The Dreaded Annual Performance Review

This is the first year of my life that I haven’t had to endure one of these asinine assessments of my performance on the job, and there’s a simple reason for that.

I’m no longer working.

Be that as it may, I should probably take a look at how my first year as a retired guy has gone, and share my results with the ten people who consistently read my posts. I’m sure they’re dying know. But first, a little background stuff.

For the last thirty years or so, I was an RN. I like to think that I was a really good psych nurse, and most of my performance reviews reflected that. My managers tended to love me, and generally said really nice things about me. Their main concern regarding my performance was that I wasn’t always conventional in my approach with my patients.

“I’ve held my breath more than once watching you in action, but I can’t argue with your results. Keep doing what you’re doing, I think.” one of my managers told me once during my review. That was when I worked for the Minneapolis VAMC.

Performance reviews are basically the same, no matter where you work. You’re rated on a list of criteria. Your boss makes an assessment of how well you’ve met said objectives. Sometimes your colleagues are asked for their input. In the healthcare field, sometimes your patients are. Add it all up and you’re either a valued employee, or you’re not.

Back then, the VA wasn’t concerned with Patient Satisfaction Surveys. I’m pretty sure that has changed quite a bit in the last few years, mostly because millions of people started listening to the thousands of people who had been complaining about the VA system for decades.

Working in the private sector was vastly different. They were very concerned with how satisfied their patients were, and almost everything we did at those facilities was driven by those goddamn surveys.

We were expected to have high positive ratings from our patients 80% of the time, and that’s just crazy when your patients are in a psychiatric setting. These are chronically unhappy people. Getting one such person to feel 80% positive about something is a monumental task. Getting a group of them to consistently do so–it’d be easier to build a suspension bridge from Baltimore to Paris.

Especially when you consider that you’re not responsible for anyone’s happiness but your own. Try telling that to a bunch of suits when they ask you why the survey results for behavioral health are twenty points lower than the rest of the hospital.

There’s probably a couple of good reasons why I didn’t last long as a manager…

Performance reviews are legion, and they essentially begin the moment you’re born. Ever heard of an APGAR test? It’s nothing more than a performance review for newborns. If you don’t pass that initial review, you probably won’t have to worry about any of the others.

Employers use performance reviews to motivate their best employees, and also use them to rid themselves of their worst employees. This is something I learned from my days as a manager. I also learned that performance reviews are purposely skewed, even with your best employees. You never want to tell someone the don’t need to improve, nor do you want to rate anyone too highly because then they’ll merit a performance based raise, and there’s seemingly nothing that employers hate more than paying someone what they’re actually worth.

My Boss from Hell at BannerHealth discovered that I really sucked at this part of my job when I was a manager. I rated my direct reports honestly, especially the really good ones, and more than one of them found their paycheck a little more generous for at least one year.

So my fucking boss repaid my honest assessments by giving me the worst performance review I’ve ever had in my life. It was at that precise moment I realized I needed to find another job, and left BannerHealth.

I’ve written about this previously, so I’m not going to go into any further detail here, but you can rifle through my archives if you don’t have anything better to do.

* * * *

If there’s one overwhelming reason to retire, it’s this. Your employer can no longer tell you that you’re not meeting their high standards of mediocrity. In all honesty, you can set the bar as low as you want once you retire. There have been days when I haven’t changed out of my pajamas, like yesterday.

In my defense, I have Minnesota Vikings pajamas, and yesterday was Football Sunday. I was supporting my team, and it must have worked because the Vikings destroyed the Rams. I’ll probably do it again next Sunday because you never mess with something that works when you’re rooting for your team.

Also in my defense I should point out that I actually do take a shower and get all spiffed up most of the time, even if I don’t leave the house, which happens quite often. We have a beautiful house, and my lovely supermodel wife and I are very comfortable here.

It’s not always easy being married to a supermodel. They have very high standards, so there is that. Luckily, I’ve been married to Lea for almost thirty years, so I’ve been well indoctrinated as to what I need to do to keep her happy.

Happy wife, happy life. Any guy who has been married longer than a Kardashian knows that truer words have rarely been spoken.

Lea tells me she’s never been happier, so I should probably be getting a raise for an outstanding job. Oh, wait. There aren’t any pay raises after you retire…  You know what? I’ll learn to live with it.

* * * *

Moving to Mexico was something I couldn’t have imagined myself doing as recently as three years ago. It more or less happened without a great deal of planning on my part. The door opened, and it seemed prudent to me to just go with the flow, rather than resist something that unfolded so perfectly.

My first task upon arriving was to help my wife set up our house. It was really my first chance to try being her assistant design assistant, and it went better than either one of us expected.

I’m going to take credit for most of the foyer at the front of our house. And for Samantha’s office. Sam is our kit-ten, and she uses the office far more than either Lea or I do. Hence the name. Sam appears to be pleased with the way her office turned out, and if she isn’t, she hasn’t mentioned anything to me about it.

So, that went well, and I seemingly passed my first test with flying colors. I’m going to give myself an excellent rating as an assistant design assistant.

* * * *

But as I recall, my transition to retirement didn’t all go smoothly. About one month after I retired, I mysteriously screwed up my back, and I was in serious pain. I rate it worse than my first kidney stone, and that just about killed me to death.

I use the term mysteriously because I don’t remember doing anything to injure my back. I woke up one morning with a stiff neck and limited range of motion turning my head. Nothing serious, and I figured it’d go away. Two days later, I could barely move, and when I did it felt like I was being stabbed with a very long, very sharp sword.

One of my sisters told me God had afflicted me thusly to remind me that I still had defects that I needed to address. I do not disagree with that at all. As a Christian, it’s an argument that’s hard to dispute. After all, how many times did Jesus ever say this to anyone?

“Um, nope. You’re good. I can’t think of anything you should do differently. Keep up the good work.”

That would be none. If you don’t believe me, read the Gospels.

However, when you’re afraid to move because you’ll end up in so much pain that you might piss your pants, it tends to limit your course of action. I certainly didn’t spend a lots of time thinking about what I needed to do to make myself right with God. I remember that I mostly just prayed to die to death. Quickly.

Thankfully, the worst of my back pain lasted only about a month, and then I started cleaning out my closet of skeletons in my blog, and whether that was what I needed to do or not, it happened, and I didn’t got dead. And my back pain went away.

I attribute that to Diamond Dave, my Bowen Therapist, far more than than anything I did. He thought I was having some sort of allergic reaction to no longer working in a high stress environment. Personally, my sister’s diagnosis makes more sense to me than his did.

My only issue with this is how it was presented to me at the time. Would it have killed God to be a bit more subtle? Couldn’t He have sent me a text, or an email? And if I wasn’t attentive enough, He could have given me a warning. I might have paid attention to that. If nothing else, I am highly motivated to avoid excruciating pain.

I know I still have a lots of stuff to work on, so I clearly have room for improvement. Ten minutes after I die, I’ll probably still have a lots of stuff I should have worked on. But I don’t have to fix everything at once, and there are some things I’ll never be able to fix. It’ll all work out. Probably…

I’m going to say I’m meeting my performance objectives, but will need to be monitored.

* * * *

After roughly six months of being a retired guy, I took up golf again. I hadn’t picked up a golf club in about ten years when I decided to I needed to do something with all of the time I had on my hands.

I’ve never been a great golfer, and I didn’t get any better at it by not playing any golf for a decade. The first time I played in Mexico, I shot a 57. In the first six holes. As a point of reference, par for nine holes is 32. As another point of reference, par is the score a good golfer could have at the end of a round. A really good golfer can have a score that’s under par.

I’ve spent many hours hitting golf balls at the driving range. A bucket of balls here costs roughly four bucks. Practice may never make me perfect, but I’m not going to go broke on the driving range no matter how hard I try.

Playing golf isn’t exactly cheap. Most golfers own at least one set of really nice, very expensive clubs. I appear to be the exception to this rule. My clubs would be seen as antiques by any serious golfer. And there’s the greens fees. And the caddy. And sometimes golf lessons. And weekly sessions with your therapist. It all adds up.

I’m slowly getting better at golf. Last month I shot a 49. In nine holes. It’s possibly the best score I’ve ever had. It’s also possible that it’ll be the best score I ever have. I’d like to improve on that score, but it’s not the most important part of my life, or even my golf game.

Again, I’m meeting my objectives, but will need monitoring. Fortunately, my lovely supermodel wife occasionally acts as my swing coach, and I have a retirement golf wife who is very good at getting my ass off the couch and on the links.

Golf also serves an important service in my life. It keeps me humble, and I have every confidence it will do so as long as I can swing one of my antique clubs.

* * * *

I take a lots of pictures now that I’m retired. I have two cameras and a smartphone, and I use them frequently. I post most of my photos on my Facebook page. Sometimes I post pictures on Instagram, but not as often. I’m a pretty decent photographer, but it’s ridiculously easy to take amazing pictures here. This place is prettier than a postcard.

I’m going to say I’m doing an acceptable job as a photographer. One of my friends down here posts his amazing photos every day. I’d rate myself higher if I were as consistent as he is.

I write semi-frequently, and while I tend not to be greatly impressed by my writing ability, there are a few people who disagree with me, and they’re probably smarter than me. So maybe they’re right.

Noteworthy or not, I do enjoy writing. Thankfully, my ability to stay retired has nothing to do with the quality of my prose, so it’s not like anything important depends on me writing stories of varying degrees of readability.

I’m probably the last person who should evaluate my performance in this area, so I’m going to take the easy way out and leave that to anyone willing to offer any input.

* * * *

The remainder of my retirement duties involve household chores. Taking out the garbage, washing dishes, cleaning Sam’s litter box, vacuuming the floors, taking care of the plants in my patio garden. Stuff like unto that. I believe I do a mostly outstanding job in this area, and all I need to do is keep doing what I’m doing.

There is one issue that keeps me on my toes. Leaf cutter ants. These little bastards can strip your garden to nothing but twigs in one night. I have been at war with these pinche hormigas ever since we moved here. I’ve destroyed thousands of them, without any discernable drop in their population.

I had the same problem with squirrels when we lived in Minneapolis. I killed hundreds of them with my trusty air rifle, and there was always more of them to shoot…

I have to give myself high marks for attention to detail and immediacy of response, but I can’t rate my interventions as being hugely successful.

* * * *

And, thankfully, that is the extent of my retirement proficiency evaluation. I’d have to say it’s about what I expected, and that’s a good thing. You should never be surprised at a performance review, and if you are, your manager hasn’t been doing their job. That how I viewed it back when I was a manager.

Granted, I took my job a lots more seriously than I take my life now. I had high standards for my performance. I took a lots of pride in my work, and I mostly loved what I did.

I totally love what I’m doing now, and if I’m not meeting my much lower standards in retirement, I really have no one to blame but myself.

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Gulliver’s Travels

Unlike Jonathan Swift, I’m not sure I’ve ever written anything that could be deemed noteworthy. I don’t think I have the proper amount of seriousness to do something like that on my own. I’m pretty sure I haven’t written anything that could even be called interesting of late. If you’re looking for something noteworthy in this post, let me save you some time. You won’t find it here.

I might write something noteworthy someday, but if I do, I’ll probably be the last person to know it. And it’ll probably be the biggest mistake I’ll ever make. If you don’t believe me, read some of my previous posts. There’s over one hundred of them to choose from…

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you know that my lovely supermodel wife and I recently took a trip back to the States. It was our first return trip since retiring in Mexico.

If you don’t follow me on Facebook, you can send me a friend request, but my life on social media probably looks a whole lots more interesting than it actually is…

Other than me having a couple of allergic reactions to environmental stimuli in airports and sneezing into my shirt sleeve for about a thousand miles, and the cold that Lea came down with upon our return, our trip was a lots of fun and we had a great time.

We flew back to the States on Volaris Airlines. I don’t have a lots of experience flying on Mexican airlines, but from what I do know, Volaris is kind of the Mexican version of Frontier. The only difference is I don’t hate Volaris, and I loathe Frontier. The people treat you better in Mexico.

It’s a bit more complicated when you fly from Mexico back to the States. There’s the whole Customs thing. Not that it’s a big deal, because it’s not. There’s a show called Border Security on TV, and it makes international travel look like a blind date with the KGB. We’ve never had any problems flying to Mexico or back to the States.

In fact, the Culiacan airport had the most lax security I’ve ever seen, anywhere. Half of the staff looked like they were sleeping, and the other half looked like they just woke up. I probably could have smuggled an entire mule into the US from Culiacan if I could have trained it to sit in a chair and fasten a seat belt. If I owned a handgun, I probably could’ve taken it on the plane if I had told the sleepy looking young woman at the desk that it wasn’t loaded.

The main purpose of our trip was to attend Brea and Charlie’s Endless Wedding Celebration. I suppose it could be like unto Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, except I’ve never seen that movie, so I can’t really say what it’s about, but I’m going to guess that no one gets married in it.

We kind of figured Brea and Charlie would have a traditional wedding, you know, like normal people. I should have known better. I know Brea. I used to work with her. She’s one of my work daughters. My other work daughter was one of her bridesmaids. Brea is anything but normal. She’s extraordinary.

Brea and Charlie were married at Stonebridge Manor. It was without a doubt the most beautiful wedding I will ever attend in my life. Martha Stewart would’ve thought she’d died and gone to Wedding Heaven if she had been there. An elegant reception and brunch followed the beautiful and brief exchanging of vows and rings. In the evening there was an hors d’oeuvre bar and drinks at the Thirsty Lion Gastropub in the very fashionable Scottsdale Fashion Mall.

