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Who’s Afraid? Me

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

If This is Consciousness, Knock me Out

I just finished Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. This is the second-to-last book in my painful slog through the Columbia College Literature Humanities Syllabus (as modified by yours truly).

I should have finished this book in ten days, but it took weeks. The reason is clear. I got so bored with Lit. Hum. books, I got to the point where I only read them in one room of the house, if you get my drift. It’s not a place where I spend a lot of time, so my pace was glacial.

I’m sure you don’t want to read Virginia Woolf, but just in case you’re insane, let me point out that this blog post contains spoilers. Not that it’s possible to spoil this book. That would be like ruining the intestinal flu.

There is a philosopher (i.e. person who has decided to waste his existence) named Ramsay. He has a wife named…I forgot her name. They have 8 kids. The wife is incredibly beautiful, even though the book starts when she is 50 and presumably fairly well stretched out and saggy in all respects (8 kids). They have a house on an island. For some reason, practically everyone they know hangs out at the house. It is not clear whether they help pay for groceries.

Ramsay is very selfish. He feels bad about his life, as he should, so from time to time he interrupts what his wife is doing so he can share his self-pity with her and get some sympathy. He says snotty things to people for no clear reason. Everyone always has to do what he wants to do.

Mrs. Ramsay is stupid. She spends her time pondering about things like the lengths of socks. She does not know what a square root is.

Mrs. Ramsay dies, and the house falls apart. Then Mr. Ramsay has it fixed. Some of the remaining members of the family (2 kids have died at this point, perhaps to avoid appearing in the second half of the book) go back to the house with their dad and some of the entourage. Mr. Ramsay and two of his kids make some peasants row them across the bay to a lighthouse.

The end.

I just saved you 8 dollars.

There is no plot. There are no characters. Everyone is pretty much the same. No one ever says anything funny or interesting. There are ZERO laughs in the book. There are no clever lines you will want to memorize or underline.

Why? Why does this book exist?

It astounds me that anyone could enjoy this book or think it worthy of publication, especially after reading good books. Think of 1984, Catch-22, or even The Catcher in the Rye. Read one of those, and then try to force your way through To the Lighthouse. The difference is day and night.

Is it affirmative action at work? “Come on, guys, we have to find a woman to publish. People are starting to talk.” Surely not. There are some decent female writers out there. Surely female talent is not so rare that the publication of Virginia Woolf’s meanderings is in any way justified.

I’m a smart guy. I’m not the problem here. If this book was good, I would have seen something in it. It’s just not. It’s horrendous.

Virginia Woolf was mentally ill, so maybe that explains the book’s badness. She put rocks in her pockets and walked out into a river to die. The book is packed with internal monologues, and it was written by a tortured individual who was borderline insane. Maybe it’s bad because people with Ms. Woolf’s type of mental illness have boring, chaotic inner narratives. Virginia Woolf may have assumed the rest of us thought the same way she did. A writer can’t connect unless he has something in common with the reader, and apart from breathing oxygen, I have nothing at all in common with Ms. Woolf. I have a sense of humor. I am smart. I like books with plots and characters. I like books that have themes. I could go on.

It’s sad that people encouraged her.

Am I wrong? Are most human beings this boring, inside? My inner monologues are highly entertaining and full of relatively intelligent notions. If I had Mrs. Ramsay’s inner voice, I’d have to smoke meth to stay awake.

James Joyce was also a stream-of-consciousness perpetrator who wrote inner monologues, and his were as boring as Woolf’s. Maybe this is how most people think. I don’t know. I’ve never been in anyone else’s head. Why would you write the boring thoughts of a boring person, especially if the person were fictitious? Wouldn’t it make more sense to write interesting thoughts? Just my take on the matter. But then I always wonder why manufacturers design ugly cars, when good-looking cars cost the same to produce.

The book isn’t all bad. It has the shining virtue of being shorter than other bad books Columbia has inflicted on its students. I took that into consideration when I chose to include it in my list. The Lit. Hum. syllabus varies from year to year, so I felt entitled to make changes.

I am finally free to move on to Lord of the Flies, which should be entertaining, if only because of the violence. Sad that it comes down to that. I doubt the book will teach me much about life. My understanding is that it’s about kids who commit atrocities on each other in the absence of adults. I know about that. I have an older sister.

I used to enjoy literature, but then I chose books that sounded good to me, not pretentious crap recommended by grey-souled academics who live in denial. The Lit. Hum. experience is almost enough to turn me off literature entirely. I do like Shakespeare, though, and there are a few other things I would like to re-read. St. Exupery. Dumas. Orwell, the secular prophet. I might even go through Ayn Rand’s comic-book novels again before I die. Virginia Woolf…no. It is a complete waste of effort.

If you’re buying presents for friends who like to read, scratch Ms. Woolf off the list. Her work is too appallingly dull even for regifting.

Furniture!

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

My Behind is Moving Up in the World

I have passed another giant milestone. My couch has arrived.

For the last two months, I’ve been sitting on a molded Adirondack chair from Home Depot. I’ve been trying to conserve cash and be responsible, so furniture has not been a top priority. I ordered a couch for the downstairs area, thinking my dad would get tired of chairs, but it was damaged when Amazon delivered it, so I refused it. He said he didn’t care whether he had a couch or not. I haven’t made much effort to try again. A couple of weeks ago, I ordered a second couch for the upstairs room, and now I have it.

This is wonderful. I have fabric. I have cushions. I have two throw pillows. In two days, I’ll have a quilted couch protector I can throw on when the birds come to visit. Can life possibly get any better?

Actually, it can get better. I broke down and ordered a recliner. I needed it. I can’t have male friends visit without a second piece of furniture. I don’t want to look like Barry Obama in the famous college couch picture, in which he and another male were seated right up against each other, with the whole far end of the couch vacant. That just isn’t done. Obama is gay, if one of his private letters is to be believed, but I am not. I do not share furniture with men unless I have no choice. It’s like starting a conversation with a stranger at a urinal.


Unacceptable

I’ve learned that furniture is complicated. The bad cheap stuff looks almost exactly like the good expensive stuff, so you have to do research. Actually, that’s not true. The really cheap stuff looks cheap. But the stuff that’s one level up from really cheap can look very much like good furniture.

The first couch I ordered was an Ashley something or other. It’s a $500 couch, more or less. As I understand it, $500 is pretty much the dividing line between good cheap and bad cheap. Tons of people on Amazon loved the couch I ordered, so I figured it was a safe choice. It had some kind of fake leather upholstery, and that was important, given that a dementia sufferer would be using it. Sometimes you need a washable couch.

Amazon promised free delivery, to the inside of my house. They sent one person, alone, to carry a couch. He could not get it through the door. Then he pointed out a big forklift hole in the fabric under the couch. I sent it back.

While the couch was here, I noticed that the bottom was particle board. That’s not acceptable. I can deal with plywood or pine. Particle board is an insult. And it looks like head cheese.

Maybe that couch was okay, but I decided to move up one level on the next order. I went with Broyhill. My understanding is that there is total crap, crap, near-crap, and then, one stratum up, adequate furniture. Broyhill is considered adequate. That was fine for me and my man refuge.

I’m sitting on the couch now. My rear end is in ecstasy. I had forgotten what cushions felt like. The couch appears to be well-made. It looks nice. It has two great-looking pillows. The wooden feet were assembled skillfully from bits of real hardwood. The fabric is tasteful but not luxurious. Seems okay to me. If I wanted a 20-year couch that would impress shallow visitors, I would have spent three grand, but you can do okay for a lot less.

Once I had the couch, the need for the recliner was painfully obvious.

Here is the lowdown on recliners: anything under $500 is dubious. You can get something pretty nice for $1000. Really good ones cost considerably more. I believe I have that right.

Recliners tend to fall apart mechanically, especially when they belong to big balls of lard who weigh over 250 pounds. The cheap ones are more likely to fail. I think.

People criticize La-Z-Boy a lot, so I was reluctant to dive in. I found some great sale prices on recliners from better companies, but they weren’t hard core recliner companies. Would you buy a BMW water heater? I wouldn’t. I wanted a recliner-company recliner. I’m sure a Hooker Furniture recliner will last forever, but do they know how to make them mooshy and decadent, as they should be? I don’t know.

I found out that Barcalounger has a premium line they call “Vintage.” They claim they use better parts. I decided to check them out. For some reason, retailer prices vary wildly. A modest La-Z-Boy which I would not trust runs about $700. Barcalounger Vintage recliners sell for over a thousand. Usually. If you look around, you will find sites that sell them for $700-$800. You won’t be able to find every color you want, but on the other hand, the available colors won’t be crazy. It’s not like buying the orange Pinto no one else would take.

I don’t understand it at all. I found a Barcalounger Vintage for $750 on one site, and it was selling for over $1000 on other sites. I found a number of different models selling cheap.

