Sunday, November 30, 2008

Me Done

I used to be a part of something. I was a son, a brother, a husband, a father. I was a boss, a teammate, a player, a prince. And I was a friend, a confidante, a lover and a mensch. Now I am nothing, or at least, none of those things. I am just a man, a lonely, heartbroken, broken man without a family, a lover or a friend. Such is the lot of the persistent misanthrope.

I don't like it but I can't change it, either. And that's because I won't be shallow and simply put in an appearance. It must be real or there can be nothing. But, I bite off much more than any man can chew mainly because I think I can, like the little engine, and I want to please those who offer me their attention and love. In the end, I fail them all and then there were none.

So, here I sit, acutely aware that this is one night that I really shouldn't be alone. This is one of those dreary, icy, soggy evenings which ambience only serves to intensify my extreme sadness. In my new apartment, I have every light blazing in a futile attempt to ward off the darkest demons. But I sense them lurking, tearing a hole in my chest with their collective will. "Fall down, fall down . . . ," they whisper in hisses. This time, I am thinking, I should give in, give up and let them take me. Why not? Patterns are just that and at this moment, I would be missed for only a short time and then, forgotten.

But, there's no one to call, no one to touch. And it is, apparently, all my fault.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Moving Day Approaches

Yes, I too am a Wandering Jew. Between the end of this week and next, I should be all moved out of one place and into a new place. Unfortunately, pretty much as soon as I move into the new place I'll be moving into an even newer place, a palatial manor I have been fortunate to snag for dimes on the dollar. It even has a coop for the hawks I don't have yet in the back. There are beautiful black hand-polished marble tiles through the sky-light adorned kitchen, an elevated deck with segregated barbecue area, gorgeous exotic-wood floors throughout the first floor and bedroom suites, alabaster-tiled bathroom on the first floor and another huge dumper on the second, office and utility spaces, circular driveway access, a music room (or theatre or game or entertainment room,) a two-story entry lit with carriage lights. I am feeling so gay. So, I asked a lovely young woman I know for a second opinion. El Exigente approves! Fingers crossed for this deal to go through.

I chose my broker as the same guy who sold me the marital estate which I've now given away. (If you have any doubts, please feel free to consult the courthouse records here.) Not because he's sauve, not because he's into touchy-feely marketing, but because he shoots straight from the hip. And, he's lucky. I hope that twice is a charm. We'll see. If not, there's not much I can do to him since he definitely is one of our local militia.

Taste The Pipe of Peace Before Signing The Peace Treaty

Women. Gotta love 'em. Can't live with 'em and it's a capitol offense to kill 'em. But, there are some rules to follow to avoid soul decimation by these wily creatures.

First of all, it's helpful to understand that women don't spring fully formed as untenable shrews from the womb. They are shaped, trained, modified, encouraged and rewarded to enter the secretive fold of brazen womanhood from childhood by, who else, other women, especially their mother who, in turn, was raised up in the same coven of feminine culture. Hence, this circle is the master of their fate as manipulative suction devices, as ready as a twelve horsepower leaf blower running in reverse to suck you and and then blow you out the other hole, macerated, fully ready as mulch in their garden of tears.

Overblown, you quip? Crazy? Like a fox, I say, and this has nothing to do with that stupid infomercial that scams the hapless and desperate viewer to sign up for a get-rich-never affiliate program that seeks to scam hapless and desperate viewers to sign up for a get-rich-never - oh, c'mon, you get the idea.

Observe the woman in her natural habitat, whether that's the SUV you foolishly agreed to buy for her because it's "safer for her and the kids," your local bar, where the woman trolls for men younger, more vital and more desperate than me, say, to buy them drinks and sweat on them so that they can dump their asses in the parking lot after scribbling the phone number for Home Depot on the backside of a cocktail napkin, stuffing it into his shirt and making the "call me" sign with thumb and pinkie at ear and mouth after which she will go home to snuggle up with the Platinum version of Mr. Vibe and some chocolate mint Hagen Dazs, or at your job where, despite the highly asexual, one-sided and synthetic PC rules designed to avoid massive sexual harassment suits that some women will exploit to feather their presumptive nests, boobs are mounted like high-beams in Wunderbras and Victoria Secret's titanium underwires. It is a level playing field? Nuh-uh. Can a man win the battle of the sexes? What are you, stoopit? It there a way, any way at all, to gain an advantage? Well, yes and no.

It is possible to be "smarter" than a woman but it'll mean conditioning, training and a desire to be resolute in the face of the psychological warfare that a man is never taught and in many case, isn't even aware exists. Why? Because Mamma never told 'em so, is why. But it is possible using this point-by-point plan.

