The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

February Failed

I’m not feeling too proud of myself right now. I tried to do a sober February and failed less than halfway through.

December is usually rough with all the social events, but it seems to be getting worse each year. What I mean is I’m getting worse each year. I just want to crawl into a ball and not put on that social disguise anymore. No one seems sincere, no one talks about anything but themselves. January hasn’t been too keen either with the cold weather and post-holiday letdown.

I used to like the cold, but either these Minnesota winters are getting worse or I’m getting less tolerant in my age. Seems like my mental state’s turned 180 since I became 35. My attitude is now “yeah, I could, but I don’t want to.” I’m avoiding more discomfort than pain. I went from thinking young to thinking old.

The house fever is putting me in a rut of a rut. Probably everyone around is feeling it too, because the kids are fighting more, being whiny and resistant. And I need not mention how this past year nationally has been a dumpster fire in a dumpster fire.

All of this results in me drinking more. My wife’s worried about it because I’m not a social drinker — I drink to get drunk. And it’s getting harder to consume enough to get to that state without A) getting full or B) drinking high potency stuff. I carry a bottle wine of like it’s a pint of beer.

I drink for the sensation of not being so tightly wound. Because when shit’s going down, I can relax and not think so much. The world isn’t closing in on me. I’m not burdened by judgment (self or otherwise) or embarrassment. It quiets the intrusive thoughts and the yapping brain.

So I tried to make February a sober month — no drinking, no beer, wine, cocktails, anything, just to prove that I could. I have a history of alcoholism in my grandparents on both sides, but neither of my parents. So it’s possible I don’t have the gene, but just in case…

Not to mention my doctor keeps mentioning elevated “liver levels” every time I have a check-up, but never says what that means. I had to start taking blood pressure medication, but I’m not sure if alcohol’s the sole cause of that. I did this once for Lent (even though I’m not Catholic) and I didn’t tell anyone. This was for myself, just to prove that I could. But something in February broke me.

Besides the winter, the family getting on each other’s nerves*, I started the month getting a bad cough, brought home by my wife from her new job at the elementary school. It got so bad I had to work from home for two days.

*It’s like I don’t know how to play with my kids anymore, since they passed eight years old. I don’t want them to get too much video games or TV. But no one wants to do the things I want (like board games and RPGs) and I don’t want to do the things they want (build Legos and play with toys… however it is nine-year-olds play). Everytime it’s like when I was teenager: “Do you want to do something?” “Sure, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know.” “How about we do this?” “Nah.” “Or this?” “Nah.”😬

But just when I was getting better, she sprains her Achilles tendon while shoveling her parents driveway. I had to drive her to the emergency room. And the next day was supposed to be our ski vacation–had to cancel that. She can’t move much at all. Only now, two weeks later, she’s able to walk without crutches or a boot. So I’ve got to help her out, and on top of that she gets the cough I had, so sleeping isn’t better. She can sprint like a ninety-year-old grandma and she’s still hoping to go skiing in March.

Then there was the school shooting in Florida. And finally, I just said, “Fuck it. What does it matter? What does any of it matter? A child molester can run for senate and you still have to fight your ass off to stop him and he still gets a good chunk of the vote. No one uses evidence any more. Character witnesses don’t matter. Just say you didn’t do it. Just get people to say “I believe him, cause he says he didn’t do it.” Good people on both sides and all that. Fuck it. Do what you want. No one cares. Sure, just don’t sign bills that were passed. No consequences for that. No one’s accountable. Police aren’t. Politicians aren’t. Entertainers aren’t. Doctors aren’t. Burn it all down now and save some trouble.”



I’m not even talking about this presidency. Sure, most of the bad policies have been able to be stopped (DACA, Muslim bans, a border wall), but gun regulation has been a problem well before any of this. I was a senior in high school when Columbine happened. Almost twenty years later and nothing’s been done about it. Twenty-eight people shot in an elementary school, and senators STILL said no to the most no-brainer gun control. They weren’t even hiding it anymore. Congress decided the NRA’s financial support is worth a few dozen dead kids every year, like Hinzelmann in American Gods.

So then I thought maybe, okay, one day of weakness can be forgiven. It’s not like I’m doing this for anyone but myself. But nope. Then my grandfather died. Not too surprising — he was 86 — but still, it doesn’t make a body feel good. I wasn’t very close with him in this past decade–they live in a cabin up north and age has steadily prevented them from visiting. He’ll be cremated — no funeral — because all his family is either dead or too far away. Which is kind of a shame, because I don’t know much about my grandfather’s family — he was the most closed book of my grandparents. And a funeral helps the healing process.

