Saturday, May 21, 2016

Kitty Litter

Kitty litter helps to keep me grounded.

Hmm. ........ I wrote that opening sentence a couple of weeks ago and then put the post on the bench.  Guess I needed to ponder just what I meant when I wrote it. ...............

I seem to recollect a meaningful and thought provoking deep narrative about the special place in my heart I store the notion of kitty litter.  Of course by the time I sat down in front of this screen, all I could spit up was that opening line.  So I let it simmer, hoping my short term memory would make a brief comeback.   While I think I have retrieved some of that original thought, I am sure what will follow will not be quite on it's original target.

I have always enjoyed the company of cats and dogs.  So, when I was able to, I invited them into my life and me into theirs.  Five dogs since the 1980s and well, I am guessing here, but at least 30 to 40 cats have passed through our doors in that time.  The high number of cats, the result of more than a few litters we dealt with as volunteers for a nearby shelter.  But at one point there were 9 full timing little bastards running amok in our house and yard.

I figure I have scooped at the least a couple of tons of kitty litter over the years.   During that time, I have learned a thing or two about scooping poops.

It is impossible to ignore a litter tray forever.  There are other must do chores I can walk around and leave for significant periods of time.  Dishes, grass growing in my yard, dirty car,vacuuming, and dusting shelves are a few of the many chores I can ignore with the best of them.  Kitty litter however is not one of them, especially in a multi-cat household like ours.  Skip a day and immediately the litter is out of control and it can be days before order to the odor is restored.

The must do aspect of kitty litter has a silver lining.  Because I cannot ignore it, dealing with it has forced me to include some basic structure to my daily flow.  Scooping litter may be mindless, unpleasant work,  but it gives me a moment every day to let my mind focus on nothing while my hands go automatic.

Kitty litter is a metaphor for Life.  Shit happens in every life.  And dealing with it is the only sane thing to do.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ...............................................

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Protect Me from What I Want

I don't often look forward to having a beer after work anymore.  Yesterday's almost manic pace at the bike shop however, found me thinking I ought to crack a beer when I got home.  My mind was wound tight.  My body was wound down.  A beer seemed just the right medicine to bring my mind in tune with my body.

I get home and damn!  No beer.  What to do?  I considered a run to the Acton Trading Post for a six pack, but decided no.  Instead, I opened the liquor cabinet where a dusty collection of hooch sat patiently waiting for me to remember they existed.  Yeah, that's a good idea.  I'll have a Jameson with a cool cube in the middle.  One drink will do it.

There was maybe one and a half fingers of the famous Irish whiskey left in the bottle.  Not enough for a decent drink.  So when I finished off the Jameson, I cracked the seal on the bottle of scotch I bought several years ago.  .......................... And then it was off to the races.

I gave up drinking hard liquor for about 20 years.  I consciously stopped because when I was younger and got into the Demon Rum,  I often did not stop drinking it until there was nothing left in the bottle or bottles.  When I sobered up, many missing hours would haunt me like a bad dream.  Friends would tell me of my antics, funny and sad.  Bridges would be burned.  And I would be totally unaware of what happened.  ........... I liked my hard stuff too much.  So I quit.

A few years ago I decided it was okay to drink again.  I was older, wiser, and figured I could handle it.  So far, this has been the case.  A six pack will last me a month sometimes.  A bottle of whiskey will last me years.

Well, last night, I got schnockered, shitfaced drunk.  It snuck up on me.  I was not falling down drunk, but only a shot or two away by the time I collapsed on the couch about 10:00PM.

Which leads me to today as I sit here painfully using the few brain cells I have left to write this post.  When my eyes opened at their usual 4:30 AM, the first thought that passed through my mind was, "Oh yeah.  There's another reason I quit drinking.  Waking up feeling this bad really, really sucks."

Some lessons need to be repeated to protect us from what we want.

Later ..................................................

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Ironical and Tyrannical Paul LePage

A reality show on the "Animal Planet" channel located somewhere in the guts of most cable TV collections is called "North Woods Law".  It follows the exciting and edge of your seat exploits of the Maine Game Warden Service as they attempt to chase down drunks on ATV's, drunks on snow mobiles.  catch drinking fishermen with or without a license and oh yeah, they also go after illegal hunting of all kinds.

I view it as a kind of Yankee version of dumb Red Necks caught being stupid.  Fun to watch on occasion, but hardly thought provoking.  Just another mediocre show in a huge field of mediocre shows.

Apparently our grand and wonderful governor, Paul Lepage finds the show insulting and demeaning to the residents of Maine.  He contends it serves up a bad example of Maine to the rest of the country.

Hmm  ........................ I repeat,  Hmm............ Can you taste the irony?

Sorry Paul, but that horse left the barn the day you stepped into Blaine House the first time 2 elections ago.  You have single handedly set up the worse example for Maine since I first came to the state as child to visit my aunt and uncle in the 1950's.  There is no worse example than your very existence in a position of power.  You are hand's down, the worse thing to happen to my state ever.

And BTW - what's up with their dress uniforms?  Looks like they are wannabe Mounties from Canada.  At least they don't look like gestapo cops like the Massachusetts state cops do.

Later ....................................................

