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I got issues, man. A lot. A whole fucking lot. The futhermucking light on my ceiling fan will not stay at a constant 60 watts. I'm diabetic and afraid of needles. I worry too much. I can't sleep at night. When I do sleep at night, it's like HorrorVision in my head. I'm always walking a tightrope between anger and sadness. I can't be around most people because I'm afraid of what happens if I lose control. And I have to constantly occupy my brain, or it revolts - you either give that fucker something to do or he finds something to do. Now at least one of these things I can do something about. No, it's not the fucking light bulb - that thing is cursed or inhabited by a grumpy tech spirit that my cybershamanic diplomacy just can't assuage. I worry too much. I worry too much because I'm a "What if?" thinker. I do it because people depend on me. They respect my opinion, and they value my perspective. And I'm a sucker for someone in need. I tilt at windmills. It's just who I am. This worrying is part nature, and part nurture. I did security work for years, including working as a bouncer, and where I grew up if you didn't think about who was going to beat your ass meant you'd get your ass beat. Add that to an imagination that is...vivid and you can see where this goes. I'm not complaining (too much), because let's be honest - asking, "What If?" means I've got a plan A, B, C, D, E, - you get the fucking idea. That's how I operate. I expect the first couple to fail and have built in backups and fail safes. But this comes with a price. A old boss put it like this "When you're always prepared - you're always paranoid." He was an old cop, and I loved that man like he was blood. Taught me everything I know about security and law enforcement procedures. Anyways, that phrase has stuck with me a long time, and I've come to shorten it to "Preparanoid." (a obvious portmanteau). Yesterday, I got shitty news. I was turned down by Uncle Sam for the third time because (and I'm paraphrasing here because if I think about it too much I'll need to go destress) "You're issues aren't severe enough! You've never even been hospitalized." Well, no shit! You don't say? Because I've had an intensely loyal and loving set of family and friends, I suddenly don't need as much help as anyone else? Pal, I'm Bi-Polar, ain't nothing I can do about that - my brain chemistry is so fucked it's like Philip K. Dick got into my head before I was even born and said, "Hey, let's just dump this whole beaker of Dr. Hofmann's brew in here. Baby high on acid - that shit will be hilarious." Of course, I don't really hallucinate, not in the traditional sense. No, my brain tells itself stories. The same thing that makes me good at planning, adapting, and overcoming can also leave me paralyzed with fear for those I care about. "If they go out in this weather they could have a wreck." "If L.A. rides the buses someone could try to hurt her." I've learned to deal with the fear over the years by allowing - no, demanding - myself to hope. I am a  creature of infinite hope and optimism, but I'm also a pessimist. I see the worst, because if you know the worst, you can plan for it, and then take what you get in stride all the while hoping for the best. Anyways, I kept hoping that for once, I'd be able to do things the easy way. But nope. My issues are "mild." Let me give you an example of what my brain can come up with if left to its own devices:


Me: Man, I haven't heard from my brother in a while. I hope he's okay.


Brain: Yeah, he's probably okay. You know how he is.


Me: Thanks. Brian!...I mean, Brain. Sorry.


Imagination: What? No! That's not possible he just told you about that thing. You know? That thing! With the guy! The thing with the guy. What if it happened?


Me: Shit. The Thing.


Brain: Shit. With the guy.


Logical Plan-y Me: DON'T LISTEN TO HIM! HE'S A FUCKING LIAR. It's what he does! He tells stories and comes up with gaming stuff! I mean he does help me plan and all...But no! He's lying! Don't listen to him.


Imagination: That's why you should listen to me! I know things...and stuff. Ignore the Vulcan Boy Scout - he's useless unless you need a nerve-pinch, or you've got a seven-year itch, or you lost your wallet, or whatever. Seriously...what if it happened? CALL HIM!


Brain: CALL HIM! WE'RE DOOMED! DOOMEDDDD!!!!


Me: Oh, god, no. Oh, god. We're doomed! I'm calling him. [no answer]. It's okay. I'll just wait an hour or so and call him again...


And that's how I stayed awake for nearly three days straight. I couldn't get a hold of my brother so I couldn't sleep because I kept coming up with possible reasons why I hadn't heard from him. It's a fucking magic trick, see? I disappeared my sleep. So you know what? I'm going to try letting go. I can't control everything. So yeah, I'm gonna try to let go - even if only a little - who knows if it'll work. Besides, I can't do anything about the fucking light bulb. [Flash] [Burble Luminescently] It's like Lucifer in Edison-Thought Form. Yeah it's the bringer of light and all - but that light drives me nuts. So this is me letting go, just a little. Maybe tomorrow I'll do it a bit more and see where that takes me. I'm going to go sleep now.

