Archive for January, 2015

One of my former bullies has died. There’s no other way to say it.

Remember Little Italy? He was one of the stars of my post on Catholic school bullies. Now, at the age of 43, he’s gone. I found out about his passing on Facebook; I also discovered that his viewing was a mere five or six miles from my office. Despite the convenience and slight desire to make my appearance, I decided not to go pay my respects.

Funerals are for the living. These functions give friends and family a last chance to say “goodbye” and perhaps gain some closure for their loss. I’m sure this was especially the case for the death of someone so relatively young. Given that, what business would I have going there? Having written about Little Italy in a less-than-flattering light, there’s no comfort I could or would want to provide his family.

I also didn’t go as a matter of integrity. Attending a viewing and faking my way through it for a guy I hardly knew and never liked would be a violation of my authentic self. I’m not going to refuse to turn a sinner into a saint just because they’ve died; this level has sheer phoniness always disgusted me and is simply not in my skill-set.

So Little Italy is gone and with him the explanation for why he wanted to do me grievous bodily harm on that sunny fall day in 1986. In the end, I can only guess that in his twisted state of mind, he saw an outsider threatening his friends and the opportunity to gain some instant street cred. Since most high-school bullying is based around reputation and social standing. I’m thinking this is the likely scenario.

So a guy who wanted to smash my face in so he could look good in front of his friends is now dead. That’s it… There’s no other way to say it.

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ustv-girls-6James Le Gros, man! James motherfucking Le Gros. No one, and I mean no one, portrays the struggles of Generation X like this guy.

My wife started watching Girls, an HBO series about a group of 20-something hipsters who are vapid, conceited and completely self-absorbed… but not the least bit self-aware. The show is written by and about Lena Dunham, a young woman who’s supposed to be the “next big thing.” In reality, she’s a dead ringer for a freshly-shaven Paul Giamatti in a misguided pixie wig.

Watching the credits one day, I noticed that James Le Gros would be appearing in at least a few episodes and I was more than pleased. I knew that the mere virtue of Le Gros’ presence would elevate this bizarre shit-show into something somewhat redeeming and it did… in ways that I could have never predicted.

Before I go any further, there are some things you need to know about James Le Gros. First of all, his last name is pronounced “leh grow.” Secondly, he’s cooler than cool. In fact, he’s cooler than you and me put together. Lastly, he’s one of the coolest “that-guy actors” of the 1990s… you know, the kind of actor whom you don’t know his name, but always recognize him as “that guy” who was in another movie you saw.

With memorable performances in such films as Singles, Floundering, and Living in Oblivion, Le Gros was our guy – Generation X’s guy – and he helped usher us into the 1990s, which was our decade.

Watching episode after episode of Girls, I became antsy waiting for James to make his appearance. When he finally did, it was as Jeff Lavoyt, a character who was desperately clinging to his former 90s coolness despite being married, a father, and unemployed. With his characteristic acting chops, he evoked both scorn and sympathy for his character as he engaged in pathetic attempts to hook up with the babysitter his wife hired. His failure to do so was no doubt a metaphor for his character’s life.

And so, just like that, the man who introduced us to our decade of cool now ushered us into our decade of un-cool. Evoking both humor and pathos, he shows us how we with our children, mortgages, and dead-end jobs must appear to the generation to whom we’ve passed the proverbial torch. The whole thing served as a cautionary tale to my generation… a generation that failed to live up to its promise and ideals.

Looking back on it all, it seems the sum total of Generation X’s contribution was forcing the intellectually-bankrupt philosophy known as moral relativity (aka “political correctness”) into mainstream thought. Now we’re stuck in world of our own creation. It’s a bizarre nanny state where we’re not even welcome, and we’re reminded daily of our own uselessness.

No wonder we’re lost, no wonder we’re shiftless, no wonder our very poster boy is playing a pathetic character desperately trying to find his long-lost youth inside the pants of a woman half his age.

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of the Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two installments – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his novels, check out his website.

If a friend asks you for your advice, do yourself a favor and don’t give it to them… unless you don’t want them as a friend anymore.

Consider these words from a former Facebook friend:

“I appreciate so many people wanting to… fix me? But going to YOUR church isn’t going to fix anything, re-watching/re-reading, movies & books about stuff I watched and read 10+ years ago isn’t going to fix me… And I’m not really into the bizarre self help seminars, webinars, YouTube videos, and so on.”

The more someone seeks advice, the less they really want it. The above quote illustrates this, which is one of life’s greatest contradictions. After reading his/her latest Facebook rant toward his/her well-meaning friends, I was reminded me about a famous line from the HBO series “Deadwood.”

It was was said by the character “Wild” Bill Hickock, who was addressing his good friend, Charlie Utter. You see, Charlie was trying to get Hickock to give up his self-destructive drinking and gambling habits. In an emotionally-charged moment between the two, “Wild” Bill says, “Can’t you let me go to hell the way I want to?” I believe this simple yet profound statement sums up what my friend above was trying to say about advice, solicited or otherwise.

