How To Sell Your Car: Adventures With Bikers, Karate Masters, And Craigslisters

When I was twenty-one, I lived in California for about six months. That in itself a long, weird story, but for the sake of this specifc story I’ll just give the basics: I worked days at a ranch in Portola Valley, and nights and weekends at a bar in San Jose. It was pretty sweet, actually, because I spent my days outside doing physical labor, and the rest of the time making shit tons of money being a bartender to older, grizzled biker guys.

A week before moving back to Boston, I put my busted 1997 Mazda Protégé on Craigslist to sell. I was asking for about $800 but honestly, the car was probably worth even less. It had broken headlight, chewed seats (someone had apparently let their rabid Tauntaun of a dog romp around unsupervised prior to my ownership), and struggled to get up even the milder California hills. My friend and I named the car Baby, as in, “Come on, baby, you can do it. Just one more hill, baby, we’re almost there. Dammit, I’m going to kick in your other headlight if you die on me, baby, I swear to God.” So it wasn’t a prize find, precisely.

For safety’s sake I decided to have interested buyers meet me at the bar parking lot rather than give out the address of the house I shared with seven other girls (insert inane joke about a housefull of girls here). The first guy showed up early and immediately went for physical intimidation. He was about 6’3”, maybe 225-250lbs, and trying to hit every clique simultaneously. He had a style and demeanor that seemed to endeavor for some cross between Mafioso, biker, and the Fonz without actually achieving any of them. Right off the bat I got pissed at the way he got in my face, insulted the car’s quality (fine, he had a point, but there’s such a thing as tact) and offered several hundred less than the asking price. I told him I’d have to consider it against other offers.

Well that made him mad. He pulled out $700 in cash and shoved it into my hand, saying, “Fine I’ll give you this much for your shitty car.” At that moment the second customer, Tom, showed up in time to see me trying to hand back the money and say that I hadn’t agreed to the deal. He sauntered over and said, “Is there a problem?” Mr. Fonzarelli glared at him and said the car was already sold. The other guy, all of 5’10” and (if I’m being generous) 180lbs, asked me if the car was still up for bid. In the meantime, my roughly eight customers, bikers and dealers already on their way to drunk at 11:00am, started coming out to the parking lot sensing I was in danger. There were a lot of sketchy things about these guys, but they definitely had my back.

I told Tom the sale wasn’t final, to which Rocky started stripping off his leather jacket and putting up his fists. Like a true movie gangster he said, “Let’s go. You and me.” Luckily for me (and probably his own kneecaps), he was saying this to Tom. Tom put up his own fists reluctantly and turned to my unsavory entourage. “Listen, I want everyone here to know that I won’t strike first. I’m not interested in fighting this guy. That being said, I am a black belt in karate and I’m going to take this guy down, but I want everyone to back me up that I didn’t take the first shot.” I wanted to laugh out loud at this point but I figured it would just ensure the fight, so I kept my intimidating don’t-try-to-bully-me-into-selling-my-car-you-dick icy stare. It’s a very specific stare.

I guess Mr. Fonzarelli had enough brainpower to recognize that this wasn’t going to go favorably, so he threw up his hands with exaggerated disgust and went into the bar to wait. Then I noticed a little kid staring at us from the Fonz’s pickup truck. He had been doing all of posturing in front of his kid. What an asshole.

Tom and I eventually went into the bar and I served everyone Bud Lights while Tom and Rocky Balboa started a bidding war. Suddenly I was hearing, “I’ll pay $900,” followed by, “Fuck you, I’ll give her $1,000,” followed by, “$1100, final offer,” and Muscles McAsshole ending it with, “I’ll give you $1,200.” Well that escalated quickly. Tom took me aside and said, “Hon, your car just isn’t worth that much,” to which I had to agree. “Look, if for some reason this sale doesn’t go through, here’s my number.” Then he walked out of the bar and drove away.

Beefy McIdiot laboriously wrote out a check, waited a minute, finished his beer, came over with the check, and methodically tore it into shreds before tossing it at me. I assume he had hoped for a more dramatic effect, but the papers floated harmlessly at my feet and I just kept looking at him with my terrifying icy stare of doom. He stormed out of the bar yelling, “Screw you, you made me miss my kid’s dentist appointment!” Father Of The Year, right there. I responsibly picked up the trash and then called Tom. He was back in the bar five minutes later handing me $1,100 in cash.

