Gateway Drugs

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 17th, 2018 by skeeter

My old buddy Marco is getting evicted four days from now. He’s got a court date to tell a judge why he shouldn’t be thrown out on the street for not paying his rent. He’s not paying his rent because he hasn’t worked in half a year because his knee is blown out and L&I won’t pay for an MRI to see what’s wrong in there. He has a court date with L&I too, but by then he will be evicted.

Marco’s girlfriend, his latest, isn’t working either. She has a 3 year old child that she’s taking care of for her daughter and yeah, you probably guessed it, the daughter is too drug addled to take care of her own kid. So Marco and Debbie take care of the tot. The hard –hearted among us will no doubt see this as just another story of the poor making bad decisions that lead to them becoming poorer. And they got a good case.

Marco’s planning to move his and Debbie’s stuff out of the rental house this weekend, haul it to a storage unit that costs $150 a month, then go stay with his brother out of state until they figure out which end is up. I think I already know which of their ends is up, but here’s the kicker. Marco wants to adopt his girlfriend’s granddaughter. I mean, why not? He can’t afford a place to live, he hasn’t got a job and he doesn’t have any viable prospects for one. His girlfriend, if history is any indicator, probably won’t be with him long and he wants to adopt the kid.

Marco has a good heart. His trouble isn’t his heart, although judging by his physical condition, that may not be totally accurate. His trouble is his brain. He keeps making dumb decisions. He walked away this year from a house he owned with his ex that they sold for pennies on the dollar because no one would clean up the pigsty they’d made of it. Marco probably didn’t care; after all, his ex was going to take what profits were left from any sale. And did I mention Marco found his way into opioids and finally heroin? No? Well, there you go. Gateway drugs. To poverty.

I wish Marco all the luck in the world. The trouble is, most of it will be bad. You know it, I know it, probably in his lucid moments, Marco does too. The man is 60 years old and driving off the road into the scenery. If you wonder where the homeless hail from, well, some are from the South End. I just hope that 3 year old kid he wants to adopt gets a break. But the poor, often times, do get poorer.

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My $1000 Bonus

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 15th, 2018 by skeeter

I don’t want you to think I’m jumping on the Trump bandwagon here, but … I do want you to know I plan to give out bonuses of up to 1000 dollars to all my employees. Sure wouldn’t want you to think I’m just going to bank all those profits from the business tax rollbacks that are coming my way. Boeing’s doing it, Pepsi’s doing it, Revisionary Glassworks, I’m pleased to announce, is doing it too. Least I could as my way of saying thanks. To my employees, I mean, not the President.

I suspect a lot of us mega-corporate types will be following suit. Good press, good will, good all around. Oh sure, I’ll raise my prices a little, cover my generosity, but that way you, the public, can share in my charitable glow. By the way, once I did a little checking, I noticed those other companies kind of cheated a bit. You got to read the fine print, maybe you didn’t know that, to find that those thousand dollar bonuses go to the folks who have worked there, oh, about a hundred years. You worked there, say, two or five, well, don’t expect a thousand dollar bonus on that next paycheck. Think a little lower. Think a lot lower. But those headlines say $1000, you say. Truth, maybe you haven’t noticed lately, is kind of slippery.

The Truth – capital T – in my case is that I plan to pay every single employee working for me now $1000 no matter how long they’ve been on the payroll. Ten years, Ten months, Ten days. Capitol T! It’s just Good Bizness, that’s all, and it’s the Right Thing to do, excuse all these capitals. No sir, you won’t see my glass company raising its prices to cover my incredible generosity. Not the way I work. And you could ask any of my employees. You know, if I had any. Right now I’m not only sole proprietor, I’m kind of the sole worker. And yes, I’m giving me a $1000 bonus, maybe more if those CEO’s are any kind of role models! And a big pat on the back!

