Pictured above is the world’s worst dog. He came into my life as a rescue from the local shelter fifteen years ago. Fifteen years I tolerated his dismissal of my training efforts, the shredded household items, the radioactive urine that killed my grass and innumerable other annoyances. I finally won the battle of wills two days ago when, at age sixteen (!) he was forcibly sent to sleep for the final time. Various physical ailments had reduced his quality of life to a near vegetative state. Gone for some time was the happy cartoon grin and the boundless energy. This entry is not about a dog so much as life itself, or rather the end of that life.

The Idiot, as I nicknamed my nemesis, was the fourth dog I’ve had to take responsibility for euthanizing. The prior three were easy decisions to make as there were sudden catastrophic physical ailments that caused suffering and inevitable impending death. In contrast, this guy did not burn out; he faded away, and that proved much more difficult to deal with. As I watched him sink into the abyss of old age over the last year it troubled me. When was the right time? At what point does a life become pointless? Beyond that, who am I to make that decision? The last question does not have a simple answer. Being that I cannot communicate with my charge there is no way of knowing decisively his opinion or feelings on the matter. I would simply have to observe and apply my own innate concept of right/wrong to how I would likely feel in his situation–a situation I honestly could not relate to as I am in good health and not yet elderly. As a pet owner I accept these burdens, but I’m not sure any of us are truly qualified to make these calls with complete certainty.

Well-liked by others who did not have to clean up after his Trajectory of Terror, The Idiot’s passing of course generated conversation from family and friends. Discussions of other pets and their euthanasia resulted and I found it interesting how different the responses were from people whom I thought I otherwise knew quite well. Some were as I am, the stoic but affectionate owner who holds their pet in a final embrace as they pass from this existence. A surprising number of others, most of whom I regard as equally loving people, confessed that they simply could not be in the same room when the deed is done. This seems chillingly selfish and horrible to someone like myself, but I know these folks did not intend their actions to be anything less than providing the best they were capable of.

I don’t think it’s difficult to see what the ‘problem’ is with people who remove themselves from the final moments. The passing of a beloved pet places us face to face with the dark spectre of death. It is a mirror of our own mortality and we don’t much like the reflection. Pushing religious beliefs aside for the moment, we observe with great clarity that life is finite; there is an end to the book and no one to write a sequel. The experience of dying is the last answer to the questions of life. When we learn the answer it is too late to do anything with the knowledge. We all fear death. I do not believe anyone ‘welcomes’ death; I think when this reference is made it is instead a reference to wanting to end unbearable suffering in life. Death is final, and finality is the greatest insult to life. Death is feared–should be feared–but we cannot go through life constantly terrified of dying. That is not living. So we push the knowledge of death/finality into the dark recesses and ignore it until such times as the death of others brings it back for review.

At this point I will confess my atheism, a personal belief arrived at from careful study and substantial introspection. It is my observation that religion is, in large part, a creation of man to combat his inability to accept the inevitability of death. The human mind simply cannot fathom that there is nothing at the end of the journey, so it has invented the comforting placebo of eternal life. Consider that this is the conclusion of most all organized religions. Though the rewards may vary, eternal life awaits provided you follow the rules, schisms and traditions laid out in the published doctrines. Not a person among us doesn’t want to embrace the idea that there is no End to our existence. Even I am not immune to this. My first novel is actually a story based on the idea of an afterlife, though it presents the idea that it exists outside religious teachings (and that they all got it wrong). It is not my intent to shill a book here but to illustrate that so great is our desire to believe in a continuing existence even an atheist can fantasize about it, to the point of creating a book based upon that wish.

I had thought the process of euthanizing my pets had gotten, if not easier, less traumatic over time. The reality is that I don’t think it has. The ‘recovery’ is much faster; I no longer mourn for days as I once did. I worry in a way that this makes me colder emotionally, but I don’t think it does. I’ve simply progressed to a level of acceptance that is less emotional. There has been no change to my reaction during the actual needle insertion; the sorrow is as deep as ever but I accept it willingly. It is a sad but important part of love and life. I do not revel in it, but I refuse to recoil from it either. To not experience the lows is to not appreciate the highs. Both are essential to complete participation in this thing we call life.


I was adopted as an infant. My parents were unable to conceive, so sought out an alternative in me, the result of a teen pregnancy. I’ll discuss adoption and my (generally positive) feelings about it another time. In this installment, I’m instead going to delve into the relationship with my father, a man who passed away this past year and a person I still don’t feel I ever really got to know.

