I’ve had a good year to let this whole fatherhood thing sink in.  Actually, this is my second Father’s Day proper; the first one doesn’t count, as it was spent in that dazed, semi-comatose fugue state that you can only truly understand if you’ve ever ministered to a two week-old baby. 

Having spent many a year on the periphery (if strictly in an observational/cleaning-up-after role) of a culture that values outward appearances above all else, knows only one kind of gratification (that of the instant variety), and sees the path of no resistance as a foregone conclusion, it has become obvious to me why so many “men” run away from fatherhood in the maternity ward, if not at conception.   It is because virtually everything to do with raising an infant runs directly counter to the value system I mention above.  In less academic terms: It’s fuckin’ HARD, dawg! 

Tending to an infant child is a merciless grind if you’re just phoning it in; I don’t know how good parents manage.  I really don’t.  Nevertheless, this past year has been nothing, if not educational.  For example…      

No matter how laid back and patient you think you are, fatherhood is the ultimate harsh light of reality; you are almost guaranteed to be extremely disappointed at how easily you can collapse into a silent (if you know what’s best for you) rage, and question your very existence.

The same goes for intelligence.  Think you’re smart?  Become a daddy and think again, buster.  I don’t know if we’re just not wired to handle parenthood nearly as well as the women, or if it’s just the physical exhaustion taking its toll on our cerebral function, but you can bet that you will turn stupid.  You will be mentally outmatched and overpowered on so many occasions, that The Trentonian will start to read like James Joyce.    

I have smelled so many things throughout my two score and one year on this planet.  The fetid, raw-sewage breeze off the Delaware that usually kicks in at around the sixth inning of the Thunder game.  A bag of sweaty hockey gear, left in the trunk overnight.  Bourbon Street at noon, in the middle of July.  Garbage truck juice.  The Mack Administration.  Nothing – and I mean nothing – compares to what will assault your nose when it’s time to empty an overstuffed diaper pail.      

Prior to becoming a daddy, I had a feeling that my hungry, cranky baby would not really care how many beers I had last night, when he decided it was time for “service.”   Trust me when I tell you this was one thing I guessed correctly.  It turns out my wife cares even less.  Can’t say I can blame her.

Sleeping until 10:00 am is overrated.  Oh, how much of my life I’ve wasted, spending precious daylight hours under the covers.  I don’t care if I sleep that late ever again. 

Sleeping until 8:00 am is underrated.  Seriously, kid.  6:15 am is fine on work days, but you must stop waking me up while the overnight BBC broadcast is still on WHYY.  How can you not know it’s the weekend, dude?     

Having my first child days before turning forty was not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, as I can safely say my best days of physical fitness are in the rearview mirror.  However, I hear there are many men crazier than I, so maybe I won’t be the oldest guy at the Class of 2028 Commencement.  Anyway, be forewarned: it turns out that a baby will consume every last bit of energy you possess, and then some.  If you’re putting off this whole starting a family thing for whatever reason, I would suggest taking better care of yourself than I have. 

In short, this gig is by turns humbling, sloppy, thankless, infuriating, sticky, entertaining, messy, exhausting, smelly and gooey.  But most of all, it is insanely – ridiculously, on an intergalactic scale – rewarding.  Whoever invented babies knew what he/she was doing, as Junior has this uncanny ability to make you forget that just ten minutes ago, his latest and loudest screaming fit had you wondering how it would feel to take a Henckels to your radial artery. 

So, Father’s Day.  I’m a little bit indifferent about the whole thing, truth be told; probably because I feel barely worthy of salute.  While I most definitely am a full participant in The Parenthood Experience around here, my forte is the big picture-type stuff that pretty much any monkey can do.  Feeding the boy, changing diapers, bathing, and dressing him? I can, and sometimes do, accomplish these things in my sleep.  Cleaning up around the house?  No problem!  Prepping for a day trip up to the grandparents?  Even after three trips from the driveway back to the house to retrieve forgotten items, I still remember everything only about 80% of the time.  I’m a real genius.

My wife, on the other hand?  When I think of what I do for this kid, and what she does, that old email forward about “The American Barbecue” comes immediately to mind.  You remember; the lazy mongo who handles one important task – putting a slab of animal flesh on the grill – while the woman slaves away behind the scenes at myriad smaller, yet equally important jobs, only to watch her jack-off partner revel in accolades from the assembled guests?   