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A Big Tent Valentine on the South End

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 14th, 2018 by skeeter

As most of you careful readers know, political correctness down here on the partisan shores of the steamy equatorial South End is probably not one of our more valued virtues. Maybe because we’re all trapped down at this skinny dead end backwash cul-de-sac, we’ve learned — the hard way usually —- that if we want to get along without civil war, we have to disagree without resorting to a full blown arms race. And believe me, we disagree. On most everything. That’s why we all ended up down here at the end of a tilting island at the end of America on the edge of a continental shelf sliding herky-jerky under another tectonic plate.
This week the talk down at Jolene’s Beauty Salon and Boutique revolved exclusively around the passage of the same sex marriage bill. Scissors and tongues snipped and clucked, but Jolene says no blood was spilled. Ronald, her frothy new beautician, might have intentionally miscolored Mrs. Adeline’s silver perm a tad on the electric blue side when she made the comment that ‘gayness’, seemed to her, was a lifestyle choice, but mostly the banter was affable.
Rhonda Wilkins did wonder out loud if the bill’s passage meant she and her no-account husband Tom’s opposite sex marriage would be annulled now. “That’s wistful thinking,” Wanda blurted from two chairs away in the middle of a henna touch-up on the minister’s mizzus who steadfastly refused to be drawn into a curling iron showdown, and if Rhonda hadn’t been curled herself and heat-lamped into her chair, she might have stormed out, but by the end of the drying cycle she was cooled down and still unhappily married to the love of her life whose zenith of ambition was to reach retirement before cirrhosis.
So Valentine’s Day on the metrosexual South End this year promises to be a cross between Mardi Gras and a Pink St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe no parades by the Diner, but a lot of closets opened for an early spring cleaning. Believe me, the South End could always stand a little more love…. And just in case Mrs. Adeline is right, some of us should think about renewing those old marriage vows. On the outside chance there really might be a statute of limitation.

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Bitcoin for Dummies

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 13th, 2018 by skeeter

Recently I was lounging with my fellow fiscal geniuses at our latest symposium at the Pilot House. Janet, our beverage management expert, had just brought our 3rd or 4th round of malt samples when Joker Jerry asked, “How ‘bout we pay in bitcoins tonight, Janet?”

Janet had a tray full of our dead soldiers and a bellyful of our smartass remarks. “Sure, Jerry, if you can tell me exactly what a bitcoin is.”

Jerry, ever the comedian, replied, “It’s cyber money, Janet. You could take my bitcoin tip today and it would be worth 10 times more week’s end.”

“That’s great, Jerry. What’s 10 times 50 cents? Probably my retirement fund, right?” Jerry muttered something sotto voce about no tip at all, but Janet was long gone and we were left to ponder cyber currency, yahoos who barely understood what president was on a bill beyond the twenty dollar bill and I sure don’t know who it is. Trump? Scrooge McDuck?

“So okay, Jerry,” Bobbie D. asked, “you’re the fiduciary whiz, what the hell is a bitcoin?”

Joe asked, “Is it a real coin you could hold in your hand or just internet Monopoly money? And how would you know what it’s worth if it’s jumping up and down like Venezuelan pesos.”

“What do you know about Venezuelan money, Joe? “ Jerry asked and Joe asked Jerry, “What do you know about bitcoins?”

“I know if you’d bought some a few months back, you’d be buying the drinks tonight.”

“And if I’d bought some a few weeks ago, I’d be drinking heavily at home.”

Billy, who sells real estate for Windy Rear Realty said it was like buying a house. “It’s an investment, that’s all. Not like you use it to buy a burger, ya know.”

“No, I don’t know,” Joe said, “that’s the point. What do you use it for?”

“Drugs,” Two Toke Tom declared. “So the Feds can’t track it.”

“None of us can track it apparently,” I mumbled, draining my $5 dollar beer, plus 8.9% tax and a bigger than usual tip for Janet. And so our seminar reached an inconclusive finale, but we will most definitely continue in-depth research and I’ll report back soon as we have a plausible answer. In the meantime trust in God and the money that tells you to.

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Service Animals on Noah’s Ark Airlines

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 11th, 2018 by skeeter

So this poor college student boarded her plane (name withheld under my attorney’s request) and the wicked witch of a stewardess informed her that her dear hamster wasn’t allowed to accompany her. Something bogus about not wanting rats on the jet, spreading Black Plague or frightening the other passengers. She explained to this corporate lackey that her cute little rodent wasn’t a rat, it was a hamster and furthermore, it was a ‘service animal.’

