There are whole books written about the “joy of home ownership.” Depending on the day you ask me, I’ll probably question whether the person talking about that has actually ever owned a home. The joy of having a roof over your head is surely tempered by the random bullshit of air conditioner repairs, flooded basements, trees falling, clogged drains, and the myriad other everyday problems that come along with owning a house. More than once I’ve thought wistfully about the ease of apartment living. File a work order with the office and things got fixed – eventually – although the “eventually” added its own degree of aggravation.
Today’s adventure in home ownership is the semi-regular pumping of the septic tank. It’s a necessity, of course, but there’s something disheartening about paying good money to haul your own feces out of a hole in the back yard. Then again, it may be best not to spend much time pondering on the fact that there is, in fact, a hole filled with feces in your back yard to begin with. Probably something that’s not worth dwelling on until it’s absolutely necessary.
Whether you’ve running your own waste disposal site or you’re on town water and sewer, you end up paying for the ability to poop indoors one way or another. If you’re lucky the basic maintenance won’t lead to needing to throw even more money literally down the sewer. The number of basic home maintenance projects I’ve undertaken that haven’t resulted in sprawling mission creep you can probably count on one hand.
I’ll be the first to admit that indoor plumbing is one of the most undercelebrated features of the modern world, but making sure it all stays in working order feels like the polar opposite of the joy of home ownership.
I read with bemused interest a response to one of my Facebook posts this morning. The gist was something like “I didn’t see you say anything about Topic X, so you shouldn’t say anything about Topic Y.”
I had loads of opinions about Topic X. I said plenty about it electronically and in person when the issue was raised. Even with that being the case, I reject the premise of the assertion that if you don’t talk about X you can’t talk about Y.
See the thing is, I’m the one who gets to decide what topics I’m interested enough to speak about publicly. I don’t defer that decision to friends on social media, or the mob in the streets, or anyone posing as a tribunal of “appropriate thought.”
I have and will continue to think about, post, and discuss any topic I find interesting, annoying, or otherwise worth giving a bit of attention. For as long as I’ve had a presence on the internet I’ve allowed, if not always encouraged, differing opinions to chime in on my posts… but please don’t mistake that for ever believing I need to march in lockstep with the mob or seek anyone’s permission for holding my own opinions. Coming in to my “house” in an effort to play thought police is very rarely going to work out the way you hoped. You’re always welcome to your own opinion, but you’re never entitled to have mine too.
What I learned this week is that my mind is apparently easily changeable and subject to being driven miles off course. For the last five years I’ve been squirreling money away for the day when I can finally get after renovating the master bathroom disappointment that almost kept me from buying this house. I was expecting to pull the trigger on that project this spring. Then, of course, the Great Plague happened and the idea of having a bunch of strangers schlepping around inside the house fills me with more disgust that it would even under normal circumstances… and honestly even under the best possible circumstance it’s an idea I wouldn’t easily warm to.
Instead of continuing to tinker with ideas of fit and finish for the future master bath, what I’ve found myself doing is periodically this week is glancing out the window and thinking how nice it would be to have a small pool over in that sunny corner of the yard where the birdbath resides.
It’s an absurd idea. I’m just now getting the back yard mostly recovered from all of the drainage and grading that needed done when I moved in. There are 80 foot tall oaks that overhang that entire part of the yard and I’m certainly not willing to sacrifice those. I live in a part of the world where, at best, pool season lasts four months. That’s before even considering that the whole idea would conservatively run 2-3x what I was budgeting for that bathroom. Again, it’s an absurd idea.
But when the humidity is up and the afternoon sun is hitting just right, it doesn’t sound like the craziest thing that’s ever crossed my mind.
There’s a fair chance I could write a book on what annoys me this week. I won’t bother doing that, of course. Even knocking together my usual “top three” this week feels like screaming into the void. What, after all, deserves the most focus when nearly everything beyond the peaceful and bucolic grounds of Fortress Jeff seems determined to grate on your last nerve?
What really annoys me this week? Mostly that this feels like it’s the new normal – or at least it will be what we treat as normal until we find a way to get back to everyone focused on sportsball, movies, and television. I have a sneaking feeling that once celebrities start making spectacles of themselves again, some significant portion of the population will happily shut the fuck up and enjoy the bread and circuses.