I selected the photo above because it depicts how I wish my relationship with my father had been; the two of us working together on a father/son project like an old car (my personal favorite pasttime as a teen). He, sharing his years of knowledge and teaching me, the eager youngster, the ways of mechanics along with some life lessons. I know others have experienced this, and I have read their posts describing the loss they felt when the “old man” passed away. Many of them wished they could have had another day, one more conversation with the guiding hand that raised them. I did not feel that. I didn’t feel much of anything, and I disliked having that reaction.

My father’s final weeks were not good; he knew he was dying soon. He made the decision to stay off the life support equipment that he needed to assist with his breathing. Our last few conversations were businesslike; me asking where things were, if this or that had been done or a bill paid, in preparation for all the work that the end of someone’s life creates for the survivors. I kept waiting for that final talk, the heartfelt outpouring of things he maybe had always wanted to say but never could. I waited. I sat patiently with him. Nothing. When he did speak, it was in bland generic conversation. I was not there when he died, nor did I particularly want to be.

We were two very different people, and not just because we shared no genetics. The way we worked on projects (and the rare occasions we did both work on a car together) were wildly different. I could lay under a car, quietly surveying the task I needed to tackle, running through my mind the best ways to disassemble components calmly and logically. He, on the other hand, would dive right in, just tearing off whatever was in the way to get to what he wanted to replace. Any time I would stop working, immediately he would inquire what the problem was. Another annoying habit was, every time I began to speak, he’d say “What?” before hearing the second syllable of the word I spoke. We simply could not work together. I think it disappointed my mother, but I also realize now that it disappointed me. We never really did do projects together. If I needed to build a Pinewood Derby car for Cub Scouts, he would simply take over making it, maybe allowing me to paint the final product but rarely any of the actual work. I bought a $300 car when i was seventeen to fix up; I wanted to learn how to rebuild the brakes, but I could only watch while he did it. After awhile I quit asking for help. I’d just work on it myself, breaking things and fixing them as I went, finding my own way through  it and teaching myself in the process. I don’t regret that education; it’s made me quite a competent Repairer Of Things Broken today. Inevitably, I reached a level of skill and knowledge that surpassed my father’s, yet he refused to ever ask for my help or opinion, nor would he allow me to repair or service any of his equipment, even after he no longer could. There’s a lot of psychoanalysis one could do with that, I know.

After he died, I tried to recall moments from my childhood with him. There were only a handful, and most of them were decidedly mundane and joyless. The one thing I remember the most was him being home after work. He would change clothes, lose his shoes, tilt back in his recliner and read the paper. Slowly, methodically, from cover to cover. I could never disturb him while doing this, though I tried often. Look at this thing I made. Could you help me do this? Let me tell you what happened at school today. Nothing got through. He’d grunt or mumble in response but never really listened. Physically there, but never present. My folks had an 8-track player, and one of the tapes was Harry Chapin’s Greatest Hits or something. I remember listening to the song Cat’s In The Cradle and thinking it kind of stupid, but also a bit sad. Only until my adulthood, when I heard it again somewhere, did I realize it perfectly described our relationship.

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son

You know we’ll have a good time then

When I got married and left the house, I really never did have time for him. It’s not like either of us were missing much; we couldn’t converse as anything but acquaintances, and I never really felt he was proud of anything that I accomplished. When he died, and I thought in-depth about our relationship, I realized just how little I knew about him.

My wife and I elected not to have children. I don’t know that it had anything to do with how either of us were raised; it just sort of never happened and we decided one day that, since it didn’t, we may as well make certain that it didn’t. I did subconsciously know that I didn’t want a son, though. The idea of a father/son relationship with a child of my own seemed totally foreign, though I could picture myself as the daddy to a girl. Why the sex of the child should matter, I can’t explain. I could never picture myself as the father in the photo above, but I have no trouble imagining myself as the father in the photo below. For good or bad, I’ll never know the experience of either. I’m OK with that. Most of the time.





I didn’t choose my career path so much as I sort of meandered into it. One entry level customer service job led to another, and expertise in that field of sales/service led me into an adjacent, related career. As I wrote in my previous installment, I generally like what I do (the ‘core’ job), it’s just all the excessive corporate B.S. mission statements and CSI scoring that drives me insane. It’s a white collar (well, business casual) job that deals quite a bit with blue collar types, aka, My Kind Of People. These are tradesmen, and they have a skill that most of us don’t in any measurable amount. Part mechanic, part art form, their skill levels vary but they all work with their hands to create a finished product. What a wondrous concept.

