A Simplicity Trapped in a Complex Mind


“That’s David Hauser,” my friend Paul responded when I asked him about the guy in the corner of the liquor store, speaking to himself. “He’s crazy. An absolute loon. Went crazy about a year ago. People say he got so smart that he just snapped one day.” Paul snapped his fingers. “Like that!” he said.

I frequented The Family Liquor Store for just this reason: I loved anomalies. I knew little to nothing of anomalies in the sheltered life I lived prior to walking into The Family Liquor Store. I knew that some people succeeded and others failed, but those in my dad’s inner circle that failed in life were a rung or two lower. I knew nothing of the depths of failure and despair that I would encounter in my friend’s parents’ liquor store, where he happened to work.

Even while immersed in this world of despair, I encountered pride, coping mechanisms, and lies. John informed me that he once played against Wayne Gretzky in a minor league hockey match, Jay informed me of the time he screamed “Go to Hell JFK!” to the man’s face, and Ronny told me you of the various strength contests he won. The fact that I flirted with believing any aspects of the tales told those in The Family Liquor Store that I was almost as laughable as the fools that told them.

“Why would they lie about things like that?” I asked to top off the joke.

“Wouldn’t you?” they asked when they reached a break in their laughter. “If you lived the life they did?”

The unspoken punchline of this ongoing joke was that I might have been more lacking in street smarts than any person they had ever met. The answer to the question that was never asked regarding my standing in their world was that a thorough understanding of their world could be said to be on par with any intellectual study of the great men of the book smarts world, in that they both involve a basic understanding of human nature.

“You see these guys here,” Paul’s father whispered to me on another day at the liquor store, gesturing out to its patrons. “I could introduce you to these men, one by one, and you’d hear varying stories of success and failure, but the one thing you’ll hear in almost every case is the story about how a woman put them down. They all fell for the wrong woman.”

Knowing full well how this line would stick with me, I turned back to Paul’s father while still in the moment.

“What’s the wrong woman?” I asked. “What did those women do to these guys?”

“It varies,” he said. “You can’t know. All you can know is that you don’t know, because you’ll be all starry eyed in the moment. Bring them home to meet your dad, your grandma, and all your friends, and listen to what they say.”

In the life that followed that advice, I met a number of picky guys. Some of them wouldn’t even look at a woman that was below an eight, on the relative scale of physical appearance. Others looked for an excess in class, intelligence, strength and weakness, and still others were in a perpetual, perhaps unconscious, search for their ma. For me, it’s always been about sanity. I would date some beautiful women. I would date strong women that could school me in intelligence, and most of the women I dated brought that sassy element that I so enjoy, but it’s always came back to the fruitloopery index for me? I had an inordinate attraction to the mama-that-could-bring-the-drama for much of my life, but when those ultimatums of increased involvement arrived, Paul’s father’s whisper would work its way into my calculations. I did not want to end up in an incarnation of my personal visage of hell, otherwise known as The Family Liquor Store, where it appeared a wide variety of bitter, lost souls entered by the droves, and none escaped.

For everything I learned in The Family Liquor Store, I still had one question that I dare not ask. Why would a normal family, with normal kids, want to open a liquor store on the corners of failure and despair? I would not ask this question, even as a young man with an insufferable amount of curiosity, because I knew that the answers I received would reveal some uncomfortable truths about the person that answered. One answer I did receive, over time, and in a roundabout way, was that surrounding one’s self with failure and despair, makes one feel better about their standing in the world by comparison.

“How does one get so smart that they go crazy?” I asked Paul, still staring at this man that sat in the corner, and spoke to himself, named David Hauser.

“I don’t know,” Paul said. “They say he had a fantastic job, prestige, and boatloads of money, and he just got fired one day. No one knows why. Then his wife divorced him when he couldn’t find other work, and he ended up here talking to himself for hours on end, drinking on his brew.”

That made a little more sense to me. It was a woman. Paul’s father was right. I was satisfied with that answer, but Paul –and those that informed Paul– wouldn’t let the “too smart” angle go in regards to David Hauser’s condition. He/they declared that it was, “The nut of it all.”

Most of the patrons of The Family Liquor Store spoke to themselves. It was, in fact, those that didn’t that stood out. David Hauser, however, had full-fledged conversations. David Hauser was a good listener in these conversations, a characteristic that made him an anomaly in a world of anomalies. There were times when David Hauser looked to this speaker that no one else could see, but this glance was one often reserved for the introductory section of the speaker’s conversation. When this purported speaker’s dialogue would progress, David Hauser would begin looking at a diagonal slant, and then an outward glance, followed by that inward glance that suggests that he’s contemplating what the other is saying. There were also times when he and this friend said nothing.

Prior to David Hauser, I assumed that people that spoke to themselves would so to fill a void. David Hauser filled that void, but he and his invisible friend created other voids, what some might call seven-second lulls, and there were times when the lulls in those conversations would end with active listening prompts on David’s part. This display suggested that the purported speaker that had ended the lull and David’s listening prompts encouraged the speaker to continue. This added element to David Hauser’s conversation deepened my fascination, until I had to know what this man was saying.

“I have to know what he’s saying,” I told Paul.

I went on to inform Paul that my curiosity was based on comedic intrigue, but that was a ruse to cover for the fact that my obsession with David Hauser had grown into a full blown desire to understand something about humanity that I didn’t think I could learn from my otherwise sheltered life of books. I needed to know if a person, as incapacitated, as David Hauser appeared to be, continues to speak to himself to sort through internal difficulties, and they recognized it for what it was on some level, or if they believe they are talking to someone else.

“For God’s sakes,” Paul said. “Why?”

 I’m not sure what I said at that point, but I know it was an attempt to diffuse the situation, so Paul wouldn’t have material on me later when it came time to mock me for my odd curiosity. I think I said, ‘I don’t know, I just do.”  

The truth was I didn’t know what would’ve satisfied my curiosity. I didn’t know if I was searching for listening prompts, or if I was what words he could’ve used that would’ve done it for me. Is there a word that can inform another that a person genuinely belies another person is there? Is there a word, or series of words, that will inform an observer that a person has manifested another person to satisfy a psychological need? The latter was so far beyond my comprehension that I didn’t want to spend too much time thinking about it, but I figured that his mannerisms, his tone, and the context of his active listening prompts would form a conclusion.

“Be careful,” Paul said.

Those two words slipped out, as if Paul was repeating the warnings he received when he considered further investigation. He then focused his attention on me and said, “Be careful” again.

I was willing to accept these words of caution on the face of what they implied, at first, but my curiosity got the best of me.

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know, what if he says something so intellectual that it gets trapped in your brain and you go insane trying to figure it out?”

“Could that happen?”

“How does a guy go insane by being too smart?”

It is possible that Paul was messing with me, and that I was so obsessed with this that I couldn’t see it, but it’s also possible that he believed it. We were both avid fans of the horror genre after all, and we were both irrational teenagers that still believed in various superstitions, black magic, curses, elements of dark art, and the supernatural. Our minds were just starting to understand the complex, adult understandings of the real world, while still young enough to consider the child-like belief in the possibilities of how reality could occur under an altogether different premise.

Long story short, his attempts to warn me, followed by his questions, did set me back, and I did try to avoid the subject of David Hauser for a spell. I was not what one would call an intellectual young man. I had an insatiable curiosity, and I was an observant sort, but tackling highbrow intellectual theory, or highbrow literature, was beyond me. I was ill equipped for that. Ill-equipped, naïve, and vulnerable to the idea that a thought, like a corruptible woman bent on destroying, could leave a person incapacitated to a point that they frequent a low-rent liquor store for the rest of their days and speak to non-existent people.

I thought of the idea of an intellectual peak during that brief moment. I knew I hadn’t even come close to my intellectual peak at that point in my life, but I wondered if there was a peak, and if a person could know it when they’ve arrived at it. Is there a maximum capacity that one should be wary of crossing, and if they do, do they risk an injury similar to those athletes risking physical injury to accomplish something that lies beyond the actual limits of their ability? I thought of a pole-vaulter here, sticking a pole in the ground, attempting a jump he should have reconsidered and the resultant injuries that could follow.

When I recovered from those irrational fears, I went over to David Hauser. The level he spoke at, before I arrived at the windowsill he sat on, lowered as I progressed. I was still somewhat distant, pretending to look out at something beyond the window, standing near him. I neared even closer, and his volume dropped even more. Was that a coincidence, or was he trying to prevent me from hearing him?

Whatever the case was, I couldn’t hear him, and I was more than a little relieved. I felt encouraged by the fact that I had neared him, even though I was afraid. I was wary of getting too close however, for I feared the idea of having his overwhelming theories implanted in my brain. I thought that such an implantation might be equivalent to an alien putting a finger on a human head and introducing thoughts to that brain that are so far beyond its capacity that the victim starts shaking  and drooling, like what happened to that kid in The Shining. I considered it plausible that I could wake in a strait jacket with that theory rattling around in my head, searching for an answer, until I ended up screaming for the nurse to come in and provide me some relief in the form of unhealthy doses of chlorpromazine to release the pressure in my head.

I would later learn that David Hauser had achieved a doctorate in some subject, from some northeastern Ivy League school, and that fact placed him so far above those trapped in this incarnation of hell, AKA The Family Liquor Store, that I figured everyone involved needed a way to deal with his story, and everyone did love the story.

When the man would enter the Family Liquor store, from that day forward, the story of how a once prominent man, of such unimaginable abilities, fell to such a level of despair and failure, was on the tip of the tongue of everyone that knew it. “Like that!” everyone would say, with a snap of their fingers to punctuate the description. Bubbling beneath that surface fascination, were unspoken fears, confusion, and concern that if it could happen to this guy, who’s to say it can’t happen to anyone one of us? In place of traveling through a complex maze of theories, and research findings, to find the truth, was an answer. No one knew who came up with this answer first, and no one questioned if that person knew what they were talking about. We just needed an answer. A coping mechanism.

The fact was no one knew the undisputed truth of what happened to David Hauser. We knew some truths, because he told us some truths, but he wouldn’t give us an answer, because he probably didn’t have one. My guess was that even if you could sit David Hauser down in a clinical setting, or create some sort of climate that would assure him that his answers weren’t going to be used to satisfy a perverse curiosity, you still wouldn’t get answers out of him, because he didn’t have any.

The man that had spent the first half of his life answering the most difficult questions anyone could throw at him, had reached a block regarding the one answer that could prove beneficial to his continued existence. His solution, therefore, was to talk it out with a certain, special no one for answers.

This led me to believe that the reason his volume dropped as I neared, might have been the result of the pain and embarrassment. If his mind was as complex as they suggested, and it was stuck on one question being repeated in his head to the point of him needing to manifest another presence to help him work through it, how embarrassing would it be for him to have an eavesdropping teenager might find that answer for him?

I had that answer, we all did, but I’m quite sure that our answer didn’t come anywhere close to solving the actualities of how a man could fall so far. I’m quite sure that it was nothing more than a comfortable alternative developed by us, for us, to try to resolve the complexities of such a complex question that could’ve driven us insane if we tried to figure it out, and it trapped itself in our brain.

That’s me In the Corner


I never considered the possibility that I might be witnessing a physical manifestation of me –that speculative writers might call a doppelganger– dancing on the dance floor. I did not expect this kid to take to a corner, open up an NFL preview guide and eat an entire bag of soda crackers, while listening to the band Kiss. I don’t know what I would’ve done, if that happened, as I had already reached a frequency of thought I might never have reached on my own –thanks to that near impenetrable, crusted shell of good and bad memories that prevents, and protects, the human mind from seeing who we were when we weren’t paying attention– just watching the kid. By watching the kid, to the point of an unusual, momentary obsession, some part of me thought I might be able to answer some unanswered questions I had from my youth.

I wasn’t watching the kid at first. He was the bride’s son, from a previous marriage, and as distant from my attention as every other participant in the wedding ceremony. He did little to nothing to stand out, in other words, until he took to the dance floor.

“Look at the kid,” I heard some wedding patrons whispering to others. “Look at Kevin!” I heard others say. I was already watching him. I thought everyone was. How could one avoid it, I wondered, this kid was putting on a show.

There was a ‘something you don’t see every day’ element to this kid’s step that challenged the audience to look away. He didn’t look out into the audience, he didn’t smile, and he did not attempt to communicate with us in a manner I suspect a well-trained dancer might. There was, however, an element of showmanship in his step that should not have occurred in a normal nine-to-ten-year-old’s “conform as opposed to perform” step.

The kid’s shoulders dropped low in his dance step. I don’t know what this suggested exactly, but he did appear more comfortable on the floor than any of the other kids his age. His handclaps were also a little harder than the other kids were. I don’t know if it was the volume of Kevin’s claps, but the other kids appeared to be struggling to follow the beat, or his beat. His gyrations were so out of step with the rest of the participants that those of us not in the wedding party had trouble stifling our giggles. This kid was dancing.

“Who’s the kid?” I asked my uncle.

“That’s Kevin,” he said. “The bride’s son.”  His smile mirrored mine, and those of all of the whisperers watching.

After I asked that question, I realized I was one of those whispering and pointing at Kevin. My initial assumption was that everyone watched this kid in the same manner I was, with one bemused eyebrow raised, but the sheer volume of whisperers called to mind the first time I heard Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue. Some consider that album a masterpiece. Some called it Davis’ Sgt. Peppers. I liked it, but I wasn’t sure it was a masterpiece. The structure seemed so simple. I discovered its simplistic brilliance after repeated spins, but the point is I may not have listened to it a second time if group thought hadn’t conditioned me to believe that there was something I was missing out on.