That’s pretty much how the childcare scene runs around here, except I like sleeping in my own bed too much to accept more than a tiny sliver of the credit.  Those tasks I mentioned earlier, which I generally get done with a mild to moderate degree of competence?  That’s me, the big oaf, grilling the meat.  But what about making sure we don’t run out of any of our 27 different types of baby sanitation supplies?  Planning the diet, knowing what new foods to start and when?  Making, and remembering to go to, doctor’s appointments?  Making sure our precious snowflake has clean clothes?  That actually fit?  Nine months of breastfeeding?  Just straight up knowing what to do when nothing else works (far better than I could even dream possible)?  Dozens of additional things that I can’t recall at present, and others I probably don’t even know about?  All of this, plus covering for my sorry ass by running the whole damned show while I’m away on business, which can run anywhere from two days a month to four days a week (and where people are paid to cook my meals and clean up after me, let’s not forget)?  And hardly ever complaining about it? 

I could go on, but you get my point.  So, on this Father’s Day, don’t celebrate yourself, doofus.  Rejoice in the fact that against long odds, you have a far better wife (significant other/whatever) and child(ren) than you probably deserve, and acknowledge that your existence has far more meaning with them, than it ever had without them. 

Now, run along and grill some meat.

“What’s happening in the clean world?”  -Sheriff Bart, Blazing Saddles

I’m sure you are wondering by now when we’re planning to move back to Trenton.  From all I can gather, it looks like things are really turning around for our friends down there; it must be the grant writers.  Just as I knew would happen within two months of our evacuation, Trenton is on the verge of becoming the next Red Bank or Hoboken.  Despite losing many nights’ sleep over “quitting” on Trenton, right before “Mayor” Tiny Hack’s “greener, cleaner, more vibrant, hope, dream, whatever breakthrough” took root, we soldier on, out here in our suburban compound. 

Due to a variety of factors that I will refrain from boring you with, our home search was restricted to the inner-ring suburbs of Trenton.  Out of the question was a McMansion in a new subdivision with some hideously pompous name like “The ______  at  ______.”1   Hell, I would not have minded a log cabin, situated 100 yards from a dirt road in Warren County, but we had to be practical about this. 

So, here we are.  I can’t say I miss Trenton in any way, shape or form.  We still read the “newspapers,” we still have our friends there, and we still do the same things we enjoyed doing in Trenton, with pretty much the same frequency.  We just don’t endure the day in, day out agony of actually attempting to live there.  So, what’s to miss? It’s what buzz-phraseologists (Did I just make up a word?  Ha, I’m just like LA Parker!) refer to as a “win-win.”

Without further ado, I present to you a small pile of vignettes that have collected on my clipboard over the past several months, in which I outline what an awful, dreadful mistake we made by moving out of Capital City… Enjoy, haters!         

When selling the whole urban lifestyle, people like to gush about “convenience;” you can bet your car that this will come either right before or after “diversity,” in any listing of Trenton’s (alleged) cardinal virtues2, or those of any other fourth-tier city.  Convenience.  Is that so? 

Back in Trenton, despite living in a tightly packed neighborhood, I had to get into my car to do virtually anything.  The bank, a handful of degenerate cocaine bars, several filthy convenience stores, and a Dunkin Donuts were within a ten-minute walk.  Out here in the sticks, I can only walk to licensed retailers of mind-numbing intoxicants, convenience stores, passable-if-forgettable pizza, a drug store, a home improvement retailer, sit-down and take-out restaurants of various ethnicities, sandwich shops, the supermarket, a dry cleaner.  As you can see, I feel really cut off from all that diversity and convenience, out in the middle of Bumfuck Nowhere.

Looking out my kitchen window recently, I watched a dog take a shit on the sordid field of weeds I call a lawn…and the owner cleaned up after it.  I had never – never – seen this happen in my old neighborhood.3 

About a month after we moved in, I was pushing Baby Clean around the neighborhood in his stroller.  A middle-aged woman rolled up to me in her SUV, dropped her window and proclaimed “Oh, my GOD!  What a beautiful, white (emphasis mine) baby you have!!!”  Great, we moved from Camden-in-Waiting, to 1950s Greensboro!  So nice of our Realtor to point this out to us.     

