Always Bea Closing

Last night Gina made chicken korma and we listened to the Trump rally while we ate. The korma was amazing. I regret ruining what was otherwise a delightful meal with his ranting, but I was too curious to turn it off.

I often wonder what you guys will do, you few military folks lefty enough to tolerate my idiotic fairy tale ideas, when he orders you to do the unthinkable. It’s coming. I never ask you to your face because I don’t want you to be compelled to answer. For your safety and everyone else’s, you best keep that shit to yourself until the time comes.

“I can’t make the bunny pop. Will you close it?”

Bea accompanied me to work this morning. She saw the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind and said it was Willie swimming after a ticket.
“It’s not a ticket,” I said, “it’s a dollar.”

“He’s swimming for a dollar in the deep ocean!”

“Yeah, it looks like it,” I said. “I’m pretty sure it’s a swimming pool.”

She found a panda book she liked and asked me if she could take it home. “You read it and leave it here, like the library,” I said.

“Oh.”

There was a time when I would have bought that and anything else she’d touched. My kids don’t beg for shit much, especially Bea. She was a tiny sack o’ taters when the Second Great Empire of Bob Talbot fell, so she doesn’t know grief-stricken, fiscally irresponsible Dad. Father of Seemingly Endless Funds disappeared near the beginning of her era, a fact I often lament, but I don’t know that it could have happened any other way. I had to go there so I could come here.

It’s still a kick in the gut. eBay is a slap in the face. Thirteen years in retail and unsustainable living by the skin of my teeth is a knee to the balls. Nothing adds up, but I can’t complain much. My investments walk the earth, or are carried, and this is life. This is my proud duty. I only wish it weren’t so precarious.

Bea’s mother came to get her at nine. I forgot Bea’s medicine, so I’ll have to run it by the dress shop on my way home. Cora used to say her mother made princess dresses there. It’s nothing that glamorous, more like dealing with prom teens and bridezillas all day, but if anyone were made for that, it’s the ex. She also excelled at AT&T customer service, if you see what I’m getting at. She’s not easily moved.

My guts hurt and I hope I haven’t contracted the flu. I’ve had the shot, but I’ve also had fluids sprayed into my eyes 28 Days Later style so there’s no telling. Maybe it’s stress or the two pounds of Indian food I packed into my body last night. In any case, I’m off lunch, and I can’t always count on my stealth SwiftKey skills to get me a thousand more words.

Excuses, excuses. I’m telling you, though, the life of an unpaid freelance retail gonzo journalist, dadblogger, and space communist ain’t all its cracked up to be. It’s often lonely, and while there are rewards, they don’t pay my mortgage (Willie is pretty cute but giggles aren’t fiat money, yet).

This is the rambling I’ve been accused of recently, but who am I trying to impress, really? Were you on the cusp of handing me a check until I made my ninth nested pop culture reference? I don’t think so.

From my temporary office in the greeting card aisle, I bid you adieu. At least it’s not the toilet, but it can be, for a price.

Quarantined

Posted from the Sway Fun office.

The kids are already asking where the potty is. Bea wants the swing.

“Daddy, hold me get up the baby swing!”

Cora is gone. If the restrooms are locked, I’m sure she’ll pee wherever.

You can get this shit spinning like an astronaut test.

Yesterday morning I woke up early and reached for my phone. It was on silent, but I had a feeling. I had a text and a missed call from the ex. Cora had contracted the physician-confirmed, kid-tested, mother-approved influenza.

We’ve all been vaccinated, a fact which will delight every Granny Clampett backwoods science denier and David Avocado Wolfe fan. I could have sworn I heard Jim Carrey’s maniacal laughter echo down from Crowley’s Ridge.

My hands are freezing.

I was in the middle of an eye doctor appointment this morning when the girls arrived at the office. I was happy to see them, of course, but not while I read the first three letters of the second line. I’d expected them to wait outside, but their mother somehow forced her way into the back. The doctor laughed it off, which was nice of him.

So the girls are both on Tamiflu, just in case, but they seem fine. They’re as beserk as ever, and they aren’t feverish. Last week, Bea had a mild fever, and I’m thinking she may have had the undiagnosed (except for Doctor Bob) flu then.

Their mother bribed them into taking their medicine with a trip to Disney World. They didn’t know she had only spoiled the surprise vacation she’d planned for months, so it was a convenient enough tale. They’re joyfully chugging it down, but I’m afraid they’ll expect a plane ride next time they’re sick.

Bea is already getting whiney. I’ve taken a couple of breaks to push swings. The Sway Fun makes a great office. The sun almost makes me forget I can’t feel my hands, and there’s a cup holder.

