Most of us withdraw money from our checking accounts at least once a week. We do, after all, have to survive in this wildly flawed and ever more hurtful world. Even when the money we withdraw doesn’t mean much. Slips of green paper that have touched several hands before us, used to acquire food and other items that allow us to survive. And with inflation, the value of money increasingly means much less. The quiet joke about money is more apparent these days. A dollar bill and a euro walk into a bar. They both measure their value against each other, which is subject to whims that are beyond their control. The dollar bill says to the euro, “Whose wallet or purse do you think you’ll end up in this week?” The euro replies, “I don’t know. But I’m sure some stranger will slide me across a counter to buy something before I have time to get comfortable.” “It’s a transient life, to be sure.” “A transactional one.” “Same diff.” “When do you think you’ll die?” asks the dollar bill. “I don’t know,” says the euro, “we don’t live as long as dogs. Maybe eight years if we’re lucky. All the wear and tear.” “I know,” says the dollar, “I’m starting to feel my age.” “You’re holding up very well,” says the euro, “let me buy you a beer.” But in the euro’s noble quest to honor the camaraderie that he has just established with the dollar, he has no alternative but to submit himself as the instrument of payment when the bartender arrives. And while the dollar enjoys his beer (only to be scooped up from the barstool after a mere two sips by a bipedal ape-descended life form in great financial need), the euro finds himself spending the next several hours inside the dark boxy abyss of a cash register cage before he is eventually transferred to a safe, which is an even more depressing place to exist than the cash register. Small wonder that currency has no soul. This is no way to live.

Not that money has ever meant all that much to me — except as a means to carry on surviving. The things I enjoy doing and that I am particularly good at are far from lucrative. In fact, I tend to lose time and money when I’m doing these things, although I do not consider that I am withdrawing from anything when I am happily doing these things. I have all the books I could possibly need — even if I cannot stop buying them. It is not so much the money I care about, but the books, which have become increasingly more reliable than people in 2022 and appear to be the foundation for whatever sanity I possess. I have all the things I could possibly need. I don’t need anything more. And the idea of playing the crypto market strikes me as one of the most boring pastimes imaginable. Even more boring than gambling, which I also do not do often. The last time I gambled, it was three years ago and on a whim. I had stopped at Atlantic City after recording with an actor in Virginia. I had a car to return the next morning. And it seemed ridiculous to drive all the way back to Brooklyn, only to drive to Newark to return the car, when I could simply stay in New Jersey and thus delude myself into believing that I was still on a journey. I had not been in Atlantic City before and felt, after living in New York City for more than a decade, that the time had come to finally visit this seedy place — a venue perhaps best memorialized by Joshua Cohen in an essay for a magazine run (in part) by someone I strongly detest and who has proven, as I suspected all along, to be largely in this for the money. Anyway, I was in a casino for less than an hour and won big at the craps table and I walked away with my winnings, which most people do not do. Quit while they’re ahead, that is. I had enough for a hotel room and more. Why give this small fortune back to the casino? Yet while I was waiting for an overworked man with a sad angular face to book me a hotel room, and affording the man great leeway because he looked as if he was having a very bad day, I stepped to the side and played the slots and won another jackpot. And these combined winnings were enough for me to live like a king that night — even though I had no aspirations to royalty. I certainly didn’t have any particular desire to throw money around. I didn’t need to withdraw anything. I still don’t feel any overwhelming need to withdraw money unless I need to buy a sandwich or something. But I will stick up for my worth.

The more noble of us withdraw blood. Often for doctors, who request to see it and study it. More often, in my case, for blood banks. Because people need it. And even though I tend to be squeamish around needles when I donate blood (although not so much when it came to getting vaccinated) — a quality which guarantees that I’ll never attempt heroin as long as I walk this earth — I still do this for the greater good. Whatever displeasure I have when a nurse draws blood from me is worth it. And I can usually disguise or distract myself from my discomfort with a fusillade of jokes that, in turn, helps the nurse to have a better day as she treats largely ungrateful patients. (I know how ungrateful people can be. I once worked in a vaccination center. I still treated everyone like royalty, even when they were rude to me.) But maybe I’m overestimating my squeamishness. Or even the quality of my wit. I recently saw a doctor and sat stoically as great pain flooded throughout my body. And the nurse replied, “You know, most men who go through this cry. You don’t.” And it was true. I am better with my pain threshold these days than I used to be. But I have no idea if this is because of maturity or increased resignation. And the nurse proceeded to flirt with me and asked me why I was still single — this as I was in a largely naked and vulnerable position, this as pain continued to shoot through my corpus. I did my best to be present and not withdraw — even as bits of organic matter were being withdrawn from me. Because the operation needed to happen. There was no way around it. Encounters with doctors become more frequent as you get older. Aging is the body’s ignoble way of announcing that you are inevitably going to die.

