All That Really Matters…

It’s that time of year again. Most of my life I have approached the holidays with a combination of dread and loathing. From my earliest memory I still can feel the disappointment and fear that comes from being a child in tough economic times – money, or more rightly the lack thereof- was guaranteed to get Mom and Dad at each other’s throats.

Christmas time was always a really turbulent time of the year. Dad, especially, always wanted to do the large and lavish holiday things but the money wasn’t there. So he would get bitter and depressed. If only he would have known that a quiet and frugal observance of the Incarnation and birth of Christ with sharing and love would have been so much better than just another series of money fights.

It was better to put up simple decorations and lights and to make homemade candy with Grandma than to dance around the tension at home.

I have gotten to the point where I can barely tolerate the retail bonanza that accompanies the holiday season. I love Advent and the religious observance of Christmas. I can even get into the decorations and baking, but no, I am not into buying tons of crap for people who (like me) do not need tons of crap.  Meaningful, needful and useful gifts are one thing, especially for someone you know is in need, but simply procuring a piece of vapid kitsch to wrap up so you can say you gave someone a gift is just not my thing.

Maybe that sounds sort of Scroogish but there’s no need to get me anything either. I do not need any bath sets, Walmart knockoffs of colognes that give me migraines, or socks and granny panties.  I don’t mind a good gag gift, a raunchy calendar or good theological books (that I would have to choose…)   The only things I really want are intangible anyway.

And off to the intangibles. I really want that one thing I have found to be so elusive- to be loved, to belong, to be accepted the way I am even though I wasn’t made for this world.

That’s a lot to ask, and maybe even wrong to ask, but who knows?

Holiday Survival, Still Remaining Vertical, and Pragmatic as Usual

winter tree

Winter.  Pretty, but it kinda sux.  At least the holidays are almost over.

 

I survived.

I purposely avoided making any holiday commentary this year, because I’ve been there before.  I’ve seen and photographed endless tacky Christmas light displays.  I’ve already dished on the annoying relatives I’d rather avoid.  I’ve said my peace regarding the big gropy gatherings where someone always thinks that 800º F is an acceptable room temperature, as I’m sweating to death in the corner, wishing I’d left hours ago.  I smile and put on my best behavior when Jerry is channeling his inner asshole for the yuletide festivities, and as usual, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I make myself scarce while he gets blitzed and feels sorry for himself.

saran wrapped drunk

I should do this the next time Jerry passes out- so I can keep the mess confined to one place.

Jerry doesn’t interact well with my family, and I feel obligated to go hang out with them on holidays, so I choose the lesser of two evils.  The house is positively untenable when Jerry’s ripped and on a rant, which is guaranteed during the holidays.  My family are mostly loud and obnoxious people, and it’s generally not pleasant being surrounded by their noise and bickering, but they are mild compared to Jerry when he’s going on and on about how much ____ sucks or how I don’t “do enough” for him.  Most of my family, with the exceptions of Steve-o and Dad, get on my nerves, but they drink a lot less than Jerry does.  I really didn’t want to hang out and watch Jerry go the zoo on his first Christmas without both his mother and his best friend Bob.  That’s an experience I was good to do without, and since I’m sure he doesn’t remember much beyond the first 12 pack, I see it (even though I loathe sports analogies) as no harm, no foul.  Jerry’s lonely drunk-and-stupids remind me of that age old quandary: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, was there a noise?  If he’s drunk and stupid but I don’t have to hear it, then it didn’t happen, no?

pinktree

The pink tree complete with the buzzard on the top will stay lit up in the living room until New Year’s, then I will put that stuff away for another year.  Then I get to settle in for two months (or so) of Februarys- dark, dismal and blessedly (hopefully) quiet, until about the middle of March.  I can only hope in the mid-to-late winter funk that somewhere I will find time to read and think and just be. I’ve been scattered in so many directions lately that I really need that ivory tower time in a bad way.

lonely place

I need solitude, but I can never seem to get enough of it.

 

This year wasn’t as depressing as Christmases go.  I actually had the resources to gift people in a reasonably acceptable manner, which is a big deal to me.  I like to treat people well when I can and be generous if I can, and I am thankful for having the means to do so at least in a small way.  I am not a wealthy woman by any stretch of the imagination, so nobody got anything really awesome from me, but if nothing else they got a little something useful.

