Hello, situation normies! Before we begin, I want to thank most of you for behaving like solid internet citizens. Twice a week, Situation Normal reaches more than 2,000 people, which is wild, but also terrifying, because the law of large numbers tells us that when a crowd gets big enough, assholes emerge to ruin the fun for everyone. Thankfully, most of you, including my mom, have been cool, or cool enough, which is why I continue to enjoy writing this newsletter. Thank you, situation normies!
OK, on to the fun stuff…
The Straight Pipe Scofflaw Rides Again
After thieves stole my catalytic converter for a second time in less than a year, I had a lot of questions. Most of my questions were about law enforcement, automotive design, the limits of our insurance policy, and supply chain management. In other words, most of my questions were boring as fuck.
But upon hearing that it would take eight months to source a new catalytic converter, I also asked some deeper questions about the nature of life, the universe, and everything. In total, I had 42 questions, but I paired the list down to five questions because brevity is the Dover sole of wit.
Why has The Flying Spaghetti Monster forsaken me?
Was the forsaking, in any way, the result of my decision to cut way back on carbs, including pasta, which is the basis of the Pastafarian belief system?
If forced to walk more, might I be able to eat more carbs, thus pleasing The Flying Spaghetti Monster?
How much fusilli does a sinner like me have to eat to get right with Pastafarianism?
What about spaghetti squash? Technically, it’s squash, not spaghetti, but if it’s good enough to trick my tastebuds, might it be good enough to trick The Flying Spaghetti Monster into returning my catalytic converter?
These were theological questions, obviously. But I am not a theologian, so I decided to consult a higher authority.
“Honey, do you feel like getting pasta this weekend?” I asked Christina. “We could go to Maria’s, or Al Italiano, or Il Fornaio, if you’re feeling fancy. I’ve got some questions I need answered, and I don’t think Olive Garden is gonna cut it, even though, you know, they’re family.”
Christina said she was down for pasta, but she had some bad news.
“I’m going to Ventura this weekend, remember? You’re on your own.”
On my own? In Los Angeles? Without a car? What fresh pasta hell was this?
“Check the calendar,” Christina added.
I checked the calendar. Christina had blocked off the weekend to help a friend who is recovering from surgery. That was nice of her. And it was also nice that Christina had followed the scheduling protocols we had developed to survive as a one-car household. What wasn’t so nice was that sinking feeling I got when I realized that I had only myself to blame because I didn’t check the calendar earlier.
“I feel bad that you’re stuck here,” Christina said.
“I’m not stuck. I can walk, or take a Lyft.”
“Yeah, but will you? The only Italian restaurant in walking distance is Oliver Garden, and you hate the Olive Garden, even though they’re family.”
Sometimes Christina knows me better than I know myself. She was right that I wouldn’t walk to Olive Garden, even if they are family, and even if the walk would help me burn off the pasta I planned to consume to get right with The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Christina was also right that I wouldn’t call a Lyft to take me to a better Italian restaurant. After more than two months without my car, I hadn’t taken any Lyft rides, preferring instead to share our only working car, or simply stay home if Christina’s plans conflicted with mine.
“Maybe you should get the straight pipe installed on your car,” Christina said. “I think it’s time to end the one-car household experiment.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t need my car, not really. And that straight pipe is bad for the environment. Plus, it’s illegal.”
All of that was true. I didn’t need my car, I wanted my car; there’s a difference. The straight pipe—a procedure that bypasses a car’s modern emission standards and returns the vehicle to it’s natural smog-belching state—is really bad for the environment. Also, straight pipes are illegal, but increasingly common, thanks to a crime wave of catalytic converter thievery.
“What if there’s an emergency?” Christina asked. “What if something happens to Morty?”
Fuck. My wife was good at this. Really good. I could’ve parried her questions all damn day, but then she brought our dog into this, and I folded like an expensive suit, which it turns out, folds just as easily as a cheap suit.
“I’ll call my mechanic.”
My mechanic said I could bring the car in on Wednesday. But when I tried to start the car on Wednesday morning, I discovered that the battery was dead. That was an entirely predictable outcome for a car that’s been sitting idle for two months collecting bird poop, but it still stung. So I called my mechanic and told him to expect a tow truck. Then I called AAA to tow my car.
The tow truck driver was named Valut. There may have been a language barrier between me and Valut. I told him the battery was dead and that the catalytic converter had been stolen. Then Valut did his thing and got my car up onto his flatbed tow truck.
“Battery dead,” he said. “No catalytic converter.”
Valut relayed this information like he was breaking the bad news to me, but I had already broken the bad news to him.
“I know,” I said. “I told you about the battery and the catalytic converter.”
“No,” Valut said. “I tell you.”
