That's not what the Death card means


All over my new chair, goddammit
written 2018-05-15 13:03:37

Sunday was Mother's Day. My mother was in town. My sister convinced everyone that everyone wanted to go to the Phillies game. This is obviously something my sister wants to do, and no one else. However, my brother and I were told that this was what my mom wanted, and it wasn't until far too late that we all discovered we were lied to.

Family context: my sister is a pathological liar, and this entirely on us for believing her.

So we went to the Phillies. On a rainy Sunday less than 24 hours after the Saturday night game was rained out. I am the only family member who lives in the city, so I took SEPTA. My suburban family feels like this is dangerous or repugnant in some way. I consider it a lovely time to myself, for reading or playing games on my phone or just sitting in peace.

While trying to enter the subway, I used my new SEPTA Key card. This is the technology they are introducing to remove tokens, cash, and other 20th century means of payment. Sadly, it did not work. While I was trying to get my subway paid for, I saw that $2 was missing from my Key card, which is impossible, as I have not used this new card ever. This distracted me from getting onto the subway as quickly as possible, which was fine, because there was no subway for fifteen minutes.

SEPTA context: there is a subway arriving every eight minutes at City Hall. Maybe at every station. I'm not sure; I don't use the subway much.

This meant that in addition to having to pay extra to use cash, I was also late. This was also fine, because the game wasn't starting on time, due to the rain. I arrived in South Philly to light rain, in which I had to walk from the subway station to the ballpark, and then to the football stadium parking across the way. My sister was tailgating, which in this case meant pounding beers and eating pretzels in a parking lot.

I had to walk around either in the rain or through inch deep puddles in the parking lots to find them. Between SEPTA, rain, and the general reason I was there in the first place (lies, see above), I was in a foul mood. My sister, on seeing my face, laughed at me and tried to take my picture. I flicked my cane up at her to try to ruin her shot, and instead whacked her in the gut.

Cane context: I have recurrent back problems, and spasms that sometimes rob me of my ability to stand unaided. When this seems possible, I walk with a cane.

My sister will use any opportunity to play the victim, the affronted, the good girl done wrong. This was her opportunity. She milked it for about ten minutes before accusing me of battering her with a stick. She would later upgrade this to "stabbing" her with it.

Am I the asshole here? Of course I am, I whacked her with a cane. But there are limits to what you can bitch about. You have to have perspective.

So, after she calms down a little and tries to simultaneously be the poor bullied sister AND the too cool to be bothered tough girl, we go into the stadium. Well, they go into the stadium. I get held up at the metal detectors because I have a pocket knife on my keys.

"That's a WEAPON!" says the south Philly guido who is determined not to allow another 9/11, not at his ballpark, not on his watch.

"It's... a Swiss army knife." I reply, a little bewildered.

"It's got a BLADE, don't it?!" Chachi says.

"Of course it does, it's a Swiss army knife."

"It's naht comin' in here, pal. Go complain to the manager, you don' like it!"

"Okay, can I have my stuff back please?" This seems a little confounding to him, as though he assumed I would throw my knife in the trash in order to watch a baseball game. He hands me back my cane, my bag, and my phone.

I walk over to the ticket window and talk to the lady at the Complimentary Tickets desk. I explain that I took the subway to get here, and I can't bring my keys into the stadium, but I have nowhere to put them since I don't have a car here. She immediately figures out a solution, takes my keys and knife and puts them in an envelope to be picked up after the game. So simple, so helpful. I make a mental note to praise her to Phillies park management later.

I go back to security, same line, same belligerent chach. I hand him all my stuff and he eyes me suspiciously. "Did you hide your knife somewhere in here?" he demands.

I smile big back at him and truthfully say, "Golly, I didn't hide my knife anywhere."

He turns red and barks at the bag-searching guy, "RIP HIS BAG APART!!!"

(This is the only part of our exchange that I regret, but I said it and I should cop to it.) I answer him, "Wow. So little power, and so quick to abuse it."

The bag searching guy goes over my stuff, doesn't find anything, tells the prick I'm clean. The prick is about to say something else, so I preempt him with, "Are you sure? Do you want to spend some more time searching it? I know it's full of pockets."

They angrily tell me to get out of there, and I walk to the game with my heart full.