I ran into a few of the doctors I used to work with. A couple of them have been busy buying Ferraris. I know, right! Where the hell are you going to drive a Ferrari? You’re not taking it to the store when you run out of paper towels!

The next day, which I think was Friday, there was a party bike tour in downtown Scottsdale for the younger people who came to the wedding. If you’re like me and you have no idea what a party bike is, it’s essentially a bar on wheels propelled by any number of people pedaling while they drink at the mobile bar. You can Google it if you need more detailed information about this. On Saturday evening, there was a barbecue for anyone still able to stand at the Scottsdale Rotary Park.

I’ve had nothing but problems trying to figure out which day it is since we flew to Phoenix. Part of it is the change from Daylight Saving Time. I’ve never had this problem before, but that’s when it started. Mexico changes back to Daylight Standard Time one week before the US does. I’m still not sure how this one hour change ended up making me unsure which goddamn day of the week it is, but there you go.

And then Volaris changed the date of our return flight without telling us. If Lea wasn’t as OCD as she is, we wouldn’t have found out about that until we arrived at the airport on the wrong day. We were supposed to fly back on Tuesday, but ended up coming back on Monday. I think.

I thought yesterday was Friday, but now I’m pretty sure today is Friday. Lea tells me it is, and I trust her.

At any rate, there might have been more fun stuff associated with what will probably known as be the Social Event of Season, but that’s as much as I know. Lea and I had a great time, so thank you very much to Brea and Charlie. And we hope you two are as happy together as we are. May your marriage be blessed, and both of you as well.

* * * *

We had multiple reasons for traveling back to the States. As amazing as it is living in Mexico, there are some things that are difficult to obtain down here. A lots of ex-pats return to their country of origin to shop for things they can’t find and presumably can’t live without.

The first thing we did after we arrived in Phoenix and got into our rental car was drive halfway to California and ordered the largest pizza we could at Rosati’s Pizza, which is something I haven’t been able to find in Mexico, then we went to see Nikki and Jay and all of the stuff Lea ordered.

Lea bought a whole lots of things online and had them delivered to Nikki and Jay’s house. There were a whole lots of boxes. And bags. And bags in boxes. Our stuff covered one of Nikki’s kitchen counter tops. And then it filled the entire backseat of our rental car.

Rosati’s is our favorite pizza, it was the main reason we went there, but there was another reason. It was kind of a peace offering. Nikki and Jay are Packer fans. Lea and I are Vikings fans. Our team broke their all-star quarterback, and as a result the Packers are going to mostly suck for the rest of the season.

Pizza. It makes everything more better gooder. Even losing, maybe…

* * * *

If you’ve never been to the Phoenix area, it’s fucking huge. Our Packer fan friends live in the West Valley. The condo we had rented is in Fountain Hills, which is in the East Valley. It takes about an hour to drive from one side of the valley to the other.

The distances you had to drive are one of the things that fade from memory if you don’t do that kind of stuff on a regular basis. Almost any place we need to go in the Lakeside area is a five minute drive from our house. Another thing you forget is how wide and smooth the roads are. Honestly, driving on those roads was one of the most pleasant surprises about our trip.

Thankfully, we got to spend a whole lots of time driving on the very wide, very smooth and flat roads of the Phoenix area. In six days, we drove close to seven hundred miles, which is probably three hundred miles more than we’ve driven in the thirteen months since we’ve moved to Mexico.

After we ate a really big pizza, then packed all of our boxes and bags and stuff into our rental car and then drove for an hour as we headed east, we stopped at a supermarket near our condo in Fountain Hills and bought two pints of ice cream, coffee, coffee creamer and a bottle of Claritin. It cost over sixty dollars. That was an unpleasant surprise. Life is so much more inexpensive in Mexico. You could probably get all of those things, and a couple of tacos, for ten bucks down here.

Fountain Hills is a very beautiful, very affluent city. You really have to see the mansions built into the hillsides to truly appreciate them. Words, in this instance, just aren’t going to do it justice.

And, of course, there’s the fountain. It’s in a park near the downtown area. Our condo was right across the street from it. The fountain more or less erupts every hour from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM for about fifteen minutes, and shoots jets of water roughly 300 feet into the air. At night, it’s lit up. It’s pretty cool, for a fountain.

We did have some official business to take care of while we were in the States. We had to have our new Last Will and Testament notarized. Nikki and Jay graciously agreed to be our witnesses. Afterwards, we all went to the bowling alley to eat walleye. I guess you can find bowling alleys in some of the larger cities in Mexico, but there are none in the Lakeside area, nor can you find a walleye dinner here.

* * * *

So, there was a fabulously elegant wedding. Shopping. Pizza. Friends. Walleye. And more friends. Lea and I saw as many people as we could in the short amount of time we were there.

I even did something I wasn’t planning on doing. I went back to work. Okay, I didn’t actually work. I only visited my last employer, but one of my former co-workers did ask me if I could work for her on Friday.

Nurses. Gotta love them.

Work, it seems, has changed quite a bit since I retired. We rarely had any open beds when I worked at Aurora Behavioral Health, but several new hospitals have opened, and a couple more are being built. While this is good news for the people who need psychiatric help, it’s not good news for the people who manage psychiatric hospitals.

Something has to give, and not all of those places are going to survive. You can oversaturate any market, and that will very likely happen in Phoenix in a year or two. And then there won’t be enough psychiatric beds available, and everything will be right back where it was once more.

I know I’ve said this before, but I do not miss working for a living. At all. However, I was more than a little surprised by how many people said they missed working with me. That was actually very humbling, and anyone who knows me knows that I am not a humble guy.

So thank you all so very much for that, but I’m more than satisfied with my current position and I have no intention of changing that any time soon.

* * * *

Along with all of the cyber-shopping Lea did before we returned to the States, she wanted to do some real time shopping, so we did that, too. There are no Target® stores in the Lakeside area, nor are there any Kohl’s®. I’m not sure I can say I missed shopping at either one of those places.

I’m a guy, and guys don’t love shopping. Most of the time. Unless it’s for big screen TV’s or home theater systems. There were plenty of things I could have purchased, but there wasn’t anything I needed, so I ended up wandering around a lots looking at things I wasn’t going to purchase.

It was still kind of nice to sort of go shopping. All of the stores had their Christmas displays up, and some of the stores might have been playing Christmas music.

I love Christmas, even if it starts right after Halloween nowadays.

Lea bought a few things, on sale of course, but not as many as I thought she would. Even she was surprised by how little she bought in the stores. I’d have to call that a pleasant surprise as well.

In between traveling from one side of the valley to the other side of the valley, we hung out at our cozy condo in Fountain Hills and watched American TV. The only real difference I could see between American and Canadian shows is they don’t talk about Canadia as much on American TV.

* * * *

With what time that remained in the States, we spent catching up with our friends and our spiritual family at Joe’s Church. Okay, it’s really called Just Church, and it meets at Imagine Prep in Surprise, AZ. Lea and I used to be greeters there. I wandered over to Einstein Corner where I used to greet and took a selfie of myself and Brother Al.

Little Known Fact About My Lovely Supermodel Wife: she has really weird dreams. Prior to our return trip to the States, she had a dream that we went to our old church. And no one spoke to us. Not the pastor. Not his wife. Nor any of our friends.

Luckily, my wife doesn’t have any prophetic talent either, and a lots of people talked to us, including the pastor. And his wife. And all of our friends. We invited all of them to come to Mexico, just not all at the same time.

* * * *

It’s football season, and the Vikings played the Redskins while we were in town, so we went to a sports bar to watch the game. Bill Sbiliris, one of the docs I used to work with met us there. So did Deb Goral, one of the nurses I used to work with.

Bill is a Vikings fan, so we had a great time watching the Vikings beat the Redskins on a really, really big TV. Deb is a Packers fan. Maybe I should have bought her a pizza…  But her team won that day, too, so she was happy, even without pizza.

There was another person/former co-worker who was supposed to meet us. Karen Rae Goff, one of my favorite social workers. But Karen forgot she was going to a NASCAR race when she said she’d come to the game, and then she remembered the race when she remembered that she hates football.

Maybe next time, Karen.

* * * *

We deliberately packed light when we flew back to the States so we’d have a lots of room in our luggage for the stuff Lea had purchased to bring back to Mexico, and that was a very good idea. We bought a lots of stuff. When we first saw all of the boxes and bags and more bags and boxes, Lea and I both thought we’d have to buy another suitcase to get all of our stuff home. Thanks to some creative packing, we were able to fit it all in our existing luggage, and even more surprising, we weren’t overweight on any of our luggage.

That was a very pleasant surprise.

And now we’re home once more, and it’s good to be home. No matter where you go or what you do, it’s always good to be home. I have grown accustomed to my very stress-free lifestyle, and so has my lovely supermodel wife.

Everyone we talked to said Hell had a more mild summer than they had in Phoenix this year. It does get incredibly hot there.

Yeah, really unfortunate we missed that…

I’m sure we’ll travel back to the good old USA again someday, but neither Lea nor I want to be in Minnesota during the winter, or in Arizona during the summer. I’m sure Lea will plan accordingly, unless it’s some kind of dire emergency.

Life can do that to you sometimes. No matter how well you prepare for it, Life will surprise you.

‘Tis the Season

Tomorrow is Halloween, the official start of what I call the Holiday Season. Well, other people probably call it that, too. All of the Big Ones are coming up now in rapid succession, and Halloween kick-starts it all. Fun for kids and even more fun for adults who love to wear costumes and go to parties. I have a few vague memories of some epic Halloween parties, and it’s probably best that they stay that way.

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. The Romans added a couple of their holidays to the Celtic festival, Feralia and the Festival of Pomona. If you’re curious about these things, you can look them up on the Interweb. The Catholic Church added a couple of twists, mostly to water down the pagan aspects, and we eventually ended up with the current holiday we celebrate and all of its trappings.

I tend to think of Halloween as a mostly North American, Canadian/American holiday, but I could be wrong about that. Maybe kids ‘Trick or Treat’ in Pakistan. Or China…  I doubt it, but it’s possible. I don’t think they do much of that in Mexico.

Halloween is still pretty much of a gringo holiday down here, but that’s probably starting to change. You can buy costumes at Walmart here in Lakeside, so it’s starting to creep into the culture. The big Mexican holiday down here is Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead. It’s a three day celebration, and when it comes to celebrating, Mexico takes a back seat to nobody.

From the beginning of October until New Year’s Day, there will be endless barrages of cohetes and bands and parades and fiestas, pretty much every day. Hardly anyone here will sleep for the next two months. It’s a really good thing I quit drinking before we moved here, or I’d rarely be sober. There’s something like unto a couple hundred of holidays down here, and half of them begin tomorrow.

I used to really love Halloween. When we lived in Minneapolis, my lovely supermodel wife and I used to carve pumpkins. We handed out tons of candy and sometimes shoveled snow. We had at least one huge honker of a blizzard on Halloween.

* * * *

Little Known Fact About Me: I love the Holiday Season. Granted, as a nurse I tended to celebrate most of those occasions by working, but that’s the way it went. Be that as it may, we always celebrated the holidays, even if we had to wait until I finished my shift.

Little Known Fact About My Lovely Supermodel Wife: Lea is an excellent cook, and she has served up some awesome Thanksgiving feasts over the years. And I have loved them all.

According to legend, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in November of 1621. The Pilgrims in Massachusetts and their Native American buddies got together and had a feast, and it kind of caught on. Until the white settlers decided they needed to get rid of all the natives, but that’s another story for another day.

George Washington issued a proclamation in 1789, a National Day of Thanks and Gratitude kind of thing. Abraham Lincoln issued another proclamation in 1863, and set the date for Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. I’m not sure when a turkey dinner became synonymous with the holiday, but I’m sure my Uncle Don was pleased. He raised a lots of turkeys.

Little Known Fact About Turkeys: they originated in Mexico. Another funny thing, turkey isn’t a very popular item at any Mexican restaurant. The Mexican people are very gracious and will cook a traditional gringo Thanksgiving feast at many of the fine dining establishments down here. Lea and I went to one last year with a lots of our friends, but we’re planning on celebrating at home this year.

Traditional American holiday or not, we love get together at least once a year to give thanks, and eat ourselves  into a coma, and watch football. Well, that’s more or less what I do…  And when we lived in Minneapolis, I’m sure I shoveled a lots of snow. Until I got a snowblower.

I don’t miss snow at all, but I do miss my snowblower. Go figure.

* * * *

Christmas is arguably the biggest holiday of them all, and the only reason I say that  is because everything is arguable nowadays, even things that shouldn’t be.

Christmas, on a superficial level, is a Christian religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. On a deeper level it’s a combination of that, the Winter Solstice, the Roman festival of the Saturnalia and a melange of any other number of beliefs and customs.

Anyone ever heard of Santa Claus? You can no longer have Christmas without Santa Claus. I can’t think of another person more closely associated with a major nonreligious holiday than Santa, and that includes Jesus, and St Patrick. No one dresses up like St Patrick. No one even knows what he looks like. Does Jesus come down the chimney and give you presents? Nope, he does not.

Christmas has become a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. Decorations, presents, wrapping paper and trees. It all adds up. Christmas is big business. Entrepreneurs live for Christmas. And it’s probably kudos to them, and Coca-Cola®, and Hollywood for making Santa Claus the superstar that he’s become.

