He had so many expenses, he didn’t know what to do.
Of course, I am not complaining.
Even though it’s a tennis shoe and not a cowboy boot.
I have got an ice cream truck outside. Sponsored by Hot Wheels.
And now that I have a substitute teaching job, I almost have more money than bills… well, some months… maybe.
But I still can’t afford ice cream. Or insulin.
But my neighbor lives in a house made of eggshell. And he has cancer. But he gets visits from the Partridge Family in their funky school bus. It is better to live on a shoe-string budget than an eggshell budget. But we all have our troubles. Which Aetna will never willingly pay for.
Except for the rich guy who lives on Mel Gibson Hill. He has no troubles.
He has plenty of money.
And he is the reason the rest of us are poor.
Because he pays for politicians to give him tax breaks on all that money that never trickles down the hill.
But life is good in Toonerville Town.
Unless that shoestring comes undone.
And then it takes lots more hard work to tie it up again.
I am no longer willing to rely on the definition of the words, “traditional publishing”, anymore. My book, Magical Miss Morgan, is now out of print because Page Publishing has a need to charge me for keeping my book on their Print-on-Demand paperback book machine and in their e-book database . I paid those parasites to edit and publish my book. They made money off a totally incompetent job of editing, trying to pass off incorrect proofreading whose corrections all had to be re-corrected by me. Their publishing consisted basically of buying me an ISBN number and providing the same level of publishing services as Amazon does for free.
The cover was basically designed by me. I did the drawings and photoshopped them onto the background. They provided the the Title/Author graphic.
So, really, I paid them close to three thousand dollars for things I had to do myself anyway.
Well, I own the rights completely to the formatted manuscript and the cover. I spent three months getting it all legally returned to me, which they could’ve done in a week if my case manager hadn’t gotten married in the middle of the process. I am obviously not entitled to special treatment of any kind, since I wasn’t willing to pay their pointless maintenance fees.
I will now republish this book on Amazon and never again publish anything where I rely on anybody but me in the process. It is a very good story about a Middle School English teacher who is a combination of me and a female colleague who was a very gifted teacher. It also tells a tale of making reading assignments such a magical experience that fairies invade your classroom. It was a contest novel that didn’t win anything but made it to the finals in the judging. Nobody reads my books because I have no means of effectively marketing them, but this is one of my best and deserves to be available for as long as I can make it so.
Life seems to be getting harder and harder. And I realize that a big part of that perception is the fact that my health is deteriorating quickly. This is a humor blog, but it has been getting more and more serious and more and more grim as the grim reaper becomes more and more a central character in my own personal story.
My perception of reality, however, is best explained by a passage in a novel that spoke to me in college. It comes from the novel, the Bildungsroman by Thomas Mann called Der Zauberberg, in English, The Magic Mountain. In the scene, Hans Castorp is possibly freezing to death, and he hallucinates a pastoral mountainside scene where children are happily playing in the sunshine. Possibly Heaven? But maybe not. As he goes into a stone building and finds a passage down into the ground, he sees wrinkled, ugly, horrible hags gathered around a child’s corpse, eating it. And this vision explains the duality at the center of the meaning of life.
For every good thing, there is an equal and opposite bad thing that balances it our. There is no understanding what perfection and goodness mean without knowing profanity and evil. Just as you can’t understand hot without cold nor light without darkness. And you don’t get to overturn the way it is. You try your hardest to stay on the heads side of the coin knowing that half the time life falls to tails.
So, what good does it do me to think about and write about things like this? Well, it makes for me a sort of philosophical gyroscope that spins and dances and helps me keep my balance in the stormy sea of daily life. I deal with hard things with humor and a sense of literary irony. I make complex metaphors that help me throw a rope around the things that hurt me.
We are living now in the Spider Kingdom. Hard times are here again. The corrupt and corpulent corporate spiders are spinning the many webs we are trapped in. As metaphorical as it is, we wouldn’t have the government we currently have and be suffering the way we are if that weren’t true.
But no bad thing nor no good thing lasts forever. The wheel goes round and round. The top of the wheel reaches the bottom just as often as the bottom returns to the top. So, it will all pass if we can only hold out long enough.
December so far has not been kind. When my family came home from their Thanksgiving trip to Florida, the two boys had the flu. And, of course, they gave it to me. I have been seriously ill for the better part of three weeks. Having diabetes and being unable to afford insulin, I guess I am lucky to even be alive at this point. But I was unable to do any substituting in December. So, no extra money comes in during January. I will be paying for it for a while.
But one bright spot in the whole sickness story was that my daughter had reached semester test week without getting the bug and without missing school. Ah, but the Christmas flu fairies had a different outcome in mind. Monday, by the end of the day, she was bright green in the face and suffering. She was beside herself with worry about testing. She forced herself to go to school the next morning and take her first period exam. She got her exam done, and made a perfect score of 100 on it. But then she had to come home and go directly to the doctor. Yep, the flu. And probably gotten from classmates who also are missing tests about now. Wednesday and Thursday was misery and vomiting and fevers. She will live through it, but not with smiles on her bright green face. The school is understanding about her missing the tests, and it will be made up.
So, I have to take care of her with caution. If it is a different flu than I recently had, the Florida flu, I could get sick again. And this time it could easily be a fatal flu. I am not afraid. I have battled flu so many times that it no longer scares me. I know what to do. And I will get through it.
For the last five and a half years I have been averaging more than 500 words every day. A rough conservative estimate of that means 17,112,000 words. If words were cocaine, I’d be dead five times over by now.
