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Suburban Worldsick Blues

27 May

by Roger White

 

With a tip of the hat to a master chronicler of the American age, it must be noted that Bob Dylan never lived in a 3/2/2 with central heat/air and two and a half mortgages during a time when, by all appearances, our society is on the verge of utter decay—all viewable with the click of a mouse or touch of a pad.

 

So I give you “Suburban Worldsick Blues.”

 

Perry’s in the Capitol, railin’ against abortion,

I’m lookin’ at my taxes thinkin’ it’s extortion,

The man in the trench coat shootin’ up the school halls

Says he got bullied so everybody must fall.

 

Look out, dad, the economy is bad,

God knows what we did, but the country’s on the skids.

 

You better duck down, turn page, watch out for road rage,

Another mass swhyhooting, another senseless rampage,

Sterling’s on his cell phone reminiscin’ ’bout slavery,

Miley’s twerkin’ onstage, scandalous behavery.

 

Look out, mom, Gotta stay calm,

Soldiers in Kabul dodging roadside bombs.

 

Get sick, get well, they’re laying off again at Dell,

Are we winnin’ whatever war, it’s gettin’ kinda hard to tell,

Presidenidiotst says our healthcare system’s unfit,

All Congress says is where’s your birth certificate?

 

Well, Hormel, GM organizin’ recalls,

Bad meat, bad brakes, pickets down at town hall,

Daughter’s college fees call for medical sedation,

Building border walls to stifle immigration.

 

Look out, pop, no tellin’ where it stops,

Younger daughter’s boyfriend working at a head shop.

 

Mortgage underwater, excess beer consumption,

Viagra wants to help with that erectile dysfunction,

The factonoworkry just made a Chapter 11 declaration,

School board says it’s gonna teach divine creation.

 

Text tweet online, your selfie looking so fine,

Kids in Bosnia steppin’ on old land mines.

Icebergs meltin’, droughts killin’ all the wheat,

Just global warmin’ lies of the liberal elite.

 

Well, get dressed, get stressed, face the day’s traffic mess,

Oops, your job’s just been outsourced to Bangladesh.

Don’t follow leaders, take pills for all the cedars,

Find yourself a new position as a Walmart greeter.

 

Look out, mama, you’re dyin’ from the trauma,

Increase yer Prozac dosage, tune in the dalai lama.

 

Well, jump down a manhole, filibuster gun control,

thebardThink I saw a shadow up there beyond the grassy knoll,

Headin’ to the car, another day in the loony ward,

Shakin’ yer head ’cause the vandals keyed yer new Ford.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

143a.

 

It Takes a Village to Save the Squirrels

18 Nov

by Roger White                                                                              

It dawned on me the other day, as I was returning yet another socket wrench and assorted metric sockets to my neighbor Jim, that regarding many things about life and the cosmos I’m mostly talking out of my, uh, hat.

This particular moment of clarity came to me as I realized, watching my long-suffering and patient neighbor reseat his tools into their precise positions in his immaculate garage workshop, that as vociferously as I rail against modern society and pine for the days of yore, I would have lasted maybe a week and a half in the a slow squirrelolden times. My family would have lived under one of those quaint covered bridges. We would have subsisted on wild turnips and slow squirrels. Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t even know how to trap a squirrel, much less cook the thing and eat it.

You see, I have no skills. Zero. Nada. Bupkiss. Save helping you proofread your short story or guiding you through the distinctions between the possessive apostrophe and the contraction apostrophe, I’m about as useful and handy as excess nose hair. I don’t build things. My attempts at simple home repair often conclude at the minor emergency clinic. I don’t use a miter box. I’m not even sure what a miter box is.

woopusThe point is, I understand now that I should be thankful to the Large Kahuna that I live in a time and place where hammering nouns and verbs into place can actually put food on the table for me and mine. I’m sure the squirrels are thankful, too. Especially the slow ones. Life in the era of barter and wampum and manual dexterity would have been a tad severe for yours truly. As Quint said to Richard Dreyfuss’s character in Jaws, “You have city hands, Mr. Hooper.” City hands, indeed. And a city brain.

