Jim Varagona

Month: April, 2006

>”Death, Taxes, and MySpace?”

>I have to admit that I check on my MySpace daily. MySpace is that site all over the news for being a playground for sexual predators because stupid kids put every detail of their life on these personal web pages, including addresses and cell phone numbers. I may be a scary guy, but I am not one of those scary guys.

It is an addicting thing that seems to be growing daily in our society. Apparently its membership grows by tens of thousands each day. I must say the numbers are padded by pages for role players, like many of my MySpace friends, who say they are “Viagra” or “Andy Warhol“. It’s weird though, to consider how many people’s lives it is a part of. I recently discovered MyDeathSpace.com, which really puts it all in perspective. The site lists people who are on MySpace that have died, whether it be by falling off a cliff or falling off of a skateboard while trying to ride it holding on to a car. Not only that, but it lists how they died and gives corresponding news articles. Regular people that became murderers are even listed. With each listing is a link to that person’s MySpace profile, frozen in time, but still collecting comments from friends. It’s bizzare and yet fascinating. This is definitely a sign of the times.

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>Record Suicides In the Army and Otherwise

>It comes as no surprise to me to read in the news that “The number of U.S. Army soldiers who took their own lives increased last year to the highest total since 1993, despite a growing effort by the Army to detect and prevent suicides.”

The situation over there looks pretty bleak and hopeless. I only hope the Iraqis are enjoying their new found freedom and liberty that ol’ Georgie was told by the Lord to give them.

The article that reported this fact went on to state:

The Army rate is higher than the civilian suicide rate for 2003, which was 10.8 per 100,000, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the Army number tracked closely with the rate for civilians aged 18-34, which was 12.19 per 100,000 in 2003.

I must say that last fact is a shame, but makes a bit of sense. People in that age group are entering “the real world” and are still trying to figure themselves and life in general out.

I know a guy that was headed for Iraq; I can only assume that is where he is now. He was a friend of my brother’s growing up. I saw him around Thanksgiving, right before he was to head out. I was not going to preach to him about my views against this war. He has probably heard it enough from others. Who knows which side of the fence he’s on anyway? A lot of the boys in the military, I feel, are simply lost and a guaranteed paycheck from the government doesn’t sound half bad.

He told me the money was good for him and that the experience would help him get a job in law enforcement when he got out. Before he left, he was married. Who knows how long it will be before his wife sees him again?

One thing he told me stood out. As he said it, I saw the fear and uneasiness. He said to me, “They train you to be ready to die. I don’t want to die, but I’m ready.”

…Just for money and a future.

I can only imagine thousands of other lost boys like him. The fear must always be in them. Is this worth it? Why can’t we take care of out issues here before interfering in other countries’ affairs, which we fabricated in the first place as a threat to us?

I don’t understand this at all.

At least the boys overseas don’t have many nail guns. A 33 year-old Oregon man went into a hospital complaining of a headache. It turns out he got high on meth and shot 12 nails into his head with a nail gun trying to kill himself. Somehow his head wasn’t permanently damaged much…from the nails.

How Not to Attempt Suicide–by Nailgun (photo from MSNBC-TV)

The article matter-of-factly states that “No one before is known to have survived after intentionally firing so many foreign objects into the head”. We need to clone this guy and send those boys into the Middle East. Our new Army of meth crazed super freaks. That way we don’t have to worry about the fragile mental state that we are putting them in.

>Fun with Ceiling Fans

>My fiance and I live in a quirky place. I have blogged about our adventures with rodents, but haven’t really touched on much else. The legal ramifications may be too risky at this point. I cannot, however, avoid this rant.

We live in a two family flat. When our landlady decorated the joint, she added pretty spiffy ceiling fans, two upstairs and two downstairs in fact. They even have their own remote controls for the ultimate in laziness. The problem lies in the technology and the thought process.