So another year bites the dust.  Another day (year) closer to death (if I may sort of paraphrase Roger Waters and Pink Floyd) and not too much to show for it.  I can, however, take solace in the truth that I can’t take it with me.  The inevitability of death isn’t as depressing knowing that I’m not leaving behind a mansion, pool boy, or a garage full of tasty performance cars.  That attitude is pragmatism at work. All I can do is try to do the best I can today.

 

 

 

 

The World’s Still Here (Told You So) and the White Death Returneth

end-of-the-world snake food

The world obviously didn’t end on Friday, December 21, just like it didn’t end on May 11, 2011 or in 2000, or 1988 or 1986 or any of those other dates set by people who desperately look for meaning in the writing of the ancients and/or the scattered patterns of the skies.

It would be easier that way, maybe, but I don’t really want my life any more scheduled than it has to be.  Routine is one thing, but scheduling all activities down to the minute is bullshit.  I can imagine that might be part of the reason why today’s kids are so apeshit.  I mean, most of them have to get up way early to go to the sitter before school, then spend all day at school with every second micromanaged, only to stay after school to play sport “A” and/or do activity “B” which is also micromanaged, and then come home to a late dinner and chores, fall asleep, and repeat the same noise the next day.

daily_schedule_prekinderThis would drive me apeshit as an adult, let alone as a freaking four year old!  I really can’t schedule my whiz times.

There’s not much room for any quiet contemplation in that kind of rat race.  I don’t respond to micromanagement well, and I don’t generally function well as a part of a group.   What if I want to stare at the wall when everyone else is dancing about the room? I would be royally screwed if I would have to adhere to a day care schedule, let along to be a middle school or high school kid today.  Granted, very few if any people share my need for copious quantities of solitude, but I’m sure that after awhile the lack of spontaneity and absence of breathing room would- given time- have to disturb even the most extroverted neurotypical.

It’s not that I’m so averse to having a schedule- as long as it’s mine and not one imposed upon me.  It’s one thing if I set aside time for an activity that I’m interested in doing, and quite another if it’s something someone else schedules for me that I’d rather not be doing.  There are also some things- like bodily functions- that just really don’t occur on a regular schedule, at least not for me.  I take a lot of blood pressure meds, I like my coffee, and I don’t have much bladder capacity.  I have to stay within reasonable proximity to a toilet.

I think that’s why holidays and so forth are so stressful for me- strange toilets.  In all seriousness, there are people I want to see and spend time with, and others I’d really rather avoid.  This Christmas I was pretty fortunate in that I spent most of the day with Steve-o (someone I did want to spend time with) and got to spend most of the day Sunday with my granddaughter (who I also wanted to spend time with) so I’m cool.  I don’t need and I certainly don’t enjoy big formal parties and such.

ballroom gown meAll dressed up, (and this looks itchy to boot) with nowhere to go.

As far as the End of the World, I say let that be a surprise.  There are some things I don’t think I really want to know about in advance.

Central Ohio is positioned in a sort of strange place in relation to weather fronts.  It’s far enough south of the lake that we don’t get the “lake effect snow” that Cleveland and other cities too far north for human habitation experience.  Columbus proper- or at least within the confines of I-270- sits in a bit of a valley.  It rains a lot and it floods easily, but we get far less snow than the hinterlands up north.  There’s a huge difference in snowfall just in going 15-20 miles further north.  Most of the really wicked weather fronts end up either staying north or sort of blowing around us.  So when forecasters say the White Death is coming to Central Ohio, I believe it when I see it.  Far too often we’re supposed to get some huge-ass storm, the mere mention of which sets everyone off raiding the grocery stores on their quests for Velveeta cheese and Marlboros, and instead of White Death of the Apocalypse we get either a shitload of rain (that’s the default for Central Ohio anyway) or a piddly dusting of snow that doesn’t even warrant me putting on boots.

Velveeta-cheese1marlborosRedneck priorities- screw the milk and bread- we need smokes, and Velveeta cheese is good all by itself!

Yesterday we actually had a substantial snow- about 4″ or so within I-270.  Despite the arrival of the White Death, I was quite able to get to work and get home in my nice little Hello Kitty Yaris.  I think the traction control light came on once.

