Sunday Advice Column #23


All the advice you really need for life is out there. We all know what to do. We know what diets work. We know how to act. We know how to treat each other. But we get weak and we stop doing the right thing. We become shitty.

This usually makes things harder. I wonder if humans are addicted to stress. Maybe we have alien psychic parasites that gorge on chakric off-gassing. They might make a feast of anxiety related to career. Or find lack of certainty intoxicating. There are other explanations that don’t involve weird xenomorphs.

On to your questions, such as they are.

If you had to pick a 4 person squad (plus one animal) for being co-marooned on an island with; what would be the main mitigating factors of selection? Also, there are 3 items in the backpack you were wearing when your ship sank. Ideally, what would these items be?

Ok, the backpack part of this question is easy. I’d want a firestarter, a solid fixed blade survival knife, and a metal pot. The firestarter helps you stay warm, cook food, purify water, signal ships or burn yourself to death. It’s totally essential. The knife is obvious. It should be strong enough to use as an axe and long enough to tie on the front of a stick and be used for hunting. The metal pot lets you cook just about anything and boil water.


For the animal, I’d choose a pig. They are smart and friendly when trained. They could be used to search for truffles and grubs and such. If you get really desperate you could eat him.

My team selection is going to be three attractive women with positive attitudes, foraging skills, camping skills, and good physical strength for swimming, climbing, and hiking.

What are the best books set in the American South? 

This is a pretty tough question due to scope, but I’m going to swing for it and say either Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian Western Blood Meridian, Michael Shaara’s Civil War classic Killer Angels, or Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. There are so many more though. Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. John Kennedy O’Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunceshuck finn. .jpg

What is the cheapest and most delicious thing you ate in college? 

I didn’t go to college until I was well into adulthood. I was working in the bar business and at farmers markets at the time, so I always had access to pretty good food for next to nothing. I have still never really gotten back to the prosperity I had during those days.

But to answer your question more in the spirit you asked it, I’d say a college student could do a lot worse than finding the taco trucks Mexican laborers eat at. They’re usually great and cheaper than a restaurant. If you’re really frugal, get yourself a crockpot and make stews and chili.

My conscience troubles me whenever I want to ignore a beggar asking for money, what should I do?

Almsgiving is a part of most of the religions we have operating around these parts. Religion is where you get guilt from, so it makes sense that not making with the hand out leaves you feeling bad.

Personally, I have a certain amount of money in my budget each month for giving. So does my wife. She usually like to either give it all as a lump sum to a charity of some sort, I like to break off a five or ten spot to people who are really down and out.

Don’t give any money to this type of dork.

What is the most bizarre/toughest/oddest question you have been asked in a job interview?

I can’t think of any particular question that was memorable, but I can tell you one that used to irritate the living fuck out of me when I was working less glamorous jobs: “why do you want this job?”

The real answer is “because I need some money and this seems tolerable enough that I might not eat a bullet between paychecks.” Of course no middle management chump wants to hear the deobfuscated word of holy truth from the insolent tongue of a virtual serf. They’re looking for heartfelt pablum to loosen the maws of the great beast that will eat your life 40 hours at a time.

The best answer I’ve ever heard anyone give to this trite question was from my buddy Javier. We were both part of a group interview for jobs at a gay ultra lounge serving insipid comfort tapas. He laid back and spoke these true words like the saint he is: “honestly, my house is right up the street and I could pretty much roll here in two minutes.” I don’t know that I was ever more jealous of an answer. Happily, we worked together for many years.

Have you had and overcome severe anger issues? How?

I am an extremely hostile person sometimes. It was much worse when I was a bartender. I probably never overcame it, but I find working out, reading, and writing everyday seems to help. Whatever you want to do with your life, just do it. I suspect most anger is misdirected, but well deserved hatred for the growing gulf between who you are and who you wished to be.

Beating the shit out of Jared Leto is likely very soothing.

How can I bring out the inner genius inside of me?

There probably isn’t any in there. I know there isn’t any in me, so you’re in good company.  I should probably explain.

My last math professor was a chain smoking, black leather clad Russian. He was in his early 70s. His name was Mr. Vayngorten. He never spoke to the class or anyone in it more than was absolutely necessary. To begin class he would simply bark out a page number in the book and run through the methods of solving whatever equations we were working on

He spoke to us just once near the end of the semester, and he laid down some serious wisdom, “I want you all to know something very important. Not one of you is genius. You may think you are smart, but you are only so smart. Genius is rare. Comes maybe once or twice a century. I have seen your work. No one here needs to worry about being a genius.”

This sagacity was completely unrequested. Many of the students looked disturbed. I laughed and nodded because I knew he was telling us the truth. Then he really went in. He started on one side of the class and asked each person what their major was and what they wanted to do with it. He gave each person a short assessment of their plans.


“What is your major and what do you want to do?”

“I’m a psych major. I want to be a councilor.”

“Is ok, but probably not possible for you to reach PHD.”

Another kid answered, “Computer science, I want to do something with computers.”

Mr. Vayngorten shook his head, “No, this is not good choice for you. Your math is not good enough, maybe you can be in computer sales, like at Best Buy.”

He got to me and I told him I was an English major (this is before I learned about the Rhetoric dept.). I figured I’d just keep bartending. He seemed satisfied, nodded and went on to burst the bubble of the girl behind me.

So here’s the deal. There’s nothing amazing hidden deep inside most of us. You have what you have, which is more than enough if you go hard. You can be extremely happy and successful just taking your own talents to the edge. All that takes is discipline, which thankfully requires no genius to develop.



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