McDowell County, West Virginia – A groundbreaking psychological study in the intellectual Mecca of the United States has recently shed light on one of Philosophy’s most puzzling questions. Dr. Chase Sampson, renowned psychologist and 2009 participant in ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire,’ traveled to McDowell County last month with twenty five laptops and a lofty, ambitious goal. He hired thirty five eager and unemployed citizens of McDowell Country to spend eight hours a day scrolling through randomized, Facebook Newsfeeds. Sampson meticulously observed and recorded all of their reactions, everything from growls and cries to laughter and sighs. This past Tuesday Sampson’s work finally paid off. A man by the name of Jesse Beler, a laid off miner, unaccountably stood up from his laptop, burst into tears, then began shouting: “IT’S ALL JUST…JUST…A RIDICULOUS GAME…A SILLY, RIDICULOUS GAME,” then ran out of the abandoned gas station which was being used as a controlled environment for the axiom-shattering experiment. Sampson plans to publish his finding in the prestigious, “Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,” sometime in the next six months. Jesse Beler was not available for comment. He is believed to be somewhere in the wilderness of Northern Canada, half-naked and searching for food.
The regular at my bar who has herpes on his genitals and is trying to find love visited a few days ago after a one month hiatus. When Joe arrived, he immediately told the bartender working that he wanted to speak to me, because I like to listen, so she called me on the phone while I was upstairs in the office slamming my head against a printer. Give me a minute, there’s blood everywhere, I’ll be right down.
Joe found a girl! Can you fucking believe it? Love! Intoxicating, enthralling, ethereal love! The clouds have cleared! The dawn is here! Get this man with a venereal disease a beer!
“But wait,” Joe said, “Something really bad happened this past weekend. I-”
“Hold your warts right there, cowboy. Start from the beginning.”
About a month ago, Joe was feeling depressed after a string of failed dates. The women he was meeting through his herpes website weren’t setting him on fire like the outbreaks on his crouch were 2-3 times a year. One night, a friend asked him if he wanted to go out to bars and meet women. “You know I can’t do that,” Joe replied. “I can only meet woman through the herpes website.”
“Then just be my wingman. I know you like to drink.”
“Okay, I guess.”
Joe went out with no intention of finding a woman. Isn’t that how it often happens? You go out just to have a good time and an eager person of the opposite sex just appears? Well, that’s exactly what happened. While at the bar, a cute blond, 22 years old, approached Joe and they began talking. Joe is a generically handsome guy. Despite being 32 he has a babyish face with baby blue eyes, slightly chiseled jaw, slight scruff, crew cut, tan, lean, and in shape. He has good genes in the appearance department, which is why I’ve asked him to set me up with his sister (I’ve seen pictures). This means he’s had numerous girls approach him in the past and initiate the courting process, something I can’t imagine. If a girl ever approaches me in bar, I’m gonna assume she’s playing a prank. Anyway, this new girl, Diana, took the reins. She had extra tickets to a comedy show nearby. Would Joe like to join her after this drink?
Everything clicked. They had a swell time. The comedians were insulting everyone in the small theatre (it was a Monday night and there were only a few people in the audience) except Diana and Joe. “Look how happy and good looking this couple is, we can’t make fun of them!” said one comedian. “That guy is so handsome,” another flamboyant comedian added, “I bet you he has a big dick!” The world was conspiring on their behalf. They left the show holding hands and took an Uber back to Diana’s apartment…
Kiss in the Camry. Arrive at the apartment. The clothes come off. Oh no. Are they gonna fuck? Should Joe drop the herpes bomb now? What’s he gonna do?
While kissing, Diana pushes Joe back.
“I have to tell you something.”
“I don’t want to have sex just yet.”
“That’s fine. I understand. But why?”
“I…I…was sexually assaulted a few weeks ago, and I don’t think I’m ready.”
For the next three weeks they waited to have sex and went on many dates. They started to fall in love. They went apple picking, to the movies, to a Broadway show, barcade, an art museum, and the park. While telling me these things I told Joe,
“You were given a gift! A chance! A woman who wants to develop intimacy before sex! Before you have to drop the herpes bomb!”
“I know, but wait.” He showed me text messages. Diana was saying how she hadn’t felt like this with someone before. She couldn’t believe she liked him so much so fast. She was even fine with him having two kids, an ex wife, and a broken past! She accepted the fact that he had been in psychiatric hospital on suicide watch for a week and in rehab for alcohol for a month.”
“All of these dates and confessions happened in 3 weeks?” I asked.
“Yes. We did things practically every day. She’s in school and skipped classes.”
“How did you find the time to go on so many dates?”
“You know how I’m a chef in the coast guard now, right?”
“Well, after training, they don’t really have anything for me to do at the moment. So I’m just getting paid to hang out and wait.
During these 3 weeks, Joe was also the perfect gentleman. He told me that he held doors open for her, frequently asked how she was, and even gave her flowers.
“No one’s ever given me flowers before,” she said.
I think some people, when dating, oscillate between extremes. Girls go back and forth between the asshole and the nice guy. Guys go back and forth between a bitch and a nice girl. Perhaps Diana, after the sexual assault, naturally gravitated towards Joe, someone on the other side of the kindness spectrum: a push-over, nice guy.
Then it happened: the night of sex. Diana told Joe that she was ready. He put on a condom and they…
“What!” I exclaimed. “You didn’t tell her that you had the herpes before sex?!”
“You fucking idiot!”
“I know I know, but let me explain.”
“You had a chance, Joe. A chance!”
“But wait, I wore a condom and was very careful.”
“My ex-wife and I had sex for A YEAR without a condom before she got it. I figured I could keep getting closer to Diana before I told her.”
That’s it: Joe got greedy. I’m guessing the heat of passion might have had something to do with it too.
“I’m sorry to say this, Joe, but you don’t have that luxury anymore. You gotta tell the girl BEFORE you have sex about your disease.”
“I know, you’re right. When I did tell Diana a few days later, she did exactly what you did, she blew up.”
“She said I betrayed her. That it was worse than the sexual assault. Even though I explained everything about my ex-wife.”
