The Open (Broken) Road

I’ve been driving across the country alone quite a bit lately and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at much I enjoy it. Once you get away from the metropolis traffic and hit the roads lined with cows and 70 mph speed limit signs the stress level of driving goes way down. Sometimes I get a little bored but I wouldn’t go as far as lonely. I love listening to music more than anyone I know and driving alone for hours is a great time to actually get a hold of your thoughts. And traveling without a companion really gives you control over the little things that can force you and a road tripping buddy to be at each others throats. I feel like Forrest Gump when he was running across the country: “when I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go,you, know, I went.” If you’ve never traveled alone, I recommend you do it just to see how great it is to only have to worry about your own needs and your own schedule. It’s fantastic.

The only thing that I find troubling from the whole experience is the goddamn roads. For hours I would drive uninterrupted by other cars then suddenly, a traffic jam in the middle of rural Indiana? WTF? No, there wasn’t a Notre Dame football game or the image of the baby Jesus in a cornfield. Just fucking construction. Everywhere I went from Minnesota to Boston had some sort of road work. Since being back in Massachusetts I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve gone and it’s just terrible. I tried to be understanding, acknowledging that soon the annually winter apocalypse will be overtaking New England so this is probably the best time to get this road work done. Except, just one minor problem. They just fucking fixed these same exact roads LAST YEAR!

How is it possible that we live in a society where we can now grow vegetables in Space but we can’t build roads that last one goddamn season? You ask around why the roads are so awful and you’ll hear a slew of the same responses about harsher winters, rock salts and various chemicals, and budget problems. But none of these are unseen variables. It’s the same shit every year. Are there really no road materials available that can sustain a New England Winter? Aren’t there clear incentives for companies that provide materials to develop this, knowing how much of a huge pain in the ass road closures and re-routed traffic is for the general public? Does anyone really like detours more confusing than US Tax Laws and potholes that are seemingly filled with silly puddy?

How is this not unacceptable? Let’s spend a ton of money on our roads, horribly inconvenience everyone and in a few months repeat the whole process? I’ve tried to look up why this continues to happen but I can’t find anything other than an inspirational quote: “The road to happiness is always under construction”. Great. Real fucking helpful. How about we build some decent roads and see how that affects everyone’s happiness for a change? I can’t help but feel like it’s a big conspiracy to build piss poor roads to ensure there will always be public works jobs available. After all, with the roads always so shitty who would reject a budget proposal to employ workers to fix those damn potholes. And if that’s the case, can I even object? I want people to have jobs, that seems pretty damn important. But if we were just to make sturdy roads, there really aren’t anything else we could have our laborers doing to improve our infrastructure?

Even if there isn’t just a simple plot to keep blue collar jobs in circulation, there is a surely something disingenuous going on in regards to the big “I” policies. Every political platform, Democratic or Republican, local or national, seems to throw around infrastructure as an economic panacea. But they never seem to do anything about it in reality, at best keeping the status quo. I can’t help but feel that fixing our roads is to politicians what moving to Los Angeles is to NFL owners. Any time the NFL wants a team to do something (or more accurately the taxpayers supporting the team) they can hold the “there’s a new stadium being built in LA” argument over their heads. But they never actually have to act on it, and if next year St. Louis, San Diego and/or Oakland actually do relocate they’re going to have to find a new way to extort the bubble teams and their fans. For now politicians can always fall back on the “we need to put people to work fixing our roads” promise. But if they actually fixed the damn roads one year, what if they have about as many ideas for creating new jobs as the guy who only thought about this for the last week (me). Fixing the roads are a safe idea to sell to the people, which is as good as any explanation I can think of as to why it never fucking happens.

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Guns, Booze, and Letting Go

Is it just me or is everyone shooting everyone lately?? And I am OUTRAGED! Well, no, not actually outraged. I mean, it’s disconcerting, but it’s also hard to balance being disgusted with people getting shot on live fucking TV with lowered expectations from the gun toting assholes carrying arms throughout this country. People want to argue what constitutes “Mass Shootings” versus regular old homicide, but does it really matter? We have too many guns, or too many assholes, or too many assholes with guns in the old US of A. Sure, it’s a hugely political and partisan issue in this country, in GOD’S COUNTRY, but really it’s a battle of fighting against ourselves as much as fighting others across the political spectrum.

Do I want there to be less guns because I’m on the liberal side of things? No, I want there to be less guns because I honestly I don’t give a shit about guns. Yeah, I don’t like the idea that fucking psychos are unloading them in movie theaters and I never liked that cops and criminals (more obvious than ever how thin that line is) have used them as much as they do. And yes, there are several good arguments to AT THE VERY LEAST more strongly regulate gun ownership. Because constitution-loving, open-carrying, NRA-subscribing member and myself still can probably agree that something is fucked up with innocent people getting shot and killed. The difference is that these guys and gals really fucking like their guns and I could care less about them. I get no pleasure from shooting a gun. I mean, maybe target practice on empty bottles in the backyard used to be fun, but I’m no fucking hunter. And I don’t feel like I need to “protect” myself, or my home, or my family. Even in a shitty neighborhood I’m in no real danger. In the rare chance someone breaks in and wants my stuff they can have whatever they want. All of the items together can’t be worth more than a couple grand. Also, not to go all Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, but, it’s just fucking stuff. It’s just a couch!

I’m under no illusion (delusion?) that I need guns for sport, protection, or some weird imagined religious/founding father loyalty oath. I can easily support gun reform because I never wanted them in the first place. They won’t be taken from my cold dead hands. Government buy back program? Go right ahead! We don’t NEED all these fucking guns. But I’m not stupid, it’s not about what we need. It’s about what we WANT.  I realize there are things that the big bad government would have to take from my cold, dead hands. Like alcohol. It’s also thought of as fun AND dangerous.  I love it and I don’t want it taken away because of “a few bad apples”.  I would be bullshit and probably irrational.  And I wouldn’t be alone. Shit, how many Americans actually look back on Prohibition fondly?

