Sheena is a punk rocker

Sheena is a punk rocker. Sheena didn’t want to go to college because she wanted to move out to Chicago with her punk rock boyfriend. His name was Steel and he was in a punk rock band called Glamalglamate. She was in her own punk rock band here in New York called the She-He-Hulks, but they’d only had like two shows together, really basic sort of opening acts, and when she was really honest with herself, she knew it wasn’t going anywhere, the guitarist hadn’t returned anybody’s calls in over a month.

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Sheena wanted to start a new punk rock band in Chicago, she had this idea that they’d call themselves the Punk-15, inspired by an obscure lyric from a random Bad Religion song. When she came up with the name, she almost got a little dizzy from the rush of creative potential, but when she told Steel about it, it wasn’t like he was discouraging or anything, but she could tell that he didn’t get it, and he was one of the most punk rock guys she knew, so if he didn’t get it, would the greater Chicago punk community get it? Because even though you’re not supposed to get it right away, you’re supposed to get it eventually, right?

Sheena got upset with Steel when he flatly said, “No way,” when she asked if she could maybe join Glamalgamate. They already had a somewhat impressive following, somewhat impressive for an underground Chicago post-punk band.

“We’re a post-punk band now,” Steel cut her off one time when they were out at the bowling alley and she was trying to tell some punk rockers four lanes down about Glamalgamate. “What does that even mean?” she wanted to ask, but she was glad that she didn’t, because everybody on lane sixteen just kind of nodded along knowingly.

Sheena is a post-punk rocker. “But seriously, why can’t I at least fill in for you guys once in a while?” That was Sheena and Steel fighting about the band again. Glamalgamate’s lead singer Larry had gotten really annoyed at their last show when Sheena showed up with a tambourine. Everybody was a little annoyed, but only Larry really made it obvious, which was, whatever, it’s not like she tried to get on stage or anything.

But yeah, Steel and Sheena had a post-post-punk rock breakup. That is, he gave her like five days to call somebody back in New York, neither of them had enough money to send her back, and she refused to make the call, she was just crying and not leaving the apartment. So finally Steel got on the phone.

“Hello, Mr. Pangrowski?” she thought he was faking it, that no way would he have the balls to call her dad. But two minutes later it was like, “Yep. OK. Thanks. Bye.” Click. For just a second her heart stopped, like it was beating, beating, beating, and then click, and she swore she felt it stop. And that moment kind of lingered for a while, suspended, she actually felt a little relieved, like this wasn’t such a bad way to go, she wouldn’t have to get angry or cry or face her dad when he got to Chicago.

But then it started beating again right away and all of that blood skipped her cheeks and her ears and went straight to her tear ducts, which were already pumping out tears in overdrive, and so this only had the added effect of adding a weird level of physical pain to her incessant crying.

“Steel, come on,” she managed to get out in between sobs, all while he kind of just ignored her and started collecting all of her stuff, laundry mostly, laundry and various punk-rock memorabilia that she had schlepped over in her punk-rock backpack.

And on the drive back to New York she couldn’t even say anything, she just sat in the backseat, crying, now not even wanting cry. Before she wanted to cry because she wanted Steel to know that she was hurting. Even when her dad just kind grabbed her duffel bag and threw it in the back, those tears were helpful in communicating a non-verbal level of despair. But now, enough was enough, these tears just felt pathetic, really.

And it was a long drive back to New York, she hadn’t thought to maybe tweak her playlist a little bit, when that Ramones song came on, it was like a big joke, like the universe just pointing and laughing and spitting and kicking dust into the spit and spitting again and then punching and kicking and stomping and laughing.

“Sheena is. A punk rocker Shee – ee – na – ah is. A punk rocker yeah – ee – yeah – ee – yeah.

Cause she’s a – a punk punk. A punk rocker. A punk punk …”

My bike

Something like three or four years ago, I had a bike stolen in the city. I was always really good about chaining it up to wherever I chained it up to, I had a U shaped lock that went around the frame, and then I wrapped a flexible chord lock around the two wheels. Other than this one time where I came outside one day to find my seat missing, I never really had any sort of theft problems.

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But then one day I rode my bike to work. By the time I left the building at around  six in the afternoon, it was pouring rain. And I mean, I’ll ride in a little rain, I live close to work, I have rain pants, it’s doable. But this day wasn’t doable. It was really coming down. I thought about it, I thought, should I take the bike down on the subway with me? I’ve done that before. It’s not that easy, but you’re allowed to, like, there’s no rules against it like there is on the PATH train or the Long Island Railroad.