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Working in retail is like trench warfare. Now I’m not talking about fighting and dying in the mud and the blood. No, I’m talking about that feeling you get when you’re in the hole and you’re superiors are telling you, you have to do something that you either don’t want to do or can’t. NPR says that 15.3% of Americans work in retail. While that number seems stupidly low to me, let’s just go with it for the sake of argument. Fifteen percent of the work force works at Wal-Mart, Target, and so on. That’s… a lot. As someone who has worked in retail for almost 10 years off and on, I can tell you that as far as work goes, it sucks. You have to deal with customers who really don’t care about you or your job. You have to deal with middle management supervisors who live only to lick the assholes of their bosses. Upper management who only sees you as a number and yet another drone in an endlessly recycling work force. Then, the worst: Your fellow workers, who are happy to stab you in the back, do less than their fair share of the workload, talk bad about you to your supervisor, and generally make your life hell all so they can be King Shit for a while. Having worked in the toys department in Wal-Mart during Christmas, I can tell you that if Dante had ever worked it, he would have proclaimed it the tenth circle of Hell.


If that doesn’t seem like a fun time to you lets also add the fact that you’re barely making minimum wage, raises are measured in nickels and dimes, vacation takes years to accumulate, and your hours get cut below 33 to keep you a part-time employee so they don’t have to pay for your health insurance. After all, as an unwashed peasant why should the great Corporate State pay to keep you healthy? There are literally dozens of people ready to take your job. So you can either shut your mouth, do as you’re told, and take the abuse… or you can lose your job. Most people do the former rather than the latter. And it makes them miserable. The sheer amount of stress most people suffer while working under typical retail conditions is enough to make anyone go mad. Eventually, you either suffer burnout or you become a mindless zombie. I don’t know what’s worse. Most of the big retail corporations could afford to pay their people better. But they don’t. They’d rather let Uncle Sam provide unlimited bailouts in the form of government assistance for their underpaid workers. This isn’t limited to just retail stores of course, for instance the McDonald’s Corporation expects all its workers to have another part-time job. Bottom line is this: if things continue like they are, in ten or twenty years…you won’t recognize America that is if there is still an America. We might be Wal-Martia or Targetland or (gawd forbid) The United Corporate States of McDonald’s. Do I know how to fix it? Other than getting the government to set a higher minimum federal wage and regulating businesses…not really. It seems that nowadays the preferred method is greed before need, even though we know that is not a sustainable outcome.


But it’s not all bad, sometimes if you’re lucky, you find a kindred spirit amidst the shit and spit of your fellow workers. When that happens, coming to work becomes tolerable, because you got a buddy sharing your foxhole. Someone who will back you up when you need it, someone who won’t stab you in the back, someone who knows the hell you’re going through. Someone who is going to help you push through that hell. And you do the same for them. I made such a friend while working in retail and he and I still regularly hang out and reminiscence over stupid bosses, ignorant polices, and the meager salary we were paid for all we did. Even if I could work retail again, I don’t think I would. The stress of the job nearly killed me and I’d rather be broke and near death on my own terms than almost broke and near death on someone else’s.

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There is a lot of stuff going on in my life right now. My grandmother is sick and I can’t go into any other detail than that. But her illness requires she have constant supervision and care. Till four months ago my mother and I (and my sister L.V. on the weekends) were the only people taking care of her. It was hard. I’d take the night shift and my mom would take the day shift. Sometimes when I went off my mom would take the day and night shift. She’d be exhausted but would somehow power through. I still don’t know how she did (does) it. I’m strong and I have a will of iron but that woman is made of steel. Anyways I have four aunts (my grandmother has five daughters total) lets call them: Kevorkian-In-Red-Pants , I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck, Drama-Queen, and McShorty. I-Don’t-Give-A-Fuck does exactly that – she doesn’t care about her mother or any members of her family except her children. Fine. Whatever. She stays out of our life and that’s good by me. Kevorkian-In-Red-Pants is another story, she has tried to intentionally sabotage my grandmother and us. I can’t get into because for the most part she is somewhat internet savvy and I don’t want her getting any real details. Lets just say that Kevorkian-In-Red-Pants did some very legally and morally questionable things. She was caught in time mind you but only through blind fucking luck. She’s out of the picture currently and I (and the others who actually care about my grandmother) intend to keep it that way. Drama-Queen…well Drama-Queen is exactly what she sounds like and though she does care about us (me and the rest of our close little family) she seems REALLY superficial about it. She ain’t making things easier for anyone and she keeps diva-ing out like it’s a gawd damn competitive sport. “I will come in first place for the gold medal in bitching and nagging!” Because she is the only one with a working vehicle she decides who can go where and when. That shit is gonna end very soon then she can stay at home on ‘her time and her dime’ because it’s getting old fast. Finally we come to my last aunt, McShorty. Up until about four months ago yesterday I would have had nothing really nice to say about her. She did some questionable things and I didn’t really want any association with her. No I won’t say what she did. It’s in the past. When she did come back she didn’t have anywhere to go and needed a place to live. My mom invited her in and told me to keep my mouth shut. Since I both love and am terrified of my mother I did as I was told. I didn’t expect her to stick around long. Boy was I wrong. Not only did McShorty stay but she also helped my mom. Need the kitchen cleaned? She was on it. Need to get some sleep and stay with Nana for a while? She did it. She helped my mother and grandmother (and me) in whatever way was needed. I remained a skeptic for about two months. But now? I think she’s here to help and damn if we don’t need her. People change. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes for the worse. This time was for the better and I’m glad McShorty is back in my life. I used to spend every weekend and summer at her house when I was a little boy and I have many fond memories of those times. I guess I’m just happy she’s back and she shows no signs of leaving because honestly that might crush me. And we need her.


