The Garden-Destroying Cross-Lot Food Fight


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By Tardsie

It happened just like this.

There were a lot more kids living in my neighborhood back at the time of the Cross-Lot Food Fight than there are today. In those days the town could support two elementary schools, and there wasn’t anywhere you could go within the city limits and not see a youthful face. This story is about young people, kids and young adults, and the delightfully destructive foolishness in which young people so often find themselves engaged.

It started when a flying tomato nearly knocked my neighbor Jason off his bike. A group of maybe six of us were playing in the street in a way kids rarely do these days, just being kids and not really playing at any one thing. Jason yelped as the crimson meteor sailed across his handlebars and dove into the street with a meaty thud. For a moment there was confusion; none of us had seen it coming.

We saw the volley that came next.

Four tomatoes arced through the empty air above an unused lot adjacent to the street, falling around us and striking the asphalt with heavy splats. Hoots of raucous laughter carried from behind the wooden plank fence at the far end of the lot, where because of the lot’s slope, we could see the head and shoulders of about a dozen people, all of them adults and old enough to know better.


War is hell.

The fog of war is deceiving, and there were some things we didn’t know. We believed that first Jason and then the rest of us had been the intended targets of the tomato barrage. We were not. In truth, when the whole thing kicked off, the gaggle of inebriated twenty-somethings had no idea we were even there. It started when first one of the guests, then a small mob, began raiding the yard’s tidy garden for tomatoes to hurl at a rusted-out jeep somebody had parked on the street side of the lot. The resident of the house, a hard-charging hellion named Brett, agreed that this was a fine idea. It didn’t matter, however, that we were never the intended targets; the opening salvo had been launched and we were now at war. We plucked the partially intact tomatoes from the pavement and from amidst the weeds of the lot and returned fire.

The drunken party-posse was throwing at us in earnest now, and we took some hits, but it kept us stocked in ammunition as we advanced on the fence. The barrage came hard, and by the time we reached the fence they’d run out of fresh tomatoes, and we were assailed by pulpy formless fruit that was sometimes just a bloody mess held together by a flap of skin. They plundered the garden’s treasures, and all manner of green and growing thing came sailing over the wooden divide that separated our two camps. One asshole even threw an entire watermelon over that fence; it sailed over the top of the wood for a few feet like some tie-dye zeppelin before plummeting earthward and spilling its guts into the weeds.


There’s no way to dress up hurling a watermelon at a child as anything but a terrible idea.

The only hit I took was as I climbed the fence, but it was a good one and left a bruise. As I came overtop the fence I interrupted a guy in the act of throwing a fairly intact and particularly unripe tomato. He walloped me in the side of the head and down I went. To his credit, my assailant was properly mortified that he’d punched a nine-year-old in the side of the head, and leaned over the fence to make sure I was all right. I gave him a face full of tomato scraps for his trouble.

The fight wound down not long after that. Having gained the yard, we didn’t know what to do with it, and anyway the garden was now just a churned and ravaged patch of earth. Also, just then the police showed up. The nasty old lady who lived next to me had called them, claiming an errant tomato had violated the sanctity of her front lawn. Small town cops can sometimes be the biggest dicks, and it didn’t help that the officer initially believed we’d vandalized a neighborhood garden in the most spectacular way imaginable. He was unkind, and one of my friends walked home crying, his wails trailing him all the way up the street. Fortunately, the drunken adults who had precipitated the messy melee came to our defense, and the affair ended rather anticlimactically.

Time Time Time

“…therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Nobody plays in the empty lot any more. There just aren’t as many kids in town these days as when jobs were more plentiful and homes cheaper. My old elementary closed in the late 90s, and my kids go to the school across town. I haven’t spoken to Jason, the kid who nearly got knocked off his bike, in decades, but every now and then I see him in the front yard of his parents’ home and sometimes I’ll wave. I still talk to the kid who went home crying. He’s done well for himself, first as a political consultant here in the States, and now does PR work for various foreign regimes which need a little help refurbishing their public images. Brett, the drunken tosspot who hosted the garden-destroying party is now, predictably, a very successful and well-respected business owner who is rumored to enjoy spending time with his young grandchildren. Likewise, I can only assume that the rest of the fruit-chucking yahoos are now beloved pillars of the community. The old lady who called the cops is, of course, long-dead.