  • Never argue with a woman. Even if the battle is won, the women will be instinctively triggered into a Manchurian-candidate-like mode of revenge that may go active one week, a year or ten years down the road. Data will be collected about the man's weaknesses and failings and the death will be long and painful. In the end, the woman will be the victor. Therefore, whether the mistake is made on purpose to irritate the woman, like leaving the seat up, or by accident (I didn't know you didn't like strawberry frosting on your doughnuts,) the man must understand that the relationship is basically over. She is right, you are wrong and so, it's time to move on.
  • A woman will always come out on top because she wields the ultimate trump card, the Power of Pussy. It's a commodity that men have paid for, died for and mutilated themselves for over centuries. It is important to understand that the only victory for the man is to realize that one the goal of acquiring whatever pleasure is possible from this interface that plans must be laid (heh heh) to move away with all due haste lest the man is forced to travel the road of pain from obtain to maintain to complain to abstain to totally and utterly insane.
  • Begin any relationship with the end in mind. It could happen at any moment as a woman is subject to whim and fancy and will discard a man with the ease that a monkey takes a dump. Be courteous and polite, get the quim and wait for the seeya. Don't share true stories about your family and friends that can and will be used when the relationship ends against you. By all means do collect compromising videos, letters, photos or anything else that can be posted on the Internet, not that you should do this actually, but you will want and need the leverage to counter her postings of compromising videos, letters and photos she has been collecting since the day she met you. Though, as a man and therefore, by definition, honorable, you would never stoop to breaking the law or creating tort in order to break her heart, which is actually impossible anyway, she might think twice about taking down those pictures of you when you two were in Cabo, experimenting with various exotic fruits while out of your mind on Cuervo that she's posted with your home phone, cell phone and home address so that your next employer's HR department will be able to Google it.
  • Keep your secrets secret. Duh.
  • Do not share passwords, logins, the names or numbers of friends you expect to keep after the relationship dies a fiery Phoenix-in-reverse death.
  • Do not lie, just don't tell the truth. This is a brilliant technique a woman learns from a very young age and you can do it, too! For instance, the correct answer to "Do I look fat?" is "I think it's going to rain tomorrow." If she persists, feign a stroke. She will dump you as you will be of no further use to her either as an earner or a mammalian power-toy. Problem solved.
  • Initially, in some relationships, the focus may seem to be on "sharing" in order to "build trust." This is information gathering in disguise. She will NOT tell you that she imagines receiving deep pelvic thrusts from Lyndsey Lohan, or that she fears her breast are too small. If she DOES say these things, she is lying in order to catch you up despite the fact that your wrong deed will have arisen from her sharing, which is a lie. Yes, it's complicated and one can see how it take a good sixteen to eighteen years for these techniques to become first-nature. Instead of sharing your bought with premature ejaculation in college, ask questions and lots of them. This shows that you're interested even if you're not and requires you to train yourself in the art of answering a question with a question. This take a lot of practice and is best supplemented with as much physicality as is permitted, just to keep her from answering a to-direct question. If all else fails, feign a stroke - see above.
  • Avoid the "my girlfriend is different" trap. This is a delusion as all women are trained to an exceptionally high standard and so, are all essentially the same. If they are truly and tangibly different, suspect a personality disorder or a sex change and exit forthwith, unless you like that sort of thing.
  • Think outside the box. Date other men. Problem essentially solved unless you really don't imagine you'd like a hairy butt waving in your face the morning after. You could have him shave . . .
  • Men are very simple in the most basic respects. They want: food, sleep, poop, pussy. Women know this and have created a complexly dissonant harmony of manipulation to surround those wants. In short, they know what you are thinking. Conversely, it is impossible to know what a women is thinking therefore, it is impossible to appeal to their base senses not can you appeal to reason. You can appeal to "what's in it" for them, though. Think about it. Could you imagine getting hooker sex for love or worse, for free? Flipping the script, men can easily be led by any of the four basic wants described above, or the deprivation of same. Solution? Study Buddhism and eliminate want. Also, become a monk.
Like climbing Everest, the maintenance of a relationship with a women is fraught with peril, hypoxia and often, death. But such are the risks of interaction. A better solution is to avoid them like the plaque that they are.

Further, men must act know to break the cycle our sons would otherwise have to endure. We must expose women for what they are and passively resist their whining for on-demand erections and family trips to Disney World. We must stand as Men of Honour and show women that we, too, are strong and ready and please don't be mad what can I do to make it up to you I'm really sorry I can't believe you remembered that was eight years ago I don't think you're fat maybe it's work I've been under a lot of pressure lately but do you have to take the house and the kids, too?

Oh, who am I kidding? There are only six words to remember, to repeat and to use every single day of your miserable male life. In this order, repeat after me: "You're right. I'm wrong. I'm sorry." Then simply shut up.

