Not Available To Me

What is depression?  It’s a loss of hope.  It’s an inability to imagine a good future, improvement, a good outcome.  It’s believing that problem solutions and help, assistance and even forgiveness, are unavailable.  You know what’s unavailable to me, during this crisis?  Almost everything that I reach for.  As soon as I think to head in a certain direction, reach for a tool, grasp some hope, it disappears.

So I’m stuck at home, right?  One of the lucky ones, still getting paid, although I did receive a ~20% pay cut.  Money’s tight.  Air conditioning system is 25+ years old, low on freon, and it’s costing me $350 a month to keep the house at 77 degrees.  Wife wants it colder, and so do I.  But guess what.  You can’t buy R22 freon any more.  Not unless you go on ebay, and even then, you’re taking a chance.  You have to lie about being certified, because only government-approved technicians are supposed to work on air conditioning.  OK.  Fine.  I’ll just get a new system installed.  Got a quote, really satisfied, it’s going to cost a fortune, but they’re going to revamp the whole system, new ducts, new distribution block, everything.  I texted the guy on Sunday, let’s do it.  No response.  Sent a reminder text and email yesterday morning.  Still nothing.  Unavailable to me.

OK so I need to exercise.  Would love to go to the gym.  Guess what.  The gym is closed.  Unavailable to me.  OK, let’s buy a pool for the back yard.  Nope.  All gone.  There’s a worldwide shortage of swimming pools.  Unavailable to me.

Wow, so maybe I need to do something to relax.  Go to the movies.  Nope.  All the movie theaters are closed.  But wait, there’s one open at the mall, and they’re doing all this social distancing stuff, looks safe, we went there last Thursday and we’re still alive, let’s go back!  Nope.  The app is crashing, and that’s the only way to buy tickets.  Has been crashing since yesterday.  Unavailable to me.

Crap.  I can’t take it any more.  I need some chocolate, or some candy, ice cream, a cigarette, anything to just calm me down, take my mind off of this virus and all the rioting.  Nope.  Can’t have any sweets or I’ll have trouble breathing for a week.  Can’t have any milk either, lactose intolerance.  Shouldn’t smoke a cigarette because I’ve got little eyes watching me, bad example, plus it’ll flare up my asthma, make me more disease-susceptible, bad idea all around.  Unavailable to me.

All this stress has got my blood pressure up.  I need to take my medicine now.  Oops, running out of blood pressure pills.  Need a refill to get more.  I order the refill request with my CVS app.  Days later, nothing.  CVS app doesn’t even say there’s a pending prescription.  Do it again.  Get a confirmation email.  Days later, no prescription, no messages.  Call the pharmacy.  Punch in my rx number.  Press 1 for refill, press 2 for call the doctor.  Days later, nothing.  No blood pressure medicine.  Unavailable to me.

I won’t even mention the alcohol.  I’ve been sober for over six years.  No way am I going down that rabbit hole again.  Definitely unavailable to me.

I know what I need.  I need to smoke some meat on my new smoker.  Yeah, get some briskets or something, make some good food.  Nope.  There’s a beef shortage.  Briskets, if you can find them, are doubled in price, and good luck finding prime.  I could do some pork butt maybe, but that also means risking my life wearing a mask at the grocery store to see if they might just have some.  The days of just going to the store & buying what I need are apparently gone.  Unavailable to me.

Let’s not forget that my son’s still getting hate mail and death threats for having an online name that matches the number one world enemy.  Thinking about contacting the FBI so they can log some of the users, may be useful in an investigation, I don’t know.  I’m getting really tired of shouldering all of this on my own.  Thank God the local intermediate school is still vacant.  There’s a little paved area with a big brick wall where I can go hit the crap out of a tennis ball.  I’ve been going there every day.  My wife bought me a smart watch yesterday.  Maybe I’ll go see how high I can get my pulse, maybe force a heart attack or stroke, see if anyone is watching on the security cameras.

I try to end these posts on an up note, but I’m struggling to see a bright side to any of this.  I’m scared to death of those protestors and rioters, and the virus, and the economy, the business downturn.  This is a perfect trifecta of disaster: oil prices crash making my job at risk, killer virus taking over, civil unrest and rioting.  Can’t visit my parents or my grandkids, too risky, can’t hardly go anywhere without risking possible death.  What’s next?  Alien invasion?

May God have mercy on this troubled country.  Jesus guide us in the right path.  Let your peace and forgiveness, grace and truth, spread out over the land and bring wisdom to those in charge.  Rebuke the controlling spirits that are striving towards anarchy, trying to destroy the Christian legacy, bringing chaos and death.  Send angels to right the wrongs and protect the innocent.  May more souls be added to the halls of the saved, may more leaders and workers turn to you in faith.  I know you are in control.  I pray your mercy would guide your providence.  Amen.

-Mark

I am not Derek Chauvin

YES my last name is Chauvin.

YES my wife’s name is Kellie.

YES my son’s online name is Derek.

NO I am not related to the Derek Chauvin from Minnesota.

I live three or four states away from Minnesota, I have never been to Minnesota, I am not a police officer, and though we share the same last name, I have never met or even heard of this Derek Chauvin fellow before the latest events in the news. But that hasn’t stopped people from finding our online accounts and bullying us. My son’s Facebook account has exploded with the most vile, hateful and threatening, profanity-laden messages you can imagine. The haters have hit my own account, as well as my wife’s and children’s, filling up the comments and message requests with angry words and even death threats. Someone even shared a picture of us on vacation with a caption similar to “We found him! This is the racist asshole that murdered George Floyd!” All because we share a similar name.

