I Spent a Decade Working for Churches (and It Was the Worst)
Before I started doing comedy and writing full time, I spent over a decade working for churches. Let me preface this by saying that I am not an angry atheist, or even someone who bashes organized religion. There are so many churches doing fantastic work for their communities and truly helping people with little or no attention from the media. I’ve worked for some that I’ve seen firsthand do tremendous work and even helped me with difficult times in my life. With that said, I’ve seen some of the most repulsive, sickening behavior you could possibly imagine by men and women claiming to be representatives of God. I worked with organizations in the smallest of towns and I’ve worked with some of the biggest names in religion, so I know what I’m talking about. I’m not someone judging from the outside. I’ve been a part of it, which, at times, felt like the worst thing that could possibly happen to me.
I worked with an organization called Master’s Commission, which is basically a Bible college that combines the educational part of ministry with actual hands-on work. I had been involved with the program in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in Orlando, Florida. A pastor in Louisville, Kentucky, named Tony had seen the work that Master’s Commission had done and contacted my boss in Orlando about starting one at his church.
Unaccompanied Miners: Down the Shaft with Bolivia’s Child Laborers
In 1936, George Orwell visited a coal mine in Grimethorpe, England. “The place is like… my own mental picture of hell,” he wrote of the experience. “Most of the things one imagines in hell are there—heat, noise, confusion, darkness, foul air, and, above all, unbearably cramped space.” Orwell was a lanky guy, 6’3” or 6’2”, and I am too. So I was reminded of his comparison recently while crawling through a tunnel as dank and dark as a medieval sewer, nearly a mile underground in one of the oldest active mines in Latin America, the Cerro Rico in Potosí, Bolivia. The chutes were so narrow that I couldn’t have turned around—or turned back—even if I’d wanted to.
Orwell wasn’t the first to equate mines with hell; Bolivian miners already know they labor in the inferno. In the past 500 years, at least 4 million of them have died from cave-ins, starvation, or black lung in Cerro Rico, and as a sly fuck-you to the pious Spaniards who set up shop here in 1554 and enslaved the native Quechua Indians, Bolivian miners worship the devil—part of a schizophrenic cosmology in which God governs above while Satan rules the subterranean.
As an offering to him, miners slaughter llamas and smear blood around the entrances to the 650 mineshafts that swiss-cheese this hill. Near the bloodstains, just inside the mine, a visitor can find beady-eyed statues with beards and raging boners—a goofy caricature of Satan known as El Tio, or “the Uncle,” to whom workers give moonshine and cigarettes in exchange for good luck. Before entering the mountain, I’d offered a small pouch of coca leaves to one of these little devils, requesting a bendiga, a blessing for my safety.
A few hours later, I was hundreds of feet underground, shambling through three-foot-tall tunnels, bony knees bruising over hard rock. My guide, Dani, a miniature man with the strength and temperament of a donkey, had burrowed so far ahead that he’d disappeared into the darkness. I called out to him. When he didn’t reply, my photographer Jackson turned to me and coughed. “I’m freaking out,” he said, and we soldiered on, trying to trace Dani’s path through the hot, sulfur-stinking tunnel.
Insane Clown Posse Is Being Sued for Sexual Harassment
Once I started writing about Juggalos, it became very difficult for me to stop defending them both to my friends and on this site. Every little bit of news from the world of Insane Clown Posse’s hardcore fans—They’re suing the FBI! There’s a Facebook for Juggalos! Some Juggalos covered Ariel Pink!—gave me an opportunity, which felt like an obligation, to try to find some way to defend those scrappy Faygo guzzlers to the world. This attitude really set in after I took Danny Brown to last year’s Gathering of the Juggalos—everyone on the festival’s staff, and Juggalos generally, were unbelievably nice to us the entire time. Since then, I’ve been generally pro-Juggalo, which is not always an easy position to take.
When I was at the Gathering, I met Andrea Pellegrini, who was acting as ICP’s publicist and legal counsel. She was the one who hooked me up with my press passes and drove me around the festival grounds in a weird little golf cart. Pellegrini told me she’d started working for ICP a few years ago, and it’d been “a wild ride so far.” She also gave me probably the best advice I got the whole week: if a Juggalo says “woop woop!” to you, you sure as hell better say it back. She was courteous and helpful, though maybe a little stressed out from handling PR at an event that looks more like a lost Salò blooper reel than an annual music festival.
This week, some of the less savory details of her “wild ride” became public, as Pellegrini filed suit against ICP and a handful of staffers at their record label, Psychopathic Records, in Oakland County circuit court. She cited “a consistent culture of sexism and sexual harassment,” and accused them of wrongful termination and infliction of emotional stress, among other things.
