Friday, April 29, 2011


You guys are clearly getting too out of control on Thursday nights. Is it Spring Fever? Was there a full moon last night? Did somebody slip Percocet in the water supply? Because I woke up to find series of borderline-insane messages sent to me in the middle of the night, and I thought I was out late last night.

Here's a sampling of the text messages I received last night (this morning?) while sleeping:

"we got stoned and forgot how time zones work. What time is it in America?"


"I just passed a girl on the street I don't know her but I'm in love with her but I don't know how to find her back to tell her that I love her."


"Fuck fuck fuck cant take it anymore. Might need to crash on ur couch for a few days. Call me."


And a very eloquently worded "Can I fuck you?"

If this is what goes down on Thursdays I don't know if I can even handle the upcoming weekend. Y'all are nuts.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


"Your ex-boyfriend is named Alejandro?” Here we go again.

“Yeah,” I answer.

“Like the Lady Gaga song?”

“Yeah… like the Lady Gaga song.”

Guys, something’s been bothering me lately. It’s about this “Alejandro” song. I’m not going to rant about how Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster was the same generic mish-mash of pop that she’s already released, or how she’s built an amazing character but hasn’t backed it up as a musician, or that the “Telephone” video really just wasn’t that great and went for shock value instead of quality. I won't even dive into the repetition and pandering lyrics of "Born This Way." Damn it, this always happens, trying to talk about something else but the topic turning over to Lady Gaga.

Anyway, this song, “Alejandro,” it comes on at a bar, at a party, wherever, and like what happens with most Lady Gaga songs, people flip their shit. Girls are on tables, in circles, pretending to sing along but stopping as soon as they have to actually, you know, remember the words (all FIVE of them, I know sweetheart, it’s hard).

You guys, I’m sick of this song.

Because when you have your ex-boyfriend’s name blaring at you at over one hundred decibels, it’s kind of hard not to think about him. It's hard to avoid memories of hungover mornings, the passion that overtook him when he talked about politics, the way he mixed your drinks just right but did so many other things so wrong.

And that’s just the start, you go down the list, it isn’t just Alejandro the bartender you think about. Suddenly your thoughts turn to Inez the dominatrix and Louie the doctor. There’s Jessica and Kacy and Robin, there’s soldiers and cheerleaders and artists. There might have been a date with a weatherman at some point. The past few years have been sort of weird for you, and you don’t remember much from that summer of Vicodin and Paxil abuse, other than that it was equal parts sky high and train wreck.

If your name is Judas, do yourself a favor and stay away. This is the crazy train you don't want to board.

Every crush, every date, every relationship spills into your mind, even that first sloppy make-out session with a girl in the back of your Bonneville joins the party, invading your thoughts and making you question every social decision you’ve ever made. The alcohol pumping through the channels of your brain sloshes the memories around, mixing and matching them, stirring up rage and confusion and affection, breaking past the dams you have in place that protect your psyche from your own insecurities. You question your education, your job, your life. You’re confident that you’ve made the right choices and that you’re working towards what you want, but you still consider the different versions of you that would exist now if you’d done things a little differently. Those existential questions are lurking in the shadows of your mind. Those questions aren’t bad, they’re normal and healthy and part of being human, and even though they make you feel crazy you know they’re keeping you sane.

But you see… they’re also completely uncalled for at one in the morning when you’re out for a night on the town. Damn it, now you’re thinking about how that slut Leah didn’t tell you she had a boyfriend. What a whore. And Jason, the beautiful, brown bastard, brilliant with physics but wasting all his time on that guitar. What a jack ass.

By the time your mind digs into a foggy memory of making out with a thirty-six year woman on a school bus full of drunks, you start to wonder: Are you making the choices that you want to make, or the choices that make for the best story, and, for you, are those two options starting to become the same thing?

So it really isn’t about Alejandro, it isn’t about Robin or Louie or Kacy, it’s just the joy ride your mind likes to take when you combine an ex’s name with alcohol. And unlike that summer of Percocet and Zoloft abuse, your mind goes straight to train wreck, every single time. And then you’re that guy. You’re that guy scrolling through his phone debating whether to call one of the exes, trying to determine that if you do call them, whether you’ll proposition them for sex or insult their flaws (or what usually happens, both).

