I Don’t Own a Tie | Happy Monday – December 12th, 2016

It occurred to me recently, as I thought about attending my daughter’s holiday chorus performance, that I do not own a tie. It’s not like it was a formal event but it just struck me. When I announced that I intended to rectify this deficit in apparel, my dear wife was gracious enough to point out that I did not in fact own any clothing that wearing  a tie could possibly enhance. I was dismayed by this and skulked on back to my room to consider this.

She, as is usually the case, was right. I don’t own anything resembling actual dress clothing. The last time I needed a suit was our wedding day. Since then my activities included working all the damned time, lying about the house, abandoning my hopes and dreams, and until about four years ago1 being out drinking in dives till they threw me out2. As a result of this my wardrobe has evolved in a more utilitarian direction. When the odd situation comes up where looking like a bum isn’t generally desired getting myself dressed has become a bit of a stretch.

To start with I have to carefully sort through my pants. They are basically all the same make and model of slacks. Black, or at least most of once were when purchased. What I’ll be looking for is the pair with the fewest, and smallest spots where bleach or degreaser has splashed on them. It would also be preferable if all of the belt loops were intact. Speaking of which I don’t seem to own a belt either, the last one seems to have disintegrated with age some months ago.

There is then the matter of a shirt. Now I own what seems to be an endless supply3 of worn and wrinkled t-shirts. They are stored in drawers, baskets and various laundry piles throughout our apartment. The very best of them have little in the way of stains from sweat, olive oil,  or other remnants of grease, grime, and general food service detritus. What marks they do bear can be reasonably hidden by tucking them into pants or the donning of a jacket or overshirt.

Since the goal of this is exercise it to avoid looking like a homeless man, or the Unabomber, the hoodie is out of the running. This leaves one of the two flannel shirts hanging in my closet that survived the latest purging of undesirable, worn out, rags in my possession. Both of them are brown, so the choice there is of little to no consequence.There lies a third and arguably more desirable option. I do in the recess of my collection of attire a black, pinstriped shirt that has through some small miracle never been worn anywhere near my place of employment. This is reserved for truly special events, and I rather think a school concert in the park warrants that designation.

Socks are a blessedly easy affair to manage for me. Due to reasons, I buy them in bulk from the discount stores a few times a year. Even in the unlikely event that all available pairs have a small hole in the heel, then well at least my shoes will cover that up.

Ah yes, the shoes. Once I maintained a pair of exceedingly nice, leather dress shoes. They were black and shiny, and always put me in mind of something a secret agent might wear. I hardly ever needed to wear them. Which was a bit of a relief because their soles had shit for traction and it was hard to feel like a super spy if you felt like you were going to fall on you ass if you ever broke out into anything riskier than a brisk walk. Whatever did become of my shiny black shoes? Lost, no doubt, or left behind in one of my frantic, yet all too necessary, moves from one home or another, or to some intermediate safe locations when I drank all the rent money. So, that now leaves the choice of which pair of old sneakers to don. Will it be the grey and green ones with the soles worn thin and, what I assume to be dried on tomato sauce? Or, perhaps the camouflage print ones with the silver trim, paint stains and whatever the hell that brownish substance is?

I think the tomato sauce clashes less with the paint chipping off the frames of  cheap set of reading glasses I’m planning on wearing.

Honestly I had no idea that things had gotten to such a state with my clothing. I am left wondering how it got this way4. Frankly I find it appalling. Clearly one of my priorities for the coming year should be to a complete overhaul of the wardrobe don’t you think?

That and a bit of rabid political involvement on a local scale. But that’s an unrelated matter.

At any rate,

Happy Monday.


  1. Four years, two months, two weeks, and two days at the time this was published. But hey, who’s counting? 
  2. To clarify I have never been physically ejected from a tavern, but I was often asked very nicely to leave. 
  3. According to my wife anyway. 
  4. I despise shopping. 
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Old Cat

The old cat lay in its warm spot on the grass.

Its fur tattered and patched, teeth mostly broken or gone.

It rarely bothered to get up anymore. Its spine hurt with age. Its back legs barely worked through the pain of old injuries.

The others would go and rub against the small girl that stopped by everyday to pet the strays on the lot. 

It just ignored her through its crusted eye.