Back when i was in high school (Duran Duran was the new thing, so you figure out when) the focus of the school was always ‘preparing for college’.  Everyone with half a brain was expected to go to a place of higher learning. Those with less than half a brain were sent to Vo-Tech, where they would hopefully learn some kind of skilled trade that would support them in their non-college future. Quite frankly, I wanted to go to Vo-Tech. College didn’t interest me. I enjoyed working with my hands; when you built or repaired something, there was a tangible product of your efforts right there, in front of you. It didn’t matter if it was digging a post hole or replacing a washing machine timer; you knew when you were done because you could see something was accomplished. 

What I do now, however, is battle an endless stream of paper, emails, and phone calls. When I complete my day’s work I have a manila folder of papers that I can check off in a book as the only proof I’ve done something. And the next day, the process repeats itself again. While I am performing a service for customers, it’s mostly a transfer of information. Aside from the mental challenge of the technical aspects of the equipment I deal with, there’s not much tangible purpose to it. If i were abducted by aliens tomorrow, in a month’s time nobody at my place of employment would ever look at my work again. This may, along with the corporate stupidity, contribute to my malaise about my career in general and this job in particular. As I look around for something different, and realizing I am getting to the point of being too old to change careers unless I go off on my own in something, I question the wisdom of not having gone into the ‘trades’. 

I’m a big believer in small business and entrepreneurs. I enjoy talking with tradesmen about their jobs, particularly business owners who are still hands-on. A few construction related trades aside, it’s amazing to hear how these business owners frequently are in need of additional workers even in our current economy, yet none are to be found. Those they can find frequently don’t show up for work, or outright lie about their skills and wind up being completely inept. My arborist said he simply cannot find anyone willing to climb trees. It’s viewed as ‘too hard’. The pay is not poor, but when someone can get a job sitting in front of a computer all day in a climate controlled environment and never get dirty, why would they want to take his job for the same money? The fact is, they don’t, and a lot of the reason for that I believe is because we have looked down our noses at tradespeople as those who can’t do anything ‘better’. 

“I don’t pity any man who does hard work worth doing. I admire him. I pity the creature who does not work, at whichever end of the social scale he may regard himself as being.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Yet I myself contemplate leaving my field position and taking up a cubicle job (which I’ve done before) and becoming an office drone, simply because it will lower my stress level while rewarding me with a similar salary. Do I want to be unstressed, but bored? Is it better than being under constant pressure but at least having variety to my day and being able to interact with others? I remain in a quandry. I’m sure the guy driving the van I pass, going to build or repair whatever it is he does, would find it amusing that I often envy him. He gets up, goes to a task, performs the task, and can see when it is done. It’s wonderful in it’s simplicity (though I’m well aware it’s not that simple).

These people are not stupid; they cannot afford to be. Carpenters and masons must perform measurements, including angles, weights, and so forth which is a talent I don’t possess. Repairmen of all types have to be diagnosticians with electronics, hydraulics, and gas/diesel/electric engines/motors. In addition, if they are self-employed or small business owners they need to be well versed in customer service, payroll, taxes, advertising, fleet maintenance, and on and on. It is true that you can now get comprehensive specialist degrees in a trade, but back when I was being refused Vo-Tech entry because I had “too much potential” this was not the case. Tradespeople had to teach themselves these skills in addition to their core trade. 

The downside to such physical jobs is, of course, the toll it can take on one’s body. Climbing trees, pushing wheelbarrows of concrete, bending over to nail shingles are all hard work. At my age the body is already screaming in protest at some of the things I do. While my hobby is working on old cars, I would not want to work on them every day, even with a lift and proper tools. The mere idea of removing a transmission by myself makes me reach for the ibuprofen. I’m sure a lot of the tradesmen out there, sitting in a 100+ degree attic to run ducting or blow in insulation, envy the guy in his comfy office chair basking in the air conditioned glow of his monitor. There is no perfect job. Some jobs, however, offer unique rewards. When I look at a 100 year old railroad bridge, or a 200 year old piece of furniture and realize the product of someone’s efforts has long outlived him but I can still enjoy the fruits of his labors, well…that makes me think my task of pushing papers and sending calls to voice mail is pretty pointless. 