Maybe I’m jaded because the snow situation is very different where I come from, even though it’s only about 50 miles away.  I remember one surprise storm up in the hinterlands all too well.  My sister and I ended up pulling cars out of ditches with her ’68 VW Bug and a tow rope.    She had snow tires on the back of it which came in handy.  I also remember off-roading in snow-covered cornfields with VW Rabbits.  They’re geared low and are fairly high off the ground, so they would go through a lot more than one would think by their size.

1983-volkswagen-rabbit-gti1983- when Reagan was president, the air was dirty but sex was clean, and Steve Perry wore Spandex.  Damn, I should not have sold my ’83 GTI.

Misplaced and Out of Time, Airing Out the Christmas Baggage

traditional-christmas-decorations-21-554x554This is TV Christmas.  Christmas in my home has NEVER looked like this.

It just struck me this morning.  I was thinking about the one part of the secular Christmas stuff-you-have-to-do nightmare that was actually something to look forward to- going to my Grandma’s.  Grandma had lots of cheap and kitschy old decorations from the 1950’s and 1960’s, including the aluminum foil looking tree and the really fruity looking elves, and the hollow plastic Frosty with the lightbulb stuck up his ass.  She had a good number of decorations she had made herself too, which I thought were far more aesthetically pleasing than light-bulb-up-the-ass Frosty, but there was room for everything.  Her display was rather eclectic.  I enjoyed helping Grandma put up that corny kitsch, (and the pretty stuff she made) which was all carefully labelled, stored and you knew exactly where everything was supposed to go.  Grandma enjoyed Christmas and all the decorating, cooking and baking that went with it.  Her candy and pies and cookies were 100% homemade, and 100% legendary.

redneck-christmas2Jerry probably grew up with Christmas more like this.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the Christmas story and I love the way that God came to us as a human and that Jesus lived here on earth with us in a flesh and blood human body.  I love the season of Advent and observing Advent and Christmas as part of the church year.  It’s the materialism and the formalities and the stuff that people think you have to do that really gets on my nerves.  The world could do a lot more with more quiet contemplation on what Christmas really is about rather than running around spending money they don’t have buying crap for other people that they really don’t need.  Just my two cents’ worth on that.  When the “celebrations” turn into being too expensive, too awkward and just plain another whole big stress, it’s time to re-examine the whole hoo-hah and maybe just drop out of a few things.

NativitySceneThe real Christmas story (not Santa Claus or the kid with the BB gun) features a miraculous birth.  It was about God becoming man and coming to earth to save humanity.  I don’t care how much money someone has, you can’t top that gift.  Materialists, you might as well go ahead and admit defeat now.

As far as secular holiday celebrations go, I can cook.  The only thing I don’t do that Grandma always did is I don’t make my own pie crust.  It’s too easy and less expensive to buy the rolled sheets of pie crust than it is to try to deal with just the right ratio of Crisco-to-flour.  I have the delightfully tacky pink Christmas tree with blissfully tacky kitschy ornaments including a buzzard, (Jerry will not allow a live tree in the house, because Mr. Let’s-Get-Wasted-and-Start-a-Fire-With-Gasoline-in-the-Fireplace deems them to be “fire hazards”) and (less one Wiseman, because of someone’s bad decision to use gasoline in the fireplace) the Nativity set Grandma got for me the year before she died.

But it’s hard for me to get into the Christmas biz these days.  The traffic pisses me off.  The crowds in everyplace from Target to the Speedway station piss me off even more.  I don’t have the money to buy gifts for people the way I would like to.  I don’t have the time to do the crafts and cooking which made Christmastime fun like what Grandma used to do.  Jerry goes off on his I’m-so-depressed holiday funk that lasts from December until the end of February, and it just plain drives me batshit.  And to top it all off the past few years, I’ve been spending Christmas at my oldest sister’s, and that leaves me feeling more like the turd in the punchbowl than anything. I might have to break with that latter day tradition and do anything that does not require me to be around my sister’s boorish father-in-law as he’s swilling Chardonnay and catatonically staring at the football game.  Perhaps I will take the camera and go to the west end of Marion and take some tacky Christmas pics.  That is always fun.

72 super beetle sleighMy condolences to the unfortunate ’72 Super Beetle that’s flying high in this rather grotesque display.

