I Have to Know Things Now, and It’s Bullshit

I’ve never understood how to market myself. The closest thing I’ve ever had to a brand strategy is to be myself as loudly and visibly as possible until hopefully someone gives me money for it. And let me tell you, for someone with that brand strategy, the internet of the early 2000s was fucking ideal.

Success on the early internet wasn’t driven by expertise, but by persona. Take me, for example. People didn’t read my myth retellings because I knew more about myths than they did — a lot of my regular readers were academics, professional storytellers, or deep mythology perverts — people read my myths because of how I told them. At my lowest point, gods help me, I was straight ripping shit off of Wikipedia, rephrasing it to be as filthy as possible, and raking in those delicious clicks.

I’m hardly the only example of this. There was Maddox with his Best Page in the Universe. There was Jerry Holkins on Penny Arcade dot com. There was Warren Ellis, who I used to utterly idolize. Recently I looked up an old Warren Ellis post that I think about a lot, the one about where he gets his ideas. I’d forgotten the bit halfway down where he says “If I wanted to, I could shag a million nuns and destroy their faith in Christ.” In a post ostensibly about his writing process. That was just the sort of rhetorical flourish he traded in. It’s why people wanted to know where he got his ideas.

This was the age of TED Talks and Malcolm Gladwell; Freakonomics and The Daily Show. An era in which what mattered was that you felt like the speaker knew what they were talking about, because they were so damn good at talking.

All of these people are still around, but shit has changed. Maddox has posted five times in the last three years: two posts about songs he doesn’t like, one post refuting a Vice article about him, one post about how the coronavirus isn’t dangerous, and one post retracting that post. Jerry still posts on Penny Arcade, and I still read all his posts, but he’s been through half a dozen internet dogpiles at this point and is much more careful about who he antagonizes. Warren Ellis is a confirmed sex pest who, having pretended to be old since he was 30, has now finally achieved the ripe old age of fifty-five. The culture has moved on.

These days, genuine expertise is where it’s at. I read men’s fashion articles by Derek Guy. I watch meticulously researched youtube videos about, like, anime, or the roblox “oof” sound, or… anime. I listen to five hour podcast episodes about the roman empire, because I’m a man and that’s all we care about besides IPAs and grooming our penises. I don’t have time for anything with less than ten cited sources. If it didn’t shave a year off the creator’s lifespan, count me out chief.

This isn’t a bad thing. Like, it’s no accident that so many of the dominant voices of the early 2000s were loud angry white men. It was a banner time for shitlords, grifters, and abusers. But it was also a banner time for me.

Many of the achievements I’m most proud of in my life follow directly from the success I gained as a loud angry white man online in the early 2000s. I feel like the heir to a South African emerald mine. I sometimes wonder: if I had to make a name for myself on today’s internet… would I? I don’t want to spend hours editing a TikTok. I don’t want to offer up my personality on the altar of Twitch. All of the avenues of self-promotion, all the ways I might “be myself as loudly and visibly as possible,” are so loud, and so visible, and so high-effort that just thinking about them makes me want to go to sleep.

I still believe I’m good at stuff. It’s not as if I don’t deserve to be publishing a novel, or writing for video games. I’m just finding, now that I’ve reached the age Warren Ellis was when he first started calling himself “old,” that I don’t know how to continue to exist publicly online. The internet-at-large no longer values the one thing I’m really very good at: bullshit.

That’s a glib way to put it, but putting things glibly is, like, my entire bit. I am, at heart, a writer of fiction, which is basically the domesticated version of lying. Fiction is to lying what penetration testers are to data thieves. It’s those reformed pickpockets who hire themselves out to corporate events and amuse all the rich people by taking their watches. It’s stage magic done by a guy who could just as easily make money at three-card-monte. It is, basically, the art of talking about things that didn’t actually happen, but not in a crime way.