The funny thing about the word “withdraw” is that its original meaning involved taking back something. To draw away. A possible variation of retrahere, which is Latin for “retract.” But when we say that we withdraw now, what are we taking back exactly? The money we withdraw from a bank is usually spent on something. The blood that is withdrawn from our bodies doesn’t return to us. But this etymology does provide me with some comfort. Because I find myself withdrawing from people more these days out of self-preservation. People are becoming crueler and more selfish. And it all makes me very sad. The mass shootings. The anti-choicers who want women to suffer and to give up all their autonomy and their identity. The ineptitude of Democrats. The cruelty of Republicans. But I don’t want to have the soul of a lonely euro whimpering in the dark heavy jail of a safe.

And it’s not just political. People who I thought were friends have demonstrated that they do not care about my feelings. They have their reasons. It has nothing to do with me, but that doesn’t stop their egotistical acts from causing hurt. They see the way that I live, which is entirely on my own terms and very much about being there for others, and they resent me for it. While more deranged members of our society would be more inclined to shoot up a school to contend with this imbalance, I’m not a violent man. And my response has been to withdraw from them. I mean, if you’re texting with an ostensible “friend” and pointing out that you’re not feeling all that great these days, and that “friend” replies “lol,” that’s not really someone you want to be friends with, is it? In the last two weeks, I have largely withdrawn from writing — something that I very much enjoy doing — because I am still dealing with the great hurt of busting my ass for someone who claimed to vouch for me and who even called me a “genius” (I’m not) and who fed me to the lions and who betrayed the many hours I put in. This two thousand word essay (or whatever the fuck it is) that I am writing right now is the most writing I have done in one sitting in eight days. And I have enjoyed writing it. And I feel right now a sense of catharsis. And coming to terms with all the flotsam in my head is helping me. And hopefully it will likewise help you — that is, if you’ve read this far. I’m sure that many people will resent me for enjoying the experience of writing this. Certainly someone as bitter as Fran Lebowitz, who I am increasingly believing to be a fraud and who will probably never read this, will see my enjoyment of writing as suspicious, if not worthy of censure. But then Fran Lebowitz likes to complain. It’s her schtick. And it has a limited range and repertoire. It’s enjoyable to some extent, but increasingly less so as I get older. She is not as bad as Ricky Gervais, who is a truly sad and hateful and mediocre man. His most recent transphobic “comedy” special caused me to cancel my Netflix account. Because I don’t need that kind of ugliness in my life. And I don’t want to support that. The world is ugly enough. My schtick is to try not to complain (except in the case of notable injustices, such as various Supreme Court rulings devised by soi-disant “originalists” or income inequality, or to stump on behalf of the many people who seem to trust me with their most vulnerable and heartbreaking stories and whose trust I feel the need to honor and to never betray because I don’t understand why they trust me and see me as a man who they can be open with), but to see and depict quotidian wonder, particularly strange quotidian wonder. And that is the basis for what I do. That’s who I am. I cannot be anybody else but me.

But back to this “friend.” I believed, after all the years we had known each other, that he would have my back. Much as I have always had his back and have taken significant risk to stick up for him because that is the kind of loyalty I have for people in my life. Because loyalty and honesty and good faith matter more to me than how anyone perceives me. But it was not to be. I was forced to withdraw.