And thus, with this dawning, came the glow of appreciation for guys like Jim. This may also be a Large Kahuna type of thing, but is it mere happy circumstance that so many of my family’s friends and neighbors are people who can really do things? I mean, criminy, there’s Jim next door, who can fashion anything from an acoustic guitar to a backyard deck from a piece of tree bark; there’s Matt across the street, who’s fixed our computer so many times that when I call him now, instead of saying hello, he simply says, “I’m coming.” There’s our friend Rodney the homebuilder, who put our bedroom ceiling back together that time I fell through the attic. And there’s neighbor Glen, whose truck has saved us so many delivery fees through the years that we’ve been able to buy a new dryer. Oh, about that truck this weekend, Glen…

You get the picture. Sans our friends and neighbors, we’d be out several grand a month just keeping the place running. Ya ever try to bargain with a refrigerator repairman by offering to conjugate his verbs?

I’m astounded at the amazing people around me—not just because they can actually accomplish the things they do with their minds and hands, but because they have such generosity of spirit. I think sometimes if I were Jim, and the clod next door rang my bell yet again beseeching me to diagnose his ailing garbage disposal, I’d seriously consider feigning a communicable disease. Or keeping the lights off until my nettlesome neighbor went away. Not Jim. Not Matt or Glen or Rodney. They answer every time.

i build sentencesSo yeah. Color me humbly mindful that it takes a village. It takes a village of wonderful folks to keep me from having to wear “Will Edit for Food” signs on the streetcorner. I’m earnestly thankful. As are the squirrels, I’m sure.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

A Milkweed by Any Other Name

23 Apr

by Roger White

 

In our somewhat slipshod efforts to maintain and beautify the old homestead, wifey and I recently marked off several great swaths of our mangy front yard, designating these areas for gardendom. We’d seen it done before. Stick a few flowers in the ground, throw in a porcelain frog, a garden gnome or two and some of those weird polished balls. How hard could it be?

ghomie zomb 

Hard, gentle readers. Very, very hard. For one thing, you can’t simply cordon off a patch of your yard and say “garden.” No. You have to chop this area to bits, dig every living thing out of it down to about Paleozoic level, lay down plastic and pebbles and poisons strong enough to kill large livestock, and then wait. I’m not sure what the waiting is for, but if it is to be spent in dutiful prayer to the garden gods, then that’s probably where we failed.

 

Well, we chopped, we dug, we laid down, we poisoned, and we waited—and then we diligently deposited our garden-plants-to-be. We watered and fertilized and pampered. We hauled enough rocks and mulch and potting soil in and out of our yard to create a neighborhood landfill. By the way, some awfully weird critters live about a foot down in your soil. And they don’t like you invading their territory. A bulbous, white, wormy-kinda like thistextured thing, which looked like a cross between an albino snake and the creature from “Alien,” hissed at me and slithered away during our digging process. This is why, I told myself, I work in an office building.

 

Anyway, after all the digging and planting and excess body fluid loss, we finally sat back and anticipated the burgeoning growth of nature’s beauty. The selfish part of me (that’s about 79% of the greater me) didn’t really care how much splendor our garden added; I was simply looking forward to mowing that much less of the yard. Yeah. Right. All the digging and chopping and poisoning did kill just about everything within the garden’s city limits—everything except the weeds. That damn garden is now home to more weeds than the rest of our front and back yards put together. What are weeds made of, anyway? Plutonium? Weeds, I have come to determine, are not of this earth. They are of the devil. Satan sits Down There and ponders not only the big ways to vex humankind—ya know, hurricanes, drought, wars, plagues, and all that—but he also has in his arsenal more subtle weapons, like wasps, bad breath, Rush Limbaugh, and weeds. Out, foul weeds! This is war.

 

Sure, we have some nice palm sagos now, and some cactus and pretty flowery orange and yellow things that I can’t remember the names of, but the vast majority of our yard maintenance time is now spent in hand-to-tendril combat with the weeds. I dare say that we have more weeds, and a greater variety of them, than before we began to “beautify” our yard. They somehow multiplied during the gardening process. It’s gotten to the point where I tell passing neighbors that we’re actually cultivating a weed-centric garden.

justlovely 

“Oh, yes, many of God’s more wondrous plants that some of the less-educated tend to think of as mere weeds are actually marvelous flora,” I say in an academic tone to the couple from down the street (whose garden is immaculate, of course) as they stroll by.