But it’s a huge pain in the ass. You’ve got to carry your bicycle down a flight of stairs, and then you’ve got to put it down somewhere while you get your Metrocard out. After that it’s more stairs, and then you’re waiting on the platform, you and a giant bike, all while everybody else in the city is just trying to get home, just them and a bag, usually, not a lot of other bikes.

And think about it, it’s pouring rain, so everybody’s making a rush to the subway, there aren’t any cabs available, the system’s running a lot slower because of water leaking into the tunnels, because of people crowding the cars. That’s another thing, I’ll be waiting with my bike and a full train will roll into the station. If I were by myself, sure, I could push myself in there. But with a bike? It’s not happening. And everybody’s just getting more and more pissed at me, throwing a wrench into the system, making it hard for people just to walk around me.

I thought about it, I said, you know what? I’ll just leave it outside for the night. I’ll just pick it up in the morning. And you know, in retrospect, I can look at the whole situation and tell myself that even back then I had a bad feeling about it. But did I really have a bad feeling? I’m not so sure. That’s how I remember it now though, like I reluctantly left my bike to the fates, to fend for itself for the night. And this version of the story drives me crazy, because I always think, Rob, if you had a bad feeling about it, why would you go through with it? Why roll the dice?

Yeah, so you can imagine where this story’s going, right? I showed up in the morning and the bike was gone. And I just stood there for a while, I couldn’t believe someone had stolen my bike. I wanted answers, I wanted some sort of an outlet for my anger and disbelief. But there was nothing to be done, nobody to complain to, I just kind of stood there with my hands out, like I was pantomiming to the world, “Are you kidding me? Someone really stole my bike?”

And that bike was awesome. I mean, you wouldn’t know it just by looking at it. This thing wasn’t any sort of nice bike. I bought it on craigslist for seventy-five bucks, and right away I had to replace one of the tires, some brake pads, over the course of the next few months I probably dropped like another hundred, a hundred and fifty.

But it was more than just money. I bonded with this bicycle. As I made small hardware upgrades here and there, it came to feel like a part of me. Over an especially adventurous winter, I took the whole thing apart, sanded the frame, and gave it a brand new paint job. After two years or so, a lot of my identity was wrapped up in this piece of junk I kind of just happened upon on the Internet.

So when it got stolen, it was just this cold slap in the face, the world giving me a harsh reminder that I’m nothing, that the things that I care about aren’t necessarily important in the greater scheme of things. I tried to spin it into a whole life lesson, but no, part of me hardened that day. I’d eventually buy another bike, but a lot of the joy I got out of pedaling around town just wasn’t accessible to me anymore.

Which was why, a few months ago, I couldn’t believe it, I was in the passenger seat of my brother’s car when we stopped at a light. I looked to my right and, there it was, my bike. Sure, it looked a little more beat up, I mean, three or four years of city riding will do that to a bike. But aside from what looked like a new set of reflectors and maybe some new handlebars, that was my paint job, nobody could have done that exactly like I had, it was totally my bike.

So I just jumped out of the car and pushed this guy over, hard. And yeah, that was totally an overreaction, I get it. I mean, I didn’t think about it right away, but there was almost no chance that this guy was the dude who stole my bike. Whoever did it probably took it, cleaned it up a bit, and maybe sold it on craigslist. (Although, right after the original theft, I had spent hours for weeks, combing through the thousands of bikes available for sale online, hoping that my bike might have shown up, somewhere.)

And now here I was and this guy was on the ground, it looked like he was a delivery guy, and there were all of these take-out trays of rice and noodles spilling on the street next to him. The better part of me wanted to help him up and try my best to explain the situation, but a different part of me knew that, if I pursued that course of action, there would have been a good chance that I’d have to let him keep the bike.

So I just started pedaling. I didn’t even look back to tell my brother. I picked up the bike while that delivery guy lay there kind of stunned on the ground and I just took off. And this was kind of far away from my house, I was looking at like a two, two and a half hour ride back to my house.

The ride wasn’t the same as I had remembered it. In my mind, I had glorified this thing as some sort of a miracle machine. But after twenty minutes or so heading back to my house, I had to admit that, my newer bikes rode a lot better than this thing. I tried desperately to at least get some of that sentimental mojo going through my head, but again, aside from a really base lingering admiration of my paint job, there was nothing there, nothing that was strong enough to overcome the intense feelings of guilt that were starting to get even stronger as I really thought about what I did to that poor delivery guy.

I turned around and rode back to where I stole my bike back, hoping even though I knew that it was beyond unlikely, that he’d still be there, that I’d find him, apologize, pay for all of the food I ruined, give him the bike back. I didn’t really need it anymore, I had two more bikes back at my place.