Don’t worry, I realize how irresponsible it may seem to have a sick kid at the playground, but she’s fine. Cora might be more wired than normal. Since they’ve been vaccinated, she has a mild case, and the drugs seem to be doing their work. She probably could have gone to preschool, but we’re taking advantage of the doctor’s note.

It’s better safe than sorry. I’m looking at you, mumps patients.

Once Bea collapses, which will be soon, we’ll head home and go straight upstairs. The top floor belongs to the girls today. I’ll play nurse and do the full CDC scrubdown before I return downstairs. Willie is only four-and-a-half months old, and it’s not worth the risk.

“Daddy, I want to go to bed,” Bea says.

Welp. That’s all she wrote.

See you on the flip side.

Fuck Bus

The other day during my less-than-24-hour hiatus/nervous breakdown, I started writing a fictional story based on things I witnessed in high school, then I realized how it was absolutely devoid of any interesting references. A wise man once told me there are really only two compelling stories to be told: Unexceptional person in exceptional circumstances, or vice versa (I tried not to use colons, Cormac, I gave it my all). Everyman can stumble into a spaceship or Wonder Woman can get a job ringing at Target, but that’s why Superman doesn’t work without Clark Kent. That’s why Doctor Who is usually at its best set on Earth with a down-to-earth companion. If everything is fantastical, nothing stands out. Likewise, if everything is run-of-the-mill, prepare for nap time.

It would be a bit Marty Stu of me to declare myself the exceptional guy, and I’m not sure being part of a national-award-winning small town concert band is too huge of an accomplishment, especially since I felt like I phoned that shit in (second chair best chair), so there’s no weird autobiographical twist I can throw at this without fictionalizing the shit out of it. I could fall back on that old standby, “Make everything cool I ever witnessed happen in one weekend, or one day,” which is the crux of every party or road trip movie ever written, but as I’ve said before, I’m not going to lie to you.

That’s why I’m going to tell you about all the sex on the band bus.

I don’t know that it was an inordinate amount of fucking, but I’ve only ever witnessed two other couples screwing in person and, surprise surprise, they were also people who were on that band bus. When Gina and I started watching Mozart in the Jungle (which I highly recommend, by the way) I wondered aloud if the promiscuity depicted was accurate, then I thought back to all the musicians I’ve known and said, “Yes, yes it is.”

I also don’t want to out anyone because I still talk to some of you guys, at least occasionally. I’m going to go ahead and assume that what I witnessed was just the tip of the iceberg, so if I actually saw four acts on a particular trip, that means there were sixteen other undocumented incidents. You can fill me in if you like, your call.

Maybe I’ve oversold this a bit. Two people in a long-term relationship pretending to sleep (you can always tell, they squeeze their eyes shut too tightly) and performing the slowest slow hump ever recorded under a blanket on a Greyhound (look that shit up in your Guinness Book) isn’t enthralling either, but it needs to be placed in context with the environment.

Long road trips were common, and if we were tagging along for anything sports related, we often chuckled about how the cheerleaders and the football players were forced to board separate buses. I say “we,” as if I had some participation in this orgy. Oh no. Bob Talbot was high and dry until the summer after he graduated. I had maybe one make out session in all my high school days and I was dumped immediately for being clingy, which was fine, because unbeknownst to me, she was pregnant. Dat glow, though.

In fact, I had so little game that one time I asked someone out, and they said, “Where?” and I was like, “What?”

She said, “No, you asked me ‘out.’ Like, where? Are we going somewhere?”

“Um, uh, no. I mean let’s go out.”

“Okay, sure, but usually when you ask someone out, there’s a destination involved,” she said, but probably not in words with so many syllables.

“Uh,” I said, falling apart, “I want you to be my girlfriend.”

“Hahahahahahaha!” she said.

On that note, there’s not much of me in this story. I am but Virgil in the Inferno, an observer on this journey through the nine circles of rural Arkansas pre-marital sex. I mean, in those days I masturbated in every shitter I ever laid eyes on, but when you’re 16 and jerkin’ it five or six times a day on average, it’s par for the course.

It was not surprising in those days for my bench buddy to tap me on my shoulder, give me the ol’ wiggly eyebrows, and gesture towards one seat or another where some couple would inevitably be engaging in mutual masturbation under a blanket. Most, but not all of these folks were weirdly religious bible beaters, and while some abstained from fornication (I’ll never forget being dragged to one of their churches and watching one of them raise their hand and weep when the preacher asked for all the proud virgins to testify), most of them found dubious scriptural loopholes or decided to just ask for forgiveness later.