But writing is not the same as cocaine. The addiction to it has very different effects. I divide my daily writing into at least two parts. The daily blog is itself, more often than not, 500-plus words. So, by itself it can satisfy my daily word-count. And I devote at least 500 words every day to my novel work in progress. So, that means I have produced well over 17 million words in reality. Probably closer to 34 million than to 17. That, of course, is far less than Stephen King wrote in the same period of time, but it is also far more than the average person writes.
And one thing that such an overdose of verbiage does to a writer, is to make him or her a better writer.
I have produced nine novels, between 35,000 and 50,000 words each, in the time since I retired from teaching and began writing and self-publishing in earnest. I have gotten only five-star reviews on the novels that have been read and reviewed. Granted, nobody who read and hated my books hated them passionately enough to leave a scathing review, so the 5-star average is just due to laziness on the part of the reading public. But it is marginally evidence that my storytelling is good.
Another effect I have experienced from my writing addiction is that it has made me increasingly metaphorically naked. My illustrations for this post reveal a little bit of that. It is not only that I like to write in the nude when I can, but that I have used my stories to grapple with everything that was once a deep, dark secret buried in the depths of me. Being sexually assaulted as a child was something that for many years I could never admit even to myself. Struggles with loneliness, depression, and self-hatred are also something I had kept buried until I needed them to tell stories with.
I finally worked up the courage to send a gift copy of Snow Babies to the girl I grew up with whose name I used for the main character, Valerie Clarke. Valerie loved the book and became an advocate for me with both the Belmond and Rowan libraries. I even admitted that the part about Valerie being the most beautiful girl ever born in Norwall, Iowa came from something the boys in our 5th and 6th grade classes at school all said about her. She told me she never knew we had said that back then. Ah, but that was probably an untruth too.
As addictions go, my addiction to fiction is probably a lot better thing to have than addictions to gambling, cocaine, wife-beating, or gummy bears. But it hasn’t made me any richer or healthier either. It has made me older, and possibly a little bit wiser.
My title for today is a bad pun. It is because the phrase “Sick Humor” has two meanings. I tend to get punny when my nose is runny. I have been sick for a week. Not actually flu, but a bad cold that seems pretty close. And, of course, close counts with horseshoes, flu, and hand grenades. I have been stuck at home, able to do little beyond watch the impeachment clown-show. And, of course, by watching, getting punnier and punnier.
You get punny enough and you tend to feel bigger than you are, primarily because you get full of natural gas that comes out of your mouth… and of course, out of somewhere else too. And if you let it all out of the mouth at once… where it pollutes the general atmosphere and makes it hard to breathe… or if you let it out of the other place… where it can be potentially explosive… you will deflate a lot, and get very, very small.
But, really, it is a matter of absurd comparisons (and also Republican impairisons) as words are twisted to make them funny (as in “oddly seeming” and not as in “really ha-ha!”) and criminals are called “honest brokers” and the coppers are tarnished as “deep-state delusionals”.
You are supposed to take medicine when you are sick. And laughter is the best medicine. But don’t laugh at idiots. Idiots with lots of money will hurt you. They will hurt you financially. They will hurt you physically. They can’t necessarily beat you up because it looks bad… and maybe because of bone spurs. But they can hire lots of somebodies to do it for them. And they can take over your government.
The sickness in the White House has no cure. The cancer will not be excised. It will kill us all. Sometimes the humor is sick. And sometimes the jokes are not funny. And the biggest joke will be when the Senate declares the cancer not life-threatening. The joke will be on us.
I am sick. I am trying to laugh it off. But it’s tough. Maybe I will look for funnier clowns to watch.
The greatest tragedy known to man is the finely-tuned instrument that is merely sitting, barely active, when instead it should be soaring to heights never seen before.
It is a real shame that so much of human endeavor is bent towards the accumulation of wealth… And when the lucky few reach the pinnacle of that wealth-acquisition, measured in billions, they choose to hoard it and salt it away for their own exclusive use rather than solve problems like poverty, hunger, ignorance, pollution, violence, and want. The act of creation, being musical, artistic, literary, or profound, is given so little value that the idea of the starving artist is an idea that exists in every head.
I fear that far too many people don’t t truly understand what value means. For life to be worth living, you have to have priorities that justify mankind’s very existence. Surely we were not created… by either God or an indifferent random universe… to merely exist like the blue-green lichen that graces the bark of a rotting stump, or to elect Donald Trump as President just so we can see smarty-pants liberal elitists chopped down by a corrupt plague of racist frogs. The tragedy lies in the knowing… or the not knowing.
Perhaps you recognize Beethoven’s 9th Symphony when you hear the Dah-Dah-Dah-Dummm! of death knocking in that familiar musical phrase. But do you recognize the pastoral beauty of the sunshine-and-rain-filled 5th Symphony? Or have you heard the sorrow and the striving of daily life in the city streets depicted in the 7th Symphony (offered above)? If not, why not? How can you listen to any of it and not hear the many underlined reasons that it is considered among the greatest music ever created? And that by a man who was mildly insane and eventually stone deaf, unable to hear his own music anywhere but in his imagination?
I have reached a point in my life that I cannot do much beyond sit and think such thoughts. I am limited in how I can move and what work I can do by my ever-more-painful arthritis, stinging me in every joint. I am also limited by lack of money in where I can go and what I can afford to do. But I refuse to be that finely-tuned instrument that does not make much in the way of music. Hence, an essay like this one today. It is me, using my words to the best of my ability, to fill the sky with hopelessly beautiful attempts at making the stars twinkle.