A LONG WAY

I went looking in my files for a story — which I didn’t find. Maybe it’s on one of my backup drives. I’ll have to look. Meanwhile, I found this unfinished bit. I wrote it in 2006. Life is much better now. It is interesting seeing how far we have come in a decade and how, despite my pessimism and a lot of setbacks … we’re still here. These days, instead of dunning us for money, the banks want to give us more credit cards and keep raising our credit limits.

The message is SPEND, SPEND! My answer is NO, NO! But thanks for thinking of us. Please send cash, not credit.


SUNDAY MORNING, LATE JUNE 2006


My first call this morning was from Discover card, to which entity I owe some thousands of dollars. You can always tell it’s a creditor. Their calls have a special hollow sound. Probably caused by their always using a speaker or microphone.

“Good morning. May I speak with Marilyn Armstrong.”

“Speaking.” Sigh. Here we go again.

“I was wondering if you were intending to make a payment this month.”

“No. I have no money. My unemployment has run out. I have an income of zero.”

“Well, have you considered returning to work?”

I paused for a long moment, pondering the hundreds of resumes I’ve sent, the dozens of phone calls, the days and weeks searching employment websites.

“Actually,” I said, “I have decided I don’t feel like working. You see, ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be poor. Not merely a little short of money. Oh no. I wanted to be so poor that I can only shop at the Salvation Army on half price days. I want to be awakened in the early hours of my weekend by creditors dunning me for money. I want to make choices, like ‘do I eat or do I buy medication? Do I keep the telephone or pay the electric bill?’ You know, miss … what was your name? I didn’t catch it …”

“Tracy …” she replied.

“Well Tracy, even when things were going really well, I was always yearning for the day when I wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor because I have no medical insurance.  So I plotted and schemed until I found a company that was sure to go bankrupt while I worked there owing me three or four months back salary … oh and I also arranged for my husband to be abruptly jobless and for economy to tank… and voilà! I got what I wanted.” And I clicked off.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m sure my wit was lost on her, but at least recounting it to Garry made him smile. Everyone keeps telling us that it’s going to get better because it has to. Call me a skeptic. I bet that’s what they told the homeless families as the sheriff evicted them.

Being poor in America is considered a sin. If you are poor, people assume you are also lazy, stupid, and uneducated … unless they are liberals, in which case they assume that you come from a deprived background where your mother was a prostitute and your father is doing twenty-five to life.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

People like us, who were very good earners and lived a decent facsimile of the American Dream — until it turned into the American Nightmare — scare the pants off other people. Our ill-fortune might be contagious. What happened to us could happen to them. They could face ruin because the economy faltered, they got sick, worked for a company that went bankrupt, or were declared obsolete or too expensive  … or worst of all, they got old and were pushed out the door.

People can’t afford to be sympathetic. This is too close. Too many of us are living a paycheck away from financial disaster. In our dreams, we see the glittering eyes of the predators (oops, I meant creditors) watching us from the shadows. So we circle the wagons. Throw another log on the fire and huddle against the dark.

At this point, we’ve gone past that. No wagons remaining to circle and we’re out of firewood.

I have more of a sense of humor about this some days than others.

 

BACK TO THE NOW


We are in better shape than we were. Not rolling in the big bucks, but mostly managing to get through the month. Meanwhile, though, too many other people have joined the “we’re poor” party. Which explains that’s why there are so many angry, hostile, hateful people around.

Someone told them they could have a new car or two, a house, and a job that pays a living wage. All they had to do was “the right stuff” to have The Good Life. It didn’t happen that way.

If the good life fails, it must be someone’s fault. It must be Those People. Black people. Hispanic people. Islāmic people. They stole the dream.

Someone stole the dream, right? It can’t be you were working in a business which became obsolete. Or you were under-educated and couldn’t keep up with the how the workforce has changed. Or maybe you just had really bad luck, a thing that can randomly happen to pretty much anybody — with no one at fault.

I know our problems weren’t because of Those People. Other struggling people are not our enemy.  

The rich guy with orange hair is not your friend and he isn’t going to make your world a better place. Maybe he’ll help you hate better, but that’s not going to improve the quality of your life. Maybe you’ve figured it out by now. I hope so.

“RAKE” – STARRING RICHARD ROXBURGH. BRILLIANTLY AUSTRALIAN

Rake is an Australian television program, produced by Essential Media and Entertainment. It first showed on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s ABC1 in 2010. The fourth series started on ABC TV in May 2016. It stars Richard Roxburgh as rake Cleaver Greene, brilliant Sydney barrister typically defending a guilty client.

