Not Alone

It’s a little sad.  I’ve always wanted to be, or at least stay in the middle class.  Screw the Commies and their lickspittles who sneer at the “bourgeoisie” and their “bourgeois values”;  I’m proud to espouse those values, if they mean things like hard work, a modest lifestyle, good education and aspirations to, well, just live comfortably.

But it seems that recently — thank you, Joe fucking Biden and your lickspittles — I’m no longer in that class.  Instead, I’m now working class.  And the realization thereof came to me as I was reading this article:

If things are hard for you and your family right now, please understand that you are not alone. Most of the country is in the exact same boat.

No kidding. We are managing — but only just — to keep our heads above water;  but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so.

In a desperate attempt to maintain their middle class lifestyles, millions upon millions of Americans have been taking on debt like never before, and as a result we are now facing an unprecedented consumer debt bubble.

We haven’t had to resort to that, with some very small exceptions, simply because we’ve cut back hugely on anything we consider non-essentials. But as costs of everything, especially essentials, have rocketed upwards, what that means is that we can’t pay down our small credit card debt to the extent we want, to where we can pay them off altogether.  (The last time we had a zero balance was sometime pre-Covid, pre-flood destruction.)

Hell, I hardly ever go to the range anymore, not because of the range fees (I have a soon-to-expire annual membership, thanks to an extremely generous Reader), but because I can’t afford the ammo anymore — and this despite having shall we say a well-stocked ammo locker.  I just want to keep my ammo stocks high, because you never know, right?

…and I can’t just shoot .22 LR forever.

Forget travel — and I mean local, forget international travel completely — not just because of the cost of accommodation on the road, but because I can’t afford a $60 charge at the gas pump every few hours.

Food… well, let’s just say it’s hamburger, rice ‘n beans, and not all at the same time, either.

Don’t get me started on other essential costs like electricity;  I’ve already talked about those price increases (around 50%, in case anyone’s forgotten).

In short, my standard of living is around that of a European bank teller, but without the state financial assistance that the Euros can fall back on.  Unlike many as discussed in the article, I refuse to “maintain” my middle-class standard of living by using credit cards because I know that at the end of that lies misery and ruin.  Been there, done that, won’t go there again.

I’m not telling you all this because I want money from y’all;  the annual appeal is only due in May next year.

No, I’m telling you because I am not the only one going through this.  I can’t help feeling that there’s an air of desperation in the air, because if I’m feeling it, there are probably thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people in similar circumstances to mine.

And I don’t see an end to it, either.  Even a Red Wave [snort]  in November 2024 isn’t going to help — hell, a lottery win is more likely than that.

A Day In My Life

Indulge me please, O Gentle Readers, while I recount my activities last Friday.  They were nothing special, but there were a couple of highlights.

Woke up a little late after a night which featured “episodic sleep” — other Olde Pharttes will know whereof I speak — and finally fell into some proper sleep at about 5am.

Got up, did the usual Morning Stuff (Rx, urination etc.) and staggered out of the bedroom to make the morning coffee.  Debated about the gin, decided against it as I’d taken New Wife out for a Birthday Dinner the night before, and drunk perhaps a leetle too much sangria.  (Everything in moderation, that’s me.)

Coffee in hand, I discovered lying on my keyboard an empty bottle of some female facial cleansing lotion, and a plaintive note asking me to get her a fresh bottle.

Excellent:  a reason to get out of the house and do some husbandly / housekeeping duties — some groceries, fill the car, nothing special.

On the way out of the apartment complex parking lot, I saw something unusual:  a decently-styled American car:  I think it was a Buick, but as far as I’m aware they (like Lincoln) don’t make passenger sedans anymore, and the badge was too small for me to make the model out, whatever it was, but then again I’m not in the market for anything like that so I pootled out over the irritating speed bumps [1,000-word angry rant omitted].

Decided on Wal-Mart, simply because they’re just up the road and as I said, I needed to refill the Tiguan and their gas is reasonably priced.

