I recently learned from the eye doctor that I may be at the doorstep of glaucoma, a disease that darkened my grandmother Beyer’s vision and connection to the light.
I am doing some serious editing now on my completed manuscript, Sing Sad Songs. There is serious foreshadowing going on in this novel. I think I mentioned once or twice before that I only rarely write a comic young adult novel without having some important character dying at the end. Death and dying and going blind are all on my mind.
News on the global warming front is increasingly bleak. Temperatures are rising faster than predicted. The date cited for the end of life on Earth is now 2030 (possibly within the scope of my lifetime if I get luckier than I have been on past health issues). The outlook is bleak and getting bleaker. Soon there has to be an absolutely miraculous technological or cultural revolution to help the optimists prove themselves right, a thing that they are totally not good at.
The government seems increasingly incapable of helping with anything, even though some of us are paying increasingly large tax bills that we can’t afford. (I do realize some of you who are not on a fixed income actually got a small benefit from Republican tax cuts. Did that solve your financial problems?) It increasingly looks like the corrupt clown show currently in charge is blowing themselves up. We stand to get a whole new government soon that is marginally better at best. So, we are, as a society, marching forward into the darkness with neo-fascist, goose-stepping zeal.
I am not saying that I have no hope. My grandmother got help and never went completely blind. There are breakthroughs happening all the time in science and sociology. But the darkness in my personal future is growing ever closer. And I have less and less control over its advance.
I have given up trying to write humorous posts about politics. Nothing the government does now helps me. It only hurts. I have already financially crashed personally. They continue to make noises threatening my pension. I can’t go to the doctor. I can’t even afford office visits now that the deductible is so large and the monthly premiums are so high. We are not covered for any of the things that are killing me. I am a diabetic who can’t afford insulin. And I am ill again with a viral infection, not able to earn extra money from Uber. There is very little humor to find in current situations.
Our house and property are falling apart, desperately in need of repairs that I can only handle by doing the repairs myself. And I am unable to pay the property taxes this year that have ballooned to four times the size that they were when we bought the house. We are going to have to lose the house and return to apartment living.
But hardships seem to be good for sparking creativity. I have never written so much or so well as I have in the past four years. I have started novel number nine in the days in which the new year, 2019, has brought a steady stream of misfortunes. I have been writing at least a novel and a half every year since 2014. And the best work I have ever done is a part of that. Snow Babies, Magical Miss Morgan, and Recipes for Gingerbread Children are works I am deeply proud of having written, even though no one besides a few editors, proofreaders, contest judges, and relatives have ever read any of them. I don’t make any money at it. But wait till I publish Sing Sad Songs and Fools and their Toys, a pair of novels that will knock the socks off of all six of the people who will eventually get around to reading them.
But if I sound bitter and defeated, please don’t think that of me. I knew from the time I chose teaching as a career that if I was ever able to retire, I was bound to face illness, poverty, and pain. I don’t think anything it may have cost me, in the long run, makes my decision to be a teacher, or to become a writer afterward, into a bad decision. It has basically all been worth it. I would do it all over again if I could. And who knows? It may all be ending badly, but it ain’t over yet.
Being retired is a total pain in the Biblical word for donkey. I thought I would be challenged with nothing to do and probably die from lack of challenge as so many do who find their identity in their profession. I was a public school teacher. I loved being a public school teacher. I lived for the challenge of working with kids, especially trying to teach them to write well. And then my health began to betray me, and I was forced to retire.
In this country, loss of a job that defines who you are makes you basically worthless. Republicans will tell you that you go from being a “maker” into being a “taker”, and takers are basically parasites.
So, now I am a parasite, a blight on society, a “taker”. Decent hard-working people shouldn’t have to put up with a burden on society like me.
“If you don’t work, you shouldn’t be allowed to eat,” they self-righteously tell me.
“So, if I’m too ill to stand in front of a class all day, I should starve to death?”
“No, of course not! Don’t dramatize! You just need to do something else.”
So, I haven’t just sat back and enjoyed my pension which I worked 31 years to get. I have done things. I rebuilt the siding on the back wall of the house. I repaired all the cracks in the pool twice (once getting it back into shape for swimming, and then fixed only to be forced by the city to remove the pool because I couldn’t spend $9,000+ to bring the 1970 electrical system up to code.) I am now re-setting the bricks in the retaining wall.
I also took up driving for Uber to earn extra money. I needed extra money because hospitalizations cost me so much money I had to take out a bankruptcy which I will be paying off for the next five years while supervised by a State-appointed executor. And then a lovely Texas motorist bashed my car in the driver’s-side door costing me car-repair money (because insurance can’t be expected to pay everything) and leaving me unable to get well enough to return to driving for at least five months (up to the present day).