I lived for Christmas when I was a kid, even though half of my presents were stupid things like socks and underwear. Eight kids. We all got a lots of socks and underwear for Christmas.

But then there was the good stuff. Toys. Games. More toys and and games. It was sweet. I tried like hell to be a good person simply because of Christmas. I didn’t want to be on The Naughty List.

Christmas became less magical as I got older, but I can’t think of anything that didn’t. Being so far from my children and family has had an impact. If nothing else, Christmas is a time for family. And yet Christmas still retains something special to me–maybe it was the memories, maybe it is something more.

And when we lived in Minneapolis, I’m sure I used my snowblower. I think Lea bought me my first snowblower for Christmas. I used to clear all the sidewalks on my block.

Merry Christmas to all, and your sidewalks are clean!

* * * *

New Year’s Eve is another worldwide celebration, and the reason for that is simple. The last year probably sucked and everyone is hoping the next year will be better. It can’t get any worse, can it?

Oh yes, it can.

This has been the most relaxing, least stressful year I’ve ever had since I was a kid, and I can’t wait for this year to end. We’ll be one year closer to getting Donald Trump out of the White House.

This is simply my opinion, but Donald represents everything that’s wrong with the world, and he’s proud of that. If God ever needed a reason to speed up His timeline…

When I was much younger, I used to go out every New Year’s Eve to celebrate with my friends. And then there was one year when I went out all by myself. I was in nursing school, standing at a bar in downtown St Cloud, drinking a beer. When midnight came, everyone started cheering and hugging and kissing.

The guy standing next to me said, “Hey, I’m Tim. Happy New Year.” I introduced myself, and we shook hands.

It was one of the loneliest moments of my life. It was also the last time I ever went to a bar to celebrate that holiday.

* * * *

I haven’t written much lately. I haven’t felt much like writing. I started out writing about my nursing career, but the longer I don’t do that anymore, the less I think about the days when I did. I might get back to writing about that again someday, but we’ll see. Part of me believes I’ve already written all of the best stories I have to tell about being a psych nurse.

I spent a fair amount time writing about what an idiot I was when I was drinking and doing drugs for a living. I have a lots of stories to tell about those days, and some of them are really funny. For that reason alone, I might be tempted to say more, even though I’m not sure I want to remember more about those days…

There’s not much to say about my current life, other than it doesn’t suck at all, and yours probably does, simply because you may still be working for a living. Start feeding your 401K now. You’ll thank yourself later.

I have never enjoyed being alive as much as I do now. I get to spend every day with the woman I love, and I cherish this time we have together. I played the best game of golf I’ve probably ever played a few days ago. It doesn’t get a whole lots more better gooder than this.

The only reason I wrote this is because the last time I talked to Jane Castleman, she told me to keep writing, and I respect her opinion. Not my best work, for sure. Probably not my worst either.

Have a safe and happy holiday season. Eat your kid’s candy. Watch out for the sugar buzz. Have another helping of everything for Thanksgiving. If you’re too full for dessert, eat pumpkin pie for breakfast the next morning. Yeah, you can do that, unless your mom tells you you can’t.

May your Christmas be perfect. If there were ever a time for perfection, it’s Christmas. Enjoy the time with your family. You never get it back, and you don’t get a do over. Remember the reason for the season. Jesus wasn’t really born on Christmas Day, but he was born, and he was born to be our King. And just like Aragon, son of Arathorn, someday he will return, too.

Stay safe, and more or less sober, celebrating the new year. Each year has the potential to be better than the last, but will probably be just as tragic as the last. What will be, will be. Anticipate the best, but steel yourself for the worst. You’ll probably find both no matter what you do.

And, just for fun, may your team win the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday isn’t a national holiday anywhere, but it should be, and it should be the official end of the holiday season. Maybe some day it will be…

Attitude really is everything. If you can remember that, you’ll get through anything life will throw at you. And I with that, I wish you the best of success until the next time. Whenever that might be.

Viva Las Vegas

I love Las Vegas. My lovely supermodel wife and I have been there several times, and we’ve always had a blast. We don’t go there to gamble. And now that I’ve quit drinking, we don’t go there to party. We like staying in the luxurious hotels. We love the shows, and fine dining, and the people watching.

But the other day, something happened in Vegas that didn’t stay in Vegas.

Dear God, where were you that day? There are a whole lots of hurting people down here who could have really used your help and protection.

On the offhand chance you haven’t seen the news, a lone gunman opened fire on a crowd of people attending a concert in Las Vegas with multiple automatic weapons, killing over fifty people and wounding something like unto five hundred.

And while we are left feeling stunned and shocked, and filled with dismay; there’s one thing none of us are.

Surprised.

It’s a sad fact of our lives that these occurrences have become all too commonplace. If a mass shooting can be described as four or more people, do you have any idea how many of those have happened in the last ten years? I don’t know the exact number, but I know there have been hundreds of them.

Hundreds. Let that sink in for a moment.

And the even sadder fact is almost all of us have come to believe that nothing can be done to change it. I am one of those people. And there’s a reason for that. The most obvious solution to this problem is the hands of our elected officials in Congress.

Need I say more?

It’s a gun issue! No, it’s a mental health issue!

Both of those arguments have merit, but the solution, if there is one, is hardly that black and white. So let’s take a look at them.

* * * *

It’s a gun issue.

We need better gun control.

That seems like the most obvious solution, doesn’t it? But there’s that whole Second Amendment thing. And the icing on that cake is the NRA. There are many powerful lobbyist organizations at work in America, but not many of the them have the political clout and power of the NRA.

What seems to be missing in this issue is another inalienable right, and that is all about not having to live in fear that you might got dead going to the movies, or to a concert, or going out to dinner.

If there weren’t a multitude of reasons for term limits in Congress, this issue in and of itself should be enough to mandate its implementation.

Guns don’t kill people!

Oh yes, Virginia, yes they do. And in the violent country of my birth, they kill a lots of people on a daily basis.

Personally, I’m not sure gun control is the only answer, and I don’t own a single gun. I know a lots of people who do, and none of them have killed so much as one person. And that’s true for the majority of gun owners. If this were strictly a gun issue, the gun owners living in an area as small as Northern Idaho could’ve killed everyone in the US already, twice.

That said, I can’t think of any reason why anyone would need to own an automatic assault weapon unless they needed to kill a whole lots of people to death at once in a very short amount of time. Without the arsenal he had, the guy in Las Vegas would’ve been hard pressed to kill even one person attending the concert from where he was.

Should there be a ban on the sale of assault weapons in the the United States? In my opinion, yes there should be. Will that be enough to stem the tide of future occurrences like what just happened in Las Vegas?

Good question. Let’s find out.

* * * *

It’s a mental health issue. 

I used to be a psych nurse, and this argument pisses me off so much I want to kill someone. If it’s only the crazy people killing everyone else to death, then working in Psychiatry would be the most dangerous job on the planet, and pysch nurses would have gone extinct years ago.

Most of the craziest people I’ve known have been too disorganized to figure out how to turn on the fucking shower, let alone plan and carry out a massacre of dozens of people.

There’s a whole lots of people working in law enforcement right now who are trying to figure out why the shooter in Las Vegas did what he did. Why don’t we ask him?

Oh. That’s right. He’s dead.

And that’s what has happened to almost every person who has chosen to take this course of action, so we’re never going to know exactly why he, or any of them, did what they did.

Was he mentally unstable? We’d certainly like to think so. Sane people don’t do these kinds of things, do they? No, they most certainly don’t! When trying to put the pieces of an investigation like unto this together, law enforcement officials generally find out the person they’re investigating is:

Well, he was a quiet guy. He kept to himself. He seemed like a normal person, you know. He liked to eat pizza. And burritos. No, he never said anything about wanting to kill anyone. I didn’t know he even owned a gun…

In other words, there were no warning signs, nothing that even hinted at any danger. In general, most mass murderers don’t seem to be anything beyond nondescript, until they do something that isn’t nondescript. It’s too bad because they’d be a whole lots more easier to stop if they were more up front about their intentions.

Oh yeah, he was always talking about killing people. In fact, that’s just about the only thing he talked about.

And did you take any actions to stop him?

We sure did! We got rid of all the hammers! And his mother hid the cheese grater in her underwear drawer in the bedroom!

For some reason, that part about the cheese grater seems to be something that actually happened with one of my former patients, but I might be wrong about that…

I have a theory about why people decide to kill a whole lots of people to death before they kill themselves, and Andy Warhol summed it up when he said, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.”

We can’t all be Paris Hilton or one of the Kardashians…

Let’s suppose for a moment this actually is a mental health issue. What are we as a society doing to combat this crisis? Has there been an increase in resources to provide better care?

Um, no.

In fact, Congress has been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And if you follow that logic, it’s probably because the NRA told them to do it.

* * * *

I felt like dying yesterday. If my lovely supermodel wife’s birthday wasn’t today, I would’ve been happy to check out, but that probably would’ve ruined her birthday today, so I’m glad to still be alive and be together with her.

The horrifying events that happened in Las Vegas will fade from our memories, and in a few months we’ll probably be collectively shocked and dismayed by another equally terrible and senseless event.

And nothing will be done to prevent it from happening again.

Back to Basics

The rainy season continues. It’s incredibly green down here. The Chinese Mountains in front of our house look like heads of broccoli. I’m not sure what the real name of the mountains are, but I call them the Chinese Mountains.

Las montañas de chino, in Spanish.

I think they look like the mountains in old Chinese paintings.

* * * *

Remember the movie, Mr Mom? 1983. Michael Keaton. Terri Garr.

Michael Keaton’s character loses his job and becomes a stay at home dad. After a few months of misadventures, he becomes disillusioned. He gives up taking care of the house. He gains weight, grows a beard, and spends most of his days drinking beer and watching soap operas on TV.

That’s kind of where my lovely supermodel wife and I are at right now.

Okay, it’s not that bad. Lea hasn’t grown a beard, and I haven’t started drinking and watching soap operas, so at least we caught it in time. And now that we’ve been able to identify what’s happening, we can come up with a plan of action to do something about it.

And we haven’t lost our jobs. We’re retired. Lea’s been retired for over an year. My one year anniversary will be here at the end of next month. The issues we face are vastly different than if we were still trying to remain gainfully employed.

We don’t have any debt. We don’t have any institutions we owe money to. We have monthly expenses, and that’s all. It’s pretty damn cool, and I haven’t been free from debt since I was twenty-one.

That was forty years ago. And as weird as this might sound, it’s time to get back to basics.

* * * *

I enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. The first stop in my military career was Fort Ord, CA for basic training. Fort Ord was located around Monterey Bay. It opened in 1917, and closed in 1994, twenty years after I was there.

If the Federal government has any common sense, they’ll sell the land to developers and make a ton of money.

From what I remember, Fort Ord was a nondescript place, mostly sand and ice plants, scrub oak and poison ivy. And of all those, sand was predominant. I once described Fort Ord as a sand trap on the fourth hole of Life.

I’m pretty sure that description stands the test of time.

I arrived at Fort Ord in July of 1974. I was eighteen years old. The one thing I was sure of after I had been there for a couple of days was that I had made a terrible mistake. After talking to a few of the other guys, I knew I wasn’t the only one who had come to that conclusion.

I still remember some of the guys in my squad. Day. Moreno. Marthaler. Dennison. Mramer. I remember those guys better than I do most of the people I went to nursing school with ten years later. We all joined the Army for a myriad of reasons, but none of us were overly gung ho about it.

Marthaler and I were both from Minnesota. We were bunk mates. He slept on top. Dennison was probably my best friend in boot camp. We talked about a lots of stuff. We had similar interests. It helped the time go by. Day and Moreno were my buds. I helped them survive the obstacle course, and they helped me survive everything else. Day taught me how to play chess. Moreno made me laugh. Mramer and I hated each other. I’m not sure why. We never discussed it. I’m not sure we ever spoke to one another. But I’m pretty sure he hated me, and as a result, I know I hated him.

* * * *

I was assigned to Company A-4-3, fourth platoon, first squad. Our company commander was Captain Heller. He had a painting of a a bunch of marching penguins placed right above the mess hall doors. He thought penguins were the epitome of military attention. We were the Marching Penguins of Fort Ord, and all of the other companies laughed at us.

We hated those fucking penguins.

Our instructor was Drill Sergeant Byrum. DS Byrum was from North Carolina. He was slender and short, maybe a little taller than me. He wore glasses, and had a mustache. He looked like Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. Despite his meek and mild looks, he wasn’t a man to mess with. He had killed more than one enemy combatant with nothing more than a knife and his hands.

DS Byrum had been a tunnel rat in Nam before becoming a drill sergeant, just like Forrest Gump. He had been wounded several times, and had lost several feet of his small intestine as  can result of one of his wounds. All our training cadre had served at least one tour of duty in Vietnam, and they all had quite a bit to say about it.

The Vietnam War had become very unpopular in the US, and I can’t remember a single guy in my platoon that wanted to go there. I certainly didn’t. The war was a topic of heated discussion whenever we weren’t being run into the ground, learning how to be soldiers.

There were two groups. The guys who thought it was our duty to fight for our country, no matter where that might be, and the war was right. And there were the guys who thought America had no business being in Vietnam, and the war was wrong.

I was one of the latter. So was Dennison.

In addition, whether by accident or design, all of the fuck ups were assigned to the fourth platoon. We all knew we were fuck ups because DS Byrum told us we were. We were the platoon of misfits from Stripes.

