Still Kicking

I am fairly certain this one is somewhere in Jackson County, the day that the Forest Service was treating woodsy areas for gypsy moths (one of the work stories I have to tell — someday, perhaps soon). Click, of course, for a big version (although at least halved twice from the actual shot).

My “Subscriptions” page here on WordPress just revealed that itʼs been twenty (20!) days since I last posted something to the blog. Sigh.

Perhaps some had thought/hoped ole Wakdjunkaga had expired. Not yet…

I am still alive, just busy working. I even have work news that I just havenʼt had time to post. Lots of work stuff going on (I even got to work on gypsy moth trapping for four days to help out my [now former?] partner in Linn and Scott counties); itʼs the season to restock the lure in the traps (and over the Fourth, The Lovely One got me to take down the trap in our own yard, while wearing my full work regalia, so she could snap some pictures that I intend to share here, hopefully some time before my seasonal work period ends about Labor Day).

I have also been thinking a lot about stories (particularly “Mantorville* although I donʼt know why driving around the back roads of eastern Iowa should inspire me on that subject…**) and even have written (a little). The photo today is one I shot for mood/atmosphere/mapping-plans-for Quetzal County while out working (provided here perhaps just to prove I have been contemplating the writing life).

Friday morning (thatʼd be tomorrow) is my (personal) time, and I will try to complete some post(s?) to remind myself that I do have a blog. (I do, however, need to write to my brother Stephen as well.)

However, right now, my Beloved just arrived home, so this post is finished.

* (Isnʼt anyone gong to suggest an actual title for that eastern Iowa horror story? Ever?)

** ALL locations and characters are imaginary, however, by the way!

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Life Near the Mississippi

…or Bumbling Ineptitude

Mark Twain did a remarkably clever thing when writing the memoirs of his youthful riverboating days, Life on the Mississippi, recapturing that long absent and nostalgic time when he was learning the multiplex and intimidating skills required of a riverboat pilot. The writer “invented” a “character,” the naïve and bumbling Sam, his younger self caught in the coils of his apprenticeship. (At least this character creation gimmick is what the critics frequently say.) Sam really is a goof, constantly missing the point of his pilot mastersʼ instruction, doing the wrong thing (almost inevitably), and suffering immense frustration at the overhwhelming quantity of learning being imposed on him. Sam is pretty comical, which is of course Twainʼs point, and the young manʼs scatterbrained ineptitude is good for plenty of laughs in the book. (And as I have myself demonstrated on this blog, it is the lot of younger selves to be mocked by their older versions in the good fulness of time.)

Actually, although I have read the book twice, my favorite and most familiar connection to the story is the John Deere-funded movie adaptation on public television from back in the early Eighties, which I showed annually to the American Literature and English III students as part of their Mark Twain units just before they began reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The screenwriter did an incredible job of boiling down Twainʼs meandering and often disconnected recollections (with quite a few supervising pilots) to a straightforward story of the youthful Sam irritating his master Horace Bixby, originally just one of the many pilots from the book. And the actors, exceptionally well cast, did a wonderful job bringing the late 1850s and Twainʼs treasured recollections to life (which is the reason I liked to show it to the students, other than the fact that I love the movie — to permit them to visualize and perhaps even participate in that historical past).

Anything by Twain is highly recommended, Life on the Mississippi ranking very high among all the rest of his writing, right up there with Huckleberry Finn itself, the book Hemingway said was the original source of all American writing. But I bring up the character of Sam for a mostly nonliterary reason. Undergoing training as a novice, even at my doddering and hoary age, for my current job with USDA APHIS PPQ, I notice my behavior and incompentence mimicking the bumbling young Clemens. And I begin to wonder if a halting and frustrated inadequacy isnʼt the rightful and unfortunately necessary lot of trainees.

What the possibly semi-fictional Sam and I have in common is learning by doing on the job under the tutelage of experts who are not themselves teachers. Teachers get trained to be aware of the need to explain (and re-explain and even explain again in a whole different way) concepts and skills to their youthful charges. Workers assigned to train a newbie donʼt have that educational expertise, and so their explanations tend to be slight and even vague. As Mr. Bixby says, both in the book (I think) and the film, “I canʼt explain how, but someday youʼll just know the difference naturally.” That same point covers my training in the recognition of ash trees — a few details (like the tight diamondness of the bark, the opposite branching and not much else) and reassurances that with experience “youʼll just start to get it.”

