Saturday, November 27, 2010

List-less Over the Holidays

About a month ago I gave myself a pat on the back for thinking about all the stuff to be done before Christmas. Despite not giving my holiday preparations another thought since then, I'm amazed to find myself suddenly so far behind. How did this happen?

By now I've usually settled on what I want for each person on my shopping list. Not this year. I don't even have a shopping list.

Normally I have settled on a theme for my annual over-the-top gifts for my niece (practically 11) and nephew (nearly 13). This year I'm stumped. Over-the-top was easier before they reached double-digit ages.

Yesterday I thought about running out to the mall for inspiration. Then I remembered it was Black Friday. Fighting traffic and the crowds without a list and a plan is just crazy.

Most Thanksgiving weekends I get a good start on my holiday greeting cards. This year I haven't bought the cards yet. Until my card list is done I won't know how many cards to get.

Once I get the card list and my shopping list done, I can start putting together the master "to do" list. The master list tells me what I have to do by when and includes shipping deadlines and other details. The goal is to avoid waiting in line at the same place more than once.

It's all very complicated. Just keeping up with all the lists is a full time job. Being without lists so late in the holiday season is enough to make anyone...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When the Shoe Fits...

Grateful and crotchety are rarely used in the same sentence. Googling "grateful crotchety" turned up zero hits. I dedicate this post to that void.

I am grateful for Google. Sure, it totally pisses me off when my partner responds "Google it" to one of my endless queries. Don't tell me what to do and quit reminding me how easy it is to find information. But I digress. Google is an amazing tool.

Several definitions for "crotchety" turned up during my search. Believe it or not, I'd never bothered to look the word up before today. Didn't need to. I knew what it meant. Or thought I did.

I had the gist of it right but was surprised by some of the particulars. Definitions from various sources included phrases like subject to whims, crankiness or ill temper; cantankerous; having a difficult and contrary disposition; cranky, disagreeable, or stubborn, especially if prone to odd whims or fancies; and capriciously stubborn or eccentric and perverse.

It's like they know me or something. Cranky and ill-tempered? Ha! Have you met me?

A difficult and contrary disposition? Busted. I got more moods than colors in a paint store and am capable of running through a rainbow every few hours. It's not nearly as pretty as it sounds, either.

Capriciously stubborn? Sometimes...when I'm in the mood. Rather than stubborn, I prefer to think of myself as committed.

Eccentric? I'm thinking a Yankee wrote that definition. I'm just southern and perhaps a little colorful.

Subject to whims? You betcha. I started this here bloggy thing on a whim and pulled The Crotchety Old Man out of my ass for a name. Just another example of my higher power working in my life.

For that and all you who give me a reason to keep writing new posts, I'm grateful. And on that note I'll close...before someone pisses me off and I return to my normal self...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, November 22, 2010

From Callow to Crotchety

You can tell how much progress I'm making on the book by the number of blog posts per week. Lots of posts means I'm either stuck or taking a break. In this particular instance, I'm a little bit stuck and halfway taking a break.

The last time I was stuck the problems revolved around the structure of the book and drawing lines around the story. Thoughtful comments from several readers clarified the issues for me. I tackled the revisions with a newly found clarity of purpose and cranked out another 150 or so pages on top of what I'd already written.

For me, feedback is an essential part of the writing process. Reactions are helpful for lots of different reasons. The current draft is now in the hands of several gracious readers. I'm taking a break from writing to allow time for them to get through the tome over the long Thanksgiving weekend. If you're interested in reading let me know and I'll add you to my list for the next "release".

To refresh my memory, before adding another word I absolutely must read through my old journals. I've mentioned that my journals go all the way back to 1982 and that I've kept them more or less consistently ever since. This is the first time I've ever had reason to read back through them.

Turns out, there's a reason I've never gone back to read them. With few exceptions the entries are highly repetitive, profoundly dull and rarely useful. Having now read through 1988, frankly I don't know how much more I can take.

By then I was 30 years old and had mostly settled down. Aside from anything that might happen in the future, the worst years of my life were behind me. Compared with most of the previous decade anyway, there just wasn't much to write about.

This fact, however, did not deter me. Writing in my journal was often a way to kill time. I apparently had plenty of time as some of the entries are quite long.