Guns don’t kill people alone. And neither does alcohol. Well, yeah there are definitely people who will accidentally shoot themselves and there are strong correlations between gun ownership and suicide, but there are idiots and alcoholics that will drink themselves to death either in one binging blaze of glory or over time because life is too fucking hard without the bottle.  But that’s not the majority or us.  And no one wants to have their toy taken away just because someone else keeps choking on the damn thing. Why do we have to be responsible for the least capable people in society?

It’s a tough revelation to come to terms with. I always thought every conservative dick who held on so damn tightly to their guns was just about the dumbest asshole in the country. Well, not really the dumbest, there will always be dumber people like that lovely troll who won’t issue marriage permits even though it’s her goddamn job. But still, just because I have a general indifference to possessing a gun, doesn’t mean others whom are attracted are simply morons. They’re just…attached. It’s awful how many people are killed from drunk driving accidents. But if there were a slew of articles, speeches, and legislative pushes for banning alcohol every time someone died from under-the-influence vehicular manslaughter, I might get pretty damn defensive too.

As far as I can tell, the biggest differences is how far we go with regulation. Reasonable people should be able to agree that we need stronger regulations for guns in America. But we could probably use more intrusive controls on alcohol consumptions too. Would I be pissed if there were more mandated self breathalyzers? Probably, but I would reluctantly accept it knowing it probably for the greater good. Can we convince gun owners to approve stronger measures in the same way? I honestly don’t know. It’s probably a question of: “Can we figure out how to convince people to value the LIVES of everyone more than the CONVENIENCES in your own life?” And to convince them making stronger gun license and permit laws do no imply that the government is waging war against you personally, or your precious fucking Bill of Rights.

Personally, I have my doubts on peoples ability to get past the rhetoric and come to some sort of compromise. I know that personally I’ve spouted off every anti-gun statistic available for years and while they weren’t wrong, that isn’t really why I cared. I didn’t realize until FDW asked me why I care so much about gun deaths in America but haven’t care much about others types of preventable death in the US, or even in other places where curable diseases like Malaria could be wiped out with American money and a little less apathy. I’ve said multiple times in the past that human mortality just doesn’t matter all that much to me. I’m not a humanist, my species loyalty is at an all time low, and I’ve gone on the record many times saying the world population is too damn big as it is. Especially when so many of the people we have suck according to my personal and not in any way subjective assessment. But if I hate people so much, why do I care so much about people dying from gun violence?

I stumbled through a few explanations before settling on: because I’m afraid I could die from gun violence. I admitted it was selfish; but I understood that living in the US cuts down the preventable ways to die as an innocent bystander and I want the others eliminated too. Sure, our lifestyles increase our chances of dying from too many fried chicken dinners, but that I would be able to take responsibility for.  I realized that I was just angry at the idea that I could be shot and killed not because of my own bad choices but because of the sociopaths that live in America and the pro-gun lobby that allows them to have access to these weapons. But in reality, I could just as easily be killed by a drunk driver, and still, that in no way wants me to take away the booze nationwide.

Even though a good percent of people have proven that they can’t handle alcohol either, I personally feel too attached. I’d support more regulation, just as I still do for gun control. But taking it all away? Fuck you! What’s that Amendment that ended Prohibition again? This isn’t just giving up what we personally would prefer for the greater good. This is honestly (and sadly) feeling like I’m not sure that I do want to live in a country that doesn’t allow for my mostly responsible personal use of alcohol.  I want to be smarter about it, but in reality, you’ll probably have to pry my dead fingers away too.

Yeah, I Still Wear Cargo Shorts. Fuck Off.

Ladies, let me ask you a question. Have you been somewhere this summer with your man and didn’t have your purse so you needed your guy to carry your phone/wallet/chapstick-that-is-apparently-laced-with-addictive-substances-stronger-than-heroin for you? Well if he wasn’t wearing skinny jeans like you he probably was forcing those items into a pocket that was still way too tight and made his pants uncomfortable for the rest of the night. If he didn’t bitch about it once, that man is a saint. He is also an idiot. Because if he was wearing cargo shorts he could have carried everything in your bag, your friend’s bag, and his own items including his janitor-like collection of keys without any discomfort. So why are we’re trying to take this away from men?

Dominance over the media, the workplace, and women’s bodies. Sure, I can understand why people are fighting for men to give up their undeserved control. But wearable pocketry? Every notable internet site has had to take a position on cargo shorts for men over the past few years, mostly deeming them out of style, dorky, and a true sign of a neckbearded, mom’s basement dweller. And of course there have been a few sites that have played the contrarian card focusing on the usefulness of them as I mentioned above. But there’s one even better point why anyone leveling criticism at cargo-short-wearers should bite their tongues: because they’re just fucking shorts! Who gives a shit? How do extra pockets on the side change this item of clothing at all? Are they still better to wear in the summer than long pants? Yes. Do they still cover your dick and butt? Yes! Do they have pockets for your phone and wallet? Yes!!! And extra storage so you don’t have to force your keys into a double-booked pocket or shift your wallet to your back pocket so you can sit like/with an uneven asshole for the rest of the night. Plus, keeping your wallet in your back pocket leaves you susceptible to all the those pick pocketing kids. Because we live in the slums in the 1800s.

If you have graduated from High School and you still haven’t learned that judging someone by their clothes isn’t cool, then you can borrow a pair of my cargo shorts, I’ll stick some bricks in them (the pocket space is amazing!), and you can go take a dip in Lake Superior. I see girls wearing jorts all the time and I though that went “out of style” years ago. But if it makes you butt look better, good for you. Seriously, whatever makes you happy. Personally, it makes me happy to wear cargo shorts so everything I’m carrying doesn’t feel so cramped against me when I sit down. Is that a worse reason than wanting my ass to look good? Well, I don’t think there is a pair of pants that could help me with that lost cause. But I don’t get it. Woman can wear fedoras, leggings as pants, and bows both in their hair and on their dresses that would be too fucking much on an actual birthday present, but they still get off on criticizing men in shorts with (gasp) pockets on the fucking side?