For Americans, the show is available (all four current seasons) on both Netflix and AcornTV. 

Rake is described as “self-destructive,” but that doesn’t entirely explain it. Rake — Cleaver Greene — takes self-destruction to new levels. He is smart, snarky, witty … and he is a total, social jerk. Everybody loves and hates him at the same time. He is awful so much of the time that not only does he get blamed for what he does, he gets blamed for everything that anyone does.

Richard Roxburgh is the co-creator and star of the show. The character is his, though I don’t think it’s “him” in a real-life way.  Regardless, he’s hands-on in the series.

Roxburgh is no slouch in the directing/writing/producing categories, His character — Cleaver Greene — changes and grows which is a rare feature on any television series. He is, in the beginning, a complete asshole. A gambler. A drug addict. An alcoholic. Beaten up by thugs more or less daily for not paying the vig on his loans. He has no home or office and works out of whoever’s office is currently not in use. What they call in Australia “a floater.”

As the series progresses, he starts to sort out his life. Although everyone continues blaming him for everything, it becomes obvious his “friends and family” are sufficiently screwed up to not need additional help from good old Cleave. Still, it’s convenient to keep blaming him because that’s easier than blaming themselves … and Cleaver is so used to being blamed, he accepts it. Until he doesn’t.

The show has been ending every year for two years, but popular demand keeps it coming back. Netflix and Acorn both have all four years of the show and a fifth is in production.

We’ve never seen a show quite like this. It’s a comedy. It’s a drama. It’s absolutely not an American  series. If it reminds me of any show made in this country, it might be “House of Cards,” but it’s more comedy and less lethal. It reminds me that however bizarre we think our country is, other countries are — in their own way — equally bizarre. Even though they have much better health care.

This may not be the show for everyone. The language is raw, to say the least. There’s a lot of sex and drugs. It is a messy show with messy people whose lives are way over the top.

Just when you think you can’t stand to see Cleaver screw up his life any more, he fixes something. Does something beautiful for a friend. He’s the most selfish guy in the world … except … he isn’t. Not really. Not when all is said and done.

It’s kind of brilliant, actually.

TENTATIVE? OR SIMPLY INEFFECTIVE?

Tentative. Is that like when WordPress puts up a “word of the day” but can’t connect it so we write about it, but no one really sees it? If I think about it, that would probably be a lot closer to ineffective, wouldn’t you agree?

Rain

This is a very tentative afternoon for me. I’m tentatively considering washing the kitchen floor, but it’s raining and will be for at least one more day. Our dogs have muddy paws. Tentatively, I should (maybe) schedule it for … oh I don’t know … later. Sometime. Friday-ish.

Uh huh. That’s it. Later.

I’m feeling too tentative today to bother writing about this. Tentatively, I’ll think about doing it tomorrow. Or, maybe, never. Sometimes “tentative,” “ineffective,” and “never” are not very far apart.

COME TO THINK OF IT

Getting old isn’t all that bad, come to think of it.

There was a question on my local Facebook page asking for suggestions about local pediatricians. I suddenly realized … I don’t know any pediatricians. Considering my son is 48 and my granddaughter is 21, that ought to be no big surprise … but it was. I don’t remember exactly when I became free of worrying about “kid stuff.” As long as Kaity was a child, it was still part of my world, if only indirectly. But now … it’s finished.

I’m no longer worried about the routes for school buses. I’m not looking for a great playground — or wondering how many pairs of shoes the child will need this year. I may be wondering whether or not I can afford to get her a better camera, but that’s a grown up concern. No more am I wrapped in the world of children.

Do I miss it?

Are you kidding?

I won’t be packing lunch or overseeing homework assignments. I will not have to listen to the kid lying about how he did his homework during study hall and trying to decide whether to call him on it, or say “fuck it” and move on.

I won’t need to update my résumé. I won’t be commuting to a faraway office or planning a vacation based on a two-week vacation schedule. I might not get any vacation, but on the positive side of that equation, I don’t really need a vacation. A short break to visit friends will do nicely.

I will probably only set my alarm half a dozen times during the coming year.

There are worse things than being old. Retirement. Way to go!

MOST GLORIOUS DAY! A CELEBRATION OF MY FINAL 2017 CHECKUP

“Oh frajous day! Callooh! Callay!”
he chortled in his joy.


