Category Archives: feeling sorry for myself

Mickey Viewed From the Inside

Yes, this post is a self-examination.  Not the kind you see Donald Trump enacting every weekend, where he says any crappy thing that occurs to his craptastical very good brain to cover what he doesn’t want us to believe about the truth on Twitter, basically for the purpose of continuing to say he is great and we are poop.   I do not like myself the way Trump likes himself.  I am an old bag of gas that is in pain most of the time, in poor health, and the subject of endless persecution from Bank of America and other money-grubbing machines that are convinced any money I might accidentally have really belongs to them.  But this is not a complain-about-crap fest either.

This is a self-examination that attempts to honestly examine where I am in my quest for wisdom and my affliction with being a writer.

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If I am being honest about the type of writer I really am, I guess I am most like the Weird Recluse in the bottom corner.  I can’t claim to be as good as Kafka or Dickinson, but I am definitely better than some of the crap that gets published and marketed as young adult literature.  The business of publishing is more interested in how many books they can sell, rather than literary merit or good writing.  Some of the crap that is out there and being made into bad movies (which I have not seen because I don’t go to movies that don’t pass the fiction-source smell test) is actually a form of brain poison that will mold young people into sexual predators and professional poop makers.  And people will take poison happily if it has been deviously marketed well.  So far, in the money test, I have made only $16.43 dollars as an author (plus whatever I have made from I-Universe that doesn’t cut a check until it reaches at least $25 dollars).  Nobody is buying my books because nobody has read them.  I have sold a few copies to friends and relatives.  Some of those books are just sitting on a shelf somewhere unread.  I have a couple of 5-star reviews on Amazon, and that is it.  I will die in the near future not having known any measurable success from my books at all.

I have entered novels in writing contests and done well enough to make it into the final round of judging twice.  I have not, however, made a big enough splash that anyone really noticed.  I have paid reviewers to review my books online.  One of those charged me money, and then reviewed a book with the same title by a different author, a book which was nothing like my book, and then, when forced to correct their error, only read the blurb on the back of the book to write the oopsie-I-goofed-last-time review.  They were not worth the money I paid them, money that Bank of America could’ve sued me for instead.

The only thing I have done successfully as a writer is, I think, this goofy blog.  By writing every day, I have managed to give myself considerable practice at connecting with readers.  I have practiced writing humor and written some laughable stuff.  I have plumbed my soul for new writing ideas, and found a creative artesian well bubbling up with new ideas daily.  I can regularly manufacture inspiration.  I am never truly without an idea to write about.  Even when I write a post about not having an idea to write about, I am lying.  Of course, I am a fiction writer, so telling lies is what I do best.  I am also a humorist, so that means I can also tell the truth when I have to, because the best humor is the kind where you surprise the reader with a thing that is weirdly true.  Like just now.

So, somewhere ages and ages hence, I hope there will be a trove of old books in a cellar somewhere that will include one of mine.  And some future kid will pick it up, read it, and laugh.  The golden quality of that laughter is the only treasure I have really been searching for.  It is the reason I write.  It is the reason I continue to be Mickey.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, foolishness, forgiveness, humor, Paffooney, philosophy, publishing, self pity, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing humor

Fools and Their Money

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I spent yesterday with the court appointed trustee, under oath, successfully declaring bankruptcy without losing the house or any other protected assets. I have sworn to pay off the amount owed to banks without further interest.  I will be aided by the court, protected from predators so that they don’t eat the corpse of my economic life.

Fools like me are soon parted from their money.  After all, this country’s government and this country’s economy are run by con men.  Cheats, criminals, grifters, thieves… they control the entire government now, and make the rules serve them and punish us.

And I suppose that’s the way it should be.  If money is your only source of happiness, you are going to become one of them.  A credit-manipulating predator and carrion-eater.  I had to go through this bankruptcy proceeding because I lost Bank of America’s lawsuit against me.  And if it weren’t for my bankruptcy case protecting me, they could come into my house and take whatever they wanted, including everything they wanted.  They could garnish my wages up to 100% for however many months it took for my pension check to pay off my debt.  Meanwhile my children would starve.  I would have nothing to live on.  It is within their rights to do it because they own the government and make the rules.  Charles Dickens didn’t even have it so bad.  At least in the debtor’s prison in Victorian London they fed you and kept you alive… mostly.