It was this fear of missing out, FOMO in common parlance, that prompted to continue to watch this kid. I knew as little about dance as I did jazz, so I figured it was possible that I was missing something.

“Why are we watching this kid?” I asked my uncle.

“Because it’s cute.”

My Uncle gave me a look that informed me that we shouldn’t try to make more out of it than what it was. He then went back to watching the kid, and he even regained an appreciative smile after a spell.

There was no simplistic brilliance going on in this moment, in other words, it was just cute to watch a young boy carry on in a manner that suggested he knew what he was doing. The kid didn’t know how to dance, most nine-to-ten-year-old boys don’t, but the effort he put into it was cute.

Anyone that focused attention on the kid’s step –as opposed to the surprising amount of bravado he displayed by attempting to dance– knew that the kid didn’t know what he was doing. He had no rhythm, no choreography, and no regard for what others might think of the fact that he had no knowledge of the crucial elements of dance. The latter, I think, was the point, and it was the reason we were watching him.

My guess was that at some point, someone somewhere had informed him that free form dancing has no choreography to it. You just get out there, lower your shoulders a bunch of times, throw your arms about, pick your feet up, and jiggle every occasionally. It’s free form dancing. A trained chimp could do it.

When the kid made a beeline to his chair the moment this obligatory dance concluded –a dance I assumed his mother had forced him to participate in– I imagined that some people might have been shocked at the manner he exited. I laughed. I thought it added to the spectacle. I laughed loud, believing that those that laughed while he danced would share my laughter. They didn’t. I received confused looks from those around me. His beeline exit did not elicit shock, or any other response. They’d moved on. I tried to, but I was fixated on this kid.

Some may have characterized this kid’s exit as a statement regarding what he thought of the art of dance, but I didn’t think that captured it. I thought that a desire to watch how this party would unfold fueled this kid’s exit.

The kid’s exit suggested that he was one that preferred to watch. It was aggravating to those of us that watched his initial dance steps and thought he had something to offer to this otherwise routine wedding reception. He didn’t appear to be the least bit embarrassed by his performance, so why would he prefer to watch?   

Psychologists state that we have mirror neurons in our brain that seek enjoyment from another’s perspective, and that that enjoyment can be so comprehensive that we may reach a point where we convince ourselves that we’re the ones performing these actions. Others describe it as a frequency of thought, or a through line to a greater understanding of being: being funnier, more entertaining, and better in all the ways an insecure, young man thinks that his elders are better. Honing in on this frequency is something that TV watching, video game playing nine-to-ten-year-olds know well. It goes beyond the joy of watching others make fools of themselves, for entertainment purposes, to a belief that when watching better performers attempt to be entertaining, we’ve achieved that level ourselves without having to deal with all the messy details involved in the trials and errors to get to that point.

I knew, even while I was doing it, how odd others might find it that I was obsessing over the actions of a nine-to-ten-year-old boy, in such an innocuous moment of the boy’s life, and I attempted to look away several times. Every time a member of the party made some kind of misstep, however, this kid would draw my attention by laughing harder than anyone else would. My guess was that the relief that he wasn’t one of those in the position to commit such errors fueled that raucous laughter. This kid would laugh so hard at every joke that it was obvious he wanted to be louder than any others laughing.

“He’s attempting to cross over,” I thought.

“What’s that?” my uncle said.

“What?” I said. “Nothing.” 

My uncle’s ‘What’s that?’ is often characterized by a preceding pause. The pause suggests that either they know that you’re talking to yourself, and they’re looking to call you out on it, or they believed the comment was situational, until they chewed on it for a bit and realized they couldn’t place it.

Whatever the case was, I hadn’t intended for anyone to hear that thought. I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed, but I also wondered if I intended to think that aloud, so that I might have it on the record if it went down the way I thought it would.

What I would not tell my uncle, for fear of being deemed one that is far too interested in self-serving minutiae, was that this ‘cross over’ is the Houdini milk can of the observer’s world. It is an attempt to establish one’s self as a participant in the minds of all partygoers without participating.

The initial stages of a crossover are not a difficult to achieve. Anyone can shout out comments, or laugh in an obnoxious and raucous manner that gains attention. The crossover does require some discretion, however, for it can be overdone. When one overemphasizes an attempt, they could run the risk of receiving a “We know you were there. You wouldn’t shut up about it” comment. The perfect crossover calls for some comments and/or attention getting laughter interspersed in the emcee’s presentation to lay the groundwork for the stories the subject would later tell others regarding his participation.

“He knows what I’m talking about,” the groom, acting as the emcee of the event, said at one point. He was alluding to Kevin, and Kevin’s over-the-top laughter.

It would be almost impossible for me to know if this kid achieved a total crossover, for I had no familiarity with the family, and I would have no opportunity to hear the kid’s after-party stories. The kid did accomplish an excellent first step, however, thanks to a groom that, I assume, had spent the last couple years trying to have the kid accept him as an eventual stepfather.

The answer to why I was so obsessed with a 9-to-10-year-old crystallized soon after the groom’s comment. Kevin’s mother called upon Kevin for increased participation. The kid waved her off. He waved her off in the manner I waved off so many of my own calls for increased participation. It dawned on me that my preference for observation went so deep that it was less about fearing increased participation and more about a preference for watching others perform that was so entrenched that any attempts to have me do otherwise could become an obnoxious distraction.

That’s me in the corner I thought. That’s me in the spotlight, losing my sense of belonging.

“You were just integral to the party,” I wanted to shout out to that kid with such vigor that I would’ve revealed myself. “Why would you prefer to sit on the sidelines of your mother’s wedding?”

Could it be that this preference for observing has something to do with the idea that we’ve all been participants and observers in the audience at various points in our lives, and we’ve all witnessed this idea that those roles can somewhat interchangeable in people’s memories? Unless the participants are so over-the-top funny, entertaining, or in all other ways memorable, observers have can manipulate the memories of participants, if they know how to enhance their role as an astute observer.

When one is an athlete, for example, the members of the audience may cheer their athletic exploits in ways that display the pride they might feel through vicarious connections. When an athlete commits an error, or underperforms in any way, they may feel sorry for the athlete, but they won’t associate with them in any meaningful way. They may not disassociate themselves from the athlete, depending on the error, but the error allows them to believe that put in the same position as the athlete was at the time of the error, they would not have committed it. ‘All you had to do was catch the ball,’ is something they may say, ‘and it was hit right to you.’

Some may view the desire to view an activity, as opposed to partaking in it, as a bit of a cop out. It may have been a cop-out for this kid, just as it may have been for me, but I do have fond memories of various events that I refused to participate in, in the same manner this kid might have of his mother’s wedding. I laughed with my fellow party goers, as we all recalled those past events that took place with fondness, and I did offer funny anecdotes to those conversations, but my role was often limited to that of an observer. Actual participation in these events was the furthest thing from my mind.

If this kid shared as many traits with me, at nine-ten-years-old, my guess was that he was already documenting stories that he would retell for years. Some of these stories might involve slight exaggerations regarding his role in them, but my guess is that few listeners would have the temerity, or the memory, to dispute him. Some of his versions of the story may offer interesting insights, and if those little vignettes involve creative, entertaining nuggets, they might become a part of the narrative in a manner that listeners to join him in making the leaps of re-characterizing his actual involvement.

If this kid manages to accomplish this, and he gets so good at it that others start corroborating his version of other events, he may make the leap to an almost-unconscious discovery of a loophole in his interactions that provide him a future out on all requirements of participation.

If he already does this, on a conscious level, and his evolution is so complete that he’s already choosing vicarious participation over actual participation on a conscious level, then that is where the similarities end. I thought he was too young for all that however, but I did consider the idea that he might be slipping into an all too comfortable position where he is neglecting the importance of participation on purpose.

The problem that I foresaw for him, a problem I now see as a result of watching him act out a page in the first chapter of my autobiography, was that he was learning what to do and what not to do through observation alone. I considered this portal equivalent to the type of learning one can experience while watching too much TV and playing too many video games, with all the same vicarious thrills of victory and dissociative feelings of failure. I also thought that he would come to a point where he had problems learning the lessons, and making the vital connections, we only make by doing. If I had been in a position to advise this nine-to-ten-year-old of the lessons I’ve learned, but did not heed at his age, I would’ve shouted:

Fear of a Beaver Perineal Gland


“Do you know what’s in that?” a friend of mine asked me, as I approached our table with a strawberry shake in hand.

Those of us that have heard this line, in reference to what we are about to consume, know where this conversation is headed. When we hear that our hygienic standards are subpar, that our homes are just teeming with pathogens and microbes, that the automobile we’ve chosen has some substandard emission that is harmful to the environment know that we can’t just run away when one of our friends take the proverbial pulpit. We put up with it, all of it, because the alternative means conceding to the idea that there’s too much knowledge out there.

The premise of the idea that there could be too much knowledge makes us wince. How can there be too much knowledge? It makes no sense. If we thought this contention was limited to the idea that too many people know too much about too many people, and that too many people focus too much of their energy on trivial matters, we might be able to get behind that. Even when an informed consumer decides that it’s acceptable for him to share his knowledge on the ingredients of the food we’re about to eat, we might still wince at what we hope amounts to nothing more than casual, and humorous observations. We might consider the idea of placing some kind of Orwellian governor on the information available on the net, but we won’t concede to the idea that there’s too much knowledge available to concerned consumers. Knowing that such an institutional governor on information outlays violates our personal constitution, we might want to ask informed consumers to place a cap on the type of information they provide others, insofar as it they deem it irrelevant to an audience that “simply has to hear about it”. We think the onus should be on the speaker to notice when their audience becomes visibly agitated that so few people recognize the violation of intruding upon the enjoyment of a meal with trivial information that is often vulnerable to contradictory studies.

This friend of mine was on the edge of his seat, as if he couldn’t wait to hear what he was about to say, or that he couldn’t wait to share his knowledge with me.

“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “What would you say if I asked you if you couldn’t tell the difference between the strawberry flavoring in your shake and beaver taint?”

I did everything but close my eyes here. This type does not stop. It’s almost as if they have so much trivial knowledge stored in their cerebral tank that if they don’t hit the release valve every once in a while, they may implode. One cannot just say that you don’t want to receive this information dump, for we know that if we play ball with them it will all be over soon.

“I’d say I can tell the difference,” I said without yawning.

“You’d think that,” my friend, the informed consumer said, “but people confuse the two every day. Those that enjoy eating strawberry, raspberry, and vanilla iced cream are, in essence, a big fan of beaver taint. And if they’re willing to pay a little bit more for a product that contains the words “natural flavorings” tagline on its product face, they should know that they’re either eating beaver taint, or a wide array of animal byproducts, that may shock them. The natural assumption is that the opposite of natural flavorings involves manmade, chemical enhancement, but does the average consumer know the true extent of the term ‘natural flavorings’ in the products they purchase? Chances are if they prefer natural flavoring in their strawberry shake, they’ve been devouring a yellowish secretion from the dried perineal glands of the beaver, in a gratuitous manner, for years now.”

The Castoreum Connection

Castoreum is the exudate from the castor sacs of the mature North American Beaver and consumers have stated that they prefer this natural flavoring augment to other natural flavorings … in blind, taste tests of course. There are no details on the net regarding whether this market-tested preference is from the scent of the secretion. If the flavor has been determined to be more delicious than the flavor of the product listed on the product’s face, or if the fact that scent is such a driving force in determinations of preferences for flavor that it is a combination of the two. Whatever the case is, the beaver doesn’t produce this exudate from its castor sacs to tweak our senses. Rather, it is product they produce to mark their territory. As stated in some of the research articles listed here, the beaver doesn’t have to give up his life to provide us this enjoyment. Rather, enterprising young hands milk it from the castor sacs located in its anal glands. Those curious enough to pursue too much knowledge on this subject should know that entering the search term “Milking the beaver” in a search engine, to find in search of instructional videos on the subject, may not pull up videos displaying the action described here.

It’s important to note here that research scientists in this field, called flavorists, have developed synthetic substitutes for castoreum, and almost all of the natural additives listed throughout this article. Yet, all of these substitutes fall under the umbrella of artificial flavorings, and artificial flavorings fall under the umbrella of manmade, but these two terms are now unacceptable to informed consumers. When informed consumers read the words synthetic substitute, chemical additive, or any other artificial flavorings, they may make the leap to animal testing, or to the unintended consequences of man messing with nature, because there are some anecdotal bits of information that stick in our head regarding chemical synthetics causing cancer and other health-related concerns. As a result, our preference is for those products that have “natural flavorings” listed on their product face.

Natural and Artificial Flavoring

So, what is the difference between artificial and natural flavorings? Gary Reineccus, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota, says that finding the difference between natural and artificial flavorings requires one to look to the original source of these chemicals used.

“Natural flavorings just means that before the source went through many chemical processes, that it came from an organic, natural source as opposed to an artificial one that has no natural origin.” 

Informed consumers heed the warnings: “Know what you’re consuming,” and “You are what you eat.”  “Do you know what’s in hotdogs?” and “Do you know what they do to the animals you eat?”

