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By Adam

Everything I know about my maternal grandfather is based upon a story; George Paul died before I could remember him. He was a fighter pilot in World War II, and his plane was hit by German flak. He was a member of the Free Masons up to a point. He disagreed with one of their rituals and attempted to quit. Rumor has it he took issue with their racial policies. Years later, when he died, the Masons stepped in took care of all of the finances—the funeral, the coffin, and his old membership dues. Apparently, they took care of their own, and respected a secret taken to the grave.

My paternal grandfather, Vaughan Robinson, died long before I had a chance to meet him. After the death of my father’s mother, Vaughan, a truck driver, retreated into himself and died shortly after. A broken heart can be, and often is, fatal. After Vaughan passed, my father, only a teenager then, took it upon himself to care for his three siblings. He grew old and became a parent before his time, and it wasn’t fair to him. But there was a common thread among my forbearers: they understood responsibility.

Apparently, at the dinner table, George Paul would ask basic trivia questions to his children and grandchildren, and those who answered incorrectly were met with a rap from the handle of a butter knife. Why, after his heroic and selfless life, this is the only thing I remember about him, I have no idea. It just goes to show how death informs life, and how questions left unanswered remain mysteries. There is no denouement.

When I was a child, I used to ride my Big Wheel around the driveway, pretending I was Rodimus Prime or something. Kid stuff, I guess. One day, when I was too young to accurately remember things, I was adventuring through Cybertron when my father pulled into the driveway with a screech. He moved briskly and said little which was not unusual for him. But on this particular day, my brother, always the Megatron to my Prime, was poised on the deck overlooking the driveway, carefully lining up his shot. He was trying to drop an empty milk crate on my head. My father saw this, and, wordlessly, stormed into the house, emerged onto the deck, and grabbed Luke by the scruff of his neck. Luke received a spanking. At one point, Luke tried to block my father’s hand, resulting in a broken thumb. I can’t remember what happened after that.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned what happened: my uncle Sean, my father’s brother, had died. This came as a surprise, because I had no idea my father even had a brother! I had a good relationship with my aunt, Beth, and had spoken to my other aunt, Patti, on the phone. But, incredibly, there was another sibling. One day, when my father was at work, my mother took me into our basement and showed me some artwork. The photorealistic style was impressive, even to an amateur such as me. My mother explained that nearly all of the art that hung in my house was created by my uncle Sean, my father’s younger brother, whom he had taken care of since the passing of their parents.

No one had mentioned Sean to me because Sean died of AIDS. He was gay. My father, for all of his inherent greatness and faults, decided it was better that my brother and I just kind knew about this guy in the periphery of our lives. Dad was old-fashioned, and when he discovered Sean wasn’t “normal,” took it personally: he felt like he failed as a surrogate parent. I can’t imagine that: only 17 and thinking you had failed at raising one of your three children. Life is rarely fair.

And still, the idea of death existed tangentially. I knew neither Sean nor George nor Vaughan. Death seemed to be a vacation to me; you saw the time share and just bought unlimited access. Then I went to college and did what everyone does. I grew up.

While I never knew the person—male or female, name, age, whatever—when I saw that person jump from the sixth story window, an unknown gear turned. Things changed irreparably. Later, when I saw the picture in the school paper, I convinced myself that we’d never had an encounter in dining hall or the elevator. I convinced myself that I was still innocent. And then I went home.

We had had Beau since she was a puppy. Her name was delightfully ironic; a girl dog named after the French word for male beauty, she was rambunctious and loyal and she was mine. We grew up together. Beau was the only friend that made the journey from Alaska to Minnesota with me. She loved her new life, what with three acres of prime land to explore and be wild. One day, while walking to the end of the drive way to get on the bus, I heard a gunshot and, for a split second, a yelp. I knew immediately it was Beau. I ran back to my house and tearfully told my parents what had happened. They did all they could: they told me it was probably nothing, and solemnly drove me to school. Later that day, they took me from classes early. Beau had been shot, and was at the local veterinarian’s. We always knew who had shot her, and that it was done simply out of spite, but never took any vengeance. This is frequently something I think about before falling asleep; it is my private shame.

Beau survived the attack, but lost a leg. She lost none of her personality and spunk, however. We placed boxes all over the house so that she could jump to her favorite spots: the living room couch, my bed. She was more timid, and more reserved, but she was still Beau. And when I would leave my house to go to high school and later to college, Beau was on the forefront of my mind. Loyalty is, sometimes, just a word. And sometimes, it’s palpable.

