Unreality Rant: Part 1

[I apologize for the overly long post. I was trapped in a truck cab and had time to think. You’ve been warned.]

I’ve been on the road a lot. I’ve tried (and probably failed) to capture the spirit of reality you get from distance. Its a feeling that D.C. and it’s ideas might as well be from Mars. There’s an expanding disconnect between those that make our grain and oil and toilet paper and cement and the people who sit in coffee shops and emote about what it all means. It’s palpable. When unreality infects public discourse it can’t be good.


Doubt me? Take a road trip. Once you get beyond the festering hives of inner city and endure the mindless malls of Generica you’re out there. Out there, geographically, is awash with reality.

America is immense yet most Americans cluster like packed sheep in small portions of it. I’m not here to make analogies about sheep. Sheep make wool and that’s a valuable thing. However, it seems to me that all that clustering… all that shoulder to shoulder sweaty mass of humanity getting’ in each other’s faces… well it makes them go mad.

There’s no other word to say it. Mad. Crazy. Fuckin’ bugnuts whackdoodle!

What they pay attention to is not what matters. What matters is what they ignore. I wouldn’t care except they impose it. That imposition is corrosive to kindness and freedom.

Spend enough time in reality and you’ll reject the imposition.

Consider this; I was driving through the middle of nowhere when the radio landed on the Bruce/Katlin Jenner kerfluffle. They hammered it for hours. That’s about as unreal as it gets. Some voices were delighted, “OMG Bruce Jenner is totally a chick and if you don’t support that with all your heart and soul you’re a knuckle dragging monster.” Others were quite the opposite, “There’s a dude in a dress on Vanity Fair and I’m gonna’ puke, it’s the end times!” I was bored. Men have been wearing dresses since the first man and the first dress. For goodness sakes Bugs Bunny did it in the 1940’s. The Rocky Horror Picture Show wasn’t edgy, it was camp. We’re pretty mellow in America when you get to the heart of things. Why am I to concern myself with the cover of Vanity Fair? I’ve never read it. Who does?

My question, as I rolled past antelope and wheat, was “who is this Jenner fellow that of all the many dress wearers it became an event of import?” Why him and not Bugs Bunny? Eventually I dredged up the reference from my memory. He is (or was) the guy on the Wheaties box from a zillion years ago. I think he threw a javelin or something. He must be super old.

Mmmm… Wheaties. I used to like Wheaties. I’d alternate between Wheaties and Honeycomb. It was a more innocent time. Now my breakfast is coffee and I have less hair.

I checked into a hotel who’s name I’ve forgotten and ate a steak at a restaurant across the street. There were cows in the field behind me and steaks on the plate in front of me. The person in the next booth had cowshit on his boots. I get it. Reality.

The next day, on the road again, the only radio I could get was America’s Pravda. NPR is paid for by the government and its the strongest broadcast net in North America. You can’t avoid it. NPR has wattage like Soviet Russia could only dream of. It’s more predictably left leaning than Trotsky. My tax dollars pay for this. I’m informed that reporting about the genitalia of a former Olympic athlete and cereal spokesman is a pressing national broadcast need. Really? NOAA weather stations are a pressing broadcast need. NPR is not.

I was also informed that Americans were Neanderthals about gender. Really? Which Americans in particular are the Neanderthals? Do they issue a badge when you get to be the “decider” on that? I was told anyone insufficiently elated by Mr/Ms Jenner was hopelessly retrograde. Really? I wasn’t elated. I’d been daydreaming about my bicycle as a kid. Remember those cool license plates that you got in a box of Honeycomb? Weren’t they awesome? I’d forgotten about former men in current dresses and certainly don’t like to be ordered by anyone to be elated about anything. Thus, NPR concludes I’m a jerk. Good to know.

I’m pretty sure Jenner was replaced by Sandy Duncan… a sprite sized female skater that positively radiated chirpy energy. I don’t recall switching cereals. I didn’t give a shit. I didn’t care about Duncan any more or less than Jenner. More proof I’m intolerant?

If Duncan had changed her name from Sandy to Brutus would I be ordered to celebrate that as well? What if Bruce Jenner had changed his name to Mohammed and started spouting Koranic verse? Would that be super duper awesome too? Would I be ordered to celebrate it? If Brutus Duncan and Katlyn Jenner got married would NPR have a massive continent wide journalistic orgasm? God forbid someone report about the deficit.

