Tag Archives: hope

New Year

I haven’t written anything in about a week. I can blame the first couple of days on the New Year’s Eve festivities and how my increasing age has made recovery a longer process, but the rest of my time has remained unproductive due to a combination of persistent headache and a general feeling of malaise, coupled with an extended bout of insomnia and full-contact parenting. It’s really a shame, as I was really gaining steam with the thing I had been working on. Of course, part of it also had to do with the fact that almost nobody read my last column, which I had been hoping would drive some fans toward the artist. Hell, I even said I’d give away a free copy of the album reviewed, and still no one seemed to care to participate. I remember when I could count on double digit page views on any given day, and now it seems that I am lucky to get eight. I mean, I know that’s what happens when you disappear for months on end, but it’s not like I have kept my intermittent return a surprise. And to top it all off, it seems that my muse has recently abandoned me, though I cannot hold it against her, for even fountains of inspiration must grow weary of my melancholy shenanigans. So far, I am not terribly impressed by 2016.

I’m hoping that by actually sitting down and writing on the blog, that I might shake loose whatever has been holding me back, and I can get another couple of thousand words written on the Other Thing. I may have mentioned it, but I was really enjoying the process of writing it, and it finally felt fun to write again. Sure, there was a satisfaction in retooling Terracrats, but it didn’t flow as easily, and I was quite self-conscious about both staying true to the spirit of the original, and showing off nearly two decades of honed skills. But, I’ll not speak too much ill of it, for it is my first (self) published original work, and I have made tens of dollars off of it. If only I had some way of paying off all of my bills, I think that I would give it another try, and pour myself into the only career in which I have ever envisioned myself consistently. To that end, I began another business yesterday, but everyone seems to think that it’s a joke, and it looks like I may have to expend actual effort in monetizing it. Then again, last night was the Mega Millions draw, and there is a minuscule possibility that my wife and I have won some manner of prize, enabling me to forego the drudgery of working for The Man again. There’s always hope, right?

Oh, to be able to buy a house with an office, and feel no worry about debt or other fiduciary obligations. But, knowing me, I’d probably do as close to nothing as I could tolerate for as long as possible, while consuming an alarming quantity of… let’s call them “artistic enhancers.” I could finally catch up on all the shows which I’ve been meaning to get current on, and play through the stack of video games which I haven’t really had the time to play. And sleep. I could sleep for weeks, waking only to use the restroom and then burrowing back into my bed again. I could fund my friends and help their creative careers get well and truly rolling. Maybe if I focus on hoping to make the world a better (or at the very least, more tolerable) place for those for whom I care, the Karma Fairy will douse me with his positivity, and I will find myself able to enact my Master Plan without all of the hassle of having to build my empire slowly. I’m not really a patient sort of fellow, you see, and I’d sort of like to get a move on, if it’s all the same to you.

I would also like to travel. Not to escape the the sadness of a mundane existence, but to see the beauty of the world beyond that which I could rightly consider my backyard, that is, if I actually had a yard, which I do not, because I am poor, and live in an apartment. I think that I would like to see the British Isles, and then maybe pop over to check out Spain before getting drunk in Germany. Perhaps I could make my way to the ancestral home of my great-grandmother, and pay a visit to Norway. It would be a fine opportunity to catch up on the finest of Death Metals. Hell, it would even be fun to bring the kid along, and maybe even Mr. Bad Leon Suave. After all of that, I’d head to Mexico and bum about near pyramids amidst the thunderstorms. Maybe even get to know my parents-in-law. There is so much that I am dying to see and do, and I feel that I will never see or do any of it at the rate which I am going.

Baby steps.

It cost me thousands of dollars for the opportunity to knock the rust off of my wordsmithing abilities, and a large chunk of that time spent was done so under self-inflicted duress. I made myself write nearly every day, and would have kept doing so, but I ran out of money, and couldn’t keep connected to the internet. By the time I paid the bills, and we got reconnected, I was locked in at a full-time job, and found myself without the time to write. Luckily, I’m nowhere near as bad as I was when I began this blog, and there is a chance that maybe I will actually make it happen. I just know that I can’t give up. I have to find a way to pay the bills, and yet not work so much that there is nothing left in me by the time that I can finally make my way back home. I refuse to stand down again. Once I’ve stopped, and by this I mean, accept that I have failed in this endeavor, I don’t know if I could ever rebuild the momentum.

The second half of 2015 was a setback, to be sure, but I never signaled my surrender. I will make it. If only because I never made plans to do anything else with my life, and if I allow myself to believe that I shouldn’t be doing this, then I honestly don’t know what I’ll have left. I cannot bear to entertain the notion that a world exists wherein I have given up the dream of writing. I am in my mid-thirties, closer now to middle-age than I am to the vigor of my youth, and there is no better time to finally force myself to make things happen than right now.