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hep Free

There is always an Upside tied to the hip of a Downside.  There is always a Right when there is a Left.  Seems no matter where I look or how I feel, the grass is either greener over there or a barren landscape devoid of hope and goodwill.  Balancing it all appears to be the best road to travel.  But no matter the road we choose, all of us end up in the same place.  The pain in finding the end of our road depends on what baggage we choose to fly with.

The other day's sad sack post was my explanation for being MIA for a few weeks.  It was my admission that I do have a problem with depression and will most likely have to deal with it the rest of my days.  At least as long as I refuse the chemical help being shoved at me by the health industry.

More than 30 years ago, after many negative run in's with doctors and their belief pharmaceuticals solve all ills, I decided I was safer self medicating than allowing the medical world do it for me.  Then in 2002, I was talked into the Interferon treatment for my Hepatitis.  That negative experience made me vow to never again allow a doctor to write me script for something I did not understand.

Never say Never.

Last year, after constant nagging by my main doctor, I was talked into trying one of the new Hep C treatments.  He assured me of two things.  The pain would be minimal at worse and might not even mess with me.  He also claimed the treatment would be only be for either 12 weeks or maybe 20 weeks, depending on which drug I was able to score the cheapest.

I chose to seek out Harvoni if possible.  One pill for 12 weeks.  Of course once I spent 5 minutes looking into the cost, I had my doubts I could swing Harvoni.  Between $1100 and $1200 per pill.  Without figuring the exact math, even with the 75% payout by my insurance, the cost would be prohibitive.  At $1100 per pill for 84 days that was $92,400.  Deduct the 75% pay out by my insurance company, that left me owing around $23,000 for the meds.  No way, I thought.

I was ready to give it up and just live with Hep C the rest of my days.  A last ditch effort suggested by someone who I cannot remember, found me finding the Harvoni website.  On the main page, a come hither suck you in claim that I could score a coupon from Harvoni that would cover all but $5 on the treatment.

Yeah right.

What the Hell.  Can't hurt to go through the registration process I thought.  One thing led to another and in the end I did actually only pay $5 for the pills.  Far Fucking out!  The lack of serious side affects were as advertised.  I carried a slight headache the first week and might have been slightly more run down than I was used to, but other than that, it was a cake walk.

The expense came with all the damn blood tests I had to have and the 2 more I still have to have, one at 6 months and the last one 12 months after I finished the regimen.  While it is nice being Hep free, it is even better that my opinion of the health industry has been boosted a tad.

My experience has also reinforced that the the health industry is a scam, a rip off, and all they really want to do is pick our pockets.  But at least this time, I found a way to work the system.

For any of the folks who stop by here at the BoZone who may have Hep, I would say check out Harvoni.  Finding ways around the costs are available, you just need to dig for it.  One thing though, stop smoking Pot at least 30 days before your first blood test.  Apparently, THC in your system is the go to refusal most Insurance company's use.

Anyway, that is what was on my mind this AM.  Now I can forget it and move onto the next thing in the quiver.

Later ......................................

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Dark Sands & Going Manic

Depression crept up behind him and slithered in unnoticed.  Like sand in a hour glass, the dark grains accumulated in the bottom of his soul.  After 62 years on the planet, his soul could hold no more.

He had not left his house in weeks.  His wife walked around him and sadness filled their home of 35 years.  No one called.  No one stopped by.  He was no longer part of the world that had no problem leaving him behind.

He did not feel sad.  He had passed sad many floors ago.  He felt guilt and shame.  Guilt for what, he was not exactly sure.  Shame for letting himself and everyone else down.  But guilt and shame was all he had now, so he wrapped himself in the guilt and strapped it on tight with his shame.  The longer he wore them, the more comfortable they felt.  He felt his soul imploding, shrinking, trying to hide from itself.  And he did not care any more.

Sure he was nearing the tipping point, he began to make plans.  Complicated plans.  Simple plans.  And many different plans in between.  He tried to plan recoveries.  He tried to plan a variety of ends.  But try as he might, he just couldn't get off his ass to implement a single one of them.  Instead, he slow cooked in his misery and discontent, hoping some day he might find some relief.

~*~

I wrote the above a couple of years ago during one of the accumulating low moments in my life.

I figured that since Depression seems to be a day to day possibility for me now and in lieu of soul draining meds, I figured I might as well share and maybe purge some of the guilt and shame I live with when in the pit.

What follows is some history and maybe a newer, fresher perspective. ................ and maybe not.

~*~

Going Manic


Before the year 2000, I never thought about Depression.  I knew folks suffered from it.  I watched both of my parents deal with it as they approached the end of their run on the planet.  Before 2000, I had not yet felt the crush as the dark pit wrapped itself around me.

Then in, I guess about 2001 or 2002, I was talked into being part of the first run of Interferon based therapy for Hepatitis.  Painful injections and pills made me feel about as shitty as a human can feel.

Seems of all the nasty side affects, down at the bottom of the list in print so small, I had to read it with a magnifying glass, there it was.  11% of the trial patients experienced suicidal ideation.  Of course, I did not find this out until I had already attempted suicide.  Of course, being a rookie, a NooB, an inexperienced suicide hobbyist, I failed.  Half ass attempt for sure, but it certainly scared the shit out of me.  I dropped out of the program.

Ever since my run in with bad pharmaceuticals,  I have had to deal with on again, off again bouts of depression.

