Thursday, November 8, 2018

Veronica's Magical World


I used to have an old friend, Veronica, who would take (partial) credit for it being a sunny day. “See what my prayers did?” she'd say, pointing happily around. The weather wasn’t her only spiritual talent; she saw herself as key to a lot of positive aspects of life. I thought, maybe yes, probably no. But what can you say, “Hey, great job!” I always wondered how she could think that way, but it was OK.

My problem, if you'd call it a problem, is I’m more "realistic," but it's my own realism; her outlook to her was also realistic. I never gave her much credit, but I could be wrong; everything I think isn't a fact. Maybe she was right. Because there’s all kinds of scientific ways to demonstrate that the world isn’t what it seems to be. Just get a microscope and look. I wouldn't mind thinking how Veronica thought, if people around me could stand it.

We got the first snow of the season. Minor, so far, and it’s still coming down. And I had to remark, “See what my prayers didn't do,” since I didn’t want it to snow. But maybe Veronica, now passed on, wherever she is — heaven — thought I wanted or needed snow. It’s interesting she didn’t think that in August when it was so hot, but instead waited till November when it’s not so rare.

Still, even if there’s nothing to it, that seems like a good way to think, if you can manage it. It's hyper-optimistic. If I could just think that every little thing is happening just for me, that’d be a happy world. I wouldn’t have to tell everyone, of course, like going around taking credit for it. Say a family was in a 10-car pileup on the interstate because of the snow, I’d hate to have them show up at my door with legal claims. So I’d try not to take all the credit. 

OK, let’s say I indeed have Veronica in heaven, still doing the same things she did in daily life, praying for sunny days and favors, then joyfully claiming the results as her own. I could let this blog be a plea to my other friends and loved ones who have passed to also pitch in. I could get up and think what I want, knowing they heard my thoughts. But if there is a one-to-one ratio on wanting and getting, I could just leave out the dead middleman and pray it myself.

What would be even better than passed-on advocates in heaven would be their actual presence along side me. Then every little thing I saw, I could credit one or another of them. I see a candle flicker, that’s Mom passing by. "Hi, Mom, how ya doin'?" Or I’m taking a bath and think, “No reason to waste water,” that has to be my Dad. I had a best friend who died around a year ago. I’d actually love him doing a few funny things in my life. Like giving me better blog ideas. In my opinion he was a genius.

Hmm, for some reason the sun just went down, sunk in a second! ... and it’s only 2:00 in the afternoon. It’s pitch dark and it was bright as noon five minutes ago. Never mind wondering what’s going on, excited scientists. It’s just Veronica telling me, I need more rest. Good night, one and all!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Re-Elect Gus Grissle Dog Catcher


In these troubled times, with the Republican party the scum of the earth, it's hard to keep a civil society. Life is hard enough, as everyone knows, but these rabid fiends -- no friend of man or beast -- add to the general sense of misery. There's no easy solution, short of 40 million moonshots, which would take a lot of work. So we're stuck simply trying to get along.

Of course I personally never vote for Republicans, ever, with one lone exception, and that's Gus Grissle for Dog Catcher.

Gus is an old neighbor of mine, and, by god, I know he's more or less good with dogs. As I've heard at the coffee shop a million times, Gus keeps the loose feral population down within manageable limits. According to the Daily News, attacks by loose rabid dogs on children as well as adults are down to a respectable average of only 160 a year. A stat to be celebrated in a small town. I was personally attacked twice, but if you attend to it right away -- skip the hospital, there's cheaper antibiotics on the black market -- you'll usually recover sufficiently to limp along and recognize family members, although it’s often intermittent.

Naturally, the best remedy is prevention. An ounce of prevention definitely feels better than a ton of painful injections. And that's why we need Gus Grissle. He's our man! Because it's important to have a guy who's not afraid to get his butt out there, patrol, and bring these monsters in. As to the few healthy dogs that are loose, he's also the man to get them back to their families. Although I wish we didn't have to waste time and resources doing so much of that, because it's eradicating the attack dogs that has to be number one.

Obviously, we need a good man for dog catcher, a man sensitive to the needs of dogs as well as dog-owners/parents. As a dog parent myself, I want a dog catcher who won’t necessarily take my dog right to the pound, let alone shoot her without at least the courtesy of a phone call. Dogs are funny though. They don't know Gus is only helping them. My dog's been nabbed a few times, so now if I want her to behave, I just have to say, "I'm gonna call Gus Grissle, and he's gonna come get you," or just the word "Grissle." She growls, then goes to her crate and cowers. I coax her out with a doggy treat and we're back on good terms.

Gus knows a thing or two about dogs. But it’s not just his knowledge of dogs that makes him the best candidate. The best thing about Gus is that he actually wants to do it and does it. He's diligent. And think of it, it's a dirty job, thankless, most of the dogs you snag hate you, and you stand a good chance of getting bitten every single day. This isn't a cushy office job; these aren't office dogs, they're mean street dogs. The kind that talk back and take no crap.

This year, friends, I had to vote absentee for Gus Grissle. Because I’m presently in the Big City while they work on Grandma’s house. And the house is basically open, with protective tarps. A big concern is that anyone could get in if they wanted. Say a bunch of tramps were living there with their tramp dogs, it’s to my benefit to have Gus just up the street, looking out for me. And to send those tramp dogs packing.
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Older post: Gus Grissle for Dogcatcher, 2015 election

Saturday, November 3, 2018

While My Catarrh Gently Seeps


I believe it was the Buddha, as well as my Grandma, who said, “All life is suffering.” Whatever it is, whatever happens, you’re up, you’re down, you’re flat on your back in the hospital. There’s a major inflammation in your lower tract. It can’t be traced. Even surgery gives no relief; you’re worse off than when you first began.

The “wheel of life” is a concept from one of the major faiths. On this wheel of life, once you’ve spun it, you see what you get. All the usual aches, pains, diseases, and, last but not least, inflammations. Cuts, sores, piles, wounds, chafing, burns, sunburn, and catarrh. Proving the old adage beyond dispute, If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. With no end in sight, no good end anyway. Death, the grave, decomposition, and so forth till you’re lost and completely forgotten.

