Monday Sucks, Part ll

I consider myself to be a rational man, to the extent that if things go my way, I tend to be fairly easy-going. In actuality, I don’t tend to “lose it” very often, or for very long, when life becomes contentious. The waves of misfortune have crashed over me ceaselessly since I could crawl, so like a pebble in the surf, I am smooth as glass; the rough edges of my disposition have long since worn away.

Except every Monday.

As I mentioned earlier (see Part 1), Monday and I don’t get along. She is a weekly reminder that the carefree, What Shall I do for Fun Today lives of the independently wealthy are reserved for those with money. Moreover, she seems to take devilish delight in vexing me at every turn; I can’t recall the last Monday in which indentureship brought me joy or even satisfaction from a job well done. Still, as a Christian man I am called to forgive those who trespass against me; I resolved, therefore, to extend Monday the olive branch of peace so that I might always become the engaging, devil-may-care human so many clamor to be around from Tuesday through Sunday.

This past Monday I lay in bed, pondering as I do each morning the steps necessary to hoist my considerable self into a roughly vertical position with greatest efficiency and least crackling of bones and startled tendons so as not to wake my wife. Unintentional toot notwithstanding, I did so with measurable success; I resolved that this positive start was  portend to a Monday filled with possibility. She and I were to become fast friends from this week forward.

The footboard of our bed is a marvel of design, in the fashion of the Spanish Grand Inquisition and from Sear’s splendid Torquemada Chamber Collection. Otherwise rectangular in shape, its upper corners extend outwards like axe blades laid on their sides. As I pulled on my work shorts in the dark, teetering on one leg like a (big, fat) stop sign in a hurricane, I managed to run the shin of the other leg down the edge of the board from upper ankle to knee. The skin came off in tight curls, like that of a pared apple. Somehow, strangely, my wife woke up. I whispered whimpering apologies through clenched teeth for the spontaneous and colorful exclamations that had announced to her the dawning day, and stumbled to the bathroom.

I refused to let this mishap stand in the way of what would surely be the best Monday in memory; after all, while I sat on the toilet and screamed unmentionables into a towel, the dog had licked the blood and bits of shredded flesh from my shin and the blinding pain had withdrawn to a steady and dull ache. I washed up and resolved to embrace the coming day. I let the dog outside into the back yard and went through the side gate and into the front yard to retrieve the morning paper.

At this point it would be prudent for me to explain that I am a tenderfoot; that is to say, my feet are tender. On occasion, I’ll step on a small pebble or Eucalyptus seed on my front driveway and drop quicker than a white heavyweight boxer. If I try to put shoes on before going to get the paper, my dog will whine and yelp as though hit by a shovel (I know this, because she makes exactly the same sounds when I hit her with a shovel); she’ll wake the entire household and half the neighborhood. As I waddled out for the paper, I scanned the concrete in front of me, hyper-vigilant to avoid anything that might hurt my delicate platforms.

I don’t know how I missed it; perhaps it blew across my path as I looked further ahead. I stomped neanderthalically upon a goathead, which jabbed itself to the hilt into the ball of my foot (why there was a goat loose in my neighborhood and why it couldn’t keep better track of its noggin are both questions for the ages); I dropped faster than my last stock pick and let loose an unbridled verbal assessment of my predicament. The little kid who waits for the school bus across the street likely made an impression on his teacher later that day with his newly expanded vocabulary, resulting in an extremely awkward and confusing parent/teacher conference and which hopefully explained the later home visit from Child Protective Services.

After a hearty breakfast and extremely gratifying morning constitutional, my attitude was once again hopeful. I climbed into my truck to begin the workday and slid into the seat – literally. Where I sit is really more a crisscross of metal bars and wire; the actual cushioned seat one expects in a motorized conveyance had long since eroded and disappeared. I cover them with an old t-shirt, both to offer some protection to my nether regions and to hide the shameful sight from those who have no business looking into my truck in the first place.

Often my truck gives me a poke or pinch upon entering; I usually consider it a playful act of affection, as she and I go way back and love each other deeply. (See an earlier post, The Other Woman). Apparently, though, she hates Mondays as well and today her mood was foul; I was gaffed both fore and aft by two separate wires. Two spikes of searing pain from my southern hemisphere were exceeded only by the one of panic in my chest. Sliding forward for relief would result in a spontaneous neuturing and, in moving backward, a camera-less colonoscopy. Only by wiggling and undulating gently side-to-side like a painfully shy hula dancer for a terrifying few seconds was I able to free myself. I dropped my head on the steering wheel and whimpered like an abandoned puppy for several agonizing minutes.