He’s where I got my baldness gene from. When I was little he would call Big Bird “Big Chicken”, which would annoy me in the way that five-year-olds get annoyed when old people are funnin’ them. And he had this gorilla ashtray in the basement (a two-foot high ceramic statue of a gorilla holding up an ashtray), and he’d put his finger in the gorilla’s mouth and pretend it was getting bitten. And that scared the fuck out of me. I kept about an eight-foot distance from that thing until I was ten. Kinda wish I had it now.

So all that’s happened in this new year is adjusting to this new misery. I once tried adding some anti-depressants to my anti-anxiety meds, but they gave me nightmares and weird sleeping patterns and didn’t make me happier. But I think I’m going to try it again. I don’t know how I can live this miserably without taking some action. I can’t feel joy anymore. I don’t laugh. I don’t get scared. Not even work can give me satisfaction anymore, because they don’t give me anything to do.

So What’s Going On Lately?

disney infinity logo

I know you all get sick of my posts about Marvel heroes I don’t know and movie junk. The authorship is going okay. I’ve found a way to combine writing and not writing at the same time. Merm-8 should be getting re-released pretty soon by eTreasures publishing.

We recently got Disney Infinity for our Wii U. Well, my wife really got it as a birthday present to herself, but I’ve been playing when I can. It’s like Kingdom Hearts but simpler. It’s just the co-operative multi-gameplay I’ve been wanting. Too bad it’s now defunct.

Collecting the merchandise has been an interesting experience. On one hand, it’s super-discounted. On the other, it’s hard to find. And figuring out the mechanics of the game — I mean the collecting, the versions, what’s compatible and what isn’t — was a challenge. Disney does not put a lot on its site. I had to appeal to the good people of Reddit to find out what’s what. Also, I gotta download 500 toyboxes before they all go offline.

But I’ve been so obsessed I created my own Wishlist out of HTML and XML. I couldn’t find any owned/wanted lists out there that fulfilled all my needs, so I just made one of my own. It has pictures and you can filter by franchise, playset compatibility, version, etc. The disadvantage is that you have to edit the HTML to edit the data – an HTML file can’t write to itself. But at least it made me feel like I was playing the game when I was stuck at work, plus kept my coding skills sharp during a lull.

Speaking of keeping the skills sharp, I’ve been working on version 3.0 of my writing macros. The biggest change is that there is now a “main menu” all the macros can be invoked from – you don’t have to go to Tools->Macros->Run Macro, then find the one you want and so on. It’s my first GUI! I haven’t posted anything yet, because I want to QA it some more, and there are old bugs to remove. But you’ll know when it’s ready. And it should be easier to import too.

Speaking of keeping the skills sharp, my writing ones aren’t. I’ve finished up Princess Crossover, but I haven’t uploaded it yet. There are some new FF sites around, and I want to upload my catalog to them first. I don’t really have a reason, besides getting the work out there. Maybe it’s my OCD about keeping things even. But until that’s done, no uploady. And it wouldn’t be so bad if it was just a story at a time. But it’s a chapter at a time.

So next is some bad erotica. In the same vein of Milk & Honey and The Upgrades, but not fan fiction. And so far it’s all been fantasy creatures — centaurette, spider-woman (half-woman, half-spider) and possibly an Amazon warrioress in the future. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it. Maybe try to sell it. Maybe self-publish on Amazon (I hear weird erotica does well there). I don’t think I have a career as an erotica writer. I’m basically just writing scripts for high-budget porn.

But the composing is like pulling teeth. Could be the story isn’t really
singing with me anymore. Could be that it’s just… weird. There’s plenty of time to write at my job, but I also get distracted easily. And the company puts a lot of restrictions on my computer. I’m behind a proxy, I can’t go to YouTube. Facebook and Twitter are blocked. I can read off a USB drive, but not copy or move anything around on it. Can’t open programs with the app I want. Starting up takes forever. I can’t remove icons from my system tray. And it asks me for a password every twenty seconds. I can’t even go to the page where Merm-8 is being published.

Besides that I’ve been looking at expanding my t-shirt wardrobe by perusing TeeFury.com. Sure are more ways to combine eighties art than I thought.

Daughter’s Treasure Island

treasure island robert louis stevenson pirates

So I try to write about positive things as much as I can.  But as you know, it’s difficult.  It’s much easier to point out what’s wrong with something that what’s right with it.  Because what’s right, the good stuff, should be there by default.  We only notice when it’s not there.  But that makes positive memories hard to come by.  So I store them when I can.

