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Engineer, writer, father of three teenagers, and generally silly person. Also sometimes a professional asshole, according to my best friends.



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» I'm going to Hell...

I flummoxed a group of Fundies.
It was late one Friday night in the late spring. My friend Richard and I had been out shooting pool and drinking overpriced low-quality pisswater, and we decided to head home. He had drunk less than I had, so he got in his car and departed. Me, I felt the need to walk around a bit before I got behind the wheel- not that I was drunk per se, but just to clear out the cobwebs.

This is how I found myself sitting in the Farmer's Market at one in the morning, letting the warm breeze waft over me as I dozed a little and ignored the group of happy clappers off to my left who were dancing and singing with guitars and tambourines. It was a relaxing sound, really- a load of untrained young voices singing from about fifty feet away. The air was full of the odd scents of downtown Richmond- not all of them pleasant, I might add- but it was nice to sit back and watch the parade of drunken humanity streaming past as I sat on a wooden produce stand.

"Excuse me, do you have a moment?"

She was probably about nineteen, I would guess, with straight blond hair and blue eyes and an open innocent face. Slender, wearing snug jeans and a clingy knit shirt, a shy smile on her face... yeah, she got my attention. "Sure, what's up?"

"I just wanted to know if you've heard the news."

"News?" What the hell was she talking about? Was there another attack from al Quaeda or something?

"Yes, the news of our Lord."

Feck.

"Ummm, yes, I have. I'm afraid that I'm following a different path, though."

"Yes, but have you really heard what He had to say?" She looked so earnest that I actually hesitated for a moment- but no, the glove had been thrown down. Dismissing someone else's faith because you know yours to be the One True Way is something that I can't let go unchallenged.

"Yes, I have. And frankly, I don't think that most of what's attributed to him in the bible is accurate- I tend to doubt that he was anywhere near as arrogant as he's been made out to be."

She looked utterly stunned by this. "Arrogant?"

"Yes, arrogant. Consider: he supposedly said that the only way to Heaven was through him, right? In other words, that the people of the world who hadn't happened to have heard of him would be cast into damnation, even though they had led blameless lives. I would say that that was pretty damned arrogant, wouldn't you?"

She was blinking by this point. "Ummm... I'll be back in a moment." And she whirled and retreated.

I sat back and took a few more deep breaths of the fragrant Richmond night, letting my mind race for a few moments before she returned with a boy in his twenties. "Hi, you had some questions about Jesus?"

"Not exactly. I was telling your friend here that I don't really buy into what's in the bible, because I don't think it's an accurate depiction of what Jesus said. Not too surprising, really- how many times has it been translated? From Aramaic to Greek to Latin to English that I know of off the top of my head. There have to be translation errors that pop up. Not to mention that there have been a lot of rather disreputable popes in the early days- did you know that there are entire books of the Bible that have been chopped out because someone found them objectionable?"

They both looked like they were drowning at this point. I noticed that a few more of their group had appeared nearby, drawn to the discussion.

"And then there's the fact that the New Testament was passed orally for over a hundred years before it was ever recorded onto paper. Have you ever played Telephone? You get a line of people together, you whisper a phrase to the first one, who whispers it to the next one, who tells it to the next one, and so on. Then the person at the end of the line tells what the message was that they were passed, and the person at the start announces what the original phrase was. They're never the same. Now imagine that being done across generations. How accurate do you think those words attributed to Jesus are? Do you think he'd even recognize his own words?"

I was at the center of a school of fish, it appeared. Mouths opened and closed but few words came forth, and no complete sentences. Then I noticed a rather stern looking man about my own age pressing toward the front. "But the bible is God's Living Word."

"Okay then. Let's set aside any question of inaccuracies for now and just look at what it says. Eternal damnation if you don't follow His rules, right? Sounds pretty harsh to me. According to Genesis we were created in God's image, right? Only we're flawed humans, a pallid imitation of perfection.