I turned left across the traffic, and noted that there was an oncoming car just down the road, but the speed limit is 35mph, so plenty of room.  Except that he wasn’t doing 35 or anything close to it, so he swerved out of my lane and rocketed past me, shaking his fist (!) as he went by.

I had one of my quiet conversations at that point:  “I’m sorry;  did I make you late for your appointment at the next traffic light?”

As it happened, I didn’t;  but he was right on time for the cop doing the speed trap a block or so away.  So that ended well.

Went into Wal-Mart and got all the necessary things on the list — but before checking out, I stopped by the self-service lottery machine to make my weekly pension contribution.  As any fule kno, these contraptions do not give change, and all I had was a $20.

So I went over to the little in-house bank to get some change, only to be told that they don’t do that kind of thing unless the supplicant has an account with them.  “Well, I don’t have an account with you, and probably won’t ever in the future,” I replied, and went over to the Customer Service Desk.

Only to be told that they cannot open the register drawer unless “there’s a cash transaction”.

Another man may have exploded with rage at this point, but I decided to be a better man than that.  So I went back into the store itself and left my shopping cart in the clothing section, where it wouldn’t be spotted immediately — said shopping cart containing two cartons of expensive ice cream, a quart of yogurt, a frozen pizza and some fresh fruit.

Got into the car and decided to go to my old neighborhood Kroger instead, where everybody knows my name (I’ve been shopping there for well over twenty years, and the only reason I hadn’t gone there in the first place was because it’s about three miles away from the apartment AND it lies on the other side of some serious road repair works).

So I went where everybody knows my name — and where quite a few people know everybody else’s name, to judge from the odd person chatting to another in the parking lot.  Took an old lady’s cart from her just as she’d finished unloading it, getting a grateful “You’re my hero!  Thank you!” which made me feel quite better about my world.

Went into Kroger, got all the stuff I’d left in the cart at Wal-Mart plus a few other impulse items, and went over to the Customer Service Desk’s Jeanelle, who not only gave me change upon request, but got me my lottery tickets from their machine.  (She has a lovely singing voice, by the way:  one of those deep, rich gospel/soul ones, which I’d heard on a previous trip.  She is also one of the few people who has ever tripped me up on musical trivia, in that she knew the correct release date of Stevie Wonder’s album Songs In The Key Of Life.)

Checked out using the self-service aisle (I only go full service if I’ve got a large full cart, and that in the interests of speed), waved good-bye to Angela the supervisor, waved to Debbie the front-end manager on my way out, and after loading up the Tiguan, filled up at the pump using my Kroger Fuel Points (11c off per gallon when buying more than 8 gallons).

Got back home — the ?Buick? was no longer there for me to see what it actually was, so I filed that under “Unimportant Shit” and forgot about it.

Net result of the day:  considerable personal satisfaction (mission accomplished, grocerywise;  watched an asshole get a speeding ticket;  denied Wal-Mart some profit both from an unrealized transaction plus — I hope — some spoiled unsellable foods, as well as having my gas money go to their competitor).

And I got to interact with people that I don’t really know, but had only pleasant experiences with.  On a warm autumn day (no a/c needed in the car) in north Texas.

Not too bad, all things considered.

The Swinging Sixties

Not the 1960s, this time, but the time when you enter your sixth decade of life.  This article talks about it, somewhat superficially, but  number of items had me nodding along.  Here are a few examples:

By age 60, you should have acquired almost everything you need, or learned to live without it. Possessions start to feel like an albatross, so you don’t blow as much money on dumb stuff like clothes, makeup, new phones, and cars.

