Monday, July 29, 2019

Hart-burn (Carry on, My Wayward Engelsen)


"If workers are more insecure, that's very 'healthy' for the society, because if workers are insecure, they won't ask for wages, they won't go on strike, they won't call for benefits; they'll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that's optimal for corporations' economic health." - Norm Chomsky

Hello Blogiteers!

Today's screed is all about responsibility, and how some corporations avoid it much in the same manner that I tend to shun gas station sushi. I've previously written* about how the Arizona Attorney Generals Civil Rights Division (AZAGCRD for short) dropped the ball regarding my claim of diabetic discrimination against my former employer and immediate supervisor, but their inability to do what they were supposed to do can easily be ascribed to a perversely bloated bureaucracy and alleged incompetence, versus an actual focused unethical intent. While technically not a corporation, in my POV, they're as useless and corrupt as any of the ones who are.
*[http://waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com/2019/01/2018-11-lard-of-dunce-liar-sleeps.html]

Sure, AZAGCRD may have threatened me with a Class 1 misdemeanor if I wrote anything about the case that I alone filed, but despite my repeated requests for clarity, they failed time and time again to directly inform me exactly what law I would be breaking that superseded my first amendment rights. Therefore, I didn't lose any sleep over it, as I laid comfortably secure in the knowledge that at best, I was being attacked by an impotent porcupine, that was all gums, badly matted fur, and posessed no actual claws of note, with the odds in my favor that I'd soon have a really nice matched set of quill-free pot-holders as a consolation prize for all of my troubles. I also purposely avoided using the real name of the company I worked for, along with giving the two arrogantly asinine employees I was forced to work with on an almost daily basis pseudonyms, as a means to tell my story without the concern of snaring myself in any legal issues.

But I'm now of the belief that this self-imposed ball-gag of sorts needs to come off, and that right quick. After I wrote my fact-based tale of alleged ineptitude, definite inanity, and defended myself against the wholly ludicrous slander of my former supervisor, I felt there was nothing more to say, or more to the point, do. The Phoenix chapters of my days were over, and I had to move on to the next phase of my new life in New Mexico, land of the "we put green chilies on everything" mind-set that I've come to love. And for a while, despite all the health issues I've suffered through the last couple of months, there was what can sometimes pass as relative peace within the Lair of Snarkitudes' storied halls, and to bolster this, just read the previous blog where I wrote extensively about my inner Zen as of late.

Oh, how the times do change.

So what brought about this shift back to my switchblade tongued self of old after months of inner tranquility? In a simple word, ethics, or the lack of them, as displayed by two entities I've had the misfortune of dealing with for over a year. The first being my former Michigan-based employer, which goes by the name of Engelsen Frame & Moulding, and the second, collectively known as The Hartford, which allegedly, perpetuates medical grift under the guise of providing insurance. And yes, I can back up my statement, or otherwise I wouldn't be here at my office away from the office, otherwise known as The Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery, writing about it. Sorry for the shameless plug, but I'm trying to get my future sodas for free, and to do that, I need to whore myself out somewhat. I may not be proud, but if all goes well, I won't be thirsty or sugar-free either.

As to the first entity, I worked for them as a warehouse laborer for almost a year and a half, and hated almost every second of the job, save for the interaction I had with my first crew, that being a great co-worker named Bernie, and my then immediate supervisor Barry, who despite his somewhat conservative point of view, turned out to be both an awesome person and boss. Deep discussions were had, and we ran like a fine Swiss watch most days, despite the hellish heat in the summer, and the crippling cold in the winter. A team worth being proud of, if I were to fake all shades of modesty.

Our so-called top boss Ellen, who was comfortably entrenched in Michigan, was wholly ridiculed by us in the Phoenix division, due to her stunning consistency at being both a micro-manager and a screeching nag, which led to abominable work delays because my supervisor had to spend as much time on the phone placating her uninformed idiocy as he did working, but I digress for the sake of my sanity. But what's really sad to point out is that Barry had worked for this company off and on for close to thirty years, and was quite fond of talking about it's founder (always respectfully referred to as "the old man") as a paragon of ethics, dependability and loyalty- traits which obviously skipped a generation, if I were to be so bold.