“She said she couldn’t trust me anymore. She scheduled a doctor’s appointment to get tested and said that she was feeling horrible anxiety before the appointment.”
“But you stayed in touch?”
“Yes. She said she still had feelings for me, but didn’t know what to do. Last Saturday she called me drunk and said that she still really liked me a lot. But that she needs time to think about it.”
“Hmmm. And that’s it?”
“No, so this past Monday I went to a hockey game, and she was there too.”
“You didn’t go with her?”
“No, she didn’t want to go with me after what happened. It was her favorite team and her friend had already purchased the tickets. But I had already bought 2 tickets for her and I as well. So I went with my roommate.”
“So while I’m there, Diana and I are texting. I’m also getting stupid drunk. I ask her where her seats are. At halftime, my roommate and I surprise her. But when I walk up to her, she immediately says,
‘Wow. This is creepy.’ We stand there not saying anything and it’s awkward. Then she says, ‘Don’t you think this is a little aggressive?’ I couldn’t believe it. I got pissed. She had called two nights before and said how much she liked me.”
“But she was drunk.”
“Yes, but we had been texting during the game.”
“Anyway, I lost it. I told her we were finished. Done. No more.”
“But get this, while my roommate and I are leaving the stadium, we run into her again! I wasn’t even looking for her! And there she was! We practically bumped into each other.”
“She basically told me to get away.” So my roommate and I continued walking. But I figured this run-in, this coincidence, was a sign. Like, our destiny or something. It was like the movies. So I ran back to her.”
“Then she basically told me off again. She told me to just leave her alone.”
“And that’s where you both stand now?”
“No. It gets worse. You know how I almost killed myself after all the shit with my ex-wife?”
“Well, I felt myself going into that dark place again. That night, after the hockey game, I started texting her some bad stuff. Basically hinting that I was going to kill myself. And my roommate was texting her similar things. Making her feel guilty.”
I sighed and shook my head . “C’mon Joe. That’s not right.”
“I know, I know, it was dumb. The next day I apologized. Here’s the last message she sent me.”
While reading this girl’s text essay, I realized what a detrimental thing a desire for pity can be in a burgeoning relationship. Joe was finished.
And this poor girl. First she was sexually assaulted, then she meets a promising man. Within a week, she discovers that the man has herpes, then he threatens to kill himself.
“What do you think I should I do now?” asked Joe. “You should do what Diana said in her text message,” I replied. “Wait. Let her see the test results. Let her sort it all out.”
Joe sighed. “I really screwed it all up, didn’t I?”
“Now I know to always tell a girl about my herpes before sex.”
“Yes. Now you know.”
“Do you think I’ll ever have a chance with a girl like that again?”
“Maybe.” I said.
For a moment, I was tempted to tell Joe a story about a woman I had started to fall in love with this past summer. It was the first time I felt the fire since my ex. She came to my bar with a black book of poems and sipped cider daintily from a straw. She lived on Staten Island and was a bartender in the city. She had been working in restaurants for the past ten years. She failed the math regents five times, had dyslexia, and was a die-hard fan of Joe Budden. I liked the freckles on the border her face and that she often cooked dinners for her mother who was battling cancer. We would ride the late-night ferry together. One night I fell asleep next to her, drooling a little bit on my dress shirt, inches from her shoulder, and had a ridiculous dream that she owned a bakery where she could sell her signature apple pie cookies. Twice, when I was going on a surprise visit to her bar, we coincidentally ran into each other in the terminal. It was like the movies. I’d sit down next to her, start reading my book, pretending like we were strangers, and wait until she noticed me and laughed. She had a great laugh. She’d drive me home occasionally and would always speed, whipping around the dark curves of the neighborhood streets, even though the love of her life died in a drunk driving accident when they were both 19, after they had been dating for 2 years. His name was tattooed on the back of her neck. I never asked her to come in to my apartment. Should I have asked her to come in to my apartment? I bought her two books and inscribed them. I couldn’t sleep at night for a week after we met and went through two notebooks filled with silly hopes and juvenile obsessions. But in my attempt to gradually develop intimacy, to take things slow, I believe I waited too long and came on too strong, clearly I came on too strong, and she had enough of my nervous, stuttering conversations, inadequate expressions, and moved on to someone else. I would probably have done the same. I was simultaneously too late and too much. It’s a mistake I plan on never making again. But I didn’t tell Joe because people are usually more interested to tell you their stories than to hear yours.
“Hey, quit daydreaming.” I blinked my eyes a few times, shook my head, and came back to reality. “Can I get another beer?” Joe asked.
“Yes,” I said. “You can.” I mechanically poured the beer from the tap, noticed that my hand was trembling, and placed the glass in front of him.
“And anymore advice, bartender?” I had already started walking back to the office.
“Live and learn.”
In September 2016, Brock Turner was released from jail after serving 3 months of his 6 month sentence for “sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object,” and “sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object,” in 2015. People were in an uproar, rightfully so, at this despicable act of leniency which made a mockery of our justice system. Petitions were being signed to recall the judge. The founder of linked-in, Reid Hoffman (Stanford graduate) donated $25,000 to crowdpac campaign in order to aid with the recall. The prosecutors in the case had initially pressed for a six year prison sentence, for a crime (rape) which has a minimum of 2 years imprisonment (the official rape charges were dropped, which was why Brock was only sentenced to 6 months). Brock leaving after 92 days was a corruption of the system.
One of my purposes for this post is to elaborate on the following idea:
Justice, both individually and culturally, is irrevocably intermixed and colored by identity and social status. This is why social change happens painfully slow over generations. It is why we have to keep reminding ourselves of unjust cases like this one to prevent a degradation of the law.
Who was Brock Turner?
Who was “Emily Doe” (the victim)?
How and why did the rape occur?
Why was the punishment so lenient/who was the judge?
I want the reader to keep in mind during my analysis that I believe Brock’s act was monstrous and not adequately punished. But if we’re going to understand why the judge sentenced him so lightly and move in the direction of positive reform, we have to delve into a painfully sympathetic perspective to fully comprehend the bastardization of justice.