Our band director, who often led prayers before and after football games and contests back when people did such things without fear of reprisal, had to have been ignorant of these goings on. I haven’t spoken to him in years, but I assume the weird conservative memes he posts aren’t indicative of a recently developed outlook. I can’t shit on him too much, because he led us to victory after victory, and while I hated how cruel he could be from time to time, even then I admitted that it may have been a necessary evil. Corralling teenagers for a common purpose is about as easy as herding cats or getting left-wing Americans to agree on political strategy. You have to break a few egos to make a One at contest.

Still, it is perhaps a bit ironic that we were surrounded by Southern Baptists and worse, Pentecostal folk with small, cult-like churches and strange views about “devil music.” Some of the same folks who told me I was going to hell and bullied me into their churches did the band bus blanket mambo in front of me, and maybe it’s punching down to ridicule poor uneducated rural kids who didn’t have proper access to birth control (no struggle but class struggle), but at least I didn’t get anyone teen pregnant with my involuntarily-celibate satanism.

I was a metal teen incel, next on Springer.

Most of these people have gone on to have happy lives, and they love their unplanned kids. I’d never wish to travel back in time and erase them by providing sex segregated buses or gasp better sex education, but I wonder if my ultraconservative ex-band director knows how many potential humans he’s at least somewhat responsible for creating? We’re talking 20+ years of trips at different schools, and I know teenagers haven’t changed much. I can’t comment on the quality of education people currently receive in the Arkansas public school system, but I daren’t suggest it has improved. I’m not suggesting anyone actually got impregnated on a torn vinyl Bird Bus seat while they hurtled down AR 149 to Earle. I’m certain the money shots took place on a Tulot turnroad in a Chevy Citation, but those budding relationships were planted on delightfully long, dark bus rides.

But, dude, if you’re reading this, maybe take some extra precautions. On that note, don’t assume your kids are so devastatingly awkward that, like me, they’ll all self-sabotage the nuclear inferno of their teen libidos. You would be absolutely stunned to know which particular kids were giving and getting head after practice.

It definitely wasn’t me. I was the guy who went home early and wondered if that thing was true about Marilyn Manson having a rib removed. I’ve never been very limber, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The Legend of Sleeping Bougie

Lately I’ve spent most my time online trying to wake up Sleeping Bougie. There’s something enticing about those stirring bodies, so close to being awoken, so on the edge of glory that I’m all too tempted to give them a shove. Thing is, they’re usually so carabinered and clawed into the capitalist cliff face that they can’t be dislodged. The almost-thereness of their political stance is an illusion.

It’s technically true, which is the best kind of truth. North Koreans will always win the Oppression Olympics, and the gold medal is every person of color in America who has to worry about getting murdered by the cops on the way home from school is erased because *statistically* it isn’t that common! You’re right, moderates. *Most* American kids DON’T have to worry about anything like this!

One would be better off tangling with a swing-vote Trump supporter because at least they admit something is wrong (they’re just not sure what it is), and while they’re on the wrong side of the mountain, they’re usually not so tethered down. I could drag a fascist halfway to socialism with wordplay while a milquetoast moderate would have already wrapped cement-dipped chains around their body and permanently affixed themselves to the granite.

In this, our time of terror, there’s nothing more sweet to a NeoLiberal leader than a bunch of “progressives” (read those scare quotes with the most derision you can muster) who are actively leaking diarrhea into their shoes. That’s why they place a statue at the end of Wall Street (why oh why am I forced to repeat this) and most folks reply, “Awww, girls rule!” when the intended message was, “Lean in, motherfuckers, girls can be filthy stinkin’ rich too.” When an inadvertent revolutionary humps its face in a coked-out stupor, the scare-quote progressives all rally to the cause of bootstrappy fiscal equality. No defiled pile of horse shit is exempt from knee-jerk liberal defense as long as it at least seems to align with their pet causes.

Likewise, I keep seeing people ugly cry over this young, beautiful, English-speaking (this is not coincidence – try it with bad dental care, a monobrow, and a translator) North Korean defector and her harrowing tale of escape. It’s okay to be moved by this. Pathos works, and I’d never ask you to stop feeling. Thing is, after you wipe your tears away on the hem of your “I Stand With Standing Rock” t-shirt, maybe you should take a second and consider the source.

One Young World, the host of this viral speech, is owned by this guy. He’s an advertising executive, and since you probably won’t click that link, here’s a tidbit:

From 2007–2010, Jones led the Euro RSCG team advising David Cameron and the UK Conservative Party.

Hahaha, okay.

Here’s a choice quote from the man himself:

“I passionately believe that what our industry actually excels at is using our creativity to change people’s behavior. Given the state of the world, I believe that we in the creative industries not only have an opportunity but an obligation to use that talent and our creativity to change people’s behavior around some of the bigger issues facing the world.”

