I'm just about ready to throw in the towel, hang it all up, chuck up the sponge, cry uncle, roll over and play dead, spank the monkey...no wait, that doesn't belong in this sentence. Quit. I'm almost ready to quit...social media. Social media is not worth its weight in goat turds anymore. If I could recoup all the time and energy I've invested in social media over the years and cash it in, I could retire. I could retire anyway, I suppose, but what would I do with my time now that social media is dead? Yes, I believe it...social media is dead.
The great minds who created social media and took it to heights never imagined have in turn set out to destroy it. Greed overcame them, clouding their vision of a new virtual world where the masses would never have to leave the comfort of their homes to interact. And the masses loved it...until greed reared its ugly head.
Remember the early days of Facebook? Co-workers, friends, classmates, and family all gathered together via the internet, separated by miles, states, and countries, yet able to connect with one another with their fingertips. We liked and poked each other until the wee hours of the morning, our bloodshot eyes straining to focus on the computer screen before us. Nowadays, what's for supper and little Sally's piano recital have been shoved into oblivion, replaced with advertising disguised as social media. Those who think they know us better than we know ourselves sit in their cubicles beneath florescent lighting, deciding what we can and cannot see. Rather than investing time and resources into giving us better opportunities to connect with each other, they devoted their research to how to make another billion dollars. Yes, we still take our daily scroll through our facebook timeline, bored at the fake content thrust upon us, but hoping...still hoping for a glimpse of those days long gone.
Twitter. Yes, twitter is a different critter and not for everyone. And it is faltering as we speak. I can remember back in the early days of twitter how I would announce my new weekly blog post every Sunday night. My website would literally crash from the invasion of eager readers flooding the server. Yeah...no, that doesn't happen anymore. Back in those days, I had around six thousand followers. Today I have twenty-seven thousand and I'm lucky to get a handful of link clicks to my blog. Twitter never found it's purpose, nor did we. There's not much you can say in 140 characters including spaces and punctuation. Perhaps it was the novelty of those limitations that even gave twitter a chance, but those same limitations are taking it to the grave. Now, the only twitter frequenters are trying to hawk something or another to folks who don't want to buy anything. We all want to sell something! Twitter is like a Mary Kay convention. Everybody wants a pink Cadillac. Oh sure, there are a few who just wish to have their voices heard. My timeline is filled with haters, Republican haters, Democrat haters, gay haters, straight haters, God haters, cat haters. None of these folks seem to want to buy anything from the Mary Kay tweeters. They just want to hate. And to drive the final nail in their coffin, Twitter has now decided they will follow Facebook's lead and decide what we should see. Let me think...what do I want to see on Twitter? Thank goodness, I will no longer have to make that decision.
Pinterest appeared out of nowhere when Facebook kicked us peasants aside, making a place for us to post our pictures of food and clothing and random flowers growing in random places. Now, I really try to get all worked up over Pinterest but apparently I'm just not one of 'those people.' I dunno, I have a dog who sleeps all the time. I suppose I could put up a few pics of it. Can't imagine who would want to see a sleeping dog...or random flowers...or random food. But, the good news is, if you have a super photo of last night's dinner, Pinterest will let you promote it to thousands...for a fee, of course.
Here's the dilemma. All these social media sites cropped up at a time when entrepreneurs were literally crawling out of the woodwork. It offered people like me an opportunity to put ourselves out there, giving us a fighting chance of making our dreams a reality. When those social media sites realized this, they saw dollar signs. The common social media browser, i.e. us normal folks who are just killing some time while supper is cooking, are of little value to the social giants. These people are, however, of enormous value to the entrepreneur. As a result, social media has become one continuous newsfeed of advertising. And nobody is getting rich except the social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Frankly, I don't want to see exclusive updates from Donald J. Trump...I want to see little Sally's piano recital! So, frustrated, I put the laptop down and go find something else to do. And the more I do that and the more you do that, the closer social media comes to its demise.