Brock Turner was an awkward, drug-using (LSD, ecstasy), over-achieving All-American swimmer. Based on his father’s letter to the judge, it’s clear that Brock was enamored by his parents and that his father was narrow and dumb. What’s sickening about the letter is the father’s complete neglect of the victim. It’s all my poor son, my poor son…he’s losing his happy-go-lucky personality, his welcoming smile. He was so talented, hard-working, and humble. Now he will never be the same again…
The most horrifying line:
His life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.
The emotional destruction of Emily was ignored. The shattering tragedy imposed on her was called 20 minutes of action.
It is obvious from the father’s letter that a parent rarely has a reasonable and clear perspective of their child. It is obvious that a desperate love and fear of loss will often trump the lives and decencies of strangers. A parent is usually ready to forgive the heinous crime of their child and look forward.
Which makes me ask: can a person be defined by a single action? Can a whole lifetime be tainted by 20 minutes of unspeakable stupidity and cruelty, especially when alcohol or drugs are involved? When looking at yourself, the answer must be no. Our pasts, with all our mistakes, are set in stone and we must define ourselves with the next action we take. This is how the judge looked at Brock. The judge believed that Brock was being punished/”poisoned enough” with all the media backlash and having to register as a lifetime sex offender. Did he really need more than 6 months of jail time on top of that? Would that make him a better person? Would the severity of a long prison sentence negatively impact his moral restoration? But the justice system is not our caring parent. The law must look at our actions in a crime as direct and persistent connections to who we are. The law must look at what we’ve done as irrevocable. If it doesn’t, the law breaks down.
Emily Doe’s letter to her attacker is a work of art. Her intelligence and emotional depth sizzles between the words. It reminds me how much injustice can act as a flaming fuel for expression. Her paragraphs pulse with the power of someone who has been betrayed by the courtroom and refuses to back down. She hits the perfect balance of describing her personal struggles with the aggravating details of how the case progressed. She rightfully hits on the contemptible avoidance tactics of the defendants and their unscrupulous focus on the surrounding culture of drinking and promiscuity.
Reading between the lines, I believe Emily is a vibrant, passionate, empathetic, and engaging woman: “…there’s a dumb party ten minutes from my house. I would go, dance like a fool, and embarrass my younger sister. On the way there, I joked about what undergrad guys would have braces. My sister teased me for wearing a beige cardigan to a frat party like a librarian.”
Now let’s turn back to Brock. I’ve personally known two people who have attended Stanford University and transferred after their first year due to a toxic and hazardous social environment. The school is so academically and athletically competitive that it attracts people who haven’t developed socially. In Brock’s father’s letter he states, “When Brock was home Christmas break, he broke down and told us how much he was struggling to fit in socially and the fact that he did not like being so far from home.” Keep in mind that Brock had the highest GPA of the freshmen on the swim team (nerd) and was from the Midwest (relative foreigner). Now, compound all of these factors with the toxic frat environment:
Let’s get hammered and get laid!
Here’s the scene: wild frat house, semester just started, high-testosterone-level-athletes heavily drinking, Brock is awkwardly trying to fit in and party. A visiting girl wearing a funny sweater arrives, flirts, dances, and unintentionally gets black out drunk. Brock misinterprets her friendliness as advances. He’s never been good with girls. She passes out drunk outside. Did she kiss him and touch his genitals during the party? Was Emily’s sister telling the truth when she said that she witnessed Brock attempt to kiss Emily, but Emily pulled away? We’ll never know. But in any case, it doesn’t matter (his story frequently changed as the case progressed). He decided to violate her behind a dumpster. Two Swedish men caught him, he ran away, and they tackled him. While on the ground the Swedish graduate student asked Brock, “What are you smiling for?” One of the Swedish men broke down crying. You don’t run away if the sex or penetration was consensual.
Why did Brock decide to violate her while she was unconscious? Besides the animal lust and drunken haze, what other cultural and social factors were at work? More importantly, how can we prevent young men from making such a depraved decision in the future?
Emily was right in her letter to attack the defense’s focus on the culture of drinking and promiscuity. Excess drinking and sleeping with strangers are not the issues, it’s the lack of consent.
I believe that issues between the sexes will persist long after issues between races have been resolved. Because the steps we have to take in order to emphasize consent sometimes conflicts with our animal natures.
We have to tell young men that hooking up with numerous, stranger women does not make you a man, make you cool, make you fit in, or make you attractive (despite our evolutionary tendency and desire to pass on the seed.) What makes you a man is forming a deep, lasting relationship with a woman. What makes you a man is having the confidence to ask for consent and if you can’t find out, to forget it. We have to make the idea of penetrating a woman who does not give absolutely clear consent as loathsome as possible.
Women can help this process in their own way, but again, this way can conflict with their animal nature. It’s a fact that some women are highly attracted to dominating and controlling men. It’s a truism that women don’t know what they want. They want a man who is knowing and can care for them. The success of the book, 50 Shades of Grey is an example of the fantasies many women have of rich, powerful, knowledgable men sweeping them off their passive feet and forcing them to submit. This Louis CK video describes the wavering mentality (telling a story about when he was, coincidentally, 20 years old/the same age as Brock):
Of course the video only describes one woman, but I think many women expect guys to read their subtle signals and act forcefully. But men are not nearly as emotionally savy or sensitive as women. Most of us are hungry, fumbling idiots. So the more independent and confident women become (which has been happening and I believe will continue to happen)…being clear about what they want and communicating it, the better the relations between the sexes will be. Keep in mind that I am not at all implying that Emily Doe wasn’t being independent or confident enough the night of the party (she mistakenly got black out drunk and black out drunk girls shouldn’t be expected to communicate clearly or give consent). In fact, I believe she is more confident and independent than the average woman. And I’m not saying that more independence and confidence could have prevented Brock’s attack the night of the crime. I’m just saying that if Brock grew up in a culture with less “waitresses-attracted-to-guys-who-just-go-for-it-despite-her-denials,” or Brock had somehow encountered a woman in his past that pounded into his thick skull that a real woman will tell you if she wants you and that if she doesn’t, it’s disgusting to assume…this might possibly have been avoided.
So why did the judge let Brock off the hook?
