Saturday, October 3, 2009


Unless you have been holed up in a cave, deep in the foreboding, triple canopy jungles of the Amazonian Basin, with a cell phone that has long since ran out of juice, you may have noticed that the world, so long having offered a sturdy foundation on which to confidently stand, has gone to shit. The economy really sucks, people are losing their jobs at a mind-boggling rate, global warming, and melting polar ice caps portending ecological disaster that could send us back, as a civilization, to the stone age, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News with their daily, and ruthless, assault on logic and reason, medical bills and voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the rising financial inaccessibility to a quality secondary education—the list goes on, and the grass still needs to be mowed.

Reflecting on these unpleasant issues induces the pain of hopelessness and despair, and ultimately keeps liquor stores recession proof. The water bill is coming due, the mortgage payment is two months in arrears, and unemployment benefits have ran their course, and won’t be extended with federal stimulus funds because your Republican governor takes philosophical issue with helping people in need. Contemplating all these things compels me, for one, to indulge in a little therapeutic whining.

Whining doesn’t work unless there is someone to listen to it, and no one likes a whiner. It’s a tricky and delicate undertaking. You lull your unexpected victim in. As soon as you have them in, close enough, seduced by speculation of who’s going to be the starting quarterback next season, or the best of all inconsequential topics, the weather, and they are relaxed and leaning a little too much on one leg, you sock it to them, with a dizzying, dripping—soaked in self pity—whining of untold depth and girth.

This is a brief guide—soon to be released in consecutive volumes of encyclopedic proportions—of how to whine, and, most importantly, what to expect from your victim, depending upon their generational affiliation. To become a truly proficient and adept whiner you need to know your audience, whether they be a member of the greatest generation, a baby boomer, a Gen-X’er, or those adorable, attention-deficient, babblers of Gen-Y. So, here with it:


Members of this species are easily approached, and in fact, if you wander in too close, say within fifty yards, they will flag you down and draw you in, not subtlety and seductively, but with one mighty jerk. You do what you are supposed to, because they are your elders, and you would be consumed with flames of guilt if you pivoted and tore off to hide in the woods leaving them stranded, and dejected, with no one to help them to cross the street. Also, you know, that if World War Three, ecological disaster, or a viral pandemic doesn’t prematurely wipe you off the face of the earth, along with another ninety percent of our species, you too would like to be afforded some dignity and respect having reached upwards of ninety years old, and a good stout ear to take in all of the non sequiturs that will come to your mind in terrifyingly large, typhoon-driven waves.

The secret is in allowing them an hour, or so, of bending (or assaulting, depending upon your particular angle on the matter) your auditory sensibilities, until their mouths grow dry as the soil of Death Valley, and they begin to nod off, ever so lightly, being called into a cat-nap, their only form of sleep. It is at that moment, when their consciousness is waning towards lapsing that you kick in with a hardy whine that has the same sonorous quality as a four year old debuting their skills on the violin.

Some caution is required here, for the reason that this may cause the wrinkled ancestor to jerk too suddenly to consciousness resulting in a dislocated hip, or, possibly, death. You don’t need that weighing on your conscience, what with all your other problems that you have got to whine to someone about.

Assuming your geriatric victim is of stern enough stuff to survive the initial shock of it, they will listen to you, and though without uttering a word, appear terse. You see, they think you are the biggest, dribbling, pathetic pussy they have ever met in their long, and very tough, lives. You have embarked on a mission of total and complete futility.

If they had the strength, which they don’t, they would grab you by the neck, wrestle you to the ground, and while pressing your face hard in the dirt, harangue and assault your ears to the point of bleeding. “When I was a kid, we had the Great Depression; we were lucky when we had some greasy raccoon meat to eat for supper; if we survived that, we were rewarded with getting to fight in World War Two; You know what it’s like seeing you’re buddy, his leg blown off, bleeding to death, screaming and crying for his momma? You can take your wus-ass existential flap, and stick it up your ass.”

But, as I mentioned, they probably do not possess the fortitude for as much violence as they used to. Instead they glare at you through folded and myopic eyes, and do not utter a word. And as soon as you give them an opening, assuming they have not gone to meet their maker in the intervening time, they will sharply divert your whining to the eighteenth re-telling of the time that their cousin Jim, who was an oilfield worker before the war, went to college on the G.I. Bill, and got a degree in electrical engineering, had this cute little dog, named Roosevelt, and he had these intestinal problems—not the dog, but Jim—and, etc.


“Why fucking bother?” and “Are you shitting me?” are two rhetorical retorts that come briskly to mind when contemplating whining to a former hippy, turned yuppie, now dyspeptic AARP member whose 401(k) has the vitality of the rotting road kill that they ran over yesterday in their Lexus SUV. If you are a Gen-X’er, like me, you have gone back to this well too often, and know that drawing the bucket back up from that dark hole will reward you with little more than snakes and spiders, not the cool, wise, cleansing elixir of ambrosia, maaaan.

Whoa. Am I being a little harsh? Yes. So, in that vain, I shall continue.

Whining to this group, induces in them robust, impatient finger tapping, frowning and eye rolling. You won’t get very far into it before they shut you down with an agonizing lecture about how you need to adjust your attitude. There are two problems, the way they see it: you are bumming them out, and you are not talking about them. And they are really all there is.