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But I did learn some important lessons for the future.  Let me share that hard-won wisdom with you now.

  1. Never buy anything on credit.  Save the money first, and then buy what you need once you have the total price.  Only fools agree to never-ending cycles of interest upon interest, compounding and confounding your pocketbook for perpetuity.  (Say that one three times fast!)
  2. Only buy what you need.  If you really need that shiny blue doohickimus to keep from going insane, then buy it… but save up the cash to pay for it in full.  And if owning that doodadimus preposterosous isn’t going to provide you with the key to real happiness, then forget about it, and glory in your new-found self-control.
  3. Banks are run by pirates.  They are in the business of stealing your money.  They charge fees for holding on to your money, while at the same time spending your money, and fees for counting your money, even when it’s not really there, and fees for looking at your money, though your money is only blips on a computer screen, and even fees for eventually… very gradually so you will not notice… stealing your money.  You have to give them your money at some point, because you will die or be killed if you don’t.  But taking your money by force, leaving you with no other choice but death, makes them pirates.
  4. Save money wherever you can.  Bury some in the back yard (but only metal money… gold bars being the least likely to turn into worthless soil filler).  You are probably going to need it in the future.  So don’t forget where you buried it.  And making maps only helps groups of nerdy kids find it in the future after an unlikely series of fantastic adventures that all occur after you have become a one-eyed skeleton.
  5. And don’t get sick, whatever you do.  It costs too much to get health care.  After you’ve paid an arm and a leg for health care services more than once, you are not going to be dancing any jigs.  Maybe rolling around like a watermelon with a head, but that’s about it.

So, that’s the wisdom I gained from going bankrupt, for what it’s worth (and it isn’t worth much, or they would’ve confiscated it at the creditor’s meeting yesterday).

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Getting Old is Heck

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I am sometimes forgetful.  You shouldn’t go for a walk on a country highway if you forgot to put on any clothes.

Cold weather makes my joints creaky and my bones ache.  My head gets fuzzy, and it makes it hard to think when my blood sugar gets low.  (By fuzzy, I mean on the inside like interference in your TV picture, not fuzzy on the outside.  I am fuzzy on the outside because I had to give up haircuts due to psoriasis on my scalp.)

Yes, as we get older, we get crummier and crummier.  I am literally crumbling now as psoriasis flakes my skin off all over.

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And as we get older… and poorer… and dumber… we have to learn how to do things to get happier.  My health problems lead easily to depression.  Not just a little generic sad, but deep down at the bottom of a deep, dark black pit of gloomy depression.  So, I have to take matters into my own hands.  Yes, I act a little goofy on purpose.  I draw a funny picture.  Laughter produces serotonin in the brain, the chemical that is missing when you fall into debilitating depression.  Scraggles is the result of major dark back in the early 80’s.  I also go to Walmart and buy chocolate.  Eating chocolate produces serotonin in the brain too.  I ate a whole 98-cent box of M&M’s this morning.  (Of course, as a diabetic, they had to be peanut M&M’s because peanuts have niacin in them at levels that boost your body’s insulin towards working more efficiently. M&M’s make me happy.

Of course, I am not out of the woods yet.  The mood of your family impacts your own mood.  My children have been ill for most of January and all of February so far.  And that puts them in varied states of depression and needing chocolate.  It is a good thing that Valentine’s Day is near and Walmart is over-stocked.   And it helps that it’s cheap.

I am old.  Being old is not easy.  Being ill is worse.  It really is heck.  But I don’t give up.  I don’t surrender.  I have fought back for too many years to give up now.

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Do Not Crush the Butterfly…

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Art on the bedroom wall, with Christmas lights being used as a night light.

Talking to a school administrator the other day about the challenges my children and I have been facing in the last year, I had one of those experiences where you get a look at your own life through someone else’s eyes.  “Wow, you have really been on a difficult journey,” he said.  I just nodded in response.  Financial difficulties, health problems, dealing with depression… life has been tough.  But you get through things like that by being centered.  Meditation tricks.  Things you can do to smooth out the wrinkles and keep moving forward.

I always return in the theater of my mind to a moment in childhood where I learned a critical lesson.  My life has been one of learning how to build rather than destroy.  It has been about creating, not criticizing.

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Electric lights have come to Toonerville, helping to light the darkness.