When Beau was diagnosed with cancer, my parents again did all they could. They invited me into their home, and they gave me plenty of time to spend with her. And on that Saturday, they took Beau in for a routine appointment, but returned red-eyed and puffy-cheeked. We didn’t talk about what happened. I went into the driveway, sat down, and cried harder than I ever had before. And when the rain started, I walked back inside, and I gathered my laundry, and I drove back to college.

Today, I frequently think about my own death. I don’t think about taking my own life, but I often wonder what people would think about me. With Beau, I had lost a companion, and a pet, and a part of me, and in a way, my innocence. Will I be missed? Will I be mourned? Part of me, the shameful, tragic part, wants there to be a tearful woman in attendance at my funeral, lamenting my loss. But mostly, I envy Sean. Those who knew and loved him mourned, and those who didn’t were able to look back at his life’s passion and work, and be inspired. But I’ve grown up, and life is rarely fair.

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By Adam

I fall in love on a daily basis, many times with the same person. This has been a constant source of personal turmoil for me. Much of the time, my love goes both unspoken and unrequited; this is to be expected, because I am cowardly and vainglorious and stupid. But girls don’t make it easy.

When I was in the third grade, the librarian at my elementary school, a warm but homely woman named Mrs. Adams, stormed into my class and sternly asked me to join her. Because I was a nerd, this immediately reminded me of the scene in The Empire Strikes Back, in which Darth Vader unsuccessfully asks Luke to join him on the dark side—ha!—and rule the galaxy together. I was never interested in sleeping with my sister, so I would have gone with him. That inclination proved well-minded.

Our library was relatively small, but only when you weren’t looking. The stacks held all the usual suspects—Shel Silverstein, Bernstein Bears, etc.—along with a small bank of computers used primarily to kill daughters of dysentery in Oregon Trail.  Tucked away behind the furthest wall, past the “big kid books” like Dune and such, was a dusty old door. Through this door was a small, windowless room filled with ancient machinery used to test the senses; basic visual tests, hearing tests, and the like were performed in here. When I walked in, I was administered these tests, and I assume I had passed, as Mrs. Adams seemed coldly placated. She then sat opposite me at the tiny table in the room, and asked me some of the toughest questions of my life.

“What is a group of crows called?” She asked.

“Spell ‘garage’.”

“What’s the square root of 64?”

And so on. Although I spelled it correctly, the fact that I had to think about how to spell “garage” and eventually pinned my success on a guess wakes me in the night. After she was finished, I was sent back to class with a terse “Well done,” and that was it. Or so I thought.

The next day, Mrs. Adams appeared to me, this time much more excited to see me. After lunch, she told me to meet her in the library. Met with a brief wave, I was whisked to the opposite corner of the library that hid a massive staircase cordoned off with a velvet rope. How I had never seen this before, I have no idea. She led me up the staircase to a loft littered with real books—dictionaries, thesauruses, collections of poems—globes, maps, computers, and a large round table, around which sat five kids I had never seen before.

This was my first introduction to ELP, the extended learning program, a new initiative at our school that sought out the brightest kids and brought them together to thrive. It was in the fucking loft of our library! The librarian was the group’s administrator! J.K. Rowling would have creamed her jeans if she knew. It was incredible; we’d do mind-teasers, engineering projects, algebra, and general smart-kid stuff. We probably solved a crime or two, I don’t know. But none of that interested me. I was interested in Laura.

She didn’t exist in my universe before then. She had a soft personality, delicate, and freckles on her nose. She was constantly brushing her hair behind her ear. Almost twenty years later, I remember how she chewed on the end of her pencil, not out of frustration, but out of a kind of curiosity. She was quiet, and we had shared classes since kindergarten. During ELP, we would share jokes about transcribing miles to kilometers and planetary orbits. She would smile, and softly tap the back of my hand with her pencil. It was a whirlwind romance. It occurred during a single day.

The next day, at lunch, I looked for her, hoping to sit next to her and be smart together. And, from across the lunch room, we locked eyes. They widened slightly. Although I knew who was there, I couldn’t bring myself to look to her left. She said nothing, but her eyes desperately sent me a message, which I received. These unspoken things have a bizarre capacity to unleash oceans of pure pain upon a person.

At ELP, she sat next to me, took my hand, and squeezed. We never looked at each other, but she squeezed my hand the entire forty-five minutes. Third grade was psychologically destructive. I saw her everyday over the next four years, and every day I fell in love with her again, sometimes for weeks, but mostly for minutes. It was the same with Amanda, and Theresa, and Nicole, and Sara, and all the rest. The times I’ve been legitimately in love were similar, but stretched out over months and years. I like to think my real relationships could have worked, had I gotten the unspoken things. I like to think that.

