Working for Someone Else

Something I've always hated about working for someone else is that you're expected to believe (or convincingly pretend, in the corporate setting, anyway) that the people in positions above you are in fact superior to you. It's just one more thing to gnaw at me during my time there. That expectation seems to be even stronger the further east you go in this country (USA).

Just one more reason to work for yourself! 🙂

World Cup 2014

I love World Cup soccer (“football/futbol” to most of the world), so life is good now with all the games on. I'm ticked at ABC/ESPN for limiting all USA games to ESPN, which I can't see because we don't subscribe to cable TV. Of course, they do that to force people like me to subscribe, which I won't do. If I could get just a one-month subscription, I might do that, but I don't think that's available. Guess I'll be going to a restaurant or bar for those games.

Right now, it's Colombia vs. Greece on ABC. I don't care who wins, so long as it's a good game. I hate how so many of these players are diving drama queens, acting like they've been shot or punched, falling to the ground in “agony,” when the replay shows that they weren't even touched. [in foreign accent, choose one], “His shoelace grazed my shin! I cannot bear the pain!”

But otherwise, I love the game, and these games in particular. Go USA #USMNT #1N1T on Monday against the team that's become their arch-rival, Ghana!

UPDATE: I'm able to watch England vs. Italy on ESPN3/WATCHESPN, so I'm hoping I can do the same when the US team plays.

Take This Quiz

From somewhere on the Internet …

  1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
  2. Name the last five Heisman Trophy winners.
  3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
  4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
  5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor or actress.
  6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remembers the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:

  1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
  2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
  3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
  4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
  5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
  6. Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.

Easier? The lesson? The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones who care.


[from 1994, © 1994]

by Eric McGovern

It was a warm, humid night, as are most nights of August in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It was ten p.m. and, as I loaded my fishing gear into my truck and looked up at the full moon, I was getting anxious to fish. I started up the truck, drove about three miles, and turned down a dark dirt road that dead-ended. I had to drive kind of slow as some of the roads in Bay St. Louis weren't the best, particularly some of the dirt roads, and this was one of them.

The road ended at the base of a large patch of woods. I grabbed my gear and began walking. I hadn't been to this spot in a few months and I was really glad I'd brought my machete with me, as the briars and poison ivy had gotten out of hand again. And if you've never tried walking through woods that are overgrown with briars and poison ivy, I have some advice for you … Don't try it!

It was about a ten minute walk to the lake, which isn't far when you take into consideration that only a handful of people ever fished this particular lake, and the fishing was pretty darn good. As the lake came into view, I could I could hardly wait to get started. Piney Lake, as I called it, wasn't very big — about ten acres — but it was quiet, secluded, and full of fish. I was ready.

I set my small ice chest and tackle box down. I opened up the ice chest and took out a small brown paper bag containing my bait. I have used all sorts of bait for ing, from chicken livers to live Earthworms, but tonight I was using dead shrimp, which I consider prime Catfish bait. I took one of my rods, and rigged it up with a cork, having decided to try topwater first. I baited my hook and cast out about forty feet.

It was a beautiful night. The full moon gave me plenty of light, so I didn't need to bring a lantern with me. There was no breeze whatsoever, and the lake was as smooth as glass. You could cut the thick, humid air with a knife, and I pulled a bandanna out of my pocket to wipe the beads of sweat from my forehead. I heard a buzzing sound which sounded like a small plane overhead, but of course I knew it was just the overgrown mosquitoes that had zeroed in on me and were ready for a feast, which I was in no mood to give them. I quickly opened my tackle box and grabbed my Deep Woods Off, and covered myself in a fog of the stuff. The mosquitoes took off and I got back to fishing.

It had just been about three minutes since I had made my cast and I was just about to set my pole down so I could get myself a nice cold beer when the fish struck so hard it nearly yanked the rod out of my hands! “Yeah! Instant action!” I yelled as I tried to turn the fish towards me. He didn't seem to want to cooperate. As he continued to strip line from my reel, I realized I had hooked a “really big” one. Two minutes went by and the fish continued to slowly, but consistently, take line. I wondered if I would be able to turn him before he stripped my reel clean.

