Extremism Will Not Form a More Perfect Union

It has been 15 years since the 9/11/2001 attacks.  Prior to that day, the United States was not perfect, we were leaving millions behind who did not have access to the Internet, quality education, adequate healthcare at a fair cost, guns were pervasive in our society. Mass shootings were a rising problem. Though, there was a lot of hope.  President Clinton had presided over a mid to late 1990’s economy that had everyone believing the 21rst Century was going to be amazing, plus, this Internet thing was really cool.  We survived the clocks striking midnight worldwide on January 1, 2000, to no catastrophic end.

Then, in 2000, Al Gore and George. W. Bush faced off.  For the most part, it was a pretty standard election. Then partisan bitterness kicked in, when the Florida vote became contested, it was apparent there had been a lot of shady business that allowed President Bush to win.  We saw Tom Brokaw, who the world had assumed was simply a robot with a New Castors voice, eat a cracker on national TV.  Things were getting crazy.  Trying to leave out any feeling here as to right or wrong, the election eventually ended up going to the Supreme Court, where the justices decided that Bush would become the incumbent and eventual President.

Bush was a lovingly incompetent nimrod, he stumbled over words a professional politician should be able to say in his sleep, like Nuclear, and made up new words like “Strategery.”  Because things were so good for most us, left or right, we could sit back and kind of say, “ah, shucks, I wish that was out guy up there,” on the left, and the right had a guy they could count on to push their agenda like a mid-year tax refund in 2001, that bought me a new computer before going back to college, thanks Mom!

Then, what happened next would hit us right in our National Achilles heel, the attacks of 9/11./2001.  If you were alive and cognizant that day, you probably have a memory that runs through the emotions of shock, panic, extreme fear, intense sadness.  It truly was the moment of a generation.  For about a week, American’s did what American’s, in the land of the free to be you and me, once did very well, we came together, regardless of party affiliation, or race, or gender, and we gave money, prayers, our hearts to our country. We all love this place, as mixed up as it gets and how far we need to go to fix the many problems we faced then and now.

Then the shit hit the fan. Maybe it was our collective panic. Politicians seizing the moment to make their mark on history, etc. Whatever, but we went a bit insane. We passed the Patriot Act, of which Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin said, “Of course, there is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists. But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.”

From there, we became a War state fighting “Terrorism,” against the “Axis of Evil.”  First , we went to Afghanistan, where we quietly still are fighting the same war, and then we were drawn off track into Iraq, a blunder that eventually led to the rise of ISIS. As bad of all of this was, we became distrustful of each other. We quickly lost our shared sense of citizenship that had reigned for first days and weeks after the attacks and became extremely partisan dick heads.  Terms like, “Homeland” became American terms. Before 9/11/2001, I’m not sure I’d heard this term about the United States. We created an entire department called “Homeland Security,” to secure the nation against outsiders.  We were no longer Democrats and Republicans and Independents, we became two sets of people, as President Bush said, “You’re either with us or against us.”

As it became clear, the wars we began in 2001 and 2003 had no end in sight, and the names of soldiers who were dying thousands of miles away began to mount, the popularity of the war began to wane. But the divisiveness did not stop.  Through some strange fluke, President Barack Obama won in 2008, with a basic goal of ending the wars, that still carry on, and restore the cohesion that once was part of the American style of government.  To bring back the hope we had as recently as 9/10/2001.  As he would often say, “We can disagree, without being disagreeable.”   Our government only works when people of different backgrounds and beliefs are able to state their views and find areas where compromise can be made so we can move forward for a common good.

The last 8 years have been defined by our inability to work collectively to find answers to the major challenges of our time. Climate change, guns, race, gender, jobs, infrastructure, college education, are just a short list of the things we do not currently have the ability to face because specifically, the Right, has at a minimum dragged their feet, and at worst been outright racist toward a black president. They have called him a liar during a state of the union speech. They have blocked every attempt at unification.  This has lead to our current day.  We are precariously close to electing an Autocratic, Megalomaniac president. A man who has played our worst fears of our countrymen and foreign nations against us to increase the level of bigotry and hate to levels not seen in decades in this country. A Trump presidency would not fix anything in America, it would simply pull us further apart at a time in our history when we need to work together.  Not unlike any human being, Hillary Clinton is not perfect, but if your excuse for not voting for her is because you just don’t like her. It is not good enough. She has fought for all Americans for her entire career.  She might not speak with soaring rhetoric as her husband or President Obama, but she gets policy done. She knows how to work with people in a positive way. We need a professional in office now more than ever.  Extremism has been our plight for the last 15 years.  It’s time to put aside our petty greivances and work together, again.