I’m not complaining. I love the girls I’m interested in today, mostly because I can be myself around them. And that cowardly, vainglorious, stupid man will always love them, because he can’t help himself.

When I visited Alaska, two years after I had abruptly moved, I saw her again. At 16, she was industrious; she made sandwiches at Subway. She recognized me, she had to, but clearly she didn’t remember. I ordered my sandwich, and like always, she was delicate: tenderly laying the ham in the bread, spreading the mustard, sprinkling the lettuce. It was just like our first encounter, shifted a few degrees to the left. When I paid, she gave me the scripted “thank you” her employed required. The restaurant was empty, and I could have eaten there, but she didn’t want me to. It was in her eyes. It was one of those unspoken things.

Just like that: in love, and out. A terrifying oscillation.

By Adam

It helps to boil things down. Thundering through my life, a lot of details drop through the cracks, and the time to remember all of this shit is theoretical. For me, it’s got to be in terms I understand.

photo from the Telegraph

Take this Israel-Palestine situation, for example. So someone attacked a ship carrying aid and someone is calling someone a terrorist and yadda yadda. You know how I see it? Lowest common denominator, that’s how. The Middle East is like Magic Johnson, and Israel and Palestine are AIDS. Now, you can’t beat AIDS. That’s just science. But like Magic shows us, you can live with it and make a living being the next Charles Barkley. And then, you’ve got people trying to cure the AIDS—I guess that would be Iran?—okay, listen. I’m not sure what I’m advocating here, but it helps to look at things in black and white.

You know how everyone is pissed off at the president for his response (or lack of one) to the oil spill? This is hilarious. What are we expecting here? “Air Force 12—A highly sophisticated shrimping boat codenamed ‘JENAY’—trawls the Gulf, helmed by Captain Barack Obama and his merry crew of cabinet men and one loveable retard, administering soggy justice to the oil and the nefarious British scalawags that market in it.” He’s the president; he’s supposed to wear a suit and sound smart and be every white guy’s “one black guy I know.” Oh, I have another idea! We can use Obama’s white-hot rage at the recovery effort to set the Gulf aflame, saving drunken southerners and Vietnamese people a job. That’s the kind of change I voted for.

And of course, there’s that Detroit pitcher who snatched a one-hitter from the jaws of a perfect game with the help of an umpire. What am I even supposed to say to this? It’s 2010! Who gives a fuck about baseball? If you’re an adult and still follow baseball fervently, you are either an autistic or a fantasy baseball aficionado, and I don’t know which one is worse. At least you can have a conversation with an autistic person.

I read an article on CNN today about this guy—this executioner—promoting the firing squad as a means of capital punishment in Utah. To this I give a hearty “hell yes.” If you absolutely have to kill someone in front of a crowd of witnesses, go Wild West on them. There’s nothing humane about the lethal injection: it’s fucking boring for everyone. I’d rather watch a documentary about a man that collects championship-related hats than watch a lethal injection. Do you understand this? I’d rather watch an artful tracking shot of rare NFC Championship game loser hats than watch a man fall asleep and then not wake up. It’s a function of entertainment.

Over-thinking things has brought on almost all of the problems now facing the world. Just remember: the end times are now, so let’s just enjoy it. The alternative is painfully boring.

By Adam

This is going to sound weird, but bear with me: one of my favorite words is “rape.” I know, right? That’s the kind of thing that severely limits my circle of friends, but I can’t help myself. People will walk up to me at work, and innocently ask the following: “Hey Adam, how was your night last night?” My first response is always “You know, the usual. Gettin’ raped.”

How do people not understand that this is an accurate statement? The best part of the English language is its transformative nature. Remember when “rape” was a powerful word, like “fuck” or (cover your vaginas, ladies) “cunt?” In high school, those words would have gotten me ostracized from the popular, predominantly-Christian crowd. Fast forward to today: I can affectionately call my employees, the people that work directly for me, “cunts.” I love America. We may not have hover cars, but we have the word “cunt” back. Pretty much the only word we can’t use is the “N-word,” which, if you are retarded and didn’t know, is “nigger.” Oh gosh!

Words have completely lost their value; they’ve lost their innate power. This is actually pretty awesome when it comes to me, because I can say that anyone who reads this column is a sloppy cunt that only survived the Holocaust because of luck. You know who you are. But words aren’t the only thing to have been devalued by today’s society. Unfortunately, this fucking piece of queer shit goes much, much deeper.