Donald Draper, eat your heart out. 

If you’re a moderate, that statement probably gave you the warm fuzzies. If you’re an ad exec with delusions of grandeur, those aforementioned fuzzies gave you a cockstand (or increasingly, thanks to well-placed statues, they made your Mylas musty). 

Let me head something off at the pass, here. There are moderate views I can grok, but they’re all born of nihilism. If your reply is something like, “Things never change,” (Weems, 2016), I’d say, “Not with that attitude,” but you’re probably correct. Certain segments of British society have this notion down pat, and it creates different fiction. There’s a reason why The Office had a short, stagnant run there and its export to the good ol’ US of A resulted in a decade of character development. We have to admit it’s getting better all the time. Thing is, happy endings are only half the story, so if your moral is, “we’re fucked,” you’re reading the writing on the wall. 

Likewise, if you express socialist thought but admit the Democrats have bullied and marginalized progressives for so long no viable alternative exists (Reynolds, 2017) other than, in my case, laughing maniacally while they plow the brittle steel of their Olympic-class liner into the iceberg of capitalist capitulation (it’s okay, they’ll make it into the lifeboats), then I’ll consider you a reasonable lass or fellow.

However, if your reaction to current events is to not only unquestioningly attend this dinner theater but graciously accept the shit sandwich they unceremoniously slap on your plate and salivate at the thought of shoving it into your quivering piehole, all I have to say is, “bon appetit.” 

If you want to snack down on some ass elote, be my guest. I only want you to stop defending it. Capitalism is a gargantuan rabid bear. Unhinged, it stalks the countryside, and some of us would like to put it out of its misery before it’s too late. There are others who recognize its potential, and they’ve convinced you to mosey on over and try to harness it to their plow. The people of America willingly throw themselves into its foaming mouth if it means they have even the slightest chance of yoking it. Do the handful who think they’ve succeeded realize what they’ve just tied themselves to?

Difficulties abound, I understand why you might want to fly under the radar. I don’t blame you for not hoisting the flag of revolution. It would be very Jim Jones of me to even suggest it.

Just don’t grin with your teeth full of the corn some hedge fund manager doesn’t remember eating and say, “Thank you sir, may I have another.” I don’t even care if you’re too afraid not to choke it down. I’ll likely have what you’re having. Just don’t gag it down and tell me it was filet mignon.

One Day Sale

I’m not censoring this at all, because that was his name, and if you go to that URL you’re going to get what you deserve, which is most likely not cheap Ray Bans.

This is what I should have posted yesterday while I was too busy feeling sorry for myself.

A guy I know, or used to know, because he is dead, got his Facebook hacked by that Ray Ban spammer you may or may not be familiar with. It’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen, so when I got tagged in an advertisement, I prepared to delete it and move on until I noticed the name attached.

This tiny slap in the face said something to me about life, or death, but I wasn’t immediately sure what it was. It took two hours for me to pin it down emotionally, but I think I categorized it well enough for my heuristic-loving mind to accept.

It’s the digital version of when you see a news story about a big city moving a cemetery, and then you’re hit by the dawning realization that even your final resting place is worthless, because at some point it’s either going to be lost in a forest, moved somewhere else, or have a building slapped on top of it. Compared to all that, I think I’d rather be cremated and buried nowhere. Maybe I could be unceremoniously flushed down the toilet, where I belong, if it isn’t too much trouble. If you’re up to the deed, make sure you do it in one of those high-flush jobs or you’re going end up plunging.

So then I see Ray Ban Spammer figuratively kicking over headstones and I’m reminded of the time I walked into a patch of woods in Kentucky and dug through underbrush and vines to look at grave markers. “This is where you really end up,” I thought, and that’s if you’re lucky.

I’m not worried about advertising for hackers because it’s not going to work. I am a bit worried that the rash of real life cemetery vandalism may be viral blowback based on our outcry. Technology has a way of stoking these things, and when they, you know, the fascists, the Trumpenproletariat, see that it hurts people, they say, “Oh boy, this really fires the lefties up!” and go to town desecrating graves. For once, however, I’m not going to victim blame you for complaining. It is not trivial to say, “This goes against everything we should stand for as a civilization,” and expect people not to stab at your exposed Achilles tendon, especially when it’s something previously so universally agreed upon as taboo.

Maybe it’s a point of privilege, though, that we build monuments in the first place. Most of the things that ever lived have no resting place except the stone below or your gas tank. Most of the people who ever breathed are now nowhere to be found. As long as there’s someone left to argue for you, you might have a chiseled rock standing somewhere, but even that’s not guaranteed. When your society falls into ruin, maybe you’ll be a lucky one of historical significance. Perhaps an archaeologist will find you interesting, if there are still scientists around after this.

