Monthly Archives: April 2011

Terrorism in Ohio

I read this disturbing story this morning and could barely keep from throwing my laptop through the wall.  The facts are somewhat sketchy at the moment, but it appears that some haters set a man’s barn afire, killing seven horses and a young foal in an effort to terrorize him because he is gay.

I just don’t know what to say.  I’ll get to a peaceful place about this, because I have to, but at the moment I only feel rage and despair.  It’s bad enough to strike out at an individual over his/her orientation, but to do so in a manner that causes pain and suffering to innocent, intelligent animals is a crime that to me ranks right up there with murder.

I’ve got flooding issues to deal with today, which may be a blessing as it will keep me from dwelling on this too long.

Just damn.

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GoodWill Hunting

Longtime readers of The Chronicles (both of them) are painfully familiar with my penchant for foil hats.  At least thats what some people believe, I tend to view myself as rather prescient, thank you very much.  Awhile back I was lamenting the fact that farmers all too often wind up farming the subsidies, not the market.  A good example would be those who quit growing cotton.  Currently, there is a worldwide shortage of the type used to make denim.  ALL OF THE COTTON CROP CURRENTLY BEING GROWN IS ALREADY SPOKEN FOR.  All of it.  Clothing manufacturers are clamoring for all they can get, and some, faced with both a shortage and the inevitable price spikes, are forced to explore substituting man made materials like polyester.  (I have a lime green leisure suit with lapels that look like a hang-glider folded up in my closet, may be time to bring those babies back, Jack)

So, tee-shirts, khakis, jeans, and Q-tips will cost you more to buy.  You.  Not me.  Long ago, I discovered the brilliance that is used clothing.  I became a loyal customer of thrift stores right around the same time I became a farmer.  There is a reason for that.  I’d love to spin a tale of a hardscrabble existence, complete with hitching mules to plow the lower 40, egg candling and tree-felling, but the embarrassing truth is that I’m too broke to buy my puffy pirate shirts at Macys.  Me and Noah were killing time recently at a local mall, and we were admiring a paper thin t-shirt until he read the price tag:  $32.00

For a t-shirt.

Anyway, I shop at GoodWill.  Back in the day, I’d park Black Cloud Follows (the truck I bought from a bunch of drunken Navajo Indians) and walk into the place with my checking account holding upwards of 47 bucks, and walk out with a complete winter wardrobe and still have 40 to blow on a bottle of tequila.  Good times good times.  Plus, I was the only guy in the place, so the selection was fabulouso.  (Ha, spell-checker HATED that word)  It was usually just me and a handful of elderly matrons, who spent their time sifting through the wreckage of used kitchen items or linens.  Boy, have times changed.  Now, not only is the place lousy with other dudes, but the women-folk are now doing all day excursions and buying up everything in sight.  I’m talking well-heeled and sensibly accessorized MILFs running amok and hoarding all the orange tag stuff.  It’s hard out there for a working man.

I needed a few cotton shirts to wear, as I do tend to ruin mine pretty quickly.  The first thing I do is check the sale tag, which in the 9 years, 4 months, 20 days I have been going, is always orange.  They set that stuff in the center of the aisle, and I have it down to a science.  There are only two or three types of shirts I’ll buy, and about six or seven manufacturers that I trust.  I check the neckline or collars first, then the sleeves, then hold it at a 45 degree angle against the glaring lights to check for stains.  If it isn’t threadbare or stretched out, I’m in.  Today, right as I walked in, I spotted a “baseball” type of shirt I am partial to and it was on the sale rack.  Unfortunately, a woman, who I’d guess was around 65-70 but remarkably spry, fixed on it at that exact same moment.  It was on.  Though she was closer, I gripped both sides of a bin holding over-priced VHS tapes (3 dollars!) and swung up over it and hit the floor at a dead run.  Breath in through your mouth nose, Mack, out through your mouth.  At a full sprint, I reached out and lunged toward the garment but our hands both clasped it simultaneously.  A bigger man would have politely tipped his hat and let the old bitty have it.  I did kinda the same thing, except I added an elbow jab into her sternum, then hip-tossed her under an adjacent display of robes and pajamas.  Old people sound funny when they fall, right?

I quickly glanced at the other sale items but couldn’t linger as I had an appointment, (plus I wasn’t sure how long she’d stay unconscious) and I did find a nice white all cotton shirt that looked brand new. I can’t tell you how many shirts I’ve found at GoodWill with the original price tags still intact.  I always jump around like an idiot and shove it the faces of passing customers while I do what looks like a touchdown dance, or a drunk man crossing an icy street.

I buy shirts and hats from GoodWill.  Since all I ever wear is jeans these days, a new seasonal wardrobe runs me under 20 bucks.

I’m considered quite the dandy ’round these parts.

