Rick’s punishments

When we were little, my parents maintained order by allowing my older brother Rick to come up with punishments for any wrongdoing in the house. It sounds crazy, and yeah, because it was crazy, but it was effective. Because Rick was ruthless. One time my younger brother Scott put up too much of a fuss about doing the dishes after dinner. He kept whining about not wanting to clean, and then he stood around at the sink for while doing a really half-assed job of working the sponge.

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So my mom sent Scott to Rick for sentencing. “Come on!” Scott screamed. “That’s not fair! For dishes?” And, fair or not, that’s just the way the system worked in our house.

“Two weeks, no winter coat,” Rick decreed. It was February. We all stood around and looked toward our parents, to see if they might intervene due to the shocking and cruel nature of Rick’s penalty.

“Mom? Dad? Really? It’s freezing out!” Scott pleaded. But it was futile. If my parents gave an inch, Rick’s power over us, and thus my parents’ order over the house, would have been questioned. As it was, order was maintained through Rick’s almost sadistic love of heavy-handed punishment.

And so things weren’t fair, not really, but they were crystal clear, and we all tiptoed around the house. Scott didn’t have his winter coat in the middle of the winter, and yeah, some of the teachers called the house, wondering why he was getting dropped off at school shivering, wearing nothing but a sweater. “Huh,” my parents would say. “We’ll have to look into that.” Nobody ever looked into anything. We all just tried our best to keep our heads down.

Trying to reason with Rick was out of the question. If you even thought about questioning his authority, he’d probably rat you out right away for something that you didn’t even do. And since he never, ever got in trouble, my parents believed anything he said.

None of us have any idea how he stayed out of the spotlight for so long. Because every kid gets in trouble once in a while. But it’s like he was perfect, probably because he loved doling out punishments so much. But also probably because he knew that if ever messed up, he was done. That’s because the flip side of the house rules was that, if Rick ever got caught, it would be up to the rest of us to decide his fate.

Looking back, it really was genius on mom and dad’s part. They didn’t have to worry about discipline, they just set up this twisted system and stepped back, free from having to wonder how they’d keep their kids in line, no good cop, bad cop. It was indifferent cop, indifferent cop, and then Rick.

And maybe Rick enjoyed it, I don’t know. Because we all hated Rick. Growing up, even now none of us talk to him, but back then, we wanted nothing more than to catch him with his hands dirty, just once. When we were absolutely sure he wasn’t around, we’d all huddle together in a circle, whispering aloud our fantasies about how we’d frame him, all of the ways in which we’d subsequently make his life hell.

Peggy wanted to ban him from watching any TV for a year. That all stemmed from one time when Peggy and Katie were fighting about who got to watch what. While they went back and forth, Rick snuck out of the living room and grabbed my mom. He ratted them out, and then decided that they’d only be allowed to watch reruns of Golden Girls for a month. And yeah, my parents were totally cool with it.

But years went by and Rick always kept to himself, always out of trouble. Until the summer right before he was set to go away to college, when one night Scott saw Rick load up the washing machine. Who knows why he even bothered to look, it was something so small. Rick had set the machine for hot water, and my parents were really strict about only using the cold setting. “The clothes get just as clean on cold!” my dad would yell throughout the house. “Do you know how expensive the gas bill is?”

Scott immediately called out, “Mooooom!” and everyone came running. Rick had finally been caught. He tried to abort the rinse cycle, but it was too late, once set and locked, it was impossible to turn the machine off.

“Well gang?” my mom looked at us. “Here’s your big chance.” She looked at Rick. “What’s it going to be?”

And I don’t even know where it came from, but I blurted out, “Rick can’t go to college.”

And everybody just stood there, mouths hanging open, but only for a second, because everyone started to smile. And then we started to laugh. And a minute later we were all in a frenzy, a joyous, passionate frenzy, laughing, crying, hugging each other.

“Haha,” Rick said. “Very funny guys.”

But that only made us laugh and cry even harder. Peggy started screaming, like she couldn’t even control the raw emotion coursing through her body.

“Mom?” Rick said.

And yeah, even I thought that my mom had her limits. Like why would she do that to Rick? But she did.

“Well …”

And that was it. Rick wasn’t eighteen yet, and he wouldn’t be until next October. So they cancelled his registration. He got really pissed off and moved out of the house, swearing to enroll in the spring. But he must not have been used to living on his own, because he went from one minimum wage job to the next, barely able to keep his head above water. And then a couple of years after that, he started drinking really heavily, and then he there was talk about drugs. And then he moved to Arizona, and none of us have heard from him in years.

