Monday, October 24, 2016

You Gotta Love NPR

Grooving on NPR on my way to work the other day.

They advertised: "A lively coffee and pastry discussion on Mozart."

Sounds funny on the surface of it. Easy to make fun of.

But why not?

It's easy to stereotype NPR listeners as eggheads. Pseudo-intellectuals with their noses in the air.

However, I listen to the station. Carol is a devout follower. We are not eggheads. Right?

Truthfully, some of the news people do irritate me sometimes. Especially when they pronounce foreign words - names, places etc. - with precise inflection. A hint of the language the words originate from. Rolling their r's etc. A little precocious accent thrown in for authenticity.

You can look at this two ways. Maybe they are paying respect to that foreign language or culture. Or maybe they are obnoxious white people attempting to sound cultured.

I believe the latter. They annoy me. And I am willing to bet a native from that culture probably laughs at their precociousness.

Some of the "on air talent" sound soooooooooooo condescending to me when they introduce themselves.

Ever hear Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel introduce themselves on "All Things Considered", or various news pieces? Oh my God they sound so full of themselves, just in the way they say their names. I want to slap them in the face.

Still, I suppose there are people out there who could very well engage in a lively discussion on Mozart. In fact I think it's kind of cool.

Classical music is so complex it blows my mind anybody can even compose it. I want to love it, I want to incorporate it into my overall palette of musical experience (holy shit), but I haven't found the right composer dude yet.

I need to connect with classical music that touches my blues soul, my rock 'n roll sensibility. Need to find a maniac of a composer who does just that.

How much homework have I done?

Very little.

Got one button on the radio in The Big Ride tuned to a classical station but it is hit or miss. Every once in a while I'll dial up something that stirs me but more often than not, I do not. Many times a song will stimulate my soul until it segues into another movement and then suddenly I am bored.

I am much more motivated these days. Maybe I'll get up off my fat ass and do the research; put the work in.

No promises though; my brain is still pretty scrambled.

Anyway, go ahead and have a lively discussion of Mozart. I really do think that is cool. I am sure there is so much to discuss about the man and about the music that the conversation would be pretty damn interesting.

Passion is what life is all about, baby.

Friday, October 21, 2016

It's True

Some days you wake up too tired to floss.

It Never Gets Any Fucking Easier, Does It?

I semi retired on June 2.

Feeling pretty good about myself. I had communicated with the Social Security Administration multiple times before pulling the plug, just so I knew what to expect, just so everything would be lined up all nice and neat.

It was an odd feeling at first, waiting for social security money to be direct deposited into my account. At least if you are working and your employer fucks up you can raise a ruckus and settle things quickly.

With the government I figured if something went wrong it would take nineteen lawyers, thirty seven months and 2,315 letters to sort it all out.

My anxiety was misplaced. Everything has been clicking along smoothly.

Until now.

Prior to retiring I had to supply SSA with a 2016 estimate of what my earnings would be while working full time at the liquor commission. This was months before I actually retired so I did not know what my vacation balance would be. I also could not predict intangibles, like working on Sundays and holidays, for which I would be paid handsomely.

Turns out I did work a Sunday or two in there, one holiday, and when I retired I had three weeks vacation on the books.

To make a long story longer I underestimated my income by $3000.

Got a letter last week from SSA telling me that because I earned $3,000 more than I estimated, I will not receive a social security payment in November. I will not receive a social security payment in December.

My next payment will be direct deposited in January of 2017.

Are you fucking kidding me? Not "please contact us so we can negotiate a reasonable resolution," not "we know this could present a hardship for you so........."

Nope. Just you will not be paid for two months.

Social security makes up more than half of what I was earning when I was working full time.

Fortunately for me and Carol, I had money in the NH retirement system, which I took as a lump sum payment when I retired and dumped right into our savings account.

We used a chunk of that to pay off a credit card that charged Mafia level interest; pretty much held on to the rest.

We were sitting pretty. Prepared to handle any emergency that came our way. Kind of like the way you are supposed to feel at retirement age.

Now we will be forced to eat up a good chunk of that money over the next two months. We'll probably end up with a savings account balance equal to what it was before I retired.

Re-introducing worry into the equation.

Goddamn lucky that we have the money in savings. What the hell would we have done if we had zero money in savings?

We would have been screwed.

This shit ain't supposed to happen.

When Sarge died it created a financial hardship for Cori. One thing she did was to look into receiving Sarge's social security benefits. She was told she cannot begin collecting that money until she is 65.

She is 50. Are you fucking kidding me?

Does the social security administration have a clue how their policies, how their decisions affect peoples' lives? Do they even care?

This shit ain't supposed to happen.

I stopped working full time on June 2. Had the whole month of June off, been working twenty hours a week since July.

I have really enjoyed it; really appreciated it. Have not taken it for granted. Still cannot believe how much my life has changed for the positive.

Except I was diagnosed with cancer in August, slammed by the social security administration in October and am suddenly out of my mind impatient with this job I am working.

The worm has turned.

As it will. As it inevitably will.