So I’m reading Treasure Island to my seven-year-old for bedtime these days.  It’s not the actual text, it’s an adapted version for… children?  Lazy readers?  People of the future who won’t know antiquated words?  Anyway, it’s this one.  Judge for yourself.  I’ll just say I didn’t realize it at first and thought it was easier to read I expected.

The novel’s biggest obstacle is the roundabout story.  It’s not like Harry Potter or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Characters aren’t neatly introduced and stay in the picture all throughout.  Captain Bill looks like he’s going to be Jim’s pirate friend throughout the story, but then dies one-third of the way through.  You expect clearly drawn lines between good guy and bad guy, but Long John Silver, Ben Gunn, and Captain Smollet throw all those expectations into the water.  I had the same issue with Les Miserables in fifth grade.  It took multiple readings of just the summary to understand what was going on.

Anyway, if you remember, there’s the part in the beginning where Captain Bill asks Jim to be on the lookout for a man with one leg, and pays him nicely for it.  It’s a throwaway line in the first chapter and easily forgettable.  The issue never comes back.  Much more exciting stuff happens in the meantime — pirate fights, the black spot, treasure maps, pursuit by pirates, organizing a trip to treasure island.

But MY daughter caught it.  As soon as they Long John Silver appears and he has a one leg, she gets all excited, “ooh, ooh, Dad, that was that guy, that one guy the captain was looking for, remember?”  And I said yep, you’re right, he did say that.

So yeah, just wanted to call that out for you all.

Some HP Recovered

pokemon HP battle

Thankfully, some consistent days on writing, bearing down on my to-do list, and upping my doses of medication, and I seem to have recovered somewhat from the disappointments of writing.  Still haven’t gotten any agent bites, but at least I resolved my query letter.  Whether it’s better or not, I don’t know.

I’m still working on the princess crossover.  It’s getting damn large.  I understand how some writers can write 500,000 word epics, but I don’t know how they revise it.  Mine’s only up to 146,000, but the idea of going back through it all is intimidating.  I worry about the time consumption.

But I figure as long as I’m writing, I’m getting out my million bad words.  Let’s keep going.

My Birthday List – 1992

santa claus sleigh reindeer christmas flag

As a bonus to my Christmas list, here are the items on my birthday list for 1992.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project [Nintendo game] ($39.00)

This is on my “most memorable/influential-on-my-life video games”.  And I recall getting it from my paternal grandparents of all people.  These were the people who got me the Alf game for the Mac.  My dad must have to lead him step-by-step on how to buy it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Duelin’ Dudes  


I eventually got this for Christmas (I think).  It’s just Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robots.  The problem is that one guy’s head always gets a little looser than the others, and then it becomes unfair.  And why they have Michelangelo vs. Shredder, I don’t know.  Wouldn’t Leo or Raph be more appropriate.  Splinter would be best, but no kid’s gonna buy that game.

Mini-Typhoon ($69.99)

I thought a remote control hovercraft was so cool.  Much better than any car with those primitive “wheels”.  Jeez, cavemen used those.  This thing can go on water!  It’s got those sweet double turbines, a sleek black finish.  It’s like something out of Star Wars.

Remember what I said about my grandparents?  Yeah, they went and got me a cheap knock-off version that had a cord.  A CORD!  I loved them, but they did not know how to buy presents for their grandchildren.

The Simpsons Game “Mystery of Life” ($15.99)

I have no idea if this game was good or not.  It just had the Simpsons on it.  I must have been an advertisers dream — quality?  Who needs it?  It’s got licensed characters.  I remember distinctly when I was nine, watching a Roger Rabbit Diet Coke commercial.  When it was over, I immediately turned to my dad and said “Dad, we should get some Diet Coke”.  Not because I wanted any, but because Roger Rabbit supported the product.  Anything associated with things I liked, I liked.  I wanted to get Met Life insurance because Snoopy sold it and stay at an Embassy Suites because Garfield was in the commercials.

Garfield Quartz Watch ($11.00)

Speaking of Garfield… I can’t remember anything specifically appealing about this watch.  I probably needed a new watch at the time — I was not good at taking care of these things.  And you know… Garfield.

Boy’s Huffy Street Rocker 20″ Bike

Wow, I can’t believe I asked for some sporting equipment.  I must have just wanted it cause it had a radio.

My Lasik

eye laser

I got Lasik a few days ago.  No particular reason. My eyes had stopped changing so dramatically and the idea of zapping your eye so you don’t need glasses EVER AGAIN was appealing to me, as an eighteen-year-old.  But the surgery was so new, I imagined of Jack Napier’s transformation in a back alley.  Now I’m thirty-three, and it seems like the procedure’s had the bugs hammered out, even for someone with my dense prescription (I couldn’t even get the cool glasses that don’ have frames, just ear holders glued to the lenses).