I almost bought a Barcalounger Presidential. You have to Google this thing. It’s completely over the top. It’s all leather and nails. It has a tufted, winged back about five feet across. It’s so manly, it’s hilarious. At the last minute I decided not to get it, because I didn’t think that kind of upholstery would be sufficiently decadent. I went with a model that has leather arms and fabric cushions.

I know that sounds weird, and it’s not as tasteful as all-leather. But when you look at it, it screams “COMFORT!” You can tell a man designed it. “I don’t care if it looks funny. Shut up! Why aren’t you getting me a beer?” Turn Al Bundy loose in a furniture store, and he will make a bee line for this chair every time.

Because I have parrots, I’m going to have to use furniture protectors, and I read that they slide around on leather. Fabric will keep them where they should be, and it will be mighty cozy on cool nights.

It’s a power recliner. Reclining manually is just too hard. Not sure what happens if the power goes out or the motor dies. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

There are super-expensive recliners which are probably much better, but they would be overkill in an upstairs bonus room, and anyway, a chair like that would make my couch look bad.

I think it will be great.

I chose a recliner because I don’t want to fill up the floor. It occurred to me that a recliner contains its own disappearing ottoman, so it saves space. I will still need one for the couch.

Now I need an end table, a TV stand, and a table lamp. Or maybe I’ll just get a Home Depot torchiere. I don’t know if I’ll get a coffee table. They take up a lot of room. Couple of nice collapsible tables might make more sense. Like TV trays, only less crappy.

I considered getting a leather armchair and ottoman, because a leather ottoman would outlast a fabric ottoman that matches my couch. Oh well. I’ll just have to try not to maul the ottoman with my boots.

I wonder how Turks feel when they find out people call footstools “ottomans.”

I continue scouring Craigslist for breakfast tables. If I don’t find one, I’ll have to tell my friends Thanksgiving dinner is off. I bought a new couch because I don’t trust used cushions. When it comes to non-upholstered furniture, used is the only way to go. You can wash the baby pee and whatever else off of it.

By the way, if you buy a sleeper sofa, you’re stupid. I don’t mean that in a mean way. I’m just trying to help you get in touch with reality. I thought about a sleeper, but they’re heavy, they’re expensive, they’re uncomfortable, and they’re obsolete. For $150, you can get a wonderful air mattress that inflates and deflates itself, and which feels better than a real bed. Do not buy a sleeper bed. It’s a bonehead play.

This is very nice. I feel great. I have missed upholstery.

My mother never had nice furniture. My dad would not spring for it, even though he made good money. She bought estate stuff and things that were on sale at outlets. The only new couches we ever had were pretty bad. This one is considerably better, in my opinion.

Maybe some day I’ll hang a picture on a wall. It could happen.

Spacey’s Best Impression

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Even More Convincing Than his Walken

It seems like every day there’s a new Kevin Spacey eruption. It just won’t stop. Sex offenders leave long trails of victims, and at 58, Spacey has had a long time to build a legacy. I’m sure we’ll be hearing new stories for at least a month. This week I realized what amazed me the most about the whole affair: the perpetrator is exceptionally likeable. Even after I knew what he did, I didn’t feel particularly disgusted. It took a while for my emotions to catch up with my brain. I still don’t find him as repulsive as Harvey Weinstein. Strange.

When I found out Weinstein was a career sex offender who destroyed people’s souls, I was not all that shocked. He looks the part, and he seemed obnoxious. But Spacey? He oozes low-key charm. He seems like someone you could go to for help if someone else in Hollywood mistreated you.

It’s starting to look like Spacey is sadistic. Not just a pervert; a bully who gets off on tearing people apart. It’s hard to layer that on top of the previous impression I had of him. It’s not easy to picture Prot from K-Pax raping a kid or using a young actor’s desperation to lure him into a hotel room, knowing he has a) every intention of molesting his victim and discarding him and his dreams and b) no intention at all of helping his career.

Think how cruel that is. You’re working crap jobs so you can live in New York and act. You go to endless auditions. You never get any roles above the extra level. Your parents tell you you’re a failure. Your friends are making money and getting married. You wonder if you’re still going to be sleeping on people’s couches when you’re 30. Then you meet a huge star who says he can help you. It’s your big break. You follow him to his hotel or apartment, you sit on the couch and talk with him, and he nods and smiles and sympathizes with all your troubles. He gives you great advice. He tells you the names of the people he’s going to call about you. He tells you not to worry. He treats you like an equal. Then he wraps his legs around you and shoves his hand down the front of your pants.

That must feel pretty bad. It must feel worse when you realize this is all Kevin Spacey and his Oscars wanted to do for you.

I remember hearing a sick sex story about Mark Wahlberg when I visited L.A. It did not strain credibility. Wahlberg is a former street criminal, and he has never done anything to give me the impression he has a heart. Nothing I heard about Charlie Sheen surprised me. Steven Seagal…by all accounts, he’s barely human. But Spacey? The guy who knocks out talk show panels with his Jack Lemmon impression? It’s hard to picture him being cruel.

A long time ago, I realized I could not see through people. I can’t tell when people are lying. I can’t tell when people are fake. Some people are transparent, but others are too talented to see through. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised to see such sick behavior from someone I saw as friendly and pleasant. Kevin Spacey is a talented impressionist, and apparently, his life as an easygoing heterosexual man was just one long impression.

I wonder who’s next. And what’s going to happen to Hollywood’s men? If they can’t be aggressive pigs, will they do what other men in California have done? I read an interesting article some years ago, about men who were working as left-wing activists in California. They couldn’t get away with any type of assertive or masculine behavior, so they manipulated and stroked the women around them, and they put down their own kind. They were 100% dishonest, but women are very easy to fool, so the women around them completely bought into their Mr. Sensitivity routine. “Sometimes I cry when I think about the dolphins in the tuna net. Maybe you could come up to my hotel room and hold me while I weep.”

I suppose a move to that kind of male manipulation is inevitable if the harassment/rape hysteria continues. It will be thoroughly puketastic to watch.

Fighting sexual abuse seems like a great thing, but this is 2017 Hollywood we’re talking about. Somehow the crusade will be turned into something evil. Count on it.

One last thing…I wonder how many men and women just started large bank accounts in Hollywood and New York. I can tell you what has been happening. Scared abusers have been looking up people they’ve tormented, and they’ve been making deals with them. Checks have been written and cashed. Maybe Al Gore has done it. Maybe John Travolta has done it. But it has been done, and it hasn’t been a few isolated instances. Stars, managers, agents, and lawyers have been making calls and burying the poop. But a lot of it will still come out.

Scary times, for anyone who has secrets.

The Boat That Will not Leave

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

Sinking Out of Spite

I had some more surprises this week.

I’m trying to sell my dad’s yacht, and we have a contract on it. Day before yesterday, the dockmaster at the marina called me in the morning to say an alarm was going off on the boat, and he said it looked a little low in the front. I called my house sitter and had him take a look. Water was coming up in the compartment under the floor of the forward stateroom. It wasn’t an emergency, but it needed to be attended to that day. I knew it was probably a bad bilge pump or a bad float switch.

A bilge pump is a sort of sump pump that sits in the bottom of a boat and pumps out excess water. It prevents the boat from sinking. Including backups, my dad’s boat has six pumps. A float switch is a switch that turns a pump on when water rises and lifts it.

The people at the marina pump boats in emergencies, but their minimum charge is $500, for what may be an easy 15-minute job. I wanted to avoid that.

I called Carlos (random false name), the guy who does most of the repair work on the boat, and I told him water was rising and that he needed to go to the boat. He said he would do it.

Problem solved. Right?

Next morning, the dockmaster calls me again. He says there are a thousand gallons of water in the boat. He says there is no time to wait. I call Carlos immediately and ask why he hasn’t fixed the boat. Carlos says he didn’t think it was urgent. Out come the excuses. It’s my fault for not screaming, “THE BOAT IS SINKING!”

Carlos has been working on boats for 40 years. He was in the Navy. By now, one would think he had learned that when water starts rising in a boat, you go and fix it TODAY. I’m not a boat expert, but I would have been there in five minutes, had I not moved 300 miles. Carlos didn’t even check it. That’s inexcusable. It’s flat-out incompetence. Totally irresponsible. Carlos thought it was highly professional.

I tell Carlos my dad has a submersible pump in his garage in Miami. He needs to go over and get it, to avoid the huge pumping charge. No, Carlos says. There’s too much water.

The dockmaster pumps it out, and he sends me a photo. The water never got up over the floor. There is no damage. There was probably 200 gallons of water in the boat. Carlos could have pumped it out easily with my dad’s pump. Had he felt like getting off his butt.

Carlos then installs a new pump, at $85 per hour.

It may be a little risky for Carlos to replace the seacock, but he can replace the hose very easily. He just doesn’t want to. Maybe he wants us to pay to have the boat hauled.

