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Friday, May 21, 2010

I was wrong….

      It is said that where we have been makes us who we are. I am not sure if that is the exact quote, but it is the exact quote from me. My world was shaped by all kinds of things, actions, and memories. Good decisions, bad decisions, stupid ideas and brilliant ideas. Most of the brilliant ideas are only brilliant to me. In that case, maybe brilliant ideas are not as much of a shaper as the rest.
*I’m an idea man* http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084412/quotes     
     Of course, my school years shaped my perspectives and some of my ideology after my commencement, for a brief period. I was conflicted. I wanted to have fond memories of the years I was in training and preparation for the world, but I also was so done with all the tests, the rules and the fickle emotionality of youth. I left it all behind, and thought I would never look back. As I age, I realize that it was my life and it happened, so deal with it…I was wrong, it was not so bad…
     However, the time I was not in school after the school day ended, and the summers had a greater impact on my life as it is today. When I was not in school I was doing all manner of kid stuff. Much of the things I impulsively acted upon were incredibly stupid, or irresponsible. Some of the things I did when I was young, looking back as a parent now, I would probably ground my kids for life for attempting the same acts. Yeah, or at least threaten the *life grounding*.
     Thankfully, we all learn from our mistakes. I will never put my eye out with a BB gun, catch myself on fire with lighter fluid (or ether), or play with gasoline, or WD-40 as napalm on the plastic army men or GI Joe. Fun is sometimes dangerous and dangerous is not always fun.
     One thing I know shaped my world when I was young and not practicing what not to let my kids do was comic books and the superheroes in the pages I read. I mowed a ton of lawns to but these monthly magazines of imagination. I read many different titles. Probably a metric ton of lawn mowing!!! I will not bore you with all the titles. That would be ubergeeky. Oh and the super heroines were all HOT and well, HOT!!!
      The best thing about the comic book world was the line between good and evil was sharp and clear, whereas the real world is much greyer and skewed. Yes, there are examples and more than I want to even think about, of pure evil in this world today (read: Dick Cheney….seriously? Your name is Dick? Go figure…) Suffice it to say, there are a few piranhas in the gene pool. Jus’ sayin’.
     As I think back most of my favorite heroes were conflicted. As many of the readers of this blog know I am conflicted. Or affected. Or crazy, but I digress. But through it all they kept on going. They fought with both real and imagined enemies. I know all the enemies in comics were imagined, because comics are not real, but I think you get what I am saying. Fighting through the conflicts is what they do. It is what we all do. Every day.
     And most superheroes had a secret identity. We all have a secret identity. (SI) “The sky is blue, water is wet and women have secrets.” (The Last Boy Scout (1991) I will correct that quote by saying, we all have secrets. Some of them are dark and embarrassing some of them are not so bad, but hey, why dredge up the past. I am not a psychologist so I do not want to analyze this. Suffice it to say that we all need a bit of privacy. In today’s world we are closer to knowing *everything* about *everybody* than ever before. I am not sure how much I like that. But then again, I do like to be the center of attention…
     The epiphany ball has struck, I call it the interweb thingy and it has a secret identity. We all know the epiphany ball’s SI as Face Book. I am not sure if it was striking me for some time now, but as I age, and reconnect with so many people from my youth, largely thru face book, and the impending 30th class reunion, it seems it has been hammering me for some time now. I am at peace with this epiphany. Seriously, has it truly been nearly 30 years? I look like I am 24. Maybe I have been in suspended animation.. Ok… not really, but nearly fifty years old? I am calling bullsh>t on that. I still get carded, but that is thanks to the underage drinkers of this era, not so much cuz I am still young.
     I am sure that my secret identity is safe…For now… seeing as how I only have like nine admitted followers of this blog. So I have yet to determine what my superpowers are. . or what super hero I will be…However, I think I have the market cornered on bad decisions, so I could be the *Bad Decider*. Bad decider is kind of an antithetical superpower. But wasn’t that moniker taken by GWB? I guess it depends on if you are right or left. If I am going to be a superhero, I want it to be like some of my favorites from my youth not Bad decider guy…
     One of my favorites was Swampthing. The dude was a scientist turned into a plant creature when his laboratory was blown up by his enemies. He was always an outsider from then on. He was always looking for a cure. There is some allegorical connection, but that is for another blog. “And if tears could come they would.” He was Conflicted. And a science geek. That science geek thingy kind of backfired on him a bit though.
