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"My teachers and my parents and the TV shows of my youth kept telling us kids that the way to deal with bullies was to confront them, they’re actually, deep down, nothing but cowards. My family moved north from Georgia to Milwaukee when I was 13, a radical transition from semi-rural living to urban discomfort. My junior high school had the usual mix of cliques with one exception, the hoods, guyz who dressed up as gangsters to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Massacre. Nice bunch, kept switchblade knives on themselves and guns in their lockers. Welcome to the city, Farm Boy!"  More at The Skeeter Daddle Diaries ➜  

"I read in the news the other day that the average kid text messages 200 times per day.  You might be skeptical of that number … unless you’ve sat in a room with some of these nimble fingerers.  They will ignore an incoming meteor before they put down their I-phone or whatever device their parents have empowered them with.  Hell, I even see the folks now just as addicted, drifting off from our conversation to check an incoming text message." More at The Skeeter Daddle Diaries ➜  

A Comment by Loy

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Loy • 08/18/2023 at 11:45PM • Like 1 Profile

I so enjoy your stories - often they make me laugh out loud and it’s such good therapy!

"I’ve always maintained, rightly or wrongly, that if necessity is the mother of invention, boredom is the midwife of art. Most of my artist pals would probably disagree, but I can only speak for myself. If I were busy with a job or a family or any of a countless other enterprises, I doubt I’d stay up late to find the time to make art". Read more 

"A few years ago Guitar Bob’s beater car gave up the ghost so he asked if I would drive him north to the used car lots to buy a replacement jalopy. Reluctantly, I said okay even though I had to go after my graveyard shift with no sleep. He was, after all, a friend. And one without wheels to get to work….

Walking into a used car lot is vaguely similar to driving the streets of Baghdad in an unarmored HumVee. It’s a landmine. You might make it back out, but you’re going to take incoming and there’s going to be casualties. At some point you’ll ask yourselves is this war worth it? Did you have an Exit Strategy? And who, in the end, is really the enemy? Or like General Sherman famously stated as he torched the South: car buying is hell.

Bob started out hoping to buy a vehicle for under $500. Not wanting to bust his bubble, I decided to forego the story of my last expedition into the minefields. He would learn soon enough. The Hard Way. The lot in Stanwoodopolis, just prior to closing its doors forever, showed him a $2500 wreck, bad tires, 175,000 miles on the odometer, a tranny that slipped, burned a little oil. Savvy buyers that we were, we moved on.

At a fly-by-night used lot in Burlington we found a nice little Honda, 200,000 miles, ran good, only $6500. Obviously they could rob you without a gun. Bob offered the nice salesman $5000 and he said wait right here in his office while he conferred with the manager. Bob was concerned the nice salesman would think we were gay. I said you got way more to worry about than some yahoo with a bad toupee’s opinion of your sorry manhood. In a minute, you’re gonna meet the manager.

Which we did. The manager said we seemed like nice boys and he sure wanted to work with us on this deal, put us in that car, ‘but fellas, I have to make a little money too. I can’t just give this away at a loss.’ He showed us paperwork that proved he was rock bottom on that $6500. But seeing’s how we were nice boys, he’d take a couple hundred off and take no profit. Bob said let me think about it and the manager said sure, sure, but don’t take too long, this beauty’s gonna sell today at this price. Outside Bob worried he’d thought we were parnters. I said I’ll sit out the next negotiation.

By late afternoon I’m fading from lack of sleep and food. It’s late, we’ve hit every shyster and crook up and down the pike, nothing is even close to reasonable and the notion Bob is going to shop for a week or two sends me into adrenaline-fueled panic. I drop down in the Toyota lot and forgetting about promising to stay out of negotiations, march up to a salesman coming out of the showroom side door. “We’re looking for a Toyota or a Honda,” I rapidfire. “$5000 or less, under 100,000 miles. The salesman doesn’t blink, he doesn’t hesitate, he smells the blood in the water and he knows instinctively exactly what to do.

“Your lucky day,” he smiles. “Just came in, hasn’t been detailed yet, but you boys won’t mind saving on that, one owner I’m pretty sure and the boss wants to move inventory, make you a helluva deal.” He points us over to where we just came from, past a line of cars with prices on the windshields and in my sleep deprived fog I realize he’s pointing at MY car. “Give me a minute and I’ll grab the keys from the office. Be right back. Go ahead and kick the tires.”

