Evaluating Class


You know we’re self employed and some of our customers are the upper echelon of society. Yes, the selfsame 1%. I am the Great and Powerful Oz of this operation so we do not budge without a contract. I’ve told you that my experience with the filthy rich has been generally the same as my experience with the working class, it takes all kinds and you just never know.

A few years ago, I was delighted by an exceedingly wealthy woman. She was charismatic, of a certain age, and had a great sense of humor. Once she engaged our services, she called me for advice on anything that transpired in her daily life. She was in the midst of personal turbulence and I was sympathetic to her position. Her conversations began, “Elroy, you know I trust you, what do you think of this proposal?” “Elroy, do you have a minute? My mac doesn’t work and I need help.” She was a dynamic conversationalist. She made me laugh out loud. Her family was a fixture on the stock exchange. The money she spent on stables, jockeys and vets would have fed a small nation for a long while. You would have been charmed by her too. She paid us promptly. We were not friends. We had an amiable business relationship.

Last year, we completed work for some equally wealthy people. I didn’t know of them. I did know their caretaker was reputed to be a scurrilous individual. I followed through with due diligence prior to drafting their contract. I was enamored. The family has a charitable trust. You know, a PBS foundation. After Sesame Street, for instance, you might hear the cultured voice announce that the program has been underwritten by a grant from the Goodworks Family Foundation. I didn’t hesitate to begin work. That was last year.

I have a pretty trusting attitude about money and accounts receivable. I function on the premise that we will be paid. If payments are delayed there must be a good reason for it. Things happen. Usually it doesn’t take four months for things to happen and the things that happen never include a trip to Africa and Paris. No, they most certainly do not.

Here at this working class desk, bills are paid as soon as they arrive. Bills in, checks out, that’s the way we do it, prompt payment just like at the grocery store. I often wonder what the cashier would say if I loaded my cart after the groceries were rung up and said, “Send me a bill and I’ll send you a check.” Sometimes people would like to negotiate our rates. I wonder how the cashier would react if I offered to pay $2.50 for a $5.00 gallon of milk, “Five bucks for a gallon of milk, that’s a little more than I’m willing to pay, I’ll give you two-fifty.”

Back to our story-
When I have to communicate with people whose accounts are overdue, I send gentle reminders. I rarely threaten bodily harm. After four months without payment and no response to emails or voicemail I began to feel just a bit apprehensive. I wrote to them, “I am dismayed. We completed work at your property in good faith that we would be paid.  Time is the only truly priceless commodity any of us have. The people who work with us exchange irreplaceable hours of their lives for wages. We rely on your payment so that we can pay them and they can support their families.  You have a long history of generous contributions to charities, which makes your disregard for our payment more puzzling to me. You indicated you were completely satisfied by our work. I do not know what has happened to delay payment or why you have chosen to stop communicating with me. Please advise.” The check arrived in great haste, if haste is attainable after a four month delay.

We have an account relationship with another affluent gentleman. He is The Customer Who Refused to Allow Us to Close. I am very fond of him. His grandkids and their gadgets drive him crazy. He adores his wife of over 50 years. He always prepays us, laughing when I tell him I do not accept prepayment and I will not deposit his check until the work is done. We continue to work on his projects, even though we have closed that business, because we like him.

We enjoy rewarding business relationships with our working class brethren. We offer installment payments to people who need them. We know what it’s like to need something we can’t afford. We’ve had help when times were tough and money was tight. We have never been disappointed by helping someone. We had a customer last year who received general assistance and partial disability as well as federally funded food stamps. That customer paid us in full when the refund from the federal income tax return came. I offered to continue the interest free installment agreement but the offer was politely and proudly declined.

All but one of the customers I’ve described are Republicans. The Democrat is the customer who made us wait. I was tormented by that situation. For one thing, the lack of communication implied disdain. There are very few people in the world who inspire my derision;  the people who have it, worked continuously to earn it. I do not view entire classes of people with contempt nor do I exploit people intentionally or inadvertently. I felt ashamed for asking to be paid for work that we completed. I know, what was I thinking? Finally, it was not an insignificant sum. If we weren’t as cautious as we are, being owed that amount for that term could have put us in a tenuous position. If we were a brand new business, with no reserve, in this economy, it would have closed our doors.