Iʼm not complaining about the instruction I received, although I am fairly sure my supervisors and partners may have some complaints about my level of acumen and skill (just like the nebbish Sam). I simply recognize what I first experienced in literature being absolutely true in real life. Absolutely and sadly true.

And tomorrow my big boss from Des Moines is coming out to “ride with me.” I am sure thatʼll be an eye-opening experience for him…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

The Job (Again)

I promised yesterday to discuss a few things in future posts. Unlike my usual procedure, Iʼll follow-up on at least one of those “predictions.” Todayʼs topic, like far too many of recent weeks, is work.

Click for a link to an informative site from another state. The traps really do look like this about now, as the bugs and beetles emerge.

I said yesterday that the timing of my job had changed. It has. First, I am for the month of June on my own, sometimes. My former (and future) partner is busy trapping for gypsy moths, an activity at which she was well experienced before the emerald ash borer appeared on our horizons. (Jackson County has, by the way, experienced an outbreak of gypsy moths, predicating a USDA pheromonal intervention soon — meaning that a plane will fly over the county dropping on the woodsy areas minuscule pheromone flakes that confuse the male gypsy moths and leave them unable to find a mate.) Her “other job” leaves me on my own to begin checking all the traps we put up: making sure the traps are still in the trees and pulling them down to investigate what bugs are stuck on the gluey exterior of each of the three purple panels, searching for (but hoping I do not find) emerald ash borers.

However, before that began, I got ordered to the north, Winnesheik County, to help finish setting the traps in that region. And I did. The trip was supposed to take all week, which in my case means four ten-hour days, but we accomplished the task in just two days (good news to me, as I got to come home to my Lovely One). So I spent about two further days, minus driving-home time, restoring traps to their proper places and beginning my survey of what we had done here in Jackson-Clinton-Dubuque counties.

Early the following week my immediate superior, John, rode with me for a day to teach me the basics of examining the traps for bugs (and sadly, helping me relocate half a dozen traps to actual ash trees — apparently my partner isnʼt all that much better than I at recognizing an ash when we see one). Then I began my work on my own, but so far thatʼs only been a couple of days because in June, as I have belatedly discovered, part of the job involves “outreach.”

Outreach and enforcement.*

On Fridays and Saturdays, beginning over the Memorial Day weekend, although I was not able to change our plans and participate then, full-time and seasonal USDA APHIS PPQ employees go out to meet the public in campgrounds around the state (in my case the eastern portion thereof) to spread the word of the emerald scourge and check on firewood. The firewood is important because in reality the only way the borer has spread is through human activity, particularly the transport from infected (and therefore quarantined) areas of firewood (obviously in particular ash wood), nursery stock, and pieces of infected trees (although why anyone would want to transport a stump beats me). Without our movement of borer-infested wood, the little beetle doesnʼt get more than perhaps a mile from the (dying) tree of its birth.

So we tour campgrounds, studying license plates for Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowaʼs Allamakee County (folks from other infested states or regions are less likely as visitors to eastern Iowaʼs campgrounds). And if we notice any such plates, we must look closely to see if we notice any firewood. And if we see firewood at sites with suspect plates, we have to go and ask those (usually out-of-state) campers where the wood came from. And if the wood came from quarantined areas, such as three counties in Wisconsin and all of Illinois and Allamakee County, it must be burned immediately, and my poor boss has to write up a lengthy bit of paperwork on the “incident.”

My first experience with this process was this past Friday and Saturday (perhaps explaining why I didnʼt post my usual weekend addition to the blog — well, “usual” in recent weeks anyway), when John and I rode around Scott, Clinton, Jackson and Clayton counties visiting perhaps a dozen campgrounds.

More such weekends lie ahead.

However, working on Friday and Saturday means I have to change my usual Monday through Thursday of ten-hour days. For a while now, essentially until my partner returns to EAB duties, Iʼm working Wednesday through Saturday. Not what I knew when I signed on, but I have to admit visiting campgrounds is a whole lot easier physically than placing and replacing traps in trees. On the other hand, this change also means I only have two days each week to try to revisit all the traps that my partner and I set over a monthʼs time.

And checking traps is what I will be doing for part of this (so itʼs predicted) near-100° day. I hope I remember my water bottle.

* My least favorite aspect of teaching was having to “play cop” and enforce (sometimes ridiculous) rules. I hope that I do better this summer with rules that seem to make some sense…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

A Memory (not quite appropriate for Memorial Day)

I have a multitude of things to do — like mowing the yard and planting some clematis — and even some places to be, one of which in fact has already started (the grammatical connection for that “one of which” isnʼt quite correct, but, hey, itʼs the 21st century), but I havenʼt put anything on the blog for so blamed long that I thought Iʼd take a minute or two to, um, “express myself.”