The up side........ yeah, there is actually an upside I think .............. The upside is that now as if to balance my life's rhythms,  The low notes are offset by wonderful high notes.  I get to experience the joy of mania.  Up is often really up ...... I'm flying ...... thoughts move so quickly, I have trouble getting a handle on them.  But when I am able to grab one, my focus is impressive.  I guess even bad medicine can have a silver lining.

A friend asked me a few years back what did Depression feel like.  I am sure everyone has their own notion of what it is or isn't.  But I told him that for me it was non-existence with my eyes open.  Nothing matters.  Nobody cares, least of all me.  The out there world is a fantasy land that is maybe or maybe not just a fig-newton of my imagination.

As always, I will endeavor to Keep it 'tween the ditches ........................................

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Body Snatchers Re-visited

Forward - Disclaimer - Whatever
This is some fiction I wrote over 3 years ago and never posted.  It was tied to a writing site, now defunct, called "Thinking Ten".  It was my last effort with Thinking Ten.  Figures I would pick "Capstone Sunday" to give it another whirl.  The Idea is to take the offered daily prompt and write for ten minutes.  Stop and then read what you have written.  Sunday's prompt is to use every prompt from the previous week.  Spit and polish it up and then submit.  I was maybe 200 words into the rough first draft when 10 minutes was up.  Decided to finish the thought no matter where or how long it took me.  Took me awhile.
So without further comment - 
_______________________
"I can do it myself", Jackson hollered back at his wife of 45 years as he climbed up and into the bed of his 1976 GMC pick up.  Last night's snow storm had finally filled the back of it.  Jackson's rule was never shovel more than he  had to.  He always waited until Winter had filled the bed before he took care of it.  

Squinting against the bright sun, he cussed and fumed every shovel full over the side.  His old fart back complained with every scoop.  And this last storm had turned the snow into igloo snow.  Heavy and packed, he had to add chopping it up first to the already painful scoop and toss motion.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

Looking Back

My existence owes a debt of gratitude to a rowdy cocktail party sometime in the summer of 1951.  I found out or surmised all this when connecting dots while sifting through important papers after my father died in 1980.  My parents at the time were both single.  They hurriedly married a few months before I was born.  I confronted my mom after my dad passed with my Eureka moment and all she said was, "It certainly took you long enough to figure that one out."  Or words to that effect.

I was not shocked nor shamed.  Shit happens.  Especially unplanned pregnancies in the 1950s.  The realization however that I was conceived out of wedlock filled in many missing pieces regarding my interactions with extended family members, especially on my mom's side.  I never felt comfortable as a child nor as an adult at family gatherings.  I felt shunned.  When I became an adult, I reciprocated and cut them out of my life.

While I was not shocked nor shamed, I did get pissed off.  My anger at not being let in on the secret when I was younger was short lived.  I decided that as a child I would have been poorly equipped to deal with information so sensitive.  And I realized, just how does one tell their kid, they are a mistake and the result of socially unacceptable passion.  Now days it would be easy.  In the 1950s and 1960s, not so much.

I am grateful my mother chose to carry me full term.  But at what price?  I grew up in a house with no love in it.  Or not much anyway.  I will always wonder if my mere existence created the misery my parents bestowed on each other while I was growing up.  I don't stay up nights worrying about it.  But I do wonder.

All this brings me to my very convoluted and conflicting opinions surrounding the hot topic of abortion.  Prior to knowing how I came into the world, I was a hard core advocate of the right to abort.  Once I realized that I had once been a prime candidate for the procedure and dodged the bullet, my view has softened.  I am still strongly pro-choice.  But if asked my advice, I would do what I could to help the prospective mother carry her child to term.

This may seem hypocritical or sitting on the fence, or I don't know what.  The right of the individual to dictate what happens in their own body supersedes my opinion that Abortion should be the last tool used to resolve an unwanted pregnancy.  The State and organized religion should stay the Hell out of it.  First and foremost, I am for individual rights.  Supporting the mother without judgement is the best thing I can do I think.

Later ......................................

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Sunday Morning Window


The Sun is streaming in through my Sunday morning window.  It is teasing me, giving me that come hither look to bolt outside into the warm embrace of an early Spring Day.  I look at the thermometer strategically placed next to my Sunday morning window.  It tells me the Sun is offering up nothing but false hope, pulling a prank, hoping to entice me to take part in it's cruel joke.  There will be no warm embrace, no warming of my cheeks as I step out into the Sun.  It will be just the evil chuckle of a chill as it travels down my spine when the frozen wind hits me in the face instead.

So, I sit on the inside looking out and imagine a warm day unfolding beyond the glass of my Sunday morning window.  And though I know deep down I am only fooling myself, I also know that if I wait for the robins to step down from their roosts, I will know then the day unfolding outside of my Sunday morning window will at least be cordial.

Later Gator, I have a bike ride to enjoy ...................................................

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Mr. Mike, Can You Put Gas in My Tire

A bike shop that existed in 1900 not 50 feet from my shop today
Next door to the bike shop sits the Bradford Block, the oldest commercial building still standing on Main St. in Springvale.  It beats out my building by maybe 5 years or so.  Both were constructed and put into play in the 1870's.  In my building there are 4 tenants, two commercial at street level and two residential up stairs.  The Bradford Block next door houses one restaurant and a family of 7 who inhabit the huge apartment above the restaurant.