Very true in my case.  Just about every thing I own is old and still works.  I don’t remember the last time I bought a new shirt, for instance — even though I take considerable pride in my appearance and always make sure I look presentable.  New Wife has almost given up on making me wear short pants in public, and thank gawd that fall and winter are coming so that this clothing choice becomes less viable.  I have too many pairs of shoes, certainly “dress” shoes (a hangover from my time as a corporate executive / business consultant) and considering that I have only one suit left, I can’t see any reason for owning more than one pair of my old black Johnston & Murphy toecaps.  I practically live in Minnetonka moccasins — I own three pairs in moosehide tan, dark brown and black, and just replace them as they start wearing out, about every three years or so.  I hardly ever wore denim jeans after my twenties because I found denim less comfortable than gaberdine or even linen trousers.  New Wife has prevailed on me to start wearing them again because she says I look good in them.  I discovered Target’s stretch jeans and now have a pair each of “washed out” (light blue) and normal dark blue, so these are my “go to the supermarket” choice nowadays.  Also, the belt loops are wider than my “dress” trousers, which is a Good Thing because it accommodates my 1911’s holster better.  I never wear T-shirts except around the house — that habit, like wearing denim, disappeared once I left my teens, and I have (too many) short- and long-sleeved cotton and linen shirts.  Even those… sheesh, some of them are close to twenty years old, although they don’t look it because when I find a shirt I really like, I buy three or four of them, in different colors if available, and rotate them so that they don’t wear out.

Sorry, that’s all TMI and getting boring so let me get on with some of the other stuff.

You get smart about people. I can now tell far more easily whom to trust versus who is trying to take advantage of me. These were things I was oblivious to when I was younger, but now I see things a lot clearer.

When I was younger, I pretty much always took people at face value and trusted them to be decent.  This was reflected in my circle of friends, which was vast.  Now?  I’m a lot more suspicious — sometimes incorrectly — of people and their motives, and this is reflected in a much-smaller number of people whom I can truthfully call friends.  I don’t care about that, especially;  I have about a dozen people (scattered all over the globe) whom I consider good friends, but even among them, only half or so are people whom I would allow to show up at my front door without warning and be welcomed into my house.

There’s a certain, almost dangerous, level of personal liberation. Kind of like, “I’m only gonna live for a few more years, so what could anyone possibly do to me?” This liberation in me, at least, has manifested in almost extreme levels of mouthiness. I say what I am feeling and thinking, I am NOT sensitive to anyone’s attempts to hurt my feelings, and I don’t really care if I hurt their feelings, either.

I will admit that this didn’t come to me in my sixties:  it’s been my attitude pretty much my whole life.  I have absolutely no concern about other people’s opinions of me, to the point where I literally don’t care if I offend someone and they never want to talk to me again.  Frankly, the only people whose opinions I care about are those of my family and very close friends.  Interestingly enough, my friends know this about me and indulge my occasionally-thoughtless outbursts.  Strangers, I don’t care about and never have.

Knowing that you are fully formed. You don’t have to take on any more self-improvement projects, even though you surely can if you really want to. But I don’t need to improve my posture, my vocabulary, or my attitude; I can do whatever I want now.

By 60, I felt as if I had my life figured out. It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I no longer had the feeling that I had missed the ‘life manual’ everyone else seemed to have.

I came to terms with myself at about age thirty:  my character, my flaws, my strengths and so on.  I also made the decision that I could live with my flaws, which is a little dangerous.  I can be very cold-hearted or indifferent at times, for example, and that I do try to temper but without much success.  Frankly, it’s one of the reasons I don’t do well living by myself:  I need what’s been called the “gentling effect” of a woman in my life, and fortunately I have been blessed by having two of them for the past couple of decades.  As a single guy, I tend very close to the psychopathic, but as a married man I’m not too bad a guy.

Anxiety. At least for me, I’ve gotten quite better at managing the anxiety of the unknown and keeping it in its rightful place.

In his wonderful TV series After Life, Ricky Gervais’s character and actions are shaped by the fact that he literally does not care if he lives or dies after the death of his beloved wife.  As I’ve lived my sixties, I’ve become accustomed to that fact — not because of loss of a partner, but because I know that my time on Earth is going to end at some point in the foreseeable future.  I have little fear of that, so should catastrophe come calling — say, in the form of an incurable illness — I know that I’ll always have the option of popping a few tabs to relax me, and climbing into a hot bath with a bottle of gin and a razor blade.  The only thing that gives me any pause is that unlike Gervais’s character, I have kids who would miss me and might even be horribly saddened by my passing.  So I do want to spare them that, but at the same time, if things really got bad and my life truly turned into total shit, I’d hope they understood my situation — especially my absolute resolve never to be a burden on them.  I should point out that New Wife shares my attitude completely.