And it’s not just women. Men are just as dumb in believing that fashion trends are important. If someone only thinks you are cool because of what you are wearing then they are a teenager and as everyone knows teens are terrible and you don’t want to try to be friends with them. If you’re trying to get laid and can’t because you are being judged too harshly for your attire then stop targeting idiots. Or actual teenagers: learn from your fallen brother Jared. Good people will want to be with you for who you are, not what you wear. And most people, good or bad, will want to have sex with you because of what’s under your clothes not what you are actually wearing over your dirty parts. If there is a male cargo critic that believes they wouldn’t sleep with Mila Kunis (or Ryan Gosling depending on your orientation) because they were wearing fucking cargo shorts, please come see me. I’ve got some bricks for you too.

As someone at the point of my life where I’m not looking to get laid or impress anyone with my clothes (or really anything I do) I can’t help but find these critics of fashion as not only immature but actively fighting against society’s progress to stop judging people so much. Stop trying to hate on others to make yourself feel better. If you’re not judging based on attraction or how cool they look, you’re using someone’s clothes you judge someone on how much money they have or how much time they waste holding onto youth and craving status. Grow up and take your insecurity issues somewhere else. You wish you were that fucking comfortable in your own skin. And in those pants.

If you want to dedicate your life to fashion maybe you can try getting people to stop buying so much stuff created in sweatshops, then maybe I’ll listen to your criticisms. Yeah I’ve had these clothes for over a decade. But at least I’m not exploiting even more Southeast Asian slave children every time I get into a fight with a co-worker and go home to simultaneously hit the bottle of wine and your favorite online clothing store. If I have a wedding or a job interview I will try to class it up. But if I’m just living my life then I’m going to be doing it wearing sweatpants, a ratty hoodie, white socks, band t-shirts, skate shoes, and maybe a rope necklace if I feel like really saying fuck you. It will go great with my goddamn cargo shorts.

Hall of Lame?

I’ve loved baseball for the past 30 years so I finally went on a Pilgrimage to Cooperstown. It wasn’t worth it.

Baseball is a master of nostalgia and poetic imagery: the crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, the view of the park as you come up the tunnel. Every corny video tribute that is released right before opening day gets me near tears as the winter is finally over and it’s time for baseball again. Does it matter that the sights on opening day are far more likely to be a fat guy passed out in the bleachers from drinking since 10am, covered in overpriced popcorn? No, it does not matter. It’s still baseball. For every other aspect of my life where I’m cynical, I’ve ignored the critics who say that the game is boring and takes too long, that the guaranteed contracts make baseball players too fat and happy, and that a league without a salary cap in the era of fighting against income inequality is flat out bonkers. Plain and simple, I love baseball, and nothing can discourage me. Well, nothing except the Hall of Fame.

I decided to make the trek to Cooperstown, NY this summer because I finally had some vacation time for just myself and apparently I’m a huge nerd. I could tell from the subtle looks from people I told about my plans that going to the middle of nowhere to look at old ticket stubs and game-used baseball gloves was not their idea of a getaway. Others were less subtle stating plainly that it was a waste of time and if I spent more than an hour there they would have me committed. “They’re the insane ones”, I thought to myself like a scorned teenager. They just don’t get it. They can’t appreciate history. I’ll show them!

Forty minutes into my drive since exiting the highway and passing through another town that had more cows than people I first started to question if, in the words of GOB Bluth, I had made a huge mistake. There’s something to be said about putting a museum in the middle of nowhere and still expecting people to show up. I think that something is probably eat shit. I went to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame on this journey of too much free time and self-exploration and the locations couldn’t be more different. Say what you want about Cleveland. No seriously, say whatever you want, Clevelanders are already too beaten up to fight back. But the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame is a really cool building that looks over the water, and is surrounded by things that actual humans might want to visit like a science center, a football stadium, or even a restaurant. If I got lost anywhere outside of the main strip of Cooperstown I would have to sleep in my car and hope some other baseball fan found me on the side of the road before I starved to death. That is unless I made it to the one Brewpub that also decided Nowhere, NY was probably a good enough sized market to open up shop.

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After seeing one tiny road sign that you could have mistaken for a yard sale notice I approached Main Street Cooperstown and the enchantment started to come back. This hidden little folksy town was where Pedro was just inducted. Pedro! This is the place where the game’s legends come every year to be honored, and where fans have been coming to see history since my grandfather was a little kid. And… there are no cows! I had never been so happy to see so many people. In reality, there were probably only a few hundred scattered around the street. But dammit, they were happy. And they had souvenirs! Customized bats were absolutely everywhere. Where else could you feel so much joy with hundreds of people walking around with lethal weapons? What a magical place!

I’ll admit that taking 25 minutes to park took a little of the shine off the experience. I mean, what tourist attraction doesn’t have a big enough parking lot? It’s not like anyone took the subway to get here. Every sucker, uh, baseball fan, drove themselves (and often their bored children) for several hours to get to this dork mecca and you can’t even give them free parking? I guess, everything is a business. $10 gets you a spot in a tiny lot with the lure of getting your windshield smashed by foul balls from the adjacent Doubleday Field. At least you get a free view of the legends of baseball, or Cincinnati little leaguers, really whoever happens to be on the diamond that day. I actually would have taken my chances with the foul balls and paid whatever they were asking at that point just to get out of my vehicle but the minuscule lot was not suprisingly full and I had to search for street parking. Should have just ditched the Mazda and road one of sneaky-fast cows into town? The mistakes were starting to add up.