So you can see how the era of grifters and shitlords was also a good time for me! Even though I’m not those things! Because my asset isn’t that I know a lot of stuff. My asset is how I can make myself sound when I tell you the stuff I know. I knew how to sell myself in an environment of unearned swagger.

At worst, it was just a parlor trick, but at best, it was a method of saying true things in a way that helped other people realize they’d known them all along. My best-performing myths were always the Greek and Norse ones — the stories most of my audience was already familiar with. I wasn’t sharing information, I was sharing a perspective on something we had in common.

I don’t know that there’s a home for bullshit online anymore. At least not harmless bullshit. The quality of the content on here is simply too good! People are on a whole other level, and I respect the hell out of them for it. I probably need to adapt — learn how to do actual research, or stream myself playing Slay the Spire and talking about my cat, or show feet. But like I said, all I’ve ever known how to do is be myself, as loudly and visibly as possible, and none of that stuff is me*. So I’m still here, doing this, waiting for the cultural carousel to slow down and let me on again.

* Except for the feet pics. Venmo me, I’m not proud.

A different AI essay than the one everybody else is writing

I had this magnificently lukewarm take on AI art all written up and ready to post. It the sort of thing you’ve probably heard elsewhere: blah blah blah, the tool isn’t the problem, it’s the bosses who are going to use the tool to blah blah blah etc. The main takeaways were:

After I finished that essay I thought it would be funny if I fed the thesis statement into ChatGPT and asked it to write a “profanity-laced essay” on the topic. It did so. (The title was “AI Art and the Capitalist Conundrum: A Profanity-Laced Essay”) It was a pretty awful essay, written in a frankly offensive pastiche of my house style circa 2010, but it made enough of the same points as my essay that after some reflection I thought to myself: “If ChatGPT can capture the gist of this argument in a few seconds, what the fuck am I even doing here?”

Deeply ashamed, I shelved the essay. Several days later, though, I thought of something else to say on the topic. This is stuff I’ve been thinking about for a long time because of the book I’m going to publish (more on that as the pub date draws nigh). In the meantime, here’s what I’m thinking:

I never read Yuval Noah Harari’s bestselling pop sci book, “Sapiens.” I wish I had, it sounds dope. What I have read is an excerpt from that book, about wheat. You can read the excerpt here, but let me give you the gist of it if you’re even lazier than I am: Human beings have made wheat the most successful plant on the planet, at great cost to ourselves, thinking all along that it was us who was manipulating wheat, and not the other way around.

I believe that AI is doing the same thing. Not intentionally — I don’t think AI has any more intentionality than a stalk of wheat — but functionally. Harari describes the backbreaking labor humans undertook to cater to wheat’s many needs — picking stones, carrying water, guarding against pests, and so on. Is it any less tedious to work as a database annotator, meticulously labeling unthinkable quantities of data so that it can be used to train neural networks? What about the people who ride in Google’s self-driving cars? Or the people paid to edit AI-generated content rather than creating it themselves?

What about you? Yes, every single one of you. Have you filled out a CAPTCHA recently? One of the ones that makes you tell it which of the following sixteen images contain stop signs? Who do you think that shit is for? It’s not for the website you’re trying to log into. It’s for the Google car that’s about to blow through an intersection unless you answer this question right fucking now. The real kick in the dick for me was when I got a CAPTCHA a few days ago that asked me to identify images of dogs and cakes that had clearly been generated by an AI. I was just trying to create an account so I could look at some boobs online and instead I ended up doing an AI’s homework for it.

We are feeding the neural networks. We are hosting them on our servers, with our electricity. We are telling them our secrets. We are chewing up our data and spitting it into their pixelated mouths. Just like wheat before them, they have domesticated us.

There will never be an AI takeover of society. There will be no grand reveal, where the machines smugly announce that they have been manipulating us all along. That would require ego, and wheat has no ego. We are not being manipulated by anyone. We have only manipulated ourselves.