 

“Is that so?”

 

“Quite. The lovely Taraxacum officinale, or field dandelion, that you see here. The hearty Japanese Knotweed over there. Yellow nutsedge, the majestic ragweed, the distinctive milk thistle, which is a healthy antioxidant, of course.” I adjust my nonexistent glasses, nodding knowledgeably.

 

“Interesting. And very unusual. A weed garden.”

 

“Yes. See how the milk thistle matures to a stunning purple bloom? Well, ta-ta now. Oh, Lovey,” I say, turning to the wife, “is it tea time yet?”

 

“Honey,” she says as she pulls a long rope of dollar weed out of the ground. “Shut up. And dig up that stunning milkweed in front of you.”

 

“Yes, dear.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Don’t Take Your Kitchen for Granite

21 Nov

by Roger White

We’ve been camping out in our own house for weeks now, and I think I’m actually getting the hang of it. You see, my dear wife decided recently it was time to upgrade our kitchen and downstairs guest bathroom, and, like the naïve simpleton I am, I glibly went along with it all.

I presumed this entailed dabbing on a fresh coat or two of paint, getting a new commode cover, and buying a fancy oven mitt or three.

No, sir. “Upgrade” by my wife’s definition meant, of course, demolishing all countertops, tearing off all wall coverings, and conducting interviews with no fewer than 59 contractors, handymen, painters, tile folks, grout guys, electrical experts, plumbing people, sink installers, toilet types, granite excavators, countertop wholesalers, and all kinds of strange, hairy men who have been traipsing in and out of our house at all hours doing God only knows what.

So at present our groceries are in little clumps and piles all over the place, and our family forages for food intermittently, pretty much Cro-Magnon style. I keep a stash of chips and cookies hidden in my own special place, just to be safe. Every man for himself, you know.

And for weeks now our humble little abode has taken on the appearance of an archeological dig for ancient artifacts. In fact, amid the dust and debris I was amazed to discover some ancient artifacts of my very own, such as floppy disks from one of my early attempts at the Mediocre American Novel. Floppy disks, mind you. Pre-internet era. Thank God they can only be accessed by now-obsolete technology because I don’t want anybody looking at this stuff. 

“Oh, James,” Harriet opined, deciding it was better not to tell her former lover that the baby she carried was not his or even his brother’s but that of the motorcycle gang leader she hitched a ride with back in Needles, California. Harriet trudged off into the dark and stormy night, not knowing if James would ever want her back or, for that matter, if he’d want her front.

You get the idea. This is treasure better left buried.

Anyway, through all the smoke and drill bits and extension cords and horrible noise, I do believe something is starting to take shape. Our countertops, which I must admit I never really gave a second thought to, are now a gleaming river of exquisite polished granite. I’m scared to put anything on them now. I don’t feel worthy. Our cat’s pretty skittish about the whole deal, as well. When he hops up on the countertop, he’s at risk of skating freeform all the way across the kitchen and into the dining room. Schweeee…..thunk! Meow?

Moreover, our downstairs bathroom sink has been transformed into this fascinating concave of hammered copper, beautiful and odd. I think of Abe Lincoln every time I wash my hands now. (Y’know, he’s on the penny and all.) I feel the need to be very quiet in the downstairs bathroom all of a sudden, I guess because it has taken on this aura of a stately museum. It is gorgeous and finely appointed, and presently I can’t do my business in there because I’m a bit intimidated. When I’m in there, I start thinking, “Man, this room doesn’t deserve this. I should get outta here.” I’m of a mind to rope off the downstairs john with velvet and have a docent charge admission.

And through it all, I have become good friends with our main contractor guy, Bruce, who happens to be a Cowboys fan like me. We’ve practically shared half the season together. I’ve noticed, however, that I’ve begun to hope and pray for dull games because if anything really exciting happens while Bruce is tiling our kitchen backsplash, it ain’t good. “Touchdown, Cowboys!” Smash, flinkle, kar-rump. “Uh, Mr. White.”