I see ambulances racing down the street all the time. Your life is precious. The sirens are wailing, they go through stop lights, because you can’t wait, the time is now, your need is urgent, every second counts in this drama of life and death. Minutes later you’re at the hospital, where they spend the next two hours getting your personal information, insurance, height and weight. Then it’s three hours later until a doctor's available. You could be dead by now, you know, but at least you saved 8 seconds at that last red light.

I probably should look up Buddha before I say definite things about him. But I’m winging it. From the little I know, nearly everything about Buddha is up for grabs anyway, depending on what country you’re from and what line of Buddhism you follow. So whatever I say is true somewhere in the world. The story may be familiar to you: Buddha’s dad kept him in the palace, not wanting him to see the outside world. Because Buddha Sr. knew the outside world was full of suffering. Then Buddha Jr. went into the outside world and discovered it was full of suffering.

Which I also discovered. You pick up on it right away, the first day of kindergarten. A kid on the playground breaks his arm, you kiss a girl on the jungle gym and she ends up with someone else, the teacher counts you tardy if you’re not in class when the bell goes off. Then there’s the rest of existence out of the sight of your protective parents. Now, too, once you’ve seen the suffering in the world — duplicity, backstabbing, lying, and sin — you even notice it in your parents, how unfair they are, even unjust. The foods they want you to eat, vegetables, are terrible and provide no nutritional value that you can’t get with straight sugar.

I also think cable TV is terrible suffering, except Monday Night Football and the Sunday games. You want it, you get it, it doesn’t make you happy; pillow commercials day and night. That’s the meaning of suffering.

Sex is suffering. The words “Regrets, I’ve had a few...” surely were written about sex. But what can you do? It’s the highest aspiration and at the same time the lowest. Great in concept, devastating in practice, unless you’re about to have a baby, then that’s a good payoff, but of course he or she will suffer, disappoint, die, etc. Abstaining is also suffering. But if you want to suffer and yet have more interesting payoff than dying rugrats, keep it zipped, wear coarse underwear, lock your hands behind your back, sleep and never wake up. Say you do wake up, keep the underwear on; it’s not painful enough to hurt you, it just keeps you on your toes when you walk or shift.

A couple of the diseases I should look up: Catarrh and Piles.

Catarrh? I got a catarrh once for Christmas and mom and dad even threw in catarrh lessons. A guy taught me several chords and I strummed myself silly, like other strumpets. Catarrh is also an old fashioned word for a dreaded condition, having to do with something like bad breath, a queasy tummy, or possibly worse. You’d think catarrh music is beautiful to listen to — say, Segovia — but still there’s also this damned curse of catarrh. When the catarrh’s out of tune, or the strings have lost their twang. On my catarrh, I used to take a file to the strings just to clean them of the filth on my fingers, like if I’d just dug potatoes. But a little dirt is good on catarrh strings, like the grunge music of the 90s.

I used to know a girl who played catarrh. She pulled off the G string and got the party started. Making beautiful music together. Which reminded me, oh yeah, I forgot the coarse underwear, which (as a reminder) keeps you on your toes when you walk or shift.

What about Piles? I should look this one up, too, but I think my sweet imagination is better than the medical encyclopedia. We know what it is when the dog leaves piles behind. They start at the behind, and that’s where they’re left. Some excrescences. Some are blatantly dropped, that’s the majority, the heart of the matter. Other piles cling, causing discomfort to the animal, no doubt, then their scooting across the floor messes up the carpet. Here in the Big City, the place I’m staying has hardwood floors, which the dog finds both comfortable and uncomfortable, depending on the effort she goes through to relieve herself.

The word piles is a good term, definitely evocative. Like if you had piles of money, like the Disney character who kept his money in a vault and was diving in it day and night. Piles and piles of piles can be a deadly thing, though.

Cuts, sores, wounds. That's all self explanatory. You get enough cuts, sores, and wounds, you’ll look back and discover you wound up in the hospital. I never cut myself. I’ve heard of people doing that, crazy, terrible fetish. The most pain I cause myself is biting my lip. But it’s not so bad, because I catch myself before there’s any pain. You have to think it through consciously. “I cannot eat myself. What value would that be? Eating is meant to nourish the system, not take the system away." You might remember the story in the Bible where the poor man Lazarus had dogs licking his sores. He was so despondent he took some comfort there. Dogs will lick you if you give them a leg up. Or worse. But that’s not what you should aspire to.

Buddha, he knew what to do about suffering. See through it. Transcend it with insight, realization. The exact science of which you can find in various Buddhist treatises. And from any guru you happen to meet, who finds you worthy to learn the secrets. (Everyone’s worthy, it just takes a while standing in line to make it happen.) Which is itself suffering, to a good purpose, to teach you patience till you learn the rest.

In the meantime, you can observe life itself and get enough teachings and eventually leave the line. Dogs walking by teach you a lot, as sketched out above. Or pick up your own catarrh. Pound out a tune and you’ll find the truth. A man, a woman, they’re very good, but suffering hopelessly if you dive deeply enough. When you find that place, the time for gurus and pills is ended.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The True Warrior Doesn't Say


What we’ve always heard and experienced, guys come back from war and they don’t want to talk about it. You have an uncle, or three or four like me, and they’re tight as clams about the war.

Maybe that’s why I don’t say much about my lack of war experience. I will say this much, I could’ve gone to war. Uncle Sam judged me a prime 18-year-old specimen, good enough to be called at any second. But it didn't happen; I was glad. But after years had gone by, I actually wished I had gone. You get to retire after a measly 20 years. And of course the parades where everyone’s singing your praises, that's a great perk. I could’ve stood there in a crowd of people at one of these ceremonies, solemnly waving, then kept my lip zipped, because the warriors I've known rarely spoke.

As it is, we all have our experiences — happy, fun, sad, traumatic — and we don’t always talk about them. One, no one really wants to hear. I’m with people all the time, and you’d think the conversation would be, “Hey, you, you’re clammed up good and tight, not contributing even a peep to the conversation, stoved up tighter than a drum.” “Oh, I don’t know about that,” I might protest, hoping they don’t delve any deeper than they already have. You need to find a way to distract them, “Hey, look! is that an exploding Hindenburg?!” As everyone checks out the ball of fire, they’ve forgotten us warriors.

