Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Parental Guidance

Off from work today, celebrating my dad's 80th birthday. Yeah, he's slowed down a little bit through the years, but if I'm still going at 80 like my dad is, I'll take it. My parents are here for six days and not one of those days has this on the itinerary: "Hang out. Do nothing". It's go time, all the time.

I think of this whenever I hear or read the latest warnings about food, drink, medicine, air quality, water quality, etc. Instead of using the "Study of the Week" as a guide to how to live my life, maybe I should look to what my parents have done. Sure, they've had their share of health scares, but no one runs clean and lean start to finish. So, if I'm to take my parents' example to live a longer, happier life I'd:

1) Work at a job I enjoy. Check

2) Retire early. The memory of the joy my parents had when the governor of Wisconsin passed a bill making retirement possible at 55 years of age stands strong to this day. They've been retired for 20+ years and don't seem to miss what they did (both teachers). In fact, from the war stories they get from colleagues still in the trenches, they believe it was the best move they ever made. Besides having a third child, of course. My dad mentioned to me last night that based on pensions and investments, they make more now not working than when they were employed. We should all be so lucky.

3) Travel. They don't take long trips, but there isn't a month that goes by where they're not on the road or in the air. My last vacation that was just me and Pumpkin was in May of 2008. Trips home are nice, but I'm not sure if "vacation" can be used as a label, certainly not when I can hear my dad snoring from down the hall

3a) Stay cheap. Comfort Inns and Holiday Inn Express are just fine, thanks

3c) Stay near a casino. After all, what fun is life without a little gambling? And what's more fun that holding a pair and drawing to a four-of-a-kind? Not one thing.

4) Drink. I don't think a day has passed(other than during illnesses or surgeries, and even then...) that I can remember my parents not having a cocktail or two. Mom: martinis (gin & vermouth, not the pussy kinds that populate the landscape these days) Dad: Beer, and the occasional Rusty Nail (scotch and drambuie) when he's feeling frisky. Every damn day. I remember one time when we went back for a few days, we went out for a fish fry and Pumpkin and I went to the hostess stand to get seated, not realizing my parents had grabbed a couple of chairs at the bar. I asked why they didn't want to go right to the table and my mom, shocked look on her face, said it was "unheard of" not to sit at the bar for a bubble or two before dinner. Not being ones to breach etiquette, Pumpkin and I took seats at the bar and quaffed.

Those are my parents' four basic principles to happiness. Yes, they had kids but I think their happiest years have been after we all got the hell out of the house. So, if the lesson to be learned from that is don't have kids, I can check that box as well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Debtors And Predators

My credit card bill this month was 10 pages.


I don't mind telling the balance: $189. I wrote a check for the amount ($200, actually. Easier to subtract) and sent it away. No worries. Very simple, actually.

The supposed difficulty most seem to have with paying their credit card balance in full seems to be the reason for the inordinately high number or trees that had to die for my bill to be sent out. When I picked it up out of the mailbox, I was struck but the envelope's thickness and didn't really know what to expect. I wish I would've saved it to go over page by page here but really, 1) I have so many better things to do, and 2) next month's may have even more pages. I guess that's if people fail to grasp the basic concepts of interest advanced in the 10-page bill. So much for the concept of the "predatory" credit card companies. predators don't explain their intentions in such exhausting detail.

On page one of the bill there was this example: my amount ($189), the minimum payment ($15) and how long it would take me with my card's interest rate (Really, I don't know. 17%, maybe) to pay off my amount ($189) by only paying the minimum payment ($15) each month. Grand total: 14 months. It was literally spelled out for me.

When I showed this to Pumpkin, she wondered what a co-worker's bill would look like. Her co-worker has 20k in credit card debt. I asked if it was due to student loans, maybe a car. "Nope, just stuff". 20k worth of stuff. I asked Pumpkin if this co-worker was concerned about this amount and she just shrugged and said "doesn't seem to be". My stomach hurt when I heard the amount, and I don't even know this person. Just like how we can do a nice gesture for a total stranger, then the next minute snap unnecessarily at the one person closest to us, sometimes we care more about helping those of us we don't know than those of us that we do.

