Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dull happenings

The Complete and Total Loser has been in a long-term funk since mid summer. Blame the loss of the bird. Blame the constant physical pain. He sleeps too much and does nothing productive when awake. 
Boring notes on the past six weeks:
  • The Loser went to his aunt's 100th birthday party. The party was in Connecticut. She seemed well, considering, but as the Loser's brother put it, he's not making plans for her 101st.
  • The Loser had his annual physical in late August. His PSA number has risen substantially, up to 5.2. The Loser is all for doing nothing about it, should it turn out to be cancer, even though he's two years shy of turning sixty. Let it kill him. Two decades of no orgasms and incontinence? No. Not interested. He goes back in November for a retest.
  • On the last day of August, the Loser had a cortisone injection in his bad knee. His doctor referred him, saying that his wife goes to the same guy and gets an injection that lasts a year. The knee doctor said it would take 48 hours to take effect and sure enough, two days later the Loser's knee felt great. He thought he'd start swimming again, perhaps even bicycle. On the third day, however, it started to hurt again and now it feels as bad as ever.
  • The Loser will quit his crappy part-time retail job soon. He'll be dead of cancer in a few years anyway and he can't imagine working the upcoming full-time holiday schedule like he did last year.
  • Two nights ago after work, the Loser was standing around with a half dozen coworkers. The topic of snoring came up. "I have no idea if I snore or not because I've always lived alone," the Loser said. Everyone seemed sad.
  • Today, the trash haulers threw out the Loser's trashcan. He is baffled about this. It was a perfectly functional trashcan. Also, it had as much sentimental value to the Loser as a trashcan can; he'd bought it for his father, who died five years ago, because it had wheels and his father was wearing out the trashcans that didn't by dragging them up and down the driveway. Despite the wheels, the Loser's father dragged this one too and there was a hole in the bottom of it. This made the Loser love his father. This morning, as he took out the trash, the Loser used the wheels because it was very full and he thought about his father. Now the can is gone and there is one less thing around to make the Loser think of his father.
  • The Loser is reading the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. There's a test by which you can measure your level of grit in the book, also easily accessible online. The Loser took the test and, unsurprisingly, learned that he has close to zero grit.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A code reinforced

juvenile catbird
It died, of course, the bird. 
The Complete and Total Loser thought it was going well. It had spent a night out successfully and flew to the Loser the next morning, chirping for a morning meal. It was staying out all day, hunting its beloved insects and spiders. The Loser took it in the night after its first full night out due to heavy rain, though the bird had spent a day during a rainstorm remaining dry. The next night it was out again.
The next morning, no bird.
The Loser had a bad feeling about it as the day went on. It wouldn't have left that completely and abruptly—it still looked to the Loser for food and protection. The Loser went outside his back door often, clapping and calling and getting no response. He knew.
Friends, of course, put nice faces on bad things and said he may have joined his family or others of his species or, at worst, been chased from its territory by bigger birds, bluejays perhaps.
Yesterday, the Loser found its body, well eaten by ants but still clearly the bird's. It was right by the small single step that leads to the backdoor. How he hadn't seen it for the eight days since the bird vanished is baffling. His only comfort is that the bird had died before he could have saved it. The Loser was often at that door the day after the bird left and if it had been alive at all a sound or movement would have surely caught the Loser's ear or eye. His open bedroom window is directly above that step.
It's probable that the bird was injured or ill and got to that location, closest to the only companion and protector it had ever known, and died waiting for the Loser's help.
Birds are small and dumb, the Loser tells himself, and incapable of forming an intimate relationship with a human. True of all pets; we anthropomorphize the rest. But there were times in the final days when the Loser was sitting outside with the bird and it had eaten when it wouldn't fly off into a bush or tree. Instead, it would stand on the Loser's hand and then sit, and just look at the Loser. It was simply hanging out with a friend.
The Loser forgot his code for a few weeks, but he remembers it now and will keep it with renewed vigor: Never love anything.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Gone bird

