Friday, February 27, 2015

Statement of Purpose

I recently edited two statement of purpose essays for some friends of mine who are headed to law school. Additionally, I had to e-mail someone my own statement of purpose for a letter of recommendation I need for another MFA program I'm applying to. The statement of purpose essay was the hardest part of the application for me.

Why do I write? Quite frankly, I worked at a law firm for a long time and the only way to pass the down time was to read the internet or write. You had to be at your cubicle for eight hours a day and posting up to read a book was bad form. If it was slow, you couldn't just dip into your PTO. So my adult writing career really began as bored e-mails to co-workers and friends, and then I started a blog to widen my audience. Now I'm 29 years old and no longer employed at the law firm in large because of my writing notions.

Today, I spent the morning editing my work for the month of February. Normally, when I re-read my stuff, I get severely depressed and stop. Today, I almost kind of liked some of the stuff I had written. I'm sure my opinions will become more harsh as those pieces age. Still, it was a nice of change of pace to read my own writing and not conclude that starting a Christian mission at 30, like Jesus, was a better option for me.

Last night during my Advanced Fiction Writing course at UC Berkeley, the Prof said, "The writer has to become his or her own teacher." For the last five years or so through many stops and starts, that is, for better or worse, what I've slowly become for myself. My process has been to write a slew of blog posts, save them in a word document each month, and then go back and re-read them, sometimes over and over again, basically trying to make something out of nothing through my poor powers to add or detract.

Another thing the Prof talked about was the difference between a story and an anecdote. Most of what I've written to this point falls under the category of an anecdote, which is the telling of something that happened to you and which isn't that interesting to strangers because it has no narrative arc or universal element to it. My friend Nicole's oldest brother was getting at that difference when he angrily told me at a party, "I thought this guy was a writer, but all he does is write about his weekend and getting drunk and shit."

So, what is my statement of purpose? Last night, I looked around the class and thought to myself, "I'd rather do absolutely nothing than anything. But we're all here because, in our society, one has to do something." I suppose I started to write because it was a subversive thing, it was something I thought no one else really did. I thought it was something outside of capitalism. In reality, everyone is a writer, and writing is just another terrible aspect of the capitalist system, one in which I probably shouldn't have ever gotten caught up with! But, to use a popular internet hashtag, #WeHereNow.

I have applied to go back to school because I'm out of ideas. I don't know what else I can possibly do. My last job sucked and I'm sure my next one will, too. Writing for free at Bleacher Report wasn't that cool, either. What do you want to do, Dr. Mike? In a utopian world, I'd do very little. In this reality, I suppose I'd better do something.

I don't write because I'm a genius who has a talent for this. I don't write because I think I've got a best-selling novel waiting to ooze out of my pores. I write because it's 2:37 p.m. on a Friday and I haven't done anything else today except for drink coffee and shower.

A college Prof of mine told me that you should do something in life that you're so passionate about, you forget to eat. I didn't forget to eat today; we just don't have any food in this apartment in which I pretend to live sometimes, and in which I pay rent by purchasing cigarettes for my buddy each month.

I don't write because I want to be a writer or a novelist or some such pretentious thing. I don't actually want to write. I don't want anything or anyone. Or, I don't think a certain career or wife would fill the void somehow. I suppose I've stuck with this for so long as a hedge against a job I didn't like and, more importantly, because when I look at adult life, I sense that my happiest moments were those in which I was immersed in learning.

I showed up to class last night feeling depressed and disgusted with myself for having gone to the wrong place and thus showed up a half hour late. Why was I so incompetent? Why was I always having these blonde moments? Why, at age 29, was I so helpless still? And what the fuck was someone with my limitations doing in an Advanced Fiction Writing course? Was I delusional?

Three hours and three pages of notes later, seven years after I'd last set foot in a classroom, I felt fucking giddy. An expert in the field had brought out of me things I already knew: the writer has to be his own teacher, there are very few rules to this craft, the biggest key is to actually do it, fiction tells the truth impeccably by lying, and fiction writing is all about THE PARTICULAR, which is something Philip Roth wrote about in the novel I Married a Communist.

Most importantly, those memories I have which I can feel but never shake, those are the elements of fiction. What I remember in life isn't accurate, but it tells the truth in a narrative which at least allows me to make sense of the world. Besides, if fiction is lying, well, at least I have a knack for dishonesty.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Alex Rodriguez, Greedy, PED Using Baseball Players Ruin Baseball, America

Another day, another dollar for baseball's greedy players. Yoan Moncada, a 19-year-old Cuban, signed with the Boston Red Sox for a bonus of $31.5 million. How can this possibly be sustainable? Robinson Cano signed for $240 million last winter. Jon Lester got $155 million this winter. These greedy gamers are destroying the fabric of our game, and thus our nation.

What's worse is that Alex Rodriguez probably thinks he's entitled to the home run milestone bonus payments in his contract. What has American come to when employees start believing they're entitled to compensation provisions in their agreed-to contracts with their employers? Well, Alex, the Yankees aren't paying you the money you think you're entitled to. Why not? Because they're the goddamn Yankees and you're a cheater who ruined baseball along with those other greedy Socialist scumbags who are bilking owners for billions each season.

No one shows up to watch you play. No sir, we show up to watch Hal Steinbrenner count the beans.

As the French historian Jacques Barzun famously remarked, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball." Now, there are probably other ways to understand America these days, but I'm too stupid for all that. Baseball is the only thing that's ever made any sense to me.

Hell, just last night I dreamt that Mark Marquess, the Clarke and Elizabeth T. Nelson Director of Baseball at Stanford University, kicked me off the team for an anti-government comment about the NSA which I had made during class. Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear you ask? Exiled to Moscow, for one. During the dream I could feel that I was creating the dream in my head, which is all the more bizarre. Holy inferiority complex, Batman, I'm getting kicked out of society even during my dream life! Then again, at least I'd finally achieved my mother's goal for me of getting into Stanford, if only in my dream world. Sorry it didn't work out in reality or fantasy, mom!

Why am I having dreams about playing baseball at Stanford? Well, I suppose Mark Marquess is forever stuck in my consciousness due the to dozen or so Stanford baseball games I've attended over the years, none more memorable than a game in which I sat behind the Stanford dugout with my girlfriend who was convinced of Marquess' senility after nine innings of hearing him constantly yell, "Come on now, Steeeeeven, hum now, babe." Presumably, Stanford had other players on that team besides first-round draft pick Stephen Piscotty. Sadly, the relationship didn't work out much longer after I forced the poor girl to sit through nine innings of an insane man's rumblings. I went to a Kelly Clarkson concert to try to make things right, but the damage had already been done.

I don't sleep well most nights, obviously, not with thundering dreams like that rolling through my mind. I awoke from the Stanford dream and fell back asleep, waking up again later from a dream in which I'm at an empty baseball field. I don't know what that dream could possibly mean, but I'll check with my friend Tamara, who goes to a website that helps her interpret her dreams.

Anyway, for the first time in a long time, perhaps because of those nutty dreams, I had some motivation to get off my ass and contribute something to society today. Sadly, I have very little to give you, nation. However, I did spend the first few hours of the morning reading in an attempt to be a little less moronic. I'd recommend you do the same, but no one is reading this and it doesn't matter.

I read an article by Vauhini Vara in The New Yorker about 15 former students of the now defunct and disgraced Corinthian Colleges who are now refusing to pay back their student loans. The trillion dollars in student loans owed by my generation--I'm 29--are a problem for graduates of universities of all stripes, not just crappy for-profit colleges. Student loan economics, however, are above my pay grade ($0.00 per hour, though a buddy of mine used to say of my former career as a paralegal, "We bill a zillion dollars an hour to cut checks and shit." I love that guy).

Over at the New York Times, Paul Krugman writes of the conventional wisdom that more and better education can get us out of our stagnant wage crisis, "As for wages and salaries, never mind college degrees--all the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance. Rising inequality isn't about who has the knowledge; it's about who has the power."

Those two articles are probably just the leftist NYT and TNY and other Big Apple Communist media outlets telling me how to think and feel. It all sounds good, but I liked Milton Friedman's shit in college, too, so who knows? Certainly not me.

