Have you considered buying Old Glory Robot Insurance?

I often get solicitation mail from the company my pension is through. My agent is appalled that I, a single male who can't have and does not want children, don't want to take out a big life insurance policy on myself. It's a small town, so I bump into him often, and the conversation always goes the same:

"Have you thought about --"
"Don't need it, Mike. Don't bother asking."
"What about your family?"
"No dependents."
"But your other loved ones?"
"My parents and my brothers? I'm not giving them motive . . ."
"How will they pay for your burial?"
"With the money I didn't spend on life insurance."

That shuts him up.

So today I get this letter from Mike. It looks like a customer service survey at first glance. It's even got a postage-paid envelope and they're offering a free calculator if you reply. I don't need the calculator; I already have seven of the same one from drug reps. But I look over the survey anyway. The questions become more and more obviously aimed at preying on people's financial insecurities:

"I feel confident that I will be able to meet the rising costs of college."
"I feel confident that my family will be able to make ends meet if something tragic were to happen to me."
"I feel confident that I will be able to meet rising healthcare costs as I age."
"I feel confident that my family will be able to remain in our home if something tragic were to happen to me."
"I feel confident that I will be able to meet my retirement goals."

Et cetera.

So let's break down what the survey was trying to tell me: "Prices are spiralling out of your control. You're getting old. You're gonna die. Your family will be homeless. Also, you're getting old and you're gonna die. A meteorite is chilling out above your house waiting for you to get in the shower, then it's comin' for ya. Are you confident now?"

Yes, Mike. Yes I am. I don't need you to call me for a consultation. I can handle it. I live below my means. I diversify my portfolio. I have an emergency fund and the exact amount of insurance I actually need. I am confident. Thanks for asking.

In my apartment in Dublin I have a small wooden box.

In this box I keep all the small items in my life that are either of huge sentimental value (such as a tiny eraser my father gave to me on my first day of primary school and my Lego Club membership badge from when I was six), or of essential value (aspirin, sharp knife, passport, etc) to me.

One night last month, under the influence of a significant amount of whiskey, I was rolling my way through every item in my box to my best friend, and she responded that the only thing my box was missing was a photo album. After this the night continued as only those nights do.. and the photo album was promptly dismissed (along with a lot of brain cells!!).

This evening I was going through my old stuff in my family home, and I came across a thin empty photo album, cased in black duct tape, and that small nugget of forgotten information plopped back into my brain, so I decided to bear some old ghosts, and go through all the photos I've ever taken, and pick out the few photos that meant the most to me, so that I could lock them away with my heart, and wherever I am, they can be with me.

As you can imagine I've had an emotional evening. I dredged up memories of births, deaths, family, friends, holidays, disasters, pain and beauty. It is an experience that I will never forget.

The Photos that mean the World to me:
Photos of my brother, sisters, mother and father.
A beautiful sunrise, taken from an airplane on the way to meet my first nephew.
My family opening Christmas presents together.
My favourite place to sit and think.
My best friend.
Photos of my dogs. I have 3.
A photo of my cousin who died at Christmas. She was 25.
The most beautiful photo I've ever seen, though I'm afraid I won't be sharing that one.

One night when everything's getting you down, put on some nice music and spend a quiet evening alone with your memories, you'll feel a lot different afterwards, and you'll remember not everything has been bad.

Outside your window. The trees. I turned the sunlight on the white bark into snow. I did it for you. Because the sky behind the trees became more Blue by contrast. Blue as True Madonna.

I turned the little leaves into Chocolate covered bees and threw them down upon the ground. You walked on them. And now, wear chocolate covered shoes. Sweet in a place no one would ever think, walking with wings on the soles of your feet. You're certain you've stepped in Shit.

Wings on your feet. Wings on my tongue.

O - you went a round with the Queen of Hearts. You're black and blue. It's just another broken thing.

You sort the rubble for artifact. Our lips gone white with cold. Is Faith really such a favor? Sometimes, inside the heatless embrace of God I can see my breath. In the cold, I climb in next to you.