A few months before my illegal and discriminatory *firing Barry gave his notice, due to Engelsen coldly reneging on a false promise they had made in exchange for his uprooting his life to run the Phoenix branch of this once proud company, and with that, my troubles began.
*[https://waynemichaelreich.blogspot.com/2019/01/2018-11-lard-of-dunce-liar-sleeps.html]

[The following is paraphrased from the previously mentioned blog, hence the reason for the use of Italics]

At first, my new supervisor Antonia ("Toni") Ramirez, came across as somewhat sweet, even with her internal Damocles sword of self-doubt that was fairly and markedly displayed from day one in regards to how she ran our day to day operation. To be fair, there was a good chunk of days where we ran like gazelles, but on a majority of the days, it was akin to trying to swim through molasses with concrete blocks tied around your feet, as you try in vain to settle down a headstrong three year old who's having a full-on meltdown, as they grab all the candy out of the racks next to the cash register at WalMart. In addition, Ellen also foisted upon us a dense slab of idiocy in barely human form known as Rick, who in my opinion I'm pretty sure, is the missing link that paleontologists have been searching for all of their professional careers.

Held together primarily by Monster energy drinks, pain pills, and sheer hubris, Rick presented as one of those people that all those after-school specials tried to warn you about. Arrogant as hell, he often clashed with Toni, and visibly chafed at having to take orders from her, as he helped push our customer product return rates through the roof, due to the fact he spent most of his time on the production floor running his mouth and acting as a vulgar distraction to my actually competent co-worker, Bernie. And nothing else by the way, makes you want to work alongside your co-worker on a commercial saw, then their constant bragging about engaging in hard drinking before 9 a.m., let me tell you.

And as an aside, now might be a good time to mention that Rick was also obsessive, engaging in unhinged meltdowns with the local homeless population as part of a clearly well thought out strategy of personal diplomacy, because nothing represents your company better than an employee threatening a dispossessed person that lives rough in the causeway behind your building who's trying to just get some sleep, with a totally unprovoked beating because they dared to attempt doing so in "your" alley. But maybe this all stemmed from that A.M. drinking he liked to brag about- I honestly don't know.

Granted, I did expect somewhat of a sea-change given the new line-up, but I didn't foresee what would eventually happen in regards to my work schedule, my responsibilities, and most importantly, my sense of self-worth. At the time, long before Toni and Rick would go on to darken my metaphorical doorstep, I had already seen my hours cut way beyond the normal parameters of what constitutes a standard part-time schedule, the excuse being that we "didn't have enough work", and yet, Rick was given a full 40 hour work-week laboring at most of my previous responsibilities, despite Ellen's claims he was only there to build storage bins and perform general duties. By the way. we had a full capacity of storage structures already built and in place long before he arrived, but I digress, as I hate glorifying obvious falsehoods.

In addition, let's all just forget to note the phone call and text he placed to me one day while I was thankfully off, asking if I could score him some pain pills, because fully unbeknownst to me, us Diabetics apparently are on some seriously heavy narcotics, if you exclude our predilection for mainlining Coca-Cola and Ding Dongs, along with our several standard daily shots of Insulin. That's heavy sarcasm by the way, for those of you in the back who arrived late.

Now at that point, I was still grinding along with a serious shoulder injury I had suffered earlier while in the employ of the company, but as of then, had not yet filed the workman's comp claim in regards to it, as I immediately did after my illegal termination. Why, you ask? Well, I needed the job, and prior to the management shift, I was essentially an assistant manager, in all but name only, and was tasked with product shipping and tracking, material inventory, overseeing the receiving of deliveries, opening/closing the warehouse, and filing the crucial end of day paperwork. Rick by the way, wasn't allowed anywhere near the access to the procedures like I initially was, but I'm sure Ellen has a rationalization for that too, if I were to hazard a guess.

However, by the end of my employment, my daily obligations had been brusquely abridged to sweeping the floor and occasionally doing the most basic data entry that Rick, the walking meat slab could not be trusted to do. I was also originally, the lone official
key-holder, but after Toni arrived, that responsibility was, without any form of rational explanation, taken away from me and never returned. Keep in mind, the entire time I was under employ there, I never once received any official rebuke, write-up, or period of suspension- EVER. To this day, I strongly believe that for whatever reason, Ellen was, previous to the hiring of Toni and Rick, trying to get rid of me by a form of not too subtle attrition. And to be quite frank, I wasn't going to give her the surplus ammunition she'd require to fire me.