Our first meeting with DS Byrum went something like unto this:

It was 4:00 AM on a Monday morning in late July. Everyone in my platoon was asleep in the barracks. And then I heard the sound of an empty metal garbage can being thrown down the middle of the barracks floor, echoing as it bounced off the floor and metal bedframes. And a voice was shouting, “Get. The. Fuck. Up!”

His voice continued as my platoon slowly roused itself and started getting dressed.

“I am Drill Sergeant Byrum, and you will address me as such if you want to live! Do not call me Sergeant! Do not call me Sir! Every rotation of new recruits has a platoon of fuck ups, and gentlemen, you are that platoon! You might be fuck ups now, but ten weeks from now you are going to be the best platoon in this company, or you will die trying! Now, rise and shine! Get. The. Fuck. Up!”

And for the next ten weeks, that’s more or less how every morning started.

* * * *

DS Byrum is memorable to me for at least one particular talent. He couldn’t correctly pronounce anyone’s name. Well, he could say Day’s name correctly, but the rest of us fuck ups got a fucked up name. My last name is Rowen. I became Private Roland.

Basic training serves a series of important military functions, probably. Initial processing. There’s a ton of paperwork that has to be filled out in triplicate, and processed on each new soldier. We were issued a literal ton of military equipment and uniforms that we had to sign for. In triplicate. With each step and each signature, we became a little less civilian, and a bit more military in thought and appearance. That process reached its fruition when we all received our trainee haircut which made all of us look like unto Bryan Baeumler.

That haircut was a rite of passage. Before it, we were still individuals with an unique identify. After it, we were officially soldiers, all equally bald and bereft of identity and individuality, and our real training began.

* * * *

The three most important aspects of boot camp are to brainwash each new recruit to stop thinking like a civilian, to start them thinking the way the Army wants them to think, and to get them into the best physical shape they could be in to die in the service of their country, if necessary.

“Men. There are two ways to do something. The wrong way, and the Army way. You are here to learn to do everything the Army way, and you will learn to do so without question, or your Army career will end somewhere in the next ten weeks. Do. You. Understand. Me!

“Yes, drill sergeant!”

And the first thing you better learn is that sentence. Or you’ll end up doing a whole lots of push ups. Even if you learn that sentence better than anyone ever has, you’ll still end up doing a whole lots of push ups. There might be things drill sergeants enjoy more than making everyone do push ups, but I’m not sure what they could be.

“Give me fifty.” was one of the most popular lines spoken in boot camp. After a couple of weeks or so, doing fifty push ups was nothing. Another favorite line was, “Give me one hundred.” The worst part about this line was it was usually said at 2:00 AM, and it was generally prefaced with a speech.

“Men! I heard some of you have been crying to your girlfriends and to your mamas on the phone. My drill sergeant doesn’t like me because I’m black! He doesn’t like me because I’m Mexican! Men! That’s a bunch of bullshit!  I don’t care if you’re black! I don’t care if you’re brown. Or yellow. Or white. I hate each and every one of you motherfuckers equally! Do. You. Understand. Me? There’s only one color in this Army, and that color is green! Now, get down and give me one hundred!”

Or there was this speech from Drill Sergeant Camacho in the early morning hours, in the pouring rain while the entire company stood outside in our underwear. A couple of guys got into a fight earlier in the day, and DS Camacho didn’t want any of that shit going on on his watch.

“Men! I heard some of you guys think you’re tough. I heard some of you guys think you’re real badasses. I heard some of you guys like to fight. Is that true? Do we have any fighters out there? Because I want you tough guys to know one thing! If any of you fuckers want to fight, you can fight me and I’ll beat the living shit out of you! I’ll kick your fucking ass! Are there any badasses out there now? Are there any tough guys out there that want to fight me?”

“No, drill sergeant.”

“I. Can’t. Hear. You.”

“NO, DRILL SERGEANT!”

“That’s more like it! Now, get down and give me two hundred!”

* * * *

We had a whole lots of drill sergeants. Each platoon had a primary and secondary instructor. We had Byrum and Camacho. There were at least six other instructors who collaborated to make all of our lives as miserable as legally possible, plus a rotation of instructors in training. I can’t remember all of them anymore.

The only one of them I can remember clearly is DS O’Connor. I think he was one of first platoon’s instructors. His father was an American serviceman stationed in the Pacific, and his mother was a Polynesian native. He was half American and half Polynesian. He was…Amnesian.

* * * *

Boot camp is a new miserable experience for everyone that has to endure it. The only free time you have is when you go to bed, and sleep is your only escape mechanism, unless you decide to try to escape from the Army. And there’s always at least one guy who tries to go AWOL in boot camp.

In my unit, it was Calvin. That was his last name. No one has a first name in boot camp. He was most definitely a fuck up, but I don’t think he was in my platoon. I wonder how that happened? In addition to the mangled names DS Byrum gave us, almost everyone had a nickname. And Drill Sergeant Byrum helped me get mine one day when my platoon was in formation.

“Private Roland! I understand you had a meeting with the company commander this morning.”

“Yes, drill sergeant!” Everyone in the company knew about it. I was called to Captain Keller’s office while we were eating breakfast in the mess hall.

“Why did the captain want to see you?”

“I’d rather not say, drill sergeant.”

“Did I ask you if you had an opinion, Private Roland? Get down and give me fifty. Now, tell the rest of the platoon why the captain wanted to see you.” 

“He…he asked me if I wanted to go to West Point, drill sergeant.”

“And what did you tell the captain?”

“I told him I wasn’t interested, drill sergeant.”

“Do you hear that, men? Private Roland turned down an appointment to attend the finest university in the entire world, just so he could stay here with you. Is that correct, Private Roland?”

“Yes, drill sergeant!”

* * * *

Captain Heller was more than a little surprised when I told him I wasn’t interested in going to West Point.

“Take some time, think about it for a day. Talk to your parents. This is a great opportunity, son. You’re not going to get another chance like this again, ever. I can guarantee you that.”

“Yes, sir. You’re right about that, sir. But I don’t need any more time to think about this. I’m not interested.”

“Well, okay. But I think you’re making a big mistake with your life, son. Dismissed.”

* * * *

“That’s the stupidest fuckin’ thing I’ve ever heard, Private! Why would you turn down the opportunity to have a free college education at the best center of higher learning in the entire universe?”

I had at least one good reason for not wanting to go to West Point. I already knew I hated being in the Army, and the sooner I got out of the Army, the happier I was going to be. West Point was a four year commitment, plus another four years of service in the military on top of that.

Eight years in the Army was five more years than my enlistment. At that time in my life, it seemed like unto two eternities. All I wanted to do was serve my three years, and go back to Montana and marry my high school sweetheart.

But that wasn’t anything I wanted to tell Drill Sergeant Byrum, so I told him something I was pretty sure he’d like to hear.

“Permission to speak freely, drill sergeant.”

“By all means, Roland. I cannot wait to hear what you have to say.”

“I didn’t want to end up being a goddamn officer, drill sergeant.”

“Well, Private Roland. The captain told me you were smart, but that is fuckin’ genius! That is the best reason I’ve ever heard!” And he smiled, and laughed. He might have even clapped me on the back.

I think DS Byrum actually liked me for a minute there. And that was a bad thing. The last thing you wanted in boot camp was to be seen as someone your drill sergeant liked, for any reason. And another bad thing was being considered better than everyone else. Before I even knew it was my turn to bat, I already had two strikes. In one fell swoop I had developed something like unto leprosy as far as almost everyone in my platoon was concerned.

They started calling me Captain. It might sound cool, but in boot camp it’s like unto the Kiss of Death. It wasn’t a sign of respect, but rather, contempt.

* * * *

You get to do an endless amount of marching in boot camp. You march everywhere. And while you march, you sing. The Army has a buttload of a shitload of a ton of marching songs. Most of them have something to do with pretty women, getting drunk and killing things. Singing helps you find a rhythm to the mindless task of marching, and it helps you move in unison with the guys around you. Doing everything in unison is not only critical to the smooth functioning of your unit, but the entire Army.

If you can’t learn to march in unison as a platoon, you’ll never be able to march in unison to the Army way of life. And the first thing you have to do in order to be a good soldier is to stop asking questions.

“Private Roland, the Army is not paying you to think. You decided not to go to West Point, remember? The Army is paying you to do whatever I tell you to do! Now, get down and give me fifty!”

If I had one hundred dollars for every time DS Byrum told me that, I probably could’ve retired at the end of basic training. That was easily the hardest part of boot camp for me. Accepting something as the truth from a guy who couldn’t even pronounce my name correctly was tough.

All of the training we received was designed for a dual purpose. To keep us alive if we were ever in a combat situation, and to pass all of the testing we would have to endure in boot camp. It made sense, even back then. All that testing tended to weed out the weakest members of the herd. We were being tested, and all of us had to pass a battery of tests along the way. Weapons training. Shooting range. Hand grenades.

We were trained and drilled. Retrained, and redrilled. Then trained and drilled some more. On the days of our final testing, we were driven to the ranges to test out on weapons. The M-16 rifle. The M-60 machine gun. Hand grenades. Whatever. The Army wanted us rested and relaxed on those days.

The rest of the time it wanted us miserable and exhausted, and probably the most exhausting endeavor of boot camp was bivouac. Think of camping while you’re in the Army, then add automatic weapons and live ammunition. And drill sergeants yelling at you. It was supposed to be the closest thing to actual combat experience training we would receive.

I was paired up with Moreno, we would share a tent for the next week while we were out in the field. I think Moreno chose me because I was smaller than he was, and I didn’t snore.

“You won’t take up a lot of room, and you won’t keep me awake at night, like Day. He snores like a fuckin’ chainsaw.” Moreno said. He was one of the few people that didn’t treat me differently after I chose not to go to the Military Academy. Even Dennison did. I think he was pissed he didn’t get asked if he wanted to go to the Military Academy. “What the fuck do those morons know? How many of them were asked to go to West Point?” 

That was a good question. There were plenty of other guys that were easily as smart as me, like Dennison. He was probably smarter than I was. And yet…

For the first and only time, we didn’t march in close formation, but were spread out in a long column. Drill sergeants ran up and down the line, telling some to spread out, others to hurry up  and close ranks a bit. Moreno and I stayed near the back of the column and talked. Moreno was a funny guy. He joked about almost everything, and that made the long march tolerable.

Bivouac maneuvers started out benignly enough. We marched. That was nothing new, but this march didn’t stop. We marched for four hours straight. For lunch we ate C-rations, then marched for another four or five hours.

At some point in the afternoon, we were ‘attacked,’ and had to dive for cover. Live ammunition was being fired in our general direction, about fifty feet above our heads. The area I ended up in was a few scrub oaks surrounded by a field of poison ivy, so I decided I needed another place to dive for cover.

“Private Roland! What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m getting out of this poison ivy, drill sergeant.”

“Private, we are under attack! You need to drop to ground! Now!”

“We are not under attack. I’m not in any danger of being killed. There’s a place without any poison ivy right there! That’s where I’m going.”

“Private Roland! You drop to the ground right where you are, right now, and that’s a goddamn order!”

I’m not sure I have ever hated a man so much as I hated DS Byrum at that moment in time. I dropped to one knee.

“All the way down. To the fuckin’ ground, Private! Now, goddamnit!”

I ended up with the worst case of poison ivy anyone has ever seen, including the bivouac doctor at Sick Call the next morning. He gave me a tiny bottle of calomine lotion, and told me to come back if I needed more. I started every morning standing in line to get more calomine lotion, trying not to scratch any part of my body.

Oddly enough, having to dive into the poison ivy ended up being kind of a blessing. Arguing with DS Byrum wasn’t something new for me, but the fact that he had to give me a direct order made the other guys in my platoon dislike me less. It proved to them I wasn’t an asskissing egghead who probably should have been smart enough to go to West Point.

Plus, I had an ugly ass rash all over my body, and there wasn’t a more miserable looking person on the planet than I looked that week.

It was one of the longest weeks of my life. Ever. Even now it was probably only exceeded in emotional misery by the week my mother-in-law died, and even then, I wasn’t covered by the itchy rash of poison ivy, nor did I have to march ten miles a day.

* * * *

If boot camp is nothing but an endless test, the final exam of boot camp is the Fitness Test. I can’t remember how many different sets of exercises we had to complete beyond several of them, but every skill was measured, timed and graded. Your final score determined whether or not you would be able to leave Fort Ord, boot camp, and continue onward in the Army. The final component of the Fitness Test was the mile run.

You could run as fast as you liked, but the slowest acceptable time was eight minutes.

Some of the guys I was in boot camp with were phenoms at certain skills, and their scores were legendary. Like Mramer. He could run like a sprinter for at least a mile. I wasn’t spectacular at any of the Fitness skills, but I was consistently average. Not great, but good enough to pass.

That pretty much sums up my entire academic career. And my military career, for that matter.

After that, boot camp was essentially over. There was a ceremony. A general gave a speech. I shook DS Byrum’s hand, and thanked him for making my life a living hell.

And for those of you who think I should have jumped at the chance to attend the Military Academy, maybe you’re right. But the judgement I had to endure in boot camp is the same thing I would’ve had to endure if I had decided to go to West Point. The You Don’t Belong Here Judgement.

I would’ve been hated by a better class of people. Instead of being too good to be an enlisted man, I wouldn’t have been good enough to be an officer, but that’s the only difference.