I briefly panicked over the Two-Hour Max parking limit before deciding that whatever parking ticket I might get wasn’t going to hold me back from enjoying a full day of baseball pornography. I marched down Main Street past the families enjoying their ice cream cones and new baseball hats, walked up to the counter, paid my $22, and proudly told them, yes, I did come here by myself. And then I spent the next two hours asking…. why? The first exhibit featuring a locker assigned to each team filled with random team memorabilia was interesting enough but more than a little disjointed. Like a diorama put together by 3rd graders disjointed. Yes, this World Series winning baseball that they water-boarded Doug Mientkiewicz to get back seems like part of the Red Sox’s history, but I’m not sure Sam Horn’s jock strap resonates quite the same. Every locker was just thrown together with random items and facts, with no real discernible pattern. Maybe most puzzling was that every locker had a team jersey but some of them were current players, some Hall of Famers, and others that you forgot even played for that team. Did I catch a Piazza on the back of that Marlins uniform? I can’t be certain. But I did notice that the Arizona display didn’t even bother to put any name on their jersey. I imagine that Diamondbacks fans who visited would be embarrassed but I’m fairly certain their Front Office has probably helped them reach the point where shame is no longer possible.

Now that I was aware the Hall of Fame cared deeply about 30 MLB teams I was ready to dig into the history. And for about 15 minutes it was pretty cool. I took in every quote (Yogi or otherwise) that they plastered on the wall and was amazed by every old school mitt that fielders somehow caught line drives with despite looking less protective than what you have to wear to survive a New England winter. It really was cool, (well, cool to me) that someone took the time compile all this history (crap) over the last century and a half. Where else (don’t say the internet) could all these dads show their kids these baseball artifacts? Without these visual aids it would be even more difficult to describe how these pioneers played with uniforms that wouldn’t be out of place on a Beatles’ album cover, or that yes that ticket stub that says “colored” is exactly what you think it is. Now go find your friend that doesn’t believe institutionalized racism exists and punch them right in the stomach. Hey, this is my fake kid, I can talk to him however I want.

The problem after fifteen minutes was that everything just started to blend. How many names and faces can you really keep track of in any setting? I just went out to dinner and met a new group of friends with maybe 15-20 people there. I can’t say with any certainty I remember more than one or two names. I might recognize another two or three faces. After you’ve scrolled through hundreds players, who can honestly remember if Bob History played 2nd base for the Cardinals or shortstop for the Giants? And I know I’m supposed to know Rogers Hornsby but I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup with any of the other dead white guys on display there. One plaque here, a few scattered images there and we’re supposed to get a feel for these guys’ careers? The Costanza Wool Special uniforms that they are all wearing wouldn’t even tell you whom they played for let alone who they were. And that would be true even if the photos weren’t taken with technology older than Civil Rights.

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I understand that the Baseball Hall of Fame is just a museum, but if you are going to sell the game through its history and nostalgia you could bring it to life a little. Even the famed Gallery, or the room with all the bronze plaques that people spend way too much time fighting over, was underwhelming. I wanted to be taken by the enormity of standing in a place where only the game’s great were allowed to hang on the walls, but in reality after taking a photo next to Pedro’s plague and reading about a dozen blurbs I was done. Partly because descriptions seemed to be written with the same devotion as the intern responsible for writing the Comcast On Demand briefs, but mostly because it was just more of the same. Look at a baseball, read a description of what that baseball means. Look at an ugly bronze version of your hero, read a description of who the player was. I love reading. But I don’t normally have to drive 5 hours and pay $22 for the privilege.

If the Baseball Hall of Fame wanted to actually get some young fans interested in the game, they might try a new strategy for recruitment other than reading. In a world where people can’t sit through a live baseball game without checking their phone 400 times, people are supposed to take pleasure in looking at a ball in a case and the 500 words it needs to explain why it matters? Why not SHOW us instead of TELL us? Has no one there taken a creative writing class? No, that’s right, forgot about the blurbs. But why can’t we witness these actual moments? I saw two video screens there and I’m pretty sure both were showing the same Babe Ruth clips with him hitting a dinger and rounding the bases with his legs moving as rapidly as Luigi Mario. I understand there won’t be video around from the first World Series and maybe I’m stuck with the photo and paragraph to cement Rogers Hornsby in my brain, but there is no video, or hell, audio for the world series winning teams of the last half century? How much better of an exhibit is watching a clip of Joe Carter hitting that walk off in the World Series instead of a ball in a case and a photo? What makes you relive these great baseball moments more, hearing them and seeing them, or someone framing a box score from the next day’s paper and slapping it on the wall?

I checked out the last section of the museum, the place where they list all the record holders, hoping that this would save the experience. This may not surprise you, but it did not. Was it too much to ask for that clip of Hank Aaron getting nearly tackled going around the bases playing on a loop? Apparently. Instead of capturing those moments of record breaking and displaying them via monitors or even a pair of headphones to listen to Vin Scully paint the picture for, you get a piece of paper listing the previous record holder, and then another piece of paper for the current champion. And there’s no real organization by significance either. Most doubles in a career can be next to most HBP in a single game. A few feet away you’ll see something about the ALL TIME HITS LEADER while in the other direction…some scrub for the Phillies who lucked into an unassisted triple play a few years back. At least they made sure to put up a video of that unforgettable moment.

When I went to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame I spent over 6 hours there and I only left at that point because I realized I hadn’t eaten yet. In Cooperstown, I saw as much as I could see before my eyes got tired, which took about 90 minutes thanks to the abundance of small plaques. Sure, I had to use my eyes in Cleveland too, but I also got to use my ears. Every music era exhibit not only had mini rock documentaries playing on a loop, but throughout the museum you could find interactive kiosks to listen to the legends you just saw on display. What did Lou Reed sound like again? Oh yeah, let me just put on these headphones and listen to every song he ever created! Wouldn’t even baseball’s oldest curmudgeons appreciate something that allowed fans to go through and play every World Series winning call or watch all 27 outs of each no-hitter? Is it out of the realm of possibilities to create an viewing booth to compare the swings of different legends? I know that I grew up loving Ken Griffrey Jr., but I’m not going back to upstate New York just to take a picture with his old teal Mariners jersey. BUT if I could take all of the those beautiful Junior swings and compare them to other lefty swinging greats like Ted Williams or Barry Bonds (oh yeah, there’s plenty of him and Pete Rose scattered throughout the place, time to give it up moral police) in some virtual reality machine that Bob’s Arcade can afford but somehow the National Baseball HOF can’t, well then THAT might be worth the trip.