After reading that left-wing, anti-individual responsibility and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps garbage, I had to get back to the world of baseball, where the game remains pure.

Or does it? Was it ever?

The game whose motto used to be, "Whites need only apply, thanks," was apparently not as pure as I had imagined. I went over to FanGraphs, where Craig Edwards reported that the players' downward share of the game's revenue has continued this season, down to 40 percent. Wait, what? The players are getting a lesser slice of the pie these days? How can that be when reporters are asking Giancarlo Stanton if he feels embarrassment for signing such a large contract? Does the liberal media ever stop and ask the owners if they feel embarrassed about the massive profits they make when they sell these ever increasing assets?

I was starting to become, like, somewhat disillusioned. If the Yankees weren't going to pay Rodriguez bonuses that the contract they gave him stipulated and owners were raking in more of the game's revenue, could it be possible that left-wing lunatics like Paul Krugman and Noam Chomsky were on to something?

I really started to fret when Keith Law, who comes across as a pretty fiscally conservative guy in his chats and on Twitter, wrote of the Moncada signing (subscription required), "If you thought MLB might ease up on its push for an international draft, this contract should dispel those delusions. Any system that allows the free flow of money from owners to players is a target for MLB in labor negotiations..."

If incredibly highly and uniquely skilled, unionized Major League Baseball players, who weren't just the labor but also the actual product, were getting squeezed by billionaire owners, what did that mean for the rest of us, who, for the most part, didn't have the in-demand skills of being able to throw or hit a 90-mph fastball? And what did it mean for our society that so much of MLB's revenues came through rent-seeking, leeching maneuvers--made legal via the game's anti-trust exemption--like anti-competitive, local blackouts and the bilking of taxpayers for stadiums?

Was this childhood love affair of mine, which still came to me in my dreams, as pure as I thought it was? If the economics of the sausage making in baseball were this nefarious, what did that say about the rest of the American economy?

No wonder MLB trotted out A-Rod as Enemy Number One in a terribly biased 60 Minutes hit piece: if we looked past the large-seeming contracts and PED use, we'd see something so much uglier that we'd actually consider turning away. Much better for Joe Six-Pack to believe the players should be embarrassed by how much money they're making while the rest of us remain drowning in debt with only the stagnant wage, shitty job lifeboat to latch onto.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Baseball! Baseball! Baseball!

Dear Baseball:

Oops.

That's on me. Things got away from me, Dr. Mike Blogger, there for a little while last season. A long while, if we're being honest, and this relationship definitely needs more honesty. I pushed you away. I showed up late to games. I rarely watched games on television. I didn't read the box scores. Even while I was doing it, even while I was pushing you away, I knew it was wrong. I wanted to change. I didn't want you to get away from me, even though I was doing everything in my power to force you to leave.

Look, we can build on this. I can change. You'd be buying low right now if you were willing to throw a minor league deal with an invite to big league camp my way. I would definitely accept this rose.

I'm like Barry Zito right now, except I don't have a pitching guru who can get my heater back up in the high 80's. Or maybe I'm more like Tim Lincecum, in that we both spent the winter smoking too much weed and having to apologize to pop for our out-of-whack mechanics. No, I'm probably more like Alex Rodriguez right now given that I use too many PED's and my now former employer ran me into the ground so that I'd quit. Don't back down, A-Rod. Process your processes as slowly as you can, milk that OT money, and keep cashing them checks. I'm your TPS Reporters in Exile union rep, and this is a motherfucking work slowdown.

Hope springs eternal: Barry Zito has a new pitching guru, Ron Wolforth, who resurrected Scott Kazmir's career. Timmy spent another winter trying to find what's been lost during a three-year stint in which he's posted a 4.76 ERA and somehow managed to stay in the Giants rotation entering 2015. Zito and Lincecum, two prideful former Cy Young Award winners, have been reaching back for a long time and finding that it just isn't there anymore. So they both spent the winter trying to figure it out--Timmy by returning to Washington to have his dad re-work his mechanics, and Zito by hiring someone who can allegedly find the missing ticks on his fastball.

The Giants are getting the band back together with Nori Aoki and Casey McGehee starring as lighter-hitting versions of Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval. Hey, baseball, thanks for those three championships in five years! I wish I had been more present for the birth of our third championship last year. But apologies are useless; I need to change the behavior.

I've got to start attacking life like Jake Peavy on an amphetamine bender. If being passionate to the point of insanity is wrong, what's the point of being right? Besides, apathy and cynicism are its own form of insanity and misery. Either way, I'm always going to choose extremes, so I might as well try to feel alive, ya know?

Ugh, it's not your job to be my psychologist. Then again, I don't have a job or an actual psychologist so it kind of is going to be your job to be my psychologist. We both know that you can fix me, that you can fill that eternal void in my soul.

Hey, this year is really just about getting in shape for 2016 anyway. Also, whither Fred Lewis? Like me, he's for sure deserving of at least one more chance.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Girls, Episode No. 1: Match Made in Heaven

On the first episode of Girls, Monique, a 29-year-old, large-breasted, dick-driven blonde ditz, Tamara, a 29-year-old teacher, and Jacquelyn, a 28-year-old corporate legal shill, go over to Nicole's to watch the new hit show Match Made in Heaven. Nicole is a 29-year-old, angry professor of English Literature.

Monique arrives at the apartment from another of day lazy unemployment as Tamara tells Nicole about the incompetent teachers and director of her program. Tamara explains her reluctance to call people out by saying, "I don't want people to think I'm not likable." Nicole replies, "I don't like you," before turning to Monique and saying, "I don't like you either. I hate Jackie, too." Monique is all, "I just got here, what did I even do?"

Moments later, Jackie enters through the backdoor because she's so fucking special, and Monique is like, "What are you reading?" Rather than respond, Jackie throws the book on the table. She's reading Crime and Punishment, presumably to prepare for Monique's summary execution.

After Tamara finishes explaining why she hates everyone and why she keeps having anxiety dreams and how the internet is helping her to interpret those dreams, the crew heads over to a Berkeley restaurant with local, farm-to-table, organic, non-GMO, non-HMO, sugar-free, gluten-free vegan food. It's expensive, and the group is pushing the poverty line, but it's still so worth it.

Tamara and Nicole are resenting Monique and Jackie for not giving the group more input on their upcoming trip to the Santa Cruz mountains. It's like, not only does Tamara have to deal with tripping kids all day and incompetent colleagues, but then she's got to come home to unemployed losers like Monique and people like Jackie who only care about themselves. Ugh, she literally cannot even.

After dinner, the crew heads over to a bar to taste sour beer because Nicole is an elitist, sour-beer, New York Times reading, PhD having person. Monique can't drink, however, because she needs to lose 30 pounds before she's comfortable fucking her new boyfriend.

From there, the group goes back to Nicole's to watch the show Match Made in Heaven, which is awesome. Jackie calls a woman named Tanyka Tonka, and then says she looks like a horse. One contestant on the show--this is like a less upscale, more absurd version of The Bachelorette--is all, "My name is Mecca, and you need to respect that." Monique is all, "Where's your sister Medina?" Mecca appears to be the first contestant to fuck the bachelor dude. She doesn't get to spend the night, which makes for an awesome walk of shame in front of the other contestants.

Tune in next week.




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

752 San Pablo Kind of Sunday

Chapter 1: Recalled to Life

This has to be rock bottom, right? I'm lying in a bush vomiting at 11:00 a.m. after running for all of 10 minutes. It's all going to be uphill from here, right? I can build on this. Just start walking, the stomach will settle, the mind will calm, and then I can run again.

Just have to quit drinking, Mike, it's that simple. Cut the booze and the sugar and the dope and the cigs and the high-fructose corn syrup and antibiotic-infused meat and MSG and the gluten and the GMO's and the HMO's out and you'll be good. You've been better than this before, and you can be better than you were when you were better than you are now. Sit there every morning and do nothing and let God or Buddha wash over you and you can be changed. This is not how it ends. You've made a lot of mistakes; you've fucked your life up. You lost your job, your ex-girlfriend, your dignity, and your mind, and you can't run for 10 minutes without vomiting all over yourself, but that's all over now. Don't even think about that shit again. Start running again. You need to run. If you run, maybe you'll sleep tonight, and if you sleep tonight, maybe you won't have nightmares, and if you don't have nightmares, you can wake up early and attack life like a man once more.

