Sweaterin’ to the Oldies

It’s that time of year again, when the weather gets colder so people spend wads of cash on frivolous things. Unrelatedly, I was recently invited to an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party, and since I don’t own a sweater that I or my wife considers ugly, I needed to buy an ugly sweater. Thankfully, America has never passed up on an opportunity to make some money, so there’s an entire subsection of the fashion industry devoted to selling “ugly” Christmas sweaters. And I am all for that. I think I’ve already written about how I’m a highly suggestible individual and if you can dangle something shiny enough in front of my face, I will attempt to buy it. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be all that shiny. It does, however, have to make sense.

And many of these “ugly” sweaters do not. Allow me to contrast two examples of ugly Christmas sweaters that are available now for you to purchase on the World Wide Web.




Both of these sweaters will show up as a result of a Google search for “Ugly Christmas Sweater.” But oh, all sweaters are not created equal. Take the first example. It’s a Cleveland Indians ugly Christmas sweater that I purchased for a friend a year ago. Notice the unnecessary and random mixing of patterns, the incredible busyness brought on by the jam-packing of trees, shapes, and logos, all rounded out by the near constant shifting of color so that the eye receives not even a moment’s peace. This truly could be described as an “ugly” sweater in the truest sense of the word.

The second example features two reindeer in the midst of sexual intercourse. This is not an ugly sweater; this is an unsettling sweater.

Because at its core, the ugly sweater idea feeds off of the illusion that the sweater you are now wearing, though ugly, could at one point have been worn in sartorial seriousness by your grandmother. I cannot picture many grandmothers who would wear a sweater decorated with two reindeer in the throes of carnal passion. And also, I don’t want to. The pinnacle of ugly sweater fashion is a sweater that your grandmother could see you wearing and describe you as looking “swell.” It is not one which would prompt your grandmother to ask, “why are Dasher and Dancer are making whoopie?”

Head Garnish, Part 2: This Time It’s Presidential

Last time, I wrote about hats and made the bold and some might say unsubstantiatable claim that JFK killed hats. The fact is that JFK did not wear a hat to his inauguration. Another fact is that he was the first American president not to do so since there were American presidents (except maybe George Washington, but I think he got off on a technicality because a wig could be considered a very hairy hat). Fact three: the American hat industry began to decline shortly after Kennedy’s inauguration.

So here’s what we’ve got:

  1. When presidents were wearing hats, the American public was wearing hats
  2. When JFK stopped wearing hats, the American public stopped wearing hats
  3. ERGO, JFK killed hats

So we’ve proven that JFK killed hats beyond a shadow of a doubt. But that’s not really what I want to focus on. What I’d like to posit instead is that hats killed JFK. Because here’s some more knowledge:

  1. JFK did wear hats before he became president
  2. While JFK was wearing hats, no one assassinated him
  3. JFK stopped wearing hats
  4. While JFK was not wearing hats, someone did assassinate him
  5. ERGO, JFK was assassinated because he stopped wearing hats

“But Kevin,” you might say. “Why would someone want to assassinate a president just for not wearing a hat?” To you I would reply, “Who are you, and who let you in here?” And also, “Follow the money.” (I know, it’s the wrong presidential conspiracy movie, but I’ll take what I can get.)

You see, hats were (and in Brooklyn still are) big business. When JFK decided to take on Big Hat by brazenly deciding not to wear one, he was thumbing his nose at one of the most powerful industries in the country at the time. Hat money built this country. Look at any old-timey footage of a crowd of people celebrating some big event: look at what they’re tossing up in the air to demonstrate their jubilation. Hats. Now that’s the kind of ubiquity that can line a lot of pockets. So many pockets, that you need to sew on more pockets. And more pockets. And more pockets; until pretty soon you’re wearing some kind of pocket-covered utili-kilt garment. And men wearing cash-filled utili-kilts do not like to be undercut by some Masshole politician who couldn’t find an R in a word to save his life.

But wait. Ask any conspiracy theorist, and he (it is invariably a “he” for some reason) will tell you that the people responsible for offing Kennedy were the Military-Industrial Complex. It was a bunch of military big-wigs. And why would they care if JFK’s outrageous breach of fashion decorum led to America ditching the hat? Because it turns out that the military is pretty big on hats, so big that they even have their own special hat, called a helmet, that they make all their soldiers wear. And how were we going to win a war against the Reds if all our soldiers took off their army hats? Especially since the Russians were known to be developing a missile at the time that was capable of locking onto exposed sideburns.