Of the many times I had fished here, I had caught many cats, mostly channel and a few yellow mud. The biggest channel cat I ever caught here was a nine-pounder. This was definitely a channel cat, but he was considerably large than nine pounds. I was using a bait casting reel rigged with seventeen pound test Berkeley Big Game line and a stiff graphite rod, and had never had a whisker fish give me this much trouble before.

I only had about fifteen feet of line left when I finally turned the big cat towards me. I had to work him slowly to avoid breaking my line. I had to be careful because there was a lot of structure in this lake, mostly submerged trees and stumps, and I didn't want him wrapping around anything and breaking off. I got about three quarters of my line back when the big fish made another run, nearly stripping me again before I regained control.

I could feel the old Catfish wearing down and I was glad because I didn't want to lose this whopper. But it wasn't over yet. There was a submerged pine tree about ten feet offshore and three feet to the left of me and I had a feeling that this fish was going to make one final attempt to get away.

I continued to reel the fish in when suddenly I got my first look at him. I got a lump in my throat when I saw the dinosaur of a . He was about four feet long and must have weighed about sixty pounds! The biggest Catfish I had ever caught was thirty pounds, and now I was nervous. “Please don't let me lose this fish,” I thought to myself as he made one final run.

Just as I thought he would, that Catfish headed right into the submerged pine tree. “Get outta there!” I yelled as I tugged on my rod with all my might. Now, I don't know if someone was watching over me on this particular night, or what, but I somehow managed to work that crusty old codger out of the branches of the submerged tree and I pulled him up onto the bank of the lake. It was hard for me to believe that there was even a Catfish this big in this lake, let alone that I had caught him.

I could see his battle scars from where he had been hooked before. He had two rusted hooks in his right upper lip, one in his left lower lip, and a beat-up old crank bait hooked into his dorsal fin, which is something I had never seen before, and knew I never would again. He also had some old wounds that were probably caused by a gar, as well as several large leeches keeping him company.

I didn't know how old this guy was, but I knew he'd been around for a long time. I knew this old channel cat had gotten away from other anglers, and he put up such a battle that even though I knew I may never catch a fish like this again, I had to let him go. I removed the old hooks from his lips, as well as the old crank bait from his back.

“Take it easy, gramps!” I said as I guided the old sucker back into the water. I felt good watching him swim off. “He'd have been too tough to eat, anyway,” I said to myself as I re-baited my hook to try my luck again.

All of My Novels

Kangaroos Attacked Me

[from 1993]

by Greg* — [* not really]

There I was in Long Beach, California, having lunch down along the docks like I always do. It was a cool Autumn day, early November. I was watching the ships roll in … then I'd watch 'em roll away again. Whoa-wo sittin' on the dock of the bay …

Sorry. I can't get that song out of my head.

Anyway, I remember noticing several large wooden crates being unloaded from a ship just a few hundred feet to my right. I didn't pay too much attention to them, though. I was busy inspecting my sandwich, trying to figure out what exactly was in it. I could tell that the meat was ham, but the rest of it was questionable.

It was while doing this that I heard loud stomping coming at me from the right. Instantly I froze, stuck out my hands for balance, and looked at the ground. It was a purely instinctive reaction. We'd been having earthquakes lately, and I thought maybe the loud stomping was the beginnings of another one.

It wasn't.

After I had assured myself that the ground was not moving, something told me to look to my right. Intuition, maybe. No, I remember now, it was the loud stomping. Yeah. Anyway, I glanced to my right … and there they were. Three large (and one not so large) kangaroos staring at me, just a couple of kangaroo-hops away.

The one not-so-large kangaroo was shadow-boxing. The other three only sat there, balancing on their tails like they do, and stared at me. It was their cold, unfeeling stares that got to me. The way they constantly chewed their cuds was a little disconcerting too. But it was those large black eyes that I remember most vividly.

The little kangaroo was still shadow-boxing when the adult kangaroo closest to it suddenly stuck out its left “fist” and punched the little one, knocking it sprawling into a pile of ropes and nets where it got tangled up hopelessly within about five seconds.

Meanwhile, the three large kangaroos kept staring at me and chewed their cuds. It was do or die time now, I could tell. This sort of thing had happened to me before. Well, not exactly like this but, well, you know.

Suddenly, my wrist-watch alarm went off and the three large kangaroos leaped toward me …!

[Stay tuned for next issue's episode: Kangaroos Ate My Lunch!]