Now I'm reading about the early years with my first partner. Most entries go on and on about how deeply in love we were, how we were going to be together forever and how I trusted him. Reading it today makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

We were together for more than a decade. It's going to take a while to make it through all those weekly entries. I'd skip, but every now and then I find a little gem that sparks a memory of something for the book.

The things we do for our art. Suffering through the meandering ramblings of a callow and delusional 30-something is enough to make anyone...

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The End of Air Least for Me

In the late 1980s my job included a generous travel budget. Flying made it easy and convenient to attend two or three conferences every year. You could even smoke.

Those were the good old days. Since then, the quality of the flying experience has declined...dramatically. The seats keep getting smaller with less distance between rows. Instead of hot meals, they served cold soggy sandwiches with an apple and a cookie and finally, nothing at all.

I'm a big guy--just over six foot tall and more than 200 pounds. My seatmates were often my size or larger. As the airlines crammed more and more seats onto the planes, my comfort level decreased.

Then came 9/11 and the long waits at airports that came with all the security changes. I learned to wear slip-on shoes and to keep my watch, belt and keys in my briefcase until I cleared security. Throw in a tendency to end up with a flu or sinus infection whenever I flew, and flying lost much of its appeal.

My partner and I flew to California two summers in a row a few years ago. The return flight on the last trip was filled to capacity. A psychotic asshole insisted on reclining his seat into my partner's face. When the stewardess intervened, psycho said he had his rights and refused to put his seat back.

It was a long, uncomfortable flight. So much so I vowed it would be my last. I find no enjoyment in paying tons of money to be herded like livestock onto flying boxcars.

That was before TSA cracked down on liquids and airlines started adding charges for everything under the sun. Now I hear they're feeling people up or otherwise humiliating them before they board. No thanks.

If I can't get there by car, I ain't going. You can't make me, either. That's one of the few privileges that come with being...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, November 19, 2010

And Your Mangy Little Dog, Too

The people up the street have a little dog they must not like very much. He's and the folks at Animal Control call him "the little chihuahua-terrier mix." He runs wild through the neighborhood all the time.

I didn't complain until the little son of a bitch started stalking us on our walks. He creeps around behind us, dashing from shrub to shrub like he's dodging sniper fire. It's unsettling.

Animal Control said they'd been fielding complaints about him for months but didn't know where he lived. I did, and gave them the address. They said they would give them a warning, but couldn't do anything else unless I signed a complaint.

They'd been warned. Now they know better. That should solve the problem. And it did. For like a month.

Now I call whenever he's out. Animal Control says the owners have been warned and now they really need someone to sign a complaint. I declined. It's hard telling what someone who'd let a little dog run loose all the time is capable of doing.

Mostly he stays within two or three houses of his neglectful owner. Or he did. Yesterday he was in our yard--a good ten houses down the block.

Last night a neighbor came around asking us to sign a letter of complaint about the landlord who's renters at the head of our street flagrantly disregard all covenants and city ordinances. I was glad to see the neighborhood association taking action and happily signed the letter. Then I mentioned the little chihuahua mix.

She lives two doors down from the dog, has called Animal Control numerous times herself and frequently has to chase him out of her garage. She's talked with the owners and left notes on the door. I asked if she'd sign a complaint with me. She said she would.

Today he was out again. This time, two teen-aged girls were getting into a car in the driveway of the house where he lives. I told them if I saw him in my yard again I was signing a complaint.

She told me she didn't like the little dog anyway, and would pass the word along to her mother. Then she and her friend got into the car. I said if they wanted to go off and leave him out, I'd call Animal Control right now to pick him up.

They got back out and tried to chase him down as they gave me dirty looks. I assume they were successful. He wasn't out when we came back by.

But he will be. When I see him I'm calling Animal Control and this time, will sign the complaint. They've been warned. Now they'll find out what happens when you mess with...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Brother I Never Had

I wasn't even two years old when he was born. Even then, we were as different as night and day. It was like Oscar and Felix right out of the womb.

Knowing me, I was likely disappointed he wouldn't play with me right away. When he could, having to share my toys with him probably pissed me off. Even as a child I was sometimes just the teeniest little bit crotchety.