“I used to be a vegan,” a friend of mine said. “I grew up on a farm. I saw what they did to the chickens, and the ducks, to prepare them for our meal. I determined that I would not be eating them. I felt bad for them. I had no idea I was eating a chicken when I was a little girl. I never associated chicken with chicken. Why did they give my food and the animal the same name? Made no sense to me. When they explained it all to me, and I saw how they prepared my friends (the ducks and chickens) for our consumption. I didn’t eat chickens, or any meat, for years.”

On that note, how much does the average consumer enjoy M&M’s and jelly beans? Would their enjoyment of these products lessen if the tender, chewable morsels were less shiny? The flavorists at these companies either experienced initial failure with the dull glow of their candy, or they decided not to risk it, and they added an additive called shellac. That’s right, the same stuff we put on our wood furniture to give it that extra shimmer, is the same additive they add to our favorite tasty, little morsels to make them shine. What’s the problem with that, if it has passed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rigorous standards?

“Nothing,” writes Daisy Luther, for the Organic Prepper, as long as they know that shellac “is a resinous secretion from bugs during their mating cycles, the female lac beetle in particular. Glazed donuts and glossy candy shells owe their shininess to these secretions.

Does the average consumer know that Starbucks once had a difficult time keeping their strawberry Frappuccino drinks a vibrant red? Who would want to drink a drink that didn’t cast a vibrant color upon us? Starbucks found that most of the red flavorings they tested weren’t able to keep their vibrant color through processing, so they turned to a Natural Red #4 dye, otherwise known as carmine. Carmine proved to be more successful in holding the color, but some discovered the product to be a cochineal extract, a color additive derived from the cochina beetle’s shell. The process involved drying up the cochina beetles, grounding them up, and processing them to give the drink a more sustainable red flavoring. Informed consumers forced Starbucks to end the practice when informed groups caterwauled them into transitioning to lycopene, a pigment found in tomatoes.

As usual, all this caterwauling is much ado about nothing, as research performed over the last sixty years by independent researchers, and the FDA’s research arm, has shown that while most of these additives may be high on our “yuck list”, there are no discernible health concerns, or anything life threatening, about any of the additives from the approved lists. There’s just the “Do you know what you’re consuming?” factor that has informed consumers saying “yuck” regarding the manufacturing process of some of the products they consume.

Fish Bladders and Bitter Beer Face

Fish bladders to fight bitter beer?

Most of the articles cited here took an anti-corporate stance with their findings. Some of these stances were subtle. Others were overt in their call for greater corporate social responsibility. Their stances suggested that due to the fact that these companies are not listing beaver taint juice in their ingredients that they are engaging in deceptive business practices, and that the FDA should put a stop to it.

To this charge I would submit that most of these ingredients have been market-tested, FDA approved, and the consumer will receive no harm from these products. I would also submit that in most areas of the food and beverage industry, profits are a lot slimmer than infotainment purveyors would have consumers believe. Those that prefer a clear beer, for instance, may believe that the use of the dried swim bladders of Beluga sturgeon (AKA Isinglass) to filter sediments out to be inhumane on some level, but the alternative is a yeast-filled beer that would lead to no one buying their beer. It’s such a competitive industry that the need to keep costs down, and pass those savings onto the consumer, are often the difference between being able to deliver said products, and folding up shop. If an informed consumer that  “DEMANDS!” more corporate responsibility along industry lines, they should be ready to pay for the alternatives they pass onto the consumer. Informed consumers are also fickle beings that force corporations into changing from natural flavorings to synthetic and back, and they almost undermine their effort with constant barrages from their ‘outrage of the day’ vault. Those of us that pay attention to such matters, long for the “push back” moment from corporations and consumers. We long for the day when an uninformed consumer would step up, en masse, and say something along the lines of this:

“I don’t enjoy hearing that dried fish bladder spends time in my beer, and I might prefer that they find some other way of cleaning my beer, but I’ve been drinking this beer, and its fish bladder remnants, for decades. I eat fish all the time. I see nothing wrong with it, and I think that this idea of bullying corporations to do things another way has reached a tipping point.”

To Get Us in the Mood

Ambergris: The Love Molecule?

The beaver’s castoreum has also been used to cure headaches, fever and hysteria, as it contains large amounts of salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, and these anal secretions are said to contain around twenty-four different molecules, many of which act as natural pheromones … to get us in the mood.

Castoreum gives off a musky scent used in perfumes, much like a solid, waxy, flammable substance of a dull grey or blackish color produced in the whale’s gastrointestinal tract of sperm whales called ambergris. As with the beaver’s castoreum, the whale does not have to die for ambergris extraction. Ambergris is a bile duct secretion the whale produces to ease the passage of hard, sharp objects that the whale may have ingested. As such, enterprising souls often locate the ambergris used in perfumes floating on the surface of the ocean in whale vomit.

Well-known lover, and raconteur, Giacomo Casanova, often sprinkled a dash of ambergris in his evening hot chocolate, with the hope that by the time his lover approached its musky aroma would be permeating from his skin. If Casanova was feeling a particular bout of insecurity, with a promising damsel, he would add an extra coat of it on his collar.

The theory that Casanova, and research scientists in the field of perfumes and colognes, bought to the study was that our sense of smell once served the dual purpose of warning us of danger as well as attracting a prospective mate. Market research used these findings and expounded on them. They found that animal “materials” such as civet, castoreum and musk (from a cat, beaver and deer, all located in the same region) give a fragrance sensuality, because they found their chemical structure to be similar to our own sexual odors. Musk has almost identical properties to our testosterone, in other words, an enzyme that powers our sex drive.

Most people have at least heard of the martial game, of the Middle Ages, called jousting. At the end of a joust, some victors of the match received their reward, the damsel’s handkerchief. If you’ve witnessed a proper portrayal of this scene, in the movies or elsewhere, you’ve witnessed the spoils of victory: the knight began huffing on that handkerchief with celebratory joy. Most believe that the greater import of the scene is a symbolic one depicting the sweet smell of success, on par with drinking wine from a gullet, or showering a locker room in champagne. The stories of this moment depicted it as a symbolic one of a damsel giving her hand. The details of this “huffing on the handkerchief” moment suggest that the damsel carried that handkerchief in her armpit throughout the jousting match. According to an article posted by Helen Gabriel, after the handkerchief spent a sufficient amount of time in the damsel’s underarm area, the handkerchief received a coating of her smegma, and the jouster’s reward for victory was greater knowledge he attained of the damsel’s true essence.

Having said all that, man needn’t look to the animal kingdom, or its artificial equivalents developed in research labs, if we didn’t feel the need to bathe so often. It may seem contradictory, but the ritual required staple of day-to-day bathing deprives us the very human scents that are, in many ways, attractants. Decide not to bathe very often and your visual cues will suffer, of course. Some might consider it a juggling act fraught with peril, but if we manage our bathing ritual in such a manner that our visual cues are still scoring high in the world of attraction, we might be able to maximize our smegma production if we lessen our bathing. Doing so, according to the research scientists quoted here, could land us atop the dating world without having to say so much as a kind word to anyone. As stated in a previous post, we are now required to bathe and wash away this smegma substance –located on and around our reproductive organs, and in our urine– on a day-to-day basis. The same, prospective dating community then requires us to replace those scents we wash away on a day-to-day basis, with the scents found in castoreum, civet, musk, and on the tip of a boar’s sexual organs, or their preputial glands.

Who was the first to discover this?

The first question that arises from any discussion that involves the “yuck factor” properties that the beaver, and the whale, have provided mankind is, who discovered this, and how did they arrive at the notion that it could be used in the manner it is now used?

Did it have anything to do with the fact that someone noticed that an inordinate amount of women had an inordinate attraction to whalers? Did this first observer set about trying to find out why? Did whalers, after a number of successful conquests of women, begin to realize that there was something to their success rate? Did they find that there was something more than the rugged individualism that women seemed to associate with whaling? Did one whaler begin to put some whale vomit behind his ears before he went to the tavern, and the others followed suit after watching him succeed, until someone officially unlocked the alluring properties of ambergris? On that note, who was the first person to mix beaver taint juice and ice cream together and decide that it was such a winning proposition that it could be used in a pitch to corporations, and what was he forced to say in that pitch to make it persuasive? While we’re on this topic, how was the psychedelic and psychoactive properties of the toad discovered?

For those that don’t know, the toad produces a venom that can have a psychoactive effect on the human brain. What was the trial and error process that led to this discovery? Did one person eat this toad and find themselves feeling a little loopy in the aftermath? How did they discover that this particular toad’s venom had these properties? Did they discover it by accident, or did they walk around licking the forest, the trees, the antelope, and the shrubbery trying to find a natural high that would lead to fame and fortune? We can make an educated guess that an individual that persisted in this manner, probably doesn’t care about money as much as they do achieving a state of mind where they no longer cared about money, or anything else.

We know that the idea that natural properties in plants and animals can provide homeopathic remedies, and that those theories date back to the Native Americans, to Aristotle, and beyond. We know that there had be a great deal of trial and error in that research, in environments that were not sterile, that produced less consistent results that would have a difficult time standing up to the kind of peer review such a finding would experience today. With that in mind, the natural questions that arise from this trial and error approach. How many people became ill due to the error, how many experienced short-term and long term paralytic effects? How many died before they found that it was the 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT), chemical that is a derivative of bufotenine located in a toad? This chemical, after all, is not available in all toads. It appears to be the exclusive property of the Bufo alvarins toad (pictured here), so there had to be a person, or a number of people, that began licking a wide variety of toads before they discovered the perfect toad, secreting the perfect venom, for those that wanted to experience the euphoria that can result from killing brain cells?

The 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MeO-DMT) chemical is a natural venom that the toad produces to kill off its attackers, and recent research has discovered that this whole toad-licking phenomenon is a dangerous, old wives tale. Recent research has found that the human being, otherwise viewed as the toad’s attacker, is susceptible to the same consequences of any other attacker if they ran up and licked it. The human attacker could become ill and paralyzed when attempting to milk the toad in a squeezing motion and taking it in an oral manner. This leads to the next question, which researcher watched their fellow researcher, or test subject, fall to the ground in paralytic spasms, or death, and then crossed out the words “lick it”? This researcher, or the researcher after him, must have tried drying it and smoking it, until word “got out” that someone found the holy grail of brain cell killing euphoria. Word leaked, of course, and the secretions of the Bufo alvarins toad soon became so pervasive in a society. This knowledge soon became so ubiquitous, and eventually so detrimental, that Queensland, Australia, placed possession of toad slime on its list of illegal items, under their Drug Misuse act?

My Advice to Informed Consumers

If the reader is anything like my informed consumer friend, from the restaurant, and they are interested in trivial information about consumable products, they already know that there are websites that will feed their hunger for such information. These websites provide tidbits, and warnings, on just about every product and service available to man, on a daily basis. If this informed consumer is so interested in this information that they feel an overwhelming need to share, just know that an ever-increasing segment of the population has reached a tipping point, based on the fact that most of this information has proven to be either a trivial concern or contradictory.

My initial fear, in publishing this article, was that it might contribute to what I deem to be violations of social protocol, but I decided to proceed with it under the “There’s no such thing as too much knowledge” banner. I do know, however, that there will always be some informed consumers, like my informed consumer friend, that are now so overloaded with such information that they don’t believe that sharing such information can do any harm. I also know that that moment of sharing will arrive soon after the unsuspecting sits down to enjoy those products that the informed consumer is now afraid to consume based on what they know about said product. To these people, I paraphrase one of Mark Twain’s most famous quotes: “Some of the times it’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear uninformed, than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Therefore, the next time someone approaches your table with a strawberry shake, a bottle of beer, M&M’s, or a fried Bufo alvarins toad that they plan to consume in some manner, let them do it in peace. I know it’s going to provide the informed consumer the biological equivalent of letting a kidney stone calcify in their system. If they were to ask me for advice, however, I would tell them to use discretion. I would tell them that ever-increasing segment of the population doesn’t care one-eighth as much about this information as most informed consumers do, and the discretion the informed consumer shows, by allowing the consumption to continue without comment, could go a long way to them making friends and influencing people.

The Unfunny, Influential Comedy of Andy Kaufman


There was a moment, in the timeline of the history of comedy, when the subversive nature of comedy became so comprehensive that it became uniform, conventional, and in need of total destruction. Although the late, great Andy Kaufman may never have intended to undermine, and thus destroy, the top talent of his generation, his act revealed his contemporaries for what they were: conventional comedians operating under a like-minded banner. In doing so, Andy Kaufman created an art form.

Those of us that had an unnatural attraction to Andy Kaufman’s game-changing brand of unfunny comedy now know that he was oblivious to greater concerns, but we used whatever it was he created to subvert the conventional subversions, until they lost their subversive quality.

Those “in the know” had a very distinct, sociopolitical definition of subversion before Andy Kaufman. They may deem the art form of subversion that Andy Kaufman developed as that of a certified comedic genius now, but they had no idea while he was doing it. They may have even cautioned him against doing it.

I see what you’re trying to do, but I don’t think it will play well in Omaha. They’ll just think you’re weird, and weird doesn’t play well on the national stage … unless you’re funny-weird.”

Many regarded being weird, in the manner Andy Kaufman was weird, as just plain weird … even idiotic. Those in the know didn’t know what he was going for. Before Andy Kaufman became Andy Kaufman, and his definition of weird became defined as a transcendent art form, being weird meant going so far over-the-top that the audience felt comfortable with the notion that you were being weird. It required the comedic player to find a way to communicate to the audience that they were being weird. They used visual cues, in the form of a weird facial expression, or weird tones, so that “less sophisticated audiences in Omaha” could understand that the comedic actor was being weird.

