Thursday, November 8, 2012


Down the street from me is a grocery store that will remain nameless.  I walk past it every day on the way to and from work and stop in at least 3-4 times a week for small things – fresh bread, fresh veggies, milk, what have you.  In all honesty their prices are slightly higher than the other grocery store in our area, but they get a lot of my business due to proximity.  I figure the slightly higher prices are a wash since I save gas and time that would be spent going to the other store.  And besides, the staff is friendlier, their produce is better and it’s always less crowded.  In short, I appreciate the service and the fact that I can walk there in 3-4 minutes and I have been more than willing to pay a premium for that.  I’ve been shopping there for 8 ½ years and have a great rapport with most of the clerks there and no complaints ever.
Now, here’s the rub:  The grocery workers are on strike.  They have been picketing the store since last Sunday en masse.  All the familiar faces I’ve been seeing for years are now walking around with their signs and bitter faces.  I’m not sure what their demands are and frankly I don’t care.  Out of respect for them I have not ventured into the store since Sunday, but I’m getting a little tired of it.  One of them tried to hand me a flier as I walked past the other day, which I declined, stating “Sorry, but I’ve got no love for Unions.”  And I don’t.  I’m thankful that they were around decades ago, but know I see them as a farce.  Snake-oil.  And I say this as a former Union member, this isn’t some talking point I heard on the news.  I won’t go into details, suffice it to say my personal experience with a labor union, as well as that of some family and friends, has been generally negative.  The common denominator seems to be that the unions care about the union (themselves and THEIR paychecks) more than the actual workers they are supposedly representing (just like Congress!).  And in my 25 years in the "working world", I've NEVER seen more worthless lay-about clockwatching imbeciles than when I was working in a union shop.  There is no motivation whatsoever to become better, to increase your own value, when everything is decided by "collective bargaining".  With all the laws on the books nowadays, the real issues concerning labor are addressed.  Wage and hour, safe working conditions, family medical leave, etc. have NOTHING to do with unions anymore; they are mandated by state and federal law.  While I support anyone’s right to choose whether they belong to a union or not, I do not support unions if I can help it.  Now, in the grocery store world it seems most, if not all, workers are in a union so there isn’t much choice in the matter.  Same with autos.  If you buy an American car, you support labor unions whether you like it or not.  But if I have a choice - for example I hire a LOT of contractors in various trades - I go with the non-union shops as a matter of principle.
So, back to my local grocery store.  I’m getting to the point where I’m finding I want to say “Screw their picket line” and go about my business there.  It’s really simple selfishness on my part.  It’s an inconvenience for me to shop elsewhere.  And like I said, I don’t really care what their demands are; with the economic climate what it is, they are lucky to have jobs at all.  I think they should just suck it up like the rest of us and be thankful for gainful employment.  If you are being mistreated by your employer, go work somewhere else.  Stand on your own two feet, on your own merits as a worker.  Depending on a union is like the nerdy weakling kid hiring the school bully to protect him instead of standing his ground, come what may.  On the other hand, when all this blows over in a few more days or weeks or whatever, is my “relationship” with this staff I’ve known for years going to suffer because I wasn’t supporting them by crossing their picket lines?  It’s not that they are dear friends or anything, but I do see them 3-4 times a week and I’m on a first-name basis with quite a few of them.  It’s just an awkward situation.  I really don’t want to discuss my political ideals with them (and let’s face it, unions are largely a political force more than anything).  How does one support the people, when you can’t support the cause? 
How would y’all navigate this?
Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Okay, I know I swore that this blog wasn't going to turn into a rant-fest, but today I'm afraid I must relent.  You see, I am truly pissed and have nowhere to blow off steam so I must lose it here. 

Monday evening I get a call from the Mrs., in a panic.  "I'm stuck dead on the highway" she tells me.  Whaddya mean, dead on the highway, I ask, are you OK?  Are you on the shoulder of the road?  "No, I'm in the center lane and the car is dead and won't start"... 

F**k!  I run out the door, leaving work early and rush out to where my wife is.  Fortunately some Good Samaritans were kind enough to jump out of their cars and push her to the center divide before I got there.  The car won't start and I find some kind of weird "goo" spewed out under the hood.  Now, I've spent my fair share of time wrenching on cars over the years and consider myself pretty knowledgeable under the hood, but I'd never seen anything like this before.  We call roadside assistance and it takes an hour and a half to get a tow truck out there and haul us off to our mechanic.  He takes one quick look under the hood and says "This is not good.  You've got a blown headgasket".  You gotta be kiddin' me, right?

