Thursday, March 26, 2009

Should have been a sandbagger

The year 2008 proved a tremendous boost in my life-long ambition to die broke. I’ve always hoped that I'd spend whatever I'd earn in life and cash out on zero. Ideally, I’d like my last check to be to some fabulous resort and I’d like that check to bounce.

I’d hoped to squander a fortune, but it’s not looking like that’ll be the case.

If things keep going like that did in 2008, I should be able to hit that check-bouncing target by about June 20 so maybe it’s time to start thinking about booking an extravagant cruise, chain smoking and gorging on too much red meat.

I didn’t know last May when I christened my home blog, “,” that within six months I’d be about three days to Amish and that the rest of the world would be dashing to get there with me.

I’ve never been so broke. I’m just wrapping up my taxes and it looks like 2008 was the worst year I’ve ever had as a wage-earning adult.

In fact, it’s looking like one of the worst years I’ve had since I was a wage-earning teenager. And it’s looking only slightly better than some of the years I had as a prepubescent wage-earning paper boy (for readers under 25, a paper boy was someone who delivered the historic artifacts known as newspapers, not a lad composed of the material people used to write upon before they’d did things ike Tweet).

I’m writing it off -- that’s what writers do -- as a transitional year. I’m trying to move away from getting paid next to nothing for writing magazine articles to getting paid next to nothing for writing books.

I’m spending all my time polishing my manuscript and trying to find an agent. At night I lay awake and wonder if I could be doing more to get published or if I should try and devote more time to earning money in more conventional ways like hoping one of my basketball pools hits.

I worry my professional life has been one big mistake.

I had a friendly exchange with my man down at the post office and walked away thinking, “Now, how come some fancy college guidance counselor never advised me to go to work for the post office? I’ll bet he never lies awake thinking, ‘I’m such an idiot. Why didn’t I try sell Rodell the duck stamps instead of the Liberty Bells?’”

He just does his job, collects a steady pay check and goes home and turns on the hockey game. To me, that’s starting to sound like a slice of couch potato heaven.

The day I finished the taxes I had to run into the woods with my chainsaw to cut some timber to clear my mind of the math and the misery. It’s true work with a tangible reward -- a warm home in winter. If I was independently wealthy, I’d probably just stack wood for old people.

I’d like to do something physical for a living that would help my neighbors.

That’s why I’m hoping we get some big flood threat near my home.

I want to be a sandbagger, a word that has two meanings. One is an expert golfer who wins large amounts of money by pretending he’s no good and fooling opponents into wagering large sums they lose when he confounds them with winning shots when the big dough’s on the line. He plies his nimble con at posh country clubs and on sunny fairways around the world among the playgrounds of the rich.

The more newsworthy definition involves more than 2,000 heroic volunteers bagging and stacking sand on the banks of the rising Red River near Fargo, North Dakota.

I read about English teacher Renae Czeczok who said she and 15 of her students drove a couple hours from Pillager, Minnesota, to get to the riverbank to help out. “It’s continuous hard labor,” she says. “But we want to help. We’re doing everything we can.”

Resident Sean Padden, 29, says, “This is one heckuva town. It’s a hardy community. People are banning together. It’ll take the entire community, but we’ll get through it.”

I’d love to be a part of that. I just imagine the hours of backbreaking labor as the waters rise, the real sense of mission, camaraderie and, let’s pray, the shared euphoria they’ll feel as they watch the waters begin to recede inches before they breech the bags

They’ll have been a part of something great. They’ll have have saved a town.

Yes, I wish I was one of the world’s best sandbaggers, an anonymous hero waging kindred battle against the forces of nature’s menace.

Or I’d settle for being the fancy suntanned golfing kind.

Either one’s got to beat what I’m doing these days.

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