"According to the New Testament, God is infinitely patient and forgiving, right? Consider this: if my son does something that he knows that he shouldn't- say, throwing a baseball in the house- and I catch him breaking my rules, maybe because he broke a window or something, what do I do? I ground him, I yell at him a bit, I take a way his privileges, but after a few days he's learned his lesson and on he goes. Do I chain him in a basement and starve him and beat him daily and pour boiling water over him? Of course not. So if I'm a flawed imitation of God, why is it that I'm more forgiving and patient than He is? The whole concept of Hell makes absolutely no sense."

Silence.

"Look, I'm glad you have a faith that works for you. Really I am. Keep with it. Just recognize that for some of us, it just doesn't work. And that's why I've chosen to follow a different path. You can follow yours, but I need to follow mine." I looked at my cell phone. "It's getting very late and I really need to get to bed. But thanks for the conversation, and good luck to you."

And I left them standing there, mouths agape, whispering to one another with their silent guitars and tambourines clutched in their hands as I walked away.

I think I may have destroyed that guy's flock that night and turned a few minds to doubt. Tired, drunk, up far past my bedtime, and they couldn't touch my logic or refute me.

Maybe I really am Satan...

EDIT: I must be, as this is now my most popular answer to date.
(Thu 11th Dec 2008, 15:25, More)

» Karma

I'm still kinda working on this one.
This is kind of a long and involved ramble without a punchline, so bear with me.

I live on the south side of Richmond Virginia, just outside of the city limits. I can travel ten miles from my house and either be in the city itself or in the middle of nowhere.

As I have been laid off yet again, I have a fair bit of time on my hands. As one can only do job hunting for so many hours per day, I find myself needing to get out of the house on my own a bit. Being unemployed, I have no money coming in, so I have to do things on the cheap.

One of the things I decided to do was play around with photography. So one day I got in my car and drove out along one of the main roads here in the direction of countryside, as I knew that there were some old farm buildings to be photographed out thataway. Here is one picture I shot, and here is a detail from the same building. Pretty cool, huh?

So after poking around in this building a bit and finding that it wasn't safe to go upstairs or even through some of the downstairs, I decided to look further out and see what else I could find. And sure enough, as I went by a bit of a hill that they had cut into for the road, I saw the peak of an old structure back in the trees. So I backtracked and found the old driveway and parked at the end, and continued on foot.

As I approached the house I became a little more hesitant- I could see curtains in the windows and other signs of habitation, yet the place was clearly not inhabited now. I stepped between rotted pieces of furniture on the front porch to the front door, and saw that it was standing open behind the screen door. Not sure what to expect, I stepped inside.

The house is full of furniture, clothing, dishes and glassware, much of it kind of scattered about- someone had obviously ransacked the place looking for anything of value, then left it where it was to decay. The roof has holes in it, so the ceiling has fallen in throughout much of it and the floors have begun to rot through- and throughout it all are someone's abandoned possessions.

I was morbidly fascinated by this and looked around very carefully, and realized the following:

-the house had been inhabited by an elderly black couple. I found women's clothes as well as men's, and two photos of little black kids- apparently their grandchildren. And amid the wreckage I found his social security card- but instead of being paper like mine, it was a small aluminum plate. I don't think they've issued those since the beginning of Social Security.

-the woman had predeceased the man. Her bedroom (they stayed in separate rooms) was in advanced decay, with much of her stuff gone. At a guess I would say she was gone between one and three years when he died, judging from the state of the house- it had been rather messy before it was ransacked.

-the man was one of those old black handymen that you rarely find anymore, the kind who drive an old pickup with some tools in it and can fix anything that ever worked in the first place. Behind the house sit a number of old vehicles, and his pickup truck- with some tools in the cab, along with his last load of laundry, still in the basket.

-he died there in that house, most likely in his sleep. There was still food in the kitchen and old bedding on his bed, his razor and toothbrush are still in the bathroom, his glasses were on the kitchen table, and I found what appeared to be his cane lying next to the bed.

Apparently they took out his body, his relatives rooted around for anything they might want, and left the rest to decay where it was. In his bedroom are about a hundred ties and at least fifty suits, still hanging. All of his books, his records (there was still an LP in the record player), his papers, everything he had, are still there in the rot.

