January 2010


It’s been a long time since I’ve had a regular routine. Being self-employed contributes in a big way, and on the whole I think I prefer being irregular. Now don’t get me wrong, I poop nearly every day, but I think predictability is overrated. Even so, this has been a strange few weeks. I haven’t felt like doing much. The calendar marches on, and stuff needs to get done.

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Thanks for you kind words & prayers. It means a lot to me. I’ve been well-supported by friends, and I am thankful.

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We traveled to Michigan, made funeral arrangements, began sorting through the mountain of Dad’s stuff and papers, had visitation and a funeral, cried a bit, saw lots of family and old faces, racked up significant dollars on the credit card, divvied up inheritance items, and returned home. There’s so much that happened in that week, it’s hard to believe it all.

What pissed me off the most was the crass salesmanship of funeral homes and cemeteries. They seem to expect that folks will do whatever it takes in a time of grief, and never miss an opportunity to upsell. While having lunch directly after the funeral service, a lady walked up and showed me this lovely memorial plaque they had made, with a picture and little engraved nameplate. I munched on my ham sammich while she explained that ‘this one is for you, and you can order more, but they cost $40 each.’ I managed to remain polite, but it took strong filtering.

Dad had purchased a 2-place crypt 20+ years ago, but that didn’t include opening and closing. You know what it costs to remove 4 screws, slide a casket in, and put the granite cover back in place? $1652. And, they’ll charge that much again when it’s Mom’s time to go. They suggested we could pre-pay for her services, to ensure we wouldn’t have to pay more later. My sister, the vet tech, said they treat people with more dignity when dealing with the loss of a pet.

We found the most recent will was drawn up in 1984. Mom’s MS was not dominating her life, we kids were still living at home, there were no grandkids, and the estate was in a very different state. It would have been good to have a more recent set of instructions.

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On tap this month: Meet with a lawyer and write up our estate plans, play a couple back-to-back gigs with the band, immediately after the 2nd gig hop on a plane to Guatemala for a week-long visit with these folks, come back to Raleigh, and drive up to Michigan to help my sisters with the estate. Trips to Goodwill, storage, and various houses with furniture and stuff and more stuff. Need to fix up the house a bit, perhaps have an estate sale, and rent out the house. It’s daunting, but doable.

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Woke up at 4 this morning to rescue my shelter tent from the snow. We’ve got one of these that I put up on the back deck for parties and to keep my tools out of the rain during projects (we have a shower replacement underway), but they don’t tolerate nasty weather that well. This is my 3rd one, the first blowing over in a bad windstorm, the second collapsing under a freak rain event, and this one was starting to give out from a pile of icy, slushy snow. After knocking the snow off and bending a few struts back into place, I think it’s saved from this storm.

I got sleds, I got boots, but a snow shovel I don’t got. Time to see if there are any for sale.

I just heard from my sister that my dad passed away last night.

He had gone into the hospital a couple weeks ago for a UTI and some issues with his diabetes. Last night he had a little trouble breathing, and after about an hour died of respiratory failure.

Dad was a faithful Christian, husband, father of three, grandfather of five, chaplain to prisoners, and genuine good man.

I miss him already.

And little chirlen too. I wish everyone a happy oh-ten, may it kick aught-nine’s agey, saggy ass to the curb.

I’m not complaining much, as last year wasn’t bad for me. Got married, made friends, have work to do and a loving home and insurance and health. However, I’m always more excited about beginnings than middles or endings.

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I’ve been ranting about this with little effect on Facebook and Fark, and can’t seem to get it off my chest. So, here goes the latest Drama from Thomas the Drama Llama. This guy cranks out more stories than the entire history of American soap operas, but I will spin out just a few recent highlights.

He moved into the neighborhood about a year and a half ago. I met him when I came home from work one afternoon while he and his helpers were moving furniture into the house. He paused from his work to introduce himself boisterously, often interrupting himself to scream obscenities at his help. From across the street. I knew right off this was a class act.

In this time, he’s had 2 live-in girlfriends, 4 engagements complete with ring, 5 different vehicles, a dozen space heaters (the gas company wouldn’t give him credit), and no less than 18 different phones and phone numbers. Not to mention at least 5 different business names. When we met, he told me he was an enlisted officer in the Army. Special Forces. His girlfriend, the Marine, had some boot camp photos and awards on display, but Thomas said all his awards were his scars and tattoos.