* * * *

As much as I hated boot camp, I’m sure I learned some important lessons there. It is only through facing adversity that one truly grows. I learned discipline. I learned how to persevere. I learned how to focus my diffuse anger. Unfortunately, I learned to focus it at the Army. And I learned something about patience. Those were all good things to know, and they came in handy over the years. But it would take me a very long time to learn all about patience.

Patience is the least of my concerns. Waiting is probably the last thing I need to do. However, just what it is that I’m supposed to do isn’t immediately clear. I have a few ideas that I’ve been mulling over, and Lea has a couple of things she wants to do. Everything will fall into place.

It always has so far.

And it’s not like my whole world has fallen apart. It simply hasn’t fallen together. There’s a big difference between the two.

Maybe I’ll get started by doing some push ups…

The Writer’s Almanac

Before I get into whatever this piece is going to turn into, I’d like to say, Hi, Jane! And just so there’s no confusion, the picture isn’t me. That’s Garrison Keillor. Among his many achievements and accomplishments, Garrison Keillor is a very good writer.

I’ve been enjoying writing lately. It’s a good thing, I suppose. I could certainly do worse things with my time. And if the opening line of this installment leaves you feeling bewildered, welcome to the club. That’s how I usually feel when I start writing.

I sometimes have a very good idea of what I’m going to write about, but more often than not, I don’t. I usually have a topic or theme floating around in my head, and sometimes I have a sentence I like, and want to use it somewhere in my post. That’s about it. It’s like unto taking a sink to an architect’s office and saying, “Design and build a house around this.”

And if you’re wondering, Jane is probably the most ardent reader I have, so I thought I’d acknowledge that.

* * * *

The rainy season has impacted my latest hobby, hitting golf balls. I can’t golf in the rain. But it has given me something else to do. Drain our pool. Our rental house came equipped with an hydropool that we don’t use, so there’s usually no water in it. It’s essentially become a gigantic rain gauge and deathpit for insects. We got about an inch of rain yesterday, but we got an additional four inches this morning.

Rain water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, so I grab my shop vac and suck all the water out of the pool. I do not like mosquitoes. It’s a relatively simple procedure, so I don’t mind doing it. And the pool always looks great when I’m done.

The rainy season has brought forth a whole lots of tiny Mexican tree frogs. They come out at night, and sing in a chorus of peeppeeppeeppeep sounds. It’s kind of soothing, and it’s pretty cool to fall asleep to.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I went shopping today. We found everything we were looking for, except coffee filters. You’d think they’d be in the same aisle as the coffee, but that’s not the case at El Walmart.

Esto es Mexico…

I’m sure that news made a couple of hearts skip a beat, but fear not, and be of good faith. Coffee filters are available down here. I know I’ve bought them somewhere down here, probably not at Walmart, but somewhere. Most, if not all, of the retail stores down here go out of their way to cater to the gringo population. We are here, and we are legion.

This place really is the closest thing to Heaven on Earth.

* * * *

A few days ago, one of my virtual friends asked me if I missed the United States, and the simple answer is no. Not at all. There are only two things I really miss. Rosati’s pizza and paved roads. Before my friends get offended, you are not things. 

Yesterday, I was notified by Facebook that I have 650 friends. I might’ve had around 300 friends before I retired, so I’ve been busy expanding my social circle. I accepted a virtual friend request from a gal yesterday, then waited. Within a matter of minutes, I received a message. I almost always get a message after I accept a request from someone.

Thankfully, she didn’t want to send me naked pictures. She wanted to sex chat, I think. I’m guessing about that, mostly because I’ve never been in this swamp before. She asked if I wanted to Skype and we could chat. She said I looked like an interesting guy and she wanted to know more about me.

I sent her link to my blog and told her anything she’d ever need to know about me was in here. I haven’t heard another word from her. I guess I’m not that interesting after all.

I’m not sure why, but I think that’s one of the funniest things, ever. And I should stop accepting friend requests from people I don’t know.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I are going out tonight with some friends. We’re going to Perry’s Pizza. He’s making his chicken fried chicken dinner especially for our group. I’m totally looking forward to that. There will be photos posted on my Facebook page.

I love being retired. I’m not sure how rewarding it is, but it’s most definitely a nice reward for all those years of working my ass off toward this end.

* * * *

One of my real friends and former co-workers has been writing something like unto her memoirs. She’s a nurse, and she’s one of the good ones. On her Facebook page this morning she confessed how difficult this process has been for her.

I knew going into writing this book that healed scars would be opened up again and feelings that I haven’t had in years would resurface. I was prepared for that. I was prepared for raw emotions and ready to share the deepest, darkest parts of my journey…  Or so I thought. 

Ah, Tiffany. I know your pain. I wasn’t planning on writing today until I read her post. I accidently ended up writing some Tales From the Darkside of my life after I started writing my blog. Unlike Tiffany, I wasn’t aware of what that can do to your soul, but I would find out quickly. It’s like unto crossing a swamp. It looks daunting when you get to it, but you tell yourself it won’t be that bad.

Look! There’s a little path here! If I just stay on that, I’ll be fine…

But that path will disappear quickly, and in front of you will be dark, fetid water of an undetermined depth and a shitload of mud and muck. Then you’re faced with a decision. Turn around and try to find a way around the swamp. That’s not going to be easy. It’s a big swamp. Or, you can keep going forward and try to get through the swamp as quickly as possible. You almost always decide to go forward. The mud sucks at your feet and legs as you try to slog your way forward, and the water is full of leeches.

That was the paragraph I had in my mind when I started this post.

Opening up old wounds is mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically draining. It hurts like hell. It’s like unto passing a fucking kidney stone, and I know that pain, too. Seeing how none of your old wounds were obtained in a vacuum, it’s not just your wounds that end up being opened.

After you’ve decided to go into that swamp once, you know what it looks like when you’re going to venture into it a second time. I’ve been there intentionally a few times. I’m pretty sure I’ve lost at least one reader of my blog by going there. And there’s nothing funny about that.

She was a real friend of mine, probably my oldest friend.

I like to joke about how no one ever reads my blog, but I’ve probably had a couple of thousand people who have at least visited my site, which isn’t all that bad. I follow a couple of other bloggers who are vastly more successful than I am. They have more visitors to their sites in a day than I get in a month.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous.

But I remind myself that I not doing this as a competition, and those bloggers have been doing this for a long time. Their blogs also have a more specific focus than mine, so their audience is there for a more specific reason.

I originally started writing my blog about my nursing career in Psychiatry, and it has gone off on some pretty weird tangents over time. While I’m sure there were compelling reasons for doing this, though they haven’t always been immediately recognizable to me. It’s one of the hazards of going through most of your life unconscious…

Waking up is hard to do.

I’ve been in the process waking up for about ten years now, and it hasn’t always been pretty. Be that as it may, the life I was living before that was a lots less pretty. I still get flashes of memories that hit me out of nowhere, leaving me wondering where that came from and what am I supposed to do with it now? Sometimes those flashbacks are unsettling and disturbing. Sometimes they’re just annoying. Sometimes they’re really funny, and I laugh out loud. If my life before was an almost endless binge, part of my healing process has involved a fair amount of purging.

And in the process, I’m sure I opened some old wounds that weren’t only mine. Many people have said I simply did what I had to do get all that poison out of my system, You did what you had to do! they said. And I probably said something like unto this at least once, It was never my intention to hurt anyone.

That said, if that’s your defense, you knew someone was going to get hurt in advance.

Life, and its many facets, can be an incredibly beautiful and poignant thing. It can also be very ugly and sordid. Most of the time it’s somewhere in between. Life, for lack of a better description at this point in my waking up process, is what it is. It’s a description I’ve never especially liked because it’s so banal.

And yet…

Life, as messy as it can be, still beats the alternative. And before you get the idea I’m a tortured soul in search of peace, that would be wrong. I’m more at peace than I’ve ever been. I have learned to appreciate all that I’ve been given, and to see the Bigger Picture. I have a more balanced view of my life, and myself.

And I am mostly content.

In the long run, cleansing your soul and ridding yourself off all that unnecessary baggage is ugly and dirty work, but it’s worth it.

Night has fallen, and the frogs are peeping. This seems like a good place to stop. Good night, and sweet dreams to you.

Living in the Virtual World

¡Hola! ¿Que pasa?

Things are pretty chill down here in Mexico. The rainy season is still in progress, though it hasn’t rained for the last three days. My lovely supermodel wife and I are still in love with being retired. We’re still mostly happily adjusting to our new lives and the new culture in which we’re living.

The most significant change we’ve encountered at Casa del Selva has been the hummingbird population. We used to have seventy thousand hummingbirds at our feeders, and we’d have to refill them eight times a day. Lea was worried we’d burn through our pension funds buying sugar.

I wondered if we could claim them as dependents…

It turns out Mexican hummingbirds are migratory, and they go somewhere else to raise their young, probably Texas. I wonder if President Don Jon Un knows about the illegally immigrating Mexican hummingbirds, and how he’s planning on stopping them…

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We’re down to about seven hummingbirds. One feeder will last for eight days or more. Lea is really bummed out. I kind of miss the ravenous horde, too. They were fun to watch, and they kept me on my toes whenever I wandered out on the patio. But I’m sure they’ll be back this fall, and we’ll be happy to see them again.

* * * *

I’ve been working on my golf game by going to the driving range when the weather permits, and playing the occasional round or two. I spent a month working on my drives on the range, and I made a startling discovery the last time I played golf. You only hit a ball off of a tee once per hole.

Some of my drives were so pretty it almost brings a tear to my eye, but the rest of my shots were so abysmal it practically makes me cry to think about it. It took me five strokes to reach the green of the par four first hole. And then I three putted. After that, my composure was pretty much gone, and the next seventeen holes were mostly a nightmare with flashes of brilliance.

The other thing I discovered was I’m not as young as I once was. A shot I could easily make with a five iron ten years ago no longer has the distance it used to. I’ve had to come up with a completely new strategy to play the game I love that doesn’t love me in return.

So this week I’ve been practicing on the range with fairway woods and irons, and I’ve come to the conclusion I’m going to need a whole lots more practice.

My lovely supermodel wife has been coming to the driving range with me this week, and she’s been a voice of encouragement to me. It’s been very sweet, and I appreciate my adorable wife even more because of it.

And then there’s putting. I’d probably be a pretty decent golfer if I didn’t have to putt. I’ve been doing some putting on the practice green. I sank a forty foot putt yesterday, and the best part was Lea saw it. I’m not sure who was happier, me or her.

* * * *

As for the rest of our life, we’re very slowly learning the language of our new country. Our landlord and Spanish teacher is Planet Janet. Back when she worked for a living, Janet taught English as a Second Language and Spanish as Another Language at university in Canadia before she retired in Mexico, so she graciously agreed to teach us when we moved into one of her houses. She charges us $200 pesos for a two hour session, once a week, and donates the money to buy wheelchairs for children whose families wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford them.

It’s a win/win/win situation. Janet gets to do something she loves, teach. We get to do something we need, learn. And we all get to help out someone in need.

And seeing how Janet’s been here for a quarter of a century, she’s been showing us some of the ropes and helping us find our way through some of the tricksier aspects of living in Mexico.

Legal things, like Wills, Advanced Directives, health insurance and residency visas. She has recommendations for doctors, dentists, mechanics and veterinarians. And reviews of the latest awesome restaurant she’s eaten at.

And then there are the unexpected things that happen out of the blue.

We ran out of water last weekend. Our main water supply line sprang a monster leak a couple of weeks ago, so we turned the main off and called Planet Janet and El Don Padrino. We have two huge water reservoirs under our carport, so we had plenty of water to tide us over until the leak could be repaired

Don and Janet sent their plumber, Mani, over the next day to fix the leak, then he called SAMAPA, the local water authority. SAMAPA said they had to send a guy over to turn the water back on–Mani was forbidden to open the valve–and the SAMAPA guy would come over ahorita.

Ahora is the Spanish word for now, but now isn’t a highly regarded reality based concept in most of Mexico. Even the Mexicans think it’s funny that there’s generally no such thing as now, especially when it concerns the government and some of the utility companies.

There’s another Spanish word, ahorita. It can mean really soon, however, in Mexico, ahorita can also mean something a whole lots closer to never than it does to now.

Well, the SAMAPA guy never showed up, and no one told us our water main hadn’t been turned back on. So, two weeks later we ran out of water, at 9:00 PM on a Saturday night. I turned the water back on, probably illegally, and that solved the problem.

These kind of things happen, and not just in Mexico. When they happen here, we laugh and shrug and say, This is Mexico/Esto es Mexico, and move on. If you don’t like it, leave.

Mexico is not like the United States. Spanish isn’t the same as English. The language of Mexico is an amalgamation of Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, English and Arabic, as well as some words from the fifty-four indigenous languages of the native people who lived here before the Spaniards arrived and fucked up everything.

If you’re wondering how Arabic got thrown into the mix, the Moors invaded Spain in the year 711, and ruled the country for eight hundred years. Spain invaded Mexico in 1519, or roughly about the time the Spaniards finally kicked the Moors out of power in their own country. It took the Spaniards only two years to topple the Aztec empire and steal as much gold and silver from the Mexicans as they could.

Little Known Fact About the Spanish Language: there are probably four thousand Arabic words or phrases that are now part of the modern Spanish vocabulary.

