1. Pulling it out of your ass. There are any number of things that you should never have to worry about pulling out of your ass – gerbils, light bulbs, the usual. If you spend enough time making the hard to do seem easy and the impossible just a touch harder than that, sooner or later people will come to expect it… and then that time when you can’t deliver there will be hell to pay. The longer I serve the bureaucracy, I realize Chief Engineer Scott wasn’t actually a miracle worker. He was an expert at pulling things out of his ass and had an unlimited pool of good luck. Most pools aren’t nearly so limitless.
2. Panhandlers. How high would you have to be to try getting money from me when I’m pumping gas? The fired and true death stare wasn’t effective, but the growled command to “step. back.” apparently got his attention. His mouth worked, trying to form words while his addled mind struggled mightily to come up with something to say and then he did finally backed away slowly. I’m not saying I would beat someone to death using the end of a running gasoline hose like a medieval flail… but I’m not saying I wouldn’t if properly provoked.
3. People. I know many of you will find this hard to believe, but I legitimately want to like people. I want to assume the best about them and hell, maybe even be friendly… and then I go out into the world and actually meet people going about their business and find myself wondering how the hell they function in society and how quickly I can get away from them and back into the peaceful, access controlled confines of Fortress Jeff. Every day that ticks by seems to leave me with that much less patience for suffering fools… and yet the sheer volume of fools that must be suffered appears to grow exponentially.
Four years ago I had a perfect afternoon. I don’t think I’ve ever actually mentioned it either here or to anyone in the non-electronic world, but it was a rare few hours when the better angels of my nature utterly routed the demons. The moment was fleeting, it was ephemeral, but it was perfect.
I’ve spent more of my waking moments trying to find a way back there than I’m in any way comfortable admitting. I won’t even get started on how it intrudes on my non-waking hours. Now I’m not saying every other day from then to now has been a pile of shit. There have been some awfully good days in the mix even when others leave me feel like an alchemist bent on learning the secrets of transmuting lead to gold – committing the cardinal sin of believing I could summon a thing into existence through sheer force of will and determination for it to be so.
As it turns out, massive amounts of willpower and determination sometimes don’t do any more than generate a massive reality distortion field that’s only observable by the guy inside the bubble. There’s a hard lesson in that when you’ve gotten accustomed to issues of luck generally breaking in your favor.
They say the first step to getting well is admitting you have a problem. Well, maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but in any case I’d be hard pressed to imagine a circumstance where I’d ever entirely stop chasing that perfect afternoon…
While I was vacillating over my home buying related decisions over the phone, my mother chimed in with some sage advice this evening. She knows me well enough to get that I’m nervous and twitchy about jumping back into the adventure of home ownership after getting caught in the 2009 meltdown. I was griping and complaining about the bills and fees that were hitting long before we even sat down at the closing table. Being who she is, mom has never shied away from asking the blunt questions, like “can you afford this?”
In the back of my mind I knew the answer. I’ve spent months crunching numbers and coming up with precisely where I need to be for the accounts to balance. I responded reflexively by ticking off the expenses that will go up, those that will go down, rattling through estimated fees and expenses from memory, covering the details of my good faith estimate, the downpayment, closing costs, and my best guess of moving expenses.
That’s when she reminded me that most people approaching 40 who run out to buy a family homestead are doing it on two incomes while I’m clawing it out on my own. A few years ago I’d have probably taken that as a sideways commentary about my lack of marriage and production of grandchildren, but we seem to be over that particular hump. Instead I took it as a reminder that I’ve basically always been a one man show – and even when it seemed that I was walking a high wire I’ve generally had the facts and figures on my side. Not to mention luck. There’s always been a healthy dose of that following me around.
I’m approaching today not so much as a 36th birthday as the 3rd anniversary of making a 900 mile drive from Memphis to reclaim my Maryland residency. Frankly, it’s the event that feels more important… and I’ll explain why (of course).
As far as my birth, I had very little to do with that other than being present. While I’m pleased that I’ve managed not to step in front of a bus or be eaten by a shark between 1978 and this morning, a lot of that has probably been simple dumb luck more than anything else. As you might guess, celebrating simple dumb luck isn’t really my style.
What is my style, though, is celebrating a very intentional decision I made to extract myself from what had become a hopelessly toxic situation. That’s a real milestone event for today. It’s one of the few decisions I’ve ever made without having doubts or second thoughts after the fact. Coming back to the good soil of my home state was arguably the single best decisions I’ve made to date. That’s not to say that everything is puppies and butterscotch, but at least as I’m sitting here looking out the window writing this post, I know I got the geography right this time. Human beings are generally a resilient bunch, but I’ve long suspected that we are each best suited for and thrive in a particular place… and even as I rant about the out of hand taxes and lunatic nanny government here, this place seems to be it for me. No matter where my travels have taken me, I always seem to come around again.
If nothing else, I can say with certainty that enjoying this fresh-brewed Kona in the rental kitchen is superior in every way to being just past Nashville and screaming east at 90 miles an hour with two dogs and a truck loaded to the gills. I appreciate and thank you for the birthday wishes today friends, but what I’m most proud of on this June 1st is my 3rd anniversary.
You always hear the old saying that bad things come in threes… here are mine so far for this week:
#1 Jeep overheating… probably needs a new radiator. OK, I can deal with that.
#2 No hot water pressure in my shower… annoying, but the plumbers were here all afternoon and everything seems to be working again.
#3 Home security system on the fritz… Called alarm company… They are out of business.
This is the point in the week where my blood pressure probably recorded a new personal best and I should consider spending the next few days sitting in the dark watching trashy television, eating chips, and drinking ever so tasty rum drinks.
Ever have one of those days when you’re convinced the world is conspiring against you?