It is probably unwise to do this episode because it’s likely to cost me some of the Patreon support that has helped me to get to the life I have always wanted. Sometimes when someone thinks I’m doing all right, they stop supporting me because they feel like I don’t need it anymore. To be clear, I’m nothing approaching wealthy. I’m never going to be. I do, however, if I am very careful, have enough to live every month. This is, in large part, because of the help my Patreon supporters, and several other good friends of mine, have given me. I have, for example, one friend who is the mother of one of my classmates from my days in high school who sends me lovely cards with $40 in them from time to time. She thinks of it as nothing, but it makes it possible for me to get through just a little longer, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Another friend got his taxes back, and, for absolutely no reason, sent me $75. Those unexpected gifts help me to get the little extras. I just got another blanket that has no stuffing because of my friend’s tax return gift. Speedy Shine can’t ruin it. My room isn’t covered in feathers anymore. My life is better, and I get to enjoy luxuries I wouldn’t otherwise even consider.
Without my Patreon support, I would never make ends meet every month. Without having the good fortune of renting a place for half price, I would never make ends meet every month. If I still had a car, I would never make ends meet every month. I’ve learned to adjust my life to my meager means. I can’t afford to buy every book I want (but one of The People on The Porch – Frau Bleucher — just bought me Valerie Bertinelli’s latest book, for which I could not be more grateful), and I still can’t afford my bookcases or to get my plumbing fixed, but I don’t spend every day worrying about getting evicted, or losing my electricity, or paying for my internet, because all of those things are covered in my wildly reduced rent.
(Update: My best friend has become a Notorious Furniture Flipper. She buys furniture cheaply at something called Offer Up with the intention of selling it at a profit. She’s gotten the furniture several times now, but she’s never sold any. Either she or her boyfriend decide they love it and want to keep it. Using these newfound skills, she is shopping for 4 big bookcases for me for a total of $50 or less. I’m hopeful she will be successful. It would be a huge step toward making my life complete.)
This didn’t come easily. I’m the recipient of more kindness and generosity than I could possibly deserve. I never forget that for even a moment. But, I also worked hard to get where I am. I worked at grocery stores when I was a kid. I worked at Day Care Centers when I was a little older. I went to NAU for a little more than 4 years (we don’t talk about my first semester, thank you), I became a teacher, and I did that for 29 years. I taught Defensive Driving on weekends during the final five years of my Elementary School teaching career because my salary wasn’t keeping up with inflation. Rent kept going up, but my checks didn’t. When I quit teaching, I took most of a year off, and I lived the life I had always wanted. I had to go back to work, and I sold Direct TV for quite a while and taught all the Defensive Driving classes I could get. I drove for Postmates. And when my Diabetes finally destroyed what was left of my health, I spent nearly 3 years trying to get my Disability.
Disability pays my half price rent and my phone bill. Everything else is funded by Patreon. The license I just got for the software I use to do this show was paid for by The People on The Porch. When I have to renew the license for the music I use, that will also come from the money I get from Patreon. It took me more than 2 years, doing at least one episode a week, to get to this point. I’m proud of my success.
I no longer live The Life of The Desperate. I did. I lived it for a long time, and, I have to tell you, it sucks. If it weren’t for you (and, let’s face it, if you’re listening to this show, you’re almost certainly one of The People on The Porch. I don’t think very many others listen.) I could never have made it this far. You made my better life possible. And I couldn’t be more grateful. Please please please don’t stop. I am beating my depression for the first time in years, and it’s because my circumstances are no longer anxiety producing. You did that for me.
When you think (as I often do) that doing the little things doesn’t matter, I want you to know what you are really doing. You are helping me to have this life, and without you, it would be impossible. Every single dollar goes into creating the life I think everyone ought to be able to have. This show is mostly about trying to create a world where everyone has the kind of life you have granted me.
What is that life like?
This morning, without an alarm, I woke up a little after 6 AM. The first thing I felt was my dog, Speedy Shine, cuddling next to my leg. I smiled. I took my first conscious breath. I took a moment to appreciate the beauty of that experience. We shared loves and cuddles until he woke up, did his morning shake, and then gave me kisses. I felt good before I was even out of bed. We laid there a little longer. He needed a few more minutes of cuddling before we both went to take care of our morning business. While I did mine, he came in and put his paws on my lap to remind me he loves me. After he did his, he came over to my backyard chair to tell me he was a Good Boy. We went in for Treatsers, but he didn’t really care about them. He just wanted to show me how good he was.