B and his wife bought the building I guess 4 years ago when he retired from the Army.  At the time there was just he, his pregnant wife holding an infant and a rugrat already breathing and running around..  While they were renovating the building, they lived with his father and mother somewhere near by.  The building was completely gutted and rebuilt on the inside.  B installed a brick wood fired pizza oven, an all new stainless kitchen, walk in freezer and a brand new apartment upstairs for he and his bride to begin the next chapter in their lives.

Then B got busy making more babies.  His wife has been pregnant for at least 3 of the 4 years I have been acquainted with them.  I only point this out because in today's America, a family with 5 kids is not the norm.

From the back door of my shop, I have had the distinct pleasure of watching these little tackers begin to get a tentative grip on the world around them.  It has been a hoot.  I have always enjoyed watching children at play.  I have always enjoyed interacting with them.  Yeah, I think kids are very cool.  Their laughter, screams of delight or anger, whatever noise they come up with is music to my ears.

The oldest three call me Mr. Mike.  Not sure which parent came up with that, but I hazard a guess it was Dad.  When the three oldest come home from St Thomas school in the afternoon, they all seem to be carrying their latest school child effort in their hands.  Images on paper scrawled in colorful disarray, or paper-mache sculptures carelessly dangling from stubby hands.

During a brief warm period a couple of weeks ago, the second oldest, J, was out back messing with his bike.  I think he was waiting for me to make an appearance at my back door.  As soon as he saw me, he began to squeeze his rear tire with exaggerated intensity.  "Mr. Mike, can you put gas in my tire?"  All the while he continues to squeeze that tire hard with his small hands as if to make sure I understood his dilemma.

"J, I tell you what.  You wheel that beast over here and I'll fix you right up."

J stops squeezing his tires.  He looks at his bike and then looks at me.  "Mr Mike, this is not a beast, this is my bike."

I smile at his literal world.  Nuance has yet to make an entrance.  "Are you sure?"

Now I have him guessing.  He looks at his bike, squeezes the rear tire again and looks at me.  "No, it is my bike.  It needs gas."  He was not going to be detoured from his original mission.

"Wheel it on over and we'll get some gas in it for you."

He just looks at me.  I assume he is mulling over just what the term "wheel it on over" means.  He resolves his dilemma I guess based on my hand gesture beckoning him in my direction.  J grabs the bike by the rear wheel and drags it out of the bike rack near their back door.  He gets turned around and bears down on the handlebars to push it in my direction.

Inside the shop, I take over.  I place the little 12 inched wheeled beauty near the air hose next to my bench.  As I reach for the air hose I realize now why he wanted "gas" for his tire.  In his short time on this planet filled with something new everyday, he was finally starting to organize the repetitive actions he had become accustomed to.  Mom or Dad would pull into a gas station, get out and put a pump nozzle into the gas tank opening.  J had also watched me many times use an air hose to put air in bike tires.  The two must be related.  What Dad put in the car must be the same thing I put in bike tires.  Both used hoses with really cool looking doodads on the ends.  The funny thing is, J is not wrong.  I do put gas in bike tires, just not the same kind of gas his parents pump into their vehicles.

I remove the valve cap of the flat tire and hand it to J.  "Hold this.  Don't drop it."

J cradles that valve cap carefully in two hands and keeps his eye on it.  I knew that valve cap was in capable hands.  I put air in the soft tire and asked for the cap back.  J carefully handed it to me.  I screwed it back on the tube.  I then removed the valve cap on the front tire and handed it to J.  No further instruction was needed.  He took his valve cap care seriously and again cradled it in both hands.  After I filled up the front tire, instead of reaching for the valve cap, I said, "Would you like to put the valve cap on yourself?"

I made that kid's day.   His face lit up and he smiled, "Really Mr. Mike?"

"Yeah, go for it".

Watching him struggle and then succeed with something as simple as screwing on a valve cap made me realize that as an adult I often fall into there is nothing new under the Sun mentality.  Yet, right here in front of me was something new under the Sun.  That had to be the very first valve cap J would ever screw onto a tube and I got to be part of it.

That made my day.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ..............................................

Friday, April 08, 2016

Beauty is Only Skin Deep

I was watching TV awhile back. Or rather I had it on. More for the noise than anything else while I attended to minor chores.  One of those tabloid shows was on.  The hostess with the perfect coiffure and the perfect teeth behind the perfect smile introduced a woman who was addicted to cosmetic surgery.  The lead in and my first and only look let me know all I wanted to hear and see.  I went back to whatever chore I was dealing with, hoping to work the horrific image out of my mind.

But I could not get the picture of her out of my mind. She had had so much skin pulled, tucked, inflated and re-arranged, she looked like a claymation figure.  The more I considered her image, the more absurd and further from reality it became.  I could not imagine what waking up next to her would be like.

I finished my chores and immediately fired up the computer.  Apparently there is a medical definition for addiction to cosmetic surgery.  It is known as "body dysmorphic disorder".  What is it with the medical folk that they insist on labeling every problem with a name that normal folk cannot understand?  Couldn't they just label it "addiction to cosmetic surgery" and be done with it?  Whatever.  I guess somebody has to keep a breath of life in a dead language.  Might as well be doctors.

With the unfortunate woman's face still fresh in my mind, I stopped in front of the bathroom mirror and considered what might be needed to give me twenty years back.

