Rants & ramblings of the disaffected

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

Don’t Eat The Coffee Table

To say that our family is dysfunctional is probably an understatement. I don’t mean that in a bad way; we just tend to, shall we say, ‘color outside the lines’ when it comes to family decorum. We’re just not like normal people. Furniture and belongings lie carefully arranged in haphazard disarray, strewn about in the decor of Early Sanitorium. Life, like our yard, has all the organization of a game of 52 card pick-up. And we’re comfortable with it that way.

Welcome to my world!

It’s a control freaks’ worst nightmare. Go ahead and leave your propriety outside the door with your shoes – you’re not going to need either here. I don’t want to imply that we’re crazy but then I’m pretty sure Mr. Rogers would soon have traded in his sweater for a straight-jacket.

Our family unit consists of one wife, a husband, three kids, and one neurotic Great Dane. Me? I’m the husband. Or as my wife normally refers to me, child number 4. I hesistate to use the words ‘family‘ and ‘unit‘ in the same sentence because the word unit somehow implies cohesiveness and cooperation, neither of which are likely to be seen around here.

And then there’s Cletus! Cletus is our somewhat neurotic dog; six foot, 120 pounds of Great Dane. As soon as I walk through the door, my wife cheerfully greets me with her usual sullen glare while our somber-faced, super-sized canine co-habitant struggles to extract himself from the couch. Don’t let the frown fool you! Someone’s glad to see me and I’m about to get my usual obligatory ten minute greeting, a ‘welcome home’ hug, whether I want it or not. No, not from my wife! I was talking about a hug from my Cletus! In contrast, my wife is a little less exhuberant at my arrival.

You again?!!”

Yep. That’s her! Right where I left her…in the recliner.

Back to my hug! Six foot of over-grown canine-delinquet is fixing to rear up on two legs, put his paws across my shoulders, and stare down at me…with an accusing look of, “How could you have left me?!!” He stares at me with his best guilt-inducing look. On the Seinfeld Scale of Neuroses, I estimate him to be somewhere midway between a Newman and a Kramer.

The kids, three boys -all grown- tend to filter in sometime after they all get off work. The closer you get to supper the more likely they are to show up, in no particular order. That’s us! Me, the wife, three boys, and  Cletus. Did I already mention that Cletus is our somewhat neurotic dog?

Number three son just pulled up in the driveway. You can tell it’s him by the loud muffler on his truck. That, and him blowing that old airhorn on his truck he found in the garage last week. But hey! That’s what boys do! Cletus is barking at the commotion outside, or is it the commotion inside? I can’t tell?!! Momma’s fussin’ at the dog and number three son for disturbing the neighbors; while I focus on more important things, like watching the next contestant get clobbered on a TV game show. At supper time, we all gather ’round the TV trays and gobble down macaroni & cheese or left-over pizza.

Look out, somebody just knocked over a TV tray. Nacho’s are gone everywhere! Put down that broome, that’s what the dog is for!

“Cletus! Cletus! Don’t eat the coffee table!”

Sorry ’bout the outburst, folks! Don’t fret now, it’s just a normal night at home. Yep, that’s us, alright! We’re drawn to mayhem like a celebrity to rehab. Next to us, Monday night rasslin’ looks like a state dinner at the White House (I never have understood those affairs). That’s where we try to impress all those heads-of-state from places that nobody can pronounce where nobody likes us anyway; by throwing away a whole lotta’ good money on a big shin-dig for folks who don’t care.

Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit here. Sorry about the dog chewing a hole in your shoe. Hope that nervous twitch gets better! Come by and visit again when you can stand more of us.

Relative Discomfort – Part Two

Part Two

Time takes it’s toll on all of us. Forty years ago we were the young-uns zipping around like somebody kicked over a fire ant mound. All the while our parents fussed at us for being too loud or leaving the door open or coming in and out too many times. Now the roles are reversed in a cruel way we call maturity and we find ourselves starting to act like our parents. Yes, time has a way of telling on all of us. We can’t even fuss at our kids without hearing our parent’s voices echoing in the back of our heads. It doesn’t take long to go from Kool-Aid to Geritol.

