(Read Part 2 and/or Part 3)

There are several things you need to know before reading this blawg post.

Number 1 (and this is by far the most important): I am an asshole. I’m not the kind of asshole that wears Ax Body Spray and roofies girls’ drinks at frat parties or the kind that wears wife beaters and refers to vaginas as “hotdog warmers” or the kind that pulls up next to homeless men in BMWs and tells them to get jobs or Ann Coulter. I’m just a cranky, pessimistic bastard who hopes that people will be good but assumes they will suck. It’s a perfectly valid point of view in my opinion. I try to use my powers of assholery to protect the innocent and thwart the evil, but I usually just end up mildly pissing off other assholes and making my friends chuckle.

Number 2: I live by a specific philosophical code. This is not a code that I developed after observing human nature for numerous decades, ruminating on my findings, and then attempting to codify the results of my study into a system of psychological/physiological/behavioral rules. I’m no Plato. No, I developed my philosophy for much less altruistic reasons. After living a relatively selfish lower-class existence for thirty years or so, it dawned on me one day that practically all of the decisions in my life were dictated by my attempts to balance two factors: cheap vs. lazy. Obviously, this has little relevance when I’m making macro decisions, such as voting for the president or plotting to overthrow the world with my super-villain powers, but in the microcosm of my everyday life it is surprisingly consistent. I am profoundly cheap and perversely lazy. And since this is America, where money very often purchases convenience, a person such as myself who does not want to work hard for more money but wishes to remain comfortable in his poverty must constantly seek harmony between the stingy ying and the snoozy yang. (I promise this will be relevant later on in the story.)

Number 3: I recently got engaged to a fellow pessimist, albeit one much less abrasive than myself.

Number 4: Me and the less abrasive pessimist decided to move from Boulder, Colorado to Austin, Texas. In June. To an apartment we’d never seen.

Number 5: Also, neither of us had ever been to Austin. Ever.

Now we can begin…

Hey, boys and girls! Here’s a fun social experiment you can perform with your liberal acquaintances! Tell them that you’re moving and when they ask where say, “Texas!” and then watch their faces melt off like that Nazi dude at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

People have opinions about Texas. Strong opinions. Strange opinions. Long-winded opinions. Opinions they feel the need to share despite the fact that you never asked for said opinions or cared about said opinions or really gave a shit about any opinion the person in front of you is now spouting off concerning the decisions you are making with your life that have nothing whatsoever to do with them. There are various ways to deal with these particular opinion-sharers, but my favorite is to simply yell “YEEEEHAW!”, grab my crotch, spit, and walk away.

If you perform the same experiment but say “Austin!” the person you are talking to will inevitably reply, “You know that’s in Texas, right?” and then laugh hysterically as though they are the first person to ever think of this clever witticism. This happens approximately 72 percent of the time.

We discussed the issue for months, and in the end here’s the short version of why we decided to move to Austin: we hate winter and Austin is fairly cheap for a culturally relevant city.

Also, I’ve never seen an armadillo. (It’s like a dinosaur and a possum made sweet sweet love and then had a baby that’s apparently prone to vehicular suicide.)

It’s hot in Texas.

This is one of the intellectual tidbits the opinion-sharers like to share, as if the temperature south of Oklahoma is some closely kept government secret that only they are privy to. And if you tell them that, yes, you know it’s hot, they will interrupt you and say, “No, you don’t understand. It’s really hot.” Actually, I do understand, Mr. Italics. I’ve traveled and lived in countries all over the world, some of them in the desert, some of them in the tropics. I understand heat. We know that in the summer is going to be uncomfortably hot. We get it. We would simply rather be uncomfortably hot in the summer than uncomfortably cold in the winter. We’re heat people.

The other thing people like to tell you is how far your journey will be. Once again, this is not difficult information to obtain, especially in the age of Google. Just clickety-clack for two seconds on the old computer keyboard and WALLAH! It’s a 16-hour drive from Boulder to Austin.

And this is where my idiotic philosophical code almost ruined our move.

(Read Part 2 and/or Part 3)

When I was young, my friends and I played a game called MASH, which stood for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House. The goal of the game was to predict your future, and according to some, it was shockingly accurate. What type of house would you live in as an adult? What model of car would you drive? Who would you marry? How many children would you produce? All these questions could be answered with just a piece of notebook paper and a Number 2 pencil.