Wondering if the old woman was going to come by to feed them today.

Laying there, waiting out the remaining days in its little patch of sunshine.

Rest Stop

Harper stalked away from the gas station leaving the others to fill the tanks. She just need a moment of calm quiet away from Josh and Erin’s constant nagging. It was obvious they didn’t want her along, and only took her because Aunt Bea insisted. Sometimes she hated that the old woman meddled so much on her behalf, it just made everyone else not want her around. She took the faded red ball cap off her head and let her hair down to feel the warm summer breeze blow through it as she crossed the empty highway. When she reached the median she sat down, placed her pistol beside her, and ran her hand along the carpet of fresh wild flowers. She reached into her bag and retrieved a  sandwich.  Peanut butter, again. She was so tired of peanut butter. She took a bite and chewed it thoughtfully as sat among the flowers, enjoying the cleanness of their scent carried with it.

The air at home was full of the choking smoke of the foundry and the fuel exhaust of the generators. Out here the sky was clear and blue, for once she didn’t feel like she was constantly suppressing a cough.The world out here seemed so beautiful and vibrant. So much more colorful and alive than behind the built up wall of grey cinder blocks and rusted iron scrap that she lived behind. Out here the only thing blocking her view of the world was the tall green of the trees.

There, at the tree line on the other side of the highway,  a deer stood staring at her. It was an enormous buck, antlers crowning it majestically. Sitting on its back was a woman, elegant and tall. She wore a sheer gown, its color just a slight shade away from the sky’s hue. Her legs both draped over the beasts right side as they casually approached Harper.

When she was small she had been raised on all the old fairy tales and as she got older she came to grips with the difference between make believe, and the ugliness and boredom of the real world. Then it all changed, everything. Oberon and his people had returned, and the new reality of things took hold day by day as she grew up in the hot noise and dust of The Circle. Now here was one of them. Beautiful and perfect, and in the flesh. This is as close as she had ever been to one, before this there had only been brief glimpses of them from the top of the wall. It was singing.

The woman sang as she approached. A faint, soft song in a voice that seemed to be part of the wind, and harmonized with the bees as they buzzed among the flowers around where Harper sat. Those beautiful sweet flowers, that used to droop and turn grey here on this strip of lawn as cars belched their filth into the world as they sped their owners up and down the flat dark roadway. Harper felt her hand brush against the pistol beside her. Ugly thing, she thought as she pushed it away, cold and ugly metal thing. Just more crude death that we carry with us, more ways to destroy. More ways to be ugly. Not like them. They are life. They are beauty. They brought back the flowers, and the birds. They didn’t just return to the world, they returned with the world.

The woman rode closer, still singing. Harper could hear it so clearly now, that beautiful song in an unknown language. She heard herself singing along, as if she had known the song all her life. The woman in blue held out her hand invitingly. Harper stood and took the offered hand, and looked up into the enchanting face, its eyes staring at her with pity and forgiveness. Harper could still hear that song of love and sweetness, even though the woman’s lips were not moving. Those pale and pink smiling lips. The other hand came into view holding a long knife. Harper was still singing along with the woman’s thoughts. She tilted her head up waiting for the cool blade against the flesh, waiting for a final and warming stroke of the razor sharpness across her throat.

Then the song ended.

It ended in a sharp crack, like thunder and a fast whisper, like silk. The beautiful whiteness of the woman’s face became marred with a streak of red velvet leaking from her temple. The clean air now smelled of burnt flesh from where the iron slug had pierced it. First the knife fell, and then the woman slid sideways off her mount. The beast shook its head and then bolted back towards the woods as another shot rang out.

Erin came running up, panting, smoke still curling from the barrel of the hunting rifle. She caught her breath for a moment.

“Fuckin’ elves!” She spat, “Be more careful and don’t wander off next time damn it. Bea ‘d have my ass if I let anything happen to you. C’mon now, Josh’s loaded up all the gas we can carry, let’s head back home.

Had/ Has | Happy Monday – December 5th, 2016

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“I’m fine, I just don’t want to do this.”

“I wish I could go with you. I still can,” I tell her, “You know, I can at least just go down there with you.”

“One of us has to pick up Kate.” She replied.

“I know. I’m sorry” I say.

