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Friday, August 31, 2012

Spectator Versus Participant

OMG, it's official... I'm a Geezer. I went to Motown to apply for Social Security this week. It was yet another in what is becoming a mini-series of Govie Gone Wrong soap operas. I have a Summertime Rant on the tip of my tongue, but don't worry, I'm not going "there," especially since I just got back from "there" last week.

When young and wild I couldn't imagine living to see forty, let alone Social Security. It never really bothered me as long I had ten years in the tank. When you're young, ten years seems like a hundred... sort of a like a dollar made you "rich." I'd look at the parents of my buddies, sometimes even my own parents,  and it appeared to me that their best years were behind them, that life was pretty much over. All they did was work, work, work... only to come home and work some more, and ride herd over their brood of wild kids... bred into a fast paced world in a synapse of young lust. Life at forty looked a lot like prison to me, but without the walls.

When forty finally snuck up on me, I had become my parents... working my ass off to stay ahead of "the game." Careers are a "game," you know, one where you work your ass off to get ahead enough to quit working your ass off. I worked a full time job that I loathed, built spec homes on the side (with the help of my Lovely and crew of misfits) just so I could eventually quit the job with bosses and time clocks. Life was all about "The Destination" in those days cause "The Journey" sucked. I put blinders on, kept my head down and pulled the "plow" like a good ass... through the rocks and briar patches of life. Oh I'm sure I had fun in there somewhere... like on weekends. I have the photos to prove it.

Some of my best friends are getting old too. Funny how that works. A few worry about what they will do with themselves in retirement and actually look for another job, even tho they don't need the money. I think some wives don't like the idea of husbands being around all the time. Cat's and dogs get more affection than some used, unemployed husbands. 

I often suggest a full or part time RV lifestyle to those people. It seems like a good way to kill a few years and enjoy some of that hard earned, long-awaited freedom. "Go see some country," I say, "Do some hiking and biking. It beats Home Depot or Walmart." It beats being a Pool Boy, too. But if one must still work a little, well, let's just say being a Pool Boy in Lovely Ouray comes with nice "scenery" side-benefits. 

Here's the rant, a somewhat diffused version. I'm not getting near as much Social Security as their little quarterly statement said I would be getting. Just 515 bucks a month. It's a long story. Suffice it to say I got shafted because my employer opted out of S. S. into an SEP for 18 of my prime working years. Before agreeing, I made sure I had enough quarters earned to still get a decent S. S. check at age 62. But a few years ago some legislators became worried that the S. S. pot they like to borrow from was about to run dry, and passed a retroactive law that penalizes those people who bailed from S. S. for a while in favor of something else. In other words, they changed the rules after I/we made decisions based on the rules in play at the time. 

I told the Social Security "messenger" that I thought Govie was not playing fair, that I should be "Grandfathered," that the new law should not affect those who played by rules in effect at the time, and lay waste to what honest people have been making their retirement plans around. We should at least have been notified that the sum of money plainly stated on our quarterly Social Security Statement, year in, year out, was not what we were going to get! She agreed, so I couldn't go postal. 

I came home with a little cloud over my head and climbed on my 29'er for a bike ride... to vent some "pressure." Rode to Ridgway with Bobbie, but she had to head home to make a house cleaning appointment for absentee hobby ranchers. I had more steam to vent so I headed down the bike path thinking I'd ride to Ridgway Reservoir State Park. I like cruising campgrounds... looking at all the pretty Fivers and Motorhomes. But when I reached the Owl Creek Pass turn-off I found myself peddling up its lonely gravel road instead. I believe it's thirteen miles to the pass. I had already come fifteen miles from Ouray and was low on water. Oh well, the trip back would be all down hill. 

I met my old friends, Rain and Lightning up on the mountain. So I hunkered down under a pine tree... about three miles short of the Pass and soaked to the bone. I put on a dry shirt and rain jacket... ate a couple of MoJo bars to get the furnace going. It turned cold, spit hail and blew. I tried to wait it out. When teeth began to chatter I thought it best to let'er rip back down the mountain. 

That put a smile on my face... flying down a wet mud/gravel road, dodging dumb deer and curious cows, slinging water and grit up my front and backside, breaking hard through switchback turns and tucking on the straights. I found a little gratitude on the mountain, that at damn near 62, I'm still a participant... doing what I did when I was ten, fifteen, twenty five... flying downhill on a bike, getting muddy, playing in the rain and wearing myself to a frazzle. 

