The Devil’s Airline

I’m sitting at gate 27 at San Francisco International Airport and already I’m not happy. Naturally, when you’re buying last minute tickets everything is more expensive, but I managed to find a ticket for just shy of $500.00 ostensibly via US Airways. In reality, only my first leg is aboard US Airways. The connecting flight today and the first leg of the return flight are on United Airlines and the final leg on Virgin America.

When I arrived at SFO I went to curbside check-in where they informed me that because my ticket was purchased after July 9th there was a $15.00 fee for checking my suitcase and that because of this I had to check in inside. Fine. Not happy, but fine.

They do not help you on this airline! There is a self service kiosk where you help yourself. The damn thing only gave me my first boarding pass. The guy who wasn’t helping me said, “Oh yeah. That’s ’cause you’re next flight is on a different airline.”

“Yes but you sold it to me.”

“Yeah. Sorry. So down that way and to your left.”

NOT off to a good start.

By the way I’ve written this post on iPhone. Good on ya WordPress!

Obituary & Travel Plans

This is the official obituary, written by the funeral home, for my grandfather.  It’s not exactly new information, but it does potentially correct some erroneous information previously provided.

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Dr. [Papa] passed away peacefully in his home in Cañon City , Colorado , Monday evening, July 21st. He was born in Olean, New York, October 4th, 1916, the 2nd youngest of eight children.

He graduated from Olean High School, attended Seattle Pacific University and studied at Texas Christian University. He received an honorary doctorate degree from Whitworth College, Washington State.

He was inducted into the U.S. Army and served his country as a lieutenant during World War II. July 8th, 1947, he married [Granny] in Los Angeles, California and initially worked as a member of The Navigators, an evangelistic mission. Later he joined the Billy Graham Association, his main vocation, and served nationally and internationally setting up crusades and training counselors. Once retired from this, he continued his Christian work by holding Bible studies in prisons in Cañon City until recently. He authored the book, Learning to Walk with God with a study guide.

He is survived by a son [Dead Beat Dad] of Cincinnati, Ohio, a son [Presumed Dead Hippy], a daughter, [Hardworking Homemaker] of Parker, Colorado, a sister-in-law, Myra of Lockport, NY, a brother-in-law, James, of Corning, NY, 6 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.  (Startedliving can only count two great grandchildren, and a third still brewing.)

 

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I was asked a few days ago if I wanted to be a Pallbearer.  My immediate answer was that I did not have anything appropriate to wear for such a duty.  In my mind the case was closed because it wasn’t a possibity.   In a subsequent conversation with CPA Sis I was told that Hardworking Homemaker didn’t want me to feel like I couldn’t do it if it was important to me, and she was willing to reimburse me for a new suit if that was what needed to happen. 

CPA Sis:  Hardworking Homemaker wants to know if you want to be a pallbearer and she’s willing to pay for your suit if you do.

I was struck by the fact that I really didn’t know the answer to that.  I have mixed feelings about it.  I do not want to see my grandfather’s body.  I learned the hardway that the being in that coffin is not my Grandfather.  First of all Papa was down to about 85 pounds when he died.  He was nearly six feet tall and in his prime, he was closer to 200 pounds.  Secondly, the fact that his spirit (and his blood) have left his body, changes the appearance of him.  I do not need to remember him that way.  I’m counting on the idea that the casket will have already been prepared and sealed by the time I get to it.

In discussing it with Hardworking Homemaker, I realized that the only answer I could give was, “I don’t know the answer to that, and that tells me I better do it so I don’t wish I had later.”

So I went to Men’s Wearhouse last night, and bought a new suit, shirt, tie and shoes.  $620.00 later, I have new black suit that acutally fits, which I am picking up tomorrow evening before flying to Denver on Sunday Morning.  I’ll arrive in Denver at about 7:30 where I’ll meet up with CPA Sis and Mr. Mom, (her husband) and we will rent a car and drive to Cañon City.  The funeral is Monday Morning and should prove to be a long day.  Memorial Service, then burrial and then lunch at the church with family and out of town guests.  I’ll spend the night in Cañon City again on Sunday.  CPA Sis and Mr. Mom are flying out of Denver and back to New York on Tuesday morning, but my flight doesn’t leave until 6:04 pm Mountain time.  Details of my transportation are yet to be resoloved but I’m not too worried bout it.  I arrive back in San Francisco at 10:55.

I was really hoping that CPA Sis and Mr. Mom would bring their daughters with them (no snappy nicknames yet).  Unfortuantely, that’s not really possible.  At $750.00 a ticket it didn’t make sense to bring them along and have to deal with the disruption and five and three year old would cause.  Vengeful Mother was to visit CPA Sis and clan starting this past Tuesday.  She opted to go ahead with the visit which is good and bad.  Even though she knew what she was getting herself into, she’s still seen fit to make an issue of the fact that her visit with CPA Sis has to be cut short.  On the other hand the three of them decided that she will stay in New York with the girls while CPA Sis and Mr. Mom come to the funeral.  Vengeful Mother is scheduled to leave this Tuesday afternoon, and Mr. Mom’s dad is coming in the same day. 

