Saturday, April 14, 2018

DEAR AMTRAK


by: Pete Johnson

Hello,
I’m curious as to why a train near your train yard in Northeast DC blew its loud whistle for such a long time at around 9pm last night. It was annoying, sure, but I’m more just genuinely curious as to why it would seem necessary to blow a train’s whistle for what felt like 20 minutes straight. I’m sure it was more like 2-3 minutes, but still, it was a long time and the reasoning escapes me.  I could hear the train moving, and not particularly slowly. If it was to warn someone/thing that was on the tracks that a train was coming, it really seems like in that amount of time the train would have just hit it already. If a train hits a deer is it Amtrak policy to lay on the whistle for an hour to honor its noble life being sacrificed to the destructive whims mankind calls progress? That would be kind of nice actually, I could live with that. There aren’t that many deer in my neighborhood.
            My wife went on Nextdoor, which, don’t ever go on Nextdoor. It’s like if you took all the bad parts of Facebook and turned up the volume on them and also now all of your annoying Facebook friends live in your actual neighborhood and have the potential to murder you. So she found out sometimes train whistles happen in our neighborhood and people think it’s because kids cut holes in the chain link fence and go on the train tracks. That sounds about right, but still, why so long? I think what probably happened is there was someone on the tracks so the conductor blew the whistle, the person got off the tracks and the train passed them just fine, but then the conductor kept right on whistling out of indignation at someone being on the tracks. Is that what this was? Is there an angry conductor out there holding whistles down too long for their own emotional benefit? Every time an Amtrak employee hears a long train whistle do they sigh and think “damn it Howard, give it a fucking rest”? If so could you tell Howard to knock it off?
            Anyway, how are you, person that has to read Amtrak customer questions? I feel like I’m talking about me a lot. I bet you get a lot of dumb questions on here. I bet it gets pretty grating to type the same polite translation of ‘google it yourself’ and ‘no, you entitled prick’ over and over again. I hope this one is at least entertaining you a little bit. I guess what I’m trying to say is, my wife hasn’t been feeling well recently. She’ll be ok, it will be fine and everything, but right now she’s pretty miserable and it’s been tough. The train didn’t even bother her all that much, although she was trying to sleep. It’s more just like, I dunno, it’s a new thing I’m dealing with and maybe it’s throwing me off kilter just enough so that I feel like I want to write a long thing to a poor Amtrak employee expressing my very specific curiosity about train physics.
            Maybe it was to cover for a really long fart?
            Or maybe it wasn’t anger at someone being on the tracks, but a different anger. Maybe the conductor just checked the mini fridge and saw that someone ate their lunch. It could have just been a mean tweet. It could have been an article ranking the best episodes of Lost that the conductor REALLY did not agree with. Do conductors ever whistle out of love? Why not?
            In conclusion, I found the coffee you served on the train I took 4 years ago to be adequate. I wonder about the most bland, unnecessary comment you’ve ever gotten in your work. Have you ever read something like “My friend worked for Amtrak 13 years ago and liked it ok” and been like WHAT IN THE WORLD MOTIVATED THIS? I’m sorry for yelling, you don’t have to answer that. You don’t have to answer any of this really, you deserve better. There are lots of different trains that come through my neighborhood- it probably wasn’t even an Amtrak come to think of it. Well anyway, keep your head up. I’m rooting for you.
           

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Adelaide Climbs A Tree: A Review

By: Kelly McClure


When it was brought to my attention on www.facebook.com that the father of Ben Johnson (aka, Bozo #1), whose name is Ed Johnson, wrote a book, and that book was available for purchase on the website www.amazon.com, I bought it immediately. It did not matter that I had never personally met Mr. Johnson, nor did it matter that the book in question was about a little girl (whom I'd also never met) experiencing some difficulty climbing a tree. I personally felt the need to buy this book to answer the following questions that the existence of the book sprouted in my mind:

1) So, you can just willy nilly write a book and then be like "here, internet, sell this?"

2) Print media is alive and well? (That's not really a question I had, I just wanted to write those words.)

3) So, what's the deal with this tree?

I am a strange friend in that I will literally never call you on the phone or hang out with you, but if your family member writes a book, you can bet that I will be one of the first to buy it. That's how I show that I care. With money. And the internet. 

When Adelaide Climbs A Tree arrived in the mail I was pleased to notice that the book was magazine in nature (zine-esque, if you will.) The cover has a glossy slickness to it, and the paper has literally no odor. These are just some surface findings I thought people would like to know.