     Wolverine of the X-MEN suffered from amnesia. He didn’t really know where he came from. He was not tall so he had a napoleon complex as well He really did not want to hang with the X-Men either. He had a mean streak and was suffering from wanderlust. CONFLICTED! On top of all that, he had to hang out with scantily clad women, and they really did not find him date bait, so to speak. I guess I could relate to him. Well not the scantily clad women part we had stricter dress codes when I was young and attending high school.
     Captain America, was also conflicted. He was in a state of suspended animation, for a couple decades. While I have never slept for two decades, I once stayed in bed for over 24 hours and was not sick. It was cathartic, however. When he came to, WWII was over. The bad guys he was created to fight were all gone. He was an anachronism. That was his conflict. Steve Rogers was also constantly threatening to throw in the towel. But he did not. He kept on. At least as long as I was reading the Avengers and Captain America, he was still doing the right thing.
     And as for Spiderman, well Peter Parker was all messed up. Gwen Stacy, his girlfriend, got killed by the Green Goblin. The Green Goblin was his best friend’s dad. Spidey eventually killed the Green Goblin. Harry, his BFF, then became the Green Goblin…DAMN!! Bad stuff!!!! Not only was that he a “teen age wallflower.” That is like ubergeek times ten. “Nuff said” (Stan Lee, Marvel Comics)
      It was not until I had kids of my own that I fully considered how much of a geek I was in high school. Now that I look back, it really did not matter anyway. It shaped my four years during which I was attending high school, and maybe left a tinge of regret in the few years afterwards, but seriously, it did not change the world, nor did I. Yet…I think that is on my agenda for next week. I’ll get back to you.
      I guess I could be Bloggerman, (Norman, the spell checker suggested Bogeyman) and my super power is to look at the world though a glass half full. It all comes down to perspective. I could be the lady I saw today moving stuff in an open box of a pick-up truck in the rain. That would suck. But not as much as the guys that had the Thule roof rack decide to detach on the expressway, crumbling the two bikes on the back end of the car. Bummer. 
     I do not have any *glory days* from high school, but as much as I tried to distance myself over the years from high school, I find that the problem with youth is it is wasted on youth. I wish I had enjoyed my school years more than try to avoid it.
     However, during June, July, and August, I relished my school years because summer always kicked ass. Well, at least the first couple days before I got bored with sleeping in and staying up late. I think I could be a super hero called Summer Man. I’d stay up late and get up late, and revel in the sunshine, every day. For at least fifteen minute before I got deep red, cancerous sunburn, which regrettably would be my kryptonite.
      Another superhero I liked was the Thing AKA Ben Grimm. Even his name is conflicted. Read it again if you don’t get my meaning. (Hint: been grim) The Thing…Everyone else in the Fantastic Four could pass as a normal person. Not Ben. Bummer dude, you’re a big, moving pile of rocks. He may not look normal, but he was super strong. I fail to see how that really makes up for being the only guy in the group that could not hide his identity. But then, the fantastic four didn’t hide their identities. Except maybe for invisible girl…
     All my favorites had secret identities. Well except for Ben. That is kind of cool. But in reality we all have a secret identity as well. We all have secrets. I hope none of you are serial killers, but that is a topic for another date. However, all these heroes were always trying to do the right thing. They had issues, but it did not stop them from doing the job. We are all conflicted at times. We all have to do the right thing. We have to figure it out, for ourselves.
     Conflicts are easy to resolve if you are comic book hero. You know that two or three issues from now you will have vanquished your current enemy. However, he or she will be back. Kind of like life. We settle conflicts. They reappear. We make decisions. They are not all good. But we keep on persevering. We keep on keepin’ on. And we keep that secret identity hidden…
     I used to say I ain’t anybody’s hero. And then I got a puppy and then I had kids. They may not say it, but you can see it in their eyes, both when you are the hero and the villain. (So mark this date!!!) I was wrong. We all are, in some small way, a super hero…
Just another day in paradise

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The drink slinger!!!

      The other day I was driving to a job site and I thought about all the jobs I’ve had. Well not all of them, there are too many. I have had a ton of jobs. Maybe even a metric ton. Is a metric ton more than 2000 pounds? I do not know. I am not a math guy. I am a non math guy. I am DEFINITELY not a metric guy.
     I know some math, but not scientist or engineer math. I can add. And if you add all the jobs I have had it is a ton. Metric or otherwise. If you count all the jobs I’ve done for the construction companies I have worked for and when I had my own construction business that is a lot of adding. I need a calculator for that addition. Or I could use chisanbop.
