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

Happy Monday – November 14, 2016

Hell of a week, huh?

Since the election I have seen the blame (if such a term can be applied to an open election), for the outcome of the election, placed on several groups. Various sources in the media and socially have mentioned third-party voters, frivolous protest votes (Mickey Mouse, and Deez Nutz are not viable candidates), African-american voters, white women voters, so on and so on. I would have been inclined to just shrug and nod and go on shaking my head at all the finger-pointing.

Then it happened.

I got into an argument. With a complete stranger. Over the internet. About politics

Which is something I never do. Which is something I should have been doing all along.

In this case I called out a man who claimed that he voted for Trump as president, and did not cast his vote for VP. That his vote was not motivated by hate for the LGBT community and therefore should still be considered an ally of that community. I felt suddenly compelled to call bullshit on that. I am not going into the details, because the other people involved are not here to speak for themselves. But, when I made the decision to buzz in on that thread it was because I realized I had not been doing enough.

I guess what I am saying is that I am willing to shoulder my fair share of the blame, if it really is a matter of blame.

I voted, I voted against the Trump ticket. I voted for Clinton, but I voted in silence.

For years I decided to stay out of the fray. I liked to think “I was above it”.  I had taken an attitude over the years that people need to sort out their own screaming matches. I adopted a facade of general disinterest, “because it’s all going to hell in a bucket anyway.” I cowardly disentangled myself from the broader discussions, believing that I should only talk about those things with people who know me and have context for my thinking. I convinced myself that everything would be fine, so long I threw my ballot into the box marked “Human Decency”. That was a bullshit position to take, because over the years I wound up not jumping in when I encounter people spouting of in a hateful, bigoted manner. I’ve kept scrolling when I see a meme, possibly posted in jest, that spreads false, or misleading information about another class of people.

In short I have consistently failed to step in and stand up for the things that I tell myself I believe in.

I’m not saying that there’s about to be a shitstorm of preachy, political posts coming to this space. I am just saying my friends, family, and society at large deserved better than my apathy, pseudo-nihilism, and smug sense of intellectual superiority.

I need to do better, and I know I’m not the only one.

Anyway that’s what’s been on my mind this past week.

Happy Monday.

 

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.

The Tiny Things

It’s the tiny things in life.

Like, one morning I woke up and shambled to the kitchen.

I grabbed a mug.

Then, as I reached for the coffee pot, I  looked down.

There, lying at the bottom of my cup, was a dead cockroach

I stood there staring at it, in sickened disbelief for half a moment.

I rinsed out the cup and poured the coffee.

I wondered about mornings there may have been a roach in my cup.

Ones I didn’t happen find.

We should be grateful in life for tiny things. drinking-30268_640

Things that go unnoticed

Don’t you agree.

Prompt

Cursive

Cursive. That archaic mode of recording one’s thoughts.

I have been spending some small bit of my spare time trying to remember how cursive handwriting works. I had abandoned it shortly after graduating high school. This was due both to my block letters being vastly more legible, and the increasing uselessness of handwriting in everyday life. I do remember, as a younger sibling wanting to learn cursive to be like my older sister and her friends. That squiggly, contiguous form of penmanship that they were learning made them seem so much more like adults who seemed to have this ability to pay for nearly anything by simply swiping a pen across the checkbook. This was of course before the prevalence of debit cards which opened up a whole new series of wondrous mysteries where purchasing options were concerned1. It seemed so fancy and beautiful. I was so fascinated by it that I got scolded once or twice by a teacher for drawing lines between my print letters to connect them.

When I had finally reached the age that it was deemed reasonable to be enlightened by the public education system as to the eldritch secrets of what I was assured to be the defacto way of writing2  I soon discovered the hand cramping agony of each loop and arc. My mind numbed at the similarities of lowercase L and B, the capitals T and F had the same issue, and the letter X was basically a V with a line through it. And what the hell was the going on with Z? My technique was awful and my teachers went to great efforts to point this out. My L’s didn’t have enough loop, and my T’s had too much (which is to say any). The little hooks of the letters O, V, and B left me at a loss as to how to start the next letter3, did I just start them at mid stroke or did I bring the pen down to the bottom of the line and start there, either answer seemed wrong at some point or other. I never remembered to dot my i’s or cross my t’s and when I did it was because I had broken the rules and not waited until I had completed the whole word. When I tried to write more neatly I wasn’t able to finish assignments in time and was marked off for having my papers uncompleted. Continued years of physical and psychological anguish over the subject did not improve matters. The introduction of a typewritten requirement to my reports and essays helped to greatly advance my self-worth.

