Ko-Fi

Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer Night Memories

Dear reader, I want you to ask yourself a question--what memories get triggered on a gorgeous summer night?  

Do you think about that one person you were comfortable with as the two of you cuddled around a campfire?  Or do you think about that one night with your friends where everything felt so good you knew it would never happen again?  

You know that night I'm talking about, too, right?  That night where every joke, every story, ever log on the fire, felt as if it somehow matched everything else so well you never wanted it to end.  You felt, in that moment, at peace within and without, and the universe had aligned to give you a break.  

I had a summer of those nights one year when I was in high school between my Sophomore and Junior year.  

Most people never understand what the marching band experience is like if they've never done it themselves.  And not all marching bands are alike.  We weren't the pimply kids who put on a crappy uniform from the 60's and play tired old tunes out of a book.  We competed.  We put on field shows and got judged.  Our parades were judged.  

The world of competitive marching bands for a high schooler is vastly different.  You get yourself bonded to a group of people and you stay bonded.  I was closer to my bandmates than I was to the guys I played football or wrestled with.  In fact, the sports people picked on me and made fun of me.  The band people accepted me.  

I come from a musical family yet I'm tone-deaf.  I'm the only one, too.  My family used to gather around and sing.  Sure, they'd be drunk, and the songs would be old and boring, but it was tradition and had meaning for them.  I tried to join.  I wanted to join.  As a 6 or 7 year-old child, I wanted to be a part of the family.  But because I was tone-deaf, I was told to shut up.  My mom got mad at me and said I was throwing everybody off.  

So I wasn't allowed to be in that tradition.  

Instead, those songs remind me of having a headache, being tired, and wanting to go home.  Songs like "Good Morning Starshine" make me thing of drunken aunts slurring and bossing me around.  It reminds of me not being able to watch tv because it was too loud but not being able to join the group because I sucked.  

My grandfather was a musician.  He had a band called Farold and his Bluebirds and they played in the speakeasies own by Al Capone during Prohibition.  He played the french horn, I believed.  He was highly talented.  

My mom was the music director at our church for over a decade.  Then my aunt took over for about as long, if not longer.  Another aunt made a career in music and has several albums.  It's what the family does.  

But I was talentless in music.  So when the band director at my high school wanted me to join up, it seemed like the legit offer and something I should do.  And I was going to be on the drum line.  

They put me on a fucking bass drum.  I was pissed off about that.  But because the rest of our drumline had no sense of rhythm, I was the metronome for the whole band.  Our section leader, John, had no rhythm whatsoever.  He was so poor, he used to fuck up rim-shots as the band marched into position.  

But as a unit, our drumline was amazing.  Far better than anything in the area.  Our drumline coach, Romero, was awesome.  And he taught us to be serious at our craft.  Romero also took me aside, and we did a lot of one-on-one work when I did timpani solos in music competitions.  Through him, I learned rudiments and the basics.  

I wanted to do more.  I wanted a drum kit of my own and I wanted to play in a rock band.  But that was forbidden to me and when you're 14 years old, some things are just that way.  It never stopped the dreams, though.  

Our band competed in field shows and parades during the summer.  We went on tour and played all over Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin.  We slept in gymnasiums and lived on McDonald's.  

The long hours under the sun wearing a heavy drum weren't nearly as bad as one might think.  The worst of it was our band director.  She was chemically imbalanced and a rage addict.  She and her father were terrors in the music education world and nobody dealt with them if they could avoid it. In fact, she would lie and break rules flagrantly but nobody would call her on it because of her behavior.  

Dealing with The Director was an exercise in studying a person's disposition and waiting for the next explosion.  You knew it was coming, but you never knew what would set her off.  But we put up with it.  Our entire band was made up of kids who would rather deal with her than go home because home was that much worse.  Home was alcoholism, abuse, neglect, and pain.  

The rages only lasted a few minutes and then she would be okay until the next one. 

Big things were okay but minor things would cause her to scream and rage without mercy. Sometimes she would grab students.  

But not me.  

Funny story:  We had a parade to do in Dixon.  We were rushed to load the vans and we were always running behind anyways, but this time was worse.  We had been doing field show practice and The Director never kept track of time very well.  She was horrible at time management.  So of course, we practiced too long, and we weren't prepared to pack and go to 20 miles down the road to Dixon for a parade.  We get there, and our bass drum carriers, the harness we wear over our shoulders to hold the drums, were missing.  They had been left back in the school's music room.  

The Director was already shouting and getting angry at everybody because it was our fault she was terrible at time management and organization.  Rage addicts normally blame others for situations they created.  So, this time, as her anger built, the inevitable rage explosion was visibly coming.  We walked on eggshells but then somebody had to tell her the harnesses for the bass drums were back in the music room.  That did it.  