Tuesday looks to be a pretty hectic day for them.  I don’t know the logistics but CPA Sis and Mr. Mom fly back Tuesday morning, in time to pick up Mr. Mom’s dad, everyone go to lunch, and then drop off Vengeful Mother for her return trip.  I do not envy CPA Sis and Mr. Mom on this one.

Even though I’m going to be home on Tuesday, I’m still taking the rest of the week off work which will be nice.  The next major disruption of my life is to be the remodeling of my regretably pink bathroom.  More on that, and hopefully pictures, later.

Mr. Mom talked about buying me a ticket to come see them in the next month or two.  I’m thinking the smart thing is to coordinate that visit with the bathroom remodel.  Scared Kitty won’t be too happy about that but he’ll survive.

Four Cats and a Funeral; or A Foreshadowing Dream

I had a dream on Sunday night. I dreamt that my Grandfather had just died. He’d already been eugoogalized and put into the ground. The dream took place, primarily in someone’s garage where Dead Beat Dad, and my step-monster, (we’ll call her Gigi the Home Wrecker, because well, my Precious Nieces #1 & #2 call her Gigi and she HATES it. That’s a good enough reason for me! I suspect the “home wrecker” part speaks for itself.) were selling off my grandfather’s possessions. There were a number of valuable items that were being sold for a significant sum of money.

I do not remember what kinds of items were being sold, but I do recall that there were some items I wanted to have and I didn’t have money to purchase. I remember arguing with Dead Beat Dad and Gigi the Home Wrecker about the fact that it wasn’t fair or right to sell these items to complete strangers when there were family members who wanted them. Dead Beat Dad did waver some in his determination, but Gigi the Home Wrecker bullied him, as usual, until he agreed to her side of things and refused to allow the items to be taken by family.

In one corner of the garage was what I could only refer to as a cat farm. Imagine a four foot by six foot miniature farm, made of Legos, complete with a farm house, a barn and fields and pastures. And with-in this miniature farm were about 250 tiny cats. (Think “Pussy” from Rick & Steve, but the size of a snail.) The entire set-up, cats and all, was being sold at this Garage Sale, and in my dream I was very disturbed by the fact that these poor living beings that had just lost their care-giver were being sold of to random strangers.

Me: “You’re selling the cat farm? You can’t sell the cat farm! That’s just not right!”

Gigi the Home Wrecker: “What’s wrong with it?”

Me: “They’re living creatures that need to be taken care of. How could you possibly sell them off to complete strangers?”

GtHW: “What else are we going to do with them?”

Me: I’ll take them back to California with me.

Dead Beat Dad: “There are 250 of them. You can’t possibly take all this back on the plane!”

He was right, of course. Taking the Cat Farm was just not an option. I could see that I wasn’t going to win this argument, so I left the garage. I went to my luggage and retrieved two portable pet carrying bags. I went and found the four cats (two of the cats belonged to Dead Beat Dad and the other two to Vengeful Mother) that were wondering around the property and stuffed them in the two bags and took off for the air-port. I may not have been able to prevent them from selling off Papa’s things that I wanted to keep, but I took their cats. Somehow, that made up for it all.

The four cats were as follows:

Puff The oldest of the four by far. “Puffer” was a cat that Gigi the Home Wrecker‘s younger son had found abandoned somewhere when I was four or five years old. When I was about eight years old Puff was diagnosed with Feline Leukemia. She suffered greatly and developed huge tumors and open soars. GtHW couldn’t bring herself to have Puff put to sleep for a long time and so Puff suffered far more than she should have been allowed to. Dead Beat Dad finally stepped in and had Puff delivered from her agony.

Angel The next oldest Cat. Angel was surgically attached to Dead Beat Dad, always on his lap, or on his shoulder or lying on his butt at night. Angel was Dead Beat Dad‘s cat. She was only three or four years old when Puff went away, which must have been a great relief, as Puff and Angel were not friends. Angel lived about 16 years. I don’t really know what finally killed her (I assume old age, though 16 isn’t old for a cat.)

Muppet A cantankerous old fart of a kitty. Muppet was Vengeful Mother‘s favorite. She obtained him from a close friend whose unspayed cat had a litter of kittens and they needed good homes. Muppet caught her eye right away and while VM had no intention of taking in any more pets (we had a dog and that was enough) she came home that day with the little guy in her purse and a bag full of cat supplies. This was 1990. Sadly, Muppet had to be put down a few years ago. I don’t really know what happened to him, I just know that VM came home from work one day to find him flat on the floor, very lethargic and weak of voice (something he was not at any other time.) For several years before, Muppet was stinky, and his ears itched and he produced a significant amount of disgusting ear wax. He’d gotten ear mites and VM did nothing about it because, she said, she couldn’t afford to take him to the vet. It always bothered me, but there was nothing I could do.