I don't know how much the Social Security fraud will affect my "retirement." Maybe I'll be a Pool Boy again next summer if a house doesn't sell. In the meantime I'll try to enjoy The Journey more... the lonely summits, the bike rides in rain, and a fall-winter-spring spent in Utah's canyon country and Arizona's Sonoran Desert... doing there what I can't do here, in clothes that better suit warmer weather. 

Today I begin my last shift at the pool; Sunday I'm done. I'm lucky to be alive and healthy enough to still participate. Me and my Lovely will wander western landscapes on foot and wheel. Places that inspire our souls and make life after forty... after sixty two... after 70... worth hanging around for. 

I'm staring down the day that would have me a spectator. I mustn't blink. 

Now go out and play like a kid... if for no other reason than, you still can.

Chimney Rock pokes it's head above the aspen... I almost made it. Maybe next time.

And the rain came. It muddied the road and chilled my bones.

Heading down...


  1. This SS scam really sucks. Of course I've always figured there'd be nothing left by the time I retire. Which at this rate will be 75.
    Hope you two find your way towards the North Rim.

  2. Mark,
    Loved your post, and know exactly how you feel! We didn't work "for the man" but we self-employed operating a dry-cleaning plant for 32 years. Anyone who thinks that owning your own service industry is a piece of cake is sadly mistaken! We feel so fortunate that we found a buyer, and although didn't get much, we are able to get out here workamping and sustain a traveling life. SO MUCH BETTER!Love your pictures and will definitely return to lovely Ouray one day.

  3. Ya know... people aren't gonna believe you; "In My case it'll be different! Barack has promised me!"

    The willful Ignorance of soh-sigh-uh-tee cannot be defeated by shining the bright light of truth on it...

    The messenger will always be called a fear mongering conspiracy theorist...

    Ha ha! rigggghhhht... and real world demonstration after real world demonstration will ALWAYS be "just weird aberrations." Since everyone knows Govie is all sweetness and light and has our best interests at heart...

    I'll be expecting that check for your purchase of my cabin above timberline in Kansas in Monday's mail... ;)

  4. Good to know that the number on the yearly statement is meaningless. I already count social security as a forced contribution into a charity I don't want to support, and now I'll plan on getting absolutely nothing back.

    Then if actually do get something it will be like a tiny bonus, right?

  5. When I retired 1-1-09, I wanted to get back into golfing after being away from the game for several years.  Well after I retired I got busy fixing the house and doing other stuff like hiking, running and some biking for exercise.  I kept putting off golf.  Well this week I finally played 18 holes of golf after going out and updating my bag and clubs the week before.  I kept thinking I should play golf while I'm  heathy and can swing a club without pain. Golf is a great game but it's not as simple as remembering to ride a bike.  I went to the driving range before the golf outing and seemed to be hitting the ball ok but slicing with my driver.  I figured if I updated my driver to one of these big oversized Callaway's (read reviews on internet) how could I miss the ball.  So I bought the Callaway Diablo Octane driver to replace my faithful but aged undersized club. 
    You could tell my clubs were old because they were made in U.S. This driver was made in China.  I noticed all the golf hardware was made China! But,  I paid more for this new driver than I did for my whole old set of fairway woods and irons several years ago.  Why can't they get the people in Detroit to make golf clubs? (I'm getting off the subject). Golf is a great game if you live in the mid-west and are looking for something to keep you busy (I have not found golf to be relaxing,yet)
    Getting back to my golf game this week, my first T shot was long and straight (it is like riding bike I thought) and my buddies gave me a round of "nice drive". Well the second shot didn't go as well.  I topped the ball and it rolled into the creek.  No problem, I had plenty of balls. My next shot took me into the sand then I blasted the ball over the green to the other sand box and then 3 putted for triple bogie. Not the way I wanted to start my retired golfing career.  My game did improve but I am still amazed how intimidating it is hitting the ball over water and towards greens surrounded by sand, trees, and tall grass, oh my! Now I remember why I got away from golf. To enjoy the game, I have to remember the shots from 150 yards that I dropped onto the green then two putted, instead of shots I hit into the creek. Easier said than done.  Enjoy your last Labor Day weekend at the pool!

  6. Well said Mark..As I cleaned/vacuumed the pool at work for 3 hours trying to get the sand and other sundry stuff people throw in it..I kept thinking.."what the ****..am I doing here? " (and I am older than you ;)

    I'm on duty til the middle of October, so have a few more shifts to put in.

    I get $124 from U.S. S.S. ( didnt work there much ) considerably more from the Canadian govt. system. They really do look after their seniors here.

    Great pictures..enjoyed your post..

  7. "Now go out and play like a kid...if for no other reason than you still can."

    Exactly what we are trying to do!

