Sunday, January 25, 2009

Going Home-A work of fiction

Author's note: This is not my best story. A few weeks ago I found a website that offered two types of prompts for short story writers. One type of prompt actually generated a setting, theme, and object for a short story. That one generated a setting in a theater, a theme of sadness, and a chair for an object for me. The second type of prompt offered random pictures in which you built a story around. I took the former and ran with it and latter I left alone. That was until I found a picture of the Strand Theater located in my hometown and decided to use it in the story as well. After, once again, spending far more time on this story than I want to admit there was no way in hell I was going to let it just sit in my hard drive.

Anthony Taylor parked his rental car in front of the old theater early on a chilly Sunday morning. Looking through the windshield he stared at the old place amazed that at least the outside hadn’t changed like the rest of his hometown. The marquee he remembered as a child was still in place with the name of the theater, “Strand”, still mounted on top in big lighted letters. All that was missing were black letters that attached to the marquee telling what movie was playing that day. Instead it was blank with the letters now only displaying a simple phone number on it, apparently for contacting the current owners about renting.

Getting out of the car Anthony walked up to the doors trying to peer inside but was greeted with only gloomy darkness keeping the secrets of what changes the years had brought to the inside. The ticket booth still was tucked to the right side of the main entrance but instead of darkness an old swivel chair, illuminated by some dim light inside, seemed to be standing a lonely guard. Anthony looked at the tattered remains of bulletins and small posters in the display case mounted on the wall facing Front Street, most were unreadable but some spoke of the “Swamp Fox Players” and various performances they would be staging. He thought back to all the colorful and exciting movie posters that use to hang in that case years before always promising promised excitement and adventure.
“Can I help you sir, are you okay?” Seemly out of no where a young blond girl stood beside him. Concern and worry shown on the pretty face despite the large bundle she was carrying in a bag hanging from her shoulder.
Anthony, caught off guard, took a moment to collect his thoughts. “Oh”, he smiled, “I’m fine, it’s just I’ve been away from Georgetown for years and you caught me reliving the past. I spent many a weekend watching movies and eating popcorn here.” He noticed the young girl seemed to be appraising him and his words trying to determine if he was safe to be around.
Looking at the old man she saw something in those eyes that his smile couldn’t hide. Those eyes made him look lost and alone in search of a safe harbor from the outside world. After a second or two she shrugged and came to a decision. “Well, I help out with the Swamp Fox players and I need to drop off this stuff and collect some papers. Would you like to see the inside for a few minutes? I warn you though; it’s probably very different from the way you remember.”
“I’d greatly appreciate it, I haven’t been home in decades and the last time I was here I didn’t anytime just to look around”
The young girl eased her bag to the ground and fished out a collection of keys to unlock the doors. “I’m Erin by the way”, she said, “I’m sort of the gopher for the players, I do a lot of running around for the chance to have a few speaking lines in the productions. “ Inserting the keys and opening the door she looked him over once again. “And you sir, what brought you back here?”
“My name is Anthony Taylor; I’m traveling with my son, his wife, and grandchildren. We’re staying at Myrtle Beach right now. We had been down in Florida for the last week and we are on our way home back to Ohio. This is sort of a last hurrah vacation rest stop for them.”
What he didn’t tell her was that while they were still asleep he had slipped out of his room. Caught a taxi to the nearest place to rent a car and then drove south for what would probably me his last chance to see his hometown. He figured at any minute his son would be calling him on the cell phone that now rested in his jacket pocket. Anthony had wanted to come directly to Georgetown but his daughter-in-law refused saying she saw nothing of value listed in travel book she carried about the town she or the boys would be interested in. Anthony’s son, Michael, tried to compromise the two by suggesting a stop at Myrtle Beach for a few days. Barbara, his daughter-in-law, grudgingly agreed saying her and Michael could shop at the nearby outlet malls while Anthony looked after the boys.
Anthony understood the indifference his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren felt about his need to see his old home town. Michael had been just a boy when they moved away from South Carolina in 1968. All Michael could remember of the place was the sulfurous smell of the paper mill located on the Sampit River and the hot and very humid summers. Michael and the rest of his family’s lives were rooted in Dayton, Ohio and they were eager to get home. Anthony knew he was a relic to his son and an outright inconvenience to his daughter-in-law, to his grandson’s he was like a pet dog. Nice to have around but something that was otherwise ignored until it got in the way.
As Erin opened the door Anthony helped her carry the bag back inside while she again used the keys to open the little office just to the left as they stepped in. It had been the same office that the manager used when he was child. Leaving Erin to her chores Anthony allowed his old eyes to adjust to the dim surroundings of the lobby. He imminently noticed the missing display case that sold popcorn, candy and soft drinks that had been positioned between two sets of large swinging doors leading to the theater auditorium. In place of display case was a bare table with simple wooden chairs on either side. The missing display case prompted a surreal feeling in him as if he had fallen into some other place after walking through the doors. It had been the place where people milled around chatting and generally passing the time waiting for the feature to start. As Erin could be heard unloading and organizing the stuff from her bag Anthony slowly entered the main part of the theater from the right side door.
Unlike the lobby the auditorium itself was fairly well lighted. Wooded folding chairs, much like he remembered from his childhood, were still there lined up and a graceful arch facing forward. The most obvious difference was the missing silver screen, it had been removed and its place was a large stage that had engulfed several rows of seats up front.
Taking a seat in the deserted theater it was easy to remember all the times he had been in here as a child and teenager with the lights lowered, holding a box of popcorn, and waiting for the previews of coming attractions to start. Often times Anthony came alone, the result of his mother having to help his father deal with the nightmares he had brought home from World War Two. But he did remember his mother coming with him a few times while his father was at work, the only time his father really felt in control of himself. And on very rare occasions both his parents would come during the periods his father was able to keep the images of death and cruelty he saw in Europe at bay in his mind. As the years passed Anthony could be found here with friends and later with girlfriends until the day he met the woman he would marry.