I hope.

Back (Somewhat) From The Wilderness

We’re in the process of finding a worthy successor to Comcast for our home internet service, so I’ve pretty much been stuck on my phone when I’ve been online this past while, and I’m not going to attempt to write anything sizable on tiny screen without physical keys. A lot has happened since I last posted something, and even as I’m typing these words, I’m trying to sort it all out in my head, so that I don’t tell a rambling, disjointed anecdote (not that that has stopped me before!). For the handful of you that have been checking back daily to see if I’ve actually written anything: thank you. I’m hoping that, by the end of today’s column, you will have reason to look forward to the coming months. Well, that is, if I can get the interwebz at home again. As much fun as it is trying to write at Cafe Milano in Berkeley, I believe that I’ll most likely want to mosey on home when my days are done, and the fact is that there are sometimes bloodsports involved in gaining access to an outlet (which I need because my laptop is a 4-year-old Acer, and hates being without a source of energy).

So, big news first: I am no longer working at Big Lots, which I do not believe I actually mentioned by name during my time there. It was an… interesting experience, and the tens of dollars that I made while working there enlightened me further to the plight of the working poor. What surprised me the most (viscerally, as I’d known it intellectually), was just how hard the job was, and just how little we were valued. Even as I was pushing for a promotion (because dozens of dollars are better than tens), I could almost not believe just how little they were willing to pay us. In the department where I’d been working, there was only one employee allowed to have Full Time (not me), and everyone else had to try to live off of minimum wage rates at less than thirty hours per week. Now, it wasn’t as bad as that winter I had to work for Labor Ready in Seattle, excavating frozen earth, but it was a close second. And to add insult to injury, after the good manager left (I wrote a piece about him), not a single other manager really wanted to take his place. They were pushing for me to advance to a supervisory position (a position which lay vacant long before I’d been hired- one of the sticking points of my former boss), not as way of recognizing my skill set, but as a means of avoiding physical labor, and the warehouse entirely.

So,when I got an email, out of the blue, from someone with whom I’d worked during my time at the Kenpire, informing me of an opportunity, I responded immediately. As it turns out, it couldn’t have come a moment too soon. The morning of my interview for this new job, I had another interview at Big Lots, this time with someone higher up the food chain. It was a good conversation, and perhaps if I had been dealing with him instead of the GM I was under, things may have been different. But no matter how well it went, they weren’t going to offer me more than $12/hr, and considering all that they wanted me to do, I kept my fingers crossed that the afternoon offer would be better. I have not always had the best of luck with interviews, and knew better than to throw away a pittance, if I pittance was all I’d got. It turns out that my fears were unfounded. The interview went swimmingly, and I was offered $3 more per hour than the level at which I’d set my minimum. Taking into account the fact that I no longer have to commute to San Francisco, and was also offered real benefits, I’m actually making more now than I was when I was GM of Blondie’s in San Francisco.

Of course, I’m terrified with every passing day that I will screw everything up, and come face to face with indisputable proof that I should never have quit Big Lots, but I also know that this is normal (for me) and that I do actually know how to ride upon the sword’s edge of despair, sliding along the sharpened blade in cut-resistant slippers, down to the sweet spot of my neuroses, where I am invincible. Part of it is that we’re still in that time before the restaurant is even open (it’s still under construction), and there are too many variables for me to properly calculate the outcome using my superhuman pessimistic powers. It is coming together, though.

I’d planned on giving nearly two final weeks to Big Lots, but when faced with the enormity of the task, and the time frame in which it needed to be accomplished, I cut my losses, and dedicated myself to the job which paid me twice the rate of the other (with more hours, to boot). I felt bad as I was penning my letter of resignation, especially as I could do no more than say say, “So long, and thanks for all the fish!” I’m glad I had the opportunity to see just how bad people have it, so that I can do my best to make sure that no one working for me ever feels that way again. And I’m grateful that I got so see the inner workings of a corporation that couldn’t give less than rabbit turd about its employees. I’ve spoken out against them, but now I know just how bad they are (and I’m sure I didn’t even come close to working for the worst). It isn’t done with terror, at least not overtly. They get you by whispering lies into your ear, and pretending that they’re looking out for you. And then when they finally crank the heat up, they remind you that there are people out there who somehow make even less than you, and that they’ll replace you if you get out of line.

I’m in a better place now. I’m also out of time, as I have to start getting ready for my workday. I’ll do my best to stay in touch.