     If I were not in construction, I would do something else. Ideally, I would write for a living. Or maybe become a Professional bass fisherman. Or I could write about fishing. RIIIGHT. Fishing is almost as boring as golf, to watch. Reading about fishing is a complete waste of time, but reading about golf, well, that is like three wastes of time plus ∏ r². (Seriously, Microsoft that is the best pi you can come up with? LAME-O)
     Maybe I would go back to tending bar. Everyone should tend bar at least one month of their life. (One month is arbitrary, just pulled that one out of my arse. I will stick with it). It teaches you a lot about your fellow humans. It is a joy and a pain. It is more than a job it is an adventure. I think that the Army stole that slogan from BEADS. (Bartenders Education Academy for Drink Slingers)
     So I was thinking about how great it was to be a bartender. I love revisionist history. Time has a way of making even the worst things seem better. I like to call that phenomenon THE HAPPY TIME MACHINE. I know that most days I would show up and talk about how much I hated the job, but looking back now thru THE HAPPY TIME MACHINE, I think back fondly of my time as a drink slinger.
     However, I was never a “Cocktail” (the movie) type bartender, I lacked the manual dexterity to flip the bottles. And a drop, well, that’s alcohol abuse. Nor was I a “Coyote Ugly” bartender. I did not have the boobs or hips. Now I probably have the boobs. Hairy man boobs. Jus’ sayin’.
     I was a shot and a pop and draft beer kind of bartender. A drink slinger… You know “quick with a joke and to light up your smoke” (Piano Man by Billy Joel) I know how to make a few drinks still to this day, but not many. I have fewer brain cells or something like that. I can still mix a mean Crown and Coke.
     And I can always pop a top on a can or even a bottle of beer. Although my dentist has requested that I stop using my teeth to open a bottle, which I can probably still do, but why? Oh you know why…. It is cool. And tough. And stupid, but mostly cool…and tough… And I still can drink with the best of them.
     Just a hint: when you order a drink and do not call your liquor, you get well liquor. And in that case it is “well, it’s whatever we got” (thanks CB) It is easy to call for a call liquor, as they usually have every type of liquor on display if you can read, you can *call* your drink. It is a shrewd marketing approach by the booze merchants, to get you to spend more on BETTER booze so they display them for all to see…I hate well liquor drinks, and the cost for a premium (higher on the shelf on the back of the bar and the liquor aisle) over a call is usually only $.50.
     The bar crowd is always interesting. It is an interesting dynamic interaction of first daters, old drunkards, the social drinkers, and the teetotalers all in the same space at the same time, drinking or not drinking. There was rarely a dull moment. In the brief dull moments you could always run back to puff down a quickie. Or cause a bit of pandemonium by any number of comical ruses.
     My favorite comical ruse was the *plastic wrapped water glass*. I did not learn this in the bar, I learned it at Farrell’s Ice cream Parlor, or Country Kitchen, I really do not remember. It works best with water tinted by grenadine.

1. Take a water glass.
2. Fill half full with water
3. Add a couple drops of grenadine
4. Cover the glass TIGHTLY with plastic wrap
5. Hold glass to conceal plastic wrap
6. Get someone’s attention
7. *Splash some one with it*
8. Be prepared for the fireworks and laughter!!

     All comical relief aside, I always loved it when the real stud guys that would come in a try to impress the little foxy momma on their sleeve by ordering something like a Pink Squirrel. Come on, idiot, seriously? A pink squirrel? It has ice-cream in it. And amoretto. It is froofy. It is not macho. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Hell, I really have no idea what is in a Pink squirrel. But Seriously? It sounds like a froofy drink. (I did not want to use my blog search engine on this drink for fear of total malfunction of the inter web search thingy that powers it)
     I should have just mixed up a Canadian Club and water with a splash of grenadine and said, “Here’s your Pink Squirrel.” He probably would not have known the difference. If he did say something I could have told him, “That’s how we roll, brother. That is a Pink Squirrel at THIS bar!”
     However, I do know a Pink Squirrel is not the kind of drink that I would order to impress a lady. If it were me, and everyone knows that I can really impress the ladies, I would order A Jack Daniels boilermaker. If not that then maybe a Beefeaters gin or Grey Goose vodka martini, dirty, shaken not stirred with two olives and a pickle. (gotta get your veggies). Possibly. Margarita with salt and double lime wedges, (more veggies)on the rocks, probably. Oh, and no f-ing blue motorcycles either. And just a hint…Sex On The Beach is a bit too forward for a first date. The drink, I mean.