I have at no point had money enough to go on vacations or do the recreational activities that other retired seniors get to do (at least the rich white ones with lots of investment money and property). I haven’t been well enough even to be a substitute teacher (which I loved doing back in 2006-2007 when I was well enough and between teaching jobs). So what can I do with all my “free time”? Besides deal with aches and illness without the medicine I can’t afford, I mean?
Well, I did start out in life with a passion for writing and drawing. I am living proof you can’t even make pocket change for indulging those passions unless you’re as lucky as former teacher Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. But I have the time and the incurable obsession.
I began the most creative and productive period of my life by writing eight YA novels. I have two more well into the writing of the first draft. I also re-started work on my graphic novel which takes lots of time when you have arthritic hands to draw with. And I have been blogging practically every day.
So, since I retired I have basically been doing nothing. Well, nothing for the greater good and advancing the fortunes of mankind as a whole as my Republican friends who criticize me for being a “taker” on the dole apparently do with their retirements.
Last year at about this time, the lovely russet potato with a wig of uncooked spaghetti and a heart of black obsidian who we elected to run this country passed a tax bill that gave huge tax cuts to some people who didn’t need the money and a small amount to others in the middle class. When I complained about the tax bill on Facebook, my Iowegian conservative friends pointed out that if I didn’t like the tax cut, I could always send the money back to the government.
But, no, I couldn’t.
You see, I didn’t get anything back from the government. In fact, they wanted $1,300 more. The tax bill made adjustments to withholding requirements for pensions. And because Don Jr. wanted to get millions back last year, the russet potato made the tax bill retroactive to cover all of 2017.
So, I should’ve paid off what I owed last month when the IRS debited my account for $200. Then, the first of this month, they debited again, By my calculations, this time was for money I didn’t even owe. $200 dollars is a big bite, especially when I am paying off a Chapter 13 bankruptcy and three hospital bills.
So, today, I called the IRS customer service line, where the telephone operator put me through to what was apparently the proper office out of the 300,000 layers of the IRS to find out what went wrong. I got put on hold for only 30 minutes (shorter than the hour and a half I waited the last time I called) and then I got cut off about 15 minutes in. So, I tried finding out what my tax bill looked like from irs.gov. This involves setting up an account which I failed to successfully do last time. This time I tried to verify I really am me with, first, my credit card (which I am paying them off with) and they didn’t accept it because it is technically a debit card, and then with two of the account numbers to our mortgage loans, which didn’t take because my wife’s name is on the mortgage and mine is not. So, I am not me, and three failures mean I can’t try again until tomorrow. Perhaps they will identify me by my shoe size tomorrow.
The conclusion I am forced to draw is this; when you owe them money, the IRS is the most efficient and dangerous organization in existence. But when they owe me money, they are suddenly the Three Stooges.
The current President of the United States initially seemed to me to be a gift from the gods of comedy. I figured it would be easy to make humorous blog posts about a clown who wears orange face paint, wears super-long red ties, and is more cartoonish behavior-wise than Yogi Bear.
But the Grumpy Trump leadership style is more depressing than even that of Rodeo Clown in Chief, George W. Bush, though Trump has managed to be accused of fewer war crimes by international tribunals. He is so relentlessly inhuman in his every deed that you can’t use exaggeration humor against him. The reality is too far over the top for that. And you can’t rely on insult humor, because he does it so much more often himself than any comedian can, and he really MEANS it. He doesn’t tell or comprehend jokes unless it makes a good excuse to claim he was only joking.
One of the things he does that bothers me the most is the use of criminals in his cabinet and departments that do all the dirty work.
Sleepy McBoing-Boing, the HUD secretary seems to be in his job to screw things up for poor people who were barely hanging on and turn them into homeless people while he commits crimes to put an expensive dining table in the HUD office for his personal use. “Let ’em eat cake,” right, Ben?
Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke, heads of the EPA and Department of the Interior are so busy spending Federal budget monies on personal uses that their departments are falling apart, and so the air we breath and the water we drink are now more at risk than they were under Obama, where it was a very real crisis having very real effects.
I think I am through posting criticisms about Trump. Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Seth Meyers do so much better at skewering the pumpkinhead than I ever could, so look to them for actual political humor of the thoughtful kind.
The only thing I want from Trump now… Now that his tax cut has cost me extra money and his healthcare meddling has made the price of insulin out of my reach… Is for the whole thing to end. He won’t resign. You can’t expect Ebola Fever or brain tumors will go away on their own. But it is so obvious that he has committed impeachable crimes that, for the good of us all, the Congress needs to get rid of him. The Dark Lord with White Hair, Mike Pence, though deeply evil, would be better.