Arizona is sadly after all, a right-to-work state, and I'm sure if she had been made aware of my limitation, a dire tidbit of knowledge I suspect my ex-supervisor Barry neglected to inform them of on purpose, she would have fired me on the spot, and of that, I have no doubts whatsoever. Keep in mind, that working with said injury only aggravated it more, but I had no choice. as there was literally nowhere I could go, and I had been SERIOUSLY looking for a new job since the first week I started there. But from the start of her tenure, besides being in way over her head, Toni also took a highly inappropriate interest in my ongoing health issues way past what some might consider to be the normal boundaries in regards to what truly constitutes the boss/worker relationship.

Toni was (at the time) morbidly obese, and came to work daily, wearing a knee brace, compression gloves, talking at length about the salves she used for her bad back, so naturally, she was an obvious go-to for asking how I should tackle my various health issues. Once again kids, that's sarcasm, and no, I'm not deriding someone's serious lack of well being, I'm just pointing out that somebody suffering with such, should keep their unsolicited and erroneous advice to themselves, since at that time, I already possessed a cabal of white-coated professionals trained in the medical dark arts.

Not to mention her penchant for eternally composing (on company time, no less) a never sent missive to Ellen, basically telling her to go f**k herself twelve ways to Sunday. That's definitely an ethical way to justify earning your paycheck, no matter which way you look at it. And as an employee, it definitely boosts one's morale to have your superior constantly ragging on the top boss as if they dumped you at the Prom. As I noted earlier, we all used to take great joy in mocking Ellen, but none of us ever approached it as if it were a viable career option. Shockingly, I don't need to be told by what is essentially a total stranger, to "eat better" or that I "should be at home working on my diabetes" nor am I open to any suggestions that Ashley (my GF) "doesn't know how to take care of me", a trio of stated discourtesies that if Toni had been a dude, would have been refuted by receiving both of my size 10&1/2 work-boots straight up that mass of extensive cellulite she refers to as her ass, without question or concern on my part.

I've already noted my assertion that Toni had no business being placed in a leadership role, but as evidence for what I consider an alleged lack of character, I would like to reiterate that in the official statement to AZAGCRD regarding my illegal dismissal, she talked at length about her not caring one bit about my diabetes, whilst constantly obsessing about my diabetes throughout it's narrative. Then, after being questioned, Toni abruptly quit working for my former employer, a detail the AZAGCRD investigator somehow missed, despite her inherent Jello-sharp instinct for ferreting out obvious contradictions within Toni's official retort.

Once again, that's heavy sarcasm for those of you in the back. And thus, the ending of the Italics proceeds.

But even with all that, I still was willing to let Toni's slanderous lies slide, as I had a new future in New Mexico to look forward to, and what would be the point of going after a person who along with her lack of credibility, also lacked anything financially worth taking? When I appear to be more fiscally stable than you, odds are pretty good you either need a better accountant, or need to snag a sugar-daddy who's into both congenital liars and betrayers of trust. But as what I thought was soon to be a settled issue (more on this in a bit) reared it's ugly head yet again, I realized that walking away was the wrong thing to do, given the principle of the thing, and the harm it's caused. So, while I'll be focused primarily on dealing with the soon to be discussed issue first, I'll concurrently be seeking legal damages against Toni personally as well- that means she won't have the cover of her former employer to hide behind, and I plan to use every legal method at my disposal... and that's a guarantee.

And if you're wondering why I just don't file an appeal with AZAGCRD, I counter with this thought- why would I place my faith again in an agency with an impotent bureaucracy, who couldn't do their conscripted jobs properly in the first place, and why would I depend on the naive belief that they'd do it correctly the second time around? Fool me once, that's on you. Fool me twice, that's either my personal idiocy or Tequila Jesus taking the wheel. Heck, maybe it's both, since they do have a legacy of working together as a unified team.

Let's face it, other than A Clockwork Orange, no truly good story has ever started with a glass of milk. Just saying. But there still was the issue of my filed workman's comp claim to be settled, and that is why the ol' Admantium claws have come out of storage, still sharp, rust free, and unlike my partially amputated left foot, ready to dance. When I filed my claim on (or close to) the day I was illegally fired, I assumed it would take some time, but over a year? Either the wheels of Justice turn really slow, or they're damn outright narcoleptic, a theorem proven after multiple attempts to settle this case with my former employers insurance company, The Hartford, who in my opinion as I noted earlier, is nothing more than an unethical grifting Ponzi scheme. Now, I do realize the sole purpose of most insurance companies is to avoid providing the service that they're paid extravagantly to supply, but these muck-dwelling carrion feeders take the proverbial cake in this regard.