I had extended to Monday the olive branch of peace, and she had taken it. And beaten me with it. She had seen fit to attack me three times already, and I’d yet to leave the driveway. A friendship takes two agreeable parties, and it was clear that Monday preferred our relationship the way it had always been. As I leaned against the ropes, wobbled, arms at my sides, face swollen and bloodied, I watched her emerge from the fog in front of me, hitting her gloves together and advancing, her eyes dancing with murderous intent. Monday, here she comes…

Posted in Careers, Christianity, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Monday Sucks, Part I

I hate Monday. It hates me, too; so much so that it creeps invariably and insidiously into my precious weekend, hiding stealthily in the background and then suddenly jumping up and down, arms waving and teeth bared in a Cheshire grin, a shameless attempt to muffle any sense of joy I might glean from two days away from the burden of service to others. Monday is a pile of steamed broccoli plopped unceremoniously in the middle of a plate of Saturday Steak and Sunday Mashed Potatoes and Gravy; both are ruined by its offending juices.

You see, I am a man predestined to a life of leisure; an existence without care or responsibility is the only one to which I am well-suited. Sadly, I so embraced this predestination in my formative years that I now lack the means with which to pursue it. As a result, I must press on, much like the rest of you born to strife and indenture. Most of you long ago reconciled your plight, since it is all you and your ancestors have ever known. Many of you may have even been bewitched into thinking that you enjoy your service in whatever form it takes. It is for these that I weep the most (figuratively, of course). You have been robbed, since the time that you were old enough to think for yourself, of any discernment as to what constitutes a meaningful life. Granted, for those of you who have chosen service to those less fortunate, there is some gratification in your work, but only if you’ve taken the time to see what it is that you’ve given up. I have spent a precious hour or two in this pursuit, and I can see the resultant pain absolutely magnifies the pleasure of the pursuit of oneself and is therefore a somewhat worthy endeavor in limited form.

I don’t mean to alienate anyone with the gist of this discourse; good for you that you are “happy” in your work. I merely mean to say that I am a king without kingdom, and Monday is a constant reminder that I am denied my birthright as a preordained appreciator of all that should be rightfully given me. How much more benefactor; how much more servant to the poor; how much more uplifting to the people so much less deserving than myself would I be, were Monday (and the other four maidens of service) the same as the two days I’ve been given to rest my considerable mind and body?

More, I dare say. More.

Posted in Blogging, Careers, Christianity, Health, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Struggler’s Shameful Return

I returned today to my site for the first time this year and was appalled at what I found: cobwebs everywhere, dust on every surface, some pizza crust on a paper plate (still edible!…which is to say, I ate it) and a general sense that the place had been abandoned in short order, like a Chernobyl kiosk. Now that I’ve tidied up a bit (note said pizza crust), it feels good to be back. I’m sure you’ve all missed me terribly. What?…well, I didn’t miss you either, then! How rude!

I doubt this is the beginning of any sort of consistent writing. Admittedly, I’ve been kicking around the thought of starting up again for the past month or so, and have given no small measure of time to what I might wish to say. Some of my “best” ideas in the past were conjured up during happy hour, but as it’s recently been expanded (now 5-11p.m.) at my customer’s (my) request, those little seedlings are less likely to be sprouting with the same springtime fervor. Furthermore, cultivating any during this critical time of reflection would first require writing them down, lest they be lost forever; this would necessitate at least some effort on my part, not to mention the organization of pen and paper beforehand. The whole process would seem to defile the very purpose of happy hour; frankly, at present I see no practical way around this conundrum.

It may also be that I’ve nothing left in the tank; after eighty or so posts, perhaps I’m spent. It seems odd that after an almost four-month hiatus I seem to have so little to say. What’s going on between the ears, anyway? Well, picture a mostly barren desert, with no discernible movement among a few tired weeds and scraggly bushes….wait: a lone tumbleweed rolls slowly past; we focus hopefully upon it, wishing for some visual transition to something more interesting, only to watch it slowly disappear out of frame.

And so it is. What goes through my mind at any given time? Well, with the top down, it is the wind; whilst frolicking in the surf, the sea; between you and the nearest lamp, it is the light; and with furrowed brow, chin in hand and pensive in countenance, it is Judas Priest’s Victim of Changes. If you want to dip your toes into the depths of my mind, you’ll have to jump off the dock and go straight in. Careful to go in feet first; you could break your neck.

I look forward to visiting those who have followed and whom I’ve followed in the past, and if you’re new and pay a visit, I’ll check out your site as well. After all, I might find something worth stealing and passing off as my own….Oh, look! Almost five hundred words; that’s a post in my book. Woo-hoo! I’m back, baby!

