Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 220 of Double-barrel Unemployment: Joe Is Manifest, Part Deux

[Joining the unedited hand-scribbled "Manifesto" I somehow spewed forth about 14 months ago, already in progress. Okay, it's not completely unedited anymore; I just couldn't stand the spelling/grammatical errors. It is otherwise still as-scratched upon the paper...]


  • It is my belief that the descriptions of the physical world and the universe in which it resides, as documented in the Holy Bible and other sacred human-scribed texts - and the ones found in books like Carl Sagan's Cosmos - are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Oh wait - yes they are.
  • It is my belief that Life in the aggregate has no purpose, and we'd all enjoy it a lot more if we'd just accept that and move on. Also, since all we really have in this unfathomably massive universe is each other, it's probably in our best interest as a species to learn to either get along with or ignore each other a lot better than we do now.
  • I believe that if the prequel to "Surf II - The End of The Trilogy" had been made, the Cold War would have ended six years earlier and all the recessions that have occurred since the mid-1980s (including the Great Recession of 2008-2009) would not have happened. Also, Eddie Deezen would have two Oscars by now.
  • I believe -- no, I KNOW -- that Barbara Bush ran this country from before Reagan left office until January of 2009, and that her absence is the sole cause of the difficulties President Obama is currently experiencing.
  • I believe that Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" is actually about Bob Keeshan. Isn't it obvious? Listen to the lyrics, man! As long as we're on the topic of captains, I also believe that the Captain and Tennille deliberately lowered their profile, and we should all just stop harassing them and camping outside their homes and holding candlelight vigils trying to convince them to come back to us. It's over. LEAVE CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE ALONE!!! LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!
  • It is my belief that we as a nation have an obligation to take care of our poor. If I should ever become wealthy, I reserve the right to stop believing that.
  • I believe any man who installs a 4-trumpet railroad locomotive horn on his car (despite that having long been a fantasy of my own) should have his car confiscated and donated to Melwood. As compensation, the "man" will receive a free one-year supply of Enzyte.
Article FOUR, which I'm totally stealing from an awesome comic named Charlie, regards changes we must make to our laws governing the use of automobiles. Upon the adoption of this sweet Manifesto For Betterment Of Everything, parking fines will be levied on a sliding scale, based on several factors, including but not limited to the cost and condition of the offending vehicle, the severity of the offense and the presence of a douchey vanity license plate.
  • If you illegally park your Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX470 or Hummer H2 (or H3) in the fire lane of your local strip mall while you "just run in real quick" to drop off your dry-cleaning, your fine will be $5,000. If there is at least one open legal parking space within 150 feet of said dry-cleaner's front door, that fine increases to $7,500. If you appeal the citation in court, your argument will not be heard and your fine will increase to $10,000.
  • If you park your 2001 Ford Taurus in front of a fire hydrant, your fine will be $500. Shut up and take it out of your kids' college fund.
  • Parking your 1991 Ford Escort (or Chevy Cavalier) illegally will earn you a sternly-worded warning and a voucher for one course in financial planning at your local community college. If your vehicle has at least one fender painted a color different from that of the rest of the body, you will also be given $10 in McDonald's gift certificates and a six-pack of Milwaukee's Best Light. If said fender is primer grey, you will also be given a Tony Robbins self-help book and a VHS copy of "Erin Brockovich."
  • If you park your 1979 Honda Civic where you shouldn't, your car will be towed away and replaced with one of those confiscated cars with the train horns on top. You're welcome.
  • If your illegally-parked car is a 1974 Pinto or Chevette, you'll get the train-horn car PLUS a big hug from your choice of either Bradley Cooper or Katy Perry. Again, you're welcome.
  • Oh, and the vanity plate thing. Anything desperately self-aggrandizing, like IROK or WELHNG or BTRTHNU = death by firing squad.
[TBCASLDWIAOATB (to be continued at some later date when I am once again this bored)...]
Manifest Destiny!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 220 of Double-Barrel Unemployment: Joe's Manifest? Oh.