One can be sure that before Andy Kaufman took to the national stage, on Saturday Night Live, those “in the know” warned him of the potholes that lay ahead of him if he didn’t find some conventional method of subversion, or weirdness, to let the audience in on the joke. Kaufman didn’t listen. For whatever reason, be it confidence, intuitive knowledge, or the lack of talent required to be funny in a more conventional sense, Kaufman maintained his unconventional, unfunny, and idiotic characters and bits, until those “in the know” declared him one of the funniest men that ever lived.

The cutting edge, comedic intelligentsia now speak of the deceased, comedic actor as if they were onto it the whole time. They weren’t. They didn’t get it. I didn’t get it, but I was young, and I needed the assistance of repetition to understand the genius of being idiotic, until I busied myself trying to carve out my own path to true idiocy, in my little world.

Andy Kaufman may not have been the first true idiot in the pantheon of comedy, but for those of us that witnessed a display of his idiotic behavior, it opened up a whole new world. We didn’t know that one could be so idiotic, until someone came along, broke that door down, and showed us all his furniture.

For those that never saw Andy Kaufman at work, his claim to fame was not jokes, so much as it was the situational humor. The situations he created weren’t funny, in the conventional sense. Some of the situations were so unfunny, and so unnerving, that some deemed them idiotic. He was so idiotic that many believed his shows were nothing more than a series of improvised situations where he reacted “on the fly” to a bunch of idiotic stuff, but what most of those “in the know” did not know was that everything he did was methodical, meticulous, and choreographed.

Being Unfunny in Situations

Like the knuckleball, situational humor can get better or worse as the game goes on, but if you’re going to have any success with it you’re going to have to devote yourself to the pitch. People will hit the occasional home run off you, and you will knock out the occasional mascot with a wild pitch, but for situational jokes to become effective, they can’t just be another pitch in your arsenal. They require a commitment that will become a concentration, until it eventuates into a lifestyle that even those closest to you will have a difficult time understanding.

“Why would you try to confuse people?” they will ask you. “And say things that aren’t funny?” 

“I would like for someone, somewhere to consider me idiotic,” will be the response of the devoted. “Any idiot can fall down a flight of stairs, trip over a heat register, and engage in slapstick comedy, but I want to achieve a form of idiocy that leads others to believe I am a total idiot, and that I don’t know any better.”

If you’re less confident with your modus operandi, and you’re still searching for answers, high-minded responses may obfuscate the truth regarding why we enjoy doing this. The truth may be that we don’t know why we enjoy doing this. We just do. The truth may be that we know the path to achieving laughter, through the various pitches and rhythms made available to us in movies and primetime sitcoms, but some of us reach a point where we’ve so thoroughly mastered that template so well that it now bores us. Others may recognize, at some point in their lives, that they don’t have the wherewithal to match the delivery that our friends –with gameshow host personalities– employ. For these people, the raison d’être of Kaufman’s idiot may offer an end run around the traditional modes of comedy. Some may employ these tactics, to stand out, and above the fray, and others may enjoy the superiority-through-inferiority psychological base this mindset produces, but most people find themselves unable to identify the reason behind doing what they do. They just know they like it, and they will continue to like it, no matter how many poison-tipped arrows come their way.

I had an acquaintance that learned of my devotion to this lifestyle, when she overheard me contrast it in a conversation with a third party. What she heard in that conversation was a brief display of intellectual prowess that crushed the characterization she had of me prior to that moment. When I turned back to her, to continue the conversation that she and I were having before the interruption, her mouth was hanging open, and her eyes were wide. What she said in that moment, and in any moment I acted idiotic thereafter, was:

“Whatever, I am onto you now. You are not as dumb … as you pretend to be.”

She had me all figured out. She was proud of herself. She beamed. The delicious moment occurred seconds later, when it dawned on her that what she figured out made no sense in conventional constructs. People pretend to be smart. They don’t pretend to be dumb, or inferior. She was looking at me when she stated that she was onto me, of course, and her expression appeared to mirror mine, as it dawned on her that this epiphany was not as comprehensive as she had first believed.

The pause before her second sentence included an expression that every idiot strives to achieve. The pride of figuring me out, faded, as it dawned on her that everything she thought she figured out opened up more questions. I could only imagine flowchart she developed in her mind. A flowchart that ended in a rabbit hole that once entered into would place her in a variety of vulnerable positions, including the beginning. She pursued me after that, to inform me that she was onto this whole thing I was doing, until it became obvious that I was no longer the primary audience of her conviction.

I’ve never thrown an actual knuckleball with any success, but watching her flail away at the gradual progression of my situational joke –trying to convince herself that this had no effect on her– cemented my lifelong theory that jokes can be funny, but reactions are hilarious.

The point is that if you devote yourself to this mindset, and you try your hardest not to let your opponents see the stitches, you can convince some of the people, some of the times, that you are an idiot.

The List

The following is a short list of idiotic gems. This list is by no means comprehensive, for aspiring idiots looking to spread the seed of idiocy among their peers. As stated earlier, most idiotic behavior is situational, and thus impossible to catalog in a simple piece such as this one. Some might view this list as a primer for those looking to buy into the mindset. One can also use it as an explanation for the curious:

1) So’s your mother. Most idiots prefer the non sequitur made famous by The Office, “That’s what she said.” We define a non sequitur as a conclusion, or statement that does not follow the previous argument or statement in a logical manner. There’s nothing wrong with “That’s what she said,” of course, and “So’s your mother” is not a better non sequitur, as much as it is different. “That’s what she said,” thanks to The Office, has now become so ubiquitous that it’s an expected non sequitur, even if it does not follow the logic of the argument, or conversation in play. Our goal, if we choose to accept the non sequitur, situational lifestyle of the idiot, is to seek that response that exists outside the patterns and rhythms of the norm. Another key, as expressed in the knuckleball analogy, is repetition. It takes patience and perseverance, to become locked in, but if we do it right often enough, we can become a “So’s your mother” guy, until those around us begin to believe that we have such unique rhythms and patterns that they’re irritated by us, and they dismiss us as a person that “Says weird things”. If we are able to maintain this façade through all of the ways that people attempt to dismiss us –and they will vary, and some of them may hurt a little– we may reach a point where someone, somewhere will deem us a total idiot.

2) “What did he say?” is a much more difficult non sequitur to land, even for the seasoned idiot, schooled in the art of being idiotic. This response may never receive the laughter that a timed, “So’s your mother” or a “That’s what she said” response may. The sequential reactions this line receives may be better than those other two if we are strategic in the manner in which we place it in our conversations over time. All non-sequiturs, we should note, require deliveries that are measured and methodical. Our goal is to lead the listener to believe that we believe in what we’re saying, and that we may not know that they don’t follow the logical order, because we may be a little damaged, but none of them require the diligence and patience that “What did he say?” requires.

This response is not a joke to us. We believe when someone introduces a story that involves an agreed upon female name –like Martha, Barbara, or Beatrice– that they are speaking of a male.

“What did he say about that?” we will ask in a manner dictated by the situation.

If our audience has no reason to believe that we’re total idiots, they may attempt to determine if our confusion is genuine at this point. If we are successful in completing this portion of the conversation, they will say, “I said it was Martha that did this …” This is the crucial point in the conversation, that which is referred to in idiotic parlance as crunch time. We cannot smile, act comedic, or let them in on the joke in anyway. We are not attempting to pull someone’s leg here. This is a serious attempt to pull off a difficult joke.

It requires attention to detail. It may even require us to go into our grab bag of emotions to find the display of confusion that convinces our audience that we’re confused. If our audience knows our reactions, they will know how we display genuine confusion. They will know if we look them in the eye when we’re playing with them, and if our insecurities are such that we look away when we’re searching for answers. They will also know if we’re the type that pries into a subject to get to the heart of a matter we don’t understand, or if we’re the type that pretends that we know what they’re talking about when we don’t. This is no time to project an ideal image onto the listener. This is a time to be honest and pure, and objective in our understanding of our reactions. This is also a moment to realize that we’re not brilliant and perfect, and that the best standup comedians don’t get it right the first out. Watch their reactions to our reactions and take note of any failings we might have for the next time out.

One other thing, before we continue, this space in time will also provide a chicken exit. If we’re more interested in having friends, and having people enjoy our company, or we’re the type that grows insecure or uncomfortable when people begin to view us as an idiot, we’ll want to pull the ripcord on the joke right here. We can say something like, “Ok, I heard you,” or “I’m just kidding you.” Some people also feel a little uneasy playing with another person’s head in this manner, as they fear it may lead the other to find them deceptive in some manner that may place a wedge between them and the other person, and this is the perfect moment to end it all before feelings are hurt.

For those that are willing and able to proceed, once they have their confused reactions correct, they’ll want to say something along the lines of this:

“I heard you. What did he say to that?”

Seasoned idiots, that have experienced some failure at this point in the situation, will tell us that the key to making it through crunch time unscathed can only be accomplished by emphasizing the word ‘you’ in this reply, as opposed to the word ‘he’. Emphasizing the word ‘he’ lets the audience in on the joke in a premature manner, and while they may consider us something of an idiot for attempting to play such a game on them this is not the elevated form of the joke that we seek, and we’ll find it far less rewarding. Emphasizing ‘he’, to go back to our analogy, will reveal the stitch in our knuckleball, and it will result in an eye roll, or some other form of dismissal that allows our audience to avoid stepping further into the rabbit hole we’re placing before them.

If our reactions are pitch-perfect, “It’s a girl,” is something they might say. “Martha is a girl.”

To lay the depth charge of this joke, you will then want that particular conversation to conclude as all of your other conversations conclude. A deadpan “Oh, ok!” should accomplish this. You may even want to increase your confused reaction, sprinkled with a dash of embarrassment to complete the affectation of you digesting what went wrong in the exchange.

This line of responses will not bear fruit at the outset, and you may want to skip the next story involving an agreed upon female name, like Barbara, to avoid them seeing the stitches of your situational humor, but when they approach you with a third story, about a person name Beatrice, you will say, “What’s he doing now?”  The emphasis on the word ‘he’, at this point in the joke, is acceptable, if you’ve set your listener up well enough.

This is the portion of the joke where you are to receive dividends for all of your hard work. Some may enjoy pursuing this façade ad infinitum, adding intricacy here and there to it as it expands, but most of us want payoffs. The payoff may not be immediate. You may not see that perfect expression on their face, as they become aware of all that you’ve done to them. They may not say anything, for it may be embarrassing to them that they fell for it so hard. If you’re knuckleball was successful, you’ll know when you try to pull the joke on someone else, and your initial victim turns to them, with empathy, and says:

“Don’t fall for it Judy. He’s not as dumb as he wants you to believe. He’s just an idiot.”  

3) “What’s that?” The best way to explain this joke is to provide an example of it.

Example: “I don’t like the way the road construction crew fixed Main Street. What’s that? I said that I don’t like the way the road construction crew fixed Main Street.” 

We say all three sentences. To accentuate the joke, we will want to punctuate the third sentence with fatigue. This suggests that we’re tired of repeating ourselves. Ninety-nine percent of the time, this joke will produce nothing more than confusion, but if practiced enough, it can produce an hilarious reaction.

“I did not say what. YOU DID!” 

The person that said this colored her response with an ‘I’m not the stupid one here, YOU ARE!’ intonation that suggested that my impatience with her was “uncalled for”. She afforded me one more opportunity to pull this joke on her, and she was more adamant the second time through. Unfortunately, I was never afforded the opportunity to do this as often as it may have been necessary to see this joke to fruition, and no other person has fallen for this as hard as she did. This one is the most difficult to pull off, for most people see the stitches of this knuckleball and avoid swinging at it.

Another important note to make, before we continue, is that most idiotic humor is not funny as a standalone. If the reader has no desire to become an idiot, and they are reading through all this as a curious visitor, the corner of their lips may not have even curled enough to form a polite smile. The words “None of this is funny” may have already crossed the lips of those reading this, a number of times, and if the reader confronted me with this assessment, I would agree. I would then ask them what they consider funny? At that point, they may list off some lines that Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin, or George Carlin have said. “Fair enough,” I would say. “I am not as funny as they are. How many people are? How many people have reached great highs in their life, believing that the sky was the limit on their potential? How many have done the same after recognizing their limitations? We untalented folks have learned that there are individualistic ways of achieving humor, and it can be found in the unfunny, common situations one finds oneself in.”

My modus operandi, brought to you, in part, by the late, great Andy Kaufman, is that while jokes are funny, reactions are hilarious. If we practice the art of deception, in one form or another, and we can deceive another into believing that we are an idiot, we can produce some jewels that will leave us with the feeling that we’ve created some rewarding moments in our life.

4) Recite an Inappropriate Song Lyric in an Appropriate Moment

Song lyrics capture a moment. This is such a staple in movies, and TV, that it has crossed over into our daily lives. It’s become a cultural trope. They use the device in marketing, business presentations, and in romantic gestures. It’s become such a staple of our culture that some idiots have developed the perfect non sequitur songs that appear to have significant and poignant song lyrics to match a number of different situations.