The language barrier is certainly the tricksiest part of living in Mexico, especially since neither Lea nor I spoke any Spanish before we moved here. After almost nine months we can now say hello, how are you, goodbye and thanks, and a few phrases here and there, but we’re hardly fluent, and mostly lost with someone who speaks no English.

It can be kind of comical sometimes.

* * * *

Like unto practically everyone else on this planet, I probably have a form of addiction to my mobile devices and social media. I have a blog that maybe seven people read, including me. For my last installment I posted a picture of one of my former co-workers, and it was seemingly an huge hit. I had a lots of people reacting to the picture on my Facebook page. They loved it! But I don’t know if any of those people actually read the accompanying article.

Oh, look! A picture of Brea! That’s such a cute picture!! What’s this stuff? Eww! Words!! OMG, there’s, like, a thousand of them! Ick!

I have a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and a Twitter account. Unlike our current President, I’ve never figured Twitter out, and I dislike being limited to the number of words I can use. I doubt anyone has ever read even one of my seven Tweets.

My lovely supermodel wife isn’t as addicted to social media as I am. She views Facebook the same way I view Twitter, and I doubt she knows Instagram is even a thing. Or SnapChamp.

Social media has become almost a necessary evil to me, now that I’m a retired guy living in a foreign country. It’s the most convenient way for me to stay up to date with the lives of my friends and family, and it’s the easiest way for them to keep tabs on me.

Before we retired, Lea and I discussed what we’d like to do after we retired. Travel was one of the things we both agreed on, but now that we’ve traveled to Mexico, I’m not sure how much more traveling we’re actually going to do. We’ll see what the future holds. Be that as it may, whether we embark on a tour of the world or not, thanks to the Interweb and social media, the world now comes to me. And so do all of my virtual friends.

I have far more friends now than I did back when I really had friends, people I knew and hung out with and did stuff with. My virtual friends come from all over the world: Canadia, England, Ireland, Spain, France and Italy. Poland, Croatia, Greece, Russia, Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and Ohio. I doubt I’ll ever meet any of them face to face. But because of them and our virtual friendship, I get to see what their part of the world looks like, and what their lives are like.

By the way, Ohio is evidently a whole lots more interesting than I thought it was.

Back when I was a kid, the only way you could accomplish something like unto this without being a world traveler was with a National Geographic subscription. If you don’t know what that is, Google it.

My virtual friends post a lots of pictures of themselves, so I also get to see a lots of pictures of tattoos. Back when I was a kid, the only people who had tattoos were drunken sailors, biker gangs and criminals. Tattoos were the mark of low life scumbags and losers.

Nowadays, almost everyone has at least one tattoo, even my lovely supermodel wife, and she’s probably the most conservative person I know. Tattoos have moved out of the darkened alleyways that only a fool would enter, and have become a legitimate mainstream art form of individual statement, beauty and color. Some of them are really quite stunning.

I don’t have any tattoos. I think tattoos look pretty cool on other people, but I’ve never wanted to get one. I’ll admit I don’t understand what the attraction is. For me, the same thing is true of Disneyland®. I have no idea why anyone would want to go there, unless you really like standing in line for hours.

Having a tattoo isn’t a requirement for me to send a friend request to someone on Facebook. I automatically receive an infinite number of profiles of people that I’ve never met every day with the suggestion from Facebook that I might know some of them. Ironically, Facebook will then ask me if I actually know the person I’m randomly sending a friend request to before I can submit it.

I don’t receive as many friend requests as I submit. If a guy sends me a request, it’s usually because he has a great business proposal and he wants me as an investor. If a woman sends me a request it’s usually one of those Click here to see naked pictures of me things. I have yet to knowingly accept one, but I always wonder, Where the hell were these girls when I was twenty? And the answer is they weren’t even alive.

Some of my newest BFF’s that I’ve never met send me personal messages and ask a few questions about me and my life. This always surprises me because it never occurs to me to do that with any of them. Some of my virtual friends disappear from my profile after they discover how boring I am, or that I don’t want to see any naked pictures of them, or I don’t want to invest in a ground-breaking business opportunity.

Many of my virtual friends live what appear to be interesting lives, and their careers run the gamut. I’m still partial to nurses. I have a lots of virtual friends that are nurses. It’s a brotherhood thing, or more probably a sisterhood thing.

A couple of my virtual friends are witches, one of whom does tarot card readings. Another one of my virtual friends sells cars in the GTA. If you’re not an intrepid, sophisticated virtual world traveler like me who watches Canadian television in Mexico, the GTA is the Greater Toronto Area.

Yet another of my virtual friends is an activist, warning the world about every possible conspiracy ever conceived. I used to have two friends like unto this. I could say I unfriended one of them because she was too crazy, but almost everyone on my FB page admits to some level of insanity. And, I used to be a psych nurse, so craziness in and of itself isn’t something that bothers me much.

It was her unstable anger/rage that I found so unsettling. Her rants/raves hit the airwaves every five minutes, and each was more outrageous than the last. I tried joking with her a couple of times to get her to lighten up a little, but she didn’t appreciate my humor. Clearly, we had unreconcilable differences, and something had to give.

I’ve become virtual friends with a whole lots of motivational speakers/health gurus/life coaches. They post videos of their exercise workouts, recipes for healthy meals and daily motivational quotes and videos. Several of them post live feeds of themselves giving motivational talks to break out of your rut and improve your life.

To be honest, I’m not personally interested in most of that stuff. I don’t exercise. I think my diet is healthy enough for me, and I don’t need to make any significant changes to improve my life. If I did, I’d likely already know what it is that I need to do differently. However, I do listen to them and take their advice into consideration.

Mental and emotional health are things that require a certain amount of intentional maintenance. They are perishable commodities. It takes an effort to keep your goddamn mind right. It’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel and end up in the ditch, and before you know it you’re wondering how the hell could this happen to me?!?

So it’s good for me to be reminded of the things I used to preach lest I start backsliding. I’ve worked too hard to get away from that shit to ever want to go back again, even by accident.

* * * *

Before I retired and moved to Mexico, I would occasionally have breakfast with Brian. Brian Leach is the former lead pastor of one of the churches we formerly attended in Surprise. I liked Breakfast with Brian. He’s a pretty smart guy, and he’s the closest thing to a friend/pastor I’ve ever had.

We used to attend a small group/Bible study at Brian’s house. It was Brian who first made me a virtual celebrity by saying something like unto this at one of our group meetings: “I’m not a big fan of social media, but I think everyone should check out Mark Rowen’s Facebook page at least once a day.”

And I didn’t have to pay him to say that.

Just before we departed Arizona, I had one last breakfast with Brian. He spent the last few minutes trying to convince me to do a video blog.

“There’s a kid on YouTube who’s making a six figure income, just by posting videos!”

I replied that the kid was probably smart. And funny.

“Well, you’re smart and funny.”

I replied that the kid probably had a personality. If you’ve never met me in person, once you did, you’d probably wonder if I was ever going to come out of that coma. I don’t have an affect, and my voice lacks inflection. I posted a video on Facebook once. One of my real friends said I sound like Eeyore. Ben Stein sounds like Sam Kinison when compared to me.

I blame my life as a psych nurse for that. When you’ve seen as much strange stuff as I have, it’s hard to be surprised by anything. Also, I’ve been a Minnesota Vikings fan for fifty years. Therefore, I find it almost impossible to get too excited about anything anymore. If the Vikings ever win the Super Bowl, I might get a tattoo…

My virtual friends who post inspirational videos are excited by what they’re doing. They smile. They have a fire in their eyes, and they clearly have a passion about their messages. If you’ve ever read any of my blog posts, most of them don’t have an inspirational message. I’m not sure any of them have even had a point.

In addition, the video blogs I’ve watched are short, or at least, short-ish. My written blogs don’t seem short to me. Even the shortest blog I’ve written has taken me hours to complete. And while I am sometimes spontaneously witty, I’m not a great impromptu speaker. I would probably end up writing a script that I would essentially end up reading, and I’d probably stumble through everything I’d written.

I’m trying to imagine that being entertaining to anyone. I might become the first person YouTube paid to stop posting videos…

It could be argued that if I started making video blogs, I could save myself a ton of time. If I weren’t retired, that argument might carry more weight. But I am retired. If I don’t have anything else, I have plenty of time, and very little of it is scheduled with any recurring activity, except my Spanish lessons.

A real friend of mine occasionally posts The Manitowoc Minute Vlog on his Facebook page. It’s a very funny commentary about life in Wisconsin, which, in retrospect, probably goes without saying. The idea of posting El Minuto Mexicano certainly has its appeal. I could ramble on incomprehensibly in a mixture of Spanglish, Latin and Japanese about life in Mexico.

“Buenas tetas, amigos y amigas! Bienvenidos a mi vlogarito lo que nostrodamos vidas fabulosos en Mexico! Nosotros tiene relocatado de los estados unidos. El gente de Mexico estás las más amable de todos los gente en el universario! Ellos tienen los más paciencia! Ellos dicen, “Poco y poco,” y sonrisa. Beauty, eh. A todo madre, la roma no está hecho en uno dia! Ergo, quid pro quo. Shigata ga ni, es los más awesomosa cosa en el mundo actualmente! No es mentira! Si, es verdad, daddy-o! Entonces, adios y omne datum optimum untiliarmos los hasta luego, y domo arigato por tu atención y de nadamashite.”

Maybe I’ll stick to writing. In English. It’ll greatly decrease the chances of me accidentally starting the next world war…

The Myth of Aging Gracefully

Remember when you were a kid, and all you wanted to be was old? You know, like, eighteen, or twenty? Twenty-one was even better.

Old people had it made, right? No one told them to eat their vegetables, or clean their room, or when to go to bed.

Eventually we all got older, and we discovered adulthood isn’t anywhere near as much fun as it looks on the weekend. Being an adult is all about responsibilities. Get an education. Get a job. Make money, so you can pay bills. A whole lots of bills.

Adulthood is a prison. No one tells you this when you’re a kid, and if someone does, you don’t believe them. Just about the only good thing about being an adult is you can eat chocolate cake for breakfast if you want to, and no one can stop you. Given that fact, it’s a miracle any of us age gracefully.

I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything gracefully, so I’m probably the worst person to try to tackle this subject.

Aging, if you don’t know what that means, is simply the process of growing older and maturing. It doesn’t take any special talent. All you really have to do to grow older is not die young.

Like most young people, I didn’t give any thought about getting old. That was the furthest thing from my mind. You don’t ponder this question much when you’re young, mostly because you’re too busy having fun, and there’s nothing fun about getting old.

Don’t believe me? Ask an old person, they’ll tell you.

My generation is the most influential group of people in recent history. We invented Rock and Roll, Frisbees, Woodstock, and the Summer of Love. I’m not sure if Baby Boomers are the product of modern advertising, or if modern advertising is a byproduct of us, but we are certainly joined at the hip.

We were a rebellious bunch of long haired guys and gals who burned draft cards, bras and flags. We didn’t trust the Establishment. We questioned everything, and changed societal norms. In the process, we changed the world. And we were a worldwide phenomena. It was fun at the time, but now I’m not sure if all that change was good.

I’m not the only one of my generation who thinks that.

To say I was somewhat wild in my youth would be an understatement. I had a lots of undisciplined energy, a veritable ocean of anger inside of me looking for an outlet, and a short attention span. I still have a short attention span, but I no longer have a whole lots of energy, and my anger has burnt itself out. In their place I now have pain.

As Mickey Mantle once said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

I was recently asked how I spend my days now that I’m retired. When I wake up, I spend a few minutes figuring out which day of the week it is. Then I take my morning meds. I drink a couple cups of coffee, and watch the news from Toronto. And I spend a couple of hours trying to figure out how I got that bruise, or what could I possibly have done to my shoulder?

The next thing I know is it’s 10:00 AM. Or 2:00 PM. If it’s 2:00, I take more meds. Around 5:30 PM, I eat dinner, either at home or at one of the hundreds of great restaurants in the Lakeside area. I read, or write, or take a nap while watching TV. Around 8:00 PM, I take more meds, and I’m probably in bed by 10:00.

Time actually flies by relatively quickly.

* * * *

Aches and pains are a given when you get old, and in my case, they are mostly directly correlated to stupid stuff I did back when I was young. After all, I did jump out of a speeding car on the highway once.

If you ever get really pissed off at me, and want to drop me in my tracks, kick me in the right knee. I will hit the ground so fast you’d think I’d died to death. I originally hurt my knee in the late Seventies, maybe early Eighties. One case of beer, one moving motorcycle, and one stationary car. Yeah, not the best combination. I reinjured my knee in 2005. And again in 2013. I can walk on it without any problems, most of the time. But if I bump into anything with that knee, I just about soil my pants.

My right ankle is equally touchy. I’ve blown that sucker up at least five times. My left shoulder has good days and bad days. I’ve never been able to figure out just what I did to my back, but it occasionally lets me know I must’ve done something to piss it off.

Some of my current aches and pains are related to injuries I sustained while I was a psych nurse. My jaw, for sure. My hands and wrists, possibly. It’s hard to pinpoint what happened to them exactly, mostly because so much has happened to them. And I was usually drunk when I injured them.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I have recently been going through the process of getting health insurance. Our insurance agent is a darling woman named Ava. Almost all of her clients are retired ex-pats from the US and Canada, so she helps organize seminars on living in Mexico to make our lives easier. One of the things she’s involved with now is the concept of aging gracefully.