I surveyed the weather. I noticed a couple people standing in a field looking at the clouds. They were surrounded by miniature factories we call combines. Their wheat field reached the horizon. Would they work or would they go home? This would be determined by rain and nothing else. Combines and the people who drive them are what make our Wheaties. The person on the box cover doesn’t mean shit. This is reality.

The guy on the radio, who sounded like the real world analogue to the set of Seinfeld, continued to talk. It was not enough to tolerate Jenner. We should celebrate Jenner’s courage. Courage? What’s courageous about doing something that gets wall to wall adoration in the media? He implied that while he, the announcer, understood courage he had his doubts about those other idiots. Who those idiots were was left hanging. Perhaps the fellows standing by the combines looking at the storm front? NASCAR fans? Me? I probably won’t wear a dress in the foreseeable future but I thought I understood courage as much as anyone. For that matter I used to be a radio announcer. If the NPR announcer is courageous due his deadly dangerous occupation then I should have the same courage too. Should I send him an old paystub to prove it? Would I get a certificate?

You can’t listen to NPR long without hearing a reference to the amorphous other. It seems important there forever remain a vaguely defined group to whom they feel superior.

I wonder who’s on a Wheaties box now? For all I know it’s a rapper or a porn star.

By now I was rolling down a very steep mountain pass. I smelled something; was my engine too hot? Reality again. While Pravda talker was emoting about “false duality of sexuality” I was testing my brakes. I’m not sure what happens if he gets his theories wrong but if I get mine wrong my I’ll plummet to my death.

Fortunately, it was another truck’s brakes. I could smell them. It’s the smell of fear.

At the bottom of the hill I caught up with a fuel tanker blowing brake smoke rather alarmingly. As we reached the bottom of the pass he let the truck wind out; the better to cool things off. Having a 50 ton flying wedge in front of me, I figured any suicidal antelope would be vaporized long before it hit my grill. Happy with that thought I let gravity take over and drafted.

As the speedometer climbed I pondered the 55 MPH speed limit; one of my earliest brushes with unreality. Surely it made sense to the people who would, decades later, emote about fluid sexuality. But what of ranchers in Wyoming? Nobody in Boston has the same travel concerns as someone two hour’s drive from Cheyenne. Why inflict Boston’s lifestyle on Wyoming ranchers? Should Cheyenne ranchers make Bostonians house a few cows in their condo?

Cars are a big hint. NPR made fun of Mitt Romney for stacking cars on an elevator but not Hillary Clinton who doesn’t drive. Why? I’d love to have so many cars I can stack them. Wouldn’t you?

Furthermore I don’t think of people who can’t drive as adults. (Barring physical limitation.) Lack wheels and you’re a childlike imp, ever dependent on someone else to get anywhere farther than a few miles. Got wheels and you’ve got options. Reality again. Hillary doesn’t drive. Therefore she’s not an adult. Age doesn’t make adulthood but self reliance does.

Maybe Hillary could hire Jay Leno to coach her? Imagine that! Driving is how I found work mowing lawns for pocket money when I was too young to legally buy beer, meanwhile a talk show host could school a presidential contender.  How real can that be?

The flying wedge and I zipped past three combines working in tight formation. Amazing machines. Combines make wheat. We can’t all eat kale.

Eventually my flying wedge stopped at a gas station. I stopped too. The driver hopped out and started poking at his brakes.

“Got a braking problem?” I asked.

“Yeah. I’m sure you smelled it.” He grimaced. “I’m just hoping to get to the Flying J. Can’t get it fixed here.”

He had another 80 miles to go. We chatted a bit. He wanted to cool his brakes but had only so much time on his drive clock. A regulation set in stone had him weighing equally bad options. Take a long break and run out of time. Take a short break and risk hot brakes. He was worried about impending rain. His brakes were working barely adequately, wet rain wouldn’t help. His tanker was empty, which paradoxically makes it harder to stop.

Intellectuals can make unreal connections between charging an iPad and melting a glacier. They reject reality based connections; regulations, temperatures, rain, and truck service locations.

The trucker rolled out in a hurry. It started to rain. The combines we’d passed had just gone out of work, the trucker was racing for the Flying J, and nobody on NPR has faced these sorts of trade offs.

The next day I dropped off the media radar again. I went fishing, something killed some of my ducks, I mowed the lawn, etc… When I finally had time to pay attention Jenner had been forgotten.