Have you bought a DVD recently? Great, huh? I was really excited when I brought home the special edition of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. “What wonders await me in the special features section,” I wondered aloud, as I tore through the motherFUCKING three security stickers and two plastic tabs on the side of the case. Have you seen those plastic tabs on the sides of books? How about sandwiches? Just fucking stop putting them there! I just rip them off anyway. Why is my DVD case asking me “Are you sure you really want to open this?” This isn’t the ark of the fucking covenant. My face will not melt. I will take out the DVD, and put it in my Playstation. I work with people with developmental disabilities, so you know when I call something “retarded” I fucking mean it. This shit is bananas retarded. Maybe my copy of The 40-Year-Old Virgin never tried to bite me while I wiped its’ ass, but this is about the closest analogy one could hope for.

Anyway, I digress. I put that son-of-a-cunt in and guess what? I got raped. Because I didn’t buy the “Repressed Adult” edition or the “Totally Uncensored” edition, the only special feature I got was a French subtitle option. I would rather have zero special features than that. To whom is that useful? My life is not Revenge of the Nerds 3. I wish my choices in entertainment would reflect that.

Videogames are even worse. You spend sixty goddamn dollars on a game, open the (Jesus, again?) three security stickers, and pop open the case. What falls out? A flyer advertising the super-secret epilogue campaign that—get this—you can buy in four weeks for twelve dollars! How convenient! And like an ultra-dipshit, you buy this, and finally get to experience the complete story. But wait? Did you get all of the achievements? Oh god, you didn’t? All of your internet friends—literally, all of them, even the ones on Facebook—are going to see your tiny e-penis and laugh. You thought you were buying an entertainment product. You stupid bastard! You just bought a second job. And get this: to get all of the achievements, you are going to have to play online, with other people. This is an activity that is less productive than hitting yourself in the head with a hammer.

I could go on—cars, music (I have to go to a concert and tolerate some douche bag with an ironic mustache for the real experience?), books, even food (I have to eat again?)—but I think my point is made. There is nothing of value is present in our society anymore. Our free time, the last thing that was actually ours, is now wasted if we don’t spend it in the pursuit of procuring the rest of the shit we should have already had. There’s nickel and dimed; we’ve graduated to twenty- and sixty-dollared; our next step is being month and yeared. My credit card is warm with pre-rape anticipation of this brave new world.

By Adam

Remembering old movies is so much more fun than re-watching them. Plot points become confused over time, characters melt into each other, and circumstances start to exaggerate. That’s why every time The Core is on TV, I turn the set off, pour myself a glass of red wine, and take myself back to a time when the Earth wanted us dead.

The plot of The Core is great: for some reason that I cannot remember (which invariably leads me to believe that the reason didn’t exist), the Earth’s molten core stops spinning, which causes all of the world’s scientists to say “Fuck it, let’s drill down in there.” I hate to say this, but that would be my first instinct, too. When are you going to get another chance for something like this?

The premise—trying to save the planet with science—could be good. But the movie follows the thriller/horror tropes gleefully, with Earth’s molten core diabolically picking off the intrepid scientists one by one. Isn’t that fantastic? Somewhere, a mole man is screaming “SOME THINGS MAN SHOULD NOT KNOW!” and clapping. In the pantheon of horror movie villains, the planet Earth stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the goblins in Troll 2, in the section labeled “Utterly, flagrantly ludicrous.”

Aha! Flash-forward to today: China is continually rocked by earthquakes that decimate entire cities (while the Earth was aiming for one person, just like in The Core, all Chinese people look the same so it ball-parked. Zing!). The godless heathens of the Gulf Coast are either drowning in water from hurricanes or oil from rig spills. Haiti—oh, Jesus Christ, Haiti—gets an earthquake, probably because the Earth was targeting one guy again (Hey-O!), followed by insufficient government and barren lands. Volcanoes are erupting whenever they damn well please, and Pierce Brosnan is nowhere to be found.

These are scientific facts proving that the planet is fighting back. But why? Sure, the reasons behind China and Haiti are locked down like the Atlanta Hawks’ offense, but the rest of the stuff? What is going on?

Much of the world’s recent disasters, if they can be so called, have served to inconvenience humanity in one way or another. Sure, the loss of life involved in these things is regrettable, but we have like a bajillion people on this planet. And it’s not like the dead care. They don’t have to wade into greasy marshlands and collect dead dolphins. They don’t have to put up people displaced by collapsed houses and have them crash on your couch. And they especially don’t have to tolerate and endless stream of media talking heads telling me how bad I should feel.

I am not being cynical. This is realism. We, as a society, pillage and plunder and rape our way across the planet, and like Jodie Foster in every Jodie Foster movie ever made, the planet has had enough abuse and finally bought a gun.

My advice is this: let’s rewrite the script to these movies. Let’s be proactive. Let’s learn the lessons available in The Core: get a big drill, and nuke the motherfucker already.