Thanks again,


UPDATE: The Broken Bat(mart)

As I described in The Broken Bat(mart) a couple of days ago, not to mention at least half of my posts here on the website, I am suffering from a fair amount of pain, to the point of feeling physically and mentally battered and very close to almost broken. I’d thought that it was pretty bad when I was working in restaurants, but after a six month sabbatical, and subsequent employment at a far more physically demanding job, it turns out that it has gotten much, much worse. Like I mentioned last week, in Agony- 13.5 Years, I was very near the point of quitting before I’d truly managed to get started. Honestly, I believe that it was only the shame of having to give up so quickly which managed to bolster my tenacity and allow me to stick it out and try to find my footing. Pride, however, doesn’t do a lot in terms of pain relief, and even though it hasn’t been as bad as that first day unloading the truck, I could feel the cumulative effects of so much physicality, and knew that I would have to finally do something. Normally, I would have been tempted to utilize “back channels” to locate what I needed (after having had such a miserable experience with my last physician), but because of my employer’s policies, that could have wound up costing me my job. So I waited until payday, and got myself to the local Urgent Care offices.

I didn’t hold much hope, mind you, that anything would happen, considering the hoops I had to jump through (not to mention the hundreds of dollars in co-pays for doctor appointments and medication which didn’t work) just so that nothing would, even in the slightest bit, change, aside from the size of my bank account. And, considering how much time I had to wait before finally being admitted, I’m amazed that anyone actually saw me at all. At least when I go again, I’ll be in the system, and won’t have to sign so much infernal paperwork. I was sitting in the waiting room for nearly an hour, being kicked (I hope by accident) by a parade of toddlers running past me on their way to and from their mommies and the toys back in the corner. I did my best not to scowl at them, as I generally do like children, but considering that I was in there because of extreme (Extreme!) leg pain, every little kick against my foot shot spears of agony up through my legs, resonating loudly just behind my knees as they ascended. Needless to say, by the time that I was finally called back, I was nearly in tears.

Things I learned from this visit:

1) I have gained nearly fifteen pounds since quitting my last job.

2) Apparently my blood pressure is bad enough that both the nurse and the doctor could barely conceal both their surprise and concern about seeing the numbers.

3) The beds they have to sit on in the exam rooms are precisely the wrong shape and height if you are suffering from leg pain.

I’d thought that it was a long and mind-numbing wait to get into the exam room, but it was so much worse once I was in there, despite the fact that toddlers were no longer smacking up against me. If it weren’t for the constant painful throbbing in my legs, I might have actually passed out from boredom. When the doctor finally entered, I had lost the boiling pit of vitriol which I had been nurturing since that morning, and was only able to describe my pain with a sigh of resignation. Considering how everything wound up playing out, that may have been for the best. I told her how this wasn’t something new, and the nonsense that I endured at the hands of my last physician. I told her how my current job was the only one to call me, and though it’s physically destroying me and refusing to provide me with enough hours to live on (especially considering that they’re only paying me minimum wage), it was all I had, and that I needed to find a way to keep going back. I told her that I knew that my expanding girth was contributing to my pain, and that half a year of relative inactivity, while a welcome respite from the pain I’d felt those last few years that I’d been working, had only made it that much harder when I wound up going back to work.

And then the most amazing thing happened: I told her what the physical therapist had told me (which my doctor had ignored) which was that I should be on muscle relaxants, and instead of arguing with me, she just nodded, and motioned for me to continue. For the first time in well over a decade, a doctor actually listened to me. Maybe it’s because most drug addicts aren’t hitting up their doctors for muscle relaxants when they could be there for more powerful narcotics, or maybe it was that she heard the truth of my pain hidden somewhere in my voice. Whatever it was, she told me that she’d be prescribing a muscle relaxant for me, and something for my pain. She then left me waiting for another half an hour, so as to make sure that I remembered that I was still dealing with the health care system in America. The nurse came in again, with the two prescriptions, and wished me well, apologizing for the delay, and reassuring me (though a bit belatedly) that I hadn’t been forgotten. I thanked her, and gimped out past a newly refilled waiting room and off toward a pharmacy.

I normally go Walgreen’s when I fill prescriptions, but my legs were hurting (as I may have mentioned once or twice), and so it was that I finally paid a visit to the little pharmacy less than a block away. I think what really sold me was that they advertised “15 Minute Prescriptions”, and the soonest I could hope to get them from the nearest Walgreen’s was at least an hour, and then, only if there wasn’t anyone in line ahead of me, which, considering that it was almost five o’clock on a Friday afternoon, didn’t seem too likely. I don’t know how much my meds would have cost me, but that day, at least, I was more concerned about sooner than cheaper. Within eight minutes, measured from when I first walked in the door, I had my bottles of Tramadol and Baclofen. They’d cost me $47.00 (and the Urgent Care visit had run me $45- which meant that I had spent almost half my check on medical care for the next week), but for the first time in what could have easily passed for forever, I felt almost human again. The walk back to my apartment didn’t hurt, and I was able to greet my waiting son with loving attention instead of pained tolerance and distance.