We’re about to slip back into the reunion so no need for etiquette since no one here can spell it. The only culture you’ll find in our family is the buttermilk. Most of us look like we just stepped off the Rent-A-Redneck bus. Don’t let your manners get in the way of having a good time.

On the way to the reunion we got hungry and pulled into Bert’s Big Burgers & Bait Shop. I don’t recommend the crickets as a side order with your burger but they’re probably more nutritious than the french fries. You can get a burger grilled, fried, or flambe if the cook isn’t paying attention. It’s the best place around to get a bite. You can also get your hunting license, buy beer & ammunition – -probably not a good combination- – or buy Real Estate. Talk about your one-stop-shop-all. They even have a tanning bed next door. Bert’s even has sushi. They may look at you funny if you call it by that name. It’s best to call it bait so they know what you want. They usually have plenty of sushi unless the fish are biting.

Cousin Cleo is here but his fiance isn’t with him anymore. Rumor has it that it has something to so with Uncle Herbert, who likes to play his banjo in his skivvies when he’s home alone. He also forgets a lot. Cleo brought his new proud new fiance, some high-falutin’ city girl home to meet the family. They were off in the back and uncle forgot they was there. He made him a sandwich and started playing the banjo …after he’d stripped down to his skivvies like he always does. She happened to walk in on him in mid-concert and promptly lost three years of culture in one glance. Last I heard the engagement is still off and she isn’t taking his phone calls.

The meanest bull in the county lived in the pasture next to mine. They named it ‘Turbo.’ Last kid that ignored Turbo’s turf got dragged through the mud worse than by a Washington Post journalist. When Turbo wasn’t grazing or making little cows, he ruled the pasture. Everybody was scared of him except near-sighted Ned. He thought he was milking a cow and got the bull instead. The bull gives him a wide berth now when he comes around. It took the vet and two psychiatrists from the agriculture school to restore its’ self-esteem.

No kidding! There’s this one cow that can stand inside the fence and lick up strands of grass three feet on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. The kids around here love a good prank so they promised cousin Jeffrey, if he’d put on a blindfold, he could get a kiss from Nadine. Her daddy is the county agent. Nadine was standing right there when they told him and she gave him this big wink. His insides turned to peanut-butter when she smiled and fluttered those eyelids at him. Everybody know Jeffrey loves Nadine, everyone in the county that can read. It says so right up there on the water tower in big red letters. We still don’t know how he got up there. So they blindfolded Jeffrey. Right about then, Nadine stepped aside and that heifer from across the fence got him right in the mouth. We haven’t told him yet and he swears up & down that was the best kiss he ever had! He did say something in private about getting Nadine some mouthwash. When he finally found out, it liked to broke his heart but he was secretly relieved. “Her breath,” he said, “she tasted like regurgitated grass, warmed over.”

Ned makes all the rounds at the reunions. His motto is, “I never met a woman I didn’t hug!” “The younger ones are getting too fast,” he says, “and the older ones can’t get away fast enough.” He’s a little more cautious since the incident last year when he met the local biker dude with the pony tail. He was broad from the backside. I could see how near-sighted Ned could have made the mistake. I guess biker dudes don’t have much a sense of humor. Just in case you didn’t want to know, Uncle Ned runs with his skinny butt tucked in, like as if he were being chased by a bull with his horns in close proximity to its intended target. We know this because Harriet who was dating the biker dude at the time tried to wallop Ned with a broom handle right after the incident.

Aunt Helen’s got that mean little freckle-faced girl with the tooth knocked out, the one with the pigtails tormenting those boys. ‘Sweet-pea’, they call her. She’s wearing coveralls rolled up on her pant legs. Today she’s falling out of trees and chasing snakes. In a couple years nature will do some strange sort of biological reverse engineering and suddenly she’ll be painting her toenails and batting her eyelids like all the other tom-boys before her.

“Hey Aunt Netttie,” I wave. Her nose suddenly got snooty when she saw me. And then I whisper, “She’s got that evil cat, Napoleon. Last time her cat got stuck in the tree, the fire department offered to shoot it down for her for free.”