As a kid he was always high octane and bounced off the walls--like a normal little boy. I, on the other hand, was a repressed homosexual. He took karate lessons and got boxing gloves for Christmas. I got upset when he treated my GI Joe like a war toy.

Our moms both had a boatload of siblings. We more or less assumed we were cousins until grade school when we found out the truth. We were closer than blood kin--our mothers were best friends.

We took baths together when we were little. I remember sword fights with pee streams over the toilet. When we got a little older we graduated to farting contests and a little towel-snapping. We'd lay in bed in the dark and tell jokes and try to scare each other without getting yelled at by one of the moms.

The frequency of our interactions decreased through junior high and high school. By the time we graduated we hardly ever saw each other, but were kept up-to-date on any significant developments via the moms.

Over time even the moms drifted apart. We moved in different circles and our paths never crossed. That was more than thirty years ago. Since then I've often wondered where he was and how he was doing.

When I heard his mom passed away, my heart broke for him. But I never wrote or called. I didn't know where he was or how to reach him.

A couple of months ago he turned up on Facebook. I love him like a brother and am just so damn glad he's back in my life. I had no idea how much I missed him...

Believe it or not, we're still as different as night and day. You know who I am. He is...

A Crotchety Old Republican!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Keeping My Religion

I went to church this morning for the first time in a very long time. My partner is back in school and needed to visit a church other than his own for a class project. I was raised Catholic and agreed to go with him to mass so I could answer any questions he might have later.

On more than one occasion religious folk have told me I was doomed to spend an eternity in hell for sleeping with men. In an abundance of caution I decided to warn my Facebook friends of possible cataclysmic events resulting from my entrance into any place of worship. I'm thoughtful that way.

Much to my surprise, the comments from my FB pals expressed joy at my decision to return to church. I mentioned this to my partner who promptly posted a comment thanking me for my willingness to go with him for the assignment. The uplifting comments continued.

Going to church was an emotional experience. Catholic services have changed very little in the last 30 years. I was amazed at how often I could recite from memory the parts of the mass.

The most striking difference was an astounding number of unruly children. Kids screamed, talked and bounced off the walls throughout even the most sacred parts of the service. It was more than a little distracting and in and of itself, enough to keep me from going back. They don't call me crotchety for nothing.

The Latino priest preached a message from what I assume to be the liberation theology I've heard about. He talked about worker's rights with an almost Marxist zeal. The sermon was interesting and thought provoking.

An old school Irish priest spent a good ten minutes warming up the crowd for a special collection to finance the construction of a new church, school and parking lot across town. The overall message I got was work hard because we're going to need your money for a very long time to come.

In my darkest hour I turned to religion and was kicked to the curb. The message from the Bible of my youth was to deny who I was or to hate the sin that in the end, was me. What kind of choice is that?

I turned my back on religion and came face-to-face with God. He told me He loved me and showed me the way to love myself. My spirit soared.

You have your beliefs and I have mine. My beliefs preclude me from participating in any religion that at its core, condemns the essence of who I am. Yeah, I know you don't agree with your church all the time. That's your choice, not mine.

Today I didn't find Jesus or fall down on the ground and start talking in tongues. There was no spiritual awakening. Believe it or not, I was already awake.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Touchscreen Smartphones Mighty Handy

I've had my touchscreen smartphone for more than a month now. The biggest surprise has been the usefulness of the device. I'm telling you it's downright handy.

In my last post about the phone, I bitched about difficulty getting the password entered fast enough. Using the keyboard instead of the touchscreen solved that little problem. I know...I'm slow.

Since then my experience has been overwhelmingly positive. Yeah, the Facebook app for Android is missing a key feature or two. Or maybe I've not yet figured out how to access them. Still, the benefits far exceed any grievances. Circumstances have helped me to appreciate the device even more.

My appointments with the retina specialist last at least an hour and as long as three hours. One friend drops me off and when I'm done, I call another to pick me up. I forgot to put his number into my phone but was able to go online via the browser on my phone to find it. Yay!

Last week I went to a conference in middle Georgia. Except for the last few miles, the route was familiar to me. I printed off directions from Mapquest just in case but didn't bother using my GPS.