--May 15, 2018, 12:55 PM EDT, living on reds vitamin C and cocaine


Bitching Camaro
written 2018-02-09 10:48:26

Last week our project ended after a couple of months. I don't remember how long - maybe November to first week in February? I may be aggregating projects - and we spent the last month trying to convince these assholes they should probably terminate the project, but nooooo.

This was pretty good timing. Nothing was scheduled to start this week, so I could relax and do anything or nothing. Ingrid has work, and is set to leave town for a week to go to New Mexico. This means I get the house to myself for a week while she's at work, and the I get the house entirely to myself for a week. So relaxing!

Sure, this means I am the sole responsible party for Lennie the Hand-Biting Jerk Dog, but it's fine. A small price to pay.

Except, the placement agency called me about a new project. I must have been a little frustrated about them jamming up my laziness plans, because I sorta kinda responded to their offer letter with an honest and forthright appraisal of their abilities as work-finders and representatives. This normally would be the kind of thing that gets me blacklisted from that agency for a while, but they must be hard up for temps because I got a sickly-sweet conciliatory reply.

They had 110 seats to fill with butts, and I think they could only manage 60, so keeping me happy was suddenly important. Work starts next Monday, and I was able to wring a few more bucks per hour out of them. That's great, but still bad for my laziness plan.

And then Ingrid got sick.

I (and she!) don't know what she has. Aches, suggesting flu, but no fever. Cold symptoms. Her teeth hurt. She didn't eat for three days, then threw up the one thing she ate, then went another day before she could keep anything down.

The entire week. And while she's been sick, I haven't had any of the freedom of sloth I expected this week. I have been sitting in an adjacent room, faithfully waiting to see if she needs anything. That's my choice, I understand that, I coulda ditched her and gone to Bojangles or some shit. But it's just another hit against my... oh, shit, I just realized, I was anticipating a "stay-cation." Ugh. I am officially the worst.

And naturally, having missed a week of work and feeling frail after all this sickness, she's cancelling her trip to New Mexico. I don't blame her: travel sucks, and she has a weird reaction to traveling to 7000 feet elevation where she gets sick every single time she goes. So, it's double bad for her. Triple bad when you factor in the "having been sick" thing.

Let me establish that I am complaining about the woman I love and having work. The baseline here is that my basic needs are all being met. I am still a miserable bastard but that is just my irrationality. I should shut up and smile. But I was really planning on being left alone for a while and the opposite of that is now happening.

Postscript: I paid off one of my Sallie Mae loans using my federal tax refund and money I'd been saving. It was $4500 and change, at the highest interest rate I pay (6.8%) and should represent a good chunk of... oh, it was only 6% of my total student loan debt. Fuck.

--10:47 AM, EST, 2/9/2018, Philadelphia, PA, no one likes us, we don't care


Happy birthday to me. /drinks
written 2017-11-05 07:51:17

It was my birthday on Friday. I'm super old.

It's a weekday, and I'm currently employed, so there was nothing unusual there. I got up, went to work, came home from work. I received some cards in the mail, sent thank-yous to the senders, and got some texts wishing me a happy birthday.

I didn't get anyone wishing me such on Facebook. This is by design, though, as I instruct Facebook not to share that information with anyone. I do it because I would like it if people remembered my birthday because they like me and are thinking of me. I am less touched by a gesture prompted by Facebook, which last year included "click here to send Matthew a gift" and this year includes "click here to donate to a cause rather than selfishly sending Matthew a gift".

Yes, this is unreasonable and fails to accept how things are today. Facebook is omnipresent, and like phone numbers in our contacts list, we have subcontracted the work of remembering birthdays to a machine. By not cooperating, it's my own fault if no one wishes me a happy birthday.

I'm going to keep doing it.

I went through the Obamacare process and learned my insurance bill is going up. I don't know by how much yet, but I'm going to price out how much going without insurance will be. If I die before I can post here again, sorry everyone. The GOP killed me with capitalized healthcare.

I received no gifts, two checks, and a friend paid me back some money she owed me by PayPal. I will probably spend some money on some things, so I can say I got something for my birthday, because I am very shallow. The idea that your birthday should stop mattering about the time you get a driver's license is a good one. It is just a pain to the people around you.

Since my birthday fell on a Friday, Ingrid and I usually go to a Mexican place. We call it 'tex-mex Friday' because we are fucking unoriginal. I skipped lunch so I wouldn't be half-full when it was Burrito o'clock. Ingrid came home, declared she wasn't very hungry, and asked if we could go to dinner later. I said that was fine. She smoked up, turned on a Miss Marple flick, and fell asleep on the couch.