     It’s always fun to get in a few shots of Sambuca, while yelling *SAMBUCA* just before you swallow!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambuca  (I found this link on the search engine on the side bar of my blog…that makes me tres cool) It is anise flavored. I like to tell people it is anus flavored…it always makes me laugh…out loud…matter of fact I just chortled while I was writing this. If you do this, there is not a problem when they say it tastes like sh..T……….. I think J├Ągermeister http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%A4germeister
 is the new Sambuca…
     If there is a special on Long Island Iced Tea, (LIIT) (gin, vodka, tequila, and rum, topped with coke to give it color) it will not have premium liquor in it and most times it will be watered down with coke and have quick pour shots, instead of the usual 1 oz, or 1 ½ oz per booze. That being said, it will still get you drunk… That being said, it will still get you drunk. Oops one too many LIIT
     Just for the sake of people watching you should go to work as a bartender. Hells Yeah!!! And the second hand smoke was groovy, when you were really jones-ing for a square. At least way back before the government stepped on smokers rights because a bunch of namby-pamby non-smokers whined like little kids about all that second-hand smoke. Now you do not have to worry about the *bar smell* because the government has taken care of you. Just like those *death camps* that will come about in the *healthcare revolution* .
     Actually, secondhand smoke is not as deadly as Radon, an odorless gas that occurs naturally and from what I hear rather abundantly. However, there is little that whining to your elected officials can do about that. Well, they can do something about it, but it will only make the situation worse. Hey, while we are at it why not ban second hand breathing. Yeah, I know that bad breath probably does not cause cancer, but it is unpleasant and definitely not odorless. Especially over served booze breath…yucky…
     Digression aside, the nights never ended at 10 pm. You always got a second wind, just in time for last call at the other bar. Looking back in THE HAPPY TIME MACHINE bartending was a great way to make some cash to go spend at the next bar (obviously open later) on the way home. Mixing all those drinks in that smoky environment makes you VERY thirsty. VERY!! Come to think of it, I have probably had as many a beer, wine, or mixed beverages as I have had jobs. Yup, a metric ton of beer, wine and spirits.
Just another day in paradise

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bankstardization

    Since the invention of currency, the world has been spiraling toward the precipice of disaster. Way back when human kind traded beads and baubles things were much simpler. From what I dimly remember of my required American History class, the USofA bought many a piece of prime real-estate for a handful of trinkets. Somewhere along the line the bankstards er, uh I mean bankers decided that there should be a huge margin of profit in banking. I call this particular brand of foolishness *The bankstardization of America*.
     The Banks suck. There I said it. It is out there. I hate banks. I would rather put my money in a paper sack, fill it with dog excrement, douse it with lighter fluid and light it on fire than to give the bankstards the privilege of using my money to make a bunch of cash. (I feel the same about the IRS and the Government, but I reserve the right to blog about those idiots later) I do not hate the idea of a bank. I do not hate the people, the CSR’s, I know that work at the bank. They are just following the rules. CSR’s are people too. But, hey, the world needs ditch diggers, too. (From the movie Caddyshack 1980)
     Another great thing about bankstards is the directly proportional less hours, less service mantra. Really nothing more needs to be said about this. However, tellers are no longer tellers, but Customer Service Representatives. RIIIIGHT…
     Way back when I was a teenager, I went to withdraw some money from my savings account. The account had probably a $100.00 balance, give or take a few dollars. I could not get my money. There was a freeze on my account. I asked why. They said there was an IRS hold on my account. RIIIGHT! I was an f-ing teen-ager. My job was at the Country Kitchen and I made about $1500.00 per year. I had only been working for a year or two. I could not possibly have screwed up the 10-40 EZ enough to owe back taxes.
     I said that there must be some mistake, but they still did not let me get my cash. Finally, after about 20 conversations from all the staff and management that took about 15 minutes they asked me for my SS#. I gave it to them and it was like 20 different 40 watt bulbs all lit up at once. Wrong Bruce Johnson….DUH!!! We all know there is only one me, but apparently, there are a few people in this world that share my name. We do not share SS #. DUH! Their apology was lame, very lame.
     Recently, I deposited a check drawn from the same bank where I bank. It was Saturday. On Monday when I went to use my debit card, it was declined. It is always a problem when you have a bag of gas station foodloot, and your debit card is declined. So not only was I losing weight hungry; now was also embarrassed and pissed. I called the bank. I asked why my card was declined.
     The lame excuse was that the money I deposited on was not *hard something or other*. WTF does that mean? You can be sure that if I were overdrawn, the transactions I made on Saturday would be *hard something or other* resulting in $35.00 overdraft fees for each item, even though I had deposited the money from the same bank.
     So…then I asked if I had overdraft protection, that would I still get charged for overdrafts? I have heard from other people that have overdraft protection that through some bank error that is not in their favor, they still get charged for overdrawing their checking account. http://www.investorwords.com/3544/overdraft_protection.html The CSA on the phone said they would have to check. I translated that as a resounding yes. I then said, “Never mind, it does not get my gas station foodloot back.” Probably for the best, but hey, I was still hungry, and pissed off.