This week saw two difficult problems arise that took a whole lot of problem-solving, panic, and unbelievable luck to solve. I had considerable evidence that my laptop computer was fatally infected with a trojan virus in spite of the subscription I had to Norton anti-virus software. And on top of that, I had to renew my driver’s license since yesterday was my birthday. And not an ordinary renew-by-computer sort of thing, but a dreaded trip to the horrid hated DMV.
The DMV was a thorny problem because Texas is a Red State and fully committed to keeping certain people with the wrong color skin, the wrong sort of last name, or the wrong size of bank account from acquiring picture IDs for the purposes of the foul crime of voting for Democrats. So, specifically, of the long list of things you were supposed to bring to get a license renewed, the birth certificate was a problem for me. I have a birth certificate, but because of a courthouse fire in Iowa in the 1970’s, it was only a photocopy of a handwritten replacement document. They had warned me when I called and asked that this would never do. I had to have an authenticated copy issued by the records department of the State of Iowa. So, I spent 50 dollars on an expedited official document by express mail, still likely to arrive after the expiration date of my license.
Of course, once I lucked out and received the document only three business days after I requested it, I discovered that the DMV had been moved from the location I had relied on for almost ten years. And when I did find the DMV office and waited in the cold in the early morning for the doors to open, I discovered that the DMV I had found didn’t actually issue driver’s licenses. Bummer. I had to try again the next day ten miles further away in Lewisville.
I fully expected to be turned away again that day for some unforeseen and petty reason. Instead, I found the opposite to be true. They saw an old white guy walking with a cane and thought, “Oh, Republican voter!” I was moved to the front of the line. The Indian lady ahead of me was not given a license because she did not have both a birth certificate and a valid passport. But I got my license with only the expiring license to prove my identity. They didn’t even need to see the birth certificate.
The computer virus was just as frustrating. The only option was to try to find the right software to remove the bug by using the infected computer to purchase one online. Since Norton had been overwhelmed, I went with McAfee and, fortunately, got a year’s subscription for 60% off the regular price. I downloaded it, spent three agonizing days on a full scan, then got a result of zero problems found and fixed. So, as further programs began crashing, I called their tech support and got a guy with a heavy Indian accent to remotely fix the problems for me. In three hours of time, he miraculously restored my computer and even removed some other unwanted programs slowing my computer which I had been unable to remove myself. It turned out that the problem may have been caused by another anti-virus program whom I accidentally downloaded with another program package, but then I refused to pay for the upgrade when it reported that it had found five seriously infected files on my computer. You can’t be too careful when downloading things from the internet, though being careful and vigilant is almost impossible when there are so many horrible things out there that you never suspected people might be capable of.
Anyway, I survived both ordeals and still managed to finish a novel manuscript and got closer to publishing another one.
Earlier this week I voted in the early voting for the midterm election. I voted for Beto O’Rourke in hopes that he will cast enough sunshine on the Vampire Ted Cruz to turn the old smirking blood-sucker into dust. (You can see in the picture that Cruz smeared on a lot of sunscreen, but hopefully, he didn’t have enough time to slather it on thick enough to cover some of the worst things he is trying to cover up.)
I did, however, hear before the day was out that some people who voted straight-ticket Democratic ballots saw their results come out of the machine on the check screen as if they had voted for Cruz for senator. How absolutely evil and vampire-like is that?
I desperately need Democrats to win at least the House of Representatives. There has to be a check on Trumpism. I am a diabetic retired schoolteacher who has gone bankrupt over healthcare expenses and can’t afford to go on insulin even before the Republican overlords finish hacking at and slaying Obamacare with its provisions to protect people with pre-existing conditions. And it comes as no surprise to me that Republicans in Texas are willing to cheat to win elections. Non-white and poor voters vastly outnumber the millionaire and billionaire white people who own and operate the State. There is a need to cheat to hold on to power so the downtrodden don’t try to rise up and take back what they have a right to, and in the process possibly accidentally eat the rich people.
And Fearless Leader has adopted tactics that are alarming as well. Not only has he promised to send 15,000 troops to the border with Mexico to fight a “caravan” of asylum seekers and put them into tent-city prison camps, but he has given them permission to shoot to kill if someone throws a rock at them, after a nine-year-old immigrant girl threw a rock at a soldier. His autocratic tendencies are now in full view of the public, and the majority can see the parallels to Nazism, and 44% of Americans polled seem to like it.
Calling Republicans names and lamenting their rule is exhausting and probably pointless. I fully accept that they probably do have the power to keep winning in spite of not representing the majority of the people of this country. But I do what I have to in order to fight against toxic ideas. I voted against them. I wrote a post that insults them. And now I need to get back to the serious work of writing stuff that makes people laugh (okay, actually stuff that makes melaugh, and maybe a few other people too.)