Thursday, December 29, 2011

Unreality Boob Tube

(Money Can, and Will Forever, Buy Happiness)

Folks on TV got it all. Nice new stuff, immaculate homes. The men buff yet thoughtful, the women busty yet chaste. Meanwhile you, in real life, clean up some vomit, not sure whether it’s from, dog, child, or drunk freeloading relative.

Wacky TV antics make life look fun. But who cleans up after the kids caper through the house chasing the dog chasing the cat chasing a bird chasing a fly? On TV it may be a well paid union Production Mess Grunt, or at least the regular ‘custodian.’ At home—crap!--it’s you again, the kids are in bed now, or not old enough, or ‘doing homework’ on the computer (yeah, right,) or out with friends, or moved out. First, better swat the fly and feed the animals, we don’t want a repeat.

Hardly anyone ever seems to do actual work on TV (who would watch such misery?) Yet all have endless money and elegant lives. Those that work, somehow have plenty of time for philosophical discussions, lengthy investigations, or wacky hi-jinks.

Reality, of course, is dreadful repetitive drudgery, day in, day out, no chance of promotion, among jerks and layoffs. Each week just enough coin, after rent, power, water, trash, petrol, and drugs, to buy a ten pound sack of potatoes and a 12 pack of Le Peu Bargain Lager. Dull conversation, chronic apathy, better at least have a little fun.

After that second shift on your second job, all you want to do is lie down. But no, a whining house mate, broken floor board, torn couch, dirty shirts, crumbs, was that a cockroach? Always something else stupid and boring but critical. Unlike TV: sometimes exciting, never important.

Life in fantasy TV world is only possible with money. The rest of us inhabit reality, where you do what has to be done, as best you can, for better or worse. Difficult situations remain unresolved. Broken windows and cracked doors get duct-taped, roofing and plumbing struggled with and fixed by sheer poverty-driven determination and luck. Relationships are unpleasant, complicated, gut-wrenching.

It seems, and probably is, that money could fix it all. But it won’t. Human nature, without tribe, gets greedy.

Relax, there’s nothing you can do. Only a tiny fraction of the world has a TV life. You don’t, and likely won’t. Compare yourself with the rest of humanity, throughout the history of mankind, instead.

People of every size shape color and ugliness, in every part of the world, barely scrape by each day. Some 30,000 die of starvation--every day. It sucks to be poor, but our local market still has food, to be stolen if all else fails. 

More and more dog eat dog, fight or flight for every scrap, but still a long way from the garbage heaps. Hunker down and hang on, this is the new reality. Which is not being televised.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pack Rat Redemption

Murder and Survival in the Homeland

The Pack Rats had been living under the smelly shed a long time before Cheap Dude and offspring moved onto the beat-up property.

The place had been a rental unit for 15 years so no one bothered to fix anything or evict the Pack Rats. Perhaps folks had tried and failed. Either way Cheap entered the property dispute ignorant and innocent.

The shed stank of rat. Never quite finished, gaps in fake wood paneling made perfect nest sites. He swept it, sprayed it out with water, and piled in meager camping gear and third-hand bicycles. Over time, pieces of home repair leftovers. Six roof tiles. Broken lamp. Every seldom-used object without a specific daily purpose or home. The crap they didn’t need but were too cheap to throw out.

The smell came back. Among marginal junk the Pack Rats rebuilt their homes and stockpiled many pounds of dry dog food nuggets and native tree seed pods. Thrived, far as he could tell. He was too busy working and raising kids to do much about it. He shuffled stuff, halfway cleaned foul nooks, sloshed disinfectant about, and--screw it for now.

They continued to thrive. Nestled under scrap lumber, piled under thorny trees, still crapping and stockpiling in the shed. They also munched on everything plastic, garden hose, tools, bicycle seats.

War was not declared until they began eating automobile wiring.

The old truck was all Cheap and gang had back then. He repaired the headlight wires, and retaliated with a small box of commercial poison. They were supposed to eat it and bleed to death internally. Somehow it seemed the least violent way. More importantly, he didn’t have to look at corpses, they sort of disappeared.

Within weeks the disdainful Pack Rats were defecating in the boxes of poison, warning off the others. (Years later he tried this again, and the poison was crapped in almost immediately.)

He tried other traps, and killed a few with the big old fashioned cartoon spring-loaded type. Peanut butter was bait, they couldn’t leave it alone, WHAP! He didn’t like to handle the dead, though, because he was a soft-hearted daffodil. He would talk to the nests, “Stop wrecking my cars and I’ll leave you alone.” They’re rats, Cheap, you idiot!