 

 

 

False starts, Driving trips, Still The Same Anxious Malcontent

20160522_001722In January I set forth on a valiant attempt to reset my life.  36 years old, dead-ending in a nowhere job,  that was generally pretty comfortable. I quit, with no backup plan but hope that everything would get fixed in the mix.  As prominent figures in my life can now attest, hopping on a CTA Blue Line Train, early in the morning, surrounded by the masses, many of whom  are just as dissatisfied as you is not fun.  The  random loud talking and or stinky person,  who doesn’t realize the word “public,” doesn’t mean the bus or train is their living room, screaming something into a phone  or clipping something, while you do your best to just not stop, turn, and run, are the worst primers for a day. Then,  when the train stops, and you get off, your award is a job you intensely dislike  for the next eight hours.

I started out with a hubris of confidence any bold move made on a gut check requires.  Sure things would work out okay.  I looked into going back to school, only to find out that school has become ludicrously expensive since I graduated in 2003.   Plus, as is my lot, I had no clue what I really wanted to do. I still don’t.

The fact of  my  life  is that labor, or what I do for a job, is a big part of who I am.   I had a week where I was thinking about becoming a carpenter, where I researched carpentry trade programs, sent out requests for information by email.  Maybe if I learned how to build something from start to finish with my hands, it would fill whatever the hole in my soul is, that keeps me always looking over the fence for the greener pasture. Carpentry trade schools apparently don’t respond to email requests.  And this makes sense, because when was the last time you saw a carpenter wandering around with a computer, and not just one of those weird pencils you have to sharpen with a knife?   The fact that you have to sharpen the main note taking device with an open blade is also a signal to me that I’m not “man” enough for such a career.  With my diligence to proceed quashed by the anxiety generated by making a phone call and fear of bizarre pencils, I never followed up. This is a sad loss for both me and the carpentry trade, as I am always good for a  wood related joke.  The world is surely better for it.

I applied for jobs at Starbucks, because isn’t that what Grad students and people “just trying to figure it out” are supposed to do?  Starbucks never called me back which is a little sad to me and heartening.  Jobs at Starbucks seem like a first or last step,  and I’m more comfortable not knowing what step I’m on.

I talked to Temp Agencies, got placed a couple of times in really crappy situations. I would get down and lose focus, and wonder what it was all about. Why had I done what I did? I didn’t know what I stood for.  Most of all, I would go to Jimmy John’s, order a Pepe Sandwich of shame, have not eaten the BBQ chips, my M.O., and then not be able to reach over the cube and give them to P. Ritt, and get a strange feeling of loss.  I guess, like Red in Shawshank, I just missed my friends.

I drove, a lot.  I put about 12,000 miles on Betty White, my Elantra GT, in about 4 months time. My map ranged from Southwest Wisconsin in mid-Winter to Syracuse, NY via U.S. Route 6  through the Allegheny National Forest in Pennslyvania in March.  I took the long way round, going through small towns, looking for some kind of connection to the rest of this mess called the United States I live in.  One morning I drove to Kankakee, IL just for the hell of it.  It was still there, holding up whatever pillar of this nation it is meant to support.  I ate at a Burger King in Noweheresville, IL, the same as the Burger King near my house.  I made a hermitage to St. Anne, IL the boyhood home of Jack Sikma.  I found myself in Wabash, Indiana looking at the Wabash College campus.  I hob-knobbed with the well-heeled in Wisconsin at a gala.

One note about America.  There was a time money was spent on great things here.  The main government buildings in many of the small towns are edifices of grandeur.  This was the same from Monroe, WI town square to  Syracuse, NY downtown. The Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison, WI, where many of the biggest attacks on Labor have happened in our country, in the past several years, is also a point of interest if you’re looking for the nobility of public structures.  Today, we spend public money to fund billionaire’s pet Stadium projects that will be deemed obsolete in 25 years, torn down, and replaced with the newest HD Scoreboard.  I know the past wasn’t better, because when those great  buildings were built, only white men could vote, but it was a note of civic pride to collectively spend money on a building that represented a community or a state. People meant to make something that would last and be architecturally significant while serving the public good.   If America was great, at one time, it was at realizing today could be a moment in history that would be important in a hundred years. Our country has become generic.  We have not used our amazing diversity, in general, to continue to get better.  Those who sell hate, fear, and divisiveness, and the wretched cheapness of never paying taxes, do not grasp the greatness of America, because what I saw in my drives, in cities as large as Chicago, or as small as Edgerton, OH,was that hope created these places.  Even in a day an age where a town like Edgerton could just fold up and not a soul would notice, it is still there, with that same hope.