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I know baseball isn’t hugely popular in younger demographics and I can’t imagine the thousands of people a day that drag their kids to Cooperstown are likely to change that. If I’m thirty and I’m bored to tears in less than two hours its unbelievable that anyone still young enough to be playing the game would ever want to go back. Sure the bats with your name engraved is still cool, but that will be your best take away. Not the century plus of history, but the object that you can actually hold in your hand and swing. You know, like the real baseball players do. How much better would the HOF be if you could step up to the plate and have a simulation to what it’s like to hear the crowd behind you, or to see what Pedro’s changeup disappearing on you actually looks like? If there was a place where you could see, hear, and feel what its like to have experienced or at least witnessed some of the greatest moments in the game, then I would love to someday bring my kids to this interactive baseball heaven. But there’s no way I’d want to share a bunch of old memorabilia and hope that miraculously makes baseball stick with them. An old tomb where you can’t even hear the crack of a bat? It’s just not worth the journey. Well, not unless my future kids really love cows.

Streaming Music | I’m Going Extinct

Is this what happened to the Dinosaurs? Not the ones in Jurassic World, but the ones who buried themselves in a never-ending Hoarders episode where their Vinyl collection took up so much space at home that they suffocated under fallen piles of flat discs enclosed in cardboard. It’s not easy to change formats, even if it’s for the best. Sure 8-tracks and audio cassettes sucked but CDs were a pretty space efficient and decent sounding alternative for a while before digital music that you owned became the king. Not only could you keep these songs on your computer but you could transport them all together wherever you went. No more clunky binders and leather CD cases! I still marvel at the iPod like Ron Swanson did recently: it really is an excellent rectangle to put all of your records on. After years of navigating the world of Napster, Kazaa, Limewire, random blogs with Zip files, and shady sites that popped up on google when searching for “Band Name + Rar” I had built up quite a collection of songs, supplemented by buying hard copy CDS and loading them into my iTunes library. All you had to do was put the disc in! Does it get any better than this?!

I should have seen things coming. For years the only music I’ve downloaded has been through the iTunes or Amazon music stores. Yes, it could be expensive, but I used to spend $13 on a CD at Newbury Comics, not too bad to spend $10 on a new album from the convenience of my home. Also, I had destroyed too many laptops from malware and viruses digging up songs from the sketchiest non-dark web areas of the internet that it just felt smarter. I love music and paying a few hundred bucks a year for new music just became part of my budget. I heard of free programs like Spotify and Pandora but I just wasn’t interested. I don’t want Ads in my music listening experience, and I don’t want someone to design playlists for me, or direct what artists I listen to, or to be provided shitty sound quality. I turn down the volume when commercials come on TV and switch channels on the radio, I’m creeped out by the algorithmization of the internet where every website wants to suggest to me what I will like, and my biggest OCD tendency in life is controlling the order of songs I’m listening to. This streaming shit just wasn’t for me.

But I’m afraid of how much longer I can hold out. Last year Apple announced they were discontinuing the iPod Classic which is the only easy way I could fit all the music I have on a portable device. What do I do if mine breaks? Buy one on Ebay for 4 times as much? Should I still embrace this dying technology? Other signs were present too. When I bought my latest laptop I was shocked to learn there was no Disc drive. What if I need to load in a new album? What if I wanted to make a mixtape for someone? Does anyone under the age of 21 even know what “I’ll burn you a copy” means?! This is an outrage! I went out and bought an external hard drive from Best Buy immediately. I mean how could I not need discs anymore? Well… I’ve used it once since I bought it and that was to install Rosetta Stone. Seriously, is the only thing I’m listening to off discs now about diez tazas and seis tazones?

But just because I weaned myself off hard copies of music, does that mean I could give up ownership too? I always thought streaming was for people who didn’t care enough about what they listened to. You find one band that you like and type them in and then the computer does the work for you and finds some bands that are kinda –sorta like them. Fuck you Pandora, discovering new artists is my drug. Well, that and alcohol. Which is why many times after getting wasted the night before I would check my iTunes library the next morning to find out that some blacked out part of me really likes Carly Rae Jepsen. Weird. But my issues (other than alcoholism) still go back to control and appreciating an album as a piece of art. I went on Spotify and clicked on the Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang, but the slow buildup of the title track is not playing. Why the fuck is track number 8 leading off here?

There is a science (well not a real science) to the track listing of an album. YOU JUST CAN’T PLAY THIS OUT OF ORDER! I was seriously losing my mind. I know that young people don’t care about albums anymore, but eat shit Spotify, you’re empowering these millennial monsters! I admit I have used the shuffle feature on my iPod or iTunes before, but I still had control when. Sometimes to appreciate a record you want to hear it from start to finish. I don’t want to lose that. The sequencing of an album by a band or an individual for the also near extinct “mix tape” is understandably not something everyone is this passionate about. But for every other asshole like me that thought Cusack’s speech in High Fidelity was barely scratching the surface, this online streaming crap is an abomination.

With Tidal and most importantly Apple joining the fray it appears that streaming music will become not an alternative way to listen to music but the only way soon enough. For $10 dollars a month or whatever I’ll probably find the one that is a best fit for me; the one that allows the most control, has the widest selection, has good sound quality. And chances are that in 6 months I’ll love it so much I’ll never understand how I lived without it. But for now, like every other old fool afraid of change I’ve clung onto my downloading and iPoding ways. What am I going to do with the tens of thousands of files that I have on my laptop? (Yeah, I still own one of them too) Are they going to offer these Apps on my Windows Phone or am I going to have to cave after all this time and join the masses with an iPhone? Most importantly how the hell am I going to upgrade my data plan from 2 lousy gigs? Man, it’s tough becoming old and outdated.

Note: This entry also appears on Empty Bottle Evenings. Check that out for album and concerts reviews, as well as other happenings and drunk rantings on music.