The fans have no code or anything that distinguishes one from the next, so using the remote can get tricky. Say I turn on the light on the fan in the living area, but my fiance is sleeping in the other room. If the switch to the fan in the other room is on, the light will go on along with the intended one. This goes for the fan itself as well. Like I said, great idea on paper, but already a little silly.

Up until last night, it has only happened a few times that the gal upstairs didn’t like her fan or light being on, and therefore turned one or both of ours off along with hers. It was humorous. I even spent a few hours at one time, going back and forth with them. Or is that what is going on?

I will say that we were warned of this when we moved in, but she didn’t make a big deal of it. Now is it truly the gal upstairs fighting with us electronically, or is it some kind of bad signal or interfering signal? Could it even be a ghost? Could this be the ghost of my late brother messing with my head? And what does the neighbor lady think if the same occurences are happening upstairs? Does she think we are complete assholes for playing tug-o-war with ceiling fan remote signals? My head hurts.

So last night was a warm night. We have had unusually warm temperatures in this area recently. Our mice even expressed to us that they can leave now because the cold weather has left. We had the A/C on plus various fans. When you have a fan above you, you must take advantage of it, unless you are horribly allergic to the crap flying through the air. Our bedroom fan was on full blast…for about 10 seconds. What followed was like Shock and Awe with ceiling fans. Throughout the night, we went back and forth.

Lights and fan on.

Then off.

Then fan on.

Then off.

Lights on, then off.

It was complete and utter nonsense that we have to attempt to sleep through such torture. We were dripping in sweat as much as we tried to avoid it. The fans wouldn’t stay on for more than 10 or 15 seconds. Just as we would get our hopes up, the insurgents would add their signal to the fray. It was maddening, especially for my lady. The enemy was psyching us out.

We sincerely thought of this as war. How could someone punish us like this? If you don’t like the fan, flip the switch. Don’t make us suffer by using the convenient little remote to turn it off. Or were we at war with a new type of enemy–one of the supernatural kind or the super-technological kind? I have a sneaky suspicion that Republicans are behind this mess.

>Ours…and The Don’s Gas Crisis

>The Don of The Italian Retail Service visited me at work the other day and sat me down at a pation furniture display.

“Don Diabeto, something is troubling me”, he said in a somber tone.

“What is it sir? Do you need me to crack a patio umbrella over some poor soul’s shins?”

“No, Don Diabeto. We may need to castrate somebody though. You see I went to get gas today. I gave the attendant a Lincoln. He proceeded to pull a cup out and fart into it. He then handed me the cup and went on his merry way.” The Don was obviously tense and angered.

“This is the price we pay for giving others freedom, liberty, and democracy“, I retorted.

Just then, I faintly heard the polyphonic version of The Grateful Dead’s “Casey Jones”. It was Daniel Rothstein, of The Daniel Rothstein Blues Revolution and my best man for my upcoming wedding.

“Jimbo, I dreamt about that guy you blogged about, the crazy one that said he would castrate Bush.”

I listened on.

“I was just watching him. Suddenly Bush appeared and he was writhing in pain, clutching himself. The guy told him, ‘Now you are just a Bush.'”

I considered telling The Don this humorous story, but thought it might rub him wrong at this point and proceed to fart in a cup and rub it in my face. I told Daniel goodbye.

“Who is worth disrespecting me and interrupting our conversation?”, he demanded of me.

“Oh, that was Baby Face Pinoy. He says he’s stranded in Jesusland without any gas.”

I saw the steam burst from my boss’s ears. “I’LL GIVE THAT FILIPINO SOME GAS.”

The Don stormed off, and I fell asleep under a gazebo indoors, dreaming of gnomes and Butt Paste.

>Criminal Act to Say Bush Should Be Castrated–Who’s Crazy?

>Out of East St. Louis today, a hop, skip, and a jump over the river from me, the AP reports a mental patient now faces federal charges because he told two workers at his mental health center that he wanted to castrate our President. The workers told Secret Service, and upon interview, the man, Arafat Nijmeh, told the agents that his threat “is not too harsh, considering what he has done to my country. If not that than maybe something else, you know?”