The Director, in a predictable rage, went to grab a student and throttle them.  Sadly, the nearest student was me.  Big, six-foot tall, 235lbs, weightlifting, wresting team, me.  She moved towards me, her arms reaching out, only to look up at me and realize there was no fucking way she was putting her hands on me.  None.  I had already decided that if she did, I would go ahead and oblige her engagement in physical confrontation and she would lose badly and painfully.  

So no, she stopped in her tracks, backed up, moved about ten feet to her left and grabbed a much smaller David.  He had a lot of nicknames.  John the drumline leader (and her favorite) nicknamed him Paco Moreno.  And Senior Satan.  I'll tell the reason for that later on.  But no, she grabbed and throttled poor David.  

It was antics like that I couldn't stand.  Several times a day she would freak out and just explode, screaming at the top of her lungs at us.  She did it in front of other bands, spectators, anybody.  During tours, we would have a practice field to use for a scheduled time after our parade.  One hour.  
Other bands used to watch us practice just to watch her freak out.  And then they stopped after feeling sorry for us.  Other band members from different bands would come to us later on and express how bad they felt that we had to deal with such bullshit.  

One time, she was in the middle of a rage fit, and she fell down on the ground, kicking and screaming.  

But aside from all of that, there was something incredible about being on tour.  The hot summer nights, the new smells, new sights, watching the other bands, it created a magical time.  

We used to sit in drum circles and meet other band's drumlines.  We would sit and chat.  We were open and outgoing, encouraging each other, trading stories.  It was at that time in my life when I first had some girl cuddle up next to me.  It was the first time in my life some girl openly gave me a hug because she was so happy to see me.  It was the first time a girl was happy to see me, for that matter.  

In my high school, I wasn't well-liked.  Girls used to treat me like I was a gross, disgusting piece of shit.  They would make exaggerated facial expressions and stick out their tongues.  In high school, I never had a single date and I never went to a single homecoming or prom.  Nobody wanted to go to a dance with me.  

But that summer, it was different.  That summer, I felt a connection with people.  I felt acceptance. There was a belonging and camaraderie.  We were all eclectic, unique people with artistic personalities.  We were expressive and exuberant.  And we knew we could be ourselves in that culture and still be accepted.  I no longer felt like a loser or that I wasn't good enough to be in a group of people.   

It was the first time for that acceptance for me.  It was the first time for so much.  I can still hear some of the bands play their field shows.  I can still hear certain drum line bits for various songs.  I can still smell the grass and the way the night air smelled so differently from home.  

That summer taught me something important.  That summer, I learned that it's okay to be creative.  It's okay to be different.  And it's okay to be artistic.  Plus, I learned that maybe it wasn't me that was the problem at school.  Maybe, it was them.  Maybe.  

I eventually left the band.  The director was a nutjob who played headgames.  She was of poor character and no integrity.  It just became too much.  

But I stayed in contact with a few people, sending letters back and forth for a few months.  And those lessons gave me a lot of traction in life.  

The other night, I was outside, feeling the warm air.  It brought me back to those nights in Wisconsin, a girl I was close to under my arm, her head resting on my shoulder, as we just enjoyed the night together.  I went back inside, went on youtube, and pulled up videos of various drum corps and their drumlines.  That night, PBS played a documentary about the Madison Scouts, a drum and bugle corps out of Madison.  They showed practice sessions that reminded me of our long, hot music camps.  And each person had a gold tan and bleached hair.  

I used to have drum sticks and a practice pad.  It'd play on that for hours.  Over the course of my many moves, they were lost or stolen.  I decided the other day I'm going to replace them.  It's time to get my chops back for no other reason than I enjoyed it.  And most importantly--I'm going to seek out other local writers just so I can be with my own.  

This summer, I'm going to spend more time with artists.  It's been far too long since I've done that and it's badly needed.  I'm going to seek out places with artistic vibes and go there because that's a place where people like me are accepted for who we are.  It's where people like me belong.      

Friday, May 19, 2017

Get Off My Phone!

Holy shit!  Tonight was a rough night at work.

Most of you know what I do to keep rent paid and no, it doesn't involve me shoving things up my arse.  But sometimes it might as well.

It's call center work.  The wonderful world of answering phone calls from people who think they know what they're doing but really don't.  People who are cowards and bullies and have nothing better to do in their lives but shit on somebody who can't fight back.

Working at a call center is like being tied to a tree with tissue paper while somebody's shithead 10 year-old runs around you after a kool-aid sugar buzz, around and around, laughing and saying stupid shit to you.  He's breathing through his mouth because of all the snot running down his nose and you just want to rip him apart.