So in November I went through exam after exam after exam, just about all of them some variation on “put your chin on this thing and stare at the blinking light for a while”, I couldn’t schedule a surgery until the end of February.  So I simply wait and wait and wait.  And then the day comes, me having almost forgotten about it.

More exams, signing consent forms, trying not to let your attention drift because the nurse is explaining when to put the eye drops in because if you don’t your eyes WILL fall out of your head and start walking around like little Mike Wazowskis.  I was pretty nervous the days preceding because these are my eyes.  It’s not fixing a broken finger or getting an appendix out.  This is one of my senses, one of the ways I perceive the world around me.  Perhaps the most important way.  If I don’t have my eyes, what am I going to do?  What if there’s an accident?  What if the guy who’s done hundreds of procedures isn’t there that day?  What if a fly flies under the laser?

This horrified me the first time I saw it.  And it kept running through my head for the last week.

They take you to a sterile room and lay you down on a chair between two large, amorphous medical machines with combinations of black and white casings.  One for each eye.  Without my glasses, I can’t tell much about what’s happening, except that I’m staring up at a circle with an orange light blinking, not unlike the dentist’s light (that reminds me, I need to make a dentist appointment).  After some swabs with numbing agent and other chemicals (which I’m used to; because I wear contacts, my eyes are no longer very sensitive) they put in some kind of eyelid expander (which made me realize HOLY HELL WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?)

I have no idea when the actual laser came into play.  I didn’t see it, but I understand you can only see lasers in the movies.  I do know that at some point there was a machine smell, like oil or metal spinning up.  That was likely it.  This happened for each eye, and it didn’t hurt, from what I could tell.  The only thing that really hurt was putting the eyelid thing in, and that was just pressure.

Then I was told to stare at the blinking yellow light while they did something.  I don’t know what it was but my frame of vision was bobbing around like dishwasher liquid in a lake.  I stared at that light like my kids were gonna die unless I stayed glued like Boba Fett on a Star Destroyer.  They could have made it a little brighter and contrasting — I lost it several times.  Thankfully, the doctor kept telling me “Fantastic, you’re doing a good job, everything’s going great” constantly through the procedure.  I needed that.  Also the Valium they gave me.  (Legal mind-altering substances?  Yes, please).

The whole thing couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes, both eyes.  I think the actual operation was a matter of fifteen seconds.  After that was putting things back together.  Then everything was still blurry, I couldn’t quite tell if my vision was fixed or not, because I now had clear, plastic discs taped to my eyes.  The pain gradually increased.  The sheet said I couldn’t open my eyes for two hours, but the nurse said that didn’t really matter. Nevertheless, I didn’t dare open my eyes, except a few glances to make sure I wasn’t tripping over the curb to the car.

When I got home, the pain increased pretty bad.  At the two hour mark, I tried opening my eyes.  But the thing was, I didn’t want to.  I wanted to lay back and keep my eyes closed.  But I thought you had to as some kind of, like, physical therapy or something.  Note to future people who choose Lasik: you do not need to do this.  Just because you are allowed to see, doesn’t mean you have to.  For me, I’ve never teared so much in my life.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open for more than a few seconds.  Too early to think something’s wrong, but frustrated I couldn’t help the kids play Mario Kart or anything.

The next morning was better (and I was surprised how easily I went to sleep).  The pain was mostly gone, which I think was more from having my eyes pressed back into my skull than the laser.  I finally took the eye shields off, and… I could see!  It felt like when I wear my contacts.  My eyes still felt kind of dry and blurry, and things weren’t as sharp as when I had my glasses.  Four days later and it’s still the case, but it’s getting better.  Nobody’s really commented on the absence of my glasses.  Except my wife, who’s thrilled because I never cleaned them.

My vision still isn’t where it was when I had the glasses (although that could be because I have to put eye drops in every hour).  I’m still not eagle-eyed like my wife, so I’ll still have to rely on her to read the road signs.  My daily life hasn’t much changed — I could barely notice my glasses usually, I had become so used to them.  But when I look in the mirror, I can see my normal face again.  It’s the same as it was, but now… I’m sexy!

Resolutions

new year post it note

I told my wife I had no New Year’s resolutions this year.  After some time in January thinking about it, I realize I was wrong.  I do want to do some things that will improve my personhood.  I’m not sure why this came to me.  Maybe Christmas burned me out.  Maybe after Merm-8 dropped, the thrill has diminished.  Blog popularity is down, writing is tepid.  Maybe I’m looking for something to do besides watching Parks & Recreation every night (although it’s worth it).