And that’s how I paid the first month’s rent on my new apartment.

Mothra Murdered My Father

mothra on moon

When I was about four years old I watched a fair amount of Godzilla  with my father. Starting with the original 1954 Gojira, we made our way through most of the Shōwa period of monster goodness (that being 1954 to 1975; let’s not talk about the later movies, especially that one with Matthew Broderick). What can I say, I’ve always been a sucker for mutated dinosaurs, hydrogen bomb analogies, and tiny Jiminy Cricket-esque Japanese women.

Of all of these epic movies and characters, apparently Mothra vs. Godzilla made the greatest impression on my developing Jell-oish young brain.

I was slumbering peacefully one evening when Mothra invaded my happy dream world. Let me set the scene for you: It was a beautiful summer day and I had been strolling along a narrow cobblestone street– actually the same Boston neighborhood where I had spent several years of daycare– hand-in-hand with my father. “Street” is sort of a misnomer; I guess you might call it an alley but without the creepy connotations. The only thing weird about this was the fact that it was completely silent and devoid of life (aside from me n’ my pops, that is), which anyone from Boston can tell you is as likely as finding an old Japanese insect monster.

Suddenly, the sun was blotted out by a giant pair of wings. Who should descend from the sky behind us but Mothra! My father and I turned to watch Mothra flapping like, well, a huge freakish moth (because that’s what Mothra is. Obviously). As she got closer I saw an oversized red toilet plunger gripped in her huge freakish insect arms. Still holding my hand, my father began to run away.

No sooner had we run a few feet then BAM! Mothra shot my poor pops in the back with the toilet plunger. Don’t ask me how (I assume due to suction) but it remained attached to his back as he toppled forward. With a great war cry, Mothra flapped her huge freakish wings and flew off as suddenly as she had appeared.

I fell to my knees before my fallen father, shaking him and yelling, “Get up! Don’t lie there! Did you not see the giant fucking moth? Do you really want to still be here if it comes back?!” or something to that effect. But no, my father was dead. Mothra had murdered him with a toilet plunger. She had stabbed him in the back. The coward!

I woke up crying and ran to my father’s room, and woke him from the sleep he was probably desperately in need of (to this day we’re both chronic insomniacs) to tell him that Mothra had shanghai-ed us and killed him with a plumbing implement. Unfathomably, he thought this was hilarious. He still thinks it’s funny to this day, actually, though I fail to see the humor in it.

But if Mothra ever dares to show her ass (thorax?) again, I’ll be ready for her.

Gummy Bears Don’t Like Beartraps

sad gummybear

About five years ago, while wasting time online, I came across a video clip that changed my life. Dramatic, you say? Not at all! It became my mantra; I started repeating it word-for-word (the video is only about 40 seconds long so this wasn’t my most amazing feat ever, but close) and soon had all of my friends repeating it too.

To my friends, you’re welcome.

If you enjoy watching things that are awesome, and also want to understand my cheerful drawing above, go check out this epic video of a gummy bear’s misadventure courtesy of Robot Chicken. You are also welcome.

*This is not a real gummy bear mangled by a beartrap

Vote on the poll below and maybe he’ll get a shiny new limb!

Children of the Corn Go Amish

bonnet girl

When I was twelve, I went to stay with my grandparents in Cleveland for a month. It was summer and I didn’t have anything particular to do because, technically, I was too young for the labor force. I say “technically” because my father was of the mindset that I should still do something useful with my time.  Somehow my babysitting resume didn’t cut it as “real work”, so that left me with the legal form of indentured servitude. I argued, but apparently my 3/5ths of an opinion didn’t have much weight.

My aunt got me a volunteer position at a ranch; in exchange for seven hours of shoveling shit and shaving some pissed off horses (don’t ask) I got to ride once a day. I loved it. Physical labor didn’t bother me and I got to spend all day around horses, dreaming about that eighth hour when I’d actually get to ride one (probably. This ended up being weirdly inconsistent). I felt pretty important running around saddling up ponies for rides and picking shoed hooves. I even got pretty good at tightening the girth to the right notch.

