Sticking up for friends

I learned early on that one should never stick up for friends. I went to a school we affectionately called Saint Monkey’s Penitentiary. In third grade all hell broke loose when a new kid arrived who was advanced a grade. His name was Nikki and he was my friend. He was smaller than most kids and the fact that he was smarter was a danger to those who needed to be top dog. In a prep school grades also went along with sports in the popularity game. On the playground Nikki and I would runaround, play on the merry go round and crawl through the concrete tunnels pretending god only knows what. Everyday a group of kids would surround Nikki and ask him questions, stupid questions like “are you a faggot?” eventually they would start taking turns hitting him until he fell on the ground and then they would take turns crawling on top of him and punching him. Nikki never fought back and why would he? Four or five against one didn’t seem like good odds with a smaller kid and most of these guys would later be jocks in high school. Eventually Nikki never returned to school. All was normal again and the future jocks could claim their shitty positions in the pecking order of things. A year later I heard from Nikki, he was in town and wanted to hang out. It was actually his mom. They picked me up and we hung out that day. During one of the rides words were used that I had only heard on shows like The People’s Court. Lawsuit and damages were thrown around. Nikki had a disc in his back that had been dislocated during his beatings at St Monkey’s and the doctors were saying it could be a life long condition. She asked me to write a statement testifying about what I had seen happen to Nikki. I remembered him being kicked and punched on the ground. I also remembered the time I fought back and kicked one of the kids off of him. That kid cried and screamed, running off to tell momma, I guess. I was the first and last time I stood up for Nikki. That night my mom received a phone call. On the other end was a woman screaming saying words like “lawsuit” and “white trash”. From the other end of the phone that woman convinced my mother to put me over her knee and smack my ass until the scream could be heard on the other end. That was the thanks I got for sticking up for my friend. A year later I was being asked to do the same thing. I went home and wrote up a fourth-grade level statement about the kids that beat up Nikki on a daily basis. I handed it to my mom asking her to tell Nikki’s mom it was done. She took it and told me she wouldn’t. there are some things you have to let go of and if I was involved in the lawsuit, I couldn’t go to that school anymore and be with my friends. At the time I was okay with that idea, I saw what happened to my friend at that school and at some point, I was going to be next. The statement was never delivered and to this day I wish it had. I don’t know what ever happened to Nikki. I remember playing with his chemistry set and how he freaked out when I started mixing acids and basis together. I was supposed to learn something at that time. I sure it sounds like “the preservation of the institution is more important than blah blah blah” or some such shit. I wasn’t really hearing too much as the hand was hitting my ass. To this day I hate that school. Any place that has to hide or lie their way into looking good doesn’t deserve my respect. The school stated that what happened to Nikki never happened. Doesn’t seem like a very Christian stance to take on the subject. There are other things that the church tried to deny happening over the years and the hundreds of millions of dollars later isn’t looking to good for them. I will admit that for a long time I was hesitant to do anything when I saw someone in trouble. Hell, there are times I am ashamed of for not doing something. I think that bug is finally being kicked to the curb. In a world where most American’s don’t have more than one person they could call if something bad happened I am fortunate to have a few and when they are in trouble I am there. I’m sorry Nikki, I wish I could have helped, I tried. As for my other friends, I may be spanked again in the future but know that you are worth it.