Miss Kitty Of the four, Miss Kitty is the youngest, and the only one still alive. She, too, has had her share of health issues, but so far she’s hanging in. Miss Kitty is two years younger than Muppet. For some reason Miss Kitty was a big eater. She got to be very fat! When my beastly child came along a year later, she was lazy and too fat to run and therefor quite often the victim of Scared Kitty‘s youthful exuberance. (Scared Kitty is afraid of all people he doesn’t know. He hides behind my recliner every day when I come home from work and when my former roommate of six years comes over to visit he hides from her until he determines she’s not leaving soon, at which point he comes out to investigate and realizes he knows her already. But that’s a whole lot of story for another time.)

Eventually, Miss Kitty got so fat that her stomach hung almost to the floor when she walked. It was at this point that VM determined that Miss Kitty needed a diet. VM put Miss Kitty on a new food that was designed for overweight felines. Miss Kitty almost immediately got sick. She’d throw up every time she ate (Perhaps Miss Kitty should be renamed Bulimic Kitty?) VM took Miss Kitty to the vet who ran tests and determined that the poor thing had developed food allergies to all traditional fillers used in cat food. He then gave VM a special prescription dry food which Miss Kitty should be able to eat. Miss Kitty did not care for this new food, and as cats will do, refused to eat, preferring starvation over bad taste.

In fairly short order Miss Kitty went from being a complete porker to so thin you could count her ribs. VM was very worried. It happened to be around the time that CPA Sis was graduating from University so Miss Kitty went into the kennel to be cared for and tested/treated at the same time. The situation was dire. If Miss Kitty didn’t eat and keep down some nutrition very soon she wouldn’t live. The Vet ordered, forced feeding by way of a plastic tube in her nose and down her throat.

So there stood nurse #1 with poor little tubed up Miss Kitty in her arms while nurse #2 popped the top on a can of the wet version of the food the vet had prescribed. The very moment those vapors hit Miss Kitty’s unblocked nostril she went nuts! She squawked and squirmed until nurse #1 let her down. Miss Kitty immediately accosted nurse #2 who put the can down on the floor. Miss Kitty went to town. She wouldn’t even stop eating long enough to allow the nurses to remove the plastic feeding tube.

Today, Miss Kitty gets gourmet, prescription, canned food (Veal and carrots, to be precise – the stinker eats better than I do) to the tune of $1.50+ per can and she eats 2/3 of a can a day. She’s a nice healthy weight, and last I heard was very youthful and spry!.

Well, I’ve gotten a bit off track here, so let me re-group. This dream, on it’s own, is just one of many random somewhat bazaar dreams I’ve had. But it was different. Usually when I wake up from one of these odd dreams I feel fine and it amounts to, “Hmmm! That was a weird one.” This one was different. Yes, the dream was weird, and the conversation with my therapist that came from it was even more weird, but this one was more than that.

I didn’t say anything about it to anyone, but I knew. I knew that this was the day that Papa would finally be relieved of his misery. This was the day he’d receive his eternal reward for all his Heavenly work. This was the day he’d be reunited with his wife whom he missed so desperately. As the day wore on I began to think perhaps I was wrong, perhaps he’d be spared to see another day. I was sitting at home at about 9:30 in the evening reading Dad Gone Mad one of my favorite bloggers when Ex Con Older Brother popped up on my screen on Instant Message.

Ex Con Older Brother: Dad just got home from the Reunion and on the way his sis called…

Me: Papa?

ECOB: Papa just died.

ECOB: Oh. You already knew?

Me: No. I mean, I did, but no. I dreamt it last night. You’re the first person to tell me.

ECOB: Wow.

I do not now, nor will I ever claim to be psychic, or have ESPN or be telescopic, but every once in a while, things like this happen, where I just know something even before anyone has told me. In this case, I don’t know if it was better or worse that I had the “forewarning”.

So, on Tuesday night, I told Deb my therapist about this dream and the fact that my grandfather died the next night. I talked about his life, and his children and the two sides of him. But I realized there wasn’t a whole lot to say. Yes, I’m confused or conflicted about my feelings and I don’t really know what’s what just yet. Then she asked me about the dream.

It brought up a lot of things. Old feelings about Dead Beat Dad and Gigi the Home Wrecker and how they came to be together. About the cats, and who they were important too and my feelings about them not being properly cared for. There was a lot of similarity between my parental units’ lack of proper care for their animals, and their lack of proper care for me.

I could go on for hours about Vengful Mother‘s neglect and her self-deception, believing that she did well, by me, and about Dead Beat Dad‘s abandonment and inability to find his way to a healthy relationship with out guilt and depression. And I probably have a lot to say about Gigi the Home Wrecker and the parts she played in destroying my childhood and in making me the confused and somewhat imbittered man that I am today. But I think perhaps that’s a rant for another day.

What’s so bad about dying?

I had this conversation with a friend of mine today. 