Slightly unnerved, “Uhhh, thanks?” was all I could muster.  Not to worry, she kept up the conversation all by herself for the next ten minutes, reminding me no fewer than thrice that I moved my family into a “nice, conservative” neighborhood.  Not sure whether that means they all voted McCain-Palin in 2008, or merely that they don’t lead sordid and disgusting lives.  Or both.  Whatever.  All I know is that I can walk around the neighborhood without becoming sick to my stomach, or wanting to murder anybody; if that’s considered “conservative,” then sign me up.      

A couple weeks ago, I was walking home from fetching the papers, and a middle-aged gentleman pulled his Cadillac sedan up to the stop light, with The Traveling Wilburys blasting – cranking – out of the stereo system.  This is obviously in stark contrast to the automotive serenades we’d been treated to in Trenton.  That has to be the funniest thing I’ve seen since moving here. 

I have not heard an ice cream truck song since October 2010.  Blissful.    

Back in Capital City, there still remain districts with clusters of attractive, well-kept homes.  Needless to say, we inhabited a different neighborhood. 

Here in Shangri-La, I’m generally ashamed by our home’s current curb appeal.  In a matter of days last year, we went from having the nicest house on the block, to…uhh…not having the nicest house on the block?  And I’m just fine with that, but I digress.  It does not help that we live within a stone’s throw of two local landscaping tycoons, who happen to count almost all of our neighbors among their clients.  What I don’t get is that it’s never struck me as a place where people are too precious to fire up a lawnmower.4      

I also don’t understand why everyone around us hates those pretty yellow flowers and puffy things that grow in the grass.  Me?  I think they really tie the whole property together.  At any rate, I hear the neighbors generally let you cop a walk for the first year.  After that, the tongues start a-clucking.                  


As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, it’s plain as day that we erred grievously in fleeing Trenton for the ‘burbs.  As my mother loved to say, however, “we all have a cross to bear in life.”  We will just take it one day at a time, and try to do something with all these lemons.    


1For my money, the most obnoxiously named subdivision of all time is Bordentown’s “The Grande at Crystal Lake.” Whoever came up with that should be drawn and quartered.  It goes without saying that I could not get along with anyone capable of saying “We live in ‘The Grande at Crystal Lake’” without a trace of irony or embarrassment.    

2Some oft-repeated platitudes that never fail to give me a chuckle also include “Trenton’s greatest asset is its people,” and “Our diversity is our strength!”  If you are in an audience where a speaker says these things, you are about to be lied to on a grand scale, played as marks who will buy wholesale, whatever bullshit the speaker is selling.  There, I said it.  Holy shit, it feels good to get that off my chest. 

3Please spare me the “I live in Trenton and I’m a responsible dog owner blah blah blah” shit (no pun intended); for if you are, then you know you represent a microscopic minority.

4They don’t shovel snow either, or even rake their own leaves.  We feel like genuine white trash here.

Oh, hysterical!  I mean, what’s funnier than the alleged sexual assault of two girls?  While I have an extremely high (or low, depending on your perspective) threshold for being offended by the vulgar and profane, I’m just not getting what is so damned amusing about this.

While “dick” is indeed sanctioned by both Merriam and Webster as slang for “detective,” it’s safe to say its use is not exactly widespread.  I wonder why?  Could it be the same reason why virtually every Richard born after 1940 or so goes by “Rich,” “Rick,” “Richie,” etc.; anything but “Dick?”    

Yes, it’s because when 99.44% of us hear the word “dick,” we think of one thing and one thing only…and it’s not a square-jawed comic strip character with a yellow fedora and two-way wrist TV.  Still, I can accept the usage of this term in a tabloid headline, but absolutely not for a story about the sexual assault of two girls.        

I’m also tickled by the clever play on “2 Girls 1 Cup,” the viral video sensation featuring (what appeared to be) two females consuming human feces from a parfait glass.  I will never, ever again order chocolate soft serve, but that’s beside the point.  Anyway, that was very clever, Mister Headline Writer.  Most people consider scat porn and sexual assault on a minor by a law enforcement officer to be pretty much the same thing, so bully for you – you were definitely on to something.  You are a comedic and journalistic talent of the highest order, and the fact that your name is not on a Pulitzer is a crime against humanity.