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The End of Prepping

In my basement there is a series of cabinets along the wall that are filled with all kinds of long term food storage items, cans, bags, and boxes. I have a wine cellar in the darkest and coolest part of the basement. A gun safe keeps a few items free from dust and rust. A few typewriters wait under dust covers for the moment this computer and the electrical grid goes down ending civilization. Then there is the doomsday vault, a trunk filled with rare bottles of wine, a survivalist handbook, a few pipes and several cans/ tins of tobaccos that are not in production anymore. If the world comes to an end I am all set for the roaming horde of zombies, aliens coming to the planet to steal water or cows for rectal probes, or maybe the Chinese invasion. I have everything I need, what do I do now?
There was a time when I feared the world was coming to an end. I grew up hearing about end times and thinking that Saddam Hussein was going to kill the planet, Chernobyl was going to turn everyone into mutants, the planet was going to deep fry everyone into crispy chicken wings, the list goes on and on. Nothing happened. Nothing ever happened. The nation has been run by the incompetent and the mentally retarded on and off my whole adult life and yet we are still here.
Nothing that I listed off that I keep in the basement is stuff that people didn’t have a hundred years ago. It was common to have root cellars, can food, and keep a gun or two just in case. That was called living and people knew they were responsible for themselves. These days I roll my eyes when people talk about their guns being taken away, trump pushing the button and ending the planet, and while I have a fear that global warming might end the planet that my daughter will grow up in I have to accept that there is less than nothing I can do about it. I have my habits that this hobby has built into me and while people may think that it is crazy to keep extra food of guns that haven’t been shot in a year or two it does come in handy at times. A friend mentioned that she didn’t have any money and her food situation had dwindled to rice and beans for lunch until payday. It only took a few minutes to put a box together from the basement supply and bring it to work for her to use. When I was done the pantry didn’t look any different but she had food for a few days or more.
I don’t have that fear anymore. That notion that something wrong is gone. Maybe its from not watching the news anymore? I look at the world these days and I have my life that is no longer dictated by a group of guys in bad suits yelling and arguing with each other about stuff that doesn’t really matter. There is something satisfying about no longer caring about people who don’t really matter. I don’t care about Trump and neither should anyone else.
Early on I learned not to buy the gizmos and tech stuff that preppers dish out their hard-earned cash for. I don’t own an AR-15 and still think jeeps are one of the biggest pieces of crap ever built. I didn’t sink a ton of money into this because it’s not needed. One doesn’t have to feel like Rambo in order to be secure. If there is anything that one needs to do in order to get their life in order and be prepared its paying off your debts and making sure you have cash on the side. Stop buying stupid shit and most of your problems will be solved. The financial stress that comes with being in debt is worse that the Chinese eventually, possibly, marching in and sending you to an iPhone factory center.
Living in fear is exhausting. There are companies and economies that depend on us being fearful of the unknown. While we go about our lives and try to fix our problems having somebody else breathing down your neck about a maybe is a waste of time. There comes a time when one has to realize that maybe “surviving” is not living. There might be some mental illness involved in this prepper thing. I know at moments I wondered about my own mental health and looking back maybe I was correct to be worried. Prepping is in the past now. I’ll keep the canned goods and a handle pistol close by but I’m not going to let them rule my life. What is the point of life if you aren’t living?

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Revisiting the Harvard Classics: Day 3

Cicero on Friendship, from volume 9 of the Harvard Classics, is a longer read clocking in at 30 minutes as opposed to the 15 minutes it was supposed to take. Although I have to admit that I am a slow reader.
Cicero’s piece about friendship struck a cord with me, something that isn’t discussed but it a major part of most people’s lives that is in decline. Several years ago, people were asked how many people they could count on in the event of an emergency and the answer was 3-5. Today the same answer will have an answer of maybe 1. Cicero talked about how friends compliment one another, take care of each other, and lift others up when they are not as fortunate. I have friends like this, sharing the wealth, calling at the house when things are bad, and other all work as a balance with ourselves. Friends are the people we count on to tell us we are not being everything we should be.
The piece started out well, as a guide post to when to look for in our own friendships, but later died into politics and the rules for who to make friends with and whom not. This section might need to be ignored because in this day and age to not fit in with the rules of certain political parties would lead one into a world of exile. Currently, I feel that everyone it there these days with the way things are. A person must fit into one of two molds, there is no middle ground, and according to Cicero if someone is not loyal to the party or the state than you should not make friend with them for their punishment should fit the crime and not be laxed due to friendship. It’s a sad note to leave off on but that is the sign of the times. People do not have friends these days and its mostly due to politics that the majority of the public do not agree with. Nobody fits into every little category that is determined by these two groups and yet we pretend that they must. Politics aside, Cicero had some good ideas and when looking for a friend consider what he has to say.