Until then, I’ll probably have to accept my life will continue to drift towards an increasingly permanent state of eye rolling and general disbelief about how feckless people as a group are determined to lead by feel and not by thought.
I’m usually dead asleep seconds after my head hits the pillow. I’m mercifully untroubled by racing thoughts or ponderings once the lights go out. It would be nice to attribute that to some kind of innate superior ability to make my brain shut up on command, but I’m forced to assume it’s just a simple matter of the way I’m wired.
I did have something of an unnerving thought last night just as sleep was coming on, though. Just as I was drifting off, up from the depths, bubbled the questions “Do you even want to keep blogging or is it just force of habit?”
Sure, it’s not the deep meaning of life style question that some people get while they’re lying in the darkness, but it hit hard enough to stick with me once I woke up this morning, so there must be something there even if it’s just the wisp of a passing thought.
The honest answer is I’m not sure. After 3,181 posts I have no idea if I’m actually saying something new or regurgitating the same 20 topics ad infinitum. There’s never been a unifying focus here – no defining characteristic that I can point to and say this is what I’m writing about – unless you count whatever happens to be on my mind any given day as having a particular focus. Maybe it is, but I’m sure the blogging experts would be quick to point out that one man’s opinion isn’t generally something that monetizes well. Of course that’s never been the point here either. In fact, keeping this platform advertiser free ends up costing me a few dollars every year… although I consider it money well spent to keep banner ads from covering every bit of white space. As long as I’m active here, I’m determined to be the only product being advertised.
You might have noticed by now that I haven’t answered my own bedtime question yet. That’s mostly because I don’t really have a good answer. Some part of me would be happy to give it up and claw back the time. Another part is sure that I still have things to say – and that there’s absolutely no chance of my shutting up on issues as they happen. I’m an opinionated sonofabitch – and even when that opinion isn’t popular or cuts against the running tide, I can’t seem to help but give it voice.
All of that means that I’m not likely to go away willingly. I may take a look at the current five-day a week posting schedule, though. I can’t help but wonder if content wouldn’t be a little more fleshed out if I didn’t rush it through every day to hit my self-imposed 6PM deadline. Taking posts in a little more of a long form direction doesn’t seem like the worst thing that could happen – except for my general lack of interest in or skill at editing, which could prove even more painful than writing something fresh every single day.
Sorry if you were expecting something deep. Today has apparently been just a post where I do some thinking out loud. I’m not sure it’s driven anything towards a decision, but getting ideas down “on paper” always helps me clarify what’s rattling around in my brain… even if it doesn’t make for the most entertaining blogging.
Yesterday someone asked me the inevitable Monday question, “What did you do this weekend?” My answer, almost exactly what it would have been had they asked it at the same time last year, was that I did a little yard work, cooked, and spent broad swaths of time reading. With the occasional exception of journeying out on a quest for new (old) books or carry out, it’s what you’ll find me doing on weekends in the summer when the weather cooperates.
My decided preference for people avoidance has almost nothing to do with the Great Plague, although the notion of drowning in my own secretions adds a bit of reinforcing menace. What struck me most over this weekend wasn’t the continued riots/protests/rabble in the streets, which has mostly faded to background noise. The more horrifying scenes played out across social media was of friends and family streaming out to restaurants, bars, and all the other crowded places – as if they somehow believe boredom alone will make them immune and save them from consequences.
I’m not generally impressed with hype. I don’t think COVID-19 is a death sentence for most people. It is, however, a pernicious, creeping illness… and one that can be largely prevented by avoiding places where people gather. People have to work, I understand that. I haven’t been able to completely avoid the office myself. It’s the risk we take to pay the bills.
Heading out for a night on the town because you can’t manage to entertain yourself, you’re just tired of sitting in your living room, or three months of togetherness has made you hate your wife and kids feels like just about the most ridiculous thing someone could do. It’s almost the definition of a high risk, low reward scenario. To each their own, I guess.
If the last three months have proven to anything to me it’s that my already low estimation of people as a group was likely too high… and that my desire to avoid them as much as possible is more intense now than ever before.