Just kidding, hon!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wrong Way, Jose

Getting lost is an excellent way of finding one's self. It seems to be the way of the adventurer and so, it's instant romance without the hassle of hiring Sherpas. There's only so much A to B and back again that one should have to be obligated by reason or discipline to take without the occasional requirement of a wrong turn in the right direction.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We Take Things Apart So You Don't Have To

I don't watch much "commercial" television. I've never seen NCIS or Desperate Housewives or Seasons Two, Three or Four of Big Love. I missed The Office, unless it's still on the air, in which case, I'm still missing it. But I do like the "practical" channels - Food Network, Discovery, Science, Investigation Discovery, DIY Network. With the small amount of television I actually do watch, I have to question why I just bought a 42" LCD HDTV, pictured (get it? get it?) here. I'll make the excuse that I won't be getting any Christmas gifts this year, probably, or anything for the big Five-Oh (my god) coming in Janvier, so there! En-e-wayyyy . . .

Specifically, I really like Mythbusters, Deconstructed and ex-specially, How It's Made. How It's Made is a Canadian production that covers, end-to-end, the making of such things as cell phones, mediaeval swords and phonograph records. They've also covered the printing of playing cards, newspapers and folding boxes. I ran a business involved in both printing and the making of phonograph records and CDs and tapes, too. The record sequence was done at an ex-competitor located right here in the Garden State who closed their doors last summer. It was interesting to see some of my equipment from my closed business in their plant, still running, still using my inventions (automation and process control.) Now I'm in the printing business and what's most intersting to me is seeing what gets left out as, I'm sure, the Average Joe would be bored with that level of detail though the producers seem to understand what's basically important to what they're covering. It's great.

Deconstructed is a program that highlights an item, say, night vision goggles, and then takes it apart and thoroughly explains it, step-by-step, both from the theory of operation and practical construction standpoints. This is how I learned about machines, by taking them apart to basically verify what I could see with my x-ray brain. In other words, I can see the innards of a thing in my mind based on how it should operate. It's a brain feature that I really enjoy!

I started very young when I took apart my Dad's Big Ben alarm clock one boring Saturday and simply had to get it back together before he got back from work as no other clock would successfully wake him at 3 AM to get to market and besides' he'd be really, really pissed. I did it, with no parts left over, and he never knew the difference. What's more, that clock is still running, after 44 years. You see, I was six when I flirted with death in this manner. I've chosen other encounters with the Grim Reaper since then, naturally.

This innate and highly non-Jewish skill has made me the go-to guy for VCR clocks, digital watches, computers, TVs, toaster, garage doors, cars, electric skillets, plumbing, high-pressure hydraulics, electrical and electronic circuits, pneumatic circuits, plastic molding (injection and compression,) nickel and copper plating, aluminum depostion in a plasma field, pianos, guitars, recording equipment, video gear, lighting, lightning, wood, steel, brass, plastic, paint, lacquer, rubber, sorbothane, cloth, reed, paper, rock and yes, scissors.

So, I guess that makes me the opposite of James Taylor. Not so good for the ladeez, unless they need something other than a broken heart fixed. In retrospect, I would have rather been the King of Hearts.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Full Moon Makes Me . . . TOTALLY INSANE ! ! !

If you lived in this part of the country in the late 70's and early 80's, you would remember the television and radio commercials (produced by my long-lost friend, MB, by the way) for Crazy Eddie. "Our prices will drive you INSAAAAANNNNEE!" exhorted Jerry Carroll, a very talented radio personality with enrgy that was just over the top. Eddie was Eddie Antar and his brother, Sam Antar was indicted in the 80's for massive fraud and was called "the Darth Vader of Capitalism" Here's an interesting interview of Eddie, after the jump.

But, I digress. The full moon got me to thinking, yet again, of how nutty people can get around this time of the month, almost without fail. What is it about the full moon that gets folks all lycanthropic and such? I know that I dread business dealings during the full moon. People become impossible to deal with - demanding, unreasonable, insane. There's a certain someone I know who claims to get so worked up during the full moon that door knobs begin to become attractive as potential satisfaction vectors. My ex-business partner used to stay extemely late at work during period of the full moon because he couldn't stand to be around his wife, who, he claimed, would become "an unbearable shrew."

So, here again are we, at that part of the lunar cycle. I don't feel much different. Or do I? Hmm. Maybe it's because I'm quaffing my own ration of insanity with Amontillado and Wheat n Cheese Crackers. Whatever. What's it to you? Sorry - don't know what just got into me.

It doesn't make much scientific sense but I can't doubt that it's real. Even at work today, the star salesperson popped her cork for really, actually no reason whatsoever. slamming a door with such force that the frame was dislodged. I stopped at the post office in my rural community where a line is not only rare but weird and, sure enough, a line of probably five people, all quite testy.

Finally, the stock market went ape-sh*t these last few days - plunging down and then roaring back today. I dunno, but there has to be a connection to this infection, yo.

Let's see what happens next month which will be, I wager, a much better month, full moon or no.

There's A Bad Moon On The Rise, Alright

I thought a musical interlude would be appropriate at this point because, frankly, sometimes this blog weighs a ton.