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The Harvard Classics Revisited: The Odyssey

I went beyond reading The Odyssey when I pulled this one off the shelf, wanting to understand it as I heard the story, I also downloaded a few of the Great Courses about the book. Whether or not Homer existed is still up for debate but one thing is clear, if he did exist, he was the first person to write down the tale of The Odyssey but he is not the first person to tell it. It was an oral history and handed down through oral story telling until pen touched paper.
The story is told in an odd way, starting out with Odysseus’ home and the situation with his wife and son. The king is gone and everyone wants to replace him. Once that scene is set, we go back to Odysseus where he is stuck on an island with a beautiful goddess and yet he wants to return home. The gods do not make it an easy trip for him and by the time he returns he has been gone for 20 years. Odysseus has to pretend to be a homeless beggar in his own home as he plots the bloodbath that will take place. This tale has been retold time and time again. Look at The Count of Monte Cristo or Oh Brother Where Art Thou for example. In these cases, the hero is gone from home and has to fight to return to his rightful place. The desire is home and it is here the reader learns what is important in life. Odysseus could remain on the island having sex for all eternity with a beautiful goddess that will never grow old but that is not the path of man. It may sound grand as a young man in your twenties but when you are older a little pillow talk is desirable.
There has been some talk about the Iliad being left out of the Harvard Classics and there is no record as to why that is. Even with Don Quixote it is published as part 1 and there is no part 2. Perhaps the Odyssey had the message that was desired and the whole story was not needed for the lesson to be learned. There have been several books written about Homer’s work and it would appear everyone took something different from the tale. There was an episode of Parts Unknown where Anthony Bourdain went to the Greek Isles and could see the places talked about in the classics. He made the statement “It was a tall tale. Something you would tell the wife when you have been gone for so long. Oh the sirens were hideous. All the women were ugly. I couldn’t wait to get back to you.” To which Tony’s host replied “you think he made it up?”
Is there any point in arguing if the Odyssey is true? I doubt the Greeks told the story because it was a history book. There is something more to be taken from the Odyssey and here is what I found. Duty comes at a cost. There is a difference between what is important in life and what life demands of you. Be careful who you are rude to. Slaughter your enemies until none are left standing. I’m sure there is much more to take from the text but this was just off the top of my head.
The odyssey is one of those stories I will likely go back to learning more about in the future. It seems to be one of those stories that always has more to tell. While I had interest in reading this book as a kid, I grew disinterested by high school and it wasn’t until recently that I thought about picking it up again. Like most books there is a time and place in one’s life to truly enjoy something and before now I don’t know if that would have happened. Like any tale I think it is filled with lies and half-truths. Was Odysseus riding around the seas with his men on constant booty calls. To the victors go the spoils and I think he was living it up, maybe too long. Of course, he is the hero of the tale and while we can speculate what was really going on, we will never know. The story is one to learn from, focus, stay the course, family first, don’t tempt the gods, and the list goes on. Should everyone read this? Yes, when they are ready. I find this is one of those books that people will not seek out but it will find you instead.