Just a few days prior a woman had been denied boarding with her service animal, a peacock. She too was quite distraught when the airline revised its policy pretty much right there in the boarding area disallowing peacocks from flying the friendly skies. Probably figured peacocks could fly by themselves with a little encouragement. The hamster, though, not going to grow wings and so, when the airline personnel barred the cute little bugger from taking its seat, the owner asked what was she supposed to do with Mickey? And was advised she could flush it in the nearest toilet.

Now … if you were the kind of fragile personality that needed a rodent for emotional support, just saying, telling you to go flush your support rat might just push you to the edge of a tall precipice. We are emotionally vulnerable people these dark days of the empire and if we need something warmer than a teddy bear or a blankey for comfort, I for one certainly understand. There are days when I can barely open up a newspaper without fearing for my sanity. Today in fact. The President the President the President. Blocking the Democrat’s answer to the Nunes memo. Defending his assistant chief of staff who, despite beating his wives, did a fine job. Or defending this abuser’s boss who knew about this months ago but also put out a statement …. Hell, it goes on and on and if I had a service animal, maybe a cute little wolverine or a school of piranhas, I might have an easier time of coping with a reality that seems to be slipping out from under me hour by hour.

And if I needed to fly someplace, maybe to a country that still held democratic values to be admirable, I’d want to take my support group with me, is that so hard to understand??? I’d keep them in a fish bowl or on a leash, whatever the jerk airline companies demanded. And don’t give me that crap about my fellow passengers complaining about wolverine bites or allergies or whatever whiney bellyaching they dream up, we all need a friend in these troubled times and I know I wouldn’t mind flying with their service animals. Might actually liven up the trip.

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Everyone Loves a Parade

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 9th, 2018 by skeeter

76 trombones led the big parade. With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand.

Aw, who doesn’t love a good parade, marching bands, twirlers, floats and banners and our boys in uniform? Women too now! And Transgenders! Followed by tanks and artillery, jets flying overhead in formation, bunker buster bombs carried on carriages two blocks long. Formation after formation of the Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Air Force. Battalions and generals and military hardware. The Commander-in-Chief looking down from the stage specially constructed for his viewing pleasure, salutes to him as thousands pass by rank and file, hail to the Chief!!

Damn the expense! If we can’t put on a good military parade once a year, what kind of cowpie country are we? Let the rest of the world cower before our display of drones and cruise missiles moving mile after mile down the banner festooned streets of D.C. Patriotism on Display!! Military Might on Display!! Who doesn’t love a good parade?? Forget that Mickey Mouse balloon stuff. Homer Simpson three blocks high. We’re talking about Fire Power, not Star Power. Save the Disney stuff for the Mummer’s or the Rose Bowl or Mardi Gras. Bring on the Bradley Fighting Machines, the 1126 Stryker, the MK19 grenade machine gun, the Black Hawk helicopters, the MK-54 torpedoes, bring it all out and let the world tremble.

Shock and awe on the streets of the USA, that’s what we need. You wonder how we won the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria, well, sir, check out that hardware we’re selling to every hungry dictatorship around the globe. What’s on display here is more than Uncle Sam’s mighty muscles, it’s a runway for arms sales, pure and simple and who better to brand that than the Trumpster himself, Captain America. You need a second generation jet, we got em. You need some Surface-to-Air missiles, we’re your supplier. Just don’t resell them to terrorists. Don’t want those SAMs falling into the wrong hands like that time with the Taliban back in the cold war days when they were fighting the Soviets.

No, give me a good parade any day. Celebrate the weapons of destruction. Hell, drop a nuclear bomb out in the countryside, nothing too big, just a little show of atomic power, a warning to the enemies of liberty. Small mushroom cloud over the capitol, better than the 4th of July. Guns and God, let freedom ring. 76 trombones and a huckster Music Man, is this a great country or what?