Doing my best to avoid any spoilers, the crux of the tale is this: A girl named Adelaide is like "I think I'll climb this tree." No known reason for this activity is given, which lends a lot to the book's mystique. She climbs the tree, un-climbs the tree, and then her life unravels into a Kafka-esque voyage of the inner psyche that results in her, and her grandfather's (Mr. Johnson) understanding that "there is no tree."

I would recommend this book to anyone who is yearning to find out a little bit more about themselves.

@WolfieVibes

Friday, August 5, 2016

Three Good Things: Hats, Walruses, Pillows

By: Ben Johnson

  
Hats

Often referred to by their common social media platform naming convention #hats, real life hats are a useful and good thing to have on your head from time to time.

Here is a partial list of some things hats do:

1. Cover your head.

2. Shield your head and various head parts such as face and neck and general head from things such as sunlight and rain and non-rain precipitation and other kinds of light, and like dripping things that are not rain.

3. Like if you have glasses but not prescription sunglasses you can wear a hat and that way you don’t really have to get prescription sunglasses because you can still se okay even if it’s bright out because you have a nice dark hat brim shielding your face.

4. Extend your head area’s intrinsic personal space bubble several additional inches in all directions, allowing you to navigate crowds and social situations with an extra cushion of ease and comfort.

5. Can look good on your head.

6. Can become an easy way for friends and loved ones to recognize you from afar if you wear a particular hat often.

7. Make your head warmer than it would ordinarily be.

In conclusion: hats are good.


Walruses

Are walruses good?

If you watch a nature show about walruses, you might come to the conclusion that walruses are, in fact, not good. They can be jerks to each other. Big male walruses especially can seem like assholes. They fight a whole lot, like they do that walrus-fighting thing where they whomp their big ugly walrus necks against each other until one walrus relents, and then dating wise it’s probably some kind of ugly walrus-copulation-as-reward-for-successful-walrus-fighting scene. I bet it's not too much fun to be an actual walrus.

I just Googled what do walruses eat and it turns out they eat clams. Man, they must eat a ton of clams. Walruses are huge. They must have like 50 pounds of clam meat in them at all times. No wonder walruses mostly just lie around and go “bork bork bork bork!” all day. That’s probably about all I would do if I ate enough clams to be 4,000 pounds.

And it’s not like, hey, don’t eat so many clams. I got no beef with a walrus just eating as many clams as they want. Eating clams is a pretty chill move as far as being a predator goes.

I think walruses are good because they look like walruses, and if it weren’t for walruses there wouldn’t be anything in the world that looked like that. You’d see Wilford Brimley or Stan Van Gundy and you’d think “man, that guy looks so much like a…” and then there would not be a word at the end of that thought. But thanks to walruses, there is! Walrus guys need walruses to exist in order for the rest of us to see a walrusy-looking guy and say, "oh man, that guy looks like an exact walrus."

Conclusion: walruses are good.


Pillows

For my money there’s just nothing better to put your head on than a pillow when it comes to sleeping or resting.

Conclusion: pillows are good.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Non-Women In Womanless Bands

By: Ben Johnson

This is what you look like when you talk.

There’s one of those Important Community Dialogues going on in the general vicinity of my Facebook feed these days, and as rational of a person as I like to believe I am about not voluntarily burning to a crisp, I have an inner moth with precious precious straight white cis man feelings that can’t help but be drawn to the flame. Moths are annoying and predictable that way.

This one is about whether there should be women in bands. The idea is that, yes, there should be women in bands. And another idea is that, also, bands who don’t have a woman in them should think about having a woman in them. These are good ideas. It’s a little puzzling why this set of ideas would be threatening to anybody. But oh boy is it ever threatening to some people.

Like all men (yes all men) I fuck up real bad every single time I try to enunciate an opinion on matters of feminism. I start out with what I believe are good intentions, and then I’m talking, and then I’m the one talking rather than listening, and that act alone proves I’m not actually all that awoken to the actual content of whatever repackaged ally-positioned gibberish I’m currently spewing, and thus I end up taking a patently rickety rhetorical position that any moth who wishes can easily point out, and then when that inevitably happens I look stupid and feel stupid, which actually is not a bad thing for me to look or feel as a result of opening my mouth about anything having to do with women or womanhood.

Because I do not, and never will, know what I am talking about on that subject.

ALL THAT SAID… you know what? No. No buts. Just those things said. I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. All I know about is general personhood.