*For what it’s worth, the headline has already been “fixed” in the online version.  Maybe I’m not the only one who failed to get a kick out of this.

“I was totally lost in thought, rushing back to work because I had this great idea about improving our school system. I’ll tell you about it soon.”  -Paul “Mr. Brownstone” Sigmund, April 2011.

If his “great idea” was “to be a cautionary tale to Trenton school children, by showing them first-hand the potential consequences of illicit drug consumption,” well then, color me underwhelmed.   Sadly, too many Trenton youth have similar exhibits within their own families; they did not need a redundant effort from a high-ranking City official.   

Even the most hardened, cynical Trenton-watcher had to be left dumbfounded at yesterday’s arrest of Paul “H” Sigmund, who was busted for allegedly holding a pocketful of sticky black tar, and injuring at least one Trenton police officer while resisting the takedown.  Who knew a Princeton pantywaist, who has probably never done eight hours of physical labor in his entire life, could get so violent?  He could have broken a fingernail, roughhousing like that!  I know what I’m like when I have to wait too long for dinner, so I can’t even imagine what a fiending junkie is capable of doing. 

For those of you keeping score at home, this represents yet another swing-and-a-miss for the HR gurus at City Hall!  Trenton “Mayor” Tiny Hack is starting to look like Ryan Howard in the 2010 NLCS, only Howard wasn’t allowed eleven or so strikes with each plate appearance.

Call me a cynic, but I’m getting this sneaking suspicion that the personnel situation at the East State Resource Room is almost starting to get a little bit out of hand.  If this keeps up, Trenton might become some sort of laughingstock or something. 

This story has already been covered like a chain-link fence with a memorial bed sheet, but like you, I have more questions than answers.

For starters: You can’t even get a job at a supermarket nowadays, without passing a pre-employment drug screen.  Armed with the deductive reasoning skills of a toddler, I can only conclude that our old pal Paulie Needles blew into town clean as a whistle, perhaps addicted to nothing stronger than chamomile tea, and within a matter of weeks found himself a regular customer at the open-air narcotics supermarket that flourishes just a crackhead shuffle away from City Hall.  Is this the case, or are cabinet-level appointees just “more equal” than the guy who gives you a visitor’s pass in the City Hall lobby, for example? 

I admit to lacking personal experience in this arena, because I’ve somehow been intelligent enough to muddle through forty-plus years of life without introducing my body to one of the most highly toxic and addictive substances known to man.  However, I have seen Trainspotting about a dozen times, and I don’t remember Renton and his boys being good for much of anything, save for doing whatever was necessary to get that next fix once the skin started crawling.  It’s not a drug commonly associated with vitality, energy, and productivity, is what I’m trying to say.  So, it’s quite telling that this guy had apparently reached a level of usage where he needed to score seven decks of herr-on at 9:00 am, just to get through his day.  His day as the second highest ranking public official in the beleaguered City of Trenton, I see fit to repeat. 

Also: Putting aside for a moment the whole “like, OMG, I totally TRIED to get a New Jersey license, but like, they require you to have, like ten forms of identification!!!” nonsense meant to placate a suspicious public (or at the very least, stonewall a profoundly inept journalist), I really need to know: Exactly what was this clown’s destination, when he was stopped for doing 85 in a 55 zone, on a SUNDAY, in a City-issued (i.e., taxpayer-funded) motor vehicle?  This story smelled like shit last month; now, it’s covered in maggots.  Sounds to me like the pathetic, grown-up equivalent of some affluent young snot from the suburbs taking Daddy’s car into the wicked city, in search of more party favors.     

Nobody asked me, but here goes: Every last hominid drawing a paycheck funded through the hard work of the masses must line up and pee in a cup.  NOW.  I’m sure nobody told you this, but your employment – by which I mean your access to MY money –is a privilege.  If you’re dirty, it’s time to hit the bricks.  Maybe someday you can get it together enough to become a pious, sanctimonious, self-loathing, award-winning columnist for The Trentonian.   Whatever you do, it’s not my problem.   

Drastic?  You bet. 

Necessary?  Abso-fucking-LUTELY, and the ACLU can choke on my Bald, Fat and Angry hog.