She mentioned it in a conversation we had today. Those two words, aging gracefully, had been in my mind, and they were the impetus for this post, even though I have no idea how to do that.

And then it occurred to me that no one does. If you go to your first seminar on aging gracefully when you’re already old, you’ve kind of missed the boat. And I’m sure if I were to ask my friends in the Lakeside area they’d agree.

Yeah, I wish I’d started doing that about twenty years ago!

When you’re twenty, you think people in their forties are old. People in their fifties are really old. But by the time you reach forty, you develop an entirely different attitude. Forty isn’t that old! And seeing how you’re not old, you don’t need to think about aging gracefully for Christ’s sake!

And the next thing you know, you’re sixty. And then there’s no denying it anymore. Goddamnit! I’m old! How the hell did that happen?!?

I suppose it’s possible for some people to look graceful when they’re surprised, but it’s not something most of us can pull off. Most of us open our mouths really wide and just about jump out of our clothes. Some of us even scream like a little girl.

And if you examine this situation logically, growing old should be the last thing that surprises any of us because we are all going to get old if we live long enough, and we know that in advance. If you know something ahead of time, it’s pretty fucking hard to be surprised by it.

Have you ever watched a movie twice and been caught off guard by what happened? If so, I’m not sure you should have been allowed to grow old…

We’ve seen what happened to our parents. They were young once. According to them. And our friends. Have you seen Mary lately? My God, she looks so old! We scratch our heads and wonder how such a thing could happen, especially when we still look so young.

And yet…  It seemingly happens to all of us when it comes to this subject.

Yes, it’s true. We all get old eventually. And if my generation has any questions about this, all it has to do is look at the advertising geared for us. That’s right, sister. Those sensitive bladder leak undergarments, they’re talking to you.

And Generations X, Y and Z, you fuckers are next, so just sit down and shut up. We trained you not to trust anything either, but you can trust this. Maybe you guys can learn something from our mistakes, and take this to heart.

Aging gracefully is more of an attitude than anything else. If attitude is a component of success in life, and it most definitely is, that continues into retirement. And retirement is a whole lots more than simply not working for a living anymore.

Just as you made plans for your life when you were young, make plans for your retirement. Before you retire. It’ll make the transition look graceful, even if it isn’t. And remember, winning and losing aren’t important. Looking cool is. Goals aren’t as important once you retire, but you’re not going to stop having goals simply because you retire. If you don’t have any goals, you are going to have a lots of problems.

The one thing I hated the most about working was all the politics and drama and angst at the workplace. So take this bit of unsolicited advice: if you find your life is still filled with all that bullshit after you retire, you have totally failed. You might as well keep working.

If there’s any cohesive theme to what I’ve been saying, it might possibly be this: be nicer to yourself when you’re young. You’ll thank yourself later.

Go West, Young Man

The rainy season has officially begun here in the Lakeside area. It’s rained pretty much every day or night for probably the last couple of weeks.

My lovely supermodel wife and I lived in Surprise, AZ for nine years before we retired in Mexico, so rain is still somewhat of a novelty to us. Everything has turned green and verdant, and the rain and clouds have moderated the heat, but the driving range at the golf course has been mostly closed of late, and that kind of sucks.

I’ve had a lots of time to contemplate writing, and I have a few hundred ideas bouncing around inside of my head, like unto super balls thrown at a concrete wall.

Yeah, I better get busy.

* * * *

My first official work for a living and get paid for it job was at the Go West Drive In outside of Missoula, MT. My two best friends in high school, Dave Nelson and Andy Hyde, worked there. When a position opened up, they suggested I apply for a job.

I had an interview toward the end of my sophomore year with one of the two gay guys that owned the Go West, Ed Sharp. The other gay owner was Robert Sias. Eddie and Bob. They were semi-legendary in Missoula’s history, mostly for their eccentricities. Especially Eddie. You can look him up if you like. At one time I think he and Bob owned every theater in Missoula. The Wilma. The Roxy. And Bob and Eddie’s Go West Drive In.

I worked in the concession stand with my high school buddies, selling soft drinks, popcorn and candy, hot dogs, hamburgers and pizzas. Initially, I was a lackluster employee at the Go West. So much so that Dave and Andy had a little talk with me.

“We think we might have made a mistake with you.” Andy said.

“Yeah. We’re not sure you’re Go West material, Rowen.” Dave added.

“You really need to step up your game, man” Andy said.

I got the message. Bring your A game, or go home. I brought my A game from then on. It was a message I never forgot. Do your job, and do it to the best of your ability, even if you’re mopping the goddamn floor.

* * * *

I have fond memories of the Go West. Working at a drive in when you’re in high school was just about the coolest thing, ever. I got to meet a lots of people–we had our regulars–and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had working for a living.

My first date was at the Go West. I took three of my four prom dates there, two on the same night. I probably fell in love for the first time at the Go West. I can’t remember how many times I went there with my high school sweetheart.

It was a very popular place for young people to go in the Seventies–there wasn’t a whole lots of places to go in Missoula back then–and Bob and Eddie made a ton of money showing R and X rated B-list movies, and selling overpriced concessions to our patrons.

The concession stand at the Go West was huge. The walls looked like unto a log cabin, painted with a dark brown stain. Tanned animal skins and trophy heads adorned the walls. There might have even been a picture of Horace Greeley saying, “Go west, young man!” If there was ever such a thing as a classy drive in, the Go West was it.

A great deal of alcohol was consumed at the Go West. That was probably its’ greatest attraction for most of our patrons. Underage drinking was generally accepted at that time in Montana, and the drive in was almost every underage drinker’s favorite place to drink. And as the guys that worked there, we got a lots of invitations to “…come out to the car and have a beer!” We didn’t get the opportunity to do that very often, but when we did…

Getting shitfaced drunk at the drive in was pretty much par for the course. I helped more than one person stumble back to their car. There was one night a man got so drunk he couldn’t find his car. I think we waited until all the other cars left and took him to the only car that remained. I hope he wasn’t driving…

There was the night that my gay boss Bob came up to me and said, “Um, Maarrk, could you go to the Men’s Room and find out what happened. It smells like someone, umm, died in there…”

So, I did. And I found one of my classmates–his name also happened to be Bob–sitting on the toilet.

“Hey! Mark! I shit my fuckin’ pants, man!” Shitfaced Bob said when he saw me. And he laughed. Man, did he ever! From his waist to his ankles he was covered with shit. More shit filled, and I mean filled the legs of his jeans. I wouldn’t see that much shit covering one person again until I became a psych nurse.

And that wasn’t the only thing. In his drunken process of trying to clean up, Shitfaced Bob had smeared and flung crap all over the floor and walls of toilet stall. The stench of one thousand unwashed asses hung in the air. Guys stopped coming into the Men’s Room and drained their bladders of recycled beer wherever they pleased.

“Oh, for the love of God!” Gay Bob said when I told him what had happened in the Men’s Room. “Well, don’t just stand there! Umm, do something! After all, he is your, umm, friend!”

I spent the greater part of an hour getting Shitfaced Bob cleaned up. I probably ended up wearing half of his shit because I had never had to clean up someone in his condition before. Eddie had a spare pair of pants in the office, just in cases, I suppose, and I helped Shitfaced Bob climb into them, then helped him back to the car where his buddies were waiting with all the windows down.

They told me later the windows stayed down the entire trip to Bob’s house.

Dave, Andy and myself spent another hour cleaning up the Men’s Room. I think I took a two hour shower when I got home, and I probably burned my clothes.

* * * *

Speaking of windows, there was the night I saw a car I recognized parked close to the concession stand. I was taking out the garbage, and there was Tom’s car! I went to school with Tom. We were buds. He drove a white 1963 Dodge Dart station wagon, and as far as I knew, it was the only one of its kind still on the road.

I would buy that car from Tom at the end of my junior year for three hundred bucks. It was my favorite car, until I bought my red MR2.

I went to Tom’s car and tapped on the steamed up driver’s side window. The window slowly rolled down.

“Hey, Tom! I didn’t know you were here! Why didn’t you come in and say hi?” And a guy I had never seen before looked up at me and smiled. I vaguely saw movements inside the car so I looked deeper inside of the dark car. What I saw were the rhythmic up and down movements of a girl’s head right above the guy’s naked crotch. His pants were somewhere in the neighborhood of his knees. So I looked up at the guy’s face again.

“You’re not Tom!” I said to him.

“Nope.” he replied, and rolled his window up.

I was stunned, and impressed. That was the first time I saw a guy getting a blowjob. But what impressed me was his girlfriend. She didn’t miss a beat, not even one. All I knew as I walked back into the concession stand was I wanted a girlfriend, and I wanted her to be just like that girl.

There was one other sentinel night that left me feeling stunned and impressed, and that was the night I saw two really cute girls making out! In their car! I mean, deep kissing without coming up for air! And feeling each up and everything!! I had heard of lesbians, but I didn’t think they were real.

I was pretty sure I wanted to be a lesbian after that night.

* * * *

I don’t think anyone ever came to the Go West to watch the movies. If you didn’t come to the drive in to get drunk, you came to the drive in to get laid.

We cleaned the lot before each movie because most people at the drive in threw their garbage on the ground, rather than carry it to the nearest garbage can.

Food wrappers, candy boxes, and a whole lots of beer cans and bottles. We picked up everything we found. But there this one…thing…none of us wanted to touch.

That thing was an inflated condom, tied off like unto a balloon, filled with air and semen. And here’s the really weird thing. There was almost always an used condom balloon that needed to be picked up every time we cleaned the lot.

“Clearly, this is the work of one of our regulars,” Andy decided, and there was no argument.

“But, who could it be?” Dave asked.

That, was the question, and we spent hours discussing whom the culprits could be. We eventually decided it had to be a couple that came to the drive in almost every night.

They were an incredibly attractive couple. I’ll call them Tim and Tammy because I can’t remember their names anymore, and I don’t think I know any current couples named that.

Tim was a trim, handsome, muscular guy, probably in his early twenties. Tammy was probably around the same age as Tim, maybe a year or two younger. She was pretty much the stuff that wet dreams are made of–so stunningly beautiful it was almost like unto a superpower.

The only problem we had with our hypothesis was the car Tim drove. It was a red Volkswagen Beetle. It wasn’t the kind of car you think about when you think of having sex in the back seat. And if they weren’t in the backseat, they must’ve been gymnasts, like, Olympic Gold medal winning gymnasts. And, they nailed the dismount.

And then there was the matter of who blew up the condom and tied it into a balloon…  We were pretty sure that had to be Tammy.

* * * *

Our gay bosses, Eddie and Bob, weren’t just semi-legendary in Missoula. They were also semi-legendary in Las Vegas. Well, according to them they were, and they knew all kinds of famous people.

“We had dinner with Bob Newhart and his wife the last time we were in Vegas.” Eddie told us one evening as we were driving out to the drive in. Bob and Eddie drove us out to the drive in every night it was open. The Go West was almost twenty miles outside of Missoula, and they didn’t want us wasting our money on gas.

“I know him! He’s a comedian, and he’s really funny!” I said.

“He’s even funnier in person. I almost pissed my pants I was laughing so hard!” Eddie went on.

“God, is his wife ever an ugly woman! Umm, you couldn’t pay me enough money to sleep with her!” Bob said, which made all of us bite our tongues. Like he would sleep with any woman.

“Yeah, but she’s a sweet woman.” Eddie continued.

“Hmph!” Bob added.

I wasn’t sure if I could believe any of their stories. I mean, they were talking about people from Hollywood, like movie stars hung out with regular people…

“Yeah, it’s probably true. Everyone in Hollywood is gay!” Dave said.

“Not John Wayne!” I countered.

“Yeah, he’s probably not gay. That’s why Bob and Eddie haven’t had dinner with him.” Andy agreed. “And, our gay bosses are richer than Solomon…”

There came a night when we were cleaning up the concession stand, getting ready to go home. I was near the back entrance when someone knocked on the door. This wasn’t something that happened very often, so I cautiously opened the door.

“Hi.” a guy that looked a lots like Carroll O’Connor said. “Are Bob and Eddie here? Could you please tell them Carroll is here?”

Little Known Fact: Carroll O’Connor attended the University of Montana in Missoula. Another Little Known Fact: he evidently returned to town from time to time. And he was friends with Bob and Eddie.

“Um, just a minute…” I replied, and made Archie Bunker stand outside in the dark while I tried to figure out what to do next.

“Well, Jee-sus Christ, Maarrk! Umm, let him in!” Gay Bob almost yelled when I told him and Eddie who was at the back door.

That’s how I met Carroll O’Connor. He was a very nice guy, and greeted all of us, shaking our hands. He mentioned he was hungry. Dave, Andy and I cooked him one of our crappy pizzas, but we were so starstruck we burned it to a crisp, and had to start all over.

National Lampoon was a magazine back in those days, and as far as I’m concerned, it was the funniest magazine, ever. For all time. As fate would have it, their latest issue when this happened was a spoof of All in the Family. I had bought a copy at the magazine shop near the Wilma Theater, and read it while I waited for my gay bosses to show up, and I brought it to work that night.

Carroll O’Connor saw the my magazine and asked if he could look at it.

“Sure,” I said, and handed it to him. He laughed so hard he had tears running down his cheeks.

“Can I have this?” Archie Bunker asked me, wiping tears out of the corners of his eyes.

“Yeah, absolutely! It’s yours!” I replied.