And here comes Madeline with her itty-bitty chihuahua in her purse. She treats it better than she does her husband. It has the disposition of a piranha with PMS. That’s her husband, the tall lanky fellow. His TV’s been broke for three years now but he’s hard of hearing so he doesn’t know it yet. He lost his glasses about that time as well. After fifteen years of being unhappy and married, they finally worked out all their troubles. Now they live in separate parts of the same house but only see each other once a year except in public. He’s kind of the forgetful type so he has to introduce himself each time he meets you. That’s OK. He can’t remember a thing and she’s trying to forget.

Eventually the foods all gone and there isn’t room for one more dirty dish in the sink. When there’s no one left to offend or talk about behind their back, we all start to filter off one by one. Last one left has to help with the dishes. I’ve got to go now before I break out with a bad case of ‘dishpan’ hands. See you next year!

Relative Discomfort – Part One

Oh those family reunions! Going to ours is sort of like the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not version of the family tree! Don’t you hate it when you get invited to one of these functions and you don’t know a soul? Feeling a little out of place, are you? Now don’t be bashful. They don’t bite …except cousin Matilda but we already took her dentures out. Let me introduce you.

Granny is the matriarch of our family unit. She’s starting to get old but she still loves to deer hunt. She even got them to mount her deer rifle to her walker but she has to remember to chock the wheel before she shoots. It’s getting harder and harder every year to hoist her into her tree stand, ever since they blew out the hydraulics on the forklift from the last time. Seems like the tree’s starting to lean a bit too. Used to some said she favored Jabba-the-Hut but that was a couple hundred pounds earlier. Now she’s starting to look a bit more like Godzilla-on-a-walker.

She still wears her hair up in a bun on top of her head. When her wrinkles start to sag in her face, she just tightens it down like a ratchet a few more turns until it takes the slack out. The bun is handy for keeping up with her age since she’s probably got more growth rings than a sequoia. You can tell her age sort of like a rattlesnake only instead of counting the buttons on her tail, you just count the number of buns stacked on top. Every bun stacked up counts another ten years past the big 5-0. It’s been hard for her getting around since we couldn’t afford one of those new mobility motorized wheelchairs. Uncle Zelton likes to tinker so he converted her zero-turn radius yard mower into a power-scooter you operate with a game controller. Worked real good too with one minor hitch that we liked to never figured out. Turns out those mean little neighbor kids down the road got a new video game and hot-wired it to their cell phone, then hacked into her controller. Suddenly she’s scooting across the yard all out of control like one of them racing games. Next thing you know she jumped the ditch and took off down the road. She passed old man Bert’s old pick up truck like a scene out of The Fast & the Furious . It took two deputy sheriff’s cars and a nail strip to slow her down. About the third time it happened we finally caught those little scoundrels in the act. We got suspicious when they got greedy and started selling tickets for their little show.

She’s doing better lately no thanks to Gramps. Seems he’s getting a tad more near-sighted. Granny was bent over in the garden picking peas and since Gramps can’t see so well …see, he was worming the cows and got Granny too by mistake. Now don’t be too hard on Gramps. It was an honest mistake since it’s getting harder to tell her backside apart from a Holsteins. Gramps feels terrible but Granny ain’t had no worms since.

Cousin Gina is here with her new boyfriend. You couldn’t have said that a couple years ago, she was sort of on the homely side. Now she’s got them boys all standing in line. What a difference a few years can make! That and something called puberty! I want to tell them to not to get too excited because in about ten years from now, she’s gonna’ start looking like her momma. She’s learning how to drive now. She’s done backed into that big pine tree twice already. You know the one I’m talking about, the lone tree in her backyard with all the bark knocked off? As soon as she puts it in reverse and the back-up lights come on, the squirrels get nervous.

We were all chatting around in a crowd like a bunch of magpies in a tree and the preacher walked up. Everybody had the good sense to quiet down but me. I’d been quiet for about three minutes and was just about to pop so I piped up and ratted them all out. “I’m collecting sermon illustrations for next Sunday, preacher,” I says. “Already got four of them, three alone just from Regina.” This explains why no one talks to me at these functions.