Tell you a bedtime story that starts like this:

You wrote my name in gasoline and the night burned down all around us.

Hi everybody! I hope your doing good! Tonight is my Interest Fair at school. Last year I did a project about rock and roll in the 1970’s. This year I did my project on the history of coffee. I never knew that there was so much to learn about a little bean! I hope the judges like it!

I wrote a poem last night at my dad’s house. We were talking about space and what it means so I went upstairs and wrote this. I called it My Own Space. I hope you like it!

My Own Space

I really like space
Where there’s no race against time
And the stars look like lace
And I think they’re all mine

Space doesn’t have to be big
It only has to be there
It can be really small
And I really don’t care

Space goes on forever
And I see all it has
You can never reach never
And the time will just pass

Yes, I really like space
It’s where I call home
Space is my kind of place
And I call it my own


/me says Standard disclaimers apply

Yesterday was quite depressing for me and NHL fans everywhere. Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, officially cancelled the entirety of the 2004-2005 season. If they could have reached an agreement with the NHLPA a little sooner, there would have been a 20-game schedule. The players actually caved and agreed to a cap, but negotiations collapsed around how much it should be.

But the last few days of the 04-05 non-season are perhaps a subject for a node of their own. This daylog is about me and my emotions, emotions that I reasonably assume are shared by hockey fans the world over. Even though I knew it was coming it was still depressing as hell. When the players caved, though, it reignited a small flame of hope that something could be salvaged of the season. The flurry of last-ditch efforts by both sides in the final 24 hours excited me a little. But it was not to be.

I've already published my little rant to the NHLPA here and I am through with blaming and cussing out blamees; it doesn't matter now. They have caved and if they want to continue to negotiate with the league they're going to have to cave even more because the league is no longer interested in last-ditch efforts, obviously. They players are now going to either agree to the league's demands or be replaced. It's that simple. I actually think that maybe the league could have waited another day or two; the players were already caving, maybe with just a tad bit more time they would have come to an agreement.

Some friends I've talked to have said a 20-some-odd game season would've been pointless. But in the press conference yesterday, Bettman said something interesting when answering one of the questions. He said that two versions of the conference had been planned. The other was one where he happily announced an agreement had been struck and there would be a very short season. He said that the short season would have been a way to test out, to experiment with new rules, etc. and had planned on hashing those out. True, as one of my friends pointed out, hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup over your head after making it through playoffs that were only based on a twenty game season seems ridiculous, but to use the short season to experiment with new rules and such seemed fascinating, at least to me. There are a lot of things that can be done with the game to make it better, like different icing rules, thinner goalie pads, etc., to stimulate more offense.

But instead, there's a huge asterisk in the record books now, in the history of the NHL; no stats for 2004-2005, except for one: NHL becomes the first major North American sports league to cancel an entire season because of a labor dispute. Now everybody who is not a hockey fan is laughing; I didn't watch the talk shows last night but I'll bet Leno or Letterman had a few jokes to crack about it. Oh, those silly hockey players, their season's been cancelled, ha ha ha. Hey, I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out! Zing! Hey, who cares? It's just hockey, heh heh. It's not like it's football or something! Well I would like to tell them, and you if perhaps you have this attitude, that they/you have no idea as to how many people this is hurting, and I'm not even talking just about fans. Joke all you want about it, but hockey is a multi-billion dollar industry. A lot of people were hurt financially by there not being NHL hockey this year. From working on the Game Night Revue I was making an extra three thousand dollars a year; that loss of revenue has me barely paying my bills right now. All the vendors at the hockey rinks, all the businesses that depend on hockey crowds like restaurants and bars and so forth to get them through the long cold winter where there's no baseball (in cities with no basketball, mainly) are hurting badly. These are all the people and things that are easy to forget. When most people think of losses they only think of the owners. Considering that most owners were losing millions of dollars every year anyway, they didn't fare any worse this year with no hockey than they did last year with it.