This is not the first bad experience we’ve had with Carlos. He routinely failed to return calls for days. He sold my dad a Furuno radar with the buttons chewed off by rats. He said it was new, and that he had stored it for a while, and the rats had gotten to it. He said he would order us new buttons. It was a steal.

I eventually asked him why the buttons hadn’t been replaced. “Oh, that’s an old radar. They don’t have parts for that any more.”

Recently, one of the toilets had a problem. Carlos fixed it. He sent a bill for $1900, on a boat he knew we were going to have to get rid of. If we had sold it with a broken head, we would have gotten exactly the same price we are getting now. The $1900 is money, literally, down the toilet.

Carlos says there’s a leaking hose up front that caused the water problem, and he can’t fix it because he can’t close the seacock to keep the water out. He said you can’t replace a hose on a stuck seacock without hauling the boat. I reminded him that he used to replace hoses and seacocks on boats sitting at docks, by having a diver go over the side and hold a toilet plunger over the holes while he worked. I guess he thought I had forgotten that. No, no; he insisted. You have to haul the boat.

Carlos is not a bad person, but he likes to find things he can fix, he seems to like avoiding hard jobs, and he is never wrong. He never says, “Wow, I blew it.”

Now I’m waiting for a $500 bill for a problem I could have fixed in half an hour with three tools and a cheap pump. I’m guessing Carlos will hit us for around $300, plus the pump. The pump should be around $75, but I have a feeling…

So figure $800, minimum.

At least I’m rid of the boat AND Carlos. I don’t dislike Carlos, but I want him out of my life, permanently. He is a financial drain and a source of unnecessary aggravation, and you can’t tell him a damned thing. You’re always wrong, and Carlos is always right, and if you alienate him by calling him on his BS, you may end up having to hire someone substantially worse.

The crazy thing is this: as boat gypsies go, Carlos is a jewel. Most don’t show up at all. They drink. They take drugs. They charge for work they didn’t do. They do unbelievably bad work. They walk off jobs. Carlos usually shows up after a few days or a couple of weeks, and most of his work is good. I guess I would actually recommend Carlos if someone asked, because his colleagues are like confused monkeys.

If you want to get stinking rich, learn how to fix boats, move to the shore, and do minimally competent work for an honest price. You will be so busy you won’t know what to do with yourself. Everyone will want to hire you.

When the dockmaster said there were a thousand gallons of water in the boat, I pictured ruined carpeting, soaked electric motors, stained and swollen paneling…the works. I’m not sure he knows how big a gallon is. I really appreciate him looking after the boat, though, because needless panic is better than letting the boat sink.

Carlos started rattling off things that needed to be fixed. I told him not to fix anything but the pump. I just want it to float until we get rid of it. The broker agrees.

I had to tell him the boat was sold. I was trying to avoid that, because he wanted to make an offer on it. We talked about it a couple of months back, and he talked the boat down. That’s fine, but he made it seem like he was trying to do us a favor, and that was a little insulting. The fact that I don’t remind you that I’m not a sucker doesn’t mean I’m not aware that you’re treating me like one. Miami people don’t understand things like that. They only understand what you spell out for them.

I was afraid he would charge more or do inferior work if he knew he wasn’t getting the boat. Now that the bilge pump is fixed, I’m afraid there may be a “This is what you get for not selling me the boat” surcharge.

The buyers want to take it to the Caymans, where they live. That’s fine, but they really need to haul it and check all the hoses and seacocks. If it starts to go down because of a bad hose, they’ll be in real trouble out there.

I’m not sure how much to babysit them. If I start nagging them about safety, they probably won’t haul the boat. They’ll probably do exactly as they please, or they’ll want me to cut the price.

Barring more surprises, I may be rid of the boat on Friday. Then they have until Halloween to move it. Then I dance in the yard, singing hallelujah. After that, I rent the slip to someone, and then I count the days until I can sell it and do a 1031 exchange on a piece of commercial real estate.

Boats are a headache. Do not buy a boat. A bass boat is fine. A canoe is fine. Anything over 20 feet will make you sorry you bought it. Anything you keep in the water will be even worse, because it will be vulnerable to storms, dock damage, theft, vandalism, and unexpected catastrophic bilge pump failure.

I’m all done with boats. A boat is like a giant tick that’s always thirsty. We haven’t used this one in years, and it’s still sucking the life out of me. Dumping it will turn it and the slip from financial drains to income producers.

We should have gotten rid of it five years ago, but my dad loved it. He spent almost every day sitting on the boat. He refused to accept reality. He would tell me we needed to go to the Bahamas. Okay, first of all, filling it in the US would have run $2200. And diesel is cheap here compared to the Bahamas. You can’t come home unless you refill it there. After that problem is dealt with, what are two old men going to do in the Bahamas by themselves? And how are they going to handle the boat alone? A boat trip is a gigantic amount of work for three or four people. For two–one of whom will not be doing anything but drinking beer–it’s a Herculean labor.

I understand why he enjoyed the boat. He didn’t do anything. He sat on the flybridge drinking one Lite beer after another. I would enjoy that, too, if it were a better beer.

Here’s what I had to do for a half-day trip off Miami:

1. Go buy bait and ice.
2. Salt the bait.
3. Rig the baits in advance.
4. Prepare the rods. Change line, tie leaders, and so on.
5. Check the oil and water in the motors and generator.
6. Check the transmission oil.
7. Make sure everything runs.
8. Check the heads and make sure they work.
9. Fill the fresh water tank and make sure the pump works.
10. Buy sunscreen, food, and beverages and load them onto the boat.
11. Get the boat running on the morning of the trip.
12. Cast off the lines.
13. Monitor my dad so he doesn’t run the boat aground on the way out of the bay.
14. Get the bait out.
15. Monitor the baits while we troll. Untangle fouled lines. Remove seaweed from lines. Replace stolen baits.
16. Teach every guest how to tie the same knot I taught them last time.
17. Teach every guest how to hook a fish.
18. Yell instructions to my dad while we fight fish, while telling the guests what not to do.
19. Deal with the inevitable mechanical, electrical, or head problems which occur because my dad doesn’t like spending money on maintenance. This may involve going into a loud, 120-degree engine room and working there for long periods.
20. Get the rods in order while we cruise back in.
21. Clean the fish.
22. Dump the excess ice and bait.
23. Clean the cooler.
24. Clean the boat.
25. Put the rods away.

For a Bahamas trip, you can add things like get the life raft certified, get the EPIRB certified, pack the entire boat with food and drinks, get the GPS ready, prepare my dad’s house, board my birds, stop the periodicals, stop the mail, make reservations for a slip in the Bahamas…it’s endless.

You can see why I got tired of it. And again, old men do not go on Bahama trips with their dads. Even if they did, my dad was not physically or mentally able to go. He would have come home in a box.

I don’t know when his dementia started kicking in, but he had extremely unrealistic ideas about the boat at least five years ago.

He still says we should get a top price for the boat, because he kept it in peak condition. I must disagree. The seacocks are a mess. The hoses need to be replaced. The furniture and mattresses are done. The carpeting is done. The engine room wiring needs to be gone through. The heads are disgusting. The fridge is rusting apart. The life raft needs to be redone. The canvas is shot. The woodwork needs professional refinishing. The hull needs painting, and it may have blisters.

It would be nice to hear him say, “The boat is a mess and we kept it way too long.” That will never happen.

By this time next week, I hope to be boat-free, and one month from now, I hope to welcome a paying tenant. Fishing was fun. Cruising to the Bahamas on your own yacht is a rare privilege. Great. That’s over now. Time to do something new that doesn’t cost $15,000 per year. I don’t want boats. I want commercial warehouses. Commercial warehouses don’t sink.

I should go outside and clear the yard of sticks so I don’t stub my toes while I dance.

The Middle-Aged Man who Cried “Woolf”

Monday, September 25th, 2017

The Errors of my Youth Now Look Like Master Strokes

I finally finished Crime and Punishment, and that means I am done with the real jawbreakers of the Columbia Lit. Hum. reading list. It also means it’s time for me to unload on Dostoevsky.

Do I have to say it? This book is boring. Boredom seems to be the unifying trait of the Lit. Hum. selections. C&P isn’t nearly as boring as tedium titans like Don Quixote and The Iliad, but it holds its own.

People say Dostoevsky is a literary giant, and that this book is a masterpiece. Did we read the same book? I found C&P clumsy, poorly structured, improbable to the point of making suspension of belief impossible, long-winded, uninspired, and depressing.

Get ready for spoilers.

Raskolnikov, an empty, impoverished intellectual, decides he’s a super being. He is important, and the rest of us are insects. Accordingly, he decides to murder an old lady and rob her in order to support his studies. Then he’s too much of a wuss to deal with the fear of prosecution, so he goes insane temporarily and then, after about 3/4″ of needless tedium (as the bookworm crawls), he turns himself in and goes to Siberia.