Judge Aaron Persky is a 53 year old white, male democrat who graduated from Stanford. While at Stanford he was the captain of the club lacrosse team. There’s no doubt that he unconsciously empathized with Brock as another male athlete with good grades from the same school. And democrats have a history of viewing the law as flexible, soft, and malleable. They also lean towards humanitarianism and rehabilitation rather than incarceration and punishment. This world view is shown via the judge’s focus on Turner being a “first time offender,” on Turner “showing remorse,” and the fact that imprisonment would have a “severe impact on the defendant’s life.”
When the judge and defendant share a similar identity, then the sense of justice spreads out beyond the person himself in this instance and the particulars of the case. Justice expands broadly enough to include the defendants swimming records in the past and his future, tainted life as a sex offender. (How will Brock ever find a woman who can love him when the details of his case are eternalized on the Internet?) It minimizes the slice of his action for the totality of his life…which is connected to the judge’s life.
The reader may be wondering: why doesn’t Aaron’s expanding, democratic, humanitarian sense of justice include Emily’s pain and suffering? Because the act which caused the pain already happened and is fading with time, Emily is different from the judge, and Aaron doesn’t see how punishing Brock more severely would further alleviate Emily’s pain.
The scenario reminds me of the death penalty debate. In the nonfiction book, Green Fields, by Bob Cowser an 8 year old girl named Cary Ann Medlin is raped and stabbed to death by a 23 year old man on LCD named Robert Coe. Coe is quickly arrested, confesses, pleads insanity, but is sentenced to death. He remained on death row for over two decades while his sentence was appealed, overturned, reinstated, and briefly stayed, until he was executed on April 19, 2000, the first execution performed in Tennessee in 40 years.
Cowser convincingly and subtly argues for the injustice of Coe’s execution. Cowser was a schoolmate of the victim, grew up in the same backwoods town as Coe, and witnessed the poverty and ignorance of the environment. He researched Coe’s childhood abuse. He empathized with Coe. He described the militant, revenge-fueled anger of Cary Ann Medlin’s family and neighbors. But what did killing Coe rather than life in prison accomplish? It satisfied revenge. That’s it.
A motivation for this post is that I’ve read numerous articles lashing out against Brock’s early release written by women who I believe have the same flexible, soft, and democratic sense of justice as Judge Aaron Pesky. They do not support the death penalty. They believe in rehabilitation, caring about the needy, and giving people a second chance.
Yet they don’t want Brock to rehabilitate or get a second chance. They don’t care if his life is already ruined by this case. Their sense of justice is rigid and hard. They know what it’s like to be a woman harassed by a man. They know Brock is a monster. They want revenge. They want more than 3 months in jail.
Let me reiterate: I’M IN THE SAME, FRUSTRATED BOAT. I believe Brock should have been punished more severely.
But these same women posting against the injustice did not write anything when Eric Gardner was strangled by a police officer (Labron James wore a shirt protesting against it:)
They did not write anything when French journalists were murdered by Muslim extremists (last time I saw Louis CK live he wore a Charlie Hedbo t-shirt):
And there’s nothing wrong with any of these silences! Injustices occur everywhere everyday.
My point is that we become outraged and our sense of justice becomes hard and rigid when someone with a similar identity or social status becomes victimized. On the flip side, our sense of justice becomes softer when it’s someone from a similar background being accused..and we’re the judge.
The emotional, empathizing mechanism impelling women to desire revenge and a harsher punishment for Brock, because he hurt a person similar to themselves, is the same mechanism which caused Judge Persky to be more lenient, judging someone similar to himself.
Most people know that their measuring stick for analyzing justice is biased when the subject is someone with a similar background. But I believe it’s important to realize that our compasses for discovering injustice and our barometers concerning our degree of involvement are influenced too.
Which is why, as a young man who was also an awkward, over-achieving, athlete who got hammered at frat parties and hit on girls, I decided to write about something that most of these men (who I believe are my audience) aren’t thinking about. If one of them reads this and shifts slightly in the direction of rape empathy and a recognition of conscious consent in their relationships with women, then my goal for this post will have been accomplished.
There’s a regular at my bar who I believe is the devil.
He sells tickets for boat rides to the Statue of Liberty. He lives with his mother who pays the rent.
The devil (let’s call him Danny) is 26 years old. Danny always wears a baseball cap representing his favorite hockey team (The New Jersey Devils). He has manicured facial hair, fake-diamond earrings, and expensive basketball shoes (which he bought with money he stole out of his mother’s room).
After an hour or two of selling tickets in the morning, Danny gets sick and tired of the daily grind and comes to the bar to drink beer. He spends all his money on drinks for himself, on strangers that listen to him talk about himself, and on girls who aren’t interested in himself. He does this 5-6 days a week.
While in the bar Danny likes to play his favorite song on the jukebox. This is it:
Danny knows all the lyrics and likes to dance (sway and snap fingers) and look at people while he says them. I’ve heard this song over 50 times.
Danny says he doesn’t get drunk.
Sometimes, I see Danny standing outside the bar hitting on girls. He always uses the same line. “Hey girl, are you trying to get on the boat?” Believe it or not, I’ve heard numerous girls respond with the same retort, “Is that the best you can do?” Danny invariably mutters under his breath, “Stupid bitch.”
Three, recent experiences with the devil which provoked this post:
1.) A week ago Danny was telling me a story about “some faggot this morning that butted in on a ticket sale I was trying to make.” Danny wanted to beat him up or say something, but decided the faggot would have started shit and that it didn’t really matter.
Ten minutes after telling me this story, I saw Danny walk outside bar. He passed a senile, homeless, insane old man who was sitting on a vent. This old man is a regular in the terminal. It’s obvious that he is out of his mind, decrepit, and on the edge of death. I saw Danny pause next to the old man.
“What did you just say to me?” Danny yelled.
“Are you talkin’ shit to me?”
“Fuck you! Who do you think you are?! I-” Police eventually arrived and led gesticulating Danny away. No physical violence had occurred. Danny returned to the bar. “Yeah,” he said to me. “I told that man what was up. I don’t take shit from nobody.”