I still haven’t heard what the war was like. Which is another reason I should have gone. Then I could be the one sitting there inscrutable, savoring the terrible memories that must be the source of why I’m so clammed up. Any old war would do. The big one was WWII. I used to know some guys, and true to the whole thing, they clammed up. They were likely thinking, “This guy’s not saying a thing about the war because he knows I wouldn’t answer him anyway.” So we kept very quiet about it. Same reason we don't ask a brother about his honeymoon; there's surely details he wouldn't want me to know.

That’s the best way, just be cagey about it. And if you are unconsciously cagey, 100% resolved to the fact that warriors don’t speak, you never can tell, he might break down and spill his guts. Of course you can’t be too interested or he’s back to silence. I had a guy one time tell me about being on a ship going to Europe that was jam packed with guys, they were on top of tables, under tables, under chairs, maybe stacked on top of each other at times, such as when the ship made a sharp turn. The way I pictured it, it was wall to wall men, bumped, jostled, and crowded for a month (or whatever it took to make that terrible trip.) Hearing even that much was a rarity.

And I didn’t wheedle him for information, just let the details come in, giving me an appreciation for that aspect of his life. And I was glad I didn’t experience that fiasco myself. Two’s company, three’s a crowd. A whole ship full of guys packed in there, rolling over and crunching one another for a long time -- since I’m an introvert and part-time germaphobe -- would be a living hell. The biggest thing I never heard from that guy, or anyone else, was what the war was actually like, whether you killed anyone, etc.

A couple of my uncles were in Vietnam, early on and as an extended career thing. In planes, at least one of them in the refueling business. We always looked at their formal fuzzy color portraits on the wall and imagined what they might be up to. Then they’d be home, one at a time once in a blue moon, and we kept right on imagining what they might’ve been doing, because they certainly didn’t say. It was either too terrible to mention, or so innocent and benign it’d ruin the mystery.

I do some of that myself. There’s plenty I don’t talk about. Wherever I am, I just sit there in stony silence, offering nods to whatever (Are you OK?) and maintaining my man of mystery status. “Why don’t you say anything?” “Ain’t got nothing to say?” “Nothing?” “Nope, I mean, Yep.” “Yes, I have no nothing, I have no nothing to say.” Or plenty of nothing, however you choose to quantify a plenty that still comes out zero.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

My Friend D— Died in a Terrible Accident


In my usual way of thinking I try to keep mortality out of my mind. I’m so used to living — it’s become a habit — I’m not thinking of dying. That said, the opposite is also true. I’m a walking precaution against dying. Like the nervous bird forever bobbing its head, watching for danger. The habit of survival. I swerve to miss a three-car pileup or sidestep a hole to not trip.

This is actually something you don’t want to think about a lot. Even if it’s not far from your mind. Because the more conscious you are of the process, the less reliably your defenses work in the background. It’s true. The more you consciously think of anything, the more you are consciously responsible. And background processes are very reliable. If we could go through life entirely unconscious and yet happy, we’d avoid the whole mess.

OK, since most of it’s delegated to unconscious processes, that leaves me consciously able to watch out for others’ safety. So I’m a warning-a-minute: “Watch out for that hole, someone’s following us, have you got your keys?," etc.

But I suddenly failed! Coming out of store with friend, D----, I turned my head for three seconds to check out the sale on bottled water, which I don't even drink, and even though I'd very recently warned her to look both ways, I let down my guard for three seconds, leading to a terrible end... When...

It wasn’t the driver’s fault. Unless the fact that he was going 45 mph in a dangerous parking lot is set at his bumper. No, despite my prior warning — was it a case of her being pigheaded? — she walked right into the truck’s path. But it couldn’t have been intentional, not the way she was protecting her sack of groceries. Clearly she meant to live at least long enough to eat a four-pack of yogurt; she didn’t mean to die before that.

Still, I can’t see any value in restricting cause and effect to the physical. There’s also the mental. She had bad habits, one of which was depending too much on me. Because I usually do give constant warnings. But you still gotta look at for yourself, Doris! What if you’d lived and I’d died? You would’ve died anyway if you couldn't wise up to danger. Did she deserve to get run over? She probably didn’t technically deserve it, but the jury’s still out on whether there was a moral verdict waiting for her to receive sooner or later. Still, who am I to dump on her? People make mistakes, they pay the piper.

It took me a couple days beating myself up to finally reconcile things; this wasn’t my fault. Get on with your life. Easy come, easy go. Another day, another dollar. Plus, I have to save my energy for the guy’s trial.

I hate to face the guy again, as much ragging on him I did. It wasn't a good picture of me, cussing him up one side and down the other. Blaming his passenger for distracting him, without evidence. And I even blamed his truck, an old fashioned model that you usually only see at garden centers, with the hood up and a bunch of flowers where the motor used to be. “What are you driving that rickety old piece of shit through the parking lot at 45 mph anyway, Stupid?!”

It took the police to calm me down. I was in a rage, lunging at the guy. And his stupid antique truck. What kind of tires are those? Model T’s?! The police calmed me down fast, Officer Rix pulling a gun and threatening to blow my brains out. He calmly explained, “Your friend was a complete klutz to get herself run over so stupidly.” Which of course I had to accept as true.

My own purchase that day was Neapolitan ice cream. Three flavors for the price of one. I meant for me and Doris to enjoy a bowl each, had only she lived. As it turned out, though, tragically, that meant two bowls for me. It’s a good way to drown your sorrows; eat more ice cream.

So ... one friend down, several friends left. Who really should listen to me more. Permit me, this is rough. ... Doris will never get another chance to do the right thing. She had to let her mind drift off who-knows-where, thinking, “I’m 100% safe, nothing can ever happen to me, my fate’s a long ways away, I’m young-ish, invulnerable-ish, I’ve got lots of plans for tomorrow,” etc. People like her are always making plans for tomorrow, completely unaware that the clutching hand of fate is already clamped tight around their neck.

But I definitely saw it. In the seconds after exiting the store and the screech of the tires and her scream, the sky was cloudy, ponderous, foreboding. But was it already too late for Doris? That’s for philosophers wiser than I to debate. She was definitely run over and by the time I got home my ice cream was softer than I like.

It made me think, God took my friend’s life to teach me an important lesson, which was probably “Look Out for Trucks,” which I already knew.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Flies of October


What motivates flies? I don’t know. Probably the same thing that motivates us. You put one wing in front of the other and go about your day. We (flies and us) are not doing impossible things, just the things that come naturally, or through nurture, in our case.

