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I was at the opening of new works by one of our local oil painters at
the South End Fine Art Gallery and Expresso Shoppe. As always it’s a
guaranteed large crowd, mostly us artists and a few of our friends and
occasionally a patron or two. Regina, the gallery owner and latte
barista, always provides liberal winepours and enough hors d’oeuvres to
hold back rickets among the starving artists another week or so.

I was admiring a fine piece titled, tantalizingly enough, “Sailboat at
Sunset #56”, one of a series I’m guessing of at least 56 or more, when a
couple jostled me out of the way for a better view. I didn’t really
mind moving on, after all, there were plenty more similar offerings, but
the gentleman of the pair had caused me to spill my merlot onto the
sleeve of my last presentable Goodwill shirt, then gave me a cursory
‘scuse me,’ that sounded vaguely like ‘sue me’ before steering his
companion and her jangling earrings into the appropriate viewing angle. A
moment later they were discussing perspective and complimentary
colorations, the expressively bold brushstrokes of the sails, the
minimalist way the artist had captured the shimmer of the sea, and of
course, the price, anything BUT minimalist.

“I may not know art, ”my jostler said, sipping daintily on a white wine from his plastic
glass, “but I know what I like.” He was quite pleased at this knowledge,
no doubt gained with considerable effort. His companion wagged an
earlobe with a windchime banging to life, evidently in total agreement
with both of us on this aesthetic declaration.

I guess I was still miffed about the impromptu dye job on my best shirt, or maybe it’s just
a character flaw deeper than any fabric stain, but I smiled winningly
and said out of the cerulean blue, “I don’t know much about
biochemistry, but I sure know a good clone when I see one.” This caused
some raised eyebrows, a rolling of the eyes and the beginning of distant
alarm bells that would soon drown out the jangling jewelry. For good
measure I added, “I don’t know much about history either, but hey, I
love a good war. I know what I like.”

So okay, I cost Regina a commission and I should feel bad about that. Probably cost the artist a
sale and I should feel worse about that, but I don’t. I do happen to
know something about art, and I know what I don’t like. I guess it’s
okay to buy what you do; I just don’t think we should be proud of our
ignorance. Then again, what the hell do I know?

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As a card carrying bleeding heart snowflake liberal, I watch with bemusement the hair-on-fire panic of my fellow commies who seem to be predicting the end of the world as they know it and the demise of all things progressive. The 3.5 trillion dollar Build it Better budget, surprise surprise, is a political football. My socialist pals are wringing their collective hands, cursing the two senators who are roadblocking the bill and all the Republicans who refuse to raise the debt ceiling, hoping the Dems will take the blame for the deficits of the past, oh, couple of decades.

I admit that I gnash my teeth and pound my fists but when I calm down I try to remember we sent Trump into exile down at Mar-a-Lago to hold court with his jesters and funders, plotting a return from that grave in 2024. I expect he’ll either be in federal prison by then or his hopes for another grand entry down the T. Tower escalator will be more than likely a grand jury, just one more prediction that crashes and burns. Meanwhile, back at the sausage factory, a package will be emerging from this Congress, one that may not have 3.5 trillion as a price tag but will more than likely legislate provisions for more health care, maybe even dental, possibly prescription drug cost reductions, child care, subsidized community college tuition, climate change provisos, rural internet, all this and more. What we down here on the South End call a liberal agenda, one coming to a theater near all of us.

So maybe it won’t be a total Green New Deal and maybe it won’t be single payer national health care and probably it won’t make everyone happy, but … geez, c’mon, we’re swerving to the left in an electric car. Who knows, we might even tax the rich and the corporations that don’t pay their fair share. Quit yer crying, I say, and stop expecting perfection. Progress isn’t a bad alternative.

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My mama told me, way more than a few times: Go to College. The first time she told me that was after a buddy and myself made a deal with our neighbor to pull two of his stumps, I think for $10 a stump. Not being professional stump pullers – actually these were our first stump jobs – we had no idea how long it might take to dig around an old maple tree, whack off its roots with axes and hatchets, put a come-a-long on the thing and haul it out. Like pulling a giant tooth, how hard could it be?