[An aside: Let me explain about a girth for those who haven’t spent way too much time around horses. The girth is the name for the belt that cinches under the horse to hold the saddle in place. Horses aren’t as stupid as they look, so they suck in a lot of air to inflate their stomachs when the girth is being tightened. I don’t blame them; the girth is a wide band of thick, rough fabric that sits right behind their horse armpits and across the ribcage. There are holes notched into the girth where it meets the saddle to adjust how tight it goes and you yank it up to the highest possible notch with all your might. If a horse holds its breath during this medieval process, then the girth loosens when they start breathing again. It also means the saddle is not secured and creates a safety hazard for everybody. The most effective way to make sure the horse doesn’t hold its breath is to squeeze its nostrils shut and wait. Just stand there and cut off the oxygen while you stare in disbelief at your watch. Eventually they’ll let go with a long, depressed exhalation of air, and you are free to hoist the shit out of that girth.]

Every day I would catch a ride to the ranch with my aunt’s neighbor Annie. She was seventeen and doing the same unpaid job as I was, which made me wonder if I was really cool and ahead of my time or if she had already failed in life. Either way, it was a free ride and I still was four years away from a learner’s permit.

One evening as we wrapped up at the ranch, Annie offered to drive two of the other slave girls home. There was a brief scuffle when I dove into the front passenger seat, much to the anger of the older girls, but I could be just as stubborn as any teenager. The four of us shoved ourselves into Annie’s compact and set off for home.

We were driving in the furthermost right-hand lane of the highway, going probably 25mhp with the traffic, when I glanced in the side mirror. Unexpectedly, there was a horse and buggy galloping directly behind us. I turned completely around in my seat and stared at the unlikely situation with wide eyes. The other girls saw my confusion and explained, “It’s just the Amish. They still use horse and buggies.”

“Um, on the highway?” I asked, which was a stupid question since we were in fact on a highway and, obviously, there was a horse and buggy chugging along behind us. The girls thought it was funny that I would be so shocked, but to be fair there isn’t exactly a plethora of Amish in hometown Boston. I thought it was idiotically unsafe to take a horse on the highway, not to mention a wildly impractical means of transportation.

I’d heard of the Amish before, but this was my first experience of them. I would later learn they do other fun, creepy things like Rumspringa, where Amish teens go out unsupervised into the modern-day societies they know absolutely nothing about and do whatever they want. The term rumspringa roughly translates to “running around”, but in my world it’s defined “child neglect”. I can get on board with the idea of being old-fashioned and staying away from technology, but a community-sanctioned adolescent free-for-alls bugs me (I’ve always been a social worker at heart). But I digress.

Anyway, that was the point when I noticed what was wrong—more wrong—with this picture. “No one’s driving the buggy,” I commented mildly.

“What?” one of the girls asked, though she’d clearly heard me.

“There’s no one driving the buggy,” I repeated, and emphasized by pointing at the Amish chariot thundering ominously behind us. I wasn’t hallucinating; the black Old West-style wagon was conspicuously devoid of any humans. Now the other girls didn’t look so smug. I noticed Annie starting to panic.

“Shit. What do we do? Shit.” I empathized. Aside from the safety concerns this created, we were all ranch hands. We loved horses. Watching one freely rocket down the main artery right outside of a busy city like Cleveland was upsetting and more than a little unnerving. I had no idea what to do.

“Take this exit,” I said, pointing at the one directly in front of us. I couldn’t think what else we should do. At least we wouldn’t still be on the road with the Black Stallion of Doom. Maybe we could find a phone and call the police? The internet had only recently become a household accessory, so cell phones were still a few years away from existence. That would have been helpful though.

Annie swerved to make the exit, which knocked me into the door since I was still turned partially around in my seat to alternately watch the road—Annie’s panic was not giving me confidence in her ability to keep us from a fiery death—and the surreal scene behind us. Wouldn’t you know it but the freaking horse turned off and followed our car onto the off-ramp.

Well, “off-ramp” is an exaggeration. It was an exit that led to a quiet, thickly treed little road with, thankfully, no traffic. We were still rolling along at about 7mph, just sort of taking in the situation and trying to figure out what to do now. The horse was trotting along contently behind us. I was glad it was off the highway but now we had to do something with it.

I would like to note that until this moment, I had been the calm rational one of the group. The other girls were shrieking hysterically and asking unhelpful questions like “where is the driver?” and “why is it following us?” I’m not saying they weren’t valid questions, but they weren’t helpful in addressing the situation at hand.