Anthony was a junior in high school in 1962 playing wide receiver for the Winyah High Gators. They were playing their rivals the Conway Tigers in Conway attempting to exact revenge for a last minute touchdown, and a related bad call by the referee that resulted in the Gators not going to the playoffs the year before. They were behind by a touchdown late in the fourth quarter when Anthony had turned just enough to see the ball flying down his way from the Gators’ quarterback who was twenty yards away. On the Tiger’s fifty yard line close to their sideline he jumped up with his fingertips barely making contact with the leather of the football. Anthony came down knowing the ball was firmly in his hands, running toward the opposing end zone as fast as possible. Focused on making it to the end zone Anthony didn’t hear much of the roar from the Winyah fans that began as he plucked a clearly overthrown ball from the air. And when one of the Conway boys dived into him like a runaway train driving him into the Tiger’s benches and the assorted benchwarmers occupying them he didn’t hear the roar die just as quickly as it began. The tackle had actually knocked him unconscious with the same referee from the year before making the call that he had lost possession of the ball before going out of bounds. As he was carried off the field the play was rerun but without the spectacular catch. The Tigers were able to run out the clock, winning again with a questionable call for the second time.
The nature of high school being what it is Anthony carried the blame for the loss even though everyone admitted the referee had screwed them again. Nothing was ever said directly but Anthony saw it in the eyes of his fellow students and teammates in both his classes and at practice. Making matters worse he blamed himself questioning whether he had actually had the ball completely under his control.
On a Saturday night a couple of weeks later that Anthony, in his quiet despair, had walked alone toward the theater to see a movie. Arriving much too early he had taken a seat on a nearby bench in front of the old closed pharmacy next door to the theater hoping that he would be left alone. The September night air was cool signaling an early arrival of fall weather and being wrapped up in his apparent failure he both went unnoticed by those passing him by and he wasn’t really aware of anyone around him. He probably would have stayed that way rerunning that play in his mind if he hadn’t felt the soft touch of a hand on his shoulder.
“As far as my dad is concerned you caught that ball”, the soft hand on his shoulder said.
Turning around Anthony saw that the hand was connected to a girl that even in the dim light cast by street lights he saw had blue eyes and long brown hair. Slightly shocked that anyone would speak to him Anthony said nothing as the girl came around and sat next to him on the bench.
“We were in the seats directly across from you and my dad was looking through his binoculars. He said that you had both hands on the ball before you were thrown out of bounds.” The clearly lovely young girls dressed in simple blue jeans and light sweater said moving closer to him.
Anthony finally found both his mind and tongue but still had trouble forming something complex to say. “Yeah, but you and your father appear to be the only ones.” He finally sputtered out some words feeling foolish for saying something he father would describe as whining.
“That may be the case, “the young girl said, “but in the end someone else in school will do something soon that will make them forget about you.”
Anthony found himself both relieved and somehow insulted that he could drop so quickly off the minds of his fellow students. With his mind now shocked into full function he finally collected enough of his wits to ask who the young lady sitting next to him was.
“Oh”, she grinned, “I’m Sara Lewis, I just started going to Winyah at the beginning of this school year. My dad works at the Republic Star textile plant over on Pennyroyal Road. We moved down from Ohio when he was transferred here.” Sara looked at Anthony playing with her long hair, Anthony in turn was happy that he had someone talking to him he felt didn’t blame him for the loss finally found the words Sara was hoping to hear.
“Say, would you like to go see the movie with me?” He asked.
“Yes”, she said jumping up from the bench grabbing his hand, “I’ll buy my own ticket but you will buy the popcorn and Cokes for both of us.”
From that night on it didn’t take long before Anthony and Sara became a couple. And a mere month from graduation in 1964 at the same spot they met Anthony asked Sara to marry him. Marriage came right after with his new father-in-law getting him hired on at the textile plant. The following years were the happiest in his life with Sara and later his son Michael being born. But being the big boss’s son-in-law only could open so many doors forcing him to look elsewhere for a chance at further advancement.
The answer came in the form of a position up in Ohio at an electronics manufacturing plant. With the help of his father-in-law he was able to get hired on as an assistant production manager and on a hot July day in 1968 he drove off from his hometown. He had no idea at the time but the demands of a family would prevent him from returning except of the death of his father and to move his mother up north to live with them afterward.
Sitting in the folding chair inside the empty theater auditorium Anthony felt the weariness of his long years slide off his shoulders. For all his years of working he had never felt he reached a point he and his family were safe. Anthony quickly found out that his new coworkers were always seeking an edge against each other looking to insert a knife in the back the minute someone made the slightest mistake. Sara quickly got lost in the allure material things she wanted and in the frustration of what was beyond her reach. This led her to always raise the bar in the lifestyle she felt she deserved. The arrival of their second child, Alicia, only accelerated Sara’s demands.
Adding to the strain was the need to jump from job to job not only to continue to provide the lifestyle they had become accustom to but to avoid the increasing pace of businesses moving jobs overseas. This continued even after Anthony had long since moved into the upper management levels. To the very day he retired he lived with the fear that he would receive a sudden notice that the jobs he and his workers depended on were being sent overseas to cheaper labor.
Just a few months after retirement Sara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s which ended up draining much of the savings he was able to buildup after the children had finished college. Painfully he watched his wife slip away until nothing of her was left. The cost of caring for his wife had also taken a toll on his health resulting in two heart attacks that forced him to sell the house he and Sara raised the children in and move in with Michael to pay off the hospital bills and because his declining health made it hard for him to live by himself.
Feeling an overwhelming urge to rest Anthony closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair. The familiar firmness of the thin cushion on his back and the feel of the polished wood of the armrest transported him back to a time when movies still played in the building. In the shadows around him he began to feel the comforting presence of people from those years before so much responsibility had fallen to him. Anthony felt no fear as he recognized the faces of those that gathered around him as family and friends that had already passed away. They welcomed him home, saying how they had missed him and that it was his time to rest. As they began pulling him away from this world Anthony had no regrets as he felt himself slip away. He had done everything expected of him and he had finally come home to stay.
Erin’s visit to drop off some items and collect papers became more complicated after one of the items she needed to pick up, the script for the next performance, was not in the place it was suppose to be. After several quick calls trying to locate the missing script she gave up and began to collect what she had when she suddenly remembered the old man. She walked out of the office and into the auditorium to tell him it was time to leave.
“Mr. Taylor”, she called out to the still form sitting in one of the chairs, “I’ve got to go sir and lock up.”
Figuring his lack of response was due to him having fallen asleep in the chair Erin was unconcerned. She walked down next to him and laid her hand on his shoulder instantly seeing that he was not sleeping. Whatever reaction of fright or concern she might have normally had evaporated instantly after seeing the peaceful, happy look that the sad old man she met at the door now had on his face.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Feeling better about things already.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again. Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena

Not much can be truly be discerned from just one day in office but first impressions suggest that our new president is a steady, pragmatic, but yet dynamic man who honestly believes his duty is to all the people of this country. I am looking forward again to the promise and principles of what I believe America was founded on after eight years in which they were betrayed. The journey of renewal we are embarking on will be long and hard with some actively sabotaging efforts while others will be upset that their pet issues will not take precedence. Before some dreams can realized the basic framework of the country will have to be secured along with carefully disentangling our forces from foolish crusades started by incompetents and pursued by criminals. All told it will be far better to stand with that man in the arena and work to build something of meaning to all even though there will be things I would like to see done put off to a later date.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Six Random Things

Strangely enough my very good friend Utah Savage wants to know six more random things about me and given that I have absolutely no life and, even worse, no beer on a Saturday night I am more than happy to comply. Word of warning though, I am really rummaging through the dusty bins of my mind for this stuff and I will not be held accountable for what spills out on the page. Here are the rules:

The Rules
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Random Thing One:

My mom and dad had one of those special relationships made in Hell. If ever two people shouldn’t have ever come in contact with each other it was them. The only relationship I can think of that comes close to being as bad was my mom’s second marriage to a guy I will call “Billy”. Mom and Billy met while she was still married to my dad and they had one of those full-fledged affairs that engulfed my siblings and me. Several times mom and Billy decided that they needed a fresh start on life and packed us kids up and drove until the felt that they had ran far enough away from whatever might be chasing them. Our locations ranged from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fort Smith, Arkansas, Birmingham, Alabama, or something as close to home as Mount Pleasant, South Carolina back before it was overwhelmed by the urban sprawl of Charleston.

