1) Your Poor Wife getting a strangulated hernia down in Ladytown *, necessitating a journey through the Suburban Saturday Driver's Education Zone known as "the northside of Indianapolis", particularly 86th Street, "The Avenue of the Morons", during which she felt every bump along the potholed route with a sort of mescaline intensity that made me wince. I will spare the Reader a complete recap of the ensuing ten gruesome hours ** (and that's just from my perspective), except to note that every visit there reveals a healthcare system strangulated under its own weight and sense of market share; that nowhere is this more on display than in Emergency, which is taking on the unmistakable aura of Large Corporation forced to do something less than optimally profitable as a sop towards an earlier, less mercenary, and more Christian time (and this is a Catholic hospital) until it can get the law changed; that the nurses outpost just outside our door was apparently the spot where lunch breaks and snack choices were negotiated without ceasing; that this might have been the reason why, on the four occasions they had to unhook my Poor Wife from the IV so she could use the facilities, no one ever managed to come back in and hook her back up until I'd gone out there to remind them.
The biggest treat of the day, though, was the woman behind the bulletproof sneeze guard at the Emergency admitting desk who told my Obviously In Pain missus that she'd be with her just as soon as she'd finished the paperwork she was carefully completing. (Later--see #4--my neighbor, herself a medical professional, would explain to me that "I'm having chest pains!" will get everyone within a half-block off his or her duff tout de suite. Just for the record.)
2) Going to the supermarket at 5:45 AM of a Sunday after a day and a night of medical terrorism. Seriously, there is something about the sad evidence of America's Vertiginous Downward Spiral as told by Her Ever-Cheapened Parade of Parti-Colored Consumer Bits which is magnified a hundred fold when you and the store have just passed a sleepless Saturday night. And I do not mean this in the familiar (to some of us, I suppose) sense of a skid-row lurch into such a place as the Buzz is starting to wear off, or just get old, in search of ill-considered consumable on your way to an unchaste bed, but pushing yourself up off a deathless mattress in stone sober search of necessities while your Poor Wife catches a bit of sleep. Seriously. Just go without. It's like the funhouse phantasmagoria of Dante's Inferno. The movie, I mean. The movie with Spencer Tracy, I mean, not the one where Pierce Brosnan drives through a lava flow, and probably runs through one, too, not that you can single out just one moment of scientific idiocy from that thing for admiration, and not that it wasn't called Dante's Peak, now that I think about it.
3) Turning on NASCAR as though this would provide a calming mindless provender. If you ever decide that you will "turn on NASCAR in the other room, because it's the only thing on" here is what you will get: a) a bunched pack of cars going fast; b) a bunched pack of cars going slow; c) a bunched pack of cars going sideways; d) a line of cars, stopped, while they clean up after (c). And I like motorsports, though it must be admitted that anyone who likes motorsports, and who watches NASCAR as one of two or more, realizes that NASCAR is by far the inferior regardless of whatever else he watches. Just make a fucking mix tape; you won't know any different. NASCAR is, assuming you refuse to go into near-empty grocery stores at ungodly hours, your best demonstration of what's gone wrong in this country over the past four decades, and just how far. It's the utimate example of what happens when you buy into this phony USA! Zeitgeist crap just because it looks to be profitable, knowing full well that you and it are full of shit. It's no coincidence that the popular imagination--as well as the powers that run the scam--link the thing to red meat Republicanism. NASCAR went from regional semi-obscurity to national fetish object on the strength of early cable teevee. Not hard work, imagination, or a superior product, just Lucky Shit Product Placement and a New Low (for the time) in Lowest Common Denominator. It was, though we didn't realize it until it was too late, the three-headed, ten-limbed mutant amphibian harbinger of our Reality Teevee future. Since it got there it has betrayed a cluelessness about how to proceed bordering on epic, in large measure due to the demands of upholding the phony Jes Moonshiners cover story the way Teabaggers pretend to be the descendants of Tom Paine. And it did so despite the fact that by the time cable fame found it it was already two decades beyond the racing of actual stock cars. You have, in NASCAR, a billion-dollar operation which wants to--that is, must--protect its capital and advertiser value to the fullest extent of science, but wants to act like it's Officially Anti-PC so its theoretical Yahoo base (or its onetime Big Tobacco bankrollers) won't take offense. This is sorta like creating a real professional wrestling league, but making it look phony, and requiring all the protective headgear be transparent.
