Sunday Advice Column #29

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It’s that time again. The one where I use 38 years of confusion to answer your burning questions. What the hell does that phrase even mean? Why burning? I went ahead and tried to look it up, but there weren’t any significantly verifiable answers.

The only origin I found that made any sense tied the expression back to the time when heretics were burned at the stake. When the Inquisitors asked their prisoners questions, it could mean the difference between simply having your nose and ears cut off or being burned. The questions were known as burning questions.

Now any question designed to reveal a person’s true beliefs is a burning question. If this story is to be believed, then it would be incorrect to use the phrase for other lines of questions. So heed the importance of your queries before applying this weighted designation. Or, you know, don’t. It’s no sweat off my balls.

On to your questions!

Is a house cleaner worth it? 

Fuck yes it is. Mrs. Lott and I had a housecleaner for our 400 square foot studio apartment and it was amazing. On the surface you’re paying someone to clean up after your nasty ass, what you’re really buying is free time and the elimination of arguments related to who should be scrubbing the toilet bowl.

Currently we are aggressively trying to stack cash in an effort to pay off our home as fast as possible (and get me a new motorcycle). Our place is bigger now, so it would be more to clean. We did try a new service, but the lady who we hired before was much better. Unfortunately she won’t cross the bridge. First world problems, son. They’re the worst.

You might have some stupid shame about hiring someone to clean up after you. Quit that dumb shit. The people who do this work are real deal entrepreneurs and if you can afford it, do it. You’re helping the economy. Our ex-housecleaner employs several people and put a kid through college. That’s amazing. She did a great job and we were stoked to give her money.

The harder thing is to figure out if it’s in your budget. We opted for once a week, which kept things very tidy as long as we were conscious of not fucking things up too bad. If any of my readers has ever travelled with Mrs. Lott, you will be able to hypothesize who the messy one is.

The formula I think works to decide on whether or not to hire a cleaner is as follows: Find out how long it takes to clean the house. Take your current hourly wage (after taxes) and apply it to that time. If the housecleaner is less than that, go for it. You’re just buying back time. Make sure you do something good with it.

If it costs you more than that, then you should consider quitting your job to become a housecleaner.

What is the loveliest thing a child has ever said to you?

Goodbye.

What is the biggest tip that you have ever received as an employee? 

The largest single tip I’ve received was $200 from a seriously generous dude who would regularly tip $100. People who’ve made good money and tip well just because they can are probably the karmic actors that keep this world from being swallowed in the great grinding maws of the god-like demons of the Kali Yuga.

Just in case you meant “what’s the best advice-tip?’ then it has to be something I was told by a true New Orleans original, Jerry Roppolo, owner of Rue De La Course Coffee. He was my boss and landlord during a pretty low point in my life and out of nowhere one day he just said “buddy, just be yourself and try your best and people will appreciate that and you will always have friends.” I don’t know why he said it because he wasn’t really a pep talk kind of dude, but it hit me right in the heart and I swear to god I almost cried. Like I said, it was a hard time.

He also said it was ok to keep a gun under the register as long as I didn’t tell anyone. So I did and I didn’t.

For 5XP, my vampire character, the current prince of Houma, needs a deep dark secret, that can come back to haunt him. What should the secret be?

For laypeople, what my friend here is inquiring about is a character in the Live Action Role Playing Game (RPG), Vampire: The Masquerade. When I was a teenager, this was my shit. It was such a fun game.

Basically you created a character to act out who was a member of an ancient vampire society. The vampires lived in secret alongside various other fantasy societies (faeries, werewolves, etc.). It’s just like True Blood because that show stole everything from this game.

Players get dressed up in costume and then play through an evening of intrigue. Alliances are formed. Duels are fought. Friends are betrayed. People are murdered. The balance of power shifts. You improvise your character based on his/her characteristics and skills. These are kept track of on a character sheet. Your powers and abilities grow as you gain experience. Just like in a video game.

Most of the people who played this game were geeky goth teenagers and the weird old headbanger perverts who tried to fuck them. It was an odd, sexually charged environment to come of age in. It’s also the reason the first three or four girls I dated were god damned goths. They’re the fucking worst/most fun.

As an aside, I recall being quite pleased at the darkness of Mrs. Lott’s album collection  the first time I went to her house as a gentleman caller. Total black heart.

Anyway, what you’re asking about is a character building question. You will gain points to improve your skills if you take on a weakness, namely a dark secret. This is a super fun one because it adds a layer of weirdness and danger to your interactions with other characters.

I’ve seen people choose things like “they have a werewolf wife” or they “drank the blood of another powerful vampire’s last living relative.” That sort of thing. For you, I think something monstrous and unique to Louisiana would be interesting. What if you used your influence at the gas company to engineer an explosion at a rival prince’s safe house. He survives, but you killed his progeny/lover.”

Or, you allowed a church to run a major sex trafficking ring that provided you with a rotating stock of fresh blood. You have had to suppress several stories of the reverend’s misdeeds.

Whatever it is, make sure it’s really dangerous. That’s the most fun way to play.

What is your best random conversation with a stranger?

I rode 30 minutes on a BART train from Oakland talking about The Twilight Zone and what science fiction meant to black people with a man who said he had been associated with the Black Panthers. He was so shocked I knew all the episodes he wanted to talk about.

Our mutual favorite is the episode Time Enough at Last. It’s about a man who loves reading, but has a very sad life. He survives an atomic explosion by sitting in a bank vault. He’s the lone survivor and has enough food and supplies to survive for years. But he doesn’t have anything to do and decides to kill himself. Right before he does, he sees the library in the distance. He goes there and rejoices to have all the time in the world to read, but he breaks his thick glasses and becomes well fucked and sad at life’s cruel irony.

It’s such a good episode. I never saw that guy on the train again, but I often imagine him as a youngster sitting in front of a black and white TV just mainlining all that televised weirdness, right in the middle of one of the strangest times to live in Oakland.

What is the most badass thing anyone has ever done? 

What a tough question. There are so many incredible deeds to choose from and so many well deserving choices. Pretty much any real person Tom Hanks has played would be cool. Most of my top choices are war stories I’ve heard. There’s no shortage of bravery on the battlefield. Any sacrifice would be a solid pick.

We’re just past the anniversary of 9/11 and I think you could make a strong case for the resistance that lead to the downing of United Airlines Flight 93. As I understand the story, passengers knew what was going to happen and acted to bring the plane under control, downing it away from its intended target. That is some serious balls.

Should I have to help my broke parents? 

This right here is a serious question that deserves a serious answer. I’d say go right to reading what Dave Ramsey has to say about broke parents. You don’t have to go broke saving them, but you might want to help them because you love them and you can. If that’s the case, they need to change. If you help, you’re in control now, which is weird for them. Ramsey calls it “powdered butt syndrome”; since they powdered your butt, they won’t take you seriously.

Go in hard on that Dave Ramsey stuff if you’re serious. His plans have totally changed my relationship with money. I think I might actually be able to retire wealthy, which is pretty neat. I’ve heard the stories of so many people who’ve done it with less than Mrs. Lott and I have. If they crushed it you can.

 

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