Again, like the Facebook thing, I don't blame her. She worked all week, including writing up her 90 day self-evaluation at her new job. Last week she did her job, a colleague's job, and served five days of jury duty. I get it.

But, uh, it did mean that I didn't eat on my birthday. Like, I had some Pringles. And a couple of bagels at work. Not bagel sandwiches, not bagels with anything, just bagels. But no meals.

The following day, our friend Andy had a surprise party. We went to Qdoba (at no time, I'm proud to report, calling it 'tex-mex Saturday'), bought a birthday card for Andy, and went to his parents' house. When we arrived, we didn't really know anyone. When people arrived who we did know, most of them blew me off. Including Marty, which was unpleasant. When it got loud and crowded, I found an empty room and played with my phone. The only person who talked to me (despite many people coming into the room to get beer) was David, who I thought was angry at me over some fantasy football shit.

Eventually Andy arrived, was surprised, and we agreed this day would have been better spent playing D&D. I got him an RPG he had his eye on, but I didn't get to "give" it to him because I wanted to get the hell out of there before the designated gift-giving portion of the evening occurred. I hope he likes it. See above, "I'm very shallow", I would have liked to see him receive it to see if he really liked it or if he was just being polite.

Marty didn't talk to me the whole time we were trying to leave. I spent about five minutes sitting in a room with just him, Sarah and Ingrid. I have no idea what he's mad about. I didn't forget his birthday (it's the 13th) and I got him a RWBY board game for it. I could hear him talking about work inside the party. I can't envision wanting to talk about work while not currently being paid to do so.

Ingrid just thought I was being needlessly grumpy and oversensitive. She went to bed without saying 'good night'. And she's right. I'm terrible. But I guess I thought I could get a little leeway for a special occasion.

The upshot here is that my birthday isn't a special occasion. I got it.

There needs to be some aphorism akin to "you're not paranoid if they're really out to get you" to apply to being a dour cynic when things really don't go your way. But the prevailing wisdom is "you decide if you're happy or not". I've never been any good at that.

This is the part where I ordinarily hit 'delete' on a social media post. Because it's entirely self-involved, talks shit about people, and is generally mopey. But this isn't social media. There's like three people reading this, and you're all in different states, and none of them is here. I don't have a therapist, so maybe this is a replacement.

I woke up, took my blood pressure medication, and wrote this down. Let's see if I feel any better.

--7:35 AM EST, November 5, 2017, Philadelphia PA, maybe it's less than three


Bad at routine
written 2017-09-30 23:42:03

There was a squeaking noise in the apartment today.

I told Ingrid I thought it might be a mouse. (Our apartment is shitty with mice and possibly some kind of biting insect? I don't know, there was a lot of "not our fault" clauses in the lease about bedbugs; I was assured those are a mere formality in Philadelphia.) She scoffed and suggested it was coming from outside. Perhaps someone was test driving cat toys.

The noise continued, periodically attracting the attention of Lennie, the dog who is only a dog when it suits her. She was jamming her nose in the crack under the dishwasher, but that didn't seem likely. We had a previous incident where a mouse crawled under our refrigerator and died. We discovered this after the stench of soaked (by condensation) and cooked (by the heat of the fridge compressor) mouse filled the apartment. Not just the kitchen, mind you. The whole apartment.

The noise continued. I was not getting used to it, as I had hoped might happen, and then later on I would pull the fridge out and check for mouse carcasses before they became mouse air fresheners. I was feeling bad for the mouse. It wasn't his fault there's an old, shittily maintained apartment building full of food and crevices to hide in. He's just playing the hand he's dealt. So, I decide to do something about it.

I move the fridge out of its space between the counter and the wall. They made the space X inches wide to accommodate the X-0.01 inch fridge. It screams and scrapes every time you move it, and can only move an inch or two before it jams in its space. It's a pain in the dick to deal with, but the squeaking continues even as I'm wiggling this damn appliance out of the way.

Once the fridge is moved, you need to remove a back panel. I have not brought any tools, so I have to ask Ingrid for them. The dog is real fucking interested in what's going on now: her food and water are over there, and the squeaking continues, and if she can be a pain in the ass in any given situation, she's right there. I get the back panel removed and try to get my head craned into the now-empty space so I can see back behind there.

It's empty.