I understand, this kind of thing happens every day and that repairs are just part of owning a car.  In fact, just last month I dropped about $600 in her for new brakes, an oil change and to pay this year's registration.  So why am I so pissed off, you ask?  Here is why:  The car in question was our "dream car", we got it as a lease return, only two years old and we were ecstatic about it when we first got it.  About 6 months into the ownership of the car the motor blew up.  "Faulty crank bearing" they tell us.  Mileage on the car? 63k.  Warrantee on the engine? 60k.  Sorry Charlie, no help for you.  Repair bill? $7,300 for a new crate engine to be installed.  To add insult to injury, Chrysler (this is a Dodge vehicle) was circling the drain at the time on the verge of bankruptcy.  They were closing down manufacturing plants, shuttering dealerships, stopped shipping parts, etc.  We were without our car from October 9, 2008 through January 21st 2009 waiting for these pricks to ship a motor out to us from Detroit.  So on top of the $7,300 for the repair we racked up about $3k in car rental bills as this is our only car and we needed to get to work and school, etc.  Had we known it would take this long to get it fixed we would have gone out and bought some beater p.o.s. car to get us through but they kept telling us every week "it's on it's way" or "it's on the truck ready to head out", so we kept holding on and paying the absurd rental fees.  They told us this shit for MONTHS and didn't give a crap about the situation we were in, no offer to help with a loaner from the dealer, nothing. 

So now, we've paid off all the credit charged rental fees and the cost of the motor replacement and have still another 5 months of payments on the car itself when the head gasket decided to give way.  I pulled out my paperwork from the engine replacement to see about warrantee work and wouldn't you know it - the warrantee EXPIRED IN JANUARY OF THIS YEAR!!  Double F**K!!!  Less than 58,000 miles on this engine and this is what I get?  Well, this and ANOTHER $2,300 repair bill.

My wife is a part-time school teacher and I work in a non-profit retirement home.  We're not exactly Silicon Valley Millionaires.  Our daughter just started college literally two weeks ago.  My wife needed over $2,500 in dental work that our wonderful insurance wouldn't cover back in August and there is more of that to come.  Our meager savings is wiped out and all the credit we scrimped to pay off over the last two and a half years is right back up in the thousands of dollars. 

I am at my wits end.  Fuck you Chrysler.  Fuck you Dodge.  I despise your cars now and not that long ago I was one of your staunchest supporters.  I've been a "Dodge guy" since my high school days.  I will NEVER, EVER buy another one of your piece of shit cars.  I will NEVER, EVER go to your service shops.  You can fucking ROT.  I lament the fact that you DIDN'T go bankrupt - that would have been a better fate than you fuckin' deserve.  Buying this car was the WORST mistake I've made, and I've made plenty.  Unfortunately, I've got so damn much money tied up in this shit heap that I'm stuck with it for god-only-knows how long.  I wish I could drive it off a fuckin' cliff and watch it burn.  Every time I lay eyes on it I want to piss on it at the very least.

This is what I get when I try to be a nice person, to do random acts of kindness, to volunteer to help those in need, to live by the "golden rule".  What kind of karmic shitstorm would I find myself in if I lived like all the assholes that surround me and do their best to "get one over" on everyone else?  The whole thing makes me want to scream 'til I'm blue in the face, not that it would do any good.

Alright, rant off.  Sorry about that.  My brain has been in pressure cooker mode for the last 48 hours.  My last words of "wisdom"; if you are unfortunate enough to own a Dodge, sell it before it ruins your day/week/month/year.  And whatever you do, DON'T BUY A DODGE OR CHRYSLER unless you have money to burn and enjoy being stranded on the side of the road.

Thanks for reading.  Hope y'all have a nice week.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The bright side of a dark day

  Last Thursday, at approximately 4:00 a.m. a fire erupted at the school where my wife teaches.  This school, while maybe 10 miles as the crow flies from the prestigious Stanford University, is located on "the wrong side of the tracks" in a very poor neighborhood.  This is a privately owned and operated, non-profit school that runs entirely on donations and sliding-scale tuition.  Most of the kids attend on scholorships, which are entirely privately donated. The fire completely destroyed the building that housed the administration offices, the teacher's workroom and a couple classrooms that house Special Ed and 3rd grade.  The building was a "portable" and when I say destroyed, I mean roof caved in and nothing is left standing kind of destroyed.  The main electrical feed to the site melted, the transformer blew and phone lines and data infrastructure melted away too.  It was bad, folks.  All classes were cancelled on Thursday and Friday because the Fire Dept. wouldn't let anyone on the grounds while the cause of the fire was investigated. 

