Mar 07

Everyone has his or her own version of the “American Dream” tucked away somewhere in the nether-regions of her or his subconscious.  Our personal versions of the “American Dream” are part of what motivates us to get out of bed every morning and live life.

Little Johnny wants to grow up and get married and have a family and own a home and be a fireman so he can spend his life saving the lives of others.  Then Little Johnny wants to retire and travel and enjoy his final years.

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Little Suzie wants to grow up and get married and have a family and own a home and be a doctor so she can spend her life saving the lives of others.  Then Little Suzie wants to retire and travel and enjoy her final years.

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Little Barack and Little George wanted to grow up to be politicians so they could meddle in people’s lives and screw over a country.

Everyone has a dream.  Some people realize that dream, and the rest of us learn to settle.

Settling sucks.

Little Adventurer Rich wanted to grow up and get married and have a family and own a home and be a something-that-makes-a-lot-of-money-and-helps-a-lot-of-people-but-isn’t-dangerous-or-doesn’t-involve-sticking-his-hands-in-other-people’s-guts.  Then Little Adventurer Rich wanted to retire and travel and enjoy his final years.

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Little Adventurer Rich got a cold slap across the face as a wake-up call.  When you decide to grow roots in rural Nebraska, there is no such thing as a job where you can make a lot of money.  If you don’t get the job that pays a lot of money, the retirement and travel associated with the retirement become pipe dreams.

I’m thankful for the marriage and the family and the house.  The rest of my “American Dream” is things I will need to learn to live without.  Well, I guess those things are already lacking, so I won’t need to learn to live without them… I need to learn that I will never have them.  It’s called “settling”.

As I cruise through this ever-increasingly difficult mid-life crisis, things start to fall into perspective.  I’m not the kind of guy who wants a fancy sports car or a token 20-something-year-old mistress to help realize unfulfilled dreams.  I’m happy driving crappy used cars (even considering getting a minivan).  My wife is my only link to sanity.  If I lost her, I would lose all bearing on life.  So, I’ll keep my 40-something-year-old model.  Besides, the only 20-something-year-olds interested in old farts like me are after gold, and my veins are full of nothing but pyrite and cholesterol.

So, since I’m not looking for the typical remedies for my ills, I’ve been trying to figure out how to become less miserable.  I look in the mirror and this old guy looks back at me, with his gray hairs and his frown lines, and I start to get pissed off at him.  He looks so much older than I feel.  Why didn’t he do something with his life?  Why couldn’t he have been better looking or more self-confident?  Why didn’t he take advantage of opportunities that I’m sure were available to him (yet, strangely enough, neither he nor I can think of any)?  Why has he let me down?  Ooh, sometimes I just want to throttle that loser in the mirror.  He doesn’t look like the kind of guy who would ever be successful.  He looks like a stupid goat farmer…

… goat farmer…

…GOAT FARMER!

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OH…EM…GEE!  I look like a goat farmer!  A stupid goat farmer!  Being a goat farmer would be AWESOME!  No stupid customer problems! No stupid technology! Just lots and lots of goats!  You feed them, you breed them, you take care of them, maybe you milk them, then you kill them and you eat them. Maybe you sell them.  Maybe you sell the milk or sell the meat.  Maybe you hire them out to breed with someone else’s goats.

OH… EM… GEE! I could be a GOAT PIMP!

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If not goats, maybe ostrich, or rabbit, or some other semi-exotic meat that people are willing to buy.  I wouldn’t make my riches being an exotic meat farmer, but being out on a farm, working with my hands, being responsible for only my own actions and relying only on my own efforts… I may not be able to retire, but I wouldn’t want to gouge my brains out through my ear holes before going to a “job” every day, so it is something I could see myself doing until I finally snap and they end up throwing me in a loony bin!

Maybe my family wouldn’t be able to have some of the things we have now, like satellite television or cell phones or Internet or new clothes or gas for the used cars or, you know, food to eat other than goat… but it would all be worth it!  If you can’t make it to the top of the food chain doing something you hate, crawl to the bottom of the food chain raising goats!

Now, I just need some land and a shack to live in.  I’m sure I can pick up some land on the cheap in Nebraska, right?  And I’ll need some starter goats.  Do they sell starter goat kits?  Never mind, I’ll Google it later… while I still have Internet :)  And I just need to convince my family that we would be better off without all of the stupid “conveniences” or modern life. I’ll never be able to provide for my family in the ways I dreamed as a kid, so it’s time to change the dream!

Little Adventurer Rich wants to grow up and get married and have a family and own a home and sell that home and buy a goat farm and raise goats!   Then Little Adventurer Rich wants to lose his mind and get locked up in a “facility” with lots of padded rooms where he will enjoy his final years dreaming of his goats…

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Finally, a dream I may be able to accomplish…

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Sep 14

A few months back, I received the obligatory notice from wonderful Scotts Bluff county that my property had increased in value (which means my taxes were going up).  My property value goes up every year, no matter the condition of the house I’m in or the neighborhood in which I reside.  This seemed strange to me this year seeing as how property values have been falling all over the rest of the country.  I decided that this year, I was going to protest the increased valuation of my property.

