The bullshit culture war…

I have no idea why members of a certain segment of the population expend so much time and energy worried about how other people want to live their lives, what they want to be called, or who they want to fuck. I’ve barely got time to tend my own business without jumping eyeball deep into anyone else’s bedroom, pants, or pronouns.

Here’s the thing… I don’t give a damn one way or another if Adam loves Steve. Whether Katie wants to be called Ken. Or whether Bill keeps his dick tucked between his legs. I just assume people who have the kind of free time it takes to give a shit about this sort of thing are some unpleasant combination of sad, angry, and bored to absolute death.

I can’t fathom how bored I’d have to be to spend any time at all worried about a complete stranger’s orientation, preference, gender, or any of a host of other bullshit “culture war” issues that wackadoodle right wingers have decided to latch onto. If you’re happy – or moving in that direction – I say god bless. Good luck. If you can carve out a little joy or peace in this absolutely beshitted world, good on you.

There are enough honest to god issues knocking around to be dealt with without a bunch of chucklefucks creating new ones out of their sadly overactive imaginations.

If you’re bitter or hostile because someone chooses not to live their life exactly the way you do (or at least how you tell the world you live your life), well, that’s just the cost of the liberty you claim to value so highly. Unless, of course, what you really mean is you value liberty only as long as everyone else lives and does and behaves exactly the way these self-appointed “guardians” of truth, justice, and the American way want them to. Sorry gang. I’m a busy guy with a lot going on at the moment. I don’t have the time or inclination to deal with your narrow-minded, bigoted fuckery.

If you’re really, truly troubled about this stuff, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe get a hobby or something. Go out on the town, have a drink or two, get laid. Maybe you’ll feel better – or at least slightly less inclined to spend your life worked up about things that don’t impact you in any way.

This is 45…

I’m not sure I feel 45. Then again, I don’t know what 45 is supposed to feel like. Aside from the accrued aches and pains, I still feel like the me that existed at 20 or 25. Somehow, I feel like it should be even more adultier than usual. That could just be a mental block on my part. I’ve been running my own household since I left home at 22, so the basic tasks of being a law abiding citizen haven’t changed all that much.

I’ve never been one to make a spectacle of my birthday. Being the center of attention in a room full of well-wishers (or full of any kind of people, really), sounds like a dreadful way to spend a day that’s supposed to be celebratory. My day, very intentionally, was a low key affair. The house cleaner was here in the morning. I went out for a crab cake lunch and then did a bit of local junking. I expect I’ll be fast asleep, with the sounds of a snoring dog and cats doing cat things in the background, not long after (or maybe even a touch before) it gets dark on this long June evening.

I’d be remiss here if I didn’t thank everyone who took the time to text, DM, post, or call with their well wishes today. As ever, I appreciate your continued thoughtfulness as I begin another year riding this rock, orbiting its sun, racing through the Milky Way, while moving through the known universe at something like 228 miles per second. You’ve all been very kind to take a few minutes out of that mayhem and chaos to be a part of my day. Taking all things into account, it was as perfectly pleasant a day as I could reasonably hope to enjoy – and I’ll happily take all of those I can.

May 31st…

It’s May 31st. It’s not a birthday or an anniversary, but every year it’s among the most celebrated days on my personal calendar. You see, according to the calculations made by the United States Government, May 31st in the year 2035 is the date my age and years of service will make me eligible for full retirement benefits.

According to the running countdown on my office white board, that leaves me with precisely 12 years left to run in this rather accidental career of mine.

Of course, there are a lot of assumptions feeding into that particular date. It’s assuming that the wise and distinguished members of the U.S. Congress don’t meddle too much with the Federal Employees Retirement System. It’s assuming that the U.S. economy doesn’t either collapse or slip into a decade long recessive nightmare. It’s assuming that I’m putting enough cash aside to be my own paymaster. It’s assuming I don’t drop dead sometime between now and then.

Like I said, there are a lot of assumptions going into the idea that I’ll be able to hang it up in 12 years, but it’s a happy, happy thought. How good, or practical, it looks on the eve of my 57th birthday remains to be seen, but it’s absolutely my guiding star. 

The super-long weekend begins…

Here we are kicking off the first super-long weekend of 2023. I may very well keep right on posting on schedule every weekday at 6:00. On the other hand, I may not… so don’t be surprised if you find I’ve skipped a day or two next week. These little vacations are the only time each year when I’m perfectly willing to throw the posting schedule out the window if I find I just don’t feel like it on a particular day. 