When social media draws its last breath, what on earth will we all do with our eight hundred dollar cell phones? We may actually have to call somebody...shudder at the thought! Perhaps the time has come for us to get a life!
I just have time for a quickie! Ah, get your mind out of the gutter. We are in full-blown graduation mode around here. It kicked off with Senior Prom last weekend. That was a fiasco! I couldn't even get the girl out of the house. She wanted to leave but, in a nutshell...zipper. Dads are just dads. That's all the Good Lord intended for us to be. There's supposed to be a mother around for events like, well, prom. My daughter and I have been winging it on our own for three years now and up until that zipper, we've managed pretty well. Up until that almost three hundred dollar dress threw us a curve ball.
Everything was right on schedule. Hair was done, nails polished, makeup that would make any celebrity jealous. Nothing left to do but put on that dress that cost as much as a good color TV. Me, being the single dad that I am, had given the princess plenty of space and had busied myself with washing dishes. I knew I would soon be needed and kept an ear out for,
"Dad, would you zip me up?"
When the call came, I dried my hands on a tattered dish towel and reported for duty. I figured ten seconds to zip that dress up and another five minutes fumbling with that tiny clasp that all necklaces come with and she'd be off. Well, I was wrong. First, if I was designing a prom dress that would sell for nearly three hundred bucks, I'd put a quality zipper on it, like my wrangler jeans come equipped with. I was barely able to get that tiny zipper head (do they have a real name?) between my fingers. But once I had a firm hold on it, it zipped right up...three inches to her waistline. And there it stalled like a Ford.
After struggling for fifteen minutes, I suggested she take the dress off and zip it up.
"Just slip it over your head. I think it will work."
My daughter, fighting back tears for fear she'd mess up her Hollywood makeup, expressed her doubts but in desperation, agreed to try. I stood behind her closed bedroom door.
"Is it going to work?"
"Dad, I can't even get my arm through! What are we going to do?"
"Slip that dress on...we're going to Grandma's!"
I knew it was just a man thing. I had already peeked out the window to see if the neighbors across the road were home. We needed a woman! I'd never seen grandma wearing a prom dress but maybe, just maybe she could zip one up.
Fifteen minutes later -
"Gosh, I can't get it zipped either! My old hands...let me see if my neighbor is home."
A quick glance out her window and she shook her head, "I'll call my friend who sings in the church choir. We may have to get the whole choir over here but we'll get that dress zipped up!"
Fifteen minutes later - The lady from the choir appeared at grandma's kitchen door.
"I don't know why you think I can zip that dress up if neither one of you can."
I sighed and hung my head. I had failed as a father. I couldn't even zip up a dress. I felt tears trying to form in my eyes. I glanced at grandma who seemed to be fighting back tears, too. I knew my daughter would already be crying but...you know, Hollywood makeup. The choir lady took hold of the zipper head. I held my breath and...zippp!
Well, I don't know. Apparently, it takes a special talent to zip up a prom dress. I lack that specific talent. Obviously, runs in the family seeing how none of us could get such a simple task accomplished. So, my daughter made it to the prom, fashionably late, but there none the less.
And so it begins. New dresses to buy, random events almost every evening, awards banquets to numerous to mention, church luncheons, and the big night itself...graduation! Invitations still lay on the kitchen table. Is it cool to invite people over facebook? Can you just text them? I mean really, shouldn't relatives just assume they're invited?
Oh, hang on! I'm having a panic attack. It just swept over me like a tsunami...beads of perspiration forming on my forehead. Sweaty palms, rapid heart rate, can't catch my breath!
Do graduation gowns have zippers?