Or for the first time, really.

Chapter 2: The Attorney

They say your first client is always your worst and that I'm lucky to have one before I'm even out of law school, but then, they don't know Mike. Hell, I sometimes wonder if I even know Mike. What is that degenerate even doing with his life? What does he do all day? Write blogs? My only client is a degenerate blogger who doesn't pay his fucking legal bills. I hope it gets better from here. I can't fathom it being any worse.

I e-mailed that lunatic the other day to check in on him and to tell him to stop texting me Matchbox 20 and Third Eye Blind lyrics in the middle of the night and writing on my Facebook wall all damn day. I have a reputation that I don't want him scarring any further. I also wanted to present him with an opportunity: for the low price of $49.99, he could create a fake girlfriend, which might give his life meaning. If he could create meaning for himself, he could get better. See, I am a good friend, even if he drives me absolutely crazy. White people are the worst, and he is literally the worst white person.

Oh Jesus, he's already e-mailing back. "Dear Jacqueline: Thank you so much for thinking of me. It means everything to me when others think of me given that I am spending 24/7/365 thinking of me, too. Your head and your heart are in the right place. However, shocking as it may seem, I had an actual date with a real, live human being tonight, and I heard the most beautiful phrase in the English language, 'Do you want to come up?'

Do you want to come up?--it's like, hey man, you're doing a nice job, now come inside and make it with me. It's what every person aspires to hear. Did I make the play? Of course not. Nope, not even close. But that's not the point. The point is that with a blue Rodney pill, I could have made that play. Seacrest out."

He must have bought the $99.99 fake girlfriend if she's already inviting him upstairs in their fake conversations. Well, at least his imagination is improving with the unemployment situation. Good for him. I mean, there's no way an actual human being would invite him inside and potentially do sex with him, right? Right?! I suppose it's conceivable--white bitches are crazy.

Chapter 3: Nicholas 

"Silverstein, I can't fucking find the hotel! I see the fucking thing, but I can't get there! Motherfucker! You are a piece of fucking shit! Walk your ass down the street!"

"Nick, I can't fucking move, man. If you can see the hotel, you can get here."

"Oh for fuck's fucking sake, Silverstein. Do I have to do everything?"

"Yes, and bring some roadies."

It took me 45 minutes to make it three god-forsaken blocks to pick up Silverstein and begin the long drive back to the East Bay. To add injury to insult, when I walk in the door at my old apartment, who do I see but fucking Reynolds. Fucking Reynolds. I walk in the door and he's wrapped in blankets on the couch watching Pretty in Pink, drinking a glass of red wine, and fiddling his twatter dot com website or whatever he does on there. Probably reading some sissy op-ed in the New York Times about organic, farm-to-table, free-range vaccinations that will solve all your made-up fucking problems.

"Jesus, Reynolds. Look at your life, man. What are you doing with yourself? You just write blogs now? That isn't a job! And what is this shit you're watching?"

"Pretty in Pink. Part of the 1980's Ringwald trilogy. Ever seen it?"

"No, I have not fucking seen Pretty in Pink, you idiot."

"More than the Breakfast Club and 16 Candles, Pretty in Pink has an anti-capitalist, socioeconomic bent that I appreciate. This film has a bold message for the Reagan years."

"Did you ex that bitch last night, at least?"

"I did not make a play."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. I doubt she wanted to get ex'd in Silverstein's bed."

"Just ex her on the pool table."

"I don't know if that would've been an option?"

"Well, you shoulda just whipped your dick out. If you whip your dick out, something has to happen. She's either gonna play with it, ex you, or leave. Just pull your dick out, Reynolds. Make a power move. Come on. This is Day One Shit."

"I don't know, man. I like her."

"What are you talking about? What kind of sissy are you? Women are evil. All of them. You don't like the devil. Every single one of 'em is bad news. You don't like her. You have sex with her. It's that simple. What is she, smart or something?"

"Very smart. 250 points higher on the SAT than me. Seems to think very methodically. Like, I can see her mind at work and then the thoughts formulating into words. Very attractive stuff, Nicholas."

"What are you even saying? Stop it, Reynolds. Just stop it. This is embarrassing. We're going to the Mallard now. I can't deal with you. Stop with the smart bitches, okay? That's not good for ya. They'll trick you or something. You gotta just make a play, stop thinking about it. Give her that good D. That's what they want."

"I don't know. She seems like a good person. She teaches kids and shit. Works hard. Has like two jobs and goes to school while I don't do anything. She's good, man. Has a sense of meaning and purpose to her life. Pretty crazy shit in this day and age. Doesn't even eat meat, though I guess she just can't hear the tomato and the kale scream. But at least she can hear the cows, pigs, and chickens I eat crying out for mercy."

"You gotta flee, man. You're in too deep. This sounds really bad. What kind of a monster doesn't eat meat? This is insane."

"It's even worse than you think. She voted for Hillary Clinton."

"Oh no! Reeeeeenolds! That's it. Silverstein, let's go. We're going to the Mallard. Reynolds is buying."

Chapter 4: The Boss

I put my feet up on my desk and kick back and relax for the first time in months. Finally, that piece of shit Mike is gone. Rehiring that degenerate alcoholic blogger was the biggest mistake of my life. I should've fired him months ago. That little shithead. Just thinking about him makes me want to punch something. I wanted to punch him more than I've ever wanted to do anything in all my life, that little cocky puke. Cuts me off in the fucking hallway with his chin out just asking me to knock him out. I should've done it, too.

Those fucking blogs. Unbelievable. How did they let him get away with that? I run my unit the way I run my unit; I can't have degenerates taking to the internet to bitch and moan like little Nancy's. He makes me sick. Just absolutely sick. I hope he never works another day in his life. I hope he's dead by 30. That little fucker thinks he's Jesus bringing a sword--I'll give him the sword, no problem. I'd be happy to play Pontius Pilate and put him out of his misery. He sure did love to play the victim and the martyr. Let's give him what he thinks he wants.

I wonder if he's still writing that crap. Let's see if that shit is still up there.....

Oh for fuck's sake! That little bastard! Thinks he can fucking write about me? I should have eliminated his fucking map when I had the chance! Oh, he wants to play this game still? King Kong ain't got nothing on me! He doesn't even know what's about to hit him. I'll read him his First Amendment rights no problem.

Chapter 5: Those Who Hate Mike 

I cannot get up. I am lying in the grass looking up at the vast, blue-gray sky. The rolling hills of Petaluma look almost aqua and blue under the remaining fog. It's a nice thing to see in my delirium.

I can get up now. I can walk a little. Everything hurts. What have I done to my body? My back is shot, my shoulder is fucked, my mind feels literally fried.

I can just feel The Boss's--well, now my ex-Boss--hatred. How do you not talk to someone during their final two weeks after they've done that job for you for six years? For what? It was all shits and giggles and eating snatches at the Christmas party. I can see her laughing at my shtick that day as I now lay here in my vomit only a matter of weeks later. Fuck, when I wrote what turned out to be E-Mail Gate in August, she pulled me in there, yelled at me, I agreed with her, apologized to all parties involved, and then it was resolved. Timesheet Gate was a far less worse offense than that! Why not just pull me in there and scream at me again and hear my side and tell me to quit being a little snatch and move on?

Why am I even thinking about this? It's over. No one else seemed to have a problem with me. I guess it's just weird to be hated. I don't think anyone else hates me. No, that's not true. Sonia definitely hates me. She cannot even with me. Maybe I am the problem. I definitely am the problem. Hell, The Boss won anyway! I'm out of there! That other coke fiend lunatic bad apple we had has been out of there for years now! What was her name? She was pretty attractive, come to think of it....I should throw her a Hail Mary.

Focus, Mike. Start moving now. You're fine. You can't go on five-day benders in between runs anymore. That's not going to work. You've got to stop thinking about the past. It's over. The Boss held all the cards, she's got the power. You were right: she might as well have owned the place. Lesson learned. No more kamikaze rides to nowhere when you hold none of the cards.