2.) Most of the time Danny is friendly, gregarious, and outgoing. He frequently puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “Yo, bro, I got you.” Danny does charitable things like help arrange tables and push in chairs after other people have left. During the Copa soccer games he approached groups of strangers and cheered whenever they were cheering. Despite these acts of altruism and festivity, Danny never leaves a tip.
Two days ago, Danny arrived in the afternoon and apologized to me for not arriving at the bar earlier.
“I had to go the hospital,” he said.
“My brother has this disease…ah…—–disease.” (I can’t remember…I don’t like talking to Danny.)
“It’s when you’re real short, like a midget…and can’t understand what people are trying to say…I mean he understands English, but he doesn’t really know how to act with people-
“He can’t read social cues?”
“Yeah yeah, like he’ll be with a group of people who don’t like him, but he won’t know. I have to be like, bro, they don’t like you. And so his body is real weak too, and my mom just found him bleeding in our house, and she called me and was like, you should go to the hospital to see your brother, so I did.”
“Yeah, and his medical bills are so much money, bro.”
“So you think you could buy me, like, two shots of fireball? Cause you the manager and can hook me up?”
“No Danny, I can’t do that.”
3.) Yesterday, a simple experience occurred which was the catalyst for this post. Danny was intoxicated (to everyone around him, but not to himself) and gorging himself on Wendy’s hamburgers (his daily meal). When I walked by he pulled me aggressively towards his chair. This was unusual for Danny. What was he about to say? His bleary, empty eyes stared vacantly at my forehead. His smelly breath invaded my nostrils. The sparkle of his crucifix necklace twinkled in my eye.
“Yo…yo…yo bro…I gotta tell you something.”
“What’s that, Danny?” He paused for dramatic effect. “I’m not meant to be a regular person.” A shiver crawled down my spine and rotted in my stomach in a pit of disgust. I didn’t reply and walked away. It was at this moment I thought, No, Danny, you are not meant to be a regular person…
You’re the devil*.
*Two months after this post I discovered that Danny has a daughter. She’s 6 years old.
In the past 6 months I’ve pulled about 30-40 all-nighters. Should I stop?
According to WebMD: “Not sleeping enough and not sleeping well is not OK.”
Around 1/3 of Americans have symptoms of insomnia.
The scientifically documented record for the longest period a human has intentionally gone without sleep not using stimulants of any kind was Randy Gardner, a high school student, who in 1964 stayed awake for 264.4 hours (11 days 24 minutes). He held a press conference on the last day of his record and seemed fine. No long term psychological or physical effects have been observed.
Records for voluntary sleep deprivation are no longer kept by Guinness World Records for fear of the associated health risks.
David Blaine told the public in 2008 that he was going to attempt to break the sleep-deprivation world record, but he never did.
In a subset of cases sleep deprivation can, paradoxically, lead to increased energy and alertness and enhanced mood; it has even been used as a treatment for depression.
Tony Wright, author and consciousness researcher, claimed the world sleep deprivation record in May 2007 with 266 continuous hours of sleeplessness…he used video recording. Interesting enough, he said his intention was to promote his radical theories of human neurological degeneration that were proposed in his self-published book, Left In The Dark. Taylor cites Wright’s theory that sleep deprivation decreases the dominance of the left brain and allows more right brain creativity. This is in line with other researchers who have found that sleep deprivation produces hallucinations and states of altered consciousness.
-elevates level of cortisol (stress hormone)
-less leptin, more ghrelin (hunger levels increased, carbohydrate craving, become fatter easier)
-negatively affects brains frontal lobes (ability to concentrate…pre-frontal lobe: depression, emotional regulation)
-negatively affects thalamus (ability to recognize others)
-increased risk for diabetes, stroke
-suppresses immune system and impairs fever response
In the 1980s, a University of Chicago researcher named Allan Rechtschaffen conducted a series of sleep-deprivation experiments on rats. After 32 days of total sleep deprivation, all the rats were dead.
One study found that reduced sleep time is a greater mortality risk than smoking, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Sleep disturbance is also one of the leading predictors of institutionalization in the elderly, and severe insomnia triples the mortality risk in elderly men.
-you get the job done
-sleep tastes more delicious
-you become delirious and feel waves of intense euphoria and silly things seem very, very funny
-you don’t labor in restaurants for the rest of your life
-sunrises look beautiful
-you create art
Ah, yes, Las Vegas’ half-retarded, impoverished, bastard step cousin. But look at the little boy in 1873, as seen by W.T. Richards in Seascape with Distant Lighthouse, Atlantic City, New Jersey
So…so beautiful. Now look at the poor devil in 2012:
What…what happened? We’ll get there….
In 1870 the first boardwalk in America was constructed here. It cost $5000 and was 1 mile long, 8 feet wide. Some of the largest hotels in the world were built here at the turn of the 20th century. The Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel was completed in 1906 and was the largest reinforced concrete building in the world:
It was demolished in 1978 (the year the first casino was built).
In 1878 the single railroad line couldn’t keep up with the tourist demand. The Philadelphia and Atlantic City railways were also constructed:
(See the Blenheim hotel on the right?)
Saltwater Taffy was “born” here in 1873. Today Fralinger’s produces 11,000 pounds of taffy a day. Here’s an oddly-satisfying, sensual video of Saltwater Taffy:
AC was the inspiration for the original version of the board game: Monopoly
(The internet is crowded with memes and jokes concerning how boring and long Monopoly games are, how they destroy friendships, how people flip the board over out of frustration, how games are rarely finished, blah blah blah, NOT FUNNY…never once in my life have I ever turned down a Monopoly game or suggested for a game to be cut short. Never, my friend, never.
AC is the birthplace and current home of the Miss America Beauty Pageant. Between 2004-2014 it took place in Las Vegas though…what I call a one-decade-night-stand. This makes sense to me on many, many levels.
Miss New York having a moment as she wins Miss Budweiser 2014.
Speaking of Miss New York’s, The 2016 Miss New York representative was from my stomping and dumping grounds…Staten Island…according to her website…”She has always believed ‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,’ & looks forward to making the “impossible” a possibility.”