They then enlisted the aid of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was all too willing to help because his receding hairline gave him a personal stake in the preservation of hat culture. After Oswald had done the dirty work, it appears that he, perhaps overcome with grief over his heinous crime, rethought his stance on hats. This can be seen from the fact that he appears in his mugshot hatless. The pro-hat conspirators felt understandably betrayed and had him silenced by Jack Ruby–who, in the iconic photo of his murder of Oswald, IS WEARING A HAT. I rest my case.



Head Garnish, Part 1: Doffering

You’ve agreed to meet a friend for coffee, a friend whom you haven’t seen in some time. You’re excited, but cautiously so. Who knows who this friend has become in the intervening time? Has he gotten really into composting? Is he going to want to talk the entire time about some trip he took to Barcelona? Has he become a beer snob? Has he stopped drinking? Has he stopped showering? Has he embarked on some sort of elaborate revenge plot to extinguish everyone from his past that he’s found a reason to dislike? And then you see him as he comes into view walking toward you, pushing through a light crowd as he does. And it’s worse than you could have feared–he’s become a hat guy. He steps jauntily toward you wearing what is very obviously a hat and very unfortunately a fedora. The ensemble he has chosen to pair with his fedora is a t-shirt and shorts.

You’ve experienced this, or if you haven’t, you’ve woken up in a cold sweat reassuring yourself that it was just a dream, by the grace of the Almighty, just a dream. Hush now, my terrified soul, all is right with the world. There’s an inherent stigma with a man that’s chosen to become a hat guy, to walk the path of the haberdashered. Which is a real shame, because hats are objectively–when considered outside the context of douchebags in “Tag Out” t-shirts–pretty classy and well-crafted pieces of apparel. But that’s the thing: you can’t just put a classy thing on your head and expect it to make you respectable regardless of the choices you’ve made from the neck down.

Hats like the fedora, the bowler, and the pork pie were commonly worn in a time when showing yourself in public wearing less than a collared shirt, long slacks, and a blazer left you open to public disgrace and being called names like “crumb bum.” So trying to wear one of these refined pieces of headgear with a t-shirt and jeans is like trying to install a rooftop pool on top of a Quiznos.

And don’t take this as some kind of nose-look-down from a hat pro. I don’t own any of these kinds of hats because I don’t really want to commit to wearing a suit every day. Here’s why I don’t own the following types of hats:

  • Fedora–Unless you’re dressed as well as, better than, or identical to Dick Tracy, you’re not fooling anyone. In its modern incarnation, this hat can be seen worn most often by burly guys at clubs I’m not cool enough to get into or by younger gentleman who just joined their high school swing club
  • Pork pie–It seems like this is the preferred hat of that guy who’s always hanging out in record stores. He’s also constantly correcting people who call his hat a fedora
  •  Bowler hat–It doesn’t seem like this hat gets a lot of play these days. I’ve only seen one person wear a bowler in public; he was at a concert, and he didn’t stop rhythmically jumping up and down from the moment the concert started until it was over. I would love to wear a bowler hat, but I think I’d have to be traveling to an opera, solving a mystery, or standing with an apple in front of my face
  • Baseball cap–I have nothing against baseball caps; they’re not even hats that you have to wear with any specific type of clothing. The only problem is that to wear a baseball cap, you have to convincingly look like you did at some point in the past or may at some point in the future actually engage in playing the game of baseball. I cannot accomplish this
  • Flat cap–Trick question! I actually do own this hat (much to the chagrin of my wife). Most often, it calls to mind an old-timey cab driver or an old Irish man walking along the beaches of Dunkirk. My ancestral link to the latter is probably why I’ve convinced myself that I can pull it off

So where have all the hats gone, long time passing? You can thank one man for their death amongst the general public: John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Next time on Pygmanlion–Head Garnish, Part 2: This Time It’s Presidential.