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A Short Tutorial on Declining Solicitations

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 7th, 2018 by skeeter

So I get this call just before dinner and this woman starts right in with Hi, How am I today and before I can say I’m busy here with some friends who are visiting she gushes Golly it’s good to talk to someone who wasn’t like the last person she called who was as cranky as her mother-in-law and I’m going, Holy Replay, Batlady, this is the same solicitor of two days before who had really pissed me to the gills.

Now, I could have just quietly hung up the phone. After all, I had guests who were listening in, wondering who I was talking to that it was so damn important to interrupt our conversation and usually with company I don’t answer phones, but … well, no excuses. I had violated my own directive and was guilty of abject rudeness. And the irony was we had been talking about this very solicitor a few hours earlier, me still wound up about it, and now here was my tormentor calling back with her canned little speech about her crummy mother-in-law.

Maybe you’d have lost it too. I don’t know. Maybe you’re like me, cranky as that woman’s husband’s mom. But whatever … I barged in on her pitch to save breasts, half shouting to shut her up, and said “You called me two days ago with this stupid speech and when I tried to explain why I wasn’t going to give money you hung up on me. YOU HUNG UP ON ME!” And then I told her to, let’s not mince words here, I told her to go fuck herself. Aiiii….

I know. One small rudeness doesn’t necessarily deserve another. And worse, I regretted not trying to tell her how her first call sort of put a dark blot on my day and even the next day. Silly, sure, but it did. And how maybe in the future she could respect people who for whatever reason didn’t put a check in the mail by not hanging up on them when the money wasn’t forthcoming. Sure, all those things you think of … later.

So now I’m remorseful, feeling bad once again, a victim of myself, another Trump banshee flinging his own feces against the wall. Does it mean I should get Caller ID? Do I need anger management mediation? Should I quit answering phone calls, stop watching the evening news, cancel my subscriptions to the paper?? Should I, out of guilt, send money to the breast cancer people? Not like I know which breast cancer group called ….

I just don’t know. And now, every time the phone rings, you KNOW what I’m thinking. I’m thinking it might be that woman one more time. Telling me how nice it is to hear a voice that wasn’t as cranky as that last caller. No, not her mother-in-law, the one who told her to go fuck herself. Jeez, if nothing else I got her mother-in-law off the hook.

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Threading the Needle with Camels

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 5th, 2018 by skeeter

The South End Diner was electric this morning, everybody from the Flatheads to the Bible Study crew, all diverted from their usual meandering musings and cock-eyed conversations to a laser focus on the News of the Day. Not even a week after the State of the Union speech declaring victory over tax bondage, the Speaker of the House, evidently trying to one-up the President’s braggadocio, declared that the tax reform bill had already worked.

“How about you, Brenda?” Jerry Harden asked when Brenda came by with the coffee refills. “You get that big raise yet?”

“You talking about that secretary in Pennsylvania?” Brenda said breezily, “the one who probably thought she’d won the lottery after a buck and a half a week raise.”

“A raise is a raise, Brenda,” Jerry said, grinning and holding out his cup. I expected maybe Brenda would miss and scald Jerry’s hand up clear to his eyeballs.

Fairlane Freddy pushed his half eaten and coagulating plate of biscuits and gravy into the middle of the table like he was pushing chips on a bet in a high stakes poker game. “Speaker of the House said it would pay for her Costco membership.”

“I don’t have a Costco membership, Fred. Costs too much already without paying them to let me shop in their store. I’d be interested in what that secretary got for a salary BEFORE her big pay jump.” She topped off Jerry’s cup and moved to the Bible table, half a dozen men in white shirts trying not to splatter grease on their King James’s.

“Easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get into the Kingdom of God,” Randall Morganstein intoned. He was a Jew for Jesus back in the big city, but out here in the boondocks, he joined up with the Little Chapel in the Ravine and rarely missed the Monday morning Bible Group session. “Be grateful for small blessings,” he added and that set Brenda off when her first impulse had been to keep her mouth firmly shut.

“That’s just fine, Reverend,” she growled. “If you’re a camel or a rich guy. The rest of us, we’re a little tired of that homily that we should just wait and we’ll inherit the earth. The earth is pretty much parceled up and sold for profits. How about some compassion for the poor?’