Of course, we all wanted the mansion. No one ever came out and said so, but it was fairly obvious that if you lived in a shack, you were poor. If you lived in a house, you were middle class. And if you lived in an apartment…well, there were no apartment buildings in the small town where I grew up, so we decided that the “A” in MASH would stand for “A Cheap Hotel near the Pizza Hut.” And if you lived in an A Cheap Hotel near the Pizza Hut, you were probably either a traveling salesman or a serial killer. Either way, it was better to live in a mansion.

*     *     *     *

The first domicile I can recall with any clarity from my childhood was a broken down farmhouse just outside the city limits of a town called Fort Morgan. It was located at the end of a long, dirt driveway, and it included a garage, a row of palsied elm trees, and a wide variety of poisonous snakes. My father was a fundamentalist preacher who believed the end of the world was coming soon, and he insisted we learn to live off the land in order to improve our chances of survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Chickens were purchased, a garden was planted, and soon we were completely self-sufficient. Sort of.

It turns out living off the land is extremely difficult to do, especially when you are attempting to feed and clothe a young family. Money was tight and we couldn’t pay the electric bill with chicken eggs. A year passed with no Armageddon. And then another. And another.

Finally, when I was eight years old, we gave up on Fort Morgan and moved to an even smaller town called Yuma. I wouldn’t have called our new home a shack, but it was certainly closer to an S than it was to an M. The former residents were either meth addicts or members of the witness protection program. The entire house had been gutted shortly before our arrival, the carpet stripped from the floor, the windows busted out, the walls smeared with a mysterious brown substance. And if that wasn’t welcoming enough, there was a dead bird in the middle of the living room. I think it was a sparrow, but I will never know for certain because my mother snatched me away before I could properly investigate it. Something about bugs and deadly diseases.

The first year in the Yuma house was not a pleasant one. All six members of our family lived in the basement while my father rebuilt the main floor with the help of various plaid-wearing churchgoers. The basement was divided into two rooms by a plaster wall. My brother and I slept on a bunk bed next to the kitchen table, and my parents slept in the laundry room, a thin white sheet separating their bed from my sisters’. The television was positioned on top of the refrigerator. If you needed to use the bathroom, you had to climb the stairs and pray that the plumbing was working.

It took nearly a decade to get the Yuma house in working order, and by that time I was off to college, where I lived in various dormitories with obnoxious coeds. Some of my fellow students were shocked to learn that they would have a roommate their freshman year, but I was delighted. Bunk beds, cramped living conditions, unpredictable plumbing–I felt right at home.

In my late twenties, I moved to Prague and rented an apartment in the middle of the city, where prostitutes roamed the streets at all hours of the night, smoking cigarettes and propositioning male tourists from all over the globe. When I was drunk, which was often, I would stumble home from the bar and pretend the prostitutes were elegant ladies determined to gain my attention by any means necessary. “Hello. How are you this evening?” “You think I’m attractive, do you? Well, thank you. You are quite lovely as well.” “What’s that? Fifty euros, you say? Oh, no, I would never charge you for the pleasure of my company, my dear.” I didn’t make a lot of friends, but my confidence went through the roof.

The Prague apartment was the cheapest place I have ever lived. It was also the nicest. Hard-wood floors, a furnished kitchen, two bathrooms, twenty-foot-tall ceilings, a laundry room. All for just $200 dollars a month. Thank goodness for the post-communist economic collapse! My roommates were two medical students who were studying at the local university. There was always a human skull on the kitchen table and a book of hideous wounds next to the toilet.

After drinking my savings down to nothing, I returned to Colorado, where I lived on my friends’ couch for six months while I half-heartedly looked for a job. Finally, much to my chagrin, I found one.

Currently, I live in a mansion a few blocks west of the University of Colorado in Boulder. That is, it used to be a mansion. Many of the buildings in this area are beautiful Tudor structures that have been purchased by wealthy fraternities and sororities. When they were first built, several hundred years ago, I’m certain the owners had no idea that one day well-tanned coeds named Chad and Britney would be vomiting PBR on their solid oak floors and smoking pot in their foyers.