Posted in Blogging, Christianity, Humor, Life, Living, Music, Rock and Roll, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Resolvable Resolutions

Galations 6:7-10.

I have to admit that I’ve taken to the notion of creating resolutions for myself as a new year approaches; it’s kind of funny, and oddly pathetic, that the tossing of a simple calendar somehow signifies a chance for a fresh start in one’s life. Still, there is in January a convenient starting point for the measurement of change. (“I resolved to change my appearance. Look: since the first of the year I’ve become quite a bit fatter, and so I’ve had to buy new clothes. Success!”). Resolutions are all about self-improvement; I take this to mean improvement of my existence. After all, if my life isn’t any better for it, what good is a resolution? For that matter, if my life isn’t any better for your resolutions, what good are they, either? Sadly, I likely can’t compel most of you to improve yourselves for my benefit, so I’ll stick to those things whose influences directly affect my well-being and whose courses I can reasonably expect to change in my favor. To this end, I declare the following resolutions for 2013:

Galations 6:7-10.

1) I resolve to lose some weight. Assuming my life’s about to get better, I certainly want to be around for it. Begrudgingly, I admit my substantial girth could begin to eat away at the quality of my later years; then again, they are the last ones and logic dictates they’ll likely be the worst, at least physically. Still, I have often thought how fun it’ll be to be the funny, cantankerous old coot of the family. (Some would argue I already am). Finally, my innate sense of crudeness and impropriety can billow forth, like bats from a cave at dusk, under the full protection of advanced age. In this there is something to live for; I’m going to eat a little better, move around a little more, so that I can take in all that old age has to give.

Galations 6:7-10.

2) I resolve to have more fun. I bet I didn’t play golf ten times this year. Though I’d probably kill someone if I played every day, once a week or so would be fun. I deserve it. It seems like I’m always doing things that I don’t want to, or letting others dictate how I spend my time. Well, no more. I could get hit by a meat truck tomorrow. If I do, I want to be able to grab a few sausages and scarf them down while I’m laying there, without someone always scolding me about bad choices. Life is for living, and that’s what I’m gonna do.


3) I’m going to treat myself better. From now on, if there’s something I want, I’m going to get it. I deserve a treat now and then. I could get hit by a meat truck tomorrow. What would years of living within my means, of fiscal restraint, have done for me then? There’s things I want to do, stuff I want to see. If I wait until I can afford it, I might not ever do it. Touring Ireland in a diaper won’t be as fun. Going to sleep at 7:30 in a Vienna hotel sounds lame. Sure, someone else may have to do without, but that’s someone else.

Galations 6:7-10. Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore,  as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith.

4) I resolve to be a better man.I may have overstated the inherent selfishness in my prior resolutions, but only to a point; each of them, in some roughly congruent form, were on my mind. None of them would improve anyone’s life but my own. At church this past Sunday, these verses were of central focus. If I resolve to improve my relationships with others, to sow seeds of faith by example and by works, and to try to reinforce faith among the faithful, I can favorably affect the lives of many in addition to my own. Even better, I won’t have to worry about the last years of my life, because I’ll have it everlasting. I’m still going to try to lose some weight, though, if only so I can stick around long enough to enjoy what I already have, and to see what else He has in store for me and for those I love.

Posted in Aging, Christianity, Family, Humor, Life, Living, Religion | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Anterior Cruciate Ligaments: Who Knee’s Em? – Part II

The sudden, painful explosion of the ACL in my left knee on Thanksgiving Day, 1983 (see Part I), was a devastating occurrence for a number of reasons. First, it effectively ended, or at least drastically curtailed, a life-long predilection for athletics. Gone was the ability to play football or basketball at any level of competence relative to that of my peers; I simply couldn’t move as fast, and my ability to change direction became comparable to that of the Titanic. My body, once a sleek, twin-engined speedboat (I say this with full confidence, since few of you knew me then), began over the years to slowly add tonnage port, starboard, fore and aft, so that at present I more closely resemble said ill-fated vessel not only in movement but appearance as well. This story would have been tragic enough were it not for my apparent purpose in life as a depository for life’s evacuatory processes. God gave me two knees, with an anterior cruciate ligament in each; life still had opportunity for another squat.

December 15, 1994 dawned cold and bleak. The temperature never passed the lower forties; this was bitter cold by Tucson standards. From the low, dreary skies fell a steady drizzle of rain mixed with intermittent sleet. Normally, my partner and I would gleefully call it a day (upon waking) and stay home, but we had a deadline to meet and a full schedule in the coming days more resistant to movement than a herd of fat, contented cattle.