I learned a new coping mechanism from this experience. If I’m right but I feel bad about it I’m going to give that bad feeling right back to its source. I also remembered the basic truth of an old adage, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Posted in Human Condition, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Circular Identification

I’ve been plotting my escape. I plot a daring escape, or a divorce, every spring. You’ll think whatever you want, I wouldn’t expect anything less. My discontent is the direct result of a hyper-responsible nature. There are people who would say I was controlling, we don’t care what they say.

Let’s talk about me and my pain. As you may recall, if you’ve bothered to keep track, the last time I did anything leisurely was during the holidays. We had a short social interlude, where I did not have to conduct commerce but I was nonetheless responsible for delighting a bunch of grown-up people. It is now three quarters of the way through March so you may as well say that my ass has been rooted to this chair for 3 months. It will take the jaws of life to get me out.

We shall examine the facts:
The people surrounding me never initiate problem solving though they are quick to utilize their creative abilities in problem development.
Let’s not even discuss the socially acceptable testimony to unaffordable excess that weddings have become.
Since we’re not discussing expensive weddings, let’s not discuss the fact that young people who are not mature enough to save and pay for wasteful, extravagant, displays are likely not mature enough to make the sacrifices required in marriage.
I made a conscious decision not to procreate.
I married a man who is willing to surrender every last breath in his body to provide  for his sons.
I love my husband more than air.
Anything else I might list would just be mean.

I’ve made reservations for 4 days alone in April. I think I’ll last that long. I am planning a 3rd quarter mutiny hiatus. It is a beautiful diabolical plan. I would leave July 1st and return on September 30th. I would not have to attend the wedding. I do not want to go. I have never wanted to go. My husband doesn’t want to go without me. We are not event people. Apparently, he didn’t hear me when I said, “Graduation is the last blended family event I am attending. The blended family is an urban myth.”

In pursuit of the 3rd quarter hiatus, I decided to get a new passport. The old one expired a while ago. My birth certificate is in a fragile state so I am attempting to get a new certified copy to submit with the passport application. As part of that process, I must produce a certificate of marriage. The paper that I have is not the document required. The bureaucratic machine runs on circular logic. The identification fiasco is a metaphor for my winter of discontent.  It’s a dilemma. To get what I need I have to produce something I haven’t got.

You may not be aware of this but there are legions of married women, who love their husbands, living on their own at least part of the time. Masses of them take year long sabbaticals. They live the way they want to and let the adult children and husbands figure it out for themselves. Some of them seek a permanent change of venue and leave notes on the kitchen table heralding new adventures- “I have gone to find a new life. This life doesn’t fit me anymore. You are welcome to join me.” The husbands follow sometimes. They love their wives more than the familiar rut. I am told they have a wonderful time. Or maybe I wasn’t told, maybe I made the whole thing up.

I don’t have to stay here. I can afford to leave. I was taught to keep my own money and I always have. It’s not a secret that I’ve kept from my husband. I wouldn’t take half of what we’ve accumulated- more circular logic- if escape is the objective, why would you take half of what you’re escaping from with you? For years I lived with all of my possessions in 3 bags. I liked it.

My husband, in his admirable desire to provide for his sons, is becoming more firmly rooted to here. I am not here. I have been here for 15 years and not one time have I imagined my real life as being here. In the 15 years that I’ve been here I haven’t bothered to introduce myself because I’m not staying. There is not one soul here who knows anything about me that I wouldn’t blab to a complete stranger on the street.

I know it’s difficult to believe. We literally work all the time. If we’re not working we’re sleeping, when we’re awake we work. I know that everyone with a successful start-up business works as hard as we do. It is not who I am. I don’t identify with it at all. I’m pleased that it is growing, happy to know that it has a good reputation, proud of my husband’s vision.  I know a lot; some things I never wanted to know, tortious interference, conditional waiver & release, Statement 1, Line 6, Schedule Something or Other, Secretary of State, on and on ad nauseam, debits and credits and checks, who cares?

Now before you go getting all hater on my husband, you need to remember that I love him more than air. He got up at 3 in the morning and took me to the hospital so I could help Joe die, and for who knows how many days after my mother died he hugged me every single time he saw me cry, he’s bought gold and diamonds and pearls for me, and he believes that I am better than anyone else on the planet. He worries all about me. He has dark circles to his knee caps because he works so hard. He hopes this will level off and we won’t have to work all the time. He calls me often to ask, “Are you all right?”