Two days later, blisters on both our hands, we finally disgorged the monster stump. Nothing to it! Course, we had the other one to do and now we knew – and dreaded – the work ahead of us. But a contract was a contract, a handshake a handshake, even for us 15 year olds. So much for our summer vacation. Our neighbor gave us each 10 bucks and no tip, no bonus, no thank you. Four days of hard labor. My mother, on the other hand, had a tip waiting for me at home.

“What do you think you made an hour?” she wanted to know. “Not much,” I said, pretty bummed and very tired. I figured a quarter an hour. And yeah, don’t say it, I know a quarter was worth more in 1965.

My mom asked if I had any idea how much my father made an hour. Actually, I didn’t, not a clue, but I hazarded ‘fifty cents?” Mom, well, let’s just say she didn’t have the greatest sense of humor, especially not wise-ass son humor, so she cut right to her Lesson of the Day, told me he made 50 times what I just made, all because – and here was the crux – He Went to College.

Now, I didn’t tell her I’d eventually have my own stump removal company, hire a hundred kids to pull them, franchise the whole she-bang and become a millionaire when the stock went public. I just put my head down and said. “I got it Mom.” I did go to college but ended up working stump pulling wages at various dead end jobs before becoming a starving artist.

Today I was at an oral surgeon seeing about yanking a tooth too far gone for a root canal and crown. My doc came in, said hello, snapped on some blue exam gloves, looked in my pie hole and said make an appointment at the desk for an extraction while you’re paying for this exam. At most, 5 minutes. The bill came to $100. If you’re as expert at math as me, a college graduate, that comes to $1200 an hour.

So okay, Mom, happy now??

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Google cars came out with some statistics recently. Driverless cars don’t have accidents really … and the few they do have are cars with drivers running into them. Some of the boyz in the Flatheads, our vintage car club, were flabbergasted. They’re old school guyz who revel in memories of souped up engines, backroad drag races, cue ball shifter knobs and dangling dice on the rearview. They love their rods, they love their memories and they go apoplectic to imagine a future of robot automobiles they can sit in the backseat and read a paper. They have fond memories of other uses for that backseat.

“The Age of the Automobile is coming to an end,” I made the mistake of saying to Two Toke Tom at the Diner where it was overheard by half the Flatheads at the breakfast pow-wow where they’d pushed half the tables together to make room for about a dozen car enthusiasts. Their Packards and Chargers and 88’s were lined up outside the plate glass like an outdoor Museum for Testosterone, right next to Tom’s beater with the cracked windshield and the missing front quarter panel, all gleaming with fresh wax and loving care. I might have been wiser announcing we ought to confiscate guns in an NRA meeting.

Freddie, the head honcho Flathead, jerked his head in the direction of my blasphemy. “What are you drinking, man???” he practically shouted. Brenda spilled coffee on Harry’s hand, missing his cup by a quarter mile. “Yeoww!” he hollered in pain. The whole café was now on Alert. “I only mean the day is coming when cars will drive themselves. They don’t have accidents, Fred, and if they don’t have accidents, guess what the insurance companies are going to demand? You want to drive your big Dodge, fine, but guess what they’ll charge your Charger for the privilege?”

“Over my dead fender, Skeeter.” Two Toke raised his cup. “Amen, brother Fred, Amen.”

“All I’m saying, Fred, is half the folks out there on the road these days aren’t driving anyway. They’re text messaging, they’re talking on the phone, they’re wobbling over the center line and they’re drifting onto the shoulder. They go from 60 mph to 30 mph. I don’t know what all they’re doing behind the wheel, but it sure isn’t driving. Might be okay with me if they let the computer do that for em so they can pay attention to their smartphone.”