I regret, even to this day, we didn’t tell him we found the keys in the ignition and take him with us for a test drive. “These two gay guys, see, pulled over on the shoulder …. I thought maybe we’d run out of gas. Then I thought, oh my God, they’re going to do unspeakable things to me. But no, they said get out. Here? I asked. Here, they said. I called the lot and told them to call State Patrol, report a stolen car, even gave them the license number…. Ya know, I always said I could sell snowballs to Eskimos. But those two gay guys, I couldn’t close the deal on selling them their own car. I’m good, but I guess I’m not that good".

The Skeeter Daddle Diaries

When I finally reached the ripe old age of 65, my nanny state sent me a notice that I could sign up for national health care, what some might call socialist medicine.  Not me, I call it health care, paid for through my taxes over the years along with Social Security, what some would call a socialist give-away, but once again, not me.  I call it my retirement fund.  My nest egg for old age.  But to tell you the absolute truth, call it whatever you want.  And if you hate socialist programs, by all means, turn the money down and buy your own damn health care insurance.

For awhile I thought I understood finally what the Golden Years meant.  Freedom from going bankrupt from the next health care crisis, if nothing else.  That, of course, was before the phone started ringing.  I have a landline, the precursor to a flip phone and the subsequent generations of cellular gizmos.  My landline doesn’t have caller ID, something so far I refuse to pay for since I’m willing to answer my phone and be surprised who might be calling.  At any hour of the day or night.  I remember when we were on a party line here on the South End.  Cost an additional buck a mile from the phone headquarters up in Mt. Vernon to get a private line.  Per month.  We endured the teenage girl and her mom for about a year before taking our grocery money to pay for a phone we could actually use occasionally.  And that may be the case with caller ID eventually.

We get calls starting early in the morning and into the evening.  They’re 90% from ‘Medicare Providers’.  And they’re 90% non-human.  They might ask how we are and if you answer, their programmed machine intelligence launches into their pitch.  I used to keep answering the robot until a human was connected in order to finalize whatever transaction they had for me, then I would request they take me off their list.  The next day, same time, the Hi, I’m Amy message would come on, repeated later in the day, repeated until you have lost your mind and found yourself talking ugly to the robot.  The robot, thinking you just answered its last query, moves on to the next part of the sequence.

This is not what I had in mind for my Golden Years.  What this is is the capitalist health care system piggybacking my Medicare.  They’ll send me some box of health care stuff free of charge, so they say, and I assume the government will reimburse them.  Maybe folks are happy to get free medical stuff.  Right now I have all the medical stuff I want.  Band aids mostly and a bottle of expired aspirin, but all I need. If I thought ditching Medicare would stop these incessant phone calls from Amy the Android, I might vote to repeal Obamacare and go back to the wild west of the American healthcare system, but somehow I suspect Amy and her legions of robot telemarketers would fill the void until having a phone with or without caller ID would be senseless.

Course, the peace and quiet might be worth it.

The Skeeter Daddle Diaries

Just got the news that the world population has passed 8 billion of us humans.  I remember fondly my sociology classes back in the 60’s where my professors absolutely forbid using The Population Bomb as a footnote or a reference.  Paul Ehrlich was no scientist, my educators said, he was a dopey doomsday prophet.  I think the world population at the time was maybe 4 billion.  A lot of us, seemed like to me.  8 billion, well, I have trouble enough getting to know the neighbors now, sure don’t want many more.

One thing I never hear in the debates concerning global warming and climate change is that maybe, just maybe, there are too many of us.  More mouths to feed, more houses to build, more cars to drive, more garbage in the landfills, more need for heating and air conditioning, small stuff like that.  Sure, turn the thermostat down, but hey, what if there were 4 billion less of us wanting to stay warm?   Oh, I know, we love our kids.  We love our dozen grandkids.  And we certainly love our 100 great grandkids.  Although, to be honest, judging from my old man’s memory at 99 years of age, he couldn’t tell you any of their names.  And he has a lot of trouble with his grandkids’s names.  Which are only three of them.  The fact that us 8 billion are living longer thanks to medical science and improved health care doesn’t really help either.

When I came to the South End, four cars drove off going north of our shack, four cars returned home at night.  Better believe we knew our neighbors back then and, unfortunately for them, they knew us.  Now it’s a constant parade of commuters and contractors and lawn service crews.  I don’t recognize most folks at the local grocery.  And with my memory, remembering their names wouldn’t be a likelihood.

So when we’re looking for solutions to overheating the planet, why not look at overpopulating it.  You won’t miss an extra grandkid or twenty, all I’m saying.
The Skeeter Daddle Diaries

Now the mizzus was a sort of mail order bride.  I came out to the rainforests here in the 70’s, bought my 7 acres and my mule just before the interest rates went wild and discovered how few single ladies there were in the woods of the South End.