I stumbled across the picture a while ago...yes, that picture up above, and the moment my eyes locked onto the image, some pretty amazing things happened inside my brain. I immediately smelled how the old mechanic's garage surely smelled. I inhaled the aroma of old motor oil that had seeped deep into concrete and grease that had forever stained the old wooden workbench. Though you can't make it out in the image, I'm sure the floor is littered with greasy, misplaced bolts and car parts that no longer serve a purpose. Tools that only a mechanic could name clutter those shelves in an unorganized fashion and only the man who placed them in their exact spot could reach over and put his greasy hand on whichever tool he needed without even shooting a glance in that direction. Yes, I can say I have stood right there in that shop...or one identical to it once upon a time.
The only thing wrong with that picture is the car. Uncle Charlie only worked on Model T's and his shop was always filled with several in various stages of restoration. He'd always beam with pride while giving my dad and me a tour of that old greasy shop each time we visited. We finally timed one of our visits just right and before we even had a chance to knock on his front door, Uncle Charlie's head appeared from the door of his garage, a smile on his face that I'll never forget.
"Over here! You're just in time. I'm ready to start one up that I just finished!"
Minutes later, me and my dad and Uncle Charlie were cruising the streets in a Model T that surely looked even better than the day it rolled off the assembly line. And that's what I remember about Uncle Charlie. He's probably been gone forty years now...and all it took was that picture to bring him back!
My mom handed me a manilla envelope the other day, so overstuffed with old photos that one more picture would render it useless.
"I don't know who they are...family, your dad's family."
I carefully opened the envelope and scattered the photographs on the couch beside me and found myself lost in unknown history for the next two hours. Many of the old pictures were from the eighteen hundreds and progressed, I guessed, into the era of World War Two. With my dad gone now for several years, these images were only faces without a name...lost for eternity. I found myself wishing I knew more about our family. I found myself sad that I didn't.
In this day of digital images that one cannot put his hands on, I wonder...will someone decades, even centuries from now have our faces a mere arm's length away? It's certain we won't be stored away in a worn manila envelope resting on the top shelf of someone's closet. It's even doubtful that our images will survive in a junk drawer on some antique iPhone that will no longer charge. I fear that we will be the 'missing generation.' Without foresight enough to preserve our cherished moments that made life special, our future grandchildren, and their grandchildren will only have faceless names to remember us by.
And this is the 'Age of the Selfie!' Many of us take pics by the hundreds...of ourselves, our pets, the food we eat. We plaster ourselves all over social media. Some of us put our faces out there on dating sites. We have our own blogs and websites with our faces all over them. We're in the online church directory. We're in the clouds, those virtual storage lockers that absorb the overflowing images our smartphones can no longer hold. And yet, not one picture that you can hold in your hands. I challenge you! Go find a real photograph of yourself...of your kids, that was taken in the last year! I bet the farm most of you can't do it.
Do you really think your Facebook page is still going to be around a hundred years from now? Do you think Facebook will be around that long? Will cloud storage still have your cherished images safely tucked away? Will future generations be able to pick up a newspaper clipping of your obituary? No...duh! But I have my grandfather's and great-grandfather's obituary, as yellowed and fragile as they are.
My daughter studied the old black and white photo in her hand.
"He is definitely one of us. See the eyebrows?"
I nodded and pursed my lips as I stared at the handsome man in a World War II soldier's uniform.
"Look, same eyebrows on this guy! This was taken at some studio in Boston...says 1846. Did our family come from Boston?"
I smiled and replied, "No, we came from England...through Boston. Perhaps this ancestor became the first American in the family?"
I don't want to be a faceless name for future generations to simply forget about. I want someone a hundred and fifty years ago to stare at my picture and exclaim,
"Look! You got those eyebrows from your great-great grandpa!"
Anybody got a polaroid camera you wanna sell cheap?
"You know, those little clamps that you pinch with a pair of pliers...for a lawn mower?"
The chubby guy behind the counter at the farm store stared off absently for a full thirty seconds as he attempted to grasp what I needed.
"Ooooh!" I saw that light bulb glowing dimly above his head, "Like for your fuel line! Yeah, we ain't got none of those. We do have fuel filters, though!"
