the phrase for political correctness’s sake—which brings me home, right to my argument’s front door, where the mat underfoot—if you’ll just move them for a second—reads: Fuck Seattle. Thank God I left.

Which is not in the slightest how I felt on moving day.

It was February 1st, 2012, and I’d just one month ago graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Creative Writing. (Which has helped me make millions, in case you’re wondering.) For no other reasons than having zero job prospects in Seattle and wanting once more to illustrate my being different from the rest of the crowd, I packed my bags and headed east for New York City, but not before first saying an impassioned goodbye to the city that raised and sculpted me into the man I was at present.

January 31, 2012

Dear Seattle,

You’ve done so much for me these last 17 years, and don’t think for a second that I’ll forget or neglect your impact on my life. After all, it’s because of you that I love to smoke weed. That I love the color green. That I love gray skies set to the beat of rain pelting against concrete.

You made me love gay people. Revolutionary thoughts. Socialism. Feminism. Equality. Deconstructing the systems of oppression. Seeing race and racism in every communication, every interaction. Hating white people, while at the same time recognizing it’s all peace and love. Learning and relearning that I subconsciously use my intrinsic male privilege to gain leverage over certain things and people, and that it’s neither fair nor right. Teaching everyone around me that gender is a social construct, that it’s okay—no, it’s fucking fantastic!—if you’re a cry guy, or a body building champ in the female 200-pounds-and-higher division.

What I’m trying to say, Seattle, is that you made me noble and righteous. The definition of a real man.

And for that I love you and shall miss you dearly. 

Steven

Waiting for me the next day at JFK was my dad, who I was to be living with for the first time since I was 12 months old. He owned an unfinished apartment building in Brooklyn, specifically Williamsburg, which is hailed as the world’s Hipster Mecca and makes Seattle’s Capitol Hill look like a G-rated family flick gone straight to video. (And by video, I mean cassette.) I was to help my dad complete the building, which was still without water and gas, while living in one of the unfinished apartments free of rent. Let me say that again, lest it pass by you unnoticed. NO WATER, NO GAS. Which means I’d have to go some time—pops estimated six weeks tops—peeing in a bottle, scrounging around the neighborhood to drop deuce, and grow skin thick enough to endure three or four days without being able to shower. It’s like we were to be homeless but with the home.

Believe it or not, there was actually a honeymoon phase to all this newness, but per usual, it lasted only a few weeks before fading—no, abruptly cutting—straight to black. I was quickly noticing a parallel between a variety of first-time-having-to-do’s, namely in coping with a) no water and b) pops as the newest centerpiece in my day-to-day life. This guy was the paragon embodiment of pulling out my dick in the middle of the living room to top off yet another pee bottle—and I mean that in the most non-perverse, innuendo-free way possible.

Let me explain. At first the newness of having to aim all my urine in the mouth of a plastic bottle every single time my dick required relief was both funny and amusing. It was like, “Ha-ha-ha, look what I’m doing. Look how many of these things I’ve filled up since Thursday.” But the novelty of simulated homelessness wore off quickly, and by March I was ready to never look at another bottle, urine-filled or not, ever again. As such were my sentiments toward spending time with my dad: “ha-ha-ha” at first, “Jesus fucking Christ, not again,” thereafter.

I remember our first fight, which took place while I was lugging pops across the 278 in his two-seater Jeep. We were making small talk when he escalated and asked me what my overarching goals in life were.

“I don’t want to tell you,” I said.

“Why not?”

“Because you’ll think it’s stupid and then you’ll start lecturing me again.”

“I won’t. Just tell me.”

And then I sighed, paused, and said without a trace of sarcasm, “I want to save the world.”

Now, my dad isn’t Hitler but he’s far from what one would call a morally upstanding citizen. He leans right. He wouldn’t have been happy had I turned out gay. He uses off-limit words that I won’t specify here. He doesn’t enjoy love or warmth, though he does get off to the idea of revenge and seeing other people get fucked over. Piggybacking off this last one: because he thinks everyone’s personally trying to fuck him over, he does his best to get it in first. But none of these hold a candle to the fact that… he’s a lawyer.

So for his only seed—his son, no less—to spout from his lips that his ultimate goal was to save planet Earth, it’s a wonder he didn’t slap the shit out of me while we were still driving over the bridge and put us both out our misery. Yet somehow he managed to refrain and use words of indignation only:

“Jesus fucking Christ, give me a break.”

“See?” I said. “I knew you’d react this way. But it doesn’t matter what you say. That’s what I want to do. That’s my goal. I’m gonna help save the planet.”