Option One: Learn Guitar


I keep drifting in and out of music.  My dad played music all his life — guitar and accordion.  Played rhythm guitar in a church band up until his death.  The pastor at that church administered his funeral.  My wife was almost going to be a music teacher, played clarinet in HS marching band.  My sister went to an arts high school to be a theater/musical actress.  So in other words, seems to run in the blood.

I tried learning keyboard from my dad, but that didn’t pan out.  I asked for and got a drum machine for Christmas one year, thinking maybe percussion would be my forte, since it didn’t involve knowing music.  I practiced a little in college, but schoolwork + lack of structure = nope, nothing doing.  After I graduated I tried bass guitar, looking for something to do while looking for a job.  I learned that pretty well.  But I learned by studying tabs online, not notation.  At the heart of it all, I still don’t know how to read music.

I stopped practicing bass after I got married because I simply had to prioritize free time.  And bass was the least interesting and rewarding, because I couldn’t share with anyone.  It’s hard to tote around.  My wife plays piano, which doesn’t sound good with a bass.  Plus we have vastly different tastes in music, and I got frustrated with her lack of practicing.

But if I learn how to play guitar, chords at least, I could do more participation.  We always play Christmas songs, and it would be a good bonding experience with my eldest daughter, who is currently in piano lessons.

Option Two: Cooking





This is one of those basic skills that I would like to improve upon.  I mean, we eat every day, we should learn how to cook.  If I learn, I’d be more inclined to eat higher quality food and less of it.  A well-cooked steak is more satisfying then a Taco Bell box of twelve tacos you at work and get sick. (No, that’s not the voice of experience.  (¬_¬)

But everything I make seems to turn into a disaster.  There’d be a lot of thrown-out food if I didn’t have a dead palate and a pet peeve against wasting food.  I’ve made chicken chili that ended up like solid cheese dip, a Kool-Aid smoothie that tasted like cough syrup, and all my wife’s birthday cakes have imploded on me.  I’m missing the basic principles.  I want to learn how to cook a steak so it’s not all rubbery, or the best way to cut carrots, or what I did wrong with X, Y, or Z.

I see those people on Hell’s Kitchen pulling recipes out of their ass, and there has to be some framework to follow, cause those people had no experience.  Also, it’s another thing that would benefit my family (although the only thing I can count on my kids to eat is hamburgers and pizza).

Option Three: Join a Writing Group

I keep waffling back and forth about joining a writing group.  On one hand, it’d be a great place to meet people with common interests.  No one I know knows how to offer proper feedback to a writer.  On the other hand, I’ve heard lots of writers say “don’t join a writing group, they’re just a pat-each-other-on-the-back fest with no return value”.

That local author’s collective I went to last year was like that.  They seemed to be too satisfied with being self-published.  Plus, they couldn’t manage to put me on their mailing list, after I gave them my email twice.  Incompetency is the quickest way to turn me off.

But that wasn’t a proper writing group — there was no handing out of drafts or peer review or things like that.  And maybe if I go to a different city, it could be different.  But the people around here just aren’t interested in the same themes and genres I am.  They like prairie romances or Christian fiction or post-modern literary stuff.  I’m afraid I’d get bad feedback from people who aren’t my audience.

Bonus Option: Massage Therapy


I love giving my wife massages. Not because it leads to any nookie, but it helps her to relax.  She’s a high-strung sort and people she doesn’t know touching her doesn’t make her relax.  We had a couple’s massage on our honeymoon cruise and she came away with more tension.

My problem is that my hands get tired too fast.  I’m sure I’m doing something wrong — using my thumbs too much or standing in the wrong position.  I figure knowing the ins and outs and getting feedback would help my game.

Are Cops Just Grown-Up Bullies?

cops cartoon logo

I wasn’t originally going to post this editorial, but I heard something recently that made me revisit it (and I’ll get to that later). I hate to disparage anyone in the corps that protects our country. Events like Hurricane Sandy and multiple psycho shootings (Aurora, Empire State Building, the Wisconsin Sikh temple) show how necessary a police force is. I guess the problem isn’t the big things, it’s the little things.

But what is the deal with the police’s public image? Do you watch PSAs? They’re more about intimidation and scare tactics than protecting people. I know drunk driving is illegal and dangerous. But the message isn’t “please protect yourself”, it’s “we are watching you, and we are going to get you“.

We have ALL been a victim of cops following the letter of the law instead of the spirit. Jaywalking, seat belts, busted tail lights, turning right on red, incomplete stops, speeding where you can’t possibly hit anyone. It’s so easy to screw over innocents because they forgot to carry ID that day.