I TENDER YOU MY RESIGNATION, DICK

Recently I had the pleasure of turning in my first ever resignation letter. While it was satisfying to be moving on from a place that I sincerely doubt that I’ll miss (or be missed) and I’m fortunate to be able to leave on my own terms instead of getting kicked out by security Jazzy Jeff style, something still bothers me. I should be jumping for joy, I should be twisting and shouting, I should be grinning from cheek to cheek. WHY SO SERIOUS?! And after a few days of letting it eat at me I realized it’s because… being professional sucks. For years you’re unhappy at your job and you dream about that glorious day that you’ll get to tell your boss to shove it up their ass. And then when it’s really go time, you slink into your boss’s office mutter out “You got a minute?” and come back later with a love note about how much you appreciated your time there and how you wish them well. What a load of shit.

And they know it’s all bunk. They’ve seen you roll your eyes and lean back in your chair too many times to believe you actually give one teeniest, tiniest shit how they or the company does. You never want to see them again. You’ve been bored, underpaid, and bit your tongue so many times it’s amazing that you’ve lasted this long. But you’re still a big pussy who will be turning in a dishonest goodbye letter like everyone else who knows you HAVE to be professional in Corporate America. But this is what I WANTED to say:

Bake

Dayolddonuts.com

The Internet

6/23/15

Boss Lady

Director of Who Cares

1 Waste of Time Drive

Hell, MA 01666

Dear Boss,

I regret to inform you that I would like to tender my resignation as Corporate Drone Supervisor effective 7/7/15. I hereby give 2 weeks’ notice of my intention to leave this godforsaken shithole.

I’ve made this decision because I’m moving away, but if I’m being honest I haven’t been happy in three years. No one has. It’s been mostly awful working with you and I would not recommend this company to anyone. I thank you for all of your help over the past five years; and by help I mean only yelling at me sometimes and letting me slack off 85% of the work week. I wish I tried harder, but honestly it didn’t seem worth it. No one was rewarded for their hard work anyway. I only started to get compensated fairly at the end of my time here and by that time I had already checked out and did hardly anything but check my fantasy baseball team. Thank you for paying me to stare at the wall. I consider it back-pay for when I was young, dumb, and slightly productive. I do feel bad for the people who still do work hard for nothing in return and I hope they catch on to the futility of hard work in America, in particular at your local Pit of Despair

This place was truly an abomination and while slightly improved in recent times, is still running horribly inefficiently. I can assure you that I am not the only person who is aware of this. You might notice that people are unmotivated and may come up with some more catchy plans to get them going, but, come on buddy; you know this stuff will never be more interesting than Twitter. Paying them more might help, but if they were truly interested in only making money they would be on Wall Street dropping dead from exhaustion. This is just a job and like most jobs they are useless and mostly depressing. No one wants to work overtime; they don’t even want to work when they are here. They just need health insurance. Sorry that the younger generation found out it’s more important to spend more time with friends and family than pushing out a few extra units so someone else at the top can get richer. No stranger’s stock portfolio or profits should ever be more important than our personal lives. In fact, I hope they lose all their money and spend the rest of their days banging on an empty trash can in the parking lot.

I’m not blameless in this unhappy partnership. No one made me start working here and no one made me stay. But I was depressed most of the 2nd half of my time here and I was lucky to get out of bed and make it to my desk, let alone embark on a new career opportunity that might actually challenge me. It’s a sad statement that I could not only keep my job here, but receive promotions and pay increases because there are only 2% of the people here left that aren’t completely useless and, as they say, beggars can’t be choosers. The mass exodus of solid workers leaving the company should have been a sign that things were getting pretty bad, but hey, let bygones be bygones. Good luck with your morale problem. I’m sure you will win a lot of people over by sending them home due to the color of their fucking jeans. Never lose track of your most important goal. Which apparently is making people miserable and alienating your best resources.

As discussed, I will available for the next two weeks for training my replacement and I will do my best to lie to them so that you can trick them into thinking they are happy here for a few months until they‘re ready to write you this same letter. If there is anything else I can do, please let me know. But as you are aware I’ll probably just blow if off anyway. The real question is: why aren’t you leaving here too? You haven’t seemed happy in five years. If you want I can help you write a letter like this. I’m really starting to enjoy it. Hey, your choice, though. Stay Miserable, ponyboy.

Eat Shit and Enjoy Hell,

Sincerely

Bake

Welfare Frauds

Let’s talk about Welfare. Or better yet, let’s stop talking (bitching) about Welfare. If there is one thing (although there are hundreds, most of them inane) that seems to drive the “middle class” in America nuts, whether they are actually hard-working or skeet skeet skeeting on by, we seem to hate these damn “freeloaders”. Personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with government programs that help the poor. Actually, I wish we would expand social programs for more people. Screw the rich, why have so much money as a country but let so many people live so poorly? I know even our poorest doesn’t compare to other countries around the globe, but it’s certainly not fair or equal. The top one percent owns 40% of the Nation’s wealth. Well I say, Fuck that. I’m riding the Bernie Sanders train to the end and declaring enough is enough, let’s get rid of this “rigged system”!

But I’m not going to try to convince anyone to come over to my way of (gasp) more socialist thinking. If you think we should spend less money on social programs, then yippee skippee for you, this isn’t really about income inequality. Well, not just income inequality. It’s about picking and choosing what to pay attention to and how dumb it is to bitch and moan about the people abusing welfare when people at all levels of wealth are no better. Isn’t there something obviously wrong with the picture of people standing around in an office complaining about people living on the dole because they should work for their money? Well, I’ve seen this scenario plenty of times and I doubt that I am alone. Where does the moralistic high ground come from when you are ripping off your company to voice out your uninformed opinions about others taking advantage of the government, instead of, you know, actually doing the work that you are getting paid for? And what about the state workers that I’ve heard at the bar complaining about “welfare queens” when they are getting paid by the same government to literally drink on the job? Are we all just that unhappy that someone else doesn’t have to work for their money while we have to at least pretend we are working by showing up at the office? Also, why am I at the bar at lunch to witness this conversation? Well, because I earned it!