No matter how many were murdered, more wiring would be eaten. A newer car had much tastier, and of course more expensive, wiring. Time now to try cats.

Weren’t cats supposed to frighten, intimidate, even eat, rats? Cheap and Dudine took in every stray, every litter of kittens given away in front of the market. For a couple years, five to 20 cats crawling all over the yard.

Not one ever killed a Pack Rat.

In fact, all but one became a different link in the food chain. Several years of drought had driven all the coyotes into town, and a huge owl started swooping down close to the porch nightly, looking for warm kitten snacks. (The one survivor of The Cat Years escaped minus a chunk of rear leg, and hung around for years, friendly but nervous.)

Meanwhile, the Rats, though reduced in numbers, ran amok. Nests destroyed, wires still nibbled. Frustrated past murderous anger, he finally realized that rousted shed nests were being relocated to warm car nooks. The intermittent terror of travel, or sudden fan dicing, was no deterrent.

Glue traps tortured a few to death; attractively scented glue held fast the curious. Some died relatively quickly, faces and bodies twisted in panic but stuck. Others tore off patches of fur, tails, or chewed off paws, to escape. The horror!

Another newer car. Delicious expensive computer wiring. By now the Pack Rats toyed with, then crapped on, all traps. They learned to steal peanut butter without springing the big ones. Nestled in the fiberglass, they kept cranking out families one after the other. He would never be rid of them until he tore the shed apart. One day, in a sour mood, he did.

Weeks later, he discovered the main tribe settled under an acacia thicket at the edge of the wood pile. Angrily he thrashed into the vicious brush to tear off their plywood-scrap roof and destroy their new home. But breathing hard, on hands and knees, face and arms dripping blood from ragged cat-claw thorn scratches, he stopped. A dozen years the futile war had raged. Every weapon had been spent. There was nothing else to do. Let ‘em keep it. He even threw an old refrigerator door upgrade on top. Truce.

Later when Cheap gave up TV and tore his satellite dish off the roof, he tossed it on theirs. In a few generations they would figure out how to hook it up. He flung old wires for snacks, too. In peace they fortify their new stronghold, no more death-defying engine apartments.

Meanwhile, the wooden shed skeleton whistles in the winter wind. Two years unfinished. Half the former shed junk scattered in closet and crawl space, the other half given or thrown away.

And they all lived happily ever after. The Pack Rats, that is.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Druggy Slaves and Holy Slackers

Cheap Dude’s year-round willingness to work holy days and all available overtime was naked proof that greedy capitalist blood ran through his veins too. “Time-and-a-half”: almost what you are worth. Almost compensation for a lifetime spent licking the boots of civilization.

He worked harder than he had to, harder than he should have; this had served him well in every financial circumstance, while beating him slowly to death. The shop could be shut down at any time, without warning. Like everything else in life, and life itself. Get, or act, busy!

Constant holy day advertisements on his workplace radio. The money machine ordered the sheep to shop, so off they went! For some reason this was a big story on the hourly fake news as well. Not new, nor news.

His mind wandered during the twelve hours of excruciatingly dull routine. He often joked that twelve hours was too long to do anything, even cocaine and lovemaking.

Years ago, prior employers had winked at drinking and ‘drugging’ on the job when working holy days. How far up the management ladder this tradition ran he didn't know, but as a golf course grunt he’d seen Owners of all types drink all day sometimes, and always on holy days.

Fellow grocery clerks usually had a bottle stashed in a big cooler. The initiated would mosey in and have a nip now and then. Or pass a joint in the attic compressor room, noisy but great ventilation. Walk-in freezer another party zone, no boss went in there voluntarily.

Sometimes the four man freight crew met in the beer cooler in the middle of a night shift. Always on holidays. Four guys times three beers meant they still worked hard but in a much better mood. The shift boss would carefully disguise the empty 12-pack and make sure it got innocently thrown out with all the other trash. He knew the cost would be recouped many times over by the morale boost.

When grounds keeping, holy days were supplemented by rainy days. Number Three would tell Number Two that the little crew was going to “clean out the shed,” or “service a mower deck.” They’d shuffle and clank in the ramshackle outbuilding a while, then break out a bottle of whiskey and a deck of cards. Number Three wouldn’t smoke their reefer, until liquored, then “lemme hit that thing….” It was the only time they could beat him at spades.