But yeah, he was long gone, and I waited around for a few more minutes, but there was nothing I could do, my act of malice had seeped into the earth, it was like a deep stain on a white carpet that I knew would never really come out.

And all of this time, all of these years, I always thought about that bike, me and my misfortune, how I wished that I still had it, that I can’t believe I got robbed. And now I have it back and I never even ride it, it’s just lying in my garage, collecting cobwebs, unused, I’m too ashamed to even look at it.

What’s your passion?

What’s your passion? What gets you up in the morning? Well, besides the overwhelming need to pee. I should have phrased it a little better. What gets you out of your pajamas in the morning? Really? Eleven? Yeah, that’s still technically morning, but still, come on, that’s a little late. No, I’m just saying, that’s a big chunk of the day gone, right there. I mean, unless you work nights or something. Do you work nights? No?

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OK, well, when you get out of your pajamas at eleven, what motivates you to brush your teeth, take a shower, to go tackle whatever is you’ve got to tackle? Yeah, OK, your dog needs to be walked, that’s valid. But is that your passion? Is that all you’ve got, your dog?

I always ask people, if you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do every day? Well, OK, really? Video games and movies on the couch, that’s it? Fine, what is it about video games that gets you going? Have you ever considered a career in video games? It’s not something you can do overnight, but maybe you could start off small, some programming courses here and there, a little intro to graphic design at night.

No? None of that sounds appealing? Well, yes, that’s a fair point. But do you honestly feel like you’re at the level where you’d be able to compete against professional gamers at the highest level? Because that’s what you’re talking about, right? Entering video game competitions? Are there cash prizes? I mean, are there people that make a living off of winning? How many?

I’m just thinking, is it like, “I want to be a professional basketball player?” Because sure, that’s a dream, but that’s one where you’ve got to be a little realistic. Like, if you really, really like basketball, but you’re kind of objectively looking at the possibilities that a guy in his early thirties might go from wherever he is right now all the way to the pros, it’s just … it’s one thing to chase your dreams, sure.

Well yeah, I was just using basketball as an example. In that case it’s really kind of easy to look at someone and tell them, listen, there’s not a lot of evidence or example that shows that there’s even a chance that a guy in your situation could go pro. I mean with video games, sure, age isn’t really a factor, but I mean … have you ever competed in any of these tournaments? No? Like if you play online in a randomly matched multiplayer, what are they chances that you’re going to come in the top ten percent?

OK, so facing those facts, do you really think that video games are your passion? I mean, is that how you’d treat something that you’re passionate about? Because I don’t think just casually spending your time on XBOX Live counts as a passion. And yeah, I see the number of hours you’ve accumulated, that’s … well, that’s a lot of hours. But it’s not impressive. That’s just spending time. That’s like taking a note of all of the meals you’ve eaten in the past five months and then telling me that you have a passion for eating.

All right, you know what? I’m just trying to do your mom a favor here, OK? You don’t have to be rude. Yeah, well, I don’t care if you don’t think Life Coach is a real job, I’m out there, I’m doing it, all right, whatever you’ve got going on here, this is definitely not a sustainable lifestyle. Oh yeah, great, well I disagree with you. Great, so, you know what? Why don’t you go … no, I’m just going to go. Good luck with everything, OK? I hope this all works out for you.

I’d like to buy the world a Coke

I’d like to buy the world a Coke. Just one Coke. And everybody would have to share it. How do you split twelve ounces into seven billion? I’m sure it has to be possible, right, I mean, soda is made out of molecules, and all of those molecules have to be able to be broken down, even the tiniest atom is composed of smaller parts.

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So here it is, a can of Coke, from Rob, to the world. But who’s going to accept it? Who can I entrust with making sure that everybody on the planet gets his or her tiniest drop of Coke? This is getting pretty stupid already, I thought I’d maybe get like two or three paragraphs out of this, and then I’d be able to stretch it out to five or six, and then add a ridiculous intro.

But I’m already out of everything to say about making the world share one Coke. Actually, the first three lines, that would have made a great tweet. I get Twitter, I do, I just don’t get how I can really do anything on Twitter. Because every time I have anything even close to something that would do well on Twitter, I’ll post it, and then that’s it, it’s gone, maybe one or two people will “favorite” it.

And I don’t get it, some of these Twitter people that I follow, they’re like really good at just constantly churning out bite-sized packets of information, little jokes, beginnings, middles, and ends. Me, I can write eight hundred words and not feel like I’ve really said anything.

But Twitter, even though I get it, sometimes I wish that I’d never gotten it. For example, a while back I started getting a ton of new followers. Wow, I thought to myself, it’s really happening, my work is getting out there, I’m attracting a following. But none of these people ever clicked on anything that I wrote, my stuff never got retweeted.