“I’ll be fine.”

This was part of the conversation my wife and I had last week, before she left for her oncology appointment.

My wife had/ has cancer.

We found out about it in June, and she had surgery in July to have the tumor, and half of her large intestine removed. Thing we soon learned about cancer surgery isn’t like other kinds of surgery, it’s not really over with right away.

For instance, I had to have surgery on my knee when I fractured my patella in three places while coming home drunk one evening. I got taken to the ER, had to wait a day, then they operated on my knee. A couple of screws got thrown in there, and four months later I was able to walk around and go back to work. A few aches and pains aside, I was able to just move on with my life.

After cancer surgery, even though they are very sure they got the whole tumor, she still isn’t considered cancer free. Not until after five years have passed without a recurrence. This means that my wife doesn’t really get to move on with her life for five more years. For the next five years it’s a game of Schrodinger’s Tumor; it’s neither there, nor gone until it’s observed, and she has to live in a state of has/ had cancer. These five long years are supposed to involve several trips to the oncology unit for CT scans. Those CT scans are the first line of defense when it comes to detecting if the cancer is really gone or not. They are also priced in a range that I’d classify as unreasonably expensive for someone in my particular income bracket, at least without insurance.

That’s where the ACA becomes important to our lives.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is, quite frankly imperfect. I only enrolled to avoid a penalty imposed by the individual mandate. The policy I can afford, even with subsidies, offers relatively little coverage. It has however one thing going for it.

At least it is something.

I am not going to get into the mire of financial details explaining how expensive everything actually is in my particular case except to say that without that minimal amount of coverage we would not have been able to afford my wife’s surgery, or her post surgical medications. We would not have had the money for her recent CT scan. Going forward, without the ACA we will not be able to get her the rest of the follow up treatments and scans that the medical professionals have deemed as necessary.

Her next scan will be scheduled for sometime next year. After the new administration of the American government is in place. One of the things on the chopping block is the ACA.

2016 is coming to a close, and my insurance policy with it. I am tasked with spending the next few days reviewing coverage options and re-enrolling with healthcare.gov. I have to, not just to avoid a tax penalty this time. I have to enroll in a policy, that I won’t be able to afford without a subsidy, to be able to pay for the CT scans that might detect if my wife’s cancer comes back early enough to save her life again.

And it’s all a giant gamble because I don’t know if that policy will be valid, or affordable if the ACA get’s gutted, or defunded, or replaced. The words, high-risk pool  have been bandied about as well as, voucher system. Those are frightening terms to people who are in the had/ has category.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

What’s on your mind?

Happy Monday.

The Big Idea

I have noticed a quirkiness about my handwriting in the weeks since I returned to keeping a journal, and using cursive once again. I mean other than slowly relearning how important it is to have a proper grip on your pen, or how seldom I need to write the letter “L” at the beginning of a sentence on a day-to-day basis.The thing the oddest I find is that I tend to capitalize the word “idea” regardless of where it falls in a sentence. As I look back across the many pages I have scribbled since the middle of October, this would seem to be the only word I have this problem with. I don’t have tbigidea2his problem when typing or writing any formal correspondence.

It’s as if the word itself referenced some higher concept deserving of a proper noun. Perhaps a dignitary from some foreign land requiring some formal address; some oddly dressed ambassador from the forgotten recesses of my thought process. Or maybe some Napoleonic abstraction puffing out it’s chest to make up for it’s otherwise small stature.

When I first noticed it I would angrily scratch out chunks of text, often rewriting entire sentences just to obscure this slight offense to proper style. Lately though, I have been embracing this little errant piece of capitalization. Regarding it as if it were some old friend. Waving at me from across the room, trying to draw my attention. Jumping up and down shouting “Hey! Look at me!” in some flailing attempt to point out the very thing I’ve been looking for all along.

Or maybe I’m thinking too much about it and just need to slow down and pay more attention to what I am doing as jot down my random thoughts, before I’ve even finished my first cup of coffee.

I Never Meant to Sleep

I never meant to fall asleep,
Before my work was done.

I felt so weary,
I just laid my head down,
Only for a bit.

The room was cold,
I draped the blanket about me.

My eyes burned,
My head throbbed,
I drew down the blind.