I have a good paying job that I dislike.  It’s actually not the job, so much as the employer. It’s a big corporation that advertises endlessly and is quite successful, but like most large corporations it has a tendency to focus on the minutiae while ignoring the big picture. As a curmudgeon cursed with common sense and the inability to ignore the lack of it in others, working for the management team that I do is a perpetual frustration. My position, to describe it in vague terms for reasons of privacy, is to assist customers with problem situations and acting as a middleman with vendors who ultimately will repair their problems. I  very much like the technical aspects of my work, and dealing with most of my vendors. We speak the same language, the vendors and I. The customers are a challenge, as they are in any business, between having wide ranging and frequently unrealistic expectations and simply not being knowledgeable about the services we administer. My greatest frustrations, however, come from within my organization.  The vast majority of these frustrations are preventable. Easily. Which adds to the frustration.  The business at it’s basic is a stress generator, and with the ineptitude of those in charge raining upon me on a daily basis (not to mention a performance grading system that is mathematically dishonest) it’s become horribly unpleasant, which makes me unpleasant. Oh, and then there’s the whole thing with my blood pressure becoming elevated since I’ve worked here. Nice cherry on top.

I complain about my job to friends, because that’s what we humans do. I realize it’s pointless, but the stress needs to find a release somehow, so bitching about it to those who are willing to listen is one way of venting. I’ve been hit with the comment that I should be “thankful to have a job”, particularly in the current economic climate. While the difficulties of the job market have not escaped my notice (for I have been looking for alternative employers, believe me), I refuse to be thankful that I have a job I’d rather not have. I mean, to whom am I supposed to be thankful? The employer, who treats me as just another performance number? God? Karma? I’m thankful to have an income. I am not, however, thankful I have this particular job. For this, some feel I am ungrateful.


Some (or perhaps all) of you Gentle Readers may roll your eyes and smirk sarcastically, “Woe is me”.  I mean, doesn’t everyone dislike or despise their job? I think a lot of people dislike work in general, and others their job in particular for varying reasons. I hope I don’t come across as a whiny, entitled snob. I’m not afraid of work, and I actually enjoy my core job.  I just really, really have no respect for the people I work for, because I view them is mostly incompetent (focused on the wrong things) and disengaged from the reality of what it is that I and my co-workers do. Having worked for this employer for the last four years, I can now see why labor unions are formed (and I disagree with the concept of labor unions in general — a topic for another time). With the economy continuing to struggle, the worker bees are constantly made to do ever more. Unfortunately, there is a limit as to what any person or team can do in a given time frame while maintaining a level of quality that is satisfying to the customer.  My college degree’d superiors somehow can’t seem to grasp that even though I can with only a high school diploma sprinkled with common sense.

There are ‘better’ jobs out there, of course. I’ve experienced them (and unfortunately, for various reasons, found myself no longer employed in them). Some are duller but less stressful. As I get older and contemplate the rest of my working life stretched out before me, I wonder if the generous income is really worth the stress, fatigue, potential health damage and negative moods. Is maintaining a certain ‘lifestyle’ worth the negativity and security? What is more satisfying, a regular and safe paycheck or a true feeling of personal accomplishment? Are both possible concurrently? Our lives are short; do we really want to spend most of our waking hours being miserable? I promise more thoughtful examination and less bellyaching in the next installment.

“That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.” — Peter Gibbons in Office Space.


The other day an acquaintance (not really a friend; just someone I interact with at work) posted in a discussion on his FB page that he “didn’t vote for that n*gger”.  This is a young guy, maybe 30, a father (though apparently not married), ‘conservative’, and…allegedly a Christian. It would almost be comical what a complete target he is for picking apart his contradictions if he weren’t such a pathetic example of the human race. I called him on it: “The N-word? Really?” but my antagonism was ignored. Pity. I really was looking forward to drawing out his true colors (pun intended) for everyone to see. Of course, I guess posting the N-word accomplished that by itself.

It just astounds me that, in this day and age, the moronity of such blatant racism is still out there. I suppose as a hopelessly white English/German descendent who lives in a rural area of Pennsylvania I’m not exposed to it like a lot of people. I’m aware it’s out there, but it still shocks me. And disappoints. I’m still not used to my fellow man disappointing me so frequently and so blatantly.

My father and his parents grew up on a poor farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  My father interacted with ‘coloreds’ frequently with the farm work, and was influenced by his parents. I only remember my grandmother, as her husband died when I was only 5 or so.  I do distinctly recall the day I heard her refer to a black person as a n*igger.  Just another word in casual conversation.  She thought nothing of it. My father, blissfully, developed a different opinion on race after he entered the Navy and had to work alongside them under different circumstances.  His old ways still entrenched, he apparently used the wrong terminology to the wrong person.  The story was vague, when he told it to me (I was quite young), but during some disagreement the man of color told him, “A negro I am; a n*igger I’m not”.  My father’s tune changed from that point on, and luckily was (at least visibly) colorblind by the time I came into the picture. My mother was never a racist, and so I grew up fairly colorblind as well, though it didn’t hurt that there really were never any blacks in my school to challenge me on it.

