They couldn't report it to the police because it was the police

No one will believe you

Luke O'Neil

I turned in the manuscript for the Welcome to Hell World book recently which I may have mentioned is a thing that is happening but hopefully not too many times because there is nothing less interesting to me than when a writer talks about how they’re writing a book and how it’s coming along and shit like that that no one in the world could possibly care about. The only point of talking about writing a book is to let people know you’re the type of person who can write a book which is exciting news for you maybe but the rest of us have our own shit going on man. And then the book comes out and soon it quickly disappears and you stop talking about it so often because it’s embarrassing to have wasted so much of your time on something as pointless as a book but at least you have written a book which is the main thing to have done. You can say that about yourself. My publisher said I still need to write a preface which I don’t want to do because how would one distill what Hell World means into a page or two or however long prefaces are supposed to be. Someone remind me to read some prefaces and get to the bottom of that mystery.

I do have a good idea of what I think the epigraph will be though and it’s from this song which is from the only contemporary band I think means anything to me. Not the only one I like mind you but the only one that means anything.

“You can’t stay angry forever. Or so I’m told.” I liked it so much I got a tattoo of it but that doesn’t really mean too much because I’ll get any stupid fucking tattoo if my brain worms happen to be wriggling just so on any particular afternoon and I walk in and ask if they have a spot open and they’re like yeah man and then you just do it. Sometimes people ask me what a particular tattoo means and I’ll say some shit or other but mostly it just means I wanted to have a specific thing to focus on for a while instead of some other specific thing. It’s like stepping outside of time for an hour or two where all you have to worry about is sitting there and watching the blood and ink mix and you have zero other responsibilities in the world.

Hold on I just read this story from The Appeal about a Columbus, Ohio vice squad detective named Andrew Mitchell who has been arrested for kidnapping women and forcing them to perform sexual acts for their freedom and also for murdering a young woman named Donna Dalton during a prostitution arrest and he is also a slum landlord and is also part of the squad that arrested Stormy Daniels at a strip club in July in a politically motivated sting and I feel like it basically sums things up pretty well. So here’s my preface to the book:

Andrew Mitchell joined the vice squad in 2017, after 30 years on the force, including five years in homicide. But as a side job, he is a landlord who had 15 properties registered to his name at the time he killed Dalton, according to Franklin County parcel records.

The former tenants interviewed by The Appeal described their buildings as neglected and pest-ridden (the city has filed 37 violations on his properties since 2015 for problems like housing code violations and environmental issues). Mitchell also was known for frequent evictions—381 since 1996, according to county records. (Franklin County, where Mitchell is a landlord, has had the highest number of evictions in the state. There were 17,697 evictions in 2018, according to the county’s records.) But Mitchell’s evictions have raised even more questions since the Department of Justice exposed his sexual coercion of tenants.

The U.S. attorney says they have identified “multiple women – some of whom work as prostitutes, most of whom are drug addicts, all of whom are vulnerable members of our community – who were tenants of the defendant’s rental properties and traded sex for free or reduced rent from him.”

As I wrote a couple weeks ago when I was pointing out how dozens of states allow police officers to use “consent” as a defense when it comes to having sex with people they’ve arrested it’s very often women like these who are the victims because what are they going to do about it the cop probably thinks. Sometimes they even say that shit out loud. Imagine that? Saying that type of shit?

“The victims and witnesses who will provide testimony against the defendant are terrified of him,” the motion against Mitchell explains. “They fear that they will be retaliated against by the defendant and other law enforcement officers because they have come forward to provide evidence against a police officer. These fears are not unfounded. Multiple victims, when asked if they had reported these incidents, consistently responded that they could not ‘report it to the police because it was the police.’ The defendant further instilled these fears by telling them ‘even if you reported me, no one will believe you because you are just a prostitute.’”

Clearly there are much worse parts to the story than the renting angle but most of us can convince ourselves that the rest of it will never happen to us right? None of us will ever fall on such hard times that we find ourselves in a situation where we’re being asked to trade sex for reduced rent or living in squalor and desperate. The people who those sorts of things happen to planned it out that way as everyone knows. They didn’t work as hard as we did.

A big part of being able to live is convincing yourself the truly bad things only happen somewhere else some place that sounds made up like Columbus, Ohio which is somewhere I’ve never even been so I’m safe from all of that. Sometimes you hear about some tragedy or disaster and you go oh no where was it and the person tells you and you sort of feel relieved when it’s a place you’ve never been and will probably never go because it puts distance between you and the possibility of horror. Where did the plane crash ah Ethiopia you say well that’s none of my business.

The bleak reality of renting is something almost all of us can attest to though. According to a State of the Nation’s Housing report from Harvard “the median rent payment rose 61 percent between 1960 and 2016 while the median renter income grew only 5 percent.” Is that bad because it sounds bad.

It’s all much worse for people earning minimum wage of course. Writing on the report Buzzfeed noted that “out of over 3,000 counties in the nation, there are only 22 where a full-time worker earning minimum wage can afford a modest one-bedroom rental, and there are no counties where they can afford a modest two-bedroom.”