I’ve also become well-versed in the finer points of Contractor Time. You see, there’s Eastern Time, Central, Mountain, Pacific—and Contractor Time (CT). When a contractor says he’ll be at your house by 8 a.m., that actually means 10:30 a.m. CT. If he says he’s heading to lunch for an hour, what he means is he’s heading to lunch for three hours and forty-five minutes CT. And, when your friendly contractor guy tells you he can have that job finished in two weeks, this, of course, equates to two and half months CT.

I’m just funnin’ ya, Bruce. Ya done good, son. Just remember, no tiling while Romo’s in the pocket. And can I take this oxygen mask off now?

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

This Was Going to be Funny. Honest, It Was.

26 Aug

by Roger White

All right, you caught me. Put the flashlight and rubber-band guns down, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll talk. I tried. I really, truly tried to write this week’s column. Had my topic, had my three main points with some minor diversions, all with clever punchlines and cute little asides. There was even a comic twist and a reversal in there. We in the biz sometimes call this the counter-clockwise swirl, in deference to the great Jerry Seinfeld (played by Jerry Seinfeld). Jocular juxtaposition. Classic formula. I just couldn’t get motivated to finish the darn thing. It was going to be funny this time, too—not like usual. I was going to regale you with tales of my domestic do-it-yourself adventures gone wrong. You know, how clumsy and endearingly goofy I am at trying to fix things around the house. Oh, it was going to be a hoot. Like the time I went up in the attic to bait raccoon traps and fell through the attic floor/bedroom ceiling and caused a massive pink and avocado avalanche of insulation and raccoon droppings all over our master bedroom carpet. At least we had a Sears coupon for flashlights and duct tape–but where does one find rubber band guns anymore? Oh, lordy, it was to be hilarious, and most of it true, too, except for the part about the baby hippopotamus and the peanut butter.

But no. I just couldn’t do it. I am stalled, stagnated. Dulled into a slackjawed stupor by the Venutian heat of a summer from hell and heavy, unrelenting doses of CNN and reruns of “The Waltons” on TV Land. By the way, did you know that in the 1971 pilot for “The Waltons” – called “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story” – that the part of Grandpa Walton (later played by Will Geer) was originally played by the famed ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, father of Candice Bergen? Bet you didn’t know that.

And as we all know, Candice Bergen and then-boyfriend Terry Melcher (son of Doris Day) once lived in the very house that Sharon Tate was living in when that horrible Manson thing went down. In fact, it was Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson who introduced Manson to Melcher because Melcher was in the music business and Wilson had been impressed with some of Charlie’s songs. Creepy, huh? Yeah, I know.

You see, it’s developments like this that keep me from staying on task. I am supposed to be telling you about my uproariously amusing attempts at home repair and maintenance, like the time a friend was helping me move my mom’s heavy (and expensive) thick glass coffee table and we turned it upside-down not knowing that the glass table top wasn’t attached to the frame and the slab of beautiful smoked glass fell onto the sidewalk and smashed into a bazillion little smoked shards of dangerous, beautiful rubble. You would have laughed. The way I was going to tell it, oh, how you would have howled. And that yarn would have been factual, as well, if not for the bit about police intervention and the buxom neighbor down the street who was once Steve McQueen’s torrid lover. McQueen, by the way, starred in the 1966 film The Sand Pebbles, which also featured one miss Candice Bergen from earlier in this column. Is that fate or what?

Ah, well. Look, I’m sorry. Instead of just standing there staring, you could help me, you know. Think of something funny. How about this? DVD titles you’ll never see. Try this one: Me and My Vivisection. Right, it’s a bit on the morbid side. What’s that? Not bad, not bad. Great French Military Campaigns of WWII. Kinda obvious, though. Hmmmm. Yoko Ono Sings Perry Como. Talking with Your Teenager. No? A Wall Street Guide to Secure Investments. Good one. Now, that’s funny.

You see? If we work together, you and I, we can pull this off. We can create a new genre of participatory journalism. This, in turn, will help usher in the new era of peace and enlightenment that is to come as we near the bend to 2012 and the eventual end of the world as we know it. You see, I knew there was a reason I couldn’t finish this week’s column. It’s all about world peace. I’m glad I could help.

But please, be thinking of something for next week. I don’t want to have to do this again.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.