Point the first: Occupy Oakland. The whole Occupy Movement has been notorious for showcasing both the ignorance and brutality of police, especially in an event that is completely legal.  Then there’s that one lieutenant who pepper sprayed 12 students just sitting there, not posing a threat. And that’s no picnic. Then the authorities try to cover it up.

I hope I don’t need to point out that this is just one of many cases of excessive force during the Occupy Movement. Heck, just search for police brutality on YouTube. The legitimate videos alone are enough to scare me.

Look at this guy who does a backflip off a police car. Now this takes place in Canada, so laws are different there, but this kind of thing has happens in America. It’s not the backflip that’s the ridiculous part (first they swear at him and call him names — really noble there, guys), or the fact that they arrest him for “mischief”. But the guy filming — they command him to turn it off, threaten him with a taser, and tell him he can be arrested too. For what?  I don’t want to say anything incorrect so someone, please let me know if A) it’s legal to do that in Canada and B) there’s an American instance I can use. Even if it’s within their jurisdiction, it’s still an example of asshole behavior.

Point the second: these ridiculous PSAs. You know in elementary school where you had Officer Friendly or D.A.R.E.? Yeah, forget that. According to PSAs, cops consider you the enemy. You are targeted for termination.

First of all, PSAs are utterly useless. They’re a waste of tax money. Has anyone EVER changed their behavior because of a PSA? Has anyone ever thought “Well, gee, I was going to go drinking this weekend, but I saw that PSA that the cops were going to get me. Just to be safe, I’ll stay home and catch up on The 700 Club.” Once in a while, you get a memorable one, like the UK one (warning – 4 minutes).

But those mostly get their impact from cinematic and shock value. Most of the time, they’re created by third string ad execs who are clearly out of touch with reality. Characters act over-the-top, in situations totally distant real life.  Mostly, they end up becoming jokes.

And who can forget the time Pee-Wee Herman showed us a vial of crack.

I could post a hundred more like these. Just google “80’s PSA”. But the here and now is just as ridiculous. Look at some of these. First we got cops with painted like a chameleon, hiding in alleyways, watching you like it’s martial law.

What is this? A police state? This kind of thing only happens in comic books. Then we’ve got this series.

There’s others like it like “Tequila Slammer/In the Slammer” and a “Screwdriver/Screwed Driver”. They’re not even implying you have to drive. The warning is skewed that if you drink, you will be arrested. No driving necessary.

Then there’s this one where all the cars are filled with liquor, even the motorcycle guy’s helmet (how didn’t he drown during filming?).

I love the lead sergeant angrily circling all the spots in the city they’re supposed to patrol. Plus every cop starts the pullover with a haughty “SIR! Have you been drinking tonight?” And the narration begins “There’s no way to hide it. If you’re driving drunk, we’ll find you.” and “Make no mistake. You will be arrested.” Isn’t this the sort of thing corrupt government officials say in Arnold Schwarzenegger movies? It makes it sound like cops will do anything to incarcerate you (and according to the first video, that might be true).

And the message is always the same: cops are stepping up DWI enforcement, cops are cracking down on drunk drivers, cops are reinforcing DUI patrols and checkpoints. Nearly every weekend, the road sign above the freeway reads “EXTRA DUI ENFORCEMENT THIS WEEKEND”. First of all, thanks for slowing down my ride — anytime this sign says something other than arrival times, everyone slows down to read it, expecting a crash.

Second, what does that even mean? Extra DUI patrols this weekend? Where did you get the extra manpower? Are you shipping in scabs? Is there a convention in town? Does this mean there’s less enforcement around gangland areas? There’s a finite number of police in the state. Bad time for drunk driving, but great time to visit your crack dealer and stock up.

Third, if you are increasing DUI patrols this weekend, WHY ARE YOU TELLING US? Don’t you think that’s something you’d want to keep secret so you can arrest more people? Do you not look for DUIs the other times of the year? Don’t you want to catch the criminals? Keep them off the streets?

If you really want to make a decent PSA, use facts. Use content. Not propaganda. Like this one.  It demonstrates effectively and truthfully (I assume) the real effects of not wearing a seat belt.

This one ad alone is worth more than however millions have been spent on “Click it or Ticket” campaigns, which, again, are simply threats and fear mongering. If you don’t have your seat belt on, we’re going to pull you over and kick your ass.

Point the third: my own personal experience and anecdotal evidence. Okay, this is not empirical research, granted. But I have never had a positive personal experience with a cop. Every time I’ve been pulled over, I’ve gotten a ticket. Not even admitting I was speeding got me out of it.