I think the reflexive take here is to assume this is bad. Because, you know, it feels bad. The implicit argument of the Harari excerpt is that things would have been a lot better if human society hadn’t been hijacked by a bunch of dumb plants. And it’s certainly not good. I’m not stoked about serving the Plant God, or the Machine God, because I’m a human being and human beings aren’t supposed to serve jack shit except for other human beings. It feels like a perversion of our purpose, an abdication of our divine right.

Sure, there are legions of blue checks with machine dick in their mouths, passionately arguing that the AI Singularity is a Good Thing, Actually — that we have given rise to a new species that will merge with us and turn our shitty dads into spaceships or whatever. But those are usually the same dudes who are like “climate change is fine actually because we can just move to mars and also poor people don’t matter,” so I don’t feel like wasting precious pixels arguing with them.

Instead I’m gonna do something unprecedented and radical: I’m going to argue that the silent AI takeover is not terrible, nor is it super great. It’s disturbing, it’s insidious, it’s inevitable, but it’s not the thing that’s going to kill us all. It’s easy to turn a non-sentient process into a villain when that process makes us feel less important and powerful than we’ve decided we’re supposed to be. But wheat didn’t have a terrifying master plan. It settled for making life slightly shittier overall. AI is similar. It’s not the kind of thing you write a dramatic sci-fi story about. It’s something that happens in the background of a story, because stories, at least, will always be about people first.

That’s why I’ve chosen to surrender to our new digital overlords. Because what else am I going to do? Stop creating data? I can’t even give up bread. I guarantee that ChatGPT was trained on the posts from this very website, and writing this post is just giving it more to work with. If this is the cost of having cool opinions online, then it’s a price I’m willing to pay.

The End

So, plot twist: As of today, I will no longer be regularly updating Myths Retold. I’ll still post periodically, but the posts will probably look more like this than like this. I’ve re-geared my Patreon to support my other creative writing projects (including Face a Week, which I’m very excited about) so check that out if you want stories, novel chapters, and swears on tap. I put all this info at the top of the post so that if it really pisses you off, you can skip straight to fucking off without having to read the rest. If you want to know why I’m ending this project, though, let me do the thing I know how to do: let me tell you a story…  Continue reading

Chivalry Isn’t Dead, You Just Don’t Know What the Fuck it is.

[Hey, if you want to read more stuff I wrote, you could always buy my book. Or my other book.]

So Chivalry.

I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s dead. It used to be a lament, and then it turned into a joke, and now it’s just a fact that almost everybody accepts. Chivalry is dead, because it’s 2015 and nobody wants to suck your dick for holding the door open for them. And it’s true, nobody wants to do that to your hog in exchange for that minor favor. But that’s not what the fuck chivalry is. Chivalry is a complicated, difficult, and ultimately good code of ethics that you probably have a fundamental misunderstanding of. So let me set some things straight:


This is probably the main thing people fuck up about chivalry. The truth is, chivalry has basically fuck all to do with women, and everything to do with horses.

See, the word “chivalry” comes from the French word “chevalier,” which comes from “cheval,” which means “horse.” Chivalry is literally just “rules for if you have a horse.” This was an important set of rules to have in chivalry times. Horses were the Blackhawk Helicopters of the Middle Ages; if you had a horse, you could absolutely kill anybody who didn’t have a horse and nobody was going to say a god damn thing. The only thing stopping you was chivalry.

That’s what chivalry was for. Chivalry was – and still is – basically a way of saying, “okay, I have an optimized death machine between my legs, maybe I should look out for people who don’t have one of these.” So it’s not that chivalry is specifically about defending women because women are weak. It’s that chivalry is about defending people who don’t own horses, and in the middle ages women didn’t own shit.

