Skippy Blowemup…

I’ve always said that if I wanted to strike fear into the hearts of Americans, I’d find ten or fifteen fanatics, strap bombs to them, and send them off to ten or fifteen random coffee shops to blow themselves to pieces. It wouldn’t be in New York or DC. Those places are predictable targets. We’ve come to expect terrorist attacks there as just another feature of “life in the big city.”

I’d have pointed my boys (because let’s face it, the ones who are usually willing to get themselves killed in the process are almost always young men) at Kansas City, Boise, Tampa, Salt Lake City, or Cleveland. If I had more people and more supplies, they’d go to even smaller cities – maybe no more than 20,000-30,000 people. I mean do you really think the average person getting their caffeine fix in Henderson, Kentucky is looking some half-assed wannabe jihadist to come walking through the door with a pipe bomb strapped to his gut?

As much as I like to think I’m aware of my surroundings, no one knows more than I do how often and how easy it is to find yourself distracted. I suspect that even the best would say it’s difficult to impossible to stay “on” all the time… and even if you manage it, being suspicious of everyone walking through the door is a hard way to live. You’ll just have to assume that I’m right on that one based on my personal lack of trust in just about everyone.

Point is, we got lucky in New York today. We got lucky because Skippy Blowemup was a shit bomb builder. We won’t get lucky every time. I can’t imagine we’ll get lucky even most of the time. Terrorism with a small “t” has come to America. It got here a while ago, but it’s hard to believe we won’t see more if it. It’s just easier to get your hands on a pipe bomb or pressure cooker than it is to find a airliner and trained pilot sitting around. As a country we do a fair job of getting out hands around the big problems – I mean skyscrapers aren’t toppling on a regular basis. We’ve put security in place that helps prevent that from happening.

The real question, though, is how good are we going to be at catching the small timers with a death wish? Our daily life is built around the idea that we’re free to come and go when and where we please? How likely are any of us to put up with a pat down or full body scan every time we go to the local shopping center or get on a subway train?

I swear to God the longer I’m in it, the more I hate the 21st century.

The sideways stink eye…

About once a week I drive past the house I use to rent. To say I have mixed feelings about the place is an understatement. Even with just me, two dogs, and a tortoise living there it felt cramped. The interior was too dark, it was too close to a heavily traveled road, and the mechanicals were all of an age where they just stopped working with little or no notice. Still it had the benefit of having a fence and being available exactly when I needed it. When you’re traveling one day ahead of a tractor trailer filled with your belongings, don’t underestimate just how much availability counts.

Last weekend when I drove past there were at least seven cars in the driveway. Like I said, the place felt cramped with just one of me. I find it hard to imagine what it would feel like inside even if each one of those vehicles represented only one person. It occurs to me that too much togetherness is definitely a real thing. Not my house, though, so not my problem.

The real pain came when I slowed down enough to eyeball the old place. Whoever’s living there now has let the landscaping go. Flower beds are overrun. Fence posts have collapsed. Shrubbery has grown up over the windows. Not one of the trees looks like it’s seen a pruning lopper since mine.

I spent the better part of four years beating what was then an overgrown mess of a landscape into a semblance of neatness and order. Sure, I did it on the cheap – cutting back some things, transplanting others, removing even more and hauling it away or burning it off – but the place was just a rental after all and throwing big money at it didn’t make sense. With a few basic tools and a bit of effort, though, I’d made the place look respectable.

The current residents have apparently given up on all that. It’s probably not entirely right to judge someone by the yard they keep, but I do… especially when it happens to be one that I left in good enough shape that it could be maintained with less than an hour’s work each week. Right or not, that tells me something about these new residents. It tells me all I need to know really.

It’s a damned good thing I’m not the landlord. Fortunately, it’s not my house and not my problem, but that doesn’t keep me from giving the place a sideways stink eye every time I drive past.

On change and furniture delivery…

I don’t like change. That’s probably the lest surprising thing I’ve ever typed into this blog. In fairness, it’s not so much that I don’t like change as that when change happens it tends to either be a pain in the ass or do away with something I like. Often it does both simultaneously. I’ve spent a lot of time crafting a world that I both enjoy and that curtails the number of pains in the ass. Change, therefore, is something to be avoided and fought against when necessary.

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Having said that, though, my 2006 vintage bonded “leather” sofa and chair set had reached the point where it was shedding more than the dogs and cat combined. They didn’t owe me anything, having been moved three times and not being particularly expensive in the first place. It was the first “adult” furniture I bought after I closed on the Memphis house and I probably kept it around a year or two past it’s use by date out of sentiment if nothing else. Still, in this one case, it was time for a change.

One thing that nobody mentions about furniture is it’s not like replacing appliances or getting a new mattress. The guys who bring the new don’t generally haul away the old – one of those things that’s changed over time for the worse, in my opinion. The nice folks at Got Junk, though, we’re happy (for a price, of course) to come manhandle the furniture out of the house, load it on their truck, and drive it away to I care not where.

And now we’re waiting for the replacements to arrive. Waiting in a room empty aside from a recliner, couple of tables, and a dog bed. When I say Saturday can’t get here quick enough this week, I really, really mean it.