I understand the anger, and I agree the police are a lot quicker to the trigger and forceful than they used to be, but why victimize the innocent? Why bully and berate a perfect stranger? Why make threats to someone whose only crime was being born into an unpopular family name? And why loot and riot? I can’t condone or understand why violence and vandalism is seen as a way to make the police less brutal. Really? You think that smashing windows, stealing stuff, and starting fires is going to make the police less heavy-handed? “Oh, no, look how dangerous the protesters are. Fellas, we gotta stop being so rough with them.” No. It’s going to make them MORE brutal. They’re going to switch from loudspeakers and barricades to rubber bullets and tear gas. They’re going to switch from cop cars to tanks. They’re going to do whatever it takes to regain control, and a lot of innocent people are going to suffer. A lot of businesses, some mom-and-pop outfits without insurance or the funds to rebuild, will be bankrupted.

I have no idea what “the answer” is.  Not even sure I understand the question.  I suppose, “What can we do to reduce or eliminate unnecessary brutality in the police department” would be a good start.  To that end, I would suggest something similar to what they’ve done at my job.  Whenever there is an industrial accident, the company investigates, but so also does a separate organization supported by the union.  They are an independent entity, and they represent the employees, not the company, so they bring no corporate bias to the review.  Right now, I believe we are relying on the government to investigate itself: police are policing the police.  Maybe a completely separate, investigative group of citizens, NOT being on the government payroll, could provide some more unbiased insight.  You know – give the citizens a bit more of a voice than they have now.

So it’s been a rough couple of days. Thankfully, the barrage of hatred has abated a lot, partly due to some Facebook security settings, partly because I think people figured out the real Derek Chauvin is in jail, not Texas. One of my relatives posted online: Congratulations! You’ve made it to June, Level 6 in Jumanji: Hurricane Season. Can this get any more bizarre? Australia on fire, locust plagues, oil market crashing, global pandemic, beef shortage, murder hornets, and now race riots! Not to mention, the government all but confirmed the existence of UFO’s and it barely registered a blip on the news cycle. With hurricane season starting tomorrow, the apocalyptic 2020 ride isn’t over yet. Maybe the four horsemen are already loose: white horse (conquering), red (no peace), black (economic ruin?) and pale (death/plague). That antichrist might be closer than we think.

For those of you following me, it has now been over six and a half years since my last alcoholic beverage.  By the grace of God, I have been able to stay sober during these tumultuous few months.  I still pray for you who’ve sent me emails, and I trust you are making it through these exceptional circumstances.  If I can do this, so can you.  Being drunk is not the answer, any more than throwing bricks is an answer, though I certainly understand the urges.  I would just love to crawl up into a bottle and feel sorry for myself, but I can’t.  My family is depending on me, now more than ever.

God bless George Floyd, his family and neighbors. I pray for an end to racism and police brutality, and I hope Derek Chauvin gets punished after a fair trial. God, please let the riots stop, and give wisdom to everyone involved. Please give peace and comfort to George’s friends and family, and I pray George’s death will not be in vain, but will lead to positive changes and better relationships between the police and the public, with more understanding and less conflict. I also pray for everyone that wears the Chauvin badge, all over the world, and I pray they would be free from senseless, needless harassment. May we all just get along and find forgiveness with justice; love rather than hate & revenge.

God bless America. Stay safe out there.

-Mark

Wasted away in Coronaville

This Coronavirus thing has got me going batshit crazy.  It’s completely nuts.  First they say, there’s an invisible enemy, a deadly virus that may or may not be anywhere and everywhere, and it may or may not be highly contagious, and you may or may not show symptoms, and you may or may not get seriously sick and die.  THEN they take away ALL of the tools to fix this problem.  Anything that cleans?  GONE.  No toilet paper.  No paper towels.  No Clorox.  No disinfectant.  No hand sanitizer.  No alcohol.  They say, stop buying this stuff, stop hoarding.  Don’t get an N95 mask.  You don’t need one.  Only healthcare workers need an N95 mask.  Not you.  If you have an N95 mask, you need to donate it to first responders.

First responders.  Right.  Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re great.  I think it’s amazing that someone would risk everything, their own safety, their very lives, to help others.  But I mean, really.  It’s getting out of hand.  It’s approaching worship.  Oh, look at me, taking a selfie with the donuts I brought to the fire station.  Oh, let’s get a photo with the cops showing the barbecue meal I just delivered.  Let’s all stand in a line and clap any time a nurse walks by.  Like I said, they deserve it, they do, but I’m just a teeny bit wary of elevating one class of citizen above another.  Feels too much like Animal Farm.

So I was OK.  I’m working from home.  I have some hand sanitizer that expired nine years ago, so it’s basically alcohol-scented oil, but it makes me feel better.  I figured out how to mix the little bit of bleach we have with some water and make a spray disinfectant.  We were OK, I was OK, getting used to ordering groceries and making toilet paper last forever, until they said, you know what, never mind, we were wrong.  You actually DO need to wear a mask.  Except, only the First Responders deserve the real masks.  You must make your own.