You meet all kinds of people at one of these things and you can never be quite sure if you know someone or not. Seems like good memory counts more than good intentions. Sometimes you don’t know so you just have to put yourself out there and hope for the best. It’s sort of like walking the plank. Once you get going, there isn’t a graceful way to back out. “Is that your wife,” he asked just making conversation. Well, some people you just can’t get a straight answer out of. So he up and spouts off some smart remark. “Her? Not sure. I think her names Gertrude …or something like that. We just met at Walmart thirty minutes ago. I found her on the housewares aisle scoping out a new pair of fuzzy pink slippers.” Smart-alek remarks like that one explains why he has to part his hair a little lower than he used to.

Like every family reunion, there’s kin folk you want to remember and some you’d rather forget.

Buster over there with those long sideburns likes to play the guitar. He sings too. When he’s not pretending to be Elvis, he’s also the Sheriff. He only works weekends because the county can’t afford to pay him full-time. Mostly he’s staked out at the local pic-a-pak store nabbing speeders if they’re from out-of-town. He’s also been know to whack a suspected felon over the head when they resist, sort of like Buford Pusser but without the club. He uses his guitar instead which makes him more like El Ka-Bong. If they still resist, he sings to them until they handcuff themselves and put themselves in the back of his patrol car.

The patrol car looks suspiciously like the hearse from the funeral home, since his brother owns that and the local Feed & Seed store. “We Plant stuff” is their catchy slogan. Last time he was in hot pursuit, he forgot to empty out the back end of the hearse and an empty coffin spilt out the back when he took off. Who would have guessed the local drunk was sleeping it off in that casket? When it hit the pavement, he sprung up out of that pine box like Lazarus-from-the-dead and bolted off down the street. Talk about raising the dead! The good news is that he promptly gave up all alcohol from that moment on and hasn’t missed a church service since!

Last week the sheriff wrote four citations for an expired tag and one for a dog with malicious bowels and an errant aim. Said dog allegedly missed his tire and got his pant leg instead. Turns out if you know the judge you can get a restraining order on a dog’s bladder. If that dog so much as hikes up his back leg within ten feet of him, he’s got authorization to shoot in self-defence.

The men were all gathered around trying to one-up each, behaving like a bunch of unruly monkeys at a poop-throwing fight at the zoo. Sometimes it’s just best to step away from a fracas or you might get hit with a projectile. The men folk were acting stupid again which may be redundant to use the word ‘men’ and ‘stupid’ in the same sentence. This is according to Martha who’s between semesters at the local junior college and is always eager to show off her education. She’s been educated so now she’s one of those militant feminists.

Hang around a bit. No one’s looking so I’m about to slip off and grab another helping of banana pudding. I can’t believe they haven’t posted a guard by the desert table. Too many cups of coffee are starting to tell on me so I’m going to take a little detour. When you come back there’s a few more of the kinfolk you’ve got to meet.

Blogging For Dummies: A Guide To Those Who Can’t Find Real Work

There are many useful and informative articles on how to make money writing on-line. This is not one of them. The primary reason being is that I have never made a nickel off anything I wrote. I suspected a career for me writing would be a bust, going all the way back to elementary school. I quickly discovered in Mrs. Lynch’s 3rd grade class that I had no ability to produce quality literary masterpieces despite many attempts to hastily complete homework assignments in the frantic ten remaining minutes before they were due. Not only had I failed to distinguish myself as a writer, it was getting increasingly harder to maintain my rapidly diminishing credibility. There are only so many times you can plead, “the dog ate my homework” before they begin to question your integrity. It would have been easier I suppose to pull off this chicanery had I actually had a dog but that’s another story. I’d rather not admit I was less than promising academic so instead I will simply reflect on other reasons for my failed scholastic endeavors. My theory is that teachers aren’t recruited for their teaching ability than their ability to intimidate underachievers like myself.

All was fine and I was content with my role in life until I read that article, Ten Easy Steps To Make Loads of Money Writing On-line -Guaranteed!  Suddenly I realised, Why should I work when I could be a writer?!!