The “P” part of C&P is around ten pages long. If you’re hoping to get insights on the Tsar’s penal system, from an author who lived in it, forget it.

One of the dumbest things about this book is the notion that a sociopath capable of murdering an old lady with a hatchet would be tormented by anxiety afterward. Real sociopaths blame their victims, society, white privilege, global warming, and God knows what else, and they don’t have a healthy person’s concerns about the consequences of their actions. The real Raskolnikovs go about their business without much distress, and many of them are never caught. That wouldn’t make a good story, though. I suppose it would be even worse than C&P.

This book is so unimportant as a life experience, I feel I would be cheating myself by spending a significant amount of time criticizing it. I’ve already been overcharged temporally. I don’t want to prolong the time-wasting.

When you read a really good work of literature, such as a Shakespeare play, you come across all sorts of memorable stuff. You find things you want to underline and memorize. Things resonate with you. Maybe you will find things that inspire you or change your outlook in a lasting way. No danger of that with Dostoevsky. C&P is a meaningless tale about a bunch of idiots who don’t have a clue about anything. Is it supposed to be a nihilist work? I can’t even tell. Surely there is a point to such pointlessness.

There isn’t one single admirable person in the book. There is no character you would consider capable of giving intelligent advice. There is no one in the book who I would want to know. Every character is a fool and a failure.

The last two books on the Lit. Hum. list are by Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. I consider one a whiny, victimhood-obsessed affirmative action case and the other a wretched, hopelessly conceited person who failed at existence. I’m going with William Golding for my next choice, and I can’t remember who comes after that. My blog has a search function, so I suppose I’ll find out what I chose.

Lord of the Flies is a much better book than C&P, because it’s under 200 pages long. If it were a pamphlet, it would be better still.

Has the Lit. Hum. list been a total waste of time? No. I learned a lot about the development of Western thought by reading the stuff that came before Cervantes. I got some historical perspective. Other than that, it has generally been a bad experience.

I can’t understand why people love these books. I see why we are forced to read many of them, but I think people who claim they enjoy them are full of it. I enjoyed Catch-22. I enjoyed Animal Farm, The Count of Monte Cristo, Cyrano de Bergerac, Voltaire, a bunch of the French poets, , D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, James Thurber, Antoine de St. Exupery, and a lot of other things I’ve read. Enjoying Homer is probably impossible.

People love to pretend they enjoy things they don’t. A lot of people pretend they enjoyed Ulysses, which is about as much fun as a twenty-hour dental cleaning. Me, I admit there are books I can’t stand. Think I’m stupid if it makes you happy. I am okay with that, because if you think I’m stupid, your opinion means nothing to me.

I may put Virginia Woolf back on the list. I just checked, and her book is only 200 pages. I know quality when I see it.

Yes, she’s back on the list. I checked some other options, and they’re way longer. Forget that.

I can’t believe how long it has taken me to read this garbage. These books, I mean. I thought I would breeze through it in two months, but the pain was just too much. I had to space it out. I started in the summer of 2016, and it is nearly fall, a year later. Surprising.

I thought I might go through Columbia’s Contemporary Civilization readings, too, but what if they’re just as horrible? Also, I don’t think Macchiavelli and Hobbes are going to have a major positive influence on me at this stage of my life.

Will this experience drive me to resume reading literature? No way. I don’t miss it at all. I may look at Shakespeare from time to time, and I will surely read a few other things, but I’m basically done with fiction. I got tired of it in my twenties, and Lit. Hum. reminded me why that happened. Lost, bitter people who don’t know God, making up unpleasant stories to justify their discontent. That’s most of literature, in a nutshell. You really have to pick and choose.

Now that I’ve read Crime and Punishment, I can’t wait to get out there and not read the rest of Dostoevsky’s works. My crime was refusing to do the reading when I took Lit. Hum. in college, and my punishment is nearly over. I don’t plan to become a recidivist.

Maybe I should study Columbia’s Art Hum. curriculum and learn to be glad I don’t care about art.

That’s it until I get started on Golding. No, Woolf. Whatever.

Time to go ride on the tractor while listening to Christian music and packing a 10mm.

Fake Hurricane News

Friday, September 8th, 2017

THE END IS HERE

It’s time to repeat my eternal criticism of the hurricane press: they make things seem worse than they are.

Whenever a storm gets close to Florida, they do their best to make people think it’s headed right for their houses. When a storm moves toward Miami and then changes direction, they wait as long as possible before admitting Miami isn’t taking a hit.

Fake news at its best.

The fake hurricane news people have a lot of reasons for lying to us. For one thing, hysteria increases viewership. When you’ve spent a lot of money gearing your station up for constant hurricane coverage, you don’t want to say things like, “Oops. Never mind.” Viewers will relax, turn off the TV, and go to bed. Here’s another motivator: if they underestimate the thread, people will raise hell later on. The news people don’t want people telling them their homes got messed up because they listened to rosy forecasts and didn’t prepare. In today’s ridiculous legal environment, a station could conceivably get sued. “Dear 96-year-old Effa May here believed you when you said Hurricane Bob wasn’t going to hit her trailer…”

I am no meteorologist, but it looks like they’re lying to us now.

According to the Internet, Irma’s hurricane-force winds extend outward from the center something like 65 miles. That means if you’re over 65 miles away, you will not experience a hurricane. You will get a tropical storm, which means winds of 74 mph or less. The 74 mph figure applies to the 65-mile mark. If you’re farther away, you will get lower winds.

They now expect the center of the storm to be about 100 miles away from Miami when it passes. That means Miami would be 35 miles past the hurricane zone. Nonetheless, they’re claiming it will be like a Category 3 storm in Miami. Category 3 means a minimum of 96 mph, sustained. Not gusts. Sustained. In order for that to happen, the center of the storm will have to be what? Maybe 30 miles away? Come on.

They’re telling us Irma is the size of Texas. No, it’s not. Not the important part. Texas is 800 miles wide. Irma’s hurricane zone is around 130 miles wide. Eyeballing the map, it appears that the tropical storm zone is around 400 miles wide. That’s half of 800. Sure, there may be clouds extending out over 800 miles. Are you afraid of clouds? A cloud 400 miles from the center of a hurricane is just a cloud.

Here is what appears to be true, from a person who is capable of reading a map and doing high school geometry: unless Irma deviates 35 or more miles east of the projected path, Miami will not get hurricane winds. If it deviates exactly 35 miles east, Miami will get low Category 1 winds. If it stays on track or deviates west, Miami will get winds considerably lower than 75 mph.

I survived Andrew. I knew Andrew. Irma…you’re no Andrew.

Andrew’s winds within the Miami area reached at least 170 mph, not including tornadoes. I saw four-foot-thick concrete power poles twisted off at their bases. That can’t happen when the hurricane’s center is a hundred miles away.

A few days ago, we were looking at a 185-mph storm that appeared likely to hit Miami dead center as a Category 5. Now it’s expected to be somewhere around 150 mph, a long way off. Big, big difference.

Maybe I’m wrong, but at least I’m giving you the same facts I pick up from the NHC’s data. Are there secret facts out there that I don’t know about? Are Irma’s winds actually 250 miles wide, making them highly likely to hit Miami? If so, why does the NHC say otherwise on its website?

Of course, hurricanes change their minds. Irma could surprise us. It could go straight through Miami. It could make a hard left and go to South America. It could veer east while staying within the cone of uncertainty. But it can’t stay on course and do what they’re saying it will do, if the wind figures they’re giving us are correct. It can’t be Category 4 in Naples and Category 3 in Miami AND have a hurricane zone 130 miles wide. Not possible.

Maybe Texas is really small, and they lie about it because they’re insecure.

If Irma doesn’t move east of its predicted track, I expect Miami to be fine. A few trees will fall, and a few thousand people will lose power because of the primitive, vulnerable power grid. That will be it. Unless those secret facts come into play.

I’m very glad I have not been watching the news. The few minutes I’ve endured have done nothing but raise my blood pressure and offend me.

I will keep praying for Irma to fail. Things look a whole lot better than they did yesterday. Thank you, God. Your patience is wonderful.

Logistics

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Goodbye, in Stages

It is becoming obvious to me that I know very little about the process of moving from one home to another.

For several weeks, I’ve been packing boxes, giving things away, and throwing things out. I’ve interviewed movers. I’ve found out about having machines and vehicles moved. After all that, I keep learning new things.

Today the movers told me the job takes three days. They pack on one day, shove things into the truck the next, and move on the third. I thought it was a one-day move, which was actually fairly stupid on my part. The drive alone will take them five hours.

If they have a whole day to pack, it takes a load off my mind. It means I don’t have to be prepared perfectly. If there are things I can’t deal with, I can turn them over to the movers.

The Internet issue is still alive. I found an outfit which will sell me a wireless data plan which is not limited to 32 GB, but they haven’t gotten back to me with a price yet. I feel like anything under a hundred bucks is acceptable. The Internet is important. If anything were to happen to my dad, I would kill the TV service immediately, but the Internet is essential.