young catbird
A young catbird.
The bird the Complete and Total Loser took in a month ago spent a night outside with great success. The Loser took it in the next two nights because of the rain, and left it out the night after that. It never returned. To be kind, the Loser's few friends have suggested that the creature bonded with its own and has made a break with its human friend, but the Loser knows it is dead.
No animal would give up a safe and reliable source of sound nutrition that suddenly. 
The Loser knew the bird's survival was iffy in the long run and told himself that if it met its end it would at least have had more life—in this case, about a month—than it would have had the Loser not taken it in. 
Still, the creature was a bright spark in the Loser's dull life, his heart felt more elastic, and now its loss has thrown him into a funk.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weaning the bird

young catbird sitting on book
The Loser's temporary ward, a young catbird, sits on The Heart of Henry Quantum, a novel by Pepper Harding.
He admits that it has been rewarding, taking care of the bird he found nearly three weeks ago. It has grown into a tiny wild animal with insistent demands. The large cardboard box the Complete and Total Loser formed into a passable home for it after it survived the first few days is too small for it now, and it hurls itself against its newspaper roof with surprising force when put in it for the night, hard enough once to undo the piece of packing tape sealing the paper. It escaped into the kitchen. Not that the Loser minded that; the confinement is more for the bird's safety than anything else. It hasn't caught on to the difference between windows and open space and is saved from a broken neck by the lack of momentum it manages when flying in the house. 
It's been outside for nearly the entire day. The Loser sat outside wearing earplugs and reading as the bird kept up its litany of reasons on why it should be fed on demand instead of catch insects and worms for sustenance. With each day, the Loser grows more firm in his resolve to cut the apron strings. Yet he always relents. Today, the bird and his niece's cat—which the Loser will tend for the next three weeks, are the only beings he spoke to. 
female housecat on carpet
A female house cat lies on a carpet.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A week of bird

young bird on stick inside house
The Loser's bird sits on a stick.
The young bird the Complete and Total Loser found outside a week ago is thriving. The Loser feeds it regularly, but the creature is strong enough to survive the long hours (to it) the Loser is away at his stupid, low-paying, meaningless job. He is working on getting it to fly and soon he will catch bugs and put them in its box for it to try to catch. 
If it's the species the Loser thinks it might be, it will live on a diet of insects, never weigh more than four-tenths of an ounce, and somehow fly from its birthplace in Pennsylvania to Central America and back again.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nothing to say

An orphaned baby bird sits on the Loser's hand.
The Complete and Total Loser hasn't written about anything because he hasn't cared about anything at all for over a month now. He just watches comforting shows he's seen before, goes to work, and feels sorry for himself and his permanently aching knee.
Yesterday, a frantic young bird was tweeting outside the Loser's front door. He has taken it in and it's survived an entire day, which is a record in the over half-century of the Loser's bird-rescue attempts. At first, the Loser thought it might be a fledgling on its first day of learning to fly, but it's weeks away from that. It's nest was nowhere in sight. 
The Loser seems to be feeding it correctly. (Do orphaned animals know how many of the owe their lives to YouTube videos?) 
The bird is a pain in the ass. It chirps, the Loser feeds it, it craps then chirps for more food. Still ... imagine if it lives and the Loser teaches it to fly and it takes off to flit through trees, a part of the wild word that we all forget still surrounds us, however corrupt its form? That would please the Loser.
(Note: If you know what kind of bird this is, please leave a message informing the Loser who is, being a loser, too stupid to know.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The 35th

book store interior with escalator
The interior of the book store the Complete and Total Loser works in.
Thirty-five years ago today, the Complete and Total Loser was given a degree from the small, liberal arts college he attended for four years. That means he has had three-and-a-half decades to make something of himself and he's failed miserably. He now works part time at a book store and expects any day to hear that it will close.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


right knee of loser showing staples
The Loser's right knee.
The Complete and Total Loser turned 58 this week. He feels it. His aching knee is giving him trouble, and today he'll be on his feet at his crap retail job for eight hours. He'll do the usual—take three aspirin, wrap a knee brace around his crippled limb—but still. He'll get back to the house at ten and want to drink to alleviate the pain. It doesn't do that, booze, but it makes the pain seem like a joke of sorts and more bearable.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Angelina juxtaposition

Woman's World and Star Magazine in a supermarket display rack
Woman's World and Star Magazine in a supermarket display rack.