So I resorted to what our pioneer ancestors turned to … no,  not THAT … I wrote back to the Midwest for a wife.  I had a lady friend in Minnysota who was just fixing to graduate with her masters degree in librarying.  Librarying, I thought to myself, is even better’n school ma’arm.  She could teach some of the artists on the South End here how to read and write and then we could sit around the porch and discuss Nietzsche and Tolstoy, the events of the day.

Late spring of l981 I commenced to writing heart wrenching, bodice ripping, pulse pounding love letters.  I told my darling all about our little island, how it was a tropical paradise where our beautiful cottage nestled in the arms of million year old cedar trees and coconut palms and you could see the Olympic Mountains every night at sunset glowing like a fireplace and that old sun had nothing on the lovelight in my heart for her …

Course she didn’t have a chance….  Who could resist my literary charms?  And I’m sure she carried a picture of my irresistible self in a locket in her bosom, pining – PINING, ladies and gentlemen – for that day a letter would arrive from her Prince Charming, old lumber Jack himself, king of Camano, practically Paul Bunyan with a book of poems under his ax arm.

Well, I was surprised TOO she didn’t rush out to my waiting muscle bound arms.  So I wrote some more.  I wrote a dictionary worth.  Then I wrote an encyclopedia Britannica.  Spring turned to summer, summer turned to fall, fall became winter, my dreams turned to mush.  I run outa words.  ME!  With nothing left to say.  I was about to give up and become a Zen hermit priest.

But one day I got a letter saying she was coming OUT.   …  For a day or two, then going to Alaska to see her cousin.  Alaska?  Why on god’s green earth would she go to a godforsaken hellhole like that when she could have the whole South End paradise?

Course she was gonna see the cottage wasn’t a cottage – it was a shack.  Leaky roof, crooked floors, a ladder to the upstairs.  Alaska was gonna look REAL good.  And Prince Charming?  I was in serious trouble now.

But luck was on my side.  The day she flew in a storm took out a dozen trees to the South End and power was out when we pulled in the drive.  So I lit up the oil lamps and popped the champagne and boiled the crabs on the woodstove and I won’t tell you the details but let your romantic imagination run wild and you might have some small notion of why the mizzus is still the mizzus and why we both still celebrate the day she came out here and not our wedding anniversary and why the South End will always be a tropical paradise to at least a couple of us old lovebirds.

The Skeeter Daddle Diaries

We got a tradition down here on the South End that when we want to purge our bounty, clear out our closets or empty our sheds, we drag the unwanted possessions down to the highway, slap a FREE sign on the treasures and let the passing motorists fight for the spoils.  Usually only takes half a day before someone slams on their brakes, jumps out of their pickup, does a cursory investigation, then grabs what items would fit in their closets or their sheds.

Sure, we could haul the stuff down to the thrift stores up north but they would charge money selling them to pay for their overhead and rental so why not skip the middleman and reach out directly to our fellow indigents?  I carried out two nice maple colonial chairs circa 1950, cushions reupholstered, mint condition (okay, pretty good condition), set them at the end of the driveway with a woman’s Schwinn bicycle and a rug.  The rug was gone in an hour, the bike in a day and the chairs — well, I suspect the new owner needed to find a truck or van, but they disappeared today, two days later.  Saved me that hellish trip into town, saved the scroungers mucho bucks, probably saved the planet too although I don’t want to get overly carried away here, just doing our part, no need to thank us or even throw a good review on Yelp or whatever social media you still think is worth the End of Democracy and Civilization as You Know It.

All I’m saying: down here on the island’s Banana Belt, capitalism has evolved.  The barter system still works, garage sales outpace the mercantiles now that Tyee Store is ancient history, non-fungible tokens have taken root at the History of the World Gallery … and roadside thrift stores bypass the backlogged goods waiting in ports from San Diego to Vancouver.   Future economists, no doubt, will study us.  Meanwhile, anyone need a perfectly good microwave, come on down tomorrow.  Satisfaction guaranteed!

The Skeeter Daddle Diaries

So you don’t like your job, probably hate your boss, think you should be paid more for all the hard work and overtime you put in, maybe your co-workers look like mindless drones these days and retirement seems a lifetime away (it is!) … but quitting isn’t an option, not when you would lose your health care and your apartment, the apartment that already costs more than you can believe.  What’s a person to do?