I was doing great until I hit one of those little towns where all roads come together and circle the courthouse. After three trips around the circle I pulled over, accessed the navigation app and followed the nice lady's voice prompts to get back on track. Yay!

My tolerance for meetings is admittedly low, and this was a long one. Rather than growing ever more crotchety, I stayed busy. My work e-mail doesn't go to my phone automatically, but I can still access it via the smartphone. The teeny tiny text isn't an issue because I just keep widening my fingers on the touchscreen until it's readable. Handy.

I downloaded the solitaire app and played Freecell to pass the time. Between games I checked all my e-mail accounts and posted status updates on Facebook. Not only did the time go by fast, but my crotchety level stayed well below red, orange and even yellow alert levels. We're talking levels not seen since my Xanax prescription ran out.

Even out of the danger zones, my crotchety level remains very high. I don't think you need to worry about me changing too much. I suspect I shall always be...

The Crotchety Old Man

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time Change Just Ain't Natural

Few things piss me off more than the twice-yearly time change. I'm a creature of habit. Falling back and springing forward mess me up for months.

I've worked 8 to 5 Monday through Friday for about 30 years. I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at almost exactly the same time every day. Except for Sunday nights when Madmen is on, I'm usually sound asleep by 10.

My body no longer knows or even seems to care if it's a work day or a weekend. Either way I'm up at 5:30. Unless the time changes.

No matter how much I might want to sleep in, staying in bed is not an option. Between the regular hours and the fiber supplement I started taking after a colon-cancer scare a few years ago, I'm literally as regular as clockwork. Honest--you can set your watch by it.

Sorry for going there, but my regularity is a big part of the reason I hate time changes. Missing out on an extra hour of sleep is bad enough. But I'll be up at 4:30 for at least the next few weeks. Some clocks are harder to reset than others.

But that's not the only reason I hate the time change. Until then, I know the days are getting shorter. But the change is so gradual I don't especially notice.

Assume the sun sets a minute earlier every evening. The time change is like fast-forwarding through two months of gradual change. It's a huge shock to my system and my psyche.

I hate it. By the time I adjust to falling back it will be time to spring forward. I'm pretty sure THIS is the reason everyone calls me...

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Catching Up

No doubt some of you expect to hear something from me about the election. No comment. Sorry to disappoint but I ain't going there. You'd think I'd be happier considering it was such a great year for crotchety old white men.

You'll be glad to know I have now confirmed that everyone in my family tree is indeed somehow related to me. Now I'm working my way through the duplicates. In the process I made a rather startling discovery. I'm related to the same person through two different relatives!

Bartlett Haggard (my 5th great grandfather) was born in Virginia in 1764. He married Martha Dawson in 1785 and moved with her to Clark County, Kentucky where they had three girls: Mildred, Mary and Sara. Mildred and Mary are BOTH my 4th great grandmothers!

My paternal grandfather is Mildred's great great grandson. He married Mary's great great granddaughter. I'm pretty sure nobody knows this but me, and now you. Judging by the number of duplicates remaining on the family tree roster, it looks like I'll probably find another double relationship before I'm done. Is thinking that is super romantic just a Kentucky thing?

Progress on the book comes in fits and starts, due mostly to challenges with my memory. I know I came out in September or October 1979. My journals start with May of 1982. Piecing together what happened in 1980 and 1981 has involved digging through college transcripts and old tax returns for clues and hints.

I wouldn't bother, but the year or two after I came out are fairly critical to the overall story. Fortunately, this far into writing the book I've learned not to be a slave to the truth. I've taken a lot of liberties for the sake of clarity and to keep the story moving.

The book started with the Trauma Car Tales posted here in April and May of this year. I dumped all the blog posts into a file and since July, have been working to craft them into a book. It may have been easier to start over, but working with the blog posts meant I was well on my way before I really even started.

Having worked through the big blank (1980-1981), I'm moving forward again with only a few more posts to work into the book. Once I reach the end of the blog posts, I expect the writing to go a lot more quickly. Unless I hit a wall, it's a lot easier to write from scratch than to work in something I wrote months ago before I had any idea there would be a book.

I like it. Up until this last revision, I didn't, so that's saying something. Maybe I should use a nomme de plume. I could always go with...

The Crotchety Old Man
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