Then this morning- I had a very sad longing, a sort of a dark epiphany.  I realized the reason why the holiday cheer was getting on my nerves more than usual.  As a kid, the best part of Christmas was the afternoon.  Grandma and Grandpa would have dinner ready, and it was an elaborate spread.  Everything from turkey to homemade cream pie and homemade candy, egg nog,  scalloped potatoes, you name it, it was there.  They had presents and goodies but that wasn’t the allure. There was something about the whole atmosphere in their house.  It wasn’t high faluting like the house in the picture.  It was modest, it was clean, it was perfect in an unpretentious way, and it was home.  Truth be told, my grandmother’s house seemed more like home to me than my own home.  Grandma was safe.  There were no heated arguments over money or the lack thereof at her house, or being treated to Mom and Dad constantly picking at each other about this or that petty issue.  My sisters were not allowed to beat on me with impunity as they normally could do at home, and most of the time when I was at Grandma’s they were somewhere else which was even better.

redneck whitey tightiesGrandma never decorated with whitey tighties, but now I am seeing some real motivation to decorate and innovate!

Now there’s a stranger living in Grandma’s house.  Grandma died back in 2009, though in all fairness she and Grandpa had both started declining not long after Steve-o was born.  Grandpa died in 2006 aged 91, after only three days in the hospital, and ten years after he had his bicuspid valve replaced (which was the first time since WWII that he’d been in a hospital for any reason.)  Grandma unfortunately died a more sad and lingering death from pancreatic cancer, heart failure and liver failure at age 93, a little more than three years after Grandpa died.  It was hard seeing her lose her sight from macular degeneration so for the last ten years of her life she wasn’t able to do the sewing and crochet and other crafts she loved.  I guess that’s why I hope and pray that my time comes quickly when the time comes, but you get what you get.

redneck-christmas-lightsNo, I am not going out and buying tampons to do this, (I am still delighted that I’ve been able to skip that aisle at the store for over three years now) but I never thought a feminine hygiene item could be made so festive!

Grandma’s house is still there but it’s not the same.  I’m sure the lady that rents it from Dad is alright.  Dad generally tries not to rent to serial killers and nut jobs, although his last renter’s family were pretty crazy after he died and they left the place a disaster area. I’ve not met her but she does have a lovely Pitbull that Dad says is a very sweet dog.  I think what bothers me even more than knowing that there’s a stranger living in Grandma’s house is that I’m not able to be anywhere near as involved in my own grandchild’s life as my Grandma was in mine.  I seldom get to see Sophia, and even when I can, I am beholden to her mother’s schedule and whims.  To make that even worse, I live an hour’s drive away.  I can’t live in the safe house across the field.  Her mother doesn’t want her to be in my house, because she doesn’t trust Jerry, and Jerry smokes in the house.  If I want to see my granddaughter I have to either go to her mother’s house or take her to my parents’ house.  I cherish any time I can spend with her, but I don’t see where I am going to be able to have much influence in her life.  It saddens me.

kissmyassBut, as far as doing what I want to do with secular holiday celebrations, I think this is the best suggestion of all.

Lost in the Translation, Christmas for ‘Po Folks, and Helpful Holiday Dos and Don’ts

I guess “don’t” number one would be: Don’t buy Japanese Christmas cards.  “Chimney” and “Hole” serve similar functions, but are not always interchangeable words.  The nuances of the English language are difficult enough for native speakers, let alone for those who attempt to translate other languages into English.  I know a few native Japanese whose English is at least as good if not better than most Midwestern rednecks’, but these are people who were taught English as well as Japanese from infancy.  However, the most hilarious bad English translations come from the Asian countries, as one may peruse on Engrish.com.