So, for all of you who don't give a rat's ass about hockey, go ahead, downvote me. I'm sure you will. But at least think about what I said in the previous paragraph. No NHL this season was not a laughing matter for a lot of people, a lot of people just like you, people who aren't wealthy, just trying to make it, just trying to pay their bills. A lot of them probably aren't even hockey fans, or maybe just casual ones, but still depended on the sport for their financial well being. Take any sport you are a fan of and imagine them not playing an entire season. That's how we feel. And for those of you who aren't sports fans at all in any capacity, I hope you at least can appreciate what I've said about money, as I am sure you have bills to pay like most people in this world.

Things are more fucked up than I thought. I thought there was plenty of time between now and next September to work out a deal to save next season, but I just read an article that made me realize something: if things aren't resolved by this June, they can't even have a draft! Or make any deals for that matter, trades or signings. Damn.

Today we bid farewell to Camp Hit forever. Our whole company has moved to the dam at Haditha for the last couple of weeks of combat operations for our deployment.

Lately I have been experiencing a mild funk, but today was warmer than it's been for some time, and seeing Hit diminish behind me for good lifted my spirits considerably.

And for the first time in my experience, the reservoir is placid.

I've gotten way behind in writing people back, but every time I sit down to try to get it done, I find no inspiration, nothing substantial to say, and trying just makes me feel more homesick.

Down two decks in our berthing, conditions are: crowded, more so than usual, having had to cram our entire company into a space usually reserved for just our platoon.

A few people are trying to sleep, but there's a crowd gathered around the television, where they're watching a DVD of some shitty hidden camera show, laughing cacophonously at predictable intervals.

I don't notice the deep rumbling from the dam around me until I put in my earbuds. Tonight it is vaguely threatening.

This is my first chance to crack open my new McSweeney's and I immediately fall deep into it, despite everything around me.

I don't crawl back out until several stories later, when I realize I have to pee very badly. I grab a buddy, my thermos, and cigarettes, and we head up the dark stairs.

It seems half the company is topside smoking and chatting when we get there, but I pee, smoke, down a cup of coffee and hurry back downstairs, eager to delve back into the volume.

I read until I have to pee again, and my usual smoking buddy is watching a movie, so I climb upstairs alone to find the top of the dam deserted.

The night is warm and still and the moonlight illuminates a light fog that sits atop the calm water. I light up, and lean against the concrete railing, and from here the dam's vibrations seem not menacing or angry, but reassuring as they drown out the now ever-present ringing in my left ear. I smoke, and watch the light gray silhouette of some sleepless bird glide over the surface of the water below and I feel at peace, something I haven't felt in a long time.

I hope tonight's peacefulness is an omen, a harbinger for the mission tonight, and for the couple of weeks of combat ops remaining for us. So far we've had no serious casualties in our company despite countless mines, IEDs, rocket attacks, mortar fire, and several serious engagements. But, though our deployment is winding down, our ops tempo seems only to be stepping up, and I'm almost terrified that someone's going to catch a stray round, now, so near to the end.

For various and complicated reasons, I've volunteered to stay back on rear party, so I may be in Kuwait as late as May. But with the end of combat ops approaching, it's become impossible not to think about going home.

Except it seems I no longer have any precise idea of where home is. My crap is scattered around the country, in storage somewhere in California, in my parents' house in Atlanta, and spread among my friends' houses in Seattle.

I find I can't really attach the sentiment of home to any one location or building. The last house I called home, the weirdly idiosyncratic one by Green Lake is now home to strangers. My parents' new house in Atlanta, while comfortable, has never felt like my own.

I always used to say I'd grow up to be a bum, and though I've never been lacking for a place to sleep, I find myself now in a queer but profound state of homelessness.

Of late, though, I've been slowly realizing that maybe that isn't really so bad. In fact, maybe it's good. Perhaps to settle is to stagnate, perhaps I prefer to be forever dynamic, a self-accelerating perpetual motion machine. Maybe I'll just keep moving until the day I die, and then the matter that makes me up will keep on without me, become riverboats and rockets, stormclouds and jetstreams.

My epiphany tonight is that if I can find peace here, I can find it anywhere.

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