OK so first step: get out your sewing machine, gather your fabric, interface and elastic, print out this pattern, and make a mask.  Oh and by the way, you can receive a $1000 fine if we catch you out in public without one.  So never mind that I don’t have a sewing machine, or fabric, or interface, or elastic, and I CAN’T FIND a source for masks anywhere, and if I do, it says RESERVED FOR FIRST RESPONDERS ONLY, and the ONE N95 mask I’ve had in my garage for five years I CAN’T USE because I’m NOT A FIRST RESPONDER.  I must make a mask, somehow.

Fortunately for me, my mother still sews and yes, I now have a mask I can wear.  Only, that’s not the solution to the problem.  It really doesn’t work.  It leaks so bad, my glasses fog up as I breathe.  I could just put my N95 mask on underneath, but there’s a good chance that’s just a petri dish for viruses anyway, so I might be infecting myself even worse.  And there’s a MASSIVE amount of social anxiety that goes along with it.  I don’t want to stand out in a crowd.  I don’t even like GOING to the store in the first place.  And here I am, wearing a homemade fabric rectangle on my face with shoestrings around my head.  Stick out like a sore thumb some places like the hardware store, where NOONE ELSE is wearing one except for one other (elderly) customer.  And if I DON’T wear a mask, I feel conspicuous in places like Target where EVERYONE ELSE is wearing one but me.  I feel like I’m back in high school, trying to fit in with the cool kids.

I’m so stressed out.  I’m going completely nuts.  And ALL of my coping mechanisms, tools I use to deal with stress, are unavailable.  I’ve been sober now for over 6 years, and besides, alcohol weakens my immune system so if I DO get drunk, well, I really might die.  I don’t smoke, although a cigarette sounds really good, but again, if I smoke, I weaken my lungs, Caronavirus moves in, and I die.  Gyms are closed so I can’t work out.  They even closed the fucking beaches.  Can you believe that?  Sand.  Sand is illegal.  Fucking earth with nearby water.  Parks are closed.  I have a massive headache, but due to a recent doctor visit, I found out my stomach is messed up and I can’t take Excedrin or Ibuprophen.  Tylenol doesn’t work for me, ours was expired anyway, and we CAN’T FIND IT ANYWHERE.  We actually DID manage to order a bottle from Walmart curbside, but realized it’s Tylenol PM, which ironically also gives me a headache in addition to making me sleepy.  And what if I DO start to get sick?  Can I go to the doctor?  NNNNOOOOO.  I have to call, and basically, well just stay home and die, beds are reserved for first responders only.

How about buying everything online?  I used to be good at ordering online.  I knew what web sites to go to, how to filter the products by average review score and price.  Not any more.  Amazon has become the wild west.  Anybody can list something for sale on there.  Counterfeit items are everywhere, even obvious, misspelled ones where ALL the reviews say This is fake!  The reviews are fake, too.  There are now a couple of web sites I have to use to review the reviews, to try to filter out the fake ones, and that’s just a guess.  I’ve placed stuff in my cart and then happen to notice it will arrive in two months, so I cancelled.  I can’t wait two months.  Walmart.com is the same way, as is Newegg.  And everything I think of getting, someone else has already thought of and bought.  Yesterday I went to three different stores, risking my life to get ethernet cables because the wifi was messing up, after verifying with the app and/or web site that they had stock, and guess what?  All gone.  Everyone is working from home, and everyone already thought of getting long ethernet cables to connect to the router because the wifi is too slow and unreliable.

This has been a miserable time for me.  I know I’m not alone, everyone is going through this shit, but I just need to bitch about it.  My family depends on me, but I have no one to depend on.  I’ve got this huge burden, this very real but invisible danger, this big problem, and every time I reach for a tool to fix it, that tool disappears.  No cleaning supplies or coping mechanisms, so I’m just isolated and anxious and wondering how this will all end.  And I just don’t know what to do.  Do I risk my life to go to the store?  Or do I order something online and pray it’s not a scam?  If I go out, should I wear my mask?  Will anyone else be wearing one?  Will people be looking at me thinking, Look at that idiot, wearing a mask, he looks stupid, scared little nerd man, doesn’t he know that stupid mask isn’t doing a thing to protect him?  Or, if I don’t wear one, will they be thinking, I can’t believe this guy, spreading viruses all over the place, doesn’t he care if he’s spreading disease everywhere he goes?  Or if I wear my N95 mask, will they be thinking, Why is this civilian wearing a First Responder mask?  Selfish asshole.

So…

I guess this is where faith comes in, right?  So, it’s faith that makes us able to see something that’s not there.  You know what I’d like to have faith in that I can’t see?  The future.  I want to have faith that in the future, I am safe, my family is safe, we are all healthy, Disney World is open, we’re planning a trip, my boys are starting their new jobs soon, and we’re looking forward to a little time off before school starts up again.  I think back on this time, remember the anguish of early 2020, and shake my head of the memory as I flip the burgers over.  My wife asks if the meat is almost done, and I smile as I turn to see her holding a tray of freshly toasted buns.  We share a smile as our eyes meet.  It’s going to be a great Saturday.

God willing, we will rise again.