An example of using song lyrics to capture a moment, with some attachments to context, occurred in an episode of The Simpsons when Millhouse Mussolini Van Houten said, “So this is what it feels like … when doves cry.” It was humorous, because use of the device did have some application to the feelings of utter hopelessness and despair that Millhouse was experiencing after Lisa Simpson informed him that they would not be a romantic couple. It was also hilarious, because it was typical of a young person’s dramatic attachment to utter despair that the rest of us know is momentary.

Everyone reaches a point of despair, or hopelessness, that they want to define for others through artistic means. In previous generations, people sought Shakespeare and The Bible for a point of reference. Our generation seeks song lyrics and chunks of TV dialogue. My personal favorite song lyrics are those of the Alan Parsons Project’s (APP) song: “Where do we go from here now that all of the children are growing up?” Another set of lyrics I use are Ween’s: “What can you do when your world is invaded by a reggae junkie Jew?” I also captured idiotic moments when the lyrics of a Motorhead song: “All right, all right, I hope you son of bitches see the light.”

The purpose of this cryptic use of these lyrics occurs soon after your listener first hears them. If they are aware of the cultural trope of using song lyrics to capture a moment, and most of us are on some level, they may believe that you have a firmer grasp on the situation than they do. The joke reveals itself when they hear us use the same lyrics in an altogether different situation. When they hear us do it again, they may feel foolish for having believed in it the first time, and in every instance they hear us do it afterward they may begin to believe we are an idiot. The point, in evidence with the use of the APP lyrics in particular, is that most lyrics are so over-the-top, self-indulgent serious, that they are ripe for ridicule. The point is that this ridicule is so poignant that it doesn’t just mock the idea of a hopeless and dire situation, but the general practice of using serious lyrics to capture such a moment.

The most hilarious reaction to the APP lyrics in particular was, “I guess we grow with them?”

The Idiostory

Most true idiots acted idiotic before they ever heard of Andy Kaufman, but whatever it was he did opened up this whole can of unfunny hilarity to us. After seeing what he did, it became obvious to some of us that the constraints we placed upon ourselves to get along in the normal world, no longer require maintenance.

Some of us bought every VHS tape, book, and album attached to his name. We read everything we could about him online to try and figure out how he became such an idiot. We also learned why he chose to go against the advice of those “in the know”, and if it was possible for us to follow this indefinable passion to its bitter end. We followed his examples and teachings in the manner of a disciple, until it became a lifestyle that we thought we could use to confuse the serious world just enough to lead to some seminal moments in our pursuit of the idiotic life, based on the reactions our audience gave us.

If our goal was to be funny, we would’ve attempted to pursue the trail Jerry Seinfeld laid, and if we wanted to be weird-funny, we would’ve adopted the weird-funny voice that Steve Martin used in the movie The Jerk. If we wanted to be sardonic or satirical, we would have looked to George Carlin for guidance. We knew we weren’t as funny as those three, however, and we reached a point where it didn’t matter to us that we weren’t. When we discovered the unfunny, subversive idiocy of Andy Kaufman, however, it filled us like water in a dehydrated man.

Most of our friends considered it being weird for the sake of being weird, but they didn’t recognize the depth charges until they detonated. Even when they detonated, most of them didn’t find the humor, and they didn’t think it was funny, and they may have never wanted to be our friends, or have anything to do with us, if that’s how we were going to act. Most of them were so confused, and irritated by us that they found themselves confronted, once again, by the question of why we do it. It’s possible that most of us will never be able to answer that question to anyone’s satisfaction, least of all our own, but we know we like it, and we know that we will continue to do it.

The Disclaimer

If the goal of the reader is that others consider them funny, they should never use this mindset. If this is your goal, you may want to learn how to incorporate your responses into conversations by putting acute focus on the beats and rhythms of your delivery. Quality humor, like quality music, should have pleasing beats and rhythms that find a comfortable place in the listener’s mind. After achieving that, the person might want to repeat the pleasing pattern that their listeners will recognize before hitting the punchline. This will allow the listeners’ brains to reward them for figuring out how you arrived at that point, before you did. That reward will be a shot of dopamine, and the joke teller’s reward will be their laughter. They may even say the punchline before you do.

If, however, the goal is to be an unfunny idiot that gets no laughter for the effort, the joke teller will want to know those same rules of comedy, regarding the beats and rhythms of humor, but they will need to know them even better than funny people do. As any gifted practitioner of the art of idiocy will tell those willing to listen, it is far more difficult to find a way to distort and destroy people’s perception of conventional humor than it is to abide by them. It takes practice, practice in the art of practice. It takes an ear tuned to the rhythms and beats of a conversation, or situation, and it takes a lot of trial and error.

As expressed throughout this article, the rewards for being a total idiot are far and few between. If the joke teller manages to achieve total destruction, or distortion, of what others know to be the beats and rhythms of humor, the joke teller may encounter a sympathetic soul that considers us such an idiot that they consult us about the beats and rhythm of our delivery. For the most part, however, the rewards we will receive are damage to our reputation as a potential funny person. Some might dismissing us as strange. Others may regard us as weird, and most will want to have little to nothing to do with us. Women will also say that they don’t want to date us, because they prefer nice guys that are funny, “and you, you’re just kind of weird, or some kind of idiot.”

Busybody Nation


“Busybodies learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.” –The English Standard Version of the Bible, Timothy 5:13

It should have been an uneventful walk in the park on an otherwise uneventful Thursday. The weather was even uneventful, an occurrence that many residents of Omaha, Nebraska will inform anyone that wants to know, is an event in and of itself. The conversation was pleasant, but unmemorable and uneventful, and our walk through the park should have ended that way, but I’d had enough.

Without intending to do so, I initiated what would eventuate into a confrontation, by committing what I would be informed to be a crime against nature, after allowing my leashed dog to chase some of the park’s ducks into the water.

“Don’t do that!” A female voice shrieked, somewhere off in the distance of the park. 

After chasing the ducks, my dog sniffed at the shore the ducks stood on seconds earlier. He looked up and watched them swim away a couple seconds longer, and he walked away.

Had my wife said, “Did you hear that lady shriek at you?” I could’ve pled ignorance. I could’ve also said that I had no idea that I was the target of the shrieking. The shriek was that faint, and distant. The park wasn’t densely populated, but it was plausible that the target could’ve been anyone. I knew it wasn’t. I knew I was the subject of scorn. I could’ve walked away from it, however, and no one not even my wifewould’ve known that I heard her. My pride was not on the line, in other words, and I had nothing to gain by pursuing confrontation. I did think about this, all of it, while my dog sniffed the shore and my wife spoke of her concerns in the background, but I’d had enough.

Pursuing some confrontations can produce rewards. Some of the times a person’s character is on the line, and they need to come out swinging, with their best vocabulary. Some of the times, confrontation breeds greater definition. Some of the times, a person should not sit back and allow unwarranted, slanderous accusations to go unchallenged. Yet, we all make mistakes when we confuse perceived slights with actual, in-your-face accusations, in our quest for definition. This need for respect can be such a driving force, that we might engage in inconsequential confrontations that result in no gains for either party. Some of the times, we engage in confrontation just to feel better about ourselves, and some of the times, we engage in irrational, unnecessary confrontations for the irrational reason that we’ve had enough.

Most people are self-involved and inconsiderate, but if those on the receiving end of these inconsiderate actions take a moment to evaluate the situation, we will find that the word consider is at the base of the word inconsiderate. Most people don’t consider the ramifications of their actions, as there is a wide chasm between being rude and being inconsiderate, and it’s our perceptions that drive the two together. We read into the motivations of the inconsiderate, and we see our own. We think that everyone is as considerate as we are, and that others choose to violate these unspoken, social contracts we have with one another to the point of being rude.

We know that in most cases, it would be advisable to move on, past every perceived slight, and most of us do choose to be non-confrontational on most days. On most days, we find a way to walk away from those that shriek, and their prosecuting attorney friends (that you’ll meet in due time) for the purpose of having an uneventful, non-confrontational day, and we do so without losing one minute of sleep, because we know that most confrontations won’t teach the inconsiderate social decorum, or the life lessons that they should know by now.

Those of us that choose to live peaceful, uneventful, and non-confrontational lives often have an outlet that most busybodies don’t. We have a group of people that live in a place we call home, and if we experience that which could make us miserable, all we have to do is return home and we will be happy again. We can also inform our loved ones of our near confrontation, and we tell them how we managed to avoid overreacting. We do this with the knowledge that those that do overreact to every perceived slight have something bubbling beneath the surface that is waiting to be unleashed. We even avoid confrontation on those occasions when we know we’re right, because doing otherwise could turn out to be a decision that affects our happy lives in ways that are unalterable, depending on who is the recipient of our response. Most of us prefer to let it go, and return home to play with our kids, love our spouse, pet our dog, and move on in our otherwise happy lives.

There is a tipping point, however, when the inconsequential, inconsiderate actions of others begin to pile up. The affected could be the nicest, most peaceful person on Earth, but everyone has a threshold. After a lifetime of experiencing inconsiderate people engaging in behavior that suggests that they don’t consider how their actions could affect others, the pressurized valve that exists in all of us can begin to build up, until it explodes in an inconsiderate manner. This moment will not cause the affected to become an irrational person that seeks confrontation, but even the most peaceful people on Earth reach a point where they believe they need to aid the inconsiderate into reconsidering their definitions.

After spending years listening to shrieking busybodies notify authority figures that they –or their children– have experienced perceived slights, I hit a threshold. The list of these perceived slights –filed under national catastrophes– is now so long that a compendium the size of War and Peace would have a Volume One subtitle. I reached my threshold of hearing about shrieking busybodies, in restaurants and malls, watch the manner in which every man, woman, and child treats every other man, woman, and child. I had enough of shrieking busybodies sifting through my emails, and instant messages, for material in their next ‘to whom it may concern’ report. Shrieking busybodies are in government seats now, our judicial system, our hard drives, message boards, and our minds trying to ferret out the motives that we might have had swimming around in our minds when we decided to engage in a perceived slight.

Shrieking busybodies have no problems telling others how to dress, what beer to drink, where to eat, and what to think of the companies that sell such products. They ask a consumer if they’ve tried to quit smoking, in line, at a pharmacy. They tell us that our child needs to be in a Federal Aviation Administration approved car seat, until they are forty-four pounds. They tell us that our lawn should not exceed two inches, what our body mass index should be, what we should be feeding our children. They tell us if we should be drinking coffee, what kind of Environmental Protection Agency approved car we should be driving, how much money we should have, and when they believe we’ve have enough of whatever we enjoy having.

If the sole motivation, for these busybodies, were to be an information resource, a ‘we report, you decide’ outlet as it were, those of us on the other side of the velvet rope might have less of a complaint. We know that ‘everything in moderation’ are words to live by to enjoy quality health, we know that indulging has deleterious consequences, and we know that there are some that need information outlets to be reminded of what we already know. If the sole motivation of the busybody were to be an information resource, they wouldn’t grow so frustrated that they end up shrieking in a city park, at a stranger that has decided not to follow their edicts.

Most busybodies are the result of a peaceful nation that leaves its citizens with little in the way of greater concerns. They’re a begrudged segment of the population that holds a lifelong grudge against those that “got away” with transgressions in their youth. Most children test boundaries. Busybodies tested them too, but most busybodies never “got away” with anything, or at least that’s how they remember it. They remember those that “got away” with testing limits, and how those people acted as if they didn’t care what the rules were. Busybodies did. They didn’t want to get in trouble, and they didn’t think it was fair when others escaped consequences. When others avoided capture, and the consequences were less severe than the busybody thought they should be, the percolating began.

“Don’t let Ms. Johnson catch you doing that, she’ll tan your hide,” busybodies informed us when we were kids in grade school. When Ms. Johnson did little to nothing to punish us for our transgression, the percolating began. The busybody believed that Ms. Johnson was fierce to the point of being authoritarian, and that was the primary reason that the busybody didn’t engage in nefarious activities. Thus, the busybody grew confused and resentful when Ms. Johnson failed to live up to the busybody’s expectations, to preserve their sense of order with fire and brimstone style punishments for the disorderly. They overestimated Ms. Johnson based on their need to fear authority, and the consequences for acting up. If Ms. Johnson didn’t witness the transgression, the busybody provided her explicit detail, and when Ms. Johnson did nothing after that, a begrudged feeling was born in the mind of the busybody that resulted in a festering boil they spent the rest of their lives trying to treat. It’s a begrudged feeling that leaves them with the idea that they’re the lone sentry guarding the final outpost to total chaos in the universe, and they don’t mind invading your privacy to get you to act according to their begrudged findings of how the world around them should operate.

A “That’s not fair!” mantra became their battle cry, and they used that battle cry to assist teachers, and other people’s parents, with the difficult task of imposing order. This battle cry followed them into adulthood where their life’s mission transitioned to assisting office managers, supervisors, and lawmakers with their very difficult task of imposing a sense of what should be everyone’s very strict definition of order. They write letters to the editor, their parent teacher conferences last forty-five minutes, and their one-on-one meetings with management fall just short of screaming matches. They want order, they want fairness, and they don’t want anyone to get away with what they dare not try.

They’re our busybodies, the Gladys Kravitzes of our nation, trying to right the wrongs of a previous generation, to protect this generation’s vulnerable from the vicious assaults that they perceive to be occurring.