But for this little segment I will limit myself to Birmingham, Alabama. Billy’s occupation was building kitchen cabinets, writing bad checks, along with an interest in alcoholism that he and my mom shared. More often than not his preoccupation with alcoholism screwed up any money making gig building cabinets he could find. Never one to rest on his laurels, whenever he was between jobs Billy could write a check for anything we needed, the small matter of having no money in the bank to cover those checks was little concern to him for several years. Those bouncing checks finally did catch up with him and he ended spending two years in prison as a guest of the state of South Carolina. Yes, my mother was still seeing him but that is a whole other story.

But during one of Billy and mom’s epic journeys across the southern United States some word floated to them somehow about a cabinet maker needing people. Billy, actually quite good at woodwork, was hired and we once again settled down in some little town just outside Birmingham. Now their money had run out somewhere in Georgia and they had nothing to even rent a room at a motel. It turned out that one of Billy’s new coworkers had a small cottage behind his house that was unoccupied and he would let us live there until Billy and mom could afford something else.

During this time the ripples of racial integration in the public schools were still bouncing around and something called “White flight” was still happening. In the years after “Brown versus the Board of Education” the good Christian Southern white folk, ever scared that the empowered black man might despoil their precious proto-Southern belles, hurriedly established private schools that only they could afford. So as Billy’s generous new coworkers was showing us the cottage he pointed out that the local school district was completely African-American and that his kids went to a nearby white Christian school so they could properly learn how the world was really created in six days. Okay, I greatly paraphrased what he actually said but what he did say was so offensive I’ll just let y’all figure it out.

Now I must admit to some outright fear at my two brothers and I going to an all African-American school, after all I was child of the South being fed the normal racial stereotypes. My youngest sibling, my sister, was not yet old enough for even kindergarten. Early the very next Monday morning mom brought us to the school and began filling out the required paperwork as my brothers and I sat in the office lobby. I could already tell we were making a huge impact with the stares we were receiving through the office window facing the hallway. After what seemed like several hours my mom left and my brothers and I were sent to our respective classrooms.

Please forgive me but my little story is ultimately anticlimactic. Far from having any racial troubles at that school my brothers and I were huge hits becoming something of celebrities. A great many of the details escape me, such as the name of that school, the exact time we spent enrolled there, and a great many of the names of the people that became my friends there. But I will write that the entire time there we were treated with respect and kindness. Many others would do well to experience what my brothers and I went through at that school.

As usual Billy and mom’s relationship either blew up or Billy began drinking again just a few months later. Either way it forced us to leave that school with mom leaving Billy and returning to our father who was living in Wichita Falls, Texas. Confused about the mom, dad, Billy relationship? Just think how I feel.

Random Thing Two:

South Carolina started its lottery a few years ago and while I do not spend much money on it as compared to some I do occasionally waste a dollar or two from time to time. Back in May of 2003 I returned to work for a local manufacturing plant that early 2002 had laid me off when the telecommunications bubble popped causing a minor recession. It took me about three weeks after returning to this employer to realize that I had screwed the pooch coming back. The entire nature of how middle and upper management treated their employees had changed and my coworkers, upset that I had been called back ahead of others with more seniority, were none too happy to see me return.

Finding myself working both mechanical and electrical maintenance alone during the 11:00pm to 7:00am shift without a complete grasp on all the equipment I had responsibility for I truly felt that I was not only up a creek without a paddle but heading straight for a large waterfall.

The employer I worked for after being laid off in 2002 repaired X-ray equipment at a different hospital than I work at now. They were great people and treated me well but for several reasons couldn’t match what I had been making at the manufacturing plant. So when the manufacturing plant called me back I jumped at the chance leaving the X-ray people behind. Three weeks later I called them back literally begging for a chance to return. As usual my luck stayed the same with them having filled my position with an experienced technician. Being screwed I had to dig my heels in and make the best of the job I had despite the circumstances.

One of my avenues to relieve the stress was that once a week I would buy a lottery ticket consisting of two separate sets of numbers that covered the two drawings that were held each week. When my first line supervisor would come in at 6:00am I would joke with him that if he ever came in the next morning and I was missing from the plant he should assume that my numbers hit the night before. He would laugh when I told him once I checked the numbers finding out I won, I would simply walk out without saying anything to anybody. My first line boss understood how I felt and he wasn’t happy either with the way things were going with the company. So he had no issue with my “little jokes” although for once I had enough sense not to tell anyone else.