And you know what? None of us really feel bad. We don’t see each other all that often anymore, seeing as how nuts-o our home life had been, we’d all moved out as soon as we could and never looked back. But on those rare holidays or family get-togethers, someone will mention Rick. And we’ll all just nod our heads from side to side, like you might think some of us feel remorse, maybe just a little bad. But I can tell, I look at all my brothers and sisters, and I know they feel exactly like I do. Like fuck Rick, that asshole, he totally had it coming.

New technology? Sign me up.

I’d absolutely wear an iPhone watch. Why not? It’s the natural next step in terms of smart technology. I remember the last time I tried to draw a line in the sand, telling myself, “No, that technology is just too much. It’s not for me.” It was back in 2007 when the original iPhone came out. Everyone was making a huge deal, about how this was going to change everything. I looked at my Nokia black-and-white brick and I thought, you know what? I’m good. Not only do I not need an iPhone, but I don’t want one.

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And then my mom got me one for Christmas that year. And I instantly fell in love. It really did change everything, and chances are you know exactly what I’m talking about. Because everybody has a smart phone, and everybody can remember his or her first. It’s amazing, having a little computer in your pocket that does whatever you want. Not only will I never look back, but I’ll never so no to technology again.

So bring on the iWatch. Maybe I won’t wear it immediately. It’s the same thing with the Google glasses. No, I don’t want to be part of that first generation of early adopters. First of all, that stuff is really expensive. And as we can see with most first generation products, the manufacturers deliberately leave out cool stuff so they can try to squeeze an upgrade out of you when version two comes out. Like, remember how the first iPad had no camera? Come on.

But while it’s one thing to have a cool phone, it’s another thing to be in the minority of the first wave of consumers willing to go for a piece of wearable technology. I would never want to be one of the first people to have an iWatch or Google glasses, not saying that I don’t want, because every time I’d put them on, I’d be conscious of the fact that nobody else has this stuff yet. And so I’d be attracting a lot of unwanted attention. I mean, I know that the first time I’m on the subway and I see someone wearing a computer watch, of course I’m going to be staring at it.

But as soon as it’s even somewhat commonplace, I’m in. Sign me up for the watch and the glasses. I’ll take both. Once it’s no longer weird for people to twitch their heads or however you’re supposed to operate these hands-free devices in public, you’ll see me twitching and talking to the air and pointing at invisible computer stuff that only I can see. And it’s going to be awesome.

Come on, you know they’re eventually going to invent some sort of a built-in smart technology. And I’ll take that too. I’m not afraid. Let’s say that Apple eventually comes out with an iArm. Imagine, it’s just like your regular arm, right, but it’s a device. Yes, a lot of people might get turned off by the fact that they’ll have to sacrifice their regular arms, but you’ve got to assume that the iArm is going to be able to do all of the stuff that a human arm can do.

You’ll be able to put it in “human mode” or something when you don’t feel like having all of those extra-enhanced abilities turned on. So you can feel with it like you would your regular arm, you could close your eyes and move it around and it would be just like you’d been born with it already implanted.

But why would you ever use “human mode?” It would be like airplane mode for current cell phones, like you only have to ever turn your phone off if you’re at an airport and someone makes you. Because the extra-enhanced abilities would be insane. Like super arm strength. And all sorts of extra sensory perception modes. Just think about it, you’d be able to put your hand into a pot of boiling water to see how hot it is, and you wouldn’t get burned. Or, you could make snowballs one after the other with your bare hands, without getting that feeling like it’s too cold. And then you could use your artificial super arm strength to throw those perfectly crafted snowballs at cars miles away.

I’ll take it. I’ll take anything the future thinks it can throw at me. Will they ever make a technology where you can have your consciousness uploaded into a computer? I’m in. Seriously, sign me up. Put my brain into a superhuman robot body. Tweak my personality so that I’m charming and funny. Make my robot body look like a more handsome version of whoever you think the most handsome guy on the planet is. Give me mental access to a built-in app store, where I can buy new abilities and powers whenever I want. Spider-Man mode for ninety-nine cents? That sounds great.

So please, whenever I hear people talking about how technology is getting out of control, I’m just thinking to myself, come on, of course you’re going to give in eventually. Yeah, you might sound like you’ve got something to say with your speeches about technological dependence or whatever, but I’m calling baloney. Because as soon as that stuff gets popular, everybody’s going to want it, and everybody’s going to have it.

Whistlin’ Pete

High noon, and there he was, just like Whistlin’ Pete told him he’d be. At least, he thought it was Whistlin’ Pete. With the sun directly overhead, he could just barely make out the silhouette of a man in a cowboy hat sitting on top of his horse. The distance between them, it was doing that optical illusion, where the horizon looked like it was made of wavy lines comin’ up from the ground.