-Mark

The Big Purchase Cycle

Having just ordered a $1500 grill, I have identified the stages that I go through when making a big purchase:

  1. Discovery: “Oh my gosh, this is so cool! I didn’t even know stuff like this existed!  I have GOT to get me one of these!”  This ecstasy is followed by hours of internet research: video reviews, Amazon comments and other Google searches.  Looks like a pretty sweet deal!
  2. Suspicion: “Eh, it probably won’t work for me.  It’s probably just a big rip-off.” I notice that I have an un-natural excitement over an inanimate object.  Start to search for negative information.  Get slightly depressed.  Give up on the whole thing.
  3. Revival: “You know, after think about it a few days, I DO want one of those!” After letting the positive and negative swings level out, I can make a clear-headed decision.  I re-visit the web reviews, double-check the feedback, and convince myself that this is a really, really good product.
  4. Purchase: “I’m going to go for it.  I’m going to go to Amazon and press that Add To Cart button like a real man!”  It’s a Friday, and I start to think about how I will regret not buying one.  Having talked myself into it, and afraid I’ll get depressed if I don’t do something nice for myself, I place the order before I change my mind.
  5. Panic: “Oh dear God, what have I done?!  I just blew a ton of money on something I didn’t even know existed a week ago!  I’ve made a huge mistake!”  After the rush of purchasing, the adrenaline subsides and I get my suspicion back, but this time with an overwhelming sense of having made a huge mistake, blowing a ton of money on the first thing I saw after I got my bonus.
  6. Calm: “It’s OK, it was a good decision, and it’s only money, no big deal, right?”  I remember why I bought this thing in the first place: I’ve been working very hard and I deserve it, and it got 4.8 out of 5 stars.  It’s going to be great.  I’m really looking forward to getting it and making some amazing BBQ!
  7. Doubt: “Hey Bob, I just bought a new smoker!”  “Oh man, did you pay for it already?  I wish I’d’ve known you were looking for one.  I know where you can get a better one for much less money than that!”  This always happens.  I finally get to stage 6, and the minute I tell someone, I’m back to worrying I made a horrible decision.  To get past this newfound buyer’s remorse, I have to go through, again, the thought process that got me here: why I ended up picking the one I did, why I don’t trust Bob’s recommendation, and even though I can see how stupid my decision was through Bob’s eyes, it was the right one for me.

I went through this recently when I bought a new car.  I bought one that I hadn’t really seen before, and the exact opposite of what I had: went from an 8-cylinder Camaro to a 4-cylinder Subaru.  Got the same response, the same confused-dog stare when I told my friends about it.  Most people when they want a fast car get one with a big V-8.  Most people when they want a good smoker get a big, heavy pit.  Maybe it’s because I live in Texas; everything is supposed to be bigger in Texas I guess.  But for me, I like compact, high performance.  I love my new Subaru, which by the way is faster than my old Camaro, and I hope to love my new grill.  It’s small, but you can stack a lot of meat in it, there’s better smoke control, and it should make some amazing food.  It think it will be a huge success.  And it’s not about competition.  It’s all about making good food for my family.

As long as I can make a better brisket than Bob.

-Mark

Strict rules create criminals

I am so sick of following the rules.  I pay my bills on time.  I tithe.  I go the speed limit.  I obey traffic laws.  I obey the rules at work.  I pay my taxes.  I do nothing intentionally wrong, and I still get in trouble.  Fear rules me.  I’m scared that someday, someone will find something that I did without permission or the proper government forms, and the Authorities will swoop down and take away everything that I’ve worked so hard for.

I hated rules in high school.  I was a good kid.  I was tied with about 6 or 7 other nerds for Valedictorian.  I never got in trouble.  I was never tardy.  I always had notes for any excused absences.  I always turned in my homework.  And when the pressure got to be too much, nobody was there with anything except a cold, formal rule book.  I guess that’s how you control 750 teenagers in a giant socialist jailhouse – by making rules.  I followed them, but when it got to be too much, instead of having someone who cared and took the time to talk to me, I was judged and forgotten.  That’s when I started smoking, taking drugs, failing my classes and basically giving a big Fuck You to The Establishment.

I’m about to have the same reaction again.  There are rules in my community, and they are strictly enforced.  I get notices in the mail every once in a while – as all the residents do – about fence slats that need to be replaced, trash cans that need to be moved out of public view, or bushes that need to be trimmed.  And never mind that my house looks better-kept than most of the other ones; it doesn’t matter, because there are rules, and the homeowners association has lawyers and can put a lien on your house if you don’t do what they say.  And they won’t come talk to you.  They’ll send you a nasty note in the mail, and file papers in court if you don’t comply.

So I’m at a point where I can either go on being the straight-A nerd, or I can join the freaks in the smoking area.  I am really, really tempted to do something illegal.  I really, really want to break every fucking law that I can get away with.  Or, hire the toughest, meanest lawyer I can find to bury the HOA with discovery requests, depositions, endless litigation, until I bankrupt those assholes.  Or, I’ll try to come up with the most annoying things I can possibly do to make life a living hell for everyone around me, until they beg me to stop or change their minds and treat people with respect, rather than quoting rules from afar like the little ninnies that they are…

There was one guy in the neighborhood that got complaints about his trash cans.  They were on the side of the house, where he had kept them for years, but they were in “public view” so he got nasty letters telling him to move them.  After two such letters, he relented and built a small fence to hide the trash cans.  Of course, he didn’t get a thank you note.  No; he got another nasty note saying he put up a fence without HOA approval.