The bar for City Hall failure has now been reset to such an impossible height that Tiny Hack himself couldn’t reach it without stowing away on the space shuttle.  Still, we’re smart enough to know that it’s a matter of when, not if, this level of intergalactic stupidity will be eclipsed. 

So, run along and make some more popcorn, kids.

This unattributed (and heartwarming!) photo appeared on the front page of a recent Times (barely) of Trenton.  I cut out the caption, but I think it read:

“Local glorified vandal/barista ‘gives back to the community,’ teaching an impressionable 7-year old boy how to ruin someone else’s property.” 

Call me an uptight, 40-something cracker who just doesn’t understand art, but all this looks like to me is an inexplicably celebrated local artisti-vandal, teaching a malleable young mind how to deface something that does not belong to him, and in so doing, helping to cultivate yet another generation of urban blight.  Think I’m wrong?   I did not catch the part of the article where Professor Rainbow taught his charges only to practice this craft with the express consent of the owner of the “canvas.”  That’s because graffiti, at its very core, is among the crudest manifestations of lawlessness, and mainstream acceptance of its practice represents just one more trip around the drain that this society circles with ever-increasing frequency. 

Personally, I could give two watery, fetid, White Castle shits how the owner of TerraCycle likes his property decorated; that’s his business, and his alone.  He wants his building to look like a NYC subway car, circa 1977?  Fine.  But for the love of God, why are we encouraging a new generation of artisti-vandals, and why does the local press EAT THIS SHIT UP??? 

Hey, kid? You want to be an artist?  Here’s a sketchbook and pencils.  Here’s a set of watercolors.  Here’s some clay.  Here’s a fucking GUITAR.  Whatever.  Just put down that can, unless you want to find yourself shitting Krylon for the next two weeks. 

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for Trenton trying to use the arts as a calling card, even if it is the final chapter in the “Turn Around Your Dying City!!!” playbook (it comes right after “Minor League Baseball,” “Full Service Hotel,” “All-Purpose Arena,” and “Mentally Retarded Mayor Hiring a Bunch of Mouth-Breathing Hacks to Run City”).  Anyway, I think a bartender working in City Hall came up with this idea, without any help or anything!  And I could not agree more; anything that can attract to Trenton masses of edgy, original, urbane people – all conforming to such left-of-center, non-conformist concepts as Urban Outfitters gear, anorexia, Wayfarer sunglasses, ironic t-shirts, silly hats, American Spirit cigarettes, and Moleskine notebooks – has to be a good thing, even if it means that the few decent bars in town will someday be overrun by self-important, PBR-drinking, hipster douchebags. 

I’m aware that graffiti can be art (yeah yeah yeah petroglyphs blah blah blah Jon Naar), and numerous examples abound.  However, Trenton is already covered in graffiti, and I am being very charitable in saying that Sturgeon’s Law is in full effect.  However, where all other media are concerned, we have a choice when confronted with that 90% of everything that falls into the “crap” bucket.  We can turn off the radio, change the channel, throw the book in the garbage, avoid that movie, etc.  Graffiti, however, like most forms of urban dysfunction, is a much more intrusive assault on our senses, and does not give us a similar choice, as TrentonKat so eloquently put it, a couple years ago: “The lousy urban neighbor likes to put on a show for everyone to see. There might be some people who think this show is ghettofabulous; there are others — like me — who do not concur. I did not buy tickets for the show, and yet, I must watch.” Graffiti, ‘tis thee! 

Way too much of Trenton these days resembles some hideous, John Singleton film-inspired, circus sideshow; you are not asked whether or not you want to be in the audience, and you can only tune out the whole mess by fleeing it, or avoiding it altogether.  This celebration of vandalism is nothing short of surrender – throwing one’s hands up and saying “Oh well, we’ve tried everything, so let’s just call it “art,” and make room for these poor, misunderstood scamps!  If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?!”

I shudder to think what Trenton will make room for next.

Facebook Irony

Posted: April 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

Holy shit!  I have nothing to add to this, except to say that I shall be changing my middle name on facebook to “Anorexicteetotaler.”

“How’s that rental property treatin’ ya?”  I hear quite often.  Too often, truth be told. 