Obviously, I cannot continue to spend half of every paycheck on medicine so that I can keep working at that job, but for now, at least, I feel the future is at least slightly brighter than it was before. My fingers are crossed, and my knees are no longer killing me. Here’s to the future!


I’m mainly writing this for myself, because there are times when I just cannot bear to feel the overwhelming sadness any longer. I look at the long history of institutional violence in this country of mine, and I think that it is simply too much, too ingrained to ever hope to change. Our politicians have long since let us down, sold us to the multinationals who finance their campaigns. The police view everyone who dares speak up as a clear and present danger. Our military is engaged in diplomacy by drone strike, draining billions from the budget while failing to make the world a safer place. I am white man in mid-thirties, straight, and doing okay for myself. I should be the beneficiary of at least some sort of pandering, and yet even my voice is not enough to give consideration, let alone the voices of those far less fortunate than I. We have been marginalized and dehumanized, and told not to rock the boat. We are products to be bought and sold so that the ultra-rich can sleep in peace, and are kept comatose by shiny new distractions which we kill ourselves that we might have enough to buy them.

The only things which keep me going are a faith in the notion of what I believe this country might one day stand for, and the future which my son and grandchildren will otherwise be forced to endure. The system is broken. In a nation of riches, there are too many people who don’t even have enough to be considered poor. And while the folks in our nation’s capitol spend what little time they have allotted for their taxpayer-funded duties screaming about the legislation of morality, their words are undercut by a complete disregard for anyone who doesn’t live like them. It’s easy to say that all politicians are corrupt, and then do precisely nothing to change it. It’s easy to believe that if you don’t break any laws, the cops will have no reason to come calling, until, one day they do. As long as you aren’t the one oppressed, it’s easy to ignore the suffering of others; they must have done something to deserve it.

I’ve heard that from my family so many times it makes me sick. They agree that the police might be a little heavy-handed, but spout that privileged, clueless nonsense that if you don’t want to take that chance, then you better not do anything illegal. It doesn’t work that way, in the same way that corporations don’t generally change long-held policies for the benefit of their workers or consumers until they forced to do so. The Free Market will sort everything out, I’m told. Tell that to the polluted air, the warming climate, and the water we can no longer drink. Tell that to the barely-teenaged workers making dirt cheap crap that we don’t need half a world away. Tell that to the parents working several jobs just so that they don’t have to choose between a place to live or food to eat. And pray they don’t get sick. We are the property of other men.

Those who would represent us have sold us for blood money. The employers to whom we trade away the best years of our lives will only care about us as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. The moment we are no longer profitable resources is the moment when we are discarded. Local governments are funding themselves on the backs of those who can’t afford to pay, saying that they’ve lowered taxes, but then criminalized with monetary penalty the act of being poor. They ship us off to prisons which somehow got privatized; for-profit institutions that require a constant influx of new product. We are told that we don’t matter. We are told we have no worth. We are sold the lie that if we can just work hard enough, the world can be our oyster, and then criticized for laziness upon our inevitable failure.

But there is a glimmer of hope: It doesn’t matter it it’s always been, it doesn’t have to be this way. We are a species that has proved itself capable of eradicating some disease. We have put people on the moon. The moon, damn it! We have connected the entire world and found inspiration there. We have shown that we are capable of being so much more than the mere sum our genetic code and history of aggression. Before the clock runs out, before there’s nothing left to save, we need to find it in us to stand together and cry out, “No more!” It’s not about the individual. It’s not about the cliques. We are bound together by the very nature of our lives. And not just us, but all life on this planet. We’ve had our chance at infancy, and we’ve since outgrown our childhood. We’ve faced struggles in pubescence, and now the adulthood of our species is upon us.

We are kept isolated so that we can’t unite, for the power of a people demanding justice with one voice cannot be silenced, and those who would slaughter us just to keep the status quo know it. I know it seems too big. I know they seem too powerful. I know that it looks like things will never change. I didn’t add my voice when they were Occupying across America because I was too worried about the repercussions. Not that I would be arrested, or mistreated, or harmed in any way (I was born with mithril pigment in my skin), but that if I left my job to go and stand for what I felt was right, that my family would be forced to suffer for my idealism. We all have things which bind us to them and keep us from acting for the greater good. Except that when we do not stand, and do not speak, and do not defend the things we truly value, we will discover that those things which we thought we were protecting have been nothing but shackles all along.

It’s so easy to let someone else stand up to do the difficult things which must be done, but we don’t need another martyr. Let’s stand together and face down the darkness, hand in hand. No more! No more! No more!