I've worked a number of campaigns.  Cable, satellite, newspapers, satellite radio, mortgages.  I've done a lot over the years.  I can tell you that each campaign has a series of categories everybody falls into.

Right now, I'm taking calls for a sporting goods company, and keying orders for hunting and shooting supplies.  What I can tell you about that is this--I'm selling guns and ammunition to people who shouldn't even be allowed to use the phone unsupervised.

I sold a handgun to a blind man.

I sold about $1500 in ammunition to somebody so messed up he could barely speak, never uttered a complete sentence during the entire call, and had extreme difficulty giving me his full name and address.  Yet somehow, his credit card worked, and he was able to buy 2000 rounds of 9mm hollow points, and I forget how many rounds of 5.56.

It's insane how ignorant some people sound on the phone.  I always get a mental picture of what they look like or who they are based on how they sound.  I've had shitheads call in to buy machetes I swear they'll use in a massacre of children later on.  I've had fucktards buy air rifles and you just know they'll shoot their eye out.

People aren't nearly as diverse as we like to assume.  We all fall into some category or another.  We're not snowflakes.  So when some shithead finds his or her way on to my phone, I know right away they'll fall into some category or another.

You people aren't nearly as unique as you think you are.

The spoiled mama's boy who always gets his way or he'll huff and puff and throw a tantrum.  What?  I don't get free shipping?  But I always get free shipping!

I talk to a lot of loners.  Men who aren't married and probably never were or will be.  Or men who were left by their wives because it's clear they had the class of a junkyard dog.  Men who sit in the dark, watching old westerns, and just want to go hunting.

There are men in this country who have their wives call in because they're so incompetent the simple act of having a phone in their hands while talking is just too much.  Half of those idiots tell their wives what to do the whole time, so you hear the shithead in the background while their wives struggle to just get this simple order placed.

I despise people who do that.  Nothing pisses me off quite like trying to talk to somebody while I hear a shithead in the background saying shit to me.  It's rude.  Shut the fuck up while somebody else is talking.  If you have something to say, pick up the goddamned phone, speak into the phone like an adult, be a man about it.

And it's always men who do that.  In all of my years of call center work, I can only think of once or twice a woman behaved like that.  But then again, women have their own quirks.

I have to tell you a story.  Years ago, I was selling cable, and it was an in-bound campaign.  People would call a number on a flier that was mailed out and we'd try to get them to leave Verizon or AT&T for Comcast.  Most of it was New Jersey and Maryland.

So one day, this guy from New Jersey called in.  He had Verizon.  I went through the process and about halfway through, his wife started chiming in from the background.  At first, she was okay with everything, but not really interested.  As the call progressed, we figured out that I could save these people about $180 a month on their cable, internet, and telephone bills.  But the guy's wife had gotten more and more bitchy.

By the end of the call, she was full-on screaming her head off.  She was cussing and raving.  He even offered to hand her the phone so she could talk to me but she refused.  Instead, she just got angrier and angrier, frothing at the mouth, screaming nonsense and gibberish.  I wish I had that call recorded just so I could play it for you.

At the end, the guy couldn't even talk to me, because she was screaming so much.  And so he apologized, which made her even more furious, and she screamed at him to just hang up the phone.

I want you to hear that call.  I want her name boldly plastered on this blog so her behavior could be made public.  I think everybody who behaves like that should be publically shamed and humiliated.

Today, a man called me.  I asked him a simple question:  Are you placing your order from the catalog or the website.  It's simple and kinda something we need to know because it makes a difference in pricing and makes the ordering process faster.

His response?

"I just hung up on somebody for harassing me like that and I guess you're just gonna harass me, too.  I hope this call is recorded."  And then he hung up.

He then called back in, got another agent, and about three minutes later, called me back and demanded to be transferred to customer service.

I want to have a recording of that call and I want to make his name public.  He was obviously a goofy fucker with some kind of mental problem.  Most likely, inbreeding was an issue in his family, and that's why he acted like he needed a beating with a baseball bat.  But laws being what they are, I'm not allowed to do that.  My employer would never agree to something like that and smuggling those calls would most likely get me sued.

This is the problem with customer service these days--there's really no way to get back at bad people. If there was, though; if there was a way to get even with shitty customers who act like fucking morons, the game would change and people would act differently.  They would behave better and no longer behave like mentally deficient inbreed fucktards.

One time, I had a guy call in and get really personal with me.  He wanted to know about options in changing his account.  There weren't many and it would only save him a dollar or two.  He got personal with me.  Very personal, in fact, telling me I was having an off-day and a few other things.  Then, he hung up.