Cement work in these conditions is slow and tedious; most of our work with concrete and mortar is visible and commands a clean, finished look. In intolerable weather conditions such as the ones we now endured, the curing process moves slower than a broad-butted woman in a Costco aisle at Christmas time. We found ourselves babysitting wet, sagging grout joints that behaved like obnoxious little brats in need of a good smack and brisk shaking. Soon we were soaked to the bone, cold and shivering, and to make matters worse, the fifty-two ounces of coffee I’d consumed to combat the cold now assailed my bladder mercilessly. I had to pee.

Herein lies one of the truly great things about manhood: the world is your urinal. Try and find a man who hasn’t clandestinely marked territory in his own back yard a time or two. There is a certain peace, a sense of order in this otherwise chaotic world when man is free to openly engage creation with his most prized appendage. Still, in a public setting, he must acknowledge a certain need for discretion and decorum, lest he offend those fettered by cultural norms. I went off in search of a discreet location where I could let off a little “steam”, as it were (it was really cold).

I found a deep drainage culvert, perhaps twelve feet deep and lined on both sides with large, smooth river rock. Though no one seemed to be within sight, I felt an unusual shyness and need for stealth (customers tend to be almost universally disapproving of surreptitious tinkling on their properties). I moved carefully down one side of the ditch, walking like a geisha in a tight kimono, until it felt reasonably safe to proceed. It was here that things went tragically, painfully and yet comically wrong.

Things started well enough, with the process beginning in good order and with it the wave of relief and contentment in knowing that pathetically wetting one’s self was still likely years away. I was fully involved, employing said culvert for its intended purpose, when suddenly I lost my footing on the wet stones. I slid helplessly down the embankment; my right leg was caught underneath my body as I went. My knee sounded the alarm that I knew so well – a snapping sound like two people yanking on the wishbone of a California Condor – and then white sheets of pain enveloped my every sense.

It’s interesting how a sense of propriety can rule over even the most dire of situations. As I lay at the bottom of the culvert, covered in my own urine, and that which was most uniquely my own splayed out for all to see (admittedly, “splayed” may be a generous word, for as I mentioned before, it was really cold), I managed to keep my screams of pain between my ears. A more pathetic personal display I could not imagine, and at the time I simply wasn’t willing to let anyone else see it. (Strangely, though, I’m certainly willing to share it with you now).

Now, almost twenty years later, the full result of these two calamitous events may be coming to full bear. My knees bark like a couple of disobedient dogs. Every day I bust a move with the Pants Dance – one leg through, then a terrifying ten second display of teetering, pathetic hopping and silent personal encouragement before the other plops more or less into its appointed hole. Often the team I coach is a girl short in practice and I will “step” in; my girls giggle at my slothfulness and I make light of it, too. The reality comes later, when I mosey around the house like an old, bow-legged camp cook and each step is a reminder that things taken for granted may not always be there for you.

Posted in Aging, Christianity, Family, Health, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I Vote For Stupid

Drive around Tucson these days and your visual sense will be bombarded at virtually every intersection. Political signs have popped up on every corner, like mushrooms in the rainy season. Personally, I’m offended someone is betting that placing a candidate’s name in red, white and blue lettering on a street corner is all it will take to sway my vote in their favor. How little they must think of the electorate, and of myself in particular:

“Heck, I’s wishin’ I knew who and whut I’s s’posed ta be a-votin’ fer…Hey! Whut’s that a-yonder?…A sign! Ima Bigget for School Superintendent.  Now there’s someone usin’ their noggin; puttin’ their name on a sign and all. Her’s got my vote!”

Or is it recognition through attrition? As I stand in the voting booth: “Heck, I don’t know who ta vote fer county sheriff…hold on! This feller Will Blunder sounds familiarWhere’d I see that name duzzens and duzzens o’ times afore?…can’t rightly recall. Oh, well, must be someone special. Him’s got my vote; sure hope he wins.”

It’s even more strange that these signs are all clumped together, often thirty or more in all, and each use the same color schemes; if I’m so dumb, how am I expected to be able to focus on just one colorful name in a sea of names in red, white and blue?