Work took me away from home a week ago for two days (it was supposed to be four) to Winneshiek County to help one of my coworkers finish her region. It was a pleasant change, even though I had to be away from home and The Lovely One, partly because my temporary new partner wished to do the trap setting (so I got to practice the computer work and paperwork — precisely the reverse of my usual partnerʼs procedure), partly because I got to see some pretty new scenery north and east and west of Decorah, partly because I got to eat out twice with my sister Margaret. It was really fun seeing her, even though she had to drive from my hotel to each restaurant (La Rana Bistro and Koreana Japanese) because we government employees are not allowed to put anyone but another government employee in our GOVs. (So if Janet wants to see what it is I do exactly, she would have to follow along in her own car.)

On Wednesday, I drove home in heavy rain and took the wet afternoon off since Janet was home (more on that ahead; partly she has been suffering with bronchitis). Thursday I cruised for fallen traps through northern Clinton County, and on Friday I checked some to the north in Jackson County. This week I get to be off today and tomorrow so I can work solidly Wednesday through Saturday. (I am not sure how that works for the paid holiday I am enjoying today. Is this going to be a 50-hour week? Another day of comp time for Wakdjunkaga!) I will be learning (and doing) the process of checking each trap for bugs, which includes how to extract a bug from the Tanglefoot glue and place it in a dissolving solution (intended to dissolve the glue, not the bug) and then into water for shipment to Des Moines where experts wiser than I (and better paid, I am sure) will determine if what I thought might just possibly be an emerald ash borer is or not. This new training means that once again I will be with a partner, my immediate boss, John. I will also be with him on Friday and Saturday (the Saturdays through June being a surprise about which I wasnʼt warned in my job interview) to visit campgrounds and check peopleʼs firewood (and talk to them in general about the emerald ash borer issue).

But enough about work. I have intended for weeks to talk briefly about Janetʼs bossʼs Big Birthday Bash. Having just written about the event, almost exactly a month ago now, in a letter to my brother Stephen, I think Iʼll just steal what I told him for the rest of this blog post. Enjoy!

The Big Dual Birthday Bash

More than kindly, Shirley Jones paused after her performance (splendid and perfect!) to have her picture taken with The Lovely One.

Of course, The Lovely One worked on preparations for six weeks (or more) in advance, even though supposedly it was his kids who were throwing the party. She worked up the invitations lists (and I believe actually sent the invites or at least made sure they were all addressed and ready for boss Johnʼs daughter to take to the post office). Mostly (and most importantly), she did the negotiations for the entertainer (Shirley Jones, once that decision had been made) and the arrangements for the entertainerʼs contract to be fulfilled (sound, stage, lighting and housing for Shirley and her stage director and accompanist). All that required a lot of phone calls and plenty of arranging.

She was (at first) pleased to find out she herself (along with me) had been invited to the party, but pretty quickly figured out her presence was mostly in a working role (mine, too, as it turned out). As the party (with Shirleyʼs performance) was to be held at the Dubuque County Club, with an hour of open bar beforehand and a sit-down dinner climaxed with the performance, there was plenty of technical work to be figured out and accomplished. Janet had to find the guys to do the tech (going as far as Cedar Rapids finally) and arrange with the country club for time (all on the Saturday of the party) for them to get in and build a stage, hang lights, run cables, rig a video presentation (thatʼs how Shirleyʼs show begins, the video working as her introduction) and hang curtains (Shirleyʼs contract called for black curtains behind the stage area). Janet also had to arrange for a piano tuner (and movers, as well, since the country clubʼs grand was not located in the room where the party would be) to tune the piano (Shirley sang to piano only) twice (before and after rehearsal at 2:00 PM the day of the party).

As the event grew closer, she and John arranged that she and I would get to stay on Johnʼs dime overnight at the Julien Inn (also where Ms. Jones, in the hotelʼs only suite, and her entourage were put up) after the party, as it became really, really clear that Saturday, April 30, was going to be a working day for her. And, naturally, it was.

