Issue #76 – “Domestic Abuse” – October 10th, 2005

-Like all mammals, I instinctively react to dire circumstances and suddenly develop abilities I do not normally possess.  For instance, during Mardi Gras 2003, after a three-day liquid diet and taking a stray bead toss to the jugular, I found myself alone, lying on the floor of my cousin’s house in New Orleans, unable to move.  Suddenly, my survival instincts kicked in.  I knew that I needed to eat solid food, and quickly, or I would soon die a lonely and breastless death.  I struggled to my feet, willed open a cabinet, and made myself a bowl of pasta wheels.  It was the first time I’d ever made pasta, boiled water, used a stove, or touched a pot.  But, alas, this flash of domesticity was short-lived as I soon reverted back to getting take-out and laundry delivered right to the door of my apartment in New York City.  Since moving to Los Angeles this summer, though, I’ve been forced to fend for myself like never before.  Still, put me near a stove, washing machine, or vacuum cleaner, and things get ugly quickly.  You might even call it domestic abuse.

-I’m renting a furnished apartment in LA and I knew that if I was going to actually use the kitchen, everything would have to be thoroughly disinfected first.  I also knew that, as a bachelor, and a skinny one at that, I wouldn’t need much.  So I carefully soaped up, scrubbed, and left to dry two spoons, two forks, two knives, two bowls, two plates – two of everything.  You should have seen my countertop.  It was like the Noah’s Ark of flatware.

-But let me assure you I have not gotten soft by any measure.  There is still no fucking way I’m doing laundry.  Just like in New York, I send my laundry out.  Except in New York, it’s called “laundry.”  In Los Angeles, it’s referred to as “fluff & fold.”  What the hell does that mean?  It sounds like something you’d get from an obsessive-compulsive porn star.

-Of course, just in case the fluff & fold place is closed, I have an emergency supply of JC Penney boxers I can resort to when the going gets tough.  They’re so old that they sometimes fall behind my dresser drawers as if they’re trying to escape to freedom.  I don’t mind wearing them once in a while, but the elastic waistbands are so loose I have to fold them over like a slutty chick’s shorts at summer camp.

-I’m a clean freak, but I won’t clean.  I’ll never forget when I was still living in New York and the cleaning woman told my roommate Brian and I that our vacuum needed to be fixed.  After an epic, eleven-all rock-paper-scissors stalemate, we both walked the vacuum cleaner half a block to the repair shop.  When Brian and I returned a few days later, sans receipt stub, the clerk told us to just grab our vacuum.  Only problem was, neither of us could remember what it looked like.  The guy started trotting out vacuum after vacuum while we stared and made comments like, “Could you turn it to the left?” and “No, I’m pretty sure ours was mauve.”  It was like a Dirt Devil police lineup.

-In the end, after a long holdout, I finally broke down and started going grocery shopping in LA (to get supplies for the three things I now know how to make in a microwave).  Eventually, in order to get all my groceries and fluff & fold from my car to my apartment, I had to get one of those foldable laundry carts on wheels.  So next time you’re in Los Angeles and think you see a victim of domestic abuse, don’t hurry past.  That sorry figure in tattered underwear pushing a plastic cart full of cans?  It’s me.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-I cringe when I go to a restaurant for the first time and the waiter asks if I’ve eaten there before.  Because I know that if I answer truthfully, I’ll then be subjected to a ten-minute instructional lecture on the intricate aspects of ordering tapas.  Listen, if your menu is so complicated that living on earth for twenty-six years doesn’t give me enough knowledge to properly order from it, I’m probably not going to like any of this weird-ass food anyway.

-I often panic when they offer me freshly ground pepper in a restaurant.  They always stick that long, wooden pepper mill right in my face and totally put me on the spot.  It’s a pretty tough decision, too.  Pepper or no pepper?  What do I do?  Everyone else seems to be getting pepper, but I’m drawing a blank!  Do I want it?  That giant fucking pepper shaker is right in my face and I’m freakin’ out!  And that’s when I wonder if there was anything in the instructional lecture I lied to avoid that covered pepper panic attacks.

-I hate receiving gratitude for actions I have not yet refrained from doing.  For instance, in the last hotel I stayed in, there was a placard in the bathroom that read “Thank you for not taking the bath towels to the pool.”  Well, fuck you!  Don’t thank me for something I haven’t not done yet!  I didn’t think of it before, but maybe I will take those bath towels to the pool, just for spite.  Take that, you presumptuous placard!

-Well, the countdown is on.  Brian is getting married in ten months.  I can’t wait to serve as the Best Man at this fucking thing.  First, Brian suggested to his fiancee that they put an email address on their wedding invitations in order to save money by not using reply cards.  The idea was met by quiet sobbing and quickly quashed.  A few weeks later, Brian attended his college buddy’s wedding and uttered the faux pas of the year in the closing line of his own Best Man speech.  He said, “Jeff, you chose the breast bride possible.”  Brian called me from the bathroom of the wedding hall right after the toast to tell me what happened.  I asked him if he really wanted to get married next summer.  He said yes.  I said, “Then, for the love of God shut your mouth and don’t say another word for the next ten months!”

-My buddy Scotty has been trying to get me to go hiking with him in LA.  I’m always like, “Hiking really isn’t my thing.”  And he’s like, “How do you know if you’ve never even tried?”  I say, “Dude, I’ve been outside before.  I get the gist.”

-And, finally, I believe that the real differentiating factor in life – between mere children and actual responsible adults – is that adults eat dinner at a table.  They don’t sit hunched over their coffee table shoveling heartburn-inducing food into their mouth as fast as possible like most twentysomethings and the rest of the animal kingdom.  How do the apes at the zoo eat bananas?  Hunched over.  The amoebas that emerged from primordial ooze?  You can’t tell without a microscope, but they were eating hunched over, too.  For the first time in my life, my apartment actually has a dinner table I can eat off of.  The hunch is gone.  As I sit, back straight and heartburn-free, and survey my new surroundings in Los Angeles, I realize how much I’ve grown and how many new things I’ve learned to do on my own.  And then, with my underwear waistband folded over twice, I dig into a hearty bowl of pasta wheels.  Fuck me!