Wednesday July 19, 2009

I was looking through my drivel-y scribblings today, trolling for anything interesting to tell you guys about my Unemployed Summer (the first of two, so far), when I happened upon this handwritten piece, buried in the middle of a half-spent note pad. I was going to clean it up, but I'm kind of thinking it should just be presented as scribbled. I already know what your first question will be, and the answer is no. I was not under the influence of alcohol when I wrote this. At most, I might have had a wee bit of a Vicodin "hangover," having experienced a wicked bursitis flare-up that morning. Mostly what I was doing was keeping myself busy while the washing machine repair guy banged and cursed away in the next room, utterly failing to repair our washing machine.


Me The Person, in a questing for more perfect living on this huge and yet tiny plenet, hereby declares, affirms and explains his manifesto of corrections that need to be made. Me The Person and not We The People is because Me seems to be the only person not either standing irately in Towne Halle "Meeting," clutching their MediCare cards and yet somehow shouting "keep yer govt. off my medicare!" at some poor overwelmed senator - or standing around outside the Apollo Theater clutching a candle and a copy of "Thriller." Anyway, earth is a crumbling cesspool of crooks, killers, kardashians and people famous (and rich as hell) for no discernible reason - oh and that waste-o-carbon that's famous and getting richer by the minute for her amazing, um, talent at having a litter of EIGHT babies at once.

So. I have waitd long enough. Here is my solemn affirmation of what Flying Spaghetti Monster Himself has ordained me to make right in all the castes and segments and tiers of the humans on the 3rd planet out from the star we call The SUn...

Prix Amble: We have already figured out that God is either dead, long-gone or just not interested in what's happening here. Some ofus are just not capable of dealing with such a multiple-choice question, having long-since given up and decided to put "C" for every question. Yeah -- God/Allah/Shiva/Krishna/VIshnu/Buddha/FSM/Stimpy or Ra or whoever "takes" the lives of the good, the innocent, the people who beat video games without looking up cheat codes, and the otherwise righteous and/or infant . . . because he/she/it has some reason that we can't understand. Whoa. I just blacked out for a minute.

More importantly why can't [MASSIVE company] make a stupid washer/dryer that last more than 5 months??

Article ONe: No internet until you grow up and learn how to use it properly. It was invented for purposes like seeing free naked people without having to face the video store kid and for learning stuff and sending each other well-thought-out, grammaticly-correct, lovingly crafted electronic "letters," not for giving voice to everyone (nit-wits and geniuses as equals?) and making us think we need to be connected to strangers every minute of every day. So stop commenting on every inane "news" story you see online about what that "star" said about her ex-friend being a "total liar." This is you know what I mean and it's all because the governmnet is listening and spending all your tax dollars just to know what your doing, which is I'm willing to bet, NOTHING worth their knowing it. Article Two I forgot most of because washing machine guy is in my kitchen/laundry room (don't ask) CUSSING at my infernal clothes cleaning apparatus. Does he think i'm not here? Article Two is about not having political parties any more. OH YEAH - Hereby dissolved are the "democratic" and "republican" parties of the USA. One is evil and stupid and the other one is wicked and dumb. Oh, and no more of this everyone over 18 gets a vote nonsense. There will be an IQ test, (measuring smarts, not "education), and if you don't get over 100, so sorry no vote for you ha ha bye bye chicken make lousy housepet seeya. Yeah.

[There's more, but transcribing this chicken scratch is making my eyes hurt and it's not fun anymore. I think it gets better, but we'll just have to try looking at it again some other day. And no - I don't think I ever intended this to be the "manifesto" of a loony protester and/or criminal revolutionary. I think I thought it would be funny. Maybe Article Three holds promise...]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Days 162-195ish of Double-barrel Unemployment: Attack Of The Dark & Sticky Fog Of Sticky Black Darkness

It was bound to happen, and happen it did, in mid-May 2009 - my sixth month of unemployment. I had not gotten a single call back, let alone any kind of interview, since late March. I saw it coming and was powerless to stop it. The Fog was descending from the sky.

By now I assume that any readers [ARE there any readers? Hello? Helloooooo??] out there who don't know me have at least gleaned that I'm a sarcastic and fairly negative person, so reading that I am prone to periodic tussles with The Fog should not come as any great shock.

This round was going to be ugly. I had been utilizing almost all the tools at my disposal to keep it at bay, but much like trying to convince the Vogons not to throw you off one of their ships, resistance is, ultimately, useless.