According to Pellegrini’s 17-page, 86-count formal complaint (which you can read in full below), her four-year tenure as an ICP employee was marked by “constant and pervasive harassment… including having a large dildo given to her while at work, and being presented with ‘vagina tighteners.’ [She was] mocked, belittled, and the subject of sexual advances from top level persons at ICP’s label, Psychopathic Records.” In addition, Pellegrini was “asked to do illegal and/or unethical things at her job, including [being asked] to obtain automatic tommy-guns for a photo shoot.” According to the statement, she refused to break the law, and when she reported the sexual harassment she was unceremoniously canned.
The details of the document make for some pretty crude reading. Pellegrini was repeatedly called a “bitch” and a “cunt” by her supervisors, and a coworker named Dan “Dirty Dan” Diamond pulled her hair, told her he “had a fat cock,” and said he’d “like to fuck her.” This guy also gave her a dildo in a velvet bag for her birthday after learning via Facebook that she’d recently become single. The allegations go on and on, and even include things I didn’t know existed, like “vagina tighteners.”
How to Work Hard and Not Pay Taxes
An undocumented Mexican immigrant who came to America when he was two, Wuilber has been in and out of both trouble and jail, but never convicted. After splitting a disc in his back working out five years ago, he could no longer continue working at the warehouse where he was on payroll with phony papers. Then, after slipping into a meth addiction, he lost his job as an oil lube technician. Now he’s out pushing an ice cream cart up to nine hours straight. He makes $50 on a good day.
"I just need money, and this is the way I earn it. Money goes, money comes," he says. "Transportation, food, sunblock… I wear a lot of sunblock. Shoes… This job, the bad thing about it is people get warts under their feet, so I spend every two weeks at least $20 worth of wart killers. Dr. Scholl’s for the cushions under the feet, they wear out. Hopefully I’ll just stick to this and not do drugs and alcohol. I’ll be sober. I’ll live sober. Because I do really want a house, a wife, and kids and stuff."
Steven, 23, costumed Batman, $10-$30/day
A couple months ago, Steven moved to Los Angeles from the Bay Area looking to break into film. He lives in Lake View Terrace with his aunt, who works at Warner Brothers. He’s got hopes to start acting, writing, directing, and producing. He says he can “do it all.”
Having spent just a couple of weeks on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, Steven says “Between me and the other Batmans out here, it’s like mine is a Halloween store costume versus their Comic Con-quality costumes. There’s no competition… It’s really all in the way you approach people.”
Ana, 50, Tita, 44, bottle collectors, $20/day
A couple of days a week Ana and Tita collect bottles from the recycling bins that are brought out to the curbs around their neighborhood for city pickup. Respectively Mexican and El Salvadorian immigrants, they say it only takes about an hour and brings in a little extra income.
It’s not easy or glamorous though. Says Ana, “There’s bacteria and broken bottles that will cut you.”
Burying the Dead and Unloved
There are times in everyone’s life when something profound occurs to us—events that should change should change us by teaching a valuable life lesson. I’d venture that I experienced countless lessons while in the ol’ clink-clink, but time and time again I think back to a time when I was up on the Canadian border in the early winter of 2007 at a relatively bonerable “labor camp.” Unfortunately, these minimum-security camps are now all closed, but they allowed inmates to go out into the real world and work in the community. Granted, we got paid 15 cents an hour, but in hindsight, it was a pretty great place, as prisons go.
I’ve always enjoyed physical jobs like landscaping and such. Most of my labors at the camp reminded me of my upbringing in suburban Connecticut—I shoveled snow, raked leaves, and mowed lawns with an enthusiasm that made our boss (a.k.a. the CO) happy to have me as part of his five-man crew. In appreciation for our hard work he bought us eggs and bacon for breakfast, which we cooked up at our off-site shack that came equipped with an electric stove. His wife even used to cook us barbecued chicken every once in a while, and he would bring us venison occasionally—either ground up or made into sausages. He was a good man at the end of his career who admitted severely mistreating inmates in the past after he saw one of his coworkers get murdered by an inmate at Great Meadows in the 80s. It took him a long time to realize that not all inmates were scum and it was important to let his anger go and deal with inmates on an individual basis, just as you would any human. Many COs don’t treat inmates as real people, so just having a normal employee-to-boss relationship with him was nicer than you can imagine. Little things like this made incarceration more bearable.
I worked with that crew for about six months before I got shipped out to another facility. It sounds crazy but I got comfortable at this camp and was a little sad when I packed up. The next spot I went to was awful. I started working there in January, and almost immediately some guys who had been working the grounds for a couple years, started joking about the bodies piling up in a shack by the prison cemetery that we would be burying as soon as the ground thawed. I honestly thought they were fuckin’ with me.
JAPAN’S SUICIDAL SALARYMEN ARE DYING FOR WORK
I recently took a trip to Brussels and met a Japanese woman on vacation in the hostel I was staying in. At 4 AM that morning, when I heard Sayaka—my new Japanese friend—quietly answer her phone and creep from her bed to the downstairs computer room, I was naturally interested in what she was up to. A mole, keeping tabs on guests for the hostel owners? A weirdo, relaying late-night messages about Brussels to her parents because she didn’t feel comfortable using the internet in daylight?
No, turns out it was the only holiday she had taken that year and the early morning computer visit was to finish off some “urgent” work for her boss, which is a pretty sucky way to spend your vacation. Then again, it’s still better than the 16-hour days at the office that awaited her at home.
Sayaka’s situation isn’t uncommon. A large amount of the population in Japan’s biggest cities have a destructive relationship with work, literally, with many grinding themselves away to an early grave. The social phenomenon has its own word, karoshi, and it isn’t death from digit-crippling labor in a sweatshop or accidents on a building site. It’s suits in corporate buildings dying from strokes, heart attacks, or committing suicide after being worked to their limit.
Earlier this year, the suicide of 26-year-old Mina Mori was accepted as karoshi after an investigation found she’d been clocking up 140 hours of overtime every month, working at a popular chain restaurant called Watami. Employees for numerous companies are expected to embrace a work culture that’s destroying their lives—a kind of worse version of the embrace through gritted-teeth I’d imagine David Miliband gave his brother when he got the party leader job—but a firm, necessary embrace nonetheless.
Karoshi was first recognized in the late 60s, when a guy in the shipping department of Japan’s largest newspaper company died after having a stroke, which seemed kind of unusual for a 29-year-old, until people realized that radically overworking a human can have negative effects on the body, which somehow managed to be a surprise. Since then, cases have become relentless battles between family members of the deceased trying to prove their relatives died from being overworked, and the company in question trying their hardest to sweep it under the ever-lumpier rug.
Many of us like to think that we’ll stand strong and act decisively during a crisis, but until we’re put in one, it’s impossible to know we’ll react. That conflict may affect how we view victims of sexual harassment, according to new research.
How to Jerk Off at Work
Face it, work sucks. No matter how much you love your job, there are still a million things that you would rather be doing than wasting away in a cube, deleting countless emails where your stupid workers replied all when they didn’t need to, and sneaking away to websites like this for a little break to maintain your sanity. Know what you would rather be doing? Sitting at home in your underwear and watching Judge Judywhile you fumble with your naughty bits every so often. Well, you’re going to have to skip the Honorable Judge Sheindlin, but you should be able to go rub one out in the middle of the day to make the drudgery just a little bit more bearable. Here’s how.
Get in the Mood
No matter what you do—even if you’re a pornographer, artisanal dildo maker, Jessica Alba’s nipple-tweaker, or Victoria’s Secret dressing room security guard—your job is not sexy to you. In fact, it probably kills your wood faster than a naked grandma pooping on a kitten. If you’re going to sharpen your pencil in the company supply closet, you’re going to have to get it aroused first. Your work computer probably blocks porn, so try sending some dirty texts to a regular sex partner. They don’t have to respond (this is “How to Jerk Off at Work” not “How to Get Laid at Work”) you just have to get thinking about the nasty for your parts to do what they’re supposed to.
The Corporate Washroom
Obviously you’re going to head to the bathroom. Duh. Just make sure you lock the fucking door. If your place of business has a single operator rest room, then you’re in the clear. Pull it out and do what you learned inside that tent at camp in sixth grade. If there are a bunch of stalls, take the one furthest away from the door. Letting people think you’re dropping a deuce will give you that much more privacy. If you are a construction worker and your bathroom is a port-o-potty, please don’t jerk off in it. That’s gross. Just go do it in your pickup or something.
Know When to Say When
Sometimes, especially in a shared bathroom, you’re going to have to pull the plug on pulling your pud. You know, like if some asshole comes in and starts taking a really juicy shit in the stall next to you. Also, you have about ten minutes in there before someone suspects something kinky is going on. This isn’t one of your hour-long stroke sessions in your bathrobe. Go in there, get it done, and get back to your desk before people start sniffing around.