TV Addicted Mom:  “When did your Grandfather pass away again?”

Me:  “Monday night.  I Hate that phrase.  I don’t even know what it means.  Pass away.  The man died.”

TV Addicted Mom:  “Well, I was trying to be polite.”

Me:  “But that’s just my cold ass brick of a heart, talking.”

simultaneously

TVAM:  “But I forgot who I was talking to.”

Me:  “Exactly!”

What Constitutes Greatness; or Two Sides of a Dead Man

I keep resisting the urge to describe my Grandfather as a “great man”.  Lots of people think he was.  And I suppose in a lot of ways he was.  But what makes a man great?  Is it his deeds?  Is it his legacy?  Is it how his family reflects on him?  Is it how his children see him?

My father is not a great man.  He’s just a man.  He’s a man who made mistakes.  He cheated on his wife.  He abandoned his family.  He broke the law.  He alienated his children…  More than once.  He is the eldest child of my “great man” of a Grandfather.  What could have happened?

You see my Grandfather was a life long minister.  He was the second youngest of eight children all of who were raised by a single mother after their father walked out on them.  I don’t know that much of his history but I’d imagine that it was a typical scenario of the older children raising the younger.  When at the age of legal consent, whatever that was in the early 1900s, He joined the army.

After the Army, Papa, as my siblings and I called him, came back to the US and began working with a youth/young adult ministry called the Navigators.  Being in need of a home, Papa moved in with the head of the Navigators and his family and while living in this home, he met the families Nanny.  A lovely young woman nearly ten years his junior.  It amuses me the scandal that such a thing should have created, but after sometime living under the same roof, Papa and the Nanny fell in love.  Eventually, they married and they had three children.

No one doubts that Papa loved his wife and children, but his first commitment was to the ministry.  At some point after his time in the Navigators, Papa joined an organization called Youth for Christ, an organization with which he would maintain an affiliation for many years.  It was in fact at the Youth for Christ office in Kansas City, Missouri that Papa’s oldest son (my father) would meet his first wife (my mother) who was working as a secretary in the offices.  “Granny and Papa”, as we called them, almost like it was one word, one entity, as I suppose they were in a way, “GrannyandPapa.”  “Hey kids look at these gifts you received from GrannyandPapa.”  “GrannyandPapa are going to be in town next week and would like to see you guys.”  “GrannyandPapa are very upset with you because you didn’t write a thank-you note after they sent those gifts.”  That was the one that always put me off, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Sadly, Granny and Papa didn’t approve of my parents relationship and made no secret of it.  And naturally, that only drove my parents closer together.  The first, in a number of steps my father would take to draw judgment and disappointment from his own parents.

There’s great irony in the fact that my Grandfather was a shy man.  A timid speaker.  He stuttered over his words and was not terribly eloquent in his early days.  But he believed that he had a calling and he was going to see it through to the end.  In his 30s, Papa was hired by the Billy Graham Association.  I don’t know what all the positions and responsibilities were that he held, but at some point there was a need for additional teachers to go out into the communities where there were to be Crusades, and teach the volunteers what they would need to do when the time came and the attendees of the Crusade came to them for prayer and counseling.  Papa had a burning inside to be one of these teachers.  Those who were in authority at that time loved my grandfather and knew he was on fire for this work…  But how could such a timid speaker be sent out to do what they were asking?  They acquiesced and gave Papa the work he so desperately desired…  But they sent him to the outskirts of the territory “where he would do the least amount of damage.”

I do not know exactly how the tale goes but I do know that Papa triumphed over his own fears and speech difficulties.  Over the course of time, he came to head this part of the organization.  As the head of this group, he touched hundreds of lives, ministering one on one to many people who would then minister to masses.  Eventually, Papa became Crusade Director and was responsible for everything that goes into planning and executing a Crusade.  He was Billy Graham’s right hand and they became best friends.

Two years ago, my grandfather turned 90 years old.  My aunt planned a surprise birthday party for him… Perhaps not the smartest thing to do for a man of 90 years, but surprise him, we did.  More than 150 people came to this party, and there were dozens more who couldn’t make the trip.  Billy Graham himself sent his regrets and his congratulations.  Ruth Graham was quite ill and couldn’t make the trip and Billy didn’t want to leave her side.

So many people, with such wonderful, glowing things to say about their mentor, about this “great man.”  I can only imagine the kind of bitterness that my own father must have felt.

You see all this marvelous work my Grandfather did always came at the expense of his own family.  Much of my father’s childhood was spent with what amounted to a single mother.  Papa was traveling the globe, doing his work with the BGA, often away from home for months at a time.  On a few occasions, he was away from his family for 6 months.  There were trade-offs, of course.  When school was out, Granny packed up the kids and off they’d go to meet up with Papa, where ever on the face of the earth he might be.  My father has seen parts of the world I doubt I ever will.  He always wished he could take my siblings and me to these places but it was never possible.

