Category Archives: angry rant

Old and Grumpy

Suppose being grumpy was a super power, and we could, as a grumpy old brotherhood of geezers, coots, and conservative uncles, could change things just by complaining about them.

No woman would ever leave a toilet seat down again. The Dunkin’ Donuts on Frankford Road would magically reopen and never run out of donuts again. And liver spots and wrinkles would suddenly be attractive to beautiful young women whether they were linked to fortunes or not.

But what if, in order to make better use of this unexplainable super power, we start telling old coots like the fool in the picture that they have to prove they will use this super power only for good, or we will raise their taxes? Or we would forbid them from ever eating bacon again? Either of those things would definitely motivate them.

Of course, the biggest problem with geezers, old coots, and conservative uncles that no one wants to sit next to at Thanksgiving is that they don’t generally get smarter and nicer with age. It is probably not wise to give them a super power that can alter reality. Yes, they are generally quite literally mean-spirited and unqualifiably dumb. And it isn’t really a matter of whether they could ever actually have a super power like that. The real problem is that they already have it. They proved it in 2016 when they elected a gigantic orange-faced Pillsbury Doughboy with mental flatulence to lead our government. And it wasn’t the dumb part that did it. It was the literally mean part. Trump is a walking, talking old coot-complaint given to us by mean old men to tell us, “We are unhappy geezers, coots, and conservative uncles who would rather blow up the government than lift a single tax dollar (especially from a rich dude) to try and fix it”.

What we truly need to do is harness a bit of that grumpy-old-man complaining power, a truly misunderstood and misused super power, to tackle problems like making public schools better, cleaning the environment, and electing smarter leaders (not the stupid ones who actually represent the majority of us). But of course, we will first have to turn off the spigots in the brewery of prejudice and ignorance that is Fox News, and brand all the greedy and stupid people with a red letter “R” for Trumpian Republican. That way, knowing who to vote for to make things better will become easier to the point that even us geezers, old coots, and conservative uncles can do it right.

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Uber Downers

The picture above is not a recent session of Uber driving. The truth is, I haven’t earned a single fare since the accident in August. Don’t get me wrong. I am still bankrupt and desperately in need of extra money, but I have had a long road of recovery and a serious loss of confidence to overcome.

And the mean streets of Dallas and the DFW Metroplex are easily as hairy to navigate as the scene above (Which is an artist’s recreation of events on Keller Springs Road while construction was still going on due to mini-mudslides.) It takes a good deal of confidence just to make your way along in a car and at the same time stay alive with a functional automobile beneath you. (Notice the little-boy passenger who was actually rescued by aliens rather than eaten by an alligator.)

And yet, you can’t avoid city driving. I have to do it every day even if I am not making any money from Uber. And there’s the rub. I was forced to retire early from teaching because my 45-stop-light-one-way commute was wearing me out. I experienced a black-out while driving to work one morning and narrowly avoided crashing into a light pole. I am not forbidden by doctors from driving, but diabetes and age are making long drives perilous. Signs were pointing to the end of enough energy to handle a classroom too. So, I retired on a pension and started Uber-ing for extra dollars. Any time I am planning to drive and feel the least bit light-headed, I have to change the plan and cancel the drive. I can still drive for Uber since I can drive whenever I’m actually well enough. And Uber is desperate as there is more work than there are available drivers much of the time.

Another rub is the fact that things have changed while I was forced into a break from Uber driving. Uber has gotten greedy. They have reduced fares in order to take business away from Lyft. But they didn’t take that reduction out of their profits. No, it had to come out of drivers’ pay. So, now if I do work up the nerve and energy to drive, I have to work harder just to make less than I did before. And we are independent contractors, not employees. We have to pay all our own expenses and we get royally screwed over at tax time since they don’t withhold any income tax.

I tried to do my first-in-a-long-while drive yesterday. I sat in my car, ready to go, for fifteen minutes before giving up due to “Still no requests.” And today I passed out after breakfast. So, maybe tomorrow, although possibly not then too. I really don’t know when I will see a giant armadillo driving a Cadillac again as I am on the road for Uber. I believe I must. But not today, and maybe not tomorrow.

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Plumbing the Darkness

There is a dark future hanging over us all. No, I am not simply trying to bring you down with the idea that we all will face death sooner or later. I am going to bring you down with an all-encompassing dread. Because, of course, that’s what humorists do. We try to introduce uncomfortable truths into your lives with a suddenly-revealed truth that takes you by surprise and leaves you with nothing you can do about it but laugh… laugh insanely.

Here’s a bummer. The government of the United States is dissolving into chaos because corrupt people have taken over all the political power due to the fact that they are legally allowed to spend whatever amount of money they want to change the laws and the people who make them.

And this did not begin with President Pumpkinhead. It has been a while since a Mr. Smith could go to Washington and actually make a dent in the armored juggernaut of evil. Why do you think nobody in the President’s party is working to remove him in spite of the clear evidence of corruption in how he incompetently goes about not doing the job he was elected to do?

I often turn to Answers with Joe on YouTube to make myself feel infinitely worse about these things. This video does a good job of explaining how stupid people like me are doing it wrong, not learning to field a meteor shower of informational fly balls that burn holes through your figurative baseball glove and the hand inside it if you actually catch one. And because we don’t know how to fact-check what we’re seeing inside our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram bubbles that are built out of malevolent algorithm-directed soap, we have all failed to learn how to learn and protect ourselves from infectiously poopy facts. We have all become stupid people and are the ones Goofy Dave makes fun of in the cartoon above. And if you think that makes you feel bad, remember that I was once a teacher. What you haven’t learned is, at least in part,, my fault.

And it gets worse. Suppose for a moment the Mayan calendar wasn’t wrong about the world ending in 2012, but merely has a typo in it. Maybe it was supposed to say 2021. Ice in the Arctic will soon be gone from the global warming that stupid people don’t believe is established science. All of the carbon locked in the bottom of the Arctic sea and in the permafrost of the Northern Hemisphere will soon be free to enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and will be capable of turning our planet into Venus with thousand degree temperature days on the surface of the earth. I hate to say this, but my air-conditioner can’t handle that. Neither can yours.

But I am not like George Carlin, using humor to make you feel so low you have to look up to see the soles of your shoes and then leaving it there after the last black-humor joke-bomb has burned away your sole… er, soul. There is still hope. A massively important breakthrough in technology, or, more likely sociology, will have to be made and implemented really fast. And it will require some magnificently genius-level smart folks to do some magnificently genius-level problem-solving. But there are still very smart people on this planet. And they can’t all be corrupt, can they? And I really can’t imagine they have anything more important to do right now than save all life on the planet. But we can do our part too, you and I. We need to notice all this darkness around us, and light some danged candles!

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Impending Darkness

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.

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Crashing to the Ground

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.

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Doing Nothing

Yes, the retaining wall is leaning over the sidewalk and needs repair.

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.

The wall began separating from the turf as it leaned, so we had to dig a trench to begin taking down the bricks one by one and re-staking them.

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.”

Not having the money to buy expensive equipment, I had to improvise and do it myself.

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).

Doing masonry work takes some organization and some heavy lifting.

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?

Work has run into winter time when things get rather cold and wet.

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.

We began flattening out the foundation row of bricks just as winter rains began to perpetually fill the trench with water.

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.

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Today’s IRS Rant (but please don’t garnish my pension)

Yes, the IRS always wants more of my money than I have already paid.

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.

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