It’s a new frontier of desecration now that our lives are frozen online. Even after we stop ticking, the servers click away, and someone on the other side of the planet needs to make a living too, I guess. They may have mouths to feed, or at least their own. We have memories, until there’s nothing left to remember.

$24.99 one day sale!!!

That sale has been going on for a while now.

Fugue

Okay okay.

I went off a little half-cocked yesterday.

I got freaked out about life and I gave up on something I love. In the hours since, I’ve wondered what I’ll do with all this free time, and I’ve come up with nothing.

Here’s the deal.

Maybe I do need to come up with ways to get paid writing, but it doesn’t mean I have to stop engaging in this bullshit navel gazing. I can do both.

It’s also pretty counterproductive to cut my nose off to spite my face by going cold turkey here. Maybe I need to come up with stupid fucking tshirt ideas to make myself feel better. I dunno. Bottom line is though, I’m a flighty craphead and I’m back.

The live video I did tonight was nice. Maybe when I’m feeling closed in and alone, I’ll start logging on. It brings out something I enjoy, and DEM HORMONES. There are so many delicious attention holes I haven’t exploited here.

I also dare say I’m the most honest person when it comes to this. I need you, dear reader/watcher. YOU COMPLETE ME.

Anyway, my coworkers are about to rise up in revolt. I’ll see you Monday for sure.

Love,

Bobby

Hiatus

I know tax season is a boon for a lot of you guys. I’m one of the lucky folks who actually pays income tax, so when the trip to the CPA today ended in me coming home and weeping with my head in my hands, I had an epiphany.

I really have to stop wasting my time doing this. If I am going to write, I’m going to write for something. It’s no longer sufficient that I just get paid in the brain.

I’m going to take a break from this and strive toward something productive. I have stories to tell, and the last year has been my writer’s version of burning your first 1000 oil paintings (because they’re shit, obviously). I’ve done that and learned quite a bit. Now it’s time to shine.

I’ll probably end up writing Internet porn, and that’s fine, but I’d rather sell things I’ve had brewing in me since forever. I know I can do this. This blog was a test of sorts for me. When I saw Billy West speak last year I knew I had to do something creative and here it is. Now it’s time for Phase Two. I owe it to myself and my family to try.

So here lies The Bob Talbot dot com. I may pop in from time to time to update you when something significant occurs, but this will no longer be my almost-daily shitpost buffet. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.

I thank all twelve of you constant readers, and Mom. I love you Mom.

Here’s to the next step.

-Bob

The Rise and Fall of Bobbunism

There is a spectre haunting Arkansas – The spectre of Bobbunism!

You guys are going to have to bear with me. I’ve been reading 19th century political literature of the socialist persuasion every night while I wait for the girls to get out of the tub, and it has only cemented my realization that beardy Europeans have had this shit figured out since forever. You may or may not have had this epiphany twenty years ago in community college, so if I start acting all Philosophy 101 on you here, give me a couple of weeks to get it out of my system.

One time I caught Buddhism for a fortnight. It was like one of those lingering colds that hang around so long you get used it, as if hacking every few minutes is just the way it is now. Eventually you’ll wake up one fine morning, take a deep breath, and realize you’re well. That’s how Buddhism left my body. I still bear some of the scars, like when I mentally chanted Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo through an entire root canal, but I’m mostly clear.

Bobbunism feels more terminal. I’m probably going to carry this one until I kick the bucket. I may not always have the strength to keep it up in the face of adversity, but it will certainly boil under the surface when its not raging in a full-on outbreak. I’m pretty sure I just mixed penis and herpes metaphors, but is it really mixed?

I admit “Bobbunism” doesn’t look quite right as a word. It sounds fine, but the double “b” makes the “bun” stick out too much and I’m afraid it will lead to mispronunciations. “Bobunism” is probably more accurate to the way it sounds, but I’m afraid people won’t catch the long “u” sound. “Bob-unism” doesn’t work either, though, because the hyphen chops it up and people will place too much emphasis on the “-unism.” Here lies Bobbunism, dead in the water right where it was launched because it just ain’t right.

I’ll probably stick with Space Communism. Branding this thing seems weird and against the concept. I was tempted, briefly, to write a kids’ version of the Communist Manifesto, but they’re better off reading Rainbow Fish. I’d also be struck with quite a dilemma on the off chance I were successful in this endeavor. Would I redistribute the wealth?