NASCAR tried to keep the excitement generated by the accidental discovery of drafting, and the resulting split-second finishes, by artificial means. And, as a result, it certainly was powerful enough to brush aside the Iraqi army, but it had no clue how to prevent looting. It is now the longest, dullest, spectacle in sport, and it has no fucking idea how to get back to honest racing now, because there's too much money riding on every little decision for honesty to ever be a part of it again.
And, y'know, there are thousands, hundreds of thousands like me who remember what it was, and who must remember the difference between real chocolate and whatever they smother Milky Ways in these days, or who remember what a steak tasted like before the Reagan administration. NASCAR's a family business, and allowed to fuck itself in the ass all it wants, but America isn't, and isn't supposed to.
4) Discovering, as your lovely risen potato bread awaits baking, that your oven has decided not to go above 100º F for the foreseeable future, necessitating a frantic trip to the neighbors, who are nice enough to let you use theirs, while you are embarrassed enough to give them half your production.
5) Waking up at 5 AM to find the overnight torrential rain onto ground only that morning soaked to supersaturation by the melting snowfall of the previous two weeks has, as expected, created a Category 5 flood in the basement. And yes, we have Categories, and "Five" means "lapping at the decrepit carpet at the foot of the stairs" meaning I will stand in 45º water for the next two days alternately convincing myself that the Ridgid Tools† wet vac is making a noise it shouldn't be, and that the sump pump is not making a noise it should. I am, in fact, typing this thing in shifts while warming my half-frozen feet on microwaved tube socks filled with rice. ‡
6) Reading this goddamn Victor Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus Davis ("Oh, that Vic Hanson!") Hanson piece of shit which tries to pretend that a) working on your family's farm, a gig they gave you probably to cheer you up for missing that Nam opportunity, qualifies as "working for a living", the way Tucker Carlson dropping personal insurance qualified as "going without", because you once broke a sweat; that b) this then somehow reminds us that teachers really have it pretty good compared to the average 14th century serf, and so shouldn't be allowed to have unions; meanwhile trying to c) convince his readership that said farm was "failing", its continued existence dependent on his very sinews and not the combined incomes of his (college administrator) father and (attorney) mother; while d) various farmworkers lazed around, stole shit, and threatened him with knives for catching them. Read it if you have to. Hanson can't even bother keeping the voice consistent; he just sorta turns from noble and death-defying son of the soil who might not actually make any money, to bedeviled straw boss of an instant. And, of course, he never mentions it's his family's farm; heirs never do. The teacher half travels an opposite arc: ignoring the fact that the vast majority of Wisconsin teachers aren't teaching Applied Right Wing Kinesiology at Fresno State, and don't "t[each] about 16 weeks a semester, counting finals and introductory orientation, or 32 of 52 weeks a year." Then he suddenly seems to remember that he's supposed to be emphasizing the nobility of the lowly public-school teacher, lest anyone get the idea that he and his cronies just have a hard-on for union busting, and blurts:
My purpose in relating the divide is not to suggest that the brutality of farming bears much resemblance to the private-sector office or that a university professorship is at all comparable to the much more arduous duties of an inner-city middle- or high-school teacher.
Oh, okay. I knew there was some reason you'd done just that for the two previous pages. Good to know it wasn't the wrong one.
My favorite, though was this:
Research was supposed to matter a great deal; but often it strangely did not for purposes of tenure and retention.
Says the author of War and Other Simple Morality Tales for Children, and The History Channel's go-to guy on the fine art of defecating during a homoerotic recreation of the Battle of Thermopylae.
* What my Poor Wife suffered was not, actually, "a strangulated hernia in Ladytown"; she merely had the misfortune to marry someone who thinks "Ladytown" is so hysterically funny that he'd say this about her just to break himself up, even though it's not the condition which rushed her to the hospital.
**Preteritio, albeit unintended.
† Which, unlike "Ladytown" I say not for cheap laughs, but because it's the best one on the market, dollar for dollar.
‡ Buy whatever th' fuck you want.