Janet had told me that we had to be up early on Saturday the thirtieth for party preparations (we were in Dubuque and at the Country Club about 9:00). What she (nor I) had not anticipated was that I would get sucked into the work that had to be done. Without too much detail, we both worked on John and Aliceʼs fresh list of which guests were to sit at which tables (a list the power couple had worked up the previous night). Over what should have been a lunch hour, Janet (with me) raced back to the office to type up the list for the Butler children to use in creating place cards and for posting in the bar/lobby for guests to peruse before the doors were opened for dinner at the party. Once that was done, we raced back to the Club to be ready to verify the piano was tuned and be present for Ms. Jonesʼs rehearsal (at which John, Alice and both offspring with spouses — having placed the place cards — were present, too). During rehearsal we figured out that not only would Janet be leaving the dinner to dress Miss Jones (her stage manager couldnʼt because she had to remain with Janetʼs tech guy to run the video, and the “dressing room” was the lady golfersʼ locker room way across the building and downstairs), both of us would have to work the house lights for a part of one song when Shirley came off the stage into the audience to sing directly to John and Alice.

Driver Cal, the greatest of great guys, is third in line, with stage manager/director Trish and Miss Jones to his right and accompanist Ron on his left. Fantastic people, all.

Finally, about 4:20, we headed over to the Julien to check in and change into our but-recently-purchased party duds (a new suit for me and a new blue dress for her) for the evening.

We were back by 6:00 at the Club (having descended to the bar at the hotel for a brief drink and moment of relaxation, finding Shirley there as well, eating a salad that she had connived with the — otherwise unhelpful — staff to make for her). The party went smoothly (although Janet got to eat exactly nothing from her meal, the start of the starʼs dressing coinciding with the arrival of food at our table). Shirley was wonderful (both as a person and as a performer, even nearly eighty herself), and we finally got back to the hotel and sacked out about 1:00 AM.

The only person to work harder than Janet from Friday afternoon through Sunday noon was the company driver, Cal, a great guy, who had on Friday picked up Shirley and then her two staffers from the airport and on Saturday driven various of them various places throughout the day. He (and his wife) attended the party, having delivered all three of the performance trio to the site, and then, after it was all over, drove Ron, the accompanist, all the way to OʼHare for a 5:30 AM flight back to California, drove back to Dubuque, and delivered Shirley and her stage manager, Trish, to the airport about 10:00 AM Sunday (i.e. no sleep at all whatsoever for Cal until about noon on Sunday).

Afterward, Janet determined she had put in better than two extra days of work in preparation for and over the party weekend (not counting my “voluntary” time and effort, either). Time she took on this past Wednesday and tomorrow, Tuesday, while John (and Alice) are vacationing on safari in Africa.

So it goes.

 — Finally! I have wanted to talk about that fine event for weeks and weeks (literally, it turns out).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Feeling Simply Rapturous…

Work. 

We finished our territory, my partner and I, this week, wrapping up the last few “grids” in Clinton County (which we had skipped, thanks to floods and such, a few weeks ago) on Tuesday afternoon. We placed nine traps in nine sites in Dubuque County Tuesday morning and then drove south along the river (lovely drive that Highway 52 through Bellevue, so appropriately named) to tour the northeastern portion of our neighbor to the south for our final few traps.

Then I got to revisit the very southernmost portion of Clinton County (again) on Wednesday to actually put traps up on my own (my very first full day of that, and my one and only). During that visit southward, I met the Iowa DNR guy that noticed one of our very first traps had been placed (not my selection) in a hackberry tree (and which I removed to begin this past week). He was really pleasant and assured me that I had indeed selected an ash for the trap I was hanging as he drove up. An amusing farmer with a big mustache also hiked over to ask about the big purple trapezoids, wondering jokingly to himself if they werenʼt some kind of performance art.

Finally, on Thursday I did a heck of a lot of paperwork, particularly a chore I imposed on myself of transferring the dots which indicate our traps to the actual county maps (that I can read, unlike the special USDA APHIS PPQ maps that my partner has littered with her indications). I had anticipated about a half or two-thirds day of work, but instead spent several more than ten hours hunched over portions of maps and respective sheets on individual trap sites (although as I took eye-relieving breaks, I only counted ten). I also arranged my hotel and travel stuff for an upcoming week of work away from home. And the guys redoing our kitchen floor showed up to finish that job (sort of) while I strained over my maps and trap sheets.

Now I start to revisit those traps to check for bug corpses glued to the sticky exterior and attempt to figure out which (if any — pray not) might be emerald ash borers.

However, before I get to do that (on my own) I am transferred for a while (on the road again) to northeastern Iowa to help get the last 45 traps for a county up there done. Thus I get a new partner for a week and new scenery to enjoy, plus a few dozen traps that I will never have to take back down, too. And a few chances to visit with my sister, where she lives, as well.

