Sometimes the shit hits the fan. Other times, there’s a lot more shit and lot more fans. Last week, I saw five shits hit five fans. A quintuple whammy.
Around midnight, we left a friend’s birthday party in Culver City. Normally, the drive back to the Valley takes anywhere between thirty minutes and six decades. But at midnight, there’s barely enough time to listen to Do You Feel Like We Do by Peter Frampton.
Just as Frampton was wrapping things up, we exited the 118 freeway. But something was amiss. The traffic lights were flashing red. The nearby buildings were dark. Either there had been a minor power outage in our neighborhood, or the apocalypse had begun.
At the corner of Rinaldi and Mason, we saw the culprit. A Tesla, apparently without the help of another car, had knocked over a fire hydrant. The broken hydrant looked like a fountain, but the broken Tesla looked serious. Christina called 911, the 911 operator called the fire department, and that was the end our involvement.
Like all Angelenos, I measure my commitment to something (or someone) by the number of freeways I’m willing to travel in order to reach the thing (or person) I care about. For reference purposes, I’m willing to travel an unlimited number of freeways for my friends, four freeways for a good story, three freeways to get to my favorite yoga studio, two freeways for Dim sum, and one freeway for a doctors appointment.
To get to my favorite yoga studio, I take the 118, to the 5, to 170, which is the same route Saturday Night Live writers took to reach a comedy goldmine in 2012. If I time traffic patterns right, make the appropriate sacrifices to gods of the LA freeways, and drive like Mad Max, I can make it to yoga class in twenty-seven minutes. But if the shit hits the fan, all bets are off.
In what would prove to be the second whammy of the week, I discovered that the 5 freeway was a parking lot where everyone was angry. To compound the whammy, and encourage honking, a Caltrans sign informed motorists that all lanes on the 170 freeway were closed because of an “incident.”I ended up missing yoga, but my nerves got a 90-minute workout as I fought, Fury Road style, to get back home.
The third whammy was actually part of whammy number two, making the second whammy a double-whammy, which is the classic whammy form.
After trading paint with a big rig, shooting a G-Wagon driver between the eyes with my crossbow, and running a little old lady from Pasadena off the road, I managed to exit the 5 freeway and run smack dab into another traffic jam! As it turned out, the second traffic jam was caused by a second fire hydrant situation, but this time I got a picture because other than honking, there wasn’t anything else to do while we sat there.
It was around lunch time when I finally returned home from my failed yoga-run. I didn’t want to go back out there, but Christina said I could pick the restaurant, which was a very clever tactic on her part.
I picked California Chicken Cafe (if you know, you know). But the five-minute drive to the nearest California Chicken Cafe location got weird two minutes into the journey.
“What the fuck is that guy doing?” Christina asked.
The guy in question was the driver of a semi-truck. The trailer of his eighteen wheeler jutted out into the street, blocking both southbound lanes of Topanga Canyon, plus one of the northbound lanes. Meanwhile, the tractor was stuck in the warehouse driveway, a flattened motorcycle crushed underneath its giant tires.
“What is going on in the house of commons?” Christina asked.
“Maybe Mercury is in retrograde,” I said.
“Two busted fire hydrants, a failed yoga run. Now this! Something is going on. I think it’s you, honey.”
At this point in the week, there had been far too much shit hitting far too many fans for me to take any chances. So I decided to stay home and listen to Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark. If you don’t know, one of America’s first attempts to establish a Pacific trading colony in what would later become Oregon, was a total shit-show. Also, if you don’t know, French traders who arrived in North America in the early 1600s created something called “The Order of the Good Times,” which is neither here nor there, but nevertheless a fun fact I picked up from Stark’s book.
ANYWAY, I figured that reading a book about a historic shit-show would distract me from the real life shit shows that seemed to be popping all around me this week. But as you can probably guess, I figured wrong.
Around ten in the evening, while listening to my book in bed, I drifted off to sleep. Later, Christina came to bed. Seeing me propped up in bed at an awkward angle, glasses still on my face, and my earbuds still in, Christina thought she could help. Quietly, she walked over to my side of the bed and gently touched my arm.
But before Christina could whisper, “time to go to bed, honey,” I popped straight up like a jack in the box toy. I let out a blood-curdling scream that curdled Christina’s blood so thoroughly that she vowed to let me sleep at awkward angles, with my glasses on, and my earbuds in, for the rest of our lives together.
Situation Normal is many things: a newsletter, a community, a home for my writing, and increasingly, a clearing house for catalytic converter news. If you don’t know, I’ve had my catalytic converter stolen two times in less than a year, and I’m currently in the third month of an eight-month wait for a replacement. Thankfully, several situation normies are here to help with two timely news items.
Tab sent a story about thieves in Las Vegas who stole the The Wienermobile’s catalytic converter.What are the odds Big Wiener gets a new catalytic converter before I get a replacement?
Meanwhile, my sister, Allison, my aunt Judy, and my mother-in-law Cheryl all flagged the same story out of Palmdale about a man who was run over and killed after he allegedly crawled under a parked SUV and tried to steal the catalytic converter.
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As Situation Normal grows, the workload increases. This is what the tragically underrated band Astra Heights called a Good Problem (which also happens to be the name of their first album).
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Comedic Personal Essay Universe Q&A
You won’t get rich quick (or slow) writing in the comedic personal essay universe (CPEU™), but if you stick with it, you will get to meet some cool people. One of those cool people is Alex Dobrenko, who writes Both Are True.
Late last year, Alex asked if I would do a Q&A with him. We spent part of December, all of January, and some of February farting around in a Google document. Eventually, I had responded to enough of Alex’s Q’s with my A’s to have what’s known in the media business as a Q&A.
You can read Alex’s edited Q&A with me here. Or, if you’re a paid subscriber to Both Are True, you can read the “raw,” “unedited,” “uncut” version here. Is the raw, unedited, uncut version of me worth the price? I dunno. But the paid version of Both Are True is the best deal going in the CPEU™ by a long shot.
Stick around and chat!
You know the drill. I’ve got questions, you’ve got answers.
Do you believe in whammies, curses, hexes, dark clouds, retrograde planetary alignments, bad luck, or other forms of supernatural shit flying into nearby fans?
Can you believe that I take three freeways to do yoga? What’s the farthest you travel for an activity you love?
The Wienermobile story feels like it belongs in The Onion, right? Or, maybe it’s a sign of civilization’s imminent collapse. You tell me!
Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival is interesting, but not even remotely scary. What book are you reading at the moment, and has it caused you to wake up screaming?
Frampton’s Do You Feel Like We Do clocks in at just under fourteen minutes. What’s your favorite long(ish) song?
Later, Christina’s Googling would reveal that the “incident” was a fiery car crash that left two people dead, which really puts all that honking into perspective.
By and large, I dislike whammies. In particular, double whammies. I suppose there are instances where they lead to something good, but at the moment I can’t think of any example. I am glad you survived all your whammies! How did a busted fire hydrant cause a minor power outage? I hope you have a whammy free week!
Ah, Southern California! Thanks, Michael, for reminding me why I’m not there anymore - although I do miss some things.
And I really enjoy both yours and Alex Dobrenko’s work!
5. How about “In A Gadda Da Vida” by Iron Butterfly? Not my favorite, but a song I love to reference.