Gladys Kravitz, for those that don’t know, was the fictional embodiment of the busybody, watching her neighbor, the witch Samantha Stephens, on the television show Bewitched. Gladys has become the fictional representation for many –of a certain generation– of those neighbors that peer through drapes to document the goings on of their neighbors. Gladys Kravitz-types know when their neighbors arrive home, with whom they enter their home, how long they’ve been home, the neighbors they interact with, and how everything a person does affects the perception, and property values, of their neighborhood. They’re the busybodies of our little corner of the world, and this is becoming their nation.

Abner Kravitz, the folk hero of those that have simply had enough, would be the first responder to Mrs. Kravitz’s eyewitness testimonies. Abner would close his newspaper and go to the window to see what his wife was going on about. At that point, the punchline would arrive in the form of a return to normalcy in the Stephens’ home. After this, Abner would turn to his busybody wife and say something along the lines of “Why don’t you just mind your own business Gladys!”

The buildup of these Gladys Kravitz-types telling to tell me how to live, reached my threshold in the ten seconds I spent contemplating doing nothing in response to the faint, anonymous shriek that told me to stop doing what I was doing, and I decided to let my still leashed dog have another run at another set of ducks. I knew I was the target of that faint, anonymous shriek, and I knew that a repeat of this action would exacerbate this situation, and I knew I could have avoided it all without anyone knowing, but I had enough.

“Watch your dog,” a fisherman, on a different shoreline, called out to initiate this confrontation, after I’d allowed my dog a second go.

“He’s all right,” I informed this gentleman. “He’s just having a little fun. I keep him on the leash at all times, but I do allow him to chase ducks a little.”

“Be careful,” the man said. “I’m a prosecutor, and people run sting operations in this park all the time.”

I must admit that this put me back a step. Was that a threat? It was. It stoked my ire.

“We’re just having a little fun,” I said, “But I do thank you for your concern,” and I offered him a smile and a good-natured wave that was as confrontational as a smile and a good-natured wave can be.

The ‘Don’t do that!’ shrieker stepped to the fore. She had been waiting for me about twenty yards further along the park’s trail. She had been waiting, I can only assume, to see how the prosecuting attorney’s threats would affect me. When it was determined that I was unaffected by them, she stepped to the fore. She informed me, at high volume, that the ducks were scared, and that they cannot fly, and she added some other gibberish that flew out of her mouth at such a rate that I feared she might be exhibiting the early, warning signs of a cardiac arrest.

I stopped on the trail, for a moment, caught off guard by her venom, until I realized that faux pas. I continued to progress on the trail that happened to be in her general direction. My progression was not confrontational, and I made that clear with my stride, but I was not going to stand back, away from her, in fear of her vitriol. She then provided me a scenario in which a large and menacing dog targeted for my dog for attack, and she asked me if I wouldn’t be just as fearful as those ducks were.

“Not if that dog were leashed,” I said.

“Yes you would,” she said.

The uninteresting “nu uh,” “yes huh” portion of the confrontation lasted for another thirty seconds, with each party parrying and thrusting, until the shrieking woman decided to turn and walk away. She was still saying things, but her venom had diminished a tad.

Some have accused me of being a last word person. I’ve often found that those that accuse me of this need to have the last word far more than me, and they beat me to the last word by accusing me of being one that needs to have the last word. This has happened to me so often that I’ve thought of accusing people of needing to have the last word before we even begin such a discussion, just to take that arrow out of their quiver.

I do concede that if more than five to seven people make such an accusation, there may be something to it. If that is the case, it may have something to do with the fact that draws and defeats, don’t settle well in my digestive system. I prefer to think that I can accept draws, and defeats, as long as the other person has considered my point of view before we go our separate ways. I will also concede that this consideration of my point of view is relative to my definition, and that I don’t provide the most objective perspective on me.

“It looks like we won’t be coming to this park anymore,” I informed my wife, at high volume, to initiate my last word. “It’s filled with busybodies that don’t know how to mind their own business!”

“Get out of the park!” this woman shrieked. She then shrieked something about calling the humane society and anything and everything she could to defend her position. I allowed her that final word.

It was such a meaningless confrontation. I didn’t feel any better, or worse, when it concluded. Neither party proved their points. No convictions proved. Unless one considers the goal of proving to one member of this busybody nation that I was not going to abide by her edicts in silence. In my own quiet way, I thought I informed busybody nation that some of the times they, too, engage in overreach.

99.5% of the American public, I’m quite sure, never would have allowed their dog a second go at the ducks after the initial shriek, for that would’ve landed them a bad guy characterization, and no one wants to be a bad guy. In this particular scenario, the subject would have been engaging in a confrontation with a little old lady to tell her to shut up about a thirty-pound dog chasing what she deemed helpless ducks swimming in a city pond. I doubt that many, other than the .5% that over react to every perceived slight, would’ve defended their pro dog-chase-duck position in the manner I did. A person that wants to be a nice guy would’ve viewed this a no-win position.

My only defense –a defense that I agree borders on the time-honored, political tactic of diversion– is to tell the reader that I’m not a pro dog-chase-duck guy. I’m a a man-stop-busybody guy focused on informing these people that we would all appreciate it if they would take one step back to that time-honored state of mind where people were uncomfortable telling complete strangers how to live their lives. It’s a first step that I would love to spearhead that suggests to those that want to take part in my new movement that regardless how inconsequential a moment of confrontation may be, and how indefensible it may appear on paper, we all need to step up and tell our local, state, and federal busybodies: “Enough already!”

If I were lucky enough to achieve for this role, I would inform my followers that we need to engage in more inconsequential, indefensible arguments, such as the one that occurred on a Thursday in the park, to roll back the tide of these busybodies involving themselves in all of the otherwise inconsequential moments of our lives. Our goal would not be to stop busybodies, for that would be impossible, but to begin planting proverbial “Mind your own business Gladys!” flags in the terra firma of city parks to let these no stress, no conflict, and no turmoil busybodies know that they’re not going to receive their righteous warrior badges on our watch.

“This park right here is neutral ground for the inconsequential to go about living their inconsequential lives without consequence!” is something we should scream as we plant our proverbial flag in the confrontation.

To those that have committed a “crimes against nature” by allowing their children, or dogs, a run at some city ducks, I challenge you to look back over your shoulder after the crime is committed. Those that have done this, have witnessed the otherwise unharmed ducks go right back to the exact shoreline that their dog, or child, scared them off moments earlier. An insecure bully –that experience some joy scaring innocent, little ducks– might perceive this as a direct challenge to their manhood that the ducks are sending out. Our movement would not support such bullying tactics. We would do it with the idea that these ducks have realized that kids and dogs chasing after them is an acceptable consequence of living among the humans. We would do it with the belief that this happens to these ducks so often that it doesn’t even ruffle their feathers anymore. If the ducks have conversations, I have to imagine that this procedure has become so routine for them, that they fly away and back without so much as a pause in their sentence.

If it caused these ducks the trauma the shrieking busybody world believe it does, these ducks would choose to live elsewhere. These ducks could live in the wild, for example, where they might face actual predators stalking them on a daily basis, as opposed to a thirty-pound Puggle giving chase to tweak some instinct the dog has never executed to completion and wouldn’t know what to do if he did. If the trauma of the Puggle threat were such that the ducks opted to forgo the world of gorging on human largesse to the point of obesity, that threatens their ability to fly –and the many other survival skills that their forebears honed for them– they would opt for an existence that might result in them going hungry for the night. If they were to survive it.

I don’t know how advanced, or informed, the decision-making process of the city lake duck is. I’m guessing that the wariness they have for the little beings –a child or a dog– that tend to accompany a larger being on a walk, trumps the fear they have for all the other beings that exist in all the areas of the world not preserved by man for their comfort and well-being.

The Pitfalls of the Previous, Private Generation

Even those of us that despise the ways of the modern busybody must acknowledge that their gestation period resulted from the mistakes of the previous generations.

“What a man does in his own home is his business,” was the mindset of those previous generations that believed that respecting another’s privacy was, at the very least, a preferred method of dealing with neighbors, if not the honorable one. Thus, when faced with even extreme situations, good and honorable men deemed it the preferred course, if not the honorable one, to do little to nothing.

Now, a good and honorable man, of that previous generation, could have been persuaded to have a word with another man perceived to be causing an extreme situation, but if that other man informed the honorable man that it was “none of their business” good men backed off and said, “I tried, Mildred, I tried.” The next course of action would’ve involved either a physical altercation, or a call to the police, and most did not follow up to that extent.

Our current generation had seen the deleterious effects of ignoring extreme situations in which the helpless incur irreparable harm that affects the rest of their life. Good and honorable men have realized that there has been a call-to-arms to defend the helpless in ways greater than those symbolic measures put forth by previous generations. We may go a little overboard with our actions, at times, to protect the helpless, but we feel that some of the times it’s best to say something early before these situations escalate. There is also some foggy notion in our head, that if we do overreact in some situations, perhaps we might rectify the wrongs of the previous generation that decided to do little to nothing.

The problem with this call-to-arms mindset is that extreme situations don’t come around as often as we believe, and this problem of scarcity has given rise to the perception of injustice, and the perception that the situation before us is one of the extreme, that requires action. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow them to get away with doing that,” we say when our child comes home with a real, or imagined, slight. “What’s that principle’s phone number again?”

Even if the situation before us is not of an extreme nature, it is possible that it could evolve into one. Who knows how these things progress? Isn’t it better to act now, than to allow it to fester. We feel a responsibility to protect the helpless, from further mistreatment. “It may be nothing now, but I don’t want to go to bed tonight thinking that I should’ve said something earlier. If I’m wrong, big deal, at least my heart was in the right place. Even if I stepped in the middle of a mother scolding her child in a mall, and that child was acting up to the extreme, most will regard my actions as righteous. If that mother is a little more insecure, going forward, correcting her child in public, in a manner that might result in the child being more prone to act up in public, it’s all an acceptable error on my part, if I manage to save one helpless child from a true, extreme situation.”

Busybodies have a trumpet, and they’re not afraid to use it

There are varying degrees of busybody intrusion, of course. Some, as noted above, carefully intercede on behalf of another in a moment they believe has, in some way, spun out of control. They might say something, but they move on. They might concede they didn’t know the whole story, but from their perspective, it appeared to be a situation that required someone to step in. Others take great pride in their ability to recognize a situation before it escalates, and they will intercede without concession. The difference occurs in the aftermath, when true busybodies trumpet their exploits to friends and family. This is what true busybodies do. They’re proud of it, and it’s how they attain their badges of honor. It’s why people call them righteous warriors, according to their definition of what they think people should say about them.

The audience of the righteous warrior’s retelling often know little to nothing of what actually happened in the incident, so they may perpetuate the self-righteousness of the righteous warrior by congratulating him for stepping in. It’s rare that a listener will prod the righteous warrior for more details in this manner:

“Did you know the totality of what happened before you intervened? Did you make sure you were apprised of, at least, most of the details involved, or did you make a leap of faith?”

“What do you mean, did I know what happened there?” the busybody will ask in their defense. “I saw an adult correcting a child in a manner that I deemed to be unwarranted to the extreme! It’s just a child for gosh sakes! There was no need for that!”

“But how many times have you been wrong?” a bold questioner may ask. “How many times have you stepped in on a situation, of this nature, and done more harm than good?”

“I don’t know,” they will say if they’re being honest. “I’m not going to play this game. I may be wrong, some of the times, but that’s the price I’m willing to pay to create a more just world where the helpless of our society receive some protection. I see it as doing my part.”

“But you don’t know that to be the case, here, is all I’m saying. I’m saying that some of the times, you should mind your own business, unless you know for sure.” 

This is why some of us loathe busybodies, and why we are willing to go to some extremes to roll the tide back. As anyone on the “but” end of a busybody’s complaint will tell you, the escalation of busybodies has reached a point now where there’s no turning back. The sins of the past generation, and all the movies, and TV shows that have documented them, have led us to believe that extreme situations lurk around every corner of our nation, until we’re screaming at the top of our lungs about the psychology of some poor ducks that were scared into entering a lake.

I don’t know who invented the word busybody to describe these people, but seeing the way they act, one would have to guess that it was an ironic joke the inventor played on the world, for most busybodies are anything but busy. If we were to confront a busybody with the idea that they may need to get out more, they would begin a lengthy list of activities, and groups, that they’re involved in, and that list would probably surpass ours. “It’s obvious that that’s not enough for you,” a listener should say. “If it were, you wouldn’t have been shrieking at the top of your lungs about the psychological plight of the duck. Or, if it is enough, then you must have some past transgression eating away at your soul that comes barreling out of you when you perceive a slight against some perceived victim.”

If this confrontation that occurred on a Thursday, in the park, were about protecting ducks alone, why was I hit with the threat of prosecution? If the focus was on the well-being and livelihood of the ducks, this shrieking woman could’ve put me in my place with a quick, inside voice condemnation of my actions. She could’ve undressed me, in a psychological manner, with a couple of quick words, “Don’t scare the ducks. You’re a grown man, for gosh sakes. Do you get some kind of perverse joy out of it?” If she had expressed her fears with a measure of restraint, and she used a measured tone when expressing her concerns, my dog and I would’ve left the park with our tails between our legs. What the two shriekers did, instead, was so over the top that I’m quite sure that the first shreiker’s doctor –concerned about her high blood pressure, and her heart valves weakened by years of overreacting to perceived slights and perceived extreme situations– would’ve warned her against future outbursts. I am also sure that the partners in the second shrieker’s law firm would’ve cautioned him against throwing his weight around in otherwise meaningless moments. Most busybodies have no authority to be saying anything that they’re saying, and this fact, I assume, frustrates them to a begrudged point that they feel the need to hit the release button on the pressurized valve that they hope ruins your day in the manner so many of theirs have been.