My apologies. I feel the need to correct myself.

When you look at it more closely, "take" isn't really the best term to truly describe the absolutely odious malfeasance that I believe they willingly engage in, but I'm trying very hard to be diplomatic in the face of what I consider to be the closest I've ever been involved with an alleged white-collar crime ring. Why do I think this? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that they never talked to my first supervisor who was aware of my injury, never discussed my injury at any length with the doctor who diagnosed it, or even bothered to think of questioning the physical therapists who were working with me so that I could hopefully one day, reestablish the full range of motion back to my shoulder.

And in addition, they never once contacted my first supervisor Barry, who was my boss during that time period. It's known as "due diligence"  and it's what ethical companies do in order to solidly establish fault or exoneration. But why do that when the employer in question (without any evidence) claims that their former employee "didn't get hurt here". I guess I must have strained my supraspinatus trying to move their pile of bullshit out of the path of my life- who knew? A small and unintentionally humorous aside: when one of their treacle-oozing media customer relation reps (AKA: "a professional liar") called me in a pathetic attempt to cover the Hartford's metaphorical ass, I made the sarcastic comment that perhaps she thought I had hurt myself at home putting away a dish, and she responded, and I kid you not, with:

"I see nothing in the determination report that mentions any dishes."

Let's get real for a moment. We've all done dumb things. We've all said dumb things too, as it's a natural part of our being former monkey-brains with opposable thumbs who can occasionally fashion tools and to a lesser degree, television shows starring D-list celebutards. But with the non-existent God as my witness, most of us comprehended sarcasm long before we aged out of that whole paste-eating phase in Kindergarten, did we not? Keep your eyes on this dumb wench, boys and girls, because one day she's gonna be the Hartford's newest CEO.

Sigh... if one goes online to see what people think of this company, one can easily find scores of consumer complaints, ranging from the issue of stereo-typically poor customer service to charges of outright fraud. No wonder they're not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, as the BBB generally likes to know their client's check will clear.

Granted, online reviews are sometimes not worth the pixels that they're posted with, but there seems to be outwardly at least, the idea that they're not vaunted as reputable by many. And as someone who spent the last two days on the phone with these parasitic pinheads, I can easily attest that this overall consensus rings true for me. And if I may offer another insight? Soon after I was illegally fired at Engelsen, The Hartford had an open-house hiring drive at one of their locations in Arizona, which I attended, based on the recommendations of two of my GF's friends, who as current employees, waxed poetically about how great the company was to work for.

The fact that both of these people are as exciting as a glass of sun-warmed milk should have been a tip-off as to what was to come, but I desperately wanted another job where I didn't have to come home beat to a pulp every day, and so I went to the orientation. First, after being herded into a conference room by a person I would charitably describe as "working off a badly written script", we were presented with two trays of a refreshing snack combo , that being room-temperature bottled water, and wait for it, individually wrapped, single-serve, LifeSaver brand... mints. Looking back, I can only assume their caterer sent our actual munchies to the retirement community down the street, and we got theirs by mistake.

At that moment, I tried to leave discreetly, but found the only exit blocked by two more barely sentient Hartford houseplants who closed the door, and started the orientation off by playing what amounted to a full-on PR commercial for the company. Let me just put it out there for the future generations of workers yet to come, that nothing makes you want to work more for a company then when it forces you to sit through a narcissistic video circle-jerk, supplemented by unfettered access to tepid water and cloyingly noxious mints. I'm frankly amazed other companies don't utilize this approach more often, as it seems like a real winner. A casual heads-up? When everyone in a corporate video and the presenters of said video themselves start tossing the buzz-phrase "Work/Life Balance" around as if they own the royalty rights to it, you should be suspicious as all get out.

What this innocuous idiom really means is that the company expects you to put your job ahead of your life, that's why "work" comes first in that word duo. How was this made clearly obvious to me, you ask? Other than the fact I heard it no less that eight times in the video, where at least one of the "employees" made sure to mention that his "work family" was just as important as his real one, it was dropped into conversation at least another ten during the Q&A section of the conference room orientation, where the Hartplant twins kept saying how much "fun" and money was to be had, but only if people were willing to work the multiple 10-12 hour shifts available.

Hard to believe that in the end, I gave all of this a hard pass, huh?