I dozed for that perfect moment,
In the warmth,
Soft and dark.
I dreamt of abundance,
A world of peace.

You threw the blinds open,
I was awake once again.

Jagged rays of midday declared,
Here still is toil,
A place full of strife.

I never meant to dream,
Before our work was done.

Happy Monday – November 28th, 2016

After several false starts this morning, I found myself alone on a park  bench near my home. I arrived well before any children would be out of school, and just as the current shift of homeless men were finishing up their day drinking. Feeling a bit down I was already on my third lollipop of the day. I watched the men from across the empty playground, as they lumbered out of the park and off towards the nearby shelter for the afternoons feeding. From there, feeling refueled they would be about town mustering the coinage for their evening dosage. Which would most likely be consumed after dinner at The Salvation Army on the other side of downtown.

I recalled the schedule well, thinking about my own wilderness years as a vagrant. Living day-to-day by the good graces, and gullibility of others. For the time being it seemed so much easier than pushing headlong against the very daunting task of recovering my old life; then finally accepting the reality that I would never have it back. Not that life, but eventually a life.

In many ways it was a happy existence. Full of mornings spent loitering in parks like this one, with little on my mind outside a buzz. Every day was a social event, if only because no one could avoid true privacy. My own troupe of vagabonds would sit around various benches and picnic tables of the city. Prerolling our tobacco, talking road side philosophy and pseudo-mysticism. Then spend the late hours chatting up locals, who had much less experience with inebriation than we did, talking them into buying us booze or sharing their drugs. As the bars closed and the marks thinned we’d slink off to whatever semi-safe little bolt holes we had prepared for ourselves.

The problem with being a bum is that it’s migratory work. Trick is to leave town before someone realizes they’ve been taken advantage of, while everyone still remembers the good times they had with you around. It’s either that or dig in and put down roots for the long angles of at least appearing to be a respectable member of society. When my exit window came up I was tired of traveling, and weary of the constant hustle. I began dabbling in the real world menace of holding down an actual job and paying my own way. I began having actual relationships with people again.

Nothing serious at first. A friend or two, people I liked talking to instead of convenient acquaintanceships built on mutual self-interest. A series of mindless jobs that didn’t pay shit, ones to pay some bills but, I could slough off whenever they annoyed me. I girlfriend here or there, nothing romantic, just some occasional intimacy. Building blocks, baby steps. A toe in the pool of society just to test the waters. I’d been burned on this deal before.

It took forever it seems, maybe it really did. I don’t have everything I want, but I do have a lot. A decent job, despite a few things. A great wife. A wonderful daughter. Semi-permanent housing and a few material niceties. If I keep working at it one day I might even become financially stable. All in all things are good, at least better than they used to be. I have my life again, maybe not my old one, but it’s still mine

Yet on my darker days I still think about giving it all up and walking off towards the sunset. Disappear out of everyone’s life again, for the third or fourth time. Can’t really keep track anymore. Just some times it gets to be too much. To be honest I really do miss the adventurous uncertainty of it all. Plus there’s a certain comfort in being no one in particular.

But, I’m too old, and too sober, and I let myself get in too deep. It’s my life, but it’s not just mine anymore.

That’s a good thing, just in case you were wondering.

Anyway that’s what’s on my mind.

Happy Monday.

Thank You Appendix

“What are you thankful for?” The unavoidable question that will come out of my child’s mouth this year as our small family sits around the dinner table this year. She’ll ask it out of genuine curiosity, out of a sense of tradition, and out of a desire to deflect my attention when I tell her she needs to eat something other than cornbread. I’ve known the question is coming for weeks and I’ve been trying to think of what I am actually thankful for. It’s been kind of a crap year I suppose. It started right off the bat with my wife losing her job and well it just kind of gets harder to pick out good news from there. So I guess I’ll settle for being grateful for bad news.

This year I am thankful for appendicitis. Specifically my wife needing to be taken to the ER with severe abdominal cramps early this summer. She had emergency surgery to have the offending vestigial organ removed. It was then that they found the tumor.

A carcinoid tumor. It’s a slow-growing type of cancer. It often goes undetected for years. If her appendix hadn’t gone then quite frankly the chances of it getting noticed before it was extremely advanced was slim. She was scheduled for another surgery quickly and the rest of the tumor, along with about two feet of intestine was removed.