When Geese Attack!


What happens when geese attack? Those of us that have watched an episode of Shark Week –or one of the numerous other home movie, reality-oriented clip shows that appear on just about every network now– have witnessed what happens when animals lose their minds and attack humans. Those of us that have watched enough of these videos to know the formula know two things will happen. We will discover an ultimate truth about nature that everyone that all victims learn in the midst of an attack. There is no truth. There are suggested methods used to handle animals, and everyone that interacts or handles animals knows those suggestions. Yet, the most experienced handler will inform those willing to listen, that there are no steadfast rules to prevent a wild animal from harming them. The other truth is that survivors of such attacks learn this the hard way, and they state that they have no hard feelings for the beast that attacked them in the testimonials they offer after the video.

“I don’t blame the animal, and I have no ill will towards it,” they say. “I was in their domain. They were just doing what comes natural to them, and I deserve some of the blame for being there in the first place.”

Some of us just stare at the screen in silent awe. These survivors either are the most wonderful, most forgiving people on the planet, or they’re just plain stupid. These survivors had the threat of having their limbs torn from their body, at the very least, yet they maintain that they are not in the least bit bitter toward the animal. Some of us find this reaction so incomprehensible that we begin to wonder if we aren’t being played just a bit. We wonder if the networks have test-marketed victims’ reactions, and they have found that the audience finds these violent clips a little less horrific, and thus more entertaining, if the survivor comes out on the other side of the clip with wonderful, forgiving sentiments. We hate to be cynical, but if this isn’t the case why do almost all of these victims appear to react in almost the exact same manner. It almost appears as though they’re reading from a script.

We here in hysterical, emotional reaction land, know that it would be reasonable to state that a bear is “Just doing what comes naturally to them” as it ripped a person apart for the delicious treats they happened to have on them when they happened upon the bear’s domain. We know that part of the victims’ testimonial involves them trying to avoid appearing foolish, as they would if they tried to suggest that they had no idea that a bear might attack them in a bear preserve. We would consider them foolish if they said that, or at least more foolish than a guy that expressed surprise after being attacked by a bear at a Schlotzky’s sandwich shop in Omaha, Nebraska.

We also understand that it’s the goal of those that give testimonials to appear reasonable when they say, “It was just a bear doing what a bear does” when she clenched her jaw on their face and left them looking like the elephant man. We understand that to suggest that the attack was, in anyway, vindictive, personal, or anything other than instinctual on the bear’s part, would make that victim appear foolish, and we all know that most animals don’t single people out for attack, and that they prefer to avoid humans, unless conditions dictate otherwise. All of this is perfectly reasonable, even to those of us in hysterical, emotional reaction land, but it discounts the normal, hysterical reactions one should have if a bear removed one of their limbs, or left their face in a condition that now causes small children to run screaming from them at the mall.

One would think that a bear attack survivor would spend the rest of their life cheering on bear hunters. Would it be reasonable, seeing as how they were in a bear preserve when the bear attack occurred? It would not be, but most survivors of bear attacks should not be so reasonable that they are now able to hide their new lifelong, irrational fear (see hatred) of bears in the aftermath.

If there is anyone that we might excuse for being bitter, and hateful, it is Charla Nash. Charla Nash was the victim of a chimpanzee attack, in 2009. That chimpanzee was a friend’s pet, a 200-lb chimpanzee named Harold. In the attack, that occurred in a suburban neighborhood, this chimpanzee blinded Charla. He also severed her nose, ears, and hands. She also received severe lacerations on her face. Her life was as ruined as any that have survived an animal attack, but Charla Nash, somehow, remained forgiving. She wasn’t as forgiving as those with what I believe are prepared responses. These responses appear to come from TV producers issuing a “Do you want to be on camera? Then say this …” type of stated, or unstated ultimatum. Charla Nash does appear to be forgiving, and that forgiveness appeared genuine:

Charla Nash

“I’ve gotten angry at times,” the USA Today quoted Charla Nash saying. “But you can’t hold anger. It’s unhealthy. It goes through you. You’ve got to enjoy what you have.”

Charla Nash provides a philosophical outlook on life that those of us that have lived without such a horrific moment in our lives can use as inspiration in dealing with our comparative trivialities. Her response to such a vicious attack is nothing short of admirable. It’s a little incomprehensible to most of us, but we still respect Charla Nash for maintaining a somewhat optimistic about life after such an attack. The “goose guy” is not Charla Nash, however, and he should not be afforded the same admirable plaudits Nash is due. The “goose guy” is just an idiot.

Pro kayak angler, Drew Gregory (aka the goose guy) was fishing in a river, and he began feeding the geese that swam near him. One of the geese, in the competition for the food Gregory was offering them, decided that the best way to beat his competition to the food was to go to the source. The source of the food, in this case, was “goose guy’s” backpack. The goose, doing what a goose does, attempted to empty the backpack, and in the process sent “goose guy” overboard. After that, the goose appeared to be laughing at “goose guy”. If it wasn’t laughter, the sounds the goose made sounds that one could confuse with an expression of dominance.

The first thing that struck me is why does someone film themselves fishing? I understand that fishing shows date back to an era that precedes me, but I have never understood how it achieved a level of popularity in a visual medium. The next question I have for “goose guy” is why did you allow this particular, embarrassing video distribution? Why didn’t you hit the delete button on your phone in the immediate aftermath? If I were involved in this incident, no other set of eyes would ever see this video. I don’t think I would even be able watch it. My pride couldn’t have survived the hit.

Some have suggested that we are now at a point in human history where human beings will do whatever they have to do for their fifteen minutes of fame. If Andy Warhol, the originator of this quote, were still alive, and he saw this video, and learned that the victim, Drew Gregory, distributed it himself, and that that victim made himself available for aftermath commentary, as Gregory did in the TruTV airing of the video, Warhol would smile and say: “Told you!”

It is just a goose, I’m sure most readers will say, and what are the chances that an (on average seven-to-eight pound) animal could end your life? We can all agree that those chances are remote, but what are the chances that that same animal could do irreparable damage to an eyeball or an ear? What are the chances that a goose could give you lacerations that could land a victim in the hospital? I can tell you one thing. I would not be calculating these probabilities in the moment of the attack. I’m thinking that some primal, self-preservation tactics would rise to the surface as I fought this thing off.

I can also guarantee you that the networks –that run these type of clips– would deem my after the fact testimonial unusable, as I’m sure that videos of goose beheadings don’t test well in market research.

I would also not be that amiable dunce that found a way to laugh about it later. I would not view this moment in my life as entertaining in anyway. I would not qualify it by saying that I was in their environment, and I received everything I deserved. I would see that moment as one of those survival of the fittest moments. I would think about all these videos I’ve watched, and how the one thing we do know about nature is that it’s unpredictable. I also have to consider the idea that I would not think about any of this, not while in the moment. I have to think that my impulses would override rational thoughts. I would just act. I would just grab this thing by the throat, whisper Hannibal Lecter lines to it, and separate its head from its body. If that bird managed to escape all retribution, and I still had some angle on it, I would grab my kayak oar and drive the bird in a manner that would make fellow lefty, golfer Phil Mickelson, proud.

If the bird managed to escape all retribution, you can bet I wouldn’t be smiling and forgiving in the interview that followed. My, edited for television, version would go something like this:

“I don’t know how you guys attained this video, but it has ruined my life. Everyone I know now calls me “the goose guy”. If I get a hold of that goose, I will find the slowest, most agonizing death possible for it. I’ve already killed twelve geese in this area, thinking that it might be that one that ruined my life, and I’m not sure if I’ve killed this particular goose yet, or not, but I’ll probably end up killing twelve more before I rest.”

After witnessing a Rottweiler attack, in person, I find myself relegated to an embarrassing hysterical, emotional land whenever the average, full-grown Rottweiler walks into a room. It’s irrational and emotional, two reactions I strive to avoid in life, but they’re a part of me I cannot control. I’ve lost arguments with those that state that no dog, be they Rottweiler, Pit bull, or otherwise are evil by nature. They cite science. I cite hysterical emotions based upon experience. I lose. Even as I’m losing these arguments, however I know I’m not the alone with these thoughts. I don’t know if I’m in the majority, but I am quite sure there are many that would hold such view in the aftermath of their near-death attacks, or embarrassing attacks. I’m also quite sure that what I consider normal reactions to attacks, by wild animals, end up on the cutting room floor of these ubiquitous clip shows, for animal lovers that would not appreciate what I have to say, or what I do, in the aftermath of such an attack.

The Thief’s Mentality


The woman that cheated on me more than any other was the same woman that accused me of being a cheater more often than any of the others did. The man that accused me of stealing more often than most, turned out to be the person that stole from me most often. The individuals that lied to me more often than most were often the first to accuse me of being a liar. These people know who they are, on a level they’ll never understand, and they know we’re not much better than they are, so no matter what we do or say to them, they’re not buying it, because they know who we are. It’s the thief’s mentality.

The confusing nature of that final sentence was as intentionally confusing as the confusing nature of the thief’s mentality can be. Kurt Lee introduced me to the thief’s mentality, even though I didn’t know it at the time. He taught me more about being a thief, and a real piece of work (a POS), than any other person I’ve encountered, movie I’ve watched, or book that I’ve read on the subject. I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but Kurt Lee would serve as a prototype for those that would exhibit similar traits, traits that I would only later deem the thief’s mentality.

The most interesting aspect about the man, a characteristic that might defy that which I will describe throughout this piece, is that he was a charming individual. When it served him, Kurt Lee could be nice, engaging, infectious, and humorous. He could create a climate in which his audience would find it difficult not to be attracted to his sensibilities, and epistemology, in a manner that is difficult to describe to one that’s never met anyone like him.

Those that knew Kurt Lee, on a superficial level, would envy him for the ways in which he openly defy authority figures without guilt. Those that ended up spending as much time around Kurt Lee as I did, however, witnessed that for all the charisma a POS can display, while destroying the conventions that “all the squares live by”, learned that their ways end up destroying them from the inside out.

We were on a city bus, one afternoon, when Kurt Lee decided to play with the ball on top of an elderly woman’s stocking cap. The elderly woman sat in front of him on the bus. My reaction to this spectacle may be one of the things that I have to answer for when I reach Judgment Day, but I found his wicked, little act hysterical.

Hindsight now informs me that my attraction to Kurt Lee’s antics may have had something to do with learning about the mores and rules my mother taught me. Why hadn’t I ever played with the ball on top of an old woman’s stocking cap? What was the difference between Kurt Lee and me? Was it about morality, or did it have more to do with common decency? My mother taught me that when a young, healthy male sees an elderly woman, they should smile at them and try to think up something nice to say. My mother taught me to hold a door for them, and she said that I should consider it a privilege to give up my seat to them, on a city bus, if no other seats were available. These were the typical conventions that good, and decent, mothers pass on to their sons.

Not only did Kurt Lee ignore these conventions, he did the exact opposite. He played with the most vulnerable member of our culture’s stocking cap. He violated her sense of security. It was wrong, of course, but it was also a fascinating exploration of human nature? How would this old woman react? How would a real POS counter that reaction? Why did he do it in the first place? Did he think he would get away with it? Did he even care? I would never know the answer to the latter three questions, but my fascination with the answers to the former three questions led me to urge him on with laughter. This was wrong too, of course, but I now believe I did so because I was fascinated to learn more about the moral codes for which we all abide, by watching another solidify my rationale without regard for the consequences of violating them. I didn’t have any of these thoughts at the time, of course, but I did know that I couldn’t wait to see how this would end, and I dare say that most of those that are more successful in abiding by the standards their mother taught them, would not have been able to look away either.

This vulnerable, elderly woman did turn on Kurt, and she did so with an angry expression. She allowed the first few flicks of the ball atop her stocking cap go, as she presumably went about trying to muster up the courage to tell him off. Kurt Lee appeared ready to concede to that initial, nonverbal admonition, until he spotted me laughing. I encouraged his furtherance with that laughter. He did it three more times, before she reached a point of absolute frustration that led her to say something along the lines of this:

“Stop it, you young punk!”

To this, Kurt began thrusting his hips forward in his seat, looking at me, whispering, “She just wants it up the ass!”

Had Kurt Lee decided to stick his middle finger up in the face of a healthier, younger adult, it would have been just as difficult to avoid watching. The fact that he chose such a sacred cow of our culture for his act of rebellion, however, made his actions over-the-top hilarious. In my young, unformed mind, this was a real life equivalent to David Letterman’s man-on-the-street segments, taken up ten notches on the bold-o-meter. I would later learn that Kurt Lee was a coward that selected his victims based on their inability to fight back, as opposed to making a profound statement about our societal conventions, but at the time, I found his actions so bold that I couldn’t look away, and I couldn’t stop laughing.

As time wore on, I discovered a wide array of fascinating explorations of human nature, but they would pale in comparison to Kurt Lee’s mentality, his philosophy, and what drove him to be so different from everyone I had ever met. To listen to Kurt Lee speak on this subject, there was nothing different about him. He simply had the courage of his convictions. He ascribed to the more conventional line of thought that we were all afraid to be like him, but he also suggested that the rest of us have had this part of our makeup denied for so long, by parents and teachers instructing us to act different, that we now believe we are. It’s not about him, you see, it’s not about you. It’s about human nature, and the thief’s mentality.

