Hello situation normies! There’s a lot of good stuff to get to in this edition, so I want to get right to it. But first, I’ve gotta pay some bills.
Some astute readers have noticed there’s an option to pay for Situation Normal. The paid option works just like the free option, but there are tax implications (for me anyway). Who would pay for something they can get for free? Awesome people, that’s who!
Thank you Kevin and Norman for being awesome!
wanna be awesome? want a Situation Normal shout out? you can make both of those things happen by becoming a paid subscriber👇
Famous Sinkholes of Chatsworth
A few years ago, Christina and I went to our local multiplex to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. If you don’t know, the Chatsworth section of Los Angeles features prominently in the film. At one point, Brad Pitt’s character actually name checks Chatsworth when he picks up an underage hitchhiker and drives her to Spahn Ranch, aka Manson Family HQ. That infamous location—once a western movie ranch, then the camp for a band of homicidal hippies, and now part of a state park—is only a few miles from our local theater. It’s not exactly one of LA’s most famous destinations, but it is notable, and that notoriety was all it took to prompt Christina to shout at the screen.
After the movie, I asked Christina if she had gone mad because, seriously, who shouts the name of their neighborhood at a movie screen?
“Babe, there are three cool things about Chatsworth: The Manson Family, the porn industry, and us. You gotta represent.”
From that point on, I have tried to represent Chatsworth with pride. When my fellow Angelenos call Chatsworth “lame,” I remind them that Hollywood and the porn industry owe a tremendous debt to our sleepy corner of the Valley, where 36.8 percent of all westerns and 69 percent of all pornos were produced. When my fellow Angelenos question whether Chatsworth is even part of Los Angeles, I show them my property tax bill and say something pointed like, “city and county, dick-brain!” And when my fellow Angelenos disrespect Chatsworth by saying they wouldn’t be caught dead there, or anywhere else in the Valley, I turn into a mushroom-cloud-laying motherfucker.
When someone tells me they wouldn’t be caught dead in the Valley, I don’t give a flying fig about their opinions, because who cares what those dipshits think?
Still, Chatsworth doesn’t get a lot of press.
But that all changed last week. In the middle of some epic California storms, Chatsworth made The New York Times! OK, sure, Chatsworth made The New York Times because of a sinkhole, but damn it, we made it! That’s what counts. So, for those of you keeping score at home, there are now four cool things about Chatsworth:
The Manson Family
The porn industry
Michael & Christina
Bad Disney Mom
Despite the epic storms pummeling California, Christina and I went to Disneyland for Christina’s belated birthday celebration. We made these plans back in December because we thought a random Tuesday in January would a good time to visit Disneyland. As it turned out, we were right! The rain kinda sucked, but it also kept a lot of people away from Disneyland, which meant that the lines were pretty much nonexistent.
Christina and I did all the usual Disneyland stuff, plus the new Star Wars stuff at Galaxy’s Edge. If you haven’t seen the new Star Wars rides, I highly recommend going to Disneyland to address this void in your life.
Both times we rode Smuggler’s Run, I served as an engineer on the Millennium Falcon. I would’ve preferred sitting in Han Solo’s seat, but let’s be honest, just setting foot on the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs was a damn dream come true.
Meanwhile, Rise of the Resistance was easily the most immersive ride ever. I’m not kidding. It feels like you’re inside a real imperial star destroyer, which is weird because star destroyers aren’t real. Or, are they?
The only thing missing that day was my dad. The man behind the synchronized sound system that makes the Main Street Electrical Parade such a treat would’ve loved everything about Galaxy’s Edge. But had Larry been around for that gig, I’m sure he would’ve made it even better somehow.
But all of this talk about the wonders of Disneyland is prelude to the story I want to tell you. Late in the afternoon, the wonder stopped and the wondering began.
The situation unfolded inside Cafe Orleans. Christina had the chicken and I had the risotto. But the woman at the next table over had a little trouble deciding, so she phoned a friend. Actually, it was a video call. A really LOUD video call.
The friend said she should ask the waiter what to order. The waiter said he was a big fan of the croque monsieur, so the woman’s friend told her to order France’s super-fancy answer to a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.
“What do you want on the side?” the waiter asked. “The fries are my recommendation.”
The woman was tempted by the fries, but her friend told her to go with the side salad, and so she ordered the side salad. I thought that the woman would hang up after that, but she stayed on the phone. Then her food arrived, and she called another friend. Then another friend. And another friend.
Christina and I thought it was a little weird that this woman was rolling video calls at Cafe Orleans, but it didn’t bother us. After all, we were at the happiest place on Earth. Plus, eavesdropping on weirdos is a big part of what keeps Situation Normal going. But the couple on the other side of us was annoyed.
“Can you do something about her?” they asked the waiter. “She’s really loud. We’re hearing everything. It’s so rude.”