“Well, now,” Randall said, holding up a hand the way he might if he was warding off a blow. “I meant no disrespect, young lady.”

Brenda blew back a strand of her graying hair that had fallen across her angry face. “That’s all well and good, Randy, I guess I’ll see you at the back of the line at the Pearly Gates. I just hope there’s a quota.”

Bible Study yesterday was shorter than most weeks. Maybe it was the lack of coffee refills, who can say?

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Charity Starts At Home

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 3rd, 2018 by skeeter

So the phone rings early this morning and since I don’t have Caller ID, I answer it with my usual Hello, no clue who’s wanting to talk at me. I know, I’m the last man in the industrialized nations of the world who doesn’t have Caller ID so you’re thinking I deserve what I get when I pick up. The price you pay for being a Luddite, I guess.

The too cheerful voice on the other end starts right in with how am I today and I say I’m just hunky-dory and she says how glad she is I’m not the last person she talked to who was as cranky as her mother-in-law but before I can slide an answer in edgewise she’s off and running how she and the good folks for some breast cancer something or other are trying to do good in this miserable world, trying to save lives, trying to … I try my best to slip in and tell her we have our own charities we … trying to save the planet from disease and misfortune and would we help in some small way if they …. I make another attempt to … just send us a letter of commitment, nothing would be too small, anything would ….

Finally I just talk over her, fully aware that now I’M THE CRANKY MOTHER-IN-LAW FROM HELL WHO WON’T SAVE WOMEN’S BREASTS FROM THE RAVAGES OF CANCER!!, the curmudgeon who won’t write a check for some measly sum too small to pay for their stamps and letterheads even, who would rather give to some other less worthy organization, who …

And I realize in mid-apology for my crappy life … she’s hung up and moved on to the next name on her list. No more small talk, no appreciative mumbling how we all give in our own small way, no goodbye, just a phone gone dead. So now I’m not only feeling bad turning down what may very well be a legitimate organization dedicated to stopping cancer in its tracks, I’m pissed off. Great, just flippin great.

This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in this position, feeling aggrieved and angry, but it’s going to be the last time. No more listening to solicitations from now on. No! I’m channeling the last caller’s mother-in-law from here on out. And unless I miss my guess, she’s probably a nice old lady….

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Making America Great Again – a Disruption in the Force

Posted in rantings and ravings on February 1st, 2018 by skeeter

I hear a lot of theories why Trump won a year ago, everything from Hillbilly Elegy to White Trash Backlash. Folks feel like Washington – a euphemism for the Damn Gov’t. – isn’t interested in helping them. That the rich run the show and the poor should have their Medicaid cut. So they voted for a rich guy who lies when he claims the media is faux news. They voted hoping he would shake up the Damn Government.

I don’t think they thought he’d bring back coal jobs — they just hoped he’d do something for THEM. For a change. Who wouldn’t cut deals with Wall street that cut them out of their slice of the American Pie. They’re sick and tired of the wealthy wanting their tiny slice too. And maybe they’ve never heard of the Koch Brothers and if they have, faux news!

I see a future of dislocation, retrenchment, isolationism, automation, Future Shock. Change is happening too fast for us to keep up or comprehend. We love our little devices, but we don’t understand that a digitized world is more and more incomprehensible. We don’t understand, but we sense it. We’re being left behind and it’s not just the hillbillies, although they may be the canaries in the coal mine. We can’t imagine What’s Next. Artificial intelligence, drones, social media, Big Brother, clones, Facebook, nano-technology, 3-D printing, who knows? There’s a disruption in the Force and we’re uncertain if we’re really prepared. The truth is, we know we’re not.

There’s an Anxiety in the land. A sense that the future isn’t going to be better, that the past was the zenith and the present is rolling down hill. The parents fear for their kids and their kids see hard times coming. The jobs aren’t coming back. Coal isn’t coming back. The good times are over. Debts are piling up and coming due. They were willing to try a huckster’s promises, but next time …. who knows who they’ll turn to. We should all be more than a little afraid.

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