I had one of the best conversations I’ve experienced with my father that day after the party.  My father was hurt by the glowing, wonderful things these people had to say.  Had they any idea how my father had suffered for the work Papa did?  Could they understand how hard it was for him that Papa was such a wonderful “Father Figure”, as so many had called him, but he wasn’t much of a father to his own flesh and blood children?  I suppose there’s often a tremendous price to pay for “greatness.”

About six years ago, Granny was diagnosed with cancer and Papa finally retired for good…  From BGA.  Ministry was in his blood.  Without opportunities to minister his life had no purpose.  Fortunately, for him, the town in Colorado where they finally settled happens to be the home of three state prisons.  Naturally, he found a way to engage in prison ministry.  Four years ago,  Granny finally succumbed to the cancer that had been ravaging her body.  And when she died, something in Papa died too.  Oh, he continued with his life.  He continued with his ministry, but he was fading.  And then the final indignity.

Papa had been conducting a bible study with some of the low security inmates when he lost control of his bowels.  He was always a proud man and didn’t desire to be any more humiliated by this than he already was.  He did something that was out of character for sure, and certainly showed very poor judgment.  He handed his car keys to one of the inmate trustees and asked the trustee to bring his car around to the front.  Fortunately, the trustee did the right thing.  He brought the car to the front of the prison, helped my grandfather inside and walked back to the prison entrance.

Later that day, Papa received a call from the head of the prison ministry and informed him that the prison had asked that he not come back.  The explanation that was given my grandfather was that they feared for his safety as he was very old and getting more and more frail.  But everyone knows that they couldn’t allow a man who gave car keys to an inmate to return.

This happend about three years ago.  After that, there was nothing left.  His life no longer served a purpose in his own eyes.  His mind began to go.  He no longer could retain names and dates and new information.  And he missed his wife.  He wanted to be with her, and the only thing he wanted was to die, peacefully, at home, in his own bed.  And that’s just what he did.

Confusion

My nearly 92 year old Grandfather died tonight. I actually foretold his death in a dream last night. He was in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, and he missed my grandmother very much. This is a good thing… Right?

I’m not sure how I feel. I have no tears. I don’t know if I’m sad or happy.

I’m confused. Sleep would be good now.. I hope I can get some.

Degrees of Dificulty

Why is it that people who have a degree think it’s so easy for people to get a degree?  Let me tell you, it’s not!  I know!  First, because I watched Sister do it and second, because I know what I’ve gone through in the attempt.

I left therapy yesterday a little irritated with Deb, because she doesn’t believe that getting a degree just isn’t an option for me, and suggested that I’m limiting myself.  I don’t argue that she’s 100% wrong but she’s not 100% right either!

I grew up in a poor family…  Well, poor by everyday man’s estimation, apparently not so much according to Uncle Sam.  Uncle Sam said that my mother, who never made more than $18,000.00 and raised three children on her own on that pay, should have been able to set aside $10,000.00 a year, toward my education.  What fresh bullshit is this?!?  As a result I received $2526.00 in Student Loans which I’d have to repay, and $600.00 in Pell Grant, for the entire year.  I attended a University that cost $9000.00 a year.  It’s a simple reality that most children of parents without degrees do not get degrees. 

I spent my entire senior year applying for additional scholarships.  I took advantage of every possible angle I could find.  Scholarship for students of Native American Herritage?  Got it!  My mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, mother’s, mother was 1/8th Cherokee.  That counts…  right?  Not so much.  Scholarship for students who wanted to study Journalism?  Sure.  Don’t really want to but if it’s a free ride…  The fact that I didn’t have any foundation in high school classes, well…  Apparently that actually does matter.  Go figure.  You name it, I tried for it.  I spent hours pouring over lists of potential scholarships, wrote dozens of letters and essays and desperate pleas.  I had an ulcer by the time it was all said and done from all the anxiety I was experiencing over this issue.  What I needed was a scholarship for poor, average white guys who have no particular aspirations, no emotional support from his parents, no encouragement, no self confidence and just needs someone to make it happen for him.  Strangely enough, I couldn’t actually find that scholarship.

I’ve always had a hard time with things that require a lot of determination and effort from me but will be met with nothing but resistance.  Very few things in life match that description better than institutes of higher learning!  You have to go through amazing hoops to gather any information or to make sense out of the information you do get.  Oh and it really helps if you know what it is you want in the first place.