I know who I am. I am a ferociously, autonomous person who chose to jump into this mess and to stick with it in spite of the inherent circular logic.

Posted in Marriage | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Taking Turns

Yesterday, I saw a friend from the health food store. We had a conversation about mothers, hers and mine. Her grandmother died in December at age 99. Her mother will be 70 this year and she’s spent the last bunch of years in stewardship of my friend’s grandmother. Now that the grandmother has died, my friend’s mother spends her time isolated, in winter desolation, on Cape Cod. We share the experience of finding ourselves in a quicksand of conflicted emotion regarding our mothers.

She feels guilty because she is impatient with her mother’s new fears and insecurities. The fears and insecurities are not new, they’ve appeared gradually over time. Now that her grandmother has died, her mother is not duty bound to remain strong. It is a hard transition. My mother was always my true north. As long as she lived, she was my compass through life. She was the measure of my tenacity. In the last decade or so of her life, I did not share my worries with her. She deserved a respite from my concerns. Instead, I told her hilarious tales of my diabolical plans to persevere in spite of the bastards. The bastards come in all shapes and sizes. My mother taught me that resiliency is success.

Cape Cod, where my friend’s mother lives, is farther from here than my mother’s house was but both mothers’ homes are in coastal communities where the sidewalks roll up after Columbus Day. As millions of aging offspring can attest,  it is nearly impossible to assume a diplomatic role reversal. It was my esteemed, opinion that Mum would benefit from winters spent in the community where I live, in close proximity to ME, so we could visit and I could make sure she was happy and comfortable. I tried for several seasons to convince her to close her house for the winter and to take an off-season rental here. I did not badger but I made the suggestion often. We couldn’t have lived together; I am willful (uninformed people may say stubborn) and that trait can be attributed to a direct line of descent.  After Mum died, her friends told me that she was making plans to come. I wish she had lasted that long.

My friend can’t reconcile her feelings and she’s having a hard job forgiving herself for them. The last time I saw my mother was the only time she was here on Hippy Hill. Parts of that visit were wonderful and parts were not so much. She happily counted all of the lady slippers at the edge of the drive, there were 27. She survived a visit from my brother Joe when she was relieved to have my protection from his relentless, addiction-fueled, extortion. She told me not to pick up where she left off with Joe. I didn’t. I was impatient with her the morning that she left. I couldn’t wait for her to go so I could get back to work. I know she knew that.

The fact that I loved my mother, or that I called her every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, or that I worried so much about her that one day, a couple of months after she died, I felt levity as I crossed the street in the summer sun, which made me wonder where the sudden surge of freedom came from, until it dawned on me that I wasn’t worried about Mum anymore, doesn’t negate the fact that the very last time I was with her, while she lived, I couldn’t wait for her to go.

I wasted part of my turn and that part of the turn is over. Yesterday, I told my friend the story in more detail than I’ve told it to you. My friend is a mindful, wonderful person. The conflict and impatience she feels is normal. I hope that she will make good use of this part of her turn.

Posted in Friends & Family | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Gulag Americana

I can’t imagine anything worse than being held against my will. I suppose short term incarceration works as a deterrent for some crimes, that it may be a powerful incentive to walk the straight and narrow once one is released. There are people who are too dangerous to be out here with the rest of us. I hoped to correspond with an inmate serving a life sentence but after looking through quite a few I couldn’t find one who didn’t seem to be guilty. It wasn’t so much the guilt exactly, it was the horrible crimes they’d committed. Most people serving life sentences seem to be there for murder and none of the murders are the gentle good nights that I sometimes envision, a yummy drink with lots of medicine in it and, before the victim knows what hit him/her-  boomboom, out go the lights. I thought about corresponding with someone subject to the three strikes law but after sifting through the murderers, I didn’t have the energy to search through all the drug dealers. I’m on the fence about them too. I’d be okay exchanging thoughts and opinions with a marijuana farmer, while a heroin retailer or a narcotics distributor might incite some vitriol. You can see how the prison situation troubles me.