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He was hoping that nobody’d show up, that the whole, “Meet me out in the desert, high noon,” was more of an intimidation tactic than anything else. But here he was, here they both were. A couple of lizards ran out from behind a rock to his right. Their sandy color made the little animals blend in almost perfectly with the ground. In fact, if it weren’t for their shadows, he wouldn’ta been able to make them out, scuttlin’ across the imaginary line that connected him with Whistlin’ Pete, kickin’ up tiny little lines of dust as their tails dragged along the ground.

The silhouette started moving, the horse’s hooves up and down, comin’ in a little closer. Was there enough time to run? Maybe. But that wouldn’ta settled anything. Whistlin’ Pete’d find him right back at the town, maybe he’d even beat him back to the inn where he was stayin’. And what would he do when he got back, keep runnin’? The only train out of town left hours ago, and his horse wouldn’ta made it too far, not in this heat.

Another three or four lizards ran across, these ones just slightly bigger than the first two. Whistlin’ Pete sure was taking his time making his way over. Was this part of the process? Just prolonging the suspense, makin’ him sweat it out? He thought to himself, well, if it’s all an elaborate scare tactic, maybe that’d mean Whistlin’ Pete’d let him go. Otherwise, what would be the point of putting him through all of this anticipation? Yeah, maybe he’d give him a good old fashioned desert spook, and then he’d let him go, runnin’ away, free to tell his story all across the territories. Maybe that’s what Whistlin’ Pete really wanted, a reputation, a name that’d strike fear anywhere.

Now he was getting close enough that he probably could have called out something that he’d hear, but what could he say? And how did this all get started anyway? Does Whistlin’ Pete really take seats that seriously? “Hey pardner,” he could still hear Pete’s voice in his head, tapping him on the shoulder at the saloon, “That’s my seat.”

And why did he have to be so confrontational? His memory from yesterday was interrupted at the sight of eight or ten more lizards running right in front of him, the same right to left direction as the others, the same color. But these guys were noticeably bigger, maybe the size of squirrels, or small cats. Were he and his horse standin’ on their habitat? Were they tryin’a run away? For the first time all day, his aversion to all of these reptiles caused him to worry about something other than Whistlin’ Pete.

When he looked up, Pete was waving, and it didn’t look like he was tryin’a say hello. “… iza … ey! … own! …” but he was too far away to hear clearly, and Whistlin’ Pete wasn’t exactly known for his enunciation anyway. Even if he had a full set of teeth, even if he didn’t make that whistlin’ sound every time he tried to talk, he couldn’t imagine his words being too much clearer.

But there was something else, though. He couldn’t hear any individual words, but he could definitely make out a sense of … was it panic? That didn’t really mesh with the hardened image he had in his mind of the showdown-challengin’ outlaw. But yeah, Whistlin’ Pete had both of his arms in the air now, so no gun probably, and there was definitely some flailin’ around going on.

Then he noticed that same line of shadows and dust getting kicked up in front of Whistlin’ Pete. Only, from this distance, those lizards must’a been a lot bigger. Now he was really getting a little freaked out. Pete’s horse did one of those moves where it stood up on his hind legs and kicked the front ones in the air. He could make out Pete strugglin’ to hold on, but two or three bucks and he was on the ground. Now there were more lizards running right in front of the both of them, dozens, or hundreds even, several lines running between them and, when he looked behind, there were even more.

And getting bigger, the size of dogs now. The little ones earlier weren’t payin’ any attention, but now some of the bigger ones were stopping for a couple’a seconds, just to kind of eye him down, pay him just a half a minute of consideration. In the distance, Pete looked like he was strugglin’ with something.

And the bigger they got, the more and more time those lizards stopped to look, to make eye contact even. Now he was gettin’ the sense that something progressive was happenin’ here, that this was something primal yet unnatural, a whole line of little lizards runnin’ away from bigger lizards, and they were only gettin’ bigger. One of them had to be the size of a Shetland pony, and when this one stopped to look, he didn’t start runnin’ again, he just stayed and stared.

In the distance, Pete was gone. It was just those shimmering wavy heat lines at the horizon, which was gettin’ increasingly difficult to see anyway, on account of all of those lizards. And to his right he was startin’a hear something like a stampede, and he could sense that his horse was gettin’ pretty spooked. He didn’t want to see how big the biggest of these things got, and he didn’t want to get bucked off of his horse like Whistlin’ Pete did.