Let me say this about Fogerty and Creedence: they are the tightest bar band you could ever hope to stumble over. Now, of course, they're far from "just" a bar band. They are tight, tight, tight. The lyrics are polished and inimitable. I couldn't right from that space because I didn't live it and that's what makes Fogerty's music so righteous - honesty. There's no artifice and lot of humor. And, interestingly, the band's output doesn't follow the 90% rule of music that says 90% of all pop songs are ballads. CCR and Fogerty's lyrics are first-person: this happened to me and I'm going to tell you this story, as is exactly in keeping with the oral history methodology and story-telling tradition that's uniquely American and especially Southern. Anyway, as you watch this clip, notice how tight the tempo is and how unadorned the orchestration except for the perfectly placed, signature, finger-picking by Fogerty at just the right spots. The talent in his voice, which distorts just where I'd want it to, as a producer, can't be faked. You either got it or you ain't. And that's when the goose-bumps begin, beyond an intellectual understanding of the music, it drills into your soul.

Mind you, I'm not some kind of crazed mega-fan. Yes, I really dig their tune-age, man. But what I look for in music, or what finds me, I should say, is simply elegance. Creedence may be a relic, but that unique sound should be run through your aural canal every so often. I goruntee you will feel a new dimension each time. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Lost World of The Vikings

It's a tempting title, I know, but this column has nothing to do with Vikings or lost worlds. Well, maybe it has a little to do with my entry into a lost world of my own making.

I've been officially divorced for a month. It's a relief in the sense that I'm no longer at the legal mercy of my now-ex-wife so she is free to destroy herself financially without drowning me, too. I am also free to simply ignore her, which I've done and, for the last week at least, she's done as well. Usually, though, that would mean she's plotting something. On another level, it's sad because there should have been some way to keep the marriage, the partnership, from careening into the Abyss. Maybe I don't know how to love and am horribly selfish. I know that I very defensive, but that's a part of my pathology (see many previous mentions here) and if my "significant other" knows about it and then exploits it - what would you call that? The finger-pointing will likely go on forever but, like most gossip, it's busywork.

Here's the thing - I realize that I am very, very alone. At least, it seems so. Starting with family: my mother is dead, my father's insane, my brother never liked me (so what my father had been saying for my whole life was rock-solid true: sorry, Dad, for doubting you, but it just seemed, well, insane) and now that my mother is so much ash, he no longer has any reason to pretend, my ex-wife (number two) is committed to her paranoid fantasy of my horrid existence, which is too bad because the promise of staying mad forever is more proof of insanity and my daughter isn't all that interested (at times, like I didn't text or talk to her today,) My friend, J, seems to have lost my number and my gay friend Bob, er, Tim, who was starting to ramp up with me recently after a long quiet period has kinda evaporated, limiting himself to a one-line e-mail every three days. Okay, he has a good excuse as he's been out of work for six months and that is not so good. I cut my girlfriend off at the knees, sort of, because of all that's going on with me in terms of staging my deadlines and she is understandably extremely upset that I haven't made any time to see her to the point of, for all practical purposes, dumping me. (Unless she's already dating someone else, I figure I have a week or two before it's totally blown and that works with my schedule. C'mon: I know you're reading this.)

But what really drove it home was something my "boss" said to me, in a rather offhand way, the other day. He asked me if I could work late. I thought, what, working until 1 AM everyday isn't working late? He said, "Well, it's not as if someone is missing you." He's not a native speaker of English, so I understood what he meant, meaning that I have no schedule to keep where I would be worrying someone by being late without contact due to the late hour at which he was asking. But what he said was acutely affecting. My heart sank. I visually imagined myself sitting in front of my 42" LCD TV, sucking down a 38 cent cup of Maruchan Instant Lunch, shrimp flavoured (all the flavours taste like they're Salt Flavoured) and simply dropping dead of a heart attack, not to be discovered for three days, already bloated and rotting. He is absolutely right. And my the size of things, right now, at this moment in time, at this major dip in my PSI, or Personal Stock Index, I am specifically and completely, totally and exactly alone.

I'm not a really social person. Kindly note the title of this column. I can busy myself ad infinitum. But, really, this is not such a good situation. I like interaction with other humans. I like to share my pedantic opinions and I like to make people laugh. I really like to listen to people, too and I take great pride in helping them say what they mean to say by offering good questions that lead them in the direction they may not yer know they are going until they get there.

If my disposal from aforementioned girlfriend relationship is permanent, then I'm a ghost. "He was a quiet, older man. No one ever came over to his apartment. We though he might have gone away for a few days until we realized his car was still parked behind the house."