But if you think having no life outside of your job, slaving away for a company that will use your life-essence to sell a service begrudgingly given to the dupes who paid for it, and that only after being threatened with legal action, sounds like one heck of a good time, who am I to dissuade you? And given the fact that they already had an in-house contingent doing that anyways, it was obvious their recruitment pitch worked on some level, that clearly being the one that houses all the lonely people. Sure, we were politely asked not to talk to or ask any questions of the work/life warriors at the facility, but hey... wasn't that one heck of an employees break-room we just showed you, boys and girls? Now, I won't as a rule speak for you, my loyal readers, but I've always liked to think that my soul and social life would demand a higher asking price for their submission than a Foosball table and free vanilla lattes.

Throw in some free pizza, if not an Asian stripper wearing thigh boots, for God's sakes. Make it worth my while at least.

Now outside of the brainwashing they hope works on their employees, is the mewling rationalizing that they hope will work on you. When I noted that I had not heard anything from them, despite three letters, one inquiry on Twitter, and half a dozen phone calls, I was rudely informed that my claim had been denied months earlier, with no explanation given. It took an additional four phone calls, and the better part of a day and a half, to be informed of their bullshit excuse that because my Doctor had not expressively noted his diagnosis of my injury as a work-related injury, therefore it was not a work-related injury. And no, I'm not making that up. Despite several months of physical therapy for an injury CONSISTENT with the type of work I was doing, once again, The Hartford, without talking to my therapists or my first supervisor, decided that I wasn't injured at work at all.

Because it makes way more sense that one day, for no reason whatsoever, I decided to go randomly engage in months of unnecessary stretching, lifting weights, having ice-packs strapped to me, and sweating my skin off in order to make sure various assorted personal trainers got paid, and I wouldn't see dime one. Anybody who knows me that I walk a lot, but I don't play sports, I don't hike, I don't work out, and I sure as Hell don't lift. If I drop something on the floor, I weigh whether it's easier to either buy a new one, or actually pick it up. The only time I'll engage in non-work related physicality is if sex or Ding-Dongs are on the table, and even then, It's has to be something I really want to do. And trust me, if I had received this injury doing something manly or sexy, I'd have already written about it here, bragged about it on FaceBook, and then posted a hilarious meme in regards to it on Instagram.

But I do have to give The Hartford's alleged customer service reps one thing, they tried every way to call me a liar and fraud, without using the actual words to do so. But then again, it's not like they know how to respond with answers that aren't scripted anyway, so perhaps I'm giving them too much credit to begin with. But on the upside, they've seemingly got the "work" part of their bullshit slogan right, because given their inability to come across as actual people, they might need to work on that "life" half when they're done doing a flawless impression of a RICO case defendant. So this week begins anew, with me filing yet more forms with the Arizona Industrial Commission, tracking down my former supervisor so I can file a claim against her in civil court, and getting a host of other errands done as well, because let's face it, I love both the art of multi-tasking, and swiftly crossing items off of lists.

Once more into the breech is seemingly where I find myself at the moment, and if I have to go down swinging, I honestly can't think of a better reason to do so, than in defense of both my honor and my principles, can you? And while I can't possibly dent the skin of the arrogant human-suit that is The Hartford, I can definitely (and legally) scratch the paint off both my former employer and their deceitful ex-employee, without breaking too much of a sweat, I hope. And if not...

Well, I'll always have Yelp.

"There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?" - Woody Allen















Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Latest Chapter. (Same Bitch, New Tricks.)


"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go."- Dr. Seuss, "Oh the Places You'll Go!"

Hello, Blogiteers!

It is yet another beautiful day out here in the splendor that is Silver City, NM. The sun is shining, the clouds are puffy, the birds are singing, and the sky is the color of blue you've only seen in old Westerns and when you're choking out a Smurf in the ambient gloom of your crawlspace. Idyllic, by and large. But as with all things that are seemingly bucolic, there co-exists within a dark and seedy underbelly, unobserved by even the sharpest of eyes. What is this menace that sows it's evil under the carapace of many names, summoned by sugary drinks and worshiped by overpriced medical specialists with withered souls and blackened hearts?

Some of you may have guessed by the subtle clues, it's my old go-to nemesis, also known as Diabetes, or as I like to reference it, the blood-monster nobody writes operas about. As a rule of thumb, I'm pretty much ok with the majority of my adult responsibilities- sure, paying bills does suck, and having to always wear "real" pants when you go outside does tend to put a kibosh on one's good mood every now and then, but the knowledge that I can have pizza and ice cream for breakfast any time I want* does act as a salve of sorts.