Why is it that people have to apply the rules and laws blindly, without consideration or reasonableness?  I can’t put my finger on it; it’s impersonal, it’s picky, it’s petty.  Some people can sell drugs, prostitute, steal, and they get a slap on the wrist, while others who do something really minor get the book thrown at them.  It’s not fair.  It’s not friendly.  It’s not human.  It’s just a bunch of laws written by those in power to control the faceless masses.  And it’s wrong.

I guess I should say what’s worrying me.  I installed an air conditioner.  Not an ugly window unit, but a nice little mini-split system.  The only visible part is the condensing unit, which is sitting on a concrete pad right next to my big one.  This morning, I was washing my cars like I do every Sunday, and someone pulled up next to my driveway, stayed there for a little while, then drove off.  I know that was the HOA bitch out to make people miserable again.  I was right there.  She could have come out and said Hi.  She could have mentioned something six months ago when I emailed her about putting in a mini-split unit.  She could have said something several weeks ago before I finally got it all working.  But instead, she’s sending a formal complaint, quoting the rule I broke and demanding that I do something about it.  Mind you, I haven’t gotten any letter yet, but I know it’s coming.  Because someone found out that I did something on my own without getting permission first.  Oooh, I’m sooo bad.  I need to be thrown in jail.

If I am going to be treated like a criminal even though I do my best, then why not act like a criminal?  If they’re going to cite me for putting in an unauthorized air conditioner, why not cook meth in the garage?  Why not be the bad guy that they see me as?  It seems like so much more fun, and if I’m going to get in trouble anyway, who cares?

Strict rules make criminals.  I know.  I am one.

-Mark

Random thoughts

First of all, comments are welcome, but spam is not.  I currently have 637 comments waiting for approval and *maybe* one or two of them are legitimate.  The rest are trying to sell me Gucci bags, directing me to porn sites, or telling me “you have good site, much good info, but have trouble viewing on mobile, click here…” or some other such nonsense.  If I figure out how to disable comments all together, I will.  It’s just too much garbage to sift through.

Trump: Yes, I was excited when he got elected.  Yes, I thought (and still think) that he can change things for the better.  And yes, I am bitterly disappointed.  I suppose even Donald Trump can’t overcome the Washington bureaucracy with his bravado and confidence.  He’s learning that it takes more than a loud voice to make things happen.  It’s probably good, in a way.  That’s what prevents one man from being able to destroy everything, whether he’s a conservative or a liberal.  I do wish people would just stop fighting and agree on simple, simple stuff, like enforcing the law.  I mean, really.  We shouldn’t even have to discuss that.

Alcohol: Still sober! 🙂  Have other things going on in my life right now, and I am so glad that getting drunk is no longer a problem.  Right at three and a half years since my last drink, and no regrets.  Becoming sober was one of the most worthy efforts I ever expended.  Highly recommended to anyone who still thinks they can “handle it” or “it’s not so bad”.  It may not be.  But it will be, eventually, with few exceptions.  Almost everyone just gets worse & worse until it overwhelms their entire life.  Wish I was an exception, but I’m not; I’ve consumed my lifetime allowance of booze.  No more for me.  Ever.

Work: It’s Friday and I can barely stay in my seat.  How is it that other people can work 60, 70 hours, and I can barely manage to squeeze 40 out?  I mean, it’s a lot of my life spent in this little chair, in my corporate cubicle.  Every single week, it sucks 90% of my life out of me.  By Friday, I can barely stand any more of this torture.  I love my job, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great job, but it’s a job.  I just can’t stand it after 8 hours.  I need a break.  I don’t want my life to consist only of hard work and sleep.  I don’t care how much they pay me, at the end of the week there just isn’t any more left to give.  I’m empty.

Sound: I’m very excited about my new home theater room!  We took our upstairs loft, which I walled in years ago to a separate room, cleaned it out and put in a big couch and a big TV.  I bought some vintage Bose 901 speakers along with a MiniDSP sound processor and QSC amplifier, and have now gotten it to where I think it sounds great.  There’s no surround sound, but oh my gosh, tons of tight bass, a huge “wall of sound”, the effect is really quite good.  I’ve been playing with the Room EQ Wizard and a Dayton USB microphone to get the sound right.  It has not been easy.  I found out a flat frequency response sounds terrible to me.  I always thought it would be perfect, but no: you have to EQ it flat, and then add a “room curve” (very gentle, wide EQ bands) to get it right.

Subaru: I passed inspection!  Despite the fact that I have installed an aftermarket supercharger, along with some supporting mods (injectors, tuning, fuel pump), they did an OBD scan and I’m good for another year.  The car puts out over 300hp now at redline, though it rarely ever gets up there.  But it’s a blast to drive and no one has rear-ended me since the lady did at the dealership 🙂  I’m debating what to do next.  The car is plenty fast.  I could put in a catless header (biggest restriction) or I might get a radar detector, which would probably make the car way faster than anything else.  I haven’t gotten a ticket in well over a decade; don’t want to screw that up.  I kind of like the way the car is now anyway.  Nothing about it would lead you to think it’s wicked fast.  Which it is.  Up to the speed limit, anyway.