Schools, like Purdue, in West Layfette, Indiana, or Valparaiso just off Route 6, or Wabash should be in reach for anyone, of any background or income level, who wants to try to better themselves at any point. To truly make America great, we need to invest in the things that we did do better at a time in the past while including everyone this time. Also, Wisconsin, the Round-a-bouts and Flashing Yellow turn Arrows at intersections are confusing.  Fix that.

What I have learned in the past nine months is that no matter how old I am, my right ear is always going to be a traitorous asshole. I probably will never just feel comfortable anywhere or be comfortable being comfortable.  I need to fight the darkness of anxiety and depression every day before the adulting even begins.  Bruce Springsteen was right, “show a little faith, there is magic in the night…” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Government And Citizenship is Not All or Nothing

RichwhiteguysAs much as it has always rung like the B plot of most West Wing episodes, President Obama’s refrain, “we can disagree without being disagreeable,” needs to be heard on the left, particularly, now more than ever.  The harsh reality of  the imperfect political system in the United States is that you eventually need to place some of your idealism to the side to make small margins of progress, or in more dire situations which this year maybe, shelve it completely to keep all Americans safe.  I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Illinois Primary, I believe in about 90% of ideas. I wish the United States was more like the vision Mr. Sanders has for it.  It infuriates me that our candidates need to rely so heavily on big business to make serious bids for the elected offices, education at all levels should be treated with civic pride, it should be open, affordable, and available to anyone who wants to try.  Bernie has used his time in public service to champion the underdog, and to fight for every American person.  He cannot be discredited for this.  His passion for what makes America great despite the many failings, and hope for a future where we make drastic repairs to the American dream are laudable.  He speaks directly to the pain many Americans feel when they look at the stacked deck they face on a daily basis.  We need his voice to hold those who cynically  quash workers’ rights for their gain to the fire.  In the Senate, he can still fight this admirable fight.  He can keep Mrs. Clinton honest, he can use his energy, the energy all progressives have, to get the senate back, and to get more like minded individuals involved in the process, at the state and local levels.

At the end of the day, the President of the United States is not a King. We need a national civics course, so we all have a better understanding of the roles of government. While a President can set a tone and advocate ideas, no new law will pass without help from congress.  The past six years of President Obama’s term should highlight this quite well.  The most notable accomplishments since “Obamacare,” have been rulings by the Supreme Court.  If we want more accomplishments to create a better place to live, we need to vote the disagreeable out of office and replace them with those who want to make real, positive, change.

If Bernie Sanders wins, he will not make life better tomorrow.  He too would need to have a sympathetic congress to take on his initiatives.  Call it bad organization or the dying of a movement, but the failings of the Obama Administration are related more to an opposition congress that had a goal to end every attempt he made to change policy. Progressives failed him more than he failed us by not showing up in the mid-term elections.  How did Wisconsin let Russ Feingold lose to Ron Johnson?

Having disagreements about how to get a job done is a normal day in politics and in life, but sometimes we simply need to admit defeat and move on.  The recent news of Bernie Sanders’ supporters threatening Clinton supporters and Delegates is unacceptable.  Granted, the system in place for selecting a candidate in the Democratic Party is bad in the most tame description of its failings, but, unfortunately, until we get people in place to fix the nomination mess Mr. Sanders campaign has highlighted, everything that is happening now is at it’s best feeble and, at it’s worst, as noted in the article, disgraceful.

Hillary Clinton is not my first choice, but I think Hillary Clinton is the most qualified. She has fought for progressive policies her entire career, she’s overcome countless scandals, real or manufactured, with grace.  She has shown to be a tough, fair, and an even-tempered human being when lesser people may have folded.  While I’d like the choice to be between Single Payer Healthcare or Universal Paid leave, it is, unfortunately, between maintaining the slow progress of the last 8 years for social good, or losing it all and more to a Trump Presidency and a GOP that is now, and always has been willing to sell its soul, just to have a win.

