Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Virtues of Fatalism; Grapes of Wrath

I was just reading a friend's blog that I haven't frequented in while. Decided not to comment there, but I came away sad.

Market crashes are an inevitable feature of capitalism. To the extent you get involved, to that extent you get burnt when things go south. Anger does no good. It doesn't recover your losses. It doesn't really make you feel better to find a way to direct your anger: it just elevates your BP.

Some time ago, I did the numbers and realised that work as I might, succeed as I might with any combination of personal and public retirement, there was only enough in the kitty to support one person's retirement. I do not expect to be the one person, and when the time grows closer I'll be happy to put my thumb on the scale to ensure that. Also, I see no particular romance in growing old.

My economic reality has a lot to do with my own indifference to the processes of capitalism. It may have as much to do with the inclination of all capitalist employers, everywhere, to lie to and cheat their employees out of every nickel they can, because their millions are more important than the workers' thousands. If thinking that the nickel I earned belongs to me is entitlement, then I am all for entitlement.

Fatalism gives me a serenity that may ensure that I outlive more angry people who expected more from old age than they are likely to get.

When last I looked, our predicament had more to do with $140 million golden parachutes for the Paulsens of the world than it did with some poor schmuck with $1000 a month in Social Security benefits whose idea of entitlement is trying to stay warm in January. I just did the math. A $140 million payout would keep one average entitled Social Security recipient for nearly 12,000 years: buys a lot of heating oil too.

A Tale of a Tub

Uh huh...I own a clawfoot tub. Bear in mind that the writer's formative years involved outdoor plumbing, and the rest will explain itself.

I am merely the latest in a string of characters to live in this house. The first was "Old Mr. B." Back about 1930, when this town was one of the last in the state to require indoor plumbing, Old Mr. B reluctantly complied. He turned a once-lovely Victorian side porch into a first floor bathroom. Whilst in the building trades, Old Mr. B. was no plumber. He cut corners.

Many of the corners he cut weren't apparent to his successor, Mr. M. His chief contribution to the decor of the bathroom was to kick the door in when one of his kids got stuck. He repaired the damage--sort of. Mr. M. overlooked the fact that Old Mr. B had not bothered to tighten the bolts that held the clawfeet on the tub. This didn't become obvious until Yours Truly added a shower.
After the first clawfoot sailed across the room, I tightened the rest. (No, it wasn't a pleasant job.)

Mr. M. had contributed a few funky additions to the drainage system in the cellar. After a few backups, we had a real plumber in. He updated things as much as he could without blowing the budget, but said that the horizontal runs were too flat and too long and would never be quite right. (You must watch This Old House, HGTV, etc. for that to make sense.) That was quite true.

All this should have warned us. Some years later, the ancient toilet tank gave in. People on tight budgets cannot choose their crappers, so we got the contemporary model...obviously the last of its kind in stock, but functional. Midway through the process, the plumber called me in to show me the extra work he thought we needed.

Devoted watchers of any sort of home improvement TV know that your toilet must sit on a flange that ensures a snug fit between the appliance and the drain. Old Mr. B. had omitted the flange when turning his porch into a toilet. He had just bolted the toilet to the floor, aiming it in the general direction of the drain.

I agreed that we needed a flange.

And so it has gone. The bathroom today bears signs of several of our own failed home improvement projects. Failed, no doubt, because the malevolent spirit of Mr. B. still hovers over the room and curses them.

A local plumbing company runs an annual Ugly Bathroom contest, with a complete makeover the first prize. Only the embarrassment of various family members has kept me from entering, because I'm sure this can would win hands down.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Damn those letters!

When my generation was young, our chief concern was getting fucked by the VC.
Now my generation is old, and those of us still lucky enough to hold jobs are worried about being fucked by the VC.

The first lot were the Viet Cong.
The current lot are the Venture Capitalists.

At this point, there's little difference.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Closure...sort of

Nearly a year ago, at a moment when I thought I was just talking to myself here, I made a little post about the death of someone I knew chiefly on the Web. A perverse fate saw to it that it was the post that got picked up and repeated and in general got more play than most of the press releases I wrote in my PR days. The post attracted a snotty little reply from someone who found it offensive that I thought it possible that C, my friend, had taken her own life. My riposte was, um, chilly.

Until today I hadn't gone back to the thread that was my source of information. Leaving the denouement in the air was my act of denial, as if I could open the site again and read "oh so sorry, big mistake: she's alive and well."

C is not alive and she did end her own life.

One person from what had been her gaming site persisted and confirmed this. It was some solace to read that her memorial service was crowded with people whose lives she had touched in some way or other. Those people, her gaming friends, and someone like me--somewhere in the middle--have one thing in common. We all feel that somehow we failed her, that somehow if we could have better communicated our love for her in life, her life would have gone on.

Or not. Some fears are too primal and impenetrable, and it may be that no love can overcome them.

This tragedy has a coda yet to be played out. Until it is, I think closure may elude me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Keynes was right.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Not exactly politics

As a former youth sports official I find it informative that one of our national political candidates relishes the title "hockey mom," and presents it as some sort of badge of honour.

In ten years of experience, I found that parents of youth athletes who found it necessary to label themselves were uniformly ill-mannered, self-absorbed and boorish. In fact, I found civilised conduct a rarity amongst sports parents of any kind, and usually was a sign of people who had some other kind of life.

The self-identified sports parents put up a poor pretense of being interested in their children. They seldom ask whether the kids actually enjoy the sport they are playing. Such parents usually choose the child's sport. They experience sport vicariously; the child is a mere vehicle for parental ego. Whatever the children are doing, it is not for themselves. The children are status symbols like the big SUV, the McMansion, and the gas-guzzling adult toys. That's one reason to have so many of them.

When things don't go exactly as planned, sports parents can throw spectacular tantrums. Up this way, a couple of hockey parent tantrums have ended in homicide. As I recall, down in Texas, a cheerleading parent got involved in sport-related conspiracy to commit murder not long ago. These drastic outcomes don't include the many more wasted lives of children who, at some point, realised that they were just the toys of their self-obsessed parents, and took off on their own assertions of independence.

So no, calling yourself a hockey mom isn't going to make you any points under this roof.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Good day, bad day

We're speaking of last Sunday here.

Good day: bleacher seats at Fenway in perfect weather.
Bad day. They lost. So OK, let's not dump it all on Wakefield. He's had worse outings and the Sox still won. You can't win if you leave two or more runners on base in four fuckin' innings.
Good day: Supper at the original Kelly's, consisting entirely of cheese fries and onion rings.
(Do not tell my cardiologist.)
Good day wins, 2-1.

About the beer

Yeah, I suppose I'll have to go back and leave that beer.

One of the things that made Miss W. special was a rule-breaking sense of humour. Back then, beer was thought to be beneficial for ulcers. The ward had once had a retiree being treated for gastric ulcers, so we were entitled to a modest beer ration. Somehow, she saw to it that guy never left the record, and we got the beer ration long after he had actually gone. So in the evenings, after lights out, on the day that the ration arrived, Miss W. saw to it that everyone who could have a little beer had some, along with a conspiratorial smile. That wasn't a lot of us (not me, for example) but the thought and attention was what made this woman so incredibly special to us all.

Again, here's to you, Miss W.