Church: I promised God that I would attend the new church in our neighborhood after they opened it up.  I didn’t.  They finished it up for Christmas, and they started having regular services in January.  I bet my wife we wouldn’t last 30 minutes before we got offended.  She said it would only take 10.  We were both wrong.  It took zero.  I don’t know why they thought it was OK to pepper my house and cars with flyers.  It’s definitely NOT OK to put anything under my windshield wiper.  Just stay away from my car, OK?  It’s private property, and no one is welcome to advertise anything on my vehicles or doorknob.  Not a good first impression.  I will go there like I said I would, at least once, but I don’t expect to return to church life, like, ever.  Just too many memories.

Home: I paid off my mortgage!  Took me 21 years and 3 months, but I can now say I really do own my own home 🙂  I’m a little worried about the taxes and insurance, though.  I’ve never had to save up thousands of dollars before; they always just took it out of my payment.  But hopefully it’ll be easier now that I’m not sending a grand a month to the bank.  I really wanted to pay it off in 15 years, but with kids and everything, I never could put more than an extra hundred or so towards the principal.  And for the last few years, I couldn’t do that at all.  I used a big portion of my annual bonus to pay the balance off.  So no big vacation this year, but it’s money well spent.

So.  I’ve got an hour to kill before I can sneak out of here without drawing too much attention to myself.  How about some random thoughts.  Lego juicy transmission hair nemesis laser toast.  Pick axe slumber nervous tick.  A wide-angle lens capturing the aura of the northern kingdom.  Sound waves bounce but water waves slurp.  Tick tock gotta rock, stuffed turkey or dead cock.  Munchy bunchy two-by-four, can’t go surfing, I’m too poor.  Robot poop and dandelion farts, buy a zebra and save it for parts.

I don’t know why I even bother with this stupid blog any more.  I don’t have anything to say, really.  It was good therapy for me when I was drinking, but it’s kind of outlived its usefulness.  I’d rather spend my precious free moments in life doing something else.  My book was a complete flop.  I don’t see myself getting anywhere with my writing.  I make enough money at my job now that anything else would have to be only a hobby.  Which means, in 20 years, I’ll be sitting in this same chair, waiting for the clock to tell me it’s time to go home for the last time.  Cheerful thought, isn’t it?  God willing, of course.  I don’t know what He has in store for me.  It may be as boring as that, or there may be some more plot twists waiting for me just around the corner.  Who knows…

Thank you for reading.  Feel free to leave a comment, and if by some miracle I manage to see it among the ocean of spam, I’ll approve it.  Otherwise, have a nice life, stay sober, it does get better, life finds a way, praise God and enjoy whatever you manage to accomplish.  Life is a gift.  Enjoy the present.

-Mark

A Happy Place

I haven’t updated this blog in forever (and by “forever”, I mean a very, very long time).  There were actually a couple of more recent posts, but since the server crashed, I restored the most recent backup I had and, well, a few things got lost.

Most of my readers know about my problem with alcohol.  You can see more detail below about my struggle.  After I finally got sober, I wrote The Christian Alcoholc, where I recorded everything before I forgot.  It’s been exactly 2 1/2 years now (Yay!) and I can honestly say I do not crave alcohol any more.  Not that I don’t wish I could swallow something to make me feel better – I do all the time, but these days it’s wheat-grass-banana shots and coffee – but I remember enough of the nausea, headaches and regrets to remove booze from the alternatives I seek out when I’m feeling bad.

One of the posts that got lost was about my 1-year sober anniversary.  It was a trying time for me.  I thought I was done with it, but for some reason when the same time of year came around, the same desires & cravings came with it.  Something to watch out for if you’re in the same boat.  One of the other things they don’t tell you when you’re drinking: it will be YEARS before your wife stops mentioning the things you said or did and how much it hurt everyone.  YEARS.  At least more than 2 and a half.

Life is much better now.  I recently turned 50, and I got myself a sports car as a pre-emptive strike against a midlife crisis.  Abandoned my old friend Camaro for something smaller, a Subaru BRZ, with all of about 175 horsepower.  Then I added a supercharger, injectors, flex-fuel kit, custom tune – at 300 hp now, it’s basically a rocket 🙂  My formula for happiness hasn’t changed much since I was a teenager: a car, a dog and a girl.  Got the car, got the dog, and my girl has been in remission from breast cancer for almost 5 years 🙂  See all the smiley faces?  I’m happy now 🙂 🙂 🙂

The truth is, I’m not driven to write when I’m happy, unless it’s something abnormal and freakishly weird, like if I won the lottery or cracked the code to an ancient mystery or discovered the cure to cancer, so you may find the reading here to be a little on the downer side.  I have found that most people who contact me have found solace in the fact they are not alone.  I certainly did.  I’m not the only one who’s a Christian and also an alcoholic, who trusts Jesus for salvation and still wants (or wanted) to get hammered.  Don’t ever trust a salesman: the life people advertise is not like the brochure.

But still, I can’t complain.  I thank God every day that he gave me the strength to give up drinking.  It was a horrible, frightfully desperate time in my life, brought about by a sick wife, rebellious children and a crumbling church, where everything I every cherished or believed in was faltering.  But, I made it.  It wasn’t easy, in fact it was just about the most difficult thing I ever did, but if I can do it, so can you.  In the end, there’s always hope.  And isn’t that what happiness really is?  The hope that tomorrow will be better than today, and looking back, today really IS much better than yesterday.