*[UPDATE: I have just been informed, and rather tersely I might add, by my GF Ashley that I cannot in fact, "have pizza and ice cream for breakfast any time I want", citing my said brittle Diabetes as the core reason for her belief. In addition, it was also noted that it would also be a "cold day in El Azizia" before she, I, and that gothically hot girl who works at my favorite coffee-shop would ever get physically creative in a tub full of Cool-Whip and Jello. I can only assume that she's worried about my blood sugar spiking, which in of itself, is actually quite responsible on her part, when you look at the situation overall.]

For those of you painfully familiar with my writing, I tend to mine my diabetic condition  every now and then, both for blog fodder and as a means to blow off the 24/7 stress of having to deal with it, notwithstanding the complications it brings to my personal Lair of Snarkitude. Unfortunately, I can't use my doorstep's automatic trapdoor system to get it off my back like I tend to do with missionaries and those annoying kids who sell candy at three times it's price for their school's band camp program, but you get the idea. If I had to do it all over again, I'd make sure to pick a condition that either comes with a built-in Lifetime movie, such as fighting a corrupt City Hall, or a sense of true adventure, that being abducted by Aliens, or "Grays" as they're known within the cosmically hip circles.

I definitely would not have chosen this as my go-to back-story, given what it's cost me over the years, that being one already fatally flawed relationship, my ability to paint and draw, multiple gastric issues, feeling like an overly prodded lab rat, and my personal favorite so far, the forced liberation of chunks from my left foot, resulting in a walking style charitably once described as "the swagger of an overly drunken pirate" to which I can only use the rejoinder of "eat your heart out, Captain Jack Sparrow". Speaking of said traitorous foot, I find myself swimming within the prosthetic technology river, and so far, my options seem to be rather wide, in relation to where shoe-based fashion is concerned.

Recently, my medical peeps set it up for me to have my foot cast* in order to create a custom insert, which in theory, should limit the need to rely on my cane so much. Say what you will, but if I ever get famous enough to get my footprints placed in front of Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theater, mine are definitely gonna be more interesting to look at than Errol Flynn's, let me tell you.

Even so, I may still decide to keep the cane, because it does add considerable weight to the whole "mysterious stranger in a small-town" mystique thing I'm currently crafting. In addition, I'll hopefully be getting a sexy state of the art insulin pump* along with a brand-new CGM system**, and if all goes to prescripted plan, I'm just one bionic eye and red 70's jogging suit away from being the next Steve Austin***, sans the cool sound effects and occasional Bigfoot appearance.**** I'm so looking forward to getting this tech that I'm almost willing to overlook the fact that the med-lab out here not only failed to do all the blood tests they were supposed to do, they somehow LOST MY BLOOD as well, which gives me the impression that certain technicians in charge of my future health couldn't arrange a fellatio session in a bordello, but I digress.

[*Just look at this tech- it literally does everything, save giving me an erotic backrub, and I'm sure that will be an option relatively soon.
**A Continuous Glucose Monitor measures the body's glucose levels in real-time by sensing the glucose present in tissue fluid, and are truly awesome, because it cuts way back on the whole "jab a freaking spike into your fingertips" thing. A CGM works through a tiny sensor inserted under your skin, usually on your belly or arm. The sensor measures your interstitial glucose level, which is the glucose found in the fluid between the cells. The sensor tests glucose every few minutes, and then a transmitter wirelessly sends the information to a monitor. Science. It's just not for accidentally creating armies of the Undead or Kardashians anymore.
***Steve Austin had superhuman strength due to bionic implants inserted after an accident, and was employed as a secret agent by a fictional U.S. government office titled the OSI. He also had a bionic girlfriend named Jamie Summers, and while I know you're expecting me to make several off-color jokes about oil changes and keeping his piston lubed and polished, I'm going to opt for the high road on this one. 

 And as an aside, the Six Million Dollar Man Bionic Transport and Repair Station toy was the motherf**king bomb.   
**** This was a thing. It actually happened. And we as a country, are all better for it.]


Getting back on track, my first three articles and two photo-shoots for a regional New Mexico publication are finished, which in theory, could lead to further writing and photo opportunities out here, or so I hope. At this stage in my life, I think I'm pretty much done working for a fiefdom type gig- If I ever feel the need to go work for a truly arrogant idiot again, I'll just cut out the middleman and go straight to my Dad. That title of course, being honorary, as he's never had any idea how to do the job in the first place. As I've explained to friends and strangers alike, I'm the end result of immigrant parents, one German, the other Sicilian, who for some strange and as yet unknown reason where the Universe is concerned, decided not to listen to the grand Cosmos in all of it's Wisdom, and bred a trio of children with whom they could equally and with a varying degree of success, turn their own individual projected disappointments and failures into cavernous psychological scars.