Anybody can tell me anything and I’ll just do my best, okay? I get to decide the difference between right and wrong for me, and I have to act on those decisions and deal with the consequences of them, just like everybody else. I’d maybe prefer not to be told what to do, but hey, I’m a grown up. Grown ups have to deal with things they’d prefer not to deal with, like for instance utility bills or being told, correctly, that they should shut up once in a while, that their voices are crowding out other voices, that they are, because we all are in a general and essential sense and maybe some more than others if you’re a fan of concepts such as equality, stupid and wrong and unhelpful and unnecessary. Some grown ups have to deal with a lot worse than just being occasionally exposed to uncomfortable truth.

Anyway: I know I shouldn’t say anything. But sometimes I say things. I’m not perfect. I try to at least remember that it’s better if I listen.

Why not listen, dudes in bands?

It’s the least you could do after forming a band and peppering the whole world with event notifications that say, in essence, “hey please listen to me.” And if you’re not in a band: good job. Mission accomplished. Maybe consider also not posting on Facebook. I forgive you, because look at me here, but jeez. Look at us. We fucked up. We always fuck up so, so bad.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Candy Crush Saga Life Lessons

By: Ben Johnson



Look, I know this is bad, okay? This is real, real bad. From a certain entirely accurate psychological standpoint, it’s about the same thing as saying, “sometimes I cut myself,” or “I wish I was dead.” But: I’ve been playing Candy Crush Saga on my phone lately. You know, that game people play with the colored dots that you move around and then they explode, and whenever you see somebody playing it in public on the train or in an airport, commuting home in their business slacks and sneakers, you think, “that is just about the saddest thing I’ve ever seen”?

Yeah, that ‘s me.

This is just where I’m at right now, okay? I’m stressed out for a large portion of my life, and then I do this mind-numbingly stupid thing, and then in those moments I find I am doing this thing and not doing anything else, and my mind is soothingly numbed. It’s fine. It’s a fine way to spend your time if the rest of your time is comparably harrowing.

I’m learning from Candy Crush Saga. I’m not learning, like, math things, or “always do the wrapper candy first because that’s hard to get” things, although maybe I’m also learning those things. Really what I’m learning about is—and forgive me for saying this, because believe me I know how it sounds—my own adulthood.

Here are some things being alive, at least my experience of it, has in common with Candy Crush Saga right now:

1. Utterly pointless

2. Goes on forever

3. Isn’t technically “fun”

4. Series of things you have to do

5. Very little control over the things that happen

6. No way to know if you’re even good at it

7. Everything is garish and impossible to understand and also somehow wants your money and also somehow wants to know who all your friends are, wants to connect with all your friends and wants your money and all your friends’ money

8. I don’t know who anybody is even supposed to be

9. Sometimes it’s like “oh well it looks like I’m just not gonna win this time no matter what” and sometimes it’s like “oh wow I thought this was gonna be impossible but it’s totally doable if I just take it one step at a time” and you never know which one you’re even currently dealing with

10. You screw up a lot but mostly it’s no big deal, like most of the time the stakes are really small, like what if I did that thing differently and then that thing would go here, oh whoops, maybe I lose this level and/or the hot dog guy thinks I’m a jerk for like three seconds

11. Sometimes you have to stop, like sometimes you are forced to stop unless you want to bother people you know or pay extra money or cross a similar internal boundary into territory you’ve decided is unhealthy

12. It feels good to get stars or see your name climb a fake leaderboard even though it doesn’t really mean anything

13. The future is just a weird map with no features on it

14. I’m pretty sure I’m not the bad guy, but really there’s no way to know

15. I probably need to get my eyes checked, like I should really do that

16. Culture is a lie

Okay, I made up that last one. Candy Crush Saga doesn’t really make me feel that way about culture, except insofar as I moved to Baltimore less than a year ago and there’s all this interesting and weird stuff to do here and all these new people doing it, and I am constantly confused and feel myself struggling to find anything real I can look at and say “this is who I am,” and maybe the weird things and the new people are more of a distraction than a help in that regard, kind of like how Candy Crush Saga is more of a distraction than a help in every regard.

Am I reading too much into Candy Crush Saga? Not a rhetorical question. Genuine question.

And also: no I am not reading too much into Candy Crush Saga. It’s my life and I can play a dumb game and think whatever the hell thing pops in my head during that. I can do whatever I want. I’m basically a sprinkles candy right now, and I can explode all the blues, or turn them into stripes, or wrappeds, or I can also be Swedish Fishes. I don’t have to listen or do anything. Not all of the time. Nobody can do it all of the time.