Throwing out my dad’s ruined 1980’s furniture has been like lancing a giant boil. He paid way too much for it (i.e. more than nothing), so he has always been convinced that it’s fine furniture. The other day I put his sawdust credenza out for the Salvation Army, and he insisted it was a quality piece. Here are some interesting facts about it.

1. The back is hardboard, which is the hard cardboard clipboards are made from.

2. The body is made from sawdust mixed with glue and pressed into flat shapes.

3. Drawers from fine pieces of furniture are held together with dovetails. The credenza’s drawers are held together (barely) by staples.

4. When you bump into the credenza, sometimes sawdust falls out.

I have the 1981 receipt for the credenza. It cost $1000, and it was a floor model. That explains the strange dents and scratches. This is what happens when a divorced man finds a new girl. He buys things no one should ever buy.

Right now, if the right person (someone whose name ends in “Z”) wanted that thing, a fair price would be $150. New. It’s one step up from the furniture they sell at Office Depot, only less durable and more offensive.

Here’s something to think about. His entertainment center is a nice set from Ethan Allen. It’s solid wood. It has three cabinets, total. It’s around nine years old, and he paid $1010. When he bought it, it was new. That was about 30 years (of inflation) after he paid about the same amount for the sawdust credenza. And the Ethan Allen set was not on sale. This gives you an idea of the magnitude of the swindle.

The credenza disaster took place during the Cocaine cowboy years. People in Miami had even less taste than they do now, which is saying a lot. A lot of fake Bauhaus houses went up during that time. They look like tiny versions of cheap concrete high schools. They were filled with glass tables and bright yellow couches. People kept live tigers on their patios, and when they thought of timeless elegance, they thought of orange double knit. It was pretty gross. That’s where the credenza was spawned.

It’s gone with a capital “G” now. I have no idea why the Salvation Army accepted it. I fully expected a rejection note and maybe a bag of dog crap on the porch.

I’m very glad he didn’t see me and my friend Travis dumping his 1987 27″ TV by the curb. I think he paid $1500 for it. In its time, it was the fanciest TV you could find at Circuit City. As far as I know, it was still working when we gave it the heave-ho. You can’t make an older person understand that a 70-pound, 27″ TV that can’t receive a digital signal is no good. As Travis said, even pawn shops won’t take them.

I thought that TV was great when it was new, but then I was also pretty excited about the 512K Macintosh that only ran when it had a floppy disk inserted. What a machine. It had an external floppy drive, and if you wanted to replace the drive, it only cost $385.

I digress.

This weekend, I plan to take my mother’s mink to the Salvation Army. I saw a website that said old minks could bring as much as $400, so I was hot to put it on consignment, but then I found out it was not the $400 kind of old mink. It’s a stole from around 1970, and they sell on Ebay, all day long, for under $30. Makes me wonder why women don’t snap them up. They still look good. I guess they don’t want filthy hippies throwing red paint on them and forcing them to draw their pistols.

If my sister ever hears that I gave away the mink, the ensuing explosion will probably show up on seismographs. Last time she mentioned it, she thought it was worth a bundle. If we were still communicating, I would offer it to her, but when you commit felonies, get yourself ejected from rehab (again), and fall into society’s cracks, you pretty much give up the right to be informed about the disposition of your mom’s worthless old furs. I won’t be giving it to her, so it won’t be going to the dump or the pawnbroker like my mom’s gold Rolex or my grandmother’s wedding ring.

I was going to keep the Mom-era knickknacks from my dad’s house, but the more I think about it, the more I think I should cut a lot of them loose. Some are not very tasteful, others won’t fit in a traditional Southern house, and the rest are reminders of a dysfunctional past. I would throw out the bed my mom and dad bought after they got married, because it was my bed during many unpleasant years, but my dad is still attached to it.

Maybe he’ll forget about it, and if that happens, it’s gone.

The way you look at an heirloom depends a lot on the way you were raised. If your childhood was happy, heirlooms are treasured souvenirs of a golden age. If your childhood was like mine, you will want to burn most things that are over ten years old. The very thought of burning them is refreshing and redolent with hope.

I’m torn about discarding my sister’s college diploma. Obviously, she doesn’t care about it, or it wouldn’t have been lodged in my dad’s house since 1981. She didn’t care about her law school diploma or oath of attorney, which I set out for her when she moved out of the house she ruined. Those went to the dump. She left them where I put them.

When you have an abusive relative or former lover or whatever, keeping objects on which they have claims is like giving them permanent tickets to your presence. That diploma is like a beacon that gives out a homing signal that attracts swarms of stinging insects.

I believe in shedding my skin. Some bits of the past should be preserved, and others should be cleared away, fast. I gave away my mother’s clothes the week she died, as soon as I could get them in the car. If anything happens to my dad, his clothes and every troublesome possession he has will be gone in a week. All the things I wish he would get rid of…out. A house is not a mausoleum. The dead should be remembered and honored to some extent, but keeping things the way they left them is sick and evil. The dead move on, and we should, too. They’re not in heaven, burying their faces in our old jackets and sweaters.

I’ve rambled enough. Time to set about twenty pounds of my own clothes apart for donation. Goodbye, 1988. That jean jacket never came in handy the way I thought it would.

Scarface’s Hand-me-Downs

Monday, August 7th, 2017

Won’t Rest Until I have a Green Headboard with Recessed Blacklights

I am getting ruthless with ridding myself of unwanted furniture. There are a number of items I never want to see again, and the thought of having the new house befouled by their presence–and paying for it–is a little too much for me.

Yesterday I took to Craigslist and looked at bedroom sets and dining tables. I found some very nice stuff. There was a considerable amount of cardboard and sawdust furniture worthy of IKEA, but there were a lot of pieces I would not be embarrassed to own. It looks like you can furnish a bedroom with tasteful furniture for $600 or so. I’ll post a couple of photos.

I can’t decorate, but I have some rudimentary clue as to what looks good and what belongs in a cathouse or frathouse. I think the things I found will work okay.

Just for fun, I decided to check Craigslist in Miami. This is not a classy town, so I figured I was in for some interesting viewing. My neighbors did not disappoint. Generally, the furniture was less tasteful, and some was downright bizarre. If you want to sell a purple entertainment center with white hardware, Miami is the place to be.

Take a look.

Lovely, right?

In the Ocala area, I found a very interesting bedroom set made by Berkey and Gay. The owner thinks it was made by Berkley and Gray. It has twin beds. I’m not sure what to make of it. The furniture itself looks pretty cool, and it has to be old, because the company went out of business a very long time ago. Here’s the problem: it has little pictures of fruit painted on it.

I don’t know if it came that way from the factory or what. Being a man, I am not sure whether the fruit paintings are acceptable. If they’re not, can the fruit be removed without ruining the patina?

Maybe it’s a little too antiquey. I can’t tell.

Sometimes a normal sexual orientation is a disadvantage.

I thought it would be a good thing to have in a spare bedroom, in case friends with kids visited. In the South, you can get away with a certain amount of antiques.

I found some dining tables that aren’t scary.

Here’s a bedroom I could live with.

I’m starting to think it might be possible to have a house that looks okay. That wasn’t in the original plan, but maybe I can pull it off.

Walk-Through Finished

Friday, August 4th, 2017

Written on August 3

Too-Perfect House for a Very Imperfect Man

This must be what the day after you go to heaven is like.

Again, I am forced to post this after the fact, but still.

This is a Thursday. My dad and I just went to the final walk-through at the farm he is buying. The sellers took us through the whole place. I am floored.

The place is spotless. It looks like a new house. The interior doesn’t even need to be painted. Some areas are carpeted, and the carpet is new. The seller gave me a three-point attachment for the tractor, free, with a pointy thing on it for lifting hay. I found out later it was called a “bale spear.”

There is a ton of storage. I won’t have to throw out my toys. Like I was even considering it. I guess I could just have the movers take everything both of us own, and then I could store it all and then reduce it at my leisure. Some of it would probably look nice in the fireplace on a cold February evening.

I’m going to take an entire floor for myself. My dad can do all the damage he wants downstairs. He can turn it into the TV-Watching Shrine for the Southeastern United States if he wants. I’ll be upstairs waiting for the Rapture with my hobbies. The house has an intercom, believe it or not, so whenever he wants, he can summon me, and like Lurch, I will appear and solve his problems.

The area where the farm is located is nicer than I remembered. It has a little altitude, and that supposedly improves the breeze. The land is hilly, although the farm itself is fairly flat. The traffic is light. The roads are in great shape. There’s a lot of green, especially after a rainy July.

I still have to get moved. I don’t care. I’ll get it done if I have to carry everything up there on my back.

My dad is concerned he won’t have anything to do, but since he has had nothing to do for two years, I don’t think his gripe will turn out to be well-grounded. If he’s not bored now, he never will be. I’m looking into opportunities for him to socialize. Marion County is jammed up with geezers, so I’m quite sure I can find amusements for him.