I know that I get mad. I’m furious… at the people who won’t stop complaining about those getting government assistance for healthcare, food, and like. Because dammit, they are distracting me from reading baseball news at my job. Face it people, there is waste in every facet of life. For those “making it on our own”, we’re not always working hard; hell, some of us are actively trying to stretch the limits of hardly working. Among those receiving assistance from social programs, there are plenty of people working way harder than those whom like to judge. Just because their shitty job doesn’t pay well enough that they need a government supplement to get by, doesn’t mean they are any less valuable to society than you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen those racist reports on the news about welfare queens committing fraud, selective narratives do not prove that everyone receiving benefits is ripping off the system. Just like you personally refusing to take advantage of a bad system doesn’t mean that those “hard-workin” folks around you aren’t.

The level of hypocrisy is obnoxious. But what gets to me just as much is: it doesn’t fucking matter! Even if it were true (and again, obviously I don’t believe it is) that everyone receiving government assistance were lazy, undeserving, drug addicted, government exploiting, and any other misguided stereotypes that you’ve heard or believed, it’s preposterous to spend as much time bitching about it as people do. Do you have any idea how much our government spends on stupid shit? This year we are expected to spend $3.9 trillion dollars. Do you know how big a trillion dollars is? It looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000. Holy zeroes Batman! Every year our government is spending on things like studies on monkeys gambling and mountain lions running on treadmills, or $3 million dollars to study World of Warcraft, and of course, an unfathomable amount of money on military technology and equipment including $297 million on a blimp that never even worked.

We are a rich (and wasteful) country that spends a ton of money on everything, so why not for social programs to help those that really need it? Sure, not every social program is for the poor but I find it hard to understand that reasonable people would object to social spending on the things they most ardently support (at least according to their bumper stickers: like our Veterans (Support the Troops!), the Medicare population (We love you #1 Grandma!) or Healthcare (because every life is precious, isn’t it?) But what usually pisses people off the most are those damn lazy, poor Americans living off the taxpayer’s dime. Fucking welfare is going bankrupt This Once Great Country™. Of course, on what could actually be considered “welfare” the federal government only spends about $212 billion dollars. Sure, that may seem like a lot of money, but we have a lot of fucking people in this country. Soo many people that when we spread it out, we’re not really spending that much individually. To elaborate this point, this breakdown shows how much the federal government is really bleeding us for. For someone like myself who makes about $50,000 a year, I would have to pay $36.82 annually to pay for food stamps. People are actually getting upset about 0.0735% of their income going to provide food for the needy because some undetermined percentage of people might take advantage of it? Are you people fucking nuts?

Seriously, who gives a shit about 36 dollars? I’ve spent more in one night getting a cab to the last place open for Chinese food at 2am. And this would be the yearly cost for someone having the food they need to live? Take a long walk back and toast a bagel when you get home you cheap prick. As for state money, yes, Massachusetts is one of the highest spending states for welfare assistance and everything else. It’s not called Taxachusetts without reason. But how could anyone move away from a place with such miserable weather, unbearable traffic, and an undeservedly high cost of living? (Side note: I will be moving away the first week of August). Still, even in Massachusetts with high taxes and welfare waste rampant enough to encourage statewide reforms, why are we complaining about the people trying to get enough money to live comfortably instead of the people creating a system that can make it less profitable to work than to receive state and federal assistance? (A point that isn’t entirely truthful on its own.)

Does anyone really think the problem with someone on welfare making as much money as someone at an entry level job is that the poor should be more poor instead of the middle class having more money? Maybe your state like mine is taxing your hard-earned income and giving away your earnings to too many people. So why isn’t it the responsibility of those creating and/or exploiting the poor communities to provide for them? I personally don’t think fifty grand is bad salary to live on, but I can’t see any reason why someone who makes that in one day can’t spare some pocket change to fund state and federal social programs.

Why do we as a society get mad at the poor and unemployed instead of the rich that kick and scream about giving up a sliver of their money that they and their children’s children could never spend? Why do we bitch about the “welfare queens” scamming the government for $2000 a month but ignore the banks and CEO’s for rigging the system for billions of dollars a year? (Elizabeth Warren excluded) Our government/economy is now a plutocracy. My fellow Bay-Staters (Massholes), what in great patriotic fuck happened to “No Taxation Without Representation”. Our salaries stay the same while the rich get rich and use their money to influence policy decisions. And we’re left to pick on the poor for stealing our $36 lousy bucks?

Four of the 15 richest motherfuckers in America are members of the Walton family, famous for that little dept. store chain you may have heard of called Wal-mart. They really can’t spare some of those billions to help assist the poor people that work and shop at their goddamn stores? According to Forbes, there at least 394 people in America worth $1.75 billion dollars, or you know, 35,000 times what I make each year. I’m generally okay with my tax dollars going to the poor, but now that I think of it, why the hell am I responsible for anything? For me it would cost 10 cents a day to provide federal food assistance. Pretty reasonable. But it seems a lot more fucking reasonable for the absurdly rich to subsidize the poor instead, doesn’t it? If it wasn’t for poor people in America and around the world, the wealthiest jerks of the lot wouldn’t be able to get so damn wealthy. Why don’t they fix their own mess?

Of course the rich worked hard for all their money so they shouldn’t have to take the full brunt of the cost even if they could easily afford it. Yes, that’s probably right. WHO KEEPS REPEATING THIS NONSENSE?! Okay, but it’s not just about the money. It’s about hard work. And pride. SURE. But anyone with half a brain probably isn’t totally convinced that every one of the top 1% are self-made men who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps. Still something about soaking the rich makes people uncomfortable in America, even if they are soaking the shit out of all us, just more subtly. For some reason supporting wealth distribution makes people think you’re some sort of communist radical. But I’m not proposing we make everyone’s salary the same or anything, there’s just a big gap between what is reasonably fair and what is happening in the US today.