AC’s golden era…it’s shining, vigorous, reckless youth…was during Prohibition (1920-1933). The gangsters thrived in this city…which was then known as the world’s playground. Hence the place becoming the setting for the excellent TV show: Boardwalk Empire.
Despite AC having a prosperous beginning and a profligate golden era…due to fast, cheap jet service to other resort cities like the Bahamas and Miami in the 1950s and 1960s…and other things I don’t know about…Atlantic City began steadily going down the toilet.
An attempt at revitalization was made in 1976 when casino gambling was approved. As mentioned above, the first casino was constructed in 1978. And in the 1980s Mike Tyson had most of his fights in AC.
But even Mikey, always the considerate gentleman, couldn’t prevent AC’s decline.
In 2013, 49% of Atlantic City residents were below the poverty line.
In 2014 AC had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, 13.8% out of a labor force of 141,000.
Casino revenue declined from 5.2 billion in 2006 to 2.9 billion in 2013.
In 2014 Revel Casinos filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In 2015 Ceasars Entertainment filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy…reconsidering the future of their AC properties.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy translation into layman’s terms: “Uh, shit hit the fan…let me, uh, clean this up…just give me a minute.”
Last time I was in AC with friends it was May 2015. Throughout the trip they made fun of me because I was constantly trying to read a book during the “down time,” (when I wasn’t dominating them in beer pong) and before falling asleep. (It doesn’t take me long to get ready for stuff and I don’t sleep). We were at a place called Harrah’s. Here’s a view outside our hotel window:
Inside that dome was a club.
During the trip my friends and I excessively gambled and drank (nothing new). My friend in finance (a trader who treats real money like monopoly money) donated $1000 to Harrah’s. At the time, I was in a relationship and in love so I wasn’t hitting on women. But my one friend, Dunken Collins, was single and “trying to get his dick wet.” So I volunteered to be a shameless wingman.
There was a pretty woman sitting alone at the bar wearing a bowler hat (I’m serious) and drinking a brown-colored liquor: neat. I fumbled through introductions then she started dancing sensually (like the salt water taffy) with me and my friend. She asked, “Do you guys have a hotel room?”
“Uhh…yes, yes we do have a hotel room.” I felt a flare of lust. No, J.W. Kash, no. Down boy, down. But I had a suspicion…
“Are you a prostitute?”
“Ah.” She was nice though, and we danced and talked some more. I started grilling her about her occupation and drunkenly informed her that I have zero negative judgments about her chosen path in life. She started to leave. “But wait…hypothetically, how much do you charge for the night?”
“The whole night?”
“$300. That’s not usually what I charge though. I’m from NYC. I’m here on vacation.”
“Ah. So what do you charge in NYC?”
My friends and I returned to the blackjack table.
So, despite Atlantic City (nickname: Always Turned On) going down the drain, there’s at least one redeeming feature about this metropolis cesspool…
For the last decade of my life I’ve averaged a nosebleed once a week. Sometimes I’ll go a month without having one, other times I’ll have them everyday for 1-2 weeks.
No, I don’t abuse cocaine. Although the last time I sniffed nose candy I remember the morning after…I was on a bike ride and I had one of worst bloody noses of my life. I had to pull over and lean over a creek. I bled steadily for 37 minutes. No more cocaine for J.W. Kash.
Here are some stats:
40% of people never experience a nosebleed during their life. The majority of nosebleeds occur for people ages 0-10 and 50-80.
90% of nosebleeds are anterior (front part) of the nose.
10% of nose bleeds are serious.
The three, major causes are a cold, dry climate (my alma mater was located 20 mins. from Canada…my nosebleed glory days), trauma (I bump into doors and hit my nose a lot), and irritation (I aggressively pick my nose when nobody’s looking).
WebMd steps for treatment:
1) Stay calm (and bleed on)
2) Sit up straight
3) Lean your head forward. Tilting your head back will only cause you to swallow blood
4) Pinch your nostrils together with your index finger and thumb for 10 minutes. Have someone time you to make sure you do not release your nostrils earlier.
5) Spit out any blood in your mouth. Swallowing may cause you to vomit. (But it…tastes…so…good.)
In high school I dated a girl who was scared of blood. During the second date she revealed that in the past she had passed out unconscious upon seeing blood and that she couldn’t handle the sight of it. After the third date we were in my bedroom making out. I felt a nosebleed coming. Oh no. (For those 40% of you who have never experienced this, it’s like a slug is sliding down the back of the bridge of your nose). I start sniffing and leaning my head back.
“J.W., are you alright?”
“Yes. I’m fine. Allergies.” Luckily, it was a mild nosebleed and I was able to prevent a heavy flow through sniffles. But when I looked at my girlfriend I saw little smears of blood on her cheeks and neck. I started kissing the smears and attempting to subtly lick them off. My girlfriend thought I was being tender. I was merely preventing a catastrophe.
WebMD post bleeding suggestions:
-Try to prevent any irritation of the nose, especially sneezing or nose blowing, for 24 hours (I often forget this…hence them occurring repeatedly for 1-2 weeks).
-Ice packs on the bridge of your nose constrict your blood vessels, limits flow.
My favorite nose bleed experience occurred during a one-night stand in college. The girl and I were having rough sex and our heads knocked into each other. My nose started bleeding. I ignored it. Soon, there was blood dripping on her tits and on her face. After a couple of minutes the gore became too much. I was fornicating with a crime scene. It was me who ended up pausing mid-coitus and saying, “I’m…I’m bleeding all over you.”
“Don’t worry. I wanna become a doctor. Blood doesn’t bother me.” The romping continued.
(Thanks to fb, our knowledge concerning what happened to past acquaintances is readily available…now she’s a doctor).
In Japanese anime and manga having a sudden, violent nosebleed means that the bleeding person is sexually aroused. What?
Anime is silly.
But they aren’t the only ones with this naughty notion…in the oral history of the Native American Sioux tribe there are references to women who experience nosebleeds as a result of a lover’s playing of music…implying sexual arousal.
“Play me another song, Jack.”
“I’m gonna make your nose bleed on this one, baby.”