He now faces two felony charges for “knowingly and willfully” threatening to harm Dubya.

What is our country coming to? I’m sure some left wing pundits or comics have said something similar in the past, considering our President’s controversial reign. He didn’t say he would kill the man, or that he had an elaborate plan to do this. I’m sure many people unhappy with Bush and our country at this point has said something similar at some point. Watch your back. Big Brother’s out there.

Bush and his cronies’ differing accounts of how much to cut off.

On a side note, Nijmeh was staying at the Alton Mental Health Center, north of East St. Louis. I have worked in those parts. Alton is home to Robert Wadlow, who measured at 8 feet 11 inches as the tallest man on this planet. The city honors him with a statue at the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine and a municipal golf course named after him. Why dental medicine? I suppose the dentists appreciate the fine bone growth. Golfing might have been quite entertaining involving such a sasquatch though.

Wadlow…more like Weirdo.

Maybe the people of Alton are crazy. Maybe they should be criticized for worshiping a golden cow. I am only fooling, but why can’t we simply have the freedom of criticizing somebody by saying they should have their penis removed. John Wayne Bobbit most likely deserved it. No one is calling for anyone’s head…well, you know what I mean. In fact in my MySpace profile, I say I’d most like to meet the President , “so that I may bite his nose off.” It isn’t meant to be taken as that, but as a fun way of saying “I don’t like him”, and what is wrong with that if 64% of the country disapproves of the way he is running this country (a new all time low for Bush and his elephant friends)? Have we no freedom and liberty here?

>Let the Folks In Jesusland Know: Jesus Walked On Ice, Not Water

>I have spoken of my journey into Jesusland, where folks believe in drinking blood to get drunk and eating flesh as a tribute to their faith. But seriously, the crew at Disinfo.com find some great stuff. Today they link to a LiveScience article that suggests Jesus may have actually walked on crystal clear ice patches and not water as previously assumed. I knew this would eventually happen. The whole Jesus thing is unraveling now, just like Santa Claus did when I was a kid. Next thing we’ll find out is that George W. Bush is the antichrist that Nostradamus predicted in the Black Scrolls.

…Or maybe he is.

Some more questions before I go…

  • If Adam and Eve were real, does that mean we are all inbred? If they weren’t real, what’s the true story behind it all?
  • Why do men leave boogers behind above urinals? Is this the freedom that God intended to give us?
  • If God gave America democracy, what made us so special? Was it Jerry Lewis? He won the French over.
  • Why don’t parents enact their free will when their little boys tug at themselves? If I had a son that did that, I’d tie his hands up. It would be embarassing to me, yet I see it a lot, and the parents let it happen. Don’t they know that’s how serial rapists are born.

Adieu. Adieu. To you and you and you. (I used to watch that movie backwards.)

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>Disaster Strikes at Wal-Mart

>The fiance and I have been working on our wedding invites all weekend. It saves abunch of money doing it yourself, but takes a lot of time. I never realized I could be so passionate about certain fonts.

Anyway, today we set out to get seals for the envelopes. We hit up Party City, which certainly is, and got what we needed. The weather forecasters were then predicting severe weather, but who listens to those bozos anyway. We decided to go to pick up some ribbon for our favors while we were out, even though the skies were beginning to look a bit suspicious.

I was headed for Hobby Lobby, but our sense of budgeting and penny piching took over. We decided to go to the evil Wal-Mart instead, which I have done a pretty good job avoiding, but when it comes to ribbon, I figure save the fifty cents and give a kid in a sweat shop a job. I’m kidding, but saving money means a lot when you have none. That’s the trap these corporations put you in, and it works so well.