Here in the Hinterland, we have our share of anti-govenment extremists. I like to think of them indulgently as Nuts. Good people who are right out of their gourds, people who will sometime in the near future move to underground bunkers and position trip wires around the perimeter, people who stockpile weapons and ammunition. I listen to their opinions and they have quite a few. Most of them begin with Gawd and end with Sarah Palin. They’re pretty harmless. I like to mess with them and tell them I don’t believe in Gawd, which presents an ethical dilemma  because they like me and I’m a sinner because I’m not saved. One guy insists I will be going to heaven anyway because I’m a good person. I’m not going and he can’t make me. So these affable, Gawd loving, extremists have been telling me forever about the prisons in the lower 48 where people are being transferred and held without due process; Nuts, right? Wrong, well maybe still Nuts but attentive Nuts. Government is circumventing due process utilizing Communications Management Units.

From Center for Constitutional Rights facebook page-
“Since 2006, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has operated two experimental prison units called Communications Management Units (CMUs), where prisoners are given extremely limited access to calls and visits and are deprived of any physical contact with visiting loved ones, without due process. Two-thirds of these prisoners are Muslim, and others have been sent to the CMUs in retaliation for their political and religious speech. CCR is challenging these unconstitutional policies and practices in court http://bit.ly/1i9Q2Wf but we also need the BOP to hear from you. This week, the BOP opened up a 15-day period for concerned individuals to submit comments on their proposed policy that would govern the CMUs http://1.usa.gov/1havgDe Learn more about these units, and our clients, by reading this articlehttp://bit.ly/1epfMZP, and submit your comments to the BOP using this link: http://1.usa.gov/1kKdLPG SHARE this action with others!”

I know what you’re thinking; Elroy isn’t too bright, there’s a whole sea of nonviolent pen pals (pen pal, hmmmm, never thought of it that way before) in the CMUs. They’re there, where mail is restricted, and I’m here because I don’t want to be there. I consider periodically, not often but regularly, how easy it would be for a well meaning, radical, peri-menopausal woman, remarkably like me but not me, to end up in jail for a crime of inadvertence. Is it a stretch to think there’s an obscure law somewhere that could be interpreted to impose restrictions on what DVDs can be mailed to a senator, that people who send critical sticky notes on documentary DVDs are enemy combatants?

If you have a minute, you may want to use one of CCRs links to oppose the CMUs. Help a sister out and deflect some of the unwanted attention.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Canadian Spanking

Oh Canadaaaaa! My favorite senator, Richard Burr, questions a Canadian physician and she spanks him hard. Richie needed a good spanking; he’s a naughty boy. He wants to reduce veterans’ benefits. I sent him a copy of Restrepo because Richie isn’t a veteran so he doesn’t know what it’s like. I put a little sticky note on there, “Shame on YOU!” If I get a chance to give him a spanking, I’ll mess his hair up first then I’ll get my new ping-pong paddle (I’ll have to buy one since I do not play table tennis) and with every whack I’ll say “Shame.” I’m going to start eating my Wheaties tomorrow. Imagine me on the box, a champion senator spanker!

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

So this is our banned testimony – Pelican Bay prisoners statement to legislators


The US treats prisoners inhumanely and is singular in the “free” world in utilizing isolation as punishment. The human suffering was featured recently on NPR’s Fresh Air. Sensory deprivation is cruel and unusual punishment. Isolation is sensory deprivation.

Originally posted on Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity:

We are prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison who have all lived for over 15 years locked 23 hours a day in  small windowless cells, without ever being able to hug or touch our families, without ever seeing birds, trees, or the outside world, with no programs or chance for parole. California keeps us in these torturous conditions not because of any violence we have committed, but because it believes we are affiliated with a gang, often based on artwork or photos we possess, tattoos we have, literature we read, who we talk to, or anonymous informants statements that we have no way of challenging. We are put in Pelican Bay not for any specific term of months or years for misconduct we have committed, but indefinitely, which in practice means forever- unless we become informants.

Last summer we went on hunger strike – we were willing to starve ourselves to death rather…

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Daybell’s Freebie

Richard Daybell has a free, and we do love free, copy of Naughty Marietta available. Visit his blog to meet some of his characters and to hook up with the free link.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments