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  • Offending people has always seemed to come easy to me, whether intentional or not. Most of the time I offend someone it is without intention, it is just me being me, a passionate, expressive, opinionated guy with a booming voice and incongruous sense of humor, with an innate ability to speak before thinking. But sometimes I embrace the role of great offender. There are tons of examples I can choose from to illustrate my point, but these are some that come to mind off the top of my head.

    I have fuck tattooed on my leg. Got that on three hits of acid, my first tattoo. I like to wear shorts and sandals when I teach.

    When I was a 19 I helped start the literary magazine at my community college, a magazine that still exists some 25 years later. For the first time in my life, I was around other ‘writers’ and ‘poets’ and ‘artists’, talking about important things, I felt like I had found a place I could fit in. Then we had a poetry reading. I took a poem I wrote about sex, and changed the name of the female to Linda, the name of our club advisor. Then I read a Minutemen song “When those bombs, start falling, on the first day, of world war three, I’m gonna grab me a girl, and go and fuck her, yeah yeah, world war three.” By the end of the week, with the instigation of the professor, I was kicked out of the club.

    A couple days after 9/11, my buddy Pat and I were sitting in our café, and we loudly started a riff on 9/11 as a stereo commercial. “We’re declaring a jihad on high prices! Prices are falling faster than the World Trade Center! I’ll fly a plane into the Pentagon to get you a good deal!” People got pahisssed. Some people got up and left the café. Some came and told us to shut up. It was a little too early for the 9/11 jokes.

    For a period of my life I was teaching English to rich foreign kids in La Jolla. One of my favorite students was Sue, a 17 year-old Swiss girl who was incredibly smart but had a dark and dangerous streak that had gotten her in enough trouble back home her parents sent her away for a year. And being a rebellious Swiss teen, she had a little Nazi streak to her, which I specifically was trying to work out of her. Then one day in class during a discussion on something she uttered that worst word – nigger. I of course immediately put up the red flags, and said that wasn’t an appropriate word, don’t ever say it, and so forth. After the class the two of us went to a corner of the outdoor smoking area, and over a couple smokes she explained that she meant no harm, she thought that was the proper word. This I understood, since it was the same in Russia, it comes from Negro and that is actually the non-racist term. But here we don’t say it, never, never. Of all words in the English language, that is the worst. And that while saying black in Europe is a racial slur, saying black in the US isn’t. Anyway, thinking we were alone, we were freely using the word, plus negro and nigr and what not. But even though we were alone, my big mouth could be heard far enough away that someone came up and told us we were being extremely offensive. I tried to explain, but there was no having it, and we got a tongue lashing. Afterwards I turned to Sue and said “See! What did I say!” My point had been made.

    And that makes me think of another story. One day I was waiting for the bus at the main bus stop at UCSB, and there were a few other people. Sitting on one of the benches were two cute young foreign girls, one European and one Asian. The European girl was the more experienced one, and was giving her friend advice about certain American things. I didn’t get involved, but I stood respectfully close enough to listen in on the conversation. At one point the conversation turned to language, and the European girl was going through the list of bad words not to say. It was so adorable, the little European girl saying “sheet, pees, aaass, fuck” and the Asian girl by her side taking it in like she was listening to a wise master. And then seemingly out of nowhere a woman walks up to them and asks them to stop using that language, that she was offended. The European girl tried to explain, but again there was going to be none of that, she had been offended, so they had to shut up. I got furious. I tried to hold it in, but not really that hard. I unloaded like I had run out of my Tourette’s meds and had to make up for lost time – “God damned cock sucker son-of-a-bitch piece of shit fuck my ass mother fucking cunt licker!” and so forth. Needless to say no one told me to shut-up, and nobody sat by me on the bus either.

    Oh, and here’s a recent one, that kinda connects to the lit mag story. I’m fairly new to San Diego, so I do my research to find me some literary scene to get involved with. I find this one thing, where this writers organization once a moth puts on a multi-media storytelling performance at this very cool bar. I went to one, and it seemed perfect for me. I submitted this story - Bad Sub – for the next show, and the blind outside the organization reader chose me to read. A week before the performance date, all the writers got together to workshop their pieces. So I show up, and I read my story, and everybody is completely aghast and appalled. Granted, I didn’t just read the story, I performed it, with full anger and passion and rage. “I teach at-risk youth, and that is terrible”, “That didn’t really happen”, “Didn’t anybody do anything to stop you?”, “Where is the redemption for the protagonist?” One angry young turk said he like the story, that there was nothing wrong with making people feel uncomfortable in art, and compared me to Andy Kaufmann! But the whole rest of the evening people were really uncomfortable to be around me. A couple days later I got a one sentence email saying I was being taken off the program. Oh well, rejected by another group of writers. I guess that story wasn’t the right story to choose when you are introducing yourself to a new group of people.

    So I encourage everybody to offend me! I love it! You may have to try hard, as I have a very high tolerance, but it is possible!
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