Sweet, sweet revenge. I can wait for it.

My Beef With That One Guy From ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High’


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By Tardsie

Nah, not this guy. He and I are kindred spirits to a certain extent.

Not all that long ago I discovered something new about myself. It wasn’t new, exactly—I’d been doing it for a long time without realizing it, but had only recently thought to ask to ask myself why.

You may already know that I have an unusual first name. It’s ethnic, kinda freaky; you hear it more as a last name if you hear it at all. Anyway, there’s a real good chance that somebody meeting me for the second time is gonna misremember my name, and call me by a different, but only slightly more common name. Here’s the thing: it’s always the same fucking name. And this other name is fairly rare, too–chances are the only time you can remember hearing it is as the last name of a moderately successful comedic actor from the 1980s.


People are always calling me ‘Murphy’ and I fucking hate it!

When someone calls me by that name, I’ll either correct them or I won’t, obviously. But it never occurred to me that there might be a pattern to this behavior. I simply assumed that there were some situations where for whatever reason I didn’t feel bothered correcting someone.

Eventually, I was able to tease out an identifiable pattern to my behavior, and it boils down to how I feel about the person. If I like the person, I’ll correct them. If I don’t, I won’t.

Getting to the motivations behind this behavior was a little more challenging, and when I did finally plumb the dark heart of this mystery, I found it was surprisingly passive-aggressive. You see, I’d unconsciously created a system whereby I could justify my negative opinions of the person. By not correcting them I pretty much ensured that they would continue to address me by the wrong name, which irritated me and in turn gave me more reason to not like them.

You’d think that once I became aware of this frankly childish and unproductive behavior I would have taken immediate steps to curtail it. You’d be wrong, though.


It is so important to love the person you are.

Shelly The Parasitic Yoko of Pervert Alley


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By Tardsie

In my previous post, Welcome to Pervert Alley, I briefly mentioned my friend Daniel, a guy who when I met him was in the process of rebuilding his life. He met a woman named Shelly and that all went to hell. This is how it happened.


Except For Being Granted Super-Strength By The Deity, All Other Details Of The Story Are Exactly The Same.

Daniel didn’t look like he belonged in Pervert Alley. Tall and straight-backed, with sunbleached blond hair and faded blue eyes, Daniel had a sunny, unselfconscious smile and skin that was thick and creased like well-worn leather, looking somehow like something he had earned under God’s own sun.

But nobody ends up at Pervert Alley by accident, and like every sorry member of the vast, shuffling rogues’ gallery snaking back in time to before I was born who called Pervert Alley home, something malignant had once upon a time crept into Daniel’s life and thrown it off the rails. But when I met Daniel he’d gotten himself healthy, and begun the first tender, tentative steps to pick up the pieces of a life which had never really begun.

Daniel met Shelly at an AA meeting. He’d was there by choice; she’d attended at the behest of the courts. Shelly was around forty and had a decent figure, but her hair was her best feature, cheery blond half-curls cut shoulder-length. Her face, though, was the fly in the ointment. She might have been pretty once, but time and bad living had made her features plain, and it was the dark vulpine thing crouching just behind her eyes that made her repellent.


Shelly Doesn’t Have What You’d Call “Inner Beauty.”

Daniel loved Shelly with the kind of beautiful, monolithic, Junior-year-of-high-school adoration that is the stuff of Hallmark Greeting Cards, effusive and inexhaustible. It was a sentiment Shelly was, I believe, incapable of reciprocating. She was of that low and vulgar tribe of skulkers and creepers, backroad vampires and poorhouse parasites, who survive through the generosity or kindness or vulnerability of the very hosts whose lives they plunder, taking what they find valuable and leaving behind a spent and ruptured husk.