The squeaking is not coming from the base of the fridge, as I suspected. It's coming from beneath the counter, immediately to the left of the fridge... under the dishwasher, like Lennie thought. Well, fuck, this was a lot of work for no goddamn reason. Let me just put the fridge back where it goes and then pull out the dishwasher.

While I'm putting the fridge back, there's a burst of sparks from underneath it and the lights go out.

I think I killed the refrigerator. At 11:15 PM on the Saturday of a Jewish holiday weekend (the landlords are Jewish). While it is full of frozen goods. After a week when we found out my job is not going to last nearly as long as promised.

And that squeaking is still going.

--11:38 PM, EDT, 9/30/17, Philadelphia, PA, sometimes you the Louisville Slugger / sometimes you the ball


I'm home sick today
written 2017-08-21 13:54:41

We'll see if I can remember how to ftp to Icculus and put something other than text on this page. Smart money's on "not any time soon."

--August 21 (Eclipse Day), 2017, Philadelphia, PA, apparently the robot needed caffeine


When do I get to know armies?
written 2017-06-05 12:34:56

The headline is copyright Martin Henley, all rights reserved.

We did character creation for Unknown Armies, fulfilling a dream I've had for over ten years. A Fool, a Masterless Man, a Necessary Servant, and a hacktivist will be investigating the disappearance of a girl at a club they all frequent.

I broke a tooth last week, and went back to the dentist I used to go to when I lived further north. It's a pain in the ass to drive all that way from our new place, but I know that guy has my dental records. Also, I asked him to recommend a more convenient dentist last time, and he got all pissy about it.

So the dentist repairs my tooth, but reminds me that last time I was supposed to think ahead and plan on getting it capped or crowned or some dental nonsense. I reminded him I have no insurance, and he said "Not my problem", but more politely and responsibly.

The upshot is, I'm supposed to get some minor oral surgery to make my tooth crownable, and then get the crown. I don't know how much the surgery costs, but the crown is between two and three thousand dollars.

But then I remember - I bought an insurance plan while my last work project was ending because Obamacare. And I think there is a dental plan on it. So I go to pay for my tooth fix, and I give the receptionist my insurance card. "This is an HMO," she says to me. "Okay," I respond, not sure what that has to do with anything. "Also, this is for pediatric dental care." I nod and pay out of pocket for the work, still not sure why the insurance didn't pay for everything. Anything? What does insurance do?

Not sure what all this means, I go home and do some research. Both the things the lady at the dentist's office told me were true! First, I do not have insurance, I have a list of doctors who will charge part of my bill to Independence Blue Cross. Not all of it, just some of it. And I have pediatric dental care, also through an HMO. I am not a pede, though, so I can't use it. And, presumably, I can't stop paying for it either because I am not in an "open enrollment period". Question mark.

I went from being glad that I had thought ahead and was a responsible adult to feeling like a stupid ass for falling for this responsible adult bullshit. I would go and look for jobs that offer insurance but HA HA HA HA HA oh my sides.

The new apartment is nice. The streets are loud sometimes, but that is what Lincoln Drive is like. It's pretty here, and the dog still has beds to lie in all over the house, so I'm sure she doesn't think it's any smaller than our last house.

I worked eight hours last week, and made so little money that I still qualified for unemployment. I need some kind of hustle where I can make part of my income regardless of circumstance. At this moment, our entire household income is my unemployment check.

The placement agencies swear more work is coming. They swear.

--12:21 PM, EDT, Philadelphia, PA, and so Sally can wait


I wasn't yelling at you, I was just yelling
written 2017-04-26 01:32:53

Moving is the worst. Next time I have to move I'm just going to kill whoever it is that is making me move, and then kill the next person, and the next. It will be easier in the long run.

A recurring theme of this move has been asking Ingrid if she is throwing away old clothes, old books, old papers; the punchline is when she says no, she might need them. We have lived together for five years and she has not seen any of these items since we moved in, in 2012. 2011? It's been a while.

I'm just as bad, but in a lesser magnitude. I have a lot of "but I received this as a gift from Respected Friend!" reasons for keeping shit. I also have a full set of Happy Meal toys from the Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon, so don't let my bullshit fool you.

(There's also the legitimate fear that Relative X will find out you donated or threw away something they gave you, and be hurt by that. Look, I had to accept that they're all just possessions, please don't fuck up my progress.)