  Word went out on Friday that a volunteer Work Day would be held on Saturday to help clean up the site so they could re-open for classes today.  As of Saturday morning there were only 9 people that responded to the call for volunteers and as my wife, daughter and I loaded up to go we were all kind of despairing over the lack of community we felt in response to this disaster.  We brought a stack of shovels, brooms, gloves and cases of water and hoped for the best as we got to the site about half an hour before the designated start time.  What we saw when we got there was really encouraging - there must have been a good dozen people on the ground when we came through the gates.  By the time the official start time was reached, there were at least 50.  Mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters.  Everyone that showed up brought what they could - some brought a shovel or a rake,  a few folks showed up with pressure washers or "sawzalls".  Some brought a simple bucket and sponge or a single broom.  A few more folks brought in food and coffee, or boxes of trash bags.  It was truly amazing.  By noon the fire site was cleared away and a couple truckloads of ash and debris were bagged up and hauled out.  The smoked-up exteriors of the buildings in proximity were all washed down, still-standing classrooms were re-arranged to make room for the displaced students and the utilities guys had a new transformer and power feed in place and the school once again had power.  Everyone left feeling pretty damn good about what we had done together.

   I've spent a lot of time reflecting on that day and I've got to say it was really eye-opening and has skewed my perspective considerably.  Like I said, this school is in a very poor, crime infested hell hole of a neighborhood.  The parents of the student body are primarily immigrants and frankly I've held a lot of ill-will towards them because of my feelings on immigration, welfare, etc.  My family volunteers nearly as much time as my wife works (she's barely part-time there) and we spend out-of-pocket money we can't necessarily afford every year to help keep things afloat while they keep churning out more babies or getting new Pit-bulls and Chihuahuas... For us it's all about making better lives for the kids, as it's not their fault their parents suck.  But on this day I was smacked upside the head with the good side of what we do.  These folks - many of whom make their living as housekeepers and landscaping laborers - really came through for the good of the school.  They may not have much, but they came with whatever they had and they worked their asses off just like everyone else.  Most of these people recognize that getting an education for their children is what matters most.  And there were a LOT of people that came to work that had either graduated in the past or have kids that have already graduated.  These people know that this small school made their lives or their kid's lives better and they are grateful for it.  They appreciate the opportunities they've been given because they were fortunate to attend this little enclave of excellence in the midst of a city full of crap.

  It will be a long time before I forget this day.  There is still a lot of work to do before the school is whole again, and it's going to be an up-hill struggle.  But I know I'll never again be able to lump one group together as a whole again for the rest of my life.  The whole concept of "those lazy (insert ethnic group here)" doesn't hold water.  When it comes to community, especially when it comes to kids' well being and education, people from all walks of life, and in every size, shape and color will come together and do good work.  Good people are good people - it doesn't matter what race, religion or socio-economic group they belong to - good is good.  And I was surrounded by good people on Saturday.

  When I'm frustrated or angry I'm going to remember this.  When I see the writings of so many who scream "No Hope", "No future", "We're all doomed" or what ever negative crap they are spewing, I'll remember this day.   I don't care what colors we all were, or what languages we were speaking, we came together as Americans that day in the truest sense of the word.  It is something I won't soon forget.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, August 31, 2012

Losing steam

So here it is, the last day of the month.  When I came back to this blog I was determined to post at least once a month if not more, but honestly I'm lacking direction.  So for today I'll just blather on about this and that.  Fake it 'til you make it, right?

Not much has been going on worth writing about.  Job is the same, family life about the same...  Guess I need to come to grips with the fact that as I grow older I'm also becoming boring.  Who'd have thought!?!  Responsiblity has a way of sucking the fun out of life.  Not that I'm complaining exactly - I never expected to make it this long, so the fact that I'm still vertical and breathing is gravy.  Life is funny that way.  I just miss adventure.  It's been awile...

I need a new project or a new book or a new song to jerk me out of the doldrums.  Something that will make me say "Yes!! This is what it's all about!!"  What are y'all listening to these days?  It's been a long time since something came along that aurally knocked me upside the head.  Surely there is something out there I haven't heard yet that will put a smile in my ears.

Too many weird things going on and frankly none of it weird in a good way.  As I said in an earlier post, this blog will not become a source of my ranting.  Since just about everything you see or hear these days brings about rant-worthy feelings, I'll just keep the ol' pie-hole shut.  Politics used to be a passion of mine but I just don't have the stomach for it anymore.  I love my country but I loathe my government.  The state and federal level have become disgusting enough over the last decade, but now even local stuff in my "quaint" little town is getting ugly and viscious.  Enough already.