Fred snorted and the assembled Flatheads snorted in agreement. Brenda mopped up Harry’s table and dried his hand. Harry would live, Two Toke would get a good laugh on me later and the Flatheads would all drive down Memory Lane with rumbling mufflers, KaHooga horns, mohaired upholstery, big fins and whitewall tires like mastodons crossing back over the Bering Strait to a garage somewhere in the Pleistocene.   See more by Skeeter Daddle   Go to Skeeter Daddle Site

If you’re a savvy investor like myself, no doubt you’ve been sniffing around the cryptocurrency phenomenon, wondering if it’s time to plunk down some of those 20th Century dollars and trade em in on bitcoins. You might even be wondering what exactly cryptocurrency is, possibly googled it, and undoubtedly come away realizing you haven’t got a clue. But then, what is an Andrew Jackson, really? Just cloth with dyes and inks and watermarks. Worth what it says on the bill if everyone keeps believing it’s real even if no gold is sitting in Ft. Knox to back it up. Economics, a faith based religion?

Cryptocurrency, forget about the gold standard. What you got is blockchain. Okay, I know, you don’t actually understand blockchaining. That’s fine, neither do I and neither do most people who own bitcoins or any other cryptomoney. You just know some economists think this is the future of monetary transactions, safer than greenbacks in your bank account some lowlife hacker can empty faster than you can say Bad Password. Bitcoins, well, their password is unhackable, but … if you forget it, no way can you or the hackers get at it, sorry.

But what you do notice is that bitcoins and their brethren virtual cash move up and down in value the way Apple stocks do, a breathtaking hedge against minimum interest rates on your savings. Now, you could ask yourself, before, hopefully, you convert your life investments and 401-K and the pension to bitcoin, what kind of currency can change value 20% in a day, up, down, you just never know. Would you put your money in a bank that offered the potential to drop in value half overnight?

Well obviously some people would. If it looks like a pyramid scheme and smells like a pyramid scheme and acts like a pyramid scheme, I think you and I know it probably isn’t a real smart investment, it’s just a high tech form of gambling cloaked in crypto-babble. Me, I’d rather bury money out in the yard. Just so long as I don’t lose the map showing where I put it. 
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I was out in the outbacks of Stanwoodopolis today, down a dirt road I’d never traveled, one no doubt soon to be paved and developed, but for now 35 acres off the highway, down a dead end, where a buddy was clearing out a recently deceased friend’s shop, house and outbuildings to the highest bidders. Actually, to anyone who would take the stuff, pay the daughters of the deceased what you thought was fair....Continue reading

So the Covid-in-Chief knew how deadly the virus was back in the beginning, just didn’t want to scare us. The Head Cheerleader wanted to paint a smiley face on the coronavirus, tell us it would fade away, tell us it was contained, tell us we didn’t need to wear masks or avoid crowded bars, assure us there was nothing to fear here. Right. This from the Town Crier whose doom and gloom messages about everything from immigrant caravans to socialist takeovers are intended to scare the pants off every undecided voter in the country. Continue reading

Your avatar
MFish • 09/18/2020 at 10:57PM • Like 1 Profile

Your observation of the Fear Monger in Chief, is right on the money, in my humble opinion.

In Finland this week the fjord-folks are lining up to obtain the tax records of their friends and co-workers. The government makes these documents available to any and all, apparently in an attempt to keep the income disparities we have here in the Yew Ess Aye from growing too large in their wintry environment, I guess by letting everyone know that the guy in the next cubicle makes more than they do for the same or similar work. Might be a good idea. Might shame employers who pay men more than women or whites more than people of color. Probably won’t shame hedge fund managers or CEO’s. Shame is not part of their lexicon.

But then … maybe it just makes us South Enders crazy with envy for those who worked for Boeing or Weyerhauser, Microsoft or Google, made quick fortunes and retired with golden parachutes. I seriously doubt we need financial disclosure statements of those neighbors behind gated fences. What is worrisome, at least for me, is the potential for just saying to hell with the whole system, why work for measley wages when the millionaire across the ravine is traveling full time in Asia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Paris? A few years back my UPS driver, who had a shack up in the foothills, told me, when I mentioned my brother worked for Big Brown too and made pretty good money, that he only worked for ‘wages’. I asked what he meant, ‘only work for wages’?