The building I live in was once a sorority house, but has long since been converted into a series of individual living spaces that are rented out to the dregs of society. Affordable housing is difficult to come by in Boulder, so this place attracts some interesting characters. There are illegal immigrants, welfare recipients, panhandlers, drug dealers, drug addicts, hermits, and one curmudgeonly writer. My room is approximately ten feet long by fifteen feet wide. There’s just enough room for a bed, a couch, and a coffee table. The bathroom and kitchen are both across the hall. You can’t run the microwave and the toaster at the same time or you will cause a building-wide blackout. Air conditioning, no. Mice, yes. We do have heat, but there’s only one thermostat for the entire building, so we all have to make do at 55 degrees, which is apparently the temperature most suitable for the cold-blooded miscreants who live downstairs.

Altogether, it’s not exactly what I pictured for myself when I was a young child playing MASH. When I landed on M, I thought my destiny had been determined. I would live in a mansion, drive a red Ferrari (like Magnum P.I.), marry Sandy Freytag who sat in front of me in homeroom, and have seven children. Thank goodness it didn’t turn out to be true. How would one fit seven children in a Ferrari?

Worst Fear

March 15, 2011

I used to work with an idiot. This girl, this “coworker,” I hated her with a passion I cannot describe in words. Everything was more difficult when she was around. She wasn’t stupid, just consistently and infuriatingly incompetent. The job in question was retail, so it wasn’t as though we were building rockets to the moon, but she couldn’t seem to grasp the most basic details: enter the correct price into the cash register, make sure the customer signs the credit card receipt, when the phone makes the ringy-ringy noise that means you’re supposed to pick it up.

The strange thing was that this young woman was actually quite intelligent. She was in her early twenties, about ready to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and her next step was med school.

And that is what frightened me most. I had never given much thought to hospital staff, but it must be like any other field: there are a few bright ones, a few apathetic ones, and plenty of people who can memorize every bone in the human body but can’t figure out how to turn on the vacuum cleaner. (Hint: There’s a big red button on the top that says ON).

One of my greatest fears is that one day I will be in a horrible automobile accident. (This would involve a bus, of course, since I don’t drive.) The paramedics come with their flashy lights and woo-woo siren. They put me on a stretcher and hoist me into the back of their vehicle. They say things like, “Stay with us, son,” and, “This guy’s a fighter. I can see it in his eyes.”

When I get to the hospital, they rush me to the emergency room, where I am hooked up to a variety of beeping and blipping machines. “It doesn’t look good,” someone says. “We have to perform emergency exploratory surgery. STAT!” (You know they mean business when they say stat.) I stare at the bright lights on the ceiling as they put me under. And just before I drift off to sleep, my former coworker sticks her bulbous head in front of my face and says, “Oh, my God! Dale! Is that you? Totally cool. I haven’t seen you in years. Don’t worry, I’m totally going to be your doctor today. For the reals! You’re in good hands… Now how do you turn on this defibrillator? I have to restart that gross red thingy in your chest.”

So unfortunately the last time I was drunk and writing this blawg, apparently I said something ridiculous about posting one every week and the two people that read it got all pissy with me for not meeting my intoxicated-induced deadline, and that is why you are being forced to suffer through another one of these narcissistic stories about my life. If you don’t like it, take it up with Michelle Crouse and Nate Cook. Bastards.

ANYHOW, it’s another episode of “Where The Buffalo Roams” brought to you by Hungry-Man dinners. If you’re lazy and don’t care that your body looks like a bloated bovine carcass that has been rotting in the sun for a few days, try Hungry-Man. Huzzah! Let’s hear it for American ingenuity and obesity!

Speaking of food, as Michelle so graciously pointed out, I forgot to mention in my last blawg that The Buffalo regularly brings me canned food from the Food Bank here in town. Specifically, black beans and pears. You might be asking yourself: Well, Dale, are black beans and pears your two favorite ingestible items? Perhaps you have a mouth-watering recipe for black-beans-and-pear pie. Nope. Pears creep me out because of their grainy texture (it feels like I’m eating fruit-flavored dirt) and as for black beans, well, I’m just an old-fashioned racist at heart who doesn’t like anything with the word “black” in it.

(Boulderites, before you call the NAACP, that was a joke. I love black people… Now Jews on the other hand!)

(Haha, also a joke. Zay moykhl.)

I have no idea why The Buffalo brings me black beans and pears, but I currently have…

(pause while I count the jars in my solitary-confinement-like apartment)

…seven cans of pears and…

(pause for a second count because I’m not very good at math and didn’t think I could remember the first number while I was counting to figure out the second number)

…twelve cans of black beans. That’s right, I said TWELVE. That is a ridiculous number of beans for one person to have, I don’t care what color they happen to be.