    Sorry about your SS, especially since you were counting on it. And go ahead and rant if you like, it's always an entertaining read when you do!


  8. Great post, great photo's! Another participant here worrying about His SS too. Love the blog!!

  9. OMG, again...
    I'm so excited! You won't believe what I just drove home... Hint: It has a motor, and it has a home attached!!! Stay tuned for the next post!!! :))))))

  10. Motorhome...wow! I would have figured you guys to go the 5th wheel route. :-)

    We stopped about 15 years ago figuring on social security and medicare being available in our older age. We were told we were being "radical" by assuming a government guarantee wouldn't come through for us. Just because politicians make promises they want us to believe doesn't make it true.

  11. Funny how time creeps up on us. We just returned from a trip with the 5th wheel from Steamboat Lake. Blew a trailer tire north of Silverthorne on Hwy 9, no cell service. Nice "old" Rancher pulled over to help us out. Once on our way, hubby kept referring to the nice "old" guy. Had to remind hubby that "old" guy was two years younger than hubby. Ah, I should not have said that....silence for the next hour.
    Great photos and welcome to RVing :-)

  12. Gaelyn,
    The "Piggy Bank" is getting raided by the "Piggies."
    We do plan a photo excursion to the Grandest of Canyons this fall... Maybe you will still be there and we can meet up. Thanks

    Al and Karen,
    Goodness, you deserve a good retirement life after 32 years in the Dry Cleaning business. That is a Customer is always right service industry. Funny how "work camping" doesn't seem as much work when you are living an RV life :)). It helps to know you can unplug and just drive off any time you feel like you are not being treated right... "Oh, look at all the pretty flames on the bridge in the rear view mirror." (smile)

    CowBoy Brian,
    You are on a roll against Govie lately... Must be all the election B. S., Empty Promises that we know can't be fulfilled. How dumb do they think we are??? Thanks

    That's a "Glass Half Full" attitude...
    I threw my "glass" into the fireplace and am trying to glue it back together as we speak.

    John Q,
    Thanks for your funny retirement story. I don't thing golf is in my future at 515 dollars a month (sigh). Maybe you will take me sometime. (Hint, Hint).
    I need to get some Liability Insurance first, tho...

    Ah, so you are a Pool Girl... We must talk.
    I've said WTF so many times... as recently as last night when there were a gazillion little kids in the pool at 9 PM and it was dark as hell and parents weren't keeping an eye on them. My tongue was bleeding from biting it.
    Glad you have decent retirement from Canada... enjoy it while you can.
    thanks for commenting!

    Jim and Gayle,
    Gayle, Too many rants-in-a-row can get one labeled as a Jerk.
    You are about to learn we have something in common now... (hee hee) mark

    Thank you for commenting... love the support!
    I hope your S S train comes in better than mine.

    John V.
    We had a Fiver... and a trailer, several pick up campers, a pop up, a tent, a station wagon,... I guess one wants what they don't have. This will be an interesting experiment... but I've had my eye on Jim and Gayle and Debbie, too... they have been boon docking pretty well with their Motor Homes. Oops, Just gave away the surprise. Darn.

    Livel Laugh RV,
    Love the name. BTW...
    I make the same mistake... "Hey look at that old guy running... he's going pretty good for a geezer" and he's like younger than me :)). We look through blind eyes... feeling not all that much different than when we were younger... until we pass a mirror and do a double take. "Who is THAT?"
    thanks for commenting.

    And thanks for all your comments. I love conversing more than preaching :))
    Box Canyon Mark

  13. The curious can find the answer to your new rig by searching for a comment Bobbie made on another blog.

  14. Orlando Tom,
    Yes, she let the cat out of the bag, alright. I got a sudden rush of emails... people knew the Brand, and I hadn't tipped that yet. So I called Bobbie and she confessed to being the culprit that stole my thunder over on Jim and Gayle's Blog.
    And now you... Et tu, Brute? :))

  15. hey mark, you old dog a lazy daze,now i'm jealous.nice black an white shot's.you be road surfing big time.see down the road fellow traveler. gary

  16. Oh! That is not too good News... I guess I got lucky!
    Some Photos look familiar. With some hope we will see you next Year! On to Germany now for a couple weeks with Mother.
    Hugs to you both.
    Ara and Spirit

  17. Gary Green,
    Thanks... I am an old "dog." We are traveling in style now... antique RV, Baby! So clean and nice, tho. See you in Zion? take care,

    Hugs back... we need to reunite. Enjoy Germany, and yes, those photos should look familiar to you... you were up there last time you were here.
    Travel well.. I love your new "hack," so awesome.
    mark and bobbie.


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