Well, apparently, quit in place.  Stop killing yourself.  Stop sucking up to your boss.  Refuse to take overtime.  Slow down, relax, daydream a bit, take a long lunch break, sneak a joint in the john.  It’s a brand new workplace.  The go-go years have gone gone gone, good riddance.  The company treats you like a robot, act like one.  One pace, steady and slow as she goes. Do as little as possible, same as they would do for you.  They’re no longer loyal to you employees, why be loyal to them?  This is the New Work Ethic.  Congratulations and welcome to your new cubicle.

Personally, I always believed in Quitting.  Seemed like a good strategy.  Course, apartments didn’t cost an arm and a leg back then and health insurance wasn’t in the cards.  Pensions, 401-K’s, fergettaboutit.  I was part of the gig economy decades before it had a name and by the time it did, I was self-exiled to the South End where employment was marginal to non-existent.  So I did what the rest of us layabouts did down here, worked for myself.  Sure, the boss was a jerk, but that’s the joy of self-employment, you can look him in the eye and tell him to go to hell.  Won’t affect your wages one iota.  And end of the day you can have a beer or two together, gripe about the same issues, maybe decide neither of you will work the next day.

I recommend it.  But quitting in place.  I dunno.  Seems like the days would just be interminable, slowing down, dragging feet, avoiding work.  You like that kind of job, maybe be a traffic sign holder, SLOW, STOP, for a construction company.  Hours like years, days like a lifetime.  Personally I like to work if I’m going to work, put a back into it, feel like it was worth the effort.  Time flies even when it’s not much fun.  But … don’t say you heard it from me.  And whatever you do, don’t tell my boss.

The Skeeter Daddle Diaries

"Techno Tom was morosely stirring half a pint of sugar into his coffee, no doubt figuring the sugar blast would quadruple the jolt from the Diner’s caffeine.  Freddie Fairlane, one table over with the other Flatheads, the vintage car guyz, watched for awhile then moseyed over to sit at Tom’s table.  “You seem a little down in the mouth, amigo,” he said.  “Lose your best friend?” .... Read more

Most of us red blooded freedom loving Americans hate to take a vacation, not because we are fun-averse, but because when we come back to the Job, we have to work doubly hard to catch up with all the unfinished bizness we left behind.  I should know, having just returned from a three week road trip cross country to find all the backlog waiting open jawed. Read more 

Some years ago I had a new neighbor and her husband buy the old schoolhouse next to the fire station up the road. Cute place, nicely restored by a glass artist friend who wanted to move to Portland to seek fame and fortune in the big city. Not that we’re the official Welcome Wagon of the South End, but we invited our newcomers over for dinner, got to know them over the following year and were surprised when we saw the For Sale sign on the front yard and their furniture gone. They had had grand plans for establishing a Tea Shop for her and a furniture shop for him on the island.

Okay, people come and go on the turbulent South End, for various reasons ranging from lack of health care in their proximity to the long and dreary winters. The grass is definitely greener here but folks get tired of mowing it. I get that. But what I didn’t get was these new found friends picking up and leaving without a fare thee well or a wave goodbye. Kind of makes a guy like me wonder if my judgement of folks is a waffle or two shy of breakfast.

Jump forward a couple of years and we’re on Orcas Island, wandering the tourist town of Eastsound when we pass by a little tea shop called, interestingly enough, Schoohouse Tea, a little too coincidental for my place in the cosmos, so naturally I want to go inside and see who’s behind the register. And yeah, it’s our old neighbor, more than a little embarrassed to be ‘discovered’ but after a few hems and haws and muted apologies over their fast escape velocity from the South End, she tells us the island just wasn’t spiritual enough for her tastes. Orcas, well, they’re basically refugees from the 60’s and she felt a kinship there she never got from us back on Camano, the island without a soul.

All righty, I guess the South End wasn’t her cuppa tea. We said good to see ya, good luck with the shop and your life, we got to catch the ferry back to perdition. Now the story might have ended here … except … a year later who should roll back into our little hellhole, the one without spirituality, but m’lady from the Age of Aquarius, building a house half a mile south of us. And better yet, she’d become a real estate broker!

I don’t pretend to be a guru of South End spirituality but c’mon, selling off our Paradise parcel by parcel, helping to clog our neighborhood with new traffic, cutting down the forest for McMansions, earning a living this way, trust me, that is not on the roadmap to Nirvana. And if we lacked soul before, I doubt selling used cars or real estate is going to bring us any closer to Shangri-La-La land. Money talks, they tell me, but not as loud here on the South End. That, I think, might be the key to our spirituality, what little we still have.

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