Hmm ......... No double chin yet. That's good I guess. My face is slightly larger now, but there's still almost a full head of hair on top.   My nose is still small and inconspicuous. Again, a good thing I guess.   But I'll tell you what.  A small nose brings with it some real disadvantages.  Because of it, I was never able to learn how to properly pick it.  Even as a wee one, hangin with my buds at the playground slide, I could never plunge even a knuckle deep to get at the good stuff like my peers.  At the time I was sure they thought less of me because of my lack of talent at nose mining.  But we all have to live with physical challenges and I have learned to deal with mine.

Once I had recognized the unfairness of a small nose, my eyes moved to my eyes obscured by glasses looking back at me in the mirror.  I removed my glasses and leaned in hard to bring my face back into focus.  What's this under my eyes? Are those water balloons? I am packing some serious eye baggage.  Looks like someone stuffed a tennis ball under each eye. And the crow's feet at the corners of my eyes look like Big Foot stomped on my face.  Add in the scars I had accumulated from years of launching myself head first into almost everything I did, well, I have to say maybe that woman didn't look so bad after all.

I considered my previous horror upon viewing her for the first time while checking out my 63 year old mug.  The face that stared back at me with just a little make up, maybe a highlight here or some shadow over there, could land me an extra spot on "Walking Dead".   At least I did not have to pay one red cent to grow this ugly.  No sense paying for something you can do yourself.

Later ..................................................

An addendum to this post - For some reason the comments were turned off for this post.  Not sure what I did, but I must have pissed off the Internet gods or something.

Odd.  Very Odd.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Willy's Ale Room

I ignored Willy's Ale Room for the longest time after it opened over 15 years ago.  Drove by it almost everyday on my way to the bike shop.  I told myself roadhouses in the sticks  were nothing but trouble with a capital T.  Evil entities lurked there just waiting to smite me down with demon rum and other sinful spirits.  Nothing ever good happened in a gin joint, honky tonk, whatever the local label might be.

My avoidance had nothing to do with fearing God or his holier than thou army.  My avoidance was because I have in the past, while visiting these dens of inequity, been lured into less than civil behavior and held accountable by the local constabulary for I swear, the stuff someone else pulled.  Besides the over the top bar bills that set me up for trouble in the first place combined with the court costs that resulted, finally made me see the light.  It was damn expensive getting into trouble as an adult.

Of course it has been well over 35 years since I  was last involved in bar chaos resulting from over indulgence.   And though I may not remember the fun that got me into trouble, I do remember the aftermaths.  I realized back then if I had any hope of making it past 40, I had better leave roadhouses alone.  My character was not strong enough to keep me sane when exposed to walls of liquor and a row of 5 pull draft handles.  Add in some good music and on occasion I had to be poured into my car after last call.  It was a public safety issue and proof even a dumass can smarten up once in awhile.

I have established my sordid past relationship with bars found in the rural outbacks of this land.  I have admitted to being weak when faced with Temptation.  All in an effort to explain  why I might have recently decided to lift my self imposed lifetime ban on honky tonks and visit Willy's Ale Room, located a short mile from my dooryard.

It's Jim's fault.  Want to make that plain right at the get go.  Had he not insinuated that Willy's provided a good chewy thin crust with their pizzas, I would have never broken that oath I made so many years ago.  He was right though.  Their crust is thin and chewy and their pizzas are definitely better than the average pizza pie in this part of the country. 

So here I am now with at least 60 pizzas under my belt.  Since I have always gotten them to go, my encounters with evil liquid seductresses have been in, out, thank you ma'am,  I'll take my pizza to go if you don't mind ...... but while I am waiting, draw me a Newcastle from the tank in the dungeon.  One beer, occasionally two and I'm outta there.

As it turns out, Willy's is more of a local spot where families could go and not feel they would need to run interference from bad influences.  Good bar food, friendly and welcoming folks, and oh yeah, they have Newcastle on draft.

Keep it 'tween the ditches .....................................

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Misgivings and Doubt

One of my favorite Valve Caps
Because I publicly challenged myself to post every day for the month of April, self induced pressure to perform created misgivings and doubt.  Misgivings and doubt are the seeds of writer's block.  At least that has been my experience over the last 12 years I have been blogging.  The trick is to forge ahead and damn the result.  People either liked it or did not.  First and foremost I need to write for myself.

With the challenge to myself in mind, I tried to come up with a strategy to make sure I posted every day.  What I taught myself before was to have scheduled posts waiting to be posted in case I failed that day to perform as promised.  After all, I am in the beginning of my busy season at the bike shop and every word I type in the morning is accompanied by a heap full of guilt for not being at the bike shop with my nose to the grindstone.

If writing is helping me stay sane or balanced or just feeling better, well, this can only benefit my efforts at the bike shop in the long run.  And honestly, I think it has.  The time I spend at the shop now is more productive.  I feel more on top of the Spring rush than I have felt in a long time.  The therapy of writing everyday has made the transition from Winter slug to Ready Eddy much easier.

It may all just be a fig newton of my imagination.  If it works then why fight it?

I assume everyone with a Google type blog has the same dashboard setup I have.  I always open the dashboard to the posts page.  At the top right, a total tally of posts is shown, followed by a break down of those posts published and those posts existing as drafts.  I noticed the other day that out of the 1664 posts I have, 434 are in draft status.  434 posts I at least started and for one reason or another did not publish.