There was a lot of positive stuff in my life in the weeks leading up to the Fog Attack, which of course only served to make the Attack hurt even more. I had gotten really good at being the house-husband; everything was always clean and the fridge was stocked, etc.. Laundry, dry-cleaning, any and all types of shopping, home repairs, errands and more - all expertly handled by moi.

The Orioles and Nationals, while both still terrible, beat up on some teams they had no business beating (the Os beat the evil empire in the first game played at their new $1Billion stadium, and had the intestinal fortitude to do it a second time two days later).

The weather turned awesome, I got out to shoot trains, I sat outside and read, I sent out a bazillion résumés - some of them for what seemed like really good "fits." I wrote a little for the first time in ages. My photo/negative scanning was progressing well and I was having a blast posting to the ol' photo bloggy thing. I started jogging again for the first time in years, and when that jacked up my knees mercilessly, my disappointment and pain were nicely offset by a big fat prescription for Vicodin (possibly my favorite substance on the planet). [Maris] was beyond supportive and encouraging in all things, and it appeared that she had many more months before her company would go full-on Vortex of Doom on her. Life was really not that bad, despite the fruitless job search.

As anyone who has battled depression can tell you, none of that matters much. That's all happiness stuff. Depression is not sadness or unhappiness. To someone who has never been afflicted, this illness is hard to describe. Plus, it comes in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles. Technically, mine is not that bad, except when The Fog comes.

My brand of The Fog is like The Nothing, from "The Never-ending Story." It drapes itself over me like a heavy, cold, wet and slightly smelly blanket and devours any and all energy I may have had before its arrival. I become completely immobile. My body goes numb. No one and nothing can move me from this state. I become a zombie, only without the need, desire or ability to lurch about eating people's brains. You could drop a naked, giggling Deschanel in my lap, and I would feel nothing. I'd be well aware that I should be moved, and that would only frustrate me.

When The Fog is upon me, I can barely muster the motivation to maintain my daily life. I don't do anything. I know what's happening and I know it's not my fault, but that doesn't matter at all. It's like being underwater in a straight jacket; I am utterly, completely impotent to improve anything. I know I have to wait. I don't want to wait. I want to get up and work out and get a job and make [Maris] laugh and get a haircut and buy stuff and write the great American novel and kick some bad guy's ass and drive around with the top down and cut the grass and cook the best dinner ever and call my mom just to say hi. But I can't do anything. So I wait.

Usually, I wait for a week, maybe two. This time, I waited for a solid month. I posted pics on the photo blog, I mindlessly whiled days away on Facebook and TV and stared at headlines that normally would have pissed me off, and I slept. I slept. I slept some more. I got up some days, and sat outside and slept some more while bugs bit me. I don't get suicidal or anything; that would require a motivation and energy that I just don't have. I've been through this before, so I sat in a mental waiting room and pretended to read a 3-month old "ESPN Magazine" until my name was called.

When I finally hear it, it sounds like "Bambi."

"Piss off you antelope."

"Bambi. Get up."

"I'm not done with this article about what Michael Vick did to those dogs, and I was going to read 'Why no one gives a flying fuck about the fact that alex rodriguez cheated and did steroids for years - because he's a soul-sold-to-satan yankee now' after this."

Get up, Bambi. Bambi, GET UP!!"

"Look, Mr. Bambi's Father Voice -- I'm a fucking ZOMBIE. I will eat your little venison brain, man..."


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 143 of Double-barrel Unemployment: Sea-Don'ts & The Tough Budget Cuts

Wednesday April 22, 2009

Another two weeks without a job, another generous payment of $720 (after taxes) from my beloved state of Maryland. I have learned over the years to prioritize my spending during layoffs, cutting out all but the barest essentials. Although until now I had never been out of work for more than two months, there's just no way of knowing how long a layoff will last, so you have to be really careful with your cash.

So, given that [Maris] was still bringing home a decent paycheck, but for who knew how much longer, and given that I was by this time almost five months removed from my final payment from the ol' Vortex of Doom, I knew I had to put some planned purchases on the back burner for a while.

The $2,000 tiki bar for our as yet nonexistent patio would obviously have to wait. It's a shame, too. Between the two of us, [Maris] and I have . . . hang on . . . (counting on fingers) . . . FIVE friends - two of whom we've actually seen in-person in the past year. Now, I know what you're thinking and the answer is no - we canNOT entertain without a tiki bar.