Does it look untoward that Hillary Clinton has taken money from big Wall Street Banks, yes, is her stupid email situation simply that, really stupid?  Yes.  Does she sometimes make you cringe because she seems a bit above the average folk she seems to  have to put up with?  Yes.  But, I’m not voting for a folksy person I can relate too just because they put it to me all straight like.  I’m voting for the person who I know can stand up to the biggest problems our nation faces, whether it is at home, or worldwide, in the next four to eight years, and perhaps pave the way to a political environment that makes Mr. Sanders’ plans seem less pie in the sky in 2024.

What I do know, is that Hillary Clinton is not perfect.  Without threatening harm on people who are her fervent supporters, the progressive left needs to press her to become better on education, healthcare, paid leave, campaign finance reform, trade. The job of a citizen is not all or nothing. As much as we need our representatives to fight for the things we believe in, we need to press them to do so, and it doesn’t end at the election of one office. It is necessary, in our entire system, from City Councils, state legislatures, and the United States House and Senate, to make the change this country so sorely needs, we need to fight at every level to press those sympathetic to progressive policies to run for office, and once in, to make the policies we require.  Hillary Clinton is not the perfect progressive, but she will listen to the left and work to make changes if we fight with her instead of against her.

The fight has moved, it is now as much about progressive ideas in the future as stopping the disaster that would be a Trump presidency.  Whether Conservative or Liberal, the American idea needs to be about equality and acceptance of the other. If we lose this key element, our nation will be lost.  We can disagree on taxes and how much money to spend on Tanks, but if we elect a President  and representatives who feel it is okay to say  groups of people are not free in the United States, we will have lost everything. On the left, we need to get  by our petty disagreements  and not use threats of injury against our opponent, on the Right, you need to suck it up, and if you are a “principled,” “Reagan,” Republican who believes in low taxes and efficient government spending, you need to align against the hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump’s campaign.  If, as American’s, we cannot say all people are welcome here, it is evening in America.

 

Waiting and Hoping for Resolutions

simcitybuildit.png To the left, you can see I have just increased my SimCity Buildit Population past 500,000. Watch out Detroit, you’re on notice. See how 100% of the Sims in my town like me. This is because of strategically placed parks.  Sims, like real folks, like fake parks.

It has been long about six weeks since I made my fateful decision to leave my job.  In this time, I’ve had some interviews, yet to pay off in gainful employment.  Previous bold statements of certainty of purpose have re-run in my head.  My judgements on these thoughts range from, “what the hell were you thinking, grunt, to thank Jesus I’m not taking the stinking, crowded, bus and train every morning and night.”

Allegedly, Theodore Roosevelt was a high functioning Neurotic. He once dropped everything and moved to the Dakotas to murder Buffalo. It was the only place Teddy could think.  He eventually went on to be one of America’s most beloved Presidents.  I am not Theodore Roosevelt, but you can see above, my Sims love me.  I’ve also not vowed vengeance on Spain, yet.

I have been looking into taking courses in Psychology, both to help understand myself better, and maybe get to a point where I can help others who encounter similar issues I deal with on a daily basis.   Living in America is difficult unless, like Teddy Roosevelt, you are a member of a Rich family that can fund your every whim.  Most of the people we have been told are our heroes are nothing more than rich guys whose consequences for failure are significantly lower than the rest of us.

I’ve also started a Lego Sea Plane Company that specializes in delivering packages to hard to reach places along rivers.  Right now we only have the one plane, but with the help of a kick Starter, we’re hoping to add a second plane.  We’re going to be the Uber Deliveries of the skies.

LegoSeaPlane
Lego Sea Plane

I’ve written several pages of my novel.  I should be further on it. But hell, I should be further along in a lot of things by now.

