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October 27, 2016

Pop Dungeon: Creepy things unrelated to Trump for a second

A new column about pop culture sort of

Pop Dungeon Opinion
Criminal Podcast Julienne Alexander/for PhillyVoice

Julienne Alexander's illustration from the "Deep Dive" episode of the "Criminal" podcast. "Criminal" comes to the Troc on Friday.

Welcome to Pop Dungeon. 

It’s a new column that… Let’s just get down to it.

Ghost Story of the Week: I worked as a housecleaner for years. One of the most annoying things is when the homeowner is there while you’re cleaning. It’s so awkward to be moving their flour, sugar and salt containers around in front of them — or pretending you’re not scraping their child’s booger wall — while small talking.

To break the ice, I’d usually ask them a pretty universal question, something that cuts through the dangling political and class differences, and it’s this: “So! Ever seen a ghost?”

No one doesn’t want to talk about this. For my first Ghost Story of the Week, I’m gonna tell you about a time one fell into my lap without the annoyance of the homeowner being around:

I was cleaning houses on the Main Line, where you are pretty much bringing in more dirt than you’re removing, just rearranging the vacuum lines you made the week before. I was dusting some douchebag teenage boy’s bedroom when I heard my co-worker yelling downstairs:

“Phantasma! Phantasma!”

The rest of us cleaners ran downstairs. “What’s going on?” (I couldn’t believe anything was going on.)

Maria had seen an old man walk by her and then vanish.

She talked and Bob the Boss Cleaner translated: “You saw something!”

“A man!”

She imitated a middle-aged white dude walking.

I was cleaning houses on the Main Line, where you are pretty much bringing in more dirt than you’re removing.

“What did he look like?!”

“He was wearing pants!”

“What kind of pants?!”

Maria pointed to a splotch in one of the lame paintings on the wall. A light brown splotch.

“Brown pants?”

Maria wasn’t happy with “brown pants.”

“Khakis?” I said.

“Si!” Then she pointed to the place in the West Elm carpet where he vanished.

Bryn Mawr. Even its ghost stories are morbidly boring.

Moving on…

Someone you know has a cold this week. It’s inevitable that you’ll get it. I have it. I made the Machiavellian mistake of taking heavy-duty cold meds, drivers-license-required-for-purchase meds — aka A Ticket To Mars. I would prefer “a runny nose while talking to customers” to this meth. 

Here are some things that rode my last nerve and/or creeped me out while I was tweaking:

People who go on police ridealongs. Then they post about it. Like they’re cops now. And not freelance IT specialists.

Stuff for sale on Facebook. Two strangers vigorously, publicly figuring out a time they can meet to negotiate the price of a used bath mat. Or a guy who needs to get rid of an engagement ring “ASAP,” and the first comment is, “Bro, I got cash. Text me when you’re off, K?”

Root vegetable wraps: the punishment of the fall. It’s like they pulled a wet sandwich out of the ground and health-guilted you into buying it. It’s already a wrap for Pete’s sake. There has to be something sparkly about this meal!

Nine credit cards in a restaurant check folder: Why would you do this to someone? You go out and have an enjoyable meal with eight of your friends and then tell the server — who’s been cool with you all night — that they have to do the transaction NINE TIMES. It screws up so many things. For one: The computer system gets jammed because of the extra transactions. For another: Splitting the check up magnifies the possibility of a math snafu, especially when the math problem was scrawled on a receipt by nine drunk people. At the end of the night, if a server’s report is off by even a penny, she/he is at work for an extra half hour.

When you hand me a check folder with nine credit cards, all I can think is, “Man, I thought you guys were cool.”

Going out to eat with eight other people? Stop at Wawa. Withdraw a couple of twenties and buy some gum so you have your dollars broken down. When you hand me a check folder with nine credit cards, all I can think is, “Man, I thought you guys were cool.”

Picture yourself telling a supermarket cashier that you’d like each of your 12 items bagged and rung up separately. It’s not different. It’s just as creepy. And totally antithetical to breaking bread with friends. Get your credit card points some other way, or take turns on who gets the points.

If you did this recently and the server pretended to be cool, they were work-actressing. Think of the thing at your job that you work-actress and multiply it by a thousand. That’s what you are putting out there. Cash Is Chic. Be chic.

Real aloe vera from the West Philly produce truck near Supreme: OK, this stuff is like the gross entrails of an alpaca you never met. But if you smear that goo all over your face, you’ll wake up with a face like a placard. How is this possible without selling my soul to Sephora? Grab a bag of ginger for a dollar while you’re there for the tea you pretend to drink. Am I blowing up my spot by telling you this? Probably. Will I hate myself tomorrow? I will anyway. Pick one up for a friend having a rough day.

Posting regrets on people’s event pages: Knock it off. No one cares that you can’t go. This event is going on without you, so stop trying to bog our high by saying you’re doing something else or, even worse, linking to the other thing you are doing. The host hit “select all” when they sent out the invites, so come off your Giganto-sized horse. We’re doing body shots without you. Accept your own insignificance.

"Criminal" podcast: I was bartending and this guy Fred who comes in a couple times a day was telling me about his latest podcast obsession. I was sort of bragging that I’d finally kind of stopped thinking about the “You Must Remember This” Manson episodes when he dropped a bomb on me about the “Criminal” podcast and told me which ones to hear first. I curse you, Fred.

And, extra-special creepy bonus: "Criminal" is coming live to the Trocadero this Friday. In case you don’t have enough insomnia in your life, come hear one of their skin-crawling stories live. Episodes like “I’m About to Save Your Life” and “The Money Tree” kept me awake in the middle of the night wondering about the goings-on of psychopaths from the 1980s who were oddly, chillingly, non-violent and yet heartbreakingly destructive to the core.

Each episode is a stand-alone (so you can skip around), and each one’s usually only about 20 or 25 minutes long. They have mastered the art of just enough dark information and so many unanswered questions. It’ll keep you thrashing in your blankets at 6 a.m. harder than the mid-section in true crime books where the dead bodies are “whited out” of the crime-scene photos. A practice, I believe made up by the sleeping pill industry. Two episodes pertain to Philly. I can’t say anything more lest I spoil: "Angie" and "One Eyed Joe."

Sweet dreams.