Why then, am I revisiting this ancient horror?

I wouldn’t trouble myself, believe me I am not a masochist. It seems there is no plan to teach it at my daughter’s school. Now, I really don’t think it is all that important. Quite frankly it seems that most of the people who I’ve spoken to who are upset about the removal of cursive from the curriculum are people who still hold a grudge about having to learn it when they were young4. But anyway, my wife has mentioned in passing that she thinks we should teach her ourselves. Which I feel ultimately means I am going to end up trying to show her how it’s done And if that’s is the case, well I should have at least something resembling proficiency in the task.

I’d like to think that the price of keeping art and music in her school is the loss of cursive I am perfectly fine with that. Sadly that’s not the case. Art and Music will consistently be on the chopping block, because just like cursive it isn’t part of the standardized tests. The schools are beholden to these damn tests in order to maintain funding and resources, and so more funding and time is funneled to teaching towards the tests. That’s a negative feedback loop that is draining all of the actual education out of schools. We aren’t losing cursive to laziness, we’re losing it to bureaucracy.

Anyway, that’s What I’ve been thinking about over the past week. How about you?

Happy Monday5

Prompt


  1. I really do long for those days when I was a child and had no need for the petty adult realities of personal finance 
  2.  Apparently they didn’t discuss the matter with my Mechanical Drawing instructor who just a year later would spend weeks teaching us the importance of perfectly drawn block capitals. 
  3.  If, while in grade school, I had been asked to write the word “bovine” there would have been an… incident. 
  4.  And damn it, if I had to shovel coal when we were kids then this lazy, good for nuthin’ generation should have to shovel coal too, by gum. 
  5. Wow it’s been almost a year since I typed those two words. And I still love me some footnotes. 

Thankful

I spent Thanksgiving among strangers this year. Well, I mean my wife and daughter were there but that’s pretty much the list of people I know. It was hosted at the restaurant my wife has recently found employment at. It was a fairly casual arrangement I suppose. The restaurant did the main dishes and guests were suppose to bring side dishes or deserts. Being food people my wife and I opted to bring both. The point is all these people were basically strangers to me.

For the fourteen years my wife and I have eaten Thanksgiving dinner with her family. Relationships with them however, have been disintegrating for some time now and we just finally decided we’ve had enough and no longer care to spend what little free time we have sitting in a house full of people that don’t care for each other very much, just waiting for the first person to loose their shit or to start being openly racist and thus causing the rest of the day to be awkward and uncomfortable. So instead, this year we dined with people at her work.

This wouldn’t be the first time I had a holiday meal amidst the unknown masses. I did have a couple of them in homeless shelters and that’s about as strange as it can get. I was a different person then. For one thing I was a vagrant; and vagrants can’t afford to be antisocial. This was a world apart. Sobriety and misanthropy kept me nervous and in my little corner that I staked out, just waiting for the night to be over. This gave me a little time to reflect on a few things. Namely, what’s the big deal about this holiday anyway?

See I don’t like the holidays to begin with. I’d been holding up on not flushing this one down the crapper with the rest of them but, I couldn’t tell you why.

I mean you could say spending time with your family but I spend all of my time off with them and quite frankly we all get on each others nerves after a while.

There’s the food. I like food. I love stuffing my face until I’m sick but, I’m a good cook so is my wife. We can do that when every we want. It’s just not very practical.

Then there’s the setting aside the day for reflecting on what your grateful you  have. Well I try to do that on a fairly regular basis. Some days it’s a shorter list than others. Today’s was about fair to middling.

Things I am Thankful for:

My Wife and Daughter.

This is your standard run of the mill cop-out answer. You get it.

The Fact That My Wife Has a Job Again.

It’s been a rough several years while she has struggled to find not just a job but, one that is fairly stable. It’s amazing the level of stress that has been lifted off my mind for that. It is an added benefit that she works someplace that is nice enough to hold a holiday meal for it’s employees.

