Idle notion Friday: pulling a Schettino, hiding the fart, and crimes of dispassion

Hell with the gravitas. Hell with that distinguished behavior. I’m about to let my hair down!

Cause I’m such a serious guy. Can’t you tell?

A Friday such as this was an unscalable hurdle of seriousness. I can never bear down or frown for a moment and lucidly contemplate life’s deviant textures. It’s a flippant day. Darting around in a cloud of foolishness. I can’t always be serious. I too can be goofy. But on the other hand, isn’t the overly conscious effort to portray lightheartedness a self-defeating act in itself? By attempting to express that which you are not, you are in effect displaying enormous amounts of that which you are attempting to disguise. Or…something along those lines.

Most amusing in this human life are the grand spectacles which fill our vision with simultaneous doses of tragedy and excruciating comedy. Such extreme emotions are rough on our mental faculties and the act of digesting such contrasting input creates a frisson in our mind that elicits baffling behavior and group mentalities.

Tragedy+Comedy kicked off the year 2012 in the name of Francesco Schettino and his bumbling and un-Captain-like command of his cruise ship, Costa Concordia, which he ran aground the rocks of Italy’s Tuscan coast. As news of this shipwreck has seeped into the news since the “incident” on Friday the 13th, the details have also blossomed incrementally in expanding levels of ridicule for the 52-year-old tanned captain who “fell” into a lifeboat, caught a taxi home, and failed to return to his sinking ship as he blubbered like a little boy in light of the damage he had wreaked. And the phone call where he gets castigated by a Coast Guard member is classic. Schettino’s futile attempts at minimizing his role in the disaster, from its onset when he steered the cruise liner dangerously close to the coastline to the subsequent unraveling of events as he fled the ship (but not before helping himself to dinner at 10:30, about and hour and a half after hitting rock). His panicked and embarrassing excuses (as the one where he claimed to have actually saved lives which might have some credence in only the most disconnected and abstract manner) are nothing short of the finest example of tragicomedy possible.

And his name. His name could not have been more fitting of a person who seeks to excuse (ie, weasel) his way out of such an overwhelmingly publicly shameful situation as this. In fact, his name can be a newly coined phrase when describing a person whose culpability is ludicrously obvious and self-apparent and made more so by his plaintive excuses which rapidly degenerate into baffling distortions of reality. This can be now known as “pulling a Schettino.” The next time someone tries to extricate themselves from a situation you caught them at red-handed…when they try to deflect attention with the most tawdry stream of excuses, you merely have to tell this person: “You are full of Schettino!” Full of Schettino will now enter the parlance of human infamy. And if said with a simultaneous Italian lilt and accompanied by dramatic hand gestures, the phrase will carry much more weight.

And speaking of water, today I was using the bathroom at work. Doing #1, or “little house” as my ex-wife used to call it. It’s a large bathroom and one of the stalls was occupied. I used the urinal farthest from the stalls and embarked upon my business when suddenly a descending bubble of gas began to make its presence known. You know, it strikes sometimes while you are urinating and if withheld, makes the urination flow less voluminous or hearty. That “gas” thing. So I felt the gas bubble descend but I’m too modest to let it blast even though the guy in the stall probably wouldn’t know who the culprit was. Still, he could wrap up things quickly and burst out the door and my anonymous fart cover would be blown. This is incredibly serious. Shameful. It might even tarnish my non-existent reputation at work. No, I couldn’t chance it. In such instances, I flush the urinal and hope that I can release the bubble’s persistent ire behind the drowning flood of flushed urinal water’s whoosh sound. Alas, it did not work today! The gas bubble was grand and would not be contained within the span of time it took an industrial urinal to flush. After the first disguising flush, my statute of limitations was effectively expired. You are not permitted two flushes to disguise the bubble explosions. You just can’t. So now, with the guy still secluded in the stall, I was forced to let the bubble expel silently. I tried. As I urinated I concentrated on expelling the bubble ever so silently and innocuously. Alas, I failed! She ripped, and rather loudly. Yikes. The man in the stall had to have heard that. Now the problem was that he could not find out who it was that tooted so shamelessly in his presence. My mission now was to flee! Flee before he wrapped up his shit, so to speak, but also, to wrap up before someone walked into the bathroom and unwittingly said my name or spoke to me, necessitating my response and thus blowing my cover. This was not a simple mission. I was not only attempting to flee before the man finished, it was imperative I flee before an innocent bystander entered the bathroom and triangulated my identity. This was urgent business! I washed my hands quickly, the faint echo of my bubble burst still ringing in my ears, and I dashed out. I think I had some trickle left. Not good. Not a good bathroom visit. But at least me and my bubble petulance remained anonymous thanks to my swift thinking and efficient escape. The guy is probably wondering even now who let that one rip while he was ensconced behind the stall walls. But he doesn’t know!