My head dropped as I turned and headed for the door. I had been everywhere in this podunk town...both places and neither had those clamps I desperately needed to repair my lawn mower.
And so it goes when you live in a small town. Pray your sneaker doesn't have a blowout...not a shoe to be had in our little community since the Walmart closed down. I glanced over at the abandoned building as I drove passed it on the way home, the faded facade still sporting the outline, 'WALMART' above the shuttered doors. On down the road a ways I passed by the Sears Homestore, standing vacant and dark as the Walmart. The Sears folks had simply disappeared into the night a few weeks ago, not bothering to announce their departure. Word around town is they emptied their inventory into a U-Haul truck in the wee hours of the morning and drove away...just like that.
Arriving home, I reached for my laptop and within a minute or so had ordered those little clamps I needed from Amazon. Five clamps for less than five bucks and with my free trial of Amazon Prime, free two-day shipping! I would have easily burned twice that much in gas driving up to the city for those clamps. I chastised myself under my breath for even wasting the gas to drive to the farm store. Amazon had become a way of life for me since the closing of Wally World, and judging from the numerous packages protruding from rural mailboxes up and down my road, I'd say I'm not alone.
UPS has announced plans to hire six thousand workers as they roll out Saturday delivery. The Post Office has quit their whining about losing money. And if you need further proof, Amazon is poised to hire five thousand new workers, work-from-home customer service representatives, to handle their constantly mushrooming business. Meanwhile, Walmart, Sears, JC Pennys, and Payless Shoes are locking up stores faster than a loose woman after a rich man.
The world as we knew it changed as we binged out on Netflix with glazed-over eyes. Actually quite rapidly, I believe. Like overnight! We, unable to pry ourselves away from continuous episodes of 'Supergirl' and 'The 100,' began to discover we just simply didn't want to leave our homes. So, in desperation and a dire need for supplies like shampoo and underwear, we turned to Amazon.com. By the droves!
Here's how I know...I have a few websites here and there. Why? They have from time to time made me some pocket change. In fact, those pesky Google ads that annoy all of you so much paid off my house and my pickup. And I still had enough fun money left over to occasionally chase a few women on Saturday night. But over the past few months, my revenues from Google have dwindled dramatically. I'm talking no more Happy Hour at Sonic!
Google considers themselves the god (little g) of the internet. Trust me, they do. The very thing that made google GOOGLE was their advertising and since their conception, the company has shared a portion of their revenues with webmasters who are willing to place ads on their sites. But I think Google has fallen asleep at the wheel, perhaps like those retailers going under on a daily basis.
I have gotten accustomed to my pocket change...that monthly check from Google, and as those checks became smaller and less frequent, I began searching for something more. During the past few weeks I have redesigned most of my websites, The Rusty Goat included, and incorporated Amazon ads throughout them, trimming down Google's presence. And the result? A two hundred percent increase in revenues! Yes, I admit I am overwhelmed as I wipe tears of happiness from my face.
Not only do I sell my books exclusively on Amazon (pocket change) I am now a die-hard Amazon Associate (more pocket change.) But in spite of the income, I am able to garnish from the company, I am also a true believer in the concept of Amazon. As a frequent Amazon shopper, I save significant money...even more since going Prime. My stuff shows up in the mailbox in two days and I have a world of variety to choose from when I shop. And I can shop while bingeing on 'The Heart of Dixie.'
Here's a rundown of my Amazon purchases this month:
Ariat Western Boots $100.00 (Western Store $169.00)
Imitation Rogaine 3 bottles $18.00 (Walmart 1 bottle $12.00)
Blades and belt for the riding mower $35.00 (Sears 80.00)
Cabin filter for the pickup $7.00 (Auto Zone 15.00)
European virgin human hair toupee for men $105.00...I didn't really buy that! Just seeing if you are paying attention.