All of My Novels

So Much for Sacrificial Rites

[from February 1990]

The High Priest announced, “We must sacrifice a human life tonight.” The crowd of Mibuku natives milling around the fire immediately tensed and fell silent. Suddenly, the High Priest pointed his holy finger at a lowly servant fanning the Queen. The servant shrieked.

Royal guards descended from their place upon the sacrificial platform, seized the servant and dropped him indelicately upon the platform. The servant immediately raised himself to his knees and, with clasped hands, proceeded to beg for mercy.

“Your Holiness!”, the lowly servant began. “We have already sacrificed three pigs tonight! Is that not enough?”

His Holiness surprised everyone by actually answering the servant's plea.

“No, it is not enough! There must be a human sacrifice.”

“Why don't you get one of the royalty?” the servant suggested helpfully. The milling crowd let out a collective gasp. “One of them would surely make a better sacrifice than I.”

“Certainly not!” The High Priest was appalled, but at the same time intrigued by the servant's nerve.

“Okay,” the servant bartered, seizing the opportunity. “How about if I gather up all the pigs on the island and dump them into the sacrificial pit. There must be hundreds of them damned pigs on this island. In fact …”

“Silence!,” His Holiness screamed. “There is going to be a human sacrifice tonight and you are it!

The crowd listened intently to this dialogue. They hadn't had this much entertainment since, well, since the last human sacrifice.

“Oh come on,” the servant shrieked, to which the crowd roared in delight. “Let's be reasonable,” he said. “I mean, how much of an offer am I to the Gods — a lowly servant with dish-pan hands? I say 'Give the little guy a break.' And if you really want to please the Gods, throw the Queen into the pit!” The crowd again gasped in horror. But the little servant continued on. “She deserves it anyway, the old cow. Do you know what it's like working for her? It's 'Do this, do that.' There's no breaks! I tell you …”

Before the servant could finish, four soldiers picked him up by the arms and threw him into the sacrificial pit.


Requiem for a Pigeon

by Bill

We witnessed a pigeon's demise

Right here on the dock o' the Bay

There was nothing we could do

Nothing we could say

It just wasn't the pigeon's day

We tried mouth-to-beak

And the Heimlich technique

But the pigeon had croaked

Did you know pigeons float?

Well, this one sure did today!

Remmy Gets Gas

[from July 1990]

by Bill

Remmy pulled into the gas station and jumped out of his pickup. He went to the rear of the truck, checked his reflection in the camper shell window, smiled, and slid the gas nozzle into the tank.

He left the pump on automatic and wandered over to a soda machine sitting next to the cashier's booth. He calmly, coolly slid a few coins into the coin slot and pressed his selection. Nothing happened. He pulled on the coin return handle. Still nothing. He hit the machine a couple of times with the heel of his hand. Nothing. Finally, he backed up a step or two, checked to see no one was looking and kicked the soda machine.

“Ow,” he said, hopping on one foot. While he hopped, the soda machine began to smoke, hiss and belch. This was something new. Probably not good, but something, at least.

The gas station attendant looked up from under the hood of a car at the sound of the soda machine's convulsions. Holding someone's dipstick in his hand, he slowly wiped it off with a rag, pointed it at Remmy, and shouted something. Remmy never heard him because that's when the soda machine exploded.

The force of the blast, plus the fact that he was balancing on one foot, knocked Remmy to the ground. The station attendant dropped the dipstick and started toward Remmy. Remmy saw him coming, picked himself off the ground and made a dash for his truck.

With the station attendant hot on his trail, Remmy leaped onto his small truck's hood, slid down the other side, opened the door and jumped into the cab — all in the space of two seconds. His tires squealed as he pulled out into the street.

A moment later, Remmy heard a clattering noise coming from the side of his truck. It was the gas hose. He'd forgotten to pull it out. He sneaked a peek out the rear view mirror to get a better look at the havoc he had wrought. What he saw through the dirty windows of the camper shell was a blackened soda machine tipped over on its face and, in the foreground, the gas hose writhing on the ground like a wounded snake, bleeding gasoline in every direction.

Remmy felt bad about this. Guilt consumed him. The ruined soda machine; the inadvertently stolen tank of gas; the bleeding gas hose. It was almost too much to bear. But what could he do? He thought about going back and paying for the damages, but he wasn't feeling that guilty. Financial considerations were always the best defense against guilt.