“If you could get away with it, you would try,” was his answer to those that posed questions to him. “You mean to tell me you’ve never stolen anything? Ever? All right then, let’s talk about reality.” Kurt Lee was a thief, and like most thieves, he would not defend his position from the position of being a thief. He would substitute an exaggeration of your moral qualms of thievery with the idea that a person that has stolen one thing is in no position to judge someone that steals on a regular basis.

In short bursts, and on topic, Kurt Lee could lower the most skilled debater to the ground. He was, what we called, a master debater. It was difficult to pin him down on specifics. It was a joy to watch. Prolonged exposure, however, opened up all these windows into his soul.

When we would ask him how a guy from the sticks could afford the latest, top of the line zipper pants, or a pair of sunglasses that would put a fella back two weeks’ pay, and an original, signed copy of the Rolling Stones album, Some Girls. He would tell us, but even his most ardent defender had a hard time believing Santa Claus could be that generous.

Kurt Lee stole so often by the time I came to know him that the act of shoplifting had lost its thrill. He decided to challenge himself in the manner top athletes, and top news anchors, will by hiring outside analysts to scrutinize the minutiae of their performance. Kurt Lee asked me to watch him steal baseball cards from the owner of a baseball card shop that we all agreed was in need of a good lesson. This owner refused to buy our cards ninety-nine percent of the time and on those rare occasions when he would, the amount he offered was so low that we thought he was taking advantage of us.

I posed a theory about the transactions we had with this shop owner. I said I thought he refused to buy our cards so often to establish his bona fides as a resident expert of value, so that when he informed us that we had a card of some value, we would jump at the chance, no matter what he offered. In doing so, I said, he made us feel more valuable for finally offering him a card he considered of value.

“You’re right,” Kurt Lee said. “Let’s get him.”

I felt validated for coming up with a theory that Kurt believed explained the man, but in hindsight, I think I could’ve said anything at that moment and Kurt Lee would’ve used it to motivate me to conspire against the owner of a baseball card shop.

Kurt Lee did have one proviso, before we entered, and that was that I had to be careful how I watched Kurt Lee. I couldn’t be so obvious that the owner would know what we were doing.

This was an invitation into a world I had never known. I was as nervous as I was excited. I considered the idea that I might be implicated in this incident with my knowledge of what he was about to do, but I couldn’t shake the asexual intimacy that Kurt Lee was sharing with me, with this invitation into his world.

Before we entered the baseball card shop, Kurt Lee opened up his pockets, in the manner a magician might, and he asked me to confirm that he had no cards in his pockets.

When our hour at the baseball card shop concluded, and I didn’t witness Kurt Lee steal anything, I mocked him.

“I’m beginning to think you’re chicken,” I said. “I thought you said you were going to steal something?”

He opened up his jacket and showed me his inner pockets. It knocked me back a couple steps. I actually took a step back when I witnessed the fact that baseball cards lined his pockets. Had he displayed one card, I would have been impressed, three or four may have shocked me, but the sheer number of cards he stole without me noticing one act of thievery, led me to believe that Kurt Lee wasted his abilities shoplifting. I thought he should’ve tried his hand at magic. I considered him a maestro of shoplifting.

Soon after recovering from that awe, I began to wonder how one acquires such a deft hand. As with any acquired skill, trial and error is involved, but nestled within the trial and error process of being a thief, lies a need for the thief to find a utility that permits them to proceed uninhibited by shame. A skilled performer in the arts, or athletics, delights in displaying their ability to the world, in other words, but a thief prefers to operate in the shadows, and they acquire their skill with a modicum of shame attached. Their success, it would seem to those of us on the outside looking in, requires them to either defeat that sense of shame, or find some way to manage it.

Shame, some would argue, becomes more manageable with familiarity. When a father introduces shame to their child, in the brutal assessments a father makes regarding the value of the child, the child becomes familiar with an intimate definition of shame before they are old enough to combat the assessment. When these brutal assessments are then echoed by a mother’s concern that their child can do nothing right, the combined effort can damage a child to lasting effect. When those parents then console the child with a suggestion that while the child may be bad, they’re no worse than anyone else is, something gestates in the child. Some kind of moral relativism that suggests that the search for the definitions of right and wrong is over, and the sooner they accept that, the more honest they will become. Watching their mother scold the child’s teacher for punishing her child for a transgression, clarifies this confusion a little more. In this relativist scolding, the child hears their mother inform the teacher that the child can do no wrong, and they see her unconditional support firsthand. They also learn, over time, that their parents will not always be there for them, and that they will need to develop their own defense mechanisms. The child also learns to accept these realities for what they are, for the Lee family has never had the courage necessary to commit suicide.

I hated to discount the level of individual ingenuity on Kurt Lee’s part, but he was simply too good at the various forms of deception for it to have been something he arrived at on his own. It had to be the result of parental influence that had a transgenerational foundation composed of sedimentary layers of grievance, envy, frustration, and desperation. Some may consider that a bit of a stretch, but how much of our lives are spent rebelling against, and acquiescing to parental influence, and how many of us can say we are entirely free from it?

I was so obsessed with this, at one point, that I bridged the gap between simple curiosity and badgering. This was apparent in his volatile reaction:

“You think you’re better than me?” Kurt Lee said, using the universal get out of judgment free card of moral relativism. It is a time-honored redirect. It relies on the lessons our mom taught us, that we are no better than anyone else is, but Kurt Lee’s rant would begin to pivot out of control when he would follow the rationale to what he believed its logical extension.

This logical extension, if no one is better than anyone else is, and everyone resides on the cusp of being whatever Kurt Lee is, required the inclusion of an individual that many perceive to be so harmless it’s almost laughable to suggest otherwise. The individual, in this case, was a kid named Pete Pestroni, and if Kurt Lee’s arguments were going to hold water, the idea that Pete Pestroni was a wolf in sheep’s clothing would have to become an agreed upon fact. I don’t know why Kurt Lee went down this Pete Pestroni road so often, but I suspect that it had something to do with the idea that if Pete was immune, in one form or another, then everyone had to be. Pete was just too weak, or too scared, to let his wolf run wild, in Kurt Lee’s worldview. We would laugh at the implausibility of Pete Pestroni having a Kurt Lee trapped inside, dying to come out, and our intention was to laugh with Kurt Lee, but he wouldn’t even smile. This was a sacred chapter in Kurt Lee’s personal bible, and an ingredient of the thief’s mentality that took me decades to grasp.

The thief’s mentality is a mindset that involves a redirect of exposing an uncomfortable truth, or a hypocrisy, in others, so that the thief might escape a level of scrutiny that could lead to some level of introspection. An individual with a thief’s mentality may steal, but they are just as apt to lie and cheat. The thief’s mentality begins as a coping mechanism for dealing with the character flaws that drive them to do what they do, but it progresses from those harmless, white lies to a form of deception that requires a generational foundation.

The thief’s mentality is deflection, by way of subterfuge, to explain the carrier’s inability to trust beyond that point that they should be trusted, but some thieves’ outward distrust of others reaches a point of exaggeration that can say more about them than those they accuse. Their cynicism is their objectivity, and your faith in humanity is a subjective viewpoint that you must bear. We live in a dog eat dog, “screw or be screwed” world that suggests that those that trust anyone outside their own home are so naïve as to be hopeless. It’s incumbent on the listener, if they hope to survive in this version of the world, to see past the façades, and through the veneers that others present to you, to the truth.

The truth, in Kurt Lee’s worldview, had it that TV anchors with fourteen-inch parts, and perfect teeth, end their day by going home to beat their wives. No one attains wealth in an honest manner, Catholic priests are all pedophiles, and all presidents have engaged in acts of infidelity in the White House, “You think JFK and Clinton are different? They just got caught is all,” and little old ladies that complain about having the balls on the stocking caps played with, just want it up the ass. As with most tenets of a person’s worldview, there was some grain of truth to Kurt Lee’s, but he would often have to put forth a great deal of effort to support that it.

In most of these discussions, those of us in the audience are immune. We become the ‘I’m not talking about you’ party that the thief views as either an ally, or the focal point of their attempts to convince themselves that they’re not that bad. Whatever the reason behind our immunity is, it ends when our agreed upon basics begin to fracture in the course of the thief’s logical extensions. When that happens, the thief turns their accusations on us. We may think that we’re all virtuous and moral, but they know everything there is to know about hidden agendas. They maintain a perpetual state of readiness for that day when we break free of the constraints of morality and loyalty to expose our evil, naked underbelly to the world. They have us all figured out, because they know those lies we tell. It’s the thief’s mentality.

They may even believe what they’re saying in their accusations regardless what we’ve done to establish ourselves as an honest person, but the validity of their accusation pales in comparison to the need a person with a thief’s mentality has to keep the subject of their accusations in a perpetual state of trustworthiness. They make this accusation to keep us in check in a manner they know we should keep them in check. The import of that line provides us a key to understanding why an individual with a thief’s mentality would make such a charge against us, or a person so honest it’s laughable to suggest otherwise. Some might call such accusations psychological projection, the inclination one has to either deny or defend their qualities while seeing them in everyone else. Some might also suggest that Kurt’s accusation was born of theory, and that if that is the case all theory is autobiography.

Whether it was as complex as all that, on an unconscious level, or some simple measures Kurt Lee developed over the years to prevent people from calling him a POS, I witnessed some try to turn the table on this accusation by telling Kurt Lee that other people trust them. The answer he gave, to one combatant, was so clever that I have to think it was beyond his years. Again, I hate to discount individual ingenuity, but it just seemed too clever for Kurt to deliver as quickly as he did.

“So you think if someone trusts you that makes you trustworthy?” is how Kurt Lee responded. He said the word trustworthy, as if it was an accusation, but that wasn’t the brilliant, beyond-his-years response. That would arrive, as it often does, in the course of the argument that followed in which both participants say whatever they think they have to say to win an argument, regardless what those words reveal. What Kurt Lee said was something about how those that consider themselves a beacon of trustworthiness are suffering from a psychosis of another stripe. The reason I considered this response so perfect, as it pertained to this specific argument, was that it put the onus of being trustworthy on the person that challenged Kurt Lee trustworthiness. It also put any further questions regarding Kurt Lee’s character –or what his inability to trust people said about him– on the back burner, until the questioner could determine whether the level of his own trustworthiness was a delusion that group thought had led him to believe.

With the precedent of Kurt Lee always fresh in my mind, I’ve had a number of otherwise trustworthy friends ask me how to deal with the thief in their life. They don’t understand why their beloved doesn’t trust them in even the most banal arenas of life. These worried friends state that they can’t remember what they did to damage that trust that their beloved declares irretrievable. My friends were insecure about their trustworthiness in the manner we all are, but they can’t remember the specific incident that brought about the damning accusations regarding their trustworthiness. They come to me with grief and sorrow on their hearts:

“How do I win him back? How do I regain his trust?”

“I’m sorry to say that it’s not about you,” I tell them. “It’s the thief’s mentality.”

I am sorry to say this, because these concerned friends have consigned themselves to some sort of relationship with the afflicted that requires them to spend long hours, days, and years with this person. I have explained what I mean to these people, via my personal experiences with Kurt Lee, and it has helped these concerned and confused souls frame the accusations their thief makes, but commingled in that short-term relief is the idea that their loved one is never going to trust them anymore than they trust themselves.

Thieves, like Kurt Lee, are damaged in irreparable and relative ways. They may not enjoy the lives they’ve created for themselves, where they can’t even trust the one person in their lives that they could, or should, but it does help them spread their misery a little to accuse. It does lighten their load to transfer some of their toxins to others. It also gives them a little lift to know that you are a little less trusting than you were before you met them. It helps them believe that they’re not such an aberration, but this relief is temporary, as the toxins that have made them what they are are as endemic to the biological chemistry as white and red blood cells, but it does please them to know that you now view humanity in the same cynical, all-hope-is-lost manner they do.

If it’s true that a mere two-percent of people are self-aware, then the lack of self-awareness, as it pertains to what we are, and what we are to become, is as endemic to the thief’s mentality as it is in every other walk of life. They believe, as the rest of us do, that they do not live on an exaggerate pole of morality. They believe that they reside in the middle with the rest of us, somewhere on the good side of this fuzzy dividing line, and that we’re all tempted to do that one thing that could place us on the other side. The difference being that their lack of fear separates them, coupled with their refusal to conform to what our parents and teachers taught us. They also know that we place most of humanity on their side of the fuzzy line, because we all have problems trusting those that we don’t know well enough to know whether they will make moral decisions in life, but some take this natural state of skepticism a step further. Some thieves’ exaggerated, outward distrust for those around them ends up saying more about them than those they accuse. It’s the thief’s mentality.

(Editor’s Note: There is an old saying that goes something along the lines of, if I wanted to know what happened to my high school friends, I’d still be friends with them. There are those standouts though. Those people we think of when we read a book, or watch a movie that has a character that reminds us of them. Due to the tangential influence Kurt Lee has had on my life, I’ve always wondered what happened to the man. Attending the funeral of my friend’s mom, the subject of Kurt Lee rose, and it answered the question: Whatever Happened to Kurt Lee?)