And so he let out a big, “Ya!” and steered himself in the only direction he could. Not in front, not behind, because there were lizards as far back in the other direction, but just left, just runnin’ alongside all of the other lizards. He looked back and the big ones that had stopped before were right on his tail. And behind them, there wasn’t even a horizon anymore, it was just shimmering, squirming, dust-brown scales, all of them. And he just hoped that his horse could outrun these things, that maybe he’d find a way out before they got to the canyon’s edge, as long as the big ones didn’t catch up, and as long as he could hold on in case the horse bucked suddenly. He had that feeling like it was right about to buck. Any second now and he’d be on the ground if he couldn’t hold on. “Ya!” he kept screamin’, hopin’a maintain some control, kickin’ the horse in the side, “Ya! Ya!”

The five times it’s OK to tell your girlfriend that she looks fat in that outfit

I’m not an idiot. When your girlfriend asks you if something makes her look fat, most of the time you’re going to want to say something like, “What? Are you crazy? You’re crazy. Get the hell out of here. I’m not even entertaining that question. You? Fat? Baby, come on, you’re insane.” You’re going to want to say it immediately. Practice your answer in advance. Mix up the various sentence fragments so your answer doesn’t sound the same every time. And even if you do everything right, the best you’re going to get is one of those sideways glances, like she’s making you think that she thinks you’re full of baloney. But when your girlfriend asks if you think she looks fat, and you say no way, that look of disapproval is as satisfied as she’s going to get.

Having said all of that, there are some extremely rare circumstances where it’s not only OK, but imperative you that you answer that question in the affirmative. Like I said, they’re very rare, almost to the point where you’ll probably never find yourself in a situation where you’ve got to say yes. But still, it’s always a good idea to be prepared. Because you never know, right? Here are the five times when it’s OK to say, yes, honey, that outfit makes you look fat.

1. A madman with a gun makes you say it

Yes, this is a total cop-out, because it can be used for a lot of situations you’d otherwise never agree to be a part of. But it’s worth mentioning, because it’s technically within the realm of possibility. Lets say that you and your girlfriend are getting ready to go out for the night. You finished showering and putting on your deodorant something like two or three hours ago. You’ve already watched a whole movie and now you’re playing video games when your girlfriend walks in and says, “How do I look? Does this outfit make me look fat?”

What if a madman with a gun breaks into your house at that very moment and screams out, “Say yes! Say that she looks fat! Or I’ll kill the both of you!” In this really, almost comically unrealistic scenario, you’ve got to do what he says. And even after he robs your house and after the cops come and take their report, that night, when you’re holding each other, shaking, crying, totally unsettled by how the sanctity of your home could have been so violated, she’s still going to turn to you and whisper, “Baby? Were you serious?” and you’ll be like, “What are you talking about?” and she’ll say, “I know the gunman told you to say it, but did you really think I looked fat?”

2. She asks when all of your friends are over

Again, this is totally unlikely to happen, because what kind of a girl gets ready while her boyfriend and all of his friends are hanging out together in the same house? But just say that you guys have company over from out of town, or I don’t know, maybe you invited your friends over, but you didn’t know that it wasn’t cool, that your girlfriend was going to get pissed off. And when she said, “fine, whatever,” when you asked if they could stay, you couldn’t take the hint, and you called out back to your friends, “She said it’s fine, we’re all good!”

Why would she come down in front of all of you and say, “Does this outfit make me look fat?” I don’t know. I can’t think of any realistic situation in which she would do this in front of a bunch of guys. But if she did, it’s too good of an opportunity to pass up on what I can only imagine has to be one of the funniest jokes in the right context. You have to say, “Yeah, you look phat baby!” And then when she gets that look on her face, the one that says you’re in big, big trouble, just go, “What? Oh … not fat, phat! You look phat with a P-H!” And then everybody’s going to laugh and laugh and even your girlfriend will laugh, and then she’ll forgive you, because come on, that’s got to be really funny.

3. On opposite day

I haven’t played Opposite Day since I was a little kid, and I doubt that I’ll be playing it any time in the future. It’s actually a lot harder than I remember. Like, not everything has a polar opposite. And so a question like, “How do you like your steak?” wouldn’t really make sense in terms of Opposite Day. Still, you never know when your significant other is going to want to engage the child at heart.

So on the off-chance that your girlfriend says to you, “Hey honey, let’s play Opposite Day,” and then immediately follows up with, “Does this make me look fat?” then you’ve got to pull a quick reversal, saying stuff like, “Yes. Of course. Without a doubt. How could you think otherwise?” Because she’s looking to see if you’re paying attention. And if you’re not paying attention, you’re implicitly calling her fat. And why would you do that to your girlfriend? What’s wrong with you?