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Turning 40 and the new you

Forty minutes ago, I turned 40. It hasn’t really hit me yet and I don’t feel any different. The difference I have noticed is from the things I have been doing over the last year that have slowly changed my life. There is a series of things that I did that have added up and made things better in my life including this blog. It started with having my daughter. Things were tough that first year and while she remains a challenge in many ways, things have gotten better. Realizing I needed to be a better man, a better person for her and my wife I started with some little things.
1. Less TV. I have to agree with David Foster Wallace on this one. Television is an addiction and one that barely offers anything in return. I still enjoy the occasional movie but having anything good to watch is rare. If I spend more than five minutes trying to find something to watch I turn it off.
2. Write every morning. Only on the weekends do I lose the chance to write something. Otherwise I try to put down at least 1500-3000 words. Currently I am working on a new trilogy of novels so I try to write a chapter a day. I also stopped listening to music during this time and write with the sound of my daughter playing in the background.
3. I stopped watching the news. This was a big one and it serves many purposes. The news made me depressed and pissed off half the time. Once I cut that out, I had a better outlook on life. My mind was able to focus more on the important things instead of what was happening in places that really didn’t affect me. I had less stress and my productivity grew. This also created more time to focus on what I really wanted to be doing.
4. Jordan Peterson. In his 12 rules for life Peterson discussed ways to improve your life and move in a direction you wanted to go. The following things are a result of listening to his lectures and reading his book.
5. Make friends with people who want the best for you. I started becoming picky with who I spent my time with. If I left a place feeling worse afterwards the odds were, I didn’t want to spend time with them. Life is too short to hang out with crappy people and in the end, I started to spend more time with people who wanted to better their lives and the lives of those around them. This led to doors opening and opportunities being presented. My friend Steve has always been a guiding light and an inspiration. Ben teaches me to be okay with my trashy side and enjoy myself from time to time, without guilt. Tai Po encourages me to move ahead with following my dreams. Mustafa helps me question things that I never really thought about before.
6. Bear your responsibility. I don’t hesitate to get things done that need to be done anymore. These days if you want something done, not just right, you do it yourself and get it out of the way. This helps with stress and because of this I have accomplished more in the last few months than I have in the last two years. Nothing ever got done by putting it off.
7. Appreciate what you have. There was a good chance that my daughter wasn’t going to be with us for very long when she was born. I have a wife that loves and supports me. I know of people who have crappy cars and can’t keep a roof over their heads. Some people have massive amounts of debt and forget how they got it. I like my car. My wife and I own three houses. I could go to the store and buy this laptop. I have a job that pays well and I enjoy. Sure, I have other dreams am I am working my way towards them. Hell, I was even able to go out and buy podcasting equipment without worrying about how I was going to pay for it. Life is looking pretty good.
8. Enjoy the little things. I enjoy smoking a pipe. It gives me time to reflect and I have met some very interesting people along the way. My YouTube friends, you know who you are, are a wealth of entertainment and knowledge.
9. Read. I listen to audiobooks at work and have enjoyed the works of Jonathan Franzen, David Foster Wallace, Dave Eggers, Will Self and many more. There is more to learn about my craft and these people have helped greatly.
10. Set goals. In the coming month I have three books being released on Amazon. Daisy came out today. I didn’t plan or expect to put out so much in a short period of time but sometimes you have to go with the flow. I started a podcast with some friends and have a second one offering free serialized audiobooks to those who want to listen to them. I don’t know where this path is going to take me but so far, I am enjoying the ride.
11. Drink less. I don’t drink like I used to and for the most part I don’t miss it. The last time I really indulged was with a friend and it was a moment that wasn’t surrounded by the drink. These days I regard it as a celebration, one to enjoy with friends. I used to enjoy a glass of wine while writing or before bed but now it doesn’t have the same appeal and I feel much better for it.
My thirties were a roller coaster and thankfully they are ending on a good note. I have seen divorce and death. Saw the birth of my daughter and married a wonderful woman. My finances are no longer the struggle they once were. I have friends I enjoy spending time with that make me feel like a better person. My hobbies are simple and the only thing I wish I had more of these days is time. We all get the same amount of it in the beginning, a lifetime. How we use it is up to us and these days I want to get the most out of it that I can. I have reached that halfway point; some say its only downhill from here but I would like to thing that I’m moving up. The list of things I want to do is growing and so is the list of things I have accomplished.