You're just a piece of shit employee who has to follow the orders. It's tough shit, but you're stupid, so deal with it. You promised her you'd be a good little Jewish boy, and then you were a raging drunken atheist lunatic. It's your responsibility. It's your fault. You knew what you were getting into. Now you need to run and get your fat ass in shape and get your mind right and start to fit into the world. What was that saying Tom Brady's Life Coach used? Physically fit, emotionally stable....something else? I can't remember shit.

No more of this writing crap. You aren't exactly David Foster Wallace. You're fucking stupid. No more of this "do-nothing" "life of leisure." Get off your ass. Everyone is sick of your shit, nobody more so than you. Well, The Boss probably hates me more than I hate myself. Sonia seems to hate me a lot, too. Rightfully so. They aren't wrong. I was wrong. I fucked up. Okay, it hurts enough in the mind, start running again.

Chapter 6: I'm Dating a Blogger

On the drive home from a place that Mike refers to as the Annex, I called my sister to get directions to the freeway because she has a smart phone and to talk about what has to have been the most bizarre experience of my life.

I woke up on Saturday morning with a text message that said, "Change of plans: have to house-sit for Silverstein today. Are you okay coming to the Annex?"

"What is the Annex?"

"It's a part of the City of Richmond which they annexed from El Cerrito and Albany in some type of war or something, I'm assuming."

He gives me unintelligible directions, so I get there an hour late. I walk into the apartment and he's playing pool to kill the time. I think his hands are shaking. How much coffee has this guy had to drink? It looks like there's about 30 Keurigs in the trash can.

"I just kind of kept sucking down coffee while I was waiting. [Sorry, Silverstein and Tony Tomsula, Jr. and Tomsula's cha girl. At least I kept the house safe? Bill me.] I pretty much just see a drug and start using it, ya know? I hope the directions were okay?"

"Not really."

"My bad. I don't have much of a sense of direction or spatial awareness. And so but let's give you the tour. This is where the magic happens. I don't live here, per se, but I spend quite a bit of time here. And Silverstein is off in Sacramento with Nick, and Tony Tomsula, Jr. is in Monterey with cha girl, and the other roommate is in Los Angeles or something. So they wanted me to look after the place. And Nick used to live here, too. Then a guy called Cowboy Joe. He's the best. Silverstein is running a male prostitution ring out of this place, I think."

When my sister asked me about him on my drive home, I told her, "He goes a million miles an hour, so full of life and humor, but then the next minute he's ranting and raving about degeneracy and alcoholism and depression. What am I missing? He doesn't look depressed. He looks vibrant. He's incredibly handsome! The auras we cannot see, I guess."

"He is handsome! That's half the battle. You can definitely fix him."

"Jesus, I think he even said that. Yeah, he was drinking some whiskey while trying to get me to watch Apocalypse Now, but I was like maybe something less depressing. And he's like, okay, we can settle for Good Morning Vietnam. And then he's all, see, you can change me! I thought he was joking..."

Chapter 7: 752 San Pablo Avenue 

We felt like soldiers getting some rest and relaxation in Saigon during a cease fire that Sunday at Club Mallard. Silverstein, Nick, and I had the entire place to ourselves. We went outside where the place looks like a goddamn jungle so we could smoke smags while drinking beer. A driving rain trickles off the canopy over our table. We sit back and smoke cigarettes and stare into the raining abyss overhead. A calmness settles over us at a place where things usually get turned up as I strike out chasing tail. We settle down from another weekend of abusing our bodies.

"It looks like a 752 San Pablo kind of day," I say. "That'd be a good cadence for a quarterback: 7 5 2 San Pablo. 7 5 2 San Pablo. New York Bozo. New York Bozo. Check Razor. Hut hut."

"We really should become NFL referees," Silverstein replies.

"Before the pass was thrown, illegal contact beyond five yards, 24 of the defense. The result of the infraction is an automatic first down. Timeout," I respond while doing my best impersonation of an NFL referee.

We are so totally lost without the National Football League right now. How are we supposed to get through self-loathing Sundays without the distraction of grown men giving each other permanent brain damage?

Nicky delivers the goods by deciding we will go back to Silverstein's and re-watch House of Cards before the third season comes out.

"That's genius," I say. "Let's pick up some diapers, too. No bathroom breaks. If we fast forward the introduction and don't pause it for any reason, we can probably get through both seasons."

"Well, there are 24 episodes, so it would literally take 24 hours," Silverstein points out.

Chapter 8: Back in the Annex 

"No time to waste then," Nick responds and the three of us are walking through Albany, El Cerrito, Richmond, Alameda County, and Contra Costa County--that other coast, the East Bay, the New Jersey to the San Francisco which is our Manhattan. That other coast with that other baseball team and those other people, none of whom seem to be able to conform to the way the San Franciscans and Manhattanites are running shit in the Age of Global Capitalist Hegemony. We are living in that age and I am failing because I am not, nor have I been, accumulating enough capital, and I don't have the first fucking clue how, other than perhaps reading Complete Idiots Guide to Money or some such thing.

The rain comes to a halt. Three dudes sit inside of an apartment on a gray Sunday watching Netflix together. And maybe, if I'm lucky, we can end it by finishing Pretty in Pink?

"I don't care what they say about you, Reynolds, you aren't so bad," Nick says to me as I grab him a beer from the fridge. "You're okay. I read some of those blogs. I don't like 'em, but I read 'em. It's not too bad."

"For a guy with no job, no brains, no clue, and a love for Pretty in Pink, I feel like I'm doing pretty well for myself. In fact, I think I'll see about that girl right now."

"There ya go. Set the edge and play power football, Deschler."

And I don't tell him that there are moments when I just try to make eye contact with her, as if somehow by looking into my eyes she can sense the burdens within and remove them. Only, she doesn't say anything so I have to formulate the words to accompany the thoughts, and that's when the limits of language are totally apparent. But I'll deliver my neuroses and she doesn't seem fazed by them, she'll just say, "Maybe you don't need to think about it so much."

"Just don't think about it as much? Yeah, that's a good idea."

And then I stop thinking about it so much. And I feel better.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday

I stayed out late the night before Super Bowl Sunday and, if you really want to know the truth, the night before that, too. Undeterred, I rallied once more. The New England Patriots may win or they may lose, but the real goal is to impress upon my buddy Redacted how many Coors Lights I can drink on our way to victory or defeat with honor.

My brother wakes me up early on Sunday morning with a text asking where the fuck his car is. The night before, I was in a bind. My car was at my former place of employment, and I had arrived back in the Petaluma Valley from Pt. Reyes with my buddies Silverstein, Tony Tomsula, Kevin, and no time to spare. I called my brother and told him I needed a car to get to a date, and he was like, "Take the bullpen car....You can borrow mine." 

And so I did but then the next morning, I had to drive it over to his house with a 30-rack of CL sitting shotgun. Redacted, who prefers not to be named in this ongoing samizdat, told me I could come over and get my fade on anytime before the game. He probably didn't know that I would show up stumbling across his middle-class neighborhood at 10:45 a.m. in full New England Patriots gear and a 30-pack. My brother dropped me off at Redacted's house, and it appeared that no one was home. I left the 30-pack on his door with a note that said, "Mike T. Blogger was here," and decided I'd take a pre-game walk. 

Down the street, a little Japanese boy is seen doing pull-ups using the neighborhood mailbox. He says hello to me and I don't know what to do. If I stop and talk to this kid, there's a good chance I'm going to get Redacted evicted from the neighborhood. Then again, I do need to make new friends. The boy is handsome, and he reminds me of a little Korean boy I met nearly a decade ago. Memories of that day outside of an apartment complex in Seoul come rushing into my mind as I consider what I'm supposed to say to this Asian boy. I'm outside the apartment complex with my girlfriend and her five-year-old cousin and a bunch of his buddies. I push the group of little Korean children on some type of merry-go round concoction. The red of the playground toy matches my Stanford tee-shirt. I'm wearing sandals that have been in the United States, Mexico, Europe, and now South Korea. I push the boy and his friends around and they tell me I must be Russian and not American because I have a big nose. 

"Are you checking the mail there?" I ask when I wake up from my South Korean dream. 

"Yes."