I went back out for a morning cigarette and to see what happened in the world while I was asleep. People had responded to my pictures of Speedy Shine and the new covers that wouldn’t spread feathers all over my room. They had nice things to say. Speedy Shine laid on the blankets by the back door so he could watch me. It was too cold for him out there, but he wanted to be sure I was still around. I wish I could find the words to explain how good that makes me feel.
I texted my best friend to tell her I hope she slept well, that I hope things are going well with her boyfriend, that I hope work goes well, and that I continue to love her most. That always sets her up with a nice start to a day that is going to be much more difficult than mine. I know. I did what she’s doing today every day for 29 years. Teachers can use all the emotional resources they can get. I make sure that I tell her I love her whenever we’re done talking or texting for a bit. I recognize I could easily be dead before we communicate next. I want to be sure the last thing she hears from me is that I love her. I do the same thing with my Mother. I do the same thing with Speedy Shine. I do it sometimes with you.
I played a game of Clue on my phone. We used to play that when I was a kid, and my brother and sister frequently beat me at it. I hadn’t figured out the logical way to proceed yet. For those of you who have never played the game (infants!), it’s a murder mystery. Someone has been killed. There are 6 suspects, 6 possible murder weapons, and 9 rooms where the murder might have taken place. We all have six cards that are some combination of suspects, weapons, and/or rooms. Three are in in the envelope in the middle of the board. These are the solution. The objective is to figure out the murderer, the weapon, and the room. You do that by travelling from room to room and “suggesting” who might have done it, the weapon that was used, and the room in which the crime was committed. It’s really a children’s version of The Scientific Method. What do I mean?
It helps if you have at least one suspect, one weapon, and one room in your hand. When you arrive at a room you don’t have, you suggest a suspect and a weapon in your hand. (The rules require you to use the room you’re in as the scene of the crime.) You know those two elements. You’re testing for the third. If no one has it, you have found the room where the crime occurred. If they do, you can eliminate it from the 9 possibilities. If you arrive at a room you have in your hand, you choose either a suspect or a weapon you don’t have to test whether others do. They are required to show you a card if they have it. If they have two or three of the cards, they need to show you only one.
The Scientific Method teaches us to control all the variables except the one for which we are testing. We know this method works. Evidence for that can be found in the fact you’re listening to this podcast. The computer on which I’m typing, the one on which I’ll record later, and the computer, or phone or whatever other device you’re using to play this are all direct results of the application of The Scientific Method.
When I first started playing this game on my phone back during my California Adventure, I always chose the option to play against the AI. I was afraid of seeming stupid in front of other humans I would never actually see or hear. The game doesn’t even have a chat feature. It’s not like they can TELL me how stupid I am. I play as Front Porch Fred. They won’t even know my name. But they might think I’m stupid. Yes, these were things about which I worried. After I had won 100 games against the AI, I felt confident enough to try it in front of other humans. And I was shocked by the results.
I’ve explained how to play the game correctly. It’s not difficult. Few of my opponents ever play it according to The Scientific Method. They suggest three elements they don’t have in their hand. Sometimes I will have two of them, and the third player shows them a card. Now I know what the third player showed. There’s only one possibility. That’s free information. It’s like playing Texas Hold Em and intentionally exposing one of your hole cards. My assumption is that people hope to get lucky. “I’m going to take a wild guess and see if I get it right.” It’s frustrating for me when they do this on the first turn, and, before I’ve even gotten the chance to roll the dice, they’ve solved the crime. That happens a little more than 1% of the time. Statistically, it should occur much less often. I assume someone has taken the time to hack the game. I can’t imagine why they would do that. Everyone, however, should get to spend their time as they see fit, so long as they’re not hurting anyone else. The damage they do to me is negligible. I’m annoyed for, perhaps, 15 seconds. I think I’ll survive.
It takes me between 10 and 15 minutes to play a game of Clue. I win 89% of the time. Now and then, I encounter another player who also knows how to play correctly, and then it’s a true race to see who can find the right room first. We tend to find the killer and the weapon almost simultaneously.
When I want a shorter game, I play Othello. This is another game we played as kids. You flip tokens from black to white and back. You’re either black or white; your opponent is the opposite color. Whoever has the most tokens at the end of the game wins. It’s another great little logic puzzle that allows me to think without taxing my brain sufficiently to make me frustrated. I won’t play that online at all. Even at the Very Easy level, I still sometimes lose to the AI. A smart player can crush me, and I don’t enjoy that as much as one would think. Again, I feel embarrassed. I’m less interested in competition than I am in spending a few leisurely moments thinking a little.