I’ve had a full, satisfying and very exciting life, and I have few if any regrets about it.  Stuff that other people only dream about doing or experiencing, well, I’ve done most of it myself and other than a few things I’ve missed out on and wouldn’t have minded trying (e.g. skydiving), my life has been pretty complete.  I’ve never been competitive, and always had a lazy streak to where “good enough” has never been the enemy of “perfect”;  I simply lack the drive to be “the best” at anything, and to be honest, I’m not sure that my capabilities would have been sufficient anyway.  And that’s one of the things that came to me much earlier than my sixties:  understanding that “nothing is impossible” is total bullshit.  Often, striving to reach the impossible involves making compromises that to me at any rate are not only unsupportable but insufferable.  As the saying goes:  nobody ever lay on their deathbed thinking:  “If only I’d spent more time at the office.”

I was a competent (occasionally more than) as a businessman, ditto a bassist, ditto a writer and ditto just about anything I’ve ever done.  My goal in life has always been “as long as I don’t make a fool of myself, that’s good enough.”

And that’s enough about me.


This is not one of those rants that “the world’s getting too damn complicated” (although it is, in my opinion).  However, allow me to draw your attention to a couple of videos that illustrate my point, which is that simplicity does not mean “shoddy” or “primitive”, or anything like that.

Here’s the first video, about the wonderful Vespa scooter/moped and the men who created it.

Towards the end of the video, the narrator draws the very apt comparison between the Vespa and the Mini, which Jay Leno lovingly describes, in his inimitable manner.

And is there place in the modern world for simplicity, as Richard Hammond describes by the experience of driving the Mazda MX-5 Miata*?  Of course there is.

*Why, I wonder parenthetically, did Mazda go with such a long mouthful of a name for so simple a car?  “Miata” would have been fine;  “MX-5” likewise, even if less evocative, so why concatenate all those descriptive terms into a string that only boring motoring journos will use anyway?

Note too that I’m talking of simplicity of use, i.e. as experienced by the end user.  A bolt-action rifle is far simpler a piece of engineering than its semi- or full-auto counterpart, but even I — a die-hard boltie fan — will admit that an M1 Carbine is far easier to use than a Mauser K98k:  load it up, pull back the bolt, and it’s trigger time, compared to load, work bolt, pull trigger, work bolt, pull trigger etc.

Or, to wrench this thesis back on topic, it is undeniably simpler to drive a car with an automatic transmission than one which requires rowing through a manual gearbox, as long as one prefers steering over actual driving.  And if one is doing the daily morning commute to the office in stop-start traffic then yes, it’s a lot easier with an automatic.

Inside each of us, though, is a fundamental need not to have to tax our intellect or bodies to perform mundane tasks, although I think that choosing complexity over simplicity is a fundamental and personal matter of wanting to be in control of mechanical devices.  Nobody would be buying bolt-action rifles or cars with stick shifts otherwise, given the facility of the alternative.

Paradoxically too, as the world becomes more complicated and more complex, there is a persistent urge amongst people to “simplify” their lives, to cut back on both material possession and activities.  I think that’s a good thing, especially as one gets older.  When parents become empty-nesters, the hassle of maintaining a large house often turns into a desire to move to something more fitting [sic]  to the altered circumstances — not just for cost reasons, but once again, for a life of fewer complications.

Nothing wrong with that.  I’d never contemplate buying a Vespa, of course, because I don’t live in a built-up urban area and I don’t have a death wish.  And I already possess a little Fiat 500 with a stick shift, so if push came to shove I’d be perfectly happy to use that as my only means of transport (I “borrow” it from New Wife every chance I get).

But I’d still rather shoot a bolt-action rifle than a semi-auto (other than in times of errr urban unrest, when the old AK or SKS would obviously be preferable), and I’ve already expressed my preference for revolvers over pistols, recreationally speaking.

Just a simple soul, that’s me — but it’s a simplicity by choice rather than by governmental edict.

I told you all that so I could tell you this.

Allow me to introduce yet another rancid bitch (in the Hillary Clinton mold) who wants to tell us how to live our lives.

President Joe Biden’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Friday unveiled new fuel efficiency standards, which acting administrator Ann Carlson said will “reduce harmful emissions.” Carlson has long stressed the need to force Americans to live climate-friendly lives. As an environmental academic at UCLA, for example, Carlson published a 2007 piece titled, “Only by Requiring Lifestyle Changes,” which argued that people would not reduce their energy consumption “voluntarily.” As a result, Carlson wrote, the U.S. government must “induce behavioral change” by implementing policies that “make the bad behavior more expensive.”

In a similar 2009 blog post titled, “Save Us From Ourselves,” Carlson called on Americans to “use less electricity, take more public transportation, consume less, live more simply and so on” to fight climate change. Carlson argued that most people “could benefit from a simpler life” but will not “engage in dramatic behavioral change unless forced,” highlighting the need for government intervention. “Governments and markets need to take steps to make us pay for the full costs of the behaviors in which we engage … they need to limit our infrastructure choices to energy efficient ones,” the Biden administration official wrote. “In other words, we need to be saved from ourselves.”

My immediate thought is to have this foul watermelon bitch dragged from her “temporary” office and hanged from the nearest lamp post, but of course that’s never going to happen.

Alternatively, Congress could reduce the NHTSA’s budget by fining the agency per day the equivalent of her annual salary as long as she remains as the “caretaker” administrator — although that’s about as likely to happen as my first suggestion.

What, I ask, is the point of not confirming someone for a position when they can simply act as a “temporary” head of an agency and de facto determine policy and regulation in the absence of de jure?  Or did I miss something here?

Anyway, I’m so sick of all this “coercion” talk emanating from the mouthpieces of our beloved government.  Forced to wear masks, forced to stop using gasoline-powered engines, forced to quit using incandescent light bulbs, and forced to submit to any number of horrible and senseless rules and regulations that would make Gulliver in Lilliput look like a free man by comparison.

Most of all, I’m really fucking sick of being forced to pay taxes which fund the salaries of all these petty gauleiters.

All appearances to the contrary, I’m actually a very patient and tolerant man, but I have to tell you that my patience and tolerance are wearing very, very thin.

And I bet I’m not the only one.

Idle Thoughts

As one gets along in years, and comes to the realization that one’s time on Earth is not only limited, but foreseeable in terms of its ending, certain idle thoughts come to mind.  In my case, of course, this resolves itself inevitably into a list — in this case, loosely defined as follows:

Assuming that my health would remain more or less as it is, what would be the things I would get now that would last me the rest of my life, and give me pleasure in the use thereof?

For the sake of argument, let me also assume that I’d pare down all the crap I currently possess — sell almost all of it, really — and would have only the things on this list to keep me amused.  Unlike my  normal flights of fantasy, this would not involve a lottery win, so economics will play a part.  It’s a tough question to answer, but I’ll give it a shot, so to speak, and start with the easiest ones.

Car —  almost without question, the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF:

…because it combines fun, performance, fuel economy and reliability in equal measure and compromise.  As for space, the only cargo [sic]  I’d carry would be New Wife, or my guns to the range, or groceries back from the supermarket, and for the latter two, even the Miata’s little trunk would be adequate (long-gun cases could be carried in the front).  The top comes down for the occasional en plein air  experience, and I would be perfectly happy to tour the country in it as well.  Color is irrelevant, although I kinda like the gunmetal blue as pictured, for obvious reasons.  And speaking of gunmetal:

Rifle — it’s a tough one, but to me the Miata of rifles is the Marlin 336 in .30-30 (with a scope because of my shitty eyesight):

Light, handy, reliable, enough punch for most situations, acceptable recoil and the ammo is pretty much ubiquitous in the U.S.A.  Realistically, I’m never going to have to make any long shots, and the lever action works quickly enough for those (shall we say) social  occasions.

Plinker Rifle — this is an even tougher choice, but I’d choose the Ruger 10-22:

I don’t think I need to explain or justify this choice, do I?