Pops didn’t buy it. “That’s bullshit. You don’t really care. If you did, you’d help every homeless guy you pass on the street.”

I pushed back until he felt my conviction in his every cell.

“Fine,” he said. “Let’s say you do care. How are you gonna save the planet without money?”

“Money’s part of the problem, dad.”

“Oh, not that bullshit. So Warren Buffet, Bill Gates—all their money that goes to charities is useless?”

“I don’t need money to save the world.”

“Okay, so what are you gonna use?”

“LOVE.”

I take it back. NOW is when he should’ve slapped me unconscious, make the car veer right off the bridge and let the fall drown out all the bad from our horrifying lives.

“Jesus Christ,” he said. “Is this the kind of shit you learned in Seattle? You’re like a fucking woman.”

Yes I was. And though he meant that as the pinnacle show of disrespect, I took it as a compliment. You’re like a woman. Yes I am! Absolutely! Thank you, dad! After all, it was women who understood the important things in life. How to love. How to express their feelings. How to care. How to nurture. How to be one with the universe. They weren’t out to conquer the world or start fights over a pair of stepped-on shoes or, worst of all, dick measure, figuratively and literally, like cavemen vying for Lucy’s attention. Nuh-uh. That was man. And man bad. Woman good.

Of course, I was just echoing the normative ideologies of the city that shaped me. Similar to an Iraqi screaming “Death to those that insult Islam!” or a Parisian cheering on France in the World Cup. You root for the home team; that’s just how it goes.

Nevertheless, a few months living with pops and the tectonic plates of my home-team paradigm were already beginning to shift, albeit ever so slightly. Not yet on the issue of feminism, but on the issue of capitalism. (I’ve recently realized the two are interconnected. Zeal for one usually means complete loathing for the other.) My dad was the ultimate capitalist: in the last 20-plus years he’d reported to one superior only, and that was his cock. He practiced law for his own firm, helped start a couple of restaurants, among many other businesses over the years. His most recent project was the residential building in Williamsburg, which, up until this point—now September 2012, eight months into my staying there—was still without water and gas. Let me say that again. NO WATER, NO GAS.

In other words, for a span of eight months and counting, I was still every day prowling for new public toilets to sit on, new bottles to stand over. (As for showering, I’d discovered a hotel in midtown seven miles away that had communal showers on every floor. So twice or three times a week, I’d sneak in the hotel, take a shower, and go home, all in the time it takes to count to an hour and a half.)

Trying to jump through all the required hoops to get these two very basic necessities was a nightmare. Why? Because at each step in the process we needed help from the city’s bureaucrats. Now, if you’ve ever been to the DMV, and/or come across a New Yorker, then you understand intimately the implications of this; NYC bureaucrats wanted only to help you in the process that leads to your jumping off a very high bridge and killing yourself.

So it was every day trying to deal with them and perform all the necessary circus acts to get water and gas inside my dad’s building. Until then, no water and gas meant no renters. No renters meant no money. No money meant losing money because every month pops had to pay up the ass in various fees (think $20K each month). And if all that wasn’t bad enough, there were these fuckers:

Image

Williamsburg hipsters. My dad called them trust-fund babies because apparently, not one of them earned income enough to justify—let alone explain—the lifestyle they were being wont to enjoy, especially in one of the steepest housing markets in Brooklyn. (For perspective: the going rate for a one-bedroom apartment in my dad’s building, upon its eventual completion, was to be $2,500/month sans utilities.) He said the majority of the hipsters’ bankroll was coming straight from mommy and daddy’s pocket, hence their being able to do a number of things: simply survive, eat food, buy misleadingly expensive clothes, loiter about in cafes from sunrise to sunset, loiter about in bars from sunset to sunrise, etc. etc. But perhaps more important than any of the abovementioned—hipsters could, like, have, like, a lot of time to, like, pursue, like, their, like, “art.”

At first I didn’t believe pops. I just figured he was bitter because they smoked outside his property and dressed like Soviet runway models. But after noting how their daily routines were playing out, the same way over and over again, the days indistinctly mushing together to create one giant super day called Motuwethfrday, I began reassessing my position. Not to get it twisted; I still liked them in the big picture. After all, who loathed conformity, capitalism, “the Man”—who desired love, equality, the right to “pursue my art” more than the birkenstock-sporting, handlebar mustache-wearing, “organic” crowd?

But then they started to do this:

DSC_3418

Their Mona Lisa: spraypainted twaddle on the whole front of my dad’s building, with additions and modifications incoming a minimum of three times a week.

And just like that, all that love-thy-neighbor, equality-for-all bullshit got chucked straight out the “my beliefs” window I’d, up until then, held to be fixed and impregnable.