4. The madman with a gun comes back and brings all of his madmen friends

In what universe would this ever happen? I can’t think of one. But it stands to reason that, since you already let the madman invade your home and tell you to call your girlfriend fat, wouldn’t he maybe want to come back and bring a bunch of his crazy friends?

If it’s like a total home invasion, a whole gang of insane gun-wielding psychos, standing around you and your girlfriend, threatening to shoot you both if you don’t call her fat, I’m sure it’s not going to be something that you’re going to want to go through again, but just call her fat and hope they go away. And then you should probably move. And invest in an alarm system.

5. If they ever create a reality show called the Biggest Winner

That makes sense, right? Just imagine that you and your girlfriend apply for a secret new reality show. And after you make it as contestants, the producers tell you the rules: the couple that gains the most weight over the course of the show gets a grand prize of millions and millions of dollars.

And then say you and your girlfriend make it to the finals. They’re doing one of those live event finale episodes, where they do a weigh-in in front of a national audience. And you’re getting ready backstage and, not only do you want to win, but you want to make it look convincing. So the wardrobe department gave you all of these tight outfits to wear, to really show off all of the weight you’ve gained. If your girlfriend asks you, “Sweetie, does this top make me look fat?” I think that, given the circumstances, it’s only appropriate to be honest. “Yes baby,” tell her, “you look like a blimp. Now lets get on that giant scale and win millions and millions of dollars.”

Originally posted at Thought Catalog.

Nope

I’ve got nothing right now. There’s nothing to say. I’m sitting here and trying to get something out, but it feels like I’ve lost all ability to put words together. Yeah, right now, at this moment, it feels like I won’t be able to write anything ever again. Like, I’ve just lost whatever it was that enabled me to write anything. What could I write about right now? I don’t feel like there’s anything to say.

This is the worst. I’ve been sitting here at this computer for a while, and I’m just not getting any ideas. The clock just keeps ticking away. And now my eyes hurt from staring at this computer screen. I played basketball last night, and I hadn’t played since last spring, and now my body is kind of sore. So sitting down is uncomfortable and standing up is uncomfortable.

And I thought I was going to go to the gym today, but I didn’t. I made meatballs for dinner. My plan was to make three pounds of meatballs, and just store them away so I’d have them for a while. But I don’t know what happened. They were so good. I ate more than half of the meatballs. I’m having like a meatball hangover.

I watched the Giants game. That was great, one, because I’m a Giants fan, but two, and more importantly, I made this ridiculous trade with my brother-in-law at the beginning of our fantasy league. I traded Andre Brown for Eli Manning, a trade that was dangled in front of my face like a joke. And I thought, you know what? I believe in Eli. And so I accepted. And everyone in the league got pissed. But Eli just scored me like forty-five points, because I started him.

If you don’t do fantasy, that probably made no sense to you. I only started doing fantasy last year, not really having any knowledge of football before that. But yeah, it sucks you in. Right before the week starts, I read a couple of fantasy blogs and make my roster. And then I just kind of zone out and wait for the scores to trickle in on Sunday. This week I’m facing the same brother-in-law that gave me Eli Manning. We have a little side bet going on. If I win, Mike has to, whenever I ask him, at any given time, make my other brother-in-law Matt a sandwich.

That sounds like a pretty lame bet, right? Wrong. Because last year when Mike and I faced each other, we had a bet that the loser had to make the winner a sandwich whenever he wanted. And Mike still has yet to cash in on that sandwich. And I don’t blame him. The whole idea of him being able to force me to make him a sandwich is so much more powerful than just having a sandwich. Because once that sandwich is gone, boom, that’s it, the power vanishes. But as it stands right now, Mike can technically call me up right now and have me make him a sandwich.

So yeah, if I win this week, I’ll have effectively neutralized his sandwich powers. Because as soon as he gives me the go ahead to make me a sandwich, I’ll give him the order to make Matt a sandwich. And I can’t ever see that happening. It would be mutually assured destruction. Nobody wants to see Matt have a sandwich.

But, and this is a very real possibility here, if Mike wins this week, I have to write a blog post about how awesome he is. A whole day, dedicated to Mike. Luckily, Eli really pulled through for me this week. And it’s all because I believed in Eli when everyone else in the world was saying that his time as an elite quarterback is in the past. That’s right, I was the only one who believed in Eli.

Anyway, that’s it, I’m tired, it’s too late. Tomorrow I’m going to get back on track of this blog and start writing some actual posts. Once the meatballs are out of my system.