Yesterday I worked eight hours and my project ended. Today, I had to go back to the old house, have an existential shock about how much shit there still was to move / donate / throw away, then move said shit for four hours. Afterward, we drove it back to the new apartment, hauled it up two flights of stairs, and put it away. I collapsed in Ingrid's IKEA chair, my legs flung across the matching footrest. I tried to get my shoes off, but I was tired, and I mostly just let them fall off my limp feet. One of the shoes hit a long (five feet?) cardboard box, which began toppling toward me. I leaned forward to catch it, which put my center of gravity too far forward for Swedish seat technology to adapt. The entire chair rolled forward, dropping me on my ass on the floor and the back of the chair banging me on the the head while my legs batted the footrest across the room and the cardboard box fell on me anyway.

I sat on the floor, screaming profanity, until Ingrid came in and demanded to know what I had done. I informed her that her Nordic devil chair had attacked me, which she took as some kind of slight.

I did the next drive to the old house alone. I feel sure that my cause is just.

--1:27 AM EST, West Mt. Airy, Philadelphia, what difference does it make?


Some bullshit
written 2016-11-20 14:40:51

I woke up before Ingrid, after being sick overnight (good sausage and peppers, bad digestion). The dog only wants affection from her and not me, but we'd slept in late and she badly wanted a walk. I took her out in 40 degree weather and howling winds wearing only a t-shirt, because I'm an idiot.

After I got her back in the house, I fed her, which now involves throwing her food across the house so she can chase it, and/or putting food into toys that she can play with. She actually sits and complains if the food is just sitting there in her bowl.

Then I cleaned up all the dishes from role-playing. There are a lot, because at least one of our players simply doesn't worry about cleaning up after himself. He lives with his parents, always has, and is about 40 years old. I emptied the dishwasher and put away the dishes, then reloaded all the dirty dishes from yesterday. I also threw away the food that the non-cleaning guy left, took out the super-full bin of recyclables, put away teacups that Ingrid lets get all tannined and have to be washed by hand. I had already washed those by hand before Ingrid came home on Tuesday, and they say out until this morning.

Remember when I said it was howling winds this morning? That probably means the recyclable bin is less full now and our alley is littered as fuck.

I made Ingrid a cup of tea and took it to her in bed.

The dog got ahold of some little gravel and was chewing it. She's done this at least once before, and it worries me. I don't want to have to deal with her skittishness if she breaks a tooth and bleeds all over the place, so I thought I'd try and get the gravel away from her. But she sees it as food, and so she bit me.

Fuck me, right?

--2:37 PM, EST, November 20, 2016, Philadelphia, PA, gimme big mac / gimme fries to go


Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback
written 2016-11-10 10:00:25

These are some things I wrote on the morning after Donald Trump was elected president.

This morning the combination of overcast skies and recently abated Daylight Saving Time made for a unnaturally flat gray backdrop which could only appear to be the world mourning the ascension of the Demagogue.

"Don't mourn; organize."

I have already seen people on social media discussing the imminent need for a modern underground railroad. Those people should try and contact or research the abortion UGRR of the past couple decades before and after Roe v. Wade if they are serious about their intent.

I don't think Bernie Sanders would find your "SHOULDA NOMINATED SANDERS" memes at all helpful.

Hey, at least we get four more seasons of The Wire: state government, federal government, cultural imperialism and normalization of genocide.

And lastly: Ingrid's father, on the day after election day, told her that Obama was the most divisive president in history. That he was a Muslim, and he made it so that, in this country, a Muslim can throw down a prayer rug anywhere in the middle of the street, and no one can say a thing about it. He said Obama made it so that a Protestant can't even pray in public.

Ingrid's dad is a nice guy, I like him and I respect him. He's a twenty year veteran of the armed services and the post office, both. But to hear that crazy shit come out of his mouth... I can't imagine what she's going through.

Our landlady is going to sell this house next summer, so we will have to move. While I imagine that will mean changing neighborhoods in our part of Philly, it's now possible it means something more significant. I may need to work on my French.

--9:52 AM, EST, November 10, 2016, Philadelphia PA, we're not coming home (coming home) / Giving up everything we've known / All the chances we've blown / I swear we're not coming home


Regarding that previous item
written 2016-11-10 09:46:21

Perhaps everyone is liars.

--9:45 AM, EST, November 10, 2016, Philadelphia PA, maybe I'm just like my mother / she's never satisfied


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