I need to get up the gumption to call CVS/Caremark back.  They have been screwing with my prescriptions again.  Talking to them is probably the worst experience you can have in customer service. They automatically assume you’re full of crap, and then they start spouting off numbers you have no access too, in an attempt to confuse and obfuscate.   After telling me to send a fax of what I had paid my pharmacy for my most recent prescriptions, and me saying, you should have that detail or be able to reach out to them directly to get it, I was told I was not helpful.  Customer Service hint, don’t tell the customer they are not helpful when it’s not their job to be helpful. Customer Service means you are helping customers.  I forgot it is the responsibility of the client to do the work of the company that is getting shit tons of money to deny coverage. I asked the woman how me having to find a fax machine somewhere, print out lists of information on my own and send it in would solve the problem of a major price change out of nowhere?  “I’m not sure it will help,” she said.  So I’m the one not being helpful.  My favorite response from one of these lackeys, and I do feel bad for them because their job has to suck, was “why don’t you ask your doctor for free samples.”   Excellent idea, except my insurance, is supposed to cover this, that is why we have it. This is also the medication you advised three months ago when you randomly changed what was covered.

The GOP argues against single payer health care by saying the government will come between you and your doctor, however, they are the only ones who are passing laws to enforce and limit women’s access to healthcare and going as far as requiring specific procedures.  The for-profit healthcare system they support also allows for a corporate henchman to determine what medicine my Doctor can prescribe.  For the amount of money we pay in insurance premiums, we should be able to get anything we want, at a fair price or included.

Such is life.  I’m hoping for a number of resolutions to the issues of my life soon.

 

 

 

The Grapes of Meh’

Over the past week, I have reread  John Steinbeck’s,”The Grapes of Wrath” for the first time since it was assigned reading in high school.  Having lived more life since the last time I read it, it hit home a little harder.  I remembered it being a very depressing story that started with a guy getting out of prison, only to find out his family has been bankrupted by the Dust Bowl (Not a bad bet on a football game sponsored by Dirt Devil),  to lead them on a voyage down Route 66 and through the Great Depression to California. On the way, the Joad family, who have lived a traditional, modest, life on the farm in Oklahoma, where woman’s work was cooking, sewing, and minding children, and man’s work was fixing broken things and maintaining the crop, encounters a new world of poverty and despair they could not have imagined just a few years earlier.  This leads each main character to a new understanding of what it means to be an American and a human being.

What struck me most is how far the United States has come since, and how close we are to falling back, to a time,  just as bad as what the Joad’s encountered. Like an oracle, Steinbeck talks about the demons of corporate farming, dependence on banks, and corporations and how the very rich care nothing for the common man and often use their influence to play common “folk” off each other to reach their ends.

Religion plays a significant role in the story.  There is constant talk throughout, about sin and sins committed, by regular people, that have led them to their weakened state.  They bring with them, a former preacher, who has lost the calling.  After watching the Dust Bowl destroy his home and families of his church, the old Reverend Casey can’t pray or help others pray anymore because he doesn’t believe it works.  The world he knew where a caring God took care of the faithful by bestowing them with crops and fruitful land to live on was no longer answering.  Instead, the big banks from the east moved in, calling loans,  buying up land, using giant tractors to plant larger acreages of land, and forcing “good” people off. The  new corporate farms will never understand the toil and hard work that had gone into building the lives on the farm, and the honest value of a hard day’s work.  Casey is considered weird by the Joad family when he explains to them he can’t lead grace because it no longer is who he is, and later is apprehensive to assist in a “proper Christian burial for Grandpa.”

The Joads, as they go further west on the highway, come to realize they are known as Okies, but not in the proud way they knew it back home that meant hard work, determination, and the American Dream, but in a derogatory way,  meaning lazy, criminal, irresponsible, or insurgent, “reds” (communists), outsiders looking to destroy the “system.”  See Mexicans and Muslims in modern America.  Their daughter, who is pregnant, is confronted by a fire and brimstone Christian, who believes the liberal acceptance of “hug dancing,” is responsible for the punishment God has bestowed upon the people, she is convinced this is what will kill her baby, as she and her husband, who left her, had “hug-danced” in the past.  Maudlin foreshadowing, aside,  she does eventually lose the baby, not because of sin, but for of lack of access to proper medical care and nutrition.

In the rational world, this makes no sense, but then neither does a County Clerk in Kentucky who will not grant same-sex marriage licenses because of her religious belief it is a sin. Nor do fanatical Republican politicians sparring over funding to Planned Parenthood because it offers Abortion as one of the vital healthcare services to too many women without adequate access.

The major unions that have created a modicum of balance between the very wealthy and those who just want to live a modest life have primarily been busted.