I thought, maybe these people are just mad that I didn’t follow them back. So I started following people back, everybody that followed me. So now I had these two columns of rapidly ascending numbers next to my username. It was “followers” and “following.”

But then right after I did that, my Twitter feed turned into something that looked like my spam email folder from when I had AOL back in the late nineties. And that’s when I figured it out, all of those accounts that were following me, they were all spambots, all of them sending out identical weight loss formula tweets and magic penis enlargement ads. So I had to go through my followers list, which, by this point, was quite large, and I had to individually block and report each one for being spam.

So yeah, that stopped the new followers. And then I got sad. Because it hit me, great, I didn’t have spam anymore, but it also meant that I wasn’t really popular. I couldn’t even pretend that I was popular. Ignorance really was bliss. Now I just regular, it turned out that I had been regular all along. I felt more regular than ever.

Every once in a while someone will follow me who has like fifty thousand followers. Wow, I’d think to myself, this person must be famous, or at least really well known. Even though I’d never have heard of any of these people. And then I noticed also that they had an almost equal number of people that they were following.

That didn’t make sense, because all of the famous people that I do follow on Twitter, for every hundred thousand people that follow them, they in turn follow zero to one people back. So I figured out that these people were just following me purely to get a follow back. I stopped following back and, sure enough, within twenty-four hours, they’d unfollow me.

Now I’m sad again. I wish the world would buy me a Coke. Actually, I don’t wish that. I have tons of soda in my house. If the world knocked on my door and gave me a can of Coke, I’d be like, yeah, I appreciate the gesture, but I don’t need it at all, and I’d feel bad that the world went out of its way for me, for nothing.

Stupid, stupid, dumb, stupid Facebook

I just got an email from Facebook. It was like, “Hey Rob, in a few days from now, we’re going to be removing messages from the Facebook mobile app. If you want to continue to send messages via Facebook, you’re going to have to download our new Facebook Messenger app. Yeah, that one, the one that you’ve been ignoring ever since we started bombarding you with advertisements a few months ago every time you opened up the Facebook app. It’s just that, well, we really want you to have two Facebook apps. It’s better for us if, instead of just one Facebook app, you have to download a separate Facebook app just for Facebook messages. So yeah, thanks again for using Facebook.”

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Hey Facebook, it’s not like you’re going to read this, and it’s not like I even want you to read it, because Facebook (I’m talking combined mobile and desktop usage here) makes up approximately .000000000000000012% of my life. So go ahead, take away messages. I’m not downloading your stupid Facebook Messenger app. You don’t think I have anything better to do that to switch between two separate Facebook apps? You’re grossly overestimating how much of a role Facebook plays in my life here.

Why don’t you make a separate photo app too? That would be so great. Like, take away the ability to look at photos on the regular Facebook app, and make it so we have to open up a separate app just to look at photos. And then make another one just for statuses. And the statuses could only be a certain amount of characters. And you could use hashtags. And you could call it Twitter.

And then you could make a separate app that only sends me invites from random kids that I went to grammar school with who really want me to play Farmville or Candy Crush Saga. I’ll log onto this app, it’ll say, “Hey Rob, this guy that you met one time two years ago when you went to that Phish concert with your cousin wants you to play Candy Crush with him. Yes?” And I’ll click, no, always no, and that’ll be the whole point of the app, a centralized service where I can reject invites to online games from strangers.

And why are you even asking for my permission? Just install an app on my phone that automatically installs all future Facebook apps. I’ll swipe my phone on one day and it’ll be the new Facebook phone operating system. Instead of my contact list, there’ll be a Facebook contact list, only pulling up people’s Facebook profiles. Everything will be Facebook blue and there won’t be any option to change it.

I’m not downloading your stupid, stupid, dumb, stupid Messenger app, OK Facebook? Go ahead and take away messaging from the Facebook app, because nobody cares, because nobody uses Facebook messages. If I ever need to send a message to somebody, it’s either going to be via text message or email, not Facebook. Absolutely, definitely, most assuredly not if I have to download another app. Goodbye forever. Remember when you tried to get me to forward all of my emails to that new @facebook.com email address that you set up for me? I didn’t use that once either, and that program was a big bust, I would have forgotten about it completely if it hadn’t been for that email you sent me a month or so ago, “Hey Rob, we’re canceling the whole @facebook.com email address program. It turns out that nobody used it, never, not even once.”

Do you guys have like meetings? Do you ever sit around the conference table and think, will people like this shit? Is this something that Facebook users are going to do? Do we want to be relevant at all? Because I’m not getting that sense, that you’re trying, that you want people to want to use Facebook. I’m feeling less and less that way every day.