The Washington Post reported last week on the surging number of tent encampments around the country. One of the residents they profiled was a forty year old woman named Monica Diaz who had been living in an apartment in Maryland with her husband paying $900 in rent until the building they were in was condemned for numerous housing code violations and everyone was evicted. She’d accumulated a lot of debt trying to get her college degree and had ended up ruining her credit along the way. When they were forced out she managed to hold onto her job at a supermarket for a while but “her appearance deteriorated from sleep deprivation and infrequent showering, and she was fired for poor hygiene.” Now they have to stay on their toes dodging cleanups of the tent encampments the city conducts every couple of weeks. She has a job at a fast food restaurant now and she washes up in the family bathroom at Union Station beforehand which is something she says she enjoys because it gives her a few minutes to be alone and have some peace. They said a real estate developer bought the low income housing building she had been living in and I bet they’re going to spruce it up real nice.

Sometimes people say that minimum wage jobs like working at McDonalds are only jobs meant for teenagers and that if someone wants to earn a living they should get a real job and a surprising number of people who think things like that are probably your friends and family and people who otherwise might think they are progressive because they don’t hate gay people and knew a black guy in college. I wonder how well people who say shit like that would do living in a tent and washing themselves at the train station before going to “flip hamburgers” I imagine most of them would crack under the pressure pretty soon.

I was in D.C. myself last week although I didn’t do anything like struggle to stay alive what I did was I stayed in a hotel suite that was made up to look like it was the home of a famous vice president on a satirical TV show about how politicians are evil and dumb. They had pictures of the famous lady from the show we all love all over the place and all the furniture from her house everywhere and you could sit on it and in theory I guess I could have rubbed my nude ass and balls all over the props but I didn’t do that. I could have gotten away with it but I didn’t. The famous TV show had a party and gave us all a bunch of wine and passed around little mini crab cake sliders and shit like that to get us to like the TV show better.

Sometimes I can’t believe I have the fucking stones to come on here and complain about my life. I’m going to keep doing it mind you but still. The famous funny lady on the TV show is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and her father was a billionaire but she just had to go through having breast cancer so I guess it’s all relative. Things can be very bad no matter how good they are. For some people it starts bad and stays bad and ends bad and for some people it starts good and stays good but it still ends bad and that’s the closest thing we have to justice.

Hundreds of people died in two separate plane crashes in the past year in Ethiopia and Indonesia and one of the reasons for that investigators think is that the airlines in question hadn’t paid Boeing for a software upgrade. “Many airlines, especially low-cost carriers like Indonesia’s Lion Air, have opted not to buy them — and regulators don’t require them,” the New York Times reported and that seems like another good candidate for a preface of Hell World. An airliner didn’t pay for the in-game add-ons and then everyone fell from the sky.

I was thinking about that while I was flying down to D.C. I do not like flying very much which is fine because no one does but something has changed in me the last two years or so where I am overcome with anxiety during take off. Once we get up there in the sky I am not scared anymore because I guess the way I think about it is that we’re high up enough that if something went wrong they would be able to figure out how to fix it in time before we crashed. Some people live in the sky and if an accident happens they have all sorts of failsafes to make sure they come out of it alive but when you’re living close to the ground you don’t have enough time to do anything. One time I asked a psychiatrist for some xanax so I could relax when flying and this was after I had just spent an hour listing off my various addictions and she basically laughed at me. I’m not going to prescribe you that what are you stupid she said. Not really but essentially that and she was right to do that because I was definitely going to abuse them.

Remember how Louis CK shamed everyone for complaining about flying a few years ago and we all thought he was such a sage truth-teller at the time we sort of felt bad about complaining about being able to fly after that but then he turned out to be a big time fucking sex pest so it’s probably OK for us to disregard what he had to say on the matter.

I used to love flying places but now I don’t really anymore and so I rarely do it. Did you ever read this thing I wrote about drinking a while back? Maybe you did or maybe you didn’t but here is part of it:

I have gotten to travel to a handful of countries around the world for writing jobs and the appeal of it in theory is that it breaks you out of your routine. You get to see beautiful new places and experience different cultures and visit museums and geological marvels and all the other things the travel sites advertise and that is true to an extent, but mostly in my experience it’s been a series of chances to drink things I might not normally drink in slightly more exciting settings than I would have otherwise. Maybe that’s because I spent so many years writing about booze and trying to explain to readers what it tastes like and how it makes you feel but you already know. Everywhere is the same place when you’re drinking it’s the place where the drinking is.

That’s how I felt in the nice hotel suite made up to look like the TV show the other day. Welp this all looks different but I’m still me here. I didn’t transport myself into a new brain I brought the same one with me and now it’s in a different looking room than normal but it’s got the same holes in it. I got in a car with my own brain and rode to the airport and waited in line and put my brain through the scanner and they waved me through and said have a nice flight and I put my brain into the tiny little air coffin and had some pretzels and a nice tomato juice and landed and rode in another car and then at the end of the night I tried to turn my brain off by drinking enough that it would let me go to sleep and it finally did.

What does the type of person who abuses their authority as a police officer or landlord to manipulate poor women into sex do when it’s time to go to bed at night because it’s hard for me to even sleep most times and I’m merely a low grade scumbag. Do they have to watch 30 Rock over again to wind down? Do they wake up in the middle of the night and count backwards from one hundred? How do they get to sleep soundly when the rest of us can’t? What the fuck is it they’re dreaming about when they close their eyes? This can’t be what they wanted.