     And when you do the pleasure to call, or stop in the branch to get an overdraft fee reversed, better pack a lunch and a sleeping bag, because you will be there a long time while the *right* person is hunted down. This is kind of like when you buy a used car and the sales rep goes to *check with the manager*, which means burn a cigarette. In the bankstard world it is similar but the person is probably stuffing their mouth with Twinkies and rolling around in the vault on 20’s and hundred’s. Most likely the fee will already be *decided*. WTF, did the entire bunch of bankstards graduate from the GW Bush School of being a decider? Decided…Sheesh!
     Bankstards thrive on fees. Fees, fees, and more fees. Every time you touch your money the bankstards want to grab more money from you. If you take cash from an ATM (Again Taking Money) not in your network, it will cost you. Sometimes if it is in your network they still find a way to grab a fee. There is a proverbial weasel in the hen house, and a bankstards are just waiting to slap you with a fee. It is probably due to what color underwear you are or are not wearing. *You know* the cameras at the ATM terminals *are* x-ray technology.
     I also love the interest vs. balance thing the bankstards have in play. Nice! You have an interest bearing checking account, and if it drops below the minimum, they then charge you fees. Great. Now you are fee’d more than the .05% interest they are giving you on your money. Money that they have to make money with, thru investing it in other things like the fabulous idea of mortgages based on credit scores. Just credit scores. No documentation loans are what I think they call them….and people wonder why the housing bubble burst. The bankstard brain trust really hit a home run with that idea!
     That and the fact that in the five houses I have purchased I was always amazed that the appraisal was always right in line within dollars of the purchase price. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out what is going on here. It is a financial shell game. The problem is the real bad guys (big bankstards) did not get punished at all for their malfeasance. In fact they got rewarded by keeping their high roller jobs. And bailed out. In some instances got to go a little retreat on hard earned taxpayer’s moola. F-them…There is a special place in hell for the jackassery that pulled that fast one. Jus’ sayin’.
     If I had wrote the bill to bail out the bankstards, it would have included something along the line that the glittering idiotary that were running the bankstard at the time of the near collapse would be relegated to ditch digging, the lumber yard, or sewer cleaning. Wait, the assigning the idiots to the lumberyard would f up the construction business even more, so scratch that…Guess it’s time to go smoke some cigarettes and kill some bad guys..
     Cash deposits are *usually* the same as cash. WTF??? Except on Saturday, because transactions post on Monday, but bankstards are not open late enough to conduct any banking for anyone that works in the real world. Bankers hours…really funny…and then you can get hit with a bunch of NSF fees because large transactions clear first…I hate ‘em all…
     Hey jackass! It is cash. It is available funds. And so is a cashier’s check. But not to the Bankstards. “No, Mr. Johnson, we have to hold your cashiers check for three eternities, before the cash is available. Maybe your GREAT, GREAT GRANDCHILDREN will be able to access these funds.” My reply is always “But I had to give CASH to make this check happen, so the funds HAVE to be available.” YET the invariably stupid response from the CSR “Not really, Mr. Johnson, we have rules.” Yep! Cash Stealing Rules.
     Absurd rules on cash back are truly a funny thing. I mean LOL funny. If the balance in your account is not enough cover the funds of the check you are cashing then good luck getting cash back. Even when drawn from the same bank as the check is drawn, this should be immediately available. But not always. You must ask for them to be immediately available. WHY should I have to remember to ask? It is my money, from your bank. You bankstards should be able to verify funds. Oh wait, that may take some kind of above primate intelligence.
     There is this thing called a computer. It is that big ugly screen on the counter. You should be able to check the balance of the account from which the deposit is being drawn. If you can’t, then it is time to update the system and probably update to high-speed interweb instead of dial-up.
     Try having a foreclosure, or a loan called in. This fun life experience will make you really love the bankstards. I have had both. It could be said that I am bitter about those. Not so much. My bitterness goes back to my teens...The foreclosure, loan call-ins and lawsuits are simply icing on the cake that is bankstardization.
     Each of us that pay taxes owns a bunch of small slivers of many large banks .Thanks to the government bail-out of the banks with tax dollars. Hell, my great, great, great, great grand children will own these banks. Unfortunately, by that time the banks will probably be worth as much as those aforementioned baubles and beads and a couple of faux-diamond necklaces.
    Is it just me or is there something inherently wrong with banks? I have *decided* all I have described sounds like usury. Or a least a bit of grand larceny. Or as I like to call it bankardization.
Just another day in paradise