Things can and do get better.  Never give up hope.  Sometimes, it’s all we’ve got…

-Mark

Six months sober

It’s been over six months since my last drink.  I have been off of Clonazepam for a couple of months, and dropped the Zoloft about 3 weeks ago.  I hate life.  I really, really wish there were something more to it than feeling anxious all day and being awake fidgeting all night.  Very annoying.

The cravings for alcohol are long gone, but my best guess right now is that I’m suffering with long-term benzo withdrawal.  My ears started ringing while I was still on Zoloft.  I went through a time a couple of weeks ago when I was dizzy and my blood pressure fell & my pulse went down below fifty.  I went to my general practitioner, the on-duty nurse at my job site, my shrink and an ear-nose-throat specialist.  I’m perfectly healthy.  Or so I’m told.  Normal ECG, no hearing damage, good auditory and sensory response.  But, I’m still anxious, my body is restless but lacks energy, I’m losing focus and can’t remember words.  I now have a 20-pound weighted blanket to help me feel secure when I sleep, but I can’t lay it on my chest or I’ll get stabbing chest pain.

I know what it’s like to die.  Nobody believes me, but I swear to God, my heart stopped.  I was lying down and couldn’t move.  No energy, and I just felt so heavy, like gravity just kept getting stronger & stronger.  I fought against it, but couldn’t open my eyes or move my fingers.  Everything was quiet and I just sank into my mattress.  I was powerless to wake myself up, communicate, open my eyes, say or do anything.  I felt my chest fall into my back and I couldn’t stop it.  I breathed out and then, stillness.  Dark, still quiet.  I was expecting some sort of fireworks or angels or one of those out-of-body experiences.  No tunnel.  No light.  Alone.  Very, very still and completely without sound or feeling.

My wife thinks I’m crazy, but I know what happened.  I guess it wasn’t my time yet.  I woke up.  Somehow I forced a scream, which came out as a mumbled groan, and my eyes woke up to my pounding, restarted heart.  That day I bought some baby aspirin, which I take now when I can feel myself slowing down, getting heavy.  I haven’t, but I thought about, writing down my super-secret passwords at night so my wife could find them in the morning, so someone could get into my affairs and pay the bills after I’m gone.  I had a friend at work who got a pacemaker when he was about my age.  He was perfectly healthy, but an overnight monitor revealed that his heart slowed down to near death at night.  Doctor told him one day it’s just going to slow down too much & stop.  I’m pretty sure I need one of those, but like I said, nobody believes me.

If I do die, I want my tombstone to say “I told you I was sick!”

Other than the whole dying in my sleep thing, I still find every day a struggle.  I can only pray that God still has a purpose for a burned out recovering drunk like me.  Still manage to go to work every day, and to accomplish some small portion of our remodeling project each weekend.  My car is aging along with me; every day it seems to sprout a new leak, lose more paint or develop a new habit, turn on another trouble light on the dashboard.  The latest trick is after twenty minutes of driving, the transmission decides it’s gone far enough.  I can rev the engine nearly to redline and barely accelerate.  I guess 150,000 miles will do that…

I sincerely hope that eventually, maybe in another six months, I’ll be better.  I started working out again, and I’m taking more vitamins, trying to clear this fog and hedge my bet against the grave that will eventually claim me.  But youth is gone.  I’m in a daze, stumbling through life, no longer searching for anything, just trying to survive, pretending to be interested in the day-to-day monotony, keeping up with the bills and various obligations.

I guess it’s better than hugging a toilet though, right?  Yeah.  It’s definitely better.  Much better.  I guess I can only go up from here.  If I don’t go to hell first, that is…

-Mark

FRIDAY!  Last night I didn’t die.  I felt heavy as a rock, and I had my first good night’s sleep in a long time.  All of this anxiety is really wearing me down.  My wife reminded me that she’s seen me stop breathing at night before, so I’m going to yet another doctor for sleep apnea.  Come to think of it, my friend with the pacemaker, that’s how he found out.  He went to a sleep clinic and they woke him up and said, dude your heart just stopped, you need a pacemaker…

As I was reminded by hulioathome’s comment, I’m not really destined for Hell because I’ve been born again, into God’s family.  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.  True that… thanks for the reminder, hulioathome, I needed that.

Have a nice weekend, dear reader.  It will get better.  If not soon, then eventually…

-Mark

Life After Booze

It’s been almost six moths since my last drink.  I would first of all like to apologize because it seems I only write something when I feel bad.  When I feel good, I typically am busy doing something else besides feeling sorry for myself.  So, although I tend to paint a pretty bleak picture here on my blog, life can be good.  Sometimes.

I no longer crave alcohol, per se.  Those of you who have kept up with my struggle know that I was drinking heavily, daily, trying to wash away my reality after my daughter ran away to Mexico and my wife got breast cancer.  That was the lowest time of my adult life and I just couldn’t bear to face the day.  I went through the “Last Call Program” which turned out to be a total rip-off, I tried tapering off, cold-turkey, herbs, you name it.  I think I finally just got tired of feeling like shit all the time.  So I’m clean.  But, I do still crave escape, some kind of solace, some way to take a break from this tired old world.  And here’s the reason why:

FREEDOM

I can’t even remember all of the stories, both national and personal, that lead me to the conclusion that I am a ward of the state, oppressed, submissive, demoralized and living in constant fear that some government entity will one day take away everything that I have ever worked towards.  There are one or two times in my nearly five decades on this rock that I was happy to see a cop or a fire-fighter, and dozens upon dozens of times that I have been scared of them.