Shelly’s Yearbook Photo Her Senior Year At The Ruby Rose School For Wayward Girls.

Daniel stuck with Shelly even when she went back to jail for an outstanding warrant, and was there to meet her when she came out, and believed her unquestioningly when she declared herself a changed woman. And later, after she had stormed out of Pervert Alley and Daniel’s life for the first time, and had before long changed her mind, he took her back, joyously and without rancor, and did it again when the same thing happened just a few days later. He took her back every time she left him, which was often, and it got so that the state of Daniel’s door indicated the status of their relationship. The door stood open when they were together, the two of them often sitting on the hovel’s small porch, or wandering the lot, Daniel mostly blissfully, beatifically silent, while Shelly talked at anyone who would listen. When Shelly was gone the door was closed, and the deep, impenetrable blackness would bleed through the small curtained windows.

Shelly started bringing strange men to Daniel’s home—lean young men with the same hungry eyes as Shelly; Daniel didn’t seem to care as long as Shelly came around. Those men would take Shelly places in the car that my grandmother signed over to Daniel in exchange for some work he’d done around her place, but which he could no longer drive because of an infection in his foot. When Daniel went to the hospital, Shelly and her new friends kept Daniel’s apartment warm for him.

Loose Women

Seriously, She Sucked.

Shelly was somewhere else when Daniel came home from the hospital with a nasty MRSA infection, and #6 was dark for a while. She came back to him at least one more time, though, because the last time I saw Daniel, Shelly was with him.

This was at least a year ago now, at an hour by which most decent folks have already gone to bed. I take walks sometimes late at night and they surprised me, two vague shapes conjured from the darkness and seeming to materialize from the shadows of the coffee shop. Daniel was hooded and his eyes were in shadow, his flesh drawn and waxy. He had grown a beard, which I’d never seen before. It made him look hard and a little bit hungry. He offered me a tepid, hesitant smile which never reached the eyes that failed to meet my own and mumbled something friendly by way of greeting.

Shelly seized my hand in both of hers before I knew it. Her hands were firm and smooth and unpleasantly moist and she did not let go. Her weasel’s eyes were in constant motion, suffuse with dark merriment. Her breath was hot and whiskey-fouled. She slurred her way through a string of platitudes about my family and complimented me on my children. I don’t remember exactly what she said; I was only half-listening—although I recall she got my wife’s name wrong— and feeling very much like a coyote with his leg caught in a trap, contemplating whether it might not be worth it just to gnaw the damn thing off. When I finally did get away, I held my right hand away from my body the way you do when you’ve touched something filthy, until I could scrub it pink with soap and hot water.


So There’s Precedent…

I guess Shelly left Daniel for good after that, and I heard that he lost a few toes from one of his feet. He’s been gone for a couple months now, down in a hospital in LA and I don’t know if he’s coming back. I saw Shelly once after that just a few weeks later. She was curbside with some shifty nameless no-account in front of the supermarket holding a cardboard sign which read HUNGRY ANYTHING HELPS GOD BLESS.

You probably get that I blame Shelly for what’s become of Daniel, and it’s true, I do. Like some sort of psychic tapeworm, she plundered Daniel, gorging herself on everything that was worthwhile and vital, the very qualities which had set him somehow apart from his Pervert Alley confederates, the things which made him dream of a life so much of the country takes for granted. and when she had taken all this and grown fat off his tears, she cast his carcass aside, her eyes already on the make for a new host. I blame Shelly not only because she understood what she was doing and knew also the unspeakable sum Daniel had wagered on her and what, therefore, her treachery would cost him, but because I truly believe she took pleasure in the ruin of a decent man.

