Originally written January 2013
I have not heard from Jim in years. I have tried to contact him and could not, Jim became a very good friend far better than thirty years ago when he worked for me at a Tool Company, If you ever meet him you will probably think that he is here to rob the place. He is a tad scruffy and just a little rough around the edges, well, make that more than a little rough around the edges. None the less he is one of the best subordinate employees that I ever had. He is also an excellent guitar player, unquestionably superior to me, He is for real as a musician with a good working knowledge of theory and an ability to read both classical music and tablature.
An Army volunteer he served as a nuclear weapons specialist in Viet-Nam. The Army kept him drugged so that if they ever wanted him to fire the damn thing he would actually do it. Half way through his second tour it all got to him so they cut him off the pills and gave him a less stressful job. He accompanied airplanes full of dead bodies across the Pacific for about eight months. He finished out his military career as the guy that would arm Nike Z warheads before firing and was stationed back in Michigan. About ten miles from my house actually.
A proper greeting for this guy is “So, how the hell are you DAWGH? I see you got even uglier”. He has tatotoos, rides a motorcycle, and has been married for close to forty years now. Three direct offspring and five baby grands.
It seems that I have not heard from jim because he has gone through a bit of a rough patch in the last few years. I could not contact him because among the things that he could not pay for was his phone. When I drove by his house it was dark and appeared to be just another abandoned building.
After several lay offs there was finally nothing for him, too young to retire like I did, he was hard core unemployed. His wife who had never worked got part time work in an old folks home, Jim worked part time in grocery stores and gas stations. His wife’s wages were their own but half of everything Jim made came off his unemployment checks. Jim Was paid $800.00 to help a guy re-shingle a roof, the two promised follow on jobs got cancelled and Jim lost three weeks of unemployment. Bottom line thinking here is that he did a back breaking job and it cost him money that he didn’t have to do it.
All this, losing a car, taking a kid out of school, living in his house without electricity, nearly losing it after making payments for over twenty years and never re-financing, inability to go to the Doctor with sick kids or wife, his own access to care is the VA hospital in Lansing. Thus the old boy is fuming, and he has a gripe.
The gripe is that two years ago he fell into a rarified tax bracket that he didn’t know about. He had run out of unemployment but finally found a machinist job that paid him $12.00 an hour. It came with a medical benefit and paid him enough that he qualified for the earned income tax credit. His once substantial bank and retirement accounts are resuscitated and now have tokenery cash amounts in them. He, like my daughter, can’t get credit for a Hershey bar. He paid $1,170.00 in income tax and when his federal refund check (2011) came it was for just under $8,700.00.
Jim kind of wonders just who’s money it is anyway. How many others get these checks? Truth is he was finally working himself out of trouble. It would have been nice to have heat and light in the house at least for the winter but nothing was too be had except food stamps. What if the money had been left in the economy? Could he have had a job instead of sitting in a cold house with his wife, and the boy sitting at home bored silly. Is this where the money goes now that one war is done and another is winding down? Is this why the government is broke, dysfunctional, and why half the internet is populated with people preaching revolution?
Truth is that the money helped, but he was already through the worst and enjoys a secure but low paying job. He has medical and life insurance again. He just bought a twelve year old Cadillac for thirteen hundred dollars. He has this twenty two year old son at home with tools. It’s his BOY’S job to keep the thing running. The Lord of the realm has been employed all of 2012 but thinks he is getting earned income credit again this year too.
It was good to hear from Jim again, we will soon get together and trade stories and guitar licks. I am sorry I lost touch and was not able to help him out. But I know Jim very well. He probably was laying on the down low so no body would feel sorry for him and force him to refuse a desperately needed hand up. This scruffy, evil, nasty, garbage mouthed, hard core biker dude doesn’t know you but if the opportunity ever comes he will take a bullet for you.
He’s like that. …. Sort of like a lot of other Americans that have had their butts handed to them so the bankers could maintain deca million dollar bonus checks over the last ten years.
I don’t care, it didn’t actually get me. …. DID IT ???
Well I do have a daughter and friends that went through hell-on-earth. But I don’t care I am OK. …. THERE BUT FOR THE GRACE OF GOD. ….. Leastwise I think I’m OK. ……. OK for now.