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The Tale of Brendan

Neighbors came and went with the seasons at Maple Ridge Apartments and during the spring of 2000 a white pick-up truck backed up to a door and started unloading furniture. A few days later I heard a woman calling out my name in the parking lot and I saw someone I recognized but didn’t know, although she acted like she knew me. Karen was a cashier at the Meijer grocery store I worked for in high school. Two years later one of those cashiers was my new neighbor. Karen was ten years older than me with dark straight stringy hair, a thin face, and a bad attitude. This was the first time she had tried to be nice to me. In the two years I worked with her I could not recall anyone liking this woman. Then I met her husband.
Brendan was close to my age. A young decent looking guy who acted like he was always on a caffeine kick and had never heard of something called peace and quiet. His blonde hair was spiked with gel and he was still at that stage of eating whatever he wanted and still appearing in shape. When you met Brendan, you could not leave without hearing about his truck. It was a mid-90s white Ford Ranger that was nothing remarkable except that it had been totaled in an accident and rebuilt. To this day I can’t figure out what is so special about a truck that “has no value” as he put it and “I could never sell it since it doesn’t exist.” How much of this story is true, I have no idea? There were the holes I found in the story back then, how do you buy tags for the plate? How do you get a plate? Insurance, it’s not like they won’t look up the vin number. None of these questions were answered and he usually turned the topic to sex. Women he banged. Prospects in the apartment complex. Women, women, and more women was the constant topic of discussion, but he never talked about his wife.
The marriage was rocky from the beginning. These two were always fighting and Karen would storm out taking their kid, I don’t remember if it was a boy or a girl, to her mom’s place leaving Brendan to roam the complex on his own.
During that time, I had regular visits from Gary, a former co-worker from Meijer that knew Nate and Rob who were also regular visitors. Rob eventually became my roommate for a period, and it was during that phase Brendan and Karen moved in a few doors down. Gary lived in the building behind ours and as the social butterfly that he was. He knew most of the people in his building, who smoked weed, who was throwing parties, who was looking for some action, etc. Gary was not picky and as he put it, “they all look that same when the lights are out.”
Karen had stormed out of the apartment again. There was the usual yelling and screaming that had all the neighbors looking out of their blinds. A few minutes after she left, Brendan was knocking on the door expecting me or Rob to entertain him. I didn’t answer the door and went about my business. An hour later Gary came knocking and around that time Rob came home from work. He had the misfortune of landing a Union job for a garbage company and his task was cleaning out the backs of those trucks. And I thought I had it bad with the rats.
“Ya’ll gotta come ta muh building. Dis gurl haffin a party up in der.” Gary was difficult to understand. If you didn’t know Gary you would think he was drunk, or high, or maybe a speech impediment, or just had dental work done. None of these were true although sometimes he was high but that made it easier to understand him.
I was bored so I said to heck with it and followed Gary and Rob out the door. On the way Rob went to Brendan’s and that man came rushing out like a dog let off the leash.
There was indeed a party that was happening. Some girl that nobody knew had just moved in and was having people over. Her real agenda was to have someone bring some weed so that she could get high and Gary was happy to fulfill that wish. With a dozen of us in this one-bedroom apartment we sat around looking at one another wondering how nobody had something to smoke it with. Rob went back to the apartment and grabbed an old corncob pipe that he had, and Brendan assigned himself to pack it.
“I’ve done this before,” Brendan said. “I’m good at this.” Not exactly the thing to brag about when you are pressing your thumb into the bowl with all your might. He never broke apart the bud and instead stuffed the entire thing into the pipe. Gary sat back watching completely entertained. Eventually the bowl was lit but nobody could draw from the damn thing, so we went about drinking cheap booze and making small talk. Brendan was hitting on the girl the whole time. He would say he liked rap and she would reply she liked country. “I was just kidding. I love country. Country is my jam.” Then he started talking about his truck. To my surprise the girl started asking all the same questions I had regarding the truck being legal. Brendan changed the subject to what he wanted to do with it. “I’m going to lower it down, put some small fat tires on it and run some lights underneath. It’s going to be sweet.” The girl on the other hand said. “I like big trucks.” Brendan changed his tune and said, “I was just kidding. Ya, I’m going to get one of those kits and put some big fat mud tires on there.”