I love the meaning behind the Christmas holiday, but I tend to loathe what our hedonistic society has turned it into.  How much useless crap can one buy for people who don’t need any more useless crap?  How much do I need to reiterate that I don’t need anyone to buy me any useless crap? Now I can use cash and/or Kroger’s or Target gift cards, (help with scripts and groceries is always welcome) but beyond that, it’s really, really OK to refrain from buying me anything.  I don’t need any decorative items, cooking utensils, instructional books, or really anything else that I haven’t already made it a point to acquire or that I can’t afford and therefore don’t need anyway.  I am fussy about clothing and prefer to choose my own.  Many years of wearing my sisters’ old clothes and of Mom picking clothes out for me have made me rather adamant in my clothing choices. I do dress for both economy and comfort, although I like things to fit, and I avoid colors that make me appear jaundiced and/or dead.  This is why I shudder when Mom tries to buy me clothes.  I am not ten years old.  I’m not planning on growing, so I don’t need clothing that’s five sizes too big, and I look hideous in brown, green, orange and/or yellow.  Mom tries, she really does, but sometimes I wonder what she’s thinking when she buys me stuff.  I am still trying to wrap my mind around my mother’s last well-meant, but horribly inappropriate gift to me.  Please don’t buy cookie cutters for a diabetic.  You might as well buy a double amputee a pair of stillettos, or a bra for a rooster.

The commercials on TV are downright disgusting.  Maybe if I woke up on Christmas morning to find a Lexus in my driveway with a big red bow on it, or if I were to unwrap some of that high faluting jewelry with real diamonds and gold that won’t turn me green, I might have a different take on the whole business, but the odds of me receiving either the Lexus or the diamond jewelry are about the same as if I were to wake up and discover that I had been transformed into Demi Moore overnight.  Anyone who knows me knows that the chances of anything listed above actually happening are slimmer than a snowball’s chance in hell.  Knowing Jerry, if he were ever to break down and buy me a Christmas or birthday gift it would probably be a twelve pack of beer, because he knows I don’t drink beer, and I would end up giving it back to him by default.

Radio this time of year is even worse than TV, as the local rock/metal station bombards us with daily ads for the local strip joint’s Christmas party, to be held all day on Christmas day.  It’s bad enough that there are pathetic jackoffs out there who are so morally bankrupt that they would make a conscious decision to spend Christmas day in a strip joint in the company of fellow perverts and strippers, but to make an occasion of it, and to hype it up on the radio, is even more pathetic.  One would think there could be one day for licentiousness to take a holiday, but I guess not.

“Don’t” number two would have to be: Don’t spend Christmas anywhere it is necessary to deposit money in anyone’s underwear in exchange for a lap dance.

Now that I’ve shared a couple of “don’ts,” I probably should include a couple of “dos” to at least sound more positive.  “Do” number one is: Avoid the in-laws.  I made the obligatory appearance at the family holiday party last Saturday night which should exempt me from making an appearance with my in-laws until the same time next year.

“Do” number two is: Do bring activities to occupy the idle hours when the relatives fall asleep.  I have a hard time falling asleep when I am not in my own bed.   Note to self: Bring the charger for the DS, as the battery only lasts four hours.  I already have the car charger for the MP3 player which is right handy as it’s a long drive to Cincinnati.

I haven’t done any Tacky Christmas trolling this year.  Shame on me.  I hope to do a bit down in Cinci- the upper crust does put on some spectacularly Griswoldian tableaux that are worthy of Tacky Christmas status just in the time, effort and dollar amount involved.  I don’t get it but then I’ve never been a person who has had the luxury of money to burn.

I still wish I could find the Bud Light cardboard bimbo display from the west end of Marion that I happened on years ago, but I am sure that after that Christmas (I think it was 2006) it ended up as some Bubba’s target practice or something.

Never leave home without the camera.  You never know what kind of hilarity you will find. (Let’s see if Steve-o ever bothers to read my blog…)

Still Sucking Up Valuable Oxygen, the Beauty of a Lean Christmas, and Being the Stealth Cougar

This morning I was reminded that God must have some purpose for me as I’m still sucking up valuable oxygen.  Perhaps it is to keep on depositing money in Steve-o’s account.   It’s always creepy to hear of a person near my own age with no known health issues to simply drop dead for what appears to be no reason.  In a way- though I’ve been warned I probably won’t make it to old age-it makes me wonder if I am going to end up one of those people who still have a mind but their body goes all to hell.  My great-grandmother (who died at age 94 and was more mentally sound than I am now until she had the stroke that killed her) had a plethora of bodily ailments- rheumatoid arthritis, heart issues, lung cancer (she was a hard core smoker for 40+ years,) breast cancer, you name it -but until the last two weeks of her life her mind was all there.  Then you have the old people whose bodies seem to hang in there just fine but their minds are gone and they turn crazy as a shithouse rat.  If I were prone to wagering, which I am generally not, I would say my body will go before my mind does.  I can’t say which is worse.  It would suck to lose your mind, but as they say, “ignorance is bliss.”  Some of the happiest people I’ve seen are mentally challenged, and I’ve seen some people with genuinely brilliant intellects who are emotional and spiritual shipwrecks.  Perhaps the wisest answer is to trust that God will get you through with the hand He deals you.  Now I know why I don’t play poker.