It’s 2015 now. Women can own as many horses as they want. But there are still power structures built into society that put some people in metaphorical Blackhawk helicopters, and other people underneath those helicopters (sometimes the Blackhawk Helicopters are also literal). Real chivalry is about noticing when you have a horse and somebody else doesn’t. It’s about being careful not to trample people just because you can. It’s about holding the door for a dude in a wheelchair. It’s about actively trying to recruit more people of color in your workplace. Sometimes it really is about sticking up for women, but only if your help is wanted. And even then …


There are no prizes for being chivalrous, other than the prize of being a decent god damn human. This is because the people who chivalry was invented for were so fucking rich that prizes were totally meaningless to them. In addition to horses, knights also owned fancy armor, sick weapons, and huge tracts of land. They were powerful, exciting people relatively free of disease. They weren’t exactly hard up for sex opportunities, is what I’m trying to say. They didn’t need to invent a complex code of ethics to justify getting shit for free, because they already had all the shit. What do you get for the man who has everything? How about some fucking morals.

Anyway, if you’re desperate for booty, tales of chivalry aren’t the best place to go for inspiration. King Arthur’s court is basically one endless sex disaster, what with Arthur’s accidental incest and Lancelot’s righteous wangfoolery. Tristram and Isolde is a bonerific nightmare that borders on farce. Sir Galahad, the Greatest Knight Ever, is also the biggest virgin in the universe, and he is thrilled about it. It turns out you’re not even allowed to see the grail if you thought about a boob once. The chivalric canon is not overly sex positive, you guys. In fact the only problem-free sex I can recall from my chivalric reading is the story of Sir Gawaine and Lady Ragnell, in which everything turns out for the best because – spoiler alert – Gawaine leaves the decision up to his wife. Funny how that works out, huh?


Like most things invented in the past, chivalry has some problems. One of the problems with chivalry is that horses are no longer the height of technology. The main problem with chivalry, though, is that it can very easily cross over into paternalism, and nobody likes to be treated like a child. It is important to remember that just because you have a horse and somebody else does not have a horse, that does not make you their dad.

Even if you have the best intentions, chivalry isn’t a code you can blindly follow for A+ results. Even if chivalry was perfect, which no moral code is, it’s impossible to be a non-shitty person absolutely all the time. Like, the Knights of the Round Table were probably the most righteous group of horse-havers ever to have horses, but Gawaine chopped a lady’s head off, Lancelot fucked his boss’s wife, and Percival was the biggest idiot ever to hold a sword. Galahad was perfect I guess, but Galahad also had a magic chair with his name written on it in fire and ascended to heaven because he found a neat cup. Galahad was a fake person. All of those dudes were fake fucking people. We made them up. The people we made up to be the ideals of chivalry were still remarkably shitty. Back here on earth, nobody is chivalrous all the time, and that’s not sufficient reason to write anybody off. We are all shitty sometimes. Also Galahad is a dickhead.


Chivalry boils down to three things: mercy, charity, and humility. Mercy means being conscious of your advantages, and treating other humans gently. Charity means giving without expecting anything in return. Humility means accepting your mistakes, and recognizing that those who don’t have your advantages aren’t your inferiors. Anybody can embody these traits – woman, man, or even horse. At this point, you may be thinking “hey, this is bullshit, these are just basic guidelines for not being an asshole!” and congratulations, you’re right. That’s all chivalry is: basic guidelines for how not to be a sack of shit. And as long as a sack of shit is not a good thing to be, chivalry will never die.

So I Wrote a New Book

george washington bigYup, pretty straightforward.
I have been biting my tongue so hard for the past few weeks
every time someone is like “HEY YOU SHOULD WRITE ANOTHER BOOK”
because I wrote it in like October
It’s called
and it’s coming out next month
and you can preorder it RIGHT NOW
and in fact, if you do preorder it
and email a receipt to bettermyths[at]gmail.com
I will give you some FREE BONUS WORDS
including my version of the Notorious Jumping Frog
(Originally by Mark Twain)

Ravens are Shitty Houseguests

Ugh so this one time I was in my dorm
it was like midnight
I was cramming for this shitty test
but I wasn’t even really paying much attention tbh
because I was hella sleepy
plus my girl Lenore had just dumped me or died or something
I don’t know exactly, college was kind of a blur…

Anyway all of a sudden I hear someone tapping on my door
and I’m like “who the fuck is it?
just knock like a normal person!”
but it just stops
so I go back to pretending to read
and then it starts again
but like, louder
so I go to the door and I throw it open and I’m like “Is that you Steve?
fuck you Steve
I have a test tomorrow
and I don’t wanna have to take a break from studying to kick your nuts
my time is precious, Steve.”
But nobody is there
not even Steve.
It’s a fucking mystery.