In other words, the stereotypical American family.  As I've often said, we're the ones who truly put the "fun" in "dysfunctional", no matter what my therapists say.

I recently heard a comedian describe their family as cardboard cutouts sitting around a dining room table, and if that doesn't describe my family dynamic to a T, I don't know what does. My mother is for all purposes, a lying narcissist, my father a clueless one, and my youngest brother is essentially a disturbingly distilled version of them both, but with an added dash of arrogance that makes me look like Bob Ross. My older sister on the other hand, is totally good peeps, so there is that. To give you an idea of just how fractured, if not emotionally isolated my so-called family is, my parents and younger brother don't know that I moved out of Phoenix, they don't know where I currently live, they don't know about my amputation surgery, and they sure as Hell don't know anything about what I do for a living. And obviously, none of them are readers, either. Unless you count pop-up books as actual adult literature the way they do, that is.

Heck, if any of them actually know how to turn on a laptop without the aid of a tutorial given by hand-puppets, I will literally eat a case of knock-off Ding-Dongs as an act of recovering Catholic contrition. But in their limited defense, they always did have an opinion as to how I should live my life, even if all evidence and reality pointed to the contrary, and this has never wavered even in the face of their own shortcomings and failures, of which there are too many to note.

Sorry for the unforeseen Freudian lay-down, but one of the side-effects of living in a place where I can actually breathe and relax for the first time in 20 years, is the time to do some serious self-reflection. Granted, having yet another go-around with your mortality is another aspect that helps this inner conversation, and as a means to underscore my POV, I will quote Thor, the God of Thunder: "The rage, vengeance, anger, loss, regret, they're all tremendous motivators. They truly clear the mind... so, I'm good to go." Now, that's not to imply that I'm walking around with my Admantium claws unsheathed, snarling at the common rabble, but my tolerance for dealing with sheer ignorance has been severely truncated as of late, whether it's been on Twitter or in the real world.

Speaking of which, I was permanently banned from the Twitverse a while back, and it feels great, knowing that I've vexed conservatives and faux Christians to the point where they felt the need to rally en masse- to get me banned is almost a badge of honor for this ol" Snark, let me tell you. And sure, their decision was and is based on sheer hypocrisy, considering whom they've let remain, but I'll defer from commenting on that... for now.

As I've often said before, I don't care that you think differently, as long as you have made it clear that you're THINKING in the first place. No debunked conspiracy theories. No weak debates based on emotion over facts. And I definitely don't want to hear any racist, misogynistic, homophobic, jingoistic, xenophobic, elitist and wholly uniformed opinions either. I get enough of that every singe time I run into a Trump supporter, and let's face it- they're more than holding up that end for their ilk. If anything, I think I'm moving into a position of reinvention for both myself and my focus of what I truly wish to do now and in the future. And at the very least, it definitely does not involve anyone who purposely gets in the way of my destiny, whatever course that may chart.

Aside from my personal cabal of impotent cyber-stalkers, I usually don't have to deal with too much animosity within the place I currently live, which is a very nice change from where I was in Phoenix not too long ago. And since I haven't made too wide of an inroad within the local Arts community yet, it's also been rather nice being a metaphorical fly on the wall in regards to interacting with my fellow Creatives. It's definitely a nice pace I've set for myself here, and coalescing my facets as a writer and artist certainly hasn't hurt the self-recovery process either. It's such a relief not having to write about (or experience) the worst aspects of the Phoenix Art Scene anymore- I literally feel these days like I was paroled right before the penitentiary was nuked, and it's foundational ruins camouflaged with overpriced condos and shitty corporate murals.

Say what you want about Phoenix's obsessive need to undermine it's own road towards actual progress, at least it does it well and with stunning consistency. Now for some, there has been what might be considered as bright points of light in relation to the Scene, but when looked at with a practical eye, are they really? Many are hyped about the plans by Sant Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf to open a boutique hotel in Phoenix's so-called Downtown Arts corridor, but if a city can't even economically support the majority of it's artists, can it really sustain an overpriced flavor of the moment niche hotel? I for one, am quite cynical that it can, but what do I know? I only have my well-established track record of calling it right for the last decade or so to draw my conclusions from, and it's not like that ever carried any weight with those who consider themselves as an influencing force within the scene.