Now on to the handguns:

Self-defense — no choice;  my Springfield 1911 in .45 ACP:

Once again, no explanation is necessary.

Revolver — this is a little more difficult, but I think I’d pick the (new) Colt Python 6″ in .357 Mag:

Why the new one?  Why not?  It’s new, it’s a Python, and every gunsmith I’ve spoken to on the topic says the action is far better than the old one’s, and will likely be more reliable.  Of course, I’d prefer it in Colt’s original Royal Blue, but them’s the breaks.

Plinker Handgun — easy enough choice, here: the Browning Buckmark:

Best trigger of any .22 handgun (possibly of any handgun, period), and very reliable.  I’ve owned several, and never had a bad experience with any of them.  We’re talking hours and hours of plinking fun.

Finally on guns, a shotgun, mostly for clays — I’m going to go with something a little more indulgent, i.e. the Chapuis Chasseur Classic in 20ga:

It’s different enough — not part of the Beretta / Browning / Remington / Winchester matrix, and not insanely priced like the premiums — and of course the side-by-side barrels are mandatory.  (I have a 20ga SxS already, but I keep it at Free Market Towers, for obvious reasons.  The Chapuis would be my domestic  gun.)

That’s enough guns.  On to other stuff.

Camera — I’ve done the large SLR thing, and I don’t need that anymore.  My current criteria, based on years of travel, are that the camera be small enough to fit into a coat pocket, and must take AA batteries.  Hence, the Canon Powershot SX100 IS:

I’ve owned this little sucker for well over a decade, and have no quibbles — except that when shooting in low-light situations, you absolutely have to pop it onto a tripod because its lens stabilization is not that great.  Fortunately, I have a mini tripod which travels with the Canon, and fits into the other coat pocket.  (My backup camera — a Nikon Coolpix 4300 — is much better in this regard, but it only takes Nikon’s rechargeable battery which means you have to be close to a power source to recharge it — the reason I replaced it with the Canon.  Like .30-30 and .22 LR, AA batteries are ubiquitous.)

Books — I couldn’t trim my library down any more than I already have, and it’s creeping up again (to the consternation of New Wife, who reminds me constantly that we barely have enough room extant).  Still, I intend to read and re-read several non-classic books for the rest of my life, most notably John Sandford’s Prey and Virgil Flowers novels, as well as any derivatives thereof.  Also P.G. Wodehouse, of whose works I have many, and various Ken Follett novels as well.  It’s all about the style when it comes to novels, and I love all the above in equal measure.  Of non-fiction — history — books we shall not speak.

Binoculars — I don’t use them often, but I always travel with a pair, this being my Steiner AX830 (8×30):

…and while these do okay, especially for their size, I really need something a little more powerful (10x or more, with a tripod mount if necessary, because size is not really a problem).  All suggestions are welcome.

Watch — for me, the thought of having only one watch is akin to having only one gun:  almost a fate worse than death, but if I’m going to have a couple of watches to see out my shift, they’re not going to be automatic, nor need batteries.  Hence, the Longines Master and the Tissot Heritage (depending on whether I need a black- or white face):

Nice big numbers to accommodate my (did I already say?) crappy eyes.  The Longines is twice the price of the Tissot, but still under the magic $1,000 mark.  Both are wonderfully rugged and acceptably accurate.

Music — forget about it.  My music library is quite adequate, not to say extensive, and unless I were forced to sell all of it, I could see my days out with the collected works of Valentina Lisitsa and Genesis (and maybe my Beatles boxed set).

I’m trying to think of what else qualifies under the question at the top, but other than perhaps knives (of which I have many, and just can’t think of any I’d even think of buying today), none come to mind.

As with all exercises of this genre, feel free to participate in Comments.  I look forward to your thoughts, as always.


I’ve got this pic set as my laptop’s wallpaper.  Can you see what’s wrong with it?

As the Son&Heir commented:  “No room for even a plinking range.  WTF?”

It’s a good point, although there’s enough space to put a clay-tosser for a little shotgunning fun…

…using only non-toxic shot, of course.