In the Finnish language, “begging for a nosebleed” is an abstract way to describe self-destructive behavior. An example being when you ignore safety procedures and deliberately aggravate a stronger party.
“Why is Jack wearing a gorilla suit and throwing water balloons at passing cars?”
“I’m not sure, but he’s begging for a nosebleed.”
In Filipino slang, to “have a nosebleed” is to have serious difficulty conversing in English with a fluent or native English speaker. It can also refer to anxiety brought on by a stressful event such as a job interview or an examination.
In the Dutch language “pretending to have a nosebleed” is a phrase that means pretending not to know anything about something, when actually being involved in some way.
“Hey Mr. Dutch Settler! How was colonizing the Americas? Did you get along with the natives?”
“Natives? What natives? We…we just minded our own business…didn’t see any natives.”
“You’re pretending to have a nosebleed, aren’t you Mr. Dutch Settler…”
To conclude…why does my nose bleed so frequently? Is it because I’m always sexually aroused? Engaging in self-destructive behavior? Anxious for impending examinations? Feigning ignorance of my involvement in questionable situations? Violent nose picking?
My sister is an ER doctor and says the most likely cause is just the structure of my nose. The anterior of my nose likely has large, fragile, weak blood vessel(s). The prominent vessel on my septum is probably faulty. These deformities combined with a thin lining and a dry nose contributes to my bleeding susceptibility. My sister told me that surgery is an option: a doctor will treat my septum with silver nitrate or electric cautery to shrink the vessel and thicken up the nasal lining.
“Want me set up an appointment with an Otolaryngologist?”
“No thanks, hold off. I don’t mind it that much.”
Last year my ex-girlfriend and I traveled to the Dominican Republic for a destination wedding. One morning we were drinking by the pool when this flying-boat-hang-glider soared by in the sky.
“That thing’s a fucking death trap,” I said.
“I’m going on it,” she replied. “Tomorrow.”
“I’m serious. After I finish this beer I’m going to go ask the concierge.”
“God damn it,” I said.
The concierge didn’t have any pertinent information. The next morning while on a run I found the captain of this suicide ship about a mile down the beach. He was a Frenchman and spoke no English. He was not affiliated with any hotel or activity organization. He was just a Frenchman with a flying boat. And faint muttonchops:
I told my ex-girlfriend about it and in the afternoon we walked to the flying boat. We each paid $70 for a 20 minute ride. The flying boat could only carry one passenger at at time. My ex-girlfriend went first. During the entire flight she kept leaning over the side and waving. She was a maniac. When it was my turn I pictured the hundreds of notebooks I’ve filled with scribbles over the last couple of years and wondered if anyone would go through them when I’m gone. Probably not.
Still though…it felt good to pretend. I sat in the flying boat and held on with a vice-like grip.
There have been 3 times in my life when I felt almost certain that I was about to die. This experience is one of them.
Captain Jacques Cousteau increased altitude and began gradually turning the craft so we could fly back the way we came. We were hundreds of feet above dry land and the wind picked up. I knew that this was the trickiest part of the flight. If the wind hit the wings too forcefully as we turned and Jacques didn’t adjust correctly the boat would keep on turning and head downwards.
In the video below it’s difficult to tell the level of turbulence with the camera attached to the wing. But between 7 and 15 seconds the flying boat began to jerk and rock. It was during the time that I thought, “This is it. I’m a goner.” At 13 seconds the boat veered to the left, then back to the right, and while I almost choked on anxiety Captain Jacques muttered something under his breath. I swear it was, “Vive la France.”
After the ride I ignored the horde of Dominicans trying to sell me trinkets and smoked a cigar to ease my frazzled nerves. My ex-girlfriend laughed and said I looked all shaken up.
“How come you never waved?” she asked.
“Because I was terrified.” We walked back to the hotel.
Later on at the tiki bar, people asked how it went. My ex said it was so much fun. I said it was the last time I would ever step foot in that Dominican Death Trap.
While my ex elaborated on the details of the flight and a friend showed her pictures he took from the ground, I left and walked back to our lounging chairs. I was happy to return to sipping corona and reading The Brothers Karamasov by the pool.
She’s been waiting. She turns the hot water on and smiles.
“Born ready.” She laughs. I throw down my bag and step over to where she’s sitting. “I’ve been thinking about this all day.”
“Oh really?” I settle down, let my muscles relax, and the water envelops me. “You are ready,” she says.
“Good.” She’s from Russia, most likely fresh off the boat. Her accent is strong. Her eyes are dark.
She hovers over me and I shift into a more comfortable position. Her hands grip the back of my head. She’s aggressive. She’s done this before. Yes, I’m paying. Yes, she doesn’t know me. But it feels intimate. It feels special. She grabs, scratches, presses, pulls, and massages during the whole experience. I keep my eyes closed because I think it would be inappropriate to look her in the face, especially since she’s on the job and concentrating. Soon, I’m blinded by ecstasy. My eyelids flicker. I don’t want her to stop. But stop she must. I’m not the only one…
I stand up and she hands me a towel.
“Thank you,” I say.
“You’re welcome,” she replies.
“I’ll never get tired of this…I mean…that.” She laughs again.
My hair is washed and clean. I walk away. It’s time for a haircut.
Tonight I finished this little book for 10th-15th time…I’ve lost count. As a serious, American writer there’s no way you can ignore Jerome. He has one of the strongest, loudest, most tightly controlled voices in all of literature (at least since Mark Twain). Even authors who hate him can’t help but acknowledge that he mastered his perspective. My favorite, indirect slap (but we all know that a literary insult is a form of tribute):
“In the same school are those modern writers who start with some assignment such as “a mood of adolescence” or “my search for the meaning of life in prep school.” When they write, the standard of selection is the mood of the moment. The result is the kind of story where you do not know why one incident was included rather than another, or what is the purpose of it all. Behind such a hodgepodge is always a writer who starts without a defined plan and then writes as his feelings dictate.”
-Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum (The Art of Fiction)
Since my mind is whirling with all I could say about this novel, I’ll start with some interesting facts:
1.) Published in 1951 when Jerome was 31. Despite being an established author who had published successful stories in The New Yorker prior to this book, The Catcher in the Rye was denied by Harcourt because the head of the trade division “couldn’t understand it,” and the editors thought the protagonist “wasn’t believable.” (Both valid criticisms.) When Mr. Salinger was told this face-to-face, he broke out into tears, grabbed his manuscript, and ran out of the publishing house. He went to Little, Brown instead. Since 1951, The Catcher in the Rye has sold 65 million copies and continues to sell about 250,000 copies every year. Good job Harcourt.
2.) Salinger was in WWII, stormed the beach at D-Day, was engaged in some of the bloodiest combat (letter home: “I’ve been digging my foxholes to a cowardly depth”), and freed concentration camps (he was half Jewish). Yet he never wrote directly about the war:
“I believe its the moral duty of all the men who have fought and will fight in this war to keep our mouths shut, once it’s over, never again to mention it in any way. It’s time we let the dead die in vain. It’s never worked the other way, God knows.” –J.D. Salinger
He carried around the first 6 chapters of The Catcher in the Rye during the war. No wonder the beginning is so damn good…the guy was writing it when he knew that he could die any day…and when his friends were dying all around him…you don’t mince words, emotions, or ideas if you’re on the edge of death and you’re trudging through horror. In a letter home during the war Salinger said, “All I have left is nostalgia.”
3.) Three men committed murder who either had a copy of Catcher in the Rye in their hotel room, with their few belongings, or on their person at the scene of the crime. The most famous murderer was the guy who killed John Lennon. He sat down and read from Catcher right after he killed Lennon. He read from Catcher in court as his defense. The bastard is still in prison.
4.) J.D. Salinger had one nut. He was also suave and good with women. He dated the beautiful Oona O’Neill (daughter of the famous alcoholic, playwright Eugene O’Neill) before he went to war. Then she married Charlie Chaplin during the war and broke Jerome’s heart. The character in Catcher named Jane Gallagher, who Holden is always trying to call but never speaks to, is Oona O’Neill. Like Oona, Jane’s father was “…supposed to be a playwright or some goddamn thing, but all I ever saw him do was booze all the time and listen to every single goddamn mystery program on the radio.” More telling, Jane’s father was named Mr. Cudahy. Patrick Cudahy was the maternal grandfather of Charles F. Spalding, who was a scriptwriter for Charlie Chaplin.
5.) “A man’s got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.” -Ernest Hemingway. During the war Papa Hemingway hung out with Jerome. He said Salinger had “helluva talent.” When Hemingway died one of the few books in his library by living authors was Catcher. Catcher is an extremely funny book…it is also disturbing…those two things in literature frequently go hand in hand. “Comedy is the mistress of sorrow.” -Jonathan Winters
So what is it about Catcher which makes it timelessly affect people so deeply? Every great work of art (especially books) has an element of mystery…but here are two reasons:
1.) “When you come down to brass tacks the value of a work of art depends on the artist’s personality.” -Somerset Maugham.
Salinger has a funny, ridiculous, wild, and enticing personality. And he hits on that extremely difficult balance of intimacy and independence. You want to hang out with the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, because he kindly brings you into his world…yet he doesn’t give a shit if you like his world. Readers enjoy the personality of the novel. Think of the funniest people you have ever met…they touch the deep tissues of empathy which you share with them…yet they are also unique, ridiculous, and rioting in their own sphere.
It’s impossible to analyze adequately…but while reading Catcher you intuitively think, “Yes, this is exactly what Holden would do/think/say in this situation. A high school drop out who’s a self-proclaimed liar and exhibitionist would try to get plastered in a bar and hit on women.
2.) The novel, structurally, is extremely self-contained and balanced. Holden interacts with a concerned teacher near the beginning and at the end of the novel. The teacher in the beginning “gets a big bang out of buying a Navajo blanket” and near the end Holden observes an Indian weaving a blanket in the Museum of Natural History. The teacher in the beginning reads Holden’s crappy final paper on the Egyptians and near the end Holden talks to two boys about how the Egyptians preserved their dead. When Holden interacts with the two nuns he accidentally blows smoke in their faces and near the end when Phoebe is riding the carrousel the song playing is “Smoke gets in your eyes.” In the beginning Holden is standing next to a Revolutionary War cannon and near the end Phoebe talks about playing Benedict Arnold in the school play. When Holden is in a taxi he talks to the driver about whether the fish survive in the ice during the winter and near the end Holden observes an Eskimo ice fishing. The first line of the book mentions David Copperfield by Dickens and in the middle Holden sees a movie where the protagonist is carrying Oliver Twist and near the end the neighbors of his childhood home are the Dicksteins. In the beginning Holden says that the weather is “cold as a witch’s teat,” and later he refers to three women in a bar as witches. In a memory Holden likes when Jane puts her hand on his neck and later Phoebe, when Holden is crying, puts her “old arm” around his neck. In the beginning the first teacher shouts, “Good luck” after Holden and at the end the old woman in the school shouts “Good luck” after Holden. There are numerous references to coats and dancing. All these little connections (there are many, many more) subtle strike out subconscious while we’re reading. They create a world where the parts add up to something greater than the whole.
My experiences with the book…
1.) I first read Catcher when I was 12. I thought it was boring and, for some reason, “sticky.” I remember two images standing out: a guy in a formless bar talking to himself. And a little girl at the end riding a carrousel. So what? I also remember thinking it was crazy and silly that the voice of the book was a teenager…because the book was written by a 31 year old man! (I looked it up)…that’s weird.
2.) I read it again in college. Hmm..there are actually some funny parts in this book. Still…big deal.
3.) After college I read it again…holy shit…there’s a lot going on here.
4.) Now I have to purposely restrict myself from reading it too much…I look forward to the future when I forget parts of the book so I can encounter them again with a fresh, different mind…I’ve had experiences in bars, with women, with lost innocence, with living in NYC, with pain…it feels good hanging out with Holden.
There’s a lot more I wanted to say…but since I have a tendency to talk too much….I’ll end with this….
Mr. Salinger is a friend.
Oh yeah, right after the war Jerome married a Nazi spy named Sylvia Welter.
And he had a beloved schnauzer named Benny who lived with him while he wrote his only novel.