I played the same two sets of numbers for a good long while using the same number slip in which you colored in the numbers with a pencil then ran it through a machine that prints out the actual ticket. At some point I lost that particular slip and not ever really believing I would win filled out another picking different numbers.

By early 2005 much had changed for the better at that job, although there were still several issues that were never resolved. Through long hours of toll and sweat I learned most of the equipment in the plant and as business continued to improve eventually they hired another guy to work with me on the night shift. And I had long since stopped playing the lottery on a regular basis and when I did I almost always played different numbers.

One quiet night at work that same year as I surfed the company supplied internet by chance I drifted over to the South Carolina lottery web site to check the numbers. Much to my surprise I noticed the numbers drawn that night bore a strong familiarity. Yes, while I can’t be completely sure since I didn’t keep old lottery tickets and the number slip had long since itself been lost I’m still pretty sure one set of numbers I had played for so long had hit. No, I never told my wife, she wouldn’t believe me and this is the first time I have ever made any mention about the whole subject.

Random Thing Three:

This one little piece of information so totally freaks out both my wife and in-laws that their strong reaction to my opinion actually surprises me. They are completely enamored with the idea of owning a large house, letting the value of that house increase, and then at some point selling it and moving into another bigger house. Talking with them to the best of my understanding a house to them is nothing but an investment, an item that holds no other value that the resell price, and a place to store the stuff you buy.

The way I look at the subject is completely different. I look at the lemming-like behavior of constantly going deeper into debt for a bigger house something akin to willingly entering a 21st century serfdom. I see no great advantage to having a bigger house just to go even deeper in debt buying more stuff on credit so you can fill that one up requiring an even bigger house once you have ran out of room again. Where in my wife and in-laws come into this is that I often speak of downsizing even to the point of living in some sort of camper trailer so I could return to the coast. Of course my wife will chime in saying that if I ever did do such a thing she would not be with me. That is when I tell her I didn’t say anything about her coming in the first place. Stay tuned on that one, there may be more down the road.

Random Thing Four:

As much as it may surprise some I dated a married lady for a short time while I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. One of my friends, Brian Summers, received the greater portion of his enlistment bonus at some point and wanted to buy a motorcycle with it. Brian had no other means of transportation so he asked me to drive him around so he could shop for one at the various dealerships. He finally found one he liked and started the paperwork with the finance lady. While Brian drifted back over to his new two wheeled lover I returned to the waiting area which was right next the desk of the finance lady. Mind you this is way before the internet and even before computers because I remember the lady working on an actual typewriter. With the approval process taking up so much time she and I began to talk and found that we both had several things in common. The lady’s name was Annette; she was in her early thirties, blond with a nice build and pretty face. Being honest here when she told me that she was married I did change gears on the conversation going from actively interested, to just friendly. Finally Brian shows up having done everything he needed to do and wanting to head out for pizza and beer that he had to buy since I drove him around.

A week or so later we head back to the motorcycle dealership so he can take procession of the bike. Annette was there and after Brian rides off looking far more goofy than cool in my opinion she comes over and asked if I wanted to get a bite to eat.

Yes, had I any decency I would have turned her down but I was in my twenties, she was downright hot, and I hadn’t had a date in a good while. So I was mortal, got in her car and we went out to a nearby deli. It was there I learned that her husband was a soldier and stationed in Korea. He had been there for six months and after a huge fight in which he admitted to Annette of doing something he shouldn’t with someone, along with getting emotionally attached with that someone, they had not talked for three months. Our conversation drifted for a good while until she brought me back to my car. I saw her again three more times until she called one day to tell me we shouldn’t see each other anymore. She had heard from her husband and wanted to work things out with him. I agreed, and never saw her again.

Random Thing Five:

We have had our new dog Sparky for several months now and I must admit to one bad thing. Please understand that I wouldn’t take anything for him and that he is a member of my family but Sparky is a hassle in that any activity we plan must work around him. I almost talked Dragonwife into going on a weekend trip to Charleston a few weeks ago with the whole plan falling apart because we had no one to take care of the dog. A kennel would have added a whole new expense that far exceeded the budget for the trip and we have no one that could have come to the house to take care of him. So we stayed home and instead my daughter and I just ended up walking him at one of the parks. Go ahead and shoot me I’m a terrible person, I know.