I am smart enough to appreciate how much better my life has been. For these five months. Five months.

That is the rhythm of life. Five good months, three years of hardship. Two good months, five years of hardship.

As I mentioned before in these pages, in some respects I really don't give a shit.

All I want to be able to do is to find ways for Carol and me to be happy. We will twist and turn and duck, counter punch and spit in the face of life to get what we want.

I worry differently today.

There are many things in my life now to which the following words viciously apply:  "I used to care but, things have changed."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Retail Is The Devil

Rob Zombie is my horror hero.

The man knows how to make horror movies. At least in a way that I find appealing.

Have you seen "House of 1000 Corpses"? "The Devil's Rejects"? Devil's Rejects is quite possibly my favorite, "makes me uncomfortable" horror movie.

If you have not seen these movies, pour yourself a shot, smoke yourself a joint, dial 'em up, turn down the lights, and lose yourself in horror.

Or, more prudently, watch them with a bible in your lap.

I don't know how to describe what he does technically, but he films them differently than other people do, and the tone is so heavily evil it feels like you are being covered in a shroud as you watch,

The characters are evil to the bone; they shock you and blow your mind. You sit there amazed at the level of viciousness and callousness they project.

Had me a shitty day in retail yesterday. Drove home screaming mad in need of bloodshed.

When I have days like that I imagine death all along my route as I commute.

Innocent bystanders being decapitated by the scythe stuck out my window as I drive by; old ladies being crushed up against brick walls as I drive up over the curb; loud mouthed scum buckets having their throats slashed with a rusty blade; shallow people drowning in three inches of burning motor oil.

Retail is the devil.

It rips you apart and feasts on your raw liver. You are forced to be subservient, no matter how hard you fight back.

I have been fighting back hard lately.

If somebody gives me attitude I give it right back. In these circumstances I have evolved beyond the point of flashing the phony smile and swallowing my pride. Instead, I focus my anger and dial up the intensity to 11.

To the point where sometimes the customer will look up from their purchases at me in surprise.

I like that. I like it a lot.

If my day in retail has been bad enough, when it ends, my nerves are frayed and my patience is dead.

On days like that, like yesterday, I require the release of vicious violence and non stop bloodshed to soothe my soul. I have no choice. I gotta have it.

Haven't been drinking much whiskey lately but I stopped to buy myself a ridiculously cheap bottle of bourbon. Somehow that seemed appropriate.

Cheap bourbon and murder go together like peanut butter and chocolate. Plus I knew I would have to medicate myself just to get back to a point where I could at least approximate the feeling of being human.

I also picked up a decidedly unhealthy pizza. Pepperoni, bacon and onion. This also seemed appropriate.

When I got home I dialed up a remake of the movie "Halloween." Directed by Rob Zombie.

Fucking perfect.

There was so much bloodshed I had to wipe myself down with paper towels. There was so much evil I had to perform a personal inventory to make sure my soul had survived.

I am hoping for a better day today.

But if not, I learned a trick or two from the movie last night.

My motto is not "the customer is always right".

My motto is "the customer better fucking beware".

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Choice

"What that means in my life is that my great love, like my great goals, ambitions and dreams, was made of dust, but I've long known that the grand things almost always are, and I've long known that it's the not-so-grand things that make life worth living: a cup of pea soup, a small glass of bitter beer, a new friend, an old memory, a warm fire on a cold day, a cool breeze on a hot one, the smell inside a dog's ear, putting one word after another."

From "Old Heart" by Peter Ferry.

This is the book I am currently reading. It is the story of an 85 year old man whose family wants to put him into a home. He, however, would prefer to maintain his independence.

So he runs away. To Europe. To find an old love he hasn't seen in over forty years.

What a great and improbable story. But is it that improbable?

What happens when your life becomes so narrowed by age that you no longer have choices or control. When others want to do what they think is best for you (maybe) against your wishes; when you have more life left in you than anyone can imagine or even give you credit for?

Aging is a son of a bitch and life is a disappointment. Life inevitably backs you into a corner where you must decide if you have the courage to make a bold statement in stark contrast to the way you have lived, or meekly accept a humiliating slide into irrelevance.

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Powerful words, easier said than done.

From "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas.

Read the rest of the poem. It is short. It is worth the effort.

Quick and meaningless aside: Dylan Thomas died in 1953. I wish I could have spent one drunken night with the man trading words.

Anyway, if you are of a certain age, and life has not stripped you of your very essence, you cannot help but think about drastic action.

You can burn your life down or give it meaning.

The choice is everything.

Who Knew? Carol Did.

"If you want to be happy for a day, get drunk. If you want to be happy for a year, get married. But if you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden."

Dutch proverb

Some thoughts - I hope Carol really enjoyed her one year of happiness. I hope her garden continues to sustain her forever.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stone Cold Truth

"From the President of the United States to the lowliest rock and roll star, the doctor is in and he'll see you now, he don't care who you are; some get the awful, awful diseases, some get the knife, some get the gun, some get to die in their sleep at the age of a hundred and one"

From "Life'll Kill Ya" by Warren Zevon