Your laugh is annoying. Let's fuck.

You’re that guy who’s so deep in his own brooding that he doesn’t even notice the set of eyes on the other side of the bar looking him up and down. You're that guy who's so focused on questioning himself that he's completely unaware of the arm wrapping around his waist or the shoulder pressing against his back or the whisper in his ear. You’re that guy at the bar at one in the morning who should be drunk and having fun with the gang but is drunk and having an existential crisis instead. That guy is so fucking lame.

Can’t we all just listen to “Poker Face” instead? It has a subtle oral sex reference. That shit’s hilarious.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Face Metal and Ink

Sometimes I use this phrase to describe things.

Face metal and ink.

I’ll say a face metal and ink kind of crowd, I’ll say a song just had a real face metal and ink feel to it, I’ll say it’s a face metal and ink type of bar.

This is the part where my friends give me that “What the fuck are you talking about? Please speak English” glare.

And I go “You know… like guitars and shit.”

I’m so descriptive.

Face metal and ink is putting on the kinds of clothes you would never wear in front of your normal friends, it’s having your dominatrix ex-girlfriend style your hair in a wild way you would never wear in front of your normal friends. She snaps clip-on earrings over your ears, wraps a tight bracelet around your wrist, slides a pill onto your tongue.

Face metal and ink is not asking what that pill is.

It’s going to the bar that people in expensive suits shake their head at as they walk past. It’s entering the bar with one hand intertwined with the fingers of a bald, muscle-bound man while the other hand pulls along the dominatrix ex-girlfriend. It’s feeling the floor shake from the stomping of feet, the thrashing of guitars, the beating of drums, and, for a moment, feeling a trace of fear. It’s embracing that fear, and can in hand, diving into the crowd.

Face metal and ink is a combination of sexual energy and pure aggression that is hard to explain without sounding like a totally fucked-up freak. It's taking a few hours to shed the awkward mannerisms and traits of your normal self to become a totally fucked-up freak.

It’s surfing through a crowd of people that are sexy in the most androgynous of ways. It’s passing a beautiful arm, a handsome face, a flat-stomached torso, and simply appreciating them without taking the time to assign them a gender. It’s pushing and shoving. It’s the scent of sweat and the taste of alcohol. It's flesh pierced with metal and artwork stretched across skin.

Face metal and ink is that common cliché of feeling at peace in the carnal chaos.

It’s waking up the next morning, trying to figure out if the bruises came from the violence of the crowd or sex with your boyfriend. It's realizing you've lost your dominatrix ex-girlfriend's earrings and bracelet. It’s going to brunch with your normal friends, and when asked what you did the night before, simply answering, “Just went to a bar and then bed, nothing exciting.”

Face metal and ink was a hidden secret in my life for almost three years that only a select few were privy to, a secret affair traced only by fumbling lies and lingering scents. But all romances come to an end, and after developing a preference for quiet and balance, I separated myself from the head-rattling madness of it all.

I’ve moved on without face metal and ink, but sometimes I listen to one of those vicious, sensual songs and wonder what could have been. Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving it when it did nothing wrong, but if face metal and ink has taught me anything, it’s that cuts and bruises heal.

Face metal and ink understands.

Friday, April 22, 2011


One of the third graders in the youth program has a touching problem.

He seems incapable of interacting without it. When he talks to the teachers, he leans too closely, drapes his arm over ours, rests his head on our shoulders. When with the other children, he almost always has to throw his arm over their shoulder as they talk.

We’ve tried to explain to him that he needs to give others more personal space sometimes. But the behavior comes to him so naturally it’s practically involuntary.

To him, touch is a language that others aren’t able to translate.

His mother passed away, so he’s currently raised by his older brother. His older brother works a normal job now, but has a history of excellence and national fame (which I won’t go into here, to keep everyone’s privacy safe and sound).

Watching the third grader surf this torrent of emotions while living in the shadow of the brother he admires so much, I can understand why touch has become so important to him. I relate to him.