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Mack’s Excellent Adventure

700 miles, 36 hours.  The week started off with a bang.  The universe conspired to put me on the road Monday.  I headed south toward Atlanta with a mixture of excitement and dread.  The former at the prospect of being on the road for hours at a time, since I can then listen to NPR without interruption.  As usual, they did not disappoint.  The latter because I wasn’t quite clear what i was headed into, all i knew was that I had to check on elderly parents and make some determinations regarding their care.  That doesn’t bode well for them, does it?  Can you imagine leaving your life in my hands?  Shudder.

So anyway, the road from here to West Georgia offers few choices.  The fastest way is to take I-24 to I-75 and go right thru Atlanta.  I decided to go at 9:40 a.m., and by 10:00 a.m.  I was filling up with gas.  ($3.69 a gallon, ouch) leaving at that time meant trying to get through metro Atlanta during rush-hour.  I’d sooner endure a root canal during a history lesson given by Michelle Bachmann than drive on I-75 or 285 between the hours of 3:30-6:30 p.m.    That meant a trip through the North Georgia mountains.  I’m a bit of a planner, so finding myself in this position was unsettling.  I enjoy taking the back-roads when traveling, the interstates are now merely there to allow big trucks, filled with Chinese crap, a chance to move from town to town in formation.  Plus, I can’t stand the blandness of it all.  I’m sorry, but pick any exit ramp off of any American highway, running through any state, and there will be a Waffle House there, waiting to take your order.  Beyond predictable.

I vaguely knew of a route that wound its way through the mountains and eventually ended up on hwy 27 in West Georgia.  Its a lovely drive, through quaint North Georgia towns and speed traps.  There are vegetable stands, yard sales, and churches everywhere.  I have taken that route BACK to Nashville once before.  I decided to let my navigation feature on my Android phone show me the way.  I put in the address of a location I knew I passed on my way back through those mountains long ago.  I hit “enter’ and waited.  A woman’s voice asked me to turn left, then proceed 800 ft before turning left onto I-24. (I as at a gas station where I stopped to pee) I obliged her.  She then proceeded to instruct me to stay on 24 another 70 miles, until I merged with I-75.  I gently reminded her that I knew that route all too well, and that I was hoping she might see her way to finding a route through the lovely hills of the Old South.  She recalculated.  “head South, for 70 miles until merging with I-75″.

As I entered the Chattanooga city limits, just past Nickajack Lake, I saw a road sign that said Hwy27/Fort Oglethorpe.  Bingo!  I shot the trucker next to me the bird and exited off the expressway.  I turned right. I stopped at a red light.  There was a Waffle House to my left.  I drove a block, and then I stopped at another light.  I was fairly engrossed in a story on the radio about a remarkable woman who heads up water management in Las Vegas and didn’t really notice that in the span of about 10 minutes, I had stopped at roughly 2000 red lights.  Then disaster struck.  NPR started to crackle a bit, then, after a minute or so, go away completely.  Picture this.  I’m in North Georgia, about to embark on a 150 mile trek through Klan country, and NPR is gone.  Like any seasoned soldier, I remembered my training.  First rule:  Don’t panic.  Worst case, you find a brick and mortar store that sells CDs, and pick up something to see you through.  I hit the “search” button.  It was something by Travis Twitt or Rowdy Burns or some such, definitely country.  I expected that.  I hit it again.  I watched in horror as the digits flew by…92.3, 94.7,101.2.  until, finally, it settled back on the same exact song.  Now I know what it must have felt like to be a newly minted Second Lieutenant, dropped, along with Bravo Company into a hot  MeKong Delta LZ and pinned down by enemy fire from all directions.  It was exactly like that.  Only not really.  Still, I did not panic.  I hit it again.  The numbers flew by again, but, at that moment, the clouds parted, and a ray of sunshine called 106.9 Hippie Rock blasted from my speakers.  “I Drink Alone”.  George Thoroughly Good, which, btw, has the stupidest lyrics in the world (I drink alone, with nobody else, cause you know when I drink alone, I prefer to be by myself.  Yikes) but has catchy hooks and George’s trademark nasty guitar licks.  If you are ever in the mood to have a guitar make brutal love to you, (and who isn’t?) listen to “One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer.”  I smiled, and floored it. Six cylinders and a cloud of red Georgia clay.

That radio station saw me through.  It played classic rock, but i have to admit that knowing The Cars “Shake It Up” is considered a classic gave me pause.

I got there, handled my business, and returned the next day.  Because i stopped to see an old friend at his newest and bestest restaurant, I came back through Atlanta.  I gave in and had my hash browns scattered well, chunked.  My waitress was a recovering meth addict from Gadsden, Alabama.  Sigh.

I’m home now, and I ain’t leaving again until June.

