I don’t really tan anymore.  There was a day when I got bronzed (and a day when I won the “C” Company, 5th Brigade, 3rd Battalion sit-up title — but that is a tale for another waistline).  Now, I kind of turn lobster red.  And if I stay in the bright blue waters off Miami beach for too long, under a clear sky and a nearby shimmering star, I burn.  Like toast.  I once saw a t-shirt that said “tanned, rested and ready” with a picture of Nixon on it preparing for another presidential bid.  And I haven’t been able to shake the slogan all week.  I’d never been to Florida.  And though I’m not really tanned, I do feel re-charged.  Ready for a new year.  With this stupid slogan ringing in my ears.
Aside from a couple of e-mails, I haven’t written anything of substance in a month.  I still checked in on you all.  Watching the pond as if from afar, like it was a little world encased in glass, surrounded by fake snow.  And it was hard not to write sometimes.  But I did pretty good.  Enjoyed down time.  Tanned.  Rested.  Ready.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed in my month off is that we haven’t really impeached the Batshit Loopy Preznit yet.  I figured when he confessed to a felony in his national radio address, he was toast.  I gave the principles of our Republic too much credit, I guess.  Here we are.  A new year.  Same old rotting democracy.  But I’ll blog about the national security issues later.  Got to stick to one topic.  Mind wandering.  Like a sunburned middle-aged guy who just got back from a sweet vacation and can’t quite concentrate on the task at hand.

The task at hand.  Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that our entire economy is on the brink of a fucking total collapse.  I’m not talking about the economy described by Bondad, or Jerome a Paris, or Stirling Newberry.  I mean, they scare me enough, given the right topic.  But what has me flipped out is the other economy.  The one not dictated by government statistics and theories from guys wearing bow ties and class rings from Harvard and the University of Chicago.  I’m talking about the economy that people actually live in.  Regular people.  Blue collar people.  Old people.  Undereducated people.  Just people.  They are standing on the edge of the fucking abyss.  And I don’t need a government report or a Wall Street Journal headline to tell me so.  I know.  Because in the midst of my vacation, I had to write a couple of reality checks.

I’ve got it good.  Fuck.  The only things that could bankrupt me tomorrow are the loss of a job or a major medical crisis.  But for the time being, I’m pretty flush.  I mean, in three months, you could ask again and I could be singing a completely different tune.  But by all standards from where I grew up, I’m fucking loaded.  Fat and happy.

But I still know a lot of folks right back where I started.  They are the people losing jobs because, as the Wall Street Journal is fond of touting, “productivity growth” has been so stellar.  They are the old-timers who are retiring after a full life of back breaking work.  And finding that they can’t afford medicine.  Regular people.  Fucked.

First check I had to write was for $700 plus.  I think that may have amounted to the great big tax break that Bush gave me once upon a time.  I wish he would have fucking kept it.  Used it to help build a damn world where I don’t have to get pre-Christmas calls like the one I got from a niece I hardly know.

She called.  Frantic.  She had nowhere else to turn.  Her uncle, whom she loves dearly, was in trouble.  She tried every government office she could.  She tried closer family and friends.  But I was the only one she knew who was flush.

Her uncle, my cousin, is a general laborer.  Not surprisingly, he is out of work.  Without any money.  The relatives were willing to feed him.  But when the power company shut off his heat in December, he was out of a fucking place to stay.  He was humiliated.  Wouldn’t have called himself, said my niece.  Homeless, basically.  And even with the Bush “Clean Skies” initiative helping to promote warmer winters in Michigan, it is still too fucking cold to be in an apartment without heat.  Or worse, to be on the street.  Reality check.  For $700 you can get your cousin back in a relatively warm place to stay.  It stings the checkbook a little.  But come the fuck on.  You write the fucking check, hoping to the Flying Spaghetti Monster he won’t hate you for shaming him.  Give him a hug.  And know that the solution isn’t permanent.  Him and every other general laborer out of work, facing higher heating costs, are in the same damn boat.  Everyone in northern Michigan is burning wood and corn to try to offset the costs.  But people are hurting.  That’s my cousin there.  We used to play football in an orchard.  Shoot each other with toy guns, training for Reagan’s army.  He’s living right on the fucking edge.

But all is well.  I got some energy stocks, anyway.  And they are doing okay.  All is well in the world.  Go on vacation.  Buy lots of shit from China.  Have a happy holiday.  Forget the fucking credit card bill that your family will never pay, if, FSM forbid you are diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Come home.  Tanned, rested and ready.  To write another reality check.  This one was good.

Call from mom.  She’s had a tough year.  Pre-emphysema type condition.  Because she started smoking Winstons at 14 at the drive-in, because their advertisements told her she would be more cool.  Grown-up.  She is.  All grown-up.  61.  And can’t breathe to save her life.  Literally.

She was a work horse.  Had my brother at 16.  Because she was grown up even then.  Had two jobs most of the time after dad left.  And we still clocked in under the poverty level.  Good old minimum wage.  And less, when you are a waitress at the Moose Lodge (my Little League sponsor), letting old dudes pat your ass for good tips.  But she kept us alive.  Strong.  In a way.  Now just frail.

Had to leave the job at the bowling alley.  Where she clocked in for something like thirty years.  Couldn’t take the walking.  From the shoe rack to the till.  Not enough breath.

Felt lucky to get social security disability.  But it meant giving up the medical insurance at the bowling alley.  So now she gets a small monthly check.  But it doesn’t cover her $700 dollars a month in drug costs for the lungs and the depression.

Calls me for the New Year.  Not well.  Apparent in the voice.  Hasn’t been taking her meds.  Can’t afford them.  Hated to fucking call me.  Didn’t want to ask.  But her husband the sign painter hasn’t had many jobs this year.  So there is not enough money for rent, food and medicine.  Medicine seems to be the least important thing.  Unless it is all that stands between you and not breathing.  Or between you and slitting your wrists.  Because life has been fucking hard.

Reality check.  There isn’t a government program taking care of mom.  We don’t really have a comprehensive health care system in the country.  In fact, from the monthly nut I pay for our private insurance, I’d venture to say that we dont have any health care system at all.  We’ve got a corporate care system.  Some motherfuckers are getting really fucking rich.  I think Frist is one of them.

Anyway.  She is falling apart in front of your ears on the phone.  So, you can talk about the policy issues.  Maybe suggest some budgeting.  Some advice about Medicaid applications, should this year’s tax returns look more bleak than last year when you couldn’t qualify.  But your only real recourse is to hope that you are flush.  And write the fucking check.  Hope that somehow the psychiatric meds will re-adjust themselves despite the semi-voluntary disruption in treatment.

And this is how perverted my thoughts have become.  Living as a capitalist.  I’m actually hoping that I’m stronger than her.  That when I get my diagnosis.  Heart disease.  Diabetes.  Cancer.  Whatever the fuck I’m on track for because I’ve lived the life of poor white trash who could suddenly afford dining at McDonalds.  When that day comes.  I’m hoping I’m stronger.  That I won’t call my fucking kid.  That I’ll be brave like a guy named Red we all knew.  Who when his own day came, he got the fucking shotgun and took a last trip to the tool shed.  Dying with dignity we call it in a country that sure as fuck debates the value of the Second Amendment more than it considers having a rational fucking health care system.  I want to be like Red.  No fucking lie.  Because that’s where I am.  That’s where I live.

At least I’ve got some Big Pharma stock though.  So for this year, I’m flush.  I’m tanned.  Rested.  Ready.  And all is well in the world.  Until the next reality check.

0 0 votes
Article Rating