So I close the door and go back to my desk
but then there’s a noise at my WINDOW
and I’m like “There’s no way Steve climbed all the way up here
just to fuck with my window
it’s prolly just the wind”
but I’m pretty freaked out, you know
because I opted for the single occupancy dorm like an idiot
and now everything sounds like murderers
so I’m like “Okay, okay
just gonna open the window and see what’s up
and then laugh when it turns out to be nothing

So I open the window
and a fucking RAVEN flies in
and lands right on this marble bust of Athena i got to impress chicks with
and I’m like “whoa
a bird
what’s your name, bird?
Did Steve send you?
That fucking guy.”
and the bird is just like “NEVERMORE.”
And I’m like “Wait, what?
Does that mean Nevermore is your name
or that Steve did not in fact send you
because I’m pretty sure both of those are lies.”
and the raven is like “NEVERMORE”
and I’m like “oh, okay, I get it
that’s just the only word you can say.
Man, whoever owns you must be emo as fuck.”
But then I start thinking
holy shit, a talking emo bird
I am going to be like
the coolest dude on campus
all the chicks are going to be so enticed.
But then I remember my ex Lenore
and how she died or broke up with me or whatever
and I start getting all moody
and I’m like “Hey bird
how’s Lenore doing?
Is she having a good time?”
and the raven is like “NEVERMORE”
and I’m like “Dang, that’s harsh.
Tell me, bird, am I ever gonna get laid again?”
and the bird is like “NEVERMORE”
But that raven just looks me right in my hominid face
with his beady soulless eyes
and he’s like “Nevermore.”

So now I have this bird in my room forever.
He’s gloomy as fuck
and not nearly as useful for getting laid as I hoped
so I guess the moral of the story
is don’t let birds into you fucking room.
Come on, this is basic stuff.

The end.

Jason and the Argonauts, but BETTER

So today I’m gonna do something a little different
like, instead of telling you a book
I am going to tell you ABOUT a book
which I will then expect you to READ.
This book is called Jason and the Argonauts
and it was written by Apollonius of Rhodes
(although when he wrote it it was called the Argonautica)
and it is a story about a boat full of jerks
sailing around and stealing things.
I did a run-down of it a while back if you’re interested.

But Apollonius wrote his book wrong
as in, not in English
so for many years now
dudes have been trying to fix his mistake
with varying degrees of success.

this dude JUST CAME OUT with a new verse translation of this amazing book
like seriously, a week ago.COVER SO SWEET
But before he did that
he sent an advance copy to ME
to READ.
And at first I was like “Reading? What?”
but then I was like “HOLY SHIT
You see,
part of the reason I do what I do
is because most translations of ancient texts
like, they use archaic words
they demonstrate a great love of ancient Greek, but no love for English
and they’re generally just really hard and painful to try to understand
so I’ve tasked myself with making translations of the translations.

But get this:

His English is modern and playful
he does it all in solid iambic pentameter, basically to show off
he BOLDS ALL THE NAMES OF THE HEROES in the opening catalogue
just to make it easier to read, and because he’s a nice guy
and most importantly
he genuinely seems to LIKE this poem!