You see, as I was growing up I had a few ideas along the way of what I wanted to do with my life.  Today only one of those ideas still appeals to me and I don’t have the guts or the constitution to pursue it.  From a very young age I’ve wanted to be an actor.  Most kids do.  Most kids outgrow it.  I didn’t.  I never really wanted to be President.  I never wanted to be a fire man, or a police man, or a race car driver.  I wanted to be an actor.  I wanted to be a superstar and be rich and famous and not be able to walk down the street or do my own grocery shopping without being recognized and mobbed and begged for signatures.  I wanted to be lusted after!  I wanted to have my pick of men women to service me.  I think it really came down to wanting to be anyone other than who I was and actors got to do that, everyday.  My mother discouraged the idea.  You see, all actors are heathens and disgraceful and going to hell.  Funny how it was ok to watch them in TV and movies though.  She didn’t believe I could be an actor and still be a Christian and it was a certainty that me being an actor meant an eternity in Hell.  She didn’t know about the desire to be lusted after and all that but still she was sure that I couldn’t maintain my soul in that profession.  To this day, I want to be an actor.  I want to be a sex symbol and be the star of every big budget block buster ever made.  I want to have a body like Jean Claude and the salary of George, Brad, Matt or any of the rest of that “Ocean’s” Crew.  I want to spend hours a day and months out of the year, pretending to be just about anyone other than who I really am.

The reality is I’m fat and pale and have no physical strength or stamina, no hair and very average looks with a five head and a big chin and no one wants to watch me in an action sequence or a love scene.  This means that even if I could make a career out of acting it wouldn’t be a big one.  I wouldn’t be rich and famous.  I wouldn’t command 20+ million dollar salaries.  And if I tried to pursue a career in acting I’d spend a lot of years in the poor house.  I just don’t think I can tolerate that.  So even though it’s the one thing that I think of when people ask me what I’d do if I could do anything, I’ll never pursue it.

When I was growing up, I thought I’d like to pursue a career in Journalism.  I enjoy writing.  I would like to think I’ve got a talent in that regard and that people enjoy reading what I write.  My Mother, of course tells me that I’m a good writer.  Perhaps she’s right but then I read the writings of people like this guy:  www.dadgonemad.com and I think my skills are pretty  mediocre by comparison.  This guy is fucking hysterical and I’d love to be able to write the kind of stuff he does.  Journalism seemed a far more reliable writing career than noveling (noveling?) and short story writing.  Guess what happened?

Mother said, “Journalists are biased, unreliable, hatemongers who print inaccurate information just for the sake of a buck.  They interfere in and ruin people’s lives all for a little publicity and a few dollars.  They’re entirely too liberal and are responsible for undermining the moral fiber of this country.”  Um.  Ok?  Tell me what you really think?

The truth is, News writing is not for me anyway.  I hate doing a bunch of research, I don’t like the style of writing and there’s no heart in it.  Plus, to get the really big stories you have to be willing to barge into situations where you’re not welcome, you have to push people around and be willing to step on the next guy to get the story, and in truth some times they do hurt people with their writings.  I don’t want to be any of those things.  What I would love to be is a feature writer.  Let me write about events and sites and entertainment in my environment.  I live near San Francisco.  I once lived in San Francisco and would like to again.  Let me write about the bazillions of interesting sites and sounds and events of the city.  Oh sure, I could do that now, right here in this blog, but I’m a homebody.  Maybe if there was a paycheck and a more specific purpose attached to it I’d go out more?  Someone already does this type of writing here.  And how does one get a job doing such a thing anyway?  One more way in which I don’t know how to achieve what I think I might want. 

I was told often when I was younger that I was a good listener and I would make a good Psychologist.  I now know that’s not true, but I believed it then.  Oh but wait.  “Psychology is a bunch of crap.  People aren’t emotionally disturbed.  They’re demon possessed.”  (seriously) “Psychology is based in a bunch of demonic malarkey.”  And then get this one, “I’d feel better about you doing something like that if you were better grounded in Christianity.”  So apparently I’m not a good enough Christian to help people… 

I know now that my mother’s objection to all things psychological results from her own depression, and her own experiences with her mother who was always depressed and a little bit crazy.  Grandmother spent Mother’s entire childhood in some form of psychotherapy without ever getting better…  Maybe because she didn’t want to get better?  Whatever.  I’m a male.  I wasn’t such a good listener.  I wasn’t perfectly suited to be a therapist.  I always wanted to fix the problems people talked to me about.  I didn’t want to listen to a bunch martyrdom and self-serving sniveling.  I wanted to tell the person how to fix their woes and send them packing.  Anyone reading this who has been in therapy will know…  THAT’S.  NOT.  HOW.  IT.  WORKS!!!

In the midst of all these other hardships I struggled in high school.  Considering it a possibility back then was out of the question but I’m now aware that I likely suffer from some form of learning disability.  Maybe more than one.  I’m mildly lisdexic, I believe.  Throughout most of my “primary” education, I had the damnedest time trying to differentiate between a b and a d.  I couldn’t write them without thinking it out.  It got easier after I learned cursive because only a cursive d looks the same.  But I couldn’t read them either.  If I didn’t know the word and had to sound it out I didn’t know which letter it was until I looked for another word I did know and compared the letters.  I’m 33 years old now and I still struggle with this problem on occasion though obviously not with anything like the same frequency. 