I’m wrong to blame Shelly, though–as much as I want to. It’s like this: when someone we care about falls, we cast about desperately for a culprit, and more often than not, we find it. Drugs and alcohol. Infidelity and divorce. Lay-offs and health woes. Life–these are some of the things we say can destroy an existence. Our thoughtless tongues grant these episodes a totemic power that, mighty as they are, they do not deserve. The truth is sometimes more painful. The truth is that striving to make a life for yourself and trying every day to make it better, and maybe sharing that life with another, raising children, taking vacations, meeting obligations, being loved—all the things we have for so long taken for granted—these things take effort. Every day is a tightrope walk across a yawning chasm at the bottom of which lies abject failure, and our fear keeps us upright and allows us to forget the dark truth that it would be so much easier to simply submit to gravity’s implacable embrace and fall, fall, fall to that grey and lifeless land where nothing is expected and nothing given. Sometimes the thing you want asks more from you than you believe is within you to give. I think that’s how it was with Daniel, really. Shelly was a loaded pistol, sleek and seductive and lethal, but the finger caressing the trigger was always Daniel’s.


Meet The Real Enemy.

Welcome To Pervert Alley


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By Tardsie

Pervert Alley Doesn’t Have An Official Motto, But This Is As Good As Anything.

At the bottom of my street there’s a rude clutch of a half-dozen shanty apartments that we call Pervert Alley. Pervert Alley is two low rectangular buildings set at right angles to one another, forming roughly half the border of the parking lot it shares with a popular coffee shop. The coffee shop’s been there about ten years now. Before that it was, among other things, a self-help legal center and a doctor’s office, and much of the time it lay vacant. But as far back as I can remember, Pervert Alley has remained constant and unchanged.

Like my house and a lot of the houses in my neighborhood, Pervert Alley is old and was built on the cheap in the years following World War II. Painted in washed-out earth tones, Pervert Alley seems almost designed to be unremarkable–a thing to be seen and then just as quickly forgotten, as if it were shameful or somehow malignant.

There is a commonality to the people who call Pervert Alley home, a worn and tattered theme played out in face after face, year after year. They are neither young–perhaps because the young are still too full of hope to find themselves tossed upon Pervert Alley’s bitter shores–nor are they usually very old; they are not the kind of people who can expect to grow old. They are the fringers and the forgotten, Halbermenschen who haunt the peripheries of society, phantoms who live alongside us, but never with us.


Like Pervert Alley, It’s Full Of Whimsical Characters That You Would Under No Circumstances Leave Unsupervised With Your Children.

The occupant of the first apartment is a gentleman we call–appropriately enough–Pervert #1, and, ironically, the aging registered sex offender is likely the only bona fide pervert residing in Pervert Alley. He keeps to himself and seems to be in poor health, and I expect before much longer that I’ll see a new face in #1. Mostly what I feel for him is pity.

A middle-aged couple live in #2. The man looks a little like George Carlin and the woman like what I imagine a small-town librarian should look like: tall and narrow with round, owlish glasses and straight hair the color of steel wool pulled into a tight bun and pinned up with a variety of makeshift items–pencils, disposable chopsticks, nail files. She has a weary, long-suffering face which I associate for some reason with the pitiless expanse of Midwest prairie, and not the shadow of the Oprah-proclaimed “happiest town in America.” They’re a friendly couple, and sometimes we wave. Passing the husband on my walk one day as he chatted with a friend, I overheard him say of his wife:  “She’s got a heart of gold and she’ll do anything for anybody. Give you the shirt off her back.” He paused before saying, “But the only thing she has to eat all day is vodka.”


Like This, But A Lot Drunker.

Terry, who lives in #3, is a nut, but not the dangerous kind. At his worst, he’s tiresome. Terry is the star of The Terry Wives of Windsor, a cable-access show I’ve never seen, but which I assume is some kind of drag revue. I first met Terry about ten years ago when he applied for membership in a business organization with which I was associated at the time. Terry had dyed his hair red, in a shade that has never been known to spring forth from a human scalp. His t-shirt was a failed home tie-dye which clung to his scrawny frame like Spandex. However, the pièce de résistance was his footwear, Converse All-Stars  he’d decorated in loops and whirls with a purple permanent marker. It doubtless won’t surprise anyone that he wasn’t invited to join the group. I’ve always been nice to him, though, and when he told me recently how much it meant to him that “you guys {because he now includes my wife & kids} have always supported me,” I felt both touched and a little sad at the same time.