Come to think of it, that was another night at the Go West that left me feeling stunned, and impressed.

* * * *

It wasn’t all shits and giggles and celebrities and booze and sex and mysteries of the inflated condom at the Go West. There was the night the Vietnam vet brought in a porcelain bust of a skull with a porcelain rat crawling on the skull. He had a beer in one hand, and he slid the skull down the counter, so the skull could get a good look at everything available. He talked to the skull as he walked down the concession line toward the cash register. He bought a few items for himself, and even more items for the skull.

“I have to ask,” I said to the guy. “What’s up with the skull?”

“This? He’s my best friend. He didn’t make it home from Nam, so now I’m going to buy him all the stuff he never had.”

“Wow. I don’t know if that’s cool, or creepy.” I replied, adding up his purchases on the register.

“Neither do I, kid. But it’s the only thing I can do right now.”

I still get goosebumps when I think about him, and it took me a long time to forget him. In a lots of ways, he was my first Nam vet, even though I met him at least fifteen years before I became a psych nurse. It was his memory that made me want to write this story.

There was that night, the Night of the Skull. And then there was the Night Randy Was Murdered. Randy was one of Dave and Andy’s friends. I think they went to grade school with him. I talked to him casually a couple of times at the drive in, but I could never call him my friend.

On that night, the first movie had ended. It was Intermission, the concession stand was packed. People were stretching their legs and stocking up for the second show.

Randy and three or four of his friends were gathered together inside of the concession stand, shooting the breeze, flirting with the girls that walked by. A long haired guy that nobody had ever seen before walked in, wearing a pair of flowered pink colored bell bottom pants.

Randy and his friends went silent, watching the guy, then burst into laughter.

The guy with the outrageous pants didn’t like being the object of their laughter, and walked over to them. There was a brief, heated exchange, and one of Randy’s friends said, very loudly, “Those are the pussiest looking pants I’ve ever seen!”

There was another, even more heated exchange of words, and then everything went into slow motion. Randy made a fist, took one step, and punched the guy wearing the flowered pants in the jaw, sending him flying to the floor.

Randy and his friends turned their backs on the guy, and started laughing again. The guy in the flowered pants jumped up, pulled something out of his pocket, and ran toward the group of men that had insulted him. He appeared to punch Randy in his left pectoral area from behind, then ran out of the concession stand into the darkness.

I’m not sure how long it took for Randy to collapse to the floor. He didn’t do it right away. I don’t think he looked like he’d  even been injured. Then he kind of stumbled, and then he fell like his knees had been cut out from beneath him. A dark red spot appeared on his shirt. That’s when everyone realized Randy had been stabbed. In a matter of moments, he was dead.

Cardiac tamponade.

And then the world moved swiftly, once more. And it moved really fast. Randy’s friends were shouting, yelling. Then crying. There were screams, there had to be screams. People running. People gawking. I was one of those. I couldn’t move. I had no idea what to do, and my brain was frozen. I think Dave had to shove me to get me moving, and even then I didn’t know what to do.

I know Gay Bob called for an ambulance. And the police. Even if the Go West hadn’t been halfway to Idaho, the EMT’s wouldn’t have been able to do much to save Randy if they had been standing next to him when it happened. The police ordered us to lock the gate and keep everyone there until they arrived to take control of the situation.

We chased everyone out of the concession stand. I think we let Randy’s friends stay.

An army of cops descended upon the Go West. They took witness statements, got a description of the assailant, then started a car by car search for Randy’s killer, looking for the long haired guy in the pink pussy pants.

We knew a few of the sheriff’s deputies. They dropped in whenever they were in the area because Bob and Eddie comped them food and let them fill their thermoses with coffee for free. In return, the cops would make a few random trips around the lot to make sure nothing too illegal was going on.

One of the cops we called Dudley Do-Right because he looked like Dudley Do-Right. He was actually a pretty decent guy. There was another cop we called Studley Do-Right. He liked to tell tall tales about his life in law enforcement, and he always had his perps right where he wanted them.

And then we waited. And, in advance, please excuse my wording in the next sentence. The only other time the concession stand was as…dead…after the first movie was the night we showed Last House on the Left and Night of the Living Dead. After the Intermission that night, not a single person entered the concession stand.

An ambulance crew eventually took Randy’s body away. I think the police escorted Randy’s friends back to their car and made sure they stayed there. They didn’t want any vigilante justice being handed out. The police eventually let us start cleaning up. I thought there would be more blood. I mean, Randy had been stabbed in the heart!

We were all somewhere beyond stunned. I can’t remember much of anything we said to each other, except we all hoped Dudley would find Randy’s killer, not Studley.

But it was Studley Do-Right that brought the long haired guy in the flowered pink bell bottom pants to the back entrance of the building so he could be identified.

“I got my man. I always do.” Studley Do-Right said.

I think we were all surprised the guy was still there. I mean, why hang around the drive in after you killed somebody? Unless you’re getting the greatest blowjob ever given…

But that wasn’t the case. He knew he had stabbed one of the guys that had been making fun of him, but he didn’t know he’d stabbed Randy in the heart, killing him almost immediately. He simply returned to his car, and his boyfriend, once he realized no one was chasing him, and watched the movie. He was probably the only guy in the history of the Go West that actually watched a movie.

In retrospect, that was probably the first time I thought the world wasn’t as safe as they made it look on TV. Bad shit could happen to you anywhere, even in bucolic, boring-ass Missoula, MT.

* * * *

That was a long time ago, and the Missoula of my childhood no longer exists. The last time I was there, I barely recognized the place. Bob and Eddie both got dead about three decades ago, and much like its semi-legendary owners, the Go West no longer exists.

Missoula is no longer the quiet refuge of redneck cowboys. Back in the Eighties, a bunch of aging hippies from California started moving in and transformed Missoula into an eclectic, diverse, much more urbane, and possibly, quite a spifferooney place to live. I think of it now as the Austin, TX of Montana.

And a river runs through it.

Actually, three Rivers run through Missoula. The Blackfoot, the Bitterroot and the Clark Fork. It’s a beautiful place, and I still dream about it from time to time.

I may go back again, someday, before I get dead. My fiftieth high school reunion is coming up in several years. I might actually attend that one. We’ll see. Shitfaced Bob won’t be there. He got dead a few years ago. Tom won’t be there either, he got dead, too.

Sad to think that my generation has already started gotting dead at such a young age. You’ll have that, I guess.

Some trips down Memory Lane are more enjoyable than others. This one was mostly good, and I take solace in that. Not all of them have been.

You’ll have that, too.

And Now, A Message From Our Sponsors

I haven’t been writing much of late. I’ve been out on the driving range trying to find my one, true, authentic swing. It’s not quite as lost as it once was, but I’m not completely convinced I’ve found it yet.

According to a commercial I just saw on the Golf Channel, consistency is the biggest problem recreational golfers face, and to fix that problem all I need to do is buy a new, revolutionary golf club. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the reason I suck at golf is because of my clubs. I can’t remember the name of the advertised club–it’s a bunch of numbers and letters, like unto a sportscar, so you know it has to be good.

As they say in Mexico, poco y poco. Little by little…  It’s how everything gets done down here.

Speaking of Mexico, my lovely supermodel wife and I have been doing some exploring of our new homeland. It’s not just sand, cactus and sombreros, as many people north of the border think.

It reminds me of Hawaii, and that was the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been.

And then there’s our fabulous social life. Dining and hanging out with our posse, our peeps. We celebrated 54 years of mostly wedded bliss with Brother Al and his darling wife Jane last night. I love those guys.

Al and I talked quite a bit last night at dinner. He just finished writing his memoirs, About Being Different. I think that was the title, and before you get the wrong idea, Brother Al isn’t gay. At least, I don’t think he is.

Several people who have read my blog have urged me to write a book about my life. If I ever decide to do so, I’ve already come up with a title.

You Need To Remember You Asked For This

* * * *

I’ve also been busy exploring the possibility of corporate sponsorship for my blog. Why not? Corporations have far more money than they actually need. And I’m on a fixed income now, so a few bucks here and there would help pay for my greens fees.

Corporations are interested in only two things: making money, and beating their competitors. In the immortal words of Conan the Barbarian, “…crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”

Corporations are proof that the love of money really is the root of all evil. Back during the Industrial Revolution, corporations and captains of industry didn’t care what people thought about them. Nowadays they have to create the illusion that they care what people think, so they’ve started doing humanitarian things and championing various philanthropic causes.

I think AT&T once requested a rate increase specifically so they could continue to support their philanthropic endeavors. That takes balls the size of Babe the Blue Ox.

There’s been one major hurdle in my quest: I haven’t found any sponsors that have willing to associate themselves with my stories of hanging out with crazy people, and indiscriminate tales of sex, drugs and alcohol use.

The only prospective sponsor I’ve met with that hasn’t quickly said No way, Jose is the local drug cartel. To be sure, they want me to start putting a more positive spin on drug use. I even came up with a slogan for them.

Drugs. Because sometimes reality totally sucks.

We’ll see how it goes…

And I have met with the reps from a legal drug company down here, Guyz Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Mykok®. I have no idea what the clinical indications for its use are, but it has the greatest catchphrase ever:

Ask your doctor if Mykok® is right for you.

* * * *

Do you have any idea how much money is spent annually worldwide on advertising? No one does, but take a really big number–no, bigger than that–and multiply it by one million. If your total is around five hundred ga-zillion, you’re probably in the right neighborhood.

Like everything else on the planet, advertising has evolved over the years. To illustrate this, all you have to do is look at an institution we all grew up with. McDonald’s®. I mean, the Golden Arches. I mean, Mickey Dee’s. I mean, McCafe.

McDonald’s® started out as an humble fast food burger joint, then it became the kid-friendliest place in the world, next to Disneyland® with Happy Meals®, Ronald McDonald®, The Hamburgler®, and all the rest of those characters. Then, semi-insidiously, it became the place of suave sophistication it is now, and none of the items on the menu are available for fifteen cents.

McDonald’s® slogans have been so catchy they’ve become a part of our daily speech. Look for the Golden Arches (1960). You deserve a break today (1971). Perhaps the all-time best slogan ever, Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun (1974). And finally, I’m lovin’ it (2003).

I think McDonald’s® should expand their services and open a McBar© where you can get McSnockered©, and then you can McStumble© over to the McCafe and meet your friends for a late night meal before you go home and McCrash©.

Like it or not, corporations essentially rule the world, and corporate advertising rules the airwaves. Did you know that you’re probably bombarded by seven thousand ads or commercials a day urging you to buy everything from automobiles to yogurt. And to be sure, if you buy whatever it is that’s being peddled, your life is going to be so much better.

And studies have shown that the more attractive the spokesperson is, the more successful the ad is likely to be. Why do you suppose that is?

Are beautiful people more trustworthy than less attractive people? Obviously. Especially if your spokesperson has an epic set of tits. I’m not sure anyone has ever been able to come up with a reasonable explanation for this, but it’s been proven to be true beyond a reasonable doubt. I don’t wear women’s underwear, but every time I see a Victoria’s Secret® commercial, I want to shop there.

If you can’t find an attractive person to sell your product, find an athlete. Is there anything Peyton Manning didn’t sell? When it comes to trustworthiness in advertising, it’s hard to beat a jock.

Well, cute kids will do in a pinch. Or an even cuter pile of puppies…

You’d think politicians would make good spokespersons, right? I’m sure they’d say that being a spokesperson for anything is beneath their lofty status, but the truth is they’re probably the least reputable people on the planet.

“Hi! I’m Senator Bill Berditzman, and after a long day of deliberating meaningful legislation–“ See what I mean? The idea is so fucking ludicrous, I can’t even finish the sentence.

Given the general population’s preference for attractive athletic types in advertising, there’s a group of people that I think would be the obvious choice for every advertising campaign, no matter what you’re trying to sell.

Porn stars.

Hey, they’re all attractive, except Ron Jeremy. And only someone with the stamina of an athlete could live through the marathon sex sessions they perform. And as near as I can tell, if you want someone to tell you the truth, ask a porn star. They do not lie. Seeing how they have to endure an endless amount of bullshit because of what they choose to do for a living, they have no tolerance for it in  their personal lives. They are artists, passionate about their craft and their beliefs.

Sex sells. It’s a proven fact, so advertisers might as well stop beating around the bush, so to speak, and start producing ads that grab us by the short hairs.

“Hi. Dirk Diggler here. If you ever find yourself in a situation that can only be handled in a court of law, you want a big dick lawyer on your side. At Dewey, Suk, Dingle and Howe, all of our board certified attorneys are big dick lawyers. Call 888 BIG DICK, now.”

I don’t know about you, but I want a big dick lawyer representing me if I ever end up in front of a judge again.

“Hi! I’m Myndi Mynxx, and after a loong day of multiple orgasms and getting gangbanged in my cute little butt, I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of my Buick LaCrosse! It has the smoothest ride of any car I’ve ever driven, and you can believe me when I say a smooth ride really matters!”

I drive a Buick. It really does have a smooth ride.

“Hi! I’m Elle! And I’m Mia! Maybe you saw us in Where The Boys Aren’t. Or our Christmas spectacular, Toys For Twats. Anyhow, we love tacos! We really love tacos!! So whenever we finish a shoot, our first stop is Taco Bell!”

I love tacos, too!

See? Porn stars would make great spokespersons! And seeing how we’ve all become whores to the corporate world on one level or another, it’s only fitting that porn stars should lead us down the road to Perdition.