It’s all over the news.  If you’re a simple rancher with cows on the same land that the government wants to use to build a solar farm, you’ll be confronted by trained & heavily armed government SWAT teams who will take away your livelihood and put you in jail.  If you dare speak against the sitting president – especially if you’re not black – your Facebook and Twitter posts will be used to try you as a subversive terrorist.  If you have a beautiful patch of land in Colorado, and the government finds out, they will bankrupt you with legal fees until you have to settle for barely enough money to pay your lawyer.

Personally, I’ve had many similar, though not as newsworthy, experiences in my own life.  I had to scrap my plans for a building in the back yard because of the assholes in the code enforcement division giving me hell over getting permits and the futility of trying to explain that I was a homeowner that actually wanted to build something myself.  Or the time I got a letter from the city that the scraps of PVC pipe in my back yard, behind my six-foot privacy fence, constituted visible waste, which I had to clean up immediately or face prosecution.  I’ve all but given up on building my own car because I’d have to do it in the dark of night to avoid the piercing gaze of the homeowner’s association.

It’s like the America today is full of all these power-grabbing, omnipotent, self-appointed guardians of righteousness, and they will do anything and everything to make you comply with what they see as how you live your life.  I can’t grow my own pot, I can’t distill my own whiskey, I can’t do much more than change my own light bulbs without hiring a professional.  It’s like they make these rules that fit 99% of the people out there, and people like me that want to change our own oil or build our own structures are rebels that must be found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  It didn’t used to be like this.  People used to have common sense.  People used to become police, firemen, IRS agents – OK maybe not the IRS – but they used to actually want to help.  Now they just want an excuse to use the power they’re drunk on.

So I am living in constant fear of the Authority.  Any moment, dozens of armed men with automatic rifles and bullet-proof vests are going to drag me outside in my underwear and cuff me in front of my kids for not having the proper papers.  And I’m not even Jewish.

That’s another think I’d like to bitch about.  I feel like wild game, and I’m in season.  I’m not part of any protected class.  I’m the most despised, hated person on the face of this earth, because I’m not under any special category: I’m not female, I’m not Hispanic or black, I’m a middle-aged white Christian male, which means I must be super-privileged and never earned what I have and everyone believes that I don’t deserve anything but should have my property and wealth confiscated and distributed to illegal alien Muslim drug dealers, because it’s OK to offend me, insult my religion, call me all kinds of names, but don’t dare draw the word Mohammed on a napkin or you’ll be arrested faster than you can say Praise Jesus.

At the risk of getting fired, something that is constantly on my mind and haunts every waking moment, I will give you another insane example of rule-making gone amuck: let’s talk about flashlights.  Where I work, there are areas that could have explosive gasses and so, logically, spark-producing electronics are forbidden without written permission and an air sample.  But the letter of the law, the company make-one-mistake-and-you’re-fired rule is written such that even a pocket flashlight is deemed an extremely dangerous device and if you have one in your possession, EVEN IF THE BATTERY IS OUT, and even if you wear a daily-calibrated LEL meter that continuously checks for an explosive atmosphere, even though you may be walking in one of those units but OUTSIDE the danger zone, well, the rule is “no flashlights” so your ass is gone.  You get 15 minutes to clean out your desk and you may never, ever return, plus the rest of the companies are told of your reckless behavior so you’re blackballed on every other site’s list and you end up on food stamps or begging under a bridge, which is just where they want you anyway: helpless and dependent.

I used to think that here in the USA, if you do what’s right, work hard and don’t intentionally look for trouble, you could be safe, successful and secure.  I don’t feel that way any more.  Now the only way to be successful is to play politics, say the right things, act the right way, dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s, find out what the company likes and play their game, fake your way to the top, OR, screw all that and be a victim.  If you don’t work, or you’re a minority, well, then you can depend on the government to help you out; food stamps, medical care, free cell phones, whatever you need, because poor you, you can’t be expected to help yourself.  Victims are noble, self-motivated workaholics are evil.

So on this beautiful Easter weekend I can thank my GOD that against all of this prosecution, all of these dangers, this government of, by and for the rich and connected, I have the assurance of a Savior that is still (barely) legal to worship and who loves me and protects me and is in control of all of those who would do me harm, that want nothing more than to count the likes of me as sheep for the slaughter, because without Him I would be without hope and beaten down, scared and cowardly, head down, submissive and quietly obedient – or maybe I’m already there.  Maybe I AM scared of anyone with a badge or government seal, maybe I AM fearful of the Authority, and maybe I’m just so sick of waiting to get hauled off, fired or shot for an unintentional clerical error that I’ll just beat them to the punch, become the criminal that they think I am anyway, and have a little fun before I go.  Maybe I’ll be a bad guy, because they don’t have to follow the rules, they can have guns, drugs or booze, they’re the only ones that can do whatever they want, because they just ignore the rules, and in America, that’s now the only way to be truly free.

I’d like to ask God to bless America, but I honestly don’t think there’s much left to bless.  And besides, in a few years it’ll inevitably be illegal to say God anyway.  So let’s just say Thank America for letting me live.  For now.