My copy has a bookmark on pretty much every page
because of some awesome line or hilarious image
but let me pick a page that I think perfectly illustrates Poochigian’s chops:
The beginning of Book 2

Okay, first let’s take a look at how R.C. Seaton translates this
in the Loeb Classics edition:

“Here were the oxstalls and farm of Amycus, the haughty king of the Bebrycians, whom once a nymph, Bithynian Melie, united to Poseidon Genethlius, bare the most arrogant of men; for even for strangers he laid down an insulting ordinance, that none should depart till they had made trial of him in boxing; and he had slain many of the neighbours.”

Okay, that’s fine, that’s fine.
Good effort, R.C.
But let’s see how my man A.P. does it:

“Haughty Amycus, the Bebrycian king,
Kept farms and cattle paddocks near the shore.
Begotten by Poseidon Patriarch
on a Bithynian Nymph named Melia,
he was the most obnoxious man alive.
It was his savage custom to permit
no visitors to exit his dominions
until they met him in a boxing match,
and he had beaten many of his neighbors
to death.”

See, Poochigian’s gift
is that he knows when to deviate from a word-for-word translation
in order to give you the SENSE of the original poem.
The result is something that sounds like Apollonius’s actual voice
time-warped into the present day.
Obviously I am a fan of this.

So if you skipped reading this book in college
or you’re a college professor trying to keep your students from skipping this book
I highly recommend this translation
and not just because A-dogg sent me a free copy.
Let me put it in his words, from the translator’s introduction:

“For as long as I have known the Ancient Greek language, I have been certain that Apollonius is a great poet, and that Jason and the Argonauts is a great epic. This translation, a labor of love, is an attempt to convince Greekless readers that this is true.”

He sure as hell convinced me.
I think you should give him a chance to convince you.

In case you missed it, here’s the link to the amazon page for the book again.
You don’t have to buy it on Amazon, but it’s better than not buying it at all.

Medivh is Posessed But That’s No Excuse

So there’s this chick Aegwyn
you can tell she’s an elf because of all the unnecessary vowels
especially the Y
the W is also a helpful clue
basically every letter in her name is an elf letter
except actually she’s not an elf
what the fuck.

What she IS though
is an immortal guardian of the land of Azeroth
super magical and like a thousand years old
who wanders all over the place
just telling evil to go fuck itself
so obviously that’s exactly what she does

you try foregoing any and all sexy times for ten centuries
these are problems you are never going to understand.
So Aegwyn is like OH UH OH WHOOPS

so she finds this sorcerer named Neilas Aran
who is extremely well endowed
with magical ability
and she is like hey okay I need you to help me make a baby
he will be magical as fuck
and be in charge of literally everything for as long as he wants to be
and Aran is like ok ok sure but
can we continue to talk about this AFTER you are naked

so Aegwyn gets pregnant
and wanders around for a while
fighting demons and imprisoning them and stuff
until she has a baby
at which point she brings it back to Nielas like hey here’s your baby
and Aran is like wtf I’m not ready to be a father
and Aegwyn is like tough tits I’m a wizard I do what I want

Soooooooooo all Aegwyn’s powers are in her baby now
but babies are stupid assholes
so Aegwyn wisely puts a time-delay lock on all that magic
until the baby reaches the ripe old age
if there is any age where a person is more of a stupid asshole than when they are a baby
it is fourteen
fourteen is an age where a person will literally do anything they have the ability to do.
for most kids this involves fireworks and a bottle of everclear and maybe trying to walk to Mexico
for Medivh this apparently involves ABSOLUTELY ANY THING HE CAN IMAGINE
which is why when he hits the appointed age
his mind just implodes with all that possibility
and he goes into a coma

the real reason for this
is remember how Aegwyn was fighting demons and shit earlier?
Well one of them
(named Sargeras)
got inside her in the least sexy way
and burrowed all up inside her baby
and when the time release on all that magic activated
he was like OH SHIT

so Aegwyn is obviously a little concerned
but not concerned enough to like
actually do anything about it
so she dicks around in the forest for a few years
until Medivh wakes up
and starts inventing new types of problems
and then causing them using his magic.