“I deliver to all these retirees who made a fortune,” he said. “I just make wages.” I said I think I’d look at it a little bit different. You got a nice place up in the hills, got a decent job at a decent wage, why not be happy with that? He shook his head sadly and muttered that it was hard when half his deliveries went to folks who retired at 45, got a whopping pension and stock options, and now they sit back with the life of Riley while he has to work his ass off to make ends meet.

I told him again I’d rethink that if I were him. I said I don’t make squat but I don’t have fantasies of being rich either. Poverty won’t buy you happiness, but it won’t deprive you of it either. He didn’t think that was funny or cute and he left shaking his head, no doubt driving off to the next mansion past my shack, maybe stopping at Tyee Store to buy a lottery ticket before delivering a gold plated mailbox to my neighbor.

I don’t care what folks make. I don’t care if my own mailbox is bent and the flag isn’t gold. I do think we have too low a minimum wage and we have too many rich people taking more than their fair share. But this is America. Money talks and the poor can take a backseat or hitchhike. But some of us aren’t poor, not really, and maybe we should enjoy what riches we have. Instead of envying the wealthy.

The slab showed up unannounced, a 4 foot by 4 foot concrete square sitting at the edge of the little park I caretake, a mystery to me. Maybe the county had decided to bring in artwork, who knows, maybe a commemorative sculpture of me, Ranger Daddle. I know, not too likely given the fact the county may not know the park even exists or if they do, who is doing the maintenance. But a mystery, like winning the Lottery, is mostly about firing our greedy imaginations.

A week went by … then two. A month. No bronze Skeeter appeared one morning. No plaque. Nothing. Just that square of concrete poured apparently by hand in the dark of night either by aliens or South End tricksters. I mowed around it and pondered its meaning the way astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey pondered the Black Obelisk, knowing only that some intelligence had brought it, who knows whether for good or ill. All I knew was I wouldn’t be moving it, not a half ton of concrete.

After a few weeks I stopped paying attention to my mystery square, stopped guessing what its Maker intended, stopped seeing it at all … until a few days ago when the phone booth showed up, one of those rectangular booths from a time just before the cellphone made public telephones obsolete. Clark Kent would have to change in a McDonalds bathroom hereafter and every citizen, no matter how impoverished, would need to purchase a personal phone and a plan.

And yet … here was the Last Phone Booth on the South End, possibly in America, maybe even the world!! In my park. Under my care. Which, considering I do not own a cellphone, is Totally Apropos, as if the Gods of Wire Transmission or the Ghost of Alexander Graham Bell had anointed me Keeper of the Dial Tone.

Of course it arrived without a working phone, just a payphone with no incoming line off the street. Most gifts, if you think about it, come with strings attached. Mine did, but not the useful ones. Nevertheless, I’m the Ranger, an American Dr. Who with his very own nonfunctioning Tardis. I would find a Way, count on it, because that’s my job. The concrete square was, it turns out, my new purpose, better, I suspect, than winning the Lottery where the end of my days would be filled with South Enders begging for loans.

So the World Health Organization just declared a new psychopathology, Gaming Disorder, the addictive propensity to sit for hour after hour with an X-box, disdaining sleep and food and exercise. Good diagnosis, guyz! But you forgot to include Facebook, You-Tube, computer addictions, porn and cellphone. Maybe, just maybe, they’re really all one disease. Ya think?

I guess the Facebook zombies actually stop to eat. And it could even be argued that this social media is really social. A new social, I guess, no face to face necessary, just tweets and instagrams, nothing too up-close and personal. Tim Cook, the new warden at Apple, recently declared sitting at a computer terminal to be the new cancer. Thanks, Tim, for asking the troops to stand up. How about asking them to go outdoors and exercise? Or quit their carcinogenic jobs? Or get a life?