I've had a terrible time with flies in October. Totally different than September. In September they were merely bad, but in October they became intolerable. At the time I was thinking, “WTF’s going on?” Then it dawned on me, it's because winter's coming. The flies were frantic, in a frenzy, making it a zoo here in The Big City, my temporary quarters till they get Grandma’s house refurbished, fixed, and satisfactorily fumigated, if possible.

I should mention I’m a small town boy, only used to small town flies. So my problem in October could've been these being Big City flies. With a rougher background, hence they really know how to carry on. Suffice to say, it's been rough to just keep the flies at normal hazard levels without driving me completely out of my mind. I finally settled on a two-pronged approach to killing them, the fly swatter, mostly, with a minor assist from flypaper strips.

I remember the very worst day. I literally killed 75 flies that day, or more. I even quit picking them up after a while, they were so thick. Proper burials were out. I could do no more than warehouse them, you know, with a resolution to bury them properly in the spring, if I remember to do so. I was complaining to the neighbor guy, “The flies in The Big City are nothing like back home!” Then I started telling him about fumigating my grandparents’ old house. And it looked like I nauseated him when I said I still had the bed my mother was conceived on.

The neighbor now gone, I was back to killing flies. I’ll never forget that day! My arm was sore from all the swatting. They were dropping like ... themselves. Then in the evening I made a special trip to buy fly paper strips. I was very desperate; this was a level of desperation I hadn’t experienced since the time I peed my pants in fourth grade and had to go home and face my dad, also pissed off.

But wouldn’t you know, the frenzy turned out to be because it was the last day for flies! I had no idea. The next day came and there were barely any flies left. But now I had the flypaper strips up, and they’re still up. But one managed only to attract 10 or 12 flies. And the other strip attracted zero! None. This is a fact. At first I was blaming the brand of flypaper, then I realized the flies, with the colder temperatures, had either died or gone into dormancy, just like that. Nature’s pattern: Frenzy precedes dormancy. Like your sex drive when you turn 65. Of which, the less said the better.

OK, I’ve flashed back to these memories of flies because today, suddenly, I saw my first fly in a week. And wondered, “What the hell, I thought you guys were dead or dormant...” So I had to find the fly swatter all over again and get him. It pays to stay dormant, little buddy. Lesson for flies: Hibernate or die!

Monday, October 22, 2018

I Could've Been a Job Foreman


You gotta love the perspective of an old man, able to see things so clearly what you shoulda coulda woulda done if you could do it again. Because if you choose wrong, you're sunk, all is lost.

I’ve definitely seen the career opportunities I've missed! With every passing day that drags by on getting Grandma's house fixed, I now see the golden opportunities of being a job foreman. What’s he do everyday but look for more complications, more things wrong, more ways to drag his feet? I could've done that.

It’d be easy to be a job foreman. Always get up on the wrong side. Nurture your mean streak. Limp from one task to another. Take the insurmountable as your default view.

Of course I'm seeing the renovation work on the house as hopeless. Plus, I'm in "The Big City," barely able to communicate with the job foreman in a useful way. Which means I'm screwed as they attempt to begin, then someday possibly finish their hopeless mission. They're like old war heroes, "Boys, I’m going in and I may not be back. I’ll be hip deep in big muddy and pressing on." So before you choose any job, pick your retirement plan; it could be a long hard slog.

The house is a mess. I'm hearing about mold, fungi, a thick cadre of pests and pestilence, all of it thick and messy from the roof beams to the foundation. Making me wonder, How can so many things go wrong? What'd I miss? I get good counsel from my pastor occasionally; they had a charity fund drive for me. I really appreciate his comfort and counsel, saying, "The morning's always darker just before dawn, or just after the job foreman shows up."

It's the job foreman, really, that inspired me to vacate the premises, the town, and even the state, to go to the Big City while they work ... Anything to be away from his bad attitude. His original sin — or virtue, if you look at it from the point of view of every task being a cash cow — is believing "It can’t be done." Whatever the problem, it's a lost cause, it's hopeless, no one can do it, and I may as well be the one to break it to you.. No doubt he secretly revels in it behind my back.

From their point of view, these are all billable hours, you get a job like this, you look ahead to the payout. Knowing there’s nothing I can do. You try to report someone to the authorities, it's a two pronged challenge. One, they're used to disgruntled homeowners and chalk it up to you being disgruntled. And two, they know contractors and job foreman have families and have to eat, so back off, this is the way they do it, by screwing you high and low.

The simple truth of the matter is, No home renovation is hopeless, really, they just make it feel that way. I don't care how big the fungus is, it’s not too big for the mind of man to surmount. If he wants to. But basically it's obscured because we are naturally scared away by fungus, spiders, microscopic hungry house rot. It looks hopeless to the layman, so we put our hand in the hand of the man who promises us hope. "I can do it!" The job foreman beams when he first arrives. It's downhill from there.

I might organize a support group for guys like me, caught in the home renovation trap. The place is too far gone to fix, but I'm too poor to afford something better. Or too stupid to see the possibilities. I don’t like debt. But when you’re an old man without kids, debt should be your friend. You go whole hog, you die, what are they going to do? You have a great house, you die.

I was never devious enough, rotten enough, or talented enough to have been a job foreman. At least with the knowledge I had then. That's the other thing about old age. You can easily see, Most of the helpers you get as you go through life have a million devious schemes up their sleeves. With the first thing being the paperwork. Make the paperwork complicated-looking, thick as your arms, get you to sign your life away. Surely there’s more codicils in the paperwork negating your rights than granting them. You're the little guy, you're screwed from the get go.

But I could've learned that. Imagine how empowering that'd be. I should’ve done it. Set my sights to be a job foreman, with all the personal confidence that comes from screwing the poor homeowner. You've broken him already. What more can he do but shut up and get the hell out of your way, while you and your team move in for the endless road ahead. I wouldn’t doubt if they were making things worse. Vials of poison, test tubes of virulent pests that they've imported from the jungles of Peru.

This is how the plague in the Middle Ages started. A kid wanted to be a job foreman on a castle and set about it. He worked the rest of his life, the apparent work on the castle limping hopelessly along, while the lord who used to live there was in the The Big City, unaware what shenanigans were going on at the manor.