Being a dumb kid, I took certain cartoon and movie nuances and made them part of my own speech.  This came back to haunt me later.  I did not pick up on the racism inherent in Jackie Gleason’s portrayal of Sheriff Buford T. Justice in Smokey and the Bandit.  I used the term ‘boy’ with my own friends as sort of a Foghorn Leghorn attempt at comedy and never thought much of it…until the day I asked a young black guy at work to get off the phone in my work space by prefacing it with the word ‘boy’.  “I’m nobody’s ‘boy'”, he started off on me, and I had to backpedal and explain that, sorry, it wasn’t a derogatory thing to me; I was just too white-stupid to know any better. Kind of like that time I used the term ‘Jap’ to describe a Japanese car in an article I wrote. Yeah, that didn’t turn out to well either with the guy who was married to an Asian lady. But I wasn’t trying to be hateful; I was just blissfully ignorant of things that were apparent to others, because they had had to live with such stupidity that was intentional. But I never have used the N-word.

Oh, I’ve got problems with the black ‘community’ that has nothing to do with race.  It’s more of an issue of misdirected people who put up Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton as some sort of worthy leader in the realm of Martin Luther King, Jr. But that is a rant for another time. I once had a guy on the phone accuse me of making a decision he didn’t like because he was black. Bear in mind, I’d never seen the guy, but I could sense in his speech that he probably was.  I didn’t sit still for that, and kind of went off on him, telling him he didn’t know me, didn’t know how I was raised nor what I believed. He changed his tune pretty darn quick, and when I did finally meet him in person we got along just fine. I think a lot of minorities are becoming too hyper-sensitive about these things, and when they do it winds up making things worse because now even people of good intentions are so paranoid about saying the wrong things we’d rather not deal with them at all. Perhaps I just live in my own little bubble, but I judge people on their actions, not on their ethnic origins.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. –Martin Luther King, Jr.


I’m a curmudgeon. We are typically misunderstood. Writer Jon Winokur described us:

A curmudgeon’s reputation for malevolence is undeserved. They’re neither warped nor evil at heart. They don’t hate mankind, just mankind’s absurdities. They’re just as sensitive and soft-hearted as the next guy, but they hide their vulnerability beneath a crust of misanthropy. They ease the pain by turning hurt into humor.  . . . . .   They attack maudlinism because it devalues genuine sentiment.   . . . . .   Nature, having failed to equip them with a serviceable denial mechanism, has endowed them with astute perception and sly wit. Curmudgeons are mockers and debunkers whose bitterness is a symptom rather than a disease. They can’t compromise their standards and can’t manage the suspension of disbelief necessary for feigned cheerfulness. Their awareness is a curse. Perhaps curmudgeons have gotten a bad rap in the same way that the messenger is blamed for the message: They have the temerity to comment on the human condition without apology. They not only refuse to applaud mediocrity, they howl it down with morose glee. Their versions of the truth unsettle us, and we hold it against them, even though they soften it with humor.

While others go blissfully through life armed only with what they’ve learned from dubious forms of education, I suffer daily with an excess of common sense, that intangible condition Webster’s defines as “sound and prudent judgement based on a simple perception of the situation or fact”.  I question, I ponder, and I debate…but only with those who can sustain a good (and civilized) argument. 

I’m not really apathetic; the blog title comes from something else I’ll explain later. Epithets? Hell yes I use them. Creative use of profanity is a skill, though not requiring the same level of talent as clever sarcasm. A well rounded curmudgeon should be proficient in both. 



Amplifying my curmudgeon-ness is the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. My job is working with people, and I generally like them.  However, a large part of my job is solving problems on their behalf, and the incompetence of others that creates more unnecessary work for me I find draining. If I could only shout at them “Pull your head out of your ass!” I’d feel vastly better. But alas, I cannot, for polite society frowns upon it. I find it equally irksome that ramming the rear bumper of someone blockading the passing lane of a  highway instead of moving over like competent drivers is sadly illegal. That’s really all I want out of my fellow human being: competency.  Not proficiency; we can’t all be proficient at everything. But we should come out of our teen years into adulthood with a cognizance of items of common sense, which we who possess it recognize ain’t so common. 

I love quotes from people smarter than I, so we will close with one here from the man who wrote Common Sense:  “The mind, once enlightened, cannot again become dark.”  — Thomas Paine