“Oh, it’s not that much money,” I’d say, “especially not compared to all these filthy billionaires. Hell, if you look at it from a scientific standpoint, I have barely any money at all! Look at this chart. Here’s Putin up here with $60 billion and here I am waaaaay down here with $2 million, so tiny I might as well keep it. I mean, until everyone else lays down their property, I might as well keep mine. I won’t do the world any good living in a box, no siree! Simon & Schuster just contracted me to do a version of Capital!”

I’m going to stick to navel gazing, dreaming about Star Trek, and insulting people who actually do things. I mean, all these protests for women or the workers are doing a lot of good for working women who can’t afford to take a day off. Sure, you stopped your Range Rover at Starbucks on the way to the meeting and tipped the single-mother barista a dollar, but you aren’t quite seizing the means of production, either.

I’m not an emotionless drone. I get why that statue of a little girl facing down a bull on Wall Street moves you. Thing is, it was placed there by an exorbitantly wealthy woman who wanted to make a point to her rich friends. “Women can be Wolves of Wall Street too!”

We have to do better than this, guys.

I can’t talk much, though. I got some new contact lenses yesterday and all I can think about is how weird I look without glasses and how I’ll clean these things after the fall of civilization. I’m pretty sure there won’t be saline solution for sale in Bartertown, but there might be a purveyor of spectacles. I’m also convinced I’m hideous now, probably because I haven’t seen my face without frames on them for fifteen years. No one else seems to mind or even notice so far, but the situation did prompt me to ask Gina how she didn’t flee in terror the first time I unveiled this monstrous visage.

Beauty, meet the Beast.

I’ll be rolling face-full-of-nose from now on. There’s no equipment to break up the monotony here, folks. It’s gonna be all eyes and ears and unwanted body hair from here on out, or at least until the bombs drop.

I should have faith that the post-apocalyptic ophthalmologists will not only be socialist but well equipped. I imagine Dr. Johnny Eyecare will roam the wastes handing out contact solution and dispensing weed for your glaucoma. Some time later, they’ll erect a statue of him in the rubble at the end of Wall Street. He’ll be performing an eye exam on the little girl with one hand and flipping a bird over his shoulder with the other, towards the place where the bull once stood.

The citizens of Wall Town will tell the tale of how Dr. Eyecare melted down the bull to make frames for the people of New Manhattan. His monument will gesture toward that empty spot, inviting anyone who wishes to step into its place to get fucked.

Diver Down

I wrote the framework of this ten years ago, when my father was alive. It’s been stowed in the dusty back corner of a Facebook server since then, and while I hate to feed you decade-old rations, it’s something I don’t want to lose.

I’m sure I could have edited the holy hell out of it (which I have done anyhow) and presented it as fresh material and no one would have been the wiser. I want to be honest with you, though, so I’ll tell you it was a skeleton of a thing I’ve dug up and slapped new meat onto. Perhaps this authorial Dr. Frankenstein act will bear a living thing (or at least a loping, undead monstrosity). In any case, it’s been an engaging exercise. If this still seems too clip-show for you, rest assured that what you will read below bears little resemblance to the thing that bubbled up from my archives.


Once, when I was 14 or 15 years old, Blake, Lauren, and I were in our dad’s car in the parking lot of the Indian Mall, and “Touch Me” by The Doors came on the radio. Dad told us they (the proverbial they) wouldn’t play the song on the local stations when he was a younger dude because it was too “vulgar.” That was one of his favorite words. “Quit being vulgar,” he’d say.

At the time, it seemed weird that you couldn’t say, “Touch me, babe,” on the radio. Even now, we play repetitive songs about making love and smoking weed over the work PA to an uncomfortable extent, and I’m no prude. It seems to clash with the atmosphere (on weekdays, a mostly empty store dotted with octogenarians, on weekends, invasion of the Hill Folk), and I’m actually not sure how we get away with it. Some New Yorker in a comfy chair makes the in-store play decisions. I just take the CD player off shuffle (my god how do you people stand it) and press play.

Back in Dad Land, “Touch Me” ended and he put on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. He had a multidisk CD setup with a big black cartridge you could load disks into. I have Dad to thank for most of my rock music education. I consider Fleetwood Mac elevator music these days, which might be due to repeat trauma caused when my ex insisted we play “Rhiannon” no louder than fifty decibels, but it was rockin’ shit back in the day. I also wouldn’t have realized how often Japanese video game developers ripped off American pop music if I didn’t have entire 1970s albums committed to memory.

In the early 1990s, when the only portable phone was a brick or a clunky bagged number, Dad had an Alltel phone installed in his vehicle. It had a base built into the console and an actual handset with a cord that came out of the cradle. There was also a speaker built into the roof of the vehicle so you could talk hands-free if you wanted to. Along with the CD player, it was a pretty sweet ride, and his company-paid gas card probably encouraged even more car trips than would have been the case without. Sundays were always time to go look at houses whether he was in the market for one or not.

