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Tear The Roof Off The Sucka

The big, brown stains bloomed on my son’s ceiling while half the rain still remained in the sky. The wind wasn’t much, but it was enough. Attention must be paid. The next one would rob us of our second floor. 

The ground was covered with this sort of thing. I know the evidence well. A house neglected while the calendar repeats itself. Not the months. The centuries. I knew the roof was a horror when I bought the place, and fixed the worst part right away — where the rain had pulled up a chair in the kitchen and lingered over coffee, as difficult to banish as any lonely neighbor. The squirrels came and went through the holes, and fought a valiant rearguard action against the dying of the sky in their world. I was as merciless as any dread god, and had to be. I murdered them all and my eyes watered for each one. Such is real life.

 I had to go up to a spot that’s not visible from anywhere on the ground in any direction. There’s an octagonal turret on my Queen Anne with a squared-off dunce cap roof for my older boy’s room. The roof didn’t look good or anything where you could see it, but really steep roofs don’t need to be very good — that’s why thatch worked, more or less, before we unleashed the wonder of shingles on the crown of our houses. But I live in a house that the former owners had shingled inside. One must be prepared to find foolishness everywhere.

The back of the roof, away from the street. I crouched in the somewhat complex valley betwixt the main, hip roof; a large cross-gable; and the turret. On my right was three or four layers of roof, gone to various states of reward in the roofshingle afterlife, and on my left was 1901, the first roof the place had ever had, never even attempted in the intervening century because it’s deuced difficult to get to.

As I said, attention must be paid. I was a good manager in my past, better than my circumstances might indicate. No one I’ve met is a good manager. You must become one, as fast as you can, before the world and all its people run you over like a dog in the street. The very worst managers tell the people they manage to stand still while they figure something out. It is the mark of the bad manager breed, generally; coming soon...

I am not young any more. I have a bad back. There is a great deal wrong
with my feet. I am still a bit feebler than I’d like to be from a bout
of Lyme disease. All my neighbors, the nicest people I’ve met in this
world, no exaggeration, passed by and told me to be careful up there, fearing
that I might fall, never suspecting that if one of the bees buzzing
around the chimney took umbrage I’d die right there without ever
making it back to the top of the ladder, never mind the bottom.

I don’t care. Attention must be paid. I’m alive; right here, right now.  Are you? Or are you waiting for your manager to make up his mind?

It’s A Calvin And Hobbes World

My parents’ generation had a kind of nervous blame tic. If something undesirable occurred, they’d immediately come up with a scenario of who was to blame, and how it could have been prevented. The “who” was always you, by the way. Jews have schlemiels and schlemozzles. We only had schlemiels.

If you fell down and skinned your knee, you should have been more careful. Pick up your feet when you walk. Of course you caught cold, you weren’t wearing a scarf. You got a headache from sitting too close to the television. If Sputnik landed on you, you should have come inside sooner.

Catholic school was likewise full of warnings that the machinery of the universe would tick over immediately to punish the incautious. Hell, (whoops; sorry, sister) if you threw your dessert uneaten into the trash some foreign kid would immediately keel over and die for the want of it. That was never his fault, somehow, and it didn’t matter that dessert was prunes from a huge dented can, and even Biafrans were known to turn up their noses at those. You killed those people. A+B=C. Period.

Darwin has taken the place of Greg Brady’s sketchy dad and the nun inspecting your lunch leavings in the universe of the younger generations. Whenever anyone dies for any reason, it was a sign of the intrinsic foolhardiness of whatever they were doing. If a hurricane kills you, you shouldn’t have lived near the ocean, silly; if you move to Oklahoma to escape New Orleans you were just begging for that tornado to hurl you into the ether. It’s a form of self-flattery: If those people were smart enough to confine themselves solely to commenting on all behaviors from the cockpit of their mother’s basement, they’d be alive now. They’re not smart like me, bravely doing absolutely nothing.

If Darwin had any useful opinion about current affairs, there’s only one class of people he’d be interested in, and they’re the legions of timid, second-guessing people that live in their mother’s basement and aren’t interested in procreating. Or more precisely, aren’t interesting enough to anyone else to procreate with.

Of course bad things happen to basement dwellers, too, and must be explained. Explained away, as a rule. Someone did it to me. Evil people. If you get cancer it was some chemical. If you’re kid’s moody it’s because he was immunized. If you’re poor, someone stole your money. If you’re depressed about being, well, you, it’s because evil people won’t acknowledge how swell you are and double down on their perfidy by demanding you pay a copay for your Effexor. You didn’t smoke for forty years and get cancer; you were targeted by an evil corporation for smoking. The morphing of prosecution witness into a defense witness is the denouement of this process:

1950: Your honor, the defendant just snapped and killed three people.
2010: Your honor, I’m innocent, I just snapped and killed three people.

I’m hard-pressed to come up with any segment of the population that doesn’t have a pre-medieval answer ready to be trotted out, at flight-deck-McGlaughlin Group volume, for any social ill or misbehavior, and a ready-made template to call any productive behavior a crime, too. There’s isn’t a dime’s bit of difference between Pat Robertson or Al Gore in these matters. (A)Gay people or (B)Ford Explorers cause hurricanes. Take your pick, but there’s no (C) 

People who heeded the call to be cautious, first, last, and always took tolltaker or public school teacher jobs, and they’re angry right now because the only thing those jobs offered was security and even that was illusory, apparently. The Ivy League drudges wonder why the government doesn’t tax their plumber more and leave them alone, so that they can go back to hiring illegal aliens to do their scutwork while trying to catch up with the Secretary of the Treasury on cheating on their taxes. And they’re all angry at unemployed people for not paying taxes and not having enough sense to be born Chinese next to an iPhone factory.

In short, I find myself living in a Calvin and Hobbes world, and I don’t like it. Predestination and barbarism are man’s lot in life. But it’s not the Calvinists against the Hobbesians, no; it’s one faction, half and half, against another faction, half and half. Half the Calvinists say their money is the sign of God’s approval of them, and the other half say money is the mark of the devil and evidence only of some great crime. 50 percent of the Hobbesians say the world’s fine except there are too many nasty, brutish people that end up having indoor plumbing and golf clubs, and the other 50 percent say the world would be fine except for the nasty, brutish people who haven’t got a pot to piss in ruining it for everyone else. In both cases, they’d like the other half to have nasty, brutish, short lives and stop leaving big carbon footprints — or smoking department stores, depending on budget — in their wake.

Me? It’s occurred to me lately that a person could do most everything right in this world now, cooperate and do what is demanded of them –behave in an exemplary fashion, almost — and get creamed anyway. Where would a person like that go, to find someone to talk to? Beats me.

Read My Stories For The New Depression, Inspired By The Last One:

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