If you are lucky, after a well strung-together whine, they may offer this, while checking the time on their Breitling wrist watch: “Well, good luck. It’s a tough old world out there, and it’s almost tee-time.”

Really, you can’t whine to this group. They are revolted, and easily nauseated, by anyone diverting their focus and attention from their own immediate needs, and well-being; don’t fucking bother. Just hand it to them for the breath taking mess they created for the rest of us to deal with for a thousand years to come. You don’t even have to use complete sentences. Just list it for them: “Watergate, Vietnam, The Bush Doctrine, the stained blue dress, free market greed, smoked salmon, Iraq, wage stagnation, hollow blustering about attitude adjustments, and mud baths.” They will be relieved when you are done, and quickly get back to thinking of themselves and what they need.


Ah, my comrades, we know what absurdity is all about. We live, sleep, drink and eat absurdity. We lather up with it every morning in the shower. We blow it out of our noses, and pick it out of our ears. It’s everywhere and everything. And this is fine, usually. We are well equipped to deal with it. When we were babies, our mothers mixed in a shot glass-full of absurdity in our formula. We were raised on this stuff!

But, alas, from time to time, and after half of a fifth of hard booze has mysteriously evaporated from the bottle, we feel like indulging in a symphonic whining session. It’s a cleansing exercise (if a little absurd), and is our method of confessional catharsis. Its utility lies in its psychologically beneficial effects. But you must hold the thought that it is really an absurd endeavor contemporaneously while whining, less you should start really believing yourself, and turn to dark thoughts that life is truly, absolutely absurd. The trick is to believe that God is a humorist, motivated by hilarity disguised as tragedy, and everything will ultimately be fine, unless you’re an atheist, and then you are absurdly fucked.

We have leavened whining to an art form. We have contests to see who can whine most convincingly, with great alacrity and adroitness. We stand and applaud when someone pulls it off really well.

After all, we are good whiners because we have a lot to whine about: The blissful indifference of The Greatest Generation, comfortably riding out the golden years on social security and a descent pension, who otherwise don’t have it in them to fight anymore; the crap sandwich our boomer moms and dads have made for us with the admonition to put a little Dijon on it, and to quit our whining because it is bringing them down; the short end of the stick we have been shafted with, planted in the nutrient starved soils in the looming shadow of the boomers who wont freakin’ retire and clear a little space in the job market; and the fluttery, circle jerking, attention-dependent, attention- deficient chattiness of our future saviors—Gen Y.

When nary a drop remains in the empty fifth, and the beast, Absurdity, has been thoroughly flogged, and the whining winds down in a concluding and nasally C note, and we are called off to dream of authenticity, equality and selflessness—or put another way, beauty, truth and goodness—we bow our heads in supplication, and chant like absurdly tired Gregorian Monks: “Oh well, whatever, never mind.”


Like, OMG, like, they’re too busy, busy, busy to be creaped-out by your whining. But they may offer, out of an unfounded deference to the possibility of receiving some equally unfounded positive feedback from anyone who looks older then them, to suffer some of your whining. As soon as it dawns upon them that you are not thumping the lever of the WII Rockband guitar of immediate gratification, but rather stirring the heart of despondency with a second hand, and out of tune, fiddle, they will offer you the latest, feel-good, cure-all that their psychiatrist fixed them up with last week.

They are also likely, after hearing you out a bit, to suggest that what you really need is a happy, chatty and enormous circle of friends with which you can flap your gums, or text your fingers into bloody stumps with, about really mind-numbingly mundane tripe that doesn’t register two, on a scale of one to ten, on the substance meter.

For those with a proclivity for whining, this group will reinvigorate your verve to whine, to make up for their lack of whining. Someone has to do it.

Maybe they are just too young to have anything to whine about. They are used to being poor, and/or living with their parents, and that’s hunky-dory because their parents love, adore and scratch their bellies like they were cute little puppies (that don’t whine, because they are too hopped up on prescription anti-psychotics). They simply are not as beholden to the need for money as the rest of us, and can out wait us—no mortgage, little in the way of having to pay taxes, and they don’t plan to have kids of their own until they are in their fifties when they will spawn a biogenetically engineered army of happy, uncomplaining ubermanths.

Whining tends to bounce off them like a dying and indecipherable native tribal tongue—they don’t get it, and suspect that if they did that it might cause some sort of discomfort, and that’s, OMG, yucky and negative.

After all, they have a lot to look forward to. When the boomers finally throw in their Ping golf ball towel, Gen-Y will be in their late thirties, and still ready to rock, while us Gen-X’ers will just want to be left alone to do what we do best, which is anything without someone looking over our shoulders giving us positive feedback and constructive criticism, who is ignorant and unreceptive to artfully crafted, high-quality whining.


Fear not, for as long there are souls enshrouded with the needs of its meaty corpus, a little whining is in order. A lot of whining is in order when those needs are threatened, as they seem to be from all sides presently.

When damnation and ruin is the only thing left in the refrigerator for dinner, shove your index finger deep in your nostril of choice, and pluck out a big gob of whiny boogers, roll them around your mouth, and savor its bitter-sweetness. You might just learn to like it. If not, whine about it.

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