I Googled him after the call only to find he was a Baptist preacher in Oregon.  The piece of shit was supposedly a man of God and yet he was one of the most insulting people to ever call me.  That guy needs to be publically shamed.  He needs his face and name plastered all over, along with a recording of the call, so everybody could hear just what kind of piece of shit he was, and how he treats people.

He was as much of a Christian as I am a bird.

But the laws don't allow it.  Those calls belong to the employer and it would be illegal for me to post them.  I'm certain that if a few of us started posting calls, though, more would gain the courage to do so as well, and we could start a trend.  The grim reality of how pathetic some people are would be plastered all over the interwebs for all to hear.

Two months ago, I took a call from a guy who acted like every single syllable I said pissed him off. Just the act of asking him his name irritated him beyond measure.  He was an asshole the whole way through.  He deserves to be famous.

Call center work develops a healthy hatred of humanity because we're not allowed to say what we really think to people who do desperately deserve it.

Like the woman in St. Louis, who called me, and demanded to speak to somebody in India because when she needed help, she spoke to an Indian who couldn't speak English but when Charter Cable wanted to sell her something, she always spoke to an American.  She was a real cunt about it, too.

I wrote her name and address down.  I want to get even.  It's been nine years and I still want to get even.

Or the asshole cop who called me, bitching about how Charter was maniacally robo-calling people several times a day, seven days a week.  I had no control over that.  None of us did.  Charter is a shitty company with shitty leadership so does shitty things to people.  If you have a problem with that, cancel their fucking services.  Or better yet, file a lawsuit.  Why in the fuck would you call a sales hotline and bitch to them about it?  And the piece of shit kept telling me how he was a cop and blah blah blah.  I fucking hate cops anyways, so why would I care?  And then he played the shitty Guilt Card by telling me he was recently at a funeral for an officer who died in the line of duty and got a call during the procession from Charter.

Why in the fuck didn't you turn your phone off or put it on mute?

But no, Officer Shithead was too busy trying to make me feel guilty.  Didn't work, either.

I could go on and on.  The insanity of a it all, the crazy people who call in, the rude pieces of shit who think they can say what they want just because you aren't allowed to be rude, it all just adds up to a portrait of how this world is a giant manure pit.  Humanity is garbage and many of us deserve to be beaten severely or shot in the dick with bean bags.

There has to be some kind of payback we can do.  There has to be some kind of way to get even with these people.

I'm going to keep working on it.  And when I do, everybody on my shitlist will get their just rewards.

I will have my revenge and it will be glorious!




Saturday, May 6, 2017

Our Daily Sewing


I've got some flower pots outside with sprouts just barely starting to peak up through the dirt.  It's still chilly at night so things aren't growing so much right now.  I'm sure once we're out of danger of having frost at night things will perk right up.

I've got the tiniest of sprouts perking up right now.  Plus, out of all the super-hot pepper seeds I bought, only two are sprouting thus far, meaning these are some seriously expensive plants.  Sadly, none of my ghost peppers are sprouting, just one Carolina Reaper, and one Red 7 Pot Head peppers.

I'm not happy.  The game plan for those pepper plants is to grow as many as I can and use those peppers for jelly and other goodies so I can sell to folks.  I'm hoping to get a month's rent out of them.

I don't like hot and spicy things anymore.  It's no longer interesting to me.  I used to love the feeling of my mouth on fire but anymore it's just not something I want.  Even the smell will make me nauseous.

Somebody asked me to bake a cake for them.  They wanted my special ghost pepper frosting, which is fine, but it really stinks up the kitchen and makes me nauseous.  But they wanted it and they offered money, so I made it.  It's in my fridge right now waiting for this guy to get some time to meet with me.  I really need to get rid of this cake.

I need to do a lot of things.  Writing, to be sure, is among them.  I haven't been writing much lately.  I've been blocked up.  I sit down to write, and what comes out is this boring series of words that just don't have any kind of magic.  No power.

The words don't pop.

I feel like I'm not making the magic that I once was, or so badly want to, and that's making things worse.

The way out of this is to keep writing.  That's the only fix.  Keep writing and keep reading.  Most writers know this but a few don't--writing is 70% reading.  If you're not reading, your writing won't be very good.

Last night, I was reading Hunter S. Thompson.  The problem is, he's fixated on the 60's in so much of his work, that he just doesn't move on.  I'm tired of reading about the Chicago Democratic Convention in '68.  I'm tired of reading about how he ran for Sheriff.

The worst thing about losing Hunter S. Thompson is that we so desperately need him now.  Times are bad and we need him.  But then again, we all really made a mess of things, and a writer isn't going to get us out of that mess.  All he would do is articulate our rage.

We sewed some bad seeds to get us to this point.  Just as I have sewn some bad seeds to get myself to my own ball of mess.

I screwed up.  I screwed up so many things in so many ways, I don't see a way out of this.  I honestly do feel trapped by a dozen different situations.  And every solution, no matter how reasonable and minor, seems like a mountain that needs to be climbed.  Even the tiniest steps in the right direction seem impossible.

I'm so screwed.

I feel like I've gained 20 pounds in the past month.  I am noticeably bigger and my movements are even more restricted because of it.  I need to put a stop to this gain and take control of it.  And even the smallest choices are proving difficult.

This tailspin I'm in has momentum I'm finding very difficult to stop.  The physical issues seem to be growing and becoming worse despite efforts on my part.  Today I tried to go for a walk but the pain in my feet and ankles proved to be too much.

Damn, I screwed up.  I let things get worse and worse.

I sewed the wrong seeds.

Even my chair at my desk, the one I'm sitting in now, isn't right.  It's too short and it has caused me all kinds of painful knee issues.  Yet, I live in it.  I work in it, I write in it, and I do all of my computer activities in it.  I need a new one but I can't afford that just yet.

I will, though.  I'm back to working full-time, which is part of the plan for me to get back on my feet.
That's one seed I'm sewing that is in the right direction.  One out of a bunch.

My sleeping issues are improving.  Because I'm reading more, I'm away from electronics more, and that's helping me get to sleep sooner and sleep better.  Now if I can just stop waking up in the middle of the night wanting to eat my Ruger, because that sucks.  It's a horrid thing to have happen--to wake up in the middle of the night in absolute despair, knowing there is only one solution.

I don't know why this is happening.  When I feel better later on, looking back is horrific.

Everything is connected, I think.  My health, my activities, my sleep patterns, my emotional stability, my writing output--all of it. And no one act of healthy action is enough to change anything by itself.  It takes several choices.  Choices and actions in support of those choices, really.

And every small action seems like climbing a mountain.  Not quite impossible, but close enough.

I really screwed up in letting things get to this point.

I'm pondering starting a new Youtube channel to document my efforts to move forward.  Or decline.  I'm not sure what will happen.  But I figure letting folks know what not to do, not to let yourselves get to this point, is important.  Or maybe it'll stand as a record of just how things ended and what the final days looked like.

That sounds melodramatic.  I feel melodramatic these days.  Everything hurts, everything bugs me, and nothing interests me.  My writing shows it.

So what seeds do I sew to fix that?  I'm sure it has something to do with actually leaving my apartment more and having more face-to-face conversations with people.  There's only a couple in this world I can handle anymore.  The rest cause me great pain.

But leaving my apartment is important.  I don't really have a reason to, or no place to go, but I need to do it more.   Perhaps some more time at the park, or just limping slowly along the trail might help.  I'd like to say "what can it hurt?" but the truth is, it'll hurt my feet and ankles a lot.  And my knees.  And my hip.

But that's needed.  And while it feels like a mountain I have to climb, I realize it's just the first steps.  Those are supposed to be the hardest.  For me, the fourth and fifth steps are the hardest, because I know what to expect by then and I know it'll suck.

Something has to be done.  I can't keep living like this.  I need to sew some healthy seeds in my life.  I've made a few changes but they are minor and isolated.  I need to do a lot more before I can arrest this momentum and stop the decline I'm in.  This tailspin has gone on long enough.

I'm frustrated with how bad it is and right now, the pain of doing something outweighs the pain of doing nothing.  Sure, I screwed up, but I think I might be able to fix this.

I cannot undo the other things, though.  I've been unloveable for most of my life and what I am now is not even fully human.  It's a hard thing to say you're upgrading yourself to "unloveable."  But, I'm working on it.

I will say this--there's a monster in the shadows I have to confront and I'm just not ready yet.  But if I don't, then all of this will be pointless.  Addiction is a hell of a thing.

So, I'm sewing seeds of better choices.  I'm sewing seeds of better actions.

I used to have a ritual for starting my day.  That ritual was a bit of meditation followed by some affirmations.  "Just for today..."

"Just for today, I will make positive choices in what I eat."
"Just for today, I will be clean, and wear clean clothes, and look healthy."
"Just for today, I will not tell anybody I want to shoot them in the face or throat-chop them."

Starting a day off with that those affirmations helped me sew seeds daily.  I'm having a very hard time getting back to that.  But once I do, I'm sure things will begin to fall into place.

Or at least it'll stop this tail-spin.