Seriously money isn’t everything but, I’ll be god damned if it doesn’t solve a multitude of modern problems.

Non-alcoholic Beer.

It’s not a thing I keep around the house normally but I knew I would feel like having a drink by the time I got done watching a bunch of total strangers getting drunk. It’s not the perfect substitute but it makes me feel better. Something to do with dopamine, reward mechanisms, yada yada yada. I happened to have picked a fairly tasty one, so that’s a bonus.

 

Stores That Are Open On The Holidays.

There’s a lot of crap flying around the internet about where not to shop because they make employees work on Thanksgiving. There is also a lot of crap marginalizing these complaints by pointing out deployed military, emergency service and healthcare workers don’t get the day off; so why should retail workers?

First I wan’t to state how much bullshit it is to compare the two groups. The people who are military, EMS, or work in hospitals are necessary to the infrastructure of this country and/ or otherwise responsible for it’s safety and security (whether that’s what they are being used for or not is another matter entirely). They signed on to those jobs, hopefully out of some sense of civic duty and should be commended for that.

If we give the guy at Best Buy the day off no one dies. The Commies don’t win. You just can’t get your new TV/ tablet/ laptop/ unimportant-material-bullshit at door buster savings, alright. It is fucking dishonest, disrespectful and just plain god damned obnoxious to confuse that point so just stop.

That being said, just about everyone I know who cries foul about stores being open on Thanksgiving a) has the day off to complain about it and b) will end up in a grocery or convenience store at least once that day to buy that one ingredient they forgot, or to do a run for beer or smokes when they under estimate how far their vices go when they don’t have to be at work. So, I don’t care if all you bought was a pack of gum, or a gallon of gas. If you bought anything today your part of the system of consumer demand and you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Well maybe not, ashamed per say… I mean I’m not ashamed that I had to go buy eggs, sausage and corn meal at the last minute. I’m a busy guy, or at the very least lazy, and didn’t get around to getting that shit earlier in the week so I went shopping today. Screw it. Though I was sure to be polite and thank the clerks for being there, I mean that’s just common decency.

That Thanksgiving Is Over And The Hum-Buggery Season Is Upon Us.

Now that we have overcome this last hurdle I can devote all of my energy to properly despising Christmas. You know why, and if you don’t you’re part of the problem.

Today has been canceled due to lack of interest

I was writing a light-hearted little ramble about spending the past several days sequestered in my room playing video games in the dark s and generally getting nothing done. I was going to joke around about how it’s been so nice to revisit my formative year easier. I wanted to make a jovial anecdote about the multiple choice nature of morality in the gaming world because it is just a mechanic and not a way to live life. I’ll probably still finish it, later…. maybe.

It’s been a shit weekend. We all know why.

I’ve had a shit day on a personal level.

The whole world is turning into a shit show, and I am very disappointed in all of us.

I’ll get over it. Hopefully by Wednesday.

Until then here is my dog scratching her back on the lawn.

Scratching

Let’s try to spend a few days not being asshats.

Thank you.

Happy Monday.

Different

Things used to be different.

We used to get in bed early, and go to sleep late. We would wake in the late morning just to enjoy laying next to each other. Begrudgingly we’d arise, make breakfast together, then talk and laugh, listening while public radio hosted our meal. Afternoons picnicking in parks or hiking in woods nearby. Evening coffee outdoors at the cafe, making not too quiet jokes about the hippy fool with the acoustic guitar; or on the couch with our books or sharing what movies the library had to offer. Weekends looking for adventure, or telling stories of our exploits with friends. We were ourselves, beautiful, brave, and in love.

Then something broke. Inside me, or maybe you too. Something between us.The drudgery of adulthood, The stress of parenthood. The disappointments found in a mirror. The myopia of lower incomes. The shame of transgressions against ourselves. The boredom of commitment. Perhaps just a consequence of our nature.

So often now we sit, worlds apart in the small space of our lives. Doors closed tight against some unknown pain that might be on the other side.

I’m probably seeing things the wrong way again though. That’s what I have to keep telling myself anyway.

I still love you but, damn it, things used to be different.