As a child I quickly learned that words were, for the most part, a useless way to communicate. People used them to generate lies nearly nonstop, so why even bother? But people didn’t lie with their shifting eyes or the way they scratched their neck. Even if faked, the true intents could be felt in a handshake or a hug.

I was the friend who leaned too close. I’m the lover who touches too much.

My coworkers and I recently discovered the third grader has been telling his friends what he knows about sex. He’s also been claiming that when he hugs female staff members, he feels their breasts (or as he refers to them, boobies).

I was shocked by his behavior, and more surprised by how much his behavior distraught me. He’s always been prone to talking out-of-line and minor misbehavior, but we enjoy his company and more importantly, we trusted him.

We went through the talks about disrespect, about boundaries, about sex. There were discussions with his family and disciplinary actions taken. For a week he was separated from the others, forced to sit alone while they played. It was heartbreaking to watch, to see him divided from the touch he craves.

During our time in the gym, he understood that he wasn’t allowed to play with the others, but asked if he could participate in the laps and stretches before they play. We allowed it.

He found solace in books.

He read a few chapters out loud to me. He reads especially fast for his age.

His week has passed and his punishment is lifted, and he’s working hard to rebuild our trust in him.

I know behind our backs he’ll drop the occasional reference to private parts or say something inappropriate about someone. As an adolescent he'll probably approach females too aggressively and be too much of a smart ass towards his teachers.

But I think he’s going to be okay.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Hoodie

I felt a kiss on my forehead and heard my bedroom door open and close. I knew Louie was leaving for work, but was too comfortable to get up and lead him to the door. It had been cold the night before, so I was wrapped up in my hooded sweatshirt and a blanket. The morning light was starting to come through my blinds and warm me up, so I peeled the blanket off.

It was autumn in 2009, and Louie had recently started his surgery residency. When it came to his residency he was nervous, but confident, the same way he was with me. At the time I'd been seeing Louie for a few months. I was comfortable with him. He was intelligent and interesting and made me laugh. He was short and red-headed and muscular and an all-around adorable guy.

My mom was so pissed when we broke up several months later. "You don't just run into a surgeon every day..." she reminded me.

Uh, I work in a medical library, so yeah, I do.

Around eleven in the morning I finally decided to pull myself out of bed. I ate a cup of applesauce and drank a glass of water, which is usually my first meal during a hangover.

I saw it draped over my orange desk chair as I walked over to my computer. It was a hooded sweatshirt, a green one with a zipper. It didn't belong to me.

It belonged to Louie.

This item was not mine. It was foreign and strange. This green, hooded sweatshirt with a zipper, it did not belong to me. I repeat: it did not belong to me.

I did what anybody would do in the situation: panicked and called my lesbian ex-girlfriend (if you don't have a lesbian ex-girlfriend, I'd strongly recommend getting one, available at your local Home Depot).

She groggily answered and I explained my predicament, confident that my tone would make her see that calling at the ungodly hour of noon was justified.

She was unimpressed.

She told me it wasn't a big deal and that he'd come get it later. When was later?

"But what if he leaves more stuff, like leftover pizza or something? What if he leaves a toothbrush? I'm so fucked if he leaves a toothbrush."

"I've seen your medicine cabinet. There are at least a dozen toothbrushes in there. What's one more?"

She told me to just tell him I was uncomfortable with him leaving stuff at my place.

You'd think that after sleeping with me so many times she would have understood that I was never going to say that. But she probably didn't use sex as communication the way I did.

I was all, No, because this shouldn't bother me, and if I tell him it bothers me he'll figure out I'm crazy and leave me for some slutty nurse or a handsome burn victim, somebody better looking and more mature and who never wears boxers. What if he thinks I have, like, commitment issues or something? Isn't that what always happens to those sluts that are always buying shoes on that show?

Or something like that. It's been a few years.

"Don't even act like you don't know the title of 'Sex and the City.' It's not cute." She always called me out on those things.

"Sex and the what?" But I was too stupid to admit it.

And then she hung up on me, as I was in the middle of this reasonably important and unmanageable crisis. What an awful friend. We'll see how many shots I would buy her on her next birthday. When she wakes up the next morning in her own bed without a circle of vomit around her, she'll remember what she did to me. That would show her.

In retribution I sent a text message that probably used the word "cunt."

She didn't respond. I took it as a victory. She knew she did me wrong, the cunt.

I took the hoodie and hung it from a hook on my bedroom door. I thought moving it would help. It didn't. It hung there for two days, taunting me and invading my space. Thankfully, I had two jobs, so I wasn't home that often, but even at work I could feel its presence. I imagined the hoodie becoming animate and wandering around my room, sorting through my clothes and mocking my tastes, looking under my bed for secrets, judging the amount of dust behind my desk. That hoodie was a jerk.

Later in the week I saw Louie again. He stopped by my house for lunch after his work out while I was between shifts at my two jobs. I was able to remain rational, and was planning on politely (and sanely) letting him know that he left his hoodie in my room before he departed to the hospital for an evening of slicing open skin and moving organs around.

"Oh," he said between bites of his sandwich, "I forgot my hoodie here the other night."

While I wanted to sprint to my room, tear the hoodie off my door, and throw it at him in a fit of excitement, I simply said, "Yeah, it's in my room."

We finished our sandwiches, talking about the hospital that employed us or books we had read or whatever it was we talked about. I retrieved his hoodie from my door and returned it to him with a peck on the cheek. Finally, my sanctuary was back to normal. That rude, invasive hoodie was leaving. Louie smiled and planted a kiss on my forehead, which left him making an almost cartoon-like movement because he nearly had to jump to do it.

"Hey," he said, "Do you mind if I leave my gym bag here? I don't want to carry it all the way to the hospital."

 "Of course," I answered, feeling my irrational fears inside me screaming in protest. Past the knot in my throat I was able to release the words, "No problem."

And surprisingly, it wasn't. The gym bag politely sat in the corner of my room until the weekend. I barely noticed it was there.

I'd like to think that it was a turning point for me, that I was on the road to becoming less crazy, that maybe I had grown to a point in my life where I no longer personified inanimate objects to manage my social fears and relationship insecurities.

Or maybe that hoodie was just an asshole.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pardon My Sobriety (That's What She Said!)

I've been inexplicably boring the past week. Or busy? I think busy is the word people use as a synonym for boring when they want to sound interesting. Expect better content as soon as I get drunk and make a regrettable decision.

Meanwhile, I've been cheating on the personal blog with... other websites. I'll be contributing pop culture and lifestyle articles to The Next Great Generation. Today I have a guest post on the popular Columbus-based website Gen-Y Journey.

The kids at work discovered the phrase "that's what she said." They have no idea what it means, so they use it out of context, which only makes it more hysterical.

"All right everybody line up for the gym."


See what I mean? Hilarious.

Friday I locked my keys in my car. But luckily my brother, who has the spare set, just moved into an apartment two blocks from the new office I've been working in. I didn't even have to reschedule my two o' clock meeting.

Speaking of the new office, I've been interning at a local Columbus magazine. They keep me busy and out of trouble... so if anybody's to blame for the lack of prophylactics and spilled whiskey around here, it's them.

Wednesday night Columbus Entertainment (the other magazine I write for, I get around like that) held a special event to commemorate the release of the Spring issue. I shook hands with media personalities, football stars, and other wealthy, interesting people and attempted to pretend I was normal for a few hours.

In retrospect I guess the week was less "boring" and more "sober."

I really have to stop using those two words as synonyms.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Library Shout-Out

The other month I snatched up a guest spot on The Naked Redhead. A few days later I was talking about it with my supervisor at the health sciences library where I work (because if I'm talking about where I'm putting my junk on the Internet, my boss is going to hear about it. That's just part of hiring me).

"I noticed you mentioned some of your other jobs on your bio but not us," she said.

Since I spend twenty hours a week at the library, I guess it deserves some mention. After all, they do pay for my food and electricity and drinks.