We watched Courtney Love read Kurt Cobain’s suicide note live on Dad’s big screen television. Dad was my current age then, and he’d subscribed to one of those subscription affairs where you got 10 albums a month for a penny (or so they said) so he was familiar with all the hip tunes. He stood there, in front of that 500 pound monstrosity of a machine, and said, “Stupid. That’s so stupid.”

His collection, part of which I own now, was impressive to a long-haired, flannel-shirt-wearing 1990s teen. He had Metallica’s Metallica, Nevermind by Nirvana, and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, that Van Hagar album with the cover I used to think looked like a basketball. Even though I have the bulk of human knowledge at my fingertips now, I still can’t figure out what it is. It looks like pleather.

For a guy I wouldn’t peg as a Van Halen fan (he was more of a Springsteen, Tom Petty type), he sure had a lot of their albums. Even as a kid, I recognized the flag on Diver Down because I’d seen it on our trips to the dive shop. Dad got certified after the divorce, probably in the throes of whatever midlife crisis. He was outdoorsy in his own leisurely way, which usually involved hunting or hiking (more like strolling), but diving was probably the most hardcore athleticism he ever attempted. His diving career culminated in a trip to Cozumel and the production of a souvenir diving video. He’d whip it out from time to time and pop it in the VCR. My favorite part was when he and his buddies harassed a pufferfish until it expanded, which is pretty fucked up in retrospect, but it seemed cool at the time.

Dad was the Arkansas state chairman of Ducks Unlimited for a short time in the 1990s, and he was always involved in some capacity. Sometimes he’d drag us to the various dinners and auctions associated with his station, but as Blake and I entered our teens, Dad felt comfortable enough to leave us alone for a bit.

One evening when Dad was at a banquet, we came up with a game we called Sock War 2000. Our weapons were balled up socks (generally big wool hunting socks) and we threw them at each other while we bolted around the house. If we scored a hit, we acted like we were wounded in the corresponding body part.

We’d been going at it for about an hour and Blake hummed a huge wool sock at me, but he missed and hit one of Dad’s DU prints on the wall, shattering the glass on the picture. We had just started to discuss strategies for hiding the horrible mess when we heard the garage door open. We froze like deer in headlights.

When Dad was presented with our crime against DU memorabilia, he called the balled-up socks “snowballs” and made a good time of everything. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t angry at us, but he giggled a bit more about snowballs and went to bed. I didn’t have a breathalyzer, but we assumed he was at least mildly intoxicated. We harassed him for years after that by using “snowballs” as a non sequitur, which is something else we’d learned from Dad. Any conversation could be improved, it seemed, by throwing in a random reference, and it was all the more effective because he was embarrassed for having obviously driven under the influence.

Sock War 2000 was fought at Dad’s second domicile since the divorce. His first had been a condo downtown that had a cool swimming pool and a giant white paint splotch in the parking lot where someone had dropped a can. My siblings and I always called it pterodactyl shit (or poop around Dad). We had all these weird in-jokes, which usually referred back to an initial silly statement. If one of us thought a local business looked vaguely like the Alamo, we’d yell about the Alamo every time Dad drove past it. If one of us incorrectly identified a large cedar tree in front of a house as Spanish moss, it was “SPANISH MOSS” and giggles every time we turned down that street. Dad would groan, but I know he enjoyed it. We were just like him.

His next and penultimate home was the aforementioned house atop a hill on Aggie Road where we watched MTV and broke all his shit. I’d steal into his room after midnight, while he let loose wall-shaking snores, and rob his porn stash. You kids have it so easy with this Internet business. We used to have to either wait until everyone fell asleep and cruise Skinemax, resort to perusing a well-worn underwear catalog, or commit petty larceny in order to masturbate.

He also owned a big-ass glass table which, along with his big-ass television, was the hallmark of a bachelor who had enough money to have other people move his shit. I never purchase anything I couldn’t potentially transport alone. He loved to cook, but it was our job to set the table, a task we’d usually completed by his third or fourth yell. One time, I mistook a big-ass bottle of wine for apple juice and sat it on that big-ass table, which prompted him to chuckle and say, “Hell, son, are you having wine for breakfast?”

The original stump of my 2007 post ends here abruptly with, “Here’s to you, Dad.” That was supposed to be a toast joke based on the wine story. If we’re talking about alcohol and abrupt ends, it still fits well enough.

In that spirit, there’s no conclusion here except this one.