This little disaster resulted in an out pouring of sympathy and support from friends and family.  Some of this support came in the form of a care package, that included two gift cards, one for a restaurant, and one for amazon. They were just enough to let us shuffle expenses around and kept us from making a hard decision between her post-op medications, groceries and other household needs in the following months.

That package also included a journal and a pen, that after letting it stare at me accusingly for a while I took up and have now been using daily to unclutter my brain every morning. This in turn, has caused me to start blogging again. Because why write it down if you don’t intend it to be read? Doing this has caused me to recently go back and examine some of my earlier work and I am thankful for the realization that it doesn’t entirely suck.

I mean don’t get me wrong there’s some real turds there, but I am happy to have found quite a few I’m somewhat pleased with. Especially the 100 word posts I’ve made but then I have always been a fan of brevity.

So yeah, thanks to my wife’s appendix that no longer is.

Oh yeah. I am thankful for my family and friends, my pets (even the emotionally needy rat terrier), lollipops, indoor plumbing, and all the rest of that stuff.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have turnips to peel.

Thursday’s Plans

“What are your plans for Thursday?”, the same phone call every year.

As if  he might not remember what day it was or forgotten their conversation about priorities, he clearly wasn’t one of hers. He had been cast aside. Left in need to satisfy the wants of other people.

Now those wretches surround her.

Each year feeling guilty, alone, and used, she called with the expectation, he would come sit at their table for scraps of feigned affection for the sake of tradition, and her absolution.

Once again he declined the invitation.

The phone would remain silent for another year.

Moving

Moving, again.

I despise moving.

I have done it far too many time in too few years. In the past I found myself compelled to move by the economic forces that occur when a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle, such as mine meets an unexpected financial disaster. Alcoholics do tend to make such poor decisions when it comes to money after all, especially when it is already in such short supply. With this move, however this is not the case.

This time the move seems to be on more amicable, and complex terms. There is no need to hastily make decisions about which facets of my life are important and sweep just those bits into poorly labeled boxes. We aren’t trying to load it all up at the eleventh hour, and hurry away like thieves in the night. We aren’t running to the refuge of a house of a relative or a sympathetic acquaintance. No, on this particular venture I get to enjoy the picking apart of my personal life. Examining the minutiae of my life’s contents as I sort through years of “saved” belongings.

Paperwork is the bulk of it. Notices from my child’s school, unopened bills that are usually paid online anyway, pay stubs from two years ago filed away for those many times I seem need to provide proof of income, bank statements that alternately full of either fanciful lies or depressing accuracies. Then there is fine detritus that tends to fill drawers. Loose batteries of indeterminate lifespan, key long divorced from their locks, broken toys , along with fragmented bits of jewelry, pins and other baubles abandoned long ago all awaiting unceremonious burial come this trash day.

Of course there is my extensive collection of notebooks and pads are strewn throughout the apartment in desks, on shelves and sometimes laying on the floor. All of them half-full of scratch sheets for homework,  grocery lists, abandoned journals and false starts for stories long forgotten, along with random thoughts and quotes that seemed important at the time. I marvel at the sheer acreage of deforestation these all represent.

Inevitably I find myself on my hands and knees picking up piece by piece every paper clip, forgotten Lego, and scrap of paper that has been deemed too large or hazardous for the vacuum to pick up. Stopping occasionally to place a handful of collected pennies into the appropriate jar. The whole experience seems so arduous considering that we’re only carting everything about a thousand feet to the house next door.

As I begin to think about the complicated series of events that caused this particular move it is with much dread that my eyes fall to the couch. That beautifully gaudy, orange, polka dot, swinging seventies style convertible love seat that my wife admired so much in the shop. It was such a wonderful couch up until we had to move it up the rickety wooden stairs to find out that our door frame was just slightly too narrow. We were able to barely squeeze it through only after getting it partially stuck and then removing its stubby, square legs. Now I find myself sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyeing this heavy carrot colored monstrosity like it was a body that I needed to dispose of.

In the old days of booze fueled evictions I’d just abandon it or maybe pitch it off the top landing of the stairs.

I despise moving.

Anyway, that’s been what I’ve been doing this past week.

Happy Monday.