Jim Varagona

Month: July, 2006

>Let There Be Light…and A/C

>The power was restored to our apartment around 9:30 this morning. I am grateful that we had a cool place to stay (with my parents), but nothing beats being at your own home. It just sucks cleaning up remnants of food that I didn’t save earlier on. Leftover peas, zucchini soup, and barbecued chicken stink to high heaven after sitting in a luke warm fridge for a few days. The peas were fuzzy too. I flushed most of the potent liquids down the toilet because that’s what I was raised to do when you don’t have a garbage disposal. The water pressure was sub par with the faucets sputtering before kicking in completely. I know that has nothing to do with electricity, but it shows how messed up things are around here. There was a massive water main break less than two miles from here, but I doubt that is the culprit.

Oh well. It’s good to be home.

*And as a response to a comment on my last post, my 200+ mile route for work involves weaving through the St. Louis Metropolitan area and beyond. We reside in St. Louis city, the epicenter of the chaos that ensued after the storm.



>Ridin’ the Storm Out

>These are strange times in St. Louis.

On Wednesday, I had finished a 200+ mile route for my new job right before the storm hit. I really just noticed the sky of black moving my way overhead when I made it to the office in West St. Louis County. I still had to finish some paperwork and make copies before I could leave. The only person left in the office was my supervisor, who was staying to collect my work. The strong winds came in pretty fast, but I still thought we had time to get out of there. Not even ten minutes after I arrived, the power shut down. I laughed and paced, because that’s how I cope. We waited for the elecricity to return, so we could finish the work. It did, but just enough to tease us. I kept looking outside at the business park I was in. Parts of trees and random trash were flying by. It was very amusing.

I don’t feel comfortable with severe weather in the county. For some reason, the city avoids serious damage and tornadic activity a lot more than the county around here. Anyway, the building I was in was talking. It was creaking and whistling to the point that I thought there was a good chance of my first tornado. My supervisor gave me a candle that smelled nice. I would have rather been at home though. My dog was there alone in a kennel awaiting my arrival. The supe had to make calls to find out procedure for what to do if the building were to blow away. We were told to go hang out in an office with windows. Seriously. Their reasoning was that the walls of that office were still made of cinder blocks unlike the rest of the building. I didn’t buy it, but I was simply going with the flow. It was only my fourth day on this job, so I wanted to make a good impression.

Then the rains finally came. I watched through the narrow windows at the cloud formations moving by fairly quickly and the sheets of precipitation dumping out. It was obvious the power wouldn’t come back anytime soon. The supe called the higher ups and communicated that we were going to run for it. It takes fine management skills to decide to leave once the rain hits. We did though. The walk to my car 30 feet from the door was enough to soak me.

The drive home was interesting. I had no idea what lay ahead or behind me. The rain in my path though, was enough to cut visibility down considerably. Half of the cars on the highway had their flashers on. Since I don’t trust my own driving, especially in weather such as that, I followed suit. Some of the vehicles swayed in the wind. I could feel the wind pushing my car, but it just added an element of fun to the drive. Most of the cars were keeping a safe speed and distance, so I didn’t have to worry. The shoulder did contain a few results of those that weren’t being so careful.

About halfway through my drive, the rain calmed down a tad. The sky turned a bright orange from the sun setting and the storm exiting. Fittingly, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon came on the radio, so I cranked it up. I am always a fan of mood music, even though I hate REO.

When I got home, the blocks leading up to it were riddled with tree branches and sometimes entire trees. I noticed two streets blocked off entirely by single trees. Of course, considering my luck as of late, our power was out when I reached the homestead, and at this point two nights later, it still is out. Interestingly enough, people three doors down and on somehow have their power. Ameren, the utility company here, gave themselves a 3-5 day window to clean this mess up, but a storm earlier today just added more to their statistics. As I write this, 500,000 homes are without power in this area.

I took Sadie, my boxer, for a walk through the neighborhood since she had been cooped up in the kennel thoughout the madness. Trees blocked our path several times. At the corner of our block, a man’s shed had been torn to pieces and thrown all over the street. This was certainly the worst storm damage I have ever seen first hand. And it is easily the longest I have ever gone without electricity.

The first night, I tried toughing it out with the windows open to the breeze of the 90 degree night air. Sadie and I made it though the night while the wife worked the graveyard shift, but we smelled like blooming onions by daybreak and had a fine layer of greasy sweat on us. My wife made the decision for us to move in with my folks and that’s where I will rest my head again tonight. At least we aren’t camping out on our porch like some people.