There might be some untapped semi riches there I thought.  I filtered out the published from the unpublished and began checking the drafts out.  After thumbing through the first 50 or so, I realized that most of them sat cooling their heels on the bench for good reason.  They were not ready for prime time.  I did find a couple though that I thought had promise.

I decided that if nothing comes to mind any given day, I would go to my bench for a pinch hitter.  The benefits would be two fold.  I could start cleaning up the mess that exists behind the colorful and eye catching wonder that is my blog page and work on my editing skills.  I have also learned over the past 12 years that the ability to edit one's work is absolutely key in the effort to become a better writer.

And here we are now.  I have successfully met my daily commitment by writing about how I am going to meet my daily commitment.  It doesn't get any better than this.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ......................................................






xxI knew I could pen some words everyday, but would I be satisfied with them?

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Secretary of the Future

Mornings in the garage, I punch up the small radio I used to include with my tools when banging nails for money.  It is covered with paint spots, one corner is crunched after a fall from 40 feet, and the back is taped on as a result of that fall.  I have it perched precariously on the edge of the one window in the garage.  Where else would I park it?  A radio like that that laughed in Death's face all the way down, deserves to live out its life as it lived it, outside the safe environs of a deep solid shelf.  Besides, it only pulls in stations when it is that close to the window.

So this morning I punched it up, and NPR had a short , very short, interview with Kurt Vonnegut.  It figures he would ask the question, "Why don't we have a Secretary of the Future in the President's cabinet?"  He went on to point out that there was a secretary for almost everything else, but no one looking out for what is coming down the pike.

"Hmm."  I think I actually said this to myself. "Hmm, A Secretary of the Future."

Of all the wacky things I have thought of, an official somebody looking forward instead of behind never occurred to me.  Immediately I began to consider just how this new bureaucratic agency would work.  So I phoned them.  Phoned then in my mind of course.  Their existence or non existence will be determined at some future date.  This future conversation ran something like.............

"Good Morning, you have reached the Department of the Future.  Your call is important to us here in the future.  All of our agents are currently busy dealing with the future.  Please leave your name and number and your reason for calling.  An agent will be contacting you at some future date and time to address your question and concerns regarding the future.  As we here at the Department of the Future cannot actually predict the future and can only offer possible scenarios, the status of your call will be determined by which number you dial now."

"If you think we will never call, dial 1."

"If you think we might call, but it will be after you have forgotten why you called in the first place, dial 2."

"If you think we will call right back, dial 3 and hold your breath until that happens."

"For all other possibilities, please stay on the line.  An agent will be with you shortly in your dreams after you have passed out with the receiver in hand."

That was my first go at imagining what a Department of the Future phone call might be like.

Number two went like  .............

"You have reached the Department of the Future.  Your call is totally meaningless in the future, as it will already be in the Past once we listen to your message.  Only future contacts are handled here at the DOF.  Thank you for calling."

Anyway, that is what was on mind in my recent past.  Who knows what will be slinking around in my upcoming future.  Maybe I should call the Department of the Future.

Later ...........................................

  


Monday, April 04, 2016

The Unimportant Blogger

I came across the term "unimportant blogger"  awhile back on a New Hampshire political blog.  Apparently this lady made some folks over in the Live Free or Die state unhappy with her liberal ways.  One fellow in particular insisted on referring to her as an "unimportant blogger".  The "unimportant blogger" rightfully pointed out that if she was so unimportant, why then did this fellow continue to show up to comment.

So what determines a blog as important or unimportant?  Is a blog with the most followers more important than one with none?  Does importance rely on the who's who of the list of names in the comment section?   Or does a blog's importance depend on the weight each individual places on that blog?

I realized I needed to first get my mind around the word "important" and just what was important, really important.  And where in the scheme of importance does blogging fit.

After at least several minutes of mental gymnastics, I decided that there were two kinds of importance.  Things we absolutely needed to survive were one kind of importance.  And the rest was all of the crap we place varying unimportant degrees of importance on.

Using this criteria, it is easy to identify the "unimportant blogger".  The unimportant blogger is all of us out here in the blogosphere.  Not a single one of us is crucial to the existence of our physical world or this made up out of nothing Internet world.  So get over yourselves, any of you who think that having more followers, more hits, more comments somehow makes you more important than the rest of us blogging slugs.

If there is one thing I would consider important when considering the Internet and blogging, it is the word connection.  That is the one important thing all bloggers bring to the table.  They help the ongoing and growing connection humanity is in the early phases of because of the World Wide Web.

I can piss and moan about the 90% of Internet traffic being so much wasted bandwidth with no tangible redeeming value, but the fact is the internet, for good or bad, is going to change the way our species interacts with each other.  The planet just got smaller and now our neighbors are no longer the folks next door, but the folks in the next country, across the oceans, and people they did not know in the next county.

So to all the bloggers out there, and yes even you Tweeter twits, you are all important.  You are members of a larger movement that will fundamentally rearrange human culture in the future.  But as to any one of us being more important than another, well it just ain't so.

Later...........................................................

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The End is Near Again

We survived the recent Mayan Apocalypse.  We all breathed a sigh of relief when the Rev. Harold Camping was wrong, 12 times wrong, about the Biblical Armageddon breathing down our necks.  So far, the planet and its puny sentient race has managed to dodge the big bullet.  At some point though, I wonder if one of the voices from our fringes will make the correct call.