Seriously? Where the fuck is my Jell-O?!

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Sometimes, it just doesn’t pay to be the non-believer in a household of God-fearing Christians. Today was one of those days; my family (extended and immediate) views me as something of an oddity. They don’t love me any less for what I believe in, or more accurately what I don’t believe in. And there isn’t any real hostility (though some of my aunts disapprove of me aggressively) but many of them try to ‘convert’ me to the true faith. Folks, that dog won’t hunt and that is that. I’m not a staunch atheist, in fact I would say that I would really, Really, REALLY like to believe that there is a Supreme Being out there. But there doesn’t seem to be, because quite honestly if there were he (or she) is one sadistic son-of-a-bitch. No I’d rather that there was no God and things happen because they happen rather than they happened because Jehovah-Said-So.  That’s my view, and until I’ve been proven wrong enough to convince me that I am in fact wrong I’m sticking to it. You can believe what you want to believe as long as you don’t try to make me believe or enforce your beliefs on me.


Now, to what happened: One of my neighbor’s daughters who my family has known all her life is dying. And she’s dying bad, not that there is a good way to die (despite what any Klingon might say…), cancer has metastasized throughout her body. She is a walking corpse. It’s horrible. It makes me want to curl up into a little ball and cry for this beautiful wonderful woman I’ve known my entire life. She’s not even 40 yet, she’s just ten years older than me and within the week she’ll be dead. It’s sobering, and disturbing, and…reminds me as much as I would like to believe otherwise that I am not immortal, that those around me are not immortal either. Today, while one of my aunts had come over (she had just grabbed my sister from college to come home for the weekend) my grandmother commented on D.M.’s impending death and my aunt retorted with “Well if she goes to God and asks Him to save her he will, but only if she is constant about. She needs to be spending time with the Lord not her family in what could be her final days…” I was SO PISSED OFF I literally had to leave the kitchen where my mother, sisters, grandmother, and aunt had gathered.


If I were dying, and knew my time were limited I’d want to be with the one’s I loved, the ones I cared about, friends and family alike, and let them know that I loved them. I couldn’t possibly deliver any sort of retort that wouldn’t end up starting a real argument. So I didn’t. But man oh man I really wanted too. How anyone can believe that some sort of magical sky man would come down from on high and heal them at the eleventh hour is beyond me. When I was in the hospital I admit the first few days I thought about dying, but after a while I realized that if it was going to happen it just was. That didn’t stop me from struggling against it, I have said it before and I’ll say it again I’m a stubborn bastard and I really don’t know when to quit. I never have, probably never will. But the thought of ignoring my family and friends for the sake of something that is probably not real just galls me. Death is a part of life, and life is a part of death, it’s something that many do not understand or even want to understand. It hurts to much, it cuts us to the quick in ways that never heal. My father died over five years ago but I still cry sometimes when I am alone and reminded of him. The pain never fades, we just learn how to deal with it better. One of the last things my father said to me before he died was a paraphrased quote from Hamlet “You can dig your own grave as surely as you dig anothers, but the grave remains yours regardless who dug it.” Like all things that very wise man said to me I never got on the first go round, on the second, or the third, sometimes into the fifty I was still puzzling it out. But what I like to think he had meant to say is that you’re born dying, as soon as you come into this world you begin to die. But you also get to live a life that is yours, and that’s worth it.

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Last night I ended up a party to something of which I had known idea at the time. Something I sure as hell would have objected too if I had known about it. One of my neighbors, PN, came over last night and asked to use my computer to access his email account and also print out his new car insurance card. Innocuous right? No, not at all turns out that PN was getting an email from his girlfriend on where to meet up next. Now I’ll stop you right there, I know what you are thinking: “Why were you looking at PN’s private information?” First off, it was an accident, I just happened to glance over at the computer screen while I was doing my laundry. Second, it’s my computer and I like to know what’s being done on it and if it could put me at risk. I rarely allow others to use my machine for just this reason.


Here’s the kicker: PN’s wife would not approve of PN’s girlfriend. That’s right, PN’s married, and this is not his first extra-marital affair. Since I’ve known the guy I think it’s his third time stepping out on his wife and supposedly he’s done it more times than can be counted before. This wouldn’t be a real problem for me because I really couldn’t care less (though I do highly disapprove of cheating, I’m strictly monogamous and deliriously happy with the love of my life) except for the fact that Mrs. PN is a bit…umm what’s the professional word here…crazy. Yes, that woman is a bit crazy. Last time he cheated on her she busted the windows out of his car. Yes like the song, yes just as crazy, no it wasn’t even remotely entertaining. Just kind of scary and sad. Now I’m worried that Mrs. PN is going to find out about PN’s infidelity and think I was helping him…I can’t even begin to think what might happen. I know he won’t be using my computer again. And a follow-up question, why the hell would you cheat on your wife when you are supposedly happy? For gawd-sakes get a damn divorce and let it be over with.


I guess I have ranted enough... for now. :P

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C. R. Rice

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