Random Thing Six:

Most everyone who has been a steady reader of my posts know that three members of my family passed away last year, my grandmother, my mother, and the man I called Uncle Paul in my posts. Never being someone who worries about such things I did come up with plans for my own passing. It has been arranged that when I do join the celestial reggae band in the sky I am to be cremated with my ashes spread over the marsh at Pawleys Island. Screw that expensive casket crap and other stuff. For anyone from Georgetown County that does stumble across my sad words hopefully far down the road just think, that grit you wash out of that flounder or shrimp you caught in the creek between the island and the mainland might be this Parrothead. This circle of life shit rocks, later y’all its late and I’m going to bed.

Okay, y'all saddle up and go random:





C. Rag


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reading is sexy, but I still ain't getting laid

From A Salty Piece of Land by Jimmy Buffett

"You must be Tully. I'm Bucky Norman, " he said.
I slipped off my horse and went to shake hands. I had been expecting to meet some lanky. bleach-blond, bronzed-skinned expatiate in cutoffs and flip-flops, but Bucky stood there under a large straw hat that sat upon a collection of strawberry blond curls. Across the front of the hat were the words NEVER GROW UP were painted in bright red letters. His long fishing pants and long-sleeved shirt buttoned at the collar covered nearly every inch of his six-foot-four-inch frame except for his hands and neck which were dotted with freckles. "Welcome to the Lost Boys," he said.

My good friend Utah Savage has saw fit to honor me with the "Proud Bookworm" award which is used to encourage reading. There is a meme portion to this award in which you have to open the nearest book to page 46. Write out the fifth sentence on that page and the next two to five. Now for some it might have been a simple matter for most people to open the nearest book and write out the required portion. For me, as usual, it was far more complicated.

The lovely Dragonwife ever in the mood to rearrange something for no apparent reason pulled out about six rather large storage cartons last weekend filled with books. Five of those cartons were filled with her books that over the course of last Saturday were opened and the contents strewed all cross the upstairs room. Books with Martha Stewart's smiling face posing with various food, craft, and other torture items even now occupies several areas of the floor. Along with Martha are various "chick lit" books that just oozed angst, feminist books (I didn't know she had) on how to mentally terrorize the man in your life, and assorted tax code books that even the rats won't chew on because such items are beneath them. Feeling that answering the meme requirements with such items close by just wouldn't work for me I went searching for my lone storage box filled with proper "guy lit" consisting of regular and military science fiction novels, my Carl Sagan books, various history texts, and my Jimmy Buffett books. So I will have to be excused for not using my wife's copy of "If You Can't Live Without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet?!" which technically was the closest book from where I sat.

As for encouraging reading if I was as civic minded as I should be I would have dug out my copy of "The Federalist Papers" which as simply as I can put is an owners manual for the United States Constitution. A document that still amazes even now in my more cynical years. My concern is that no matter where I seem to turn the blatant ignorance of what is actually written in that document sends chills down my spine along with my eventual expatiation to some far off land if the fascists minions are ever successful in completely taking over the country.

The prime example I have is the conversation I had with one guy at work that for all the world acts and looks like McCain/Palin mascot "Joe the Plumber". During one group meeting that had devolved into a general bullshit session the Joe Clone I work with exclaimed how the government was a huge scam because that even after Bill Clinton was impeached he wasn't kicked out of office. Me being the biggest fool in three star systems decided to chime in that yes he was impeached but he was not convicted in the senate. Which if he had been found guilty would have resulted in his removal from office. After I finished my little lesson in American government I was greeted with stares and stone silence from my coworkers as if I stood up and recited Shakespeare or quantum physics. I quickly realized my mistake and to this day I don't open my better informed mouth unless I'm asked a question.

Now for getting those type of guys into reading such an epic endeavor would probably involve using something written by the fascists minions such as O'Reilly, Hannity, Limbaugh, or Coulter. But at times I doubt those guys know their vowels so it is probably beside the point.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Thanks for the memories and heck of a job Bushy

The promise of 2009 to most with at least a few synapses firing is the approaching exit from public life of man who has done nothing I can think of while in office that history will find benefited the United States much less the world. It seems like a lifetime ago when he became president with the country relatively prosperous as compared to now, boasting a budget surplus, and generally well thought of around the world. He rushed into office speaking of "compassionate conservatism", cutting taxes, and being "a uniter, not a divider". Now being fair here but at the time the country was exhausted over Clinton's perceived and real shenanigans and his questioning of the definition of the word "is". Gore didn't run a very good campaign. And of course its always good to have a right wing leaning Supreme Court waiting in the wings for those little Florida recount issues.