Think about it in smaller, easier to digest terms. Say you are on a team of 8 people at work, one manager, one assistant manager, and 6 associates. It doesn’t matter what your field is, but let’s just assume these are the positions needed to make your department run efficiently. If you say everyone will make $30,000 per year, people will gripe. Why does the new hire get paid more money than the person with 10 years’ experience? Why does the management get the same amount of money when they have more responsibilities and ideally, more skills? So we make adjustments. Something like this.

2 Entry Level Jr. Associates make: $30,000 each/year

2 Associates (with 5 years experience) make: $40,000 each/year

2 Sr. Associates (with 10 years experience) make: $50,000 each/year

1 Asst. Manager makes: $60,000/year

1 Manager makes: $80,000/year

Sure, people will still complain (as we do about everything because we’re ungrateful assholes) but in general it is a structure that corporate America accepts as fair. If the country was set up roughly like this workplace it wouldn’t be quite communism, as people would be rewarded for their work and experience. Maybe depending on what industry you worked in, the costs are too low. So let’s just double everyone’s salaries and say this is the high end of what the everyday Americans will make (for the record the average American household income is just over $50,000 per year):

2 Entry Level Jr. Associates make: $60,000 each/year

2 Associates (with 5 years experience) make: $80,000 each/year

2 Sr. Associates (with 10 years experience) make: $100,000 each /year

1 Asst. Manager makes: $120,000/year

1 Manager makes: $160,000/year

The lowest person will make $60,000 and the manager earns $160,000. No one in any of the five tiers should have any problem living comfortably on these wages. You could even take 10% from everyone to fund those who are disabled or struggling with poverty due to other reasons. Everyone would be okay, but not the exactly same. But that’s not the way things work in our current system. When our country’s actual wealth is split in fifths we find that the top 5th owns 84% of the wealth, while the bottom two tiers combine for 0.3%. And let me clarify that the 2nd system of fifths is not earned income like the semi-communistic example above, but it is wealth. We need to remember that Wealth Inequality is not just based on income but all the other fun ways that rich people obtain more money, like being born with money and turning that into more money, without doing much more than being alive and rich, or taking advantage of the pathetic tax system we have. There are your real fucking freeloaders, America.

For those in the supposed middle class, our income is basically our wealth. Actually, with all the debt we have to carry to survive in this economy, our wealth is often much less. It’s a tough cycle and it gets worse when factoring in the less money you or your parents have to start with. Our inheritance if we are lucky is enough to pay off a car loan, not the GDP of a small country like our unofficial ruling class. We don’t have piles of money to turn into bigger piles of money. We have handfuls of money to turn into down payments for things we can’t afford and to buy consumer goods used to distract us from the fact that we’re getting the big screw. If our salaries reflected the kind of economic inequality that our country actually features, people would probably (hopefully?) be outraged. What if our salaries looked like this:

2 Entry Level Jr. Associates make: $20,000 each /year

2 Associates (with 5 years’ experience) make: $40,000 each /year

2 Sr. Associates (with 10 years’ experience) make: $60,000 each/year

1 Asst. Manager makes: $200,000/year

1 Manager makes: $700,000/year

Well that doesn’t seem great. I know I’ve only been here a year but there is no way my manager works 35 times harder than me, but, hey it’s not the worst thing I could imagine. Yeah, about that… (You can take it from here, Lumbergh) that breakdown above only reflects the income inequality. We’re going to have to go ahead and set it up to reflect the wealth inequality. Um, yeah. Now, it might look more like this:

2 Entry Level Jr. Associates make: $15,000 each/year

2 Associates (with 5 years’ experience) make: $40,000 each/year

2 Sr. Associates (with 10 years’ experience) make: $100,000 each/year

1 Asst Manager makes: $1,000,000/year

1 Manager makes: $15,000,000/year

Well, fuck this party. Most of us are not working because we love it, but because we need to in order to live. We know that people make more money than us, but we accept it as long as it’s within the same scale. Does it suck that your supervisor who is mostly useless gets more than you? Of course. But someday you can probably move up to their position and decide if you want to take it easy or give the extra effort for a whopping ten or twenty thousand dollars. What you never will be is a tier 1 leader that makes $15 million a year, and you’d probably be more pissed if you realized that was the case.

We need to make a change. Step 1: give up the delusion that you will become one of the top 1%. Step 2: Stop believing what rich politicians and corporations sell you. There is no reason for someone to be 1000 times more wealthy than another. No, not even Taylor Swift. But our economic system keeps us in a bubble where we complain about those making less (which basically has to be those unemployed and receiving govt. benefits) or those middle managers directly above us making slightly more but one day attainable. Just keep dangling the carrot while you sit in the cart with sacks of gold. It’s deplorable. Our lack of awareness of how rich certain Americans have become is the biggest thing enabling us to be systematically used and turned against each other with petty complaints and maintaining our blind eye to the real villains.

But we’re not dumb. At least not all of us. And we’re not greedy, or unrealistic. We acknowledge that we can’t all run the company and that those that do actually do deserve to earn more money than us. Maybe 5 times more. Maybe 10 or, hell, even 20. But our CEO’s make 354 times more than the average worker. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? We get more worked up about Caitlyn Jenner, Deflated footballs, and Netflix not having last season up before the next season starts. If our lives revolve so much around money why don’t we care how it’s distributed?

Please try to wrap your head around how vast this difference is and tell me you don’t want to throw up. I make $50,000. They make $17,700,000? Aren’t we both just human beings made of the same water, carbon, and elevated sense of importance? Why am I considered a radical liberal for being appalled by this? Why do we ignore the ways the rich scam the system for more money each year than we will ever touch in a lifetime, but get our backs up about people who realized they were doing fine collecting from the government instead of going to their depression –inducing, dead-jobs? I mean, why are we bothering to work at all when most of the time it’s 40 unrewarding hours for the tiniest (fraction of a) piece of the pie? Maybe we don’t have a choice right now. But we can for now stop wasting our time getting heated about small distractions like welfare misuse when the entire system is one big fucking fraud?