The fourth apartment is a dim, hidden sanctum at the end of the first row, partially blocked by the intersection of the smaller structure which comprises Apartments #5 & #6. I have no idea who–or what–lives in Apartment #4.

Apartment #5 seems to have trouble keeping a steady occupant, and a stream of losers, leeches and ne’er-do-wells have stumbled, slunk and staggered through its door. The current resident has been there just a few months. It’s not easy to tell how old she is; she might be my age or younger, but she’s seen some hard living. She’s tall and blubbery, and her fat hangs unhealthily from her the way it does from an old person, so that her arms and legs jut like broomsticks covered in melted rubber from a body as round and heavy as a swollen tick. She has a predator’s eyes, set in a vapid, moony face crowned by a tangle of greasy, colorless locks. At night she gets fucked up and yells things. She does sometimes in the daylight, too.

The man who lives in #6 is named Daniel, and he’s the hardest for me to talk about even though he’s the reason I started writing about Pervert Alley in the first place. Daniel was, perhaps improbably, my friend. Maybe he still is. He’s changed, and not for the better. Daniel had seen some rough times in his life, but at nearly fifty years old he was finally getting his life together. But then he met Shelly, and that’s a story I’ll tell you next time.


We Don’t Intend To Imply That All Women Are Soul-Crushing Succubi Who Love Nothing More Than To Bring A Man To Ruin. But Clearly, Some Are.

A Profoundly Philosophical Question


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By Smaktakula

“These Are The Kind Of Thoughts That Kept Me Out Of The Really Good Schools.” — George Carlin

Here’s a great icebreaker question for your next party:

Imagine that you’ve just posted a heartfelt suicide note to Facebook or some other social media platform, only to find that your friends/followers/stalking victims have misinterpreted your desperate cry for help as a joke.



because your virtual friends don’t care enough about your well-being to take you seriously?



because people apparently don’t think you’re the kind of asshole who does his crying on social media?

Well, At Least On Social Media, Okay?

My Friend Joey Park, Part III


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By Tardsie

In which I avoid the beating I so richly deserve.


And if you haven’t already checked out Part I and Part II, you should. I think I come off looking like a pretty cool guy.


The Image Seen Here Has No Relevance Whatsoever To This Post.



Joey Thumbs

Look, If He Hasn’t Killed Me Yet, He’s Probably Not Going To.

Dedicated with love to my brother “Joey Park.” I’m a richer man just for having known you, and obviously, I appreciate you not handing me my own ass that one time. We are forever Feds. ∞ T.

Joey Rocks


My Friend Joey Park, Part II


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By Tardsie

In which we strive for greater cross-cultural understanding.

Disclaimer: This video contains a slur, uttered without any venom. It also contains several words from a foreign language depicted as meaning something other than what they actually do, and that’s probably racist. You’ve been warned.

If you haven’t already, check out Part I.



RK & Joey

Yeah, Maybe Joey Knew EXACTLY What He Was Saying…


Headlines: In Which No Puppies Were Harmed Or Abducted


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By Smaktakula

The Real Question Isn’t Why We Don’t Bother To Read The Articles, But Rather, Why Everyone Else DOES?

In which, armed with nothing more than a severely attenuated attention span and an ignorance both boundless and sublime, we respond to the news headlines of the day without bothering to first read the articles.


Puppy survives after being locked in car for almost a month ~ And he’ll no doubt think twice next time before chewing Daddy’s new putter.

Will my wife learn to love her vibrator more than me? ~ Totally. Dude, you’re fucked. Not literally, obviously.