Being the simple-minded dolt that he is, the Complete and Total Loser likes it when two things together make him perform the rare—for him—act of thinking. The two magazines he saw in a supermarket where he buys rotting fish and meat for the discount yesterday did that.
He can't imagine Angelina Jolie, a rich movie star and director, is half the Loser's weight and he hopes she resolves her health issues soon.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Zipping by the Loser

competitive women swimmers diving into pool
Competitive female swimmers dive into a pool at the start of a race.
Yesterday, the Complete and Total Loser went to the college pool he swims in three times a week at his usual hour, six a.m. This time, besides the other aging men and women who participate in community use during limited hours, there were two women in, he'd guess, their early twenties. They shared the lane next to the Loser. 
They were fast! The Loser is used to being lapped by nearly everyone else in the pool except for women his age, but these women swam like serious competitors, churning the water as they zipped by. At one point, while doing his tired breast stroke, the Loser's left hand came within a few
underwater view woman swimmer freestyle
An underwater view of a woman swimming freestyle.
inches of one of the women's hands and he felt a powerful eddy from it, like you'd expect from a blender. One altered her strokes, one of which was a butterfly stroke that skimmed her across the surface like a thrown flat rock.

The Loser knows that he's just an aging, slow, idiot who swims with no skill and he's happy to see young people in robust physical condition using their bodies but still ... he has an ego.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Loser blew it in China

Yangtze River cruise
The Complete and Total Loser taught English for a year in China. The year was 1985 and the city he was in was Guiyang. The word Guiyang means “precious sun” because there was so little of it and the Lonely Planet travel guide began its brief description of it by saying, “Frankly, this place is a dump.” It was not a popular destination for tourists. The Loser liked it because of that. He wasn’t always being hustled for money by people on the street. Also, to do anything on his own he needed to learn at least some Chinese. He’s bad at languages but he found that the best way to learn about the city and the language was to go out, wander around and let himself get lost.
The Loser had a long break during the summer halfway through his year there. He headed east. A major leg of his trip was along the Yangtze River, which flows that way. It’s the longest river in Asia and this was before they built a huge hydroelectric dam on it. He traveled by river boat. Most of the people on it were Westerners, like him, and most of them were Europeans.
The trip took about five days and one evening the boat pulled into Wuhan and tied up at a dock. They were to stay there for the night because the next day’s trip was scenic and too dangerous to navigate in the dark. They all got off to see a bit of the city. The Loser had become friendly with two Swedish women about his age—mid 20s. He liked their great accents, and they got off to walk around together. Being the cautious sort, he used his limited Chinese to make sure the boat was staying there that night. He asked a guy who worked on the boat and he said yeah, which he said in Chinese. He said other things that were beyond the Loser’s listening ability so he just smiled and nodded idiotically as if he understood. People always tell y0u more than you want to know.
The women and the Loser walked around the city enjoying ourselves, with him using his language skills to get around, sample street food and buy little things. Most of what they did was just talk and people watch. It was a hot city and a hot time of year but it felt nice. They wandered out of sight of the dock, but they could hear a boat horn in the distance. It was a little romantic, the Loser thought.