I'm too old for this information to do me much good. I've got arthritis, it hurts merely to lie in bed. The death angel has me on the list. But you're young, your whole life’s ahead of you! Don't be a doctor, a lawyer, any pissant job like that. Be a job foreman! And be set for life, tormenting, terrorizing the populace, but making enough money, what’ll you care?!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mute Invisible Guard Dogs


I’ve been living in “The Big City” while they work on Grandma’s house — fumigation is the least of its problems — so I’ve been out cattin' around everyday. Checking out things. Plus, I’m actually a minor player in the recycling industry, in that I pick up and cash in aluminum cans. I’ll make a post about it some time.

I see myself also as patrolling the ‘hood. But most of the vandalism I see appears to have happened years ago. With the bad guys long gone. Windows are out, broken glass is everywhere, and some of the buildings are on their last legs. Makes me rethink Grandma’s house; it's not too far gone.

In all this patrolling and can rummaging, I’ve been interested in the obligatory signs warning thieves, burglars, vandals, and squatters. There’s a small tree-covered area nearby, and I discerned right away some homeless folks were living there. Which was cool with me, so I didn’t do anything to disturb them, just kept my distance. After a while, though — and obviously it would’ve been better if they’d stayed there only briefly — their presence was discovered by the authorities or owners. Who went in, piled up all their stuff on the curb, then hauled most of it away. Now there's blinking light posts at the various entrances to the wooded area.

The other thing they have, to keep folks out, are warning signs. Yes, yes, in “The Big City” warning signs are very common. At the wooded area, the warning signs tell of “Video Surveillance,” which would seem to be false; wouldn’t you see an occasional camera somewhere? Or are they spending big bucks on a satellite system, a joint effort with NASA? Still, I don’t go in there, mostly because I already have a place to flop, and also I’m careful about crossing boundaries. There used to be an old guy in my neighborhood rumored to shoot kids with rock salt.

OK, the signs. That’s what I’m on about today. While searching for beer cans (and other aluminum goodies), I’m always seeing warning signs. A bunch of them are posted on buildings that have been ransacked so many times, it’s obvious no one takes them seriously. Actually, my biggest fear would be to have other ransackers there when I went in, then they’d ransack me... Anyway, the chances of these old buildings having anything of huge value in them now are pretty low.

Thinking it over, though, I had a great idea, which would be to make signs saying, “THIS BUILDING IS PROTECTED BY MUTE INVISIBLE GUARD DOGS.” Is it true? I mean, really, someone could diligently search and find actual non-vocal dogs who’ve also had the added misfortune of being born invisible. When it rains, it pours, right? So there they are, a big bowl of food and water keeping body and soul together, the whole works. They're healthy, they usually get decent sleep ... until the big night comes.

Finally someone's stupid enough to enter. Some guys, looking for metal bathtub fixtures and wanting to strip the precious wiring out of the walls, show up one night. They’re drinking up a storm just before this, getting up their nerve. Because a sign about mute invisible guard dogs truly is intimidating. But they convince themselves, "This sign’s just like that one at the wooded area, a big fat fake!” Then they go in, and these dogs — vicious bastards when provoked — get hold of their legs; one nearly escapes but the dog takes a chunk out of his ass. Exciting stuff.

Pretty soon the dogs have the bastards cornered — who by now have dropped the bathtub pipes — and they make their final merciless lunge, right for the jugular! Blood’s spurting out everywhere, it’s a mess for the ages. Enough blood to make you sick. The perps go on to meet their reward in hell. The next day the dogs aren’t all that hungry. I come along on my bike, find the cans outside that the guys drank from (who were also litterbugs), catch a glimpse of the sign about the invisible dogs, shiver to myself in fear, grab the cans, and get the hell out of there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Lame Duck Can Collecting


I’ve been out of Grandma’s house for a while now, while the construction guys work on the mold, mildew, and anything else that may have sprung up and festered. So to keep my life interesting -- I have to start somewhere -- I moved to a major metro area, and I’m getting a taste of the concrete jungle. It's going OK so far, as long as I keep my group dynamics edge. Without group dynamics, I'd be sunk.

You know I don’t toot my own horn much about group dynamics. But it’s always been a thing with me, running seminars, disclosing the techniques to lucky petitioners, etc. BTW, I'm always available for company functions, as long as you're severely stressed and in the need of an expert with a nice personality. My mind is a wickedly adept computer for a few things. I can tell you immediately when I need to go to the bathroom, for one. Then there's the field of group dynamics. It was a huge talent in school. I could always sense when I wasn’t welcome in a group, which was more often than I liked.

So I’m in the metro area... Here I met a guy who turned me on to the possibilities of collecting beer/soda cans and taking them to a metal recycling place, where they pay 40 cents a pound! Sweet! If you walked the city all day you might net $3.00! And one of the principles of can collecting is, You have to go look for them, they don’t come to you. That means lots of walking, getting your feet wet in ditches; and with a lot of walking, you’re visible to a lot of people. “There’s that guy again," or, "What’s that guy doing on my turf?” I see other can collectors coming at me and I go the other way.

Anyway, group dynamics comes in handy for interpersonal interactions I can't avoid. And who better for it, since I'm the guy who formulated the “Three R’s Of Group Dynamics,” which, to review, are: 1) aRrange, 2) Reconnoiter, and 3) Ruminate. These have been mentioned in some (now out of print) textbooks on the subject, and it’s not rare to hear group dynamics guys mention them in passing. That’s the way they choose to do it, but I do it differently. The three points are uppermost in my mind!

Now to the cans. One of the best places to get cans is smaller parks where lots of guys hang out. They and others have drunk beer and littered the cans. With complications. What if they don’t leave? How do I know who the cans belong to? And since I don’t want to keep coming back, I have to go right in among them. The “aRranging” vis-a-vis them is already set, so I have to aRrange myself. I look for the least intrusive way to move among them. Example, if there’s 4 of them over here and 2 at the other end, I take the point of least resistance, the 2. I keep whatever distance I can without being too obviously fearful. I have to express some boldness or I’m a sitting duck. But I can’t be too close without encroaching. So far I haven’t been beaten up. And of course I’m friendly by strict policy. 