A couple good things I'll bring up as a quasi-Public Service Announcement...  Go to your local library, people!  I have recently re-discovered the joys of the library.  I used to spend a LOT of time in mine as a kid but then just kind of forgot about it as time went on.  I haven't had a library card for probably 20 years, but I've got a new one now and it's getting a workout!  I highly recommend it you you are lucky enough to have one nearby. 

The other thing I want to bring up is C.E.R.T. (Community Emergecy Response Team).  I went through a town sponsored training a couple years back and it was great.  I just got a notice to attend an upcoming re-fresher, so it's front and center on my mind now.  If you don't know what it is, look it up.  It is a great program and really the only community thing I'm invoved in anymore that doesn't have some power-hungry, underhanded/seedy element to it.  It's nothing more than good people learning to how to help in case of an wide-spread emergency.  Do it for yourself, your family or your neighbors.  You will be glad you did.

Have a great holiday weekend folks!  As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Genie is out of the bottle

So much bluster and noise regarding firearms these days.  Like everyone with any sense of decency and compassion I was shocked and horrified by the events that unfolded in Colorado.  However I do not under any circumstances believe the actions of some psychopath warrant further infringement on the rights of law abiding citizens.  If anything, these type of events tell me that MORE people should be carrying as a daily routine.  One or two properly trained and armed citizens in that Aurora theater could have drastically changed the outcome.  Sure, there would most likely have been wounded and possibly killed patrons but I'd be willing to bet the numbers would have been greatly reduced.  As a bonus, the perpetrator might have left the scene in a bag rather than cuffs, saving the residents of Colorado untold piles of tax money in the prosecution and subsequent incarceration of this subhuman.  Even if he spends 23 hours a day in a cell for the rest of his rotten life, it's far more than he deserves and adds insult to injury to those that have to pay for it.

The fact of the matter is that it's much too late to "control" firearms.  There are millions of them in the U.S. alone and anyone that thinks some legislation is going to make them suddenly go away and make the world a safer place is living in fantasy land.  The genie is out of the bottle folks and there is NO WAY anyone is going to get it back in there.  People that want a gun to commit a crime aren't going to go through legal channels to get one and those that want one for protecting themselves or their family FROM the criminals will be thrown to the wolves if legal firearms are outlawed.  Guns are tangible items - they physically exist.  They aren't going to magically disappear no matter how many vigils you attend.  Yes, they are dangerous in the wrong hands, but a fact of life none-the-less.   Car accidents, food poisoning and even surgeries kill people - should automobiles, food and medical care be outlawed too?

If you are fortunate enough to live in a place where a CCW permit is readily available, I urge you to get yours.  Then practice until you are proficient with your tool.  It's one of the things on the top of my "to do " list once I get out of California.  I'll take a fighting chance over being a powerless victim any day.

Stay safe out there folks and take care of yourselves.  No one else is going to.

As always, thanks for reading.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Dropping the ball

  The last couple months have been tough.  The Mrs. and I have have started a family business (it's really her show, but when a "family" business is running, it's all hands on deck!) and at any given time I have at minimum 6 projects happening at my job, plus all the day-to-day operations stuff that comes with managing a staff of 30...  Add on to that the usual household stuff like cleaning and laundry, cooking and dishes, etc.  When I can squeeze in the time I'm tending my garden (it's tiny but still time consuming) and slowly but surely trying to restore an old car of mine.  It seems like half the time I don't know if I'm coming or going. 
  The reason I'm writing all this is not because I'm griping or complaining, but because for all my best efforts a few things still fell through the cracks.  I guess it was inevitable that this would happen at some point or another, but it still stings when it happens. 
  Six months ago, this would have been a HUGE problem - it would have led to marital dischord, parked a huge black cloud hanging over everything and left me beating myself up for days on end over it.  But that was the old me.  Owning up to the mistakes and apologizing can do wonders... 
  Everyday I try to do my best.  Some days are great; others, not so much.  We all make mistakes, every single one of us.  The important thing is to use those mistakes as lessons and not let them drag down everything else you're working toward.  Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on with your life.  We need to remember that it's OK to forgive ourselves too. 

Thanks for reading,

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sure, why not?

Hi Folks,
  It's been a very, very long time since my last post and I've been hesitant to come back, truth be told.  Thanks to some kind words from a couple fellow bloggers, I'm feeling compelled to climb back on this horse and go for another ride.