An Odious Oral Obligation

I’d like to think that I’m a pretty calm person. I’m not; I’d just like to think that I am. Indulge my caprice, won’t you? But there’s still one place in particular that I am anxious from the moment I walk in to the moment that I willingly pay $600 so that I’m allowed to leave. That place is of course, the dentist. And no, this isn’t a 10-year-old child writing this post, it’s me, the same grown adult whom you’ve come to tolerate. To this day, however, I cannot shake a constant sense of dread and worry as a medical professional jabs at my teeth and gums with a tiny spear. I can’t imagine why.

Seriously though, I can’t understand how anyone could be calm at the dentist. Metal scraping against your teeth. You can hear it. You can feel it. And that doesn’t feel unsettling to you? Who are you–George S. Patton? And what do you know about your dentist? I mean what do you really know? Have you even seen your dentist’s degree? Have you looked close enough to know it wasn’t just printed off at a Kinkos? Are the signatures written in crayon? I will say with confidence that I haven’t seen any of my dentist’s credentials unless you count a cartoon of a man in scrubs painting a picture of a beautiful set of white teeth. I, personally, do not.

But actions speak louder than words or cartoons, so let’s take a recent dental procedure I had and see if it should make me trust my dentist. I recently had to go in for a crown appointment because my teeth can’t get it together apparently. Crown appointment–do you know what that entails? I do, now, from experience. They cut your tooth in half by filing it down like bars on a prison cell. They numb you up, so it doesn’t hurt, but you can still feel the pressure of an industrial-strength drill jack-hammering your tooth until half of it doesn’t exist anymore. Which is deeply unsettling. And the smell–oh the smell. They don’t numb your nose up, so you enjoy in full force the ambrosial scent of burning tooth. The one good thing is that I could wear headphones throughout the whole thing to take my mind off of it. So I listened to an audiobook about underground resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany. Because that was more enjoyable. The whole thing was a bit like having my tooth amputated. And–newsflash to dentists–the medical community hasn’t been doing a whole lot of amputations since World War 1; it might be time to check out some new techniques.

And then it’s not even over. They take a mold of your tooth so they can create a porcelain fake tooth to put on top of the one to which they just laid waste. Great. So now my dentist has a perfect mold of what my tooth looks like. So he has the capability to make some kind of porcelain tooth totem that he can stick pins into to make my mouth more uncomfortable than it already is. He could also clone my mouth and try to impersonate my smile in photos; who knows what he’s capable of.

So I’m glad I’m nervous at the dentist. I’m going to keep being anxious and getting up from the dental chair covered in cold sweat. Because that means I’m being vigilant. That mean’s he knows I’ve got my eye on him. And there’s nothing he can do about that, because he’s not an optometrist.


Pantless is a confusing term. Because if you’re wearing underpants, you aren’t technically without pants, are you? The equation for true pantslessness is

(legs + nether regions) − (overpants + underpants) = pantless

I not currently pantless. I am, however, currently overpantless. Why? You might ask. You might as well ask why I wish I could soar through the sky on the wings of eagles. Because it’s glorious, that’s why. It provides so much freedom to frolic about the apartment, to feel the soft cool breeze of the air conditioner on the calves, to be utterly free from the tubular fabric prisons of polite society.

It’s often my custom to divest myself of overpants as quickly as possible upon returning from the day’s wage earning. It’s almost like a small thank-you to my legs: “Your efforts in carrying me back and forth between my cubicle and the bathroom and occasionally the kitchen are much appreciated, old friends. Now, take your rest and be free.”

My wife doesn’t understand this intricate reward-based social ecosystem that I have established with my legs. She’s of the opinion that just because the windows are open and our neighbors are 50 feet away with windows at the exact same height as ours and they’re also standing there staring intently at my liberated lower half–that this means I should put on some overpants. I reply that you have to give the people what they want. Yea even, what they need. Who knows what sort of violence and chaos could ensue if people are denied a glimpse of my gams? I’d prefer not to find out.

The one exception I’ll make is when we have company because the company of other humans is generally considered to be effective in warding off insanity. Which I’m fairly interested in doing. And of course, I wear over-pants at all times when not in my apartment since I enjoy not being arrested. It’s not that I’m anti-overpants–I love a good-looking fashionable pant or two. But there’s just something about the feeling of an exposed ankle, the gentle rustle of leg hair in the breeze, that reminds me that life ain’t so bad.