What I’ve found through experience is the posts that originate during these short breaks tend to generate quite a bit less interest than then ones in which I’m ranting about work, bureaucracy, or people in general. That’s reasonable. I can hardly expect everyone out there to be breathlessly interested in hearing my tales of crawling through fire trap used book warehouses or sitting on the porch enjoying gin and tonic for breakfast.

By the first full week of June, I’ll be back to normal and probably showing no restive or restorative effects from taking a little time away, so it’s safe to expect business as usual before you know it.

I’ll never be accused of wanderlust…

A million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I would burn off vacation time to go places and do things. It could be as simple as taking an extra-long weekend at the beach or as involved as heading to the Caribbean or spending the better part of two weeks knocking around Europe. It’s been a decade at least since I used my vacation time to really “go away.”

There are lots of factors intervening. Buying the house put a real stretch on finances there for a couple years. The idea of finding someone I trusted to take care of the various dogs, cats, and tortoise in residence for more than a day or two away was always daunting – and often nearly as expensive as the trip itself if I opted to hire it professionally versus relying on the less budget busting kindness of local friends. Added to that, the recent experience of returning home to find Hershel unexpectedly hovering just short of death’s door despite all reasonable precautions and care has left me more than a little angsty every time I need to leave the house to get groceries, let alone think about being away for days or weeks at a time.

The other insurmountable problem with going places is that when you arrive where you’re going, they’re inevitably filled with people. I can muster up the patience for dealing with the masses in small doses – perhaps the length of a concert – or a bit longer if really pressed. Contending day after day with long tourist lines, jostling for every meal, and a sea of people milling around oblivious to everyone and everything around them simply doesn’t sound restful or relaxing. Maybe I’ll be motivated to do that kind of travel again someday, but 2023 doesn’t feel like the year.

I’ll be using my upcoming time off to launch some strategic day trips to a few of the Mid-Atlantic region’s great used and antiquarian bookshops, get some vetting done for Anya, and otherwise just knocking around the house a bit. It’s not a plan smacking of wanderlust, but it feels like precisely the level of peace and tranquility I need at the moment.

A good place and a bad one…

Personally, I’m in a good place… and that place is the time of year when I’m about to start burning off sizable chunks of vacation time to scour the mid-Atlantic region for all manner of used and vintage books. It’s a time of long summer twilights, evenings reading on the patio, and undisturbed stretches of free time. The run of days from the first week of June through the first week of July are, for me, the year’s apogee. Barring unforeseen events, there’s generally not anything better.

Professionally, by contract, it’s determined to be a season beset by stupid – both people and things. It’ll be catching up on mandatory training, and preliminary planning for parties and events that by right ought not to belong on my plate, and for whatever as yet unknown fuckery finds its way into my inbox. I won’t say it’s the worst of times, because that title belongs to another era entirely. Those days were bleak… These, in comparison, are mostly just obnoxious.

Still, it feels like an odd dichotomy. Although if one of the two must be a clusterfuck, I greatly prefer that particular dark cloud settle over the “work stuff.” I’ve spent a lot of time and effort rigging up a pretty reliable firewall between work stuff and home stuff. Whatever asshattery is taking place at work very rarely bleeds through to home. The barrier is somewhat less robust in the other direction.

By the time that first week of June arrives, it’ll have been six months since I took any significant time off. Right about now I’m feeling all those intervening days. I’m deeply, viscerally, looking forward to not needing to present the illusion of giving a single fuck about training rates, parties and events, or reviewing people’s requests to use the dumb auditorium. A few days wandering deep in the stacks is precisely what Dr. Jeff ordered as a restorative cure for the madness that seeps in from the “professional” side of the firewall.

Measuring dog years…

Thanks to Facebook, I know that it has been four years since I brought Jorah home from what was then called the Delaware SPCA. We weren’t off to a particularly auspicious start when he threw up about 75 pounds of partially digested dog food approximately five minutes from the house. Little did I know then, of course, that I was setting out for months on end of living almost exclusively in the kitchen because this six-month-old had absolutely no indoor manners or housebreaking to speak of.

Still, he was a sweet young dog – well intentioned if a bit absent minded. That hasn’t changed much. He’s still very sweet and decidedly absent minded. I’m not sure that he was entirely well served by having spent most of his life observing plague procedures (even before staying home and avoiding people was the cool thing to do). He’ll tolerate them once they’re inside the house and deemed not a threat, but he’s not especially well socialized with people or other dogs.