So I am withdrawing from certain people. And my choice to withdraw has proven to reveal who certain people truly are and how little my honest passion and my fierce advocacy has truly mattered to them. I am withdrawing to take back something, per the original definition of “withdrawing.” And the hope is that I can find people who understand what I’m talking about here. Who intuitively know the big problem we’re not talking about. Who can read the room and see that a lot of us are scared and that inaction is no way to go about this tricky business known as life. I am withdrawing in order to be more present. To live to fight another day in a long and difficult fight that is increasingly essential to preserve the joy and beauty of the universe and to inspire other people to live their best lives and to accomplish great things. Which now seems like the hardest fucking thing in the world. It used to be simpler. But it has to be done.

Bill Kristol: An Enemy to Women, An Enemy to Human Rights

Yesterday, Bill Kristol — a vile and cowardly neoconservative opportunist who has deluded himself into believing that opposing Trump somehow makes him a more “reasonable” Republican — landed himself in rightful hot water when he tweeted for “civility.” Kristol, a repugnant man who has never known a day without a hot meal, rebuked protesters for protesting outside the homes of statesmen who stand in the way of autonomy, freedom, and a woman’s right to choose. Echoing the bullshit centrist line from Michelle Obama that has singlehandedly positioned Democrats into a wildly gullible and morally culpable party of eternal ineptitude, Kristol also urged protesters not to “intrude on people attending their houses of worship.”

Bill Kristol clearly does not have any significant understanding of human history. He also doesn’t seem to comprehend that his own wildly dangerous party is operating from a crazypants playbook created and practiced by vicious and duplicitous thugs who have openly flouted numerous judicial precedents that ostensibly upheld the liberties and agency of women and that now threaten to create a new form of slavery in which forced childbirth — even in cases of rape, incest, or when a baby that is fated to die — will become the cruel new norm.

In short, the unhinged assault on our democratic republic is very real — arguably one of the greatest perils to liberty in our lifetime — and it requires that we stop playing nice. “Civility” — or, at least, the bullshit bromides that Kristol cleaves to — hasn’t worked. The time has come to make the life of any atavistic scumbag who stands against women’s rights — and thus human rights — incredibly difficult — a living hell that will communicate in pellucid terms that the failure to respect a view that the majority of the American people support now — and even supported in the immediate aftermath of Roe v. Wade — is completely unacceptable in the 21st century.

Is this fool really so naive as to not know about the Haymarket affair? Hundreds bravely fought for workers rights. A bomb was thrown. And the anarchists who adopted an ostensibly “fringe” position were rounded up and falsely criminalized — including people who had not actually attended this 1886 protest in Chicago. One of the falsely accused defendants committed suicide.

Is this wildly irresponsible oaf unfamiliar with the civil rights movement? Also messy. Lamar Smith — a venerated World War I vet — shot in the streets of Brookhaven, Mississippi for urging Blacks to exercise their right to vote in 1955. Or how about Bloody Sunday on March 7, 1965 — in which peaceful protesters were brutally attacked by lawmen in Selma, Alabama? Or Jonathan Daniels? Murdered by an unpaid deputy sheriff after picketing whites-only stores.

I could go on, but Google is free.

Did this nitwit truly deposit his fat complacent head into the blissful sands of clueless ignorance when Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves was interviewed by Jake Tapper — on Mother’s Day, no less — and said, with wanton sociopathic glee, that forcing women to carry pregnancies to term in any scenario was just peachy keen? Here are actual sentiments from a pro-lifer just yesterday: “You have no choice. Not your body, not your choice. Your body is mine and you’re having my baby.” If Kristol refuses to recognize the abhorrent tyranny here, the fight that any card-carrying humanist should not sit out, then he has no business opining in any form.

Weak mediocre men like Kristol are very much one of the reasons why we’re here once again, forced to fight even as we remain exhausted for a right that should have been codified decades ago. Pusillanimous fossils like Kristol not only cheapen the difficult choice that any woman faces with abortion, but they belittle the bravery of anyone who remains rigorously committed to human rights.

With all due respect, Bill Kristol, go fuck yourself. And please be sure to let me know your “place of worship” so that I can show up and say this to your face. You see, if there isn’t a safe place for women, then there really shouldn’t be a safe place for you.