I don't know what kind of karma the old man had to be treated in this way- Google turned up nothing at all on him, not even an obituary. Were it not for his Social Security card, I wouldn't have any idea of his name- and in another few years there won't be anything to show that he ever existed. His family obviously doesn't care- and that's what really sent a chill through me, so that I had to get out of there, fast.

And yet... well, I did take a few things from there, which I will cherish and use. I took his Social Security card, his glasses, his cane and a few hand tools that I can put to use. I'm going to see if I can find out who currently owns the property so I can contact them and ask if I can take the rest of his stuff out of there for the Salvation Army. If his family doesn't care about him or his stuff, then I will. Someone needs to. No one should die so ignominiously.

And an interesting note to this: when I picked up the cane it rattled a little. I found that the brass tip unscrews, so I tightened it- and still it rattled. So I twisted the top, and it unscrewed in my hand and came off. I turned the cane upside down- and a long piece of wood emerged, with threads on one end and a cap on the other. The cane is actually a full length pool cue, with a very elaborate dragon carved into the handle. I'm going to take it with me one night and shoot a game or two in his honor.

RIP, Emmitt.

EDIT: w00t, it's my b3ta birthday today!

Update: his family are still in the area, and very nearby. It appears that they're still using his identity, which is even more horrid, despite the fact that Social Security records his death in 2000.

If my kids do this to me after I die, I'm going to come back and haunt them by playing Barry Manilow in the night.
(Sun 24th Feb 2008, 14:12, More)

» DIY disasters

DIY b3ta
So the other day I was walking at lunchtime through a nearby park, and passed a picnic table. On top of the table was a small black thing, so I looked closer at it. This turned out to be a zipper pull:



I was going to throw it out, until I happened to turn it over in my hand:



Add some Mardi Gras beads, and:



Presto! Who needs Photoshop or Paint?
(Fri 4th Apr 2008, 11:45, More)

» Anonymous

Not my story.
However, it's one I would like to do one day.

**********************************************************************

When you occasionally have a really bad day, and you just need to take it out on someone, don't take it out on someone you know, take it out on someone you don't know.I was sitting at my desk when I remembered a phone call I'd forgotten to make. I found the number and dialed it.

A man answered, saying "Hello."I politely said, "This is Chris. Could I please speak with Robyn Carter?"Suddenly a manic voice yelled out in my ear "Get the right f***ing number!" and the phone was slammed down on me. I couldn't believe that anyone could be so rude .

When I tracked down Robyn's correct number to call her, I found that I had accidentally transposed the last two digits.After hanging up with her, I decided to call the 'wrong' number again.When the same guy answered the phone, I yelled "You're an asshole!" and hung up.

I wrote his number down with the word 'asshole' next to it, and put it in my desk drawer. Every couple of weeks, when I was paying bills or had a really bad day, I'd call him up and yell, "You're an asshole!" It always cheered me up.

When Caller ID was introduced, I thought my therapeutic 'asshole' calling would have to stop. So, I called his number and said, "Hi,this is John Smith from the telephone company. I'm calling to see if you're familiar with our Caller ID Program?"He yelled "NO!" and slammed down the phone. I quickly called him back and said, "That's because you're an asshole!" and hung up.

One day I was at the store, getting ready to pull into a parking Spot. Some guy in a black BMW cut me off and pulled into the spot I had patiently waited for. I hit the horn and yelled that I'd been waiting for that spot, but the idiot ignored me. I noticed a "For Sale" sign in his back window, so I wrote down his number. A couple of days later, right after calling the first asshole (I had is number on speed dial,) I thought that I'd better call the BMW asshole, too.

I said, "Is this the man with the black BMW for sale?"He said, "Yes, it is." I asked, "Can you tell me where I can see it?" He said, "Yes, I live at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax. It's a yellow ranch, and the car's parked right out in front."

I asked, "What's your name?" He said, "My name is Don Hansen," I asked, "When's a good time to catch you, Don?" He said, "I'm home every evening after five."