The weather sounds unimpressive (both cold and rainy) for my extended excursion, but weʼll see (this past week was predicted wet as well, and I never had to don the raingear).

But first, this weekend marks our anniversary! The Lovely One and I will have been wed for twenty-eight brief and rapturuous years tomorrow/Sunday. So we intend to do a little celebrating (and, sigh, shopping). With that said: Time to go!

(After all, if the earth ends today*, as foolish, weakskulled nutjobs predict, the anniversary itself — and my subsequent trip northwards — will never happen. Best to enjoy today. Carpe diem, all!)

* or not, as the linked website instructs us…

 — My apologies to Facebook friends, who have already enjoyed the joke this title repeats today.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Going It Alone

Work continues, obviously. This week I put in almost 50 hours…

I went out on my own, working, for the first full day on Thursday. I spent the day restoring or replacing traps which had blown down from their locations in trees. My partner was finishing a few things in Dubuque County (and replacing one or two downed traps herself) before heading back home (for her) to do nine placements for Linn County.

So I got to go out by myself. I had done a few hours on Monday mornings and Thursday afternoons (her travel time to and from our region where I actually live) but never a full solo day. I did all right, but not everything went smoothy or well.

First, I discovered that the “trap sheets” we create for each trap need to be in some order other than the one my partner had established (personally, I think it was merely the order in which we had placed the traps). Numerical order, as each two-mile by two-mile square has a unique number, seems most logical to me, if only because that system would make it possible to quickly locate a specific grid without unnecessary and extensive  searching through a whole countyʼs set of sheets (over a hundred, or even fifty more, for each our of three counties). I wasted nearly twenty minutes in two cases right off, heading north from home for several resettings, trying to discover the right trap sheets (for the detailed map we/she had drawn of the exact site) when numbered order would have sped me to the right sheet in almost no time. So at the end of the day I spent a half hour reorganizing the Clinton County sheets (and I will do the same for Jackson to start my Monday).

…could actually be my (current) GOV…

Second, my GOV continues to act up. Not the vehicle itself, but the dashboard display* (that which went beserk, sending the speedometer into nonsense mode, as the tachometer has always been — “always” since I met the GOV, at least). This whole week the “Service Engine Soon” indicator (the almost most worthless warning light a car designer could under-imagine) has been on, so I finally asked for permission to take the GOV in for service (well, for a price estimate for possible service) on Friday, and I stopped by the local Chevy dealer to set up an appointment midmorning on my solo Thursday.

Third, not long after I left town again, heading south this time, having finished replacing a downed trap on Clinton Countyʼs 280th Avenue, I somehow, accidentally, locked myself out of the running vehicle. Even my cell was not in my pants but tucked next to the emergency brake. I was utterly stranded, on my own, out in the country on a gravel road.

I couldnʼt believe it. Nor understand how it had happened. I had thought that one reason we left our vehicles running as we placed and replaced traps was to avoid just this ridiculous issue (I know that my pickup wonʼt allow me to lock myself out while the key is in the ignition). Naturally, panic set in. And the darkening skies bespoke the rain that was on its way (fortunately, although I didnʼt know that in advance, not to actually arrive until Friday and today — what a dreary pre-springlike, unsummerly weekend this has become).

However, I did think I could see some outbuildings around a big bend to the south, perhaps a half mile or so distant. So, the GOV being ironically as secure as possible, even though the engine was running, I set out down the road afoot. The place didnʼt look too promising as I arrived, only sheds, a car and stuff visible until I realized I was overlooking the earth-sheltered house beside the drive. I had to wander rudely out “back” beyond the house to find a door, but fortunately, an older man (than I) answered and actually let me use his phone to call 911.** The surly operator did dispatch a deputy sheriff. I hung up and returned the guyʼs cell, thanking him profusely for actually responding to my knock and helping me. Then I went back up the road to my GOV.

Although my savior had to leave to work on a house for his daughter, he did return in his truck when the Sheriffʼs office called him back to let me know that a big accident had taken all the deputies. And he left me a tarp under which to huddle if/when the rain came. (Now thereʼs a Good Samaritan, one of my favorite people of all time!) I paced up and down the roadside, adding perhaps six or eight thousand steps to my daily count, my mind wandering into sick realms of possibilities and dire fantasies (I had just watched Criminal Minds the previous night, on which the serial killer of the week made use of people being out of their usual patterns and comfort zones to kidnap, torture and eventually kill them — for instance).