[Maris]'s birthday was coming up, but cuts in that budget were needed, too. In 2008, my friend Godfrey Ozzenbarq III (not his real name) and I took a road trip down to Duck, NC to get a special-ordered coconut cake from the awesome little old lady who makes the desserts for the equally awesome Red Sky Café. NOTE: Cool place with fine, inventive food and cocktails. Anyway, my enticement to Godfrey (again, not his real name) to accompany me on an 11-hour round trip for a birthday cake was that I would treat for lunch at Red Sky. Well, in 2009 my tiny emergency cash flow from the state was not going to allow THAT. So, with no offer of a free lunch, Godfrey (still not his real name but it's growing on him) said a pox on me and my stupid cake, and I had to go alone. Saved $20, though!

Also canceled was my planned trip to see Simple Minds at one of the myriad of very cool European summer music festivals. Nuts.

My eBay bid for a long-sought-after SIGNED Yothu Yindi tour poster, circa 1993? Withdrawn. Bidding was heading into the upper hundreds. :(

I would have to put off my hand-held espresso machine purchase, and hope that maybe Santa would consider it, come Christmastime. Guess it'll be another year before I try espresso. I hope it doesn't taste too much like coffee. Can't stand coffee.

No more recreational drugs or top-shelf liquor, for a while. Okay, well, much less, anyway. Okay! A little less. Alright, the same amount. But I watched for sales!

A new laptop, on which I hoped to write my first novel and with which I planned to scan and store thousands of photographs for my photo blog, launch my internet photography business and become gainfully self-employed... Well, that purchase occurred, but the bulk of that expenditure languishes to this day as a balance on my credit card, so it hasn't really had much of an impact on cash flow. Also, a quick note to the people responsible for the creation of (and failure to stop) Microsoft Vista: You are evil morons who should be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

Also thrust to the burner in back: My $700 "Grimmace" costume, a $450 pair of Plexiglas platform pimp shoes with goldfish in them, the collected works of Mark Leyner, handwritten in crayon on that wide-ruled kindergarten paper, a jade chalice with the Tasmanian Devil etched into the inside of the bowl, the indoor Slip n' Slide ($55 at Target) and the electric (or maybe it was cobalt) blue leather assless chaps and matching cowboy hat I saw on Andy Bell of Erasure once.

What did I buy with this week's unemployment benefits payment? Well, grocery shopping took a cool hundred off the top, so all I was able to pick up this time around was the desperately-needed laser-guided robotic vacuum - $399.99 at Hammacher Schlemmer. I'm unemployed, but that's no reason to waste 20-plus minutes a week pushing some old-fashioned Hoover around our 900 square foot house. Am I right?

With what was left, I fell prey to H-S's little "customers who bought this product also purchased this" routine, and picked up a Children's Inflatable Sea-Doo for about $200. We have no pool, no pond or lake or river or stream or nearby beach - and no children - but you just never know when you're going to need one of these handy items. Right now, it's out back, full of ice, just waiting to be stocked with beverages. We're calling it our little yellow vinyl tiki bar, for now.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Remembering Camp Stupid

Time for a little excerpt from my little NaNoWriMo novel. I hardly remember writing it, so it's making me chuckle. I hope it does the same for you...

For some kids, sixth-grade camp is five days and four nights of pure excitement, adventure and just generally wonderful memories that they look back on with warmth and fondness for the rest of their lives. They're away from home for four nights, a first for most eleven- and twelve-year olds. There are deer and woodland critters and deep, dark forests and rustic cabins and crafts and songs and campfires and all sorts of fun things to do and see. For these kids, those few days are just too great to describe when they get home.

I was not one of those kids. For me, Camp Seneca Falls [not its real name] was a prison for children, with strange wardens who made us sing about Jesus before they would let us eat. I'm sure it didn't help matters that we went in December, when even their warmest cabin was approximately forty degrees, but I swear, that place was wretched. I hated dressing and undressing with a bunch of kids, most of whom I didn't know at all, thanks to the fact that two different schools shared the camp for the week. I hardly slept. The food was simply cruel. Of the nineteen other boys in my cabin, I knew exactly two - Marty and Larry. Misery loves company, and they seemed pretty miserable, too. There. That's my highlight. Marty and Larry hated it, too.