It seemed simple enough. My delusion goes something like this. I write something really witty & clever. People who have no clue who I am immediately rush out to read it & I get rave reviews. Book agents & publishers contact me, clamoring for the literary rights to my creative assets. Then I get this lucrative contract to write & become famous. That’s me at the book-signing table doing autographs for my fans. …and then I wake up!
“Honey,” she says. It’s my wife. “Get up. The commodes clogged again and you need to go pooper-scoop the front yard.
“but I’m a writer…” Apparently I had fallen asleep at the computer again, while surfing the web. The imprint of the keyboard was still impressed on my face.
Of course you are, dear,” patting me on the head and handing me the plunger. “Now hurry up or you’ll be late for your shift at the 7-11.”
Maybe now wasn’t a good time to tell her I had quit my job so I could become a rich and famous successful writer?

By the end of the week, my trek to literary fame and profit was creeping along slowly. I suddenly realized this was an arduous and daunting process that could take days maybe longer before I attain fame & wealth. I had reached an impasse and desperately need a plan to jump start my career; hence I devised and implemented a bold and brilliant initiative known hereafter as the Henderson Method. Let me illustrate;

  1. Increase name recognition among the public
  2. Solicit feedback from unbiased & neutral sources
  3. Establish a support network for esteem-building
  4. Recruit qualified professionals to refine your skills and accelerate your career

So how did it work out?

That’s me. Standing on the street corner, looking desperate, disheveled, and maybe a little deranged. With my hair mussed up and collar pulled up around my neck; a guy walks up, looks at me with a condescending look of sympathy and drops a quarter in my coffee cup. I wasn’t finsihed with my coffee yet but that’s OK. “So what happened to you,” he asks. “Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling?” “No,” I stare ahead unblinking. “I’m a writer!” Suddenly Mr. Understanding scurries off like I had the Bubonic Plague.

Later that morning, the next person comes along. “So what do you do,” she asks. “I’m a writer,” I reply proudly. “That’s OK dear,” she consoles. “Times are hard. Lots of people are out of work. No need to be ashamed.”

So why am I out here in the cold on a street corner pursuing innocent pedestrians? I have this continuing delusion about being a writer and making lots of money but most people don’t want to read anything I wrote. So I’m going for instant name recognition even if I have to get it the old fashioned way: Making a fool of myself in public.

That’s why I roam the parks & parking lots and peruse the malls searching for my next victim. I spot one. He sees me coming toward him, puts his head down low and accelerates. “Excuse me… Sir! Excuse me… would you mind...” “No,” he interrupts brusquely. “I don’t want to read your articles!” Apparently my reputation precedes me. So much for steps #1 & #2.

As for Step #3? Building a support network was a dismal failure. How can you tell if you really suck …or not? That can be a dilemma. Need an esteem-builder? Or maybe an honest critique. Hint No. 1. Don’t ask your wife; she already knows you suck and is still mad at you for something you did ten years ago. So who do you ask to read your material? Writers and editors? That’s why they have unlisted phone numbers and have barricaded themselves into obscurity just for people like you and I. So unless you kidnap their dog, don’t expect much help from the experts. So much for Step #4!

I quickly discovered in the real world, no one wants to read something you wrote. Eventually I find a sucker… as he reads, he starts to cry. “This is incredible,” he gushes. “You are a gifted writer. This is the most moving, the saddest thing I have ever read.”
It is?!! Let me see that,” snatching the paper out of his hand! “Oops! That’s my wife’s grocery list,” I grinned sheepishly.

I suppose I could ask for my old job at the 7-11 back?

I imagine years later they will find me crouched over a laptop that doesn’t work staring at a blank screen and typing away furiously while I laugh hysterically at my own material. Crumpled wads of paper lay all over the floor …in my padded cell.

All those online articles on how to write and make $$ while working at home with really pretentious and misleading titles like, “Ten Great Ways to Write and Make $$ Online“; my theory is they’re all written by the same person. That person will probably be in the padded cell next to mine. I think I hear her typing furiously and laughing hysterically.

jimagain: Periodically lowering the bar of literary expectations!

Imaginary Self-help Clinic For Delusional Writers

Warning to Readers. This material from ‘Jimagain’ must not be distributed without a warning label and may be hazardous to your mental health. Repeated use is discouraged and only advised under medical supervision. Discontinue use immediately if you have any of these symptoms…redness or swelling of eyes, nausea, emotional distress, depression, diarrhea, hysterical laughing, or feelings of paranoia.