Now, like any sane individual, I want the value of my property to increase.  Increased value of property means that when I finally find the will and way to leave the Craphole of Nebraska, I may actually make money on the sale of my house.  However, times are a little tough around here, and paying out more taxes doesn’t exactly fit into our budget.  So, I figure that until the economy actually turns around and this area starts to grow (which means NEVER), I shouldn’t have to pay more in property taxes.  I didn’t figure that the jerk-wad commissioners of Scotts Bluff County would reconsider the increase in the value of my property (it is a well known fact that you never win with them), but at least I figured I could get an explanation on how in the hell they felt my property could be increasing in value in crappy, low-wage Nebraska in the middle of a recession.

I filed the papers at the county courthouse.  When I handed the petition to the clerk, she looked at me like I was crazy.

“You plan on protesting the valuation of your house?” she asked

“That’s the plan,” I said.

She chuckled… and I knew this was not going to be fun.

I was given a date to appear before the commission like a month later.  I arranged my schedule and, a month later, went before the county commissioners.

I showed up for my appointment about 5 minutes early.  The commissioners meet in a small room on the second floor of the county building.  I climb the stairs to the second floor and step into the room.   Inside, the commissioners are sitting on their pedestal seats from which they can look down on everything else in the room.  Fitting.  And they are munching away on sandwiches.  I notice a sign-in sheet on a table just inside the door to the room, and I jot down my John Henry along with the time of my appointment.  I glance up at the commissioners to see if I can get any kind of inclination as to what I an supposed to do next.  They are all busy staring at their sandwiches, so I just go back in the hall and grab a seat outside.  I’m not comfortable around strangers, especially strangers with power.  Plus, I hate public speaking, especially when it is going to be to a group of people looking down at me.

After about 15 minutes, I decide something doesn’t seem quite right, so I peak back in the room.  A couple of the gods do me the favor of looking down at me from on high and then turn their attention back to their sandwiches.  I go back out in the hallway.  My appointment was supposed to be at 7:00 pm.  I showed up at 6:55 pm.  It is now 7:15 pm, and there are now 2 more people sitting in the hallway waiting for their appointments, which are after mine.  I peak my head once again into the small room and they are still eating.

“Uh, am I supposed to wait in the hall, or should I wait in here?”  I ask.

One of the gods , disgruntled by the fact that I am pulling him away from the stinking sandwich it is taking him 20 stinking minutes to eat, says, “You can wait in here.  We’re running a little late, just getting some supper.  It’s been a long day.”  I actually believe he may have spoken to the sandwich.  How dare a peasant such as myself speak to him directly while he is renewing his power with the regenerative, almighty tuna fish.   I grab a seat in the room.

After about 5 more minutes (apparently my time is of no consequence to the earthly gods), we begin.  I am asked why I feel my property value should remain the same.  I go into a well prepared rant about all of the things wrong in my neighborhood.  I speak of the ills of the drug-infested trailer park from which I am only a couple of blocks.  I speak of the lack of county and city services available in our “rural” area.  I also go into the lack of decent paying jobs available in the panhandle, as well as the high per-capita crime rate and the impact the recession has had on our area.

“How, in such an impoverished area, with such a high crime rate and such a low quality of life, can the value of real estate be going up?”  I really feel like my impassioned speech may have hit the mark!  I really feel that I may have a chance of making a winning argument!  My hopes are starting to rise as…

“I haven’t heard anything here to overturn the evaluation,” says one of the jerk-wads.  “I make a motion to accept the county assessor’s appraisal.”

“Second,” says a second jerk-wad… a little too quickly for my taste.

“All in favor,” says the head jerk-wad.  Every single jerk-wad on the commission voted to piss me off, and I hate every single one of them every bit of my propensity to hate.

“That’s it?” I squeak.

No one even bothers to look my way.  They are too busy sealing the fate of my tax-hike to notice my peasant-like presence.  I pick up my crap, all of the notes with bullet points and other various garbage, and walk for the door.  As I reach the door, I hear one of the jerk-wads say something to me, but I just keep walking.  Screw ‘em all.

So, that’s it.  Until, like two weeks later, I receive a letter in the mail from the county commissioners.  The letter informs me that, for a mere $25, I can appear before the commissioners again to re-protest the valuation.

ARE THEY CRAZY!?!  Or, better yet, DO THEY THINK I’M CRAZY!?!

As I write this, I can actually feel a growing pressure in my chest.  If I were to take my blood pressure right now, I’m almost positive that just seeing the actual reading would send me into cardiac arrest.  Apparently the county commissioners of Scotts Bluff County think that all of their constituents are meth-heads and can easily be conned out of an additional $25.  Why would I want to go through having those jerk-wads make me wait again, look down on me again, and vote against me again?

SERIOUSLY!?!

Home ownership is part of the American dream, right?  Many of us slave away for the right to proclaim that we truly own our home.  Once that mortgage is paid off, we own our house and no one can take it away from us, right?  If you really believe that you can possibly own your house, you are an idiot.  Don’t believe me?  Try paying off your mortgage and then never paying your property taxes again.  You will quickly find out who truly owns your house… and it ain’t you.

I think I had better call it a day before I’m found on the floor, clutching my chest and needing someone to call 911.

breathe… breathe… in through the nose, out through the mouth...

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