So the little man entered office walking his Texas swagger and went about for the first few months generally doing nothing, that is until September 11th.
So boosted by 9/11 W., unable to dazzle us with brilliance he settled on just baffling us with his bullshit. Yes, we were attacked and had to go to war but instead of rallying the people for the tasks ahead he told us to go shopping and gave us a tax cut, mostly helping the rich and very rich, so we could go further into debt. Now I know history is a bit of a stretch for many people but generally when you find yourselves in a war you have to RAISE taxes so the guys and gals can go off and fight the good fight with the proper equipment. Instead after committing us in Afghanistan, which should have been a the main focus, we run off and invade Iraq which had the curious affect of really pissing people off all across the world. Especially in Islamic countries were the terrorists that attacked us came from more or less proving their propaganda.

Now ignoring the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and the story Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld sold us that they did was a whole bunch of half-truths wrapped up in lies, inside of a scam to make their friends rich we soon found ourselves involved in whole world of shit. Religious factions decided to take our invasion as an opportunity to fight ancient battles, the Kurds wanted to break away which sent the Turks into fits, and American troops were told you went war with the army you had, not necessarily the army you wanted. All the while they went around in junk yards hunting for metal for Hillbilly armor for their humvees.

The glorious corp of Chickenhawks, ass kissers, and other acolytes in the Bush administration simply arriving a half century or more to late to participate in Hitler's experiment went about redefining what torture was, twisting civil liberties, and giving certain people all inclusive vacations at secret CIA prisons. It would be so easy to go with all these remarkable accomplishments but the masterpiece failure of the Bush administration can be summed up in one word: Katrina.

So now with only a few days left with Bush occupying the White House what are we left with?

We are tied up in two wars with billions still flowing out of the country. Iraq has improved greatly but a huge question remains as whether the various factions will continue to behave after we start to withdraw that by a recent treaty, negotiated by Bush's people, we must do by 2011 no matter what. Afghanistan is falling utterly apart with even the commanding general over there saying a military solution doesn't exist. All the other presidents put together since the country was formed built a debt adding up to six trillion dollars. Bush by his little self has managed to build that debt up to ten trillion. Bush's good friend Putin is leading a resurgent Russia that aside its legitimate interests is once again seeking do more than resume its place on the world stage. China, the six hundred pound gorilla also returning to the world stage, continues to see its power build in military, economic, and diplomatic terms mainly at the expense of the United States with us so preoccupied with bring democracy to the Middle East.

But I believe the most actively incompetent policy that Bush pursued after the 9/11 attacks that borders on treason was his lack of any real attempt to break the United States off imported oil. This country developed the atomic bomb and put a man on the moon in a race to overcome enemies that actively sought to defeat us. Instead of taking those examples and pushing this country to end our crack-like addiction on imported oil Bush threw up his hands saying there were no easy answers and Cheney, with his famous sneer, said something to the effect that conservation was a personal virtue. It was never about easy answers or personal virtue but about leadership and giving a damn about something other than family business interests.
Now some will say that at least Bush kept us safe with no further attacks on United States. Okay, I'll give you that count but until they release some information about any attacks they stopped (independently verified) as far as I trust them they might as well claim to have defeated an alien invasion from space.

All told it is the American people that have to pick of the pieces the Bush administration. So I end this last political rant on Bush with a quote from Winston Churchill. You can figure out my intent. Just change out Baldwin's name with Bush's.

"I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill, but it would have been much better if he had never lived. "

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Semi-drunken Economic and Social Observations

Watching the various business news channels is always an easy place for a few quick laughs and the occasional deep cleavage shot. On one unnamed channel you have a very pretty brunette dressed in very proper business attire who with a very straight face will tell you why exported Chinese toys made with lead based paint makes that country America’s best friend. The other business channel will try to “entertain” the viewing public with gorgeous ladies sporting plunging necklines and hefty amounts of silicon while proclaiming the glories of the global economy and free markets but always emphasizing the main party line from the parent noise channel.

But common to both is the near incessant whining of what appears to be middle and lower level “Masters of the Universe” complaining of the trials and tribulations of the poor investor worried over protectionist sentiment and anti-capitalist murmurings from the lower classes they feel are unable to understand the bigger global economic picture. These well paid characters all sporting telegenic faces can explain a whole host of economic realities to a watching amen choir wanting reassurances that as long as their bottom line is secure the shrinking middle and working classes just need to be educated to certain facts.

Like the benefits of the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs overseas leads to cheap goods we can buy on credit here. That labor unions aren’t fair to the nice executive who only wants to enjoy his multi-million dollar bonus for gutting or simply through incompetence ruining an otherwise healthy company. And why such things as environmental regulations are un-American and border on the communistic. Some of these fine and upstanding humanitarians go as far to not only wrap themselves in the flag but at times suggest that God is on their side despite the unspoken element of social Darwinism about the cream rising to the economic top.

However, not all is well in the land of unfettered uber- capitalism and its “curious ritualized thievery” if I can borrow something from Steinbeck. The high paid and accomplished financial wizards having worked themselves into a rabid, greedy frenzy just about brought the entire financial house of cards down on us all but were apparently saved, at least for now, but the wise and compassionate actions of the Bush Administration. (Excuse the dripping sarcasm) But surprisingly all Bush got for his efforts recently was a rebuke from his fellow country club members, the Republican National Committee, saying he had embraced socialism. If that wasn’t the face grumbling because the nose wasn’t cut off for spite I’m either far more inebriated than I need to be, or not enough. Making matters worse is the approaching specter of progressivism the collective denizens of excessive capitalism trembling in dread see coming and arriving on January 20th to ruin all the fun. With great gnashing of teeth the mover and shakers are worried about how President Obama (Damn I still like writing that) will raise taxes, spend money on such silly things like repairing the national infrastructure and schools, begin to break us free of imported oil, work to provide health care to those that can’t afford it, and the most outrageous, raise the minimum wage. Even now it’s relatively easy to see the beginning efforts of the right wing Four Housemen of the apocalypse: fanatic Bible thumpers, proto-fascists Neocons, shrill pro-lifers, and the aforementioned uber-capitalists. All will be pooling their efforts to blunt any reforms that the Obama Administration begin, work to actively sabotage any enacted, and to discredit him both politically and personally so he can be defeated in 2012.

Even as that knowledgeable Alaskan angel of foreign affairs, geography, and the Constitution Sara Palin looks out her window at Russia, that stoic example of moral certitude Mitt Romney stands firmly on his current principles du-jour, and laughing boy Mike Huckabee strums his guitar with all of them looking longingly at that house on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue there are a few things they need to understand. While it is a very scary possibility that any of the three could, given outright errors on the part of President Obama or unforeseen situations that condemn his administration, win the White House in 2012 their victory would could be very short lived.

Even with the unprecedented participation of both African-Americans and Hispanics that helped elected Obama if you actually listen to a large chunk of this country you will still hear some disquieting rumbles. For the working class that were completely left out of the Great Republican Supply Side Economic Scam since its inception in the early 80’s and those of the middle class that have seen their livelihood slip away since then the various economic booms have largely left them by the wayside while the rich and very rich have prospered. People that once could depend on factory jobs that would allow them to buy a house, raise a family, and send the kids to college now find themselves relegated to non-unionized service jobs that pay far less with little to no benefits. These people are not idiots, while some have put themselves in that spot many more have paid the price for increased corporate profits from near slave labor wages overseas that suck jobs away. They see the grinning corporate executive driving the company leased Jaguar reveling in the yearly bonus while they are denied a pay raise because annual profits didn’t grow fast enough. Often times what pay raise they receive evaporated after the yearly increase in health care benefits is factored in. These families are also asked to send their sons and daughters to fight for the country but yet the huge majority of the children of the rich and powerful sit on the sidelines. It’s easy to hear about people cutting back on crucial medication because cut rate health care benefits won’t cover the drugs. And parents that saved for years so their children could attend college and have a better life than them now find that goal out of reach.

It is a huge mistake by all the financial wizards, corporate executives, and the country club elite to not understand that their excessive lifestyle is being noticed by those who despite doing everything they should do still find themselves falling further behind. In small groups you can hear the whispered astonishment from the lower ranks of the economic ladder as demands from those occupying the spacious offices upstairs come down calling for understanding and sacrifice from those who simply don’t have much more to spare.

Those controlling the levers of finance warily await President Obama with them and their media sycophants claiming that he will bring socialism, pestilence, and destruction. So worried are these people that the ugly face of racism surfaced in the campaign, by those claiming a true faith in the teaching of Jesus, and even now. But maybe its isn’t Obama these people need to worry about, he is after all and much to the contrary of his political enemies, a moderate and pragmatic man. But maybe it’s the growing mass of those falling economically behind. A growing class of people who are underemployed, relegated to the service industries. Living without basic health care wondering how they will take care of their aging parents and praying that the strange mold on their shoulder just goes away. And those unable to afford college for their children unless they offer them up for military adventures that again largely benefit the rich and powerful.

Maybe it’s the rich and powerful that should be most actively supporting President Obama and his coming efforts to try and bring back some sort of economic and social balance. Because while total economic collapse appears for now to have been avoided the New Year offers no promises that the worse is behind us. And if it isn’t, if for some reason the economic house of cards being propped up does completely fall apart and another Depression hit us and the rich, safely perched above the chaos, continue to be immune America is no different from any other country. In that a tipping point could be reached in which no country is ever more than three meals away from a revolution. But hey, nothing like that could ever happen in this country. It’s as unthinkable as say the smarts guys and gals in the American banking system screwing up or the mighty American automotive industry going under.