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Fear Is Our National Language

Actually, silence is, at least for far too many American men.  I can’t tell you how many women out there have told me that their partners in life have essentially walled them off.  It isn’t news to me, I grew up in a home with a nearly silent father, and it wasn’t until later in my own life I realized why this was.  My father was one tough son of a bitch.  He had to be to survive during the depression, the second world war, and as a Mexicano in his own neighborhood.  He wasn’t afraid of work, or pain, and he spoke truth to power long before that phrase became part of the lexicon of the Left.  I can’t be sure what he was fearful of, but if I had to guess it was that me or my siblings would have to endure what he did.  My father had an exceptional mind, and he educated himself about a world beyond his own surroundings.  With that knowledge came fear.  I think his view of the world was that of a hostile, unforgiving place, where it expected that suffering will take place, and that that is the natural order of things.  His early life probably offered very little to counter that perspective. He was prone to brooding, and had an explosive, violent temper.  But he was mostly silent, and I’ve come to realize that silence is a powerful weapon, one that we most often use against those of whom we profess to love.  It is a relationship killer.

Now, it seems all I observe are varying levels of silence, which is cruelly ironic in an age that makes communication so incredibly easy.  I believe that fear has gripped this country and that we don’t know how to fight it.  Our stockpile of guns?  Useless.  Sure, we can kill all the people who frighten us, but what good is a firearm against the fear of failure?  Or the fear that there isn’t enough of something?  Or, against that most terrifying of fears, that if people really knew us, they would reject us. ( It is my personal opinion that some of this fear is instilled by organized religion, but thats another post)

This will surely invite ridicule and scorn from feminist purists, but men are unfairly saddled with the burden of hiding our fear instead of acknowledging it around those with whom we are closest.  The big screen heroes of my generation were all strong, silent types.  The Duke.  Dirty Harry Callahan.  Yea, we all enjoyed laughing at Woody Allen’s neurosis but nobody wanted to be Woody Allen.  I’m making an obvious point here, and I don’t want to beat a dead “men don’t cry” horse because its so obvious.  But, the point that men are culturally conditioned to never acknowledge fear is an important one.  Our generation doesn’t have most of the struggles that our fathers had.  There has always been enough to eat, we enjoy comforts here most of the world only dreams of, and our country hasn’t been threatened by invasion by some hostile neighboring country.  (9-11 was a cowardly act of mass murder, not an act of war.) Still, fear persists.  I’d like to think that as we evolve as a species, it will become less important to posture and front, but I see little evidence of that.  Indeed many of the guys I know and interact with are of a different generation than my own, and I see the  toll that the reluctance to talk takes on their relationships with their wives or girlfriends, their siblings. their friends.

Clearly, this is evident in our politics as well, as the political arena is by and large made up of men, and the few women who have gained access have too often done so by adopting a man’s style.  (There are of course notable exceptions.) Men run corporations, and corporations are monuments of fear, disguised as greed.  If the company isn’t growing, it becomes a target, these days a global one.  What it can’t defeat in the market it absorbs instead.  Staff accountants count the beans, actuaries determine the odds, and the results determine the direction.  The effect on the blood and muscle of the company is rarely factored in.  The effect on the community as a whole is rarely factored in.  This perpetuates a climate of fear.  I imagine few among us don’t fear losing our jobs regardless of how much work we put in.  Most of us know people who worked hard their entire lives, yet the decision to invest in company stock cost them dearly, and they are now faced with bleak retirement prospects.  One wrong decision can wipe out a lifetime of achievement, and there are very few opportunities to recoup, especially so as we get older.

I wish I had answers.  I’m not altogether sure that answers exist, and that may be the whole point.  Maybe it is enough to just acknowledge the condition, and by recognizing it we may be less inclined to let it govern our actions.  At least thats my plan.  This was very hard to write and to share, but I’m going to let hitting the “publish” button be my one act of over-coming fear today.

 

 

 

 

 

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Firefox, You Are Dead To Me

I really liked the whole Mozilla thing.  Each and every time there was an updated version, I’d run it.  Sure, you were a bit of a resource hog, but my browsing experience was so good…until now.

You know what made my browsing so enjoyable, right?  It sure wasn’t speed.  It was the fact that I could tweak your browser so that I didn’t have to see any ads.  I only ran two “add ons”, and one was AdBlock Plus.  When I upgraded to your newest version of Fire fox, ABP no longer worked.  I tried every fix I could find on the web.  Eventually, i resorted to the nuclear option, which was to dump my entire profile and lose my coveted bookmarks, and I removed Firefox altogether and uploaded an older version.

Nothing worked.  I’ve wasted far too much time with you.  I’m getting comfortable with Opera and when I’m not I use Chrome.  Such a pity, though.  We had this great thing going on for years.

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