"Waiting to hear back from law school?"

He stares at me with a look of puzzlement and I begin to walk away. I hear him say, "Oh, no, I'm checking the mail for letters from Japan."

"Do you have cousins there?"

"I have more than cousins there."

"What else?"

"Grandparents. Uncles. Aunts."

"Were you born there?"

"I was born here. But I go there."

"I know people in South Korea, which isn't very far."

"It isn't very far."

"What's your name?"

"Gordon."

"It's nice to meet you."

"I've been doing pull-ups to work on my muscles since I was five years old."

"Oh wow. How old are you?"

"Eight."

"My niece is around that age."

"I'm going to have big muscles."

"Nice."

I continue walking off my haze when, moments later, Redacted's car comes around the corner. He looks at me with the same bewilderment that the child has just looked at me with when I asked him if he's waiting to hear back from law school. "Why does my sister have to hang out with such lost souls?" Redacted thinks before pulling over and letting me in the car.

"Mike, what the hell is going on?"

"Uh, well, like, no car, had to get a ride from my brother, left the beer on your porch?"

"Do you want a ride to your car?"

"Na, I figure Tamara or Nicole can drop me off later."

We enter the house and Redacted goes upstairs to check on Mrs.Redacted and their son. I hear them ask their son to guess who is here, and he excitedly begins to scream his aunt's name. At Redacted's Fourth of July party, Redacted, Jr. could hear someone coming down the stairs the next morning, and he figured it would be his aunt. When he saw me turn the corner, he put his face in his hands and told his father, "Oh no! Mike came back."

This time, the little boy, who is around three years old I think, comes down the bend and sees once more that it isn't his aunt Nicole but that Mike has, oh no, come back again. A third confused face stares at my presence in less than 10 minutes. Have I fallen through the cracks of society never to return? I wanted so desperately just to fit in, to be liked, and yet all of the faces I saw looked at me sadly, dejectedly, with profound disappointment, as though I should be more than what I've become at 29. Rather, that is the look on my face, and then it reflects back to me in everything I see. 

But Mr. and Mrs. Redacted's son isn't going to allow this setback to get in his way. We're going to go play games. I suggest we start with a game of catch, but he remembers that at the last party here on New Year's Eve, I was throwing the ball too hard at him and his pals. 

"Remember at the last party?" he asks.

"Yeah bud, I got a little carried away there. But I was only throwing the ball so hard because it wasn't properly inflated. What's the psi on this thing?"

"Mike, how about if we build a train?"

"Like, I'm not very good at that. Hey, guess who I saw today?" I ask him. "Let me show you," And I take out my phone and show him two pictures of my three-year-old niece who is in the same pre-school class as him. My niece is wearing glasses made of paper in the photos.  

"I like those glasses," he says before getting back to the train set. "Come on, Mike."

I sit down on the floor and watch the pre-game festivities as he builds his train. I'm no use, so he enlists his mom to help out. Sensing my worthlessness, he only asks me to clean up going forward. 

The media junkies spend most of their time bitching and moaning about Deflate Gate. If Bob Costas gets any more smug and sanctimonious, he might float off the planet. Katy Perry is interviewed by some self-important schmuck who treats the interview as if Perry has the potential to cure cancer. Perry announces that her half-time performance is going to change lives in a way that will ultimately improve the world forever. The moment of joy she's going to create for us will be life-altering. We're all going to be changed by watching a woman who doesn't sing particularly well sing. 

Now we're at the White House where President Obama has decided that, like, fuck this being Commander-In-Chief shit, I'm a brewer now, bitches. His collar hangs about 25 inches away from his neck. Is the President anorexic? The woman interviewing him actually brings up Deflate Gate. Oh, for the love of fucking Christ, there's a follow-up question, "Did they cheat?" My God, it's as though Bill Belichick and Tom Brady sold state secrets to ISIS. 

BUT PRESIDENT OBAMA, WHAT CAN YOU POSSIBLY SAY TO SASHA AND MALIA AT A TIME LIKE THIS, WITH THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE CHEATING AGAIN? CAN A NATION DIVIDED OVER DEFLATED BALLS POSSIBLY STAND? OR, SHOULD WE JUST GIVE UP AND JOIN THE FUCKING CALIPHATE?

Moving on from important things like beer and football, the woman begins grilling President Obama about his "swagger"at the State of the Union. Why are you looking all confident when your party lost the election? It's like, what the fuck is he supposed to do? You try governing this gerrymandered country of illiterate imbeciles. I mean, sure, I'm a two-time Obama voting Democrat elitist New Yorker reading fuckoff, but I dislike our president as much as anyone with those qualities possibly can, and yet this condescending journalist had me defending the guy. She'd ask a question, he'd start to answer, and then she'd put her hand out to interrupt him. Can you let the fucking leader of the free fucking world answer your goddamn question?! Or, is your follow-up question about why he can't just throw in the towel and let this shithole country fall into the hands of the moronic Sarah Palin-- whom we so desperately deserve--or her ilk that vital and necessary? 

Finally, she asks if he prefers Biden or Hillary in a word association game because that's where The Republic is at--Deflate Gate, Katy Perry curing the world of all problems with her half-time show, and word association games with the fucking President--and Obama says he likes them both before turning to someone off camera, shrugging, and giving a look that says, "She ain't gotta go, but she better get the fuck on up outta here!" For the first time in my life, I'm proud to have voted for the guy, and now I'm convinced that he's going to go down in the Truman/H.W. wing of Presidents who pleased no one but did what was necessary and are better than most of the men we've elected. He's not Abe Lincoln or FDR, but there weren't anymore slaves to free and World War III hasn't started yet. 

Now Chris Collinsworth is riding his smug, high horse about Deflate Gate. I'm thinking 30 Coors Lights is not going to be enough. Redacted, Jr. asks what time the party starts. His mother says the party started when Mike arrived. The boy responds, "One guy isn't a party." Mercifully, his aunt arrives with more booze and hummus so I can eat and drink my feelings and no longer feel so deflated about losing another Super Bowl while a bunch of diabetic, high-fructose guzzling degenerates call us cheaters for having the audacity to aspire to more than mediocrity. 

Shortly before the game begins, our friend Tamara calls needing Redacted's address. Redacted tells Nicole, "I haven't moved,"and sure enough, he hasn't moved since his New Year's party that Tamara attended 32 days ago. I'm tasked with putting more ice and beer in one of the outside coolers, and when Nicole comes out and watches me on my knees pulling cubes out two at a time and struggling for life as my hands succumb to frost bite, it's finally clear that I am the stupidest human being on the planet. But I have a blog so fuck you. She takes over the task and I begin to wonder if there's any hope for me. 

Thankfully, Tamara arrives and we can make fun of her instead of me, though I also get lost going to Redacted's house. 

The Patriots eke out one first down before punting. If every yard is going to be this much of a struggle, the Seahawks are going to blow us out. But the New England defense is stout on the first series, and the Patriots offense finds a rhythm on the second drive. Down in the red area, our right guard whiffs badly on a block, and the Seattle defensive tackle Michael Bennett is going to ruin this Super Bowl for us, isn't he? They show the replay and I ask Redacted, "Didn't you play right guard in high school?" He says yes and I scream his name in anger using the voice of our high school football coach, Chili Dog. His son is asleep upstairs, but the group forgives my first scream of the night. 

On third down, the Patriots offensive line whiffs completely on a Bennett stunt, and Brady throws the worst pass of his life for an interception to a wide open Seahawks defensive back. It's time to switch to the hard stuff. Tamara and Nicole and Redacted and Mrs. Redacted look at my speechless, depressed face and wonder what it must be like to watch the man you live vicariously through start to lose it. And maybe they wonder why I spend so much time on Tom Brady when my own life is so desperately in need of care and attention. 

Redacted's older brother is somewhere reading this right now with a look of such utter disgust while thinking over and over, "GET A FUCKING JOB YOU FUCKING LOSER! AND I'M NOT GOING TO EVER CALL NICOLE DOCTOR. NO WAY. NOT GONNA DO IT!" He doesn't like us, and I don't like me. 