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Wrong Cat

Our main feline defensive perimeter (outdoor cat) was formerly a bad ass. It beat the shit out of everything cat sized and killed anything small enough to be eaten. It was a bully, a jerk, a monster. Yet I had to admire it’s brazen violence. It kept the yard free of just about any small wild animals and chased off any stray cat that even looked at us from afar.

On spirit alone, it should live forever… or wind up in Valhalla after an epic three on one battle with coyotes after it killed two of ’em and got a good couple hits on the third. Alas we are all mortal and time cannot be denied. Sometime this winter the little cretin stroked out. It didn’t die. No, it’s too ornery for that. It simply kept living at a 40 degree tilt. It also outlasted its peers (whom it beat senseless whenever it could). It’s our sole remaining outdoor cat.

I have a lonely, tilted, brain damaged cat in the yard. It freaks people out when they come to visit. So what? So do I.

Meanwhile it’s experiencing karma. The cat, who was an asshole all it’s life, is lonely and disrespected. Even the duck, which is apparently a chicken, doesn’t pay attention to it. Even worse, the little freak can no longer hunt worth shit.

It tries hard enough but a tilted horizon apparently wreaks havoc on the targeting of small birds. I root for it. Maybe someday I’ll be weird and tilted and brain damaged and desperately trying to catch a deer. I hope my cat roots for me from it’s perch in cat Valhalla.

Today I glanced out my window to see the monster trotting around with a freshly killed chipmunk. Well done.

An hour later I looked out and saw it pounce on a mouse and come up with a fat one… right where I’ve been meaning to mow and haven’t. Awesome.

My cat was having a good day. I smiled. Even evil creatures on the downside get a break once in a while. Then I realized that the victorious cat, which was now stalking another chipmunk…

…wasn’t my cat.

Shit! Without a violent feline musclehead hanging around to keep the homestead to himself we’re getting interlopers. I’m sure if my crooked cat ever focuses enough to see the intruder it’ll attack. Or attack a few feet to the left of it. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

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Valhalla Java Mugs

This is a post from Mrs. Curmudgeon. Yep – I am hijacking this blog. I know a few of you were bummed you couldn’t get a Death Wish Coffee Valhalla Java mug just like A.C.’s… well you still can’t! But – you can get the next best thing – a Valhalla Java Travel Mug. May the Odinforce be with you…

DeathWishCoffeeValhalla

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Tiny House Rant

I once wanted a tiny house. I wanted one desperately! The reason I wanted one was because I needed a place to live. I had none. Big houses were out of my fiscal league. Why not a small one? No house is too small when the alternative is sleeping in your car. (Yes, I slept in my car among other oddball solutions… sometimes it’s nice but usually it sucks.)

Then came the “tiny house” movement. I was delighted! Except it all went wrong. Eager trustafarian pinheads made tiny homes into a “green” thing, a “political” thing, an “it’s not an off grid/straw bale/geodesic/yurt but it’s just as impractical” shining example of snobbery writ small. They managed to push the idea that a tiny house ought to cost a fortune and backed it up with photos of free standing closets that were as utilitarian and attainable as Faberge eggs. All I could think was “what’s the point”? I had a concrete need. They had an ethereal agenda. I never forgave them.

There’s room on this earth for someone who can’t or won’t float a mega-mortgage. Room for someone who doesn’t want fifty windows to wash. Tiny homes killed the most recent iteration of that idea. Killed it with delicately arranged spice racks mounted next to wicker seats beneath stained glass windows where plywood and benches might serve in good stead. All the good intentions in creation stink of bullshit when some hippie turns 180 square feet of “roof over your head” into the Whole Foods organic kale of the housing world.

I never got a tiny house and I never liked the way “a cheap place to sleep” became just another trendy way to signal “specialness”. Now I own a house. It’s huge. I have spare rooms. I have spare closets in the spare rooms. I have spare shelves in the spare closets in the spare rooms. We scarcely use any of it. Some areas I don’t heat. Who cares? It was cheaper than a tiny house! I’m a fat bloated American and my initial tiny home humility was defeated and gave way to a battleship sized atrocity where I repair whatever room I need and merely maintain a roof over the rest. Sometimes the cat gets lost. (That said, the cat’s an idiot.) I’ve got a basement big enough to create a bunker, and a secret lair, and a dungeon, and a mad scientist’s laboratory, or whatever else I could want; if I ever get around to it. My furnace, which I scarcely use, has more square footage in which to live it’s life than a Japanese apartment for a family of four. My house is huge enough to be practically unmanageable but it was cheap.