Margarine Insect

“Butterfly” is very well known as a noun. They’re what a caterpillar turns into after eating a butt-ton of leaves and passing out. They’re the moth’s annoying cousin who everyone’s always saying is more attractive and who gets used in logos and stuff, and all the moth gets is a stupid storytelling show. But I’m much more acquainted with “butterfly” as a verb. To butterfly. How does one butterfly? No not swimming, Ryan LIE-chte. One butterflies by being me and by constantly losing focus on what I’m doing and starting to do something else. It’s kind of like when


Sorry, I just remembered that I forgot to reschedule a dentist appointment. Sadly (or fortunately), I didn’t coin this term about myself. Some friends of mine christened me a butterflier while we were playing golf once. And I do mean once, because I don’t love playing golf. But anyway, we were on the green of the 7th hole playing golf–as one does on a golf course–when suddenly I spied a piece of paper on the edge of the green. Apparently I still had shots to take before I was finished with the hole. Apparently there were other golfers directly behind us who were waiting to play the hole until we were finished. More importantly though, there was a piece of paper on the green that was heretofore unexamined by me. Could it be a treasure map? A ransom note? A wistful love letter to a sweetheart from a GI stationed in Guam during the Second World War?

Turns out it was a to-do list. BUT, it was a to-do list whose third item, after 1. Put gas in van and 2. Replace light bulbs in garage was 3. Find source of ants. Find source of ants? Like, find the source of all ants? Find the point of origin from which all ants have issued forth since the dawn of time? I posed this question to my friends, but just like Socrates was unappreciated in his day, they were more interested in me finishing the hole and not getting us yelled at than in finding the genesis of all ants. “Kevin, we really need you to stop being a butterfly and finish the hole.” I guess I should have just been thankful they didn’t make me drink hemlock.

But they’re absolutely correct about me. Given an interesting enough prompt, I will shift my attention to anything no matter what I might be doing currently. “Oh you mean multitasking,” you might say. But no, butterflying is much different from multitasking: multitasking is having four TVs and watching four shows at once; butterflying is having four TVs and watching one show for five seconds, pausing it, watching the second show for five seconds, pausing it, and so on and so forth until you’ve pissed off everyone else in the room. For instance, I’m walking down the street conversing with a friend when I see a store selling mochi, a Japanese sweet made from pounded rice and sweet bean paste and then BAM–all the world is mochi. Mochi is the only thing in the universe that matters; maybe even the only thing in the universe that exists. It’s really hard to know which unless the mochi were to weigh in.

And this is all well and good, unless the friend I was having a conversation with was my wife or if I happened to be operating an automobile and accidentally spotted some mochi. Those are the circumstances where being a butterfly really bites you in the butt–erfly. Because apparently it’s a sign of, like,  maturity or responsibility to be able to maintain focus on more than one thing for a sustained period of time. I guess I’ll just have to try har

Shows and Tell

My Labor Day plans consisted of one main activity: watching the Netflix Original Series Stranger Things. The fantastic thing about this, besides how enjoyable the series was, is that when I told my coworkers about it, they all agreed that this was a worthy endeavor–that a productive weekend required no additional action. Let me break down how fantastic that is. I told my peers that my big weekend plans were to watch eight hours of television, and they said, “We respect and admire your motivation and hard work.” Yes! Finally, I’m getting recognition for my specific talents and abilities.

Keeping culturally current with the shows of the day is pretty well regarded as a worthwhile investment of time. To the point that when I later mentioned offhandedly to my coworkers that I hadn’t yet seen any of Breaking Bad, they each gave me a reflexive look of horror and disgust–the same look you’d give to someone who was attempting to swallow a $100 bill, oh and also their face is melting off. The look that you are no doubt making yourself right now. Or now as I write that I also haven’t seen any Game of Thrones or Lost or The Wire or Dr. Who or Twenty-Four or Boy Meets World. That should’ve gotten just about everybody, I think.

So clearly, I haven’t done a great job keeping culturally relevant with my TV shows. I just didn’t realize the social implications, I guess. It’s like hour-long TV dramas are the new intellectual salons, where people of good taste can meet to discuss the latest ideas. It’s probably a good thing that Netflix didn’t exist during the time of the French Revolution, or people would have spent so much time talking about their Narcos theories that they wouldn’t have had any time to get around to French Revolting.