When I was a boy, I was a serious butterfly hunter.  It started when Uncle Don gave me a dead cecropia moth that he had found in the Rowan grain elevator.  It was big and beautiful and perfectly preserved.  Shortly thereafter, I located another cecropia in the garage behind the house, a building that had once been a wagon shed complete with horse stalls and a hay loft.  I tried to catch it with my bare hands. And by the time I had hold of it, the powder on its wings was mostly gone.  The wings were broken in a couple of places, and the poor bug was ruined in terms of starting a butterfly collection.

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A cecropia moth

Undeterred by tragedy, I got books about butterfly collecting at the Rowan Public Library and began teaching myself how to bug hunt.  I learned where to find them, and how to net them, and how to kill and mount them.

I discovered that my grandfather’s horse pasture had thistle patches which were natural feeding grounds for red admiral butterflies (pictured top left)  and painted lady butterflies (top right).  But if you wanted to catch the rarer mourning cloak butterfly (bottom picture), you had to stake out apple trees, particularly at apple blossom time, though I caught one on the ripening apples too.

swallowtailBut my greatest challenge as a butterfly hunter was the tiger swallowtail butterfly.  They are rare.  They are tricky.  And one summer I dueled with one, trying with all my might to catch him.  He was in my own back yard the first time I saw him.  I ran to get the butterfly net, and by the time I got back, he was flitting high in the trees out of reach.  I must’ve watched him for half an hour before I finally lost sight of him.  About five other times I had encounters with him in the yard or in the neighborhood.  I learned the hard way that some butterflies are acrobatic flyers and can actually maneuver to avoid being caught.  He frustrated me.

The tiger swallowtail was the butterfly that completed my collection, and it was finished when one of my cousins caught one and gave it to me because she knew I collected them.

But then, one day, while I was sitting on a blanket under a maple tree in the back yard with my notebooks open, writing something that I no longer even recall what I wrote, the backyard tiger swallowtail visited me again.  In fact, he landed on the back of my hand.  I dropped the pencil I was writing with, and slowly, carefully, I turned my hand over underneath him so that he was sitting on my palm.

I could’ve easily closed my hand upon him and captured him.  But I learned the lesson long before from the cecropia that catching a butterfly by hand would destroy its delicate beauty.  I would knock all the yellow and black powder off his exquisite wings.  I could not catch him.  But I could close my hand and crush him.  I would be victorious after a summer-long losing battle.

But that moment brought an end to my butterfly hunting.  I let him flutter away with the August breeze.  I did not crush the butterfly.  It was then that I realized what beauty there was in the world, and how fragile that beauty could be.  I could not keep it alive forever.  But it lasted a little big longer because I chose to let it.

So, here is the lesson that keeps me whole.  Even though I had the power, I did not crush the butterfly.

 

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Writing the Critical Scene

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It is a novel I started writing in 1998 with an idea I first got in 1976. So I have been working on this book for either 20 years, or 32 years, depending on when you want to credit the actual work to have started.

It got it’s theme from the fact that I was sexually assaulted when I was ten in 1966, and the feeling the repressed memory of the trauma caused in me whenever I asked myself the question, “Am I a monster?”

Unfortunately the answer to that question, for practically everybody, is, “Sometimes yes.”

Psychological damage sticks with you for the rest of your life.  It makes you flinch at things that other people don’t.  More than once I must have confused both my mother and old girlfriends when I was compelled to wriggle out of hugs and physical contacts by panic.  I felt unlovable.  I felt like a monster.  And for a lot of that time, I didn’t know why.  But it is a novel critical for me to write.  Pain needs to become art in order to completely go away.  I need to imprison the feelings and ideas in a book.

I am now at the point in that novel where I must write the scenes at the crisis point, the high point of the action, and I have to control the flinching.  I have to control the reactions I could so easily fall into.  It is critical that I get the scene right.  The success or failure of the whole novel is at stake.

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I have played it over and over in the cinema in my head a thousand times… several thousand times.  It is difficult.  But it is there.  Soon I will have it down, crystallized in words.  It make take considerable time to publish it, though, because editing it will be at least as hard as writing it.  And I seriously have to get it right.

 

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Filed under commentary, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, monsters, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney

Leftovers in January

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You reach a point after a hard month has lingered long where you have to eat the leftovers and accept what is.  I face challenges in the new year at least as large as the challenges of 2017.  When faced with such a situation, I need pie.