A fellow, who we will call Mr A, came into my bike shop the other day to buy a rack for his bicycle.  I have known this guy for a couple of years.  Mr A is definitely a citizen of the fringes.  I like him, but his take on Life is different than anything I could have come up with.  When we share topics regarding bikes, he is as normal and mainstream as the next guy.  When he expands the conversation with lead ins like, "Do you believe in UFOs?" - Well, I know what follows will at the least be entertaining and sometimes scary.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Sanford, Maine

Gears left when the Mills moved away

Maine is a beautiful state that is sparsely populated and performs the necessary duty of a cornerstone state.  The border is shared by the self proclaimed "Live Free or Die" folks from New Hampshire to the west and those wacky Canadians up north of us.  To the east, a convoluted rocky coastline of 3500 miles keeps the Atlantic ocean at bay.  There were at last count, 1.33 million people living in an area of 35,385 square miles, or about 43 people per square mile.  Most of the people here live in the lower third of the state, giving us Mainers a wonderfully wild and gorgeous state to call home.

But this is not about Maine.  This about a town much maligned over the years that has pulled itself up by its bootstraps and has finally re-defined itself.

Sanford is a small town that has proven itself a survivor, regardless of the bad rap it gets from those high pocket towns on the coast or at the bottom of ski slopes up country.  Sanford, from the very beginning, was a blue collar mill community.  The Mousam river offered readily available power to numerous mills as far back as the mid 1700's.  In the mid 1800's, Sanford began to flourish when the Goodall's opened their first textile mill.  For the next century, Sanford was a key producer of the cloth that America used and exported.

In the mid 1960's, the textile industry packed its things and moved south.  After a decade in Dixie, Textiles once again packed their bags and moved to foreign shores, never to come back again.  Sanford has rebounded, but it took a half century.  Now it hosts small manufacturing efforts and serves as a bedroom community for Portland and parts south.  The Mousam River still runs through it, only now it is cleaner with less diversion than it had when the town's thousand looms were running 24/7.

I am a self employed small retailer in Springvale, a small village that is part of Sanford.  My bike shop is situated only 8 miles from my home in nearby Acton.  Owning an independent brick and mortar operation on Main Street anywhere in America is a tough row to hoe.  In a community where mid income is something to envy, it is a very tough roe to hoe.

I could have located my shop closer to the money that flows up and down the Maine Turnpike.  It would have certainly meant more chinga ching in the till.  But I don't own a bike shop to make money so much as I own a bike shop because I enjoy providing a service for the good people who live around me.

Money is important, but it has never been my prime motivator.  I derive enjoyment, fulfillment if you will, in the act of labor.  Money is a reward, but no less important is the pleasure I get when I can make someone's day by servicing their bike, providing information, or just being there to hear what is happening in their lives at that moment.

Over the years Sanford has earned my loyalty and my respect by its tenacity and refusal to go away.  It has, like any community, institutionalized madness that drives me crazy sometimes.  But at its heart, the movers and shakers are good people who constantly look to improve the lot of Sanford's citizenry.  Any small part I can have in that effort is what makes me continue to open my doors.

Later ..................................

Friday, April 01, 2016

Post a Day for a Month

Earlier this year, I wasn't sure if I was going to have the interest in blogging that I once had.  Fads come and go.  Since I started blogging in 2004, my efforts have been erratic to say the least.  And this time I had lost a couple of years there and getting back on the horse did not hold much appeal.  But then that itch, that urge, that ever present inclination to put words to proverbial paper was again nagging me to no end.

"Alright, alright.  Give it break ferchrisakes," I said to myself.  "If it will shut you up, I'll start writing again.......... But don't expect much."

The internal nag sat down and shut up.  But I know he is watching me to see if I will keep my word.  He's been disappointed before.

Because of my life long infatuation with creating and reading my own words, I have notebooks and scraps of scrawl stashed here and there around my house.  I am not squirreling them away like some randomly planted nut.  I just seem to find these scraps and notebooks in the oddest places.  Like I set the journal down and walked away, never to give it another thought until such time while looking for something else, I stumble on them, get distracted by them, and forget what the Hell I was looking for in the first place.

Regardless and anyhow, the point here today is I was looking through some of my old posts and found the ones I wrote when meeting a post a day challenge back a few years.  Hey great.  I think I will give it whirl again.  See if I can post every day for the month of April.  Because practice may not make perfect, but it heads one in the right direction.  And a daily routine just might be the kick in the ass I need.

Keep it 'tween the ditches .......................................

Thursday, March 31, 2016

All is Well with the World

So I wake up this AM, head to the garage and turn on the small radio seated precariously on a window edge.  I keep the radio tuned to that communist mouthpiece, NPR.  It's part of my morning ritual.  Knowing what those pinko Liberals are up to is a 24/7 job.  I want to hit the ground running in case they have made good on their plan to take over the US government.

So what is the first thing I hear?  Yeah, that's right, Donald Trump trying to walk back from his comments last night at another one of his town halls.  Apparently his latest comments have angered the both the Pro Lifers and the Pro Choicers.  Way to go Donald.  Then I hear his well informed take on the use of tactical nuclear missiles.  He would not rule out their use in Europe if the need arose.  This made many European butts pucker hard, I am sure.