How NPR “Covers” Our Obscene Dystopia

Last night, Politico leaked a draft opinion from the Supreme Court — the first time that any early ruling had ever escaped the sacrosanct chambers in the high court’s entire history — that called for the unthinkable: a complete and total overturn of Roe v. Wade (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey). One would think that such an astonishing calumny against women’s rights, the precedents upheld by all justices in the past, and the ostensibly noble practice of jurisprudence would be front-page news for every outlet. One would think that such a significant sign that patriarchal fascism can become a real possibility in the United States would take up every column-inch and every second of airtime. But don’t tell that to the gutless onanistic “minds” at NPR, who took to Facebook with a piece on the Met Gala! Because, as far as NPR is concerned, rich people and what they wear is real news. And women are merely ornamental animals to fuel the next several rounds of vacuous social media speculation. Never mind their rights. Never mind their lives. Never mind their agency. And never mind the fact that all that they bravely fought for in the last several decades is now being rolled back faster than the time it takes to microwave a Hot Pocket.

Let us be clear about why and how NPR is a dumpster fire. It is a radio organization run by toothless conformists with a long history of looking the other way while catering to an increasingly invented audience of “upper middle-class” listeners with oodles of spare time to devour every celebrity offering (when these privileged mouth breathers aren’t busy sucking up air) and, as any audio producer learns from the whisper circles of mailing lists and DMs, regularly in the habit of stifling and “correcting” any original or unique voice to suit its despicably vanilla and anodyne “coverage” of events, which challenges no one and reveals nothing.

It’s no surprise to see that this bullshit outlet — now a pathetic parody of itself — would rather prioritize an obscene display of vacuous spectacle and empty wealth over far more pressing issues such as the erosion of women’s rights, the rise of American authoritarianism, the growing disparity in income inequality, escalating international conflict, and political corruption — all of which are allocated mere snippets. In short, NPR is a fucking embarrassment to journalism and a significant part of the problem. It “serves” the public much as I participate in triathlons — which is to say not at all. These feckless dimwits lunge for the safe and sane. They never take chances. They never rock boats.

NPR’s superficiality is perhaps best represented by the smug and vapid talking heads on Pop Culture Happy Hour, who bray regularly about the most inconsequential offerings on television with a mildly snarky style that feels as antediluvian as the Tamagotchi. As of Tuesday afternoon, Pop Culture Happy Hour “star” Linda Holmes has said precisely fuck all about Roe v. Wade to her 139,000 followers on Twitter. You see, Linda Holmes is living a comfortable life and she’s eked out such a hollow and cozy existence that she’ll never take a real stand on anything. But she does have plenty to say about the Ozark finale, which nobody will give a shit about in twenty years. You see, for myopic mercenaries like Holmes, Ozark counts as real news! Apparently, Holmes’s biggest problem in life is breaking some superficial rule in which she continued to watch a show that she “did not think was actually good because I just wanted to know the ending.” Someone bust out the smelling salts and the fainting couch for poor beleaguered Linda, folks! Meanwhile, the life, liberty, and health of women have become significantly imperiled thanks to extremist justices who were anointed by an orange tyrant and his fawning sociopathic acolytes.

The reason why we have reached this barbaric nadir in our history is not just because highly gullible and treacherous dolts like Susan Collins actually believed (or, more likely, claimed to believe) that Brett Kavanaugh would honor Roe v. Wade, but because frivolous and completely useless lightweights like Holmes, who have never taken a real chance in their sad and miserable lives, continue to uphold the apolitical status quo. I can genuinely imagine Linda Holmes ratting out liberals as they’re sent to the concentration camps in a few years, not long after telling a reptilian autocrat, “Well, officer, she brought up politics at the dinner table!” By remaining silent about the Roe v. Wade overturn, Holmes — much like all NPR employees who say nothing — is among what Goldhagen called “willing executioners.” And these unprincipled cowards are as much of a menace to our culture as the people who take our hard-won rights away. For hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.

[5/9/2022 UPDATE: In fairness to Holmes, she did finally say something in a thread involving Danielle Kurtzleben on May 6th, 2022 — a good four days after the Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked. But she largely complained about how exhausting it was to say anything — as if anyone presently on the involved front lines isn’t exhausted! Exhaustion doesn’t mean that you stop fighting. And when human rights are on the line, you don’t show up four days late to the debate.]