When Number Two was feeling expansive, he would invite one of “his grunts” to ride along for a trip “downtown, to pick up some parts.” This, too, was more likely during holy days. Parts took 30 minutes; strip clubs took up the rest of the afternoon, and Boss was buyin’. Never 'disciplined' for such obvious violations of 'company policy,' because Number One was a corporate office far away.

Throughout his workplace years, some of his best co-workers had been on drugs of one sort or another, and some of the worst self-righteously religious and sober. Druggies knew work equals money equals more drugs. Saints knew work doesn’t matter, their treasure was in heaven. Both were correct, so the druggies slaved and the holy slacked.

Drug testing had changed the whole tone of the workplace for the worse. No matter how well he worked now, no unapproved fun was permitted, even on days off. Wholesomeness increased, competence declined, and fun ended. (Of course, folks still got high on prescription drugs, with the right paperwork.) Small consolation that coffee was not illegal, yet.

Most jobs were taken too seriously. In the Cosmic Scheme of Things, how many were truly critical? Doctors, maybe. Engineers. Folks had to pretend their work was important, or their lives were meaningless. In any case, most of it could be done drunk or high once in a while. Let grunts have a little fun now and then, authoritarian joy-killers of earth!

By the end of his shift, this holy day was like all holy days, he was tired and cranky. He’d made a pile of money, stone sober. Damn glad to be working, on any day. He would keep showing up as long as the pay checks did, whether he felt like it or not. He kept his integrity for himself, not to impress anyone. He pretended it mattered too.

The older he got, the shorter life seemed. Every day off work became Extra Holy. His own little tribe, and a wood and plaster fort, safe in the high desert. Reason enough to celebrate daily, with or without chemical amusement.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Save 100% On Zooms, Choo-choos, and Putt-putts

Blow Off Your Folks!

The cheapest option for handling “family get-togethers” is to tell them all to buzz off. No matter how many delicate feelings get spit on, life continues, and you’re done with it.

No fighting traffic. No airport gropings or naked x-rays. No hypocritical pretending to be nice to obnoxious in-laws, outlaws, or parents. No kitchen pseudo-catastrophes, life-threatening hang-nails, or ancient aunts recalling hip-replacement minutia. No angry drunk uncles, brawling brothers, or cat-scratch sisters. Stay home and relax.

If you don’t have the gas money, don’t spend it.

If you hate going, don’t.

Which is worse: to go, hate it, and pretend otherwise? Or make up an excuse, and skip it? Both are dishonest, so spare yourself, and save money and sanity. Your own snot-nosed kids are always a good excuse. “They all have a cold, we don’t want any of you all to get it,” like you are doing everyone a favor. Chances are, the brats don’t want to go either--all they want to do is play video games, forever.

A common womb does not guarantee friendship among offspring. The opposite just as likely, after years of fighting for too-busy mom’s scraps of attention.  
Through the years, some Moms get weird, angrily religious, and frightened by everything. Some Dads get cranky, opinionated, and judgmental. There are reasons none of you visit 364 days a year. So what?

Frosty got fingered.

If your misguided conscience forces you to go anyway, “forget” to bring food. Instead, eat relatives’ food, for free, to defray your gas costs. Mostly just smile and nod.

Family reunions are not the time to convince ex-Sergeant Uncle Christian Cannon that bombing goat-herders on the other side of the world is cold blooded murder. Let him simultaneously believe thou shalt and shalt not kill. Let him wonder why his head thus aches.

Nor is it time to convince Aunt Girth to put her goopy-eyed poodle “to sleep.” That poodle may be the only thing left that can stand to be around her full time.

Don’t bother trying to get your scabby gap-toothed cousin to quit hitting the meth pipe, either. It may be the only shred of pseudo-joy in his or her broke-down trailer-park minimum-wage no-health-care subsistence.

Never discuss, with anyone, which gang of criminals should be running the country. (For the record: none.)

Christians, Jews, and Muslims should not try to convert the atheists, or each other. And atheists, keep your ass-holiness. You can’t turn a “Packers” fan into a “Steelers” fan, and both are certain that American Football is Almighty God. Unbelief is Un-American!

At mealtime, bow your head and pretend to be serious during “family prayer,” the food “blessing,” “grace,” whatever your clan calls the little pre-meal pep talk with the invisible super-being. There is nothing wrong with being thankful, for free food especially. Leave with several pre-molded plastic containers of leftovers, if it was any good.