The Republican Presidential ballot is a grocery list of hacks who represent extremists who only want what is best for them, not America or Americans. And one, the ultimate irony, who is the big bank and corporation himself.   Sometimes in the story, characters encounter otherwise equally common men, with jobs, who, because they are beholden to corporate interests or bankers, deny basic humanity to “Okies,” because of the “rules.” They have been convinced by the system,  if they show any form of charity or assistance to the other, they will be fired.  They either do not understand or have been put in a place where they need to pretend they do not know that their part in the machine is hurting others.

Having worked in Customer Service role,  I know that terrible feeling, when you have to say, “I’m sorry, but I’m just doing my job,” to desperate people who have simply been pushed to their limit by a system that doesn’t care about them.  I have rationalized this by saying things to myself like, “well, I need to pay my student loans,” or something of the like.  In a scene where Ma’ Joad is bargaining with a clerk at a corporate store over the price of meat against the low wage she and her family are earning, the clerk eventually pays the extra cost of sugar for her, when she does not have enough money.  It leads her to the conclusion that you can only count on poor people if you need charity.

Back to present day. The country, at this point, is so screwed up, we have an adverstistment during the  Super Bowl, a game we watch, knowing many of the star players we idolize, will eventually be damaged goods, because of the violence we want to see, for laxatives to alleviate the effects of  the same opiate based pain pills, the players are probably popping before, during, and after the game just so we can have something to talk and tweet about.

I have to ask myself, as I look at the current state of American life, have we not learned a damn thing in this country?  The Joads enter the story stuck in the old ways, not understanding how much life has changed only caring about their family, and by the end, seeing that they are just one piece in a larger America. Their hardships individually are sad, but unless they stand against the greater threat, which is anyone who aims to divide rather than bring people together, and work with others to deal with their problems, they will never find happiness again.  We may not all see the world the same way, but one thing is true if we don’t stand together, the United States does end.  Have we really grown so divided in our country that we will continue to let the Grapes of Meh’ get in the way of true progress?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Really Like Illinois: A Valentine

IMG_20160213_133927I’ve lived in Chicago for the last 12 years and Illinois for 13.  The first two years of my residency were spent primarily driving back and forth between either Wood Dale, IL or the O’Hare neighborhood in Chicago and Dekalb, IL.  This was an approximate 130-mile, twice a week trip, after work, for a Masters, I never finished while putting about 60,000 miles on my odometer. Why did I do this? Well, I thought Public Administration was a way for me to get a decent job with my Political Science Degree, so getting a masters in it, would solve all my problems.  Once I had learned of the agreement I made, to drive 120 miles round trip to get a free Masters degree,  it was too late to make any changes. Plans had been made; an Internship had been granted. Shit was real.   Plus, it all seemed to work out as my then Fiancee, was from here, and unlike many of my fellow graduates in the class of 2003 and the Bush Economy, I had a paycheck, even if small, at graduation.

It didn’t take long for me to start to doubt my choices.  The Internship was super annoying, and my supervisor was a classic ass who used banal business cliches to explain everything and spoke of Madison, WI as “that liberal city.”  He once told me, “when you’re older and have kids and settle down, you’ll become more conservative.”  I’m a progressive, of the Russ Feingold brand. This guy was a talented ass clown.  It’s fun when your family oriented, conservative Christian boss is pointing out hot chicks on your drive to lunch.  Witnessing hypocrisy is the fastest death for an idealist Intern.

The drive, by itself, through Chicago rush hour traffic, down the ironically named, Reagan Memorial Tollway was never fun. Let’s name a Public Tollway after a political figure who made his career on hating government and taxation.  Sixty some miles, half at 15 mph in bumper to bumper traffic, to be rewarded with a two-hour statistics class was not my style.  But I stuck with it as long as I could, trying to learn how to be a professional government official, for two years.  I couldn’t imagine anything more boring and would not wish it on my worst enemy.  Public Administration makes government about money, diagrams, and charts, and not about people (at least this was my experience).  We need these people in this world; they are called policy wonks and keep politicians a modicum of honest.  I’m not one of them.  I’m sure there were people who I  was in the program with who loved it and good for them,  my clock didn’t tick that way.  Every time I got in my car and started driving, it felt like an Illinois Death Trip.

I was looking at some old doc. files from that time in my life, a while back, and one of them is labeled “Malcontent on the Reagan Expressway.”  There was nothing in the file, but I’m pretty sure the title fit me perfectly, and it still does.