Let’s assume for a moment that there is some benefit to bombarding the electorate with signs; in other words, we are that stupid. Now there is a tendency in television advertising to focus solely on the “shortcomings” of one’s opponent, to the extent that only their name and face appear in the ad along with their horrifying indiscretions and fascist inclinations. This seems counter-intuitive by historical standards of advertising; if Coke wants to sell more Coke, do they only show images of Pepsi? By the same logic that dictates I vote by virtue of name recognition, doesn’t it stand to figure that I’ll vote for the opponent featured in the commercial? After all, their name and face is the only one I see over and over again, and I am really, really stupid…

The whole process is messed up. I don’t presume to have the answers, but one thing is certain: Political strategists are confident that much of the voting public are really that stupid and that  years of polling and statistical analysis bear that out. For those of us who feel we are intelligent and not easily distracted by shiny things and pretty colors, how many of us can honestly say we are informed and knowledgeable when it comes to candidates and propositions? Blind adherence to party platforms is not knowledge, and the information that comes our way is invariably tainted and skewed. Is an uninformed vote better than no vote at all? I’m sorry, but that answer is unequivocally no. It really is why the party system exists, isn’t it? So that someone who represents our feelings on one or more central issues can tell us how to vote on each of them?

I have no party affiliation, because I have a functioning brain; I am too intelligent to embrace or condemn all the tenets of any one party. You are an idiot, or at the very least pathetic, if you do. I am a proud Greentealiberpublicommucrat. If you want my vote, you’ll have to do one or more of the following:

1) Extol  your own virtues. Do not speak poorly of the other candidate. In fact, say something nice about him; if he is good, but you claim to be the better choice, doesn’t that make you great by comparison? Telling me that your opponent is Satan’s spawn and that voting for him will hasten the decline of civilization does nothing to convince me you’ll be any better.

2) Show me you can work well with others. Promise me you’ll work for solutions, with elected officials from other parties and for the public good. If you vote purely for the sake of stalemate and opposition, you are not doing your job and you suck.

3) Work for Me. If I vote for you, I expect you to work for me, and by me I mean me. I want one of those golf trips to Aruba from those lobbyists who ply you with goodies; I want a chunk of the kickback from that mafia-owned construction company you got the building contract for; I want the same pay raise you vote for yourself; I want the same health benefits you get.

I’m not likely to get any of these things from any candidate; since I know that’s true, no one gets my vote based on merit. Some may get my vote because it’s clear their opponent is a horrible human being; there are several whom I consider the lesser of two evils. Most, however, will get no vote, for as I stated before, an uninformed vote is worse than no vote at all.

Posted in Elections, Life, Living, Politics, Uncategorized, Voting, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

“Happy Anniversary, Struggler!”, or “Geez; Give it up Already.”

Toot the horns, don the pointy hats, treat yourself by reading every post from first to last, or do what many do: read this first paragraph, decide “This sucks!”, click the obligatory “like” icon and move on to better things. Celebrate in any way you see fit – for the brunt of you, this means avoiding this blog at any cost – for today is the one year anniversary of Thestrugglershandbook.

Some interesting statistics from The Struggler’s first year: seventy-five posts, or an average of one every five days (you can kiss that stat goodbye); Over seventy thousand words, many of them misused or poorly chosen; almost seventeen thousand views, from over eighty different countries (so cool), including 3,180 in a single day when Cat’s in the Cradle was Freshly Pressed; over twelve hundred comments, half of them mine; six or seven different blog awards (which seem less impressive when I see that most other bloggers have at least some of them as well); and, at last count, two hundred eighty-nine followers (though admittedly, some of them are lagging waaay behind).

And what have I gotten from it all? Well, no book or magazine deals or, for that matter, no life-altering experiences of any kind and my writing future, mired in obscurity and secured for eternity; a few pat on the backs and ego-padding comments, which I eat up with gluttonous pleasure; several “Not my cup of tea” critiques, and a couple of “crass, offensive gutter trash” type condemnations. (From the same person). I have also been fortunate enough to have “met” several other writers, whose work and apparent character I find pleasing to me.

I’ve learned how the game is played: to expand your audience, you need to visit other blogs regularly, comment whenever possible and really put yourself out there. Frankly, I haven’t the time nor the inclination; I don’t see how some of them do it. I’ve got kids, a wife, a veritable zoo of hairy, needy domestic beasts, coaching basketball, and a life of toil unto death; all are more deserving of my time. I suspect that’s partly why my audience hasn’t grown to stadium proportions: like me, people have busy lives and more important things to do than to simply park it and eat the tripe I serve up. And maybe, just maybe, I’m not as enrapturing as I think I am…psssh. As if.

Basketball season starts on Monday. Work is good. I will likely write very little in the next few months, but that’s okay. When I do, I’ll write for myself, and for you if you care to read it. Feel free to comment if anything I have to say moves you spiritually, emotionally or even intestinally; I would love to know who’s really out there. Thanks to the faithful, and for those writers whose blogs I follow, you are the ones I mentioned before. Keep writing and I’ll visit when I can!

Posted in Blogging, Christianity, Humor, Life, Living, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments