Laundromat

Always thought the laundromat would be good for writing. In a dark poetry, seedy underbelly, Tom Waits kind of way.

But, there is scant sad beauty to be had in that one sock left behind at the bottom of the machine.

The dryers aren’t hot enough to burn away your sins. Not at six minutes for a quarter anyway.

It’s been weeks and I have yet to hear any secret, sobering wisdom from the mouths of crazed junkies, if I’m lucky enough to find one.

Shame how life won’t imitate art.

Guess I should be used to disappointment by now.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

Percolated

I find myself at the time worn coffe shop once again. I had to lock my bike up a block a way this morning. The racks out front were a boneyard of derelict frames, hanging limply by their u-locks, rusting away, picked over by thieves and scrap men; with fresh corpses abandoned by the previous night’s bar patrons too inebriated to remember where they left them. I’m just rubbing my eyes and wondering why I still come here. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe the ambiance.

The roaring, hammering sound of the motor on the boom lift that is being used to do maintenance work on the upper stories of the plaza’s buildings isn’t adding much to the atmosphere, nor is the hairy-backed sweat troll operating it to get around the courtyard. The high whining of his power tools add to the engine noises of the passing cars, their exhaust enriching the total experience. It’s still early, but any minute I can expect the panhandlers to start cruising through, or the free loaders trying to occupy a nearby table on the patio while they try to drink their smuggled in tall-boys of Natural Light. I should be able to empathize with them. I was homeless once, after all, and a drunk to boot. Those two things do pair so nicely. Still that might as well be worlds away from where I’m sitting now.

The old crowd is gone. The troupe of miscreants and ruffians that I ran with hung out here. Eventually most of them took jobs here, before growing up and either moving away to chase a dream, or just plain got a straight job that occupies most of the day. We knew everyone here and they knew us. Now the place is staffed by an unnamed succession of faceless hipsters, and the customers don’t seem to talk to one another much anymore. The whole world’s been built up around the place.

So why do I still come here? Maybe I’m just keeping up appearances. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, a steaming mug of hot coffee in front of me with a lollipop hanging out of my mouth (I gave up smoking  a few years ago) and scrawling secret notes in my journal. It all serves quite well in maintaining the bullshit, arrogant, intellectual ideal that I hold of myself. The coffee isn’t really that good today, I don’t think it ever was. Thin stuff, not enough bitterness to promote proper thinking. Weak coffee percolates weak ideas.

Still I suppose it does me good to get out of the house.

Percolated

“That Dad”

I wanted, I really wanted to write something about the election.

I had this thing in my head,  there was snark and humor involved. But that’s not what I do and it’s a little late in the game to start with that nonsense. Besides that, something more important came up.

I missed my daughters first chorus recital.

Because of work.

I became “that dad”.

I didn’t find out about it until after the schedule had been posted. Everyone else had their time off planned for weeks, there was no one available to cover who had my skill set, and I really needed the hours. My wife assured me our daughter had fun, it likely didn’t matter to her that I wasn’t there. It wasn’t even an actual recital,  It was just two songs and, it was done with really quickly. The kids spent more time playing in the park than they did actually singing.

That just makes it worse though. If I had known all that I could have gone into work early set up the kitchen, dipped out, hustled downtown to the thing, and hauled ass back before dinner rush had begun. Not that I could have known but, such is hindsight. Still it bugs me.

I’ve never missed anything before. Nothing like that. Not even the school play where she didn’t have any speaking parts, and basically just stood there dressed as a shrimp. Well, I mean we called it a shrimp, we did our best with what we had, it was mostly just sequins and googly eyes, she really looked more like a super fabulous Deep One. But seriously, for fuck sake I chaperoned a gaggle first graders through a field trip to a nursing home one year so they could sing holiday carols to the residents there. Let me just say, you’ve no idea what hell is until you’ve listened to over one hundred elementary school kids sing “I Have a Little Dreidel” off key, at the top of their lungs, and not nearly in unison to a bunch of confused, and possibly angry, senior citizens.

I suffered this and many other things because I promised myself I’d never be “that dad”.

The one that wasn’t there for things.

I promised I would be there for all the things. The big things, the little things. Even be there for mostly insignificant things that, in the long run, will wind up being forgotten. I have now broken my promise to myself about my daughter so, by proxy I broke a promise to her.

I know I’m probably over thinking it. That it’s not that big of deal. That I had some reasonable excuses. I tell myself that.

Then I remember these words about a father, with a very important job, making a mad run to get home in time to read to his child, because he promised he would do it everyday:

“No excuses. He’d promised himself that. No excuses. No excuses at all. Once you had a good excuse, you opened the door to bad excuses.”
― Terry Pratchett, Thud!

There will be other things to make time for. There’s a thing in a couple of days, and another in December. Then there will be a whole new year after to not be “that dad”.
Any way, if you live in the United States, go out tomorrow and vote, if you haven’t already. No excuses.

Happy Monday.

 

The Last Drop.

For three days now, he awoke to find an empty coffee pot.

For three days he had been forced to brew a fresh pot before being able to sit on the steps, gather his thoughts and become human again, in the perfect warmth of the morning sun.

This particular morning he watched her pour it.

Not quite all of it. A small sip remained at the bottom, just enough to tease his craving.

He was sure that in some places this was grounds for divorce.

Not here though. Here he was left with only two choices.

Love or a bludgeon.

The Coffee Technician

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I posted that thought as it occurred to me, whilst standing in line at local cafe. I was feeling put out because I was stuck behind a slew of meticulously dressed down tattooed scenesters. I was feeling my beard get longer as they cheerfully order their chai lattes, soy milk mochachinnos, and navigating the sandwich menu trying to remove all the joy from the items that weren’t already vegan. The slacker on duty took each order individually and then listlessly went about the motions of making each drink. All the time I stood impatiently annoyed at the needless complexity involved; angrily certain that the whole process could be sped up if the barista would just put some effort into it.

Finally the herd thinned and I was able to approach their comrade behind the counter and order my simple cup of simple, hot, black coffee. It literally took less than a minute for the counter person to dispense it from the air pot and serve it up with a smirk of boredom, and ring me up with a snotty look. I dropped my change in her tip jar and began to walk away.

That’s when it struck me.

It might be me that’s got it all wrong.

This poor beleaguered barista had been selected from all the other job candidates She has spent months if not years practicing making coffee drinks1. Had to be trained to properly tamp down the espresso. It had to take hours to learn to pour just the right amount of foam on a cappuccino. Constantly wrestling with that damned finicky machine to get just the right concentration of water that makes a ristretto well, a ristretto, not just simply an espresso shot. They ceaselessly have to argue with nitpicky hipsters over the difference between a lungo and an americano. I mean, I sure as hell don’t know the difference between a mocha and a mocha breve2. Do you? Not to mention the all the other day-to-day horseshit involved with customer service jobs. I mean this person has dedicated a considerable amount of their time, energy and brainpower to become competent at their job. And here I come, this unenlightened jerk. this smug dipshit who has the temerity to be so basic as to order a fucking cup of house blend, without so much as adding a god damned shot of espresso to make it a red-eye. I’m essentially wasting her fucking time over here.

Feeling like a bit of an ass for being so impatient, I turned back to the counter to throw a little extra in the tip jar by way of silent apology.

And that damned half-wit was too busy staring gaped mouthed at a ceiling fan, fidgeting with her nose ring to notice.


  1.  To be clear once you add anything to it you’re having a coffee drink and not coffee, and that’s fine but let’s just fess up to that and move on. 
  2. Actually I do but, for the purposes of this rant, let’s just pretend. 

The Worst Halloween

One fall, when I was about nine, I found myself exploring through one of those party stores that stock costumes all year round, and there it was. This cheap plastic hook with a bell-shaped cuff that hid your hand to make it look like it had been chopped off. That’s when I knew I was going to be to be a pirate for Halloween.

Understand, as a child, I was obsessed with pirates. I was into the other typical childhood things of the time; dinosaurs, Matchbox cars, Star Wars etc. But pirates were always cool. In movies, books, and games from swashbucklers, to scurvy dogs I was fascinated with all of them. One of my prized books as a child was a large slim book full of portraits and facts about the really famous pirates. One of my favorite video games ever was Sid Meyer’s Pirates, in which you got to sail the Caribbean as a privateer, plunder ships, duel with other sea captains and engage in other forms of skullduggery (There was an actual story line about rescuing lost members of your family from indentured servitude but frankly it didn’t seem that important my first couple times through.).

Halloween was still a ways off and I had to plead and whine at my dad to get it for me, but I convinced him.. We left the store with the hook and an eye-patch with a Jolly Roger on it. Then I had to wait.

From that moment all through October I chattered about my awesome costume. To my parents, my friends, to anyone who wouldn’t flee in terror from some overly enthused fourth grader, ceaselessly prattling about on about how cool it was going to be when he was a pirate. A striped shirt was acquired at some point. Some make-up crayons would be used to draw on a five-o’clock shadow, for that much-needed sea dog look. My dad was going to loan me one of his bandanna’s for my head. I spent weeks practicing my “aarghs” and “avasts”.

I was, to use the parlance of the time, totally stoked.

Then with less than a week to go, I did the unthinkable, the unforgivable. I struck my mother.

I don’t remember why. Probably some minor punishment for a petty transgression had set me into a fit of blind hot childish rage. Why wasn’t important. What was important is the fact that I hit her. Just like that it was all gone. I was grounded for a period of time that would encompass both my birthday and Halloween. I wailed, I screamed, I cried, and finally settled into moping. It was no use. Everything in my life had been ruined. Halloween, my favorite holiday gone. My awesome pirate costume, that had taken weeks to put together rendered useless.

I entered into a state of denial. Surely she couldn’t mean it. I mean she had to be bluffing, just to teach me a lesson. If I just am on my best behavior between now and Halloween I’d earn a reprieve right? May be I could barter my way out of it. Keep my room clean, take out the trash, maybe do the dishes every day for a week. There had to be some way.

There was a slender ray of hope when, the day before, on my birthday I was given presents. Clearly  if I had been still loved enough to have birthday presents, I would be allowed trick-or-treating. When I started talking about my costume, however, I was quickly reminded the there would be no such joy in my  life this year. Upon hearing this reaffirmation of my punishment the rest of my birthday took place in my room alternating between, sulking and sobbing with the occasional rage filled screaming fit.

I spent my Halloween that year either crying in my bedroom or sulking in my living room hiding behind the arm of the couch, staring in envious embarrassment as all of my friends from school, one by one showed up to ring the doorbell. Festooned in their holiday disguises and cheerfully yelling, “Trick-or-Treat!,” as my mother answered the door and patiently dropped pieces of delicious candy in their sacks and plastic orange jack-o-lantern shaped pails.

None of these costumes were as cool mine would have been.

The evening passed and the number of trick-or-treaters dwindled and finally Halloween was over. The hook and eye-patch got buried somewhere in the house, I never looked at them again. I don’t think I ever wore the shirt.

At some point I aged out of trick-or-treating. As I grew older my costumes for parties were always thrown together at the last-minute, or decided for me based on the need for a theme, or maintaining harmony in a relationship required a matching costume. Now a days, Halloween is about my own child’s experience, not mine. Plus, frankly, I don’t have much time, money, or energy to put into a costume for myself.

To this day though, I still feel  a bit of sadness and a little regret each year to remember that I never got to be a pirate.

Happy Halloween, and as always Happy Monday.