Time does seem to expand under stress, and I couldnʼt read the dashboard clock through the tinted windows of the GOV, but I guessed that about an hour later a deputy showed up and very quickly, very professionally (even somewhat sympathetically) solved my problem for me. (I donʼt think he spent more than a minute performing the entry to the vehicle, while I was distracted, probably appropriately, with some paperwork to complete on his visit.)

I was on my way about a hundred minutes from the time I had last paid attention to the time. And I completed all my other trap replacements before conducting the GOV to the auto dealerʼs service entrance for its visit.

And that “service” situation is a whole ʼnother story, brethren and sistren.

* (its speedometer went awry as I drove it home originally from Des Moines a month ago, although it settled back into normal operation again within a day or two, and I just use my personal GPS device to provide my actual speed)

** The 911 operator scolded us, me in person, for using that number for my predicament — evidently not an emergency (a situation I had hesitantly anticipated). But neither of us, my rural savior nor me, had any idea what other number to call!

And, yes, the best I can guess, I actually tripped the lock myself, accidentally, when inserting my extendable pole from the rear hatch along the passenger side to the front. Now I make sure the pole tips downward as it passes along the side of the vehicle, and I also turn off the GOV and keep the keys on my person.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Labor Pains

Work is sort of settling into a rhythm. I am not entirely sure itʼs a rhythm I am going to enjoy. But my partner and I are making considerable progress, averaging more than twenty traps a day (including two-mile by two-mile squares where we couldnʼt locate a usable ash tree), which she seems to believe is very fine work. On the other hand, the work has me feeling not so fine, physically and intellectually (inflicting some pain and some stress).

All work is stressful. When folks have asked me about retirement, I have almost invariably responded, “Any day spent not working beats every day of work.” And itʼs true. Just knowing I have to get up and get going to the job induces a mental burden that we all accept for granted while working. My retirement interruptus has just made me aware of blissful life without that psychological pressure. Furthermore, the job is just lots of effort. And time.

I had, in anticipation, after my interview back in late February, thought that the (federal-budget-induced) ten-hour days, providing a whole Friday each week just for me and not for work, would be a good thing. I hadnʼt beforehand, however, thought about how physically demanding (at least on an old guy) ten hours in the field would be. (However, currently I would be happy if each day were only ten hours long. So far that hasnʼt yet happened. And the work is wearing me out.)

On Tuesday, I got in my whole ten hours and nearly two more and then did the little daily chores around the house — fixing breakfast (cutting up a grapefruit, not so hard) and making lunch (a couple of salads — most of the work is ripping up lettuce leaves and remembering The Lovely One likes hers with, in order, nuts, berries cheese and then chicken). Finishing, I felt like maybe I too would relax now and watch the final few minutes of the ninety-minute, Gaga-esque episode of Glee that Janet was enjoying (her job has made her endure even more — and progressive — stress than I have been discovering), when I remembered, after an ungentle nudge from my beloved (I told you she was feeling some stress lately) that I had promised to buy necessary groceries after work on Monday, which hadnʼt happened when my ten hours extended toward twelve that evening also. So I wearily redressed in out-of-house attire and headed away to Fareway. (I did feel good to accomplish the promised task.)

Worse, the physical effort is telling on my antique physique (such as it is). My elbows and knuckles have constant hurts (the elbows escalating at times and in certain positions to actual pain, the hands and digits acting up so my typing, as right now, is fifty percent more inaccurate than usual) that keep me from dropping off to sleep and have increased my aspirin/ibuprofen intake (particularly for bedtime). I am, after all, a physical worker in this job, as I was only periodically and briefly as a teacher. (Bah. I just misspelled more than half the words in the previous sentence, including the word “sentence, ” twice, in this parenthetical remark. Symptomatic.)

So I hurt and I feel the stress of having to go to work. Poor, poor pitiful me (or some semblance of those letters nearly randomly scattered or missed — thanks for spell-checking, small miracle these days). I donʼt mean to whine, but itʼs all true, too.

I am weeks/months (meaning issues and issues) behind on my magazine-reading. The stack by my favorite chair in the living room is disgusting (and wonʼt get reduced this weekend). And it keeps growing every time I fetch in the mail. Sigh. I try to read something for pleasure every evening, just as I did in teaching days — my only and minor escape. Again.

And worst of all, my partner likes AM talk radio. I have had to endure the venal and false Tush Rimblow (decipher that one, if necessary) daily. For two solid, self-serving, rant-filled, deceptive and distorted whining, braying hours each afternoon. That mental and spiritual torture may be the heaviest straw of all.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.