The last couple of times I’ve actually avoided that area of the park, because the aRranging can easily be out of my hands. I’m aRranging for the future, by approaching areas where one or two guys are, being very friendly with them, and hoping that I gain a good reputation through their unsolicited testimonies when I’m gone. It's a constant concern as to what's too much or too little.

The second point, Reconnoitering, has basically been touched on in my tact. But it’s a knowledge that has to continually build on itself. Some group dynamics sessions are in a more controlled setting, a seminar, a class, Sunday School. I did major research on the old retirees' table at McDonald’s that meets every morning, but so far haven’t published it. That’s a great one for Reconnoitering, because the aRrangement is essentially set. Besides calm tact, Reconnoitering among groups while collecting cans is tilted toward keeping your cool, remembering basic survival techniques, following your gut/instincts, and being willing to drop even the cans you’ve got and run like hell. Needless to say, that little rubber band twisting in my head, it's in good repair!

Ruminating — the third postulate — is what I do at home certainly, but since the situation with an unpredictable group is so fluid and rife with potential disaster, it's also done on the fly. The point is to build on what you’ve got, increasing in knowledge, wisdom, etc. But if you’re dead three minutes from now, there’s little gain. So I’m Ruminating continually, while the aRranging and Reconnoitering necessarily continue apace. “Is it worth .33 cents to ask that guy with the snarl on his face and crushing a can against his skull if I can have it?” Of course I generally pass, giving me so far the ability to walk in, walk out, and live to tell.

But because the situation is so volatile, I've taken to identifying with the lame duck. There's a lot of variables! I have to intuit more than I want! (Intuition is a division of Ruminating). So I’ve been avoiding that particular spot. Normally I’m walking, 99% of the time, but a couple days ago I drove by, and there they were, just waiting for that foolish guy with the plastic bag to show his squirrely face. The group dynamics gods speak otherwise, my friends! You're not going to beat the crap out of me so easily!

HOT LINK -- You might be interested in one of my group dynamics posts, when a home economics class vied to win a date with me.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Long Live Trucking


The last few days I’ve been looking at the interstate and wishing I’d been a truck driver. You have the open road everyday and you’re alone with your thoughts. The boss you have, he’s not breathing down your neck like some the ones I’ve known. You pick up a load, you take it somewhere, then move on.

I’ve been thinking about it since last weekend, when I went to a retirement party for three brothers, three truckers who recently retired, all the same time. They started out young, put their time in, and now someone else gets to haul the shipments, while they sit at home and tend the garden or whatever.

It was cute the way their kids had the place decorated, strictly a truck motif, with gas signs, rest stops, etc. I asked one of the guys, Frank, what he was going to miss the most about trucking. At first he said “Nothing!”, which got a good laugh, then he was serious for a moment about missing the open road everyday and being alone with his thoughts.

Ted also got some laughs when he said you don’t have the boss breathing down your neck all the time, with his boss sitting there at the retirement party, wagging a finger and laughing.

And Pete, basically zen, said, “You get your load, you move on, you arrive.” The way he put it really stuck with me.

We gathered around the cake and the daughters were slicing it and putting it on plates for the well-wishers. There were three sons of these guys, too, but only two of them were in town, with Frank Jr. himself being on the road, trucking. The two sons stuck close to their dads, like they were extra happy to have them home permanently. Probably because you can never be sure you’re going to see your dad again when he goes on a trip; our lives are always at risk; you could be driving along, suddenly come upon a stalled car over the next hill, and end up buying the farm. There’s always that, but you have to make a living, so on you go...

Before we dug into the cake, each of them took his turn to thank their families for putting up with them. Most of us had a hard time holding back tears. Frank brought us back to the fun when he told some of the blessings of trucking: “They had trucks when I started trucking, and there’s still trucks when I ended. Not every job can say that. Long live the truck!”

Ted had a few more things to say, then echoed Frank somewhat. “If I was starting out today, I wouldn’t do it any different. Not much has changed. We had trucks then, we have trucks now. Long live the truck.”

And Pete, a rough cut guy with tattoos, and that whole zen thing going, also echoed his beloved brothers, “Trucking is its own magic. Trucking is all-inclusive, with no opposite. It is filled with life and power and the ability to get goods where they need to be. Trucking will live a really, really long time.”

Amen! He ended on an optimistic note. And here's to all you guys on the open road today. As Aunt Alice used to say, "Cheers, dears!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Impregnate Enough Women, You'll Pay


A guy told me the other day I was old, true story. It hit me hard, since I can’t see it in a mirror. And the guy’s a friend, whom I’ve backed up a bunch of times in the past, so I don’t think he’s lying. But he’s old, too.

His history’s an interesting one, which is coming out increasingly now that we have genetic testing and Facebook. A bunch of people looking for their roots with DNA have zeroed in on him as their actual father, and now they're trying to connect with him on Facebook. All this was a big surprise to his wife of 40+ years!

As for me, I’ve essentially been chaste over the years, so there’s zero kids showing up, and any that ever would would have to be frauds. In his case — I don’t know if his basic problem is the roving eye or simply the way his conscience shuts off after a couple beers — his claimants are not frauds. DNA’s a calling card you can’t deny.

So far he knows he has 56 secret kids. Several of these he’s known of for years, since a bunch of the women were from this area. Others aren’t known at all. But he's had hookups at Silage City for years. He and I used to camp at Silage Lake, and he was always going out for "midnight walks," leaving me alone in the tent with room to spread out.

“Why don't you use a rubber?” I'd ask when he confessed his walk had an amorous end. “It cramps my style,” he’d say, along with a bunch of other excuses about passion at its highest can’t be ruined. I have to say — brag a little about myself — my Sunday School upbringing saved me a lot, both on rubbers at the time and on newfound relatives of the engendered sort showing up unexpectedly. There aren’t any!

OK, as for his wife, naturally she’s pissed. If this doesn’t kill her, nothing will. So far she’s still alive, so now he’s stuck with her and her fabled bad temper forever. She might take the house if they split. But I don’t see an old guy and an old woman splitting up. They have too many accounts, Social Security, various insurance payments coming in in common to screw with it.

If she asks my opinion, I’m not going to back off my condemnation of Ralph for living a completely profligate way. Is he a nice guy? Yes. Is he a bastard? He can be, and more so than most. But should the wife be surprised? I don’t think so. She knows how horny he is and how he’d come home from a camping trip totally sated. Can’t tell me she wasn’t putting 2 + 2 together. Not suspecting me, of course; my morals are widely known throughout the Midwest. You see my license plate CHASTE and you know I'm much better than most.