Shorter still is Solitaire. If the game takes more than 3 minutes to win, I think of it as a failure. I’m sure you’ve played that before. It’s a card game we all learn as children. I used to cheat as a child, and the phone won’t let me do that. Sometimes the deck is unwinnable. I can always play another one.
I read when I want now. Normally, it’s during the daylight hours because I like to read outside with a cigarette. I used to read in bed, but now I like to listen to my show when I’m going to sleep. First, I can use the numbers. Second, I prefer talking to myself about whatever is on the show to letting my brain run wild all night to remind me of every mistake I’ve ever made and let me know what a horrible person I am. My podcast voice generally drowns out the voice of my Prosecutor. (You’ll find him in Episode 97: “The Prosecution Never Rests.”) Finally, my voice saying, “Fred’s Front Porch Podcast is made possible by…” has become a signal for Speedy Shine. Before I even turn the bedside light out, he’s diving under the covers to secure the best cuddle spot before I go to sleep. How lovely is that?
After my morning routines, I like to come and sit at my computer and write. I play my Spotify playlist (no, I don’t feel like arguing about Neil Young and Joe Rogan right now; I’m in a good mood.). I look over my shoulder from time to time to make sure Speedy Shine isn’t destroying anything that might hurt him. Other than that, I am essentially talking to myself through my fingers on the keyboard. I’m rethinking my ideas. I’m clarifying them. I’m understanding my life a little better. It’s a wonderful experience.
When I start to get hungry, I go make a microwave breakfast. I’m ecstatic that I finally got enough in Food Stamps that I can afford to eat now. I don’t ever worry about going hungry anymore. This is a fantastic luxury. I love that feeling.
Breakfast is always in bed. As far as that goes, so is lunch and dinner. I don’t have, nor do I really want, a kitchen table. I have my TV in my bedroom, and I like to watch some Dick Wolf show while I eat. I enjoy most of the Law & Order shows, the One Chicago shows, and I just started FBI. They aren’t more challenging than I can handle. They are new to me. The characters become my friends over time. No, it’s not Aaron Sorkin, but I can recite nearly every word of every episode of television he’s ever written. A person needs something else. Some of the new Star Trek shows are pretty good. I love Picard. Prodigy is surprisingly good. Obviously, I’ve already seen all of The Original Series and The Next Generation more times than I can count. So… Dick Wolf is part of the meal ritual.
Speedy Shine has learned “lay down.” When I finish more than 90% of my meal, he knows he will get a little if he is a good boy. He is always a good boy. I share the last of the meal with him, and, in a little while, we’re either going to pull up the covers and start up the podcast, or we’re going to get up and go read outside. I love a nice morning nap.
I get to choose now what to do with every minute of my life. I have a few alarms on my phone. I had to change the Mom call from 7:37 PM to 6:25 because she’s getting tired earlier. She’s 91. No one gets to complain about what time she goes to bed. I have an alarm set for 1:45 every Wednesday so I get to Weekly Wacky Wednesday by 2, my time. I have an alarm for 4 PM to remind me to take my Lantus. When I have a doctor’s appointment, I have an alarm for that. Everything else, though… those minutes are up to me. I get at least 1 nap a day. Sometimes, if I’m caught up on the show, I manage 2.
I have the time I need to write my show at a leisurely pace. I try to have the script finished by Friday so I can record, score, and Horace on Saturday. I bounce the episode, find about 60 seconds to use for “Next Week On Fred’s Front Porch Podcast,” and then I’m ready to go. Sunday, I assemble all the pieces for this week’s episode, knowing I already have next week’s episode done, and I can relax.
I spend far too much time worrying about whether anyone likes my show. I obsess about numbers, but I keep trying to stop that. I’m checking my numbers less frequently. At first, it was just ego. Now that I’m deriving a little income from this, I find I really don’t want to lose the life I’ve worked so long to get. You are the reason I can live my way. I want us all to work together so everyone can choose how to spend their minutes without worrying about whether they will be able to pay rent and eat. Everyone deserves what it took me nearly 60 years to get. Is it possible? Why, yes. Yes, it is. I know that because I’m doing it. I want you to have a life at least as good as mine. You deserve it every bit as much as I do. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the life you’ve given me. I love you very very much.