The seller says we can kill the property tax by selling hay or by getting goats. He raised cattle, but they poop the place up. That’s a good thing if you need manure, but it’s not like manure is hard to come by in horse country. He said mature Boer goats would be very happy on the farm, but that it was not a good idea to have breeding stock, because coyotes eat the kids. Down side: no baby goats. Up side: I may have coyotes for rifle practice.

He said he lost one calf to coyotes. What ever happened to the old days, when they stayed out west where they belonged?

Tonight my friends Leah and Scott will be swinging through again on their way back from Sarasota, so there will be a lot to talk about. I’m overwhelmed.

Apparently, God does not mind doing surprisingly nice things for you, when things line up right. I think my blessings are related to the fact that I haven’t given a dime to a preacher in several years. I feel like God is using me to make a point.

Tomorrow we close, and then–wheeeeeee–back to Miami for a while. It will end. I will remind myself of that over and over, the same way I’ve said the same thing to myself when I’ve had the flu or severe diarrhea. Like severe diarrhea, every visit to Miami eventually ends.

I don’t have any new photos worth posting, but you can expect some when we take possession. Believe that.

Now I’ll relax before dinner. Time to lie back and think about tractors.

Walk-Through Eve

Friday, August 4th, 2017

Written on August 2

Closing is Near

I can’t post this entry tonight, but I wanted to write it anyway, while the details were fresh in my mind. What is the Christian life without testimony? A great product with no advertising. Tonight I will advertise.

I’m in Ocala, at a hotel. It’s more like a motel, but “hotel” sounds nicer. Day after tomorrow, my dad is closing on the new house. We have a walk-through tomorrow. I’m not posting this tonight, because it’s a bad idea to go on the Internet and tell people you’re not home.

I drove us up from Miami today. Not the most pleasant trip. It took quite a while to get my dad ready to leave. He has traveled hundreds of thousands or millions of miles, and he used to have it down to a science, but he complains that he has forgotten it all. We had to get all his stuff packed, and there was some resistance to my suggestions, so I worked with him to get it done his way. For some reason, he didn’t pack last night, so it took us around 45 minutes to get him into the car.

Once we were on the road, he wanted to stop for lunch about 3 1/2 hours after breakfast, and he had to make two other stops, so we didn’t make record time. I have to drive everywhere now, except for little trips he makes in Miami, so today I had to drive us the entire way, while coping with whatever problems he had.

Along the way, I texted some friends to let them know I was on the road. One family I know moved to Orlando a couple of years ago, and another couple moved to Kissimmee a few weeks back. I also emailed Leah, the new sister God gave me several years ago. She lives in Pensacola. Leah texted back and said she and her husband Scott were helping a family move from Pensacola to Sarasota. They would be going through Ocala. She said we should try to meet.

I texted her a little later, during our lunch trip to Cracker Barrel. She and her party were at a Cracker Barrel, too. Funny.

After a while, we coordinated again, and it turned out she would arrive in Ocala about 15 minutes after we did. We made it to the hotel and checked in, and 15 minutes later, I met Leah and Scott in the parking lot. How crazy is that?

We decided to go have food. I was a little concerned that my dad would dominate the conversation and keep it off of God, because he does that. To my surprise, he didn’t want to go. He wanted to go for a walk, which is something he can do safely here. We took off for Bob Evans!

Leah and Scott were helping her friends Eddie and Nora move. Eddie is a missionary. He felt God was telling him to move to Sarasota, which is apparently a fairly Godless area. Not a surprise, given the large number of arty people who live there. He and Nora decided to sell their house and go, and suddenly, over the last few weeks, things fell together quickly, and they were free to go. Their old house sold fast. Here’s something weird: their son and daughter, who look to be about ten and eight, were all for the move. Kids always hate moving, but before their parents were sold on the idea, the kids thought it was the right thing to do.

We sat down and ordered, and while the waitress was fussing over us (same waitress I had last time I went to this Bob Evans), I said I was going to do something for someone, and they thanked me, and I said if God was giving me a house, I could do this for them. Guess what the waitress said? “Amen.” Like it was normal for Christians to come in and talk about God with the wait staff. Because it probably is. I love this place.

We had a great talk, and we shared testimony. We caught up. It was wonderful. And the kids were so well-behaved, I didn’t know what to think. Miami kids scream in restaurants, and they get up and run between the tables.

Here’s part of the testimony I gave. I have a young friend named Travis. We get together for prayer. He studies at the University of Miami, which is close to my dad’s house. Travis knows Leah. Travis is not in the greatest financial shape. I told Leah and the group I had been praying the other day about the problems I would have getting my dad’s house in order for renting after the move, and that God had given me the answer: hire Travis to house-sit. He could let contractors in and make sure no one steals. He would have a little extra income, plus free rent, and I would be released to get the move done.

I said I wanted to take a picture of the group, just to mess with Travis. I was going to text it to him. I got up and took the picture. As I sat down, I said it was going to freak Travis out, and before I could sit down completely or send the text, the phone rang. It was Travis, asking how the trip was going. Of course, I had to send him Leah’s regards. Travis has been watching things come together supernaturally all through my efforts to move, so of course, he was bowled over. I let him know I could guarantee him a place through the month of September, so in addition to the shock of hearing about Leah, he got some very, very good news which took a weight off his back.

Scott and Leah and the crew said their goodbyes at my hotel, and they took off. They’ll be coming back through tomorrow, so maybe we’ll get together again!

I went to my room, and I saw I had forgotten my sleep mask. I need this thing. Hotel rooms are full of big LED’s that burn all night. I got hooked on masks because my rude Miami neighbors have bright security lights under their eaves. I went to CVS (I know the way to CVS!), but they were out of masks. Went to Walgreen’s, and the lady who worked there could not have been nicer. She knew the aisle and shelf where I would find a mask. I got to the aisle and found the masks. They usually cost $9. They were marked down to 99 cents. I bought two! You can’t beat that. Nothing else I saw there had the giant orange sale tag. It’s like they knew I was coming.

It has been a good day. Wouldn’t you agree? By the way, my friend who lives in Orlando called me back and said he was coming to help me on the day of the move, and he means it. It will be great to see the family. I’ll never get his kids out of the pool, though. That’s a given. They may move in.

I suspect more strange things will happen tomorrow. I certainly hope so.

I wonder how wrong we’ve been about God. Just how good IS he? How much should we dare believe?

I forgot to buy dental floss. I wonder if it will be on sale when I find it tomorrow.

I would wish you a great night, but you can’t see what I’m typing tonight, so I guess I’ll just say this: happy trails.

Polo!

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Still Here

Just blogging to confirm that I’m alive. Some wonderful things have happened over the last few days. Can’t go into detail today, but you will read about it soon.

Human Pachinko

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Disturbing Visit to IKEA

What an experience I had today. I shopped at IKEA for the very first time. It was the most dehumanizing shopping experience I have ever had.

Where do I start?

First of all, there is one cramped entrance to the huge parking garage (you have to use their garage), and in order to get in from the north, you have to make a U-turn. That’s stupid.

After that, you find yourself in a poorly marked garage which probably contains 8 acres of space. I parked on the ground floor, figuring that was where the store entrance was. Because most store owners want to make it EASY to get into their stores.

I walked up to the entrance, grabbing a cart along the way, and it turned out to be the entrance to a bank of three elevators and some escalators. The store was not on the ground floor. You’re supposed to get into an elevator…with your huge shopping cart. I am not making that up.

I got into an elevator and went up a floor. I got out. No store. Okay. I waited for another elevator. They don’t have big signs telling you where to go. You have to guess.

Went up another floor. Got out. Went to something that looked like an entrance. It turned out it was the entrance to some kind of indoor playground for kids. Who takes their kids to IKEA to play? Lunatics, I guess.

I stopped a salesperson. I said, “How do you get INTO this place?” She told me to get on the elevator and go up one more floor.

On the next floor, I found a store. I pushed my cart (with one wheel that kept trying to turn) into the entrance. I found myself confronted with one department of the store, from which there was no escape that didn’t involve going forward.

You won’t believe this unless you’ve seen it, but IKEA forces you to go through the entire store in order to get your product. It’s a one-dimensional store. It’s not like Target, where you can always move in one of two directions. It’s like being trapped in the intestines of a giant beast. You go in one end, and you visit every twist and turn until you come out the other. There are a few minor deviations, but that’s the story.

I went through the entire floor, held up by endless people who clogged the narrow aisles and barely moved, and when I got to the end, I had not seen sheets. That’s what I wanted to buy. I asked another salesperson, and she said I was on the wrong floor.

Seriously. They have enough room to put the whole store on one floor, but they used it to divide the parking garage into levels. Is that stupid, or am I?

The person who told me to go up one floor was wrong. Somewhere on the playground floor, there was a store which was somehow hidden.