It's depressing entered a Lost World, or the World of the Lost. But even that phrase suggests that there are other lost souls lurking about. Heck, maybe we can get together for some wine and cheese and form our own society of Misanthropes. In the local paper's social announcements, "Meets Wednesdays and Fridays at the Old Andover School House. Dress is casual. BYOB." I'm comin' up so you better get this party started . . .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just Say No

If you haven't heard, there's an economic crisis afoot. It's the worst in seven, eighteen, twenty-five or forty-four years, depending on what panicked commentator is making the relevant pronouncement. But what they're not saying, or rather, what I'm not hearing, is that this "disaster" is entirely man-made and as such can be un-made by men. Those "men" being I, you and us.

I do some investing in the stock market. How I make money is by timing my trades so that I buy at a low price and sell at a higher price, accounting for the commission I pay along. For instance, I'm actively trading in a stock that had a high price a year ago of about $10. Today, its market price is between $1.00 and $1.70. The price has only a little to do with what the stock is worth, mind you. That some poor sucker (and that might be your 401K fund manager if you're not a self-directed investor) paid ten bucks for the stock at some point is too bad, but not my problem. Every time I buy 3000 shares at $1.10 and sell at $1.30, which has happened every day for the past few, I make $600. Did you get that? If I had more money to leverage, I could quit my job - tomorrow - which would give me more time to make more trades on smaller moves and make even more green.

Yes, I have some "blue chips" - higher priced stocks in companies that have more financial "strength," but that strength is illusory. One stock I recommended to friends dropped in lock-step with the market. Of course, that makes sense. The idea is to trade on small moves,more frequently, which means one has to be acutely aware of what's going on in the world of business since that directly affects what happens to one's money.

Too much work, you say? Is it too much work to make sure you don't leave your wallet on the counter at McDonalds' after picking up your Big Mac and fries? Of course not. Same principle applies. And, just like holding on to your wallet, there's no magic to it, none at all.

"But my 401K is worth one-fifth of what it was last year!" That's right, it is and it's up to you to fix it. You can decide what investments your 401K represents and if you can't, CHANGE YOUR BROKER because that's your money! There are a bunch of funds that short the indexes, that means that they count on the market, or certain sectors of the market, going down and they have made sh*tpiles in the last few months. They are betting on failure and winning. Personally, I like to bet on volatility, an element that is in plentiful supply.

One of my favorite benchmark stocks, Heinz (ticker HNZ,) is probably one of the most stable stocks you can own. Brokers that try to get new clients may offer a stock like HNZ because they know it's safe and it shows the potential mark, er, client, that their money is safe with that broker. After a half-dollar move, the broker will call and get the new client to sell the stock and try to get the client to move his cash to an issue that the broker's firm is trying to move, perhaps because they've IPO'ed it or underwritten it or because they have a big institutional client with millions of shares of the stock who wants to make some money by forcing a move up. "It's going to move up," says the broker who's forbidden to trade on insider info, so, how the hell can he guarantee that? Ask him. "The news points to it." Any seasoned trader will tell you to never trade on news of any kind because it's already too late. "The fundamentals are sound." So are Heinz's, so why move? "They're about to break out. There's a (new drug about to get FDA approval; a new way to mine oil from the foreheads of teenage boys; a laser-operated bread slicing machine that just about to be patented - pick one as they're all silly since whatever the company does it first has to make the profit before its valuation will increase on the books.)" So, I might ask, what we have here is a pump-and-dump, meaning you're pumping up the sale of this stock and when the price point it met for your insidiously manipulative large client, they'll be dumping the stock and interest will evaporate, meaning, what, that I'll be wiped out, basically. Right? Click.

Brokers are salespeople. If they don't buy or sell stock for you, they don't make money. I trade on-line, so I take the responsibility for making my investment decisions. This means that last week, I made $3800 - and I lost $1800, so I netted two grand. And I know what mistakes I made and I won't be repeating them. My principal is intact, that is, my cash is safe and my profit is safe. The information is all out there, all you have to do is use a little common sense and do some studying. People have to eat, use fuel and buy stuff. It's like a gigantic food chain and the individual investor has the power, if you will, to figure it out. Heck, if blue-haired old ladies running an investment club in Ohio can grow $12K into a million, so can you.

What else can you do, as a charter member of this horrible crisis, do? Be more frugal. Be like Warren Buffet, who, though he is a billionaire many times over, still brown-bags it, lives in the same house he bought in 1950 and drives a 13-year-old car (just like me, I might add.) Don't routinely buy your morning coffee at two bucks a cup - brew it at home and take it with you in a reusable car-cup, at about 30 cents a cup. That's 200 times $1.70, or $340. Take your lunch to work - $2.50 versus $6.00 (or more) and save $700 a year. You see, I've built in some lee-way to account for those days when you just want to treat yourself - go for it! Get basic cable instead of the Full Golden Passport Mega Deluxe package and save another $550 a year. So far, we're up to $1590 - sounds like a rent or mortgage payment to me. WAIT for clothing sales and really, do you need 40 tops? Really? Do you think anyone cares? If you insist on designer fashion, great, so do I, but I shop at Marshall's and routinely find $100 Polo button-downs for $20. A cheap price for a quality product that will last me a long time and look cool. Ladies - go to the nail salon every OTHER week and do you own nails every other week. You'll save at least $650 a year. Go to WalMart (though I hate them, really, I do) and buy there what's not on sale elsewhere. Shop at three supermarkets if you can and get the bargains from each as supermarkets rarely run sales on the same items at the same time. Buy generic items if you can - notice, I didn't say "when appropriate." Generic ibuprofen is no less effective than the name brand and costs half. ShopRite peas are just as pea-ey as that big green guy's. Clip coupons - there are tons of coupon-clipping websites and blog, some of which run competitions to see who can fill their grocery basket for the least amount of money. At one site, the leader had bought $200 worth of groceries for $38. They printed the receipt.