Wait, what was that he just thought? Financial considerations are the best defense against guilt! Of course! It was so simple, nd yet so profound. Remmy repeated it to himself, “Financial considerations … financial considerations …” He wrote it down so he wouldn't forget.

He was never the same again, and later formed his own religion based on that one principle.


Devastating Earthquake Rocks Southland

[from 1993]
&copy copyright 1993

A powerful earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter Scale brought Southern California to its knees just before dawn yesterday. Hundreds of buildings in the greater Los Angeles area were completely destroyed, dozens more rendered uninhabitable. L.A.'s newly-completed MetroRail subway system collapsed in on itself. Virtually every freeway overpass has either collapsed or been made impassable. Electricity, gas and water services are out throughout most of the Southland. People are panicked in the streets. It is complete bedlam.

Meanwhile, in a quiet little neighborhood on the west side of town where nothing bad ever happens, there sits a man in his apartment, at his computer, completely oblivious to the chaos that has engulfed the city. Two reporters from The Times enter his apartment without knocking — because they're reporters, dammit, and have the right to do whatever they want in pursuit of a story — and they ask this man how he can be so calm in the midst of this natural disaster.

“What disaster?” the man asks.

“The earthquake,” they say. “Surely, you felt it.”

“Well,” he says, taking a moment to scratch his butt. “I did feel something last night. But I thought it was just a bunch of fat people running up and down the stairs. They have a lot of fat people living here in the building, you know. So, it woke me up for a minute, but I went right back to sleep. So it was an earthquake, eh?”

“Yes,” they say, having trouble believing this guy is for real. “It was a HUGE earthquake. The Big One! You must've at least heard about it.”

“Television's not working for some reason,” he says. “All I get is static. And the damned paper boy never delivered my paper this morning.”

“We're with the newspaper,” they tell him. “And we can tell you that there won't be any paper this morning. Might not be another paper for days.”

“Damn!” he shouts. “What kinda outfit you running down there at The Times?”

“There's been an earthquake, you idiot!” they shout at him. “Are you completely insane? Have you looked out the window? It's complete chaos!”

“I've been too busy on the computer to notice what's going on outside,” he says, agitated. “Now, if you don't mind, would you please get out of my house? I don't recall ever inviting you in, actually.”

And that's when the reporters noticed that this man's computer was indeed working, as were his lights.

“How is it that your computer and your lights are working when the electricity is supposedly out throughout Southern California?” they ask.

“Well, it's obviously not out everywhere,” he says. One of the reporters goes out into the common area of the apartment building and asks loudly if anyone's electricity is on. A chorus of “no's” from the other tenants was his answer.

“What program are you using there?” the other reporter points to the computer.

“Oh, just some computer bulletin board I belong to,” the man says casually.

“Bulletin board? How can you be logged onto a computer bulletin board when the phone lines are down?”

“Well, obviously …” he begins, but they finish his sentence for him: “… yeah, yeah, obviously not all the phone lines are down.”

In the upper left corner of his computer screen is a 3-D multicolored logo. It's a hologram of a slowly spinning planet. And there is some strange-looking writing like hieroglyphics or something below the logo. Translated, it read “Planetary Council.” But, of course, the reporters would have no way of knowing this.

“Can we use your phone?” one of the reporters asks.

“Not while I'm logged onto the bulletin board,” the man replies.

“It's pretty important,” says the reporter. “Yours is the first working phone we've had access to since leaving The Times building.”

“'Fraid I can't let you do that.”

“Why not?”

“Well, because that would break the connection,” the man says.

“The bulletin board connection?”


“But it's really important that we use the phone!” they are shouting at him again. One of the reporters takes this as his cue to make a move toward the telephone, which is located on a little table on the other side of the room.

“I wouldn't do that if I was you,” the man says to the reporter. The man is pointing a large-calibre gun at the reporter. Neither reporter is sure where the gun came from. They never noticed it before. But, there it was in his hand.

“Now just back away from the phone,” the man says, gesturing with the gun. The reporter complies. “Now, I asked you once and I'm not going to ask you again. Get out of my house.” He doesn't raise his voice. The gun in his hand makes that unnecessary.