I said, "Listen, Don, can I tell you something?"

He said, "Yes?"

I said, "Don, you're an asshole!"

Then I hung up, and added his number to my speed dial, too.

Now, when I had a problem, I had two assholes to call.

Then I came up with an idea. I called asshole #1. He said, "Hello." I said, "You're an asshole!" (But I didn't hang up.) He asked, "Are you still there?" I said, "Yeah," He screamed, "Stop calling me," I said, "Make me," He asked, "Who are you?" I said, "My name is Don Hansen." He said, "Yeah? Where do you live?" I said, "Asshole, I live at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax, a yellow ranch, I have a black Beamer parked in front." He said, "I'm coming over right now, Don. And you had better start saying your prayers." I said, "Yeah, like I'm really scared, asshole," and hung up.

Then I called Asshole #2. He said, "Hello?" I said, "Hello, asshole," He yelled, "If I ever find out who you are..." I said, "You'll what?" He exclaimed, "I'll kick your ass," I answered, "Well, asshole, here's your chance. I'm coming over right now."

Then I hung up and immediately called the police, saying that I lived at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax, and that I was on my way over there to kill my gay lover.

Then I called Channel 9 News about the gang war going down in Oaktree Blvd. in Fairfax.

I quickly got into my car and headed over to Fairfax. I got there just in time to watch two assholes beating the crap out of each other in front of six cop cars, an overhead news helicopter and surrounded by a news crew.

NOW I feel much better. Anger management really does work.
(Thu 14th Jan 2010, 20:06, More)

» Food sabotage

Vegetarian Surprise
I'll skip the details of how it happened, except to say that this answers the question everyone's been asking me lately (i.e., "Why'd you break up with Rachel?"), but my annual "Thanksgiving for folks who can't or don't want to be with their families" dinner was invaded by vegetarians. Normally, I don't have a problem with other peoples' affectations, or at least it's completely tacit: they think I'm a brute, I think they're ponces, so we each do our own separate things and make snide remarks about each other afterward.

... the apotheosis of my relationship with humanity.

But it's completely egregious to show up at a dinner party, of all things, and announce your silly little lifestyle choice, then behave like a complete ass when you're not instantly accommodated. While the rest of us sat down to dinner, the vegetarians opted to stay in the living room polish off the zakuski, and engage in a loud conversation about anal electrocution and the horrors of veal. If anyone had seemed offended by Rachel's guests, I'd probably have put a stop to it, but the rest of them were my guests, who probably wouldn't have put down their forks even if a steer were slaughtered in the kitchen and butchered on the sideboard between courses.

That's why I call them my "friends"

After dinner, everyone regroups in the living room, and is sympathetically over-emphatic about how much they've enjoyed the evening. Things really begin to light up when someone asks about the white bean paté with sun-dried tomatoes that the vegetarian pair had completely devoured. "Those weren't tomatoes. It was bacon." The recipe, which I related with gusto, uses a full pound of it — the grease is used to flavor the dip, and the bacon is only partially cooked so it stays moist and chewy.

... and it gets better.

The various bowls and plates the vegetarians had emptied contained, among other things, onions sautéed in rendered duck fat, vegetables soaked in vinaigrette that was seasoned with pulverized anchovies, a tomato compote containing beef stock and, best of all, a lumpy soup made from goose blood and bone marrow. The vegetarians went green — and one of them puked a little bit, just enough to puff his cheeks, which he promptly swallowed, probably hoping that nobody would notice. But everyone did. When Peter pointed out that he'd swallowed meat twice, he went off like a geyser.

People cheered.

I was kept kind of busy with a couple of bath towels and a whole lot of lemon-scented Lysol, so I didn't notice when they left — but I'm pretty sure it was a hasty exit. Rachel went with them, and didn't come back until two days later to pick up her things. Monday at the office, everyone who'd attended tells me it was the best Thanksgiving they ever had.

... go figger.

Note: may not be my story
(Thu 18th Sep 2008, 16:51, More)
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