As I listened to the radio in the garage, I realized that if Donald was the topic, then all was well with the World.  I had not entered another dimension or universe in my sleep.  I was still on planet Earth and another day on the planet was about to begin.  Excellent.  It's always nice to know I didn't wake up dead.

Keep it 'tween the ditches .........................................

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Musings From the Throne

The magazine rack next to the throne had a new rag sticking out of it this AM.  Almost notebook sized and it looked substantial.    As I am prone to do when conducting the kingly business that happens when on the throne, I will choose from the variety of periodicals and read to distract myself from the necessary but boring duties I must deal with while on that throne.  A king's work is never done and well, I take my entertainment where I find it.

I pick up this new addition stuffed in the magazine rack.  It is a Reader's Digest.  It is at least 2 times bigger than the Reader's Digests I remember hanging around doctor offices everywhere when I was younger.   The cover has the classic Reader's Digest logo in huge letters.  Nearby the words, "Large Print" tells me this Reader's Digest focused readership are old farts.

I immediately forget wondering why there is a Reader's Digest  even mixed in with the normal rags found in the throne side rack.  I shift to a feeling of being insulted.  I am sure my lovely wife is the culprit who placed this reminder of old age at my fingertips.  She's sneaky that way.  Always leaving little tokens around that tell me I screwed up somewhere.  Dirty dishes piled up at my place on the kitchen table.  Bags of trash piled in the living room I neglected to remove in timely manner.

But  a copy of a large print Reader's Digest?  What could this mean?  Her point seemed way more subtle than my pitiful excuse of a mind could handle.  I could still read fine.  Did not need large print anything yet.  Although it does seem the miserly bastards in charge of the print world now are  using smaller print.  If she had left a hearing aid next to the TV remote, I would immediately get the point.  But a large print Reader's Digest?  Her possible motive was beyond me.

I lost interest as to her motivation once I opened the mag.  Immediately, memories of waiting rooms form my youth came flooding back.  I remembered one doctor I visited while we lived in Tallahassee, Florida.  I had a recurring appointment schedule with him after a collapsible wooden chair tried to cut one of my fingers off.  Over the course of a two to three month period, he had the same two magazines in his waiting room.  Both were dogeared and almost unreadable.  One was a Time from several years before and the other a five year old Reader's Digest.   I read both enough, I almost had them memorized.

As I thumbed through this modern day version of Reader Digest's effort to fight the digital tide, my wife's possible motives faded.  The larger type threw me off at first.  As each page turned, I saw one familiar feature after another.  "Humor in Uniform", the obligatory crossword puzzle, word power quiz, "Points to Ponder", all the old go to features were there.  This was Reader's Digest alright.  Bigger maybe and on cheaper paper, but it was the same as I remembered from years ago.

Oddly, this brought me some comfort.  No matter how much things change, tokens from the past hang in there, reminding us that the past is never very far behind us.

Keep it 'tween the ditches ...........................................

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Honoring Easter

"..... And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made."

"And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it."  ~~~ From the beginning of Chap Two - Genesis

Grouped together to the side of the Church entrance in small clusters of 3 or 4, the ladies hug and exchange gossip while carefully checking out what everyone is wearing.  Their white gloved hands hold small handbags in one hand and in the firm grip of the other hand, the wild child from their brood pulls hard like a dog on a leash.  They speak in whispers and cast secretive glances at the women in the other circles.  Their Sunday bonnets  are carefully placed to accentuate any movement of their heads while starched dresses swish, sounding like a soft wind passing through a picket fence.

The men, stiff in their Sunday go to Meeting best, stand across the main walkway in small groups smoking and speaking in low voices.  Their macho affection is passed hand to hand or the occasional squeeze of a shoulder.  An irreverent laugh is heard from one group or the other causing some of the flock to purse their lips in disapproval.  How dare levity be allowed to break the solemn moment about to come.

A church elder opens the two big doors.  Organ music flows out to the crowd announcing this week's broadcast from Station WGOD is about to begin.  Cigarettes are crushed, ties adjusted, and dresses smoothed.  The two genders come together on the main walk and re-group with family and close friends.  They head into church to find their seats.

This is how I remember it.  Not this exactly. but something like this happened every Sunday in the first 13 years of my life.  Sunday was a big deal in my youth.   Such a big deal in fact, I soon realized at about age 8, that if this was supposed to be a day of rest to honor our creator, then why did we spend the better part of an otherwise perfectly good day not following the example he had set.  God was taking a breather, then by jeezus, so should we.

Spending an hour getting ready to go to church, another 30 minutes in the car to get to church and then an hour plus alternating from sitting to kneeling and back again.  Back in the car and another 30 minutes home ......... well, in my childish mind, this church going activity could hardly be considered restful.  Not for me, that was for sure.   Going to church was the most work I did all week.  The six other days of the week I was busy being a kid wearing holes in my knees and not washing behind my ears.  Church on Sunday for me as kid was an obligatory punishment like sitting in the corner at school.  Only I had done nothing wrong. I had broken no rules.  Why was I being punished?

When I grew older and decided that God really didn't keep very good tabs on us, I went my own way.  But just in case he was there and paying attention to the silliness of me and what I got into,  I hedged my bets and honored his command to not do anything on that seventh day of the week whenever I could.

On Sunday, Laziness is next to Godliness ................ That's my take anyway.

Happy Easter