Yesterday, I took a new drive through Illinois, which lead me down that well-tread tollway of indecisiveness and has cluttered my perception of self for all these years and ended up in Peoria.  I was trying to feel the Illinoise, taking the backroads, like I did in Southwestern Wisconsin, a few weeks back. I drove, I saw, I don’t really like Illinois.  If it were our first date, I’d wonder why you just sat on the other side of the table not saying anything, while I nervously made smart ass comments that you didn’t get, either because you’re not funny, or not quick enough to understand.  When I’m in Chicago, your split personality, I feel suffocated by people and things.  I have never been comfortable in this town.  It’s grown on me like a benign tumor, but I hate the place if you need honesty.  Do  I like some of the things it gives me access to, like tasty  pizza and Grubhub, yes, but do I like living here? Hell no.  The weather is brutal, the summer is too damn humid, and the winter is too damn cold.  The commute to work, by car, bus, or train is stifling with traffic and shared, insufferable, misery.  There is a reason the only people you ever see smiling on the train are the jackass tourists because they are just visiting and don’t have to deal with this hell on a daily basis.  Chicago is the place you visit and say, “I’d love to live here,” with no obligation to follow through on the statement.  It’s probably best for you if you end it there.

There is a town called “Normal” in Illinois, and a famous phrase, “Does it play in Peoria?” Illinois is the exactly dreary place that would name a city Normal, have another city full of Gangsters, corruption,  art, and sweetheart deals like Chicago, yet still inspire a saying that asks if your act is boring enough not to offend the good people of Peoria.  I’m honestly not sure why people live here.  Your options are boredom on the prairie or constipation in the city and its “land.”

I have made foolish, anxiety driven decisions, constantly in my time in Chicago, because the city doesn’t suit me.   The only thing I know I’ve done right, in Illinois, is marrying Katie 12 years ago.  She’s caused me to become a better person, even if that process has been slow and at times aggravating as hell. Everything else is just Illinoise.

I am not a flatlander; I need hills and space.  I also like The Forecast and the Blackhawks.  I could give a flying fuck if this plays in Peoria.

 

 

 

 

Getting Out of my Head

etchMy life’s saga has continued this week.  I have had my ups and downs since I decided to leave my old job.  I did the right thing, in my awkward way.  On Sunday, I met up with a  work friend and collected the meager belongings I had left at my desk before I left. It was nice catching up with him.  He confirmed, aside from me not being there, not much had changed.  This affirmation confirmed my assumption I was fairly much replaceable and had earned much better for myself in life.   I made a lot of friends at the old job, and it makes me happy.  I miss them all on a daily basis.  It was time for me to fly.

Once I collected my stuff, it was iron solid that era of my life was over, as if it hadn’t been before.   Tuesday was a bit rough.  The anxiety of my current situation struck hard.  I didn’t want to get out of bed.  A better way of putting it is that I couldn’t get out of my head. When your presets are like mine, it can be a real kick in the balls when something either real or imagined hits the factory default button.  I had scored another interview, but this time, for some reason, my mind kept telling me, “what are you doing!?”  I was certain, by taking this interview, I was stepping right back into the same cycle that had led me to the depths of my despair.  How could I have taken such a drastic step a month earlier and just put myself right back in the same spot?  That was not my goal, it was not why I had put myself in this position, it was to make a significant change in my life.

If you have anxiety, one of the things that probably happens for you, is you often find yourself “not seeing the forest for the trees.” This is an overused expression, but it’s spot on, so I guess it is why it is overused. Katie, again, tried hard to tell me, “Hey fuckface, you’re not seeing the forest for the trees.” And she was right, though, she didn’t swear, I just didn’t hear her. My sister called me, and we talked it out.  I also talked to my therapist that night.  I had a clearly wrong perspective.  I saw every potentiality as if it had already happened.  I was already in this new “job,” and counting on myself to end up in the same spot I was in when I left my last job. The truth was, my fear was a good thing.  It meant I saw the forest for the trees; I knew my risks.  Rather that seeing that I had the knowledge and put it into play, I was afraid of it.  I needed to see this as a positive, not just another reason to dive deeply into a pit of self-deprecation.  My therapist is pretty good and earns his paycheck, not to take away from the assistance of others.

I went on the Interview, and it went well.  With a little perspective, I think I killed it.  Whatever happens next is up to fate, and believe it or not, I am not worse off.  If the best happens, I get this job, and  I still have plans to go back to school and put myself into a better situation.  This is not the end, it is a means to an end.