Yesterday, The Buffalo showed up with two more cans of black beans and said, “Could you use some more beans?” Which is always his question. I said, “No.” Which is always my response. And then he stood in my doorway awkwardly until I took them.

When I was a kid, we used to have this Siamese tomcat named Leroy who would go out hunting all night long and the next morning he’d leave a dead mouse at the front door. I would be headed off to school, tra-la-la, and then, oh, a dead rodent on our Welcome mat, how nice. And I would pick it up by the tail and chase my sisters with it all the way to Yuma Elementary School, Home of the Little Indians!

I kind of think that’s what The Buffalo is doing. It’s some sort of offering he makes, although I’m not sure what exactly it is for. It’s his strange way of saying that we’re friends. Which is completely cool but also weird and unnecessary.

Michelle asked me why I keep taking these pears and beans, and I honestly don’t know, except that it seems like I would be breaking some sort of code if I refused them. I guess my logic is that if The Buffalo ever decides to go all John Wayne Gacy on the world, I want to be on his good side. One day he might freak out about quality of the janitorial services in the building and start chopping up all my neighbors. If that happens, I’ll barricade myself in my room and blawg about it while surviving off of my endless supply of black beans and pears.

Where The Buffalo Roams

January 1, 2011

So today I decided that I am going to write a weekly blawg about my neighbor, The Buffalo. Therefore, in the future, if you see the words “Where The Buffalo Roams” in the title, you will know what the post will be about. These posts won’t be too arduous, five-hundred words or so, and if they do not amuse you…um…well, that’s life, I guess. Okay? Okay.

First, let me do a little recap in case there are new viewers who are just now tuning in to our show:

The Buffalo is the rather obese, unemployed man who lives at the end of the hall in my rather strange, dysfunctional apartment building. He is an eccentric urban hermit who has cloistered himself in this place like a post-apocalyptic monk, and he will die here unless he wins the lottery one day, which is his only financial plan for the future.

Important Things You Should Know About The Buffalo: A) The Buffalo does not like to wear shirts. I do not know why he has such an aversion to upper-body garments but he does. I suppose I should be happy that his aversion is not toward lower-body garments, if you know what I mean. (Pssst…I mean it would be frightening to see his ding-dong.) B) The Buffalo is called “The Buffalo” because he believes that he was a buffalo in his former life. Why? Well, that’s another story altogether. C) The Buffalo only leaves the apartment building once a month to get groceries. Otherwise, he is here. Always. D) The Buffalo receives exactly $700 a month from the government. He is on welfare because a psychiatrist once said he had “bonding issues.” He attributes this to the fact that he was adopted as a baby. E) The Buffalo was adopted as a baby. Why is this important? Well, it’s not really, except that The Buffalo attributes every negative thing that has happened in his life to the fact that he was adopted as a baby and uses that phrase approximately twenty times a day. F) The Buffalo is thirty-nine years old. G) The Buffalo appears to consume mostly coffee and Hungry-Man dinners. H) The Buffalo may or may not be a virgin. I) The Buffalo has very bad social skills and cannot seem to comprehend when he is making other people uncomfortable. J) The Buffalo is constantly making other people uncomfortable. K) The Buffalo believes in ghosts. L) The Buffalo constantly tries to debate the existence of a spiritual world with me. M) The Buffalo believes that he has telekinetic powers but only when no one else is around to witness them. N) The Buffalo smokes pot. O) The Buffalo has a fungus underneath his armpit. P) The Buffalo feels compelled to show me disgusting things, such as the fungus underneath his armpit. Q) The Buffalo is going bald.

Well, okay, that should give you the basic physiological/psychological picture of The Buffalo. He is not a bad guy, but he is rather strange and frustrating at times.

I guess this was more of a background blawg than anything else. You now have the basic tools necessary to comprehend future stories. Tell your friends. Tell your therapists. Tell your milkmen. (Why don’t we have milkmen anymore? I would definitely purchase dairy products from a milkman. Especially if he drove a refrigerated truck and wore one of those old-timey uniforms.)

Communicating with Nature

December 23, 2010

Sometimes I like to communicate with Nature. For instance, it was gray and cloudy today, but it hadn’t begun to snow yet, so I decided to brave the elements and walk to the library at 2:15 p.m. Ten minutes after I left my apartment—the exact amount of time it takes for me to be far enough from home not to want to turn back but not close enough to my destination to make the trip worth catching pneumonia—it began to drizzle. It was one of those slushy, disgusting meteorological events that feels like Frosty the Snowman is peeing on your face, and I said, “I hate you, Nature! You are an asshole, Nature!”