A glorious day indeed! Not only is WordPress actually publishing the Daily Post today, but I’ll be spending the day at the cardiologist. It’s the big one … a deep EKG plus the testing of the pacemaker during which they turn me off to see if I’m still going to die without it (my fave!) — plus the general “And how ARE we doing!” for the year.

I’m running a little late. Should’ve had this checkup in March, but my doctor is changing practices and I wanted to stay with him, adorable guy that he is (he really is a cutie).

This is the last checkup of my annual checks for various potentially lethal illnesses for 2017. After this biggie, there will be nothing more (planned) than the annual flu shot to mar my joy in Autumn and any other seasonal delights that yet might come our way.

In honor of these events, I offer you two (yes two!) favorite poems by favorite author Lewis Caroll from “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” here are:

“You are old, Father William” (1865) by Lewis Caroll (prophetic!)

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head –
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door –
Pray, what is the reason of that?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment – one shilling the box –
Allow me to sell you a couple?”

“You are old,” said the youth, “and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak –
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength, which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose –
What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you downstairs!”

Followed by everyone’s favorite:

Jabborwocky!

See you all on the other side!

DARK DEEDS IN A SMALL TOWN KITCHEN

Twenty-seven years. Twenty-seven long years. She looked down at the knives in her hand. Two simple steak knives … and he was backing up, directly into the knives. No one would believe the story, not for a minute.

“Hey! Stop! I’ve got knives in my hand. You’re backing right into the knives,” I said. The thought was just a tiny, momentary lapse …

“They’d never believe your story,” he commented as I put the knives in their sheathes.

“They have me in maximum security for the remainder, brief though it may be, of my so-called life.”

“The DNA alone would convict you,” he agreed. Good he hadn’t moved faster or it could have been all over before I had a chance to warn him …


Which bring me to what I bought for our anniversary


Garry doesn’t need clothing. Garry doesn’t need a tie or a watch. Nor jewelry, a book, a computer, or a cell phone. Garry doesn’t really need anything except possibly more hair which I promised I’d get him if I got rich from the proceeds of my book. I didn’t get rich and have not hit the lottery — unlikely having not bought any lottery tickets. Which means Garry still needs hair. Maybe in our next lifetime.

As for me, I don’t need anything anyone can buy. So, I figured there was nothing I could get that would be interesting, surprising, or unique. I was wrong.


It all started when we had Duke at the vet the other day. We got to postulating “what IS Duke?” The curled over the back tail, his funny scrunched in face scream some kind of Asian breed. Not the kind of dog you usually find roaming streets looking for a back alley girl dog for a quickie. Accidental backyard breeding? Intentional mix?

Something happened because we’ve got The Duke.

So, the vet says: “Maybe Shi Tzu? Not King Charles … no spaniel in this dog. Don’t think he’s any kind of herder … Okay. That’s it. You’re going to have to do DNA. I need to know what this dog IS,” said Dr. Marcie.

“I’d like to know too,” I said, “But those tests are pricey.”

“I think around $75 … something like that,” she admitted.

“Not this week,” I said. Although if she’ll pay, I’m up for it.

But this got me to thinking, so I looked up the DNA breed tests for dogs and indeed, they are in the $75 range. More pressingly, I have to get Bonnie clipped next week. She has reached the “stinking bag of black rags on legs” stage. Gibbs has a flat, smooth coat, so for now, he is okay. Garry pointed out that Duke is more a “hose him down” sort of guy. So rather than sending out DNA to discover Duke’s ancestors, I thought I’ll get Bonnie clipped.

But speaking of anniversaries, how about ancestral DNA for Garry and I? We may not need it, but it would certainly be different, right? Oddly, it’s less expensive to get the DNA for humans than for dog breeds. Go figure, right?

So. That’s what I did. DNA for we two lovebirds. In about four weeks, the mystery of our ancestors will unfold. The truth will be revealed! The veils of history will lift and all will be known. Or maybe not. We shall see.

As for Duke, I’m afraid he will have to wait until my curiosity goes over the top … or one of those lottery tickets comes in big.

DOONESBURY NAILED IT 41 YEARS AGO – BY BRAINWRAP (AND ME)

Doonesbury nailed it 41 years ago. — By Brainwrap 


 I remember this specific strip too. I was an ardent follower of Doonesbury back in those days. How ironic and sad that his material is relevant 41 years after publication.