This act went on all night and I was one of the last people to leave. My job that evening was the cock blocker. I didn’t like Karen, hell I didn’t like Brendan, but who was this girl that was being pulled into their bullshit. When Brendan went to take a leak, I told the girl he was married, and they had a kid.
“He said he was single,” she whispered back. “How do you know?”
“He lives a few doors down and I worked with his wife. Look do what you want but now you know.”
I went home that night feeling a little better. To this day nobody knows what happened. The next morning Brendan came nocking on the door. Half-awake I answered and he told me about his sexual escapades with the girl from the party. “She had a huge bush and she blew me. It was so good.” These were the details that would be repeated and never expanded upon and I was fine with that.
The next day I saw Rob and he said he ran into Brendan after work. “He said she was shaved, and they fucked.” After comparing the few notes we had it was obvious somebody was lying.
A week later Rob came storming into the apartment with a large cardboard box. “You won’t believe what this guy a work gave me.” It was difficult to tell what it was at first, all the VHS tapes had the covers missing and the titles were in small print.
“What is it?” I asked.
“There is this old cranky Vietnam vet at work who doesn’t talk to anyone and is pissed off all the time. He comes in today and says ‘does anybody want this box of porn’ so I raise my hand up and he tells me its all lesbian porn because seeing another dude’s dick is gay. He didn’t have to explain that to me, but he did. Then he tells me that if I didn’t take it then it was going in the trash and I put it in my car right away.”
Rob starts going through the titles; Muff Divers volume 4, No Dicks Allowed 2, Carpet Burn, and the list went on and on. He was happy with his find and had the next day off.
“Just make sure you clean up afterwards,” I said rolling my eyes as he explained he wasn’t leaving the house all day.
That next day I went to work at Olga’s and Rob stayed home with his box of porn. What happened is as follows. Rob went through his tapes reading the titles. When he came across All Anal Action volume 12, he thought “this sounds nice.” None of the tapes were rewound so if you put it in the VCR you were starting at some random spot. This tape started with a close up, loins slapping and heavy breathing, Rob sat back on the couch and enjoyed, until the camera started to pull back. There was something odd he couldn’t put his finger on. The guy was odd enough, not exactly what the man at work had said these movies were. No, the problem was the girl in the movie who either had a serious case of hemorrhoids or…
Rob fast forwarded enough to learn he had been enjoying two guys going at it and for a few minutes he sat in a corner balled up crying. Then he had an idea.
Rob rewound the tape to the exact spot he had found it and took it out of the VCR. Then, he called Brendan. “Dude, you know that box of porn I got from work. I have something you need to see.” Brendan was at the door in seconds. “Now when you watch it don’t rewind it. It’s at the best scene.” Brendan grabbed the tape and ran back to his place eager to watch the film. Rob waited.
And waited…
And waited…
What he had expected was for Brendan to come back yelling and throwing the tape at him. Maybe a phone call where he said, “very funny asshole.” Some prank played on him later. But none of these things happened. We never saw Brendan again. We never saw Karen again.
When I came home that night Rob told me what had happened, and I too waited for a response. A week later the truck was gone. A few days later, Karen was moving out on her own with the kid. She never said anything to us. We had no idea what had happened to Brendan. The girl in Gary’s building disappeared that summer as well. It was like those few weeks had never happened.
Rob often wondered if he had ruined Brendan’s life, opening doors that weren’t meant to be opened.
“Rob, he tried too hard. You know this. He was living in denial.”
“What about Karen?”
“He picked the one girl at the bar that looked like a man. And she was always a bitch.”
“Ya, she was a bitch.” Rob smoked his cigarette and maybe felt better about the joke he had played. I could see why it would be difficult to move on. A marriage destroyed, a child’s life in limbo, and a woman with nowhere to go. I think Rob liked Brendan, for all of his faults, of which there were many, he was likable in small doses, really small doses, like not living a few doors down from you, or keeping a safe distance while passing on the street far enough away that you won’t end up talking, or not knowing that a person like him exist at all. That is the best way to enjoy Brendan’s personality.
To this day I have never run into Brendan. I don’t know if I would recognize him if I saw him. I never saw the white truck on the road. I never saw Karen again either. It was obvious from the beginning that Brendan had some issues the down side was that he had to take a few people down a road with him because he was too afraid to do it by himself. In the end I think the big old box of porn was a practical joke that turned into a two for one deal. When you work with garbagemen expect to feel a little dirty.