WARNING: Reading material from jimagain has been known to cause cancer in laboratory rats; if you have rats that can read, do NOT allow them to read this!

Clinic In Session
Ever want to be a writer? Perhaps I should first ask if you have a history of entertaining other delusions as well? Are you given to frequent departures from reality? Yes, this is a concern if, for example, you are also occasionally subjected to alien abductions or are familiar with a large talking bipedal rabbit named Harvey who happens to wear a tuxedo. If you answer no, or you at least recognize such behavior as delusional, then you may still maintain a legitimate hold on reality. My experience is that writing, among other deviant forms of behavior, is a purely delusional endeavor and is usually accompanied by other mental disorders. These may include the onset of senility, dementia, alzheimer’s, incontinence, and in the male gender – impotence! If you’re still contemplating being a writer it’s probably too late to seek professional help.

One question you have to ask is, what compels a person to want to write? To put this in context, I should also note that humanity has a long and nefarious association with flogging and other forms of public humiliation. But writing? Writing is a self-inflicted malady; like putting yourself in the stock, a self-imposed pillory. Which leads me to suspect that many writers were previously engaged in self-denigrating behavior in their prior lives.

Getting started is always difficult. If you want to bypass the normal route most take and immediately skyrocket into fame, I suggest you plagiarize. Otherwise you’re in for a long trek, which will probably include several phases along the path to achieving said goal;

  1. Mildly Delusional – “I want to be a writer”
  2. Pathetic – thinking your material is good
  3. Desperation – Quitting your job at the 7-11 to make $$ writing full-time
  4. Reality – Asking your boss at the 7-11 for your job back,
  5. You may periodically repeat steps 3 and 4 as often as you like

My Crtics! What Do They Know?
Not only do you have to be a shameless self-promoter, it helps to be thick-skinned. Any endeavor has it’s share of critics, this one is no exception. I myself have had my share but I learned to block them out. Besides, my critics …what do they know? Here’s what a few of them have said;

Shakespeare: “Behold, he sucketh enormously!”

Poe: “His writing scares the bejeebers out of me! Anybody want a dead cat?”

Dr. Seuss: “I would not read him in a log, I would read him on a hog; I do not like Jimagain, I do not like him, Spam I am!”

Mark Twain: “Jumping bullfrogs! I just rolled over in my literary grave!”

Louis LaMour: “Let’s take him out and hang him …or we can shoot him dead between the eyes!”

Stephen Hawking: “Oh great! Another black hole in the literary universe!”

Siskel & Eibert: “Two Thumbs Down. This is not just crap, it’s really bad crap!”

Oprah Winfrey: “He is NOT on my approved book list.”

Dr. Phil: “You suck! Your readers feel violated. How does that make you feel?”

My wife: “Are you on the computer again? Get up and go clean the toilet!”

My 3rd grade teacher: “If you tell me your dog ate your homework one more time…”

Cletus, my dog: “Rowf!! Aaarff, aaarrff! Grrrrr!”

…but that’s ok with me because that means somewhere in the multi-verse there is a reverse parallel dimension where there’s an alternate persona of me who is really an awesome writer!

Meet The Community!
For the rest of you poor delusional saps like me with similar afflictions, who still think you can actuallly write; I’ve organized a local chapter of the AA, the Author’s Anonymous. Join me in a recent session where we introduce ourselves to the ‘community’. It’s almost time to start. Seated in a semi-circle of cold metal folding chairs are a collection of sundry haggard-looking participants in varying states of denial, some of which are cognizant. Let me introduce you to a few; there’s Bob. He’s that guy with the ‘toothy’ Cheshire-cat grin. See the girl with the creepy big-bug-eyed stare? The empty chair beside her is for her imaginary agent. Dont sit there! The guy on the end in the suspenders and wearing a bow-tie, he has some kind of twitching thing going on… Wait! It’s my turn to stand up.

“My name is Jim. I’m a writer and I suck…”

“Hi Jim” (unenthusiastic response in unison from recovering ‘write-a-holics’)

Hey! Maybe I will see you there?!! I’ll save you a seat.

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