Mr. Ralph's house is just up the street on the corner, it's the one with the scalped lawn. It is hard to converse with Mr. Ralph, because he doesn’t wear his  hearing aids, and has no idea of what is being said to him. He is interested in three things:

1. his cat
2. his lawn
3. his deceased wife, whom he says has gone to live in the moon 

Mr. Ralph had a different cat when we moved here, but it died. It is buried in the front yard, inside a five gallon paint bucket whose lid has been glued shut “so bugs can’t get in there.” Now he has a new cat, which has a pretty good deal going with Mr. Ralph unless it dies. Then it will get buried in a sealed paint bucket, safe from bugs.  

Mr. Ralph is having memory problems. There are indications of this in conversation, but also in the fact that he mows his lawn every day unless it is raining. When it is raining Mr. Ralph cannot mow his lawn, so he calls up the company he pays to spray huge quantities of weedkiller on his lawn, and yells at them about the imperfect results of their service. Sometimes Mr. Ralph becomes so involved in hollering at the telephone that he forgets that he activated his burglar alarm before going outside to glare at the weeds and holler at the telephone. When he goes back in his house he does not hear the alarm beeping and does not enter the security code that will turn it off. Within minutes, the alarm company calls the police to report a break in. The police arrive and check on Mr. Ralph, who is surprised to see them and has no recollection of previous occasions when the same thing happened.

Mr. Ralph isn’t going to be here much longer because one of two things is going to happen: either he’ll drop dead, or men in white coats will come take him away, most likely at the behest of his children, whom he torments with angry phone calls. In the meantime he will continue to mow his lawn. The deck of his John Deere Model 325 has been lowered until the blades rotate a bare sixteenth of an inch above level ground. Where the ground is not precisely level the blades pulverize the dirt. Over time, this has reduced Mr. Ralph’s yard to a bedraggled nest of roots, bare dirt, and weeds. It is now pretty darn level. 

Gunner is an old Labrador Retriever. If he is not asleep, Gunner is usually computing the trajectory of breakfast. He also speculates on what sex would be like, but the only girl dog he knows is his sister, and she is totally disinterested. Also Gunner is hydraulically challenged, so he will die a virgin. But breakfast will arrive many times. (On my Profile page, Gunner is the dog on my right.)

In real life, when you are old, nobody says “It’s a beautiful day, let’s go play fun games in the sun.” Of course they rarely did in the past, but you substitute for your younger life a fantasy of what you wish it had been. Today, if there were games in the sun, you’d strain something, or get heat exhaustion, and you were never good at games to begin with. But those considerations are not the real problem. I think everyone just gave up. 

There is a wall between us and some of the people we meet. It is as though for years, terrible things have befallen them in succession, freezing them in defensive positions they will never relinquish. We sit across from these people attempting to communicate. Social niceties alternate with barbed observations about the world around us, the world that cannot be trusted or enjoyed, even by the luckiest people who have ever lived there.

Finally Better

Yelling Athens Man Charged With Public Intoxication
(from the June 22, 2017 Blotter column in the Athens Banner Herald)

"Randy Meadows, 50, was arrested Tuesday night after causing an alcohol-related disturbance outside his apartment building in the 1300 block of Boulevard, Athens-Clarke County police said. Responding to the man’s fifth 911 call that day, an officer found Meadows in his apartment’s parking lot “screaming at the top of his lungs mostly (sic) inaudible phrases,” according to police. The officer warned Meadows he faced arrest if he did not quiet down and go inside, but the man continued to yell ......"

Most people accept being being pretty much alone, pretty much all the time. Some can’t. They’ll draw attention to themselves, screaming nonsense in a parking lot after drinking too much, or huffing gasoline, or snorting crystal meth for six days, whatever. Obviously, the problem has to do with intoxication. But often the person screaming in the parking lot is also terminally lonely, and they’re making a lot of noise to see if they can wake up a deaf world. Extreme attempts to obtain relief from the isolation of our postindustrial world, such as screaming in a parking lot, don’t often work. You’d feel like the world’s biggest ass if you got processed at the Adult Detention Center for hollering at people nobody can see. Or, if the cops succeed in calming you down enough to let you go, you’d know that a one way door, an important one, had closed somewhere. A blackout would be your only protection against such humiliation, but that type of protection costs more than it’s worth. Someone could get to a certain point, they’d rather set themselves on fire than spend one more day waiting for things to finally get better. 

A trap for smart people

Many people who are attracted to Eastern thought, the study of great philosophers, and other systems for coping with life fail to solve their problems, despite immersing themselves in one or more of these disciplines. Solutions to our problems can be found without resorting to arcane studies, which, although fascinating, tend to stimulate entanglement in concepts that distract us with esoteric vocabulary, complex logical systems, and hypothetical speculations. Whatever the difficulty, we try to think our way around it instead of confronting it. Stated another way, if someone has severe emotional difficulties it is unlikely that studying Kierkegaard or Buddhism will effect a solution. Although you can’t criticize someone for seeking wisdom, there are people who unwittingly use their pursuit of understanding to obfuscate, deny, or postpone dealing with difficulties that are more effectively addressed via prosaic means: stop abusing substances, learn to deal with anger, cease blaming others for our own difficulties, etc. But that’s getting right to the crux of matters, instead of dressing them up in the rational processes of some of the smartest and most profound people who have ever lived --- and the smarter you are, the more likely you are to be attracted to this. With the possible exception of cognitive therapy, we cannot think our way out of depression or other difficulties such as addiction, selfishness, self pity, or madness. That’s like trying to fix a transmission with plumbing equipment. I’ve known absolutely brilliant people who have spent significant portions of their lives trying, in effect, to rebuild a transmission with pipe wrenches and toilet plungers, and it does not work.

Shed Lust

I dunno what happened, but I will admit that almost 40 years ago lust was involved.

Now I'm devoting entire days to zoning ordinances and building permits. I have spent quality time with a 300 pound Georgia Bulldog fan while both of us admired a 1940-something John Deere three-banger.  The official business was sheds, but the John Deere was the star of the day. Any fool who has ever heard one of those run would know that.

NEVER buy a shed from like, Home Depot or Lowes. If you are in the market for a shed (and it happens in the best of families,) find a multi-generational, family-run shed factory located on a rural route close to where you live. They will build, deliver, set up, and guarantee the shed of your dreams, which is a weird concept, but there is such a thing as Country Kinky. We settled on a repossessed shed (Rent To Buy!) that has only been broken into once, because the owner got drunk & misplaced their shed key. This lapse of memory necessitated certain shed modifications involving a crowbar. Also some device with an internal combustion engine bled oil on the floor, but for a $500 discount I'm willing to overlook certain things. I

PS the shed is 10' x 12'. I'm told that termites that attack the floor will glow briefly & then die.

Why Education Reform will Always Disappoint 

No matter how often a school system switches superintendents, no matter what teacher training is mandated, no matter how severe the penalties schools suffer for not hitting target test scores, no matter how many hours teachers work, no matter how many teachers are fired, no matter how many principals are replaced, the main cause of student underperformance will remain. It is simply that unless students' homes are conducive to academics, the best efforts on the part of school systems will fail to accomplish the desired results. In other words, if parents do their jobs, the schools will be able to do theirs. Communities cannot penalize, reform, or legislate their way off this two way street.