Basically what he does is he logs into the Twisting Nether
(which is the Warcraft universe’s equivalent of the internet)
and he just starts cruising through shady chatrooms
looking for impressionable young warlocks to catfish.
And pretty soon he finds one
this Orc named Gul’Dan
who lives way over in another world called Draenor
which is a really shitty world
primarily because the orcs have already killed anything that might make it not shitty
and now they’re bored.

So Medivh is like DUDE, Gul’Dan
do you want to party?
I have a world here with tons of murderable people in it
and my mom totally lets me do whatever I want here
you should totally come over
and Gul’Dan is like I dunno
why travel all the way over to your place
when we can always murder our own guys right here?
and Medivh is like DUDE
My mom has this WICKED demon locked up here
he’s called Sargeras and he will totally grant you wishes and shit
my mom won’t let me in but I’m pretty sure we can pick the lock.
and Gul’Dan is like HELL YEAH
and Medivh is like Oh we have this great public transit system
it’s called ripping a hole in reality itself
all you gotta do for me
is promise to murder all the guys in this kingdom I want to be king of
so I can … be king of their corpses
(this gives Gul’Dan a great idea for later)

so Medivh rips open a hole for Gul’Dan in the middle of Azeroth’s shittiest swamp
which is kind of a dick move but I guess he figures the orcs won’t mind
and the orcs all come charging through
and all the humans are like What the fuck Medivh
MAJOR party foul.
And then they stab him for being a dick
and Gul’Dan is like NOOOOOOOOOO
and Medivh is like I would love to buddy
but I’m dead
I don’t even know how I’m saying this
you probably shouldn’t be listening to my thoughts right now
that’s really gonna mess you up

And it does!
Gul’Dan goes into a coma for like a week
and when he wakes up
he discovers that the rest of the orcs are just like Fuck Warlocks
and he’s like fine
I’ll just raise an army of the dead for the new warchief
and go find this sweet demon tomb MYSELF
and when I find it I’m not gonna share it with ANYBODY.
And that goes super well for him
and like the entire sentient population of the multiverse.

So the moral of the story
is don’t give limitless magical power to babies
this is basic stuff you guys.

The end.

One of the Stupidest Things I’ve Ever Done

They say there is a part of your brain that develops with age that is essentially a safety cover over the “DO STUPID SHIT” button. This story is probably the best scientific evidence I have for the existence of such a brain-part. It involves a post office.

There was a post office about a mile from my house. My goal (for reasons I’d rather not go into) was to figure out a way into the bowels of that post office and somehow mail a letter from inside it. Naturally, step one was reconnaissance. SPOILERS: I never made it past step one.

I emailed the director of the post office, posing as a college student doing a project on the policies of government institutions post-September-11th. They told me it was against policy to give individual tours, but I guess I am a pretty persuasive emailist because they eventually caved in and scheduled a day. In the meantime, I decided to do my own snooping.

You see, I was doing parkour at the time. For those of you without the internet, parkour essentially boils down to skateboarding without a skateboard. You roam around the city, looking for things to jump over and climb up and infiltrate because it’s the closest you can get to being a ninja without being required to actually end lives. The night before my scheduled tour of the post office, I parked my car in front of a grocery store across the street from the building and put my skills to the test.

The building was almost twenty feet tall, which was way higher than I could jump, even as a fucking ninja. But there was a ten-foot wall that branched off from the side of the building where the outdoor generator was housed, and if I could get on top of that wall, I could make it onto the roof.

It turned out that ten feet was also higher than I could jump. I threw myself at the wall over and over, kicking up it at the last second and reaching for the top. And over and over, I missed the lip and fell back to the ground. I lost count of how many times I tried, all the time being watched by a lone man at the bus stop across the street. I wasn’t worried about the guy at the bus stop. I mean, who the hell takes the bus in Los Angeles? He was clearly insane, and his testimony would not be trusted.