As everybody knows, owning rental property in our fair City is an experience that it is all upside, without any risk whatsoever.  Because we landlords are evil personified, we achieve a state of sadistic, quasi-sexual arousal by oppressing the downtrodden, put-upon working and non-working classes, while accumulating fat stacks of hundred dollar bills, which we occasionally use to light our illegal Cuban cigars. 

OK, I can stop laughing now.  Had to get that out of my system. 

I am sure this means nothing to you, but the net cash flow on my Unintentional Rental Property has hovered just above zero to date, and upcoming property tax hikes are all but certain to put me in the red, since I can’t merely jack up the rent to cover this, and my property is already renting at the outer limits of what the market will bear, anyway.  For some reason, rental properties located in the midst of every type of urban dysfunction imaginable do not fetch top dollar the way they used to. 

True, I’m lucky to be collecting a regular check on the place at all.  Yes, I’m fortunate to have the income to be able to pull the freight on the place for a few months, should my current tenants flake out on me, leaving me no option but to go all Joe Mooney on them.  Yes, I would be willing to wager that there are many Unintentional Landlords who are in a far more precarious position than I; folks who are one blown furnace away from being fucked in a big way, causing them to lose everything…perhaps even forcing them to rent a property from a satanic Trenton landlord, someday.       

But still, it goes without saying that Trenton City government, bless its mildly retarded heart, continues to distill the entire relationship between lessor and lessee down into this convenient, Animal Farm-y motto:

Landlord = Joseph Stalin.  Tenant = Mother Teresa.

This, of course, is an important weapon in the arsenal of our local Poverty Pimps – some elected, others commonly and erroneously referred to as “community activists” – who butter their bread by inculcating in their charges a mindset of eternal victimhood, and the over-entitled attitude of gimmegimmegimme that invariably results.      

Oh, the Poverty Pimps, and their relentless, tone-deaf arias to the very back rows of the balcony.  For at least the past two decades, it has been politically (and by extension, financially) profitable for the Trenton City power structure to play to the cheap seats, fostering a mentality that landlords are kitten-eating demons, while tenants are a collective paragon of innocence and sweetness.  The result to date is that the balcony has crept into the orchestra section, while the patrons flee the theater, taking their endowments with them.

Keep it up, Trenton, and someday the entire house will be the balcony.  Being as charitable as possible, I posit that we are almost there.  The last strains of the entr’acte fade into the night, and the second act is about to begin.  The conductor raises his baton, and with a flourish, introduces us to a proposed ordinance which, among the myriad random acts of sodomy committed on us by the East State Resource Room, would now make us responsible for certifying that our properties are free of bedbugs.

Th’ FUCK???  Oh, swell.  On top of all the other shit a landlord must eat on account of a slovenly tenant, you’re now responsible for dealing with their bedbug problem, whether or not – but especially “whether” – your tenants bring this problem upon themselves.  Twice annual inspections???  Are you fucking kidding me???  Hot damn!!!  Isn’t it great to be a member of the landed gentry?!! 

From what I can gather, living in filth is a good way to invite bedbugs into your house.  Also, I realize that I can just as easily import them into my nice and clean home, from any one of the 50+ hotel rooms I sleep in every year.  So, while I realize that many – too many – Trentonians are patently filthy people, and I realize that bedbug infestation can claim innocent victims, WHERE DOES THIS MADNESS END???  This proposed ordinance is nothing but landlord-to-tenant ass wiping, as far as I’m concerned.

Since history has shown government to have not a clue as to when it has overstepped its bounds, I have to wonder:  Since domestic sanitation is on the front line of the war against all pests, bedbugs included, is it only a matter of time until we are forced to provide our tenants with bi-weekly maid service, and hire someone to pull their trash cans out to the curb twice a week?  I’m only barely joking. 

So rejoice, Oppressed Trenton Tenant!!!  The Poverty Pimps will protect – or at the very least, feign interest in protecting – you from your malicious, avaricious landlords who, under cover of darkness, infect their own rental properties with bedbugs, just to further abuse the unwashed peasantry.

City Hall has sent us yet another message: “Fuck you, rich-ass landlord! Give it up!!!”   

Ahhhhh….  “hope. dream. do. TRENTON MAKES A BREAKTHROUGH”

If this is yet another part of the BREAKTHROUGH we’re promised, God help us all.