I was bad at taking tests.  I usually did fine on my homework.  Got a lot of Bs but then when it came test time I’d get Cs or even Ds.  Fortunately, I rarely actually failed a test and therefore managed to pass all my classes.  Given those results I always felt pretty good when I brought home Bs, B+s and A-s on my report cards… 

“You can do better.  You’re just not applying yourself.”  Yeah, that’s what it is.  I like being told that I’m not good enough so I’m just coasting by with my Bs.  Mother was just too self absorbed in her own deficiencies to offer any support about mine.

And then there’s math!  Oh my God!  Fortunately, I can add and subtract.  That coupled with the calculator function on my iPhone which enables me to multiply and divide is all the skill I need to get by in the real world.  I took “Pre-Algebra” in the 9th grade.  The way my brain works with math, pre-algebra actually wasn’t too hard.  I don’t do addition and subtraction in a linear way anyway.  I move values around to make numbers that are easier to work with.  22+23=?  is the same as 20+25=?.  All I did was move the 2 from the 22 to the 23 making it 25.  Sister the CPA says, “It scares me the way you do math.”  Since Algebra is about moving values around and deciphering what x equals, it wasn’t so hard for me to do pre-algebra where the equations are simple and I could usually see what the answer was without going through the steps they want us to do.  x+2=5, solve for x…  Hmmm…  let me think.  By the end of pre-algebra we were getting into harder equations that didn’t make sense and when it was all said and done I passed with a C.

Then came Geometry.  Forget it!  I never could figure it out.  I’d sit in the class and think I understood what Psycho Geometry Teacher was saying and then I’d get home to do my homework…  I’d stare at the pages for hours with no clue what I was doing and reading the book didn’t help.  It was all written in gibberish.  And sadly, CPA Sister was no where to be found.  Somehow, miraculously, I passed that class with a 60%.  I have always believed that Psycho Geometry Teacher gave me the extra points to reach 60% just to get me out of his hair because I argued with him everyday.

That was the end of my math career…  Or so I thought.  More on that later. 

I graduated from high school with an astounding 2.67 GPA.  (I told you I’m an average white guy)  Nothing to be embarrassed about but also not enough to warrant much attention from financial aid/scholarship awarders.  I actually decided not to go to college right away because I had no idea what I wanted to do and it was going to be very expensive.  I decided at the last minute that I was going to go because I did have enough money from my student loan, grant, and a very small sum of money from my Grandparents to cover the cost of the first semester and we’d figure it out from there.  Dead Beat Dad made promises I knew better than to expect for him to keep to ensure that I’d be able to stay in school.

On the second to last day of finals week my first semester, I was driving Sister’s Geo Metro, or as Dead Beat Dad called it “roller skate”, down a side road to a gas station behind a white Ford F-150.  It’s been 15 years and I’m still certain this guy had his right blinker turned on.  I was young, and in a hurry and over-confident and went to swerve around behind him as he turned.  At the last second when there was no way to prevent what would happen, the F-150 turned left instead.  I ran the roller skate straight into the back-left corner of the F-150, folding the hood in half, shoving the radiator into the engine and breaking three of the engine mounts.  The car was paid for and Cheapskate Dead Beat Dad only paid for liability insurance.  F-150 was undamaged and the driver went on his merry little way.  I didn’t take my last two finals and then we went home for Christmas break.  Sister knew a guy who was capable of repairing the roller skate and by the time she went back after Christmas break it was drivable, but yours truly was responsible for paying the credit card bills that were comprised of replacement parts and tools for the repair job.  No more University for me.

I went on with my life, working in a grocery store first and then in the mall as a retail manager.  I got engaged, I moved away temporarily, I got dumped, I came back and eventually, I moved to California.  Six years ago, I made a deal with the devil and began working for my current employer, the self purported creator of the HMO and the largest Health Care Provider in California.  It seems to be a bit like the Hotel California.  You can check out (as I have long since done – mentaly at least) but you can never leave.  I had suffered a significant blow to my ego – employement wise, as well as my wallet prior to starting here and decided it was time to try again with the degree. 

There was a hellofalot of paperwork to be done to make this happen.  I had to fill out applications and registration forms and financial aide papers and transcript transfer requests, etc.  When all was said and done I ended up with 10 out of 12 credits from my first attempt at University.  That transcript was sent to City College of San Francisco, (CCSF) and the credits accepted.  CCSF only costs about $20.00 a credit hour for California Residents and I could easily have paid the tuition on my own but I got a letter one day telling me that I qualified for a “Governor’s Waiver” and that I didn’t have to pay tuition.  I only had to buy my books.  Nice!

The worst part of the process to me was that, as a returning student I had to take placement tests to figure out where I stood with my knowledge and what classes I “had” to take.  The tests covered a couple different areas.  English and I believe science among them.  I did just fine on those areas and nothing was ever said about them again.  But of course there was also MATH on these damn tests.  I placed so poorly in the math area that I was required to take Intermediate Algebra, Algebra and Calculus before I could take Statistics, which was the one and only class that I would need (mathematically speaking) to transfer from CCSF to San Francisco State University when I was ready.