And after having watched all of Stranger Things and talking about it with people at work, I get it–it is super, super fun. And so, in the spirit of the TV Salon, I’d like to share some of the conclusions that I and my esteemed colleagues arrived at in our analysis. The discourse which proceeds hence is comprised of spoilers.

  1. I have never watched a show with so much yelling. Yelling people’s names, repeatedly even though that person is definitely not answering back. Yelling at someone to tell them they’re a liar or to assure them that you’re not a liar or that they have to believe you, they just have to. Yelling because a monster man is jumping out at you or chasing you or is supposed to be doing one of those things but isn’t and you’re just so gosh darn frustrated.
  2. The amount of parental neglect depicted was spot on. Those parents must have been doing some Daniel Day-Louis stuff to get it down so accurately.
  3. Little kids cursing is hilarious.
  4. No school assembly for Barb, huh? Well she left her car at the train station, so there’s certainly no reason for the police or her parents to keep that search up; let’s get back to Nancy’s search for popularity.
  5. The amount of restraint shown for 80s nostalgia was laudable. There were just enough nods without getting to the point of ever hearing the line, “My son Jonathan is ignoring me and  listening to his SONY WALKMAN, so I’ll have to contact Will using this LITE BRITE.”
  6. I desperately hope that they don’t pick up the second season right where they left off with the first one. I feel like the temptation will be too great to just have another weird occurrence beset the town of Hawkins because of the Department of Energy Laboratory. Because by the third season, it’s just going to be, “I wonder what sort of crazy hijinks Hawkin’s Lab is getting up to this time! That Matthew Modine, he just doesn’t know when to quit!”

I’m not sure if I’m ready to sink 52 hours in order to catch up on Breaking Bad, but if I do find myself with a spare full-time work week’s worth of hours, you know I’ll be saloning it up. About three years too late.


How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? Are you thinking in terms of minutes? Or is it easier to quantify in terms of how many episodes of a hit HBO drama someone could watch in the meantime? Do people make plans around you getting ready? This is a question that has been close to my heart ever since it came to light via party small talk that I take a longer time to get ready in the morning than my wife does. Significantly longer. How did I not know this prior, you might ask. Because I’m not a petty man, and I don’t keep track of things like these. Or put less kindly, I’m not the most observant person.

If you want to put labels on it, my wife takes 10 minutes to get ready, and I take 40. Math people will tell you that I take four times as long as my wife to get ready in the morning. But what they’re not accounting for is a difference in purpose in the getting ready process. My wife uses the act of getting ready in the morning to get ready in the morning; I use it to bask in mental and emotional solitude and rejuvenation. While getting ready, I ponder deep issues in life, like–is my cousin who just became a lawyer complicit in making America an overly litigious society? And, how come nobody uses the word “stooge” as an insult anymore? I also identified four specific (and incredibly essential) activities that may account for an extended time of morning ablution.

1. Using separate shampoo and conditioner. 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioners are the enemy of humankind. Under their care, it’s completely impossible to discern when your hair is being cleaned of impurity and when it’s natural oils are being replenished, which is maddening because these two activities are polar opposites. As such, your hair will leave a 2-in-1 shower session feeling confused and frightened. Separate shampoo and conditioner (along with lines for crowded activities) are the only things that separate humankind from the animals.

2. Using beard wash and beard oil. Nurture your beard, and it will nurture you. A beard that isn’t washed with a generous helping of jojoba oil in the shower and conditioned afterward with a mild styling agent is a dangerous place. Dry, scratchy, and crusty hair abounds and provides a fertile breeding ground for just the sort of chaos that led to the Bolshevik Revolution and to a lesser extent the Subprime Mortgage Crisis of 2008.

3. Singing a personally arranged Vegas-Lounge-Act-Style rendition of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” Nothing more need be said.

4.  Brushing teeth for the entirety of the dentist-recommended two-minute time period. You only get one set of teeth in life, so you better take care of them. I’ve even gone a step further and divided my mouth into twelve sections on which I spend ten seconds each, thus ensuring that every part of my mouth is equally clean. Results speak for themselves; I have only four cavities.

After talking with a number of people, I think I’ve discovered another reason why I may take longer on my morning routine. The majority of people whom I’ve asked have admitted publicly that if they need to pee before getting into the shower, they do not wash their hands in between the discharging of waste and the entering into the shower. This, frankly, is heinous. They’ve assured me that “you’re going to clean your hands anyway” but your hands are what you’re going to use as the primary implement of cleaning in the shower, and you’ve just implicated them in the crime of peeing! If people washed their hands in between, like I do, to make sure they enter the shower with a clean slate, a clean slate, I think we’d see a bit more parity in morning prep times.

And really, we’re missing the point here anyway. When a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis, nobody asks it what in the world took it so long and can the rest of us please use the chrysalis now that you’re finally finished? And that’s all I’m doing each morning–retreating into the chrysalis of the bathroom as a foul-breathed unkempt caterpillar only to emerge as a glorious butterfly with a supple beard, warmed vocal cords, and only four cavities. You’re welcome.

Canst Thou Hear Me Presently?

It may surprise you, but being a theatre kid in high school and college can, in certain limited circumstances, have a negative effect on your life. In my case, my experience treading the boards and telling the tale of the Bard made me too good at talking. Specifically, it made me too good at volume. More specifically, it made me very very loud. Because in the theatre, when you are treading the boards, telling the tale of the bard, speaking the speech trippingly upon the tongue (hereafter referred to in layman’s terms as “acting” or “being a self-indulgent dork”), you are taught to project. I was very early on taught that I needed to project my voice and speak at such a volume that I could be heard from the very back seat of the theatre (hereafter referred to in layman’s terms as “the theater”). This is excellent advice when you are performing a play for a group of people who have paid a set admission price in order to sit in seats and watch you perform a play. It is not great when you’re, say, sitting in your living room talking to your wife.

Being the go-getter that I was, though, high school me went at whatever he did 110% percent–120% if there was an inspirational figure there to push me to new heights of greatness. So I didn’t feel a need to turn off the vocal projection when I was not in school doing the theater. But when I was at home, my parents never said anything about my newfound decibels. Maybe they legitimately didn’t notice, or maybe they were just glad that theater was keeping me out of the gangs and off of the marijuana pot that all these kids are into these days.

Regardless, I managed to get all the way out into the real world without noticing, until my then-girlfriend-now-wife Jen asked me, “You know you’re incredibly, loud, right?” To which I responded, “Maybe your ears are just too sensitive, and it’s your problem.” Y’know, standard stuff you say when you’re trying to get a woman to fall in love with you. But alas, I went back to my group of appropriately sensitive male friends and asked if I talked loudly. The verdict was unexpected. “We all assumed you were just a really passionate guy–just really excited about whatever it was you were saying.” While being known as a passionate, passionate man is not a bad thing, that wasn’t necessarily the personal brand I was trying to foster, so I was in Dire Straits. I was truly undergoing the Walk of Life.

I’d found myself in a quandary. How could I simply start to be “not be loud” when I never thought I was loud to begin with? My “pleasant conversation” was apparently everyone else’s “The Hindenburg’s going down, oh the humanity.” So I just started talking quieter. Which was not the solution. On several phone calls, people asked me, “Are you in a library?” or “Have you been kidnapped?” or “Have you been kidnapped by militant librarians? What are their demands? Do they want an expanded budget for microfiche archives? Tell them no deal; the United States doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, except for all the times that we definitely do–I don’t know why that phrase is in every 90s action movie starring Harrison Ford.”

So I had to take a more nuanced approach. In my late 20s, I have essentially had to relearn how to talk. How did it turn out? Luckily, the only person that sees me on a daily basis now is my wife, so as long as she isn’t pissed off, it’s all good. Oh yeah, and people at work, but see my post re: biking to work, and you’ll see I’ve pretty much shot any chance at having a normal relationship with them.


Cold Stone Schemery: Part 2

“But Kevin,” you might say. “Surely your scheming and sidequesting in real life isn’t all that absurd.”

“Oh really?” I would counter. “To illustrate, maybe it would be helpful to know that once, upon discovering that I hated my job, my solution was to dress up like an 17th-century samurai.” Which is entirely factually true, and I can produce witnesses if needed.

The thinking was this.