The waiter apologized, but he said he couldn’t do anything about the woman and her really loud video calls. Eventually, the annoyed couple paid their check and left in a huff.
“I’ve gotta use the bathroom,” I told Christina. “Let me know if she says anything interesting on the next call.”
I left, but Christina (wo)manned her post.
When I returned from the bathroom, Christina had already paid the check, so we walked over to ride Pirates of the Caribbean again. In line, Christina gave me the full download.
According to Christina’s eavesdropping, the woman was supposed to come to Disneyland with her daughter. Christina wasn’t able to ascertain the daughter’s age, but our best guess is that her daughter is in junior high.
“Her daughter had too many tardy slips at school, so she wasn’t allowed to come,” Christina said.
“You mean, like, the school punished her?”
“No, this was her mom’s punishment.”
“The woman sitting next to us flew here from out of town. I don’t know where, but the way she made it sound, I think it was a long flight. She booked two nights at the Disneyland Hotel and bought tickets for Disneyland, the lightning pass, and made reservations at Cafe Orleans. But she came alone!”
“Ask me why.”
“To teach her daughter a lesson.”
“What? She said that?”
“Yes, that’s what she told her friend when her friend asked about the kid. The mom said she was going to take the kid to Disneyland, but the kid messed up. Instead of saying, no Disneyland, which seems harsh but also kinda legit, the woman said, I’ll teach you a lesson.”
“Wait a minute. You’re telling me she went to Disneyland out of spite?”
“I think so.”
“Hang on. Her daughter messed up, so the kid doesn’t get to go to Disneyland?”
“But that’s not the lesson?”
“Nope. The lesson is that mom is having fun at Disneyland without you because you fucked up, and that’s what happens when you fuck up.”
“Wow. That’s nuts.”
“It’s kind of like that old trope about parents pulling the car over and turning around, except instead of turning around, they leave the kid by the side of the road, and go on without them.”
“You got it.”
“That’s an expensive lesson. And time-consuming. And also kinda psycho. Plus, she’s alone at the happiest place on Earth.”
“Do you think we should go back, ask her if she wants to hang out with us for the rest of the day?”
“No. Why would we want to hang out with her?”
“To teach her kid a lesson. Right now, she’s just missing Disneyland. But if we hang out with her mom, the kid will also miss her chance to meet one of Chatsworth’s four cool attractions.”
Presidential mustache collection
Last Wednesday, I wrote about how Christina thought President Gerald Ford had a mustache. He didn’t. But that silly story inspired writer Meg Oolders to create some silly art.
Meg’s art, which was a real treat to see land in my inbox, begs an important question: which President wears the mustache best?
By the way, you should check out Meg’s Stock Fiction newsletter. The writing is great, and I love Meg’s idea of writing flash fiction inspired by stock photos.
Contribute a thing to Situation Normal!
The Wednesday edition doesn’t write itself. I need your help! Do you have a question about something I’ve written? Got a weird overheard you want to share? See a product or sign that made you LOL, or WTF? Need life advice? Reply to this email, or send your submissions to me at 👇
When submitting, please say if you’d like an alias. Otherwise, I’ll use your first name. If you write a newsletter, I’m happy to link to it, so let me know!
While Disneyland is about as G-rated as it gets, last Sunday’s story was about as close as Situation Normal gets to X-rated. I wrote about our visit to a porn convention, my former career as a journalist covering adult entertainment, and my Porn Valley mystery novels. According to some readers, that story may have gotten trapped in your spam filter—shocking, right? Regardless, you can read Porn conventions are decadent and depraved (and also very mainstream) by clicking here.
If you’re new here, please👇
If you’re a returning champ, please👇
Stick around and chat!
You know the drill. I’ve got questions, you’ve got answers.
What’s your favorite thing to do at Disneyland?
Have you had a chance to visit the new(ish) Disney stuff at Galaxy’s Edge?
Have you ever seen a sinkhole in real life? Was that sinkhole later the subject of a news story?
Do you think the mom at Cafe Orleans is brilliant, or a jerk, or a brilliant jerk? Seriously, we’re not parents, but Christina and I have been talking about her parenting style all week. I’d love to hear what the parents in the audience have to say. Would you go to Disneyland alone to teach your kid a lesson?
Since he couldn’t be included in the poll, what do you think of Joe Biden’s mustache, and do you think the mustache will help him win reelection?
One last thing! If you’re having fun, hit that ❤️ button🙏👇
For some reason, the Substack poll tool only allows you to poll five possible answers, so I made an arbitrary decision that only former Presidents are mustache-eligible.
The photo of Larry was fantastic. Thanks for sharing it.
Of COURSE Obama.
I can also recommend truck stops for eavesdropping and people watching. A priceless array of humanity.