So here are some of the things left in my January file for use in this blog.  The only reason they are here is because I haven’t used them yet and the ideas have not been knitted together for any rational purpose.

This will be a crazy quilt blog post.  But crazy quilts keep you just as warm in winter as any other kind.

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My newest Facebook friend is the daughter of my wife’s cousin.   I have only known her as the sweet-faced little smiler at Filipino-American family gatherings who sometimes gets my attention by squirting me in the ear with a water gun.  Her father is from Greece and teaches Math in San Antonio.  Her mother, like my wife, is from the Philippines.  I won’t tell you her real name, but we used to call her “Sweetie” because of her resemblance to the little pink Tweety-bird character from Tiny Toons Adventures.

I have also spent considerable time writing to and for nudists I have connected with through their various websites and on Twitter.  These two lovely works of nude art were shared with me on Twitter.  I have collected a number of nude pictures from Twitter nudists that I can’t use on WordPress because I am still entirely too modest to be the unrestrained naked person that some nudists are.  I can’t really claim to be a complete nudist myself.  But I do have stories to tell about naked people, and I have been working on them diligently.

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Of course, I still miss being a teacher.  I was a teacher of English for 31 years.  I taught reading and writing in English to over 2,000 kids.  I also learned how to stare in Klingon.  It is a useful skill for keeping students in line and keeping them from becoming a disappointment to the empire.  I miss teaching kids, especially talkative kids.  Far fewer people talk to me during a day of retirement than used to talk to me in a single class at school.  Those interactions were precious.

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And several things are just too confusing for my old brain to explain.

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But I do like this picture I found on Facebook of Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor, playing with multiple kittens.  I don’t know why, but it makes me happier.

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Ice Cream in Winter with Propaganda Sprinkles

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The Cheeto-in-Chief has now given us something we needed as much as anyone could possibly need an ice cream cone in the middle of a blizzard.  He has shut down the government.  And, I mean, we need a break from this Republican Clown-Horror Show in the worst way.  But the government shutdown is positively the worst way.

The government is actively undermining everything of value to the common man in America.  It is deconstructing American school systems from the top down, the EPA is now encouraging polluters and removing all regulations and barriers, taxes are reduced for everybody… who has immense wealth, and we are assigning debt to our children that will take centuries to pay off.

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And the problem isn’t that the government is run by profiteering criminals, which it most certainly is, but that no matter what they say and do, no consequences are suffered for it.  They can literally do anything to anybody and get away with it because Republicans now hold all the winning cards.  Pundits say they are facing a blue wave of change in the 2018 midterms, but then again, probably not.  They control the mechanisms of government.  They can cheat to win and get away with it.  If we disagree, we are looking at a Revolution in which the armed forces are all on the other side.

The government is shut down now because the President hates immigrants, even the legal ones.  He unilaterally brought an end to the DACA Dreamers program, shutting the door on immigrant children who have only known life as an American.  Everybody in both parties want the issue settled with heart, in favor of the Dreamers.  They deserve to be here.  But when the issue was almost settled with a compromise that would’ve allowed the government to move forward, suddenly the CHIPS, Children’s Health Program is subject to negotiation and being held hostage to the Republican desire to punish Americans just for needing the government to stay open and functioning.

My conservative friends in Iowa, Texas, and elsewhere continue to back Trump and his policies even when they themselves are hurt by them.  They do this because he has appealed to their fears and hatreds.  He promises to punish those they are afraid of, and he hates the same groups that they hate.  One of the groups they hate are liberal Democrats like me, though none of them say they hate me personally.  Fox News has taught them to think of the labels and the people who wear those labels as different things.  Killing Muslims in Afghanistan doesn’t bother them because they are taught not to remember that the Mother of All Bombs was dropped on Muslim women and Muslim children too.  I try to remember they are friends and family, and I still love and care about them, even though they support things I find unconscionable.

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So, this weekend, Trump gave us an ice cream cone laced with propaganda sprinkles, some of which are made of pure horse poop.  And he shoved it in an orifice where you least want to receive a cold ice cream cone… in mid winter.  And I am willing to admit, maybe we need a little ice cream right now, a cold-but-loving treat of looking honestly at the current situation that has to be dealt with.  But couldn’t we have ice cream without the poop sprinkles, the hate sprinkles, and mind-blowing sprinkles?  Let’s take the radioactivity out of our confections for a change.

 

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