Of course the prices on pretty white ribbon were amazing, so we grabbed it, then the lights went out. I had experienced this before at Target and Home Depot, so it wasn’t a big deal, but Wal-Mart’s backup lights sucked and were for the most part non-existent. We considered shopping more, then as the rain and winds came, we considered running out with a cart full of merchandise like those folks in New Orleans did. Before we could finish our thought process, waves of people screaming “TORNADO!” started running our way.

This was it, the big one.

It was insane. Crowds were amassing at the rear of the store, some even daring to run into the back stock room for shelter. The workers didn’t even know what to do. As much as they wanted to rely on their walkie-talkies, they couldn’t hear anything because of the sounds of people screaming and crying.

Then it hit me–walk into a crowded theater and yell fire, or walk into a crowded Wal-Mart during a power outage and yell tornado. I called my mother for some kind of outside confirmation, because this all could be some really good, yet sick, joke. She did confirm that there were rotations in my area and a Tornado Warning was issued for the area we were in, but there was no confirmation of any touchdowns.

It was enough to calm us down, then the lights came on. We started to make our way to the office section for some envelopes when the lights went out again. This time management tried to gather customers at the center of the store, but we decided to keep shopping. It’s the American way. I’ll go down in a tornado, shopping no less…and for less.

I overheard different strategies people had. It is bizzare what you consider at a moment like this. One woman wanted to be near the food in case we were trapped, so she could be the closest to something to eat. A couple were running to the pillows and linens, to be near soft things in case of flying glass and other objects. I just wanted to go take a crap because the whole situation was making me feel funny.

We made it to the front lanes to check out. Some were trying to escape at this point. I noticed some women talking to an employee. One exclaimed, “What?! Why didn’t anybody tell us? What about my car?”

I thought maybe it meant hail or something, but I wasn’t sure of much. We got to the door, and the greeter was suddenly armed with a flashlight and checking receipts. Suddenly the most kind person in the store (and usually elderly or handicapped) has power. I just wanted to leave.

As we approached the exit to the outside, I noticed slabs of drywall scattered across the parking lot, apparently from the Lowe’s next door. The “1 Hour Photo” sign was destroyed from the winds and the “T” in the Wal-Mart sign was about to come crashing down.

The winds had calmed, but the rain was still coming down along with lightning across the gray skies. We were home free, but we know never to go back to Wal-Mart, because we received a sign.

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>Strange Days in Jesusland with the IRS

>I spent three long days in Poplar Bluff, Missouri starting on Monday and going through Thursday. I had no choice in the matter. They wanted the best and the brightest of the local IRS (Italian Retail Service) chapter to head down there to clean up one of those big box home improvement warehouses. The Don couldn’t make the journey though, due to another Don coming into town to look into the local boys’ retail servicing skills.

The drive there was long; a third of it spent on a single lane highway. We even passed through Zion, Missouri. Zion is the New Jerusalem according to the Church of Latter Day Saints. I saw no such thing. We must still be years away. Someone should tell all of the flea market owners there to clear out if that’s the case.

It does make sense that Zion was along the way though. Poplar Bluff itself seemed to be the capital of Jesusland. After work, we drove the streets of this odd town, because there was nothing else to do, except admire the new coat of paint on the Kmart or the recent expansion of the KFC. During our drives, I spotted a church on about every 3 blocks. There were quite a few Baptist, but also Protestant and Jehovah’s Witness places of worship to boot. I really wonder what the ratio of people to each church is.

He certainly does. That’s how we ended up in this mess.

There weren’t any Catholic churches in sight, not to say that there aren’t any at all, but it is still worth noting. At least I didn’t have to fear an abundance of nuns and priests to go along with the abundance of churches.

I can’t say the townsfolk necessarily seemed religious. The few I encountered weren’t the kindest though. They were a bit more relaxed. As we worked at the retail establishment, workers would take turns napping on their breaks on the patio furniture we assembled not too long ago.