He started having a funny, new feeling. There he was with two nice women—Europeans!—and guiding them and talking and feeling sure of himself. And they were listening to him and looking at him when he spoke. He realized that this new feeling was confidence. He’d never any confidence with women but now the Loser felt an inkling of what it’s like to be a cool, smart guy who does. He was feeling that a page may have turned in his life, that knowing how this felt would take root and grow and become a part of his nature and that he would soon take his place among others and live the life of the man he was meant to be. The Loser would be the kind of man who approaches any situation with self assurance and poise. He would be, not the kind of man who reads GQ and Esquire magazines; He’d be the kind of man who doesn’t need to read GQ and Esquire. He would be the kind of man who can wear sunglasses without feeling that people are laughing at him behind his back, and who can put his hands on his hips sometimes instead of in his pockets. He’d be the kind of man who would one day buy—and wear—a leather jacket.
By the time the three of us walked back to the dock the Loser wasn’t walking with his shoulders hunched, looking down a few feet in front of me. Instead he was looking far out into the wide river with my head held high. And that’s where our boat was. It had left the dock. He’d been wrong and now the three of were lost in China.
The women looked at the Loser now with faces contorted with fear, worry and anger. “You said it was going to stay here all night!” one said, her accent no longer appealing.
The Loser had the usual response that men use when they’re flat-out wrong: “No!”
They ran to the dock and shouted and waved and we could see tiny figures waving back as the boat chugged away. Someone had written on the dock in a bizarre language. Swedish. It was one of the women’s friends and the message said they’d wait for them in the next city if they could get a boat or bus there. None of them knew how they’d get to that city. They were screwed and the Loser felt two inches tall.
The story has a happy ending because it turned out that he wasn’t completely wrong. The boat stayed in Wuhan that night but not at that dock. It went down river a mile or so to moor until morning so other boats could use the dock. It was probably what the Chinese man had been trying to tell the Loser. The women found a Chinese man who spoke English and through him they found someone with a small boat who took us out to our boat. The other Swedes on the boat, the ones who’d left the message, said they did their best to get the boat to wait for them and even got them to blast the horn.
In those days when you traveled with someone for a few days, you’d usually exchange addresses with them when you parted. It was the 1985 equivalent of liking someone on Facebook. You’d write a postcard, maybe two just saying hi, it was nice to meet you. In this case, though, the women the Loser had nearly stranded in China didn’t ask for his and he didn’t dare ask for theirs.
It was a happy ending because they found their way home. But when it comes to women, the Loser has been lost ever since.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

An ad brings tears to the Loser's eyes

Age: 45
Body: Curvy
Height: 5'1"
Status: Single
I have a few tattoos

I probably won't get many responses if any but I figured it be worth a shot. I am a open minded person. Please be close to my age. I am not into the bar scene or clubbing. I seem to be a relatively boring person. I work and I come home to my multiple cats. I don't go out. I am a plain Jane kind of girl. I don't wear make up , I don't dress up and not into fancy restaurants. I enjoy simple things like taking walks I enjoy going to fleamarket's and yard sales. I like things to stay simple. I am a 45-year-old, white single female. As I mentioned above I have multiple cats and multiple birds. I don't travel because of my animals, I don't consider them my animals they are my babies, they mean the world to me.
I would like to find a man willing to start as friends first and see where things go. I am not into PDA. I am disease-free, I don't do drugs, I don't smoke and a social drinker. I would like the guy to be single as well so if a relationship forms there is no complications. I also prefer the guy to have no children. I'm tired of never being high on the priority list. As I said in the beginning I probably won't get anything but nasty responses but figured it was worth a shot. I live in Chester county, so please live close to there if you're interested in seeing if something could evolve.
If your email intrigues me I will reply, if it does not intrigue me I won't. Please send a "G" rated picture and tell me about yourself and your location and age. Please love animals and not allergic to them. Please be disease-free social drinker no drugs and smoking is negotiable Be willing to email a few times then perhaps exchange numbers and text for a while before speaking and meeting. Please do not send nasty comments it is not necessary. Please be open minded too.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince and the Loser