  The reasons for my long absence are many and I won't go into detail.  Suffice it to say that the last half of 2011and the first half of 2012 has been the absolute lowest part of my life thus far and let's leave it that, shall we?  I know there are those out there in the blogosphere that like to share every intimate detail of their lives and even more blog readers that will lap that stuff up, but I'm not one of those people.  I like to keep my nose out of other people's business and as a rule I don't invite noses into mine.

  For the last year I have been lying low and just trying to get myself and my life sorted out and I'm happy to say that the last 6 weeks have been transformative and I'm feeling better than I have in years.  I feel mentally refreshed and re-energized and have a new-and-improved outlook on life.  It's a good feeling after all the turmoil I've been through in the last year.  Don't misunderstand - I'm not all "Pollyanna-ish" about life and the sorry state of the world, but I have embraced an attitude of acceptance and forgiveness.  No, I did not find religion, nor was I "born-again".  If that stuff works for you, I am very happy for you and in fact feel a little jealous of the comfort so many get from their spritual quests.  I tried for years and years to no avail.  But there is something so freeing about letting go of pre-conceived notions and expectations of others, and just dealing with one's own self and that which is truly important.  I will do the best I can for me and mine and the rest of 'em can, as my mother liked to say, "take a long walk off a short pier".

  I became acutely aware as I was dealing with my own issues of anger and resentment that there are a LOT of really pissed off people out there.  Seriously, everywhere you turn, someone is going off over something.  It's a freakin' epidemic!  I understand WHY so many people are angry.  Like they say, if you aren't angry you aren't paying attention.  However, it's begun to permeate everything.  You can't seem to escape it.  It's a sad state of affairs.  It seems even every stand-up comic you see now sets up their entire show around things that piss them off.  I don't know about you, but I don't find an hour long rant about mundane, every day things that cause a burning rage in someone all that entertaining.  Hell, so-called "Reality TV" has made an entire genre/empire out of people being angry about something.  And the angrier they are, the better the ratings.  It's all very sad and pathetic really...  In the end, what does anger and resentment produce?  What good does it do?  Nothing. None. Nada. Zilch.   It's pointless and it's damaging to yourself.  Someone once told my wife "Holding on to anger is like taking poison every day and hoping someone else will die from it".  After what I've been through, I can say I honestly agree with that statement.

  So here I am, back in the saddle.  I do hope to post more frequently than once a year, but this blog will not become a Rant-o-Rama.  I do not like the way my posts were heading, and I'm determined not to become some bitter, sad bastard spewing anger, hatefulness and bile.  There is FAR too much of that crap floating around on the net already.  I'm sick of reading it, I'm sick of listening to it and I sure as sh!t don't want to write it and subject my few readers to it.  No it's not all bubblegum and lollypops - the world is a dangerous place, there is no such thing as an even playing field and TPTB (The Powers That Be) are making it worse for the common man every day.  But that is life.  You win some, you lose some and if you are lucky you live to fight another day.  Running around all pissed off, ranting and raving at every percieved "injustice" won't change anything except possibly give you an ulcer.  We all have a very short time to hang on to this revolving mud ball Mother Earth.  No "do-overs", no "next time" - this is it.  When your card gets punched, which can happen at ANY time for ANY (or NO) reason, that's all folks!  I don't know about you, but I don't want to go out bitter and angry.  I want to enjoy life to the best of my abilities while I still can.  My life is FAR from perfect, but whose life is perfect?  I've had the opportunity in the course of my years to spend time with some very famous and wealthy people, and it's not all it's cracked up to be.  I feel sorry for people that look up to our celebrities and long for that kind of life.  It's so isolated and phony and fleeting.  I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.  OK, maybe on my WORST enemy.  If everyone tried to make the best of things instead of constantly bitching about everything that doesn't live up to their expectations/demands we would all be better off.  I'm going to do my part and I encourage you all to do the same.  Be excellent to each other, smile more and try not to let the bastards get you down.  Be kind.  Enjoy yourself and those close to you. 

  In closing I'd like to thank a few folks that have really helped me through my struggles over the last year.  I don't know any of them personally, but through their writing and videos I've have learned quite alot and gained a new perspective.  In no particular order, thank you to:  James "Bison" Dakin, the Mojaverat, MD Creekmore, Patriot Nurse, Engineer 775, Lowbuck Prepper and the fine folks at Survivalistboards.  Thanks for your wisdom, insight and gracious sharing of yourselves.  Though we've never met, I feel like I have a bunch of "invisible" friends and I appreciate what you've all done for me, even if you didn't know it.

  As always, thanks for reading!  See you soon,