I started at the library in the summer of 2009. I work at the front desk, helping visiting patrons, answering phones, and of course, attending to my Facebook homework.

My coworkers here quickly became some of my favorite people. Some of us even use the word "friend" and find ourselves out on the town together. We've attended concerts together, closed down bars together, hell, some of us have even ended up living together.

Together we handle an array of never-works-right equipment, drunk homeless men, and of course, masturbating patrons.

What? You thought working in a library involved books?

I've shared secrets here, been drunk here, made out in stairways here.

All library staff, except the photo-bomber in the back, that dude's just here to party.
I know this is supposed to be one of those temporary jobs, something to pass the time and pay the bills as I transition into the next part of my life, but I'm going to miss this place when I graduate. I like the smell of books and time spent with good people.

This is the part where I play a Sarah McLachlan ballad to capture the moment, right?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fucked-Up Inbred Super Freaks

I grew up in a town called Miller City, whose founders lacked the foresight to consider that perhaps putting the word "city" in the title should wait until the town was actually, you know, a city (the nearby town of New Cleveland made a similar mistake). It consists of a few bars and a gas station, and is surrounded by similar (but if you ask the locals, totally different and not at all the same) towns that make up the little collective that is Putnam County.

Putnam County is the odd kind of place where people refer to the county as if it's a town. The towns will bicker and fight over petty issues and then rally together and forget past disputes (most of which are over high school sports, which is usually the worst of our problems). We're our own little fucked-up family.

We never have money, and even when we do we still get drunk on school buses and go to hole-in-the-wall bars because it's all we know.

And... now this is going to sound completely irrational, because it is, but there's a way to identify other Putnam County natives. There's something about the combination of facial features and mannerisms and behavior that just make you think this person is one of us. This person is a totally fucked-up redneck like me. There's an aura of sorts, and no matter how much we distance ourselves from the flat landscapes and constantly inebriated people of Putnam County, we just know when we see another one. It can be in Florida. It can be in New York. It can be in Illinois. Even when we try to hide it, wrap ourselves in city clothes and urban habits, that Putnam County aura still manages to unmask us.

This phenomenon is probably the result of generations of inbreeding.

After spring break a new teacher joined us at the youth program I work for. When I first met him I had a suspicion. When he started talking I knew.

He is one of us. He's experienced the isolation and social structure of Putnam County and it is permanently hardwired into his brain and will show itself in the tone of every word and every move of a muscle.

But I can't just say these things, because that would be weird. I can't just tell someone that something about the way they hold their head indicates where they were raised. I've been trying to be more socially acceptable lately, and it's difficult for me, but I'm pretty sure saying something like "You're from Putnam County right? I can tell because of your brow-structure and posture" isn't okay. Ever.

A week later we were talking about where we were from.

"A place called Miller City," I said, "South of Toledo, nobody's heard of it."

"I'm from Fort Jennings," he said with a laugh. Fort Jennings is part of the collective.

It's a small, fucked-up, inbred world.

Home is just part of the freak show.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who Are You From 8-5?

Do you ever have one of those nights where an attractive person starts hitting on you in a bar? It was someone you’d met over the summer, but neither of you have been able to piece together just how you met. We were drunk… and talked about Sunglass Hut… right? Is that what happened? And every time you see each other you exchange some cheap small talk and that I know you but I don’t know you look of recognition.

But tonight is different. Tonight the two of you make an effort to solve the mystery of each other.

He asks, “Who are you from 8-5?”

As in, what do you do, but for you, the question should have been phrased, “Who are you from 6 AM – midnight?”

You start with the library. It’s what pays your bills, so get that part out of the way. Next mention the magazines. They’re interesting and cultured and oh-so-hip (never mind that they don’t pay you). And to close, talk about your job with the youth program, that “it pays the bills but really I just like hanging out with the kids” sort of thing to really get his ovaries swollen.

Gay men have ovaries right? Ovaries swell when excited, right? For working in a medical library your knowledge of interior anatomy is poor.

The youth program reference makes him smile.

“I used to be a latchkey kid,” he says.

Never mind that he’s an adult, or that he’s probably two or three years older than you.