Luckily, we were allowed to choose where we sat in the big dining hall, so Marty, Larry and I found a couple friends, and we wallowed together in our collective despair. Our leader in misery was Lewis, a quiet genius at odds with the beliefs of his huge Catholic family. Somehow, Lewis was well on his way down the Shining Taoist Path, or possibly headed for a life as an agnostic, or at the very least a strong believer in a clear separation between church and state, and he was rather put out by the coerced singing to Jesus for our food. At each meal, he changed the words to sarcastically express his distaste for the ritual.

"Oh, dear sweet Jesus on the cross, we thank you because they won't let us eat if we don't..."


"I'm singing, for my food, with a bunch of strangers. I'm confused. I know what grace is, but I've never been required to sing it and say 'Jesus' every third word, but they seem serious about not feeding us if we don't sing this song. I'd like some food, pleeease..."


"Dear precious Buddha on the mountain, I hope this Jesus song isn't offending you... We don't mean it - we're just hungry and these people are apparently running a little cult here in the woods..."

I gave serious consideration to faking an illness so that I could get sent home. I couldn't, though. Chicken, you know. As the week wore on, word spread about Lewis' sarcastic versions of the blessing, and he stepped up his little protest.

By the second-to-last night, he had graduated to:

"Oh, here we are again, Lord. I'm not even really hungry, but they are watching from the perimeter of the room and I'm already on thin ice, after what I said to the crafts lady when she asked why I made a popsicle stick Star of David when she had suggested a cross-- oh, we're done? Ahh-men!" We all laughed, and for a moment, camp sucked a little bit less.

At breakfast the next morning, we had kids from other tables asking if they could join us in "prayer." Lewis hadn't prepared anything, so we all simply sang "We Love Jesus" over and over, to the tune of the morning prayer song.

At our final lunch, Lewis gave us a copy of what he had written for the prayer, and he urged us all to join him. We passed his song around quickly and did our best to remember it. What we lacked in memorization, we made up for in enthusiasm.

"Dear Lord, please bless this holy lunch of the blessed redeemer. And if you can hear us, please send buses. We promise to be good for the rest of the year. For the rest of the year, Lord. For the rest of the year. If you'd just get us out of here, for the rest of the year." We were in unison by the end, and our hearty "Ahhh- mennnn!" definitely got some attention. We were clearly having way too much fun. One of the camp wardens glared at us for a long time, but no one said anything to us, and we were allowed to eat.

Throughout that lunch, Marty and I made as many copies as we could of some new lyrics Lewis had scribbled in his notebook for what he was calling "The Last Supper," and distributed them to the the ever-growing gang of Bad Children. It was the last night. What could they do, send us all home?

At dinner, there were so many kids packed together at our table, an outsider might have assumed we were all the best of friends and for the moment, I guess we were. We couldn't conceal our excitement. The kids at surrounding tables seemed to be watching us expectantly. At the sound of the warden's little "time to see how many times you can squeeze Jesus' name into a one-minute song or else you don't eat" bell, a hush fell over much of the big room.

"We come on the Sloop John B, Me grandfather and me, Around Nassau Town we did roam, Drinking all night, got into a fight. Well I feel so broke up, I want to go home...”

I realized then that the singing in the rest of the hall had trailed off, leaving just our table. We fed off each other's dedication to this thing we had started, and couldn't help but get even louder.

"So hoist up the John B's sail, See how the mainsail sets, Call for the captain ashore, Let me go home, Oh won't you let me go home, Let me go home, Yeah Yeah, let me go home, Well I feel so broke up, I want to go home."

Everyone stared at us. Our teacher looked for a moment as if he wanted to laugh, but frowned at us instead. The camp cult people glared daggers at us. Lewis cleared his throat. "Oh, yeah. Sorry." He then conducted us through a loud, heartfelt "Ahhh-MENNNNN..." We broke into spontaneous applause for ourselves and were thrilled to hear many kids throughout the room join us.

Okay, so camp had a couple of memorable moments, and that was one of them. The good news was that we were, in fact, allowed to eat. The bad news was that, after some investigation, it was determined that Lewis, Marty and I were the instigators of this uprising and needed to be punished. Our punishment: The three of us had to go from cabin to cabin just before lights-out and sing "Sloop John B" in its entirety. In our pajamas.

Man, I loved Camp Stupid.