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Adventures in Cooking: Part 8

So, let’s step back for a moment and rewind to how I ended up working in a kitchen to begin with. My first two and a half years in college was helped with a job working security, also known as paid to do homework. It paid better than the $5.15 an hour I was making at the local Meijer to retrieve carts and I could do homework on the job while I sat in a guard shack on 2nd and 3rd shift. My last semester at KVCC left me with a question of whether to pay for tuition for the coming semester or pay my rent. Because living out of a car didn’t appeal to me, I chose to pay rent and didn’t go back to school for a while. Classes were becoming more expensive, and while I had been making extra money working for the school paper it was enough to pay tuition but not for the books, supplies, and lab cost that were hidden fees beyond the tuition itself.
Once that choice had been made I started asking myself what kind of job I could do and make a decent living? The options were few and one of the places I guarded had gotten to know me over the past two years. When a job was posted, I applied for it and had an interview a week or two later. I put in my noticed with guardian guard service and started in the closed in smelly hell hole that was Charles River.
The company raised and bred lab rats for various companies and zoos around the country. When you have a snake or bird that is depending on clean food you buy a sterile rat to feed them and make sure they don’t die in front of a group of kids from a local school on a field trip. Local pharmaceutical companies also bought these animals for testing. I didn’t lean either way on the subject. What where people supposed to do? Test on humans and end up killing people? I had been guarding the building from animal rights activist and rabid raccoons for two years. If I had a problem with what they were doing I would have left already.
Charles River was a long building surrounded by barb wire fencing and contained ten rooms where the rats were bred and raised. In each of those ten rooms were 40,000 rats in various states of development. That is the rat shit of 40,000 rats in one room. The majority of the shift was cleaning up shit and feeding the little biters. There was this myth that they had bred the biting instinct out of the rats but that turned out to be pure bullshit. I must have been bitten 10-12 times during my 90 days and I can remember every single one. It was always the new mom rats, pissed off that you were checking to make sure they weren’t eating their babies. The ones who did I was happy to toss their ass into the loading room where they were gassed before disposal. It’s a bit harsh I know but what did you want for Casey Anthony or that bitch that drowned her kids in the bathtub?
From the first day to the last I was miserable. The room smelled like shit. You smelled like shit. When you woke up in the morning your breath still smelled like shit. You think the world is bad because Obama or Trump is president, spend the majority of your waking hours with a room filled with rats and then come to me for complaints. I never went anywhere worried that, you guessed it, I smelled like shit. The paychecks kept coming and I deposited those things at the drive through where the teller could see me sitting in the car far far away. I shopped for my groceries on the weekend in the middle of the night. I didn’t hang out with friends and let the money continue to roll in. I had a feeling that after my 90 days were up, I was going to be gone.
And I was right. I was called to the head manager’s office on day 90 and sat down from her across the desk. The HR lady came in with her and I waited. I had talked to these ladies for more than two years as they arrived in the morning and when they left at night. They appeared confused and hesitant then they dropped the news. “we are laying you off.” The manager said. “we’re not firing you, we just don’t need you right now.”
“So, when do I come back.” I crossed my fingers and waited for those fateful words.
“We’ll let you know.”
A grin grew on my face and I stood up, shook their hands which left them with a confused look on their faces and went to my car happy that I would never have to come back ever again. It was literally the shittiest job I ever had.
I went home and slept, man did it feel good. I cleaned my clothes, bed sheets, and showered a few times a day. This went on for a week. After that I had no plans. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My dream was to go into the comic book industry but the market had taken a dump and 70% of the comic shops across the country had closed. The comic book companies had stopped hiring new talent keep the old guys who had been doing it for 20-30 years. I had not talents that I could think of, no special skills, and the lack of self esteem didn’t help one bit. I was one sad SOB with no clue what to do.
I paid my rent for the next month early and gave myself time to figure things out. That turned into selling my comics and action figures on Ebay.com. Don’t give me any shit they are a collector item. I didn’t go out much and only checked my mail once a week. I was in a state the Japanese refer to as Hikikomori. It is most common with young men that have lost their way and no longer want to be a part of society. My bank account dwindled over time and eventually I would have to find a job.
I ran into Rob at the local comic shop and he stopped by with his friend Nate to hang out. We drank beer shared stories about when we worked at Meijer together.
“What are you doing now?” rob asked.
“You’re looking at it,” I said sitting in my living room hanging out with them.
“You need a job?” Nate asked.
“Ya.”
“Olga’s is hiring. You’ll be a dishwasher but it pays and it’s easy as hell.”
“Where do I apply?” I asked thinking I needed to go online.
“You just walk in, they ask you for a few things and then you start working.”
The next day I drove to the mall. It was the first time I had driven in a few days and after five minutes I was in the dish room cleaning plates off and figuring out how to fill the trays to load into the high-pressure washer. Literally, anybody could get this job. After being bit, smelling like shit, and closing myself off form society this was a dream come true. I felt like Bill Murray in What About Bob? Making baby steps out of the hole I had found myself in.
When I hear people complain about their jobs and whine about how tough or boring it is, I think of those rats and try not to slap the shit out of them. People love to bitch and when its about stupid shit stay back because stupid is contagious.
Charles River no longer exist, or at least the building I was in doesn’t exist. Most of the jobs from my youth no longer exist. Baggers are a thing of the past. The rat factory is closed down. I haven’t seen a truck or security guard from Guardian guard service in a decade, they likely are not around anymore. Comics are no longer drawn by hand, instead done on a computer. Layouts are done on a computer instead of gluing stories onto master sheets. My daughter will not know what I am talking about when I tell her about these things. These jobs are gone, a footnote in history to be forgotten like the cobbler and blacksmith. I have seen stories where robots are cooking meals and matching the quality of a chef. I call BS but who am I to argue. When you take the human element away from certain jobs than what is the point? You can say that you are saving cost but have you accounted for the cost of interaction? How do people meet, fall in love, argue, share ideas, or flirt if you take away the means for those things to take place? At what point are we so isolated that the majority of people end up like me 2 years ago going through their own Hikikomori with no job to draw them out. At what point do we start investing in ourselves instead of the bottom line? When the line hits bottom where do we go from there?
To be continued…

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