Do American Jews Live in a Cocoon? ~ How is it fair that you get away with saying a thing like that? That time when Smaktakula said that Jewish people were terrifying moth-like creatures, HE lost his job!

Good advice on dying more slowly ~Try for a gut wound. It’ll take you all day to die.

Superman took my virginity ~ Is but one of the many titillating revelations to be found in the pages of the forthcoming memoir, “I Was A Teenage Robin.”

"More Powerful Than A Locomotive." What The Hell Did You THINK Would Happen?

“More Powerful Than A Locomotive.” Just What The Hell Did You THINK Would Happen?

Did Your School Make This Exclusive List? ~ You know it didn’t, and I don’t think it’s very nice the way you keep asking.

Why is math easier for some kids than for others? ~ Because some kids are Asian.

Italian family buries mother they said was still alive ~ “She was…eh…how you say?…a beech.”

What Can Bitcoin Buy? No More Heroin, but Baklava and a Dinner Date ~ Yeah, well we can buy that stuff with grown-up money, thank you very much.

Funeral director says Chicago gun violence destroying city ~ “Which is why I moved my gigantic mansion to the suburbs. So sad.”

We All Deal With The Pain In Our Own Way.

Each Man Must Blaze His Own Trail Through The Forests Of Grief.

Puppy stolen at San Luis Obispo adoption event ~ We’d call that an undocumented adoption.

Killing a Patient to Save His Life ~ Is a notion that’s absurd on its very face.

It’s OK to Like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ ~ Look, simply saying a thing doesn’t make it true.

Poll: Did you ignore the experts’ advice on when to feed a baby solid food? ~ There are people who are willing to give you advice on that kind of thing?

CNN Poll: Afghanistan Least-Popular War in US History ~ Really? And not the American Civil War? ‘Cause in that one, literally everyone who died was one of our boys.

And Every One Of Them A Good Guy (As It Were).

And Every One Of Them A Good Guy (As It Were).

Why You Hate The Sound Of Your Own Voice ~ It’s like you don’t even know me.

Has ‘Glee’ Officially Taken It Too Far? ~ Oh, please. Okay, first of all, for something to be declared “official”, some sort of governing body must exist with the authority to make pronouncements regarding how far “it” has been taken. Moreover, in the ridiculously unlikely event that a network television show did somehow manage to find itself “taking it too far”, it’s a pretty safe bet that show wouldn’t be a cloying time-killer aimed at campy gay dudes and lonely spinsters. 

Man Returns from Prison to Find Dead Wife’s Mummified Remains ~ Right where he left them.

Man jumps to his death rather than continue shopping with his girlfriend ~ We’ve all been there, buddy.

Cal Poly proposal would ban kegs, drinking games at Greek parties ~ Hell, you might as well just got to a community college then.


You Know Who Owes Their Very Existence To The Fact That College Kids Once Hosted Keggers And Played Drinking Games?–My Children.

Samurai Sword-Wielding Lesbian Murders Woman With Her Car ~ Why does it matter that a) she’s a lesbian, and b) that she was wielding a Samurai-sword, since it was a car she killed the other chick with?

Does Any Language Have Tritransitive Verbs? ~ I’m kind of a grammar nerd, but even I want to shove your head into a toilet right now.

Jermaine Jackson — Michael Jackson Would’ve Set Justin Bieber Straight ~ By which he means that his brother would have molested a preteen Justin Bieber.

Where Did Ebola Come From? Likely One Person, Gene Study Finds ~ Well, that dude’s a dick, then!

Is sex only for rich people? ~ If that really were true, do you think there would still be so many poor people running around all over the place?

And If Countless Hours Spent Viewing Maury Povich Has Taught Us Anything, It's That Poor People Indeed Like To Do The Nasty.

And If The Countless Hours Spent Watching Maury Povich Have Taught Us Anything, It’s That Poor People Seem To Enjoy Doin’ The Nasty.



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