Today when I tried venturing out for work, disabled traffic signals made for long waits at intersections. I drove past 4 gas stations before I could find one with power. This is insane. The storm today helped the heat wave dissipate for a bit while we wait on all of these shortages and outages.

The National Guard is in town now to knock on doors to check on folks and give out water and cookies. I guess that beats suicide bombers and living in the deserts of the Mid East. Witnessing giant camoflaged vehicles parading through the city was a strange sight for me. I saw two caravans as I drove around today. The boys were decked out in full uniform. That makes this official disaster control. It makes me feel special. I only wish we were staying in our darkened apartment so the Guard would offer us goodies and a chance to stay in an air conditioned building that they refer to as “cooling centers” in these parts.

So the question of choice in St. Louis has gone from “Where did you go to High School?” to “Do you have power?”

Strange times indeed.


>Diabetoboy in New Hampshire

>Through the magic of the internet, a director of an art gallery in New Hampshire got a hold of my piece, “Diseased Sensations”, and it is now part of an exhibition at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire. I found what I believe to be their press release, which states, “Jim Varagona’s Diseased Sensations unflinchingly portrays the student filmmaker’s everyday life with Type 1 diabetes.” It is always nice to hear big words used with your name such as the unflinching portrayal I made.

To view the piece, click here to go to Post-VideoArt.com.

I also blogged about this piece back on November 13 of last year.


>Iraq War Blues

>The following is a song I wrote last year about the war in Iraq, which will never end. I just dug it up and thought I’d share it. It is obviously influenced by Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Johnny Cash.

The Iraq War Blues
A couple of years ago
and a few days before
someone got the idea to go to war
freedom for these men
by killin’ some of those men
who do we kill first?
women and children

All these bombs flyin’ through the air
some of ’em goin’ to we don’t know where
all because he hate me
who? I don’t know
why? I ain’t sure
shock and awe ’em
that’ll be the cure

We’ll send our boys over to here and there
to fight an enemy that’s everywhere
Iraqis, Afghanis,
Shi’ite..I don’t know
mission accomplished
let’s take it real slow
people are dyin’
but our way’s the way to go

Fahrenheit nine one one
everybody grab a gun
and some duct tape
and a can opener
code yellow
code orange
code red
get it through your head
a Dick and a Bush are callin’ the shots
We’re in good hands
like Allstate

We’ll they’re doin’ it now
and they’ll do it again
the fleecing of America
plucking from our mother hen
so send some more of our boys over
and send some bodybags back
just don’t take pictures of their coffins

I’m gettin’ tired now
I’m gonna not vote
I love my country

copyright 2005-2006 Jim Varagona

Additional Links


>Spending Time With My Daughter

>My daughter Sadie has really been getting on my case lately since I have been unemployed. She always wants to play ball or have me throw pieces of overcooked waffles at her face. The other day, she sat on me until we did something amazingly fun.

Considering how lazy I am, I taught her how to drive, so she could take me around town for job interviews, getting bon-bons at the grocery store, and filling up the tank. I still haven’t perfected having her pump gas though.

I hate that she insists on listening to Top 40 radio. I can only take so much of Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie”. Soon she will appreciate the likes of Johnny Cash. Mark my words.

>Come Out of Your Hole, Michael McGrath

>The story that never ends and one of the topics that originally pushed me to blog (see DiabetoBlog #1: McGrath Didn’t Molest Me…Thank God) is back again with more predictable, yet insane news. From today’s STLToday.com:

New lawsuit alleges abuse by often-sued former priest
Robert Patrick

The most-sued former priest in St. Louis was sued again Thursday by a man who says he was abused 30 years ago as an altar boy and student at St. Ferdinand Church in Florissant. The 20th lawsuit against Michael McGrath alleges that he fondled the boy, identified only as “John Doe GJ,” at least once on an outing sometime between 1976 and 1978. At the time, McGrath was an associate pastor and teacher, and the boy was 10 or 11 years old, the suit says. The man, now around 40 years old and living in Missouri, did not remember what happened until sometime in the past year, said lawyer Ken Chackes. In a prepared statement, the man said that he felt as if his life had “flat-lined,” as if he had been “held back.”

The suit says that the St. Louis Archdiocese knew or should have known that McGrath had a “dangerous propensity to abuse children” and that the church should have better supervised McGrath. McGrath was ordained in 1975, removed from public ministry in 1997 and laicized in 2005. He served in parishes and schools in St. Louis, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, the archdiocese said. McGrath’s lawyer, J. Martin Hadican, said Thursday morning that he could not comment on the lawsuit’s allegations. Archdiocese spokesman Tony Huenneke said that the archdiocese had settled or mediated one complaint and 15 lawsuits against McGrath for a total of $793,600. Huenneke said the archdiocese would not have settled the cases if officials did not believe the accusations to be credible.