I convened a mental board of directors meeting on the state of my job satisfaction. All board members were present and agreed that the situation was dire. Id, Ego, Superego, That Weird Part That’s Always Telling You to Jump When You’re In High Places: it was a unanimous vote–I disliked my job intensely. Now, on to the solution. Certainly, a scheme was in order. And certainly, that scheme would have to be sidequestrian in nature. If Jackie Gleason and Zelda are both on board, you can’t be wrong–the board reasoned. So, how might one deal with a terrible job in the most roundabout way possible?

Well. If you aren’t happy with your job, you need to find a new one, right? BUT, if you’re unhappy with your job, you’re coming home drained, depressed, and chock full of malaise–Jimmy Carter levels of malaise. And that’s not a state that you can effectively look for a job in. After all, looking for a new job is basically a job in and of itself, and the only thing worse than having a job you hate is having two jobs you hate; that’s just simple math.

So…How can I come home and be a little bit more peaceful so that I can start my second job of searching for a second job? I am an avid fan of Japanese culture, so I thought, “traditional Japanese culture is all about peace and harmony” (there may or may not have been alcohol helping to paint this broad-brushed sketch; I won’t confirm or deny). “Maybe all I need to do is Japanese up my room some; turn it into a real Asian Oasis.” And so the scheme began.

First thing’s first: let there be (better) light. I replaced my harsh overhead light with rice-paper lanterns to create a more calming atmosphere. I bought three different kinds because having all the same type of lantern is, of course, less calming.

Next, I tried to spruce up the floor. Fake hardwood is fine and all, but not as peaceful as a mat made out of dead grass. So my next step was to buy a goza mat.Gassho This mat did indeed feel amazing, and if looking for a job was a task that only required my feet, they’d have been ready right then. Sadly though, I’m not able to type, view web pages, or process neural impulses with my feet, yet–so I had to press on.

Then I realized how important it is to be able to enter in to the Asian Oasis. Right now, my entry consisted of a garbage Western door with the ability to slam–one of the least harmonious words, unless you’re pairing it with the word “jam” and also the words “everybody get up it’s time to (slam) now, we got a real (jam) goin’ down, welcome to the Space (Jam).” So my next important acquisition was a noren entry curtain, held up by a timelessly elegant $8 Amazon Tension Rod.

But once I had entered into the Asian Oasis, I realized that most of the room was still woefully un-Asian. When I looked around, I still saw my stressful Western dresser and my bed with the denim comforter I’d had since college. Not a problem that a shoji folding screen and some decorative floor pillows can’t fix, though.

At this point, you can probably imagine that I was getting very close to being ready to look for another job so I could quit the job that I didn’t like. But also as you can probably imagine, I wasn’t quite there. Because while I could see very peaceful things, I couldn’t hear them. Outside my window, it was still all sirens and stray cats and domestic disputes. So I bought a Japanese water fountain (called a shishiodoshi, or deer chaser),


Which needed a bowl to sit in,


Which needed stones in it so it wasn’t just an empty bowl,


Which needed a grate to sit on because I was too cheap to buy enough stones to fill the entire bowl,


All of which needed a bench to sit on because it wasn’t very soothing sitting on the floor,

Bamboo Bench

Which needed a lantern on it as well so it didn’t look like the only reason I bought a huge bench was to put a water fountain on.


Acquiring all of which made me very peaceful, which I’m sure you’ve gathered.

And yet.

I was surrounded by a very peaceful atmosphere. Sidequest completed. Scheme executed. But who was the me who was surrounded by this peaceful Asian Oasis? It was a very dismal man–that may be a little generous–a very dismal male dressed in a “Chautauqua Laser Tag” t-shirt and baggy shorts. This is not peaceful apparel. This is not job-search apparel. And so, I obtained all of this:

Which, to save you some Googling of a bunch of Japanese words, is the traditional garb of a 17th-century Japanese samurai, complete with under-robe, over-robe (kimono), jacket, pleated pants, socks, and a sword because both it and I were on Amazon at 2 AM. And at last, my friends, I was at peace.

So I started looking for a job, right? Sort of! If by “look for a job” you mean “host a Japanese tea ceremony for my roommates,” that is exactly what I did!

Later on, my now-wife married me in spite of a weird Japan obsession I had, and she strongly encouraged me to actually look for a new job, which I did, and then interviewed for, and then got. So you see? The scheme paid off.