I might have a talk with her. The best way to put big numbers in context and minimize them is to use bigger numbers. Yes, he fathered 56 children, but it wasn’t 156 or 256 or even 356. If he had 356 kids with other women, imagine how so completely horrendous that’d be compared to a minuscule 56. You have 356 kids, you may as well just go for 400. Or a complete ream, 500. That’d be sinful in anyone’s opinion. But impressive in terms of world records.

I’m glad his problems aren’t mine. The wife's always on his case, and all these kids are reaching out to him, even making a Facebook group, "The Known Children of Ralph B—". Chastity’s the best policy, if you can manage it.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Do I Want Some More Whiskey?


I’m currently on a three-day bender, woo hoo! Didn’t know it’d go this long. Figured a day or two and I’d be sated. Turns out I was wrong. I don’t see an end in sight, unless it’s tomorrow; that’s likely; it can’t go on forever, can it?

Look at my typing. You tell me, is this making any sense? To my eyes, it’s a chicken scratching on the computer. I’ve got the font blown way up, compensating for the blurriness. And there's hallucinations. I hope that’s what they are. My flat white bedroom walls are an outrageous exaggeration of their normal selves. Settle down! I can’t tell if they’re coming at me or trying to get away. We haven’t discussed it, nothing beyond me telling them yesterday about this time, “You stay on your side of the room and I’ll stay on mine. I don’t want any trouble, and I don’t think you do either. But you tangle with me, I can't be responsible. I will stab the life out of you; I’ve done worse!” I’m fairly sure the walls are OK. We’re at an impasse.

Wow, my head is spinning. But it’s a good spinning, good ha ha, not bad boo hoo. “I’m Loretta Young!” I heard myself screaming like a maniac. Then I toyed with the name Loretta. Try it next time you’re faced. “Loretta!” It’s hard to get it slurred out. It’s a very guttural name when you’re temporarily under the weather. But conversationally still interesting: “So you’re Loretta Young. THE Loretta Young.” “Yes, sir,” I think I heard her say at the usual pauses in any conversation. The Loretta Young who used to be on that old TV out in the garage, back when it worked, our first TV? “Yes, sir.” She elaborates “I was simultaneously on millions of sets, coming out in a lovely dress, spinning for the audience.” I took a drink and exclaimed, “I thought I knew you from somewhere! You’re Loretta Young!” The TV broke again and she was gone.

This is damned good whiskey. And, yes, that's whiskey with an E. I’ve seen it both ways, and there’s some explanation for that, albeit lame, something to keep dictionaries busy. I remember when I was first “turned on” to whiskey; it’s been a while. I was in my 20s and given to massive misbehavior not in keeping with the values the den of wolves raised me with. Mostly blowing off steam, much like I’m doing here. Woo hoo! But, thinking back, it was whiskey, along with all the other stuff they serve, that first loosened my talk tapes. Considerably!

I remember one old boy. This was 45 years ago. He was in his late 60s or mid 70s then, so he’s got to be dead today. Just like 45 years from today, I.... I’ll return to this point later if I think of it. Anyway, the guy was ancient. And what did he happen to have, a baggie of something. Even now I’m reluctant to tell anyone precisely what happened, so let me gloss it over with a sincere, Nothing happened. I said, “No, sir, I’m drinking whiskey! Along with other draws and mixed drinks. Boilermakers, which is whiskey followed by a draw. Back then I was a gulper, get it down fast as possible. Now I’m a sipper. Do I ever pick up steam? Of course. Till Loretta Young shows up. Which, it could be Loretta anybody, I wouldn’t mind. Loretta Lynn. Isn’t there a famous Loretta Luperca? No, it's Luperca Latouche, Finnegans Wake. Another sip of whiskey!

Think I’ll have one for my health! Pour it, pour pour pour, perfect, 1 tablespoon. Here's mud in your eye, slowly sipping it. To my health. I’ve always thought I was in great health. I've never had much wrong. But lately I’ve noticed in the mirror that I look thinner. I usually can't see myself as I am. In the mirror, I’m one thing. In photos, another. But it has come to my attention, somehow, that I look thinner than ever in the mirror. So, like the old boy above, the guy in the bar with the baggie, 45 years from now, I will have crossed over the rainbow bridge, which I’ve learned is what modern dying pets cross over too.

I’ll thin down to the point that I’m like one of those long green stick bugs. Then keep myself from breaking till I get to the destination, where the rainbow bridge is. I’ll stand there, waiting my turn. Kids are off in the bushes watching their pets set foot on the bridge. I’ll wait and wait and wait, thinking, “Good God, why are there so many dying pets?” It’s because there’s an endless population of them. Every dog has 14 puppies. And cats. They have nine lives, which means nine deaths each, so they’re clogging up the bridge worse than anyone. Just when the coast is clear, I try to get up and one of my thin legs snaps. That hurts. But thankfully I have a little whiskey to pour on the wound. Suddenly the bridge is clogged with a nursing home that just happened to burn down 10 minutes ago. Everyone died. Again, I wait my turn, dousing the leg and alternating with a drink.

Sounds like I’m in no hurry to die. I have reasons to live. This blog’s a big one. I haven’t found anyone to take it over. Everyone that comes to me wants to load it up with ads, but I refuse. Online advertising on blogs is one of the sickest sights I've seen. Then you have to be churning out little blurbs. A paragraph, an ad. A paragraph, another clump of ads. So you stick to two paragraph posts because you need to have many posts, so you’ll have lots of ads going all the time, popping up everywhere, “You’ve won this or that bullshit.” Anyway, don’t get me started on that subject. “No, sir!” I cry out. Then I settle back in my chair, have a drink of whiskey, and the rainbow bridge comes again into view.

Back at the rainbow bridge: A turtle I had in the 1980s just died and swam by. How about that? I found a turtle and took it home in the 1980s. I was living in a town. Then it came time to move and I took it back and released it with a word of blessing. And now I catch sight of it after all these years on the rainbow bridge. “Hey, whatever your name was!” And another sip of whiskey.