I gotta wrap this up. The Smoke Shop in town was out of my Irish Latte Vape Juice. What if Amazon doesn't have that? Cinnamon, cotton candy, watermelon...this may take a while. Hemp flavored...wonder what that tastes like?
What is our world going to look like in five years if all the stores close down? Heck, we'll never know, we will be streaming Amazon movies and shopping online for popcorn...hey, here's something called 'Horny Goat Weed,' Interesting...
See the author's books
I am an author. I have to remind myself of that sometimes. I've kept that part of me a secret to many people for a very long time. In fact, up until two years ago I never attached my name to any of my writings, disguised behind the mask of 'The Rusty Goat.' It was out of necessity at first. Those stories in the very beginning were about real live people, mostly crazy women, who had haphazardly crossed my path, most times only hours before the tales went live on the internet for all to see. So, you can see the need for secrecy.
I feared I'd be discovered, and sometimes I was in spite of my best efforts to remain incognito. Some women just disappeared. One confronted me with a warning.
"You better be glad I don't have my pistol with me!"
And another took vengeance by pinning women against the restroom wall at the bar.
"That guy you're dancing with out there...stay far, far away from him! He'll destroy you!"
There were even rumors she had scribbled her warning on the women's restroom stalls. I dunno. It's not like I could go in and check.
I even got busted by the preacher at church. I had made a bad judgment call by listing my twitter name in the church online directory and well, really who reads that? The preacher! There I sat one Sunday morning amongst a thousand other sinners. The pastor takes his place behind his pulpit and gazes directly at me then lowers his eyes to the notes before him, and with an audible sigh, shakes his head in disgust. The topic for his morning sermon? Why a bar is no place for a Christian. It was during that sermon that I made the decision to dedicate my talents to writing 'something of substance' from that day forward.
I made a difficult decision to take off the mask as I made preparations to release the novel, 'Imperceptible - The Parables of Steele,' a book which I had digilently struggled to create as a work worthy of attaching my name to. It wasn't that particular book that made me uneasy about coming clean with my secret passion of writing. I knew the revelation that I was an author would open up a can of worms about the previous books. 'The Search for the Perfect Woman' could get me in hot water...and it has more than once. I have had local women literally hunt me down after reading that book. The scenerio looks something like this:
"I am not the Rusty Goat. He is a figment of my imagination. I just made him up!" I protest, staring at one woman or another standing before me wearing nothing but a robe.
She smiles, a twinkle in her eye, "I know, I know..." as the robe falls silently to the floor. (Okay, that only happened twice.)
Even with the release of 'Nineteen Seventy Something,' I had to maintain some attempt at anonymity. There is a woman or two...or three who could read this novel and pause mid-sentence.
"Wait a minute...this is me in this book! How dare him!"
Well, I deny everything! I write fiction. I make people up in my head! And chicklet, you were a bit phycho back in the seventies.
Even when I cautiously admitted I indeed wrote books two years ago, I was very selective with who was privy to receive this breaking news. I diligently skimmed through my Facebook friend list, choosing only those whom I felt I could trust. Even then, I only let them in on what I wanted them to know. My own mama only knows about one book...that I know of. Do I really want her reading 'The Search for the Perfect Woman?' And even with many being aware of the books, they have no clue of my weekly blogs. You just have no idea how it is to write these articles with the knowledge that if I make one mis-step, someone I know personally might take it offensively...and personally.
As you'd expect, as time passed, more and more of those close to me have discovered this 'ill kept secret.' A resurgence of discovery has reached epidemic porportions in the past month, thanks to a few personal acquaintences who have become dedicated fans of my work. So, the secret has been unleashed... and I may as well embrace it with open arms.