We went around in circles like this until I realized that it didn’t matter. My car was still fucked, and the only way to unfuck it was to send Valut on his way.
“Dasvidaniya,” I told Valut, guessing that he was Russian.
“Adios,” Valut replied.
Later that day, my mechanic called to say that my car was ready. Christina drove me to pick it up, even though I could’ve, and probably should have, walked to the mechanic.
Out of kindness, or perhaps because I’m a repeat customer, my mechanic didn’t charge me for the straight pipe. I thanked my mechanic, then I thanked The Flying Spaghetti Monster for small, low-carb miracles. Then I started my illegal smog-belching Prius, cranked up the radio to full volume, and sang along to the only Judas Priest song I know.
ICYMI - The OG Scofflaw
Back in July, I wrote about my first time as a straight pipe scofflaw. You can read that story here, but please don’t narc on me, OK?
Football for a Buck
If you loved hookers and cocaine and you could run a 40-yard dash in less than 4.3 seconds, the 1980s were a great time to be alive and playing pro football. That’s one of the things I learned reading Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL by Jeff Pearlman. But the upstart pro football league wasn’t all athleticism, sex workers, and Columbian marching powder. In fact, Pearlman’s book is full of learnings. Here are few:
The USFL wasn’t as shitty as people remember. Scores of former USFL players ended up making NFL rosters after the league folded.
USFL players pioneered end zone dances and other gratuitous celebrations that fans love and the NFL frowns upon.
Some USFL players smoked cigarettes on the sidelines and in the huddle. One player, who was known to smoke joints while riding the bench, paid a fan to bring him a hot dog and a beer, which he consumed on live TV.
The USFL pioneered the coach’s challenge and instant replay. Check the tape!
The largest trade in professional sports history took place in 1983, when the entire Chicago Blitz team, including the coaches, were traded for the Arizona Wranglers. Basically, two USFL owners swapped franchises, forcing hundreds of people to move from Chicago to Arizona, or vice versa, and proving that the people who own football teams actually believe that they own their employees.
USFL game footage lives on, thanks to cost-conscious Hollywood producers and the NFL’s greedy content licensing deals. Chances are, if you see pro football footage in the background of a television show or movie, it’s probably an old USFL game. The footage has been licensed countless times, most notably in the show Friday Night Lights.
Although Burt Reynolds owned a five percent stake in the Tampa Bay Bandits, the team’s name wasn’t a reference to Reynolds’ character from Smokey and the Bandit. Instead, majority owner John F. Bassett named the team after his daughter’s German shepherd.
Donald Trump, who owned the New Jersey Generals, bears most of the blame for the USFL’s collapse. But where Trump’s fellow USFL owners and the American voters exercised poor judgement by letting Trump lead them straight to hell, NFL owners—a notoriously crusty and dim-witted collection of geriatric fuck-heads—proved themselves savvy, and perhaps prescient, by vowing never to let Trump purchase an NFL franchise.
I don’t read many books about sports these days, but I enjoyed Football for a Buck. For one thing, Pearlman answered all the questions I ever could’ve asked about a football league I only vaguely recall watching as a football-obsessed kid in the 1980s. But I also enjoyed Football for a Buck because it’s damn funny. Describing the cast of characters who graced the USFL with their talent (or lack of it), Pearlman wrote, “[the USFL] enlisted your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, your one-armed and chain-smoking and half-blind and clinically insane.”
Situation Normal is free, but some readers, who are probably commies, pay to support my work. If that sounds like you, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.
Finishing Football for a Buck a few days for the Super Bowl was a coincidence. But my decision to share the book with you was a very clumsy attempt at promo.
This Sunday, instead of the usual Situation Normal story, I’m teaming up with(Field Research) and (Extra Evil) to collaborate on some satire. The last time I collaborated with Amran and Dennard, we saved American democracy. This time, our goal is to help Vince McMahon, the Memphis Police Department, and the NFL rebrand their shitty images with some unhinged Super Bowl ads.
Stick around and chat
You know the drill. I’ve got questions, you’ve got answers.
Can I count on you to keep my straight pipe scofflaw lifestyle on the down-low? I don’t think I’m cut out for prison.
Have you tried spaghetti squash? Is it a lie, or are pasta-like veggies the truth?
This Super Bowl Sunday, will you be rooting for the Eagles, the Chiefs, the ads, or quality snacks & beverages?
If you owned a pro football team, what would you name it?
Can you recommend a good Italian restaurant that serves tasty pasta with a side of satisfying answers to life’s deeper questions?
See you on Super Bowl Sunday, situation normies!
I had no idea about straight pipes--you taught me something new! I hope you enjoy having your wheels back.
I got an unhealthy number of endorphins out "even though they're family." I'm going to be up for another hour. I suspect this is divine punishment for my experiment with zucchini noodles.