The reporters left the man's apartment and made their way through the rubble of the earthquake's aftermath to the nearest police station to report this anomalous guy and the fact that all of his utilities seemed to be working while the rest of the county had no such luxury.

An hour or so later when the reporters and police returned to the apartment, however, the man was gone. In fact, not just he was gone, but the entire contents of the apartment were missing! The outer walls were still there, but the rest of the contents of the man's apartment were gone. Everything, that is, except the phone jack in the wall.

The police left in disgust, claiming they had better things to do than follow a couple of idiot reporters around.

Meanwhile, the “anomalous guy” was still at his computer. He was still logged onto his “Planetary Council” bulletin board. And, as far as he could tell, everything was pretty much the same as it was before those damned reporters had stopped by.

If he had bothered to look out his window, he would have realized he wasn't in Los Angeles anymore. But, he didn't really care. His television was working again. He wasn't getting Los Angeles stations, he was getting Planetary Council television. But, he was so used to mentally switching back and forth between Earth reality and Planetary Council reality that he hardly noticed the switch in language, both written and spoken, from English to Planetary Council.

This “anomalous guy” was what they called a “monitor.” Just a technician, really. He was the conduit between the two universes — Earth's and the Planetary Council's. In the larger scheme of things, his existence could be equated with that of the simple phone jack in the wall. He liked to think of himself as more than that. But, to be honest, that's basically all he was.

He soon dropped this train of thought, however, getting depressed thinking of himself in such unflattering terms. He remembered what he had been taught in school: If you find yourself getting depressed or unhappy, stop thinking. Stop thinking entirely. That's what they always told him.

And so, with this in mind, he returned to his computer screen and did his job, like the good soldier that he was.


Aliens Spoke to Me

[from 1993]

I just started driving. I don't know why. Boredom, I guess.

I left my house around noon. I'd had enough of watching football on t.v. and just felt like getting out. When I hopped into my truck I had no idea where I might go. East, I thought. To the desert, maybe. “See the desert,” I said to myself.

To the desert I went. From the Westside of L.A., I traveled east into the Mojave Desert. Once past the Cajon Pass and up on the high desert plain, the weather turned considerably colder. It had rained the night before, so the visibility was good. You could see for miles.

It would have felt more romantic or adventurous if there was hardly anyone on the road, but this was the second day of a 3-day New Year's weekend. Half of L.A. was either going to or returning from Las Vegas.

It was about 2 o'clock when I passed through Victorville, 2:30 when I hit Barstow, and about 2:45 when I stopped at a Chevron station in Newberry Springs. I needed a map of the area; one that would show me what to expect from points east and help me decide whether to continue in that direction or return to L.A.

I was inside the gas station/store looking for the map section when I heard a voice. At first I thought it was the teenage girl browsing the candy aisle behind me.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Huh?” she replied.

“Did you say something?” I asked.

“No,” she said and hurried off in search of her parents.

The voice spoke again. “Follow me,” it said. I heard it quite clearly this time and I became worried. Apparently all these years living in L.A. had finally gotten to me.

“Don't be frightened,” said the voice.

“I'm not frightened,” I lied.

“Well, good for you,” replied an elderly man who'd wandered to within earshot. “Too many people are frightened these days; with crime the way it is. But I ask you, what good does it do ya to be frightened?”

“What?” I asked blankly.

“I said, what good does it do ya?” he repeated.

“Uh, yeah,” I replied stupidly.

“Damned drug addict!” he shouted at me and walked away.

Confused now, I went in search of my parents. Then I remembered I was 32 years old and had moved away from home years ago.

“Return to your vehicle and continue east,” the voice continued.

“Why should I?” I asked — silently this time, not wanting to engage in any more conversations with old men or teenage girls. Well, teenage girls would be okay … but I digress.

“Follow me. You'll be glad you did,” said the voice.

“Sounds like a commercial,” I said, again silently. You ever tried talking silently? It's not easy. But, again, I digress.

“You watch too much TV,” the voice replied derisively.

“Yeah, so?” was my pathetic attempt at an intelligent response.

“Just do as I say,” said the voice, losing patience.

But I didn't do as it said. I walked out of the store, got back into my pickup and returned to L.A. This voice/entity was getting testy. And if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a testy disembodied voice telling me what to do.

Maybe next weekend I'll return to the desert. I don't know.