From my experience, those seeming to “seek” advice – as well as those who seem to be in the most need of it – fall into one of four groups:

Group One, aka “the Venters:” Trapped in repetitive, dysfunctional relationships/situations, this group simply wants someone to listen. They bottle up their anger and resentment until they can’t take it any longer; then, they look for a sympathetic person to unburden themselves upon. After unburdening themselves, they’re able to return to their dysfunctional relationship/situation feeling refreshed and renewed. Don’t try giving them advice – like, “Why don’t find someone/something new that will help you be happy” – unless you never want to see them again.

Group Two, aka “the Blue Needies:” Ever feel like you’re a human dumping ground for a friend or family member’s woes? Chances are you have a Blue Needy in your life. Always down and depressed, these folks need someone to listen and tell them all the things they want to hear: “You’re right,” “You’re great,” “You’re awesome,” “He/she doesn’t deserve you,” etc. Try giving this group any advice and you’re likely to create some hurt feelings and maybe even experience some backlash from their wounded egos. (Note: the line between “Venter” and “Blue Needy” can become blurred at times.)

Group Three, the “Lost Souls:” If you like giving advice, you’ll love this group! The problem is, they’re a rare one, at best. After having done the same thing over and over again yet expecting different results, Lost Souls find themselves on the threshold of understanding that they might not have all the answers. This sometimes leaves them open to the possibility of hearing how they can change their approach to find the success they seek.

Group Four, aka the “Hellbound:” This is “Wild” Bill’s group. They’re committed to doing things their way even if it (most likely) means their own destruction. Trying to give these folks advice practically guarantees they’ll do the opposite. The best thing friends/family/lovers can do is stand back and allow the Hellbound to go down in flames… They won’t have it any other way.

So remember, no matter how screwed up some people’s lives are, they don’t want any advice on how to fix it… especially if they ask. And by “ask,” I mean everything from soliciting someone’s advice directly to various cries for help via social media. So the best advice that can ever be given is: don’t give advice. Trust me, you’ll be happier this way.

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

Dush  The recent scandal involving an sheriff’s deputy under investigation for inappropriate conduct is a bitter reminder of why I should’ve kept some kind of diary during my 20s.

So why am I writing about Kevin E. Dush, a sheriff’s deputy in a town more than two hours away? Well, nearly 20 years ago, that same deputy was very friendly and helpful to this young newspaper reporter in a town where many of the police treated the media with a sense of barely-concealed disgust. Today, Dush is alleged to have, among other things, sent a series of inappropriate sexual text messages to a 24-year-old woman he arrested for shoplifting. Upon hearing of this, I recalled an incident between him and I that’s been burned into my brain… and bears an eerie resonance to the unfortunate circumstances that surround him today.

I was sent to cover a significant drug bust made by two other Isabella County sheriff’s deputies. The county has five active police agencies, each one vying against the others for state and federal funds, so a big hoopla being made over such an incident was not uncommon. What was strange was something Dush said to me after the deputies – one female, one male – arrived for the photo shoot. At the conclusion, Dush leaned over to me and whispered, “Now watch the horndogs come out.”

As if on cue, several male cops from other area police departments descended upon the young female deputy like turkey buzzards zeroing in upon a freshly-killed raccoon. In bold and brazen displays of unoriginal macho energy, these police peacocks unfurled their proverbial plumage in hopes that the dazzling displays of purple and green would be to her liking. In retrospect, the young lady seemed uncomfortable amidst all this testosterone-fueled attention, and Dush and I shared both our disgust and an unspoken understanding of the bizarre floor-show commencing before us.

Now, more than 20 years later, I find myself trying to place that moment in the greater context of what he is facing today.

Was Dush an upstanding guy who underwent some strange transmogrification during his ensuing years on the job? The newspaper article mentions that Dush twice unsuccessfully ran for Sheriff during his time as a deputy; perhaps this and many other of life’s disappointments became too much for him to bear and he just snapped. As someone whose long hours on the job contributed to a nervous breakdown and my own downward spiral, I can certainly relate.

Or maybe Dush was just another “horndog” all along and he was merely projecting these feelings onto his macho brothers-in-blue that day. It’s just as likely that the behavior of the officers provided Dush an uncensored glimpse of his own proverbial reflection in a rather harsh and unforgiving mirror. This is not unlikely, since projection is something many people engage in daily as a means of protecting their egos.

In the end, we’ll likely never know what urged Dush down that rather dark and self-destructive path; he and he alone will have to struggle with the shame of his actions. For whatever it’s worth, I hope he’s able to find a way to keep those somber feelings from crashing down upon him like a tidal wave, pushing him under until he riptide drags him beyond the buoys and leaves him out where the sharks swim. No matter what happens, I’ll always remember him as the friendly, helpful deputy who always took he time to offer a smile and a kind word to a young newspaper reporter looking to make a name for himself.

To bring this full circle, it’s times such as this that made me wish I would’ve kept a journal back then. After all, being a cops and courts reporter gave me a firsthand look at some of the vilest human behavior… and some of the criminals were pretty bad, too. Those names, faces, and downright bizarre incidents that were once part of my daily beat would have made a great book, especially with updates on where the key players are now.