I am holding fast to my vow to avoid buying people a bunch of crap they don’t need and that I can’t afford.  I am enjoying the simplicity of my Charlie Brown disaster tree although I did take the time to fix the lights so that they all light and they blink when they’re supposed to, at least for now.  I will buy the nieces and nephews loads of candy- since they are still young enough to be able to enjoy it- and that will be about it.  Anyone who doesn’t like that is cordially invited to send Steve-o money to free my finances up so I can spend money on something other than him, taxes, insurance or scripts.

I have to admit I still enjoy the eye candy and I really don’t think the young dudes realize it.  I just look old enough to be your Mom.  I know, I’m harmless enough, but in a way it’s sort of depressing.  Most guys my age and older don’t offer much of an appealing visual.  There are some notable exceptions (Mike Rowe…) but what woman wouldn’t find him fine to look at?  I guess for safety’s sake I should only be looking at dudes from afar because I know just how easy I can be tempted should an opportunity arise.  The good thing is my frumpy looks and rather boring appearance are good for keeping me chaste if nothing else.  The bottom line is I don’t get offers, which is probably a good thing.  This old white chick is extremely low mileage, probably for the same reason Ford Edsels weren’t particularly popular.  Even though they ran, they were ugly and awkward and not terribly fun to drive.  Such is my fate.

I had the opportunity to embarrass the snot out of Jerry Saturday night.  One of his buddies from the shop wanted Jerry to procure him an Asian porno flick.  I’m not terribly impressed by porn- most of the time it’s just plain gross, the music is horrible and the plots are contrived- but what the hey, we were out on Morse Rd. anyway.  So I took him to the Lion’s Den.  The couple who manage the store were very gregarious, displaying toys and telling him which movies were on sale and so forth.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him turn such a bright shade of red.  I could tell he was trying to look away as I was casually perusing the “toy” section.  We got the movie and got out fairly quickly but I have to say I enjoyed seeing him so embarrassed.  He didn’t offer to buy me any toys while we were there, which was kind of lame, since nature has dealt him a rather crappy hand in that department.    Let’s just say for politeness sake I tolerate involuntary celibacy, but I don’t enjoy it.  I really shouldn’t blame nature for his ED either- beers don’t drink themselves and cigarettes don’t smoke themselves-and drinking and smoking both are linked to ED.  As I said, he could at least procure me some battery operated substitutes, but go figure. 

I am reminded of a medical joke: A little old man goes to the Dr. for a complete physical. The Dr. asks the little old man to show him his sex organs.  The little old man wiggles his index finger and sticks out his tongue. 

Perhaps he doesn’t want to enhance my fantasy life any more than I do on my own.  It’s truly not funny although I try my best to find humor in it, lest his ED problem become yet more fodder to feed my discontent and depression.  Living with Mr. High Maintenance would be a lot easier if we had any kind of a sex life.  It’s particularly frustrating that he refuses to seek medical help or to even to try alternative kinds of bedroom fun (i.e. toys,).  And he wonders why I sleep in a separate room, in my own bed.  Part of it is because I have to sleep on an incline due to my constantly draining sinuses- to keep me from drowning in my own snot- and that’s the official answer I give, but the real answer is I see little point in the inconvenience of sharing a bed (with a snoring smoker no less) unless there’s a some action going on every once in awhile. 

I have to move forward from this subject (I almost used the phrase “get off,” then thought better of it,) before I go from slight melancholy to full blown depression.

Suffice to say that for some reason the Good Lord is keeping  me breathing, even with my laundry list of  physical defects and medical issues, when others who appear perfectly healthy drop dead for no apparent cause.  No matter how much I may speculate and think it unfair that those who have so much to live for are taken out of the world in a seemingly untimely manner, and people like me who basically are just sucking up valuable oxygen and waiting to die linger on for no readily apparent reason, it’s not my judgment call.  Go figure.  I’m not in control and that’s a very good thing.  Ask not for whom the bell tolls.