A few nights ago, I was wondering what someone was up to and realized we hadn’t talked in a while. This was a friend from way back there and back then, one who once might have almost been something more, but for unlucky timing, fate, or whatever interceding. It wasn’t all that long ago we carried on endless late-night conversations, just talking about the day that was or what we hoped for tomorrow. Maybe it wasn’t Big Love, but there was a connection there, a real friendship if nothing more.
I guess I was surprised to find we’re not even electronic “friends” anymore. That’s fine. People don’t really change, but circumstances do. I don’t have any expectation of ever knowing or standing to ask for the what or why.
I’m not angry, but I am just a little bit sad.
I’m not the kind of guy who runs out and makes new friends. I don’t have the energy or interest. It’s why I’ve always put a premium of hanging on to the old ones.
I don’t suppose they’ll ever see this, but I hope our paths cross again someday. I miss their insight and honesty and trusted counsel from someone who always seemed to get what oddities were floating around in my head.
There’s not much new under the sun. I suppose there never really is. If reading history is taught me anything, it’s that collectively we have a real tendency to do the same dumbass things over and over again while expecting different results.
With every week that goes by I find myself increasingly at odds with the world. The central pillar of my life philosophy has almost universally been I’ll leave you alone, if you leave me alone. We seem, now, to inhabit a space where even wanting to just be left to your own devices is some kind of heretical commission against one group or another.
It’s utter bullshit, of course. I don’t have much use for people. That’s not based on color, orientation, gender, or anything other than a lifetime of experience dealing with people in groups and individually. With a few notable exceptions, the experience has almost universally been disappointing.
So what did I learn this week? That’s easy. No matter the position you stake out, you’re always going to be the villain in someone’s story. If I’m going to be damned either way, it might as well be for doing what my own conscious dictates rather than capitulating to the mob on either side.
1. Embedded links. We have you a nice, prettied up agenda. We even tucked the event links into the text of the document so it wasn’t a three line line long ugly-assed URL. But that doesn’t stop several hundred of you from not reading for comprehension and emailing that you can’t find the URLs. I mean how the hell hard is it to either click the embedded link directly or to right click and copy the link to paste it in your browser? Given that two thirds of your contemporaries managed to get it done without our help, I’m forced to conclude that one third of the total are just total mouth breathing wastes of space.
2. Podcasts. I haven’t deleted any social media friends as a result of COVID-19, protests, riots, or political affiliation but in the last week I’ve dropped a shit ton of podcasts that have vered way the fuck off topic. Everyone’s entitled to their position and perfectly free to use their platform to do whatever they want, but if I show up expecting insights on contemporary television and find deep dives on politics and current events, I’m out. I’m headed to my podcast list to avoid the general fuckery on television, not to find more of it. Hard pass.
3. Steady working. So far during the Great Plague, I’ve been steady working. I’ve missed my scheduled vacation and now the couple of days I usually take off immediately following the massive organizational vanity exercise that I’m nominally charged with carrying off every year. Yes, I’ve been working from home… but it’s still very much working and having my head in that space continually. Physically being back “on campus” these last few days just feels like heaping insult atop injury and it’s got me moody as fuck. Plague or not I think I’m going to need to start burning some days off that sweet, sweet pile of vacation time sooner rather than later.
Some will say I’m wrong, but for my money the happiest word in the English language, at least today, is EndEx.
Twelve months of bashing my head against the wall is now concluded – more with a whimper than with a bang. I’m fine with that. It means whatever cockups happened were transparent to anyone who didn’t know what should have happened. Ignorance truly is bliss for an audience.
So the big show is over for another year. Now we’ll unpack it, look at what didn’t work, and make recommendations for next year that we’ll all later ignore. The heavy lift is finished, but I’ve still got a few weeks of living left to do with it’s corpse.
Once it’s well and truly in the ground, it’ll be time to start planning for 2021. That effort usually kicks off in June – delayed this year because the Great Plague has delayed everything.
Every year someone cheerfully says, “Oh, we’ll tag someone else with this next year.” It’s a happy fiction, but organizational dynamics tell me that I won’t be relieved of this particular opportunity to excel except by retirement, resignation, or death. So I’ve got that to look forward to in the next few weeks too.
But today is EndEx for Big Event 2020. I’ll be savoring the moment for the next twelve hour or so before schlepping back to the office to deal with whatever fresh hell Outlook brought me overnight.