I can understand how some people might run up debt, but only if that matter is related to a medical condition. Then again, Pumpkin had surgery 14 months ago that required her to pay $8,000 out of pocket while insurance covered the rest. She makes less than me. She asked her parents for nothing (but would have accepted had they offered), and turned down similar requests for help from me. She arranged with the providers a reasonable payment schedule and everything is now paid off. No debt. Ok, so I guess I don't understand how people can might run up debt. Certainly not 20k on "stuff"

I've got more to say on the matter but I have a 14-page phone bill to look over, so it'll have to wait for another time

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tax Relief, Not Haiti Relief

Death. Squalor. Crime. Desperation. Yep. That's Haiti. And then the earthquake hit.

I'll admit that I've given money for Haiti relief but I only did that so I could take a charitable deduction. I don't have any belief that my money actually helps. Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before all the mud huts collapsed, but to hear coverage of the story, it's being made to seem like it's Palm Beach under siege. Haiti isn't/wasn't Palm Beach. Hell, it's not even West Palm Beach. It's poverty on a level we can't comprehend, especially if your biggest problem is that your little Emily can't take oboe lessons at school any more because of budget cuts.

I would rather give to help animals than to help people. I just think that the more you hand over to people the more they're going to screw it up, and the more likely that corruption will result. I feel much better dropping off several bags of Science Diet to the ASPCA than I ever will cutting a check to Doctors Without Borders or anything championed by Bill Clinton. Dogs and cats can't help themselves (ok, maybe cats can) and my money spent there makes me think I'm actually doing some good. After all, Haiti's pre-earthquake situation can only be blamed on the people we're giving money too. Ain't that somethin'?

NOTE: After seeing the new version of "We Are The World" (performed for Haiti "relief") I'm considering asking for my donation back

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Done With It, Not Over It

So I'm at a party for a friend last weekend. I like heading out to birthday parties these days as much as I like a good cystoscopy (look it up), but he's a good friend, so Pumpkin and I ventured out. I knew from seeing the guest list that a lot of former co-workers would be in attendance. For this reason alone, I dreaded the whole affair.

See, I knew all I'd hear from them is how much the old place made a mistake when they let me go, how they don't like the new show at all, etc, etc. I know that sounds arrogant but it turned out to be 100 percent true. Not only that, friends of the guest of honor also volunteered the same opinion. I used to like hearing stuff like that, but now that it's been over two years since my dismissal I'd rather hear "what are you doing these days?" than anything else. Them not knowing what happened to me is much preferred over rehashing what did happen to me. In spite of have three delicious, refreshing Michelob Ultras, I left the party depressed.

When I watch shows like "Intervention", I'm always struck by the number of times that the protagonist goes into rehab, comes out clean, then falls flat on his/her face soon after their release. The simple fact is that they go back to seeing and associating with all the triggers that got them into trouble in the first place. In order to truly come clean, they need to make a complete break from the old life that brought them to where they are now. Such, it seems, is now my case with radio.

While I like hearing that I'm missed, it doesn't make me feel any better. In fact, with time it only makes me feel worse. Perhaps the only way to fix this is a fresh start in a new place. Certainly, Pumpkin wouldn't be against it. I'd have some friends that I'd dearly miss, but eventual long-term happiness might best be served by movin' on down the road. The only that's holding me back from a more aggressive relocation pursuit is the Las Vegas real estate market. To move now would be like selling an investment you know will grow more over time. But is the greater profit worth even greater misery?

In the meantime, the only solution seems to be this: drink alone.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Please Stand By

Like a musical artist who has a ton of demo recordings stored somewhere, I've got so much stuff rattling around my head I just have to get it out. It's coming. Believe me, it's coming.

Then again, when those long-lost demos get released it becomes clearly apparent why they were never released in the first place, so maybe it's best to stay quiet.

Nah. New entry by week's end, I promise