The Patriots defense is on point early--tight run fits against Marshawn "Oak Land Ice City" Lynch, and Russell Wilson has no one to throw to. Brady leads the Patriots on another long march, this time connecting with JoJo LaFell on a slant for six. I scream bloody murder because I'm so happy JoJo, my dead cat reincarnated, has caught the first touchdown. My second scream gets the non Patriots fans pretty upset because there is still a three-year-old boy upstairs napping. I tell them my blog about the day will be entitled "Scream Gate," which is my way of apologizing, but then, I never apologize for passion. 

The Seahawks finally find our weak links on defense. Slot corner Kyle Arrington is pretty hit or miss. He's a tough, undrafted free agent from the now defunct Hofstra program who will stick his nose in there in the run game and on special teams. He's a player, like defensive end Rob Ninkovich, a former long snapper, whom Belichick trusts despite his considerable weaknesses (lack of size, inability to cover down the field, etc.). The Seahawks target Arrington and then fourth corner Logan Ryan deep, and that's the problem with Revis Island: he locks his man down but we've got four other dudes who need guarding and our other cover guys are decidedly NOT Darrelle Revis. 

Still, the Patriots score a late touchdown to go up 14-7 and give Redacted the win on the first-half Patriot overs (12.5). We're 30 minutes and 30 seconds away from glory. That is until the defense totally falls apart and gives up a touchdown in about six seconds. The awful Brady INT and the awful performance by the defense on the last drive turn what ought to be a 17-7 game into a 14-14 game. We are going to lose, and we're going to lose big. I drink more, and I am unchanged by the Katy Perry half-time performance. Also, I took the overs on cleavage shots, and we get the unders. Fuck it all. I text my brother to hammer Seattle in the second half as my life falls off the cliff into the abyss. 

The Seahawks murder the Patriots in the third quarter as Brady throws another awful interception and Arrington and Ryan are shredded more and then benched for undrafted free agent corner Malcolm Butler out of noted Division II powerhouse West Alabama. I fade away from my standing position as close to the television as possible and up the stairs, as far away from everyone as possible. If I fade away, and they forget about me, does this loss even exist in reality? 

The Patriots go three-and-out and trail 24-14 with little more than a quarter to go. We've fallen short again. We cannot move the ball and we cannot stop them from moving the ball. I begin texting my good-byes and thank-yous to everyone who followed me along this perilous journey to another Super Bowl defeat. It's time to sober up and deal with life beyond Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots. I text my attorney to request a preliminary injunction against the oncoming wave of depression and to blame her for no-showing at this party--the party which celebrates the end of the Patriots Reign. Annoying someone else, sadly, doesn't make me less annoyed. 

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life only I don't have a fucking job and I don't have a fucking clue; and this girl I went out with is going to dump me because the Patriots suck and now she's read something I've written and why did I send her that, that was so unreadable and awful and embarrassing; and oh my god what am I going to do; and why did we have to lose; and why don't Tamara and Nicole and Mrs.Redacted and Redacted Jr. care; and why did David Halberstam have to write that fucking book to get me addicted to this shitty team in the first place?; and why did I create this samizdat and quit my job and drink too much and act like a fucking lunatic and get the boss to hate me when all I want is for everyone to like me? 

The boy is awake and playing again and so I focus on that. I focus on the fact that my friend Mac, also a Pats fan, has two kids of his own now. There are more important things in life. I thought the season was over when we got our asses kicked in Miami, barley beat the Raidazzzz, and then got murdered by Kansas City on Monday Night Football. To have gotten this far after looking that bad is a miracle. Life will be okay. 

But we have got Tom Brady, and the enemy has not!

Late in the Arizona night, Tom rises again, and he plays the best football of his career. With no running game, a mediocre offensive line, and no margin for error, Brady leads the Patriots on two incredible, Montana-like drives to bring the Patriots back from the dead. Brady's quick strikes to running back Shane Vereen, all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski, and receivers JoJo LaFell, the indestructible Julian Edelman (an unwanted 7th-round pick who was an option quarterback in college), and the suddenly useful Danny Amendola is like watching the West Coast passing attack of Walsh and Montana. When the Seahawks are able to get to Brady, he steps up in the pocket and delivers strike after strike. On the drive that gives the Patriots the lead, he goes 8-for-8. There are only two quarterbacks in history I'd want against a defense this good with it all on the line: Brady and Montana, the guy Brady grew up idolizing. 

No one in the history of humanity has done more than Brady to prepare for these moments. Every breath he takes, every morsel of food he eats, every film session, every workout, every practice, it all comes down to this: down 24-14, the season hangs in the balance, the best defense in football smells blood in the water, another championship slipping away, two bad throws earlier in the game have put us here, and yet Brady delivers. Time and time again he has delivered because he's mentally and physically tough and totally prepared and supremely confident because of that preparation. The mistakes and accomplishments of yesteryear do not matter; all that matters is this play, and then the next one. Let's got get a score, get a stop, and put together "a championship drive." 

Only, there's still time on the clock. Wilson throws to Lynch for a big gain, and then it happens: Helmet Catch 2.0, this time off of the Seattle receiver's crotch. I die inside. The replay shows that somehow, he actually caught the ball. 

I go to the bathroom to look in the mirror and tell myself how much I hate myself for ever getting caught up in this bullshit. Mike, what the fuck is wrong with you? As my boy Fresh once put it, "Spectating, that's all you do." Or something like that. Fucking Fresh! 

I come back out of the bathroom to watch Lynch run in for what looks like the game-winning score. Some idiot tackles Lynch at the 1-yard line, which only means Brady won't have any time for a game-tying drive. Belichick, totally dead inside like me, doesn't call timeout. Now, Brady won't even get the ball back. The clock keeps ticking. Wilson moves Lynch to his left and puts Baldwin in motion. Revis follows. Why didn't we call timeout? Why is this happening? Is there no God? Who is playing in the Super Bowl over in the Caliphate?

And then, by some miracle, someone makes a play. I don't remember even seeing the play. Redacted hugs me and we're bouncing up and down because he had the Patriots -1, and it has hit and Redacted Jr. will be able to go to college. A sea of those beautiful white jerseys goes running down the filed. 

It takes a few replays for what has just happened to set in. The undrafted free agent from West Alabama State Community College has made the play to save our season and snatch victory from certain defeat. Tom Brady, the sixth-round draft pick who barely made the team back in 2000, has his fourth Super Bowl ring because the fifth cornerback who no one else wanted and who had hardly played all year made a championship play. Bill Belichick, the coach who washed out in Cleveland, had built a dynasty that lasted through 14 years, six Super Bowl appearances, 12 division titles, nine AFC Championship Games, and now four titles. 

It had all been worth it. It was hard to make this team because Belichick didn't care if you were a quarterback with three Super Bowl rings or a defensive back who had been working at Popeye's. Your pedigree didn't matter--all that mattered was whether or not you earned your keep, and you had to do it day in and day out or else someone else would take your spot. You had to do it each and every day because, if not, how could Belichick trust you with one yard between everything and nothing? 

And then I spent the rest of the week watching the play over and over and over. Only, I don't want to watch it again because what if he doesn't make the play this time? What if on my hundredth view he drops the ball? What if the Patriots don't film the Seahawks walk-through and tape their signals and we don't know what's coming? Yet each time, Malcolm Butler makes the play and saves our legacy. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady may have their weaknesses, but I love them because I know that, right now, they're somewhere figuring out a way to get a fifth ring in 2015 while I'm grinding my way to figure out how to get my first. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Requiem for a Midsummer's Night

(Fiction)

"Meet me at Club Mallard a little later?" Mike texts Silverstein on that late July Friday afternoon.

He leaves The Firm at around 3:45 p.m. Before heading east over the Richmond Bridge, he takes a walk along the Bay outside of the office park. It has to have been close to 90 degrees outside. The Bay looks so serene under the sun's encompassing glare. The rays mercilessly bounce off the water towards the walking man, who stares back with a look of puzzlement. Why had I ever cared? he wondered. A vague sense of emptiness overtakes him. If only he could go back and remember not to care, he wouldn't have ended up taking this walk of shame after submitting his resignation.

Well, it was over now. Staring at the Bay and reliving it wasn't going to change what had been done. In two weeks, he'd have the rest of his life to look back the mistakes made, the lines crossed, the boundaries stretched too far. He could look in the mirror for the rest of his life, and that was part of the problem. That was the problem.