What is worth looking at however, given how some blithely dismissed my point of view in the past, is why I'm still being asked to write about what's going on in the PAS, even though I've lived in New Mexico for almost a year now, and have zero interest in doing so any longer. I've served my time in the pointless PHX art advocacy army, I've bought the
trendy t-shirt and ate the fatty hamburger, and I'm more than happy to have turned over this thankless task to anyone who in time, and like myself, will eventually come to truly understand that it presents as nothing more than a series of confrontational and wholly circular arguments with people who are more interested in calling themselves Artists, rather than backing it up with solid work, forward progress, and self-benefitting economic stability.

The overall absurdity of people asking for my continued input in regards to a scene I no longer have any interest promoting past the point of calling attention to certain peeps within it, can be best summed up by this quote from my fellow Creative and Obi-Wan of Snark, Artist Peter Petrisko:

"As somebody in a position to write about the arts scene, it's discouraging to find out that all the news tips are being sent to a dude in New fuckin' Mexico. #ThatsSoPHX though! :( "

Now don't get me wrong, it's nice to be missed, but not when the only reason that people do is because they think they can continue in their attempts to use you as their personal hitman. I'm here to carry my own axe, as it should be, not to do the wet-work for others. As the saying goes, my plate is full. But at least it's topped off with something I'm happy to be chewing on, for the first time in a while. Say what you will about the metaphorical politics and limitations of a small-town art scene, but at least the Creatives here strike as authentic in how they deal (or don't) with you. One of the highly understated perks of anonymously starting from scratch within a new Lair of Snarkitude, is that you can observe the lay of the land from the shadows of your parapet, before reinventing and presenting yourself to a scene that's never heard of you, but hopefully, soon will.

Along those lines, my home studio is finally starting to feel like a creative space after almost a year of being tweaked, re-tweaked, and blankly stared at. All it really needs now is a double-wide papasan chair, and an additional bookcase, and I'll be ready to rock out with my Diet Coke out, come this Fall. But overall, things here are pretty ok- I've got a fairly Zen office* away from home that comes complete with a bar and the best medium green chile bacon cheeseburger I've ever had in my life, along with being perfectly situated on the busiest corner in this town, where the people watching is excellent, and three cars backed up is considered a traffic jam.
*[That "office" BTW, is called The Little Toad Creek Brewery and Distillery, and I swear on all that's holy, the entire wait-staff is disturbingly gorgeous. I don't know what the stats are on that, but I'm thinking I need to go buy some lottery tickets right quick to take advantage of this anomaly within the time/space continuum.]


I will admit however, to feeling a tad bit weird in relation to the fact of how laid-back I find myself these days. If you had told me 20 years ago that I was ever going to be living in a nice 3-bedroom house, complete with curtains and coasters, in a small town where I would find myself willingly waving "hello" at strangers, I would have glared frigidly, punched you in the throat for spewing such inanity, and then, after throwing your girlfriend on the back of my bike, would have roared off into the sunset, laughing darkly.

You know... like you do.

But time heals all wounds, polishes off some of the rough edges, and if you're lucky, also has enough consistent memory lapses to make your transition from the old life to the new one that much easier. And let's face it, one's health being bad also tends to take your pole position of being relevant down a few notches, whether you want to admit it or not. That's not to say I've been sitting on my butt as of late, far from it- but my need to be on the go constantly has been immensely reduced as my time here goes on. Or maybe it's just old age settling in, and given another week or so, I'll be yelling at the neighborhood kids to get the hell off my front lawn, as I add yet another of their errant footballs to my ever-growing collection. Yeah, go tell your Dad, Timmy- I'll be waiting right here.

Hence as I sit here at The Toad, writing this blog, listening to awesome 80's New Wave Pop music, (Is that Sigue Sigue Sputnik's "Love Missile F1-11"?!? AWESOME!!) I find myself creatively recharged in a way I haven't been for quite some time, and it's a nice change of pace from the position and scene I was up to my neck in for the last 25+ years. It's amazing how your priorities shift back to yourself, once you're able to get away from yourself, if you know what I mean. And if all goes well, I'll be able to figure my own narrative out as I work on the craft of telling other peoples stories.

Well, that's the plan, anyway. And those always go the way you want them to, right?

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
- Andy Warhol,The Philosophy of Andy Warhol