Again, it's your money.

Next, don't believe everything you hear. Both media and finance wonks love turmoil. China launched a 580 billion dollar stimulus package and the markets went DOWN on Monday. WTF? Why? Because for Wall Street or Bond Street or Tokyo, it is never enough. Never. The government could have hand-crafted golden sailboats for the billionaire bankers that got bailed out and there still would have been moaning about the quality of the toilet paper in the pave diamond coated head (that's bathroom in nautical-speak.) The whole idea is more in the business of speculation. More movement, more money, more news, more, more, more. It translates to activity, which translates to opportunity, which means money. And that's what they make - money. In fact, J.P. Morgan, the original dude, not the bank, was once asked if he knew what was going to happen in the market that day and he said, "It will fluctuate." He also said, "The wise man bridges the gap by laying out the path by means of which he can get from where he is to where he wants to go." Well, duh! Plainly said, JP!

So, that's a little of what you can do. I guess we should just sit back and wait for things to get better, right? Wrong! Now's the time to apply as much pressure as possible to your representatives in Washington to make some changes and yes, folks, that will mean new taxes. Oh, listen, it's your choice . . . pay some more green out of your measly check and get this country back into the running or spend your retirement living in a cardboard shanty town. This isn't my idea, by the way, but that of our (hopefully illustrious) new leader, Mr. Obama. In the last week alone, he's met with top money guys (and they really like him, it seems) called on the current congress to consider a significant stimulus package (he's right there - anything small will only get saved and not spent, thus doing nothing except creating new debt for the good ol' US of A) and Monday called on W to move his ass on helping the car companies, pronto. You, too can apply pressure and you do have the time, please, stop bulsh*tting me.

It's in our hands, folks. It always was and it always will be. If you think it has nothing to do with you, then the mind-control experts on Wall Street have indeed won. It's been time to take back America for, oh, I don't know, probably about 25 years or so. So get off your Internet-surfin', ultimate-fighting-championship-watchin', pork-rind-eatin' butt and lend a hand. If you don't, someone will, at the most opportune time for him, simply bite it off. Ouchies!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Life Goes Friggin' On

It's no surprise that in the microcosm of our individual existence events tend to mark significant milestones as we busy ourselves for the Great Dirt Nap. The birth of a baby, yours or someone else's, someone relatively close, that is, certainly can be counted as a major milestone as another mammal begins the great march back to dust. Death is another one of those inconveniences, for the decedent, I mean, and sometimes for the survivors, that's undeniably important except when you're the dead guy or girl, in which case, you could care less. I suppose that's a consolation, not having the ability to give a darn, or not give a darn, for that matter.

Sorry - I got distracted by this piece of information: glass remains a liquid below its melting point because it has a disordered structure. I guess that's proof from nature that disorder can still yield significant transparency. Heh, heh.

There are other significant milestones that are sort of immutable. Losing virginity, buying a new car for the first time, buying a house, marriage, divorce, graduating from anything that puts the stamp of approval on what you supposedly know or don't know about the brand of busywork you intend to collect on for the rest of your meager career: these are all pretty "important" events and are identifiable by most folks in Western, first-world cultures as common and meaningful.

My list from the past year includes a death, a birth, the apparent end of a love affair, the end of my marriage, buying a used car, selling a used car, getting my retirement funds in order, planning for my daughter's college education, qualifying for a mortgage, finding an apartment and a whole of of realizations about myself and about others close to me, or whom I thought were close to me. It's been a busy time during which I've had to make many, many compromises and which hearken me back to my interest in a certain Eastern practice concerning enlightenment and understanding and how all of the above are actually and truly irrelevant.

It's in my nature to do "scenario building." It's what makes me a superior asset in business and an excellent technician. For the past year, nearly, I've been looking at, then researching, then planning, then acting on getting out of what is now my ex-wife's house. I had so specs to fulfill and questions to answer. Should I, or could I, buy a house? I could afford it by myself, but it would be close. Plus, the mortgage cost would be close, within about $100 a week, to the cost of a low-end rental for the same number of rooms. But, closing on a house is a tricky balancing act between how and when credit's reported, the state of the market, how quickly all of the steps can be completed - contract, inspection, survey, title search, insurances and so forth, and I have a date certain to be out of here by November 31. So, I turned away from a purchase to focus on a rental.