Prince Rogers Nelson
Prince Rogers Nelson, June 7, 1958–April 21, 2016.
The Complete and Total Loser is less than three weeks older than Prince Rogers Nelson, who died today, April 21, 2016. 
The Loser was a senior in college when he first heard of Prince. It was 1981, and the Loser lived next door to his college radio station's program director, a man who had many milk cartons of albums and knew about all music, new and old. The Loser liked "Dirty Mind" very much. Liberating, sexy, funky dance music. The energy!
After college, the Loser moved to Minneapolis, Prince's home city, not because of Prince but it said good things about the city to the Loser. It turned out that Prince was a niche musician there and the people his age the Loser met, white like himself, were more interested in pale, blond music like—not kidding—the soundtrack to "Grease."
The Loser misses Prince already. 

chyna Joanie LaurerIn other news, Joanie Laurer, who was better known as Chyna, a female wrestler, was found dead on the same day. She was 46.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

How to Be Quietly Confident

confindent man in tuxedo adjusting cuffs
A confident man in a tuxedo adjusts his cuffs.

Confidence is one of the most desirable qualities a person can have. Confident people get better jobs, have more satisfying social lives, and are happier overall than those who lack confidence. Developing your confidence may take time as you learn to replace old habits with new ones, but it is achievable. As with most things worth doing, it takes persistence.

Part One: Knowing and liking yourself

Step 1. Self assessment. We all have doubts about ourselves and our abilities, but when they pile up, we stop liking ourselves and those doubts rob us of our confidence. It can be necessary to take concrete steps to remind us that we are people who have achieved things and have skills and abilities.
    •    Make a list of your good qualities. 

    •    Start a journal and keep track of the good things you do each day, even if it’s as minor as being polite to a store clerk or server.
    •    Also in your journal, note what didn’t go well that day and what other action might have turned a bad encounter into a good one.

Step 2. Banish negative thoughts. In our cave-dwelling past, it made sense for us to have more negative thoughts than positive ones. The world was a dangerous place. That’s not true now. Keep it positive with yourself and others. People like being around others who see the bright side of life.    

•    Think of five negative things a day and reframe them in a positive light. Traffic jam on the way to work? A good chance to seek out a new radio station or read more!

    •    Give three compliments a day to people you know. Make them real. Instead of, “I love your necklace,” try, “You always know which jewelry goes with what you’re wearing.”

    •    Smile and make eye-contact with three strangers a day. Not in a creepy way, of course! Strangers can be people in the same aisle of your grocery store, cashiers, or fellow commuters.  

Part Two: Getting it right with others

Step 1. Limit your conversation. Remember, it’s quietly confident. Talk in moderation. No matter how interesting a story or observation you may have, the most interesting—and confident—people are those who listen to others and choose their words with care. Learn to ask open questions instead of ones that can be answered with a simple yes or no.

Step 2. But when you do talk … Chances are you have an interest in a variety of things. If it’s something others find interesting too, or might, spend a little extra time to learn more about it. If the topic comes up, make sure what you add to the conversation is expressed with confidence. Eliminate the rising intonation at the end of statements and try not to soften sentences in ways that make you sound unsure. It’s okay to say, “It’s nice out today, isn’t it?”, but avoid statements like, “I think the price of coffee has gotten too high.”

Step 3. Don’t be needy. Humans are social animals, but confident people are fine on their own. Don’t agree with others if doing so conflicts with your beliefs, but don’t be a chronic naysayer either. When confident people reach an impasse with someone, they end the disagreement tactfully, without anger. Their egos aren’t involved. One simple way to do this is to just say, “You may be right. I’ll think about what you said.”

Part Three. Paying attention to the physical

Step 1. Body language. There are those who will tell you that body language counts for over half of communication between two people. Such claims are often exaggerated and irrelevant: If you’re at a crowded party, sitting at a desk, or crammed into a bus seat, it’s going to be your words that speak for you. However, when space permits, body language counts. Stand tall, but relaxed. Smile. Remember to breathe. A body of recent studies shows that body language works both ways. Just as we stand a certain way when we feel confident and good about ourselves, standing that way when we don’t can change our feelings for the better. Don’t believe it? Try standing like a superhero for a few minutes and see for yourself!