The old book that suggests we not murder each other, also suggests we honor our parents. It does not insist that we love them, however, and our siblings are not mentioned. If you do get along, great. If not, just as great. Nod and smile.  

Your family is who you decide it is. Assemble your own tribe. Or sit home and read a book. It doesn’t matter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Decaying Homes and Dead Gardens, Solstice Issue

Winter Hovel and Dirt Patch Maintenance

First get warm, by any means. Move around, work if necessary, duct-tape the cracked window, replace a faucet washer, split some wood, do the dishes or something.

Winter gardening: Don’t, it’s winter you idiot! Throw dead leaves in the garden, maybe take a few dumps in there too. Which should be “give” dumps. To Mother. Earth, ninny.

Winter survival do’s and do not’s: [‘don’t’s’ don’t work, do they.]

Do: stay in bed a lot, sleep too much, and goof off in general.

Don’t: wear “flip-flops” or sandals in snow deeper than two inches.

Do: call in sick from work, watch old movies, and drink alcoholically.

Don’t: sunbathe nude. It is technically possible for men’s parts to be simultaneously sunburned and frostbitten, thus rendered useless for anything else.

Do: wear lots of warm clothes made in warm countries. Forget fashion, stay warm, wear everything you’ve got if you have to, the raggedy underneath the newer. Plaid, stripes, polka-dots, put them on.

Don’t: go to the beach. No tan hotties, only pale fishermen in raincoats braving icy sea spray. Don’t join a “polar bear club” unless you want your frosticles painfully tested.

Do: move closer to the equator.

Don’t: move closer to the Arctic.

In our modern world we no longer need to stockpile firewood and potatoes to get us through the winter. Insanely, you can get any season’s fruit any time, thanks to the black juice of ancient forests. Dams, coal fires, and nuclear enucleation have replaced firewood and cow dung scavenging in the U. S., also insanely.

Instead, we can spend all winter making sweet love to all our electronics. New show idea: “America’s Idle.” 100 million lazy citizens on sofas before the magic box, eating chips, or staring, slack-jawed. A puckered mug scowls at them from the TV: “You all suck!”

In closing, Words of Wisdom for the Youth of Today: Shut up and do the dishes.

Monday, December 19, 2011

From the Pages of Dilapidated Trailer Life:

This Season, Boil Stuff to Keep Warm

Hullo, peeps. Let’s drag our tired behinds into the cheap-arse kitchen again.

Have you got the “holiday blues?” Better get over it, no one cares, they’re broke too. Credit cards are maxed out, no credit limit left for buying crap no one needs anyhow. Quit crying and get to work, do the dishes, or something. Does anyone ever clean this nasty-arse counter?

The crew is worn out, the maid and butler are gone for good, and your host is too whupped to bother with niceties. Those who try to “do” a holiday, get their arses kicked every season. The holiday “does” them. Pile the dirtiest dishes next to the sink, the rest shove over, we don’t need much room and it’s not as dirty in this corner….

It’s cold in the northern hemisphere of earth, let’s boil stuff. We’re talking about warm nourishment for pennies a meal. Stuff you can boil then eat at 

Potatoes: the smaller you cut ‘em the quicker they cook. If you want to warm the house, throw ‘em in whole. Don’t wash ‘em, it’s only dirt. Boil ‘em as much or as little as you want. Eat the skin. Add salt and pepper, use the little packets from the local ground, flattened, and fried industrial bovine flesh vendor. The latter we can’t afford right now.

Rice: 2/1, water to rice. Boil, turn it down, simmer 20 minutes. Eat.

Ramen: Boil. Add the dirt-like flavor crystals. Yuck, but oh well.

Noodles: Boil. Drain. Eat. Add cheese if you can. Kids will eat this every day if you let them.

Eggs: Boil eight minutes. Eat.

Never refuse whatever the old neighbor lady has been growing or canning. Boil and eat all the weird vegetables you get in the food bank box. Way way way cheaper than pre-mixed Booty Cracker boxed whatnot. Never add fake butter to anything, it’s oil and fat and water, ack! Skip the real butter, it costs too much. Old farts would be sad to know how few young humans know such basic wisdom.

Flavor, whether you ‘like’ it or not, no matter; get it, boil it. Water vapor will fog the windows and show the world your only genuine warmth. Plus, hide your complete lack of decorations, gifts, or furniture.