He makes the walk back to his car and begins the drive to his friend Nicole's house in Berkeley to debrief. When he first gets on the bridge it's as though he's even with the water before his ascent up the asphalt begins. It's an odd thing, something he's never noticed before. It's all starting to come into focus now. It isn't a very long drive to Berkeley before rush hour, but it feels like it takes forever. Each moment is slowing down now. The world comes to a standstill for the newly unemployed.

He stops at the convenience store by Nicole's house to buy some booze. The only thing to speed up time and make this night more bearable was going to be drugs. His consciousness had to be altered, and so he went about altering it. There was a logic to that which made him wonder if perhaps his IQ was improving these days.

He knocks on the door, and she tells him to come in.

"I told those motherfuckers that, for the love of TPS Reports, I'm done."

"You quit?"

"Yup. Gave them my two-weeks notice. Hell, I told 'em I'd only stay through July when I came back, and this new agreement gives them an extra week of my services."

"What'd they say?"

"They were pissed, but fuck it. I gave them four months notice the first time I quit, and they didn't seem to appreciate that too much either. I just don't care. I'm an at-will employee who has lost his will to be an employee. If I have to spend the rest of my life doing TPS Reports, well, I just can't imagine that such a life is worth living. There has to be more."

"Did they try to get you to say?"

"Yes. I told them it doesn't matter if you lighten my workload. It doesn't matter anymore. The village has been totally destroyed. I resent you, you resent me, and some differences are irreconcilable. I'm not 22, 23, 24, 25 years old anymore. I'm pushing 30. I'm having a hard time getting Rodney's. I drink too much now. This grind isn't for an old man like me," he says, slugging back his second Coors Light in the 10 minutes since he's arrived.

"Well, good for you. What are you going to do now?"

"I can't say."

Talking about it made it better until that question: what are you going to do now? Fuck, that is the problem. If you aren't going to do TPS Reports, what are you going to do? "Oh Christ, if only I had been able to find a way to process my processes," he admonishes himself. One disparaging, judgmental thought after another rushes through his mind.

"Let's take some victory shots," he says, in the hopes of turning up the numbness. If he can't think not thinking, at least the booze can do it for him.

He gets a text from his now former co-worker Silverstein, and Nicole drives the two of them down San Pablo Avenue from Berkeley through Albany and into the Richmond Annex, where Silverstein lives with another Firm employee--an Italian guy named Tony--and a tall, slender guy with curly hair called Malcolm--who is a waiter.

When they enter Silverstein's apartment, Mike makes the announcement.

"I heard," Silverstein replies. "I can't believe you're actually out of there. It's not going to be the same without your misery."

"My misery has become a critical Firm institution, but I don't want to spend my life being the old, angry joke at that shit hole."

"Well, let's get drunk."

It isn't too tough of a walk from Silverstein's apartment to Club Mallard. Nicole, having done her duty in transporting Mike from her house to Silverstein's and through the beginnings of his latest absurd crisis, leaves to meet their mutual friend Tamara for dinner.

"It's a drinking night for me," Mike tells her. "I don't eat when I drink anymore. It's a waste."

"That's probably why you vomit all the time," she replies.

"Who can say? Tell Tamara hello and I'm done processing processes."

"Will do, Mike. Don't go too hard."

Nicole departs, and Silverstein and Mike finish a bottle of wine from the night before. It's 7:45 p.m., normally far too early to show up at the Mallard, but it's a beautiful night and the sun is setting. A few blocks down from Silverstein's apartment, you can get a great look at the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, so they begin the night's journey.

They stand in the middle of the street overlooking the Bay, the Golden Gate, San Francisco, Marin--it's hard not to appreciate the beauty of the San Francisco Bay Area. This is one of capitalism's holy cities--a Mecca or Medina of our capitalist caliphate. Expensive real estate, a burgeoning tech bubble, 80-hour work weeks, the Silicon Valley to the south, the affluent, Prius driving, limousine liberals of Marin to the north--materialist accumulation was the game, and Mike had lost. He was trying so desperately to fit in, but he so clearly did not. He didn't disbelieve in the society's materialism; he simply couldn't bring himself to do what it took to participate in that consumerist grind anymore.

When he was Silverstein's age--25--he could find a way. He could slog his way through the grind. But he was older now, and lost, and she was gone.

When they arrive at the Mallard, Mike runs into a girl called Liz whom he had dated briefly a few months earlier.

"Oh, hey there," Mike says awkwardly as he enters the bar. "How's it going?"

"It's good. How are things with you?"

"Good. Really good. Just celebrating my resignation tonight."

"Oh, wow. Yeah, you mentioned you hated that place. So, you quit?"

"Yeah, fuck that shit. I'm out. Where did my friend go? I lost him."

"I think he kept going outside there."

"I better go find him. It was nice to see you again."

"Alright, it was nice to see you, too."

He heads outside and then up the stairs to the second floor, where Silverstein is sitting at a table alone with two PBR's. It's past sunset now, but the sky is still a dark blue surrounded by the reddish-orange hues of the departed sun.

"Who was that girl?" Silverstein asks.

"Oh, that's that Liz girl I went out with a while back there."

"So, you're just so good at jacking yourself off that you don't want to see her anymore?"

"Well, I'm pretty good at it, but like, that's got nothing to do with it."

"And so why don't you want to go out with her again? You love your lonesome misery so much that you can't let it go?"

"I mean, I kind of want to now. I don't why I didn't before. I guess I just figured I was pretty lost so why bother?"

"Well, I don't mean to harsh your vibe here, and I'm not one to give unsolicited advice, but there's no one who isn't lost. You aren't some special case. Everyone is lost. No one has it figured out. She's an adult. How old is she?"

"27 I think."

"So she's a 27-year-old woman--why not give her the chance to make an adult decision as to whether or not  you're too lost for her?"

"I don't know. I guess it's better to avoid hurt feelings?"

"Oh, right, anyone who you break up with is just going to be so devastated! Sonia, she's just struggling so terribly to get over you a year later, isn't she?"

"She still reads my blog."

"That's because half of the fucking posts are about her! Mike, I don't care that you quit. I'm glad that you quit. You're my friend, and I'm going to miss working with you. It's going to be a lot quieter without you. But I'll survive.

"I just want you to move on with your life. I don't want you to think about that place anymore. I don't want you to think about Sonia anymore. The next time you get a thought in your deluded fucking mind about how great some hike in New Jersey three years ago was, just let it go. Don't write her a fucking blog about it. Don't write another blog about her skinny little Korean father who you think you love so much. Because I met her when you two were still dating, and what did you do a few weeks after I met her? You dumped her. So you couldn't have loved her as much as you now pretend to. Just get the fuck over it. I'll tell you the truth: you were even more miserable then than you are now! That's the truth! When I first met you and the two of you were still together, you never came out, you kept her 3,000 miles away, and you were completely miserable. Hey, now at least you're living, bud! We're at The Mallard! We're living life! We're getting loose! There's a girl downstairs who looks like she's somewhat interested in you. Is Sonia so much better than that girl? If so, fine, let's buy a plane ticket to the East Coast right now and you can go there and eat her snatch and try not to come too fast and try to make it work. That's great. Let's do it. We'll go right now."

"Whoa there. I like when you a little fired up bud. Didn't know Tommy Cool ever cared about anything! But, I mean, I'm not trying to get her back with these blogs. I'm over that shit. I just write because I don't know what else to do and I don't have anything interesting to say to be honest. I can only write about your dumb ass so often! But, yeah, we're not going back there. That's been over for a long time now."

"Then why don't you go downstairs right now and tell that Liz girl you're sorry that you're a neurotic piece of shit and offer to eat her snatch?"

"Do you think that will work?"

"I know it will work."

"Oh boy, I don't know."

"Drink some more. Look, that girl does what again?"

"She's an English teacher."

"That's perfect for you. You've read what, 30 books this year? You know, you're so hung up on this ex-girlfriend of yours who has read what, one book in her entire adult life and lives 3,000 miles away in a city of a zillion fuckoffs, and then you meet someone who reads books for a living and could help you with your horseshit writing, and lives within a commutable distance, and you're gonna sit up here and nurse your PBR like a little cunt?"