Once the Marine girlfriend moved out because she was tired of his shit, he announced that he was redeploying with the Marines. “What? I thought you were Army!” I exclaimed. He said I must have heard him wrong, he was always a Marine. He even got a shiny new globe & anchor tattoo to declare his devotion to the Corps. A few weekends ago, his new live-in girlfriend asked me if I knew where he was. I didn’t, but he called just minutes later to say he was in Germany. Just got back from a quick op in Afghanistan. He’d be back in the states tomorrow – total deployment: 4 days.

I’ve never been in the military, but this smells like bullshit to me.

Anyway, I’d gotten used to his style of loud and wild proclamations of plans to do this or that, how much money he brung in this week, or how badass he is. Disagreeing, questioning, or correcting didn’t work – just wasn’t worth it. Smile and nod, be friendly and neighborly, share a beer or a lend some help every once in a while. That was my MO, and it had been working until last week.

He was in need of some help in his tree business, and asked if I’d be game to be part of his crew the next day. I rearranged some things and told him I could do it, but had to drive myself so I could be to a 5:30 appointment. A few minutes later, he called back and said nevermind, he found another guy to take my place. After we had made arrangements. Pissed me off a little, but that’s Thomas. I found something else to do with my day.

Later in the afternoon, he called to ask what was going on at his house. This is not unusual, he’s paranoid of people messing with his stuff or stealing things, and he’s always kept a sharp eye out on the Tiny House. I reported what I saw: Nothing. One of his trucks with a rented chipper were in the driveway, nobody else is around. Several hours later, his girlfriend knocks on the door and says she has to run some errands, but doesn’t know how to disengage the chipper. It’s a big yellow beastly trailer that can chew up entire trees, so I go over and help unhook it. She drives off, and we go back to our TV marathon.

A while later Thomas calls again. He says he saw the law at his house when he was on the way home, so he kept on driving. He was gonna keep driving ’till he got where he was going, and he wouldn’t tell me where or why. I said, ‘whatever.’

Now, I hate getting ‘whatevered’ – it’s about the worst thing, IMO. It means you don’t care, or don’t believe the other person. It’s rare for me to say that, because I do care and want everyone to be happy… but I was at the end of my rope. He said, “Well I hope I haven’t pissed you off.”

“Look Thomas, I don’t know whatever you’re up to, but good luck. If there’s anything I can help with, let me know.” And that was that.

The next day, his house was deserted. No trucks, no chipper, no lights on. He called from a restricted number, said he was almost to Utah. His girlfriend must have moved out too, he didn’t know where she was going. Just then, I heard a mewling from the street – their two kittens were tentatively making their way across the dark street. Baby cats, maybe 3 months old. It was fecking cold, and would be below freezing that night.

“Your cats are outside,” I told him. “Oh… uh, she must have put them out. Can you bring ’em to a shelter?”

That’s when the switch flipped for me. I was done smiling and nodding, letting him think I believed whatever he spewed. He said, “Look, let me know if the law wants to talk to you. I didn’t do anything.”

As coincidence would have it, a Sheriff’s investigator stopped by shortly after I got home to ask if I knew anything about Thomas. I said sure, we’ve been neighbors a while. He asked if I knew his real name. I had to admit, I didn’t. He went by several names, but I never asked to see his driver’s license – who does that? Apparently, the Sheriff’s department didn’t know his name, or even what he looked like.

Thomas has called a few more times since then. Apparently he had heard the Sheriff had come to visit, and that he stayed here about 1/2 hour. I told him no, it was about 10 minutes – and by the way, who’s reporting on visitors to my home? He wouldn’t answer, but offered that he’s been charged with a felony, something about a trailer he bought. He’s in California, doesn’t know what he’ll be doing.

Last night, about 1:00 AM, he called again. As soon as I said hello, he began cussing me out, calling me a snitch. “What are you talking about?” I demanded. He said I helped the Law and I’d regret it. “Are you threatening me?” I asked. He hung up.

My fervent hope for the new year is that they don’t come back, and we get normal neighbors.

Anybody want some kittens?