This is crazy. So this occurence comes from an accuser that “did not remember what happened until sometime in the past year”, which is a bit fishy unless you go for the idea of repressed memories. Still, I think this case bears fruit simply because we are dealing with “The most-sued former priest in St. Louis”.

Mike, you got to be happy with the ring of that.

It’s good that the Archdiocese believes the accusations to be credible and isn’t putting up a defense of lies to protect one of their boys…well, he used to be (McGrath was dismissed from the priesthood in February of last year). I still echo my sentiment from my very first blog by asking “where does the settlement money come from?” The close to $800,000 used simply to “settle” with McGrath’s many other accusers had to come from somewhere, and considering the fund raising of the Catholic Church, the whole situation makes me feel uneasy.

Speaking of feeling uneasy, my wife was watching the news with me earlier when we learned of this new development.

Notice what his shirt says (“He Knows When You Are Sleeping”).

McGrath’s crooked sneer flashed on the screen and she asked me sarcastically, “Are you sure he didn’t do anything to you?”

It’s only been about 9 years since I’ve seen that piece of filth, so I think the image of such a traumatic event would be burnt in my mind. I’m sure if I was haunted by such a thing that I would find suitable punishment for the man, besides settling for money from his former employer.

The former molesting priest apparently still resides in Richmond Heights (at 1433 Hawthorne Place), which is in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. I’m surprised no one has tracked him down for an interview, to picket in front of his house, or to drag him out and give him lashings.

And what kind of a man defends these idiots? J. Martin Hadican is no stranger to defending holy sex offenders. I easily found reference to him defending none other than Bryan Kuchar, the other molesting priest I came in contact with in my life during a year in grade school at St. Joan of Arc in St. Louis, while he was a transitional deacon, basically one step from being a priest. Kuchar was sentenced to 3 years in jail in November of 2003.

It’s a shame that the statute of limitations lets McGrath sit back and relax. There should be a provision that states after so many lawsuits for something so dispicable, you can just throw the guy in jail for a while. If he takes issue with that, I welcome him to speak up for himself, instead of hiding behind his attorney’s words. Come out of your hole, you inglorious bastard!

UPDATE 6/20/2007: I just watched Deliver Us From Evil, an excellent documentary focusing on a dirty priest. It gives an insightful and disturbing look into the mindset of one of these men.


>Jorblessness and the Measure of Success

>I received two passionate responses to “Things Have Changed”, a posting in which I dwelled upon the success of NBA players younger than I and compared it to where I am now in my life. I thank Jeremy and Sergio for being consistent readers and for looking out for the Diabeto.

I didn’t mean for it to seem like my measure of success is solely based on money. Those b-ballers and shot callers aren’t the greatest people on earth, even the best athletes. Considering my plight though, and looking at things from my side of the fence, it would be nice to have some cash, and those boys seem to get it easy.

The posting also dealt with the flow of life, how things can be a certain way for a while, then suddenly change. It certainly keeps things interesting, but can also be a pain in the ass.

I cannot ask for sympathy. Several job leads have come my way, which I have passed upon simply because they were too similar to my last situation. I’d rather keep looking because the taste in my mouth is still pretty friggin’ bitter. The “Ramp Down” effect, as the leaked memo from my former employer referred to it as, took me down hard. I don’t understand why companies need to change the wording of these things so much when they could just say, “We’re downsizing to keep the greenbacks coming”, or “Instead of skimming from the bottom of our seniority, we’re skimming pond scum…and you’re it.”

As Sergio suggested, mooching meals works well and keeps the wife fed and happy. She has found employment, but unfortunately the checks won’t be seen for weeks, given the time she entered the pay cycle and the stage of the moon at that point.

I am certain that this is all for the better. When you have to create a fictional world of mobsters and intrigue to cover the boring nature of a job as a glorified stockboy, it’s probably better off to cut loose. That isn’t to say the job didn’t have any intrigue, but I’m not so sure that “Secrets of the Retail Servicing World” could bump the ratings juggernaut of “Internet Predators Caught”.

It is disturbing to me though, that my charismatic self could be shaved off of the donkey, leaving behind men that torture innocent animals by stomping on them and dragging their feet, leaving behind a bloody mess.

And that’s the truth.

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