Our boy does, however, have a soft spot for cats. Hershel was his best friend and he’s still trying to devise a way to show Anya and Cordelia that he’s not 70 pounds of slobbering mess hell bent on running them down. They’re slowly figuring it out. Occasionally, Anya will even give him a few head butts when she thinks no one is looking. I’m optimistic those relationships will flourish in time.

In most other ways, Jorah is a complete reflection on my philosophy of dog raising… He barks at every unexpected noise and anything moving down the street. I tell him to stop. He barks some more. Truthfully, the only strictly enforced rules are 1) The bathroom, for canine members of the household, is always outside and 2) The living room furniture is out of bounds. Beyond that, he’s welcome to the run of the place. He loves napping on my bed through the day, but has never made an effort to sleep there at night. I can only assume my sheet-twisting and flailing around disturb his peaceful sleep.

I thought for a long time that I would always be a two dog household. Maybe I am, but I’m in no rush to find that second one just now. After a spring spent focused on our misadventures in feline veterinary medicine, I’m happy enough enjoying things exactly as they are at the moment.

On promise and disappointment…

I went to an estate sale over the weekend. I just happened to see the signs while on my way to do other things and dropped in. It was promising. The big house, fairly modern, with its rolling green lawn overlooking the Elk River should have been a good buying opportunity. It was about as picturesque a scene as you could want in a region that prides itself on sweeping water views.

Everything inside, though, was entirely forgettable. Architectural Digest prints on the walls and expensive plastic as far as the eye could see. Literally not a thing you couldn’t find new from your local Target or Pier One or Wayfair. At best, there were a few obviously modern pieces doing their best to imitate antiques.

At the risk of sounding judgy, if the house ever had any soul, it was gone long before its most recent resident shoved off. Not a bit of it looked in any way lived in – or really even lived with.

Someday, inevitably, my household will be shut down and the collections of a lifetime broken up. I can promise you, though, the house will look thoroughly lived in and the objects within will have some flavor of personality beyond the fashion of the moment. Every bit of it will be there not because it “looked good,” but because it recalled a time or a place or a feeling.

Gods preserve me from ever worrying about what looks fashionable or from ever leaving something that looks so promising, but ends up in such disappointment.

An unexpected moment of peace…

I’ll admit it. I’ve been letting the stress back up on me. I mostly assumed it was bleeding over from getting this damned government boondoggle through to the finish line next week. It’s not an unreasonable assumption. I like to think I carry it well, but it’s the kind of thing that wears on a guy as things reach their illogical end.

It wasn’t until I sat down last night and put my feet up after dinner that I realized how much lighter my own living room felt. Last night, with Anya returning healthy to the fold, was probably the first real night of peace I’ve enjoyed since Hershel died.

It was the first night in two months not overwhelmingly weighed down in missing my boy or worrying that the new girl was suffering catastrophic injury or that something would go wrong in surgery or during recovery. Then wondering if I’d ever manage to convince Cordy that under the bed is no place to live your life.

The last two months have been a chaotic mess – or at least what passes for a chaotic mess in my world. I hadn’t realized how much of that I was internalizing just to keep the whole thing plugging along. Now I’m just feeling an overwhelming sense of relief that maybe we’ve turned the flank of our current crisis and bought just a little bit of breathing room.

Last night, despite the racket of two cats periodically bouncing off the walls, was the best night’s sleep I’ve had since I couldn’t tell you when. There will be some other bridge that needs burning probably sooner rather than later, but for now I’m just going to go ahead and enjoy this moment of peace I didn’t know I needed.

Fair warning for the weeks ahead…

The next two weeks are going to be dicey – at least in terms of getting anything resembling quality content and commentary ready to post. I’m not saying they’ll be non-existent, just that we’ll probably skip some days and the quality may be off on some others. A lot of what the immediate future holds will depend entirely on how I feel when I schlep home at the end of each day.

Being a creature who thrives on consistency, this will be a period of anything but. Add in most likely being able to reintroduce Anya to the mix in the middle of this stretch and we’re on the hook to have two weeks of anything but ordinary.

I never doubt my ability to trek through the batshittiest of batshit crazy days, but I do recognize that if something’s got to give, this bit of daily writing and editing will most likely be what I temporarily toss over the side first. Oh, I’m sure there will still be updates – and probably a fair amount of ranting and raving – just don’t expect it to land on time or with quite the normal level of penash or polish.