But finally, after eleventy-million tries, I caught the lip and pulled myself to the top. I wandered around on the roof for a while, I guess looking for a Mission Impossible-style skylight to lower myself through, before giving up and heading for the parking lot. The builders of the post office had made the best of LA’s rolling hills by digging into the side of one, which meant that the parking lot was a whole story lower than the sidewalk I’d stood on to make my run at the building. To get down to it, I had to drop back off onto the wall I’d come up, climb down into the enclosure with the generator, grab a chainlink fence, scale it across and over another chainlink fence (with barbed-wire all over it), then jump down into the parking lot itself. I did this successfully, because I am a champion.

There was not much to do in the parking lot, as is typical of parking lots. I made for the loading dock, to see if someone had fortuitously left a door unlocked. No such luck. Through the plexiglass windows of the double doors, I noticed an official announcement on salmon-pink paper:



I viewed it as an encouragement.

I turned around, and noticed a suspicious-looking fixture on the ceiling of the loading dock. It appeared to be a security camera. I belatedly pulled my shirt up over my face, and inched closer in an attempt to allay my fears. It turned out to be nothing more than a broken light socket. I uncovered my face, embarassed at being so paranoid. I heard a helicopter in the distance.

“I bet it’s coming for me,” I laughed. And you know what?


The sound of rotors was suddenly RIGHT UP ON ME, and a spotlight swept the lot like the vengeful eye of Sauron himself. I cowered in a corner of the loading dock, being totally screwed. There was no place to run. The back corner of the loading dock was the only place I could hide. It was only a matter of time before the SWAT team arrived. I should also mention that I had just come from bussing tables at a fancy restaurant, which meant that I had been sneaking onto the property of a government building wearing all black. As I sat there, waiting to be arrested, I felt my life unraveling the way I had when I was six and my mom discovered the pair of underwear I had stuffed behind her toilet instead of taking it the extra ten feet to the laundry hamper. I was caught. I was helpless. I was already being digested by the labyrinthine cloaca of justice.

Then the helicopter went away. Then it came back. Then it went away again, and I waited twenty bladder-taxing minutes to see if it would come back again. As soon as the twenty minutes were up, I ran. But one does not simply run out of the post office. I sprinted across the lot, jumped eight feet up a concrete wall and grabbed the chainlink fence, scaled it up and over the barbed wire, into the generator enclosure, kicked up the ten-foot dividing wall on the first fucking try, and absconded. As I passed the front of the post office, I saw a police car idling out front. Either the police car didn’t see me, or they didn’t find anything suspicious about a dude dressed all in black strolling leisurely down a sidewalk that could only have come from an auto junkyard, a freeway offramp, or the motherfucking post office. I made it to my car, and drove home with my eyes glued to the rear-view mirror.

The next afternoon, I had my scheduled tour of the post office. In case of any security footage of the previous night’s events, I got a haircut for the first time in months. In an hour, I went from this:


To this:


My tour was quite informative. For example, I learned that the US Postal Service has its own police force, called – appropriately enough – the Postal Police. I also learned that the Los Angeles Postal Police headquarters were DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM THAT POST OFFICE. It’s not like it’s hidden either. I took a look after my tour, and there is a bigass sign out front that says “THE MOTHERFUCKING POSTAL POLICE ARE RIGHT FUCKING HERE ASSHOLE WHAT ARE YOU DOING” (the expletives are mine. Also some of the other words.) Some dude could literally have just looked out his office window and seen me doing my thing. Given that little tidbit of information, it’s a god-damned miracle I’m not in Guantanamo to this day.

This story is why I am terrified of teenagers. There is a time in every human’s life where we will basically just do anything we are physically capable of doing, up to and including breaking into the post office. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just The Biggest Idiot In The World, and my magnum opus occurred somewhere back around my 17th birthday. Whatever the truth of the matter, what’s important to remember is that you should NOT ATTEMPT TO SNEAK INTO THE POST OFFICE. They DO have helicopters, and they have NO QUALMS about using them. Which really just makes me wonder why the mail doesn’t come quicker.