I got pulled over by a cop who thought I was tailgating him, in my own development at about eight at night. It was dark, and I just wanted to get home, see my kids, and eat dinner after a late night at work. Yeah, you could make an argument that I was doing something wrong.  But he didn’t HAVE to pull me over.  He could have tolerated it, like everyone else does.  Or gone a little faster, like everyone else does.  I wasn’t exceeding the speed limit.  I wasn’t bumper-to-bumper with him.  And how much longer did he think I would have kept driving before I turned into my street. But instead, he used his power, ran my plates & license to see if he could get me on anything else. Not because I was endangering someone, but because I was bothering him.

I skidded on an icy road curve past a school bus as it was extending a stop sign, lest I risk crashing into it.  The kids were on the other side of the bus, in no danger, and the road was otherwise empty.  I got charged with a gross misdemeanor (not just a misdemeanor, but a gross misdemeanor), which can be punished by a year in jail or a $3,000 fine. That was a happy day in my household, let me tell you. With the thought of possibly going to jail.  I spent more on the lawyer than I would have on the fine.

But that’s doing bad things, you say. Haven’t the cops ever protected you? Haven’t you ever called them when you needed something? Sure. My wife called them when someone’s dog was running all around our yard, barking at us. We’ve never seen this dog, and we have two toddlers.  And everyone in our neighborhood has big black labs with useless invisible fences. Someone’s large mutt is terrorizing us in our own yard while our kids are trying to play. Of course, the cops will be called. What did they do? 

Nothing. They couldn’t do anything without knowing whose dog it is.

But it’s not just me. At least once a week, I hear some story about how cops denied someone’s basic rights or detained/arrested them for something farcical, just because they could. And they can. The law is so pliable, cops can arrest you for any reason. It gives them too much power.

I heard on the radio this morning that in Minnesota, they can arrest you for DUI if you are in the car with your keys. You could be sleeping it off in the back seat, not anywhere near the steering wheel, and they can arrest you for DUI. You could be tossing back a few beers, working on the car in your driveway. But if you have the keys, you are considered to be in control of the car. Hey guys, you know what the D stands for in DUI and DWI? DRIVING! DRIV-ING. That means the act or process of moving/controlling the car. Present progressive tense. Not past or future.

You can be put in jail for forgetting to take your ID (which is not illegal). You can be arrested for imaginary laws. You might be arrested for taking pictures/video of police (that’s protected by the first amendment). But even if you’re not, they can bust you for “loitering”. Even if the charges are unstickable, you still got to spend time in scary jail, hire a lawyer, spend lots of money, and waste a year of your life stressing over what’s going to happen. And cops will lie to get what they want. I’m not saying all cops lie, but the bad apples are ruining it for the whole bunch. They’re making us distrust our own protectors.

 

Which brings me to the story I mentioned in the first paragraph. A few weeks ago, I went to “The Moth”.  It’s hard to explain what it is.  People get up on stage and tell true stories from their life. Andrew Zimmern, the Bizarre Foods guy, told about living on a mattress, signaling his crack dealer. A pathologist talked about treating Mother Teresa in Calcutta in 1989. And a woman from Eden Prairie told her experience of losing her ten-month-old baby.

That was the heartbreaking-est one. I learned what four hundred people silently crying sounds like. She got the call from her husband, saying she needed to get to the emergency room right now, their ten-month-old was not breathing. The nurses were waiting for her. Waiting because they knew what had happened. She held her dead baby, and said it looked like she was just sleeping. No one knows what happened. The mother’s immediate reaction was “Was it something I did? Was it the babysitter? Did my husband have something to do with it? Why did this happen? Are the cops going to call me and arrest me for negligence?  Are they going to find something?”

And they did. The cops called her and her husband in to talk. They told her they found a bruise on the back of the child’s neck. The woman looks at her husband and says “You didn’t tell me that.” They spend the next week being paranoid of each other. Always suspecting, always second-guessing themselves, their marriage, the people they used to trust. I can’t imagine the emotional torture they must have went through, waiting for the autopsy to come in.

Then, they get it. They come in that day to see. And the report says that the baby died of SIDS. There was no bruise. The cops lied. They lied to smoke out a criminal situation. They pitted them against each other and manipulated facts to get information.

How atrocious. How sick. What a betrayal of trust. I would sue the cops if they did that to me. I can’t even begin to imagine what I would feel in that situation. I would never trust anyone again.

Cops need to change their image. Cause right now, all I can think of them as are grown-up bullies, using their power in unlawful ways.

These Days

acceptance is key

These days. I’m more interested in writing my erotic fan fiction than working on anything publishable. Not sure why that is. Maybe it’s the sexual nature of it — gets me excited. Maybe cause I know I can’t get rejected from fan fiction. Sure my acceptance ratio is 10%, higher than normal. But some days, especially during this winter season, it feels like playing handball against the curtains.