And Nature just laaaaaaaughed and laughed.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is a man who lives in my apartment building who calls himself the Buffalo. He is a big man, a talkative man, and a man who would prefer not to wear shirts. He is not ashamed of his body, thank you very much. Although he probably should be.

Fortunately, the Buffalo is also a computer-less man, and since he only leaves his apartment to do laundry and purchase Hungry-Man Dinners, I can safely assume that he will never ever read this blawg.

I am simultaneously awed by and frightened of the Buffalo. I constantly want to have conversations with him, and yet whenever he does start to converse with me, I have an overwhelming impulse to scream and run out of the room. This is also kind of how I feel about Lady Gaga.

If the Buffalo was either evil or good, it would be a lot easier to make up my mind about him. I could simply classify him in a category and then treat him accordingly. For instance, if he were evil, I would say that he’s got a real Jeffrey Dahmer-type vibe and all those hours in the bathroom are probably spent carefully peeling off the tips of his fingers so that he won’t leave any prints on his  victims, a la Kevin Spacey in “Se7en” (and, yes, that is technically how the name of that movie is supposed to be spelled–I looked it up on IMDB.com).  Or if he was good, I would say that he is more of the Quazimoto type, a deformed creature that has been rejected by society because of his outward appearance, but inside that extremely hairy, man-boob chest there beats a heart of gold.

But the Buffalo is a complicated guy and he cannot be so easily defined. There is goodness in him and there is evilness (if that is actually a word).

PEOPLE’S EXHIBIT A: There used to be a young Mexican man named Juan who cleaned our kitchen and bathroom. Since there is one kitchen and one bathroom for the entire floor, those facilities have to be used by seven people, and since those seven people are lazy slobs, management has to pay a man to clean up after them once a week, and since management is cheap and doesn’t want to pay minimum wage, that man needs to be willing to work for very little cash paid under the table. Juan was such a man. He wasn’t exactly great with a mop and dustpan but then again he never complained about the insane people who made his job miserable, so everyone decided to ignore his janitorial shortcomings.

Everyone except the Buffalo.

The Buffalo told management that Juan was lazy and then Juan was fired. Let me repeat that: The guy who doesn’t have a job and has never had a job complained that the guy who cleans up after him was lazy.

Okay, so that’s the Evil Buffalo. However, hold on to your knickers, there’s also the Good Buffalo.

DEFENSE EXHIBIT B: I have another neighbor who steals my mail. Well, to be fair, she steals everyone’s mail, not just mine. I guess it’s like her thing or something. Some crazy ladies have cats, some crazy ladies collect campaign buttons; this crazy lady steals mail.

You see, there’s only one mailbox for the entire apartment building. What! you say. Only one mailbox! Why, that’s absurd! Yes, dear reader, it is absurd and I appreciate the exclamation points in your hypothetical reaction. The mailman simply drops all the mail on our front porch like a zookeeper throwing a pound of chum into a shark tank. For the first two months that I lived here, I couldn’t figure out why my Netflix movies never arrived. I found out later that Crazy Lady was stealing them. She waits for the mail and then she takes all of it to her room, where it disappears into a dark vortex of stuffed animals and ceramic figurines. Since I actually have a job, I can’t wait around all day to prevent this woman from taking my “Diff’rent Strokes: Episodes 1-5” DVDs. That would be insane.

I told the Buffalo about this problem and he immediately sprang (well, oozed) into action. Every day, he sits on the front stoop of the building until the mailman comes and he carefully looks at every letter three times to make certain that he has all my mail. Afterward, he either shoves my mail under my door immediately or, in the case of packages, squirrels them away in secret hiding places in his room until I come home, and then he promptly delivers them to me. It’s like having a butler. A butler who lives down the hall, and talks too much about “Unsolved Mysteries,” and doesn’t wear a shirt, and refuses to do any actual work aside from delivering postal products. So not really like a butler at all, actually.

ANYHOW, that’s the situation. Evil Buffalo vs. Good Buffalo. Who shall win the day? If Good Buffalo prevails, I will continue watching crappy sitcoms from the 1980s while writing this blawg. If Bad Buffalo is victorious, you will probably find me in a duffel bag along with numerous cans of well organized food products.

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