Love,
Bobby

For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow

This morning I contemplated writing “Shit My Coworkers Say.” I don’t tend to have a good internal barometer for the consequences of my actions in this regard, so I usually imagine whether or not my post would freak Mom out, and then I make a decision. It also isn’t lost on me that Obamacare is soon to be replaced by Trumpcare. The Affordable Care Act will be swiftly transmogrified into the American Health Care Act, and the lives of my family could hang in the balance if I find myself unemployed.

Sure, the Gubmint will keep a couple of the features people yelled loudest about at those embarrassing (for the Congresspeople) town hall meetings, like the requirement that companies provide coverage for preexisting conditions (at a steep price if your insurance has lapsed). If it sounded like a provision’s removal would kill someone’s entire family and there was a chance survivors might then be compelled to set shit on fire, the authors of the bill kept that part of the old act, or at least some semblance of it. 

If our lawmakers (and their business buddies) logged the human algebra into their TI-83 of Tyranny and a provision’s removal only incurred at least the standard American pre-Obama level of wrath and despair, up to and including the number of deaths it would take to initiate complete chaos and anarchy divided by the amount of money their reelection campaigns stand to make, they dropped it like the TPP. What was a half-measure to begin with will become no measure at all, and I’d rather not be thrust into uncertainty against my will, like Spicer after Big Daddy has a Tweetfit.

Plus, the more I thought about it, the more banal that Shit seemed. There are businesses in town (the local newspaper, for example) where dropping the N-bomb is pretty acceptable behavior, so I’m not going to act like I’m the squished social justice sandwich at the bottom of a basket of deplorables. Here, it’s usually more of the mundane, everyday racism like, “A large black man just walked out of the music department with a DVD!” (he was on the inventory crew and was planning to purchase it), or, “There was a black gentleman with a backpack in here forever. I just had a feeling, you know? He could have had anything in there!”

One of my favorite recent quotes from an unprompted rant about water protectors was, “It’s not their land. They should take their teepees and go home.” Most of the time, though, it’s just regular old racial profiling with some ableism thrown in. “I’m so retarded! That’s just retarded! This is retarded!” Nothing to see here, folks. 

Last weekend I received my ten year pin after just over eleven years of employment. I wasn’t bothered by the lateness, but it did irk me a bit that some of my similarly-awarded coworkers were lauded as heroes of the people while my speech read like a flagged Wikipedia stub. “Out of 79 original hires, 71 no longer work here, but Bob does. He was quickly promoted and promoted again, and he’s still here. Give him a hand, the guy who still works here after ten, I mean eleven years, Bob Talbot.”

Censored because I don’t want to deal with the potential bullshit.

Believe me, I am not so goddamned aloof that I don’t understand why my presentation got phoned in. For a couple of years, I waged open war against the very corporation that feeds my family. I’ve capitulated, mostly (I will neither confirm nor deny guerilla tactics) because I’ve realized how little my supervisors actually control, and I regognize how unlikely they are to change, especially after they’ve spent decades clawing their way into enviable, cushy positions as cogs in the dreaded machine. Granted, I’m still not sure why it takes 35 hours a week to schedule 20 people with high tech software when I used to schedule 50 with some green screen, no mouse, 1980s MS-DOS nightmare of a program in less than eight hours a week, but I digress.

I’ve surrendered with very little to show for my effort, which was a barely-Pyrrhic victory that’s already been erased by changes in the state minimum wage. Perhaps I’ll add a small line on my CV (right below “Started Fred Armisen’s Wikipedia page” and “First Post on the Johnny Cash is Dead thread on Fark dot com”) that says, “Singlehandedly (advocated for my coworkers and) negotiated a .25-.50 raise for workers in three stores until the government forced the company to raise wages again.” Goddamn, that doesn’t flow at all.

I’ll likely receive some stern warnings from a friend or two (and Mom) after this, and they’ll be completely warranted. I’m aware of how precarious my situation is, but people have written worse under more duress. I’m no hero, I’m just the guy who doesn’t know how to quietly give less fucks. 

Economy willing, I plan to be here until the store lease is up in 2020. That is, unless I’m struck down in my prime by chronic foot-in-mouth disease. I’ll receive my 15th anniversary pin, and perhaps the book gods will grant us a reprieve and renewal.

Either way, when that fuzzy black box gets unceremoniously tossed at me, I hope it’s accompanied by a short statement that highlights my accomplishments, something like, “Bob, since you’ve taken over the store scheduling with no promotion or increase in pay, you’ve excelled at somehow keying in our seven remaining employees while simultaneously running the cash register, information desk, music/DVD department, and preparing coffee. You are an indispensable part of our business and the true hero of workers everywhere. Thank you for your service, Bob Talbot. Here’s some clearance stickers. Time to liquidate this bitch.”