We’re rewiring our brains, no doubt about it. B.F. Skinner and the Pavlovian dogs, peck a button and the bait, I mean the reward, comes tumbling out, time after time, predictable as an IV of opiods. Try this experiment if you’re a doubter: put away your cellphone, turn off your computer, unplug the TV and peripherals and devices, see how long you can last before the shakes and the fevers start. I bet about an hour. We might be missing important stuff. You know, Trump, Beyonce, Oprah, the photo from a friend you rarely see, Trump, the latest movie star scandal, did I mention Trump? If I did, let me add Trump again anyway.

This is our reality now. We even made a reality show huckster our Leader. We get what we deserve, the old adage goes in regard to a country and its rulers. Times certainly change and now they’re changing in hyper-drive. If anyone thinks, myself included, that there will be a cure for this disorder, we got another think coming. In about two tweets.

Posted in rantings and ravings on August 26th, 2016 by skeeter

It’s easy to come back to the place of your youth and fall into a nostalgic reverie, long flashbacks to the good old days. You know, if they were actually good, not mostly memories of hard struggles and forlorn winter glooms. But looking back from these years future, though bittersweet, reveals a winding road you might not care to travel again, still, you wouldn’t want to have missed that detour.

Old age, so they say, brings wisdom. Youth, I say from experience, was a frenzied search for some kind of meaning, maybe any kind. The monks, and the zen masters, they removed themselves from the distractions of the world to contemplate, to synchronize with the OM, to hear the one hand clapping. When they had reached satori, when their breathing was one with the cosmos, when the koan of a tree falling in the forest without them there to hear was solved, they emerged back into the world, exemplars of purity of thought.

I wonder if they wished they had stayed. I wonder if what they learned in solitude and meditation was that they were one with what they had left, that the sound of the one hand was the same sound as the tree falling as the same sound as the OM as the same sound of their breathing which is the same exact sound of everyone’s breathing and that the journey we take is the journey they took without our distractions but the distractions are actually the one hand clapping after all.

Maybe they know the answer to that and I don’t. But … what I think, looking back from the road I started on, is the answer to that is that the road is never the same. We are never the same. The sound of the one hand clapping, don’t kid yourself, it sounds different the next time. Be glad to be IN the world, don’t try to BE your own hermetically sealed world. And that one hand clap, by the way, it won’t be the sound of applause, more like a sigh of relief.

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I got a buddy who claims he was the first Owner-Builder on Camano Island. The year was 1977, the same year I bought my shack. I met him 13 years later and we ended up building 3 sailboats together, one for each of us and one for his pal the building inspector who became my friend too. Ironically, I may be one of the last Owner-Builders in Island County. I don’t think my permit was ever signed off on so I may well be the last official O-B.

I guess maybe they figured the codes got too complex for us amateur housebuilders, all those R-factors for insulation and E-glass in fenestrations and X-factors for our marriages. Or maybe it was this: a permit for an Owner-Builder was next to nothing, something like $50 when I got ours. The county might’ve done the taX-factor and realized us hippies were costing them revenue. Maybe some of us built our own palaces to save the permit expense, but I would’ve paid full freight just for the right to build my own place the way I wanted. A few hundred bucks wasn’t gonna stop me.

I spoze we can still build our own Xanadu, nothing to stop us. Just have to disclose that a rank amateur threw the hammer and ran the saw, flashed the windows, shingled the roof, installed the electric and plumbing and if you’re the prospective buyer, best beware!!! The people at the county sheds told me I’d be a Total Idiot to apply for an Owner-Builder status. Boy, he read me like a book. A comic book, I’d bet.

By the time I got our permit, us Owner-Builders had to meet the same codes as any fly-by-night contractor, go through the same inspections, all the rigamarole as the Big Boyz. In other words, the government here doesn’t allow for hippie shacks or slam-bang cabins. We got to build our parents’ suburban homes. Might explain why kids just stay with their folks now — why bother building the same damn place twice?