There are downfalls. It changes friendships. People I know seem to shy away once they discover my secret, maybe from fear that I might kill them off in my next book...I don't know. Perhaps it places me in a different league somewhere in their minds, like 'Why can't you just watch football and drink beer like the rest of us?' There are a few who are convinced that I have another deep, dark secret. That I am only playing the part of a dirt poor washed up over-the-hill wanna be cowboy. I have millions stashed away in some foreign account... they're sure of it. To set the record straight, I make a couple of bucks off of a book. I have to sell five books just to go to Starbucks. But regardless of the consequences, I have to confess.
"My name is Rodney Strange. I..." I pause as sweat forms on my brow, "am an author."
My eyes lock onto one woman in the room staring intently at me.
"We've met somewhere?" she questions.
"Yes," I respond as my heart races, "I believe you're in chapter five..."
Books by author Rodney Strange
You've heard of dry humor? I do dryer humor. I go through dryers faster than I go through women. Yes, dryers...clothes dryers. I am on my third one this year. I know this is not a typical topic for a single man, but I'm not the typical single man. I am a single parent to a teen aged girl. Some of you are nodding in understanding now. One cannot go through a single day without a dryer with a teen aged girl in the house. Unfortunately, I suffered through three days of NDS...'no dryer' syndrome. It wasn't easy. I probably need counseling.
I had a dryer...bought it twenty years ago along with a matching washer. The last three years of its life was touch and go. At the end, it was on life support. Finally out of pity, I pulled the plug. Wasn't really pity per se, it died with a good forty pounds of wet clothes inside it. Before you marvel at the fact that a dryer lasted twenty years, let me explain. It wasn't actually used for twenty years...it left for about ten years. With my ex-wife. It wasn't too long after the ex and the dryer and our child left that the trio stumbled across a fella who had a dryer of his own and that dryer went into storage. I happened to meet a woman who had a dryer as well, so it all worked out...for about seven years. As much as I liked her dryer, I found the woman herself impossible to live with, and as luck would have it when I kicked her to the curb, the dryer went with her.
Finding myself dryer-less and womanless, I called the ex who had left with my first dryer and questioned her about it. Yes, she said, it was in storage. Do I need it, she politely and thoughtfully asked. I replied that I was in desperate need of a dryer, and by the way, that evil woman took the washer as well. As luck would have it, both were in storage just waiting for some needy man like myself to come along. And then she moved in for the kill.
"I'll sell both of them to you for three hundred dollars."
I grew quiet as I lowered the phone from my ear and flipped it off. I could distinctly remember standing in the appliance aisle down at the Sears and Roebuck, writing out a check for over five hundred bucks for the pair some years earlier...and now I was expected to buy them all over again for three hundred bucks! But I needed a washer and dryer.
The old dryer ran like a Lincoln up until the weekend before school started this year, and really could it have picked a worse time? As my daughter headed out the door to spend the weekend with her mom, I stopped her.
"Hey, do you know if your mom has another dryer?"
With a sly smile, she responded, "I'll see what I can do."
Before the sun set that evening I was the proud owner of another used but free dryer. I must admit it took the edge off of my paying for the other one twice. Now, how my ex keeps coming up with all these dryers is a story in itself, and it's really none of my business...or yours. I'll just say this...if a man wants to work his way into a woman's heart, or wherever he was trying to get to...I suggest a bottle of wine and some roses, not an old beat up used dryer. But hey, it got me through a whole three months and I didn't have to buy any wine or flowers.
And so this evening I again stood in the aisle of the Sears and Roebuck, staring at dryers.
"I like this Kenmore." I pointed to a dryer that looked just like all the rest.
"Sure, I can order one for you and it will be here Monday." the pony-tailed, goatee-sporting salesman responded.
'Naw, you don't understand. I need it tonight."
"But this dryer is just for show. I can't sell this one to you."
"You don't understand. I have a teenaged daughter at home."
"Oh..." He stroked his beard as he thought for a minute, "Well, back your pickup up to the door and we'll load this baby up!"
Hey, what's that? The buzzer! My clothes are dry...I'm so excited!