At the store, my brethren of the Filipino Mafia and I encountered oodles of colonies of mice, which seems to be a theme in my life. They were attracted to the mounds of grass and bird seed we were re-arranging. As we moved each pallet of seed, we would reveal a layer of seed, which was sprinkled with mouse excrement and the smell of their urine.

Grass seed nest of mice

One by one, live adult mice and their babies, even the pinkies, would crawl out. It startled our Gonzo foreman so much that he stomped a few.

An artist’s rendition of our foreman

(actually a swell painting of Hunter S. Thompson by Prince of Space)

“My god, there gonna eat us alive”, he told us.

They did outnumber us, but as friend to the mice from my escapades, I tried to take the friendlier route. When Gonzo looked away, I nudged dozens of fetal mice to safety, where most likely they would die without the assistance of the adults, but I felt better at least. I felt like anOscar Schindler to my rodent friends. That isn’t to say we were out to kill them, but we had to disrupt their nests for our job, and as they scurried about, there were unwanted casualties.

Fetal mice fleeing the nest.

The stench was horrible. The ammonia in their urine was unavoidable. One of the Pinoys fell over wretching from the scents entering the feelers in his nose. He became angry and began kicking in the air, such as he does when he has a nightmare (I was his roommate). We all became angry…you can’t help it once you’ve seen a mad Filipino. There was grass and bird seed scattered everywhere and it was littered with the waste of what seemed to be at least 100 mice. Witnessing this made me feel better about my apartment, which has only seen 11 die in about two months.

It took us an entire day to clean the area of the mess, which boiled down to 13 plus hours of work. The mice helped the store lose more money by destroying its seed than the stores in the city here lose to theft. The four of us needed more than showers. We needed someone to hose us down–prison style.

Since there were no prisons in sight, we simply showered and looked for a nightcap. Just on the outskirts of town was a new joint called Shenanigans. A cowboy, with that generic Jeff Foxworthy look, carded us after we entered. We sat down to a table and a waitress carded us. I had a feeling this place must’ve been caught serving to 12 year olds before. That’s forgiveable when you’re that close to Arkansas though.

There was an odd mood to the place. It looked normal enough, with the dark lighting and neon signs. The music seemed to be coming from a nice-sized boombox though and they only played cover songs. I had no idea there was a punk version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, but I guess you can make anything into a punk song. My favorite is a take on John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.

The menu we received reminded me of a high school test. It was simply printouts of black type on white paper, which were stapled together. The appetizers were all $4.95, and were the usual bar fare, except for the bowl of barbequed smokies, which Big Boy Pinoy ordered. There was also Cap’N Crunch coated chicken strips for $6.95, which were tempting, but you can’t pay that much for something that you don’t know much about in a place smack dab in the middle of Jesusland.

Since the day was so crappy, you can’t really expect the night to be much better. Big Boy felt ripped off by the Deppression era portion of smokies. Baby Face Pinoy got potato skins, with cheese that wasn’t even melted. Only my meal, which consisted of mighty fine spicy hot wings, was satisfying.

The entertainment consisted on vintage athletic competitions on TV, such as the baton throwing and weightlifting championships, which were interesting, but not enough to lift our mood. We considered dining and dashing, but I reminded the boys of the fate of the men in Deliverance, so we paid, but snubbed on the tip.

Wednesday went a lot smoother, but still almost as long. The mice frolicked around us, almost taunting us, but we didn’t uncover any nests. We just wanted to leave that place. We finished what we could, which didn’t fit our required amount, but what can you do when you’re fending off rodents left and right. It was by far our worst experience in our field, and we are the best in our field. We won the goddamned Retail Servicing Cup.

As we left Poplar Bluff, I got a stomach ache. It was from a nasty Chinese buffet we had earlier, but I think it was also from everything else we endured. I looked around at my co-workers as my belly churned. I knew we would never be the same after our experiences in this odd place. What we shared couldn’t possibly be conveyed to others, but hopefully you can understand a bit.

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