Giving Tuesday…

I’ve led what, for most purposes, has been a charmed life. Maybe not Gates Foundation or Ford Foundation charmed, but well enough for a kid from down the crick.

Since today is Giving Tuesday, another internet created special purpose day, I’m giving back in the way most likely to avoid requiring interaction with people – Sending cash.

This year, I’m throwing my support to these good causes:

As per usual, I’m focused in, mainly, on organizations that exist for the benefit of animals. I’m sure there are many, many wonder charities that do wonderful things for people… but people as a group are just awful, so animals it is.

Whatever your passion is, though, I hope you’ve found some way to give back today.

Miles to go: or Reaching for that long, long weekend…

When I see stories like the death of Malcolm Young at age 64, I’m even more convinced of the need to retire at the earliest available moment. All life is a gamble. Sure, your day is probably going to go without much trouble – or it might be the day you get run down by a bus. Malcolm was 64 – an age that I increasingly think of as “not that old.” He has the resources of a lifetime spent as a rock star to draw on to fight the disease that struck him down. He died anyway.

Just last week, someone in the office next door went to meet her maker. She left Friday afternoon, called out on Monday, and on Tuesday she was dead. She had four decades of good and faithful service under her belt. She died anyway.

Given my lifestyle – with its love of red meat and carbs – I can’t reasonably expect to be a centenarian. I’m under no illusions there. Still, I don’t intend to die in harness, although I understand random chance could have something to say about that. As of right now, unless Congress weighs in and changes the rules mid-game, I need to reach the magic combination of 57 years of age and at least 30 years of service. I’ll land on that milestone on June 1, 2035. It’s a date that still seems awfully far away, but not nearly so far as it was once.

The very fact that time is limited drives me to gather up what I can as fast as I can and then get on with enjoying that (hopefully) long, long final weekend. I’m determined that I’m not going to allow myself to be the guy in the office who sticks around until 70 out of fear that the money might run out before I do. At least I’m well served that my desired lifestyle in retirement is largely quiet and relatively inexpensive. As long as I’ve got coffee, a few books, a quiet place in the woods, and a handful of critters warming themselves at my hearth, my needs and wants are largely met.

Now I’ve just got to try to not drop dead before I can get all the pieces lined up.

My biggest regret…

Over the last couple of years I’ve tried to be a decent member of the community and distribute the requisite candy on the day designated each year in which we teach America’s youth that begging door to door is the key to momentary happiness. After watching literal van loads of kids and adults from elsewhere being hauled in and deposited in the neighborhood to scavenge last year, though, I’m out.

The comings and goings and ringing doorbell agitate the hell out of the dogs – which in turn agitates the hell out of me. It’s the middle of the week and after a day’s work, a hundred trips to the door amidst the frantic jostling of Maggie and Winston sounds like the polar opposite of a good time. The whole process requires a level of polite interface with perfect strangers that I will just never find enjoyable no matter how traditional the holiday experience.

If I thought individual humans were to in any way be trusted to restrain themselves and display a modicum of civil behavior, I’d leave heaps of candy unattended for the taking… but since experience tells me that doesn’t last past the third visitor, it’s all going to be a big pass for me tonight.

It’s a Tuesday night and all I really, truly want to do is be home, enjoy the critters, make dinner, and spend a few hours relaxing before sleep claims me. Truly Halloween is the night of the year when I most regret not buying a house with a gated drive or a drawbridge I could pull up.

Bad decisions…

While I was in line at the bank on Saturday, I overheard a conversation. That’s not the kind of thing I usually do. Even if it were the kind of thing I’d usually do, I’d have wanted no part at all in this conversation. It was the sort of loud mouthed yammering that makes me wonder if people ever really stop and consider the words that come flying out of their gobs.

In the span of the five minutes that it took me to get from the back of the line to bing second to front, the women directly in front of me subjected me (and everyone, really) to her stream of consciousness thinking on all manner of topics. The best (or worst), were discussions of:

1) How wrong it was that the bank made her take out that “bad mortgage.” As if someone held a gun to her head while she signed.

2) How pissed she was that the guy she had been dating for six weeks wouldn’t sign the paperwork taking himself off of her checking account. Because adding someone you’ve known 30 days to your financial accounts always ends up being a good decision.

3) How happy she was that her new beau was only going to be in jail for six months so at least they’ll be together soon. By this point, I’ve stopped analyzing out of fear that my brain might overload and catch on fire.

It’s safe to say I now know more about this random woman in line at the bank than most of the people who have known me since childhood know about me. It’s an honor I neither sought out nor wanted.

The only common thread I was able to identify through the flow of her verbal diarrhea, was the simple fact that nearly all this individual’s problems could trace direct back to piss poor decision making. Basic life decisions don’t require a 180 point IQ, but they damned well require the application of a bit of common sense. I increasingly fear the supply of this commodity has been exhausted.

If I can offer any advice, it’s just this: Stop making shit decisions. You’ll be amazed how much life doesn’t suck if you just try to get out of your own way now and then.