Boner City, Population Zero.

Maybe it’s because he leaned in when he said it, maybe you caught a draft of his breath and didn’t like the taste. Taste is important. Science says so.

Maybe your head is wired poorly and now perceives this grown-ass man as a grimy fifth grader.

Or maybe it was his question, “Who are you from 8-5?” Maybe the person you are at the bar is compatible with him, but the person you are from 8-5 isn’t.

Whatever it is, you’re no longer interested in exchanging numbers.

You’ll still see him at the bar, and every time you’ll exchange smiles and small talk.

You’ll talk about what you do from 8-5 while sharing time from 10-midnight, because that's what feels right.

Because for now, your faces aren't meant to cross paths outside of the warm safety of the bar.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comic Relief

I have a confession to make.

I like... no, I love... comic books. Ever since I was a kid they've appealed to me. It started with the X-Men animated series, and later I moved to print comics. Now I just pick up the occasional bound book at Half-Priced Books, partly because I can't afford to buy them regularly and partly because watching Hoarders has left me terrified to keep or buy anything that isn't absolutely necessary to my existence. I used to hide my interest in comics because it makes me a social pariah, but damn it, my name is Justin, and sometimes I read comic books. Deal with it.

X-Men continue to be my favorite, because they're fucked-up freaks and I'm totally into that, but lately my interest has turned towards the Avengers as well.

My roommate has been instructed to assassinate me if I ever purchase a Fantastic Four book.

Some of my most recent purchases include some books from the 90s, full of the colorful costumes and hip phrases that made the 90s great (yeah I remember the 90s I'm not that young).
Oh yeah, this is the good stuff.
The other day I started browsing my new purchases. One of my favorite parts about comics is how unintentionally hilarious they can be. Check out this sexy gem from the X-Men starring resident femme fatale Psylocke:
A mission? Let me change into my sexy lingerie.
I love this because in the moment of crisis she takes the time to explain why the artist drew her in a bikini. Honestly it'd be more believable if she was just like "Hey, I'm supposed to look sexy in this panel, I came as quickly as I could." Meanwhile Colossus (wearing the yellow and red) is sporting a leg-revealing, side-exposing costume because that's a totally normal thing to wear. This also makes me laugh because as a character, Psylocke started out like this:
You ain't getting lucky until Marvel gives your dumpy ass a makeover.
Furthermore, I don't really get the idea of comics being "sexy." They're illustrations... do people really get off on that? Apparently (and I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this) the answer is yes, because as I was looking for additional cheesy pictures, I found this:
Mmm... so deliciously distorted. Send those vein-covered arms this way Cage baby.
Where did I find that image? From a blog called, I'm not making this up, Shirtless Superheroes. Despite being a totally weird website, I have to admit that they live up to their name and have found their niche, so bravo? Further research uncovered dozens of similar sites, but then I started feeling gross and closed all my tabs.

Silliness of "sexy" comics aside, let's move on and take a glance at what I found in my Avengers book. "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" have a lot to bring to the table. They might not be the fucked-up freaks that the X-Men are, but damn it, they try.
In case you're wondering, yes, she's hammered.
Marvel's attempt at a serious story on alcoholism.
This is only one example of the multiple incidents of Warbird storming into a mission plastered out of her mind, each time more hysterical than the next. It's hard to take a drinking problem seriously when it's being presented by a woman in a leotard tossing trucks around.

And then there's panels like the one below, that are not only over-the-top and completely goofy, but almost acknowledge the ridiculousness of it all:
I'm pretty sure I've used this excuse.
I'm starting to feel like the drunk guy who's cornered you at a party and is talking your ears off about nerd stuff, so I'm just going to wrap this up. But not before I share one more picture from another recent purchase that features the Hulk's alter-ego Bruce Banner, and his on-again/off-again girlfriend, Betty:
I have nothing to add.
I've got to go now. For some reason I'm starving and really craving an early lunch. Could really go for something meaty, you know?

Tune in next time and we'll talk about the time Multiple Man got drunk, made a duplicate of himself, and had sex with two women in the same night.