Step 2. Appearances count. Confident people know that feeling good physically makes them feel good mentally. If you don’t exercise, consider starting. You don’t have to go overboard. Take a walk around the neighborhood after a meal. Get off the elevator at work a few floors before yours and take the stairs. When doing so, see it as a chance to practice good posture. And you might even meet someone! Think about other material matters that can help you exude confidence.
    •    Pay attention to your personal hygiene. Style your hair, trim your nails, floss your teeth.

    •    Eat good food as part of a balanced diet.
    •    Look at how people you admire dress. Would any of what they wear look good on you? Would you feel comfortable dressed like they are? Don’t be afraid of bold accessories!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Loser's history of physical love

couple in love kissing
Later, these two may fuck.
The Complete and Total Loser was a late bloomer. He was fourteen before he found out what it would feel like to fuck. It felt great. When you’re a kid a lot of life is discovering new sensations. There’s being tickled, tasting sugar, sneezing, but this was like discovering that he could fly. He remembers looking at his math teacher during class the next day and thinking this is a married man who could do what he had done last night with a woman all the time, if his wife was OK with it. It seemed crazy to him that life was structured around anything but fucking. Why weren’t people working harder to make robot farmers, doctors and laborers to take care of our basic needs so everybody could just fuck all day?
The Loser went to an all boys school and he didn’t know any girls until he went to college. By then, of course, he didn’t think everyone should just fuck all day but he still wanted to do it, of course. He was good at being friends with women but it stopped at that and it wasn’t until he was a junior in college that he even kissed a woman. She was also the first one he fucked. Everyone had told him that fucking was easy, that instinct would tell you what to do. It wasn’t true. There were angles inside women that you had to consider when getting started but you couldn’t see them because they were internal. And you couldn’t really see things well from where you were. It was like playing the harmonica.
He liked fucking, though. For the first time what the Loser had been doing alone for seven years was giving pleasure to someone else. He didn’t love her but he wanted to and he told himself that since you fuck people you love maybe you’d love people you fuck but that didn’t work so they only fucked a couple of times but the friendship remained. He fucked again during graduation week, again, someone who’d been a very good friend, and again, just a couple times. They lived far apart. After college the Loser lived in Minneapolis for awhile and a woman who lived in the house next door liked him and he liked her and they fucked sometimes. She’d go away and then come back and they’d fuck. They didn’t really have a lot in common but he learned that he did feel an intimacy with her that was beyond friendship so he can say he’s never had meaningless sex. There’s always an exchange of primal trust and that means something. She went away and joined the Army and he never saw her again.
He thought his adult life would have lots of fucking in it but the Loser was, as usual, wrong. He was still good at being friends with women, but still not good at anything beyond that so after the woman in Minneapolis he didn’t fuck anyone for fifteen years. For five of those years he was living overseas, was often in countries where it was legal and condoned to pay women to fuck, but he never did that, even though it was inexpensive and the women were pretty. It wasn’t a moral thing, he just never saw the point to it. To the Loser, fucking means that someone likes you and fucking someone you don’t even know who’s fucking you because she needs money might hate you for all you know so why bother? It felt just as good doing it himself. He fell in love during that time, but they didn’t fuck and she married someone else. The woman he fucked after those fifteen years was again more of a friend and again they just fucked a few times and again that ended. That was in 1997 and he hasn’t fucked anyone since. He’s gone out with a few women over the years but one of us, them, never likes the other as more than a friend so we end up not fucking.
He hasn’t kept count but the Loser doesn’t think he’s fucked more than twenty times in his life. He wasn’t so bad at fucking that anyone complained, but he wasn’t so great at it that a woman ever said what every man dreams of hearing, which is, “I’m gonna tell my girlfriends about you!” Now that he’s older the drive to fuck isn’t what it was and he’s pretty sure that he’ll never fuck again, which is OK with him. The Loser does have a profile on a dating site but the women there don’t like him any more than the ones in real life and honestly, he’s usually not crazy about them. He hasn’t met any of them for years. He looks at their profiles, thinks about writing to them but ends up saying, fuck it.