These little measuring cups you can buy to drink whiskey out of, they have a disclaimer in the store, “This measuring cup is intended for use in cooking, not for the serving of alcoholic beverages.” “Hey, baby,” I say — fingering in the general direction of the measuring cup company — “this IS cooking!"

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Comfort Schmomfort


Comfort, Schmomfort. Schmomfort isch my teasching. Eschew Comfort, Choose Schmomfort.

Where hasch Comfort gotten usch? We're lazschy, clinging, never schatisfied, deep in debt, peeking out the blinds, the schades. That's the firscht thing I do, schurely every morning.

Yesch, it'sch scho! When all the time -- in plain schight, no lessch, and open to all -- Schmomfort opens wide thosche schmomforting arms, schaying, pleading, "Schmomfort, Schmomfort my people. Lischten to Schmomfort and rescheive Schmomfort in rische abundance." All the schmomforting Schmomfort you need and more. Schmomfort, scho musch that no one can schmomfortly take it from you. Let 'em try, huh?

Friends, let me schmestify: As I write thisch schmestimony I'm schitting in a broken chair. It'sch wobbly, appears to be on itsch last legs, and it isch. The armreschts, they're schtill a place to rescht my arms -- but there'sch scho much brokennesch that the rescht is schistory. I'm honeschtly nearly provoked to throw thisch chair away and get a new one. Only one thing schtands in my way: Schmomfort!

That's juscht me. What about you? And, no, I'm no one schpecial, just another schmo. But I can't schmomfortably let you go! I would tossch and turn and barely schleep if I tried. Maybe I schould let you go, and schettle myschelf schmomfortably in my own Schmomfort. Who wouldn't, if you know what I know? I'd have it all to myschelf! Can you guessch what'sch holding me back? Schmomfort itschelf, yes, the schame. That's Schmomfort, brother, schister.

Because Schmomfort isch without end. Comfort, too, of coursche, but Comfort takes us to a falls schend. True, huh? You go for Comfort, you getsch a falsche end. A big fat falls schend that you'll be schitting on forever. It's scho true! I've scheen the ravages of Comfort. Schtarts off with schitting a schpell, then on and on. Butt time fails me to schow and tell the whole teasching. Schuffice to schay, when you need a bigger schair, by then it'sch too late, butt time fails you two...

Have you already schlipped away? Are you scho far away you're outta schight? Have you drifted scho far, then hit the rusches of Comfort? Perhaps crasched on the schoals? If scho, what can I schay, go on, take your rescht. Don't let me dischturb you.

Schtill, friends, I have to believe there are schome here today -- schurly many -- who would be able to agree and schay: "Yesch, I hear the voisch of Schmomfort!" And you're ready to take the firscht schtep. Until it'sch schtep after schoothing schtep, all the blessched way on the scherene path to meet for yourschelf and know Schmomfort and Schmomfort's perfect peasche.

Pleasche, schtep out now.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

A Mosquito Tent O'er My Grave


NOTE: The following is an imaginary scenario, assuming that I will buried in a grave after my decease, and that I have a wife, children, and loved ones.

Who likes mosquitoes? I don’t. They’re the bane of summer. They prove the point I've believed from childhood, that there’s nothing in nature completely good. Summer looks like it'd be fantastic, known for warm temperatures, beautiful weather, and summer vacation. Then come mosquitoes! Along with their cousin bugs, ticks and the entire sad messy disgusting crew, evolution's Trump-like jab at existence.

I have a mosquito tent. But I hardly ever put it up. One, I’m not that tempted to be out in the summer. Two, they’ll bite me while I’m putting it up. The only good way to do it would be to put it up in the garage and walk it out to the yard, but by the time I got there the wind would kick up and blow both me and it away.

Still, whatever inconvenience I face has to do with me being alive and present in the world. I firmly believe that I didn’t face any of these issues before I was born, which was billions of years. It follows then that I won’t face them when I’m gone, regardless of how long that will be. Still, it’d be at least symbolically a good thing — forever preaching my doctrine to the world that mosquitoes suck — if I had a mosquito tent o’er my grave.

OK, let me make a few keystrokes on my Last Will and Testament.doc and it’s done! It’s now in my will, which is inviolate. No matter how inconvenient anything is — burdensome, uncomfortable, or outlandish — the heirs have to do it. Enter my two sons and daughter. Along with the wife, if I should predecease her. And the way she raises that rolling pin when I’m the slightest bit late after a pleasant evening at Joe’s Place tipping back a few cold ones, then getting home before the mosquitoes are thick, she might truly outlive me.

The big day comes. I croak. Now the fun begins. They argue, they fight. “We have to get a mosquito tent for Dummy's grave?! But only in the summer. Which, knowing him, means strictly the first day of summer and not to exceed the last.” Yes, along with other complications. It needs to be o’er my grave, which can be tricky, since no one’s there to guard it. Kids are always stealing stuff on graves, or messing with it in some way. My estate might need to buy several tents in a season, which could get pricey.

Then there’s the optics. The cemetery board will obviously have a problem if it’s blowing across the field, or not staked down properly, or not secured from the other elements. The last thing the board wants is an eyesore. Which I get. A cemetery is a place of solemn dignity, remembering everyone from town. There’s some guys out there I remember as a kid. Guys who dug sewers, ran gas stations, sat in lawn chairs across the road, and others. All good memories. If they were to speak up and say “We knew that kid would grow up to be a nuisance. Now he has a tent encroaching on our mound," that'd make me feel bad.

Anyway, the kids and wife will have to really devote themselves to the task! Like in the old song, “See That My Grave’s Kept Clean and My Mosquito Tent's Presentable.” So there it is. But then indeed it does blow around a few times. The board complains. The family tries to comply. But the wife dies, the kids have other problems. The board relents, the wind after all is an act of God. Then the family argues, “You were supposed to do it!” "No, no, it was your year to handle it!" Suddenly the kids aren't speaking to one another. And no one’s watching out for anything. Then the kids are on the road, get hit, and now graves are popping up all around me.

Finally, the groundskeeper takes it upon himself — and he’s not reprimanded in any way, in fact applauded — to haul my ratty mosquito tent to the dump. My grave is now unprotected and ignored. The Lord returns. I’m resurrected. It just happens to be June 21, at which point my spiritual body is immediately attacked by resentful hungry mosquitoes. With me itching through the entire last thousand years judgment. Sad ending, but every word true.