And writing queries and submitting short stories is such a pain in the ass. I don’t care that each agent has different requirements, I’m fine with that. But each one is always in some different place on the website. In a different order, in a block of text instead of a nice unordered list. And that’s if there are requirements. Same for some magazines. Some don’t say what format they want it in. Some are easy and want it in manuscript, which strikes me as odd for the online magazines. And some want ridiculous stuff like manuscript format, but just 1.5 double-spaced instead of 2. Or one space after periods instead of two. Or italic text to be underscored or underlined or paragraphs not indented. It’s stupid. Why can’t we all agree on a single format? A single unified point of contact?

Sometimes I’m not even sure I’m human anymore. I heard that polar bear joke again the other day, the one where the polar bear keeps asking his parents if he’s a polar bear, and they say yes, and he asks the next day, and they say yes, and he asks the third day, and they say yes and “why do you keep asking?” and the kid polar bear says “Because I’m freezing!”

I never got that joke. I still don’t but I hear everyone roars with laughter. Polar bears have extremely thick fur with a combination of underhair and overhair to shut out cold and trap heat, plus ten centimeters of blubber. It’s so efficient, they don’t even show up on infrared. I’m sure they are quite comfortable in the arctic. So what’s the deal with this polar bear? Is he adopted? Is he a lost black bear? Is it supposed to be a commentary about how no matter how adapted you are, you’re still a victim of your environment.

I rarely laugh at anything these days. And those days are punctuated by a profound sense of loneliness. I’ve always been somewhat solitary, introverted. But this is ridiculous. At work, I no longer have a team. I have no one to talk to. My internal team is all in Pierre, South Dakota (people below me and above me), and my external client is in Atlanta, GA. The only people at this office are HR and top tier managers — no one I work with directly. I thought I barely said a word all day at my last job. But at least there, my team was in the office with me. We could go out to lunch or talk or something occasionally.

Plus I am not doing ANYTHING. I thought there wasn’t much work at my last job, but that was because the client was cutting back on “extraneous program” (we managed a reward points system). But here, you don’t get work, unless the client has work for you. And the client isn’t used to consultants, least of all offsite ones. So I think they forget I’m even there. My only contact is a ten minute call three times a week with a single person. For the past month or so, I have done nothing. I’d be surprised if I could cobble together 40 hours of actual work I’ve done in the past two months. You’d think I could get a lot of writing done if that was the case, but there’s only so many words I can vomit on the page each day.

So imagine going to work every day and having no team to work with, nothing to work on, and no knowledge of anything coming down the pipeline. The only way I could be more isolated is if they put me in a skinner box. I feel like Milton from Office Space, except the inverse — I’m getting a paycheck, I’m on the sixth floor, but I’m doing no work. All day I watch videos on YouTube or That Guy With the Glasses, play Facebook games, and wish I had some friends.

That’s what I really want, is some friends. But like I’ve said before, it’s difficult if A) you’re a person like me with less than mainstream interests B) You’re in the life situation I’m in (age, work, two little kids). What I’d really love is to learn to play Dungeons & Dragons. Watching Counter Monkey with The Spoony One and the Penny Arcade/PvP sessions, it sounds like so much fun — the camaraderie, the puzzle-solving, the role-playing. But D&D is one of those things everyone learns when they’re a kid. You learn by association and experience. I’m 31 years old and never rolled a D20 in my life. And what peers am I going to find who either already know or want to play? Or even have time to play anymore? Christ, when will I have time to play? I have two little girls and a wife who’d rather watch North & South than play Munchkin.

These days I’m hearing more about how it doesn’t matter what you do in life, but who you do it with. I love my wife very much — we are a fantastic team (we just finished a team project searching for a new car and cooperated very well together). I love my kids like nothing else — they’re funny, cute, wise, silly, independent, witty, and everything makes them happy. They get excited for toast and footy pajamas. (Or that may be because we’re bad parents. 🙂 ) But either they’re too young to share my interests or just not interested. Or we just don’t have enough people (can’t play Last Night on Earth with just 2).

I feel very lonely these days. I read about great writers meeting other great writers at conventions. I watch all the people on TGWTG and they remind me of the old friends I used to have in high school, and how I squandered them. But then I go to social events and I either A) hide behind my wife B) play with the pets or C) play with the kids. And sadly, that’s sometimes with my college friends, who I’m the closest too. I probably get a lot of credit from the neighbors and others for putting the kids to bed while my wife continues talking in the social circles. But that’s because the adults scare me.