You may ask yourself why a divorced man with a teenage daughter even needs a house. Well, the answer is that it's economically smart, since although I could invest the difference between what a mortgage would cost and the cost of a rental into the market, you can't live in a stock portfolio. Further, though we're in a down time now in the real estate market, property values will recover over the next five years and my $225,000 invest today, leveraged with a home mortgage, will realize real-cash, in pocket of around $100,000 over ten years. It's not possible to make this through day trading unless you do it full time with more money than it would take to buy a house.

I also wanted to have enough space for my daughter to have her own private space plus space for my (ex-) girlfriend's two kids that still live with her to have their own space as well. Now, my daughter will be with me a few days a week a couple of times a month. That's now - what will happen in the future? We'll see. My (ex-) girlfriend's kids, one living away from home and two still at home though one is old enough certainly to be on his own, are not little kids and need their own spaces. That's four bedrooms already. In her area, Roselle, buying and affording a house of that size would be impossible only because of the taxes and because getting my daughter to live with me a few days a week would be impossible. Around here, in Northwestern NJ, the taxes are half with a much better infrastructure and plenty of cows. I really like cows.

So, what happened with my girlfriend? I refer you to the title of this blog, folks, as evidence of my people skilz. Yes, I know that's misspelled - I'm just trying, vainly, to be down, yo. You see, I was and am overwhelmed by all that goes into getting to, and past, these particular milestones of which I speak. I have certain obligations under my divorce agreement, like selling off the contents of the garages that hold ancient, unwanted business equipment, along with a whole host of other, administrative things - new life insurance, setting up an education fund, organizing, organizing, planning - it's endless. So, I simply left her in the lurch. She did not understand. I understand that she did not understand, but, realistically, something had to give and I had to gamble on her love. Pretty bad gamble. She sees it as a kick in the ass. I see it as doing what I have to do so that we could have a life together, so that I could be finally "set up" as I know I should in order to function. Further, and she doesn't really get this, and I'll explain it to you, in the private-ness of this blog, I've been so consumed with "business" activity and anxiety surrounding the deadlines involved that my penis has stopped working. You can't have a girlfriend without a penis, let me tell you. Well, unless you're a lesbian. Or gay, in which case you don't need a girlfriend. But I digress. When I left her last, I knew I had to focus on getting sh*t done or she would forever blame me for failing to tie up loose ends and that wouldn't work, either. See? Scenario-building.

Let us say that she let me know in no uncertain terms that I was less than zero (she was very angry and is likely fairly angry still) and that it was a "don't call us, we'll call you" situation. Okay - what can I do? I'm maxed out. I lack the skills, I guess, but I accept that. If I didn't, I would lie around, depressed and get nothing done and still have to meet the deadlines. Women are so demanding. They want you to love them, feed them, obey them, boost up their self-esteem. It's a lot of responsibility. And if you drop the ball, baby, watch out!

So, I decided to look at two-bedroom apartments as well as three-bedrooms. Why am I still looking for three beds? Because no relationship is beyond repair. There was something that caused us to meld in the past and that was the kind of people we are and that hasn't changed that much, the fundamentals, that is. So, reconciliation is possible, though far from assured. Very far, Very, very far. But, still.

This last Saturday, I found a Craigslist ad for a two-bedroom in Andover. I had already seen a gorgeous house in Hampton with a pool and 2.2 acres of land for $1500, a crooked, elderly apartment in Newton for $1200, and Hobbit-sized house for $1000 that was already rented when I saw it (so, I asked the agent, why are you showing me this? She shrugged.) The place in Andover was the schoolhouse for the town until 1920 or so and was erected in 1863, right in the middle of the Civil War. So far, so cool. I like the idea of an erection lasting 150 years yet I kept thinking, "I see dead people . . ." The guy renting the house told me his life story. I kept my mouth shut as I wouldn't have been able to get a word in edgewise, anyhow. The apartment is small but very cozy. It was built in a time when people were shorter, clearly, as the doorways are low. He explained that a box spring would not fit through the doorway. He explained how he planned to use no oil this season, just to teach the oil people a lesson. His business is the sale of gumballs and in his office downstairs were boxes containing tens of thousands of them in all colors and sizes, even ones with patterns. In fact, I had purchased via the facility of a Beaver-brand vending machine, a rubber high-bouncer that's decorated like a pool-ball just a week or two ago when I was in Sussex, after eating pancakes with my daughter. To be accurate, she had an omelet out of which she only ate the cheese and mushrooms. She really likes mushrooms, but not eggs. I asked her why she ordered an omelet if she doesn't like eggs. She shrugged and said that it had seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, apparently, the guy liked the cut of my jib and decided to rent to me. No credit check, no employment check. "I'm a man of my word," He proudly announced. He seemed to like the idea that I am the same kind of dopey, trusting fellow as he and so, we clicked. I wrote him a check for $850 as a deposit with the first rent due on December 1. He even offered to leave furniture for me as well as the use of the Hot Tub for $20 more a month and would share the cost of the cable unless I wanted a separate account.