I started in the summer semester with one class.  I decided to get my feet wet with something fun so I took Introduction to Psychology.  It wasn’t a struggle, and I made good grades and I thought, “Hey all I needed was a little maturity under my belt.  Now I’m older and wiser and I can handle this school thing.”  When it was time to select classes for the fall semester I decided I wanted to get the general and required stuff out of the way first, and the dreaded Algebra was high on the list of “get it done and move on” tasks. 

It hadn’t even been a year but I was already regretting my deal with the devil and wanted to get out.  I also had always thought that college part time was going to take forever and I didn’t want to go that route.  When I was growing up we had a family friend who was a perpetual student.  All the time that I knew this woman she was a full time student, didn’t work, and had enough financial aide coming in to rent a home and raise her daughter on her own.  I figured if she could do it surely I could as a single person.  I went to the financial aide office to inquire about it, but they told me I needed to talk to a guidance counsellor, so I made an appointment to meet with a guidance counsellor and he only wanted to talk about which classes I should take and whether or not my class load was too heavy.  I asked about going full time and he said that he couldn’t answer any questions about money but if I’m going to be going full time, this was a good class schedule.  Where the hell do you go from there?  I didn’t know.  I gave up the idea of going full time, but I went ahead and registered for the fall semester and I elected to take Intermediate Algebra and Conversational Spanish.  I’d taken Spanish I more than once and I thought maybe I’d find Conversational Spanish easier.  The class went fine and I passed it with a B.

The problem was in my Algebra class.  I felt like I was the oldest person in the room, perhaps not.  I started out strong but by late September I was lost.  I struggled everyday and was sure I wasn’t going to pass.  And even if I had passed, I was sure I had no hope of passing the next Algebra class.  I convinced myself that I didn’t stand a chance of getting this covetted degree because I couldn’t do Algebra, that the system was set up to make me fail and I was going to be a failure forever.  I talked to the teacher once and he told me that I was making a mistake taking more than one class at a time.  That was a big help.  (Idiot!)  Once again I passed by the skin of my teeth.  But far more importantly, I fell into the deepest depression of my life.  I couldn’t bare the idea of going through that again right away and I opted for Conversational Spanish 2 and English Lit.  I never considered the fact that if I didn’t finish all the math right way, I wouldn’t be able to continue because I wouldn’t remember the few things I had just learned.  Ultimately, the depression made it impossible for me to finish anyway.

It was about this time that then California Governor, Gray Davis decided to cut funding to higher education.  This, presumably, the same governor who waived my tuition?  My Conversational Spanish class was double the size of the previous one and most of the people in the room were far more advanced than I.  Eventually, I gave up and stopped attending.  But not before two additional set-backs.

1)  My English Lit teacher was a crack job!  The class was about 35 students in a room that could only comfortably seat about 20 and this woman was a card carrying feminist who swore on a regular that she owed her college education to Sputnik.  She treated all the men in the classroom like reprobates and the one and only time I spoke in the class she told me I was stupid…  really!  I decided that this was not the right time or the right teacher for me to take this class and I withdrew from the class during the safe period when it wouldn’t hurt me.

2) Shortly after the spring semester began I received a letter from the school telling me that I was on academic probation because I’d only earned credit for nine of the 21 hours I’d attempted.  Their records showed no credit for the transcript that had been transferred from my previous University.  I called to dispute the information and could make no sense of the response I got.  One more example of how the system is stacked against me. 

After over five years, I have decided to stop taking my Anti-Depressants.  I feel a lot better now, and a lot more in control of myself.  I think that ceasing the drugs at this time is the right decision and I’m quite confident that I’m going to be fine even after the drugs are comlpetely out of my system.  But let’s face it.  I’m afraid of what would happen if I went back to school now.  I do not want to take meds anymore, and honestly, no, a college degree isn’t worth the risk.

The reality is, I hate school.  I don’t ever want to go again.  Yeah.  I like learning new things and it’s fun when there’s no pressure attached but when there is pressure it sucks and I fail.  I learn a lot in my daily life.  And one of the things I learned a long time ago is that a lot of people don’t end up working in the field they get a degree in anyway. 

M&M has a degree in Speech Pathology…  She works for Verizon.  Clearly it’s not necessarily a requirement to have a degree in the particular field that you’re working in.  It’s just not right that a person who has a bachelors degree in art history (as an example) can be a high ranking muckety muck in xyz Oil Company, but a person who has no degree but years of work experience, tons of talents and lots of customer’s respect can’t get a Project Manager job like he wants just because he doesn’t have a BA.  I’m just as capable if not more capable in some cases as the art history major.  And the degree or lack thereof doesn’t speak to a persons ability or dedication, it speaks to a persons economic status and that’s not a fair or even legal grounds for employee selection.

And that, my dear, is a loosing argument!

But all of this long winded, random rant, jibber jabber is to say that it’s not so easy for everyone to get a degree.  For some of us it just really is not an option and those who say it is should be taken out to pasture and shot for their ignorance and condescension.