"Fuck you, you little slut. Who are you fucking besides Giselle Palms there, bud?"

The two friends walk down the stairs and find Liz at a table with two other people. They pull over two more chairs and make the cursory introductions.

It's a weird thing to suddenly look at the world from a different angle. Suddenly, though his confidence had been so thoroughly destroyed, it didn't matter anymore. There was nothing to feel bad about, nothing to regret. What good did the regret do anyway? Could it have all been different? Of course! Was there a way to change what had been done? Of course not! Then it was on to the next moment, and this moment included his buddy Silverstein smoking a cigarette at a table with a girl called Liz, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend.

The sister's boyfriend was immediately likable, which had to have been a good sign. He wore black-rimmed glasses over bulging, wide, brown eyes. He had a constant look of good humor and humility, the look of someone who didn't quite know how valuable they were. Mike could instantly tell that he wasn't going to have some bizarre, passive-aggressive, counter-intelligence type ego battle with this guy. And that had been a constant problem at work and in his social life: the slippery nature of himself and others, the continual gossip and playing of both sides, the constant focus on everything but what he could actually control. If there's a problem, why couldn't it just be discussed, resolved, and then moved on from?

"What do guys do?" the sister asks.

"Well, we were paralegals, but I just quit," Mike replies. "And Silverstein is going to law school soon to be a blood-sucking, leeching whore."

"That's correct," Silverstein says.

"What are you gonna do now, Mike?"

"Oh, I'm retired."

"No he's not," Liz interjects. She turns to Mike and says, "He's between careers."

"So, what's your next career?"

"Well, like, I don't know. We'll see. I used to write a little bit."

"What did you write?"

"Um, I was like a sports writer, but now I just write this blog. It's total crap. But I might go back to school so I don't suck so much."

"My God, you are one self-deprecating bastard," Liz tells him in an attempt to try to prove to her sister that this guy she's brought to the table and gone out with before is not a total disaster.

"Well, I've got a lot to be humble about. Besides, Silverstein and I were just talking about this very thing last night. Granted, we were a little drunk so it's hard to really recount now, but the gist of it is that everyone sucks, ya know? But Silverstein and I don't suck as much as everyone else because we aren't trying not to suck. We know we suck which is why we're bearable, maybe even likable. In fact, I'm actively trying to suck more! Like, I'm not gonna work anymore, which means I'll be poor now, and poor people are the worst of the worst. So, I'm actively trying to worsen myself, which, I don't know if you're familiar with Buddhism or a guy called Christ, who was crucified died so that we get squalor here in sin, but the irony is that in getting worse, you get better. I think that's how that works?"

They laughed, and that was good. It felt good to make people laugh. Mike felt like a stand-up comedian in these rare moments of socializing. It was something beyond the mind to read your audience and try to find common ground to joke about in order to solicit laughs, or the approval he'd been longing for all his life if you want to be a dick about it.

The group played some sort of drinking game called Liar's Dice, which is a game where you have dice and cups and you get drunk and then don't remember the game. And then the game is over and Silverstein, the sister, and the sister's cute boyfriend are off having a smoke and it's just Mike and Liz now, which is odd because Silverstein's parents are also called Mike and Liz.

Neurotically, Mike begins explaining how, like, he is a piece of shit and will remain a piece of shit but he'll work on it to the best of his abilities. And she's all, it's okay man. Maybe don't hold yourself to so high of a standard? And he's all, but there's a void there so incredibly deep that probably being great at something is the only way to get it filled, only he's a mediocre fuckoff. And she doesn't see that trying to fix him is hopeless but maybe she's not even hoping to fix him. Maybe she's trying to get laid. Women do sex, too, I bet.

So the sister and the sister's boyfriend decide to leave which means Liz has to leave, but Mike is all, what about not? I can give you a ride. Liz questions how much he's had to drink. Mike says that why don't we all go back to Silverstein's and play pool and wake Tony up and see if the other roommate is home and go from there?

Some sort of late-capitalist German taxi service gets the gang back over to Silverstein's, where Tony and Malcolm are on the couch watching some sort of soft-core porn on HBO about a hooker ranch in Nevada. Hookers are a source of tension in the house, however, because Mike recently ordered a hooker who was not the type of hooker he meant to order and Silverstein has never let him live it down. In Mike's defense, it's hard to order hookers off the internet in Richmond at 3 o'clock in the morning when you aren't that sober.

It's a weird thing to be on Silverstein's couch with soft-core porn on, people playing pool, a glass of wine, and a pretty girl looking into your eyes if you haven't been with a pretty girl looking into your eyes in a long time. What are you supposed to do? The normal protocol is to put your lips against her lips, and then stick your tongue in her mouth, and then maybe later, into her vagina. Which, when you think about it, is it more weird to order a hooker late at night at Silverstein's apartment or to stick your tongue in a stranger's vagina late at night at Silverstein's apartment? With questions like that running through your head all the time, it's hard to make the first play, which is to put your lips up against a stranger's lips. And maybe this is why it was easy to just remember Sonia: it became easier to make it with someone when you felt like you "knew" them, as if you can actually know anyone, as if we aren't changing all the time to become those people others used to know.

But, like, here goes: Mike just dives in and goes for it because everyone is drunk and everyone is always trying to make it on Silverstein's new couch. It's such a big leap to go for the first kiss--does this person know how to kiss well? Do you even know how to kiss well? That's such a huge key. Also, Mike was suspended from the 8th grade for making out on the playground, causing first kisses to become an even bigger obstacle for the rest of his life. And, you'd be surprised at how many bad kissers there are out there. It's not like they teach you how to kiss good in Sex Ed. They don't. At Catholic school, they teach you not to kiss at all, which is a big problem when you're already jerking it to Head Over Heels starring Peter North most nights. But Mike was a good Catholic boy--he always felt so terrible afterwards.

The German taxi company eventually pulls Mike off of his new girlfriend, who he'll probably try to marry in the coming weeks to fill the void which has now been enlarged by his decision to not have a job anymore.

"See man, that was good," Silverstein tells him as they sit on the couch and watch an episode of Cops at 3 a.m.

"Mike making a play on our couch," Tony announces.

"That was crazy, man," Malcolm says. "You were totally humping someone on our couch."

"I was."

Malcolm is a gnarly guy who gets high on pot drugs and roller skates in a hardcore way. He's a good egg, too. There are good eggs in our world, even if our world is, on the whole, going to shit.

"Man, it's like I finally quit that place, and I can talk to girls without feeling like a piece of shit anymore."

"Confidence is attractive," Tony points out.

"That's what I hear."

In a few hours, the four drunks on the recently defiled couch will be hung over, parched, and lying in the grass at Pt. Reyes under a clear blue sky. Under the massive trees a few miles out at the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, there's a valley which marks the half-way point to the coast. It looks like a good place to fight a battle in war time. It's also a good place to stop, catch some shade, and stretch it out. It's an increasingly rare  experience in our modern-day grind to take a moment like that and enjoy the immeasurable--the trees, the sky, the weather, the grass, the brush, the mountains, friendship, silence. The void created by stepping out into the unknown is also immeasurable, but it seems like a better bet than trying to find a slice of happiness as an unhappy laborer in a cubicle.

"I'm glad that you finally made the decision to walk away, Mike," Silverstein says, breaking up the silence. "It's good to get out now. It's not going to get better for you. You're fixing a mistake. That's a good thing."

"It feels good. It's as though I'm myself again. I feel normal. I don't know what that means or who that is, but this is better. There's a reason no one does that shit for more than a few years. It's better if you just do two and barbecue. I wish I'd never have come back, but then I wouldn't have hung out with you fuckers all the time."

"You gonna go steady with that girl you were dry-humping on the couch?"

"Definitely. Gonna buy her a milkshake at The Max. Never mind, Saved by the Bell is before your time."

"You're a goddamn dinosaur, Mike."

"The Earth was created 6,000 years ago. There never were any dinosaurs, bro."

"It's just so much better to be here, to be anywhere, than at work," Silverstein replies, and no one can come up with a witty response to something so wise.