Which of course segues nonsensically to the dinner table at my parents house earlier tonight where I had stopped to pick my son up and eat a quick dinner. My mom mentioned a news story involving the mysterious murder/decapitation/defooting of that fellow up in the canyons outside Griffith Park. She said the police believe it was a “crime of passion.” I suddenly thought something. I announced I would like to see what a crime of dispassion is like. I think it would go something like this. The criminal walks nonchalantly to his victim, waves the gun around apathetically and mumbles, “I’d like your money. If you give it to me, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s fine,I don’t really care. I probably won’t even shoot you. Can you give me your money?” This is said and done while slouching and barely making eye contact with the intended victim. A true crime of dispassion.

Tempting fate is what we do. Ese.

Bitterly cold L.A. morning [local exaggeration: off]. It was a deadlift morning. Deadlifts are the most grueling of the major lifts. If you do them right and do progressively heavier weight, they knock you squarely on your ass. Day 2 of my workout week is Deadlift day. Thursday. I open with 4 sets of relatively light squats, followed by 4 sets of incline benches. Minor stuff, a prelude and warm-up to the hardcore shit which is the routine of the morning: 5 sets of increasing deadlift poundage. A couple of years ago, on the 4th rep of my 5th and final set, I felt an electric twinge in my lower right back. It was quickly replaced by a foreboding dull, stiff pain that prevented me from standing straight. I was hobbled for the rest of the day. I thought I had really done it this time. I was in bad shape for the next week. Eventually my back healed without major medical intervention and I worked my way back up to 270 pounds (took months, almost a year) while concentrating closely on form. I’ve learned to take my time and focus on form with this lift. If you rush deadlifts, you risk killing your back. At higher weights (for yourself, it’s generally a relative number), your form must be close to exquisite. My deadlift injury was owing to the fact that I curled my back in order to compensate for a knee injury at the time. If you bend your back, you end up shifting most of the weight’s load to your spine, which is exactly what you are not supposed to do during deadlifts. This prevents you from jutting your hips forward during the pull. It was a massive failure of form that injured me.

The squats and incline benches are just extended warm-ups for my deadlifts. I do squats and benches more intensely the other 2 days of my work out week.

This morning, during my incline benches, my Tuesday flake came out of the shower and prepared to leave for work. I finished up the second rep of my inclines and we hugged and at that moment, her eyes looked down past me and she snidely remarked, “Oh, that looks safe.” I turned to see what she was looking at. Ah. She was checking out my “incline” bench, which is a makeshift piece of embarrassing gym equipment at best.

Her snarkiness was appropriate, of course. She saw it clearly because she is not…Mexican. It really is a Mexican thing, this incline mess. Who the hell inclines a bench with old telephone books? I don’t know where the lateral bar is that came with the bench. In the perfect world, you slip it into the opposing slots in order to sanely and dependably prop up the bench. I lost it a long time ago. But I need to do my inclines, damnit! Inclines are a vital part of a good work out routine. Incline benches augment the normal bench press because they target the upper pecs. My inclines are very weak so I don’t mind placing my well-being in the hands of 2 local phone books to provide support for my faint vertical lift. But yes, it does look a little Third World, doesn’t it? I’ve done this for so long I don’t even recognize how precarious the situation is. I’m so used to it. I’m relying on these phone books to support 165 pounds of iron which would love the opportunity to crush my face.

I wanted to tell her it’s the Mexican in me. My incline bench is reckless, careless, dubious, but it gets the job done. That’s how we operate South of the border and East of Los Angeles. Mexicans are some of the most crazy-ass dangerous-minded people. The “safety-first” sensibilities of the SWPL nanny American state are completely alien to Mexicans. We use scotch tape and gum to patch up our path to safety and security. Our self-preservation is etched in a patchwork of improvised piecemeal solutions. We entrust our fate to ratty old telephone books.

I’m reminded of a hilarious photograph jewamongyou published in his blog a couple of weeks ago after returning from a Mexican trip.


This spells out the Mexican approach to safety which basically is nonplussed endeavoring at tempting fate in as many ways as possible. It seems the local news is constantly abuzz with a parade of tragic stories detailing preventable deaths and injuries in the Mexican-American community that reads like a litany of Final Destination death scenes. I don’t know, maybe it’s a perception thing. Maybe Mexicans are no more careless than other ethnicites, but based on the daily, off-the-news-grid behaviors I see in my neck of the woods, that seems doubtful.