I also have a house for my truck; I call it a garage. I’ve got another house where I stack firewood; I call it a woodshed. There’s another house where the chickens live; I call it a coop. It all sits on a lawn measured in acres. If I watered it I’d uses more water than Fresno (and it’s my water so California can bite me); but I’m too damn lazy and if the grass dies it’s nobody’s business but mine. I have fields and forest and my own damn property extends as far as I can afford. I’ve got a giant driveway which is a bitch to plow and where where I park my truck (because the garages are filled with shit). I’ve got it all because a small cheap place never worked out and I went to the dark side. Hippies and real estate markets ruined Thoreau’s cabin so I went for a Redneck’s Homestead Empire. Fuck ’em!

I never mentioned my tiny home frustrations because who cares? A bunch of freaks in Seattle nibbling at the edges of zoning laws? Whatever. Plus, unless you’ve really scratched it out in a car or a van or a tent or creaky old RV or experience some other personal solution to the “not a regular house” dilemma, you can’t see the irony. I never heard anyone else call out the tiny home people either. Until now…


A grateful cheer to Joel and Clarie. YOU GO! Thanks for saying it like it is!

First, pure awesome from Claire:

“…c’mon, people. We’re dealing with reality here. Where are the Kleenex boxes, the alarm clocks, the bottles of ibuprofen, the glasses of water, the heaps of books, the midnight snack foods? Where are the bedside pistol or shotgun, the dog’s blankie and toys, the fuzzy slippers, and the laid-out clothes for tomorrow?”

And:

“…when you go spending $50,000 on something the size of a small travel-trailer and thinking you’re doing Great Work for the environment … when you judge the worth of your possessions by whether or not they make your heart sing … you’re living in some dreamland of intellectual and financial privilege. You are not only having first-world problems; you may be a first-world problem.”

Brilliant and true!

Then comes Joel who has the same reaction I’ve had:

“Their precious interiors, architecturally-fashionable boxiness and clearly professional construction did not make me in any way hostile. No – I’m far above that. Bastards.”

And:

“My main problem with all these tiny house articles involves the same question I have about every house or apartment ever featured in any fashion magazine anywhere: What’s with all the throw pillows? Do people really live in that? Because it looks more like it was built to be looked at.”

Joel included a link to a blog called Hipstercrite (awesome name!) that really knocks it out of the park:

“Dear People Who Live in Fancy Tiny Houses,

Do you actually love living in a fancy tiny house*?

You look so freakin’ happy in that Dwell Magazine article or Buzzfeed post, but c’mon, you can’t tell me that you don’t lie awake at night, your face four inches from the ceiling because the only place your bed fits is above the kitchen sink which also acts as your shower, and think, I’ve made a terrible mistake.

And:

“…where do you put your shit? You still have some clothing and shoes and towels and all that jazz, right? Or do you just wear overalls now? Overalls and Birkenstocks and one towel that you share with your entire family. Where do you wash that towel, hmm? Do you have a tiny river that runs behind your tiny house? I bet you do. I bet your whole Goddamn property is whimsical.”

I about died laughing. If you’ve ever lived in a “less than optimally sized dwelling”, or just like to laugh at hipsters, you absolutely must read it all.


Finally one last mention of my misspent youth lifetime of experiences: For many years, when people asked “where do you live?” I’d channel Chris Farley and shout “I live in a van, down by the river!” One of the best performances in our lifetimes.


While I’m at it I’d like to post a photo of the real hero of Tiny Homes; Bubbles!

Join me in my tiny home bed and breakfast. I'll make pancakes!

Join me in my tiny home bed and breakfast. I’ll make pancakes!

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We’re Stumped: Satire

This is several years old and just as topical as ever. Hat tip to Gateway Pundit and Maggies Farm.

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Homestead Update: Part 4

It came to pass that I had to go on a trip. The woodland creatures, who never stop watching, observed this. They’re all spies I tell ya!

I believe they categorize Mrs. Curmudgeon and myself differently. She’s “the woman who will shoot woodland animals that cause obvious problems”. I’m “the man who will go old school on problematic creatures”. I just get the vibe that they know. They’re smart that way. When a predator (usually it’s a raccoon) so much as looks at my livestock I’ll plot, hunt, trap, snipe, crush and generally react in the kind of manner that maintains territorial integrity. “Problem critters” seem to know I’ll engage on their level. It just seems the right thing to do. If I have to chase them into a swamp, cut down their tree, burn their home, crush them with a tractor, flatten them with an ATV, chop them with a lawnmower, poison them, gas them, ambush them, shoot them with rifles/pistols/shotguns, and maybe whack ’em with a baseball bat… then so be it. Animals can tell your intentions and I’m not subtle. It’s not like they can read a “no trespassing” sign but I’m pretty sure chicken eaters who lurk in the forest know the situation. They probably communicate this among themselves. “The freak in that house is fully prepared to burst out of the door at midnight clutching a shotgun and screaming like a banshee. He’ll go tearing through the brush in his underwear in a hurricane if it’ll save a three dollar chicken. He’d attack a rhino with a hatchet if the rhino was stealing eggs. Just leave that homestead alone and raid the neighbor’s corn crop.” It works. At least most of the time.

With me out of the picture, the overall threat level on chicken raiding had decreased. Chipmunks and squirrels spread the news through the forest grapevine. Eventually a predator realized my absence. It was probably a raccoon? Or was it a fox? Or a pterodactyl? I’ll never know. All I know is that a bold night-time raid took out several chickens and three of the four ducks. I named this unseen predator Vladimir Putin. Vladimir is always prowling. You cannot reason with Vladimir. You simply have to be ready. Vladimir knew I was gone. Well played Vlad. You win this time. Come back to see me again. I’m waiting for ya.

Skidmark, the sole remaining duck, was a changed creature. He took up residence under my truck. Skidmark got a new name and became Truck Duck. He still stood around like a clueless nincompoop looking to get eaten far too many hours in the day but at night he’d get smart and hunker down under the rear differential.

Meanwhile Fluffy the chicken and her few remaining compatriots had taken to roosting in a well protected tree. Under her leadership, the free rangers are doing quite well. Go Team Fluffy!

Mrs. Curmudgeon tried to convince Truck Duck to act like a chicken. After weeks it has been partially successful. The little critter is modestly more wary and will hang out with the chickens during the day instead of quacking for his lost brethren like a feathery target.

I’ve grown to like the little duck. He’s kinda’ cute. But still dumb. Eventually he moved from beneath the truck to the woodpile. His newest name is Bowling Pin Chicken… which is a perfect match for his size, shape, and intellect. I’m rooting for him but Vladimir is always watching. Bowling Pin is probably doomed.

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Homestead Update: Part 3

The chickens were excellent. These were the free range survivors of several fox incursions. They were battle hardened and wise. They made themselves at home. They didn’t mess with our existing small flock. Our existing small flock didn’t mess with them.

The oldest one, “Fluffy”, was remarkable. I stuffed the chickens in a spare coop for the night and fed them. The next day I let them loose for the day and Fluffly had left an egg. She’s the oldest of them but she apparently knows how to pay rent. During the day they ranged about, at night I put them in the coop. As it should be. We got along well.

The ducks were another story. There were three ducks as white as the driven snow and one that had streaks of brown along with the white. I named the brown and white one “skidmark”. It looked kind of scrawny to me. I was informed it was a young “runner duck” and meant to be skinny. Oh great; a duck that, through genetic manipulation is specifically too useless to cook?

Apparently all of the ducks were meant to be Runner Ducks but due to some mistake at the local feed store three of them turned out to be Peking Ducks. They were also too young to lay eggs. (Duck eggs are awesome for baking.) But at least three were edible. I couldn’t tell which were males and which were females (which at least held the promise of eggs) but all were incredibly stupid.

Each evening I’d herd the chickens into the coop. The ducks wouldn’t have it. I’d try to chase them around and cram them in the coop door but it never worked. They preferred to stay in their close four square formation and stand in the wide open middle of the yard… quacking.

Bright white, scrawny, quacking, dumb animals, in the middle of the yard with no cover. They were doomed. They spent all night like that.

After a few days the chickens, which had been free range 24/7 in a homestead where foxes prowl like sharks, decided they didn’t want to be locked up in the coop either. I’m cool with it when chickens assert their independence. If you don’t want to be locked up in a coop I don’t have to worry so much about feed. It’s sort of a grand bargain.

The chickens grazed the lawn all day. The ducks too. The chickens kept a wary eye on the sky and vanished like ghosts in the evening. The ducks wandered about clustered in a group of four making noise and simply begging for something to eat them. At night they stood in a group; right where anything passing by couldn’t miss them. Just to be sure they’d quack every now and then. They were in denial about their universe. The world is full of predators but the duck mind must be full of pastels and glitter.

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