At that moment we saw a gap on the left side of the road between the dense hedges. It was a wide graveled driveway that led a ways back to a big barn, and farmland beyond that. That was hardly what caught my attention though. The driveway, from the leftmost side to the rightmost side, was a straight line of immobile Amish people.

That is not an exaggeration for the sake of storytelling. There was literally a wall of Amish men, women, and children facing the road, hands clasped together in front of their bodies, just standing. Waiting. Stone-faced. In complete silence. And then the horse turned purposefully into the driveway, where the people-gate opened enough to accommodate its entry. Like black-and-white-clad Children of the Corn robot zombies about to engulf their prey.

I turned to Annie. “Go.”

She gaped at me, dumbstruck. I had no time for her to process what had just happened. “Go. Annie, go.” I pointed at the road. “Go, go, go, go, GO!” I had never been more creeped out in my life.

My dutiful driver floored the accelerator, and we rocketed away from what I assume turned into an all-out shark-like feeding frenzy of blood, horsemeat, and bonnets. I count that as a narrow escape with our lives.

To this day, when I hear people talk about the Amish, I get awkward and flustered. Time has not made sense of what happened or lessened the weirdness of it. When people ask why I have such a bias against the Amish, I tell them this story (though, honestly, few believe me). I’m not a bigot; I don’t believe all Amish people are Children of the Corn robot zombies. Maybe it was just that particular commune of Amish that had been infected by Umbrella with a virus that turns people into Children of the Corn robot zombies. I assume I would have heard about it if it had spread to the technological world. So I guess it’s good news that it’s not contagious or that Umbrella was able to contain the infection.

Whenever I think about that random summer day, I always say to myself, “What the fuck?”

Ducky

peekin duck          2012-12-13_05-13-48_116

This mischievous little man is Duck (Duck Mordechai, usually called Ducky). He is now about 1.5yrs and has been experiencing the ongoing stress of losing his position as top house animal; Biscuits was 9 weeks old at adoption and was immediately the clear alpha. Poor Ducky.

Here are some facts about Duck:

  • He is insanely long for a cat. When he stretched against a wall, he reaches to about my hips (I’m not short)
  • He likes to help with computer work. Anytime I’m on the computer (as long as Biscuits is nowhere to be seen) he sits on my lap, waits for me to prop his chest up, and then presses keys. He’s very studious.
  • He is confused about dominance and how to assert it. He tries to dominate Biscuits (see the blog on Biscuits, Jr. re: discipline) but is confused by the lack of any response whatsoever. Sometimes he considers humping him, but he keeps about a foot of distance between his rear end and Biscuits’ while doing so, which hasn’t been very effective to date.
  • He performs a water dance whenever drinking. Be it bowl, my cup, the faucet, water on the ground, etc, he will swish his front legs back in forth with happiness while drinking. I’ve seen better dancing, but his enthusiasm warms me.

Biscuits, Jr.

tiny heart

This suspiciously adorable creature is Biscuits (Biscuits Henry, also known as Biscuits, Jr.). This was taken a week after he came home with me. He’s roughly 10 weeks old here.

A few facts about Biscuits:

  • He pants. Like a dog. It’s loud and surprising; the first time I heard it I thought he was dying of insta-Feline leukemia
  • He does not care about discipline. At all. Or, rather, he doesn’t notice it. Nothing discourages him from his goal and for the most part I respect that. I guess, to be fair, I haven’t tried every method of negative reinforcement, like waterboarding or ECT…
  • He has a heart-shaped spot on his right side (see picture above). It adds to the air of adorableness, which is a fact he exploits to get treats and not waterboarded
  • He can get onto high places by taking a running leap and hurtling himself sideways off lower objects (think Spiderman meets Jon Jones)
  • His paws are always really, really hot for no apparent reason

Baby anythings are better than grown anythings

puppies     tiny sloth

baby elephant

baby owl

Right?

Well, don’t look at that last one. That is death personified, with a hint of bird.

But the other pictures (the ones that are not death personified, bird-like or no) are adorable. I’m not saying that animals can’t be cute when they’re grown, but no one prefers the adult version of anything over the cuddly squishy baby version.

There may be one person out there who disagrees with the last statement. That person (I use “person” loosely) hates babies and all things adorable. Shun that person from your life and your community. Let me be clear: I’m not advocating violence here. All I am saying is that tarring and feathering has been out of fashion long enough to make a retro come-back, like leggings or ironic sayings on T-shirts or waterboarding. Just keep an open mind.