I had been at IKEA for quite some time by then, but I was determined to get my sheets, so I persevered.

I got to the next floor, and I was once again confronted by the constricted concrete entrails of IKEA. Surely this is the most authoritarian store in America. I walked past aisle after aisle of Chinese garbage. After maybe ten minutes, I got to the sheet area. I found my sheets and hightailed it for the exit. Which I could not see. When you’re in the bowels of IKEA, you can’t see the checkout stations. It’s like a DVD you can’t fast-forward.

I got the one of the slow registers, and I asked the guy for a bag for my sheets. He offered me a “green bag” (which was blue) for a dollar. Are you kidding me? Do I need a reusable bag cluttering up my house when I’m trying to move? I turned it down. I made the smart move. I thought.

Got out of the checkout line, and I found myself in an non-air-conditioned room (in Miami in July) with three big elevators and maybe fifty people with carts trying to jam themselves in. I could not believe it. I had four sets of sheets and two sets of pillowcases, and I knew I couldn’t carry them on the escalator. Now I knew what the bag was for. It was a fee for avoiding the elevators.

Miraculously, I made it into an elevator during the first tide, and I got off at P1, which, I figured was the first floor of the parking garage. I looked around for my car, and then I noticed there were tree tops visible over the low walls of the garage. I was not on the ground floor. I guess in Sweden, they number floors downward, starting on random levels.

Back to the elevator bank, which took forever.

Finally got out on the correct floor. Couldn’t find my car. Okay, that was my fault. But by this point, more frustration was the last thing I needed.

Back to the elevator bank. Found the car. Drove home.

I have never had a store make me feel more insulted or unimportant, not to mention claustrophobic. You can’t walk where you want. You can’t have a bag. You’re trapped like an ant in an ant farm. And what about fire codes? If that place burns, everyone in it will die, because you can’t see the exits. You could be a hundred feet from an exit and have to make three turns to find it.

What a disgusting store. I will never go back. If I like the sheets, next time, I’ll order them online.

The merchandise is horrible. I’m sure some of it is fine, but I saw display after display of aggressively inoffensive disposable sawdust and melamine furniture. Who buys this crap? You have to be out of your mind. You spend hundreds of dollars buying a sawdust living room, and then a month later, it has a street value of $75. No one wants used sawdust furniture.

Imagine how cluttered our landfills must be, with all the sawdust and melamine furniture we buy. And the funny part about that is that IKEA preys on the weak-minded by claiming to be green and friendly and gay. How can disposable furniture be green? How can furniture made in dirty backward countries that have a license to kill under the Paris Climate Accord be green?

I felt like a character in a dystopian film like Soylent Green or Logan’s Run. I feel icky inside, thinking about it. My visit made me think of Holocaust victims being herded and sorted on arriving at a death camp. I’m not trying to be funny, either. That’s exactly what I thought of.

I hope the sheets work out, but I will never set foot in that store again, even if I can find the way in.

King Tut Meets Al Capone

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Archaeology Begins at Home

There is nothing like a relaxing Saturday. I’m blowing off steam by cleaning my dad’s bathroom, bedroom, and closets. Resorts should offer activities like this.

Perhaps I jest.

If you have an older relative who is starting to tune out, you are in for interesting times when you have to go in and deal with his or her mess. I am finding things that blow my mind.

I would guess that my dad has 30 pairs of shorts, dating back 35 years. How many are worth keeping? Realistically, maybe seven. Some are too small. Some are worn out. Some are just too short; they gave my mom fits. Some are white.

You don’t want your older relatives trailing along behind you in public places, on sunny days, wearing white. Things show through.

Years ago, he had to have his roof fixed over his hall closet. There was a hellacious leak. Yesterday I was throwing things out, and I found mold on the wall and ceiling. Nice. The ceiling was done, but the mold was not removed. Today I had to clean it out with bleach. Along the way, I found his c. 1982 racquetball racquet plus a Homedics foot spa and maybe twenty pounds of pennies. Grist for the Salvation Army mill.

One nice thing about having absolutely no help is that my word is now law. I have decided which items of clothing he likes. The rest go to the trash or charity. My mother would have killed for this power. I wish she could be here to see me throw out the sheets she bought before she died in 1997. She would stand up and cheer.

I don’t think anyone wants detailed information about his bathroom, but I can say that I threw out maybe two hundred tourist-size hotel soaps and shampoos. He is one of those people who clean out hotel bathrooms every day of their stays. I’ve never understood that. A big bottle of Suave shampoo is three bucks at the drugstore, and it will last six months. Soap runs maybe ten dollars a year, if you’re a heterosexual. I think it’s unethical to take things from hotels just because you can. It’s like scooping packets of Splenda into your pockets at Denny’s. If it was really free, they’d put it out front in an open box.

He will need sheets, so I searched for a good deal. I am disgusted by today’s snowflake sheets with thread counts that require scientific notation. I have expensive dress shirts with a thread count under 200, but you can buy sheets that go up to at least 1800 per inch. Ridiculous. If you’re such a sissy you can’t deal with 200 threads per inch, you should go live in a bubble. I’m no textile engineer, but common sense tells me that the thinner the threads are, the thinner the sheet will be, and the sooner it will wear out. Nobody makes a 300-TC work shirt. Why would you pay more for something that doesn’t last as long?

Maybe I’m wrong. The deep mysteries of sheet making are closed to me.

I finally found good old white sheets at a great price. It’s harder than you think. Guess who sells them. Guess. I’ll tell you. IKEA. You can get queen sheet sets for $25. If you don’t know what a deal that is, look around. Decent sheets from good manufacturers start at around $120. I blame Norma Rae.

The IKEA thread count is 140 per inch. Now that’s a sheet. It ought to last forever. And I’m getting white. The only color a man should have. It matches everything, and you can bleach it. SOLD!

I might go totally nuts and go for the $40 set, with 300 threads per inch, but I am pretty excited about 140. People got by with worse for centuries, and they didn’t mind at all.

Here’s a neat feature IKEA sheets have: the ends tuck in. American pillowcases are open at one end, so if you use slippery bug-proof pillow protectors (also spill-proof), the pillows slowly slide out of the cases while you sleep. European pillowcases keep the pillows where they should be.

I use bug-proof pillow protectors to keep mites out. Over time, they slowly ruin pillows by filling them with allergens. I even covered my mattress with a bug bag.

Sheets are complicated these days. Mattresses used to be maybe 8 inches thick, but now some go 18. For that, you need “deep pocket” sheets. You also need deep pockets to get 1800-TC sheets, but I digress. Deep pocket sheets fit big mattresses, but they’re loose on normal mattresses, so you have to buy sheet straps to hold them on. Annoying.

I found out Coral Gables lets you put one big item of furniture in the trash per week. I think I wrote about that already. I put my dad’s cardboard office credenza out last week. This week, he will forfeit the mattress from his middle-aged convertible couch. Next week, maybe, the couch itself. By spacing it out, I make the couch easier to carry. I am thinking I should keep the cushions to pad things when I move. I’m sure I’ll have to move a lot of things personally.

I’m all rested now. Writing this entry served its purpose. I’m off to IKEA, where I hope they will let me shop even though I’m not gay.

Onward and upward, or at least northward.

Why Can’t Denial Just be for Bad Things?

Friday, July 14th, 2017

Heart Refuses to Believe I’m Blessed

I feel like I’m rehearsing for a play that will never open. I am packing for a move, and I can’t fully accept that it’s truly going to happen.

A few days back, I went to Home Depot and bought 40 small boxes. Home Depot sells moving supplies at acceptable prices. Since then, I have been stuffing boxes with books. I take a box, open it up, tape the bottom, put a big number on it, put bubble wrap in the bottom, and start putting books in. While I do this, I keep a list in outline form on a laptop. Each box gets a numerical heading, and the list of books goes under it.

I have filled 21 boxes so far, and I would guess I have 15 to go. I’m kind of disappointed in my dad’s books. There aren’t a lot of great ones, and some have plastic on them. He must have joined a book club at some point. Here’s how they worked: they offer you one book a month at a good price, and if you don’t make a choice, they send you garbage publishers need to unload. Looks like my dad didn’t make a choice every month.

I have a big collection of math, physics, and engineering books. I have books relating to tools. I have a certain amount of literature, and it’s not John Grisham or Barbara Cartland. It’s real literature. I don’t buy much junk.

My dad has some solid history books. He always found history more interesting than I did.

Maybe 45 years ago, he bought The Great Books of the Western World. This is a big set of books containing every piece of writing a bunch of academics thought a person needed to read in order to be considered educated. My dad wanted to throw them out a few years ago, so I took them. You never know when you might want to get up to speed on Marcus Aurelius. I also have the Encyclopedia Britannica I got for winning my area’s spelling bee. I can’t throw those out. The books remind me that I wasn’t a complete washout as a kid.

If you don’t make a list of the things you move, and you don’t label the boxes, you will be in for a treat when you arrive at your new home. You will have a colossal mound of boxes with contents you can’t identify. You won’t even be able to move them to the correct rooms before opening them.

Every box has five numbers on it. One on the top, and one on each side. No matter which side of a box is exposed, I will be able to identify it. Very exciting.

I read somewhere that movers charge $35 per hour to pack things. It must be great to turn strangers loose in your house, have them box everything up while you sit by the pool, and not have to lift a finger. Unfortunately, it’s expensive, you don’t know what goes into each box, your stuff is packed by people who don’t care if it breaks, and you don’t get a chance to throw out or give away things you really should not pay to move. For me, packing things myself is the way to go.

I am being ruthless with the furniture. The Salvation Army and the dump will be receiving a number of items. It may seem like furniture you hold onto is free, but when you’re paying someone to move it, every article has to justify its existence, because you are paying for it all over again.

My family is dysfunctional. That means familiar possessions aren’t always heirlooms. Sometimes a couch reminds you of the time one of your mother’s friends gave her furniture because she felt sorry for her. A crappy desk can be a reminder that someone always made do with junk instead of making reasonable investments in a pleasant home. There are quite a few things I will be discarding for purposes of catharsis as well as economy.

New questions keep popping up. Example: if the movers take our beds to the new house, what are we supposed to sleep on while the move is in progress? Maybe I should get a couple of air mattresses. Good things to have anyway. You never know when you will have guests. I was thinking of putting a convertible couch in the new house, but I decided against it. They’re heavy and expensive, and they’re terrible as beds. Air mattresses are cheap, and when deflated, each one takes up as much room as a suitcase.

Too bad they don’t make air tables, chairs, and houses.

Air families. Blow them up, enjoy their company, and when they start to get on your nerves, release the air. Actually, they do make something like that, but it’s not quite that wholesome.

The more I know about the new place, the more it seems tailored to our needs. Today a concern hit me. Will the bathroom situation work? I didn’t remember what all of the bathrooms in the new house were like. It would be bad to have only one full bath.

I looked at the ads, and they said it had one full bath and two half baths. Uh-oh. My dad will have the master suite, and that means he gets the big bathroom. I will not want to have to share it with him and anyone who comes to provide care for him. And overnight guests? Forget it. Not workable. Have to put a bucket in the woods by the workshop. Yes, we will have our own woods.

I found the house plans and checked. The upstairs has two real bathrooms. Thank God. Why weren’t they in the online ads? There will be total bathroom separation. I won’t have to push through walkers, hand rails, and other equipment that might pop up in the future, after making an appointment with a nurse.

There must be two hundred moving problems I haven’t thought of yet, but they will be handled. I will…will…WILL escape Miami. My blood pressure will drop fifty points. I will be able to sleep without earplugs. I will not hear salsa thumping on my windows at night. I’ll be able to understand almost everyone who speaks to me. People in restaurants will talk instead of yelling. People in movies won’t talk continuously in Spanish. Episodes of other drivers risking my life in order to save three seconds will drop by 90%. Other drivers may actually use their turn signals sometimes. I will be able to drive 10 miles in 12 minutes instead of 5 miles in 20 minutes. My car insurance will cost less than the car is worth. I’ll be able to take pleasure drives again. The air won’t smell like damp laundry. A McDonald’s breakfast won’t cost 10 dollars. I’ll be able to hire contractors and tradesmen who know how to do their jobs, instead of greedy slackers who promise the world and perform like monkeys in Army LSD experiments.

No leaf blowers! How about that? I can’t imagine life without leaf blower noise.

Cool nights! Miami doesn’t have those. Tonight it’s supposed to be 80 degrees here. Where I’m going, it will be 74, and that’s July. If you live in Tennessee or Missouri, that may not be exciting to you, but 74 sounds wonderful to me. Granted, Marion County is hot during summer days (4 degrees hotter than Miami), but the summer ENDS, and even in August, the average temperature at night is under 72. Hot nights are disgusting. Besides, the sun is less direct up there. The sun here is noticeably less bright than it is in the Keys, and it will be somewhat less bright 300 miles north.

Check this out: I’ll be able to get real barbecue without making it myself. Marion County has a bunch of Sonny’s restaurants, and one is very close to me. It also has one-off barbecue joints. More good news: I’ll be less than ten minutes from a Cracker Barrel. Filled with real crackers.

Miami is a funny place. The traffic is so bad, you defer short trips. If you need something from a place 5 miles away, you may put it off until the weekend in order to avoid killing 40 minutes in traffic. I avoid driving between 7 and 10 a.m. and between 2 and 7 p.m. It’s that bad. Miami has a lot of stores and restaurants, but what good are they if you can’t stand to drive to them, and you can’t stand to call them on the phone because they don’t understand anything you say?

Store Guy: Yo, dica me.

Me: Hi. I’m calling to see if you have Seastar hydraulic fluid in stock.

Store Guy: Yo, whatchoo say?

Me: Seastar hydraulic fluid. Do you stock it?

Store Guy: No meng, no stockeeng. Mareeng sooply estore.

Me: No, I don’t want stockings. Is there someone there who speaks English? Ingles?

Store Guy: [angry] YO peekee Englee! No stockeeng! Comprendes?

Me: I am sorry I made you angry by trying to do business with you. I will now try Amazon Prime, which is what I knew I would end up doing anyway.

You could change that last bit to, “I am sorry I tried to live in this area. I will now move north, which is what I knew I would end up doing anyway.” English speakers have fled this place by the hundreds of thousands. They have a popular bumper sticker here: “Will the Last American Leaving Miami Please Bring the Flag?”

I guess it’s not as popular as it was before everyone left. And how many Miamians can read it?

When I came here, Miami was full of Yankees, and most people were rude. Then it filled up with people from other countries, and people were still rude. No one ever came and improved the place. Haitians are nice to Americans, but they treat each other like dirt (one of their favorite things to joke about), and they drive as if other cars were invisible. When I arrived in ’69, the nice old Florida people had been moving out for decades . I knew a few. They were great. I wonder where they went. It’s like the Atlas Shrugged of nice people. Maybe there’s a nice-person compound in Colorado, made up of Florida crackers.

We are now filling up with a new crowd, and I don’t know where they came from. They look very, very ghetto. I think they must be South Americans. Not good. Call me intolerant, but no intelligent person wants to live in a place like Brazil or Venezuela. South Americans share my feelings. I know South Americans, and they are glad to be out. They came here, didn’t they? What more needs to be said? The problem is that when too many of them come here, their problems come with them, and Miami turns into Rio and Caracas. Also, it’s one more group for Cubans to not get along with. Cubans don’t like any Spanish-speakers or Latins except the Spanish. And they don’t like black people. Or people who look partly black. Or partly Indian. They are not easy to please.

I better get back to my many boxes. Closing is in 2-1/2 weeks, and the move will not lag it by much.

Next to Godliness

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Relief in a Jug

This is my second day as a member of a caregivers’ forum, and it has worked out very well. Unlike members of other types of forums, the caregivers actually read the questions, don’t insult me and say, “Google is your friend,” and provide useful answers I hadn’t already thought of.

I made a great discovery for bathroom cleaning. I don’t want to go into great detail, but the product is called “Urine Destroyer.” I apply it with a spray bottle from the hardware store. Works better than bleach, believe it or not. I guess the ultimate solution would be to follow it with bleach.

It deodorized a bathroom and also me. I spilled a fair amount of it on my shirt. The perfume they put in it is pretty persistent. I changed shirts and washed, but I think I’m going to smell like a clean kennel all day.

This product is very expensive, but believe me, it would be cheap at five times the price.

Along the same lines, I can’t praise my homemade shower cleaner highly enough. I haven’t scrubbed a shower in months. In the future, I plan to keep this stuff in my dad’s bathroom as well as my own. It is a miraculous cleaner.

Just to repeat, here are the ingredients:

6 oz. Zep soap scum cleaner
1 tbsp. dishwasher rinse agent
1 tbsp. Dawn dishwashing liquid
water to fill 1-quart spray bottle

I found this on the Internet, and I removed an ingredient which was expensive and unnecessary. You spray it on everything after you shower, and you leave it there. It dissolves all the typical things that stick to shower surfaces (over time), and it leaves a great shine and a fresh smell. It makes me seem much cleaner and more industrious than I am.

It might benefit from more Dawn.

I smell like a dentist’s waiting room. I can’t wait for this stuff to wear off.

It would be pretty neat if I managed to take good care of my dad instead of having the county come out three times a week and threaten to take him away because of the filth. With these two products, I am halfway there.

Generally, it is very hard to control other people’s behavior. When you can control things from your own end, it can save you years of banging your head against the wall. The right cleaners and precautions should bring me a lot of peace. We can hire someone to come in weekly and deal with whatever I don’t want to handle.

I am now five weeks from the blessed event. Can’t wait.