As it turns out, the apartment is four rooms plus a kitchen in two parts. It's tiny, but somehow, like a big, comfy glove. Now, it could be three-bedroom if I don't use one room as a dining area and, frankly, the rooms are a decent size. The wall colors are pretty much what I would have chosen for my own color scheme. And, it's very cheap. I thought that if I got my mortgage approved, it would be a good staging point and without a lease, little trouble to get out.

Just to be sure, I saw one more rental in town. My daughter warned me that particular block was where all the crack addicts and child molesters lived. I doubt there are any crack addicts as they'd have to drive pretty far to get a crack supply and there's only one known child-molester in town, currently in police custody for breaking parole, but I listened. Based on her concerns, whether or not there were demons lurking in the shadows, I resolved not to rent there, but I had to look, just to shore up any sense that I had left a stone unturned. It was a gloomy day and the rain has started to come down in decisive pellets. Gaea was trying to tell me something, I'm sure. It didn't take long to find the address, to climb thirteen gloomy steps to the second floor and walked through an absolutely gorgeous and gigantic loft apartment. Oh, sorry, wait a minute. I'd seen so many ads that I seem to have started to think like a real estate writer. There was no electric light in the kitchen and I could just imagine wandering in at two in the morning, flicking on the light and scaring off a dozen six-legged denizens of dirt. Yuck. There were three bedrooms, I guess, but since it was a "railroad-style" space, there were no separate rooms, per se. Yes, they had redone the floors but, my god, the one word that kept flashing on the warning sign in my brain was "Tenement! Tenement!" It took me less than three minutes to finish the tour. The owner knew I was a waste of time as I was clearly NOT a child molester or crack addict and bade me a weak and cynical farewell with the promise that she would not sweep anything onto me as I went down the stairs as she was going back to her sweeping now. I guess she became impatient as I was leaving as I could hear the sound of her broom swooshing across the hallway floor, raining down on me tufts of dust, probably containing lead and asbestos, along with a rock. I got out of there, double-quick.

So, that's a major task accomplished, that is, finding a place to live. Wouldn't it be a killer if I got my mortgage approved at this moment? And that's just what happened. I'm starting to think that it's absolutely true that there is no free will as one's actions applying to what happens in the surrounding universe. Now what do I do? Buy a house? Yup. And I have ninety days to do it. And I have 20 days left to move. And five days to prep more equipment for sale. And I have to pack. And pay my current bills, work with my credit attorney, plan, plan, organize and plan. With enough money, I could buy these milestones which is the luxury of freedom from middle-class-dom. The rest of us just have to figure it out as it goes and, "git-r done!"

So, it's all more than just getting to that milestone and taking a breath. The next one is just a mile away and it's calling. Busy, busywork. My advice to myself is to keep busy and not care too much. That's been my downfall in the past, that is, to become personally invested in the success of the achievement of goals. The cost is too great. And there's a lot to do. Really. Quite a lot. My advice to you is to keep moving. Those that want to come along with you, will. Otherwise, such people act as an anchor and, just like with sea-going vessels, anchors are meant to stop or restrict motion. That's not good if one is trying to move. Further, don't hold a grudge - it's their decision to not move or to move in another direction. Accept this and hope they accept your choices. After all, that's what nature intends and it's not nice to fool Mother Nature. See you at the next waypoint!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

McBama Wins - Hooray For The Other Side

The clock is counting down to a "new day dawning" as the currently leading candidate was quoted as saying. Smells like . . . victory. Only in this story, instead of napalm, the weapon of choice was money, and lots and lots of it.

My teenage daughter asked me how much the president makes. I told her that the salary was only a token at $400,000 and that most CEOs in larger US businesses make many times that. She asked, then why do they spend so much money to get into office? It doesn't seem right.

I agree with her. Obama is said to have spent nearly $250 million while McCain, who opted into the public campaign coffers, was limited to $84 million. That's an awful lot of money to make back, at most, $1.6 million in salary, $2-3 million in advances for the post-administration book deal and perhaps 20 years at a cushy job on the board of a major institution or law firm, yanking down another $2 mil a year. This all adds up to under $50 million. So what's the logic?

Power. The kind of power that only you or I could dream of and probably, for the most part, don't bother, since we have to get the kids to soccer, do the laundry, pay the mortgage and deal with an asshole of a boss, not to mention, find a marriage therapist and see whether we can get rooms at Disneyworld so that we can save on the car rental. $5000 for a family vacation: geez, that's real money.