In conclusion, anything in baby-shape is better than anything in grown-shape. We are biologically driven to like baby-shapes, so don’t feel guilty when you decide to abandon or euthanize the sweet mischievous puppy your brought home once it has turned into a creature roughly the size and appearance of a Tauntaun. I’m not even making this shit up; this shit is science (the biological-liking-of-babies part, not the part about Tauntauns).

Look at the pictures below of the same types of animals as above, but now in grown-shapes:

terrifying dog     ugly sloth

angry elephant   evil eagle

Exactly.

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By the way, why do baby birds look like this? This tiny eagle must be a Jim Henson muppet… maybe a Skeksis by way of Fraggle Rock?

jim henson eagle

(Does anyone actually get my references, btw?)

How I Know When I’m Being Offensive

keeping shut

Sometimes I speak and sometimes I don’t. Every now and then when I speak, I’ll discover I have an unexpected audience. I discover this when one or more people, not having been directly involved in whatever conversation I was having, gasp at something I’ve said. That’s when I understand that I must have said something offensive or taboo.

Example:

One day a friend and I were talking in a kitchen about a woman I knew, whom I had recently run into. I was lamenting my misfortune at running into her because I hated her. I almost never hate anyone. She was an awful person and I couldn’t find anything redeeming about her, which happens to be something I’m very good at doing in general. I felt that she lived off of others while making no effort to participate in improving her life, and in fact seemed to be purposefully making the people around her miserable; I saw her as a leech. While that’s a shitty thing to say, especially for a social worker, let me reiterate that I rarely hate anyone, so I felt ok accepting this one instance of hatred. All my general liking of people should have added up to give me some karmic leeway, is how I saw it.

My friend, who knew the prior details of regarding this woman, nodded sympathetically when I commented, “I mean, if she were dead it wouldn’t be a loss. She doesn’t do anything good for the world.” Gasp. Shit, I’d be overheard and worse, I’d said something gasp-worthy. I reviewed what I’d just said to identify what might have been problematic. “Look,” I explained to my dropper of eaves once I’d figured out the issue, “I’m not saying I wish her dead. I’m just saying if she were dead, it wouldn’t be a loss.”

“Kate, that’s fucked up,” a buddy commented from the peanut gallery.

“Why? Not every life is an improvement on the world. She’s not a good person. If she were dead it wouldn’t be like the world lost something big. Again, I’m not wishing her dead or anything, just saying that if she were.” I knew somehow this was a bad thing to say but I didn’t feel in the wrong. Any ugly truth, maybe, but a truth nonetheless. Can you handle it?

“Isn’t this lady, like, mentally ill?”

“Yes.”

“Then you shouldn’t say that shit! She’s ill!”

Now I was getting pissy. “Yeah, she’s ill, and she’s also an asshole. They aren’t mutually exclusive. She’s ill and a bad person. You think people with mental illness aren’t like other people? They’re all just people, you dick.” Then, having sufficiently turned the tables until I wasn’t the only bad guy in the room, I continued my conversation. But I always remembered from then on not to make the “some people are better when dead” statement without checking my surroundings.

I still don’t think I was wrong, though.

How to make an otterball

How to make an otterball

This is an otter. Here are 4 simple steps to go from boring normal otter to frickin epic otterball:
Step 1: Get otter
Step 2: Pick it up
Step 3: Poke it in the tummy until it becomes ball shaped
Step 4: Reward it for good behavior; creating a Pavlovian response will make it easier for creating future otterballs

baby otterball (a completed otterball should look like this)

Why I pay homage to the Velociraptor

You may be wondering why I named my page “How to Run Like a Velociraptor”. Do I have a fondness for Velociraptors? Do I have an obsession with Velociraptors? Do I think Velociraptors are cute? Did I lose money to a Velociraptor?

Batman v. Velociraptor

No. No to all of the above.

But not matter how much I think Velociraptors are hideous and terrifying (and they are), it would be wrong to try to deny the awesomeness of their existence. If Jurassic Park (the book and original movie; don’t even mention the sequels to me) taught us anything, it is that Velociraptors are fierce, wicked smart, bad ass, and in a fight you’d definitely want them on your side. Respect.

If that doesn’t satisfactorily explain to you why I named this blog after Velociraptors, then you, sir, are no one I want to know.

*This is not a real fight between Batman and a Velociraptor