As my dad’s assistant, I was left to wipe the spraypaint off the building every single time. I say “wipe” like you’d wipe a sill of its dust, but in actuality it was intensive scraping of a one-inch blade against the windows and repainting the commercial space’s doors and pannels black, for two hours-plus in a single go, multiplied many, many, many times over.

I felt like fucking Sysiphus. Every time I made the front exterior look shiny and new, that same night some asshole would defecate all over the paint job with a spray can, compelling me to start again from scratch. Forget being pissed; I was out for blood. All my labor gone to waste because these insensitive, heartless, completely-unable-to-empathize cunts wanted a quick adrenaline shot, or whatever the fuck they—OH.

And then came revelation.

It took one moment for me to realize that this was me all those years back. SLATER AVE. Every Friday night chucking eggs to defile the green paint on that one stranger’s house. Walking by the following day as the poor guy, forced to spend a chunk of his weekend like an asshole, tried to clean dried egg off his home’s exterior, while I went to enjoy a slurpee from 7-11.

But it was bigger than that. All the other times I vandalized other people’s property just for something to do.

But it was even bigger than that. All the times I celebrated news of vandalism taking place elsewhere in the world, always excusing it with the rationale that we were “stickin’ it to the Man! YEAH!”

But all that was symptomatic of the real sickness that had, from the very start, plagued my every thought, word and deed: constantly wishing, hoping that a business or person of power fail, because both are evil and abet the systematic oppression of everyone else, which, of course, was an incomplete list without yours truly.

All my life I had been playing for Team Oppressed. Team Proletariat. Team To Be Owed Our Labor’s Worth! Little did I know a move to NY was more than that; it was my signing as a free agent to represent the capitalistic agenda AKA Team Greed. Not that mine and pops’s win column was any better than the competition’s. If anything, we were doing worse. Losing $20K a month while you, for successfully punching in and out, were still guaranteed your hourly $8.76.

This was me learning empathy. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, as they say. But I hate to use cliches so I’ve appended mine with a little twist: “Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, to find a place—any place—where I can shit in peace.” Which was true in the literal sense and which, more importantly, informed this golden tidbit of wisdom that had eluded me for 22 years: it wasn’t easy being a capitalist. In fact, it was hard as fuck. One did not simply have the idea to build a building and build it, and then cash in immediately afterwards, and then order workers with no power of choice nor say around like slaves, from the sunroof of a Humvee limo, megaphone in one hand, pitchfork clutched like death in the other.

On the contrary. Caps worked 12-plus-hour days from the outset. Who else was gonna do the work when there was no money, no resources, no credibility to hire employees? Caps had to achieve all these, not as an aside, but as a prerequisite. And alone, mind you. They were the only ones that could lose it all. Sure they stood to gain hundreds of thousands, millions, maybe even billions, were their ventures to flourish (and that’s a mammoth of a “were”); until then, they, too, in their own personal way, lived the NO WATER, NO GAS lifestyle.

Against my every intention, pops—and, unwittingly, the hipster vandals—had miyagied me. I was now a capitalist, albeit one without any capital. (Still working on that one.) The transformation, though incomplete, was gaining significant traction. All that stood in the way for me to eventually dismantle were my respective beliefs about God and women. I’ve covered the former topic extensively, and will get to the latter in the third and final installment of the “Inappropriate” series.

Thank you for reading, and remember, anyone can go on strike. But how many people can build the thing that allows for a strike opportunity to even exist?

And in case you were wondering, m dad and I were able to get water installed in September of 2012. Gas has yet to be installed. Which means two things: 1) I wasn’t able to take a single shower in my one year living in that building, and 2) pops is still losing $20K a month. How’s that for capitalist greed.

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4 thoughts on ““‘Inappropriate’ Is a Vaginal Word” Part Two: From “Man” to ‘Man’

  1. That was delightful to read, thank you for writing it. You made me laugh, “All my life I had been playing for Team Oppressed.” Yes, I know the feeling well. Funny thing about that team, they aren’t big on empowerment. Good luck if you ever forget your place.

    • Thank you for reading. Yes, they seem to be allergic to self-empowerment. I was too. It’s really much easier to blame others and rationalize inexcusable actions than it is to say, “You know what? It’s on me. I’m responsible. I’m at cause for everything in my life.”

    • Raf, I hope your two weeks in Thailand gave you strength enough to remove the curtains from your eyes and see that there’s this beautiful place in this world called “Anywhere But Seattle.”

      Thanks for reading and even more for commenting on the website.

      Ng kaibigan mo,

      Steben

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